Cleveland weather today is mild, uncommon for this time. We’re not in the throes of the current blizzard, but I’m still sick of this cold and gray. The kids are weary of school. I’m morose in my work, dulled by routine, longing for spring’s renewal. These carrots Donna shot long ago jumped out at me when I was going through some of her work and intensified the longing. I’m in the final stages of finishing a draft of a new book about cooking (notice I avoid the term “cookbook”), the inevitable headache stage where I just need to get it done in order to leave it alone so that I can return to it and see it clearly. As spring does approach and I long for maple leaves and vegetables, flowers, soft grass and humid Read On »

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  Donna wanted to change the banner photo on my Facebook page and it got so many likes and comments that I knew it clearly struck a wintery warmth chord in dreary March. I’ve posted this before and here it is again from, Ruhlman’s Twenty, which looks at 20 key concepts that underlie all of cooking. This key concept is water. This onion soup requires nothing but onions and water for the soup part. Plan ahead when making the soup because the onions take a long time to cook down, from a few hours to as many as five if you keep the heat very low, though you need to pay attention only at the beginning and the end. Before the onions caramelize, they’ll release copious amounts of water (be sure to taste this liquid!), which Read On »

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My inclination is to simplify. And with this, one of the oldest and sturdiest of cocktails, the old fashioned, should be just that, as Brad Parsons notes in his excellent book Bitters, and in my original post on it. Sugar muddled with bitters, ice, American whiskey, and a twist. Brad laments that it’s too often gussied up and over-muddled with orange and overly adorned. Brad also notes a nostalgia for the gritty undissolved sugar, but nevertheless recommends simple syrup in his. I am like-minded on all counts. Except. I splurged on these awesome cherries, “original” maraschinos. Also I really wanted to feature rye whiskey, here Bulleit rye, a whiskey on the upswing in America. And this great, great cocktail, the old fashioned, is perfectly suited to it. I’m doing what Brad suggests, only I’m adding a twist Read On »

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This 12-minute reading is from The Soul of a Chef, on my first experience with a tasting menu. Though I had special consideration at the meal—I was not a paying customer—it is an honest and emotional description of what remains the most important restaurant meal of my life. I thought it apropos, following my previous post addressing recent criticisms in the media of today’s tasting menus. It’s not a polished video—I simply set up a tripod in my kitchen before dinner and read—so please forgive my lack of video production skills! [For more information on what led up to my unlikely passage from unknown Cleveland-based writer to dinner at The French Laundry and what was to follow, read The Main Dish, a 35-page memoir of becoming an accidental food writer. It was published as a Read On »

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  “I always say this to the young chefs and mean it: The customer is excited, he says you are an artist, but we are not, just craftspeople with a little talent. If the chef is an artist, he doesn’t succeed. Why? Because he is inspired today but not tomorrow. We cannot do that.” —Andre Soltner (quoted in Forbes, May 2012) Back in in the fall of 2008, nearly five years ago, I moderated a discussion between Tony Bourdain and Marco Pierre White (insofar as those two former chefs can be moderated at all). MPW railed against the multi-course tasting menu, and Bourdain reiterated it, while Grant Achatz, feeling personally attacked, fumed in the audience. As I pointed out in a post addressing the event, The End of the Multi-Course Tasting? (scroll down past Tony’s curious remarks), Read On »

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