ANDREW DORNENBURG & KAREN PAGE'S WEB LOG -
"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)
"When shall we live, if not now?"
—Author M.F.K. Fisher (1908-1992),
quoting Seneca in Serve It Forth
“The Master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.”
—Zen Buddhist text
Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar amuse of lobster and watermelon
Bibb lettuce salad, and oyster stew at Jack's
East and West Coast oysters with lemon and two sauces
Scallops with crispy jamon on parsnip puree at Jack's
Jack's plate of 3 cheeses with roasted grapes and olive toast
At this informal meeting of the East Coast Grill alumni club,
Pixie Yates shows
her children's book prototype to Andrew
Geo (or is it G.O.?) performing "Psycho Killer" on ukulele
Jimmy's cheese plate featuring
perfectly ripened Pata de
Cabra and Teleme, along with Marcona almonds and Vong
five-spice nuts that brings customers back for more
Tuesday, June 27, 2006 — In last night's "duel of the cheese plates" at Jack's and Jimmy's, the restaurant that also featured the first Ukulele Cabaret we ever attended had a definite edge.
We met chef-restaurateur Jimmy Carbone and fashion designer-turning-kids' book author Pixie Yates for dinner downstairs at Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar. We hadn't been back since our memorably delicious first dinner there with Cynthia and Jeff Penney when the kitchen was still headed by 2004 James Beard Award-winning Rising Star Chef Allison Vines-Rushing and her husband.
The kitchen caught our attention upfront with a lovely amuse of fresh lobster topped with watermelon ice that was sweet and refreshing. The flavors melded so beautifully that each of us tipped our dishes to sip the last of the melted ice blended with lobster juice.
The simple Bibb lettuce salad was beautifully executed, flavored by an acidic orange-yogurt dressing accented with fines herbes.
The winner of the night was the appetizer of caramelized bay scallops over parsnip puree with crispy jamon serrano, a luxurious combination of flavors and textures.
Visitors to Jack's are forewarned to think about the beverages they order and/or are served. Having ordered a single bottle of mineral water, our glasses were refilled constantly throughout the night without our having requested this, which ended up jacking up the charges for water alone to a ridiculous $24. As for the wine list, there are no great deals (most bottles start at $70), other than the bottles also served by the glass: A nice German Riesling is available for $40 for the bottle, or (arguably the better deal) $8 a glass.
Craving cheese, we ordered Jack's cheese plate to share, which featured two cow's milk cheeses (including Epoisses) and an Italian goat's milk cheese. We enjoyed the plump, juicy roasted grapes that accented the tiny servings of each cheese, but the latter left us wanting more (even after the very lovely melon sorbet that was served to us when we requested our check).
This is the benefit of dining with a chef-restaurateur. Jimmy Carbone graciously invited us to stop by Jimmy's for a taste of the perfectly-ripened cheeses he knew were in his own restaurant's kitchen just a few blocks away.
We walked to Jimmy's to find the restaurant's performance space downstairs in full force with its monthly Ukulele Cabaret. Taking the stage as we arrived was a young, blond pony-tailed ukulele player named G.O. (or was it Geo?) who had the crowd cheering and laughing with (not at!) his spirited rendition of the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer." Yes, it was as much of a New York moment as it sounds.
Afterward, we were blown away by the Teleme and especially the Pata de Cabra cheeses Jimmy served us with Marcona almonds and addictive five-spice nuts.
If all this cheese chat has made your mouth water, we'll tip you off that you can stop by Jimmy's tomorrow night (Wed, June 28th) from 7-9 pm for a complimentary tasting hosted by
hosted by Anne Saxelby of Saxelby Cheese.
Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar is at 246 E. 5th Street, New York City. (212) 673-0338.
Jimmy's is at 43 E. 7th Street , downstairs (bet. Second and Third Aves.), New York City. (212) 982-3006. Don't miss Jimmy's events, which range from complimentary artisanal cheese tastings to a monthly Ukelele Cabaret.
From this month's mailbag:
"Andrew and Karen, I loved all your books, and really enjoy reading the blog when not behind the stoves...Coming to Houston any time soon??"
—Joe Apa, Houston-area chef
"I just wanted to let you know that Demetrius is doing really well. He LOVES his job. I talked to him one Saturday, and he said that he just couldn't wait for Monday to come so he could get back into the kitchen. He's learning like crazy. One chef in particular seems to have befriended and taken him under his wing. He is very happy. Thank you both!"
—Kelli Taylor, founder, Free Minds Book Club
"...We met at a NY restaurant last summer — I was with a friend of mine. We flew in with his private Cesna from our hometown, Montreal, before meeting you in a tiny restaurant [The Tasting Room] in downtown Manhattan (you were sitting litterally at about 5 inches from us) where you gave us your card....I just wanted to give you the name of a cute restaurant in Albany which is very interesting and different: Mezzo. I have to warn you: it is not a typical place, but it makes its mark by its originality. Have a great summer, and let me know if you ever come to Montreal."
—Julie Vanasse, Montreal
"We were so pleased to have met you this month. As soon as we got home, I logged onto Amazon and ordered three of your books to be sent to my son...and the same three books sent to us. When we met, we didn't want to go into some of the sad details of how our son became a cook, then a sous chef (and hopefully one day, a chef), but his history is not that different from the story you told us about the incarcerated drug dealer that, having discovered your first book, turned his life around in prison. While in college, our son got himself into a lot of trouble with drugs, both using and selling, and spent a fair amount of time in jail. He didn't become a cook while locked up but, upon release, realized that most careers were now closed to him. Except for restaurant work. He first entered the field because it was one of the few paths that were open to him but stayed because he discovered he loved it. And was good at it. We believe, without a doubt, that his latching on to culinary arts as a career is what has saved him from a wasted life and his given him direction and hope. Hopefully, with what he will gain from your books, he will be able to move up to the next level and become a real chef. We think he has the talent and intelligence...but of course we're a little biased. We wanted to say 'thanks' for sharing so much of yourselves with us. It was a real treat meeting both of you."
The entrance to the Homestead Inn in Greenwich, CT
Sculptures adorn the beautifully manicured grounds
The Homestead Inn's art is well-selected and situated
A Quixotic sculpture in view of the secondary structure
Our entryway in Room 124 at the Homestead Inn
Wall sculpture doubling as a lamp in Room 124
was well lit from within and without
The wall art in the sitting room
of Room 124
The sitting room featured two day beds and a television
Our amuse of fish mousse placed on our bread plate
To "mix and match" with our dinner, sommelier Pierre
serves us half-bottles of white and red
...including a 2003 Vosne-Romanee red Burgundy
Crisp sauteed sweetbreads with French-style peas
Crab canneloni on a bed of spinach with spicy diablo sauce
Sauteed jumbo shrimp with pineapple, mango and curry
A perfect meslun salad with shaved aged Italian cheese
Halibut napoleon served with both tomato and asparagus
Lamb with fresh thyme, mushroom duxelles, and risotto
Vacherin dessert with fresh berries and Chantilly cream,
a +2 pairing with a glass of Muscat Beaumes-de-Venise
One of the best cherry tarts of our lives (that's #2 this
better still with a +2 pairing of vintage port;
we loved watching the plump cherries being spooned into
the empty tart shell and piled higher and higher until being
capped off with a scoop of housemade ice cream
Saturday, June 24, 2006 — We want to not only congratulate our newlywed friends legal analysts Lis Wiehl and Mickey Sherman on their marriage at Greenwich's Valbella restaurant last night, but thank them for inspiring such a delicious visit to Connecticut these past 48 hours.
We'd had the pleasure of meeting chef Thomas Henkelmann at the Relais Gourmands gathering at Per Se in April, and were subsequently invited to pay a visit to his eponymous restaurant at the Homestead Inn in Greenwich. After the mail brought an invitation to attend the Wiehl-Sherman nuptials in Greenwich last night, we inquired whether we might check out the restaurant over lunch yesterday. We were assured that dinner was the way to go, and were invited to come up on Thursday night so we could experience the Thomas Henkelmann dining room and the Homestead Inn at once.
Thomas Henkelmann received an extraordinary four-star review (which we recommend you read for detailed descriptions of some of the restaurant's signature dishes) from Patricia Brooks of The New York Times on May 21st, which couldn't help but instill high expectations. What was surprising, then, was not how much we enjoyed our dinner, but why. While Brooks' review makes plain that this is an extraordinary restaurant, the caliber of everything from its service team to its raw ingredients can't be underestimated.
One of the strengths of the restaurant is the professionalism and charm of its dining room staff. It was frankly more than a little surprising to find such top talent whose faces were familiar to us from previous visits to Alain Ducasse, Jean Georges and Union Pacific in Manhattan. What the heck are guys like sommelier Pierre Grall and maitre d' Patrick Van den Bergh doing miles away from the Upper East and West Sides? The answer stems from the simple issue of quality of life: The restaurant business is a difficult one, with low margins and long hours, and both of them are married and want to see their families. The restaurant's customers are in turn the lucky beneficiaries of their presence as well.
Since the aforementioned New York Times four-star review goes into detail about the restaurant's signature dishes, we'll simply add how impressed we were with the quality of the ingredients Thomas Henkelmann uses. From fresh seasonal greens, vegetables and fruits, to seafood and lamb, to aged cheeses, the foodstuffs the restaurant showcases are all the best of their kind.
The rooms at the Homestead Inn are beautiful, and with a real sense of personality and charm. Our room was painted the same shade of bright green as our foyer at home, and decorated with delightful pieces selected by Thomas' lovely designer wife Theresa Henkelmann, whom Karen was happy to learn was a fellow Michigan native.
If you're in the mood for an elegant, romantic weekend in New England, we can't imagine an inn we'd recommend more highly than the Homestead Inn.
Thomas Henkelmann is at the Homestead Inn, 420 Field Point Road, Greenwich, Connecticut. (203) 869-7500. Web: www.thomashenkelmann.com
The dining room at breakfast is filled with natural light
A uniquely delicious take on French toast made with house-
baked brioche, served with a tiny
copper pot of warm maple
syrup, and crisp bacon
Our watchful waiter Luis surprised us with a beautiful
fruit plate, including some of the best raspberries ever
The fountain and animal sculptures on the outdoor patio
Breakfast at the Homestead Inn was one of the most memorably delicious of our lives, with our Chilean server Luis (who has been on the property for more than two decades) contributing to the pleasure with his warmth and sincerity. We especially appreciated the fine touches, e.g. being served tea that had already been perfectly brewed and strained, not to mention warm maple syrup in such a beautiful tiny copper pot. The French toast itself was delightfully different from any other version we've ever tasted, thanks in part to its being made from the Inn's homemade brioche, which produced a more cake-like than custardy French toast that was the ideal vehicle for the syrup. The plate of fresh fruit that Luis surprised us with featured some of the most perfect raspberries we'd ever tasted.
The Homestead Inn, 420 Field Point Road, Greenwich, Connecticut. (203) 869-7500. Web: www.thomashenkelmann.com
"First of all, it was a pleasure meeting you again at Thomas Henkelmann and an honor to serve you....Please add me to your e-mail list; would love to stay updated on your new projects. Warmest greetings,"
—Patrick Van den Bergh, Thomas Henkelmann (Greenwich, CT)
After breakfast, we visited the 9/11 Memorial in Sherwood
Island State Park
off I-95 in Connecticut
"The citizens of Connecticut dedicate this living memorial to
the thousands of innocent lives lost on September 11, 2001
and to the families who loved them."
Tiles featuring the names of those state residents lost,
a Harvard classmate of Karen's and the fiance of
a friend's daughter
The vegetarian restaurant Bloodroot in Bridgeport, CT
Andrew in the dining room of the feminist collective
Bloodroot, where portraits of women line the walls
We loved our cranberry Fizzy Lizzy with our open-faced
grilled cheese sandwich and salad, fresh pea soup with
herbed dumplings, and veggie burger
The women of Bloodroot hard at work in its open kitchen,
with chalkboards announcing the day's menu
"This seasonal vegetarian restaurant was founded by a feminist collective 20 years ago in a nice neighborhood about a block from the beach. It's very welcoming, relaxed, and cozy, and eating the food, which borrows from European and Asian cooking, makes me feel warm inside. They stick to their principles, and other restaurants would do well to follow their lead."
—Bill Daley of The Hartford Courant, in DINING OUT
We finally had the opportunity to pay a visit to Bloodroot for lunch yesterday after hearing about it nearly a decade ago. While restaurant critic Bill Daley has since left The Hartford Courant for The Chicago Tribune, we're happy to report that his review of Bloodroot in our 1998 book DINING OUT is still accurate.
In the back of the restaurant there is a bookstore with an impressive collection of books by, about and/or for women, with an emphasis on feminist and lesbian literature. Having earned a certificate in women's studies at Northwestern, Karen had already read a good number of them...but if you've always meant to get your hands on a copy of a classic by Germaine Greer or Kate Millett, look no further.
Bloodroot is curently celebrating "30 Years of Food, Fun & Feminism" as one of the Northeast's leading vegetarian restaurants with an impressive array of events, including tastings of artisanal cheeses.
Bloodroot is at 85 Ferris Street in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (203) 576-9168. Web: www.bloodroot.com
Lis Wiehl & Mickey Sherman/Karen Page, Lis Wiehl & Katie
Lis, her daughter and Mickey with the wedding cake
Half of our lively table: Bill Bratton and Rikki Klieman, Erica
Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Rikki Klieman with Michael Bolton (and Bill Bratton)
Andrew Dornenburg with Nicollette Sheridan
Weddings are invariably romantic for those of us who believe in love — and the wedding of Lis Wiehl and Mickey Sherman was no exception, with singer Michael Bolton providing soulful vocals, and the bride and groom sharing heartfelt sentiments during the ceremony.
This wedding was unexpectedly hilarious to boot, as Mickey poked fun at himself with his characteristic good humor throughout the ceremony and reception. The high spirits continued throughout dinner, where we were seated not only with our dear friends Court TV legal analyst Rikki Klieman and LAPD Chief Bill Bratton (both fresh off the plane from London*), but with a lovely table of friends and relatives of the bride and groom who included Geraldo Rivera and his wife Erica, who actually produced the fateful show through which Lis and Mickey first met.
We were happy to be introduced to Bolton and his date actress Nicollette Sheridan, who unknowingly played an important role in our own romance: We saw the romantic comedy in which Nicollette made her film debut "The Sure Thing" (1985) on one of our first dates during our fledgling dual-city courtship, and have watched the video well over a dozen times since, making it THE movie of our 20-year-relationship. Sheridan's title character is a classic blonde of movie history, and we've always marveled what a talented actress it must take to play such a simple-minded character (think of Sean Penn's flawless portrayal of a teen surfer dude in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"), not to mention the temptress of John Cusack's character's imagination. After two decades of admiring Nicollette's performance, it was a special pleasure to finally meet her last night.
*"'One of the leading U.S. police chiefs of the century'...
The boss of LAPD has tough views — and is listened to by British politicians...' 'He will go down as one of the three leading American police chiefs of the 20th century,' said Professor George Kelling, of the criminal justice school at the Rutgers University, New Jersey, and co-architect of the 'broken windows' policy. 'He is a genuine leader and he has put community policing in terms that line officers appreciate and understand.' Bill Bratton was, he added, 'more significant than [U.S. treasury agent and Prohibition enforcer] Eliot Ness — by a long shot."
—Duncan Campbell, The Guardian (6/23/06)
"'The Sure Thing' gets my unapologetic nomination
for greatest film ever made!"
—Michael Dare, LA Weekly
Walter's in Mamaroneck, founded in 1919 (here since 1928)
The line at Walter's was 7 people deep by 11:20 am -- and
in the pouring rain! The sign reads, "The building typifies the
attention-getting styles of roadside restaurants in the 1920s"
Single dog with Walter's mustard, and curly fries
Walter's chocolate shake on our rental car's dashboard
It's a blessing and a curse that we get to hear about so many extraordinary restaurants from the hundreds of restaurant professionals we interview for our books, in that we're only able to actually make it to a fraction of them ourselves.
But while interviewing 2005 James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Wine Service Tim Kopec of NYC's Veritas restaurant for our forthcoming book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT, we learned that not only would he want to take a German Pilsner-style beer with him if stranded on a desert island for the rest of his life, but that he'd want a hot dog from a place in Mamaroneck called Walter's to eat with it: "They're made of veal and beef [and pork]. No sauerkraut, chili or relish — he has mustard and napkins and that's it."
Such high praise made us brave a half-hour wait in the pouring rain at Walter's this morning for a taste of such a hot dog — which we loved, too. And while we were at it, we sampled the popular curly fries (good, but not worth the calories, we decided) and the chocolate shake made from homemade ice cream (great texture, but we'd have liked even more chocolate flavor). And if you like your shakes extra-thick, order yours "cowboy-style" like the locals do.
Still going strong more than eight decades after it first opened, Walter's proves that quality and soul never go out of style — a lesson that Manhattan restaurateur Danny Meyer leveraged creating his modern-day classic Shake Shack in Madison Park.
Walter's is at 937 Palmer Avenue in Mamaroneck, New York. Web: www.waltershotdogs.com From I-95, take exit 18A; then take Mamaroneck Ave. east to Palmer Ave., and take a right. Look for the Chinese pagoda structure on your right.
Gael Greene is toasted by gracious host Bill Reilly on his roof
Insatiable has been inspiring a feeding (& reading) frenzy
The view down from the circular staircase up to the roof
The view up from the same position on the staircase
Danish meatballs on sticks, catered by Entertaining Ideas
These fabulous duck-filled
hors d'oeuvres were a big hit
The King of Canapes: "Elvis' fried egg sandwiches"
Thursday, June 22, 2006 — Leave it to a celebration for Gael Greene's irresistible book Insatiable hosted by media executive William F. Reilly to feature some of the very best catered hors d'oeuvres we've ever enjoyed at a party.
Credit is due to last night's caterer Entertaining Ideas Catering for its flawless renditions of dishes featured in Greene's Insatiable, from her mom's Macaroni and Cheese (served in little souffle cups with tiny utensils) to miniature Fried Egg Sandwiches reminiscent of the one Elvis Presley asked Greene to order for him from room service after their encounter in his hotel room (Insatiable, pp. 7-10).
As Karen was under the weather we didn't stay long, but it was fun to briefly say hello or even wave across the room to friends and colleagues including Drew Nieporent, Steven Richter, Eric Ripert, Eddie Schoenfeld, Marcia Stein and Nina Zagat — and to reconnect with gracious host Bill Reilly, with whom we'd shared dinner a few years ago on the Upper West Side at the home of mutual friends whom the three of us agreed were arguably the best (and certainly most passionate) amateur cooks we've ever known!
Entertaining Ideas Catering is at 327 East 117th Street, New York City. (212) 289-1230. Web: www.entertainingideascatering.com
"Thank you so much for the lovely feature (and photos) on your website. I'm sorry we didn't have the chance to meet at the party. I hope our paths will cross again in the near future."
—Diane Gordon, Entertaining Ideas Catering
Andrew talking with Minibar chef Katsuya Fukushima before
discussion at the Cooper-Hewitt last night
Panelists delivered visual presentations with commentary
Literally placing component ingredients on a pedestal
Alinea presents translucent food (here, bacon) vertically
through a rocking
device designed by Martin Kastner
Vertical claws hold food as well as burning oak leaves at
Alinea (see also our 10/21/05 Blog for another view)
Alinea's one-time use paraffin bowl allows delivery of a cold
while the metal spike heats its skewered components
A bowl at Moto disappears in a cloud of steam (see also our
4/8/05 Blog for another view)
Wednesday, June 21, 2006 — Part I: Last night's panel discussion "Presentation: The End of the Plate?" at the Cooper-Hewitt / National Design Museum as part of its
Feeding Desire: Design and the Tools of the Table, 1500–2005 exhibition featured some of America's leading avant-garde chefs, including Grant Achatz of Alinea (Chicago), Homaro Cantu of Moto (Chicago), and Katsuya Fukushima of Minibar at Cafe Atlantico (Washington, DC).
It could be considered an historic event, in that it was apparently the first time these chefs had been featured on a panel together, prompting students from The Culinary Institute of America and even a Baltimore high school to travel hours to be able to attend. The Cooper-Hewitt is to be lauded for providing a forum for a long overdue discussion. And it begs the question: Why hadn't any American culinary institution hosted such a discussion before? America's so-called post-modern chefs have been featured in forums abroad, including the annual Madrid Fusion event held in the home country of the movement's patron chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli (whom we were able to interview for our 2001 book CHEF'S NIGHT OUT, thanks to the help of James Beard Award-winning chef Jose Andres).
Feeding Desire's co-curators are to be commended for pulling together this fascinating exhibit. However, its panelists and audience members would have been much better served if one of the co-curators hadn't also served as moderator of last night's discussion. It was unfortunately apparent that she hadn't dined at any of the panelists' restaurants, so she had no first-hand experience with their unusual styles of cuisine. A professor, she sadly came across as a bit off-putting in addressing the chefs using academic jargon. We know from firsthand experience that a special touch is often needed to coax chefs out of their shyness and/or modesty to speak passionately about their work. But we know it's possible — particularly knowing firsthand how articulate each of these chefs can be individually. The panelists' Q&A with the audience was an improvement, but as long-time lingerers peppering the panelists with individual questions afterward proved, the discussion as a whole was unfortunately less than satisfying.
While detractors have shrugged off the entire avant-garde culinary movement as a passing fad unlikely to make any permanent impact on the world of food, last night's sold-out crowd of culinarians and food lovers alike proved that there is in fact much intense, serious desire to learn more about what these culinary innovators are up to. We need to find a way to expand and improve the discussion, and to give the best of their innovations a chance to find their audiences and hopefully even an ongoing place at the American table.
The Cooper-Hewitt is at 2 East 91st Street, New York City. The "Feeding Desire" exhibit runs through October 29, 2006, and is recommended to culinarians and food lovers alike.
Alinea is at 1723 N. Halsted, Chicago. (312) 867-0110.
Web: www.alinearestaurant.com. You can find the October 21, 2005, Blog on our dinner at Alinea (with photos) here.
Crucial Detail is designer Martin Kastner's Web site, which features photographs of some of his designs used at Alinea. Web: www.crucialdetail.com
Minibar is at Cafe Atlantico at 405 8th Street, NW, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC. (202)
Web: www.cafeatlantico.com/miniBar You can find a link to Todd Kliman's review in the Washington City Paper here.
Moto is at 945 West Fulton Market, Chicago. (312)
491-0058. Web: www.motorestaurant.com. You can find the April 8, 2005, Blog on our dinner at Moto (with photos) here.
Part II (TK) will report on our dinner after the panel with Moto's Homaro Cantu.
Receiving this email after the panel made our day:
"I was lucky to have met you and Karen at 'The End of the Plate' presentation at the Cooper-Hewitt last Tuesday. You might remember me as the [culinary] student who had trouble forming sentences. I get that way when I meet people whose work I admire but you and Karen were very understanding. I can't wait for the new book to come out. I can't think of any other authors whose style has spoken to me in the same way. I really like how you are able to coax great information out of the chefs you interview and put together so much useful information. I do not mean to gush too much. I just want to express my gratitude for your work."
Karen Page with 2006 Count Me In honoree Barbara Stanny
Barbara Stanny, "leading authority on women and money,"
delivering her inspirational acceptance speech
Karen Page with Barbara's publicist, actress Susan Stewart
Caterer and cookbook author Pamela Morgan (l.) & friend
Even last night's dessert
celebrated women entrepreneurs
Who says money doesn't grown on trees? At the end of the
evening, each guest took home a "money tree" centerpiece
"Women own half of all U.S. businesses, but less than one-
quarter of all businesses with sales of $1 million-plus."
--Count Me In
Tuesday, June 20, 2006 — We were honored to be invited to be guests of our fellow author friend Barbara Stanny (who penned the inspirational books Prince Charming Isn't Coming, Secrets of Six-Figure Women, and Overcoming Underearning) when she was honored last night at Gotham Hall in Manhattan by Count Me In, an organization that helps women business owners grow their businesss to $1 million-plus.
It was fun to meet Barbara's coterie of lovely friends (including coach Barbara Biziou), colleagues (including her publicists Barbara
Lombardo Reynolds and Susan Stewart of Monteiro & Company), and family members (including her step-daughter and even Barbara's mother Annette Bloch, who had the line of the night when she joked how pleased she was to sport such a big a bustline as her chest swelled with such pride in her daughter!).
It was also a pleasure to get to say a quick hello to colleagues Karen hadn't seen in more than a decade: 2006 honoree Edie Fraser, founder and president of the Business Women's Network (whom Karen met while serving on the board of The International Alliance for Women), and cosmetics entrepreneur Flori Roberts (who pioneered cosmetics for women of color, and whom Karen met as a founding member of the Capital Circle, which had the mission of mobilizing capital to women business owners). And it was just as fun to bump into frequent flyer Pamela Morgan (whom Karen had run into just last Thursday at the Rosario Acquista Salon), who's off to India (again!) in just a few days.
Barbara admitted in her inspiring acceptance speech last night that she'd never been honored before. Last night was definitely a case of "better late than never" — congratulations again, Barbara!
Barbara Stanny is at www.barbarastanny.com.
Count Me In is at www.count-me-in.org.
Melissa Balmain's poetry reading at the Downeast Arts Center
The best potato salad we've tasted in our lives -- at Babbo
Babbo's special center-cut prosciutto is incredibly rich
Pasta two ways: with shaved bottarga, and with red sauce
Chris Fischer with Andrew Dornenburg at Babbo
Black pasta with fresh peas; pappardelle with morels and thyme
The skate at Babbo was delicious, but our favorite was....
Babbo's bass with grilled figs and lemons and aged balsamic
The steak at Babbo reflects Chris Fischer's love of red meat
Babbo pastry chef Gina DePalma with Andrew Dornenburg
Extraordinary pre-dessert of Moscato d'Asti gelee w/berries
An array of Gina DePalma's extraordinary sorbets at Babbo
Stop the presses: Dip Gina's exquisite Italian doughnuts into
everything from sheep's milk cheese with honey to chocolate
Calling this "strawberry cheesecake" doesn't do it justice
Jeff reaches for one of Gina's petits fours at Babbo
"Melissa Balmain is a frequent contributor to Light. Her poetry has also been published in The Formalist, Measure, and the anthology Kiss and Part, and is featured online at the Light Verse Resource Center. She was a finalist for the 2005 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award. Balmain's nonfiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Details, and The New York Times."
— Quincy Lehr, host, Modern Metrics
Sunday, June 18, 2006 — After our friend Melissa Balmain's hilarious poetry reading at the Downeast Arts Center, we had dinner last night with Cynthia and Jeff Penney at Babbo, which just might have been the best dinner we've ever had there.
We interviewed Babbo's co-owner Joe Bastianich for our forthcoming book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT, as his wine expertise stems from being not only a restaurateur and wine merchant, but a winemaker as well. We thank last night's knowledgeable and charming sommelier Colum Sheehan for his help navigating Babbo's stellar wine list to find a wonderful Bastianich rose for a mere $25/bottle, and for sharing tastes of the following wines:
Ischia Biano "Vigna di Chignole," Pietratorcia 2002 (Campagnia)
Puglia Aglianico "Alciano," Principe di San Martino 2004 (Puglia)
"Vigna Regis," Vecchie Terre di Montefili 2003 (Toscana)
"Veliko Bianco," Movia 2001 (Slovenia)
Carmignano, Villa Artimino 1999 (Toscana)
and, for dessert:
Moscato d'Asti "Scrapona," Marenco 2005
Brachetto d'Acqui, Braida 2005 (Piemonte)
"Muffato della Sala," Castello della Sala 2003 (Umbria)
Our thanks, too, to the exceptionally talented Chris Fischer and pastry chef Gina DePalma for making last night's dinner so unforgettably delicious.
Chris shows himself to be equally adept at pasta, fish, and meat — not to mention vegetables. We were stunned (as it's not the kind of dish we typically rave about) to encounter the single best potato salad we've ever tasted in our lives: a "Primavera Salad" that's a medley of tiny flavor-packed potatoes straight from the Union Square Greenmarket served over Pecorino with a liberal drizzle of olive oil. We were also blown away by everything from the bass with grilled fruits to the porcini-crusted steak. At 26, Chris Fischer is definitely a young talent worth keeping an eye on.
Since our very first taste of her desserts more than a half-dozen years ago, we've counted ourselves among pastry chef Gina DePalma's biggest fans. While we've been happy to see her extraordinary talents recognized these past few years with repeated nominations for the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Pastry Chef Award, her truly stellar desserts last night (including a tart not pictured that could inspire poetry about the combination of cherries and almonds) convinced us she's overdue for a win.
Babbo is at 110 Waverly Place (bet. MacDougal and Sixth Avenue), New York City. (212) 777-0303.
Melissa Balmain told us she doesn't have a Web site, but this one does a good job of singing her well-deserved praises.
"Because I believe in truth in advertising:
The ricotta that I serve with the doughnuts is sheep's milk ricotta that I get from a wonderful cooperative of upstate New York farmers. It is incredible...so much fresher than what I have had to get from Italy (which has to take a plane and pass through Customs to get to me, and too often it is too late).
We were both so happy that you came, and it was so much fun to see you and cook for you."
—Gina DePalma, pastry chef, Babbo
by Melissa Balmain
Everyone seems to be pregnant:
Friends of mine, enemies, too.
Women of fifty seem pregnant;
Even their husbands look due.
Silences? Pauses? So pregnant.
Ditto each hillside I see.
The whole goddamned planet seems pregnant–-
When will it happen to me?
And then the stick turns blue at last.
But where are all the taunts I passed?
The pregnant hills? The pregnant folk?
They've disappeared like so much smoke.
Instead I'm in a barren land
Where everyone is thin and tanned.
They scrutinize my swollen gut
As if it came from Pizza Hut.
Karen Page and Dan Aykroyd at Eat, Drink, Canada!
Unibroue beers, and East Dell and other fine Canadian wines
Nova Scotia Princess scallops marinated in basil oil,
strawberry juice and rhubarb mousse was served with a
2003 Cave Spring Riesling CSV Reserve
Ontario white asparagus and gribiche sauce, young sprouts,
served with two Sauvignon Blancs: a 2004 Peninsula Ridge,
and a 2003 Jackson-Triggs Reserve
Katie's Nova Scotia lobster in a jar with young vegetables,
matched with a 2003 Cave Springs Chardonnay and a 2002
Stratus White from the Niagara Peninsula
Roasted Quebec duck magret, Minus 8 vinegar reduction
(made from ice wine),
and blueberry juice, paired with a 2004
Henry of Pelham Aco Noir, a 2001 Lakeview Cellars Cabernet
Sauvignon, and a 2002 Oculus from Mission Hill
Ontario strawberry salad, cantuci biscuit, ivory chocolate,
and yogurt mousse, served with two different ice wines:
a 2002 Inniskillin Vidal, and a 2002 Cabernet Franc
Consul Pamela Wallin with Bouquet du Vin's Amy Meyer
Philip A.J. Nichols, Pamela Wallin, and Andrew Dornenburg,
with a copy of WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU DRINK
Hearth's Paul Grieco takes a sneak peek at our forthcoming
book WHAT TO DRINK, in which he's featured
Dan Aykroyd with Andrew; Andrew with Marja Samsom
Andrew w/The Modern's Ana Marie Mormando & Thierry Chouquet
Friday, June 16, 2006 — Yesterday evening found us at The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art, celebrating some of Canada's most delicious exports including Nova Scotia scallops, ice wine, and Dan Aykroyd.
The event "Eat, Drink, Canada!" was hosted by Canadian Consul General Pamela Wallin, and featured a dinner showcasing Canadian foodstuffs prepared by chef Normand Laprise and his sous chefs Cheryl Merle Johnson, Lionel Piraux, and Jiro Kudoh (of Montreal's Toque restaurant), with beverages paired by Hearth's Paul Grieco.
We hadn't previously known that Dan Aykroyd was both an active appreciator of, as well as an active investor in, Canadian wine. But after thanking Aykroyd for his fabulous performance at last year's Sarcoma Foundation benefit (which we attended as guests of Addie and Gary Tomei, and were delighted to cap off a wonderful evening by watching him tear up the stage, as reported on our June 7, 2005 Blog), we also learned that we shared a special admiration for the police force as well as a friend in LAPD Chief Bill Bratton.
Our thanks both to Philip (A.J.) Nichols, Canada's Political / Economic Relations and Public Affairs Officer, for including us in this very special event, and to Consul General Pamela Wallin for including us at her very special table with Dan Aykroyd, Hearth's Paul Grieco and his wife Katie Grieco (of Craft), as well as distinguished journalists from both Food Arts and The New York Times (Howard Goldberg).
Consulate General of Canada is at www.canada-ny.org
Hearth is at
403 E. 12th St. at First Ave., New York City. (646) 602-1300. Web: www.restauranthearth.com
Toque! is at 900 place Jean-Paul-Riopelle in Montreal, Canada. Web: www.restaurant-toque.com
Ayun with carrots, and Andrew with Dirty Sugar Cookies
Ayun Halliday's Dirty Sugar Cookies, atop one of our own
Ayun ties her hair into a knot (her "eating hair" style), then accessorizes it with a smart
The combination vegetarian dumplings at Franchia
Ayun's green tea noodles at Franchia
Karen's tofu and roasted kabocha pumpkin in soy sauce
Chewy, chewy mochi for dessert....
....can actually be stretched to extraordinary lengths!
Ayun shows us the paneer she happens to have in her bag
Ayun and Karen holding the sign reading "Hi to Dave Glatt!!"
Ayun inscribes our copy of Dirty Sugar Cookies for us
"I especially enjoyed today's stop on the virtual tour. I loved the
photos and the questions and answers."
—Ayun's mom (aka Betsy Harris)
Wednesday, June 14, 2006 — Welcome to Day 14 of the Virtual Book Tour for Ayun Halliday's DIRTY SUGAR COOKIES, which it is our pleasure to host today on BecomingAChef.com. Ayun is a fellow alum (as is Karen) of Dave's Italian Kitchen in Evanston (and, oh yes, of Northwestern University, too), which puts her in a very special category indeed.
While this was our first in-person meeting, we'd corresponded over the past year or so after we read in Chicago magazine that Ayun had dedicated her last book to Dave Glatt of Dave's Italian Kitchen, whom she'd cited as the best boss she'd ever had. With Karen feeling similarly, a special bond was immediately formed.
Today, we finally got together in the flesh over lunch at the Korean vegetarian restaurant Franchia in Manhattan to learn more about Ayun and her new book (which we promised we'd encourage you to order in copious quantities). Despite Franchia's tasty Scallion Pancake and Combination Dumplings, we'll let you in on the secret that the company was much better than the food, although Ayun seemed to have lucked out with her palatable and al dente Green Tea Noodles, of which she kindly shared a taste. Karen's Tofu and Roasted Kabocha Pumpkin in Sesame Soy Sauce was "pretty good," but Andrew's mushy and bland Jja Jang Noodles are to be avoided at all costs.
By the way, what's a Virtual Book Tour? Ayun had the great idea (so great, in fact, that we'll hope to have our own this coming fall!) of being the "guest" on 30 different Web sites / Blogs during the month of June, to get the word out about Dirty Sugar Cookies. We're happy to host Day 14, and you can read about the 29 other hosts on her Web site here.
Are there Brooklyn restaurants Ayun recommends? She cited the Michelin-starred Saul, which she mentioned is known for its duck confit, as well as Bar Tabac, for its mussels. She mentioned a "delish grilled eggplant thing" she recently enjoyed over lunch at Chance ("a combination of China and France"), as well as the "amazing sushi" at Taro, which is apparently known for its eel.
Then we did a "10 Questions with Ayun Halliday," peppering her with random inquiries that popped into our heads, e.g.
Q1. What's your favorite wine?
A1. I like this cheap Argentinian red wine I buy for $8 from Sterling Wines on Smith Street in Brooklyn.
Q2. What's your current favorite show on or off-Broadway?
A2. "Pig Farm" [the new comedy written by Tony Award winner Greg Kotis, who also penned "Urinetown"], of course [as it's her husband's baby]! It actually has a very important social message.
Q3. What's a favorite recipe you got off the Internet?
A3. I found a recipe for Matar Paneer on this crazy Indian technology Web site.
Q4. What's the secret to a good Matar Paneer?
A4. It's all about having really good Paneer -- and fresh green peas!
Q5. Given the title of your book, do you have a favorite dessert?
A5. Spicy Mexican hot chocolate at Jacques Torres Chocolate on Water Street in Brooklyn!
Q6. What do you love most about living in Brooklyn?
A6. The stoop culture — and having neighbors of a wide cultural, ethnic and financial range. In fact, Heath Ledger and his wife [Michelle Williams] moved in across the street in September. I started playing this game with my friends David [who's "a great, great playwright"] and Chris Lindsey-Abaire: "I saw Heath Ledger..." and we'd take turns filling in the dot-dot-dot. You know, like one of us would email the other "I saw Heath Ledger...hiring the neighborhood kids to shovel snow," and then the other of us would look out the window and see the neighborhood kids shoveling his sidewalk. But then I ruined the game by emailing, "I saw Heath Ledger naked on the Internet"...and the game stopped. But you can run into them at Bar Tabac — and we even Christmas caroled at their home, and they came downstairs with the baby to listen.
Q7. As a travel writer (of No Touch Monkey), if you could get on a plane and go anywhere, where would you go?
A7. Morocco. Or Istanbul! I've never been to either, and it would give me a reason to reread all of Paul Bowles' short stories.
Q8. You dedicated your last book to Dave Glatt [owner of Dave's Italian Kitchen in Evanston, Illinois], "the best boss you ever had." What's a lesson you learned from him?
A8. The lasting gratitude you'll earn if you don't meanly hammer down on people when you have to criticize them!
Q9. What's something that you hope your kids will have a chance to see in their own travels?
A9. I hope they'll have the opportunity of being able to buy a 5-cent clay cup of chai in India, and to throw their clay cups out the window and onto the train tracks, where they dissolve in the rain.
Q10. What else would you like our readers to know?
A10. Some of the reviewers of my previous books [humorous takes on everything from parenting to exotic travel] characterized me in Amazon.com reviews as "culturally insensitive" or mean to my boyfriend. Of course none of it's true!
Thanks for setting the record straight, Ayun! ; )
Ayun Halliday is at www.ayunhalliday.com.
Dirty Sugar Cookies can be purchased at better bookstores everywhere as well as on Amazon.com.
Franchia is at 12 Park Avenue (bet. 34th & 35th Streets), New York City. (212) 213-1001. Web: www.franchia.com
It was enormously sad, and more than a little surreal, to learn from Ayun that a long-time friend whom Dave Glatt had introduced to Karen more than 25 years ago — Kellogg Professor Martin Stoller —- had passed away a year ago, at age 49, from brain cancer.
Just a few years ago, Karen had the pleasure of sitting in on one of Marty's infamously lively communications classes at Northwestern's Graduate School of Management, which earned him the distinction of being the school's top-ranked professor by students for more than a decade.
A belated salute to you, Marty. How can you be gone before the four of us were ever able to get together for that dinner in Evanston (since you hated to fly and certainly weren't coming to Manhattan any time soon)?
"Professor [MARTIN R. STOLLER]'s rapier wit, rich insights, refreshing candor and boundless energy had a profound impact on many. He was one in a million," said former student Paul Earle Jr., who considered Stoller a mentor. "He truly cared deeply about his students and committed himself to them fully."
—The Chicago Tribune (4/6/05)
Our table was filled with dim sum...and then some!
The ever-gracious Steve Eckler at Chinatown Brasserie
Court TV's Rikki Klieman & Steve Collins/Chinatown Brasserie
Dean & DeLuca's impressive cookbook selection and display
The best braised leeks of our lives -- at Jerry's Diner
Jerry's head-on shrimp on a bed of French lentils
Jerry's grilled pizza with portobello mushrooms and ricotta
Karen with Gina DePalma; Andrew with Chris Fischer & Gina
Prune's burrata cheese (l.) and sweetbreads and bacon (r.)
Our table of salad, smashed potatoes, and steak at Prune
The surprise dessert winner: "Chocolate Heels" in warm milk
Tuesday, June 13, 2006 — Today's Blog is a quick catch-up Blog (highlighting visits to Chinatown Brasserie, Jerry's and Prune), as we've been overwhelmingly busy ever since Karen lost two weeks at the end of last month. (Our apologies if you're still waiting for a return email or phone call!)
We were happy to return to Chinatown Brasserie last Friday night with our friend Rikki Klieman and her friend and former Court TV colleague Steve Collins for more delicious dim sum...and then some! It was fun to see the restaurant packed with such an eclectic group of New York diners, who ranged from pre-teens out for dinner with their parents to hip 20- and 30-somethings to "the platinum(-haired) crowd."
Our friend Susan Dey had sent us an email urging us to see the film "An Inconvenient Truth," which we now join her in recommending to you. [The image from the film of a scale with gold bars on one side and the entire planet balanced precariously on the other sadly seems to sum up much of the issue.] Here's how the movie's premise is described on its Web site:
"Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world's scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced....With wit, smarts and hope, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH ultimately brings home [former Vice President Al] Gore's persuasive argument that we can no longer afford to view global warming as a political issue — rather, it is the biggest moral challenges facing our global civilization."
After the film, we picked up a few things at Dean & DeLuca, which has one of the most thoughtfully-selected and well-organized collections of cookbooks in the city. We were happy to see our last book THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF on prominent display. Our thanks to the store's book buyer!
After shopping, we ended up at Jerry's Diner, whose cuisine has recently undergone a startling transformation, thanks to talented chef Eric Korsh (ex-Cafe des Artistes, Patio, and Picholine). Although it was his first day back in the kitchen after his wife (formerly of Prune) gave birth to their daughter Grace a week ago, Eric didn't miss a beat in serving us the single best dish of braised leeks we've ever had in our lives: braised leeks, chopped egg, red wine vinaigrette, and gremolata. We also loved Eric's head-on shrimp with French lentils, which was so smoky we could have sworn it was filled with bacon — but Eric later explained that the incredibly rich, smoky flavor was due solely to the house-smoked tomatoes in the dish. And the delicious grilled pizza, with its thin, crispy crust, is an homage to the great chefs George Germon and Johanne Killeen of Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island (who invented it), and based on a recipe straight from Cucina Simpatica, the chefs' first cookbook. While Jerry's has been a long-time staple for SoHo shoppers in need of a respite or quick bite, Korsh just might be turning it into a more serious dining destination.
Last night, we reunited with Babbo pastry chef Gina DePalma and sous chef Chris Fischer (whom we'd run into at the May 8th James Beard Awards, where Gina was nominated for 2006 Outstanding Pastry Chef) for our first-ever dinner at Prune. Chris's favorites included the sweetbreads, steak, burrata cheese, salad with buttermilk dressing, kale, and the "chocolate heels" dessert, while Gina favored the sweetbreads and head-on shrimp. Andrew counted among his favorites the steak and the salad of "soft lettuces with buttermilk dressing," while Karen loved everything (including our delightful server Cynthia's warmth, professionalism, and sense of humor) with the sole exception of the somewhat lackluster pasta kerchief starter. Cynthia encouraged us to return for Prune's famed weekend brunch, and gave us the insider tip: "Definitely either before 9:50 am or after 2:30 pm" to avoid the wait, since reservations aren't taken.
An Inconvenient Truth is at www.climatecrisis.net.
Chinatown Brasserie is at 380 Lafayette Street, New York City. Phone: (212) 533-7000. Web: www.chinatownbrasserie.com
Dean and DeLuca is at 560 Broadway (at Prince), New York City. (212) 226-6800.
Jerry's Diner is at
101 Prince St. (bet. Greene and Mercer), New York City. (212) 966-9464.
Prune is at
54 E. 1st St. (bet. First and Second Aves.), New York City. (212) 677-6221.
Susan Bulkeley Butler signing copies of her new book
Nina McLemore reading Susan's book in her showroom
Harvard MBA Sally Wood with Susan Bulkeley Butler
Kathy Reilly, Susan Butler, Julie Johnson, and Janet Kraus
Gail Blanke, Karen Page, and Mary Ann Halford; Marilynn Scott
Murphy, Chuck Ortner, and Karen Page at Susan's book party
Susan's freshman year roommate Susan Mabe even showed up!
Salmon tartare a la Ritz; potatoes bravas at Solera
Actress Marla Schaffel ("Jane Eyre") making "anchovy eyes";
Solera maitre d' Ron Miller making sure he's heard her correctly
Solera's crispy-on-the-outside-creamy-on-the-inside croquetas;
Susan Butler, Andrew, Ron Miller and Marla Schaffel at Solera
Campagnola has one of our favorite anchovy-flavored dishes: spiedini;
we also love the restaurant's eggplant rollatini
Wednesday, June 7, 2006 — Last night, we helped our friend Susan Bulkeley Butler celebrate the publication of her new book Become the CEO of You, Inc. at a book party hosted in the showroom of Nina McLemore, owner of an eponymous women's clothing line and a friend of Susan's from The Committee of 200.
It was a pleasure to catch up briefly with several special friends whom we hadn't seen in a long time — not to mention another we'd just been introduced to last night over dinner at Campagnola. Afterward, we joined Susan and actress Marla Schaffel for tapas at our favorite Spanish restaurant around the corner, Solera. Gracious maitre d' Ron Miller asked if there was anything we didn't eat, and Marla admitted (rather colorfully) that she didn't like anchovies, or "their little eyes staring at her from the plate," punctuating the remark with a gesture of her fingers recreating said little eyes. Making sure he'd heard her correctly, Ron repeated the remark, gestures and all.
Susan is off to Texas this morning, on one of the last segments of this leg of her week-plus book promotional tour. We wish her continued success!
Become the CEO of You, Inc. can be found on Amazon.com.
Campagnola is at 1382 First Avenue (at 74th St.), New York City. (212)
Nina McLemore is at 135 E. 55th Street (bet. Third and Lexington Aves.), New York City. Web: www.ninamclemore.com
Solera is at 216 E. 53rd Street (bet. Second and Third Aves.), New York City. (212)
The first wave of dim sum arrives at Chinatown Brasserie
Our crispy vegetable dumplings at Chinatown Brasserie
Beef and mushroom triangles at Chinatown Brasserie
Shrimp and pea dumplings at Chinatown Brasserie
Stefan serves us the delicious (and punchy!) beef salad
The Peking duck, served with housemade pancakes
Chef Tyson Wong Ophaso, with Best Cellars' Joshua Wesson
...who later led us on a tour, which included the koi pond
Returning from our tour to sample an array of desserts
Monday, June 5, 2006 — Come on...With a Chinese restaurant on virtually every corner, does Manhattan honestly need yet another big budget Chinese mega-restaurant? Well, if it's Chinatown Brasserie, we think the answer is yes.
We headed downtown the other night to meet newly-turned-50 (see our May 13th Blog) wine guru Joshua Wesson of Best Cellars for dinner. If the food we tasted on one of the restaurant's first nights in business is any indication, there's a bright new star joining the firmament of noteworthy Chinese restaurants in the city.
Of course, we'd been hearing about Chinatown Brasserie's legendary dim sum chef Joe Ng for the past year or two from our pal Eddie Schoenfeld, who apparently discovered him in Brooklyn and helped coax him to make the move to Manhattan. We started with dim sum — from dumplings to melt-in-your-mouth beef-and-mushroom triangles — that indeed delighted. We selected our wines by the glass from a reasonably priced list (i.e. ~$10/glass) of more than a half-dozen choices each of red and white. Karen enjoyed her glass of Gruner Veltliner, and Andrew his refreshingly off-dry Riesling.
It's always a pleasure to unexpectedly recognize a familiar face on the floor, as we were happy to upon spotting manager Steven Eckler, whose gracious hospitality we've appreciated since his days at Danny Meyer's Eleven Madison Park. While his new home is Lever House, Steven told us he's splitting his time between the two restaurants during CB's opening.
One caveat: The restaurant's lighting is very dim, which is great for ambiance but less helpful when you're 40-somethings (or, in Josh's case, "40-10") with failing eyesight trying to navigate small font on a menu. After we unsuccessfully tried to do so sharing the table's lone candle, we decided to put the selection of our entrees into the restaurant's hands.
Dishes are intended to be shared, which gave us all the opportunity to sample entrees ranging from Peking duck served with housemade pancakes to a beef salad that packed a punch to an addictive orange beef.
Upon learning that the sommelier's name was Damien (Carney), someone (doubtless Mr. Wesson, who had us in stitches all night) quipped, "That's a good omen." [Damien rolled his eyes and wondered aloud whether that was a movie that really needed to be remade (it opens tomorrow), "just as people were finally forgetting the first film."] But it was a good omen indeed: Josh wisely asked Damien for a couple of glasses of fruity red wine to share with our entrees, and Damien made us very happy with the beautiful Shiraz he selected — also reasonably priced at $10/glass.
We were happy to have a chance to congratulate executive chef Tyson
Wong Ophaso (an alum of La Cote Basque) on the restaurant's opening, and he graciously took a few minutes to give us the grand tour himself, walking us through the spotless kitchen downstairs to view the restaurant's enchanting lower-level koi pond. Hard to believe that this beautiful space used to house the Time Cafe — so our congratulations, too, to architect
With the restaurant opening for lunch in a week (not to mention soon adding 100 seats of outdoor dining), we wish chefs Tyson and Joe and their teams the best of luck keeping up the food quality we were happy to experience the other night. Before word gets out and the crowds descend upon Chinatown Brasserie in even greater droves, we definitely plan to return.
Chinatown Brasserie is at 380 Lafayette Street, New York City. Phone: (212) 533-7000. Web: www.chinatownbrasserie.com
Our congratulations to Demetrius, the poet and aspiring chef featured in our March 29th Blog, who this morning at 8 am was scheduled to start a job in the kitchen at James Beard Award-winning chef Jose Andres's restaurant Zaytinya in Washington, DC. We wish Demetrius the best of luck, and much success with his culinary career!
Our thanks again to Kelli Taylor of the Free Minds Book Club for bringing him to our attention.
A peek into the kitchen of Alain Ducasse New York
The abundant bread tray (including bacon bread) at ADNY
Mosaic of selected vegetables, natural dressing
Poached Maine lobster, English pea "a la Francaise"
Roasted squab breast, confit legs, fava beans, golden sage
Truffled brie de Meaux at Alain Ducasse New York
Spring strawberry composition with Tonka bean sorbet
Chef Alain Ducasse and vintner Bernard Magrez at ADNY
"A visionary and creative genius, Bernard Magrez, more than just about any of his French countrymen, has recognized the challenge from other great wines in the world and has pushed all his wineries and estates throughout France and California, and even North Africa and China, to produce wines that compete with the highest levels of quality on the world wine stage. His flagship estate remains the famed Pessac-Leognan Pape-Clement, which is making wines that rival the first growths."
—Robert M. Parker, THE WINE ADVOCATE (12/31/05)
Friday, June 2, 2006 — It was a relief to finally get a decent night's sleep last night, after tossing and turning the previous night before finally giving in to a 3 am discussion of the meal that was keeping us both awake.
"Can you believe that lunch?" one of us whispered to the other. "It was amazing," the other whispered back. "Every detail...." "Those gougeres..." "That salad...a painting..." "The lobster..." "The squab..." "That cheese course, with those wines..." "The strawberries, on that china...."
The lunch that was the subject of our pillow talk (a drawback of being married to your co-author — or a benefit, depending on your point of view) was Wednesday's celebration of the 700th harvest of Chateau Pape Clement with legendary vintner Bernard Magrez, created by legendary chef Alain Ducasse at his restaurant in the Essex House in New York City. It is a lunch that will serve as a reference point for us the rest of our lives, one in which each course gave pause for reflection upon every single decision that had resulted in the greatness of the dish before you, from the selection of each perfect ingredient, to every aspect of their subsequent treatment, composition, and display. Ditto Magrez's equally great wines, each hand-harvested out of respect for the noble matter obtained from its grapes.
In the hands of these two masters and their teams, we experienced food and wine pairings that achieved new heights. Each of the last two courses was served with not one but a pair of wines, each taking the dish into a different direction. The cheese course brought the entire room to near silence: Magrez served a 1998 and a 1961 side by side with Ducasse's truffled brie de Meaux, and the aroma of the 1961 brought the room to a halt as we simultaneously stopped to inhale its perfumes. The first bite of cheese and sips of wine served to shake us all out of our reveries and into the moment with the way the latter picked up the "funk" of the former, creating unique synergies.
Our book CHEF'S NIGHT OUT (which Ducasse had graciously termed "utterly engaging and comprehensive") was born of the fact that America's leading chefs had told us that the most important way for chefs and cooks to educate themselves was not in the classroom but in the dining rooms of great restaurants. That, they argued, is where one can catch a glimpse of the perfection of food and drink, service, and ambiance that it is possible to strive for at any table, no matter how great or humble.
Why bother? As Confucius observed, "The enjoyment of food is one of the things that contributes to the peace and harmony of a society." And Magrez himself harkened back to that idea indirectly when he caught this roomful of New York journalists by surprise by sharing his candid memories as a child of his deep gratitude to the Americans for liberating France, which had subsequently enabled his life's work of carrying on the French winemaking tradition.
The lessons we learned on Wednesday will last a lifetime, and we thank our "professors" Monsieurs Magrez and Ducasse. We also thank event orchestrator Helen Gregory for including us in this stellar experience.
2004 Chateau Fombrauge Blanc - Bordeaux
Bernard Magrez Proprietaire
Mosaic of selected vegetables, natiural dressing
2004 Chateau La Tour Carnet Blanc - Bordeaux
Bernard Magrez Propretaire
Poached Maine lobster, English pea "a la Francaise"
2004 Chateau Pape Clement Blanc - Pessac-Leognan
Bernard Magrez Proprietaire
Roasted squab breast, confit legs, fava beans, golden sage
2002 Magrez Tivoli - Cuvee d'Exception - Medoc
2003 Paciencia - Cuvee d'Exception - Toro - Spain
Bernard Magrez Proprietaire
Truffled brie de Meaux
1998 Chateau Pape Clement Rouge - Pessac-Leognan
Grand Cru Classe de Graves
1961 Chateau Pape Clement Rouge - Pessac-Leognan
Grand Cru Classee de Graves
Bernard Magrez Proprietaire
Spring strawberry composition
granite / jam / sliced, Tonka bean sorbet
2003 Le Sauternes De Ma Fille - Chateau Latrezotte Barsac
Bernard Magrez Proprietaire
Alain Ducasse is at the Essex House, 155 W. 58th Street, New York City. (212) 265-7300. Web: www.alain-ducasse.com
Bernard Magrez is at www.bernard-magrez.com.
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