Archive for michelin stars

Out of the paella pan, into the fire

Posted in Cooking, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

So why Alicante?

First off, I loved Alicante during our visit for the ICEX scholarship. Alicante is home to the queen of saffron, Maria Jose San Roman (her restaurants are really good), as well as some outstanding rice cookery.

I guess that the proximity to the growing fields of the famous Bomba rice of Spain makes this place a haven for great rice dishes– dishes like arroz meloso (think: risotto), arroz cremoso (think: soupy rice), and the quintessentially Spanish dish, paella.

Second, as it turns out one of my friends from Calima is the son of one of the most famous paella makers in Spain. Thank you very much, Karma.

So, just 30 minutes and 3 Red Bulls after work we headed out on the 6-hour drive to his family’ s restaurant– Casa Juan— leaving at 2am.

Of course, this was my first time driving a manual transmission in over 6 years (not that I “drove” one before that… I just tried it a few times, as Kristen can attest to her grounded down gears on the BMer!) But I was determined, nonetheless, to get in that car, get to Alicante (in one piece), and eat some truly righteous paella.

Let the vacation begin!!! Sorta.

Eventually we arrived unscathed around 7am– with only a handful of stalls along the way and perhaps in need of a chiropractor due to my compulsion for popping the clutch.

Which was when we met up with Emilio’s parents– on their way to open their beachfront restaurant and prepare for a grueling service. Not that I knew any of this at the time…

Sweating through a surprise service

Because if I knew what was in for me, I would maybe not have mentioned how I would–ohsurewhynot— love to tag along.

Or that I would–ohsurewhynot— love to see the prep of sauces and stocks. Or–ohsurewhynot— I’ll try on your pretty blue apron. Or–ohsurewhynot–I’ll chop that onion.

Or–ohsurewhynotwaitwhatthehellishappening?!–I’ll stir your paella. And your second. And so on, and so on…

Until suddenly, after working my final service at Calima, driving through the night, and arriving only to go to another restaurant– I found myself working the line making paellas at one of the bussiest, most well-known paella restaurants in Spain on one of their busiest days of the week.

I was, in fact, cooking and sweating more now on my first day of vacation than I had in over a year– that is, we (meaning me and the main paella cook) turned out over 80 paellas, often working 6 or more at a time.

This, my friends, was what we call a trial by fire. I seriously hadn’t done this much volume since my Jaleo days– which is ironic since Sr. Guillén helped to shape Jaleo’s paella recipe.

My paella heros: Sr. y Sra. Guillén

Not that I am complaining at all– this family, the Guilléns, are hands-down some of the nicest, hardest working people I have met. Emilio’s “momma” and “poppa” can cook circles around many of the professional chefs I have met… seriously, these guys are amazing to see and I am so humbled to have been trusted enough to be allowed to help out and learn in their kitchen.

Plus… the paella ROCKS. They are so deservedly famous for their recipe and technique.

So, in conclusion:

Dear Diary– Paella is yummy, and I now understand it better than I ever have.

I understand the soccarat (that fabulously crunchy layer that develops and is the mark of a paella maestro) even if I can’t get it perfect every time (Jeff=student, not maestro).

And I am now ready for some Flamenco. Off to Granada and the famous cuevas de los gitanos!

The Fat Lady’s song

Posted in Cooking, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

With the sending off of my last 2 plates of almendrado (an ajo blanco-based speciality of Dani Garcia) Saturday night, I served my last official tables of the 2010-2011 ICEX Scholarship. Joder,what an experience it has been…

WIth Dani & David

And while I was working that final service, a thought hit me:

“I have a week left here to play! It ain’t over till the fat lady sings, and the only fat ladies singing in the south of Spain are doing so to the wails and beats of a flamenco guitar.”

For me, nothing is as quintessentially southern Spanish than flamenco and paella–and maybe Dani Garcia (beside the point, but gotta give the guy props!).

And so a plan formed… ROADTRIP!!!!

I decided, in that moment, that this week is going to be all about Andalucia: I am going to travel the south of Spain–seeking out and enjoying two of my favorite things in the world, and trying not to get arrested along the way.

And to start it all off, I am going back to one of my favorite cities from our tour, which is also the home of some of the best rice (and rice dishes) in the world: Alicante.

Yes, Alicante… Valencia may be known for Paella Valenciana, but for my money Alicante is where it’s at.

Take notes, kids… this will be on the final.

ohsurewhynot

The Final Countdown

Posted in Cooking, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

HOLY CRAP— 1 week of work left in this little adventure (and a week of play to come!!). Where has it all gone???!!!

In honor of these waning 2 weeks here in the land of soccer/bicycle champions, toros, spherifications, and all things great about the pig, here’s a little countdown of the greatest hits from my 2009-2010 ICEX scholarship experience:

# of technological items broken: 11 (x2 headphones, x3 usb drives, x1 computer hard drive, x2 bricks for plugging-in computer,  x1 electric razor, x1 cell phone, x1 Ipod)

# of people pickpocketed: 1 (sorry, Saurabh!)

# of punk-ass crooks who tried to take my computer bag: 1

# of roundhouse kicks that punk-ass crook took to the face: 1 (shame he ran, I had a few more for him!)

# of bouts of food poisoning: only 1… let’s keep it that way!

# of drunken fights I missed my fellow cooks getting into: 1 major

# of teeth lost during those fights: 1 (lo siento, Dani!)

# of times Paras got coaxed into doing the Rerun dance: 1 that I know of…

# of carabineros Paras and I cumulatively consumed at Mercado San Miguel at 9 euro a pop: 7ish (MANY more to come during competition weekend!!!)

# of new groupies for Simon: at least the 12 of us, if not more!

# of MILFs certain team members from European countries got acquainted with: um… no comment… but you know who you are!

# of Iberico piggies I got to help meet their maker: 6

# of kilos of Iberico piggy consumed: Don’t know, don’t care… damn they are tasty.

# of posts I deleted after getting an ass-chewing from JP and Paras: 1

# of times I’m going to be given crap from JP for said post: More than I can count…

# of times we said “I wish Saul was here” during our “so-called matanza/cheese tour” (Dude BETTER show up at the competition in September!!!): 10 and then some!

Celebrities cooked for : Princess of Spain, Antonio Banderas, Janet Napolitano, Prez. Zapatero, some dude they claim was the Spanish equivalent of Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, Jose Andres, Ferran Adria, Paco Torreblanca… and maybe some more before the week is out!

# of liquid nitrogen burns I have sustained: 8 minor, 2 more-than-minor

# of bottles of Pacharan consumed alongside the best morcilla iberica EVER at La Soberbia: A lot. ‘Nuff said.

Liquid nitro playtime

# of drinks to be consumed when we come back for the competition in September: Don’t even want to think about it…

# of places I now plan to visit: (China, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, India, Mexico, Brazil… and Queens!)

and…

# of new families I am proud to be a part of and better call me when you are in the USA(!): 4 (ICEX, Adolfo, Calima, Rocamador)

I’m sure my ICEX amigos have more, so post ’em if you got ’em!

“See you tomorrow!”

The Royal Blessing

Posted in Cooking, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

Last week we were visited by Spanish culinary royalty… here’s the picture:

In the kitchen with Ferran Adria, Dani Garcia, and the Calima crew

Dial M for Matanza

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

I’m currently on a 5-hour train ride returning from one of the most amazing experiences of my career… and my life.

Acorns, acorns everywhere

While passing through the Extremeñan countryside, you can see rows upon rows of acorn trees and, every so often, a herd of animals rushing from one grove to the next.

But these are no ordinary animals… these are the famous Iberico pigs of Extremadura, and they are one of the main reasons I applied for this scholarship in the first place.

 

Beginning in the beginning: After talking with last year’s ICEX scholarship winners, I heard that the best, most memorable part of their journey was the matanza (the traditional pig slaughter of Spain that yields chorizos, salchichones, jamones, and all manner of porky goodness) in which they partook.

They travelled to The Rocamador during the second part of their tour—an ancient monastery-come 4-star hotel & 1-star restaurant in Extremadura that has a special farm where they conduct their own Matanzas in the old method (meaning EVERYTHING done by hand).

 

Spanish butchery 101

 

 

I was told in hushed, reverential tones that I would learn about Spanish pig butchery.

 

  

 

Learning the secreto of the secreto

I would learn how to locate the secreto, the pluma, the papada; how to cut a jamon; how to make all sorts of pâtés and spreads; but, most importantly, I would learn WHY the matanza is so important to Spanish culture. SWEET.

And then the news came down from the-powers-that-be: NO matanza this year, NO Extremadura, NO learning, NO NADA. Just a visit to a jamon factory with NO TASTING involved. EPIC FAIL.

That is, “epic fail” until Adolfo and The Most Interesting Man in The World (MIMW: you know who you are) heard my plight—and agreed to help. A few phone calls later and Carlos, the owner of Rocamador and coolest pig guy this side of Alan Benton and Jimmy Dean, agreed to put me up and let me learn. 

Head to Bardajoz, 2nd star on right, straight on till morning

So my ass got on the first thing smoking to the most secluded area of Spain…          
                                                         

And at this point, I am going to take a moment and give props to Carlos, his family, and the folks of The Rocamador: Listen up… this place, these people, everything here SERIOUSLY ROCKS.

La Familia with Sr. Goofball Rodolfo

Talk about gracious hospitality: These guys let me hang out and ask annoying questions for over 2 weeks, made me feel like part of the family, taught me everything possible in the limited time I was there, let me work where and when I wanted, and even fed me some of the most amazing products:                                                        

Fatty, delicious secreto

Local oranges with more flavor than a Sunkist wet dream, secretos of Iberico more marbled than kobe beef,  and the migas—oh, the migas that they made for every morning of the matanza.

Migas & Cowboy Coffee

You probably figured out: I think this place is INCREDIBLE—a very special, historic, and beautiful gem in the heart of Spain.     

In your lifetime, you absolutely must visit to appreciate what food is and where it comes from—and if you are a food person or lover of all things pig, drop what you are doing right now and get on a plane. You have NEVER tasted pork like this, folks…

With mis maestras

Next post is part 2 from Extremadura… stay tuned, Bat Fans.

Proof of life

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

To quote Kidrock: 

 

‘Guess who’s back, motherf****r!’ 

It has been a loooooong time since my last post, and through the computer crashes and lost packages much has happened in the now winterwonderland that is Toledo, España.  

The snow covered Alcazar & Ciudad Antigua

Snow in Toledo

I guess its best to begin with the unanswered question of where we last left our hero: 

Obviously, I received a special care package from a special someone with some special knives, kitchen tools, and a kickass little laptop to play with and update my blog. Internet is still spotty in the Ciudad Antigua de Toledo, but more on that later…  

A big shout out and thanks for an intervention by 3 separate employees of the Embassy of the United States in Madrid and US Senator Dianne Feinstein (yeah, I wrote a letter)–all of whom contributed to over 2 hours worth of phone calls on my behalf to over 14 different post offices, agencies, and bureaucrats. Your tax dollars at work, folks. 

Finally, on a snowy day in December, I walked 45 minutes to the Madrid Barajas airport office cargo holding area of Correos, armed with my letter from ICEX calling me “Don Jeffrey Weiss, un cocinero importante de los Estados Unidos” and a rehearsed speech about how I am a representative of the United States of America and DEMAND my package.  

The guy looked at me and said: 4 euros, por favor.  

All this over… 4 euros. All the phone calls, all the time and energy, all the blood, sweat, and tears. 

Gracias, Correos. You STILL suck. 

Playing with a fresh-as-the-sea tuna loin

What has not sucked, however, has been my time and experiences cooking with Adolfo and his crew at the restaurant. I have been in the fish station for this entire time, and have had the opportunity to meet some phenomenal people, play with some incredible products (sea urchins, tuna loins, black truffles, white truffles, and other ridiculously fresh and expensive goodies), and cook some great food.   

   

  

Adolfo’s cooking is based on the cuisine of Castilla-La Mancha, the soul food of Spain with foundations in the garlic-and-onion-heavy peasant-cuisine of Don Quixote. 

The King of MercaMadrid looking over mariscos

Couple this foundation with: 

1. Using the freshest ingredients available (something made possible since Adolfo is the KING of MercaMadrid, the 2nd biggest wholesale market in world behind the Tsukiji market in Tokyo) 

and 

2. Preparing dishes simply with a minimum of fat and salt (no, I am NOT used to low-salt cooking–I SO oversalt my sauces… oops!). 

Adolfo broke out his gold medal

…and you can see why Adolfo Muñoz is one of the most popular faces in the alta cocina of this region (if not all of Spain).

The guy just got a gold medal from President Zapatero for his work here–the only other cooks with the same medal are Juan-Mari Arzak and Ferran Adria. Now THAT’S some serious company… 

Alas, life here has not been all oversalting Adolfo’s life work over a hot stove. 

Thanks in large-part to the generosity of the Muñoz family, I have experienced so much of the Spanish culture. Without the boring details, here’s a short list of the highlights: 

– Christmas in Spain with my sister, meaning more mariscos (shellfish for my gringos out there) and food than any reasonable person would want to consume. But we did… 

– Spanish new years, complete with the throat-seizing tradition of cramming 12 grapes down your throat–1 for each bell-strike at midnight 

–  Visits to MercaMadrid to watch Adolfo negotiate, cajole, and otherwise convince fish vendors why they should sell him the best products for the lowest prices. He even convinced the tuna guy to give him, for free, a bunch of fresh ijada— fatty tuna collar. And it was scary good… 

And coming soon: 

– We are cooking for President Zapatero and 300 of his closest friends. As in the President of Spain. Guess I might need to behave… they took my ID info yesterday!  

– Thanks to my connection with Adolfo, Javier, and a couple of anonymous friends in ICEX (you know who you are, “Most Interesting Person in the World!”), I will be going to Extremadura for 2 weeks to meet and eat the famous Iberico piggies! 

Check out the Rocamador, a converted monastery/super fancy hotel/Iberico pig farm: www.rocamador.com 

And, no, I didn’t forget: I totally owe you guys some food porn. Next post will be it, provided Flickr and YouTube cooperate…

Red pill, Blue pill

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2009 by Jeffrey Weiss
 
I got a call from Morpheus (aka Javier, Adolfo’s son) the other day…

I was happily going about my early morning routine of setting up the kitchen and was just settling into my café con leche and fish prep when the phone rang:

 

¨Neo, come to the other restaurant.¨

  

¨Pack your knife kit, wear your chef whites, bring a change of clothes… and follow the white rabbit.¨

 

At the other restaurant, Morpheus was sitting in his pimped out black car:

¨If you take the blue pill, you go back to the restaurant and prepare for service. ¨

¨If you take the red pill, you come to Madrid for a special food expo for the restaurant and… other stuff will happen too.¨

Choose, Neo:

Restaurant service

OR

A night of questionable morality and
dubious certainty with Adolfo and family

Um, what do you think I did?! I took a handful of red pills!!! 

Here are the results:

The convention hall

The convention hall

Convention Hall #2

Convention Hall #2

Our companions the next booth over

Our companions the next booth over

The sexy Tio Pepe girls. It must be the hats...

The sexy Tio Pepe girls. It must be the hats...

With Adolfo & Nacho Manzano

With Adolfo & Nacho Manzano

Adolfo works the crowd

Adolfo works the crowd

The crowd gathers... anyone who's anyone in the Spanish food world!

The crowd gathers... anyone who's anyone in the Spanish food world!

Morpheus (Javier, in front) and his older brother, Adolfito

Morpheus (aka Javier, in front) and his older brother, Adolfito

 
with the mack daddy himself

with the mack daddy himself

The Castilla-La Mancha crew

The Castilla-La Mancha crew

with Florencio Sanchidiran, the king of jamon carving

with Florencio Sanchidiran, the king of jamon

Florencio playing with jamon

Florencio playing with jamon

… and then it was off to the after-party and a looooong Madrid night:

Adolfo, aka Al Pacino/James Dean/Escofier in the same body, driving his red jag, cigar in hand

Adolfo, aka Al Pacino/James Dean/Escofier in the same body, driving his red jag, cigar in hand

with Javier and novia

with Javier and novia

The after-hours crew

The after-hours crew

 And some videos from the night:

Video from the Millesime cooking expo

Video from the afterparty