Archive for the ‘cuisine’ Tag

Too Much Not Always a Good Thing   Leave a comment

Bawdy and boastful could easily be the title of Gael Greene’s memoir Insatiable. Subtitled “Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess” only highlights my point.

When the book was published, she’d been the dining critic for New York magazine for more than 30 years. (She continued in that role another 10 years.) Greene recounts meals at once-popular restaurants in New York City, where she lived, and several in France. Along the way she dishes on the men she slept with and the chefs she knew (occasionally they were one in the same).

I finished the book only because I hoped for more about food. Sure recipes are included and she describes some meals in more detail than others, but attention is on her sexual appetite as much as her culinary one. The braggadocio simply gets old.

Greene briefly recounts her Midwestern childhood, but the memoir emphasizes her role as a restaurant critic as the impetus for creating access to travel, men and, oh yeah, meals. She was granted impressive freedom to not only review dining establishments in the Big Apple, but also elsewhere. The assumption was what was happening in the food scene in France would soon make its way to the States.

The final chapters read like a serial obituaries for the many restaurants that met their demise.

Fortunately, she included how Citymeals On Wheels came to exist. With James Beard, she co-founded the nonprofit to help feed the homebound elderly in NYC, which is still fulfilling a need.

Insatiable
Two-and-a-half Bookmarks
Warner Books, 2006
368 pages, including index

Jacques Pepin’s Many Kitchens   Leave a comment

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Jacques Pepin practically grew up in kitchens, which he chronicles in The Apprentice – a memoir with recipes. Born in southern France, he was a child during World War II when the scarcity of food was at its height. He learned to scavenge and worked on a farm before his mother opened a village restaurant when the war ended. This led to several apprenticeships, essentially trial and error experiences, before moving to Paris as a young adult.

Pepin’s writing voice is strong and vivid; the only thing missing is his French accent. His narrative reveals his work ethic, determination and a sense of fun. He goes from a lowly kitchen boy whose first assignment was nothing more than a prank to becoming the personal chef of President Charles de Gaulle – all before making a name for himself in the United States.

His move the New York City was both an adventure (meant to last a year or two at the most) and a leap of faith. Pepin spoke no English. Still, he becomes friends with fellow foodies – long before the term was conceived. Accounts of his friendships with Craig Claiborne, Julia Child and James Beard, among others, are peppered throughout like perfect seasonings to enhance but not overwhelm. Descriptions of meals add further appeal.

It’s fascinating to see his career evolve from cooking to teaching cooking techniques (and more) to authoring cookbooks and hosting television programs. Pepin shares his emotions, his appreciation of well-prepared food and the value he places on family and friends.

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen
A Memoir with Recipes
Four Bookmarks
A Rux Martin Book, 2003
318 pages with index

Table Talk   1 comment

Our presence at “The Charlie Chaplin table” at Musso & Frank Grill for dinner
recently prompted one passerby to comment: “You must be somebody special to be
sitting there.” This led to a lively discussion among those in our group while we
enjoyed what could be construed as old-school cuisine – except it tasted so good –
in the dated restaurant.

Around since 1919, Musso & Frank bills itself as “the oldest restaurant in Hollywood.”
This is hard to dispute. The staff, along with the dark and cavernous décor, helps au-
thenticate the claim. The history may be appealing, but it’s the food that continues to
draw people of all ages.

The menu is eclectic: from Fruit Cocktail to Welsh Rarebit, from Lobster Thermidor to
Chicken Pot Pie. The latter is the featured special every Thursday. Three of the five in
our party ordered it. With its flakey crust, large pieces of chicken, a colorful array of
vegetables and a rich creamy gravy, it’s easy to see why this comfort food is so popular.
I ordered Veal Scaloppini which revealed the Marsala very nicely, but the surprise was
the tapenade served atop the side of rice. The Bone-in Pork Chop was the final dish se-
lected. It covered the plate. The chop was perfectly grilled and tender, something unex-
pected given the thick cut.

Musso & Frank has no visible signs of its place in Hollywood history. Nonetheless,
the booth to the left of the front door is known as Chaplin’s favorite. We did feel
pretty special.

Musso & Frank Grill
Four Plates
6667 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA