Sunday, January 6, 2013

Kiss the cook

Whoever started making those kitschy "Kiss the Cook" aprons was a genius. Not that I own one. I don't think I deserve one...yet.

Seriously, tell me you have never had such a good meal that you wanted to kiss the chef. No? You need to get out more. Cook smooching is generally only a problem if a) you are out to dinner with your boyfriend, and/or b) the chef is a total stranger. (I'm sure there are other situations, but these are the top two.) I have talked my way back into the kitchen and personally thanked the head chef only twice over the course of my life -- both times during a solo trip through eastern France in 2006. The first was the chef at a nondescript bistro in Grenoble who made a rabbit stew and then a chocolate mousse that brought tears to my eyes (and warranted its own meal-recounting postcard home to dad), and the other was the genius behind the lavender creme brulee at a tiny restaurant that I fear I might not be able to find again in a village I couldn't name offhand, somewhere between Paris and Marseille (better dig up that old travel journal). I am proud to say that I restrained myself both times, planting a chaste peck on each cheek -- it was France, after all -- while mumbling mangled magnifiques and merci beaucoups. The chefs seemed somewhat startled, but pleased. (I'd have done the same at Alice Waters' place if the chef who'd made the candied orange peel ice cream with caramel sauce hadn't left for the day.)

I have calmed down a bit in my older, wiser days. Really the chef kissing was always simply meant as a sincere expression of thanks for a particularly inspired meal, anyway. The reason it is on my mind is because I have recently been privy to not one but TWO stellar, kiss-worthy meals of late, both courtesy of my favorite dining (and cuddling) companion. Since we are both lovers of well-crafted food and language, we've drafted a few love letters in belated thanks to those who wooed our tastebuds so artfully while supporting local farms so devotedly.

This one is for the the culinary geniuses at Arlington's The Green Pig, to whom I should have written a love letter on the spot:

Shall I compare thee to the trout and farro?
Butternut mouthfuls doused in maple butter:
Such flavors shake the tastebuds til tomorrow,
Each morsel we’d recount and later mutter:
Almost too rich, that snail and mushroom toast!
Can’t recollect who scarfed the last pork taco,
Or which tidbit of salad we’d loved most,
Were hardly ready for dessert that followed,
But the eternal wisdom of our waitress
Led us right to the butterscotch concoction
Not even Death shall rob mem’ries of th’ garnish:
That chocolate, those pecans defy description.
So long as tongues can taste or eyes can see,
So will that dinner be recalled with glee.

And to the crew at Brooklyn's Applewood, where we had my official birthday feast, an experience that inspired the comment-card-turned-epistle-of-undying-gratitude left with the tip, we offer this:

My boyfriend’s eyes are fixed on the last bite
Of that chocolate pistachio torte of bliss
As I sip the last of our brandy flight
And daydream of another meal like this.
I’ve tasted duck before, but none this way:
Such tender meat and crispy, golden skin
With silky collards and parsnip puree,
Washed down by yet another sip of Zin.
But first, the holy trinity of cheese –
“Artisanal,” they said, sheep, goat, and bleu –
And a magenta cocktail, “Brighton Beets,”
And flaky pike which we could not eschew.
E’en so, by heaven, the scallops were the best. 
No, wait, the duck! No, cheese! We must retest….

(It may or may not be true that I had to hustle us out of there before Kenton snuck back to the kitchen to kiss the chef at Applewood.)

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