Sunday, December 09, 2007

Just 5 Days Left to Order for Shipping!

5 Days Left!
If you've been waiting to place your holiday order, don't delay! This Friday, December 14, is the deadline for orders to be picked up or shipped on December 17th. I'll accept orders until December 20 for local pickup or delivery on December 24th.

Truffling Around
The lovely group to the right call themselves the Divas, and I had the pleasure of teaching them to make truffles on Friday night. This group of six friends gets together once a month to hang out and catch up. Sort of like a book club, but without the books. I ran a chocolate tasting for them in the fall, and when I asked them if they'd like to learn to make truffles in time for Christmas, they jumped at the chance.

I followed that up with another workshop on Saturday. Six enthusiastic chocolate lovers turned up to try their hand at creating some chocolate art. If you thought the truffle workshop sounded appealing, but just couldn't fit it in to your packed pre-Christmas schedule, email me. I'd love to offer another in the new year.

Want to hold a tasting event, but just don't think you have room?
Contact me for more information about renting space in my community's 4,300 sqare foot clubhouse. It has a full kitchen and a variety of spaces suitable for groups large and small.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Holiday Gifts from Tammy's Tastings

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and are enjoying your long weekend. Instead of heading out to the crowded shops today, why not do your holiday shopping at Tammy's Tastings?

For the creative cook, consider a pre-Christmas gift that will keep giving for years to come! I've still got a few spots available in my December 8th truffle-making workshop. The deadline for registration is December 4th, and space is limited. Participants will leave with at least two dozen truffles and the know-how to make their own.

Your favorite foodie will be thrilled to receive a gift certificate for a customized tasting event. Chocolate, wine, cheese, bacon - the possibilities are endless.

For the coffee lover, I've teamed up with Ann Arbor's own Mighty Good Coffee to create a special truffle that highlights their excellent coffee. The Mighty Good Truffle is available in my holiday assortment, on its own, and in a combo pack with two 12-oz bags of Mighty Good coffee.

U of M alumni and natural history lovers alike will appreciate the Puma Box. It includes two dark chocolate truffle pumas shaped just like those that frame the entrance to the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum of Natural History. $5 from the purchase of each box will be donated to the museum.

For the kids, or just your inner child, how about a dozen homemade peppermint marshmallows? These don't taste like what comes out of a supermarket bag! Try popping one in a mug of hot chocolate, or toasting it in your fireplace for a s'more Santa would love.

Show your employees or clients how much you appreciate them with a box of chocolates from Tammy's Tastings. Contact me for special pricing on orders of 10 boxes or more.

For everyone else on the your list, visit my holiday order page for large, medium and stocking stuffer sized gift boxes featuring six special flavors (Egg Nog, Intense Orange, Butter Nut Caramel, Mighty Good Coffee, Fresh Ginger and Peppermint Twist). Shipping is available throughout the US and Canada. Orders to be shipped must be placed by December 14.

Wishing you good tastes,

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Truffle Squishing

Chocolatier resigns after "act of truffle-squishing" in a rival store. - Boing Boing

Barry Colenso, chocolatier to the Queen and Prince Charles, the man who created the first billboard made of chocolate, and who has been nicknamed "Willy Wonka" has resigned from his position at Thorntons' after being caught by a surveillance camera as he squished a rival company's candies

That's just so bizarre! And the kind of thing that makes me glad I don't have a retail store for my chocolates - no need for me to worry about random acts of truffle squishing!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

With mashed potato frosting

I can't decide if i'm impressed or grossed out.

A Literal Recipe for Beef Cake?

Saturday, September 08, 2007


I spent most of this last week in Atlanta for work, and had the opportunity to eat at some great spots. The highlight had to be Element, a "Gastro Lounge + Food Lab" from Chef Richard Blais. My dinner companion is a vegetarian, and although they never got my email about requesting a special menu for her, the kitchen agreed to improvise a tasting menu for the two of us on the spot. But vegetarians take note - they've got a vegan working in the kitchen, so if you gave them the 24-48 hours notice they prefer for vegetarians, I bet you'd get a really amazing meal.

We started off with a couple of cocktails - the LN2 (liquid Nitrogen) Margarita and the Anti-Oxidant-Tini. At first we kind of blew off the idea of the margarita - it's just a frozen margarita with a different freezing method, right? But our (excellent) waiter pointed out that the LN2 allows them to freeze the margarita without adding water in the form of ice - so you get the straight up alcoholic goodness without the watery finish. The Anti-Oxidant-Tini was rather fruit punch-ish (but in a good way), with citrus vodka, pomegranate juice and green tea.

Then we were off to the races with Bread and Butter - a thin crisp of bread topped with butter powder. Pretty standard molecular gastronomy stuff.

Next in the series of our many, many amuse bouches and "gifts from the chef" was a chorizo chip topped with chorizo powder, chocolate and cilantro. I loved the combination of the really excellent quality dark chocolate and the spicy salty chorizo. The veggie alternative for this was a taro chip with olive oil powder with the same chocolate and cilantro. Not quite as good, I was told, since it lacked the salty counterpoint. But we were really willing to give them quite a bit of leeway on the veggie menu, since we knew they were having to improvise.

Watermelon caviar with smoked salt. And some little bits of something herbal and green that we were never able to recognize. While fun, and not unpleasant, this was probably the least interesting thing we ate, and didn't actually taste much like watermelon. Fortunately, things went way up hill from there.

I wish I could show you the tomato ravioli, but alas, all you get is an empty bowl with the remnants of a glorious vinaigrette (olive oil and yuzu, i'm guessing). This was simple, but oh-so-delicious - a thin sheet of jicama around a cherry tomato, topped with the aforementioned glorious vinaigrette and fresh coriander. I assume this is a variation of the summer tomato "lasagna" listed on the a la carte menu. Have I mentioned that it was delicious?

Another "gift from the chef." As you can see, someone's having fun with the anti-griddle! A tangy and creamy frozen yogurt blini topped with a perfectly julienned slice each of black cherry and green olive, and a cilantro leaf. Yum. And since my friend was new to the whole "food science" universe, this and the watermelon caviar were good from the perspective of showing her some of the common tricks of the trade.

Oysters + Pearls. A raw kumamoto oyster topped with cantaloupe dipping dots. I thought the dots were a little too firmly frozen - I didn't like the icy crunch in my teeth. But once the warmed up a bit in my mouth, the combination of flavors was good. I don't much like cantaloupe as a fruit, but I've appreciated it in most of the savory applications I've had the opportunity to try. My friend just got a bowl of canteloupe dipping dots, but she felt they stood quite well on their own and appreciated that they were slightly salty as well as sweet.

A New Caprese Salad + Mozzarella Ravioli + Freeze Dried Pesto - red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, with spheres of soft melty mozzarella on top, balsamic drizzle and a nice freeze dried pesto. All the flavor of a good caprese salad, with a few food science twists. Tasty.

California Roll. This was one of my favorites. The roll was wrapped in soy paper, filled with blue crab in a mayonnaise sauce, crunchy tempura flakes and rich avocado and filled with an extraordinary honey mustard sauce. Delicious. Mmmm.

Bluefin Toro. A rich piece of fatty tuna, topped with some thinly sliced cucumber and microgreens, and dressed with a Thai influenced sauce with that balance of sour sweet salt and heat. The little red bits you see in the picture are tiny chili slices and packed a powerful (but not overpowering). The sauce was a creamy wasabi sauce of some sort. My friend got a watermelon steak in place of the fish and thought that was a great combination, as it emphasized that sweet source hot salt balance really well.

Grilled Octopus + Tandoori Spices + Egg Salad. Yum, yum, yum. The flavor of that grilled octopus (served atop a cube of cucumber) was great. As was the cherry chipotle dipping sauce. The egg (and potato salad) was good for mouth cooling purposes, but not especially interesting on its own. My friend had a piece of similarly seasoned tofu in place of the octopus, and was raving over it for the next couple of courses. She's always impressed by places that can season and cook tofu directly, and i expect this is what pushed her over to definitely wanting to come back to see what Element can do with advance notice.

Fresh Linguine + Sous Vide Egg Yolk + Smoked Bacon. I had been hoping we'd get this item off the regular menu, so I was pleased to see it come out of the kitchen. The portion was really too big for course number 11, but it was so tasty that I finished it all anyway. Perfectly cooked pasta, lovely lardons of bacon, bits of tomato, and of course, the perfectly cooked creamy runny egg yolk to make a tasty sauce.

And then we had our only serious gaffe of the night, which was a really unusually long wait between the linguine and our next course. At least a 20 minute wait. Now, given the heaviness of the linguine, this kind of worked to our benefit, but up until then the pacing had been perfect, so we had to wonder what had happened in the kitchen. But eventually our next course arrived.

And Aged Beef + Corn Puree + Lobster Mushroom + Blue Cheese Foam was well worth the wait. The dark line is a red wine reduction, and next to that, the intensely flavorful and quite substantial blue cheese foam. The corn puree was the highlight of this course - sweet and creamy and rich and delicious. We weren't quite sure it went with the rest of the flavors, but it was so damn good on its own, we weren't complaining. We especially appreciated the whimsy of the baby food jar and tiny spoon. My friend got two big pieces of lobster mushroom with hers instead of the meat.

Finally, onto dessert. We got a single plate of two different desserts, with sharing expected. (Perfectly fine with us.) First up, the Yuzu Tart + Sweet Tea Ice Cream + Mint Flavor. I love, love, love yuzu. So I was all over this dessert. All the flavors and textures played perfectly well together.

Chocolate Sorbet + Banana Guacamole was also lovely. Another liquid nitrogen trick, the chocolate sorbet had a hard frozen shell but a soft liquidy mousse inside. You can't go wrong with caramelized banana in my book, so that was a nice addition to the plate. The banana guacamole was finely diced slightly under ripe banana, so it had a nice sour tang and then quite a bit of heat from some other ingredient. It was a great combination on its own, and only improved when mixed with the chocolate sorbet. A very unique dessert, but a big winner.

Stuffed at this point, we paid the bill and started thinking about rolling ourselves out the door. When this glorious cheese plate comes out of the kitchen and is delivered to the table behind us, compliments of the chef. (They were friends of his.) "We can't eat this!" they exclaimed - he didn't like cheese, she was too full. Being the food geeks that we are, we were ogling this beautiful cheese selection, so they invited us to come and join them in nibbling at it. And even as full as we were, this was clearly an offer that could not be refused. So thanks again, Mike and Heather!

From bottom to top: fresh mozzarella + mango sauce (mango puree, dulce de leche and white truffle), Vallo Nostra + bagel chip and pine oile, Salted Ricotta + green olives + dried capers + parsley sauce, Queso de Mano + microgrees + cherry tomato + cherry chipotle sauce , Tennerone sprinkled with Ras el Nanut + coffee chocolate sauce, Matias + lingonberry preserves, and Valdeon sprinkled with Thai peppercorn + figs + red wine reduction.

This is by far the most beautiful cheese plate I've seen in my life. The menu has the words "ubiquitous cheese plate" scribbled in the margin beside it, but if only all cheese plates were like this one! If i lived in Atlanta, I'd be visiting Element often for a cocktail and cheese with friends. It will certainly be a must-do on my next trip, for dinner and cheese if I can manage it.

Prices are really reasonable - the tasting menu was only $65, and the a la carte menu has small plates starting at $7, and entrees are mostly in the high teens. That beautiful cheese course was only $17. The atmosphere is funky - dark lighting, hip music, waiters with piercings and cooks with blue hair and tattoos. We didn't check out the lounge upstairs, but I bet it's a good time too. Everybody went out of their way to make sure we had a good time - when I took a picture of the LN2 tank on our way out the door, our waiter insisted on making it a little more exciting for us.

1051 West Peachtree Street
Atlanta, GA 30309

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

Now that's a night to remember...

Opinionated About Dining: In Search of the Perfect Meal

Aka, "What Happens When You Eat at Jean Georges, Per Se, Bouley, Eleven Madison Park & WD-50 All in the Same Night?"

Sunday, July 01, 2007


When I was in Chicago last week, I finally got to try out Moto. This is another restaurant in the "molecular gastronomy" movement which I'm somewhat enamored with. Despite positive reviews from people, I'd been hesitant about going to Moto. It just seemed too gimmicky - and for me, as someone who's eaten food hanging off an antenna before, that's saying a lot. But then I saw the chef, Homaru Cantu, on Iron Chef America, and when all the judges oohed and ahhed over the flavor of his food, I was sold. So, when I had to spend three days in Chicago for work, I posted on eGullet to find some company for a dinner at Moto. Here's the write-up I just posted to eGullet:

Short version: I went in with the same fears as jesteinf, and was also pleasantly surprised. Everything tasted great, and the gimmicks were used to further that, not distract from it. The wine pairings were spectacular.

Long version:
Our (customized) menu was printed on a cracker that was flavored like foccacia - sundried tomatoes, parmesan, etc. That was on top of a lovely salad with fennel and kumquat. We ordered the 10 course menu, then got to eat our crackers - yum.

SALMON & sesame: raw salmon, dusted with the Japanese spice mixture of a name I can't remember or spell (something -rashi), and topped with a crispy yuba skin. Our server held a copper pot of bubbling liquid nitrogen and scooped from it some freeze dried sesame oil (which became a powder) to top off the salmon. Yum.
Wine: Ruinart Blanc de Blanc, Reims, Brut, NV

BEET with bacon: Okay, you'd really have to love beets to like this one, but luckily we all did. This looked like a piece of yellow cake, but was actually a frozen aerated beet concoction - it was surprisingly cold, and had a texture that reminded me of semi-freddo. It was topped with some little bacon bits, and surrounded by a beautifully plated goat cheese sauce and swirls of red and yellow beet sauce as well as bits of beets.
Wine: C. Schmitt-Wagner, Longuichen Maximiner Herrenberg Spatlese, Riesling, M-S-R, 2005

SKATE & popcorn: the popcorn was in the form of a lovely yellow sauce that did indeed taste kind of like popcorn if you thought about it. There was also a bright green shiso mint sauce, some absolutely fabulous passion fruit noodles and quite a bit of coconut powder. And a little piece of seared skate wing. Beautifully plated, and best when you mixed all the bits together - this was definitely a "sum of the parts" dish.
Wine: Stone Paddock, Sauvignon Blanc, Hawkes Bay, 2005 (the passion fruit in the nose was spot on with those passion fruit noodles - excellent pairing)

CUCUMBER with lemon & basil: A palate cleanser of some picked cucumber and a shot of cucumber/basil/lemon juice. Tasty, and certainly palate cleans-y.

SMOKED PORK with frozen fried rice: Wow. Just wow. Even jesteinf's fiance (who doesn't particularly like pork) liked this. This was a piece of pork shoulder dusted with Thai spices and smoked. It was perfectly cooked, with lovely unctuous melting fat. It was served with some kind of sauteed green and some frozen noodles that, yes, tasted like fried rice.
Wine: Barboursville, Reserve, Cabernet Franc, Virginia 2005 (Yes, that's the US state of Virginia. It was great, and another amazing pairing.)

PASTA & quail: Introduced to us as "chicken-fried quail," this was a very twisty twist on mac and cheese. The pasta had been freeze dried or something, so it was crunchy. Meanwhile, the quail managed to have exactly the texture one would expect from pasta. And it was all topped with an amazing white truffle cheese sauce. Someone at the table christened it "haute trash." But man, I'd totally eat that again.
Wine: Betts & Scholl, The Chronique, Grenache, Barossa, 2005

FRUIT & bubbles: Ah, at last I get to try the famous carbonated fruit! We had two pieces of carbonated watermelon, served on either side of what we heard as "white chocolate and exploratory cheese sauce." We were wondering what was exploratory about it, but then someone told us no, it was "explorateur cheese sauce". Whatever it was, it was amazing. Also on the plate were some granulated black walnuts, a rice puff cracker thing flavored like strawberry daiquiri, and some cinnamon apples. From the texture and flavor, I believe the apples had been cooked sous vide or something unusual. This was just so tasty - we were all oohing and ahhing over that cheese sauce, and now I'm pondering incorporating it into a white chocolate truffle sometime, it was such and intriguing combination.
Wine: Meinklang, Ice Wine, Pinot Blanc, Burgenland, 2003.

2 & 3 dimensional truffle: The three dimensional truffle was a white chocolate truffle filled with a completely liquid cotton candy flavored center. The 2 dimensional version was a piece of rice paper that was flavored like cotton candy and printed with a cartoon drawing of a cone of cotton candy. A very familiar flavor in a new and (for me anyway) preferable form.

GRAHAM CRACKER & blueberry: My note taking fell to pieces on this one, as there was just too much. The twist on this one was that the graham cracker component was as a smooth mousse, with blueberry "dots" and ginger "dots" adding some crunchy texture. There was some strawberry sorbet in there too. Tasty.

KIWI, mint & maize: This looked for all the world like a plate of nachos. There were sweetened corn chips. There was ground beef made out of chocolate (but looking exactly like ground beef). There was a green salsa of kiwis. Then shaved mango sorbet that looked exactly like cheese. And a little pile of lime cream in the corner as the sour cream. The illusion was impeccable. So impeccable in fact, that I had to close my eyes to taste it properly. If I had my eyes open I just couldn't make my tastebuds cooperate. Awesome.
Wine: Elio Perrone, Sourgal, Moscato d'Asti, Italy 2006 (this might have come out with the previous course, I can't remember)

STRAWBERRY shortcake: Edible packing peanuts flavored with strawberry and sandwiching some sort of cream.

After we'd finished up and were chatting about what a lovely meal it had been, a waiter walked by with the cart they used to prepare a course on the GTM at tableside. Seeing that he had a little bit of batter left in his syringe, I called out "Hey, do you have enough there to make us some?" "I'll see what I can do."

And sure enough, a few minutes later out he came, wheeling the cart again for:

FLAPJACKS prepared tableside: A metal sheet is frozen in liquid nitrogen. Pancakes are cooked, then turned back into a batter, and that batter is "cooked" into pancakes on the anti-griddle, and served in a spoon with some BLiS bourbon-barrel-aged maple syrup. Man, that was good.

And then we were really done. And it was a great meal, and a lot of fun. Josh and Marisa were great company. I would absolutely go back.

Some additional comments:
Service: Service was really quite good and friendly. They made a couple of mistakes, the biggest of which was ignoring our telling them that Marisa didn't like dark chocolate (they could easily have left it off her "nachos"). I had requested a short pour for the wine pairings, which they said they were happy to do, but then my pours were pretty much the same size as Josh and Marisa's. BUT, they only charged me for the half pour, so I'm not actually complaining. Lastly, they made a mistake handling the gratuity on our split bill (charging me 1/2 instead of 1/3 of the total 18% service charge) but we just dealt with it between ourselves rather than making them run it again.

Freezing: Cantu definitely likes his freezer! 6 out of what ended up being 12 courses had something frozen about them.

Plating: The Beet and Skate courses had some of the best plating I've had in a restaurant meal in recent memory. Just gorgeous to look at.

Different menu, different name: Looking at the three menus, you would assume that there was no overlap across them. But in fact, as we discovered by carefully observing and talking to the the GTM-eating couple beside us, it's just that they use a different description depending on the menu.

BEET with bacon = RED/YELLOW beet cake
CUCUMBER with lemon & basil = LEMON, basil & pickled cucumber
SMOKED PORK with frozen fried rice = BBQ PORK with the fixin's
PASTA & quail = CHICKEN FRIED mac-n-cheese
FRUIT & bubbles = C O-two fruit
2 & 3 dimensional truffle = 3 COTTON candy stages (they got one more than we did)
KIWI, mint & maize = CHILI-CHEESE nachos

945 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Top 5 Favorite Places to Eat in Ann Arbor

I don't usually do memes here, but I've been feeling so guilty about the total lack of new content here lately, and I saw this one on Foodmomiac and thought - now that, I've got time to do!

Step 1: Add a direct link to your post below the name of the person whotagged you. Include the city/state and country you’re in.

Nicole (Sydney, Australia)
velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)
ML (Utah, USA)
Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
tanabata (Saitama, Japan)
Andi (Dallas [ish], Texas, United States)
Todd (Louisville, Kentucky, United States)
miss kendra (los angeles, california, u.s.a)
Jiggs Casey (Berkeley, CA, USA! USA! USA!)
Tits McGee (New England, USA)
Kat (Ontario, Canada)
Cheezy (London, England)
tafka PP (Jerusalem, Israel)
Liza ("Northern" Israel)
Beth (Dublin, Ireland)
Emily (San Francisco, CA, USA)
Mamacita (Houston, TX, USA)
Foodmomiac (Chicago, IL, USA)
Tammy (Ann Arbor, MI, USA)

Step 2: List out your top 5 favorite places to eat at your location.

In no particular order:

Zingerman's Roadhouse
- Yes, it's expensive. But it's also really tasty, and really consistent - I know I'm going to get a great meal. And the cocktails are out of this world. My favorites are the Scoflaw and the Knickerbocker, but I honestly haven't had one I didn't love. For food, I often get the mini-burger sampler, and either share it with my 3 year old as dinner for both of us, or bring half home for the next night.

Cafe Zola - When I want a nice dinner out, this is one of my go-to places. The entrees are good, but I've been known to make a meal out of just appetizers - the goat cheese with fig preserves is great, as is the antipasto plate. And they have the most amazing mussels.

Sabor Latino - Best tortilla chips in town, bar none. Excellent salsa too. My favorite thing to order here is the carne al pastor taco. With a big glass of horchata.

Kosmo Deli
- What's not to love about a place that sells a "Seoul Dog" - a hot dog wrapped in bacon, deep fried, and served with kimchi? Not that I ever actually order that, mind you. I go for "old school" bi bim bop - white rice, bul go gi, cucumbers, broccoli, carrots and sprouts. And a fried egg on top, of course. Everyone I've taken here has been really impressed with the bi bim bop, and even better - they also make a mean grilled cheese sandwich for the little guy.

Jerusalem Garden - I've always said that Ann Arbor's best food finds are in the cheap eats category, and Jerusalem Garden is a quintessential example. It was the falafel with hummus sandwich that got me hooked in the first place ($4.39 for a huge sandwich!), but now I go straight for the chicken shawarma sandwich. The chicken is amazingly flavorful and always perfectly cooked, and the combination of the hot chicken with cold pickles, tomatoes, lettuce and garlic sauce has my mouth watering this very minute.

Step 3: Tag 5 more people.

Eh - I don't tag people, but please feel free to tag yourself, and post a link in the comments.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wine Club 2nd Anniversary Dinner

A couple of weeks ago my wine club celebrated its second anniversary with another fabulous dinner. You can read about last year's here: it was a 9-course extravaganza with a paired wine for each course. This year we decided to go a little easier on ourselves, and do fewer courses but have a couple of wines with each, so we could compare and contrast. With some canapes for nibbling and some chocolates at the very end, it still ended up with nominally seven courses, although I personally prefer to think of it as 5+. As it turned out, in addition to having fewer courses, they were for the most part each less complex than last year, so all in all it was a pretty relaxing afternoon and evening of cooking dinner for 16.

Canape: Belgian Endive with Pigeon Rillette and Onion Confit
Gruet Brut New Mexico
Wegeler Riesling Sekt Brut Germany

The pigeon rillette was a gift from a friend who picked them up in France. As garnish, we made some onion confit by slowly and deeply caramelizing yellow onions and then deglazing them and the pan with a splash of white wine vinegar. Delicious. The goat cheese ones in the background were for our vegetarian.

First course: Asian Summer Rolls with Fresh Herbs and Blood Orange Dipping Sauce
2004 Zed Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
2005 Quinta da Alorna Arintho, Ribatejo DOC, Portuga

Smitten by some beautiful organic blood oranges at the grocery store, I bought some without really knowing what I was going to do with them. In the end, I cut them into supremes, and tossed them with some fresh parsley and cilantro, and served them as a little salad on the side of the spring rolls. I mixed the juice with lime, fish sauce, sugar and ginger to make a dipping sauce for the rolls. The rolls included mango, jicama, carrots, cucumber, mint and cilantro, and were really exceedingly tasty.

Second course: Hake Puttanesca
2004 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany
2001 Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva

This is a horrid picture of what was one of the best tasting things I've made recently. I should probably be ashamed to admit that my Puttanesca recipe came from Rachel Ray, but it was so good that I can't really mind. We used awesome ingredients - imported olives and anchovies and salt-packed capers from Zingerman's, San Marzano tomatoes - which is essential in such a simple dish. So good - I think I need to make this for dinner tomorrow.

Entree: Rosemary Garlic Smoked Leg of Lamb, Flageolets, Truffled Green Beans
2003 Mas Amiel Notre Terre, Cotes du Roussillon Villages, France
2005 Theirry Germain SauMur Champigny, Saumur Champigny, France

One of our wine club members loves to smoke meats on his grill, and offered to do something that way for the dinner. We went back and forth on a number of different preparations, and ended up settling on this one. We made a paste of garlic and rosemary to stuff a boneless leg of lamb, then included some dried rosemary sprigs on with the wood chips for the smoke. Very nice flavor, although we got our timing wrong and ended up having to rush the cooking along. For our vegetarian member, we marinated some shiitake mushrooms with the same flavors, then smoked them briefly alongside the meat. Just before serving I seared them up in a hot pan. Yum.

Cheese course: Selection of “Stinky” Cheeses
Chateau d’Orignac Pineau des Charentes, Charentes, France

For this course, I picked the wine (on the recommendation of my excellent wine seller, Everyday Wines), and then got to decide what kind of cheese course to go with it. Pineau des Charentes is actually a blend of Cognac and unfermented grape juice, and my god this stuff is amazing. So smooth, so drinkable, and - at 18% alcohol - so dangerous. Wow. My wineseller suggested that it would stand up well to some stinky cheeses, so I sent one of our members (who works with Zingerman's) off on the task of finding some. Apparently all the people working the cheese counter that day had different ideas about what a "stinky" cheese was, so we ended up with four quite different and quite tasty cheeses.

The wrinkly looking yellow one is Langues from Champagne in France. Moving clockwise, Hoch y Brig from Switzerland, followed by Epoisses from Burgundy in France, and lastly a Golwydd Caerphilly from Wales. That's a little bit of fig preserve in the center - it was the one thing all the cheesemongers agreed on.

Dessert: Baked Pears with Goat Cheese, BLiS Maple Syrup
Lustau Capataz Andres Solera Reserva Deluxe Cream Sherry

Not much to look at, but very tasty. The recipe came from my friend Alex, who usually serves it with honey, but thought it would be a great foil for the BLiS maple syrup. This syrup is produced outside Grand Rapids, MI, and is mostly only available to restaurants. Alex lives in Grand Rapids and swapped me some for a box of chocolates. There are a few varieties, but this one is aged in used Bourbon barrels and is remarkably complex and delicious. We baked the pears with some melted butter for 20 minutes, then drizzled them with a bit of 10-yr aged balsamic and baked for five minutes more. They were served warm with a round of fresh goat cheese (from Prairie Fruits Farms, which was well worth effort it took to bring it back from Champaign-Urbana with me on the glowing recommendation of a food friend there) and drizzled with the maple syrup. It was an excellent combination, although next time, I'd skip the balsamic in order to let the maple stand out more. As it turned out, this was an absolutely perfect match with the dregs of the Pineau des Charentes from the previous course, making us all wish we had another bottle of that!

Chocolates: Lavender Caramel, Orange

I took this opportunity to try out a couple of recipes that I was working on for my Mother's Day chocolate selection. People seemed to like them, but we were all a little tipsy by then!

As usual, it was a blast. I'm looking forward to next year already!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I haven't really abandoned you all...

I've just been sooo busy! I usually write about things here when they're done, and right now I've got lots of things in progress.

I spent the last two days in Champaign-Urbana, and while it might not be known as a culinary destination, I did my best to eke out some blog-worthy activity. Stay tuned to hear all about the Meat Science Laboratory, my purchase from which is destined for dinner Friday night.

This weekend is my wine club's 2nd anniversary. We always do a big dinner to celebrate, and this year is no exception - we've got a 5+ course, 10 wine extravaganza in the works, and I'll have pictures and words to share with you about that.

Easter was a busy time for the chocolate making part of my Tammy's Tastings business. But once I finished filling all those orders, I barely had time to breathe before I needed to start testing Mother's Day recipes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

15 hours

7:30 am - Leave my house for the airport

9:00 am - Get on the plane to Chicago

9:30 am - Eat most of a $2 airplane snack of Pringles for breakfast

9:30 am (ahh, the power of timezones) - Land in Chicago

10:45 am - Walk past the new Garret Popcorn location on Randolph. Breath deeply, vow to stop on the way back.

11:00 am - Lunch at the Park Grill Chicago. This restaurant is actually in Millennium Park, so you wouldn't necessarily expect it to be a great spot for a foodie lunch. But it was very convenient to our meeting, and came with recommendations from at least one foodie, so I figured it was worth a shot. When we arrived at 11 it was dead quiet, but by the time we left the place was filled with people - downtown workers, families with kids. The food was pretty good. I had a lamb sandwich with goat cheese and roasted red peppers and salsa verde. One of my coworkers had the Kobe beef burger (with Gorgonzola, caramelized onions and grainy mustard) which, our waiter tells us, was ranked the #3 best burger in the city of Chicago. Both the sandwiches came with fries, and they were perfect. Hot, crisp, really nicely done. The other coworker we were lunching with had the crab and avocado salad and couldn't stop raving about it. So if you're in the neighborhood and it's not too busy, give it a try - it will probably be a better meal than you'd expect.

12:15 pm - Head off to get ready for our meeting.

4 pm - Finish the meeting.

4:30 pm - Stop at Garrett's popcorn and buy a small bag of caramel crisp to bring home. Yes, I know it would be more traditional to get the Chicago mix, but I wasn't in the mood for cheese corn with my caramel corn. The popcorn tastes even better than it smells, and the whole experience reminds me of my youthful days working for Kernels Popcorn.

6 pm - Get through security at O'Hare and ask the airport cop if there's a Gold Coast Dogs accessible from the terminal we're in. There is, and it's just a short walk away. I get a char dog, although I once again give shortshrift to the purist Chicago experience, and only top my dog with mustard, tomatoes, pickles and celery salt (leaving out the onions, relish, and sport peppers).

7:00 - On the plane

9:30 (time zone shift bites back) - Land in Detroit

10:30 - Home! I munch on a little more popcorn, drink some water, and go to bed.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Giant Cadbury Cream Egg

Visit Pimp that Snack to read all about how this jaw-dropping creation was made. It weighs in at nearly 5 lbs and an estimated 10,000 calories!

It's certainly an impressive feat of candy engineering. The thought of actually *eating* it totally grosses me out though. Like most people I've talked to, I loved creme eggs as a kid, but now find them so sweet as to be inedible.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wine Club - Merlot

The task - "Merlot, but interesting." Too much merlot tastes exactly like every other Merlot, so we tasked our wine seller with finding us an interesting variety from different countries. Nothing here is going to become an all-time favorites, but they were certainly interesting.

2005 Trumpeter Merlot Mendoza Argentina
Nice fragrant nose. Plum, black pepper, "mulberries on a hot sidewalk." But a funky edge too. Smoke and burnt marshmallow after some time sitting in the glass. Noticeable acidity, strong mineral finish, slight "oily" body. 2.4 alone, 3.5 food. 1/3.5 alone, 2/4 food. $10.99

2004 Aquinas Merlot Napa Valley
Fruit forward nose (cherry). Plus caramelized sugar, leather and wood. Hint of "well aged compost." Fruity on the palate too. Smooth cherry flavors with a hint of cloves. No tannins. Pleasant, but one-dimensional. Good for quaffing. 3.2 alone, 3.4 food. 2/5 alone, 2/5 food. $11.99

2002 Felipe Rutini Tupungato Valley Mendoza Argentina
Smells "old world." Notes of forest floor - pine needles, musrhooms. "Where the forest meets the sea." Smooth, but not too smooth, some mild tannins. Quite dry, with moderate acidity for a little bite. "Chewy." Very drinkable, but not at all boring. Slight mineral finish. 3.3 alone, 3.3 food. 1/5 alone, 2/5 food. $15.99

2003 Chateau le Marquisat la Perouse Bordeaux
Bad bottle - pretty serious brett. A little bit of brett can be appealing, but this was definitely a fault. Even so, some people found things to like about it. 1.7 alone, 2.1 food. 1/3 alone, 1/3 food. $11.99

(Understanding the ratings: Wines are scored on a 5 pt scale. The scale does not reflect a formal evaluation of the wine, just how much people like or dislike it. Scores reflect averages and ranges across the group. Wines are tasted and scored first alone, and then with food. )

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Congrats, Chef Alex!

Ann Arbor's own Alex Young, chef at Zingerman's Roadhouse, is a Beard Foundation 2007 nominee for best Chef in the new "Great Lakes" category. It's great to see a local name on the list, and to see Zingerman's get the recognition, but I'd be amazed if he pulls out a win as the competition is pretty fierce:

Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)
Grant Achatz, Alinea, Chicago
Carrie Nahabedian, Naha, Chicago
Bruce Sherman, North Pond, Chicago
Michael Symon, Lola, Cleveland
Alex Young, Zingerman's Roadhouse, Ann Arbor

Kitchen Chick has a great profile of Alex on her blog. The full list of Beard nominees is available here (pdf).

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Maple-Mustard Pork Tenderloin for 36

My butcher has had a great price on pork tenderloin lately, so I've cooked it a couple of common meals in a row. This time, I got thinking about pork, and what would go well with it, and immediately thought of maple. And mustard as a nice complementary flavor. I went looking for ideas on the net and found a lot of people using apple cider vinegar, and that was an excellent addition - it ensured that the sauce wasn't too sweet. I served this with mashed sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli and salad.

Maple-Pork Tenderloin for 36
12 lbs pork tenderloin (about 8)
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
vegetable oil

8 oz maple syrup
8 oz dijon mustard
4 oz apple cider vinegar, plus extra for deglazing
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle the pork tenderloin with salt and pepper and set aside for at least 5 minutes.

Mix the sauce ingredients together.

Preheat one or more large heavy pans. Add just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Working in batches, sear the tenderloins for 2 minutes on each side, for 6 to 8 minutes total. Place onto a baking sheet. When all the tenderloins are seared, coat them generously on all sides with the sauce. You will use about half of the sauce. Reserve the extra.

Roast tenderloins in the oven for 15-30 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 145 to 160, depending on how well done you like your pork. Remove from oven, cover loosely in foil, and let rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.

While the tenderloins are roasting, deglaze the searing pans with extra cider vinegar, scraping up all the accumulated fond. Add reserved maple-mustard sauce to pan and set aside. When the tenderloins are done, add any pan juices from the roasting pans, and reduce sauce by 1/3.

To serve, slice roasted tenderloins into medallions and place on platters, topped with maple-mustard sauce.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Easter Chocolates from Tammy's Tastings

I'm now accepting orders for Easter Chocolates over on my business website. Flavors are desribed below, but visit the Easter sale page for prices and details on how to order. And please feel free to tell your friends!

Truffle Bunny – This adorable bunny is available in your choice of 72% dark chocolate with dark chocolate ganache, or milk chocolate with milk chocolate ganache.
Cardamom – Aromatic floral spice notes of cardamom combine with earthy dark chocolate for an exotic treat.
Raspberry – Organic raspberry puree infuses every bite of these dark chocolate delicacies.
Peanut Butter – These peanut butter centers don’t come out of a jar. We start by grinding roasted peanuts with caramelized sugar, add milk chocolate and cream, then mold them in dark chocolate shells.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Uh-oh: Butter is evil again

Trans Fat Fight Claims Butter as a Victim - New York Times

Remember how we call used to eat margarine, because it was deemed to be more healthy than butter? And then we discovered trans-fats, and margarine became the adversary. Well, now butter is back in the food paranoists sights - one quarter pound of butter contains 3.12 grams of naturally occurring trans fats. Researchers aren't sure, but think that naturally occurring trans fats don't have the negative health effects that artificially created ones do. But big companies, like Starbucks, don't want to have to explain all that to their customers, and FDA labeling states that "if a product has a half a gram or more of trans fat per serving, the amount has to go on the food label and the food can’t be called trans fat-free, even if butter is the only fat." So...

...wholesale bakers are being forced to substitute processed fats like palm oil and margarine for good old-fashioned butter because of the small amounts of natural trans fat butter contains.
Changing ingredients isn't the only strategy:
Sometimes the change means eliminating butter or other dairy products that register trans fat; other times it means reducing portion sizes so nutritional analysis shows that, for example, a cookie has less than half a gram of trans fat per serving.
And butter is only the beginning. Ground beef: 1.33 grams per quarter lb. Brie: 1.12 grams per quarter lb. Cup of milk: .24 grams. According to the article, meat purveyors are already getting nervous as more and more places push trans fat bans.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Beyond Molecular Gastronomy The End of Molecular Gastronomy?
We are at a remarkable point in our culinary history. The burst of creativity that began at El Bulli and has carried on in places like Fat Duck and Alinea (among a handful of other notable American restaurants) has been thrilling. But I think the innovations we’ve seen have been more than enough for now. Now, like the innovations of Nouvelle Cuisine in the 1970s, techniques such as hot gels, unusual starches and gums, foams, and sous vide cooking, need to find their proper place in the evolution of those restaurants fueled by the creative spirit and striving for innovation--without being dogged by the ungainly and inaccurate term “moleculary gastronomy.” It is the new new cuisine. But we stopped referring to Nouvelle Cuisine as such, after its essential mandates were fully incorporated into the fine dining idiom. In the hands of a chef such as Achatz, whose culinary fundamentals (how to cook a potato, how to make a chestnut puree) are so exquisite, I hope we stop calling the new new cuisine anything at all other than really good food.

Chocolate Tasting

On Sunday I invited a bunch of friends around to taste some chocolate with me. I'd ordered some E. Guittard single origin bars to taste, and then had collected up various odds and ends
I'd gotten in trade from people on the net. I wanted to taste them all alongside the basic couvertures I'm using for my chocolate making, to see if there was something I should be using instead, or if any of them called out for use in a particular pairing.

We tasted 13 different chocolates - 10 dark and 3 milk.

Dark Chocolates
1. E. Guittard 61% (B)
2. Noel 64% (B)
3. New World 64% (U)
4. E. Guittard Sur del Lago Venezula 65% (SO)
5. E. Guittard Quevedo Ecuador 65% (SO)
6. E. Guittard Chucari Columbia 65% (SO)
7. E. Guittard Ambana Madagascar 65% (SO)
8. Valrhona 2002 Chuao Venezuala 65% (SE)
9. E. Guittard 72% (B)
10. El Rey Apatmate Carnero Venezula 74% (SO)

Milk Chocolates
11. Callebaut Milk (B)
12. El Rey Irapa Rio Caribe 40% (SO)
13. E. Guittard Orinoco 41% (B)

B=blended, SO=single origin, SE=single estate, U=unknown

I have a horrible chocolate vocabulary, so I don't have detailed tasting notes to share. But I was pleased that the E. Guittard chocolates I have been using stood up well against the rest. I didn't particularly like the El Reys - as one attendee, also a chocolatier, said "I know I'm supposed to be impressed by El Rey, but I'm just not." The 74% in particular was downright unpleasant - kinda chalky. I'm not really sure what #3 was - it was labeled as "New World 64%" but I can't find anything like that anywhere on the net.

Of the four Guittard single origin bars, the Ecuadoran (#5) was the favorite. Mostly, I think, because it tasted the most like how we expect chocolate to taste. The others were more varietally distinct. #6 was interesting - woody, smokey and kind of peaty - might be good on it's own as a single origin truffle.

#8, the single estate bar, was very complex. Lots of layers of flavor. It comes from the Chuao cocao bean, which is only grown in one small place in Venezula, which is only accessible by the ocean, blah-blah-blah... Very unique, very interesting. It's a vintage chocolate, in that it has a year of harvest associated with it, and is made only from beans from that harvest. This was a freebie that I got from Chocosphere when I placed my giant chocolate order with them recently.

#2 came from an eGullet friend who traded me her go-to chocolate pistole for some of my bonbons. It was quite different from the others in the tasting, I think because it has much lower acidity than the others. It had some distinct anise and cinnamon kind of notes. Some people thought it was almost peanut-buttery. It's not a clean enough tasting chocolate that I would want to use it for general use, but I may play around with it for for a cinnamon or peanut butter center, places where it's unusual character will contribute.

The milk chocolates were, well, milk chocolate, which I mostly don't like. But the E. Guittard Orinoco was better than the other two, so I'll keep it as my basic milk chocolate for now. Even my friend Sue liked it, and she generally doesn't like milk chocolates that are high in cocoa content. So if I've found a milk chocolate that both she and I like, then it's definitely a keeper!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Interview with Grant Achatz

Fascinating read from Chicagoist. Here's a taste:

Chicagoist: Could you start off by describing in layman’s terms what you call “hypermodern, emotional” cooking, or what’s also known as “molecular gastronomy” or “science food”?

Grant Achatz: We really look at the whole thing as a block of time. We can cook individual meals or dishes. But for us, we’re trying to entertain, captivate, insatiate, all of those things combined into one experience for x amount of time. We have you in the chair for between two to six hours. What are we doing with that time? Well, we’re going to try to entertain you. We’re going to try to feed you, obviously. If food and service is the medium, how do we refine or craft an experience that is not only unique, but also … you mentioned “emotionally driven.” When people ask, “what is your goal with this?” I say, “I want people to feel.” Sometimes that feeling is going to be elation. Sometimes it’ll be intimidation. Sometimes it’s going to be happiness. When people think of cooking, that seems like a stretch to them. They think that, as a chef, my job is to feed you good-tasting food. That’s only part of that for us. We recognize that, and we focus on that, and all the other elements, as well.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Now I want a sous-vide setup!

What is sous-vide cooking? Here's what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:

...a method of cooking that is intended to maintain the integrity of ingredients by heating them for an extended period of time at relatively low temperatures. Food is cooked for a long time, sometimes well over 24 hours. But unlike a slow cooker, sous-vide cooking uses airtight plastic bags placed in hot water well below boiling point (Usually around 60°C = 140°F).

The method was developed by Georges Pralus in the mid-1970s for the Restaurant Troisgros (of Pierre and Michel Troigros) in Roanne, France. He discovered that food cooked in this way kept its original appearance, did not lose its nutrients and maintained its natural texture. The method is used in a number of top-end restaurants under Thomas Keller, Paul Bocuse, Joel Robuchon and Charlie Trotter and other chefs. Non-professional cooks are also beginning to use vacuum cooking.

Deadly botulinum bacteria can grow in food in the absence of oxygen: sous vide cooking must be performed under carefully controlled conditions to avoid botulism poisoning. To help with food safety and taste, relatively expensive water-bath machines are used to circulate precisely heated water; differences of even one degree can affect the finished product.
As the Wikipedia article relates, it was originally targeted at high-end restaurants. It has recently crept into the repetoire of many home cooks who are looking to emulate the fine dining experience. While I occasionally like to do that myself, it's not often enough to justify the investment. Or so I thought...

Enter this eGullet thread on "Quotidian Sous Vide", which explores the many everyday uses to which cooks are putting their sous vide technology. The chief advantage of sous vide is its careful temperature control - it's impossible for the food to overcook, since the goal is to equalize the temperature of the food and the water it's in. This fine control over temperature is what differentiates sous vide from it's less dignified and more well known cousin - ye old "Boil in a Bag."

Slkinsey is making his own lunchmeat:
Lately, I've been using my rig (Lauda digital recirculating water bath heater, 5 gallon stock pot, FoodSaver Professional III) to make lunchmeat for the week. I'll pick up a turkey or chicken breast, a pork loin, a brisket, beef roast, or whatever looks good and is on sale, vacuum bag it with salt and whatever other flavorings suit my fancy, cook it in the water bath as appropriate, toss the bag into an ice bath to cool down and then into the fridge. I usually do this on Sunday evenings, and on Monday morning I pull the bag out of the fridge, slice up the meat, and I have incredible sandwich meat for the rest of the week. This is not only a huge savings over buying sandwich meat at the deli counter, but there's just no way Boar's Head can ever compete with what I can make at home. What's nice also is that it's a complete snap to do sous vide -- easier than any other method, really.

Repeat after me: there's no room in your kitchen for another toy, there's no room in your kitchen for another toy.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Grade Inflation and Other Oddities in the Zagat Guide

Interesting article on Zagat Math from SmartMoney magazine.

The guide — which millions of consumers have come to rely on — bills itself as an industry "report card" with grades handed out by the voting public. But what's become of all those tough, if not picky, reviewers? When the Zagats started selling their 1983 New York restaurant guide, it was no mean feat for a chef to score a food rating of 20 or higher, the benchmark for "very good to excellent" in Zagat terms. Only one in four New York restaurants did so at the time. Today fully 70% reach those heights. It's as if the bottom tier dropped out: Just over a decade ago 189 out of 1,300 New York restaurants rated 15 or below; today only 23 do, despite the fact that the guide now rates more than 1,500 restaurants. Step outside restaurants and the numbers look even more buoyant — including a rather impressive handicap in the golf guides, where two clubs have managed a perfect 30 for their courses.

The Zagat guides definitely have their place, but they are not the end all, be all. They're based on eater surveys, (and as the article reveals, often based on surprisingly few reponses) and formerly good restaurants tend to stay high in the ratings for a long time based on reputation and memory, not actual recent meals. And like any restaurant rating system, your tastes may not agree with the reviewers. If I'm planning a trip somewhere, I might use the Zagat guides as a starting point to identify some potential candidates, then follow that up with research on places like eGullet, Chowhound, or LTHForum to get a broader perspective.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Wine Club - Sherry

I'm usually the one who researches and buys the wine for wine club every month, so it was a real treat for me in February when one of our members offered to round up some Sherries for us to try. Given that we are mostly all Sherry neophytes, and we were tasting through four very different styles of Sherry, we did this as an open rather than blind tasting and read up on the different styles as we tasted. He also brought an amazing and varied selection of food (pictured above) - homemade black olive tapenade, pistachios and almonds, olives, and Garroxta, a really wonderful aged Spanish goat cheese. Looking at the scores, all of the wines got better with the food, but in most cases they didn't necessarily go perfectly with everything - some played really well with the nuts, others with the cheese, etc. But overall the food pairings were really good, and led to us drinking rather a lot of Sherry as we had to keep trying all the different combinations, and all those salty foods made us thirsty!

Barbadillo Fino Sherry Sanlucar de Barrameda SP
Very pale. Nose of caramel and vanilla, butterscotch, with hints of lemon and hyacinth. Very dry and light bodied, quite acidic. Sour sweet salty, all in one. Good with almonds and olives. 2.3 alone, 3.2 food. 1/3 alone, 2/4.5 food. $7.99

Hidalgo Manzanilla La Gitana Sanlucar de Barrameda SP
Very pale. Nose is a little retiscent, but once it starts showing it just grows. Butterscotch, caramel, nuts, honeysuckle. Palate is compex with salt and honey. Dry but round, medium body. Great with pistachios. 3.0 alone, 3.2 food. 2/4 alone, 1/5 food. $11.99 (500 mL)

J.P. Perez & Co. Amontillado Sherry, Jerez SP
Honey brown/toasted caramel. Nose has vanilla extract, caramel and maple syrup. The flavor is reminscent of a tawny port. Silk sweet, but not cloying, with some earthy undertones. Very drinkable. Balanced acidity, medium to heavy body. Good with cheese. 3.3 alone, 3.7 food. 2.5/4 alone, 2/4.5 food. $8.99

Hartley and Gibson's Oloroso Sherry, Jerez SP
Deep brown, almost coffee colored. Sweet, and a little bitter. Slightly medicinal, like a horehound cough drop. Alcoholic heat in the throat. Heavy bodied. Particularly good with the tapenade and cheese. 3.0 alone, 4.1 food. 2/4.5 alone, 2/5 food. $12.99

(Understanding the ratings: Wines are scored on a 5 pt scale. The scale does not reflect a formal evaluation of the wine, just how much people like or dislike it. Scores reflect averages and ranges across the group. Wines are tasted and scored first alone, and then with food. )

Friday, February 23, 2007

Spicy Korean Pork Tenderloin and Asian Slaw for 32

This one is adapted from a recipe in Fine Cooking. It's really easy, and really tasty. The most annoying part is pan frying all the pork pieces. I've experimented with doing them on the grill and the broiler as well, and that works okay, although frying tastes better. The marinade adapts well to tofu, which you then just bake at 375 for about 45 minutes or so.

Spicy Korean Pork Tenderloin
10 lbs pork tenderloin
2 2/3 c soy sauce
1 c rice vinegar
1 c brown sugar
1 head garlic, minced (about 16 cloves)
3/4 c minced ginger (given the quantity, I use the jars of pre-minced, but it would taste even better with fresh)
1/4 c sesame oil
1/8 to 1/3 c Sriracha or other Asian chile sauce (depends how spicy you like it!)

Trim the tenderloin of silver skin and membranes and slice on the diagonal into 1/3 to 1/2 inch medallions. Be careful not to make them too thick.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Pour half of it over the tenderloin. Reserve the rest for serving. Marinade the tenderloin for 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.

In one or more griddles or large heavy pans (cast iron is great here), heat canola oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Place a single layer of pork tenderloin in each pan, shaking off any excess marinade. Be careful - it will splatter! Cook for 2 minutes, flip, then cook for 2 minutes on the other side. Transfer to a covered dish and/or low oven to keep warm while you cook the rest. Because of the sugar in the marinade, you will need to scrape or wash out the pans after a couple of batches. I kept a bowl of water, a dishcloth and some tongs by the stove, and used that to wipe out the pans as needed.

To serve, place on platters and top with reserved marinade. Sprinkle with some chopped scallions.

Asian Slaw
8 lbs napa cabbage, thinly sliced
2 lbs carrots, grated
2 red peppers, quartered and thinly sliced
2 bunches scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 bunch cilantro, minced
1/2 c canola oil
2 tbsp salt
1 c rice vinegar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 sesame oil
2 tbsp Sriracha or other Asian chile sauce (optional - I like to serve the slaw without any hot sauce to counter the spicy pork)

Combine cabbage through cilantro in a large bowl. Mix together dressing ingredients (oil through chile sauce, if using). Combine veggies and dressing only about 15 minutes before serving, otherwise it will be too soggy.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hot Doug takes one for the team

Chicago's first foie gras citation goes to Hot Doug's.

Not a surprise, given Doug Sohn's in-your-face defiance of the foie gras ban, but still a disappointment.

On Friday afternoon, Sohn seemed to be considering whether to fight on. He took the duck-liver dogs off the menu and got ready to go on vacation. If anyone wants to reach him, he'll be considering his options over a plate of foie gras in France, where they are surely shaking their heads.
My earlier posts on the Chicago foie gras ban can be found here and here, and I wrote about Hot Doug's here.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Blackbird has been on my Chicago to-eat list for quite a while now. But I get to Chicago so infrequently that there's always been something above it. So having a Monday night in Chicago was a blessing in disguise - most of the top tier restaurants are closed, and Blackbird was one of the few that was open. One look at the aintriguing menu and it quickly jumped to the top of my list.

I'm pleased to say the menu was as delicious as it was intriguing. And the location was certainly convenient - after 20 or 30 minute taxi rides to most of my Chicago dining destinations last time, this was just a few minutes ride from my Magnificent Mile hotel.

One of the reasons that I hadn't been to Blackbird before is that I usually seek out restaurants with tasting menus. That way I don't have to make those hard decisions, and I get to try a whole bunch of different things. Blackbird doesn't have a tasting menu, but that was another hidden blessing, as it was nice to walk out NOT stuffed to the gills. But it was hard to decide, since nearly every appetizer and entree looked tasty. We finally settled on two entrees and two appetizers, then each ate half and switched for maximum tasting opportunity.

The amuse was a split pea soup with a piece of perfectly seared salmon, some smoky bacon, and tiny cubes of tart apple. Very nice.

Appetizer #1: confit baby octopus and duck prosciutto with cocos beans, jerusalem artichoke and perserved lemon. The texture of the octopus confit was fascinating. Not rubbery at all, and somehow firm and soft all at the same time. The jersualem artichoke puree was delightful, and the duck prosciutto was swoonworthy. It all just came together beautifully.

Appetizer #2: crispy confit of swan creek farm suckling pig with cavollo nero, shaved winter radish, horseradish and banylus vinegar. On the menu, the words "suckling pig" were bolded, which was certainly eye catching. Some of the bits of confit were a little dry, but other bits were moister, and while I preferred the octopus, this was certainly no clunker.

Entree #1: seared loin of venison with parsnip, artichokes, smoked grapes and bacon caramel. This was wonderful, and a good example of what appealed to me so much about Blackbird's menu. I've been to lots of "food science" restaurants, and Blackbird strikes a good balance of using some excellent techniques from molecular gastronomy without making it the focus of hte meal. In this case, the bacon caramel and smoked grapes - wouldn't have been out of place at Alinea or WD-50, but they also worked with a fairly straightforward presentation. The venison was perfectly cooked. The smoked grapes were a wonder - still crisp, but surprisingly smoky. Excellent.

Entree #2: fried leg and slow-roasted loin of royer's farm rabbit with white corn panisse, fresh huckleberries, brussels sprouts and caraway. Lots of fun little bits to this one. The white corn panisse was really lovely, and the huckleberries worked really well. The coating on the fried leg came slipped off and was soft rather than crunchy, but all in all this was another winner.

The room is clean and modern, and unusually (but pleasantly) bright. The tables are quite close together - they're making the most of a tight space. The music is a little funky, but not so incongruous as at Schwa. Service was just right.

I wouldn't proclaim anything I ate as one of my "best dishes ever." But everything was very solid, very tasty, and very nicely presented. Quietly innovative. It was just an all around great meal, and I'd go back to Blackbird in a heartbeat.

619 W Randolph
Chicago, IL 60606

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

Please enjoy this virtual box of chocolates, from the the Valentine's Day collection that I offered through my fledgling business.
Top row: salty caramel, passionfruit, hazelnut praline. And in the center with the hearts, strawberry-balsamic.

The salty caramel is based off of this recipe from Epicurious. I used 2 tsp of coarse gray sea salt and only cooked it to 240 degrees. I used a very high bf content cream and butter, which made for a really nice texture and flavor to the caramel.

For the passionfruit, it's 4 ounces of chocolate, 3 ounces of cream, and just under an ounce of passionfruit concentrate.

The hazelnut praline recipe is from the new Andrew Garrison Shotts book. Caramelize some sugar, pour it over some toasted hazelnuts, and then let that cool. Break it into pieces and puree them in a food processor until it becomes a paste. The praline paste is then mixed with a little bit of milk chocolate and some cocoa butter for the filling. Very assertive and interesting flavor.

The strawberry balsamic was inspired by the Shotts book as well, although I made a lot of changes. There's a layer of strawberry pate de fruit on the top, and then a layer of dark chocolate balsamic vinegar ganache below. On the left, you can see what it looks like on the inside. The method is rather complicated, so I'm not going to post it here, but feel free to comment or email me if you want the recipe.

Here's hoping your Valentine's Day is sweet!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fun with sugar

I was making caramel for my Valentine's Day chocolates this weekend, and discovered this really cool star shape in my pot. It's caused by the shape of the grate over the burners on my gas range, and I thought it was nifty enough to deserve a blog post.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bourdain weighs in on the Food Network

Guest blogging on, Tony Bourdain provides his usual cutting and funny but insightful commentary on the "Newer, Younger, More Male-Oriented, More Dumb-Ass Food Network."

On Mario Batali:

Oh, Mario! Oh great one! They shut down Molto Mario--only the smartest and best of the stand-up cooking shows. Is there any more egregiously under-used, criminally mishandled, dismissively treated chef on television? Relegated to the circus of Iron Chef America, where--like a great, toothless lion, fouling his cage, he hangs on--and on.
On Rachel Ray:
Complain all you want. It’s like railing against the pounding surf. She only grows stronger and more powerful. Her ear-shattering tones louder and louder. We KNOW she can’t cook. She shrewdly tells us so. So...what is she selling us? Really? She’s selling us satisfaction, the smug reassurance that mediocrity is quite enough. She’s a friendly, familiar face who appears regularly on our screens to tell us that “Even your dumb, lazy ass can cook this!” Wallowing in your own crapulence on your Cheeto-littered couch you watch her and think, “Hell…I could do that. I ain’t gonna…but I could--if I wanted! Now where’s my damn jug a Diet Pepsi?”

Monday, February 05, 2007

Truffles, Candy and Confectionary

I picked up this book on a recent Amazon splurge. After I took a look through, I almost sent it back. The truffle recipes are all very basic. And essentially variations on a theme, as the method is nearly identical for each page, it's only the ingredients that vary. Good for a total beginner to truffles, but I'm well past that stage now.

I decided to keep it, however, for the candies and confections portions. While I've developed an intuitive sense of how to work with ganaches for truffles, caramel is still something of a mystery to me, and this book had a bunch of interesting caramel recipes to try. Not to mention nut brittles, marzipans, fruit jellies, and fudges.

The recipes are straightforward and easy to follow. This weekend we had a big party to go to on Saturday night, so I used that as an excuse to try out not one, not two, but THREE different recipes from the book. All of which turned out really well.

At the bottom are Espresso Caramels, in both wrapped and chocolate covered versions. To the left, wrapped and chocolate dipped versions of the Honey Nut Caramels. To the right and in the middle (with the chopped nuts on top) is a slightly overcooked Hazelnut Butter Crunch. It's definitely edible, but darker than I would have preferred. The caramels are both good, but the honey nut is the best.

Here's what the caramels look like inside:

My verdict: If you're new to candy or truffle making, this is an good book. It covers all of the basics, in an approachable style and with methods that don't require a lot of specialized equipment. If you've already got some confectionary experience, then you'll probably find it too simplistic and would be better served with a different book. Even a beginner might have that experience - do you really need a recipe to tell you to temper some chocolate and mix it with roasted peanuts? Or, a couple pages later, the same recipe but with coconut instead? But there are some gems in the mix, and a good grounding in basic techniques, so it's certainly worth a look.