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It’s hard to believe I’ve been cooking a birthday dinner for She Who Must Be Obeyed for ten years. This year I decided the menu would include some new dishes she had enjoyed over the past year, which would present some interesting technical challenges for me.


I changed up the traditional charcuterie starter by limiting it to bresaola and tartines: baguette slices topped with fig butter, serrano ham, and manchego cheese. They disappeared before I could take a photo.

Velvet Shiso

Velvet Shiso

We started with a drink made from umeshu (Japanese plum wine), carbonated Riesling, and a scoop of coconut/lemon/saffron sorbet, all served over a shiso leaf. Very refreshing.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

The deconstructed eggs benedict is egg yolk, crispy Canadian bacon chips, and cubes of hollandaise sauce coated with english muffin crumbs. The cubes lost some of their structural integrity as they were being held until service, but the dish tasted as we remembered it. It was accompanied by a 2102 Karthaüserhof Schieferkristall Riesling feinherb.


Mandarin, sourdough

Meat Fruit

At least one of our guests questioned the placement of a fruit course so early in the meal, but the title was deliberately misleading. I served “meat fruit,” a sphere of foie gras and chicken liver parfait surrounded by mandarin orange gel, with a slice of grilled sourdough for spreading. We served more of the same Riesling instead of the traditional sweet wine that accompanies foie.


Barley, mushroom, burgundy emulsion


Cumin-crusted seared tuna, over barley “risotto” with oyster mushroom confit and a red wine emulsion. Served with a 2009 René Leclerc Griotte Chambertin Gand Cru


Chef’s fatigue was beginning to set in, so I spaced on taking a photo of the cheese course. There’s a photo of a similar version here.


Clementine, hazelnut


Flourless chocolate cake with clementine and bourbon, clementine sorbet, whipped cream, and hazelnut crunch. I enjoyed presenting yet another “surprise” orange. Served with a Taylor Fladgate 20 year old tawny port.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Velvet Shiso: Fifty Licks, Portland, OR

Eggs Benedict: Wiley Dufresne, wd~50, New York City

Fruit: Heston Blumenthal, Dinner, London

Tuna: Charlie Trotter, Chicago

Chocolate: April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig, New York City

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Carrying a Torch

March 23, 2015

I have devoted a lot of time and effort into arriving at a consistent perfectly cooked steak. A combination of sous vide cooking and a high-heat final sear works every time to produce a medium rare result with a good crust. But there’s always room for improvement, which I found in the form of a new tool.

Before I tell you about my new toy, er, tool, I’d like to ask:

I had funded the Kickstarter campaign for the Searzall, a device that promised to convert a common blowtorch into the perfect tool for searing food.


It loks like an antique microphone, but it’s designed to attach to the end of the torch, like so:


As you can see, the thing gets nearly white-hot when it’s been running for a few minutes. It’s not just a flame, it’s also a miniature infrared broiler. I decided to try it out to sear a few steaks cooked sous vide to 135 °F — a perfect medium rare.

I put the cooked steaks on an expendable metal sheet pan, which I rested on top of my stove grates, minimizing the possibility of setting something other than the steak on fire.


I fired up the torch. That isn’t photo blowout you’re seeing, it the actual output from the Searzall.


Time to sear:


In under five minutes the steaks acquired a dark crust.


And they were still medium rare inside.


Steak is the simplest application. I foresee using my Searzall to crisp the skin on fish filets, caramelize cut citrus fruit, and, of course make crème brûlée. The possibilities are endless:


I only wish it was larger. I had a metric ton of snow outside that needed melting.

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Birthday Dinner at wd~50

December 14, 2014
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When chef Wylie Dufresne opened his restaurant wd~50 in 2003 he unwittingly sowed the seeds of his eventual demise. Choosing Clinton Street in Manhattan’s lower east side was a clever move, in that the rent was cheap due to the sketchy neighborhood, but the restaurant was so good that the area improved due to the […]

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Pasta My Prime

September 28, 2014
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I‘m something of a Kickstarter junkie. I’ve backed projects as diverse as interacive fiction games, immersion circulators, titanium collar stays, graphic novels, music, and more. When I saw the campaign for Pasta Flyer, I practically screamed SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! How could I not contribute? I would get a chance to work with chef […]

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Lunch at The Fat Duck

September 21, 2014
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Our August trip to attend Loncon 3 was a thinly veiled excuse to get together with overseas friends, visit three countries, and, of course, eat. Thanks to the efforts of gourmand extraordinaire Scott Edelman, one of our eating destinations would be The Fat Duck. To say that I was excited about the meal would be […]

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Can’t Talk, Eating

September 16, 2014
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At the end of this post, I concluded: I hope this doesn’t escalate into a food war. Who am I kidding? I hope this does escalate into a food war. I was right, it did escalate into a food war. That dinner became the inaugural entry for Can’t Talk, Eating, our dining club. Four couples convene at […]

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Salep Happy

August 2, 2014
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Mess around with enough ice cream recipes and you discover the differences in texture created by certain ingredients. My go-to recipe uses egg yolks to make a denser, more custard-like ice cream than Philadelphia-style, which is made without. Adding various hydrocolloids (carageenan, guar or xanthan gums) inhibits ice crystal formation but changes the texture. I thought […]

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Ninth Annual Birthday Dinner

May 18, 2014

The date for the 9th annual birthday dinner for She Who Must Be Obeyed had been chosen months ago. Two weeks before that date, it was decided that the web site for Secret Internet Project (post to follow, I promise) would go live on May 1. My menu planning up to that point had been no more […]

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Membership Has Its Privileges

February 13, 2014
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One of my regrets about not attending every one of the Harvard lectures that accompanied the Physics of Soft Matter course was that I never got to hear chef Ferran Adrià. Last night I was able to remedy that gap in my culinary education when I attended “Deconstructing the Chef: Ferran Adrià and the Experience […]

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Goldbird Variations

December 5, 2013
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This year we stayed home for Thanksgiving. which gave me an opportunity to try another non-stadard turkey preparation. The key to perfect dark and white meat is to cook the bits separately, giving each the time/temperature treatments necessary to produce juicy meat. I had already figured out the perfect method for confiting the legs, so […]

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