Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

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Index of restaurants mentioned on our Blog:

Al Di La (5/21/05)
Alinea (10/21/05)
Alto (1/26/06)
Amma (4/30/06)
An American Place (9/05)
Annisa (12/19/06)
Appellation Wine (5/31/06)
Aquavit (1/23/06)
Aroma (8/23/05)
Artisanal (7/3/05)
Asiate (2/2/06)
A Voce (4/19/06)
Bar Americain (8/6/05)
Barbounia (5/3/06)
Barca 18 (10/29/06)
Beckta Dining (6/10/05)
Beppe (11/17/05)
Bette (5/31/06)
Blue Hill (8/20/05)
Blue Smoke (6/26/05)
Bodegas Farina (11/16/04)
Bond 45 (9/28/05)
Burger Joint (1/27/05)
Cafe des Artistes (4/05)
Cafe Gray (5/8/05)
Celeste (5/29/06)
Chez Le Chef (10/2/05)
Chikalicious (4/7/06)
Cookshop (10/25/05)
Dave's Italian (10/21/05)
DB Bistro (1/26/06)
Devi (8/1/05)
Dona (4/17/06)
Eleven Madison (8/29/05)
El Parador (8/21/05)
The Emerson (3/7/06)
En Plo (3/16/06)
Fig + Olive (4/26/05)
Flatiron Lounge (5/8/06)
Four Seasons (6/24/05)
Frere Jacques (8/12/05)
Frontera Grill (4/8/05)
Gilt (2/14/06)
Good Burger (10/3/05)
Gramercy Tavern (7/05)
Hearth (8/13/05)
Heidelberg (3/16/06)
Inn at Little Wash'tn (3/05)
'ino (6/21/05)
Inside (10/26/05)
Jean Georges (5/13/06)
Jimmy's (11/3/05)
Jovia (10/23/05)
Kai (7/7/05)
Katz's Deli (8/1/05)
Lady M (5/30/06)
Lai Wah Heen (7/14/05)
Le Bernardin (3/16/06)
L'Orange Bleue (4/26/05)
Maremma (4/22/06)
Maxie (4/17/06)
Menchenko-Tei (8/14/05)
Mercadito (10/17/05)
Mermaid Inn (8/22/05)
The Modern (4/1/06)
Momofuku (6/10/05)
Moto (4/8/05)
Nectar (4/30/06)
Nobu 57 (4/5/06)
NoHo Star (3/28/06)
Nougatine (5/13/06)
Odeon (2/10/06)
Osteria Del Stato (4/8/05)
Pearl Oyster Bar (5/28/06) Penelope (10/16/05)
Perry Street (9/20/05)
Per Se (4/5/06)
Peter Luger (3/22/06)
Petite Abeille (9/4/05)
Petrossian (12/22/06)
Phoenix Garden (9/16/05)
Piano Due (3/23/06)
Picholine (1/31/05)
Pizza Napoletana (3/3/05)
Public (8/5/05)
Rancho La Puerta (12/05)
Rat's (4/22/06)
Riingo (2/18/05)
Roberto Passon (12/05)
Rosendale Cement (9/05)
Ryland Inn (7/28/05)
Sahara's (4/20/06)
Sakagura (7/21/05)
San Domenico (2/1/06)
Sanford (4/8/05)
Shake Shack (3/31/06)
Shun Lee Palace (12/2/05) SmorgasChef (11/10/05)
Solera (2/10/06)
Sophie's Cuban (8/15/05)
Sushi Samba (11/4/06)
Tasting Room (10/16/05)
Tia Pol (5/31/06)
Trio (11/6/05)
Tru (4/8/05)
Uglesich's (2/28/05)
Upstairs (9/4/05)
Vintage (7/28/05)
Zarela (7/10/05)

Reciprocal Links to
Other Food-Related Sites

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FoodReference.com
GourmetFood.About.com
Local Wine Events
Manhattan User's Guide
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Savory Sojourns
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ANDREW DORNENBURG & KAREN PAGE'S WEB LOG -
MAY 2006

"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)

TO VIEW OUR LIVE BLOG FROM THE JAMES BEARD AWARDS IN NYC, SCROLL DOWN TO MONDAY, MAY 8, 2006


Christina describes our afternoon tea tray at Bette


From the bottom: cucumber sandwiches with wasabi and
tobiko; plain and ginger scones; and assorted confections


Appellation Wine & Spirits on Tenth Ave. near 20th Street


Andrew with Jee Won Park and Scott Pactor at Appellation


Tia Pol on Tenth Avenue near 22nd Street


Clockwise from left: fried chickpeas, mushroom carpaccio,
croquetas, white asparagus w/caviar, chorizo con chocolate


It was insisted that we switch to dry sherry to accompany
this extraordinary oyster mushroom carpaccio with almonds

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 One of the best things about our work as authors in this field is the frequency with which we're able to mix business with pleasure. Take yesterday, for example.

Now that Karen has recovered from TWCOKL, our schedules are packed as we catch up on missed meetings. While having the pleasure of meeting with Aimee Bianca of YC Media, who is working on the publicity for our forthcoming book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT, we were able to confirm that Bette still serves our favorite afternoon tea in New York City. Thanks to a hot tip Aimee had received, we were certain not to miss the cucumber sandwiches (with hints of tobiko and wasabi) that friends of hers had raved to her about, and indeed they lived up to the advance billing. While there's nothing "plain" at all about Bette's heavenly plain scones, the restaurant's ginger scones with clotted cream and passion fruit curd are an extraordinary flavor combination. And even after serving them for half a year, our delightful server Christina confessed she was still (understandably!) addicted to Bette's brownies. (As Bette serves tea only the rest of this week before going on hiatus for the summer, you'll have to hurry...or wait!)

After we said good-bye to Craig Atlas (of whose recent tour of wineries in France we were able to hear an overview, although what we'd really like to see are the photos of him riding a horse for the first time), we headed to Appellation Wine & Spirits, the the first wine shop in New York City to specialize in organic and biodynamic wines. The store is a pleasure to browse, and we have never left empty-handed.

We've found some lovely splits of wine at Appellation, and yesterday we also bought our first bottle of junmai ginjo sake there. On our last visit, we'd picked up a bottle of Navarro Vineyards Gewurztraminer juice that we promptly fell in love with so yesterday, we picked up two. Appellation owner Scott Pactor's TV producer wife Jee Won Park happened to pop in, and she shared the tip that we could try cutting it with sparkling water, which we knew immediately would transform it into one of our new favorite summer drinks.

After a couple of other stops, we decided to take advantage of our proximity to Tia Pol, which is on the short list of restaurants we recommend that avid food lovers not miss in New York City. Owners Heather Beltz and Mani Dawes (not to mention chef Alex Raij) have created something very special in this tiny sliver of a tapas bar serving dishes whose flavors soar. Last night, the oyster mushroom carpaccio was THE dish that made us look at each other across the table and simultaneously praise the skies. It was a +2 pairing (our highest compliment).

Enough reminiscing it's back to work: We have a press lunch at Alain Ducasse to get ready for....

Appellation Wine & Spirits is at 156 Tenth Ave., near 20th St., New York City. (212) 741-9474. Web: www.appellationnyc.com

Bette is at 461 West 23rd St., bet. Ninth and Tenth Aves., New York City. (212) 366-0404.

Tia Pol is at 205 Tenth Ave. (bet. 22nd & 23rd Sts.), New York City. (212) 675-8805. Web: www.tiapol.com

For your reading pleasure:

- Maria Hunt's article on restaurant criticism in today's San Diego Union-Tribune.

- Lenore Skenazy's column "Perky People of the World, Unite!" in today's New York Daily News, which is a tongue-in-cheek article that actually manages to raise a seriously important issue: why people with optimistic dispositions (who often happen to be women) are frequently thought to be less intelligent and worthy of consideration than those with more serious demeanors (who often happen to be men).


Staking out a spot across from the Metropolitan Museum


Our view of the statue of Hamilton in Central Park


Our Memorial Day picnic in Central Park


Birthday girl Julia Davis blows out her birthday (cup)cake candle


Julia Davis, Hunt Tackbary, and Blake Davis in Central Park


Blake pulls out the first Lady M crepe cake ever served at a
modest picnic in Central Park!


Nearly two dozen layers of cream and crepe comprise it

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 We'd like to dedicate our Blog today to two extraordinary women, Susan Davis and Holly Hunt not for their celebrated business accomplishments, but for raising the three wonderful 20-somethings with whom we shared a memorable Memorial Day picnic in Central Park.

The deal was this: we'd bring the savory food, and they would bring an extra blanket, mineral water, and dessert. Andrew delivered homemade Rancho La Puerta-style guacamole, chicken salad sandwiches with shiitake mushrooms and aioli, skirt steak sandwiches with roasted tomato jam and balsamic cream; potato salad with pesto, asparagus, and spring onions; and cole slaw.

Blake blew us away with her choice of dessert: a Lady M crepe cake which was essentially layer upon layer of crepes alternated with sweet cream and a caramelized sugar top. She said she first discovered the cake at Takashimaya, but now gets them at Lady M. It might have been the first we've ever tasted, but we can guarantee it won't be the last.

And Blake, Julia and Hunt (who's actually "29+") blew us away by being three of the most interesting and soulful 20-somethings we've ever had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with. While covering topics ranging from social accountability, to farmers markets, to restaurants, to must-read Blogs, to astrology, we were struck by their professions of admiration for their high-achieving mothers. Whoever said working moms can't make great parents? Susan and Holly, you should be very proud of these three.

Susan Davis is the founder of Capital Missions Company.

Holly Hunt is the founder of Holly Hunt.

Lady M is at 41 East 78 Street (bet. Park & Madison Aves.), New York City. (212) 452-2222. Web: www.ladymconfections.com


Andrea took great care of us at Celeste
(Photo credit: Steven Richter)


Pizza is a great way to kick off a meal at Celeste


Anchovy pizza: a heavenly match with our Dolcetto d'Alba


Last night's special of fried zucchini blossoms with shrimp


Andrew's spaghetti with fresh clams at Celeste


Tagliatelle with shrimp, cabbage, and sheep's milk cheese


As Celeste is cash-only, don't forget to bring yours!


Adieu to our new friends Craig and Dana Stoddard of Bigfork

Monday, May 29, 2006 The night of the rave review of Insatiable in The New York Times Book Review entitled "I'll Have What She's Having," we dined with its author Gael Greene at Celeste where we were able to do just that.

We wish a restaurant like Celeste existed in every neighborhood of Manhattan with our Murray Hill neighborhood next, please.

We can't think of another restaurant in New York City that delivers this level of quality in its pizzas, pastas, and cheeses at this price point, i.e. ~$10 per small pizza, plate of pasta, or selection of five different cheeses each paired with a condiment (honey, fruit paste). We were graciously welcomed by Carmine, and attended to by the lovely Andrea (whose photo was snapped by the fabulously talented Steven Richter, who teaches us something new about photography at our every dinner).

In addition to Liesl Schillinger's rave in the NYT Book Review, we learned that Insatiable had also received a rave from Dave Hoekstra in the Chicago Sun-Times (which is edited by Karen's former journalism professor Henry Kisor). Still haven't had the pleasure of reading Insatiable for yourself? Just click here.

Then pay a visit to Celeste, and you, too, can "have what she's having."

P.S. While we'd planned to be away this weekend, which led us to have to miss out on emceeing this year's "Best Chow" competition aboard The Intrepid, TWCOKL (see below) changed all that. Still, after a dinner as fun and delicious as last night's, we were not disappointed to find ourselves in town after all!

Celeste is at 502 Amsterdam (bet. 84th & 85th Streets), New York City. (212) 874-4559. Cash only, but prices are so reasonable you won't need to bring all that much.

Montanabliss is a yoga studio owned by Dana and Craig Stoddard at 108 Crestview Drive in Bigfork, Montana. (406) 837-LOVE. www.montanabliss.com We can virtually guarantee you won't find a better yoga studio owned by two nicer food lovers in all of Bigfork!

Japanese cooking expert Hiroko Shimbo (who appears both within and on the back cover of our book THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF) was interviewed Saturday on NPR's "All Things Considered" on funazushi, the 365-day pickled ancestor of sushi which is said to produce an aroma "10 times as strong as Roquefort cheese." (Yikes!) You can hear the interview here.


Gary Alan Fine's Kitchens: The Culture of Restaurant Work


Fried oysters in tartar-sauced shells at Pearl Oyster Bar


Pearl's infamous lobster roll sandwich with shoestring fries


Whipped cream with a little chocolate mousse at Pearl


Andrew's former sous chef Tony Bonner (then of Arcadia,
now of Pearl Oyster Bar) with Andrew Dornenburg at Pearl

Sunday, May 28, 2006 TWCOKL is dead. Long live...nah, never mind.

With Karen finally well again, we broke our restaurant fast on Thursday night in the fine company of Gary Alan Fine, the Northwestern sociology professor (and author of more than a dozen books, including the fascinating Kitchens) whom we'd had the pleasure of meeting a few years back at a Chicagourmets' event celebrating our book THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF at Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill.

We were psyched to accompany Gary to a restaurant he had frequented with his family while growing up in Manhattan, and which we saw had received some favorable recent diner write-ups online. It was only before walking out the door to meet him that we stumbled upon Mimi Sheraton's review in the 1982 New York Times Guide to Restaurants (which had guided many of Karen's New York culinary adventures in the 1980s; after meeting in the 1990s, Mimi had inscribed Karen's tattered and dog-eared copy to her "Better late than never"):

Once New York's most authentic and satisfying Parisian-style bistro, this jammed, funky and charming little place has become increasingly careless through the years, both in the treatment of customers and in the preparation of food. There is still a strong sentimenal appeal about the small room with its homey posters, Paris street signs and especially the trademark painting of the gold calf asleep in a bed with lacy pillows under his head. But those who have no fond memories of this place to mitigate its present performance will feel dinner there is time ill spent.

Twenty-four years after she wrote those words, they were still pretty accurate. And yet the restaurant was still open, and nearly full. Apparently they're doing something right...but we'd be hard-pressed to tell you what that might be.

On Friday, we met up with Karen's Harvard sectionmate Barry Salzman for fabulous fried oysters, lobster rolls, and chocolate mousse at Rebecca Charles' Pearl Oyster Bar where we had a chance to view some of his beautiful photography, and hear about his upcoming shoot for Vanity Fair on Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific. We can't imagine a better place to have kicked off the first weekend of summer.

Pearl Oyster Bar is at 18 Cornelia Street (bet. West 4th Street and Bleecker), New York City. (212) 691-8211. Web: www.pearloysterbar.com

Veal Cheeks is Gary Alan Fine's blog of his New York City restaurant adventures during his year in Manhattan as a Russell Sage Foundation Fellow. While we're sorry he didn't enjoy some of our favorite restaurants as much as we have, it's a very enjoyable romp through some of NYC's finest.

Friday, May 19, 2006 Instead of mourning all the meals, parties, and good times with friends missed this dismal week of what will hereupon be known as "The Worst Cold Of Karen's Life," we'll instead celebrate those few things that even in this very sorry state actually managed to make her smile:

- Her friend and Harvard sectionmate Barry Salzman's willingness to reschedule [due to aforementioned TWCOKL] lunch for a record third timewhile he's visiting New York City from Australia, and sending her good wishes and "garlic chicken in spirit!" [referring to the time he prepared and delivered an absolutely heavenly version of James Beard's infamous Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic over a decade ago after her back went out].

- Pascale Le Draoulec's line in her two-star review of Buddakan in today's New York Daily News about being chased down en route to her table by a cocktail server: "That'll be $11.92,' she said, jamming her round tray into my chest, giving me cleavage I never thought possible." [The rest of the review is almost as enjoyable, and readable here.]

- Epicurious.com editor Tanya Wenman Steel's candidate for "Most Obnoxious Book Title of the Week" in her Blog today, which you can click here to read. [After all, even if you're not suffering from TWCOKL or its equivalent, don't you deserve a smile today, too?]

Sunday, May 14, 2006 A huge thank-you to our neighbor Sarah for her very kind 11th hour invitation to have one of us (who turned out to be Karen) join her for yesterday's matinee performance of "Three Days of Rain" starring Julia Roberts, Paul Rudd, and Bradley Cooper. Despite some critical reviews to the contrary, Karen found the entire cast's performances to be exceptional (with a preference for Roberts' performance in the second half over the first), and Richard Greenberg's play itself brilliant. In fact, it's a play that begs a second viewing...which makes it all the more a shame that tickets are so hard to come by.

"Three Days of Rain" is at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre,
242 West 45th Street, New York City, through June 18th.

Read on the Web site of a reader who listed our book CULINARY ARTISTRY as one of her favorite books:

"The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough."
William Saroyan

and on another's:

"Live in each season as it passes;
breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit
and open yourself to the influences of each.
Let them be your only diet, drink, botanical medicines."

Henry David Thoreau


The delicious spring garlic soup at Jean Georges' Nougatine


The luscious pasta option on the $25 prix fixe lunch menu


Kathy's desserts from across the table at Nougatine


Karen's chocolate-inspired desserts at Nougatine (which
included phenomenal caramelized bananas at lower left)


Karen's "birthday card" from pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini


A flurry of petits fours concluded our amazing lunch

Saturday, May 13, 2006 Some opportunities are so great you're tempted to keep them to yourself. But we can't make it there every day ourselves to enjoy it, so you certainly should. Four-star restaurant Jean Georges' informal cafe Nougatine offers one of the greatest deals in town: Its $25 three-course prix fixe lunch.

Karen had lunch there yesterday with one of her oldest friends (who dates back to the years they both worked on Wall Street) Kathy as part of their annual birthday lunch tradition (which, over the years, has also included visits to Arcadia, Cafe Boulud, Le Bernardin, and The Modern). The two savory courses pictured above (soup, pasta) are straight off the $25 prix fixe menu, and both were outstanding.

As for the dessert course, having just met the James Beard Foundation's 2006 Outstanding Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini backstage at Monday night's Awards ceremony....well, he went a little crazy with desserts. And we couldn't have been more delighted to have an opportunity to experience his talents firsthand.

Karen's plate of chocolate-inspired desserts featured a miniature of chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's long-time signature dessert, the molten chocolate cake that inspired an entire generation of contemporary pastry chefs. Neither of us can ever forget our first bite of it which, when we tasted it at Jojo more than 15 years ago, was the single most extraordinary forkful of chocolate we'd ever put in our mouths. [That entire dinner at Jojo had been a revelation. We were still living in Boston at the time, and Jean-Georges had just opened Jojo a few months before, so it must have been 1991. Our eyes opened to the fact that extraordinary things were happening in cuisine in New York City (meaning absolutely no disrespect to Andrew's outrageously talented former chefs Chris Schlesinger of the East Coast Grill and Lydia Shire of Biba). We moved to New York City shortly thereafter, in 1992.]

Johnny mentioned that he's been working in four-star kitchens since he was 19, under such stellar talents as Daniel Boulud and Francois Payard. It shows. His desserts are marked by refined technique, but he manages a freshness of flavor both within individual desserts as well as his thoughtful dessert groupings.

Truth be told, we'd been rooting for our favorite pastry chef Gina DePalma of Babbo to take home the 2006 Outstanding Pastry Chef Award on Monday night. Her desserts have been entirely to our taste since our first-ever bite, and she brings the sensibility of a line cook to their composition. But when we met Johnny backstage at the Awards, we were choked up to learn that he'd received his nomination for the Award on the day his mother died, at age 56, and that he had dedicated the Award to her. Later, Gina shared with us that Johnny was a dear friend, and later still she mentioned one of the single classiest gestures we'd ever heard: He'd sent her an orchid a couple of days after his victory.

We've long known Jean-Georges Vongerichten to be one of the most extraordinarily gifted and innovative professionals in this industry, not to mention one of the nicest. It's easy to see why he chose Iuzzini as his pastry chef four years ago this month.

Nougatine is the informal cafe at four-star restaurant Jean Georges, One Central Park West (bet. 60th & 61st Sts.) in the Trump International Hotel, New York City. (212) 299-3900.
Web: www. jean-georges.com


Playboy bunnies, Superfly, and Jackie O. dancing on platforms


Birthday boy Josh Wesson tearing up the dance floor at 50


Karen gives Josh a hug, and Josh and Andrew strike a pose


Andrew and Caitlin Friedman, Elisa Herr, Eddie Schoenfeld, and
Andrew; Muhammad Ali shows us his championship belt

After Karen's indulgent lunch at Nougatine (from which she returned with some of Johnny Iuzzini's chocolates for Andrew) and our putting to bed our next book (at long last!), we were only too happy to have an opportunity to dance off at least a few of the calories and some of the stress at the 50th birthday bash of Joshua Wesson, founder of Best Cellars, which is home to some of the best wines you've ever tasted under $15. Josh has an encyclopedic knowledge of wine and a fabulous sense of humor, both of which served us well when we'd interviewed him for our forthcoming book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT. (To wit: Josh's observation that "Rose' is the Boutros Boutros-Ghali of wine," which our research associate Rosemary Newnham insists would make for a bestselling T-shirt.)

The invitation beckoned "Party like it's 1969," and indeed from the moment we walked through the club's doors, we were greeted by go-go dancing Playboy bunnies, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie O., Superfly, and even Muhammad Ali as the DJ spun tunes like "Play That Funky Music" and "Get Down Tonight."

It was great fun to run into restaurant consultant Eddie Schoenfeld (who promised a sneak peek at Chinatown Brasserie, which boasts the former "best dim sum chef in Brooklyn") and Elisa Herr (fresh from her Ikebana victory at the recent New York International Orchid Show), and to meet author Andrew Friedman and publicist Caitlin Friedman. We left very early this morning, entering the old-fashioned freight elevator for the three-story ride to Broadway below with author Rozanne Gold and restaurant consultant Michael Whiteman, with the four of us still dancing....

Best Cellars is at 1291 Lexington Avenue (at 87th Street), New York City. (212) 426-4200. Web: www.bestcellars.com


Seafood and pepper skewer at Solera; the tasting plate of tapas


Solera's fabulous lobster and chicken ravioli, Spanish-style;
Tauruses Karen Page and maitre d' Ron Miller in a b'day toast


Fellow Taurean bartender Julian joined in the birthday toast;
Solera's plate of Spanish cheeses with fig tart and quince paste

Before going to the theater around the corner at 59E59, we popped into New York's best Spanish retaurant Solera for a few tapas, and ended up sharing a toast to three born under the sign of Taurus: Karen, maitre d' Ron Miller (who has taught us more about Spanish wines and sherries than perhaps anyone else we've ever met), and ace bartender Julian.

Solera is at 216 E. 53rd Street (bet. Second and Third Aves.), New York. (212) 644-1166.


The set of Ian Kelly's "Cooking for Kings"; a choux pastry swan

"Of the five fine arts, the fifth is architecture, whose main branch is confectionary."
Marie-Antoine (Antonin) Careme, on. p. 7 of BECOMING A CHEF

Can't get into a taping of "Emeril" or "Iron Chef"? Then "Cooking for Kings" is your ticket to a compelling live cooking performance. Brit Ian Kelly recreates imagined scenes from the life of the first celebrity chef Antonin Careme in this one-man show based on Kelly's book of the same name. Surrounded by hanging pots and pans and using little more than a simple work table and some chairs, Kelly channels what it was like to command a brigade in the great kitchens of Europe, creating meals for kings, tsars, and Napoleon himself.

The story of Careme's life is both inspiring and tragic. Kelly captures the severe personal toll that often accompanies culinary perfectionism, while also celebrating the dishes invented as its result. It is this backdrop of the evolution of gastronomy and the birth of grand cuisine through one influential chef's perspective that makes this show educational as well as entertaining.

Having previously researched and written about Careme, we might have learned less than most. And having seen some excellent one-person shows in the not-so-distant past from the Pulitzer Prize-winning "I Am My Own Wife" to (just last month) Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God" our bar was set rather high. The second half of the show had more resonance than the first, which might be improved by better conveying upfront the often thankless working conditions and occupational hazards of professional kitchens of that era (including sweltering heat and lack of ventilation, which ultimately led to Careme's death by slow carbon monoxide poisoning) that might help explain and spur compassion for its chef's constantly raised voice.

But with an appreciation of just how challenging it is to hold an audience for more than 90 minutes, let alone while delivering a compelling character study, a culinary history lesson, and a cooking demonstration (complete with samples, although here chef Francois Payard's talents were wisely tapped) without ever missing a beat, we applaud with admiration the feat that Kelly pulls off in "Cooking with Kings."

If we wore toques (the tall white hats favored in the fussiest kitchens, which Careme invented), we would take them off in a salute to Kelly's performance. Le Bam!

"Cooking for Kings" is at 59E59, 59 East 59th Street (bet. Park and Madison Aves.), New York City. Through June 11th.

OUR LIVE BLOG FROM THE JAMES BEARD AWARDS IN NYC
MONDAY, MAY 8, 2006


2006 Who's Who inductees Jean Joho and Gray Kunz;
12-time Beard Award winner Steve Dolinsky with Karen Page


The owners of Polly's Pancake Parlor, named a Regional Classic;
2006 James Beard Cookbook Award winner Nina Simonds


2006 James Beard Award winner radio host Leonard Lopate (c.);
2006 Lifetime Achievement Award winner editor Judith Jones

9:45 PM POSTING:

Cookbook of the Year: HUNGRY PLANET

And with that, we're signing off our Live Blog for the night, so we can head to the reception for a bite of food from that long line-up of New Orleans chefs. (Any errors of commission or omission were unintentional and will be corrected upon discovery; please alert us at Dornenburg@aol.com.) Thanks for joining us, and we hope you'll visit us again soon!

Cheers,
Karen & Andrew

P.S. For a complete list of 2006 Award winners, click here.

9:36 PM POSTING:


Thomas Keller and Laura Cunningham accept the 2006
Outstanding Restaurant Award for The French Laundry

2006 Outstanding Restaurant: The French Laundry

9:27 PM POSTING:


2006 Outstanding Restaurateur Daniel Boulud

2006 Outstanding Restaurateur: Daniel Boulud
(Congratulations, Daniel!!)


Karen Page with 2006 Outstanding Chef Alfred Portale

2006 Outstanding Chef: Alfred Portale
(Congratulations, Alfred!!)

9:25 PM POSTING:


Newly-engaged couple David Ransom and Melanie Young
got engaged just moments ago onstage at the Awards

Well, this has got to be a James Beard Awards first: Melanie Young just got proposed to by her now-fiance David Ransom on stage! Here's one of the first photos ever published of the newly-engaged and very happy couple! Congratulations, Melanie and David!

9:05 PM POSTING:

Sitting here with Amy Dordek Dolinsky, aka Steve's wife. Is Steve hard to live with after all these Award wins?

Amy sez:

"Not at all. Steve is the nicest guy in television. And how hard can it be to get dragged all over Chicago trying great new restaurants?"


Gourmet editor John Willoughby checks out his photo on
our Web site from Morimoto's opening party

Gourmet editor John "Doc" Willoughby stops by to say hello, and we learn he never saw his photo on our Web site -- so we insisted! "Damn, you guys are talented! I've never looked so good," sez Doc.

9:03 PM POSTING:

Sitting here with 2006 James Beard Award winner Steve Dolinsky, who is setting the record straight: Tonight is his 12th James Beard Award win, which ties him with Alan Richman for the greatest number of Beard Awards won by any individual.

Steve sez:

"Watch my stuff on www.ABC7Chicago.com, and click on Features, and the Hungry Hound. A big shout-out to my collaborator, editor, producer, partner-in-crime Badriyyah Waheed, who is in Chicago."

9:00 PM POSTING:


Marion Kane (of MarionKane.com), Karen Page, Patty Stearns
(of PattyStearns.com), and Gabriella Gershenson of Time Out:
New York
(of GabiWrites.com)

8:50 PM POSTING:

There's been scarcely a moment to reflect while trying to keep up with the crush of Awardees coming into the Press Room after receiving their Awards. This is our first time live Blogging at the James Beard Awards -- hell, perhaps the first-ever Live Blog from the Beard Awards -- and it's definitely a fun, never-a-dull-moment way to experience them. It's a delight to get to catch up with friends we sometimes get to see only once a year: here!

8:40 PM POSTING:


2006 Best Chef: New York Dan Barber, presenter Eli Manning,
and 2006 Rising Star Chef Corey Lee


Restaurateur extraordinaire Danny Meyer and chef Gabriel
Kruether of The Modern, 2006 Best New Restaurant

8:35 PM POSTING:


Presenter Daisy Martinez and Karen Page in the Press Room

Is Daisy Martinez adorable, or what? We'd met her at the launch party for the new Tocqueville a few months back, and had so much fun talking with Daisy and her producer that we've been quoting them in conversation ever since. Full of life and spunk, Daisy is one passionate lady!

8:30 PM POSTING:

2006 Rising Star Chef: Corey Lee, The French Laundry

2006 Best New Restaurant: THE MODERN
(Woo-hoo!!! Congratulations to the entire team, pictured below before the Awards ceremony!!)

8:25 PM POSTING:

2006 Best Chef: NYC: Dan Barber, Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Pocantico Hills, NY) (Congratulations, Dan!!)

2006 Best Chef: Midwest: Shawn McClain, Spring (Chicago)

8:20 PM POSTING:


2006 Book Award winner for MOLTO ITALIANO Mario Batali


Karen and Mario compare footwear


Mario Batali plants a big one on the Birthday Girl!
Happy Birthday indeed, Karen!


Andrew, 2006 Outstanding Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini, and
Isabella from the James Beard Foundation

2006 Broadcast Media Award: Television Food Show, National: HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING with host Mark Bittman

2006 Broadcast Media Award: Television Food Special: CHEFS A'FIELD on PBS

8:15 PM POSTING:

2006 Book Award - International: MOLTO ITALIANO by Mario Batali (Woo-hoo, way to go Mario!)

2006 Book Award - General: THE COOK'S BOOK by Jill Norman

8:00 PM POSTING:


2006 Outstanding Service Award to Gary Danko

2006 Broadcast Media Award - Television Show Segment: ABC 7 NEWS AT 11 with Steve Dolinsky (Hey, congratulations, Steve! What is this, Beard Award number 17?? Or did we miss a few?)

2006 Broadcast Media Award - Television Food Show, Local: BAY CAFE with host Joey Altman at KRON

2006 Book Award - Writing on Food: HUNGRY PLANET by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio

2006 Book Award - Single Subject: RECIPES, HISTORY & LORE by Jennifer McLagan

2006 Book Award - Photography: NOBU NOW with photography by Eiichi Takahashi

7:55 PM POSTING:


Who's Who inductee Gray Kunz being congratulated by
Andrew Dornenburg

7:45 PM POSTING:


2006 Who's Who inductees

7:25 PM POSTING:

2006 Book Award - Entertaining and Special Occasions: SIMPLE SOIREES by Peggy Knickerbocker

2006 Book Award - Reference: CHEESE: A CONNOISSEUR'S GUIDE TO THE WORLD'S BEST by our friend Max McCalman and David Gibbons (Way to go, Max! Scarlett should be very proud of her talented dad.)

7:25 PM POSTING:

2006 Book Award - Healthy Focus: SPICES OF LIFE by Nina Simonds (Yay! Congratulations, Nina! She was such a great part of our education on Chinese cuisine, via our book THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF.)

2006 Book Award - Food of the Americas: THE NEW AMERICAN COOKING by Joan Nathan (Yay again -- Congratulations, Joan! What fun we had meeting Joan at the dinner James Beard Award-winning chef Jose Andres hosted for us at Cafe Atlantico in Washington, DC, a couple of years ago in celebration of our book THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF.)

7:20 PM POSTING:

2006 Broadcast Media Award - Webcast: SPATULATTA.COM with hosts Isabella Gerasole and Olivia Gerasole

2006 Broadcast Media Award - Radio Food Show - National: THE LEONARD LOPATE SHOW with Leonard Lopate

(We give a special shout-out to Leonard Lopate, who was one of the best radio interviewers we'd ever had, a decade ago for our book CULINARY ARTISTRY. Congratulations, Leonard!)

2006 Best Chef: Northeast: Jean-Louis Gerrin, Jean-Louis of Greenwich, CT (whose wife represented him well!)

7:15 PM POSTING:

2006 Book Award - Baking & Desserts: DOUGH by Richard Bertinet

2006 Book Award - Wine & Spirits: WHISKEY by Michael Jackson

2006 Outstanding Restaurant Design Award: THE MODERN at the MoMA (NYC)

7:12 PM POSTING:

2006 Best Chef: Southeast: John Besh, Restaurant August (New Orleans)

2006 Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic: Fabio Trabocchi, Maestro at the Ritz-Carlton (McLean, VA)

7:05 PM POSTING:


Suzanne Goin, author of SUNDAY SUPPERS AT LUCQUES,
winner of the 2006 Book Award for Cooking from a
Professional Point of View


On the right, Madhur Jaffrey's book AN INVITATION TO
INDIAN COOKING is inducted into the Cookbook Hall of Fame

6:50 PM POSTING:


2006 Best Chef: Southwest Bradford Thompson with
Karen Page in the Press Room at the James Beard Awards

2006 Best Chef: Southwest: Brad Thompson of Mary Elaine's at The Phoenician in Phoenix (Congratulations, Brad!!)

Backstage in press room, Brad told us he forgot to thank Johnny Iuzzini of Jean Georges and Cornelius Gallagher of Oceana. Glad we can help out and let them know they were on his mind!

Karen recalled her introduction of Brad to the James Bead House crowd (who included several member of the media, including a representative of Food & Wine magazine) a couple of years ago when she told Brad upon winning tonight, "Brad, I only have six words for you: Brad Thompson, Brad Thompson, Brad Thompson." He laughed, and said, "You know, my cooks still tease me about that. They'll taste something of mine and bring it up!" At the Beard House, Karen had opened her intro of Brad saying, "Brad Thompson. Brad Thompson. Brad Thompson. It's a name worth repeating, because it's a name worth remembering." Shortly thereafter, Brad had been named one of Food & Wine magazine's Top 10 Chefs and was nominated as Best Chef: Southwest.

6:35 PM POSTING:


2006 Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional Daniel Johnnes

Our congratulations to sommelier Daniel Johnnes on taking home the 2006 Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional Award! We asked Daniel if there was anyone he forgot to thank, and he said, "Yes -- my dear friend and mentor Larry Stone!"! Larry, we're vouching for Daniel that his thoughts upon winning were with you....

The 2006 Outstanding Wine Service Award went to Aureole - Las Vegas, where William Sherer is the Wine Director. (We lost that bet....but congratulations to William!)

6:10 PM POSTING:


Chef Norman Van Aken and his wife Janet (who let Andrew
know that Norman's opening two new places in Key West)


Externs taking a break from helping in the kitchen


More externs behind the scenes in the Marriott's kitchen


Taking a break to read the Awards program


Andrew and nominee Greg Tresner clean up well (see below!)


Chef-restaurateur Patrick O'Connell of The Inn at Little
Washington (VA) and long-time food critic Phyllis Richman


Spying a smiling Brad Thompson (c.) through the crowd
(You'd be smiling, too, if you were nominated for Best Chef:
Southwest!)


Self-described "luckiest man at the James Beard Awards"
(given present company!) chef Takashi Yagihashi


Seven-time James Beard Award nominee for Best Chef:
California Traci Des Jardins with Andrew Dornenburg


The Modern's A-Team, up for an Award for Best New Rest-
aurant: chef Gabriel Kreuther, wine director Stephane
Colling, service director Thierry Chouquet and managing director
Ana Marie Mormando


Farmer Lee Jones of The Culinary Vegetable Institute agreed
to have his photo taken only if Karen would pose with him....
[Photo credit: Tru sommelier Scott Tyree -- thanks, Scott!]


Proud restaurateur Danny Meyer gives a victory salute for
his team at The Modern


The (long!) line-up of New Orleans' chefs cooking at tonight's
Awards reception...


Legendary chef Leah Chase among the line-up....


More chefs coming through the line-up of New Orleans chefs
(Hey -- is that Chef Emeril Lagasse??)


Still more New Orleans chefs...does this mean there will be
more food than usual at this year's reception??


Winning Karen's vote as hottest dress at the Awards....


Babbo sous chef Chris Fischer, Outstanding Pastry Chef
nominee Babbo's Gina DePalma and Andrew Dornenburg


Tru sommelier Scott Tyree and Karen Page


Osteria Via Stato sommelier Belinda Chang and Andrew

Any predictions for this evening? Babbo sous chef Chris Fisher responded, "You mean besides Gina [DePalma] winning?" They refrained from predictions regarding David Blaine, whom they reported is a semi-regular at Babbo, where he orders "a quart of blood orange juice and the rib-eye."


Greeted at the James Beard Awards registration table by
Emily Nordee, Monica Glass and Sia Shin

Monday, May 8, 2006 at 5:00 pm — We're ahead of schedule -- and happy to be sending greetings from the James Beard Awards in New York City. Barring any unforeseen technical difficulties, we'll be bringing you our LIVE BLOG all evening from the press room of the Marriott Marquis.

Any questions re: what's going on at the reception and festivities? Feel free to email us LIVE tonight at CookbookRave@aol.com.

Monday, May 8, 2006 at 3:45 pm — Please join Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page RIGHT HERE starting at 5:30 pm ET (or thereabouts) for our LIVE BLOG from the James Beard Foundation Awards at the Marriott Marquis in New York City!



Our flight of Manhattans at the Flatiron Lounge


Natalie MacLean, Greg Tresner, Karen Page, Andrew Dornenburg


The artichoke salad with a chunky pesto at A Voce


A Voce's incredible mushroom salad blew us all away


A Voce's rustic chicken cacciatore was juicy and tender


A flurry of desserts magically appeared on our table....


...as A Voce's kitchen wished Karen a Happy Birthday!


Andrew horsing around with chef Chris Bianco at A Voce


Chef Brad Thompson and Andrew Dornenburg at A Voce


Approaching Lincoln Center for a closer look at the blue marble


Hundreds watched in silence at midnight


David Blaine waves to those gathered

Monday, May 8, 2006 Happy Birthday to James Beard and to Karen!

We had fun kicking off the James Beard Awards Eve by meeting up with a couple of fellow wine lovers...for cocktails. Leave it to a wine writer from Ottawa the talented Natalie MacLean to lead us to a bar in Manhattan we'd never been to before. We met up with Natalie and 2006 James Beard Award nominee for Outstanding Wine Service Greg Tresner (master sommelier at Mary Elaine's at The Phoenician, whom we had the pleasure of interviewing for WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT) at the Flatiron Lounge for a flight of Manhattans. (Flatiron features a "Flight of the Day," offering three different takes on a classic cocktail.) Even more than the taste of the past in our spirit-filled glasses, we enjoyed that offered by the historic lounge, which has been around since "the Roaring Twenties."

Thereafter, we strolled with Natalie to join the throngs at A Voce. Maitre d' Dante Camara worked his usual magic in making it look easy to navigate a roomful of out-of-town food professionals visiting New York for tonight's James Beard Awards and clamoring for a taste of 2005 James Beard Award-winning chef Andrew Carmellini's cuisine in his new digs (since leaving Cafe Boulud a year ago). The dining room was filled with a virtual Who's Who of previous James Beard Award winners and nominees, including chefs Lissa Doumani and Hiro Sone of Terra (St. Helena, CA), Ana Sortun of Oleana (Boston), Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix), and Brad Thompson of Mary Elaine's at The Phoenician (Phoenix).

Afterward, we dropped Natalie off at her hotel and headed to Lincoln Center at midnight. We hadn't expected to find the crowds so quiet, almost reverent, beholding the spectacle of a man willfully submerging his body in a sphere of water for seven days. While the cameras focused on David Blaine, the real story seemed to be in those gathered to witness this moment in history. What did we have in common? The crowd ranged from children to some in the "over 60" category. We circled the entire perimeter, hearing accents familiar and foreign, noting every color of skin, seeing Hassidim and even a monk in saffron robes. Gathered around an illuminated globe containing a man suspended in water whom we suspected to be suffering...for what? To prove that each of us is capable of more than ever thought humanly possible? For eternal glory?

We can't claim to know. But even we, who were motivated to witness this event mostly out of curiosity, were startled by the sense of sheer, silent wonderment that pervaded the moment and unexpectedly united us all.

Flatiron Lounge is at 37 West 19th Street. (212) 727-7741. Web: www.flatironlounge.com

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

David Blaine is at www.davidblaine.com

Highlights from today's eMailbox:

"KP, I have this penchant for lists such as address lists, people I'd like to keep in touch with, and birthday lists. Turns out you're on all three of these for today, so...happy birthday! Hoping you're well and that Andrew will  celebrate you with the appropriate enthusiasm and glee."
PK (aka Patrick Kaufer)

"KP!! Just saw your birthday in my calendar! I hope it's a wonderful
one! I imagine you guys will be at the Beard Awards, rocking out in
full style....Had a good clip in
Travel+Leisure recently, in two parts; check it out [here and here].... Big hugs and all best. xx"
Meeghan (aka Meeghan Truelove)

"Hello sweet friends!! Karen, hope you're having a wonderful birthday...it was so lovely to see you in Millburn, and thanks again for the fabulous dinner and fun hang...can't wait to see you both again soon! Love,"
Val and Brendan
(aka Valerie Vigoda & Brendan Milburn)

"Happy Birthday...I hope Andrew needs to go to the mail box?  :>)"
Susan (aka Susan Bulkeley Butler)

"I hope this year brings you all sorts of great times
and gets you closer to your dreams."

Evan (& Kim & Kendra) (aka The Klebers)

"Happy Birthday!!!!...Thinking of you!"
CP (aka Cynthia)


The view from Asiate's 35th floor (until the sun set)


Asiate knows how to celebrate spring's arrival


Starting with herbed gougeres at Asiate


Warm Slow Poached Egg, Bonito, Ginko Nut and Gold Leaf
at Asiate was extraordinary with Gosset Brut Grand Rose


Seasonal Tasting Dishes at Asiate, perfectly paired with
Junmai Daiginjo sake and a 2005 "O Pale" Viognier


Pairing Triumph: Five spoons, one wine*, five +2 pairings
(*2001 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett)


Sommelier Annie Turso pours another great wine to taste


Asiate's marble beef and components served in a steamer
with a 2001 Chateau La Grave Pomerol


Berry-Greek Yogurt, Grape Salad, Grape Granite


Asiate's Vietnamese Cafe: Coffee Mousse, Caramelized
Sweetened Condensed Milk Ice Cream and Almond Dust


Tropical fruit flavors celebrated in souffle and juice


Sweet good-byes: The petits fours at Asiate

Saturday, May 6, 2006 God bless Restaurant Week, which is how we were originally able to discover one of our new favorite restaurants: Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (Feb. 2nd Blog). At that time, we wrote:

Of the four factors we've written comprise a restaurant experience, Asiate appears strongest (in descending order) in 1) ambiance, 2) service, 3) wine, and 4) food.

But last night, after being invited to experience Asiate's spring tasting menu with wine pairings, and with Karen's birthday (on Monday) providing an excuse to accept, we discovered we were wrong.

We'd previously experienced only the restaurant's spectacular eastern view of Central Park South from the 35th floor, which was stunning enough to prompt us to rank Asiate's ambiance first. However, last night our northern view was mostly shielded by shimmery fabric and the darkening night sky. Absent any view to speak of for most of the evening, we were left to discover Asiate's true essence: extraordinary hospitality, passionate gastronomy, and nuanced delight.

After having been charmed previously by Asiate's 23-year-old assistant sommelier Emilie Garvie, we were happy to finally have a chance to meet sommelier Annie Turso, who had been in France at the time of our first visit. A native of Australia, her wide-ranging interest in wine springs from years of traveling the globe and was previously honed at Vong. Last night, Annie showed off some of the most delightful pairings imaginable. And neither of us will ever forget our first amazing taste of the 2005 O Pale Viognier she poured; our thanks to Eric Texier in the Rhone Valley for creating this wine in a Spatlese style, and revealing to us a new aspect of the great potential of the Viognier grape.

Manager Charles Kim, whom we'd met on our first visit to Asiate, stopped by to say hello and see how we were enjoying our dinner. But he needn't have worried: Our server Tina was as pleasant as she was professional, from answering our barrage of questions to sharing in our enthusiasm for various tastes.

Chef Nori Sugie (whom we learned had previously cooked with Charlie Trotter in Chicago and Tetsuya Wakuda in Sydney) started last night's menu with "Warm Slow Poached Egg, Bonito, Ginko Nut." Despite its exquisite flavors and sensual textures that struck Karen as the gustatory equivalent of receiving a big, welcoming hug, it was not the single most extraordinary egg dish we'd ever tasted. It was, however, the second most extraordinary...and it's a credit to 34-year-old chef Nori that we'd only tasted its better at Alain Ducasse.

It's easy to assume that a restaurant located on the 35th floor of a hotel is all about the view. We're grateful to have had the opportunity to have our eyes opened to the fact that even more importantly, Asiate is a restaurant quietly oozing with artful ambition, tremendous talent, and surprising soul which last night enabled the restaurant to create the single best dining experience we've ever had at the Time Warner Center.

Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental is at 80 Columbus Circle at 60th Street, New York. (212) 805-8800. Asiate is serving its Spring Tasting Menu ($95) with wine pairings ($145) all month; try not to miss the opportunity to experience your own taste of the Spatlese-style 2005 O Pale Viognier!


The dining room at Barbounia


Our glasses of inky Gragnano and red Sancerre at Barbounia


Our heavy (if tasty) amuse of lamb with saffron orzo


Barbounia's saganaki with fig marmalade


Barbounia's charred octopus with marinated tomato salad


Lamb skewers with mint tahini and roasted tomatoes


Colorado lamb chops with Greek yogurt cucumber salad


Cesare Casella, Andrew Dornenburg & Peter Elliot on the
roof of 230 Fifth at Gael Greene's book party


The Empire State Building on its 75th anniversary (5/1/06)

Wednesday, May 3, 2006 Making plans to attend the book launch party for Gael Greene's Insatiable at 230 Fifth Ave. (near 27th St.) on Monday night already had us planning to be away from taking our red pencils to the final pages of our next book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT for an hour or two. So, it seemed like an opportune time to finally check out nearby Barbounia beforehand.

Our state: From our seats in Barbounia's dining room along the window facing Park Avenue South, we had a view of L'Express across the street and, coincidentally, our book designer passing by on the sidewalk, which made us feel momentarily guilty for being away from the pages she'd worked so hard to beautify how would she feel about any lingering typos missed while we were out for the evening instead of taking full advantage of the all-too-brief time available to perfect our book?

The scene: As long-married 40-somethings, we doubt we fit the profile of Barbounia's target market. We'd imagine it to be 20- and 30-somethings as well as singles of all ages, based on the loud and lively scene created by the music in Barbounia's attractive, whimsical dining room (with touches like a winged chandelier that looks like it's about to take flight). It also seems to be a restaurant aimed at "intermediate" foodies those adventurous enough to order things like octopus and barbounia, and pleased enough to find them tasty if not the very best of their kind.

The wine: We enjoyed getting to try some intriguing wines at Barbounia, where Philip Pepperdine's list includes oxymoronic options like a red Sancerre and a red, chilled, sparkling Italian wine called Gragnano that is earthy and full-bodied to the point of chewiness.

The food: We have never met a saganaki we didn't like, Barbounia's (which comes with a fig marmalade) included although you'll want to eat it quickly, lest a good portion of the cheese stick to the sides of the dish. And we were shocked how much we enjoyed the tomatoes on the charred octopus appetizer, which were certainly our first memorable fresh tomatoes of 2006. The namesake barbounia appetizer was perfectly cooked, although we didn't at all care for the warm gigante bean hummus and rosemary oil that accompanied it. Colorado lamb chops were cooked beautifully, too, although Karen enjoyed the Greek yogurt-marinated cucumber salad and mint vinaigrette more than Andrew did. In fact, we did fine whenever we stuck with the recommendations of our waiter Terry, a San Diego transplant, so we only wish we'd gone with his recommendations for dessert.

Musings: Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone when choosing a restaurant can be unexpectedly instructional. Barbounia's staff including maitre d' Jason Platt, whom we had the pleasure of meeting is professional, even cordial. However, we came to realize that there's nothing like the feeling many independently-owned restaurants offer of welcoming you into the family's dining room for the night. The strength of restaurants like A Voce (which is part of the MARC group) is tapping that feeling in a "corporate" restaurant; from day one, A Voce's staff voiced informed opinions and exuded real personalities. We stopped going to Gramercy Tavern when we noticed its shift from individuals to automatons, but thankfully its sister restaurant The Modern is filled with passionate individuals in the front of the house who make every visit a pleasure. Andrew encourages Barbounia to "Let its freak flag fly!" a little more.

Gael's Book Party: A delicious time, getting to congratulate Gael on the publication of Insatiable in the fine company of Bloomberg's Peter Elliot and author Sheila Lukins (with whom we shared a memorable elevator ride to the 20th floor!), Maremma's Cesare Casella, Chanterelle's David Waltuck and Baltz & Co.'s Chloe Mata, New York's Gillian Duffy and her husband David, The New York Times' Florence Fabricant, caterer Pamela Morgan, and chef Andre Soltner, among many others.

Barbounia is at 250 Park Avenue South (at 20th Street), New York. (212) 995-0242. Web: www.barbounia.com

Insatiable is available on Amazon.com.

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What a great idea! WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page is enormously educational and entertaining, and should fit with anyone's lifestyle."
Robert Mondavi



 
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