Journal entries from December 2012

Great Cornbread

If you use artisanal cornmeal that’s been coarsely ground, this very simple recipe yields something remarkable.  The cornbread is crunchy, textured, just a little bit sweet, with a complex flavor tasting strongly of corn. Served warm, it’s irresistible with chili- and the little muffins are perfect the next morning, briefly warmed in the microwave, with eggs for breakfast.

This recipe serves two; you can double the recipe and bake it in a larger skillet or a 9 inch cake pan.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup really good coarsely ground cornmeal, 6 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, a half teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of baking powder and a quarter teaspoon of baking soda.

Put a half stick of sweet butter into a small (6 inch) cast iron skillet in the oven until it is melted.

Mix half a cup of buttermilk with 3 tablespoons of milk and a large egg.  Mix these dry ingredients into the cornmeal mixture. 

Swirl the butter around in the skillet, then pour it into the batter and stir it in. Pour most of the batter into the skillet; pour the remaining batter into a muffin tin (it will make 3 extra muffins; I use individual silicone muffin cups).  Put the pans in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Serve warm. 



Last Minute Suggestions


It's the day before Christmas, and you're desperate. I've culled past gift guides for a few last-minute presents that would make great gifts.  Most are promises for the future - but then anticipation is one of life's great pleasures.

Kishus from Ojai

The Kishus are coming. Soon. 

Alice Waters introduced me to these tiny tangerines, which carry a little sunshine into the cold winter world.  I can’t think of anything more fun than bringing out a handful (yes they’re that tiny) and watching a child’s delight in the sweet juicy fruit. 

The season is very short – just a few weeks in January – but you can sign up to be alerted when they start shipping. If you’re wracking your brain for a last minute gift, this is a wonderful one. It’s a few weeks away, but your friends will thank you each time they peel a tangerine and experience that deep, golden flavor.


Artisanal Soy Sauce

 Nobody goes out and spends twenty bucks on a bottle of soy sauce. At least too few people do. Which makes this a perfect gift opportunity.

Artisanal soy sauce is one of those magic elixirs that makes everything taste better. If you’ve never had it, you won’t believe how different it can be from the commercial kind. (And if all you’ve ever tasted is the really cheap supermarket soy sauce that is basically caramelized water, you have a real revelation ahead of you. Just the jump from that to, say, Kikkoman, is huge. The leap into one of the hand-made brands is another enormous step forward.)

You can buy a few different brands of fine soy sauce from Corti Brothers in Sacramento. You can buy it other places as well, but when you go to the Corti Brothers website you can also download the most opinionated, illuminating and interesting newsletter in the business. I learn something every time I read one of Darrell Corti's entries. That's another great gift – and it’s free.


Rare and Wonderful Balsamic Vinegar

One of the first theories of gift-giving is to offer your friends the indulgences you most covet but feel guilty about buying for yourself. Great aged balsamic vinegar definitely falls into that category.  I love it, find it endlessly useful in the kitchen – and am always reluctant to spend the money for the best. 

Buying it for friends is another matter.  It is, I think, a perfect gift. Choosing which one to buy is a constant problem, but here is a suggestion.  Aceto Balsamico of Monticello is a wonderful elixir, with deep, concentrated flavor.  (And this year's is the best ever.) Organic and hand-made, it is aged in Italian casks for thirteen years.  It is rare – only a thousand bottles are sold each year. And – here’s the amazing thing – it is made in New Mexico. Paul Bertolli of Fra' Mani first told me about it, and I am forever in his debt.

This is, obviously, a present for someone you really care about. But if they dole it out the way that I do, a drop here, a drop there, it will last all year. And they’ll think of you each time they taste the mysteriously deep, dense flavor.


Salted Caramel Bourbon Sauce

Got ten minutes?  Then you can make this terrific sauce that requires nothing obscure in the way of ingredients.  (If you have no Bourbon, you can substitute Scotch, Cognac or Armagnac - or simply leave it out altogether. )

One suggestion: Before you begin, read David Leibowitz’s wonderful post on making caramel,here. Caramel can be tricky, and it will save you a lot of trouble down the line.

And another: Use a larger pot than you think you'll need.  I use a 5 1/2 quart casserole. Trust me - it makes everything easier.

Cut 3/4 of a stick of the best butter you can get your hands on into small pieces and put that next to the stove.  Let half a cup of heavy cream come to room temperature. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of Bourbon.  Now pour a cup of sugar in an even layer into a large, heavy, light-colored pot and watch it melt over moderate  heat. When it begins to liquify around the edges, begin stirring with a spatula, watching carefully. When it is completely liquid, has turned a deep copper color, and is just on the edge of smoking, stir in the butter until it is completely incorporated into the sugar. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream mixture.  It will hiss and sizzle and generally act nasty. Ignore it  - this is the nature of caramel - and whisk until you have a smooth sauce. Add a generous quarter teaspoon of coarse salt (or a bit more if you've used unsalted butter).

This is great on just about everything, and it will keep for a month or so in the refrigerator. (Rewarm the sauce in the microwave for a minute before serving.)  Divided into half cup portions and poured into pretty jars, it will make three friends very happy.


And last but not least.....A hard to find and very seductive brandy

 It was pretty much love at first whiff. The first time I tasted this aged, plum brandy the aroma came surging toward me out of the glass. It was so mellow that I imagined a crackling fire, violins playing, a cashmere hug. I folded my hands around the glass and the aroma lingered, still seducing me with its perfume long after the liquor itself had vanished.

I love cooking with Vieille Prune; add it to apple sauce, or chicken liver pate, or just toss a drop into a ragu – and whatever you’re making becomes softer, rounder, more appealing.

For years you couldn’t buy Vieille Prune in America, and I faithfully brought bottles back from France for my friends. I usually bought mine at La Maison de la Truffe in Paris, because I loved the old-fashioned writing on the label. This wonderful liquor is still shockingly rare in the United States – and isn’t that one reason to offer it as a gift? – but I’ve found a source in California. If anyone knows another place to buy Vieille Prune, I’d still love to know about it.





It's Not Too Late: Gift Guide, Day 23



Every year I try to include one interesting magazine subscription in my gift guide. Last year it was Lucky Peach, and if you’re still not reading this great addition to the food world, what are you waiting for? (While we're talking about great food magazines, Fool is another one you should know about. Published in Sweden, this wonderfully quirky publication is not easy to find; try Omnivore books in San Francisco, and Kitchen Arts and Letters in New York.)

This year I’m suggesting Modern Farmer - whose first issue will appear this spring.  They describe themselves this way: “Modern Farmer is a print quarterly, website, event series and online marketplace for people who care about where their food comes from.”

Here’s an article about Modern Farmer.  

Just the existence of this magazine makes me happy; it’s proof that farming has finally become hip. The magazine looks ambitious, more Esquire than Farmer’s Almanac, and they’ve got an impressive reach, promising great writing and gorgeous graphics. Give this gift, and you’re giving twice: Once to your food-forward friends, and again to this feisty little magazine.



Gift Guide, Day 22

Making great pie may be the ultimate test of a cook:  so much can go wrong.  That’s why Evan Kleiman’s wonderful new easy as pie app is such a thoughtful (and inexpensive) gift. Who wouldn’t want this? 

Kleiman, hosts the always interesting Good Food on KCRW radio (if you love food and aren’t listening to this show, you’re missing out on something great). She’s a passionate food person and a generous interviewer with a slew of fascinating guests.  A former restaurateur (her beloved Angelli Caffe was one of the first really authentic Italian trattorias in the country), Kleiman is extremely opinionated about pie, and she walks you through the process. beginning with crusts (flour, graham cracker, easy cream cheese, etc.) and ending with toppings (meringue, whipped cream, various crumbles).  There are 20 different pies here, enough to interest even a veteran baker. Classics include a serious apple, lemon meringue, deep dish berry and the decadent banana coconut cream. Savory suggestions include a rather decadent butternut squash, apple and bacon concoctioin as well as a cherry tomato pie with a cheddar cheese crumble top that I'm planning on making tonight.

From the very first moment, when Kleiman joyfully splahses flour across a board, you know that you’re in very good hands. I challenge you to come up with a better gift for less than two dollars.  Mzl.zvnhxixn.320x480-75


Gift Guide on the Solstice

If you really want to impress a good cook, give them the best vanilla beans you can buy.  Great vanilla bears no resemblance to the dark, sad, shriveled little pods you find in most supermarkets. The finest vanilla beans I’ve ever met were the organic pods sourced by Le Sanctuaire, which startled me with the intensity of their fragrance. They’re long - about half a foot - soft, and a deep mahogany brown, and when you split them open you find a profusion of plump little seeds nestled into a thick paste.  They make everything they touch more complex and interesting.

It’s late to order by mail at this point, but many good spice emporiums sell excellent vanilla beans. What you’re looking for are deep brown, well-padded, pliable pods with a strong, fragrance. 

For a really great gift throw in this recipe for homemade vanilla extract, a small bottle of liquor and a tall pretty glass bottle with a stopper.  Your friends can use a few pods to make their own extract; they’ll think of you every time they use it.

Vanilla Extract Recipe

3 excellent vanilla beans

1 cup vodka, bourbon or brandy (vodka will produce a neutral extract; other liquors will contribute their own complexity of flavor)

Keeping the beans whole, slit each one down its length with a small, sharp knife. Put the beans into a small jar and pour in the liquor so that they are completely submerged.  Close tightly and store in a cool, dark place for a month or two, rotating every week or so.

The extract will keep for at least a year, becoming more intense over time.  Add more liquor as needed, to keep the beans covered. 



Gift Guide, Day 20

Photo (9)
These tiny cocottes arrived in the mail yesterday - a gift from a friend - and I find them so useful, and so charming, that I’m instantly including them in my gift guide.

These enamelled Le Creuset pots are really small : just two inches high and three and a half inches in diameter. Perfect for shirred eggs, baking individual bread puddings or little loaves of meat.  They’re just the thing to reheat stew on a cold night and ideal for spoonbread. 

And they offer so many gifting possibilities.  I’m filling one with really good pecans, another with saffron and a third with Rancho Gordo popcorn.  Other thoughts? Piment d’Espalette. Black Talamanca peppercorns.  Dried porcini. Tiny bottles of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar.  A beautiful assortment of red chiles.....The possibilities are really endless. 

You can find them in just about any kitchen store (colors seem to vary). And, of course, online.  Here’s another option:



Gift Guide, Day 19


The first time I encountered a magazine called Garden and Gun I thought it was a joke.  Then I looked inside. Terrific writing. Beautifully designed. Surprising. A heartfelt ode to the south - and lots of fun for those of us who don’t live there. 

The magazine’s got a store - well most magazines do - selling totes and caps and useless items that nobody needs. But they also sell a strange range of exotic items like hand-crafted bow ties and tweed hunting vests (for women), which tells you something about who they’d like to be.

Now they’ve started something called the Sideboard which would make a rather opulent gift for a good friend. It promise that various sweet and savory Southern foods will be delivered eight times over the year. Who doesn't dream of biscuits, pecans, and pimento cheese? This little surprise package would certainly be welcome at my house. 

Even if you’re not inclined to spend a lot of money, go take a look at the website.  From the cold northeast, where I’m now sitting, it looks like a very sweet life.




Gift Guide, Day 18


The Corkcicle pretty much falls into the why-didn’t-anyone-ever-think-of-that-before category.  This instant icicle cools wine from the inside, eliminating the need for an ice bucket.  (Anyone who’s ever tried to find space for one of those bulky monsters in a tiny New York kitchen can appreciate the beauty of that.)  

You simply store it in the freezer, and then replace the cork with the self-contained ice wand. It will keep white wine cold and cool red wine down to cellar temperature in a trice. They’re new to the market, which means that your friends probably don’t already own them, they’re available in many places, come in many colors and cost less than $25.  And if you're ordering online, it will still arrive by Christmas. Pretty cool!



A small Christmas miracle

Todays’s gift is a gift to everyone who, like me, keeps doing stupid things with their IPhone.  Last year I dropped it in the toilet (don’t ask).  Last week I left it in the pocket of my jeans and then threw them into the washing machine.  Yes, the phone went through the entire cycle.  And yes, It came out (not surprisingly), utterly, totally dead.

Brand new phone. Gone.  $500 to replace it.  A friend suggested that I fill a bowl with rice, bury the phone in the rice and then put the phone on the heater for three days.  Sounded stupid, but I was desperate.  What did I have to lose?

Last night I dug the phone out of the rice and turned it on.  Nothing. Of course.  Then I plugged it into a charger - just for science you understand - and left it over night.

 Here's my phone this morning. Good as new.  Unbelievable.  

  Photo (8)

Merry Christmas.  



Gift Guide Day 16

Adopt an olive tree?  What a cool idea. 

Here’s how it works: You go to a beautiful website and scroll through the various orchards on offer. There are more than a dozen in Le Marche and Abruzzo, with a picture of each, a little biography of the olive farmer, and a description of the oil they make. You choose the orchard you want, and “adopt” one of the olive trees.  They, in turn, send you the oil from your olives when it’s pressed.  (The next olive oil will be shipped in March.) 

This is, in essence, an international CSA (community supported agriculture), a way to collaborate with a farmer, become part of his farm. It offers the consumer a way to participate in the creation of a product, while providing financial security to the farmer.

Best of all - you can go visit your tree and meet the farmer.  Hard to think of a better excuse to visit rural Italy. 

In the interest of full disclosure I have to admit that I’ve never done this. But I’m about to adopt olive trees for all my friends.  




Gift Guide, Day 15

You know how some bowls just call out to you, begging to be picked up?  Daniel Bellow’s ceramics have that effect on me. I find myself wanting to wrap my hands around them. Shape is what interests Bellow - his glazes are very simple - and each one of his plates, cups and bowls has an earthy, tactile, sense. 

I like just about everything he makes, but these little pots - they’re just 2 or 3 inches high - are my favorites. They are endlessly useful. I fill them with nuts and olives and put them out with cocktails. I use them as eggcups.  I put them in the refrigerator filled with leftover pancake batter. And on a dinner table these “babies” (that’s what Bellow calls them) make superb little vases. They’re also the perfect size to hold a shot or two of bourbon on a cold winter night.  

I'm partial to these particular pots, but time is getting tight, and if you don't want to kick in for postage, consider alternatives: small pretty containers don't cost much (these are $15), and they make themselves welcome wherever they go. So look around. A cook can't have too many tiny containers.




Gift Guide, Day 14


Fresh wasabi root is one of those ingredients for which there is no substitute; the powdered stuff (basically just horseradish that’s been dyed) doesn’t come close.  Real wasabi is subtle, with a kick that quickly fades into a clean, green flavor. Although it is now being grown in Oregon, it is still expensive enough to make a wonderful treat for an inspired cook who will discover that it should not be reserved for sushi. A little grating of fresh wasabi does wonders for pasta con le vongole, it's great infused into the milk you whisk into mashed potatoes, and nothing is nicer on top of simply sauteed scallops. And just think of it in a martini! You can find fresh wasabi root at any good Japanese market (I buy mine at Mitsuwa in New Jersey and Sunrise Mart in Manhattan), but if there’s not one near you, here 's an online source. (Wrapped in damp paper towels, wasabi will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator.)

But if you’re giving them fresh wasabi root, they’ll need a grater to go with it. Wasabi should be grated at the very last minute, because the flavor quickly fades. And they will surely find other uses for this classic Japanese wasabi grater, an ingenious and beautiful object made of sharkskin and wood. 


Gift Guide, Day 13

It’s easy to find pretty aprons.  Vintage aprons abound. And lately I’ve been inundated with ads for aprons that make you look sexy while you cook.  But this classic bistro apron does more than that: It makes you feel more competent in the kitchen.  

This is what I love about these handsome aprons. 

  1. They’re made of wonderful, heavy linen.
  2. They tie snugly around your waist.
  3. They’re big enough to provide really good coverage.
  4. They get better with age, softening and molding to your body.
  5. They've got big, useful pockets.
  6. They can be mongrammed and embroidered with all manner of wonderful designs like these:







Gift Guide, Day 12

Anybody else who started a cookie company would call it Butter and Sugar. Not Dorie Greenspan. Her new company is called Beurre & Sel - butter and salt - because she understands the importance of salt. (Leave it out of cookies or brownies, and they fall absolutely flat.) 

But she doesn’t merely add salt to her sweets - iconic Sables, irresistible Port Jammers (cranberries soaked in Port and spices, baked into cookies and topped with a cherry-cocoa streusel) or the most intense chocolate cookies you’ll ever taste.  She’s also created a cocktail collection of savory cookies that will improve the mood of any party. I love the buttery, crumbly Rosemary-Parmesan cookies, and I’m also very partial to the Cocoa Cayenne sort. 

To the three people out there who are not already Dorie fans, you should know that her baking books are the best - clear, encouraging and utterly reliable.  Her new cookie company lives up to them: These great cookies will earn you a warm welcome everywhere you go. They may be the little black dress of this gifting season: perfect for every occasion.



Gift Guide, Day 11

One of my favorite photographs - ever - is one we published at Gourmet about five years ago. It’s a roast from the test kitchen, so bristling with meat thermometers that it looks like an angry porcupine. All of the Food Editors cooked their meat like that, because not one of them trusted a single thermometer to be accurate. 

Why didn’t we just invest in Thermopens

These wonderful meat thermometers take the guesswork out of cooking meat. They’re fast - you get a read-out in three seconds flat. They’re accurate - you can absolutely trust them.  They’re precise - you soon discover that the temperature differs from one spot to another.  And they’re thin - the needle won't poke huge holes into your meat. On top of that, the probes are at the very end of the thermometers, which means they work on thin cuts as well as thick ones: they make excellent tools for grillers.

The one drawback?  At $89 the thermopen is expensive. At Christmas that's not a bad thing: like Gourmet Magazine, many fine cooks have been slow to make this investment. So go ahead - be a friend and buy one for your favorite meat-eater.


Gift Guide, Day 10

Little Miracles

I remember the first time I tried Miracle Fruit. I was a total skeptic - can anything actually make something sour taste sweet? I put the bright red berry into my mouth and took a big swig of pure lemon juice.  It worked! My mouth was flooded with shocking sweetness. 

For a while I kept the berries in my desk as a kind of parlor trick, offering them to visitors so I could watch that look of amazement cross their faces. Then I discovered how lovely the plants are, covered with pretty flowers in the summer and gumdrop like berries in the winter. "Go on," I'd say to my guests, "pick a berry."

Miracle Plants make surprising gifts, especially this time of year, when they seem like tiny tropical Christmas trees. You can find them any number of places, but this one is my favorite.  





Gift Guide, Day 9

Lovage-front Summer_savory_front

No matter how much you want to buy a wonderful gift for a gardener, don’t even think about going to the Hudson Valley Seed Library’s website unless you’re willing to waste a significant amount of time; theirs is one of the most seductive sites I know.

Started nine years ago by a group of heirloom seed savers they’ve grown into something bigger: now they have a seed farm to grow their own open-pollinated, non-hybridized and non genetically engineered seeds. 

But what’s really remarkable about this group is the way they package their offerings, commissioning artists to create memorable seed packets.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who buys them just to hang on the wall.  At $3.75 a pack it’s an inexpensive way to surround yourself with colorful art. (They also sell gift baskets, tee shirts, art prints and greeting cards.)

Here’s the statement from their site:

“We’ve signed the Safe Seed Pledge & adhere to Vandana Shiva's Declaration of Seed Freedom. We take these commitments even further by researching the origins of all of the seeds we don’t grow ourselves to make sure that those sources are not related to, owned by, or affiliated with biotech or pharmaceutical corporations. We do the research so you can feel good about your seeds. At the same time as more and more seed sources are gobbled up by these multi-national corporations, we’re busy collecting, preserving, growing, offering, and celebrating seeds in all their diversity.”

And here are a couple more favorite packages:

  Calico_popcorn1_copy Tiny_tim_tomato







Gift Guide, Day 8

Shrimp Under Glass

Most of us spend a lot of time talking about sustainability, but few of us get to see it in action. 

This gift will change that. 

Ecospheres are self-sustaining little worlds enclosed in glass.  Designed by a NASA engineer, these beautiful glass globes are strangely absorbing.  Filled with algae, bacteria and tiny shrimp, they are like little aquariums that take care of themselves. Carl Sagan became so absorbed in his Ecosphere that he found himself “worrying about the shrimp, rooting for them.”

An Ecosphere would make a great gift for anyone who's skeptical about sustainability.  The little ecosystems are so beautifully balanced that they last a few years with no input at all.  In this age of whirling winds and rising water, it's a humbling reminder that a better world is possible. 




Gift Guide, Day 7

Personalized Scotch

Until he retired a few years ago, I had a gifting relationship with my favorite sushi chef. Every year at Christmas, he presented me with a present, and it was incumbent upon me to return the favor.  Knowing that the quality of the gift reflected on his prestige, I always gave him an ostentatiously expensive gift. But the year I hit on a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch, his smile told me everything. He was thrilled. Is it the best Scotch in the world?  Maybe not. But everyone knows it costs a bundle, and with some gifts, that’s the point. 

When I discovered that the bottles could be engraved with his name, Osada’s prestige rose even higher. He was ecstatic when I handed him the box. But you can do more than simply personalize the bottle with someone’s name: you can engrave three lines (up to 15 characters a line). It’s about a third of a Twitter message - but certainly enough to convey your respect.  

Many places will engrave bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue for free, including the company itself.  But here is the lowest price I’ve found. 

And if you happen to be in the New York area on December 15th between noon and 4, here’s one that will be engrave the bottle while you wait.  




Gift Guide, Day 6

Where There's Smoke......

What the Baked Alaska was to the fifties, smoked ice cream (not to mention smoked cocktails) are to modern times: the seemingly impossible juxtaposition. If  you’re looking for the perfect present for a food geek, the Smoking Gun might just be it. 

This totally modern tool, (courtesy of the same company that makes the incredible anti-griddle), infuses foods with the flavor of smoke without actually smoking them. This has nothing to do with preserving and everything to do with flavor. 

The chef who aims to astonish can smoke the unsmokable:  raw oysters, salads, butter, chocolates.  Anyone who wants to play wizard can present food in a billow of smoke. Capture the smoke in a glass, invert it over a meringue, a slice of salmon or a bar of chocolate, and voila!: instant cloud. Pure magic.







Gift Guide, Day 5

This is, I think, the year of the spoon.  

For years I’ve proudly used my Gray Kunz spoon for tasting, basting and the like. Chef Kunz designed his clever little spoon years ago, and when he was at the helm of Lespinasse in the nineties every cook who worked there was issued three upon arrival.  Chefs tucked them into their pockets, wearing them proudly like a badge of honor and before long they had spread through the city of New York. Now anyone can buy the Gray Kunz spoon; at about ten dollars, it makes a great stocking stuffer.


But the truth is, I don’t use my Kunz spoon much anymore.  It’s been supplanted by Michael Ruhlman’s terrific offset spoons.  They come in three sizes, they’re perfectly balanced, and they’re great for everything you do in the kitchen - basting, saucing, tasting, removing the fat from stock. (Don't miss his homespun  how-to video.) On top of that, they’re beautiful, and I find myself passing up my sterling silver and putting these on the table as serving spoons instead.


Ruhlman’s also designed a wonderful perforated spoon, which turns the difficult job of  poaching eggs into child’s play.  I’m hoping that, for his next act, Michael will turn his attention to a skimming spoon. I could certainly use a new and improved one.







Gift Guide, Day 4

A Truly American Taste

It’s becoming harder and harder to find unusual gifts for serious cooks. But here’s one you can be pretty sure even that irritating person who possesses every possible ingredient will not have stashed in the larder: Sorghum Syrup.

I had my first taste of this American classic last winter in Kentucky, and found myself so fascinated I came home laden with jars of the stuff. At first I was just looking for an organic ingredient to replace the nasty corn syrup that goes into recipes like hot fudge and pecan pie, but once I began tasting the syrups made by different producers, I was hooked. True sorghum is an artisanal product with a distinct taste of terroir and it changes enormously from one producer to the next.

Since then I’ve experimented with recipes: it did wonders for the pecan pie at Thanksgiving. Mixed with butter (1/4 cup sorghum syrup blended into a stick of unsalted butter), it makes a spectacular spread for a warm biscuit. Sorghum’s great on pancakes, it makes very fine caramels, and it lends a whole new flavor to coffee or tea.  (If you want to read more, Rona Robert’s book Sweet, Sweet Sorghum is a good source of both information and recipes.)

I'm a fan of the sorghum made by the Holbrook Brothers in West Liberty Kentucky (they make an intriquing orange variation), but you'll have to give them a call as they don’t have a website. Two others I’d recommend are the Townsend Sorghum Mill’s clean, straightforward product, and the exotic vanilla and bourbon laced sorghum from Bourbon Barrel Foods (and while you’re on that website, check out the terrific Bluegrass Soy Sauce).

Americans now make excellent prosciutto, mozzarella and kim chi, and that makes me very proud. But isn’t it time we rediscovered our own native products? This one's  been made in this country since Colonial times.






Gift Guide, Day 3


I didn’t mean to mention this so early in the season, but my favorite jam maker is selling out fast.  Pim’s Moorpark Apricot is no more, and it’s too late to get the fascinating Saffron Peach. Pim Techamuanvivit makes her spectacular jams in very small batches, and I’m afraid that if I wait any longer they’ll all be gone. 


If you have a jam-lover on your list (and who doesn’t), they will be extremely grateful to you for introducing them to the Jam Goddess of Los Gatos.  Better still, buy them a subscription to her jam lovers club and they’ll thank you all year long. 




Gift Guide, Day 2

Vintage Menus

Why didn’t anyone think of this before?  Cool The-oyster-loaf
Culinaria has gathered an enormous collection of vintage menus from all over the world and reprinted them on 130 pound paper.  The collection comprises hundreds of menus dating back to the late nineteenth century.

This is from their website:

“Our favorite period is from the years 1930–1960 and  the venues are mostly located in the Americas. This was a boom time when independent restaurateurs were positively buccaneering in the way they marketed their restaurants and themselves. It was a time when fish smoked pipes and cigars. Prawns and cockroaches wore top hats and spats. Voluptuous brunettes sat astride lobsters and devil like women drained their cocktail glasses in New York bars.  Proprietors hired celebrated artists and highly talented illustrators to create stunning imagery that expressed both the personality of the owner as well as the character of the establishment.”

The menus (and diner signs) are listed by city and category, so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for.  Fair warning: these people are passionate about menus, and they’ve collected so much information that I find myself spending hours on the site, just clicking on these great old menus and reading about long-gone restaurants. 

The menu covers are reprinted in various sizes, starting at 13”x19” ($28) to 20”x24” ($52).  The prints come with an 11"x17" copy of the interior menu.  All I can say is that if you can’t find an appropriate present here, the person you’re trying to please has zero interest in restaurants. 


Gift Guide 2012, Day One

The first time I tasted the French trout roe Trout-roe
at Russ and Daughters, I could hardly believe it; it has the gorgeous color of salmon roe combined with the rich fruitness of gray oscetra.  And at  about a hundred dollars a pound, it's the best alternative caviar I've found to date.  You can eat it with wild abandon! Anyone who showed up with this would be very welcome at my house.



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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.