Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Chocolate Souffle: Nutritional Analysis

Because we are all nerds around here, I am listing the full ingredient list and FitDay's analysis of the components.

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2.5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/6 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (I think)
1/2 tablespoon Grand Marnier (I think)

This comes out to:

Since there were 6 souffles, this means that each one was only 205 calories. Not bad. *looks away from pie chart*

ETA: Oops, that's without the Grand Marnier, which adds a total of about 25 calories, 3 more grams of carbs, and 2 grams of alcohol.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Chocolate Souffle

Ah, the beauty shot

Tonight, I fulfilled my reasonable dream of making a souffle. At around 9pm, I decided that tonight was the night. At 9:05pm, I realized that I needed to run out to the store to get eggs. By 10:00pm, I was back at home with the requisite eggs, ready to whip and beat -- the souffle, that is.

In making Île Flottante for the second FL party, I felt that I had erred on the side of underbeating the egg whites. So this time, I vowed to not make the same mistake.

Which, naturally, resulted in my overbeating the egg whites. :D

This error resulted in the inability to easily fold the beaten egg whites into chocolate + beaten egg yolk mixture, as the whites were so stiff that they fairly crumbled into the mixture. Because they were harder to mix in, I felt that a lot of the lift was lost in the process. In trying to compensate for losing the lift, I tried not to over-fold. You can see how this kept snowballing. :)

The ramikins were slightly smaller than those suggested in the recipe, so I ended up overbaking the souffles, which meant no soft, warm, liquidy center for me. Boo.

So for next time:
  • Definitely take care not to overbeat
  • Cook for less than the 16.5 minutes I cooked them this time around

They came out of the oven at around 11pm. We served this with crème anglaise to people who were awake at the house.

I was surprised by how fast the process was. There was just enough baking time that I could clean up all the bowls I had used in the process. This is a recipe I'll keep working on for some time to come. Let me know if you want to be a guinea pig. :)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

French Laundry Party 2

The Rundown:

* 'Caesar Salad'
* Heirloom Tomato Tart
* Smoked Salmon & Gnocchi
* "Pacific Moi"
* Walnut Soup
* 'Ile Flottante'
* Poached Peaches & Verjus Sorbet

[Note from Ei-Nyung: I think my Gruyere gougers made it out of the oven between the first and second courses. We just put them on the table to eat with everything else.]

Caesar Salad :

'Caesar Salad'

This is easily the most labor intensive and ridiculous salad I've ever seen, much less made. Essentially, it's the basic flavors of the salad, done up in completely differet ways. If it weren't for the novelty of its given name, I'd have called it "Parmesan Three Ways" or something similar. Essentially, the salad, from the top down, consisted of:

* Parmesan shavings
* Dressed narrowly-cut Romaine hearts
* Parmesan Frico
* Parmesan Custard
* Croutons
* Dressing

The custard was the weirdest part, essentially a standard custard with a lot of parmeggiano-reggiano(sp?) added to the mix. The dressing was incredibly punchy - a quarter cup of balsamic, garlic, shallots, anchovies, lemon, and olive oil. Good stuff. I don't think say, I'd make it again casually, simply because of the work involved. But damn tasty, and it turned out pretty well.

Heirloom Tomato Tart

Heirloom Tomato Tart

Uyen & Charles brought over the tomato tart, which was apparently made completely from scratch. Their dish involved making their own puff pastry, which is no easy feat for any non-pastry chef. There were a variety of tomatoes in different states of cooked-ness -- top layer was raw to provide a fresh, cool bite, and the underlying layer was roasted in the oven to intensify in flavor -- and they all played off each other really well. The tapenade provided a high (but not too high) note and tasted kind of nutty. The puff pastry hadn't "puffed" as much as it perhaps should have, but the flavors were spot-on, and delicious. The basil dressing & fresh pepper on the baby greens provided a crunchy, cool, light contrast to the rest of the dish.

Smoked Salmon & Gnocchi

Smoked Salmon & Gnocchi

Colin & Jess smoked *their own salmon* in a cold smoker they built this past week. That was pretty ridiculous. It was spectacular - subtle, but really flavorful, and very "salmon-y" - it was one of the first times where I'd say the smoked quality of the salmon really complemented the flavor of the fish, instead of simply being a parallel flavor. I love smoked salmon, and this stuff was really good. The hand-made, hand-rolled gnocchi were a great accompaniment, and the various sauces made for a delicious blend of flavors. Chive oil, balsamic glaze, and some sort of butter & lemon-oil sauce, with a fine bruinoise... great stuff.

"Pacific Moi"

Pacific Moi

Klay & Nana made a dish that normally contains Pacific Moi, but due to the unavailability of that particular fish, used one of the specified replacements. Klay had the uneviable job of filleting a ridiculously small fish, and managed to do an admirable job of it. The early concerns such as filleting the fish, the sauces "breaking" and some other concerns had me worried for a bit, but the end result turned out really well. The orange sauce was a little over-reduced but the fish was really quite good. The edamame and brunoise hiding under the fish was fantastically tender, and the fish's skin had crisped up wonderfully, providing a nice contrast to the soft meat of the fish. The salad on top provided a nice bite from a ice water bath, which also served to curl up the julienned scallion.

Walnut Soup

Walnut Soup

The second dish I made was a "canape dessert soup" - basically amounted to an espresso cup worth of "soup" for each person. Walnut, simmered in cream for about 45 minutes, then cooled, and blended with pears poached in a white wine/sugar/lemon mixture. There's no way that I'd ever have been able to have more than an espresso cup worth of this stuff - it was apparently originally a sauce for another dish, but people liked it enough they turned it into its own little dish. Tasty, but probably took a year off the end of all our lives.

'Ile Flottante' (floating island?)

Ile Flottante

This dish was Ei-Nyung's - a soft, slow-bakedmeringue, with a chocolate mousse center, in a pool of creme anglaise, with a small chocolate wafer on top, chocolate shavings, and mint oil. I thought this turned out really, really well, and I'll let her describe it.

[Ei-Nyung edits post to add her comments.] If I were to make this dish over again, I'd reexamine my opinion of when "soft-peaks" are forming in my meringue, because I think I didn't really get it this time around. This dish posed a challenge for me because both the software (the components of the dish) and the hardware (the equipment) were unfamiliar to me -- I had never made a non-cookie meringue before, and because we only had four ramikins, I decided to use a muffin pan instead. This posed an issue when it came to removing the meringue.

Seppo has full credit for making the creme anglaise and the chocolate mousse, which, damn, delicious, yeah, me == incoherent from memory of taste.

The mint oil added a nice light note to the dish. It's a very rich dish, yet the lightness in texture of both the meringue and the mousse (as well as the weenie size) and the accompanying sauces kept it from feeling too heavy to follow five entrees. This dish took me about 2 hours last night and another 1 today. Not bad, compared to last time.

[Ei-Nyung steps away.]

Poached Pears & Verjus Sorbet

Poached Peaches & Verjus Sorbet

Uyen & Charles' second contribution to the evening - peaches poached in the same liquid as the pears from the walnut soup, and a sorbet made from verjus, which is apparently a very hard to find unfermented juice made from sour grapes. This was really punchy, bright, and 'clean' tasting - a great way to end the evening. The sorbet was perfect- not too sweet, and the peaches were delicious.

More than anything, what I love about these events is that a.) it's getting a bunch of friends together to push the boundaries - all of us are "reaching" - no one cooks like this on even a marginally regular basis, and we're all doing things that are signfiicantly more complex, and harder than we're used to. More than that, we're doing it with, and for each other, which adds a whole new world of pressure. And yet everything people made was delicious. Sure, it's not perfect, but it's *damned good*, and sharing great food with good friends... man - nothing better.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Disclaimer: I usually HATE fusion foods.

I have no idea what is up with Cuvae. It's almost always empty or very sparsely populated. I know that it's not in the most ideal location, being about block short of where the restaurant cluster begins on College. My guess is most people park about a block away and work their way north heading away from Cuvae in the search for drop-in food.

And that is a crying shame, because every single time I've eaten there, I've been extremely happy with their food. This isn't to say that every dish has been out-of-the-ballpark in every aspect (and some have been), but I've never eaten anything that wasn't delicious.

It is an Asian-American fusion restaurant. I've eaten about half the items on their menu and I love how the fusion aspect of the dishes is achieved. I've eaten at places where "fusion" means a clunky blend of incompatible flavors, but this is not the case at Cuvae. In plain words, stuff just tastes good and goes together.

We've taken several different friends there, and everyone has enjoyed their meals there. Yet, everytime we go there, it's so empty. That sucks! The owner/chef is friendly and the staff, while not polished, is really friendly and tries to do their best to make sure you are having a good meal. At least twice, when we've had the wrong number of people to share the appetizers with, they've thrown us freebies to make sure everyone gets a taste. Last night, they were also pretty flow-y with the wine and gave us all a shot of soju on the house, as we were there celebrating my friend's birthday (on the early side).

And yeah, I love a good deal as much as the next guy (if not more). Their prices are really reasonable for the quality that they serve up. I'd expect to pay anywhere from 10-30% more for comparable dishes in other, more established restaurants.

So, if you live in the Bay Area, get off your butt and head over to Cuvae for some good eats. Go! Go now! :D

I just had the leftovers (hoi sin duck breast) from last night for lunch and MAN! So tasty.

Restaurants I want to try

In December 2005, I listed a bunch of restaurants I wanted to try. Let's review which ones have been crossed off the list:
  • Michael Mina's (Bay Area)
  • Chez Spencer (Bay Area)
  • The French Laundry (Norhern CA) Will be going in October
  • The Fat Duck (UK)
  • Gordon Ramsay's at Royal Hospital Road (UK)
  • Nobu (not sure which location would be best)
  • L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (the one in France and not in LV or Japan)
  • Zushi Puzzle (Bay Area)
  • Chez Panisse (Bay Area)
  • Foreign Cinema (Bay Area)
  • Gary Danko (Bay Area)
  • Wagamama (UK)
  • Yo! Sushi (UK)
  • Vic's Chaat (Bay Area)
  • The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton (Bay Area)
  • Manresa (Bay Area)
  • Sushi Zone (Bay Area)

Not bad!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

French Laundry again!

We are having a second French Laundry party for people who missed it last time. In fact, it's not even for *everyone* who missed it last time either because the number was pretty high, so don't be upset if we didn't invite you. :D We will almost definitely have a third one for those who couldn't make it to the first or second, or those of you who want to do it again!

It will take place Sunday, August 20, 2006. Watch this space.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

New flavors

As a result of the French Laundry extravaganza, I've discovered a couple of flavors that I refuse to do without in the future.

One is chive oil:

and the other is tomato confit:

I refer to these as "flavors" because they are not meant to be eaten for bulk/fullness, but to add a dimension to your dishes.

Chive oil instead of olive oil in a mixed herb salad w/ a small drizzle of balsamic vinegar (bonus points for teeny buffalo mozzarella and proscuitto) brings a subdued brightness to the party, as Alton Brown might say. I drizzled some on my baby asparagus last night, and man, was it good.

As for the tomato confit, it is a pain because it takes a while to prep then partially dehydrate/concentrate in the oven, but it's worth it. At least, to me. I've had fresh tomatoes, cooked tomatoes, canned tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, and this is now my favorite way to eat tomatoes. Mmmm. It's not too different from a halfway point between regular tomatoes and sundried tomatoes in olive oil, both of which I love, but I think I love how it balances out between the two extremes.