Sugar and Sweets

23 Jun

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In my formative years as a budding chef and food writer, I did an unusual thing and read the mammoth Larousse Gastronomique, all 1,168 pages with its thousands of entries, cover to cover – or shall I say, from abaisse (a term used in French cookery for a sheet of rolled-out pastry) to zuppa inglese (a Neapolitan pudding). The first English edition appeared in 1971, when I was 17 and already a bartender mixing Negronis in Queens, New York. (For those who might remember, it was the Olde London Fishery on Union Turnpike.)

This memory was triggered when a voluminous book, The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets (Oxford University Press, 2015) about the size of a three-pound box of Godiva chocolates, appeared on my desk last week. With more than 850 pages and 600 articles about the arresting history of sugar and sweets, I have decided to repeat my own history and take this encyclopedic work to bed with a cup of tea or a pony of alkermes. Poignantly, this book, too, ends with an entry about zuppa inglese (written by author Clifford A. Wright) with an interesting debate over the dessert’s true origin (is it from Naples as friend and food writer Arthur Schwartz insists, or Lazio, or Tuscany, as others suggest?)

The book begins, not with abaisse but with another nod to the French, a la mode – followed by a three-page entry about sugar addiction, contributed by Ashley Gearhardt. Such is the width and breadth of this alluring new tome. Under the brilliant baton of food writer and historian Darra Goldstein, 265 experts in the culinary world have weighed in with well-researched commentaries about an irresistible subject. A la mode, by the way, translates to “in the current fashion.” According to contributor Carolin Young, “In France a la mode refers to a traditional recipe for braised beef, which at one time was considered a new fashion,” whereas in America the phrase refers to a scoop of vanilla ice cream served with a slice of pie.

Evocatively, the first line of the book’s foreword begins: “I can remember easily the first time I stood deep in a field of sugarcane in full bloom, a field already marked for harvesting. It was spring of 1948, and I had just begun fieldwork in Puerto Rico.” Written by Sidney Mintz (who is 92 and considered “the godfather of food studies”), this triggered another profound memory. The year was 1962 and I was standing deep in a field of sugarcane when I was eight years old. The location was Belle Glade, Florida, where my cousins ran a plantation and owned the local movie theater. I will never forget the sickeningly sweet smell of extracted molasses wafting through the wet heat of the day from the factory nearby. It made me woozy. Which, of course, is what sugar does, and accounts for, in part, why we love it and sometimes loathe it.

The history of sugar is not all sweet. There is much suffering in the quest for this cherished foodstuff. Our hunger for sugar fed the institution of slavery, led to ugly legacies of racism, to the invasion of weaker nations by stronger ones to manipulate sugar prices, and to the exploitation of children and minorities who worked the fields. Bravo to the book’s editors for not sugar-coating the more painful aspects of its past.

Whereas this is an encyclopedia, meant to be dipped in and out of at leisure, it is unlike any other I’ve seen. There are hundreds of illustrations including mouthwatering paintings by Wayne Thiebaud (a personal favorite), Andy Warhol, and Will Cotton, a handful of historical recipes, and more than 600 erudite essays by pastry chefs, neuroscientists, food historians, and chemists, about what has become a grand metaphor for human pleasure. Equally satisfying are the book’s comprehensive appendices – anthologies of films, songs, outstanding pastry shops, and museums around the world, dedicated to our universal, and historical, predilection for sugar and sweets, first evidenced by Eve and an apple.

I’m not sure if I’m more excited learning about wasanbon (the most famous sugar used in traditional Japanese confectionery), or sitophilia (which describes sexual arousal involving food), but lurking between the candy-coated endpapers of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, is something gratifying for everyone.

The Culinary Gardener

11 Jun
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A saute of celtuce, saltwort and young garlic. (Photo credit: Shayna DePersia)

For years I have been citing a directive of my own making – that one should eat, when possible, from one’s own zip code. More poetry than practical, I came up with this notion way before the farm-to-table movement, way before “local” became a destination, way before “sustainable” became a slogan. I wrote about the pleasures of eating from my window box in my first cookbook Little Meals, in 1993. Back then I pulled a few zucchini from my Park Slope backyard garden, culled a pint or two of little tomatoes, and had enough basil to keep me well supplied with freshly made pesto most of the summer. Some friends nearby grew figs and grapes in their yards, which we occasionally swapped.

Just last week, in a small organic farm in Asheville, North Carolina, I had the giddy pleasure of digging for my own lunch and then preparing the “materie prime” (prime ingredients, as the Italians would say) an hour later in the home kitchen of Evan Chender. Evan is a young soil farmer by way of Vassar College who developed his formidable skill and passion at chef Dan Barber’s world-famous Stone Barns, a sustainable farm and Michelin-starred restaurant on the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico, New York. At the age of twenty-six, Evan and his new bride, Claire (also a Vassar grad, a surfer and foodist) moved to Asheville as the town itself emerged from a sleepy enclave to a vibrant community of artists, brewers, and buskers with a burgeoning restaurant scene, daily farmer’s markets, and bespoke food.

Evan first worked as a cook in nearby Weaverville and then decided, with the help of Asheville’s great climate and sustainability vibe, to begin his own organic farm. Only 8,000 square feet, it supplies Asheville’s top restaurants (The Bull and the Beggar, most notably) with topnotch ingredients – many of which I never heard of, let alone eaten. May I extol the virtues of his saltwort, celtuce, Kailan (Chinese broccoli), menegi scallions, borage leaves, and wild vetch tendril? These, my friends, are the ingredients of the future (and some cultures’ past). If you want to partake, call Evan. He tends to every square inch of the soil, scours the world’s seed markets via the internet, and seduces the town’s voracious chefs into taking everything he grows, no matter how unusual. He is a well-tuned, one-man band. He plants every seed by hand, knows when to water, when to rotate, when to turn, turn, turn. He has already had enough seasons under his belt to make a living and live his dream. Coming this season? Aleppo pepper, fenugreek shoots, purple shiso, vegetable mallow, flageolet shell beans, and yes, tetragonia, a kind of spinach indigenous to Australia and New Zealand. In the fall you can expect to see a crop of yokatta na, shunkyo radish, oca and mashua. This is the language of poets.

And so was our zip code lunch. Freshly-dug potatoes were gently broken apart when tender and tossed in a homemade mayonnaise with freshly picked radishes, fennel fronds, and nasturtium flowers. There was a beautiful, radically fresh salad of just-picked gem lettuce, variegated lusia radicchio, powerful arugula, and fragrant bits of coriander flower, gilded with an emulsion of spicy mustard, local maple syrup, Greek olive oil, and homemade vinegar that Evan secrets in his top cupboard. Shavings of an excellent parmesan tied it all together. The most exciting dish of all contained nuggets of celtuce (hard to describe but with a slight cucumber taste, firm flesh, crisp and briny, waterchestnutty), sauteed with strands of saltwort (I am a huge fan of this sea-like veg), slivers of young garlic and finished with purple shiso. We drank a bottle of Reuilly, a crisp, aromatic white wine with subtle minerality from the Loire. The experience was nothing short of a thrill.

And how do I know Evan? He was a culinary savant at the age of fifteen who cooked lunch for me and later helped me with a cookbook I wrote for teens called Eat Fresh Food (reviewed in the science section of the New York Times in 2009). Who knew he would take it so seriously.

(www.theculinarygardener.com)

Chocolate + Tahini

6 Feb
Photo by: Jonelle Weaver

Photo by: Jonelle Weaver

I was among the first to make ganache from chocolate and tahini (instead of cream) and invented a recipe in 1999 for a Gourmet magazine cover story.  I created a chocolate petits fours for a kosher-style meal where the mixing of meat and dairy was not allowed.  This idea is now a hot new trend and lots of chefs are exploiting tahini (sesame seed paste) to the max.  Here’s my recipe from Gourmet for Chocolate-Tahini Cups.  They are radically simple to make and taste like a sophisticated Chunky bar.  A great idea for Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate-Tahini Cups
1/2 cup dried currants
1 cup boiling-hot water
8 ounces best quality semi-sweet chocolate (like Valrhona)
3-1/2 tablespoons tahini (Middle Eastern sesame seed paste)
vegetable cooking spray
18 – 1-inch candy papers/liners

Soak currants in hot water for 5 minutes.  Drain and pat dry with paper towels.  Melt chocolate with 3 tablespoon tahini in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth, and stir in currants.  Lightly spray liners with cooking spray and spoon chocolate mixture into candy paper liners.  Cool 5 minutes. Decorate candies by dipping tip of a skewer or toothpick into remaining 1/2 tablespoon tahini and swirling over tops.  Chill until set.  Makes 18.  Will keep, covered and chilled, for 1 week. 

New Food Trends 2015

17 Dec
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Vegetable-flavored ice cream

At the end of every year, platoons of food professionals — consultants, chefs, writers and research firms — race to predict the trends that will influence foodies all over America and ergo the world. According to Carol Tice from Forbes, the forecast released in mid-November by Baum+ Whiteman international restaurant consultants, was “one of the most fascinating.” You can check out their full report of 11 dining trends plus 22 hot restaurant buzzwords for 2015 here.

Although I am married to Mr. Whiteman, his prognostications were unknown to me until they were released on Nov. 11th. The trends sit in telling categories: how the importance of technology will profoundly change the way restaurants function; how the notion of authenticity has less relevance, and how our lust for new and different has resulted in “restless palate syndrome” — meaning that we can’t leave simple food alone. One upon a time we liked salty, sweet, spicy, smoky, fatty and bitter flavors — but now we want them all at once. In other words, “too much ain’t enough.”

The report, picked up by an Arabic newspaper, focuses on the importance of hummus, which Whiteman says, is probably the most mispronounced word in our country’s food vocabulary. It gobbles up shelf space in our supermarkets because of a profusion of flavors added to what simply is a chickpea dip eaten in Israel and Arab countries. It now comes in dizzying variations including red pepper, chimichurri, lemongrass-chili and even chocolate mousse! (I’ve recently discovered a hummus ice cream in Tel Aviv).

Or take beer. Cocktails with beer are finding favor in trendy bars. Meanwhile, Micheladas are creeping up on us. Micheladas are Mexican beer concoctions that invite you to dump in all manner of spices — bloody Mary mix, chipotle-tomato juice, soy sauce, beef broth and tequila …you get the idea: beer for restless palate people who’ve become blase about just a pint of IPA.

They also note in their predictions that honey is being “enhanced” with ghost peppers; that bourbon is being flavored with honey and chili pepper or with pumpkin pie spices; that while the fixation of everything-bacon may be abating, now there’s ‘ndjua, a light-up-your-mouth spreadable sausage from Calabria that’s finding its way onto pasta, melted over pork chops, even blended into vinaigrettes as sauces for fish. “If bold flavors are a trend” they say, “this eye-stinging, red-peppered mushy salami is next year’s bold flavor.”

Do strawberries taste sweeter on a black plate or a white plate? On a square plate or a round plate? Their forecast about “neurogastronomy” — how your mind and body can be manipulated to enhance how you sense and taste food –is required reading. So is their comical rant about overpriced avocado.

Among their predictions: The death of tipping, and a reduction in the vast earnings gap between tipped waiters and low-paid cooks and dishwashers; fine dining chefs ditching flowers, linens, reservation systems and expensive china, instead going downscale to develop fast-casual restaurants; insects as food as we search for renewable sources of proteins; savory ice creams and yogurts as consumers realize how much sugar they’re getting in sweetened cold treats; the war on waste is gaining traction; pistachios will be the nut of the year; authentic Jewish delis and also Jewish-ethnic mashups; savory waffles and waffle sandwiches; matcha (green tea powder) in fancy beverages and even seafood stocks and sauces; night markets, building on food truck rodeos, growing around the country with multi-ethnic festivals that bring thousands to riverfronts and public squares.

In their trend called “Soda Fountain Crashes the Bar,” Baum+Whiteman sees childhood treats boozed up as adult shakes and smoothies with bourbon, gin, Frangelico, Galliano, Chartreuse.

Even coconut and cucumber waters, promoted as somehow being “purer,” are being overlaid (or adulterated) with flavors like coffee and mango and with energy-boosting ingredients. Now maple water and birch sap are being tested.

Finally, clever computer programs now allow high-end restaurants to sell tickets for dinner rather than take reservations. Eating out could become as hateful as dealing with the airlines, the consultants say, with cancellation penalties and price shifting based upon demand for seats or time of day.

My adds? Cabbage. Food as medicine. Page oranges from Florida. Tahina is the new mayonnaise. It will come in as many colors (and flavors) as a box of crayons. See you in 2015.

You can also check out the National Restaurant Association’s list for the coming year, Carol Tice’s report from Forbes, and this article from Cosmopolitan.

More Holiday Books 2014

11 Dec

During the next few weeks, I will be cooking from and reviewing some of the year’s best books for gift-giving. They mostly are personal selections from chefs whose work I know well plus a few I don’t know at all. I always am enamored of cookbooks from Phaidon, Artisan, Chronicle and Ten Speed Press, but am impressed this year with the quality and variety of cookbooks published by smaller presses; Monkfish and Interlink among them.

In addition to their more obvious purpose, cookbooks are great sources of inspiration and bedtime reading. They are often the gifts we don’t give ourselves but, like a good box of chocolates, we’re thrilled to be the recipient. Happy Holidays!

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Fresh Cooking by Shelley Boris
Monkfish Book Publishing, New York , 2014, ISBN: 978-1-939681-15-7

The subtitle of this compelling book – a year of recipes from the Garrison Institute Kitchen — tells the tale of a talented chef cooking for hundreds of guests in a beautiful monastery on the Hudson. Garrison Institute, created by inspired thinkers, Jonathan and Diana Rose, has served as a beacon for the world’s great spiritual and educational leaders, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama who has dined there on several occasions. Shelley Boris, the chef at Garrison for more than ten years, has wowed me with her intelligent, countrified sensibility since my first visit a decade ago. There have been many visits since and I was honored when asked to write the foreword to her book. Shelley’s compassionate approach to cooking, deeply rooted in the seasons, is always mindful of the communal table – which is literally how one eats in the Institute’s massive sun-lit dining room. From her large gracious kitchen, Shelley delights in the daily planning of her menus, each a short story revealing something immediate in nature. January brings her comforting Onion Soup with Sprout Creek Cheese and Sour Rye Toast, baked white beans, and crimson quince blanketed in phyllo. May is more spontaneous and carefree – braised lamb and rhubarb chutney, rice with sorrel, garlic chives and mustard greens, and strawberry shortcakes. The book’s recipes range from simple creations – pan-quiche with cauliflower and cheddar, savory chickpea cakes with tahini sauce; winter root vegetable salad with sherry-hazelnut dressing – to dishes that require slow seduction to coalesce their flavors — Thai-style eggplant curry with coconut milk, lemongrass and shiitakes, and braised spicy lamb with apples. Other standouts are Shelley’s breakfast scones – the best I’ve ever had — and her dizzying array of addictive vinaigrettes — carrot-lime, ginger-grapefruit, pear-beet, creamy shallot.

Personal and idealistic, she calls her repertoire friendly-to-meat eaters: rich in vegetables, yet not strictly vegetarian. “We flip the typical equation,” she purports. “Rather than cutting back on meat, these recipes help you think about where you want to add meat and fish to your diet.” Nice. Family-style and deeply practical, she rids her recipes of extra steps and superfluous ingredients in order to focus on the essence of each dish. Working within a limited budget became a driving force of creativity and resulted in recipes that are inexpensive to produce. This is exactly what a home cook desires and why she decided to write the book in the first place. Perhaps it will sit nestled next to like-minded tomes such as the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, Perla Meyers’ The Seasonal Kitchen, and Moosewood cookbooks – older iconic examples serving as game-changers in the way that people think about, and connect to food and cooking in a larger context – where taste and ethics need not be at odds.

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Mexico, The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte
Phaidon Press, New York, 2014, ISBN: 978-07148-6752-6

When authors such as Arronte compile cookbooks about a national cuisine as vast as Mexico’s, the goal is to produce a well-rounded exploration that evokes and authenticates, the inherent spirit of a nation’s cultural foodways. Margarita Carrillo Arronte, Mexico’s global ambassador for all things culinary, has certainly accomplished this along with the remarkable design team at Phaidon Press, headquartered in London with offices in New York City. This massive tome, feeling like a work of art or runway fashion statement, is undoubtedly among the most beautiful books this year. Replete with 650 recipes and 200 photos, the book draws inspiration from various sources, some from which have been altered to the author’s own taste by adjusting ingredients, measurements or methods. Ms. Arronte wants the dishes of her homeland, and its many regions, to be cooked and experienced by audiences who have not yet plunged into the depths of mole (mole-lay) making – including an intriguing beet mole – to the more familiar tamales, enchiladas, and fresh fish Veracruz-style, to the less familiar rabbit with prunes and chili, ox tongue in pecan sauce, and birria, a fragrant lamb soup from Jalisco. Much admired in Mexico for the last 35 years, Ms. Arronte has owned restaurants and food companies, hosted television food shows, researched and taught all over the world. She is a formally trained teacher, turned chef and activist, involved in the decade-long effort to have traditional Mexican cuisine recognized with a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity designation.

Although I wish that head notes were included with each recipe, I understand how daunting a task this would be. The recipes, both classic and traditional, with a swath of contemporary recipes from restaurant chefs, feel mostly accessible – but some ingredients – specific chilies, epazote, avocado leaves — may be hard to find. This does not diminish the book’s pleasures. Part of Ms. Arronte’s research is to delve into other references and oral traditions for inspiration and to re-create recipes that are considered seminal in the development of the cuisine. This is the true nature of recipe transmission and the way that dishes evolve and national cuisines are created. There is an extensive bibliography that includes the important work of Mexican culinary guru, Diana Kennedy. It is a great gift to go hand in hand with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate, in bed if not in your kitchen.

Two Great Cookbooks for Hanukkah 2014

2 Dec

My private cookbook collection can’t compare to that of many of my colleagues — my 500 or so seem paltry next to collections in the thousands. But at this stage of life, I carefully curate the books I want around forever. Here are two of them — both recently published and perfect gifts for Hanukkah.

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Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh
by Janna Gur
Schocken Books, New York NY 2014 $35.00 ISBN 978-0- 8052-4308-6

This is a rave. With striking photos and vibrant spirit, here is a cookbook that reads like a luscious travelogue built around the culinary narrative of the Jewish diaspora. The book’s author, Janna Gur, is among the most knowledgeable representatives of Israeli cuisine (her first book, The Book of New Israeli Food, 2007 is already a classic) and of Jewish food and identity around the globe. Her new book, Jewish Soul Food: from Minsk to Marrakesh, is both prequel and sequel to Jerusalem by Ottolenghi. In a world cluttered with cookbooks, hers is a standout, a poignant journey of enforced migration and authenticity cast in a contemporary light. There is much to learn. I have never seen, eaten, or made many of these dishes: Her sabich (an egg and eggplant sandwich often eaten for breakfast) is gorgeous, as is hamim macaroni, mafroum (meat and potato “sandwiches”), Bulgarian feta-stuffed pepper “cutlets,” and tantalizing fluden, made with poppy seeds, walnuts and apples, for dessert. Its diverse recipes paint much of Israel’s culinary landscape, where Ms. Gur resides and publishes, with her husband, Israel’s most prominent food and wine magazine called Al Hashulchan (At the Table). Born in the former Soviet Union, Ms. Gur emigrated to Israel in 1974 and since that time has scholarly untangled the global threads woven into the Israeli kitchen.

Some of my favorite dishes include sabzi polo, rice pilaf made with equal amounts of basmati rice and fragrant fresh herbs, and addictive ijeh b’lahmeh which are herb and meat latkes perfect for Hanukkah. Also appropriate for the holiday are bimuelos, a Sephardic dessert of fried dough, drizzled with cinnamon-scented honey syrup and garnished with walnuts. I look forward to making her orange flower butter cookies studded with almonds for gift-giving this season.

This book is important because of Janna’s strongly held belief: The only way to preserve traditional cuisine for future generations is to cook it. Without her careful attention to this repertoire of priceless artifacts — recipes from vanquished times and cultures — these hand-me-downs would be all but lost. Jewish cuisine is unique because it reflects the histories of so many nationalities, wars and displacements. How Ms. Gur captures its essence in 100 recipes is the magic of this book.

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Eating Delancey: A Celebration of Jewish Food
by Aaron Rezny and Jordan Schaps

powerHouse Books, Brooklyn, NY 2014 $35.00 ISBN 978-1-57687-722-7

I don’t know exactly where my grandparents lived as Hungarian immigrants in the early part of the last century, but they certainly climbed tenement steps and shopped on Delancey Street, as depicted in this sumptuous book with lovely essays by famous fressers (eaters) — Calvin Trillin, Paul Goldberger (architecture critic of the New York Times), food maven Arthur Schwartz, legendary graphic designer, Milton Glaser — and mouth-watering recipes. There are spectacular images of food, people, storefronts, and culinary ephemera, and an unexpected black-and-white photo of Janis Joplin smoking a cigarette at Ratner’s, which is fabulous.

Eating Delancey, is Mr. Rezny’s personal homage to the vanishing flavors of his youth. Similarly, Mr. Schaps waxes nostalgic about his bubbe Ethel Raben and the meals he consumed in her Russian-Yiddish-American kitchen. Mr. Rezny photographs the semaphores of their combined history — bagels, halvah, knishes, seltzer bottles — with the same intention. The photographs of iconic quaffs — a bottle of Cherry Heering, Slivovitz, a bottle top of Cel-ray soda, tea in a glass are stunning in their simplicity. And the luster of the finished dishes — a slice of creamy cheesecake, Schwartz’s sweet and sour flanken, even matzo brei, a monochrome dish if there ever was one, here looks sensuous.

Joan Rivers would have kvelled from this book. Her poignant introduction, which in itself is poignant, is brilliantly alive with affection for Jewish food. She describes her mother, “a chic woman, very well read, a great hostess, and a horrible cook” and goes on to confess her love of singed chicken feet and gefilte fish with freshly grated horseradish.

Many books have delved into the psyche of Jewish people through their food — but this book succeeds as a true work of art. I, for one, regret not knowing more about my grandparents’ path, that of Joseph and Louise (Goldstein) Gold, who walked and ate with the best of them. More nostalgia: My best friend threw me a surprise wedding shower at Sammy’s Roumanian on Chrystie Street — imagine how classy that was — a place where chicken fat is poured from a pitcher, garlic fills the air, and where time, for a moment, stands still.

Good Stock Farm: A Great New Cooking School

18 Oct

Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki

Here’s why my husband and I raced up to Good Stock Farm two weeks ago. Michael, who was the founding editor of Nation’s Restaurant News, had decades earlier met Sandy D’Amato, a multi-starred chef from Milwaukee. When we learned that Sandy and his wife sold his eponymous restaurant Sanford and moved to Hatfield, Massachusetts — to open a cooking school — we immediately packed an overnight bag!

En route, we passed farm stands selling butter + sugar corn, honor-system butternut squash, the season’s last few tomatoes, and fresh-picked flowers, all tres charming. But nothing prepared us for the lush expanse of land behind their house-cum-cooking school on sleepy Main Street, replete with an experimental garden, trellised vines, herbs and artichokes, and a blanket of grass that led down to the Connecticut River flowing with an equally sleepy calm. You could hear an apple drop.

The house, designed with pencil and paper by Sandy’s wife Angie, is built around an elegantly professional and capacious kitchen. Large marble work table, pizza oven, convection oven, industrial refrigerator and sinks, with no separation between the living/dining area — all merged into interior landscape that felt more like a SoHo loft than a rural dwelling. The weather was warm and, settled on their screened porch, we shared tales about famous chefs and their legendary foibles, about restaurant life in New York in the 1970s, about Sandy’s and Angie’s myriad reasons for leaving their revered restaurant but not actually retiring. With my first sip of Vouvray, to accompany one of Sandy’s fantastic homemade breadsticks, I uttered the word “Provence.” I could have just as well said “Paradise” or “Providence.” But Provence it was, for I recalled author Patricia Wells’ well-known cooking school and home there, known as Chanteduc, and declared Good Stock Farm its worthy counterpart. No passport needed.

Sandy has top-of-the-line credentials, decades of experience, and a newly acquired desire to share it all. A student, literally, of Le Repetoire de la Cuisine – Sandy went to the Culinary Institute of America, housed at the time in one cramped building in New Haven, CT — but he grew up “eating Italian.” One sensibility informed the other, coalescing into his uniquely own style. His food is stunningly contemporary and yet reminiscent of the culinary pedagogy one used to find at Lutece or La Grenouille or perhaps the more rarified Italian kitchen of San Domenico in Imola, Italy. I will never forget his sweet corn soup, served at room temperature, made that morning with a mysterious touch of mace (does anyone use mace anymore?). Nor a spot-on Italian plum tart with its toasty brown sugar-almond crust.

Sandy opened restaurant Sanford in 1989 to rave reviews – Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Esquire, Wine Spectator all called it among the country’s best – ran it with Angie until 2012, and sold it to his longtime chef de cuisine. Three signature dishes – Provencale fish soup, grilled marinated tuna with cumin wafers, and grilled pear and Roquefort tart (which he made for Julia Child’s 80th birthday party), remained on his menu from day one. When he teaches these beloved recipes at Good Stock Farm, we’ll be there!

Speaking of Julia, Bob Spitz, author of best-selling Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, says this about Sandy’s contribution to American gastronomy: “What sets Sandy apart is his full experience of having worked with the French masters. He is a serious chef who cares deeply about each dish he makes. While everyone seems to be talking about local and indigenous ingredients, Sandy is literally growing the recipes he’s teaching at his school.”

Good Stock Farm in Hatfield, Massachusetts. Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki

Good Stock Farm is open all year long for demos, learning, eating and meeting new people. Hands-on classes, with a maximum of 8 students, include lunch or dinner spread over a generous time frame of 4-1/2 to 5 hours. Demonstration classes are 2-1/2 hours. October’s line-up includes a hands-on lunch called “A Nip in the Air” – roasted beet and garlic soup, juniper-braised shortribs, cranberry walnut tart; and a demo-dinner from Sicily featuring shrimp and green pea arancini, grilled escarole salad, beef spedini, and crispy dessert cassata.

Students either drive or fly to Bradley International Airport, only 50 minutes away, and stay at the Old Mill Inn, a charming B&B less than a mile down the road, or at the Hotel Northampton, five miles away. With five colleges nearby, including Smith and Mount Holyoke, the area sizzles with cultural activities, so you can indulge in a long weekend full of things to do.

Before a visit — or just on its own — you will enjoy Sandy’s wonderful new memoir, Good Stock, Life on a Low Simmer (Midway Books, 2013). Cook your way through the book and you will be schooled indeed. On its cover is a quote from Esquire: “D’Amato has proved not only that you can go home again but that you can continue a tradition of making people very happy through your talents.” Check out the schedule at www.goodstockfarm.com. For reservations call 413-247-6090.

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