Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kyocera Knife FAQ Funny

Kyocera makes ceramic knives.  The advantages of ceramic knives are that they remain sharp for a lot longer than their metallic counterparts.  They are also significantly lighter (which some people prefer, but I prefer heavier knives), and they are a little more delicate (meaning, you don't want to use them on product that could potentially damage the knife (meaning frozen foods, or anything with bones).   I say all of this, only because I was recently reminded of this knife, and I wanted to hunt down the original FAQ, which included something that I find very entertaining:
Q: The peeler is great! How come you don't make a shaver?
A: Too dangerous! A metal razor blade has a relatively "rounded" edge (under the microscope) which prevents the blade from cutting into the skin. A ceramic razor blade, however, does not have a rounded edge and slices into the skin. Thus, a ceramic shaver would be too dangerous to use. Several engineers in Sendai who tested prototypes can confirm this painful fact!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bataligate: Twempest In A Tweet Cup

A quick disclaimer: I don't much care about the morality of sound judgement of comparing bankers/customers/anyone to Hitler or Stalin.

A bunch of online outlets are linkbaiting the crap out of this Bataligate bullshit.   It's lazy, layup blog-o-journalism, taking advantage of the current political climate along with riling up the primary readership of financial trades.

Let's dissect Eater's coverage:
Despite having apologized for comments comparing bankers to Stalin and Hitler, the internet backlash against Mario Batali rages on. Yelpers have been dropping one-star reviews for his New York restaurants; the #BoycottBatali and #BataliGate hashtags on Twitter are blowing up; financial types are trashing his restaurants on Bloomberg terminals; and bankers are bad-mouthing the chef in the Wall Street Journal: "I must have spent more than $5,000 on his stupid black truffles over the years, and now he says I'm Hitler?!"
They reference four sources: Yelp, Twitter, Bloomberg Terminals and the WSJ.  Let's actually look at those sources:

While Yelp ostensibly does not allow reviews that have nothing to do with, you know, actually eating at a restaurant, the ratings for Batali's New York restaurants Babbo and Del Posto have taken a bit of a beating since BataliGate began. Two Yelp users in particular, James P and Steve G, seem to be leaving generically bad reviews on the restaurants, but a (since removed) ad by one Joe D. doesn't mess around with the fakery, calling Batali "idiocy in orange crocs." 
I did a quick check, and Yelp may have deleted reviews, but so far there have been a total of three negative reviews of Del Posto since this came out and a total of six reviews of Babbo.  If you heard "Yelpers have been dropping one-star reviews for his New York restaurants", would you think nine bad reviews, some from the same person?

the #BoycottBatali and #BataliGate hashtags on Twitter are blowing up; ... a select list of tweets
Maybe I got this wrong, but a search of twitter as of earlier today showed a just over a total of 200 tweets combined.  Also, not mentioned in this is that a fair number of said tweets are overall neutral or supportive of Mario Batali.

How do I know?  I scored each tweet.  Yes.  I read all of that shit, and scored it positive, neutral or negative.  You can even check my numbers.

Of the 193 tweets from a total of the 159 users who "blew up" the #boycottbatali and #bataligate hashtags, I could only determine 75 of them to be clearly negative.  53 of them were overwhelmingly positive.  Let's assume the margin of error is 100%.  That would 193 negative tweets.

I bet Bourdain's scrotum had more of a negative response on twitter.

Wall Street Journal

The WSJ got quotes from two bankers reacting negatively to being compared to Hitler or Stalin.   Probably not hard to do.  Their coverage was pretty balanced, but you know, is this really a story?


I don't really have access to the data they reference, and you know, if there is a place where you are going to see the heat on something like this, it will be on Bloomberg terminals.  I totally believe there will be a bunch of negative reviews piling up there.


I am not naive.  The people that were supportive of batali during this twempest are probably no more likely to eat at his restaurants because of what he said.  And people with a negative response are less likely to eat at his restaurant (assuming that they ever were going to go).  I believe this will cost him some business in the short run.

My issue is not about the finance industry or Mario Batali. It is with the total number of articles dedicated to this bullshit.

Whats worse is that I just wrote about it, continuing these shenanigans.

Monday, October 24, 2011

French Reuben Soup

I don't really share recipes on this blog.  It just isn't what I do.  But, today is different.  Just like the last time I posted a recipe.  But this time, I blame a providence of Michaels.  I read Michael Ruhlman's post on french onion soup, and Michael Nagrant tweeted about reuben soup.  

The trick with doing a dish like this is honoring the souls of these iconic dishes without being constricted by them.  So...

What is french onion soup?

How can anyone forget the first time they had french onion soup?  Molten cheese bubbling on top of crouton floating over a rich, deep caramelized onion broth. The flavors muted only by the burning sensation in your mouth, not realizing that this soup was just sitting underneath a jet-engine-hot broiler.

How about a reuben?

The reuben is an iconic sandwich of the jewish deli (*).  Corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and russian dressing layered between two slices of caraway studded rye bread.  Then the whole sandwich gets the grilled cheese treatment.  Crisped golden brown in a pan with some butter.  Anything else is bullshit.  
(*) Weird because it certainly isn't kosher, what with the beef and cheese.

French Reuben Soup (Serves 6-ish)

I love this dish because it gives you a lot of places to sneak in the familiar flavors of both of these dishes.  I do it a little differently every time I make it, sneaking a little caraway seed or powder somewhere new.  Architecturally speaking, we are going to make a soup base by combining caramelized onions and shallot mixture with a corned beef broth.  Then we are going to float an open faced reuben on top of the soup and melt the cheese in the broiler.

Corned Beef Broth
4 ounces of Corned Beef (chopped)
288 grams of Mirepoix
8 cups water
2 tsp caraway
1 tbs olive oil

1. Toast caraway seed in a dry pan

2. Remove caraway seeds and add olive oil

3. When the oil is hot, add the caraway seeds

4. After about thirty seconds add the mirepoix.

6. After the mirepoix starts to caramelize, add the corned beef.

7. Add the water and simmer until it's done.

8. Strain and reserve.

Caramelized Shallot/Sauerkraut 
4 Shallots, sliced
1/3 cup Sauerkraut
1 tbs caraway seeds
1 tbs butter

1. Heat oil and butter on low

2. Add the caraway seeds

3. Slowly cook the shallot until they start to brown

4. Add the sauerkraut

5. Cook until it's awesome.  Be very careful with the kraut as it tends to burn.

Reuben Crouton (*)
1 tbs butter
Slices of rye bread
(*) I don't really abide by my measurements for this part.

0. Heat a skillet over a medium flame

1. Cut the rye bread into rounds appropriate for your bowls

2. Melt the butter, crisp the bread

3. Remove the bread from the skillet

Corned beef broth
Caramelized shallot/sauerkraut mixture
Rye rounds
Corned beef
Russian dressing
Emmentalier cheese, shredded

Mise: Grated Emmentalier, russian, corned beef, corned beef broth, discs of rye
and a caramelized mixture of kraut and shallot
0. Line up bowls on a sheet pan, these are going under the broiler, so position as appropriate.

1. Heat the broth and the shallot/sauerkraut mixture in a saucepan.

2. Ladle the soup base into individual bowls

Corned beef broth with caramelized kraut/shallots
3. Evenly apply russian dressing on top of the rye crouton.

4. Place a single layer of corned beef over the crouton and cut the corned beef to fit.

Russian Dressing and Corned Beef Applied

5. Float the crouton on top of the soup base.  


6. Add the sauerkraut.

Ze Cheeze.

7. Pile on some cheese.


8. Broil until cheese is melty, oozy and napalmy.


9. Blow some minds.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

More Fish Confusion: Great Globe Article

First of all, great article in the Boston Globe on the pervasive mislabeling of fish.  My one criticism with the piece is the following sentence:
The Globe found escolar being sold as white tuna, super-white tuna, or albacore at merchants such as FuGaKyu in Brookline, Kowloon in Saugus, H Mart supermarket in Burlington, and Oishii Sushi Bar in Chestnut Hill.
While it is true that the FDA's Seafood List says that you can't sell escolar as white tuna, it is unfair to single out out places for selling escolar as white tuna or super white tuna when it is a pervasive industry practice.  Now, selling it as albacore tuna is more dodgy, because as I have written about before, there is a genuine sushi bar distinction between albacore and escolar.

Anyhoo, good article.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My 7 Links

The noble frodnesor tagged me in to the link-baity "My Seven Links" internet cage meme.  And while the speed of the internet is light-speed, the speed of a Pablo post is still all USPS baby.  So while I am pretty sure this meme is dead, I am a sucker for the lay-up blog post.  Of course, this took two hours to write.  Why?  Because I just reread a lot of my posts.  Which I think is why this meme worked.  It was really nice to stumble down memory lane, I definitely saw some posts that are totally horrifying, but then I also saw a lot of posts I had forgotten about, and were surprisingly, not shitty.

My Most Beautiful Post

This is a tough call.  Like the aforementioned frod, I am pictorially-challenged.   At first I was thinking that some of my travel posts like TacoEpoisses or Paris, where  I managed to take some quality shots.  Of course,  Ultimately, I think I have to give it to my initial thoughts on the SousVide Supreme Demi, which is really a short rib photo shoot, or my white tuna post, where I compare albacore tuna fillets and escolar.  I guess I have to pick one, so fuck it, it goes to the white tuna post.

I was possessed.

Link: White Tuna Sushi

My Most Popular Post

This one is a no brainer, it's my magnum-poopus.  I wrote a post on the dangers of eating escolar.  Sort of off-topic for what I pretend my blog is about, but this finely crafted post came from somewhere deep inside of me.  It contained a crap-ton of research, as it was supposed to be my first blog post.  But on the shelf it sat.  When I finally completed it, it had the trifecta: Funny, Informative and Gross.  If you want to know what I love about the post, it is that it launch a bazillion hilarious comments.

If I am a one-hit wonder, this is my "I'm too sexy"

Link: The Escolar Post

My Most Controversial Post

My most controversial post also has the distinction of being my first post as well as being one of the posts that makes me cringe to read.  I wrote a blog post about how Miracle Connect had mishandled customers Miracle Berry supply issues.  While they definitely mishandled it, I think I come off like a livejournal blogger writing emo-etry.  That being said, Grub Street linked to me on my first post.

Link: Miracle (Dis)Connect

My Most Helpful Post

I really pride myself on not being helpful or instructive.  There were some exceptions to that, including my two part guide on building a polyscience smoke gun, or my recipe for making roasted garlic powder.  I also took my notes from the ideas in food class on liquid nitrogen.  And while I think people seemed to really find my sous vide equipment posts really useful, I found my post on Umami, Kokumi and the Taste Map the most helpful post.  Why?  Cause I still thought that the taste map was actually how our sense of taste worked.

Link: The Taste Map, Umami and Kokumi (Complexities In Taste)

Post Whose Success Surprised Me

I don't really think I have had that many like blow-my-mind successes.  But I wrote a tiny little post about edible cups that got a lot of traffic out of nowhere.  I wish I had more to say about it, but the post was as disposable as the cups.

Link: Edible Agar Agar Cups

Post That Didn't Get The Attention It Deserved

This one is also an easy one.  I wrote what I thought was a barn burner similar to the Escolar post.   I spent a crap-ton of time trying to figure out why Count Rumford was credited with inventing sous vide cooking.  There was no easy to find citation, and yet it was one of the first facts in the sous vide Wikipedia page.  Then I took that excellent nugget of research and batter dipped it in the funny.  You should read this post now, and tell me how everyone got it wrong.

Link: Sous-Vide Historical Note: Count Rumford

Post I am Most Proud Of

I would actually say that the escolar post or the Count Rumford post are really the top two.  But I think I can't repeat or my phone will ring, someone will say "7 links" in a spooky voice and then a scary lady will come out of my tv and freeze me.  As such, I think I have to go with either my shark fin controversy post for calling it as I see it, or some of my funnier lil bits like my post on chicken and rose flavor pairings or really, my mini screenplay on ordering technique featuring Frank Bruni, Snoop Dogg, Pickled Jalapeno and myself.

Link: The Escolar Post


Gotta go, phone's ringi- ohno.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On The Value Of The $200 Fennel Braiser

This is probably indicative of my state of mind, but I got super furious when I saw the following ad on epicurious:

A $200 fennel braiser.  Questions like: 
  • Who the fuck would spend 200$ just for the task of a fennel braiser?  
  • What unique qualities of fennel could be coaxed with a special braising device?  
  • Why would anyone think they could get away with this scam?
  • Where did epicurious get the gall to sell such a ridiculous item?

I had to research this further.  Within seconds my rage converted into amusement.  With myself.  At myself.  For within two clicks, I found the following:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Coffee tawk.

Coffee has been top of mind lately.  With the rising price of coffee in NYC (I think I pay $4 for a thimbleful of iced americano), being able to make an excellent cup of coffee at home is becoming a priority.  I haven't made coffee at home without the guidance of Mr. Coffee himself, so this is going to be a learning process.

To further complicate things, I really only like iced coffee.  Oh sure, I'll tolerate the hot stuff when it is freezing out, but give me iced coffee anyday. Wisdom of the interwebs says that cold brewing coffee is the way to go.  Ratios and tools change, but technique pretty much remains the same.  

Once I get a handle on making a good iced coffee, some variations I want to try are:
  1. Seasoning.  A little bit of salt can go a long way. It just makes sense and will supposedly cut bitterness.
  2. Cavitation.  I won't be the first to take Nitrous cavitation to cold brewing coffee, but maybe it's time to revisit the technique.
  3. Alcohol.  Ok, might not be for the every day cup of joe, but I was curious to see if I could infuse some coffee into a neutral spirit like vodka.  Gotta figure that there are flavor compounds that are alcohol soluble versus water soluble.  I would try this with fats as well, but not really ready for a hot buttered coffee (*). 
(*) Sounds like a term that should be in urban dictionary.

Got any tips?

Friday, July 8, 2011

NYPL: What's On The Menu?

I think it is safe to say that my niche is turning out to be foodnerdery.  Which is why I am ashamed that I missed the New York Public Library's initial announcement about the friggin' awesome What's On The Menu? project.  What's on the Menu? is a crowdsourcing project chartered to take their incredible menu collection and transcribe it.   Before you think that no one would contribute to this, allow me to say that you are a cynical jerkward, aaaaannnnd... as of July 8th, 2011, there are over 430,000 menu items transcribed.
Miss Frank E. Buttolph American Menu Collection, 1851-1930

The NYPL menu collection has about 40,000 menus dating back to the turn of the century.  Approximately 25% of the menu collection is available online, but only searchable by high level meta data about the restaurant, not the menu data itself.  The first stage of the project is to take the menus that are already available digitally and have folks like you and me input what's on each menu.

I started playing with it recently and the interface is pretty slick.  Within a couple of seconds I found myself contributing to the effort by clicking on menus and transcribing dishes.  It has enough smarts to provide the right kind of inputs for whatever menu or menu item you are transcribing.
What On The Menu? Transcription UI
While I could go on and on about the tech side, what I think is really going to be awesome is how people will use the database.  They plan on keeping it open and offer API and/or data export capability, so if you are a food historian trying to grok the rise and fall of various food trends, you'll only be a couple clicks away.  Wait, you are a notable chef with a restaurant built around time and place themed menus?  Pretty sure your New York, 1897 just got easier.

My question to my readers are: If you had access to a crazy huge menu database that chronicles some portion of how we ate over the past 150 years, what would you use it for?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Sous Vide Vacuum Conundrum

SousVide Supreme Zip Pouches/Bags - quart size
SVS Zip Pouch
My posts on SousVide Supreme Chamber Vacuum and on the Combi Oven nicely lead up to the subject of the value of the vacuum, and its role in low temperature cooking.  For most home cooks exploring low temperature cooking, there are two primary reasons why you use vacuum sealed bags: heat transfer and eliminating buoyancy.  Even though sous vide literally means under vacuum, you don't need to vacuum seal to achieve most of the desired affects of low temperature cooking.  The truth is, you can use a ziplock bag, manually remove the air out of the bag, and pretty much achieve both of these goals.

FoodSaver V2240 Advanced Design Vacuum Food Sealer
FoodSaver Clamp Vacuum 2240

That being said, using a vacuum sealer is considerably more convenient.  Especially if you are cooking products that tend to float or you are going to be using like 50 bags.  Most consumers are familiar with the food saver style vacuum sealer.  The foodsaver is an example of an external clamp vacuum sealer.  These sealers suction the air out of a bag and then heat-seal.  If your bag contains liquids, then you are likely to remove some liquid as well, which can affect the quality of the seal and also make a huge mess.  There are ways to mitigate this, including freezing the liquids and double bagging, but they have their own challenges.

VacMaster VP210C Dry Piston Pump Chamber Machine, Metallic
VacMaster VP210C Chamber Vac

Chamber vacuums operate by placing your bag into the vacuum and putting the open end under a sealing bar.  The vacuum sealer then removes all of the air from the entire chamber, including the bag.  Since the air pressure stays equal both inside of the bag and outside (in the chamber), the liquid doesn't get sucked out of the bag.

At this point, you are probably wondering why someone would spend 700$ on a chamber vacuum when 130$ buys you an external clamp vacuum sealer.  The truth is, there aren't that many cases where a chamber vacuum is essential for low temperature cooking techniques.  Apart from the ability to vacuum liquids you can also control the strength of the vacuum.  The vacuum strength can be used to influence the texture of the product.  The chamber vacuum is not just useful for sous vide, as it is also handy for other techniques, including: compression, rapid marination and infusion of liquids.  While clamp vacuum sealers can sorta do some of those techniques, there are limitations, including lack of control and degrees of effectiveness.

Handy vacuum charts
The distinction between vacuum sealer versus non-vacuum sealer is most important for commercial and professional kitchens, where the use of a vacuum may require an HACCP plan to minimize the risk of botulism or other food borne illnesses.  This basically means that restaurants wanting to utilize modern low temperature cooking will have to take on a bunch of extra overhead, including additional process and inspections if a vacuum sealer is used.

Monday, July 4, 2011

"Loaded" "Risotto"

When your dish has a word or phrase in quotes, you are probably being a heretic.  This act can be forgivable when performed artfully.  When the name of your dish has more quotes that words, you are being sacrilegious.  Fortunately for me, I don't work in a kitchen, and like ten people read my blog.

For those ten that do, I bring you a special treat.  An actual recipe.  Not just a recipe but a photo of some food I actually made.  I usually veer away from this being a cooking blog because I don't think all that highly of myself as a cook or as a photographer.  And really, who needs another dipshit on the internet writing recipes.

But hey, it's 4th of july.  And I was inspired by someone on twitter who twoted:

 Demian Repucci 
'Baked Potato Bar' risotto:) The 6min.  method. Awesome. 

I thought this was clever and figured I could embiggen the cleverness by subbing out rice for potato.   I used my fingers' mortal enemy, the mandoline, to thinly slice the potatoes. Then I cut the slices down into rice-ish sized pieces of potato.  I think potatoes release starch better than traditional risotto rices and also has a shorter cooking time.

And, really, what's more American than the loaded baked potato.  Simple carbs?  Lots of fat?  Minimal use of nutritional vegetables?

Happy Independence day, 'Merica.

"Loaded" "Risotto" 
"Loaded" "Risotto" - Recipe  

2 Scallions, white and green parts separated and sliced
1-2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
Bacon (Or baco bits to keep it veg)
1/2 Russett Potato, cut into rice sized pieces
1.5 TBS Olive Oil
1 TBS Butter
1/2 Cup Extra Sharp Cheddar, Shredded
3/4 cup Brocoli Florets
  1. Roast the brocoli in the oven.  I used 350ºF for ~20 minutes.
  2. Heat chicken stock or water in a separate small saucepan.  
  3. Combine butter and olive oil in skillet over medium heat.
  4. When butter and olive oil come up to temp, add white parts of scallion along with garlic and bacon.  Let this cook until the garlic is starting to brown. 
  5. Add potatoes and stir quickly but gently.  They will absorb the fat pretty quickly.
  6. Add a ladelful of stock/water to the pan and continue to stir slowly, letting the liquid reduce and the starches release from the potato.  
  7. WHILE POTATO < ALMOST_DONE THEN GOTO 6. (Approximately 15 minutes for me)
  8. When the potato is almost done, should be cooked but not mushy, add the brocoli and the cheddar cheese.  
  9. Adjust seasoning (salt and pepper) and garnish with cheese, green parts of scallion and more bacon/baco bits.
I think there are a lot of variations to try here.  Some that I am going to incorporate in future revs:
  • Add sour cream at the end
  • Make a cheddar cheese and scallion broth
  • Beer to deglaze
  • Serve in a potato skin
  • Use yellow cheddar to improve color
  • Remove skins to improve color

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Modernist Beat Volume 3

I have been sitting on this one for a little while.  Mostly trying to cover science-y/food convergence type things.  If you have links to suggest for the next one, just pop a comment up in this bitch.  Without further adieu:

From the 'how do you get to be a test subject for this study' dept.
Scientists have improved on the perfect hangover cure: The Bloody Mary.

Where Math And Sausage Infinitely Converge.
I give you... the Mandelbratwurst.

In the 8th case of its kind, a man self cannibalizes his own finger. Is this a horrifying trend, or is it really just self foraging? I personally look forward to the negative Yelp review.

Obligatory Modernist Cuisine Book give away
Marcel's Quantum Kitchen is sponsoring a Modernist Cuisine Book giveaway over at grubstreet. All you have to do is suggest a theme for a future episode. I suspect that Marcel detractors have already suggested self cannibalism or some form of modernist mutilation.

Do white chocolate and epoisses pair well together?
Probably not, but go to to find out. They just got a stellar makeover and the site is looking slick.  Now all we need is for Khymos to set up another TGRWT.

Speaking of Khymos...
Martin has an excellent post on making the perfect egg yolk.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Espuma Matata (Culinary Foam Worries)

I have been working on a list of modern cooking technique debates I hate witnessing and the "Do Foams Suck?" debate is filled with jackassery from both sides.  I am a proponent of all culinary techniques regardless of trendiness.  They just have to be well executed and service the dish.  That being said, I think us pro-foamers do need to check ourselves when we attempt to engage the enemy.

Say you are minding your own business when some foam hating douche walks up to you and says:
I hate foams and everyone that likes 'em!
The initial response as programmed by the Internet will invariably be:
You hate all foams?  You know that x is a foam right?
Where x is:
  1. Bread
  2. Mousse
  3. Cappuccino
  4. Beer
  5. Your Mother
Hocking that loogie is a total red herring.   Obviously, when someone says they hate foams, they are being more specific than any solid or liquid with a gas trapped inside of it.   So, let's stop channeling that nerdiness from high school that got you into this whole modern technique thing to begin with.  It didn't win friends in high school and it won't today.  Also, least convincing argument ever.

One Foam Is A Cinnamon Foam (Lecithin),
The Other Is A Lemongrass and Clementine Zest Foam (Hand Soap).  
Informed persons should be able to dislike foams and not receive contempt.  There are a couple of reasons to hate foams:
  1. Aesthetic.  Since I am rummaging through the ole trope drawer, let's pull out the old 'you eat with your eyes first' bit.  It is a cliche, but it is also true.  And some people see foam as soap scum or spittle, or perhaps as a sign of microbial growth.  My woman is one of them.  I force-fed her a foam last night.  Does.  Not.  Want.   
  2. Texture.  While foams can vary in texture dramatically, many of them can have unappealing textures to people.  I hate Gummi thingies.  It doesn't matter what form of gummi thingie it is, I just can't like it.  If it rained blow jobs and money every time I ate a Gummi Bear, I'd still hate eating Gummi Bears.  Which would suck, cause my entire life would be reduced to eating Gummi Bears and sleeping.  
  3. Flavor muting.  Depending on the construction and the ingredient, foams can reduce the flavor of an otherwise tasty component.  While this is often the intended affect,  and can be a win for some, it can also make a foam tasteless.  
Combine esthetically and texturally unappealing with flavorless and I can see why some people wouldn't like foams.

Buuuuuuut... On The Other Hand

I think there are definitely a fair number of people who don't like foams for the reasons stated above.  However,  I also think there are people who express their foam-y hatred as a euphemism for saying they hate modern technique influenced cuisine and/or its associated trendiness.

I suspect Top Chef Season 2 is to blame for this.  Chefs and judges alike kept harping on Marcel's use of foam.  Millions of people's first foam experiences were colored by it.  I am sure that there were also a lot of bad foams put out there by chefs dabbling with them.  People also might conflate the trend with the component.

Ultimately, the foam has become The Scarlet Letter of modern cookery.

So when you say
I hate foam
know that I hear something as ridiculous as:
I hate sauce 
I hate protein
Foams can be nuanced in both texture and flavor (just like sauces and proteins).  Maybe you just haven't found a foam you have loved.  Culinary close-mindedness is a terrible crime, and my contempt for you is as endless and unrelenting as the entire controversy around foams.

Just kidding.  Maybe.

Let's Put A Bow On This Pig

IF YOU ARE A CHEF, continue to make or not make foams.

IF YOU ARE A DINER, continue to eat or not eat foams.

CONTEMPLATE THE VALIDITY of the other side, while you



I Ate One Of These In The 80s.
Two Special (and Fecal) Notes
  1. I have had these thoughts in my writing colon (that's where my writing ideas are stored) for quite some time.  I would like to thank eGullet for performing the high colonic that relieved me of this Reggie Bar of a post.
  2. Like a child that painted with his own excrement, I am incredibly pleased with the title of this post.  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Shark Fin Controversy (One Hot Mess)

The blogs are all a-twitter about California's (and other states) recent push to ban the possession and sale of shark fin.  This is legislation designed to protect sharks against a practice called shark finning.  Shark finning is the process of harvesting the fin of the shark and discarding the still live shark back into the ocean, where it will either drown, starve or be consumed by other predators.

You might think that killing all sharks is a good thing.  Much like one might think that killing all bees is a good thing.  And you might be right.  Of course, you would be betting against most of the credible scientific community.  Look out, I'm going to blind you with some science:
There are a number of reasons why sharks should be protected from senseless and wasteful killing through finning. First, sharks are apex predators in the marine food chain and, without a proportionate number of sharks, an ecological imbalance with potentially disastrous repercussions will occur in the world’s oceans. Common sense and an overview of evolution show that sharks have evolved to a vital stabilization role in all oceans.  Sharks prey on weak and/or sick fish which, over time, creates better genetically and evolutionarily capable species.  Sharks also keep populations in check, such as the octopus population in Australia and the stingray population in Florida.
Basically, sharks sit just below us on the top of the food chain (notwithstanding the occasional surfer) and they help control the population of all other sea life. It's like that Star Trek episode, The Trouble With Tribbles.  Only instead of us being covered in cheaply manufactured stuffed animals, we all die.

The Trouble With Tribbles (via wikipedia)
The United States government recognized this and attempted to ban the practice of shark finning in 2000.  Congress passed the Shark Finning Prohibition Act (SFPA), which criminalized the following actions:
  1. The act of shark finning where the shark's body is dumped into the ocean on board any U.S. fishing vessel
  2. The possession of shark fins without the shark carcass within the inner boundary of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone on any U.S. fishing vessel
  3. To 'land' any fin without the carcass on any fishing or cargo U.S. vessel at any U.S. port
You would think this would effectively curtail the practice of shark finning in US waters.  Now I will turn to some excellent analysis of a court case that will go down in history as the silliest name for an environmentally tragic court case.

United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins

Two years after this legislation was enacted, The King Diamond II was detained off the coast of Guatemala when the US Coast Guard found approximately 65,000 pounds of shark fins aboard the vessel.  The fins were seized and the US government won a district court ruling for the forfeiture of the fins.

Tai Loong Hong Marine Products, Ltd. (TLH), who chartered the KDII,  appealed the decision on two technicalities within the SFPA:
  1. Vessel Classification.  The KDII was a chartered vessel that purchased the shark fins from over twenty different fishing vessels.  While the US Government claimed that the KDII was a fishing vessel in that supported other fishing vessels by allowing them to stay out at sea longer, the courts disagreed.  
  2. Usage of Foreign Ports.  The KDII was destined to land on a port in Guatemala, and the SFPA landing provision only applied to U.S. ports.
The 9th district court maintained that a person of reasonable intelligence wouldn't conclude that the activities of the KDII would classify it as a fishing vessel.  Unfortunately, a person of evil super genius intelligence would conclude that the courts would come to that very conclusion.  Let's do some quick math on this single incident.

1 million pounds of wasted shark meat?
While the bad guys won that day, Congress recently enacted the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 (in 2011) which attempts to patch the loopholes in the SFPA.  This bill does contain an exemption for smooth dogfish sharks, allowing state licensed fishing vessels to separate fins from the shark as long as the total weight of the separated shark fins do not exceed twelve percent (12%) of the total weight of the smooth dogfish shark bodies when landed.  This percentage is exceedingly high according to the amazing blogging team at Southern Fried Science:
This 12% number appears to come from thin air, since the worldwide standard is around 5% and the National Marine Fisheries Service calculated that the fin to weight ratio for smooth dogs is around 3.5%.
It is a shame that this loophole was necessary to get the bill passed, and we can fully expect the King Diamond III (or perhaps the Danzig I) to somehow use this loophole to do terrible things.  But, it was the only way to get North Carolina Senator Richard Burr to sign the bill.  North Carolina hosts Smooth Dogfish Shark fisheries, and his constituents apparently need to be able to separate shark fins from shark onboard the vessel.  

The unfortunate truth in all of this is that even if the US managed to completely opt out of all shark finning and US commercial fisheries abided by established quotas, it won't be enough.  Other countries still consume most of the shark fins and also have the least regulation.

What about the hypocrisy of the shark fin possession laws?

As mentioned in the beginning, this post is inspired by the efforts of west coast state legislation attempting to outright ban the sale, distribution and possession of shark fins.  I understand why some Chinese-Americans could be frustrated with the potential banning of a cultural symbol and delicacy.  But in a game of rock, paper, scissors where one player throws tradition and the other throws the-whole-fucking-planet, tradition loses.

I completely agree that it is hypocritical that the same people who ban shark fins don't vigorously defend the blue fin tuna and Caspian caviar as well.  Instead of being angry that you can't contribute to the destruction of the planet, pick up the fight and help protect other species.

Just sayin'.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

SousVide Supreme Chamber Vacuum Thoughts

Earlier this week, SousVide Supreme announced their entrance into the chamber vacuum space.   An OEM'd VacMaster VP112, this tabletop chamber vacuum sold out within hours of the announcement.

Assuming that this isn't the result of EAT, LLC doing an incredibly small first run of chamber vac's, I am surprised that their customers would rush to buy an $800 chamber vacuum to assist with a $400 water bath.  You'd think that people that had the budget for the chamber vac would have bought an immersion circulator instead of the SousVide Supreme.It is possible that once people start cooking sous vide they become more willing to invest.  Maybe I am also underestimating the number of professional kitchens using the SVS.  If that is the case, it makes me wonder if we will see a high end SousVide Supreme1.   Finally, I wonder if there was a lack of awareness around the VP112's existence.  It was on my list to research this product given its (relatively) affordable price point.

So, any of my readers willing to speculate?  Or if you bought one of these, can you tell me what was compelling about this?

1Perhaps they can call it the SousVide Supremerer

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The SousVide Supreme Chamber Vacuum (Vacmaster VP112)

The folks at SousVide Supreme just introduced a chamber vacuum to their product lineup.  Given the name of the chamber vac is the  SousVide Supreme VacMaster® VP112 chamber vacuum sealer , it appears to be a SousVide Supreme branded version of the VacMaster VP112 (possibly the dumbest sentence I have written this month).

The price point is $799 (Which is list price for the VP112), but a quick Google Search reveals prices as low as $650, for the non branded VP112.

ps: Will have more to say later.

pps: Buyer beware at that 650$ link.  They have good ratings from Google, but I have never heard of them.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Are Combi Ovens The Future Of Sous Vide?

Is This The Future?
I was reading about Shola's post about the possible impending obsolescence of immersion circulators, when I read:
One thing I will confidently say is that the domestic immersion circulator market will be NON-EXISTENT in 48 months or less and IF sous vide cooking makes it into mainstream domestic cooking, it will be in the form of steam/vapor ovens similar to combi technology. Products like sous-vide supreme or sous vide magic are silly novelties at best and the only thing keeping them from zero sales is the lack of an affordable home combi oven.
I am not sure if he has the timing right, but I think that when low temperature cooking hits critical mass, there will be a shift away from immersion circulators/water baths and into something more like a combi oven or CVAP.  Here is what I find compelling:
  1. Elimination of plastic bags.  They are annoying and not green.  Not being green doesn't really bother me.  But, the consumer market is buying the green thing, so who am I to argue.  
  2. Crazy precision not required.  While temperatures can't range too much that they cause safety issues, sous vide in the home does not require  +/- .5º accuracy.  Most home cooks don't have anything close to this and are blissfully happy.
  3. Water management.  Similar to plastic bags, consumers will consider the water management annoying and wasteful.  Even if water or energy usage turns out to be greater with a combi oven or CVAP, consumers don't see water in, water out the same way.
  4. Space management.  If your conventional oven could be replaced by one of these, well then, we won't call them conventional, we'll call them antiques.
It does seem like water immersion may have an uphill battle inside of the home kitchen.  If the world does go this way, immersion circulators and water baths will still have their place in professional kitchens and with the prosumer crowd.   Even for the home, an SVM or SVS setup can act as a small second cooking device.  Lest we forget, American's love us some gadgetry.  Look at the Ronco Rotisserie Oven or the George Foreman's grill.

Shola continues:
If cost issues are adressed in both the Combi Oven and Blast Chiller market, I predict immersion circulators will lose at least 75% market share in professional sous vide cooking and have ZERO market share in domestic sous-vide.
I am unsold on the blast chiller for the home market as being part of the tipping point.  The costs would have to drop so rapidly on both that I have a hard time imagining it being an affordable option in the next four years.

Counterpoint: Whirlpool seems to be dipping their toe into the water bath with the Chef's Touch, which is a combination blast chiller, combi oven (with a chamber vac).

Counter-counterpoint: Said Chef's Touch's pricing: the combi-oven was 2500$ while the 7000$ blast chiller.  If you can cut the combi-oven's price in half, you are now in range for a consumer appliance.  Not so much with the blast chiller.

I think it is fascinating that Shola's insights align with the Whirlpool's direction with the Chef's Touch.  While I certainly can't claim to know the future, I do think that his long view is probably how things will go, although I am unsure of the timeline.  Although, I have also thought that: Betamax and laserdisks would win, that Internet Explorer would lose, and that FireFly wouldn't get cancelled after one season.

Finally, You should read his full piece on the subject (and really his entire blog).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Game: WTFIT.

Stands for, What The Fuck Is This:

Tell me what this is.   First right answer gets 100 points and one dollar bill if I ever see you in person.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Modernist Beat: Volume 2

Here is the roundup of all the stuff I read that I wish I could write more about but can't cause my life is too busy.

The Future Will Not Be Turkey Paste Extruded By A Printer
Cooking Issue's tackles 3D food printing.  What isn't mentioned in the article is that they are continually asked whether or not 3D food printing is how all food will be made in the future.  The answer can be found in last week's Cooking Issues podcast, which if you don't listen to: shaaaaaaammmmeeee.

Happy Birthday Bruno!
Bruno Gaussault's birthday just passed last week (according to Facebook).  Bruno is widely considered one of the father's of sous vide cooking.  Somewhere, the father of this father of sous vide cooking is beaming.  At a consistent 62ºC.

Never Trust Your Gut Brain
Scientists are pushing forward their understanding of satiety.  Basically, the enteric nervous system, which is made up of 500,000,000 nerve cells helps regulate hunger.  This gut brain is roughly equivalent in number of cells as a cat's brain.   Once the gut brain is understood, scientists can make food that fills us up.  Or, more likely, construct a single potato chip that causes us to start eating each other.

Ferran Marches On.
Ferran Adria has released more details on the elBulli Foundation at Madrid Fusion.  From the article:
The foundation will combine meals, research, landscape and architecture in a research centre, a documentation centre and a restaurant in a eco-friendly complex that is to open in 2014.
After reading the article, I have come to the conclusion that it will be even less likely to score a reservation there.

No Jellato Jellato.  Or Jellato Part Duo.
Michael Natkin over at Herbavoracious adapted foodplayerlinda's Jelly based ice cream technique by applying pectin to a chocolate base ala Ideas In Food.  The result is No Churn Chocolate Ice Cream.

Egg Fu
Shola demonstrates pressure marinating eggs (with white shoyu, mirin and sake) with his 5 day egg.  Use of grate to protect eggs from getting crushed was clever.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ask Pablo: Octopus Sous Vide and Doneness.

On an earlier post about Sous Vide Octopus, erich wrote:
Ok, I need some help here.

Bought a whole octopus, thawed it, cleaned it, vacuum bagged it, and cooked it for 2 hours at 180F in my sous vide bath. The thing came out very rubbery. Basically the same consistency one would achieve pan frying it. Anything, I'm missing here?

BTW, this is not first sous vide dish, but definitely the one that didn't come out at all.
I responded with:
My guess is that you needed to leave it in the water bath longer, but here are things that may be different between You and I:

1. Size of Octopus. I don't know how thick your Octopus was. Any guess on it's size? Even weight might be helpful.

2. Fresh vs. Frozen. Not saying I know for sure that mine wasn't frozen earlier, but I bought mine in non-frozen form at a fish monger.

If yours was larger and colder to start with, it might take longer to get tender. Finally, another thing I do is occasionally squeeze the octopus through the bag to get a sense of texture.
This question got me thinking a lot about sous vide cooking.  When I first started doing it, I relied a lot of the Baldwin/Myhrvold charts.   Bag item.  Put item in x temperature waterbath for y minutes based on an estimated thickness.  Remove.

In other words, completely remove aroma and taste as indicators of doneness.  I think that works well for some items (e.g. eggs or really uniform cuts that you deal with regularly).  For everything else, I ultimately rely on a gentle squeeze of the bag.  Or, if I am using the Cooking Issues technique of using ziplocks, I'll open the bag real quick for a look-see.

Don't get me wrong.  I still use the guides to help me get me close.  But, after that, I dig a little deeper and get some more insight.

Thanks erich for making me think about that.

The Taste Map, Umami and Kokumi (Complexities In Taste)

I remember learning about taste in elementary school.  We were taught that there were four tastes: Sweet, Salty, Sour, and Bitter.  Each of these tastes were sensed on a particular region of the tongue.  The teacher handed out mimeographs that had a tongue drawn on them as a pop quiz.  We were expected to write the name of each taste on the proper region of the tongue.  I am sure I had to have gotten at least one wrong.  Which means I got two wrong.  Which means I failed the test.  Which means my elementary school failed me.


Because, there is no truth to the taste map theory.  It was information that I absorbed at an early age and never questioned it.  It's like that time I read about the dreaded Hoop Snake and thought that there was a snake that would bite its tail and roll down hills in order to surprise its victim.

The Taste Map theory isn't just a little wrong.  It has been debunked several times, including studies in the seventies, before I was even in elementary school.  Not only can you taste all tastes on any region of your tongue, but you have taste receptors on places other than your tongue.


Let's take a look at some places where scientists have found taste receptors:

Figure 1: Taste Receptor Locations
  1. Tongue (a.k.a. Everyone's Receptors).
  2. Soft Palate (a.k.a. High School Girlfriend's Receptors).
  3. Epiglottis (a.k.a. College Girlfriend's Receptors).
  4. Esophagus (a.k.a. Linda Lovelace Receptors).
  5. Lungs (a.k.a. That girl from that website Receptors).
Now don't start huffing truffle oil powder.  Just because you have taste receptors somewhere, doesn't actually mean that you will actually experience the sensation of flavor.  Your lung taste receptors recognize bitter tastes, but they don't send signals to your brain allowing you to experience bitterness.  Amazingly, initial research has shown that if these taste receptors are activated, lung tissue would relax.  It fact, aerosolized bitterness appears to outperform asthma medication.

Oh, by-the-fucking-way, we have more than four tastes.

You've probably heard of umami or 'savoriness', which is present in mushrooms, tomatoes, fermented and aged products like soy sauce, fish sauce and certain cheeses.  There was a brief period where tomato seeds were being used and abused on many menus because they were said to be rich in glutamates, which are amino acids associated with savoriness. If the word glutamate sounds familiar to you, that is because it is the G in MSG.

If you are a reader of this blog, you probably were already aware of Umami.  But have you heard of Kokumi®?  Kokumi® isn't immediately recognizable as a taste, but it is considered more of an enhancer.  The Kokumi® effect takes advantage of calcium receptors on the tongue.  When your tongue senses Kokumi®, it actually increases and extends sweet, salty and umami tastes.  And yes, that's right, it has been ®'d by Ajinomoto.  They actually own a registered trademark on a taste(ish-type-thingie).  I wonder who would have owned Sweet®, if we had allowed such things eons ago.

So now we are almost up to six tastes.  Which is pretty impressive since we have grown by 50% since I was in grade school.  Which means we have almost caught up to the Ayurvedic, who already had six tastes: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent and Astringent.

Is the real lesson here is that Western society has a complete lack of nuance about taste?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

L2 Oh No.

Looks like Laurent Gras' old blog (the one associated with L2O) is serving up some SEO badness.  I'm no genius, but the site that was pretty much wiped clean of content after Laurent left L2o.  Today it started serving up content like:
The financial manager for the Rock Island District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested an advance decision on the availability of appropriated funds for the purchase of cold weather gear for union employees who work outside in cold weather.
And, of course, 'cold weather gear' links to a site selling cold weather apparel.  My guess is someone hacked or somehow gained access to the blog and is using it to boost up the pagerank of other sites.

ps: If you want to keep up with Laurent Gras, you should really check out his new blog.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Modernist's Beat: 1st Edition

Here is the roundup of all the stuff I read that I wish I could write more about but can't cause my life is too busy.

Homaro Cantu (of Moto and Future Food fame) announced his latest project iNG Restaurant.  iNG (Imagining New Gastronomy) will be helmed by Thomas Bowman, who was already cooking for Cantu over at Moto.  iNG will be taking over the existing Otom space, featuring creative, confortable, delicious food and featuring a kitchen table for a Miracle Berry experience where every dish is to be tasted with your taste buds tricked out. For more information, check out Digging In.

Gelato, Jellato
Linda, over at playing with fire and water came up with an ingenious two ingredient recipe for ice cream. I call it Jellato because it is made from heavy cream and Grape Jelly.   And what do you do with Grape Jelly Ice Cream you ask?  Why you use it to make ice cream sandwiches with peanut butter-miso cookies.  Too.  Clever.  Brain.  Shutting.  Down.

Of Course It Was Going To Kick Ass
Ideas In Food released their book, Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work, to much fanfare.  I haven't read a bad review yet, and if their writing on their blog is any indication, I am sure it will blow my mind.  Speaking of Ideas In Food, Alex and Aki will be speaking at The Dandelion Pub in Philadelphia.  You can see all of their upcoming events over at their website.

The King Is Dead, Long Live The King
The eGullet sous vide thread, possibly the most useful message board thread in the history of human kind, has closed.  Almost 7 years of active contributions by some of the best and brightest, it was a friendly place to get advice and share knowledge.  It is the best documentation of the evolution of a cooking technique I can think of, as well as great documentation of people working together to figure something out.  The last post was by PedroG.  Not to worry, a new thread has started.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cleaning House On Good Housekeeping

I really try hard to produce thoughtful reviews of any product I obtain for such purpose. I have been lucky enough to receive a couple from companies interested in having me look at them. And in reviewing some of my reviews, I have found a lot to be desired.  I am somewhat inconsistent, and I don't have a great methodology... yet.

That being said, I need to call out (another) bad review of sous vide equipment.  This isn't the the first time that I have called out a sous vide product review.  Last time, it was Gizmodo that bungled the review.  This time, Good Housekeeping's Research Institute produced a shoddy review of the SousVide Supreme Demi.

What makes this a shoddy review you ask? First of all, there is a complete lack of detail around the review. The reader isn't given any details on how the review was conducted. We know they tried four recipes that were included in the book, and that the reviewer didn't like the results.

Here is a quick synopsis of the four recipes:
  • Salmon Sous Vide (45 minutes): moist bordering on mushy. 
  • Pork Tenderloin With Apples and Pears (2 hours): Pink and bloody.
  • Braised Short Ribs with Barbeque Sauce (24 hours): very chewy and unappetizing layer of fat.
  • Pan-Seared Chicken Breast with a Lemon Almond-Butter Cream Sauce (2 hours): looking water-logged, more tofu than poultry. 
Is his issue with the sous vide technique, the sous vide recipes or the SousVide Supreme Demi?  With the amount of information provided, I can't possibly know.

Also, the reviewer is a college intern that appears to have no experience cooking sous vide.  How do you give someone that unqualified the authority to give the Good Housekeeping seal of approval or disdain on a product.  This isn't like it's a blog of some random jackass on the internet (you know, like the one you are reading).  You are Good Housekeeping.  You are a Research Institute!


To be fair, maybe the reviewer just doesn't like the results of low temperature cooking or the recipes he used.  But again, how am I supposed to tell?

Finally, before anyone accuses me of being a SousVide Supreme apologist or fan boy, know this: I don't use one at home. They work just fine and i don't have any real issue with them, they just take up too much space for my NYC kitchen.

This issue is going to persist with other reviewers and other products.  And I will call out those reviewers just as fast.

Escolar: The World's Most Dangerous Fish

Escolar is the most controversial fish that you are likely to find in your fish market. This firm, white fleshed fish has an incredibly ric...