Thomas Keller – Roasted Chicken

Thomas Keller is considered by many, and rightfully so, the preeminent American Chef. He has won multiple James Beard Foundation awards and is annual winner in the Top 50 Restaurants in the World.  His restaurant include: The French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc, and Per Se.  He has been awarded three stars (the highest rating) by the Michelin Guide for both his New York restaurant Per Se and his Napa valley restaurant The French Laundry.  With these two awards he holds the distinction of being the only American chef to be awarded three stars by Michelin for two restaurants at the same time.

His passion for food is obvious and can be seen in his roasting of a simple chicken:

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)

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Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir was a French existentialist philosopher, intellectual, feminist and social theorist. She did not consider herself a philosopher, however her contributions to existential feminist thought firmly enshrines her legacy as one. In her lifetime she wrote novels, essays, biographies, a multi-volume autobiography, including articles/essays on philosophy, politics, and social issues. She is best remembered for her treatise “The Second Sex,” a highly detailed analysis of women’s oppression and as it relates and influences contemporary feminism. She is also known for her two metaphysical novels “She Came to Stay” and “The Mandarins,” but by far best known or renown for “The Second Sex.”

Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris and studied mathematics and philosophy at the Institut Catholique and literature/languages at the Institut Sainte-Marie. She then went on to study philosophy at the Sorbonne. Afterwards while completing her practice teaching requirements she first met Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Claude Lévi-Strauss. While studying for her agrégation in philosophy (a highly competitive postgraduate civil service examination which serves as a national ranking of students for some position in the public education system) she met fellow students Jean-Paul Sartre, Paul Nizan, and René Maheu. The jury narrowly awarded Sartre first place over Beauvoir. She was twenty-one at the time and the youngest ever to pass the exam.

In June 1949 “The Second Sex” was published in France. She argues that men made women the “Other” in society by putting a false and constructed mystery around them. Therefore men used this as their excuse not to understand women, their problems and most importantly not to help them. She went on to argue that men stereotyped women and used it to organize society into a patriarchy. As an existentialist she believed, “l’existence précède l’essence” (existence precedes essence), there by one is not born a woman, but becomes one. It is the social construction of woman that she identifies as fundamental to woman oppression. She went on to argue that even Mary Wollstonecraft considered men to be the ideal to which women should aspire and that this belief limited women’s success by maintaining that perception. She vigorously argued that for feminism to move forward this assumption must be set aside. Thus Beauvoir aseerted that women are as capable of choice as man, and therefore can ellect to elevate themselves and move beyond the position which they have been resigned and reach a position in which they take responsibility for oneself and the world, where one can choose one’s freedom.

A long quote and a few short quotes :

“Art, literature, and philosophy are attempts to found the world anew on a human freedom: that of the creator; to foster such an aim, one must first unequivocally posit oneself as a freedom. The restrictions that education and custom impose on a woman limit her grasp of the universe…Indeed, for one to become a creator, it is not enough to be cultivated, that is, to make going to shows and meeting people part of one’s life; culture must be apprehended through the free movement of a transcendence; the spirit with all its riches must project itself in an empty sky that is its to fill; but if a thousand fine bonds tie it to the earth, its surge is broken. The girl today can certainly go out alone, stroll in the Tuileries; but I have already said how hostile the street is: eyes everywhere, hands waiting: if she wanders absentmindedly, her thoughts elsewhere, if she lights a cigarette in a cafe, if she goes to the cinema alone, an unpleasant incident can quickly occur; she must inspire respect by the way she dresses and behaves: this concern rivets her to the ground and self. “Her wings are clipped.” At eighteen, T.E. Lawrence went on a grand tour through France by bicycle; a young girl would never be permitted to take on such an adventure…Yet such experiences have an inestimable impact: this is how an individual in the headiness of freedom and discovery learns to look at the entire world as his fief…[The girl] may feel alone within the world: she never stands up in front of it, unique and sovereign.”

“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, and compassion”

“A man attaches himself to woman — not to enjoy her, but to enjoy himself.”

“Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.”

“Society, being codified by man, decrees that woman is inferior; she can do away with this inferiority only by destroying the male’s superiority.”

“The word love has by no means the same sense for both sexes, and this is one cause of the serious misunderstandings that divide them.”

“Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with absolute truth.”

“One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius; and the feminine situation has up to the present rendered this becoming practically impossible.”

Offal : Butchering A Beef Heart – Chris Cosentino

What is Offal?

• Edible internal organs: the edible, mainly internal organs of an animal, e.g. the heart, liver, brains, and tongue, sometimes regarded as unpalatable.
• Literally mean “off fall,” or the pieces which fall from a carcass when butchered.
• Meat which is used as food which is not skeletal muscle.
• Aka. Organ meats and variety meats.
• Ex. Heart, liver, kidneys, brains, tongue, tails, feet, etc.

Beef Heart was described by Michael Ruhlman,

“Heart is an excellent muscle to eat: it’s lean and flavorful (meaty but not organy—it’s a hard working muscle, not squishy spleen), it’s got a good bite, and it’s inexpensive (I bought the three-pound grass-fed beef heart for six bucks last Saturday). And one more thing: it puts to use a cut that is often thrown away; it’s important that we do our best to make use of all parts of the animals we kill for our food.”

This video shows Chris Cosentino cleaning a beef heart.

Odd Bits: How To Cook The Rest of the Animal

Originally published in 2013 on http://www.markberepeterson.com

Chef Jennifer McLagan is an amazing cookbook author.  She is the author of Bones : Recipes, History and Lore, Fat : An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, and Odd Bits : How to Cook the Rest of the Animal.  She now has a new TV show of the same name, Odd Bits.  Below is a preview and clip from the show.  I am so looking forward to seeing the show.  I love the concept and a real cooking show.

When Odd Bits came out in 2012 she did a series of interviews including the one below.  It is a treat to have not only chefs and authors, but everyday eaters and cooks bridging the gap to eatting offal.  Starting with something not too foreign to your palate like lamb shank, then moving on to beef cheek, then to maybe sweetbreads of calf’s liver and before you know it trying brain ravioli, etc…

A Few Bites At Jaleo – Washington DC

Originally published in 2013 on http://www.markberepeterson.com

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Whenever I am in the Washington DC area I like to pay a “visit” to one of my favorite Chefs, Jose Andres.  His empire of DC restaurants is impressive and exquisite.  He won the James Beard award in 2004.  He is one of my all-time favorite celebrity chefs.  I own two of his cookbooks, Tapas : A Taste Of Spain In America, and Made In Spain.  I have watched his TV series Made In Spain and numerous interviews as well as guest appearances on such shows as Anthony Bourdain : No Reservations.  On this occasion I spent the morning at one of the many museums in DC and then took a walk over to the award winning Jaleo.

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I was excited to go not just for the food but they had gone through an elaborate remodel since my last visit.  Would it meet my expectations and be as fun an environment as I anticipated?  Yes, the remodel is gorgeous.  The remodel is bright and fun.  The virtual palate of colors over the bar is impressive and the bathroom is a must see.  For a confirmed germ-a-phobe that is a hard sentence to write, but nevertheless it is the truth.  A cacophony of faces gazes up at you from the floor of the bathroom.  It is simply fun.

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In the past I’ve been to Jaleo in the evening and with friends.  It has always been fun to order a medley of small dishes and share them.  Today I am dining alone and at lunch.  To my surprise they have an express lunch which allows you to choose from a select few options three courses for $25 – perfect.  My first course is something simple, Pan con tomate y manchego (toasted slices of rustic bread brushed with fresh tomatoes and manchego cheese).  It is simple and delicious and a nice start to my meal.

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On this day I am in the mood for something a bit spicy and potatoes.  So naturally my second course was Patatas Bravas (fried fingerling potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and aioli).  It was just right for the mood I was in.  The potatoes were fried crisp and the tomato sauce had just the right amount of bite to it.  At this time a girl in hre thirties was seated next to me with her parents.  They were fun to watch as her parents obviously didn’t understand the restaurant concept at the beginning, but by the end were ordering more tapas dishes without their daughter’s help.  They obviously were very much enjoying their meal.

My third and final course was Tortilla de Patatas (traditional Spanish omelette). I told you I was in the mood for potatoes.  It was a delightful end to a very traditional classic tapas meal.  In the past I had certainly had more elegant and elaborate tapas meals at Jaleo, but today this was just right after my morning at the museum.  Would I return to Jaleo?  Absolutely next time I am in DC.  I still haven’t tried the paella, which is on my culinary to do list.

Bistro Provence – Bethesda, Maryland

Originally published in 2013 on http://www.markberepeterson.com

 

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Executive Chef Yannick Cam opened Bistro Provence, a decidedly casual restaurant, in the spring of 2010. Arriving in America in 1973 Cam has built his strong reputation as one of the top French chefs in the Washington DC area. His long list of restaurants begins with his four years as the head of the Four Seasons Restaurant, to Le Coup de Fusil, Le Pavillion, Yannick’s, and Le Paradou before Bistro Provence. His awards as a James Beard award finalist are staggering. I knew his pedigree before I stepped into his restaurant and was anticipating quite honestly to be blown away. If it was anything but near perfection I was bound to be disappointed. Simply I expected a lot from this meal, after all it was exactly the type of restaurant I love casual atmosphere and incredible food.

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So did Cam and Bistro Provence meet my lofty expectations? Walking up to the restaurant my initial reaction can best be described as disappointed. If there was one thing I was asked to make it a better evening it would be to clean up the front of the restaurant. It not only wasn’t inviting, but I seriously wondered if there were two Bistro Provence in Bethesda. This simply couldn’t be the place. While I appreciated the embarrassment of plants outside, they could have some rhyme or reason to them and not the jungle of foliage that you must explore. We attempted to first enter the side service entrance as the entrance is not clearly marked. Entering the restaurant that is where my disappointment ended. I loved the décor, the casual elegant atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t paper placemats and plastic knives and forks. As a matter of fact it was one of the few restaurants you’ll enter these days with true linen tablecloths. My dining partner and I were allowed to choose a table; we were the first ones there that evening, not always a good sign but it was early.

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We ordered a bottle of San Pellegrino mineral water, as many of you know I do not drink alcohol or wine due to my liver transplant. I used to be such a wine snob, but ah that was in another lifetime now. A quick glance at the menu and I knew the choices would not be easy or at least they shouldn’t be. To be honest though I am a one-hundred percent confirmed absolute escargots fanatic, addict, and snob, pick your adjective. My eyes eagerly scanned the menu finding my quarry. There it was, “Fricassée D‘Escargots aux Pleurotes, Purée D’Aubergines, Beurre a L’Ail” (Escargots, Eggplant Puree, Pleurotes, Garlic Butter). Pleurotes, it had been thirteen years since I lived in Paris and my French was rusty to say the least. Honestly I didn’t have a clue to what it meant. I knew it was a fricassée so my guess was a kind of mushroom, Oyster mushroom by the way was the answer. They were pure perfection. Honestly the perfect amount for an appetizer, but if there had been twice as much I would have greedily devoured them.

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My aunt, my dining partner, ordered “Poupetons de Poisson Jus de Bouillabaisse,” (Fishcake, Bouillabaisse Jus). As much as I am an escargots devotee, my aunt sees the word bouillabaisse and the rest of the menu might as well be blank. She enjoyed every last bite and we were both more than pleased with our first course. A little about my aunt, she is a vegan with a seafood exception. Yes, that is a mighty big exception but she mostly keeps a vegan diet except on special occasions. To say I am not used to a vegan diet is a gross understatement. I have to admit that keeping a vegan diet probably made this meal even more luscious for me. I have great respect and admiration for vegans for their dedication to depriving themselves of so many delicious bites. The thought of merely giving up bacon makes me shiver, much less all meat. I was tempted to order a tall glass of milk, because that seemed so elegant to me at the moment after all the soy I had been drinking. One thing I learned on this trip, that I could have guessed before, there was absolutely zero chance I would ever become vegetarian or vegan. At least not by choice. I simply do not have the constitution to deprive myself of so many things which I love.

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My main course option was simply elegant, delicious and absolutely perfect for the night and most definitely not vegan. “Poitrine de Canard Roti, Gateau de Patate Douce, Boudin de Volaille, Choux de Bruxelles,” (Roasted Duck Breasts, Sweet Potato Cake, Boudin, Brussel Sprouts). Roasted duck breast sounded delicious, I love properly cooked brussel sprouts, the sweet potato cake was enticing, but oh Boudin de Volaille. Duck and Foie Gras sausage was all I needed to know. I was sold. As I waited for the meal to arrive I realized I could easily be disappointed as this bite was so set up in my mind. The verdict… it was absolute perfection. It was easily the best thing I’ve eaten this past year. The duck breast was exquisitely cooked, the perfect counterpoint to the sausage. The roasted brussel sprouts were delicious. The sweet potato cake was light and elegant. The sausage though blew away all of my lofty expectations. I knew this restaurant would definitely go onto my list of restaurants to return to simply due to that one bite of perfection, much less for the rest of the elegant meal.

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There was really no doubt what my aunt would select, “Bouillabaisse de Coquilles St. Jacques Poelees, Grosses Crevettes, Bar Roti,” (Bouillabaisse of Sea Scallops, Shrimp Sautéed and Bass). She seemed to enjoy every bite. The desserts were delicious, but couldn’t match the elegance of the first two courses. Unless you are an absolute dessert devotee then I would say focus on the first two courses and if you have room left for dessert then great. I’m honestly not the dessert fan that I once was, so the chances of a sweet course blowing away a savory one were very slim. The desserts were very good and my aunt seemed to adore hers’.

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Would I return? Without a doubt next time I am in the area Bistro Provence will be on my short list of restaurants for an elegant evening. There are so many mysteries left on the menu waiting to be discovered. I might even discover one of them if I can pull myself away from the escargots and boudin. Thank you Chef Yannick Cam for exceeding my lofty expectations.

Marie de France: A Primer

Originally published on http://www.markberepeterson.com

 

Marie de France (12th Century)

Very little is actually known of Marie de France as both her given name and where she lived is only known through her manuscripts. She was a medieval poet who probably was born in France and lived in England in the late 12th century. She lived and wrote at an unknown or undisclosed court, but was at least known of in the royal court of King Henry II of England. Some have suggested that she was perhaps a half-sister of Henry II.

She wrote a form of Anglo-Norman French and was proficient in Latin and English as well. She translated “Aesop’s Fables” into Anglo-Norman French from Middle English, and the “Legend of the Purgatory of St. Patrick” from Latin. She is best known as the writer of “The Lais Of Marie de France” which are still quite widely read and were a great influence on the romance genre (heroic literature) such as Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.”

“The Lais of Marie de France” are a series of twelve short (a few hundred lines each) Breton Lais. They are rhymed stanzas of 6-16 lines with 4-8 syllables per line which focus on glorifying the concept of courtly love through the adventure of the main character. The series of lais presents a contrast of the positive and negative actions that can result from love through magical situations, themes and imagery. Romantic themes include lovers in a hostile world, oppressive marriages and dichotomy social conventions, conflicts between love, chivalry and marriage, freedom of desire, love as an escape, and the psychological issues of love manifested in treachery and selfishness. They are also considered to have an ambiguous moral message especially for the time.

“Love is an invisible wound within the body, and, since it has its source in nature, it is a long-lasting ill.”

“Anyone who intends to present a new story must approach the problem in a new way and speak so persuasively that the tale brings pleasure to people.”

“It would be less dangerous for a man to court every lady in an entire land than for a lady to remove a single besotted lover from her skirts, for he will immediately attempt to strike back.”

~ Marie de France

Sacré Coeur Basilica

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The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica and often simply Sacré-Cœur, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Paris, France. A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Sacré-Cœur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the defeat of France in the 1871 Franco-Prussian War and the socialist Paris Commune of 1871 crowning its most rebellious neighborhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order, publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ.