Clamming For The First Time

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I don’t know if Instagram is making me seem like a good photographer or if I’m really a good photographer and I didn’t know that until I had Instagram. Either way, look at that picture I took of Craig standing on rocks the day we arrived on Eliza Island, where Craig’s parents have a cabin in the San Juans. If Annie Leibovitz saw that she’d be like, “I give up…I can’t top that!” See the purple sea stars in the foreground? That’s my favorite part. But this post isn’t about purple sea stars (though I wonder if you can eat them?); it’s about going clamming with Craig’s dad, Steve, the next day.

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The Night People Paid To Eat My Food (A Charity Dinner in Bellingham)

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A few months ago–what seems like an eternity ago–Craig’s mom, Julee, asked if I’d be willing to donate a cookbook dinner for a charity auction to benefit the Whatcom Center for Early Learning in Bellingham, Washington, where she and Craig’s dad, Steve, live. I said, “Sure” and didn’t think twice about it. Of course I’d be happy to cook a dinner for charity, no biggie. Then I forgot all about it. Months passed and then Julee reached back out: the auction item was a big hit. Two couples had paid money (real money) for a meal that would be cooked by yours truly for them and four other people (they could each bring two more people) based on recipes from my cookbook SECRETS OF THE BEST CHEFS. This was really happening. Holy crap, what was I going to cook?

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New Apartment? New Oven? Buy This

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This is an old school food tip, I didn’t invent it or anything, but I wonder how many of you actually do this?

I’m here to tell you that I do this. When I move into a new apartment, I buy an oven thermometer to calibrate the oven. If you don’t do that, you don’t know if your oven runs hot or cold or if it’s perfect. And since I just got started in this new kitchen, it’s something I really needed to know. So let’s buy this one from Gelson’s and see how our new oven does!

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Good Garlic

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There was this time, long ago, when I was writing my first book and talking on the phone to Amanda Hesser who I revered and who kindly agreed to give me tips about shopping at the farmer’s market. I was trying to get a grasp on how to know which ingredients were in season, which were good, which were bad, etc. At some point I said, “Well I guess garlic is one of those things that’s always the same no matter where you get it?” No, actually I said: “Well I guess garlic can’t be fresh can it?” And Amanda Hesser set me straight: “Of course garlic can be fresh…”

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The Art of the Cheese Plate

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Bar Covell is one of L.A.’s (and the country’s) most celebrated wine bars and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite places to go in the early evening to meet a friend before grabbing dinner. The wine is always interesting and carefully selected and, if you’re hungry, they make a cheese plate that pretty much puts all other cheese plates to shame. I mean, look at it. It’s like the world’s most awesome clock except instead of numbers you have cheese. And not just cheese but, and this is important, little pairings of various textures, shapes, and flavors that take the cheese in totally new directions. It’s what’s separates a “just OK” cheese plate from a cheese plate that makes you go “wow.”

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The Case of the Cat and the Water Glass

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In the middle of the night, a few weeks ago, I heard a noise that sounded like the sound you make when you’re licking your chops after eating a big piece of cake. Only the chop-licking wasn’t chop-licking, it was water-lapping and it was happening on my nightstand at 3:30 in the morning. Lolita, everyone’s favorite cat, has gotten into the habit of drinking out of our water glasses, so much so that now it’s almost an addiction. I have to sleep with my arm extended outwards to block her path. Sometimes she ignores the arm and still makes a lunge for the water; when I lift her away, she gives an angry “meow.” What’s got into my cat?

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Life’s Too Short For A Bad Chocolate Chip Cookie

What are those blobs of dough speckled with dark brown spots? They are, believe it or not, the chocolate chip cookies proffered at Pitfire Pizza here in Los Angeles. It’s surprising because Pitfire actually has good food; I like their salads and sandwiches at the one on Fairfax and its proximity to my favorite L.A. coffee shop, Coffee Commissary. But those cookies! They remind me of the cookies I used to see on Bleecker Street in the window of Rocco’s. A giant beige circle with brown dots all over its face like edible acne. Chocolate chip cookies should never look like edible acne; they should look like a caramelized nexus of butter, flour, sugar, and chocolate. Let me show you what I mean.

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