Valentines Day Dinner by Byron Talbott

    Me and my wife had a wonderful time at the St.Regis in Dana Point, Ca. Everything you would expect from a Forbes 5 star, AAA 5 diamond resort was easily noticeable and some to spare. We had an ocean view (although it was in the near distance), panoramic rolling coastal hills, an incredibly beautiful golf coarse, spectacular pool and jaucuzzi, spa, good food, and more.  I mean, I'm not claiming to be an elite hotel aficionado, but we had our own butler! I thought it was pretty nifty.  Anyhow, our stay was for only one night, so with all that said I'm guessing we didn't get a chance to partake in the full St.Regis experience.  The one experience that I do want to share with you, since I'm such a food nerd (I hope you are too), was my dinner at The St.Regis' fine dining restaurant Motif.  It was Valentines day and they had a tasting menu option aside from their regular a la carte menu, which I tend to gravitate towards anyways, so we ordered two glasses of the house champagne and two tasting menus.  Here's what we got! 

   92$ per person was quite the price. It comes with the territory and this special day, so I was prepared.

 

92$ per person was quite the price. It comes with the territory and this special day, so I was prepared.

   The Sonoma house champagne was quite tasty. It was full of green fruit, tart, and zesty tones with a dry finish.

 

The Sonoma house champagne was quite tasty. It was full of green fruit, tart, and zesty tones with a dry finish.

   The bread course was delicious. I'm always a sucker for hot bread and they made sure it was just that. They had 3 varieties: Parmesan, pretzel, and an herb. The pretzel bread was definitely the hero, but the other two were delightful. 

 

The bread course was delicious. I'm always a sucker for hot bread and they made sure it was just that. They had 3 varieties: Parmesan, pretzel, and an herb. The pretzel bread was definitely the hero, but the other two were delightful. 

   The bread course was served with a red bean "hummus' and soft butter. I don't know if I would have put these two items on the same plate, but none the less the "hummus" was creamy, tart, and full of flavor and the butter was, well, buttery. My favorite was the red bean "hummus" with the pretzel bread. It was a taste not to be forgotten. 

 

The bread course was served with a red bean "hummus' and soft butter. I don't know if I would have put these two items on the same plate, but none the less the "hummus" was creamy, tart, and full of flavor and the butter was, well, buttery. My favorite was the red bean "hummus" with the pretzel bread. It was a taste not to be forgotten. 

   The amouse bouche (literally translated "amuse mouth") was a "Crab Martini" and was a solid opener for the meal. In it laid chunks of dungeoness crab meat, an avocado puree or "Mousse", and a "Blood Mary" tomato based condiment of sorts. Although I did miss the "Foam" effect of the the "Bloody Mary" sauce.  Here's how the menu read:                                                                       -Amuse bouche-                                                                       Crab Martini                                       Lump Crab/ Avocado Mousse/ Bloody Mary Foam 

 

The amouse bouche (literally translated "amuse mouth") was a "Crab Martini" and was a solid opener for the meal. In it laid chunks of dungeoness crab meat, an avocado puree or "Mousse", and a "Blood Mary" tomato based condiment of sorts. Although I did miss the "Foam" effect of the the "Bloody Mary" sauce.  Here's how the menu read: 

                                                                   -Amuse bouche-
                                                                      Crab Martini
                                      Lump Crab/ Avocado Mousse/ Bloody Mary Foam 

   Next up was the official 1st course of the meal.  I'm a sucker for a good scallop, so I was particularly excited about this coarse. Unfortunately it didn't come through as much as I hoped it to. The scallop was properly seared, but surprisingly just a tad undercooked. The salsify puree was a nice touch with it's earthy flavor and silky smooth texture. The heart of palm was fresh, sweet, and meaty. The sauce was sweet/tart, buttery, and had a floral essence to it. I'm assuming it was the "Hibiscus Foam" and again I was missing the "Foam" effect on this one.  As far as the "White Chocolate Beurre Blanc" went, I didn't even realize it was a part of the dish until I glanced at the menu again. I just couldn't find it on the plate! All in all this was a decent 1st coarse, conceptually speaking. Here's how the menu read:                                                                           -Course 1-                                                              Scallop with Heart of Palm                                 Salsify Puree/ Hibiscus Foam/ White Chocolate Beurre Blanc 

 

Next up was the official 1st course of the meal.  I'm a sucker for a good scallop, so I was particularly excited about this coarse. Unfortunately it didn't come through as much as I hoped it to. The scallop was properly seared, but surprisingly just a tad undercooked. The salsify puree was a nice touch with it's earthy flavor and silky smooth texture. The heart of palm was fresh, sweet, and meaty. The sauce was sweet/tart, buttery, and had a floral essence to it. I'm assuming it was the "Hibiscus Foam" and again I was missing the "Foam" effect on this one.  As far as the "White Chocolate Beurre Blanc" went, I didn't even realize it was a part of the dish until I glanced at the menu again. I just couldn't find it on the plate! All in all this was a decent 1st coarse, conceptually speaking. Here's how the menu read:

                                                                        -Course 1-
                                                             Scallop with Heart of Palm
                                Salsify Puree/ Hibiscus Foam/ White Chocolate Beurre Blanc 

   Both me and my wife chose different entree options so we could experience the full breadth of the menu and it worked out quite well... aside from her stealing the beef option before I even had a chance.  Being the gentleman that I am, ahem, I politely smiled at her and happily ordered the fish option.  I think she took a little joy in all of this..  Anyhow, she ordered the beef medium rare, in which it was (maybe a tad under) and was very good. The "Truffle Polenta" was truffle packed, creamy, and buttery. The asparagus were simply grilled with salt & pepper. Simplicity is always nice.  To finish it all off was a pretty straight forward red wine beef jus with oyster mushrooms.  Here's how the menu read:                                                                             -Entrée-                                                       Certified Angus Beef Tenderloin                                                 Truffle Polenta/ King Oyster Mushroom

 

Both me and my wife chose different entree options so we could experience the full breadth of the menu and it worked out quite well... aside from her stealing the beef option before I even had a chance.  Being the gentleman that I am, ahem, I politely smiled at her and happily ordered the fish option.  I think she took a little joy in all of this..  Anyhow, she ordered the beef medium rare, in which it was (maybe a tad under) and was very good. The "Truffle Polenta" was truffle packed, creamy, and buttery. The asparagus were simply grilled with salt & pepper. Simplicity is always nice.  To finish it all off was a pretty straight forward red wine beef jus with oyster mushrooms.  Here's how the menu read:

                                                                          -Entrée-
                                                      Certified Angus Beef Tenderloin
                                                Truffle Polenta/ King Oyster Mushroom

   The barramundi had a wonderful crispy crust, moist flakey texture, a clean ocean flavor, and the vanilla ginger glaze was nice.  The "Forbidden Rice" was cooked perfectly and sort of had a risotto creaminess to it.  I'm a big fan of romanesco (the green spiny cauliflower looking vegetable), so this was an easy in for me. The only thing about this dish that I didn't completely enjoy was the over abundance of sauce and I LOVE my sauce mind you.  Other than that, this was a solid fish entree. Here's how the menu read:                                                                 Roasted Barramundi                                 Sea Urchin Beurre Blanc/ Forbidden Rice/ Vanilla Ginger Glaze 

 

The barramundi had a wonderful crispy crust, moist flakey texture, a clean ocean flavor, and the vanilla ginger glaze was nice.  The "Forbidden Rice" was cooked perfectly and sort of had a risotto creaminess to it.  I'm a big fan of romanesco (the green spiny cauliflower looking vegetable), so this was an easy in for me. The only thing about this dish that I didn't completely enjoy was the over abundance of sauce and I LOVE my sauce mind you.  Other than that, this was a solid fish entree. Here's how the menu read:

                                                              Roasted Barramundi
                                Sea Urchin Beurre Blanc/ Forbidden Rice/ Vanilla Ginger Glaze 

   Both of the desserts were very themed, which is always interesting, and very whimsical. This time I took the reigns and ordered the chocolate mousse as fast as I could. This proved to be a good choice. The mousse was creamy, rich,  the perfect amount of sweetness, and full of dark chocolatey goodness. The chocolate lollipop was filled with a delicious vanilla cream and the chocolate decorations were nothing less than perfect. I wasn't the biggest fan of the "Pineapple Compotee" pairing, but to each their own.  Here's how the menu read:                                                                           “My heart”                                   Dark chocolate mousse, vanilla cream, pineapple compotee 

 

Both of the desserts were very themed, which is always interesting, and very whimsical. This time I took the reigns and ordered the chocolate mousse as fast as I could. This proved to be a good choice. The mousse was creamy, rich,  the perfect amount of sweetness, and full of dark chocolatey goodness. The chocolate lollipop was filled with a delicious vanilla cream and the chocolate decorations were nothing less than perfect. I wasn't the biggest fan of the "Pineapple Compotee" pairing, but to each their own.  Here's how the menu read:

                                                                        “My heart”
                                Dark chocolate mousse, vanilla cream, pineapple compotee 

   My wife ordered the alternative dessert which was essentially a very elaborate pairing of raspberry and pistachio.  I think I would have enjoyed this dessert a whole lot more if I hadn't made 5-6 batches of macarons the week before.  All in all the macaron was executed very well along with everything that was sandwiched inside. Here's how the menu read:                                                                          “Mon Coeur”                                       Almond macaron, raspberry coulis, pistachio cream

 

My wife ordered the alternative dessert which was essentially a very elaborate pairing of raspberry and pistachio.  I think I would have enjoyed this dessert a whole lot more if I hadn't made 5-6 batches of macarons the week before.  All in all the macaron was executed very well along with everything that was sandwiched inside. Here's how the menu read: 

                                                                      “Mon Coeur”
                                    Almond macaron, raspberry coulis, pistachio cream

    The meal was fitting for a typical "fine dinning" Valentines day and we both enjoyed ourselves, especially with two glasses of champagne. I really wish I could say that the service was just wonderful, but we did have to wait 30 minutes for our bill (after asking for it 3 times) and it felt like that throughout the entire meal.  With that said, the hotel was wonderful and the complimentary in-room tea & coffee (via our butler) the next morning was a great way to finish off our stay.  Until next time St.Regis..….

Food Facts - Pasta by Byron Talbott

An Etruscan tomb showed a group of natives making pasta as far back as the fourth century B.C.

Chinese people have been making noodle-like food as early as 3000 B.C.

Thomas Jefferson was credited for bringing the first macaroni machine to America in 1789.

Pasta existed for thousands of years before anyone ever thought to put tomato sauce on it.

Spinach is used to make pasta green, tomato makes pasta red and squid ink makes pasta gray. Yes, there is gray pasta.

The average person in Italy eats more than 51 pounds of pasta every year.

The average person in North America eats about 15 pounds of pasta every year.

Top-quality pasta is made from durum wheat, which is grown in North Dakota.

The United States produces 1.9 million tons of pasta every year, while 2.75 million tons of pasts is produced in Italy each year.

To make your own pasta, all you need is 2 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of water. The most important part of making your own pasta is allowing the dough to rest for 20 minutes. It allows the flour to absorb the water uniformly and makes the dough easier to handle. 

Noodles in Singapore are called "meat".

In Italian, "fettuccine" means "ribbons"

There are over 600 pasta shapes worldwide.

Pasta is categorized in two basic styles: dried and fresh. Dried pasta is made without eggs and can be stored for up to two years, while fresh pasta will keep for a few days under refrigeration.

100% whole wheat pasta contains more fiber; therefore gets digested slower than regular pasta.

October is National Pasta Month.

In the 13th century, the Pope set quality standards for pasta.

The word "pasta" comes from the Italian word for paste, meaning a combination of flour and water.

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The Science Behind Salt & Sweet by Byron Talbott

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 Salty and sweet is just flat out good, but why?

   We all know that taste buds allow us to taste (it's in the name, after all). But what you may not know is that each taste bud contains 50 to 100 taste cells, which are actually what do the tasting. Each of these cells responds to a different flavor: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, or umami. We perceive taste (let's use sweet as an example) when sugar and a sweet receptor protein interact, causing the sweet cell to become excited and send a signal to the brain, which then registers the flavor as sweet. This is a process that scientists have known for a long time. But recently the process has been further complicated by what researchers have found out about certain sweetness receptors. A study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that certain sugar receptors that were thought only to exist in the gut were spotted on sweet taste cells on the tongue. Researchers, led by Dr. Robert Margolskee, of the Monell Chemical Sense Center, found the SGLT1 receptor — which transports sugars into cells only when sodium is present — on sweet taste cells on the tongues of mice. This could explain why sweetness is accentuated by salt — the receptors are activated when salt accompanies sugar.

  So there you have it. The next time you enjoy caramel corn, you'll know what to thank: good old SGLT1 receptor. Read the full article….

-Article credit: Justine Sterling

Origins of The Macaron by Byron Talbott

  Where did these trendy cookies come from?

‘The Macaron cookie was born in Italy, introduced by the chef of Catherine de Medicis in 1533 at the time of her marriage to the Duc d’Orleans who became king of France in 1547 as Henry II. The term “macaron” has the same origin as that the word “macaroni” — both mean “fine dough”.

The first Macarons were simple cookies, made of almond powder, sugar and egg whites. Many towns throughout France have their own prized tale surrounding this delicacy. In Nancy, the granddaughter of Catherine de Medici was supposedly saved from starvation by eating Macarons. In Saint-Jean-de-Luz, the macaron of Chef Adam regaled Louis XIV and Marie-Therese at their wedding celebration in 1660.

Only at the beginning of the 20th century did the Macaron become a “double-decker” affair. Pierre Desfontaines, the grandson of Louis Ernest Laduree (Laduree pastry and salon de the, rue Royale in Paris) had the idea to fill them with a “chocolate panache” and to stick them together.

Since then, French Macaron cookies have been nationally acclaimed in France and remain the best-selling cookie in pastry retail stores….. read the full article

 Article Credit: MadMac

Food Facts - Green Beans by Byron Talbott

  • Green beans are picked before the seeds are mature and the shell becomes hard and brittle. You're essentially eating pre-mature seeds and its pod when you consume a "ripe" green bean.
  • Green beans taste best when they are thinner than a pencil because they have the least amount of water retention and are the most concentrated in sugar at that stage.
  • Green, navy, kidney, and black beans are called “common beans”.
  • Green, navy, kidney, and black beans all originated in Peru. 

Click Here for a killer green bean recipe

Chai Tea by Byron Talbott

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  • Traditionally the base tea is usually a strong black tea such as Assam, so that the spices and sweeteners do not overpower it. Usually, a specific type of Assam is used called "mamri". Mamri tea is tea that has been cured in a special way that creates granules as opposed to "leaf" tea. It is inexpensive and the tea most often used in India. However, a wide variety of teas are used to make chai. I recommend using a black tea that suits your palette, but just know that most chai tea recipes typically use a strong variant of tea.                                    

Click Here for an incredible chai latte recipe