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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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