Culinary Sagacity

~Thought for Food~

The Cathayans believed that the soul or mind is located not in the head but in the stomach.

Doubtless this explains why they fret so much about the preparation and serving of food.

It may also explain why their memories are so much better than ours.

Information is stored not in the finite head, but in the expandable stomach.

--Cyrus Spitama in Gore Vidal's Creation

Friday, July 30, 2010

The New Brooklyn Fare Kitchen

After weeks of remodeling, a long wait for the Molteni stove to arrive from France, and a slight spacial expansion, Brooklyn Fare Kitchen, home of Chef Cesar Ramirez, has a knock-down drag-out gorgeous new space.

The space is more like a theater than a kitchen, which is fitting for food that shines like a hit Broadway show.  Yes, Ramirez and his team do cook all day in this space, preparing the food sold in the gourmet Brooklyn Fare Market as well as the Kitchen, but when guests arrive, the place has been so thoroughly cleaned and shined you'd almost think nobody ever cooked a thing in there.

The team, minus Doug Kim, who was behind the camera.
The optimistic Cesar Ramirez had hoped this process would only take a week, so booking was closed from July1-8, but when July 9 rolled around and the place was still a work in progress, he didn't disappoint the people who'd waited months for their seats, and he managed to perform despite the drywall, brilliantly so.

"The Ferrari of stoves."
When Cesar showed me around the new Kitchen, pointing out all the bells and whistles in the custom made counter, he looked as excited as a kid in his own shiny new candy factory.  Showing off the new Molteni stove, he said with glee "This is the Ferrari of stoves!  And we have the only Molteni salamander in America!"

The only Molteni salamander in America.
Even with seating up from 12 to 18, and the price up too, there's still a long wait list.  But with the expansion of the kitchen, and his team, Cesar Ramirez has upped the menu as well.

All photos were shot by Cesar Ramirez's newest team member, the multi-talented Douglas Kim.  Thanks Doug!

The new Brooklyn Fare Kitchen work/eat space was designed by Ken Schimpf, founder of KDS Consulting & Design, Inc.  (

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Looking Forward to Letter Grades at NYC Restaurants

Four years ago when David Bouley poisoned his patrons with carbon monoxide because he didn't have any detectors in his restaurant, patrons literally passed out in their plates of fine food. Workers and patrons alike had to be rushed to the hospital and the EMTs evacuated the place as soon as they showed up, leaving the dining room full of half eaten dishes overnight. But that didn't shut the place down. Nor did it's D and F grades from the health department, several actually.

I think New Yorkers would be astonished if they knew the actual grades of some of the finest restaurants in the city. Fortunately, they're about to find out.

I strongly support the mandatory posting of health inspection grades at all the city's restaurants. My home town of LA has been doing it for years and guess what, you'll rarely find an establishment with less than a B because people just won't patronize a C, let alone a D. Now I know that you can lose points for silly things that don't actually pose any health risk, like leaving an ice cream scoop in a receptacle of hot water or having the fridge one degree too high. But other point losers, like rat feces on a counter top, dangerous bacteria found in the lettuce, or the lack of carbon monoxide detectors, do pose health risks.

Overall, to my mind, this is a good thing. The coming of health grades could only be loathed by those who have failed repeatedly to get an A or B, and, well, we don't really want to eat in those places now, do we?

Currently, if you go to the website for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the guys who are responsible for inspecting restaurants, they do have a page where we're supposed to be able to look up the inspection results of any restaurant in NYC. Oddly, when I've gone to this page over the past few weeks, it never seems to work properly, and I can never get the results I'm seeking, yet another reason for these places to have to post their grades.  Give it a try yourself, let me know if you got it to work!

NYC Health Department Restaurant Inspection Results

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Brooklyn Fare Kitchen Under Construction

Here's just a few pics of the ongoing reconstruction of Brooklyn Fare Kitchen.  As with all construction and remodeling projects, this one is running a bit late!  But that didn't daunt Chef Cesar Ramirez, who managed to make his marvelous meals despite a half-finished Kitchen space.  "We'll make it work because we have to, we just won't cancel on our customers!" said Ramirez.

Joining the team is sous-chef Jooeon Kim, who worked with Chef Ramirez years ago at Bouley restaurant, and who is also an alum of Per Se.  These photos were taken by Kim.

I'll be posting more pics once the Kitchen is finished (and the amazing new Molteni stove has arrived)!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fine Cooking's (to-die-for) Chocolate Chip Chiffon Cake

This has been my favorite home-made cake for years and years. I had saved the Fine Cooking issue from 2000 until I moved from DC to NYC 5 years ago and it got lost in the move. I had told my man about it so many times, but hadn't made it for him, that he started calling it the "legend Chiffon cake." For 5 years this cake wasn't available on the Fine Cooking website, but it's back!

This cake does take a fair bit of time to prepare, but it's SO worth it. My only suggestions are to use a bit more chocolate and sugar glaze than the recipe calls for. You also don't need the cream of tar-tar, this is only for stabilizing the egg whites, but if you whip them correctly, you never actually need cream of tartar in any recipe. It leaves a subtle taste that I just don't like.

I was just so happy to find this recipe again, and to finally make it for my resident patissier (it's proof positive that American cakes can be as wonderful as French desserts sometimes!). The recipe says it serves 12-14, but it served just two in my house, because it lasts for about 4 days, and we eat huge slices.

Follow this link to the best damn Chiffon cake ever!

P.S.  Fine Cooking is one of the two best magazines for people who actually want to bake and cook what they're reading, and not just look at pictures (and irrelevant ads).