March 21, 2016
Sorry I cut that off at the bottom. I found this on my bookshelf, Scientific American Magazine from September, 1976 – an entire issue on Food and Agriculture. (Scientific American, incidentally, is the oldest continuously published magazine in the United States.)
It’s very dense and makes extraordinary reading. With each article I reminded myself that this was published in the days when Earl Butz, who famously (and often disastrously) told farmers to “get big or get out,” was Secretary of Agriculture. There was a hopeful notion that science was going to save us all. The issue’s opening essay begins, “The world food situation is serious, even precarious.” This is how it ends:
“Clearly more is at stake than the alleviation of world hunger, crucial as that is…. Enhanced agricultural productivity is the best lever for economic development and social progress….. and it is clear enough that without such development and progress there can be no long-term assurance of increased well-being or of peace anywhere in the world. The existence of new technological, financial and organizational capabilities offers a magnificent opportunity, although perhaps a fleeting one, to take effective action. The crucial question is whether or not governments will have the wisdom to act.”
Here’s the table of contents:
And, as always, the ads are as instructive as the editorial. There are ads from Monsanto (“the science company”), Shearson, Olin, Allis-Chalmers, the Navy (“if you want to get into nuclear engineering, start by getting into the Nuclear Navy”), John Deere, HP, Perkin-Elmer…. This ad is from Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.
And just as a little reminder as to exactly how long ago this was, there’s this:
March 20, 2016
Ben Franklin suggested the turkey as the American symbol, in place of the noble eagle. In that vein I’d like to offer up alligator as the most thoroughly American meat.
No, it doesn’t taste quite like chicken. There’s just an essence of frog, a subtle fresh-water saltiness, and when cooked properly, just enough tooth to remind you that you’re eating flesh.
I loved this Louisiana cookbook, which was published the year alligators edged off the endangered list and became literal fair game again. Here’s a serving suggestion:
March 19, 2016
You all loved the vintage advice for new brides I posted the other day so I went looking for more in the same vein. And what did I come up with? A book from 1947 that just makes me mad.
Not only does Ms. Malone offer instructions on heating up canned soup, she also upholds the terrifying ideal of the subservient and perfect – in deed and demeanor – little wife.
As you’ll see, the first ingredient for a successful breakfast is essentially you, the reader, the new wife, all dewy and well-groomed… No wonder my mother and her friends were all so angry!
I assumed the whole book would drone on in this fashion, but then I got to the section called, “We deal in trickery.” Reading it I was almost ready to forgive Ms. Malone. “If you cake has fallen, don’t grieve for a second. A fallen cake is always richer.” Shades of Eve – apple and all.
And one day I’m going to try those cookies…..
March 18, 2016
I’ve been going through old papers, coming up with fascinating vintage artifacts. Yesterday I happened upon these three old menus from my days as restaurant critic at New West Magazine.
Apologies for cutting off the bottom. The Saturday dessert at Chez Panisse was crepes with fresh fig ice cream.
This menu, from Bay Wolf in Oakland, is from 1980; sadly the restaurant closed last year.
And from the beautiful St. Orr’s Inn in Gualala, up the coast,
All three restaurants are still going strong. Just for comparison’s sake, here are current menus:
This is Chez Panisse for this week, March 14-March 19, 2016
Monday, March, 14 $75
Grilled shrimp with sauce mousseline; asparagus, endive, and chervil salad
Boeuf carbonnade à la flamande: Stemple Creek Ranch beef short ribs braised
with onions and beer with carrots, turnips, and herbed noodles
Hazelnut, tangerine, and chocolate sherbets with citrus tuile
Tuesday, March 15 $100
Pennyroyal Farm goat cheese soufflé with pickled beets, asparagus,
and herb salad
Pan-roasted black cod with carrot purée and picholine olive, preserved lemon,
and coriander salsa
Grilled rack, loin, and leg of Full Belly Farm lamb with crispy new potatoes,
cardoon and chard gratin, and harissa
Orange-cardamom ice cream with Lindsey’s almond cake and Page mandarins
Wednesday, March 16 $100
Cannard Farm asparagus and leeks with mustard vinaigrette
and rocket blossom fritters
Seared sea scallops with nettle risotto and crispy pancetta
Grilled breast and braised leg of Sonoma County duck with roasted artichokes,
new potatoes, sautéed spinach, and escarole
Blood orange and grapefruit sorbetti with tangerine granita
Thursday, March 17 $100
Smoked black cod and asparagus salad with anise hyssop
and red and golden beet relish
Sheep’s-milk ricotta gnocchi with sweet peas, Pecorino, and sage
Wolfe Ranch quail grilled with myrtle; with artichoke gratin, Bob’s watercress,
and Marsala wine sauce
Toasted almond parfait and mandarin sorbetto meringata
Friday, March 18 $125
Local halibut and yellowtail jack tartare with ginger, silver lime,
and red celery salad
Sweet pea and sorrel agnolotti in wild mushroom brodo
Llano Seco Ranch pork loin grilled with sage; with parsnip puree,
purple peacock kale, and mustard seed sauce
Saturday, March 19 $125
Cape Cod sea scallop and fennel salad with Valencia oranges, cilantro flowers,
and garden cress
Asparagus and celery root soups with wild mushroom croûton
Grilled Watson Ranch lamb rack, loin, and leg with Béarnaise sauce,
sautéed new potatoes, and snap peas
Bittersweet chocolate fondant with walnut ice cream and nocino caramel
The final menu on the Bay Wolf website is from August. It must have been the last supper.
DOUBLE DUCK DINNER
Celebrating Forty Years
August 25 – 30, 2015
Duck & rosemary focaccia
Double duck foot soup • savory duck meatballs
Scallops • black-eyed peas, pancetta
Gizzards & grapes • duck liver flan
BayWolf Caesar salad • quackers
Local king salmon • chile-corn cakes
Seared duck breast • red wine-shallot flan
Moroccan-style duck tagine • spiced couscous, preserved lemon
Grilled tournedos Rossini • glazed carrots, pain de mie (with or without foie gras)
Chocolate soufflé cake • candied almonds
Summer berry pudding
Seasonal fruit sorbets • coconut macaroon
St. Orr’s current prices are $45 to $50 for a three-course dinner.
March 17, 2016
You know how great it feels when you meet an old flame after a long time and find that you’re still in love? That’s how I felt the other night at Esca.
When I worked at Gourmet I ate there all the time. Every Conde Nast editor did; the restaurant was just down the street, and if you wanted to take a writer out for lunch and not waste time traveling, that’s where you went.
Mostly, however, I went because I loved the food.
A long time has passed since then; it’s been a couple of years since I walked through those doors. But it felt a lot like coming home. There was Dave Pasternak – terrific chef and passionate fisherman – talking all things ocean. There was the cosy, unpretentious room. And the great wine list.
I began with shad roe – gorgeously cooked, still soft and rosy inside – surrounded with pickled vegetables. Hello spring!
A little bit of crudo. I’m fairly sure Dave invented it; when the restaurant opened, he said that it was a classic dish, but whoever heard of Italians eating raw fish?
Grilled octopus. Tender, slight charred, lemon drenched, on a bed of beautiful beans.
Spaghetti neri. They laughed when I ordered it – they knew I would. I can’t get enough of this funky, faintly spicy tangle of squid ink pasta, chiles and seafood. It was as satisfying as ever.Lovely vegetables – I especially liked that asparagus!
You will find this hard to believe, but a friend and I met for dinner at 7:30, and we ate and talked so happily we were stunned to look up and discover the tables around us growing empty; it was after midnight.
But that’s what happens when you find yourself at home again.