Showing posts from April, 2007

Pacific : Gas or Electric? - An introduction to induction cooking

My first real foray into cooking was on an electric stove. Not the sleek, stealthy modern variety with a continuous black glass surface, but rather a relic of the late 70s featuring those iconic glowing orange coils. The combination of its "car cigarette lighter" technology and analog clock (which continues to keep good time) seems so frank and honest, how could I not love this thing? Those twisting spirals looking not unlike those on a vinyl LP of the same era harkening back to a simpler time when both cooking and music reproduction were performed with flat, spiral technology?

As anyone who has cooked on both gas and electric can tell you, the biggest feature missing from those vertigo-inducing coils is immediacy. They can take a minute or so (literally) to heat up and must then, in turn, heat up the pan. In short, the time from "inspiration" to "a pan hot enough to do anything with" is enough to kill the moment.

Flame from a gas stove comes out around 250…

Still, Sparkling, or Tap?

Chez Panise stopped serving bottled water.

It's good to find validation for a protest I arrived at on my own. I don't do well keeping up with the protests of others.

The origins of that protest were formed based on my visit to Fiji where they serve - you guessed it - Fiji water. (Well, to the tourists anyway...) Some enterprising person thought, "Hey... this is a tropical paradise... Why don't we bottle water from here and ship it to people." Fittingly, that person was not Fijian.

I can't help remembering the staggering amount of water I had flown over to get to Fiji. The plane flew for something like 12 hours, at 600 miles an hour, and all but the first 4 minutes and last 3 minutes were water. Water surrounds Fiji and, yet, they can't drink it.

Fiji water gets here somehow. A pipeline is too long (though apparently more cost-effective than oil), airfreight is way too heavy, railroads... well, the rails would rust. Which leaves a ship. Ships run on oil, but a…

No subtitute for experience

While adhering to the rule, "the more you learn, the less you know", I'd like to think I am an accomplished (if sporadic, impulsive, and disorganized) cook. I can combine ingredients well enough to achieve the desired flavors and textures most of the time. Yet, there's always more to learn.

A few years ago, a... let's call her a friend... was making a lemon meringue pie. In December. Try as she might, she just couldn't get the meringue to "cook". It remained steadfastly soft and sticky.While I lack the stringent measuring discipline required of a pastry chef, I thought I'd mosey over and see if I could help the little lady with the problem.

I suggested cooking the meringue for a little longer and even raised the temperature a bit to coax the moisture out of the meringue. Nothing worked.

As this pie was destined for a family gathering - her mother included - she was crushed that it wasn't working. She prepared it as well as she could and, as her…

Steakhouse Hell

I love steak. I love it medium rare, I love steak tartare (where even a few minutes under halogen bulbs in the ceiling is overcooked), I even (God help me) love the thin, overcooked steaks my dad used to make. (I think his blend of German, Irish, and Scottish assumed "well-done" as a temperature.) And I love a good burger; hell, I even like mediocre ones.

But... (and you knew this was coming), when did every restaurant in town decide they needed to become some form of steakhouse? I don't mean that they simply added a wider choice of red meat to their menu, I mean all but abandoning the idea of standing out from the place down the street (or even across the street).

The first one that got on my nerves had to be Morton's. Any place that wraps sample cuts of meat in plastic and carts them over to your table to admire is already setting off alarm bells in my head and must surely be designed to tease that brain stem carnivore in you. The obligatory lobster is also occasion…

Olivetto's > "Guess what you're having?"

I recognize, even as a mere spectator in the sport of restaurant ownership, that a menu is a key marketing tool. It's like a book cover for a restaurant, hung proudly (and ideally prominently) near the entrance to your establishment serving as a prime vehicle by which you lure patrons in. Maybe they’re looking for innovation, or maybe familiarity. A single ingredent may jump out at them, or the combination of a first and second course might be the key.Once you’ve lured me in, I'll need to study the menu again and begin the sometimes agonizing decision over what the meal will consist of.This is where things went a bit haywire at Olivetto’s.Some menus hinder rather than help this process. Instead of a path, they provide an obstacle course. It’s like sitting at dinner with someone who, while trying to tell you a basic story, routinely quotes obscure references in foreign languages (usually French). It leaves you feeling left out.
To be sure, the restaurant is gorgeous, the staff …

"American" Cheese

I stood at a bagel counter this morning eyeing the options available, and decided on an egg, sausage, and cheese bagel sandwich. The egg would be of the chicken variety, the sausage of the breakfast variety (Jimmy Dean or equivalent), which left the options for cheese. Rather than recite them through a thick accent and perhaps in an effort to get things done while I decided, the purveyor pointed to a list of the available cheeses. Cheddar is pretty straightforward, Pepper Jack is an odd combination but, given the fact that I've lived in a trailer park, not out of my realm of enjoyment (I normally don't like "things" mixed with cheese, with the glorious exception of black truffle shavings), which left two other categories for consideration.

The first has made me a bit batty for a while now; "Swiss" cheese. This is about as insulting to the Swiss as "American Barbecue" is to Americans or "French Wine" to the French. It implies that the incr…