Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Marcel Vigneron: Molecular Gastronomist and Time Traveler?

In an interview with LA Weekly, Marcel "Wolverine" Vigneron, contestant on Top Chef Season 2 and now, apparently, chef at an L.A. restaurant called Bar210, claims to have taught himself spherification sometime in or before 2001:

MV: ... I taught myself spherification in a garage in New York while I was getting my associates degree. I called elBulli before I'd even been there and got on the line and asked them for a sample packet of chemicals. And they mailed me the chemicals.

SI: You can do that? You can get those through the mail?

MV: Yeah, no problem. This was totally pre-9/11. They sent me little gram bags of each one, all labeled. So I was doing research online and found Ferran's recipe for apple caviar and bought a little digital gram scale and was trying to make it. I remember me and my friends we made coffee caviar, and we were like blown away. We were like, Oh this is the coolest thing.
Which is pretty remarkable, considering that spherification wasn't introduced as a technique at elBulli until 2003. In any event, forgive me if I'm not too impressed: if you ask me, any idiot with the right supplies and a recipe can pull off spherification.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Cobaya in the Night Kitchen" at Sakaya Kitchen

"Did you ever hear of Micky, how he heard a racket in the night and shouted and fell through the dark..."

Forty guinea pigs were making a racket in the night at Sakaya Kitchen this past Saturday for our latest Cobaya dinner. There were a few reasons we decided to do a midnight dinner. First, we just wanted to do something different. Second, Sakaya's chef, Richard Hales, is working pretty much non-stop during regular hours, with Sakaya being open 11am - 10pm 7 days a week. Third, Sakaya may eventually be rolling out a late night service, so this was something of a dry run. Those who notice the posting schedule here know I'm usually up then anway, but I'm apparently not the only night owl: I was thrilled - and once again, grateful and humbled - that when a post went up on the Cobaya board which basically said nothing more than: "Midnight. Saturday April 24. $55," 60+ people said "Yes!"

We weren't able to accomodate all who wanted to come, but we did have our largest dinner yet. After a little game of musical chairs - we had to split one long communal table in two to squeeze everyone in - we sat down to seven courses at CobSakaya Kitchen.

I've seen all sorts of different menu formats, but this was the first one that had both footnotes[a] and relationship advice ("Dessert!?...Go home and have sex like the old days instead of blogging about food..."). I won't share with you how that dessert suggestion worked out, but I'll happily tell you about the rest of the meal. If you can't read that scratchy picture above, here is the menu:

"Cobaya in the Night Kitchen @Sak[1]aya Kitchen"
 April 24, 2010 Midnight

What you may already know...

Papa's Shrimp & Pork Filipino Egg Rolls, Fuji Vinegar

Pork Butt, House Cured & Roasted Boston Butt, House Pickle, Ssamjang Sweet Chili

Some new stuff for Cobaya...

Garlic'd Laughing Bird Shrimp, Chive Flower Soba Noodles

Bucket of Korean Fried Sweetbreads & Spicy Frog Legs, Local Baby Cucumber Blossom

"Chim Quay" Quail, Pig Skin "Tsitsaron," Chinese Broccoli

"Nuoc Mau" Pork Belly, Roasted Local Baby Carrots, Crispy Bone Marrow, Coconut Rice

Dessert!?...Go home and have sex like the old days instead of blogging about food...

Blue Point Oyster[2]


Wife Hales' Chocolate Chocolate Cookie Bag

[1]Cobaya Kitchen
[2]An aphrodisiac is a substance that increases sexual desire

(continued ...)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

D. Rodriguez - South Beach

It was with some dismay that I realized recently that it was more than twenty years ago that I first experienced Chef Douglas Rodriguez's cooking, when he was at a little place called Wet Paint Café that was one of the first signs of life on Lincoln Road in the late 1980's.[1]

Since then, Chef Rodriguez has gone through a number of other projects. First was Yuca,[2] where he was one of the pioneers of bringing contemporary, upscale flare to classic Latin American flavors, along with other kitchen luminaries such as Norman Van Aken and Cindy Hutson. After about five years, he packed his bags and headed for the bright lights of New York City, where he opened Patria, followed by a couple other restaurants, and further expansion to Philadelphia (Alma de Cuba).

But Chef Rodriguez eventually made his way back home to Miami. Around 2003 he opened Ola in a refurbished standalone 2-story building on Biscayne Boulevard in what is now called the "Upper East Side."[3] I loved that space, but Ola was not long for the Boulevard,and within a couple years had made its way back across Biscayne Bay to South Beach, first at the Savoy Hotel and then to its current spot in the Sanctuary hotel. It seems the expansion bug has bitten again, as Chef Rodriguez recently opened a new restaurant, D. Rodriguez, in the Astor Hotel on South Beach, and an Ola Cuban is in the works for Gulfstream Village in Hallandale.

Where Ola's menu looks all over Latin America and the Caribbean for inspiration, D. Rodriguez stays more closely to a Cuban theme. For me, this is something of a mixed bag. Candidly, I don't find Cuban cuisine to be the most exciting of those that our southerly neighbors have to offer. It's good, it's satisfying, but rarely is it transcendent. Could Chef Rodriguez make it so?

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