One day I had an empty calendar, bare feet, a great suntan and dirt clogging my fingernails, and the next day my phone was ringing off the hook and I was all booked up. Five events in one week meant my catering business was officially rocking and I retreated inside for many, many hours in the kitchen. I have been fortunate to get a lot of referrals from nice people who like me, and even more fortunate to book a lot of different kinds of events - variety is truly the spice of life. I swung from a private school garden party to a catalog photo shoot to a dinner at a crazy beautiful Belvedere home.Read More
We inherited a rather fantastic apple tree on our property in Woodacre. At some point in time it was grafted with four different types of apples, so that each section of the tree shows a distinct personality. I have no clue what the varieties are, but one wears red stripes like a Gala, another is honeyed and soft, and a third crunchy and bright...a Gravenstein? When this tree gives, she gives. Late summer found me struggling to find creative ways to preserve the bounty. Jar upon jar of applesauce line the shelves next to snappy, cinnamon laced apple chips from the dehydrator. The most alluring transformation, however, happened in a big, sticky pot of apple butter.Read More
One of my closest friends in college was a 6'5" red headed Frenchman named Bruce. He was at one point a member of an organization called Clowns without Borders, and later went on to work for the World Bank. He was an interesting character to say the least. Between existential philosophy, economics classes and theater, Bruce spent his time in the kitchen of my dorm house, crying. These were not tears of sadness or tears of joy, they were straight up tears of FIRE!Read More
It was going to be a big leap - until then I had only ever worked under someone as sous chef extraordinaire, dutifully following direction, maintaining the chef's vision and fielding questions from the rest of the cooks. And then, two years ago, I had the opportunity, thanks to the faith of Devon & Nathan Yanko, to lead my own kitchen. I am so happy I took that leap.Read More
And then one day it became clear - pasta is the ultimate camp food. I was 18 and living in Florence for the summer while taking a film making program through NYU. At that moment however school was a distant thought as I struggled to fit in among the shaggy, bohemian young Italians camped riverside at a music festival outside of town. When they weren't smoking hash the cool kids were getting busy with huge pots of water, boiling and straining pasta. My American mind was reeling - pasta and camping? I was used to hot dogs, canned beans, maybe a quesadilla. That day the world shifted a little bit. Pasta stepped into the great outdoors.Read More
A kitchen is only as strong as its dishwasher. Not the machine (though hopefully that's in good working order), but the person who daily performs the wet, thankless, finger pruning task of washing every dish and scrubbing every pot in the place. I am thankful to previous chefs who taught me to treat them well, sneak over little treats (salmon collar snacks!) and show respect to the guy who often doesn't get a whole lot of it. This translates to how I feel about the entire kitchen staff: they are the rock and the wheels of a restaurant. And most of them are immigrants, some legal some not.Read More
There is a journey to my over-involved and somewhat obsessive thought process in the dinner menu planning department: what starts on the foggy coast of Brittany, travels over the Moroccan desert, and dives through every wormhole in my brain, invariably leads me to tacos. It is an undisputed fact that I have never encountered a human who did not like tacos. Therefore, as the host, I'm pretty much setting myself up for total success by throwing a big, fat taco party.Read More
Sometimes I feel like my mind is a sieve. I meet new neighbors, turn around and instantly forget their names. I visit a town and couldn't tell you which way was north, nevermind which direction we came from. But god damn and thank my lucky stars if I didn't hold on tight to the single best piece of advice uttered to me by anyone, anywhere, ever.Read More
Not to be a bore but we are mid-way through summer, pretty much as of today. I know some folks aren't as big of fans of laborious time sucking home projects as I am, but making jam is so gratifying. I usually make up a few smaller jars to give away to visiting friends, and people are STOKED. That's worth it in and of itself.Read More
Happy Bastille Day! While I am as much French as I am American, I rarely celebrate that fact for no good reason. But today, today my fridge is packed with cheese and coq au vin, Nick is baking baguettes for dinner and we hung out the the old red white and blue (vertical) striped flag. Why the hell not?
My dad Claude, a French Tunisian, is the first to deplore the traits of the Frenchman. Lazy, long vacation takers, snobs, and on and on. He calls Italians nos frères qui rit, our brothers who laugh, in another jab at the somber French. I will admit that living there as a 20 year old American was very, very hard. I wanted desperately to be French, to embody the aloof coolness that I felt all around me. I lived in St-Germain-des-Pres, an impossibly chic neighorhood, bought fancy clothes, and tried to pass myself off as one of them.Read More
This is what Atlanta looks like from the inside of a convention center. Last week was the biggest bakery tradeshow of the year, IDDBA. Nick brings me along to assist - I do the shopping and make up whatever weird toppings I fancy for his breads and focaccia. This year was all about chocolate almond butter on Power Bread and aged cheddar grilled cheeses with 100% sprouted whole wheat bread. We make a good team, and considering most of what's going on at tradeshows is highly processed low quality crap, the Central Milling booth is pretty popular.Read More
I need not sing to you the praises of the pea. Even frozen and trapped in little white bags from the freezer section they are damn good. But fresh peas are magic. They are also rare, fleeting, and require a good deal of labor to get the goods out. It's best to start the shucking when there is at least one person sitting around your living room, reading a book, sipping a cocktail or picking their fingernails. Dump the pods out on the counter, moan a little, and see what they do. Nine out of ten jump in and rock it out with you. So buy a bag and get into it.Read More
There were many afternoons after rolling out the pasta for that evening's service when I felt like the worst cook in the world. I couldn't get it. It was too dry, too wet, it ripped when I was in the final roll, you name it, I messed it up. I was so scarred that I didn't make a single attempt at fresh pasta for two years. Thankfully I discovered whole egg pasta dough and the world opened up again. The best part about doing whole egg pasta dough (as opposed to just using the yolks), is it is forgiving. Mixing, kneading, and rolling are all infinitely easier when compared to the finicky yolk/00 pasta dough David had me doing at Mill Valley Beerworks.Read More
My recent glut of free time (which is what happens when you leave a restaurant position) has left me with a lot of cooking fire and nowhere to put it. So I've turned all Susie Homemaker and started making everything from scratch at the house. Things I did at the restaurant - pasta, nut butter, jam - but never did at home because it was too daunting a task after a day of service. It it all fair game now; once you are used to prepping for 10 hours straight five days a week, a four hour project at home seems like fun. Which is when I figured out why being a home chef, while very relaxing and personal, can at times be harder than being a restaurant chef - you have to wash your own dishes! Man I took Pedro, Jorge and Ronnie for granted. No, I didn't. Those guys rock and have the most important job in the whole place.Read More
We spent an inspiring long weekend in Yosemite, which left our necks sore from all the craning at the high granite walls and our minds re-inspired. The kind of inspiration where favorite rap songs jump into your head and you think, yeah, I could have my own empire just like Biggie. Or maybe just my own blog. So here goes.