I had a reason for not wanting to go to Paris, this trip, and it was both very stupid and very sweet. Namely, I love Paris so much, I didn’t want to go there again without Craig. Lest you forget, we’d gone together to the Edinburgh Film Festival, he left that Sunday for the Nantucket Film Festival, and I ducked down to London where I ate myself silly and saw lots of theater. I could’ve stayed there for the rest of the week, reconnecting with him in Munich (where I am now) for the Munich Film Festival, only our friends Mark and Diana were in Paris that same week and kept imploring me to come join them. “You’ve already been to Paris without Craig,” said Mark. “What’s the difference?” It was a powerful point. And so, before I knew it, I’d bought a one-way ticket for the Chunnel and figured I’d continue my way from Paris to Germany with a stop in Strasbourg, right on the border of France. When you see what I ate along the way, you’ll agree that this decision should’ve been a no-brainer right from the start.
That’s a picture of Craig finding out what was just officially announced: his movie The Skeleton Twins (which he co-wrote with our friend Mark Heyman and which stars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader) is going to premiere in competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival! Needless to say, we’re over-the-moon excited about this; it was a journey seven years in the making. Now we’ve just gotta find some heavy coats and snow boots, it’s gonna be cold in Utah in January. Congrats to him and all of the talented people who worked on this movie. I can’t wait for all of you to see it.
Conflict! Drama! Confrontation! Yes, they’re all here in today’s episode of The Clean Plate Club. Our guests are two distinguished gentlemen. The first, Mark Heyman, is a good friend and the author of a little movie you may have heard of called Black Swan. How that movie came about and how Mark approached writing it makes up a good part of today’s podcast, so you get to hear the full behind-the-scenes saga. Our other guest, Ben Leventhal, was recently named The Most Important Food Blogger of All Time by First We Feast. Considering the fact that he co-founded Eater.com, arguably the most important and widely-read restaurant news site in existence, you can see why he deserves it. Ben is also the president of a new company called Kitchensurfing which hosted our dinner on this particular eve. The site pairs up normal people like you and me with chefs who will come over to your house or apartment and make a dinner for you and your friends based on a budget you set. On the night of our podcast, our chef was the highly talented Tahoma Hauptman.
Many of my best food memories from childhood occurred at chain restaurants. It’s an old story by now–how my parents didn’t cook, yadda yadda yadda–and we ate most of our weeknight meals in Boca Raton at restaurants owned by athletes (Pete Rose’s, Wilt Chamberlain’s) or country-wide chains like Chili’s, Friday’s and The Cheesecake Factory. At the top of the chain restaurant hierarchy was a restaurant that’s still in business around the country, and still just as good as it was the first time we ate there; that would be Houston’s.
My first experience with guacamole was the one in The Barefoot Contessa book, a flavorful guacamole that has the requisite avocados, red onion and lemon juice, but departs from the norm with fresh garlic and a few hits of Tabasco. Up until last weekend, if I were sent to the store to shop for guacamole ingredients, I probably would’ve stuck to The Barefoot Contessa formula. But then my friend Mark entered the picture.
Let me say right off the bat: this is not a great recipe.
It has the potential to be a great recipe–I really wanted it to be a great recipe–but as it stands right now, it’s in need of some serious tweaking. And that tweaking may just be the simple addition of a Tablespoon of olive oil, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Have you ever had a son or daughter who plays the piano like a real champ, such a champ that you invite all your friends over one night and set up a little concert–with fliers and cocktails and a video camera on a tripod–and when your son or daughter finally sits down to play they totally freeze up and won’t hit one note? That’s how I felt two weeks ago when I had friends over to eat not one but TWO dishes from a new favorite cookbook, David Tanis’s “A Platter of Figs.” My love for this book ran pretty deep for a variety of reasons: (a) it was a gift from Craig’s parents; (b) David Tanis is the chef at Chez Panisse, one of my favorite restaurants; and (c) the book is knock-you-out beautiful, with gorgeous pictures and recipes and writing that’s heartfelt and really, really smart. But when it came time to perform, I’m so sad to report that the two recipes I made from it–the Green Chile Stew & the Spicy Pickled Vegetables–were total duds.
I’m getting a little rusty in my old age. In the early days of the blog, I was the one dragging my friends to obscure hole-in-the-wall joints in the East Village–now I’m perfectly happy to go to Grand Sichuan over and over again.
But Mark and Diana have my number, both literally and figuratively. We had plans for a double date on Saturday night and as I texted with Diana about what we would do, she ignored my suggestion to return to the home of Gui Zhou Chicken and Dry Sauteed String Beans and, instead, told us to meet her and Mark at Elvie’s Turo-Turo on 1st Ave. and 12th Street. “It’s a Filipino place,” wrote Diana. The old adventurer in me perked up: “See you there,” I wrote back as I grabbed my camera (or Craig’s camera, rather: mine’s been in repair for eternity), excited, once again, to try something new.