Tag Archives: food

Quince – Sweet Briar Herb Farm

Indeed, it has been quite a while since I’ve last posted.

My wife Kaitlyn and I recently moved out to Washington to work on an organic farm. I currently sit inside Olympia Coffee Roasters, enjoying the smells and atmosphere, and am excited to share the first in a series of videos Kaitlyn and I will be producing for our own enjoyment as well as the forthcoming Sweet Briar website.

This video is about a recent harvest of Quince, a hard, sour, tree-growing fall fruit that must be cooked in order to be edible.

Enjoy!

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One Year (plus a few days)

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I realised a few days late that I’ve been working on this blog for a year and nearly six days. When I started this blog I simply intended to write about the experience of eating and the communal implications that accompany the meal. After finishing my Theology degree with a nine month long project on the theology of food and eating, the communal meal has become so much more than a bite to eat with friends or, as incredible as it is, a time to build relationships with others. The ethos of the communal meal, and I mean a community that extends beyond the immediate table members as well and particularly, has become a way of life for me that is ever expanding, holistic, and encompasses all areas of life.

I have eaten at many delicious restaurants this year, cooked many incredible foods, made lots of culinary mistakes and many successes as well. I’ve gone vegan, decided to pursue the tiny house lifestyle with Kaitlyn, and have set many goals for ourselves that emphasise a communal bonding that, for me personally, simply started at the table.

Thinking before you chew can be quite the dangerous exercise.

Thanks to anyone who actually read this blog this year! It is greatly appreciated. More posts soon to come!

~Cooper

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Going Vegan?!

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I can’t say this with complete certainty, but I think that I may have been secretly intrigued by the vegetarian, or more ‘radically,’ the vegan diet for a long time. Whenever someone drops the word ‘vegan’ in particular, a cloud of mysticism-induced wonder passes over my eyes as I simultaneously venerate such a ‘radical’ lifestyle while wondering how the heck anyone could ever possibly live that way.

My brother has been a vegetarian for a few years now and has never passed up the opportunity to distribute subtle pejorative hints regarding America’s pervasive omnivorous diet. Or, let’s face it, carnivorous diet. My brother began cooking his own meals when I was still in high school and has eaten Tofurky for Thanksgiving the last few years. His involvement in vegetarianism always got me thinking more about adopting a similar diet, but I always had numerous ways to justify still eating meat:

1. I freaking love bacon.
2. I freaking love charcuterie.
3. The animal is already dead – If I don’t eat it, its life would have ended in vain.
4. Vegetarian food is not readily available in America.
5. Follow up to no. 4, I’m secretly just too lazy to put time into finding delicious vegetarian food.
6. What about going out to dinner with friends? What if the restaurant doesn’t have vegetarian options (or only a lame risotto)?
8. MY FAVOURITE FOOD IS SUSHI!

I am sure there are other reasons not to be vegetarian, but there are even more reasons not to be vegan:

1. chocolate.
2. cheese.
3.  ice cream.
4. cookies.
5. cake.
6. bagels with cream cheese.
7. gelato.
8. semifreddo.
9. basically any baked good.
10. And for good measure, think of anything that has milk or eggs in it and immediately rule it out of your diet.

So I imagine that given these numerous (and incredibly convincing) reasons to maintain my self-indulgent (though honestly sophisticated and finely-tuned) omnivorous diet one would be rather surprised to hear my official announcement that I have decided to adopt a vegan diet.

That’s right. I’m ‘going vegan.’

Now before you scream about ice cream, cookies, and sushi, I would like to make what I believe is a truly convincing attempt at justifying this decision.

I first considered extending my gastrocentric lifestyle to veganism a few days after I graduated college (around May 5 or 6). I had been working on my senior theological studies thesis project about theology of food and sacramental eating. A large part of my research investigated how ‘healthy’ eating habits (particularly eating locally-sourced, organic, and free-range foods) can help promote the development of healthy community between humans, nature, and God. However, destructive eating habits (particularly eating processed foods, cheaply produced foods, or anything produced by factory farms or agribusinesses) destroys community between humans, nature, and God. Eating is a fundamentally spiritual yet significantly socio-political exercise, so destructive eating destroys the overall well-being of people, animals, and all nature.

This got me thinking more about my diet. Since I started the project in August of 2012 I had been more conscious of what I was eating. My wife and I ditched Aldi and started buying more organic and fresh stuff from Woodman’s Market. I even decided to try eating only free-range organic meats.

At the same time my Bible and Theology friends Nate and Josiah along with their roommate Lukasz were considering vegetarianism/veganism as well, having come out of a recent Environmental Theology class.

Regrettably, this attempt was primarily in vain. Anywhere I ate meat I knew for sure it was not going to be local or free-range or organic.

So my research and problems with food sourcing were on my mind a whole heck of a lot. I was considering vegetarianism when my friend Kaia told me that dairy contributes to many negative health effects but primarily has quite negative implications for allergies. I did some more research and discovered that the milk protein Casein causes the body to create more allergen-trapping mucous while contributing to tissue inflammation. I decided then to cut dairy out of my diet because my seasonal allergies could be a helpful tool for the Spanish Inquisition’s torture strategies.

Well, if I am going to cut dairy out of my diet, to me it logically follows that this would be a great time to cut meat out as well.

A few days later my wife Kaitlyn and I moved in with Kaia and her husband Josh for a few weeks. Kaia is a vegan-leaning vegetarian, so staying at her house made the transition a bit easier. She also introduced Kaitlyn and I to a wonderful documentary called Forks over Knives that demonstrated the problems with eating animal products while describing how a plant-based, whole foods diet provides a quick solution to these meaty problems. It turns out humans weren’t really designed physiologically to process animal products. This biological aversion to meat has serious implications on human health, not to mention the environment. By eating a vegan diet, you can reduce your risk of cancer and actually reverse the effects of lots of different health problems (high blood pressure, cholesterol, digestive problems, energy problems, etc. You should just watch the doc – it’s on Netflix!)

I ate my last meat meal at a Chicago restaurant called The Purple Pig. I had been planning this restaurant-outing with my dad for a while and figured it would be a wonderful ‘Last Supper,’ so to speak. Purple Pig is famous and highly rated in Chicago, and it was fantastic. The charcuterie was fresh, the ingredients balanced, and everything was delicious and rich. Might as well eat the best possible if I’m not going back to it. Since I’ve been eating vegan, I honestly don’t really miss meat.

The bigger struggle for me is actually not eating dairy. I consider(ed) myself a connoisseur of fine chocolates and cheeses AND ICE CREAM!, but now I can’t really eat that stuff. Thankfully I’ve found alternatives to not only chocolate and cheese but desserts in general. Plus, it is really easy to keep making your favourite baking recipes but simply use coconut oil instead of butter and almond milk instead of milk. It actually tastes better and has an excellent texture. Plus, ’tis a lot healthier.

Anyway, I’ve been straight vegan for a good three weeks now. I still eat organic honey and organic cage-free eggs because neither ingredient is super bad for you and neither ingredient really destroys the livelihood of the creatures that produce them (including human workers and the environment). Thankfully I’ve been a cooking addict for the past four years. Kaitlyn and I have found some great vegetarian recipes since being married is closely associated with being poor. I find vegan cooking so much more interesting and exciting than cooking meat because it takes a different level of creativity, knowledge of flavours, and ingenuity to make a fun and delicious dish. Plus, I’m pretty sure seitan is the best thing ever. Unless you’re allergic to gluten, then sucks to be you 😉 If you love cooking, eating vegan is not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be at first. Restaurants are also much more vegan friendly than you might expect. Overall, this a lifestyle change that I definitely do not regret making and will certainly stick with it indefinitely. Amen and amen.

Photo: black bean patty with spinach, sprouts, tomato, avocado, dijon mustard on a whole wheat bun. By Kaitlyn Newberry

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Eating Thai Chili

Here is my first ever ‘video blog’ for Foodinthesense. A while back I got some thai chili – one of my favourite peppers for flavour and seasoning – for making daily stir fry and other fun foodie randomness. So one fine day I took it upon myself to eat some raw. In strict accordance with the ancient Greek mindset of striving to experience all things at least once, I ate three.

And here is my dear brother’s loving video response:

All in good fun.

So go out and get some chili I guess. Good stuff.

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Communio Sanctorum: The Theology of Food

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Hello everyone. It is my distinct pleasure to announce that my senior research project, the culmination of my four years of higher education, is complete. I started this blog almost a year ago with the intent to write not only about my adventures with food, experiments with recipes, and the overall wonder that cuisine incites in me, but also to describe the theological, philosophical, and spiritual implications of eating. I began my research project with the desire to write about “the Theology of Food” in relationship to the church sacrament of the Eucharist (or the Last Supper). Over the course of nearly nine months of work it evolved into an intensive study on sacramental eating, church practise, and agrarianism.

It is therefore my distinct honour to present to you for your intellectual pleasure my theological studies thesis dissertation entitled “Communio Sanctorum: Sacramental Eating for the Body of Christ in an Industrial Age.” In this dissertation I place theologians Norman Wirzba and John Howard Yoder in dialoge to assert that churches must adopt ‘sacramental’ eating habits in order to embody the mission established by Jesus in his exemplary life.

Note: this is quite long. If you like reading long stuff, eat this up. But if not, don’t start reading it. Also, ©2013 Cooper Flatoff. Yeah. You’ve been warned. One more thing: special thanks to Norman Wirzba (who actually emailed me!) and, rest his soul, John Howard Yoder. You guys wrock theology hardcore.

Here we go.

ATTENTION: I HAVE REMOVED THE CONTENT OF MY PAPER FROM THE INTERNET DUE TO MY OWN PARANOIA THAT SOMEONE IS GOING TO JACK IT AND COME UP WITH A BETTER IDEA, THEREBY BEING EVIL. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO READ IT, PLEASE VISIT THE CONTACT PAGE AND SEND ME AN EMAIL. THANKS!

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Genmaicha Soup

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I love Japanese food (especially sushi). The subtle, clean, simple, and light flavours present in most Japanese food can be tricky to balance and easily overpowered by a heavy-handed dose of seasoning.

I am also a connoisseur of teas. You might remember my post about one of my favourites, the Dan Cong Honey Orchid Oolong. However, my general favourite tea is Genmaicha because it is, like Japanese food, simple and clean, but maintains a slightly rich and comforting flavour. ‘Genmaicha’ translates to ‘poor man’s tea,’ wich is appropriate since I have not the funds to frequently access the Dan Cong Honey Orchid.

One of my favourite parts of the meal at a typical high-end Japanese sushi bar or steak house is the beginning. Its great to start the meal with delicious broth soup. You know, the one with the thinly sliced green onions and mushrooms floating in the rich, amber liquid. Sometimes you’ll find tofu or rice noodles as well.

Well, I decided that Genmaicha, a more savory variety of green tea (sencha green with toasted brown rice) might work very well as the broth base for a simple and delicious Japanese soup.

Here’s what I did:

INGREDIENTS
Vermicelli noodles
Brown or Arborio rice (I used Arborio)
Green Onions (Scallions)
Mushrooms
Green Tea
Salt to taste
(whoa! SO SIMPLE)

PROCESS
1.Slice thinly the green part of the scallions. Its up to you how much you want to use. More slices will add a richer flavour to the soup.
2. Slice thinly the mushrooms. I kept two thin slices as ‘garnish’ and chopped about half of the shroom.
3. Place uncooked vermicelli noodles in a personal bowl (if serving more people you can just get a bigger bowl and increase the amount of ingredients) with chopped shrooms.
4. Put about 3-5 tbsp (or more, depending on how much of the flavour you want; I recommend more so the delicious, nutty, toasted flavour is more prevalent in your soup) of your rice in a dry sauce pan. Toast until golden brown.
5. Add enough water to fill your bowl to the rice in the sauce pan. Boil for a bit to infuse flavour of toasted rice.
6. Stick a green tea bag (or an infuser with loose-leaf green tea – if you alread have Genmaicha skip the toasted rice step) in your bowl with the vermicelli and the chopped shrooms. Pour the boiling rice water over the noodles in the bowl. Immediately garnish with scallion and the shroom slices.
7. Add a decent amount of salt to taste – I think I used about a 1/3-1/2 tsp for my little bowl.
8. Let sit for a bit so the noodles can cook and absorb the flavour and so you don’t burn your face off when you try to eat it. Then sit down and have a snack AND afternoon tea at the same time!!!

I apologise for the inexact nature of this recipe. I was simply experimenting and came up with this without ever having made the original Japanese style soup recipe. Next time I am going to try it with some small fried tofu cubes.

This recipe is very simple, delicious, and takes little time to make. I recommend as an appetiser or as an afternoon snack, or even breakfast.

Enjoy!

 

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One Year, One Michelin Star, and Bacon Ice Cream

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My dad does a lot of work with professional chefs. I think my domestic situation inadvertently infused my personality with ‘foodieness,’ and my family is on a sort of ongoing deliciousness pilgrimage.

Chicago is a great food city. You can take a look at this year’s Michelin Guide if you don’t believe me. Graham Elliot has three restaurants and runs the Lollapalooza Chow Town. Stephanie Izard, winner of Top Chef and owner of The Girl and the Goat, is one of Graham’s neighbours in the West Loop area, also known as ‘Restaurant Row.’ And the ‘best restaurant in America,’ Chef Grant Achatz’s Alinea, can be found in the immoderate Lincoln Park area, near the Blue Man Group Briar Street Theatre, numerous indie hipster cafes, and trendy, rich young folk who thrift for style, not for budget.

Armed with these shiny, new preconceptions, you just might understand the following group of words a bit more effectively. As I said, my dad works with a lot of chefs. And, it logically follows that professional chefs know what to eat and where to eat it. Whenever my dad asked chefs where to eat in Chicago, the frequent answer was  “Longman&Eagle. You gotta eat there.”

Longman&Eagle. Never heard of it. All I hear about is Graham Elliot’s progressively commercialistic ventures (and controversy within) and Grant Achatz. It’s always Grant Achatz, and there’s really nothing wrong with that except, unlike myself, the only people who can afford his restaurants are oil Sheikhs and God. But within the contemporary culinary trends, the Gastropub – like Girl and the Goat and Longman&Eagle – is quickly subverting the legendary Ferran Adria’s widespread molecular gastronomic influences in prixe fixe avante garde tasting menu style restaurants. And subverting prixe fixe itself.

After visiting Longman&Eagle’s website, I was instantly intrigued. My interest became a mild obsession, and when I discovered that Longman&Eagle was also an inn, ‘nestled within a bustling metropolitan neighbourhood,’ my wife Kaitlyn and I instantly knew where we were going to spend our one year anniversary.

We’ve been planning a trip to the city for our anniversary even before we were married. We initially wanted to try Girl and the Goat (and take cooking lessons at their new location across the street, ‘Little Goat’), but when we found out that Longman&Eagle has an inn and a Michelin star, our fickle sympathies quickly shifted to settle on the latter.

We were a bit disgruntled when we entered the restaurant. It was a lazy, rainy Tuesday afternoon and the place was scattered with individuals who might have been ex-biker gangsters turned hipster. Or perhaps ex-hipsters turned biker gangster. We were greeted by a woman who looked like Trinity from the Matrix Trilogy dressed in selections from Antropologie. Our room wasn’t ready, so we wandered around the Logan Square neighbourhood for a bit, then returned to check in.

When one transects the inn’s glass entrance, he or she is immediately greeted by a beautiful wood and iron staircase enfleshed with glass, steel, and exposed brick. We meandered on natural wood floors down a clean hallway, past a massive ‘artwork’ that proclaimed “Help Wanted – No Hippies,” and stopped in front of the number 13 painted rustically on a burgundy door.

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In the hotel guidebook, the innkeepers recommend that no more than two individuals stay in each room, and that these two individuals must be on very intimate terms. The innkeepers are quite right. The room was indeed miniscule, but its stature was exactly what we were looking for. It was decorated fairly minimalistically; one wall presented a stained wood facade that served as the bed headboard. It flowed seamlessly into the mini-bar on the next wall, from which protruded a natural, rustic wood table. Apon this table sat a wonderful literary magazine, a set of earplugs that proclaimed in print, ‘Non-alcoholic sleep aid,’ two handmade tokens for free whiskey, and a fisher-price tape player accompanied by three Longman&Eagle Mix-Tapes. There was not a separate bathroom; the toilet was in the shower area and the sink was against the bed’s opposing wall. Netflix and iTunes were included in the room stay.

We took some photos, got dressed up for dinner. It was, after all, our one-year. Then we descended the stair, hurried, shivering in the Chicago wind, around the outside of the building because the inn and the restaurant had separate entrances, and entered the dining area. The place was full, but not packed yet since it was only 6:00pm. This would change within the half-hour; a line extended around the corner by 7:00. The rustic gastropub interior was transformed into an energetic sanctum for nightlife, bathed in the low light of candles and ceiling pieces that may have been salvaged from an old, condemned factory.

A very excited waitress handed us our menus. I immediately ordered a Brazillian Sweet Mate and our palates were greeted with an amuse bouche of apple puree, almond, and caviar. The apple was savory and had enough richness to complement the caviar without being overpowered.

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We started with the Pretzel and Welsh Rarebit. The pretzel was homemade, crispy on the outside, soft and flaky on the inside, and coated with large flakes of salt. It paired perfectly with the cheesy Welsh Rarebit sauce; It was basically a classy, Michelin star version of the Pretzel and Cheese carnival classic.

We ordered two plates from the small plate menu: Crispy Slagel Farm Pigtail, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Apple, Sweet Potato, Chickpea Porridge, Cascade Hops for $12 and Nantucket Bay Scallops, Oxtail Cannelloni, Sunchoke Puree, Tempura Preserved Lemon, Black Truffle Vinaigrette for $18. Both dishes were wonderful, but the Pigtail made quite the impact.

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All the usable meat had been extracted from the pig tail, stuffed into a natural casing, breaded, and deep fried. The chickpea, hops, and apple all had very distinct and predominant flavours on their own – sweet, tart, salty – and when brought together with the pigtail and cubes of sweet potato, Kaitlyn and I agreed that it was one of the most dynamic dishes we’ve ever tasted. No flavour dominated the others but rather blended  with and supported the others perfectly.

The Scallops themselves were excellent. Bay scallops are considerably smaller than conventional scallops, sweeter, and astonishingly tender. The dish itself was not as cohesive as the Pigtail. When the scallop, cannelloni (shredded oxtail meat wrapped in a sheet of thin pasta) sauces, and lemon were consumed together, the flavours were nice albeit incoherent. One would be better suited to eat the scallops on their own whilst pairing the sauces with the cannelloni.

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We ordered two desserts. The first was a Terrine of Heirloom Madagascan Chocolate Ganache, Salted Peanuts, Espresso, Translucent Caramel, Brown Butter Chestnut Financier, Chestnut Maple Coulis, Salted Peanut Brittle. The interesting and eloquent description raised great expectations for a mindblowing flavour overloard, but the dish did not live up to its name. The combination of peanut with espresso was the most interesting element of the dish. The Ganache was nothing particularly special, in fact, I am quite confident that I have made a more delicious ganache in my own kitchen. It wasn’t a terrible or ill-conceived dessert, but at a Michelin star restaurant I suppose I expected it to taste as good as it sounded. I do concede – it was indeed beautiful.

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In my opinion, the star of the meal was the second dessert: Fried Apple Pie, Caramelised Cheddar, Rosemary, and Bacon Ice Cream. Your eyes hath not deceived you: verily, I say, Bacon Ice Cream. My mind was satisfactorily blown when I ate this dessert. All elements of the dish must be eaten together in equal parts. Otherwise, the strong rosemary flavour overpowers and creates a more savory flavour experience. The bacon ice cream was sweet but had a miraculous smokey flavour. When eaten with the apple pie, the flavours became immaculately balanced. My palate had never experienced anything like it and I am quite sure my brain was initially unable to process this new and exciting combination of synapses. I felt like I was eating the ethos of a log cabin in the middle of the woods. The experience was so foreign that I can describe it no other way.

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We had a fitful night sleep. My head hit the pillow with lingering thoughts of bacon ice cream and mild, weary excitement for morning, because morning means breakfast…

We checked out, packed our car, and headed to the restaurant to order some Michelin star quality fast-breaking cuisine. Always intrigued by the sweet/salty paradigm, I ordered the Fried Chicken, Waffles, Sweet Potato & Pork Belly Hash, Maple Syrup. The waffle was, well, a waffle. The Sweet Potato & Pork Belly Hash was fantastic. But then again, how is Pork Belly ever NOT FANTASTIC? ‘Tis the meat of gods. I’ve been to the south and eaten soul food, but not even soul brothers could make fried chicken as soulful as that of Longman&Eagle. Rosemary was present again in the light and crispy batter that encased moist and flavourful meat. Pour some syrup on it all and BOOM: dynamic synthesis.

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Kaitlyn ordered the Cinnamon Spiced Brioche French Toast, Citrus Butter, Maple Syrup, Praline Pecans. It was large and impossible to fully consume. Based on description alone, one might assume this dish is incredibly sweet and one dimensional. The opposite is true. The dish was light and carried lots of subtle, nuanced flavours, elegant yet rustic, and suitable for nearly any demographic.

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I was not at all sad to leave Longman&Eagle at the outset of our culinary adventure. My excitement over how delicious everything tasted (and that we had celebrated our first anniversary!) quelled any sense of departure-related melancholy. I am not necessarily a chef, but I can definitely attest that Longman&Eagle is the place to eat in Chicago if you want Michelin quality food without the pretense of traditional, old school French Haute-Cuisine and the astronomical prices that accompany such eating venues.

Words by Cooper Flatoff
Images by Kaitlyn Newberry

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Book Review of NOMA: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine

I must admit, it greatly pains me that this is simply a review for the NOMA cookbook, not the restaurant itself. However, if you deem yourself a loyal reader, your loyalty may someday pay off. Your dreams of reading a NOMA restaurant review, authored eloquently by myself, may come to fruition – that is, if I ever get a full time job aside from teaching students Biblical exegesis and writing for a university blog. Perhaps one day, my dreams of eating at NOMA will come to fruition as well, and perhaps my fantasy will continue to transform from only metaphysical, transcendent spiritual musings to cold, hard reality, and that aforementioned full-time job I seek will manifest in employment at NOMA.

But until then, let’s keep it simple, shall we?

I must begin by stating that the word ‘cookbook’ is grotesquely insufficient when ascribed to this…. this, whatever it is, this ingenius and mindblowingly incredible publication of Chef Rene Redzepi’s paramount creations. Indeed, it is a book, but only Jesus or Redzepi himself are capable of recreating the recipes within (and Jesus only because he can perform miracles supernaturally, with the Creator God on his side; Redzepi has to do it on his own).

The book opens with a scrumptious essay from artist Olaffur Eliasson. I posted the closing paragraph to his essay, and you are invited and encouraged to read it by clicking on this word here. This essay establishes the concept behind the book, the idea of time and place in the cultural and sociological context of Danish cuisine. Redzepi attempts to preserve the suchness of his ingredients, and even replicates their appearance in nature with his own brilliant gastronomic adaptation. One such dish is entitled “Blueberries surrounded by their natural habitat” or something of the like; another is the vegetable field made of carrot and other root vegetable tops planted in dirt of hazelnut ashes and some sort of dehydrated mead and flour concoction. Essentially, Redzepi wants his beautiful dishes to represent that time and place within the very specific cultural context from which his cuisine and recipes are bourne.

Next, after Olaffur’s eloquent introduction, you will find a story on the origins of NOMA as well as all the journal entries kept by Redzepi during his pilgrimage across the nordic countries in search of the perfect ingredients. Next the reader will feast their opticals on a vast array of beautifully photographed dishes, ingredients, and farmers who supply ingredients to NOMA. This section encompasses about a third of the book. Each page displays a new and different ingredient or artfully plated dish. This layout has its benefits and drawbacks. First, its nice to have an entire page dedicated to the beautiful plates of food. However, if one desires to know what is in the dish, or even what it is entitled, one must flip to the back of the book in a section entitled “The Weather Recipes” and read about it there. Each dish has a corresponding page. I found myself flipping back and forth for a few hours, looking at the edible art and then attempting to understand the incredibly out of reach techniques and ingredients that Redzepi uses for each dish.

Most of the ingredients are impossible to obtain unless you live in Denmark, and even then, it takes a culinary superpower like Rene to find the correct ones. Additionally, one must have a large sum of cash he or she is willing to spend on incredibly high-tech kitchen appliances, such as a thermomixer and pacojet ice cream machine.

Nonetheless, I learned a thing or two about cuisine, and a thing or two about how little I know about cuisine. This book redefined ‘recipes’ for me and definitely displays an entire world of food that no one can touch and that no one has done in the past. Also, the idea of a concept driven restaurante, and microscopically, concept driven dishes, is so new to cuisine that all others in the genre are deemed ‘postmodern.’ I know many restaurants on Pellegrino’s Top 50 list are indeed driven by concept, but NOMA’s is nothing like the others.

I think Rene Redzepi might be a little crazy. But crazy in a good way, crazy in a way that drives him to invent and develop new techniques and flavours that existed all along but no one knew or cared enough to extract them. After all, the fine line between genius and insanity is determined by one’s level of success. And Rene Redzepi is indeed a genius. NOMA has won the award for best restaurant in the world, three years in a row.

Go to the library and pick up this book. If you have 40 dollars laying around, buy it. It is worth the investment for any foodie and aspiring gastronomician. It may inspire you to go to culinary school, and one day, after years of experience (and working in Adria’s kitchen), you can open a restaurant in the genre of NOMA yourself. And I’ll write a review of your cookbook telling the world how truly great you really are.

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The Many Faces of BREAKFAST

Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t love breakfast?

Dishonourably, not long ago, my answer to this question would be “I. I do not love breakfast.”

Yes, yes, I admit it. And I am prepared to receive all necessary shuns and ostracism. But really, I’m not a morning person, and cereal, though oftentimes delicious, is not what I’m about to blog about.

No, I shall blog about something much, much more interesting, beautiful, and unexpected. Well, unless you’re an avid breakfastarian. But the diverse possibilities and variations on breakfast remained unknown to me before my eating adventures of summer 2012.

This past summer I had the opportunity to live and work in Lake Geneva with my wife Kaitlyn. While we were there, we decided to pursue our food blogging and photography passion and try a new Lake Geneva restaurant each weekend. We ate at Tuscan Tavern and Grill, Next Door Pub, Tempura House, Simple, Yogeeze, Lake Geneva Creperie, Popeyes, Egg Harbour, Sopra, Boatyard Bagel, and Baker House, to name a few. For my review of Baker House, click here.

At two of these restaurants, Simple and Egg Harbour Cafe, I truly learned how to breakfast. I have always been a fan of Eggs Benedict and would consider it my favourite breakfast dish. Simple, refined, and loaded with hearty flavours. I had the Farmer’s Benedict during my first Egg Harbour visit, and it was a very fresh and tasty vegetarian take on my old favourite. However, my mind was truly blown during my second Egg Harbour visit.

I looked at the menu and decided to order some pumpkin pancakes (which were indeed delicious). But I didn’t order them. I happened to see, out of the corner of my eye, a small seasonal menu at the corner of the table. But I did a double take; I thought for sure I saw the words RED VELVET on top. Yes, I did! I looked closer. I grabbed the menu and stared in awe at the words that followed: FRENCH TOAST. RED VELVET FRENCH TOAST!

I typically shy away from bread soaked in a fatty (albeit delicious) batter and fried, particularly for breakfast. I have a sensitive stomach that hates me forever, at least for a few hours, if I eat anything dramatic in the morning. Or almost anything at all. But I do love fried battered bread after 10:00, and I had been up for a good six hours or so before I went to Egg Harbour for lunch. So I took a risk and ordered it.

In a few words, it changed my life. It changed my perspective on breakfast, and really emphasised that comedy routine about how its acceptable to eat cake for breakfast but unacceptable at any other time. Nevermind the cream cheese frosting inside.

My next formational breakfast experience took place at Simple. Simple is ranked very highly for Lake Geneva, and though I’ve eaten there three times, the restaurant lived up to this high ranking only on my third visit. I ordered the Korean BBQ Breakfast Bowl: brown rice in Korean BBQ sauce with a plethora of fresh garden veggies and BBQ Korean pork, served with a fried egg on top.

This dish also changed my breakfastology, though a stark contrast from the mind-numbing extravagance of the Red Velvet French Toast. But that was what was so amazing about it. After eating these two dishes within a week of each other, I was truly enlightened about the possibilities of breakfast. It can literally take the form of anything you want. Do you awake with the desire for ice cream? No problem. Deep fry some dough, drop some fresh berries and ice cream on there, and BOOM BELGIAN WAFFLE. Oh, wait. I’d rather just eat left over Chinese food from last night. Or, better, yet, I got a pound of sushi grade hamachi in the walk-in, lets just make some makimono. Throw a fried egg on top and BOOM ASIAN BREAKFAST.

I hope you get my point. The possibilities are endless. If you don’t, well, go back to cereal.

So, in a fit of inspiration, I went home and made this:

Inspired by a meal my wife had at Simple at the beginning of the summer, what you behold with your opticals is a breakfast ‘taco’ comprised of eggs scrambled with sweet vidalia onions topped with apples sauteed in butter and brown sugar, zucchini, parsley, and a little parmesan cheese. The combination of sweet, fresh, crispy, sour, and acidic was profound. I did it! I made a cool breakfast! And I had it for lunch! And a year ago I would have opted for a sandwich made by my Jewish friends over at Carnegie Deli. Nothing wrong with that.

The point I’m trying to make here is this: No matter how much you hate waking up in the morning, breakfast definitely can be worth the pain.

Photo Credits: Red Velvet French Toast photo credited to TripAdvisor, Asian Bowl Breakfast photo by my wife Kaitlyn Newberry, and I dabbled in the food photography world and took the last photo. My food, my photo.

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Food is just so commonplace. Everyone eats, everyone has an opinion about food. But taste is not exclusively a matter of individual perception, and food is never ‘just food.’ Whether we like it or not, what we eat affects how the world looks. And that affects the way we understand it. When we look at a plate of food, we should see the greater ecosystem too. If we find out where the food comes from and where it goes to, maybe this knowledge can be made into a kind of flavour-enhancer. It matters whether the potatoes came from New Zealand or from the Lammefjord area of Denmark, and I can see great potential in not dividing knowledge and flavour (just as in art, we should not separate form and content.) They can be part of one and the same food experience. In the same way , cooking and eating and taste are assocaited with many other things. Food can be political. Food can be about responsibility, sustainability, geography and culture.

I finally got my hands on a copy of Rene Redzepi’s NOMA: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine (review soon to come). As I read the introduction by artist Olafur Eliasson, I was amazed when I discovered that his essay, and particularly this quote (if not the entire message of the ‘cookbook’), essentially summed up the concept of my blog. I’m glad we agree, Olafur and Rene.

A Word from Olafur Eliasson

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