That’s a Grumpy Russian with a pork schnitzel, Gorgonzola, and a lightly acidic slaw! The bun looks like a pretzel but it’s a sweet brioche… An all around balanced sandwich with a name that conveys attitude! This is good @ Schnitz’s NYC, Smorgasburg, Brooklyn (at Brooklyn Flea Williamsburg)
Some late winter photos from right outside of my dorm room overlooking the Hudson. This is the view that welcomes me when I return from class to my room… Sunset is a quiet time, seldomly interrupted by the hooting of a passing train. Dawn displays a huge contrast with the chipper birds awakening from their slumber into full song. My favorite time of day — also referred to as ”Kusluk Vakti” in Turkish — the time of birds. That’s when I walk to class, sipping my coffee and eating my banana to the beautiful song of the birds right outside my dorm.
The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York
At Dartmouth, the most interesting use for our dinner trays was sledding down the hill by the golf course. And trust me that is just as much fun as eating dozens of different dishes with foie gras, venison, lobster and wild mushrooms. I never want to have to choose between sledding on a dinner tray and eating amazing food off of one.
Last Friday was a day when the choice was already made for me.
I was done with class at four when I set up camp in the dining hall where the Gard Manger grand buffet was to take place. Peeking over the plates to see what was about to become part of a memorable feast, I basked in the presence of the rush of my colleagues
My heart was beating faster.
I tried for the first time foie gras terrines, rabbit rillettes, head cheese, galantines, wild mushroom terrines, and aspics. What a tremendous experience that was.
Check out the captions for all the amazing food my colleagues put together last Friday. The best part is that this feast happens every three weeks here. Fourteen days until the next one!
Steven Schwagger, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology, Cornell University as quoted in Culinary Fundamentals lecture at the Culinary Institute of America
Have you ever thought about recipes as models? That’s what was implied at my first Culinary Fundamentals theory lecture at the Culinary Institute of America. In other words, recipes are imperfect statistical models that provide guidelines to interpreting the world around you and/or creating a somewhat consistent result.
I’ve always thought about recipes as algorithms that produce a consistent result. But this is a misnomer and the concept of a statistical model fits the bill as it attempts at controlling variation without eliminating it.
For instance, the simple formula we learn for pureed soups is:
- For vegetables: 1 lb of vegetable : 1 quart of stock
- For legumes: 1 lb of dry legumes: 2 quarts of stock
To get the light nappe (coating the back of your spoon) consistency, does it make sense to abide by the recipe 100% or to course-correct along the way? Which one will produce better results?
Rhetorical questions aside, what intrigues me the most (and most geeks who care as much about words) —about using the right words to describe what a recipe is and what it isn’t— what makes a good cook is understanding the statistical variations of a recipe. We must know recipes and other general guidelines but understanding the science behind recipes will better allow for adjusting along the way to produce the best results.
In short, a cook is someone who applies recipes and adjusts them along the way to account for variations in the results to produce a consistent product.
Let’s see how my perspective will evolve.
Hmm… Evolution, eh? Variations in a model. Cooks selecting for best results. Sounds like another statistical model — artificial / natural selection… Maybe another topic for another post…
It’s my birthday today. The most profound day of the last year was three weeks ago. Here are my reflections.
I walked up to the French Laundry to see the venue —this restaurant is often cited as the best restaurant in America. Lunch service was coming to an end and I saw the chefs walking out of the kitchen. I said, ‘Can I walk with you?’ Of course, I could. I thought they were going to the Laundry farm to harvest the produce for the next shift but they were headed to the bench where they hold their staff meetings…
They didn’t know who I was, where I was from. They never questioned my purpose or intentions. Somehow they had the right intuition to let me immerse myself in their creative process and have an out-of-the-body experience that will stay with me my entire life. I was in such a daze that I did not move for two hours – I just listened, focused on the joy that manifested itself in a thousand goose bumps, and let myself be inspired.
I never thought I was capable of such intense feelings. I was so content with life that I could vanish in that moment without any resistance.
We visited the Benziger Estate in Petaluma, California with my parents and members of my extended family. I care a lot about wine but that Sunday was more about spending time with my parents than turning the day into a culinary adventure for me. So, we did as they pleased.
I had just come back from cooking in Mumbai for two months. San Fransisco was my last stop before coming back to the East Coast to attend the Culinary. Prior to meeting my parents, who were visiting from Istanbul, I’d been in Bangkok, Pondicherry, Chennai, Mumbai, Istanbul, Amsterdam and New York. And all of this was in the interest of exploring food!
We left the Benziger Estate that sunny Northern California morning and my uncle decided he wanted to go to Napa after all. That was a pleasant surprise because I didn’t expect that my old relatives would be so inclined to have a busy schedule on a lazy Sunday.
We crossed the mountain through windy roads with the smell of fluffy, friendly and ethereal mimosas. Mimosas are my favorite flower. They’re beautiful, delicate and highly ephemeral. The season in Istanbul lasts a couple weeks in the beginning of March.
Prior to the embrace of the mimosa smell, I tasted a superb Pinot Noir with characteristic Burgundy flavors and a strong base of truffles. It was fascinating.
I was already on cloud nine by the time we arrived in Yountville. Searching for parking spots, we first drove by Ad Hoc, then Bouchon and last but not least The French Laundry. We parked and I went on a reconnesaince mission with my parents.
Those are the circumstances under which I met the French Laundry team and had one of the most profound experiences of my life.
Their meeting was well structured and followed the flow of the menu for the next day’s specials. The chef de partie was running the meeting, taking detailed notes on a piece of paper that linked all the newly designed menu items to an ordering sheet. There was some chatter at the table but I haven’t heard a single word from the eight young chefs that wasn’t about food. The chefs pitched their elaborate ideas for each section of the menu with variations on specific components of their dish. The concepts were respectfully broken down, analyzed, and reconstructed as a team with the big picture of the options for the evening in mind. The discussion was not just logical and mathematical but it was also poetic, which was reflected through everyone’s passion and the deep intellectual curiosity they displayed throughout the process.
When they stood up, they each walked over and shook my hand. Even though not much was spoken, they knew why I was there. I felt at home.
An hour later, I walked into Ad Hoc to have dinner at the bar. The menu was Irish themed as it was St. Patrick’s day. Everything was excellent but the stuffed quail was heavenly. There were no blemishes, no rips, no tears on the deboning work. The stuffing was well seasoned and balanced with bacon and corn bread. The cooking on the quail was at textbook perfection with beautiful brown skin and a pink inside. I paired my meal with a Russian River Golden Ale, a beer that has character but does not dominate your palate.
Just when I thought my life was complete, the crescendo culminated in a visit to the kitchen after I said thank you to the gentleman behind the bar and mentioned that I was about to start at the Culinary in New York. He was quick to invite me to the kitchen and give me a walk through.
In Ruhlman’s book Becoming a Chef as well as Achatz’s Life on the Line, I’d read great things about the Laundry kitchen. The Ad Hoc kitchen reflected this image as well: Efficient; clean; well-lit; full of great people, passionate about their work and a smile on their faces moving around their station with a conscious sense of urgency. Everything in the walk-ins –multiple walk-ins managed at different temperatures—was clearly labeled with neat and legible writing. The kitchen was impeccable in the middle of service when three quarters of the tables had guests.
I’ve been at the Culinary for two weeks now. That day in Yountville –what I felt, observed and tasted—has become a calibration point. Every time I mince shallots, strain the stock we make in class, listen to a lecture on catering, I think about the camaraderie, the openness and the uninhibited creativity of the Laundry team or the order that inspired a sense of excellence in the Ad Hoc kitchen. The zeal they shared for their profession, their professionalism and their uncompromising adherence to perfection will propel me through life at the Culinary.
I’ve been through very cynical times in my life. I was stuck up, opinionated and cared about the wrong things. The two years that led to my arrival at the Culinary culminated in this moment in Yountville. On a bench, right next to the French Laundry farm, I found myself reformed, enlightened and present in the moment more than ever.
I was ready.
Korean street food tastings at the Culinary Institute of America!
Eating Korean street food while sitting over the Hudson is pretty good! Sharing it with great people who know all about the food and are passionate about is a privelege!
The combo was complete with yuzu juice; deep fried and sweet chili sauce doused rice cakes; fried glass noodle rolls; a corn dog with a deep fried potato batter; and my favorite jumuk bab!
Jumuk bab is a rice ball flavored with nigiri flakes and toasted sesame seeds. It’s stuffed with tuna and topped with Japanese fish flakes (katsuobushi) and served with a mild chili mayo.
Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY
While the Bonomos are from Turkey, Turkish Taffy is really not Turkish!
There, I said it!
Cooking up the Rhinebeck Farmers Market (Hudson Valley) with pheasant eggs, golden beets, Adirondack reds and radish greens.
I roasted the red potatoes, the golden beets and a couple cloves of garlic with S&P, extra virgin olive oil and dried tarragon (added last five minutes of roasting). I made some croutons with the sourdough that I bought at the market. The boar bacon from the Highland Deer Farm was fried in its own fat.
As things got cooking, I tossed a salad with sliced raw beets and the slightly bitter radish greens. I peeled and toasted a dozen almonds and threw them in the salad.
Last but not least, I poached three pheasant eggs and gave one to the croutons and another two to the roasted beets and potatoes. They were happy at once! So was I.
My dorm room, the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY
A Fraiche perspective!
It isn’t very easy to find a restaurant that is the manifestation of the ideals and principles of its visionary. Fraiche in Camp Hill, PA is such a place. No, the restaurant isn’t an ideology-forward establishment, it’s a celebration of local and seasonal ingredients and flavors prepared with love, gusto and enthusiasm. If you have a chance to speak with Armen, the visionary and the owner, you open the door for a good conversation and cheerful laughter. Armen’s warm personality and confident and unpretentious demeanor fills you with hope for the future of mankind and makes running a business with a conscience look easy. And in that he is very inspiring.
To show my appreciation for Armen’s strong connection with his purveyors in the Central PA farming community, his passion for Farm-to-Table and the flavor explosion that is his restaurant, I posted:
“Farm-to-Table is the name of a wholesome revolution. It means to honor the farmer and the soil, and to respect the fruits of their labor. It means to eat with conscience. I regard serving and eating Farm-to-Table food as casting a vote on the welfare of farmers; on the quality and taste of food products; the health of one’s own body, family and community as well as the health of the environment. It’s not just wholesome — it’s awesome.”
They loved it and used it on their flyers. What an honor!
PS.: I don’t do restaurant reviews and this isn’t one. And this comes from a good place. Cheers, Sayat
I made contact with the endive on the shelf and wanted it in a salad instantly. Here is what I came up with.
A warm endive and blackberry salad with minneola zest and supremes
- Extra virgin olive oil for sauteing
- 1/4 Cup diced white onions
- Two medium sized endives, diagonal cut (half inch slices)
- Half a cup of black berries
- One tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- Zest of one minneola
- Supremes of one minneola
- Two tablespoons of toasted charoli nuts (use cracked almonds or pine nuts as a substitute)
- Chopped chives and baby spinach leaves for garnish
- In one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil sweat your onions
- Add the endives and the vinegar. Saute for three minutes on low heat stirring occasionally without bruising
- Add blackberries and mineola zest and warm for one minute; stir to combine without bruising
- Plate, garnish with nuts, chives, and minneola supremes
- The zest of the mineola is very mild and sweet. It makes the dish while still allowing for the endives to be the star.
- This salad would work extremely well with a strong chevre. That is how I will serve it next time I make it.
- Charoli nuts are endemic to South Asia. When raw the flavor is similar to that of almonds but the texture is delicate like that of pine nuts. When toasted the nut is very similar to sunflower seeds. This is one of the few ingredients that I brought back from India. I think it has the potential to be a substitute for the very expensive pine nuts.
Rosamunde Sausage Grill and Toronado Bar
A Tunisian sausage (i.e. merquez) with giardiniera, onions and honey mustard & a chicken, garlic and tarragon sausage with onions and dijon
I’ve been traveling and foraging cities for great food for three months now — it doesn’t take much to develop an eye for humble establishments with character. Rosamunde was such a place. I peaked at the block from the Filmore corner and I told my friend, ‘this street is holding some gems’. We walked up to Rosamunde, looked at the menu and the display. I knew right away that the sandwiches would be excellent. We grabbed two and headed next door with our sausage sandwiches for a beer. We had a bright golden ale that is Russian River Valley’s Damnation.
Sunny day in San Fransisco, excellent sausage sandwhiches, and a great golden ale — all of it brought together by great conversation with an old friend!
Haight and Filmore, San Fransisco
I had my first banh mi at Guy’s American Kitchen off of Times Square — what an underwhelming experience that was. The baguette was dense and stale with no crunch and completely cold. The mayonaisse was superfluous and the fries that the sandwich was served with were soggy. It was so underwhelming that the experience stayed with me after three months.
The banh mi experience is very different in Little Saigon in San Fransisco. I had the early bird advantage this morning. I was at the shop on Larkin by 7:45 when the bread was crunchy and toasty, and the carrots, cilantro and hot green chilis were fresh.
I tried two sandwiches. One with pate and another one a combination of fancy pork and roasted pork. The banh mi sauce brought the whole sandwich quietly rather than being on the front, which I find is the case with some banh mi.
When you make a simple sandwich such as banh mi, it’s always about the freshest ingredients and not about superfluous bells and whistles you put on the sandwich.
Jack fruit chips are available at the counter!
Little Saigon, San Fransisco
A salute to winter vegetables at the Ferry Building Farmers Market in San Fransisco
Chard, carrots, purple kale, turnips, radishes, rutabega, yellow beets
While I miss the colors, smells and flavors of spring, I know I will miss the colors of winter too!
Fish canepes @ the Ferry Bulding Farmers Market in San Fransisco
King salmon, sturgeon, white salmon, and albacore tuna paired with a classic combination of cream cheese, dill, capers, onions, bell peppers, meyer lemons and arugula
First time eating sturgeon — never realized it was such a lean fish!
It’s a beautiful thing to walk through San Fransisco to meet an old friend and have your first coffee as the city’s still in slumber.
My final stop before culinary school in Hyde Park, New York.
@ Blue Bottle Coffee Co, Ferry Building Farmers Market, San Fransisco