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 www.nymag.com 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!!