I’ll be lecturing and doing cooking demos at the following events:
September 28, 2010 A fun-filled weekend with family in South Carolina
Mikel and I spent a wonderful weekend with my family in Charleston, celebrating my nephew Thomas’s wedding to Kate Clark and his mother’s birthday. We loved Kate’s family, who had come from as far off as California, Wisconsin, and Indiana. And I had a great time not only visiting with my fun-loving siblings and their offspring, but also eating shrimp right off the boats and crabs right out of the pots.
Having grown up spending much of my time on my family’s sailboat, I learned many galley tricks that save both precious space and fuel, and which have served me well in my many years in the tiny kitchens that all my homes seem to have had. Cleaning crabs live is one of the best things I know how to do. I’ve written about this many times before, and 20 years ago I even won an award for an article about the method. Two years ago, I missed my sister’s Nancy’s birthday party, but I did write about cleaning crabs live, with intricate instructions and the cooking method, on September 26, 2008. You really should try it. If you’re squeamish, you can ice the crabs down first.
September 21, 2010 Rock Stars in New Orleans
I always thought that Michael Stipe was a vegetarian, so I was surprised to see that he’s now writing “restaurant reviews,” if you can call them that, for GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog. His “review” of Cochon, one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, reads as follows: “Cochon is Peter Buck’s favorite restaurant in New Orleans, and he eats there pretty much every night that he can. The food, service, drinks, and freshness are unparalleled. Cochon was, in my short stay there, the gathering place for Alex Chilton; Ana Matronix from Scissor Sisters; Nicolas Cage, Eddie Vedder, Tim Robbins; Mario Batali, Dermot Mulroney, Parker Posey, various local and international writers, and of course, Peter Buck. This place is in the apex of New Orleans cool.”
My friends the B-52s are on the road again and Kate often asks me for recommendations. She and Keith had eaten at Bayona last time they were there, so they wanted to go back. I knew that Susan Spicer, the chef/owner, was on vacation at the time, but they went and had a great meal.
Kate also called our mutual friend Daphne Derven, who is Special Projects Manager for the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, and who suggested they go to Cochon for lunch yesterday. I kept getting cell phone images of the food from Kate yesterday as she dined on the delicious fare that Chefs Stephen Stryjewski and Wes Kenney (pictured with Kate) prepared.
Later that day, they somehow managed to go dine at Cochon’s sister restaurant, Herbsaint, as well, where Donald Link works his magic. Tracy Wormworth, their bass player, wrote me the following:
Kate and I had the most incredible meals at both Cochon and Herbsaint. We had your always delicious grits, the shrimp and chow chow, a crab stuffed portobello cap, cucumber and herb salad, mac and cheese, an amazing stuffed , the incredible eggplant and shrimp stuffing, fried oysters, etc, etc. Wes sent out an amazing redfish filet, as well as a humungous slice of and a lemon meringue torte. In other words—we had a feast!!!
Then, Keith, Kate and went to Herbsaint and had a light dinner, but went heavy on the desserts.
Once again, I must thank you for guiding us to the most incredible restaurants on the planet….
Love u much and thank u for sharing your culinary rock stardom with us.
Their dinner at Herbsaint, according to Kate, was “Arugula salad with beets, watermelon crab gazpacho, sliced fresh tuna appetizer, green beans.. Kept it light till dessert! Lavender ice cream — coconut cake — cantaloupe sorbet…”
Damn. I need to go back to New Orleans!
September 19, 2010 Oyster shooters and Tokyo Turnips
I’ve been to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to work on my oyster article for the Washington Post. We had oyster shooters (oysters, vodka, and cocktail sauce) and pulled pork barbecue sandwiches before sundown on Friday, just before fasting for Yom Kippur (no, I’m not Jewish, but my friends are, though, obviously, they don’t keep Kosher).
En route home, I stopped at the Farmers Market in St Michaels, Maryland, where I bought two big bunches of white (Tokyo) turnips with their greens attached. The turnip roots were delicately flavored with a hint of crunch. I peeled some of them and cut them into batons which we then dipped in my homemade celery salt (see April 1, 2008) while we had cocktails. The remaining turnips I pared, quartered, and put in a bowl of cold water splashed with vinegar until I was ready to cook. I washed the greens scrupulously, then deribbed them and put them in a large pot with a pound of kielbasa, cut up, the turnips, the greens (with the water that clung to them), a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes, a touch of salt, and a little water and hot pepper vinegar. I let them braise for about 15 minutes and served the dish with crusty bread and German mustard.
A perfect dinner, with a side of sliced heirloom tomatoes, also from the farmers market.
The best tomato we’ve had this summer, bar none, was a Red Brandywine I bought from a roadside stand on the way home from Monticello. Yesterday the farmer with the heirloom tomatoes had several pink varieties, including Pink Brandywines. I asked her how far apart she separated her heirlooms, all of which are open-pollinated. “Same row,” she said, acting as though she knew exactly what she were doing and I knew nothing. I bought several of them anyway, and they all taste the same, and a bit insipid. If you don’t grow your different heirlooms 50 feet apart, they are not going to come true.
September 15, 2010 Busy busy busy…
Sorry I’ve not blogged in the past couple of weeks. I have been very busy. I spoke at Monticello, I am working on an article about oysters for the Washington Post, and I have an upcoming (sold out) lecture at the Smithsonian. Plus next week I’ll be gone to South Carolina for my nephew’s wedding, then I go to New York for Pig Island. I’ll get around to posting more soon. Bear with me.
I’m pasting in some photos and a few notes from the events at Monticello. Leni Sorensen, the African-American Research Historian at Monticello, demonstrated cooking corn pone on an open fire.
At the lunch following the morning lectures at Tufton Farm (one of several farms that were part of Jefferson’s sprawling plantation), Lena Zentgraf cooked one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever been served anywhere, mostly with vegetables from the gardens at Monticello. Sliced tomaotes with basil; an elegant crustless quiche
made with local eggs and delicate local soft cheese made with both goat and cow’s milk; perfectly roast eggplant slices, rolled and skewered and served with classic okra and tomatoes (when I told her that okra is my favorite vegetable, she said, “I’ve never heard anyone say that before!”) A fig tart made with fresh figs from her Italian grandmother’s garden was sublime, and her lemonade was real. She was also disarmingly beautiful and eloquently spoken, and a quick Google shows her to be a brilliant athlete as well, having been named Notre Dame’s Women’s Lacrosse Most Valuable Player in 2007. She plans to serve local foods from her food truck, and I’d say she’s a rising star to watch. She’s involved in her local Haven for the Homeless and is Chairman of the Board of her local Slow Food.
I was thrilled to hear Peter Hatch, who is the Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, admit to what I’ve been saying for years: that Jefferson is so lionized that he has been credited with all-but-single-handedly changing America’s palates and gardens, when, indeed, we know that many of the plants that his admirers claim he imported for the first time were in fact well established in Charleston gardens and on lowcountry plantations many years before. I was also delighted to see okra, sesame, and field peas thriving in the gardens where other beans and vegetables struggled in the dry conditions. Just seeing them planted there was so satisfying to me as a culinary historian.
On Saturday night, Mikel and I dined with friends at the Ivy Inn in Charlottesville, where Chef/Owner Angelo Vangelopoulos wowed us with one of the finest meals I’ve ever had in a restaurant. Also concentrating on local foods, everything he did simply enhanced the integrity of each ingredient. I had a cold consommé with a goat cheese panna cotta and tiny, insanely flavorful tomatoes floating in the toothsome broth, washed down with a very fruity local Pinot Grigio from Gabriele Rausse. Local duck foie gras with spiced peaches perfectly accompanied the big, local meritage he suggested. I chose the vegetable platter and could not believe how delicious it was, with local mushrooms, squash, tomatoes, okra, and beans each cooked so that they stood out on their own and yet complemented the others. A salsify appetizer was beguiling. The crab cakes were barely held together by what? more crab, it seemed. Too full for cheese or desserts, he sent us tiny peanut butter brownies and jars of tomato chutney to take home. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
One last note about the weekend. There was a dinner on Saturday night at the fancy new Visitors Center at Monticello. I think they oversold it. It was awkward, standing in line in the dark and trying to find a place to sit outside (there were only a few tables). But the thing that really got my goat was that the cash bar offered a California chardonnay, beer, and bottled water. NO RED WINE because, I was told, it would stain the flagstone patio!!! I swear I felt the earth move as Mr. Jefferson rolled over in his grave. That’s a corner of his wine cellar, pictured above.
September 1, 2010
I’ve never much cared for September. Back to school. Hurricanes. Layers of clothes that are shed all day. I do welcome the cooler weather and the return of oyster season. I’m writing about oysters for the Washington Post. The article will appear in early October. I’ve been out to the Eastern Shore of Maryland interviewing skipjack captains and tongers and regular folks who are participating in the Marylanders Grow Oysters program. More to follow!
If you find yourself on the Bay Hundred Peninsula (between Easton and Tilghman Island), I highly recommend the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. It’s fascinating. It was there that I met Turkle North (right), who was an oyster tonger on the bay for 50 years. One of the few remaining skipjacks, the Thomas Clyde, was being readied for the new season (which has been pushed back to October 1). And check out this photo from the museum, showing how big oysters in the Chesapeake used to be! I am not surprised, because we used to regularly find foot-long oysters in the estuaries of the South Carolina lowcountry when I was growing up.
I was also thrilled to see sorghum being planted again this year. Sorghum bicolor, one of several grain-producing grasses that were brought to America with the slave trade from West Africa, has always held a special place in my heart. It is one of the most useful plants on earth, its grain providing sustenance to more than 500 million people in over 30 countries. There are many varieties of these can-like grasses, but most produce not only edible seeds, but its stalks are used to make syrup (my favorite, molasses-like), baskets, building materials, fences, brooms, firewood, furniture and flooring. It is also one of the major sources of biofuel, as well as alcohol, waxes, vegetable oil, and dyes. It was also used as both forage and silage for cattle where I grew up. It has been cultivated in southern Africa for over 3000 years, and was referred to in colonial times as “Guinea grass” or ” Guinea corn,” like Guinea fowl, Guinea squash (eggplant), and Guinea pepper (cayenne), though in some instances (cayenne, for example), the word does not necessarily point to proper origins. (Cayenne is New World, but slaves from West Africa were long familiar with it by the time most of them made the Middle Passage.)
A guinea was also an English gold coin worth one pound and one shilling that was in circulation from 1663 to 1813. It also came to be used as a derogatory slang term for an Italian or person of Italian descent, referencing the Guinea coast of Africa, which was the original source of the gold from which the coin was made.
The field to the right is near Claiborne, Maryland.