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It is more about the people than the food…

August 15, 2009

No matter how much I LOVE to cook and eat I always enjoy the magic that takes place when people gather around a table. Whether it is strangers that I meet at a communal table or people I have known and loved for years. Food is what brings everyone together. I have enjoyed many mediocre meals out because of the interactions between the people at the table. Loving, laughing, telling stories and remembering that the simplest moments are usually the best ones.

With that said there is a limit. The other night while on vacation with my family and another family that we love to travel with we decided to treat ourselves to an expensive Italian dinner. It was horrible. The good thing about the meal was that it reminded me about the basics once again. 1. Don’t make simple things complicated. They took a caprese and added a frozen balsamic “sorbet” to the plate. The sorbet was disgusting.  A lot of energy went into that instead of choosing perfectly ripe tomatoes and seasoning them with a touch of salt. The mozzarella which they said was burrata (a rich, creamy fresh mozzarella) was a dry mozzarella barely better than a supermarket ball. 2. Understanding how to cook things to the right level of doneness is the foundation of all cooking. Our second course was a pasta Bolognese. In this case it was our pasta that was ruined. The pasta was overcooked. That alone will ruin a pasta dish no matter how good the sauce is. Unfortunately the sauce was not good either. It was a “rib meat Bolognese”. That brings me to the third point. If you are going to veer from a traditional dish make sure it is at least as good as the traditional dish. There is a built in expectation when you do a variation on a known dish.  This Bolognese had chunks of what tasted like dry prime rib in it! The sauce was metallic and bland. 4. Balance. Make sure you always taste your food and have the right balance between sweet, acid, salt and bitter. When these are not in balance you will end up with an awkward taste in your mouth instead of a smooth, balanced sauce that allows all the flavors to show themselves. This sauce was too acidic and had a bitter edge. A touch of cream or milk will take off an acidic edge (if you have under ripe tomatoes or canned tomatoes that are not great). A touch of sugar will balance out bitterness. Of course the key is to start with great ingredients so you don’t have a lot of adjusting to do. The last thing, #5, is seasoning. So much of the meal (I will spare you my additional complaints) was just not seasoned. Without salt flavors do not come together. Salt is the liaison of flavor. When used properly salt brings out the best of each ingredient as well as bringing all the individual flavors together. You should not taste salt but you need to use enough salt to allow the food to taste great. I hope this helps you to cook the best you can and enjoy your food!

Eat well, enjoy life, be happy.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Dee permalink
    August 15, 2009 10:48 am

    Jeffrey,

    All are valid points, I hope I remember them all as I cook. I have lately started to salt and use other seasonings as I go along, rather than waiting until the end. I think this has helped my dishes.

    It was a good reminder about best ingredients. We went out last night and had a fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, the mozzarella was excellent but ordinary tomatoes which is understandable most of the year. However, it is so not acceptable in August in New England, when at a local market this morning, I purchased excellent native tomatoes.

    Is this the interesting meal that you wanted to tell us about? I was anticipating something a little more positive. : )

    Dee

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      August 16, 2009 12:15 pm

      Hello Dee, thank you. yes, this was it. Sorry to dissapoint! Sometimes these blah experiences are great learning moments. Take care. Jeffrey

  2. August 15, 2009 11:13 am

    Argh!! How many times have you been out to eat and sat there wishing you were at home instead!!

    Sorry your meal was so bad!!! I am sure your homemade meals are MUCH more satisfying!! (Although having someone else to clean up is always a major plus!! LOL!!!)

    His,
    Mrs. U

  3. August 15, 2009 5:45 pm

    Oh, I can share your pain!!!

    Jeffery,
    I must tell you that your love of food and the way you described food on the Next Food Network Star, has moved my expectations and love of food to a higher degree. Thank you!! I can only imagine how disappointed you were/are to have not been “the winner”, but I can tell you that you are “The Winner” in my eyes. You woke a sleeping giant in me and I’m not sure what or how to grow in this. I’m looking forward to being more creative with food in my own kitchen and YOU are being a great influence in my life.

    Brenda

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      August 16, 2009 12:13 pm

      Hello Brenda, wow! Thank you. We both have awakened a sleeping giant. I will do my best to continue to inspire you through my blog until I make it back on the screen. Thank you. Jeffrey 🙂

  4. jonnyfrog permalink
    August 16, 2009 8:22 pm

    Aside from poor execution, it seems as though the chef needs a bit of help in writing the menu. The pasta dish you described makes me think more of a ragout, a sugo, or just chunky meat sauce, than bolognese. It’s just as unappetizing to be served a dish that is clearly not what the menu described, as it is too eat blah overcooked food. It shows someone really has no business doing what they’re doing until they are certain of what it is they are serving you. True mastery of a dish includes knowing why the dish exists- so when you make those tweaks and enhancements, the soul of the dish is respected. Rock on Jeffrey!

  5. Linda permalink
    August 17, 2009 4:45 pm

    Jeffrey,
    So glad to see that you are doing online videos at the Food Network! I hope that you will get a cooking show on TV someday!

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      August 17, 2009 9:57 pm

      Thank you for your support and for following Linda! Jeffrey 🙂

  6. Linda permalink
    August 18, 2009 8:02 am

    Jeffrey,
    I didn’t know if my previous post went thru as I am new at this. So I posted another on your article announcing the webisodes. Thanks for replying to me.
    Linda

  7. emma permalink
    August 22, 2009 11:57 am

    “So much of the meal (I will spare you my additional complaints) was just not…”

    Not only do I come here to get hungry after reading your descriptions and brave enough to try and incorporate your new ingredients and ideas but I also WANT to hear what you have to say about bad experiences as a chef or diner.

    We’ve all been victimized at a poser restaurant disasters and it’s fun to share those. In my case it was a pricey Las Vegas “fantabulous” eatery where I would have had more fun playing handball with some barely edible giant meatballs 🙂

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