Some quick reviews

August 2, 2008 at 11:37 am (books, dessert, education, food, ice cream, international, question, restaurants, review, san francisco)

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time – This guy, Greg Mortenson, is doing great things and building lots of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  And doing it with sheer will and good-naturedness and open-mindedness.  I found this to be very inspiring.  It made me more confident that I am taking the best next step for my career.  The writing is a little clunky at times, but the story and lessons are still really good.  Here’s the link to Amazon.  On Amazon, they appear to have pages for this book title as well as the old rejected title… “One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations… One School at a Time.”  The rejected title sounds like something Karl Rove would have chosen for the title.  It looks like the terrorism version is hardcover and the peace version is paperback.  Maybe Amazon thinks that people who buy hardcover books would prefer to see what Mortenson is doing as fighting terrorism and building nations while people who buy paperback books prefer to see this mission as promoting peace?

The Soul of a Chef: The Journey to Perfection – Sequel to The Making of a Chef.  Very interesting insights about cooking and chefhood.  The first section is about the certified master chef exam.  The second is about a chef from Cleveland, Michael Symon.  And the last section is about Thomas Keller and the French Laundry.  I’m finding the section on the French Laundry to be particularly interesting.  Hearing Thomas Keller explain his insights and thinking to the author really fits with how, not reading this philosophy beforehand, I responded to the French Laundry experience.  They really spent the time to balance the flavors and portion sizes, and they took great care and effort to get the most flavor and color out of every ingredient, and that really came through when the plates arrived at the table.  I talked about “magic” in my French Laundry reports, but it turns out that it’s not magic.  It’s chilling the vegetables before blanching and then chilling them right away.  It’s straining sauces 20 times so that they’re incredibly smooth.  It’s washing bones before roasting them for a stock.  One thing that really impressed me is that they realize that a lot of effort and sacrifice goes into the raw ingredients – both with meat and vegetables.  And fungi as well?  So because of that, they treat the ingredients with as much care and respect as possible.  And they are careful to use every last bit of every ingredient.  But then again, they do talk about how if something isn’t blanched right or isn’t chopped right, it has to be tossed.  So that’s a bit of a contradiction.  But I guess if you just always do it right the first time, then there’s no need to waste the food?

Range – This last one is a restaurant.  I was pretty impressed and if I weren’t moving to NYC soon, I’d probably go back.  There were some really good items that we ate, and there were some things that really made me say “wow.”  For example, it turns out that lime and chive are a really good combination and really made the goat cheese and sorrel stuffed ravioli with lime butter and chives appetizer really pop.  Other highlight dishes included the

  • puree of squash soup with sour cream and dill – This soup had a really nice kicky flavor.
  • roasted chicken with a broccoli rabe, toasted almond and sausage bread salad – different from Zuni’s version; equally good, but in different ways.  Zuni’s version has really tasty big pieces of bread.  And a few other ingredients, but it’s mostly bread.  Range’s had vegetables, lots of nuts, and sausage, so there was more variety for your bites.  And I liked the lemony-ness.  Chicken was impeccably done.  One thing that could have been improved was that the veggies in the salad were too salty.  But overall, I enjoyed the dish.  It also makes really yummy leftovers – I tossed my leftovers with some extra bread, tomatoes, and some of the dressing that I had made for my tomato bread salad and it was a spectacularly delicious lunch.
  • cornmeal crepes with blackberries and wildflower honey gelato – the cornmeal crepes were so delicately flavored and textured.  Really yummy.  I expected the wildflower honey gelato to be delicate as well, but it was more like “pow!”
  • bittersweet chocolate and armagnac souffle – Pretty perfectly done souffle.

I also tried one of their cocktails.  I had heard that they were supposed to be good.  And when we arrived in the restaurant, the air smelled like fresh citrus.  Figuring that the citrus smell was from all the drink preparation, I decided that since the air smelled so good, the drinks must be good too.  So I tried the sungold zinger which is 209 gin, sungold tomatoes, agave nectar, and lemon.  I love sungold tomatoes.  It turned out to be much more lemony (Meyer lemony) than sungold tomatoey.  So it was good, but it was not what I was expecting, so that was disappointing.  If you call it a sungold zinger and not a Meyer lemon zinger, I’m going to expect more sungold tomato flavor.

One last thing – I saw balut eggs being sold at the egg stand today.  If you don’t know what balut is and you want to find out, you’re going to have to do your own google or google image search.  I don’t want to put in links or images and then be responsible for grossing someone out.  But my question is if I buy balut eggs from the egg guy at the market, can I incubate it and get a duckling?

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