Monday, January 30, 2006

Top Ten #5

1. Destroyer, Destroyer's Rubies

2. The Murray Bay

3. The Thin Blue Line, dir. Morris (especially if you've just seen Capote and just finished reading In Cold Blood)

4. Wolf Parade, "Dinner Bells"

5. Jun-I

mfk fisher & co.

6. MFK Fisher's A Cordiall Water, a garland of odd and old receipts to assuage the ills of man & beast

7. Rooibos tea, especially the parfum de Provence variety

8. Au Pied de Cochon on a miserable winter day

9. The New World, dir. Malick

10. Delila


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Revelation 10, pt. 2: Andy's Orchard

sign right outside the door

So, we opened that jar of preserved peaches and there we were again on that warm Central Californian morning in early August, roaming around Andy's Orchard with Andy Marinari himself and our friend Adam, listening to Andy tell us about his many, many varieties of peaches, plums, nectarines, and pluots, and tasting sample after sample of the very finest fruit any of us had ever had...

We were only in California for two Mondays, and this was the first of them. We got up rather early that day (at least by vacation standards) because we had a 9:00 AM appointment, and we had a lot of driving to do before then. Plus, we were excited. We were going to Morgan Hill, of all places (you can see it there, some 15-20 miles southeast of downtown San Jose),

Do you know the way to Morgan Hill?

but we were going there for a very special occasion. I’d been to Morgan Hill a couple of times when I was a kid, but not for stone fruits. They had a restaurant there in the hills, perched near a municipal airport. This being California in the early ‘80s, it was themed accordingly, festooned with aviation memorabilia of all sorts and bearing the name The Flying Dutchman, or something to that effect. We used to go from time to time for the “legendary” buffet brunch that some family friends had discovered there (they owned a light aircraft) and tipped us off to. This time around there were no Flying Dutchmen to contend with, thankfully. No, this particular trip to Morgan Hill was virtually kitsch-free (as kitsch-free as any drive across California, with its mission-style strip malls, hotel convention centers, and suburban homes, can be). Adam had lined up a very exclusive orchard tour at Andy’s Orchard, and he was kind enough to invite us along. We'll be forever indebted.

andy's label

If you missed David Karp’s profile of Andy Marinari and his orchard in the July 2005 issue of Gourmet, Marinari has a reputation for being one of the finest and most creative pomologists and horticulturists on the continent, and Andy’s is quite simply one of the finest stone fruit orchards in America. Possibly even the finest. Andy comes from a family that has been growing fruit in the Santa Clara Valley for some 60 years, but he only turned to serious farming fruit himself when a long bout with a debilitating and potentially life-threatening illness brought him back to the land. Although Marinari underwent years of radical medical treatment, cultivating the land became a crucial, and ultimately lasting, part of his therapy. Karp devotes a lot of attention to Marinari’s triumph over adversity (his condition has remained in remission for some 25 years now)—for him it’s key to understanding Marinari’s dedication to his orchard, his search for the perfect fruit of his childhood, his utter mastery of horticulture and his passion for developing new varieties— but at the time that we visited Andy’s Orchard I hadn’t had a chance to read Karp’s article, so I was none the wiser when it came to all this back-story. Marinari made one brief allusion to it, assuming we’d all read Karp’s story, but otherwise he was humble and self-effacing, much more eager to discuss his trees and his fruit than any of the details of his life.

I was curious to know if there was any connection between him and the Marinari family in Cupertino. I’d grown up in neighboring Sunnyvale, and the Marinari family ran one of the biggest and best orchards in the area at the time. Already by that time (the late 1970s and early 1980s) the Santa Clara Valley had only a tiny fraction of the orchards that it had had only 20-30 years earlier. Luckily we still had Olson’s for Bing cherries and Marinari’s for dried fruit (such as their notorious “Wrinkles,” their chocolate-covered prunes). Turns out the Marinaris were one and the same, a Yugoslavian family (I’d always just assumed they were of Italian descent) whose patriarch worked as a commercial fisherman but developed a passion for growing fruit.

pretty peach tree

Marinari has a shy demeanor, but he sensed our enthusiasm—I’m sure it wasn’t difficult—and as soon as he could tell that we knew something about a good peach, plum, or nectarine, and that we shared his passion for tree-ripened fruit, Marinari’s stride picked up a bit—he only had a couple of hours before the midday heat set in and before he had to get back to business, and he wanted to show us as many varieties of fruit as possible. As we hustled around his orchard from one row to another (Baby Crawfords to Heavenly Whites, say), Marinari really started to open up to us about his fruit, about knowing the optimum moment to pick them, about the loving care and attention needed to achieve perfect fruit, and about insisting on the best. You could sense his pride as gave us his tour, but he really beamed each time we sampled one of his prize pieces of fruit. You see, he was taking us to particular trees and picking the ripest, most perfect examples of each fruit. At each stop, however, he’d say something to the effect of, “Not bad, but these are about two to three days from reaching their peak.” Later, he gave Michelle an entire box of Baby Crawfords that had been deemed unsuitable for sale (as fresh fruit, anyway). If we’d never gotten that tour of Marinari’s orchard, those “unsellable” peaches would have been by far and away the very best peaches I’ve ever tasted. The fruit we’d been tasting right off the trees were sheer Paradise. That’s why he was beaming. We were absolutely ecstatic at every station of the tour.

dried fruit, Andy's

When he’d shown us as many varieties as he possibly could, and we’d sampled as many varieties as we could possibly taste (afterwards we figured we must have tasted somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 different pieces of fruit), Andy took us over to the drying and packing area of the operation. Andy’s Orchard ships tree-ripened fruit in specially designed crates all across America to discerning (and evidently wealthy) fruit-lovers—in fact, they even ship to Japan these days—but drying fruit is not only an excellent way to preserve fruit, it’s also the easiest, most economical way to prepare fruit for shipping. Things have changed since the days when California dried a massive percentage of its fruit production so that it could be shipped great distances to the population centers to the east—California is now the most populous state in the Union and “fresh” fruit is now shipped from one hemisphere to another, among other things—but Andy’s still devotes a healthy portion of its crop to drying. There’s no better way to salvage those pieces of fruit that aren’t quite up to Andy’s exacting standards for fresh fruit, and as we know all too well, those “castoffs” are better than the best fruit most of us have ever tasted—consequently, they make for the best dried fruit you’ve ever tasted. The real money may be in fresh fruit, but Andy’s is proof that there’s a demand for superior dried fruit, too.

tree-ripened peaches

When we’d finished inspecting the dried fruit works, Andy ran off to tend to business and we were left to take in the scene on our own. The temperature had risen steadily since we first arrived and we were getting a pretty good taste of what makes the conditions in Morgan Hill particularly ideal for the cultivation of stone fruits: cool nights and mornings followed by steady, dry heat. It may have had something to do with the copious amounts of fructose coursing through my veins, or the combination of the fructose and the heat, but it was then that I suddenly had a vision. It’s not like we’d been alone at the orchard with Andy—there’d been plenty of his employees and co-workers moving around the grounds, doing their daily work—but all of a sudden I spotted someone who left an impression. There was an older gentleman sitting in a golf cart watching us. He looked kind of interesting with his long, white beard and tattoos, even kind of familiar, so I walked over to talk to him. I found out his name was Henry. We ended up talking about urban and suburban sprawl and the way the region had changed over the decades. We talked about the fact that he hadn’t set foot in San Jose, just 15 miles to the south, since the ‘70s. I found out that he’d been with the Marinari family since the late ‘60s, when he retired from driving a truck, and that he lived in a trailer and rarely left the orchard grounds anymore. And that's when I realized where I’d seen him before: in the work of R. Crumb. See, he looked a lot like Mr. Natural. I asked him what he had planned that afternoon and he said, “Just takin’ it easy. Been takin’ it easy since ’67.” In the pages of the, the “curator” puts forward the theory that “Natch” was based not on Professor O.G. Wottasnozzle of Popeye fame, as Harvey Pekar once claimed, but on the “little hitchhiker.” Suffice to say, I’ve got my own theory. Keep on truckin', indeed. Too bad I never worked up the courage to ask Henry if I could take his picture.

part of Andy's collection of vintage fruit labels

Anyway, when I’d said adios to Henry, and Adam, Michelle, and I had decided it was just about time to make a move (we were still hoping to make it to San Juan Bautista for lunch, after all), there was only one thing left to do: hit the gift shop. The gift shop is a relatively new addition to Andy’s Orchard. Andy’s focus has always been first and foremost on the quality (and variety) of his fruit. It's only recently that he's begun to concern himself with marketing his product in new ways. We admired Andy’s collection of vintage fruit cans—just look at those varieties of canned fruit that have since become extinct—bought some dried fruit assortments for family and friends, and then hung around just long enough to grab Andy one last time so we could thank him and wish him a proper goodbye.

Andy was a bit embarrassed by the request, but I managed to muster the courage to ask him for his photograph. I took the photo below and we drove off into the 100 degree Fahrenheit heat. Hours later we were still on a fruit sugar high. Actually, maybe it was just our good fortune that had us buzzing.

Michelle, Andy, and Adam

See? That’s what happens when you bust open a can of the fruit your preserved during your summer vacation. Find this hard to believe? Try it. You’ll see…


note: this is the final installment in our Revelations series, all of which stemmed from our July-August 2005 trip to California. Special thanks to Karina for making the trip possible.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Revelation 10, pt. 1: Andy's Orchard

baby crawford peach preserve

As food epiphanies go, we're not exactly talking about a Proustian madeleine, but there's still something magical about opening up your summer preserves in the dead of winter. Open up a 1-liter jar of your summer tomatoes on a miserable January day and your kitchen suddenly gets filled with the warmth of that Labor Day sun, the vitality of a harvest-season market, if only for a moment, or possibly even a meal. But as reported a few months ago, 2005 was the year we hit upon the idea of canning as we travel, and suddenly the wintertime ritual of making your way through your canned goods took on new meaning. We'd already talked at length with our friend A. about the joys of "fruit tourism," of touring the world in search of truly great fruit--A. has been working on a book on fruit, so he's spent much of the last few years engaged in such trips--but what made such a notion truly appealing to the two of us was the idea of canning-as-you-go. "...An endless banquet" is testament to the fact that we're both a little crazy about canning, so we were more than a little predisposed to falling for such an idea, but canning-as-you-go had the added bonus of speaking to the collector in each of us, because it opened up the possibility of bringing back the most fantastic of souvenirs from one's travels. Our California 2005 trip was our first big experiment along these lines, and the jars of Dapple Dandy pluot preserve, Mirabelle plum preserve, Swanton Farms strawberry-lime preserve gracing our pantry shelves, and the freshly opened jar of Baby Crawford peach preserve in our refrigerator, are all indications of what a success this experiment was. We've since decided to research what fruit will be available when and where before making vacation plans, and we have visions of the most phenomenal trips to Italy in search of Umbrian heirloom pears, the Czech Republic in search of Bohemian black walnuts, and so on.

What, exactly, is the effect of opening up one of these souvenirs? Well, I'll tell you tomorrow what happened when we opened that jar of peach preserve that Michelle made with Andy's Orchard's prize-winning Baby Crawford variety (pictured above).

Until then...


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Lemon Lavender Poundcake

lemon lavender poundcakes

There's something comforting about poundcake, especially one with a glaze. Before I got my mixer, I had to be creative to get around creaming the butter. There is no satisfactory way to do this by hand. I found a method in a book by Jacques Torres where, rather than creaming the butter, you beat the eggs into a ribbon and added melted butter afterwards. This became my standard pre-mixer method, and I had great results. The other day, as I was perusing Claudia Fleming's amazing The Last Course, I noticed that she too used this method for her poundcake. I had to try it with this flavour combination.

The cakes are so delicate and fine-crumbed, with a subtle lemon lavender finish. The glaze adds an extra hint of flavour, and makes the crust a sticky, sweet-sour treat. I love lavender. I always have some in my garden. Somehow it survived through a winter in our garden and came back last year, like the perennial it's supposed to be. I have my fingers crossed for this year. I found some lovely dried lavender flowers in a health food store whose colour was so extraordinary I had to buy it. I think that's what made these cakes extra good.

1 c. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
4 Tbsp. dried lavender
5 large eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp. cake flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. strained lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9 x 5" loaf pan, or many miniature ones.

Melt butter with 1 Tbsp. of lavender. Let steep 10 min., then strain. Add vanilla.

Whip eggs and 1 c. sugar until pale and thick. Sift flour and salt together in a bowl. Add 1/3 of the flour to the eggs, fold to combine. Add another 1/3, fold, add the final 1/3 with lemon zest. Mix 1 c. of this batter with the melted butter and whip until well combined. Add butter mixture to rest of the batter and fold to combine. Pour into prepared pan(s). Bake until golden and firm.

Meanwhile, simmer remaining 1/2 c. sugar with 1/4 c. water, 3 Tbsp. lavender, and lemon juice, stirring until sugar dissolves. Strain. Once poundcake is done, set it on a rack and pierce the surface with a skewer. Brush syrup on the top, letting it cool for 10 min. afterwards. Remove loaf from pan and brush bottom and sides with syrup, then pour the rest on the top. Delicious.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Treats from Paris

There are few things more satisfying than welcoming friends home from far away places. There are stories to be told and photographs to be shown, of course, but anyone who ever took part in Show and Tell during grade school will tell you that 3-D objects often make for the best presentations, so the experience is all the sweeter when they come bearing surprises. Recently, we've been spoiled by two different friends who have returned from Paris, each of which came back with a few thoughtful little gifts for us.


The first surprise came from Pierre Hermé's shop: a lovely selection of macarons. We carefully opened the box, and inside, nestled together, were chocolate, rose, white truffle, and, my favourite, églantine and marron (dog rose and chestnut) macarons. They were amazing with afternoon tea.

chocolate treats

This beautiful box of chocolates comes from Jean-Paul Hévin. There are four kinds: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate with caramel, and dark chocolate with coffee. They are thin and delicate, like little chocolate Eucharist wafers, and, although most brands of chocolate claim to melt in your mouth, these actually do, and in the most luxurious way.

four fruits preserve

Next, we also got a small container of four fruits preserve that comes from an amazing fromagerie in the 17th arrondisement. We tried to go there in August 2004, but like so many other fine Paris establishments, they were closed for the summer holidays. Anyway, now we're really sorry we didn't get a chance to visit because it turns out they make their own preserves, which they keep in large jars behind the counter. Kazi brought us back a small container of a mixed berry with cranberry confiture and we made short work of it. It was fantastic with our morning toast.

Confiture fleurs d'ajoncs

Finally, Hermine brought us back this ever-so-exotic confiture fleurs d'Ajoncs. We're not exactly sure how to translate fleurs d'Ajoncs but they're native to Bretagne and especially to Belle-Isle (a place which is particularly dear to Hermine and her family), they're apparently an important part of the local folklore

Fleurs d'Ajoncs

Dans la ville des meunières
Pont-Aven, pays d'amour
Au bord du ruisseau d'eau claire
Fleur d'ajonc chante toujours.

Où sont donc les belles filles
Que l'on nomme "Fleurs d'Ajoncs" ?
Et si fraîches et si gentilles
Dîtes-moi: où les voit-on ?

Et les tailles les plus fines
De tout le pays breton,
Frémissantes et câlines
Dites-moi où les voit-on ?

Les plus belle collerettes
De toute le pays Breton
Et les plus fraîches brunettes
Dîtes-moi, où les voit-on ?

Quand un garçon se marie
Dans tout le pays breton
Pour trouver femme jolie
Dîtes-moi où les voit-on ?

and they're delicious as a confiture: delicately floral, with hints of almond and honey overtones. We also love the DIY labels.

Thanks to our generous friends, our January has been that much warmer, that much sunnier. We hope to repay the favours very soon.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Two Kinds of Spirit

2005 was the year we found and lost Patience Gray...

I remember quite vividly that Kramerbooks in Washington, D.C. stocked Honey From a Weed when I worked there years and years ago. Attracted by the strange primitivist artwork that graced its cover, I used to take a look at it from time to time, but, although I was already big on cookbooks at the time, I hadn't really developed my taste for food writing (or for travel writing, for that matter) and the book struck me as arcane. I was young and foolish, I guess, impatient. A few years ago, I started to hear references to Patience Gray again from time to time, and I made a note to take a closer look at some future date. It wasn't until I came across Paul Bailey's testimonial to the lasting glory of Honey From a Weed in the Food and Drink section of the Financial Times in September of 2004, though,

Patience Gray

that I decided I absolutely needed to track it down. Gray's enigmatic account of her culinary odyssey across the Mediterranean from Greece to Italy to Spain, her cookbook and handbook to living a life most extraordinary, to living a life composed of feasts and fasts, suddenly made every bit of sense to me. Bailey's biography of Gray further cinched the deal. His account of her life--one that encompassed everything from a surprise bestseller in 1957 with her first cookbook, Plats du Jour (the book that, along with the work of Elizabeth David, which it eclipsed in sales, was among the first to teach many aspiring British hostesses about the joys of continental cuisine), to a three-year stint as the editor of the women’s page for the Observer (during which time she introduced the radical notion that women might actually want to learn about art, design, and culture in general instead of simply being instructed in the finer points of consumption, and then got fired for this approach), to a near decade-long journey back and forth across the Mediterranean with the sculptor Norman Mommens before they finally settled in southern Italy’s Apulia region--only added to her mystique and to the mystique of Honey From a Weed. You see, at the time that Gray finished writing her masterwork and began to shop around for a publisher, she had long been out of the loop, her former celebrity largely forgotten. Plus, that which makes the book so unique and enchanting—its unorthodox meandering style, its unclassifiable nature, its long expositions on topics like edible weeds, abstinence (fasting is one of the book's major themes), and anarchism (I kid you not. After proposing a digression at the beginning of a chapter entitled “Two Kinds Spirit," Gray writes: "Many people think of anarchism as a symptom of social breakdown, they confuse it with anarchy. The distinction becomes apparent in Kropotkin's memoirs. Anarchism--which admits both individualism and human brotherhood--is a positive force. And anyone who has spent time in Carrara [Tuscany] recognizes it as a way of life." The "two kinds of spirit"? Anarchy and home-distilled grappa.)—was exactly what made it a hard sell to London’s 1980s publishing scene. Finally, her literary agent put Gray in contact with Alan Davidson, the food writer and former diplomat who ran Prospect Books with his wife. It quickly became a cult classic in both Britain and America among those eager for a more philosophical approach to cuisine, and although it could hardly be accused of being a publishing blockbuster, it has never gone out of print over the last 20 years. I gave Michelle a copy of Honey From a Weed for Christmas last year, and we both began to read it eagerly. In March, at the age of 87, Patience Gray passed away.

baroque cathedral, Honey From a Weed

2005 was also the year we lost Simcha and Fanny Schwartz Leibovich…

I still remember moving to Montreal at the age of 18. I’d been coming to Montreal since I was a kid to visit family and friends, and my knowledge of the city was good but limited. I knew places like Olympic Stadium, Central Station, and Atwater Market well, but Prince Arthur Street was the only thing I knew about the Plateau. Wandering up and down the Main for the first time was a revelation, and I felt instantly at home among the strange old five-and-dime shops, the Eastern European delicatessens, the Jewish bakeries. Hell, there was still a newsstand at the corner of Pine and St.-Laurent at that time. Things seemed frozen in time and I lost myself in the charms of a bygone era. By the time I got back to Montreal, things had changed considerably along the Main as they had in other parts of town, but because of the nature of the Main it was all the more noticeable there. Some places had relocated, some had changed for the worse, others had just disappeared altogether, only to be replaced by hair salons and a variety of lifestyle boutiques. In spite of this, some of the die-hards were still around, and although some of these classics seem like they’ll be around indefinitely—places like Schwartz’s, Charcuterie Hongroise, and Slovenia—so much of what remained attractive to me along the Main has disappeared in the span of just a few short years: Louis Pecker and his little shop of wonders, Warshaw’s supermarket, Boulangerie Saint-Laurent, even though their product had taken a nosedive since I first developed my B.S.L. ritual in the late-‘80s, and now Simcha’s. Simcha Leibovich had been a fixture on the Main for almost 60 years and Simcha’s was one of those businesses that really contributed to the area’s mystique. Simcha started his first grocery with his wife Fanny in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Market just two years after his arrival to Canada from Romania in 1946. In 1966, when the Drapeau administration decided to raze the market in anticipation of the World Exposition, Leibovich moved his business to the location it would occupy for almost 40 years, a lovely shopfront with big windows and a strange palimpsestic sign on the corner of St.-Laurent and Napoleon that had become almost as iconic along that stretch of St.-Laurent as Schwartz’s or The Main or L. Berson & Sons Monuments.


Business at Simcha’s had become quiet over the last few years. Prices at Segal’s, just up the street, are unbelievably low, but I never really understood why they attracted customers in droves while Simcha’s had ceased to long ago. Realizing that times were tough, Michelle and I took a vow a few years to give Simcha’s as much business as we could afford to, even if we didn’t really need something. Secretly we hoped that he and Fanny would adopt us and that we could take Simcha’s over when they grew tired of the day-to-day grind, keeping things just as they’d always been (the eggs visible from the window, the sauerkraut homemade).

In the end, Simcha continued to be there every day, donning his trademark newsboy cap and holding down the fort. [If you want to get a sense of Simcha’s drive and dedication, check out The Société de développement du boulevard Saint-Laurent and Action Terroriste Socialement Acceptable’s (ATSA) lovely homage to him.] Last February I remember panicking one night when I passed Simcha’s and noticed that the windows were covered up with newspaper. My fears were warranted, as it turns out, because Fanny had passed away. But a few weeks later, looking a bit frailer perhaps, Simcha opened the shop back up again and went back to work. In December the windows at Simcha’s got papered up once more.

Simcha's memorial



Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Murray Bay

Murray Bay cocktail

For the past few weeks, C and I have been creating new cocktails at work, some of which are now on the menu at the restaurant (!). This new assignment has made us really, really happy. We’re constantly coming up with new ideas, and we’ve already compiled a long list of future experiments.

It was with this in mind that I tried out a new cocktail the other day, inspired by Hendrick's Gin's, their amazing website, and the fact that they made the Saveur 100 this year, and by the legend of Murray Bay, QC. Anthony became obsessed with Murray Bay years and years ago when he read Edie, the oral history/biography of Edie Sedgwick. Murray Bay was the town where Edie’s grandparents owned their summer house, and the descriptions of the family’s summer vacations in Murray Bay—the picnics, the boats, etc.—read like a scene out of Wild Strawberries. What were Massachusetts socialites doing summering in Quebec? Well, Murray Bay was a favorite destination for the New York-Boston social set from the late 19th century into the 20th century. So much so that it was once known as the Newport of the North. In fact, when asked “Where is Murray Bay?”, no less of an authority than then-President Taft gave the enigmatic answer, “Murray Bay is a state of mind.” It took years for Anthony to figure out that Murray Bay had long since come to be known as La Malbaie.

With its rich blend of herbs and spices, gin has long had medicinal properties attributed to it, and I’ve been a believer ever since I read Michael Ondaatje’s justly celebrated account of growing up in Sri Lanka, Running in the Family. I made sure to drink at least two gin and tonics per day when I was India a few years ago. They tasted especially great there, and that was as close as I’ve ever been to Sri Lanka, but I also felt like they were bolstering my constitution. Anyway, I love this particular drink because with its blend of gin, blood orange, bitters, and rhubarb-lime syrup, it simultaneously conjures the exotic and the local. It also tastes like just the kind of cordial that would have appealed to Murray Bay’s martini set, back in the day.

Had I been a Sedgwick this is exactly the kind of drink I would have packed in my art deco sterling silver thermos (with matching cups, of course) for our picnic. I would lay out my blanket and throw a ball to the dogs. As the kids ran around in their starched blue and white navy suits I might even crack open a favorite Emily Dickinson volume. What can I tell you? It’s cold and miserable in Montreal, and we're in the thick of an ice storm. Can’t a girl dream?

The Murray Bay

2 oz. gin, preferably Hendrick's
3 oz. fresh-squeezed blood orange juice (or pink grapefruit)
1 Tbsp. rhubarb-lime syrup *
1 drop Angostura bitters
slice of blood orange to garnish (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and agitate until cold. Strain into a martini glass garnished with a slice of blood orange. Serve.


* Thanks to some readers for pointing out that not everyone has a bottle of rhubarb-lime syrup kicking around in their fridge. I was shocked to discover that there are no commercial varieties available. Looks like you're going to have to make your own this summer. Luckily, it's easy.

3 lbs. rhubarb, trimmed and chopped
4 3/4 c. sugar
2 c. lime juice, freshly squeezed

Simmer rhubarb with 1/2 c. water for 30 min. Strain, reserving juice, add sugar and lime juice, and simmer 30 min. Strain and store in the fridge. Keeps several months.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Chocolate Obsession

Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage's book Chocolate Obsession came out last year. I looked at it a few times, longingly, but since I rarely work with chocolate in the form of bonbons, I found it hard to justify the $50 pricetag. Instead, I borrowed this book from a friend, sort of without asking... (What can I say? She forgot it at work over the weekend! I thought she wouldn't mind if I took it home for a day if I brought it back with some samples of its recipes. Sorry, C!) Thank God I did. You'll see why in a minute.

The book is divided into a few sections: history, dipped/molded chocolates, snacks, barks, drinks, sauces, and ice creams. The largest section is the one on dipped/molded chocolates, but the snacks section is also pretty substantial. I skimmed the first 2 sections, pausing only to look at a hilariously disgusting example of what happens if you don't emulsify a ganche properly. Yuck. I kept flipping until I reached the Triple Chocolate Cookies. Sounds good. "Roll dough into a log and keep in the fridge." "Or freezer," I added. Perfect. I love logs of cookie dough in my freezer, ready for unexpected guests or sugar attacks. Apparently, I have a real weakness for chocolate ones.

triple chocolate cookie

I whipped up a batch of these and let them firm up in the fridge. I cut them, baked them, and let them cool. I tasted... Delicious. This is exactly what you want in a chocolate cookie. Moist, rich, dark, with a hint of salt. I guarantee you will love them. And for our vegan readers out there (Hi, Nicole!), the only animal products in them are butter and milk chocolate, both of which are easy to substitute.

triple chocolate cookies
makes 48 cookies

7 oz. all purpose flour
1 1/2 oz. cocoa powder *
1/2 tsp. baking soda
6 oz. unsalted butter, at room temp.
3 1/2 oz. sugar
4 1/2 oz. dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split horizontally, seeds scraped ** (opt.)
1/2 tsp. fleur de sel
3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
3 oz. milk chocolate, chopped

Mix the flour, cocoa, and baking powder together. Set aside.

Beat the butter until it is smooth, add both the sugars and vanilla extract and seeds, if using. Add salt. Beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in three shots. Mix until dough is crumbly. Add chopped chocolate and mix. Knead dough a bit to bring it together. Roll into a long log, or two shorter ones, and chill 3 hours, well wrapped.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Cut log into 1/2" slices and place them on the sheet 1 1/2" apart. Bake for 14 min. Let cool on sheet. Serve.

* I have always used Valrhona cocoa powder until yesterday when I went to buy some (250g for $10.99) and noticed a bag of Barry's Extra Brute cocoa (1 kg for $13.99) sitting beside it. I couldn't justify the price difference, so I went for quantity. Though I love Valrhona's cocoa--it's silky even by itself--until I marry an investment banker, it's Barry for me. These cookies turned out amazing all the same.

** Fresh vanilla bean is fantastic, of course, but it's also expensive. It'd be nice if we all had a surplus of vanilla kicking around that we could throw into whatever we wanted, including super dark triple chocolate cookies, but I'm sure that's not the reality. The recipe actually calls for Tahitian vanilla, but at $7 each, I have never ever had one in my house. I saw this and thought, "Is anyone really going to taste 1/2 a Tahitian vanilla bean in these cookies?" My answer was "probably not," so I added the "optional" note.

The next thing that caught my eye was the Cocoa Nib Ice Cream with Caramelized Cocoa Nibs. I happened to have some nibs left over from making preserves with them. Actually, I had all the ingredients at hand. With nothing to stop me, I ventured forth.

Boris and his bowl of cocoa nib ice cream

caramelized cocoa nibs

1 1/2 c. cocoa nibs
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. butter

Have a piece of parchment or a silicone mat ready for the nibs.

Mix the nibs and sugar in a saucepan over high heat and stir constantly. Cook until almost no sugar crystals remain unmelted, then remove from heat and add the butter. Pour out nibs onto paper or mat. Let cool. Store covered at room temperature. Makes about 1 1/2 c.

caramelized cocoa nib ice cream [Boris-approved]
makes 1 quart

1 2/3 c. whole milk
1/2 c. + 1/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. + 3 Tbsp. cocoa nibs, "raw"
1/2 vanilla bean, split horizontally
5 large egg yolks
3/3 c. + 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
3/4 c. caramelized cocoa nibs (from above)

Stir the milk, 1/2 c. sugar, and "raw" cocoa nibs together in a saucepan. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the milk, adding the bean as well. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit 30 min.

Strain the milk into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Beat the yolks and the remaining 1/3 c. sugar with a whisk until thick and pale. Pour the hot milk into the yolks, whisking steadily. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium heat until it thickens. Stir! Strain into a bowl and stir in the cream. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Churn mixture in an ice cream maker, and stir in the caramelized nibs at the end by hand. Mmm.

All in all, the book is a good one, especially if you have no other books on chocolate and are interested in making bonbons at home, although I found the tone of the book to be a bit annoying at times. Michael is constantly referred to in the third person, even though he is listed as one of the authors. ("Burnt caramel, Michael's signature flavor..." See what I mean?) Otherwise, it's a great-looking book by one of America's great chocolatiers (I should know, I spent some time at his Ferry Terminal shop in San Francisco last summer).


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Ultimate Condiment

pickled prunes

When I first started looking through Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of South-West France (one of my absolute favorite cookbook purchases of 2005), the thing that jumped out at me, and that I decided I had to make first, was her recipe for pickled prunes. Call me crazy (especially given all the other tempting recipes collected by Wolfert therein), but I had to have them. Something told me that they would be amazing. I imagined them served with charcuterie and cheeses, along with my pickled sour cherries--a perfect combination for the holidays.

They were very quick to whip up, but they have to age at least 6 weeks before you can eat them. This aging mellows out the vinegar, and allows the prunes to release their heady aroma into the syrup. What you're left with is far greater than the sum of its parts: a sweet and sour prune which will inspire your guests to covet them right down to the last one left in the serving dish (be careful, though--they might also be inspired to make a grab for it).

The method is simple. It takes virtually no skill and barely any time. In fact, there's no reason why you couldn't run out to the store, grab the necessary ingredients, and make them right now. Here's what you need:

12 oz. large prunes with pits
linden tea
1 1/3 c. sugar
2 c. tarragon vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves

Now simmer the prunes in the linden tea 2-3 hours. Cook the sugar and vinegar in a separate pan until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cinnamon and cloves, simmer 10 min. Remove from heat and let stand until cool. Drain prunes and pat with paper towels. Prick each prune a few times with a needle. Place in a bowl and pour the vinegar solution over them. Let stand 24 hours. Strain the vinegar into a pot, bring to a boil. Simmer 10 min. Let cool. Place prunes in a 500 ml glass jar and pour the vinegar over them. Add enough vodka to cover the prunes, close the jar and it let sit in a cool dark place 6 weeks. Refrigerate after opening.

They go very well with all kinds of charcuterie and cheeses, but they went particularly well with pâté. Enjoy.


Monday, January 09, 2006

new fave

la Montée de Lait

As reported in our latest top ten list (#4), the new and improved La Montée de Lait is one of our new faves. When they opened last year they had a pretty strong gimmick in place. As their name suggests, not only was dairy figured prominently, it was a featured part of each and every course. I remember hearing about La Montée de Lait from Michelle for the first time. I could see how the gimmick might work, but the thought of having dairy with every course still seemed a bit much (even if that probably isn't all that uncommon with, say, your average butter, milk, and cream-rich French meal). In recent months, the management at La Montée de Lait has ditched the gimmick and they've also renovated and redecorated, and, the reviews, which were already generally positive, have tended to turn into raves. I resisted going for a long time--mostly because of the unfortunate name (not particularly clever, not particularly funny)--but Michelle's lobbying efforts got stronger and stronger, more and more persuasive, until I could resist no longer. And am I ever glad I finally capitulated. We had one of the best meals there last week that we've had in recent memory.

The concept these days at La Montée de Lait is based on the tasting menu format. La Montée de Lait certainly isn't the only restaurant to have taken the tasting menu and tried to make it more approachable while maintaining its allure, but it's definitely one of the best. The basic formule is four courses for $40, and you then have the freedom to choose whatever you want from their selection of seafood dishes, plats salés, meat dishes, cheeses, and desserts (and I do mean freedom: apparently, some have been known to fall for a dish so strongly that they've scratched the next dish they had coming and ordered a repeat performance instead). The menu is inspired and is filled with all kinds of thoughtful touches and unexpected surprises: a zesty creamed garlic sauce and truffle oil came with two generous pieces of pan-seared bluefin tuna, oignons confits were served with a chèvre chaud-adorned eggplant pancake, their incredible selection of cheeses (both French and Quebecois) numbers in the twenties and portions are served with roasted almonds and stewed sultanas. They also have a very good selection of wines available by the glass. With the exception of a squash course, which lacked some cohesiveness, we were blown away by virtually everything we had. Hell, even our cheese course, which included an absolutely phenomenal Baragnaudes Roquefort--the best Roquefort either of us had ever encountered--wound up being breathtaking). We also got very attentive service, and we loved the intimate yet exuberant ambiance.

The next thing we knew, La Montée de Lait was on our top ten list.

La Montée de Lait, 371 Rue Villeneuve E., 289-9921 / 1 (888) 281-9921.


Sunday, January 08, 2006


Does anyone know anything about this fine establishment?

Fuchsia on Duluth

Michelle's obsessed, because she's heard intriguing things about it (baked goods, flowers, etc.) and it looks really cute, but she's been by there five times over the last two weeks and she's yet to find it open for business. Today she even wore matching snowflakes

Michelle's scarf complete with real snowflakes

but it still didn't help.

Any information you might have would be appreciated.

"Where is it located," you ask? It's on Duluth, just east of St.-Dominique, pretty much kitty-corner to Reservoir.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Top Ten #4

1. Global knives

Global knife

2. Capote, Bennett Miller and In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

3. Kitchen Aid professional mixers

4. Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee

5. Luiz Bonfá, Solo in Rio, 1959 (Smithsonian/Folkways)

Luiz Bonfá

6. Syriana, Stephen Gaghan

7. La Montée de Lait

8. V/A, Ethiopiques, vol. 4: Ethiopian Jazz and Musique Instrumentale, 1969-1974

9. Joe Beef (old and new)

10. iittala casseroles and "against throwawayism"

iillata casserole



galette des rois

Yesterday was Epiphany, meaning the Christmas season is officially over. We celebrated it with a homemade galette des rois. I didn't mean to make one, really, but my search for an adequate store-bought one left me empty-handed. I couldn't bring myself to spend money on something that didn't look amazing. Even if mine didn't turn out perfect, I still would have had the pleasure of making it, and I was pretty sure it was going to taste good.

Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, is celebrated with a special pastry. Originally, it was supposed to be a holiday where you would share food and drink with the poorest citizens in your village, but unfortunately this celebration (and others like it) has for the most part fallen by the wayside over time.

In England, Twelfth Night cake takes the form of a fruitcake with a hidden bean inside. The French have their Galette des Rois, a puff pastry pie filled with an almond center and a bean. The New Orleans version is more like a brioche decorated with candies. In Mexico, the equivalent is called Rosca de Reyes and reminds me of a large hot cross bun baked in a ring--studded with candied fruits and a sugar glaze.

The bean is hidden in the pastry and whoever gets it in their piece will be lucky in the coming year, buy the next round of drinks, is crowned king or queen for the night, or will host the next party (in my favorite version), depending on where you're from. Most beans nowadays are made of plastic, but you can still find some ceramic ones. Homemade versions usually contain an actually bean, because why would you keep last year's plastic bean lying around?

I started the puff pastry two days ahead so the turns would fit into my schedule. It is the first time I've ever made it at home, and I can now say it's do-able for the home cook. Whenever I used to see this claim in my cookbooks, I'd scoff. Do you think I'm going to allow something like 10 hours to make a dough? Even if they follow it up with "it's not 10 hours active time," I would still skip that page and go on to something less intensive. The thing to remember with a dough like this is it can work around your schedule. Usually the books tell you to let it rest for 1-2 hours between turns. I did it whenever I could fit it in. It rested once overnight, the next time for 2 hours, and finally for 4 hours. Since no yeast is involved, you can't overproof the dough. As long as you let it rest for some period of time, it will turn out fine.

This made enough dough for the galette, plus some leftovers for palmiers or turnovers.

Puff Pastry

300 g all purpose flour
100 g pastry flour
5 g salt
100 g butter
250 ml +/- water

300 g butter, soft

Mix flours and salt in a large bread bowl. Add butter in small pieces and mix in with your fingertips until the butter is well combined. You will still have small pieces of butter. Don't worry. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the water, adding most but not all of the 250 ml at once. Mix gently, being careful not to knead the dough. Add rest of water, if needed. Dough should form a soft ball. Wrap in plastic and let rest at least 1 hour in the fridge.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle approximately 7" x 20". Spread the soft butter over 2/3rds of the surface of the dough, being careful to leave a border around the edges. (I highly recommend looking at a diagram in a cookbook, if you have one on hand.) Fold the "dry" third over the middle, as if you were folding a letter. Fold the other end over the middle. You should now have three layers of dough and two of butter. You have completed the beurrage. Wrap and chill for a few hours. Basically, now you are left with the "turns." Roll out the dough to the original rectangle size, being careful not to squeeze out any butter. Fold into thirds, as you did with the last step. Repeat once, let rest, chilled, a few hours. Repeat these two turns twice more, for a total of six. Done. Wrap and chill until needed. The colder the dough, the easier it will be to roll out.


175 g almond paste (50%)
100 g sugar
100 g butter, soft
3 eggs
40 g all purpose flour
40 g pastry flour

Beat almond paste with sugar until softened. Add butter and mix until smooth. Add eggs gradually, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add flours to combine. Cover and place in fridge.


Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, to 1/8" thick. Cut out 2 large circles. Let the rest, chilled for 20 min. Place one round on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place about 1 cup of frangipane in the center. Push a bean or ceramic token into the filling. Brush some egg around the circumference and place the other round on top. Press the edges carefully to seal. Score a design into the top piece with a knife and brush with egg. Let chill 20 min. Bake at 375°F for about 40 min., until the top is dark and the sides are golden brown. Let cool on a rack.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Holiday Highlights

Phew! We’ve got so much catching up to do. Where to begin?

For a variety of reasons, this year Christmas came a little later than usual. Both my family and Michelle’s like to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, but this year things got pushed back to Christmas Day and even Boxing Day. We’re not quite in the realm of those people who celebrate Christmas in January so that they can avoid the holiday madness and take advantage of those MASSIVE BOXING DAY SALEs, but we’re edging in that direction.

The best meal we made was our Boxing Day feast. We were thinking Central European the whole way, and what we had our hearts set on was the kind of Christmas goose extravaganza that we had at Päffgen in Cologne two years ago. Päffgen was already my favorite brauerei at the time that I took Michelle there that December—not only did they have the best Kölsch in town, as far as I was concerned, but I loved the 19th-century, wood-paneled charm of the place—and I’d already had some good food there on one occasion, but that goose special they had that day was easily one of the best meals I had the entire time I was in Germany. Roast goose, stewed red cabbage, potato dumplings, marzipan-stuffed baked apples, and glazed chestnuts—what’s not to like? A couple of days later, when I told some of my colleagues about the meal Michelle and I had had at Päffgen, they thought I was kidding. Within a certain set over there in Germany it was fashionable to express embarrassment over “traditional German cuisine” and to try and display one’s sophistication by taking visitors (such as myself) to, say, an ersatz Cuban restaurant instead. These people didn’t understand just how exotic Central European cuisine can be to someone from North America (quality Central European cuisine, that is). Anyway, fast-forward 2 years and Michelle and I were dead-set on trying to duplicate that roast goose meal at Päffgen to the best of our abilities.

Then we learned just how expensive a Christmas goose could be. When we started to price a nice Christmas goose, we found that the 10-12 lb bird our recipe was calling for would probably set us back anywhere from $100-$150. We’re all for splurging, especially when it comes to holiday meals, but we didn’t want to deal with the pressure of having to savor every $4 bite of Christmas goose. We definitely didn’t want to ditch the rest of the menu, so we gave the matter of a substitution some thought, taking into account a number of factors, and we finally settled on a pork roast. After all, we’d been reading Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook, and his introductory remarks on the subject of “pig” had stuck with us: “Is there any better, more noble, more magical animal than the pig? Not from a cook’s perspective there isn’t. Virtually every single part of a pig can be made into something delicious. Pork makes just about everything taste better, and no beast offers more variety, more possibilities, more traditional, time-tested recipes per ounce than the humble piggy.” Trading in that ostentatious goose for a humble pig certainly was going to make the meal cheaper (about $80-$130 cheaper), but we were pretty sure the right recipe would be just as festive, just as delicious, in its own way. We settled on a recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook--it, too, was served with red cabbage, but we were especially attracted to it because of the fact that it involved brining, and, having never tried to that method, we were dying to brine something.

The recipe called for a very specific cut of pork—“1 (6-rib) center-cut pork loin roast (3 1/2 pounds), chine removed and bottom of ribs cracked”—so we turned to the professionals and took our order to La Maison du Roti. Not only were they able to fill our order properly, but the head butcher was impressed by our choice of meat and cut, and he pressed me for details on the recipe we were using. We made our brine as soon as we got home and its fragrance soon filled the kitchen; a few hours later, after the brine had gotten a chance to cool, our roast was soaking in it and taking on its flavors. Two days later when we finally got around to roasting the pork, the recipe worked like a charm. This was hands-down the tastiest pork dish I’ve ever made, I think, and it was a hit with our red cabbage/stuffed, baked apples/glazed chestnuts combo.

Roast Loin of Pork

4 allspice berries
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp black peppercorns
8 cups water
1/3 cup kosher salt
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp dried thyme, crumbled
4 whole cloves
1 Turkish bay leaf or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 (6-rib) center-cut pork loin roast (3 1/2 pounds), chine removed and bottom of ribs cracked (have your butcher do this)
1 large onion
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Crack allspice and 2 tbsp of the peppercorns in a mortar with a pestle. Combine the water, the allspice and peppercorns, salt, sugar, thyme, cloves, and bay leaf in a 4-quart saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Pour brine into a deep 5-quart bowl or pot and cool, then refrigerate, covered, until cold, about 2 hours. Add pork to brine, making sure it is completely covered. Marinate, covered and refrigerated, for at least 2 days.

When the pork has been properly brined, put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the onion crosswise into 1/2-inch thick rounds (do not separate into rings). Crack remaining teaspoon of peppercorns.

Drain pork, discarding brine, and pat dry. Do not remove any spices adhering to it. Sprinkle pork with freshly cracked peppercorns. Heat oil in a 10- to 12-inch heavy ovenproof skillet, preferably cast-iron, over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Brown the pork on all sides, 10-15 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

browning the pork roast

Arrange the onion rounds in the skillet and place the pork with the fat side facing up. Transfer to the oven and roast until thermometer inserted 2 inches into the center of the roast (without touching any bone) registers 140 degrees F, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transer the pork to a cutting board and let it stand, loosely covered with foil, for 20 minutes. (Its internal temperature will rise 10-15 degrees as it stands.)

Gourmet’s recipe then followed with a red cabbage recipe and a port wine sauce recipe, but we served our roast with our Central European red cabbage and used its red wine-based sauce in place of the port wine sauce. The roast turned out so juicy and tender than an additional sauce was completely unnecessary. This is what one of our plates looked like after we’d loaded it up:

roast pork and friends

Our Central European spread made for a great holiday meal, but it's inexpensive and straightforward enough that it would be ideal for a fall/winter dinner party.

When in Cologne: Brauerei Päffgen, Friesenstrasse 64-66, (0221) 135461

For details on La Maison du Roti check out our Montreal Food Guide.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Double Whammy

On Monday, we got invited over to Lucas's for a closing-day-of-Hannukah party. I actually wasn't 100% sure that it was the final day of Hannukah as we made our way over, but the menorah-clad minivans that were cutting back and forth across Mile End and Outremont left little doubt. What I did know was that Lucas was going to be mixing up latkes, and that this occasion was doubling as a party for his two-year-old daughter Sophie. And what I soon found out was the following:
1. Using a recipe handed down to him from his grandmother, Lucas makes some mighty fine latkes, probably the best latkes in Montreal, and possibly the best latkes in the world

luke's latkes

2. Sophie might very well be the cutest kid on earth

cute kid alert

Sophie bowled us over from the moment she greeted us at the door, and she never stopped being the cosummate hostess, and the life of the party (although she did proove to be difficult to snap a picture of). As for Lucas's latkes: we asked him what the secret was and he told us, "When you've grated your potatoes, you've gotta squeeze the hell out of them to get all the water out of them. When you've squeezed them dry, squeeze the hell out of them some more." Whatever he did, they worked. And how! Fresh latkes straight out of the pan with sour cream and homemade apple sauce--how can you go wrong?

What a great way to kick off 2006.

Happy New Year, everyone!


Joe Beef Follow-up

In case you've been wondering, this is what the site of Charles McKiernan's original Joe Beef Tavern looks like today.

the space formerly known as Joe Beef

Got some Christmas money over the holidays? It's presently for sale.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Faves 2005

Restaurants of the Year, Montreal:

Au Pied de Cochon


Club Chasse et Pêche

La Montée de Lait


Food-related Shops or Stores, Montreal:

Olives et Épices

La Dépense


Le Cercle Rouge, dir. Melville

Syriana, dir. Gaghan

Good Night and Good Luck, dir. Clooney

Capote, dir. Miller

The Squid and the Whale, dir. Baumbach

No Direction Home, dir. Scorsese

The Constant Gardener, dir. Meirelles

Brokeback Mountain, dir. Lee

Trouble in Paradise, dir. Lubitsch

The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, dir. McCormick


Destroyer, "Rubies"

Electrelane, Axes

Bill Fay, S/T

The Kinks, Something Else

Black Mountain, S/T

Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4, Bob Dylan Live 1966, The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert

Marianne Faithfull, Before the Poison

Pere Ubu, “Humor Me”

Brian Eno, Here Come the Warm Jets

V/A, World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love’s a Real Thing: the Funky, Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa

Gary Higgins, Red Hash

Wolf Parade, Apologies to the Queen Mary and S/T EP

Luiz Bonfá, Solo in Rio, 1959

Pylon, "The Human Body"

Cat Power, “Willie Deadwilder”

Stephen Malkmus, Face the Truth

Serge Gainsbourg, De Gainsbourg à Gainsbarre box set, but especially the Histoire de Melody Nelson section

Fleetwood Mac, Tusk

Sleater-Kinney, The Woods

Pentangle, Basket of Light

Terry Reid, “Bang Bang”

Pavement, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain double album reissue

Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7, No Direction Home: The Soundtrack

The Go! Team, "Panther Dash"

Big Star, “Till the End of the Day”

The Fall, “Victoria”

Hubble Bubble, "I'm Not Like Everybody Else"

Food Writing:

The New Yorker's "The Food Issue" (Sept. 2005) had not one, not two, but three of our favorite food pieces of the year:
Calvin Trillin's "Speaking of Soup"
Mark Singer's "Gone Fishing"
John Seabrook's "Renaissance Pears"

Patience Gray, Honey From a Weed

Colman Andrews' profile of Chantal Chagny and her Auberge du Cep entitled "Mme Chagny's Magic Restaurant", Saveur, October 2005

Bill Donahue's "What's Eating Portland's Food Provocateur?" on Michael Hebberoy and his Gotham Bldg Tavern, Food & Wine, Jan. 2006

David Karp's "Orchard of Dreams," Gourmet, July 2005

John Thorne with Matt Lewis Thorne, Serious Pig: An American Cook in Search of his Roots

Edward Behr, "Another Way of Being Up To Date: Contemporary Restaurants in Montreal," The Art of Eating #69

Calvin Trillin, The Tummy Trilogy

Saveur's special issue on American artisanal cheese, April 2005

Edward Behr, The Artful Eater

Books (general):

Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry

The Quiet American and Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene

Waterfront and Rudy Burckhardt, Phillip Lopate

His Dark Materials trilogy, Philip Pullman

Urban Gardener, Elspeth Thompson

Life, A User's Manual, Georges Perec

A High Wind in Jamaica (or, The Innocent Voyage), Richard Hughes

Invisible Republic, Greil Marcus

Merry Hall, Beverley Nichols


Paula Wolfert, The Cooking of Southwest France and Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco

Rose Levy Beranbaum, The Bread Bible

John Thorne, Serious Pig

Richard Olney, A Provençal Table

Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook

Pierre Hermé, Larousse des Desserts

Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian

Catherine Plagemann, Fine Preserving

Trish Deseine, Du Caramel Plein la Bouche

Patience Gray, Honey From a Weed

Snack of the Year:

Haldiram's All In One

Haldiram's All in One

Spiced sev, raisins, cashews, rice flakes, Moong lentils, peanuts, etc., all contained in one fantastic mix... Few things taste better with a beer after a long day's work.