ANDREW & KAREN'S WEB LOG - 2004
"If you asked me what I came into this world to do,
I will tell you:
I came to live out loud."
—Critic and novelist Emile Zola (1840-1902)
Congratulations to Carlos Laureta on winning the essay contest
"The Book That Changed My Life" with his essay on our book
BECOMING A CHEF
Wednesday, December 29, 2004 — We were tickled to receive the following email today:
"I would like to thank you because BECOMING A CHEF was instrumental in helping me win an essay writing contest this year. The theme of the contest was 'The Book That Changed My Life.' I came out in a local print advertisement as part of the prize that I won from the contest. I have attached a copy of the advertisement [above] to this letter....Thank you for helping me open a new chapter in my life. BECOMING A CHEF has given me hope and allowed me to follow my bliss.
Carlos G. Laureta"
Friday, December 24, 2004 — The New York Daily News featured us in an article earlier in the year, and we had such a good time talking with photographer David Handschuh when he was at our apartment to photograph us for the paper that we invited him to sit down and stay for a very modest lunch. A few days ago, the holiday greeting card above arrived in our emailbox — featuring David's wonderful photograph taken earlier this month in New York City's Times Square of a parade of Santas. If it doesn't help raise your holiday spirits, we're afraid nothing can!
Wednesday, December 22, 2004 — Either of us could provide you with a long list of the others' weaknesses: Andrew is a creative speller who has occasional bouts of stubbornness; Karen is a recovering perfectionist who is still working to develop the virtue of patience. (Does it already sound like we're getting ready for a Festivus celebration's ritual "airing of grievances"?!)
However, one of our mutual strengths is being able to spot upcoming trends, sometimes years ahead of their occurrence. Being able to see so far ahead of the curve can be a long-term blessing — e.g. our books' long-term sales — but a short-term curse — e.g. other people's questioning of our judgment because they're simply not able to "see" what we're able to (e.g. "This book, as you envision it, would be very small — a tough sell to the book-buying audience," of BECOMING A CHEF, our book which was rejected by every publisher to whom it was sent except one, and then went on to sell more than 100,000 copies; or "Who on earth would want to buy a book of lists of compatible flavors?", of CULINARY ARTISTRY, our book which has sold more than 60,000 copies).
Years ago, we both noticed the developing trend of pairing food with beverages (and not only wine), and vowed to make it our next book. Indeed, our proposal for WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT mentions not only wine, but also beer, sake, coffee, tea, water, juice, milk, and more.
It's nice to see our predictions borne out by articles like Kim Severson's "Juice for Caviar, Soda for Foie Gras" in today's New York Times. In it, she writes about some cutting-edge food and beverage pairings (e.g. milk with pasta, foie gras with root beer). They're wonderful new options for those who are underage, pregnant, designated drivers and/or who simply don't want to drink alcoholic beverages.
You'll be able to find even more examples in our forthcoming book. To that, we say, "Cheers!"
Donna Zaccaro and Karen Page
at The Rainbow Room
Saturday, November 20, 2004 — I love supporting Citymeals-on-Wheels through its annual events — not only because Gael Greene and her team's noble effort to feed the homebound elderly is such an important cause (as Andrew and I learned firsthand when we made deliveries in the wake of 9/11 when the organization's usual volunteers couldn't make it into the city because the bridges and tunnels were closed), but because it's such fun to catch up with friends who are also fellow supporters.
I had the pleasure of seeing my long-time friend Donna Zaccaro [whom I met when we were both working on Wall Street 20 years ago — the year I volunteered on her mom Geraldine Ferraro's campaign] at Thursday's Citymeals' fundraiser at The Rainbow Room, and hearing more about the non-profit organization Donna's heading called WhatGoesAround.org. It's a revolutionary concept that is truly changing the idea of giving: People can create online GiveLists, selecting their favorites from more than 900,000 public charities. Then, when someone wishes to say "Thank you" or "Sorry about your loss," they can check out your GiveList on WhatGoesAround.org and make a gift in your name.
I'm looking forward to registering. And you can bet that Citymeals-on-Wheels will be on my GiveList. —Karen Page
Stephanie Winston, Karen Page and Barbara Stanny
Friday, November 19, 2004 — Authors' Night Out: Few things are more fun than introducing people who don't know each other but are destined to get along famously. I had the pleasure of introducing my best-selling author friends Stephanie Winston (Organized for Success) and Barbara Stanny (Secrets of Six-Figure Women) to one another over dinner tonight at Anne Rosenzweig's wonderful Greenwich Village restaurant INSIDE (9 Jones Street, bet. Bleecker and W. 4th St.). Lucky me to benefit from all the book publishing tales each of them had to share! —Karen Page
Merce Temprano, Karen, and Antonia Rollou
Tuesday, November 16, 2004 — Are Merce Temprano and Antonia Rollou the best cooks in Spain?
These two women were responsible for the single best dish we tasted during our recent 10-day Spanish food and wine extravaganza.
After eating at some of the best restaurants in the cities we visited, it's hard to believe that a simple dish of pork ribs braised with potatoes, tomato and paprika was the one that literally made a table of food professionals' jaws drop. But indeed it was.
These very modest women kept peeking out of the kitchen to catch a glimpse of our faces at the table to see how we were enjoying the dishes. Undeterred by her lack of Spanish, Karen finally got up from the table mid-lunch to find a way to communicate our collective swooning admiration. Andrew soon followed, and snapped the photo above.
Bodegas Farina in Toro (Zamora) is one lucky winery indeed — not merely for the lovely wines they produce, but for the talent in its kitchen that creates such extraordinarily delicious dishes to show them off! The pork ribs were complemented perfectly by Farina's Gran Colegiata crianza, which is made with 100% Tinta de Toro grapes.
A very happy Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda
Sunday, November 14, 2004 — You never know when and where you're going to make your next great new friends: We first met Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn in the green room when we were both preparing for our spots as guests on "Jersey's Talking" in early 1997. We were getting ready for our interview with host Lee Leonard and setting up a display of ingredients illustrating the principles of flavor compatibility featured in our book CULINARY ARTISTRY while the show's musical guests (Valerie and Brendan's band GrooveLily) rehearsed backstage. While listening to them run through the same couple of songs over and over, their infectiously uplifting music got under our skins and we asked if they ever played in New York. They did, we went, and we've been great friends ever since — even attending their wedding a few years back.
Last night over dinner at their favorite neighborhood haunt Voyage, we celebrated another milestone with Valerie and Brendan: Their being signed to their first-ever record deal for their show "Striking 12," a fun, modern, hip retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's holiday story of The Little Match Girl set to pop-rock music, which will be released by PS Classics in December. We took our nieces Gail and Kristen to see the show with us in Philadelphia a couple of Decembers ago, and they both loved it as much as we did and became instant GrooveLily fans!
GrooveLily will perform its third season of "Striking 12" during the month of December at the Lucie Stern Theater in Palo Alto. We hope everyone in the San Francisco Bay Area next month will have the great pleasure of checking it out! More info here.
"'Striking 12' strikes gold...Ideal holiday entertainment."
— The Los Angeles Times
"A sweet, witty musical amusement."
— The San Diego Union Tribune
Thursday, November 11, 2004 — We received an interesting email today from Iwona Majdan in Montreal: "Dear Andrew and Karen, I recently discovered your collection of books while working on a project in
Toronto. I was overjoyed! You see, I am not part of the food industry but
have always been passionate about food and enjoy cooking very much. I am a
visual artist living in Montreal. My art practice deals with challenging
society's stereotypes, pushing the boundaries of what we consider to be
'normal'. The focus of my recent project, The Dinner Project, has been food.
For the past 3 months I have been approaching strangers on the street who
pique my interest, and inviting myself over to cook for them. It has led me
into the lives of wonderful people and given me incredible opportunities for
personal growth. Food is certainly a catalyst. I congratulate you on
translating your passion for food through such a wonderful and informative
series of books. All the best, Iwona"
A voice from Madrid's Plaza Mayor
Tuesday, November 2, 2004 — When going through our photographs from Spain, we found another from the first day of our trip (above): Outside one of the apartments that line Madrid's Plaza Mayor, a Kerry/Edwards sign was posted, which presaged the nature of our conversations with Spaniards to follow. After five or 10 minutes of polite conversation, the subject would invariably turn to the election, and whether we'd be back in the United States in time to vote today. These exchanges underscored the fact that we're not simply electing our next President today, but the leader of the free world whose decisions will reverberate globally.
Karen and Andrew in Madrid's Plaza Mayor
Sunday, October 31, 2004 — Yes, we made it home tonight in one piece after spending the past 9 days in Spain. No, we don't have any energy left to tell you more about it right now. Yes, we'll at least post a photo: Above you'll find one of our very first few hours in the country, as we'd just crossed the Atlantic to discover that our hotel room wasn't ready yet — so it was off to Madrid's Plaza Mayor for a two-hour walking tour of the area. Yes, we were as jet-lagged as we look....
A few of our delicious dishes at IXTA
Chef Linda Japngie with churros
Tuesday, October 19, 2004 — We had the pleasure of stopping by Tony Bourdain's book party to congratulate him on the publication of his latest LES HALLES COOKBOOK at Les Halles (411 Park Avenue South), where waiters strolled through the room bearing platters of ("transcendent," according to the 2005 Zagat Survey) French fries piled six inches high. The size of the room has doubled with the restaurant's recent renovation, a boon for those of us in Midtown jonesing for steak frites.
Afterward, we popped in to IXTA around the corner (48 E. 29th Street) for a couple of appetizers and to say hello to chef Linda Japngie. It always blows us away to taste how much flavor she is able to pack into her food while still maintaining a sense of balance. Her Blooming Diver Scallops ($10) were perfectly sweet and tender, with the pop coming from the accompanying Salsa Borracha. The Squash Blossom Quesadillas ($8) balanced sensual creaminess with crunchiness. But our real discovery was the Ensalada de Noche ($9), with fresh greens tossed with crisp calamari, jicama, banana, lacquered pecans, and chili lime crema — which Andrew swears is his "Dish of the Year." We skipped the excellent margaritas (which takes some effort, given that the restaurant describes itself as "Cocina Mexicana & Tequila Bar") in favor of enjoying an impromptu tasting of two different Rieslings offered by the glass — a sweeter German, and a drier New Zealand, both delicious. The cinnamon-dusted churros served for dessert are the most delicate we've ever tasted, and are served with two different dipping sauces. From the haute cuisine she cut her teeth on at La Caravelle to her New World influences at Jimmy's Downtown, Japngie's distinguished resume is apparent in the cuisine she serves in this fun, energetic setting.
Andrew, Jody, Karen & Juergen at Wallse
Monday, October 18, 2004 — What delicious fun to celebrate our dancer-choreographer friend Jody Oberfelder's birthday (albeit several days belatedly) over dinner at Wallse with Jody and her husband Juergen Riehm of 1100 Architect (which was just featured in The New York Times Magazine a couple of Sundays ago for its design of the Watermill Houses).
Sunday, October 17, 2004 — We arrived home from the Midwest very early this morning with the fondest memories of not only a lovely dinner at Tru in Chicago (which is to be expected), but also of a quick brunch we had at the Blind Faith Cafe (525 Dempster Street) in Evanston. The chilequiles served with rice and beans, not to mention the whole wheat banana-almond pancakes served with real maple syrup, stood out as the most delicious surprise of our entire trip.
Andrew, Sarah Dey Hirshan, Susan Dey,
Leslie Kramer, and Karen in Union Square
We left our candles in the peace tribute
Friday, September 3, 2004 — We were happy to be invited to join friends at the "Vigil for the Fallen" in Union Square after a lovely dinner together at Inside (9 Jones St. near W. 4th St.) last night. Rising star actress Sarah Dey Hirshan gets credit for spurring us to participate, while her amazingly resourceful (not to mention amazingly talented) mom Susan Dey brought candles as well as Dixie cups, which were fashioned into candle wax drip catchers. Leslie Dey took time away from her one-of-a-kind nautical giftware company Kramer & Dey to enjoy what turned out to be a perfect end-of-summer evening.
Tuesday, August 31, 2004 at 11 pm — Since the book party that Harvey Weinstein threw for my friend Rikki Klieman at Tribeca Grill last May, I've been back for dinner exactly twice — including tonight. Both times, I was surprised at how much I admired the service, and enjoyed my dinner itself (which tonight ranged from a terrific pasta appetizer to a cookie plate). This evening, I enjoyed a "girls' night out" with my friend Laura Day and her 12-year-old son and two of his female friends. The restaurant couldn't have been nicer, helping Samson check his skateboard on the way in, and our waiter Dino couldn't have been more attentive to adults and kids alike. Tribeca Grill opened in 1990, and I'm happy to see it still going strong 14 years later. Kudos to the TG team! —Karen Page
Sunday, August 29, 2004 at 11 am — After running for three hours straight, Karen completes the Manhattan Half-Marathon (13.1 miles) in New York's Central Park.
Seen the the Park this morning: "Billionaires for Bush," no doubt good-humored protesters dressed up in period costumes playing croquet. A quick Google search yielded their Web site, where they describe themselves as follows: "Billionaires for Bush is a grassroots media campaign that is changing voters' minds in swing districts. We're using humor, street theater, and creative media to show how the Bush administration has favored the corporate elite at the expense of everyday Americans. We've been recognized by major media including The New York Times, USA Today, CNN, CBS News, The Akron Beacon Journal, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, etc. for bringing a unique brand of political activism to the 2004 elections."
They even had the good manners to stay out of the Park during this morning's long-scheduled race, and out of the way of the runners. Croquet anyone?
Monday, August 23, 2004 at 6 pm — Seen on a T-shirt: "Who Would Jesus Bomb?"
RESTAURATEUR SUING RESTAURANT CRITIC...AGAIN
Monday, August 23, 2004 at 10 am — So history is repeating itself...again: The front page of today's New York Times business section features the headline "Lawsuit Follows Restaurant Review," recounting how restaurateur Phil Romano has filed a lawsuit in Dallas County District Court over a review of his restaurant Il Mulino New York written by Dotty Griffith, the chief restaurant critic for The Dallas Morning News. The Times reported: "Ms. Griffith had given Il Mulino 11 1/2 stars out of a possible 15, including 3 1/2 for the food and 4 each for service and ambience. Mr. Romano charged that Ms. Griffith was not qualified to write restaurant reviews, that she made factual errors in her article and that she and another Dallas restaurateur were in cahoots."
Having written the first (and perhaps only) book to examine the subject of restaurant criticism — Finalist for both the 1999 James Beard and Julia Child Book Awards DINING OUT: Secrets from America's Leading Critics, Chefs, and Restaurateurs (Wiley, 1998) — we've seen and heard this all before, as per the following excerpt from page 17 of our book:
In 1983, Mr. Chow restaurant in New York City won a $20,005 libel judgment in a jury trial in federal district court against the Gault-Millau, which gave the restaurant a negative review in its 1982 edition.
Restaurant critics, as well as reviewers of everything from books to stereos, criticized the decision, arguing that reviews "are traditionally considered absolutely privileged under the First Amendment" and that the Mr. Chow review, "employing obviously figurative or hyperbolic statements, must also be considered to be opinion fully subject to constitutional protection."
Then in 1985, the verdict was unanimously overturned after it was judged that "expressions of opinion are constitutionally protected." The appeals court decision, written by Judge Thomas Meskill with the concurrence of Judges Amalya Kearse and Richard Cardamone, determines that "reviews, although they may be unkind, are not normally a breeding ground for successful libel actions," and notes that Mr. Chow didn't cite "a single case that has found a restaurant review libelous....Perhaps Mr. Chow could prove that the reviewer's personal tastes are bizarre and his opinions unreasonable, but that does not destroy their entitlement to constitutional protection....The natural function of the review is to convey the critic's opinion of the restaurant reviewed. The author [of the review] obviously believed that the service was bad, the pork was too doughy, the peppers were cold, the rice was too oily, and the pancakes were too thick. The average reader would understand the author's statements to be attempts to express his opinion through the use of metaphors and hyperbole....Because the average reader would understand the statements involved to be opinion, the statements are entitled to the same constitutional protection as a straightforward expression of opinion would receive."
A DELICIOUS WEEKEND IN AMERICA'S HEARTLAND
At Al's Italian Beef, a Big Beef with
Pork tenderloin sandwiches and fries at
Lindy Gerty's in Ottawa, Illinois
Apple pancake at Richard Walker's
Pancake House in Crystal Lake, Illinois
Curried vichyssoise at Sweets & Savories
Our friend Susan Davis, looking like the
goddess that she is, on her wedding day
Sunday, August 22, 2004 at 10 pm — We're happy to be back home in New York City after a delicious weekend in America's Heartland: Wisconsin and Chicago. Stops included Al's Italian Beef in Chicago; Lindy Gerty's in Ottawa, Illinois, for pork tenderloin sandwiches (a local specialty); Richard Walker's (of the infamous Walker Brothers) Pancake House for its equally infamous apple pancake; and the new restaurant Sweets and Savories in Chicago for a taste of its delicious curried vichyssoise. It was an extraordinary pleasure to attend the wedding of our dear friend Susan Davis and her new husband Walter Moora in East Troy, Wisconsin at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.
OUR WEEK AS ANGELENOS
Monday, August 16, 2004 — We're happy to be back home in New York City after a truly extraordinary week in Los Angeles. What a week! We're happy to share some of the delicious highlights:
Andrew grills up dinner on the deck
Saturday, August 14, 2004 at 8:00 pm — Andrew cooked up a storm all week, but his grilled pork chops with buttered egg noodles topped with grated Parmesan hit everyone's spot on Saturday night. Nothing like being inspired by an extraordinary bottle of wine, which was certainly the case with the bottle of 1983 Chateau Calon-Segur St. Estephe we enjoyed with dinner on the deck, with a spectacular view of Los Angeles from high in the Hollywood Hills.
Saturday, August 14, 2004 at 7:00 am — We went for our first-ever run along Venice Beach in Santa Monica, and can't imagine any place you could get a better workout while people-watching (except, perhaps, Central Park)!
Afterward, LAPD Chief Bratton offered to take us to breakfast at a cafe that was "on the beach." We thought he meant that figuratively, but soon discovered that Back on the Beach (445 Pacific Coast Highway) is quite literally on the beach, with the tables and chairs sunk deep into the sand! While the food (granola, quaesadillas, etc.) ranged from merely fair to pretty good, the ambiance is great fun and not-to-be-missed. We even had the pleasure of running into fellow New Yorkers former ABC News anchor-turned-LAPD's own John Miller and his wife Emily and their adorable baby daughter.
A crab duo course at Maple Drive
Friday, August 13, 2004 at 7:30 pm — At our unforgettable dinner at Maple Drive restaurant, the company was as extraordinary as chef Eric Klein's cuisine! We had the great pleasure and privilege of dining with actress Susan Dey and her producer husband Bernard Sofronski, and put ourselves into the hands of Eric and Tori Klein, where we were treated to one fabulous course after another — including the duo of crab salad with avocado and miniature crab cake pictured above.
Friday, August 13, 2004 at 11:30 am — When Karen checked email on Friday, she was startled to see so many messages from friends in our inbox about "breaking news," which brought word of Julia Child's passing. Karen went to the kitchen to share the news with Andrew, who replied that he felt it was a tribute to Julia that when he heard the news, he was literally cooking at the stove.
Julia had sent us one of the first hand-written congratulatory notes we received upon publication of our first book BECOMING A CHEF in 1995, saying that it was "a must for professional chefs" and that she kept her copy of our book by her bedside. About a year later on June 5th, 1996, we hosted Julia for her first-ever online chat on our show on the electronic Gourmet Guide on AOL (as reported in USA Today and the Los Angeles Times). We hosted one of several 85th birthday parties for Julia in our home in Manhattan as part of a nationwide celebration organized by the IACP. Our third book DINING OUT was a Finalist for the 1999 Julia Child/IACP Cookbook Award, and we had the pleasure of meeting Julia in person at an IACP Conference.
Before that, Andrew had had the nerve-wracking experience of cooking for Julia Child as a young restaurant cook in Boston (at Biba) and in New York City (at Arcadia, where she requested to celebrate the holidays with goose). We had both attended a wildly popular lecture she gave at the Boston Public Library that filled its large auditorium to capacity as well as several other rooms set up to view a live tape of her talk.
Julia has long been cited by America's leading chefs whom we've interviewed for our bestselling books as one of the biggest influences on their love of cooking — and several were inspired to explore the kitchen after watching her show "The French Chef" and to have cooked their way through her book MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING.
Her spirit lives on.
Karen poses in front of Marine One,
President George W. Bush's helicopter
Andrew does his pre-flight sound check
Flying by the "Hollywood" sign
Near Donald Trump's golf course
Andrew, Karen and LAPD Chief Bratton
Thursday, August 12, 2004 — We visited Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton at his office downtown — then enjoyed our first-ever helicopter ride around the city. President George W. Bush (who had his own 'photo op' with the Chief) was also in town, and it turned out that our helicopter was parked right across from his! Karen poses above in front of Marine One, the Presidential helicopter.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004 — We loved our return visit to Yuca's in Los Feliz for tacos (carne asada and carnitas) to take back to the house. The kitchen at this tiny taco stand was crowded with four people serving what appeared to be never-ending lines of happy eaters.
Sunday, August 8, 2004 — We enjoyed a lovely dinner at Angelini Osteria, from luscious figs with gorgonzola cheese to a dish of homemade pasta with shrimp. And it took us by surprise that within hours of landing in Los Angeles, maitre d' Gino came over to our table to let us know that guests at another table wanted to say hello. Small world: KCRW radio producer Teri Gelber (of "Good Food," on which we've had the pleasure of being guests multiple times but typically via the recording studio at NYC's Carnegie Hall) and her husband were dining on the sidewalk with a friend, so we were able to say hello on the way out.
OUR PROLIFIC AUTHOR FRIENDS
Saturday, August 7, 2004 at 6 pm — We want to congratulate our friend Stephanie Winston on her new must-read book Organized for Success: Top Executives and CEOs Reveal the Organizing Principles That Helped Them Reach the Top, which is being published by Crown Business this month. It promises to be yet another bestseller for this New York Times bestselling author! To pre-order the book on Amazon.com, click here.
"Stephanie Winston has done it again! Organized for Success is a superb text to help executives get to the top and stay there! A must-read!"
—Ken Blanchard, co-author, The One-Minute Manager
"There is no magic bullet for organizing for success, but Stephanie Winston's book certainly gives you your choice of ammunition."
—William J. Bratton, Chief, Los Angeles Police Department
"A new book reveals that highly successful leaders tend to excel at time management and organization. Even worse, these superior specimens 'multiply their productivity' by turning distractions to their advantage, somehow getting more work done despite yakky coworkers and bureaucratic snafus.
That's the verdict of author Stephanie Winston in Organized for Success, who interviewed dozens of high-flying execs to see how they handle e-mail, meetings, time bandits, calendars, follow-up, and more. Winston's book bulges with tips, secrets, and techniques that can help anyone — even if you haven't seen the top of your desk since the dot-com days."
— Chris Tucker, American Way
A RUN IN THE PARK
Shea Stadium, home of the Mets; The Unisphere
Saturday, August 7, 2004 at noon — We lived out any baseball-loving runner's fantasy at 10 am this morning by participating in the
NYRR/New York Mets Run to Home Plate out at Shea Stadium in Queens. The 5K race route starts in the parking lot of Shea, then runs a loop around the infamous
Unisphere — with the finish line
inside the stadium near home plate! It was a moment to run around the perimeter of the bases right on the field....On the way there and back on the number 7 train, our mouths started to water at the delicious aromas wafting up the stairs to the subway platform at the Roosevelt Avenue stop in Jackson Heights — an area well-known to and loved by foodies — but we decided to save that stop for a time we weren't clad in sweaty T-shirts and shorts!
JUMP INTO "OPEN WATER"
Friday, August 6, 2004 — Of all the reviews of our friends' movie "Open Water," we're delighted that the film critic who "got it" was our long-time favorite: Pulitzer Prize-winning Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times, who awarded the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars, writing, "Rarely, but sometimes, a movie can have an actual physical effect on you. It gets under your defenses and sidesteps the 'it's only a movie' reflex and creates a visceral feeling that might as well be real. 'Open Water' had that effect on me....Nothing they think or believe has any relevance to the reality they are in. Their opinions are not solicited. Their past is irrelevant. Their success, dreams, fears, loves, plans and friends are all separated from them now by this new thing that has become their lives. To be still alive, but removed from everything they know about how and why to live, is peculiar: Their senses continue to record their existence, but nothing they can do has the slightest utility. So you see I was not afraid as I watched the movie. I was not afraid of sharks, or drowning, or dehydration. I didn't feel any of the 'Jaws' emotions. But when it began to grow dark, when a thunderstorm growled on the far horizon, a great emptiness settled down upon me. The movie is about what a slender thread supports our conviction that our lives have importance and make sense. We need that conviction in order to live at all, and when it is irreversibly taken away from us, what a terrible fate to be left alive to know it."
A scene from the movie "Open Water"
Tuesday, August 3, 2004 — We had the pleasure of attending the New York City premiere of our friends Laura Lau and Chris Kentis' movie "Open Water" last night. Yesterday morning on the "Today" show, Matt Lauer had told Laura and Chris that they owed him two nights' sleep, which he lost after seeing their movie! So while we were prepared to be on the edge of our seats with fright, the movie trailers didn't prepare us for what a thought-provoking film this would be. Neither of us is generally crazy about terrifying movies (Karen got over that after she was spooked by "The Shining" as a teenager), and if we hadn't known Laura and Chris, we probably would have skipped "Open Water" based on the trailer. However, we would have been very sorry to miss this extraordinary movie that is much less of a "scary movie" than it is one that explores questions of man vs. nature and "What really matters — in relationships and in life?" Our heartfelt congratulations to Laura and Chris on the extraordinary accomplishment of creating "Open Water." Don't miss it! www.openwatermovie.com
For our favorite recipe calling for shark, click here. And for a photo of the best shark's fin soup we've ever tasted, see our July 15th entry below on the Toronto restaurant
Lai Wah Heen.
GREAT SUMMER READING
Sunday, August 1, 2004 — Congratulations are due to our dearest friend Rikki Klieman, whose Los Angeles Times bestseller Fairy Tales Can Come True was just released in paperback. It's a fabulous (and true) tale of how this driven professional woman — a celebrated trial attorney now a legal analyst for Court TV and the "Today" show — changed her destiny. As Publishers Weekly wrote of it, "The book ends as the East Coast-based Klieman follows [husband Bill] Bratton west as he assumes his new post [as chief of the LAPD]. 'I was faced with...moving my life to another coast without a clue as to what I was going to do, with no security except the love of my husband,' she writes. 'How daring. What a trial. How very postfeminist.' Not to worry. It appears the first thing she did is write an honest book that should appeal to women trying to have it all." You can purchase it on Amazon.com by clicking here.
FRANKLIN BECKER HITS HIS STRIDE
Saturday, July 31, 2004 — We were big fans of chef Franklin Becker's bold New York cuisine four years ago when we enjoyed it at Local. After we ran into Franklin in May at the James Beard Awards' eve bash Chef's Night Out at AOL Time Warner, we promised ourselves that we'd be in soon to sample what he's doing now at Trinity at the Tribeca Grand Hotel (2 Sixth Ave., 212/519-6600). Last night, we made good on our promise — and are we ever glad we did!
There's a new maturity and refinement to Franklin's very impressive food at Trinity. Highlights included the single most beautiful and delicious plate of sliced heirloom tomatoes — of all colors, shapes and sizes, accented with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, flaky salt, and flowering herbs — we've ever tasted.
The Bluefin Tuna Sashimi was served with a seaweed gelee topped with miniature sticks of creme fraiche, the description of which made us roll our eyes until we tasted just how delicious it was. The Romanesco-Cauliflower Soup with Toasted Almonds and Summer Truffles was as light as a cloud.
In a less skilled chef's hands, the Egg Noodles with Vanilla and Ginger Braised Lobster with Snow Peas, Bamboo Shoots and Flowering Herbs could have been a miss. But the notes of vanilla and ginger were so perfectly balanced that the dish sang, and the homemade egg noodles were cooked perfectly al dente.
Pan Roasted Lamb Loin was cooked to a rosy pink and perfectly to our taste. Franklin redefines "peas and carrots" by serving a version that won't wrinkle anybody's nose, raising the vegetables to new heights that we'd bet even James Beard himself (who was said to detest the combination) would have liked. And the dish is accompanied by truffle potato-leek gyoza: think Japanese pierogi.
To end the meal, we enjoyed "A Study of Melon & Spirits," which featured large matchsticks of cantaloupe glazed in vodka citron, honeydew glazed in cachaca, and watermelon glazed in bacardi limon, paired with exotic sorbets.
The wine list groups Reds into "Delicate and Elegant," "Luscious and Spicy," and "Big and Bold," while grouping Whites into "Light and Refreshing," "Medium and Aromatic," and "Full and Rich," plus more than a dozen Champagnes (from an extra dry Prosecco to Cristal). We sampled several wonderful wines by the glass, including a favorite of Karen's: Riesling Kabinett, Selbach-Oster '02.
Trinity is a restaurant on the rise. Bob Lape from Crain's New York Business just awarded it three stars, and last night Steve Cuozzo from the New York Post was seated a few tables away, which seems to suggest that his own review is imminent. Reserve a table while you can! [Note: Although it's not listed on the printed menu, the kitchen will serve a multiple-course tasting menu upon request, which we'd definitely recommend.]
KALUSTYAN'S CAFE REINVENTED (AND REINVIGORATED)
A welcoming bowl of olives near menus
Entrees are served with a dish of salt
Our friendly waiter!
Wednesday, July 28, 2004 — It's no secret that we've been big fans of Kalustyan's Masala Cafe since its opening earlier this year. However, the restaurant has since undergone a change of name (it's now called Kalustyan's Cafe) and chef (its kitchen is now headed by Mohan Ismail, an alum of Blue Hill, Spice Market and Tabla). We popped in for dinner tonight, and were blown away by the transformation: the cuisine is even more exciting and vibrant, the service even more adept and passionate, and the ambiance matches these improvements with an even more lively buzz of excitement and enjoyment. We loved everything we tasted, including the chicken curry puffs and chicken tikka appetizers, and the cod, the veal vindaloo, and the perfectly-cooked "Lobster Inspiration" (which changes daily, with that of the chef). The wine list includes the insider Rex Hill Pinot Gris, which we found a wonderful match to most of our dishes. Word is getting out and business is booming, so reserve in advance if possible. Kalustyan's Cafe,
115 Lexington Avenue at 28th Street, Manhattan. (212) 686-5400.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004 — Some of the most entertaining and informative behind-the-scenes reporting of this week's Democratic National Convention can be found on Arianna Huffington's Blog. Check it out at http://www.ariannaonline.com.
Monday, July 26, 2004 — What is a friend? Someone you can share your news with, whether happy or sad, and find a caring ear. We count ourselves as lucky indeed to have such friends — ones who are even so thoughtful as to send gorgeous flowers on occasion! Our thanks for being such a friend to Susan, whose vibrant arrangement of sunflowers and roses has added uplifting color to our recently rainy and gray Manhattan days.
Terrance Brennan, and Andrew
Sunday, July 18, 2004 — (NEW YORK CITY) On our way home from Canada through LaGuardia Airport, we ran into a friend: Terrance Brennan, on the Au Bon Pain poster advertising his new Artisanal Cheese Center cheese trays that you can carry on your next flight. It's a very exciting sign of the times that handmade cheeses are making their way into "fast food" outlets. We hope to see other foodservice operations follow suit.
[For more photos from our visit to Toronto and Ottawa, click here.]
Wednesday, July 14, 2004 later that afternoon — (TORONTO) We visited the Fairmont Royal York Hotel for the afternoon tea at EPIC restaurant, where we enjoyed chatting with tea sommelier Michael Obnowlenny (pictured above).
Chilled sweet soup with tapioca,
shredded coconut, fresh mango
Shark's fin, fresh seafood wrapped in a
dumpling and suspended in a clear
butterfly dumpling filled with
shrimp and scallop
Baked mini puff pastry turnover with
cured ham and shrimp
The restaurant's tea cart
Entryway of Lai Wah Heen
Wednesday, July 14, 2004 at 1:00 pm — (TORONTO) We had a moment sitting at our table at lunch at Lai Wah Heen (which we'd read about online, but nothing to prepare us for the quality of the dim sum we enjoyed) where one of us stopped to write, "I'm a jaded New Yorker having a peak experience the last place I ever expected." The "Executive Lunch for 2 - $60" ended up being the greatest Chinese lunch of our lives to date. The camera malfunctioned, so we're sadly missing a shot of the soft e-fu noodles with lobster in soybean sauce, which were the best handmade Chinese noodles we've ever tasted.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004 — We just heard from our friend Laura Lau, who with her husband Chris Kentis is co-creator of the forthcoming film "Open Water" (which we wrote about in our July e-Newsletter, which you can find here), that she and Chris are scheduled to appear on the "Today" show on August 2nd, and that Chris is scheduled to appear on "David Letterman" on August 3rd. For a bone-chilling preview of the movie, visit its Web site at http://www.openwatermovie.com.
Monday, July 12, 2004 — Looking for a place to enjoy a special lunch this summer? Cafe Boulud is extending its Restaurant Week $20.04 three-course prix fixe lunch menu on Tuesday through Friday all summer long! Gourmet magazine describes Cafe Boulud as "the sort of neighborhood restaurant you could only find in the most sophisticated neighborhood in America, serving the flawless, clean-lined French cuisine of [Daniel] Boulud's disciple Andrew Carmellini." Andrew is one of the best chefs in town in his own right, and this is a great opportunity to get to discover his food for yourself. Cafe Boulud is at
20 E. 76th Street (at Madison); (212) 772-2600.
Shake Shack, through the Park fountain
Shake Shack burgers and Chicago hot dog
Sunday, July 11, 2004 — We had great fun checking out Danny Meyer's latest hot spot, the Shake Shack (in Madison Square Park, near 23rd & Madison). Our verdict? The Shack burgers, Chicago hot dogs, and chocolate shakes are not-to-be-missed! (The shot above, left, is a long view of the Shake Shack through the fountain just northwest of it; at right, our two Shack burgers and our Chicago dog.)
Friday, June 25, 2004 — Long-time fans of actor Peter Krause (including his days on "Sports Night"), we'd looked forward to attending the first night of previews of his Broadway debut in "After the Fall." We wish we could be more enthusiastic about the play...but we just can't.
Saturday, June 19, 2004 — We resisted seeing the movie "Super Size Me" not because of the reviews (which were generally very good, or better), but because, frankly, after thinking and writing about food all day, seeing a movie about food just didn't sound stimulating. Last night, we discovered we were wrong. This is a very provocative movie, the kind we (pardon the pun) hunger for.
Writer/director/star Morgan Spurlock spent an entire month eating nothing but food from McDonald's three times a day. Prior to beginning this experiment, he had himself examined by three doctors who proclaimed him to be in great health and predicted minor, if any, changes besides a few additional pounds. When the three MDs monitored the changes in his body over the month, they were stunned to see him pack on 25 pounds, not to mention see his liver turn transform to foie gras.
The strength of this movie is that Spurlock is not a heavy-handed liberal out to get "the man," but a curious reporter telling a story. It's not one long diatribe about "look how crappy I feel eating this food." Rather, we're taken behind the scenes of school lunch programs across the country to look at the astonishingly unbalanced diets that kids actually eat — and how a progressive program for problem students focusing on nutrition dramatically improves their behavioral problems.
We left the movie not hating the fast food industry, which has a right to make money and has even fed us in moments of desperation while out on book tour...but with a much greater awareness of how asleep many Americans are to what and how much they eat. This is a movie people should see with their kids, who are most susceptible to advertising.
Credit also goes to Spurlock for making a movie that is entertaining as well as educational. You will laugh, be revolted, and finally charmed when Spurlock's vegetarian girlfriend offers to detoxify him with her cooking and get him healthy again.
After the movie, we dared each other to have a hamburger at our local corner diner. We did, albeit a turkey burger, which we split — skipping the fries.
Wednesday, June 9, 2004 — When Ruth Reichl was The New York Times' restaurant critic, we asked her about her definitions for each star ranking (0 to 4), which we wrote about in our book DINING OUT: Secrets of America's Leading Critics, Chefs and Restaurateurs. There are general Times' guidelines for each starred category, but they are applied through the individual critic's lens.
We're with the majority, we think, in being much-relieved — excited, even — by Frank Bruni's passion both for food and the restaurant experience in his debut review today.
However, we're just as disappointed by what we thought to be a couple of glaring oversights: namely, the space and attention devoted to BABBO's desserts and wine. (To be fair, these areas have also been overlooked by other recent Times critics, and not just Bruni.)
First, only ONE 51-word paragraph (of this 31-paragraph article) was devoted to the work of pastry chef Gina DePalma, who for the past two years has been one of five finalists for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef nationally. Six years between Times reviews seems to be a long time to wait for the mere acknowledgment that your desserts are "almost always wonderful."
Second, only two paragraphs (a grand total of 54 words) were devoted to BABBO's extraordinary wine program overseen by Joe Bastianich and David Lynch — 22 of those words being about the "unusually deep dimple" of the wine decanter.
Come on....Just last month BABBO won the 2004 James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service. Wouldn't it make sense to mention some of the things that set apart BABBO's wine program, not to mention DePalma's desserts, as so extraordinary?
We hope to see these areas given more attention, when warranted, in future reviews — just as we hope to see the passion and promise conveyed in this review to continue.
Just as it has been the Times' policy to refrain from reviewing a restaurant until making three or more visits to it, we should refrain from passing judgment on a single column. However, even the Times came up with its "Diner's Journal" feature as a means of expressing early enthusiasm for promising restaurants. We'd like to chime in with our early enthusiasm for Frank Bruni's promise as the Times' new critic.
Welcome to New York, Frank.
Click here to go to our 2005 Blog.