Yesterday I decided I to get someone this copy of Michael Ruhlman's Ratio I have lying around that went unclaimed by its winner from the initial giveaway. So I went to Twitter and asked you all to send me food haiku and I would choose a winner after I had compiled fifteen.
Stars and planets aligned and I was finally able to go to my first iteration of Chef Ludo Lefebvre's "pop-up" restaurant LudoBites in its eighth outpost. This time Chef Ludo took over Lemon Moon restaurant on West Olympic Boulevard. Thankfully, after so much hype and excitement there was not an ounce of disappointment from first experience under Chef Ludo and Krissy Lefebvre's care.
By now it's been over two month's since I sipped hard cider and languished over course after course of Chef Ludo's cuisine. But better late than never, eh? And it doesn't feel like its something of the past because I am still thinking about and craving the tuna with somen I had that night every single day (no joke). (Sorry in advance for the dim photos, was trying not to be too ... flashy.)
So, let's start at the beginning. My dinner guest and I opted for the NV Cambremer Cidre. Our meal began with a bang- literally- as the cork popped out of the bottle of cider the moment the cage was undone.
Next it was time to survey the menu and devise our plan of attack. We didn't opt to have the whole menu, as many do. As it was I was totally full when we left after eating less than half of the menu. I admit I was thrilled to have this simple piece of paper finally sitting in front of me in real life, not just a photo on the internet for once:
Burgundy Gougères and Chicken Tandoori Crackling got things going. I found it smart and comforting that Chef Ludo offers up something as simple as cheese puffs on menu. It is a way to taste something familiar at start of the meal as a means of easing into his unique flavor combinations and cooking techniques. The cracklings were like super fancy nachos without a tortilla in sight. The chicken liver mousse was a meaty cloud on a crisp chicken skin 'chip'.
A few months back someone Tweeted the book trailer for a breath-taking cookbook all about fruits and vegetables. The book was Ripe and the author Cheryl Sternman Rule with luscious photography by Paulette Phlipot. I immediately shared the trailer with my Twitter followers and exclaimed my excitement over this vegetarian cookbook that looked like it would put all other vegetarian cookbooks to shame. I'm happy to report my gut feeling about the book was spot on.
Fortunately, both Cheryl and Paulette were at the IACP Book and Blog Festival so I was able to meet them and finally get my hands on the book. On my subway ride home I carefully turned each glossy, high-color page. Fruits and vegetables never looked so good. Cheryl's introduction is the perfect beginning. She explains that this, yes, is a vegetarian cookbook but that, no, she won't emphasize that fact throughout. Also, the book is not arranged by season, as many produce-forward books are. Instead the book is a rainbow of nature's bounty, organized by color and alphabetically by the names of the highlighted fruits and vegetables. There has even been discussion about fore-edge of the book since it creates a bright waterfall of color.
Each item has a corresponding recipe: Butternut Squash - Red Curry Glazed Butternut Squash with Coconut Rice (page 76), Blueberries - Blueberry Nutmeg Cake (page 240), Mushrooms - Cremini Farro Hash with Poached Eggs (page 294). Cheryl gets to the essence of each main ingredient while giving tips for how to buy, store and generally prepare. In addition to the main recipe every item has a list of three "Simple Uses"- recipes without directions. I love this part of the book- half the time when I look through food magazines, cookbooks, or blogs I see photos and get ideas about what to make and rarely follow the given recipe if I have a sense of how to make it already. This amplifies the amount of recipes in the book from seventy-five up to three hundred. And isn't the main thing we're always trying to get more creative with in the kitchen our produce?
So, I love this book. And I highly recommend you check it out in your book store and give in to the urge to run home with it, make a list, then run back out to the farmer's market. When I got off the subway I ducked off to Fairway on the way to scoop up a mix of produce to get started. I ended up making a few Chocolate Covered Strawberries (page 60) [a genius, fruit based lunchtime dessert during the work week] and marking the Polenta-Stuffed Chard with Bubbly Parmesean (page 222) for a later date.
For a little while I've been debating something I could do regularly to ensure at least one post a week. Life, as it gets from time to time, has been quite busy as of late. I haven't been posting as frequently and its not for lack of inspiration but merely lack of time to devote to writing and writing well. It has never been my style to slap up a series of photos and put them out into the blogosphere to be ignored.
What I have come up with for you combines two of my dear loves and creates a format I will easily be able to maintain on a weekly basis: culinary haiku. Somewhere in my heart I believe I have felt inspired by haiku even before learning about them in school. My affection for them flourished in one of the most memorable classes I took as an undergrad at SUNY Geneseo: Literature and the Environment. One of our first assignments was to write haiku. We were also asked to keep a journal for class. Somewhat naturally the two combined for me and I am glad to have a small notebook replete with haiku on a variety of topics. Typically haiku is supposed to focus on themes in nature, but I quickly argued in class and maintain the argument today, that everything that surrounds us is nature because it all exists within the natural world. Sure, a tree that grew without being planted or cultivated that lives in a dense forest may be more natural than a laptop, but they both are made from the earth and its naturally occurring inhabitants.