So, Gina Mallet wrote a book entitled Last Chance to Eat and subtitled The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World. (For her blog, click here. You should go there for a variety of reasons, including her blog of February 10 stating that "local media are reporting" that Gordon Ramsay is opening a restaurant in Toronto. Or go here and read her views of Canadian artists in the National Post. Hmmm.) A 2004 book written by (if not obvious from what you just read) a Toronto-based writer, Last Chance to Eat chronicles in a quasi-memoirish way, the transformation of food and food ways from the author's parents' time to her own (yep, the present). ThingS have, surprisingly, deteriorated. By things, I mean taste -- but also smell, and all the sensory aspects of food. And, also, the cultures of food -- all sorts of aspects of enjoying food and dining on edibles that are, also and only inadvertently, wonderful for the world itself. But really, what do I mean by things? Eggs. Bries. Tomatoes. Fish -- of various sorts, including the joy of fishing for wild salmon in Scotland. The peculiar Brit phenomenon called the Garden Marrow. More. All the while, taste per se seems to be disappearing. As the author moves through her life, and from site to site, her parents' world, and the worlds of her childhood and youth, drift away. While sometimes unintentional, taste goes as well -- for across her life time, industrial tomatoes and the loss of fisheries are matched by the imposition of new rules based on fear of bacteria, of proven-untrue-but-still believed horrors hidden deep within our food. The bloom of Brie -- bacteria. Dry aged beef? Bacteria. Eggs? Farmed salmon (it's a falsehood that reports said it was bad for us all). All sorts of media hype -- uncorrected once science reveals the falseness of hysteria. War-time rationing gives way to newer fears. And taste disappears.
Is this my last chance to eat? Maybe, alas, our last chance has passed? Not to eat, perhaps, but to luxuriate in the tastes that Mallet recalls, or her parents knew, or we crave late at night when nostalgia (once a wartime diagnosis of yearning for home) and food mingle in our dreams.
The Naked Fish has locations in Lynnfield, Framingham, Waltham and Beillerica, according to he menu in front of me, but I am pretty darn sure I ate at one in Natick. Yep, Massachusetts. Odd, eh? Anyway, the restaurant, not surprisingly, features fish and related products of the sea. I had peppercorn tuna, done rare (which here verged on chilly and so was not really cooked correctly to my taste; plus, it seemed to be coated in ground pepper that was too finely ground --could have gone for coarsely ground I think) and sides of plantains (sauteed golden "maduros" plantains) and green beans that were labeled grilled (but seemed like any old green beans). The plantains were swell; the green beans over rated. A glass of Malbec accompanied it all. And for dessert I indulged in a trio of creme brulee. They serve all sorts of other things -- grilled fish, not to mention a paella valenciana with saffron broth, tilapia, shrimp, scallops, mussels, chicken, chorizo, red peppers and green beans or a catalan stew with scallops, mussels, shrimp and tilapia. Perhaps I should have been more adventurous. Besides what I had, the range of sides also includes roasted garlic red bliss mashed potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes with bananas. Both of these got rave reviews from co-diners. . .
So, Naked Fish. No need to dress.
for related reviews, click here (comments focusing on Framingham).
This January 2009 book by Erica Bauermeister took me a while to read. No, not because it is dull. No, not because I did not like it. It actually took me a while to read because I liked it. It is a book that somehow called out from me that rare something called a pause. It is an oddly soothing book.
Maybe I should have known I would like this book. Maybe it shoudl have been obvious. Why? Because I liked books by the people who did blurbs on the back of this book (yep, the marketers actually had me in mind): Kate Jacobs, while best known for The Friday Night Knitting Club (which I have never read) did write a foodie delight entitled Comfort Food, which I reviewed here, and, you guessed it, Sarah Addison Allen, author of Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen (I have read the former but not the latter) is another author I have reviewed. Like both other authors, this is a sort of chick lit, focused on relationships and friendships. Like the latter, this is a sort of pop version of magical realism. And this delightful version is filled with lovely sentences and sentiments without sentimentality.
Among the aspects and/or sentences I liked:
*There is a whole section on the relation of reading and words and the colors of words. I never saw the world like this and it always seemed sort of weird. And then I read this.
*The idea of a language of smells intrigues. "Perhaps, Lillian thought, smells were for her what printed words were for others, something alive that grew and changed" (p. 10). And then , there on page 11m the author actually writes: "Lillian looked at the sauce, an untouched snowfield, its smell the feeling of quiet at the end of an illness, when the world is starting to feel gentle and welcoming again."
* The cooking is about time and space, about feel and all sorts of senses, not merely the obvious, but also a reminder that the obvious can, too, be wonderful.
The tale is a weaving together of the lives and enchantments, both difficult and beautiful, of the lives of those who come to Lillian's cooking classes at her restaurant. Couples recovering from infidelity. A man who has lost the love of his life to breast cancer. A young woman whose parents are a disaster and who has left home, a waif. An older woman whose memory is disappearing. Artists and kitchen designers and women and men and people who have disappeared into others or become lost in themselves. People who will love again, for whom food comes to speak for life -- and death -- for connection and loss. People who are lost and find themselves again. The scenes range from the kitchen of Lillian's restaurant to walks by the ocean, from the making of sculpture to the making of bread, from the taking of risks to basking in the usual.
In the end, the book also asks what it means to teach and learn. Perhaps the best moment, is the surprising ending, when no one is left alone, though solitude remains of substantial value. Perhaps the best moment is when you remember that cooking is not mere recipe following, social control and greed but the making of a home with oneself and more. . . Somewhere in here, according to at least one google-able site (right here), the words "Lillian believed in food the way some people do religion" appears. Perhaps most remarkably, I loved this book despite this.
Yep, this book is just out, January 2009, in hardback. For other reviews, check this blog or this one
There are many things I do not know. Often, they have to do with food. (Not always.) So, today I am asking you: Did you know about the bacon explosion? Yep, the bacon explosion is the apparently famous (how did I miss this?) Super Bowl food of the year: bacon woven around sausage. It is under discussion all over the blogosphere, and pictured loads of places too. I only know about it because my favorite blog muse pointed it out to me. Wow. How did I miss all this blogging on food?
Somehow, the idea of any recipe with pounds of bacon and pounds of sausage in it is itself right at the cusp of disgusting and "oh my god I have to try that." Yes, I love bacon on almost anything, and recently made kale with bacon, for example. It simply does not get the same reaction to say "kale with bacon" when you could say "bacon with sausage" or "bacon explosion." And no, this is not a commentary on intensive pig farming or a secret plot to increase the recognition of organic kale (though it could be I suppose).
This bacon explosion thing resists the idea of food as death -- all the reporting of all those (too often later declared erroneous) horror stories about the awful deaths lurking in our oh so ordinary food --eggs, hamburgers, peanuts, -- everything. It is peculiarly hedonistic. And the visuals are pretty darn fascinating too.
To get a clue, try this NY Times perspective; it has the perfect title: "Take Bacon. Add Sausage. Blog." So, I am asking: what's your view? Did you make it? And why do we all care? I am saying: "Take Bacon. Add Sausage. Comment."
Eating in upstate New York is, sometimes, wonderful. And it is particularly wonderful when you discover new (at least new to you) places that you like -- that seem special and make the everyday seem special. Here are two such places, briefly reviewed:Coppergrass BIstro is in Pittsford Plaza, in Rochester. Right after seeing Milk (which was, indeed, a swell movie with a foodie name but a high politics meaning and topic since it is about Harvey Milk), we tried this place out. And it was a great discovery for us. Once named something else entirely (Farm Fresh Kitchen), it has a rustic seeming ambience, with a metallic/zinc bar (which is where we sat). It was a pretty darn packed place, but sitting at the bar worked out great.
The food seems to focus on local-ish and fresh, with lists of purveyors provided on the menu. What did we have? One of us had the country pate (for $12) and I ordered the duck meatball brochette. Alas, they were out of the latter. Well, I thought alas, until I tried what I did get -- the Hudson Valley fois gras was cooked perfectly, and the curried squash was tiny, diced squash and served on top of a thin pancake. Mmmm -- great texture, taste and plating. We followed this with a shared arugula and endive salad, also tasty. And for entrees? I had a "roman gnocchi small plate" and was grateful to know ahead of time that it was not what I expect gnocchi to be, but one large-ish gnocchi. It was absolutely great -- lighter than it sounded, with chicken confit, kale, and gruyere. We also ordered a less spectacular pasta -- the pappardelle with braised pork and a tomato sauce. Alas, it came with currants -- and way way too many currants. We ended with a chocolate mousse thing to share -- very gooey and very good, with a sort of marshmallow/smores theme. And the drinks list is swell. So, try it -- you'll like it!
Fine Line Bistro is in the opposite direction from Geneva -- in Ithaca. The very first time we went by, we did not eat there, but when it was suggested again we tried it. For one thing, the won a best waiter award recently in Ithaca (and I think we had the guy, who was very very good). Unlike most places, the meal did not begin with bread, but with nice dill green beans that arrived before our meal and we replenished when we polished them off quickly. What did we have? I tried hte rabbit wings (because I just like rabbit), which were tasty, though I am not sure I would order them again. A great novelty, but . . . And for the first time I am reviewing a restaurant without being able to fully remember what we ate. I'm pretty sure one of us had the chipoltet mussels and frites, but god/dess only knows what I had for my main. I do, though, know this: I would definitely go back. The wine list is swell, the food was good, and the service was great. Next time I will report more fully on the meal. But to make up for my lapse, click here where ithacarestaurantreview.com even provides pictures in their review.
And the ambience? Beside the above-mentioned remarkable waitstaff, the kitchen is visible to diners, and the bathrooms are absolutely swell -- because decorated as heaven and hell. This connects to the statement on their web site: "Heaven sends us good meat, the devils sends us cooks."