Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

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ANDREW & KAREN'S WEB LOG - APRIL 2005

"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)

Thursday, April 28, 2005 Congratulations, Gael!

Today's mail brought a colorful invitation to the Coro New York Leadership Center's May 25th Lewis Rudin Awards Dinner at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers' Pier 61 in New York City. The Rudin Medal recognizes individuals from across the private, nonprofit and public sectors who demonstrate those qualities of leadership, vision, commitment and service to New York City that Mr. Rudin was said to so fully embody. Its four 2005 recipients will be The Rev. Dr. Floyd H. Flake (the former U.S. Representative who heads the Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York), Richard C. Holbrooke (the former Assistant Secretary of State), John C. Whitehead (who co-led Goldman Sachs and served as Deputy Secretary of State) and none other than our respected colleague and good friend Gael Greene.

We were honored to be able to pay tribute to Gael at our October 2003 book party (along with long-time Lutece chef-owner Andre Soltner), for our own admiration of her work as New York magazine's "Insatiable Critic" (where her passionate reviews led her to become America's most imitated restaurant critic) as well as her founding and leadership of Citymeals-on-Wheels, which we've seen firsthand does an amazing job of feeding New York's homebound elderly.

We want to congratulate not only Gael on this latest recognition of her work, but also the Coro Foundation on its decision to recognize someone whose efforts deliver more than 2.2 million meals to more than 17,000 homebound New Yorkers every year.

For information on attending this event, visit www.benefitoffice.org/coro.


The counter at Fig & Olive Tasting Bar on Lexington Ave.


Three crostini for $8.50 at Fig & Olive: bresola/goat cheese,
prosciutto/ricotta/fig, and Manchego/pesto/arugula

Tuesday, April 26, 2005 (afternoon) After running a number of errands on the East Side today, we ended up at Tender Buttons (143 E. 62nd St. at Lexington Ave.), buying replacement buttons for a jacket. Trying to break out of our usual routine of grabbing a bite at Le Pain Quotidien around the corner when we're in that neighborhood, we asked the woman who helped us at Tender Buttons whether she had a recommendation.

"I like Le Pain Quotidien," she offered. We laughed, and asked if she had any other tips.

"Fig & Olive just opened a week ago, right across the street," she added, pointing across Lexington Avenue. Off we went.

We love a theme, and Fig & Olive's is a tasting menu which serves each dish with the extra virgin olive oil of its origin (i.e. one of nine featured oils from three different countries: France, Italy and Spain). Fresh herbs were being grown in pots on the counter, and our table was right next to an olive tree.

The crostini we ordered, as well as our marinated raw salmon tartine ($13.50) all smacked of the richness of olive oil and tasted delicious.

We capped off lunch with a "small chocolate cake" ($3.50), which was an unfrosted cupcake in other restaurants' parlance. It was reminiscent of a favorite chocolate dessert we'd had before at Le Pain Quotidien. So, come to think of it, was one of the women working at Fig & Olive.

"Yes, I used to work with the owner at Le Pain Quotidien before he left and opened this place," she admitted. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Fig & Olive offers six main courses after 6:30 pm, ranging from Penne Funghi Tartuffo ($15) to Lamb wrapped in Eggplant and Goat Cheese ($20). The wine list offers four Spanish and Italian sparkling wines, eight whites, 18 reds, and even three different "cheese and dessert wines" one each from France (Banyuls), Italy (Moscato) and Spain (Monastrell).

And if you find the food so delicious that you eat enough to pop a button....Well, we owe that nice woman at Tender Buttons a thank-you. (One caveat: while Fig & Olive is open until midnight, Tender Buttons is not.)


The band playing North African music at L'Orange Bleue


Our couscous dish with lamb, chicken and vegetables


Andrew enjoys a visit from L'Orange Bleue's belly dancer


We've never seen a dancer so overjoyed by receiving a tip
(and no, it was not from Andrew)!


Customers get into the groove, too

"Make new friends, but keep the old
One is silver, and the other is gold."

A song Karen learned as a Girl Scout

Tuesday, April 26, 2005 (morning) When we think about restaurants to recommend to others, we think of "old friends" places that are tried and true. But sometimes the pleasure of being with old friends gets us in a rut of not meeting new friends.

Over the past couple of nights, we've met some interesting new restaurants at least one of which shows promise of becoming a new good friend.

On Sunday night, we ran into Cafe Boulud's soon-to-be-departing chef Andrew Carmellini at Circuit City near Union Square. He lives nearby and tipped us off to his favorite new Mexican restaurant Mercalita on Avenue B between 8th and 9th Streets and the nearby Vietnamese restaurant Bao 111 (111 Ave. C bet. 7th & 8th Sts.), where he was planning to get take-out for a group that night.

"Where are you guys eating tonight?" he asked. We truthfully didn't know. Usually our mealtimes are so well planned out (since we essentially research restaurants for a living) that it's rather rare that we decide spontaneously where to go.

We ended up checking out two places that have been on our list that we hadn't made it to before. Our first stop was Rickshaw Dumpling Bar (61 W. 23rd St.). We sampled two versions the classic pork and Chinese chive, and the Peking duck and thought the dumplings were in fact, as advertised on its takeout menu, "nice." But the Asian green salad we ordered to accompany them was really nice, with a well-balanced dressing and cubes of refreshing jicama.

After that, we popped in to POP Burger (58-60 Ninth Ave., bet. 15th & 16th Sts.) to try the signature POP burger and some onion rings. As at Rickshaw, the food was "nice" and the burger "really nice."

We have many favorite burger places, including Big Nick's (which Andrew Carmellini turned us on to for bacon cheddar burgers when we're on the Upper West Side), burger joint at Le Parker Meridien (near Carnegie Hall), McHale's (in the Theater District, for bacon cheddar burgers big enough to split so they're a bargain, too) and PJ Clarke's (in East Midtown, with the bonus of some of the city's best onion rings). They're the places we head when we're in their respective neighborhoods in need of a red-meat fix!  We'll add Pop Burger to that list since it provides us with a whole new hamburger 'hood.

Last night, we attended Melissa de la Cruz's book party for her new semi-autobiographical novel Fresh Off the Boat at the 10-year-old restaurant Cendrillon (45 Mercer St. bet. Broome & Grand), where we'd never previously been. The appetizers of spring rolls, sates, and flat breads with peanut dipping sauces were so delicious that we'll look forward to returning for dinner at, as Melissa described it, "the only Manhattan Filipino restaurant I'd take my stylish friends."

Since we knew we were going to be in the neighborhood, we made plans to dine at L'Orange Bleue (430 Broome St. at Crosby), a Moroccan restaurant we'd heard good things about and had been meaning to try. But whatever compliments we'd heard did not prepare us for the scene there on a Monday night.

When we'd walked in, most of the tables were still open, setting us up for a quiet supper sharing an appetizer and an entree. During our appetizer, a musical trio played lovely Moroccan music. But by the time our entree arrived (around 9 pm), the restaurant was packed — and the belly dancer arrived! The band picked up the pace, and as she spun through the dining room, the room erupted in laughter and clapping. Several customers (both male and female) got into the act, and joined her dancing in the aisles.

Our first-ever night at our new friend of a restaurant L'Orange Bleue provided us with one of those magical evenings that ends by enthusing, "This is why I love New York City!"

L'Orange Bleue is at 430 Broome St. at Crosby, New York City. (212) 226-4999. Web: www.lorangebleue.com

Sunday, April 24, 2005 The annual ritual has begun.

We've been hearing from friends and colleagues coming to town this week for the James Beard Awards (which take place on Monday, May 2nd), asking, "Where should I eat?"

No one needs to be told to have a blow-out dinner at Restaurant Daniel. The unspoken question is really, "Yeah, I've got my big dog reservations already, but what are the cool places where I can get some good food and a good glass of wine and not spend a fortune?"

Our recommendations change, depending on who's asking. We'll want to make sure, for example, that our sommelier friends can taste some interesting wines, and that our pastry chef friends can see something off-beat in the way of desserts. And we like to turn our journalist friends onto what's brand-new and notable.

Our tips have included:

* ChikaLicious, 203 E. 10th St. (bet. First & Second Aves.) For the three-course dessert-only prix fixe ($12) menu; add $7 to pair wine with your dessert.

* Devi, 8 E. 18th St. (bet. Fifth Ave. & Broadway) For Suvir Saran's and Hemant Mathur's cutting-edge Indian cuisine.

* The bar at Etats-Unis, 247 East 81st Street (bet. Second & Third Aves.) Their warm date pudding is one of THE best desserts in Manhattan not made by Babbo pastry chef Gina DePalma.

* Inside, 9 Jones Street (bet. W. 4th St. & Bleecker) We love everything about this informal restaurant.

* Solera, 216 E. 53rd St. (bet. Second & Third Aves.) Best tapas in town, with great Spanish wines and cheeses.

We're looking forward to catching up with friends and colleagues in town for this annual food world ritual hopefully over a bite or a drink at one of the above!


Andrew inside the Milwaukee Art Museum last week Monday


The Milwaukee Art Museum, facing Lake Michigan (4/05)


Andrew at the Sundial Bridge in Redding in Sept. 2004


The Sundial Bridge in Redding, California (9/04)

"Of the five fine arts, the fifth is architecture,
whose main branch is confectionary."

Marie-Antoine Careme, as quoted in our book BECOMING A CHEF

Saturday, April 23, 2005 After Samson Day's rocking birthday party hosted by CAA's Kevin Huvane and nightclub owner Amy Sacco last night at Bungalow 8 for bestselling author Laura Day's 13-year-old son, we couldn't be happier than to spend this morning curled up with cups of our respective caffeine fixes (coffee for Andrew, tea for Karen) reading The New York Times.

Even better to open "The Arts" pages to a story like Robin Pogrebin's "An Architect Embraces New York," on our new favorite architect Santiago Calatrava and his two major New York projects in the works: a South Street residential tower, and the World Trade Center's new transportation hub.

We were introduced to Calatrava's architectural artistry by Andrew's late father, who lived his last years in Redding, California, and regularly updated us on the latest brouhaha surrounding the locally controversial Sundial at Turtle Bay footbridge. (While acknowledging it as a draw for tourists, some locals feared the bridge's annual upkeep would be too steep.) Andrew's dad accompanied us to see the bridge this past September 2004, and when his own legs tired, waited patiently as we walked its entire expanse, and explored the actual sundial markings (surrounded by wild flowers) on the other side. "Take your time," he'd urged us. "Enjoy it." Indeed we did.

On a drive during our 10-day visit to Spain this past October 2004, we were excited to be in the architect's native country while passing a Calatrava-designed bridge, which clearly echoed elements of the design of the bridge in Redding.

Just last week, we squeezed in a brief visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum, for which Calatrava designed an extension. The 90 minutes we spent at the museum were as inspiring and uplifting for the architecture as for the art. And on our flight home to Manhattan, we had the pleasure of reading about Calatrava in the "TIME 100" issue which also featured Karen's Harvard Business School sectionmate Jim Balsillie (see April 19th, below).

Today's New York Times article reports, "Mr. Calatrava said he considered architecture 'the greatest of all the arts' because it embraces the others music, painting, sculpture. 'I couldn't be an architect,' he said, 'without doing those things.'"

In our book DINING OUT, we quote Voltaire: "All the arts are brothers; each one is a light to the others." As authors, we're grateful for opportunities to immerse ourselves in great art Santiago Calatrava's inspiring architecture included and for its ability to enlighten our writing.


Our delicious goat cheese salad at Cafe des Artistes' Parlor

Friday, April 22, 2005 Last night, we attended the Authors Guild program "Nonfiction Page Turners: Finding the Story" at the Society for Ethical Culture (2 W. 64th Street), which featured a panel discussion with authors Melissa Fay Greene (Last Man Out, The Temple Bombing), Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm, Fire), Hampton Sides (Ghost Soldiers, Americana) and Dava Sobel (Longitude, Galileo's Daughter) moderated by AG President Nick Taylor (John Glenn: A Memoir).

It's always interesting to learn the story behind the story. Sebastian Junger admitted that the initial idea behind the book that became The Perfect Storm was a book on dangerous jobs.

In Andrew's early days as a cook, Karen once received a phone call asking her to pick Andrew up at Mass General Hospital. When she arrived at the emergency room, she told the receptionist that she was there to pick up her husband, who'd been injured at work. "Firefirghter or chef?" she was asked. "How did you know?!," Karen had asked in turn, caught off-guard by the woman's apparent psychic ability. "Oh, they're about 90 percent of the work-related injuries we get in here," the receptionist had matter-of-factly replied. Karen's growing curiosity about Andrew's never-boring profession led to her desire to want to co-author our first book BECOMING A CHEF.

After (or, more truthfully, during) the Authors Guild event, we wondered where to grab a bite to eat. We'd previously had breakfast at The Parlor at Cafe des Artistes (1 W. 67th Street) around the corner, and decided to check out whether it was open at this hour. Bingo!

The "warm goat cheese" salad with "roasted pear" and malt vinaigrette on the menu caught our eye, so we decided to share it. Though the salad didn't arrive exactly as described (e.g. the goat cheese-slathered croutons that topped our respective half-salads didn't appear to be warm, and the single slice of pear served alongside them didn't appear to have been roasted), it was absolutely delicious and, with the hearty bread that accompanied it, made for a delightfully satisfying light dinner. Coupled with the caring service of the Parlor's single waiter, our visit definitely made us want to return for dinner in Cafe des Artistes' main dining room some time soon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005, 9:15 am God bless Warren Meyer.

No, not only because his late-night telephone tutoring on the eve of our first-year Managerial Economics final at the Harvard Business School allowed me to both finally understand the theretofore un-understandable and (more importantly at that point) to actually pass the final exam and the course (although yes, he should be blessed for that miracle, too it's no wonder that Warren ended up being snapped up by McKinsey after graduation)....

But today Warren should be blessed because his highly entertaining and insightful Blog entry "Jim Balsillie: Congratulations on Making Me Feel Like a Loser" which you'll want to read here saves me from feeling much need to write my own.

On Friday, I'd shared with my HBS Section (B-1989) the news that on our flight home from Chicago the night before, Andrew and I had picked up a copy of the "TIME 100" special issue on Time magazine's picks of the 100 most influential people of 2005. In its ranks along with the likes of Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey, and the Dalai Lama and a few other Harvard MBAs like Sir Martin Sorrell, Meg Whitman and President George W. Bush I saw the name of Section B's very own Jim Balsillie, Chairman and Co-CEO of the company which brought us the BlackBerry. Jim is the guy who sat directly in front of me for two years and the back of whose head I'd know anywhere.

I remember hanging out with Jim in 1999 at our 10th reunion on campus, where he showed me the device and even emailed me a few messages as we stood chatting. "Cool!" I'd said aloud at the time. But I was silently worried for Jim, and his company: What sane person would ever want to be connected to their email 24/7?

Congratulations to Jim on proving just how large the market there is of highly-driven Type A personalities. (In fact, at a cocktail party hosted by the Maybourne Hotel Group's dynamic CEO Geraldine McKenna in New York just last night, Andrew and I had the pleasure of running into legendary founder of The Quilted Giraffe restaurant Barry Wine who told us that he sleeps with his BlackBerry.) And congratulations to Warren on capturing the humility and the humor that accompanies reading about a classmate's meteoric accomplishments. You should read Warren's Blog: It made me laugh out loud. Come on, I'll even get you started:

"There is a price one pays for slipping into the Harvard Business School through some mysterious hole in the Harvard admissions process:  From time to time, one must be ready to be humbled by their peers.  Of course, with nearly 900 people in a graduating class, one expects someone in that group to distinguish themselves at some point.  However, this large group is somehow indistinct at HBS one spends most of their time with 90 people in their 'section,' spending the vast majority of waking hours, both in class and in the pub, with this group.  After a couple of years with the same 90 people, one gets the overwhelming impression of normality these people are just as full of shit as anyone else I have gotten to know...." [Click here to continue.]

Karen Page

The next several photographs that appear are from our April 18, 2005, lunch at The Modern in New York City:

The Modern is our new favorite restaurant in New York City. It's the place that immediately comes to mind when out-of-town guests ask us what's really special in Manhattan, or when we're looking to celebrate a birthday with friends. The food is as delicious as it is beautiful!

The Modern at The Museum of Modern Art is at 9 West 53rd Street (bet. Fifth & Sixth Aves.), New York. (212) 333-1220.

A Retrospective "Blog" from the Road:
The next several photographs that appear are from
our April 8, 2005, dinner at MOTO in Chicago:


Caesar salad amuse at MOTO in Chicago: the romaine
is pureed and freeze-dried into pellets (a la astronaut
ice cream), and served with a Parmesan crouton.


"Sushi Cartoon with Bluefin Toro" features photos of maki
printed on the edible paper which wraps this creation.


Andrew's photo appears on a frozen globe atop apricot and
pink peppercorns set before him....


...and ditto for Karen!


Karen's globe begins to melt, creating the delicioius "Vouvray,
Pink Peppercorn & Apricot" broth for our foie gras course (and
begging for our subsequent imitation of the Wicked Witch of
the West: "I'm melting, I'm melting...").


"Champagne & King Crab": those grapes are fizzy
when you put them in your mouth.


Our waiter brings a steaming pitcher to our table....


...for our course of "French Onion Soup with Quail."


"Lobster with Freshly Squeezed Orange Soda": Andrew's
favorite course, the orange is fizzy and the lobster sublime.


Our bass cooks in a heated polymer box with
an opaque lid in the middle of our table, as
we're presented with spoonfuls of "Artichoke,
Balsamic and Macadamia."


"French Fry Potato Chain Links with Sweet Potato Pie," which
immediately reminded us of Andre Soltner's once telling us that
carving a chain link from a potato was a dying art; indeed, the
cook at MOTO learned the technique from Soltner at the French
Culinary Institute in New York City.


Our waiter pours the "Grilled Tomatillo Broth" over Andrew's
bass course.


"Dry-Aged Beef with Braised Pizza" the pepper and garlic
clove are there for their aromatic qualities.


"Edible Literature of Explorateur with 100-year-old Balsamico"
(This was the only course we weren't crazy about in our tasting
menu it was too much text and edible paper for two authors
to relax enough to enjoy eating this!)


"Doughnut Soup": Smelled just like a doughnut, tasted just
like a doughnut. And we love doughnuts.


"Chocolate Cake with Hot Ice Cream"


"French Toast with Hot Blueberry Syrup": After already having
been served chocolate (which we see as the period at the end
of the sentence in menu-speak), we were a bit surprised to get another dessert. This one was very custardy "French toast" with
the world's largest "blueberry."


Homaro Cantu gave us a tour of MOTO's kitchen after dinner

MOTO
945 W. Fulton Market
Chicago
(312) 491-0058
www.motorestaurant.com

On Friday, April 8, 2005, we paid our first visit to Chicago's Moto restaurant. (If we have our way, it won't be our last.) It's a daunting task to write about it, so we're planning to do so in stages. The creations depicted above are the work of chef Homaro Cantu, pastry chef Ben Roche, and their team.

Our first bite of food was a "Caesar salad" on a spoon. Romaine lettuce had been pureed, then freeze-dried into pellets a la "astronaut ice cream." It was served with a rich crouton flavored with Parmesan cheese. Once you put the spoon in your mouth and started to chew its contents, the flavors of a well-chilled Caesar salad came together clearly.

More to come....

As we wrote the above several days ago, and haven't gotten back to this before now, we thought we'd at least add a few more comments to the caption above and share the punchline by way of what we wrote to a colleague about MOTO the next day:

....The real surprise was our dinner last night at MOTO which was nearly flawless and endlessly fascinating.  (Harold McGee is rumored to be dining there tonight.)  We have a chip on our shoulders about innovative cuisine because it's too often done so badly all the emphasis on the "innovative" and not enough on the "cuisine."  Last night was a surprising and exciting
exception.  Even our respective jaded palates were blown away.  We so hated our dinner at [trendy such restaurant in NYC] when [its chef] was there (poorly cooked food, lousy service, crowded tables, etc.) that we haven't been willing to part with our hard-earned $s to go to [its chef's new NYC restaurant in the same vein].  But we were intrigued by the concept of MOTO, held our breath, and dove in...fully expecting us to be complaining this morning about how our idealism (that it
could be great) caused us to waste $s and the opp'y for a truly great meal.  But just the opposite we marvel that a 28-year-old kid is doing this here in Chicago, when we've not tasted anything as impressively
avant-garde in NYC.  We think he's only going to get better with time, and that he's going to break out in a big way -- nationally, internationally -- in the months or years to come.  He seems to be the real deal.

We enjoyed a wondeful lunch at OSTERIA DEL STATO in Chicago the same day we visited Moto:


Is there any warmer welcome for an author than seeing one
of your own books on display with the chef's as you enter?


Sommelier extraordinaire Belinda Chang pours
wines for us to sample at Osteria del Stato


Our charming waiter Ryan shares the day's specials with us


We were wowed by the risotto with asparagus and a fried
egg on top as each element was perfectly cooked


Chef David DiGregorio would not let us leave without
tasting his housemade burnt caramel gelato and
are we ever glad!

When we asked our restaurant critic and/or food writer friends in Chicago where we shouldn't miss on our visit last month, Osteria Del Stato was the restaurant on everyone's list. Indeed, Richard Melman and Rick Tramonto have a new winner under the Lettuce Entertain You umbrella. In addition to chef David DiGregorio's food, the main attraction is the restaurant's innovative "all you care to drink" wine program that accompanies it, overseen by James Beard Award nominee Belinda Chang. Her warmth and exhuberance could make a wine lover out of anyone.

Osteria Del Stato is at 6 20 N. State Street, Chicago. (312) 642-8450. Web: www.leye.com

We never miss FRONTERA GRILL on any visit to Chicago:


We shared a platter of appetizers family-style


...and capped off lunch with a selection of desserts!

Frontera Grill is at 445 N. Clark St., Chicago. (312) 661-1434.
Web: www.fronterakitchens.com

Perhaps there's no more glamorous splurge in Chicago than Champagne and a caviar staircase (or two) at TRU.

Tru is 676 N. St. Clair, Chicago. (312) 202-0001.

We also had a chance to enjoy the old standby in Greek Town, THE PARTHENON, for saganaki (flaming cheese) and more:

The Parthenon is at 314 S. Halsted, Chicago. (312) 726-2407

We drove to Milwaukee where our first stop was for frozen custard at the legendary LEON'S:


Leon's was said to inspire the diner shown on "Happy Days"

No visitor should miss dinner at Sandy D'Amato's restaurant SANFORD or lunch at his more casual COQUETTE CAFE:


We tasted a variety of wines and even beer with our desserts


...with a highlight being this caramelized banana tart!


Coquette Cafe serves a lovely quiche with salad...


...that still allows you to save room for oeufs a la neige [a
recipe he learned from master pastry chef Dieter Schorner]!


Our last stop in town was Speed Queen Bar BQ, which has
been cited as one of the 10 best BBQ spots in America

LEON'S
3131 S. 27th Street
Milwaukee, WI
(414) 383-1784
Skip the vanilla, and head straight to the more intensely-flavored chocolate frozen custard.

SANFORD
1547 N. Jackson
Milwaukee, WI
(414) 276-9608
Milwaukee's outstanding fine dining restaurant.

COQUETTE CAFE
316 N. Milwaukee
Milwaukee, WI
(414) 291-2655
Balthazar, Milwaukee-style!

SPEED QUEEN BAR B Q
1130 W. Walnut St.
Milwaukee, WI
(414) 265-2900
We followed the advice of locals, and ordered the rib tips and cole slaw via its expedient drive-through.


Wednesday, April 6, 2005, 9:40 am Now that's two nights this week that Ruth Reichl has kept me up until all hours of the morning.

On Monday night, at nearly half past 10, Andrew and I walked through the doors of Cafe Boulud to join the throbbing crowd of food world royalty (from Gael Greene to Gray Kunz to Sirio Maccioni, plus a few drag queens decked out in Ruth's trademark disguises, e.g. Brenda and Betty click here for photos) who gathered to toast the debut of Ruth's latest book GARLIC AND SAPPHIRES: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.

Ruth's first two books TENDER AT THE BONE and COMFORT ME WITH APPLES had already earned a spot on my list of favorite books of all time.

At the party, I asked Ruth if books were being sold that night. "Just take one!" she offered, gesturing to the display of books that ringed the room. So I did, just before I left her party in the wee hours of the morning.

I've been on deadline with a project, and suspected I wouldn't have a chance to crack its cover until our flight to Chicago on Friday. But last night, I picked up GARLIC AND SAPPHIRES and found that I couldn't put it down until I'd read every last page. I finished the book almost exactly 24 hours after I left Ruth's book party.

It's an extraordinary book on several levels, such as in the way it captures a critical juncture in New York's (and thus the world's) culinary history and in the way it reads like a novel featuring characters we know and love through her two previous books.

And it's turned out to be my favorite of the three. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting a glimpse into the best and worst of New York gastronomy, circa 1990s.

Just don't blame me if you're tired the next day.

Karen Page

Monday, April 4, 2005, 10:28 am This week the world mourns the loss of Pope John Paul II (who'd been Pope so long it spans back to the days when Karen not only attended but played guitar at Catholic Mass every weekend!).

Today's New York Times Op-Ed page pays tribute to the man born Karol Wojtyla as "The Great Unifier." He is also remembered for his unusual ability to inspire.

Eight years ago, the Pope gave a homily in Italian that was widely reported and translated in which he said that Christians have a calling because Christ has saved them from sin:

"Man belongs to God, first of all because he is one of God's creatures, but more especially because he was redeemed from sin through Christ. To become aware of this means to reach the very roots of every vocation."

On other occasions, the Pope has commented on this calling: "As Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece....Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation - as poet, writer, sculptor, architect, musician, actor and so on - feel at the same time the obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbour and of humanity as a whole."

His words bring to mind the thoughts of minister Stephen Baldwin apparently spurred by our book CULINARY ARTISTRY entitled "Redemption's Story," which appeared recently in The Charlotte Observer:

"If the world is not the result of a cosmic accident, but it really was created, the implications are staggering.  Why is that so? For starters because it means that the universe with its surfeit of beauty is the way it is because there is an Artist.  Which means of course that the universe is merely reflecting the personality of the Artist.  Think about that.  It also means that his 'art' covers a lot of territory.  For example, on the dedication leaf of their book CULINARY ARTISTRY, authors Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page write, 'For the original Creator - architect, artist, author, composer, designer, and mastermind of it all.'  Their artistry shows a deep appreciation for the Creator and for people. And it does something more.  Here is what I mean....If it is true that the cosmos was created, then it's pretty clear we live on a planet that has exiled itself from the Artist who made it.  Redemption is about the artist coming into his creation to rescue it.  To change the metaphor, he is the architect who designed the building, and he is reclaiming it for its original purpose.  He has kicked out the evil landlord and has started cleaning things up, turning it back into a place of grandeur and beauty as he designed it to be instead of a crack house or casino.  Our culinary artists have gotten their arms around this idea that the Creator of all life and all creative expression has taken steps to recapture the whole runaway world, not just some little piece of it that is Redemption's Story.  He didn't just redeem one part of human nature called the soul, and leave the things that touch our minds and bodies out of the deal; he came to redeem the whole man including his imagination and his creativity.  That is what the end-story describes.  When he is finished we will have a New Heaven and a New Earth - finally, a perfect government and a perfect environment!   So, how do Dornenburg and Page put this understanding to work?  They understand that putting a fish sign on a menu doesn't make the food good.  Rather, when a Christian makes food, it ought to look and taste terrific.  It should be excellent in every way.  They demonstrate this in their cooking as well as writing which their receiving the 1996 James Beard Book Award for Best Writing on Food recognized.  T-Bone Burnett, the singer-songwriter of the 80's who went on to produce Counting Crows, put it this way, 'A bricklayer's job is to build a good wall that will stand against the wind and rain.  Writing JESUS on it isn't going to help it withstand the storms.' Often we keepers of the story of redemption forget that God is on a mission to redeem the universe, and that means the entire world and all we do in it (whether a cooktop, keyboard, classroom or practice) is a potential canvas for redemption.   The Original Creator is doing something much bigger and more holistic than we think when we consider 'the church' or 'my job.'  And that should change the way we think about everything."

Friday, April 1, 2005, 7:30 am We've barely been up an hour, and already our day is made: We just received the following email from Chef Jeff Henderson, the former cocaine dealer turned Executive Chef of the Bellagio Hotel's Cafe Bellagio (whom we featured in our e-Newsletter last month here):

Dear Andrew and Karen,

I was so moved by meeting you two at the FENI Summit. Your first edition of BECOMING A CHEF truly inspired me even more to become a high-end chef.

I truly appreciate the piece you wrote about me in your newsletter. Thank you so much. I was moved. A literary agent in New York read your newsletter as well and contacted me about a possible deal. I was blown away. Thanks again.

I will be in New York to prepare a James Beard dinner with a team of chefs from the Bellagio in November. I would love for you two to come. Please let's stay in touch.

God Bless you guys,

Chef Jeff

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culinary artistry, dining out, chef's night out, becoming a chef

My guests tonight are two of my very favorite people in the food world....I love the way that they write, I love the way that they think, I love the way that they see things differently than everybody else. And I love the way that they're living what they're writing about... They're cultural anthropologists...They're the Jane Goodalls of the chef world: They've taken us into the jungle, and we've watched the chefs in their native habitat. I'm really delighted that Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg have helped us understand this magical world of people who feed us and excite us and inspire us and entertain us.
Jennifer English,
award-winning host,
Food & Wine Radio Network



 
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