Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Sweet Necter

While in Introduction to Advanced Table Service at Caterina we're required to make a presentation on an Italian Person, Place, or Thing.

After I finished putting my presentation together I realized something....
I never write much about the drink on here!

Now I'm not what you would call a big drinker, I more of a social drinker but I do have my vices. Most of the time I spend my days sipping on a 7&7 (yeah yeah I know, Old Mans Drink) but there are a few occasions where I will indulge myself.

There are few liquors I enjoy more then Tuaca. I first found the drink when I was working for a chain restaurant (that shall remain unnamed) which was including the drink in two applications on their menu. As a mixer and an accompanying shot to an iced drink. I was standing around the bar after my shift and saw a bottle I failed to recognize in the managers hands. When I enquired about it I was offered a small taste and fell in love.

Tuaca, an imported Italian Liquor, is made with Brandy with hints of fruit notes and a strong flavor of Vanilla and Citrus. It’s wonderful amber brown in color and succeeds at a warming mouth feel that goes down smooth.

Most often Tuaca is served as a mixer for drinks, but one of the best applications for the drink is as a Digestivo (after dinner drink). Served with one or two ice cubes in a glass and poured slowly over it is a fantastic way to end the meal.

As for culinary applications Tuaca works in the same arena as Frangelico and Grande Marnier. The nutty vanilla and cirtus (mostly orange) flavors of the liquor are accented when reduced or flamed leading this drink a wonderful way to accent any number of deserts from mousse to Crème Brulee.

Though, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best deserts you can do is pouring yourself a shot of Tuaca then adding a single scoop of Vanilla ice cream/Gelato to the glass.... Heaven.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Gobble Gobble Gobble"..."Pass the Gravy Please"

Well its that time of year again...

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

I hope that your day is filled with tryptophan filled fun!

Ill be spending my Thanksgiving in Colorado; eating a meatless meal...sigh.

Someone save me some leg meat please!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Some Assembly Required

So as I near the end of Devil in the Kitchen I notice the numerous signs of greatness and success that are present in so many of this style of book.

Bourdain had it in Kitchen Confidential, White has it in Devil in the Kitchen, and I can only imagine what Phoebe Damrosch has in store for my eyes in Service Included. Stories of mental stress, physical pain, and emotional anguish on the path to achieving a goal in a field that takes no prisoners and fails to know the meaning of mercy.

What separates a lot of these stories from today is they are memories of a time before "Das Netwerk" ruled the face of the culinary world and the Michelin Guides reach had not yet landed on American shores.

What stories are going to emerge from the new culinary scene I couldn’t foretell. In my heart of hearts I hope they remain somewhat the same as the stories and books I've come to love and feed myself on.

Its a cruel thought really, to hope to read about people obsessed; about people so focused and centered on their kitchen that the world outside it passes on without so much as a second thought. But that’s the reality of it isn’t it?

White does a fantastic job of showing us the reality of a man possessed by a goal, a dream that he can’t shake. After receiving his second star he was flooded with press, many of which followed him around like hungry dogs looking for a bone. But still he stood behind a stove, slaving and beating his body to pulp. For what?

Love of his craft.

Passion. Passion above all else is what separates greatness from mediocrity. You can make a living in this field. You can go into your shift at a hotel or restaurant and work your 8 hours and return to your life outside the kitchen. Chances are at that pace you could do it for years, Slow and steady wins the race right?

Perhaps. But what if there is a desire for more? To go beyond just "work". Its love of a craft that pushes us beyond that. It’s the wanting to taste, smell, make everything we can that forces us to strive for the greatness.

So what’s the blueprint for this insanity? Honestly, can there be one? If the definition of Chaos is the absence of order and control then perhaps that’s a choice that would come close. But these Chefs aren’t chaotic. The "whirlwind" that White so vividly describes around him so often in his book is not chaotic. Matter of fact its fluid, controlled, and focused. From the outside looking in, to the uninformed, it would seem like a ballet performed by drunks.

So what keeps it together, what keeps it so clean and focused?

Again, Passion.

The last question on Chef LiPuma's pre-day one quiz for the kitchen portion of Caterina is":

"What is the one thing that is required to cook well in Caterina?"

The answer he’s looking for... Love. Love is Passion, Passion is greatness, and Greatness is good food.

Try everyday as though your under the gun, push yourself as though every single one of your guests is a Guide reviewer, go faster, go harder, go longer.

The cameras, the stories, the fame and fortune are second to the best plate you have ever put in front of a customer.

I was told yesterday after a very bad morning that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. If I'm not hard on myself now, or ever, then someone else will be. If not, then I will never be as good as I feel I can be. Without effort, without passion, this life is just a slow ride; And it will always be a work in progress.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Cook(ed) Book

Now I’ve always been one for curling up next to a warm fire to read a few chapters in a good book, but throwing the book into that fire to be able to read it?! Now that’s interesting!

It seems that Bruketa & Zinić have created an interesting and exciting way to release their annual report for the food company Podravka. The book must be placed in an oven before it can be read!

Well Done was created using a thermo-reactive ink and paper that exposes images and text after being baked at 100°C (212°F) for 25 minutes. Not only that it’s a very slick looking book, a sterile appearance with clean images and texts.

Not only does the book itself contain the report but a smaller book inserted into the pages of the first are filled with recipes and products from Podravka.

All in all an amazing marketing strategy by the company to get people to purchase and read their report.

Thanks to Ed from The Input for pointing this one out!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Goody Box!

I have a package!...

..not like that; get your mind out of the gutter.

My order came this morning, filled with plenty of reading to keep me entertained over the next couple weeks (Ok months, but who’s counting).

At first glance, and from what I've gathered from notes and clips, Michael Ruhlmans' new book, Elements of Cooking, is one (Professionally Trained)Mans look at the kitchen essentials. What you need, what you want, and what must should have is listed in the book... but not in the manner I imagined!

The bulk of Ruhlmans books I have read have, to date, been behind the scenes first person looks into the culinary world. Making of a Chef and Soul of a Chef both took an almost outsiders view of someone being plunged headlong into the culinary world.

Looking at Elements of Cooking I thought to myself "Ohhhh, a deeply opinionated piece about the basics!", what it IS on the other hand is a mix between short opinion piece and reference book.

The first 50 odd pages are a step by step look at what elements are used in a professional kitchen, from Sauces to Finesse, which he calls "The Cooks Finest Challenge and Path to Ultimate Rewards". Makes it sound like a Holy Grail for cooks right? Well he’s not far off.

Starting on page 51 we're treated to another 192 or so pages of in-depth definitions of terms used in professional kitchens across the globe. If your not a trained cook and don’t know what A al Minute means, your in luck its there. Alginate? there. Definition of Recipe? yeah its there.

You’re probably saying "Wait, what? Recipe? everyone knows what a Recipe is." You’re probably right everyone does know what a recipe IS, but what Ruhlman does is give us a look inside his head, which is like looking inside some of the best chef’s heads across the country/world.

"Recipes: Recipes are not assembly manuals. You can't use them the way you use instructions to put together your grill or the rec room Ping-Pong table...."

Need I say more?

This book goes far beyond Reference Manual and is the wonderful love child of experience and knowledge. Its like having a copy of The Food Lovers Companion, just more opinionated. After the unfortant passing of Companions' Author, Sharon Tlyer Herbst, I'm almost relieved another form of reference has immerged.

With Christmas/Hanukah/Winter Solstice on the horizon, this book would make a perfect gift for anyone who loves and cares about cooking.

And might I add a tear jerking Acknowledgement to fellow blogger and all around nice guy Bob del Grosso in the back. Ok, maybe Tear Jerking was a little much, but it’s a nice few words about the guy.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Next Iron Chef

**Danger, Here be Spoilers!**

So its finally done.

It came down to Michael Symon and John Besh, and being as impartial as I can be I have to say that at first I was surprised to see Symon make it as far as he did. Looking back there were improvements and he learned from every single one of his experiences. I think it’s that fact that kept him alive till the end.

Besh, what can I say, I like the guy. He’s focused, calm, cool, and collected. He went, in my opinion, above and beyond by giving Morimoto exactly what he asked for, a swordfish desert.

In the end it was Symon who won the battle, and in turn won the title of the New Iron Chef America.

My hats off to all the chefs who competed in the event. It takes a lot to stand in front of a camera and say "This is what I want, I am this good" and be sent away.

I think it’s important to point out some of the things the judges said during the final episode. There were comments made about John Beshs focus and his ability to maintain the same standard throughout the competition. Being as though consistency is a huge fundamental skill required of chefs of that caliber you have to give credit to the man for that.

I have to be honest here, in my heart I was pulling for Besh the whole time. It was upsetting to see him lose this thing, but I have a feeling that it wont be the last we hear from Besh in kitchen stadium.... can you say rematch?!

Regardless of the outcome, I might have to tune into a few episodes to see how Symon fairs on his new throne.

All in all we got to see some great chefs push themselves and prepare some interesting and exciting dishes and my hat is off to all of them for providing us with some entertainment worth watching.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Theres a few things in this world that I justify splurging on:

Eating out (99.9% of my splurge expenses)

So with Michael Ruhlmans upcoming trip the the CIA to promote the release of his new book I thought it only fair that I go and get a copy before he actually arrives and I ask him to sign a pair of chef whites because I slacked and hadnt purchased it yet.

and of course when it comes to splurging you dont just get one thing...oh no no no, you have to go and get MULTIPLES!! (Its called splurging for a reason folks.)

So after listening to Bob Del Grosso rant and rave about sausage and being teased with visions of pancetta and sausage and wanting the book for awhile I also picked up Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.

And why stop there? oh no no no, we have to get more!

Ive been hearing alot of good things about Service Included by Phoebe Damrosc, so I figured Im going to need another juicy-ugly side of the culinary world-laugh out loud book after Im done with Devil in the Kitchen so I grabbed that as well.

And what kind of supporter would I be if I didnt also get a copy ofThe Herbalist in the Kitchen (The Food Series) by Gary Allen, unfortantly that one will have to be shipped at a later date, but its on the list Gary.. I promise.

So all in all Im going to have some serious reading ahead of me, now if I can just find time to do all of it.

The Hang Of It and Chefs Panel

Well after a few days in Caterina (The CIA's Italian restaurant) I’m finally getting used to how things work, and to think in 2 more days I will be out of the kitchen.

You hear all kinds of horror stories walking into Caterina:

"Chef is tough"

"Your going to be getting out at like 1 am"

etc etc etc, which for the most part are true. The Chef is tough, pulls no punches and doesn’t baby you along. The hours are long; first day we didn’t get out till 1 am, second 12 am, and the last two days 11 pm. But in hindsight isn’t that what working in a real restaurant is like?

There’s method to the madness, and the true beauty is in seeing yourself improve. Even by days 2 you notice yourself making improvements and focusing on the next step.

Funny thing is you hear so many horror stories, but after you’re in it you hear allot of people say;

"I loved Caterina, I want to go back"

But that’s the negative for you; you will always hear it long before the positive.

Given the choice, I would choose to stay with Caterina till I graduate. The hours are a little tough, but the work to me is twice as rewarding. I’m getting my butt kicked, and its all for the better.

I just wanted to point out this article that ended up popping into my email this morning.

Marco Peirre White, Thomas Keller, and William Grimes sat on a panel at 92nd Street Y
to discuss some things including how the public views food, how the chefs view food, and a little about food blogging.

One of the best qoutes comes from White"

How do they train staff to meet their exacting standards?

".....White conceded that some folks are simply more gifted than others. To paraphrase him: If everyone's a donkey, nothing gets done, and if everyone's an artist, they bicker all day."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Day 1...

Its 1 am in the morning... I'm JUST now coming in from class.

Welcome to restaurant row.

Day 1 of Catarina, arss thoroughly kicked.

..if you need me Ill be in a coma.