Food Roundup: June 27-July 2, 2011

Sous vide bulgogi

Korean bulgogi cooked sous-vide

Food news has been a bit slow this week, but here are a few interesting links.

  1. Harvard lectures on cooking series returns — You might remember a little something about the lecture series on food and cooking that Harvard University hosted last fall. Well, they’re back, with a few additions!
  2. Molecular gastronomy at a bar — Mike Yen, of the bar at Ave 5, has been using spherification techniques to create avant-garde cocktails.
  3. Family dinner at El Bulli — Even those who work at the world’s most revered restaurant need to eat, and this is how they do it.

Happy fourth of July everyone!

04. July 2011 by Earl
Categories: Life | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Sous-vide and electricity consumption

Wingos

An electrifying purple light illuminates Wingo's, a Georgetown dive that serves chicken wings and classic American sandwiches

My father and sister always complain that I’m using too much electricity when sous-vide cooking a piece of food. They get scared by high numbers, namely the 1000-watt heater that I use. You can’t blame them though, considering how lightbulbs in our house operate on a measly ten watts.

Of course, when you analyze the sous-vide system, you begin to realize that the transfer of energy is very much efficient. Unlike cooking foods on a stove where the flame loses energy to the surrounding atmosphere, constant temperature water baths allow energy to transfer directly from the heater, by conduction, to the water. The only loss in energy comes from the heated water itself evaporating or losing heating to the surrounding atmosphere. However, because air is a horrible conductor of heat, such energy loss becomes minimized—even more so if you insulate your water bath than not. Consequently, maintenance of a desired temperature consumes very little energy, oftentimes not much more energy than it takes to initially heat up the water bath.

A little experiment done by a fellow sous-vide cooking blogger proves that the method is not as expensive as my dad and sister originally thought. Further research supports the blogger’s findings. Sure, you could argue that the above findings were procured by advocates and users of sous-vide cooking, but it’s hard to argue with numbers derived from a simple experiment with little room for error or variability.

03. July 2011 by Earl
Categories: Molecular Gastronomy | Tags: | Leave a comment

Grant Achatz’ Harvard lecture

Out of nowhere, the world’s second most prestigious university decided to create an undergraduate course on science and cooking, but this was no ordinary course. Titled “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science,” the innovative new course brought together the minds of world famous chefs and professors. Masters of the food world such as Ferran Àdria, Grant Achatz, and Wylie Dufresne presented lectures elucidating avant-garde cooking techniques and revealing three-Michelin star recipes while professors led classes in which students investigated the science behind these techniques. The students then utilized knowledge gained from both teachers to conjure up brand new ideas and perfect replications of ones they were given.

Harvard limits enrollment for the course to 300 of its undergraduate students, so out of a select group of students who get into Harvard, an even more selective handful get to experience the course. Luckily, Harvard hosted a series of public lectures to complement the course which was then posted online as videos. In the public lectures, a feature chef presents for the majority of the time after being introduced by a Harvard professor who also happens to give a brief rundown on the science behind the lecture’s topic. Personally, I wish the professors were given a fair amount of time, but even so, the videos contain a lot of great material.

One problem with the videos, though, is that they’re long and not very usable if you’re trying to cook in the kitchen. Thus, I’ve decided to transcribe the ideas in the videos and post them on Toastable.

The first video I transcribed happens to be one of my favorites of the series, Grant Achatz’ presentation on “Reinventing Food Texture & Flavor.” I’ve written the approximate time in the video that each idea was presented and a quick note about the video. Hope you enjoy! Continue Reading →

29. June 2011 by Earl
Categories: Molecular Gastronomy | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Food Roundup: June 20-26

Finally, chain restaurants are forced to balance taste with nutritional value as the Food and Drug Administrated begins requiring chains with 20 or more restaurants to post calorie counts on every menu item. While not all chains will acknowledge the impact of displaying high calorie counts on their menu, many will, and this is a step in the right direction.

Speaking of nutrition, a team of Harvard researchers recently released a study listing ten foods that play pivotal roles in weight gain or loss.

As for more lighter finds, here’s an interesting take on the classic treehouse—broccolihouse!

Lastly, if you’re looking for a job, can’t find one, or simply want to check out what sorts of cool careers you can pursue with your interest in food, check out these job listings websites geared specifically to foodies! Also, don’t forget to check out this blog where the guys behind GoodFoodJobs.com profile fascinating individuals working in a food-related fields.

Did I mention that Momofuku’s David Chang recently launched a food quarterly called “Lucky Peach” in which various food writers and chefs publish literature, photography, recipes, and more on a single topic that changes each issue? The premiere issue delves into the world of ramen.

26. June 2011 by Earl
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Prune

Steak and eggs at Prune

Prime Newport grilled steak with parsley-shallot butter, muffin, and eggs

This is part three of a series of posts detailing the food I ate during an April 2011 trip to New York. See part one and two.

What better way to enjoy a Sunday than by eating brunch at a quaint, little café that serves up some of the most heart-warming comfort foods? Unfortunately for me, what was supposed to be a quick in-and-out turned out to be a long wait in line and an equally long wait for food. Luckily, the food, in the end, was superb.

I’ve read many rave reviews about Prune from New York City food blogger Adam Roberts, so I finally decided to drop by the place and gauge its offerings for myself. It was a Sunday, so I thought there would be parking spaces available in Manhattan. I couldn’t have been more wrong. First, my mother and I spent nearly two hours circling around Prune looking for a parking spot, and second, the restaurant was preparing to close for brunch hours when we finally arrived. As a result, we were placed in a waiting list of about 10 people who were hoping to eat at Prune before the place closed for brunch. After another half an hour of waiting, we finally managed to get in, barely scraping past the brunch hours closing time and dining well into the period of limbo when the chef stops cooking brunch meals and instead begins prepping for the dinner rush. Continue Reading →

23. June 2011 by Earl
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48-hour sous-vide top round beef

Seared and sliced 48 hour top round  1

When choosing meat, not all cuts are created equal. Depending on what part of the animal that a piece of meat comes from, there will be varying amounts of fat, different types of proteins, and, most importantly, different textures when cooked. That’s why some cuts of meat cost more than others. The most succulent, tender cuts, such as the tenderloin or rib, are most expensive.

Consequently, if you want a really great steak, you would normally have to invest in a pricey cut of beef. Thanks to sous-vide cooking however, it’s possible to turn even the toughest, cheapest cut of beef into a soft, delicate steak. If you don’t know what sous-vide cooking is yet, visit this post for a brief overview.

I decided to test the limits of sous-vide by buying a cheap, tough cut of beef—the top round—and cook it sous-vide for a really long time, just to see how much the meat will soften. Continue Reading →

20. June 2011 by Earl
Categories: Molecular Gastronomy, Recipes, Reviews | Tags: , , | 1 comment

Food Roundup: June 13-19

Sorry about the absence of posts for the past two weeks. I’ve been busy with high school graduation and beach week. Fear not though, I will be back full force and have more than enough topics to write about, including a 48-hour sous-vid top round beef that you might have caught a glimpse of at my Facebook or Twitter. In the mean time, here are some interesting links and articles I stumbled upon!

  1. Swole.me — A website that generates a healthy diet on a day-by-day basis depending on the number of calories you want to eat and the number of meals you want to break the calories down into. The developer appears to be active, and the project seems like an up-and-coming one.
  2. Freakonomics of rising demand for quinoa (NY Times) — Quinoa is a healthy grain with numerous essential amino acids necessary for protein synthesis in humans. As a result, they have become wildly popular amongst vegetarians and those who try to eat healthy. Unfortunately, the rising demand of quinoa has caused repercussions for those who traditionally grow quinoa, since they themselves can no longer afford the product.
  3. Baking your way to a job (NY Times) — There’s no question that baked goods make for wonderful breakfast treats and desserts. However, Lisa Thompson proves that they can also serve as a way for those with troubled backgrounds to find the grounding necessary to gain a stead job. Thompson runs a baking school for disadvantaged adolescents, providing them work experience and culinary training.
  4. Creative dining at Yale (NY Times) — Zach Marks fully utilizes Yale’s dining halls to concoct delicate masterpieces of his own. Using both prepared entrées and plain sauces, spices, and other ingredients, Marks elevates Yale dining hall food to restaurant worthy plates. I want to meet this guy when I get a chance this fall.

15. June 2011 by Earl
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Savory chicken oatmeal

Savory chicken oatmeal

As a result of our dependence on food, we have all come to associate certain textures with certain flavors. For example, foods cottony and fluffy in texture will normally cause the brain to anticipate sweetness. Vibrant memories of eating cotton candy or doughnuts as a child train us to associate sweet with soft and fluffy. Similarly, we might expect crunchy foods to taste savory, since potato chips, fried chicken, and a host of other foods taste salty. Associations between certain foods and flavors also compartmentalize into smaller units. We expect rice to tasty salty, like fried rice, or at least be paired with salty foods, so the first time someone tries sweet rice pudding, part of the fascination comes from the fact that rice used to always be associated with non-sweet foods and, suddenly, such conventions gets overturned. Of course, food associations arise from personal experience and so can vary.

The reason I talk about food associations is because most people associate oatmeal with sweetness—actually, most people probably think of blandness when they think of oatmeal. Regardless, savory and salty rarely come to mind when one thinks of oatmeal. I, for one, find such convention absurd. Oatmeal is a carbohydrate-rich grain like rice, and rice normally finds itself associated with saltiness. Why can’t oatmeal taste salty and savory?

Thus, I present to you a simple, creamy dish called savory chicken oatmeal. For you vegetarians, tofu can easily replace the chicken, and it may even seem more natural to pair this oatmeal with tofu as you will soon find out why. Continue Reading →

02. June 2011 by Earl
Categories: Health, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | 2 comments

Food, Wine & Co.

Mussels at Food Wine and Co

This past Friday was my high school’s prom night, so to celebrate the occasion, my prom group ate at a relatively new American bistro called Food, Wine & Co. Going in, I was a bit apprehensive about the quality of food at Food, Wine & Co. because this Washington Post article stated that the restaurant underwent several changes in chefs, but the current chef Michael Harr seems to have been able to create a menu desirable to the masses. There is a variety of offerings ranging from pizza to hamburger to mussels.

The atmosphere of Food, Wine & Co. generates a vibe of casual yet business-like dining. Dimmed lights, glossed wooden tables, faux candles, and romantic chandeliers all make the restaurant suitable for a host of social events from afterwork gatherings to first dates. On a Friday night, I could hear vibrant chatter sprinkled with explosions of laughter, all these fueled by a vast selection of wine that lined the walls of Food, Wine & Co.’s more quiet, enclosed dining area. The kitchen itself opens itself for viewing by diners, which is nice, but the service was rather spotty. The waiters kept us waiting too long before we could order.

For the most part, food at restauranteur Francis Namin’s Food, Wine & Co. seemed excellent even though dishes tended to be very hit-or-miss. Continue Reading →

29. May 2011 by Earl
Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 comments

Doughnut Plant

Vanilla bean yeast dougnut at Dougnut Plant

This is part two of a series of posts detailing the food I ate during an April 2011 trip to New York. See part one here.

I don’t eat doughnut’s a lot because they’re unhealthy, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy them. Who can deny the allure of maddeningly sweet glaze innocently covering a cottony ring of dough? I can’t, but because I don’t go out of my way to eat doughnuts—you shouldn’t either—my doughnut palate has been limited to mainly Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donut doughnuts. Luckily, I recently visited a popular doughnut shop in New York called Doughnut Plant. Continue Reading →

23. May 2011 by Earl
Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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