...indicate that it's time to change directions. Go with the flow and see where it leads you.
You may find unexpected treasure.
June 8, 2005
...indicate that it's time to change directions. Go with the flow and see where it leads you.
You may find unexpected treasure.
June 8, 2005
June 7, 2005
One of the nice things about having friends is that, occasionally, when you walk through their doors they reward you with something amazing and totally unexpected, like this gorgeous loaf of whole wheat bread. It was still warm and the aromas that rose from the crust were amazing. It will definitely be the centerpiece of our dinner tonight and, hopefully, tomorrow's breakfast. It made me stop for a moment to think about the nature of gifts. How two people can give you the same gift, and yet, depending on the emotion behind the gift, they can affect you in different ways. I laid the loaf on a table beside a a bouquet of tulips that were brought to Easter dinner and seeing the two gifts together made me feel warm inside. It reinforced why it's nice to be back in PA, where we have friends and family who are happy that we are here. We have also received welcome gifts from some of the neighbors. They truly made us feel welcome because there was no obligation for them to do it. They simply wanted to be friendly. Small gestures can make a big difference in someone's life. It's hard sometimes, to reach out, but you simply have to remember the times when someone reached out to you, exactly at the moment you needed them, to find the courage to stretch out your hand or offer a small gift to someone else.
April 6, 2006
April 6, 2005
Our library seems to be ever expanding and the amount of space we have to store it is finite. We try to trim it down, but can never seem to agree on which books are expendable, and so I am surrounded by boxes and stacks of wonderful cookbooks, thousands of stories, and countless inspirations. Clearly I need more bookshelves, it's a just a question of where I'll find the space to put them...
March 22, 2005
From Bow, NH to Plumstead, PA. It's been a heck of a trip but we all made it in one piece.
A lesson from two sisters on leadership and empowerment via TED. We all have a spot in our homes where we stow plastic supermarket bags, even those of us who try to utilize re-usable bags for most of our shopping. Have you ever thought about where they all end up? I can't say that I did, before I saw this video.
March 6, 2005
I loved this talk by Elle Luna. It is for everyone.
February 18, 2005
Today we are presenting a musical interlude. This is one of our favorite songs. Whenever Amaya and I are feeling blue or out of sorts, we put on this video and dance until we can't stop smiling. It pulls us out of our funks and makes us happy again. That is a true gift.
February 14, 2009
February 14, 2005
I was pretty excited when I came across this juice at BJ's. It was the first time I had seen varietal apple juice that featured our favorite apples. Of course when I showed the bottle to Alex he noticed right away that I had stumbled into a marketing trap. It doesn't actually specify that the juice is made with honey crisp apples, only that its flavor is in the style of honey crisp apples. Oh well, it's still pretty good organic juice. Next time I will read more carefully. Though I have noticed that the more labels I read, the fewer groceries I bring home from the store...
February 4, 2005
Anyone following this blog probably knows we are in the process of selling our house in NH and moving back to PA. There are lots of reasons why we are doing this, almost none of which are about NH. Anyway, whenever you buy or sell a house, inspections are in order. Because we have well water, a water test was performed. This was not a major concern for us. We had the water tested before we moved in an annual water test just a few months ago. Unfortunately there was one one positive marker that came up and that was for arsenic.
Arsenic is not uncommon in New England wells, there's a reason why the test is always included in the water profile. When we moved in, we were aware of the arsenic in the water and installed a reverse osmosis system that we used for all drinking and cooking water. What we discovered the other day was the the arsenic levels in our water had increased and that a mitigation system in addition to the single R.O. drinking line was recommended. We are still below the levels where arsenic can be absorbed through the skin but since the level has risen it makes sense to take care of things before we hit the red zone. My question was why the arsenic wasn't detected during the annual water test? Apparently since we didn't have a mitigation system in place it wasn't included in the panel and neither of us remembered to add it in.
The easy answer is that we though we had taken care of it. We had installed a pretty comprehensive water treatment system with a reverse osmosis line for drinking water and although we made a point of only drinking the RO water, it was easy to forget why we had it installed in the first place. It was easy to become complacent.
Complacency is an insidious thing. You think you've got things under control so you don't question. You don't shake the foundations to make sure they are secure. Sure things change slowly, but they do change and that's why it's important to ask questions, to re-visit standards, and to update your approach to things. We're doing that now. Thinking about what we do and how we approach things to see if we need to shake things up a bit. Change is good. Ruts slowly develop around where you're standing if you're not paying attention. So ask yourself, what haven't I changed in a while? Give yourself a little inspection to see where things may have gone off track and then figure out how to make things even better than they were in the first place.
January 29, 2006
January 29, 2005
There's always time to make a memory.
Took Amaya to the movies and introduced her to that classic combination of Milk Duds and popcorn. She thought I was a little crazy at first.
"You want me to chew on a Milk Dud and then put some popcorn in my mouth? And eat it all together?"
"Yes I do."
"We-eell, okay." As Amaya added the salty popcorn to the warm caramel in her mouth and began to chew, a smile broke out across her face. "Mom, this is good!" Now I just have to get Dad to turn it into a doughnut.
Have a safe and happy Halloween and remember to hug somebody you love!!!
Alex was trying to get the barn door open the other day and found it surprisingly difficult. Once he got in, he found out why. The squirrels have adopted out barn for their future winter home and every protected nook and cranny is filled with walnuts.
Though clearly some of them are not waiting for winter to begin enjoying their provisions...
It's fall here in New Hampshire and this year, for the first time, I went on an actual hayride. There were a couple of stacked hay bales directly behind the drivers of the cart, instantly claimed by the experienced riders, and the rest of us settled into the blanket of hay layered on the cart floor. It was a whole new experience, bumpy and fragrant, with amazing views of the farm and the surrounding countryside. It wasn't the most comfortable ride but it was compelling. It was a reminder of how far we've come and how limitless our horizons are. Looking back over the last hundred years or so it's amazing to see how technology has simply sprouted, seemingly out of thin air, transforming our world from log cabins and outhouses into a place where we all carry miniature computers in our back pockets. Kitchens have evolved tremendously and yet some things remain the same. Those of us who love to cook are nurturers. We pursue flavor and comfort in equal measure and have an endless desire to take care of the people we love. It's nice to know that some things don't change.
One of the things we were excited about when we moved to NH was the possibility of fruit trees on our property. Last year the neighbors were kind enough to share their blueberries. There are several apple trees in our yard and we had them pruned last year. They needed a little love. While they did produce apples, they seemed somewhat shriveled and lackluster, low in quantity, and more suited to the deer and the squirrels. This year was a different story.
The branches on one particular tree are so heavy with fruit, they are practically touching the ground. The apples are finally starting to drop so it's time to start picking. Contrary to local advice, we didn't spray, so they aren't beautiful. They are abundant and rather tasty, so I'm sensing apple sauce in my near future. I'm amazed by the evolution from one year to the next, how the changes in each season translate into the trees and the fruit. It's a good reminder to pay attention to now and appreciate this moment, because things are always progressing. You may not feel the changes as they happen and by the time you notice you'll be in a different place. Be sure to stop and savor this moment, no matter how good or bad it may seem. You'll never again be exactly where you are now again.
We were picking and eating berries in the garden yesterday. The raspberries are peaking quickly, though the blueberries are in various stages of ripeness. We have three different blueberry bushes: early season, mid-season, and late season ripeners. The idea is to have berries all season long. Amaya tasted the berries thoughtfully, discussing the differences in flavor between the paler berries and ones that were fully blue. To my surprise she decided that she liked them all. The tart flavor of the mostly ripe berries appealed to her just as much as the deeper sweetness of those fully ripe. It was good reminder that the best flavor depends the perspective of the taster.
Happy Father's Day
June 19, 2005
Let's find out. Not everyone knows that one of our most popular services is consulting. We've worked with clients from international food service companies to single restaurant chef-owners. We show talented, visionary chefs who are looking to excel how to become more creative, define their goals, and implement new ideas and techniques in order to reach new heights. Our clients are inquisitive cooks who love food and embrace the idea of continuing education. We provide a supportive environment for them to troubleshoot their issues and help them fine tune ways to make ideas happen.
Our most popular service is the telephone consultation. We spend at least one hour a week refining ideas and troubleshooting any issues that have come up in your world. We talk through menus and dishes and help focus their preparation and execution for maximum flavor and efficiency. We can show you new approaches to overcoming obstacles in your kitchen and help you work with the equipment and resources you already have to decrease waste and streamline service in order to improve your bottom line. For those of you who want a more in depth overhaul we provide hands on consulting to work directly with you and your team to organize and implement new ideas, seasonal menus, and updated processes.
Telephone consultations are $150 per hour. On site consulting services and special projects are priced on a case by case basis. Now that you know what's possible, contact us to find out what you can accomplish in an hour.
May 28, 2005
Aki's over on the Danielle Lin Show talking about Gluten Free Flour Power. In case you missed it, our latest book was released in March. It's all about mixing up your own gluten free flour blends and using them to make some of your favorite foods. When we gave people samples to try no one guessed they were gluten free. And if you're not gluten free, have no fear because these recipes work with all purpose flour too. A gram for gram substitution will let you make any of these recipes, which include Asian dumplings, breads, coconut canneles, pizza, homemade pastas, pies, cookies, and Japanese fried chicken, with or without gluten. In the end it's all about creating delicious food that everyone can enjoy.
May 2, 2005
Like the blood orange, the outside view only offers a glimpse of what's inside. Today I'm at the Cherry Bombe Jubilee. I have the pleasure of moderating a panel with some of the country's most fascinating chefs: Dominique Crenn, Iliana Regan, Elise Kornack, and Anjana Shanker. Since not everyone reading this will be able to be at the conference, I thought I would share our twitter feeds. Follow along with each us throughout the day and explore what we discover.
What do you see?
March 9, 2009
Amaya has been hounding us for banana bread. Every time we picked up bananas intended for bread we ended up devouring them. Hence no bread. Prior to departing for Costa Rica we had plans for making banana bread. This time the bananas ripened and we ran out of time. The night before leaving I put the bananas in the freezer. I was ready with ripe bananas for the next time Amaya asked for banana bread. Which was the morning after our 21-hour journey home.
Aki pulled the bananas out of the freezer and let them thaw on the cutting board. I took over and began adapting our Bananas Foster Bread from Ideas in Food. The freezing and thawing of the ripened bananas made them even softer. We had only 4 bananas ready for bread. I cut the recipe in half. Mostly. I started making modifications. And I got distracted in the process. I ended up using all 5 eggs that the original recipe calls for. For Amaya I omitted the rum. I added buttermilk in its place.
I also wanted to make the entire bread in the food processor. Banana bread is often tender. The extra working of the gluten in the machine should give it some additional structure. Since I was not going to cook the bananas in rum I added 20 grams of brown butter solids for toasty rich notes. I baked the bread in a pain de mie pan mainly for shape. Because I changed the shape of the pan and added the lid I shortened the baking time. I baked the loaf for 45 minutes. It was 190°F internally. As I removed the lid I made the connection, banana de mie. We let the bread cool for 15 minutes in the pan. After the initial cooling we removed the pan and let the bread cool on a wire rack.
The structure of the bread is delicate. It is not fall apart tender. The crumb is even and moist. I look forward to making more quick breads even quicker and with more structure in the food processor.
How do you make toast?
Visualization as a pathway to problem solving in groups.
Fascinating stuff and immediately applicable in any business. I think the process of getting a group to relax enough to draw with each other is the first step in breaking down barriers to communication.
Living in a slightly out of the way location has reinforced the value of flexibility. Going shopping with a menu set in stone almost never works. We can hardly ever source everything we want, at the quality we need, at the time that we want it. So we improvise. It's a good thing everyone likes pasta. Some days we can go from store to store and not find what we need, on the other hand, some days we wander into a supermarket as they're butchering their steaks and hit the mother-load. They may not be prime but they are nicely marbled and cut to our specifications. Oh and they cost significantly less money than prime meat. We brought them home, seasoned them well and let them dry overnight. Then into the freezer for the next big steak night. It's all about building a pantry.
Tubthumping by Chumbawamba came out years ago, when we worked at Clio. It seemed to come on the radio every afternoon and was exactly what we needed to help push us through the end of prep and gear us up for service. TIme goes by, cooks move on, bands break up, but those old songs ring true forever.
I think he's telling he's telling us to take a moment to relax and enjoy the...
One of the best meals we've ever shared was at Per Se in New York City with Jonathan Benno at the helm. It's the meal we are reminded of when we experience something notable and wonderful at other restaurants. It was Thomas Keller's definition of a success.
It's Friday night, Amaya's asleep on the sofa in the sun room, exhausted from a busy week at camp. Next week will be crazy, we've got lots of catching up to do, but tonight is beautiful. The (enormous) yard has been mowed, the floors are clean, the boxes are dwindling in the workshop and garage, the house is peaceful, and I feel relaxed for the first time in forever. It's home and it feels good. Welcome to New Hampshire.
It's all about ratios. You know it's working when you agree more often than you want to kill each other. And as long as you can laugh about everything later.
June 6, 2005
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
June 3, 2005
In the midst of preparing for a big move it can be hard to find moments of peace in the chaos of everyday life. We have a lot of stuff, some of which we use constantly, and some of which we keep for workshops, or for the library, or "just in case" we might need it someday. It would suck to have to buy something we already owned at one point, then again, sometimes you have to cut down the inventory. Moves are an opportunity to look closely at all of the things that fill your house and decide what's truly important. It's a time to edit.
As we sort through all of the stuff, one of the best parts of the process is the memories. Reminders of happy moments, accomplishments, and things that made us laugh or cry. It's all good looking back because we've come out on the other side. We're not the kind of peaple to look backwards very often, so this is a special time for us, these last few weeks in the very first place that was truly our own.
Someone asked me the other day what I would miss most when we leave PA. The first answer was our house. It's been a great first house and we're sad to be leaving it. There's some comfort in hearing that the people who are buying it seem to love it too. We want to leave it in good hands so that it can continue to be a happy place. The second thing that came to mind was proximity to the people we love here. We'll still see them and talk to them but it won't be as easy or as often. "Anything else? Any stores or places?" Nope, not really, everything else is replaceable." I'll find new stores. Amaya would have been starting a new school anyway. Other stores and services were very good but nothing else feels irreplaceable. It's another reminder of what is important. We're excited for a new adventure, as we take some time to appreciate where we are now. We can only hope that the new house in Bow, New Hampshire will be as lucky and as happy as the one we're leaving.
Marian Bechtel talks about the power of embracing your crazy ideas. A talk from TEDx Teen that applies to everyone.
May 17, 2005
May 6, 2010
We've had some interesting conversations on Twitter lately about pursuing passion. The idea of doing what you love for a living is one of endless fascination because we all want to love what we do. Of course that doesn't mean it won't be difficult. It means that you are inspired enough by your daily activities to overcome obstacles and solve problems because it makes you happy to do it. That's a pretty lofty goal and sometimes the hard part is defining what you want to do and, more commonly, the hardest part is making it a reality. Truthfully it often comes down to your ability to sell. You're selling your passion to other people so they will pay you to do it. Sounds so simple as long as you're willing to put yourself out there to make it happen.
A few years ago I was invited to a cocktail party/meeting of Les Dames de Escoffier in Manhattan. I hadn't seen that particular friend in several years though we had reconnected via Twitter and I was feeling restless. Amaya was at an age where I finally felt comfortable sneaking away for an afternoon and evening and not being able to return quickly if needed. She spent the day with Dad and I hopped on a train into the city. I grew up in New York City and though I may never live there again, it always feels like coming home. Hanging out in Washington Square Park before the event, people watching and enjoying the afternoon, I was reminded that no matter how much changes in the city the core of it remains the same.
The event was exactly as I expected, several big names and semi-familiar faces, all of whom seemed to know each other quite well. It was wonderful to reconnect with my friend but I was reminded of how little I enjoy social events where I have to introduce myself to everyone. That's sounds terrible, doesn't it? Alex is very good at networking at these kinds of gatherings. He always has a smile and something to say to everyone he meets. That is not one of my special talents. One of the older ladies who noticed my discomfort gave my the eye and said "You know dear, you only get out of these events what you put into them. If you stand on the sidelines all night you may have wasted a trip." It was a fair assessment and one I took to heart. I still hate going to events with more strangers than friends, but now I try to remind myself that if I put some effort into things I can become the person who makes the introductions rather than trying to find a way to break into a conversation. I enjoy bringing people together, that is one of my talents. I just need to be comfortable enough to do it.
This Ted talk seemed somewhat timely given those recent conversations about pursuing our passions. Perhaps it's a good time to mention that we are planning to evolve our approach to workshops and create more small group classes to bring people together. While the one on one workshops are special, we want to focus more on interaction, bringing people together in a kitchen to share ideas, learn new techniques, and revisit old ones in a small hands-on environment because chefs learn best by cooking. You'll learn more about this soon. In the meantime here is a great talk by Sally Hogshead about how to fascinate your audience.
It's funny how things that are originally designed to break down barriers eventually end up becoming somewhat restrictive themselves. Blogging was originally begun as weblogs, on-line diaries where people wrote about their lives or whatever interested them and threw it out to the internet to see what would come back. As time passed people began to think of blogs as a way to make money through advertising, and then as a way to get a book deal, and then as a platform to build brands. Now all things are possible, blogs are large and small, homespun and polished and it's a good thing. Yes, it's sometimes frustrating to see how things have changed but that's evolution. We can't embrace it and abhor it at the same time.
Here's why we started blogging. We were looking for kindred spirits. We were in the southwest mountains of Colorado trying to open a hotel and restaurant and we were feeling isolated from the cooking community. So we started blogging. Our first attempts were tentative and self conscious and over time we became more comfortable. In some ways it helped that we had very few readers in the beginning, it gave us time to find our voices. Nowadays people seem to expect an instant readership and it's just not that easy. It takes time to build an audience. I can't tell you how many times I starting following a blog only to have it peter out. Blogging is a commitment. I have to admit that these days I don't read new sites unless they're recommended by someone and I don't follow them unless I see they've been around for a while and are committed to blogging.
Writing is a funny thing. You like to think that you're doing it for yourself, in actuality it's for the readers. You like to write, they like to read, it's a symbiotic relationship. Blogging is the job you do for yourself, it may lead to other things but it requires commitment. When we started this blog we promised our readers ideas in food. Not necessarily stories or recipes or photography, though it has evolved into that, we promised ideas. Now readers expect daily posts with photos and we do our best to live up to that, keeping in mind that at our core we are still about ideas in food. That's us. Other people develop their blogs for different reasons and have very different styles. The only true standard that you will find is that successful bloggers blog. They keep their promise to their readers and that makes all the difference.
April 2, 2005
Hardie Grant Books has published Maximum Flavour, Recipes That Will Change The Way You Cook, across the pond and we couldn't be happier. For those of you in London there are signed copies at Foyles bookstore. To commemorate our first release in the UK we wrote about pie over on their blog. It includes the recipe for our butter piecrust and for Kitty's strawberry pie. We were also over at The Independent recently, talking about ways to make your food more flavorful.
And while we're here, a big thank you to everyone who has bought our books. Every time you buy one it helps support what we do here, there, and everywhere. We appreciate it.
Alex will be teaching classes at EL Ideas in Chicago this Sunday January 19 and Monday January 20, 2014. The cost for each 2 1/2 hour class is $125 per person and if you sign up for multiple classes, each additional class is only $100. The collaborative dinner with chef Phillip Foss on Monday evening will be $185 per person.
The class schedule is as follows:
Sunday, January 19th
10:00-12:30pm: Gluten Free Baking
2:00-4:30pm: Sous Vide Cooking
Monday, January 20th
2:00-4:30pm: Liquid Nitrogen
Monday, January 20th
Collaborative dinner at EL Ideas
2419 W. 14th Street, Chicago, 60608
7:30pm- 10:30 pm
Space is limited, so email your request for any or all of the itinerary to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the reservations line at 312.226.8144
January 15, 2005
Kitty Broman Putnam
1916 - 2014
This is all about me. When I think back and remember Grandma Kitty, it's like she was just here. We sat together and talked. The conversation was about me. Reflecting, I realized she made everything about me. Whether we discussed my successes or my failures or just my thoughts, she’d look in my eyes and help me figure out what I needed. It made me feel special, happy, upset, angry, sad, joyous. She always focused on me.
I lay awake thinking about Grandma Kitty and me. I realized she was able to make everyone feel this way. Every single interaction she had, she made it personal. She was a good listener. She made life not about her. She made it about me and everyone else she cared for.
She showed me what a work ethic was.
She let me know that Oso's bark was fierce, but that he threw foam rocks.
She taught me the power of a hand written letter.
She gave me Strawberry Pie.
She candidly let me know when the Christmas roast was Raw!
She made sure to let everyone know Aki was the best thing that ever happened to me.
She followed that sentiment, letting everyone know that Amaya was the other best thing that happened to me.
She reminded me to eat more ice cream cones.
She encouraged me to follow my dreams.
She gave me a shoulder to lean on and always magically had a tissue up her sleeve when I cried upon it.
And now she shows me that in her absence all I can think about is her.
January 8, 2005
This Christmas Alex's sister Meredith and her family stayed in London for the holidays. We sent Amaya's cousin Maddie a toy and we slipped some books in a package that Alex's mom was mailing to them. For Mer & Brian we found (hopefully) a cool cheese store in London and sent them some holiday indulgence. As luck would have it on the very day their cheese was delivered we received a gift from them from Murray's Cheese in NYC. When we lived in the city Murray's was a favorite and we were happy to unpack the box and discover several pristine cheeses and a box of crackers. It arrived a few days early to be safe. As my mother had just decided to stay in the city with a sick friend for the holidays I was struck by inspiration. I would send her some cheese too.
What followed followed was a comedy of errors, which I won't bother to relate. Suffice to say that my mother did not get her cheese. The messenger service explained in great detail on Christmas Eve why it wasn't their fault and there no one was answering the customer service line for the store. A few days later we still had no answers and so Alex reached out to Murray's via Twitter. The response was instantaneous and they took care of the problem in a way that went above and beyond the call of duty.
Two lessons came from this. Twitter is apparently more effective than phone calls or email. And customer service really does matter. My mother waited at home all day for a delivery that never came and yet they were able to turn that around with a heart felt apology and a relatively quick response. It took a few days and a few attempts but I was a loyal customer already and so I was predisposed to forgiveness when I felt like someone actually cared about what happened. Last year a favorite local business messed up a special occasion and they couldn't be bothered to apologize or even act as if they cared. Needless to say we never went back. On the other hand we will still visit Murray's when we're in the city and send gifts to our loved ones from their store. We can't control everything but we can control how we respond to a difficult situation and that makes the difference.
For the record, a January 1 deadline for any kind of manuscript is a very bad idea. And when for some unknown reason you picked that date yourself you have no one else to blame. Holidays must be celebrated and books must be written and there's not much else to say about that...except sometimes you have a child who you want to appreciate the Christmas spirit. You want them to have the best Christmas ever and not be overly affected by impending deadlines and that takes a strength of character and focus that I have not always maintained as well as I would have liked this year.
Still Amaya has assured me that what she wants most is for all of us to be together as a family and enjoy ourselves. There's a special emphasis on that word because all too often lately we've been consumed by thoughts of work. It's too easy to be distracted these days with the internet and email a single finger's swipe away and haven't we all we been guilty of looking at a phone while a child patiently, or not so patiently, waits for our attention. In spite of this the tree has been decorated and the stockings have been hung. The presents have been bought (but not yet wrapped.) There's stollen in the pantry and cookie dough in the fridge. The next few days will be a whirlwind of activity and joy and that's what all the hard work is for. It's the joy. It's the big smile and the squeeze of hands and that moment when she leans against me and whispers "I love you." That moment is what makes all the hard work worthwhile and it's what the holidays are all about.