Every now and then, I eat in a restaurant where I have an absolutely perfect meal. Recently, it was at Lyle’s where James Lowe cooks beautiful dishes that are light, elegant and totally exquisite. A year or so ago, I finally ate at Faviken and Nilsson’s food was just as light and elegant and possibly even more pure than Lowe’s. In between, I went to Blue Hill at Stone Barns where I have been wanting to go for years but never got round to it until, that is, my new wonderful agent, Nicole, took me there to celebrate my joining her agency. Our meal there was also memorable, for the setting, the company and of course the food which was delightful, starting with this lovely arrangement of freshly picked radishes, each individually spiked onto a long wooden log. They were served alongside the crunchiest and most delicious ice lettuce (or ficoïde glaciale) which I was tasting for the first time, tiny baby carrots with their tender stalks and leaves on, asparagus, greens spiked into edible earth, a delightful drink and various delicate sauces to dip this incredibly fresh bounty into. Below, you can see some of the selection arranged on my plate — the dark blob is beetroot jerky — and I have to say vegetables never tasted so good, nor looked so pretty!
It is the first time I post a blog from the plane which is kind of fun even if the connection sucks. Anyway, I am on my way to Ohio via NYC to present at a new conference which sounds both interesting and fun and my presentation is about Syrian women who use their cooking skills to earn money without having to leave their home by preparing vegetables for Souk el-Tanabel, or the lazy people’s souk. I once wrote briefly about it for Saveur magazine and while researching the piece, I went to visit Besbuss, an amazing lady who chops parsley for a living to sustain herself and her two boys. They lived in Kafar Sousseh which has been heavily affected by the uprising and the regime’s monstrous response to it. I do hope she and her boys are OK. They must be young men now. In any case, if any of you are in Ohio, come and join us and if not, I am sure some of the presentations will be posted online. Until then, I leave you with a picture of one of the displays in the souk of cored, shelled and peeled vegetables. Each type will have been prepared by one woman whose speciality will be coring, or peeling, or chopping, or shelling. Almost as if you had your own chef but remotely!
When my friend Roberta who I stay with when I am in the Bay Area suggested we go for a doughnut, I wasn’t sure at first. The only ‘doughnuts’ I love are the catalan xuxos which I had every morning at Bar Pinotxo in the Boqueria when I was in Barcelona testing recipes for my Fifth Quarter. That was until I went on the scales and saw that my weight had shot right up. No more xuxos for me after that. Not until St John’s opened their bakery in Druid Street. Even then, I only had the one doughnut to try. Great but fattening all the same. Still, when Roberta says something is good I listen and one morning, we went to Doughnut Dolly. Boy am I glad we did! The doughnuts (filled with cream, chocolate or jam) were exceptional. In fact, they are inspired by St John’s. Hannah Hoffman, the owner, had heard about them from a friend who’d been to London and she decided to try making similar ones.