Dish ROCHESTER DINING 2014
Fondue done simply
Defeated by the fork Sweet tooth careers
4 page 8 12
And be merry [ INTRODUCTION ] BY JAKE CLAPP
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Food is an adventure we share with others. We invite friends into our homes to cook for them. We bake dishes for every celebration. We share big ideas over coffee or make small talk over alcohol — until people loosen up, then it’s on to the philosophical discussions again. How many times have you been to a fantastic, or abysmal, restaurant and brought it up to your co-workers the next day? Food allows us to be daring and lets us bond with one another in a way not much else can. And for the chef, the one often tying everyone together, making food is an art that allows them to share their passion. Each of the three features in our annual dining guide explores food’s social charm in some way. Laura Rebecca Kenyon takes a look at the re-emerging fondue trend, a simple culinary outlet that centers on a communal pot. Parties form around fondue, and its basic preparation allows the hosts to put their own spin on the center of attention. Some diners will do a lot to get their photo on the wall, as writer Dave Budgar discovered. Chefs and restaurant owners break up the routine and keep food exciting by creating challenges with their menus, so Dave put himself — and his appetite — to the test with three food challenges at different local restaurants. Finally, Eric Rezsnyak dug in to learn more about the enthusiasm that pastry chefs have for desserts. Passion has driven them to take classes, start businesses, and move halfway across the country. And now they want to share their treats with you.
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for you, by you [ FEATURE ] BY LAURA REBECCA KENYON PHOTOS BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
Past its heyday in the late 60’s to mid-70’s, Americans haven’t regarded fondue with much familiarity or respect. Beyond the confines of a great aunt’s holiday gathering, a chain restaurant charging an arm and a leg for melted government-grade cheese, or a party with an ironic menu (and PBR as the beer of choice), maybe you’ve haven’t had, let alone made, fondue. If that rings true, it’s time for a second look. “Fondue is easy to prepare, is versatile, and serves as a great creative culinary outlet,” said Ann Duckett, owner of the South Wedge’s The Little Bleu Cheese Shop. “Simply melt, dip and enjoy.”
Food of the people
Dispel the notion that fondue’s origins are as a chic après-ski snack for Swiss and French jet-setters. Cheese fondue “is rumored to have started as a way for miserly blue-collar folks to utilize cheese scraps and stale bread,” said Jeffory McLean, lead culinary instructor at New York Wine and Culinary Center. “It’s delicious, value conscious, and easy.” Fondue bourguignonne, in which pieces of raw meat and vegetables are dipped in boiling oil, is thought to date to the Middle Ages, when French vineyard workers would fry their meat in a pot of hot oil in the field, unable to leave their work for too long for a sit-down meal. China’s hot pot cooking style is similar, swapping out hot broth for oil, and has been in use for more than a thousand years. 4 CITY • DISH 2014
Chocolate fondue is a more recent, and contrived, invention. Dating to the 1960’s, the dessert is said to have originated in New York City as a collaboration between a chef at the Chalet Suisse restaurant and a publicity agent working to promote Tobler chocolate. Its preparation remains simple and delicious: chocolate, cream, and if desired, liquor.
Fondue is only as complex as you choose to make it. At minimum, a sturdy saucepan and a wooden spoon is all the equipment you’ll need for cheese or chocolate fondue. For both, you’ll heat up the liquid called for in a recipe, and then stir in the ingredients to be melted. With fondue bourguignonne, an instant read thermometer will help ensure that the oil is heated to the right temperature for cooking meats and vegetables. To serve, you can eat right out of the saucepan, or transfer chocolate or cheese fondue to a fondue pot. (The hot oil for fondue bourguignonne should remain in the saucepan.) “Fondue
pots are used for keeping your mixture warm and smooth and are usually the perfect size for dipping enjoyment,” Duckett said. “There’s a wide array available in all price ranges.” Scouring garage sales or thrift stores is a sure way to find a pot in good condition. Still, don’t sweat the equipment too much. “Any specialized cookware can be improvised in a well-stocked kitchen,” McLean said. “Fondue pots can be replaced with everything from a Pyrex or stainless steel bowl and a warming plate, or even a slow cooker.”
With so few ingredients in — and enjoyed with — fondue, quality is paramount. “When it comes to flavor, you get what you pay for,” McLean said. With cheese, the meltier, the better, Duckett advised. “You want a cheese that’s going to perform well and stand up to the heat.” Her go-to choice is Spring Brook Farm Reading Raclette. “The rich, creamy and somewhat pungent notes of this cheese are perfect and don’t get lost.” She also recommends Swiss/alpine style cheeses, gruyeres (particularly The Amazing Real Live Food Company’s version) and, for those looking for something a little different, smoked Gouda. Dunkables are just as important. “A wide variety of color, texture and taste heighten the fondue experience,” Duckett said. Crusty, hearty breads are classic, but charcuterie meats, shrimp, and raw or steamed vegetables all work well. Duckett said she especially likes fingerling and small red potatoes. Put just as much care into choosing meat and vegetables for fondue bourguignonne. Tender cuts, like beef tenderloin, chicken breast, veal or lamb, are preferred, as are hearty vegetables like pearl onions, Brussels sprouts and wild mushrooms. With dipping sauces, follow your tastes, though McLean said he avoids cream sauces as they conflict with the fried flavor of the meat and vegetables. continues on page 6
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For chocolate fondue, McLean’s standard recipe is a continues from page 4 simple 2:1 weight ratio of heavy cream to semi-sweet chocolate, or 1.75:1 for heavy cream to milk chocolate. Buy the best you can find; the Cocoa Bean Shoppe and Pittsford Dairy, located less than half a mile away from each other in Pittsford, provide local options. As for what to dip, “It’s liquid chocolate!” McLean exclaimed. “Bacon to brownies; cake to kettle corn; go crazy!”
What to drink
Well-chosen beverages can enhance the taste and experience of fondue. Kirsch is a traditional addition to a classis Swiss-style cheese fondue. Stephanie Rudat, manager and wine buyer at Ryan’s Wine and Spirits in Canandaigua, recommends the Germanorigin Schladerer Kirschwasser. If drinking the Kirschwasser while eating the fondue, serve it slightly chilled and neat. When pairing wine with fondue’s classic cheeses, the most important element in the wine is acidity. “The lighter and fresher the
cheese, the lighter and brighter the wine to pair with it,” Rudat said. “The acidity will cut through any creaminess in the fondue.” Rudat recommends drinking the same wine that is used to prepare the fondue. She likes King’s Garden Unoaked Chardonnay 2011, Seneca Lake; Point of the Bluff Dry Riesling 2012, Keuka Lake; and Glenora Pinot Blanc 2012, Seneca Lake. Chocolate fondues frequently get an alcoholic kick. Two of the more popular choices are Disaronno and Grand Marnier, but Rudat offers other interesting choices. Finger Lakes Distilling in Burdett makes cherry, raspberry and cassis liqueurs; further afield South Africa’s Amarula cream liqueur
is filled “with flavors of caramel, peppery spice and a hint of citrus,” Rudat said. These choices aren’t limited to being ingredients, either: “All of these liqueurs would be great to sip on while enjoying the fondue,” she said.
Remember: fondue does not have to be
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complicated or expensive; foreign or fussy. You don’t need specialized equipment or a culinary degree — but you may want to share your meal with those with whom you’d like to get cozy. “In one of my oldest fondue recipe books, it’s noted that, ‘If you drop your bead in transit, you may kiss your neighbor,’” Duckett said. “How cozy is that?”
El Sabor de Mexico “The ﬂavor of Mexico”
Double cheese fondue Serves 4
Adapted from It’s Fun to Fondue
½ pound Swiss, finely diced or grated ½ pound Gruyere, finely diced or grated 3 tablespoons flour 1 clove garlic 2 cups dry white wine 1 tablespoon lemon juice (if desired) ½ cup kirsch 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon white pepper 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
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In a medium bowl, sprinkle cheeses with flour and mix lightly.
P E N F I E L D’ S
Cut garlic clove in half and rub to coat the inside of a heavy duty saucepan. Discard garlic. Add wine to saucepan and place on a burner over low heat. Heat wine until bubbles begin to rise to the surface — do not boil. Add lemon juice. Add cheese to the wine-lemon mixture by handfuls, constantly stirring with wooden spoon until cheese is melted. Be sure each handful is melted before you add the next batch. After the last of cheese has been added, melted and the mixture begins to bubble, quickly add kirsch, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir until blended. Transfer to a fondue pot, if using, and serve immediately.
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[ FEATURE ] BY DAVE BUDGAR PHOTOS BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
As I prepared to encounter the first of three food challenges at three different Rochester area restaurants, it occurred to me: I love food and I love to eat, but for me, eating is more about frequency rather than amplitude. Even though the goal was to simply savor the experiences — this would be merely an exhibition, not a competition — intimidation set in. Yes, I was intimidated by a burger. As an optimist, I walked toward Blu Wolf Bistro, at 657 Park Avenue, thinking, “Nothing’s impossible.” Then I recalled the quick response of a childhood friend, who, upon hearing “Nothing’s impossible,” would utter brashly, “Oh yeah? Eat the sun.” I was about to try to eat the sun — between an innocuous bun. The Blu Wolf Burger Challenge held four 8-ounce burgers, one 4-ounce Mac Daddy Patty (a pan-fried disc of mac-and-cheese), 4 slices of onion, 4 slices of tomato, lots of lettuce, 3 strips of bacon, 2 ounces of cheddar, and an ounce of meat sauce. It’s accompanied by pickle spears, a milkshake, and a pound of Blu Wolf’s Bent Arm fries. The deal is to eat all of this in 40 minutes or less and win a t-shirt, the $35 meal for free, and public recognition through the restaurant’s website, Facebook, and Twitter. Finish or not, Blu Wolf donates $3 of the cost to Crisis Center Nursery. Only two people — one in a remarkable 18 minutes, 54 seconds — have completed the challenge since the restaurant opened last November. I was not to be the third. 8 CITY • DISH 2014
As I waited for my friend, I selected a discreetly positioned booth — I did not want to draw attention to my gluttony. But of course, when my order came out of the kitchen, it was accompanied by the ringing of a cowbell, employees clapping, and a server carrying not only my food but also a timer. As other patrons turned their heads toward our table, they could see my friend with a Caesar
salad opposite my behemoth burger. Nice contrast; so much for discretion. Eating the burger required careful deconstruction and attack strategies, including tipping it on its side and cutting out wedges with a knife and fork, and alternately picking up chunks of burger with lettuce leaves as the bun grew saturated. As my time crawled on, the whole conglomeration progressively lost its form. Blu Wolf does some serious work with burgers, and this one was no exception. Expertly cooked, with complementary components and attention to detail, it invited consumption. By the end, however, savory satisfaction turned to aversion, as the sharp and smoky flavors faded into an abyss of only mass and density. The primary obstacle to finishing this meal is the sea of fries. Blu Wolf’s are unique, and they are tasty, but a pound of those starchy carbohydrates in one’s digestive system is hard to fathom. Bloated as I was, I tried to imagine how I would get through the next challenge. Final results: I finished about 40 percent of the burger, about 30 percent of the fries, 100 percent of the milkshake, and ate the rest of the burger — sans remaining bun — for the next day’s lunch. My next challenge would be a five-pound
burrito at Burrito Fresco in Brockport, continues on page 10
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77 Main Street. Prior to the visit with friends — continues from page 8 one of whom also tried the challenge — I tried to envision just what a five-pound burrito would look like. How much actual volume it would have? About the size of a football, the beast looked more like a giant Stromboli than a burrito. The Burritosaurus consists of either beef or chicken (I chose chicken), rice, corn, black beans, cheese, sour cream, and hot or mild salsa (hot for me) and taco sauce, all stuffed into four tortillas. Burrito Fresco also provides competitors unlimited beverage refills. The deal is to finish the burrito — $30, with a 10 percent discount if paid in advance — to get your photo on the wall. Although you are timed, there is no limit. Seven people have finished it since October 2012, one in a record 12 minutes, 40 seconds. Inconceivable. Burrito Fresco is a pretty bare bones kind of place, and the Burritosaurus is served in a similar fashion: unadorned atop a blank canvas of a brown, plastic cafeteria-style tray with plastic utensils, which were a bit paltry for the job at hand. Thankfully, there were few other people in the small restaurant on this evening, and I was not the only one indulging, so drawing unwanted attention to myself was not much of an issue at all. As with the burger challenge, an attack strategy was necessary. The best advice came from my partner in excess who offered, “Don’t think
of it as a five-pound burrito; think of it as five one-pound burritos.” It didn’t matter. Despite its size, this was a finely concocted, well-balanced burrito, especially when topped with some of the restaurant’s tasty, and humorously named, Zack Morris sauce. If I closed my eyes, I could focus on the melding of flavors alone; as time passed, opening them brought home the reality how little the burrito was shrinking and how much my friends’ eyes began to look like black beans. It was time to wave the proverbial white flag. In the end, just like cotton candy at the carnival, too much of a good thing is not a good thing and the burrito’s taste became indistinguishable from the tray on which it sat. My stomach warned of revolt by the time I had consumed about 40 percent of the burrito, and several glasses of root beer. I had leftover burrito for lunch the next three days. At The Soup Spoon, a Cambodian restaurant
at 10 East Main Street in Victor, my stated objective would be the $25 SOUPer Bowl Challenge. I had to consume seven pounds of pho in 45 minutes or else have my photo posted on the restaurant’s wall under the title of “Pho-tality.” Winners are anointed as “Phonatics” and receive a commemorative t-shirt. This wall of fame and shame currently had one photo in each category. Still aspiring to anonymity, I was chagrined to find that they had a chair ready for me. How did I know it was mine? It had helium balloons tied to it. My friends laughed; I sighed.
Kenton Decross (middle) attempts the Burritosaurus challenge — consuming a five-pound burrito — at Burrito Fresco in Brockport.
10 CITY • DISH 2014
Upon receiving the trough-like bowl of soup, I had three children watching every pass of spoon from bowl to mouth. Every group that entered was greeted with, “Look — we’ve got a challenger.” Lots of fanfare, lots of encouragement — they even offered me a small cup to scoop out soup — but no beverages, no going to the bathroom, and no regurgitation, as stated in the waiver I had to sign. It began as a steaming, delicious bowl of pho, which I carefully seasoned and adorned with the accompanying accoutrements, but by the end, in my liquid-induced delirium, the complex broth seemed like so much dishwater and the contents of my stomach had turned into a gelatinous noodle glop. I needed to throw in the towel. I felt a sense of defeat and that I had disappointed the kind and supportive people at the restaurant. Final tally: I finished about half of the bowl and still had enough for three more lunches. And there’s a new Pho-tality on the wall. All in all, a set of fun experiences, but I was glad the mass consumption was over. I’m not sure who succeeds at these challenges or how they do it, but I think I’d need to subtract about 20 years and add one solid case of the munchies to have any shot at the title.
More photos on this article online at ROCHESTERCITYNEWSPAPER.COM/DISH
Greg Davis attempts to eat a seven-pound bowl of Pho at The Soup Spoon in Victor.
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the life Four local pastry chefs/bakers discuss why they put desserts first [ FEATURE ] BY ERIC REZSNYAK PHOTOS BY MATT DETURCK
For many restaurant diners, dessert is an extra — something to indulge in only when you’re feeling particularly decadent. But for some chefs, dessert is a passion, a calling, an artform. The term “pastry chef” is slightly misleading. It calls to mind flaky phyllo or sticky breakfast sweets, but encompasses so much more. Pastry chefs specialize in desserts of all kinds, including breads and pastries, but also cakes, cookies, mousses, and even ice cream and other frozen treats. There are several routes to becoming a pastry chef or professional baker, and countless examples of them in the Rochester area. It would be impossible to cover all of them in one article, so for this piece we spoke with four chefs/bakers with very different approaches. Did we exclude your favorite? Tell us about them in the comments section of this article at rochestercitynewspaper.com. One of the key differences between pastry chefs
and more traditional chefs is that baking really is a science. For pastries, there is very specific chemistry involved in the mixing of ingredients, and if you get it wrong, the whole dish is off. “As far as actual baking, it’s more of a followa-recipe thing, as opposed to being a chef, where you can make it up as you go,” says Debra Stirone, chef-owner of Gourmet Goodies. “If (Above right) The smoked chocolate mousse dome with bacon caramel dessert by pastry chef David Baran of Char Steak & Lounge at the Strathallan.
12 CITY • DISH 2014
you overdue it with the baking soda, for instance, you’re going to have a very salty product.” Stirone got her baking start by age 8. The Easy-Bake Oven proved too slow for her, so she moved on to Wilton cake-decorating classes. At 15, she was washing dishes at Richardson’s Canal House in Pittsford, and worked her way up to cooking appetizers. But she was always interested in becoming a pastry chef. “I like the decorating,” Stirone says. “I like the different aspects where people come in and ask, ‘Can you do this?’ I get bored very easily. I like different designs and different challenges.” After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1989, Stirone began her pastry-chef career at Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., before moving on to manage the Paradise Bakery in Hawaii. She returned to Rochester in 1993 to work at the Daisy Flour Mill. Eventually Stirone opened Gourmet Goodies, which now focuses primarily on wedding and special-occasion cakes. That segment of the pastry-chef business has exploded in recent years, thanks to TV shows like “Cake Boss” and “Ace of Cakes.” “Every TV show, they come back to you,” Stirone says. “They want what [the customers on the show] have. What people do for first birthdays is crazy.” Gourmet Goodies is based out of Stirone’s Victor home, although everything is made in a large, certified kitchen. She has two other employees, one also a CIA graduate, the other
with an art background. As a team they create everything from mini pastries for corporate clients to massive projects, like a cake replica of the Von Maur store at Eastview Mall that took all three an entire week to bake and decorate. David Baran did not start out seeking to
become a pastry chef, but now he loves creating desserts. The pastry chef at Char Steak & Lounge at the Strathallan Hotel became a foodie at age 13, when his family took him for a nine-course tasting menu at Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia. “It blew my mind as a kid. That’s when I knew what I wanted to do,” he says. He attended the CIA, but initially wanted nothing to do with baking. “Cookers always talk crap about pastry people all the time,” Baran says. “I used to hate baking and didn’t have the patience for it. But I saw what people were doing and got interested in it.” “I’ve learned to like baking more than cooking,” he says. “You’re not on a hot line sweating over people’s food. You’re not playing with dead chickens, which is not fun. It’s a lot better.” After graduating in 2010, Baran was hired to do desserts at Warfield’s High Point, and then moved to Char. There he oversees all of the lunch, dinner, room-service, and banquet desserts, which include tortes, cheesecakes, and even ice cream Baran makes in house. He especially likes making molded desserts, including his smoked chocolate mousse dome with bacon caramel, candied bacon ice cream, peanut-butter-bacon powder, and honey tulle — a creation he originally wanted to title “Gluttony.” continues on page 14
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Baran says that a common continues from page 12 misperception about pastry chefs is that they’re slow. “Our stuff takes a lot of time to do, and a lot of cooks will make jokes, ‘What do you do once you put your thing in the oven?’” he says. “They think we don’t get a lot things done. That’s not true at all. It’s completely different work. It’s more scientific. It’s more precise. You have to be exact with it or it’s going to mess up. Some things you have to take your time on or you won’t get the desired outcome.”
Janice Plant is the rare pastry chef who did
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not receive formal training. She started baking in her 20’s as a treat for the coworkers at her office job. She would bring in cakes and pies, and they would tell her she should make food professionally — so she did. Along with her sister, Plant ran The Ivy Café in Penfield from 1992 to 1996. After that closed, she became an assistant baker at Richardson’s Canal House, and she was promoted to head baker. When the executive chef at Richardson’s moved to Tournedos Steakhouse at the Inn on Broadway eight years ago, he brought Plant with him. Now she serves as the restaurant’s pastry chef, although she downplays the title because of her lack of a degree. One taste of Plant’s desserts — including a dreamy chocolate-pretzelcaramel cheesecake — will tell you that she more than has the goods. What first drew Plant to baking was “the gratification you get when people say they
love what you do,” she says. “As time has gone on my passion has increased, because when you start working in a restaurant, your vision changes a lot about baking.” Over her two-decade baking career Plant has come to master cakes, cookies, pastries, rolls, pizza crusts, and breads. “My knowledge has exploded because I’ve had a lot of very supportive people in my life who have taught me everything I know now,” she says. “And I’m still learning.” Plant says that anyone interested in baking could do the job professionally, so long as they have the right teacher — and the passion. “You need that. If it’s just a job for you, it’s not going to work. It’s very demanding. You’re on your feet all the time,” she says. Plant comes in at 6 a.m. and tries to finish by 2:30 p.m. And if there are banquets or events scheduled at the inn on the weekends, she may be required to work then, too. “If it’s your own business I can see it being seven days a week, with long hours,” she says. Jennifer Johnson is one self-taught baker who
decided to open her own dessert business. She started Pudgy Girl Bakery in late 2013 to fill a particular niche: vegan baked goods. That means desserts made with no animal products, such as milk, eggs, or butter. But if you taste any of her signature truffles, which come in an array of flavors from red velvet or chocolate mint to peanut butter or chocolate stout, you would never know the difference. Johnson went vegan three years ago, and initially patronized the vegan-oriented Eco
(left) Vanilla bean crème brûlée and (right) Chocolate Broadway cake with layers of chocolate cake, ganache, and vanilla cheesecake, by Janice Plant, pastry chef at Tournedos Steakhouse at the Inn on Broadway.
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Bella Bakery in the South Wedge. But after it closed, she started to veganize her own recipes. For a time she made desserts for the Owl House but went out on her own, renting a commercial kitchen on East Avenue. Currently her truffles are sold at Starry Nites Café and her products are set to be sold at the soon-to-open Hart’s Local Grocers on Winthrop Street. In addition to being 100 percent vegan, Johnson says all of her recipes can be made gluten-free. Although veganism is growing, she still finds herself having to educate many potential customers. “In a way there’s a little bit of a stigma that comes with being a vegan baker,” she says. “There’s a whole lot of curiosity, but also a sense of skepticism that comes with it. ‘You don’t use eggs? You don’t use real butter? What do you use instead? Does the stuff still taste as good?’” Still, Johnson says she has been overwhelmed by the response to her products over the past seven months. And like Plant, a big part of the allure is the appreciation she receives, especially from fellow vegans who have relatively few dessert options. “I really feel that sense of gratification when I can make someone’s day a little brighter by sharing one of my delicious treats with them,” she says. “And the gratification is immediate. When you make that connection with someone, it’s really genuine. I really feel like I’m serving a community that’s underserved right now.”
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