I remember in the 80s, back in the dark age of coffee, when traveling through the United States, it was impossible to get a decent cup almost anywhere you went. Or heaven’s forbid, something as wildly exotic as a cappuccino or espresso. I wasn’t a coffee snob, but simply discovered good coffee early on when I was in college back in those days, because the restaurant I worked in was one of those rare places that carried coffee from a local roaster. (The owner was of Scandinavian descent and insisted on good, strong, dark coffee. So I got used to drinking that.) I don’t remember if local roasters were all that common back in the 1980s, but I don’t think so. And back then, unless you made coffee at home, you were pretty much not going to find a decent cup of coffee in America unless you went to an Italian café. People pretty much settled for diner-style drip coffee or something brewed up in a broiling-hot urn.
Results tagged Robert Steinberg from David Lebovitz
Michael Recchiuti was recently here in Paris for a few weeks, visiting, and eating his way around town. Because he’s a chocolatier (from San Francisco), of course, he concentrated on chocolate. Interestingly I couldn’t remember how we met, but he recalled the event pretty well.
Apparently a group of us had been invited to Robert Steinberg’s kitchen, since he was working on developing ScharffenBerger chocolate. Along with me and Michael, Harold McGee was there, as well as a few other local pastry types. Although I vaguely remember this (so I reserve the right to dispute it at a later date), Michael said that I arrived for the chocolate tasting and discussion with a bag filled with my very own plastic containers and proceeded to unload and open them, each containing a recipe I was working on for my chocolate book, asking the various pastry chefs and food professionals sitting around the table for their opinions.
A few years ago an American friend asked me about opening a pop-up store in Paris, featuring something he creates with chocolate in New York City. At the time, I advised against it. People outside of the United States do have some preconceived notions about how Americans eat (many still think we all eat at fast-food restaurants), but a recent wave of magazine articles about food in America, small restaurants in Paris with America-trained chefs and owners, and most importantly, people traveling to the United States and seeing the astounding produce at the greenmarkets, I’d like to think has caused a shift in thinking.
So I was excited to see that Nunu Chocolates from Brooklyn had set up a space in the Brachfeld Gallery in the Marais here in Paris, for a temporary pop-up shop featuring their chocolates.
The first time I ever really tasted chocolate, it was from a man I’d met in a dark alley. Actually, it wasn’t really a dark alley, but in a barren parking lot in a scruffy section of San Francisco.
I had taken a tour of an industrial bakery with a group of local baking enthusiasts, and afterward, a strange man sided up to me, pulled a wad of crumpled up foil out of his jacket pocket, and asked me if I wanted a taste.
Recoiling a bit, when he opened the crinkly foil, in the middle was a small nugget of something dark, sticky, and melted. When I stuck my finger in, then put it in my mouth, there was an explosion of flavor: dark and roasty, only slightly sweet, and very rich. It was pure chocolate, but unlike any other that I’d tasted before. I thought it was delicious.
He told me that he was going to start a chocolate company and make chocolate like this in small batches.
I thought he was insane.
Earlier this year I was sent some of the new chocolates from Valrhona to play around with. While I made quick work of the rest of them, one stood out in particular: Xocopili, smooth balls of chocolate flavored with a myriad of spices, including a heavy dose of cumin.
Frédéric Bau, a professor and head chocolatier at the fantastic Ecole de Grand Chocolat Valrhona, developed this blend. Except for the life of me, I had no idea what to do with it.
Here’s a list of 10 books, in no particular order, that I’ve enjoyed this year.
Since I don’t have easy access to English-language books, I chose mine carefully. Although I usually like to read books about food, I got a bit literate and discovered few books about Paris that were truly enlightening…which is really saying something for someone that hasn’t lifted the lid on a history book since high school.
In addition to the books I’ve listed below, I’ve also enjoyed La Bonne Cuisine de Madame St-Ange, the updated On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, and Rememberence of Things Paris, some of the greatest food writing from Gourmet magazine from the past sixty years that is still some of the freshest and liveliest food prose happily back in print.
And on a sad note, I’ve finally given up on La Poste and assumed the two cases of cookbooks I shipped three years ago probably aren’t going to ever show up (hope is no longer springing eternal…), so I ordered a fresh, brand-new copy of Julia Child’s classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
A few books I’m looking forward to reading in 2007 are The Sweet Life: The Desserts from Chanterelle by pastry chef Kate Zuckerman, and books from my favorite bloggers, including Shauna, Adam’s untitled masterwork, Chocolate & Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier, and Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks.
The most talked-about food book of the year, New Yorker writer Bill Buford starts from scratch in the kitchen of Mario Batali, then learns to make pasta by hand from an Italian master, and ends up butchering in Tuscany.