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Archive for the 'Food' Category

Monday, July 13th, 2015

My Killer Recipes for Two Sangrias — Natalie Berkowitz

The Winemaker's Hand

Now that we’re fully into summer what could be more timely than a recipe for sangria? And, who better to provide it than Natalie Berkowitz, author of The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique, and Terroir. Here you go:

A Victorian summer dinner was a formal affair offering a plethora of substantial courses. When heat and humidity strikes, modern palates cry out for lighter fare. It’s time to throw out antediluvian constraints of white wine with fish and red with meat and step up to new ideas. Opting for grilled meats, salads, fish, paella, and shore dinners of lobster and raw crustaceans. Red and white Sangria are refreshing additions to the pantheon of summer beverages.

Sangrias of all stripes are delightfully refreshing. Its latitude of no-fail ingredients is its great appeal because there is no definitive recipe. I’ve tinkered with choices for years, adding a dollop of this and a soupçon.

My special recipe for red sangria starts with pouring a bottle of a full-bodied red into a large pitcher: A Côtes de Rhone, Chianti, or classic Spanish Rioja works. In fact, any hearty red wine fills the bill. The addition of a substantial dash of orange juice, a cup of good, inexpensive brandy such as E & J or Christian Brothers adds a special kick. To build up additional flavors, add a tablespoon or two of sugar, (don’t make it sweet), and 6 ounces of club soda for sparkle. Fruit is an indispensable requirement. Slices of stone fruit, like peaches, nectarines, and plums together with cantaloupe and/or honeydew soak up the wine. and make a great stand-alone treat or topping on vanilla ice-cream. Allow the ingredients at to meld least an hour before serving.

White Sangria is an equally delicious, if less well-known alternative to its bolder red sibling. It’s so cool and enticing in a clear glass pitcher that it practically lowers the surrounding temperature. Start with a Sancerre, a fruity Sauvignon Blanc from Chile or Napa, a Vouvray from the France’s Loire Valley, or an Auslese Riesling from Germany or Alsace. (Chardonnay is too heavy for my tastebuds.) Add a cup of brandy, (see above), two or three tablespoons of Grand Marnier, a slug of peach nectar, club soda, green grapes and diced honeydew melon or cantaloupe. Serve over ice cubes as an aperitif or as a divine complement to sushi, sashimi, and grilled fish.

Use your imagination to make these inventive wines suit your taste.

Friday, June 5th, 2015

Matthew Smith on History and Understanding Food Allergy

We conclude our week-long feature on Matthew Smith’s Another Person’s Poison: A History of Food Allergy with, fittingly enough, the book’s conclusion. In it, Smith examines what history can tell us about food allergy as well as some of the missteps by other experts in understanding the rise of allergies:

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Matthew Smith on the Peanut Allergy

In the following video from the BBC, Matthew Smith, author of Another Person’s Poison: A History of Food Allergy, looks at what has become perhaps the most commonly discussed allergy: the peanut allergy.

Smith considers some of the explanations that have been offered for rise of peanut allergies. As he argues, many of these boil down to changes in modern life and perhaps peanut allergies are the price we pay for cleaner homes, fewer infections, and safer food:

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

What History Can Tell Us About Food Allergy — Matthew Smith

Another Person's Poison, Matthew Smith

“If we want to know anything about the health issues that face us today and will face us in future, the very first thing we should do is turn to the history of such issues.”—Matthew Smith

The following post is by Matthew Smith, author of Another Person’s Poison: A History of Food Allergy:

What can the history of medicine tell us about food allergy and other medical conditions?

An awful lot. History is essentially about why things change over time. None of our ideas about health or medicine simply spring out of the ground. They evolve over time, adapting to various social, political, economic, technological, and cultural factors. If we want to know anything about the health issues that face us today and will face us in future, the very first thing we should do is turn to the history of such issues. This is particularly important if we are dissatisfied with current ways of thinking about and treating particular conditions (as I have argued in the past with respect to ADHD or hyperactivity) or if we are bamboozled by the causes and deeper meaning of other conditions, such as food allergy. Otherwise, we are uninformed and highly likely to repeat the mistakes of the past.

A few weeks ago, my 16-month-old daughter broke out in spots. As the parents of two remarkably healthy children, my wife and I were bemused. Our first thought was that she may have come down with chicken pox, a real pain, but not the worst thing in the world. We looked up some of the early symptoms of chicken pox online, which appeared to confirm our suspicions and steeled ourselves for a week of scratching and crying.

The following morning however, the spots had disappeared. We were flummoxed. Could chicken pox be a 24-hour thing? No such luck. Then, I remembered that I was the author of a book on food allergy. Could it have been something she ate? I tried to think about what she had been eating and then it struck me: strawberries.

Scottish people are often maligned for never eating fruits or vegetables. While this is true for some people, the traditional Scottish diet is actually chock-full of healthy foods. The cold and rainy climate allows us to grow plenty of neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes), for instance, and there is also a thriving berry industry in places such as Perthshire, and strawberries are central to this. Every year, when the sun shows its face and the buds begin to emerge, the first punnets of strawberries emerge in supermarkets. And we dutifully buy them up, gobbling up strawberries as fast as we can.


Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Interview with Matthew Smith, author of Another Person’s Poison: A History of Food Allergy

“Do we really need to eat peanuts at AC/DC concerts? Of course not. We accommodate our society to be more livable for other vulnerable people, so I don’t see why we can’t for the severely allergic.”—Matthew Smith

The following is an interview with Matthew Smith, author of Another Person’s Poison: A History of Food Allergy

Question: What is a food allergy?

Matthew Smith: Well, that depends on who you ask. Allergy was originally defined in 1906 by Austrian pediatrician as “any form of altered reactivity,” a broad definition if there ever was. Early food allergists—and many still today—embraced this definition and described a wide variety of reactions to food, ranging from asthma and eczema to migraine headaches and hyperactivity, as allergy. More conservative allergists, however, chose to limit their definition of allergy to instances in which evidence of the immune system reacting against a foreign substance could be proven definitively. Since this is difficult to do for many food allergies, they believed that food allergy was much less common than their food allergists colleagues. Debates about this precise definition have fueled debates about food allergy for over a century.

Q: Do you have any food allergies?

MS: No, not a one. My children seem to get hives if they eat too many strawberries and my wife is allergic to penicillin, but I am, thankfully, food allergy-free. Unlike my previous books on hyperactivity, where I had a strong, personal connection to the topic, I was drawn to the history of food allergy primarily because it is so fascinating. I loved learning about immunology, not least because it is such a deeply personal facet of human physiology. On the surface, we all have immune systems that protect us from the same sorts of pathogens that we encounter in the environment. But at a deeper level, immunology is all about how the body distinguishes self from non-self, as Nobel Laureate Frank Macfarlane Burnet put it. For most people, the immune system sees food as “self” and takes no interest. But for the allergic, food is perceived as “non-self,” a threat that must be countered at all costs. The meaning of it all is bemusing, but also compelling.

Q: Why are rates of food allergy, and especially peanut allergy, increasing?

MS: No one knows. Many hypotheses have been put forth, but none have been conclusively proven, let alone explored in much depth, unfortunately. A few seem more plausible than others. If you think of when von Pirquet defined allergy, this was a time when children were getting vaccinated against once endemic infectious diseases and when improvements in water quality and sanitation mean that people weren’t habitually infected with helminthic parasites (worms). Perhaps with less to cope with, immune systems turned to something else. Similarly, the hygiene hypothesis speculates that children grow up in overly hygienic environments, meaning that their immune systems aren’t exposed to as many pathogens as before. More controversial theories implicate the peanut oil found in some vaccines and environmental pollutants. Of course, genetics play a role, too. I suspect that many factors are at play, as they are in other chronic conditions, but also believe that we need to spend more time investigating them.


Monday, June 1st, 2015

Book Giveaway! “Another Person’s Poison: A History of Food Allergy”

This week our featured book is Another Person’s Poison: A History of Food Allergy by Matthew Smith.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Another Person’s Poison to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, June 5th at 1:00 pm.

For more on the book you can read the introduction, “Witchcraft, a Fad, or a Racket”:

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Wine and Chocolate on Valentine’s Day. How Can You Go Wrong? — Natalie Berkowitz

Natalie Berkowitz, The Winemaker's Hand

“Some opine a glass of milk is the best complement to chocolate confections, but more adventuresome spirits will spring for a bottle of champagne, sparkling, or still wine that satisfies both his and her palates.”—Natalie Berkowitz

Still struggling to find that perfect Valentine’s Day gift? Natalie Berkowitz, author of The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique, and Terroir, has got you covered with her look at the perfect wines to go along with chocolate.

Chocoholics, those sweet-toothed confection addicts, would likely vote Valentine’s Day the year’s best holiday. Arguably the most popular square on the Hallmark calendar, February 14th is traditionally celebrated with fancy greeting cards, long-stemmed red roses and extravagant jewelry. But when lovers, either those in a new or a long-standing relationship, find diamonds and pearls not in the realm of possibility, bonbons are a more practical and yummy alternative. Of course, real chocoholics don’t wait for a special holiday to indulge.

If the wrong chocolates can be an uninspired gift, it only takes a modicum of imagination to go beyond the ubiquitous heart-shaped box covered with red cellophane. It’s worth the extra effort to say “I love you” with luxurious artisanal chocolates.

Artisanal is the new, hot buzzword that covers a wide variety of products from cheese to chocolate. Artisanal chocolates are separated from the commercial by their producers’ dedication to freshness, high-quality ingredients and attention to detail. Those of us familiar with the flavor of ordinary commercial chocolates will be surprised by the experience of sensual, hand-crafted, preservative-free bonbons. Hand-made chocolates cast in imaginative shapes and decorated artistically seduce the eye as well as the tongue. Artisanal producers choose dark cacao beans from various geographic regions around the world, each with its own special flavor profile. Then luscious fruit and crunchy nut fillings take our taste buds to another level. Fine chocolates have consistent color and a satiny sheen, both of which are destroyed if refrigerated or kept longer than a month. Dark chocolate is nudging milk chocolate out of first place, making it the current flavor choice of consumers who look for a high butterfat content ranging between 61 to 72 percent and, happily, a lower caloric content since it contains less sugar and milk.

These treasures are guaranteed to warm a beloved’s heart, but to double the pleasure of Sweetheart’s Day pair the sweetest gift of all with a special wine. Some opine a glass of milk is the best complement to chocolate confections, but more adventuresome spirits will spring for a bottle of champagne, sparkling, or still wine that satisfies both his and her palates. There are many heaven-sent partners guaranteed to transform an ordinary experience into an indulgent happening.

A good wine shop can help customers explore the adventuresome possibilities of serving chocolate with sparking wine and champagne, still or rare dessert wine, brandy, liqueur, Prosecco, port, sherry, and whisky. Carry out the day’s pink and red theme with a Rosé bubbly: Napa Valley’s Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine or Perrier Jouët non-vintage Rosé from France. Try the Italian sparkler, Mionetto Prosecco or a full-flavored, intense reds still wine. Try an aristocratic Bolla Amarone della Valpolicella for lush, port-like richness. Warre’s light tawny Port, served slightly chilled, is an excellent companion to chocolate. Graham’s Ports, ranging in price, fit the bill with their excellent finesse and character. One chocolatier votes for Sandeman Founder’s Reserve port as a luxurious partner with dark chocolate, but he considers Eiswein as its truest mate.

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Mastering the Restaurant Wine List — Natalie Berkowitz

The Winemaker's Hand

“Think of a new wine as a blind date. While you might not want to make it permanent, a relationship with a new varietal or label need only last for an evening. Conversely, it might be love at first sight, something worthwhile going out with it again.”—Natalie Berkowitz

The following post is by Natalie Berkowitz, author of The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique, and Terroir. (Save 30% on The Winemaker’s Hand by using the coupon code WINBER when ordering from our site.)

Wine lists make people nervous, especially newcomers to the world of wine. It’s impossible for anyone, including masters of wines (dare I make such a challenging statement?) to be familiar with every label from every wine region around the world. A leather-bound tome chock-full of choices is sure to cause an uncomfortable jolt, even to sophisticated enophiles. A difficult burden lies on the individual at the table who is called on to make the choice and others at the table are relieved to be free of the task. Generally speaking most selections will be perfectly suitable.

It’s good to take control sometimes, particularly in the company of a big spender with deep pockets who always picks the foie gras supplement on the menu and who equates high price with quality. Equally troublesome is the cheapskate. Whoever the burden falls on whether the most initiated, most willing or conscripted, remember the moderation is the key word. To paraphrase Shakespeare, neither a miser nor spendthrift be. Be considerate of other people’s wallets. Target middle-priced wines, not the cheapest on the list or the most expensive. If the restaurant is ethnic, it’s a good idea to pick wines of the region.

Complications arise when two or more people order different appetizers or main courses. The conventional wisdom is “red with meat and white with poultry or fish,” but that doesn’t help under those circumstances. And then, rules are meant to be broken. Particular preferences, allergies or prejudices compound the issue. When making a choice gets out of hand, a simple solution is to order wine by the glass or a bottle each of a red and a white wine.

Here are some helpful tips:

Rely on the sommelier for assistance in choosing a wine. Perhaps the most important relationship in a restaurant is the one between customer and sommelier. Today’s increasingly complex menu preparations require an avid partnership between the master of the kitchen and the keeper of the wine cellar. The first order of business for the latter is to develop a sympathetic understanding of the chef’s culinary creations. Unfortunately, it is rare to find professionals in kitchen and dining room who overcome their territorial turfs and often-oversized egos. The sommelier theoretically should play a supporting role to the chef, becoming intimately involved with the philosophy and tastes of what comes through the kitchen’s swinging doors. Yet the best interests of customers are served when the two work in harmony to determine the best match between wine and food.

What assistance should restaurant patrons expect from sommeliers? Suggestions for a satisfactory wine and food pairing. Help deciphering a wine list loaded with unfamiliar labels and varietals from wine regions around the world. (Ah, for the simpler days of red- sauced Italian food and Chianti poured from straw-covered bottles.)

In the absence of a sommelier, realize there are friendly varietals. A well-crafted Sauvignon blanc can display a range of flavors that generally is a crowd-pleaser. Merlot is currently at the head of the pack in the red wine category and while it was often the axiom that Cabernet sauvignons were difficult to drink young, new techniques of vinification make them more accessible. Silky Pinot noirs are a great choice for four disparate dinners. Spicy, perky red Zinfandels (not the white kind that are too sweet to go with food) or well-crafted, un-oaked Chardonnays fit the bill. Argentinean Malbecs are quite the current rage as an excellent match with hearty foods.


Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Doughnuts as Thanksgiving Food and the Early History of the Holiday in NYC

Gastropolis, Thanksgiving in New York City

As many of us begin to prepare our turkeys and other fixings, we turn to a surprising chapter in the history of Thanksgiving food when doughnuts made an appearance on the holiday plate:

In his chapter, “The Food and Drink of New York from 1624 to 1898,” from Gastropolis: Food and New York City, Andrew Smith describes the role both George Washington and doughnuts have played in how the holiday has been celebrated in New York City:

Although it had originated in New England, [Thanksgiving] was quickly adopted in communities throughout New York. Indeed, it was in New York City that President George Washington issued the first presiden­tial thanksgiving proclamation, which set aside Thursday, November 26, 1789, as a day of prayer and thanksgiving. New York was one of the first states outside New England to declare Thanksgiving an official holiday. In 1795, John Jay, the governor of New York, tried to establish a statewide thanksgiving day, and in 1817 it was finally recognized as a state holiday. Thanksgiving was celebrated with what is now considered the traditional meal of turkey, apple pie, mince pie, and cranberries; New Yorkers often added doughnuts and crullers to the menu. Thanksgiving holiday remained an important holiday throughout the nineteenth century. The Ladies Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church opened a mission in the gang-infested Five Points District, and on Thanksgiving Day, under the eyes of their bene­factors, the ladies paraded and fed hundreds of Sunday-school students.

Monday, November 24th, 2014

How to Cook Your Thanksgiving Turkey in the Dishwasher!? Herve This Explains

Thanksgiving, Turkey

“Use the dishwasher! For the next holiday meal, I recommend that you prepare two turkeys. Cook one in the dishwasher, in a plastic bag, for several cycles of your machine.”—Herve This

With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, we thought we provide some more practical (or somewhat practical) advice on cooking a turkey from none other than Hervé This, most recently the author of Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food.

In a 2010 interview with Nature, This suggested the dishwasher as a possible cooking method:

Q: Another professional technique is to cook food for long periods at low temperatures in a vacuum-sealed bag. How might a home chef emulate this ‘sous-vide’ method?

Herve This: Use the dishwasher! For the next holiday meal, I recommend that you prepare two turkeys. Cook one in the dishwasher, in a plastic bag, for several cycles of your machine. In this way, you can get low temperatures. Butterfly the other turkey and cook it on the grill, creating the maximum expanse of delicious crispy skin. Then serve the moist, flavourful meat from the dishwasher turkey with the grilled skin. A good accompaniment would be foie gras, also cooked in the dishwasher at low temperature.

Now for those not comfortable with Maytag cuisine, here is an excerpt from Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking, also by Hervé This, on the science of roasting a turkey:

Since it is juicy, tender meat that we want, it is clear why there is no question of opening the oven while the meat is roasting. The water vapor that is released in a limited quantity could escape and then be replaced by the vaporization of a certain quantity of the juices. Opening the oven dries out the turkey. Neither, however, should one humidify the oven before putting the turkey in. In the presence of too much water, the surface water cannot evaporate, and the skin will not get crispy.

Having thus resolved the problem of the surface, the serious problem of tenderness within remains. We cannot disappoint our guests, who fear the pro­verbial dryness of the turkey.

Since tenderness results necessarily from the deterioration of the connec­tive tissue, let us consider this tissue. It principally contains three kinds of pro­teins: collagen, already discussed many times, reticulin, and elastin. Neither reticulin or elastin are notably altered by the heat of the oven, but the triple helixes of the collagen molecules can be broken up and form gelatin, which is soft when it is in water, as we all know.

Calculating the cooking time requires some skill, because the denaturation of the collagen and the coagulation of the muscle proteins (actin and myosin, mainly) take place at different temperatures and different speeds in the different parts of the turkey. It is necessary to know that the temperature of 70° (158°F) is essential for transforming the collagen into gelatin and tenderizing the mus­cles. But the longer the turkey remains at a high temperature, the more water it loses and the more its proteins risk coagulating. The optimal cooking time, consequently, is the minimum time it takes to attain the temperature of 70°C (158°F) at the center of the turkey.


Friday, November 7th, 2014

Ten of Yong Chen’s Memorable Food Experiences in China

In Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, Yong Chen explores the rise of Chinese food in America and how it became ubiquitous in the American gastronomic landscape. In today’s post, he gives ten of his most memorable experiences dining in China, from specific restaurants to types of dishes.

Ten of Yong Chen’s Memorable Food Experiences in China

1. Ginkgo Sichuan Restaurant, 12 Linjiang Middle Rd Wuhou, Chengdu, Sichuan, China, 610041; 1+ 86 28 8555 5588
For people looking for great food and legendary restaurants in the United States, there are well-known destinations, such as the Napa Valley region and New Orleans. Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, is such as destination in China. It does not have globally renowned celebrity chefs like Thomas Keller and Emeril Lagasse, but it does boast a world famous cuisine and countless fabulous dining establishments. Ginkgo Sichuan Restaurant is one of the best of these establishments. The duck smoked with tea leaves is one its specialties. The skin is crispy, and the seasoning nicely brings out the delicate flavor. Its dan dan noodle soup and the Sichuan-style dumplings uphold the reputation of such signature traditional Sichuan dishes.

2. Donkey Pie
“There is dragon meat in heaven; and there is donkey meat on earth.” I had never heard of this saying or tasted donkey meat until my first visit to China’s Hebei Province in 2009. Donkey meat is a local favorite. A wide range of donkey meat dishes can be found in restaurants: hot pot donkey meat, clay pot donkey, strewed donkey meat, donkey intestines, and donkey penis. A particularly popular food is the donkey pie. It is similar to a sandwich, consisting ground or finely sliced donkey meat between two buns with green onions and other vegetable. But all of the donkey pie is baked with the stuffing. It tastes better than a typical American beef sandwich. Numerous local people proudly told me that donkey was healthier than beef. (Scientific research actually does show, for example, that the total mineral content is higher in donkey meat than in beef.)

3. Mushrooms in Yunnan
Another great destination for unforgettable food experiences, Yunnan is a southern Chinese province, bordering Tibet and Sichuan provinces and Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. Lateral-spatially, it has three climate zones: temperate zone, sub-tropical, and tropical, as well as mountains that are perennially covered by snow. The province’s extraordinary biodiversity has created a rich culinary tradition and a multitude of foodstuffs. One of my memorable experiences in Yunnan comes from savoring a multitude of mushrooms.

One of them is ji cong, or the termite mushroom. When put in a stir fry or soup, it adds a lingering savory taste to the dish. Song rong (matsutake) is a delicacy, used almost solely as a flavor enhancer in upscale Japanese restaurants in California. But in restaurants in Yunnan you can order stir fry dishes, soups, and hot pots that feature this mushroom as the main ingredient. Domestic production of song rong has driven down the price significantly. Another mushroom to taste is the morel mushroom, known locally as yang du jun or sheep belly mushroom because of its shape. Local people told me that it is one of the most expensive mushrooms in Yunnan because its production has not been domesticated. A local friend in the city of Lijiang generously invited me to a hot pot dinner highlighting this delicacy. However, for both economic and gastronomic reasons, it is better used in small quantities in soups or stir fry dishes. Lately, my wife and I have discovered that it is best when made as a morel mushroom risotto. (more…)

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Yong Chen’s Ten Favorite Chinese Restaurants in America

In Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, Yong Chen explores the rise of Chinese food in America and how it became ubiquitous in the American gastronomic landscape. In today’s post, he lists and describes his ten favorite Chinese restaurants in the U.S., and offers some advice on dining in a Chinese restaurant.

Yong Chen’s Ten Favorite Chinese Restaurants in America

This is a list of some of my personal favorites, rather than an attempt to rank the top ten among all the more than 30,000 Chinese restaurants in America. Taste is highly subjective, shaped by a wide range of socioeconomic and geographical factors as well as personal preferences and backgrounds. Those who have attempted to rank Chinese restaurants can seldom achieve a consensus. In 2012 CNN, for example, came up with a list of the best 50 Chinese restaurants in the United States. Many Chinese food lovers would find several of its selections quite questionable. Among them, Class 302, a decent Taiwanese style establishment that started first in Rowland Heights, California, is a great place for shredded/shaved ice but it would not make my list of top Chinese restaurants.

[Note: tips on dining in a Chinese restaurant.
1. If you are in a non-Chinese neighborhood and want “authentic” Chinese food namely, the kind of Chinese food that the Chinese like to eat, always ask for a pair of chopsticks.
2. Talk to the servers and ask if they have a menu in Chinese (it helps even if you do not read Chinese). Try to order at least one dish in Chinese.
3. Find a restaurant with Chinese customers inside. But do not be fooled by a token Chinese person sitting by the window (I was unconsciously made to play that role several times).
4. If you want plain rice, order it steamed, not fried.]

1. Blue Ginger, 583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482; (781) 283-5790.
I cannot claim that I know which Chinese restaurant is the best in metropolitan Boston. Before my 2004 trip there, I had heard a great deal about Blue Ginger. I went there with a friend from China, and we both were very satisfied with its service, décor, and food. The chef owner, Ming Tsai, graciously came out to greet us. My favorite was the tender butterfish marinated in sake and miso. My friend liked his grilled Long Island duck breast with Asian duck confit, but he asked: “Do you consider this a Chinese restaurant?” Indeed, if there is something Chinese about the restaurant, it is well hidden in the background. The restaurant represents the creative efforts of Chinese American chefs to blend Asian food with other cuisines.

2. Tommy Toy’s Cuisine Chinoise, 655 Montgomery St., San Francisco, CA 94111.
San Francisco is where Chinese restaurants first started in America. The Bay Area remains an area for great Chinese food. Tommy Toy’s was an interesting restaurant because it was one of the few Chinese establishments to serve traditional Chinese food in a fine dining environment and charge find dining price – the two things that few other Chinese restaurants have been able to do (see chapter seven of Chop Suey, USA, for more discussions). But in early 2013 the restaurant ended its twenty-seven-year run, revealing how difficult it still is for Chinese food to climb up the gastronomical hierarchy.

3. Cheng Du Tian Fu (Heavenly City of Chengdu), 41-28 Main Street, Flushing, New York.
For Chinese food lovers, metropolitan New York is another exciting place. Manhattan’s Chinatown and the other Chinese communities in the area offer a great diversity of food representing different regions in China. In New York proper, culinary connoisseurs can have unforgettable dining experiences in several upscale establishments like the dazzlingly decorated restaurant Buddakan. The multiple-course banquet that the documentary film maker Julia Marchesi invited me to in Mr. K’s, in the summer of 2011, rivaled the signature dinner at Tom Toy’s.

But I have found even more interesting Chinese food in small places. One of them is Cheng Du Tian Fu in Flushing’s Golden Mall. The food at the little basement stall is almost as spicy as that in the provincial capital of Sichuan. When I dined there early in 2011, I was surprised to see two European visitors. “Why are you guys here?” My curiosity made me almost rude. “We read an article in the New York Times.” The Times article they remembered, as I found out later, was a piece published by Julia Moskin back in 2008 (in her article, she described several dining stores in the basement food court of the Golden Mall but not Cheng Du Tian Fu, which was discussed by Joe DiSefano in “Off the Beaten Path” Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing”). Among the dishes I tried, the dan dan noodle ($4) and ox tongue & tripe ($6) were more than worth the money, reminiscent of the same dishes in Chengdu. The most famous dish was the “hot spicy soup” – a dish consisting of vegetables and other ingredients boiled in pork stock served with spicy sauce. Served by numerous restaurants in Flushing, it represented the increasingly popularity of simple local foods from China in a fast changing community.


Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

How Well Do You Know Your Chop Suey and Other Questions about Chinese Food

You might have memorized the menu from your local Chinese restaurant but how well do you know the history of Chinese food? Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge based on material from Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, by Yong Chen:

ProProfs – Chop Suey, USA

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

A Recipe for Chop Suey from Chop Suey, USA

Chop Suey

In Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, Yong Chen explores the rise of Chinese food in America and how it became ubiquitous in the American gastronomic landscape. Epitomized by chop suey, American Chinese food was a forerunner of McDonald’s, democratizing the once-exclusive dining-out experience for such groups as marginalized Anglos, African Americans, and Jews.

Chen writes, “When Chinese restaurants started to venture outside Chinatowns, chop suey became the most famous line of dishes. It remained a synonym of America’s Chinese food for decades. However, its origin has been shrouded in mystery. Cooking it can help us better understand this simple and versatile traditional Chinese dish, which has be­come a quintessential American story.” With this in mind, here is a recipe for chop suey, one of several recipes included in the book:

Pork Chop Suey
Serves 1 or 2

2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp light soy sauce
dash of black pepper
1 lb lean pork, sliced into thin strips
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped green onion
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp salt
3 cups sliced napa cabbage
4 cups (soy) bean sprouts
1 /3 cup diced celery
1 cup shredded carrot
4 button mushrooms, cut into wedges
1 /2 cup chicken broth

Mix the cornstarch, sugar, water, rice wine, sesame oil, soy sauce, and black pepper in a bowl. Add the pork and marinate for 1 hour. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a wok or nonstick frying pan, and add the green onion and garlic. Stir for about 10 seconds.

Add the marinated pork. Stir until cooked. Transfer it to a clean con­tainer and set aside. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil, and add the salt and then the cabbage, bean sprouts, celery, carrot, and mushrooms. Stir for 2 minutes or until almost cooked. Put the pork back in the wok and add the chicken stock. Stir thoroughly and bring to a boil.

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Book Giveaway! Chop Suey, USA

This week our featured book is Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America by Yong Chen.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Chop Suey, USA to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, November 7 at 1:00 pm.

American diners began to flock to Chinese restaurants more than a century ago, making Chinese food the first mass-consumed cuisine in the United States. By 1980, it had become the country’s most popular ethnic cuisine. Chop Suey, USA offers the first comprehensive interpretation of the rise of Chinese food, revealing the forces that made it ubiquitous in the American gastronomic landscape and turned the country into an empire of consumption.

Read the chapter “Chop Suey, the Big Mac of the Pre-McDonald’s Era”:

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

An Evening with Herve This and Note-By-Note Cooking

Herve This and Adam Gopnik discuss

Hervé This is in town this week, so for those who couldn’t make it to his various events, here’s an account of his recent appearance at the Columbia Maison Française to discuss Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food. And you can still catch him later today at the Institute of Culinary Education

“Molecular cooking is over—it’s for grandfathers!” Hervé This exclaimed on Monday night at the Maison Française on the Columbia University campus. This is in town this week to promote his new book, Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food, published by Columbia University Press. The event was moderated by Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker, who started out the night by declaring that even the Cronut™ isn’t revolutionary in the face of note-by-note cooking.

Hervé This introduced his novel concept by describing a carrot as a sum of its constituent parts—water, cellulose, aminos, minerals—and asked that the audience begin to think of these components as similar to the notes of a song. He claims we can cook food just as a musician writes a melody on a synthesizer (the end result could fall anywhere between Jingle Bells and Rachmaninoff, a candy bar or a truffle sauce). Note-by-note cooking, therefore, is about building, not deconstructing food. This implored the audience to “forget about the word natural” as no cooked food is natural (think of a French fry in relation to a wild potato). Instead we must value the artificial for its inherent “art” and recognize that there will be both good art and bad art.

The audience was clearly entranced by the idea, but everyone wondered how to do it? Hervé answered by describing a typical weeknight dinner he cooks for his family: a tough cut of meat braised for many hours in a low oven with a few drops of truffle compound for a sauce. (He sometimes adds a drop or two of syrah compound to make a red wine reduction.) Even though the compounds have been highly processed, the terroir of the mushrooms and the grapes still comes through and “makes his family smile.” He described the note-by-note kitchen of the future as one full of beautiful lacquered boxes with maybe 10 aminos, 20 pungencies, 30 colors…in addition to bags of flour and jars of paprika.


Monday, October 20th, 2014

Herve This Is Bringing Note-by-Note Cooking to the USA!

Herve This, Note-by-Note Cooking

After spending a week reading about Herve This’s Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food, now’s your chance to see the dynamic chemist as he comes to New York and Boston for a series of great events, beginning this Friday!:

Friday, October 24 at 6:00 pm
Boston University Jacques Pepin Lecture Series in Gastronomy and Experiential Food Studies

Saturday, October 25, 2014 at 12:30 pm
Boston Book Festival/Alliance Francaise de Boston

Monday, October 27, 2014 at 6:00 pm
Columbia University Maison Française
Columbia University’s Maison Française presents Herve This, Michael Laiskonis, and Adam Gopnik in conversation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 6:00 pm
Albertine Bookstore at the French Embassy
The discussion will be followed by a tasting prepared by Chef and Creative Director of the Institute of Culinary, Michael Laiskonis.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm
Institute for Culinary Education

Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 5:00 pm
Experimental Cuisine Collective at New York University

Friday, October 31, 2014 at 12:00 PM
Culinary Institute of America

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Video: Herve This takes us into His Lab to Show Us Note-By-Note Cooking

We conclude our week-long feature on Note-by-Note Cuisine: The Future of Food, by Hervé This, with this great video via the BBC. This takes us into his lab/kitchen to discuss and show us how to cook using the principles of note-by-note cooking and how to employ compounds into your dishes! Happy viewing and Bon Appétit!

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Herve This on Why Note-by-Note Cooking Is Good for the Future of Food

“Thanks to note-by-note cooking, we have a whole new slew of cooking possibilities in front of us as well as new consistencies, new odors, new tastes, and new flavors.”—Hervé This

Herve This, Note-by-Note CookingThe following is a post by Hervé This, author of Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food. (For more on the book, you can also read an excerpt or an interview with Hervé This):

Fittingly, Columbia University Press added “the future of food” on the cover of my new book since note-by-note cooking is truly the future of food and more and more chefs are exploring and employing its techniques in their cooking.

If you look to the current developments of culinary art, you don’t see much novelty except note-by-note cooking. Wild plants? The eminent French chef Michel Michel Bras has been cooking them for decades. Molecular cooking? Even if you call it “science-based cooking”, or “modernist cooking”, or “techno-emotional cooking” (what is this need to give more names when one was already given?), that was proposed as early as the 1980′s!

Yes, there is no newer proposal for culinary art than note-by-note cooking, and we are living a very exciting time. Thanks to note-by-note cooking, we have a whole new slew of cooking possibilities in front of us as well as new consistencies, new odors, new tastes, and new flavors.


Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Interview with Herve This, author of “Note-by-Note Cooking”

Herve This, Note-By-Note CookingThe following is an interview with Hervé This, author of Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food:

“All food is ‘artificial’! Do you think that barbecue meat hangs ‘naturally’ on the trees of the wild forest?”—Hervé This

Question: How does note-by-note cooking differ from molecular gastronomy?

Herve This: Molecular gastronomy is a scientific activity, not to be confused with molecular cooking. Indeed, molecular gastronomy, being science, has nothing to do with cooking. In other words, science is not about making dishes. Science looks for the mechanism of phenomena. That’s all. And technology uses the results of science to improve technique. So, note-by-note cooking is a technique.

Another question could be, how is note-by-note cooking different from molecular cooking? And here the answer would be that the definition of molecular cooking is “to cook using modern tools” (such as siphons, liquid nitrogen, etc.). But you still use meat, vegetables, etc. However, with note-by-note cooking, the instruments are not important, and the big revolution is to cook with pure compounds, instead of meat, vegetables, fruits, eggs, etc.

Q: Where does the name Note-by-Note Cooking come from?

HT: In 1999, when I introduced the name “molecular cooking,” I was upset, because it was a bad choice, which had to be made for many complex reasons. Unfortunately, people now confuse molecular gastronomy and molecular cooking. So, For note-by-note cooking, I wanted a name that could appeal to artists and it’s fair to say that note-by-note cooking is comparable to a term such as electro-acoustic music.

Q: Won’t not-by-note cooking produce artificial forms of food?

HT: Yes, but all food is “artificial”! Do you think that barbecue meat hangs “naturally” on the trees of the wild forest? Or that French fries appear suddenly from potatoes? No, you need a cook, to make them. In ordinary language, “natural” means “what was not transformed by human beings”, and “artificial” means that it was transformed, it was the result of human “art”.

Instead of “artificial,” it is better to think of “synthetic”, and again in this sense, note by note is synthetic in a similar way as electro-acoustic music. But just listen to the radio and synthesizers are everywhere, often with sometimes beautiful sounds. Moreover, in art, the scope of what is possibile increases with more choices. And more choice is better!