This must be one of the most delicious books ever. As usual I was reading it on my evening commute, and boy did it make me hungry. The book isn’t particularly well written, but those things would look just as delicious in a People’s Daily editorial.

There are a few obvious omissions of famous gourmet materials, as the author mentions, e.g. olive oil and foie gras. His criteria for inclusion is more about exclusiveness: there’s only one place in the world that can possibly produce it.

This post is simply a note. The story of each one can easily fill a book.

Aceta Balsamic Tradizionale di Modena

  • Material: Trebbiano, lambrusco grape
  • Environment: Wood barrels in attic
  • Production time: >= 12 years. > 25: Extra Vecchio
  • Production volume: 20,000 100ml bottles
  • Brand: Acetaia Malpighi, Acetaia del Cristol
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Roast vegetable, Parmesan cheese, strawberry
  • Comparable: Aceta Balsamic Tradizionale di Reggio-Emilia


Huître Bélon de Bretagne

  • Material: Ostrea Edulis
  • Environment: Brittany seashore, then Bélon river head
  • Production time: 18 months in the sea, 2 months in river
  • Production volume: 1000 tons
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Chablis white wine

Poulet de Bresse

  • Material: 2kg (sans feathers and intestines)
  • Environment: Grassland, 5000m2/500 chicken, fed with corn and milk
  • Production time: 5 weeks in house, 9 weeks on grass, 2 weeks in epinette
  • Production volume: 1 million
  • Brand: Chapon de Bresse (osten) > 3kg; Poularde de Bresse (fat hen)
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: roast

Fleur de sel de Guérande

  • Material: sea water
  • Environment: 1000 acre, 7820 oeillet
  • Production time: 2 large tides/month; 5 days to oeillet
  • Production volume: 10,000 tons of salt; 200-400 tons of fleur
  • Brand: Le Guérandais
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: as condiment
  • Comparable: Ile de Noirmoutier, Ile de Ré, Ria Formosa, Camargue

Jamón Ibérico de Jabugo

  • Material: Iberia pig (pata negra, “black-foot”) 150-180kg, leg 10kg
  • Environment: Dehesa (acorn wood), 1 hectare/pig
  • Production time: 18 months live, Salt 1day/kg, Dry 3 months/kg, Cellar 6-18 months
  • Brand: Grade: Bellota > recebo > cebo/campo/pienso. Region: Huelva, Guijuelo, Extremadura, Pedroches
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Fino/manzanilla sherry, La Rioja red wine
  • Comparable: Prosciutto de Parma, Prosciutto de San Daniele, Jamón Serrano de Trevélez



  • Material: 16l milk makes 1kg
  • Environment:
  • Production time: 1-1.5 years: fresco, 1.4-2: vecchio (best), 2-3: stravecchio
  • Production volume: 300,000 cubes
  • Brand:
  • Cooking and gourmet companion:
  • Comparable: Grana Padano, Lodiagiano, Trentino


  • Material: Lacaune sheep, 5kg milk makes 1kg, Penicillium roqueforti
  • Environment: Causse, Fleurine
  • Production time: 4-9 months
  • Production volume:
  • Brand: Société des Caves, Papillon (black is best), Cabriel Coulet
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Sauternes, Pecan, grape
  • Comparable: Bleu d’Auvergne, Blue des Causses, Gorgonzola, Cabrales

Tartufo bianco di Alba;
Truffe noire du Perigord

  • Material: truffle
  • Environment: Loose gravel ground, acorn wood
  • Production time: 1 year
  • Production volume: white 2000kg, black 30,000 kg
  • Brand:
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Demi-deuil, Risotto
  • Comparable: Champignon Terfez, Tuber aestivum
white truffle

black truffle

I met He Wei in a cafe next to his office (Professional Light Design magazine). Afterwards I stayed there for a while to wait for dinner, enjoying cappuccino and art books (what a life). There’s a book on how to run a cafe by a Japanese on a coffee table, which seems to belong to the cafe owner. Here’s my notes from the espresso chapters.

There are 3 types of beans (coffee species): arabica, robusta*, and liberica. Wikipedia lists another: esliaca. The latter two is very rare.

Espresso roast is less bitter than latte roast.

Ristretto: 15~20ml/cup. Espresso: 20~30. Lungo: 40~50. The more volume, the more caffeine vs. coffee oil, thus more bitter.


  1. One clockwise circle with 20kg force.
  2. Use the other end to hit the rim to clear the residue.
  3. One clockwise circle, then a counter clockwise circle, 10kg.

The tampered coffee surface should be about 3mm lower than rim.

Milk: 250ml per cup. The target temperature is 65℃, total heat time 15s.

  1. Heat 2s with wand down to container bottom.
  2. 2s with wand close to surface to get air. End temp about 30℃
  3. Churn: twist the container back and force.
  4. Bump the container on table top to break large air bubbles.

From Wikipedia: about 1/3 of world coffee production is robusta. Vietnam only produces it and is world’s largest exporter (and 2nd to Brazil in terms of all coffee export). Robusta is easier than arabica to produce, thus(?) considered inferior. It has twice the caffeine.

Date Lunch Dinner
10/3 home 炸酱面
10/4 回龙观 烤鸭
10/5 龙城宾馆
10/6 百荣世贸 担担面 麻辣烫
10/7 动物园 豳*风堂餐厅
10/8 南礼士路 半亩园 前门 面爱面
10/10 Uncle George’s 肉末烧饼
10/12 便宜坊 烤鸭 新光天地 云南快餐
10/13 中关村 一心
10/14 风入松对面小馆 担担面 中关村 汉莱自助餐
10/15 孔已己 东直门银座 味千拉面
10/16 中关村 中8楼 第三级 康师傅私房牛肉面
10/17 golf club house 西单大悦城 麻辣香锅
10/18 798 永一格 home crabs
10/19 知春路友仁居 涮羊肉

As always, food is the greatest thing for our China trip. This time two impressions stand out: the nicety of Chinese fast food, and the extraordinarily beautiful and chic decor of 中8楼 and 永一格.

The good old regulars like roast duck and hot pot are still as good as always, so nothing to write about. The other couple of family banquets are also good, but since we didn’t make the order, they aren’t that special. One fun surprise is the restaurant in the zoo. It looks pretty upscale from outside, but inside it’s exactly a 食堂. The food is surprisingly good with huge portions.

半亩园 has been our favorite through the years. It was quite expensive for us back then, but now it constitutes an important part of the coming-home feeling. It does feel a bit old compared to the other really nice new fast food chains, every one of which is clean and nicely decorated, with beautiful menu and tasty stuff.

The highlight is definitely 中8楼 and 永一格, though. My dad told us about the former, and since we loved Yunnan food from our trip in 1996(?), we looked hard for it in 中关村. It’s pricey but boy is it worth every penny! The decor is superb, every page of the menu is museum catalog quality, and how we wish we could get every single dish! The best one we had is 小米粘, a “small rice” cake in the style of 八宝饭.

永一格 is also very cool, proper for its prime location inside 798. We got its incredibly pretty coupon on our way in, and had a real treat of food and decor.

From 豳(bīn),古都邑名,在今陕西郴县。豳风是诗经十五国风之一,共有诗七篇,其中多描写农家生活、辛勤力作的情景,是我国最早的田园诗。

I knew 钱钟书 wrote the beginning of a novel after Fortress Besieged but lost the manuscript. He called it 百合心 from a French phrase Le coeur d’artichaut. One of the two translators of the English version, Nathan K. Mao, attributes the phrase to Baudelaire, but I can’t find any reference online, except that someone suggests it’s a metaphor for someone with a closed and guarded heart.

I can’t remember how I realized coeur d’artichaut means heart of artichoke, maybe after our French trip when I got to know coeur is heart from the imposing Sacre Coeur church. We’ve been buying big jars of pickled artichoke heart from Costco for a while, and always have it as a side dish with steak or pasta, a great combination we learned in Italy. At one dinner with the Jay couple, I taunted them for the Chinese translation of artichoke heart, only to be ridiculed after looking it up in a dictionary.

Artichoke means 洋蓟, which doesn’t seem to be closely related to lily at all, although the kind of artichoke we eat, globe artichoke, bears certain similarity with 莲蓬. Is 百合心 double metaphor, literary association, or just lost in translation?

After 4 trips to espresso-gulping Europe, the $20 machine from Walmart seems, well, too cheap. Encouraged by the fantastic deal and result on the Chef’s Choice 667 slicer, we went to Marshall’s and happily found this cool red Koala Espresso machine.

Now only if making a Starbucks-quality (no I’m not asking for Parisian cafe quality) espresso is half as easy as making perfect lamb slices. I’m overwhelmed by just browsing through the manual. Spent almost an hour running water through the machine to prime it and get a sense for its operation. Then this morning about 45 minutes got me a sour cup of coffee and a late commute.

Hopefully knowing and practicing the following won’t take longer than the machine’s warranty. Most info is from Koala’s website:

  1. Coffee bean: let’s not deal with different kinds of beans for now. There’re generally 3 kinds of roast: light, medium, and dark. Light isn’t good for espresso. Dark roast has a oily (high gloss) surface and tends to stick together.
  2. Coffee ground: grinded as close to brewing as possible. Dark roast should be grinded coarser than medium roast. The grain should feel slightly finer than granulate sugar. Burr grinder is better than blade. Given that we’re using Illy and Masim’s for now, I only have the next two steps to worry about.
  3. Tamping: about 30lbs of pressure. This is probably why I failed this morning.
  4. Brewing: Double shot = 2 to 2.5 fluid ounces in 20 to 25 seconds

2nd time is much better. There’s definitely crema (golden foam). It tastes a little bit sour at first, but then some nice coffee flavor lingers in my mouth for hours. Tamping is probably still not enough (I can hardly press down to 20lbs, according to a weight), and I don’t like the tamper as it’s hard to hold and press down. Also I probably let too much water through. Will go to Starbucks today to taste theirs, and watch how they do it.

UPDATE 2006-08-18: I asked a guy in the restaurant downstairs in my office building, and he showed me that they use a tamper attached to the grinder so it’s very strong.

Also the Koala is the immediate reason for our kitchen renovation, since we don’t have any room for this beautiful machine…