Well, really, this has nothing to do with "comeuppance," it is just that I read a book recently that featured that word, and I like it. It is a great word -- irrelevant, but dandy. What's really featured here is what's coming soon to this blog:
*It is a year really focused on Charles Darwin -- and yes, his wife, Emma Wedgewod Darwin had a recipe book. So, coming soon, is a review of a recently published collection of her receipts.
*What came in the mail lately? A scandinavian cookbook and a second cookbook with the word "cloudberry" in its title.
*Des(s)ert of the Heart II -- In which we say "yes" to a comment asking for recipes for Frozen Honey Mousse and Saffron Honey Granita.
Recently, we went to a dinner that involved opening bottles of wine that carried stories with them. Long story. (Repetition intended.) But,for the first time in ages, along with the wine poached pears that I learned from my favorite Canadian and that I love, I made accompaniments. Two, in fact. The first was a saffron and honey granita that came from Granita Magic (reviewed here) and the second a frozen honey mousse from Deborah Madison'sVegetarian Cooking for Everyone. These lead me to buy several beautiful honeys -- an orange blossom from Red Jacket was one and a lavender honey found in an odd aisle in Canandaigua Wegmans another and the third has drifted from my memory. Both desserts made beautiful yellow-ish toned accompaniments to the reddish hued poached pears, which we served in halves. The flavors were exotic and a nice balance for the hovering on the edge of savory, acidic and sweet pears -- boscs at the perfect state of ripeness when they began (this time a very short period of) poaching. The granita was sort of grainy in texture (as always) while the mousse was a creamy delight. While I preferred the mousse, diners seemed to love them both -- not to mention the pears. I do not have the recipes on hand, so you will just have to check out the cookbooks mentioned -- and all can be made in a few hours (including time to freeze the granita and mousse). My only real puzzles? Where DOES one buy orange flower water? (I left it out.)
If you ask nicely, maybe I can find the recipes and type them in!
I like this book. I did not expect to. Hey -- look at it's title. "Take This Bread" just about shouts Christianity. It shouts death of Jesus, eat this in remembrance of me-ism. A whole set of ritual practices that folks killed each other over for centuries and . . . well, for me, bring to mind grape juice in shot glasses, cubes of wonder bread and yes, the nostalgia of belief. I expected to find this book an off-puttingly religious tome, despite its marshaling of the word spiritual in its subtitle (implicitly, then, not religious?). Yes, this is a book about a conversion to Christianity and the eating of bread. In fact, it is a bit magical how author Sara Miles wanders into a church, eats the bread of communion, and lo and behold, discovers herself and then transforms herself. Actually, according to the memoir, she discovers not only herself (as in the self-indulgent narcissism of some of us), but God and the rest of humanity. Very Victor Turner-esque, in the transformation of the individual is the transformation of community and vice versa. Very William James-ish, the conversion is tantalizingly sudden -- and lengthy in its process -- simultaneously. (In this regard, see The Varieties of Religious Experience.) Very coming out story-ish if that's the form of lesbian tale that derives from the conversion narrative, and is here returned to its origins in falling in love with God. (See Michael Warner) Her humanitarian concern -- and her smarts -- are, not actually, anything new. Miles had already led an engaged life as a writer and activist in, say, Nicaragua. What is new, for her, is an allegiance to Church. What, she asks, is this non-theistic lesbian doing finding god in a church called St. Gregory's in San Francisco. And, she asks, how does their inclusive (if a bit aesthetically oriented and class based) liturgy lead to the politics of food distribution and the establishment of food banks where (gasp) no one has to show identification. The answer: God wants to feed people. He (she? it?) wants Sara to feed people. What is communion? the eucharist? Feeding people. What is an inclusive liturgy? A food bank. No, she is not "merely" a do gooder. (So do not think justification by works versus justification by faith here.) She's a politicized mystic. And I discovered her only after the book went into paperback. Hmmm.
Part of what I like about the book is the representation of her home life -- where the stress of change is both supported and worrisome (for her partner and her daughter). Somehow they work it out, and not everyone has to be converted to the same mission. Part of what I like about the book is the combination of naivete and smarts that the protagonist (Sara's representation of Sara) provides. And part of it is, I am persuaded. Yep. the point of it all is to invite even those one most disdains to the table. (Or is it to the party?) Sometimes, that is oneself. Always, it is oneself, as one invites (and fails to invite) others. Of course, as a lesbian, Sara is not always invited to the table; and she brings that with her along on this journey to figure out what inclusion might really mean. She brings as well the notion that we might need another table entirely -- to make one ourselves, to invite ourselves, to discover it all in the mouthful of bread. I have moments of hoping that this could be attributed to the rather oddball form of radical education she experienced in her youth. Oh for the days of deeply radical educational experiments. Maybe that will be her next project. Or yours.
St Gregory's is actualy St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. It has an intriguing history of mainstreamish outsiderishness. Fopr more on the church, here's their website. For more on teh Food Pantry, and even todonate, click here.
I continue to be fascinated by what comes in the mail. (Thanks for the picture to yankees.lhblogs.com ) And here are a
few things, each of which will get their own entry one of these days:
*Ready, Steady, Spaghetti: Cooking for Kids and With Kids is not really up my alley in some ways. I just don't cook for kids nor do I cook with kids. But, I do read cookbooks and this is a cookbook by Lucy Broadhurst. So. . . .
*Lynda Resnick's Rubies in the Orchard: How to Uncover the Hidden Gems in Your Business also says the following on the front cover: "THe POM Queen's Secrets to Marketing Just About Anything." Yes, I like all those POM products. Who knew you could brand a whole category of food: the pomegranate. (Now it seems to be acai.) My own delight in pomegranates combined with my youthful enthusiasm for Magritte make me want to read this. (The cover has a pomegranate floating in front of the face of a woman, dressed in a suit with a bowler hat. Get the allusion?)
More on both eventually! Meanwhile, check out this site for more on Resnick's book.
Sante is a healthy Asian fusion place above street level (yep, the second floor) across from the Rideau Centre and not far from the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. A visit to the restaurant meant pho for several people and green chicken curry for several others. The pho (aka noodle soup) got very positive reviews from those who ordered it; I did not. I had the green chicken curry, which though plated in a surprising way, was pretty darn good. How was it plated? On a long, narrow, rectangular plate, with snow peas at one end, then (white) rice, then the chicken curry itself, and finally steamed broccoli. A sort of deconstructed curry, perhaps? Despite the plating, or perhaps because of it, the curry was swell. Light, with a bit of heat, and tasty. The pho came with some condiments, one of which was a bright green chili paste -- the owner (I think) assured you this was NOT made from Mexican chilies, but from Vietnamese chilies. (And, he informed us, that was his country.) Yes, the beautiful green condiment was fiercely hot.
All in all, a lovely lunch, late on a cold day. Not my first pick in Ottawa, but it turned out to be quite good. The ambience is perfectly acceptable, with a bird's eye view of the shoppers on the street below and an equally nice perspective on the architectural details of the surrounding buildings. Plus, the art on the walls was fun. i particularly liked some black and whites of chickens as well as the more or less pervasive paintings of poppies. Sante is, it turns out, also an art gallery. (For more on the gallery, and the artists exhibiting, click here.) And, it is more. What? A spa. When we reached the top of the stairway on our way into Sante, the aromas were not quite what we expected. It smelled incredibly spa-like -- by which I mean that tantalizing smell of massage and manicure and pedicure and relaxation I associate with such places. (For more on the spa, click here.) What had I expected? The odors of cooking. Yet, when we turned the corner into the restaurant per se, there they were -- the smells of curries, not at all marred by any intrusive spa scents. (How they manage that, I will never know. Air flow?)
The mail, as I have said, brings wonders. And one of those is Laura Childs, whose work I have only read because she got in touch through the blog and sent me things. Most recently (and not so recently at that) she sent along uncorrected proofs for Oolong Dead. as the title makes readily apparent, this is her latest installment of her "tea shop mysteries" featuring Theodosia Browning and her Indigo Tea Shop pals. Set, as usual, in Charleston, the orienting "events" this time, though less apparent than in some of her novels, are an opening steeple chase and a closing Venetian Ball. Yes, historical preservation and much southern lore make appearances -- on occasion cameos rather than fully developed themes. And yes, teas of various sorts are mentioned -- and a variety of events catered and recipes provided, including "green tea granita" which given my love for granitas might actually appear one of these days. (I most recently made saffron honey granita. MMMM.) Her pacing makes the novel move along at a good clip (even while feeling leisurely in a southern sort of way). Definitely worth a read.
For reviews of her other books right here on Cooking with Ideas, click here:
And for an interview with Laura Childs, again right here on Cooking with Ideas, click here.
Sometimes, waiting is worth it. And we have been waiting for this interview with Laura and Scott of Madderlake Cafe for quite a while. You'll see this is a more or less joint interview with answers from Laura (front of the house and sommelier) and Scott (chef) and joint answers! I know this interview took some time from their busy schedules, so we are grateful to them the interview. Hurrah!
Bibliochef: Hi. It’s great to finally get to an interview
with you. As you know, I am a big fan of Madderlake Café and have mentioned it
a number of times on the Cooking with Ideas. Thanks for agreeing to answer some
questions! We’re all excited to learn more. So, the Madderlake Café opened in 2005. And I got to know
you in part because you catered my 50th birthday party.
(Thanks!)I wonder if you can tell
us the story of how you came to open a restaurant here in the Finger Lakes area
– and why Madderlake Café is there on Rte. 14.
Laura: We moved here in 2004 from Northern California’s wine
country for, essentially, a change of scenery and way of life.We had each been part of Sonoma
County’s wine and food milieu for 20years or so and were getting weary of it.We’d each been part, to a greater or lesser degree, of the
blossoming of the restaurant scene in the mid-80’s, and that was great fun, but
by 2004, it was developing into a situation in which big money and celebrity
was starting to overtake the, let’s say, organic and indigenous, and
experimental spirit of the area.When we had first become a part of “the scene” it was full of
mom-and-pop restaurants and a lot of experimentation and, by the time we left,
the area had been “found” and what we had come to love about Sonoma County was
dissipating.Add to that the facts
that highway traffic was becoming intolerable and the cost of living was
becoming unsustainable.So, we
started thinking:is there a
better, more tolerable place to be, to operate a restaurant with a personal
touch, and moreover, to live?
it happens, I (Laura) had met Peter Bell at one of the wine judging
competitions that I judged (at the same competition, one of the judges’ gifts
was a coffee table picture book of the Finger Lakes) and had become interested
in the Finger Lakes area. That is how upstate New York first managed to get on
our radar as a possible alternative place to live and work.
After purchasing a house and moving here, it would be almost
another full year before we would decide the final location for our
restaurant.After spending many
long hours looking at buildings over and again, we finally decided that the
former Francesco’s location on Route 14 would be our “spot”.It is a great location between Geneva
and Penn Yan and is very convenient for wine trail visitors.Although it took some time and money,
it was already a restaurant and had a functioning kitchen.
Bibliochef: I know some of your fans have heard you talk about your food
and wine related experience before you came to the Geneva area. Can you
describe that for us? While we're waiting on Scott's answer, which is "to be sent as soon as possible!" her'es Laura's answer
Laura:I have been in the food and wine business ever since my late
teens and it slowly became my career.The positions I have held have included nearly every position offered in
a restaurant.I’ve been a
bartender, busser, cocktail waitress, waiter, dining room manager and general
manager.The only post that I
hadn’t ever held was owner – so, that was the next logical step.In addition to my direct restaurant
experience, I’ve worked as a cellar rat, made my own wine, judged wine
professionally and worked in tasting rooms.You name it, I’ve probably done it.When I met Scott, I was able to expand
my knowledge of food-and-wine pairing and, by working together, we were able to
orchestrate some unusual and tasty combinations.
Bibliochef: How did and do you choose your menu? Your wine list?
Scott:Any particular menu item I decide upon has to conform to our
stated mission, which is to offer interesting “wine country” fare, drawing
inspiration from American regional styles, with a focus on using local farm
products.(It’s true, everyone, it
seems, is “doing American” now – there’s a New American This or American Bistro
That just about everywhere – but I’ve been on this path for something like
thirteen years, and I’m not about to turn away from it just to avoid the
appearance of being on a bandwagon.)
As far as procuring raw materials,
I look at it as a sort of target, with several rings.The bull’s eye is this:The item is local, seasonal, and organic.Failing that, the item is regional in
general, and more-or-less seasonal (one has to serve something, and
failing that, the item has been raised or produced in North American:all my cheeses, for instance, are
American, from Lively Run’s chevre to Antigo Stravecchio parmesan [for some info on them, click here] and Roth Kase
Blue, both from Wisconsin.
Laura:The wine list has always been chosen with quality and
interest in mind.I am as
particular about the wines in our restaurant as Scott is about the food.I typically only buy 10% of what I
taste.So, I have to go through 10
wines to find one that is appropriate for the list.
When tasting, the absolute first
thing that I look for is is the wine varietally correct, meaning does it have
the attributes that it should have in correspondence with its varietal.Following that, it has to be a
well-made wine without flaws such as too much oak, off balance, too much bret,
etc.If it doesn’t meet the first
two criteria, I don’t taste further.If it does, then the price comes in as a factor.Is it worth what I’d charge for
it?If so, then I consider is it
appropriate for the season, will it be a good fit with Scott’s menu, and is it
a style that guests will like.
When I am purchasing the wine for
the restaurant, it is not uncommon for me to buy a bottle or two with a
specific guest in mind.It’s
always fun to have a few bottles in the cellar, that are not on the list, that
are a perfect fit for some of my favorite guests!I’m very fortunate that our guests are more than willing to
taste varietals that may not be mainstream and are very open-minded.It allows me to buy and sell the wines
that I really love!
Bibliochef: Any wine recommendations?
Laura:In this economy especially, look for wines that are priced
under $15.00 retail and under $30.00 restaurant.There are amazing values in the lower price brackets, much
more than I have seen in recent years.So much so, that I have found myself not looking much at the high-end
wines as I am having such great luck finding esoteric, small production wines
in the lower price ranges.
far as the local Finger Lakes wine industry, all I can say is that there are
some potentially great red wines just waiting for release from the 2007 and 2008
vintages!I have recently tasted
some younger reds at both Hermann Wiemer and Anthony Road.Both of the wineries red wines were
showing a depth, texture, and structure that I had yet to taste in local
wines.They are dark, deep, and
brooding without being jammy or overripe.They lean more toward a Rhone-like quality, but they definitely are
unlike anyplace else.The specific
wines that I’d look for at these wineries are the 2007 Anthony Road Cab
Franc/Lemberger (should be released in March) and the 2007 and 2008 Hermann
Wiemer Cabernet Francs.
addition, the Rieslings from the 2008 vintage are showing great balance.They are almost like combining the
ripeness of the 2007 vintage with the minerality and the acidity of the 2006
vintage!What that means in real
terms is it could be one of those special vintages that comes along only once a
decade at best.
So, go out and
taste in the Finger Lakes at your favorite wineries, pick up a couple of
bottles, and enjoy the bounty of the area!!!
Bibliochef: Many of us know that you get your bread from normal bread in
Geneva. (For some Cooking with Ideas posts on the bakery, click here and follow the relevant links) Can you tell us how that came about?
Laura and Scott: When Dustin, the owner of normal
bread, was looking for a site for his bakery, he was considering the gas
station that was for sale right next to our restaurant.He came over and introduced himself and
we mentioned how much we’d like to be able to use local bread as we had been
having no luck finding a local baker.Dustin let us know that as soon as he had samples ready, he’d bring them
a couple of weeks, his offer on the gas station fell through and we were very
disappointed.However, right after
that we heard that he had purchased a building on Washington street and was
slated to open.Just prior to the
opening, we were given samples (which were just what we were looking for) and
we had a baker!!!We have used
normal since the day they opened and have always had fantastic bread.
Bibliochef: Can you describe a day at the Madderlake Cafe?
Laura and Scott: Typically, it’s a ten-to-twelve hour
day, and also, typically, behind the scenes, it’s controlled chaos.
Bibliochef:I know that Madderlake Café is named for a color. Can you
explain why – and perhaps say something about the art on the walls?
Laura and Scott: When it came time to name the
restaurant, it certainly had to have an artistic nod to it as it is a passion
of both of ours.Scott kept
looking through books and on the internet and came up with a list of names and
when we came to MadderLake, it just seemed to fit.MadderLake, by definition, is an artist’s pigment, a.k.a.
alizarin, and it’s a bright, bold color.The color was one that we liked and the word also had “lake” in it which
gave the restaurant a sense of place.
art on the walls is a combination of alternating works in the front bar area
and the permanent works which are the plates in the dining room.The glass in the main dining room is by
an artist named Christian Thirion from Watkins Glen.Christian was one of our first acquaintances in the area and
was one of our first diners in the restaurant.After his first meal, when he was walking out, he asked it
he could put a few plates on our walls.Of course, we said yes without hesitation and asked him when he’d like
to put them up.It was a full two
months later that Christian showed up at our door with the plates and we were
(and still are) amazed by them.In
our wildest dreams we thought of half a dozen plates, never close to
thirty!And the installation is a
spot on fit for the space.We had
no input as to the color, size, or shape of the plates as we thought the artist
should be free to express himself without reservation.
alternating works in the bar area have come everywhere from an artist we met in
Ithaca to one of our guests from Keuka Lake to a professor at Hobart and
William Smith Colleges.We are
always looking for new artists and try to change the works at least three times
Bibliochef: Are you willing to share a recipe for something you make at
home or at the restaurant?
Laura and Scott: Yes.I’ve never refused to give out a recipe, never “guarded secrets”.(There aren’t any.)
Bibliochef: So, that means, next time I am in, maybe I will ask for that Lemon Tart recipe! And readers will be asking for all sorts of recipes! Meanwhile, now for some questions that, in one way or another, I
ask everyone I interview. In your imagination, who would you most like to walk into
your restaurant and order something? Why?
Laura and Scott: Tom Waits.Why not?Also, my former partner and co-chef
from the mid-80’s:I respect his
Bibliochef: What’s the absolutely best meal you have ever had? What
made it the best meal?
Laura and Scott: For us,
there is no “one” best meal – there have been many.From haute cuisine (such as the French Laundry, Bay Wolf,
and Brix) to that simply made hot fudge sundae served with the best
ingredients. . .
Bibliochef: So, now I am officially jealous. Another question: What music, films, books related to food and/or food
would you recommend? Why?
Scott:Books:Anything by MFK
Fisher; Kitchen Confidential [by Anthony Bourdain]; Omnivore’s Dilemma [by Michael Pollan];The Doubleday
Cookbook; Time-Life’s "Foods of the World" series (published in the
70’s and maybe out of print); I Hear American Cooking, by Betty Fussell [for a conversation with Fussell, click here]; Not Afraid of Flavor from Magnolia Grill; Food Lover’s Companion.
Films:“Who is Killing the Great Chefs of
Europe?”; “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover”. [For the first, click here and for the second click here.]
TV:Some years back there was a Cajun-theme
cooking show on PBS hosted by a crusty old fart named Justin Wilson.What scream.(“Start with a gallon of Carlo Rossi Red . . . .”And he would measure with his
hands:“Dat’s ezzackly a teaspoon,
I guar-aun-teee. . . .”
Music:“Filipino Backspring Hog” by Tom Waits
(album:Mule Variations).It’s a primal-scream comic song about
“turkey-neck stew”, “bruleed okra seed”, and basting “with a sweepin’ broom.” [Click here for what claims to be a free download; I take no responsibility for any issues with this one. Bibliochef]
Bibliochef: What do you eat for comfort food?
Laura and Scott: Burritos, pizza, nachos, and pasta, M&M’s. . .
Bibliochef: Madderlake Café has been named as a favorite Finger Lakes
restaurant by a variety of thefolks interviewed here on Cooking with Ideas.
Turn around is fair play! Do you have a favorite restaurant in the Finger
Laura and Scott: Yes.Ours. We have a few local eateries that
we frequent depending on our cravings.So, I’d say that we don’t haveone favorite, but several.Rio Tomatlan (authentic Mexican food - Canandaigua), Suzanne’s,
Stonecat, and the Red Dove come to mind.
Bibliochef: So, one last question after this swell interview. What am I not asking that I ought to ask?
Laura and Scott: The question that everyone always asks
us, “Why would you move from Sonoma County to Upstate New York???”
Bibliochef: Well, that you have answered! And thanks -- thanks so very very much. (And, for an old review of Maddlerlake on Cooking with Ideas, click here.)