A Celebration of Chefs

mfkfisher.jpg I had never heard of M.F.K. Fisher until I started working at One for the Table. She was/is apparently one of the most famous food writers of the last century. I rarely read about food, only branching out occasionally to pick up Gourmet, Food & Wine or Cooking Light depending on what recipe was featured on the cover. In recent months I discovered I was one of the only ones not familiar with her work, because her name kept popping up in various pieces on this site as one of THE people everyone consulted when it came to enjoying good food. Finally, intrigued by her reputation and tired of reading murder mysteries, I decided to see what all the fuss was about...and found a new friend.

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pancakes.jpgThere is really nothing better than a crisp golden pancake in the morning after a long night of boozing. I woke up yesterday morning with a wicked craving for pancakes and even recall dreaming about them as I slipped into a deep slumber after bar hopping with friends. I have experimented in the past with packaged pancake mixes of various styles and flavors though nothing compares to a homemade buttermilk pancake.

The recipe I use comes courtesy of Alton Brown, the Food Network personality famous for the “Good Eats” series. I owe my fascination with all things gastronomic largely to the Food Network, one of the few channels I watched religiously growing up. While other kids were watching cartoons and local sports, I was at home in the TV room watching cooking shows.

I remember the old days before the Food Network established itself as a predominant channel where the low budget programming could only fill a six-hour slot that ran on a continuous loop throughout the day. Early Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and Alton Brown were my favorites and I never missed an episode of their shows.

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erc-greenspan-70kb1.jpgI think it must be old age. Once upon a time, when a new restaurant opened, my wife, Peggy, and I were the first in line. We would fight for a reservation, make sure to try the newest new thing, and then tell everyone we knew about our latest dining adventure. We just don’t do that all that much anymore. Maybe we have gotten old.

What we like to do now is eat with friends – the chefs, owners, waiters and bartenders who we have gotten to know because we eat so often at their restaurants.

We have made many friends at restaurants over the last few years. One of our friends is Eric Greenspan, the chef and owner of The Foundry on Melrose and The Roof on Wilshire. Peggy and I met Eric when we were taking a walk on Melrose one Sunday. We saw The Foundry, which was closed at that hour, but as we were looking through the window we heard a “May I help you” boomed from up the street. It was Eric coming to start prepping for the night.

We introduced ourselves and told him we were fans of his cooking from when he was at Patina. We used to go there when it was on Melrose, and we were lucky enough to twice sit at the chef’s table, where we got to watch Eric run his kitchen. Far and away the best theater experience we have ever had.

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long-table-outstandingI just drove by the sweetest scene: an elderly couple picnicking in Palisades Park on Ocean Avenue, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Elderly, I say, when they are probably only ten years older than me.  I am eternally drawn to the romantic notion of al fresco dining.  (Al Fresco sounds like the name of a gangster gunned down while dining in Little Italy, though not necessarily outdoors.)

I have a fantasy of serving meals outdoors to be eaten on a long picnic table with a vintage French tablecloth and beautiful cutlery and cloth napkins.  I also have a fantasy of hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, but it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

While I might like the idea of eating outdoors, I hate fighting the elements and the insects.  So I never serve a meal outside and don’t really enjoy outdoor dining unless, perhaps, it’s on a screened-in porch.  I like a barrier.  I will, however, contradict myself and tell you I choose the patio at most restaurants because it can be infinitely more charming.  Like, say, at The Ivy.  Ivy at The Shore is safer from wind and flying bugs because it’s covered, so that’s the patio I prefer.  But the charm of the patio at The Ivy in West Hollywood cannot be beat.

A very romantic, picnic-throwing person lives somewhere deep inside me.  But she appears only every twenty years or so.  Like a cicada.  That’s how often I will organize (I use the word organize loosely, more like throw together) a picnic lunch.  I was once obsessed with those terribly expensive picnic baskets that come with plates, napkins, thermos and all.  OBSESSED!!  Had to have one.  Put one on my bridal registry. 

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aoc3.jpg Suzanne Goin, the uber-talented celebrity chef of Lucques and A.O.C. Wine Bar fame, was rumored to be the front runner for the 2005 James Beard Chef-of-the-Year award, and as far as I was concerned, she could just skip the swim suit competition and pick up her gold toque and tongs. Because praise the lord and pass the friggin’ salt cod, if food could cure cancer, it would be this food. May The God of Good Eatin’ please keep Suzanne Goin’s hands hale, hearty, and forever heating up the small plates. 
sign.jpg Having earlier experienced both the exquisite pleasure and excruciating pain that comes from washing down four or five pounds of Chicken Liver pate with fifteen dollar glasses of 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape, I was careful to prepare my sensitive digestive tract by fasting for practically an entire half-day on Fiji Natural Artisan water, plus a supplemental half-inch rind of smoked salami that I discovered under a plastic tankard of Barefoot Contessa Moussaka that I accidentally made five weeks ago in a bizarre attack of culinary industry. As a note, I have a firm policy of never throwing away any left-over that originally took more than sixty minutes to prepare,  unless it starts to stink worse than my daughter’s feet did after two weeks at Catalina Camp, where filth is a fashion statement. 

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