January 2008

About That Query


I’d like to thank everyone who responded to my query the other day, asking if I had any readers who wanted to go to culinary school but couldn’t afford it. The responses were quite touching and compelling and made me eager to put my idea into action.

What’s my idea? It’s quite simple, really. As long time fans will remember, I used to run Gourmet Survivor competitions on my site. The first time was just a lark, but the second time was a fundraiser and we ended up raising several thousand dollars for Katrina victims.

Several thousand dollars isn’t enough to put anyone through cooking school, but here’s what I’m thinking: if I get a bunch of people involved–bloggers, industry folk and, ideally, someone from an actual culinary school–we might be able to host a competition that’d result in the very thing I hope to provide: the first ever food blog generated culinary school scholarship.

Orangette’s Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini

Going through old pictures, just now, I found the picture you see above and smacked my lips at the memory: “Hey!” my brain sang out. “That’s that delicious butternut squash and chickpea salad with tahini you made from Orangette’s website.”

According to the picture, I made this on December 19th. So please follow this link to Orangette’s recipe (it’s an adapted recipe, so lets not give her ALL the credit) and take a picture, date it, and bury it away so you can have the same experience I just had. Then make it again as I plan to make it again quite soon.

The Gourmet.com Launch Party at Bar Boulud

Here are the people we saw last night at the Gourmet.com launch party at Bar Boulud:

– Calvin Trillin

– Mark Bittman

– Eric Ripert

– David Chang

– Jonathan Waxman

– Aaron Sanchez

– Michael Psilakis

– Rebecca Charles

– April Bloomfield

– Alfred Portale

– Joey Campanaro

– Daniel Boulud (it was his place, after all)

and, of course

– Ruth Reichl (it was her party).

To say the room was choc full of food celebs would be a profound understatement. I spent most of the party wandering around with Craig saying, “Whoah–do you know who that is? He’s/she’s a legend.” I also had fun chatting with all my food blogging cohorts–Ed Levine & The Serious Eats Team (Adam and Alaina), the Eater crew, Josh Ozersky. I befriended the managers of The Little Owl and Market Table (the latter of whom was freshman roommates with one of my college friends). I shook hands with Daniel and told him that one of his close friends was one of my favorite teachers in grad school (a true fact!); I kibitzed with Rebecca Charles who told me how she cooks a rib-eye at home (no oil, extremely hot pan, render the fat from the side of the meat first, then finish in the oven—oh and lots of coarse salt and pepper). It was a whirlwind of glitz and glamour, but mostly it was just passionate food people talking about food. And speaking of food, wait ’til you see the spread.

How Successful Writers E-Mail

One of the most surprising things I’ve learned over the past few years of running this blog and entering the world of food and writing is this: when e-mailing a famous writer–food writer or not–the best strategy is to keep your e-mails short short short.

Eight paragraphs about your life, love and devotion to this writer’s writing will not win you much favor. Instead, pare it down to just a few sentences. You’d be shocked at what writers, when e-mailing one another, sacrifice to keep their e-mails short. The bloody corpses of punctuation, syntax, grammar and logic are strewn across countless e-mails in my inbox. And yet when I re-read e-mail exchanges I’ve had with successful writers, the e-mails are always pointed, smart, and incredibly succinct.

Same is true, actually, for agents and editors as well as producers, publicists, and directors. Keep it brief, keep it smart, and you’ll be rewarded. Just a tip from your old friend, The A.G.

Crispy Dough


I am bad with secrets. I’ve always been bad with secrets. You shouldn’t tell me any secrets, secret holders, because I will give them away.

Case in point: the brunch you see above. What is it? Where can you get it? Why do I love it so?

If I were a good secret keeper, I’d end the post here. But I am not a good secret keeper and alas you shall know…

Sundance Thrills

The stars of Craig’s movie, True Adolescence, blew the lid off at Sundance this year. Melissa Leo, who plays Aunt Sharon, starred in Frozen River which won the grand jury prize for Best Film. Mark Duplass, who plays Sam, sold his movie Baghead to Sony Pictures–a huge achievement for a movie shot entirely on a little video camera with no-name actors.

Meanwhile, our friends Andrew and Rob–who you met when we went to Cape Cod last year–both hit home runs with their short films. Andrew’s film, Sikumi (On The Ice), won the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking and Rob’s film Aquarium received honorable mention.

A huge congrats to everyone–I’m honored to be connected to you all!

Winter Time is Prime Time for New York Dining

I have made a discovery, dear reader, and it may not be much of a discovery–I’m sure big city eaters have known this for some time–but I’ve come to the conclusion that winter time is prime time for New York dining.

The above picture was taken at The Spotted Pig where I took Patty to lunch on Wednesday (she catsat when we were in Seattle, and I owed her another meal). At night, you can’t get near The Spotted Pig–and that may still be true in winter–but daytime can get pretty busy too. On this day, though, the place was half empty; we practically had it to ourselves. [Incidentally, the dessert Patty is holding is a must-try: a banana tart with dulce de leche and toffee that was surprisingly not too sweet and extremely light.]

Other lunches I’ve had lately in the city support my theory. For example, this sushi lunch I had at Morimoto (it was a business lunch, actually–I’m not usually in that neck of the woods)…


…was consumed in another half-empty restaurant, a nightclub like space that feels eerily cavernous in daylight. The lunch was $24.95 and featured the sushi you see, soup and salad. I found the sushi wonderfully fresh and, as expected, expertly arrayed. Chef Morimoto was making the rounds looking cheerful–though a few days later he’d lose half his fortune.

The lesson, though, is that if you like dining out in New York but can’t stand crowds, your time is now: late January and all of February. There’s finally a seat at the counter at Pearl Oyster Bar (get a bowl of chowder and a Caesar salad, and leave very happy); I haven’t been lately, but my hunch is there’s a bowl of noodles with your name on it at Momofuku–an ideal wintertime salve. And, if you have a little cash put away, now’s the time to endorse a favorite neighborhood gem as Craig and I did last week when we had a spontaneous meal at Palo Santo. Dana Bowen once told me that Palo Santo’s chef’s tasting menu (at $45) was one of the best deals in Park Slope and after consuming a raw scallop amuse, barricuda for the fish course, a rabbit heart course and wild boar for the entree, I have to agree: this is brave, exciting food that surprises and delights well beyond the $45 price tag. And, it being winter, we sauntered right in and we were seated right away.

So fear not, timid New Yorker. The dining scene here can be intense, but winter is your friend. Go out and patronize a hard-working chef and be rewarded with a minimal to non-existent wait. And same goes for you non-New Yorkers, wherever you are: go support local chefs who struggle to fill seats in cold weather.

Braised Duck Legs For Idiots

The dish you see above is a dish from a four-star chef and yet it’s among the easiest you will ever prepare. It comes from Jean-George’s “Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef” which was co-written by Mark Bittman. As many of you know, Mr. Bittman is The Minimalist and it might seem strange, at first, that a man who prides himself on simplicity would co-author a book with a chef renowned for his complexity, innovation and flair. But this recipe proves that two opposing forces, working together, can generate electricity: it’s astonishingly good and amazingly easy. Click ahead and behold the splendor of Jean-George’s Braised Duck and Vegetables with Asian Spices.

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