Category Archives: Yelling At My Television

TV: Dinner With The Band

I just watched Dinner With The Band on IFC. You know, that Sam Mason (WD50 alumni and ex-Tailor chef/owner) TV show. This show will not resonate with a lot of traditional jerk off to food porn types that tune into the food network. But I suspect that IFC watching crowd that watch The Rollins Show, and watched Dinner For Five might have found a new show to glom onto. In fact, I think the show might be a pretty even mix of both, plus… uhm… cooking.

What You Might Not Like
The show is more about the music than it is about the food. It is far from being an instructional cooking show, and if you don’t like the band, you are unlikely to make it through the episode. Right now, this is really a live music show with a chef-host. If it were my show, which it clearly isn’t I would tip the scales to feature a little more cooking. Most people that tune in will know who Sam Mason is and not know who the band is.

What I Really Liked
Inside of the cooking segments are the mechanics of a cooking show I could really love. Mason doesn’t dumb down the food and manages to talk through the food as he cooks it without being instructional. I don’t really know why, but I found the use of graphics/titling is amazing. That’s right, I said the titling was amazing. They define terms as Mason is speaking and label ingredients. It could be the nerd in me, but they are really effective and are every bit a part of the show (think Man On Fire remake with Denzel Washington). Each episode features a meal plus a cocktail/beverage. While I’d like to see more cooking time, what you do get to see is great, no bullshit cooking and very clearly Sam’s food. They also publish the recipes (even the cocktails) online here.

In Closing
Worth Watching. Even if the music isn’t your cup of tea, the cooking clips are better than just about any cooking show I’ve seen. It does conflict with The Daily Show, but that’s why I have a DVR.

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Ordering Technique Part I: The Screenplay

INT. ANY OVERPRICED RESTAURANT — EVENING

The restaurant is packed with beautiful people jammed into clothing that no human being should actually be able to fit in. At the table where these beautiful people will not have to be encumbered with his physicality, sit PABLO and his girlfriend PICKLED JALAPENO. PABLO is underdressed and waving his arms wildly as he is talking. PICKLED is trying to pay attention, but her phone is lighting up with text message after text message.

PABLO

If a tip is to

(airquotes)

“To Insure Proper Service”

(cont)

why do we do it at the end of a meal? You can’t insure your house after it burns down. It’s really To Reward Proper Service. T-R-P-S. It’s tuh-errrpppss.

PICKLED just stares at him, her eyes revealing that she is calculating the cost/benefit analysis of a nice dinner versus the her ability to endure another evening with this raving lunatic. She looks over PABLO’s shoulder noting that their waitress has overheard their conversation.

WAITRESS

(coughing)

Hi folks, you doin’ ok over here? Have any questions about the menu?

PABLO

Trrrrrrrr-ppppsss. Yeah, what’s good here?

WAITRESS

Well, tonight we have a fish special, an 8 ounce butter poached Escolar fillet, served over a bed of micro algae with ferzizzled potatoes. Escolar is a delicious firm textured fish, with a fat content I know you will love.

PABLO

Ferzizzled potatoes. Sounds Fancy! I’ll take it.

WAITRESS

(turning to PICKLED)

And what would you like?

PICKLED

I’ll take the salad. Can I have the dressing on the side and a poached egg on top?

WAITRESS

Coming right up.

As the WAITRESS walks off, a diner at the neighboring table motions to her. The camera pans over to the table where we see FRANK BRUNI is dining with SNOOP DOG.

SNOOP DOG

Yo, that Escolar sounds tight. Can I get a —

WAITRESS

(whispering)

Mr. Snoop, I assure you, you don’t want the special —

SNOOP DOG

Don’t be tellin’ me what I want. I want the frezizzled potizzles!

FRANK BRUNI

Snoop, an eight ounce portion of escolar

(pauses and leans close)

It’s the culinary equivalent of

(air quotes)

“the shank”

The WAITRESS nods once, confirming FRANK BRUNIs statement.

SNOOP DOG

(nodding)

Thats some cold shit.

The camera CUTS back over to PABLO’s table.

PABLO

Did you hear that? She just un-recommended my dish to snoop.

PICKLED

From The Wire?

PABLO

No! The other Snoop.

(agitated)

You can’t un-recommend something! The bond between server and patron is sacred! I am going to say something–

PICKLED

(through her teeth)

Don’t. You. Dare.

PABLO

It’s totally coming out of her tuh-er-puh.

Ordering Technique Part I: Servers As Advisors

There is nothing more infuriating than having someone scoop you on a topic you wanted to write about. Actually, that’s not true. It is even more infuriating when someone gives it a really good treatment, like Adam Roberts, who had a great post over at The Amateur Gourmet about why you shouldn’t ask your server for ordering advice at a restaurant. With a couple of exceptions, he breaks down a number of reasons for why you shouldn’t ask “What’s good?”.

Reasons like: all of the items on the menu should be good (at a certain level of restaurant), they can’t know your palate or mood, and that you never know if you would have been happier with your own selection. He also mentions the social awkwardness of asking for a suggestion and then not ordering it.

I think menus can be deceptive, descriptions are terse and sometimes inaccurate. At a restaurant you have never been to, your server is the only interactive window you have into the food. The real issue is that the question “What’s good?” is not going to get you to the best answer. Some will tell you what is most popular, some will give you an honest opinion, and I am sure it has happened at least once that a server will push an item that the restaurant needs to move.

I remember when I was teenager I went to a restaurant where the waiter prevented me from ordering a dish. By prevented, I mean, he drew on the menu, crossed out what I wanted to order and circled a different dish. I took his advice and ordered whatever he had circled. While I was waiting for my entree to arrive, someone at the table next to us had ordered what I had originally wanted. I heard them say “This is disgusting, I can’t eat this.” Now granted, this establishment one can draw on a menu, but still, your waitron may know things you don’t.

I think if you engage your server properly, you can get really great advice. Don’t ask what’s good and end it there. Ask what they like about their recommendation. Tell them the general range of what you are craving. I am almost always debating between two dishes.

I do have to admit that I have a fear that I am going to end up in some Larry David like nightmare at the restaurant. Maybe a yelling match because I don’t follow her advice. Or perhaps …

TO BE CONTINUED

KISS Katz

On my walk home today, I stopped underneath Katz’s awning (or ledge, whatever that thing is) to get out of the wind and rain. Almost as soon as I ducked under the awning, a man with one of those secret service type ear things walked out holding a laminated sign. I watched as he tried to affix said laminated sign with some tape to one of the windows.

Did I mention earlier that it was raining?

Yah, didn’t work too well. He finally managed to kind of get it stuck to the window, giving me a chance to finally read it. My dreams that the secret services were forcing Katz’s to discount were quickly dashed as I read that they were filming Gene Simmons’ reality TV show. Looking inside, I saw people crowding around Gene, gawking and taking pictures.

While I was peering through the window to get a better look (never said i was better than those other gawkers), a guy leaves with his two sons. At least I hope they were his kids.

EXT. KATZ’S DELICATESSEN – NIGHT

It is raining Katz’s and Dogz’s as a PECULIAR MAN with a goatee peers through the gigantic windows, staring at the trainwreck formally known as GENE SIMMONS. His head tilts like a confused dog while a FATHER exists the famous deli with his two sons.

FATHER

Are people still taking pictures of him?

PECULIAR MAN

Yup.

FATHER

I don’t get it, he’s only been famous for a couple of decades. That pastrami’s been famous for like a hun’red years.

KID

(tugging on arm)

Daaaad. Let’s gooooooo.

PECULIAR MAN

Heh. Didn’t think of it like…

FATHER

Hey, where’s that knishery?

KIDS

(in unison)

DAAADDD!

The KIDS grab their FATHER’s sleeve pulling him down the street (away from the knishery), leaving PECULIAR MAN to stand there… being peculiar.

Spherification and Molecular Gastronomy

A lot people involved in Molecular Gastronomy (the modern cooking revolution, Modernism, Molecular Cooking, Techo-Emoti{ve,onal} Cooking) use the term spherification to describe the technique of forming food into spheres. Some folks hate the term Molecular Gastronomy (for many reasons, some good, some bad) and rail against its use to describe a style of cooking. A lot of energy is expended debating the term, or attempting to change this part of the culinary zeitgeist.

While it rails against one word, it invents another. That’s right. Spherification is not a word. The closest Merriam Webster provides (in Mar. 2009) is:

sphere
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): sphered; spher·ing
Date: 1602
1 : to place in a sphere or among the spheres : ensphere
2 : to form into a sphere

Do I really care about this? No, I actually like that language is fluid and that made up words can become real words.

Up next, actual spherification sphering.

Top Chef: 3 Steps To Predicting The Loser

DISCLAIMER: READING THIS BLOG POST MAY RUIN TOP CHEF FOR YOU FOREVER. IF YOU DON’T LIKE SAUSAGE, DON’T TOUR SAUSAGE FACTORIES. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

I started to reliably predict who was going to be eliminated around season two of Top Chef. This isn’t because I am a super genius, it’s on top of me being a super genius.

If you think about competition-based, reality television, each episode is a story with a winner and a loser. The winner and loser of an hour long television show are likely to get more airtime. When there is someone going home, it is in their best interest to make you as invested in that person as possible. This breaks down to three simple rules:

  1. The loser is the star of the episode.
  2. The star needs facetime early and often.
  3. The star of the show needs to have in-episode strife.

Today’s episode (Season 5, Episode 7) is a great example. While livetweeting (f’ing shoot me now, I livetweeted something), I called Gene and Melissa being eliminated at nine minutes into the episode. This episode was extra easy as it was a double elimination. Here is a fourth rule:

  • Double eliminations will often group the two losers together via editing

So, let’s watch some Top Chef. Below this graf is a quick cheatsheet I put together watching a second time using my DVR. I had to clarify that because I don’t want you thinking that I actually annotate Top Chef as I watch it.

02:32Gene comments on being pissed off and stands behind his dish, immediate cut to
02:40Melissa not realizing how much pressure there is on her, immediate cut and…
02:54Music goes from melancholy to upbeat
04:27Padma says there is a catch, cut to melissa’s eye bulge, which cuts to gene looking uncomfortable, which cuts to sugar.
04:38Gene things he is F-‘d
08:00Gene and Melissa edited back to back in elimination challenge.
08:39Melissa’s one on one interview, complete with raspy voice and red eyes.
10:42Padma: “… least favorites” cut to melissa, cut to gene. Then they cut to the actual bottom three in the elimination: carla, ariane and jamie.
12:45Gene talking about how he needs to win and that he misses his family.

And the hits keep on coming… at minute 36 we see Gene and Melissa editing neighbors yet again.

I am about 80% accurate in the first 10 minutes. Funny thing is, usually I go off the rails as I get into the episode.

Don’t believe me? Try it next week. Look for someone who is:

  • Disproportionate amounts of attention, especially early in the episode
  • Is especially emotional or going through a personal crisis

Report back here next week with who you think it is.

Great Food Blog Meme #1: TGRWT

As far as food blog meme’s go, Khymos’ “They Go Really Well Together (TGRWT)” contest. Martin Lersch (it’s his blog), is one of those smart, sciencey food guys. He way more scientist than chef, but if you read me, then you clearly don’t care about that. I like reading him because he doesn’t dumb anything down. And when people don’t dumb things down, it means you have to smarten up. You should be reading his blog in general, but what I really wanted to talk about was TGRWT.

Once a month, Martin announces two ingredients that well, go really well together. Some flavor-pairings are really counter-intuitive. Here is his description:

The name refers to flavour pairing of ingredients based on their content of volatile aroma compounds. The idea behind flavour pairing is that if two (or more) foods have one or more volatile compounds in common, chances are good that they might taste well together. Click for a list of other flavour pairings and to read previous blog posts on the topic. The molecule shown in the logo is of 2-methylfuran-3-thiol, a very potent aroma chemical found in coffee, chicken, meat, fish and popcorn – to mention a few.

Mmmm... 2-methylfuran-3-thiol!

Mmmm... 2-methylfuran-3-thiol!

Anyways, it is an excellent contest because it is collaborative and gets people’s juices flowing. Does it actually further any flavor pairing theories based on volatile aroma compounds? Probably not. Does it get people to flex their minds? Definitely.

Martin asks blogger-chef-types a question. Sometimes the best way to learn is to answer a question you didn’t know the answer to.

The latest question was:

Caraway and Chocolate/Cocoa?

And it was one of the questions that I had an answer to, but couldn’t remember the name. But I knew I had experienced those flavors together. Then, while standing in the elevator, I had a bout of food-related tourettes:

“PUMPERNICKEL!”, I blurted out.

Thankfully, there were no witnesses to this. As it happens, I-freakin-love pumpernickel bread, especially bagels. So, I break out the internets and I start looking to confirm, and holy caraway for chocolate, I get my confirmation.

Also, snopes tells me one thing about pumpernickel that I did not know. Apparently, there are at least two supposed origins of the word. The first is from the French “Pain Pour Nicol”, which means Bread For Nicol, where Nicol is some random Frenchman’s horse. Of course, this is widely disproven, and really just goes to show that the French have to somehow be involved in all culinary matters!

Even funnier is an alternate theory that states pumpernickel is derived from “Pumpern”, which was New High German for “fart”, and Nickel, which was a name often reserved for something evil, like the devil. See where they are going with this?

The Devil’s Fart, my friends. The Devil’s Fart.