Nov 30, 2009

the buzz

Haagen-Dazs has those extra “a’s in its name but also has a nice promotion to help bees. Honey bees of course. From Nov 5 to 11 Haagen-Dazs will run a twitter campaign that benefits the University of California at Davis and its noisy, dangerous, sticky programs to preserve bees. This will cause a lot of buzz.

Posted via web from flavourcountry

Nov 29, 2009

the circle unbroken

joan baez with a cast of muppets. note the pig in the upper left corner during the finale. [thx julian]

Posted via web from flavourcountry

Nov 26, 2009

ice cream van

"it's like twitter. except we charge people to use it."

i sometimes feel like doing this to people who ask me to design stuff for them for free.

Nov 21, 2009

Nov 19, 2009

milton glaser on drawing

milton glaser is a partner in pentagram, one of the most influential design companies of the last century:

the act of drawing makes me conscious of what i'm looking at. if i wasn't drawing, i have the sense that i would not be seeing. ... i always think of every drawing as kind of a miraculous occurrence. it takes a while to do drawing that you find interesting. curiously, people think that the difficulty of drawing is making things look accurate. but accuracy is the least significant part of drawing. but you have to learn how to draw accurately before you can learn to do anything else. then you can begin to think about drawing expressively. that's another game entirely.


update: jim reveals the granolas.

jim leff put together a granola blind tasting today in the east village at dba on 1st ave (which has a fine selection of draught beers and ciders). in these photos, you see the granolanauts surveying an expanse of assorted granolas in an intrepid fashion, then, midway through, in a less intrepid fashion. granola is not a low-calorie food.

Nov 17, 2009

steak filter

video signal of the steak cooking, passed through the steak as it cooks. signal degrades as the steak loses moisture. i wonder if you would get the same result if the steak were cooked sous vide.

Posted via web from flavourcountry

Nov 13, 2009


a few weeks back, paul stamets wrote to the scifoo mailing list to ask if anyone wanted one of the first run of his lifeboxes. these are cardboard panels seeded with tree seeds and symbiotic fungal spores that improve the growth and development of the seedlings. i wrote to say i wanted one but never heard back. i forgot about it. then, today, a small box appears on the front step.

which is nice.

Nov 9, 2009

experiments in food

i went down to new york last week for the french culinary institute's harold mcgee series, which consists of mcgee talking about the science of cooking and nils noren and dave arnold from fci showing off a select portion of the fancy stuff they've been doing in their copious spare time to illustrate (and push beyond) the known science of's nastassia lopez's official account of day 1 of the series on cooking issues, the FCI's R&D blog. i'm still processing the three day show and tell of the output from one of the cutting edges of food, but these are some early thoughts about the uses of experimentation in cooking.

we got to try some of almost everything that was talked about so that we could compare, for example, the flavour and texture of mashed potatoes cooked with a pretreatment to set the starch granules (cooked to 160F, cooled to 40F, then boiled and passed through a tamis) and mashed potatoes cooked in the traditional method (ie, just boiled and passed through a tamis). [i liked the conventional cooking method better]. there were lots of experiments and it was sweet to be able to try several different ways of preparing the same item side by side. so that was great.

throughout, nils, dave, and harold repeatedly noted that the techniques were not being presented as the one best way to do any given thing (cook a steak, burger, or whatever), but rather as ways to break down the process of cooking as much as possible so that the cook can, given a clear idea of the final outcome desired, achieve that outcome with the greatest possible precision and reliability. compared to the whizbang demonstrations, this relatively theoretical consideration didn't seem top of mind for most of the participants. (in fairness, it's difficult to focus on things like that when being constantly plied with really tasty stuff--see below).

tasty stuff: i think this was a case full of winesap apples, juiced with a pectinase, clarified with a centrifuge, and then evaporated under a vacuum. the bottle is about the size of a roll of quarters and contains an apple syrup that tastes like getting hit in the head by a case of apples.

more tasty stuff: egg on egg on egg (ikura on egg whites, served on a round of all-egg bread cooked in a pressure cooker).

the uses of experimentation
this was the last thing on my mind when i showed up on the first day, but it turns out you can't understand how experimentation is valuable to cooks without thinking through the assumptions made when experimenting in food.

the series is one of the most basic instances of the experimental method in cooking: all variables but one are held constant to illustrate the effect of that one variable on the outcome. the example from thursday morning's discussion of heat in cooking was a series of pieces of salmon cooked at different temperatures, to illustrate how temperature has a nonlinear effect on the texture of cooked salmon. based on the series, cooking salmon to between 48C and 52C produces a safe and tasty piece of salmon. but this is not the most useful conclusion to draw from the experiment. the real takeaway is understanding that cooked salmon has five major discrete textures, and that these textures change over relatively small temperature intervals.

the salmon temperature series.

the salmon temperature series described above takes a complex real system (cooking potentially different types, cuts, sizes of salmon pieces at varying temperatures, pressures, for varying amounts of time, to say nothing of flavourings and cooking media) and reduces it to a simple model that can be experimentally manipulated (the same piece of salmon [sort of] + different temperatures = a range of cooked salmon). the implicit assumption is that temperature is the variable with the biggest influence on the texture of cooked salmon in the real world, and that the relationship between these variables in the experimental model closely approximates the real world.

all experiments that take the form of simplified models rely on at least these two assumptions: 1) that the experimental model has the important variables in it, 2) that the relationship between the variables in the model is relatively close to the relationship between variables in the real world. if those conditions hold, experiments based on simplified models are useful in practice not just because they provide precise and specific guidelines for cooking (even though that may sometimes be true), but also because they sensitise cooks to the materials and tools they work with. part of this is using the experiment's results to understand when it makes sense to pay attention and what it makes sense to pay attention to.

Nov 8, 2009

that's a good point

after a long hiatus:

that's a good point, 2008/2009
laminated eastern white ash with milk paint and gilding, tung oil finish; black cherry with lime wash and waxed red linen cord, tung oil finish; poplar with milk paint, tung oil finish.

(yes, i know it's a terrible photograph)

better beverages

this is nils noren pouring a liquid nitrogen frozen cocktail made with clarified ashmead's kernel. in one of the stainless tubs in back is the best gin i've ever had, distilled from vodka blended with cilantro, cucumber, juniper berry, roasted orange peel, and thai basil, and served so cold it was syrupy.


finally, someone who agrees with me that chocolate is just way too easy. the best dessert i've had yet was a peach leaf and almond semifreddo with a black mulberry granita, at quince; it was the apotheosis of restraint. i think this might be sort of nice too.

Nov 7, 2009

Nov 4, 2009

science in the kitchen

today there was a big live fish flopping about, and then they severed its spine and destroyed its spinal nerve and it was placid. here is a picture of preserved eggs instead.

Nov 3, 2009

Nov 1, 2009