Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

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Index of restaurants mentioned on our Blog:

Al Di La (5/21/05)
Alain Ducasse (6/2/06)
Ali Baba (11/28/06)
Alinea (10/21/05)
Alto (1/26/06)
Amma (4/30/06)
An American Place (9/05)
Annisa (12/19/06)
Appellation (5/31/06)
Aquavit (1/23/06)
Aroma (8/23/05)
Artisanal (7/3/05)
Asiate (2/2/06)
August/N.O. (7/22/06)
August/NYC (7/10/06)
A Voce (4/19/06)
Babbo (6/18/06)
Bamn! (9/10/06)
Bar Americain (8/6/05)
Bar Carrera (7/31/06)
Barbara-Jo's (11/06)
Bar-bo-ne (10/22/06)
Barbounia (5/3/06)
Barca 18 (10/29/06)
Bayona (7/19/06)
Beckta Dining (6/10/05)
Beppe (11/17/05)
Bernard Magrez (6/2/06)
Bette (5/31/06)
Bloodroot (6/24/06)
Blue Hill (8/20/05)
Blue Smoke (6/26/05)
Bob Lobster (8/9/06)
Bodegas Farina (11/16/04)
Bond 45 (9/28/05)
Bracco Wines (8/22/06)
Brown's (8/9/06)
Burger Joint (1/27/05)
Cafe Adelaide (11/4/06)
Cafe des Artistes (4/05)
Cafe Gray (5/8/05)
Caracas Arepa (9/10/06)
Celeste (5/29/06)
Chez Le Chef (10/2/05)
Chez Panisse (11/06)
Chick-fil-A (2/10/07)
Chikalicious (4/7/06)
Chinatown Brasserie (6/5)
Compass (12/17/06)
Cookbook Stall (12/6/06)
Cookshop (10/25/05)
Cru/Vancouver (11/06)
Cuvee (7/19/06 and 11/06)
Dahlia Lounge (11/06)
Daisy Mae BBQ (10/12/06)
Darna (7/3/06)
Dave's Italian (10/21/05)
DB Bistro (1/26/06)
Devi (8/1/05)
Diva at the Met (11/06)
Dona (4/17/06)
Dottie's (12/3/06)
Eleven Madison (7/12/06)
El Parador (8/21/05)
The Emerson (3/7/06)
En Plo (3/16/06)
Evergreen Shanghai (9/06)
Fig + Olive (4/26/05)
Flatiron Lounge (5/8/06)
Four Seasons (6/24/05)
Frere Jacques (8/12/05)
Frontera Grill (4/8/05)
Galatoire's (11/06)
Gilt (2/14/06)
Good Burger (10/3/05)
Gramercy Tavern (12/06)
Hearth (8/13/05)
Heidelberg (3/16/06)
In-N-Out Burger (11/3/06)
Indochine (7/31/06)
Inn at Little Wash'tn (3/05)
'ino (6/21/05)
Inside (10/26/05)
In Tent (8/4/06)
Jack's Luxury (6/27/06)
Jean Georges (5/13/06)
Jerry's (6/13/06)
Jimmy's (11/3/05)
Jovia (10/23/05)
Kai (7/7/05)
Katsuhama (10/22/06)
Katz's Deli (8/1/05)
La Cote Brasserie (7/06)
Lady M (5/30/06)
Lai Wah Heen (7/14/05)
Lasagna (3/20/07)
Le Bernardin (3/16/06)
L'Ecole (8/10/06)
Lola (11/06)
L'Orange Bleue (4/26/05)
Mama's (12/3/06)
Maremma (4/22/06)
Maxie (4/17/06)
Menchenko-Tei (8/14/05)
Mercadito (10/17/05)
Mermaid Inn (8/22/05)
Metro Marche (1/22/07)
Mie Jakarta (7/15/06)
The Modern (4/1/06)
Momofuku (6/10/05)
Mother's/N.O. (7/22/06)
Moto (4/8/05)
Nectar (4/30/06)
Nice Matin (1/22/07)
Nobu 57 (4/5/06)
NoHo Star (3/28/06)
Nougatine (5/13/06)
Odeon (2/10/06)
oms/b (8/8/06)
Osteria Del Stato (4/8/05)
Pearl Oyster Bar (5/28/06) Penelope (10/16/05)
Perry Street (9/20/05)
Per Se (4/5/06)
Pera Brasserie (11/16/06)
Peter Luger (3/22/06)
Petite Abeille (9/4/05)
Petrossian (12/22/06)
Phoenix Garden (9/16/05)
Piano Due (3/23/06)
Picholine (1/31/05)
Pizza Napoletana (3/3/05)
Prune (6/13/06)
Public (8/5/05)
Rai Rai Ken (9/10/06)
Rancho La Puerta (12/05)
Rangoli (11/06)
Rao's (10/6/06)
Rat's (4/22/06)
Ray's Ice Cream (1/30/07)
Rice (8/25/06)
Riingo (2/18/05)
Roberto Passon (12/05)
Rosendale Cement (9/05)
Rugby Grille (1/30/07)
Ryland Inn (7/28/05)
Sahara's (4/20/06)
Saito's/Seattle (11/06)
Sakagura (7/21/05)
Salumi (11/06)
San Domenico (2/1/06)
Sanford (4/8/05)
Saravanaas (7/31/06)
Shake Shack (3/31/06)
Shangri-La (1/30/07)
Shun Lee Palace (12/2/05) Sip Sak (8/13/06)
SmorgasChef (11/10/05)
Solera (2/10/06)
Sophie's Cuban (8/15/05)
Spigolo (1/31/07)
Sushi Samba (11/4/06)
Tasting Room (10/16/05)
The Monday Room (4/5/07)
Thomas Henkelmann (6/24/06)
Tia Pol (5/31/06)
Tibetan Kitchen (8/8/06)
Top Pot Donuts (11/06)
Tout Va Bien (2/2/07)
Trio (11/6/05)
Tru (4/8/05)
Uglesich's (2/28/05)
Upstairs (9/4/05)
Vij's (11/06)
Vintage (7/28/05)
Walter's (6/24/06)
West Bank Cafe (8/18/06)
Wild Edibles (3/17/07)
Woodman's (8/9/06)
Zarela (7/10/05)
Zaytinya (2/10/07)
Zip Burger (7/3/06)

A rotating list-in-formation of some of our favorite (mostly) food- and drink-related sites:

Accidental Hedonist
Alfonso Cevola
Alice Feiring
All Business - Restaurants
Amateur Gourmet
Amuse Bouche
An Obsession with Food
Andrea Strong
Ayun Halliday

Basic Juice
Beer Blog
Chef Talk

Clive's Wines
Cocktail Chronicles
Cooking with Amy
Daily Olive
David Lebovitz
DM WineLine
Drink Boy
Drink Boy - Blog
Dr. Vino
Enoch Choi, MD
Fabulous Foods
Food Reference
The Food Section
Fork and Bottle
Global Chefs
Good Food
Leite's Culinaria
Lenn Devours
Local Wine Events
Mama Cooks
Manhattan User's Guide
Mexican Food
Nat Decants
The Pour
Professor Bainbridge
Rose Levy Beranbaum
Sally's Place
Savory New York
Savory Sojourns
The Sake Diaries
The Spice Must Flow
The Spirit World
Tasting Menu
Traveler's Lunchbox
Vino Cibo
Wine Anorak
Wine Terroirs

Want to subscribe to Andrew's and Karen's monthly e-Newsletter? Click here to forward your email address.


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Award-winning authors
April 2007

Named one of's "Top 10 Food Blogs"

"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

"There is nothing under the sun better for man than to eat, drink, and be merry. Go, therefore, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with cheer.”
Ecclesiastes 8:15

Magical mushroom pairing at The Inn at LW
(Photo credit: Margaret Thomas)

"The Inn at Little Washington is regularly ranked among the finest restaurants not just in the area but in the entire country, and it is a phenomenal destination for an overnight getaway."
The Economist

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia is a magical place, where we experienced the greatest dinner of our lives two years ago.

Today, we celebrate the Inn's magical way with mushrooms in our column "Making the Match With Mushrooms" in The Washington Post:

In the old days, pairing wine and food was made easier by rules such as "white wine with fish" and "red wine with meat."

But every rule has its exception. After chefs started serving fish in red wine sauces, wrapping them in prosciutto or dusting them with powdered porcini -- all of which call for an accompanying red wine -- things got a bit more complicated.

However, red meat has stood firm: It almost always calls for red wine.

We've come to think of mushrooms as the red meat of the vegetable kingdom (even though we know they're technically fungi) because -- almost invariably -- the sometimes-earthy, sometimes-meaty flavor of mushrooms says "red wine" to us. In fact, it's hard for us to think of mushrooms without immediately having pinot noir come to mind. The two are a match made in heaven.... [Click here to read the rest.]

The Inn at Little Washington is at the intersection of Middle and Main Streets in Washington, Virginia. Phone: (540) 675-3800. Web:

The Inn's former sommelier Scott Calvert now serves as a fine wine consultant to restaurants and private collectors. Web:

Purple & white flowers in bloom on Northwestern's campus

Quince Shaved Asparagus Salad with truffle vinaigrette

Quince Duck Confit, with grilled ciabatta and duck egg

Quince Ricotta Gnocchi with cheese crust and grilled bread

Quince Crispy Sweetbreads with mustard spaetzle

Quince Lamb Spare Ribs with perfect haricots verts

Quince Jelly Doughnut with pressed coffee, cinnamon cream

Andrew Dornenburg chats with Quince chef Mark Hannon

Guy Downer, Karen, and Jory Downer at Bennison Bakery

Naha hearts of romaine with serrano ham, white anchovies

Naha Butternut Squash Soup with smoked duck

Naha Soft-Shell Crab on grits with fava beans

Naha risotto with morel mushrooms

"...Now it's Quince's turn in the space, and chef Mark Hannon had me in thrall with his simple yet effectively delicious approach to good food done well."
Pat Bruno, in a three-star review of Quince in the Chicago Sun-Times

Sunday, April 22, 2007 We're catching up on blogging after a wonderful weekend in Chicago and Evanston, where Karen was one of a handful of Northwestern alumni including Dick Gephardt and operatic soprano Nancy Gustafson invited to speak yesterday at the 38th annual "A Day with Northwestern" on campus.

The night before, we loved every minute we spent at Quince, where General Manager and Wine Director Joe Ziomek NU '02 made us feel right at home as did every smiling member of the gracious, professional staff, who included captain Scott Quint and server Christopher Gleed. Although we'd never met any of them previously, we know their first and last names because they appeared on the reverse side of the menu, in the unusual personal touch of a "masthead" of all staff members. The restaurant has been open in the lovely space that formerly housed Trio (where we never visited) for the past four-and-a-half months.

We'd return next spring just for another taste of the shaved asparagus salad, which was a +2 pairing with the glass of Marsanne Joe paired with it. And we'd return any time for the fabulous ("perfect," says Karen) starter of duck confit with orange glaze, turnips, grilled ciabatta and duck egg.

We can't remember the last time we were wowed by bread at a restaurant, but the onion and olive breads at Quince truly blew us away with their flavor and texture (soft inside, fabulously crunchy crust), so we asked their source and were told Jory Downer of Bennison Bakery in Evanston. The bakery was already familiar to Karen as the source of the cakes she delivered to Northwestern students from their parents via her campus business Cakes Unlimited in the early 1980s.

"Every three years, the world's top bakers round up their best recipes and their rolling pins and head to Paris for an Olympic-style competition known as the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (the World Cup of Baking). Twelve teams of master bakers have just 8 hours to mix, knead, shape and bake more than more than 300 absolutely perfect oven-fresh specimens. NPR's Michele Norris talks with Bread Bakers Guild Team USA members Jory Downer, Jeffrey Yankellow and William Leaman as they prepare for the competition [which they went on to win]."
National Public Radio (April 6, 2005)

We stopped by the Bakery before leaving Evanston, and were able to congratulate Jory (whom we were impressed to learn had won the global bread-baking competition two years ago) personally on his amazing breads plus say hello to his 80-something father Guy Downer, whom Karen was amazed to discover is still at it decorating the most beautiful cakes in town!

"[Naha's] menu changes seasonally, but expect classic preparations and Mediterranean flavors carried aloft to dizzying heights."
Phil Vettel, The Chicago Tribune

Before flying home to New York, we popped in to chef Carrie Nahabedian's restaurant Naha for a delicious hour where we enjoyed a few appetizers with glasses of 2005 Monchhof Estate Riesling and 2006 Ojai Vineyard Rose.

Quince is at 1625 Hinman Avenue in Evanston. (847) 570-8400. Web:

Bennison Bakery is at 1000 Davis Street in Evanston. Web: The bakery's olive and onion breads served at Quince are some of the best restaurant breads we've ever tasted and the round-loaved cinnamon-raisin bread makes the best toast of all time.

Naha is at 500 North Clark Street in Chicago. Web:

Xixi (5th from l.) with Northwestern's ballroom dancing team

Karen's mentee Xixi Cheng wasn't able to attend her speech at Northwestern because she was out of town participating in a ballroom dancing competition at Notre Dame. To view the video of Xixi's and Oo-kaw's awesome Lindy Hop performance, click here.

Xixi writes, "Our team did really well.  Northwestern got 1st place in team match.  It was very fun, except now I have to pay for it with massive cramming for my midterms...."

Congratulations, Xixi and good luck with midterms!

Phil Bernstein, left, advises wine aficianado
Henry Richardson on a selection at MacArthur
Beverages in Washington, DC

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 You can read our weekly wine column that appears every Wednesday in the Food section of The Washington Post here.

Today's column "For Oenophiles, a Holy Grail" begins:

How many different wine grape varieties have you tasted?

We'll bet that your list includes chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, two of the world's most popular wine grapes. It might also include some or all of the other four that make up the 'noble' grapes, so named for their use in creating the finest wines: merlot, pinot noir, Riesling and sauvignon blanc. But that's a small fraction of the thousands of grape varieties that exist.

The Wine Century Club was created two years ago to encourage wine lovers to explore the diverse array of wines around the globe. The sole criterion for membership -- which is free, and earns you a proverbial "certificate suitable for framing" from the club's London headquarters -- is to have tasted more than 100 grape varieties. The club's online application featuring a checklist of 185 varieties can be found at Although it has been downloaded more than 6,000 times, only 3.5 percent have actually been submitted.

The club's mere 211 members represent a cross section of wine lovers around the globe. In the United States, 15 are based in Williamsburg, Va., the site of the club's first local chapter, which launched last year.

Georgetown University philosophy professor Henry Richardson has been the District's lone member since November 2005 -- and he'd enjoy a little company. "I am sure that there are a good number of people who already qualify, if only they've kept good notes," says Richardson, who had tasted 160 varieties at last count.

You can read the rest of our column here.

And if you're a DC-area wine lover who would like to connect with others on the same quest to sample more than 100 wine grape varieties, email us at and we'll add you to the list here:

Keith Dunn,

At the 2007 IACP Cookbook Awards, after learning that
the 2007 IACP Cookbook of the Year

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 This past Friday night, we found ourselves in bed recovering from what we believe was a mild case of food poisoning, wondering if we'd even feel up to getting on a plane the next morning to head to Chicago for the IACP Cookbook Awards.

So it was more than a little surreal to find ourselves 24 hours later on stage at the Chicago Hilton receiving our first-ever IACP Cookbook Award for WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT as 2007's Best Book on Wine, Beer or Spirits.

But that turned out to be nothing, compared to how surreal it felt to hear ourselves called to the stage yet again this time, to accept the award for WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT as the 2007 IACP Cookbook of the Year.

As authors, it's unusual for us to find ourselves without words. But there are truly no words that would allow us to express the depth of our shock, amazement, and gratitude.

Our heartfelt thanks to the IACP and the IACP Cookbook Awards Committee for this incredible recognition for our book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT. We hope it opens the eyes of even more readers to the pleasures awaiting them through accompanying what they eat with a synergistic beverage that has the power to elevate an ordinary meal to something extraordinary.

And our equally heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to making this book what it is, including all the sommeliers and other pairing experts who so generously shared their time and insights with us; our photographer Michael Sofronski whose gorgeous photography brought our words to life; the talented people at Bulfinch Press / Little, Brown, especially our editors Karen Murgolo and Michael Sand; and the best pairing expert of all: our agent Janis Donnaud, who paired us up with them.

For a list of all of this year's IACP Cookbook Award winners, click here.

From Karen's acceptance speech for WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT'S 2007 IACP Cookbook Award for Best Book on Wine, Beer or Spirits:

"...Having written a half-dozen books, we have several that have won awards, several that have been finalists for awards, and one or two that might have been overlooked. Our best book to date was never even nominated for an award.

So, Andrew and I decided that we'd like to dedicate our win tonight to all of the books and all of our colleagues whose work has gone unacknowledged at awards time and yet have made invaluable contributions to our field. We know you're out there, and tonight, we salute you.

Thank you very much."

Our 2003 Tablas Creek Vineyard Cotes de Tablas

West Bank Cafe's burrata cheese with toasted bread

West Bank Cafe's grilled shrimp with avocado

West Bank Cafe's trio of desserts, including fried banana

Toasting Marla Schaffel's performance in "Tall Grass" at WBC

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 Steve Olsen, proprietor of Manhattan's Theater District staple West Bank Cafe, loves wine. If you ever want to enjoy a good glass here, don't neglect to ask him what he recommends.

That's how we ended up enjoying a 2003 Tablas Creek last night over dinner with our friend Steve Wilson before attending the dark comedy "Tall Grass" starring our friend Marla Schaffel at the Beckett Theater across the street.

We're confirmed fans of the cuisine of chef Joe Marcus (ex-Picholine), and now, too, of new pastry chef Becca Hansen.

It can be tough to land a table at this hot spot filled with Broadway patrons (and stars), but as last night's dinner proved, it's worth persevering!

West Bank Cafe is at 407 West 42nd Street (bet. Ninth and Tenth Aves.), New York City.

"Tall Grass" starring Marla Schaffel is at the Beckett Theater at 412 West. 42nd Street, New York City. Through April 15.

You can read our weekly wine column that appears every Wednesday in the Food section of The Washington Post here.

Today's column "How to Tempt the 20-Somethings" begins:

"Wine has a stuffy image." "Wine labeling is too complex." "There are too many wine choices and styles."

We're twice the age of the 20- to 25-year-old occasional wine drinkers around the globe whose opinions above were solicited in a recent study by Vinexpo, organizer of the world's largest wine and spirits exhibition. We've both earned sommelier certificates to boot. Still, we found ourselves nodding in agreement at the first two of those three opinions culled from survey results released last month.

The 100 respondents, who live in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Japan, expressed a definite curiosity about wine. The problem? They are discouraged by the amount of time and effort they think it takes to learn how to appreciate wine.

Anything that makes wine easier to understand and enjoy is a boon to 20-something wine drinkers, not to mention the rest of us.

So we applaud the entertaining new wine book "Educating Peter" (Scribner, $25), whose subtitle is "How I Taught a Famous Movie Critic the Difference Between Cabernet and Merlot, or How Anybody Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert." It chronicles author Lettie Teague's Pygmalionesque efforts to transform Rolling Stone magazine film reviewer Peter Travers from a "wine idiot" (according to the book's jacket) into a connoisseur. Travers's confidence is ultimately tested at a wine auction and in a restaurant encounter with an opinionated sommelier....

You can read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007 Nothing like a new weekly deadline to keep us from blogging....But, thankfully, you keep stuffing our inbox with fabulous emails like these:

"'Sip by Sip, Tasting His Way to the Top.' What a great article. We'll have to keep reading the Washington Post online. Happy Easter...."
Gerry Beck, Michigan

"Have been wanting to tell you that your column 'Four Pours...' is the perfect expression of how I feel about food and wine. I actually read it aloud to my husband in the car...."
Rose Levy Beranbaum, Real Baking with Rose

"A little Will Rogers for your blog?? '...You can look at half the guys' stomachs in the world, and you can see they don't know how to order for themselves...' --Will Rogers. Happy Easter,"
Jimmy Carbone, Jimmy's No. 43

"Hello! I was just goofing around on Chowhound and noticed one of you guys were 'reading me' I zipped over to your blog and suddenly realized that you were the Andrew and Karen who had created my most invaluable tool: CULINARY ARTISTRY! I have tuned numerable friends on to the idea of cooking as a process and an exploration cooking by ingredient and by theme and try to post on Chowhound (and elsewhere) in the same spirit. On behalf of young cooks, professional and amateur everywhere, thank you for creating such a great body of work."
Jason Herbert, Chicago

"Congratulations on your new Washington Post column -- what a wonderful development! We wanted to let you know that we've featured your book [WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT] for this month's Easter dinner wine pairings, and we've expressed to our readers that it is a must-have for the kitchen library."
Jennifer Iannolo, The Gilded Fork (whom we had the pleasure of meeting in December 2006 at our book signing event at Pour)

"Just wanted to send a quick note of congratulations on your new wine column in The Washington Post. I think it's going to add a breath of fresh air to the topic, and I look forward to reading it each week. I am a wine educator and writer in the DC area, and your review of Dr. L's Riesling is spot-on. It's quite a find. I also recently tasted the new vintage of Dr. Konstantin Frank's Riesling at the DC International Food and Wine Festival, and it's absolutely fantastic another great example of what the grape is capable of doing. I'm forever trying to 'win over' wine drinkers at my tasting events who think that all Rieslings are super-sweet. :-) Looking forward to reading more next week. Cheers,"
Kelly Magyarics, President, Kelly Magyarics Wine Consulting

"[Marisa D'Vari's article, 'What to Drink with What You Eat,' has been accepted for publication on Look for your article to appear in an upcoming edition of The Juice, my weekly e-newsletter viewed by over 78,043 subscribers around the world.”
Eric V. Orange,

"Restaurant industry booming. Emerging as a 'growth industry,' adding 19,000 jobs. Blog THAT!"
Jeff Penney, New York City

"Congratulations on your splendid new column in The Washington Post! I'd love to subscribe to your monthly e-letter! Thanks,"
Judy Potocki, Winter Park, Florida

"I finally found some time this morning to catch up on all things computer related, which, of course, led me to your web page....You are too cute!  Heather and I both loved the 'Heathers' reference, (which is usually inevitable), and your lovely comments about Spigolo.  I'm just sorry I wasn't there. I've been meaning to congratulate you on your Washington Post gig...Very informative."
Heather Ronan, Spigolo (NYC)

"I read the blog and really appreciate the good lighting you shot the cheeses in. : ) They looked quite fetching if I do say so myself. The Monday Room is a really special place...Ruben and Brad pretty much knocked themselves out with that one!"
Anne Saxelby, Saxelby Cheese

As always, we welcome your emails at

And, of course, some correspondence is in a category all its own. Readers may recall previous missives from our occasional Canadian pen pal chef Cai Rintoul, whose elegant writing still belies his relative youth (see if you can guess his age before he confesses all at its end!):

"Hello again Andrew and Karen! It has been so long since we last [were in touch], I feel like an email is a poorly deserved update on what has happened to me in the last year or so, as I read your excellent blog on a weekly basis and am constantly impressed by the passion and interest you both give to the New York food culture.  I have had an extremely eventful year in Canada and abroad, cooking and eating and reading.

When we last [were in touch] I was working in the kitchen of a Relais & Chateaux outside of Toronto, where I had an excellent experience in a very successful high-end hotel.  In the spring of last year, I had worked in every station of the kitchen and was eager for a new experience in food and culture, so on both my love for the city and the suggestions from your book BECOMING A CHEF, I packed my life into one tortuously small suitcase and moved to Paris for several months!  It was a thrilling experience and a fitting way to spend my carefully saved pennies; I rented an apartment about the size of a modest walk in closet (right around the corner from Pierre Herme's St. Germain boutique, a disaster in fitness redeemed only by the nearby Jardin de Luxembourg's jogging paths, a beautiful way to sweat out my regular macaron breakfast) and spent the summer and fall falling in love with the streets so integral to the history of fine dining and restaurants.  I was able to eat in many of the cities top addresses, visit some interesting kitchens, and tour France in an effort to gain some understanding of the countries  immense gastronomic traditions.  It was an incredibly intense learning curve, but by far the most enjoyable and fruitful time in my life so far, both personally and professionally. Coming back home in the fall presented me with some huge decisions as to where my career would take me next; but one of the greatest pieces of wisdom that France gave me was that where you come from dictates everything in what you eat, drink, and cook.  I looked all around the United States for places to work, but after extensive research and contemplation, I knew I had so much to learn about the uniqueness of Canadian gastronomy that my place was within this country.  Holding onto that idea, I moved to Montreal in November to work at Au Pied de Cochon, a famous Quebecois restaurant in the city that celebrates and glorifies the cuisine of rural Quebec.  The chef, Martin Picard, is a celebrity in the francophone culture of Canada, and the food he makes is totally centered on unpretentiously delicious and quirky traditions.  The week I arrived was a tumultuous and wild one for the restaurant, as the third (!) shift I worked there was the release party for the cookbook, with famous Canadian chefs, media barons, and purveyors from all over the country turning up to celebrate the launch.  I opened some two thousand oysters next to the former Canadian national shucking champion, made yards of boudin noir from scratch with blood from a wonderful pork farm in Northern Quebec, and popped champagne corks with the restaurants crew, all of whom were virtual strangers to me.  From the explosive start I began learning a very new way of doing things, with interesting responsibilities and a wonderful position in the kitchen.  After a brief introduction to the system as a plater and expediter, I was moved onto Saucier, making virtually every sauce for the restaurant as well as cooking the foie gras and offal.  The restaurant passes over 50 kilograms of Quebecois foie gras a week; almost all of which comes off my station... making us, so far as we can tell, the number one restaurant in North America for sheer quantity of foie gras.  I will hold the title of Mr. Foie for only a couple more weeks, however, as I will be shortly be moving to manage the other half of the line as the Chef de Partie for garde manger and pastry.  It is an exciting move for me, as I will be responsible for about half the cooks (under the supervision of the amazingly talented sous-chefs, or course)  and will be able to create some of the daily specials and experiment with the wonderful cornucopia of seasonal produce the province has to offer.

Before getting carried away in details of my job, I wanted to tell you both
about a wonderful coincidence of fate that connects me in a small way to
your New York food discoveries.  You mentioned on your blog a little while ago that you had tasted recently Neige Ice Cider from Quebec at a  special event.  I was delighted that you singled that one producer out, as this winter I had the opportunity to actually help make the 2007 vintage.  With the 'sister' restaurant of Pied, Toque! (a Relais Gourmand in Montreal), we went out to La Face Cachee de La Pomme and picked semi-wild apples from the trees all morning, shriveled and deliciously sweet from their extra months in the cold, and then brought them pack to the property for pressing and fermentation.  I have enclosed a few photos from the day we spent there, one of myself, my chef's daughter Charlotte (who at the age of 5 had her picture in
Gourmet magazine) and Normand Laprise, the chef of Toque, eating super-reduced ice cider poured onto fresh snow and then wound around sticks like lollipops.  To be part of the process of creation for a product as unique as this one was a dream; nothing I can think of could better connect me to the terroir of the province and the beauty of Canada then a walk into the woods of Quebec, past sugar shacks and maple trees slowly pouring sap, to harvest tiny red apples for this miraculous transformation.

I have a dozen other stories to tell you about the time I have spent here in Montreal, but one in particular connects me to you.  I had the honor of cooking dinner last month for Daniel Boulud, who was in Montreal doing a special dinner at Toque.  At about one in the morning, the victorious crew of the two restaurants showed up at the door of Au Pied, fresh from a very successful service, and spent the night drinking and eating at an enormous wooden table ten feet from the kitchen.  The ate dozens of dishes I helped make, but for me the memorable thing was making an omelette for chef Boulud, a fantasy of every young cook who has read his loving description of Soltner's 'job interview'.  Whether or not he liked it I will never know, but if I had to choose one plate of food in my entire career that truly mattered to me, that gave me more pleasure as a creator than it could have possibly given the recipient, it would be that omelette.  I owe you two a profound thank you, (again) as it was your books that first introduced me to his food and impact on a new generation of cooks through both written and hands-on teachings.

As for my future plans, I will be turning 21 this June, and am taking four days off work to come to NYC and eat and drink with wild abandon.  Being finally old enough to drink in your fine state will mean that I will be making not infrequent trips to the Big Apple from now on in; I would be flattered to meet you two in person on one of these visits.  I would like to propose, in fact, a bit of a friendly competition between cities; I live a few blocks away from the 'best' bagels in Montreal, a dozen of which I will gratefully pack in my overnight bag if you are willing to blind taste them against the much lauded but  clearly inferior New York variety.  I just had three friends from Brooklyn visit me for a weekend, and I successfully changed their minds on this subject; I playfully challenge both of you to this test of yeasty art.

I must also congratulate you on the newest book [WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT]; truly a masterpiece.  I read it cover to cover one day off shortly after its release, and have since referenced it weekly for both my quiet dinners at home and for professional recommendations to customers.  I use it now even more than CULINARY ARTISTRY; as I develop slowly in the world of restaurants I am getting a 'feel' for the marriage of ingredients, however beverage pairings are still very much a mystery to me, so guidance as concise and clear as yours is so useful.  I was especially proud to see the appearance of Canadians and their expertise within its pages; something that makes me optimistic as to the future of cuisine here.  I hope that the success of this latest is no great deterrent from your next project, and I wish you all the best for this spring."

Cai Rintoul (Canada)

If perfect radishes with Maldon sea salt isn't your idea of a
great amuse bouche, please don't visit The Monday Room

Glazed eel with pickled bean sprouts and soft-boiled quail egg

Ruben pours us a manzanilla sherry to accompany our eel

Raw Tasmanian sea trout with a "three-slice pile-up"

The Monday Room's amazing boudin noir with poached celery

Salad of "noodles" of salsify with wild mushrooms

Smoked New Zealand venison carpaccio w/pickled onion

Anne Saxelby cheeses with ideal accompaniments

Thursday, April 5, 2007 If we tell you about the extraordinary 24-seat restaurant we visited in downtown Manhattan last night called The Monday Room, will you promise not to breathe a word about it to anyone else? Otherwise, none of us will ever be able to land a seat there again.

Besides, it may not be your kind of restaurant: It's an insider lounge for people who love sampling little plates of food that are inventive and flavorful but never off-the-wall, and wines that are adventurous in flavor and global origin. If you're primarily into big steaks and even bigger Bordeaux (which, of course, we love occasionally, too), forget it -- this is not the spot for you.

Public's enormously talented chef Brad Farmerie and The Monday Room's passionate soul of a sommelier Ruben Sanz Ramiro have created a small miracle of a restaurant on Elizabeth Street. While they deserve as much public praise as possible for it, it would -- paradoxically -- ruin this gem. Please keep it to yourself.

The Monday Room is at 210 Elizabeth Street, New York City. (212) 343-7011.

Wallse's Aldo Sohm (left), America's Best Sommelier

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 Want to learn the secrets of America's Best Sommelier Aldo Sohm? Don't miss our column in today's Washington Post, which will also provide you with Sohm's expert tips on what to drink with your Easter lamb or ham (plus pizza!).

Aldo Sohm is the sommelier of Wallse restaurant at 344 West 11th Street (near Washington), New York City. (212) 352-2300.

Chatting with talented chef Scott Fratangelo at Spigolo

Karen's risotto is sprinkled with grated fresh Parmesan

Our fabulous apple tart at Spigolo

August's incredible salad of raw and cooked vegetables

August's salad of napa cabbage with blue cheese

August's pasta with cauliflower and shrimp

August's grilled tuna with blood orange slices

At August, Susan Dey's orata was first presented whole....

...before being deboned and served filleted at the table

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 The 1989 cult film "Heathers" gave those named "Heather" a bad name. The Heathers at August and Spigolo are restoring it to vaunted heights, with the help of a new dad and a new dad-to-be.

The demands of writing a new weekly column have kept us closer to our computers in recent weeks -- but the occasion of out-of-town guests from Los Angeles and Wisconsin got us out from behind our desks to introduce our friends to two of the Manhattan restaurants we admire most.

As Susan was joining us from a biodynamic farm in Wisconsin, we wanted to take her somewhere where the ingredients were great expertly celebrated -- which is how we hit upon Spigolo. Because of our willingness do dine very early, Heather was able to reserve us a table at the last minute. (The dining room's other Heather, chef Scott Fratangelo's wife, who is due to deliver any day now, was at home.)

Our other friends Susan and Bernie were joining us from Los Angeles and had picked up tickets for a show a few blocks away, which led us to August for an early dinner with them. Although the restaurant doesn't take reservations, another lovely Heather was able to squeeze us in. Chef Tony Liu showed us a photo on his cellphone of two-week-old Mica.

Both restaurants are in fine form, and 110 percent recommendable for awesome, honest food at reasonable prices.

August is at 359 Bleecker Street (bet. Charles and W. 10th St.), New York. (212) 929-4774.

Spigolo is at 1561 Second Avenue (at 81st St.), New York. (212) 744-1100.

Monday, April 2, 2007 Have Lunch with a Legend: There must be an insatiable interest in Insatiable, Gael Greene's tales of from her life of delicious excess over decades at the helm of food criticism in Manhattan.

In celebration of the publication of the book's paperback edition, you can spend your lunch hour with the Insatiable Critic herself on Thursday, April 19th from noon-1 pm at the 92nd Street Y's Steinhardt Center, 35 West 67th Street ($16). How can you resist an invitation like this?

"Even if you've already read this saucy tell-all, you'll want to hear from her own lips what she ate and what she did between meals during the four decades that America was falling in love with food and becoming the most food-obsessed nation in the world. 

And to think it began with a fried egg sandwich that afteroon in Elvis's hotel suite...."

The 92nd Street Y is accepting reservations here. Act quickly!

"Quiet as an octopus scooting along the ocean bottom, Wild Edibles (535 Third Ave. near 35th St.) stuffed a mini eat-at counter and eight two-top tables into its small seafood shop on a Third Avenue stretch lusting for really good grub. Shimmeringly fresh skate and highly respectable crab cakes emerged from the same chefs who prep the ready-to-eat carryout for Wild Edibles fans in the Grand Central food halls. I got an excited call from an East Thirties resident foodie, who has talked her way into a friends-and-family night. Days later, I scored a table to share linguine alle vongole (cockles, Manila, and littleneck clams) and savory oysters-Rockefeller pizza, quartered and irreverently tumbled into a bowl....[F]ish and chips, $12 on the gently priced bar menu, hit the spot. And the skate in mustard sauce was outstanding....Given your hunger, you can select a fish or crustacean from the menagerie on ice to be roasted ($16 to $20); add your choice of seasoning and a $3 side. Or stop for an appetizer: a flight of six oysters from a dozen varieties handpicked by Edibles’ oyster guru every morning. Choose stalwarts from New England, Canada, and the West Coast, or mix them up — just $15 with three pours of beer or white wine from an all-local list....All in all, a good deal I’d like to find in my Zip Code."
Gael Greene, New York

"Burn't goose" by cookbook author Rose Levy Beranbaum

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 How much do we love legendary cookbook author (The Cake Bible, et al) Rose Levy Beranbaum for sharing this photo with us of one of her biggest cooking disasters: a burned-to-a-crisp goose?

She added, "Paul Prudhomme's comment was, 'Blackening is one thing, but cremating leaches all the flavor out!' and indeed it did."

And with that, dear readers, we end our "Cooking Tip for the Day."

Our second weekly wine column "The Precarious Balance of Oak and Yolk," on what wines to drink (and, perhaps more importantly, which not to drink) with eggs and egg-based dishes (from French toast to quiche to custards) appears in today's edition of The Washington Post, which you can read online here.



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

It's worth remarking on recent changes at The Washington Post. In perhaps the most significant addition to a major food section since Harold McGee joined The New York Times, the Post has recruited Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg (BECOMING A CHEF, CULINARY ARTISTRY, etc.) for a lively new wine column. With their new book [WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT] hot off the presses, it's a particularly astute move."
"All the Swirl,"
Weekly Wine Digest

(March 23, 2007)

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