Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Date with Poulet Aux Câpres

By nature I am an unusually happy person. As bizarre as it may sound cooking for loved ones excites in me great pleasure. I find it quite therapeutic to satisfy the hunger of my family and friends: sadly often to the point of satiety. On Monday I did something directly opposing my nature; I decided to cook a gourmet meal for myself. I cook frequently but cooking for one never appealed to me, consequently limiting my alone time meals to simple, effortless dishes.

For the last couple months I’ve been in a dually pensive and reflective state. I’ve focused on growth through avid reading while working to solidify my role as a virtuous woman. In all this introspective study, I’ve discovered that in terms of my meal preparation I continuously slighted myself. I therefore decided to reconstruct Le Giverny’s Poulet Aux Câpres for one. My intention was to recreate the dish based off memory. The goal was to do for me what I joyfully do for others. Little did I know that I was embarking on a journey of self-discovery.

I collected the ingredients from my pantry and refrigerator: chicken breast, capers, garlic, butter, Dijon mustard, white wine, red cabbage and my personal twist beets. I seared the chicken in butter and a dab of olive oil. I then proceed to build the dish one layer at a time. Tasting each step of the way. I used the wine to infuse the chicken. Later I was able to build a light gravy with the remaining drippings and wine. Honoring my memory and palate, I ensured that the flavors remained true to their essence. At the end, I was quite satisfied with the outcome. Garlic-roasted potatoes and steamed Spinach accompanied the Poulet Aux Câpres. I plated the entrée perfectly.

When I sat down it dawned on me that I was on a date with myself. I savored each morsel. Satiated, I reflected on the meal and life. I questioned why I hadn’t done this before. I love cooking and no one can deny that I love to eat. Eager to serve others but neglecting myself. I concluded that I had been consumed in my need to take care and ignored my obligation to me.

I will continue to cook for friends. However, I pledge to cook my date night meals with the same passion and vigor given those prepared for loved ones. The Poulet therapy put me in remembrance. I’m in a place in life where I can relish in my company. Although I’m still developing I like myself.


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Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Lesson Before Dining

I am a control freak who loves to cook. Cooking allows me to be master of my domain and take full ownership over the art I am creating. I generally HATE anyone in my kitchen while I am putting my chisel to marble, sculpting a culinary delight which will last in people’s memories for generations to come. This weekend, I uneasily broke with that tradition.

The meal was a delicious mustard and herb chicken, involving a bread crumb, rosemary and cheese topped oven roasted chicken breast, delicately placed on top of a bed of linguine flavored by a slightly peppered garlic and mushroom cream sauce. In a word –
heaven. This homemade dish is comparable to entrees I have sampled in 5 star Italian restaurants, particularly due to the amazing simplicity of the seasonings and the toccata of flavors blending in a symphonic harmony still resonating in my taste buds. The mustard harped over the chicken lightly, while the bread crumb topping added a more mellow note, contrasting the tangy Dijon. The cream sauce, though a bit peppery, soaked well into the linguine, in which small bits of feta had been tossed. The final crescendo – a very fragrant and buttery California Chardonnay. The meal was nothing short of Beethoven’s 5th.

After enjoying this ecstasy, I reflected on the creation of this masterpiece. Although a great symphony usually has a single composer, it normally requires the teamwork of said composer, a conductor and a legion of musicians to bring his vision from pen to ear. This time around, I allowed a lady friend to enter the kitchen with me, and acting as the composer, I directed her to which spices to prepare, what ingredients to sauté and when to toss the pasta. And while I initially felt the angst of another person, possibly unskilled and brutish in their understanding of culinary art, being in my kitchen I began to enjoy the time spent. There were good laughs and playful exchanges throughout, and not one detail of the meal was ruined because of it.

A new spice has been added to the rack of my life – working together to create something beautiful. It was in realizing the joy this brought me that I resolved not only to be more open-minded about allowing another into the sanctity of my kitchen (or my blog – Sabor, La Artista Culinaria, Mbali), but to allow people who I see are trying to help my goals to get close so that together, the sum of our friendships can build a legacy for all of our lives. The thought crossed my mind of how this dynamic strangely mirrored the vision I have for families everywhere – building together for a better tomorrow. I wonder how many other people have closed off their kitchens…

-The UE

PS – Welcome goes out to the newest contributing members of the Taste and See community! I have asked a few of my closest foodie friends to give me their perspectives and add a little diversity to the TnS experience to offer the reader a more fulsome viewpoint on life, growth and FOOD. I hope that your weekly input will add the sprinkle of powdered sugar a
Nutella crepe needs to be perfect!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Intro Into My Soul!!!

To be rapt is to be deeply engrossed or absorbed.... when I cook I forget the world around me. The aroma rising with every swift move of my chef’s knife through the herbs of life. Hmmm... it’s like I can breathe again. With every dash of salt, drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, flavors melt and marry together to make nothing short of the ambrosia of mortal souls. On occasion I get so swept into my world of pure bliss I forget things, forget I started with a recipe and end up with a creation of passions.

Need I explain my enthusiasm? Some think of me as a rapt enthusiast because I have a certain outlook on life... but life does not exist unless you have the proper fuel to keep the engine going. Some people think it’s just about nourishment, that you must eat certain things to survive but it’s so much more than that. You don’t put regular gas in your Mercedes McClaren!!! NO NO... You must quench your machines thirst with nothing but the best to keep it happy, to keep it motivated, to prolong its existence. The body is much the same. People who take the time to appreciate the flavors mother earth has given us live their days in bliss and end their days wanting nothing more because they found their happiness here on earth... THEY LIVED!!

Is food all I know? Not at all!! In fact I am an intellectual, an up and coming socialite, a hopeless romantic, and a seeker of challenge/change. I am currently studying Philosophy with an emphasis in social justice (ethics). I volunteer my time as much as I can, make my way to those events assisting in my growth as a person both socially and intellectually, I cry everytime I watch The Notebook, pout whenever I watch an old Cary Grant love saga and I take on as many challenges as I can. I’m not an over achiever, I just appreciate the fact that life truly is short and I vow to make it as long as possible.

So how does food fit into my life? Everything I do comes back to my love of taste. Think of me as "La Artista Culinaria" (L.A.C.) I cook almost every night and if you ever have to look for me... chances are I’m in my kitchen (or someone elses :-) ) Food is the cure to all ailments and it is my sole purpose in life to cure as many people as possible.

- L.A.C.

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Monday, January 21, 2008


I am happy to introduce myself as a fellow food fanatic. I’m in my early twenties (slightly younger than UE) and currently residing in Atlanta, GA. I come from a distinctive background, grounded in family and friends. Born in Trinfo de la Cruz, Honduras I moved to Houston, TX at the age of seven. My mother who is a master chef has always instilled in me a love for cooking. However, I’ll admit that I ran away from this heritage until college where it subdued me and I finally succumbed. In retrospect, I realize that the gift was always present. Frankly, I was not comfortable with the social roles tied to females who cook well and often. In my attempt to exercise a silent protest, I quieted a bit of myself. I’ve since learned to forge my own path understanding that cooking was always my kindred friend. It is the ultimate amalgamation of my passion for exploration and my need to take care of others.

Currently I am working on a project to help an academic institution become a designated comprehensive center. I genuinely enjoy what I do and it’s impact on the world. My future is boundless. I have every intention of continuing to lead a deliberate life, one that savors the details. My fiery Latino personality is enveloping; I savor each morsel of life, hence, my name “Sabor”.

Those who know me consider me to be quite an anomaly. I’m odd and not afraid to admit it. Over the years, I’ve been able to cultivate a discerning palate. Growing up eating mostly Latin American food taught me to discriminate subtleties in a sea of powerful flavors. Ergo I can enjoy the delicate undertones of a chile. Through time, new experiences have afforded me the opportunity to translate that knowledge to other cuisines.

You currently find me in an inquisitive stage. One filled with learning and great exploits. Aside from eating and cooking, I greatly enjoy reading and actively learning. My mornings are quite ritualistic. Waking up at 6am and starting my day with a cup of tea and steel cut oatmeal (w/berries and honey). Followed by reading my bible and prayer. I’ll admit that sometimes I skip to the second part of my morning (I am a work in progress). Secondly, I read the morning newspapers: The New York Times, BBC news (only highlights), and The Washington Post. The latter is my routine from 6-8am.

Now back to food. The road to my heart diverges into many paths still the straightest road is paved with fine cheeses. I absolutely fancy cheese: Brie, Queso fresco, Stilton, Manchego and Gruyere the list is far too long. Ports are also dear to my heart closely followed by butter (real butter). You can conclude from this that my spirit enjoys certain indulgences. I adore food and it’s many layers. It’s simplicity and complexity bring joy to my belly. Food is a vital part of my life serving to strengthen my relationships with my family and friends. I hope to now be able to share that love affair with you.


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I Say Sake, You Say Bomb

This weekend after being stranded in Atlanta due to inclement weather, I decided to spend the day with a good friend who had no work to do. Our journey began with a trip to purchase some electronics. Upon returning to the car from the store, we found it unwilling to start. Given the combination of our insurmountable intellects we surmised that we could fix the car, and though we found what seemed to be the issue (the starter), we failed to consider one almost embarrassingly obtuse variable – the security system’s effect on the starter. Result – the car would now only start via jerry rigged connection between the starter and a golf club…

While waiting for the tow truck to come along and transport the now fully debilitated car, we made our way to a local sushi restaurant to make light of a frustrating situation. Sake bombs were first introduced to me in college. The bomb form of alcoholic beverage requires a shot of the featured libation and a base beer in which to drop it (hence the term, bomb”). Sake is an amazing treat originally created by the Japanese by fermenting rice in a similar fashion to beer . Historically, consumption of a beverage in the “bomb” family requires multiple drinks expeditiously consumed, providing at the very least, hours of good times.

I prefer to take sake at a lukewarm temperature, preferably near body temp (98 degrees Fahrenheit). The traditional serving style of sake in itself is a highly social ritual, requiring that companions refill each other’s cups as soon as they are empty. This is becomes applicable to anything involving sake, including the sake bomb.

9 bottles of sake later…

I returned to my home in NYC Sunday morning, feeling refreshed. Despite being out all night, and drinking heavily, I thoroughly recharged my social batteries. Not because I had a good night of rest (which was clearly not going to happen after the first beer). No, I had the chance to spend a day with a good friend, and in light of all the negative things that could have brought the day to a crash and burn ending, we amassed a treasure of all the silver linings we could find. I met some new, very interesting people, and spent the evening rolling in laughs and stimulated by provocative thoughts. I learned 2 things this weekend. 1) That I have friends who will continue to give me the strength to fight the good fight to grow into the person I was blessed with the gifts to become and 2) positive thinking will find serendipity in calamity.

-The UE

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

~*My Sommelier Sense Was Tingling*~

Before dinner, my date and I purchased some cheese with the intention of buying some wine that would be perfectly paired.


Afterwards, we walked to 2 wine stores, only to discover they were BOTH closed. Apparently most people who enjoy fine wines don’t come out after 9pm in my neighborhood.

I suggested that we try the cheeses we bought with this wine I had at home, a wine with which I had no experience prior to this day, but was inspirational and the sole survivor of a “sample case” I purchased a few months back.

Castillo de Jumilla was the wine.

Gouda was the cheese.

If having the audacity of hope can do me good here, why not here?

(shameless plug)

-The UE

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Zoma - Land of the Brown Faced People

Zoma is an Ethiopian restaurant in Southwest Harlem, 113th and Frederick Douglas. I was first introduced to Ethiopian food by a very good friend of mine who himself is Eritrean (the northern neighbors of Ethiopia). This amazing cuisine, with its smooth textures and its metacarpal eating style, involves grinding, pounding or pureeing food into exciting combinations with unapologetic use of spices. The most fun part of the experience is the injera, on which the food is served. Similar to naan, injera is a spongy crepe, used in the same manner as naan to scoop food into a little pinch of heaven.

I would recommend the shiro wett, a spicy chickpea concoction, with undertones of jalepenos, and the buticha, a chickpea puree reminiscent of hummus. I usually only do vegetarian food when I eat either Indian or Ethiopian, but the Awaze Tibs (pan fried tilapia) is lightly fried, perfectly seasoned, and tantalizing to match with either of the vegetarian dishes I mentioned. I have found a good, sweet rosé would be the perfect match (researched via take-out) however they lack this option on their menu. I purchased a quality bottle from Harlem Vintage, my favorite wine store uptown. They do have a good selection of beer, my favorite being the Dominican Presidente. Those Dominicans make some amazing libations….

Dinner provided some interesting conversation, the peak of which included a call for weekly introspective goals for the UE to push himself to new levels. I am challenging myself to a personal, dietary and professional goal each week. This Epicurean moves forward, never backwards, at all times. What about you?

-The UE

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Introduction

What is Taste and See? Well for some it might sound like a request for a blind sampling of sorts, with the results not validated or promised. For those well versed in their theological experiences, Taste and See is a processional hymn written based on the experiences of David in Psalm 34. It invokes a sense of thankfulness for the blessings that He has given unto such undeserving creatures such as us. Yet still, others might not even care. I have come to realize in my time that people tend to allow themselves a certain unsubstantiated amount of free reign over the interpretation of things they don’t understand, mainly because they either lack the background and exposure or the interest to research the meaning of the incoherent situation facing them, thus presenting the need for explanations.

Forgive my presumption and allow me to introduce myself. I am the Urbane Epicurean (the Epicurean for short). I am in my mid-20s, doing meaningful and appreciated work for a reputable firm, creative and bored. I work out 1-2 hours a day, 3-4 times a week. I take salsa class with a callipygous young lady of whom I have grown quite fond. I love college football, tennis and soccer. People visit me on the weekends far too often, and I claim to crave solitude, but secretly thrive in the authoritarian jurisdiction over my hyper stimulated life. I read newspapers from Houston, NY, LA, DC, the UK and China. I am a self-proclaimed sophisticate, and stand accused by my peers as an aristocrat.

And I love food. Love. LOVE. The taste, the smell, the texture, the consistency, the preparation, the pairings, the aesthetics…its like a small obsession. Its something that has been a large part of my life, from the hard cooking lessons my mom would give me of leaving me alone and hungry to feed myself while she slept, to the munchies trips of my sketchier teen years, to my new subscription to “Food and Wine” Magazine. If food were the sun, I’d be the entire Solar System.

I have been sitting around trying to fill the empty time with things that will help me grow as a person, internally and externally. I have been spending a lot of time in the last few months learning and practicing cooking techniques and recipes to increase not only my marketability as one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth, but to also allow for less dependence on the opposite gender to facilitate my need for consumption of fine foods. A good friend of mine recently told posed the question to me “have you ever fallen in love without a woman cooking for you?” I proceeded to ponder the query, and while, yes I have, it usually greases the wheels and keeps me around a little longer than it should (and by keep me around, I mean I ignore everything wrong in a relationship in exchange for gourmet satisfaction). In pursuit of my freedom from the addiction to the culinary female, I have found that cooking has brought me multiple layers of joy. From the actual pleasure of creating something amazing with my own hands and inspiration, to the delicious tastes of the food, to the most important facet of this new experience – amazing conversation. I find that when I’m in the kitchen, not only do I become more focused and reflective, it stimulates a need to fill the empty, quiet space with stimulating and meaningful thought sharing, connecting two people in a deeper sense. So I finally decided I need to record these great experiences, and others relating to my favorite subject, in writing for the benefit of the 3-5 people who will actually read it and the 1-2 who will understand what I’m saying.

So what is Taste and See? Call it a creative outlet for my experiences and thoughts relating to a subject for which I hold a deep fervor. Call it an answer to a mind in constant need of stimulation with waning amounts of ways to engage it. Call it entertainment. Call it the written record of the thoughts and experiences bouncing around in my warped and pseudo-demented mind. Call it slander (well, in print its actually libel). Whatever you call it, I hope you enjoy!

- The UE

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