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My on-going inquiry began when all I wanted to do was to ask a restaurant (Clos des Sens in the Savoie town of Annecy) near the house I found to rent on the Bay of Talloires, if their chef uses sous-vide. Since then, I have written to L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabenel in Arles, Per Se and Le Bernadin mostly to ask about their use, if any, of sous-vide and peripheral questions about their tasting menus, which in many restaurants sous-vide aids and abets. So far none of the restaurants, in spite of all the people who hail the method as almost a gift from the Gods, have come clean and said straight out that they use it and/or to what extent they do. I imagine that they think I’m a blogger or a magazine food critic and that I may write something to the effect that sous-vide is a shortcut, inferior in certain respects to entire age-old ways to cook food, or invokes the lingering likely misconception that it can be injurious to one’s health. I’m starting to assume also that the restaurants don’t want anything in writing, which is also the case on the restaurants’ menus as there are various code words for sous-vide such as “slow-cooked” , “Seven-hour” whatever. So far I have been only to one restaurant that used the term on its menu: sous-vide duck at the Madonnina del Pescatore in Senigalia.

 

 

I first received this answer from Claire of Clos des Sens in response to my writing this:

 

When I look at your internet site, I wonder if you prepare some dishes sous-vide. I am going to spend a week or two in the region and I wish to visit you.

 

Claire’s answer was:

 

We thank you for your mail. We inform you that we don’t make dishes to take out.

 

Note: Here she thought I wanted to come to the restaurant and pick up food sealed in plastic, to which I replied:

 

Thank you for your reply. I am wondering if you cook sous-vide, not, rather, to take out.

 

Claire’s colleague Julie answered, “We propose to you make direct contact is if you want precise information about our cuisine. (By this she meant that I should telephone them).

 

I then answered: I have contacted you twice by e-mail.. I don’t see why you can’t ask the chef if he has sous-vide equipment and then give me his answer.

 

Julie then asked me what the aim is of my questions is, and then added that furthermore “we communicate and exchange with pleasure the subject of our cuisine with the people that we meet. This approach is different with e-mail. We thank you again for your understanding”.

 

To which I replied: I asked you a simple and direct question. I want to know if your kitchen uses sous-vide. It’s in order to decide where I am going to dine the last week of June. Also, are you in the former quarters of Marc Veyrat?

 

Again, Julie: In reply to your latest message, it’s with pleasure that we welcome you to our restaurant when you arrive. We don’t serve sous-vide dishes; sometimes our chef uses this technique in the elaboration of certain dishes. Finally, our restaurant is located in the center of Annecy-le-Vieux and not in the former house of Marc Veyrat.

 

Putting this exchange out of its misery, I wrote: Thank you for your reply which seems to me “tantot blance, tantot noire”.;i.e. wishy-washy. Either a restaurant has the tools for sous-vide or it doesn’t. Perhaps I will visit you nonetheless (fat chance, by the way). I’m wondering who inhabits the former house of Marc Veyrat.

 

Still no answer from Claire after three months.

.

 

In the next episode, I sent an e-mail to a Michelin two-star restaurant in Arles, L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Ravenel. Two friends who had just come to join us in several dining escapades in the South of France and Liguria went there after and kind of liked it, which is the reason, along with its seemingly-dictatorial qualities that eminated frok\m its website, I chose it to make some inquiries.

 

I first asked if the restaurant offer a la carte dishes in full portion. This elicited this reply from Muriel, who I guess is the wife of the chef Jean-Luc Rabenel.:

 

We inform you that the Atelier doesn’t possess an a la carte menu and functions uniquely with two fixed menus:

> The menu “Création:7 touches of tastes" for 65.00 € without drinks.

With wine pairings 110.00 €.

 

> The menu “Emotion: 13 touches of taste" for 125.00 € without drinks.

With wine pairings 185.00 €.

 

There is no a la carte. The menus aren’t written and are defined the same day. We can’t tell you ahead of time what the menus contain.

 

The chef makes a very vegetal cuisine, but always with some fish and meat.

 

The person in charge of the dining room will ask you at aperitif time if you have any allergies.

 

If you want more information, it is easier that you directly contact our Maitre d’Hotel by phone at xxxxx

 

 

 

I replied : Thank you very much for your rapid reply. I am always interested to visit highly-esteemed restaurants. Before visiting Arles, I wish to know your reply to the following questions:

 

If there is a dish that I like a lot, can I have a second portion as it seems that one portion wouldn’t be sufficient

If you give me a dish that I don’t think is extraordinary, can I exchange it, or am I obliged to accept it?

After I taste all the dishes, may I choose one or two in a full portion (or a larger portion)?

Can you prepare Provencal dishes that are proven classics?

Generally speaking, what liberties do you offer to your clients in terms of ordering?

Do you prepare any dishes sous-vide?

 

After two months, I’m still waiting for Muriel to answer me.

 

Having now become captivated by the exercise, not to mention that perhaps I was to something of significance, I trained my guns on one of the two mothers of all tasting-menu restaurants, Per Se.

 

Never underestimate the power of a restaurant website. What seems like a dumb set of information, can, through reading between the lines, yield quite a lot of useful information. For example, I noticed a recent phenomenon that one might call the tasting-menu-size dish a la carte Le Bernadin has the same second-room profit center. With this insight in hand, I sent this e-mail to Per Se:

h

Dear Sirs,

 

I am confused about your tasting menu. If you don't wish, or can't afford, the dishes with supplements, does it mean miss out on those dishes? How do the dishes on the a la carte menu differ in portion size than their counterparts on the tasting menu in terms of size? Finally, which dishes on the on-line menus are cooked sous-vide?

 

 

 

Dear Mr. Brown,

I hope this email finds you well. The supplements on the nine course tasting menu are not included in the set price of the menu, it is an additional charge and is optional. The portion on the a la Carte menu is slightly larger than the tasting menu portions.

 

Regarding your question about the Sous Vide, our menu changes daily as well as the menu preparation.

 

 

 

 

Dear Aracely,

 

I trust you received my second e-mail in which I asked you to let me know how many dishes you were to serve on the day that would be cooked sous-vide. I have written to several "traditional" ( non-avant-garde) restaurants because I am curious about this method of cooking. Oddly enough, though, either they duck the question or get defensive, perhaps thinking I'm a journalist or a blogger, neither of which I am. More specifically, do you still invoke the notion of "palate fatigue" to your customers? Please tell me about this phenomenon because I don't understand it.

 

Thanking you in advance,

 

Robert

 

Dear Mr. Brown,

 

In our previous email I had mention that our menu and preparations change daily. We can not guarantee what dishes and or items will be cooked using the sous vide method until it is discussed with the Chef and Sous Chefs of that day. We are happy to referrer you to our cookbook, Under Pressure by our Chef/Owner Thomas Keller. It will give you a better idea how we use this method of cooking and why.

 

Once again we thank you for your interest in the restaurant.

 

Best Regards,

Aracely

 

 

Dear Aracely,

Thank you again for your earnest and prompt reply. While looking at your
sous-vide book would no doubt be informative, it doesn't address my attempt
to gain a notion as to what extent you use sous-vide cooking. So how about
this?:

Below is your menu for May 29. If you would in the near-future simply
annotate it with an underline, for example, as to any dish that is made with
the sous-vide method to any extent.

Many thanks,

Robert


TASTING OF VEGETABLES
May 29, 2013
___________________________________________________________
CARAMELIZED CAULIFLOWER PURÉE
Chive Blossoms, Yuzu and Celery Branch
TERRINE OF SLOW ROASTED VINE RIPENED TOMATOES
Olive Oil Sorbet, Persian Cucumbers and Basil Shoots
SALAD OF HOLLAND WHITE ASPARAGUS
Bread Pudding, Granny Smith Apples, Toasted Walnuts,
Mâche and Black Winter Truffle Purée
RUBY BEET "EN CROÛTE"
Spring Onions, Navel Orange Confit, Mustard Cress
and Horseradish Crème Fraîche
CASTELMAGNO CHEESE "QUICHE"
Charred Eggplant, Hearts of Romaine Lettuce,
Picholine Olives and Herb Salad
FOREST MUSHROOM "AGNOLOTTI"
Smoked Ricotta-Potato "Vichyssoise," Rick Bishop’s Ramps,
Pearl Onions, Piedmont Hazelnuts and "Beurre Noisette"
"GRILLED CHEESE"
Roelli Cheese Haus’ "Red Rock"
Cocktail Artichokes, Pickled Peppers, "Salsa Verde"
and Piquillo Pepper "Velouté"
"FOURME D’AMBERT"
"Fig Newton," French Breakfast Radishes, Sicilian Pistachios
and Pink Peppercorn "Gastrique"
GREEK YOGURT SORBET
Poached Cherries and Whipped Chamomile Tea
"FLORIDA COCKTAI L "
Calamansi Curd, Ruby Red Grapefruit "Demi-Sec,"
Tarragon "Crème Diplomat" and "Arlettes"
"GLACE À LA VANILLE"
Blueberry Muffin
"MIGNARDISES"
P R I X F I XE 295.00
SERVICE INCLUDED
T E N C O L U M B U S C I R C L E , N E W Y O R K , N E W Y O R K 1 0 0 1 9
CHEF’S TASTING MENU
May 29, 2013
___________________________________________________________
"OYSTERS AND PEARLS"
"Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters
and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar
TSAR IMPERIAL CAVIAR
Buttermilk "Panna Cotta," Granny Smith Apples,
Green Almonds and Watercress
(75.00 supplement)
TART OF CAULIFLOWER "BAVAROI S "
Hadley Orchards’ Medjool Dates, Cocktail Artichokes, Garbanzo Beans,
Pickled Eggplant, Cilantro and "Romesco"
"GÂTEAU" OF HUDSON VALLEY MOULARD DUCK FOIE GRAS
Holland White Asparagus, Poached Bing Cherry,
Sicilian Pistachios and Mâche
(40.00 supplement)
SAUTÉED FILLET OF ATLANTIC HALIBUT
Marinated Toybox Tomatoes, Persian Cucumbers, Puffed Hominy,
Fresno Peppers and Hass Avocado "Potage"
BUTTER POACHED NOVA SCOTIA LOBSTER
Hen Egg "Tortellini," Green Asparagus, Hakurei Turnips
and Piedmont Hazelnuts
SALMON CREEK FARMS’ PORK BELLY
Oregon Morel Mushrooms, English Peas, Preserved Green Strawberries,
Petite Radishes and "Mousseline au Vin Jaune"
CHARCOAL GRILLED SNAKE RIVER FARMS’ "CALOTTE DE BOEUF"
Fork Crushed New Crop Potatoes, Heirloom Carrots, Green Garlic,
Rick Bishop’s Spring Onions and "Chimichurri"
WOODCOCK FARM’S "TIMBERDOODLE"
Jingle Bell Peppers, Ruby Beets and Olive "Relish"
"SAVEUR D’ORIENT"
White Tea Scented Champagne Mango, Orange Blossom Water
and Wild Pepper Meringue
"TOASTED POPCORN"
Salted Caramel Ganache, Chocolate-Almond Crumble
and Toasted "Pain au Lait Glacé"
STRAWBERRY "DÉLICE"
Poached Phillips Farms’ Strawberries, Elderflower Cream
and Lemon-Strawberry Ice Cream
"MIGNARDISES"

P R I X F I XE 295.00

SERVICE INCLUDED

 

SALON MENU

May 29, 2013
___________________________________________________________
TART OF CAULIFLOWER "BAVAROI S "
Hadley Orchards’ Medjool Dates, Cocktail Artichokes, Garbanzo Beans,
Pickled Eggplant, Cilantro and "Romesco"
30.
FOREST MUSHROOM "AGNOLOTTI"
Smoked Ricotta-Potato "Vichyssoise," Rick Bishop’s Ramps,
Pearl Onions, Piedmont Hazelnuts and "Beurre Noisette"
32.
"GÂTEAU" OF HUDSON VALLEY MOULARD DUCK FOIE GRAS
Holland White Asparagus, Poached Bing Cherry,
Sicilian Pistachios and Mâche
40.
TSAR IMPERIAL CAVIAR
Buttermilk "Panna Cotta," Granny Smith Apples,
Green Almonds and Watercress
125.
SAUTÉED FILLET OF ATLANTIC HALIBUT
Marinated Toybox Tomatoes, Persian Cucumbers, Puffed Hominy,
Fresno Peppers and Hass Avocado "Potage"
34.
SALMON CREEK FARMS’ PORK BELLY
Oregon Morel Mushrooms, English Peas, Preserved Green Strawberries,
Petite Radishes and "Mousseline au Vin Jaune"
36.
BUTTER POACHED NOVA SCOTIA LOBSTER
Hen Egg "Tortellini," Green Asparagus, Hakurei Turnips
and Piedmont Hazelnuts
40.
SNAKE RIVER FARMS ’ "CALOTTE DE BOEUF"
Fork Crushed New Crop Potatoes, Heirloom Carrots, Green Garlic,
Rick Bishop’s Spring Onions and "Chimichurri"
46.
SERVICE INCLUDED
T E N C O L U M B U S C I R C L E , N E W Y O R K , N E W Y O R K 1 0 0 1 9

 

Arcaley, is everything all right?

 

 

A week ago I sent this to the person in charge of private dining at Le Bernadin, figuring she might show it to the chef or the fellow in charge of serving the customers. I’m still waiting for an answer.

 

 

 

Dear Karin Burroughs,

 

I’m interested in Le Bernadin and am wondering if you have sous-vide equipment in the kitchen. If so, what dishes on your on-line menus do you make using it?

 

 



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My on-going inquiry began when all I wanted to do was to ask a restaurant (Clos des Sens in the Savoie town of Annecy) near the house I found to rent on the Bay of Talloires, if their chef uses sous-v

I wouldn't. I just get a laugh out of how insane he truly is!   Let's face it; cooking and technique have always evolved. Some tools are good; others, not so much. And no matter how good the tool

I too do not own a microwave in my house. I have a toaster oven somewhere but, can't track it down at the moment, or for the last 3 years but, I know it's somewhere. I use a microwave at my office b

Just an educated guess about one factor... in New York City,it may have to do with fear of the NYC Health Dept. Many restaurants have developed HAACP plans for sous-vide,but I suspect that there are still a lot of fears and concerns about giving out information.

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Sous-vide can still be a health issue if done badly, IMO. I saw a recipe once that held steak at 120* for 24 hours, which seems a scheme to totally max out the bacterial load. We may have discussed on this site.

 

 

 

Separately, I really wonder about the levels of extractables in the plastics commonly used in sous-vide. Does anyone know what kind of plastic is typically used? How wide the choice is? It would seem an excellent way to infuse food with phthalates or BPA, or what have you.

 

Virgin polyethylene, OTOH, would cause me zero concern.

 

But it really does bug me. Wish I knew.

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I work on a journal (Art Culinaire) that publishes recipes solicited from restaurants around the world. The majority of the recipes we publish now use sous vide techniques [unscientific survey; just my impression], sometimes just for storing foods, sometimes for infusing and/or intensifying flavors in foods, and sometimes for cooking (that is, sealing foods in vacuum bags and then cooking in circulating water baths at relatively low temperatures). So when you ask about sous vide, you are asking about a myriad of uses. I am neither pro or anti the use of the vacuum technology. (The first time I saw that it was used in a restaurant was at Artisanal in the late 1990s, where they sealed individual portions of cooked foods in bags for what was basically a reheat-in-the-bag operation.)

 

So: What exactly are you asking about? Storage and retherming, as at Artisanal? Infusion, as at many restaurants? Anaerobic cooking at low temperatures?

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after a meal at per se in 2006 I asked the captain how many of the things I'd eaten that night had been cooked sous vide and he gave me an unflustered answer. it was two or three of the 6 savory plates IIRC. I think he said that they stopped using it for lobster because people preferred lobster poached in butter.

 

it's also not that hard to spot once you've already eaten the food, which I take it is too late for you.

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I'm not sure why bacterial load should be an issue, there are pretty good tables out there showing the charts of how long to cook things and at what temperature. If anything, the current US and state guidelines for non-sous-vide cooking seem designed to kill. Le Bernardin certainly uses sous vide or a similar low temp poaching technique for some dishes.

 

I think one thing, other than DOH, that stops serious kitchens from admitting everything is sous vide is the connotation of institutional/food service type operations. Another is how ghastly the food usually looks when it comes out of the bag. You really don't want your guests seeing that piece of steak or lamb before you've seared the outside or hidden it in sauce.

 

p.s. How is slow butter poaching much different from sous vide with butter in the bag, btw?

 

p.s.2. Isn't it common French usage of sous-vide to describe vacuum packing your food to take away from a traiteur or cheese from a fromagerie? I can see how someone with less than spectacular English who's in a position of answering weird questions from foodies would be confused.

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I don't understand the point of the OP's "on-going inquiry."

 

I suggest taking a look at Thomas Keller's book Under Pressure, or the giant photo spanning 2 pages in "One Day in the Life of Per Se," quite clearly showing an immersion circulator in that restaurant's kitchen.

 

I also suggest taking a look at NYC Health Code, Article 81:

 

§81.12 Reduced oxygen packaging; cook chill and sous vide processing.
(a) Scope and applicability. A food service establishment may package and process
food using reduced oxygen packaging ("ROP"), as defined in §81.03 of this Code,
in accordance with this section, provided that the food being processed shall have
at least two controls in place, including but not limited to time, temperature, Aw
or pH, to prevent the growth and formation of C. botulinum...

 

 

And finally, I suggest having a look at Douglas Baldwin's web site, which should lay to rest any and all misconceptions about sous vide.

 

By the way, certain vegetables cooked sous vide are really amazing. I did carrots recently - wow!

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p.s. How is slow butter poaching much different from sous vide with butter in the bag, btw?

A couple of ways:

1. open poaching allows for evaporation of water in the butter/sauce, and of water in the thing being poached, which can migrate out.

2. sealing the item with the butter in the bag exerts pressure on the contents of the bag, which acts to concentrate the flavors (or so I've been told).

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Very interesting Robert Brown.

 

 

I personally hate food that has been prepared sous vide. I feel it's a cop out and the food has a off putting texture and feels almost removed of it's flavor.

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There's a video floating around somewhere - the website I saw it on is now down - from the old tv show Cuisine de Joel Robuchon where JR sous vides lamb in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

 

It's just one technique of many, ultimately. I make fun of it because I think it's something that lazy kitchens use to improve quality (though, as Chang says, it's also something that allows halfway decent kitchens to stay consistent). It's a good technique in many cases and far from fool proof. I once saw an infamous demo of a home sous vide machine that was bungled across the board. If you can't season and cook food, the bags aren't going to help you much.

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I cringe every time I see these home chefs on egullet talk about sous vide. There is this one thread , where the OP states, I have this beautiful whole rack of pork and I would like to cook it sous vide. He then goes on to ask for directions on how to ruin this "beautiful" piece of meat.

 

One person suggests :

 

 

I'd marinate it for 24 hours in a nice sauce of olive oil, red wine, a table spoon or two of fish sauce (I like the Vietnamese best since it's stronger on flavour than the Thai, but Thai fish souce is fine too), ground black pepper, honey and mustard.......Cook the pork for 10-12 hours at 60 C (that's 140F). Sear it again if you wish, a blow torch is conveniant, and serve it with whatever you like. I think a good potato mash and some sauteed peppers, squash and red onions is perfect.

 

I puked a little bit..

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I cringe every time I see these home chefs on egullet talk about sous vide. There is this one thread , where the OP states, I have this beautiful whole rack of pork and I would like to cook it sous vide. He then goes on to ask for directions on how to ruin this "beautiful" piece of meat.

 

One person suggests :

 

 

I'd marinate it for 24 hours in a nice sauce of olive oil, red wine, a table spoon or two of fish sauce (I like the Vietnamese best since it's stronger on flavour than the Thai, but Thai fish souce is fine too), ground black pepper, honey and mustard.......Cook the pork for 10-12 hours at 60 C (that's 140F). Sear it again if you wish, a blow torch is conveniant, and serve it with whatever you like. I think a good potato mash and some sauteed peppers, squash and red onions is perfect.

 

I puked a little bit..

omg, sounds like vomit in a bag. i almost lost my breakfast reading that

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Very interesting Robert Brown.

 

 

I personally hate food that has been prepared sous vide. I feel it's a cop out and the food has a off putting texture and feels almost removed of it's flavor.

 

That certainly depends on what's cooked and how...there are more ways than sous vide to fuck up food.

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