Restaurant run: Low light for food, fantastic, and categorical phantasm

Restaurant run: Low light for food, fantastic, and categorical phantasm

We are at the restaurant after the gala. It’s our restaurant. The lighting is low, except for the menu cards lit with lights almost neon, garish and hanging over the service station like the dashboard of the old car your mother used to drive. We speak in your voice; the way you speak; the way you talk to the one you love simply, the one with whom you share a table, a meal, a drink while casting sidelong glances at other tables to see what they’ve ordered, if they are enjoying it, are they enjoying themselves? Where will they go tonight after the throbbing streets subside? The server stands table side and is a short man with dark hair slicked back long behind his ears. He glistens in the changing light, a layer of sweat on his forehead. Candles on the tabletop, dripping wax. He pours wine with the nose of someone who doesn’t like to be wrong. Who would never be wrong, no, not in the presence of such treasured and esteemed patronage. “The autumn composition, miss,” he says with a voice that recalls Rome and other empires long gone, “Beneath a magret de canard. The season is fantastic and it will be the chef’s pleasure to prepare it medium rare.” “For you, sir,” he says, “the squab.” But we smell the richness of the glace de viande and Soubise, roasted pear and blueberries, vinegar, wine the way kings and conquerors looked down on their meals of great conquest. Like the skin of pure and perfect women waiting in sheets and velvet, and the carved statues of great...
“86” Clothes: Tasting something greater

“86” Clothes: Tasting something greater

CLOTHING +cooking | eating | loving | needing   It was a feeling from day one. Indescribable? In a single word. But so many more came instead: So many words came/come to mind looking into wondering eyes with wandering eyes like hers. I want… And if there isn’t anything leftover when we’re finished, we’ll simply make more. When things were still withheld and unsteady. When imaginations ran wild, unchecked. When a tension that could be cut with a knife was used instead to make Japanese udon noodles (from scratch) and prepare dishes we knew would taste both different and the same, familiar and new, every time we sat down to eat But when words fail it is fingers and toes, the breath of beating hearts, and the inexhaustible passion and heat of the kitchen that reminds us why we always stand so close to one another. Why we fall asleep intertwined, all knees and cheeks and sweet words left on pillows. Because feeling and flavor are inextricably linked. Some people, many people, other people don’t need much to be happy. Some people, many people don’t need decadent meals, the time spent over stoves and ovens, the plates so well composed they beg to be put on the same plane of existence as Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt. So beautiful they could be placed on walls next to the likes of Van Gogh, Dali, Renoir. But we do.   A recipe for candied orange peel Ingredients: 2ea large oranges, 1/4in cut off top & bottom 4 cups sugar, in 4 different cups 3 cups water   Directions: Cut the peel of each...
Food & Sex & Everything in between

Food & Sex & Everything in between

It’s been said that food is better than sex. Food is not better than sex, but some meals can and do come (pretty) close. The comparisons are apt. The sensations, yes, the appetites, the insatiable hunger for something so perfect you feel you cannot get enough. When something so delicious passes your lips and you grip your fork, your spoon, the sides of your seat in pure and unadulterated ecstasy. Like honey that rolls slowly, dripping down chins and fingers. It’s sticky sweet. Honeycomb. Along with rank cheeses that assault the senses. Époisses and Limburger. Or along with more subtle cheeses that sit delicate at the back of the palate. Appenzeller Swiss. White cheddar. It’s a sweetness that fills your smells, your taste, you smell, your touch, with a different sort of of sensation. Something you crave. But savory is most necessary (as a paradox, perhaps, of food: the sweetness of dinner comes more from the umami. A richness, sure, but more from the complex flavors of which pure sweetness of sugar/dessert can not alone compare). Breathe in the smell of onions cooking in butter. There is something so very sensual about that smell. Add a touch of (that) honey for sweetness. Add the onions to your steak, cut thin and cooked rare. Have vegetables on the side. Have asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli cooked in oil with a little salt sprinkled on top. Have something from rivers or the ocean: Trout cheeks are the best part of the fish, as soft and nearly as rich as pork belly. Enjoy truffles and pickles and pate beforehand, with the cheese. The tension...
Stars in my eyes: A food memoir

Stars in my eyes: A food memoir

Stars in my eyes: A food memoir by Ranelle Kirchner   Avignon, France: April, 2007. Nearly 10 years have passed and yet I remember the day so vividly. I woke up in awe to the golden Virgin Mary statue. She stood proud, unadulterated, and poised at the top of the Palace where the Pope once lived. Although I’m not religious, I would admire it endlessly before and after sleep. It was my second-to-last day working at Michelin-starred Christian Etienne. I would set-up the boucher, meat, station each morning upon arrival, while sipping espresso Fabien had made earlier. If I showed up to work early enough (before the other chefs), Fabien would make me an extra shot. This day, however, when I arrived early I did not have the luxury of an extra espresso. I was surprised to find both Masterchef Etienne and Pastry Chef Alain walking through the kitchen gathering ingredients. This was not their daily routine; most days they would arrive within an hour of one another, never at the same time, and would go straight to their upstairs office. Rather than indulge in espresso, I instead went straight to my workstation to look through my prep list and organize for my day. Within minutes I was approached by Chef Etienne. He asked me something in French, but I could not decipher his question. He was a jolly, Provençal French Chef who often trailed in laughter while he spoke and always had the most intoxicating aura of black truffle essence. I felt embarrassed and didn’t ask to repeat the question. Instead, I simply said yes. Never would I say...
When I think of food

When I think of food

When I think of food, it’s usually of the plate. The plate, clean. The plate, full. The plate, empty again but covered in crumbs, smears, leftover bits of whatever we were eating. Sometimes messy, sometimes elegantly so. The plate that will disappear to be washed and then used again. Washed by someone with wrinkled fingers forever reeking of sweat and the astringent cleaning chemicals. I think of the restaurant kitchen, and the long, often arduous journey that led to the plate in front of me on the table. Hands with knives attached down to the wrist as a natural extension of the arm. Chef’s orders. The cold line giggling, fryers spitting, everything so feverishly hot, everyone desperately sweating. I think about the food trucks lining on streets. 1: tamales, 2: burgers, 3: Korean steamed buns, 4: ice cream truck for dessert. A popsicle in the shape of Sonic the Hedgehog’s head and gumballs for eyes. Perkins was never the best brunch in town, but we went there anyway for 3AM unlimited coffee, 4AM omelets, 5AM bathrooms. This was in the Midway neighborhood. Midway is loud, dirty, fascinating, fun. Ethnic restaurants on every corner: Some of the best Ethiopian food in the city. Some of the best Thai food anywhere. My favorite (some nights) Chinese food at Peking Garden. And then Perkins, strangely, in the midst of it all against the backdrop of a decaying shopping mall and train passing by with heads leaned against the window. When I moved downtown it was Mickey’s Dining Car instead. I sit where Meryl Streep sat and imagine her there beside me. A man...
After we eat

After we eat

The meal, consisting of something from the garden, something from Lake Superior, and something that Ralf across the table killed with his hands for the pièce de résistance, is over. There was wine, but I’m drinking Alquimia Reserva tequila brought back from Jalisco. There was cheese; soft cheese, hard cheese, blue cheese with a funk that still lingers at the back of my teeth when I think about it. They say Chinese is the most sophisticated style of cooking, more so than French (the culinary gold standard in the West), Italian, Spanish… But it hasn’t taken hold in the Twin Cities. In Minnesota it is still mostly greasy takeout and fried rice. It reminds that the world is not so small yet that we have can anything and everything at our fingertips. Our general culture is still defined generally by city, state, region, country, and (all) the people living therein. And while big box grocery stores and delivery services have given us access to the things that don’t grow nearby (bananas, avocados, quinoa, walnuts, grapefruit…) much of the cuisine is still defined by what does. But humans are odd in their distinction of culture. Amish stores selling Amish wares, restaurants offering the “most authentic” to white people while calls of appropriation and insensitivity abound. We move around, and we take our culture with us. And then we take the culture of this somewhere new onto the next somewhere new. The Italians wouldn’t have pasta if Marco Polo hadn’t traveled east, and his descendants brought it through Ellis Island and across the United States. Now we have Asian noodles and Italian...