Les Halles

Today, I braved the inclement weather with my good friend Michelle, and we once again went to see another “celebrity chef” over at Sur La Table in Santana Row.

The reason I enclose those words in quotation marks is because the fellow we went to see today, I don’t think he likes to be referred to as a celebrity… or at least, he really does not act like one.

I speak of one Anthony Bourdain. I became a fan of Tony Bourdain a few years ago after reading his book Kitchen Confidential, which is a great, gritty and real look into the culinary world (highly recommended, would do business with again, A++++). I had been eyeing the book for a while, when, seemingly reading my mind, my good friend Toni sent it to me as a gift. I was delighted when he landed his own show on Food Network, entitled A Cook’s Tour. The premise of this show was following Tony around the world, searching out eclectic local foods. It was an awesome fusion of travel and food programming that made a seemingly perfect television show (to me, at least)… honest and compelling, unlike what the networks seem to call “Reality Television” these days. It was refreshing to see a show like this.

Bourdain also published a book based on the show, naturally of the same name, recounting his experiences of travelling the world over a period of two years in search of the perfect meal. I think I do like the book a bit more than the show, for the reasons of the book being a more personal account of his experiences. Plus, he’s a damn fine writer. I haven’t read his string of fiction novels, but I am certainly compelled to pick one up.

So yes, back to today’s events.

Today was a special day because we actually got to see Tony cook. Yes, you heard (read?) me right. It’s kind of a rare thing to see him cook. As Alton Brown said in a Q&A earlier this year, when asked if he was given the keys to Food Network, “I’d produce more documentaries and specials and I’d make Tony Bourdain actually cook something on television, by force if necessary.”

This was also an excuse for me to pick up a copy of Bourdain’s new cookbook, Les Halles Cookbook, to learn a bit more about French cooking (it’s not as fancy as it seems, as a matter of fact, it’s simple and down to earth) and of course, to get his name scribbled in sharpie inside. I have not been to the restaurant of the same name that he is executive chef at, but I would love to. The closest I think I got to real French food was at Mon Ami Gabi, located at Paris Las Vegas (which, according to Kevin, who lived in France for a spell, was pretty authentic).

Oh yeah, here’s the obligatory posed photo:
Courtney, Michelle & Tony Bourdain

During his cooking demo, Bourdain expressed his strong opinions on american foods (Kraft Singles are NOT cheese), other celebrity chefs (“He needs more than a catchphrase. He used to be a good cook.”) and the state of food-oriented television programming (he’s sad about the shape it has taken, very plain vanilla).

Curiously (okay, not really, based on his opinions), Food Network isn’t rotating A Cook’s Tour in their schedule as of late. We were informed today that he is supposedly going to continue his culinary adventures on the Travel Channel come next month! Yay!

Man, this sounded like one big promotional piece. But it isn’t, I swear! I guess it shows how enthusiastic I am for Bourdain and his work. I thanked him today for “Keeping it real”. Celebrity chefs needs someone like him amongst them to keep it real these days.

That all said, I’mma makin’ us some Boeuf Bourguignon tomorrow.

Good Eats

I’ve been very conscious of my food intake for the past week or so… even though I did not gain a pound on our wonderfully excessive cruise vacation, I know I could stand to lose some of that excess flab. The added danger presently is the abundance of snackage here at home. I think I’ve done a fair job this past week of snacking on carrots, grapes and fat-free pudding.

The weekend is also dangerous, with eating out and socializing in the mix. But this weekend wasn’t so bad at all.

On Saturday morning, my friend Michelle and I went out to Santana Row to catch a glimpse of my hero, AB, giving a knife demonstration and book signing. The strange thing was that I had to reserve a spot weeks in advance for this event, yet it took place in an open courtyard with seemingly unorganized seating arrangements… so unfortunately, I didn’t have a prime seat for the demo. AB attempted to prepare a gazpacho, utilizing a few different knife techniques. Since he was primarily speaking about knife skills, he didn’t get the finish the recipe… but he graciously answered lots and lots of questions and interjected a lot of his signature humor into the demo.

After the demo, everyone scurried to Sur la Table to wait in line for the book signing. He stated that he would stay until he met every last person in line… this hinted to me that maybe he was responsible for changing the event from reservations only to free for all… which is actually a good thing. The line snaked through the store, which was a bit dangerous for Mish and I… we good some good looks at lots of kitchen equipment that we’d love to have in our homes.

He’s a very personable guy, very friendly, and his sense of humor persisted through the entire time we were there No wonder he has so many fans. Upon first sight, he would extend his hand and exclaim, “Hi! I’m Alton Brown!” to every single person.

As a good food geek would, he immediately looked at my shirt and exclaimed “Caffeine!”… and not to leave Mish out, he looked at her shirt and said, “uhh… BAT!” Michelle described the meeting to others that evening that AB “looked at our boobs”. 😉

Inspired by AB and a few recent Good Eats episodes, I took it upon it myself that evening to make the Fish Roll with Compound Butter for dinner, since we were staying in that night. If you can’t tell from the picture, it consists of an ocean scallop wrapped in a flounder filet, wrapped in a salmon filet. I would highly recommend this recipe… it’s easy, fast, and it looks pretty. The only white wine we had on hand was a Pinot Grigio, which didn’t necessarily go with the fish, but we drank a couple of glasses anyway.

The best part? The recipe made a lotta servings, so we were able to have leftovers last night. I threw in some stir-fried beans with toasted almond slivers, too (thanks to Erik for the inspiration).

Yum!

pigs in a blanket

We are happy to report, with full bellies, that AB‘s “Instant” Pancake Mix is really freakin’ good. Fluffy, buttery, and super yummy. The recipe makes a boatload of pancakes, so invite some friends over to share!

Thanks to Good Eats Community on Orkut, I got the lead on this recipe. Thanks, guys!

Got Rice?

It’s funny that I am picky about something as silly as rice.

I guess it’s because I was raised on the white grained stuff, and have always had a well-stocked rice cooker available at my disposal for almost every meal.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a pinch and bought a small bag of cheapo California rice at the local market. We noticed an immediate difference when we made a batch that evening… I didn’t even have to tell Kevin that it was a different kind than we are used to (we normally buy a certain medium-grained “Extra Fancy Premium Grade” Japanese rice). We weren’t too pleased.

Heh, and we thought that the challenge on Happy Family Plan for a father to be able to distinguish between different rice brands (and name the prefectures where they are grown in) was crazy.

My question is for the rest of you rice-noshers out there: what brand of white rice do you normally consume? Short, medium or long grained?