Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Perfectionist

This is a hard one. Man, this book was difficult to read. The ending of the book is no secret, in fact it was national news in '03. I put off finishing this book for months anyway, because I wasn't ready.

The Perfectionist is about Bernard Louseau, the three star rated Michelin chef-owner who committed suicide in 2003. Knowing the ending is crashing in on you from the outset makes reading the book a funeral procession to the end. You don't want to get to know Bernard or like him because you know that you will lose him in the end. But the author, Rudolph Chelminski, does his job well. He gets through your guard. Bernard Louseau was, apparently, an incredibly likable guy.

I don't want to give you the impression that the book is all doom and gloom. Actually, Chelminski keeps a positive tone throughout the book. He also refrains from alluding to or foreshadowing what is to come.

This is a darn good book. But it is hard to get through. If you have any intention toward fine dining or restaurant ownership I would suggest you read it. It is a very strong cautionary tale and hopefully help prevent any other lost life.

- I replaced Leah's broken laptop screen, I am truly amazing...
- The big order is placed, full steam a head for the secret project. I know. You are so curious by now.
- Selling off the stuff I no longer need or use is very liberating, hope I don't become a reverse pack rat... I like my stuff.
- It is an old saying, but true, that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There are always people around you who will help you, and there are phone numbers to call if you need to talk. Don't kill yourself.

Monday, September 3, 2012

You down with PDC?

I got the other one! The first Au Pied De Cochon Cookbook. As with many things that I have and you do not, you should be jealous. For those of you just tuning in I read and reviewed the PDC Sugar Shack cookbook earlier this year* (and loved it).

Man, I really need to get over to Montreal, like yesterday.  I might even have to learn French! If either of these restaurants are half as good as their cookbooks then we are talking about meal-of-a-lifetime places. Two of them in the same city run by the same chef is one of those things that I have only heard of happening in France... or Yountville, California I guess.

I love the style of these books. They just feel so far away from the well-worn tracks of the rest of the cookbooks out there. Comparatively, this book is a piece of art. Its layout and flow are very well thought out, with recipes and stories placed in such a way that before you get tired of one you are right into the other, then back again. The recipes are fantastic looking; so over the top. Far away from the alluded to platonic ideals of the French Laundry, Au Pied De Cochon is about excess in its most straightforward form. If TFL is looking to make the pea soup that you think of as the most perfect pea soup you have ever had, PDC is looking to make the most decadent If I ever have an over-abundance of foie gras on my cutting board, I know what cook book I am reaching for.

- Just for fun I went through all of The French Laundry's one star yelp reviews, talk about first world issues.
- I have heard that it is good to set goals for yourself, my new goal is to have five new posts a month until the end of the year.
- Have you watched BSG? You should, it is fantastic!
- I am thinking about switching to a different blogging platform, any suggestions?

*And for those of you who have continued to follow my writing, THANKS! It makes me very happy to know that people are still reading what I have to say.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A taste for Ireland

The tickets are purchased. Leah and I are going to Ireland for our honeymoon, for an entire week. That is more time off together than we have had in a very long time, if ever. Needless to say, we are very, VERY, excited. Our excitement must be infectious as everyone we have told about the honeymoon so far has gotten very jazzed, jealous or both. More than a few people have told us that a week just isn't enough time to do anywhere properly, but I am pretty sure that by the end of the week both Leah and I will be ready to get back to our lives.

In preparation for our trip I purchased The Cliff House Hotel Cookbook. It is great! The Cliff House Hotel Restaurant is the highest Michelin rated restaurant in Ireland, holding two stars, and, incidentally, because of this book we plan on eating there.

 It is easy for me to get behind a book that espouses the merits of local produce and meats, but beyond that the book's recipes are very compelling. I ended up actually trying out a recipe from the book, the mustard ice cream, which didn't quite turn out for me. It easily chalks up to the mustard I used, and with a bit more mustard testing I am sure it will be a fantastic frozen treat. This is a good one for those fine dining cooks out there looking for a new perspective.

On a tenuously related note, I made some more sorbet! Using a variation on Alton Brown's Melon Sorbet recipe, I made just over two gallons of watermelon sorbet. It is so good! Like stupidly good.

Like I said, I touched up this recipe to my own liking and to keep my food processor from spitting juice all over the kitchen:
10 oz melon, cut into small pieces
4 oz sugar (I also swapped the white sugar for brown on the last pint, good idea)
3/4 oz Apple cider vinegar
1/2 oz vodka (which was swapped for kraken rum on the last pint, another good idea)

-Place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and spin until smooth.
-Pass your slurry through a strainer to get the seeds out and then spin in your ice cream maker.
-Freeze in your ice box for a couple hours before you dive in.  The ice will harden and provide a much better texture.

I'll have pictures of it later... This batch has all been eaten.

- It seems like summer is over, thank goodness!
- Secret side project commences in two weeks... Get excited.
- Leah and I now have two cats! So cute!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Dump!

I have been reading too much lately. Seriously, I have more books finished than time to write about them. Today is going to be a dump of book thoughts so I can get these ideas out before I lose them.

Honestly, I am getting a tired of seeing Gordon Ramsay everywhere. But Gordon Ramsay's Playing with Fire blew me away. In it he goes through the openings of all of his restaurants, and the closing of Amaryllis(his greatest failure), in detail. He also doles out advice to budding restaurantures and line cooks in a genuine tone, not that abrading circus show that is perpetually falling out of his mouth on the telly. I doubt that there will ever again be a restaurant professional like Mr. Ramsay, but if you ever find yourself in those shoes you should a least have learned from his mistakes and triumphs.

Now to the books that have disappointed me. I just finished the last two pieces of fiction written by Anthony Bourdain. With such strong offerings in his first two books I had high hopes for Get Jiro and  The Bobby Gold Stories. Unfortunately my hopes came to nothing.

Get Jiro is a hyper-violent comic book which offers a glimpse into a distopian time where the world is controlled by restaurateurs. But really the whole thing seems to boil down into a lesson in sushi manners, which is just silly in post Japanophile America. I find absolutely no redeeming value in this book. None. The artwork is not impressive, the story is uninspired, the characters are flat and the violence is without context. Don't bother with this one.

The Bobby Gold Stories is similarly bad. It feels like Anthony Bourdain simply lost the fire in his belly for fiction when Kitchen Confidential hit it big. This book reeks of post fame rush job, a "gotta-crank-out-another-one-before-they-get-wise" kind of venture. Skip this one as well, it is just not worth it.

Completely unrelated to above; I found a commercial-lite gelato machine for $25 at a Goodwill today. And what is better for a first use of an ice cream machine than making some champagne sorbet?

With random bills and things in the background...
Please don't steal my identity

This is a recipe that I made for the dessert course of my final project in culinary school. It was such a smashing success that it has become a family legend.

1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water
pinch of salt
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
750ml bottle of champagne, not the expensive stuff and not the cheap stuff, I used St Michelle dry

- Combine sugar, water and salt in a pan over medium heat until the sugar and salt are fully dissolved, then cool completely in the refrigerator.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the simple syrup and churn until set. You might have to split this into smaller batches to fit into your machine.
- Freeze until solid.

I eat this as is, but it would be great with fresh, in season, berries and maybe some whipped cream.

- Hooray for a rainy day!
- Do nothing days off are fantastic.
- Finalized and submited the paperwork for my very own LLC, full steam ahead for "the project/s".

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On Opening Grandly

There is a restaurant down the street from my house with a "GRAND OPENING" sign covering their front window. They have been grandly opening for about four months now. How long do those signs get to stay up? Is there a grand opening handbook that gets meted out when you get those signs? I might just be jaded but I have never seen anything grand in a place with one of those signs, least of all their openings.

In the small town that I grew up in there was a restaurant named Grilled Chicken Yogurt that had a giant "Grand Opening" sign. At least that was what someone hand scrawled in black paint on the sheet of plywood leaning against the building. That might have been a sign. A Jack in the Box was the original inhabitant of the building* but it was shuttered shortly after the great e. coli debacle of '93. After the box left the building became a revolving door for failing restaurants. The only other of note being a Japanese place that took orders over the internet back in the early 2Ks when that was basically unheard of, not now when Pizza Hut LoJacks your pizza for you. But anyway, I never went to any of those places, GCY was "Grand Opening" well after they grand-went-out-of-business, and eventually the building was razed to the ground and a condo was erected in its stead.

As for the place down the street I wish them well, but I don't expect that they will succeed. They decided to open a Greek lunch place within two blocks of five other Greek places that do lunch, and seeing as they opened literally right across the street from my favorite gyro place I will probably never go there. I have heard that fortune favors the bold and that god protects the drunk and stupid, maybe if they have all of those things going for them it will all turn out all right.

*As far as I know.

- Dark Knight Rises does not disappoint!
- My mattress no longer resides on the floor, does that mean I am a grown up?
- I am still looking for a few good spoons if someone has any suggestions for new ones. I have been striking out at thrift stores lately.