In the Market for Flowers

In the spring, farmers' markets sprout up all over the city like mushrooms after a first rain. Now, there's a chill in the air and soon all but the largest markets will be closing down for the season.

Today, Elaine and I skipped lunch...and headed straight for the market near my office. The mission? Giant bouquets of flowers for the bargain price of $5.

Throughout the city, Hmong women are a familiar sight at the farmers' markets. Each week, they haul an endless supply of flowers, sold out of gleaming white 5-gallon buckets. Rejected flowers are strewn on the ground, and grow matted as the day wears on.

The kaleidoscope of colors instantly makes me smile.

Short, stocky women with broad faces and jet black hair, smile brightly and ask, "You want?"

I gesture towards a bucket of pink and orange variegated dahlias. She winds her way through a sea of flowers, grabs a small bunch and raises her brow.

I nod.

A rapid stroke from rough hands, strips the verdant leaves from their stalks. From another bucket, she plucks tall, deep purple stems that remind me of exclamation points. This adds the final touch.

An exchange of smiles and cash completes the transaction.

Before I can get a solid grip on my bouquet, she looks over my shoulder at the mother-daughter duo behind me and says, "You want?"

Skip Work...

Skip work. Eat Sushi.
I'm quite sure Becky would agree!

The funky neighborhood of Fremont, home of the Solstice Parade (complete with naked cyclists...some wearing strategically-placed body paint...others, not so much!), is one of my favorite places to while away an afternoon. Yesterday, I was stuck in a mini traffic jam...waiting for the draw bridge to go down. Replete with a neon Rapunzel whose long golden hair cascades down the watchtower, sturdy, sea-faring boats pass underneath. Unbenounced to them, just above...our radiant Rapunzel patiently waits for her rescue.

On my way to Chocolate University, I snapped this through-the-windshield shot, waiting for traffic to pass.

Smack Yo Mama Good!

You know that moment when something is so mind-boggling delicious, your brain short-circuits and impulse takes over? In the South, appreciation sounds a little something like this, “Oooh weee, I'm gonna smack yo mama!"

While I spent time in the South, and I've certainly had some tasty bites, I didn't fully grasp the meaning...until I tried this gianduja ice cream. The recipe is Italian...but the expression that sums it up, is pure American.

Words fail to express how truly delicious this recipe is, but with a scoop of this gianduja nearby, all I can say is....


Brace yourself!

If you're accustomed to making ice cream, there's a step or two more than usual in this recipe (toasting the nuts, rubbing the skins off, infusing the liquid.) I say...get over it! Every second spent working on this recipe is totally worth it!

Gianduja Gelato
The Perfect Scoop, David Lebovitz

Makes about 1 Quart (1 Liter)

1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted*
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
5 large egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Rub the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel to remove as much of the papery skins as possible, then finely chop them in a food processor or blender.

Warm the milk with 1 cup of the cream, sugar, and the salt in a saucepan. Once warm, remove from the heat and add the chopped hazelnuts. Cover and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

Put the milk chocolate pieces in a large bowl. Heat the remaining 1 cup cream in a medium saucepan until it just begins to boil. Pour it over the milk chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set a mesh strainer over the top.

Pour the hazelnut-infused milk through a strainer into a medium saucepan, squeezing the nuts firmly with your hands to extract as much of the flavorful liquid as possible. Discard the hazelnuts.

Re-warm the hazelnut-infused mixture. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm hazelnut mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the milk chocolate mixture. Add the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according the manufacturer’s instructions.

*10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven

Gentically Engineered Animals in America - Your Thoughts?

What's your position on Genetically Engineered Animals? The USDA wants to hear from YOU.

Whether you're for...or against GEAs, if you're a food lover....this is a call for action!

Visit this link and weigh in....


Karen Eggert (301) 734-0603
Angela Harless (202) 720-4623

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2008--The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today began seeking information from the public and industry about whether additional consideration is needed when genetically engineered (GE) animals are imported or moved across the country. “Genetic engineering technology is expanding and evolving at an incredible rate,” said Cindy Smith, APHIS administrator. “We want to ensure that APHIS has not only sought the public’s thinking but also all available information as we consider the potential effects of GE animals on the U.S. livestock population and what our role should be in overseeing this developing industry.”

APHIS is requesting information on research conducted or planned on GE animals as well as the importation and movement of GE animals amid the U.S. livestock population. APHIS is also seeking input on actions and approaches that should be considered under the Animal Health Protection Act that would complement draft guidance issued today for public comment by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA’s draft guidance covers its requirements and recommendations for developers of GE animals.

The request for information is intended to gather public comment and information on GE animals for the agency to consider before determining any official guidance or policy.

“This is an excellent opportunity to hear directly from the public and industry,” said Smith. “We will thoroughly review the feedback we receive and will work closely with FDA to include a clear picture of how people, animals and the environment will remain protected.”

APHIS has been safely regulating GE organisms since 1986 and has overseen the deregulation of more than 70 GE crop lines.

The request for information is scheduled for publication in the Sept. 19 Federal Register.
Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Nov. 18. Send two copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0188, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

Comments also can be submitted on the Federal eRulemaking portal at

Comments are posted on the Web site and also can be reviewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call (202) 690-2817.


Whenever the travel bug gets the best of me, I head to Chinatown. Wandering in and out of shops, the streets are dense with the scent of grilled meats and garlic. From an open window overhead, you can hear swirling majong tiles pierce the air with a cacophony....tap-tap-tap....tap-tap-tap. They pause for just a moment, and then the carved tiles are set in motion again, scraping against well-worn tabletops.

I duck my head into a labyrinth of alleys. In the underbelly of dumpsters and loading docks, I discover children...mindlessly munching on mooncakes. Backdoors, propped open with boxes or buckets, the smell emanates from woks that sizzle and hiss. Dumpsters are filled with rancid cooking oil, earmarked for biofuel. And a nearby wall, caked with the ages of oils past, now dons a flurry of snow-white chicken feathers, suspended in motion.

Street side, a glimpse through the screen door reveals cooks, waiting out the lull, squatting on overturned milk crates. A shadow conceals the faces, but I wave anyway. They recognize me, and within a minute, I am being escorted into the kitchen. The quiet afternoon finds the kitchen at rest, with the exception of one elderly man, methodically preparing eggrolls. Beside him rests a stack of egg wrappers, soon to be stuffed with minced chicken and vegetables.

The men are amused by the novelty--a white chick in the kitchen....AND I am not the health inspector! I am the oddity here.

Gesturing towards my camera, a pantomime ensues.

Eventually, we come to an understanding. They want to take pictures with me.

I hand the camera to an older man with a shock of wiry black hair. Befuddled, he holds the camera upside down and studies the image on the back panel. His mouth draws up tight, and a quizzical look rests in his eyes. I upright the camera for him and a swell of laughter fills the kitchen. He readies for the shot, using the only English I've heard him speak, "One, two, Freeeee!"

One by one, I pose with each of the cooks as they take turns snapping badly blurred images.

After a round of solid handshakes and stiff hugs good bye...I move on. But before I can turn to walk out the door, a to go bag is awkwardly shoved into my hand. While I've been busy watching the eggroll man and having my picture taken, they've been preparing a special treat! As the meaning dawns on me, my eyes well up with tears and I sheepishly smile my thanks. I make a hasty exit before the tears have a chance to brim over....

As luck would have it, after the pupusa incident, both my camera and I were badly banged up, but lived to capture another adventure. Here's a few snaps from my aimless wandering on Sunday. (P.S. I'm playing with some photo editing software. If the color looks stripped out, that's intentional.)

This way...

Idle time at The Club.

Looking up. Birds in neon (over the door).

Side street.

Woks at the ready.

Eggroll prep.

See those discs on the right? Those are thin sheets of egg batter, fried in a wok.

The kitchen crew.


He spoke gently into the phone and said,
"Tell your father I will give you a good life...."

Kong Sun Imports

The emporer's men.

(L) Inside, taped to the glass: "We will be back! Hope to see you soon!" G.V. Rest

(R) Outside, response written on the glass: "You are remembered and very much missed; please come back soon!"

Off-sites and the Traveling Spice Kit

Wherever you cook...success in the kitchen relies on order.

Watching the pros cook is a bit of poetry in action. There's an economy of movement that is essential to the job, and above everything, efficiency depends on order.

Off-site gigs present a slew of obstacles--from an unfamiliar layout to limited cold storage and power shortages. Adaptability...and a rock solid checklist are paramount. Carefully pack every last bit of equipment required for the job...and assume nothing. Then, check your list thoroughly and anticipate challenges.

To sum it up: off-site events are like camping...mixed with a bit of theater. Pack it in. Pack it out. And whatever happens...the show must go on!

My old client, Ethan, was a master at organization. I'll never forget the 20 course dinner he prepared. Held off-site in a spacious kitchen with limited equipment, he arrived just twenty minutes before the event. Before dinner, guests were milling about the space, enjoying a bit of bubbly. Meanwhile, I'm in the back, helping unload the car, which was driven on to a freight elevator and lifted two stories. Prepped to perfection, he was ready to go in minutes. The photographer shooting the event, showed a kitchen crew relaxed and at ease...cranking out course after course for 40 people.

This week, both my friends Kris and Marc are cooking at off-site gigs. Kris is whipping up her magic at a villa nestled in the hills of Tuscany. And Marc is on a houseboat in sun-kissed Eastern Washington. The meticulous preparation required for trips like these is quite fascinating. Dinner at Marc's and late night conversation turned to the task at hand. Menu selection, availability of ingredients, and budget constraints are just a few factors to consider.

While I'm sure Marc was armed with an arsenal of spices for his houseboat gig, this is his kit devised for weekend getaways. Fashioned out of an artist supply box, his kit stocks the most commonly used spices. Genius, no?

Careful preparation inventory list. With a penchant for luxe dishes, my guess is, that's Truffle Salt on the right.

It's Live!

CERN's 17 mile Large Hadron Collider Track

Remember the Waffle Man's talk at Town Hall?

At the time of his talk, the launch of CERN's ground-breaking experiment was mere months away. Coinciding with a large spread in National Geographic, the timing could not have been better. His talk was recorded by National Public Radio...and attended throngs of science buffs. Town Hall's 250 seat venue overflowed capacity with standing room only in the back.

And yesterday, they made history.

Near Geneva, buried deep beneath the earth, CERN's Large Hadron Collider sent two beams of protons, traveling in opposite directions around the 17 mile track. The trials were deemed a success...and yesterday, celebratory champagne bottles were popping in labs throughout the world.

Eventually, the two beams will be fired simultaneously in opposing directions, with the intention of colliding. In layman terms, scientists are trying to recreate conditions within split seconds after the "big bang." Studying that brief moment in time, they hope to unlock the origins of the earth.

Dubbed "The World's Largest Experiment," the ATLAS and the LHC projects at CERN have been years in the making. Billions have been invested and over 6,000 of the world's premier scientists have contributed their talents to this landmark project. While there is much work that remains, the project has taken a major step forward.

Google even marked the occasion with one of their famous graphics:

Alfresco Birthday Noshings

Seattle skyline view from Marc & David's place

My friend Marc turned the Big 4-0 this year...and threw a fabulous party to mourn the passing of his youth. To cater the event, he hired my friend Kris from Sook Enterprises. Together, they decided on a bevy of finger foods--bites that were easy to maintain a plate and a cocktail, with no silverware required.

When I got the call to come over for a preview of party noshings, my only question was, "How fast can I get there???"

Cheese presentation (on slate) with with pear moustarda

Marc is a fabulous cook and the ultimate host. His control freak tendencies translate into the most wonderful, well-thought out events. So naturally, when he scheduled this catering preview, Marc couldn't resist throwing in his own special touches....That's his cheese presentation above and here's a sampling from his vast cocktail napkin collection:

Fun cocktail napkins are great conversation starters....

The birthday boy...and party samples (detailed shot below).

Kris makes a beautiful spread, doesn't she?

One of each, plated

I love Kris' food. She designs menus that are packed with fresh flavors...and often feature a surprising twist. Vegetarian options are never a compromise...and delight meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Visually, the colors pop, adding to the festive party spirit...and her stream-lined platters create an easy, elegant touch.

Here's a look at the menu:

Tomato Basil Emulsion w/ rustic bread

Pecan Salmon Bites w/ crème fraiche asparagus tartar sauce

Herbed Chicken Medallions w/ ginger mandarin reduction

Asparagus wrapped in wontons w/ fresh lemon & kosher salt

Spinach Cakes topped w/ garlic jalapeno goat cheese, cherry tomato & shiso

Fried Goat Cheese & Cucumber topped w/ balsamic reduction, basil & lemon zest

Baked Figs wrapped in prosciutto & stuffed with blue cheese (Marc's contribution)

Assorted Cheese Board with pear moustarda (Marc's contribution)

Great food with a fabulous view and even better company...what more could you ask for?

Happy Birthday, Marc!