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

Left: Michael Gelb decants a 1989 Chateau Clinet
Right: Happy couple Deborah Domanski and Michael Gelb

Tuesday, May 31, 2005 Last night, we tasted the greatest red Bordeaux of our lives: a 1989 Chateau Pichon-Baron (Paulliac). It was one of those experiences, like our March visit to The Inn at Little Washington (recounted in our e-Newsletter here), that is notable not only for its extraordinary charateristics its smoothness, its velvet-like texture, its perfect balance but also for the extraordinary absence of even a single identifiable flaw.

To this monumental experience we owe a debt of gratitude to fellow author and dear friend Michael Gelb, who pulled not one or two but three gems from his extraordinary wine cellar to share with us last night. Over our dinner of Lamb (from Florence Meat Market in Greenwich Village) stuffed with Italian Olive Breadcrumbs, Garlic and Braised Leeks, served with Wild Mushrooms and Jus, we were also treated to a 1989 Chateau Clinet, which might have taken the "greatest red Bordeaux of our lives" distinction if it hadn't been side-by-side with the Chateau Pichon-Baron! In fact, Michael and his dazzling date Deborah Domanski, an extraordinarily talented mezzo-soprano who had us in gales of laughter after hearing her operatic version of "Happy Birthday," actually both preferred the Chateau Clinet.

Rounding out our cheese course of Irish Cheddar and English Stilton, and kicking off our dessert course of Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes with Fresh Fruit and Hand-Whipped Cream, was an incredible 1992 Taylor-Fladgate Vintage Port. It was hands-down the best vintage port either of us had ever tasted.

No small surprise that some note-checking this morning revealed that the 1989 Chateau Pichon-Baron had been named Wine Spectator's #1 wine of the year, the 1989 Chateux Clinet had been rated nearly perfect by Robert Parker, and the port had received a perfect 100-point score from Parker.

We don't know how else to thank Michael, other than to urge everyone reading this to order one of his bestselling books (which you'll want to read anyway because they're so entertaining and insightful!) such as How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci and Discover Your Genius. We want Michael to continue to be very successful so that we can continue being the happy recipients of his wine largesse!

Andrew Dornenburg checks out the work of the French team
that took home a "Best Chow" prize from The Intrepid

Gina DePalma (center) and Andrew Dornenburg (far right)
pose with some of talented Pakistani participants

We all loved the awesome Pate Maison at Bistro du Vent

Our waiter John Sollitto wiggled his fingers to communicate
that we'd just ordered bubbly water at Bistro du Vent so
we asked what the other hand signals were....

...and learned that a flat hand indicated flat water...

...while tapping his finger indicated tap water. Very clever!

We're happy to tell Lawrence DiJoseph that his food rocked

Sunday, May 29, 2005 Just a quick entry to mention that we had a great time yet again hosting this year's "Best Chow" competition aboard The Intrepid as part of Fleet Week in New York City. Congratulations to the team from Canada, which took home the 2005 "Best Chow" Award! We were so tired after three hours on our feet that we scarcely recognized pastry chef Gina DePalma of Babbo as we exited the ship at the same time, but spur-of-the-moment we all decided to go out for a drink and a bite, since our hosting duties had left us with little time to taste on camera.

The three of us strolled over to Bistro du Vent (411 W. 42nd Street) at Gina's suggestion, and we were both very pleasantly surprised by the lovely meal we happened upon there. While the smiling hospitality of General Manager Jeremy Noye would be worth returning for in and of itself, the truly fabulous food coming out of the kitchen of chef Lawrence DiJoseph makes it a slam dunk. His pates were two of the best we've ever tasted in New York, and we'd return any time (and doubtless will very soon) for the chicken with potato cake.

P.S. Our hats off to our server John Sollitto for coming up with such clever hand signals so he could communicate with the rest of the wait staff what kind of water we'd ordered. We were served our bubbly water while John was still at our table reciting the day's specials doubtless 5 to 10 minutes sooner than it would have gotten to us otherwise. After a long afternoon of talking virtually non-stop, we really appreciated it. What a simple yet brilliant idea!

Lis Wiehl and Mickey Sherman over dinner at Campagnola
(Photo copyright: 2005 Andrew Dornenburg & Karen Page)

Saturday, May 28, 2005 The 2005 Zagat Survey describes the Upper East Side restaurant Campagnola as "a bona fide scene every night of the week." That certainly helps to explain its charm although one can't overlook the personal charm of Salvatore, Campagnola's gracious and good-natured maitre d', nor the pleasure enjoying of gutsy Italian dishes like the rich and garlicky spiedini. Still, best of all is seeing friends whose company we get to enjoy all too infrequently (including Fox TV legal analyst Lis Wiehl and defense attorney Mickey Sherman, above, who looked so happy we wanted to record the moment for posterity) and enjoying a restaurant whose pleasure is inextricably linked with the pleasure of the company of such wonderful friends. What a great way to kick off a Memorial Day weekend!

Tomorrow, we host the Best Chow Competition aboard The Intrepid at 2 pm, where we hope to have the pleasure of seeing some of you there to help welcome the distinguished chef judges and to cheer on the 10 competing teams!

Former "20/20" anchor John Miller (middle), now of the LAPD

Friday, May 27, 2005 Last night over dinner at Elaine's with our friends Rikki Klieman and LAPD Chief Bill Bratton (above, far right), our table kept expanding until the two of us gave it up in time to make it home around midnight but not before nine-time Emmy Award winner and former "20/20" co-anchor John Miller (above, middle) joined us. We'd just viewed some terrific pictures of John that someone else at our table emailed us from his cellphone that really celebrate John's commitment to fighting crime in the trenches instead of just on the airwaves and to giving up his reported million-dollar salary at ABC to do so. We suspect Los Angelenos couldn't be any better protected than having "America's Top Cop" Bill Bratton as their police department's chief, plus one of the world's leading reporters (who had the courage to travel to the mountains of Afghanistan for a rare interview with Osama bin Laden in 1998) as their city's homeland security czar.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005 Our Google NewsAlerts are set to let us know when one of our books is mentioned in the media, so it also forwarded us a copy of critic Jonathan Kauffman's very funny review in today's East Bay Express entitled "Square Meals, Square Plates: Phnom Penh House gives Cambodian food a fresh coat of paint." It begins:

Someday, if they ever toss me out of this gig, I'm going to start my own nonprofit. Queer Eye for the New American Chef will offer low-budget makeovers to deserving immigrant cooks. "No, no, no," I'll admonish Mrs. Nguyen. "I know the green and white linoleum is half price, but I forbid you to buy it!" I'll screech at Mr. Lopez, "Someone tear down those cracked mirrors on the double and slap two coats of terracotta paint on the walls!" I'll beg Ms. Salah, "Before you send that menu to the printer, could I please just proofread it?"

Who says restaurant critics can't change lives for the better?

Small world: Turns out Jonathan's a former line cook who read BECOMING A CHEF on his way up. Keep up the good work, Jonathan!

Fahrusha with Al "Grampa Munster" Lewis

Sunday, May 22, 2005 Those of you who know about Karen's saga a few years back of losing the diamond from her engagement ring, giving up all hope of ever finding it after long and fruitless searching, but then recovering it after receiving some advice from a woman she'd hired for several years in a row to provide psychic readings as entertainment at an annual alumnae party (as told in our February 2004 e-Newsletter here) will be familiar with the name Fahrusha.

While Fahrusha was named one of New York City's top dozen psychics in an April 21, 2003, NEW YORK magazine cover story, we're happy to see her unexplainable gifts hit the national airwaves: This past Friday, she appeared on "The View" to predict four winners of the 2005 Daytime Emmy Awards, which were announced on Friday night.

Fahrusha has been invited back to appear on "The View" tomorrow, Monday, May 23rd (which airs at 11 am ET on ABC), so the hosts can review her impressive 75% hit rate. (The statistical probability of her randomly predicting the winners of these three categories is only about 1 in 100.)

And if you ever have the misfortune of losing something beloved to you (or, for that matter, find yourself curious what your future might have in store), you can reach Fahrusha yourself at

The sardines were our favorite appetizer at Al Di La

The unforgettably amazing ricotta tart at Al Di La

Saturday, May 21, 2005 As jaded Manhattanites, few things could compell us to spend an hour on the subway to get to Brooklyn on a Friday night. Last night, a lovely Brooklyn-based couple with a young child did. And now, the lovely restaurant which they 'd suggested as the site of last night's dinner could.

Al Di La (248 Fifth Ave. at Carroll St.; 718-783-4565) is no stranger to Brooklynites, who have apparently been queueing up at this no-reservations eatery for the past few years. The 2005 Zagat Survey awards its cuisine a whopping 25 food rating, explaining, "'Fantastic,' 'savory' cooking at relatively 'gentle prices' [are] why this oh-so-'popular' Park Slope Venetian is 'always packed.'"

The four of us (out sans baby) enjoyed a few glasses of wine in the restaurant's pleasant wine bar around the corner on Carroll St. until our table was ready 30-40 minutes later. The restaurant's dining room is cozy, the service friendly yet professional...and the food blew our minds with its elegant simplicity. It is exactly the soul-satisfying kind of food we long to eat on a regular basis. While not every dish lived up to our expectations (e.g. the "gnocchi" was not the classic version we were craving but rather consisted of cigar-shaped bundles that tasted more of vegetable than of pasta), every dish was tasty and the vast majority were absolutely delicious. We loved the sardines, the carpaccio, the saltimbocca, last night's pasta special with pork, the pasta with ragu and every single dessert we tasted, especially the ricotta tart.

While we'd willingly brave another subway trek to visit Al Di La, we can't help but wish there were a restaurant like this in our own neighborhood. We live in Manhattan right around the corner from the two-storied restaurant English is Italian, which only makes us long for the old days when superstar chef Todd English still manned the stoves at the original tiny Olives in Charlestown (Massachusetts), a restaurant in a space about the size of Al Di La that served gutsy Italian food just as personal and exciting. In this era when more and more talented chefs are taking their talents "corporate" (not that we fault them for it; we just miss them!), it makes us appreciate the increasingly rare, intimate experience of a restaurant like Al Di La that much more.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 Our thanks to Josh Silverman of Seattle for forwarding us this link from the Observer Food Monthly's 50th edition of "The Top 50 Things Every Foodie Should Do." The list is rather Euro-centric, so we're going to start working on our own Americanized version (please send suggestions to but contemplating list items such as "Bake a loaf of bread" and "Stuff yourself with caviar" should offer some fun in the meantime.

[And our thanks to B. Thomspon of Cooks of Crocus Hill for sharing the following: "That you are compiling (50 Things Every Foodie Should Do) must include a visit to Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Matter o' fact, if the two of you have never been there, go this weekend!  Of course, they do have a fabulous website which will make your mouth water.  However, like the song says, 'Ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby....'"]

We're greeted by a rooster and a hen roaming the farm

Farmer Walter Moora introduces us to a three-day-old calf

Andrew Dornenburg at the Nokomis Eco-Dairy in East Troy

Andrew Dornenburg at the Milwaukee Art Museum, with
Duane Hanson's "Janitor" and Chuck Close's "Nancy"

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 We just returned from a long weekend on the Nokomis Eco-Dairy farm in East Troy, Wisconsin a small town with big ideas about how to make the world a better place. Our trip included a visit to the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, whose mission is "to cultivate the ecological, social, economic, and spiritual vitality of food and farming systems through education, research, policy and market development."

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 It was a nice surprise for Andrew to open his emailbox this morning and to reconnect with a friend he made while spending a day in Rick Bayless's Chicago kitchen, who'd told him that our book BECOMING A CHEF had gotten her there:

"I met you when I was an intern in Chicago at Frontera and Topolobampo.  I still have the note you left me [saying that our book BECOMING A CHEF didn't get her to Frontera she did!]. You and your wife were in Chicago for a writing seminar, I think.  You may remember I am Parker Posey's mom. I just bought your NEW AMERICAN CHEF, and I'm looking forward to reading it. I am now on teaching with Viking Cooking School in Greenwood, MS.  Just wanted to say hello and say I am still a big fan." Lynda Posey / Greenwood, Mississippi

Mississippians will be hard-pressed to find a more passionate or nicer instructor! Click here for a schedule of classes.

We've been enjoying reading many of the Blogs on Arianna Huffington's new Web site Tim Rutton of The Los Angeles Times wrote of it yesterday: "The best of the celebrity bloggers turn out to be people who, in fact, are famous for doing journalism of one sort or another...Former defense attorney and Court TV analyst Rikki Klieman, who happens to be married to LAPD chief William Bratton, weighs in with a provocative posting on the pro-prosecution slant in television coverage of the Michael Jackson case."

Dinner at Beyoglu on Wednesday night after
Gael Greene's entertaining panel on "extreme
eating" at the 92nd St. Y featuring Mario
Batali, Lidia Bastianich, and Fergus Henderson

Andrew Carmellini's mouth-watering veal dish at Cafe Boulud

...where we also loved the desserts that followed!

The entrance to Cafe Gray is lined with cookbooks including
our own CULINARY ARTISTRY, for which we'd had the
pleasure of interviewing chef-owner Gray Kunz before a
warm welcome from very gracious maitre d' Tobie Cancino

Where the kitchen magic happens at Cafe Gray

Karen ordered the Roasted Pork Chop with spiced pulled pork,
green lentils and ramps

Cynthia enjoyed the selection of sorbets and ice creams

Upon our departure, Karen and Cynthia realized that they
were wearing identical black suede pumps!

Enjoying birthday flowers from our friend Susan Butler at home

Sunday, May 8, 2005 We've been so busy celebrating James Beard's birthday this week that we're left with less than our usual energy with which to celebrate Karen's today. Still, we're not complaining. Even after a celebratory dinner last night courtesy of our friends Jeff and Cynthia (a fellow Taurus) Penney at Cafe Gray, we managed to somehow crank out a 5K starting at 8 am this morning in Central Park. It's a good thing, too, as we're still burning off the calories from another fellow Taurus Rikki Klieman's birthday celebration over dinner at Cafe Boulud on Thursday night where we also bid adieu to chef Andrew Carmellini, whose last night is tonight before he departs to open a new restaurant in Manhattan this fall. We'll doubtless have to squeeze in a nap before our 8 pm dinner tonight (which will be with a restaurant critic, so we'll have to report on that after the review is published), but c'est la vie!

"Last Call: Word that chef Andrew Carmellini would be leaving Cafe Boulud to open a new eatery with restaurant group Marc US prompted a frenzied rush to the East 76th Street restaurant. The other night, as Rikki (Mrs. Bill Bratton) Klieman and cookbook author Karen Page jointly celebrated their birthdays, Susan Lucci and Kate Spade were in the overflow crowd. Carmellini and his partners have been looking at restaurant spaces in the East 20s for a likely Fall 2005 opening."
- Richard Johnson, "Page Six," The New York Post (May 10, 2005)

The line-up of chefs who cooked for the 2005 Beard Awards

Andrew Dornenburg, author Serena Bass, Karen Page, and
Cafe Boulud chef Andrew Carmellini

Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, Portland chef Vitaly Paley

Karen Page, Serena Bass, Patrick O'Connell of The Inn at
Little Washington, and Andrew Dornenburg

Socorro Herrera of Yuca's in Los Angeles and Karen Page

Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page and legend Chuck Williams

Andrew Dornenburg, Chris Bianco, Karen Page, Susan Poole

Karen Page, chef Joyce Goldstein, and Andrew Dornenburg

Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, Bernard Sun, Larry Stone

Karen Page and chef Sandy D'Amato of Milwaukee's Sanford

Andrew Dornenburg congratulates Le Bernardin's pastry chef
Michael Laiskonis on its four-star review in The NY Times

Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, Jim Dodge of Bon Appetit

Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, Lydia Shire of Locke-Ober

Ending the night with Kitchen Arts and Letters' Nach (left)
and Maron (right) Waxman and chef Emily Luchetti (middle)

Tuesday, May 3, 2005 (later) The James Beard Foundation Awards are to the restaurant business what the Oscars are to the movie business. And just as exhausting, no doubt only, we suspect, with more and better food, created last night via the talents of the likes of Lidia Bastianich, Rick Bayless, Ariane Daguin, Sandy D'Amato, Robert Del Grande, Jim Dodge, Todd English, Gale Gand, Hubert Keller, Thomas Keller, Norman Love, Jacques Pepin, Michel Richard, Michael Romano, Lydia Shire, Nancy Silverton, Andre Soltner, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Martin Yan and many other top chefs who were either mentored or inspired by Julia Child, to whom last night's Awards were a tribute.

Monday night's ceremony at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan marked the 15th anniversary of the Awards, which drew 1700 guests. [For the complete .pdf list of winners, click here.] To keep things fresh, the Foundation has added new Award categories over the years from its recognition of "America's Classics," restaurants described as being locally owned and operated restaurants renowned for their timeless appeal and quality food," to this year's addition of "Outstanding Restaurateur" (which was taken home by uber-restaurateur Danny Meyer, whom we hereby nominate for an Oscar for making one of the world's toughest jobs look so easy).

While the Awards have historically focused on haute cuisine level restaurants, it's the presentation of the "America's Classics" awards that have come to bring the most drama and emotion to its festivities. These restaurants' often humble and modest owners who have worked for decades with only local or regional acclaim take the stage at this black-tie event before an audience of thousands to receive thunderous applause and international recognition for their efforts. The public acknowledgment is often overwhelming for awardees, and their speechless tears only tends to fuel more applause.

This year's worthy winners included Boston's Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe, which opened in 1927 right around the corner from our former apartment in Boston's South End. Breakfast (or, more precisely, turkey hash) at Charlie's is at the top of our list of what we miss most about having left Boston for Manhattan. In 2001, we featured Charlie's co-owner Arthur Manjourides with James Beard Award-winning chef Gordon Hamersley on the back cover of our book CHEF'S NIGHT OUT.

We were also delighted to see our favorite L.A. taco stand Yuca's, which has served its amazing tacos for nearly three decades, honored as an "America's Classic."

We love this annual opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues, and to salute those who help make this industry great. Among those pictured above are 2005 Book Award winner Serena Bass, author of Serena, Food & Stories; 2005 Best Chef: Chris Bianco, chef-owner of Pizzeria Bianco (and his better half Susan Poole); 2005 Best Chef: New York Andrew Carmellini, chef of Cafe Boulud; Sandy D'Amato, chef-owner of Sanford; Jim Dodge, director of Bon Appetit Management; cookbook author and chef Joyce Goldstein; Michael Laiskonis, pastry chef of Le Bernardin; Patrick O'Connell, chef-owner of The Inn at Little Washington; 2005 Best Chef: Northwest Vitaly Paley, chef-owner of Paley's Place; Lydia Shire, chef-owner of Locke-Ober (and Andrew's former boss at Biba); master sommelier Larry Stone of Rubicon; Bernard Sun, corporate beverage director for Jean-Georges Management; and Williams-Sonoma's legendary founder Chuck Williams.

For more on the James Beard Foundation, visit its Web site here. Also, Manhattan Users Guide editor Charlie Suisman shared a link to a three-part series on the Beard Foundation appearing in this week's San Francisco Chronicle.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005 After spending the past few days celebrating great restaurants and chefs across America in conjunction with this year's James Beard Awards (which Andrew and I will report on very soon), I wanted to pay my own tribute to a beloved restaurant celebrating its 33rd anniversary today for which I have enormous respect and admiration.

As an undergrad at Northwestern University in the early 1980s, I was a regular customer [and one of the few non-townie waitresses] at Dave's Italian Kitchen in Evanston, Illinois, which gave me a firsthand taste of this exceptional restaurant. It has long held a revered place in the city for living up to its motto of "real, healthful, homemade food at reasonable prices" not to mention a revered place in my heart. I still hold its versions of pasta a la carbonara, spinach ricotta cheese pie, and stuffed zucchini as my personal culinary benchmarks, and recall with great fondness the experience of working for such a terrific guy as chef-owner Dave Glatt.

I'm not alone: On our flight to Chicago a few weeks ago, I read the write-up in the April 2005 Chicago magazine of Ayun Halliday's new book Job Hopper: The Checkered Career of a Down-Market Dilettante, which mentions the author's dedication of her book to Dave Glatt, whom she attests to be "the best boss I ever had."

Last month, Andrew and I ordered dinner to be delivered to our room while we were staying at the beautifully redesigned Hotel Orrington, and were impressed anew at the fact that Dave's has managed to keep its quality so high and its prices so low for so many years. Its quality hasn't flagged which is a tribute to Dave Glatt and his caring staff.

So, on May 3rd, I send Dave Glatt congratulations on the 33rd anniversary of Dave's Italian Kitchen and invite you to help him celebrate it by paying a visit when you're next in Evanston to 1635 Chicago Avenue. [To enhance your pleasure, ask for Barb's section. She was one of the fabulous waitresses with whom I had the pleasure of working at Dave's 25 years ago, and on our last visit to Dave's a year or two ago, she was still there. Now who's going to know the menu better than she?]

And many thanks to Dave Glatt for teaching me, and so many others over the past three decades-plus, so much about what makes a great restaurant great.

Karen Page

Andrew Dornenburg, Gina DePalma of Babbo, Cesare Casella

Cesare Casella of Beppe and Karen Page at Ono

Monday, May 2, 2005 Bon Appetit's annual "Chef's Night Out" party marks the eve of the James Beard Awards, and last night's bash at Ono at the Hotel Gansevoort brought familiar faces from far and wide. We shared congratulations with a number of nominees including Kathy Cary of Lilly's (nominated for Best Chef: Southeast), Gina DePalma of Babbo (nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef), Steve Dolinsky (nominated for three journalism awards this year), Lee Hefterof Spago (nominated for Best Chef: California), Todd Kliman of Washington City Paper (winner for his terrific newspaper column), Vitaly Paley of Paley's Place (nominated for Best Chef: Northwest), Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani of Terra (which is nominated for the Outstanding Service Award), and Scott Tyree of Tru (also nominated for Outstanding Service Award) and said hellos to countless others, from Chris Bianco to Cesare Casella to Todd English to Kerry Heffernan to Lydia Shire to Nancy Silverton.

After getting home in the wee hours of this morning, we're bracing ourselves for another long night, starting at The View at the Marriott Marquis at 4:30 pm this afternoon gearing up for tonight's Awards ceremony, which kicks off at 5:30 pm.

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

My guests today are Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page....They're very prolific writers whose fifth book is THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF, which is like a textbook on 10 different cuisines except that it's fun to read. Their books are extremely popular among, and indeed essential to, chefs in America.
Arthur Schwartz,
award-winning host of
"Food Talk" on WOR Radio

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