Journal entries from May 2010

Oil Spill

End of the world as we know it? I think so. This spill feels absolutely apocalyptic, an awful event that will impact the earth for as long as it continues to revolve around the sun. For thousands of years we have been asking the oceans to absorb our pollution, and they have patiently accepted our garbage, our carbon dioxide, our noxious poisons. We have trawled their floors, destroyed their coral reefs, plundered their treasure with an appetite that is both greedy and rapacious. But this time we have gone too far.

As people wander around muttering about destroying the gulf, and the poor fishermen, shrimpers and oystermen whose livelihoods have been destroyed I want to jump up and down with rage and frustration. What is happening to the gulf is awful - but this catastrophe will not be contained. No matter where you live, it is coming to a seashore near you. The currents that race around the world will be speeding not only the oil but the dispersants into ever-widening circles. The plants and fish will be the earliest victims, but they will soon be followed by everything that eats them. The scope of this is too big to be imagined.

But we must try. The spill can't be fixed - but we can. It is time for us to end the way we have been living in this world. It is not only our appetite for oil that needs to change, but our belief that we are the masters of the planet, and it is ours to do what we will with it. If we cannot learn this now, I think there truly is no hope.


Chocolate Cake

It's a month away, but we're having a pig roast for Michael's birthday, and i've been thinking about what kind of cake to bake. As if reading my mind, Twitter provided an answer. Somebody said that they'd found the perfect recipe - and it was mine. It's a cake I developed when I was living in Berkeley, working at the Swallow, and baking wedding cakes on the side. And it's the one I baked for Michael's birthday the first year that I knew him, the one in Comfort Me With Apples. And so here, courtesy of Serious Eats, is what I'll be baking again - all these years later.

Big Chocolate Cake

Serves 20-25. Adapted from Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl. This recipe makes a lot of cake and so would be perfect for a big party, but it also takes very well to freezing, even with the frosting on: after a couple of days I carved up our remaining cake and wrapped individual slices carefully in plastic wrap to freeze. Either warmed in the microwave or simply left out to come up to room temperature, the defrosted cake seemed (to us, at least) to have lost nothing in the way of taste and texture, even, amazingly, after a few months. If you are having a really big party, you can, Reichl says, double or triple the recipe as long as you adjust the baking timefor whatever size pans you are using.


For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs

For the frosting:

  • 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup whipped cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 13x9x2inch baking pans; line bottoms with waxed or parchment paper and butterthe paper. Flour the pans (you can "flour" pans for chocolate cake withcocoa powder, if you like) and tap out excess.
  2. Whisk together boiling water and cocoa untilsmooth. Then whisk in the milk and vanilla. Sift together the flour,baking soda, and salt.
  3. If possible in a standing mixer, beat togetherthe butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add one egg at a time,beating well after each addition. On low speed, beat in the flourmixture in 3 batches and the cocoa mixture in 2, alternatingflour-cocoa-flour-cocoa-flour. The batter may look curdled.
  4. Pour half of the batter into each pan and smoothtops. Bake in the middle of the oven until a tester comes out clean andthe cake begins to pull away from the pan, 25-35 minutes. Turn thecakes onto racks to cool completely.
  5. Make frosting: melt the chopped chocolate in adouble boiler or in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Cool toroom temperature. Beat together the butter and cream cheese until lightand fluffy (I could not find whipped cream cheese in the store, so Ijust whipped it at home until it looked a little lighter and fluffierbefore adding the butter). Add the cooled chocolate and the remainingingredients and beat until thoroughly combined.
  6. Assemble cake only when the cake layers have cooled completely.


The Meaning of Ludo's

The Los Angeles Times just contacted me, asking if I thought that the foie gras croque monsieur at LudoBites might be the California pizza of this decade. Pondering that, I began thinking about what the pop-up restaurant phenomenon represents, and it occurred to me that while the food is endlessly fascinating, the restaurant's importance transcends that. Because this is a whole new way of thinking about what a restaurant can be.

It's the American incarnation of the movement that began in Paris in the late nineties when the most talented young chefs turned their backs on the three-star track. They wanted to feed their peers, not the endless parade of rich people who sat down in those fancy rooms night after night. And so they began opening modest restaurants where they served fabulous food at very modest prices. In his new guerilla restaurants, Ludo is taking this one step farther.

Why does this matter? Because it's a sign of a serious shift. If you look at the current location of LudoBites - a little sandwich shop in a grungy part of town - it is the ultimate statement about the supremacy of food over ambiance.

But it's much more than that. LudoBites is a harder reservation than Spago ever was; you can't just call up and get a table. The restaurant exists for a limited period of time, making every meal more precious. Ludo's created a new kind of exclusivity, one which speaks to the new status of the foodie (for want of a better word), and the power of social media. LudoBites is really a private club for the Twitterati, who pride themselves on being in the know.

Looking around the very small room, you see one more important shift: This is a new demographic. The important currency here is youth, not money. And curiosity, not complacency. These are food people (and hip celebrities), eager to eat whatever the chef wants to set before them. Ludo's people don't want the same old successes; they are in search of edible thrills. Risk-takers, they are donstatnly urging the chef to push the boundaries.

Which means, I guess, that in the end it's about the food after all.


The Omnivore NY Schedule


  • Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana - Modena, Italy)
  • Alexandre Gauthier (La Grenouillère - Mandelaine-sous-Montreuil, France)
  • Nuno Mendes (Viajante - London, UK)
  • Petter Nilsson (La Gazzetta - Paris, France)
  • René Redzepi (Noma - Copenhaguen, Danmark)
  • Gilles Choukroun (MBC - Paris, France)
  • Eric Guérin (La Mare aux Oiseaux- Saint Joachim, France)
  • Philippe Hardy (Le Mascaret - Blainville-sur-mer, France)
  • Gregory Marchand (Frenchie - Paris, France)
  • Jean-Luc Tartarin (Jean-Luc Tartarin - Le Havre, France)
  • Dan Barber (Blue Hill at Stone Barns - Pocantico Hills, NY, USA)
  • David Kinch (Manresa - Los Gatos, CA, USA)
  • Paul Liebrandt (Corton - NYC, USA)
  • Maximo Lopez May (Wall & Water in the Andaz Hotel - NYC, USA)
  • George Mendes (Aldea - NYC, USA)
  • Carlo Mirarchi (Roberta's - NYC, USA)

The Omnivore New York Happenings

1/ The Professional Master Classes

Five European and American chefs will show their stuff to students of the French Culinary Institute, the most respected training center in NYC, as well as to some of the city's best chefs. Space is limited and is reserved for professionals and New York chefs.

  • When? Friday, June 4, 10 am-4 pm.
  • Where? The Invisible Dog Kitchen
  • Who with? René Redzepi, Paul Liebrandt, Nuno Mendes, George Mendes, Dan Barber.

2/ The Public Master Classes

Six chefs pass the baton for the entire day, Omnivore Deauville-style, for a culinary show that lets the general public see and savor their creations (samples made by the FCI).

  • When? Saturday, June 5, 11 am-4 pm
  • Where? The Invisible Dog Kitchen
  • Who with? Petter Nilsson, David Kinch, Alexandre Gauthier, Carlo Mirarchi, Massimo Bottura.

3/ The Friendly Dinners

It's only their second year, and these dinners are already stuck to us like glue. The Friendly Dinners, buddy dining sessions bringing together chefs from a colorful spectrum of horizons
and continents.

Friday, June 4 - dinners (Wines included)

  • Alexandre Gauthier - Carlo Mirarchi at Roberta's (98$ pp)
  • Massimo Bottura - Dan Barber at Stone Barns (195$ pp)
  • Petter Nilsson - David Kinch at Invisible Restaurant (180$ pp)
  • Grégory Marchand - Maximo Lopez May at Wall & Water

Saturday, June 5 - dinners (Wines included)

  • Nuno Mendes - George Mendes at Aldea (135$ pp)
  • René Redzepi - Paul Liebrandt at Corton (350$ pp)

4/ Live Cooking Night

Omnivore is dispatching a "French Young Cuisine Brigade" from France just for this special party at The Invisible Dog. The kitchen that was created especially for the pro and public master classes will serve as the "ring" for the "Friendly Fight Night" as the French chefs duke it out with a smile. Music will spice this evening up even more for the 500 happy few.

  • When? Saturday, June 5, 9:00 p.m.
  • Where? The Invisible Dog Kitchen
  • The Young French Cuisine Brigade * Gilles Choukroun (MBC -Paris, France) Eric Guérin (La Mare aux Oiseaux- Saint Joachim, France) Philippe Hardy (Le Mascaret - Blainville-sur-mer, France) Gregory Marchand (Frenchie - Paris, France) * Jean-Luc Tartarin (Jean-Luc Tartarin - Le Havre, France)
  • Music by : DJ Justine D.

Justine D. is a native New Yorker, record collector and DJ for twelve years. Throwing some of the largest and most successful Rock and Roll parties in NY somehow parlayed into a love of late night baking which then led her to the Classic Pastry program at The French Culinary Institute. She intends on successfully meshing the worlds of music and pastry together.

5/ La Cocotte gourmand books selection

A cook bookshop and a brand, La Cocotte team will be at Omnivore New York with their eclectic selection of gourmand books, their textile creations around food and art of living, and launching their new sweets : the Chic Chicks Booksignings will be planned during these three days at their booth as well as a special event with the food-blogger Pim Techamuanvivit



  • Professional Master Class : $45 (including wine tasting)


  • Public Master Classes : $30
  • The Live Cooking Night : $30 (including food and cocktails)
  • Public Master Class and the Live Cooking Night : $45 (including food and cocktails)
  • Natural Wines tasting : $6 /glass
  • Booking available from april 26th on
  • Contact :

Friendly Dinners

Reservations can be made by phone to each restaurant no more than 30 days in advance. Concerning Kinch/Nilsson's dinner (Friday 4th) reservation on, Please do not call the restaurants before that.

The Omnivore chefs

Dan Barber

Blue Hill at Stone Barns (NYC, USA). Dan Barber is the chef and co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. A board member of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, he has addressed local food issues through op-eds in the New York Times and articles in Gourmet, Saveur and Food and Wine Magazine. In 2009, Dan was named James Beard's Outstanding Chef.

Massimo Bottura

Osteria Francescana (Modena, Italy). Proud of the culinary jewels of his native land, the Emilia-Romana region, Massimo Bottura integrates his surrounding and offers an innovative cuisine inspired by italian and regional dishes. He is an iconoclast, a creative free thinker, an agitator.

Gilles Choukroun

MBC (Paris, France). Up to date. At 54$ for dinner, this is the best place in Paris. When some people reproach him not to be up to date, he responds with his favorite dessert -- Dates, mint, rice in a pastilla milk, cinnamon -- that he has been waiting for nobody to move rules and lines. Respect.

Alexandre Gauthier

La Grenouillière (Madelaine-sur-Montreuil, France). All year round, good vibrations came back to us : "fabulous!", "crazy dinner!", "one of the rare creators in France!". And all year round we smile, happy to hear what we already knew about this young chef since we discovered him in 2005.

Eric Guérin

La Mare aux Oiseaux (Saint-Joachim, France) Is it rural? No, urban? No, land, a swamp, an island? That's how it is all dinner long. Guérin tries everything, overloaded dishes and sober ones, the Frenchman and the tramp. But we eat, and enjoy. This chef gave himself the keys of his own freedom. Exemplarity you say?

Philippe Hardy

Le Mascaret (Blainville sur Mer, France). Beyond being a chef and a hostess, Philippe and Nadia Hardy are above all two wonderful associated human beings. Generous and full of emotion. Surrounding them, a circle of virtuous fishermen and farmers. And there's where Philippe goes to the source for his sea bass, elms, oysters and turbot.

David Kinch

Manresa (Los Gatos, CA, USA). Intensely interested in the production of vegetables and fruits, David Kinch knows how to establish a relationship with the eater. The soil or rather the understanding of his living environment combined with the European techniques he learned, make him one of the most respected chefs and teachers in the US.

Maximo Lopez May

With the opening of Wall & Water, Chef Lopez May returns to New York after spending five years in his native Buenos Aires, where he served as chef de cuisine at Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt Buenos Aires. Throughout Chef Lopez May's career, he has hosted several cooking shows on Latin American food network El Gourmet. He also served as head chef at the prestigious La Corte in Las Cañitas, Buenos Aires, launched the exclusive Soho House as senior sous chef and spent time at Azul Bistro on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Paul Liebrandt

Corton (NYC, USA). Paul Liebrandt has both worked for esteemed chefs (Pierre Gagnaire, Raymond Blanc, Marco Pierre White...) and royalty before opening his Tribeca restaurant, Corton. An Englishman at heart, New Yorker by residence, and Frenchman in technique, Liebrandt finds balance in all these identities with his modern, playful, elegant cuisine.

Grégory Marchand

Frenchie (Paris, France) Marchand's parisian restaurant Frenchie is today's and tomorrow's gastro-can- tine. An elegant and unpretentious spot, haute couture dishes with prêt-à-porter prices and a little but selective wine cave. For 22$ at lunch and 37$ or 45$ at dinner you can reach for the moon.

George Mendes

Aldea (NYC, USA). Before opening his first restaurant, Aldea, in May 2009, George Mendes spent several years working with renowned chefs in the United-States and overseas who taught him to respect the seasonality of the ingredients and to add personal flair to traditional recipes. George Mendes emphasize now his Portuguese he- ritage in his acclaimed restaurant which serves a variety of seasonal shellfish, rice dishes and his twist on modern Portugese.

Nuno Mendes

Viajante (London, UK). Nuno Mendes is making sensation in the british food capital. Nobody doubts that his kitchen without blindfolds, free for movements, will offer us for quiet some time dishes as impressive as « Porcini with pine nuts and whipped lardo-creme; choke-soup with honey wine». Very far from reducting clichés of british cuisine!

Carlo Mirarchi

Roberta's (NYC, USA). One of 2009's best discoveries for Omnivore. To the passerby, Roberta's is a great pizza place in an assuming Brooklyn neighborhood. Which in fact it is, but it's also one of the most awesome restaurants in New York piloted by an autodidact eager to evoke emotions from his heartfelt Italian influenced cooking.

Petter Nilsson

La Gazzetta (Paris, France). In 2009 we were speechless in front of the hair-raising creativity of his dishes. This year, we discover the fundamental principles of the chef. A infernal precision in cooking the elements, a dish which delivers the essential, a sweetness of textures and colors. Seducing because elegant.

René Redzepi

Noma (Copenhaguen, Danmark). Between Great North and universal folklore bewitched with childish perversions - cream cheese, hazelnut puff paste and watercress sauce, like a sweet-sour velouté - Noma is the utopia that centuries of victorian gastronomic ruling tried to erase from our imagination.

Jean-Luc Tartarin

Jean-Luc Tartarin, (Le Havre, France). Here is a secret to discover if a chef trims a lot. Take the cheapest and most unpre- sumptious dish in the smallest menu. And try. You'll rapidly see if the guy is trying to cheat, or on the contrary takes you on an adventure. Tartarin doesn't know how to lie, and even doesn't consider it.

The Omnivore places


The Invisible dog
51 Bergen Street Brooklyn, NY 11201

between Smith & Court Streets


31 W 17th St
New York, NY 10011
(212) 675-7223

Wall & Water at Andaz Wall Street
75 Wall Street, NY
(212) 590-1234

Blue Hill at Stone Barns
630 Bedford Road
Pocantico Hills, NY 10591

914 366 9600

239 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
(212) 219-2777

261 Moore Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206
(718) 417-1118


Dreaming of Uni

Lying in bed with my foot above my heart, I've had a lot of time to think about what I'd be eating if I were anywhere but here.  At first I thought about pork belly.

These days it's hard to find a modern restaurant that doesn't serve the stuff. David Chang kick-started the trend, at least in New York, by slipping fat chunks of pork belly and slim slices of cucumber into pale buns slathered with hoisin. This seductive combination of sweet, salty and smooth catapulted this hitherto cheap meat into instant fame. Before long we were being offered slabs of uncured bacon on every menu.

Gordon Ramsay flattens it. Jamie Oliver roasts it with vegetables. Emeril glazes it with tangerines.  Dan Barber cures it with cumin, coriander and fennel. Eric Ripert likes it with skate, and Daniel likes it in his burgers. April Bloomfield smokes it. Alain Ducasse candies it. But last week, a waiter offered me pork belly braised in Coca Cola, and that was it for me.

So I've been dreaming of sea urchins. They're the sexiest seafood-thorny, fragrant and complex. With their intense orange color and soft, sensual texture, they're the kind of food that a chef can have his way with.

David Pasternak at Esca, is a more is less kind of guy, and I've been thinking about the way he serves them -simply on the half shell. Dave likes to add olive oil, but I think it's unnecessary. David Chang, a more is more kind of guy, nestles them into a froth of whipped tofu, hiding chewy little balls of tapioca in the bottom of the bowl. It's a meditation on texture, three kinds of soft in a single bite, and I'd give anything to be eating that right now.

Michael White's sea urchin bruschetta at Marea layers rich onto richer, hiding little piles of fluffy orange roe beneath a slick layer of melting lardo. It's the ultimate surf and turf so ridiculously delicious it's almost impossible to eat without a twinge of guilt. I'd like some right now please.

The uni panino at El Quinto Pinto  - a slim ficelle slathered with butter and slicked with mustard oil - would also make me very happy. The bread is crisp and warm, the sea urchins cool and creamy, the mustard oil just a bit of zing at the end of your tongue. I think it's the best sandwich in the city.

I've been dreaming about uni chawan mushi at Sushi Zen too. Toshio Suzuki emphasizes the wobbly softness of sea urchins by cradling them inside the slight tightness custard and tucking a few creamy ginko nuts and some sweet shrimp in among them. Spooning it up is a wonderful way to make any day seem better.

But while I'm fantasizing, why not go for Eric Ripert's  surely sea urchin linguini?  He melts the roe into butter, tosses it with linguini, adds a bit of parmesan and a touch of pepper, then tosses caviar on top. I can almost taste it.

So what if I can't walk for a week?  I'm eating virtual food - and having a very fine time.


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About this journal
Where am I eating? What's for dinner tonight? And what books have I been reading? For a look at what's going on in my life lately, take a look at this journal, which I try to update on a regular basis.