With Thomas Keller's new cookbook, "Under Pressure," out this month, I invited him to my house. The only problem? He agreed.
A huge pot of potatoes languishes on the stove, untended. I don't know if that's bad — it seems like it would be, because they're already boiled, and now they're just macerating. I wonder if the water will break down the starch too much, although I don't know if that's bad or even possible, scientifically. The reason they're sitting in a hot puddle is that we, my brother, Mike, and I, don't have time to deal with them, because we haven't even started on the asparagus or the fish, and Thomas Keller, the greatest chef in the world, owner of restaurants including the French Laundry in Napa and Per Se in New York, which are always listed among the top five in the world, is supposed to be here in ten minutes. In Mike's apartment, with the windowless kitchen the size of a flight attendants' coffee station, for dinner. We're cooking for him. We're like a tribute band, and the real band is coming to see us perform.
Mike is at the sink in his boxers, sweating, hair flying, scrubbing bowls and pans like he's washing blood out of the carpet, and I'm thinking: You gotta be kidding me. Get in the damn shower.
I say this out loud.
And Mike says, "There's no way I'm letting Thomas Keller see my kitchen looking like this."
"But it's okay if he sees you looking like this."
"Well, maybe if you had been a little more organized..."
We do a little yelling. We're nervous. Men cook in one of two ways: Harvesting (throwing together anything in the kitchen that looks interesting), or Actually Planning (using recipes or making one of the few dishes we know cold). Keller has written a new cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home, that appears to combine both. And according to the publisher, it's very accessible. So I thought, Okay, Thomas Keller, if it's so accessible, I — an only slightly better-than-average home cook — will make dinner from it and serve it to you. And we all said, Ha, wouldn't that be funny if he came, what would I make, what if it was awful and all that, but of course he'll never come.
The thing is, he said yes, and so Mike and I stayed up until three last night, and we've been up since eight this morning, cooking. We planned a menu that was laughable in its ambition. We made lists, rough-chopped and diced, set timers, tried techniques that Keller made sound easy. (Page 56: "Hold a blowtorch about 1 inch from the roast and turn to lightly brown the fat on all sides.") We cooked foods men like: prime rib, clam chowder, pork belly, a whole fish, pickled vegetables, garlic mashed potatoes, brownies, ice cream. It would be a bounty. We felt like default ambassadors of the home-cook revolution, the chosen ones. We would amaze the great chef. But maybe we wouldn't! Maybe our amateur whacks at his precious food would depress him. Maybe this was an unnatural meeting, like if you went to confession and the man listening in the booth turned out to be the pope.
We were idiots!
He's going to be here in five minutes.
He's probably six foot four and pivots around the kitchen with a quick, fidgety grace. His hair is fingered straight back, and his head swivels atop a mantislike frame, eyes target-locked on the countertop and stove — he sees everything at once. We didn't know if he would just be a guest tonight, chatting with the other guests (we're eight in all), or jump into the kitchen. We hoped he'd jump into the kitchen, and he does. The scallops need to be cooked, and right away Keller is asking for a pan and oil and the scallops.
TK: Who is this singing?
Me: Ray LaMontagne. You like it?
TK: Yeah. Okay, let's see what happens with these puppies. [Loud sizzling as raw scallops are placed in pan of hot oil.] You can't be afraid. So many people, they drop it in from way back here [leans away from pan] and then the oil splatters everywhere, and they hurt themselves. If you get really close, it's not so bad. See that?
Keller bends his whole body in close over the pan. I've never seen anyone cook this way, interact with food this way, and it's a surprising thrill. I'm making paper airplanes with Neil Armstrong.
TK [flipping perfectly browned scallop]: Heyyy! Look at that. That is beautiful. You just need to be patient with this stuff. People think that when they're cooking, they have to be moving stuff around. Leave it alone. I mean, smell that. That's what I love about food: the transformation. These didn't smell before, right? Now they're everywhere, so sweet and beautiful. And it happens like that. [Snaps.] The transformation of food is so exciting.
Everyone has seen food cook, but I never thought of it this way. It was true: Suddenly the air was brackish and sugary, and it was as if he really couldn't believe how miraculous that was, even after all these years.
He asks me if I want to start putting the hot scallops on plates, so I look for tongs. I'm mumbling and drumming on my thigh with one hand, which I do when I'm nervous.
Me: Okay, yeah. Let's see, the tongs, the tongs ...
TK: Use your fingers, use your fingers, come on. Don't be a girl.
Keller speaks with cool authority, like an unusually laid-back football coach. I pick up the steaming scallops with the pads of my fingers, and right away I feel like a slightly better cook. As if by touching the food, I'm taking ownership of it, which I think is his point. The mollusks are plump and spongelike and scalding; I feel their tiny corrugations and crisped edges.
I'll never use tongs again.
Keller's arm is an atom smasher. He's stirring the mashed potatoes with a wooden spoon, and I can barely see his arm, it's whorling so fast. The potatoes, which I thought were already done, have become something otherpotatoly. They're starting to look like pudding.
"God, I love this," he says, breathing hard. "I could whip potatoes all day." He goes for five solid minutes, a long time at that intensity. Before he picked up the spoon, he opened the fridge and found a stray stick of butter on the top shelf and threw it in.
"Don't tell the girls," he said.
Keller jokes without laughing. He doesn't give nonessential advice. He asks a lot of questions, because he likes information. Information helps him not worry, adapt. Like, for example, I tell him I oversalted the corn. He shrugs. We don't serve it right away, but two hours later he says, "Where's that corn?" and uses it as a condiment on the fish, instead of salt.
We eat. Six courses. I watch Keller. He looks like he's concentrating, which I take to be something like reverence. During the meal he toasts both me and his restaurants. He tells stories, including one about the first time he killed a rabbit with his bare hands. When the playlist stops at one point, he calls to me, "Chef! Music." Everyone loves the food — each dish is the best version of that dish we've ever tasted. The bacon melts into the sweet, briny chowder like cream. ("If this chowder is any indication, it's a good cookbook," he says.) After the roast is carved, Keller passes around bits of crunchy, salty meat soaked in pan drippings, right off the knife. The brownies are the first I've ever baked and the best I've ever eaten — crunchy on top, then soft and moist.
He tells me no one has ever invited him for dinner and cooked from one of his books. He stays for four hours. You see why Keller loves this so much. It all matters to him — the smells, the music, the storytelling, the flavors. And you understand that measurements — while important for a cook like me — are training wheels. "If it calls for a quarter cup of chopped parsley, do you really need to measure?" he says. "Does it matter if it's an eighth of a cup?" After that, it becomes impossible to do something wrong. The way everything tastes will be the way it was supposed to taste.
He drops the best kind of advice and wisdom: the kind that sounds obvious but isn't. From his cookbook:
One of the great things about cooking is that no single task is particularly difficult.
If you could only have one pan in your kitchen, [a cast-iron skillet] is the one I'd give you.
From his mouth tonight:
The thing about mashed potatoes is, if they sit too long, we can add a little more cream. It'll bring them right back.
The guests can wait for the food, but the food can't wait for the guests.
Sorry, I'm always cleaning up. But that way when dinner's done, we can just go to sleep.
By the time the chef is in the elevator, we've opened a bottle of red wine he brought as a gift. We're already drunk on wine and on the night, but this seems the way to end it. My wife brings me the last spoonful of caramel ice cream from the kitchen. In the introduction to his book, Keller writes, "When we eat together, when we set out to do so deliberately, life is better, no matter what your circumstances." Cooking today, I followed every step meticulously. And then the man who had laid out those steps taught me to try to forget them, so that I could focus on the people eating the food. A breeze blows in as I drink the wine, and I realize that I never want to cook from a cookbook again, and yet I want to cook from this one for the rest of my life.
Nine is a new movie opening in LA and NY on December 18, and on Christmas nationwide. Starring the awesome Daniel Day-Lewis and directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago), the musical tells the story of world famous film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) as he prepares his latest picture and balances the numerous women in his life including his wife (Marion Cotillard), a producer, a mistress (Penelope Cruz), a film star muse (Nicole Kidman), an American fashion journalist (Kate Hudson), the whore from his youth (Fergie), his confidant and costume designer (Judi Dench), and his deceased mother (Sophia Loren).
From the folks who brought us the Cheap Sunglasses party, they're kicking off a new party that's super hot-to-trot.
From the promoters:
What time is it? It's time to get iLL! Join me and a few of my favorite producers and DJ's of all time, all in once place, and all on a Sunday to boot!
This will be a new series of events taking place all over the country, starting here in cracker New York. TTGI will be all about mixing the old school jamz with the hottest and freshest tunes around.
You can expect a massive EAW sound system, intimate and elegant venue, LIVE acts, and a 6 hour battle extravaganza a la Doc Martin vs Three to close the night. We will be lucky enough to have Dennis Rodgers make the trip over from SI as well to play an extended set.
*Food Available All Day*
Custom EAW Sound System
5/7$ Drinks + Drink Specials announced at the Venue
Pre-Sales Available @ www.residentavisor.net
This is also celebrating Larry's 1 Year Anniversary in New York, so this is a special thank you to all those who helped make this move a reality. What better way to say thanks than to make a big party!
There will also be a discount available to all of those who have a stamp or wristband or ticket from the BLK Market party with Secret Sundaze and Mountain People.
It's been a long, long time since I've reviewed a burger. It's not that I haven't been eating burgers, but I guess I just didn't feel inclined to write about anything I had.
Well, there's a new burger joint that just opened in my hood and I thought I'd give it a good ole review. They could use the press too. I mentioned that I hadn't read about the place anywhere to the cashier. Her response was that they wanted to build the place organically...through word of mouth. I guess. It's 2009. There are a lot of places for NY'ers to eat. How the shit is someone gonna hear about a random burger spot in the middle of northern Murray Hill if not for press? You don't have to be anti-marketing, you know. Do they have the luxury to sit on a near-empty restaurant while paying for all their expenses? Seriously though, who owns the joint - Ray Kinsella?
So anyway, the joint's called Black Shack Burger. Not Black Iron Burger. Not Shake Shack. But Black Shack. The facade of the place is black. It's dark inside. And the tables look cheap. But these matters are all inconsequential when compared with the food they're serving.
I got the Black Shack Burger unadorned, and a side of fries. If I wanted to wrap up a review of what I had succinctly, I'd say the burger greatly resembled a Whopper and the fries were of the same cut as McDonald's. Maybe they should've named the place McKing. Truth be told, it is a tasty burger. Here's a picture of a half-eaten one:
If you take a look at their menu, you see they've got a couple of other options as well...like a chicken sandwich, a caesar salad or a tofu sandwich. I was just about to hate on the tofu, but I actually mentioned to someone the other day how tofu is actually an awesome product and is versatile in the way it can be prepared. So until I actually try it, I'll reserve judgment. Oh, and they've got five dollar milkshakes, too.
So bottom line - I like it. The price point's okay. It's the best burger (I'm looking at you, Rare) in a 5 block radius from my place. And so, it's a great addition to the nabe. I wish the place much success.
This major career retrospective on Tim Burton (American, b. 1958), consisting of a gallery exhibition and a film series, considers Burton's career as a director, producer, writer, and concept artist for live-action and animated films, along with his work as a fiction writer, photographer and illustrator. Following the current of his visual imagination from early childhood drawings through his mature work, the exhibition presents artwork generated during the conception and production of his films, and highlights a number of unrealized projects and never-before-seen pieces, as well as student art, his earliest non-professional films, and examples of his work as a storyteller and graphic artist for non-film projects. The opposing themes of adolescence and adulthood, and the elements of sentiment, cynicism, and humor inform his work in a variety of mediums—drawings, paintings, storyboards, digital and moving-image formats, puppets and maquettes, props, costumes, ephemera, sketchbooks, and cartoons. Taking inspiration from sources in pop culture, Burton has reinvented Hollywood genre filmmaking as a spiritual experience, influencing a generation of young artists working in film, video, and graphics.
Burton's films include Vincent (1982), Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), The Nightmare Before Christmas (as creator and producer) (1993), Ed Wood (1994), Mars Attacks! (1996), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Big Fish (2003), Corpse Bride (2005), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), and Sweeney Todd (2007); writing and Web projects include The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories (1997) and Stainboy (2000).
Organized by Ron Magliozzi, Assistant Curator, and Jenny He, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film, with Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film.
there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average human being to supply any given army on any given day
and the best at murder are those who preach against it and the best at hate are those who preach love and the best at war finally are those who preach peace
those who preach god, need god those who preach peace do not have peace those who preach peace do not have love
beware the preachers beware the knowers beware those who are always reading books beware those who either detest poverty or are proud of it beware those quick to praise for they need praise in return beware those who are quick to censor they are afraid of what they do not know beware those who seek constant crowds for they are nothing alone beware the average man the average woman beware their love, their love is average seeks average
but there is genius in their hatred there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you to kill anybody not wanting solitude not understanding solitude they will attempt to destroy anything that differs from their own not being able to create art they will not understand art they will consider their failure as creators only as a failure of the world not being able to love fully they will believe your love incomplete and then they will hate you and their hatred will be perfect
like a shining diamond like a knife like a mountain like a tiger like hemlock
This is pretty fucking funny. You know he's got to be reserved when he's on some mainstream network tv show (plus they tape super early in the morning), but he's balls out in this little video piece. Jose Andres is really funny too. Gotta love him for asking Chang what he's been smoking. I'm gonna go with sour diesel.
Oh, and you've probably wondered how the pork is prepared in his ubiquitous pork buns. “It’s, uh, a couple teaspoons of salt and...some black pepper...and a couple hours of don’t fucking worry about it.”