Category Archive 'Cuisine'
25 Aug 2014

Chinese Chef Dies From Cobra Bite, Bite Occurring Twenty Minutes After Head Was Cut Off

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IBT (australia):

An already decapitated cobra head was still able to bite a chef twenty minutes after the head was cut off from the snake’s body. The chef died immediately before being given an anti-venom medication.

In preparing for a specialty menu, known as the Snake Soup, chef Peng Fan severed the cobra’s head, left it aside while he diced its body.

Twenty-minutes after his preparation, he picked the cobra’s decapitated head and plans to throw it in the garbage can. This was when the head bit him, and injected its poisonous venom into the chef’s body.

The incident took place in a high-end restaurant in Guangdong province, southern China.

Restaurant guests said that they heard commotion from the kitchen. The staff at the restaurant then called for a doctor but the chef was already dead when the medical assistance arrived.

Probably Naja siamensis

Hat tip to James Harberson.

05 Aug 2014

Mystery Meat

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Karen and I have been filling up our eReaders with free classics, forgotten novels, new releases, and classic pulp. After re-reading all of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee mysteries, I just started working my way through Ian Fleming’s James Bonds.

You can really feel the passage of time, reading these 60 years on. In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond stays at the Astor Hotel in New York (torn down in 1968). He rejoices that Felix Leiter is taking him to an air-conditioned restaurant: Sardi’s. Back in 1956, not all restaurants were.

Bond’s gracious host Felix proceeds to order Bond a special meal.

“… I’ve taken a chance and ordered you smoked salmon and Brizzola,” said Leiter. “This is one of the best places in town for beef, and Brizzola’s the best cut of that, straight cut across the bone. Roasted and then broiled. Suit you?” …

The smoked salmon was from Nova Scotia, and a poor substitute for the product of Scotland, but the Brizzola was all that Leiter said, so tender that Bond could cut it with a fork.

These days, of course, a fellow can look up Brizzola on the Internet, and not just wonder at Ian Fleming’s savoir faire versus one’s own ignorance.

And one finds that one is not alone in wondering about this mysterious dish.

Peter Morwood writes:

Bond writer Raymond Benson, in The James Bond Bedside Companion describes it as a fictional invention by Fleming. One thing it certainly is not, was the only Italian form of meat with a similar name that I was able to find. Bresaola, though looking and sounding close to Brizzola, is neither roasted nor broiled but air dried and served in thin slices as an antipasto starter or snack.

This could have been on Sardi’s menu along with some other beef main course, and Fleming mixed them up. He did that in several books, with food, wine and even guns (but carried off his mistakes with such verve that these are the Bondian aspects he’s supposed to have been most knowledgeable about!) I suspect we’re back to that fir-cone situation, where Fleming was told something he’d never heard of before, and described it in terms that seemed most familiar to him. …

The Brizzola business of double-cooking made me think of that memorable dinner, not only roasting beef, but broiling it afterwards. One would think that would end up with seriously overcooked meat, but from Bond’s reaction, it clearly did no such thing. More to the point, a consultation of our cookbooks – we have about 400, after the last cull – suggest that “broiling” isn’t just a way to cook food, but also to finish it after another, longer cooking method. You can see the elements falling into place…

Then I encountered an Italian dish called Brasato di Manzo al Barolo, which is beef braised in (very good) red wine, then served in thick slices – tranches, to use the old term. The slices are thick enough to pass under a seriously-hot commercial broiler to produce a burnt, crunchy finish without actually cooking the slice of braised meat any further, and whether this was done to the proper recipe or not, it sounded like a feasible way for a restaurant to put its individual spin on the dish.

Besides describing unfamiliar things in familiar terms, Ian Fleming, bless his little cotton socks, had (according to at least a couple of observers) no head for drink, and as a result his “research meals” for James Bond novels were often something of a mishmash of incorrect or illegible notes. I’ve even seen one source suggesting that Bond’s famous “shaken not stirred” Martini – which apparently contradicts the way in which every martini was made prior to that – was a result of Fleming sampling far too many martinis, getting the method wrong, and then sticking to his guns afterwards. It doesn’t hurt that in his essay How to Write a Thriller he elaborates on how someone going against the grain like that makes for a more interesting character, which works for me. The only place it doesn’t work is that such behaviour makes said character stand out and become memorable – both characteristics that a spy would do well to avoid.

It seemed to me that we’d found at least one likely candidate for “Brizzola.” Diane had other suggestions; that it might originally have been a deliberately-underdone rib roast cut between the ribs into individual portions like really large T-bone steaks, and finished on or under a grill. Alternately, it could have been a London broil sliced and finished in the same way, which is what I did to a fine piece of rump steak the other night, for my birthday dinner.

The meat had been marinating since Monday in olive oil, red wine, red wine vinegar, oregano, cracked pepper and crushed garlic. It was then slow roasted, frequently basted with the marinade, then cut into four thick slices and whizzed under the grill. Luckily our kitchen cooker has a very enthusiastic grill, if it’s allowed to preheat properly, so the end result was delicious.

And yes, you can cut it with a fork…!


03 Aug 2014

The Proper Way to Divide a Parmesan Cheese


06 May 2014

If Eden Had Been in China…

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18 Mar 2014

Clarissa Dickson Wright, 24 June 1947 — 15 March 2014

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Clarissa Dickson Wright, “the larger of the Two Fat Ladies,” passed away recently aged 66.

She was the daughter of very rich, but alcoholic and abusive, father. At age 26, she inherited 2.8 million pounds, thereupon embarking “on almost a decade of extravagance and debauchery.”

The Telegraph obituary reports that:

By age 40, she had blown it all on “yachts in the Caribbean, yachts in the Aegean, aeroplanes to the races – and drink”. “If I’d had another £100,000,” she conceded, “I’d have been dead.”

She had studied successfully for a law degree, and been the first woman admitted to the Admiralty Bar, but in 1980, she was charged with professional incompetence and practicing without chambers. She was disbarred three years later.

At rock bottom she went to the DSS to ask for somewhere to live, only to be told: “We’re not here for the likes of you, you know. You’re upper class, you’ve got a Law degree.”

She began to cook in other people’s houses. “Of course it’s only the upper classes who will become domestic servants now,” she reflected. “Other people feel it demeans them.” One day, when preparing to cook for a house party, she was on her knees, cleaning the floor. “I looked up,” she remembered, “and said ‘Dear God, if you are up there, please do something.’” The next day she was arrested for refusing a breathalyser. “I was carted down the long drive just as the house party was coming up it. From then on, I was inexorably swept into recovery.”

BBC producer Patricia Llewellyn found her running a bookshop in Edinburgh and teamed her with the also colorful and eccentric Jennifer Paterson, then a columnist at The Spectator. Their program, Two Fat Ladies, achieved enormous popularity by flying in the face of healthy eating and enthusiastically embracing traditional items of cuisine, loaded with fat, sugar, calories, and cholesterol.

She smoked a pipe, boasted of having had sex behind the Speaker’s Chair in the House of Commons, and defied the Hunt Ban by attending a greyhound coursing exhibition, and when prosecuted told the Press that she would be glad to go to prison “for hunting.”

She was even a friend of Steve Bodio’s.

She was slender as a young girl.


20 Feb 2014

I Need One of These

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Photo from Rafal Heydel-Mankoo of a feature found in the dining booths of Bob Bob Ricard, a posh restaurant featuring Russian & English cuisine in London’s West End.

03 Feb 2014

Recipe for Lembas

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“Eat little at a time, and only at need. For these things are given to serve you when all else fails. The cakes will keep sweet for many many days, if they are unbroken and left in their leaf-wrappings, as we have brought them. One will keep a traveler on his feet for a day of long labour, even if he be one of the tall men of Minas Tirith.”
The Fellowship of the Ring, “Farewell to Lorien.”

You can find all sorts of things on the Internet including, as I discovered via Facebook yesterday, a French recipe blog, delightfully titled La cuisine de mes humeurs!, which includes an entire section on recipes for dishes allegedly originating in Middle Earth (Les Terres Du Milieu), including such tempting offerings as Tarte aux fruits rouges façon hobbit, Le gratin du Mordor, Les bouchées elfiques, La truite au four façon Gondor, and even Lembas, le pain de route elfique.

My translation of the Lemas recipe goes:

For 5 lembas, you need:

3 tablespoons crushed almonds

3 tablespoons crushed hazelnuts

3 tablespoons pine nuts

3 tablespoons unsalted sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon crushed garlic

1 egg

1 tablespoon Forest Honey

1 section squeezed tangerine

1 teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon table salt

30g unsalted butter

144g of whole wheat flour

NB : The whole wheat flour gives the bread a tan color, if you prefer, you may use white flour.

Grind the pine nuts and sunflower seeds with a pestle. Melt the butter and mix with the flour in a bowl. Add the egg, before attempting to break the egg, say the Elven prayer: “In May ninista” which means “I am well aware of that,” for indeed, the elves do not like having to take an animal’s life, even if it is only in the form of an egg! If you cannot pronounce the Sindarin, say “I see you.” I think that also works ;-)

Add forest honey and the juice of a section of tangerine (squeezed by hand). In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix with the dough, kneading well. Form a ball of dough and chill for 15 minutes in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 180° C (310° F) Spread your dough 1 cm thick and cut into squares. Incise a diagonal cut on each square and then say: “Alamenë” which simply means “Go with my blessing.” This will help travelers who eat the bread on the road. I can not guarantee that this works but why not take the risk of trying it? :-)

Bake about 25 minutes, the bread is lightly brown but not risen. Take it out of the oven and allow it to cool. Meanwhile wash the leaves and dry them on a clean cloth. Finally, finish your lembas by folding the leaf around the loaf.

(The elves use large leaves from the mallorne, also called the golden tree, which is found today in Lothlórien. For a substitute, you must choose large solid and flexible leaves, which most importantly must be non-toxic. … I use the leaves of an old magnolia that grows near the woods where I played as a child. … Remember to rinse the leaves with clear water and dry them on a clean cloth.)

The Elven bread keeps for weeks and months and is incorruptible, a quality we hobbits, men, dwarves, and other creatures devoid of elven powers cannot reproduce. It is principally due to the mallorne leaves which protect the bread so that it does not become moldy. Your bread will, however, only remain edible and good for three days, if you protect it from damp and excessive heat.

16 Jan 2014

Artisanal Toast

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Artisanal Toast

John Gravdis, in Pacific Standard, tracks down the strange, but oh-so-California, origin of the left coast’s latest food craze: $3-4 a slice artisanal toast.

All the guy was doing was slicing inch-thick pieces of bread, putting them in a toaster, and spreading stuff on them. But what made me stare—blinking to attention in the middle of a workday morning as I waited in line at an unfamiliar café—was the way he did it. He had the solemn intensity of a Ping-Pong player who keeps his game very close to the table: knees slightly bent, wrist flicking the butter knife back and forth, eyes suggesting a kind of flow state.

The coffee shop, called the Red Door, was a spare little operation tucked into the corner of a chic industrial-style art gallery and event space (clients include Facebook, Microsoft, Evernote, Google) in downtown San Francisco. There were just three employees working behind the counter: one making coffee, one taking orders, and the soulful guy making toast. In front of him, laid out in a neat row, were a few long Pullman loaves—the boxy Wonder Bread shape, like a train car, but recognizably handmade and freshly baked. And on the brief menu, toast was a standalone item—at $3 per slice.

It took me just a few seconds to digest what this meant: that toast, like the cupcake and the dill pickle before it, had been elevated to the artisanal plane. So I ordered some. It was pretty good. It tasted just like toast, but better.

Behind every foodie breakthrough, there is a PC sob story. Go ahead and fork over $4 for that slice of toasted bread, it’s for a good cause!


J. O’Dell blames the tech industry.

I went to The Mill for breakfast today and got a black cup of coffee and a single slice of toast topped with butter and sour strawberry jam. For $6.

It was an experiment in upper-middle class lifestyle consumerism. In San Francisco, flaunting your wealth has been elevated to new lows, if you will. The labels aren’t the usual lineup of foreign design houses; rather, we pay $300 for simple denim jeans or $200 for plain black yoga pants. We don’t go to the opera; we overspend on the simplest facets of life.

Coffee. Water. Bread. Housing. The kinds of things our pioneer forebears made themselves and considered basic necessities or small comforts.

And the tech community is largely to blame, in this writer’s opinion.

Here’s the cycle:

    Someone creates a business for consumers with too much money and pretensions of superior taste. It might be a physical good, like toast; it might be a service, like black-car, chauffeured rides.

    Tech folks, being one of the largest demographics in the city with ample disposable income, patronize, promote, and even invest in said business. (See: Blue Bottle coffee.)

    Aforementioned business prospers and grows its profile.

    People both within and outside the tech community are inspired to create more bourgie businesses that cater to the bored and overprivileged, peppering their descriptions with buzzwords like “organic” and “fair trade” and “artisanal,” the most meaningless of them all. Rarely are these goods and services truly accessible and affordable.

    San Francisco becomes saturated with overpriced crap that is comparable in quality to less overpriced crap.

    Middle class and working class families and individuals in the community find themselves priced out of goods and services. Small businesses in those sectors languish.

Good toast and a plain cup of coffee shouldn’t cost $6. But I can’t imagine the tech community putting the brakes on this trend any time soon. We’re obsessed with false ideas of quality. We fetishize the precious processes and benchmarks and prices that, in reality, have no bearing on how good something is.

Hat tip to Lisa Schiffren.

11 Dec 2013

Most Overrated and Most Underrated Meats

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Is Jellyfish a “meat”?

Thrillist compiles the choices of 14 chefs. The most common overrated choices tend to be the most popular cuts of steak, particularly filet mignon. Underrated choices are all over the map. Several pick rabbit and chicken, but not Justin Warner.

Most Overrated Meat: Bacon

“I don’t think bacon sucks. I use it in my restaurant and eat a decent amount of it. I’m just tired of it getting all the press. The Internet has turned what was once a humble breakfast treat in to the meme of meats. You don’t see people cashing in with ‘feed me tornados of beef’ tote bags. You don’t see country ham (which I believe is a better meat for us to be stoked about, as it is an American invention) getting its own ‘day’. Bacon has become the WWF finishing move of the American culinary landscape.”

Most Underrated Meat: Jellyfish
“Texturally, nothing compares. Malaysians say the texture is ‘music to the teeth’. So what’s it taste like? Whatever you want it to. Hot day? Mint, lime juice, olive oil. Depressed? Jellyfish Alfredo. Here’s the other thing: it’s plentiful as hell. I caught 90,000lbs in one boat in one day off the coast of Georgia. That ended up making about 4.5 TONS of comestible food. Of course, we shipped it right off to China to be used in a Foxconn cafeteria or something.”

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

09 Nov 2013

Paleontology Cake


Via I f*cking love science.

12 Sep 2013

Nordic Cuisine

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Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

21 Aug 2013

Picky Eater

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Chuck Thompson, in Outside magazine, describes the life of a member of a universally despised minority.

Being a picky eater is more than a simple nuisance or emasculating badge of shame. For someone like me, who has spent most of his adult life as an international traveler in search of adventure and work, it’s a flaw that has ruined dinner parties, derailed relationships, and led to countless hungry nights.

Economy class, parasites, and crappy hotel pillows I can handle. What torments me is the prospect of being the honored guest at some exotic native banquet, presented with a sizzling plate of halibut ovaries or octopus eyeballs. All watery creatures are on my verboten list—fresh-water and salt-water fish, shrimp, turtles, any form of mussels, scallops, ceviche, calamari—but it doesn’t stop there. A short version of my “No thanks, I’m good” food roster includes: eggs, ham, tofu, milk, jellies, jams, cocktail wieners, convenience-store pump cheese, game animals, inexplicably trendy vegetables (kale? seriously?), most things pickled, all face parts, the entire organ oeuvre, chicken thighs and legs, anything in casings, cream of whatever, cheeses that float in jars of cloudy liquid, wheatgrass shots, anything associated with lactation or reptiles, bok choy, raisins (would it kill someone in this country to make a plain oatmeal cookie?), the spines of romaine lettuce leaves, apricots, most plums, orange juice pulp (grapefruit pulp is OK), the last bite of a banana, green tomato sludge, and all mushrooms, which to me taste like soil and have the mouthfeel of sputum.

Then there are my maddening inconsistencies. Tomatoes are magnificent in pizza and spaghetti, edible as soup, fatal as a juice. Black beans are an impenetrable mystery. Sometimes they’re perfect, but sometimes they’re a pile of repulsive goop, and there’s no way to explain why to a layman.

Beef is fine, as long as it’s well-done. For you, steakhouses are places to reconnect with masculinity and big, bold cabernets. For me, they’re places to confront supercilious waiters who act like it’s an outrage to leave my goddamn $45 rib eye on the grill a few extra minutes.

So much for my reputation as a man of means on seven continents. If you’re ordering a dish with more than four ingredients, I’m probably looking for the exit.

Read the whole thing.

16 Aug 2013

Reporting From the Iowa State Fair

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The Onion

Capping off the Iowa State Fair’s opening weekend with a much-beloved tradition, throngs of cheering fairgoers gathered in the Midway Sunday evening to witness the annual deep-frying of a virgin. “

25 Jan 2013

Let Them Eat Dirt!

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Kanuma potting soil

Chef Toshio Tanabe of the Ne Quittez Pas Restaurant in Tokyo’s Gotanda district, specializing in French Seafood, has captured a great deal of attention by incorporating kanuma dirt, a granular acidic clay from Tochigi Prefecture, commonly used as potting soil for bonsai (particulary for Azaleas, Camellias, Gardenias and other acid loving plants), as a key ingredient in his cuisine.

Chef Tanabe first won a cooking contest on the basis of a sauce made with kanuma dirt. He subsequently developed a series of dishes, including a soup, a salad dressing, rissotto, gratin, and even ice cream showcasing his new ingredient. Some dishes made with kanuma dirt cost as much as $110, and those who’ve tried them found them delicious. story

Oddity Central

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

Kanuma soil gratin

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