Monthly Archives: July 2011

Duffy’s (Not So) Lame Duck

These are the second dog days of Avenues.

After two weeks touring the South—Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee—I drove north to Chicago. Before collecting my sister from her summer program at Northwestern, my family stopped downtown for dinner. Alinea stands at the center of Chicago’s dining scene—since 2005, Grant Achatz has trained a legion of “modernist” or “molecular” culinarians, all of whom share a common aesthetic lexicon. Visit Michael Carlson’s Schwa or Curtis Duffy’s Avenues and the food seems a logical extension of the “Alinea school” (which owes much to both The French Laundry and El Bulli). Duffy will leave Avenues sometime in September to open his own restaurant; Avenues lost Duffy’s predecessor, Graham Elliot, to a similar wanderlust.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Chicago, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel

Pickled Banana Peppers

When I make pickles, I cheat—instead of following complex instructions to sanitize jars, maintain the perfect acidity level, and balance a bevy of spices, I settle for “refrigerator pickles.” Easy to prepare but meant for long-term storage, refrigerated pickles only last a few months, during which time they develop a mild bite. Floating in sour brine with a little air, stored in a cold environment, these pickles pose few health hazards. Botulism risk remains low as long as you keep the jars refrigerated for the entire storage period, not just after opening. With a minimal time commitment—Sunday after lunch—I put away a batch of home grown banana peppers.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Recipes

Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Watermelon Chiffon Pie

Zach Bell, Yale University

Watermelon speaks of summer barbecues and the Fourth of July, the Stars and Stripes and the the Red White and Blue. Watermelon is the red stripe in the flag, yet, in a pie, the red fades to pink. Returning from New York, my brother requested a watermelon chiffon pie, from a recipe found in Ken Haedrich’s book “Pie” (this book comes highly recommended). Although I take pride in my willingness to try any food that comes my way, I was skeptical about including watermelon in a pie, considering that a watermelon obviously contains mostly water.

The recipe called for a graham cracker crust, filled with a mixture of whipped egg whites, whipped cream, and gelatinous watermelon juice, all blended together.  First, I made the graham cracker crust, crushing whole crackers with my fingers in lieu of readymade crumbs or a heavy mashing device. I find the irregular sized pieces from hand crumbling adds textural variety to the crust.

Next, I savagely hacked open a watermelon and chucked its flesh unceremoniously into a metal bowl. I mashed the fruit down with a wimpy plastic potato masher that I thought would snap right in half considering the unnecessarily powerful downward force I applied over and over again to juice the watermelon. Eventually I reduced the fruit to a bloody pulp and strained the juice into a saucepan.

A series of annoying measurements ensued, including the requirement of two and three quarters cups of juice. Packets of gelatin emptied into one of the reserved quarter cups, then the steaming hot half cup, then the rest and into the fridge it went to gelatinize. I whipped the egg whites, then made some standard whipped cream and soon enough I had three bowls in front of me.

The recipe indicated that I should add a quarter of the whipped cream first, then the eggs, then the rest of the cream and stir to combine, but not too harshly, wouldn’t want to disturb its fragile equilibrium. I followed all of these steps, poured it into the waiting shell, and prayed that this pie would be edible after it came out of the fridge.

In fact, this chiffon pie garnered positive reactions, much to our surprise. It was light, not too terribly sweet, and held its shape well. I think the critical step regarding its consistency was the blending of the three components. Too little blending and the texture would have been uneven, whipped cream melting before the watermelon gelatin. Too much, or too vigorous stirring, and the structure created during whipping would break down, leading to a floppy, soggy filling.

Although not quite as American as apple pie, watermelon chiffon pie takes an unlikely ingredient and transforms it into a summer dessert that can cool down even the hottest July evening.



Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Pics or it Didn't Happen, pie, Recipes, Zach B.

Excellence at El Trébol

Marc Prablek, Princeton University

It almost goes without saying that no journey through Spain, at least from a culinary point of view, is complete without eating jamón ibérico. As such, eating the famous Spanish dish was near the top of my to-do list during my time in Toledo. Luckily for me, there is no shortage of jamón ibérico vendors in the city, and just west of the arch of the Plaza de Zocodover lies El Trébol, a bar that a classmate recommended.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Dining Suggestions, Food, Marc P., Reviews, Travel

The College Critic On Youtube: Hot Maple Corn

Check out our new Youtube channel here!

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be producing a series of short videos for Alimentum. My brother, a more artistically inclined individual than myself, will handle the videography and editing. I’ll take care of the writing. To boost our production value, we bought a new camera and boom microphone. Here’s a sample we shot of barbecuing at home—we wanted to test out the camera and practice putting clips together in a coherent fashion:

My hot maple corn experiment didn’t turn out as expected—the syrup and cayenne pepper imparted little flavor to the corn, because they failed to percolate through the inner husks. Instead of grilling the corn with the other ingredients, try making a buttery spread for the table.

Hot Maple Corn: Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Meta, Recipes, Video

Bastille Day at Les Halles

by Andrew Giambrone, Yale University

In France, La Fête Nationale commemorates the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, a symbolic act of popular rebellion against the French monarchy. If you’re lucky enough to be in Paris on this date, you might get to see the Bastille Day Military parade along the Champs-Elysées.

For Francophiles around the world, however, le quatorze juillet presents a chance to revel in French culture, French history, and French food. Perhaps with a hint of irony, several friends and I booked a table at Brasserie Les Halles, the former home of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. The brasserie is named after the old market district of Paris. (The original market—know as le ventre de Paris, or “the belly of Paris”—was demolished in 1971 and replaced by the Forum Des Halles, a modernized underground shopping center.) Filled with Bastille Day balloons, the dimmed atmosphere of Les Halles offered a welcoming contrast to the extravagant Gansevoort Hotel across the street. When I heard music by Alizée—a French pop star known for her Lolita-like image—emanating from the inside of Les Halles, I was hooked.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Andrew G., New York City, Restaurants, Reviews

Lunch at Ledoyen

Zach Bell, Yale University

Dining in a foreign country can be daunting for even the most adventurous eaters at home. It can be especially unsettling when the diner does not speak the language, happens to be eating alone, and this country happens to be France. I cannot judge definitively on the truth of the stereotypical rude French waiter; I encountered both the rude and the accommodating during my stay in Paris. Yet, at Ledoyen I found neither of these reactions, instead I was met with subtle bewilderment.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Food, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel, Zach B.