This post is way long overdue. Ok, overdue by a few weeks. That’s a lot of time when I’ve been itching to write about something so stupendously exciting to me.
Holy Marcona almonds!
Is this the illegible signature of THE Anthony Bourdain on my brand new copy of Kitchen Confidential?
I can hardly believe it myself. Not only is this book a hilarious account of Bourdain’s ventures through the chaotic, cutthroat maze that is the New York restaurant industry, but it’s adorned with the markings of a pen that was held by the man himself. Oh yes, I’m proud of this thing and not afraid to flaunt it.
Now, before I get carried away, I didn’t actually meet Anthony Bourdain, but I did see him live. On May 10th, my mom and I went down to Milwaukee’s Riverside Theatre to see “Good vs. Evil: An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert”. Two hours of witty, sarcastic, oftimes vulgar conversation between two men. Well, two chefs. Which makes all the difference.
As the name suggests, one of the chefs played the good guy persona, and the other played the evil guy. Can you guess who’s who? Without a doubt, Bourdain is the bad-ass, probably one of the most bad-ass (but actually nice) guys in the TV chef world. I’d say that “evil” is a little harsh, more apt for someone like Gordon Ramsey. But hey, you can’t blame the marketers for trying to appeal to our fascination with good vs. evil. Bourdain is only evil to a few select groups and individuals. Vegans, vegetarians, Paula Dean, Guy Fieri, and most vehemently, Sandra Lee. It was such a guilty pleasure to clap and shout in agreement as Bourdain raved, “So you won’t eat meat…fine. You have the right to eat or not eat whatever you want…but when you’re at grandma’s and grandma puts out her famous Thanksgiving Butterball turkey with Stovetop stuffing, you damn well better eat that turkey. It’s grandma after all.” Bourdain’s not being intolerant. He points that statement at vegetarians and food snobs alike.
Half of the show was spent watching Bourdain and Ripert question each other on their philosophies only to turn around and drill each other on their hypocrises. One of the funniest moments is when Ripert asks Bourdain if it is true that he criticized Food Network game shows and reality food shows in his earlier books. Bourdain nods his head yes with a knowing smile as Ripert shrugs his shoulders and non-chalantly replies, “So you’re a prostitute then.” Bourdain’s smile ripples into laughter as he shakes his head, “I guess I am.”
Anthony Bourdain is an ex-chef who has written various books on the restaurant business, his culinary travels around the world, and his philosophies about the present food industry. He is the TV host and personality of Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” and more recently, ABC’s “The Taste”. Does the the prostitute joke make sense now? The thing about Bourdain is that he acknowledges his hypocrisy but also admits to a strict line he’ll never cross. You won’t see Anthony Bourdain endorsed cookware in a Kohls near you any time soon.
Eric Ripert is executive chef and owner of Le Bernardin in NYC. Le Bernardin is one of the most renowned seafood restaurants in the world. For a glimpse into their tantalizingly fancy menu, go here: http://le-bernardin.com/menus/#fish-is-the-star. The webpage states that “Fish is the star of the plate.” Bourdain thought it would be fun to poke fun at Ripert, asking him, “So, Leonardo di Caprio comes into your restaurant and decides, ‘Hmmm, I think I’m actually in the mood for a hamburger?’, would you, Mr. Ripert, lower your standards and serve a nice boeuf en brioche to dear Leo?” Ripert blushes, gives a coy smile, and shakes his head yes. He is certainly more subdued than Bourdain and isn’t quite as comfortable in the spotlight. Each time Bourdain cracked a vulgar joke, Ripert’s cheeks got all red. Slowly he opened up to the humor and joked right along with Bourdain. The only problem: his French accent. It’s heavy. As much as I enjoyed his personality in the show, it was annoying to strain my ears trying to make out his words. Luckily, Bourdain did most of the talking.
As a whole, the show was great, the audience was great, Bourdain was super duper great, and I felt dang great coming home with a signed copy of Kitchen Confidential.
…..about that. That was totally an accident, a stroke of luck, a silver lining to what could’ve otherwise been a minor annoyance. See, the ticket says 7:00 doors open, but my mom and I thought that meant that the show starts at 7:00 (shows how much we attend any sort of live performance). The show actually started at 8:00. Because of this, we arrived at a prompt 6:30, the very first people in the door. We were so early that we had to wait for the doors to open! The waiting room slowly filled up with others who mistook the tickets, but we were the first in line to enter the theatre lounge, where I could see employees setting up stacks of colorful, crisp new books written by Bourdain and Ripert.
My mom told me she’d treat me to a book, and suddenly, I could not wait for that door to be open. Practically bouncing in my heels, I annoyed her, “Oh my goodness! We are going to see Anthony Bourdain for reals in a little more than an hour. I…cannot…believe…this. What if I meet him and get his signature?!?! I would love to chat with him one on one about the virtues of animal guts and stinky cheese. Ahhhhhh!” My mother was starting to get embarrassed. Just as I was reminding her that we are in a room full of foodies who feel similarily exciteable, the doors opened and we were the first to the book table.
Turns out, it takes about $80 more to meet Bourdain and Ripert after the show, but if you get to the theatre early enough, you have the chance to purchase one of the few book copies the chefs signed earlier. My night was made even before the show began.
So, I think I’ve talked my head off about Anthony Bourdain. How about some quadruple chocolate loaf cake?
I’m talking super chocolately.
I’m not sure I need to say anything more. Attached is the recipe, and here’s a YouTube video of Nigella Lawson making her decadent cake: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9p9bAENBoc
Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake
from Feast by Nigella Lawson
For the Cake:
1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 ⅓ cups superfine sugar
1 ½ sticks soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup sour cream
½ cup boiling water
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (unless you prefer milk)
For the Syrup:
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
½ cup water
½ cup superfine sugar
1oz bittersweet chocolate (from a thick bar)
Take whatever you need out of the fridge so that all ingredients can come to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 325ºF, putting in a baking sheet as you do so, and line a 9 x 5 loaf tin with greased foil – making sure there are no tears – and leave an overhang all round. Or use a silicon tin (in which case there is no need for the foil).
Put the flour, baking soda, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream into the processor and blitz till a smooth, satiny brown batter. Scrape down with a rubber spatula and process again while pouring the boiling water down the funnel. Switch it off then remove the lid and the well-scraped double-bladed knife and, still using your rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips or morsels.
Scrape and pour this beautiful batter into the prepared loaf tin and slide into the oven, cooking for about 1 hour. When it’s ready, the loaf will be risen and split down the middle and a cake-tester, or a fine skewer, will pretty well come out clean. But this is a damp cake so don’t be alarmed at a bit of stickiness in evidence; rather, greet it.
Not long before the cake is due out of the oven – say when it’s had about 45-50 minutes – put the syrup ingredients of cocoa, water and sugar into a small saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. You may find it needs a little longer: what you want is a reduced liquid, that’s to say a syrup, though I often take it a little further, so that the sugar caramelizes and the syrup has a really dark, smokey chocolate intensity.
Take the cake out of the oven and sit it on a cooling rack and, still in its tin, pierce here and there with a cake tester. Then pour the syrup as evenly as possible, which is not very, over the surface of the cake. It will run to the sides of the tin, but some will have been absorbed in the middle.
Let the cake become completely cold and then slip out of its tin, removing the foil as you do so. Sit on an oblong or other plate. Now take your bar of chocolate, wrapped in foil if you haven’t got much of its wrapper left, and cut with a heavy sharp knife, so that it splinters and flakes and falls in slices of varying thickness and thinness.
I’ve specified a weight, but really go by eye: when you think you’ve got enough to scatter over the top of the loafcake, stop slicing. Sprinkle these chocolate splinters over the top of the sticky surface of the cake.
*Just a note to those who do not own a food processor. I’ve made this recipe twice now, once with a processor and once with a hand mixer. Both times the cake has turned out lovely. Just make sure that in both cases you scrape the batter down the sides and never overmix.