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Saturday, December 11, 2010

One Month in.....

I haven't done this in  a while but it's time to mention something.  I joined Altamareagroup in mid August just after the last post.  Clearly I've been busy.  In this time I have opened 2 restaurants.  The first being easy "for me."  I was not running it, only there to help, and as a fire man putting out quelching things when needed.  The second Ai Fiori, is another topic.
 Ai Fiori represents my first job running the show.  While Michael White is ulimately the final say, it is my kitchen.  Going in a single day from having 5 people answering to me, to having 45 people wondering what I want, has been in a word challenging. 
  The doors opened, without many construction issues solved, and a kitchen designed by someone else.  The struggle only gets worse.  It will get better! But for now it is worsening.  My ADD is in full force, and the staff doesn't know what is coming.  We are holding gthe reservations so that we can perfect our craft before multipling it.  I am a perfectionist, and it is hard to get close to that in any situation.  Im tired, but the happiest I have been in years.  I thank my team for there hard work, and am fighting hard to make this one of the best restaurants in the world!

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Greens and Grills

Grilling on the Beach in February2Image via Wikipedia
I often wonder why people don't look towards the grill when it comes to vegetable cooking.  Almost every time I handle the grill someone says really, gives me a funny look of confusion, I never would have thought of that, aren't they going to burn, what if they slip through the grates?
Why is the most basic and primal pieces of cooking equipment so difficult for people to understand?  Could it have something to do with the fact that it is looked at as man territory?  No girly vegetables for me.
The grill offers a one stop shopping destination for cooking. For me this makes total sense, no scrubbing, no soaking.  Just put the lid on and let the crap burn off.  Scrap, thats it!  I realize that doing the dishes may be fun or theropuetic for some of you but when you have someone to clean every pot and pan you use as soon as you use it, everyday, actually doing it after you are bloated, a little buzzed and feeling lazy sucks.
I always go to the farm stand before I think about the butcher.  At the butcher all the meat is fresh and tasty, but the vegetables will make the difference. 
Rethink the grill and use it to have a great party, people like to hang out near it, clean up is minimal and caramelized vegetables are great!  And one thing people always seem to feel comfortable doing around the grill is drink, no matter how square they may be.  If the vegetables are long and thin use the perpendicular style, if they are fat use the horizontal style, whatever, use it and enjoy.
Disclaimer: Not written by Robert Tremblay
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Monday, June 28, 2010

I Got Chopped

Chopped (TV series)Image via Wikipedia
Last week, the episode of Chopped that I took part in back in January, aired on Food Network. And to be completely honest, the whole experience was different then I really expected it to be. I knew it was going to have a little more than just cooking. I mean it is TV and they need to make a show that has some drama and perhaps a little suspense to it. However I never really expected the producers to actually turn us all into characters acting out some type of culinary charade. Of the four contestants, everyone of us played our own little role, cause you had the "Tiny-Tim" character, the monkey that got chopped first, the underdog and then there was me: The "Glorified Douche bag". Now I'm not trying to say that I didn't say the things that i said. However, what I said came directly from what the producers wanted me to say. Not meaning that they told me what to say and I said it, however, during the interviews they were constantly egging you on to say something derogatory about the other contestants. And it's not as though, the entire act is played out over a couple of hours. The entire day lasted 16 hours. And there is just so much stress and pressure flying around you and through you that, you almost just say whatever they want to hear, just to make them go the hell away.

Nonetheless, I think overall I wasn't portrayed in the right way. Yes, a lot of what was shown, displayed me in a very stand-offish sort of way. However I feel at the end of the day I was fair to my competition, and that was not shown during the episode. For instance during the interview that followed Son's getting chopped, I told the interviewer that I would have preferred to get eliminated before him, out of respect for what he had been through health wise, and the fact that he was still pursuing his dream of cooking. Unfortunately, this was never put on air, and I was stuck with only the negative things that came out of my mouth. So i guess at the end of all of it, I am still not sure if the experience was really worth it at all.
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cow Power

Last week I took a little field trip up-state to Rally Farms in Millbrook, NY. Rally Farms, is a livestock-dealer. Which essentially means they do the same thing as a dog breeder, except they do it with cows... they artificially inseminate female cows and then raise the offspring so that they can be sold for slaughter and production. All in all, it's a pretty basic operation that they are running at the farm, however too me I found it very interesting because, I guess I never realized there was a middle man with regard to producing beef. I always assumed that the farms bred, raised and slaughtered their own animals. However, with regard to Rally Farms, they focus solely on producing the highest quality of cow that they can. Which they have been able to achieve through lineage. They do not use genetically modified DNA, but rather, they use the middle of the road live-stock to regenerate their cattle. Which means from one group of cattle coming from a given season, there are essentially three grades given to their animals. The farm sells the top grade and low grade cows for production, and keeps the middle of the road cows to continue extracting DNA to produce more cows. By doing this naturally, it takes years to file down and perfect the DNA strand so that they can produce a consistent, quality of product.

However, not every cow that the farm keeps, in order to produce more cows, successfully takes the artificial insemination. And this is where the whole process got very interesting for me. Because, on average between 10 and 20 percent of the female cows do not successfully receive the artificial insemination. In which case, the farm hands are forced to call in the reserves, or as they preferred to call him, "The Clean-Up Guy". Now lets just take a moment and reflect on this. We have cows being created through artificial insemination. Great; that works. And sometimes through no fault of their own, the female cows, or more lovingly known as the Heifers, just don't take the artificial stuff. They need the real thing. So the farm has a bull, called "The Clean-Up Guy", who is let loose into a pen, with the young heifer, so that he can finish the job the right way. And to be honest, for the week or so that's followed, I have not been able to get this burning image of a giant bull mounting a heifer out of my head. I mean, really? The "Clean-up Guy"?

I guess it is somewhat sad that, after getting to see first hand how the meat industry generates its product, the most profound thing that I was able to take away was an image of cows fucking. However, at the end of the day I truly was able to see an amazing thing. I got to see how a private farm in the heart of the Hudson valley can play such a major role in the Certified Angus Beef program. That 2,200 acres of land, less than a two hour drive from the heart of Manhattan, can be privately owned, and utilized as part of the keystone to our nations meat industry.
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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Grilled Bread

Grilled bread is what toast was supposed to be.

Even though it is technically the same idea; taking a piece of bread, and making it crispy and more flavorful. However when it comes to the execution of this idea, the two products come out remarkably different. With grilled bread there is just something special about it. Unlike toast, it holds a contrast in textures over seemingly the entire surface of the 2 inch rectangle. You have the charred, deep crunch of the grill marks, lightened by the tender and delicate white space that gets lost in between. And the same areas that generate the textures are also what produce the quality of the flavor. Because, to me grilled bread tastes dark... The grill marks produce that slight hint of bitterness that enlightens the sweet and salty flavors of the bread itself. Allowing it to become more than just crunchy bread. The bread becomes a vehicle for other flavors, textures and quite possibly, anything you could ever want to eat.

Which is quite possibly what I love most about it, that it has the ability to hold its character for an extended period of time and under an assortment of different accompaniments. The versaitility of grilled bread is unparalleled. This past weekend at Laconda Verde, a comfortable and fairly casual italian place in Tribeca, I was able to sample three different dishes utelizing grilled bread. One was sheep's milk ricotta, served with sea salt and herbs, the second was ruby red shrimp with cannellini beans and garlic, and the third was blue crab with jalepeno and tomato. All three applications were completely different, except for the uniting vehicle that helped deliver the amazing toppings into my mouth; the grilled bread.

So I guess it's safe to say that toast can't do what grilled bread can. It's as if toast is the little red-headed step child, and grilled bread is the real deal, who lettered in three sports in high school and used to take the prom queen to his car during lunch. A little harsh, however, toast just simply can not do what grilled bread can.
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Open Fire

I had the pleasure of escaping the bustle of NYC, for a tent and a stream. While my friends and I sat around the fire, and drank to many beers, we discussed many subjects. One being how wonderful food is when graced with the smokey scent of burning wood. What is it? Of course, it is that carnal feeling of sitting outside, kind of dirty, warmed by an open flame. It made us feel almost primal. But that is only part of it. A restaurant that cooks in a wood fired oven provides a similar satisfaction.
This is how man first cooked, before charcoal, gas, or oil. Wood is what they had. Maybe through genetics, the desire for these scents have stayed with the human race deep in the genealogy of our being. Is it the chemical change that occurs between cells, the smoke, and open heat? Yup, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created. These compounds, break down to form yet more new flavor compounds, and so on. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavor compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction and the addition of smoke. I am no scientist, so lets simplify it and just say that it is good. Plain and simple. It adds a nuance to food that artificial flame simply can never provide. People have tried to simulate it with poor products like liquid smoke, but it simply can not be matched. It is intrinsic.
So tis the season and get those grills out, be it on a fire escape, a hibachi inside a gutted air conditioner hanging out you're window, or a backyard, get to it because it makes even the most discernible diner happy!

Disclaimer: Not written by Robert Tremblay
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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ramen and I

Even though I’m quite possibly the furthest you can get from being Japanese. There is just something about ramen that makes me feel like I’m home. It’s like a warming of the soul in a lot of ways. Nothing too overly dramatic and romantic, but simple and loving, like nostalgia. It takes me back to the smell of my grandma’s house and the warmth and care of chicken broth simmering on her stove.
Recently at Ipuddo, one of my favorite places to go for ramen, I realized the true connection that I have with it. Because even in the midst of the zoo like atmosphere, where you have hundreds of people flying past you in the blink of a two hour wait, it becomes clear that it’s really just all about the soup. It’s the heat, steam, and aromas of the broth. The texture of the noodles and from the start of the first bite all the way through to the finish of the last slurp, it’s about the feeling it gives me. It’s about how even in the middle of a cultural collision from two very opposite sides of the spectrum; I am able to find this connection. I am able to find, quite simply, the love that gets put into ramen soup that makes it great! And why every time I dip my senses into a bowl of it, I’m always left with the feeling of satisfaction and home.
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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why am I here talking about how I live food? I think it's because I need an outlet to express my food experiences. Because, after 14 years of working in the industry as a cook and chef, in restaurants like Tabla, Morimoto and Eleven Madison Park, I have gained tremendous experience and perspective when it comes to food and how people interact with it. Not just with regard to the preparation and the rigorous psychotic ballet that cooking on a NYC line develops, but more importantly, I have gained perspective on how food interacts with people. That exchange, is what food in general is all about. It's about the process of experiencing food from start to finish and from culture to culture. And I think that is the story I want to tell with regard to how I live food. That it's not just about the cooking or the eating or even just the place that you call home... It's about the entire process, and the entire process on a global scale.

That is the relationship I want to focus on, because that relationship is how I live and interact with food. Its why I wake up every day and put on my chef whites, its the same reason I go to farmers markets, experience different restaurants around New York City and even travel abroad to places like China and Costa Rica. All of those things are a part of how I live food and that is the story I want to tell.
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