A Celebration of Chefs

preserves lg There is a difference between jam and preserves.  Jam is sweet fruit you spread on toast.  Preserves are a frozen moment in time—a piece of summer that you can carry with you the rest of the year:  high grass, long naps, warm evenings, your front porch… 

My neighbor Mary Wellington makes preserves.

Mary is a farmer.  And not only a single-family farmer--a single farmer.  She works three acres of very diverse orchards of Glenn Annie canyon all by herself, on which she grows over fifty varieties of fruit. 

Her preserves were so treasured and ubiquitous at local farmer’s markets that many people came to call her “The Jam Lady.” Her Blenheim Apricot jam is intoxicating.  Her Blood Orange marmalade is insane.  The red raspberry is well… indescribable.  But Mary Wellington preserves more than fruit.

If you wander up Glen Annie you will find a two story clapboard farmhouse peeking out from behind the persimmon tree.  Mary will greet you with her typical burst of enthusiasm and a clap of her hands.  She will launch into an impromptu tour of her orchard and its latest bounty:  You will flit from tree to tree sampling God’s offerings in a feast of the senses that is literally Edenic.  (I know I get religious about food—but I was raised that way.)   Taste the Santa Rosas… Smell the outside of this blood orange… Look at the color on these apricots... Oh don’t mind the bruise—just taste it.

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menudesign.jpgMillions of people all over the world will open a restaurant menu today. They will look at menus for the food and the price and make their selection, then the menu will lay on the table, ignored, an annoyance taking up elbow space.

Not so for Jim Heinmann, whose new book Menu Design in America: 1850-1985 (Taschen) asks that you set aside the hunger pangs and examine the menu, admire its design. Heimann’s book made its appearance at one of the best-catered signings in recent history. Delicacies and drinks provided by Taschen’s Beverly Hills store’s glamorous neighbors: Mr. Chow, Spago, The Cheese Story Beverly Hills, Vosges Haut Chocolate, The Spare Room and Remy U.S.A.

The dress code was country club casual. I was struck by a number of women with seventy-year old hands and faces as smooth as river stones in pretty summer dresses, light layers of lavender and other gentle shades of purple daringly accented with a coral pink or chartreuse accessory.  Their hair was sparse with age but coiffed into cotton candy halos. It was all very Palm Beach or Palm Springs on Easter Sunday, or Beverly Hills before black became de rigueur. None of them smoked, not upstairs at the open-air bar or out on the clean, expansive sidewalk, but their hushed, hoarse voices betrayed a secret habit, some sweet vice recently abandoned.

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chefcooking.jpgIt’s fortunate that the world’s largest atom-smasher shut down in Geneva, Switzerland this past week and had to be repaired after just ten days of operation.  Los Angeles’s own human particle accelerator 2003 Bon Appétit Chef of the Year Alain Giraud was gearing up to teach class at the always stimulating Chefmakers Cooking Academy in Pacific Palisades (Chefmakers.com) last Thursday and there is no way these two powerful kinetic instruments could work at the same time if planet Earth hopes to remain on its axis.  (Chef Giraud has a great new restaurant called Anisette Brasserie in Santa Monica and Alain thought he would take a breather from his 7:30 am to midnight duties and teach a class to 26 drooling citizens.  I’ve been there for breakfast and lunch and I can barely chew because I’m smiling so much after each bite.)

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moldedshortbread.jpg Shortbread is simply the most delicious biscuit ever conceived by mankind (though I suspect womankind had more to do with it!).

It would be blasphemy to call shortbread a "cookie". It is, truly, a BISCUIT!

As with all simple things, it is NOT easy to make, so I suggest you try this out on yourself or the family before you present it at afternoon tea to strangers.

Here is my Mother's recipe (I can not refer to that sainted lady and not capitalize - sorry, America!)

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Dear Chefs, kitchen staff, servers, and everyone who fed me in 2011;

picture-1.jpgI write to thank you for the wonderful memories, the delicious moments, and the extra calories this year. All well worth it and ready for more in 2012.

Chef Zarate, Picca Peru
Una cena en su restaurante me transporta a Perú, y me trae sentimientos de familia y cultura a travez de cada bocado de sus platillos Peruanos. Hasta lagrimas solté al comer el seco de pato por los recuerdos de mi abuelita. Le doy mil gracias por su talento, y que 2012 le continúe a traer éxito. 

Chef Stan Ota, Takami
A delightful experience of wonderful dishes, unique presentation, and a fine dinning atmosphere. With my recent work location transfer to Downtown, I will surely be frequenting Takami more often… That carpaccio is calling my name!

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