Merry Christmas, Y’all

December 24, 2007

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I’m spending the holidays cooking and eating with my family. We’re making cakes and candies, hot chocolate and eggnog, standing rib roast and popovers, banana pancakes and palmiers, creamy “adult” drinks and punch for the kids. Last night, I made three different stir fries (I’m glad I have 3 woks!) for us and some friends who are actually moving into their newly constructed house this past weekend. Talk about crazy timing.

Anyhow, I’ll have plenty to write about, but for now, have a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Frolicking Festivus, Delightful Kwanzaa, or whatever the rest of you celebrate. And if you don’t celebrate anything, enjoy your time off from work!


Southern Food, According to Gourmet

December 21, 2007

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I’ve subscribed to Gourmet for at least ten years. I was about to give up on the magazine until they ran a special edition that focused on Mexican and Latino foods, including a great Colman Andrews piece on Durham taquerias.

Yesterday’s mail brought another smile to my face when I realized the January Gourmet focused on food of the American South. Yeah, South. There’s a beautiful essay by the late great Edna Lewis, discovered after her death. There’s a story on Ayden, North Carolina’s Skylight Inn. John T. Edge writes about Linton Hopkins and his struggle to have Atlanta embrace his Restaurant Eugene. And Scott Peacock puts together a great dinner menu of Southern food. These are real people and real places, some friends or acquaintances, and the magazine truly warmed my heart, making me wanting more. That’s exactly what a food magazine should do. So, to all those bashers of Ruth Reichl, watch out — I’ve got her back!


Grant Achatz Cancer-Free

December 18, 2007

When I heard the news a few months ago that Grant Achatz, chef of Chicago’s Alinea, had developed tongue cancer, I was devastated. I had eaten at Alinea in June and was completely blown away by Achatz’s cuisine. The man is so young, so talented, and (as my wife pointed out), so “hot.” Heh. Anyhow, it was essentially a real-world Shakespearian tragedy to think that this young man, the chef of arguably the best restaurant in the country, had an affliction that might result in the loss of his sense of taste, his tongue, or his life.

Good news! I received the following press release earlier today:

It is with a tremendous sense of gratitude and relief that I have successfully completed my course of therapy at the University of Chicago. It was incredibly important to me to remain as engaged as possible at Alinea while receiving treatment, and during that time I only missed 14 services. I continue to stand committed to innovating fine dining long into the future.

At this time I want to thank everyone at Alinea — the staff, investors, and patrons of the restaurant have offered their unwavering commitment and support in ways large and small. The community of restaurants, chefs, and industry professionals who reached out to us was exceptionally gratifying.

Most of all, I must make special mention of doctors Vokes, Blair, and Haraf at the University of Chicago Medical Center, as well as the countless number of medical professionals and support staff there who cared for me. Where other doctors at prominent institutions saw little hope of a normal life, let alone a cure, these doctors saw an opportunity to think differently, preserve my tongue and taste, and maintain a long term high quality of life. Through the use of a new and rigorous chemotherapy and radiation protocol, they were able achieve a full remission while ensuring that the use of invasive surgery on my tongue was not needed.

Onward.

Onward, indeed, and congrats Chef G!


Has Chowhound Banned VarmintBites, Too???

December 18, 2007

Tee hee, I think I might have been indirectly banned from Chowhound, too! I subscribe to the Chowhound South feed, and in the discussion about Poole’s, someone posted this:

While I haven’t been there yet, I do know people who work there & I also knwo it is not supposed to be really a diner, but more like a french bistro & not necesarily country cooking. We may not live in SF, but considering all the people moving here with money to buy the lame condos down town, that is why stuff is expensive. Here’s a decent review with pictures

And then there was a link to my experience of the opening night of Poole’s.

I saw that post on Chowhound earlier today, but it’s completely missing now. Maybe they don’t like me because I’ve asked them why they continue to ban any discussions of Jujube. Or could this be the reason: “Posts which link directly to blog entries without adding any useful information to the site will be removed – copy or encapsulate your blog posts on Chowhound so readers can read and respond within our community.” Granted, that “policy” is addressed to the creators of the blogs themselves, not third parties providing links to others’ blogs.

Regardless, I’m honored. And I love to stir the pot, too! ;-)


Italian Food Commercials Rock

December 17, 2007

One of my favorite food blogs is Bob del Grosso’s A Hunger Artist, and in today’s post, I found something that reminded me of how much other countries strike the perfect balance in their appreciation of food. Here in the US, we’re constantly bombarded with ads touting the nutritional aspects of food, a dish’s convenience, or, god forbid, the sheer size of portions. On one hand, we don’t have much of an appreciation for food at all, whereas on the other hand, we take it way too seriously.

When del Grosso posted this YouTube clip from Italy, I almost fell out of my chair laughing. You could not find a commercial that is more kitschy, more idiotic, yet completely perfect. It takes a serious and iconic food item, Parmigiano Reggiano, and makes it completely whimsical. Call it an “Up With People” for the foodies.

Enjoy, and watch it to the end for the Christmas snow scene.


Ashley Christensen Brings the French Countryside to Raleigh with Poole’s

December 14, 2007

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Crispy frogs’ legs. Calves’ liver with sweet onions. Poached eggs on brioche with a chanterelle gravy. This is the food of the French countryside, food that you could get from a farmhouse restaurant in Normandy. And now you can get it in Raleigh with the opening of Ashley Christensen’s Poole’s Downtown Diner. The old Poole’s vibe is still the same, but this ain’t no diner. The huge bar remains, the seating arrangement hasn’t been modified, and it’s as hard to get in the bathrooms as it ever was, but the food is unlike anything you’ll find in Raleigh. Braises. Confit. Thick, hearty soups. And mounds of simple, bright salads. Poole’s has arrived, and if you like rich, heavy French comfort food, you’re in for a treat. Read the rest of this entry »


Pots de Crème? We’ll Just Call It Puddin’

December 10, 2007

pudding.jpgMy wife and I hosted a dinner party for her co-workers on Saturday, and I knew that it was going to be a pretty busy day in addition to the cooking that was needed. I had to come up with a simple dessert that I could make in advance, something fairly light, as the earlier courses were fairly heavy. Plus, my freezer was on the blink, so anything involving ice cream was out.

The solution? Pots de crème (that’s “pots of cream” for you non-French speakers). Traditionally served in dainty and elegant lidded cups, these light custards can be made in a jiffy, particularly if you don’t need to cook the mixture to infuse the flavoring.

Lemon is a natural flavoring for pots de crème, but because Meyer lemons are now available, I used this slightly sweeter and more complex flavored citrus fruit. It took me 10 minutes to prepare the custard, pour it into ramekins, and then left them to bake in a bain marie for a little over half an hour. After chilling, I topped them with a bit of sweetened whipped cream and dusted the dish with some Lemonhead candies that I had pulverized into a powder. Adding an almond and chocolate tuile on the side, and the dish was a perfect ending to a perfect meal. And my guests all told me it was the best pudding they ever had.

Recipe after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »


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