I think my love for Williams-Sonoma has been made amply clear. How disappointed was I when my beloved slipped, losing an entire 10 points on my obsession scale!
Imagine my surprise when I walked into W-S expecting a tutorial in braising as part of their weekly technique classes, and received an extended QVC-type plug for their line of prepared braising sauces! Ick. Why on earth would I go to a class to learn how to open jars? Never mind my disappointment in the instructor who had difficulty distinguishing between a braise and a stew.
I am sorry to be snarky about the entire undertaking considering that the majority of my cooking know-how is gleaned from books and television, but come on! Demonstratig a recipe for chicken cacciatore that consists of step 1) brown chicken, and step 2) open jar of sauce seems like talking down to the audience. But maybe not… the fact that half the people in the room visibly gagged when the instructor began dismembering a whole chicken should have been sign #1 that the audience, and perhaps the class, were not my scene. Were they not aware that the shrink-wrapped blue-ish bird bits they pick up at the supermart come from an actual, gasp, chicken? Irritation embodied, that.
Perhaps I need to finally suck it up, quit my whining (and grad school) and take a real cooking class.
P.S. I am only (mostly) joking about quitting grad school. I think.
P.P.S. Don’t worry, I still love Williams-Sonoma. It will have to earn back the points it lost, however.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I am a bit (more like huge) of an airhead. I forgot that the whole point of a meme is propagation, so to speak. Here goes, with a slight delay.
What five foods are you ashamed to love?
Leena - Leena Eats
JC - Nobody Cares What You Ate for Breakfast
Hillary - Chew On That
Nitasha - Bloomers & Buns
Who says you have to have a blog to participate in a meme? I object to such blog-centricity. Therefore, Aimee, take it away.
Brutal honesty is best.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
I was tagged for a meme. How exciting is that? I feel all bloggerly and validated. Someone out there in the great big bloggy world cares to know what 5 foods I am ashamed to love.
It’s a neat concept for a meme, but one that I have a bit of a problem with. I don’t need to add to my reputation of food snobbiness. I think there is equal beauty in a perfectly ripe, sweet and juicy plum with a crackly, taut skin and a masterfully prepared complex dish with 50 ingredients and 30 garnishes. I don’t like to judge food on anything beyond its merits.
That said, I will now release all my nasty food habits out into the open. Let them run around and make friends with one another.
1. This skeleton may already be out of its closet, but I love Cheetos. I do. I love them. I don’t really know what they are or what they are made of, nor how they get to be knobby, crunchy, and day-glo orange, but I love them. I love how the neon-colored fake cheese gloms onto your fingertips. I love scraping it off with my teeth once a thick enough layer has accumulated. So good and so bad all at the same time.
2. I love burnt cheese. You know when you’re making mac and cheese or baked brie, and just a little bit of the cheese spills its way onto the baking sheet and gets fried into a hard, slightly bitter and massively salty cracker? That’s the bit I love. I will stand there picking at it, chipping it off the metal sheet, shard by crispy little shard. The mac and cheese is a poor consolation prize after all the burnt cheese is gone.
3. Ok, it’s now time for scary “ethnic” stuff. [As an aside, I find the word “ethnic” to be one of the most cringe-worthy in the English language and borderline offensive. It’s a remarkably efficient way of setting someone apart, making them feel different and left out. Speaking as an “ethnic” person, of course.] I love pickled herring. I know I am fulfilling about 15 different stereotypes by saying so, but I do, I love herring. Russians serve it doused with vegetable or sunflower oil, with sliced white onions and occasionally minced dill on top. My hands smell of fish for a whole day afterward, but I don’t mind. I guess I am just ethnic that way.
4. Every five years or so, I find enough time to make my own chicken stock. I really like doing it. It makes the house smell good and it reminds me of my Mom’s cooking. She used to buy chicken drumsticks for stocks (now she bad-assedly dismembers whole chickens for the purpose… I have a long way to go before I can even pretend to do that). I loved, and still love, to eat the resulting plain boiled chicken, with some mustard or horseradish. It’s not a particularly bad or disgusting food habit, but it is a really boring one. It’s boiled chicken. Period. But it reminds me of when I was little. More than anything else I cook for myself, boiled chicken drumsticks (possibly the most un-photogenic food in all creation) send me back home.
5. Last one. I should make this one good, right? The grand reveal? The complete gross out? Ok then. It’s not so much a food as an approach to food. I hate utensils. Really, I do. I cannot stand forks, spoons are ok, knives are instruments of dining torture. All the pomp and circumstance and watching where you put what and how you hold it in your hand, blah blah blah. I may be rebelling against my old world upbringing or embracing all the Indian food prepared by my best friends and their Moms over the many years (close to two decades!) of our friendship, but I think food tastes better when you eat it with your hands. You get to feel its weight, its texture. You taste more of it because it’s not scalding hot… And frankly, it’s more fun.
So there you go. When no one is looking, I am eating Cheetos, herring, and boiled chicken with my bare hands, while picking at burnt cheese. How’s that for attractive…
Monday, September 10, 2007
It is that time of the month again. My reviews of restaurants around Kenmore Sq/Fenway Park are up for Nature Network Boston.
I have a really bad feeling that I am about to eat myself out of a job. These reviews are supposed to cover restaurants around major research sites in Boston. Not surprisingly, research sites are far more limited than the restaurants ... In other words, I am almost out of research areas. If anyone wants to come over here and start a new institute/research facility so that I can eat all around it, please do! I don't know what I am going to do with all my free time if I don't have these reviews to write!
Note the Audubon review. I went public with my love for Audubon. Sigh. Now everyone knows.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Every once in a while, I have a really great dinner. I mean the kind of dinner that reminds me why I love to eat out, to think about food, look at food. Every once in a while I have a meal that leaves me with a grin on my face.
Food alone is not enough to achieve this level of culinary euphoria. It requires a combination of factors, sensations, and experiences. It depends on the staff of the restaurant, its ambiance, lighting, smell, decor… When all those things click into place, I am left sated and re-energized in my devotion to this hobby of mine that is beginning to take over my life.
Obviously, I wouldn’t be rambling on about this if I didn’t recently have just such an experience. I did, at Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain.
Ten Tables is a misnomer. They have delusions of grandeur – it’s seven tables, max. There is just one server (because frankly, there is no room for another one) and two chefs in the tiny kitchen. The food philosophy at Ten Tables is simple – use the highest quality ingredients, organic and sourced locally, whenever possible, prepare them simply, without fuss and pretense in order to showcase the ingredients, not the chef. In other words, they don’t mess with your food.
Kanchan and I got to sit at the chef’s table. Again, this is a misnomer. It’s not a table so much as a narrow bar with two very tall bar stools quite literally in the kitchen. It was awesome and voyeuristic. There was no rushing, no yelling, no frenetic movement or apparent stress in the kitchen. There was calm quiet, logic, and calculated movement. When the chef set out to do something so simple as slice an heirloom tomato, he looked at it from all angles, found the spot to cut that would showcase the tomato to its best advantage, and cut slowly, deliberately and precisely. It was amazing to watch.
The whole meal - a four course chef’s tasting menu, in our case - was prepared in much the same fashion. Calmly, respectfully, and dare I say it? Lovingly. The chef did something I have never experienced before – Kanchan and I were not served the same dishes during the tasting menu. Confused, we asked why. The answer was so simple and obvious that it made me wonder why every tasting menu isn’t done this way – the chef said that it allows us to taste more, to experience more. Obvious and genius.
So that was it, my glimpse of a professional kitchen, of a person who loves what he does, who gets to have his hobby be his work. Curious concept, that.
P.S. Some of what we were served:
Heirloom tomatoes with white anchovies and arugula
Poached hake with farro risotto and sweet pepper relish
Perfectly salted, crusty coulotte steak with a truffled white bean puree, shaved fennel, and paper thin radish slices (my favorite course, by far)
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
This may come as a shock, but there are a bunch of Boston-haters out there. Yes, it’s true. Most of them have spent some time in New York (the city, not the vacuous state). They compare, compare, compare Boston to omnipotent and irreproachable New York, and declare it to be inferior. “Well, in Noo Yohk, you can get a hot dog, with foie gras, on a carousel, at 4AM. Can you do that in Boston? Noooooo.” Fine, you’re right. You can’t. That sounds gross anyway.
In all seriousness, I love Boston. I made the conscious decision to come to here. I could have gone to grad school in any major city, but I chose Boston. I, gasp, chose Boston over New York. Consciously, rationally, happily, I chose Boston. I love this city. Boo to the Boston-haters.
But. [Why oh why is there always a but?]. I will concede to the New Yorkers on one point. That point? Brunch. Boston is not a brunch town. There is nothing like Norma’s, nor Café Orlin, no place that can provide a memorable start to a weekend of delightful inactivity. Restaurants in Boston tend to serve brunch as an after thought, foods that are somewhat uninspired, routine, boring, and either dry or greasy… or both.
So what’s a self-respecting brunch-lover such as myself do? Stay at home. I made brunch for my friend Maiya one week, she reciprocated the next. I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful tradition.
My menu was approximately five orders of magnitude less interesting than what Maiya's masterfully prepared (with a couple of hints from Mrs. Child).
Take a look at my menu:
- Sweet corn and zucchini frittata
- Breakfast chicken sausage from Whole Foods (quickly dubbed “meat candy” by Maiya for its potent nutmeg and cinnamon overtones)
- Heirloom tomato salad
- Big, fat toast
- Vanilla-blueberry crumbcake
- Lovely bottle of Belgian ale, courtesy of Maiya
Now compare that to Maiya’s menu:
- Oven-baked eggs with watercress, maitake mushrooms, and lots of heavy cream
- Some type of a cured pork product (no clue what it was, except salty and delicious)
- Potatoes pan fried in DUCK FAT (genius)
- Heirloom tomato salad with a rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil dressing (not pictured, sadly).
- Apple crostata with cinnamon and cranberry honey
- Bottle of champagne for kir royales, courtesy of me
Yeah. It was good.
Who needs Norma’s anyway. I have Maiya. And Melissa. And Kanchan… I have people who feed me well.
P.S. Forgive the gratuitous tomato porn: