Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Omnivore Food Festival 5 - OFF5 - Deauville 2010

Bande annonce Omnivore Deauville 2010 from Dimitri MAJ on Vimeo.

I just got back from the 5th annual Omnivore Food Festival held in Deauville, France. It was a packed program again this year - full of interesting and creative chefs de cuisine and several exhibitors, including cider/calvados producers from the Normandy region, french wineries & other food-related vendors. One thing that was very different this year, however, was the newly added program for pastry chefs that ran simultaneous to the program for the chefs de cuisine. This required another MC, Julie Andrieu who accompanied the extremely talented MC from prior years, Sebastian Demorand.

I wake up this morning feeling tired from the past couple of days, filled with travel, good food, good company, and of course, the rich OFF program itself. I love this kind of tired - it puts me in a reflective mood. So, what am I thinking? Here's a brief synopsis:
  • I'm very glad I went to OFF5 and I continue to highly recommend it (but only if you have a good understanding of french). It provides a perspective of food trends and cooking approaches, old and new. Above all else, I still find it interesting to discover what inspires other chefs, to gain a small insight into their philosophies, and to see and hear them first hand. All of the chefs approach the stage differently, express themselves differently, and I see these differences reflected in their recipes & plates.

  • All in all, I saw more simplicity than avant-garde or molecular gastronomy this year, although there was a little of that. More present than that, it seems to me, was the human approach and making things "lisable" (easy to read), a theme that continued from last year's event. I didn't see any langoustines, lobsters, or truffles. There were lots of vegetables....and quite a few oysters. I'm not sure what the oysters may mean, but as for the rest, does this have anything to do with needing to comfort us during the past year of financial crisis? Well, who knows, but that thought floats around my mind a bit.

  • There was a nice mixture of "extoverts" and "introverts" up on stage. Spanish chef Quique Dacosta & French chef Paul Pairet (now in Shanghai) demonstrated the most flare... Gregory Marchand, Sylvain Sendra, David Kinch, and of course Alain Passard demonstrated a quieter approach that was equally intriguing. As I said, a nice mix.

  • Simple things, simply done well. For me, this sums up the the 2010 OFF event in terms of food trends.

  • What I was inspired by: Chef Gregory Marchand's egg yolk ravioli (I will try this), Chef Alain Passard's vegetables, MOF pastry chef of Maison Pic Philippe Ribollot, Chef David Kinch for his extremely intelligent & creative approach to cooking, Chef Alexandre Gaultier for his inventiveness & playfullness, Chef Regis Marcon for his optimism and generous heart. Well, there were lots of other inspirations...too many to relate in a short message here. Take a look at the pictures instead.
Sebastian Demorand (MC extrodinaire) with Chef Gregory Marchand of Frenchie

Roasted yellow beet with coriander grains - Gregory Marchand

Café Confidences - Chef Régis Marcon

Julie Andrieu with Chef Jean Sulpice

Poached quail eggs, apple juice gelée, beets, asparagus - Jean Sulpice

Chef Sylvain Sendra - Restaurant Itinéraires

Pastry Chef Tal Hausen (former Ferrandi student)

Chef Jean-Francois Rouquette - Restaurant Pur'

Chef Arnaud Daguin's roasted vegetables

Chef Alexandre Gauthier - Restaurant La Grenouillere

Gauthier's dish called "The Old Stalk"! (Yes, the broccoli florets have all been removed). Love the inventiveness & playfulness. If only I could get away with putting that on my menu!

Chef David Kinch - Restaurant Manresa (California)

David Kinch's vegetable medley....not sure of the name of this dish

Chef Alain Passard (middle) with his gardener (right)

Passard's beet

This was my third consecutive time going. Click here for my notes from last year if you would like to get a sense about how this conference is run & to see my favorites from last year. Can't wait for 2011!


Friday, February 12, 2010

Buttermilk Cluster Rolls - Ruhlman's Recipe

The weather in Paris lately has been frigid & bizarre. Sunny one second, flurry storm the next, followed by hail, more sun, snow....all in the same get the idea. Sure feels like winter. Which is why I took so much comfort in making these buttermilk cluster rolls. The apartment smelled like a bread shop. A comforting scent wafted through the air and a warmth from the oven made it feel comfy. It's worth making these rolls just for that experience alone.

Click here for the recipe: Recipe for Buttermilk cluster rolls from Ruhlman's blog. There are very clear instructions & references to other blogs for detailed information on making them.

Here are my observations, conclusions, opinions:

1) Very good recipe. It's the kind of bread roll that's best served with something having a sauce (as the french say) or with gravy (as we say) because it's made for mopping up the plate, no matter what language you speak.

2) I proofed the dough in our oven at 35°C, the proofing setting. This worked well, especially since our apartment felt a bit on the cold side before I started all this bread making. After 1 hour it was at the double-in-size stage and normally I'd have proceeded with punching it down. However, this time, I followed the recipe & let it go 2 hours. Man did it puff up! Triple in size, I'd say. If I could hazard a guess, I'd say this had something to do with the texture being so nice. (Along with the revised recipe?)

3) I topped them with my favorite "everything" combo: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion powder, garlic salt & thyme. Délicieux.

4) Size of roll: too big for me. Mine were 100g each (3.5 ounces) before baking. I got a baker's dozen out of them. However, next time I'll try to make them 50g each. Seems plenty enough to me. Plus, it'd give me more of that topping-to-bread ratio which I think would be really nice.

5) I used the revised recipe (709g flour & 510g buttermilk, but added back a bit more flour when it was too sticky). The texture was extremely light & fluffy. I loved the texture the best. Can you practically feel how light & fluffy these are??!!
6) You gotta eat them straight out of the oven. I know, it goes without saying ( why did I just say that?!)

7) There's no additional butter or olive oil in this bread. The only fat comes from the buttermilk (which counts for enough I suppose!). I tasted this difference. I must admit that I kind of missed that other kind of taste when it comes to bread...but that only happened when I ate them without anything else. When I had a sauce to mop it up with, I didn't miss it at all.

8) Would I make these again? Yes. I absolutely loved the texture of this. (Isn't that obvious by now?) But, here's what I'm thinking: wouldn't it be great to use this recipe as the base for a cinnamon roll?? I'd get the additional flavor from butter that I'm looking for, and then the sugar-cinnamon filling would add more goodness....

So, this is what I'm going to try next. Or sometime soon anyway. Will let you know how it turns out.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Truffle Tasting Results

Valentine's day is quickly approaching. It's time to share the results of the truffle tasting we did last month so you have time to buy your sweetheart a little something! Recall the following photos. This time I'm disclosing who each chocolatier is. I'm also disclosing some key comments made about each. I guess by the time you get to the 5th one, you'll have a general idea of who the winner is.

The final ranking is provided at the end, but if you want the real deal, as in a real in depth report, you'll find it in Discover Paris' newsletter (click there!). They share all sorts of discovered pleasures about this big village. I highly recommend it.

So, without further adieu, here we go:

Maker: La Maison du Chocolat
Crunchy shell; ganache is a bit dry; exterior is dry ; taste is neutral; "good, but not exciting". (My own opinion of this truffle was very low. This surprised me greatly since I bought their truffles before & thought they were great. Granted, this was a few years ago. What happened?)

Surprise, Guest entry: Made by Alison Johnson, pastry chef of Michelin star Restaurant Jean
Very good! Lingers in the palette which I like. Taste: acidic start that evolves to a fruity/floral end. Firm, dense chocolate that is moist & smooth. "This is a mini dessert in my mouth; "I love this!".

Maker: Jeff de Brugges.
Strange shape. (No comment!)
Hard exterior & inside is too light (like frosting). It's imbalanced & not like a truffle (too airy). "Decent for its complexity, but for as big as it is, it lacks character".

Cross cut of the Jeff de Brugges truffle. The inside is really too much like frosting, even if it doesn't look so obvious from the photo. The outside is way to hard...This combo is no good!

Maker: Jean Charles Rochoux
Square & soft. Temperature is on the cool side. Exterior melts at your touch. Texture is extremely soft. It melts in your mouth immediately. Taste is nice, dark, rich. "The size is perfect for having after a meal, with an espresso....where you could just pop one in your mouth & enjoy it immensely without feeling like you're over-indulging". I like this shape - it's very modern! Surprisingly "untruffle-like in shape, but it's fun!"

Maker: Wiess, distributed by Mococha on rue Mouffetard
Shaped like gumdrops! Dense, dark interior. Light colored cocoa on the outside. Sweet chocolate taste at first, and then a cinnamon tone that lingers. Very good.

Finally, here is how the chocolate stacks up (from most preferred to least preferred):

1) Jean-Charles Rochoux (16, rue d'assas, 75006) - go there & you won't be disappointed. This is true artisan chocolate making. A real treat.

2) Pastry Chef Alison Johnson (of Restaurant Jean, 8, rue Saint Lazarre, 75009) - a close 2nd by only a smidgen. Go to where she'll love all of her pastries, and if you're lucky, she might just have chocolates on the menu.

3) Mococha/Weiss (89, rue Mouffetard, 75005) -- well worth the visit. A decent 3rd ranking. You shouldn't be disappointed with this chocolate shop.

4) La Maison du Chocolat (various addresses) - a surprising disappointment. Avoid, I say.

5) Jeff de Brugges (various addresses), who you might be surprised to know, is NOT from Brugges, but from France (with production in Belgium, or so I've been told). I didn't realize how industrialized this chocolate is because I had never tasted it before. Thought it had to be good....being from Brugges and all...(yep, I had been victim to its marketing.) Plus, the shops sure do look tempting... However, this was a big looser. Not even close to the rest. Better to not have any than to have this one. (Ouch. But, it's honestly how I feel about it. Sorry Jeff, if you even exist!)

There are lots of other chocolate shops out there's plenty more for us to discover & to rank. Meanwhile, Happy Valentine's Day! And I'll leave you with this image of chocolaty treats, full of Valentine's sentiments.

Hand made by Alison Johnson

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mini Almond Joy Bars - Recipe

♫ "Sometimes you feel like a nut....sometimes you don't...." ♫

Anybody else remember that jingle from way back when? When was that? The 80s? The early 90s? (Not at all serious about that.) The 70s? Please don't say the 70s! Oh merde, it really is from that long ago...

I'm still feeling like a nut today, no matter how old that jingle is! So, get ready for an Almond Joy bar recipe.

I'm sharing this recipe thanks to my cousin Mickey in Wisconsin (yeah, Wisconsin!). She put them out over Christmas when we stopped by her house and we really enjoyed them (read scarfed them down). Ever since, they practically become an obsession in our household. They taste that good. And you'll fall off your seat when you see how easy they are to make. I'll warn you, though, it's hard to eat just one.

Almond Joy Bars Makes a lot. You could easily cut the recipe in half, but whadda ya gonna do with half a can of sweetened condensed milk? So you might as well make 'em all. They store well, if they last that long.

16 oz (454g) dried, flaked coconut
1 can (14 oz, or 396g) of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 lb (227g) powdered sugar
Roasted Almonds (about 1 cup, or desired quantity)
High quality dark or milk chocolate, depending on your own preference. (I used dark.)
  1. Mix dried coconut and powdered sugar together, & then mix the sweetened condensed milk with it.
  2. Form into balls* & place a whole roasted almond on top. Press down to hold the nut in place. If the mixture doesn't hold well enough initially, put in fridge for a little while until it holds when you form it.
  3. Chill for 8 hours until good & hard.
  4. Melt chocolate over a bain marie. Dip the coconut-almond bar in the chocolate & remove with your fingers or a fork on to parchment paper to let set.
* Note: I didn't do this immediately & they sat in the fridge all after wards, all I could do was cut them into rectangles, small squares, and other odd shapes....That worked well, too. If you do this, skip step #3, and dip the coconut piece into the chocolate, and then dip the almond & set on top. It's a bit more work this way. An alternative idea is to simply chop up the almonds & blend in the mix (in step #1) - this would be the easiest way to do it. Or, maybe you can come up with some better idea! One other thing: feel free to temper the chocolate if you want to be really pro about it -- this will give your chocolate a nice smooth sheen & characteristic crunch-like / snap-like texture. Believe me, they taste just fine without the tempering!!

Thanks again Mickey for the recipe. I'm happy to pass on such a good treat.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sunday's Walk

I like Sundays in Paris. Nobody is in a hurry to get the day started. The mornings are quiet. Very few cars are on the streets yet. Eventually people start to show their heads outside.

Afternoons are different. It's when people are ready to do something. A walk is generally a good idea. E & I headed out ourselves, not quite sure where we wanted to go. We started crossing through the Jardin de Tuileries & then remembered there was an exposition on Clint Eastwood happening on the Champs Elysée. It's a short exposition, but a nice one. It did cover something like 40 years of his career, so it's not that short! (kidding). Here are a few photos:

Ali, I took this picture for you!

You can see the Arche de Triomphe in the distant background

After that, we wound our way around the 8th before heading back home where we passed through the Palais Royale. I was pleasantly surprised to see the construction walls had been removed from « Colonnes de Buren ». They worked on that for a year, at least. And what an eyesore it was, even if they tried to make it "fun" with all the multi-colored see-through windows. Here's what the remodeled area looks like. Not much different altogether - but with new little colored lights, and if I'm not mistaken, you can now see down to the ground underneath, through the grates, in some areas. I don't remember that before. I suppose the columns themselves are cleaner, too! People were back to posing for pictures on the posts, and small toddlers were running from one post to another. It's good to have it back.

Until the next Sunday walk, bonne sémaine!