Newsletters

February Newsletter 2019

Posted by on Feb 5, 2019 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Offal

Yes, to some, the word offal is awful; the mere thought of pig’s feet, livers, kidneys, sweetbreads-you know, the ugly bits-is really off-putting. I bet you know by the way this is going that I love the stuff (to a point)! There are some edible parts of commodity livestock, poultry and seafood that I am not really going to go out of my way to freely digest. If and when I am travelling, I may be presented a chef’s special dish, and then of course I am going to partake. I think it is a part of the chef’s honor code and duty of the chef’s coat to never say no. I also think it is a litmus test, trying to see if you are a true foodie, especially when you have been called out as a chef by the service staff. Case in point, Shanghai: too many local beers, chilled beef tendon, blood soup and sea sponge. There were definitely a few things on that spinning Lazy Susan that were animal parts I had never seen.

Then there is the joy of the dining experience with the stars of the culinary world. They are the liver terrines, braised sweet breads and truffles, head cheese and last night’s dinner of braised pig’s feet in gochujang, soy and ginger. I think in some cases the dislike is generational; I think it comes from bad cooking, simpler times and lost culinary art forms. I have fond memories of sautéed chicken livers with my mom, but not so much of the braised beef heart of boarding school. I think that memory of eating dinner with my mom brought me to love basler suuri lääberli and rösti-sautéed liver and onions, red vinegar, demi-glace and fresh herbs, to be exact, served with that touch of pink on the livers. My Sunday night treat a local restaurant with a couple of beers when I was bored with the hotel employee meal.

February Newsletter

January Newsletter 2019

Posted by on Jan 3, 2019 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Pastrami

One of my first memories of food was at a strip mall deli in my home town. I can’t remember the name, but I can see the location in my head; I think I only ate there once or twice. This memory goes back to the late ’60s or early ’70s. It is a memory of pickles and pastrami. One of the greatest triggers of memory are smells. Think bacon in the morning, apple pie, the smell of yeast and bread baking. However, this memory is more hinged on textures and flavors.

I remember a long strip mall restaurant, tables on one side and counter on the other, napkin holders the beguiled wrapped straws and salt shakers. But it is the memory of the steamed black-crusted brisket and moist, hand-carved nitrate red slices on a piece of rye bread with mustard and onions that stands out. Pickles were just sitting on the table with a basket of bread and wrapped crackers. I have been mesmerized by pastrami ever since. Steamed and sliced always. No lean slices for me-give me the deckle with that moist, succulent seam of fat running through the middle.

January Newsletter

December Newsletter 2018

Posted by on Dec 4, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Chicago Style

What do you think of when you hear “Chicago Style”? I bet the first thought that comes to your mind is deep-dish pizza or a hot dog! That is the path that most people go down when it comes to food called “Chicago style.” The big, buttery crust of a deep-dish pizza where two slices are always enough. It’s a toss-up between Lou Malnati’s or Pequods for me. Or is it the Vienna Beef® hot dog with the salad on top and the bright green relish, hot peppers and that dash of celery salt, among other things (A big NO to Ketchup-you never put it on a Chicago hot dog. That’s even sacrilege in New England.)?

If truth be told, it is neither deep-dish or hot dogs. It is a sense of hospitality and taking care of others with the cooking and sharing of food. Chicago restaurateurs and chefs just happen to develop these dishes from the culture that grew up around their kitchens. The Chicago-style hot dog was a way to recognize the many cultures of vendors and market-goers around Maxwell street, as the story goes. It’s the kind of “go big or go home” mentality of cooks that define the Chicago style.

December Newsletter

November Newsletter 2018

Posted by on Nov 1, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

The Cookbook

Looking around my office and home, I know I am always within arm’s reach of a cookbook or culinary reference of some kind. I have amassed quite a few books over the years, from first editions of the chefs of today to copies of books from a different time, of which I find particularly of interest. There are plenty of other ways to find information. I know all of you have looked on the internet for a recipe or fact about something. This process of looking at the “now” has one flaw-it is now, and you have no reference regarding its strength as a source. That internet search will last for a moment, and in the blink of an eye, the search engines finding you those tidbits of information have changed their results. Thanks to the end of net neutrality, they are certainly driven by other priorities.

That is why I collect and seek out cookbooks both old and new-to build a better picture of food and its place in the culinary world. I have mentioned Le Guide de Culinarie many times in the past. It is a reference, not just of recipes, but of how chefs were approaching the craft of cooking in a commercial kitchen in the early part of last century. There are many celebrity chefs out there writing cookbooks with the intention of selling books, not documenting where we are as a professional culinary community. For them, it is an alternative revenue stream, and they probably don’t even write the recipes.

November Newsletter

October Newsletter 2018

Posted by on Oct 2, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

“What’s in a Bowl of Soup”

Moments of contentment come to you in the strangest ways. Seeing your children succeed in school and sports, enjoying the time you have with your family at the table or just watching the changing hues of the fall sun setting low in the sky. It can all put you in a great mood, feeling good about that unique time and place. That little capsule of your life, of relaxation and feeling satisfied, is what we all long for. However, life can get in the way, and then you are instantly back to the realities of the rest of your day. Moments are fleeting; memories are forever.

Food has always been one of those catalysts that spurs moments of contentment for me. I had one of those experiences the other day. It came in the form of a complimentary bowl of miso soup. While waiting for my sushi order-yes, there are hectic days when you just need to pick up dinner-I ordered a nice cold Asahi and with that, I was given a little bowl of miso soup (Miso-shiru).

October Newsletter

September Newsletter 2018

Posted by on Sep 5, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

“Flounder to the Food King”

The journey of learning and gaining knowledge is an important part of my life. I find that my knowledge comes from many sources-dining, reading, and cooking. However, I have found one alternative way to learn about food. I have a passion for walking down the aisles of groceries stores around the world when I travel. It is mind-blowing what you may see. Retail malls are the same around the world; it’s just one global brand after another-Riyadh, Warsaw, or Shanghai, it’s the same stuff. However, grocery stores and corner markets have a completely different vibe and for me really tell the tale of cuisine in the country I am in.

I can’t tell you how many great moments I have had walking through the streets and just stopping to walk through a grocery store. My wife has gotten used to my madness. These are my own learning moments, and the teachers are the shelves and display cases. I have other moments, like seeing whole tuna being sliced at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo and watching a butcher make blood sausage in Luxembourg. They are snippets of cuisine that I will always cherish and are very personal experiences, but they are not as impactful in your understanding of food and cuisine. In a supermarket, I am being taught by these raw ingredients and products on shelves and in display cases. From Skokie to Manila, there are some amazing things to see while those cans, bags, and boxes teach you something.

September Newsletter

August Newsletter 2018

Posted by on Aug 1, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

“Chowda”

Growing up in New England, I was fortunate to be brought up on the nuances of chowder. The conception of chowder outside of New England is a heavy roux-based soup with potatoes, clams and cream. However, good chowder is not always that simple and ubiquitous as you may think. There are many stories of its history and various versions from around the region.

In culinary school in the early 80s, we were taught what a chowder must contain, and from there you could create the various regional versions. Think of bacon, potatoes and onions in a similar fashion to the holy trinity of cajun cooking but for New Englanders. So, any chowder can be made from the base of these three items. Not all chowders are white or thickened with roux. Being a loyal Bostonian, I respect chowder that is not white, but that red stuff from Manhattan is not chowder; it is something Yankee fans eat because they think everything has to be Italian or have tomatoes in it. What are they thinking!

August Newsletter

July Newsletter 2018

Posted by on Jul 10, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Chips

When I was in boarding school, we were routinely served three starches with our meals: white bread with breakfast, or roasted potatoes or chips with everything else. When I say chips, I mean English potatoes “chipped” and fried. You may know them as pommes frites or French fries. I was just back in England and of course changed my eating routine, which has been to avoid the starches on the side of the plate replaced by a salad. I wanted to see if there was a real difference between “proper chips” and fries. I can tell you that there most certainly is. I was surprised by the quality as well as the constraint in the portion. Personally, I am fed up with the massive pile of frozen fries on my plate that require a freezer, over-processed oil and a timer. Loading a plate up with below-average offerings is not a great indication of culinary skill.

There is a skill in making good chips! I had wonderful hand-cut potatoes that were perfectly cooked and crispy, finished with sea salt and wonderfully aged malt vinegar. I don’t think I touched a ketchup bottle all week. We ate out most days for at least one meal and these were not fine dining experiences but local pubs and cafés. Chips made their way onto most plates, as is the case in the US. It was enlightening from a culinary perspective, as there was a uniquely surprised by what I was served. There are differences in the approach to making chips and fries, and the characteristics in flavor and appearance are remarkable. There are great places hand-making hand-cut fries in the US, but we still “fill ‘er up” and focus on them as a cheap way of filling up the plate to make money. There are few places making chips on our side of the pond.

July Newsletter

June Newsletter 2018

Posted by on Jun 5, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

What Do You Want For Dinner?

How many times can you ask the same question and get the same answer? “You’re the chef, you choose.” It frustrates me, as it always falls on me to figure something out. Dinner in, dinner out, delivery, pick up, or “you order for the table”; you know the routine! I think they are cautious about making a decision thinking that I am going to be disappointed in their choice.

I have always tried to accommodate those at the table! I try to process the situation at hand; timing, weather, other activities, what’s in the fridge and a slew of other things going through my mind. I want to make sure that I can satisfy all of their needs and cook something or choose a restaurant to please their palates at that particular moment. I don’t mail it in. I want to make sure we sit at a table as family and eat off the appropriate serviceware, and god forbid if the beer is not served in the correct glass. I can eat a nice meal off a paper plate, but a beer in a red plastic cup is sacrilege! For me going out, it is sometimes a painful process.

June Newsletter

May Newsletter 2018

Posted by on May 1, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Give It a Second Chance!

Organic butter, stone ground whole wheat unbleached flour, free range chicken stock made from GMO-free vegetables and natural sea salt-sounds like a pretty clean list of ingredients and is highly appropriate for today’s food-conscious society. However, if I were back in the late ’70s and early ’80s and combined these ingredients together, I would have been shunned by the cutting-edge chefs of the time. OMG a sauce made with roux! Yes, this is an ingredient list for Velouté.

Velouté, Béchamel, Tomato, and Espagnole, four of the five major French mother sauces, are all roux-based. Roux, the cooked combination of fat and flour, has been condemned since the rise of the Nouvelle and Modernistic cuisines. However, the time for it to rise again is here, and it should be taken a little more seriously as part of current cooking processes.

May Newsletter