James Beard Award, Georges Duboeuf Award and
Gourmand World Cookbook Award-winning authors
ANDREW DORNENBURG & KAREN PAGE's Web Log
Named one of GourmetFood.About.com'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 (1840-1902)
"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.”
A not-to-be-missed glass of Barbera at Spigolo
The luscious salmon tartare starter at Spigolo
Grilled Jumbo Shrimp with Farro, Raisins and Pine Nuts
Garganelli with Sweet Fennel Sausage Ragu and Parmagiano
Sheep Milk Ricotta Gnocchi with Pancetta and Radicchio
Two of the most totally-worth-the-calories desserts we've
tasted in recent memory, at Spigolo
Ron Altbach at his private piano performance last night
Wednesday, January 31, 2007 — After a long weekend away, there's nothing like a great day in New York to re-root yourself in your hometown of choice. How about a 70% off sale at your favorite shoe store, where the last available pair of the style you covet just happens to be in your size? Or finding a new leather organizer that's the perfect match for your leather totebag? Or nabbing the last available table for two at Spigolo before a concert just a few blocks away?
Our plan to pop into Spigolo for a couple of glasses of wine and a few appetizers went slightly awry after running into its exuberant maitre d' Heather, who greets many customers (such as winemaker Cary Tamura of Diogenes Wine Company, whose delicious Sauvignon Blanc we're grateful Heather insisted we taste) like members of Spigolo's extended family and whom we last had the pleasure of seeing in her days at Gilt. She was so enthusiastic about certain dishes we had to try that we would have felt foolish protesting...especially after tasting them!
Scott and Heather Fratangelo's Spigolo is the ultimate neighborhod restaurant — and one that is already so jam-packed that it certainly doesn't need yet another write-up singing its praises. But it was so wonderful that we would be remiss not to share our experience there. Chef Scott Fratangelo so ably proved his talents via the dishes above that we're ready to splurge on his entire six-course tasting menu ($65) next time.
After Spigolo, we dashed to the private concert given by Ron Altbach at the Arader Gallery on Madison Avenue. While the program was a far cry from Ron's previous performances as a musician (from the Beach Boys to King Harvest, a la "Dancing in the Moonlight"), we were totally enthralled by his extraordinary renditions of Debussy, Faure, and Ravel. Afterward, we sang Ron's praises with fellow guests, who included legendary Wall Street restaurateur Harry
Poulakakos (Bayard's, Harry's of Hanover Square, et al).
Spigolo is at
1561 2nd Ave. (at 81st Street), New York. (212) 744-1100. Web: www.spigolo.net.
The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Michigan
Our lovely hotel room at The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham
featured a spacious sitting area
The Townsend Hotel featured one of the top 3 most
comfortable hotel beds we've ever spent the night in!
Maine Diver Scallops with Cauliflower Mousse, Capers,
Almonds and Aged Balsamic Vinegar at The Rugby Grille
Citrus Roasted Black Cod served with a Curried Jumbo Lump
Maine Crab Meat Crepinette, Carrot Ginger Reduction, and
Batonnet of Honey Glazed Carrots at The Rugby Grille
Hudson Valley Foie Gras: Pan Seared Foie Gras served over
a White Peach "Volauvent" Torchon of Foie Gras served with
Black Cherry Jelly Duet accompanied by Brioche Toast
Roulade of Peking Duck Breast: Swiss Chard Wrapped
Peking Duck Breast, Rolled with Fresh Porcini Mushrooms
and Baby Spinach, served with Morel Mushroom Spaetzle,
Grilled Porcini Mushrooms, Citrus Braised Radicchio, and a
Hazelnut Infused Duck Jus
Our trio of desserts at The Rugby Grille in Birmingham
L: Andrew talks with Rugby Grille chef David Gilbert, an alum
of the CIA who's cooked at French Laundry and Astrance
Manager Mario Plaza with Karen Page
Chef Jim Barnett's breakfast creation "Tuscan Breakfast
Bowl" — which is Grilled Sourdough Bruschetta Croutons
tossed with Tomatoes, Pancetta Bacon, Arugula, Ricotta
Salada, E.V.O. topped with Poached Eggs and Fresh Basil —
is one of our favorite breakfast dishes of all time
"The Townsend Hotel is the luxury hotel in Detroit...."
—Travel + Leisure magazine, in naming it to the T+L 500 for 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007 — Karen's childhood food memories of Detroit specialties don't extend far beyond Faygo red pop, Koney Island hot dogs, Little Caesar's pizza, Sanders' hot fudge cream puffs, and Vernors ginger ale. So, as a native, she took special pride a few years ago on our first visit to Tribute, where then-maitre d' Mickey Bakst (whom we'd first met at a Midwest book signing for BECOMING A CHEF) and chef Takashi Yagihashi worked their magic in creating a restaurant that could have held its own among the best in any city in the country. (Indeed, it went on to be named to Gourmet magazine's list of the Top 50 restaurants in America.)
Karen's optimism about what is possible in a city like Detroit has no bounds — which is why during our visit to the city this past weekend we happily accepted an invitation to visit The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham and to sample some of the dishes of the hotel's locally famed Rugby Grille.
While this 150-room hotel has been around since 1988 (with the grand opening of its expansion in 2000) — in fact, we recall being interviewed there by a reporter for The Detroit News while out on book tour in 1995 with BECOMING A CHEF — just this past year, it has invested in some experienced pros to, in Emeril's parlance, "kick things up a notch."
On Friday night, we met with brand-new director of restaurant operations Mario Plaza (who has a passion for learning about wine that rivals that of some of the professional sommeliers we've met), corporate executive chef Jim Barnett (former corporate executive chef of the Matt Prentice Restaurant Group in Detroit), and Rugby Grille restaurant chef David Gilbert (an alum of the CIA as well as Astrance in Paris and the French Laundry in Napa) , and tasted a number of dishes from the current dinner menu. While already impressive, we're looking forward to returning several months from now when this team will have had the opportunity to merge their talents to create a food and wine experience that promises to be even more special.
But in the meantime, you can enjoy singular dishes packed with flavor, such as the Maine Diver Scallops with Cauliflower Mousse, Capers, Almonds and Aged Balsamic Vinegar that was one of our favorite scallop dishes of recent memory, with the sweet, tender scallops beautifully accented by crisp slivers of almond. While the somewhat awkward presentation of the dish seemed to defy gravity, the balance of flavors (including delicate notes of vanilla) and silky textures of the Citrus Roasted Black Cod served with a Curried Jumbo Lump Maine Crab Meat Crepinette blew us both away. It's not hard to please foie gras lovers with a foie gras dish, but this offering of Hudson Valley Foie Gras served over a White Peach "Volauvent" Torchon of Foie Gras served with Black Cherry Jelly merged classic technique with modern soul in a surprisingly delightful version.
And at breakfast, don't miss the Tuscan Breakfast Bowl, the menu description of which ("Grilled Sourdough Bruschetta Croutons tossed with Tomatoes, Pancetta Bacon, Arugula, Ricotta Salada, E.V.O. topped with Poached Eggs and Fresh Basil") struck us as the early-morning creation of a chef with a hangover in need of nourishment (and, in fact, we later learned that was not far from the truth!). We suspected it would either be a total mess or an unexpected hit — and were delighted to discover the latter in one of our favorite breakfast dishes of all time.
We understand that the staff of The Townsend Hotel is required to sign confidentiality agreements that they won't divulge the names of guests who frequent the hotel. Still, the sight of a number of extraordinarily tall African-American men working out in the hotel gym during our visit led to our question about visiting sports teams, and it was confirmed that professional athletes and other personalities are among its regular guests.
After finding our hotel bed to be one of the three most comfortable we can ever recall spending the night in (with one of the others being at the renowned Inn at Little Washington in Virginia), and after our impressive taste of The Rugby Grille, we can certainly understand why.
The Rugby Grille is at The Townsend Hotel, both of which are at 100 Townsend Street in Birmingham, Michigan. (248) 642-7900.
Web: townsendhotel.com If there's a nicer place to stay in the Detroit area, we're certainly not aware of it! The Rugby Grill was named "Restaurant of the Year" by Detroit's monthly lifestyle magazine HOUR.
Ray's Ice Cream was a bit slow this snowy day...
...which didn't diminish our enjoyment of its "Moose Tracks"
The Townsend Hotel's executive chef Jim Barnett spoke so admiringly of Ray's Ice Cream that we didn't let freezing cold weather stop us from paying a visit.
As Ray's rotates its flavors, we didn't have the opportunity to try the Apple Caramel flavor he'd praised, but we found ourselves happily sharing an enormous portion (actually, the $3 kiddie size was the smallest available!) of Moose Tracks (which featured chunks of chocolate plus crushed peanut butter cups).
Ray's Ice Cream is at 4233 Coolidge Highway in Royal Oak. Web: www.raysicecream.com
The Shangri-La is located in a West Bloombield strip mall
Packed with diners, and dim sum, on the weekend
Our first glimpse of the pan-fried
pork buns we loved
Breaking open the incredibly delicate pork buns that were
soft on the inside yet fried to a crisp on the bottom
As New Yorkers, we think of ourselves as hard to impress. Yet several stops in Detroit managed to win us over.
A 10-minute drive from The Townsend Hotel, the Somerset Collection shopping mall in Troy boasts both a Neiman Marcus and a Nordstrom (which we don't have in Manhattan!), plus a Saks Fifth Avenue and a Macy's — setting a high bar for one-stop shopping. Before we left Manhattan last week, Karen had spent a disappointing hour or two at Saks trying to hunt down a plain white cotton blouse, and was pretty horrified to see them priced at $200 - $300. But on our visit to Neiman Marcus, there was a 75 percent off sale in progress that had her leave with not one but two. (If only we'd known then there was a Zodiac restaurant on the premises! We love their popovers with strawberry butter.)
Having eaten dim sum from San Francisco to New York City, we like to think we've enjoyed some of the best of the best. So we were completely unprepared to be impressed with the dim sum at Shangri-La in West Bloomfield. While most its offerings were on a par with some of our standard favorites from coast to coast, Shangri-La's pan-fried pork buns were among the best dim sum we've ever tasted anywhere.
Shangri-La is at 6407 Orchard Lake Road (at 15 Mile Road) in West Bloomfield, Michigan. (248) 626-8585. Web: www.ordershangrila.com Dim sum is served daily from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.
The Cranbrook Art Museum
in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
The rear sculpture garden at Cranbrook Art Museum
Stained glass window overlooking rear sculpture garden
Duane Hanson's 1989 sculpture "Body Builder"
Andrew spots Duane Hanson's "Body Builder"
The Cranbrook Art Museum was between exhibits when we stopped by this weekend. But our visit would have been worth it to view the beautiful sculptures on its grounds alone — let alone the pleasure of interacting with another lifelike Duane Hanson sculpture!
The Cranbrook Art Museum is at
39221 Woodward Avenue in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. This non-profit contemporary art museum is part of Cranbrook Educational Community, which also includes Cranbrook's Academy of Art, Institute of Science, Schools and other affiliated cultural and educational programs. Web:
Pastry chef Adolf Rohatsch with his handmade chocolates
"Heavenly" filled chocolates by Adolf Rohatsch
"When [Chez Laurence's croissants] are fresh out of the oven at 7 am, they're hard to beat! We ran into their baker on the street one day and asked him about the secret of his croissants. 'Love,' Adolf replied with a wink and a smile — convincing us further that he is definitely our kind of chef!"
—From our book CHEF'S NIGHT OUT (2001)
"'Heavenly' baked goods in a 'variety that's not found everywhere,' including housemade croissants,' pain Breton, 'excellent pastries,' and 'the best bread pudding ever'; this is as authentic as it gets 'without having to fly to France.'"
—From the Zagat Survey's NYC Gourmet Marketplace
Friday, January 26, 2007 — The other morning, we paid our first visit to Chez Laurence in many weeks, looking forward to our favorite croissant in New York City. After our waitress set down a limp and lifeless excuse of a croissant before us, we looked at her and asked, "Where's Adolf?" She looked sad. "Yes, he's gone," she replied, shaking her head.
Adolf? Gone? We wonder whether Chez Laurence might soon be, too. After all, it was pastry chef Adolf Rohatsch's "heavenly" baked goods and desserts that put Murray Hill's Chez Laurence on the map over the past two decades, before the restaurant was recently sold to new owners. Of course, the soups and salads and sandwiches had all ranged from decent to good, but the croissants and brioches baked on the premises were truly extraordinary. When Andrew was too busy to bake his own, we'd occasionally pick up an apple Tarte Tatin to take as our contribution to potluck dinners with friends, where it would win raves.
We tracked Adolf down through Chez Laurence's sweet staff, and invited him out for a cup of coffee. He was surprised to hear from us (we'd only ever seen him that once outside of the restaurant, when we ran into him on Madison Avenue one day on our way home from the gym), but showed up with not one but two boxes of his delicious homemade chocolates to share with us — and confirmed the sad news that he was no longer part of one of our former favorite neighborhood restaurants.
As of this month, Adolf hopes to share his more than five decades of pastry-making experience as a consultant to restaurants who don't have their own pastry chefs on staff. He's also open to teaching serious amateurs (his consulting minimum starts at $250/session) how to bake, and has already traveled to share the secrets of his tiramisu (hint: he bakes his own ladyfingers!) with a lucky group of Brooklyn women. Other specialties include his chocolate mousse ("It's my daughter's favorite," he confided) and even old-fashioned sugar work, which we think will come as music to the ears of a certain 15-year-old we know who has always wanted to learn how to pull sugar into edible works of art.
While Adolf's brioche has been a part of our Christmas morning breakfast for as many years as we can remember while living in our current home, it's his croissants that we will miss most. "You have to learn how to talk to the ingredients, and then they'll respond to you," Adolf confessed. "You have to understand when the ingredients are ready for you."
We know there are a lot of restaurants and individuals alike who would have much to learn from this native Austrian, who attended the best school in Vienna to become a Master Pastry Chef and has literally worked around the world perfecting his craft. And we know there are many who will love his handmade chocolates, either for themselves or to give as gifts. Just give Adolf a call!
Pastry chef Adolf Rohatsch, who specializes in Viennese-French pastry, can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (212) 927-7918 or fax at (212) 740-0284.
Ask Adolf about his restaurant consulting, private pastry instruction, and handmade chocolates. Specialties include croissants, cinnamon rolls, brioche, raisin brioche, Sacher torte, chocolate cake, apple strudel, carrot cake, crepes Suzette, creme brulee, souffles, flambes, Tarte Tatin, tiramisu, Napoleaon, eclairs, ceram puffs, profiteroles, cookies, Danish pastries, almond macaroons, meringue, chocolate mousse, decorated cakes, and more.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007 — "How am I doing?" New York mayor Ed Koch famously asked the New Yorkers he'd encounter on city streets, hungry for feedback on his efforts. We can sympathize: As authors, one of the biggest challenges is toiling away to promote a book, with little quantitative feedback other than the title's Amazon.com and BN.com rankings as to whether those efforts are having any impact.
Which makes it all the sweeter a surprise to discover that our latest book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT hit today's Los Angeles Times' "Hot List":
LOS ANGELES TIMES LIST FOR JAN. 24, 2007
1 Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition, 2006 by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker (Scribner, $30) Controversial, coveted, weighing in at 1,152 pages.
2 Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell (Little, Brown, $24) Back on the radar more than a year after publication, this is the tale of a blogger who cooked her way through "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
3 Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes From Market to Table by Suzanne Goin (Knopf, $35) A steady favorite since the fall of 2005, this book collects chef Goin's market-menu recipes.
4 The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider (Morrow Cookbooks, $35) From the author of A New Way to Cook, this book has a novel organization, with discussions of key ingredients and techniques followed by base recipes and ideas for variations.
5 What to Drink With What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page and Michael Sofronski (Bulfinch, $35) Subtitled "The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food With Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea — Even Water — Based on Expert Advice From America's Best Sommeliers."
6 Barefoot Contessa at Home: Everyday Recipes You'll Make Over and Over Again by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, $35) The formula is similar to the Food Network star's four previous cookbooks: lavish photos and easy, accessible recipes.
7 Classic 30-Minute Meals: The All-Occasion Cookbook by Rachael Ray (Lake Isle Press, $20) More than 150 greatest hits from previous cookbooks, more extensively illustrated.
8 150 Best American Recipes: Indispensable Dishes from Legendary Chefs and Undiscovered Cooks Edited by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens (Houghton Mifflin, $30) A best-of-the-decade compendium of recipes from many sources.
9 Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon by Claudia Roden (Knopf, $35) The award-winning authority on Middle Eastern and North African food looks at three distinctive cuisines.
10 Rachael Ray's Open House Cookbook by Rachael Ray (Lake Isle Press, $18) An update of one of the popular TV personality's earliest cookbooks.
Rankings are based on a Times poll of national and independent booksellers.
Monday, January 22, 2007 — While we may have been too busy to write up the restaurants we've visited recently due to other pressing deadlines, at least our pals haven't been: Today's issue of The Strong Buzz features an essay by Andrea Strong on "My Dinner at Darna."
Or, rather, OUR dinner at Darna, since the other night we had the pleasure of introducing Andrea to our favorite Moroccan restaurant in Manhattan.
In Karen's defense, those olives honestly were the size of small plums...and Karen likes to slice her plums. Of course, you'll have to read Andrea's review to know what on earth we're referencing, so you can do so here.
Darna is at 633 Second Avenue (bet. 34th and 35th Streets),
New York City. (212) 213-9095.
The Strong Buzz is at www.thestrongbuzz.com. Better yet, enter a free subscription to the email version in the form box via the link above, so you can join thousands of other Strong Buzz readers in receiving a delicious surprise in your emailbox every Monday morning.
Who knew that our books had fans in Dubai? After today's review of WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT on Amazon.com by a Dubai-based fan of CULINARY ARTISTRY, now we know!
A scene from the new Off-Broadway show "In the Heights"
The entrance to Metro Marche inside Port Authority
Karen enjoyed her crisp oblong of pizza with duck confit...
...while Andrew was equally happy with his steak frites
We loved Metro Marche's tarte tatin the next morning!
We received a notice of a great $36.25 ticket price available for the new Off-Broadway show "In the Heights." While it's too late for us — as we've already seen and enjoyed the show earlier this month, thanks to our actress friend Sarah Dey Hirshan, who went to Wesleyan with the show's creator Lin-Manuel Miranda in the days when he first birthed the idea for it — it's definitely a bargain that you'll want to consider taking advantage of.
As the show's producers put it, "'In the Heights' is a new musical about three days in the life of Washington Heights, a vibrant and tight knit community at the top of the island of Manhattan. It's a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. Find out what it takes to make a living, what it costs to have a dream, and what it means to be home."
If you need any additional incentive, we'll add that you can make an evening out of it by stopping first for a delightful dinner at a rather unlikely location in the Port Authority Terminal: Metro Marche, the new-ish French bistro which has won praise from tough critics like Steve Cuozzo and Gael Greene, managed to win the praise of our gang of 7 visiting for the first time. The staff is so on top of things that when they heard our disappointment at not being able to order dessert (as we couldn't linger if we were to make it to the theatre on time for "In the Heights") after we mentioned we'd heard raves for the Tarte Tatin, they sent us on our way with a slice to go. Very classy — and very delicious!
"In the Heights" is playing at 37 Arts Theatre at
450 West 37th Street
(bet. Ninth and Tenth Aves.), Manhattan, and can be found at intheheightsthemusical.com.
Metro Marche is at 625 Eighth Avenue at 41st Street, Manhattan, a quick seven-minute walk from 37 Arts Theatre. (212) 239-1010.
Nice Matin offered a warm respite one cold December eve
We managed to nab one of the last open tables near the bar
We kicked off our dinner with a study in chickpeas: fries...
...plus a surprisingly creamy and delicious hummus
Our favorite dish of the night was a toothy tortelloni
with fava beans, served with Parmesan and butter
One of our favorite wines of the year — thanks to wine pro
Fred Price, who all but insisted that we try it. Thanks, Fred!
Our happy ending: Chocolate-hazelnut pot de creme
We'd written up our Christmas week visit to Metro Marche's Uptown sibling Nice Matin, but (due to inexplicable technical difficulties) that detailed Blog entry managed to disappear.
However, our very fond memories remain!
Nice Matin is at 201 West 79th Street (at Amsterdam), Manhattan. (212) 873-6423. Web: www.nicematinnyc.com.
Tuesday, January 9, 2007 — We knew we were in for quite a week when we accepted the invitation of several distinguished culinary journalists representing the principal magazines and newspapers of France to join them at a number of stops on their whirlwind 17-restaurants-in-4-days gastronomic tour of Manhattan. We'll have some fabulous dishes to report from restaurants ranging from Del Posto to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon once we have a chance to catch up!
In the meantime, we were contacted this week by the people behind the upcoming TV mini-series "The Starter Wife" — which stars Debra Messing and Joe Mantegna — that they'd like to feature some of our books on the show. Permission happily granted, along with our sincere thanks to the property master for his excellent taste in culinary literature!
Andrew gives sous chef Lisa Fortunato a good-bye smooch;
Karen plants one on the cheek of chef Charleen Badman
Charleen and Lisa show us gleeful photos of a young
who had helped them clean tomatillos in the
kitchen, and was there, too, to mark Inside's final night
The bar at Inside on its final night: December 31, 2006
The restaurant transformed into a long banquet table
Our waiter drops off platter after platter of great food
Our neighbors Elise and Jeffrey share a delightful Pinot Noir
Charleen Badman takes to the bar to say her farewells...
...as does manager Bill Flatley...
...before Lisa Fortunato does likewise
The crowd cheers wildly for all our favorite Inside-rs
Wednesday, January 3, 2007 — Anne Rosenzweig and Charleen Badman's Greenwich Village restaurant Inside is, sadly, gone. Long live Inside — and Happy New Year!
When we learned that Inside would be closing on New Year's Eve, we knew that there was nowhere else we'd rather be that night, as sad as marking the end of one of our very favorite restaurants of all time would be. But there was no way we weren't going to be on hand to extend farewells and good wishes to Anne, Charleen, Lisa Fortunato, Bill Flatley, and the rest of our Inside family.
We never suspected that it would be turned into such a jubilant occasion, with the restaurant transformed into one long banquet table for the night, and bottles of wine and platters of wonderful food — everything from salads to pasta to lobster, grilled lamb chops, and horseradish-crusted short ribs — set out in the middle of the table family-style. There was even dinner-party style seating, and we found our place cards between those of two couples we didn't know but could never forget after they, too, became part of our Inside family fo rthe night.
"Where will we eat now?" one woman at the table asked no one in particular. "Where else is like this?"
We didn't have an answer.