Dude I wait everyday for a new SFOB!! The new one is out check it out and show some support!
Ok, so I went to Paris recently, my mission, to eat the most food I could and experience as much of Parisian food as I can. All things considered I did my best. Paris is unbelievably expensive, and to do everything I wanted to do would have only increased the two grand that I managed to spend in eight days! I have to say that I’m not all about french food in terms of cooking it had its hay day and I’m certainly not going tho deny that it is the foundation of what we cook now. I mean what cook doesn’t go to work and use a french technique in their daily mise en place? Anyways I had a great time and here’s some of the story.
The first day i got there was tough I was alone the entire day and I got there at six in the morning. The rest of my com padres (Spanish) arrived the next day. I speak zero french, I didn’t sleep at all on the plane, and I couldn’t check into my hotel until 3pm. This should be interesting, oh yeah and it was the only cold and rainy day I was there. yay. I took the metro to hotel which was really easy to find its the hotel international paris, and dropped of my bags. My next plan of action, WALK, in the rain, to the Marche d’President Wilson in the sixteenth arr. to scope out my first market and buy some of Joel Thiebaults famous vegetables. The walk a mere five miles or so whatever right I got time to kill? Not so much. It was raining and windy the whole time. It was a battle to say the least but I got there.
The President Wilson market is where Joel T has been selling vegetables for years taking up the reigns of his family before him. The place is awesome, all the stands are set to make a corridor of some of the best food that I have ever laid my eyes on. You just don’t find markets like this in the states, its unreal the vegetables are pristine, the cheese stinks and best of all you don’t have to go far to find a good head for sale!
Joel T’s stand was packed with greens, radishes, spring onions, and every possible bounty of early spring. And to my surprise the prices where very reasonable. I bought some aruglua, radishes, and artichokes. Not knowing what I was going to do with them, just that they look beautiful and that whatever I do I know they’ll be good! I left the market with my famous veggies, back into the rain and say to myself ” shit, so its eleven now guess I’ll be carrying these around for the next four hours. Great.”
LUNCH TRUCK! I was near the old Les Halles market around lunch time so I decided to stop by Au Pied Du Cochon for lunch. Famous in the fifties and sixties it was the restaurant that the rich owners and buyers at the Les Halles market would go to eat before and after their four in the morning shifts. Its one of the restaurants that made french onion soup famous from all the drunken restaurant owners coming in for wine munchies before going to the market. I personally never had the wine munchies but I am pretty sure a bowl of french onion is the equivalent of funions for a stoner.
I pulled up a seat for my five pounds of artichokes and sat at the bar. I ordered the pigs foot figuring that’s the name of the joint so it has got to be decent right? The young bartender sent down some pork rilletes to go with my baguette and that made me pretty happy. If the french are spreading pork on their bread than I already like them more than my American counterparts. The Pigs foot came out and my jet-lagged ass forgot to get a picture of it before I ate half of it, sorry. I was presented with a braised foot taken off the bone then rolled around a pork force-meat that was packing some serious quatre spice punch. It was served with a red wine sauce, pearl onions and tourne’ potatoes. The wine sauce went well with all the spice in the foot and was great soaking sauce for the potatoes. All in all I would definatley order it again. For desert I had the fromage blanc which I ordered sweet with raspberry coulis. It took forever for him to bring it to me, it was obvious people did not often order this. I was more surprised by the business man on break who sat down next to me and had himself what looked like ten ounces of beef tar-tar with frites for lunch, if this is the lunch of champions, I didn’t know. I don’t see myself selling stocks after a lunch of half a pound of raw ground beef and some red wine, I am also not french. Lunch at Au Pied was good, if your in the area I suggest you head up the Rue De Louvre a little more and go to Chez Georges they were closed the Monday after Easter when we went there but the menu looked awesome. It also might have been the fact that it was written in four different color pen!
After lunch me my twenty pound artichokes(they gained five pounds with every glass of wine) headed back to hotel for a much needed siesta if thats what you call crashing out after being awake for thirty some odd hours. When I got in my room I was beyond tired.
For din-din I headed to Chez Jenny, they are famous for their alsatian food and wine and have been around for something like fifty years. The place was definatly old on the interior and I took a seat near the window so I could watch the building that was on fire only four buildings down.
I ordered the baked mussels for an app, they were awesome, really fresh and totally covered in the classic french cooks favorite ingredient garlic and parsley butter. They were big boys requiring two bites each, man they were good when I think back to them!
For an entree I had the choucroute which is what Chez Jenny is famous for. It came out with three or four different sausages, a slice of smoked pork collar, a braised shank, tourne’ potatoes, and my birth weight in sauerkraut. They were all baked together and served in a copper pot. I did my best at it, it was enough for two people maybe three. The sausages were all good they were flavored with cumin and curry which i thought was surprising for french food, but it all worked together.
I had a half bottle of beaujulais which was great with what I was eating. I followed it up with the house bordeaux that was the heaviest wine I had ever had but good none the less. For dessert I had the alsatian apple tart, a very famous dessert and a staple on french menus both in france and the states. Suffering from a little soggy bottom syndrome it was still good, I enjoyed it with a final drink of some alsatian wiskey, whipped cream, and espresso, that was so strong and tasting of rasins that I couldn’t drink it. All in all it was a good ending to the one of the longest days of my life, I only wish someone had told me that the tip was included, that was almost twenty euros that I could have saved!
Two nights ago, just after another spellbinding conclusion of Flight of the Conchords, I started watching a HBO documentary called Death on a Factory Farm. Its about a guy who goes undercover with a camera strapped to him and gets a job at a factory pig farm in Ohio. The Humane Farm Association employs him because the farm is suspected of some serious animal abuse. The footage in this video will change you life, straight up. The way that this farm, who is no doubt not alone in their practices, treats its animals was enough to make me sick.
Pork is in such a boom in the food world right now its unbelievable, you’ll find all parts of the pig being used in restaurants that a couple years ago would not have dared to try and sell them. Luckily this boom is following for the most part in the same lane as the slow and local food boom. People who know food want good pork, raised humanely, and not void of all fat like the grocery store version. This is a perfect time for a video like this to come along and show a lot of people why many are changing the way they buy food.
If you have HBO on demand its always available otherwise check the website for show times. Here is a clip I found on the YouTube
My recommendation: watch this video, take it to heart, make a conscious effort to buy food that has been treated humanely. Both you and I understand there are a lot of people to feed in this world but no life form with any intelligence should be treated this way. I think that’s all I have to say, this movie speaks for itself, just don’t forget the way it makes you feel the first time you watch it.
Alright so I did it, after all the shit I talk about top chef I sent in my own application. Why? I don’t know, but I tell you one thing, I don’t think that I can talk shit anymore since I couldn’t even follow all the directions for sending in the application. I think my buddy Kebo said it best “why would they pick you your already messing up!” True Kebo, what am i thinking? So I filled out the application fine but when it came down to the video things got a little hairy here are some clips
Completely unscripted, I’m nervously making up all the answers as i go along, making me look like a goob. The cooking demo is even more of a flop, I took to long and I’m once again nervous as shit.
So what can I say now, I mean who knows how nervous i would have been on national television. All my shit-talking seems a little in vain now that I can’t even look cool on my damn application. Honestly I am just looking forward to the rejection letter!! I think I’ll frame it for the grand kids.
On my recent trip to New York City I was privileged enough to do a two day stage at Picholine, Terrance Brennan’s take on fine dining located near Columbus Circle. I tried to get stages at many restaurants for those two days and learned how hard it is to get in to these three and four star kitchens if one, you don’t really know anybody or two, you can only stage for two days. I am not sure of the reaction I caused at Le Bernardin after I sent them about ten e-mails and ten faxes of my resume along with a cover letter telling them I would scale sardines all day for a chance to stand in their kitchen. The only confirmation I received was a return e-mail like a week later saying that they aren’t hiring right now. Do you think they were hinting that I have a better chance at pursuing being a funny man than standing in their kitchen?? We’ll never know.
After a entire morning of calling the kitchens of the city’s best restaurants finally I got a hold of Chef Carmine Digiovanni who said I was welcome to come stage and to just shoot him a e-mail closer to that date that I wanted to come by. I had chosen to call Picholine because looking at the New York Michelin guide I saw that they had received two stars for two years consecutively, a honor that only about five restaurants have in New York. I regret that I could not take any pictures but its’ just not appropriate when your only doing a two day stage.
The kitchen where service comes out of is really small, “this should be interesting” was definitely one of my first thoughts. Downstairs is the prep kitchen armed with about ten or twelve Mexicans prepping it out. They run a seven man line at night; two garde manger, one hot app, a meat and meat entremet, and fish and fish entremet. Chef Carmine expo’s and garnishes all the plates. The guy is awesome at tasting everything and sends a shit-ton of food back to be re-seasoned and re-plated. If you’ve seen the food porn episode of No Reservations you can catch a glimpse of him with Terrance Brennan. He’s the huge Tony Baga donus’ looking dude, my first impression was that he should be running a night club in Staten Island not a great kitchen but he definitely backs it up with some serious talent.
The menu is huge with two twelve or sixteen course tasting menus, a regular three course prix fixe, an extensive bar menu with small plates, and at the time they were finishing up their winter game tasting menu featuring amazing wild hare and partridge that’s imported from Scotland. They use a decent amount of molecular gastronomy in their food mostly using agar-agar , molto-dextrin, and lecithin to enhance their dishes. I think Chef Carmine does an awesome job at only using for that, “enhancing” which I personally think should be the use for those techniques and chemicals. They have some really winners on their menu, the lamb with the flavors and textures of Morocco is a straight up bad ass dish. Seared loin, braised pulled and pressed belly, and a breaded apricot cake, its served in a tagine with three different dots of sauces a preserved lemon sauce, a yogurt sauce, and harrisa. The Chicken Kiev is awesome, it’s a split chicken breast stuffed with foie and truffle mouse thickened with agar its then rolled into a perfect cylinder and sous-vide, at pick up its rolled in crushed corn flakes and browned off. At the table the waiter comes by with a sword and pierces the chicken so the stuffing runs out and sauces the whole plate. Almost all of their dishes have something that is done tableside, which I am sure makes for some awesome service in the dining room.
The kitchen staff treated me awesome trying on both days to feed me some of their dishes which they are very proud of, often firing whole dishes for me to try. Chef Carmine is running a tight ship with a good crew that definitely stands by him and performs without question. If your in New York and you’ve got a shitload of money to spend on dinner I really suggest you stop by Picholine or at least by the bar for some small plates. If your looking to spend a couple days in a new kitchen and learn some cool shit give Carmine a call, I’m sure he’ll be happy to have you in there. Not to mention he and his staff really know how to treat a fellow cook and foodie!
If anyone ever tells you that the Danny Meyer group of restaurants is a good company to work for I strongly suggest you take them seriously and for good reason. On my recent trip to NJ-NY I was privileged enough to eat at Gramercy tavern with a three year employee of Union Square Café. Being three chefs who just straight love food we were treated as though we were celebrities for just that reason, Awesome! It means a lot to me when a restaurant can recognize people that come in to really experience food andthen treat them the same as the high class people who come in just as an outlet for their money. I was in NY with my friends Brian and James both fellow foodies and restaurant industry devotees, our mission, to have a bad-ass meal at a bad-ass restaurant. To fill our stomachs with awesome food so much so that we will have something to brag about until we can fill our empty wallets back up for another experience. We decided on Gramercy because of Brian’s previous experience with the company and were immediately assured when we made our reservation and the hostess recognized his name in the system as a previous employee of Union Square. We weren’t given menus when we sat and so greeted with the suggestion that the chef would like to cook for us if we would prefer. Fuck Yea Man! Now I’m not ChuckEats or any of those review only blogs, I went out to have a good time and eat and I did my best to take pictures of what we were given, It was a huge dinner consisting of nine courses where each of us received a different plate per course. That was a lot of food and it was all done very well I assure you regardless of its highs and lows.
First course, our amuse was enjoyed with our round of very fitting Manhattans. A fish and egg salad on bread, a fried ham fritter, and a cold squash soup was all great, releasing some of the anticipation of the meal to come, This was the only course where we all received the same thing.
Next was out first appetizers; warm haddock with ramp and fingerling salad, citrus cured salmon over salmon tartar, and shrimp salad over celery root remoulade. With the first courses we shared a bottle of 1979 Karthäuserhof Auslese Riesling, Definitely the oldest white wine that I have every tasted, it was amazing, a light fruity wine with almost a carbonated feel on the mouth, it went perfectly.
Next up, soup; my parsnip soup with bay scallops was the highlight, followed by the squash soup with barley was a great new take on an overplayed soup, Brian enjoyed a light pumpkin soup with lobster. All excellent in keeping with the season and whats available at the market right now.
Fish courses were next: my trout with onions in three forms was a miss at a hard target to achieve. James had a seared fish that I don’t recall accompanied by potatoes and chantrelles ( no wrong direction there), and Brian had triggerfish with stewed lentils and parsnip puree which was aside from the grandma sized portion of lentils really good. What’s next? Well just when your feeling like your getting a little full how abouttttt……. PASTA COURSE!!!
Pappardelle with lamb ragu and baby chard was put in front of me once again hard to find a wrong direction in that! James received a warm vegetable salad over farro which was the talk of the course it was like a Gramercy version of Michel Bras’s Gargouillou. A variety of winter vegetables all cooked perfectly served warm in a vinaigrette each keeping their own characteristics, awesome! Brian received the veal cappelletti with cauliflower and sage which was also a very memorable dish. As we finished our white out came our bottle of red for the evening a 2005 Clos des Grives, very good but not as unique as the white. Although our waiter was very polite and humble in saying it was hard to follow up such a breathtaking first selection without breaking the bank.
Alright finally some meat: my rack of veal was lacking, the one ounce piece of deckel steak was overcooked and tough which I did not think was possible for such a cut and the boneless rack was mid rare but not cooked in a good fashion as it was well done on the outside and rare-ish on the inside (meaning it was cooked with fast intense heat) the rest of the set was good though showcasing the apples and hedgehog mushrooms we had seen earlier at the green market. I did not get a picture of Brians duo of rack of pork and braised belly as he ate it to damn fast, it was good though. James received a duck dish with cauliflower and carrots that looks good but I don’t remember all of it. Our entrée course was followed up by a cheese course where we all received three separate cheeses. They were good but lacked the usual garnishes of fresh and dried fruit and nuts.
Finally dessert, my mango lime cheesecake was a good ending light but still creamy as a cheese cake should be (No points for that though, Its fucking cheesecake you’d think more of the country would have figured out to do it right by now). Brian’s peanut butter semi-fredo was again so good I could barely get a picture of it before he ate it all. James got the chocolate bread pudding with the coco nib ice-cream also very good. My only complaint the espresso was strait rocket fuel reminiscent of what we ordered reduced by half and served hot. Bourdain would have loved it and taken great pride in sharing with you how many children he would sacrifice to drink it for the rest of his life. Personally, it was to strong, so much so that I had to water it down with table water. All in all this one of the best dinners of my life. Its going to take months to get the money together to have another dinner like that. It will be a well needed pause though, a time to reflect on how fuckin awesome that dinner was. Gramercy is not doing anything off the wall, they are just serving great food, what I have learned is the mission in sorts of the Danny Meyer group. Our waiter was one of the best I have ever had and I can’t thank him enough for keeping that Dese Guys Are Really Into This vibe about him and doing it right. I don’t have to say it do I? OK fine Your in New York, Go to Gramercy done deal, especially if you know someone who has worked there, done deal! Thanks to Brian and James, its always better with some fellow foodies at the table!