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.
It's that time of year again. TIme to shop sales and make lists and decide who you love enough to part with some of that hard earned cash. Here are a few good ideas for the cooks in your life.
The Thermapen is on sale from ThermoWorks right now for $89 and it is a major splurge. It's also a practical gift. It takes accurate temperatures faster than any thermometer out there making it perfect for all of your cooking and baking projects. We keep ours right beside the stove and hardly a day goes by when it doesn't see some sort of action. We love it even more than our laser thermometer. You can also buy it via Amazon if you hate filling out new forms online.
Everyone should have a good kitchen scale. This one by My Weigh costs under $40 and will work well for most home cooks. For cooks who like to work with hydrocolloids and other small quantity ingredients you can add a jewelers scale from American Weigh for under $10. These are the two scales we use in our kitchen and we would be lost without them.
Our current coffee of choice comes from Blue Bottle Coffee. You can order real pounds of freshly roasted coffee, Cascara Tea, various accessories and an autographed copy of their very cool book, The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes to send to someone you love. Last we ordered the code: FREESHIPLOYAL got you free standard shipping in their online store and there's plenty of time before Christmas to get something for the coffee lover in your life.
And finally, for the sweet tooth on your list there is Monastery Candy. They make some of the very best chewy caramels, plain and chocolate coated, that we've ever had. Paired with a small jar of crunchy sea salt (which is good for everything), their caramels are close to perfection and reasonably priced too.
Embrace conflict as a collaborative tool. You learn more from exploring a difference of opinion than you do from listening to someone who is afraid to disagree with you.
We started by cold smoking whole king trumpet mushrooms. Then we sliced them in half and scored them. We pan roasted them in olive oil and when they were richly browned and cooked through we put them on a bed of tarragon. We seasoned them with a sprinkling of salt and a lighting spreading of yuzu kosho.
I compile ideas. Bits and pieces come together and become thoughts, dishes and processes. Then they are stacked in lists. The more ideas the greater the list. The problem is I generate ideas faster than I can execute them. So then there is a backlog of ideas, waiting in line. And once the line gets large enough the newer ideas trump the older ones. And that is unfortunate, because many of the older ideas need to see the finish line. So I create, I write, I cook, and still their are lists. What is important, especially for me is to remember to go back to the lists, read them, dive into them and get them involved. Otherwise a list is just words on a page.
We just found out about this grant program today and we're a little behind the times. We need to garner at least 250 votes on their website by tomorrow night in order to qualify so we're asking everyone to please take a couple of minutes and visit the Mission: Small Business℠ site and log in with Facebook. (There is no other log in option besides Facebook.) Once logged in, you can search for our business to vote.
In case you're curious here are our answers to the essay questions on the grant application. That way you'll know what you're voting for. 250 votes gets us to the next round to qualify for a $250,000 grant to expand Ideas in Food. If you like what we do here please take a couple of minutes to give us your vote. Thanks!
1. Tell us about your business; how successful is it and why is it unique?
Ideas in Food is an education based culinary consulting company. We saw a need to provide continuing education for chefs and cooks and this naturally spilled over to the avid home cooks. We teach private workshops, tailored to the individual and focusing on learning the techniques, understanding ingredients and increasing creativity. We also work with food service companies and restaurants to help improve knowledge and efficiency in order to make better food in different circumstances while adhering to the bottom line. We believe that knowledge allows cooks to be better technicians and be creative and innovative in their own kitchens. In this same vein we bring avant-garde restaurant techniques to the home kitchen, and document it all on our blog. One day it might be breaking down a duck and using all of the parts in different ways and another it might be exploring the use of tapioca starch and guar gum in ice creams. We stage classes and demonstrations at locations around the country including Le Sanctuaire in San Francisco, El Ideas in Chicago, Astor Wine and Spirits in New York City. We keep a hand in the current restaurant scene by participating in in a series of guest chef dinners working with a roster of chefs that include George Mendes, Michael Voltaggio, Dominique Crenn, David Chang, Daniel Patterson, Tony Maws, Wiley Dufresne, Sean Brock, Alex Stupak, Ken Oringer, and Carlo Mirarchi. We’ve traveled around the world to present at a variety of professional conferences including International Association of Culinary Professionals, Star Chefs, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, The Arts Institutes, The Experimental Cuisine Collective at NYU and the Food Hydrocolloid Conference.
2. How is your business involved with the community you serve?
We have a hands-on approach to working with clients and other like-minded individuals. Our website, www.ideasinfood.com is a hub for ideas and information on all aspects of food. We have a constant dialogue with cooks and chefs around the world via the website and Twitter and their questions often lead us to new breakthroughs that we are happy to share. We love the open source aspect of Ideas in Food and have found that giving away ideas in invaluable because the inspirations come back to us a hundredfold. We have a book, Ideas in Food, Great Recipes and Why They Work, published by Clarkson Potter and another book, also with Clarkson Potter, in the works, to be published in August 2013. In the past year we have written pieces for Gilt Taste, Popular Science, Food 52 and Aroma Magazine. Our belief is that knowledge is empowering and a collaborative community fosters innovation and inspiration. We’d like to take our individual workshops to the next level and offer a set program of larger classes that will appeal to different chefs in addition to the bespoke workshops focusing on individual menus and areas of interest. 3. What would the Grant mean to your business plan and how would you utilize the funds to ensure long-term growth and stability?
The grant would give us the opportunity to expand the business and establish a permanent space where we can host culinary programs from 2-5 days for chefs and cooks to come and learn new skills and increase creativity. Currently we are teaching classes out of our small workshop. The grant would let us move to space designed for slightly larger classes and events, with rooms to offer the participants and their families to stay in. We’d like to establish a diverse, hands-on curriculum of topics including whole animal butchery, flavor pairings, menu development, no-knead baking and food styling, where we include guest chefs and instructors to teach classes based on their specific skill set and professional cooks, chefs and enthusiastic amateurs can come to learn, inspire, and be inspired. Avenues for continuing education in the food service industry are scant and we think that it is one of the most important ways that all cooks can keep their edge and enthusiasm in the kitchen. It’s a tough industry and time off tends to be devoted to loved ones, so if we can create a family friendly space where chefs can come to learn and their families can be with them, perhaps exploring the area during the day and joining them in the evenings for meals that are the direct result of their classes and culinary activities they will be able to integrate all of their passions into one trip.
Mental stimulation and new experiences are so important for chefs. There’s no way to overstate the fact. We need to stretch and grow in order to stay motivated and inspired. During the course of our workshops we’ve often heard that the experience rejuvenates a chef’s creativity and gets them excited to get back into their own kitchens. Instead of focusing only on smaller, individual workshops, a large space will also allow us to bring people together in a creative environment to learn from one another and become inspired from the group interaction.
3. What types of challenges can you identify with your business plan and how will you overcome them?
The biggest challenge will be finding the space and putting the program in place. Through our business we have an extensive network of chefs, writers, photographers, and beverage professionals that we can draw upon to teach classes. Instructors who design their own classes, will be able to share very specific skill sets and will be able to bring their own passion to the venue. It’s a unique opportunity for people in the business to learn from one another and get to know each other. While there are a few professional conferences where chefs can go to network and learn from each other, there is something special about smaller groups and real conversations that can take place when people are working side by side and sharing an experience. We like facilitating connections and bringing people together. It’s our hope that these small group classes will allow people to build relationships that they will take back into their kitchens and help foster the culinary community. We may need to start off in a bare bones environment and rely on the students and instructors to create the atmosphere instead of focusing on luxury accommodations and state of the art kitchens. Fortunately we already bring a fair amount of equipment to the table and are not afraid to bargain or exchange skills and services in order to make things happen.
4. Describe the talent on your team and how they make your business successful?
Ideas in Food is a partnership run by Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot. We both bring our separate and combined passions to the business. We are driven to create an environment where we can share the principles necessary to create the most delicious food possible. Alex is a wonderful presenter; good at making tough topics seem approachable and drawing people into experiments and discussions. He loves to solve problems and culinary mysteries are his specialty. He is very good at negotiating a deal and drawing people into partnerships. Aki is the writer, working slightly more behind the scenes to organize and explain how things work. She is very good at intuiting what people need and moving to provide that extra level of service. We both have backgrounds in restaurants and catering. Additionally we helped open and run a boutique hotel in Colorado giving us intimate knowledge of the amount of work and the level of operations that will be needed to make our dream come true. We both work hard to get the most out of our teams, encouraging them to be better and empowering them to be able to create a great experience for every guest and student. We lead by example and try to inspire those we work with. We continuously ask what is possible and share the process we travel to get there. Our greatest gifts are the abilities to share knowledge and bring people together.
5. Anything you'd like to add?
This grant would be a game changer for us. We have steadily grown our business for the last four years and it has crystallized our dream of this culinary center where chefs and cooks can come together in a slightly more relaxed environment to share ideas and techniques and play in the kitchen. It's a chance for food service professionals to recharge their batteries and learn about new ingredients and techniques. We want to a create a learning vacation spot specifically tailored to a group of people who's careers depend on their ability to stay current, well informed and able to inspire their own teams.
A big THANK YOU to everyone who voted for us. We made the 250 and are still gathering votes to let the selection committee know that we have the support of our community. We can't tell you how much it means to us that you were able to help us get to the next level. Fingers crossed that the judges like our business plan. We'll keep you posted.
June 29, 2010
Rittenhouse Tavern to host “Ideas in Food” Authors
For a Creative Culinary Workshop and Dinner
Join Alexander Talbot and Aki Kamozawa on Monday, July 23rd
Rittenhouse Tavern will host a creative culinary workshop and special one-seating-only dinner with Alexander Talbot and Aki Kamozawa of the popular website and book “Ideas In Food” on Monday, July 23rd.
Rittenhouse Tavern, which is normally closed on Mondays, will host the six-hour hands-on workshop from 10AM to 4PM allowing access to the entire restaurant (kitchen included) in hopes that participants will be inspired to take innovative and resourceful approaches to food and find a focus when developing dishes. The workshop, which is $250 per person, is geared towards chefs, culinary students and at-home-cooks that are curious to explore and learn more about food, while utilizing Talbot and Kamozawa as resources for refining their ideas. Lunch will also be served for workshop participants.
Separately, Executive Chef Nicholas Elmi will team up with the duo to prepare a special 7+ course dinner that evening with one exclusive seating at 6PM for $105 per person (not including tax and gratuity). The dinner will highlight the ideas and techniques utilized in the workshop, guaranteed to pique the interest of chefs and food lovers alike. Reservations are recommended but not required for both the workshop and dinner.
“We’re excited to welcome Alexander and Aki to Rittenhouse Tavern,” says Executive Chef, Nicholas Elmi. “I've known the two of them for years and we frequently bounce ideas off each other. It's important for chefs to never stop learning and this workshop will allow everyone the opportunity to openly discuss their ideas and develop recipes with a new perspective in a creative atmosphere.”
Rittenhouse Tavern is located on 251 South 18th Street in the Philadelphia Art Alliance. For more information and to secure a reservation call 215-732-2412.
Necks are one of our favorite pieces of meat to work with. In this case we took the idea of working with necks and applied it to the vegetable world. We slowly braise the broccoli neck in roasted chicken jus. When they are cake tester tender we glaze them with the braising liquid. In this dish we paired the braised broccoli with our twice cooked scallops.
Wanting to continue with our gluten free developments we put our sourdough donuts to the test. We combined our sorghum starter* and used our What IiF flour in our sourdough donut recipe from the book. The results were tangy, rich and delicious. We coated the donuts with cardamom sugar and the lactic tang of the sourdough did the rest. These are a wonderful addition to our repertoire and hopefully you will give them a go soon too.
*We have now modified our sorghum starter to a blend of sorghum and flax seed meal in equal parts by weight. The flax seed adds some elasticity to the starter and gives it more body, a great improvement.
We saw this on Brain Pickings today and are shamelesly reposting it here because it's that good. It's about creativty, a skill we are constantly trying to improve, and the video is definitely worth watching. If you've never checked it out, Brain Pickings should be one of your daily reads. Maria Popova always manages to find at least one and usually several new and inspiring things to write about every day.
April 12, 2006
We were fortunate enought to benefit from the twitter exchange between Francis Lam and Francisco Migoya. The question was posed about the whether croissants could and should be fried. Francisco quickly took the ball and ran with it and now serves these incredible fried croissants with vanilla sugar at The Apple Pie Bakery at the CIA. From idea to execution in a flash, with a little help from playing together in the same sandbox. And how did we benefit? We crushed too many of these to count along with pretty much everything else in the pastry case while we were speaking at the CIA earlier this week. So really this is a heart felt thanks to Francis and Francisco. Keep on tweeting!!! (As if there is any question, we do have plans to start deep frying pigs in blanket.)
March 22, 2005
The Hilo Bay Cafe, suggested to us via Twitter, was a surprising standout. We had a very good lunch there one day and sent others there who were equally pleased by the experience. The emphasis on local, organic ingredients and cheerful service were a winning combination and the perfect ending to a long drive along the coast. On the flip side, ramen at an outdoor food court convinced me that mandating hats and hairnets in the kitchen is a good thing, much as I may have chafed at them in my youth. Unfortunately we hit Hilo on a Tuesday, and although the farmers market is open six days a week, the days to shop are Wednesday and Saturday. All I can say is don't judge it until you see it on one of those two days because the difference is immense, or so I'm told. My favorite farmers market was on Saturday in Waimea. It was a great blend of produce and prepared foods with beautiful flowers and flavorful sea salt to round out the mix. The malasadas were amazing and the we were able to pick up a variety of avocados to play with in our kitchen. There were friendly locals, some transplanted from the mainland, and a variety of dogs, some even boasting a Westminster pedigree.
Alex was lucky enough to make it over to the Four Seasons Hualalai to meet chefs Ludo Lefebvre, Josiah Citrin, Nancy Silverton, Matt Molina and Lucy Lean. He was invited to stay for dinner and it was, by his description, epic and beautiful. The cooks went diving in the morning for the slipper and spiny lobsters that were served at the meal. It simply doesn't get fresher than that. He was also gifted with some local butter that he shared with the rest of us and it was amazingly delicious.
We are back at home now and hard at work on the book. We are racing towards the finish line and excited that we will be able to include the What Iif Flour as part of our biscuits and gravy recipe alongside Batch 2 pound cake and many other exciting recipes that it is killing us not to share. The release date was pushed back to the end of August 2013, not because of us, but it will be worth the wait.
It is not hidden but you do have to work for it. I think that is what we often overlook. The effort and the time the commitment. Instead of spending time looking for hidden potential we need to spend the time working with what is in front of and around us. I forget this all the time and it takes a moment of natural beauty to knock me back into alignment. And so here we have a potential dish, in front of us in the raw. Now comes the difficult and pleasurable task of bringing it to the plate.
Being in the food business can be overwhelming. It's not like we can stop eating or drinking or planning the meals that need to prepared and consumed. We all work long hours and there's a certain dedication that must be present in order to succeed in any aspect of this business from cooking to writing and everything in between. Most of the time we welcome the challenge. But sometimes we need a break. We need some time to focus on other things. We think of this action as re-charging our batteries. Time spent reading a good book, walking on a beach or through the streets of a city, watching a funny movie or just hanging out with the people we love is all valuable time spent far from kitchens, cameras and computers. While it is sometimes hard to break away, lo and behold, we often find that a small space is enough to re-invigorate our obsessions and help us find us new inspirations for the kitchen.
One of our favorite things to do when we are in NYC and feeling flush is pay a visit to the Museum of Modern Art. It is a place that takes us out of ourselves and often leaves us awestruck at the work of others, using mediums we had never thought to explore. Great music does the same thing. We often have music in the background when we cook because it helps us keep our pace and motivation. Looking deeper there is something to be gained in submerging yourself in the work of others, really feeling the music and appreciating the passion that went into its creation. It charges you up and makes you want to create something equally full of life and wonder that is uniquely your own. Even taking the time to stop and simply breathe, feeling the movement of your body, listening to the world around you and feeling the air against your cheeks can be wonderful. That moment of inner quiet can help you find the spark you need to go forward and make your castles in the sky a new reality. We are all driven by motivation and finding the influences that inspire us outside of our daily routines will make the difference that sets our work apart and makes it special.
Our lives are so busy and connected that it can be hard to justify taking some time for yourself to do whatever it is that makes you happy. Do it anyway. Learn to listen to yourself, because deep down we all know what we really need out of life (although we may not always like what that is) and knowing what we need makes it easier to make it happen. Be selfish every once in a while because if you aren't happy then you can't create something that shows all of the beauty that's inside of you. Be passionate because emotion always comes through in your work, even in the kitchen, and remember to find the joy in what you do. Success is more than money or prestige, success is doing what we love because we love doing it.
February 25, 2010
February 25, 2007
February 25, 2005
One of the reasons we love Twitter is conversations like this:
Smart phones really have changed the culinary landscape. Chefs and cooks are so much more open about what they're doing and social media allows all of us to connect with each other in ways that were never possible before. If you find the right people to follow you can learn from the best there is. Of course it is a two way street. You've got to give a little of yourself in order to get something in return. But then that's life in nutshell isn't it?
February 20, 2011
February 20, 2005
you could do anything you wanted to? What would you be doing right now and who would you be with? These are probably the most important questions you can ask. Live large and be true to yourself.
February 18, 2005
This video is on the longer side, 50 minutes or so. I watched it in spurts because that's how I was able to carve out the time. It didn't matter that I didn't see it all at once, it still moved me. It's the introduction to Penny De Los Santos' Food Photography class with Creative Live. Watch it and be inspired.
February 17, 2005
*the above picture is of a recent cartoon print by Hugh Macleod, of gapingvoid which now hangs in our kitchen. Appropriate to say the least.
We wrote about The Creative Habit: Learn It And Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp back in August of 2005. We can honestly say that this is a book that has stood the test of time. It's one that we revisit occasionally when we need a little bit of inspiration because it helps remind us that creativity is something that we need to work at every day. This website is all about creativity in the kitchen and we think it's a skill that needs to be used in every part of our daily lives. It's easy to fall into a rut and do things the same old way. The harder choice is to push yourself to think of a different aproach, to find a path and try something new. This is post #3000 here at Ideas in Food and so instead of a cookbook we are giving away some creativity in the form of Twyla's book.
We will be giving away one copy of the book to three different readers this week. Please leave a comment below telling us why creativity is important to you. One entry per person please. Winners will be picked randomly on Friday, February 3, 2012 at 9am EST. This giveaway is now closed. WInners will be notified via email. Thanks for commenting.
We are hard at work on the next manuscript. I don't want to say that it's kicking our butts but... Anyway, earlier this week we did an interview over at the Say Daily. Unsurprisingly it's a little bit opinionated, a little bit informative and hopefully a little bit entertaining as well.
January 19, 2005
Today was a cookie day. We started the day eating amazingly crisp yeasted sugar cookies that are going to be in the next book, paired with coffee for breakfast. Then we pulled out another yeasted dough to develop as we set out to shop for Amaya's cookies, macarons from The Painted Truffle at the Stockton Market. They are Amaya's favorite cookies in the whole world and every couple of weeks we trek up to the market to see what's new and get her some. I would like to say that we love them too but she is very posessive of her macarons and I have yet to even get a bite of one. I suppose I could buy my own but I think it works better if we're not fighting over them. Sometimes it's good for her to have her own special thing.
Despite the fact that it's a bit of a trip, about a thirty minute drive if traffic is good, it's no hardship to go up to the market. Some of our favorite food vendors reside in the building. Milk House Farm and Gravity Hill Farm both have ridiculously beautful produce. Matthew's charcuterie at Porcsalt is darned tasty and the pork chops from Purely Farm are delicious. Bobolink Dairy has an outpost there and we usually grab lunch from Mighty Quinn BBQ (the brisket and Texas chili are worth sitting down for) and Bret Cavanaugh's woodwork is some of the most beautiful stuff we've ever seen, and in this business we've seen a lot.
The beauty of working with yeast is that you can get the doughs ready in the morning and leave them to ferment during the day. By the time we got home it was time to start baking more cookies. These are also for the next book. They are made with coconut and Meyer lemon marmalade. If this seems like a tease, it is, but we promise you, these cookies are worth waiting for. They were a sweet ending to a very good day. Now if the Giants win this game it will be almost perfect. (Alex may think otherwise)
January 15, 2005
We look at life from an interesting angle. Once professional chefs now we are culinary consultants, cookbook writers and primarily home cooks. It's almost impossible to think of yourself as a chef once you've left the kitchen for any period of time. Even though you can walk into a kitchen and pick up where you left off, it still feels slightly strange, like a favorite pair of jeans that no longer fits exactly the way they used to. You still love them but they're not the first pair you reach for anymore. People often ask us if we miss the restaurant business and the answer is always a resounding yes...and no. There are things we miss and things we don't and though we periodically toy with the idea of returning it would only be on our terms in a very specific type of situation. For now we are quite pleased with the niche we have carved out of the world, no longer professional chefs, yet not exactly home cooks either, and still in the kitchen more often than not. As long as we're cooking in some form we're still doing what we are passionate about and that's a good place to be.
One of the things we've realized is that for professional cooks technique is what matters. They can read a recipe, pick out the technique and extrapolate it into whatever they want it to be. For home cooks the recipe matters more. It has to be something that appeals to them, that they would want to cook and eat. That's the big difference between the home cook and the professional, at the end of the day the home cook is going to sit down with everyone else and enjoy their meal. This makes recipe appeal much more important. Most home cooks are not afraid to make changes and substitutions but they see a recipe first and any substitutions come to mind later. The professional sees a recipe title and immediately knows exactly how they would cook it or change it, usually before they even get to the ingredient list.
Our middle ground is figuring how and why to make changes to ingredients and techniques and then explaining it to everyone else. You may instinctively know why you are tapping your cake pans on the counter or starting your bacon in a cold oven but if you can't explain how it works, it makes it hard to build upon your knowledge. Our job is connecting the dots so that you can see the whole picture and use it to your advantage. We like to tinker in the kitchen and we operate under the belief that most everybody else does too. Cooking at its best is an act of nourishment, skill and creative expression. We're all about giving our readers the skill to do it to the best of their abilities.
January 6, 2005
Recently someone asked us what we thought was the next big food destination. We were slightly stumped. It seems that most places have been well-explored and in some ways food is becoming more homogeneous. As cultures expand and restaurants proliferate, they go through a stage of exploring other styles of cooking. Restaurants specializing in classic French techniques, modern cooking techniques, food from around the world abound and then ever so slowly the tide begins to turn. Chefs and cooks reach a level of expertise that allows them to embrace their homeland. They begin to refocus on what they have at hand, the ingredients, the history, the local specialties, and their own memories of food come together to create a renaissance of sorts. That type of revival is happening here in the United States right now and that's why we think this is the place to eat this year.
In the 70's it was a common practice for Americans to travel to France on gastronomic pilgrimages. WIth their Michelin guidebooks and a few key reservations they would drive across the country enjoying great meals. I believe that we've hit a point where people can, with a little judicious research, crisscross this country and eat great food everywhere they go. The level of cooking has increased to the point where you can find passionate chefs creating great food in almost every small city or large town and even in a few out of the way areas where you'd never normally think to look. From Charleston to Austin, Baltimore to Providence, and Pittsburgh to Seattle, you can find a great gastronomic experience. The best part of it is that because we have such a large country with so many regional variations, if you look carefully you can find old favorites and classic ingredients slowly coming back into the spotlight. Of course as diners we have to do our part. When we find great places we have to support them. We have to actually eat there every so often and tell all our friends about it. Passion and good press will only take a chef so far, it takes actual customers to keep the doors open.
In 1979 Raymond Sokolov published Fading Feasts, A Compendium of DIsappearing American Regional Foods. When I first read it there were many things I had never heard of or tasted and now many of them are newly popular once more. It's a great book full of great stories, recipes and information. Sokolov covers a wide range of ingredients and regional dishes including persimmons, gooseberries, abalone, sea urchin, Pacific salmon, Country ham, key limes, Minnesota wild rice, moonshine, chili con carne and morels. It's gratifying to see that all of them are still around and many are thriving. We have an important food history in this country and its wonderful to see chefs like David Kinch, Sean Brock, Tony Maws and Spike Gjerde leading the charge to embrace it and share their knowledge. There is an incredible bounty of chefs and ingredients available to tantalize any palate and it's time to give them their due. It's no longer just about New York and California, it's all of us, working together to create an environment that fosters great food in restaurants and in home kitchens.
Family restaurants are on the rise and instead of or in addition to making biscuits and gravy, meatloaf and fried chicken, these places are turning out handmade pastas and salumi, making cheeses and pickles, growing gardens in back lots and on rooftops, and simply taking their food to the next level. FIne dining has become incredibly fine and focused ever more on pristine ingredients and graceful flavors, modern cooking techiques and high tech equipment have made new things possible in the kitchen and smart chefs know that some things can be improved upon and others are perfect just the way they are. Home cooks are also breaking barriers, using weights and measures, making their own sourdough starters and strudel dough, curing sausages and smoking bacon in their backyards. Admittedly none of this is new to the American cook but it is wonderful to see the enthusiasm and passion that blossoms over social media and through books, blogs, television and magazines. Home cooking is a relatively affordable activity that allows us to indulge our differents needs to make something tangible with out hands, be creative, socialize and actually feed ourselves something delicious.
Professionally there has never been a better time to be an American chef. FIfteen years ago the majority of famous American chefs were originally from France or other parts of Europe. Now it's anybody's game. Most of the best known American chefs are home grown and with the advent of food television and media it's easier than ever to get your name out there. It's also easier than ever to get your hands on quality ingredients and to find your audience. The local restaurant has come a long way from SIzzler and Perkins. Yes, those places still exist and do a booming business, but places like Niche in St. Louis and Bluestem in Kansas City are thriving right alongside them. While doomsayers say that chains will take over the world, our industry is so much more than that. Given a choice people will choose great food at an affordable price point over mediocrity almost every time. In addition to that there is access to other chefs and information that was never possible before. There is enough room for everyone to be successful and that realization has enabled us to develop a great culinary community that is more focused on camaraderie than competition. How can you not love that?
December 15, 2008