Monday, November 26, 2007

Thank You Emeril!!! I hate Food TV

I was informed today via blogger 'fishbowlny' that Emeril Live will no longer be taped for the 'Food Network'. Yes, the quotes are there on purpose; more on that later. I count myself among the chefs who have a great deal of respect for Emeril. He is the reason that the general public has a better knowledge about ingredients...he was there to help push along our food revolution in the United States...he actually pushed it over the top. We all get caught up in the BAM and how Tony Bourdain called him a sell out. Behind the BAM was a genius. Sure, you could find fault with his cooking on TV. Have you ever tried to demonstrate live in front of people? From someone who has, I'll tell you this: you compromise. The idea is that the audience is entertained and they get the general idea. If they want the uncompromised, hard core stuff they come to the resturant. As for Tony Bourdain calling him a sell out...look at Bourdain. He followed the money, too. He hasn't apoligized. Emeril got us all excited about food. Let's not lose that amazing passion!! Thanks Emeril!!!

Speaking of following the on to the (we like it easy, done in 30 minutes and partly pre-made) Food Network. I used to like watching the Food Network. As an aspiring cook, it was really interesting to be able to turn on the TV and learn from Emeril, Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Ming Tsai. As the years have moved on, these chefs have been replaced by the wonder of 30 minute meals(how many cans and processed products can I whip into a catch-phrased schlock meal....I'd like to have a sammie with my stoup, hehehehe), a show actually called 'Semi Homemade', and a show that obviously chronicles the best food American has to offer in Diners, Drive In's and Dives. Congrats, Food TV. You've also chased the almighty dollar and are now contributing to the demise of our food culture. You are actually reversing the work that had been done by revolutionaries like Emeril. I'd rather stick a hot poker into my eye than watch Food TV. Don't even get me started on 'Iron Chef America'. There has to be a middle road, a person or idea that can bridge the gap between playing to the crowd(i.e. advertisers) and actually giving some interesting information about well produced interesting food. Hey guys, throw us a bone here. Michael Pollan's book was a best-seller. There has to be some interest the production of great raw materials by rock star artisan farmers all finished by a chef who has toured the farms and makes some interesting, entertaining food. Give me a call Food Network. I'll give you the show we all need. With regards to Iron Chef America...I'm ready Food TV anytime, any place, any ingredient. I'll heed the call. I may not like the concept, but I'm not stupid. I'd like to be on TV.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanksgiving is Really Mad at Us

Yes, folks that's right a holiday is actually mad at us. Why, you ask? Well, because through the infinite wisdom of major retailers everywhere we have decided to skip Thanksgiving. I'm not talking about the actual day. I'm talking about the build up. The anticipation and the things we most commonly associate with Thanskgiving. We're skipping it this year ladies and gentlemen. I hope you don't mind. Put up the Christmas decorations, listen to the carols 24 hours a day on the radio and please by all means buy the gingerbread spiced latte that Rachel Squawk Box is hawking at the Dunkin'. I love Christmas and everything that goes along with it. However, I also really enjoy Thanksgiving. It's a time when the family gets together to share a meal, friends are home from school and abroad, and we get a chance to reflect on one of the most American of holidays. Think about it. The reason for this holiday actually predates Independence Day. It's a very special day and we should celebrate not only the day, but also the run up. The problem is that Thanksgiving isn't nearly as lucrative as Christmas (that reminds me, I need to hang my turkey day stocking by the fire) so we decide to start Christmas earlier.( I actually saw a Christmas tree being erected right beside the Halloween candy...Note to everyone: Please continue to buy Halloween candy so that we start erecting Christmas trees right after Labor Day.) I can just see it....coming to a Wal-Mart near you.....Our End of Summer Labor Day Sale: the Christmas Wreath! I think the reason I really enjoyed and continue to enjoy celebrating Christmas is because in my house we weren't allowed to really start with Christmas until Thanksgiving was over. What a brilliant idea. Celebrate Thanksgiving and then there is a build up and a finite set of days to listen to Perry Como.

I guess what I'm trying to get across is to celebrate each coming day for what it is and let's not rush into things. Remember, we're celebrating the holidays, not the holiday regardless of what major retailers want you to think. Let's give Thanksgiving its due respect and ........ eat 'till we're sick then fall asleep!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Restorative Nature of Restaurants

So much has been written lately about all the hocus pocus regarding molecular gastronomy that I thought I would weigh in on the issue. First, a disclaimer. I know alot of the folks who are at the forefront of this movement in the US and have an awful lot of respect for their talents and abilities. Next, a definition. Molecular gastronomy is, in its simplest terms, the application of science to food. This application is not necessarily understanding the biological make up of an egg or why water boils at different temperatures relative to sea level. It is more like making paper edible or the use of hydrocolloids to 'wow' the diner. Many kitchens are starting to look like chemistry labs, not kitchens.

I was recently struck by an article on noting that very few women have risen to the rank of head chef in NYC's frenetic restaurant scene. The article and subsequent interview adress molecular gastronomy as 'boys with their toys' and described female cooking to be more from the heart and soulful. All of that got me thinking. My three favorite cookbooks right now are all penned by women. Helene Darroze, Annie-Sophie Pic and Claire Clark. I think the reason I enjoy these books so much is that you can see the heart and soul on the page. It's not about a deep-fried grape enrobed in exactly the sixth cutting of blue hubbard squash blossoms dangling from a safety pin over dry ice. It's soulful, refined cooking that makes you feel whole again. The other stuff is avant-garde performance art, period. Does it make you feel whole again? I guess that's up to you. Is it interesting? Yes....but in some way, so was Superbad The Movie. It's just there to entertain. Sometimes, that's what we need. Sometimes, we just want to sit back and be soulfully restored. I wish the food media would spend more time talking about the folks who are sweating it out growing the food and the folks who are just trying to do right by those farmers and cooking refined, restorative food.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My Eggs Are Better Than Your Eggs

Everyone wants to know the secret to great cooking....There has to be some magic technique, some magic wand that some people can wave over their food and poof, they're a great cook. I gotta tell you, I haven't found that yet. What I can tell you is that if you are a crazy fanatic about getting great ingredients a large part of the work is already done for you. When considering this large task, no detail is too small. Start at the source. If you are making sauces or soups, how good was the stock that you used, or even before that, how good were the carrots and onions that went into the stock. The picture on this post is a perfect example of fanatical sourcing. Eggs are a very important building block in cooking. We are very lucky to get our eggs from my good friend Will at Whitmore Farms outside of Taneytown, MD. These eggs are in a word INCREDIBLE!!! The kind of eggs that people write about(people like me, coincidentally). Perfect, almost orange yolks, whites so fresh that they stand up in the pan. Just amazing. Will's birds are out pecking on grass and bugs all day and we love them for that! I gotta tell you the quality of our fresh pasta, gnocchi and ice creams has gone through the roof and all of it can be attributed to Will's eggs. How's that for a magic wand? So, the moral of the story is to really take your time trying to find the very best ingredients you can. You'll love the result!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Happy, Sad Time

Yes, a happy and sad time all at once. Happy, because the weather has cooled off a bit allowing us a little break from the intense heat of the kitchen. Sad, because alot of my favorite vegetables are coming to the end of their growing season. Happy, because I love the smell of wood fires and the turning of the leaves. Sad, because there is nothing like sweet corn, hardshell crabs and ice cold Natty Bo. This time of year is always the hardest transition for us in the kitchen and I think personally, as well. We are holding on to the last of the tomatoes and corn while anxiously perfecting dishes of game and roasted root vegetables. I guess the key is to take each day as it comes and get everything out of it that day that you can. There are still going to be warm days and I will run downstairs to change the menu at the last minute just so that we can get one of my summer favorites on to the menu. I know fall is coming quickly and winter is right around the corner. Sometimes I'm happy about it, sometimes I'm sad.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

You Gotta Take Some Time

It has been a pretty amazing week. First, a dinner at The James Beard House. Second, an amazing write up in September's Philadelphia Magazine. Third, a stellar review from the Phantom Diner in Central PA Magazine. In between, I was able to talk to a few teachers from a local school district about healthy cooking. Healthy cooking isn't really my schtick, but I decided to do the demos because I really admire what teachers do and wanted to give something back. I live in the land of butter and bacon. Sure, fresh local produce is a huge focus, but if I can gild the lilly with some smoky pork fat, I will. So what was I to talk about. I got some amazing fruit from a local farm stand and buzzed up a smoothie. I cut up some heirloom tomatoes and made a quick tomato salad. Simple, healthy, quick. Done. As I was talking about the wonders of putting a bunch of fruit in a blender and turning it on, another thought dawned on me. It's more about taking time than being quick. This idea is so very important. Make a simple dinner...have some wine...turn off the damn TV and talk. The joy of being alive is being alive. The food is there as nourishment but the restorative aspects of the table come from conversation. Take the time to breathe, take the time to listen, take the time to savor what you are eating instead of shoveling it in and running to the next meeting. Try this exercise the next time you find yourself in a rush. If you aren't very skilled with chopsticks, get a pair out and eat your food with chopsticks. If you are skilled with the 'sticks', try eating with your weaker hand. This slows you down and makes you think about what you are eating. The bottom line is take the time to celebrate the season(it'll be gone before you know it), celebrate your company, and first and foremost celebrate yourself. ADDED NOTE: I find that doing all of the above works out even better over some great bottles of wine!

Friday, August 24, 2007

James Beard Dinner

Well, we are finally settling back into our routines after a whirlwind tour of New York City and a dinner at The James Beard House. I'm going to devote an entire post to our timeline while in NYC sometime soon. The short story is that we had a blast and I think were very well received by the New York crowd. Much more detail coming soon!!!Please check back frequently.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It's Tomato Time!!!

That's right ladies and's tomato time in Central Pennsylvania. After months and months of waiting, we are finally overrun with the sweetest fruit of the summer, the tomato. However, the tomatoes we are getting at the restaurant are no ordinary tomatoes. We are using, at times, 10 different heirloom varieties grown for us by Kathy Glahn of Gettysburg Heirlooms in Gettysburg, PA. I think the biggest key is to eat as many tomatoes as you can during August and September and then shut them out for the rest of the year until you see them crop up again in mid-July. Eating a 'cardboard' tomato just for the sake of eating it is doing yourself a HUGE disservice. Get excited about the as many tomatoes as you can and make salsa, tomato juice, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, gazpacho, and the list goes on and on. If you have tomato plants in your garden, take the time to stop after picking them and breath in the wonderful scent the leaves place into the air. It really is intoxicating and is a huge part of summer. I wish someone would bottle this aroma for me...I'd spray it all over the house in the wintertime just to remember how wonderful it is to have a just picked from the vine, never refrigerated, only warmed by the sun tomato.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Day on the Farm

Recently, I was lucky enough to spend some quality time with my good friend Trent Hendricks on his Telford, PA farm. The picture above shows the most amazing sunrise over his vegetable and herb garden . I was lucky enough to tip toe through his garden minutes after taking this picture and came back to the barn with armfuls of chocolate mint. This was the reason for my visit to the farm. During my two day stay, I was able to aid in the making of a cheese that I will be taking with me to a dinner at the James Beard House in New York City. This soft cheese has the chocolate mint steeped in the milk which provides the most amazing mint tone for the cheese. Paired with a white peach, some raspberry puree and a doughnut(of course a doughnut!) this is going to make a huge splash in NYC. Making trips like this and being able to share a little about the processes that I go through in cooking the products is what this blog is all about. I hope that you will visit often and catch up on all the fantastic food that is being cooked and produced in central PA.