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Showing posts from May, 2006

I only like the right kind of breast

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Don't get the wrong idea. I meant a piece of nice duck breast, cooked to medium rare for that juicy gamy taste. When I used to buy duck breasts in Boston, I went to Super 88 for frozen, vacuum packed breasts imported from France. Each pack has a pair of breasts from one duck, measuring about 6"x8", and about 1/2" thick. These days I can buy spend almost the same amount of money to buy a whole fresh duck from the NYC Chinatown!

But when Mike and I made our duck dish, we were too lazy to go all the way to Chinatown and to do the boning for the duck. We went to a decent grocery market and bought two pieces of vacuum packed duck breasts. These were individually packed, and each pack has only one breast. Each one is much bigger though, almost the size of a very large chicken breast. They were much thicker too, almost an inch thick!

We sauted the breasts skin side down to render the fat, and cooked them on both sides. We also made Mike's favorite "duck sauce"…

Food photos

Good food photos entice us. They sort of let us fantasize about the food regardless of whether we have the chance to sample it. To this day I still have difficulty buying any cookbook without fancy photos. But I have been reading a bit more about taking good food photos, and I am starting to look at them with a pair of more skeptical eyes. Typically, professional food photos are taken with at least three people -- the chef, the food stylist, and the photographer. Since the finished product only has to look good, its taste or smell doesn't have to be perfect. So during the shoot, the dish may be brushed generously with oil to brighten its sheen; a piece of cake or pie can have its filling "supplemented" to look for sumptuous; even the heat of the dish can be faked with dry ice "steam." Then there's also lots of post-image processing to enhance the color contrast and balance.

The book "Digital Food Photography" by Lou Manna is a great guidebook. Obv…

Another kind of food guide

It just occurred to me tonight that another kind of food guide could be in great demand.

After flipping through the pages of the Zagat Survey, I was getting suspicious at its 25-point review system. According to its introduction, point 0-9 means a "poor" restaurant. But I couldn't find even one restaurant that was rated below 10. What is the point of the 25-point scale if points 0-9 are skipped? We might as well just go with a 0-15 scale. I guess the Zagat Survey will receive threats and blackmails if it makes public those who well deserve 0-9 points. Its purpose is to tell diners where the good eats are. Its current system is a win-win situation for itself and the restaurants it recommends. But there is real value in publishing a list of bad restaurants. Seriously, I wouldn't mind doing that. It serves two purposes. One, it helps fellow diners avoid bad food. Secondly, it serves as a wake-up call to those restaurants to make improvements. But of course, I don't …

Restaurant report -- Bouley

Mike and I went out on Sunday night for a really big splurge. We decided to dine at Bouley, a French restaurant owned by David Bouley. Many may argue that it is one of the finest dining destinations in NYC. David Bouley studied under some of the most revered French culinary stars like Paul Bocuse and Joel Robuchon. Strangely many online sources warned us about having to make a reservation like a month in advance. We went on OpenTable.com and made a reservation 6 hours before our 8pm dinner. That's not exactly difficult I suppose.

The meal was really good. Both of us ordered the tasting menu (within which there are about 2-3 choices for each course). We started with chef's canape -- cubes of mozzarella cheese in cucumber gelee, topped with tomato sorbet and pesto mousse. This classic combination of flavors got a clever makeover. The added texture and temperature contrasts made it a great conversation piece, and it teased us about the coming courses. The rest of the menu reflects…