Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

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"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

The 90-plus person line at Shake Shack yesterday afternoon

Our first Shack Burger and Shack Shake of the season

Friday, March 31, 2006 Our congratulations to Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar (36 E. 4th St. near Bowery) on its rave review today in the Daily News from Pascale Le Draoulec. We had raved about our visit there and chef Chris Daly's food in our Blog last August, but better late than never.

We also loved today's Manhattan User's Guide on "50 Facts That Should Change the World," which you can read here while signing up for a free MUG subscription to our favorite daily e-Newsletter, while you're at it.

And we doubt you'll find a more hilarious review of "Basic Instinct 2" than that written by Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert in today's Chicago Sun-Times which contains the lines, "I cannot recommend the movie, but ... why the hell can't I? Just because it's godawful? What kind of reason is that for staying away from a movie? Godawful and boring, that would be a reason."

Yesterday's near-70-degree temperatures were a siren call: At 2:30 pm, we headed to Madison Square Park to Shake Shack, which reopened for the season on March 21st.

We soon learned that it was a call heard by many, many others, as we sadly counted a line of more than 90 people also pining for Shack Burgers.

We thought we'd be able to shake off our disappointment at our long-time Union Square favorite Republic, by ordering our long-time favorite dishes of #15 (Spicy Duck curry with rice noodles) and #32 (Grilled Pork Chops with Vietnamese crushed rice and soy-ginger glaze). But for the second visit in a row (with our last visit there admittedly more than a year ago), it was a huge disappointment. It didn't start off well: Andrew's water had something floating in it, so our waiter took it away and never replaced it. Yesterday's rice was dry (and either undercooked or old, or both), duck was sparse, and both dishes tasted off. Sadly suspecting the once-reliable restaurant's glory days are over, we don't plan to return.

What's a Shack Burger-craving couple to do? After a stop at Barnes & Noble, we returned to Madison Square Park. This time, the line was "only" one-third the length. Armed with magazines, we decided to stick it out. The 30-person line netted a 30-minute wait to order, then a 15-minute wait until our name was called and our food delivered. In the meantime, the sun had disappeared, and the temperature had dropped dramatically. By the time we were finally handed our Shack Burger and icy cold chocolate shake, we no longer craved them because all we could think about was going home to warm up! It did not turn out to be a peak Shake Shack experience for us, though through no fault of Shake Shack itself.

As we were headed home, it was a nice surprise to bump into Ana Marie Mormando, the always-gracious managing director of Shake Shack's uptown and upscale sibling The Modern (not to mention the other Museum of Modern Art cafes plus Hudson Yards Catering). She looked so genuinely happy with her frozen custard choice that we had to find out what it was: Coffee Bean Brownie.

We know we'll be "back to the Shack" another time in the weeks to come to give it a try. However, we think we'll only stick it out in the future if the line is less than 15 people deep and if we're surer that the sun will stay out during our wait!

Shake Shack is located in Madison Square Park near 23rd Street and Madison Avenue, New York. (212) 889-6600. Web:

Author James McBride with
poet/aspiring chef Demetrius

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 Ever since first reading the poem "I Bang the Poems" by Demetrius (at age 18) a few days ago, it has haunted us:

I Bang the Poems

I bang the poems for all problems in all shapes, sizes and forms
I bang the poems for all weather
Cold, hot and most of the time warm
I bang the poems for the people who are looking for a sunny day
But can only find a storm
I bang the poems for the Federal Bureau of Prisons population
That's steadily growing
I bang the poems for the parents whose children
Are getting snatched off the streets without even knowing
I bang the poems for all instruments—
Tubas, drums and even French horns
I bang the poems for areas in poverty
Where every day guns are drawn
I bang the poems for my friend Dawann
Who died of a gunshot hole in the same spot where his hat was worn
I bang the poems to death from the day I was born

Demetrius, who grew up "in a DC neighborhood where drug dealers work the blocks and violence is a part of daily life," wrote this poem as a participant in the Free Minds Book Club, which was founded by former television producer Kelli Taylorand her colleague Tara Libert with the stated mission of "introducing young inmates to the transformative power of books and creative writing. By mentoring them and connecting them to supportive services throughout their incarceration into reentry, Free Minds inspires these youths to see their potential and achieve new educational and career goals."

Since its founding in 2002, Free Minds has served the more than 50 new male juveniles who are charged and incarcerated as adults at the DC Jail each year. Of all its participants, Demetrius stands out to founder Kelli Taylor, who recently wrote to us (after we were connected by Chef Jeff Henderson):

I met Demetrius in 2003 when he was incarcerated at the DC Jail at the age of 17.  In over three years of running this program, no young inmate has affected me more greatly than Demetrius.  He has a sincerity and earnestness about him that is endearing.  His determination to change his life and to succeed is obvious within just a few minutes of meeting him.

Demetrius had expressed an intense desire to become a chef.  Kelli wrote:

After an unusual meeting between the victim and Demetrius' attorney, in which the victim expressed a desire to see Demetrius pursue his education, his attorney succeeded in having him resentenced and sent to a residential program in Utah, where he was able to get his GED, and also get a job working in the facility's kitchen.

A few weeks ago, Demetrius was accepted by the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Since that time, Kelli Taylor has been working with Demetrius' mom and a friend at the Hoop Dreams Scholarship Foundation to apply for financial aid. While Demetrius is eligible for $6,000 from FAFSA, he is still a substantial ways off from closing the gap. Kelli writes:

Demetrius will be released on April 3rd.  At that point he will be given a plane ticket to either San Francisco, or Washington, DC.  No one (his mother, his attorney, his counselor, or me) wants him to return to his old neighborhood here. Chef Jeff even told me that should be avoided at all costs.  I am just praying that we can find a way to make this happen.

We'll add our own hopes that Demetrius will find a way to fund his culinary education and to realize the promise that Free Minds' co-founder Kelli Taylor sees in him — and, more importantly, that Demetrius's other writings suggest he has come to see in himself:

“Reading and writing have taught me to respect life. Now I love learning and just can't wait to learn more about all different kinds of people, cultures and attitudes.”

Free Minds Book Club is at Co-founder Kelli Taylor can be reached here.

NoHo Star's bacon-wrapped meatloaf with tomato chutney

The delicious Viennese Turkey Schnitzel at NoHo Star

"Friends of Earl" (with Earl Weiner himself!) at NoHo Star

"That is what all poets do: they talk to themselves out loud,
and the world overhears them. But it's horribly lonely
not to hear someone else talk sometimes."

—A line from George Bernard Shaw's "Candida"

Tuesday, March 28, 2006 We were happy to be able to attend the latest "Friends of Earl" gathering last night, featuring a performance of "Candida" hosted by The Acting Company (TAC), the Tony Award-winning not-for-profit organization promoting literacy through theater, as part of its Salon Series, followed by dinner at NoHo Star.

The Earl in question is of course Earl Weiner, Chairman of the Board of The Acting Company, and the informal club is more accurately "Friends of Earl and Gina [Ingoglia]," in recognition of Earl's multi-talented author/illustrator wife.

TAC's annual Salon Series hosts readings of rarely-produced plays performed by guest stars on Monday nights (when Broadway is dark). At informal receptions following previous performances, we've been introduced to the night's stars who've included the fabulous J. Smith-Cameron (wife of writer-director Kenny Lonergan) and "Desperate Housewives" regular Harriet Harris.

Afterward, Earl and Gina gather an invariably lovely group of friends and colleagues, which is how we'd first met the wonderful former President of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) Judy Zuk (several years ago), as well as the BBG's delightful new President Scot Medbury (just last night) as Earl (who must never sleep) also finds the time to chair the BBG's Board as well.

Last night's dinner at NoHo Star, like our other post-theater dinners there, was notable in its "We-never-expected-it-to-be-this-good" goodness. Along with a couple of glasses of delicious and reasonably-priced Spanish wines, we shared Our Special Baked Meatloaf with Benton Bacon and Tomato Chutney ($16.25) and the Viennese Turkey Schnitzel with Potato-Cucumber Salad ($16.75). In a restaurant of this size (large) that was so packed (to the gills) with such a wide-ranging menu (from diner standards to Asian specialties), we typically don't expect the food to be as well-prepared as it clearly was last night, from the moist and flavorful meatloaf to the crisp and not-at-all-greasy schnitzel. Our kudos to the kitchen!

The Acting Company is at

Benton Bacon is available at

Brooklyn Botanic Garden is at

NoHo Star is at 330 Lafayette St. at Bleecker, New York. (212) 925-0070.

"Kathy Wonderlic Kolbe's instincts, insights and intuition
helped the Phoenix Suns spot the potential of a little known person
named Dan Majerle, who became an All-Star."
Dick Schaap, ABC Sports

Sunday, March 26, 2006 The right-hand column of the cover of today's New York Times' "SportsSunday" section features Selena Roberts' column raising the question in its headline "But Can Wonderlic Scramble or Pass?"

Roberts goes on to describe the Wonderlic Personnel Test as "a 30-year-old weapon of draft-pick destruction" or so it seems, in light of Texas' Vince Young, whom it was leaked had recently scored poorly on the Wonderlic test.

But where is the sense in the first place of giving what is essentially an IQ test to an athlete? Why not measure more relevant factors — for example, not what an athlete can do, but what he will do?

In fact, there is such a test out there. It was developed by the daughter of E.F. Wonderlic, who pioneered the field of personnel testing in the 1940s. In the days that Kathy Wonderlic Kolbe (who is, like Karen, a Northwestern University alumna) worked for her father, she noticed that there was often little if any correlation between the highest scorers and the best performers.  It became apparent to Kathy that factors other than IQ were at play in success, and she set out to discover what they were and to create her own test to measure them. 

Kathy developed the theory that instinct is responsible for a person's personal and career successes. Her resulting test, the KCI (Kolbe Conative Index), has been used by numerous organizations to categorize people's instincts and predict their on-the-job performance, with powerful results.

Now, Karen a member of Mensa has never met a Wonderlic-style test she couldn't ace. However, Andrew a long-time undiagnosed dyslexic who has known the frustration of being mislabeled as "unfocused," "lazy," or worse has never met one that he could, making him especially sympathetic to Vince Young's recent plight.

For the two of us, discovering our results on the KCI was a revelation.  We both saw Karen in the profile of the Quick Start/Fact Finder type known for its instinct to innovate and to probe, and Andrew in the type known as Follow Through for its instinct to pattern.  These test results more accurately reflect the respective strengths that each of us has contributed to the success of our books than any IQ test ever could.

Likewise, we expect that the NFL which already invests millions in its draft picks would also benefit greatly from the KCI if it really wanted to learn, for example, which draft picks are natural-born strategists (who see what needs to be done in the moment) vs. go-to guys (who get the job done).

However, Roberts' column quotes Jeff Foster, the executive director of National Football Scouting, as defending the use of the Wonderlic test on the shaky grounds of "consistency."

When his organization or the NFL players' union, for that matter finally comes around to the revolutionary idea of selecting a test on the basis of its relevancy, it may be interested to learn of the one developed by Kathy Wonderlic Kolbe.

Kolbe and the KCI are at

Andrew with Beth and Michael Sofronski at DB Bistro

Steven's Duck Meatball Antipasto at A Voce

Andrew's Quail Saltimbocca with Lentils at A Voce

Karen's Pappardelle with lamb and sheepsmilk ricotta

Eddie's Duck Agnolotti alla Veneziana at A Voce

The Chocolate Gelato with hazelnuts and a cookie at A Voce

Saturday, March 25, 2006 We popped into DB Bistro Moderne last night to drop off a bottle of Channing Daughters wine as a surprise birthday gift for our photographer Michael Sofronski (who created the most luscious images for our forthcoming book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT), whom we learned would be dining there later that night to celebrate his birthday with his wife Beth after our incredible lunch there in January with his dad and stepmom had rave recommendations of DB coming at him from all directions.

However, the surprise was on us to learn that Michael and Beth were already at the restaurant, enjoying a pre-dinner drink. So, we ended up sitting down to join them for a few minutes before heading downtown to meet friends at A Voce (where some of DB's staff mentioned they were planning to head later that night).

[Addendum: Michael reports on his birthday dinner at DB Bistro Moderne: "We started with the lobster salad, and the foie gras special -- divine! Beth had the seared tuna that she said was the best she's ever had. And I had the venison stew that I wished would never end...."]

Our third visit confirmed our status as raving A Voce fans and even yielded a few new favorite dishes. We were so crazy about the bowl of sheepsmilk ricotta cheese served with toasted bread that we were so busy tasting and retasting it that we neglected to capture it with our camera. The Duck Meatball Antipasto with dried cherry mostarda and the Country-Style Tuscan Tripe mentioned in our last Blog on A Voce as recommended to us by other industry professionals lived up to their reputations. Chef Andrew Carmellini's pastas continued to impress even the most jaded palates gathered around our table, who last night included Insatiable author Gael Greene, photographer Steven Richter, restaurant consultant Eddie Schoenfeld and his lovely bejeweled compatriot Elisa Herr.

Even the insatiable among us were so well-sated after our entrees that we honestly couldn't imagine finding room for more than a spoonful of pastry chef April Robinson's irresistible chocolate panna cotta, which we ordered with six spoons. But the other desserts that magically accompanied it proved irresistible as well, especially the deeply chocolatey but not too sweet gelato which was served with a cookie so delicious it deserves its own paragraph.

But you'll have to take our word for it. Unfortunately, it's even more important that we get to the Park right now to run off some of this exceptional week's calories....

P.S. It was a pleasure to run into Charles and Michele Scicolone as we were departing A Voce, and to congratulate Charles (whom we'd interviewed for WHAT TO DRINK) in person on his nomination again this year for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service.

A Voce is at 41 Madison Ave. (on 26th St. bet. Madison and Park), New York. (212) 545-8555. Web site:

DB Bistro Moderne is at 55 W. 44th St. (bet. Fifth and Sixth Aves.), New York. (212) 391-2400. Web:

The delicious wait for Piano Due's gas to turn back on

Robbie's favorite dish at Piano Due: Rucola Con Funghi

The Insalata Con Prosciutto with shaved Parmesan

Karen's trio of pastas receiving a grating of Parmesan

Raviolo D'Imola contain their own sauce of egg yolk

Our tableful of desserts at Piano Due

Karen Page and Robbie Brenner at the Time & Life Building

Robbie Brenner and Andrew Dornenburg at Barnes & Noble

Thursday, March 23, 2006 About today's Guest Blogger: A few months ago, Karen agreed to participate in Northwestern University's NEXT program, through which undergraduates are matched with alumni in their field of interest for one-day externships over spring break.

Yesterday we were joined by the first of two externs Karen agreed to take on this year. Robbie Brenner, who came with experience from Conde Nast Traveler as well as Northwestern's alumni magazine, is scheduled to graduate from the Medill School of Journalism next year. (Magazine editors, take note!)

As authors, it was a challenge to devise an itinerary that would provide a glimpse into our always-changing days. But Karen started out by meeting Robbie at 10 am for one of New York City's best croissants at Chez Laurence (Madison Ave. at 38th St.). Because the externship selection had been the result of a double-blind process (i.e. applicants read only a short profile of their hosts, and hosts read only highlights of applicants' qualifications plus a brief essay), it wasn't until they sat down to talk that Karen realized Robbie was one and the same Medill student who had peppered us with such good questions a year ago when we were guest speakers at his 8 am journalism class taught by Newsweek's Karen Springen.

Robbie then spent a couple of hours reviewing the designed pages we'd just received of our next book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT (Bulfinch Press, Oct. 2006) before the three of us met up at 1:30 pm to have lunch. We hadn't figured out where to take him for lunch until Andrew read Steve Cuozzo's column in The New York Post "Why Eateries Don't Get Due," lamenting the lack of coverage of "New York's best new Italian restaurant" that "almost no one knows about," Piano Due. (We love Cuozzo's passionate rants in the Post, which are raising important questions about the practice of restaurant journalism today.)

So, we decided to ask Robbie Brennerwho is poised to go far in his journalism career to be our first-ever Guest Blogger today, and to provide us with his take on our lunch together at Piano Due, before taking a post-lunch stroll that landed us in front of our publisher's offices at the Time & Life Building and in the cookbook section of Barnes & Noble.

Without further ado, here's Robbie:

For my first-ever blog, on any subject, I have the pleasure of recounting lunch during what began as a one-day internship with an alum of my university and her husband, and concluded as a wonderful afternoon passed in incredible company. The introduction (in Wednesday's blog) is both flattering and prophetic — a few more days on-the-job and it would have been quite necessary to “make way for” me. (My hosts enjoy the convenience of running marathons for a hobby.)

On Wednesday afternoon we went to Piano Due, heeding the battle-cry of Steve Cuozzo, who both lauded the seven-month-old establishment and lashed the media for being celebrity chef-struck, in a New York Post editorial of the same day. Soon after entering the downstairs reception/bar area we were informed, with seemingly infinite grace by the maitre d', Petr, that the gas in the kitchen had inexplicably been turned off and won't we please stay for complimentary wine, prosciutto and parmesan cheese while the problem is solved (and this without his knowing who Karen and Andrew were). Half-a-bottle of San Pellegrino later, we were told the problem would not be solved and would we please return if we would not stay for salad. A few minutes after that, we had decided to stifle our disappointment with the city's best hamburgers from Danny Meyer's Shake Shack (reopened on Tuesday for its season) and were rising to leave when the maitre d' reappeared and we learned that gas had, too, in the kitchen.

One floor above, we stepped into a beautiful cream-colored dining room with two rows of columns and accentuated by red curtains among the white ones. (Andrew and I later agreed a tuxedo-clad pianist would have fit nicely — as it was, Tony Bennett and Old Blue Eyes sufficed.) The dining room was largely empty, it being very nearly 2:30, at which time the restaurant closes between lunch and dinner, and we took a table in the center.

We began with two salads: Rucola Con Funghi (sautéed parmigiano crusted Portobello mushroom, roasted chicken jus and arugula salad) and Insalata Con Prosciutto (bibb lettuce and fiorelle pear with a citrus-mustard dressing, prosciutto de Parma, ricotta salata and Spanish almonds). I personally found the former to be the highlight of the meal, simply a beautifully constructed flavor, but also welcomed a second dish including delicious prosciutto di Parma, this time with Spanish almonds that both Karen and Andrew deemed noteworthy.

Four pasta dishes followed, including Agnolotti al Porcini, Penne al Fungi, Tagliatelle al Granchio and Raviolo D'Imola. Here I believe the Tagliatelle was the unanimous winner, owing to its luscious crabmeat. Karen thought the Penne a bit too al dente and I agreed, though with a slightly less-knowledgeable pronouncement. (I think my words were, “It was kind of hard.”) The Agnolotti brought my introduction to foam, in which the Porcini was awash. Throughout these two courses, service was a bit “clunky,” to use Andrew's apt phrase, owing to the odd hour, he and Karen both agreed.

The maitre d' then returned, and a “pass” on dessert became an order of three at Petr's recommendation, plus a complimentary fourth (following no less than four seconds of dutiful if uninspired protest, I assure you). These were the Gratinato Con Banane, Torta di Cioccolato, Frutta Tropicale and Torta di Limone. All the desserts were artfully presented. The Frutta, with its roasted pineapple and accompanying coconut sorbet, and the Torta with its lemon cream and berries were pleasantly refreshing.

Within the generous amount of knowledge of cooking, dining, reviewing, authoring and publishing Karen and Andrew imparted to me throughout our day together, one piece of wisdom they all-but-voiced comes to mind. Tender as the Maryland crabmeat and delectable as the Spanish almonds may be, it is good company, above all, which makes a dining experience one to remember.

Robbie Brenner (Northwestern University, BSJ '07)

Piano Due is at 151 West 51st St . (bet. 6th and 7th Aves.), New York. (212) 399-9400.

Shake Shack is in the southeast corner of Madison Square Park (enter by 23rd St.), New York. (212) 889-6600. [Maybe we'll make it there next time, Robbie!]

Addendum: Our intern Robbie Brenner reports:

My friend (the very same first-year NYU law student who has been to Moto in Chicago) took me to her favorite restaurant in the Village, a Mediterranean place on W. 4th Street called Extra Virgin.  I thought the service was outstanding and the food very good, as well.  We got there at 4:30 pm and had to wait until 5 pm before the “after brunch” menu was replaced by the dinner menu, which I thought was interesting.  We had bread and French fries served with a gorgonzola cheese dip before 5 pm and only had room for appetizers from the dinner menu, but my friend says many of the entrees are very good, also.

Thanks for the tip, Robbie we'll hope to be able to check out Extra Virgin (259 W. 4th St., bet. Charles and Perry) some time.

Our Brooklyn Lager and glass of Shiraz at Peter Luger

Our waiter serves our porterhouse steaks at Peter Luger

A plate awaiting the creamed spinach at Peter Luger

Birthday boy Adam Robinson contemplating his wish

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 We're catching up on some blogging tonight so we can make way for our first-ever guest blogger tomorrow.

Speaking of birthdays (which only makes sense if you're reading this Blog entry in chronological order, from the bottom up however, it could still be an interesting exercise to read it top down, kind of like that infamous backwards "Seinfeld" episode), the last time we'd been to Peter Luger Steak House the restaurant commonly cited as having the best steak in America was eight years ago to celebrate Karen's birthday. After having just interviewed several of America's leading restaurant critics for our book DINING OUT and hearing time and time again about it having the best steak in America, we were happy to have an occasion to try it.

In more recent interviews for our forthcoming book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT, songs of praise for Peter Luger were sung yet again. And yet again a birthday this time, that of our fellow author friend Adam Robinson, accompanied by his fellow Aries Laura and Samson Day (both born today, March 22) provided us with the opportunity to return last night.

As you approach the restaurant from the sidewalk, within 20 feet of the door you get hit with the aroma of sizzling steak. The smell is so scintillating it may cause you to stop in your tracks, as it did us. It is akin to an incense that raises the alert that you are entering a sacred space. Given that Peter Luger has been a gathering spot for steak worshippers for more than 100 years, in a sense, you are.

Sometimes a restaurant that has been around for this long can feel like a tired relic that has seen better days and is coasting, or like a factory that is just churning people through and spitting them out. However, Peter Luger has the feel of a great restaurant that does a select number of things very, very well and that is more than enough to make guests want to return.

We received friendly greetings at the door and by the bartender not to mention our waiter, who remained supremely patient standing tableside as we changed our order a number of times to make sure we weren't missing anything. We were never made to feel like just one more table to turn, but rather like six guests under the best possible care of a restaurant that was happy to have us there.

So what about the food? The steak is not merely the tenderest, most flavorful we have ever tasted. After the first bite, it becomes an addiction. Each bite begs the next, and the next, until you have eaten more medium-rare porterhouse than you ever thought humanly possible, and have momentarily paused to consider calling it quits when again the next bite is begged...and the next.

The traditional steakhouse sides of home fries, creamed spinach, and smothered onions were all the best of their kind as well, but in the end, just temporary distractions from the main event. We'd sample a delicious bite or two of vegetables before reallocating our calorie counts to our steaks.

Since we were there to celebrate a birthday, we of course ordered dessert. Karen ordered Adam a "birthday boy cheesecake," and was told straight-faced by the waiter, "We don't do anything special here...." Yeah, right....In fact, Peter Luger's may have the single wackiest birthday dessert concoction anywhere: They served a huge bowl of fresh whipped cream (with a lighted candle in it), which they recommended adding to coffee or simply enjoying with dessert. It was fabulous, and quite a show (although we suspect that 14-year-old Samson loved it best of all, straight up and right from the bowl with a spoon). Peter Luger's cheesecake was a standout, in the unlikely event you find yourself with room for a bite of something sweet.

So enough about America's greatest steak being out there in Brooklyn. Peter Luger Steak House is a great restaurant, period. If you're a passionate carnivore and your own birthday isn't coming up soon enough, grab a friend whose is and go!

Peter Luger Steak House is at 178 Broadway in Brooklyn. (718) 387-7400. Web:

Kumamoto oysters adorned with sauces at Nobu 57

Digging into our platter of assorted appetizers at Nobu 57

Arctic char in a pool of cilantro sauce at Nobu 57

Chefs expediting orders at the open window at Nobu 57

The seared raw Kobe beef at Nobu 57

Pineapple and vanilla-infused rice wine at Nobu 57

There are few invitations as flattering as one to join beloved friends for dinner at one of their favorite "we-only-eat-here-with-each-other" restaurants. It's like being let in to a secret club, to taste with them the dishes they've long raved about and to experience the restaurant through their eyes and palates.

It's all the more exciting when your friends are LAPD Chief Bill Bratton and his Court TV anchor wife Rikki Klieman and when that "secret club" is Nobu 57.

We paid our first-ever visit together on Saturday night, and were smart enough to just sit back and let Rikki order. We were not disappointed. Nobu Matsuhisa, who established himself as America's first Japanese uber-chef, is maintaining the highest quality and teaching his staff well how products from fish to soy beans should be served.

Now, edamame has become a staple at Japanese restaurants everywhere, but somehow Nobu raises them above the fray with a dusting of flaky salt that helped them pair beautifully with our Champagne. A platter of Kumamoto oysters (Andrew's favorites) was elevated with a variety of sauces that were both beautiful and delicious complements. Seared arctic char on a plate of cilantro sauce was perfectly balanced, with the cilantro helping to cut the natural richness of the fish.

We ended by sampling two different presentations of Kobe beef that highlighted the extraordinary richness of the beef without getting in the way of its flavor. Thus, the kitchen's purist philosophy that celebrates its fish is also applied to its meat to great effect.

We passed on dessert, but loved getting to try the rice wine infused with pineapple and vanilla that was sent to us. It was as refreshing to the palate as finishing with an ice-cold sorbet.

While this had been our first visit to Nobu 57, there was much to make us feel right at home. Our waiter Ryan, who had served our friends before, was warmly welcoming. And in the middle of dinner, we spied a familiar face just across the aisle: chef Alfred Portale was actually taking a night off from the kitchen of Gotham Bar & Grill, and stopped by our table to say hello. We were happy to be able to pass along Solera restaurant's raves about its staff's holiday dinner at Gotham.

That wasn't the only familiar face we noticed: At another point, Karen spotted a guy with a baseball cap tipped low over his face walking through the restaurant with a large group headed toward Nobu 57's private room.  When she asked if it was Bruce Willis, Nobu 57 partner Richie Notar told us that Willis was in for dinner to celebrate his 51st birthday, and joked that he'd go tell him, "Hey, Bruce there's a cop out here who wants to talk to you...."  But we soon learned he wasn't joking. Moments later, a laughing Willis saw that the "cop" in question was in fact Los Angeles's top cop, and he stopped by our table to give a hug to the Chief and a kiss to Rikki. He couldn't have been nicer when introduced to us, and even invited all four of us to his birthday party later that night in a private room at Gaslight (14th St. & Ninth Ave.).

At his party, we loved getting to say hello to one-of-the-world's-greatest-(and-nicest)-chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten (whom we've interviewed for virtually all of our books) and to chat some more with Nobu 57's charming Richie Notar although we admittedly didn't last long, as we'd been up since 5 am and our aching post-Brooklyn Half-Marathon leg cramps and overall dehydration unfortunately chose that hour to kick in. On our way out (some time after 2 am), we saw Joachim Phoenix (who we thought gave an outstanding performance in "Walk the Line," which we'd just seen the other night) and Eva Mendes on their way in. We were so tired that even that couldn't convince us we weren't headed in the exact right direction....

Nobu 57 is at 40 West 57th St. (bet. Fifth and Sixth Aves.), New York. (212) 757-3000.

Andrew Carmellini's Spaghetti alla Chitarra at A Voce

Andrew Carmellini's Grandmother's Meat Ravioli at A Voce

Duck Agnolotti alla Veneziana with foie gras and aceto

April Robinson's "victorious" rhubarb-yogurt sorbetti

Stuart checks out A Voce's Amaro (Italian bitters) options

There are restaurants that we are sometimes afraid to return to because our last meal there had been so good, we fear the next couldn't possibly live up to our memory. After our second dinner there on Friday, March 17th, we discovered those fears to be unfounded at A Voce, where we'd had an infamously (as our Blog of the restaurant was mentioned by both Manhattan User's Guide and "kink-free" dinner on Friday, March 10th.

As we were planning to run the Brooklyn Half-Marathon the next morning, we returned to A Voce with our mountain-hiking friends from Rancho La Puerta Stuart and Julia with carbo-loading in mind. Each of us ordered a different pasta, and passed plates restaurant critic-style (i.e. clockwise, keep your fork, pass your knife) so we could sample all four. The two of us raved about A Voce's pastas before catching ourselves realizing that with a last name like "D'Amico," Julia might have tasted her fair share of pasta (she had) and would have her own expert opinion (she did). Happily, she concurred.

We were all won over by pastas that included the new menu item Spaghetti alla Chitarra, which was adorned with a lamb Bolognese, sheepsmilk ricotta, and mint. The pasta is said to be cut on a stringed instrument not unlike a guitar and to require an experienced hand. Between the lamb and the sheepsmilk cheese, one might guess this dish to be gamey, but it was simply layers upon layers of delicious richness.

Another standout which we couldn't believe we didn't get to taste on our first visit, and refused to miss on our second was chef Andrew Carmellini's Grandmother's Meat Ravioli with tomato and parmegiano. Naming a dish after one's grandmother puts family honor on the line, and the Carmellini clan is safe on this count. The pasta is fantastic. With a light, tangy ragout of tomato and a solid shaving of Parmesan, this may be one of the single best dishes of comfort food in New York City. If Grandma was this good of a cook, we heartily encourage Chef Carmellini to introduce us to even more of her dishes.

We already have another reservation on the books at A Voce. After all, we still haven't tried the Duck Meatball Antipasto that the two wine professionals next to us were raving about during our first visit. And when we ran into Gilt maitre d' Tobie Cancino at A Voce, she highly recommended the Country-Style Tuscan Tripe, which we haven't tried, either. While our Friday night carbo-loading served us well the next morning in completing our 13.1-mile race in Brooklyn, we think we're going to change our approach and keep running in Central Park every day in anticipation of our visitare nuemero 3.

A Voce is at 41 Madison Ave. (at 26th Street), New York. (212) 545-8555. Web site:

Andrew at the Guggenheim behind David Smith's "Australia"

Berliner Kindl Weisse, without -- and with -- raspberry syrup

Pork Schnitzel, with Apple Pancake at right (background)

Berliner Kindl Weisse in its traditional wide, flat glass

Barnes & Noble trumpets Laura Day's appearance last night

"I never intend a day to pass without asserting my identity;
my work records my existence."

Sculptor David Smith (1953)

Thursday, March 16, 2006 Andrew and Karen Take the Afternoon (and Night) Off: We're not sure we've ever had a good answer to the question of why we blog, but one was suggested yesterday while visiting the current Centennial exhibition of sculptor David Smith at the Guggenheim Museum (through May 14th). A display of Smith's drawings carried the curatorial commentary:

From the very beginning of his career as an artist, drawing was a daily activity for Smith. His sculptural process was slow and difficult, and Smith remarked that drawing allowed him to maintain his free flow of artistic thought while he labored on his complex metal constructions....

Writing books is also a long and laborious process that is a retroactively constructed accumulation of experiences, observations, hypotheses, conversations, reflections, syntheses, and explanations. Blogging allows us to crystallize some of the ideas that are brought to mind by our daily activities although we admittedly attempt to reserve the biggest and best for further exploration in our books. Blogging also allows us to record contemporary cuisine in word and image to be accessed by readers (frequently professional chefs) across the country and around the world. Many have told us that they have never had the pleasure of visiting New York City, but that they have been inspired by the flavor combinations and dish presentations we've shared on this site.

Despite being in the process of getting our next tome on food and beverage pairing ready for the printer, we're still learning more about the subject every day. Yesterday, before visiting the Guggenheim, we impulsively popped in for our first-ever lunch at Heidelberg. The restaurant, whose motto is "Manhattan's Favorite Beer Garden in the Heart of Yorkville," has seemingly been a fixture in this traditional German neighborhood forever.

With good reason, we suspect. We both enjoyed our lunch specials of perfectly-fried-and-not-at-all-greasy Pork Schnitzel with home fries and red cabbage ($10.95) and the Apple Pancake ("worth the wait" the menu had promised, correctly; $9.95). Both went beautifully with the glass of beer we shared: a lemony Berliner Kindl Weisse ($6.95). The bartender was kind enough to serve us half straight up and the other half with a traditional shot of raspberry syrup. The latter was so delicious, we shared another this one served in the customary wide, flat glass.

We ended the day with our bestselling author friend Laura Day author of the New York Times bestseller Practical Intuition, The Circle, and the forthcoming Welcome to Your Crisis (which will be featured on "Good Morning America" on April 28th) sharing a glass of wine at the bar at Indochine after her packed-with-people-sitting in-the-aisles talk on accessing intuition at Barnes & Noble on Astor Place. Who knew it was possible to get a lovely glass of Riesling at Indochine for a bargain $7? No wonder the restaurant was so crowded that our three seats at the bar were the only ones available!

Heidelberg is at 1648 2nd Ave. (bet. 86th & 85th Streets), New York. (212) 628-2332. Web:

Indochine is at 430 Lafayette St. (bet. 4th St. & Astor Pl.), New York. (212) 505-5111.

Welcome to Your Crisis is at

Fried zucchini and eggplant with dipping sauce at En Plo

Passing appetizers to share tastes at En Plo

Serving up grilled sardines at En Plo

En Plo's dessert platter with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit

Our fourth book Chef's Night Out chronicles where 100 leading chefs across the country like to eat out on their nights off. After visiting an Upper West Side restaurant with new friends we'd just met Elka and Ron Altbach we momentarily contemplated writing another on restaurants where the food is terrific, even when the chef happens to be out!

This was definitely the case at En Plo, a seafood-themed Greek restaurant where the chef's attractive blonde motorcycle-racing partner Katerina Kampouroglou was in the kitchen doing the cooking the other Friday night when we were there. (If she races half as well as she cooks, just leave the track if you see her coming.)

Katerina had a great touch with all the appetizers we sampled from the fried zucchini and eggplant to the beautifully grilled sardines. The restaurant features a display of whole fresh fish on ice, and after some discussion we simply went with Katrina's recommendations. Two different fish arrived at our table for the four of us to share, which our waiter filleted and served so effortlessly it was as though he'd been raised in a fishing village in Greece. A bottle of lean and steely Greek white wine was an ideal accompaniment. The waiters knew the list well, so you shouldn't be afraid to ask for help with these often unfamiliar, and underappreciated, wines.

As Elka and Ron are regulars at En Plo, after dinner we were sent a platter of the restaurant's desserts to taste. The standout was tart, homemade Greek yogurt drizzled with honey, which had a deliciously different consistency from other Mediterranean yogurts we've sampled. But the appetizers were the highpoint of the meal for us, and we'd happily return just to sample them if we again found ourselves in the neighborhood.

Especially since neither of us rides a motorcycle, we wish we had a restaurant as cozy and delicious as En Plo nearby for the Friday nights we don't feel like leaving our Murray Hill neighborhood.

En Plo is at 103 W. 77th Street at Columbus Ave., New York. (212) 579-7777. Web:

The melt-in-your-mouth cheese straws we enjoyed at the
bar at Le Bernardin while waiting for our friends to arrive

Pan-roasted monkfish with confit peppers, fiery "patatas
bravas," and chorizo-Albarino emulsion at Le Bernardin

Steamed striped bass with mole sauce at Le Bernardin

Our pre-dessert at Le Bernardin served in a brown eggshell

Post-dessert at Le Bernardin: candies and petits fours

We would never be able to conduct the research we do on food and wine without the generosity of wonderful friends who are kind enough to invite us from time to time to join them to share an extraordinary bottle of wine and/or a spectacular dinner.

Thus were we fortunate enough to visit the New York Times four-star restaurant Le Bernardin a few weeks ago. It was our first taste of chef Eric Ripert's haute cuisine and pastry chef Michael Laiskonis's desserts in a number of years.

It was fascinating to taste how Ripert's cuisine is evolving. Over the past several months, we'd tasted and loved his efforts at Barca 18, the Spanish tapas restaurant where he is the consulting chef and partner (with restaurateur Steve Hansen). We were surprised to find those flavors making their way onto Ripert's traditionally French menu at Le Bernardin through dishes such as Monkfish with Patatas Bravas. As is the case at classic French restaurants, the sauces showcased the brilliant technique of the kitchen. It was more than a bit of a surprise that those sauces included a refined yet earthy Mexican mole, which was served with our bass course.

We unfortunately don't have time to wax rhapsodic on the intricacies of every dish. But those hosanas would extend to Laiskonis's desserts, which we've enjoyed since his days at Tribute in Farmington Hills, Michigan. We were spoiled with two pre-desserts before heading into dessert: Our first of the two featured plums so flavorful we forgot it was February. The next was one of the best desserts (pre- or otherwise) we have ever had: an egg shell filled with layers of milk chocolate, caramel foam, maple syrup, and Maldon sea salt. Any single layer could have been a delicious dessert on its own, but together on the spoon with a pop from the salt, we found this an endlessly fascinating combination of flavors and textures. If this is not already his signature dessert, it could be.

Le Bernardin is at 155 W. 51st St. (bet. Sixth & Seventh Aves.), New York. (212) 554-1515. Web:

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 We loved Charlie Suisman's intelligent and thoughtful review of Gael Greene's forthcoming book INSATIABLE, which you can read in today's Manhattan User's Guide. It begins:

There is only one writer we know who could compose this sentence: "For me the two greatest discoveries of the twentieth century were the Cuisinart and the clitoris."

The piece goes on to give Greene (as well as Ruth Reichl) her due for transforming the world of food:

No writers have done more to fan the foodie flames in the past several decades than Greene and Ruth Reichl. It's not overstating the case to say that their knowledge of, and passion for, food, and their chronicles of the city's dining scene, helped transform the way this country eats.

There's also a wonderful Q&A between's Irene Sax and Gael Greene here. It begins:

Foodies are buzzing about INSATIABLE, a memoir by New York magazine's longtime restaurant reviewer, Gael Greene. A lot of the chatter is about her love life (She slept with Elvis! And plenty of others!), the subject that justifies the book's subtitle: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess.

If you haven't pre-ordered your copy of INSATIABLE yet, what are you waiting for? (One of us wanted to add "Elvis's second coming?" here, but the other wouldn't allow it.)

INSATIABLE can be ordered here.

Andrew Dornenburg and chef Andrew Carmellini at A Voce

La Quercia Prosciutto (from not Italy but Iowa) at A Voce

A Voce's Carne Cruda with Walnuts, Celery and Truffles

Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage and Amaretti at A Voce

Lamb Shank Tortellini with Escarole, Lemon and Piave

Chocolate Panna Cotta with Amarena Cherries at A Voce

Saturday, March 11, 2006 Before yesterday, we hadn't tasted chef Andrew Carmellini's cooking in 10 months, when we'd celebrated the joint birthdays of Karen and our friend Rikki Klieman over dinner at Cafe Boulud. Last night's dinner was well worth the wait.

Restaurants typically have a shake-out period (of days, weeks, even months) during which they work out the kinks, especially with regard to the food and service. What made last night's experience at A Voce so amazing is that on its third official night in business, we found it to be kink-free.

This could be due to the fact that the team is already a well-oiled machine, with so many of them including maitre d' Dante Camara and sommelier Olivier Flosse having worked together previously at Cafe Boulud. Instead of uncertainty or overwhelm (both common during the opening weeks at other restaurants), the staff radiates warmth and hospitality, with waiters showing their personalities and runners offering smiles along with their bread plate refills.

Carmellini is having fun in the kitchen. The menu features everything from his "Grandmother's Meat Ravioli" to La Quercia Prosciutto that is imported from a friend living in that well-known prosciutto heaven beginning with an "I": Yes, Iowa.

Having been blown away just last week over a stellar dinner at The Modern featuring one of the best classic versions of steak tartare we've ever tasted, we were not prepared to love Carmellini's version called Carne Cruda, with walnuts, celery and truffles accenting Wagu beef even more.

We've long believed that Carmellini makes some of the best pasta you can find in New York City. Last night as we dug our forks into our respective pasta dishes Karen's Pumpkin Ravioli with sage, amaretti and mostarda de Cremona, and Andrew's Lamb Shank Tortellini with escarole, lemon, and piave cheese each of us insisted with confidence that we had the better pasta dish. Our fabulously passionate waiter Joseph (a former cook and Jean Georges waiter with Sicilian blood) politely sided with Andrew based on his own tasting experience. Once we traded plates, Karen finally conceded. (It may have been the lemon that provided the "je ne sais quoi" that put the dish over the top.) Still, since we share everything, these are the kind of arguments neither of us minds losing.

There were no arguments that pastry chef April Robinson is off to a great start with her impossibly creamy (and dreamy) chocolate panna cotta, which we both loved.

With A Voce within walking distance of our home (albeit a long-ish walk), we warned Dante and MARC USA COO Chris Palikuca (an alum of Restaurant Daniel) on our way out that they'd be seeing us again very soon. After a 10-month hiatus from Carmellini's cuisine, we've got a lot to catch up on.

A Voce is at 41 Madison Ave. (at 26th Street), New York. (212) 545-8555. Web site:

Marinated Quail w/Apple-Duck Sausage at Telepan ($13.50)

Telepan's Slow Cooked Pork Pacchetti with Lardo ($16)

When we found ourselves in the neighborhood on Thursday, we'd popped into Telepan for our first-ever visit to taste a few appetizers at the bar. Readers of this Blog will recognize this as something we call a "speed date" to determine whether a restaurant seems worth returning to for a sit-down meal.

But our date with Telepan left us hot...and cold:

Hot: We received a delightfully warm welcome from ace manager Frank (ex-Artisanal and Verbena), whom we were surprised and happy to see again, and a very cordial introduction to chef Bill Telepan, who seemed like a really nice guy.
Cold: In sad contrast with Telepan's Web site's stated mission of offering "a warm sense of hospitality, " we were disappointed to find the staff behind the bar unengaging and unenthusiastic.

Hot: We went crazy for the fragrant and spicy glass of 2004 "Pape Star" we tasted, which was a fascinating blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre from Kunin in Santa Ynez.
Cold: The aromatic 2004 Austrian Gruner Veltliner wasn't nearly as impressive.

Hot: We loved the Marinated Quail with Apple-Duck Sausage, Chicories, Apple Balsamic and Walnuts ($13.50), which was a delicious medley of some of our favorite flavors.
Cold: Despite our passion for the component ingredients of the Slow Cooked Pork Pacchetti with Ricotta Sauce, Lardo and Basil, the dish itself was sadly pretty flat and uninteresting and, as uber-restaurateur Danny Meyer might put it, "lacking hospitality" in its $16 price tag.

As the restaurant filled around us with a rush of customers while we were only halfway through our dishes, the staff behind the bar made it clear they needed our seats for other diners. (So much for the rest of the restaurant's mission of offering customers "a fine meal in a comfortable and relaxed setting.")

The three hopeful diners hovering behind our seats were so heavily perfumed with marijuana that they doubtless had a pretty serious case of the munchies at that point. We expect their "speed date" with Telepan went better than ours.

Telepan is at 72 West 69th St. (bet. Columbus and CPW), New York. (212) 580-4300. Web site:

Russ and Daughters Smoked Sable at Bette, next to the
evening's program, pre-adorned with a "wine ring" imprint!

At left: Katz's Deli Pastrami and Saucisson Cacciatorini
At right: Terrine of Foie Gras, at Bette's wine tasting

At right: Beef Cheeks Braised in Red Wine with Small
Carrots; At left: Borlotti Bean Ragout

Wednesday, March 8, 2006 Our chapeaus off to Bette, for hosting one of the most interesting wine dinners we've ever attended last night. Bette and wine director Byron Bates welcomed five of the top natural winemakers from France including Rene and Agnes Mosse, Olivier Cousin, Herve and Isabelle illemade (Domaine du Moulin), Cristine and Joel Menard (Domaine des Sablonnetes), and Laurent Tibes (Clos des Camuzeilles) to showcase the fruits of their labor:

Terroir-driven and passion-steered, these artisans' creations represent the best of the building trend in the better wine bars of Paris, where savvy patrons seek out the most pure and expressive wines on the market today. On this evening, they will take Manhattan!

And indeed they did.

Bette offered up daring food and wine pairings that worked so beautifully that it was a matter of great luck or passionate talent. (We suspect both.) Smoked sable from New York City's Russ and Daughters was paired with a 2004 Le Rouchefer Anjou (made of Chenin Blanc). Katz's Deli Pastrami was a +2 pairing (our highest compliment) with the Rose d'un Jour (which had a hint of residual sugar) that accompanied it. The terrine of foie gras was equally delicious with the 2004 Rose d'Anjou Rene and Agnes Mosse, which had its own hint of residual sugar. The 2001 Fitou La Grangette Clos des Camuzeilles was the perfect foil for beef cheeks that had been braised in red wine a dish creatively presented as kind of a deconstructed cassoulet.

It was also impressive how many busy industry types the tasting pulled in, including Andrew's former colleague from Rosemarie's John Coyle (now of T. Edward Wines) and Bill Brasile, sous chef of the newly-opened Morimoto down the block. Bill told us that he is featured in our book DINING OUT on page 5; when he was cooking at Le Cirque, our photographer captured him stirring a gigantic stockpot, which is featured in the book's restaurant timeline next to "1765: The first restaurant opens its doors in Paris, selling restorative broths." (We thank Bill belatedly for his having modeled for our book!) Their attendance is a tribute to this event's uniqueness and timeliness, which is a credit to everyone at Bette.

Bette is at 461 W. 23rd St. (bet. Ninth & Tenth Aves.), New York. (212) 366-0404. Web:

Our delectable Sunday brunch at The Emerson at Woodstock

Tuesday, March 7, 2006 After delivering the graduation speech at The Culinary Institute of America on Friday, we spent the weekend at the home of a friend in Woodstock which allowed us to experience the cuisine of the area.

One unexpected culinary highlight of our weekend was our delectable brunch at The Emerson at Woodstock. Having dined there on Friday night, we were impressed enough to want to return but we never expected the delightful experience that ensued on Sunday afternoon. After all, brunch can too often be a bunch of grumpy, overworked restaurant staffers half-heartedly serving a bunch of grumpy, overtired customers.

But when we walked into The Emerson at 1:30 pm, we were greeted with a smile. "You're back!" said Marcy, the host who we assumed had seen our name in the reservation book and remembered it from Friday night. "Unfortunately, it's going to be a few minutes until we've got a table for you."

"No problem," we assured her. "You didn't make a reservation, did you?" Marcy asked. "We did for 1:30 pm," we replied. "But wait you didn't remember us by our faces just now, did you?" Marcy confirmed that yes, she'd remembered seeing us in on Friday night. Very impressive.

A very handsome young man bearing a striking resemblance to Oscar-winning actor Adrian Brody led us to our table. His manner was so warm that Karen couldn't help but ask him how many of his customers commented on the resemblance. "More than a few!" Luciano laughed.

We ended up ordering the Woodstock Breakfast -- two eggs any style (which Andrew ordered over easy, but which came out so perfectly poached he didn't complain), RSK Farm local potatoes, and housemade sausage ($9) as well as a short stack of the Mountain Berry Buttermilk Pancakes ($6) and a side of Applewood smoked bacon ($3). Everything was absolutely delicious, and aside from the eggs the kitchen got every detail right: The real maple syrup was warm. The butter was soft and spreadable. The pancakes featured berries both inside the pancakes themselves as well as more fresh berries on top, resulting in delicious layers of berry flavors in every bite.

Andrew never got the iced tea he'd ordered, but as he was so busy enjoying the local ice water, he never bothered to remind anyone either. And as our server was so lovely (we later learned she'd apparently caught the eye of Luciano as well) and our overall experience so pleasurable, we honestly didn't care.

In fact, we asked to speak with the chef so we could share our compliments. As chef Jessica Winchell had earned a day off on Sunday, we met her modestly self-effacing and very talented sous chef Lisa Winters. Winters admitted that the restaurant had been slammed with 120 guests that day, so it was even more impressive that they managed to serve such a well-crafted brunch in such high spirits.

Some brunch stereotypes endure because they're true: At tables on either side of us, one grumpy brunch guest had asked his late-arriving date, "What took you so long??" Another grumpy late arrival said to his brunchmates already pounding coffee at their table, "Hey weren't you guys supposed to pick me up??" as they grumpily shrugged off his accusation.

But no matter: Any weekend grumpiness is bound to melt away like soft butter on a hot Mountain Berry pancake over brunch in the charming setting and warm company of the staff at The Emerson at Woodstock.

The Emerson at Woodstock is at the corner of Rt. 212 and Rt. 375 in Woodstock, New York. (845) 679-7500. The Emerson is open for brunch Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm. Web site:

Chicken Satay w/ Crispy Asian Slaw & Thai Peanut Sauce

Addendum: As we'd mentioned, our dinner at The Emerson at Woodstock on Friday night was impressive enough to warrant our return on Sunday. We had enjoyed the wacky vertical presentation of the Chicken Satay with crispy Asian slaw and Thai peanut sauce ($9), as well as the "munificent Caesar Salad with extra-long croutons and white anchovies" ($10). It's hard to get excited about Caesar Salad in 2006, but chef Jessica Winchell (a talented alumna of The Cuilnary Institute of America, who opened this restaurant with consulting chef Michel Nischan) created one that we're looking forward to ordering again. We were nuts for the local pork, which Winchell served as Apple Butter Glazed Double-Cut Berkshire Pork Chop with scalloped potatoes ($23). It's rare to find pork this moist and flavorful, which is a credit to both Berkshire's pork and Winchell's cooking. Again, it can be hard to get excited about chicken these days, but Winchell's Voodoo Barbecued Baby Chicken with cilantro mashed potatoes and jicama salad ($18) was also a standout.

The Emerson at Woodstock is at the corner of Rt. 212 and Rt. 375 in Woodstock, New York. (845) 679-7500. The Emerson is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday starting at 5:30 pm. Web site:

Andrew Dornenburg, Barry, and Karen Page at the CIA

Wright asks us to sign his copy of CULINARY ARTISTRY --
which was a gift to him from his classmates -- at the CIA

Monday, March 6, 2006 Having been away for the better part of a week, we've got lots of blogging (not to mention email!) to catch up on now that we're finally back in Manhattan.

To get the ball rolling, we're happy to share a couple of photos of our delightful encounters with students during our visit to The Culinary Institute of America, where we delivered the commencement address on Friday morning. (You can find more photos here.)

Barry, whom we had the pleasure of meeting while he was working at the graduation luncheon on Friday, ended up making our day. After he confessed that he'd never had a book autographed to him before, Karen asked, "You mean you've never met an author before?" Barry explained, "No, I mean I've never cared about any books enough to want to ask the author to autograph them for me before yours!"

The Culinary Institute of America is at

Click here to go to our February 2006 Blog
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culinary artistry, dining out, chef's night out, becoming a chef

Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, accomplished authors, respected food authorities, industry leaders: For your exceptional talent and vision in writing some of the foodservice industry's most well-respected books...For the commitment to excellence that led to a number of honors for your books...And in testimony to your dedication to the foodservice and hospitality industry...I hereby proclaim you ambassadors of The Culinary Institute of America and present each of you with our corporate gold medal and an ambassador's certificate."
Dr. Tim Ryan, President, The Culinary Institute
of America (3/3/06)

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