The Glamorous Chicken

March 8, 2017

Still thinking of Charleston, I find myself poring through Southern cookbooks seeking out the spirit of that food. People EAT there!  Only in the south would leftover chicken be considered glamorous.

This recipes is from Virginia Cooking Past and Present, by the Woman’s Auxiliary of Olivet Episcopal Church in Franconia, Virginia.  I’m not sure I’ll be making this recipe anytime soon, but it does make me smile.


As does this incredible account of the original salamander (hint: not electric) and several historical chicken pot pies. Wouldn’t you like to try Mrs. Washington’s candied lettuce stalks?

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Oh Danny Boy….

March 7, 2017

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The dinner honoring Daniel Boulud at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival was a dream of a feast. Held in a private penthouse overlooking the harbor, each dish was paired with astonishing wines, starting with magnums of Krug Grande Cuvee.

The first course, by Jean-Francois Bruel, current Executive Chef at Restaurant Daniel, was even more delicious than it looks in the picture above. Not easy; it would be hard to come up with a prettier plate.  Slices of citrus-marinated scallop, caviar, crisp notes of radish, a hint of wasabi…  Tiny kisshu oysters were hiding somewhere, along with crunchy little bits rumored to be Budda’s hand.  The scallops were served with a very amiable Trimbach Riesling, 2009 Clos Sainte Hume that made them very happy.

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Kavin Kaysen (of Spoon and Stable and Bellecour in Minneapolis) concocted this little confection – a mere couple of bites – of gently cooked langoustine topped with crunchy popped rice on a puddle of charred eggplant and another of red curry.   So delicious!  With it we drank a 2012 Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche poured out of magnums.

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Andrew Carmellini has too many restaurants to list here.  Should we go with The Dutch or Locanda Verde?  His complex French-inflected lasagna layered gossamer sheets of pasta, delicate as flower petals, with sliced truffles and Parmesan cream. It all went whispering into the mouth before the flavors exploded.  The 2013 Gevrey-Chambertin Coeur du Roy from Domaine Dugat-Py was an ideal companion.

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Normand Laprise came down from Canada to cook for the event.  He proudly served this rare magret of duck, the steely flavor edged with the bittersweet taste of sea buckthorn. To drink? A big bold 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve des Celestins from Henri Bonneau.

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Clearly the wine was getting to me. By the time the fifth course rolled around – Wagyu beef with charred onions, salsify and trumpet mushrooms – we’d been at the table for hours, dozens of speeches had been made, and I neglected to take its picture.  But the dish, by Gramercy Tavern’s Michael Anthony, was a triumph. So was the 2005 Colgin IX Estate, a stately American claret.

And then dessert, this elegant little waltz of cakes, creams, confits and mousselines by Remy Funfrock of the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island served with – are you ready? – 1996 Yquem.

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And so to bed. Well, almost.  A final speech by Mickey Bakst, who conceived the entire affair.  (Mickey himself is so beloved in the restaurant world he’s known as  “America’s Maitre d’.”)  A few more words from Daniel himself, perhaps the most gracious man on the planet.  Each time someone rose to honor him, Daniel gave it right back, honoring the honorer.  The final gift? At the door each guest was presented with Daniel’s latest book, signed with a deeply personal note.




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A Few Things I Ate in Charleston

March 6, 2017


Yes, that is a mountain of caviar – excellent Bulgarian caviar – in a block of ice.  Just one of the many luxurious offerings at the afterparty William Sonoma threw at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival on Friday night.  The party felt like a return to the excessive eighties… The chef guests strolled about sipping Champagne while nibbling on an endless parade of sea urchins, giant langoustines, shockingly large lobsters

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fist-sized truffles, cured meats, wagyu beef… I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. (These luxuries were sourced by Ian Purkayastha, who is also known as Truffle Boy.)

But the entire festival was a trip on the excess express, a rolling journey of wine, food and fun.  A few highlights….

A meal at Husk, which began with two kinds of chicken wings…

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FullSizeRender (16)and included (along with some fifteen other dishes), this gorgeous pan of cornbread


exceedingly rich shrimp and grits edged with hints of onion…

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sauteed shishito peppers


extraordinary fried chicken on a bed of seductively smoky beans…

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One of my favorite meals was at the much-loved The Ordinary, which included towers of seafood, piles of shrimp, a fantastic razor clam salad and these tiny uni tacos…

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and oyster sliders…

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One morning a breakfast for Daniel Boulud at Le Farfalle  included a dozen or so courses, including these fried chicken biscuits

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and ending with the most luxurious eggs it has ever been my pleasure to eat. Gently scrambled, they were glazed with butter and buried in black truffles.

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One of the final highlights of the event was a dinner honoring Chef Boulud. The dishes, prepared by high profile chefs who’ve worked for him were paired with special wines. More on that tomorrow, but here’s a little teaser…FullSizeRender (24)


Dining with a Princess

March 3, 2017

IMG_0718Forget Le Pavillon. The hardest reservation in the sixties in New York City might have been Little Kitchen, Princess Pamela’s soul food restaurant. The Princess moved around a lot; at one point her restaurant was in a walkup apartment in the East Village, but by the time I nervously rang her bell she’d moved to a narrow storefront on very east Tenth Street. Princess Pamela didn’t let just anybody in: she had to size you up first, and if you passed muster, she might open the door. That did not, however, mean you got to stay.

When I visited the Princess in the summer of 1971, I was already a fan.  I’d found a used copy of her cookbook, Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Recipes, and practically memorized it.  I was hoping for something exotic – chitlins maybe – but you pretty much ate what the Princess gave you.  In our case, that meant nothing.  One of my friends made a joke about “a soul food restaurant with no sweet potato pie.” He thought he was being charming; the Princess was not amused.  “Out!” she shouted.


I’ve been thinking about Princess Pamela because her cookbook has just been re-released. The Lee Brothers, who brought the book back, set out to find out as much as they could about Pamela Stroebel. It’s a melancholy tale. Orphaned at the age of ten, she wended her way up the East Coast, working in kitchens until she opened her own place. Then, somewhere around 1998, she simply disappeared. The Lees  think she may have been interred at Hart Island, where the city buries unclaimed bodies.

Reading about the Princess in this great Food 52 piece by Mayukh Sen, it’s impossible not to mourn the untold numbers of black chefs whose stories’ we’ll never fully know. It makes me doubly grateful that Princess Pamela’s book has been given a second chance. Here’s her recipe for fried chicken, which she served with Sauce Beautiful  (named for her mother, Beauty). Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 4.23.02 PMIMG_0714

(I see I cut a few things off. That’s “3 tablespoons peach preserves” and “1/2 cup water,” “2 tablespoons brown sugar” and “1 tablespoon butter.”)



Children of the Clouds – And Other Wonders

March 1, 2017


Fresh sea cucumber.  Hairy crab. Cod sperm. Huge live shrimp, legs wiggling. Marinated mackerel. Fresh bamboo shoots…

Yesterday I had a truly memorable meal at the venerable Kiriko in L.A.  It’s the kind of meal I wish I could go back and have again today. And I would – if I weren’t on my way to the Charleston Wine and Food Festival.

The Japanese call shirako – which is milt, or the sperm sac of the male cod- “children of the clouds” a euphemism that always thrills me.  The substance itself also thrills me.  It has an extraordinary texture – pillow soft, tender, almost liquid but yet not – and a rich, gentle taste.  That’s it in the bowl above, lightly poached.

Kiriko also sets it on sheets of kelp and grills it.  The result is a kind of savory marshmallow; utterly irresistible.

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But everything we ate was memorable, from this fresh hairy crab


to these crisp, slightly crunch slices of lotus root


and these firefly squid – no bigger than a fingernail but packing big flavor.


I love the giant shrimp, the flesh translucent, the flavor clean, bracing and yet sweet…

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And it’s head, fried, all crackling tentacle and soft fat

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Fresh sea cucumber is quite a change if you’re accustomed to the dried version served in Chinese restaurants.  This has the most astonishing texture, simultaneously soft and chewy.  (It’s all texture, very little taste.)


And if you’re a lover of saba – Japanese mackerel – don’t miss Kiriko’s version.

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We had some traditional sushi as well.  Wonderful uni.  And this sparkling kohada, all shiny silver scales and deep, full flavor.


To finish up?  You might opt for the traditional tamago.  As for me, please give me a handroll with cucumber, shiso and umeboshi.  The perfect finale to a pretty perfect meal.