Happy Father's Day
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.
The Importance Of Finding Your Love
"You never know in your life what's the little thing that will change the course of your life."
She talks even faster than Alex does but it's worth the effort to keep up.
We put freshly plucked garlic chive seeds, basil and lime pickle into the mortar. We added salt and pulverized the mixture. When a rough paste formed we added olive oil. These ingredients combined to create a magnificent flavor mash.
We picked these tomato gumballs. We chose to pick them because they caught Amaya's eyes. She wanted to taste the tomatoes on the vine. We let her. The tomatoes were sweet and bursting. Amaya's interest led to a full on quest to harvest a quart of tomato candy. Being open to seeing the world through someone else's eyes allowed us to discover what we were overlooking.
It was a gorgeous morning and we knew we needed to find something to do outside. The answer was easy, a visit to Solebury Orchards, one of our favorite local spots. We were lucky because in addition to cherry tomatoes there were blueberries and blackberries ripe for the picking. And in the farm market we also discovered fragrant peaches and nectarines. It was a good haul for everyone involved. Amaya discovered the joys of super sweet tomatoes eaten straight off the vine and watching butterflies gather nectar from the wildflowers. Days like these are what summertime is all about.
Memorial Day, for those of us who have trouble remembering, is not about barbecues or dinner parties. It's a day to remember the men and women who died protecting this country and all that it stands for while serving in the United States armed forces. It's a day to appreciate what we have, the luxuries and the choices, which are actually one and the same. We grow up knowing that we are free and mostly very well fed. We grow up knowing that we can do better than our parents did and that hard work and smart choices will likely get us where we want to go. It's not too much to ask to remember one day a year that these privileges come at a cost. There are people putting their lives on the line every day so that we can live the lives that we do. Remember it and make the most out of every day.
May 27, 2006
1. Creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum.
2. Creativity and curiosity are a magic combination.
3. Creativity expands when shared.
4. Creativity has to be paired with knowledge in order to make things happen.
5. Creativity works like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets.
6. Creativity isn't about finding success, it's about asking questions.
7. Fear kills creativity.
8. Fun inspires creativity.
9. Creativity leads to flexibility.
10. You need to create in order to be creative.
May 16, 2009
Two important things happen in May. It's the start of movie season and it's Alex's birthday. He loves a good action movie and our opportunities to go see one in the theater are few and far between. It's one of the few activities that actually lets him shut down his brain and relax. So every year I conspire with Amaya's Aunt Peg to arrange for babysitting and spirit off him to see something with great storylines and lots of epic explosions in an IMAX theater. I'm fortunate that his birthday tends to coincide with the first big release of the season and this year is no exception. It's definitely an Iron Man 3 kind of a year. Now I just have to get him to the theater.
We aren't much for politics on this blog but recent events have given us pause. President Obama recently signed into law the "Monsanto Protection Act". It was slipped into a larger bill and passed many of us unnoticed until it was too late. It is a sobering reminder that our country is often more interested in protcting corporations than it is the consumers. We may not like politics or want to be involved in them but there is no denying that they impact our daily lives in ways we are not even aware of. As parents we are realizing that we need to pay more attention, yes it's a cliche, but it's also a great motivator. Maybe it's time to stand up for the food we want in order to make sure it's still available for our children in the future. We need to take responsibility, and by "we" I me mean me, for paying attention to the larger picture because if we don't take responsibility we cannot expect anyone else to either.
April 6, 2006
April 6, 2005
This video is longer than what we usually put on the website. You need a little time to curl up with it. It's totally worth it because it's the story of a man who knew what he wanted, wasn't afraid to go after it on his own terms and succeeded. That is something I think we all aspire to regardless of our particular muse.
Tom Ford is an icon for a reason.
March 23, 2010
March 23, 2005
What are you doing this Sunday? We'll be hanging out at Stockton Market in Stockton, New Jersey. It's just across the rive from PA. It's one of our favorite places, you can find us there almost every weekend, especially in the winter. We go for Amaya's favorite cookies,the macaron from Sciasa Confections. We're always excited to see what new things Bret Cavanaugh has on display. He makes beautiful and functional wood carved items like the candle holder pictured below. If we're there around lunchtime it's the perfect place for barbecue at > than Q, formerly named Mighty Quinn's Barbecue. Or if we've already had lunch we can often be found savoring a scoop of ice cream from Half Pint Kitchen. Last weekend we bought a Calamansi lime tree, from the flower guy inside the front door, that we're doing our best not to kill. Hopefully buying an established potted tree will work in out favor. There's lots to do and plenty of other food and farm stands to check out. So come join us on Sunday March 10, 2013. We'll be there all day, from 10am-3pm, selling and signing copies of our book Ideas in Food, Great Recpes and Why They Work and enjoying the market. We'd love to meet you there.
They help tell a story. They accent food. They can get in the way. They should be functional. Too many pull focus from the food. They are more difficult to use than you would think. Less is more.
February 9, 2005
This winter we've become addicted to a lavender scented neck and shoulder wrap. We love it so we're sharing it with you. Amaya has dubbed it the "warm and cozy." The one we use is from Herbal Concepts (photo via Amazon). It has a small flap that is designed to wrap around the neck attached to a small cape that drapes over the shoulders. We warm it up in the microwave and, depending on who is using it, drape it over the shoulders, wrap it around the lower back or belly or blanket it over feet and legs. It's a wonderful all purpose soother for kids and adults. It's perfect for long hours hunched over a computer or simply watching movies on the couch. Amaya takes hers to bed with her and it replicates the hot water bottles of old, warming chilly sheets with the added benefit of a soothing fragrance. It's an affordable luxury that makes our day a little bit better.