Starting now, every week the cheese guide will get you closer to understanding the world of cheese. Sometimes we'll talk about a specific cheese, a cheese type or cheeses from a specific region.
First we need to define cheese a little bit. If you leave milk in a carton and 2 months later it turns solid, then yes, that's technically cheese. If you buy from the store something made by Kraft, then no that's not cheese (we'll see why in a future post, stay tuned).
However we probably won't be talking about milk you kept too long after it's expiration, unless I happen to do that and I invent a new type of cheese that makes you age backwards. We'll only talk about stuff that was intended to be cheese (even if it's not).
Here are a couple probable articles you'll find in the coming weeks:
- Cheeses: goat vs. cow. vs. sheep
- Italian cheeses
- French cheeses
- Cheese fermentation
- Broiled pasta, what cheese?
- Raclette, born to be cooked
- The wormy cheese
- About Kraft and British Petrol
- Name: Eataly
- Address: 200 5th ave, Manhattan, NY 10010 (Entrances on 5th Avenue and 23rd Street)
- Hours: 10am - 11pm every day
- Website: www.eatalyny.com
While in New York, I discovered my hotel was right in front of a curious store called "Eataly". From the outside it seemed pretty fancy, hipstery and packed with people.
I ended up entering and it turned out like the House of Leaves, it was far bigger inside than it seemed outside. Eataly is very interesting because it combines a cafe, a food store, a restaurant, a butcher and more... it pretty much felt like stepping in Italy.
The store confused me a little, I felt like back in Italy for a minute. The entrance opened on the coffee shop. It seems to be always very crowded. A path then leads to some sort of short corridor with little counters selling various goods such as pasties, chocolate etc.
I bought some cakes at the pastry corner and they turned out delicious, unlike most pastries I tried in NYC. They were fresh, creamy and they didn't feel like bricks. I won't say names but recently a French person told me something about American desserts: "Throw them in a wood stove and you can heat yourself for three days".
The corridor led to a large circular room with high tables, no chairs. The room was surrounded by various food stalls and products. Basically people stand at the tables and eat lunch, cooked fresh by the store.
Eataly sells every kind of product one could want from Italy. If the prosciutto and cheese aisles aren't enough, there are two butchers and a cheese corner. The store also has various Italian wines and products such as olive oil, sauces and fresh pasta. However, don't expect to find French cheese or wine.
I was mostly amazed to find fresh morels (pictured above). I bought enough for three people and it cost me less than $30.
In conclusion, Eataly is the Italian store destination in NYC, not just for Italian products but for general quality and fresh food.
- Name: Shang Restaurant
- Location: Manhattan, NY
- Price: $25~35 per person
- Website: http://www.shangrestaurant.com/
Every two months or so, I drive to New York City in order to refocus my thoughts away from studying and working. That's when I enjoy trying new restaurants, spending more money than I usually do and actually walking around.
It might not be wise to drive in NYC, however in order to not drive you must park your car somewhere. After 3 hours of driving from Boston, I decided to just take advantage of the valet parking provided by Shang. It cost me $55 for an hour. I was too tired to tell the valet to return my keys, especially since I had already unsuccessfully looked around for a parking.
Shang is one of those Asian fusion places, which makes various Asian food mixed with western flavors. We ordered satay skewers, sweet and sour duck, and salmon.
The restaurant looks like on the picture provided by the website. There's nobody inside it. Also, it's darker. The waiter dropped the glass water bottle and nearly broke it on the table. We were already full of adrenaline and fear even before getting our appetizer.
Finally the appetizer came, satay chicken skewers. This was actually alright, if only the chicken was not as dry as a piece of wood. I don't know why it took forever to make it, I'm pretty sure defrosted skewers from Walmart must taste better and those take 5 minutes in the microwave (not that I eat those though).
Halfway through the dinner, people starting showing up (roughly 7pm). By the end, there was a lesbian couple at a table and a band of young people with rainbow colored hair at another. There was also a German guy with his mom.
Main dishes came. Now this is probably one of the most fantastic things I have ever been served. The most fantastic being the deep fried fake canned chicken I was served in that Malaysian restaurant of NYC's Chinatown. Now there are a million things one could picture with a title such as "sweet and sour duck". I'm not going to make a list, here's how it was: sliced duck breast floating in sauce. The duck breast was raw inside. I know what I'm talking about, I had duck breast a million times and I know it can be bloody. This was not bloody, it was uncooked. The best is not the duck, its the sauce. Honestly I'm not sure what is was, but it tasted like BBQ sauce. Did they mix hoisin sauce with something? who knows. The salmon was unsurprisingly dry and stale.
So that's it, $60 of food and $55 of parking. If all I had was a raw steak and a hammer, I'm pretty sure I would make better.
I felt like trying something different, so I decided to go for a Parmesan Bread recipe I found in a book by the Lenotre Culinary School (I mentioned this a while back in another post, but am just getting around to this one now). Though I should know better than this by now (more on that later), I went almost verbatim from the ingredients and the times in the book. The results turned out acceptable; nothing bad enough to make genocide metaphors about, but nothing astounding either. The crust was alright, with the crumb being a lot denser than what I usually make, and definitely denser than I'd like, and the parmesan's flavors barely showed; but that last bit could be attributed to sub-par parmesan, as I had to buy some cheap stuff for this run. This is definitely a rich bread, likely able to serve as a meal in its own right, or as a heavy base for a sandwich.
The more noteworthy thing here is that I got a chance to test scoring with razorblades, and it works better on orders of magnitude compared to anything else I have used before. I'm thinking about attaching razor blades to a whittled down popsicle stick and making my own custom lames. I also realize this is the first bread post I've made and it is by no means comprehensive; I do plan on making a "basic bread tutorial" sort of post explaining things like "crumb" and "proof" and "improved mix", but the subject is so complex it'll probably be one of my opera magna for this site. Until then, please bear with me.
(Makes one loaf)
- 200g bread flour
- 4g sugar
- 20g milk
- 6g butter
- 110g water
- 3g salt
- 5g yeast
- 20g parmesan
- Mix all the ingredients except the cheese together, first slowly then at a medium speed. Add the cheese at the end of the slow phase.
- First rise of the dough should be about 1h40min at room temperature.
- Preshape the dough, then let it rest for 10min.
- Shape the dough (I chose to go with a batard), then proof for another hour.
- Bake for 30 minutes @ 435 degrees F (measurements are for a loaf of roughly 300g total weight)
I never would have found this book if not for two things: 1) I don't like talking to my parents, and 2) My command of written Chinese is about equivalent to my command of written Sumerian. So when I got curious about the exact workings of the foods I ate as a kid, I took to the internet like any self-respecting nerd would. A bit of googling and several link-trails later, I came upon Land of Plenty, and arrived at its page on Amazon. This is one of the few times Amazon has failed me; there was no "take a look inside" option as there often is for many books on Amazon. It's okay, Amazon. You're still my favorite. But without so much as a text excerpt, there was no way I was going to buy based on a cover with noodles on it and the reviews of complete strangers.
Luckily enough, months later I was being a bum (as usual) in a Borders and managed to stumble into a copy. Quickly flipping through it revealed what looked like good information. It even had (collective gasp) the Chinese names of dishes. In Chinese. In an English book? Written by a westerner? I know.
So right on the spot I ended up deciding to buy it. But it was full MSRP + tax at Borders, so instead of walking the copy I had up to the counter I whipped out the Amazon application on my phone, hit the perniciously accessible one-click buy button, and buckled down to wait for my book.
I personally like books with a bit of flavor, books that don't really fall under the stereotype of a dry list of recipes that the word "cookbook" often evokes. Books with a bit of thought and, dare I say, philosophy. And there's no shortage of that here. The problem is, the author takes it a bit too far, with a sentimentality bordering on the fetishistic. Reading through her recollections of China is reminiscent of being racially stroked, ever so gently, with cooing in the background. Maybe a bit flattering for some, but still creepy as all hell.
That aside, the rest of the book was quite good. The knowledge I had of the few dishes I did know extremely well correlated with what she had written on paper, and the dishes I didn't have quite such a good grasp on seemed legitimate. Even with the dishes I did know, there were often interesting variations and details I didn't consider. So in the end, the hard information was quite solid. And as a bonus, I also got to find out the common English terms for items whose names I had only known in Chinese before.