"Should a cook squander anything, ever?" Thomas Keller
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
I've stared at this blank page for weeks and no where in my thoughts is any beginning or really any cohesive track to attempt to run along. I was not yet certain what I wanted to say. All words came out seeming like a book report or Cheech and Chong's "how I spent my summer vacation" bit. So the irony is that I figure I'll write about how I don't know what to write about.
I literally ate or thought about eating nonstop for 5 days in NYC. It's out of my norm. I work around food all day but rarely go near it for my own sustenance. Maybe past midnight, I'll get the urge to graze the finely tilled pastures of my deli drawer or the botanical garden of wonder which is my freezer of assorted Manhattan bagels. But I did eat there, a lot. I think I freaked out my mother-in-law and sister a bit by my food obsession. I guess you would have to live with me, or work with me to see that my days are not filled with consumption until all lights go out and silence or background murmurs of my choosing fill the world.
But on those 5 days, I quested to eat until I could eat no more. There is a canvas painted in the recesses of my mind that has still only sploches of color. In New York, I can help fill it in as well as introduce colors I never saw before. I guess I was waiting to see what the picture had morphed into until I was ready to talk about it.
It still makes no sense. I came back from NYC and became obsessed with root vegg. Turnips, rutabega, celery root, parsnips. Guess I picked up some seasonality or the shift in ingredients subconsciously. Or maybe it was just the cold that turned the keeper in my belly to light a fire on those winter vegetables. The more I think about it, maybe it was the cold.....maybe Marc Forgione.
His place did something to me. Waxman too. Jonathan Waxman's Barbuto made me laugh. We had sunday brunch. It was unflinchingly and unapologetically simple. Mismatched tables and chairs, painted yellow brick, and in my mind's eye, a kitchen resembling a larger extension of the one in Waxman's own home. The brunch was rustic. The pizza of pancetta, Romano, and cracked eggs beautiful. The roasted chicken exactly that. Half a Jurassic sized bird with salsa verde. I was so full by sunday, I barely got through the pizza but I tasted all I needed to with the help of a uniquely inspired bloody mary. I have to go back for dinner.....I have to meet the man.
Forgione was a new level for me. A chalkboard out front congratulating the man for becoming the new iron chef. Windows boasting warmth through subtle candle light. Rooms of turn of the century wooden beams, a shelf of treasured relics, and seemingly floating candles everywhere. His food was unabashed in it's straightforward simplicity through playful twists and underlying complexity. His take on a Bahn Mi first confused, then surprised, then embarrassed, then made me jealous to the point of hating the man. A piece of snapper sauteed against a thin slice of baguette over a pumpkin broth. It was bland. The crisp baguette seared to the fish was brilliant. It was not until I got into the dish that I found the Thai sausage and pickled vegg. underneath. They added all i could have asked for and then some. The server heard my initial remark "bland broth," and came back to check in. I discounted my stupidity and as our sever walked away, I mumbled to becca how much I hated this man for creating something so good before I thought of it first .
I went for one last walk the night before we left New York. I wasn't hungry but I went out anyways. It was almost 2am. I wrote some words here before that last walk. I still sense the pavement, the hum, the sound, and feel of the city. I hope to go back soon. I hope that you have a place that gives you as much joy and intrigue and learning as I find in the big city. And I hope that everyone who reads this gets to taste a real bagel. They are truly an embrace of food majesty. Lastly, I asked my sister to bring me a 2 liter of NYC tap water to cook with and drink along with an arsenal of bagels. Thanks Emily, you made my Christmas!!
There's more but later. Until then, be good to each other...