August 24th, 2009 · 31 Comments


a sampling of some fresh picked wine berries, huckleberries and wild blackberries – a gift from my friend jack on my birthday last month

it’s not that i’m not cooking. because i am. there are gatherings of friends and just plain hungriness resulting in well, dinner. i even sometimes whip out the nikon and snap a few lame shots but these days not so much. and i’m not sure what’s come over me. but just the thought of posting on ceF was beginning to feel like ‘work’ and god only knows we wouldn’t want that to happen to a nice woman like me… after all, my lack of ambition is my greatest luxury. (i stole that line from my friend emily and have been using it ad nauseum but only because it is SO TRUE.)

but we’ve been to chicago and then i went to cleveland. dallas is this week and seattle comes next. i’m doing the 4 day cooking gig again come the first of october and then i’m off to nyc…  and all i want is to go back to italy. is that asking so much? IS IT? but honestly, i’m not complaining. it’s a charmed life. the past week or so has pretty much revolved around trips to the park in much appreciated cooler than normal temps, so after a 9 week hiatus i’m back on the bike and fighting the fat (albeit somewhat of a losing battle).

but mostly – if i could just say, i’m so deeply grateful for this amazing life that i get to live that i could cry. for those of you that read the sunday ny times magazine section yesterday, we are the fortunate ones

ok – back to food…

presenting… a summer dinner. grilled corn with flaky maldon salt and a squeeze of lime. grilled tomatoes with thyme and a farro salad with a slightly overcooked poached egg on top. i’ve got just a vague recollection of what was in the farro salad but i’m thinking it was pequillo peppers and goat cheese – and something else but remembering is difficult…

best beans ever. rancho gordo cannellini’s with grape tomatoes, basil, thyme, lemon zest and juice, some potlikker, finely minced anchovy, a very good olive oil, salt and pepper. i think that was it but i’ve no idea because i can’t recall a damn thing.

lamb meatballs with a cherry sauce over whole wheat couscous finished with mint leaves. a lot of ingredients went into that sauce until it was nicely balanced and pretty damn impressive tasting. but i’m not sure exactly what i did – because of my memory…

all cary ever really wants for his birthday are two (2) angel food cakes with his grandmother’s ‘7 minute boiled icing’. the icing becomes slightly hard on the outside and then yields to a slightly marshmallow like goo on the inside. ruhlman’s angel food cake from his bestseller ‘ratio‘, takes this cake to where it needs to go – from spongy and boring to totally delicious. in my opinion it’s all in the weighing of the flour and then using both lemon juice and vanilla. for your viewing pleasure i give you 4 pictures as they were all so awful i just couldn’t choose… this is the whitest cake in america and despite the absence of any fats and the overabundance of sugar, somehow it just works.

my icing technique is legendary. obviously.

moving on…

i phone pics before i bought the 3Gs. but this is the wonderful donnie madia pictured at his flagship restaurant blackbird. for my money, he and eduard seitan are the best restaurateurs in chicago with blackbird, avec, the publican and the newest addition, a tacqueria opening very soon. donnie’s attention to every detail is second to none with a modern sensibility that slays me, as i am highly susceptible to such things. with executive chef and partner paul kahan at the helm of the kitchen, it continues to be a recipe for greatness. we were in chicago for only 4 nights and ate at avec, then publican and then blackbird – finishing up with an anniversary dinner at tru, a gift from my mother. and for a whopping $425 that included only one glass of wine, it paled in comparison by such a long shot that i can’t even begin to explain the differences in the food except to say that in the end, blackbird kicked tru’s ass – big time. tru is supremely elegant and the room is lovely. it’s quiet and serious and the servers are ON IT. but dinner at blackbird was once again phenomenal. oh AND best negroni ever – hands down.

so, a few things… and please again – forgive the poor photo quality.

salad of endives with crispy potatoes, basil, dijon, pancetta and poached egg = sheer perfection. not kidding. this salad was incredible in every way.

chilled cuttlefish noodles with green garlic, red onion jam, trout caviar, nasturtiums and buttermilk = amazingness. i loved it.

wood-grilled california sturgeon with english peas, braised peanuts, crispy bacon and bourbon caramel = seriously impressive.

cary had the organic pork belly and crispy sweet shrimp with chinese broccoli, preserved green tomato and black pepper. he started with the pistachio gazpacho with ahi, watermelon confit, sea beans and cocoa. both were smashing.

this was my idea. sorry.

desserts were wonderful. donnie brought us three and each one was greatness. ricotta fritters with compari, rhubarb and pine nut ice cream, pistachio panna cotta with a raspberry consommé and brown butter ice cream and a torn black sesame cake with pineapple that looked a little something like this that was  – out. of. this. world…

avec, a bit more down to earth, is my favorite restaurant in all the land. and at the publican, albeit a bit on the loud side, we had an abundance of seriously excellent food. beer, oysters, fish and pork. just splendid.

chicago is such an extraordinary food town… thank you donnie.

south west of chicago. mies van der rohe’s masterpiece – the farnsworth house. i wept in its presence. it is genius if not impractical.

no tinkering with picassa was going to help this photo taken through the door of my oven. it was shredded zucchini and yellow squash with minced garlic, chiles and ricotta. i stole the idea from city house restaurant here in nashville. their’s was far better and i’m going to work on this because it was frustrating that i couldn’t replicate it. i need to call chef tandy wilson and ask for help. plus my chiles were so strong that they almost hurt. so, fail, although not in an epic way…

the project – buy 20 lbs of balaton cherries from and use 10 to make some cherry bourbon hooch. i’ll get back to you in 6 weeks on how it turns out and if you’re on the short list, it’s what’s for christmas, so no surprises here. the other 10 lbs. became a salted cherry vanilla bean balsamic compote.

oh, and jack’s arm after blackberry picking. the things friends do for friends…


Tags: baking · beans · corn · dessert · eggs · farro · fruit · lamb · pizza · salad · tomatoes · travel

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