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>chanterelle vs. hedgehog

We are talking about the best of the bunch. Morel, porcini, pine, chanterelle.
Hedgehog mushroom
(Dentinum Repandum or Umbilicatum) is one of the super delicacies of the fungal kind. Also known as sweet tooth, it boasts fine teeth instead of gills under the cap.

If you are lucky, you'll find some at your farmers' market.

>Warm Lamb's tongue vinaigrette with hedgehog mushrooms and a three minute egg - Babbo, New York

>Sunchoke veloute hedgehog mushrooms, hazelnuts, applewood-smoked bacon, One Market, San Francisco, CA

>Veal sweetbread with hedgehog mushrooms, bacon, meyer lemon chutney and sherry brown butter - The Food Studio, Atlanta, GA

>Ricotta gnocchi with leeks, cream, and hedgehog mushrooms -Alba Osteria, Portland, OR


>veal sweetbread vs. lamb sweetbread

Coming to a restaurant near you -
lamb sweetbread. A common sighting in Istanbul, London, Paris (ris d'agneau).

>Trio Canterbury lamb, pine nut and kawa kawa crusted rack, green vegetable bavorois, lamb sweetbread, lamb shank and savoy cabbage faggot, carrot puree, rosemary jus - The Vineyard restaurant, Hotel du vin, New Zealand

>Uykuluk, grilled lamb sweetbread served with salad - Mangal 2 Ocakbasi restaurant, London

>Roasted cutlet of Bowland lamb, wild mushroom puree, samphire, ravioli of lamb sweetbread, lamb jus - Cassis restaurant, Stanley House, Mellor, Lancashire, England

>Stuffed lamb loin with lamb sweetbread, lemon sauce and vermicelli - Le Ciel, Grand Hotel Wien, Vienna, Austria

>chic fish cheeks

Grass Valley, California was the most unexpected place to find excellent fish cheeks, but I did. What I had at Kaido restaurant downtown wasn't exactly just cheeks, though - the crispy grilled cheek of yellowtail came with eyeballs and jaws intact.

Less scary versions:

>Halibut cheek with pepper sauce - Matsuhisa, Beverly Hills, CA

>Slow-cooked Louisiana grouper cheeks with artichokes, sweet peas, apple bacon, and wild onions - Restaurant August, New Orleans

>Hamachi Kama, grilled yellowtail cheek "shio" or "tare" - Tsuki, Chicago, IL


>albino sturgeon caviar

Caviar comes in many hues of rich jewel tones.

Amber, emerald, coral, black pearls - festively adorning your blini.

Prices of caviar run the whole gamut from cheap as chopped liver to significantly more pricey than the best foie gras, and way beyond.

Pretty - the humble orange-red salmon roe, ikura, and (artificial) green wasabi tobiko.

And then there is the Almas "white" golden caviar, the most expensive foodstuff in the world, costing thousands of dollars per serving. Luminous morsels to treasure? Rather, a glittering folly.

>Kanpachi tartare topped with wasabi tobiko, ginger-coriander emulsion - Le Bernardin, New York, NY

>Herb marinated sockeye salmon, jicama-radish salad, ikura, citrus vinaigrette - Bushi-Tei, San Francisco, CA

>Almas albino sturgeon caviar in a 24-karat gold tin, 1kg - Caviar House, London (₤
15,000 British pounds)

>cardamom vs. ginger

Cardamom ice cream at Ici today in Elmwood, Berkeley, a classy little store.

Cardamom belongs in the ginger family -Zingiberaceae- along with turmeric, galangal, myoga.

Remembering that cardamom is related to the more familiar ginger might make cardamom menus even more approachable.

>Erica's French Toast, challah bread dipped in orange-cardamom batter - Rick & Ann's restaurant, Berkeley, CA

>Freshly minced beef, seasoned with
Addis Ithiopian seasoning butter and bird's eye red pepper spiced with cardamom and salt - Addis restaurant, Oakland, CA

>Seared foie gras with pumpkin ice cream, medjool dates, cardamom puff pastry and balsamic - Viceroy, Santa Monica, CA

>Apple crumble cardamom ice cream, green apple sorbet - Vong restaurant, London, England


>sole vs. halibut

Even as I resolve to become a more knowledgeable eater, any flatfish is vaguely interchangeable in my mind.

Halibut is the large tasty creature fishermen get all excited about, and sole - I know it mostly as that familiar harborside buttery main course, classier than a flounder.
I remember hearing stories about different kinds of flounders and turbots being able to face each other, because their eyes are on the opposite sides. It's a bit confusing and if you try to keep track of which ones face which way, it gets complicated. These are flounders with some serious issues.

Shown here are just 2 examples out of numerous different kinds.

<-- "right-eyed" sole and "left-eyed" halibut --> 

Both make good sashimi and sushi - karei (カレイ) and hirame (ヒラメ).

>Poached halibut, sweet and sour golden and red beets, citrus and extra virgin olive oil emulsion - Le Bernardin Restaurant, New York, NY

>Sole amandine, filet of sole with almonds and sun-dried tomatoes - Tempo restaurant, Alexandria, VA


>full of ginger

The ginger family (Zingiberaceae) has so much more to offer us than just the humble root we find in the supermarket.

Take fresh turmeric which looks very much like our common ginger,
only bright orange. Or faintly pink galangal. Light maroonish myoga.

>La Vong monkfish pan seared in galangal, green onions & turmeric, with fresh dill & fried shallots - Bong Su restaurant & lounge, San Francisco, CA

>Sea bream with myoga, taro root, beet and shiso chips, and

>Tataki of bonito or katsuo
seared over an open flame, chive, myoga, mitsuba, ginger, garlic chips and tosa soy, and

>Big eye tuna and wild tai sashimi, grilled tai skin salad with myoga, white truffle, mitsuba stem - Sea saw restaurant, Scottsdale, AZ


>Ceylon cinnamon vs. cassia

I have a whole jar of dried cinnamon sticks in the kitchen. I haven't paid too much attention to what kind it is. Cassia, the "inferior" kind, it turns out.

Cinnamon's common names refer to the shape of the bark, or "channel". Cannell, cannelle, canella, canela. There is a fascinating history involving the major players, Ceylon cinnamon and cassia.

Of course, like so many other flavorful things, cinnamon comes in different varieties. For all we know, as varied as cocoa beans. I will leave it up to tomorrow's flavor makers to come up with names for the dozens of subtle perfumes.

>Cassia smoked Changmai pork sausages with tomato chilli relish and pickled cucumber - Spirit House, Yandina, Queensland, Australia
>Chocolate prune hazelnut armagnac tart with cassia bark ice cream - Percy's Country, Devon, UK
>Chocolate and tonka yoghurt sorbet with cassia bark - The Bath Priory, Bath, UK
>Wood roasted squab with glazed brussel sprouts, chestnut dumpling, Ceylon cinnamon sauce - Butterfield9, Washington, D.C.
>Rock lobster "Mediterranean langoustine", fine vermicelli pasta, Ceylon cinnamon reduction - Club XIX, Pebble Beach, CA


>Happy tart year!

I predict 2007 will be a hot, spicy year. For desserts.

My typical dining scenario has been like this. I would be somewhat dazzled by the appetizers, somewhat pleased by the main courses, but somewhat disappointed by the desserts. Not because they are bad, but because they are predictable. Predictably sweet, too. Sweet is wonderful, but a dessert can be infinitely more complex.

When the skills of the pastry chef don't seem to echo the wizardry of the executive chef, the transition is more than a bit jarring. I experienced it at Scott Howard in San Francisco. First-class food followed by a lemon dessert simply too sweet I had to leave half of it uneaten.

Tart is one important element, but a dessert can be uninteresting if it's too cleanly tart - as in some fruit sorbets.

-Strawberry gratin, cottage cheese gratinated strawberries with sour ice cream and walnut crokant - Maritim, Riga, Latvia
-Brandied pecan tartlet with with pears and creme fraiche ice cream - Jeffrey's, Austin, TX
-Spiced apple cake with creme fraiche ice cream - Channings, Edinburgh, Scotland
-Molten chocolate cake with creme fraiche ice cream & brandy snap basket - Araxi, Whistler, B.C.
-Cocoa cake with sour cream ice cream, with berries and dulce de leche - Nacional 27, Chicago, IL