Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Schmoozing for a cause

February 28

The annual benefit for C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program — bad name, terrific organization) is always fun, and a good way to catch up witn many of the big players in the New York restaurant scene. The chefs generally show up themselves rather than sending their lackeys, and the industry moguls spend the $450 or more per person required to attend (ticket prices go up to $1,000), because everyone wants to help underpriveleged kids learn to cook.
The benefit, held last night at Pier 60 on the Hudson River, is one of those tasting events at which many chefs (I think 37 at this event) set up tables and prepare food for all the attendees to sample.
My first stop, after sampling Patricia Yeo’s chicken and black mushroom dumplings, was Aquavit’s table, where I wanted to say hello to Johan Svensson. I hadn’t spoken to Johan since I outed him as Aquavit’s executive chef.
Johan said, as he handed me a small plate of beef cheeks with endive salad and horseradish, that he had his hands full in his new job but had settled in well. I told him that I had been to Aquavit for lunch a couple of weeks ago and he expressed annoyance that I hadn’t told him I was there (this is common practice for chefs; the only one whose annoyance really struck me as genuine was Josh DeChellis, who when seeing me eating with a large party at Sumile a couple of years ago practically stormed into the dining room, uttered a few words as he glared at me, stomped back into the kitchen and sent out free stuff).
Johan’s pictured here flanked by extern Jonas Hederqvist and Jonathan Moreira, a beneficiary of C-CAP’s operations in Boston.
I marveled to Alfred Portale at his 22 years as chef at Gotham Bar and Grill and that he had yet to open a restaurant in Las Vegas or Scottsdale or anyplace else.
“Not yet,” he said, as though that were about to change, giving me something to mull as I ate his artichoke ravioli with wild mushrooms, parmesan and rich squab broth.
To his right here is Philippe Bertineau of Payard Bistro, whose wild mushroom and morel flan with black truffle oil and crème fraîche with wild mushroom broth was the hit of the evening.
Drew Nieporent insisted that I write something for Nation’s Restaurant News about the dust-up between Jeffrey Chodorow and The New York Times ( is following this topic relentlessly, in case you haven’t been). I told him that my colleagues Paul Frumkin and Peter Romeo had the topic covered and I asked him to tell Chodorow that he now needed to follow up on his promises and actually review some restaurants. Drew was then interrupted by some people for whom he had apparently promised to get reservations at elBulli.
Here’s Drew, on the right, with Michael Lomonoco of Porter House.
I caught up with Andrew Carmelinni, who fed me "My Grandmother’s Meat Ravioli,” which, unlike his grandmother’s ravioli, is made with short ribs and costs $16 at his restaurant, A Voce. I asked him if he was aware that he had a type of bean named after him.
Of course he did: The Carmellini bean was thus dubbed by Lee Jones of Chefs Garden, an Ohio supplier that grows produce to order for high-end chefs. Andrew told me he grew up not far from the Jones' farm and knew them long before they were selling herbs at $140 a pound to Charlie Trotter and many, many other fine dining chefs. When he was at Cafe Boulud, he asked the Joneses to grow small haricots verts for him, which they did, and then named them after him.
Andrew is pictured here with Cameron Levkoff, who he said was his assistant.
C-CAP honors a particular chef or restaurateur every year — this year it was Lidia Bastianich pictured here with her trophy, a sculpture of a sprouted fava bean which, as C-CAP founder Richard Grausman points out, must be cared for and nurtured, just like a young person.
C-CAP also has one of its alumni give a brief speech at the gala. This year, the speaker was Amar Santana, whom I’d met back in 2004 when he was sous chef at Aureole. I was having lunch there with the Charlie Palmer group’s publicist and C-CAP’s publicist, who was having Amar make lunch for me. One of the dishes he made was a tuna tartare with celery pana cotta and celery soda. The soda was made by putting mirin and celery juice into a seltzer bottle and squirting it into a shot glass.
I told him it would make a good "Dish of the Week" in Nation’s Restaurant News. I figured I had a 50-50 chance of one of the two publicists actually following up on that and getting me a decent picture of the dish.
Instead, Amar popped into the kitchen, grabbed a digital camera, took a bunch of nice photos, burned them onto a CD and handed them to me before I had finished my coffee.
Smart kid.
Here he is reading his speech, with Tim Zagat looking on.
Now he’s about to be executive chef of a restaurant that Charlie Palmer plans to open in the Bloomingdale’s in Costa Mesa, Calif., next winter. Cool.
Later, as the evening wound down, I ran into Chris Lee, the chef at Gilt, and his wife Melissa, who is a manager at Gotham Bar and Grill. They are pictured below. Chris marveled at the lack of media attention he has gotten since returning to New York from Philadelphia where, as chef at Striped Bass, he had gained national acclaim.

Chris has been back in New York, where he used to work at Oceana under executive chef Cornelius Gallagher, for months, but his first review only came out today.

Here is Del Posto executive chef Mark Ladner with "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto. They know each other not only because Del Posto is across the street from Morimoto, but also because Mark is Mario Batali's assistant on Iron Chef. After serving me his caviar and baccala crostada, he sent me to the next table, where Felidia chef Fortunato Nicotra was dishing up pickled turnip "ravioli" with shaved branzino, pea sauce and Mediterranean mostarda.
Here’s Fortunato with Felidia pastry chef Lara Brumgnach.

One more picture, because you don’t see many of grill cooks. This is grill cook Jennifer McCullen with her boss, Landmarc executive chef Marc Murphy.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Texas hold ’em is not my game

February 23

Tonight was poker night among the buddies of the fiancé of my friend Yishane Lee. Ray Garcia, the fiancé, used to be the host, but he has moved in with Yishane in distant Inwood and so hosting duties fell to his friend Matt. It is a little odd to be invited into such a comaparatively tight-knit cabal (the evite asks us not to bring friends of friends so that the gathering can remain small), but I think I have ingratiated myself with them by losing.
I was late tonight because I got involved in conversation and eating with Andrew Robinson, the chef at a new place in the East Village called Tree. He was a student at the French Culinary Institute, so we gossipped about other FCI graduates while drinking Syrah and Pinot Noir, and I marveled at the extremely tall waitresses who are working at Tree. Seriously, one of them is 6'3".

What I ate:
Roasted, sliced beet with chevre and mache
Seared foie gras with port reduction
Braised short ribs with root vegetables and mashed potatoes
Roasted Cornish hen with Swiss chard, fingerling potato and garlic confit
Poached sea bass with braised fennel and grape tomato
Roasted rack of lamb, farro and mint pistou
Chocolate cake
Chocolate mousse
Apple tart

Followed, at poker, by several Saranac pale ales and two slices of pepper-and-sausage pizza

Friday, February 23, 2007


February 23

The reading went well. I wasn’t sure it would. It didn’t occur to me until earlier this week that maybe this was one of those events attended only by the friends of people performing, who cheer for their friends and then leave. I didn’t even tell anyone about the reading until the day beforehand, and so I imagined myself trying to shout over drunken friends of others, or perhaps hearing after my reading, instead of applause, the sounds of chirping crickets.
Hardley anyone I knew was there, except for Matt and Ted Lee, who also were reading, the host, David Leite, and food writer, publicist, sci-fi geek and generally cool person Jennifer Anderson.
But I read to an attentive and appreciative full house (the place only had about 50 seats, but it was still full).
All of the readings were genuinely entertaining. I cannot find a link to Lisa Smith Arnold in all of cyberspace, but she’s a very entertaining writer who regaled us with the childhood tale of trauma induced by the prospect of eating tongue. Her description of the beef tongue, garnished with parsley, and the reaction it elicited from her and her sister were most fun to listen to.
Next, Elissa Altman told a hilarious account of her struggle to make a decent sponge cake that was kosher for Passover in a story she called “The Foundation of Ancient Egypt.” You see, she was watching The Ten Commandments while trying to make the sponge cake. She was struck by the resemblance of her batter to the mud that Charlton Heston was trying to make into bricks. She posited the theory that the pyramids were so tough, heavy and enduring because they were, in fact, made from matzo meal.
Susan Hodara told the sensual tale of her nightly vanilla ice cream cone. It was, unfortunately, interrupted by two people who didn’t seem to know that if you are late to a performance you must wait until an appropriate pause before entering the room and taking a seat. This particular couple was in late middle age and thus old enough to know better.
Jennifer Anderson speculated that the woman in the couple was insane.
At any rate, they were seated and all the errant cell phones seemed finally to have been turned off by the time I read my two short pieces: Taking the Inbred Bull by the Horns and The Circus.
Next came David Leite, who very funnily mocked his own self-delight in discovering that he was a supertaster.
He was followed by Adam Roberts, who, in the telling of his tale, "The Food Bully," charmed the crowd with reference to his own past of being picked on and cracked me up when he told of his friend describing him as the "Mussolini of mayo."
Gary Allen, who manages this site and also is working on selling a recipe book for humans (that is to say one on cannibalism), read a story about eating spicy calamari in Chinatown, followed by a brief recipe that he called something like Rockefeller Rocky Mountain oysters, but more clever than that, which involved preparation of human testicles.
The Lee brothers rounded it out with "Iowa State Fair" in which they trailed a cookbook writer as he attempted to win cookoffs at said event.
After the event, I went to introduce myself to Adam, who it turns out lives in my neighborhood, and then chatted with the Lees, whom Adam hadn’t met. They realized that they had not mentioned that evening which of them was Matt, and which was Ted.
Ted wears glasses, is the one most likely to wear a bow tie and somehow has a demeanor that is simultaneously more casual and more formal than his quieter brother, Matt. Both of them have the great quality of answering questions in ways you would not expect.
Q: "What do you do?"
A: "Sell boiled peanuts."

I decided to rest on the laurels of a successful reading and dine quietly and alone. I took Adam up on his recommendation and went to Palo Santo in Park Slope, where I had a chicory salad with blue cheese, almond and mango, and then a thick goat stew called seco de chivo. I washed it down with a couple of glasses of Chilean Carmenère

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

In case you’re not doing anything on February 22

February 21

I and eight other food writers are giving readings tomorrow night at Stage No. 43 at Jimmy’s. It costs $10, but it’s an hour-and-a-half of readings. Should be fun.
Take a look at who’s reading.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


February 17

During my hedonistic 20s, when I lived in hedonistic Bangkok, my upstairs neighbor, friend and work colleague was visited, for an extended stay, by a friend of his. She was a drunk. Nice enough, but she seemed psychologically trapped at a frat party. We would be sitting around, and suddenly she would raise her plastic cup of vodka and yell "Social!" This meant that we were all supposed to drink, not as part of a drinking game, which apparently was when most of her people drank, but just to be friendly with one another, as if that were a novelty, as if we had to be told when to drink and had to do it together.
I was reminded of that at the Beard House on Saturday. Martial Noguier, the chef of One Sixtyblue in Chicago, was cooking food that was all to be paired with wines from the Pacific Northwest. A publicist from one of One Sixtyblue's sister properties was at my table, although she had to socialize with other tables as well. That was her job and completely inoffensive. But whenever she returned to the table and a new wine had been poured — and there was of course a different wine for each course — she raised a glass and said "Cheers!" as if we had not already been drinking wine and politely socializing with others at the table. I suppose that’s a minor social infraction not worth blogging about, even if it did remind me of the aforementioned drunk twentysomething eternal frat party girl. What really annoyed me was that no one at the table seemed to understand the rules of toasting. If you raise your glass, you must clink glasses with everyone at the table or, barring that, at least make eye contact with each of them.
This is especially important among Germans and Scandinavians, for whom failing to make eye contact when clinking glasses is a social affront that, according to some people, curses you with seven years of bad sex — and I don’t think that includes time served.
I still remember one dinner several years ago at the New York residence of the Swedish Consul General. We were seated at a long, long table at which, before taking our first sip, we raised our glasses and looked each person in the eye, in turn, before drinking and then returning our glasses to the table. It was fun.
Of course, with someone basically shouting "Social!" each time a new wine is poured, that would have proven tedious.
I was at the Beard House with my friend Birdman. We are both in our hedonistic late 30s in hedonistic New York and decided that our consumption of roughly one glass of wine per course was insufficient and continued to enjoy New York night life until very late. That included a stop at Gin Lane, whose cocktails I have enjoyed in the past. The low-key bouncer at the door asked us to remove our hats upon entering. We were delighted.
Not only do we think that people should clink glasses and make eye contact, we think that gentlemen should remove their hats when indoors.

What we ate:

Hors d’Oeuvre
Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert on brioche with artisanal honey and truffle oil
Peekytoe crab with radishes, basil, chives and lemon vinaigrette
The Four Graces Pinot Blanc 2005

Diver sea scallop with smoked sturgeon, broccoli purée, roasted hazelnuts, wild watercress salad, and lemon-honey emulsion
Adelsheim Pinot Gris 2005

Roasted partridge with homemade boudin blanc, Savoy cabbage, partridge leg confit, duxelles, and truffle juice reduction
J.K. Carriere Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2001

Cervena venison loin with celery root purée, Seedling Farm apple doughnuts, mizuna, apple-celeriac salad and black peppercorn xauce
Spring Valley Vineyards Uriah Meritage 2003

Brillat-Savarin with Dried Pear Purée, Candied Walnuts, Endive Salad, and Brioche Croutons
Argyle Brut 2001

Lemon tart with navel orange, satsuma, mandarins, kumquat confit and mint
King Estate Signature Vin Glacé 2003

Petits Fours: bittersweet chocolate truffles, almond-lemon Madeleines and vanilla bean macaroons with raspberry confiture
Francis Tannahill Passito Gewürtzraminer 2004

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cosmopolitans and the people who drink them

February 16

Last Saturday, after having dinner at Lily Thai, Birdman and I took the L train into Union Square to drink beer at Heartland Brewery, where we drank IPA, having found the stout a bit too sweet that evening, and spoke of many things.
I don’t know how, but the topic of premium vodkas came up, and it occurred to us that when people order Cosmopolitans they can be really fussy about what type of pretentious vodka is used in it, like there’s that great a difference. But I have never heard anyone ask for or specify any of the other ingredients. Surely whether a bartender uses Contreau or triple sec is more important than the choice of Grey Goose or Stolichnaya. Is the lime juice fresh? If not, what brand of bottled stuff are they using? What about the cranberry juice? What proportion of those ingredients are they using?
Even whether the drink is shaken or stirred, and for how long it is shaken or stirred, surely matters more than the choice of vodka — the longer the drink is in contact with ice, the more diluted it will be.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


February 16

Last Saturday I had dinner at Lily Thai in Williamsburg. The owner, Bouey, is a friend of my friend Yishane Lee, who met her back when Bouey was a manager at Montien in the East Village. Yishane's boyfriend at the time had lived in Thailand and was living in the East Village, and he befriended Bouey. Yishane inherited both Bouey and an appreciation of the Boston Red Sox from him.
He’s long-gone, though, and we were at Lily Thai with Yishane’s fiancé, Ray Garcia, my friend Birdman aka professor David Krauss, and friend and publicist Ben Schmerler and his wife Eve, whose last name escapes me at the moment.
As a rule, I avoid becoming too close socially to publicists for professional reasons, but I was friends with Ben from back when he worked at Zagat, so I’m stuck. You can’t very well disown friends just because they change jobs; it’s rude.
Bouey is glad, in an Asian motherly sort of way, that Yishane is getting married and, also in an Asian motherly sort of way, is bugging her about having kids already.
I also had a light dinner on Valentine’s Day with Yishane and Ray, which would be pathetic and third-wheelish, except we were meeting with Raquel Algarin, who is performing their wedding ceremony. Yishane has asked me to officiate at the wedding ceremony with Raquel (she wanted me to officiate alone, but I'm not an officiant and New York is apparently the only state that doesn’t allow you to quickly sign up online as a generic minister so you can marry people — uh, perform the ceremony, that is). I think that’s a hell of an honor, and if you don’t have a loved one to spend Valentine’s Day with, spending it with people who want you to marry them is nice.
Come to think of it, Valentine’s Day is a stupid holiday, but it’s always nice to spend time with people who want you to marry them.
We met at Guantanamera, a Cuban restaurant on the Upper West Side where the wedding will be held, on April Fool's Day. The bar will open an hour before the ceremony begins.
Gotta love that.

What we ate at Lily Thai:
spring rolls
curry puffs
Green papaya salad
beef salad
Tamarind duck
basil with pork
green curry with beef
red curry with pork
perhaps some dishes that I have forgotten

Shad roe is not in season in New York

February 15

I got a press release the other day telling me that the "very first shad and shad roe 'catch of the season,'" was to be served at the Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York.
It quoted executive chef Sandy Ingber: “This is a very exciting time of the year for shad and roe lovers. It’s almost like the first spring training game in baseball. It’s a time of year that true aficionados look forward to for months on end.”
Oh, terrific, I thought. It’s shad season! I was all set to write it up until I remembered that it was the middle of February, and shad is a springtime fish.
It has been a weird winter with a freakishly warm January, and I wondered if maybe that had confused the shad to swim upstream early. So I called the National Fisheries Institute which put me in touch with the New York state shad expert, who couldn't help but laugh as she politely expressed shock and confusion at the notion that shad would be in Northeastern rivers at this time of year. Florida and Georgia, maybe, but they wouldn’t be here until late March, at the earliest.
Back to the press release, which quotes Ingber again: “Shad roe is considered a great delicacy, and so far this year’s roe sacs have been unusually large."
After a volley of e-mails with the Oyster Bar folks, I learned that the shad was from Georgia.
Ingber in the press release again: "The shad is prized for the nutlike flavor of its firm flesh, and many aficionados enjoy it for breakfast, lunch and dinner in season.”
In season.
Do you see how many times shad’s seasonality is mentioned?
Now, if the Grand Central Oyster Bar wants to serve Georgia shad in the winter, that’s fine, but if they do, they lose the right to play the seasonality card.

Here are some pictures I cribbed from a feature that Dina Berta wrote for Nation’s Restaurant News a couple of shad seasons ago. It had the very clever headline "Me and my shad roe." They're from Augustine’s Fine Dining in Fredericksburg, Va., where shad will, in fact, be in season relatively soon. These dishes were made by chef Abraham Conlon

This is a house-smoked shad roe tartlet with roasted garlic and arugula.

And this is polenta-crusted shad roe, a frittata of country ham and stinging nettles, a spring onion coulis and balsamic gastrique.

Aureole’s new chef

February 15

Grub Street broke the news that Dante Bocuzzi, executive chef of Charlie Palmer's flagship restaurant, Aureole, is leaving New York to open a restaurant of his own in Cleveland.
Replacing him is Tony Aiazzi, pictured here:

Aiazzi has been with Charlie Palmer for the past eight years. He started at Aureole in New York, but also worked in the Las Vegas Aureole and as Palmer’s liaison for Seabourn Cruise Lines. For the past three years he has been corporate chef, overseeing catering and working on cookbooks and some new restaurant projects.
He’s a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and externed at Lucas Carton in Paris under chef Alain Senderens.
Please welcome him.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

so many press lunches

February 14

I went to three press lunches last week, promoting cherries, Atlantic City and Providence. That’s too many press lunches and I am officially tired of PR-speak and ill-advised marketing practices. The collection of annoying press materials accumulating on my desk and in my e-mail inbox has not helped my mood, either:
I got an e-mail "introducing" me to a chef whom I’d already interviewed. That’s fine, but the publicist spelled the chef’s name wrong.
I have a booklet on my desk from Dunkin' Donuts called "The Coffee Sourcebook: Everything You want to Know about Coffee" which of course it is not. I want to know a lot about coffee — certainly more than six little pages can cover, especially if three of them are about Dunkin’ Donuts.
Remember: under-promise, over-deliver.
A press release from West Hollywood informed me that sushi is "one of the world's sexiest cuisines." Oh yeah, there's nothing like having wasabi, pickled ginger, seaweed, raw fish and bonito-flavored soy sauce on your breath to make you sexy. Ooh, baby.
But back to my lunches, which were at Town, Buddakan and a private room at Christie's, and all were delicious, as you would expect.
Well, not everyone expects good food at Buddakan. Both Zak Pelaccio and Jennifer Leuzzi have looked at me as though I were retarded when I complimented the Asian-fusion food there, but I’ve spent enough time in Asia (six-and-a-half years) to know when someone’s doing that fusion thang with respect.
At none of the lunches did the publicists seem to grasp how to get us, the journalists, to write about what they wanted us to.
At the cherry lunch the first thing they did was tell us how they were trying to reposition cherries (specifically tart cherries, which they want to promote as a super-nutritious food). But we don’t want to know about their marketing strategies. You’re not likely to see the headline: "Tart Cherry Marketing Strategy Undergoes Seismic Shift." We want to know what’s so great about tart cherries, not how their marketers plan to spin those facts.
They also might want to revisit the slogan "Cherries, not just another berry" because, of course, cherries aren’t berries at all.
My colleagues and I have been enjoying the dried cherries, cherry juice concentrate and cherry trail mix that were given to me at the event, however.
At both the Buddakan and Christie's lunches, the publicists started by introducing all of the other affiliated publicists, heads of convention and visitors bureaux and so on. I understand why they need to do that to satisfy the internal politics of their companies, but if we were interested in anything at the lunches, we were interested in what was going on in Atlantic City and Providence, not who their publicists and CVB operatives were. I’m sure they’re all very nice, but that’s not why we were there.
Of course, I’m just a food writer. Maybe I’m missing something in these tactics. After all, they did get me to write a blog entry about them...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

You were looking for WHAT?

February 13

My apologies for the extended silence. It’s not like I haven’t been going to fascinating meals; I just haven’t had time to write about them. I’m late for another one now, in fact, but rather than leave you hanging, I’d like to talk briefly about you.
It’s bad literary form to talk to you, dear reader, as if there were more than one of you, as if this were not a one-on-one conversation with an intimate. But sometimes it’s desirable to break the rules, and slavery to consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Besides, this blog is really a complex conversation, because although if you read this regularly you know a lot about me, I know a fair amount about you even if you don’t write comments very often.
I know that, although some of you visit Food Writer’s Diary just about every day (thank you), and even more of you have this web address bookmarked in your browser, many of you — on most days a majority — land on my blog due to searches, mostly on Google.
I even know what words were used in those searches, although what you actually were looking for more often than not remains a mystery.
Perhaps my favorite of all time was Kenny Lao gay dumpling
although foie gras garbage was pretty excellent, too.
Below are some others.
As a disclaimer, let me point out that my listing of these keyword combinations in no way is an endorsement of them or acknowledgement that word combinations like bobby flay cokehead and michael psilakis, rude are in any way based on fact. Michael Psilakis seems extremely nice to me and I have no reason to think that Bobby Flay is a cokehead.
Let me also point out that, although I know what searches brought you here, I don’t know who you are (but am nonetheless glad that you stayed) and so even when I do understand what you’re looking for (such as when someone came to this blog from the search food area has gnats should we close down), and I know the answer, and that if you look for it here you will be disappointed, I have no real way of replying to you (In the case I just mentioned I'm not sure of the answer as I think gnats are harmless, but they probably are classified by your local health department as vermin anyway).
So, if you really want to ask, just ask. Write it in a comment window, or e-mail me at

Select searches that brought people to Food Writer’s Diary:

Kenny Lao gay dumpling
Monkee fuck Davy
Bobby Flay cokehead
food area has gnats should we close down
hot young miami chefs
chocolate and cognac
skater punx gays
famous people called symon
gay bars near mohegan sun
my ears hurt
Pedro Yanowitz gay
mascarpone pork
methocel Alsace
papdi chaat blog
secret food diaries
hawaiian food texas
dog fuke woman
does jennifer leuzzi have children?
robert larcom gastrosaloon
bobby flay and honey with comb in it
blue hill at stone barns and wedding
the food writers diary blog
different types of angels
pol boot tatoo
worlds of healthy flavors blog
hawaiian food geography
how do you pronounce bruni?
restaurant in bray-england
can i eat chroizo when i am pregnant
pin up girls extra hot 2007
methylcellulose balls fancy food
houston livestock show wine auction attire
caribbean bakery denver and goat
saffron marshmallow
midtown bars for writer meetings
how to make fake snow
mechoui how to pronounce
vietnamese nem year's celebration in the old days
why have cows got 4 teats
avante garde cuisine lactic acid
balsamic foam
maltodextrin tapioca food powders
faux hawk haircut
fauxhawk hairstyle
pronounce prosecco
dispirito colicchio
chef scott conant getting married
pret a manger ugly brown napkin
foie gras powder
sushi muslims
hydrolyzed soy protein molecular gastronomy
where best chefs eat Miami
whipped absinthe with black sesame puree
the best chocolate cake and wine in shanghai
ghana food peanut
waldorf astoria $500 chocolate cake
where do i put the apostrophe in bread n butter?
two week food diary for footballer
kobe club swords
tony esnault pictures
white chocolate/caviar amuse bouche and bacon and egg
gnats in peanut butter
foie gras garbage
meals to eat with mint julep
psychopathic chefs
michael psilakis, rude

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


February 4

I feel what is perhaps an inappropriate attachment to Riingo, because I'm pretty sure I was the first person to write about its first executive chef, Johan Svensson.
It all started after the 2003 James Beard Foundation Awards. Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit was named the best chef in New York, and I somehow ended up in the Aquavit celebratory limo, seated next to a jovial Johan, who said he was going to be the chef at Marcus’ new restaurant.
"He's opening a new restaurant?" I asked, and resolved to quickly write a profile of him.
The profile turned out well. Johan explained how to barbecue a reindeer, and I got to make Viking jokes.
Johan recently became the executive chef at Aquavit (Marcus hasn't been in charge of day-to-day activities there for years), and Riingo's new chef is a Swede of Finnish descent named Jimmy Lappalainen (I broke that story, and felt kind of bad about it because the Aquavit people were trying to keep the move under the radar until the chefs settled in, which isn’t unreasonable).
This evening I went there with my friend Chandler to see what Jimmy was up to.
Chandler had just returned from Paris that day, but he said he was only slightly nauseous from jet lag and was happy to come to dinner.
Chandler, being a scent critic, was especially enamored of aromatic menu elements, like the vanilla-scented eggplant puree that was served with seared scallops. Jimmy told us he used Tahitian vanilla for that. As I understand it, Tahitian vanilla is traditionally used more for perfume-making and bourbon vanilla is used in food, but Tahitian vanilla in food was all the rage a few years ago. Now vanilla of any sort is enjoying a culinary resurgence.
He also liked the mango-mint soup we had for dessert, and pointed out that manufactured mango scents contain a fair amount of cis-3 hexanol, which is the scent of freshly cut grass.
We also had tuna tartare with pickled daikon and chives, beer-braised short ribs (which also were on Johan's menu) with apple purée and hearts of palm, pan-seared cod with caramelized cabbage and plum, and five-spice duck breast with tapioca dumplings and mustard greens.
Oh, and a bunch of assorted sushi and sashimi, including ama ebi, which are in season right now.
Ama ebi translates as "sweet shrimp" but it’s actually raw shrimp. I love it, but it has an acquired texture.

Monday, February 05, 2007


February 3

Bill Goldberg, an old friend from my high school youth group, has a little brother Jon, who just moved to New York. Jon’s not much of a little brother anymore. Now he’s 37 years old and heading up the U.S. operations of American Oriental Bioengineering, a company that works with both Western and Chinese medicine.
He text-messaged me today, wondering if I had plans. I invited him to join me and Jean Tang, she of the karaoke, for dinner in Chinatown.
We went to the Grand Sichuan near the Fung Wah bus stop on the northeast corner of Canal and Bowery. Kenny Lao, he of the dumplings, introduced me to the place.
Kenny recently was named one of Crain’s New York’s 40 under 40. He's quite the star. If I’d had anything to do with it, I’d be very proud. Instead I’m just glad for him.
Jean had spent the afternoon in Chinatown trying to identify various herbs for an article she’s writing for New York magazine. Jon’s working on finding people in his company who can help.
It’s nice when things work out that way.
While I was waiting for Jean and Jon, I called Kenny so he could remind me what dish we particularly enjoyed and Grand Sichuan. It was the pork with spicy green pepper.
We also ate chicken with chiles and peanuts, stir-fried loofah (it's not really; it's a stalk-like green vegetable), and ham-and-winter-melon soup.
For dessert, after a failed attempt to get sticky toffee pudding at Schiller's, we ended up with cupcakes and pistachio bundt at Sugar Sweet Sunshine

Thursday, February 01, 2007


February 1

Women will notice you, even if you’re a short, chubby, bespectacled bald man, if you’re the only man there.
And that’s basically what I was last night at the Institute of Culinary Education, at the launch party of New York City Women in Food, a new association that combines the New York Women Culinary Alliance and the New York chapters of Women Chefs & Restaurateurs and Les Dames d'Escoffier International. Apart from the camera crew and staff at the ICE, including president Rick Smilow, I was the only man there.
So I met a lot of new people. Shelley Clark introduced me to Lisa Fickenscher from Crain's New York Business, and I got the cards of women who were planning water-tasting events for their daughter’s high school, freelance copy editors and writers. I got to catch up with the likes of Rozanne Gold and Susan Ungaro, and I got more feedback than I really needed on my goatee (I thought it had made the rounds already, but I guess not).
And I learned news, apparently old now, that James Oliver Cury left Time Out New York last week to join Epicurious.
I’m slightly hurt that he didn’t include me in the bulk e-mail that he sent out announcing that, but I suppose I’ll get over it.

Here we have, starting on the left, Liz Young, founder of NYC Women in Food and director of ICE’s Recreational Division Director; Univision anchor Denise Oller; chef-restaurateur extraordinaire Lidia Bastianich; ICE’s Grand Poobah, Rick Smilow, and cooking show host and author Daisy Martinez.

How to seem smarter than you really are

January 31

I had lunch at Porter House with dashing young catfish farmer Paul Dees and The Catfish Institute's publicists.
Paul is a native of Mississippi, but he studied ag economics at Auburn in Alabama.
Now, because I am a strange person, I know a fair amount about catfish farming, but very little about Auburn, and possibly less about college football.
Okay, I probably know a little more about college football than Auburn, because my boss, NRN Editor Ellen Koteff, went to the University of Florida and a couple of people on staff went to Ohio State (senior desk editor Christi Ravneberg makes delicious chocolate-and-peanut-butter buckeyes), and then there’s Georgia Bulldog Elissa Elan, who covers the foodservice industry's on-site segment.
(I went to Tufts, and our football team, the Jumbos, in fact won the championship — for Division 3, New England — during my freshman year by defeating the Amherst Lord Jeffs; our other big rival was the Williams Purple Cows).
But I did watch the Florida-Auburn game with Ellen the Gator during MUFSO this year, and was delighted that I could make fun of Ellen because Florida lost, mostly due to multiple interceptions caused by Florida's nearly complete inability to hold on to the ball. It was funny.
Florida of course ultimately became the national champions in a stunning upset victory over Ohio State, something that did not go unnoticed in NRN’s headquarters.
I have now related everything I know about college football, but of course that was enough for me to express joy for the victory of Paul’s alma mater over Florida, interspersed with questions about catfish's conversion ratio, observations about its clean taste relative to fished catfish, concern about competitors and so on.
You can get great leverage out of a little information applied correctly.
Here's something you can say pretty much any time the Denver Broncos come up: “Boy, those Broncos sure like to take it to the last minute don’t they? They really like to make their fans nervous."
But here’s a great anecdote that Paul told me: A popular appetizer in Ohio in the lead up to the national football championship was alligator.

wine, pizza and karaoke

January 30

The New York food world’s social event of the evening was the pizza and wine party at Cronkite Pizzeria & Wine Bar, but don’t feel bad if you didn’t go. It was a good party, but the crowd was a combination of really excellent people whom I hadn’t seen in awhile — such as food writer extraordinaire Melissa Clark and the scoopmeister of Grub Street, Josh Ozersky — and suprisingly rude buffoons. I don’t think I’ve ever been so abruptly and physically moved out of other people’s way as I was at this party, and one woman practically took a spoon out of my hand to serve herself some red pepper antipasto from the buffet. I don’t think she even saw me. I mean, how hungry can you be, really, for a red pepper antipasto?
But I just kept my glass full of the 2005 Rapet Barbera D’Alba and caught up with people. I hadn’t seen Josh since I had become a devoted Grub Street fan, so I congratulated him and he politely worried that the following day’s lineup wouldn’t be newsy enough.
Melissa was in a good mood, having just published a book and gotten engaged. She showed me a picture of Daniel, her fiancé.
Melissa holds a special place in my heart because she was the first really important food writer to remember my name. She also hosted what was perhaps my funnest Christmas Eve dinner several years ago. We live in the adjoining Brooklyn neighborhoods of Park Slope and Prospect Heights, and one December 23 we ran into each other at Natural Land, the shockingly good produce shop, specialty food store, sushi bar and bodega on Flatbush Avenue, which separates our neighborhoods.
She invited me to dinner the following night. Just before leaving for the party I reached into the fridge and grabbed a half-bottle of dessert wine to bring along.
Then I got there and realized that everyone there except for me and David Wondrich — one of the country’s leading cocktail experts — was somehow involved in the wine world. In fact, Melissa was working on some book or article about wine, and bottles and bottles of the stuff were lined up on her floor, streaming out of her fireplace and generally making her house look lived-in.
Had I known, I would have brought flowers.
But it turns out that the wine I brought had been given to me at an event promoting the bounty of British Columbia and was not available in the United States. So no one at the party had ever seen it before.
“What’s this?" “Where’d you get this?” “How did you find this?" they asked.
It reminded me of when Fonzie picked the right wine on Happy Days.

At the pizza party I also ran into Tara Mastrelli from Hospitality Design, whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. I introduced her to freelancer Jean Tang and they somehow decided that it was important to leave immediately for karaoke at Sing Sing in the East Village. Of course I agreed to come along and strongly encouraged Josh Ozersky to come, too, but he refused. How very, very sad.

What we sang:

Un-Break My Heart (Toni Braxton)
My Favorite Mistake (Cheryl Crow)
No One is to Blame (Howard Jones)
Zombie (The Cranberries)
F**k and Run (Liz Phair)
Top of the World (Carpenters)
More than Words (Extreme)
True Colors (Cyndi Lauper)
Crooked Teeth (Death Cab for Cutie)
Who Will Save Your Soul (Jewel)
Africa (Toto)
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)

Jean left about midway through all of this. I left at 2 a.m. Tara was still singing