Archive for spherification

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 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!)


# 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

Campeones del Mundo

Posted in Cooking, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

Not that I’m the first to say it lately, but here goes:


Ok… let me be clear about something: Coming here I couldn’t care LESS about soccer– or I guess we should call it fúbol in deference to mis hermanos y mis hermanas.

The Robin William's view of an American soccer player

I called it a sorta-sport, even though the entire world plays the game (even, to some extent, the United States– sidenote: Robin Williams explains our proclivity for soccer best in his Live From New York show).

After living through the World Cup Fever that took over the people of this country– and will continue for, hopefully, a very long time– I have changed my tune:

Soccer is a valid sport, and can even be moderately enjoyable… as long as you are in a great tapas bar, with great friends, and all of the annoying horns and buzzers are kept out of arms reach of little children and drunken adults. But I digress…

It was one of those “you had to be there” moments:

The final minutes of the World Cup match between Holland and Spain, The Goal, The Aftermath.

This was something I have never seen in my entire life, and I am so happy that I was here to witness it:

Everyone in the entire country had red and yellow somewhere on their bodies–and some had bodies that were painted entirely red and yellow (or, at least, the parts that I saw!).

Most people draped themselves in their national flag (in the hypersensitive US something tantamount to disrespect for the cloth), and everyone… EVERYONE…. was hugging, chanting about their national pride and heritage, and displaying the kind of affection normally reserved for close relatives or lovers.

It’s pandemonium over here, people… but not in a “Lakers-winning-come riot in the streets with looting and upside-down cop cars” kinda way. This is all about love and national pride.

To understand it, you gotta see it through the eyes of a Spaniard: These are a people who have shouldered the worst impact of the global financial recession in Europe. Unemployment in their country is in the high double digits, and some people say it’s only getting worse.

In the restaurant business, things are especially ugly– you can walk down major streets in Madrid, Barcelona, and Marbella and hear the ghosts of restaurants-past in shuttered storefronts. My friends, it is ugly.

And then Spain got their asses kicked by Switzerland in the first game of the World Cup… in their national sport. To the average Spaniard, their national pride got bitch-slapped by a bunch of chocolate-eating neutrality lovers.

Everyone was hating on their luck, but they didn’t give up on their team. They hoped for a miracle– even against the odds that no team has ever lost in the first round and won the World Cup.

And then they won… and again… and again. And World Cup fever was on…

Next thing you know they beat Germany and are in the final. Flags are flying from windows and rooftops, people are arguing in bars and cafeterias over the prophecies of an octopus… and that Spanish machismo–that national pride– came back for better and for worse!

So there I was at my local bar watching the masses go absolutely ape-shit over their win, and it was like watching a country collectively let out a sigh of relief.  All of those financial woes, years and years of exasperation over their economy, their political problems, the 2004 train bombings… all of it was exhaled last night.

And to that I say let’s continue the run!

Let’s hope that this World Cup win is the catalyst that turns everything for this beleaguered nation around. It’s fun having a bunch of machismo-driven Spaniards around, so again I say:


The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

Hola from one of the southern-most cities in Spain: Marbella.      

Marbella is home to many of the things that we gringos associate with Spanish cuisine and culture:   

The staccato rapport of flamenco, refreshing gazpachos, and–to those of us in the culinary world– a guy named Dani Garcia and his michelin-starred restaurant, Calima.  


I am 2 weeks into my apprenticeship here, and I have already learned SO MUCH about technique and the kind of cook I am looking to become!  Not a day goes by that I am not scribbling furiously into my notebook about some new technique or idea, and I still have SO MUCH time to learn here (I will, of course, NEVER learn enough… but it is very easy to be a sponge here and take everything in).   

 Here are some of the highlights so far:    

1. We use liquid nitrogen: A LOT of liquid nitrogen. Since Dani Garcia is one of the pioneers of using the technique of super cooling products in the kitchen, many of our menu items meet their fate in a bubbling cauldron of −196 °C goo.         

Liquid nitro playtime

As things like olive oil or alcohol change texture drastically when super-cooled (ever had oil in the fridge and seen it solidify? Multiply that times 100), we use liquid nitrogen to make such dishes as     


 Palomitas= popcorn to you gringos, and made out of–among other things–super-frozen high-quality olive oil  (see the video link below!) 

Liquid nitro tomatoes

 The soon-to-be famous liquid nitro tomato, a frozen mousse of sorts    

Serious cooks, serious work

2.   This crew is serious about what they do and improving daily about how they do it.    

More specifically, something special is happening here– and this crew knows it. These guys come from everywhere in Spain and beyond, and they have worked at some of the best places in the world (many have been chefs de partie and high-level cooks at Mugaritz, El Bulli, El Poblet, Cellar de Can Roca, and more).    

This is a crew that spends their kitchen time (respectfully) keeping each other in-check, helping each other where needed,and teaching each other their stations and the tricks they have picked up. 

We also spend our off time together at the bar or on day-trips–mostly arguing over culinary technique, how to cook an egg or a tortilla espanola (naturally!), and who’s knives are the sharpest (these guys love their Globals but, after seeing my Ittosai, Togaharu, and Misonos, they have opened their eyes to the world of Japanese knives beyond… thanks P!)   

Dani Garcia

And then there’s our Head Chef (Dani Garcia) and Chef de Cuisine (David Olivas)– a couple of leaders who crack the whip or crack a joke as the situation calls for. They are knowledgable, inspirational, and damn good cooks.    

All in all, I don’t think I could have asked for a better group of mentors and peers.    

3. This kitchen is progressive, but has a deep respect for traditional culinary technique– something that has been a theme for this 1-year journey and a source of heated conversation for my fellow scholarship cooks.    

Consider Calima’s tagline–which also serves as their mission statement and modus operandi:    


As I have blogged previouslyCocinacontraditión can be translated two ways:    

Cocina con tradición = cooking with tradition    


Cocina contradictión= cooking contradiction.    

This translates to days when I am roasting bones to make a traditional veal or chicken jus one minute, then up to my elbows in liquid nitrogen the next. We make a potato puree from the archives of the great Joël Robuchon, and then we use calcium oxide to confit veggies because it imparts a specific texture.    

This exact issue– the missing link between culinary tradition and progression– is what my group of ICEX cooks noted and took issue with previously. More specifically, this relation back to traditional cooking is what we identified as the difference between “cooking with love” or “making food from the heart” as opposed to making food “devoid of love or soul.”    

What great lessons so far… I can’t wait to see where all of this is leading. Stay tuned… 

Here’s some photos and video links: 

Video: Making liquid nitro palomitas   

Video: The late night churro man of Marbella 

Photo set: Calima  

Toledo to Marbella via Ithaca

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss

2 quick words about HEC 85:

Best Ever.

Shucking favas... a LOT of favas. **Photo courtesy of Zach "The King of Kvetch" Reuben **

For those who were living under a rock at the SHA last week, I made a little surprise side-trip to Ithaca, NY to take part in HEC (Hotel Ezra Cornell) 85.

I was given the honor of cooking a couple of event for this student-run event over the past few years (HEC 83- Power Lunch photos, HEC 84- Gala photos) so when this year’s HEC fell at a perfect time during my ICEX scholarship I figured I would take the opportunity to help out where I could. And off to Ithaca I went on a little surprise visit…

That said, it was a total joy to take part in a very small way with the event. Great food, great people, a little drama– but what would HEC be without a little drama?

Thanks to C Popp and the HEC crew for letting me come peel potatoes. See (most of) you guys in August!

And now onto Marbella and one of the most exciting restaurants in Spain: Calima. My new chef, Dani Garcia, is one of the widely-acknowledged initiators of the usage of liquid nitrogen in the kitchen… should make for a very (everyone groan together now) COOL experience. Yuk yuk yuk…

Espetos: skewered sardines roasted on the beach

Here’s some homework, kids– next post will be from Andalucia: the south of Spain and the home of flamenco, gazpacho, espetos (sardines grilled over live flame in beach-made fire pits), and me for the next 5ish months:

YouTube video of Dani Garcia

Calima article

And just in case you missed the Cornell Daily Sun article…

Saying goodbye: Half begun is only half done

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2010 by Jeffrey Weiss
I hate saying goodbye. 

It’s so morbid: a focus on the finality of the moment instead of a commeration of what was and a celebration of what is to come.     

So, in deference to my time in Toledo and in celebration of what I consider a truly special friendship with a great restaurant family, I am going to recount my final days in the restaurant as a way of explaining exactly why Adolfo Muñoz, his restaurant, and his family all SERIOUSLY rock… and why you, dear reader, should visit them ASAP.     

First, the backstory:       

Easter in Toledo is huge. It is a weeklong festivity that is– to use some crude ‘merican-in-a-bad-southern-accent terminology– the Super Bowl of religious holidays in Spain…     

Easter in Toledo



SO going to hell for that comparison, but Paras says I am well on my way already thanks to the f-bombs I dropped in the cathedral of Segovia!    


Due to the heavy presence of Catholicism in the city (as evidenced by the GIGANTIC cathedral right outside my front door and strolling Jesuses dragging crosses and bleeding in the streets), Easter means a week of tourism, parades, and LOTS of business for the local restaurant trade.     

And what is the fanciest, most respected restaurant in Toledo for Super Christ Bowl (SCB) 2010? You guessed it: El restaurante de Señor Adolfo Munoz. This means that everyday of SCB 2010, for lunch and dinner services, we were slammedededed busy– with Saturday being my last day of work and Sunday my travel day.     

The final night of Toledo debauchery

Saturday work was typical: Cuts, burns, blood, sweat, and tears.    

When the smoke cleared and all was done, it was off to the bars for a few drinks and some promises that I would return for family meal on Sunday– yes, I am a self-confessed food mooch when it comes to our “paella sundays” for family meal at the restaurant. Plus, I wanted to see Adolfo, Javier, and everyone at the restaurant before going.     

With all of the packing and preparing on Sunday, I got there in time for food–but service was starting so goodbyes were fast. Within minutes of opening the doors, they were packed, orders were coming in, and I needed to get to the train station early for my 6pm train (I was, stupidly, trying to change my ticket for an earlier one–more on that in a second).     

As fate would have it all of the trains were full, so I had to wait. At 5pm, I got a call from Javier: “Are you here? We are outside the train station.”        

I looked up–and in walks Javier, fresh from work in his black Armani and with 2 shopping bags in tow. And behind him, in his gleaming white chef coat, walks Adolfo–also carrying 2 heavy bags of shwag (did I mention my bags were TOTALLY filled with stuff already?!).        

One of Adolfo's gifts. Part of it says: "Jeffrey, your successes shall be our triumphs."

They came to say they appreciated my time, my work, and my friendship.        

They came to say that I am family.        

They came to say goodbye.      

Now, a lot of people at my school in Ithaca are studying general hospitality–how the services we provide impacts, and more specifically brings joy, to others (let’s call this external hospitality).      

And a lot of other people study Organizational Behavior and Human Resources–the means by which we provide that service, as seen through the lens of interpersonal, interorganizational behaviors and communications. In other words– how organizations treat their people and how those people are impacted (let’s call this internal hospitality).        

You know where I am going with this: What chefs do YOU know– meaning famous guys; the guys with book deals, medals from presidents, and A LOT better things to do than go to the train station after a bust-ass service– that would come to the train station to see off some annoying American wanna-be cook?         

This, my friends, was hospitality on any and every level, at it’s highest form, in action.    

It’s something that the  Muñoz family does seemlessly everyday of their lives for their customers, their employees, and each other. And so, for the first time in maybe forever, I was speechless and utterly humbled at such a profound lesson as I borded my train for Madrid.        

Which brings me back to my original problem…I hate saying goodbye.        

So, I respectfully refuse:        

This isn’t goodbye, Toledo.        

This isn’t goodbye, Adolfo & Javier.        

This isn’t goodbye cacamusa (a local specialty and one of the best pork dishes this side of the Atlantic)        

This isn’t goodbye annoying, middle-of-the-street-walking tourists, crazy vertical hills, inspired Moorish architecture, or preachy nuns who stop me and ask “Do you know Jesus, young cocinero?” (to which I reply “yes, Sister–in the kitchen”)          

This is goodbye for now…        

Thanks for the memories.   

Final moments in Toledo with mi familia Española