Dumb Asses, Please Order Sirloin—Not Rib Eye

Anthony Bourdain
Photo: Melanie Dunea

The entrecôte, or rib eye, and its big bone-in brother, the côte de boeuf, have perhaps the perfect balance of fat, lean, and marblingthe best mix of flavor and texture.

Dismayingly, all too many restaurant customers complain that it’s “too fatty,” as they are just too dumb to appreciate the best steak on the steer. They should probably stick to the leaner but very flavorful sirloin, which is what their dumb asses were probably thinking of when they put in their order.

Anthony Bourdain

Les Halles Cookbook
Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking
“Beef”
page 121-122

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I’m Not a Perfectionist

I like attention to detail more than the pursuit of perfection. 

Pierre Hermé

My Best: Pierre Hermé
“What is your motto?”
page 5

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Be a Pedant, Be Very, Very Precise

Make it shine (Photo: viv)

Chefs may be as experimental and inventive as you like (though much apparent originality turns out to be mere theft), but they know that a dish, in order to be the dish they are proud to serve, must be creative in a very, very precise way, with the smallest latitude for error. ‘Oh, that’ll do’ is not a phrase often heard in top restaurant kitchens.

The Pedant in the Kitchen
– Essay #2 . Warning: Pedant at Work – 
Julian Barnes

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The Beauty of Burnt

My seventh crème brûlée attempt, on13 June 2018, with the kind of brûlée, burnt top I had been chasing: sexy, lace-like, sheet-thin, and elegant . (Photo: viv)

NOT all food memories are transporting or transcendent like the kind that the villainous food critic Ego encountered at his first taste of the Thomas Keller-inspired ratatouille by Remy the rat. Some are just so vague and distant you search hard for that first encounter only to find nothing, just the hopelessness of a time passed and a record all but lost at sea. 

Crème brûlée is one such memory. 

For a long time now, this simple, elegant custard dessert has held a special place in my heart. It’s one of several I would name if you were to ask me what my favorite desserts are. 

Did I first have it in Paris, at Le Marais, in the fall of 1994 during my very first trip to France, or was it at this chic French restaurant at the Hyatt called Hugo’s? No, maybe it wasn’t Le Marais, but Le Quartier Latin, I don’t remember. Then, the memory would get a little messy — could it be that it wasn’t  even crème brûlée I had at that bistro, but Tarte Tatin? All I remembered clearly of that soirée was the fromage du chevre, the weird bug-like back note and plastic taste of goat’s cheese from that deadly morsel I had picked from the plate of my dining companion, Richard, a long-ago friend with whom I’ve lost touch. 

Such annoying quandaries of a foggy brain could well have been avoided if I had kept a journal. It’s a habit I still don’t keep, alas, which is not to say that my memory is poor or sluggish . . .

Continue reading the rest of this essay here

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World Cup 2018—a Season of Let Down and a Tale of Grit

The roar of victory after France’s Paul Pogba scores in the second half of the World Cup Finals  (Photo: Martin Meissner, Associated Press)

BETWEEN this year’s World Cup and the one four years ago, give me the last one anytime. I’m sure I’m not the only who feels this way. Game after game, I came away feeling cheated. Take that Germany-versus-South Korea game, for instance, the Germans literally gave away a free goal to the Koreans just because the goalkeeper decided he was more cut out to be a striker than a guardian of his own goalpost.

What about all the hot soccer teams—the star teams you were sure would not just give you a winning performance, but also world-class soccer? Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, Uruguay, England—all of these teams lost not because the underdogs they were up against played well, but because they played badly. And not just badly, some of them displayed such appalling attitude.

I’m sure you know who I’m referring to. Brazil’s star player Neymar, and also soccer’s hottest dude, Ronaldo. Here are two players the entire world watches with great enthusiasm, but when playtime comes along, what do they do? They put up a horrible acting performance, faking injury and wasting time, rather than giving the world truly sublime soccer, the kind they are known for. D-list actor is how the New York Times has described Neymar. Imagine him stooping to that level, an A-list soccer star! That’s just so sad.

Perhaps the saddest thing of all is this: The great Lionel Messi did not manage to score a single goal, and for this to be his last World Cup outing is just too tragic. But then again, maybe it’s not. Messi wasn’t in his element just because he was playing with his national team, and not his home team, F.C. Barcelona. Without his pals, Messi can never be the real Messi.

Messi may have faded, Neymar may have disappointed, but some unknown and upcoming stars saved the day. Croatia’s surprise victory over England, giving them a spot at the finals for the first time ever, was a reminder of how anything is possible. Theirs was an extraordinary story of the unexpected. It was a grand celebration of the underdogs.

Sure, we were all hoping for a France-England showdown, but somehow, a France-Croatia finals was just as good. Any team who makes it to finals does so not by just sheer luck.

So when the finals finally rolled in, you wonder, “What if Croatia wins?” Of course, most of us weren’t rooting for an underdog victory. I was just thinking of Les Bleues. But as the game rolled on, when France notched a 4-1 lead, the Croatians were still giving their all. The energy, the go-for-it, the never-give-up—they were all too palpable. Then, that second goal came so late into the game. These Croatians were still at it, a roaring fierce game.

By this time, at the 69th minute, it was clear that France would be the champions, but I thought, “Croatia, you’re good!” And even as I cheered at the French team’s victory, I felt the Croatians emerged triumphant in their own way. They have come very far—certainly not by sheer luck, but amazing and admirable grit.

(536 words)

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Nicholas Tan, 9th Grade
July 2018