The Marion Cunningham Tribute Dinner at Lucques

“Who’s Marion Cunningham? Isn’t she the mom from ‘Happy Days’?”

That’s what the guy next to us asked the server upon seeing the menu at last night’s Sunday Supper at Lucques. As Cunningham (who passed away last week) said herself in this 2001 article by Kim Severson, “I’m not trying to be modest, but it doesn’t feel like I have any celebrity. Really, I’m not saying this just to say it, but it doesn’t.” So I suppose it was appropriate that those who were at Lucques last night to celebrate Marion Cunningham were really there to celebrate her and those who weren’t were simply happy beneficiaries of a meal cooked in her honor by one of the country’s best chefs, Suzanne Goin.

Mo-Chica & A Sunday Supper at Lucques

Zach Brooks, who created the blog Midtown Lunch, moved from New York to L.A. over a year ago. From my perspective, he’s been like the canary in the coal mine; the fact that he not only survived the move but is flourishing out here gave me inspiration to move here too. And, of course, once I got here we quickly made plans to hang out. I told Zach to pick a place, which was a tough task seeing as he’s done such a thorough job of canvasing the city on Midtown Lunch L.A. After a few e-mail exchanges we decided to go to Mo-Chica, which Zach described as “this unbelievable Peruvian place located in a weird food court just south of Downtown.”

The New Amateur Gourmet

Hey! What’s going on? Why does everything look so different? WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Welcome to the new Amateur Gourmet. The people you see above you are the brilliant people responsible for what you see around you. That’s Ben on the left–he’s the programmer who worked the HTML like a maestro–and that’s Leah on the right, the visionary who conceived of this brand new design.

It’s a design that went so far above what I ever thought possible for my blog, I feel like my site just went from being a dingy five flight walk-up to the Taj Mahal. What makes this new design so special? Whereas my old design was basically a generic Typepad blog with impenetrable archives, this new design makes it incredibly easy to access the three-and-a-half years worth of material I’ve created ever since I wrote “my name is Adam and I like to cook.” (Ok, I never really wrote that.) Here are some of the many features that make this new design more special than your own children:

* There is now a menu bar at the top of the screen with six main categories that should make navigating the site a cinch. Not sure what you want for dinner tonight? Click “Recipes” and scroll through salads, soups, stews and entrees and make yourself a feast. Or not sure where to eat out in New York? Click “Restaurant Reviews” and see everything broken down by borough and then, in Manhattan, by neighborhood. (There are also reviews for other parts of the country and the world!) My writings have all been categorized, as have my films and songs. Now my archives are as searchable as Lindsay Lohan’s glove compartment, and you don’t even need a search warrant.

* You’ll also notice that in the Recipe and Restaurant Review sections, every post has been assigned a star rating. That way you’ll know right away what I thought of a particular dish or dining out experience and whether or not it’s worth your time.

* The site now has tags so I plan to go through my archives and assign everything a few tag words so that in the future if you click “clams” in the tags, you’ll see every post that references clams–including that time I dressed up like a clam and tried to seduce Bea Arthur.

* On the upper left you will see “The Daily Specials,” a very good reason to check back on the site throughout the day for as I find and discover interesting food-related links, I will share them with you there.

* You may notice that the banner doesn’t rotate right now but that’s because in just a few weeks we are going to begin something new and very exciting: a new food-related banner every month! Complete with new color scheme, courtesy of Leah and Ben. (Any votes for what should be flying around in September?)

Finally, all the design elements should be far more pleasing than they were before. Look at the colors, look at the fonts! I can’t tell you what attention to detail these two paid to every stitch, every pixel. As Leah says now (she’s here because I cooked her and Ben a “thank you” dinner), “We designed it as fans of the site. We’re both super-fans so we designed it for ourselves, really.”

Well, Leah and Ben, I can’t thank you enough. And for those who are wondering how I thanked them with food, here they are at dinner:


And here’s what I made: a beautiful tomato salad with green and purple basil and Farmer’s Market blue cheese:


Suzanne Goin’s roasted pork loin with haricot verts and mustard bread crumbs (from “Sunday Suppers at Lucques”):


I can’t tell you how great this came out: the key was cooking it to an internal temperature of 120 degrees (oh, and marinating it overnight in mustard and garlic and thyme.) Ben and Leah loved this pork as much as I love their new design. I hope you love it just as much too, even though you didn’t eat the pork.

If you’d like to get in touch with Leah, you can contact her through her blog Pink Leahtard; and if you’d like to get in touch with Ben, you can e-mail him at blim8183 AT gmail DOT com. Thanks so much to them again for such spectacular work. And please let us know what you think in the comments—any bugs you notice, report them there.

Here’s to a new day at the Amateur Gourmet!

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