Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Playing Catch-Up

The one thing about blogging is that it takes quite a bit
of dedication. A lot has happened since my last post.
The dinners at The Old North Branch Inn were a success.
Lassi is still going though greatly suffered at the
hands of those toying with the national economy.
I had a baby. I'm now part of a roundtable that combines
media and other food types just to see what might
happen if we eat enough salumi and gelato together.

I'll start slowly.

The dinners in North Branch were a huge success.
I did one that was a buffet and one that was plated----both
Indian. And I was able to do one more dinner with Amanda
Freitag from The Harrison before
the end of the season. Victoria from the Inn really wanted
me to have another dinner and we had Anita Lo ready to come
up and wow us all but I was getting larger and Anita was
exhausted from opening Bar Q so we've moved that to next season.

Amandas dinner was fantastic. She and her assistant, Love,
turned out a great menu href="">
I'm a bit remiss in my duties. But I've put in a call to Amanda
to remind me of her menu for that evening. I got to sit during that
dinner and enjoy the meal. I'll post the menu as soon as she calls me back.
I remember most of it. I just don't want to leave anything out.

And believe it or not, we
had quite the celebrity turn out. Here's a little proof:

This is Amanda with Mark Ruffalo and our new friend Ira. Ira is a principle of
a high school in Brooklyn. Which makes him a huge celebrity in our eyes.
And here is Debra Winger with the chef:

Of course, star sighting happen like this daily in NYC but for the life of me
I was shocked to be sitting next to these people in North Branch while
Pat, the plumber wife and old friend of my grandparents waited on me.
If you've read my post before, I'm sure you're more than ready to be over the
change in North Branch and the surrounding areas. You'll have to bear with me.
Deliverace was more the theme until recently and part of me happily died with it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Excellent Press

There is a post on March 19 on Grub Street, the NY Magazine
food blog. It's about So hui Kim, the chef at the Good Fork in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It's no secret I love alerting the world to my more talented
friends in the restaurant business. So hui is a good friend and an amazingly
talented chef. We met a few years back at the Italian Wine Merchants. Her husband, Ben, built The Good Fork and also did all the gorgeous wood and brass work here at Lassi.
It's great to see the talent of a great chef being noticed...and a woman at that.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Southern Comfort

(Hominy Grill--Best breakfast in the South)

Each year I'm lucky enough to be invited down to the Charleston
Food and Wine Festival. I say I'm lucky because as far as these
events go, and there are an awful lot of them these days, this event
is the perfect combination of great food, great local marketing and the
education of Southern cuisine and restaurants.

From a chef's point of view, I like it for three main reasons.
One, I've gotten to learn about what a great food town Charleston
is and have become friends with Charleston chefs I truly admire.
Each year this event suprises me more than the next. Coming from NYC,
where there is an ambitious restaurant around every corner, one doesn't
expect that to happen in other towns outside of L.A. or Chicago.
There is love of local produce and the true culiary arts that rivals
California and their whole fresh produce fetish thing that we love about them.
And though much of the food world is too busy looking at NY, Aspen and South Beach
for the insane crowded food loving madness that seems to make people feel legit,
Charleston has not gone unnoticed. These chefs are largely Beard nominated and
at anytime during the festival you run into the big guys. Big as in Ruth Reichl and Tom Colecchio. My first year there I got to have lunch with the late R.W. Apple. Not too shabby.

Two, it's opposite of most of the events we usually do in the industry. There is a civility about it that makes it a joy to do no matter how hard I have to work while I'm there. True, I make sure I go for the full four days and only work one or two
events but there are very few NY chefs that do this event and I usually feel the need
to bust it out a bit. I do most of my work at Lassi and ship everything down. This way I get to really enjoy myself, the city and the great chef community down there.

And three, they put you up in the best possible hotel. The Charleston Place. Big thanks to Mickey Bakst the GM of their restaurant for being the best host and a great friend.
(My apologies to Kenny Callahan of Blue Smoke. Not to rub it in, Ken. This year they put him up at a Holiday Inn due to the location of his event. A little bitter.) Here is where we stay:

Very often, your chances of being put up somewhere this great are slim. Budgets and stuff like that. Each year, my friends Michael and Heather Laiskonis (pastry chef of Le Bernardin and GM at Tailor, respectively) are with me on this trip. It's thanks to them that I'm part of this event. Heather and I spend lots of time at the spa there. Here's the pool, just to show you how fabulous:

On to more culiary things, this year I did the first dinner I've done
as a chef, not a pastry chef. Very exciting. And I had some very exciting company.
The dinner was at FIG, one of my favorite restaurants. The chef, Mike Lata hosted Suzanne Goin of L.A.'s Lucques, Michael Laiskonis and myself for this dinner. We each made a course. I know there were a bunch of other dinners going on that evening with very talented chefs and I have no idea what they did, but this is my blog and I'll have to say it was just the best menu.

I had the first course.
Almond Shorba with local shrimp seasoned with Bengali 5-Spice and spicy mint chutney.
The shrimp down there is really like no other. The thickness of the shorba with
the shrimp on top made the dish into an Indian version of Shrimp and Grits, a local favorite.

Mike, our host made an "over easy ravioli"--poetic license for the ricotta ravioli
with raw egg yolk in the middle. I love that dish. He served it with local baby asparagus.

Suzanne Goin was in charge of the entree. Braised veal cheeks with cavalo nero,
risotto carbonara and truffle butter. Wondering if the hype had teeth? Yes, it does. Had never met Suzanne before and I enjoyed spending a little time with
her in the kitchen.

Michael gave the meal the big finish with a pre-dessert of a greek yogurt
panna cotta with grapefruit, basil and avocado.
Following was a Amadei Gianduja parfait with organic hazelnuts and black truffle honey. Fantastic. It's one of my favorite dessets. One of these days Michael and I will have an Amadei vs. Domori conversation, until then I'll just drool over this dessert.

There was also a big pastry chef event the next night. I thought wisely and
had Damion Badalamenti make the Lassi chocolates to wow the crowd and that they did.

Later that evening all the chefs gathered for a party at FIG. It was just where you'd want to be after such a great weekend. A portable pizza oven, lots of roast pork and the southern sky. What more could a girl want?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I know it's been a while since the last post.
This Thursday, I'll be leaving for the Charleston Food and Wine Festival.
Four days of Southern Food, friends and fancy fancy food people galore.
You think South Beach Food and Wine is crazy?
Try a bowl of shrimp and grits....

Sunday, January 27, 2008

One of my fancier friends...

Today I'd like to tell you about a fabulous new blog.
It belongs to Michael Laiskonis, the pastry chef at Le Bernardin.

Michael has been at Le B for about 4 years. Eric Ripert found him
in Michigan. Not France, not New York or some Thomas Keller vehicle.
What does this mean? It means he was doing pastry in Michigan
better than most people do here in Gotham. I hope that puts a fire
under your butt.

Anyway, other than having the pastry chef position of NYC pastry positions,
being winner of the James Beard Award last year and sharing with me a love for
Fugazi and the Jam, he is also an intellegent and generous writer. Recipes, techniques and great photos fill the blog. Organized and a bit obsessed, don't let
him intimidate you. Note the gummy bear listing in a photo of his journal.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Real Thing

It's been quite a while since I've posted. I've had rather ambitious
plans about a big "what I intend to eat in the New Year" type of post
reminiscent of most other bloggers but unlike most bloggers, I forgot
I had a restaurant to run and that tends to take up most of my time.

Still suprises me sometimes.

Fact is, there isn't anything I'm really dying to eat in the New Year.
Other than really good food. I love dining out and I love dining in. Just love
dining. Good food can be found anywhere. So I'll stand back from dropping names
and showing off.

What I will talk about now is how I recently was brought back to every reason
I became what I am today.
We spent Christmas this year at my Aunt Gladys' house. Back to the Bronx for perhaps the best lasagne ever.
Really. Ever. But I'm going to go to her house soon and cook with her and that
right there will be one hell of a post so I'll leave the lasagne tip until later.

I always say that my favorite sweets from childhood are Italian bakery cookies.
Reginas, taralle...and don't get me started on the rainbow cookies. Where did those come from anyway???
I started to think in recent years that I just lost my taste for them. Didn't quite do for me what they did when I was a kid. So I wrote them off with the other things that don't quite do it for me anymore.

Now I know why.
Aunt Gladys had cookies from the bakery we always went to when I was a kid.
And yes, they were to die for. Why anyone would make a biscotti of lesser quality is beyond me.
They were from Sal and Doms on Allerton Avenue. Sal and Doms has maintained the
same quality all these years. Veniero's and DiRoberti's pale in comparison.

I'm a little suprised with all the hoopla people make about Arthur Avenue and the
amazing Italian food of the Bronx, no one has written about Sal and Doms.
It is truly the best.

Sal and Dom's Bakery
1108 Allerton Avenue
Bronx, NY

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Today I'm going to talk a little Italian food. Probably a little overdue in my case but really, it's
a much talked about cuisine and considering my background--both having to do with my career and
my gene pool---I've felt there are people who at the moment live for it a bit more than I do.

And then I changed my mind.

A friend of mine, Roberta Corradin, a food writer from Rome is in NYC for a while
and spending even a small amount of time with her opened the flood gates for all that I
know and love about Italian food.....and chocolate.
In some ways chocolate is very separate from food for me. I've been very fortunate to have
had a lot of experience with great Italian chocolate before most people knew anything other than
Perugina Baci.
(When I was a kid we would go down to Little Italy for Sanguinaccio---chocolate and blood pudding.
I loved it. That's a very different post but it gives you an idea that I'll take chocolate in any form.)

Roberta and I have been talking a lot of chocolate these days. Domori has always been my hands-down
favorite. I worked for them breifly a few years back when the company was very small and everything was really
made by the owner, Gianluca Franzoni. Illy Coffee bought it recently. Which makes me very happy for Gianluca
and hopefully happy for the rest of the world as well. Perhaps now more people can experience it.
She's helping me get my hands on some to do some great baking at Lassi.

In her visit to NYC, Roberta is writing a piece on great lunch spots. So cool. I love lunch.
I'm a little over dinner these days and lunch always fits the bill.
She is also helping a dear publisher friend get his new project out there. It's a English version
of a famous cookbook in Italy "Nonna Genia's Classic Langhe Cookbook".
Langhe is not a particularly well-know part of Italy for Americans, I know. Tuscany shines bright
in that case but with my new found skill of cutting and pasting, I give you a little bit of Langhe from
some website I found:

Tucked away in northwest Italy and bordered by the Alps and Liguria, Piedmont (literally "Foothill") does not feel quite as Italian as other regions, the neighboring countries of Switzerland and France having had a distinct influence on its people. It is, however, a highly alluring region and one of the most delightful to be discovered in Italy. Nestled in the heart of Piedmont, the hilly, mist-cloaked area known as the Langhe is a region within a region. Located among medieval castles which stand guard over vineyards on gently rolling hills, the Langhe is an area almost entirely devoted to the cultivation of wine grapes and hazelnuts.

Did you read that? Wine grapes and hazelnuts. And the wine they are best known for is Barolo. Langhe is your
new best friend. They also specialize in white truffles, great cheeses and wild mushrooms.

The cookbook is really great. I don't have a lot of patience for a lot of cookbooks....not to say that I don't own a ton
and enjoy reading them but this is a book that makes you want to cook. Only a few do that for me.
It's a modest book. If you want pretty pictures, this isn't your thing but the recipes are fabulous and easy to read.

Some favorites:
Fava Bean Soup
Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce

Some that wow:
Chickpea soup with Spareribs
Blood Lasagne
"Capricious" Frittata (with salami, left over vean and parm)
Woodcock with Polenta

Roberta is a woman on a mission. She is here to help her publisher friend so he can put his kids in
school next year. She's got the book selling in Kitchen Arts and Letter and Bonnie Slotnick.
And you can always contact me for a book....or five.