A Celebration of Chefs

grannycartI set my tool bag down, tip my granny cart back to its resting position, brush the city off my face, and ring the bell. It is two hours before the guests arrive. My client opens the door, clearly grateful that I do exist - that I did show up - and studies me for a second. I always wonder what image they had of me after only chatting with me on the phone or email. I bet it’s very different than my grinning, artistic, fake-redheaded appearance. Were they thinking gorgeous Giada would arrive? Or, god forbid, some female version of Chef Curtis Stone?

I bet the granny cart throws them for a sec - because it seems like there should be a higher form of transportation for a professional chef and caterer. I’d like to be effortlessly wheeling a stainless steel fridge into their apartment, but New York elevators being what they are… my granny cart is the only way to go. They show me into the kitchen and I survey the immaculate area. Oh, this poor little room doesn’t even know what’s about to hit it. I thank my client, pull a few bags from my cart, and crank the oven on full blast. It’s go time.

The menu for this cocktail party is a progressive pass, which means that, while all the apps are easily eaten while standing, they will become more and more filling as the evening progresses. We’ll start the pass with something light, like a bruschetta with drunken fig paste, fresh ricotta, and red pepper flakes; or nori handrolls filled with an edamame, spring pea puree and topped with avocado mousse and pickled ginger.

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sirensfeast.jpgI’d just finished writing my memoir Siren's Feast, An Edible Odyssey, a coming of age tale filled with recipes from my Armenian youth, my vegetarian restaurant on the island of Ibiza and various exotic locales I’d spent time in. 

When I first told people I had written an autobiographical cookbook, they offered perplexed looks.    

“A what?” was the usual response.

An editor at a large publishing house told me my combination autobiography/cookbook was not feasible for a large bookstore display.    

“Where would it be placed?” she asked.  “In the cookbook section?  With the travel writing?  The biographies?”

“Put it everywhere,” I told her.  “People will figure it out.”

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milkman.jpgIn 1944, Ella Mae Morse had a hit single that began:

Milkman, keep those bottles quiet
Can’t use that jive on my milk diet

That was before my time, but in the ’50s and ’60s the milkman came to our house three times a week, leaving bottles of milk on the back stoop and taking away the empties. The glass bottles would clink in the milkman’s wire basket – a gentle sound I took as a music cue to start my homework.

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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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annetreasury.jpg There are times when I scrutinize my outfit before I leave the house, and find it absurdly, compulsively over-accessorized.  It’s then, as I grab my keys and prance out with red sneakers, mismatched bracelets, and a brooch shaped like a turnip, that I’ll find myself thinking of her.  Subtlety, in many things, is often advised; but I, heeding Anne of Green Gables, rarely listen.  If at a dinner party, after I’ve gone on and on to someone about a book they’ll probably never read, ignoring every attempt they make to escape me, she’ll just appear in my mind.  And often, when faced with a moral dilemma, like whether to leave the last bite of pie for the person I’m sharing it with, or to request that my upstairs neighbors stop rollerblading on the hardwood floor, I’ll ask myself:   

“What would Anne of Green Gables do?”

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