Our late fall Go Cooking lineup is up and away and I see that it’s billed as “A Celebration of Taste.” (Check it out by clicking on “Book Your Seat in Go Cooking.”) There’s a real diversity of chefs and menus to choose from and I defy you not to find something that entices you to try it. In fact, the variety got me thinking about the whole subject of “taste.”
Remember that old motto from Latin class –“De gustibus non disputandum est” — there’s no disputing taste. It’s one of those phrases that most people think that they do understand. And, perhaps, one with which it’s hard to disagree. After all, everyone’s “taste” is subjective and if you like Kentucky fried chicken and I like sweet and sour chicken thighs and someone else prefers to eat chicken à la king — there is no point at which to argue. No one is right or wrong and no matter how good your argument might be, you probably won’t change anyone’s mind. I suppose that’s the reason why people love to eat at smorgasbords — there should always be something to appeal to everyone’s individual taste.
On the other hand, the phrase, which initially seems so simple and certain, has another more slippery side to it. Some would contend that there’s nothing to do BUT dispute “taste.” When it comes to food, for instance, there are meat-lovers versus vegans, locavores versus cosmopolitans, traditionalists versus molecular gastronomists, not to even mention those who like lots of spices, those who crave simplicity and those who seek out only haute cuisine. The point is, I guess, that mouth taste — or palate taste — has become irrevocably entwined with our moral and ethical and ecological and social values. And, moreover, there are certainly fashions in taste. Reading cookbooks from the eighteenth century makes for a stomach-churning revelation. But even a cookbook from the mid-20th century presents an unmistakeable quality of quaintness. (Anyone for jello salad with crushed pineapple or tuna noodle casserole with canned mushroom soup?)
Anyway, it seems that the whole concept of “good” taste or “bad” taste is contextual and really quite irrelevant. What we can do is refine our own sense of taste and we do that by trying new things and actually thinking about it. We don’t need to lose our sense of fun, but we can approach the whole subject of food and cooking and eating in a spirit of critical inquiry. So here are a just a few of the things that I’m looking forward to tasting and thinking and talking about over the next six weeks:
Apple beignets made by Chef Tim Doan (Lo Presti’s at Maxwell’s). I try never, EVER,
to eat fritters or doughnuts but this sounds so seductive as to be irresistible.
Cauliflower risotto with truffle oil and mushrooms from Chef Manny Ferriera (Earth to Table Bread Bar). The whole concept of earthy “terroir” in one dish?
Chef Sara Guinan’s (28 Lister Chophouse and Grill) charcuterie board — so much fun! And her instructions for pickling, shaving and curing will be really fascinating.
Rösti potatoes(hash browns gone to heaven?) and molten chocolate cake by Chef Matt Hemmingsen (Rockway Vineyards Dining Room). Classic deliciousness — let’s learn how to do it right from a real chef!
Chef Chutichai Singhakranpan’s (My-Thai) tom kha kai. I love it. I always order it in Thai restaurants. I am looking forward to an authentic recipe.
And for sheer originality and innovative effrontery: Chef Chris De La Rosa’s Guinness (stout) ice cream (Caribbeanpot.com) and Chef Tim Doan’s (Lo Presti’s at Maxwell’s) Burgundy escargot crêpes — well, words fail me.
Make your choices and book your seats. Looking forward to seeing you there.
And since I don’t have any recipes as yet for the new Go Cooking lineup, I’ll leave you with a recipe for a dish that causes nothing but “disputation” for chili fans(and among my friends, their names are legion). Here’s my own rather scatty but delicious recipe for chili con carne which I always like to make in October.
Chile con Carne
very loosely adapted from the Alice’s Restaurant Cookbook
3 chopped green peppers
3 cloves garlic
1 – 2 lbs. ground beef
1 can tomatoes, drained
1 can tomato paste
2 – 8 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. sugar
salt, pepper, paprika
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp. basil
large pinch of cayenne or hot sauce
1-2 cans kidney beans
1) Saute onions, peppers and garlic.
2) Brown ground beef. Drain fat and combine with vegetables
3) Add tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, sugar.
4) Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Add bay leaves, cumin, basil and cayenne.
5) Simmer for at least 1/2 an hour.
6) Add kidney beans and heat through.
This makes lots — 4 – 6 very hearty servings but it freezes beautifully. I like to buy chuck steak and grind my own hamburg — but it’s certainly not necessary. This can be garnished with julienned green pepper, chopped onions and/or cheddar chips.