Many moons ago, a man in Paris wrote me an e-mail and told me about his food blog with a link at the bottom. I clicked it dubiously–we food bloggers get e-mails like this all the time–only when I clicked, the blog it took me to was unusually impressive. More importantly, the man behind it wasn’t just some striving up-and-comer, he was the former pastry chef at Chez Panisse and the author of several books. His name, as you are all aware, was David Lebovitz and soon after that early exchange we became friends: I visited him in Paris, he visited me in New York. We figured out food blogging together. And then a funny thing happened: he become wildly famous. People line up around city blocks to meet him and the David who was relatively obscure ten years ago is now an international phenomenon. What’s so great about it is that David is so deserving of his success; he’s a terrific cook, yes, and a wonderful writer, but what makes people love him so much, I think, is his heart. You can feel it beating in all of his work–on his blog, in his recipes, even on Twitter–but never has it been better represented than it is in his new, absolutely stunning cookbook My Paris Kitchen. It’s the kind of cookbook you need to rush out and get right now.
Some restaurants have a mythology surrounding them. Franklin BBQ, in Austin, Texas, is one such restaurant.
“You have to get there early,” people will say. “They line up starting at 9 o’clock and don’t open their doors until 11.” “It’s because Aaron Franklin carves all the meat by hand and takes his time doing it.” “They’ll ask how much meat you want before you go in so they can figure out when to start turning people away.” “It’s a one hour wait.” “It’s a two hour wait.” “It’s the best BBQ you’ll ever have in your life.” “You’ll want to kill yourself after you eat it because there’ll be nothing left to live for.”
Oh blog, you poor, neglected thing, I’ve abandoned you for almost a week! I was in Washington, D.C. cooking with three chefs for my cookbook and before I knew it I was back and it was the weekend.
So let’s catch up. How’ve you been? As you know, I’ve been busy–scheduling, cooking, writing, traveling–but before I left for D.C. it was July 4th and I made dinner for my brother and his wife Tali. I made those ribs you see above; don’t they look good? They cooked for six hours in the oven wrapped in foil as suggested by that pre-eminent food scientist Harold McGee in this article for The New York Times.
[Hey, this is Adam The Amateur Gourmet. I’m on vacation in Barcelona, Spain and while I’m gone I’ve asked some awesome people to fill in for me. Today we have my dear friend Lauren Gutterman, who, along with her girlfriend Patty (whose post is up next!) generously hosted Craig and I this past July 4th for a picnic in Prospect Park. It was such a fun day and the food Lauren made was so good, I begged her to do a post about how she pulled it all off. Here it is! Take it away, Lauren.]
To celebrate July 4th this year, Patty decided to organize a traditional, American BBQ picnic in Prospect Park complete with a badminton tournament (a sport just about anyone can play, although not necessarily well). Doesn’t Adam look like he’s having a ball?
We ask many things of our food. We ask that our food is clearly identifiable (anything strange and murky immediately turns us off); we ask that our food is reasonably healthy–even if that means laying a redemptive tomato on a greasy, heart-crushing 5-pound burger. We ask that our food is prepared in a clean kitchen, we ask that our food is served hot, or at least reasonably warm. We ask that our food is tasty, that it is filling, that it has good value ($20 for two scallops does not a happy customer make). Mostly, we ask that our food fills that very primal need for gastronomical satisfaction. What we don’t often ask is for our food to have a story.
What did you have for lunch today? Where did you get it? Ok, you got it from the sandwich shop, or you made it yourself, but what went in it? And where did that come from? What’s its story?
The plate you see in the above photo has a fantastic story. If I told you it’s just ribs and coleslaw, that might be enough for you–in fact, that’d be enough for most people. When I was growing up, a special treat was a trip to Bobby Rubino’s (A Place for Ribs) where the ribs and coleslaw were plentiful (and relatively cheap) and anyone who asked, “Do these ribs have a story?” would be socked on the head. I’m sure the ribs at Bobby Rubino’s have a story, it’s just not a story you’d want to know. But the story of the plate above is a story that should make you happy. Let me tell it to you.