About Me

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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cookbooks for a Deserted Island

I was just reading a blog entry by Mark Bittman requesting responses to update his 50 favorite indispensable cookbooks and it found me gazing around my office. It also got me thinking what would be mine and perhaps yours (if anyone is actually reading my nuggets of knowledge). So step up to the plate and interact with me and your choices.

Now this deserted island does have a phenomenal grocery store (lets dream big!), fabulous wine and if your dream allows a male or female counterpart to share your meals and?? with.

The first installments of books I have chosen are for the pure enjoyment of cooking. Since there isn't much to do on the island, I would have lots of time (and a perfectly equipped kitchen) to play.

My backbone or go to book is The New Making of a Cook by Madeleine Kamman. She is an unsung hero of the cooking world and this book is brilliant.

On an antique mission I picked up Roger Verge's Vegetables in the French Style. His recipes read like French vegetable porn and are tasty too!

There will have to be a grill on this island and The Thrill of the Grill by Chris Schlesinger & John Willoughby is my grillin' bible.

For new and intriguing techniques I discovered Happy in the Kitchen by Michel Richard and I plan to master his "pleasures of plastic wrap".

Not possessing a baking mentality but wanting to give sweet to the sweet, Dorie Greenspan's Baking From my home to yours will help me whip up delectable desserts.

Maybe we would just want a quick cookie or bar. In that case Rose's Christmas Cookies will be cracked open. Ever since I had my catering company in the '80's I have used this book annually.

Now what would you bring to this little piece of paradise?
Please leave me a comment and let's start talking!

Where's Ruth when we need her?

Short of reading recipes, the second most popular food reading venue is restaurant reviews. These voyeuristic snippets are free, have no calories and can salivate you imagination. My favorite restaurant reviewer is Ruth Reichl. Prior to becoming the editor of Gourmet magazine, author of three memoirs and her fingers in the pies of many other projects; Reichl honed her skills as a restaurant reviewer. I became addicted to her prose when she wrote for the New York Times (type in her name in the NYT search engine and read away!).

Every Wednesday “we” went out. She sat across from me and we ate and talked. I always felt sated after one of her reviews and thoroughly enjoyed our meals. I still read restaurant reviews but most of the reviews these days are about as exciting as reading ReMax descriptions of homes for sale.

Recently our newspaper had a review of a new Italian restaurant. Located in a suburb of our fair city; it yearned for unique twists and lasting impressions. What stood out for me were the descriptions wielded by the reviewer’s pen.

Only Captain Kidd would want to eat a pasta dish that was “admirably seagoing”.

“True to trattorias, the menu hits its highest points in the pasta section.” Then there is a description of gnocchi and risotto.

I also don’t think of my desserts as being “friendly” or “firmly flavored” and what about an “endearingly crunchy top”? It just makes me want to pinch it and say “how cute!!”

I know one must try to hook the reader- bring them back for more verbal bantering- but let’s step back and think about what we are talking about. Where’s Ruth Reichl when we need her?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Check out this Menu!

From My Dear Friends at Meals for You a special menu. My jaw dropped down to the keyboard when I read the recipes and thought you would do the same.
Nothing makes my heart race faster than cornbread stuffing mix, that old standby Cream of Mushroom Soup, and grated cheese.

Oops! did I mention the little sausage boners that get wrapped in puff pastry and for dessert a gut busting Cinnamon Bread Pudding with whipped cream optional? Cant' wait to fire up the oven and feed my happy family a memorable meal...

Golden Pea and Onion Bake, Sausage Rolls, Cinnamon Bread Pudding
Prep Cook Cals Fat Fat% Chol Pro Carb Fiber Sugar Sod.
45 min 40 min 776 34.8g 40% 195mg 25.4g 93.9g 6.0g 44.0g 1525mg
view detailed nutritional information
Dietary Exchanges: Milk: 0.4, Vegetable: 2.3, Fruit: 0.7, Bread: 3.2, Lean meat: 1.5, Fat: 5.4, Sugar: 1.0, Very lean meat protein: 0.0

Golden Pea and Onion Bake
Prep: 15 min, Cook: 30 min.
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups packaged cornbread stuffing mix
  • 2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped or 2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • 3 large onions, cut in half and sliced
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt 2 Tbs. butter and combine with stuffing and parsley. Set aside. Melt remaining butter in a heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions 4-5 minutes, or until tender. Stir in soup, milk and peas. Spoon into a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle cheese and stuffing mixture over soup mixture. Bake 30 minutes or until hot.

This recipe serves 6 people. Due to the nature of this recipe, it adjusts the number of servings in multiples of 6 only.

Per serving: calories 403, fat 19.4g, 43% calories from fat, cholesterol 43mg, protein 13.1g, carbohydrates 45.9g, fiber 4.8g, sugar 10.6g, sodium 1158mg, diet points 9.2.

Sausage Rolls
Prep: 20 min, Cook: 15 min.
  • sheets frozen puff pastry, about 9 ounces total
  • 1/2 lb. bulk pork sausage

Thaw pastry sheet at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F. Unfold pastry on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 12x10 inch rectangle. Cut into 3 strips along fold marks. Divide sausage into thirds. Roll each into a cylinder the length of the pastry. Place on edge of pastry strip. Starting at the long side, roll up. Press edges to seal. Cut each roll into 12 1 inch slices. Place 3-1/2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, or until golden.

This recipe serves 12 people. Due to the nature of this recipe, it adjusts the number of servings in multiples of 12 only.

Per serving: calories 79, fat 7.6g, 88% calories from fat, cholesterol 13mg, protein 2.2g, carbohydrates 0.2g, fiber 0.0g, sugar 0.2g, sodium 126mg, diet points 2.7.

Cinnamon Bread Pudding
Prep: 10 min, Cook: 40 min.
  • 3/4 cup cinnamon bread, cubed
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2-1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place bread in greased 2-quart shallow baking dish. Sprinkle raisins over bread. Combine eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Pour over bread. Bake 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped cream.

This recipe serves 6 people. Due to the nature of this recipe, it adjusts the number of servings in multiples of 6 only.

Per serving: calories 224, fat 6.6g, 26% calories from fat, cholesterol 139mg, protein 7.8g, carbohydrates 34.6g, fiber 0.6g, sugar 32.2g, sodium 109mg, diet points 5.4.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oh, Paula! We're Sorry You're not the only Killer!

A few weeks ago in www.seriouseats.com there was a snippet about Paula Deen trying to kill y'all with fat and love. Her demure "Lady's Lunch Burger" was a delicate combination of sliced glazed donuts (maybe this recipe will help the floundering Krispy Kreme empire), fried egg, hamburger, bacon, and parsley for color.

Today I found out that this donut/burger combo is sold at Mulligan's Tavern in Decatur, GA. Their Krispy Kreme delight is simpler to make just a humble bacon cheeseburger between those grilled donut cheeks. You can see a picture of this as well as the top 10 best foods to eat when drunk at college at www.seriouseats.com

Watch out Bubba Here I come!

Preserve it!

There is one element to the “sustainable” bandwagon that people are forgetting.


Throughout history eating was to survive. When food was plenty people gorged when scarce-you get it. In the mean time societies learned ways to preserve food for those lean winter months. It was part of the rhythm of life. We have gotten sloppy about preservation. We now let the grocery stores do it for us as we demand a wide variety of food all the time.

I think there is a balance between buying fresh and buying stupid. If you buy green beans, asparagus, you name it, at its peak in season and preserve it- even in a freezer; there is no reason to buy imported products out of your own growing season. Now if you have used up your last broccoli and must dip into the traveling food chain do think about where it comes from- closer is better and make a note to up your garden quota or farmer’s market purchase. Unless you are delirious for grapes in February, nix those orbs from Mexico and hold out for summer.

Preserve realistically. I’m not proposing to turn your kitchen into a Del Monte processing plant. If you don’t eat jam then don’t preserve it! Tomatoes? You betcha-Pickles- o.k. get out that Food savor and shrink those bags of peas for risi bisi. How virtuous!

It’s all about our rhythm of food and life. That’s why we have four seasons, to embrace the changing food and appreciate our bounty.

Stop stuffing your freezer with has beens and dribs and drabs. Instead, fill it with product to play with!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Terms of Endearment

No, this isn’t going to be a late for Valentine’s rumination. As you know after 20+ years of (add your own adjective) marriage couples learn how to communicate. Sometimes it is to goad or challenge. Sometimes it is to woo or make the mate laugh.

When I was a new teenager I spent a lot of time with my Aunt and Uncle. We lived overseas and when they were together my aunt would pour over magazines and drawings dreaming of retiring to their house in Maine. She would snip and file while my uncle would read. When he wanted her attention he would call her, Pigeon, or Pidge. It was so intimate and cute. I had never heard of anything like that before. Now my parents laughed and chatted as well but all I remember from my dim recesses is a shortened version of their regular names. And of course when they were referring to the other in front of my sister or myself it was always “YOUR Father,” or “YOUR Mother.”

My NSSP (Not So Silent Partner) and I don’t really have cute names for each other. I will call him by his Jewish name or a new nickname based on a character in a book I read. For me there is a shortened version of my name that was once a song (unfortunately as a male).But he does have a phrase that always melts my heart and spurs me onto cooking one more meal.

After commuting home from his upstairs office, NSSP wanders into the kitchen and sniffs. Looking at the converging of food and heat he boldly asks, “What’s for dinner?” I put on my happy face and recite the menu du jour.

He smiles and says,” That’s exactly what I was thinking of having for dinner.”’

And that dear friend is what marriage is all about. A bit of blarney and love served forth.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Smart Idea or Dumb Idea- You Decide

I found an interesting article in the Wednesday, New York Times (but then again what isn’t interesting in that paper!) titled “Your Waiter Tonight…Will Be the Chef.” The cover picture that accompanies it is of one of those skinny bedraggled chefs who really should stay in the back instead of serving his food.

I know the eating public embraced the fly on the wall concept of dining in restaurant kitchens a few years ago. That craze flew right by me. Yes, it would be great to watch a famous chef (real one, neither Mama Paula nor Sister Rachel) but kitchens and silk dresses don’t go together. I want to be pampered, not smelling of a fish fry or seared tenderloin at the end of the meal.

Now the craze is for the chef to go to the market, (thank you Martha Stewart) serve, mop, and wash his own dishes and be creative on the side to win loyal customers. I know money’s tight but I think creativity wanes when one puts on too many hats. The article mentioned that when service was busy at one restaurant they stopped answering the phone. What is wrong with this picture? A prospective customer calls to find out what is being served, how long the wait, etc. and willing to spend buckaroos at your establishment and can’t get through because the restaurant hasn’t hired a front man? It strikes me as cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Kitchens are run as a dictatorship. Top to bottom and bottom working up to the top. Its tough love. You can’t have everyone running around with a mile high toque in charge. “Everyone who works here is a chef, and everyone is also a dishwasher,” Schwa Chef Michael Carlson bragged. What bunk. The idea of all for one and one for all doesn’t get the mussels cleaned or grease trap unplugged. Remember the Cultural Revolution in China? That was one smart move by Chairman Mao.

I know there can be hostility between the front and the back of the house with no one liking the bartenders who come in late cut lemons and limes and get great tips. But you sign up for your own poison. I loved being a cook. All tables were dupes and all I cared about was taking down the dupe and replacing it with another. I couldn’t do the waitron’s job and cook at the same time. The waitron segued between my little piece of paradise and the world beyond. When it was done we all kissed up to the bartender for our drinks.

I also ponder what are these chefs’ com waiters going to wear? If they are preparing the food it will get slopped on them. White outfits are magnets for red sauce. Again if I’m paying for a nice creative meal I don’t want to see dirty side towels or beurre rouge splattered coats. For all of the money they are saving on staff they will incur a large cleaning bill.

The two best quotes, in the article, justifying truly good waitrons were-“A really sensational waiter is transparent,” and “I tell my chefs to concentrate on their food…the waiters are there to be ambassadors, and they are trained to take command of the customer as soon as they sit down.” Nothing sets the tone of a meal better than having a good waiter working for a big tip.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pasta,Black Beans, Turnips, Oh, My!

From My Meals for You Website-
A menu that leaves my taste buds astounded.


Herbed Pasta with Toasted Breadcrumbs / Black Beans Tuscanese / Honeyed Baby Turnips / Banana Grape Cup with Yogurt

Squeeze with Precision and Decorative Pride!

In my continuing disgust of the dumbing down of food preparation, I’ve been really steamed about the use of plastic bags. I’m sure the Food Network has stock in Glad Bags otherwise how can they justify the gleeful use for marinating food, or better yet rolling out pie dough in a plastic bag. There also was a scene that I watched where the food entertainer threw all of her guacamole ingredients into a- you guessed it- plastic bag and smashed them all together! Snip a corner and squeeze that baby out. I can’t tell you how disgusting guac looks when squeezed in plastic! What is so hard about dirtying a flipping bowl and mashing the avocado and friends with a fork or one of those new fangled guacamole gadgets?

My personal favorite is the baggie turned pastry bag. The humble pastry bag comes in many guises. It can be waterproofed cotton, nylon, polyester, and yes plastic (the difference being the thickness of the bag). Its purpose is to attractively extrude semi-liquid food onto another food. Simply put, ice cakes, fill devilled eggs, or twice baked potatoes. Now I will admit before the plastic bag impostor craze that I did in a pinch use a plastic bag but that was only after forgetting my pastry bags at a catering job. Never again.

Over Christmas this past season I watched a cake decorating sequence where a female TV announcer was given a plastic bag filled with chocolate icing and told to broadcast the icing across the cake. This poor hapless woman was nervous, squeezed too hard and a huge blob of icing landed unceremoniously in the middle of the cake. Icing interuptus. The “chef” laughed and spread the goop around and I’m sure the TV announcer will never do that trick again.

Pastry bags won’t break the bank and the disposable ones make it even easier for the occasional squeezer. If you can have sharp knives, All Clad pans, granite counters and stainless steel appliances; why the hay short change your decorative possibilities?

Then there is the tip issue. Pastry tips come in many sizes and shapes and truly add that gourmet touch to plated mashed potatoes. They just don’t work with plastic bags. They also are reasonably priced last forever (they do have a way of wandering around the kitchen drawer), and make great squiggles out of the most mundane stuff. Don’t forget to buy a coupling- a little two pieced affair that when put on the outside of the bag holds the tip so you can change the tip without emptying the bag every time.

There is technique to using a pastry bag but it isn’t one of those rocket science things like beurre blanc emulsions or choux paste. The important thing is to have a bag generous enough (don’t go skimpy or just right- it won’t do) to twist the top and with one hand on the twisted top and the other as a guide it’s just squeeze and go. When you stop squeezing at the top the goop stops coming out, even Rachel Ray would say, “How easy is that guys!!!!!." If you use a square plastic bag you won’t get the same twist at the top and without a pastry tip the bag can easily hemorrhage and splat.

In a perfect world television chefs would stop promoting their knives, pots and pans, and other logoed items and TEACH a simple real technique that Jane and Joe cook could have fun with and wow their friends. Oh, well I can dream, but in the mean time-

Buy your pastry bag today and squeeze away!

Friday, March 14, 2008

How do YOU eat a pretzel?

It doesn’t matter if the pretzels are large or small, thick or thin. I’m talking about the kind of pretzel with the Mickey Mouse ears and a peace sign in the middle.

I eat and savor them the same way. Take a large pretzel. There usually are one or two nubs where the ‘peace sign’ over steps its boundaries. Off they go in two nibbles. Then it is time to knock off loose salt and gaze upon the curves of the Mickey Mouse ears. Right/left, left/right it doesn’t matter. What does matter is not breaking any of the peace sign sticks within. Just the curves please with eyes closed. If you happen to break any part before its time, the game is over and you might as well inhale the pretzel as quickly as possible and put yourself out of the misery of loosing the pretzel eating challenge.

Have you surmised that with each nibble the deconstructed pretzel is getting more fragile? The next munch takes finesse. Since the initial nubs were eaten off the emerging fan the fan arch is unstable at this juncture it is important to swallow and gently bite at each end of the arch. If you get this far you are holding an upside down peace sign. Right/left, left/right, two nibbles leave you with the stem and you are done!

Forgetabout the sticks their no fun!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

My Dirty Mind meets Crate and Barrel

I can’t help it. I have a dirty side to my mind. Usually it’s kept in check, lurking but not coming to the fore.. Maybe it was the swinging drug induced ‘70’s (no I did not inhale…) or my divorcé lifestyle of the ‘80’s that developed this part but truth be told I owe my slutty mind to the restaurant business.

Nothing gets a bored chefflete’s creative juices going than trying to peel a carrot with two legs or gazing at a green pepper with an embryo nestled inside. Then there is fondling sausages, creating little boners with pig intestine and wrapping cooked sausage in puff pastry and calling it saucisson. Enough said.

Yesterday I went to one of my favorite stores (this is not a plug!!) Crate and Barrel. Through the years they have been my go to store for reasonably priced serving dishes that if chipped could be sensibly replaced. Always clean styles that meld with any type of entertaining and catering.

I was on a mission to buy. My NSSP (Not So Silent Partner) had been wear testing our china (see www.artoeat.blogspot.com, archives 2006, August 10) last weekend and discovered that the plates break when met with the top of our French press. I believed him and didn’t try the experiment. So here I was with my arm twisted in back, forced to go to Crate and Barrel! I knew with certitude that at the end of my foray, no matter how long I stroked their products I would be relieved of $$ and sent home with a Crate and Barrel bag.

I was jubilant and a quiver. I didn’t go full frontal stimulus and barge through the front door but slipped in the side door unannounced. That Crate and Barrel must have known I was coming because they had changed their displays (they love to tease and entice!). Placed at eye level were the most uniquely shaped porcelain dishes I have seen in a long time (www.crateandbarrel.com , cuisine dinnerware- cuisine onda bowls). There were sublime rectangular serving plates breathlessly waiting for appetizers or petite desserts, square dinner plates, and serving bowls with lids crying to be filled with wild mushroom soup or chiffonade Brussels sprouts. In mid coo my eyes fell on a little bowl. It was as if a rectangle (think credit card but bigger) had a perfect center sucked out of it. The sides were flat and stretched out from the indentation.

My culinary mind was wildly wrapping around the plating possibilities and justifications to bring them home when…I turned the first little bowl over and noticed a knob-no- my slutty mind kicked in and saw-a-nipple. This bowl was too good to be true. Next I saw its larger version and again I turned it over. Would it also have a protuberance? Yes!! It looked like a pregnant belly. True dish porn.

I really don’t know what food would be most attractive in the concave indentation. Maybe a pudding or blanc mange. I would love to set a buffet and turn these bowls over and scatter them about in a randy tease.

Dinner anyone?

Monday, March 03, 2008

What Does Your Little Voice Say?

What are your first thoughts when you wake up? Do you think about that lays ahead? What you did last night? How quickly you can dash to the bathroom? Or is it food? It will be no surprise to you that my first thoughts are about the food to come. It starts as a whisper while I open the curtains of my mind.

Once done with my morning ablution I hurl myself downstairs between running cats and an excited dog. My stomach is still sleeping as I feed the four footed kids and put the coffee on. Opening the fridge for the first time in twelve hours I gaze at the array of leftovers and condiments. My inner voice pipes up again reminding me of what I ate yesterday and its first thoughts on how to eat today.

Intent on my coffee and letting the dog in and out, in and out, in and out; I push the little whining voice aside, grind my beans and wait sluggishly for the water to boil. As if in a trance I consume the first cup with no more thoughts of the future. Then the little voice pipes up. This time in a duet with my stomach that has decided to add its own bass rumblings.

“All right,” I say, “What is it to be?” I think in basic units, starch, protein, fruit, and vegetable. Remember the four food groups of yore before we started scaling the Pyramids? I find it easier to remember a four item check list especially in the morning. This is where the little voice gets excited. It is its first food decision of the day and one that will set the groundwork for the rest of my eating. My stomach silently waits for the voice’s decision.

Since my last meal was pasta, my little voice suggests a protein. I open the fridge and gaze at the eggs both hard boiled and raw.

“Not today my stomach, you might go out to lunch and need that cholesterol.”

“What about egg beaters or cottage cheese?”

“Those are better choices, and what about a little fresh tangelo and a slice of Rycrisp?”

My little voice fades away knowing that my stomach will be fed fuel and I have two more meals to eat.

At lunch time my little voice is a bit louder and more demanding. This is when the decisions will directly affect “What to have for dinner”. Should I continue on my four pronged food assault with a bit more protein and some V-8? The bigger question is what will trigger the happy meal spot in my brain to make me feel satisfied mentally and physically so there will be no snacking before dinner.

Added to the mix is a trip to the club which squelches the little voice. My body screams out “I AM HEALTHY!! I CAN EAT LUNCH!! SHUT UP LITTLE VOICE!!” So with that in mind I cast my mind as if I was fly fishing toward different eating establishments to figure out what would be the most satisfying food, environment, and price to pay.

“Not so fast,” my little voice pipes up, “you have pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, green beans, sauerkraut, and applesauce that you were planning for dinner, so just cool your caloric jets my gal and stay focused.”

I try to stay upbeat and optimistic about my options but that damn little voice has pulled the imaginary rug from under my culinary feet. “Okay, can I have a half tuna sandwich or sliced turkey on rye?”

“That’s better my human,” she says as she slips silently in the background again.

Life continues with errands, laundry, and dog walking. At 5pm my dog loudly barks; explaining that it is time for his snackies. The kittens erupt looking for snacks as well and attention.

By now my half a tuna sandwich, carrot wedge, and pickle have long ago rumbled down my digestive track leaving room for dinner. My little voice has awakened and rounded up a chorus from the bass stomach grumbles to the soprano melodies of the creative side of my brain. It is hard for me to think straight with this cacophony swirling around so I pour a glass of wine and the voices subside into a soothing melody.

As I pull out the various ingredients for my planned meal another voice is heard from. This is the little creative side that joyously pipes up every time I look at food. “Do you really just want a hum drum pork meal? Do you need that comfort today or would you like to take a trip to Asia with a stir fry and Hello Kitty made rice? Remember we had mashed potatoes a couple of days ago and you did exercise so perhaps a crisp potato pancake or that risotto recipe that looked tasty. I just can’t see eating sauerkraut right now so let’s nix that one. Anyway it is a bit salty- remember the high blood pressure. We’ll keep the applesauce and how about a dry sauté on those green beans- you’re trying to master that technique.”

I feel the creative voice clap its hands as it spins a web around my ingredients making me happy to cook and eat the meal. “But what are we doing with the pork again? I’m confused as the creative voice happily pirouettes demanding risotto rice, stock, panko soy sauce, shallots, and Parmesan cheese.

I am just a vehicle to prepare sustenance for the rest of my body but now my taste buds have started to weigh in. “A touch of lemon, some thyme, are we up to mustard today? Should we stay Italian? Do I want to taste green beans or how about some asparagus folded into the risotto at the last minute.”

Plastic vegetable bags are riddling my counter and crowding my cutting board. I still haven’t picked out the knife I’m going to use tonight nor given it a few strokes on the steel.

I take another sip of wine and put a damper on my mental crew. I decide on the knife, for old time’s sake I reach for my 10” Sabatier carbon steel and slowly run it over the steel. The sound of knife and steel rubbing against each other helps me focus on the final details and the order to prepare dinner.

Pots and pans come out, a splash of this and that. A grate and a chop, all is coming together when I realize there is calm in my production and the last ingredient of the meal must be decided. What dishes, glassware, and utensils will I use? I open my cupboards and stare at the options. Do I want to use my mindless everyday or would it be fun to go retro with Russell Wright? Do I feel black and white today or circular with my Manhattan glass? Another sip and the decision is made to do Russell.

The table is set, candles are lit and music is on. The dish is plated, the mess is- well let’s say I turn my back on it and eat in the dining room. I pour water and reach for a clean wine glass. Emitting a sigh I can sit down and enjoy the best meal of the day. My voices are sated. My happy meal spot pats me on the shoulder and says, “Well done, you’ve fed me well.”

Until tomorrow when I wake up to my little voice and new decisions.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

For Once in Your Life

The first wild mushrooms I encountered were dried porcini’s in a cooking class. We made veal scaloppini with a reduced cream porcini sauce. It was ridiculously easy to make. Pour the cream in a pot. Re-constitute the mushrooms in Madeira strain chop add to the cream and reduce by half. I then graduated to dried morels. Now, living in the Pacific Northwest I have moved up to fresh porcini’s, morels, and recently matsutakes (which are to the Japanese what truffles are to the French).

Truffles have always lingered in the deep recesses of my mind. They were the imaginary ghosts of the fungi world. Expensive, short season and not found in your basic A&P. Any impassioned food person had to try them and love them. It was required. But truffles eluded me. It wasn’t until I started to circle expensive food items that I finally “got” truffles. As with champagne and caviar, truffles are acquired. You have to slow down and turn yourself over to the experience itself. This isn’t pork barbecue the hits you between the eyes and you are bowled over into a lusty culinary orgasm. Some of the classic preparations are only sensory vehicles to turn on your mouth. Risotto, soft scrambled eggs glide the truffle taste around your tongue. A shaving here a shaving there, it’s all about awakening your taste buds to the heady aroma of this delicacy. Close your eyes and give way to the taste.

Champagne for me is all about the size of the bubbles, how fast they race to the top of the glass and their effervescent feel as they explode in my mouth. Using the perfect glass for the bubbles to race up and most importantly the right way of opening the bottle adds to the champagne experience. None of this flamboyant twisting of the cork so the champagne explodes all over you or is soaked up in a towel. Just a very slight twist of the cork to loosen it and then it is all bottle action. Holding the cork perfectly still with one hand and a thumb in the bottom well and fingers gripping the bottle at the other end it is twist, twist, twist until there is a slight “puff” sound as if a woman has taken an intake of breath when she has seen something particularly beautiful. And with that, the champagne is poured into chilled glasses and drunk. If a toast is to be made clink the glass at the bottom where there is liquid not at the top where there is a greater chance of chipping the glass.

Caviar? Those plump tapioca shaped orbs, when pushed by the tongue to the roof of the mouth are all about squish and a delicate hint of fish and saltwater taste. It is a perfect two dimensional taste that isn’t about gorging into bliss but about a very sexy eating experience. The whole ritual can be charged with accoutrement's. Caviar on ice, mother of pearl spoons, little blini’s and cream cheese to transport those vessels of taste. These vehicles melt away once a dollop of caviar hits the roof your mouth.

What do these three delicacies have in common? You can’t make a whole meal of the single item, you will go seriously into debt to satisfy your habit, and halfway to Debtors prison with mouth gorged in sensory delight you will realize there is nothing better in the world and you have experienced perfection.