Posts Tagged ‘Bon Vivant’
I grew up in a household that weaned off salt over time. My parents cooked with it sparingly in a salt reduced diet that was advocated by dieticians and nutritionists. As adults we had the same shaker of supermarket brand iodised salt in our pantry for many years, its only purpose was to salt the water to boil pasta in.
A couple of evenings ago Myra gathered a group of food lovers for a salt themed potluck with Mark Bitterman. Owner of The Meadow and author of Salted, Mark was visiting from Portland and hosted a dinner at Spring Hill on Sunday.
I bought some leftover heirloom tomatoes at the TomatoFare for the bargain price of two dollars a pound. I made an insalata Caprese as my contribution to the potluck. Heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil were layered, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with Murray River salt flakes.
There were a variety of salts at the potluck and each had a story. Some were favourites, others were gifts, and mine reminds me of home.
Carol brought this beautiful Himalayan pink salt crystal for display.
The Secret Stash vanilla salt was speckled and moist.
I love the cute Sugarpill container!
Chuck made his own applewood smoked Maldon salt with lemon thyme.
There were several salads and one other insalata Caprese. Darryl‘s was geometrically styled compared to my rustic approach!
Ashleigh‘s salad of heirloom tomatoes, chèvre and mint was a kaleidoscope of colours.
The soup of the evening was by Kristin, pumpkin soup with salted pumpkin seeds.
Hors d’oeuvres included a cocoa nibs studded chèvre log with applewood salt by Karen.
Bite size hickory smoked salt pretzels, a recipe in Salted made by Carol.
Charred and fanned out on a bamboo tray, Shirley grilled maitake mushrooms and shishito peppers.
She brought three types of Japanese salts to taste with the vegetables – wasabi salt, dashi salt and shichimi tōgarashi blended with salt.
Chuck assembled fresh farm cheese and sungold tomato jam crostinis with his own applewood smoked Maldon salt and lemon thyme.
These sticky nuts were salted orange blossom honey almonds by Lisa.
Kim baked a tin of salted cranberry and pistachio biscotti.
Carol’s second recipe from Salted was Himalayan pink salt brittle.
Nazila dipped vanilla marshmallows in chocolate with salt on top.
Carol made her signature alderwood smoked salt caramels.
We piled our plates with the delectable selection and ate as we listened to Mark, a James Beard Foundation Book Award Winner. An eloquent speaker, we were all mesmerised by his salt narrative. Salt is a ‘universal food, a defining ingredient of the world’s culinary traditions’. He described himself as a vagabond writer and a ‘ravenous and perennial eater’.
When he opened The Meadow, he felt all he was doing was putting contents of his basement into jars! Salt connects people and he stocks over one hundred varieties of salts in his store. They also sell flowers, chocolates and bitters.
He realised there was no original research on salt and its behaviour on food. Salt is a powerful flavour enhancer, a nutritional necessity and the only mineral we eat. It is not just a chemical, it is a substance made by hand.
The Meadow has recently opened a store in New York for retail customers, and they supply food manufacturers and restaurateurs.
Salt makers have an intimate relationship with nature, a deep understanding of complex conditions. Saltiness is modulated by the shape and size of the crystals. Salts have different moisture levels. Fleur de sel has about ten percent residual moisture and is resilient in food, it glistens as it dissolves to spark our palate. Eighty pounds of salt yields one pound of fleur de sel for a ‘luxurious, sensual experience’!
Japan has the most sophisticated and obsessive salt culture. To make takesumi bamboo salt, sea water is extracted from three thousand feet under the ocean, sprayed onto bamboo to dry and stirred continuously with a wooden paddle while simmering until evaporated.
Hundreds of millions of years old, Himalayan salt blocks can function as tableware or cookware. It’ll slightly cure sashimi or Carpaccio, and can be heated up for sautéing.
The ‘manifesto’ is the byline of his book and this is clear when he declared that kosher salt is a stainless steel cleaner! Kosher salt is a desiccating agent that extracts moisture. It is a refined chemical manufactured for industries and it is Mark’s ‘mission in life to eradicate kosher salt’.
Salted has three sections: the life of salt, a history; salt guide, varieties and profiles; and salting, techniques and recipes.
We concluded the evening with a peek inside his case of sample salts. Mark had a bottle of nigari, or magnesium chloride. At the Spring Hill dinner the attendees had experimented with droplets into bourbon, adding a complex bitterness.
So for Kate, salt is not just salt!
Sincere thanks to Myra for her hospitality, Mark for his insights, and the Seattle food community for a delicious and informative potluck!
Sous vide is synonymous with molecular gastronomy and modernist cuisine. I know the basic concept is to poach food in vacuum sealed bags at a controlled temperature for consistent cooking, to retain nutrients and enhance flavours.
But sous vide has always conjured an image in my mind of scientists in stained lab coats and oversized goggles, distilling and decanting between technicolour beakers, with evil intentions.
Commercial sous vide machines are expensive and the SousVide Supreme was developed for the home kitchen. A local company, CEO Bob Lamson was optimistic that the seed has been planted for ‘Seattle to become the sous vide capital’ and to be at a leader of small appliances innovation, citing Nathan Myhrvold, Tavern Law and Crush as examples of Seattleites championing sous vide.
After much trial and error throughout the design and build process, the unit was rigorously tested by Heston Blumenthal before he launched it. The Fat Duck has more than seventy sous vide machines in its kitchen!
Bob extolled the quality of taste and texture of sous vide food, and stated that vegetables cooked sous vide is forty percent more nutritious than boiling and twenty percent more nutritious than steaming.
The water oven is easy to use and temperature can be set in Celsius (I still can’t convert °F!) or Fahrenheit. Ingredients and seasoning are vacuum sealed in pouches that can be prepared quickly, making it convenient and is also energy efficient.
There were many questions about what could be cooked in the SousVide Supreme. Meat, vegetables, fruits, stocks and cocktail infusions were all mentioned but the most decadent recipe was replacing the water with butter and cooking a whole lobster in it!
Bob shared with us an anecdote of a customer returning the product with a note declaring it the ‘worst deep fryer ever’. It’s not a Crock-Pot and it’s not a deep fryer! There is a perception that sous vide is complicated or hifalutin, and Bob was emphatic that it is scientifically proven to be a safe method of cooking.
Chef Sharone Hakman of MasterChef fame entertained us as he cooked a seven course tasting menu. He was engaging, amiable and knowledgeable. Sharone and the team from Duo Public Relations had been preparing the meals for several hours. We shared the dishes family style and there was an abundance of food!
Our first course was a refreshing wild hibiscus spritzer infused with raspberries and rose water.
The second course was wild king salmon with fennel, radish and turmeric butter. Succulent and flaky, the salmon was fresh and simple. Cooked sous vide and then braised, the wedges of fennel held its shape.
There were audible gasps when Sharone presented the 61 degree eggs, glossy and wobbling on a plate. A little jet lagged, I forgot to ask how the shells were peeled! The eggs were scooped on asparagus, drizzled with truffle oil and served with brioche croutons. Silky, crispy, crunchy, the textural combination was bursting with sunshine.
Chicken breasts were cooked sous vide and Sharone seasoned and seared them for presentation. Sliced and rested on pea purée and parmesan crisps, the chicken was tender and juicy. The highlight was the pea purée - vibrant in colour and taste, the sweetness contrasted with the salty cheese wafer.
Sharone displayed a tray of sous vide short rib with pride. The sliders are his favourite and the short ribs are marinated in his own brand of sauce, Hak’s BBQ.
Rich and sticky, the thick protein was tempered by the coleslaw. Perched on a stool far from the kitchen bench, I struggled eating this without making a mess! The chipotle bourbon sauce was scrumptious and I’m craving carnitas tacos with the gifted bottle of Hak’s BBQ sauce!
The final savoury dish was coffee and pepper crusted filet with fig infused Pinot Noir reduction.
Sous vide is ‘forgiving on the backend of cooking’ and the filet was evenly medium rare.
There was silent appreciation from the crowd as Sharone cut into each filet, the thick medallions of filet were a beautiful blush inside.
Rarer than I prefer my beef, I sampled a small portion and it pairs well with the fig and wine reduction.
As a child my mother would poach pears for me when I was ill. Warm and soft, they’re a healthy comfort food. Atop mascarpone, this adult version is poached in Zinfandel and dusted with cinnamon.
It was a fun, informative and delicious evening, learning and eating sous vide.
Sincere thanks to Myra Kohn for hosting, Bob Lamson for his insights, Sharone Hakman for his culinary expertise, and Duo Public Relations for organising.
I take point-and-shoot literally. I was inconsolable when a valet accidentally drove over our camera last year at Auberge du Soleil (my fault, I dropped it in my haste to get out of the car). One week’s worth of photos in San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma were irrecoverable as the impact had cracked the memory card. We considered purchasing a digital SLR as a replacement but decided against it as we were one week into a three week holiday. I continued to point-and-shoot.
I have always taken photos of food – birthday dinners, Christmas meals, wedding cakes. The sharing of food is very much core to many of my happiest memories. As a novice, I realised that I needed to learn how to wield my camera as a fundamental tool to blogging and photography.
Yesterday I attended a food photography workshop by Andrew Scrivani, food photographer for the New York Times and Gilt Taste. Hosted by Myra Kohn, it was a warm introduction to the Seattle food community.
There was an abundance of food from Dahlia Bakery, Fuji Bakery, mini cupcakes, homemade marshmallows by Flora and Flying, a pavlova baked by Mirror Mirror and an array of fruits and cheeses supplied by Bon Vivant.
Pavlova is an Australian (or New Zealand if you’re Kiwi!) dessert with a baked meringue base topped with Chantilly cream and fresh fruit. Fragrant and sweet, the strawberries were the highlight. It was a lovely taste of home and reminded me of Christmas.
Toasted marshmallows are a rarity in my life, mostly because I’m not an outdoor person! Unfortunately the photo above does not accentuate the beauty of these cloud-like cubes of confection. They were strawberry and vanilla flavoured and liberally dusted with icing sugar.
Andrew showed us his essential photography equipment – main camera, backup camera, gaffer tape, reflectors and black and white cardboard in varying sizes, a light meter and clamps. He made the point that we can improvise and use what’s in our surroundings by pulling out the white backing cardboard in a Uniqlo t-shirt pack.
After a mesmerising presentation of Andrew’s photos where he talked candidly and passionately about his experience as a professional photographer and openly shared his techniques, we were keen to put theory into practice. How to manipulate light, how to create shadows, how to use props to style, how to adjust aperture for depth of field, how to calibrate exposure for the colour white - it was all new to me!
I hate spinach, I find it a vile and slimy vegetable. I don’t know what Andrew thinks of spinach as a vegetable but he said green food is notoriously difficult to photograph as the colour absorbs light. Please call the police, the asparagus stole my light.
Kimberly brought several bags of brightly coloured sweets and the aqua drops were fun to photograph. Andrew uses a macro lens and I was surprised that the food in his photographs are in tiny portions, and he and his team scour flea markets and antique stores for small props.
I spotted the cheese platter hidden behind a faux bamboo pot plant. I also loved taking photos of the bowl of strawberries as each one is shaped uniquely and the focus can be on different ones depending on how the light is reflected.
Amidst the technicality, photography is an art form. They are narratives that evoke emotions and activate your senses – the smell of herbs and spices being ground in a mortar and pestle, the sound of a sizzling barbecue, the sight of flambé on a crêpe Suzette. To me photos are moments in time, bookmarks of memories.
The workshop was insightful and I now have some basic skills to improve my photography. Sincere thanks to Myra for your hospitality, and to Andrew for your inspiration.