I had a fun cold week in Davos, Switzerland. Magical place with scenic beauty. I could easily call this part of the world home with very little twisting of my arm. It has the three key components to a happy existence amazing beer, chocolate and cheese. many of these shopping pics came from COOP in Davos and a few from Globus Gourmet Chur. http://www.coop.ch/pb/site/common/node/70516513/Lde/index.html?tboxhp=FL_logo_coop http://www.globus.ch/de/ueber-globus/standorte/chur.html I will admit the week started a little bumpy. I had 2 of my 3 flights cancel due to very bad weather in London . The 12 hour trip ended up taking 30 plus hours. Also my bags went missing for 4 days on this trip. However I LOVE Switzerland , it’s food, the culture and the snow!!!!
Well it has been an up and down week here in Moscow. I am happy all my stuff made it here this time around and will be even happier when my stuff makes it back to SFO. I cooked my tail off this week. I did some new dishes and some old as well. Not many new items showed up to the kitchen this trip. There was just not enough time to roll my sleeves up and do some good old fashioned sightseeing for new culinary things of interest. I had only a few hours notice to get on my plane and get prepped for a huge New Years Eve event.
As it turns out here in Russia this is a HUGE deal. Us Americans party for new years but my Russian extended family showed me that is in fact A HUGE DEAL!!!!! New Year’s Eve is huge in Russia, partly because the Soviet era put the ixnay on Christmas Day celebrations. Trust me when I tell you the fireworks lasted 3 days. I don’t mean some safe and sane sparklers; I am talking about dumb and dangerous ones on serious steroids. I mean there where things exploding in every direction of the horizon for 3 solid days, day and night. Good for these folks. Party!!!! Now at least there is a GOOD excuse to drink!
Symbolic foods for the celebration include tangerines, pickles sour kraut and vodka of course. These tangerines differ from those imported from Africa or Spain, to which Europeans are accustomed. These are a different breed grown in the South Caucasus, with the peel not purely orange but with yellow and greenish spots – juicier, with a less bitter and more pronounced pine scent.
The pickles and sauerkraut are very traditional vodka condiments. Pickled items and pickles in general are very strong products of pride here in Russia. They are brined with secretes with traditions and reflect complexity like that of a fine wine a true Russian connoisseur understands the terroir attributes and the effects of the various oak cask on the pickled item. Apart from allspice, dill and tarragon, which are fairly common in the West, they also use horseradish, cherry and blackcurrant leaves, fennel blossoms and other herbs to make pickles; every housewife here has her own version of semi homemade pickles as well. Also if it will fit in the barrel I think they will pickle it just about anything that will stand up to the salt is used including, whole tomatoes, whole garlic, garlic blossoms, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, olives, green beans etc etc etc.
There are also two salads that no Russian feast would be successful without.
These salads are less than exciting to a skilled western chef because most Russians go for the store-bought mayonnaise as a dressing as well as canned ingredients, which hopelessly spoils the dishes. BUT having said that they are good and something to be proud of. It is my understanding that the ongoing joke is the texture of the salads. They say if you drink to much you will end up face down in the salad so it is important to make them a soft desirable texture. They als0 say it will be there when you wake up and eating it will cure the hang over.
“Olivier” salad, called so after the French chef who invented it in the mid-19th century. I am told the original salad ingredient list could be as many as 40 ingredients including grouse flesh, blue cheese and crayfish tails, the basic components are always the same: boiled potatoes, carrots and eggs, green peas, onion, pickles and cucumbers and mayonaise. This particular party we used a sausage they called Kielbasa. This was a big coarse bologna looking tube meat approximately 6 inches long and 4 inches around. It is tossed with mayonnaise and the mayonnaise that is typical here is made from sunflower oil.
“Vinaigrette” salad or beetroot salad is another typical salad utilizing what is available including beets, potatoes, canned peas, sauerkraut, pickles and potentially another dozen items. Obviously, it is dressed with vinaigrette as per its name made from vinegar and sunflower seed oil and can also contain herring fillets salted with spices.
There is also another cold dish that seems to appear on good Russian feast that appears both as appetizer and main course. It is called seledka pod shuboĭ AKA shuba or“herring under Fur Coat. This one I actually love. It was made for me by two nearly 70 year old housewives that gave me my first impression of how good this simple food could be. ( I was also drunk and starving……..but I prefer to just remember how good it was) this dish is like a big Russian 7 layer dip. It can be made like a casserole or take on a shape like a foot ball. It is a composed layered salad made of finely chopped pickled herring, eggs, beets, carrots, potatoes and some type of dressing, either mayonnaise or a sour cream base. The salad is frosted like a cake with obnoxious pink grated beet thick dressing. It is delicious having a very umptious sinful mouth feel combined with many different textures and salty sweet, acidic flavors.
Other vittles that appeared on my Russian new years where blinis with trout roe, Pelmeni dumplings made from lamb and beef, and a slew of western food from my own repertoire that for this blogs sake seems unrelated so I will leave it out.
I was in the kitchen till 4 am. I enjoyed some Laurent Perrier Rose. I wiped a quick tear from my eye because I was missing my wife and kids. I headed back to my lonely apartment to do it all over again the next day. At least the fireworks gave me an excuse not to sleep.
It is dumping snow outside right now. It has warmed up quite a bit it is 28f degrees outside. The ice fishermen are hard at work, still have never seen a fish caught, not sure what’s up with that?? I just finish 30 oz of french pressed strong ass coffee and my foot is tapping.
I am dried out like a piece of jerky. In the building I stay there are old school furnaces that have two setting on and off. On means the room is 85 degrees plus and off means freeze your ass off! So I settle with opening the windows to let the minus 10 degree air in. Ouch!!!! Also flying for 20 hours has a rather bad effect on my sinus and what not. So between my chapped lips and cracked crusty sinus I am a little banged up.
I am coming home tomorrow via France and flying Air France for the first time. I am looking forward to a new experience in their business class. Maybe I will have a fun meal that will give us a blog to share.
I cant wait to see my family and wish them a happy new year.
I am posting some I phone pictures. I did not bring my Cannon this time as I just replaced it after it being stolen from the airport last time I was here. (thanks alot douche bag!!! hope Karma finds you…….we know she will!)
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Well another journey to the father land. On this flight all of my bags made it…..thank goodness. I enjoyed a fairly good meal on my flight. The usual pig vomit was not missed this time around. Rather I enjoyed my salty toasty almonds and sparkling wine.
To follow much to my surprise was a something quite good. My first course was vitello tonnato. It really was nothing to write home about (or in this case blog about) but I think it really reminded me of my time I spent cooking Germany. Yes I know it is an Italian dish but man oh man when I lived Germany it was a dish we commonly did utilizing leftover cooked loin of veal and it was GOOD!
For you kids that are unaware of this dish it is basically a piece of veal I believe classically it is eye of round but from my experience you cannot go wrong with a better cut such as strip loin. The meat is braised (simmered) in a well seasoned bouillon containing aromatics like bay leaf, onion, clove salt and a whole lot of love. The meat is cooked properly medium for me is the way to go so it chews and retains a good amount of moisture and does not bleed. The meat is fully chilled and sliced very thin. A deli meat slicer works best. The above constitutes the vitello…….that’s the big Italian word for veal.
Now for the tonnato, oh and by the way that’s the Italian word for tuna. The sauce is essentially an emulsion that is made with mayonnaise or the ingredients are combined to create a mayonnaise type sauce. There are many ingredients common in this sauce for me since this is my blog I am going share my perspective. In a food processor canned tuna with its liquid combined with lemon juice, capers, good quality mayonnaise, cayenne pepper, anchovy and left over bouillon from the veal blend till very smooth and adjust texture with veal cooking liquid. If you want to take it to the next level pass the sauce through a fine mesh strainer for a silkier texture.
The dish should get garnished with some capers, lemon segments, chopped parsley, neatly diced tomato and some fresh cracked pepper.
The dish I had on my flight was tender and well seasoned. The meat was nicely cooked and was not chewy, there was some unsightly blood floating in the tonnato sauce but hey it all tasted pretty good even if it looked subpar. The dish was garnished with caper berries with the stems (I hate the stems but I chewed them and swallowed them)
Along with my appetizer I had truly one of the best parts of visiting Germany and that’s laugenbrotchen AKA lye roll or pretzel bread roll. Lye or in German lauge is a chemical that is brushed on the outside of the bread before it is baked creating a Maillard reaction giving it the smooth rich brown color. It is also the same process pretzels are treated with.
So then on to my main course where I was given a choice of beef or eggplant pasta or Prawns cooked with fennel, saffron and fingerling potatoes. I opted for the Prawns. I was pleased. The really friendly cabin attendant talked me into it. It even had a table side component to it where the sauce was poured over it from a silver carafe and fresh cracked pepper was ground over the top. I must be honest having a non food handler do table side perorations of food on a airplane scares the poop out of me. I hate to say this damn it, it was the best plane food I had ever eaten. The dish included braised fennel that for my liking was way to al dente but very tasty, sliced steamed fingerling potatoes, sautéed shitake and baby button mushrooms, steamed mussels (sadly the frozen green lip ones from New Zealand, but not offensive in any way) gently sautéed prawns that where nicely cooked and seasoned and the fore mentioned tableside saffron sauce with fresh black pepper. In the last 12 months I have flown a lot!! I tend to fly Lufthansa because it is part of the star alliance ( I get miles)and the service is always very good and I get to speak a few token words of remembered German that sadly come out in Spanish now for some reason but none the less I’m strangely proud of my heritage.
For dessert I had a spiced apple cake with almond syrup and whipped cream as well as the cheese place (and another laugenbrotchen ) I washed it all down with a very average glass of Port wine.
These have been two crazy weeks.
It all started innocently enough. I arrived at the airport nearly 3 hours early for my domestic flight to Los Angeles. I was told my flight was tragically delayed so my travel agent told me to unboard or else I would miss my connecting flight to Moscow. So I requested to be taken off my flight and told them to forward my bags to this other flight on Air Berlin going to Düsseldorf. The agent told me there was no guaranteeing my bags would make it off or on to the flight that I requested. ( that’s when I kissed my luggage goodbye) My agent jumped the gun as there was no connecting flight to Moscow from Düsseldorf. So I never got on that flight HOWEVER my bags did ( I did not find this out till a week later) Strange though as I never actually had a ticket for that flight. As far as I know there is a rule that bags can not travel without a passenger. Well as it turns out they not only flew with out me but I never even held a ticket for that flight. So someone was sleeping with our security.
So I ended up with a paper ticket for another flight leaving for Frankfurt. I exited the terminals went to see an agent who gave me a boarding pass and seating assignment. Ok no big deal I just thought the bags would find me later. Well four hours went by and It was time to board they called business class passengers and I got in line, handed the nice lady my boarding pass the alarm went off when she scanned it and she said go wait over there. I was unable to board because the ticket was not valid…..HUH???? WHAT??? Not valid!!! So you mean to tell me I can get all the way through international security, to the terminal with checked baggage and with a seating assignment and a boarding pass that is not valid. WTF!!!!! Once again a huge breach in security!
I immediately made emergency phone call to anyone who would listen and as I did the plane closed its doors and took off with out me!!
Ok so I then decide to call it a day and I got an email saying there was yet another flight I could take landing in Moscow at 3 am. It however did not take off for another 3 hours and it had a 4 hour lay over in Munich. Oh man am I really committing to spending the entire day in SFO without even taking off. So I waited and boarded and landed overall trip was 31 hours. My bags where lost I mean it took them 4 days to locate and two days to deliver. Sadly when I got my bags my Camera…..DEAR GOD NOT MY CAMERA!!!!!!….Yes my beloved camera had been stolen as well as some of my better knives from my kit and oddly my boxers….no really! Someone stole my used boxers!!!!! I guess I regret checking my camera in my suitcase but I had done it 8 time before with no problems. NEVER again will I check any valuables, except my knives but I will never travel with any good knives moving forward just the sharp expendable ones.
My dignity was damaged as I had to wear Russian man panties and T shirts a size or two to small. It is really hard to cook when you don’t look good. The ladies socks that where two sizes to small actually started to hurt my feet. I was kind of at the will of my working and living arrangement. I am very thankful for all the help I received these two weeks. My Russian colleagues really went above and beyond and for that I am truly thankful!!!!
I also learned that there was an agreement of all the airlines called the MONTREAL CONVENTION that basically is a no fault scenario where if you lose your luggage of property during flights around the world as I did. The airline that you last took irregardless will be the responsible party for finding your luggage and or replacing broken lost goods. This is really good to know as I had no idea where to start my search for my bags.
I have some pictures I can upload but sadly they are taken with my I phone.
I worked really hard this week with minimal sleep. Jet lag really kicked my ass and I never did get on a good pattern of sleep. I can not wait to get home and cuddle with my wifey poo and bounce the kids, one on each knee.
Chef Frank Otte