Gadgets for the home kitchen: Immersion circulators

Last week I wrote about the awesomeness that is ChefSteps, an online cooking instruction site with a focus on “cooking smarter” utilizing modern techniques and kitchen gadgetry. A gadget they highly tout, and one that has garnered more and more attention over the past couple of years has been the immersion circulator.

Up until the recent past, circulators were only available to professional kitchens or the particularly adventurous home cook who had cash flow to burn. That, however, is no longer the case. Companies like Anova, Sansaire, Nomiku, and one of the original pioneers in immersion circulator technology, PolyScience, have made efforts to bring the device in to the home kitchen at a much more affordable price.

Continue reading “Gadgets for the home kitchen: Immersion circulators”

Learning to cook… with ChefSteps

I need to learn to cook.

Ok. Yes, I do know how to cook, but that isn’t what I meant. I need to learn to cook well. Like, restaurant well. Given my propensity for wanting to eat restaurant quality food on a regular basis, I need to learn to cook fast lest my bank account decide to find a more doting benefactor (“Always take, take, take. Why don’t you GIVE!!”).

Continue reading “Learning to cook… with ChefSteps”

What’s in a name: The battle of being a foodie

There is a word that is rarely uttered in the circles of chefs, service staff, and food writers. And, when it is, it typically is laced with sarcasm and used only to express derision. It’s considered profane enough that some food sites won’t allow their writers to include it in their pieces, and the ultimate truth is that most writers don’t want to use it in the first place. The dreaded “F-bomb”. Foodie.

There is a word that is rarely uttered in the circles of chefs, service staff, and food writers. And, when it is, it typically is laced with sarcasm and used only to express derision. It’s considered profane enough that some food sites won’t allow their writers to include it in their pieces, and the ultimate truth is that most writers don’t want to use it in the first place. The dreaded “F-bomb”. 

Foodie.

Foodie is defined, at least as far as the interweb is concerned, as “a person with a particular interest in food.” That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? But, for so many, the word foodie is an albatross slung around the neck of the arrogant – know-it-alls and snobs who consider themselves to be better than others because of their appreciation of fine food and dining.

I’m with you on this. These kind of “supreme beings”, in a word, suck. They annoy me just as much as they annoy you. But, why damn the whole bunch due to some bad apples? Every society, every faith, every race, profession, or trade has their share of individuals who act a fool.

Case in point – there were a couple of recent Instagram postings that garnered solid attention (here and here). The photos, screen captures of a couple of emails sent by a cook, were posted by Erik Desjarlais of Weft & Warp Seamster, maker of high quality knife bags, leather totes and aprons. In said emails, the cook expressed a desire for preferential treatment (expedited production of a knife roll and, wouldn’t you know it, a discount) due to the fact that they had worked for a short period in a couple of the world’s best restaurants. After all, he “deserve(d) something for (his) efforts.”

Most would agree that this guy is, quite clearly, a tool. But, by no means does he accurately represent the whole of cooks around the world. I’ve been able to get to know quite a few cooks and chefs, and most of them are pretty rad! I know a few lawyers, and they’re far from the picture painted of ambulance chasers. Some friends of mine are salesman, and excellent at what they do without being of the sleazy sort. I also happen to be acquainted with certain people who claim “foodie”, and I’ll tell you what. They aren’t so bad.

So, what about me, the guy who runs a site called The Foodie Journal? Am I a know-it-all? Not even kind of. In fact, I’m reminded pretty much daily about how little I really know about both food and the culinary world. I’m proud of that fact, and am glad for every opportunity to learn. Am I a snob? I’d like to think that I’m not, and I don’t think anyone that used to make themselves Dorito sandwiches as a kid* is allowed to be a snob.

I’m just a guy who simply has “a particular interest in food.” My name is Reuben, and I… am a foodie. Is that such a bad thing?

*Yes. This is exactly what it sounds like. Two slices of bread, and handful of Doritos. … This is a safe place. No judgement! :)

Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine: Celebrating 25 years of memories

So many of us measure our years by the memories we make. Love and loss. Successes and failures. Whether good or bad, our memories are the best mile markers along the road from where we were to where we are. 

“How do you measure a year?” – Jonathan Larson

Many of us measure our years by the memories we make. Love and loss. Successes and failures. Whether with a smile or a tear, our memories are the best mile markers along the road from where we were to where we are. 

A year alone can bring with it a gentle rain of memories. Now imagine the deluge that one might make over 25 years of running “a world class destination restaurant” the likes of Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine.

Opened in April of 1988 by chefs Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, Arrows rapidly established itself in the culinary world in spite of its somewhat remote location. About those early days Frasier says,  “I remember being asked when we were first opening the restaurant in Maine, ‘What kind of fried clams are you going to serve?’ People didn’t expect a fine dining restaurant, but that’s what we wanted to do.” 

It’s not only what Frasier and Gaeir wanted to do, but in actuality it is what they accomplished. And, they did it well, garnering a plethora of accolades and awards. They would receive multiple glowing reviews from then Boston Globe food critic Robert Levey, something few restaurants at the time could boast. Gene Burns, who hosted ‘Dining Around’ on Boston talk radio station WRKO, declared when Arrows first open that it wasn’t only a great new restaurant, but that it would “change the New England dining scene.” Arrows would be included in a variety of “Best Restaurant” lists compiled by Gourmet Magazine and Bon Appetit Magazine, and Chefs Frasier and Gaier would go on to win the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chefs Northeast in 2010.

Industry recognition is always a source of pride. It creates buzz and interest for a restaurant and a chef, or in this case chefs. But, what has mattered above all things has been the memories that have been created here.

In July, as we walked through the Arrows garden, a garden established in 1992 by Frasier, Gaier and head gardener Robin Barnard, Chef Frasier reminisced, “We were just looking at photos the other day from those early years, and there is a shot of the back of the restaurant right from where we’re standing. There was no garden. Now look at it!” The garden at Arrows is now over an acre and provides the vast majority of produce used at Arrows and its sister restaurant MC Perkins Cove.

In speaking with Chef Frasier about the memories that have come from running Arrows, he mentioned how much he has enjoyed the opportunity to cook for many, both chefs and friends alike, over the years. One in particular warranted being recalled specifically: The first time Julia Child came to dinner.

It was 1991, and Arrows had just reopened for the season. Leading up to that night, the staff knew that Julia was on the books to dine there. Chef Frasier recalls how Lucia Velasco Evans, who had just started working for the restaurant as a pastry assistant, reacted to the news. Frasier said,  “Depite having heard the others chattering about Julia dining at Arrows, she wouldn’t believe it. ‘Why would Julia Child come out here?’”

Without fail, the night arrived. As did Julia Child. 

Her first stop upon arrival was the kitchen. Ever a proponent of women in restaurant kitchens, Julia was glad to see women hard at work in preparation for service. She made a bee line for Lucia and, in that singular voice, asked, “How long have you worked here?” Very little can make a memory stick quite like surprise. No doubt Lucia can atest to that fact!

Yes. Measuring a year, or 25 even, can be done most easily through the memories that were made along the way. Those found here are just a couple of the many for Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, and the men and women who have both worked and dined at Arrows. Even this 25th anniversary will itself serve as a memory some time down the road, undoubtedly with many other mile markers along the way.

Photos: Then and now 

 On Sunday, September 22nd, Arrows will host a special 25th Anniversary Dinner. They will be joined by Jeremiah Tower, Barbara Fairchild, and fellow chefs who competed alongside Clark and Mark on season 4 of Top Chef: Masters. Reservations are still available by contacting Arrows directly at 207-361-1100. The cost of the dinner will be $149 ($195 w/ wine pairing).

 

The Foodie Journal is on the move…

Hey everyone!

After much internal debate and research, I’ve decided that I’ll be moving the Foodie Journal site to a new web platform. WordPress has served me very well, but I want to move the site to a system that will allow me a little bit more control than the offering I’m currently using. Along with that will come a vastly improved design and layout! I’ve shared the new design with a handful of folks, and the response has been very positive. I hope that will carry over to everyone that visits the new site when it goes live!

So, what does this change as far as you’re concerned? Hopefully very little! The web address will remain the same, and I’ll still be promoting new content via the Twitter and Facebook channels already established. For you email subscribers, I’ll be transferring your subscriptions to a new subscription system and will send out updates when new postings go live. For wordpress.com users, there will unfortunately be an extra step. Hopefully you’ve grown to enjoy the content provided on The Foodie Journal and won’t mind taking a few moments, once the new site is up, to go over and subscribe for email updates. If you want to just get on the new subscription list ASAP, I’d be glad to do the work for you! Just send a note to thefoodiejournal@gmail.com, and I’ll get you set up! Easy, peasy. :)

I just want to take a quick moment to thank everyone that has visited The Foodie Journal. The success of the site has been quite a great deal beyond my original expectations, and I have you to thank for it. Here’s to many more years to come!

If all goes well, the new site will launch on Friday, March 1st.

See you all soon, and thanks for reading The Foodie Journal!

– Reuben

Foodie-wear: Friends know you’re a foodie, now everyone else can too!

Over the past couple of years, I’ve slowly started to collect what I affectionately refer to as “foodie-wear”. My current prized possessions, which I’m certain my wife is quite tired of seeing, are two shirts I acquired while on a weekend trip to San Francisco a couple of years back. First, and my favorite, my “I ♥ Offal” shirt, which I purchased during a visit to Chris Cosentino’s Incanto. If people don’t know what offal is, I get very confused, sometimes concerned, looks. Those in the know universally respond, “Awesome shirt!” The other is my “Praise the Lard” shirt, which I first spotted at the Prather Ranch Meat Company stall at the San Francisco Ferry Building. I’ll shortly be ordering it in hoodie form to get through the New England winter ahead of me!

“Foodie-wear” is becoming more and more common place, which I really dig. So, I was excited to come across merch from one of my favorite food quickie spots, Chipotle Mexican Grill. They’ve just released some brand new designs through their online web store, which I think are pretty slick.

I have a soon-to-be one year old daughter that this is wicked appropriate for...
I have a soon-to-be one year old daughter that this is wicked appropriate for…

One of the cool aspects of the Chipotle merchandise is that, like their food, they try to be eco-conscious. The merchandise is made in collaboration with Loomstate, using eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, sustainably harvested wood and recycled billboards. Sustainable clothing!

“Foodie-wear” for you (or as a gift for a friend). Helping the environment. What’s not to love?

Check out the Chipotle Mexican Grill web store to see all their latest designs While you’re there, take a look at the mission Chipotle and Loomstate are on to stay environmentally and socially responsible.

Recovering from surgery…

Hey folks. Hope everyone is doing great. A very sincere apology to you all, but unfortunately I’m going to have to extend my little hiatus for one more week as I’m recovering from a surgical procedure I had done on Tuesday, December 4th. Nothing serious, but enough to have thrown me off by a few days, so there will be no new interview this week. Like I said last week though, I have some great pieces in the works. Four are being worked on now, with two more interviews coming in the next couple of days. I’m still here, alive and kicking, and plan to stay that way for a long time!

In the meantime, make sure to surf through the site a bit. There is a pretty cool archive of interviews and articles that are worth reading if you haven’t yet. Next week, I’ll back back to 100%. Stay tuned!

Annual Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) Junior Benefit Raises $30,000 at ‘A Taste of Fall’

At the end of October I wrote about a great benefit called “A Taste of Fall” that was being held November 12th at Marcus Samuelsson’s Ginny’s Supper Club in Harlem. The benefit was the 4th annual Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) Junior Benefit, with proceeds going to support this great program which provides culinary career opportunities and scholarships to at-risk high school students. It’s a phenomenal program, and I was thrilled to hear that the benefit raised $30,000. Congratulations to everyone involved!

At A Taste of Fall C-CAP Junior Benefit
At A Taste of Fall C-CAP Junior Benefit
(L to R) Lester Walker, Susan Grausman, Richard Grausman, Marcus
Samuelsson, Deborah Grausman, Susan Robbins, Yvan Lemoine

C-CAP Junior Benefit Raises $30,000 at A Taste of Fall

New York, N.Y.—C-CAP-Careers through Culinary Arts Program reports that, with the efforts of its Junior Committee, led by Deborah Grausman, it raised more than $30,000 at the 4th Annual C-CAP Junior Benefit, A Taste of Fall, on November 12, at Ginny’s at Red Rooster.

C-CAP Graduate Chefs, working in top New York restaurants, prepared delectable bites for the exciting walk-around-tasting.  “Raising over $30,000 was only one of the accomplishments of the evening. The event also provided a learning experience for recent graduates, who assisted their fellow, more experienced alumni, to prep and serve these impressive dishes,” said C-CAP’s President, Susan Robbins.  “Proceeds from the event will benefit C-CAP’s programs and services that transform lives through the culinary arts.  More than 150 young philanthropists turned out to raise funds to support our talented at risk youth.”

Kelvin Fernandez, Executive Chef at Strand American Bistro, prepared Butternut Squash Soup; Executive Chef, Sean Quinn, of Chadwick’s Restaurant, served BBQ Pulled Pork “Cone-Ucopia;” Sous Chef, Cesar Gutierrez, of Lexington Brass, created a Miso Butternut Squash Puree with a Pumpkin Chip; Brandon Bryan, of Benoit, made a Cod Bradade; Lester Walker, owner of Ghetto Gastro, served up the “GG Soul Roll;” Pastry Cook, Santo Saitta, from Bar Boulud, offered a Pomme Caramel Confit; Stephanie Grajales, of The Ritz-Carlton Central Park’s Auden, whipped up a Pumpkin Cheesecake and Red Velvet Cake Pops; and Mehdi Chellaoui, from Chellaoui Chocolatier, treated us to truffles and hot chocolate, with chocolate donated by Chocolate Springs.  Lastly, Red
Rooster, provided an African lamb stew served in a hollowed-out, mini-bread bowl.

The evening was enhanced by C-CAP graduate, Food Network Star finalist, and featured mixologist, Yvan Lemoine, of Arlington Club, who created specialty cocktails, and a dynamic speaker—Chopped Champion—Lester Walker.  Beverage sponsors were Chopin Vodka, Charmer Sunbelt Group and Stone Brewing Company.  There was also superb music from the David Grausman Trio.

The 24 one-of-a-kind silent auction items included prime theater and opera tickets, paired with backstage tours, and numerous cooking, baking and wine classes.  Each attendee also received a Zagat Survey NYC Night Life Guide and Zabar’s and Harold Import Company provided gift bags for each chef.

Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson, Chef/Owner of Red Rooster and a C-CAP Board member, attended the event and said, “I am so proud of the C-CAP graduate chefs and  thrilled to donate the space to host the event. “

Careers through Culinary Arts Program Press Contact:
Joyce Appelman
PH: 516-482-1016
greatappel@aol.com

Unexpected hiatus… Just for this week, though.

There are weeks, and then there are weeks.

Unfortunately, this is one of those weeks when I haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and write. Despite that fact, I haven’t been resting on my laurels. I’ve been hard at it setting up the next cookbook giveaway for December, and if you’re a fan of Eric Ripert you’ll want to stay tuned. Also have been pushing hard to get more interviews. Two have already gone down this week (awaiting transcription), with two more scheduled for the rest of the week. Included in these are an interview with one of Boston’s best, Chef Jody Adams of Rialto and Trade. I’m also thrilled to let you know that I was able to get time with one of the originators of California Cuisine, the legendary Chef Jeremiah Tower (I can barely believe it myself!).

So while this is a quiet week for The Foodie Journal (only as far as postings are concerned, I promise), there is a ton of great stuff on the way. Stay tuned!

Memories of Portugal: Sopa de pedra

Of all the things I could remember about a trip to Portugal, I remember soup.

All of sixteen years old at the time of the visit, I traveled there with my parents, both originally born in a small Portuguese village called Vale Covo. One morning, we made a day trip to the city of Alcobaça, roughly 75 miles north of Lisbon, to meet up with one of my father’s old army buddies.  My father was the equivalent of a sergeant in the Portuguese Army, deployed in Angola, and the man we were going to be having lunch with was one of his subordinates.

Alcobaça

I do wish I remember more details about that day. The man’s name, for example, escapes me, though I do remember him wanting to match me up with his daughter (“Nice try, dude, but no chance without a picture!”). I also remember the weather, which was overcast, and unseasonably cool for August in Portugal. A perfect day for a bowl of soup.

Sopa de pedra

It was my first experience with sopa de pedra, known in English as rock soup. It’s a story told across Europe, tweaked slightly depending on the country you’re from. The Portuguese version goes like this:

A traveling monk is passing through Almeirim while on a pilgrimage and stops at a home. Too proud to come out an ask for food, he asks instead for the opportunity to use the family’s fire and a pot to cook sopa de pedra. They invite him in to their home, amused by this idea of a soup made from a rock. Bringing water to a boil in the pot, the monk removes a smooth, clean stone from his pocket and drops it in. The water bubbles, and after a short while the monk takes a taste. “It needs a little seasoning,” he says, eyeing his hosts. The wife brings over some salt, and feeling compassion for the humble monk brings a small plate with some sliced chouriço, a portuguese sausage. In to the pot it goes. More time passes, and the monk takes another taste of the soup. “I think it just needs to be a little bit thicker,” he proclaims. “Would you perhaps have any leftover potatoes or beans? Something you could do without?” The wife, smiling, does him a further kindness, pouring little of both in to the pot. After simmering for a while longer, the monk stirs the pot, bringing the rock up out of the broth. He wipes it down and returns it to his pocket. Looking to the family, he declares the soup ready and, of course, delicious.

Is it a true story? No one really knows. One thing I do know: it makes for a tasty soup.

The sopa de pedra I had that day was amazing, and unexpected. Filled to the brim with chunks of potato, chouriço, and bacon. The broth was bread-dipping worthy, with little bits of cilantro floating about. What follows is an attempted translation of an old Portuguese recipe. Enjoy!

Sope de pedra

Ingredients:

  • 2 large cans of kidney beans
  • 2 large chouriço, or other mediterranean sausage
  • 6 oz. pork belly, fatback or bacon
  • 2 lbs. potatoes, cubed
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

Note: You can include thinly sliced pig ear, or trotters to enhance the flavor. If you go with ear, you can keep it in the soup when its ready to serve.

Directions:

  • Boil the kidney beans, sausage, pork, onions, garlic and bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Traditionally you would just use water, but for added flavor you can use chicken broth.
  • Once the meat is cooked, take it out and reserve. Once cooled slightly, chop the meat in to small pieces.
  • Add the diced potatoes and cilantro to the pot.
  • Let the potatoes cook through until fork-tender.
  • Remove the pot from the heat, add the previously chopped meat back.
  • Serve in a bowl of your choice, and top with chopped parsley.