Megnut

Food print continues to go food blog

Back in the Blogger days of 2000, we used to sit around and talk a lot about "what ifs" -- What if people used Blogger to publish sites in countries without free speech? What if bloggers uncovered political scandals and exposed them, a la Watergate? What if traditional print media used blogs to publish on a multi-daily or even daily schedule, rather than a weekly or monthly schedule? Jump to 2006 and it's apparent all this, and more, has happened in the world of weblogs.

Lately there's been a lot happening with regards to that third wish: a lot of print's big food hitters (Food & Wine, Bon Appétit) have launched blogs. Today I spotted more, House & Garden has two blogs. One is Dining Out by Jay McInerney (! I didn't even know he wrote about food and wine) and the other is Eating Around by food editor Lora Zarubin. Now what I want to know is: Ruth Reichl, where's your blog?! [via epi-log]

How did I miss this Brooklyn beer and pigfest that Augieland attended? I must not be paying much attention, which is a shame because it looks like it was yummy fun.

Looking for something pretty to make with rhubarb? Look no further than Delicious Days' Raspberry-rhubarb-vanilla-custard Tarts. DD wanted to retain the pinkness of rhubarb while cooking and came up with this delightful-looking tart. I think I'll try it out this weekend.

Breakage in the kitchen

Favorite bowl brokenOn Sunday morning I decided to make pancakes for breakfast. As I was preparing to measure some liquid in my Pyrex measuring cup, it slipped from my hand and fell into the empty bowl on the counter. When I lifted it out -- no sign of Pyrex damage -- I noticed a chip in the bottom of my bowl. Closer inspection revealed a crack across the whole bottom, to about halfway up the side. My favorite bowl was broken and beyond repair. Not that this was any special bowl, but I'd had it for more than ten years, and it was just the perfect size and I used it for everything. I pressed on. We ate the pancakes but they didn't taste very good.

Kitchen sadnessLast night I roasted a chicken and for some reason, rather than placing the bird in my cast iron skillet, I decided to use my (here's that word again) favorite roasting dish, an Emile Henry piece I picked up ages ago. Everything was going along fine in the kitchen and I could hear the bird sizzling and spitting away in the oven (I was using the Keller high-heat method, as referenced here). Then I noticed the apartment was filling with smoke. I looked at the stove and smoke was pouring out. I turned on the oven light and saw that my roasting dish had cracked right in half and the fat and juices were dripping out of the chicken onto the bottom of the oven!

We opened a lot of windows, located the fire extinguisher just in case, and kept an eye on the oven until the bird was done. Sadness filled me as I extracted our chicken. My favorite roasting dish was no more. I'm not sure why it broke. The oven was hot, 450°, but I thought that dish could handle that heat. Maybe it got bonked beforehand and had a small crack going in? I'll never know, but from now on I'll use my skillet for chicken.

What's weird is I hardly ever break anything, and within four days, two favorite kitchen items have broken in half. I'm hesitant to do anything in the kitchen until my bad luck passes. From now on, I'll stick to delivery or going out.

Which is better fat or skinny asparagus? I always wonder this, especially now at the greenmarket where I find fat and skinny New Jersey stalks in the same bunch.

Free range, free roam, and organic are not always what they seem. Sustainable Table encourages everyone to ask where your meal is coming from, as labels are getting confusing.

Another look at Eleven Madison Park chef Humm. Also notes, "[i]n the next few weeks, the restaurant will undergo a renovation of the kitchen and dining room that will include different lighting to evoke a more intimate feel."

Eating, Drinking, and Touring in Provence is something I've always wanted to do. Epicurious provides the details.

Though it's a year old, Amy's post about eating local raises some valid issues. Like anything, I think it's a question of balance. I don't care for extremes in anything.

A recipe for scallops, apples and wine. I love scallops and am always looking for interesting new ways to prepare them. This recipes sounds especially tasty: apples and a clove beurre blanc!

How to tame the terror of ordering wine at a posh restaurant. I'm not as bothered by this as I used to be, but seems like handy advice nonetheless.

Comparing Frozen Fish to Fresh

My mother is addicted to the supermarket Trader Joe's. For those unfamiliar with Trader Joe's, all you need to know for the purpose of this article is that, in addition to a variety of vegetables, cheese, and other groceries, they sell frozen foods. It was through Trader Joe's that my mother, and by extension, I, was introduced to flash frozen fish.

"Flash frozen" refers to foods that have been frozen very quickly, in a matter of seconds, and is often performed on the fishing boat. This (supposedly) allows all of the freshness to be maintained, sealed in ice until the consumer defrosts the item for use in his/her kitchen. Since fish often sits on ice in the hold of a fishing boat for hours, if not days, before arriving at port, buying flash frozen fish is often touted as a means to get "fresher" fish.

My mother is a regular purchaser of flash frozen fish at Trader Joe's, and she swears it's as good as fresh. I was unconvinced, and decided to put her statements to the test: could flash frozen fish taste as good as fresh local fish from the Greenmarket (the New York City equivalent of a farmer’s market) or even fresh fish from a local supermarket?

I began this experiment by scoping out the frozen fish selection at both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods (who also sell flash frozen fish) to ascertain what varieties were available. My plan was to compare a local fish (Atlantic cold water New York region fish) to something frozen. Both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods seemed to offer mostly Pacific fish (Alaskan salmon, halibut) or warm-water fish (Red Snapper), which put an immediate crimp on my plan. But then I spotted Whole Foods frozen (albeit Alaskan) cod in the case. On a reconnaissance trip to the Greenmarket I'd spotted cod, so when I saw frozen cod, and fresh cod behind the Whole Foods fish counter, it was clear what we’d be eating. Cod!

My husband and I invited two friends to join us for our dinner experiment to compare fish. They didn't know what kind of fish they'd be getting, but they knew one would be some would be fresh and some would be frozen.

The morning of the experiment I hustled over to the Greenmarket, eagerly anticipating the evening's culinary comparison. I walked over to the stand for Blue Moon Fresh Fish out of Mattituck, NY and looked up on the white board. Listed in black was "cod", but it was crossed out! When the woman approached to take my order, I asked about the cod. But it was sold out. Turns out, it was the last day of the cod season and they only had one small fish that had just been sold. Cod wouldn't be back until the fall.

My mind reeled, my plan, destroyed. Panicked, I couldn't leave empty-handed. I needed to have fish to feed four for dinner that evening. So I bought a pound of sea trout – something I'd never tried before but was told it was oily like bluefish – and headed despondently to another vendor for the remainder of the meal. Fresh New Jersey asparagus lifted my spirits slightly, and I purchased a large bunch. Then I spied a mound of ramps and tiny new potatoes as small as my thumbnail and imagined the yummy roasted combo that could accompany my fish. Accompaniments in hand, my spirit restored, I concocted a new plan. Perhaps my guests wouldn't notice that one of the fish was a totally different kind of fish?

At Whole Foods, I bough a package of frozen Alaskan cod and a piece of fresh cod. The guy behind the fish counter told me the cod was fresh that morning, just arrived. From where? I asked, but he did not know. At home I set the Whole Foods fish to thawing, according to the directions on the package. When it was time to prepare the meal, I made a lemon beurre blanc, tossed the potatoes and ramps in the oven, and steamed the asparagus. For the fish, I cooked all three filets at the same time on my cast iron griddle in a little butter. I wanted minimal preparation so as not to over-shadow the flavor of the fish. And I wanted them all cooked at the same time for the same amount of time (as close as I could get to any sort of 'control' for this experiment).

Plated and on the table, everyone began with examination, and the first comment: one fish sure looks different from the other two! The sea trout was suspect! But I didn't share my secret immediately. Everyone tasted each fish and then we discussed the results: 3 out of 4 preferred the fresh sea trout. Only my husband liked the frozen cod more than the fresh sea trout. But that's because he doesn’t like fish that much, so he preferred the mild flavor of the cod to the fishier flavor of the sea trout. Conclusion? Hard to report: I found both pieces of cod rather tasteless, mushy, and too water-logged to consider eating ever again. But whether that's an issue of fresh vs. frozen or simply the cod, this experiment cannot say.

The more important lesson learned through this experiment is what food distributor Horizon Food claims in their FAQ:

And, thanks to flash freezing, the availability of fish and seafood is never a problem.

When we make a decision to eat seasonal, local food, we give up our ability to control what that food is, to a certain extent. The unrealized, perhaps almost forgotten, miracle of our modern food production system is our ability to get nearly anything we want whenever we want it (even if strawberries in January are a bad idea). Flash frozen fish allows you to eat "fresh" red snapper in New England, or Pacific salmon in Arizona. And for many that can be a great thing. Moving to a local seasonal model leaves you at the mercy of not only the seasons but of the fisherman’s luck that morning out on the waters.

Ultimately this experiment failed to determine if flash frozen fish is a good as fresh but it reminded me of the unanticipated pleasures that result from relinquishing total control over my food. The joy of trying a new fish, like sea trout; of savoring something fleeting, like ramps and tiny baby potatoes and just dug asparagus. We ate a nearly seasonal, nearly local dinner, and it tasted mighty good – even though we could have gotten asparagus from Peru and the fish from the Pacific and planned the whole menu a month in advance.

Alain Ducasse is making food for space travel. Space treats to include, "red tuna and lemon sauce, spiced baby chicken with Thai vegetables, potato and tomato millefeuilles and rice in soya milk pudding."

Chimpanzee stew and grilled brown bear intestines are two of the illegal ingredients Chef Yamamoto prepares. Just reading this made me uncomfortable. [via justinblanton.com]

A week after it's posted, I finally stumble across The Secrets of Incredible Food. It contains Clement's Theorem of Deliciousnes. What more do you need?

Wondering whether rosé wine is underrated or overhyped, Food & Wine writer Lettie Teague taste tests to make up her mind.

Google's cafeterias to serve only cage free eggs. "In a growing animal welfare trend that is being embraced by natural foods markets, universities and technology companies, Google officials plan to announce their employee cafeterias will no longer serve eggs that come from hens crammed into small cages." [Thanks Jason]

Front page of Food and WineFood & Wine is now doing a "Blog Watch" on their front page. It's a weekly listing of the top five posts in, "the food and wine blogosphere." So far they don't seem to have an archive of past listings or an easy link to it, but the image on the right shows you where you can find it on their front page.

Eleven Madison Park is the hot table

Folks are saying Eleven Madison Park's new chef is great, alas the full article is behind the subscription wall at the New York Sun. But Veal Cheeks also has a write-up, Fennel Fantasia New York City Entry #91 Eleven Madison Park:

Of the over 100 meals, I have eaten this year, Eleven ranks second, just behind Per Se (is all great cuisine left coastal?), and when one realizes that the tasting menus are $75.00 (four course, plus at least four concealed courses), the ratio of joy/dollar ranks just behind Papaya King.

Wow, that's saying something. I always enjoyed EMP with its old chef, now with Daniel Humm at the helm, I'm anxious to try it out again. Second to Per Se?! Dear reader, I'll let you know asap!

What's it like being married to a chef? Jennifer Leuzzi, Snack author and wife of Laurent Gras tells us.

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