Tag: culture (Page 1 of 4)

Bjorn Koch - 5 Tips for Cooking Like a Pro

5 Tips for Cooking Like a Pro

Whether you’re cooking for yourself, your family or somebody you want to impress, it’s always nice to feel confident in your culinary abilities — no matter how much experience you have. Here are 5 tips that will help you cook like a pro:

1. Always Prepare Before You Cook

No matter how simple your dish, it’s important to take the time to lay out all of the necessary tools and ingredients before you even flip on the stove. Otherwise, you could run the risk of burning something while you turn away to retrieve that bulb of garlic you forgot to pull out of the fridge.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty

It may sound taboo, but using your hands in the kitchen is entirely natural and acceptable — after all, they’re the best tools you have. Use your hands in measuring portions, applying marinades and seasoning to meat, and even toss salads. These methods not only save you time during preparation, but in the clean-up department as well.

3. Don’t Waste Food

…Unless it’s moldy and entirely unsafe for consumption, of course. According to head chef Abra Berens, however, there are several ways you could use to get rid of the older food in your fridge without being wasteful, including: turning your wilting lettuce into a delectable soup, making chicken or another form of stock from your leftover bones, and zesting your oranges before eating them.

4. Shop Smarter

It may be tempting to just go to your local grocery store and pick up your necessary ingredients in one fell swoop, but many chefs recommend you hold out on purchasing your fruits and vegetables until you get to a farmer’s market. More often than not, the produce sold at farmer’s markets are fresher and have been exposed to fewer pesticides and other toxic substances than their supermarket counterparts.

5. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Sometimes, it’s good to branch out from rigid recipes and test out a few ingredients of your own choosing — though this isn’t recommended when you’re cooking for somebody other than yourself.

Or, if you feel comfortable in your ability to choose complementary seasonings and garnishes, try a new cooking technique. Many master chefs recommend testing out methods like sautéing, French frying, and poaching, as these are some of the easiest to learn. Please don’t experiment with methods that incorporate an open flame, like flambéing, as these take a decent amount of professional training to safely perform.

Best German Restaurants in the US

Bjorn Koch: Best German Restaurants in the US (1)

You don’t have to visit Germany in order to enjoy a delicious German meal. In the United States, you’ll find many German restaurants that celebrate German cuisine. Even if you don’t have German ancestors, you should make a point to visit one of the below restaurants. You won’t regret it!

Old Europe – Washington, DC

Old Europe has been serving delectable German food since 1948. Inside the restaurant, servers dress in traditional German attire to transport you in time to old Europe. The Schnitzel Old Europe is a popular choice for first-time diners. Throughout the year the restaurant features special menus for different holidays. For example, there’s a sausage week, and, of course, Oktoberfest. Take a look at these pictures to get an idea of the restaurant’s ambiance.

Bavarian Grill – Plano, TX

Bavarian Grill has been voted the best German restaurant in America on multiple occasions. It has also received numerous other awards since its opening in 1993. The restaurant features an extensive beer and wine menu in addition to its German cuisine. Although German food has a reputation for being meat heavy, at Bavarian Grill you’ll find a vegetarian menu as well as a gluten-free menu.

Prime Meats – Brooklyn, NY

Prime Meats opened in 2009. The restaurant focuses on serving farm to table alpine inspired fare. While the menu doesn’t feature an extensive beer list like most other German restaurants, it does feature a lot of wine. One of the best items on the menu is the house-made sausage. If you have trouble picking a sausage you can make things easier by ordering the sausage tasting board. Visit the Prime Meats website to learn more about this cozy restaurant.

Suppenküche – San Francisco, CA

Suppenküche is located in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood, not far from the Civic Center. If you visit with a party that’s less than six, you won’t be able to make a reservation. The restaurant opens at 5:00 every day. Arrive at 5:00 if you don’t want to wait—the restaurant fills up quickly, and there aren’t many seats at the bar where you can wait until your table is ready. On the menu, you’ll find imported beers from Germany, Belgium, and Austria. If you really want a challenge, order one of the beers that are served in a glass boot! The dinner menu changes often, yet you’ll find tasty traditional German fare including pretzels and sauerkraut.

The Best German Food in Boston

bjorn koch german food

This isn’t the only blog out there featuring the best German food in Boston–not even close. There have been plenty of other guides written about where to get a giant bratwurst and sauerkraut or spätzle–some push hard for one place over another. All of these online guides are noteworthy and at least warrant a quick browse. But what makes this guide different isn’t what restaurants are included, but who is the one writing it.

 

Bjorn Koch grew up in Germany, he moved multiple times during his youth around the country, learning to love everything the country had to offer. When he moved to the United States, Bjorn chose Boston, Massachusetts. Now you can see where this is going–why Bjorn’s take on this issue might lend a bit more credibility–Koch spent his youth in Germany and his adult life in Boston.

 

Bjorn Koch knows a thing or two about food and dining, a thing or two about Germany, and a thing or two about Boston. So now he’ll tell you a thing or two about where to find the best German food in Boston proper.

 

Audubon Boston

If you’re looking for a more laid-back dining experience (not everything has to be upscale) with some quality German food, look no further than Audubon Boston. Located just a short distance from Fenway Park, Audubon Boston features a wonderful variety of German foods at reasonable prices. Also known for their extensive cocktail list, Audubon is a great place to go for a pork schnitzel sandwich and cocktail or two.

 

Jacob Wirth

A mainstay on most “best of Boston” lists, and for good reason–Jacob Wirth is a premier German restaurant that can tout some incredible food and a rich history. The restaurant first came to be in 1868 and remains to this day, serving a mouth-watering array of both German favorites as well as American dishes. Can’t decide what to get? I don’t blame you, but I will suggest the sampler platter that gives you a taste of Germany from a comfortable, old-school dining experience.

 

Bronwyn

Though this list is in no particular order, nor is it numbered, there is a reason that Bronwyn is listed last here. Despite being one of the newer establishments in the area, Bronwyn is doing everything right: it features some of the most authentic and best tasting German cuisine in Boston. With a friend or feeling particularly hungry? Order the Königsteller and undo your belt while you try to consume over two pounds of pork shank, frankfurter and sauerkraut.  

 

Putting the Fine in Fine Dining

bjorn koch fine dining header

I’ve written a lot on this site about upscale dining and culture to the point that it almost seems as though I’ve covered just about everything. From the dos and don’ts of fine dining to the recipes you can make at home, BjornKoch.org has played home to many a fine dining blog post.

Many times on this site I’ve detailed the intricacies of fine dining. Diving into the topic allows for exploration on a micro scale, looking at where to eat, what to eat and what to do in different countries. But still BjornKoch.org is missing something–something on the macro level.

What is it, exactly, that makes a fine dining experience a fine dining experience? What makes upscale upscale? Is it just the price? Is it the atmosphere? The service? The variety (or lack of) food?

In essence, a little of everything goes into this, so here’s a bit about each.

Atmosphere

What’s the first thing you’ll undoubtedly notice when you set foot in any restaurant? Think about your senses: there’s the smell of the food, the sounds that are swirling around you and the appearance of the restaurant.

These are the factors that make up the overall atmosphere of an upscale dining experience. The patrons will more than likely be dressed nicely and be speaking in relatively hushed tones–fine dining restaurants are not places for the loud, raucous conversations you’d have in a TGI Friday’s or something of the sort. It’s difficult to put into words, but the overall demeanor of the restaurant staff, your fellow diners and their actions help to create an upscale atmosphere.

The Price

The eye popping prices of most upscale dining entrees are what many people first consider when they’re thinking about giving fine dining a shot. And while huge prices for entrees are expected at most establishments, it’s important to note that the price is a reflection of everything else on this list: the service provided, the atmosphere, the food and the upscale dining experience as a whole. Charging $45 for a burrito at the food truck outside of your office wouldn’t turn it into an upscale restaurant.

The Service

Most restaurants make it clear that your waiter or waitress is there to serve you. They’ll introduce themselves by name, pop in every 20-25 minutes to ensure you’re enjoying the meal and let you know that they’re there for refills of your Pepsi.

At an upscale restaurant, the servers do their best to remain unnoticed. They swap out your silverware or refill your glasses of wine without you even noticing. Providing everything you need to ensure that you’re fully serviced while remaining in the background is one of the most alluring aspects to fine dining.

The Food

Finally. This is the bullet point you’ve undoubtedly been waiting for. When you’re eating out, you’re probably not doing it for the atmosphere, the service or the prices. Those are additions; pieces of the puzzle that make up the fine dining experience. But the overall picture–the reason you’re dining out in the first place is for the food. And upscale restaurants know how to deliver if you’re hungry.

Upscale dining food separates itself in both selection and quality. The foods featured on the menu are often locally sourced and unique offerings that aren’t found elsewhere. They’re chef specialities and dishes that are original, often changing and most importantly, delicious.  

Cocktails & Mixed Drinks for Upscale Dining

bjorn koch drinks

A lot of pressure is put into crafting the perfect meal when you’re out at an upscale establishment. Of course the cooking and preparation is handled by an experienced and well-versed chef or team of chefs, but you’re the one that has to place the order after all. Looking over the long list of options available, each promising to hit your tastebuds in such a way that it will instantly become a meal you’ll never forget.

But once you’ve made your decision the hard part is over…or is it?

Far too often is the offer of what to drink with your meal forgotten. Wines are the obvious go-to, but sometimes you’re not in the mood for a glass of red or white; sometimes you’re feeling like a cocktail will better hit the spot.

Here are seven must-have cocktails that epitomize class and are great additions to your next meal out.

Manhattan

A classy drink named after a fantastic borough of New York and garnished with a cherry traditionally, if there’s one drink to try at least once make it a Manhattan. Mix together whiskey, sweet red vermouth, and a dash of bitters.

Margarita

A great option if you’re dining at a nice Mexican restaurant, margaritas should be your go-to option. Fresh lime juice, triple sec and tequila make a surprisingly smooth cocktail that you can enjoy with your favorite Mexican dish. And don’t forget the salt!

Whiskey Sour

Many people see whiskey as the drink of a man’s man. I say it should be everyone’s drink (in moderation, of course). Don’t quit on whiskey if you’re not much of a sipper–try a whiskey sour. Skip the prepackaged mixes, instead combine lemon or lime juice, sugar, and some nice whiskey.

Gin and Tonic

Quick and easy with two ingredients (not counting ice). Toss a few cubes into a glass, pour some gin, pour some tonic (the ratio is up to you, 1:1: or 1:3 seems to be the general consensus). Garnish with a wedge of lemon or lime for a nice touch, and you’re set.

Martini

Gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters combine to form a classic that is worthy of James Bond’s attention. There’s a reason that a martini is the drink of choice for those like 007–shaken or stirred it’s sure to ooze class.

Bloody Mary

The choice of brunch-eaters everywhere, the strong, bordering on overpowering ingredients of a Bloody Mary mix and match well enough that, somehow, they complement one another perfectly. Tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, Tabasco sauce, salt and some lemon are the main players in this classic.

Old Fashioned

With a name like Old Fashioned this drink was destined to become a long lasting classic. Put a sugar cube into an old fashioned glass and douse it with some bitters and a bit of water or club soda, muddle it, stir it, add an ice cube and some whiskey and you’re set.

Dining Etiquette Around the World

Fine Dining Bjorn Koch

Eating out at a restaurant in the United States is a fairly straightforward affair. Assuming you’ve been to a restaurant before, you likely know the etiquette that surrounds an evening of being waited on at a nice restaurant. And while the rules do change slightly when you’re dining at an upscale establishment rather than your local Ruby Tuesday, the fact of the matter remains that, in America, dining out has a set of rules that you’re expected to follow.

The problem is, those rules aren’t the same when you leave the United States. In fact, they differ pretty strongly country to country. Here are a few different areas of the world that don’t abide by the USA dining laws, and some suggestions on how you should act should you find yourself dining out there.

Japan

Dining Etiquette:

You’ve likely heard this before, but forget the rules that your parents taught you about slurping your food should you find yourself in Japan. Slurping your noodles into your mouth shows your appreciation for the meal.

When you’ve eaten all the noodles or solid foods from a bowl with your chopsticks (which you should never leave crossed or lick during the meal), drink the broth straight from the bowl.

Paying and Tipping:

Do not feel compelled to split the bill–the one who organized the meal often pays, and doesn’t leave a tip.

China

Dining Etiquette:

The same general rules for chopsticks in Japan as seen above also hold true for China. In addition, do not waive the chopsticks around or move them erratically. Control and poise are keys, particularly in business settings, which are a common task to hold over meals.

Additionally, don’t refill your own glass, instead refill your neighbor’s and don’t hold back on your belches (unless in a business setting)

Paying and Tipping:

As in Japan, tips should not be left, and many restaurants have no tipping policies and will reject any offers.

Germany

Dining Etiquette:

If you want the glass of water that Americans have become accustomed to receiving at every meal, you’ll have to ask and it more than likely won’t be free. And if you show up at an even marginally crowded restaurant, don’t expect to get a table by yourself. Sitting with strangers and sharing a table is considered the norm in Germany.

Paying and Tipping:

You should be expected to tip your server somewhere in the realm of 5-15%. Five is on the low end of what’s acceptable. However, very much unlike what is often done in America, don’t leave your money on the table–give it directly to your server.

Best Countries for Upscale Dining

Bjorn Koch upscale dining

On this website you’ve seen me write time and time again about foods you need to try from various countries, eatiers that you should visit in your city, state or country, and the authentic dishes you should try around the world.

This might be the end all and be all of cultural fine dining blog posts on BjornKoch.net. It won’t, of course, be the end of the blog posts on here, you can expect me to write about dining whenever I can moving forward–but this might be the most all-encompassing piece I write on international cuisine.

Here are the five countries with the best food around the world.

India

1.2 billion people cannot possibly be wrong. India’s food is unique in its composition and overall makeup, combining a wide variety of flavors to appease all audiences. Tandoori chicken, butter chicken, and curries are some of the most popular dishes from India, which is also famous for its fantastic vegetarian dishes given the fact that many Indians do not eat meat.

USA

It’s hard to name a top ten foods list without mentioning the USA. Notable, the USA is the only country on this list that isn’t necessarily widely regarded for its original food, but for its spins on other countries’ cuisines.

The USA is famous for its multicultural makeup, which has allowed it to blend a wide range of international foods into one cultural epicenter. Perhaps more interestingly, the USA has put its own spin on international foods (think pizza, tacos, hamburgers), taking hugely famous international food and Americanizing it.

France

Dining upscale has a few almost mandatory aspects to it; when we think of an upscale dinner party we often think about wine and cheese. It just so happens, then, that wine and cheese are two of the edibles that France is most famous for. On top of them, the croissants, macarons, fine breads and a widely ranging spread of chicken and beef dishes make French cuisine one of the best in the world.

Mexico

Often lambasted for being the same ingredients (tortilla, meat, cheese) spread out across a number of dishes, eating authentic Mexican is incredibly hard to beat. Despite that notion, there is quite a bit of variety found in real Mexican food, from the sauces that go into each dish to the preparation and presentation, each of which intensely modifies the dishes’ overall flavors.

You might bump Mexican to number one if you’re a fan of spicy foods, as most of the world’s chilis come from Mexico, particularly the very spicy ones. Worked into a number of dishes, sometimes the pain of stuffing a few jalapenos or habaneros into your mouth is worth it for the flavor compliments.

Italy

When you think of Italian food you probably think of freshness. Italian food is often not overly complicated or difficult to prepare, but one taste of an authentic Italian dish will show you how little that matters in the grand scheme of things, Fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and breads are staples of Italian cuisine. The food is so wide ranging–from marinara to alfredo, from pizza to gelato–that it’s difficult to cover it all and not drool on my keyboard.

Five States and Their Defining Foods

Traveling and food are an intertwined, intersecting pair of interests of mine that I often find myself experiencing at the same time. When I travel, I sample the local cuisine regardless of how exotic it is or is not. There’s nothing like visiting the heart and birthplace of a dish and tasting an authentic version yourself. It always–always–blows imitations out of the water.

Regardless of where I’m headed–across the ocean, across the state or across the country, food will continue to be a huge part of traveling for me. And it should be the same way for you.

Within the United States are, of course, 50 states. Most everyone knows that, but what not everyone knows is that within each state is a signature dish, sandwich or local delicacy that you’re best off trying on your next visit. Here are five states with the most recognizable and most delicious foods that you should indulge in on your next visit.

Louisiana–Gumbo

If you’ve been to Louisianna before, you know that the state is known for its cajun creole inspired seafood dishes. In New Orleans you’ll likely find a good bit of jambalaya, but statewide, gumbo is a must-try. The base vegetables of celery, onions and peppers with stock, a meat or seafood and a variety of seasonings, spices and other ingredients combine to form a fantastic southern dish.

Maryland–Crabs/Crab cakes

The popularity of Maryland crabs comes from the method in which they’re cooked. Instead of simply boiling blue crabs with little to no spice, Maryland has made famous the method of utilizing Old Bay and a variety of spices to bring out the flavor of the crabs. If cracking is too much work for you, Maryland crab cakes are a fantastic substitute in Maryland.

Illinois–Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

You’ve probably tried deep dish pizza before, but unless you’ve been to Chicago, you haven’t really tried deep dish pizza. The chunky tomato sauce, the heaps of cheese and the perfectly cooked crust makes eating authentic Chicago-style deep dish an experience that every human on earth should try at least once in their life.

Pennsylvania–Philly Cheesesteak

A classic example of something that you can get just about anywhere in the world, but probably shouldn’t. Visiting just about any pizza place in America, you’ll find a menu item that will likely read “Philadelphia cheesesteak.” If you want a real Philly cheesesteak, avoid this. Philly cheesesteaks should be eaten in Philly. Avoid tourist-based spots like Pats and Genos, and opt instead for Dalessandros or Steve’s. My final recommendation: cheese whiz and onions. Not exactly upscale, but certainly delicious.

Massachusetts/New England– Clam Chowder

You had to have seen this coming. As a Boston resident, filling up with a bowl of clam chowder, particularly on a chilly evening, is hard to beat. Thicker than most other chowders because of its creamy base, New England clam chowder is a must-try when you’re in the area. And, by the way, to the locals it’s chowda’.

 

Table for One: Why Dining Alone is A-Ok

Bjorn Koch dining alone

Sometimes what we need most in the world is some peace and quiet. We often prefer quiet while we’re working, while we’re reading and while we’re relaxing. There are certain things that are just almost undebatably better to do alone. But, for whatever reason, there are certain other things that are seen as strange to do by yourself, among them going to the movies, going to see a concert or sporting event and, of course, eating.

It’s time to stand up against the stigma. Eating alone can, and often is, a fantastic experience.

Think about what your immediate musing are when you see a friend, coworker or acquaintance sitting alone at a table, whether it’s at an upscale restaurant or the cafeteria at work. Your first inclination is often to offer to sit with them on the grounds that no one should ever have to eat alone.

That right there might be your first mistake. There’s a chance that that person you’re currently taking pity on isn’t being forced to sit alone, he or she is doing it by choice. Sometimes, eating alone is far more enjoyable than eating with others depending on the person.

Dining out alone doesn’t have to be a sad, sultry or pathetic exercise in getting food and hiding behind the menu hoping that no one will spot you committing such an unfathomable act in public. Eating alone is relaxing. It takes the pressure off–this might be one of the relatively few times that you get to experience a silent evening enjoying a meal cooked for you.

There’s no pressure to make something everyone will enjoy, as if you were eating at home.

There’s no pressure to hold a conversation with someone who you may or may not be interested in (think “first date”).

There is no pressure. There is only you. And the waiter/ess. And your delicious food.

And perhaps, a book. Bringing along something to read is another one of life’s carnal pleasures–reading that thriller that you’ve been picking up every night before bed while you eat your dinner is the ultimate experience in solidarity.

There is no sense in being embarrassed or ashamed of eating alone–in fact, it’s something that everyone absolutely should experience at some point in their lives. Dining alone is liberating, stress-free and cheaper. It gives you time to unwind, whether it’s by reading a book or surfing the web on your phone. You can listen to music, catch up on a podcast or have a drink or two at the bar.

Really, you can do whatever you want, you’re alone, remember?

 

Great East Coast Restaurants

In the United States, there’s a nearly endless selection of restaurants, from a McDonald’s to restaurants that are considered the best in the world. I’ve decided to compile a list of high-end restaurants throughout the East Coast. They’re also affiliated with hotels or inns and have stunning views. If you live somewhere along the East Coast, most of these restaurants are a simple drive away, so you might want to plan a special trip to one. New York might have some of the world’s best restaurants, but you’ll have to head outside of the city for these country views.

 

Bedford Post Inn – Bedford, New York

The Bedford Post Inn sits on 14 lush acres and offers stunning views of nature. There are two stupendous restaurants, The Barn and Campagna. The Barn is a more casual dining experience with a rustic decor and wood beam interior. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served during the week, with brunch being served on weekends. Campagna is a fine dining restaurant that serves traditional Italian food and handmade pasta, along with some dishes using local ingredients.

Visit their website.

 

Spicer Mansion – Mystic, Connecticut

Spicer Mansion is a luxury boutique hotel located in the heart of Mystic, Connecticut. The mansion was built in 1853 and has traditionally been the summer home of Captain Elihu Spicer. After much restoration, the mansion now houses a luxury restaurant that offers stunning views of downtown Mystic and the Mystic River. The restaurant offers world-class food and is open to guests or by reservation.

Check out their official website here.

 

Castle Hill Inn – Newport, Rhode Island

Castle Hill Inn rests on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic and provides guests with panoramic views of the ocean. This historic building was originally built by in 1875 for a Harvard marine biologist to spend his summers at. Now, it’s an extensive inn that houses various guests, either in the mansion or in cottages near the ocean. The Dining Room at the Inn has been there for over a century and has the distinction of being a Forbes Four Star restaurant, along with Chef Lou Rossi. There are over 800 selections on the wine list, as well as delicious cuisine. Guests can also opt to eat on The Lawn during summer months.

Read more here.

 

Blantyre – Lenox, Massachusetts

This manor is located between Boston and New York City and sits on 46 hectares. It was built in the Tudor style during 1902. The manor has a spa, beautiful guest rooms, and an award-winning restaurant in the Main House. A pianist will serenade guests with live music, while they enjoy mingling in the Music Room, the Covered Terrace, or the Main Hall. Fresh flowers, linens, and fine china adorn the tables for dinner, which promises to be a memorable experience.

Look at their website here.

 

Camden Harbour Inn – Camden, Maine

Camden Harbour Inn is considered one of the world’s best boutique hotels and is located along the coast of Maine. The Inn has been catering to guests since the late 1800’s. Nobility has even stayed here! Natalie’s is the AAA Four Diamond restaurant in the Inn that offers views of Camden Harbor, the mountains, and Penobscot Bay. Cuisine is a mix of European and New England style food.

Learn more about the Inn here.

 

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