ad hoc Inspiration: Black Mission Fig Salad

I torture myself by having the menu of Thomas Keller's brilliant ad hoc restaurant emailed to me five times a week (they are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays) – ad hoc's menu changes daily. It is located down the road a piece from Keller's venerable The French Laundry, and it shares in the bounty of TFL's garden, across the street. Saturday's menu started with the following:

Black Mission Fig Salad
broccolini, baby red mustard, pickled red onions, toasted pine nuts, fried sunchokes, crispy prosciutto

People often ask what I like to cook at home. It's not really what, but the how that gets me going. As straightforward as the dish sounds, the description above hints at layers of technique. I have been lax in cooking lately so I took this as inspiration – and off to the market. 

^ Some woman got in front of me at the figs and picked though them as I watched… I rescued these stragglers. 

I'll cheat here and there, but the 'pickled red onions' is an example of an ingredient that is just too fun not to make yourself.

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^ Red onions added to dissolved sugar in white vinegar, with whole allspice, cloves, bay leaves, and chiles. (Then cooled and bottled). ^ Also, I prepared a balsamic reduction of 3 parts vinegar and 1 part Port.

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^ Peeled sunchokes, sliced thin on a mandoline, fried in peanut oil. Paper-thin Prosciutto di Parma fried crisp, like bacon.

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Check it out.  Toasted pine nuts are sprinkled on top along with a drizzle of the balsamic reduction and some walnut oil. This is a great dish – the flavors textures and aromas are a knock-out. Too bad I forgot to add the broccolini I bought… funny, I hate when I do that… WAIT!

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Yep – forgot the dang onions! They added another level to my remaining bites! I will whip this up again tomorrow to finish off the figs. This goes on my list. It was also a blast to make.

And, be on the lookout – the book 'ad hoc at home' is on the way!

Dinner in DC: Central Michel Richard

This past Friday I relented to my friend Carol's significant and forceful rotation of my humerus and paid her a visit in DC. Her maniacal prodding via FaceBook centered on inviting me to attend an intimate discussion of sous vide cooking with Thomas Keller ("the Man"), Eric Ziebold (former Chef de Cuisine at The French Laundry and now Executive Chef at CityZen), and moderator Michael Ruhlman (the clever and mischievous food writer of considerable note).

Thomas Keller, Michael Ruhlman, Eric Ziebold

The event was relaxed and informative – supporting the launch of Keller's new sous vide book, "Under Pressure." It was fun to mill about with these guys and some of the other attendees, one of whom was the jovial Chef Michel Richard. As it happened, we had late dinner reservations at his 2008 James Beard Award winning Best New Restaurant: Central Michel Richard. Cut to:


We sat in the far room at Central in front of the large, open kitchen – right in the action.


^ Chef de Cuisine Cedric Maupillier sent out these devious creamy shrimp on cole slaw, with a BBQ drizzle.


^ Carol insisted on the Salad Frisee, with Lardons & Poached Egg. Amazing. As she puts it, "The ONLY way to eat frisee!" Then another surprise from the kitchen, these gorgeous mussels.



^ Entrées. The Central Cassoulet with house made sausage. And the Braised Beef Cheeks with Tagliatelle. Well, you can just imagine. This food is simply STUPID good. The entire experience has my addictive personality twitching. The energy of the room, the sights and smells – all intoxicating. 

I'll be needing a fix from this place sooner than I'll be able to get one, I fear. On top of all that, as we were kind of in and out on a late dinner, it was relatively affordable – a couple of glasses of wine, we did skip dessert but had coffee…nice. Something about the relaxed atmosphere, with this level of food… the accolades are well deserved, at any rate!

Central Michel Richard on Urbanspoon

I’m getting porn delivered daily!

Well, it IS the season. Check out the latest:


A food-gasm inducing stash… and a gatefold from Under Pressure. We’ll be looking further into these volumes in the near future, and cooking a few dishes here and there. In the meantime: to learn more, check out the links to the left.
(any Letterman fans out there? ” …Variety Meats, Dave…!”)

Oh, Carol…

150 down and so many more to come…

The totality of "The French Laundry at Home" has been achieved.

I've got a pretty cool day job and have had a ball getting to do my dream gig over the last two decades, few years, while… But I've gotten a real kick out of sharing my passion for food with you guys during these first few months of my little blog here. For years, my close friends have known about my proclivity for opulent degustation menus and authentic ethnic preparations alike – but it took something special… a clever someone… to inspire me to sit down and share my "food problem" with the world: my pal, Carol.

TFL_01From the first moment I came across Carol Blymire's intoxicating blog project, "The French Laundry at Home," I was done for. Fearless, self-deprecating, bold, hilarious, always thoughtful, sometimes (gasp) touching, and ever inspiring: we followed Carol as she literally cooked EVERY recipe in the both stunning and demanding "The French Laundry Cookbook," (authored by the esteemed Chef Thomas Keller and the brilliant food writer Michael Ruhlman). Carol, herself, is a witty and engaging writer – and she supplies "Music to Cook By" suggestions, to boot. (Hit Me With Your Best Shot…?)

Carol posted the capping entry to the blog on Oct. 23.

Russ Parsons shares some of his thoughts on the subject here: LA Times Daily Dish Blog.

The real joy of this whole blog business is that you can just hit "The French Laundry at Home," crack open your copy of the book, dive right in (as I did – mid-stream), and enjoy the journey on your own time-line.

Be warned though, Carol is not to be trifled with. New adventures are already afoot… I invite old fans and new to join me here: "Alinea at Home" – talk about CRACK!

As I've said here and there, "Carol… You da Bomb!"  Can't wait!