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Friday, December 31, 2010

Elements Restaurant

Elements is one of the top dining establishments in New Jersey; it has received a Don't Miss rating from the New York Times, which is the highest possible rating and has been named one of the top 30 restaurants in America by Opinionated about Dining. Executive Chef Scott Anderson uses the freshest produce available and applies modern cookery to excite his diner's palates. Elements caught my attention when they opened in 2008 and I am kind of surprised it took so long for me to dine there. I went for lunch with my dad and sister and had a great time......

Opening the doors and entrancing into Elements the decor immediately catches your attention. There are glass panels that glow within the stone and steel walls, and maple backdrops that make you feel comfortable and warm.

For my first course I ordered the "Local Potato Soup with 48 hour Short Ribs, Chives, and Parmesan". The servers accidentally put the spoon that was intended for me with my sister's plate setting, but fixed the problem before I got my dish. The soup itself was really tasty - it had a perfect mouthfeel and actually tasted like potato. The dish was garnished with the crispiest onion rings that added a much needed distinct texture to the plate. Overall I loved this dish, but looking back it is not a dish that I am going to be crawling back for more. Maybe some frozen sour cream discs made with an anti-griddle would of made this dish exceptional..........

Next I got a "Thai Duck Sandwich with Duck Confit, Local Egg, and Kimchi". This dish was exquisite, but cluttered for the atmosphere. The egg yolk was perfect and bursted all over the sandwich adding a great moistness. Kimchi was strong-flavored and assertive, offsetting the richness from the duck and egg. Could the meat have been chicken or turkey legs? For sure, the presence of the duck flavor was not up front, but that was not the main focus of the dish, so it was fine.

For dessert we shared "Pumpkin Cheesecake with "gingerbread", cranberry, and toasted pumpkin seeds". This was the most ascetic dish of the night and the most "high end" due to the fact that the dessert menu is the same for dinner as it is for lunch. The cheesecake was luxuriously creamy and had a pure flavor of pumpkin. The gingerbread sorbet tasted like the cookie you adored during the holidays. The pumpkin seeds were mega delicious and added a nice textural contrast. I loved this dessert. It was my favorite dish of the night.

It is fair to say that I really did not get to experience the real deal of the savory side of the kitchen because the dinner dishes are definitely more elaborate than the lunch dishes. I am very interested in returning to Elements for dinner.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Seared Loin of Lamb with Rosemary and Orange Lamb Jus, Potato Gnocchi, and Roasted Zucchini

First off, merry Christmas Eve everyone!! Because of my allergies there was no feast of seven fishes or a feast of seven fish heads, but there was lamb and it was REALLY GOOD. I bought a whole rack of lamb and 4 separate lamb chops (for my dad). I Frenched the lamb just for the hell of it using a technique I learned from Marcel Vigneron where you use your knife honer and whack in between the bones. The meat came off extremely easily. After I Frenched the lamb I removed the actual loin from the bones and trimmed off the silver skin.

I seasoned the lamb loin simply with sea salt.

I threw the bones and the trimmings from the lamb in a hot pan to start my sauce. Once the lamb fat started to render it brought about a delicious scent of lamb that filled the house with joy. The only difference of flavor between beef and lamb comes from the lamb's fat. I wanted to get some good color on the lamb so the sauce would have a nice deep roasted flavor.

Once the lamb bones and trimmings were beautifully pan roasted I threw in some sliced onions, garlic, rosemary, salt, and toasted coriander seed. I let this mixture brown some more and then I added red wine vinegar to deglaze. I would let this mixture reduce until there was no liquid and then I would deglaze again. I did this a total of three times. Next, I added fresh squeezed orange juice and some water (I would have rather used a lamb stock, but I did not have). This simmered on the stove gently for roughly 3 hours.

Once the sauce was done cooking I stained it through a fine mesh sieve and whisked in a little nob of butter and a tiny bit of methycellulose (to give the sauce some more structure and body that is retained at high temperatures).

I was planning to use the gnocchi recipe from "The French Laundry Cookbook", but it did not go as planned and I am happy it did not. I first baked off Yukon gold potatoes and ran them through a food mill. There was about 550 grams of potato and I VERY GENTLY mixed it with 3 egg yolks, 2 TB of olive oil, salt, and 1/2 cup of flour in my stand mixer on my lowest speed with my dough hook for about 20 seconds until just combined. If you overwork gnocchi it becomes heavy, dry, and tough. Gnocchi is supposed to be very light.

I rolled the gnocchi dough into balls with my hands. I did not bother rolling the dough on a fork to get the classic shape because it would not affect the flavor or texture and I did not have the time.

Using my new Japanese Mandolin I thinly sliced zucchini and layered it with salt, thyme, onion, garlic, and olive oil.

I let it bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees until the outer layer was golden brown.

Getting ready to start the a la minute cooking. The water is heavily salted, it tastes like the sea. The pans are smoking hot and ready to use.

I love this picture!!! After the lamb was heavily seared on one side I added butter, rosemary, and garlic to the pan to baste the lamb. I love doing this. The fragrance is great and the bubbling butter is just mouth watering. The crackling sound of the herbs is also a highlight.

Here is the plated dish (the lamb was rested for a good five minutes before being sliced on a bias). The lamb was cooked absolutely perfectly and the sauce was plate licking good. The gnocchi were surprisingly light and delicious because of the fact I did not use a recipe or ratio to make them. The zucchini was also great and fresh. 


Well now it's passed midnight.......Happy Christmas!!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Aerated "Cheese Cake" with Orange, Burnt Sugar, Dill

Today in the mail I got my Nitrous Oxide canisters for my ISI Creative Whip. I was really excited to use them, so I looked in my fridge to see what I had to work with. I did not want to make plain whipped cream..... I saw cream cheese, so that led me to make an aerated cheese cake. I mixed 8 oz cream cheese with a half cup of milk, some sugar, salt, vanilla, and a little bit of cinnamon. I blended this together with my hand blender and then put that in my ISI Creative Whip. I charged it with nitrous oxide and shook it up and let it chill in the fridge for a couple hours. For the "burnt sugar" I caramelized some sugar in a pan then added Orange juice, salt, and a little butter. I poured the hot mixture on some parchment and let it cool down and crisp up. I simply supremed oranges, and picked very little threads of dill. Lots of herbs have been used in desserts, but I have never seen dill used before and I don't know why not. Yes, if you add too much dill it will completely ruin a dish, but a few little threads will add a nice freshness and herbaceousness to a dish. Dill also contains some lemon volatiles, which complements most desserts. There are so many herbs that have yet to set their voyage toward the sweet world. When I used one of the tips for my Creative Whip the foam came out looking like a star, which was kind of cool.   I really loved this dish and the ISI Creative Whip. I cannot wait to have some more fun with it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What I got from The Bocuse D'or

Back when I went to the Bocuse D'or I bought the book "Knifes At Dawn" and got it signed by some of idols. These are the people that signed my book: Grant Achatz, Paul Bartolotta, David Chang, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Daniel Humm, James Kent, Michael Ciramusti, Traci Des Jardins, Timothy Hollingsworth, Gavin Kaysen, Paul Liebrandt, Eric Ziepold, Georges Perrier, Jerome Bocuse, and Andre Soltner. I treasure this book and believe that is a one of a kind. There is SO MUCH culinary talent that has touched that book. It is awesome!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thank You TIC Gums

TIC Gums just set me a sample of some of their Gums. I got 8 oz each of Agar, Carrageenan, Locust Bean Gum, Xantham Gum, Guar Gum, alginate, methycellulose, and Pectin. I am going to have a ton of fun cooking with these. Any ideas? Thanks so Much!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Grant Achatz on Texture and Flavor

I watched a couple of the food science lectures on the Harvard youtube channel. For me the video that was most interesting and inspirational was Grant Achatz's video by far. The main things Chef Achatz went over on flavor was that smell is the main influence of flavor. Your tongue can detect 5 basic flavors while your nose can detect between 800-900 different flavors. To me that was mind blowing. Achatz is one of only few chefs who incorporates aroma into his dishes. Also, if a dish brings you back to a good memory it will taste much better. For instance, Chef Achatz lived in Michigan and one of his fond memories was the burning of leaves. Since this emotion has greatly impacted Chef Acfatz he serves smoldering leaves as a service wear with squab, shallot, and apple cider. By the way that dish is tempura fried! Chef Achatz also stresses that color influences the perception of a dish. For example when you see yellow you think lemon. Another point expressed is that textures should surprise you. One dish at Alinea is pineapple "glass" wrapped around bacon fat that is dried with tapioca maltodextrin. The crisp pineapple and creamy bacon surprise the palate. Probably, Achatz's most renowned dish is his black truffle explosion. This dish is a simple pasta dough wrapped around a black truffle stock. The stock is gelled and then put inside an agnolotti. When heated the gel turns into liquid and explodes in your mouth. That is what I call a surprise. Chef Achatz recommends having contrasting temperatures in a dish. In his hot potato, cold potato dish he serves a cold black truffle and potato soup with hot, fried potato balls, truffle, butter, Parmesan, and chive. The two different temperatures in the mouth produce an experience that Chef Achatz considers sublime.

I highly recommend watching the video. It was so inspirational and I learned a lot from it. I need to go to Chicago and eat and maybe stage at Alinea. Chef Achatz and his team are geniuses.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jen Carroll

Lets take a journey back to Season 6. Remember when Jen always thought her food was not "good"? She never was satisfied with her dishes, but then always did well. This season Jen was extremely cocky about her food. She thought that there was no way that she would not make it to the finale, so she let her guard down. This is where she suffered. Now, magical elves could have spinned what actually happened, so I could be wrong, but this is what I saw from the show.
When Jen freaked out after she was eliminated I was very surprised. None of her bad side ever came out in Season 6.
Jen is obviously an extremely accomplished chef and if I had to bet money on it I believe that Magical elves tweaked the story to make it more extreme than it actually was. And they did a great job at it.
This episode completely shocked me. I cannot wait to read Tom's blog.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Habanero Pepper

Habanero peppers are REALLY HOT. They are over 100 times hotter than a jalapeno, which many people consider to be very spicy. Jabanero peppers actually have extremely great flavor, but it is masked by their dominant heat that hides the delicious flavor like a mother bear hiding their cubs from predators. Dave Arnold, the director of Culinary Technologies at the French Culinary Institute, distills habanero peppers in a rotary evaporator to extract the fruity flavor and leave the heat behind. A rotary evaporator allows things to be distilled at much lower temperatures than normal. To learn more about a rotary evaporator check out Dave's site here.

So a couple days ago I was with my friends and one of them thought that they could handle any type of spicy food. I was lucky enough to have a habanero pepper at my disposal. I cut a very little strip (I did not want to kill my friend) and let him have a taste. His mouth and nose burned for hours. He drank glasses and glasses of milk to try and numb the pain, but nothing worked. I should have felt bad, but it was too funny.  He admitted that the habanero was to hot for him and by far the hottest thing he has ever tasted. And by the way there were no seeds or ribs in the slice that I gave him and the ribs are the hottest part of the pepper.

Dinner Party for 14

Last Saturday I had a dinner party that I cooked for. I served the meal family style for 14 people. Here are the things I made:
1. Red Wine and Dr. Pepper(Yes, I said Dr. Pepper) Braised Brisket
Seared the seasoned brisket, caramelized onions + garlic + carrot, deglazed with red wine and Dr. pepper. Braised the brisket for 5 hours at 300 degrees and then shredded it. Reduced the sauce and added salt, rosemary, BONE MARROW, and lemon and orange juice and zest. Tossed brisket with sauce and kept warm. Insanely Delicious!
On a side note.....Bone Marrow is extremely under used. Roasted Bone Marrow spread on toasted bread with a little Fleur De sel is one of the best tasting things ever. Anthony Bourdain's favorite dish is Fergus Henderson's Roasted Bone Marrow with Parsley and Caper Salad at St. John Restaurant. Also, it is very, very cheap. I understand that some people might be a little squeamish, but once you try it you will be hooked. Go try Bone Marrow now!
2. Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts with Chicken Jus
Brined the chicken breast and then dried them fully. (Brining meats lets the meat soak up flavorful liquid so it stays very moist and is seasoned throughout the whole cut.)Next I seasoned chicken with a delicate hand with thyme, salt, pepper, and lemon and orange zest. Seared in chicken fat, then roasted to 160 degrees. The sauce was reduced chicken stock with lemon, caramelized onion, butter, and fresh thyme. The chicken was extremely moist and  super flavorful.
3. Potato Pancakes with Orange Scented Whipped Sour Cream
I grated the potatoes and added salt and lemon and then wrapped it in cheesecloth and squeezed out as much water as I could. You remove the water so that the pancakes could crisp up easier and faster. Then I mixed potatoes with some eggs and flour. The pancakes were fried in olive oil and then seasoned with salt and paprika. For the sauce I whipped cream cheese with salt, orange zest, orange juice, thyme, and pepper. Best Potato Pancakes I ever had. Crispy, salty pancake contrasted beautifully with the cool rich cream cheese.
4. Parsnip and Potato Puree
Roasted the Parsnips and Potatoes (I do this to lower the moisture in the potatoes so they could absorb more fat. When you cook potatoes in water they soak up a lot of water and cannot hold as much fat without separating), and then passed through a food mill. Mixed with butter, salt, thyme, lemon zest, parmesian cheese, and caramelized onions. By far best mashed potato I ever had. They were luxuriously rich with great flavor and freshness (from the lemon zest and thyme).
5. Spinach with Parmesian and Lemon
 First I caramelized onions and garlic and added the spinach with lemon, butter, orange, and paramesian cheese. I cooked them down until they were wilted, but still bright green and fresh.
6. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
To prepare this dish I slice Brussels sprouts in half and remove the stem and outer leaves. I save the really green leaves for a salad. Next I roasted the sprouts with salt, butter, bacon, orange, lemon, garlic, caramelized onion, sage, and pepper.
7. Roasted Beets with Parsnip Chips and Citrus Vinaigrette
I started off by roasting the beets and parsnips in salt. Then I removed them and peeled them. I sliced the beets in a round shape and cut the parsnips into matchsticks. I then put the put parsnips back in the oven to crisp up. I took the Brussels sprout leaves from the Brussels sprout dish and blanched and shocked them. I diced up and apple as well. For the dressing I mixed together jabanero, olive oil, lemon and orange juice, lemon and orange zest, thyme, garlic, shallot, and salt. I strained the dressing and tossed the salad (The beets I tossed separately because the beets turned the all the vegetables red). The salad was earthy, had nice textures, and had an awesome dressing.

10 Onions were sliced and ready for caramelizing

Roasted and peeled parsnips

Seared Brisket and Bone Marrow

The clients were really happy with the food. They loved everything so much that I was offered another job by one of the diners. The dinner party was very successful!

Monday, November 29, 2010

My books on Food

I currently have 42 books on food (Hopefully will get more for the holidays). These books range from The French Laundry Cookbook to A Day At El Bulli to The Momofuko Cookbook. What books do you guys like and think I would enjoy?
My top five are:
 The Fat Duck Cookbook
The French Laundry Cookbook
My Last Supper
On The Line with Eric Ripert
A return to Cooking with Eric Ripert

Monday, November 22, 2010

Top Chef Season 8 !!

I cannot wait until Top Chef Season 8 (December 1st). All of the chefs in the competition are extremely talented. No chefs cannot cook this time, everyone has tons of skill. I am excited to see how Marcel does. He was Michael Voltaggio's sous chef at The Bazaar after his Season 2 performance. I have a feeling that Marcel is much more talented now then when he was on Season 2.

I think the top competitors will be Richard, Jennifer, Angelo, and Tiffani Faison. They are my pick for the top four. Richard and Angelo should have won their season, but choked in the finally.

The All Stars are great, but some of the best chefs in Top Chef were left out (Kevin Gillespie, Bryan Voltaggio, Stefan, and Kenny) :(

Who do you guys think will be the toughest competitors?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tree of Chefs


Tree of Chefs 

The Very Begining 1) Sylvain Bailly – A famous patisserie with a shop near the Palais-Royal + Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord – A French diplomat who was a food connoisseur
   a) Marie-Antoine Careme – “King of Chefs” Started haute cuisine in France
      i) Ulysee Rohant – Chef of Le Petit Moulin Rouge
         (1) Georges Auguste Escoffier – French Chef of Ritz Hotel who had many publishings and was the first “celebrity chef”
             (a) Jean Giroix – Director of Cuisine at the Grand Hotel
Early France
1) Fernand Point
   a) Paul Bocuse
   b) Hubert Keller
      i) Georges Perrier
      ii) Jean Georges
   c) Georges Blanc
      i) Daniel Boulud
   d) Michel Guerard
      i) Daniel Boulud
      ii) Alfred Portale
         1. Tom Colicchio
   e) Roger Verge
Spain Pretty Much Starts it All 
1) Ferran Adria – Chef at El Bulli
   a) Albert Adria – Pastry Chef at El Bulli
   b) Antonio Luis Aduriz – Chef of Mugaritz
   c) Richard Blais – Top Chef Season 4 runner up and owner of Flip Burger
      i) Eli Kirshtein – Chef at Eno
   d) Rene Redzepi – Chef at Noma
   e) Jose Andres – Chef of Mini bar, Jaleo, Zatinya, and more
      i) Michael Voltaggio – Top Chef Season 6 winner, opening Ink
         (1) Marcel Vigneron – Bar 210 and runner up on Season 2 of Top Chef
      ii) Katsuya Fukushima – Chef of Jose Andres Catering, was chef at Minibar
      iii) Joshua Whigman – Chef at The Bazaar
      iv) Michael Isabella – Chef at Graffiato
   f) Grant Achatz – Chef at Alinea
         i) Curtis Duffy – Chef at Avenues
         ii) Alex Stupak – Pastry Chef at WD 50, opening Empellon
         iii) Dave Beran – Chef de Cuisine at Alinea
         iv) Jeff Pikus – Chef de Cuisine at Alinea
         v) Sean Brock - McCrady's Restaurant
   g) Will Goldfarb – Chef at Room Four Dessert
2) Juan Mari Arzak – Chef and Owner of Arzak
   a) Elena Arzak – Chef at Arzak
3) Juan Roca – Chef at el Celler de Can Roca
Modern France and Beyond 
1) Joel Robuchon – Chef of the Century, Started the “Revolution in France”
   a. Eric Ripert – Chef of Le Bernadin
      i. Jennifer Carrol – Chef at 10 Arts, and Finalist on Top Chef Season 6
      ii. Andrew Carmellini – Chef at Locande Verde
      iii. Rocco Dispirito – T.V. Personality
      iv. Francois Payard – Owns a Patisserie and was Pastry Chef at Daniel and Le Bernadin
         1. Johnny Iuzzini – Pastry Chef of Jean Georges
      v. Chris Muller – Chef de Cuisine at Le Bernadin
      vi. Michelle Bernstein – Chef of Michy’s
      vii. Michael Laiskonis – Current Pastry Chef at Le Bernadin
   b. Gordon Ramsay – Chef of numerous Restaurants
   c. Inake Aizpitarte – Chef at Le Chateaubriand
2) Alain Ducasse
   a. Gordon Ramsay – Chef of numerous Restaurants
   b. Laurent Gras – Formerly at L20
1) Thomas Keller – Chef of French laundry and Per Se
   a. Grant Achatz – Chef at Alinea
   b. Richard Blais – Chef at Flip Burger
   c. Rene Redzepi – Chef at Noma
   d. Jonathon Benno – Chef at Lincoln
   e. Gregory Short – Chef at Masa in San Francisco
   f. Eric Ziebold – Chef at Cityzen
   g. Stephen Durfee – Pastry Chef at French Laundry
   h. Corey Lee – Chef at Benu
   i. Zak Pelaccio – Chef at Fatty Crab
   j. Curtis Duffy – Chef at Avenues
   k. Timothy Hollingsworth – Chef at French Laundry and represented America in the Bocuse D’or
   l. Tom Colichio – Craft
      i. Marco Canora – Terroir
      ii. David Chang – Momofuko
      iii. Andrew Carmellini – Lacande Verde
   m. Hung Huynh – Top Chef Season 3 Winner
   n. Eli Kaimeh- Chef de Cuisine at Per Se
2) Charlie Trotter – Chef of Charlie Trotters and more
   a. Grant Achatz – Alinea
      i. See Spain
   b. Rick Tramonto – Tru
   c. Mathias Merges – Formerly Chef at Charlie Tortter’s in Chicago
   d. Paul Virant – Vie
   e. Gale Gand – Tru
   f. Ben Roche – Moto
   g. Homaro Cantu – Moto
3) Charlie Palmer – Chef of Aureole and more
   a. Bryan Voltaggio – Volt
   b. Michael Voltaggio – Ink
      i. See Spain
   c. Michael Mina - Mina
      i. Stephen Hopcraft – Top Chef 7
   d. Rocco Dispirito – TV Personality
   e. Richard Blais – Flip Burger
      i. See Spain
   f. Christopher Lee – Executive Chef at Aureole
   g. Joseph Gabriel – The Pluckemin Inn
      i. Mark Farro – Uproot
4) Jean Georges – Many restaurants
   a. Johnny Iuzzini – Pastry Chef at Jean Georges
   b. Angelo Sosa – Xie Xie
   c. Bryan Caswell – Reef
   d. Jehangir Mehta – Metaphor
   e. Gabriel Kreuther – The Modern
   f. Mark Lapico – Chef de Cuisine at Jean Georges
   g. Wylie Dufresne – WD 50
       i. Alex Stupak – Pastry Chef at WD 50
       ii. Joe Bignelli – Chef De cuisine at WD 50, also won Chopped
   h. Pichet Ong – P*ong Restaurant
   i. Dan Kluger – ABC Kitchen
5) Daniel Boulud – Daniel and many other restaurants
   a. David Bouley – Bouley
      i. Andrew Carmellini – Locande Verde
      ii. Eric Ripert
         1. See Modern France
      iii. Rocco Dispirito – TV Personality
      iv. Georges Mendes – Aldea
      v. Dan Barber – Blue Hill at Stone Barns
      vi. Cesar Ramirez – Brooklyn Fare
   b. Terrance Brennan – Artisinal
   c. Geoffrey ZAkarian – The Lambs Club
      i. Michael Lomanaco – Porter House
   d. Michael Lomanaco – Porter House
   e. Rick Moonen – R & M Seafood
   f. Andrew Carmellini – Locande Verde
   g. Francois Payard – Patisserie
   h. Johnny Iuzzini – Pastry Chef at Jean Georges
   i. Jonathon Benno – The Lincoln
   j. Richard Blais- Flip Burger
   k. Zak Pelaccio – Fatty Cue
   l. Ed Cotton – Plein Sud
6) Paul Bartolotta – Spiaggia
   a. Michael White – Marea and many more
      i. Scott Conant – Scarpetta
7) Mario Batali – Del Posto and many more
   a. Mark Ladner – Chef at Del Posto
   b. Dave Pasternack – Chef at Esca
   c. Andy Nusser – Caso Mono
      i. Ilan Hall – The Gorbals
8) Wolfgang Puck – Spago
   a. Mark Peel – Campanile
   b. Nancy Silverton – Great baker
   c. Eric Ziebold – CityZen
9) Alice Water – Chez Panisse
   a. Jonathon Waxman – Barbuto
      i. Bobby Flay – Mesa Grill
   b. Mark Peel – Peels
   c. Christopher Lee – Chef at Aureole
   d. Richard Blais – Flip Burger
   e. April Bloomfield – The Breslin

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Holiday Wish List

J Sous Vide Supreme
I want the Sous Vide Supreme so I can finally experiment by myself with sous vide cookery. I work with sous vide cookery at Uproot by I do not have freedom to do what I want with it there. At Uproot I am told exactly what to do and I have no say in the conceptualization of the dishes. I have Thomas Keller’s book, Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide, which will teach me techniques and then with those techniques I will be able to experiment with flavors combinations and textures. Hopefully I get the Sous Vide Supreme.
J Vacuum Sealer
I need the Vacuum Sealer not only to be able to use the Sous Vide Supreme, but also to compress fruits or vegetables, or quick pickling. And do not forget that food storage will be easier and last longer due to no oxygen getting to the food.
J ISI Cream Whipper and ISI Soda Siphon + Chargers
These two tools are great pieces of kitchen equipment. The soda siphon would let me carbonate any beverage into soda and the cream whipper will turn pretty much any liquid into a foam.
J The Smoking Gun by Poly Science
With this awesome device I would be able to cold smoke food. For example, I would be able to smoke scallops and then sear. The finished product would not be overcooked and it would have a nice smoky flavor.
J Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer
I need a Stand Mixer. With it I could easily make cookies, bread, fresh pastas, whipped cream, and any dough. It would be a life saver and I would be able to have a lot of fun cooking with it.
J 8 pocket Cordura Knife Roll
When I go to Uproot I carry my knifes, knife sharpener, and peeler in a shoebox. It is embarrassing and kind of dangerous to do this, so I definitely need a Knife holder.                            
J  Food Mill
For the perfect texture in purees it is necessary to use a food mill.
J  Chinois and Tamis 
To ensure clarity in sauces it is necessary to strain them. These tools are the perfect strainers and will also smooth out purees.
J Microplane Grater
Recently my microplane grater disappeared. A microplane makes life so much easier. Fresh Lemon zest or minced garlic is easily produced with one.
J Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine
Rene Redzepi is a genius and his restaurant Noma is the best in the world so I want to learn about his style of cooking.  
J Ferran: The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man who Reinvented Food
I got the book A Day at El Bulli and to be honest did not enjoy it. However Ferran changed the world of food so I want to learn about him.
J Charcuterie by Brian Polycn  
I read about Brian Polycn in one of Michael Ruhlman’s books and he is a very talented chef. Also, I want to learn how to make sausages, terrines, and other charcuterie.
J Pierre Gagnaire: Reinventing the French Cuisine
I have wanted this book for awhile and now hopefully I get it.

Is there anything else you think I should ask for?

Monday, November 15, 2010


I have been dreaming about this meal for quite some time now, about 6 months to be exact. I was promised a meal with a dinner budget of about $100 per person last year after getting good grades in school. I decided on WD~50 because it was different. I have eaten at amazing restaurants like Eleven Madison Park, Del Posto, and Jean Georges, but I wanted to try something new and exciting. Wylie Dufresne, the executive chef and owner, incorporates some special ingredients into all of his dishes that not all chefs use - humor and emotion. His genius food will most importantly taste sensational, but it will also make you laugh and make you marvel at his technique.

I was greeted by a very friendly wait staff who were very down to earth. My dad and I were seated at a booth and we both were able to see inside of the kitchen. Wylie Dufresne, Joe Bignelli (Chef De Cuisine), and Alex Stupak (Genius Pastry Chef) were all in house working their asses off. It is not usual (Or practical) for famous chefs like Wylie to be in house working the line, but he is and I really appreciated it. I ordered the tasting menu with my dietary restrictions due to my food allergies, while my dad just ordered a few things a la carte.

Just by eating the "bread" at WD~50 you see the genius of the restaurant. Instead of heavy, filling bread they serve light, crispy flat bread. The bread was as thin as a piece of paper and melted on my tongue. This was so delicious and did not fill me up, so I was able to enjoy the fantastic meal which lay ahead of me.

The amuse bouche I was served consisted of pickled radishes, tofu, and red pepper gel The peppery radish flavor was diluted by the other flavors and to be frank the dish really did not excite me the way I was hoping that it would.

Next came Cuttlefish, apple gel, watercress puree, and fresh watercress. After the disappointing amuse I was expecting to be blown away by this dish and I was not at all. The cuttlefish was very dense so the textures of the gel and puree were lost and their flavors became less pronounce. This was the worst dish of the night and I was starting to get really scared that this meal was not going to live up to my expectations.

I was served aerated foie, pickled beet, plum, and brioche. To make this dish Wylie liquefies the foie, cooks it, takes all of the air out in a cyrovac, and then ultimately foams the foie in an iSi canister. This was the best foie gras I had ever had in my life. The rich, unctuous foie gras was incredible by it's own, but was complemented  even more by the crispy brioche's texture. The beets and plums gave great acidity and sweetness to the best foie dish I have ever had. By now I had completely forgot about the two previous courses and was excited for what was to come.

from the WD 50 website

Now it was time for the famous Eggs Benedict. Wylie absolutely loves eggs, particularly eggs benedict. On Top Chef Season 5 when he was guest judge for the "Last Supper" episode his last meal that he wanted was the perfect eggs benedict. Wylie wanted to put eggs benedict on his menu because of his obsession with it, but he had to modify it so it worked with WD~50's philosophy. What he came up with is pure genius. The egg yolks are pureed and put in cylinder mold and poached very slowly to get the perfect texture. He then takes hollandaise sauce, gels it, and coats it in English muffin and to the fryer it goes. He fries hollandaise! That is so cool. He garnishes the dish with ultra thin slices of crisped Canadian bacon and black Himalayan sea salt. This dish blew my mind. It was perfectly seasoned, had great texture, and expressed who Wylie is as a chef. I will dream about this dish for a long time.

Next, I was given a dish of Cold Fried Chicken, buttermilk-ricotta, Tabasco, and some seed that had similar textures and flavors to caviar. The original dish has caviar in it, but I am allergic so they made a substitution. To make this dish the dark meat of chicken is "glued" together using transglutaminase, also known as meat glue. Next they cook the huge hunk of meat sous vide and then freeze it with liquid nitrogen. The meat gets coated with a special starch and fried. The coating is hot and crispy while the meat is still cold. I do not see a point in keeping the chicken cold, a fried chicken terrine would be equally as cool. I believe in regards to taste, the dish would have been better if the chicken was hot. I still loved the dish though. The Tabasco added a nice heat and the buttermilk-ricotta was very creamy and tasty.

Then, I was then served Peekytoe crab roll, salt n' vinegar chips, celery mayonnaise. The crab was very sweet and worked great with the crispy roll and acidic chips. The celery mayonnaise added a pleasant richness. This dish was delectable, however it did not seem to work with the philosophy of WD~50. This dish seemed to be simple delicous food, which there is nothing bad about that at all, but that is not what Wylie does at WD~50.

My waiter brought out the next course which was "Beef and Bernaise". The dumplings were scrumptious, very moist and flavorful. However the consomme was very bitter and had no flavor of beef.

Them, I was served Roasted Squab with Pumpkin, Chinese Spinach, and Cornbread. The dish really did not look that good to the eye. It was all the same color except for the spinach. However, the squab was cooked beautifully, a perfect, rosy medium rare. The pumpkin and cornbread tasted very earthy and brought you back to the Thanksgiving table. The spinach was blanched properly and seasoned well, but the kitchen I believe could have done something more than just simply blanch a green and put it on the plate.

from the WD 50 website

Now it was time for desserts. My first dessert was a Licorice custard with sake sorbet, and Bartlett pear foam. This was the most clean and refreshing dessert I have every tasted. The sake sorbet was silky smooth. I believe that they had to use liquid nitrogen to make the sake sorbet so they could freeze the alcohol. The custard was rich and not overpowering. The pear foam was the essence of pear with the creamiest and lightest texture possible. This dish was extraordinary.

Next, I received Rainbow Sherbet with plum, tarragon, orange, and olive oil. After the probably the best dessert of my life I did not expect this dessert to live up to the hype, but it did. The olive oil cake was perfect and the olive oil jam added  great fruitiness and saltiness. The rainbow sherbet was inside a gossamer thin sugar tuille. This dessert took a ton of skill to make. There was nothing wrong with this dish at all. Perfection.

My last plated dish of the night was Soft Chocolate with beet, long pepper, and ricotta ice cream. The combination of the beet and ricotta was sublime. It blew my mind how good it was. The savoriness and saltiness of the beet went so well with the ricotta ice cream. The chocolate was tasty, but did not even need to be on the plate. The beets and ricotta ice cream together was the best bite of dessert I have ever had. When the chocolate was brought into the mouth it overpowered the other components, but was still delicous.

By now my stomach was bursting with food, but I was going to eat every last bit of what was served to me. My dad an I received Cocoa Packets and Chocolate Shortbread with milk ice cream. The technique on the Cocoa Packets was very precise and the flavors were great. The Chocolate Shortbread with milk ice cream was decadent and extremely flavorful. It was the perfect last bite to a great dining experience.

After the meal we were asked if we would like a tour of the kitchen! They were asking me, I did not ask them. The kitchen was pretty small, but they had a downstairs prep kitchen that I did not get to see. Wylie, Alex, and Joe were all extremely busy busting out food to a jam-packed restaurant so they really did not have much time for me. Wylie was working the whole fish station by himself. I find that great how he still actually works the line.

In my opinion Alex Stupak out shined Wylie Dufresne tonight at my meal. His masterful desserts honestly had no flaws. They were by far the best desserts I ever had in my life. The savory parts of the meal had very high points, like the eggs benedict and the foie gras, but also had some low points, like the cuttlefish. The foie and eggs benedict are definitely in the top 5 dishes of my life. WD~50 blew me away and I really hope I can come back for more soon.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stone Barns Farm

First off, a chef is only as good as his ingredients. If your ingredients suck your food cannot taste good. What Dan Barber and his team are doing at Stone Barns Farm and Blue Hill Restaurant is extraordinary. Seventy percent of the food for Blue Hill is made in walking distance from the restaurant. I just think that is so cool. Knowing where your food comes is so important. When you see how beautiful your ingredients are you are going to showcase the ingredients, not hide them. Also, in regards to proteins like pork, geese, turkey, etc. you are going to use every part of the animal that is possible and you are going to make sure you cook it perfectly to honor the animal that gave its life up for you. Thomas Keller once had to kill the rabbit he was going to use at his restaurant, The French Laundry and after he killed the rabbits he made sure he was going to use every part and not screw it up because he saw the rabbits suffering and wanted to honor the rabbit's life. Animals that are happy taste much better than animals that are miserable. Turkeys that never once see daylight, or chickens that cannot walk, or pigs that live in filthy factory conditions, etc. taste artificial.

I got to Stone Barns Farm at 10:45 for an 11:00 O'clock tour of the whole facility. When I got to the main square, waiting for the tour guide, I am pretty sure I saw Dan Barber. I think I saw him walk into his restaurant Blue Hill. I only saw the back of him so I am not 100% sure. He was to far away and there was not enough time to approach him, even though I wish I did.

We met our tour guide who was in charge of all of the vegetables at Stone Barns. We started off by going through Blue Hill Restaurant. The kitchen was of a good size and there was a class going on about Thanksgiving cooking. The dining room was casual and elegant without being fussy.

Next, we went to all of the vegetables. The land was choppy and there was some rocks in the land so it was not the ideal farming conditions, but they are still able to work with the land and get amazing products. After every harvesting season the vegetables rotate in the farm. If you keep one vegetable in the same place every year the soil will lose it's high quality and the vegetables would be very prone to getting wiped out by a disease. The farm was growing garlic, lettuces, cabbages, root vegetables, wild herbs, and much more. They have about 100 different type of vegetables growing in the farm.

Then, we went to see the animals. The chickens were running around and seemed so happy. They had two types of chicken, one for laying eggs and another for the actual meat. The chickens that were raised for their eggs produce 5 eggs a week. The chickens are not a problem for the farmers, except when one of the eggs break. If an egg breaks and a chicken eats it that chicken will start to break open more eggs and eat them.

The geese were also running around and were very happy. I asked the tour guide if they ever tried raising geese for their liver (foie gras). He said that they had a farmer come from Spain who taught the farmers about raising humane foie gras. You have to trick the geese so they think they are about to go migrate. When they think they are going to go migrate they start stuffing themselves for the journey. When the geese start to stuff themselves you feed them fatty foods, like nuts or corn, and the liver gets engorged and delicious. However there first go with the wild foie gras did not succeed, but hopefully they will try again.

The turkeys were huge and looked just like the wild turkey that walk around my neighborhood. They were breeding a wild turkey and then a more traditional Thanksgiving butterball turkey. The turkeys are really only sold during Thanksgiving time.

Stone Barns breeds their own type of lamb. The lamb's are used primarily for their meat and secondly for their wool. The lamb are let to graze and eats all different types of grasses, bugs, and worms which brings happiness to there life because they experience diversity (This is the same with all of the animals at Stone Barns).

Stone Barns also breeds Berkshire pigs. The pigs are usually slaughtered at 9 months old. Every animal with two legs gets slaughtered at Stone Barns, while all four leg animals have to get sent out and get gutted. Then the gutted four legged animals come back to the restaurant where they are butchered in house.

After the tour it was time to eat at the Cafe. I wish I could have gone to eat at Blue Hill, but they did not serve lunch. We waited about 30 minutes on line to get food. I got foccaccia with caramelized onions and squash, Ronny Brooks chocolate milk, and two hard boiled fresh farm eggs. The eggs had bright orange yolks and with salt were absolutely delicious and creamy. The foccaccia was also good but needed some salt and acid.

The whole experience was great. I learned a lot and cannot wait to come back and go to Blue Hill and maybe meet Dan Barber.