Friday, February 29, 2008

The Maturing Palette

There was a time in my development when onions were the scourge of my life. To punish me, my mom would actually put onions in the food she made me to teach the lesson that food is food and I need to eat it. As a child, I would actually prefer getting a spanking over eating the foul tasting, slimy, pungent, tear jerking, grimy, awful vegetable. I love broccoli (the adolescent’s nemesis), but can’t stand even the smell of the despicable onion.

But then something happened…

I realized one day I was cooking with onions! They were in my refrigerator, on my shopping lists, even in my recipes and dishes!!!!

The reason for this transgression against my former self didn’t become clear to me until I was in Atlanta this recently, sharing my New Year’s goals. One of the points which I aim to improve is my level of maturity with every interaction and relationship I have, now and in the future. As I was juxtaposing a blonde beer and a dark beer and making snide but witty comments about the evolution of my taste in women (see below), an epiphany struck me – for the last few years, I have been approaching food with an increasingly mature perspective, learning about and beginning to appreciate the finer subtleties of the wonders of God’s Earth.

As I analyzed my life, I realized that over time I have become more amicable to things which have added great value to my life experience which I never could have brought myself to appreciate until I matured mentally. I couldn’t stand politics. Now I follow the future leaders of our city, state and country passionately with a waxing interest in their perspectives and positions. I despised beer when I was younger. Now I appreciate its rich diversity of flavors and textures. I (sadly) had a preference for women of a certain complexion. Now I enjoy the entire spectrum of women, very much like the gamut of wines – the beautiful bodies, the rich and varying colors, the smells…

I see myself approaching life like I approach my taste for food. I lived my life in a very narrow sense when I was younger, but as I mature I realize just how much more there is to offer, from the experiences of meeting new people from all walks of life, to traveling to exotic and fabled places to learn of its sights and sounds. The question this begs is which was the inspiration? Is it my maturing taste for life and her spoils that drives me to explore, or my quest for more deliciously diverse food? Would I have gone to Italy if they didn’t have

delectable gelato? Would I have explored Beijing if they never perfected roasting our favorite feathered friend? Would I have tolerated the aromatic, coarse mannered French if they didn’t have such arousing wines and liquors? In any case, I find that as my quest for a more respectable and extensive palette and cookbook continues, so does my quest for a more respectable and extensive journey in life.

…and I now can
tolerate onions. I don’t love them, but progress is about baby steps :)

-The UE

Read More......

Monday, February 25, 2008

My New Toy

A real Texan always finds a way! Even if its cold and snowing outside.

Introducing the DeLonghi Cast Aluminum Indoor Grill

Lamb Ribs
Lamb Chops
Strip Steak
Roasted Asparagus
Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Potatoes
I can't wait until the summer! Im having my mother bring some hickory wood to save me in this pitless, yardless, pagan land...

-The UE

Read More......

Friday, February 22, 2008

My First Taste of Life

Do you remember the first time you had a taste of your favorite dish? Maybe that perfect spaghetti, with a rich and meaty homemade tomato sauce. Or maybe that unforgettable piece of pizza topped with pepperoni, rich, creamy cheese, and a crust as close to perfection as 3.14 is to Pi. How about the silky, smooth and luscious piece of cake, freshly baked, with a scoop of your favorite ice cream? Or the satisfaction of Mom’s home cooking after eating cafeteria food all semester?

I remember…

The first time I truly ate
tiramisu. I had ingested it prior, but never truly ate it. This Tuscan treat was born in Siena. The occasion – a visit by Grand Duke Cosimo de'Medici III, in whose honor the concoction was dubbed zuppa del duca (the "duke's soup"). The erstwhile duke brought the dessert back with him to Florence, and although some suppose Tiramisu was the favorite of Venice's courtesans who needed a "pick me up" (the literal translation of "tirami-su"), its name evolved from the duke’s soup and today we can find tiramisu almost everywhere in Italian restaurants (and some local bakeries).

This particular specimen was from
The Palm, an upscale steakhouse in New York. As soon as my fork cut into it, I cosmically sensed this was going to be special.

I raised the piece to my face and blissfully caught a whiff of the mocha infused in the crème.

The lady fingers melted in my mouth, exploding with flavors of bitter chocolate and coffee.

The burn of Kahlua and rum lightly singed my nostrils.

The textures of the pastry and custard washed over my tougue – silky, smooth, elegant, sophisticated.

I was in love.

This dynamic piece of food, prophetic in its effect on me, truly demanded attention from the eater, beckoning me to pay full attention to every glaze, whip, whisk and movement the calculated chef performed to bring to life a vivid and imaginative interpretation of this iconic dish. Inspiration incarnate.

And so began my journey to true understanding of a work of art. Simply put, inspiration translating into details. Sartorialists have their accessories, foodies have their spices, musicians have their staccatos, artisans have their brush strokes, etc. So many dissimilar manifestations all come from one place – inspiration.

I triumphantly found the words to describe this feeling while
watching a friend’s father play piano at Carnegie Hall. I was so graciously asked to attend the showing, and sat with a few of his close friends in the audience. The stage, empty save a few chairs, music stands, and a stately grand piano placed center stage. This, ashamedly, being my first time in the historic music hall, I sat back and followed the crowd’s behavior as any well socialized sophisticate would do in a foreign arena. A hush befell the crowd as the orchestra took their positions, gently stroking and tuning their instruments as a warrior prepares his tools for battle.

Enter the pianist, a tall silver haired man with an upright gait and effortless stride. The musicians began playing. Notes intertwined with sound, birthing harmony, and soon I found myself attentively sitting forward harping on every octave played. The dancing of the piano over the melody played by the supporting orchestra, and later the collusion of a full orchestra to play a modern symphony piece made me realize just how amazing life can be when one appreciates the details. I recognized the happy peep of the flute, the sultry oboe, the playful clarinet, the majestic French horn, the pluck of the violin, the pulse pounding reverberation of the bass drums…

Suddenly I realized I had been whisked away into an all too familiar feeling. It is the feeling I get when I taste a commingling of rosemary, sage, thyme, chicken, cheese and a pinch of black pepper; the wave of elation I ride when my palette explodes from the mixing of a fine rose with a spicy garlic and onion sauce; the excitement in realizing that I can detect the subtleties of a hollandaise sauce or the berry taste of a scotch aged in a sherry cask; the fulfillment of creating a beautiful cake with a sweet and fluffy icing washing over me; the appreciation of a well marinated steak, a finely crafted crème brule – all works of art deserving of the Louvre or the Orsay.




Thank you

-The UE

Read More......

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Food > Life?

What is it about food that makes it so amazing? Well, I mean besides the fact that it tantalizes your palette, awakens your olfactory senses, is aesthetically more pleasing than 75% of women in NY, provides quiet time to converse with people….I could go on for days about what makes food so important.

But one thing I cannot get is why people put food before their own lives. Take this lady for example. Now I’m not going to presume I know this lady’s life, but I have to worry that she’s not being healthy.

I live and breathe in New York City, a prime location for someone such as myself to support my compulsive eating habit. As I was sitting on the train, I have found there are 2 types of people – watchers and hermits. Hermits tend to shy away into their iPods, trying to avoid any and all eye contact or social interactions with other subway patrons. Watchers have active eyes. We observe our surroundings for safety and for general entertainment. While I was on the subway a few weeks ago, I was struck by this image – a woman consistently feeding her body donut holes for 8 stops! Now, I realize this sounds terribly judgmental, but understand I, myself, am known to abuse the delicate, fragile relationship I have with food and my body, sometimes abusing it senselessly and having to then apologize and pamper it the following few days. But I have probably the most active physical workout regimen of anyone I know, so when I do fall off the wagon, at least I have some room for fault. I worry that my compatriots in the pursuit of food fail to consider the toll that cuisine (especially the more delicious items like a quality burrito or a well made gourmet cookie) takes on their physical body.

This begs the question – when does food become more important than your life? A good friend expressed once that to him, healthy habits should start now, and if a person doesn’t get that in their routine early, you can’t expect them to turn back later. I wonder if people consider how what they put in themselves now will affect them later. I find it odd that people persistently disregard how their daily habits can affect them long term. “Oh its just one more cookie”; “I’ll start tomorrow”; “I have good genetics, so I’ll always stay skinny”. Skinny with a gut is not cute – trust me, its in my family genes. Do they ever think about keeping themselves physically fit for their future spouses? Their kids? Themselves? Or do they even care?

I had a conversation with my mother recently who as of late has been re-mastering her relationship with food. Her motivation, she said, was that her only son had so much more to do in his life, and she wanted to make sure she was around to see it….

Who would you rather be? Its your life – enjoy food responsibly.

-The UE

Read More......

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Texture Torture: Squid

I never thought my kitchen would evolve into a place of torture. I’m a female but not stereotypically squeamish. Others are free to disagree but this is my opinion. On Saturday, I was struck by my usual craving spell. This time it was for calamari. Due to my upbringing I believe in the integrity of natural ingredients. I submit to the school of “the fresher the better”.

I therefore decided to purchase fresh off the boat squid. I live in landlocked Atlanta so I took my local seafood grocer’s word about the freshness of his product. The squid was a limp blackish grey creature. I became overwhelmed by fear at the sight of it. It looked gross. From the eyes to the tentacles, I was not pleased. I touched it and it was soft and squishy. Being the brave person that I am, I kept my goal in mind: fresh calamari. I focused and pressed on. I checked my pulse and it was elevated. My anxiety level was high. Where was a sous chef when I need one? These were words that I thought I would never utter, as I can be quite selfish with my kitchen.

After staring at the squid I decided to act. My fear was illogical. The squid couldn’t hurt me but it felt so gooey. At last my mantra prevailed. In the face of fear, I acted. I proceeded to take hold of the squid for what felt like eternity. With knife at hand, I cleaned it. I will spare you the gruesome details, but sadly the anxiety level did not subside during the task. However, by the end of this nasty ordeal, I was satisfied to have conquered my ridiculous fear.

I am happy to report the squid was delightful. I made a sauce with garlic and San Marzano tomatoes, served over pasta. Any remnant of anxiety melted away with each bite. I will definitely make this dish again, but next time I will enlist the help of a sous chef.


Read More......

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tastefully Done

HazelAnn is a formidable new catering service based in Chicago, IL, with the promise not to be ignored by competitors in the region. The UE paid a visit to his cohort, L.A.C., this weekend for a chance to sample the exquisitries she planned to offer guests at her baked goods tasting party – a sort of debutant ball of sorts in the food world. Little did I know (and much to my delight) I would become a foot soldier in the HazelAnn army for the day, and learn wonderful lessons on baking techniques and enjoy creating sweet treats.

To be clear, baking is not my forte. I have tried and failed. Miserably. My culinary capabilities are dictated primarily by the range of my palette, and since the only few baked desserts I actually like are cookies and tiramisu, I haven’t really taken a deep dive exploring baking. This weekend, I tried my hand at icing, brownies and helped construct truffles. Baking, I found, is an activity which is generally easy to do, but to be amazing takes great understanding of complex principles involving chemistry, taste and temperatures, just to name a few. For example, Madam L.A.C. was interested in enhancing the pomegranate flavor in the Bavarians she was making, and thanks to input from another foodie, was able to isolate the taste by pairing it with a small addition of essence of orange, which bonded with the pomegranate flavor to tingle the tongue.

To get a sense of the spread, see the menu below (with links to the more obscure so you can pick them out from above):

Pomegranate Bavarian
Orange Blondies with An Orange Cream Cheese Butter Cream
Chocolate Orange Brownies with a
Limoncello Butter Cream
Rum Cake
Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Fruit Cups Topped with either a White Chocolate or Milk Chocolate Brandy Mousse
Dark Chocolate Grand Marnier and Milk Chocolate Rum Truffles
Lemon Sponge Squares
Limoncello Cheesecake Topped With Emaciated Mixed Berries
Rosewater Cake with Emaciated Strawberries and a Rose Water Cream Cheese Butter Cream
Contemporary Petit Fours

In review, the event was a smash. Not only was it well attended by a diversity of people (from the

pseudo-artsy hipster in all black to the Dip Set-esque urbans), but everyone seemed genuinely satisfied by the foods they had, implying a cross-boundary appeal to the HazelAnn experience. My personal favorite was the chocolate fruit cups, which were delicious in their simplicity. The brandy mousse over the cup was phenomenal, especially with the underlying tangy berry mix. Second, the rum cake was among the few of which I have tasted which have been both rich in flavor and strong in liquor content (“hot” in wine-ism). Well done. The rosewater cake is a delight to which I am innately biased. I was the original guinea pig for this main event, show stopping pastry treat in the summer of 2007, during a visit by the L.A.C to my humble kitchen. At the risk of sounding coarse, you must understand that there are several in the NYC community who remember L.A.C. singularly due to her artisan presentation of this creamy, smooth textured and artistic treat.

Cooking is a skill
possessed by many, but mastered by only a select few. If you are in need of a simple dessert to pair with your bucket from KFC, Little Debbie and Mrs. Fields both have several options to choose. However, if you’re looking for a unique, memorable and satisfying treat, or know someone hosting an event in need of catering, desserts, or culinary consulting, email HazelAnn Delights,

-The UE

Read More......

Monday, February 4, 2008

Revival - Spirtually More Than Literally

Revival is a Nuevo-Caribbean themed restaurant in West Harlem. While I had passed it many times in my life, I never considered going in until recently when a friend and I had to compromise on an event we planned to attend but were more than a bit late for it. The restaurant is modern in decoration, with new fixtures and dark wood tables (covered in paper table cloths). That is where the success of this attempt to “revive” the Harlem Renaissance era food and culture ends. While Revival is promoted as a fixture in the new rejuvenation of the area’s food culture, it does little to support the area’s rich historical relevance and frankly diminishes the credibility of some other local restaurants which truly do support the movement through style and quality.

The silverware for our table reminded me of my school cafeteria, very cheap and dull with lack of shine. They seem like the type to be purchased at the
K-Mart in the annals of Penn Station. The glasses were standard, nothing special, and the table bread left a lot to be desired. I liken it to stale store bought cornbread. The menu is fairly diverse at first glance, however its side dishes lack the creativity required to make the menu more fun. Essentially everything comes with mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables – not my idea of new age dining. The only semi-interesting feature of the menu, printed cheaply on resume paper, is their junior varsity attempt at pairing the weak wine selection with each meal.

I decided on the rack of lamb (with mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables) which claims to be marinated and cooked to perfection. I disagree, however, because the food was heavily salted and grilled a little past the medium I asked for. I won’t even begin a tirade on the lack in availability of mint jelly (when I asked, the server looked as though I had just posed an existentialist query). The wine pairing was a dull pinot noir, which I found not at all engaging of the meat, particularly due to the lamb’s heavy salt content. The most memorable part of the meal was the martini I had as an appetizer – not bad at all. If I were to never come across this menu again, I would live.

-The UE

Read More......

Friday, February 1, 2008

Fast Foodies

I found myself exploring the web for some cohorts. People like me. Foodies. I discovered that there is a plethora of comrades in the revolution. Enumerate amounts of people understand that to discover taste is to live LIFE. To eat, and to create fine things to eat, is like a compliment and a thank you to God for blessing us with so many gifts – the breath in our bodies to even be here; the variety of ingredients and flavors, infinite in their combination possibilities; the senses with which we enjoy all of the world's offerings.Here are some of the ones I enjoyed. Google "foodie" and see what you find!

And for the newbies out there...

-The UE

Read More......


First Rule: You must always take your time

  • All great chefs do prep work. Think of it as cooking foreplay. Make it easy on yourself... cut up all of your vegetables a head of time, season the meat early so that the flavors slowly soak into it, making the meat tender and juicy, thus ready to cook.
  • Start from the top of the list and slowly work your way to the bottom.
  • When looking at a recipe or even from memory, prepare your ingredients in the order that you plan on using them.
  • If you do this ahead of time, you'll never find yourself in the position where you have to rush while in the kitchen.
  • Now once your meat is tender and your vegetables are chopped you're ready to go. (Side note: if you find that you have an urge to rush, have a glass of wine before, or two. It will relax you and put you in the proper mind set to enjoy this experience.) I'm not saying get drunk that could be disastrous for so many reasons. Just relax. Sip as you go on until the point (if you get there) that you are doing so much that you have to put the wine glass down and focus for a few minutes.

Second Rule: Don't cook angry

  • If you find yourself in a bad mood, check the bad aura at the door. True cooking can and should be therapeutic but you must not go into it with your horns on.
  • When you're angry you tend to try to rush through things or take your anger out on whatever is closest. Clear violation of the first rule. You want to get this right so don't pull yourself out of the running so early in the game.
  • When handling food you must be delicate to the touch. Although there are a FEW exceptions when you have to "man handle", for lack of a better expression, your ingredients.
  • Oh... one more thing. MAKE SURE YOUR KNIFE IS SHARP!!!

Third Rule: Use all of the senses available.

  • Listen for the oil popping, taste your sauce to determine if you need more pepper, touch the dough to see if it's firm enough, use your eyes to determine if the chicken is browned to the right color. Last but not least, open your nostrils and smell the aroma... ahhh smells like heaven.
  • The point is to be attentive. If you don't pay attention, you won't get the job done to the best of your ability or to that of your food.

Final Rule: Relax and Enjoy.

  • You might have worked up a sweat while in the kitchen. That's alright... it happens, but the important part is at the end of it all... it was worth it. So enjoy!!! Here's how....
  • I'm sure you've been tasting and smelling and sipping (your wine) along the way, so your taste buds are ripe and ready to indulge. It's been a tease up until now, so brace yourself. Fix your plate and sit down. Be it on the sofa or at the table, just sit for a minute or so. Allow your body to relax, cool down so your able to appreciate the feeling you're about to have. Now don't sit for too long because your food will get cold... just long enough to relax. If you’re eating something with a ton of ingredients, the best way to get the full Monty is to try all of it together (at least for the initial bite). Get your spoon or fork full but don't put so much on that you have to focus so much on chewing that you can't taste it. Now bite and reflect. It's important to make sure your mind is clear at this point. Mmmm you can taste the perfectly sautéed squash with a hint of lemon zest… isn't it amazing!! Ahhh euphoria.....

By the way, this may seem like your doing a lot but it'll be second nature before you even start. Bon Appétit!!!


Read More......

Whats the Wurst That Could Happen?

Radegast, also called Radigost, Radhost, Redigast, is a hypothetical West Slavic god of hospitality, fertility, and crops, associated with war and Sun. It is also an amazing bier garten in Williamsburg (in the far, FAR away land of Brooklyn). Now I had my doubts about several things in this place – the location, the menu, the focus on German beers – but this Epicurean is now a believer.
Rosemary turkey burgers are without a doubt the wave of the future. Radegast offers an amazing in-house horseradish mustard that isn’t totally overpowered by rosemary’s strength. Their selection of sausages is unmatched, with an amazingly sweet sauerkraut to match. Understand that cabbage is so far outside my normal taste range, but this sauerkraut was so perfectly matched with the weisswurst we ordered, I couldn’t stop chowing down. Their menu is what would be expected of a beer hall, with a nice, clean grill and very friendly staff. The bartenders were generally friendly and helpful, and the location was very well designed. I sampled a few of the beers, the most notable a Westmalle tripel trappist beer (trappists are brewed by Belgian monks, very exclusive and only 7 in the world), which was a myriad of fresh flavors, a bit fruity with a complex taste.

The food – great. The beers – superb. All an all, I give this place an A. Definitely worth the passport stamp to Brooklyn.

-The UE

Read More......