Saturday, April 28, 2012


Navarin d'agneau printanier

So many times I have spent hours of planning and concentration and presentation, and then, in a fit of pique, spoiled my family's and my appetite with an angry, resentful comment at the dinner table.  What is that craziness about?  Please tell me I'm not alone.

Or gone to a fancy, high end restaurant and by the next day forgotten what I'd eaten.

And then there are other nights, where the guests sparkle, the conversation sings, the music incorporates the past into the present, and the food surrounds us, bringing one more sense, one more connection.

I don't think that magic has a recipe, because surprise is part of the delight.  But I would say it has a few components:

1) The cook must love what she is doing.  It comes out in the food.
2) There must be time.  Just time.  You decide how to use it.
3) Your guests must want to be there.  No guilt-filled obligations, no courtesy visits, no mandated quality time.

What are your magical meal components?  Or memorable meals? I'd love to know---

Monday, April 23, 2012

When next weekend becomes now

A contractor came by to give me a quote on some work we've been contemplating.
As he pulled out his metal tape measurer he told me about his client, a woman in Westchester who has hired him for a top-end remodel of her kitchen.
He said to her, "You're 82 years old, why do you want to remodel your kitchen?"  How much more cooking, he wondered, was she going to be able to do.
She answered, "For forty years my husband told me he'd get to it next weekend.  Now that he's dead, I want
it done now."

Friday, April 20, 2012


Is it a secret club, a secret code? 
This Chicago born low-number franchise has infiltrated Pasadena, you may already know.  I went speeding by on a rainy evening, and loved the brick facade (god, I'm a sucker for brick--a harbinger of new places and old buildings) and found myself craving, CRAVING a made-to-order cup of coffee.

The scoop:
How do you like your waiting?  Distended?  Eternal? Cuz, here, you wait.  After a bit, you order.  You repeat your order because the background music is actually foreground.  Then you wait again. I watched a man devour his croissant long before the coffee arrived.  You watch a victim of tattoo ink and multiple piercings whisk a carafe of steaming hot water over a filter, as if he were uttering an incantation  to an Ethiopian goddess, and you pray too, surely that's your cup of coffee? But it's not--you ordered a cappuccino, and piercing victim #2 is doing his magic with the arcane fixtures.

Many minutes later you have a modest mug of cappuccino with a beautiful design on the foam.  You suffer multiple pangs, because, 1) it was more expensive than Starbucks so you didn't 2) tip the foam-based artisan.

You seat yourself with a view of the slick Pasadena streets and sip.

Then you get it.  Yeah, you're pretty cool  That's right.  You're so cool to appreciate this high end, fussy coffee, how could you regret the 4 plus bucks it costs? You're precisely the discerning  kind of person who appreciates that kind of thing.

On your way out you snag a couple of those Intelligentsia-stamped cylinders of sugar.  You're pretty sure Intelligentsia, somewhere, in some language, translates as pandering.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Know Where I'm Going

apologies to Altadena Hiker

Recently back from "the Bay Area" (the vaguest geographical term in all of California) where you couldn't make a left turn without tripping across  a free range cow or a sustainable cup of coffee, which, happily, translated into delectable meals all around.  The Il Fornaio in a hotel in San Jose is bliss--the one in Pasadena: corporate.
Why not So Cal?  Why not? Is it the car fumes?  The haze?  This, I had to ponder.

Then I realized, there are some great spots with wonderful, reasonably priced food.
My recommendations to you--
The York, in Highland Park.  Truly delicious food (perhaps not the most comfortable venue).  I had a spectacular bouillabaisse for $15. Sublime.
Happy hour at Ruth's Chris.  An amazing filet steak sandwich, with perfectly crisp fries for $7.
Cacao Mexicatessan, Eagle Rock again, great stuff, the owner studied under the master, Rick Bayless.
Daisy Mint in Pasadena.  Just fun.

I was going to recommend Palate Food and Wine, but, dammit, they've closed.
I guess I'm not quite sure now, where I'll be going, when I feel flush.