Wednesday, March 29, 2006

No blood, no foul.....

Just trying to catch up......

I saw that in the midst of the most recent Abu Ghraib/Afghan prison scandal, it turns out that our policy on torture/interrogation is very simple: No blood, no foul.


As a semi-retired, internationally licensed soccer coach, this rings a bell. As my dear friend Tom Emery's U.S. State Department Food Service aphorism goes: ''Where the competition is fierce.....and the stakes are low." I spent my soccer career fighting this mentality......but occasionally employed it: Girls, it is really important to the Parents that we win this match, so brake that chick's leg if you can." One league match, Brendan broke his arm ten minutes in.....I got him to Saint Louise, got a cast, and had him back for the second half. He fucked up the goalkeeper who kicked his arm with the cast......

Only in soccer it goes like this: No BONE showing, no foul....Blood is normal

There is historical precedent for the milder version.

In the late 1200's and 1300's the dearly beloved Catholic church was worried about folks straying from the mainstream. Perfectly reasonable vegetarians in the south of France, gnarly warrior investment bankers (the Templars) that would make Dick Cheney weep like the fucking pussy that he is......The Church broke them all. The only thing their interrogators...the Dominicans of The Inquistion........ were not allowed to do was draw blood....

Check out ''The Devils" by Ken Russell, lunatic cinematographer.....or "The Devils of Loudun" by Aldous Huxley.....The Dominican interrogators had a way of dislocating every joint in the human body.....and then shattering every bone in the same body (Temple of the Holy Spirit, if I remember my Catechism....). They also used fire, and would burn acres of flesh, and gouge out eyeballs with hot pokers. No blood, you see.

They also were allowed to search for witches in the flesh....their presence would be revealed by a lack of sensation in the sliding super skinny needles into every centimeter over the entire body. No blood, if you do it right. After a couple of weeks of interrogation, it developed in the "Devils of Loudun" case that the priest they were after, Urbain Grandier, had no sensation in a small area of his back.....and in his left testicle. Guilty as charged. They dislocated all his joints, shattered his major bones, seared out his eyeballs, and dragged him around every church in town to pray on his broken knees before every altar.....and then they burned him alive. He paid the captain of the guards to strangle him before the fire got him.....but the guy fucked up.......

(I have to tell you.....and Homeland Security.....that I have no feeling in a small area of my back. And I can't speak for my left testicle, since they chopped it off when I was ten. Me, Adolf Hitler, John Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Urbain Grandier......Really..... I am waiting for the knock. And the needles.....)

Anyway, Urbain would have been better off in Abu Ghraib than with the Dominicans.......


Aren't we supposed to evolve?

Oh, I'm sorry.......that is just a theory.

Angie George and Jeff Weber

Silence is golden......

Sorry for the golden coupla weeks. We ran full speed into the Wedding from Hell......and were completely traumatized into silence.

Everyone in foodservice works without a net....some more than others. To completely define the service we provide would require a ten page contract and hot and cold running lawyers. Screw that.....we prefer to trust our people. How quaint.

It almost always works.....we subject our brides to a trip to The Store. If that doesn't dissuade them, nothing will. We pass on most of them.....because life is too short to drink bad wine, after all.

We google everyone.

I learned this trick at Arzak. Amanda and I went there last year, on the day of the big San Sebastian festa. We were fighting like cats and dogs: Amanda doesn't like to leave her ROOM, and here I was dragging her to a whole other country......Yeesh.

The night before, on arrival in Bilbao, I dragged her out to a Michelin One-Star in a fancy museum.....It sucked: the same sauce appeared four times. My food cred was seriously dragging the next day as I swept her out of town to San Sabby. The town was nuts, no parking, parades of wacky boys and girls dressed as milkmaids and Napoleonic soldiers......

Our arrival at Arzak....a Michelin 3 star....8pm on the dot. I felt blessed to get the reservation (I even lied that we were staying at a real hotel, not the pensione across from the Duomo, or whatever they call it. Wrinkled clothes; wet, grubby shoes....and, of course: the whole ''Fuck you!" "No, fuck YOU!! Why the fuck did I come to Spain with you? FUCK you!" "Fuck ME? Fuck you, you psycho control freak! This is a vacation, not boot camp....." A romantic know.

Of course no one in Spain that actually has enough income to pay tax doesn't eat before 10 or 11 at night. By arriving at the stroke of 8 at the Temple of WonderFood, we were already telegraphing: "AMERICAN GEEKS!!" Plus the wrinkled 80's clothes, the muddy shoes, and the whole ''Fuck you" thing......

Arzak is on a main drag.....kind of like Fremont in Seaside. It is a two story building and you have to risk your life to make the turn across traffic. Handy for those who fail is a hospital AND a cemetary. Then you park in back in a tiny little lot designed by Walt Disney in 1953. Did I mention that Arzak is pretty much in the top three or four restaurants in the world?

By blind luck, they were gracious and cool. We were seated in the completely empty dining room like royalty. The wine steward (notorious for over serving, I found out later) was cool. I gave him carte blanche, with a champagne turbo.......

The daughter of the owner runs the dining room. She asked us politely if there was anything we didn't like. Other than each other.......No. She let slip that she knew that I was a chef from California, and they had prepared a couple of different menus for us......

How did they know? They google all their guests.....The reservation form gives them enough info to figure you out, and they shop accordingly. No wonder they have three stars.

They did not disappoint. The dishes we had were highly technical, very simple....and perfect. I got a soft poached egg, with a slice cut out. It was hot, on a warm plate....with a little herb dust and a biscotto. The yolk was just flowing like a perfectly ripe cheese. The technical aspect of getting this to me in a now-busy dining room stunned me. Amanda got a Miro inspired calamari plate......It was a Miro: splashes of color, pefect calamare parts. She was stunned.

I looked at my plate, and realized that this is what it is all about: perfection. I had a perfect egg, and I had to fly 6,000 miles to get it. Amanda missed her museum in Bilbao for the food, and they brought her a Miro (could they tell from google that I am a controlling asshole food freak?).
I teared.....Amanda teared up. Our eyes met. We started sobbing........and laughing.

The Arzak daughter ran over.....disturbed. "Is something wrong?"

The spirit of Maria Louis Lucido descended on me......."Non, senorita. La diferencia entre "llorar'' y ''orar'' es muy pequena."

The difference between ''crying'' and ''praying'' is very small.........

She gasped and ran off......

The courses went on and on......I will post the menu.

For dessert, they brought me a little brioche, cut in half like a bun......with chopped chocolate like a patty, with a raspberry coulis for catsup and a slice of dried apple for an onion.......A one-off tip of the hat to a fellow chef......And the only reason they knew this was google......

So we google our people. We got nothing from Angie and Jeff.....despite that he is the caddy for pro golfer David Duval.

Their people drank $3,000 dollars of booze in 5 hours, eighty of them. They had guys who would order a drink...a vodka tonic.....then take a new glass and dump the drink into a new glass because they wanted it shaken. Of course the bartender has a shaker......they just wanted to burn glassware. They had other guys who would put their fingers into the shaken vodka guy's drink....causing him to freak out and get a new drink.....and laugh. They had mom and grandma buying drinks for a hot looking 15 year old grand-daughter, to get her drunk at a family bash. James the barman figured it out, and cut them off. They got in his face, and insisted that he pour for her. Of course, she barfed.......all over a nice upholstered chair in the rental house.

Eighty guys drank 24 cases of beer. Nuff said. Next morning, when it came time for the bill....they taxed us for the barfed on chair.....and refused to pay for the beer, because it was not cold enough. They also refused to pay for the food: they ordered tapas.....and thought that tapas would fill their guests in 15 minutes. The groom spent the entire night...fucked up beyond belief.....ragging on our crew about the lack of food he hadn't ordered. A class act.

So, now when someone googles them......their names will come up. Like the barf on the chair. Have a nice marriage, Angie and Jeff.......

It is more than 6,000 miles from Pebble Beach to San Sebastian.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Spanglish as a Second Language

At the end of the awful weekend……sitting in The Pub with Grant, talking about Dylan Thomas. We had a nice fire going….I had cooked a sweet lunch for a South African bride-to-be, so there was some victory to be saved from 48 hours of dealing with golf/cocaine people…..I was reading the Chron. Such Luxe…..

Israel came in for a pizza, shivering like a heroin addict. He has no heat in his cuarto, and we have had three days of snow….so it wasn’t heroin. Damn, I would have hit him up…the Gruet isn’t doing it for me right now.

Israel doesn’t drink, so I made him some hot chocolate while he waited for pizza….and we all talked about how hard it is to learn to speak English… Spanish, of course. Explain: Cough, through, dough, rough…… on the Parkway, park on the Driveway…….Grant and I used to both teach ESL for workers. Teacher: what do they mean when they shout: "Fuck you, stupid fucking beaner! Is that a recipe? Why do they fuck the beans.....???"

I have been helping Israel deal with his immigration lawyer. He has been here for six years, and is trying for his green card. He has family here…..kind of like Tony Soprano’s gardener has family here. We were lamenting the fact there are no English tutors in Cachagua…..habla-ing back and forth in Spanglish.

I am no fan of illegal immigration. My white American soccer players can't get jobs or insurance for craft jobs or construction gigs because fucking beaner asswipes will work for ten bucks an hour and won't spring for $40 a month health insurance......they just go to the ER, and charge Uncle Sam...... And the contractor bosses pocket the difference and vote Republican because DipShit is keeping us safe from Terror......And the Migra.....

Israel is different: a good one. I wish I could ship James Johnston, the Jabba-the-Hutt crackhead meth manufacturer with friends in the Monterey County Sheriff's out to Mexico and take his body weight in Israel's relatives in change.......All our lives would be better......

Israel is that close to his green card….And why does he want his green card? So he can legally LEAVE the United States and go back to Guanajuato to be with his family. He feels that his mind is being poisoned by American culture, and he needs to go home to cleanse his mind. But he wants to come back, without a marathon desert ordeal costing thousands......

This is a sweet, hardworking, Catholic, organically intelligent heterosexual man who needs to free himself from our culture long enough to save his soul……. I feel exactly the same way.

I just read about these identical feelings from Al Qaeda and Hamas, in Osama's memoirs……Maybe we should start paying attention.

Or not....

Friday, March 10, 2006

You don't just fight the bean......

My crew has been edgy….driven, of late.

Switching The Store to The Pub has taken a toll on everyone’s sense of humor. And everyone is working for free: Brendan is pushing his vision; Adrian is doing the construction from psycho loyalty and guilt; Conall is just trying to maintain in the face of separation anxiety from the German SizeZeroLong actress.

Still, on Saturday everyone was super edgy as we prepped for a big party for a guy we genuinely love.....Peterson Conway. Then I discovered the real reason: Party in Santa Cruz.

So, I sent the lads off…..and finished the prep myself….tiny reward for their Herculean labors. Then I trundled off to sleep at midnite after only 16 hours work……A light day in CaterLand.,

At 2am the phone rings. “Dad….I am hiding under a car. There were Mexicans. I choked out three, and Adrian knocked out three…..and Conall broke his hand. I think they have guns and knives……”

Wow. What would Dr. Phil do? “OK, son…..Do you need guns? Should I drive up?”

Send Lawyers, Guns and Money…….the Shit has hit The Fan…….

“No, Dad….I am just worried about Adrian…….”

Well, they worked their way out of it, and came back with this story:

Adrian had is first weekend off as a new dad, and Conall wanted to see Sara Ruffles. You should know that Adrian and Brendan are funny, smart, very fit chick-magnets with highly developed martial arts skills. Adrian is of the School of Shock and Awe: load everything into one punch, and be first. Brendan is Brazilian Jujitsu trained….all submission holds, all indirect. (When ZenMaster Nick and Brendan traveled to fight in Brazil, they won all their matches, and the locals got bitter. There was even a rumor of some local getting tossed off a rooftop dojo in Salvador……)

So after the party the kids all repaired to the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz. Adrian danced with a fat chick….and her giant Mexican boyfriend took exception. It was all in good fun…..Adrian walked away and went outside to smoke a cigarette. Boyfriend kept talking shit, and Brendan played peacemaker. As Bren turned away, the big guy sucker-punched him in the jaw.

Brendan took the hit, got around the guy and let him take him down. (Brazilians fight on their backs.) In five seconds, the guy was in a triangle choke and going out. Brendan was pissed, and dealing punishment. Conall is the ultimate nice-guy, and was genuinely concerned that Brendan was going to kill the guy: “Brendan, let him up! Please!”

Brendan came back from The Edge, and let the guy up: “Are we OK? Cool?” As soon as the guy got up, he sucker-punched Brendan a second time……with the same result. This time his friends jumped in and started futilely kicking Brendan in the head while their buddy strangled. Conall tackled the first guy in and punched him in the head, breaking his own hand. He went down and the bar crowd broke up the fight. Once again Brendan was convinced to not kill the giant angry Mexican……

Everyone repaired outside……where the guy delivered the third sucker punch. Adrian snapped….some childhood PTSD kicked in and he knocked out the first three Mexicans he saw. The first was so tall he actually had to jump up in the air to break his jaw. Brendan took the same original idiot down again and choked him out, for good this time…..A dozen Latinos jumped into the fray…….Someone stomped Brendan’s eye. Conall was knocked out, as was Adrian. Brendan broke two ribs. Somehow they all got away and hid under cars……

Adrian flipped out and ran kamikaze-style through neighborhoods….pursued by demons we know not of…..By some miracle he wound up at the same gas station as Brendan and Conall….

The next morning the boys were still in a frenzy of loyalty. That is the only way to describe it……For people that will put up with any economic, social, political, whatever depredation…..when their friends were attacked, they responded like tigers…..

Next day……As Dad and Boss……I was horribly torn. It was clear that my guys were seriously injured…..but we had a party. We need the money. I just stood back and waited to see what happened, ready to work without them. And, after two hours sleep…with broken bones, concussions, ugly contusions…they rallied and went back to work. There was no more question in their minds about going to work for AMF then there was in wading in and saving their friends against huge odds……..

We did the party. The first guest who saw Brendan was a nursing instructor at MPC. She turned to me and said: “They have seen a doctor, right? He could lose his sight……That eye is bad….. Does he have a concussion?” Brendan cranked out esoteric appetizers for four hours…….Conall passed heavy trays with a broken hand……..At 3pm I finally convinced them to go down to Docs on Duty and get checked out…..

It was OK…….but what kind of wacky world is it where a father has to balance this kind of trade-off…..Economic gain vs. your sons’ physical well-being……

Oh…….this goes on everywhere in the world right now….and always has. This is normal.

I just had fooled myself into thinking we/I had somehow progressed beyond this…..

That night, when Conall called I was a basket case…..and he thought it was his fault, of course……. He was sure he had failed 700 miles, broken hand, concussion, sweet boy......Why is dad crying?

Politically/socially incorrect conclusions: I am so proud of Brendan, Adrian and Conall for being the kind of men that will stand for core values: friends, family, work….far beyond personal pain or suffering….

And the final word from Barney, our Company Armorer…..Barney is from Venice….CA, not IT:

“I told those motherfuckers…….you don’t ever just fight the BEAN……you gotta fight the whole fucking BURRITO…….”

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Neal Cassidy is back......


I started to write about my crew’s bar battle last weekend, and realized that it was all about Adrian….and Adrian needs introduction.

I first met Adrian when I picked him up hitchhiking when he was about thirteen. He hit me up for a donation for the Continuation High School gym fund. They were hiking up to Sniveley’s Ridge and looking for sponsors so they could buy some sports equipment.

I allowed as how I would be happy to donate some soccer balls. Adrian said, “Thanks but no thanks, dude. We already stole a bunch of those from you guys……We need footballs!”

I used to pick him up often after that, usually outside our old kitchen at Rippling River. Cripple Creek was the last stop in Carmel Valley Village before the uninhabited ranchland beyond, and last resort of hitchhikers. My turn off was at Cachagua Road, only four miles out, and this meant leaving my hiker in the middle of nowhere to wait for a ride the final five miles to Tassajara Road. Of course, with a kid involved, I would drive him all the way out to Tassajara Road, and then up the dirt roads to Lambert Flats. I had no clue that this simple kindness would earn me a friend of almost unimagineable ferocity and loyalty.

One time when I picked Adrian up, he had five pizzas. “You want a pizza, dude?” I declined, figuring this was a major expenditure for him. “No, dude. We call Dominos in PG, order eight pizzas, then don’t show. We wait an hour and then go in and buy some sodas. We point at the stack of unclaimed pizzas and give the guy five bucks for the whole pile…….You sure you don’t want a pizza?”

I found out later that when rides didn’t materialize at Cripple Creek, Adrian would go down to our kitchen, pop the lock on the laundry room and curl up in the dirty linen. In winter he would pull the vent duct off the dryer and crank it up to keep the room cozy……

Turns out that at age 15, Adrian was already a recovering car thief…and recovering meth head…..He had a gig for a Fagan-type guy who would take orders from the Mexican Mafia and get his kid crew to scout and steal in exchange for rocks. I hired him anyway, because I admired his style, humor and intelligence.

Sure enough, about two weeks into his employment…..we hung out at the kitchen one night and drank too much champagne. I went home, only to be awakened at 4am by Adrian. “Dude. I wrecked your car.” “Wha? How did you get my car?” “Duh…..I fucking STOLE it from the kitchen…..but I’m sorry. I rolled it and wrecked it in the vineyard at 80. I owe you, Dude.”

Well……Turns out the car was a Jetta. We paid $17k for it. After two years, Brendan was ready to dump it. Blue Book was $14k, so we listed it at that. No takers. $12k. No takers. $11k, nothing…..$10k….At $9k the local dealer offered to take it off my hands. Then Adrian stole and wrecked it. Farmer’s gave us $14.5k for it. How mad could I be? Then he wrecked my Alfa…not his fault…..but I made another $4k. Weird Car-ma.

Adrian is good at wrecking cars. He somehow talked Toyota into giving him a truck. He and Brendan rolled it jumping sand dunes at Moron Bay. When I next saw it was definitely tweaked and crumpled. “Jesus, Adrian….your brand new truck is all fucked up!” “No, Dude……It's not wrecked. It is stone-washed!”

When Adrian took the truck in to try to get the frame tweaked back at the dealership, they fiddle-farted around for a couple of days and came up with a huge bill. It was Friday at 5pm when he went to pick up the truck. They handed him a bill just for examining the truck, which he refused to pay. “Pay it or you don’t get your truck back….”

Adrian walked back to the lot, picked up a rock and broke his own door window, snapped his own ignition and fired it up. The Toyota guys tried to slide the gate shut to trap him, and Adrian drove directly through and over it....wood, steel, wire and glass flying everywhere. He still has the truck… kinda goes crab-wise. Still Stone-Washed.

When Brendan came back from Prague last June I was completely immersed in CaterLand. Getting to SFO at 1am was going to be a stretch. No worries…Adrian was going to pick him up. Adrian was running a little late, though and I was the middleman between the two friends. “Who is coming to get me?” “Adrian.” “What is he driving?” “Adrian, what are you driving” “A brand new Porsche Boxster.” Oh, no…….” I am going about 140…..I’m 15 miles out……I think I will be there in about five minutes……”

Turns out the remodel job he was on involved an emergency replacement of a leaky water heater in the garage. The brand new Boxster was in the way….so the owner left the keys so they could move it…… SFO and back at 140mph.

The last thing to know about Adrian is this: there is family violence in his background. He does not take well to being touched without permission, but he is so cocky that a certain type loves to fuck with him. “Don’t touch me…..” Often followed by an overhand right that ends all discussion.

After one such discussion, as he was being loaded into the squad car in Monterey….he was actively hitting on the female cop who had cuffed him: “I know you want me…..I love the way your gunbelt and your mace sets off your fat ass…..hmmmm, so sexy!”

Still, despite his propensity for violence….there is a wild intelligence behind everything, and a fierce loyalty to his friends. Adrian is Neal Cassidy back from the dead……Once, bartending for me at 13th St. in Carmel, he was assaulted by a Yuppie realtor with a half-gallon of tequila who resented our geographical intrusion into his daughter’s birthday party zone...... on a two mile beach. Adrian took the hit, fell badly, and missed three months construction work. “I was picturing the headlines, Dude: ‘Caterer attacks Realtor on Beach’… I didn’t break his jaw. I still owe you……”

Anyway, Adrian eventually found a kind, loving woman….Alana….and has a new baby, Zane. His spirit is tempered if not calmed….and his energies contained and directed………

There are happy endings….

Except I can’t help but notice that Zane looks a lot like both Adrian and Brendan…..sweet, but with that evil glint…….

Alana…..hide the keys!

People with Volvos

I just got a forward of a rave editorial about Al Gore from a Raging Democrat. (I admit to being a huge Al Gore fan, by the way.) Then I looked at the originator of the email……Omigod!!! Post Traumatic Catering Disorder!! The choppers!! The choppers!!!

The Volvo People are back!!

Back in the day, I was on the Board of the Big Sur Marathon. My job was to feed 700 plus volunteers, and a few hundred VIP’s. We did this for free for five or six years. Well, the full on brunch for 400 cost them $800.....Eggs bennie, smoked that.

My other job was to capture all the leftover food and get it to poor people. I would corral a tractor trailer full of apples, yogurt, lettuce, bananas, waters… name it. I would use the Courtesy Vans to distribute, as well as the big Carmel Meat truck. We went to the missions on crack alley in Salinas, Dorothy’s Kitchen, the Salvation Army, the missions in Soledad and Pajaro, Meals on Wheels, the nuns at the Carmelite Monastery, Tassajara, the Camaldolis in Big Sur……you name it. A tractor trailer holds 40,000 pounds.

Previous to my involvement, the food would just disappear…..the volunteers, the board members, the restauarants and hotels would grab everything. This greed vibe would just rise up, and perfectly normal people would freak out and carry off cases of apples and oranges to rot in their garages, or give to their dressage horses.

Their was some bitterness about my policy: No free food for people with Volvos. I didn’t care. I actually used the US Army volunteers to form a perimeter and protect the goodies from pillage.

The last year of our involvement, the board lost sight of the difference between Michael Jones’ A Moveable Feast, that was working for free for 10 days (and had been for five years), and Michael’s Catering, that did nothing. The printed Michael’s Catering logo on all the shirts and all the pr in the brochures and magazines and newspapers. Board members came up to me and my people and told us how much they appreciated all Michael’s Catering had done for the BSLT.

I responded by printing t-shirts that said: “We work for Michael, but we are not Fucking Michael’s Catering!” for all my soccer kid volunteers. No one noticed.

On the final day I rounded up the leftovers and deployed the Army guys. I told them: "Shoot the looters!" Board members came over, and we sold them stuff at wholesale prices. Granola was particularly in demand for lunches. One board member, or wife of director…..let’s call her Vixen….. harangued her way past even the Army guys that I had told were allowed to shoot looters. Wow. I stopped her with a case of granola.

“That will be $120, Vixen.”
“What are you talking about? I am a board member.”
“That’s right. The Board price is $120.”
“That is crazy. I haven’t eaten all day!” (My soccer kids had been up, unfed for 30 hours.)

I gently removed the 30 pounds of granola from her arms, and handed it off to a GI. I took a ten dollar bill out of my wallet, stuffed down her blouse, and said: “The Rio Grill is open. Get a Chinese Chicken Salad and a Sport Tea. On me!”

Maybe it was coincidence, but that year the Director called the Sheriff and reported the Courtesy Vans we were using to deliver the food around as stolen. He personally crashed into a meditation session at Tassajara and tried to repo the yoghurt we had dropped off. He was convinced that the place would be rife with naked monks, fucking like bunnies in the baths....slathered in his yoghurt.

The monks' comment: "Wow. He seems to have a lot of anger.........."

Oh, and the Board stiffed us the $800 we were out of pocket for the 400 brunches.

Oh, and the Board stiffed the soccer kids when it came time for handing out the cash…..No scholarships that year, kids. I am sure that was the last time any of them donated any time to anything……ever.

And we wonder why they won't even vote.

And the Volvo People are Democrats!!!!!

Aaaaaaaaahhhh! Save me, Al Sharpton!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

While you were sleeping......

While we Cachaguan’s languish in mid-winter produce doldrums…….Fun with root vegetables, brought to you by the Moscow Farmer’s Market at MPC……..

Here is an update from the “Real World” of cuisine.

While you were lunching on your Chinese Chicken Salad at the Rio Grill, the best chefs in the world galloped away. They are young, intensely disciplined, intensely technical and intensely skilled. And they are bored. They know how to denature proteins. They know how to peroxidize lipids. They can poach your eggs. Their study of molecular gastronomy tells them that unripe mangoes and pine are cousins….as are white chocolate and oysters…….

Just so’s ya know: El Bulli is almost passé. Foams are like My Sharona….selling real estate in Encino. The melon caviar…..not a bad effort for an old fart, Adria. Chefs in New York will blindfold you and make you bob for foie gras. Wylie Dufresne served crushed candy canes on his Christmas lamb rack dish. This guy in Chicago wraps pork in edible paper printed with cartoons in meat inks……and is perfecting the helium filled chocolate balloon that hovers over the plate. I have experienced old-school dishes (like, so last year……) that involved sound, vision and smell….not so much taste.

The Fat Duck ( is the best restaurant in the world, by all reasonable measure…..and has been for five years. All great restaurants now have concept/lab guys working in a studio/lab outside of the main kitchen. Come check out Andoni’s “Clorofila” or Xaby Gutiérrez’ “Asfalto Culinaro” at The Store……..

So, I give you the dorkbots. A worldwide group of computer geeks ( “Having fun with electricity”) that has branched out from computer hacking to food hacking. Mark Powell, ten years ago voted number one computer hacker by the Bay Guardian, went on to apprentice at the Fat Duck…..and is hacking food at the world’s first computer/food hacker Bed and Breakfast in Bernal Heights in The City (Unicorn Precinct XIII on Eddy). His kitchen sports the Periodic Table of Elements…….in Thai. He has centrifuges, liquid nitrogren baths, nitrous oxide foamers……..just like Wilhelm-Sonoma, mensch....

Here are some posts from Mark and dorkbots:

Dorkbots, in a promo for their January 26 meeting:

What happens when the world's leading hacker chefs skill up on organic chemistry and buy centrifuges for their kitchens? Is your palate ready for "meat glue", "cooking" with liquid nitrogen, and "liquid noodles"? This talk looks at the growing role of science in fine dining kitchens with examples from the restaurants that are inventing the exciting field of molecular gastronomy.Molecular gastronomy is a culinary aesthetic of a growing number of chefs worldwide who wish to cross-pollinate their culinary skills with the trade secrets of chemists, physicists, researchers, perfumers and industrial food manufacturers.

Typically, only the most high end restaurants have the budgets to stock their kitchens with steam baths, centrifuges, and microscopes. Spurred on by the friendly competition rife in the food industry, these restaurants work to develop new culinary techniques, improve (and disprove) accepted kitchen wisdom, and deploy their food to the customer in crazy new futuristic ways.

This talk looks at the growing role of science in fine dining kitchens. Examining the history of molecular gastronomy, we will visit some of the latest techniques and predict where the cutting edges might lead. Can we bring food into the future without seriously freaking out the fickle palate of the public? Are you ready for liquid nitrogen-cooled food, steak-flavored cellophane and bacon & egg ice cream?

Mark Powell, after the meeting:

In the interests of open-source food hacking, here are the recipes for the dessert we made.

First the components:

Nitro Pumpkin Seed Pie Horchata Foam
Almond Armagnac Cardamom Frankincense Foam
Smoked Paprika Agave Caramel Tuile
Pomegranate Seeds
Powdered Orange Blossom Yogurt

Now the instructions- remember, your mileage may vary:

Nitro Pumpkin Seed Pie Horchata Foam
Blend 2 cups raw shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitos), 4 cups water for 20 minutes or until horchata consistency. Strain and chill.
Boil 2 cups water, 1 ceylon cinnamon stick (crushed), 1 vanilla pod, 2 allspice seeds (crushed), 1/2 thumb of grated ginger, 1/4 nutmeg seed (grated) for 20 minutes to infuse flavors. Strain water, add 2 cups sugar and bring to boil again to dissolve sugar. Chill.
Blend horchata and syrup, adjusting flavoring as needed. Add 2 tsp soy lecithin or dried soy milk- disperse well.
Load 1 quart Nitrous Oxide Dispenser (whipped cream cannister, N2O siphon) halfway with horchata and syrup mix. Charge with 3 N2O cannisters (android turds) and chill.
Over a liquid nitrogen bath, dispense some foam into a spoon. Drop the foam into the nitrogen bath and agitate with a spoon to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom. Remove from the nitrogen bath when it is hard on the outside and plate.

Almond Armagnac Cardamom Frankincense Foam
Blend 2 cups raw almonds, 4 cups water for 20 minutes or until horchata consistency. Strain and chill.
Flavor almond horchata with 1/2 cup agave nectar, 1/2 cup armagnac, 1 Tbsp cardamom. Pour mixture into a blender and add 2 Tbsp Xantham gum. Disperse with the blender- keep blending until foam consistency is reached.
Plate foam, grating frankincense over foam dollop.

Smoked Paprika Agave Caramel Tuile
Disperse 1 tsp La Chinata smoked paprika (spicy) in 1 Tbsp Cazadores tequila.
Boil 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup agave nectar. Once the syrup goes clear, keep boiling until it starts during a dark gold. Remove from heat, disperse the smoked paprika/tequila quickly with a whisk, and pour out onto silicone mat. Squeegee with a palette knife (offset spatula) to a thin layer. Allow to solidify, then remove and store dry for plating.

Pomegranate Seeds Just get the seeds out and plate them nicely. These provide a nice tangy burst of flavor.

Powdered Orange Blossom Yogurt
Thoroughly mix 1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt and 2 Tbsp of orange blossom water. Add 1 cup of tapioca maltodextrin (or tapioca starch or tapioca flour if you can’t find tapioca maltodextrin). Mix with a fork until thoroughly incorporated and a powder consistency is reached. You might need more or less tapioca powder.

How about those Android Turds? Heirloom carrots, anyone?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

White Hypochondriacal.........

We are forced to shop at Whole Foods quite often….actually about $3k a month, if you can believe it. I love the store…..I love the workers: I have my own personal checkers; the beret wearing cheese lady and I are Italophiles; Paul the token Rasta guy is the sweetest male human in California; Simone the manager, former General Store bartender……was once stabbed in the back by Wonder Woman the only time she worked for me. I have actually left there tearing up after talking with one of my personal checkers about her dad on his birthday. Of course, the flip side is: DO NOT FUCK WITH ME… the check out line. Ever.

I hate the customers….except for you, of course. Typical: I am buying 15 loaves of La Brea baguettes. My secret love Ro*** (no worries, she transferred to Berkeley…..) is on the "10 Items or Less" Line, so I slither over…….One motion on the register, one item, friggin' baguettes....... A Carmel female attorney attacks me for being over the limit……She is still bitter about the Jerry Brown thing 20 years ago. For fuck’s sake….is a dozen eggs twelve items or one?

Ro*** tells me she hates the U/10 line because of all the battles. I share with her a secret: the U/10 line is legally the ‘handicapped’ line. The disabled are allowed deferential treatment in this line. I have long used and abused this privilege. Sometimes I turn to the howling old bitch behind me and point out: “This is the Disabled Line! I am morally disabled….I don’t give a shit how many items I have!” Sometimes I am Ethically Disabled: “I am Disabled…..I am a Republican……I don’t give a shit about your problems or your items.” Or, “This is the Disabled Line! I am Disnumeric! I can’t count…Back off, bitch!”

Because I love Ro*** I shared with her the Ultimate Secret Comeback of the U/10 line. When the Howling Carmel Bitch grumbles and bitches about the caterer having snuck through with 12 baguettes, a bag of ice and some Stilton (THREE ITEMS!...)…….The response: "Oh, he is so much better now that he is in the Group Home. This is the Disabled Line…..this is the only line he knows to use. I think the violence is completely behind him now, no matter what they say…….Paper or plastic?”

Anyhow, we have had a contest running for some months now: The Anagram for Whole Foods. I am happy to announce the All-time Supreme Winner Forever: Noel Emery. Of course she should win: she is named for her grandpa leoN….and she was the first to point out to me that Evian backwards is ‘naïvE’. And she has the world’s best collection of oxymorons: military intelligence, jumbo shrimp, pretty ugly, etc. Soon she will be old enough to drink……

The first part of the contest was easy, sort of: White, Hypochondriacal, Obnoxious, Lily-livered, Egocentric. We didn't want to give them credit for "Lacivious".....this implies sexuality, which implies caring for another, even as an object.....Nah.

I rallied with Fucked Overbearing Overfed, Depressing Stressmodes.

Noel’s capper: Fallacious Obese Obstinate Dip Shits…….

The envelope please……….