Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas Gluttony Recap

It has been a gluttonous few weeks around these parts- from egg nog and sausage balls, 8 batches of different homemade cookies, a slew of office and other parties, chex mix and more chex mix, spiral cut hams, a crown roast of pork, oyster stew, italian cream cake, eggs benedict, vats of bourbon, baked brie, scallops wrapped in bacon.... and the list goes on. Enough to give me serious indigestion. It has only been through a rigorous exercise regime that I haven't gained 10 lbs.

Here are some of the highlights


This is a loaf of yummy bread from Peter's adobe oven- nice trick with the tree !













As usual, most of my gifts revolve around food- new sausage making cookbook, a Susan Spicer cookbook (she has two fantastic restaurants in New Orleans- Bayona and Herbsaint), an immersion blender- have already tried it out on a Gouda cauliflower soup, a ravioli cutter, and a fun new game, Foodie Fight. Not pictured are some additional treats- a Gift Certificate to Belmont Butchery and a jar of truffle salt.


















Crown Roast Pork on Christmas night


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Big Night 2

Back in April, I turned 40, and my lovely bride surprised me with a Dinner Party for 16- it was deemed Big Night. We had one of those glorious evenings when senses are heightened and all is right in the universe. Good food, wine, and friends. We talked about making it a more regular occurence. Friday Night was Big Night 2.




These are the highlights:

24 friends

24 bottles of wine


Antpasti

Marinated Mozzarella
Olives
Artichoke Hearts
Fava Beans
Stuffed Mushrooms
Salame

Primi

Pasta witth Ricotta and Sausage
Eggplant Parmesan



Seafood

Grilled Salmon
Mussels












Meat

Pork Tenderloin
Flank Steak stuffed with red & yellow bell peppers & prosciutto

















Contorni

Potatoes Au Gratin
Broiled Asparagus


Dolci

Coconut CheeseCake
Pound Cake


There was much celebration and dancing after dinner- a good time was had by all.



Thursday, December 13, 2007

Under the trance of Mario

I love what he does with the simplest of ingredients; many of my trips to New York have included a Mario Batali restaurant, Over the years, I have had the pleasure of dining at Po, Lupa, Babbo, Esca, and Otto. Last weekend found me in New York visting one of my best friends from London, who had hopped the pond for a long weekend of shopping. The dollar is really that weak against the pound.



After a long day walking the chilly streets of New York and battling the hordes at Rockefeller Center, we welcomed a few hours to relax. Mario Battali’s OTTO is not exactly an anecdote to the over stimulated. First of all, the restaurant is heaving with people, When we arried at 7, there was a wait of nearly 2 hours to contend with. Luckily for us, we found a cozy corner to tuck into, and the negronis were flowing. When we finally sat down (when PIACENZA finally came up on the arrival board- patrons are give n pseudo train tickets with different Italian cites as destinations- when your city comes up on the board, your table is ready.) We munched on fresh bread and olives, roasted peppers, and caponata as a prelude to a few of the most lovely pizzas one can imagine:

One was a simple mushroom and taleggio pie, the other with tomato, mozzarella, and arugula.

After spending a snowy Sunday wandering through Soho and a hard-hittingg Kara Walker show at the Whitney, I was ready for a drink by 4 in the afternoon. There are few lovelier places to sneak into then the new gastro pub in the West Village, The Spotted Pig. After a mulled wine to take the edge off I had a few locally brewed 6 Point Cask conditioned ales. With less fizz, and less chill, they are a great drink for a snowy afternoon. I spent the afternoon with my good friend Dave, a former baker in Richmond and now owner of Brooklyn’s One Girl Cookies. After some friends arrived we had a great meal under the watchful eye of April Bloomfield, former chef at London’s River Cafe, Kensington Place, Bibendum as well as the Bay Area’s Chez Panisse



After a few appetizers of Deviled Eggs and Roll Mops (pickled herring) Dave and I split Pan Fried Calf’s Liver with Crispy and Panfried Skate with Chicory & Potatoes. The liver was rich and earthy and the texture a perfect complement to the cispy pancetta. The skate was moist and tasty and sat on a bed of sauteed chicory, a slightly bitter yin to the skate's sweet yang.

We finished the evening with take-out cupcakes from the infamous Magnolia Bakery- Dave gave us a primer on the intricacies of cupcake baking,from how butter and shortening produce a different “crumb factor.” I think Magnolia Bakery is a bit overrated- the cupcakes all taste the same. I like the cupcakes from One Girl Cookies

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Is there a lobster in my pot?


The Ready brothers, lobstermen from Portland, Maine have devised a rather clever way of giving their customers a more intimate connection to their business. In an age where folks are starting to move back towards connecting to the farmers who grow our food- at Farmer's Markets, through CSAs and other local routes, it is still difficult to connect with the farmers of the sea. Enter the Ready brothers, who for a mere $2995.00 a year will sell you the rights to all of the lobsters caught in given pot, and then ship it wherever you'd like. "The connection is important for consumers who want to know more about their food" commented Dane Sommer , director of the Maine Lobster Promotion Council."

To get your piece of the claw, visit the Ready Brothers and reserve your pot today

Monday, November 19, 2007

Si o No ?

Tapas for the 2nd time in two weeks- this time at one of Richmond's most touted new spots, Si, on Lombardy Avenue in the Fan. At eight o'clock on a Wednesday night, we sat down without a wait in a light wood space that seemed more Scandanavian than Spanish. Our server was enthusiastic and recommended almost everything on the menu. We started with tasty bacon wrapped dates, piping hot and crispy. Patatas bravas came next with a tangy tomato sauce and a fresh aoli. Marinated anchovies were small and shriveled, without much body. Piquillo peppers were stuffed with chevre and a fennel conserva - not bad but lacking any sort of kick. The stuffed squid was disappointing, save the black rice that had been cooked and pan fried to a crispiness. My favorite dish was the crisp pork belly, served with seckel pear and spice bush berry. Shaved serrano ham was rather bland, saved only by the tasty carmelized black mission figs. We shared a few desserts- a chocolate cake and an almond torte, ok but forgetable. The food at Si is passable, but compared to a meal at MAS a few weeks ago, it falls well short. The flavors are flat, the menu uninspired, and the decor rather forgettable.

The Philosophy of Taste

When we think about the major taste groups, Sweet, Sour, Salty, and Bitter come to mind. But how about Umami? For thousands of years, there was agreement that these weer the four building blocks of flavor. And then along came Escoffier. He invented veal stock, and lots of other good things. And our taste buds have been doing flips ever since. Get the full flavor here. yum yum good

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dinner and a Show


Two evenings in the past month have found me heading on I-64 W to Charlottesville for a concert. And who wants to hear music on an empty stomach? One more reason to sample some of Central Virginia's better restaurant scenes.

Before a Wilco show, we had a nice dinner at Zocalo, which means 'center of town' or town square in Spanish colloquial speech. It is aptly named for its convenient location on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall, just a stones throw from the concert venue. I started with a beer at the bar with a platter of traditional Spanish cheeses including a manchego and another one with a tamarind jelly. For a first, I had a spicy tuna tartar prepared with red corn tostadas, cucumber relish, pasilla-negro vinegar and tequila crema. The tuna was almost an afterthought to this spicy blend. Delicious but perhaps too strong a combo to truly taste the tuna. For a main dish I took a seared duck breast- well cooked and served with a decadent manchego carmelized onion bread pudding, braised swiss chard, and a chipotle port compote.
By the way, Wilco was tremendous.



A few weeks later three friends piled into a minivan with a cooler of beer to venture back in time to see the Police. For me, it was 26 years in the making. My first concert had been the Police at Shea Stadium in New York (with a fresh REM opening act). We had a lovely meal at MAS, a cool Tapas restaurant in Charlottesville's hip Belmont neighborhood. We munched on a variety of tasty dishes:

Pan al horno (to-go or warmed brick-oven bread w/ extra virgin olive oil)
Nueces picantes (spicy Marcona almonds and walnuts)
Boquerones ( blanched white anchovies marinated in olive oil, lemon, garlic, and herbs)
Tortilla espanola (organic eggs, potatoes, onions, and sea salt)
Carne asada (marinated hanging tenderloin -grilled rare only- w/ smoked tomato alioli)
Ensalada de calamari (soicy squid salad w/ salt capers, lemon, and parsley with baby arugula
Pato asado (Catalan-style: slowly braised duck confit w/ fig-sherry glaze)
Chuleta de cerda con mojo( pork chop, pan seared, served with almond, basil and garlic mojo)


Dinner was the highlight of the evening. While the Police can still play well, their show was a bit cold and reserved, without much soul.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pizza.... You Bet




A few weeks ago, I was sous chef for an afternoon in my best friend's back-yard. It was Peter and Ann's annual Halloween carving party, and guests have come to expect some of Richmond's finest pizza, baked off in huge quantities. Last year, Peter cooked 50 + pies, and this year we reached 75. His adobe oven is heated with wood, and pizzas cook quickly, in just a few minutes. He crafted a nifty contraption so that he could pass through the streched dough for me to dress. And then I could pass back pies ready to pop into the stove. I started with either tomato sauce or pureed carmelized onions as a base. Toppings included radicchio, blue and goat cheeese, pine nuts, mozzarella, fresh basil, and sun dried tomatoes. My personal favorite was a pie with a carnelized onion base, blue cheese, radicchio, and pine nuts.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rome is still fertile




A recent stunt in Rome colored the water in the famous Trevi Fountain a deep red. It's interesting because red can suggest so many things- both positive and negative- and in this context the guerilla artist commented that it represents a "Rome that's still menstruating, Rome that has not entered menopause yet, can still have children, is still fertile." Blood can be life giving and life letting.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Why Is Moonshine Against the Law?


Two Georgia men pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges of operating a moonshine still in the Chattahoochee National Forest. One of the bootleggers faces up to 35 years in prison for his crimes: making the brew, selling it, and not paying taxes on the proceeds. Back in college, the Explainer had friends who brewed their own beer, and that wasn't against the law. So why is moonshine still illegal? Click here for a swill that exlains the rationale. Take a Long Swallow


According to the article on Slate " Despite the Appalachian stereotypes, not everyone swigs moonshine just for fast, cheap intoxication. Some folks are accustomed to the taste of unaged whiskey, and they prefer the buzz that comes with it."

Monday, October 08, 2007

ARDEO


Cleveland Park's ARDEO has recently been named a BEST NEIGHBORHOOD RESTAURANT in Washington DC. It's a comfortable and warm space, in spite of the mirrors and backlit colorfield art pieces. Susannah met me in Washington for the night, and we had a nice walk in the unseasonably warm October night from Woodley Park. The crowd definitely had a neighborhood feel and a warm buzz permeated the space. The menu was interesting, and I had a hard time choosing a starter and entree so I opted for three appetizers served in successive courses.

I started with a Peeky-Toe Crab dish, served with crisp green apples, citrus gelee and a sweet soy reduction. As my next choice I had a Foie Gras Torchon with rillette ( a fancy version of BBQ), Riesling apricots, and chipotle syrup. Both were fantastic. I finished with an order of Steamed Nova Scotia mussels, served with grilled chorizo, scallions and a smoked paprika tomato broth.

Susannah had a great starter of asparagus and goat cheese in brick paper, grilled endive, pistachio, and a honey garlic balsamic dressing. Pan fried gnocchi were served with haricot vert, red peppers, shallots and sorrel. She fnished her evening with a chocolate sampler including biscotti, fudge, white chocolate truffles, and a molten cake.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Indique




Indique is a gem of an Indian restaurant in Washington DC's Clevelend Park. It's name comes from the combination of Indian and Unique and seems to be an apt title for a place that thrives on creating new variations on traditional indian food. Two hours after my first bite, my mouth still tingles from the deep heat of toasted telecherry peppercorns in the signature Chicken Chettinad- the best indian that I've had since years ago on London's Brick Lane. Sides of cucumber raita( with hints of cumin swimming in fresh yogurt)mango chuutney and naan and icy cold KingFisher beer rounded out the meal.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Politics of Childhood Obesity




An Op/Ed in Sunday's New York Times lamented the fact that an American icon, the cupcake, has "been marched to the front lines of the fat wars, banned from a growing number of classroom birthday parties because of their sugar, fat and “empty calories,” a poster food of the child obesity crisis." As a parent of two and three year old boys, and the husband of the self proclaimed Sugar Queen, this is serious business. Can you imagine kids clambering around the table to grab carrot sticks or edamame (don't get me wrong, there's a time and place for everything)? It goes back to one of my favorite sayings, Moderation in all things. If we all practiced moderation and balance in our food lives, there would be no need for something as draconian as banning cupcakes.

For the full story, click here I LOVE SUGAR And go have a cupcake !

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nuggets from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I am reading Barabara Kingsolver's latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a chronicle of her family's journey back to their agricultural roots. It's filled with lots of great little nuggets of widsom which I will periodically draw on as I read the book- here's one about the virtues of eating seasonally:

"Waiting for foods to come into season means tasting them when they're good, but waiting is also part of most value equations. Treating foods this way can help move "eating" in the consumer's mind from the Routine Maintenance Department over to the Division of Recreation. It's hard to reduce our modern complex of food choices to unifying principles, but this is one that generally works: eating home-cooked meals from whole, in-season ingredients obtained from the most local source available is eating well, in every sense. Good for the habitat, good for the body."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

When the cheese at home is not enough....


Take it on the road.

This bizzare site profiles Cheese on Tour- yes, you read correctly, this site features pictures of cheese in famous places. So when you are packing for your next trip to the islands, the big city, or even a jaunt down to the Richmond Capitol, don't forget a round of camembert, or a hunk of danish blue, or a slab of morbier. And remember some bread and wine to complete the trinity.

Monday, August 13, 2007

In a State of Flux


Greetings friends

So sorry that I have not been able to update the blog in the past month. But I have an excuse.... I have been moving.... Its a hellish process at best- add a 2 year old and a 3 year old to the mix and it just got that much more complicated. But we are in our new house, finally, and the future looks bright. And of course there are several food related tangents to our move.

1) Take-out: This move would not have been possible without nourishment from some of my favorite local haunts- The Northside Grill; Kitchen 64; Once Upon a Vine; River City Cellars; Tastebuds. Thank You.

2) A New Neighbor: Believe it or not, I moved in right next door to one of my favorite bloggers, Brandon Eats. What luck.... Instead of being limited to borrowing a mere cup of sugar, visions of truffle oil, italian anchovies, and pink peppercorns dance in my head.... more to come on this one

3) Food Drive-bys: Thanks to many friends who have showered us with wonderful foods- especially notable was a Moroccan gazpacho served over warm cous-cous and sprinkled with high octane french feta from Ellwood.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Couch Potato (Chip)


A recent study published by the medical journal, Appetite, suggests that food advertising on TV has a direct impact on both the quantity and types of food that kids eat. The study compared how much kids ate after watching adverts before a video. The first session featured ads for toys, and the second session, fielded 2 weeks later, featured food ads. After each session, the kids were allowed to graze a snack table that included healthy snacks as well as chips and candy. In the group of 9-11 year old kids, "they ate from 84% to 134% more calories after being exposed to food ads compared with their snack intake after watching toy advertising."


The fact that a visual stimulus would prompt us to eat even if we're not hungry makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, says David A. Levitsky, "From an evolutionary standpoint, if you see it you better eat it because you don't know when it's not going to be there anymore," says Dr. Levitsky. "What the food companies have learned very well is how to take advantage of that process and get us to eat more by showing us food."
For the complete bowl of salsa, > dip here

Friday, July 06, 2007

Fourth of July Figs


Every year around the Fourth of July the figs start to ripen. I picked 30-40 figs off of my tree in two days. They made the perfect appetizer for the annual Peasley Party. Quartered, stuffed with a little goat cheese, and drizzled with a peppered honey, these figs were a big hit at the party. A wonderful combination of sweet and pungent and hot and textures ranging from creamy to sticky to just down right succulent.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

northside musings


I have been trying to refrain, but I decided to at least give some initial impressions of some new northside eateries. As I have mentioned before, take any comments about a brand-new place with a grain of salt. They usually need some time to get the kinks out.

Kitchen 64: The latest from Johnny Giavos is a great addition to the northside. He has taken a very mediocre restaurant that Zippy ran, and after a major face-lift and attitude adjustment, has breathed fresh life into that space. And the food is good too. The menu is larger than it is inventive, but there are some new variations on old favorites. On several visits I have tried the Manolito ( a nod to Manny down at Kuba Kuba and a nice sandwich but not as good as the orginal- the bread at Kuba is better). Hunks of pungent high test feta cheese dressed up a burger one day for lunch- divine. And the fries are some of the best in Richmond. One dinner visit found us on the patio yucking it up with some newly-made friends- I had a nice "northside steak" with a peppercorn sauce. Hats off Johnny and Katrina. Welcome to the hood.

Northside Grill- I stayed away the first few days, and I know they battled some opening day demons. My first visit was post Cowboy Junkies last week for a late night sandwich. They were packed, as they had been all week, so lots of things were out of stock including salsa and cheese for the nachos (we passed) and my club left a little to be desired. Untoasted pieces of white bread(partly my fault for not specifying, and partly theirs for not asking) are not good bookends for a sandwich. But the space is great, the crowd lively, and its nice to see a bustle on Bellevue. I will be back, and back again.

Pizza - I was out walking on Friday night and my little boys asked for pizza. With no yeast in the cupboard, and no desire to run to the store, I thought to myself "ZORBAS". I went in and asked if I could buy a doughball and was denied. No Dough for You ! I said that I would pay the price for a small pizza. Denied. To busy on a Friday night. I was a bit miffed and left in a huff. My mood lightened considerably when Andrew Wisniewski, across the street at Tastebuds, was not only willing to part with a piece of dough, he wouldn't take a cent for it. Now that makes me want to go back and back and back. They have great take-out and some eat in as well. Check out Style Weekly's recent review:


Style Weekly’s Patrick Getlein settles down for a few meals at Tastebuds

Monday, June 25, 2007

Pray that Chocolate Stays Pure


Another battle is brewing over the purity of ingredients and how they affect the essence of a product. And this time the victim may be chocolate.

According to an article in today's New York Times, "Real chocolate is made from crushed cacao beans, which provide not only solid cocoa mass but also cocoa butter that is vital to texture because, quite literally, it melts in your mouth. Industrial confectioners have petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to be able to replace cocoa butter with cheaper fats and still call the resulting product “chocolate.” The reason: the substitution would allow them to use fewer beans and to sell off the butter for cosmetics and such."

It's becoming an increasingly prominent issue where market demands often compromise the integrity of what we eat. " Too much of what we eat is already ersatz-virtual, like “farm-fresh” Frankenstein produce or “home-baked” chemical cookies. No one who has savored real chocolate can be eager to see our beloved Theobroma cacao, the elixir of the gods, suffer this fate."

For the complete story, take a bite here.

EAT MORE CHOCOLATE

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Summertime Popsicles


AHHHHHHH !

If Rules Change, Will Camembert Stay the Same?


Mon dieu- there's a battle brewing in Normandy, and what's at stake could set precedents for the preservation of traditional cheese making techniques. Several large cheese producers began treating the milk they use to make 90% of the Camembert in Normandy. Although they cite health concerns, many feel the motive is purely economic, and this change allows them to bolster production. By treating their milk, they relinquished their AOC status ("Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée” or “AOC” — is a coveted certification that authenticates the content, method and origin of production of a French agricultural item.) but have recently petitioned that their new method of production does not change their product in such a way to lose its "essence" and they should be able to retain their AOC status.

At least one small producer does not agree: “Camembert that is not made with raw milk may be cheese, but it’s not real Camembert,” said Mr. Durand, who took over the family farm when he was only 19 and has run it for 26 years. “To not know a real raw milk Camembert — what a loss that would be. The variety, the diversity, the flavor of cheese — the very heritage of our country — will disappear.”



For the entire story, click on the cheese

Monday, June 18, 2007

Milk, Eggs, and Vodka

Grocery lists reveal a lot about a person- beyond the most obvious glimpse into one's culinary habits, they can also say something about socio-economic issues, and all in a forum that's meant to be private, not for public consumption. Is that what makes them so interesting? You can read more on this fascinating subject in Bill Keaggy's new compilation, Milk, Eggs, Vodka- Milk Eggs Vodka and on his website The Grocery Lists.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ratatouille


Coming to a theater on June 29th !

Great article in the New York Times today about the new release from Pixar Films, Ratatouille, starring
Remy, a food-obsessed rat with an exceptional sense of smell.

To quote the New York Times " The story is a classic underdog tale that leans heavily on Cyrano de Bergerac. Remy, a food-obsessed rat with an exceptional sense of smell, dreams of becoming a chef. To get there, he teams up with Linguini, a clueless garbage boy at Gusteau’s, a once-great Parisian restaurant that has fallen into disarray since the death of its chef, Auguste Gusteau. Remy teaches the lowly kitchen worker to cook dishes that impress even the powerful food critic Anton Ego, who is given voice by the actor Peter O’Toole."

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tri-Tip


I had my first Tri-Tip this weekend at my friend Jon Petty's. A slow cook in "The Big Green Egg" http://www.biggreenegg.com/ yielded a fine steak, tender and tasty. I did some research on the Tri-tip, a cut not often found in Richmond, or the east coast for that matter. But one of Richmond's great new additions, The Belmont Butchery, http://belmontbutchery.com/, never ceases to surprise.

According to a few sources I found, Tri-tip is a small roast cut from the bottom of the sirloin primal. There is only one tri-tip per side of beef, a total of two per animal. Tri-tip also goes by the name "bottom sirloin butt" and "triangle roast", due to its triangular shape. In many parts of the country, your butcher will look at you funny if you ask for tri-tip...they have no idea what you're talking about. ( But not the Belmont Butchery! ) Tri-tip is nicely marbled, tender, and one of the most flavorful cuts of beef you'll find. In The Complete Meat Cookbook, authors Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly write, "In the old days, when butchers cut their meat from the whole beef, they cut sirloins with the bone in, and the tri-tip portion, a triangular chunk of bottom sirloin, ended up as a nondescript part of sirloin steak. Nowadays the sirloin is boned out whole at the packing plant, and the two tri-tips are separated, boned, and sold to butchers whole, thereby creating a new and tender cut."


The Oregon Beef Council tells a slightly different story: "Tri-tip was seldom marketed when carcass beef or beef hind quarters were delivered to retail markets because there is only one per hind quarter. This meant that there was not enough for a case display, so the butcher would grind or cube it. Today, most stores receive boneless boxed beef. If you don't see tri-tip in the meat case, ask for it. Tri-tip roasts can be ordered separately if your butcher knows there is a demand."
Most tri-tip is shipped to the Western U.S. where it is very popular with consumers. Tri-tip is even included in many West Coast barbecue competitions as an optional category. It is often associated with California's central coast region and the Santa Maria Valley in particular, where "Santa Maria-style" tri-tip is the meat of choice. In a tradition going back to the days of Spanish rancheros, the meat is heavily seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic, cooked slowly over a red oak fire, then sliced across the grain and served with fresh salsa, cooked pinquito beans, guacamole and warm tortillas.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What's Terroir? Why is it important?


Courtesy of our friends at ARTISINAL PREMIUM CHEESE


The French word terroir does not have an exact English translation and has several meanings. Most literally, terroir refers to ''the soil,'' specifically the soil that gives its vegetation its unique attributes. Terroir, however, is used in the wine world to define the characteristic flavors associated with a specific region. For instance, the wines produced from the Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grapes in Burgundy take on unique flavors quite unlike those produced from the same grapes grown on California soil.
Cheese and wine share many similarities, this concept of terroir included. Cheeses demonstrate unique qualities when produced the same way from the same breeds in different regions. Terroir in this sense refers not only to the soil but also the water, climate, even the personality of a region. The soil may be almost identical in two adjoining counties, but slight differences in the water or climate can have a big influence on the flavors of cheeses. Moreover, the personality of the people can vary wildly from region to region, and this can define the character of the cheeses just as easily.
Terroir can also play a crucial role in cheese pairings. Often, though not as a rule, cheeses will pair well with wines, beers, or spirits birthed from the same soil and same culture. Bottom line, Terroir is an important consideration and significant aspect that helps define almost every aspect of a fine, artisanal cheese.

Food Notes from the Windy City: Charlie Trotters


A Big Night indeed, a food moment I had been waiting for anxiously, nervously, and excitedly for several months. Charlie Trotter is in my Food Pantheon- one of the greats... what would the night entail.

To be fair, by 9 pm on Saturday night, our last night in Chicago, we were tired. and had eaten well all week. And we had had several cocktails at the hotel before we arrived at Trotters, where we were greeted at the curb by a host and whisked inside a lovely restored townhome. Low lights, neutral colors, and hushed tones made me nervous. Certainly not the boisterous atmosphere of Frontera. We were in for a night of serious eating. In all, we sat for almost 3 hours as a series of waiters and servers and crumbers and sommelier types doted over us. The service was a bit formal- we never engaged with one person for long enough to form a bond. Questions were answered fastidiously yet there was a certain icieness to it all. So on to the food. I chose the Grand Menu with wine pairings as well. While the food is lovely and bits of it ( fish roe, lamb, fennel pollen..) were extraordinary, overall, I think it was a bit overdone.... at least for my taste- for someone who professes to celebrate the ingredients, dishes seem somewhat overworked.... lost in their complexity.


Grand Menu

Japanese Eel Terrine with Horseradish & Daikon
Bruno Paillard “Premiere Cuvee” Brut Rose MV

Poached New Zealand Ocean Salmon with Orange Rind, Fennel Pollen & Cured Salmon Ice Cream
Bonny Doon “Ca’ del Solo” Albarino, Monterey 2006

Sreamed Casco Bay Cod with Cockles, Picholine Olives, Artichokes & Stinging Nettles
E. Knoll “Ried ‘Loibenberg’ Loibner” Gruner Veltliner, Wachau 2005

Roasted Saddle of Rabbit with Fingerling Potatoes, Turnips & Mustard Greens
Dog Point Pinot Noir, Marlborough 2005

Summerfield Farm Lamb Shoulder with Garlic, Aged Manchego & Parsley
Brunello di Montalcino Fornacina 2000

Sweet Tofu with Meyer Lemon & Shiso
Tokaji-Aszu “5 Puttonjos” Royal Tokaji 2000

Organic Buttermilk with White Pepper, Toasted Milk Ice Cream & Nutmeg
Bodegas Toro Albala “Don PX – Gran Reserva” Pedro Ximenez, Montilla-Moriles 1971


Susannah had the Vegetable Menu which was quite nice- it was great to have the variety to sample. Susannah is not a huge mushroom lover- the morels were exquisite as was the custard of spring onion and confit of turnips.

Wild Watercress with Grapefruit & Hearts of Palm
Steamed Twelve Season Miso Cake with Spinach, Easter Egg Radish & Preserved Carrots
Braised White Asparagus with Brioche, Chervil, Toasted Hickory Nuts & Curried Yogurt
Custard of Spring Onions with Ramps, Morel Mushrooms & Garlic Shoots
Confit of Baby Turnips with Sultanas, Bluefoot Mushrooms, Mache & Merlot Braised Red Cabbage
Grilled Blood Orange Sorbet with Jicama & CilantroBraised Peanuts with Korintje Cinnamon & Caramelized Organic Honey


The biggest shock came at the end of the night- I had been misquoted when I made my reservation, and what I knew was going to be an expensive night was 30 % higher. I felt taken and it left me a bit amiss and I think ultimately skewed my pereception of the night. I don't regret the meal- it was fantastic. But somehow I don't think I'll be back.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Food Notes from the Windy City: Frontera Grill

Frontera Grill has been on my list of must visits for years; I finally had my chance when an 8:45 am call yielded one of the evenings last reservations ( did I mention the phones start ringing at 8:30 am and sell out within 1/2 hour.

Susannah and I met my good college friend Jane Corey Holt and her husband Doug in the bustling bar, filled with folk art and a lively crowd. We started the night with a few Blood Orange Margaritas- the perfect combination of tart and sweet.

We started our meal with a series of ceviche:

Ceviche Fronterizo:lime-marinated Hawaiian blue marlin with tomatoes, olives, cilantro, jícama and green chile

Ceviche Yucateco: steamed organic shrimp and calamari tossed with lime, orange, habanero, avocado, jícama and cilantro

Seaside Cocktail of shrimp and lime-marinated cod

And continued with a Queso Fundido, an artisanal melted Jack cheese with garlicky roasted peppers, homemade chorizo sausage and oregano.

For the main course I had Pato al Pasilla, an adobo-marinated wood-grilled Gunthorp duck breast in spicy pasilla-shiitake mushoom sauce; served with queso añejo mashed potatoes and grilled green beans. Wow... this is not the Mexican food I was weaned on. This is some high brow, tasty eats. Susannah had an equally great dish, Pollo en Estofado Almendrado: green chile-marinated Gunthorp chicken in Oaxacan estofado (anchos, toasted almonds, roasted tomatoes, capers, olives, sweet spices) with great-big chicken tamalón and pickled jalapeño-watercress salad

Bayless made his way around the restaurant and it took some will-power not to ask for a signature on my menu.

We alse munched on Verduras en Escabeche: homemade pickled jalapeños with carrots and cauliflower- a Mexican version of the Italian anitipasto favorite-Giardiniera .

For dessert we shared a homemade ice cream sandwich- a sweet finish to a wonderful meal.

Just three days later, Rick and Deann Bayless' groundbreaking Mexican restaurant received the 2007 Outstanding Restaurant Award from the James Beard Foundation on Monday at ceremonies in New York.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Food Notes from the Windy City: Republic

A relative newcomer to the Chicago restaurant scene, I learned of this Pan-Asian gem, Republic, through my subscription to the e-zine Daily Candy. On a busy corner of Rush and Ontario, just a block from Michigan Ave, Republic seems a world apart. Dressed in hip new clothes, the space has an uber style. A lotus shaped ceiling tray sits above the busy bar. That's where I sat, with a perfect view of the scene and the Kung-Fu movies projected on the wall.

I started with some sake- Sato No Homare ( Pride of the Village) - this was a Junmai ginjo grade sake, not to be confused with the Dai ginjo cousin which is an upgrade- clearly sake has a language of its own.

After a bowl of edamame in sesame sauce, and a fresh bowl of tom kha ( a citrus coconut broth with straw mushrooms, tomatoes, cilantro and tofu), I opted for maki and one of the house specialties, a Tochigi roll, built with fresh tuna in a spicy sauce, covered in mango and avocado.

Food Notes fron the Windy City: BLACKBIRD

Day One Blackbird

Located in the West Loop, Paul Kahan's Blackbird has garnered deserved attention for almost 10 years. Several years ago, a second restaurant AVEC opened next door to similar praise. There is a new Chef de Cuisine at Blackbird, Mike Sheerin, who comes to the Chicago flock after three years as a sous chef in Wylie Dufresne's WD-50 in New York.

After a lovely 45 minute walk from the top of Michigan Ave’s Miracle Mile, I arrived ready for refreshment. I sat at the pristine white bar and took in the scene around me. It was bustling at 7 on a Tuesday night. After a Basil Hayden on the rocks, I plunged into a series of appetizers:

I drank a nice . Chateau Morgues du Gres 2002 Costieres de Nimes Rose with my first several courses and then transitioned to a 2005 Ridge Zinfandel.

Amuse Bouche: Pickled white fish over a green pea puree


west coast mussel soup with white fish, saffron, garlic and basil

Plump juicy mussels, Yukon gold potatoe rounds, and chunks of white fish swam in a light broth laced with saffron and a chiffonade of basil.

braised octopus with fresh hummus, charred ramps, sesame brittle and chickpeas

This dish was good, but didn’t deliver exactly what was promised- instead of a traditional chick pea hummus, fresh green peas made for a “green dish” that jumped off the plate. The charred ramps and sesame brittle delivered a combination of spicy and sweet, crunchy and soft, The octopus wasn’t exactly braised- there was a triangular terrine of octopus surrounded by several small arms. The terrine was tasty but a bit gummy- held together by what was described as “meat glue.”



crispy confit of swan creek farm suckling pig with cavollo nero, shaved chiogga beets, horseradish and banylus vinegar

wow- this is is some haute pork bbq- the taste was so elemental and pure- hard to describe- shaved discs of beets topped the confit pig and crowned an incredible dish, The bed of cavallo nero was a slightly bitter and perfect companion to the sweet pork, made sweeter still by the banyuls vinegar


Meyer Lemon Mousse with white chocolate, fennel and citrus

A nice combination of flavors and textures, the plate was sprinkled with a surprise dusting of dried calamata olives.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

BIG NIGHT


I turned 40 last Thursday, and on Friday evening Susannah, my dear wife, surprised me with a dinner party for 16- an intimate gathering of some of our best friends. It was a magical night, a perfect combination of great food and drink, special friends, and some fairy dust in the air.....

This was the fantastic menu for the evening

Negronis
Kir Royale
Wine Chanpagne

Assorted Italian Cheeses
Antipasto Platter wih roasted peppers, carciofi, olives, salami
Caprese Salad with buffalo mozzarella
White Pizza a ala 8 1/2


Green Salad
Country Bread
White Beans with Spinach and Garlic
Green Beans with Pesto
Onions with Balsamic Glaze
Roasted Asparagus
Polenta with Gorgonzola
Vegetable Lasagna
Buucatini all'amatriciana
Crown Roast of Pork

Cannoli Cake
Chocolate, Hazlenut, and Blood Orange Gelato

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Goodies


Easter may be my wife's favorite holiday, mostly because of all of the candy. The kids seem to enjoy that aspect as well. By 7 :30 this morning, chocolate was dribbling out of my 18 month old Rye's mouth as well as my three year old Raine's face.


For me Easter is about rebirth and the start of spring- it's interesting how some of the iconography from ancient pagan rituals became part of Christian traditions and then further incorporated into Easter Bunny lore as well. The most obvious is the egg, symbol of fertility and rebirth and now the prime symbol of Easter. That's why I love to make a Torta Pasqualina at Easter to showcase the eggs in all their glory.

We had an early Easter supper tonight with the Breeders ( I should explain- there are two or three couples that we gather with almost every Sunday afternoon for a happy hour- we were dubbed the Breeders by some childless friends who jokingly said that entry to our group was contingent upon having a small child or one on the way) at the Riley's house. We jazzed up our normal fare for the holiday and had a nice meal:


deviled eggs

ham biscuits

frenched rack of lamb

Torta Pasqualina ( more on that later)

roasted potatoes

broccoli salad

and a whole lot of wine.......



Torta Pasqualina

This is a traditional Italian dish, I belive from Ligurian roots. I made some modifications to make it my own.


Dough or Phyllo( I used phyllo- much less fuss)

2 lbs fresh spinach

3 T bread crumbs ( soaked in 1/2 c milk)

1 onion, chopped

handful of pine nuts

1 c fresh parmesan

16 0z ricotta

6 eggs ( 2 mixed in, 4 for later)

nutmeg



Preheat oven to ~400

1) cook down spinach, drain and saute with onion in olive oil; let cool

2) Once spinach and onion have cooled, mix in other ingredients.

3) Layer 10 sheets phyllo dough in greased spring form pan, buttering between layers.

4) Place spinach mixture on top.- I had about 1/2 c of pesto that I had thawed from the freezer that added a nice kick.

5) This is the tricky part- make 4 indentations in the mixture and gently place one egg in the hole, making sure not to break the yolk.

6) Layer phyllo on top, buttering between layers, maybe 10 to 15 more sheets

7) Bake for 1 hour


When you slice the torta, the eggs look lovely in cross-section


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Teach Your Children Well


Ruth Reichl, Editor of Gourmet Magazine, sheds light on the question of what we should feed our children. I agree with her that we should aspire to a family dinner where we all eat the same meal - and no special foods for the kids. They need to learn by example and as she eloquently states :
"Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is endlessly delicious."

Here is her entire letter:
"Be warned: This is a rant. If you don't want to listen, turn the page. But I recently read a laudatory article about the opening of a new shop in New York City dedicated to children's food, and the very notion drives me so crazy that I simply can't keep quiet.On the surface it seemed a rather charming idea: a shop dedicated to food that children will eat. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to feel that this epitomizes everything that's wrong with the way we eat today.For starters, the notion that children are a separate species who require a different diet from the rest of us pretty much does away with the concept of the family meal. The point of eating together, it seems to me, is not just that we all sit down around the same table but also that we share the food. The same food.Children study their parents--that is their primary job in life--and one of the things they absorb is the way the grown-ups eat. "Oh look, Mommy loves salad and Daddy thinks spaghetti alla bolognese is swell" is one lesson learned at the family table. The message is that these are delicious and desirable foods, and the obvious conclusion is "I'll probably like them, too." But if little Suzy and Sam get applesauce instead of salad and naked pasta in place of meat sauce, the lesson is quite different. What we are really telling our children is "You won't like what we are eating."And yet we know that what children like is mostly learned. Japanese children are not born thinking that rice, fish, and seaweed are breakfast foods any more than American children are born with an innate preference for cereal. We tell them what they like, even if we don't say it in words.No thinking person would force a child to eat food he didn't want. That turns the dinner table into a battleground and ultimately makes everyone miserable. It's just plain stupid. But by the same token, no conscious parent would really want to tell his children, night after night, that they are going to dislike the food that the grown-ups are eating.The great anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss did groundbreaking work when he observed that in turning the raw into the cooked we transform nature into culture; in other words, cooking is one of the ways in which we define ourselves as civilized creatures. Through our cooking, and our eating habits, we tell ourselves who we are. When we offer our children a different menu, we are telling them that they are different from us. And being different, that we also have different expectations of them. Why, then, should we be surprised that many modern children have such poor table manners? In giving them children's food, we are essentially telling them that they are not expected to behave like adults when they are at the table.We're supposed to be the grown-ups, and when we ask children to choose their own food, we're offering them choices they would probably rather not make. And if we are incapable of making the easy decisions about what's for dinner, why should they trust us to make the harder ones? Offering children a special menu may make life momentarily more comfortable, but in the long run it's a cop-out, a way of walking away from one of the responsibilities of being a parent.But there's an even more important reason for us to be dismayed by special menus aimed at pleasing your young palates. When we feed children the old familiar grilled cheese sandwiches and vanilla ice cream, we are teaching them to stick with the tried-and-true instead of encouraging them to dare to taste the new.Sitting down to dinner, at any age, should be an invitation to the fabulous banquet that is life. The most important lesson we learn at the table is that great rewards await those who take chances. Do we really want to be telling our children, "Just eat your nice chicken nuggets"? It would make so much more sense to say, "Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is endlessly delicious."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sweet Home Chicago


In early May, I will be spending a week in Chicago- several nights on my own and then three with my wife Susannah. Our birthdays fall within a week of each other in late April and early May. Our big splurge will be a night at Charlie Trotters- I really admire his philosophy on food that he expounds upon on his website:


On Local Food
"The taste of free-range and organic products is so much better than the alternative. It is also good to know that you are eating unadulterated food and supporting farmers and growers who are directly connected with the land."
On Sauces
Chef Trotter prefers saucing with vegetable juice-based vinaigrettes, light emulsified stocks, and purees as well as delicate broths and herb-infused meat and fish essences.

"Unlike sauces that incorporate a lot of butter or cream, our approach does not mute or block the basic flavors of the ingredients they are meant to support."

On Balance
It is important to Trotter that diners enjoy a perfectly balanced meal that continues to satisfy afterwards.

"I do not want guests walking out of the restaurant feeling as if they over-indulged because of excessive cream, butter, and alcohol. I want them to feel stimulated and alert, knowing that they will be able to look forward to breakfast the following morning. Food doesn't have to be rich to taste good."

Other restaurants under consideration are Frontera Grill, Blackbird, Avec, Schwa. I welcome any other suggestions.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Feast for St Maron


St. Maron was a 5th century Christian monk who founded the Maronite spiritual movement. The Church that grew from this movement is the Maronite Church. And there happens to be one in Richmond, St Anthony's in Glen Allen.
Every year on the Feast Day of St Maron, the church has a luncheon to celebrate. And its always a nice treat. Volunteers cook for several days to prepare a multi-course feast.
The meal started with Tabbouleh (Arabic: تبولة‎) a Lebanese salad dish, made with bulgur, finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato, scallion (spring onion), and other herbs with lemon juice and various seasonings, generally including black pepper and sometimes cinnamon and allspice. As its off-season for tomatoes, this wintertime version was light on tomatoes and heavier on parsley and lemon juice. It takes hours to hand chop the parsley.
The second course was Kibbe Nayye, basically steak tartare, but with a healthy amount of fine bulgur wheat mixed in. Its typically eaten with raw onions and olive oil. My 2 1/2 year old wolfed his down before I could consider whether or not he should be eating raw meat.
The main course was shrimp and beef kebabs with a wonderful rice pilaf, complete with broken pasta mixed in.
Dessert was the only disappointment- no traditional pastries, only dry sheet cake with icing. My kids didn't mind a bit.
I was surprised when at the end of the meal many people pulled out ziploc bags and foil to wrap up their left-over goodies. Were they all packing bags because they knew from experience that there would be lots of leftovers. Or is there a deeper-seated reason? Many Lebanese (like my father) are refugees from Palestine or veterans of living in a war-strewn country. They are used to packing up bags and fleeing at a moments notice. Has this behavior become encoded in their DNA ?
PS My beef and pepper kabobs became fajitas the next night. I have learned my lesson well

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

To Dine In or Out? That is the Question.


It's always a dilemma about what to do for Valentine's Day. I find it to be one of the worst nights of the year to go out to dinner. Its kind of like New Year's Eve in that way. Special menus, crowded restaurants, surly single wait staff or bitter involved wait staff that wish they were home in front of the fire with their loved ones.


We are staying in this year- I actually have a PhotoShop class until 9. I am bringing home a molten chocolate cake to eat in front of the fire. I did start the day with heart shaped pancakes for my wife and kids. Some of them look like they may need bypass surgery- But all I had was one cookie cutter and making sure they set before I moved to the next one was tricky. And I did have to work today.
I leave you with some words of the Bard:
"If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again;--it had a dying fall;
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet south,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour.--Enough; no more;'
Tis not so sweet now as it was before
.O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou!
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soever,B
ut falls into abatement and low price
Even in a minute! so full of shapes is fancy,
That it alone is high-fantastical. "

--From Twelfth Night (I, i,1-3)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

An Old Friend

Headed up to Charlottesville last week to see a great concert at
the Paramount Theater- Jeff Tweedy, the front man from Wilco,
was playing a solo acoustic show. We were able to sneak out of Richmond early enough to have a nice dinner. As we pondered the many choices within walking distance on the Downtown Mall, we opted for an old favorite, the warm and cozy confines of the C&O Restaurant's basement bistro.

Greeted outside by flickering lanterns, and inside by a warm fire, our decision was decidely a good one on a cold and blustery night. After a few drinks from the bar- local Starr Hill brew and a few Makers Marks, a basket of warm bread arrived at the table and was gobbled up.

We sampled a variety of dishes including a Pear & Leek soup, Pumpkin gnocchi, sweetbread croquettes, a venison steak, and Steak Chinoise with fresh ginger, Tamari, and scallion cream sauce. The latter was served with mashed potatoes and green beans, simple fare but just what the night called for. A few bottles of Shiraz rounded out our pre-concert meal. I hadn't been to the C&O in over 5 years, but it has certainly held its ground in a competitive restaurant scene in Charlottesville. And few can boast of the same warm bar and intimate atmosphere.





Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A New Breed of Food Blogs

According to am article in Sunday's New York Times, "Unlike an earlier wave of food blogs focused on home cooking, recipes and basic restaurant recommendations, the new breed is gossipy and competitive; it trafficks in pointed restaurant criticism and tidbits of news — Craftsteak has installed a new stove! Emmerite beans have been added to the menu at Tasting Room! — and is unsettling the ground of the restaurant industry."

Click here for the full article .

Sharp Bites

And come back soon to hear some juicy bits about Richmond establishments!

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Human Being Is Primarily A Bag For Putting Food Into


"A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into; the other functions and faculties may be more godlike, but in point of time they come afterwards. A man dies and is buried, and all his words and actions are forgotten, but the food he has eaten lives after him in the sound or rotten bones of his children. I think it could be plausibly argued that changes of diet are more important than changes of dynasty or even of religion. The Great War, for instance, could never have happened if tinned food had not been invented. And the history of the past four hundred years in England would have been immensely different if it had not been for the introduction of root-crops and various other vegetables at the end of the Middle Ages, and a little later the introduction of non- alcoholic drinks (tea, coffee, cocoa) and also of distilled liquors to which the beer-drinking English were not accustomed. Yet it is curious how seldom the all-importance of food is recognized. You see statues everywhere to politicians, poets, bishops, but none to cooks or bacon-curers or market-gardeners. "

George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

10 Reasons to Eat Local Food

10 Reasons to Eat Local Food


1) Eating local means more for the local economy.

According to a study by the New Economics Foundation in London, a dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy. When businesses are not owned locally, money leaves the community at every transaction.

2) Locally grown produce is fresher.

While produce that is purchased in the supermarket or a big-box store has been in transit or cold-stored for days or weeks, produce that you purchase at your local farmer's market has often been picked within 24 hours of your purchase. This freshness not only affects the taste of your food, but the nutritional value which declines with time.

3)Local food just plain tastes better.

Ever tried a tomato that was picked within 24 hours? 'Nuff said.

4)Locally grown fruits and vegetables have longer to ripen.

Because the produce will be handled less, locally grown fruit does not have to be "rugged" or to stand up to the rigors of shipping. This means that you are going to be getting peaches so ripe that they fall apart as you eat them, figs that would have been smashed to bits if they were sold using traditional methods, and melons that were allowed to ripen until the last possible minute on the vine.

5)Eating local is better for air quality and pollution than eating organic.

In a March 2005 study by the journal Food Policy, it was found that the miles that organic food often travels to our plate creates environmental damage that outweighs the benefit of buying organic.

6) Buying local food keeps us in touch with the seasons.

By eating with the seasons, we are eating foods when they are at their peak taste, are the most abundant, and the least expensive.

7)Buying locally grown food is fodder for a wonderful story.

Whether it's the farmer who brings local apples to market or the baker who makes local bread, knowing part of the story about your food is such a powerful part of enjoying a meal.

8)Eating local protects us from bio-terrorism.

Food with less distance to travel from farm to plate has less susceptibility to harmful contamination.

9)Local food translates to more variety.

When a farmer is producing food that will not travel a long distance, will have a shorter shelf life, and does not have a high-yield demand, the farmer is free to try small crops of various fruits and vegetables that would probably never make it to a large supermarket. Supermarkets are interested in selling "Name brand" fruit: Romaine Lettuce, Red Delicious Apples, Russet Potatoes. Local producers often play with their crops from year to year, trying out Little Gem Lettuce, Senshu Apples, and Chieftain Potatoes.

10)Supporting local providers supports responsible land development.

When you buy local, you give those with local open space - farms and pastures - an economic reason to stay open and undeveloped.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Amber Fields of Bland

The Sunday New York Times has an interesting article about US agricultural policy.


" There's invariably something risky, if not risible, about allowing Congress to decide what's for dinner. Bad decisions about agriculture have defined government policy for the last century; 70 percent of our nation's farms have been lost to bankruptcy or consolidation... the food it produces just doesn't taste very good."

Read the whole article at the jump.

Amber Fields of Bland by Dan Barber

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Christmas 2006- Top 10 Food Moments

Number 1: Caldo Gallego at the Arias/Fox Christmas Eve Brunch

It was tucked away on a sideboard, and I’m so glad I didn’t miss it. It’s a traditional soup from Northern Spain and of course is chock full of pork delicacies. For more information and the actual recipe, check out the link on Brandon Eats.

Soup for a Cold


Number 2 and 3: The Belmont Butchery

They contributed to two of my top 10 food moments of this holiday season. Prime Beef Tenderloin for Christmas dinner so tender you could cut it with a fork. Hand-made cotecchino sausage for New Year’s Eve – Traditional to Northern Italy and Emilia-Romagna, Cotecchino with lentils is a crucial part of the Italian New Year's Eve's meal- some say that the sliced sausage symbolize the coins that may come to you in a prosperous new year.

Number 4 : Pommes Lyonnais



Lovely russet potatoes sliced thinly with my mandoline and carefully layered one atop another. A bath of heavy cream and garlic and sea salt and an hour in the oven yields one of the tastiest way to eat a potato.

Number 5 Roaring 20’s Blue Cheese at Kinsey and David’s House

Number 6 A LARGE bucket of buttery popcorn at the Westhampton Theater during a viewing of The Queen for our 6th Anniversary

Number 7- A large flute of Champagne from Bin 22 after the movie to toast 6 years of marriage.

Number 8 – A holiday party at the home of one of Richmond’s premiere catering stars- it lived up to the hype- those boys can throw a party. It just goes to show that practice does make perfect.

Number 9- Homemade pasta on New Year’s Eve- only the 2nd time in 5 years that the Pasta maker has seen daylight- it was quite something to be working side by side with my two-year-old who put his Play-dough through a similar kneading exercise.




Number 10 – 12 types of homemade cookies and a peppermint trifle from my lovely wife Susannah.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A New Year


As a christmas gift for my wife Susannah, I gave her a book, Life is Meals, A Food Lovers Book of Days by James and Kay Salter. The thought is that we can read each day's entry together and share in its thoughts.

The first entry is quite good:

Meals are Everything

The meal is the essential act of life. It is the habitual ceremony, the long record of marriage, the school for behavior, the prelude to love. Among all peoples and in all times, every significant event in life-be it wedding, triumph, or birth-is marked by a meal or the sharing of food or drink. The meal is the emblem of civilization. What would one know of life as it should be lived or nights as they should be spent apart from meals ?"