Some quick links and notes

Me in August Food and Wine magazineI'm in the August Food & Wine magazine in an article about adventurous and picky eaters. I was one of the adventurous ones, and the pull quote they printed with my picture says, "I'll try anything once, even blubber!" Everyone was asking what would be the grossest thing I'd consider eating, and it seemed like blubber at the time. In retrospect I'm not so sure I want to try it. The article doesn't seem to be online yet, but I imagine it will appear shortly.

The recipe for the ratatouille that Remy prepares for Ego in the film of the same name is online at the New York Times. I saw it before, but can't seem to find it now. Also it seems like the byaldi in the recipe for "Roasted Guinea Fowl en Crèpinette de Byaldi with Pan Jus" from Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook is similar (the same?) as the one in the Times.

I probably won't post a lot of baby pictures here, so if you're interested in keeping up with Ollie, check out the Ollie Kottke page on Flickr. That will give you all the photos you could ever want.

Ok, back to baby feeding, watching, and loving.

Welcome Ollie Kottke

Ollie Kottke

Introducing Ollie Peter Kottke! Our son was born on July 3rd, all 7 lbs, 2 oz. and 20 inches of him. As you can see from the photo, we've both been resting a lot ever since. Things will be slow around here for a while as I settle in with my newest favorite fella. I can't tell you how cute he is, especially when he starts to cry and his bottom lip quivers and he makes this "whuh whuh whuh" sound. All of the sudden, nothing in the whole world seems as exciting as watching Ollie as he sleeps. Restaurants? Farmers markets? Food? Blogs? The web? The entire outside world? Nope, not as wonderful as our new little boy.

Behind the scenes at Tokyo's Tsukiji, the world's biggest seafood market. Interesting long article from Vanity Fair about the action at the market, especially when it comes to the highly-valuable bluefin tuna. The bluefin is migratory, and during the summer the best come from off the shores of northeastern United States. When I lived on Cape Cod, I remember fisherman hoping to catch bluefin during the season because a single fish could net $50,000. And that was nearly fifteen years ago.


So, did you see Ratatouille over the weekend? What did you think? I went again on Saturday and enjoyed it just as much the second time around, especially because I noticed many more details this time, like the cuts and burns on all the cooks' arms and the skull stylings of Ego's typewriter. It sure made me want to go to Paris too! And if the movie wasn't enough for you, YouTube's got some great stuff to check out, including this really cool interview with Pixar folks about Cooking up CG Food, explaining how they made all the food in the movie look so realistic and yummy. Here's the YouTube Ratatouille page with all the videos.

Origin labeling on meat


Lobbyists and members of Congress have managed to hold off the enforcement of a five-year-old law that required country-of-origin labeling on meat and produce as well as fish. Of course stores could do this voluntarily. I regularly see New Zealand lamb at my local Whole Foods. But "critics say meatpackers simply do not want consumers to know that an increasing amount of hamburger meat and produce is being imported." Hamburger meat!? Yikes. Ground beef is especially susceptible to contamination1, even from the local market, so it's important to purchase it from a reliable source. It seems critical to know if that source is another country, given recent Mad Cow scares, Chinese food contamination issues, humane treatment concerns, and locavorian intentions. Consumers deserve the right to make an informed decision.

1 With a steak, bacterial contamination remains on the outside of the meat, so cooking kills it off even if the interior of the steak is still medium rare. With ground beef, the bacteria get all churned up inside, hence the recommendation to cook ground beef to well done. When you purchase ground beef (rather than grind it at home), it's likely to be made up of meat from many different cows, increasing the likelihood that one was contaminated. If one's contaminated, the whole batch of ground beef is now contaminated.

Without the bitterness produced by hot water, cold-brewed coffee had hints of chocolate, even caramel. Which makes for a delicious iced coffee. Better yet, "cold-brewed coffee is actually dirt simple to make at home." A recipe is included with the article. Sounds like something worth trying.

“Ratatouille” is a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film. The New York Times weighs in with its review. The movie opens today and I can't wait to go back and see it again!

This fight is not about diners enjoying unfettered access to delectable lobster rolls and Caesar salads. "It's about a violation of trust, resentment, and betrayal behind the counter and the stove at a couple of restaurants in New York." Ed Levine stops by both restaurants in oyster/lobster bar lawsuit to see what's really going on.

For two weeks in August, Matt Reynolds will live in a tent, hit several towns a day, and eat nothing but wings. He will film a documentary as he travels across New York State to find the perfect Buffalo wing, and fittingly will end his trip in that city on the shores of Lake Erie. Whose wing will reign supreme?

Ed's Lobster Bar is much more than a knock-off. It's an exact duplicate of Pearl. Thirty-one of the 34 dishes on his menu are simply lifted from Pearl. Serious Eats has more on the oyster bar lawsuit, including many details that don't appear in the New York Times article. Sounds like it's more of an outright copy than that article lead me to believe. Still, I fear a dangerous precedent if she succeeds with this suit.

Restaurant concept lawsuits run amok

Since opening Pearl Oyster Bar in the West Village 10 years ago, Rebecca Charles has ruefully watched the arrival of a string of restaurants she considers “knockoffs” of her own. So "yesterday she filed suit in Federal District Court in Manhattan against the latest and, she said, the most brazen of her imitators: Ed McFarland, chef and co-owner of Ed’s Lobster Bar in SoHo and her sous-chef at Pearl for six years." She claims he copied “each and every element” of Pearl Oyster Bar, from the paint and chairs to her recipe for Caesar salad.

Guh, this stinks. One one hand, I can see how she's frustrated after pouring so much into her restaurant and watching her former employees go open similar places. But filing a lawsuit seems ridiculous to me. I'm no fan of copyrighting recipes (see Keep recipes free) and I'm not much in favor of intellectual property claims on restaurant themes either. Lobster rolls? "Packets of oyster crackers placed at each table setting?" A "white marble bar" for seafood? Have you ever been to New England or France? Rebecca Charles hardly invented these concepts ten years ago. Instead, she was free to incorporate them in her new place because they've existed for so long and been used by so many; because they haven't been copyrighted and trademarked by lawyers and corporations. These details are the essence of our seafood restaurant vernacular, that's why they resonate with so many potential customers and give her West Village restaurant an authenticity she's now trying to control. Mr. McFarland would be hard-pressed to open an authentic-seeming lobster bar without including at least some similar items.

The real problems here are a lack of originality being demonstrated by Ms. Charles' former employees, and New Yorkers' demand for faux New England seafood shack restaurants. Regarding the former, it would be nice to see chefs move on to open their own places that build on what they've learned in previous kitchens, not copy the concept outright. Regarding the latter, in the throes of summer, those unlucky souls trapped in the sweltering city can dream of coastal Maine or Cape Cod by digging into fried clams and lobster rolls right here in Manhattan. And if you've seen the lines at Pearl or Mary's Fish Camp, you know there's room in this city for a few more joints. I've always said I'd like to see Danny Meyer do a Clam Shack, and I'd like to see him do it without the fear of a lawsuit.

From last year, but one of my favorite things I've ever written for this site: Strawberry Fields Forever, a look at my family's strawberry growing tradition. I haven't made it there yet this year so I've been forced to eat local berries. And I have to say the berries at the Greenmarket here in New York pale in comparison to my grandfather's.

New menu items at Ssäm Bar

Jason and I popped into Momofuku Ssäm Bar last night for an early dinner. We hadn't been in a few weeks, and it turns out during our time away, the menu's been updated with lots of new items and some old stand-byes received new treatment. My favorite sea scallops are now served with the crunchy seaweed that usually accompanies the cured hamachi, and are layered over a lemon puree and accompanied by pickled cherries. We had local sugar snap peas sprinkled with ham bits and softened onions, floating in a ham broth. Jason pointed out it was a nice play on the flavors of split pea soup, delicious!

On the meat side of the menu, we tried roasted lamb belly from Four Story Hill Farm, PA on a bed of wilted swiss chard. When our server placed it in front of us, I had a whiff of doughnuts. Doughnuts? Closer sniffing revealed it to be a cinnamony smell, maybe the lamb had a bit of cinnamon rub? Regardless, it was moist and sweet, with a thick layer of fat. No one does belly and fat like the Chang crew! We also ordered a Chicken Ballontine, which was beautifully executed and each bite revealed the essence of chicken. It was nice to see such a traditional preparation on the menu, and so well done.

Our final new menu item was the Crispy Pig's Head, also from Four Story Hill Farm. Oh my! If it weren't for a staff recommendation from our man Cory, I would have been too scared to try this, but it was amazing. Deep fried, it arrived looking like a fish stick, only larger. But a single bite revealed a creamy, gelatinous interior melting with tender pork meat and, you guessed it, more fat! The accompanying spicy mustard sauce and lettuce cleansed just the right amount of grease from the tongue, leaving me sighing with delight after each bite.

For dessert we had strawberry shortcake with local berries and fresh whipped cream. The shortcakes were perfect: crumbly without being dry, and had a nice sweetness to them. The strawberries were left whole, and weren't doused in sugar like in many places, so the sweet of the dessert actually came more from the shortcake, and the berries and cream countered it a bit. This morning I was thinking about stopping in again tonight, just for dessert!

I love Ssäm Bar, but with any place you frequent, you can sometimes tire of even the best food. It was so exciting to see all the new stuff on the menu and realize it's better than ever over there. Now the only question is when will my arteries be able stand a return trip!

If a person chooses to live an ethical lifestyle it’s not enough to be vegan, they need to absent themselves from capitalism. The Times looks inside the freegan movement, perhaps best know for its advocacy of food scavenging from dumpsters. But it's much more than scoring free food, it's an attempt to remove as much as oneself from the system as possible. "[F]reegans...believe that the production and transport of every product contributes to economic and social injustice."

I've been eating a lot of cherries lately, and was wondering what health benefits, if any, I was accruing. This nutritional summary for sherries, sweet, raw is amazingly comprehensive! I can't believe I haven't been to NutrionData before. It's going to be my source from now on whenever I need any info about an ingredient. And it turns out those cherries are a good source of vitamin C and fiber, which is what I'd suspected.

Jay Vogler of Charlotte's Pizza on Earth retrieves a "China Blue" from the depths of his wood-fired oven, its top roiling from the 700-degree heat, edges erupting into dark-brown blisters. An article about the popularity of pizza in Vermont includes a look at my uncle Jay and his pizza operation! If you're ever in the Burlington area, you should definitely stop by the farm on a pizza night and check it out. The pies are delicious. I even worked one night with him, when his regular partner was sick. He made the pies, I managed the oven. It didn't take long to get a hang of using the long wooden peel to move the pies around the wood-burning oven. And it was lots of fun.

Chef’s Story is a new 26-part television series of interviews and cooking segments with today’s most renowned chefs. The show is hosted by Dorothy Hamilton, founder and CEO of The French Culinary Institute. I caught the episode with Daniel Boulud the other day and it was great. First he talked about his experiences growing up, working in various famous French kitchens, etc. and then he cooked for a bit. I don't know what was more enjoyable, listening to him talk about working with chefs like Roger Vergé and Georges Blanc or watching him dice leeks. Knife skills like his are a joy to behold.

Deborah Coleman/Pixar
Deborah Coleman/Pixar
Over the weekend there was a sneak preview of Ratatouille in New York City and my husband and I were lucky enough to snag tickets. Oh how I wish it were out already in the theater, because then I could go see it again! I think it's my favorite Pixar film yet, and if you have any interest in food, or France, or animation, I think you'll agree. Jason's written an excellent review on his site to which there's very little I can add. As usual, Pixar's loaded its film with commentary on contemporary culture. There's some great stuff on chefs as brands and the nature of criticism. And for those of us in NYC, rats in the restaurant kitchen couldn't be a more current topic. Ratatouille opens June 29.

Put your fresh salad greens in a big plastic bag, gather up the neck, blow a little air (a.k.a carbon dioxide) inside, then seal it up quick. Apparently this trick will keep your greens "bright, firm, and flavorful for at least a week."

Food history presents a complicated buffet of popular lore and contradictory facts. The Food Timeline sorts it out with its listing of when foods first appeared and where. Maple syrup arrived on the Western culinary scene in the seventeenth century when Pilgrims made contact with Native Americans, who'd been sugaring for some time. Though the chicken-fried steak the concept dates to 1824, "the 'chicken-fried'" moniker seems to be a mid-20th century invention." Fascinating list of food, I could click these links all day. [via Rebecca]

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