Friday, July 23, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Deirdre

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

My mother, Suzanne is an adventurous cook. When I was a child she experimented all the time. A ferocious reader, she is always exploring artful cook books. Regardless of whether she was underway on our 31' sailboat cooking while healed on an angle or on the fly to a dozen hungry skiers my mother is unflappable, gracious and innovative.

I love Anthony Bourdain's adventuresome tour du force and enjoyed his book. And OF COURSE, Julia!

2. What is your drink of choice?
Beer on Tap: Bass
Beer in Bottle: Budweiser & Longtrail
Summer Cocktail apres Sail: Dark n' Stormy w/ Goslings
Winter Cocktail apres Ski: Bailey's & hot chocolate
AM: Orange Juice
PM: Lemonade
Tea: Rooibos
Coffee: Hazelnut
On the Go: Vitamin Water & Snapple Peach Iced Tea

3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?

Love "The Joy of Cooking" and also love "New England Table"

4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

It's hard to say the most anticipated meal is my mother's Thanksgiving feast!

5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?

Popover tin & Blender

6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?

Popovers with maple butter. Spinach salad with strawberries, pine nuts, pecan crusted goat cheese, craisins, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, with Balsamic Vinegar

7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?

My ipod- which varied. But I will say if I had a choice: Billie Holiday

8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?

Make enough for everyone especially an unexpected guest. Presentation goes a long way.

9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?

Canned veggies- mostly mushrooms and olives. Not a fan of fennel.

10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?

Make time stop or at least slow down so my life doesn't interfere with my cooking. I love cooking and wish I had more time to spend at the supermarket, shopping, enjoying food instead of rushing, shovelling food in and trying to fit everything in!

Pie crusts- I get the timing off all the time. I have sadly given up and (gasp) do store bought.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Jiya

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?
My grandma--she could whip up delicious meals with just tofu and not much else. and she makes her own kimchi. And she does all these with so much grace.

2. What is your drink of choice?
gerwurtztraminer, riesling, and any italian wines.

3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?
"Like Water For Chocolate" because everything seems to revolve around kitchen in the book. it is a little saccharine but was so cute when i read it years ago...

4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

this is a triple tie.
(1)Meals at greg's, of course!
wonderful food and fabulous host/chef.
(2)meals my ex-roomate rahna used to cook.
Shrimp toufee(?)
she just makes everything better.
(3) I once got invited to a vip event at some tiny restaurant where they only served the meat from the cow they killed that very morning.they only kill three cows per week...the waiting list was months long)...anyway, quoting from the guy sitting across from me that day:"I never saw a girl take in so much meat."(no pun intended...?)

5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?
electric kettle to boil tea and make coffee. i only come alive after my morning cofee...and then i put on my face.

6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?
umm..ok...kimchi fried rice with mozarella topping.

7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?
bossa nova. anything with fast rhythm....

8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?
anything in excess is poison.
except wine.(?!)
actually, a great company can make even fermented squirrel shit taste better(the squirrel being that squirrel you use to make that "special-organic(?)" coffee!!--you know where you feed the rodent some coffee beans and it poops the beans and you make coffee with the pellets..)

9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?
yes! please hammer don't hurt them pets!
In other words,
no dogs and heads and feet of any animal.(you know, despite the prejudice and stereotype, only few..very few Koreans actually eat dogs!!!)
anything which i can actually retrace the original form of
the meat i am eating, i do not want to eat!!
also...i hate lobsters. they look like roaches from the sea.

10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?
cleaning up after wards. sometimes i cook like an amazon going to war.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Rosalind

Rosalind writes: Uncle Wayne and I celebrated 50 yrs of marriage in 2008, and I find that I am cooking more "sugar and carb" free as can be foods. I am also doing what I swore I would never do when I saw my Mom catering to my Dad and his food tastes. Now I get it. The enjoyment of preparing a nice meal and presenting it in the prettiest plating I can manage and being happy and proud to prepare it for "my guy". It took a lot of years to get here. My kitchen is large and we added) granite cabinet tops just so I could prepare food in a large and roomy area. I will be looking at a magazine (my favorite is the "Cooks Illustrated" with the trials and perfections of recipes) and just get up and make a recipe in the magazine whether it is mealtime or not. If I need ingredients, I'll run to the supermarket (our wholefoods) and get the best and freshest ingredients. Some of my most memorable meals began in this fashion. I absolutely love to cook and plate and serve.

1. my favorite things to cook are from my childhood, shrimp gumbo, shrimp etoufee, you get the idea.
2. My favorite cookbook is River Road which was give to me by your Mom about 30 yrs ago. It is well loved and used.
3. My favorite cookbook author is Julia Childs (even before the movie) I fell in love with french food when Wayne and I went to Paris yrs ago.My favorite contemporary chef is Bobby Flay.
4.I have two most memorable meals. The first was in Paris. We were wandering the streets along Champs delysee and found this quaint house that advertised local cooking. It turned out to be the people's home and they cooked and fileted a fish that was an artistic treat to our eyes. The meal was so wonderful, they served it with a wine from the family, a white, sauted vegetables and for desert creme brulee, that I have not been able to duplicate anywhere. the second most memorable meal was when Brenda and I went to New York and after a Broadway show, went to the Italian restaurant area and I ordered filet of sole. It was served with a shrimp sauce that was unforgettable. I have ordered filet of sole many times since but they do not come anywhere near the flavor and tenderness of this meal I had in New York. Because of my radiation, I can only eat a little and swallow a little, but I ate every bit of that food. I think of it often.
My favorite kitchen tool are my scissors, I use them to open things, cut meat, cut fat off meat pieces, cut pizza, I use them all day.
If you came to see me today, I would make a rich shrimp, crab gumbo, served with a green salad, crackers and a white wine (of your choice) I would serve bread pudding made from challah bread with pecans and a crispy crust
My philosophy of cooking is use fresh ingredients, don'' overcook vegetables, use lots of salads, don't use sugar and watch the carbs. I use lots of butter and watch portions.
The super power in my kitchen would be a robot that would clean up after all my cooking especially my experiments. I hope this helps with your column.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Erin

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?
Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa is my food related idol. She kicked her boring day job (at the White House no less) to the curb and followed her heart to buy and run a specialty food and catering shop on Long Island. The food she cooks is very simple but really maximizes what the right combination of the right ingredients can create, and you can tell cooking really makes her happy. I am also pretty into Jacques Pepin and my older brother Kevin.
2. What is your drink of choice?
Champagne, please.
3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?
Mastering the art of French Cooking, obviously. The basic skills and detailed instructions can make a chef out of anyone. Mastery of just a handful of the recipes in this collection translates to eating like a king for a lifetime!
4. What was your most memorable meal and why?
It would have to be the birthday dinner I made for my mother’s 40th (approximate) birthday, probably one of the first times I cooked for a crowd. I made a whole beef tenderloin with roasted asparagus and potatoes au gratin; a meal complied of the most classic of dishes but everything came out perfect. Along with my newly found talent for cooking, this meal was the first time I realized that cooking for the people I loved made them feel loved. The satisfaction I felt from this realization was so pleasant that I very quickly morphed into one of those people that love you with food.
5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?
Spoon – mix, stir, and most importantly food to mouth vehicle.
6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?
I try to be well stocked at all times, so my response to this might be a bit unfair. I would make Tilapia with tomato sauce – super easy to put together. Pan-sear a couple of tilapia filets in olive oil until they are just about cooked through, remove from pan and set aside. Sauté a whole onion sliced with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Add in one can of stewed tomatoes (or fresh chopped tomatoes with green pepper and celery if you have them on hand). Sauté for a few minutes. Add in about a quarter cup of warm water. Add in a few tablespoons of dried parsley (or a handful of fresh). Gently put fish back in sauté pan and nestle into the sauce. Add in a large handful of chopped kalamata olives, and sauté for a few more minutes. So quick, so satisfying, and so delicious!
7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?
Anything, as long as it is loud enough to drown out my singing!
8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?
Relax, enjoy and eat what you like.
9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?
I know what I am about to say may disturb some of your audience, but I just don’t like foie gras. I try and try and hope that someday I will be part of the secret club that can’t get enough of the stuff, but I just don’t enjoy it.
10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?
I am never short of amazed when I see someone detect the temperature of meat with just a prod of their finger, so I would ask the super power grantors that my fingers be as talented.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Elizabeth

I don't like to write about myself(first or third person) so this will be odd. I grew up in Utah, land of the family-friendly chain restaurant and pretty much didn't think food came much better than what the Olive Garden served up. My mom always made sure we had dinner together as a family though. More often than not, that dinner included Lawry's seasoning salt, but hey, at least I won a scholarship because of it. (The prompt: What inspired you to enter the foodservice industry? My answer: Lawry's.) I graduated from the CIA's pastry program in 2008 and as a result, I am no longer capable of having a meal without dessert.
1. This list could be long or short depending:
Alton Brown - makes food fun and fascinating
My parents - I want what they have and nothing less will do
My brother - follows his dreams
Anyone who does what they love - they're the most interesting
2. This is completely PG, probably due to my years in a certain state, but it's a tie between fresh lemonade and cream soda. Although if I have to grow up a little, I'll say an Amaretto sour.
3. Any of the CIA's books, particularly Frozen Desserts and Chocolates and Confections. The photography is beautiful (trade secret: the photo studio is located next to the dumpsters of one of the dorms) and it's gotten to the point where I only care for cookbooks that are in weight. Non CIA: On Food and Cooking, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Kitchen Confidential, and best of all, Cake Wrecks because you have to have a sense of humor about what you do.
4. I can't tell you the name of the restaurant or even what I had, but my best meal was the last night my family was in London. It had probably been the most hectic vacation of my life and I think we were running on about 8 hours of sleep between the four of us. It was about 10:00 at night and our flight was leaving early the next morning, but we stopped for dinner and just talked about our trip and what we'd remember.
5. I refuse to bake without a scale, except when it comes to my Grandma B's chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. I'm also in love with my Thermapen, and I'm saving up for a refractometer. Other things to be found in my pockets include a calculator, mini offset spatula, box cutter, mini ruler, and paring knife (knife guard on, of course).
6. So I fall into the category of chef who doesn't cook when she gets home. But I could probably scrape together my mom's wicked spaghetti sauce (Lawry's not included) or a mean bowl of cold cereal.
7. I like songs, not genres. Consequently, my playlist is about as diverse as it gets. To give you an idea of how random my tastes are, the next five songs on my shuffle literally are: You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC, G Code by Geto Boys, Crazy in Love by Beyonce, Devil in Disguise by Elvis, and Preludio from Partita No. 3 by Bach.
8. Cook simply, but it cook it well and use the best ingredients you can find. A little innovation is fun though, both in technique and flavor combinations, but when the dish becomes all about the gimmicks, you've lost me because NO ONE has ever gone home thinking "Wow, that freeze-dried shrimp foam really hit the spot".
9. Cilantro. I can taste the smallest bit of that stuff in anything. I don't feel too bad about that though because they just discovered that people who don't like cilantro don't have the receptor to properly taste it. Other things include dill, bell peppers, and raw onions. I'm also not a huge fan of sweet/savory combinations for main course (I love sweet and salty desserts though) like barbecue, which I'm pretty sure means I'm not allowed in the South, at any tailgait, or really any function where hearty men (and lady)folk get together.
10. I would like the power to make the perfect amount of food so there would be no leftovers. (Soup is the sole exemption to this rule.) I have never liked leftovers and thankfully, my dad took on the role of human garbage can with relish as I was growing up. I think the best I can hope for it to marry a guy who likes leftovers.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Meaghan

Meaghan Heinrich: Orchestra Education Manager by day. Weekend Warrior Oboist. Lover of music, art, books, film, food, drink, and all things that make life truly fabulous.

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food) and Mollie Katzen (Moosewood diva--who happens to also be an oboist!)

2. What is your drink of choice?

Red wine, craft-brewed beer, or single malt scotch. My favorite cocktail is the Sazerac, a New Orleans favorite: rye whiskey, Peychaud's bitters, sugar and a little lemon in an absinthe-coated glass. Heaven. Oh, and I can't resist a good mojito in the summertime.

3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?

The Original Moosewood Cookbook. I just keep coming back to it.

4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

After I ran my first marathon in Cincinnati, I went to my favorite resaturant, Myra's Dionysus, and ordered hummus, homemade soup, and gado gado. It was the best that food has ever tasted in my life.

5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?

My German spatzle-maker. You press dough through it to make homemade boiled noodles, kind of like dumplings. It's the traditional Heinrich Family wedding gift!

6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?

Probably a frittata. I'm nearing the end of my grocery week, and as long as I have eggs, I can always turn out a creative and tasty frittata.

7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?

Jazz for dinner, classical for brunch.

8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?

My mom always said "If you can read, you can cook." I believe that cooking simple meals and eating well is much easier than most people think, and that if they would just give it a try, they'd be healthier and enjoy life more. Convenience food is the devil.

9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?

Despite being a vegetarian and choosing not to eat meat, I don't think there's any food I truly don't like. I won't touch fast food, but that's more related to question #8.

10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?

The ability to chop an onion without getting the smell on my hands.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Ray

Ray writes: Grew up on a farm in Eufaula, Al where my mother taught me the way around the kitchen. Held the position of head cook of the Creek Steak and Seafood restaurant form age 15-19. Put myself through college (University of Montevallo-BMP Trombone) by cooking and waiting tables. Moved to Boston to attend grad school at the Boston Conservatory (Master of Music Education second master’s in Trombone performance). Was a waiter at Abe & Louie's steak house, Biba, L’espalier and several other hot spots in Boston (twenty years total in the industry). Completed a third masters in orchestral conducting from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Toured Rome, Italy as a trombonist as well as freelanced in Boston. Conducting positions include assistant conductor, Metrowest Symphony; Symphonia conductor at Philips Exeter Academy; Conductor the Nashoba Youth Orchestra; and current position of assistant conductor of Waltham Philharmonic Orchestra as well as founder and artistic director of “3rd Sundays @ 3” concert lecture series. My website is I’ve been married for almost seven years, and I have a 15 year old cocker spaniel.

Here are the questions:

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

My Mother and father: My mother is a great cook and with my dad, they rearded 12 kids together…simply amazing…and growing up, I thought it was normal.

2. What is your drink of choice?

Beer and a shot: (Makers Mark on the rox and a half of splash of sweet vermouth with a Newcastle or Amstel light to wash it down with.)

3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?

The Joy of Cooking

4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

As I stated before, I was brought up on a farm in Alabama. Growing up we had to pick peas and shuck corn and all sorts of things that broke modern day child labor laws. Well, the longest time I spent away from home was nearly three years. All that time, I was eating frozen or canned foods from local big chain supermarkets. Upon my return, I walked into the house and was greeted by my family like the prodigal son. I was immediately sat at the table for a meal, which is customary at my house regardless of the time of day. The sweet corn and fresh peas with country fried venison simply brought tears to my eyes. I have no words that would justly depict the moment.

5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?

My kitchen Aid

6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?

Simple roasted chicken with fresh rosemary and a side of Sriracha

7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?

Anything really, but my favorites is old school jazz like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Coltrane. I also really like Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians (It is the quintessential cooking/entertaining music.)

8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?

It’s the same as rehearsal and performance. What more can you ask for?

9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?

Believe it or not, it’s my mother’s squash casserole. It’s amazing that she’s the best cook in the world, and she can create something that is so detestable.

10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why? 

Well, if I had the power to brine, salt cure or smoke something by waving my hand over it that would be simply fantastic (maybe that’s three super powers). I love to do all of these things, but the brine and salt cure process does nothing for me except builds my anticipation which I think is absolutely necessary, but it takes up to much space in my fridge (no I do not have a walkin at home). The smoking process is also absolutely necessary in many meaningful ways, but I live in a condo (no backyard and my neighbors already hate me because of the fire alarm situation, also liquid smoke should be banned).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Han

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

My grandmother who raised me to appreciate and not be fussy about what I eat, but at the same time to learn how to enjoy fine cuisine.

2. What is your drink of choice?

Americano (not the Starbucks coffee drink)

3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?

Kitchen Confidential

4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

Toss up between snake soup in Taiwan and dog stew in Korea. Most memorable because I can recall in precise detail the experiences. It also convinced me that exotic foods are still eaten for a reason - because it's actually good!

5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?

Chinese butcher knife - one knife to rule them all. Seriously, it fulfills almost every knife function around my kitchen.

6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?

Baby bokchoy with oden (fishcake) steamed in oyster sauce

7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?


8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?

Eating: Never say 'no' to trying something at least once...unless it's diseased cow shit. Cooking: Be solid in your basics around the kitchen, but always look to experiment.

9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?

I'll eat the neighbors cat if I have to.

10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?

Mind control - so I can simultaneously cook and direct the amateur help around the kitchen.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Andrew

I'm an Australian Ex-Pat violist, web and graphic designer/ real estate agent. I like orchids, knitting, embroidery, painting, cooking, hunting for dingy hole in the wall restaurants with great food. I have been called a renaissance man by some but really I feel like I'm simply an 18th Century English lady of leisure reincarnated into the body of a Chinese Australian man.

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

Jacques Pépin, Julia Child, Anthony Bourdain,

2. What is your drink of choice?

Amaretto Sour

3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck

4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

Standing at a street vendor in the snowy dead of winter in the city of Urumqi, Xinjiang China at the age of 4 inhaling cumin/chili powder seasoned lamb skewers with my father. This is the earliest memory I have of thoroughly enjoying a meal to the point of wishing that my stomach would never get full so I could keep on eating.

5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?

My All-Clad 7.5 inch non stick French Skillet

6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?

Bacon wrapped filet mignon with sautéed asparagus and mushroom tarragon sauce and rosemary mashed potatoes. You caught me on a good day :-)

7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?

80’s power ballads, NPR news, anything from the 60’s and anything by Burt Bacharach… :-)

8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?

Never cut corners, Never do anything half-assed and eat like a ravenous orphan.

9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?

Sea Squirt, although I’m going to keep on trying to develop a taste for them. Oh and TEX-MEX…cheap ingredients a pound of bad melted cheese, grease and a bowl of fried nachos…BARF.

10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?

I wish I could do that trick Albus Dumbledore does with his wand where he can put everything back in it’s place with just a campy flick of his wrist. Failing that the ability to summon a Sous Chef out of thin air to clean up after me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Alison

CQ writes: Alison is a assistant department chair and teacher of film-scoring at Berklee College of Music in Boston.  I first met Alison 5 or so years ago with Dan when we met for dim sum at Boston's China Pearl.  She attended University of Chicago which is where she met Dan.  Her family is from France and Germany.  She loves cooking and is a new mommy.  Her beautiful son's name is Roland.

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

My mom is my #1 role model for food, I get my cooking style from her. My husband is another role model (reluctant though I may be) in terms of doing more prep/mis-en-place (I tend to just throw things together). My maternal grandparents Micheline & Al Sakharoff were also very influential as they introduced me to fine dining in France.

2. What is your drink of choice?

Single malt scotch, the peatier the better, a preference I share with my dad.

3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?

I love "Tender at the Bone" and "Comfort Me With Apples," the memoirs of foodie Ruth Reichl. I also love "Kitchen Science" which explains the "whys" of culinary techniques.

4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

Toque in Montreal with Doug back before we were married. It was a fantastic meal but it was also my first fine dining experience as an "adult," going on my own and not being taken to dinner by older relatives. It was also Doug's first really fancy meal so experiencing that vicariously through him was a treat. Close second though was an amazing lunch at L'Amphytrion, a restaurant in Brittany which had just gotten its second star. I went with my grandparents, brother, and my brother's friend who likewise was new to really fine food.

5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?

Right now the Beaba Babycook :-). For adults, though, I'd say the immersion blender, which is actually kind of a similar gadget now that I think of it.

6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?

Tangerine pork stirfry (since I got the ingredients for that on the weekend... does that not count? :-)

7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?

Jazz, celtic, classical, electronic... pretty much the range I like to listen to generally. I'd love to have a better way to play music in the kitchen, recently we've just been bringing in our laptops.

8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?

Enjoy fresh, whole, local foods, drawing from different culinary traditions.

9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?

Nothing I won't eat categorically, though I'm not a big fan of organ meats most of the time.

10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?

The power of instant cleanup!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Aaron

Aaron Hilbun grew up in a gastronomically-challenged household and is now making up for lost time. His overriding philosophy on life is "go local," meaning eat and do what the locals do. In an increasing age of global homogenity, his goal is to experience what makes a place unique the world. He typically avoids chain restaurants (unless its uniquely local) and mass-produced varieties of his favorite beverage, beer. His favorite place to eat and drink domestically right now is probably Brattleboro, Vermont, because it offers to many opportunities to experience local color, even outside food and drink. Internationally, he enjoys London establishments that reflect the unique character of the city's vibrant neighborhoods, and the City of Trujillo, Peru (where he has performed many times) because there is not a single American chain to be seen. Professionally, Dr. Hilbun was trained as an oboist and a music theorist, and is currently on the music theory faculty of the University of Central Florida. He'll still dust off his oboe and play if someone calls him for a gig.

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

Anyone who can make the near-impossible seem effortless.

2. What is your drink of choice?

A good draft beer

3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?

Culinary Harmony by David Rezits, a compilation of favorite recipes by famous classical musicians. Full of tasty and practical recipes for the musician on the go. David is a cellist in the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and the book will soon be out of print, so get your copy today.

4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

Too many to count, but my most recent was at TJ Buckley’s in Brattleboro, Vermont. You can’t beat the intimate atmosphere. It feels like a dining car on a train and all the food prep is going on less than 10 feet away from you - when you first walk in, the smoke stings your eyes! But all this would be incidental if the food wasn’t superb.

5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?

Probably the coffee mill. No fumbling around with the grinder on those early, hung-over mornings.

6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?

What I made just now, pork tenderloin rubbed with garlic and Provencal herbs, with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed carrots.

7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?

I don’t. I’m too easily distracted.

8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?

Unfortunately (for someone who once fancied himself a composer), I’m not terribly creative. Therefore, I follow formulas (and therefore, recipes) best. That said, I live to eat. Food is one of my preferred ways of experiencing the world.

9. Are there any foods you cannot stand to eat?

I know this is going to send shock waves among my foodies, but anything that comes from sheep or goats. This includes such foodie staples as lamb and goat cheese.

10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?

Kill all the remaining germs in any piece of meat, poultry or seafood without overcooking it. I loathe overcooked meat, but at the same time, I don't want anyone getting sick from one of my parties.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Marcelle

I was born in St. Martinville, La. After graduation from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana in Lafayette, La.), I was hired as a feature writer for THE TIMES-PICAYUNE, leaving in 1971 to work as a researcher and consultant for Time-Life Books, contributing to the FOODS OF THE WORLD; AMERICAN COOKING, CREOLE AND ACADIAN, and THE AMERICAN WILDERNESS; THE BAYOUS.

Professionally, I have enjoyed working as catering director and consultant to restaurant owners and chefs such as Commander's Palace, K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans and Brennan's of Houston. From 1981-1984, Chez Marcelle a charming restaurant near Lafayette, La. was my brain child and was enjoyed by many locals.

As a food editor, I have contributed to such publications as FOOD AND WINE, SOUTHERN LIVING, REDBOOK, THE NEW YORK TIMES, SAVEUR, and in several local and regional newspapers and magazines. Since 1984, I have written a weekly food column "Cooking Creole" for THE TIMES-PICAYUNE in New Orleans. My contributions to Louisiana Cookin', Acadian Profile, The Forum, and CityLife magazines are seen regularly.

As an editor, my name is included in the 1987 edition of the THE PICAYUNE'S CREOLE COOK BOOK, originally published in 1901 and reissued in 1987 to celebrate the newspaper's 150th anniversary.

My first book, WHO'S YOUR MAMA, ARE YOU CATHOLIC AND CAN YOU MAKE A ROUX? was published in 1991. A sequel of the same name was published in 1998. The first book had been out of print for almost three years but has been recently republished.


Emeril and I worked together from 1992 to September 2005 on various special projects but my position was terminated after Hurricane Katrina.

I am also the author of CAJUN COOKING FOR BEGINNERS published by Acadian House Publishing.

I co-authored, with Eula Mae Dore, EULA MAE'S CAJUN KITCHEN, published by Harvard Common Press and released in 2002 and also co-authored, with Carl Brasseaux and Ryan Brasseaux, STIR THE POT: THE TRUE STORY OF CAJUN CUISINE, published by Hippocrene and released in September 2005.

My home is on Bayou Teche in St. Martinville, Louisiana, with my husband, Rock Lasserre.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Carrie

Here are some answers to your questions:
1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?
Pete Seeger is my hero - integrity galore, he kept on singing no matter what and people sang with him, plus he served up some great strawberry shortcakes on the Hudson River in the documentary about him!
I want to go into Lidia Bastianich's kitchen and eat everything she cooks
also Rick Bayless
2. What is your drink of choice?
anything bubbly - champagne, prosecco, cava, hard cider, etc.
3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?
cookbooks are the most dangerous kind of book ever, I want all of them - especially if they have great pictures! I always find myself going to the Better Homes and Gardens big cookbook for basic recipes and I am always surprised that have recipes for whatever I want to make from pickles (and canning them) to pulled pork
4. What was your most memorable meal and why?
has to be my aunt's Christmas Eve fish dinner - more than one is able to describe but shrimp, bacala (cod) - fried and as a salad, smelts, calamari sauce on pasta, fresh white clam sauce on pasta, scallops, shrimp parmigiana, plus incredible antipasto with cheeses, salamis, roasted red peppers, marinated mushrooms, eggplant, breads, wine, and then . . .desserts that do not end! You fast for a week before and do not eat for a week after.
I also was taken to Blue Hill at Stone Barns near Tarrytown, NY for my birthday and that was very memorable. You feel special just in that atmosphere of the restaurant where they care about the food and how it was grown and stay true to the season. The servers are good about talking about what you are eating and how it was prepared. Peas were in season when we went so there were many ways to eat a pea - very green and very good. There was also a great asparagus spear that was wrapped in proscuitto and sesame seeds then flash deep-fried that we all loved. It was great to tour the farm and see the vegetables growing and the animals grazing - all the people working there seemed very happy to be there.
5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?
my paring knife - I can do all things with it, it is all I need in the kitchen (as long as it is sharp!)
6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?
Fried potato and egg sandwiches - fry sliced (I like them thin) potatoes till crispy then pour eggs whisked with grated Romano cheese over them - when the eggs are cooked pack it into crusty Italian bread
7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?
8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?
I want to cook it, I want to eat it, and I want it to be simple
9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?
not crazy about the blue cheeses
10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?
I snap my fingers and the dishes magically leave the dishwasher and go to the shelves by themselves - I hate emptying the dishwasher

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Jenny

Jenny defines her passions as food, wine and travel. When she's not, eating, drinking, or traveling, she's thinking about those things. She currently resides in Boston where she also dabbles in learning tennis and the violin.

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

I have to say that I don't really have role models. If I were pressed, I would say perhaps Julia Childs and Ina Garten as far as hostesses go. Maybe Nigella. Those were/are classy ladies. I think my favorite restaurateur right now is David Moore of Peid a Terre in London. I love the atmosphere he creates.

2. What is your drink of choice?

Single Malt Scotch. One cube. I prefer Islay, Isle of Skye and the Highlands.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Elsa

CQ writes: Elsa is a dear friend and former roommate.  We met around 7 years ago where she and I worked as waiters at Legal Sea Food in Boston.  She is an accomplished photographer, has traveled the world, and has a big heart.  She is currently works in an animal shelter where she finds homes for orphaned pets.

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

Anthony Bourdain, Steve Kohlbus, Greg Dickinson and anyone with a passion for adventure, food and fun.

2. What is your drink of choice?

Bombay Sapphire and Tonic or a glass of Far Niente Chardonnay or a glass of Rubicon Captain's Reserve Zinfandel

3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?

"Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain and the original "Silver Palette" cookbook.

4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

The first meeting of the short lived "Tuesday Night Supper Club" held, ironically, at The Fireplace, the meal Greg and I had at Meritage, dining at Chez Panisse and the first time we enjoyed All-U-Can-Eat BBQ at The Salt Lick.

5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?

Quality knives, you need to have at least one professional quality knife and keep it sharp.

6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?

I just made turkey sloppy joes and they were delicious. But I leave the inventive stuff up to my hubby.

7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?

The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Killers, Michael Franti

8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?

Enjoy! Life is far too short to say no to appetizers and dessert....and by all means, DO NOT be afraid of steak tartare.

9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?

Seafood...I know, I know.

10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?

I would harness the rage of Gordon Ramsay and the grace of Julia Child.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Matthew

I am a 32 year old Louisiana native living in Oakland after 10 years in the Bay Area. I have a cat named Minou, bake a King Cake from scratch annually, and am an avid yogi.

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

Foodwise I have always enjoyed Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. Tim Gunn is also a role model for me. He is a sage with sass.

2. What is your drink of choice?

Lately I have enjoyed a cocktail called The Picard. It is Hendrick's Gin, Prosecco and Elderflower liqueur. It tastes like grapefruit juice and I love it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Rolf

Rolf writes: Rolf is the bassist half of the pioneering, award winning Vecchione/Erdahl Duo, with his wife, oboist Carrie Vecchione. They perform recitals around the country, mostly featuring repertoire written for them. As "Pages of Music with Rolf and Carrie," they present educational programs for schools and libraries. They are proud parents of daughters Ada, and Ella, and herd cats, Bear and Minnie, in Apple Valley, MN.

Rolf teaches bass at Gustavus Adolphus College, Luther College, and Lutheran Summer Music. He substitutes with the SPCO, Minnesota Orchestra, and Minnesota Opera. Previously he held bass positions in the Honolulu Symphony, Bergen Filharmoniske Orkester (Norway), and New World Symphony. Studies in Norway as a Fulbright Scholar culminated in his doctoral dissertation on Edvard Grieg. He's an alum of Peabody Conservatory, the Univ. of MN, and St. Olaf College, and studied bass with Eugene Levinson, Peter Lloyd, Bruce Bransby, Paul Ellison, Hal Robinson, and James Clute. 

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

Jesse Owens. I met him when I was in Jr. High. He asked what events I ran in track, and I said the 880 and the mile (somewhat dating myself!) He said, "Whew, I could never run that far!" What impressed me was a world-class, legendary athlete having the uncommon "common touch" to make an average-at-best Jr. High athlete feel that, in some way, he compared favorably with a quadruple gold medal winner.

Ming Tsai's my favorite food guy from the cool, creative mixes of style and culture he pulled off in his "East Meets West" TV show.

2. What is your drink of choice?

Cappuccino is my absolute favorite drink. I like it so much, I allow myself to only have it on special occasions, even though I work part-time as a Caribou Coffee barista.

3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?

Better Homes and gardens -- it covers some good basics, handy when an unfamiliar ingredient crops up, or there's a need to crank out an old reliable (their overnight waffles and egg white waffles are great!) and gives you license to expand on their scaffolding.

4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

Eating out: Years ago – I believe it was called “5th Ave. Grill” in NYC – had an amazing family gathering in their private in-kitchen dining room. The food was great as was the spectacle of immaculate preparation and presentation. We shared a sampler of 12 different, amazing desserts at the end. It was a family gathering dedicated to enjoying good eating that surpassed any other experience I’ve had along those lines. It was special, unique, different, good food and fellowship, and memorable.

Eating in: Christmas Eve Italian fish dinner at Aunt Ann’s. Everything done with love and to excess. Incredible variety of fresh seafoods, amazing antipasti, breads, pastas and gravies, desserts, tastes, smells, and a great family vibe.

5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?

Hmmm, kind of hard to pick.
I love the salad hands that were the first implement my wife and I bought together (just used them again tonight, 12 + years later).
I also am fond of the very basic, but durable and versatile pocket wine bottle opener we got from a tasting of Dr. Frank's Wines in upstate New York (again, a practical and sentimental favorite).
For sheer durability, reliability and practicality, the swing-away manual can opener is indispensable.

6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?

Breakfast is my favorite meal to fix, and as the morning person and way-outclassed chef in the house, it’s the meal I most often get to make. I like my “Apple-Jack omelets” Granny Smith, Haralson, or Honeycrisp apples and Monteray Jack cheese in the middle, and a dusting of cinnamon on top when done.
If it is to be dinner -- Pasta with home-made gravy, broccoli’s in the house now, but asparagus would be my accompanying veggie of druthers.

7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?

Generally the tunes in my head that I'm working on. If there's something seasonal or topical, I sometimes load 6 CDs in and randomize them. My favorite recent CD was the Crash Test Dummies Christmas album.

8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?

Anything done with love tastes better. When the cook/baker foresees the outcome of their efforts being enjoyed and enhancing life, it becomes a self-fulfilling (and, for others, filling and fulfilling) prophesy. It doesn't have to be fancy. My wife can make a store-bought brownie mix taste like the best dessert you've ever had. It's attitude that makes the food.

9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?

I have problems with Brussels sprouts. Kim Chee is also too much for me, though I like lots of other Korean foods.

10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?

Having the psychic ability to custom fit the dish to the tastes of the person the dish is prepared for, and the same time as stretching their culinary boundaries. Like the rodent star of Pixar’s Ratatouille!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Ebonee

Ebonee writes: Ebonee is a flutist residing in Miami who in her spare time enjoys travel and capoeira.

CQ writes: I met Ebonee in graduate school.  She speaks French, has fantastic taste in foot apparel, and is a delightful travel partner.  Her musicianship is amazing, and she inspires me to be courageous in trying new things and seeing new places.  She didn't feel comfortable answering the standard 10, so I adapted them to music because she is so fabulous that deserves at least a spot on CQ, and probably her own internet fan club!

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

My Mother and Grandmother, Nelson Mandela, and Igor Stravinsky

2. What is your drink of choice?

Slightly chilled water with a slice of lime, Cuban coffee is a close second

3. What is your favorite book?

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

4. What was your most memorable musical experience and why?

An All Shostakovich program in Carnegie Hall with Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony. It was my first orchestral performance at Carnegie Hall. There were some amazing musical moments and scary ones as well but I got to have this great experience with some of the best musicians in the world and the audience was fantastic as well.

5. What is your musical gadget or tool?

My Korg Tuner/Metronome. I even have 2 so one can always stay on my stand at home.

6. If you had to play a recital right now, what would you play?

I would play the Jet Whistle by Villa Lobos, Carter's Scrivo in Vento, East Wind by Shulamit Ran, Trois Piece by Pierre Ferroud, An Idyll for the Misbegotten by George Crumb and probably some Bach to give everyone's ears a break ha!

7. What kind of music do you listen to for fun?

It's usually not classical. Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald, Edith Piaf and B. B. King never get old to me. But I also really enjoy listening to my uncle Arch Hooks' music too!

8. What is your philosophy on practicing and performing?

A colleague of mine used to tell me practice as though you are the worst and perform as though you are the best! I love it.

9. Are there any composer's works that you can't stand?

Anton Bruckner, sorry!

10. If you could use any super power to help you be a better musician, what would it be and why?

Superhuman breathing for sure. That's self-explanatory!

OK, so I'm gonna try and answer your food ones...

4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

Any meal I had during a six week chamber music/photo tour of Umbria during the summer of 2006. They were never less than 4 courses. The meals almost always came from "hole in the wall" places in small towns. They were always delicious and beautiful to look at. Everything was fresh and amazing. I'm an Italian food snob now hahaha!

5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?

My cuisinart mini food processor

9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?

If I had to choose between eating a beet or a root canal I would choose the root canal.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


A new cheese arrived today at work.  No matter how busy things get or how hectic the preliminary setup for service becomes, I always get excited when it's time for a cheese "briefing".  The cheese in question today is one that has been in production for centuries, but is new to me.  It's called Castelmagno and it is delicious.
Castelmagno is from Piedmont in the Northern part of Italy.  The region is known for many culinary delights, especially its fantastic wines Barolo and Barbaresco.  The earliest recorded mention of this cheese was in 1277 when it was used for trade.  It is also reported that it frequently appeared at Charlemagne's dinner table.  Likely, the cheese existed much before the thirteenth century to have been considered a commodity at the time, and its popularity and reputation had to have been widespread for it became a mainstay of a world leader's diet.
Castelmagno comes in a large drum and looks a bit like a giant blue cheese with a natural rind on the outside.  In fact, Castelmagno can develop blue mold under the right circumstances, though it is rare.  If it does, it is considered a delicacy, but Charlemagne reputedly cut the blue parts off when he ate it - I guess there is no accounting for taste!  Without the blue mold, it remains a lovely subtle and tangy cheese with an appealing crumbly texture and layers of cascading flavors.  It reminds me a lot of the wines from the region - intensely mineral and with a rough-hewn and somewhat rustic beauty that needs a seasoned palate to fully appreciate its virtues.  I can't say that this is a cheese that everyone will love the first time they try it, but it is one that deserves consideration for its truly unique personality.
I couldn't help but think how delicious Castelmagno would be with a bit of quince paste or honey, the traditional accompaniment.  I have also read that it is popular in Piedmont for cooking and is sometimes melted into risotto or served simply grated on top of fresh egg noodles.   The crumbly texture leads me to believe that it would melt nicely, just as an aged cheddar would.  I'm looking forward to seeing if it turns up on our menu anywhere, or maybe I'll pick some up myself and see if I can use it in my own kitchen.
Castelmagno has DOP status, which means that the Italian government, to some degree, controls its production.  It is currently made with pasteurized cow's milk, but can also have smaller amounts of goat's and sheep's milk added.  The Italians classify it as a blue cheese even if it doesn't have blue veins.  It is usually aged from two to five months, and some affineurs age it for longer.
If you can find Castelmagno, it's a cheese worth checking out.  Keep an eye out for it at your local cheese shop and you're in for a unique Italian experience that is fit for an emperor.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Buttermilk Channel, Brooklyn

We entered the clean crisp space of Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn at around 5:30 in the evening for an early supper before returning to Boston. The sun was just beginning to set and it cast a lovely light on the sparely decorated but welcoming space. It was beautiful. The tables were set and service was just beginning. My friend, Patrick, commented that this is the first time he has ever been here without at least a brief wait at the bar for a table. The meal that we were to be served is a testament to its popularity with Brooklyn locals and visitors from across the bridge.

Owner, Doug Cromwell, and chef, Ryan Angulo, have formed a winning partnership here in Carroll Gardens. The food overall had a light feel to it despite the use of ingredients that might otherwise produce heavy dishes. Reading their bio’s online, they both seemed to have worked at New York’s Picholine near Lincoln Center and both have culinary educations from top notch schools. I have had the pleasure of dining at Picholine, and I see the practiced hand of a great chef and the spirit of hospitality echoed in Buttermilk Channel.

Dan, Patrick, and myself were seated at a lovely table with more of that beautiful steely afternoon early spring sunlight streaming in. The wine list and menu were beautifully printed and the wording was clear describing the dishes in just enough appetizing detail. Though the wine list is completely American I found that it had plenty to choose from. It featured mostly stars of the California club such as Joel Gott, Edmunds St. John, Robert Sinskey, and Qupé, but there were also local producers such as Dr. Konstantin Frank, Wolffer, and Millbrook. I got really excited when I saw a bottle of Scholium Project Verdelho from California and ordered it immediately. It met with approval amongst our merry company and the staff that was attending us. Owner, Doug, even came over to chat with us a bit about the wine once he saw that we had ordered it later in the evening.

The maker of Scholium Project believes in letting the wine completely make itself. If fermentation stops, it is allowed to continue on its own when it’s ready. There is minimal handling of fruit and wines are made according to “Old World” customs. Our bottle of Verdelho was powerful, crisp, dry, and full of succulent stone fruit flavors. I couldn’t believe that the alcohol was over 16˚, something I usually have a hard time with. In truth, I may not have ordered it had I known this, but I was so pleased with the wine that the relatively high alcohol was a non-issue. It tasted like drinking dry peach nectar with a little kick and it was perfect with Buttermilk Channel’s simple but sophisticated fare.

While we perused the appealing menu, we ordered a round of small bites to start, which ended up not being so small. The house pork terrine was a generous slice of country style pate flavored with herbs and Bourbon accompanied by grilled sourdough toast, turnip greens and pickles. We also tried the house-cured bacon, adorned with honey and grain mustard, and a panzanella salad with parsley, raisins, and celery leaves. Both charcuterie offerings were well crafted and delicious. They may have been the stars of the meal for me. We had some of their delicious homemade pickles, both sweet and dill. They were a perfect counterpoint to the rich meaty flavors we enjoyed so much. Hopefully I will get to go back soon and make a meal just out of charcuterie and wine from their fabulous list.

For first courses, I had a delicious salad of seared kale and endive with a soft-boiled egg and buttermilk and anchovy vinaigrette. It was a really clever end-of-winter version of the classic Caesar riffing on the classic theme using wintry greens. Dan’s barbecued pork ribs were falling off of the bone and had a mild but complex flavor. Patrick ordered a nice little tart with delicata squash, goat cheese, and a lovely flakey piecrust. The portions were generous for first courses and we could have easily stopped the meal there, but we had two more courses to go. Undertaking completion of the meal was a yoke that we happily bore.

Main courses, or “second courses” as they are called here, were refreshingly smaller in size. In fact, I thought they were pretty much the same size as the first courses only more focused on protein. I guess this is why they are called second courses rather than mains on their menu. My bacon-wrapped trout was filled with more goat cheese and leeks and served with plum jam and roasted turnips. I wouldn’t have ever put all of these elements together in my own kitchen, but the dish worked quite nicely. Dan tried their crispy fried chicken, which was just as good as many I’ve had down South. I really liked the maple-balsamic syrup that accompanied the waffles with the chicken. I will try and duplicate the tart, tangy, and sweet syrup in my own kitchen sometime soon. Patrick’s duck meat loaf was tasty too – tender, rich, and nicely sauced with a light duck jus, and ornamented with mashed potatoes and a couple of perfectly crispy fried mammoth onion rings.

Desserts were equally satisfying. I was over the moon about the pecan pie sundae, which has also received lavish praise from Frank Bruni of the New York Times. Buttermilk Channel’s pie rivals my own mother’s exceptional pie. It tasted as though they used a whole stick of butter in each pie and the dark Karo syrup just like mom’s. Making a sundae with two pieces of pie and two scoops of ice cream is pure genius. I felt as though I had died, gone to heaven, and landed on a buttery pecan cloud.

The other desserts were also very good, but somewhat eclipsed by the fabulous sundae. The peanut butter chocolate bread pudding was topped with a lovely bittersweet chocolate sauce and had a nice velvety texture. Our pear and ricotta tart had the subtlest flavor of anything of the desserts with a touch of ginger and that same delicious piecrust that we had experience in the first course winter squash tart.

Service in general was kind, efficient, and thoughtful. We were impressively served our four courses in an hour and twenty minutes due to our time constraints without ever feeling rushed. Our plates were cleared at appropriate times and silverware was always in place in time for the next course. The waiters were well informed about the menu and were sure to get answers from the chef when they didn’t have all of the information to my more detailed questions. They were a more polished bunch than the typical bistro crew and had a professional demeanor that I often observe in many finer restaurants.

The word “clean” comes to mind most when I think back on the food. I aspire to cook this kind of food at home. I am constantly amazed at how much work it takes to turn out a dish of simple ingredients that is balanced without masking any flavor with too much of something else. I greatly admired Chef Angulo’s light touch turning out dishes that easily could have been cloying or too heavy given the ingredients. To say that we enjoyed ourselves would be an understatement and I will greatly anticipate a return in April on our next Brooklyn/New York excursion.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Vera

CQ writes: Vera is a wonderful violinist who lives in Chicago.  I first met Vera in Luxembourg at a summer festival. It was just one stop on a tour of Europe for her with stops in Paris and Vienna!  She is most commonly seen dressed in beautiful clothes and drinking a glass of Champagne. Vera is just as passionate about food as she is about music, and is lots of fun to be around!

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

My mother and grandmother are the best cooks in the world. Their presentation is extraordinary. People fast for 40 days and 40 nights before they come to our parties/feasts so they can fill themselves up as much as possible and then talk about it for days thereafter. So I guess I'm next in line to continue that tradition ;)

2. What is your drink of choice?

Champagne, its the only drink that I am always in the mood for :)

3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?

Any source that sparks some inspiration is my favorite source at that moment.

4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

Oh no, I have too many!!

5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?

A goooood Greek knife.

6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?

I dont momentarily know what I have, but I love love love to clean out my fridge and pantry to the bare bone because usually the most creative dishes evolve from those situations.

7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?

Classical music.

8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?

Its ALL about momentary inspiration. If you dont have it, skip the cooking and make yourself a nice martini.

9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?

Just peas.

10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?

To be able to snap my fingers when I am missing an ingredient and have it appear before my eyes (that def goes for wine too).

La Bohéme at the Met

I’ve already written extensively about how beautiful the Metropolitan Opera House is in New York City. Still, I am impressed with its grandeur on each visit. This was our third visit this season, and I feel that this is a pattern that will continue for Dan and I for years to come. Seeing opera in this amazing hall makes the spectacle of the stage all the more appealing and you can’t help but feel as though you are amongst the cream of the crop when the curtain opens.

We saw the Zeffirelli staging of La Bohéme this past Wednesday night and were treated to some of the most amazing sets I’ve ever seen. The only thing that may have topped it was Turandot back in November, also a Zeffirelli production. I hear that these lavish stagings are slowly being phased out by the Met because of the enormous cost involved in showing them. La Bohéme involves a horse drawn carriage with a real horse, lavish costumes, and four multi-story sets. The short second act has the most elaborate set of all and includes a parade through “town” by a full batallion of soldiers just before the curtain closes. WOW!

It turns out that the Zeffirelli La Bohéme is also the most performed production at the Met since it first premiered in 1981. The Met has the reputation of selling out its seats for no matter who is singing, so often many young and relatively unknown singers end up starring in the difficult roles.

We were lucky that in the most recent revival of La Bohéme the singers are amazing, although I felt as though they could have spoken their roles and I would have been equally as impressed due to the extravagent production values. Anna Netrebko sang a beautiful Mimi and Ruth Anne Swenson’s Musetta was wonderfully delivered. Piotr Beczala was a sensitive and lyrical Rudolfo with never-failing control on the many difficult and rangey long lines that the part demands. George Petean’s Marcello was full of energy and Oren Gradus sang a wonderful “Coat Aria”.

I have seen La Bohéme a few times now, and I am still swept away with the storyline each time. The first act delivers some of the most beautiful music that Puccini ever wrote, and those themes dominate the rest of the opera. I usually start tearing up about twenty minutes in and remain misty until Mimi finally gasps her last breaths at the end of act four. Indeed, I saw many of my fellow audience members leaving the theater with red eyes and/or runny make-up. It’s an opera that I will never tire of seeing on the stage or listening to at home full of fantastic sweeping orchestral gestures and soaring lyrical vocal lines. For me, it epitomizes the operatic stage. I think many would be inclined to agree as it’s kept opera houses full since it premiered over a hundred years ago in 1896.

From a personal standpoint, La Bohéme especially appeals to me because of the artistic and hedonistic themes that permeate the work. All of the characters are passionate and tortured artists in their own right and there is a huge emphasis on culinary delights. The characters live on love in poorer times, and when they have money, they spend it on feasting and drinking. Much of the opera, in fact, takes place around a simple dinner table or in a café, and I can easily identify with the singers on stage due to my own love for the arts, my capricious temperament, and, of course, my obsession over food and wine.

The Zeffirelli production of La Bohéme is a must see. If you can get to New York before the run ends, do it! There is nothing to regret about seeing it live and if you can’t make it there in person, there is a 1977 video recording that is worth checking out starring the late great Pavarotti and the beautiful Renata Scotto. If you do make the pilgrimage to the Met, spend the money for amazing seats, or enjoy the bargain priced “Family Circle” seats that we opted for. The acoustics there are such that there are really no bad seats. You’ll have a fabulous evening of amazing music and awe-inspiring scenery either way.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

90+ Cellars Wine

I had a wonderful afternoon today despite the nasty rainy weather in Boston.  It started out with being taken out to lunch by a new friend, Rachel, who wanted to interview moi as a food "expert" for her Gastronomy Masters at Boston University.  We were connected by a mutual friend at work, Annie, who I day-tripped to Portland, ME recently.  I was tickled pink to be picked, and it was so indulgent to talk about myself for an hour or two.  I can't wait to read the final paper.

We had lunch at the Regal Beagle here in Brookline, one of my favorite neighborhood places.  I had a sandwich special with ham and avocado and we shared a pumpkin hummus appetizer which was very tasty.  I have consistently good food at the RB and the servers are always friendly and accommodating.  They were nice enough to prepare the lobster sliders for my friend as a salad since she is gluten intolerant.  You certainly can't beat that for service.

We headed over to Brookline Liquor Mart after to pick up a bottle of Fernet Branca for her "disgusting" class at BU.  The assignment was to bring in something for the class that some cultures find to be a delicacy and others find terrible.  She asked my opinion and Fernet came to mind.  If you haven't had it, it's a really bitter digestif that does wonders for your stomach, but with its medicinal characteristics, is definitely an acquired taste.  I thought it would fit the assignment rather well since it is popular in Italy and amongst restaurant industry people, but the taste is not pleasing to the average Joe.  I hope she is not in for too much of a shock when she first tastes the stuff in class.

In any case, while shopping for wine and the Fernet, we ran into an old friend of mine, Brett.  He has started a wine label called 90+ Cellars.  The concept is to buy highly rated wines from around the world that have been made in surplus.  They write to wineries and have samples of finished wine sent to Boston, which they taste and then decide which wines to buy at a discounted price directly from the producer.  The wineries take care of the bottling and slap a snappy 90+ Cellars label on the front.  The art of this, of course, is figuring out which wines to buy from the huge surplus of wine being made today, but Brett is blessed with a spectacular and discerning palate.  We tasted the line up together and I was impressed with everything he and his business partner picked.

They are currently offering quite a few different wines.  They all retail for less than $20 and are a steal when compared to many wines at the same price point.  I was especially impressed with the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the California Pinot Noir, the Spanish Garnacha, and a particularly delicious German Riesling that was bottled with a Dr. Loosen cork.  I'm not saying this Riesling was from Dr. Loosen, but it had a Dr. Loosen cork in it.... wink wink, nudge nudge...

I was pleased that all of their wines tasted and smelled as they should considering the places and vintages from which they came.  In fact, most of them were easy enough to identify blind, and I felt that in all cases, the alcohol was in check and oak had been sensibly used.  Some of their wines are already sold out, so you may not be able to find some of the things listed on their website in local stores here in Boston.  I see big things ahead for these guys and I think they are on to a really great concept.

With all of the hot vintages and increased understanding of viticulture, many winemakers are faced with a surplus of great wine that they are willing to unload for a modest price.  90+ Cellars passes on that value to the consumer offering really great wine at a discounted price.  What could be better?!?!  Tasting is believing of course, and in my opinion, the wines really delivered and with talented tasters at the helm of the company, I'm confident there will be plenty of more great wine in the future from these creative entrepreneurs.

An Evening in Inman Square, Cambridge, MA

It all started a few days ago when I saw a tweet for coupons to eat at Midwest Grill in Cambridge.  I had eaten at Midwest Grill before and loved it, but it had been maybe a year or so since my last visit.  This was a good reminder that I was overdue for another visit.  Having a rare Friday off from work I traipsed over to Cambridge and made an evening out of dinner with several stop in Cambridge's culinary epicenter, Inman Square.

My first stop was at the East Coast Grill.  I had arrived early, as usual, and Dan was running late, as usual, so I stopped off there to see my friend, Mariposa, who works in the kitchen.  The place was busy, but I only had to wait a minute or two for a seat at the bar.  I had a drink at the bar and Mari sent over a couple of ribs for me to gnaw on, which I did with great relish.  They were deliciously flavorful and tender.  I also couldn't resist ordering some Jonah Crab claws.  I've loved crab claws since I was a kid and my dad used to always joke that there were an awful lots of crabs running around on the ocean floor without any claws.  I enjoyed eating them with the citrus mignonette they were served with.  It was a perfect start to my night of eating!

Next on the tour was Midwest Grill, a churasscaria rodizio, open since 1993.  As I overheard the table next to me say, "It's like meat dimsum."  This place serves Brazilian Barbecue, which translates to all the meat you can eat for a set price.  The servers walk around with skewers of rotisserie roasted beef, lamb, chicken, sausage, chicken hearts, and even dinner rolls - why not roast the bread too while you're at it?  They give you a card that is green on side for "keep bringing it" and red on the other for "I'm full".  You just flip the card over when you are ready to admit defeat.  We used our card strategically, and flipped it over to create three rounds, so that we could rest between bouts of meat.

There is also a buffet with plenty of delicious side dishes to chose from that comes with your meal.  There are fresh fixin's for a salad, two different kinds of rice, a traditional yucca-based stuffing, chicken wings (more meat), a couple of different stewed chicken dishes, potato salad, and cole slaw to name a few.  We hit the buffet between each round of meat to eat some vegetables.  Everything was very good, honestly and simply prepared.

The barbecue is spectacular here.  The meat is all very juicy, tender, and flavorful.  Just about everything is kissed with garlic - well, maybe more than just kissed.  We especially loved the beef and I thought the chicken wrapped in bacon was particularly good.  Dan is addicted to their rolls, which are skewered, brushed with garlic butter, and toasted over the fire.  They even managed to make chicken hearts taste pretty good - they are generally too rubbery a texture for me to eat, but at Midwest Grill, they are entirely palatable, even tasty.

Our server Kelly was a delight.  She brought us some delicious caiparinhas, a traditional drink made with a Brazilian variant of rum called cachaça.  They were full of lime flavor and were a refreshing treat against all of the rich flavors we were eating.  She was very good about offering to clear our plates so that we could get fresh ones for each round between eating breaks.  It was a busy night and we appreciated that she took extra care to make us feel welcomed and comfortable.  She even convinced us to have a little flan for dessert even though we felt that we were about to burst.  We were glad we did because it was delicious with a creamy, eggy taste topped with plenty of delicious bittersweet caramel sauce.

The last stop of the evening was Tupelo.  We walked a block up and caught them just before they were closing up for the night.  We sat at the bar and had intended on just getting a drink while our food from Midwest Grill settled, but then I learned that the chef was from Louisiana.  I asked the bartender where in Louisiana he was from since I'm from there too, and he responded by coming out of the kitchen to shake my hand and chat with me a bit.  Now that's Southern hospitality!

Turns out that Chef Layman's mom is from New Orleans and he grew up in Metarie.  I was really impressed with his beautiful menu and I was wishing that I had a second stomach to eat more food.  He invited us to try his gumbo and at first I refused because I was so full, but then reconsidered.  I can't resist gumbo.  We also had to try the red velvet cake.  It was too tempting and we couldn't help by succumb to our chocolate desires.

Chef sent out two heaping helpings of gumbo, which were delicious and spicy.  I loved the viscosity of his soup.  It was just the right thickness and it had quite a kick.  He told us that he seasons with a little Tabasco and jerk seasoning.  I hadn't thought to use jerk spice in gumbo, but it makes sense.  I may try it next time I fix a pot up for me and my friends.  The cake was delicious too: moist, chocolatey, and just the right amount of sweetness.  Dan loved it, especially the tangy cream cheese icing, and got a little weepy while he was eating it.  We will be back for dinner soon - the catfish is calling my name.

We won't be eating for a few days after all of the food we managed to put away in Inman Square last night.  I couldn't have anticipated all of the fabulous food that I would be having at East Coast Grill, Midwest Grill, and Tupelo last night.  I will be returning to all three in the near future for more, and I'm kicking myself for not making it to that fabulous neighborhood more often.  What a fantastic impromptu culinary tour!

Friday, March 12, 2010

JC Bach's Quartet for Oboe and Strings

Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the most prevalent composers in pop culture today, along with Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms.  What many folks don't know about JS Bach is that he had over 30 children and married twice.  Three of his sons eventually went on to careers in composition: Carl Phillip Emmanuel, Wilhelm Friedman, and Johann Christian.  Living in the shadow of the great German master no doubt was a difficult challenge for all three of his sons, but perhaps none more so than the youngest of the three, Johann Christian Bach.

In broadly sweeping generalizations, JS Bach's works are marked by terse counterpoint and rapid harmonic rhythm.  JC Bach's music, on the other hand, favors melody and accompaniment and a much slower harmonic rhythm.  No doubt, JS insisted the his children learn counterpoint, but little of it is utilized in JC's works.  I feel that he must have been trying hard to get out of his father's shadow and create something that was all his own.  He went so far as to move to London to start a new life away from his family.  Furthermore, JC wrote in a style that squarely pointed toward the Classical style, but here and there one finds subtle references to his father's work when listening carefully.

The Oboe Quartet by JC Bach is one of the earliest in what would become a common instrumentation in Western Art Music, and is also one of JC Bach's more well-known works.  Composers like Mozart and Britten would later write works for this combination, and those have since become standards in the repertoire.  It represents some of JC Bach's most clever and graceful composition in my opinion.  Oboists like playing it because it is written in a beautiful warm key on the instrument, Bb Major.

The first movement is in a rough Sonata Allegro form with a brief development ending with an opportunity for a cadenza before the recapitulation, what I feel was a nod to the classical concerto form that was developing at the time.  The use of Sonata Allegro form of the first movement also puts it soundly in the classical period rather than the Baroque.  In terms of tonality, the first movement remains mostly in sunny Bb and F major, with a short turn towards the minor in the development.  It is in the development that one hears the influence of JS Bach with a series of suspensions and use of imitative counterpoint, but these references are brief and fleeting.  On the whole, the oboe takes the lead with the violin commenting and answering occasionally.  The viola and cello take an supporting role throughout.

The piece lacks a slow movement in the middle.  At the time of composition the concept of the Sonata da Camera and Sonata di Chiesa, which always included slow movements, were being abandoned in favor of forms that used only lively tempos.  JC Bach's lack of the inclusion of a slow movement was likely because of the piece's utilitarian purpose, ie courtly music intended to amuse royal ears.  I can only imagine the lively parties or lavish lunches that must have taken place while this piece was being played for society's higher-ups in 18th century London.

The second and final movement is a Rondo consisting of a Menuet with two trios - ABACA.  This dance form was popular in the Baroque and it prevailed in instrumental music through to the late classical period when the Scherzo took over.  The fact that it is dance music points again to the likelihood that the piece was intended for courtly performance, in which the musicians often served as a dance band.  What's interesting is that JC Bach titles the movement Rondo instead of Menuet.  Rondo is a distinctly Classical form, and I feel this movement really fuses old and new concepts more than the first movement.

JC Bach inserts some juicy passages for the viola in this movement in the second trio in g minor giving the oboist a break.  This is a clear example of thought about orchestration since the viola has a darker and more mysterious sound than the oboe.  Though this practice was employed masterfully by JS Bach, many baroque composers transcribed their works for other instruments freely without consideration for individual instrumental timbres.  It was not until later that composers started to think about the personalities of each instrument, and Berlioz was one of the first to codify this concept in the late 19th century.  JS Bach no doubt passed this concept on to his sons and in a sense JC Bach was a pioneer in this respect continuing the traditions of his father, a concept that would become very important later in history.

The overall feel of the Quartet in Bb by JC Bach is elegant and courtly.  The phrases demonstrate a graceful arch and follow regular intervals, a mark of the Classical style.  It's lack of a slow movement shows that the standard fast - slow - fast structure was still a developing concept.  There are however some subtle references to JS Bach's ideas such as orchestration and some use of imitation and dissonance.  As one of the first works in the genre of the oboe quartet, it is a formidable and beautiful piece that is a joy to perform.

Salmon with Shrimp Mousseline and Lemony Dill Sauce

I've been on a seafood and fish kick lately.  I've resolved to eat less meat and poultry and more vegetables to feel better and have more energy.  I was recently listening to a podcast where Mark Bittman was talking about eating vegetarian during the day and for dinner, eating whatever he liked.  He lost a bunch of weight and his blood pressure returned to normal.  I can't help but think that this lifestyle could help everyone become healthier in the long run.  Don't get me wrong - I am still a fierce omnivore, but it occurred to me how often I eat meat.  It's been a bit of an adjustment, but I'm going to enjoy learning new recipes.

A few days ago, I headed over to Whole Foods to pick up groceries for dinner.  It's always fun to go there just because there are so many beautiful ingredients to chose from.  The salmon was calling out to me from the fish case.  I had the idea to use dill and lemon with it since that is such a classic combination.  I used the shrimp mousseline to give it a little fat and also to protect it from the direct heat of the oven so the salmon would stay moist and tender.  The results were pretty delicious and I think this concept warrants a little more exploration on my part.

Salmon with Shrimp Mousseline and Lemony Dill Sauce

2 6 oz. salmon filets
5 or 6 shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon mustard
1 handful fresh baby spinach, washed
1 handful fresh dill, washed
juice of half of a lemon
1/2 cup white vermouth
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
3 or 4 peppercorns
3 tablespoons butter, divided
salt and pepper

For the salmon:
  1. In a food processor, combine egg whites, shrimp, 1 tablespoon butter, and mustard.
  2. Puree the ingredients until they are well incorporated.
  3. Spoon the mixture on top of the salmon.
  4. Roast the salmon in a 400˚ oven for 15 to 20 minutes depending on how well you like your salmon.
Make the sauce:
  1. Bring water, vermouth, peppercorns, and bay leaf to a boil.
  2. Puree the spinach, dill, and hot liquid in a blender until smooth.  The heat of the liquid will cook the spinach and dill just enough.  Thin out with more water if necessary.
  3. Just before the salmon is done, bring the puree back up to serving temperature in a saucepan.  Swirl in two tablespoons of butter, add lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.
To plate, simply spoon the sauce onto warmed plates and place the salmon on top in the center of the plate.

With wine:  We had a Sangiovese from Tuscany called Notturno.  It had a lovely earthy cherry nose and was medium bodied.  It balanced out the herbaceous quality of the sauce quite nicely and cut the richness of the salmon very well.  A white wine like a Sancerre or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc would also be a great choice.

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Paul

cq writes: I worked with Paul at the Fireplace in Brookline for a little over year. He has also owned two restaurants, Daddy-o's and Macondo both in the greater Boston area. Currently he is the chef at Brandy Pete's in the Boston's Financial District. He is a championship crossword puzzle worker, has a lovely family, and makes a delicious Cornish Game Hen.

cq: 1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

paul: James Beard, through his books and through his championship of American food and ingredients, has always been an inspiration.

cq: 2. What is your drink of choice?

paul: Cocktail- a bourbon Manhattan, white wine - Chassagne Montrachet, red -Chateau Talbot, beer - Circus Boy by Magic Hat.

cq: 3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?

paul: James Beard's "American Cooking" and Jeremiah Tower's "New American Classics"

cq: 4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

paul: My 50th birthday at Marcuccio's with Chuck Draghi cooking - 5 amazing courses with 5 amazing little-known Italian wines - with my family and friends.

cq: 5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?

paul: My trusty 25 year old Kitchenaid mixer

cq: 6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?

paul: I always keep the ingredients for spaghetti with clam sauce on hand - a good 15 minute go-to meal when I haven't made it to the store, other plans fell through or I'm just not inspired to spend the afternoon in the kitchen.

cq: 7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?

paul: Jazz

cq: 8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?

paul: Be respectful of the food you cook and eat. Understand where it came from how it got to you. don't be wasteful and appreciate the bounty that is available to us.

cq: 9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?

paul: No, only badly prepared food.  Well, ok, I'm not that fond of sea urchins, and I could live without truffle oil.

cq: 10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?

paul: Super digestion - eat as much as you want and never gain weight.