May 12, 2013 § 6 Comments
My mother is impossible to buy gifts for. Last night to dinner, I wore a scarf I gave her one year for Christmas. “You obviously liked it. You’ll wear it more than I would. You keep it.” Another year I bought her nice hand cream. The woman loves rubbing cream into her hands. A year later I saw the tube sitting on her bathroom counter, untouched. “Don’t you like it?” I asked. “I love it. I just don’t want to use it up.” I bought her another one so she’d know there was plenty of hand cream in her future. She kept that in her car console, also untouched. Her standard line regarding gifts has always been, “I can afford to buy myself anything you can afford to buy me. Make me something instead.” And so I decided to make her this online album. We’ve spent the last two mother’s days together at my friend Andre’s home in Venice, California. Andre is a landscape designer, floral designer, and artist. His garden, which I call Andre’s World, is a work of art, and one of my favorite places on the planet to spend an afternoon. So until I can afford to buy you something she can’t buy yourself, Happy Mother’s Day!
February 3, 2013 § 1 Comment
Every year when on Superbowl Sunday I think of a new way to recycle my guacamole recipe, so today I’ve decided to tell you about when Dario Cecchini, the famous Tuscan butcher, came to town—and by “town,” I mean Los Angeles. “What do you do when you have a butcher over for dinner?” asked Nancy Silverton, who was hosting a party in Dario’s honor.
You invite the only other butchers you happen to know, such as Jim from Huntington Meats, seen here inspecting the goods. (Or is he simply eating?)
You invite all Italian-speakers living in the vicinity, such as Rufus, seen here with fellow Italian-speaker Gino Angelini, who is inspecting a sign, written in Italian, that Rufus wears around his neck.
And you serve meat.
For the feast, two smokin’, bbq lovin’, ass kicking chefs Chris Feldmeier (Osteria Mozza) and Erik Black (Spice Table) spent days in order to show Dario how we do it in America.
This Mexican did the only thing she knows to do in such a situation. She made guacamole.
Here it is with that requisite of any meat eating feast: loads of red wine.
The sign Rufus wore, featured in both the English and Italian languages, instructed guests not to feed him.
- “Thankfully,” he says. “Nobody pays attention to anything my mom says.”
Although I can’t give you the recipe for that succulent sausage pictured above, I can give you recipes for what I think are the best red and green salsas you’ll ever taste–unless you go to Loteria! Grill and eat Jimmy Shaw’s chipotle salsa, which is, I hate to admit, un poquito better than mine. I’m still working on getting that one. Maybe next year. Jimmy? Are you listening or is Rufus right again?
Smoky Tomato Salsa
Makes 2 cups
1 pound roma tomatoes, charred on the grill
2 yellow onions, sliced, oiled, and charred on the grill
4 garlic cloves, browned in their skins on grill
1 tablespoon plus 1 to 2 teaspoons pureed chipotle in adobo
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
2 to 3 teaspoons salt
Puree the tomatoes (including juices), onions, and garlic in a food processor. Add the chipotle puree, chipotle power, and salt and stir to combine.
Charred Green Chile Salsa
Makes 1½ cups
4 garlic cloves (skins on) browned on the grill
1 pound husked tomatillos, charred on the grill
2 serrano chilies, charred on the grill, seeds removed
1 poblano chile, charred on the grill, peeled and seeded
1 yellow onion, sliced, oiled, and charred on the grill
A handful of fresh cilantro
Juice of 2 limes
2 to 3 tablespoons salt
Remove the skins from the garlic and puree the ingredients in a food processor to coarse puree, scraping down the sides of the food processor from time to time for even pureeing. Add water if necessary to make a loose salsa consistency. Taste for seasoning and add more lime juice or salt.
May 14, 2012 § 4 Comments
Where once Mother’s Day was only about my mother, these days when that Sunday in May rolls around, I think of all my friends and relatives who have become mothers and are doing such a wonderful, creative, committed job of it. I spent yesterday with my mami at my friend Andre’s, with his mother and other mothers in his life.
It goes by so fast, they all say. And yes, it seems like just yesterday I was sitting with my sister on a stoop in Tijuana while our mother, wearing a smocked yellow mini-dress, smoked a Salem menthol and drank a screwdriver from a turquoise stemmed margarita glass…
They remind me of the glasses Andre served yesterday. I sure wish she’d saved those glasses. (Not to mention the dress!) But the next best thing. As we speak, she’s off at Ikea to buy me these, which André had at his house yesterday.
Andre is one of those talents who can make even Ikea stuff look special. See?
I sure wish my mom had saved those glasses. (Not to mention the dress!) But at least she’s trying to make up for her mistakes. As we speak, she’s off to Ikea, picking up some replacements… Moms.
March 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Not long ago, following my new Tibetan doctor’s prescription to slow down and be nice to myself (don’t you just love a prescription like that!?), I let myself enjoy a leisurely lunch with my friend, the chef Jonathan Waxman, at the Venice restaurant phenom, Gjelina. As we looked through the menu deciding what to order, I pointed out the words typed on the cover side of each menu, “changes & modifications politely declined.” Gjelina, as anyone who follows the shallow, eating disordered life of Victoria Beckham knows, does not allow substitutions. “What do you think of that?” I asked J-Wax, curious about his point of view on an issue that became pretty loud and controversial in the City of dressing-on-the-side Angels after the VB incident.
“I”m fine with it,” he said.
“Fine with people asking for substitutions or fine with Gjelina’s policy of declining them?”
“You know the famous quote,” he went on in the cool, calm, and all-knowing way he has that inspired younger chefs he competed against on Top Chef Masters to compare him to Obi-Wan Kenobe. “Le chef il a toujours raison.” (Jonathan himself has a policy, though it’s not printed on any menu, of refusing to answer any question in a direct manner.) Since I did not know the quote and do not speak enough French to order a cafe au lait in Paris, I stared back blankly. “It means, ‘The chef always has a reason.’ In other words: Don’t f*@! with it. Let him do it his way. If you don’t like it, order something else.”
“So what do you do at Barbuto when people ask for substitutions?” I asked.
“I do whatever they want,” he said, shrugging his shoulders and chuckling because he was so obviously contradicting himself. “What the hell. I want people to be happy”
March 16, 2012 § 2 Comments
I just got back from visiting a friend in the hospital. (In summary: Not good, but he’s gonna live.) Looking on the bright side, the good thing about what ails him is that he can still eat. Being that pretty much everyone this guy knows is in the food business, he is going to be the best-fed guy at Kaiser. Last night two friends came in bearing two large bags full of tuna melts, bean salads, fried pickles, and root beer from Short Order. I brought Littlejohn’s toffee, which I know is a favorite of his. Today when I got there, there was a sweet little box of cookies from Susina Bakery, scones from Short Cake Bakery, and last I heard, Armenian food from Carousel was on the way for lunch, and a double order of tagliata with oxtail ragú from Osteria Mozza for dinner.
Anyway, today we sat around the way you do when someone you love is in the hospital, trying to crack jokes, not sure which is worse: talking about the reason you’re there or not talking about the reason you’re there, basically just trying to pass the time in a pleasant enough manner so that you can be together and the person knows they are cared for. “Do you mind being here or do you feel bad enough that this feels like where you want to be right now?” I asked. “This feels like where I want to be,” he said.
When the nurse left the room, after persuading her to try the toffee, he looked at me and said, as if we were about to plan a coup: “Okay. Top five things in the Farmers Market.” This is the kind of thing we talk about when nobody has recently stared death in the face so it felt kinda refreshing. “Little John’s,” for sure, I said. “And the shredded beef taco at Loteria.” “Ida’s Old School,” he said about what I’d agree is the best burger at Short Order. We argued for awhile as to whether we could group things and finally came up with this:
1. Littlejohn’s toffee
2. Ida’s Old School Burger at Short Order
3. Roasted & Salted Cashews from Magee’s Nuts
5. Carne Deshebrada Taco at Lotería
I happen to have a thing for the apple fritters at Bob’s Donuts, and the applewood bacon at Huntington Meats. (Not to mention the marrow bones, which Rufus is a big fan of.) We thought about increasing the list to eight so we could fit in all of the things we loved in the Farmers Market but decided against it. Five’s a good number. Besides, if the list isn’t tough to edit, then it isn’t special.