iCookBooking PCS Style

 

Being a trained chef who prior to getting an expensive education read and studied cookbooks for fun means that I now infrequently use such books. Although I do turn to them when needing some new pointers, or a very popular or famous chef compiles their favorite original concoctions along with personal anecdotes and now as a technophile I actually checking out cookbook apps and software when I can or when offered a look.
I have tried out Better Homes and Garden’s, Cooks Illustrated and more, and the biggest issue I found in them was that you have to have an internet connection always running to get to the recipes. Yes, we are talking about iPhone/iPad apps so the idea that you’d be offline is pretty crazy, but what if you’re doing a barbeque in the Ozarks and for one second you decide… “Hey, this potato salad is so boring… what else can I do with potato salad?” and in this imaginary situation you have access to any food or food item you want, but no internet and you’re flavor profile mind isn’t just kicking in. So an app which you can download recipes to before you head to the Ozarks is best right?I’ve been sampling a few that were okay, but had many flaws I didn’t care for and have missed a few that fascinated me but were truly out of my price range and there’s some that haven’t come out yet. There are a variety of interesting celebrity sponsored apps such as ones from excellent chefs and television personalities like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver and when looking for something very specific they come in handy. There’s even a version of Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything”, but that is much more a guidebook to cooking and less so a cookbook collection.

 

That’s what the app iCookBook can help with. Although it’s much more than that. In terms of layout and design I’ve liked it much more than any of the others. I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re the best of the recipes though, despite being many of them and I mean any. The collection is of all Brand name recipes, things from boxes of products ranging from Kraft, Hershey’s, Pace, Wish-Bone and more. Of course you wouldn’t have to use the name brand product if trying a recipe, you could use something similar and probably get the same results.

The app has monthly free downloads adding new recipes along with optional paid recipe options based on themes and styles.

The setup is as easy as many, you get your ingredient list and then follow very simple instructions. You can find recipes via filters such as method of cooking, theme, time of creating the dish, theme of the dish, and more. For someone like me I’d be using it as just a pointer, but it’s definitely a good pointer and much easier to use than any of the other apps as I said and more versatile.  I wouldn’t be surprised to discover something new and interesting too, with over 2000 recipes available on download and many more there’s going to be something I didn’t ever learn in school or post school studies.

It also has easy access to items such as conversion charts and substitutions, the ability to create a shopping list and offers customer service.

iCookbook is a universal app designed to work on iPhone and iPad equally and is available for $5 which is cheaper than any cookbook that would be on this collection. It is also available for Android, HP Touchpad and Windows 8.

(this review was based on a generously gifted iPhone review copy, but had no bearing on its review)

From New Zealand to Monaco- BOY x SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN

To travel around the world without leaving home there are only three ways. The first is to jump around the internet which really doesn’t count, the next is to visit Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida which has a pavilion of buildings representing many countries except unless you live in Orlando that would count as leave home, so the real way is through the power of film and exotic restaurants. The added addition of films is you get to time travel as well.

On the last week/first week of February/March 2012 I got to visit New Zealand, India, The United Kingdom and Monaco and each adventure was quite amazing.

It started out with getting to see Taika Waititi’s latest feature BOY at a special screening at Knitting Factory Brooklyn. Taika is an Oscar nominated film maker who is best known for his very popular Eagle vs. Shark and his work with Flight of the Conchords. BOY takes place in the early 80s and tells a truly funny, smart and compelling film about a young man in rural New Zealand. He lives in a very small town full of lush landscapes and beauty in a very poor but sustainable lifestyle. The bulk of the film is about his father’s return to town after a stay in prison and the changes that come to Boy’s life in that time. The film has some awesome fantasy sequences including animation, music video recreations and uproarious photo montages. The film has so much heart, but its also full of kinetic energy. The landscape scenes of New Zealand’s lush green are an amazing stark contrast to the poverty of the houses and town, creating a vibe in the film of hope full with hopeless that so much of life contains. When so much changes, it also always feels the same, as people come in and out of your life, relationships change, emotions evolve, personalities develop further and BOY finds a way to express all that through a simple story with complex situations.

After the film I had the pleasure to meet Taika himself and he was very down to Earth and open. That feels like it’s changed a bit in his very humorist updates on his Kickstarter, but I’m pretty sure it’s still humble despite the films instant smash success in America. I had asked him some simple questions about the film, in both its making and its message and he expressed himself with an honest and passionate discussion. If you have the chance to see BOY while its on its US tour, do so… but hopefully this will all lead to a North American DVD/Bluray available at a reasonable price and not imported from New Zealand for multi-zone players.

Before seeing BOY I had dinner at Bay Leaf, an excellent Indian place off of Bedford. It’s actually from what I can tell the only Indian cusine in that area of Williamsburg. Traditionally I have Thai when out there, but since I was alone for the evening I got to try out this place and it was excellent. Actually some of the best tasting Indian I’ve ever had. I ended up having Indian again on Thursday at one of the places on 1 and 6th and they paled in comparison at least flavor style, in my opinion. Both meals were amazing and filling, but Bay Leaf was a tantamount experience followed by an amazing movie I had really desired and meeting its star.

I had gone to Sunshine Cinema on Thursday evening to see a Village Voice screening of SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt with Amr Waked and Kristin Scott Thomas. It was directed by Lasse Hallström from a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, two masters of adapting complicated novels into exceptional films. The novel in question here is by the same name and was written by Paul Torday, while never having not read the book, I ascertain from what I can find online that it was very comedic in nature, a great satire filled with a poignant story. The film strips a a bit of that comedy down to just the barest essentials I feel, but still delivers a poignant story with a completely non-allegorical political message alongside an a subtly allegorical life message. Amr Waked is the best thing in this entire film outside of the travelouge. His performance is so strong it is unfortunate when this film has debuted in America, as if it wasn’t directly after The Oscars he would be a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actor nomination if not a win and as there’s no Acting Nods for foreign films, well… He is just that good though. As said, next comes the visuals. The film travels throughout the UK and Monaco and truly shows them off with a flair. A much higher flair than New Zealand is shown in BOY, but here LOCATION was a character where in BOY it was just a setting. Every space becomes as important to the events and the story as the people themselves. Traditionally one would credit the Director of Photography for this, but Terry Stacey’s previous work was never at a scale like this, so I’ve gotta think that Beaufoy’s script and Lasse’s directing propels this magnificence. Look at Simon’s 127 Hours or Slumdog Millionaire or Hallström’s many films to see their hands in the work no matter who the cinematographer is. SALMON is parable in many ways, just as the concept of salmon fishing in the yemen is a metaphor for life itself.

Through these two films and two wonderful meals I got to see and feel life, love and imagination and for just a moment feel like I’d left New York City and traveled the world.

(It must be stated that unfortunately BOY is currently only scheduled for the following cities: New York, Throughout California (LA, SF, etc.), Boston,  Seattle, Washington DC, Atlanta, GA and Santa Fe in Texas with various different opening dates at specific theaters which you can see here.

and SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN opened March 9th in Limited Theaters in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC and Philadelphia. Info can be found here.

As stated above on BOY, hopefully both films will recieve North American DVD/Blu-Ray releases, they are both worthy.)

Beer, Glorious, Beer!

I am not much of a beer drinker is what I tell people when I go out drinking. This isn’t exactly true. I just really can’t find enjoyment in what most people drink when they say beer. They usually mean PBR, Heineken, Coors, Budweiser or Guinness. Sometimes I get lucky and it’s folks who actually mean a brilliant creation of flavor involving a hops. An independent brew developed by a master who gave a damn about what he was creating instead of just putting yeast piss mixed with barley or wheat in a can or bottle.

I know how beer is made. I have studied it intensely in reading, but I have never taken the time and energy involved to make my own brews. I’ve even come up with various ideas, percolated how certain flavors and mixes would bring both body, taste and a good buzz worthy to say “Dude, I’m drunk and happy about it!”.

When I was in New Jersey recently for an arts event I got to not only meet people who do home brewing, but sample many different flavors and tastes. There was a vast amount of deliciousness here and some truly passionate people.

The group is called the Jersey City Brew Club and they meet monthly to plan, discuss, arrange and organize beer brewing, events and whatnot. Their event at the 4th Street Arts and Music Festival was also a contest. While all the beers were absolutely amazing, they still decided to have purveyors to vote for their favorites.

The favorite that won was a Dark Chocolate Cherry Stout which I unfrotunately could not taste as I have an allergic reaction to cherries, but I got to try another beer he had made that was not in competition and it was quite amazing. Second place went to the Buffalo Porter, an aromatic beer suggested best with earthy cheese just like its flavor and third place went to Hopasaurus in the Dark, this was very dark and really jumpy as the name suggests. Other excellent beers that really caught my tastebuds were the Pumpkin Cider, the Apricot Wheat Ale and the simply called HurricanAle.

I am amazed at what these individuals achieved and I wouldn’t mind getting into it myself.

Unfortunately for me their next meeting in which they’ll not only discuss these beers but other brewmaking genius is this weekend during New York Comic Con. If you aren’t heading out to that and you live in a place where Jersey City is easy access for you, I totally recommend checking these guys and gals out… it seems like an awesome club to belong to.

Oh, my Pasta!

Whenever I’m out with a friend and decide its time to get a nice meal I have three types I’d gear for, Thai, Indian and Italian. The problem with Italian is that I feel weird paying for pasta dishes which I can easily make at home. I could probably make Thai and Indian dishes as well, but not as easily as Italian. Most places use pre-made pastas, so you’re just paying for labor, but not ingredients you don’t traditionally can pick up at the grocer for cheap. What I’m always looking for is a place that not only mentions that their pasta is made in house, but prides itself in this fact.

Luckily recently I finally found this place on Montague Street in the Brooklyn Heights section of New York City. While the restaurant might have a hokey name in “Oh, my Pasta!”, the cordial service and absolutely amazing food made up for it completely.

We started our meal with their rendition of eggplant parmigiana. This isn’t the way you would expect it in a regular Italian restaurant, very heavy with lots of breading and topped with more tomato sauce than eggplant almost. No, this was a succulent portion cooked to a perfect palate that just melted in the mouth and really triggered the start of the meal.

We decided to sample two of the pasta dishes.

Tagliolini al pesto Siciliano and Troccoli alla carbonara.

The silician pesto was made with basil, pine-nuts, shelled almonds, grated sheep’s milk Rodez cheese, tomatoes, and extra-virgin olive oil. It was served on Tagilolini which is a flat noodle, much like linguine for the lay-man, but more more delicate. This pesto was just the right balance of flavors and the tagiliononi absorbed it so perfectly, it melt in the mouth.

I serve carbonara at home on a regular basis, but never with Sheep’s Milk cheese the way they do here. Troccoli is a traditional spaghetti like pasta and the carbonara sauce didn’t take as well to Troccoli as the pesto and was lacking something, but was still delicious. It is possible that because I am working on various type of forms of carbonana sauce at home my mind and taste buds are more selective than with a pesto sauce which is much more intricate to make and why I don’t do it at home often.

For desert we had an absolutely amazing chocolate tort. This thing was perfect in every way. I tend to despise raspberry sauce in chocolate but here it worked and was a perfect ending to an amazing meal.

I must also bring up the amazing service here. While our waitress was brand new, actually having just started that day, the rest of the house from manager to owner and chef all made a point to be involved. While some criticisms on sites such as Yelp and other restaurant reviews sites have mentioned that when the place gets more full their front of the house to back of the house control can be lacking, I didn’t find it to be that bad and the food was definitely worth it.

While I do not find myself in Brooklyn Heights as often as I’d like, when I have a group of acquaintances, colleagues or a female friend to impress I will definitely make a point of returning here.


Chef Steven J. Lecchi makes pasta