Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dia de los Padres

BigManLovesFoodSr and his Father's Day Dessert
Father's day was a few days ago and I wanted to put up a short post acknowledging the man who is most responsible for me being who I am today--let's call him BigManLovesFoodSr.

We all see dozens of posts on social media around this time of people saying the exact same things about their fathers (or the person who played that role in their life)--they're all wonderful, amazing people apparently. For a cynic, this homogeneity is nothing more than proof of people disconnecting from life and using platitudes to seek fake validation on social media. However, I choose to believe that all these people are completely genuine and the homogeneity is actually a little comforting--it indicates some universality in the relationship between a child and a their "dad."

With all that said, BigManLovesFoodSr is a wonderful, amazing person. He came to this country with very little education, not knowing the language, and had to work harder than I can even imagine to make it. His only goal in life was to make life slightly better for his children and I think he and my mom were completely successful--I'm writing this immensely popular food blog* (and doing some lawyering on the side I guess), my two bros are working, and my baby sister just finished her first year of undergrad.

For whatever issues and clashes I had with BigManLovesFoodSr when I was younger, I know that I would not be as successful as I am without him. And although he is not perfect, every day I see more and more of him in myself, and I am pretty content with that.

Short Video from Father's Day

*and by immensely popular I mean double digit readership. oh yeah.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


So sometimes I have short conversations with myself. Yesterday I was looking through my photos and I though to myself: "Wow, I have a lot of pictures of donuts."

My next thought was: "Yeah, no shit, you love donuts."

And let me tell you, I really do. I am 1000% on team yeast doughnut--cake donuts are ok, but they just do not compare to a perfectly risen, light and airy doughnut covered in a crackly glaze. Although I have not done a ton of work with yeast--and am a little scared by it--donuts are now on my list of desserts I need to make. So, sometime in the future, be on the lookout for that post. In the meantime, I wanted to share some of the pictures of delicious donuts I have eaten in the past few years.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Roister: "it's like having a taste orgasm in a room full of strangers" (Restaurant Review)

Friends, Open Kitchen, and the Best Damn Fried Chicken Ever
A few weeks ago when I visited some friends in Chicago I had one of the greatest meals of my life at Roister--the new restaurant from the Alinea group. I've been drooling over their other restaurants (Next and Alinea) for a while now, and it seemed like fate when I found out that Roister was opening a few weeks before my Chicago visit. My friend and I immediately booked their Chef's tasting table. 

So, here is the first of what will likely be many restaurant reviews on the blog. Through these reviews I hope to share pictures of the food, plus both a descriptive and also quantitative analysis of the restaurant as a whole (food, ambiance, etc).

Plus, when possible, you will get a special guest poster--this time you get to hear from one of my best friends now living in Chicago. Let's call her SheWhoEats

Roister is the slightly more casual/home-style restaurant in the family, headed up by Andrew Brochu. Even though this place was not cheap (out the door cost including a couple drinks each and service charges was about 150 per person for the tasting menu), it is amazing for that special few-times-a-year meal. In fact, next time I want to go with three other people and just order some of their large format dishes which we got previews of during the tasting menu. Especially the chicken. You don't even know how good that chicken was.

The restaurant is built around the idea of celebration and the experience centers on a big open kitchen that is integrated into the dining room. From most of the tables, you have a partial view of the kitchen and get some feel for the kitchen. However, SheWhoEats and I went one step further--we got the tasting menu which sits us at the counter directly facing the kitchen itself.

the focal point of the kitchen is a huge wood burning oven
There are about 5-8 chefs working in there at any one point, and the focal point of the kitchen is a huge wood burning oven. Don't quote me on this, but I believe almost every dish we ate (except dessert) had at least one component from the wood burning oven. One cool thing is that they have these whole pineapples just hanging form a string inside the wood burning oven.

Those pineapples were first used for a house shot that was given to us as soon as we sat down. It was delicious and set a really nice tone for the rest of the meal. Overall, the service was fantastic. We were seated as soon as we walked in (it wasn't packed), and they were fairly attentive to us.

Our only real interaction with the host/server was being seated and our drink orders. Because we were doing the chef's tasting menu, our food was just handed to us by the chefs doing the cooking with no need to order. If I had a single complaint, it was that I would have liked a little more from the chefs who handed us our food. They were nice enough, and told us what they were giving us each time. But, it felt a tiny bit like a chore for them and sometimes it was hard to hear what they said. I can't fault them too much though, as they also have to be cooking and the music is a little loud.

BigMan: In terms of ambiance/dining experience/service, this was the most fun I've had in a restaurant, earning it a solid A in that category (After the jump below, I will also be grading all the courses individually and then giving an overall grade).

SheWhoEats: Our service was fantastic. This was the single best dining experience of my life so far. It's overwhelming to be able to experience someone else's creativity so intimately. It's uncomfortable and wonderful at the same time--it's like having a taste orgasm in a room full of strangers. A+ for ambiance/dining experience/service.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

(Almost) Perfect Lemon Almond Tart--"What to do with all that rough puff, II"

A little more lemon curd, a little less flour and this tart would have been near perfect.
Welcome to the second installation of my obsession with puff pastry. I promise, I'll be moving on to other things shortly.

After making my triple batch of puff pastry a couple weeks ago, I wasn't even sure of everything I was going to try to do with it. The more I thought about it though, the more I wanted to find a way to include some lemon into whatever I made. Personally, citrus is one of my favorite flavors in desserts--I just can't get enough of that tartness and occasional sourness to offset the sweetness of most baked goods. I also happened to have a jar of good lemon curd in my fridge (a store bought brand with no artificial ingredients, but doctored up with some more lemon juice, more butter, and some salt). Thus began the google searching.

Initially I started to to look into pastry-lemon-berry recipes, but thought the berries would overpower the lemon. As I continued searching, I began to see lemon paired up with almond fairly regularly. I was intrigued by the thought of the very slight nuttiness of almond meal highlighted by lemon curd, and eventually landed on this recipe: Puff pastry lemon almond tart.

The end result was good . . . my family liked it, and I ate way more of it than I should have. However, it was not quite perfect. Maybe the recipe was affected by my use of a deep dish pie pan instead of a rectangular pan, but I felt like the almond layer was a little too dry and there also just wasn't enough lemon curd. So, I would recommend cutting the flour and increasing the curd (reflected in the recipe below).

But, there might be an even better option. After I made this recipe, I realized that the filling actually reminded me a lot of something I had heard mentioned on the GBBO--frangipane. I went on another google binge and realized that the filling in the tart I made was the exact same ingredients as frangipane, just in different proportions. The one common theme in most frangipane recipes that I found is that it included a lot less flour than the tart I made, addressing my main concern.

So, next time I make this, I am actually going to try this recipe as the almond filling: Laws of Baking: Frangipane. Report to follow.

The (Almost) Perfect Lemon Tart

1 Batch Puff Pastry from previous post (or, store bought)
300g (10 oz) lemon curd
90g (3oz) unsalted butter
90g (3oz) sugar
1 egg
50g (1oz) almond meal
60g (2oz) flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Zest and juice from 1 large or 2 small lemons
pinch of salt
handful of flaked almonds

[The dainty hands in the pictures to follow belong to my baby sister who helped me make this (she's not really a baby anymore). Plus, be sure to click through--today's post includes an animation!]

Monday, May 30, 2016

What to do with all that rough puff? Part 1

I hope everyone relaxed and was able to spend time with loved ones this memorial day weekend.

I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in Palm Springs with 11 friends, including a few who I've now known for nearly 18 years (it makes me feel old to say that). It was such an amazing get away--we had a huge house to ourselves and did nothing but lounge around in the pool, and share wonderful food and drinks for two days straight. Pretty soon I will have a new post about one of the most impressive things I've ever made--a breakfast wellington wrapped in a new type of pastry. As a short preview, check out this compilation of pictures from the weekend that Google put together:


But first, I wanted to re-visit the rough puff I previously made and show you what I ended up doing with it. This post will walk you through one of the easiest uses for a rough puff--the pinwheel cookie. In a post later this week I will show you how to make two different tarts.