Friday, January 28, 2011

WTP, or DIY Pho

pho by Tanis fig. a: 1/2 photo

Those of us who've never been might find this hard to imagine, but, as David Tanis points out in Heart of the Artichoke (Artisan, 2010), "In Vietnam, pho is street food, basic, hearty, and filling, sold from a cart with a few little stools in front."* In the United States, on the other hand, pho is generally available from "little bare-bones sit-down restaurants," Tanis continues, places where you can grab a quick but satisfying lunch or dinner. Many of us have never had the pleasure of having pho as street food, but we're well-acquainted with the kind of no-frills pho joints he describes, because you can find them in many places around the world these days.** Montreal, for one. Paris, for another. And, in fact, that's exactly where Tanis first became fully enamored of Vietnamese cuisine--not in the United States, not in Vietnam, even, but in Paris.

He writes:

Though I'd often eaten Vietnamese food in California, oddly, it took a bowl of soup in Paris to hook me. After shopping the early morning market at the Place Maubert, we discovered a noodle shop nearby. It happened to be one of those damp, chill spring days the French specialize in, so we sat outside on the sidewalk terrace across from the busy market to seek warmth in a big, brothy bowl of pho.

Tanis doesn't elaborate, but there was something about that bowl of soup on that particular day that really clicked with him. So much so, that, years later, he'd devote an entire menu to Vietnamese cuisine in one of his cookbooks. And, sure enough, the central attraction in Tanis' homage to Vietnam in Heart of the Artichoke is his take on pho bo, the classic Vietnamese beef and noodle soup.

Now, the funny thing is, we first became enamored of David Tanis back in 2005, when he was featured in an article in Saveur ("An American Cooks in Paris" by Dorothy Kalins, #88). The concept was simple. Tanis was introduced as one of the chefs at Berkeley's legendary Chez Panisse (which he was and continues to be), albeit one who spent six months of the year in Paris, during which time he and his partner ran an underground restaurant, Aux Chiens Lunatiques. Who better to give Saveur's readers a tour of Paris's markets and a crash-course in how to make use of the bounty? The resultant spread was beautiful (photos by Christopher Hirsheimer!), highly informative, and utterly seductive (foie gras pâté! sautéed wild mushrooms! roast pork with fennel, garlic, and herbs!), and one of his dishes, his wonderful swiss chard gratin, became an AEB standard. But one of the things we liked best about Tanis, was that he began his Parisian shopping excursion by taking the author out for a "restorative bowl of beef pho at his favorite neighborhood Vietnamese place." This was a man we could totally relate to, a man after our own hearts. But the important thing here is that Tanis didn't make his bowl of beef pho, he went out to his favorite pho joint and bought it, and the article focused on French recipes made with French ingredients.

It took us a while to get around to making our own bowl of homemade pho. It took Tanis's Heart of the Artichoke + a trip to visit our friends S & T in Upstate New York. It's not that it had never occurred to us. We love Vietnamese food, and we've made our fair share of Vietnamese food at home, including a few soups. But we live in a city where pho joints abound, and many of them are quite good, so when we cooked Vietnamese, we often made things that were less readily available. Plus, we, like Tanis, really like going to pho joints, especially when we're out on one of our shopping excursions. Hell, that's exactly how " endless banquet" got started, way back when.

But there are times when you're not in Montreal or Paris, or anyone of a number of other places where Vietnamese restaurants are plentiful (Berkeley, New York, Chicago, Arlington, Toronto--take your pick).

feeling winter fig. b: time for pho

There are times when you're in the countryside--in Upstate New York, perhaps--hundreds of miles from the nearest pho joint, and you've been traipsing around in the snow all day, and a restorative bowl of pho sure would taste good.*** There are times when your curiosity gets the best of you ("How do they make that broth?"). And there are times when you want a lot of pho--enough for leftovers, enough to stock your freezer, enough that you might actually be able to try it for breakfast (like you're supposed to) sometime. For all those times, it's nice to have a pho bo recipe you can really trust. Plus, as Andrea Nguyen puts it in Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, "Despite the fun and convenience of eating pho at a local noodle soup spot, nothing beats a homemade bowl." Why? Because it's all about the broth, and at home you can put all the care and attention you want into making your pho especially rich and tasty.

feeling vietnamese 2 fig. c: photo #2

So that's exactly what we did. We broke out Tanis's Heart of the Artichoke, flipped it to his "Feeling Vietnamese" menu, and got to work. S & T had taken care of getting all the ingredients ahead of time, back in the Big City, so we were good to go.

There's nothing particularly challenging about making your own pho, you just need to give the beef broth the love it deserves, which means taking your time and not cutting corners. Doing so "[makes] the difference between a pho that sings and one that just sits there," according to Tanis.

So there aren't really any tricks, but there are a few secrets, things that might not be obvious when you taste the finished product, but give a true pho bo its depth. Like using leg bones in your broth to get an extra-rich flavor.**** And lightly charring an onion and some ginger root at the outset. And getting the mix of spices just right.***** And fish sauce--don't forget the fish sauce.

Tanis isn't particularly prescriptive--he encourages his readers to become "pho fanatics" (pho-natics?), if they aren't already, and develop their own "house pho"--but he offers a very handy blueprint, one that's quite a bit more subtle than Nguyen's version (fewer bones, less star anise), but one that's got all the grace of a true homemade pho.

feeling vietnamese 1 fig. d: spring rolls

We took our time, followed all the steps in Tanis's recipe, made some spring rolls to tide us over, and relaxed. Three hours later, our big bowls of steaming homemade pho bo before us, we dug in and let that magical Vietnamese elixir do its work.


all-dressed figs. e & f: straight-up & all-dressed

Pho Bo

the soup:

1 1/2 lbs short ribs
1 1/2 lbs oxtails or beef shank
1 large onion, halved
1 3-inch piece unpeeled ginger, thickly sliced
6 quarts water
1 star anise
1 small piece cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp whole cloves
6 cardamom pods
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
1 lb dried rice noodles
1/2 lb fresh bean sprouts
1 sweet red onion, thinly sliced

toppings fig. g: garnishes

the garnishes:

mint sprigs
cilantro sprigs
basil sprigs
6 scallions, slivered
2 serrano or 6 small Asian chiles, finely slivered
lime wedges

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the short ribs and oxtails and boil for 10 minutes, then drain, rinse the meat, and discard the water. This step rids the meat and bones of impurities and results in a cleaner-tasting broth. It's a step that's common in many Asian cuisines, including Chinese.

Set a large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat, add the onion, cut side down, and ginger, and lightly char for about 10 minutes, until the halves are charred but not quite burnt. Add the short ribs, oxtails, and the 6 quarts of water and bring to a hard boil, then turn down to a simmer. Add the spices. Then add the soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and salt and pepper and let simmer, uncovered. Skim off any rising foam, fat, and debris from time to time.

Check the tenderness of the meat after about an hour. It will probably take an hour and a half for the meat to get really fork-tender, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

When the meat is done, remove it from the pot, take the meat off the bones, and reserve. Put the bones bak in the pot to simmer in the broth for another hour and a half.

When the broth is done, taste it for salt and add more if necessary. Strain it through a fine-mesh strainer. Chop the cooked meat and add it to the broth. At this point, you can either cool and refrigerate the broth for later use, or proceed.

When you're ready to serve the pho, put the rice noodles in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let them sit for about 15 minutes (possibly longer) to soften, then drain.

Heat the soup until it's piping hot. Prepare a large platter of the garnishes. We're especially fond of mint, cilantro, scallions, and lime wedges, but here's your opportunity to customize.

Line up the soup bowls (Tanis recommends "deep, giant Chinatown-style bowls"). Put a handful of noodles in each soup bowl and scatter some bean sprouts on top. Add a few raw onion slices. Ladle the broth and a bit of boiled meat into each bowl. Pass the platter of garnishes and let everyone add their own herbs, scallions, chiles, squeezes of lime, etc., as they see fit.

Oh, yeah: and don't forget the Sriracha.

Serves 4 to 6 generously.

[based very, very closely on David Tanis's "Pho (Vietnamese Beef Soup)" recipe in Heart of the Artichoke]

That pho--and the whole process that went into it--really left an impression on us. So much so, that a few days later, back in Montreal, Michelle and I made it again. The whole thing. Start to finish.

lunchtime fig. h: photo #3

And it was just good as ever. Basic, hearty, and filling, and available in our very own kitchen. Not street food, not diner food, but true homemade comfort food.


* For a truly magnificent account of the ins and outs of eating in Vietnam, check out "Saigon Seductions" @ The Traveler's Lunchbox.

** The Vietnamese food explosion of the last 35 years has been nothing if not phenomenal.

*** If pho hits the spot on "one of those damp, chill spring days in Paris," imagine just how soothing it must be on a bone-cold winter day in Upstate.

**** Meat + bones + marrow = extra-rich flavor.

***** You're basically replicating the contents of this bag,

"chinese special spice" fig. i: "chinese special spice"

but with fresher, better-quality spices (hopefully). We highly recommend getting your fennel, in particular, from our good friends the De Viennes at Épices de Cru.

p.s. Extra-special thanks to S & T (and V too).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


café heinrich hof interior fig. a: picture yourself here

Michelle ended 2010 on a high note. Actually, her whole month of December was pretty stellar. There was her candied fruits class at Dépanneur Le Pick Up. There was her appearance on the CBC's All in a Weekend. And then, on December 31st, one of her desserts--her strawberry verrine from the summer of 2010--led the "best dessert" category on Lesley Chesterman's list of standout dishes for 2010 in the Gazette. Michelle's combination of fresh strawberries, camomile foam, verbena-basil-mint granité, and strawberry sorbet was simply "divine," according to Chesterman (check it out), and, frankly, I'd have to agree. It was one of my favorites of the year, too, but then I'm just a little bit partial.

The new year is still young, but 2011 is already off to a good start. For one thing, this year marks Restaurant Laloux's 25th anniversary. How many fine-dining restaurants here in Montreal can claim that? To celebrate, Laloux will be hosting a series of events all year long, featuring guest chefs and other guest collaborators, theme nights, promotions, etc. Michelle is leading the charge with event #1 and she's asked her good friend Anthony Benda of Café Myriade to team up with her. The concept? A real, old-fashioned afternoon kaffeklatsch (a.k.a., coffee klatch)*, complete with an array of frothy coffee drinks by Herr Benda and a full assortment of traditional Central and Eastern European pastries and petits fours by Michelle. Sachertorte? Check. Strudel? Check. Kugelhopf? Check. Linzer cookies? Check.

Sound good? Thought so.

kugelhopf! fig. b: kugelhopf, aerial view

Kaffeeklatsch #1 takes place at Laloux on February 6, 2011, from 2 p.m. till 5 p.m.

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Restaurant Laloux, 250 ave. des Pins E., 287-9127 (Plateau Mont-Royal)


* Still not clear about the concept? Well, if I had to break it down it would go something like this Coffee + Conversation + Sweets = A Good Time, or, as Michelle puts it, "You provide the gossip, the laughs, the witty repartee, we'll provide the coffee, the sweets, the ambiance."

Saturday, January 08, 2011

In a Golden State 3: Tartine Bread

First, there was Tartine bread. Then, there was Tartine Bread.

fig. a: Tartine Bread

It had only been about eighteen hours since we'd touched down at SFO for our two-week Northern California vacation, but there we were, already back at Tartine Bakery. As you may remember, we'd spent a fair bit of time at Tartine Bakery on a previous tour of Northern California back in 2005. Breakfast, lunch, late-afternoon snacks, dessert, bread, coffee, wine, tea--we'd pretty much tried it all. In fact, we'd left the Bay Area so thoroughly acquainted with the whole Tartine experience, that as we made our way to 18th & Guerrero, it felt like we were going to visit an old friend.

Of course, the Tartine family had grown since the summer of 2005. Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt, Tartine's founders, opened Bar Tartine just a few blocks away from Tartine Bakery not long after our last visit. And we'd heard so many great reports about this latest venture over the years that it was right at the top of our "to do" list. But just as importantly, we wanted to make sure that Tartine Bakery--our original love--was more or less as we'd left it. We wanted to make sure that some things in life stay the same. Or, at least that some things can be depended on.  And as much as we couldn't wait to try their croissants, their morning buns, and their cookies again, what we were most excited about was Tartine's bread--their country and their walnut loaves. Which is why we actually visited Tartine Bakery twice on Day 1 of our trip--once to take a look around and have some sweets, and a second time to pick up a loaf of their country bread. Those fabled Tartine loaves are only available once a day--at around 5:00 p.m.--you either have to be very prompt, or you have to order your loaf ahead of time. We opted for the former strategy--we came back at 5:00 on the dot.

Now, like so many of the best things in life, Tartine's bread doesn't come cheap ($7), but it all makes sense as soon as you're cradling one of their loaves in your arms.  Tartine's country bread is one hefty loaf of bread (two pounds?). More importantly, it's a sight to behold, a veritable work of art.

michelle country fig. b: Michelle country

As you can see, it's perfectly baked, with a deep, dark amber color and a pronounced crust.

What you can't see is a) how good it smelled as we carried it away from the store, still warm from the oven, and b) how ridiculously good it tasted when we got it home and sliced it open. The crumb is mild, moist, and incredibly open-structured; the crust is hearty, caramelized, and bursting with flavor.

Put simply, Tartine's country bread was phenomenal. We had it with cheese, with soups, with sauces. We had it plain and toasted, and we used it to make sandwiches.  We had it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was huge, so it lasted for days. And because it was a true sourdough, it barely staled. I would have happily paid good money for that loaf on Day 3, let alone Day 1. But we didn't have to. We were right there, so we went back again and again.

In case you're not getting the message, we couldn't get enough of Tartine's bread during our stay. We knew Chad Robertson had a bread book slated for release in the fall even before we left for California, and we were already pretty excited, but after eating Tartine's truly memorable sourdough loaves for two weeks, we were gripped with anticipation. We were also gripped with the DTs. Montreal's bread situation has gotten more and more dire over the years--when we got back home, our store-bought loaves paled in comparison. Literally.

Our copy of Tartine Bread finally showed up on our doorstep in early October (none too soon!), and we were immediately impressed. The book is amazingly thorough: it works through the basic method for the basic country loaf in extraordinary detail, provides a number of tantalizing variations on this basic method, then moves on to cover baguettes and enriched breads (including English muffins, brioches, beignets, and croissants), before closing with over 100 pages of recipes involving days-old** bread.

It's also richly illustrated. Robertson's principal collaborator on the project was Eric Wolfinger, a cook/baker/surfer/photographer, and together they'd wisely decided that a proper bread book should be heavily illustrated. How else to teach amateurs what, exactly, to be looking for? How else to teach them to pay attention to how bread behaves?

But just as importantly, the book was inspiring. Weaved into it was a life story, one that involved love, travel, apprenticeship, dedication, collaboration, and surfing (yes, surfing), one that was motivated by a fundamental faith in that fabled "daily bread"--what Robertson calls that "elemental bread that sustained generations."

I was totally taken by the whole thing. I read it through once. I read it through twice. And then I really dug in. And, just as Robertson promised, the results were magical.

country 1 fig. c: country

Right from the start, my loaves showed great oven spring, they had beautiful burnished crusts, and they were amazingly tasty, characterized by a surprisingly sweet (not sour and tangy), rounded wheat flavor. With a bit of practice, they started to look almost professional.

whole-wheat bread fig. d: whole-wheat

How was I getting such satisfying results so quickly? Well, Tartine Bread isn't just a thorough book on baking bread--it's also been specially designed for the home baker, so that even novices can get professional results from a conventional oven. If you've tried Jim Lahey's now legendary no-knead baking method, aspects of Robertson's approach should be very familiar.

dutch oven & co. fig. e: dutch oven & co.

Like Lahey, Robertson employs the use of a Dutch oven in order to create the intensely hot and humid environment necessary to achieve a proper crust. Like Lahey, Robertson's dough is a much moister dough than you might be used to. It features an unusually high hydration level (75% in baker's percentages). This moistness is what makes Robertson's dough suitable for a no-knead method,* but it's also one of the reasons his recipe results in such a wonderfully tender crumb, not to mention a loaf with such staying power.

Tartine Bread was also rigorously tested for the home baker. Robertson assembled a team of test bakers to try out his Basic Country Bread recipe--the cornerstone of his method--then created a private blog so that notes could be circulated and data could be accumulated. The results were extraordinary:  "Many testers made exceptional bread, judged by professional standards--it was virtually indistinguishable from our own Tartine bread..." When it came time to assemble his book, Robertson realized that this test process held important lessons, and that profiling a few of his test bakers might provide his readers with the added encouragement they might need to roll up their sleeves and start making real bread at home.

tartine bread pix fig. f: Tartine bread pix

Finally, Tartine Bread isn't just richly illustrated, it's exhaustively photographed. Robertson worked closely with Eric Wolfinger on this book, and he took full advantage of his collaborator's skills as a photographer. There are a number of other excellent bread books out there that take pains to illustrate the processes of making bread in detail. Books like Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes and Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible include some photographs, but rely mostly on line drawings. Jim Lahey's My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method uses a lot of photographs, and it recognizes photography's ability to document step-by-step instructions in a way that goes beyond what line drawings can accomplish, but its use of photographs is timid compared to Tartine Bread.

While Lahey's photo-essay "The Basic No-Knead Bread Recipe in Pictures" is composed of 24 photographs, Robertson's instructions for his Basic Country Bread includes nearly 70 photographs, not including those that illustrate "Making a Starter." The difference here isn't only one of quantity. The seriality and precision of Wolfinger's photographs provide an invaluable reference when you're first getting used to the Tartine method. Together with the thoroughness of text (which is heavy on visual cues), they provide you with all the guidance you need to make successful loaves right from the start.

Results have been so good, and the experience of making real, honest-to-goodness sourdough at home has been so rewarding, that I've become a little obsessed. I haven't actually made that many of Robertson's bread recipes, to tell you the truth, but those I have made, I've made a lot of. So in addition to many, many loaves of the Basic Country Bread, I've made a bunch of walnut loaves, some polenta bread (with pumpkin seeds and rosemary!), some olive bread (with walnuts, lemon zest, and herbes de Provence!), and a few pizzas. Yeah, that's right, pizzas.***

There have been other signs of obsession, as well. Not only did I go out and purchase a 20 kg bag of white flour, not only did I photograph it (?),

oak 20 kg fig. g: 20 kg Oak

but I worked through that bag in about a month. I've also been taking bread photos--again, a lot of them. Whole loaves, like the photos above. Half loaves and cut loaves.

country 2 fig. h: still life 1


walnut bread fig. i: still life 2

rorschach test fig. j: rorschach test

And a whole bunch of shots that highlight the bread's open structure.***

open structure 1
open structure 2 figs. k & l: open structure 1 & 2

No kidding. Baking sourdough does crazy things to you.

Just a few more notes:

Not only does Robertson insist that you don't need a professional bread baking oven to make professional quality bread, but he also insists that the flour you use isn't nearly as important as the process. This isn't to say that flour doesn't matter, or that all flours are created equal. Tests proved that the flour Robertson gets milled specially for Tartine resulted in the best loaves with the finest flavors. That said, combining conventional, supermarket-bought all-purpose flour with the Tartine method resulted in loaves that were professional quality and superior to the overwhelming majority of store-bought loaves. So there.

Robertson's method for making true sourdough bread is remarkably simple, but it still requires some investment. You're going to need some basic equipment, like a proper scale, a bench knife, a Dutch oven, etc., and you're going to need to be dedicated to reading through the process carefully, and being exact when it comes to following it. You also need to realize that while Robertson's method is somewhat less labor-intensive than other methods, it is time-intensive. The real secret to Robertson's bread has to do with letting the sourdough work its magic slowly and thoroughly. As Robertson puts it: "The baker's skill in managing fermentation, not the type of oven used, is what makes good bread. This fact makes Tartine Bread possible." So it does take a fair bit of time to get from feeding your starter to taking your finished loaf out of the oven, but the nature of the Tartine method is such that it's feasible to work sourdough bread baking into a busy schedule (although wouldn't you rather take your time, do it right, and enjoy the process?), and the book provides helpful strategies for doing so.

And, lastly, Tartine Bread isn't without its glitches (it is the first printing, after all)*****, but it's a remarkably rigorous book, and it's filled with pure inspiration from start to finish (from its Basic Country Bread, to its recipes for soups, salads, sandwiches, sides, and desserts), and I predict the book's impact on the state of baking in North America will be enormous. There was a reason Tartine Bread topped our list of cookbooks for 2010. There were a lot of great cookbooks that were released over the course of the year, but no other book held the potential to really shake things up that Tartine Bread does.

Long live "elemental bread"!

Tartine Bakery & Cafe, 600 Guerrero St., San Francisco, CA, (415) 487-2600


p.s. Still need more convincing? For even more about Chad Robertson, Tartine Bakery, Tartine's Basic Country Bread, the test bakers, etc., check out Tartine's bread video.

* Instead of conventional kneading, his method relies on gently folding the dough in a bucket, a modern take on the tradition of trough kneading.

** Again, Tartine's loaves are so well made that they stale very slowly. They literally aren't stale enough on Day 2 to use in a recipe that calls for "day-old bread," hence, "days-old."

*** Robertson throws down on the topic of pizza, addressing some of the orthodoxies that have accompanied the pizza revolution of the last decade, and, in many ways, I think his common-sense approach is right on the money. He writes, "Our current pizza revival, with all the attitude, manifestos, and "secrets" (the flour! the water! the oven!), is amusing. Just start with good bread dough and a very hot baking stone, and you will end up with a great pizza." He's right, too. Get a handle on his Basic Country Bread recipe, and making amazing pizza at home is a snap. Seriously.

**** I, like so many others, was first inspired to find real French pain au levain after reading a profile of the late Lionel Poilâne in the pages of Smithsonian Magazine back in 1995 (you can find the abstract to the article here). I say "find," because for some reason, it never really occurred to me that I could make it at home. At least, not with a proper crust. Anyway, that article was a revelation, and it set me on a path to locate such bread so that I could taste what Poilâne was describing, but, more than anything, what I remember about the article was a photograph of a slice of his bread being held up to the light to show off its open structure.

***** For instance, the Whole-wheat Bread recipe (which is in process as I write) lists 20 grams of salt, but is unclear on when to add it. Whereas the Basic Country Bread recipe adds the salt (and a bit more water) to the dough after an initial resting period, the Whole-wheat Bread recipe, which requires more water because whole-wheat flour has a higher absorbency than white flour, adds all the water at once, and never mentions when to add the salt. Like many of the other recipes in the book, the Whole-wheat Bread recipe is a variation on the Basic Country Bread, and after a few different steps early on, it advises readers to "[follow] steps 5 through 9" of the Basic Country Bread recipe. Unfortunately, step 4 of the Basic Country Bread recipe is the one where the salt is added. Anyway, if you've worked through the Tartine method enough times, you figure it out.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Goodbye to all that (2010 edition)


Charlie Christian, Solo Flight: The Genius of Charlie Christian (CBS)

Charlie Poole, The Legend of Charlie Poole (County)

Kurt Vile, Childish Prodigy and Square Shells EP (Matador)

Michael Hurley, Blue Hills (Mississippi)

Mike Hurley, First Songs (Smithsonian/Folkways)

John Lee Hooker, Endless Boogie (ABC)

Black Mountain, Wilderness Heart (Jagjaguwar)

Metal Mountains, "Structures in the Sun" (Amish)

Cold Cave, Love Comes Close (Matador)

Dead Meadow, Old Growth (Matador)

Vashti Bunyan, Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind: Singles and Demos, 1964-1967 (DiCristina)

Ratatat, LP4 (XL)

Arcade Fire, "The Suburbs" (Merge)

The Six and Seven-Eighths String Band of New Orleans, s/t (Folkways)

The Dough Rollers, M.H. Merchant Stone House, Cornwallville, NY, June 2010

Joanna 1

Joanna Newsom, Have One on Me (Drag City)

Pylon, Chomp More (DFA)

Destroyer, "Archer on the Beach/Grief Point" 12" (feat. Tim Hecker and Loscil) (Merge Records)

Wolf Parade, Expo 86 (SubPop)

Townes Van Zandt, In the Beginning (Compadre) & s/t (Fat Possum)

Steve Earle, Townes (New West)

Rosanne Cash, "Girl From the North Country" (Manhattan)

Harlem, Hippies (Matador)

Fairport Convention, s/t (Polydor) and Unhalfbricking (Four Men with Beards)

Wendy René, "After Laughter" (Stax)

Big Star, "Motel Blues (Demo)," Keep An Eye on the Sky (Rhino)

Fleetwood Mac, Future Games (Reprise)

The Bee Gees, First (Atco)

Status Quo, "(April) Spring, Summer, and Wednesdays" (Pye)

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Kollaps Tradixionales (Constellation)

The Clean, "Changing Your Head," Unknown Country (Flying Nun)

Grinderman, Grinderman 2 (Anti)

V/A, Casual Victim Pile: Austin 2010 (Matador)

Ella Fitzgerald, Savoy Recordings, 1936-1937 (Savoy/ASV Living Era)

Captain Beefheart* & His Magic Band, Safe as Milk (Buddha) and sur le sable, Cannes, '68


AEB cookbook of the year: Chad Robertson, Tartine Bread

Kermit Lynch, Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer's Tour of France and Inspiring Thirst: Vintage Selections From the Kermit Lynch Wine Brochure

Everyday Harumi: Simple Japanese Food for Family and Friends

Michelle and Philip Wojtowicz and Michael Gilson with Catherine Price, The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook: A Year in the Life of a Restaurant

W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me

George Eliot, Silas Marner

James Beard, American Cookery

Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Thomas Frank, The Wrecking Crew

Suzanne Goin with Teri Gelber, Sunday Suppers at Lucques

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night

Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd

René Redzepi, Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine

Edward Behr, "The State of Pork: Iowa, Pigs, Corn, and Pasture," The Art of Eating (Spring 2010, no. 84)

Popular Plates BBQ: Across the Country with Roadfood's Jane & Michael Stern

David Pasternack and Ed Levine, The Young Man and the Sea: Recipes and Crispy Fish Tales From Esca

Moving Images

Errol Morris' First Person: The Complete Series

Inside Job, dir. Ferguson

Incendies, dir. Villeneuve

Ace in the Hole, dir. Wilder

Spartacus, dir. Kubrick

Exit Through the Gift Shop, dir. Banksy

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, dir. Capra

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, dir. Ford

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, dir. Powell

The Housemaid

The Housemaid, dir. Kim Ki-Young

30 Rock

The Ghost Writer, dir. Polanski

The African Queen, dir. Huston

A Serious Man, dir. Coen

K Street


Thieves' Highway, dir. Dassin

The White Ribbon, dir. Haneke

The Fighter, dir. Russell

The Office (U.S.)

Food and Drink

Kazu 3

AEB Montreal restaurant of the year: Kazu

AEB non-Montreal restaurant of the year: Flour + Water (San Francisco)

AEB pâtisserie of the year: Pâtisserie Rhubarbe, Mtl

AEB sandwicherie of the year: Saltie, NYC

eating your way across New York City

eating your way across Los Angeles

eating your way across Northern California

Le Comptoir, Montreal

100 Almond Curry


Smith Island cake

AEB burgers

Lièvre à la royale + smoked suckling pig dinner for two + Gerard Schueller Riesling Bildstoecklé, 2007, Joe Beef

Fleisher's pork shoulders


Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants, Berkeley, CA

tboc 3

Tomales Bay Oyster Company

baking Tartine bread at home

Les 400 Coups, Montreal

Bandol/Alsace night with friends



Stinson Beach, CA

Fort Tilden, NY

Rehoboth Beach, DE

Big Sur, CA

swimming on two coasts in two weeks

Les Étoffes, 5253 St-Laurent, Montreal

you light up my life

Machine Age lamps

This American Life

La Founderie, 6596 St-Laurent, Montreal

Essex County, NY

Prelinger Library, SF

learning to play bridge

New York High Line

Jericho Center, VT, Jericho, VT, and "Snowflake" Bentley

fall bazaars


Goodbye 2010, hello 2011!


Want to check out earlier lists of faves? Here are the links: