Saturday, October 3, 2009
This time of year in Colorado especially in Rocky mountain national Park is known as the bugling season. This is when the various stag elks are vying with each other with their loud mating calls. Since some of these stags are surely sibling, we can give this as an example of "sibling rivalry", a modest theme that I chose for today's discussion. Actually I want to talk about some interesting tidbits about cooking that relate to the theme of sibling rivalry.
The most vivid example is a restaurant in Boston we visited several years ago and whose name is literally Sibling Rivalry. David and Bob Kinkead are the two chefs at this restaurant. Their menu varies regularly but it has the following wonderful style. They choose together a sequence of ingredients that one can buy at a store or market. This can range from certain fresh vegetables to certain selections of meat or fish, etc.. They have three types of menu items, at least. One is an appetizer, two is a main course, three is a side dish, and four could be a dessert. Maybe there are others; I just don't recall, having been there only once. At a given line on the menu the ingredient is listed, and the next two or three listings across on this line are either an appetizer or an main course or possibly a dessert which uses this item as a main ingredient. So you might have duck as an appetizer in the form of paté, and you might have duck as the main dish in the form of pressed duck (which I happen to have had, and it was fabulous). The competition is who can do better with a given ingredient! That is the sibling rivalry, and the guest in this restaurant is the winner.
Frasca is a relatively new restaurant in Boulder which was established not too long before we arrived in January of 2008. The chef, the sommelier, and the wife of the sommelier, as business manager, had all been working actively at a restaurant in California called The French Laundry. The French Laundry in Napa Valley had the reputation of being the top restaurant in the United States (I'm sure many are contending for this title as we speak). The competitive spirit of mountain biking and marathon running, which is very pervasive in Boulder, was a primary reason that these three people moved to Boulder to create a new restaurant. It's a superb Italian restaurant with a wonderful set of wines to go with a varied set of tasty dishes. Everyone in Boulder told us we could not get a reservation there unless we were willing to wait for two months. This turned out not to be true and we have been there several times. However their answering machine has a unique selling point for the restaurant as it says, and I paraphrase, "Feel free to leave your name and number for a reservation for up to two months in the future". I feel this reputation that you can only get a reservation after two months of waiting stems from this interesting answering machine advertisement. On Monday nights they try out new dishes, and you don't really get to see the menu but just a selection of chef specials that they're trying out. I highly recommend it!
A different sense of competition (often including siblings) is the Big Texan restaurant in Amarillo, Texas, which I mentioned last week. For hundreds of miles around Amarillo on the major highways leading into Amarillo from New Mexico and Oklahoma and parts of Texas, one sees a huge sign which says "Free 72 Ounce Steak, if you can eat it all in one hour". This is a very kitschy Texas restaurant with music and elk antlers all over the room serving superb steaks with a huge turnover of customers. Those few who are tempted to sit on the stage and work through four and a half pounds of steak with the required baked potato and three-shrimp cocktail along with a small dessert, and a salad in one hour with a ticking clock visible to all are ambitious indeed, and most fail, but some succeed and they go into the legendary books of this crazy restaurant. The last time we were there we saw two young men striving to achieve this goal, but we left after 30 minutes of their time, and do not know whether they made it or not!
My final comment on this theme of eating and cooking is that everyone should see the gorgeous movie Julie and Julia, the story of two women and their relationship with food spanning some 50 years. Julia Child is an American icon, and Julie Powell showed us how in her book and movie one can truly appreciate what Julia (and Joy) did for American cooking.