For a while, our friend Cris has wanted to cook us dinner. The fact that we didn’t make it happen immediately won’t seem like a big deal until I tell you that Cris is French. Yes, we had the opportunity to have dinner cooked for us by a French person and we didn’t take him up on it until last week when he and his boyfriend Harry had us over to their Echo Park apartment.
We’ll Always Have Paris: With Meals at Restaurant Miroir, Jacques Genin, Le 6 Paul Bert, Little Breizh, and Chez L’Ami Jean
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.
I almost titled this post Salad Not-çoise because my starting point, with the recipe, was David Lebovitz’s blog post where he beautifully describes a salad–an authentic Niçoise–that is nothing like the one I ended up making. In fact, David might be horrified by the one I made, especially since he quotes Jacques Médecin, the authority on Provencal cuisine, as saying: “Never, never, I beg you, include boiled potato or any other boiled vegetable in your Salade Niçoise.” Shield your eyes, then, David and Monsieur Médecin. What you’re about to see may disturb you.
[My friend Diana Fithian–playwright and home cook extraordinaire–kicks off Day 2 of Sauce Week with this epic post about one of the world’s most difficult and important sauces. Take it away, Diana!]
When Adam asked if Iʼd like to contribute to Sauce Week, and sent a list of sauces to choose from, there was one that jumped out at me right away: Espagnole Sauce, arguably the most time-consuming of the French mother sauces and the precursor to demi-glace. Itʼs part recipe, part exercise in masochism – first you make stock, then you make a brown sauce with the stock, then you reduce that sauce with more stock until you get demi-glace, and only then do you use the resulting demi-glace to make a handful of “small” sauces by combining it with other ingredients like mushrooms and wine.
I told Adam to sign me up.
This year, on Craig’s birthday, I had a revelation. My usual instinct to take him out to a fancy dinner on the big day (a tradition that began with an epic meal at Per Se back in 2008) really has nothing to do with Craig’s interests or wants and everything to do with my own. Who likes fancy dinners? I do, not Craig. So this year I asked him point blank if he wanted to go out for a fancy dinner on the occasion and he said he’d actually like it better if I made the dinner here at home. I have to admit, that was pretty flattering–given the option of Thomas Keller food or Adam Roberts food, Craig picked the latter. I knew I had to make this dinner special.
Pull up a chair, I’m going to tell you a funny, though slightly depressing, story.
See, on Valentine’s Day, I was alone in New York. Craig would be coming a few days later and, in the meantime, I decided to spend the night seeing a play I’d always wanted to see: David Ives’ “All In The Timing” at 59E59. (A terrific production, by the way.) I figured seeing a play by myself on Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be a big deal; once the lights go down, who cares that you’re alone? The real issue was getting food before the show started. Eating out alone on Valentine’s Day, now that’s a different story.
It’s inauguration day and also Martin Luther King Day and here I am sharing a French recipe. Before you label me a communist, I hope you know this is entirely coincidental. On Friday, I made dinner for a few friends and while thumbing through my cookbooks searching for an entree, the dish that really caught my eye was a recipe for Daube de Boeuf from Saveur Cooks Authentic French. Unlike Boeuf Bourguignon, Daube de Boeuf doesn’t ask you to render bacon or to cook pearl onions and mushrooms separately; here, you just brown beef in butter and olive oil, add your mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery), garlic, and a good, bold red wine. Two hours later you add dried porcinis and their soaking liquid and the rest takes care of itself.
Imagine a restaurant that’s not really a restaurant but, rather, an event that will exist for only a limited period of time. What you’ve just imagined is a pop-up restaurant, a phenomenon that’s sweeping the food world and that’s been spearheaded, mostly, by L.A.’s Ludo and Krissy Lefebvre. I met them both back in July when they came over to my New York apartment (what!) and I fed them a piece of Melissa Clark’s pecan chocolate chip loaf cake. We talked about the fact that I was moving to L.A. and how, once I got here, I’d have to eat at LudoBites. They offered no help, though, in securing a reservation. I’d be on my own. I was ok with that.