Chef's Tasting at "Salt"
"Salt" - Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island
Richard Gras, chef du cuisine (the husband of a friend of mine)

We visited the Ritz for three nights as a relaxing getaway before the pending arrival of our son; we had the pleasure of ordering the "Chef's Adventure" tasting menu, a blind tasting at the chef's whim where none of the courses was listed on the evening's official menu.  It was hands-down the most satisfying meal I've ever enjoyed.  Each element alone was of the highest quality and flavor, yet each balanced the other elements in the dish.  And every course had a food-geek element...Chef Gras clearly knows a little molecular gastronomy, yet tempers it with solid French techniques, some regional specialties, and some fine imported items.  The friendly four-tier Russian service met my expectations for fine dining without being haughty in any way.  After the meal, our server even let us step into the kitchen to see "backstage" -- I was impressed to see a few molecular gastronomy devices, including a smoking gun they were using to anoint a tuna carpaccio.

Gruyère cheese roll
black olive loaf
beurre sec d'Isigny A.O.C. (unsalted French butter from the Isigny region)

Keeping with its namesake, the server brought three different types of finishing salt (of the possible 20-30 that the kitchen keeps at any given time):
- Hiwa kai black salt from Hawaii
- Salish alderwood smoked salt from Oregon
- citrus peel-infused Croatian Adriatic sea salt 

foie gras & dried cranberry mousse garnished with pistacio & mâche
shaved cucumber and crème fraiche

Course I
Jamón ibérico (black-footed Spanish ham fed herbs, acorns, and roots), Manchego cheese, Beauty Heart radish, wine & spice poached Lady apple, shaved fennel, aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena D.O.P. (a.k.a. "real" balsamic vinegar)

Course II
fried green tomato, Hawaiian blue prawns, mozzarella di bufala D.O.P. (a.k.a. "real" mozzarella), datil pepper sauce, green tomato coulis

Palate cleanser
raspberry sorbet

Course III
free-range chicken breast sous vide; ragout of beans, broccolini, and morel mushrooms; green tomato coulis; cream of yellow tomato & fennel
[Prior to this course, the server brought each of us a beautiful Laguiole steak knife for the meat. You know, the expensive French knives with the wood handle and the decorative bee? Since the chicken breast was cooked sous vide, the knives were superfluous since the meat was silky smooth.]

The silkiest cappuccino I have ever had in my life! Unbelievably creamy microfoam topping an espresso with copious reddish crèma.

strawberry shortcake, vanilla foam, strawberry soup, chocolate stick

Farewell candies
salted butter caramels
dark chocolate raspberry truffles
raspberry jellies

Hawaiian Kalua Pork Recipe
Over the holidays, I ate at a Lantana, FL restaurant that specialized in seafood. My dad & I sat at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, and ate oysters & conversed with the kitchen staff all evening. Toward the end of the meal, the cook working the sautee station (who was also the proprietor) took out a large pan from the oven, a roast of some type covered in foil. He sliced off a few tasty bits, and gave them to was Hawaiian-style Kalua pig, done with a whole fresh picnic ham. Seasoned only with salt and slow-roasted wrapped in a banana leaf, it was naturally sweet, juicy, and thoroughly infused with the very essence of "pork". I think I tried to make a similar type of recipe at home 2 years back, but I absolutely murdered the thing by braising it with pineapple in a slow cooker. Came out soupy, like a pot roast...gross! The kalua pork I had at that restaurant had a BEAUTIFUL browned exterior, and the meat still had texture.

Duh! Because whole roasted pig isn't braised! It's wrapped in leaves, lowered into the ground, covered with earth, and wet-roasted under a very constant heat. Here's my best guess of how to reproduce the same type of results.

- broiler pan
- cast-iron Dutch oven with lid, or other heavy, oven-worthy pot with fitting lid
- Banana leaves for wrapping (substitute with parchment paper). You can find them in an Asian grocery in the freezer...just thaw & rinse them before you use them.
- heavy-duty foil
- zip-top bag

- 2.5 lbs Pork shoulder, cut into fist-sized chunks
- Salt (sea salt, esp. red Hawaiian, is preferable, but kosher salt is also ok)
- 1/2 tsp Liquid smoke (hickory is ok; mesquite is probably too weird)

Rub the pork with salt on all sides. Be quite liberal...1/2 tsp per fist-sized chunk? Allow the meat to sit out for 30 minutes so that the salt can denature the proteins on the surface of the meat.

Heat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Add the liquid smoke and pork to a zip-top bag, and shake to coat. It may seem like a small amount, but it will go a long way, and you won't really be able to taste anything overtly "smoky" in the end result.

Lay meat on the "grill" top of a broiler pan (you may want to line the bottom with foil to make cleanup easier). Roast the meat at 500 for 10 minutes. Carefully rotate each pork chunk, and brown again for 10 minutes. Make sure the chunks are browned evenly by the high oven heat before proceeding. You may find the broiler more effective at this, but be warned that the pork fat will melt off and start to burn & smoke.

Lower the oven to 325 degrees F, and remove the pork from the oven.

Wrap the pork in banana leaves or parchment (don't wrap individually; just wrap up all the chunks together). Tightly wrap that bundle in 2 layers of heavy-duty foil so that it is sealed. Place the foil pack into the dutch oven; cover with lid and roast for 2.5-3 hours on 325.

Remove from the oven. Drain meat, and coarsely shred into chunks.

This can be served with rice, macaroni salad, grilled pineapple, etc. However, if it were my restaurant, I'd serve it pulled-pork style on a butter-toasted sweet Hawaiian roll topped with vinegar-based cabbage slaw and a grilled Maui onion slice. But I'm weird like that.

How to make brownies without a box of mix
Based on the Hershey's recipe.

Grease and flour a 13x9 pan; preheat oven to 350.

Sift together:

1 cup flour
2/3 cup alkalized cocoa powder (e.g. Dutch processed cocoa powder)
1/2 tsp baking powder

(If using unsweetened cocoa powder as a substitute for alkalized, use the same amount of cocoa powder but add 1/4 tsp baking soda since unsweetened cocoa is acidic, and the baking soda balances it out.)


In a mixer bowl, cream:

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
8 oz. butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt

Add and beat on medium:

2 eggs
2 egg yolks

Add reserved dry ingredients and mix on low until combined.

Optional: fold in 2/3 cup chocolate chips into batter.

Add to pan; bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick removed is mostly dry.

Thanks be to God.

From a Facebook thread:

sbroadway: Here's a good question: where does Roman Polanski's crime fit in with Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick?

isol8d: Hmmm, Burress should get to shoot him in the leg, and the Vick should sick his dogs on him.

Mmmm, beer.
Idea from a coworker: beer-cheese risotto.

100 Cocktails to Try Before You Die

I've tried it | I like it | I want to try it | WTF | Whatever

1. Absinthe Drip - absinthe, sugar, water
2. Air Mail - rhum, lime, honey, champagne
3. Alexander - spirit, creme de cacao, cream
4. Algonquin - rye, French vermouth, pineapple
5. Americano - campari, Italian vermouth, soda
6. Aperol Spritz - aperol, sparkling wine
7. Aviation - gin, lemon, maraschino, creme de violette
8. Bijou - gin, Italian vermouth, green chartreuse, orange bitters
9. Blackthorn - Irish whiskey, French vermouth, absinthe, angostura bitters
10. Blinker - rye, grapefruit, raspberry syrup
11. Blood & Sand - scotch, orange juice, Italian vermouth, cherry heering
12. Bramble - gin, lemon, creme de mure
13. Brandy Crusta - cognac, cointreau, lemon, maraschino, peychaud's bitters
14. Caipirinha - cachaca, sugar, lime
15. Champagne Cocktail - brut, sugar, angostura bitters
16. Champs Elysees - cognac, lemon, sugar, yellow chartreuse, angostura bitters
17. Chrysanthemum - French vermouth, absinthe, benedictine
18. Cocktail a la Louisiane - rye, benedictine, Italian vermouth, absinthe, peychaud's bitters
19. Coffee Cocktail - cognac, ruby port, egg
20. Collins - spirit, lemon, sugar, soda
21. Corn N' Oil - blackstrap rum, falernum, angostura bitters
22. Corpse Reviver #2 - gin, lemon, cointreau, lillet blanc, absinthe
23. Cuba Libre - rum, coca-cola, lime
24. Daquiri - rum, lime, sugar
25. Daisy - bourbon, yellow chartreuse, lemon, lime
26. The Darb - gin, French vermouth, lemon, apricot brandy
27. Death in the Afternoon - champagne, absinthe
28. Dulchin - pisco, apricot brandy, curacao, lime, grenadine
29. East India Cocktail - cognac, curacao, pineapple gomme, maraschino, angostura bitters
30. El Diablo - tequila, creme de cassis, lime, ginger beer
31. Fernet-Branca - it's a shot of fernet-branca
32. Fourth Degree - gin, French & Italian vermouth, absinthe
33. French 75 - gin, lemon, sugar, brut champagne
34. Gimlet - gin, lime, turbinado
35. Gin & Tonic - gin, tonic water, lime
36. Gin Gin Mule - gin, lime, ginger beer, mint
37. Gin Rickey - gin, lime, soda
38. Hemingway Daquiri - rum, lime, grapefruit, maraschino
39. Hot Buttered Rum - rum, butter, sugar, water
40. Improved Cocktail - spirit, maraschino, peychaud's & angostura bitters
41. Jack Rose - applejack, lemon, grenadine
42. Japanese - brandy, orgeat, angostura bitters
43. Jasmine - gin, cointreau, campari, lemon
44. Knickerbocker - rum, raspberry syrup, curacao, lime
45. Last Word - gin, lime, green chartreuse, maraschino
46. Mai Tai - rum, curacao, lime, orgeat
47. Maiden's Prayer - gin, cointreau, orange, lemon
48. Manhattan - rye, Italian vermouth, angostura
49. Maple Leaf - bourbon, lemon, maple syrup
50. Margarita - tequila, lime, cointreau
51. Martinez - Italian vermouth, gin, maraschino, orange bitters
52. Martini - gin, French vermouth, orange bitters
53. Metropole - cognac, French vermouth, peychaud's & angostura bitters
54. Milk Punch - spirit, sugar, milk
55. Mint Julep - bourbon, mint, sugar
56. Mojito - rum, lime, mint, turbinado, soda
57. Monkey Gland - gin, orange, grenadine, absinthe
58. Monte Carlo - rye, benedictine, angostura bitters
59. Morning Glory - scotch, lemon, egg white, absinthe
60. Navy Grog - rum, honey, lime
61. Negroni - gin, campari, Italian vermouth
62. Old Fashioned - spirit, sugar, angostura bitters
63. Old Pal - rye, campari, French vermouth
64. Opera - gin, dubbonet, maraschino
65. Oriental - rye, Italian vermouth, curacao, lime
66. Paradise - gin, apricot brandy, orange, lemon
67. Pegu Club - gin, curacao, lime, angostura & orange bitters
68. Pimm's Cup - pimm's no. 1, gin, lemon, soda, cucumber
69. Pink Gin - gin, angostura bitters
70. Pink Lady - gin, applejack, lemon, grenadine, egg whit
71. Pisco Punch - pisco, pineapple gomme, lemon
72. Pisco Sour - pisco, lemon, egg white
73. Port Flip - ruby port, sugar, whole egg
74. Punch - from Jerry Thomas
75. Ramos Gin Fizz - gin, cream, lemon, lime, egg white, soda, orange flower water
76. Red Hook - rye, punt e mes, maraschino, angostura & orange bitters
77. Rum Swizzle - rum, lime, falernum
78. Rusty Nail - scotch, drambuie
79. Satan's Whiskers - gin, French vermouth, Italian vermouth, curacao, orange, orange bitters
80. Sazerac - rye, absinthe, peychaud's bitters
81. Scofflaw - rye, French vermouth, lemon, grenadine, orange bitters
82. Seelbach - bourbon, cointreau, champagne, bitters
83. Sherry Cobbler - sherry, sugar, fruit, soda
84. Sidecar - cognac, cointreau, lemon
85. Silver Fizz - spirit, lemon, sugar, egg white, soda
86. Singapore Sling - gin, cherry heering, lime, pineapple, cointreau, benedictine, grenadine, angostura bitters
87. Smash - spirit, sugar, water, mint
88. Stinger - cognac, creme de menthe
89. Suffering Bastard - bourbon, gin, lemon, ginger-beer, angostura bitters
90. Tailspin - gin, Italian vermouth, green chartreuse, campari
91. Ti' Punch - rhum agricole, lime, sugar
92. Toddy - spirit, sugar, hot water
93. Tom & Jerry - rum, brandy, egg, nutmeg
94. Twentieth Century Cocktail - gin, lemon, creme de cacao, lillet blanc
95. Vesper - gin, vodka, lillet
96. Vieux Carre - cognac, rye, Italian vermouth, benedictine, angostura & peychaud's bitters
97. Whiskey Skin - scotch, lemon, hot water
98. White Lady - gin, cointreau, lemon
99. Widow's Kiss - calvados, benedictine, yellow chartreuse, angostura bitters
100. Zombie - Jamaican rum, lime, lemon, pineapple, passionfruit syrup, brown sugar, angostura bitters

Acoustic Traditional Hymns
sbroadway has introduced me to some refreshingly satisfying tunes.

The Kry - Be Still My Soul

Wayne Kerr - Come Thou, Long Expected Jesus

Kathryn Scott - When I Survey The Wondrous Cross

Ben Keyes, Peter La Grande, & Jill Zimmerman - Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Mary Barrett - Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy

Phil Keaggy - Were You There When They Crucified My Lord

Mikey Mew and the Lovely Few - Crown Him with Many Crowns

Sara Watkins - He Leadeth Me

Kourtnie Heying - Holy, Holy, Holy

Keep Informed on H1N1 Swine Flu Pandemic
Since the US media doesn't seem to care about swine flu at all (yet ironically cares about healthcare), I'd highly recommend for you to keep informed on the progression of the pandemic over at International SOS -- my company is a client of theirs, and I'm very impressed with their capabilities.

National Parks Suck
You know, this is exactly why I hate the Grand Canyon. It's an absolutely horrid tourist destination, despite the zillions of tourists who go there with the explicit goal to behave like tourists. The place is completely unprepared, understaffed, and underdeveloped for the continual influx. Disney, Marriott, Starwood, and Hilton would absolutely pay top dollar for long-term leases at Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon...exactly why don't we let them?


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