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

31 responses so far ↓

  • 1 maggie (p&c) // Aug 24, 2009 at 6:12 am

    oh, fabulous stuff. The pizza! The meatballs! A good life indeed.

    Am headed to Italy (Rome only, since I only have a week) shortly—would love any recommendations you have!

  • 2 heidirobb // Aug 24, 2009 at 6:21 am

    I want in on the City House pizza pointers.

    Hope I’m on the hooch list.

  • 3 Emily Walters // Aug 24, 2009 at 6:54 am

    Wow, this post and the pictures were a feast for the eyes. Some beautiful summer food and I loved the pictures from your Chicago/Cleveland summer exploits.

  • 4 Emily Walters // Aug 24, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Ok so no Cleveland pics, how am I supposed to keep up with all your comings and goings?

    The empty bourbon bottles are making me SO THIRSTY!

  • 5 Amy at Minimally Invasive // Aug 24, 2009 at 7:07 am

    Quite a wrap-up! I’m green through-and-through with envy over the Farnsworth House; it’s a dream of mine to do a Blue Highways sort of thing with iconic architecture as the goal. Much easier than renovating my own house, after all.

    Mind if I just copy and paste your entire first paragraph to my next post, whenever I can be bothered to put it up? I explained my disappearance yesterday in almost exactly the same way: It’s just one more project to work on and I have more than enough of them during the week. :)

  • 6 Kristie // Aug 24, 2009 at 7:25 am

    I’ve been HIGHLY considering Avec as a possibility for dinner while we’re in Chitown, but my husband found my hand-drawn graph of food scheduling, and insists that I cannot schedule every single meal while we’re there. He then smiled, because he knows I’m going to ignore him. Avec, here we come!

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  • 8 Jack // Aug 24, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Wow this was a great post and I’m totally flattered that my berries and tortured arm were a part of it. You Claudia are my food hero in so many ways. Despite many uncertainties, this has been a summer of exceptional food and time spent enjoying has served as a foil for the less palatable. Whether it’s eaten out, or in your kitchen, food has vivacità. Here’s to many more birthdays, berries and blog posts. Thanks for sharing.

  • 9 maybelles mom // Aug 24, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Making your own hooch? Really taking this Southern Belle thing to heart, huh. I love that pizza thing–we have zucchini galore and I might steal it.

  • 10 Melissa // Aug 24, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    I can’t get past the picture of the beans, if only because I know just what that might taste like, having made numerous salads with those myself. So freaking good.

    I really do want to know what you think of Dallas. And you have to let me know where you eat!

  • 11 The Italian Dish // Aug 24, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Claudia: Nice to have you back. You’ve been busy! I love Chicago, too – my oldest two sons are now both in college there and so we plan to visit even more this year. I’ve had Avec on my list and now we will definitely go.

    I know exactly what you mean about us being the lucky ones – I read that piece yesterday in the NY Times and all the other related articles about women in the world and it made me so damn mad. We are so fortunate.

    I can’t believe you are making that cherry hooch! Keep us posted.

  • 12 rachel // Aug 24, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    my lack of ambition is my greatest luxury – brilliant I just wrote that on the board above my desk.
    Italy…Italy…..yes you need to come to Italy..NY is not bad though.
    I’m all about farro salad at present – yours looks nice as does beany one.

  • 13 democommie // Aug 24, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Okay, I’m throwing away the can opener!

  • 14 lo // Aug 24, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    OK — #1, all of that looks inspired. Where’s the blah in those beans? or the cherry sauced meatballs? We should all be so lucky.

    Speaking of lucky, how does one get on your Krimmus list anyhew? :)

  • 15 Lauren // Aug 24, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    man, i was drooling over my keyboard until i got to the funky arm pic. kinda ruined the feeling. love the pic of cary drinking out of a bowl in public. all i can say is, feed me.

  • 16 Scott // Aug 24, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    You sure covered a lot of territory without leaving the mid-section of the country. Food, friends, architecture, gratitude, social responsibility, Santa Hooch-I mean- Claus. You just reminded me about sturgeon – I really want some – could you make some, pullllleeeeeaaassseee????? Along with other sturgeon products? What noble creatures.
    Not that you were going to send me any of your hooch, but I think you should send Emily my portion, just because.
    The beans where great, not that it’s a surprise.

  • 17 Maggie // Aug 25, 2009 at 6:19 am

    I want that hooch. Post recipe please – seems easy but I’d like YOUR approach. :)

  • 18 goodfoodmatters // Aug 25, 2009 at 8:22 am

    it’s true, claudia, with all of this within our reach, we all lead charmed lives–I’m grateful for it everyday I can be mindful of it.

    you’ve more than made up for your blogging absence here! that endive salad/crispy potatoes/poached egg looks wondrous–got me thinking…wanting…

  • 19 Samantha // Aug 25, 2009 at 9:11 am

    I can taste those cannellini beans as I am an anchovy lover, And hey, for that pizza, maybe if you cooked the zucchini and kind of spread it that way first?

  • 20 Erin in England, across the pond // Aug 25, 2009 at 9:17 am

    I would love to go to Blackbird in Chicago if only to eat that salad.

  • 21 SusanO // Aug 25, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Blackbird was incredible … can’t wait to go back… Being from NYC and with a group from NYC we all walked into the restaurant wearing black … The first thing that happened when we sat down was … they gave us all black napkins! How wonderful is that?

  • 22 Rachel (S[d]OC) // Aug 26, 2009 at 10:30 am

    After reading your blog, seeing your great photos, and your varied FB status updates, I have to say I don’t blame you if sitting down and blogging about what you cook seems a little mundane. You are a blessed and lucky woman indeed. Enjoy it! I do love your farro and egg dish.

    So that’s what you’re doing with all of those cherries! What can I do to get on the short list? 😉

  • 23 Brooke // Aug 26, 2009 at 11:54 am

    You’re coming to Seattle?!?! When?

  • 24 Tracy W. // Aug 26, 2009 at 11:55 am

    poor Jack! I hope he used neosporin!!!

    I also LOVE the way those beans sound. anchovy’s as a seasoning are underused and overfeared. and the meatballs sounded awesome.

  • 25 Pizza lover/lurker // Aug 26, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Please report back when you get that pizza down pat. Sounds like something I’d really love.

  • 26 Vince G. // Aug 27, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Love the post. Fun read. I want homemade pizza!

  • 27 CC // Aug 27, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Love that title!

  • 28 molly // Aug 27, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Oh those arms! That’s why I always wear long sleeves – no matter the heat – when I go berry picking! It hurts!

    Love the lamb meatballs with onion and cherry sauce – mouth watering right about…. now.

  • 29 Meg // Aug 27, 2009 at 11:20 am

    My arms looked like that last week.

    I hear you on the lack of blogging motivation – half the time this summer, I haven’t even thought of taking a picture of the food until, oh… about two days later. Also, I had about the exact same reaction as Brooke – !? you’re coming to Seattle?! When?

  • 30 linda // Aug 28, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Two words on the weight issue: Weight Watchers. I own over 200 cookbooks, cook and bake like mad, eat out all the time and I have maintained my weight loss for two years plus and it doesn’t decrease my love or enjoyment of food at all. And I’m Italian, for whatever that’s worth in the equation.

  • 31 George // Apr 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Two words on the weight issue: Weight Watchers. I own over 200 cookbooks, cook and bake like mad, eat out all the time and I have maintained my weight loss for two years plus and it doesn’t decrease my love or enjoyment of food at all. And I’m Italian, for whatever that’s worth in the equation.

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