Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Big Party

First course

perch fillets

Veal with cranberries

The party lasted ten hours. Without proper nourishment, nobody could last through swimming in the lake, dancing, drinking, sitting, talking and drinking some more.

Medieval Sheeter?

This image was on the wall of a boulanger in Semur en Auxois. Maybe I'm crazy, but it really looks like a sheeter (a machine for rolling out dough). So, something I thought was a 20th century, or at least a 19th century invention might go back for ages and ages. At least back then everything was made from scratch on the premises.


We made a lot of these things in class, but some of them are a mystery, like the green things that look like char siu bao, but can't be.

Road signs

Every bush hides an automatic radar machine. The speed limit changes constantly. If you pass a white rectangular sign with a red border indicating the name of a village, no matter how tiny, the speed limit drops to 50 km/h. You are supposed to know this. There wont’ be a speed limit sign - just a radar machine or a cop. If you’re on the open road, without a barrier in the middle, the speed limit will be 90 km/h. Unless it’s not. It could be 70. Narrow streets in tiny villages allow snails to pass, with speed limited to 30 km/h. If the road is divided, the speed limit is supposed to be 110 km/h, but it seems that they can issue more tickets by making it 90 km/h. Never assume anything. The autroute, a much more expensive option than the routes nationaux or departementales, allows a maximum speed of 130 km/h, unless it’s raining. Then it’s 110 km/h. 

Here, the rignt of way really is a right of way. Unless otherwise indicated, anyone coming from the right has the right of way, and you have to let them go. Unless you have a yellow diamond sign, or a sign with an upright arrow crossed by a tiny black line. Then you’re free to roll through the intersection, with only a twinge of fear that the other car will scream out in front of you.

Along with all this are small signs. They’re not into billboards, thankfully. The signs are small, indicating local hotels, restaurants and camping areas. It seems that each village of any size at all has its own tourist office.

Driving on small roads through the countryside is like connecting dots. The nearest big cities are indicated by arrow-shaped signs at intersections. Smaller hamlets have their own signs, relative to their proximity. So if you’re going far - say from Nemours to Anneccy, you need to know the names of the larger towns along the route. You can also use a compass, since the road network is like a series of triangles between villages. If you’re wrong about the relative direction of an indicated town, you might end up going the wrong way. If you ignore the increasingly strident voice of your passenger trying to point out this fact, things can get a bit tense. 

We pass a large sign inviting us to visit the Arcy Caves, indicated as something not to miss in Bourgogne. Unless you’re claustrophobic. We continue. 

Yes, we’ve returned to Bourgogne, this time under a blue sky. We’re even moving in the right direction.

In the middle of nowhere, two signs for restaurant-inns compete for our attention. Rivals, apparently. Voutenay sur Cure seems too small to have two inns, yet there they are. 

For now, we ignore the signs - lunchtime is still an hour away. 

The landscape flashes by in a blur, people towing camping trailers in the right lane, the most impatient in the left, and everyone else jockeying for their place in between. Two white lines between cars indicate the proper following distance. There are never two lines between our car and the one we’re following. This is not a place for daydreaming; someone may approach from behind instantly, or someone heading on vacation in a loaded camper might be crawling along on the left - all this with other cars zipping from one lane to another, each trying to beat the others in the race toward the South.

While we race rally-like, the radio plays. Music alternates with interviews. This being France, the interviews are about… cuisine. So, imagine someone trying to note a recipe, flying across the blacktop at 80 miles per hour, weaving to maintain the most advantageous position. Cuisine and high speed, a dangerous combination, yet we saw no carnage.

Luckily, it’s not my turn to drive.

A man with an accent we can’t identify gives an interview for his recipe for cod in bacon. A piece of cabaillaud (cod) or colin. Some chopped garlic, some white wine, some bacon or better yet, a sheet of smoked pork belly, salt, pepper and chopped onion. Season the fish, wrap it in the bacon. Fry the onions, add the fish, turning to brown it a bit, add the garlic, sauté a bit more, add the white wine and pop the whole thing in an oven to finish. Serve with rice. 

And old song by Jean-Jacques Goldman plays.

They talk about French cuisine in the Middle Ages, how so many ingredients that now form what we call classic French cooking did not exist, because nobody had been to the Americas to bring them back. No tomatoes, no potatoes, no peppers…

An updated version of “La Javanaise”, by Serge Gainsbourg streams from the speakers, followed by some news items: “A boulangerie was held up at gunpoint. Apparently, no bread was stolen”. French humor.

A quick tidbit about discusses oysters in gelée. Annette seems impressed, until I mention that it’s really quite simple to make, if you have good oysters and a clear seafood stock.

A song from “Starmania” plays. Strange. They’re not exactly into recent music on this station. These are good songs, but they’re at least ten years old. Maybe gourmets and aficionados of fine French cuisine don’t listen to rap…

Simplicity | 24 May


charcoal sack

local breads

Good ingredients, simply prepared. Sometimes it’s what you really want, not an elaborate plate that required days of work by a kitchen team. 

We’re back in the Gatinais, a land of plains dotted with small hills topped with tiny villages. Our village is so tiny it’s not even listed on most maps, nor do signs from the adjacent town point out its direction. Tourists don’t come here. It’s agricultural. No fancy cathedrals, no museums, no big department stores filled with expensive fashions. This is a place of fields, ancient stone churches, swallows that swirl and dive over the landscape and sky.

Luckily, there is a good butcher and a wine cheese and produce market in Puiseaux, about ten minutes away by car by tiny roads crossing wheat and sugar beet fields. 

The boulanger sold us a sesame bread and a type of baguette with a fancy name. Perhaps because of the weather, none of these had a terrific crispy crust normally associated with bread in France. We’d already noticed this from other bakers. A pretty big disappointment when you fly 6,000 miles and end up with the same quality of bread you’d get in your local supermarket in Sacramento!

We bought lamb chops from the butcher, along with some ham and a saucission. From the other store, we bought a large red coeur de bœuf tomato, tangerines, carrots, garlic, a lemon and a beet. We moved to the cheese section to buy cantal, a tomme de chevre, a muenster au cumin and a saint nectaire. We thew in a bottle of Mas de Mare l’Original 2010, a hearty red wine from the Pays d’Oc recommended by the owner.

We tasted most of the cheeses before we bought them. Perhaps because of my accent, we were repeatedly warned that some of them were very strong. This was especially true for the very mature tomme de chevre, something that was a bit runny, covered in a thick moldy crust with a flavor that hit like an enraged goat and stuck to your tongue with a vengeance. I could imagine someone, shocked by the strength of the cheese, scraping his tongue with anything available to free himself of the taste.

The supermarket furnished us with a label rouge chicken, fed only on grains and much tastier than the generic fowl adjacent to it. We added some yogurt and our shopping was complete.

Lunch was simple: a table in the garden, surrounded by passing bumblebees. We started with a salad of grated carrots with a bit of lemon, salt, pepper and chopped parsley, followed by ham, a bit of cheese and a tangerine for dessert. 

Dinner was only a bit more elaborate than lunch. We started with the salami. The lamb chops got seasoned with salt and pepper, oiled, and thrown on the grill. They were sprinkled with fresh chopped rosemary toward the end of cooking, then taken off to rest. The tomato was transformed into thick slices, seasoned and grilled while the meat rested. Afterward, the cheese, all washed down with the Mas de Mare. 

We sat and watched the swallows circle overhead, serenaded by a merle who sat on the adjacent roof, some tourterelles and a pigeon ramier or two, while the flavor of the tomme de chevre slowly faded in our mouths.


It's now the beginning of August, 2012. I wrote this over two months ago, and nobody ever read it. Not one person. Bad title, or is simplicity just not worth reading about in our over-complicated lives? I don't know - nobody comments on a post they never read.

Repas simple | 23 May

With all this driving around, it’s good to have a safety meal ready to go, so you can eat something good with virtually no preparation at all. 

A salami, a can of friture de canard or rillettes, a bottle of wine, some bread and cheese combine to create a meal that’s a perfect antidote to  post-route fatigue.

Chez Camille, Arnay-le-Duc | 23 May

“Let’s go there - they have a menu du terroir!” Annette said as we walked up the street in Arnay-le-Duc. 

I’d been tempted by another, smaller restaurant, but when we peeked in the lights were off and the place looked deserted. So, Chez Camille it was. The menu looked decent, and better yet, they had a pastry chef in addition to the chef and sous-chef (pastry chefs are quite rare in restaurants back home, at least restaurants that I can afford).

After asking for a table for two, we were ushered into a small, dimly lit lobby crammed with furniture. We sidled between pieces of furniture, wondering if someone found too good a bargain to pass up, brought the furniture to the inn and crammed it into the lobby.

The chef, a tall somewhat gaunt man, greeted us as he moved to another room, where he was having his lunch. The kitchen would survive without him.

We were given menus. A small plate of amuse-gueles arrived. Charcuterie in aspic, more charcuterie en croûte. 

We ordered two prix fixe lunches -  “Menu du Terroir”   -  featuring an appetizer, main plate and dessert (or cheese).  Other people with reservations were ushered quickly into the dining area, no lounging required.

We remained in the lobby. 

“Um, this ever happen to you before, being stuck in a lobby?” I whispered. 
“Non, jamais,” my wife replied.
“So presumably we won’t be eating in lounge chairs with bent knees off a too-small table?”.
“No. I think not.”

Happily she was correct. The lounge interlude was just a pause before entering. The dining area lay under a twisted ficus benjamina, pruned artistically to crawl along the underside of the skylights. The kitchen, with large windows open to the action, nestled against the far wall. An ancient stone stairway led underground to the wine cellar, leaving the waitress about two centimeters of clearance between her head and the keystone. 

The tables featured white tablecloths with large decorative plates bearing an illustration of the restaurant. As soon as we were seated, the fancy plates disappeared. It’s normal to have expensive display plates, but usually guests get to enjoy the artwork prior to the plates going back to their niche. 
Another waiter arrived with a basket of rolls: bacon, normal and grain. Bacon in bread always strikes me as a bit American, a gimmick to spend less time developing the bread’s flavor by adding a bit of smokiness and fat that wouldn’t otherwise be there. The plain roll was competent, if not exquisite.
Our entrées were a lapin en gelée and a bouchée à la reine. The first was bits of cured rabbit put into a mold and covered with aspic and chilled. The bouchée is a columnar puff pastry filled with bits of meat and vegetables, typically in a béchamel sauce - although I think they might have used velouté here for lightness. Both were competent, with the edge going to the rabbit.

Our main course sautéed Charolais beef with scalloped potatoes and a somewhat sour version of Bordelaise sauce. We couldn’t drive by all those fields of grass-eating cows without dining on one. 
Dessert was a good Mousse au chocolate and a type of fruit mousse thing whose name I forgot.
The chicken will be for tomorrow. Placed on a bed of garlic, carrots and shallots and roasted, a sage-based sauce whipped up from the jus to drizzle over the meat. It won’t need anything more, since these chickens are bred and raised for flavor.

Bernard Loiseau (no, I didn’t eat there)

Somehow, instead of heading north towards Montbard, we turned south, toward Saulieu. I really don’t know why - I wanted to visit nearby Epoisses, site of a very famous - and very fragrant - cheese.

We drifted among verdant rolling hills, passed through woods, small villages and wheat fields. There was no way to know what direction we were going; the sky was a uniform gray with no indication of the sun’s position. 

We arrived in Saulieu, more a small town than a tiny village. We’d heard that one of France’s most prestigious restaurants, Bernard Loiseau, was here. We wondered how to find it, until we realized that it was just a bit farther down the street from where we parked. I’d imagined something more intimate... Instead, it was an imposing two story structure painted a warm pastel color, with its name writ large. To the left of the restaurant’s entrance, a boutique invited people to visit with windows displaying their goods for sale. 

We entered the boutique. There was a display of All-Clad cookware from the USA, with some pieces different than those typically sold in the United States. A pot with tapered (not rounded) sides, for example. A round table displayed cookbooks and biographies of Mr. Loiseau himself and of course the illustrious restaurant. To their credit, there weren’t any T-shirts, although they did offer towels like those in the hotel. 

We didn’t eat there. For one thing, it was only 10:30 in the morning. For the other, the place was intimidating, like it dared us to pass within, if we were worthy. 

Menus placed in stanchions outside featured a colorful dish of frog leg “drumsticks” placed radially around a plate, sitting in a bright green sauce or Charolais beef cooked with a clay crust. There were some elaborate foie gras preparations. I forgot the rest, but I ‘m sure it’s all online. 

The menu we looked at was somewhere around 195 euros per person. I don’t know if that included wine. So, about the same price as The French Laundry back home. 

The next day, I turned on the TV to see if the weather would improve or if we were doomed to gray skies. Good news, the gray skies will disappear and the sun will return. 

After the weather forecast, the regular programming started. This being France, there was a program featuring culinary arts students on a field trip. Apparently they have a better budget than we, since they went on a week (or weeks) long discovery of food producers. 

They showed a cave where they make Cantal cheese, large wheels stacked on wooden planks, row upon row disappearing into the misty depths of the caves. Everything isn’t so rustic, though: robots flip the wheels at regular intervals. Expert cheese makers tap the wheels with mallets to determine its condition, kind of like a human sonagram. After years of tapping wheels of cheese, it is possible to discern its exact state of ripeness just by tapping and listening. 

The students visited a charcutier, who works in a large conical wooden smokehouse packed with hanging sausages, slabs of bacon and dry-cured hams. The air inside was only slightly smoky, fed by a small stream of smoke issuing from a pit in the floor. 

Despite all the raw-appearing meat, there were no flies. He mentioned that flies don’t like properly cured meats; they only attack rotting things, meaning that if there are flies something went quite wrong. 
At the end of the field trip, the students did a two day stage at Bernard Loiseau in the front of the house (see, this section does belong here with the restaurant). They learned how to properly iron and place the round, white tablecloths. No wrinkles on the edges. Then they placed the plates, making sure the “BL” was correctly oriented. The spoons, one finger’s width, rounded side up, to the right of the plate. Every piece placed with mechanical precision. Perfection, perfection! They were understandably nervous, but it apparently all worked out. 

The restaurant does not serve meals; they serve dreams. They explained that, just like The French Laundry, some people save up for years just for the experience of dining there. The experience, the memory, is the thing here. I suppose that the food needs to be interesting, too - but presentation and ambience reign.

Strangely, the boutique could have been used to better effect. If the restaurant was a fantasy, the boutique was a down to earth means of moving merchandise. Nobody greeted people as they arrived nor thanked them when they left, unlike a chef’s boutique we visited in California. There was no sense of welcome whatsoever. If there was a wonderful, expensive cookbook showing the restaurant’s creations (à la French Laundry Cookbook), I didn’t see it. 

What if we’d be greeted and welcomed in the boutique? Would be now be $500 poorer, but graced with wondrous memories of a fantastic meal?

Semur en Auxois

The landscape flows past. Green grass decorated with pale, almost white cows amid yellow buttercups. Hedgerows separate the fields, creating a tapestry of greens draped across rolling hills.

Semur en Auxois is a medieval city built atop a ridge next to a river. It has ramparts, towers, ancient stone walls, narrow streets guarded by gates (at least in the old part of town). 

We asked around for the local culinary specialty, thinking it would be something relative to all those cows, cheese, or perhaps wheat. Nope. It’s semurettes,  small dark chocolate truffles shaped like rugby balls (or American-style footballs).  They directed us to a blue shop in the heart of the ancient town, presided over by Mr. Coeur, master chocolatier. Semurettes aren’t something you eat in quantity. They’re rich, dark chocolate ganache coated with cocoa powder, more rich than sweet.

Strangely enough, Mr. Coeur leaves for California in a couple of weeks, to follow the famous Highway 1 between San Francisco and Los Angeles.   

Monday, May 21, 2012

Foie Gras, a tale of two cultures

"How can the government tell you what you can and cannot eat?" people say, with an astonished look. I explain the typical arguments about force feeding (gavage), and how people in the California government use them to justify legislating an entire business out of existence, at the same time telling restaurants they can't serve the stuff, and intruding in everyone's choice of diet.

The anti-foie gras arguments typically revolve around the alleged cruelty of the force-feeding process, mixed with general animal rights issues.

People here in France then wonder about other food-related legalities that they consider questionable. Doesn't California allow chickens to be raised where they never see the sun or breathe fresh air? They wonder how large industries can serve genetically modified food, something they feel lacks sufficient information on its long term effects on human health. They hear in the press that medicinal antibiotics can be given to beef, allegedly creating dangerously resistant bacteria - yet this practice is apparently legal.

So far, some common questions repeat. One is concerned with lawmakers wasting time on what they consider a relatively minor issue; another is about legislating away personal freedom. Then there are the inevitable questions about the faction that so adamantly opposes the sale of this product.

Where is the government that is supposed to protect us from what many feel are unsafe and unhealthy industrial practices? Instead, they're busy legislating foie gras out of existence? Why?

Why did people in the government decide to stick their legal fingers into everyone's dinner, arbitrarily snatching an ingredient off everyone's plate while leaving other arguably more questionable foods untouched? Is America a free country or not? What will they outlaw next, and with what justification?

Some hear that people selling foie gras in California allegedly receive death threats against themselves and their families. They ask how can someone who would kill another person over their diet claim moral superiority, something I certainly can't answer.

Talking with people involved with selling and producing foie gras is interesting. The industry has quality standards and regulations. As long as people make sure the certification is valid these standards will have been followed. The birds - ducks or geese - are fed a grain only diet and live outside. For most of their lives, they're not force fed. They walk, quack (or honk) and eat. After a certain age, they're force fed - not as nasty as foie gras opponents claim, since birds can supposedly breathe with a feeding tube in their throats. Likewise, the process is supposedly not painful when done correctly - although I suppose you would have to ask a duck or goose to get the final answer. They don't seem to run away after they've been through the gavage thing, so presumably they either have short memories or it's not as bad as it looks. Producers say that torturing the birds leads to inferior product, and that they want happy, fat animals to get a top quality rating.

So far, I've only talked to one purveyor here in Paris. It was a long talk, however. Along with the questions, there was a bit of attitude concerning our respective styles of government. He felt that the French government would never interfere in people's choice of diet without a very good reason (prohibiting eating endangered species, for example). Domestic ducks and geese certainly don't fall into this category.

The French know where their foe gras comes from, what the birds are fed and how they're raised, or at least can easily find answers to these questions. Can we say the same about our chicken, pork or beef?


The flour for this bread was milled in La Ferte Alais, not too far from Paris. It said this on the bag. It added that the bread was made in the bakery. Not frozen and shipped there to get stuck in an oven and sold.

The funny thing is that other baguettes at the same bakery were not so specific, and could have been less soigné. It's not always clear exactly which breads are artisanal and which are just placed next to artisanal but in fact are anything but.

Strangely enough, even in Paris it's not always that simple to find an excellent baguette, slowly fermented from selected wheat, nursed from flour, water, salt and yeast (or starter) all the way to a cracklingly crunchy baguette with a wonderful sponge and a succession of flavors that form and reform as you chew.

Some neighborhoods have a number of award-winning boulangers - unfortunately they're all far from here, too long a metro ride just to pop in and fetch something to go with our Camembert au lait cru.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Croissants in Paris

There are two kinds of croissants at the boulanger down the street in Paris. Ignore the thing on the extreme left - it's a chocolate croissant, made with margarine. The middle croissant sells for about € 0.95, because it's a "croissant ordinaire". Paler, whiter, less glossy, with the ends turned 90°. On the right, a croissant pur beurre, golden, glossy, about € 1.10, with straight ends. It's more expensive because it's made with real butter.

Considering how croissants are made - by layering yeasted dough with fat (butter or margarine) - they can't be fat-free. So it comes down to butter vs. margarine. I guess "margarine" does not sell as well as "natural".

Maybe I'm strange, but it seems to be that butter - churned cream - is more "natural" than margarine - treated vegetable oils, process unknown.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Ramps! Wild garlic, plucked from the woods, perhaps in the wilds of Oregon, but hopefully on a sustainable ramp farm. They're only available a few weeks out of the year, and this was the first time I've seen them at Whole Foods (ditto for the cashier, apparently).

The cashier at Whole Foods apparently never heard of ramps. There was no listing in her book. She seemed not to even think I was sane when I repeated "ramps, wild garlic, ramps..." It wasn't in the book. Finally someone found the price, under "baby leeks/ramps".  I paid. I left. I cooked.

Ramps are wonderful, a blend of leek, garlic chives and maybe garlic flavors in tender bulbs and stems. These were sautéed in duck fat, with only a bit of salt and pepper, then simmered briefly in brown stock.

The steak is a New York, pan seared. The pan sauce is a mix of more duck fat, roux, butter and the excess liquid from the ramps. Monté au beurre, seasoned and finished with a bit of heavy cream, because you can never have too many kinds of fat.

We chose a Vigilance Petit Syrah 2009 from Lake County, California, a sustainably grown wine. The three main ingredients - rare steak, ramps, sauce - tangoed with the wine in a virtuoso dance gyrating on the palate. What sauce remained was sponged off the plate with some sourdough rosemary bread.

A salad followed the steak in good French tradition. The lettuce traveled about sixty feet from garden to sink to table. Sustainable indeed, and no way it could have been fresher.

Afterward, a decadent dessert: vanilla ice cream, fresh raspberries and strawberries drizzled with crunchy tempered chocolate.

Definitely fancy, and we'll see if ramps grow here in Sacramento - I planted three likely looking bulbs in case there's a chance of this vegetable taking off here.

So, I can credit my fundamentals class, professional cooking and advanced baking for this dinner. Sauté, sauces, tempered chocolate all were improved or inspired by these classes. The wine I already knew about, so we'll skip that class.


I generally hate cupcakes. They're sugar bombs, lacking flavor or interest. Not enough chocolate. Not enough flavor. Shallow.

So of course I was assigned as Cupcake Chef in advanced baking. My task: invent a cupcake that I would love madly, passionately, without reservation.

Mission impossible? Perhaps. Cupcakes can't be savory, or they'd be muffins. So no hot wing bacon fat pork bombs. Not sweet. No duck fat cracklins, either.

If we can't do savory, how about alcoholic? I've never seen a rum baba cupcake before... is this allowed? Yes, if you boil down the rum.

So, away we went. A yeasted dough to accept a rum-sugar syrup. Rum-raisin buttercream (Swiss, for more fat). A tuille cup that you can pour flaming rum into once you've taken the cupcake home (!).

Was it worth it? Yes. Not especially sweet, but enough to qualify as a cupcake. As a plated dessert, impressive. Flaming rum descends wrapped in blue flames into the cup, from where it sinks slowly into the cake, impregnating it with enough rum to make this something you can't eat before driving. The raisins add a note of complexity and sweetness, and the tuille brings its own brief chocolate note to the concerto.

Were these something that the general public would go gaga over? I don't know. Maybe a bit extreme with the rum. Maybe nobody wants to get carded just to buy a cupcake. I don't care. They're my cupcakes and I like them the way they are.

Museo Maya-whatever

Part of culinary arts training is how to make people comfortable in your restaurant. The motive may not be so altruistic - comfortable people "contribute" more and come back more often, but still. The alternative is worse.

We tried Museo Mayahuel, or Mayahuel Cafe, or whatever they're trying to call it. It's across from the Imax theater, kind of, on K street. It's not even clear where the front door is.

We arrived, and were warmly greeted by a fellow who put together a table for us. The next person was also friendly and helpful.

Then our waitress arrived. It was all crash and burn from there.

We ordered a sampler plate, then a combination. Oops. One of the dishes- the one on the combination - was not being made. Not clear if it was not being made ever again, or just not that day, but in any case, it was still listed on the combination plate. Oh. They just swap it for something else, but the waitress was not in any mood to run to the kitchen and find out what exactly the substitution was. Obviously, she didn't find out before her shift, either.  Bad.

Then she asked what if we wanted drinks. In culinary school, you never ask an open, vague question like that. It's "Hey, we've got some great margaritas and Mexican beers, can I tempt you...?" I asked if they had aguas frescas. "No", she said, in an irritated tone, like why would a Mexican restaurant pretending to be authentic have something like that? Never mind that it would likely be present in Mexico. So, we ordered water - we'd never seen a drink menu, so we didn't even have a clue what they were capable of providing. Nobody gave me a better alternative, so I cheaped out. What did they expect with an "I don't give a shit" attitude like that?

Then the food. Many things were dinner only. Some things were listed, but MIA. I don't know why. Nobody explained it to me.

We ordered some kind of ancho chili bruchetta. Like braised chilis on toast, not much heat, no acid balance, underseasoned.

Then the main course. No cochinita pibil. No fish - that's dinner only. So, despite their claims to Mexico City or wherever gastronomic delights it basically came down to enchiladas, chile verde, the usual gang of suspects. Yeah, they did have grilled meat - but I'd just been to Gallitos Grill in L.A. where they do that kind of thing to perfection and wasn't inclined to try a local version.

Chile verde. Something I could make as well at home. Washed down with water, surveyed sporadically by a surly waitress who could not have been trained in her job.

I really don't get it. You see, the waiter at the table next to ours did things right. He proposed drinks, people ordered. They laughed. It was fun. Their tab was probably at least $10 per person higher than ours, money in his pocket and happy guests willing to return.

Our grumpy waitress asked what dessert we wanted, while one of us was halfway though the main course, without bothering to even give us a dessert menu or describe what was available. "Let me eat my lunch, dammit!" is not something a waitress should hear, not if she wants people to give her a decent tip and come back another day. Not if she doesn't want them to write things like this on a blog where they can be found by prospective clients of the restaurant or - worse - her boss. But then, it seems she's not too enamored with her job anyway.

Needless to say, we won't go back. I'll look through my Mexican cookbooks - Diana Kennedy will not let me down! Then again, I could just go to a great local place - Chando's, Palenque, Lalo's... and get friendly service with great food.

Too bad - I'd hoped to find a real jewel of a restaurant, something that whisked me away to Mexico City to dine on innovative food that I hadn't eaten in some other version fifty times before.


August 2012. Time passes into the future, two months' worth. To date, these words have never been seen by human eyes other than mine, at least according to Google. The restaurant's reputation, if any, remains unchanged. Nobody was warned to avoid our waitress. People will still eat the chili verde here instead of somewhere better and cheaper.

Some blogs get thousands of hits per day, even more. Mommy blogs are apparently the shiznits. So are "simple recipe" blogs. Well, I'm screwed. I'm not a mommy, and nobody goes to chef school to make "simple recipes" although we can. It's just that it's easier to go from complicated and understood to simple than the inverse. Sigh. I shall fade into the ether, remaining forever anonymous.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A very busy semester!

Yeah, it's been a while since I posted anything here.

Since the last post, I've been involved in making and decorating special occasion cakes, I've invented a unique species of cupcake, made bagels, donuts, sourdough bread, ciabatta, chocolate candies, sugar butterflies, marshmallows, sausage, pâté, coulibiac, tortillas and I forgot what else.

I've also been learning about restaurant advertising and management. Two more things to critique, with reason, at local establishments. More on that later, I suppose.

Now the semester is almost over and perhaps I'll have time to catch up on this blog. In July. We'll see.