FORK PLAY June 3, 2010

Seeing Stars. Lobster on a Roll. Silver Spoons.
Dear Friends and Family,

     Steven and I were really excited to be going back to Jean-George's ABC Kitchen for the first time since my BITE raveraos merlot. We pinched each other in the cab. Of course there would be a new menu reflecting the ingénues of spring from the nearby Farmers' Market.

     But I had my mouth set for the sharp kick and lemon tang of the spicy roast carrot and avocado salad with sour cream that had forever changed my idea of a carrot's limitations. And of Jean-George's.

     "He's here," said my friend Karine, surprised, indeed, impressed to see a star chef with such a fast-metastasizing global empire actually emerging from the kitchen.

     He arrived at our table in his chef's whites, ducking his head a little, and managed to let us know that at this very moment the Times was putting a two-star review for ABC Kitchen on line for Wednesday dining.
     "Two stars?" I cried. "Impossible.  It ought to be three stars. That is so Sam Sifton. Tight. Surely he tasted the carrotraos merlot salad."

     I remember the Times' venerated Craig Claiborne - godfather of serious restaurant criticism - confiding how he'd tossed and turned over his decision to give three stars to the Gaiety Delicatessen. In Craig's reign, stars were about great food first, then how the tone of service and look fit the theme. Times and the Times do change.

     And on this very night, when the usually metallic tang of fiddlehead ferns has been tamed in the wood oven, and thin, meticulously roasted asparagus wear tiny pitted olives and a single crystal of salt-like jewels, I am in a bubble of ecstasy.  I am rediscovering peas: sweet pea soup with carrots and mint, a salad dancing with slivers of sugar snaps and parmesan dressing piled in petals of endive and radicchio. Crunchy, salty - an invention. Grownups, cynics, doubters, professional critics, our friends emit involuntary murmurs and cries and exaltations, followed by raos merlotexcessive:"Migods." "The chicken liver toast." "That crabmeat." "Did you taste the mashed potatoes?" Dare I have seconds of these otherworldly spuds? Half butter, a pinch of sea salt.  If I die right now, at least I've eaten.


Lobster on a Roll

     The very day that the Wall Street Journal declared the lobster roll to be the summer obsession, I had posted my new BITE, an ode to Pearl's Oyster Bar.  When an unseasonally steamy spring night made me regret not buying that shack in Amagansett twenty years ago, I'd rediscovered my own beach on Cornelia Street.  Chef Rebecca Charles sent out crunchy deep-fried oysters in a sticky sludge of sophisticated tartar sauce, a pause before the buttery toasted "boats" of lobster.  Click here to learn when too much mayo is just enough.


My colors today are East Hampton green and Montauk blue.


Silver Spoons: Use My Discount

     Twenty-five years ago, my friends at Citymeals-on-Wheels and I planned a giant garden party at Rockefeller Center to celebrate the 82nd birthday of James Beard, my co-founder and co-chairman of Citymeals. When Jim died just months before the June event, the two chefs organizing the cast of stars - Larry Forgione and Jonathan Waxman - agreed the party should be a tribute to Jim, a reminder ofraos merlot his  commitment to our city's frail, needy homebound elderly.

   In a gesture of generosity and compassion for our mission, Nick Valenti of Restaurant Associates, now the Patina Group, had agreed to close the three restaurants ringing the garden at Rockefeller Center and open his kitchens to our chefs - a gathering of Beard disciples and friends: Alice Waters, Seppi Renggli, Wolfgang Puck, Felipe Rojas-Lombardi, Bradley Ogden, Jimmy Schmidt, Edna Lewis, Paul Prudhomme.  I recall two of the chefs roasted whole pigs and Edna glazed a huge Southern ham. That magical night, I imagined Jim floating overhead laughing because he so loved pork.  

     Each June after, we staged a tribute. We have honored the legends of the food world, saluted our chefs' mentors, celebrated country cooking and our Latino roots, welcomed the legends of France and put on dungarees and couturier jeans to host the great barbecue champions of the country - twice.

     On Monday June 14, 47 chefs, one or two from each of our 25 years of celebrations, will cook at our Silver Spoon 25th Anniversary. Click here to see the list of names.  You can only use my discount to buy a $600 ticket for $400 (limited time offer) if you call Citymeals  at 212 687 1290 with your credit card. As always, I promise every dollar of your ticket price will go only to prepare and deliver meals, guaranteeing the lifeline for our elderly neighbors who count on us because they have no one else.


Guilt Free Calzone with deviations by Arthur Schwartz
     In a recent newsletter the Food Maven, my longtime friend and passionate historian of food culture, Arthur Schwartz, confided that Weight Watchers had inspired him raos merlotto a healthier way of eating and he'd already slimmed down three notches on his belt.

     He attached a recipe for Guilt-Free Calzone from his young chef friend Michael Glossman.

     "I am now addicted to it," Arthur wrote. "I have it for lunch a couple of times a week. It's the real Parmigiano-Reggiano (or good pecorino) - a mere two tablespoons a portion - that makes it taste good. Don't use substitutes, unless it's something delicious, like the grated ounce of well-aged Gouda I put in recently. I like a tablespoon or so of minced sundried tomato. One day I mixed in fresh chives. Any herb will do, really. I've tucked in sliced tomato sprinkled with oregano, for a more pizza feel. You could even add a slim slice of ham and call the calzone 8, instead of 7 Weight Watcher points.

     1/4 cup low-fat or no-fat ricotta
     1/4 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella
     2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or      pecorino
     1 small whole-wheat pita

     Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

     In a small bowl, blend the first three ingredients together very well.

     Cut a 4-inch long opening into one side of the pita. Carefully open the pita pocket.

      Scooping up half the cheese mixture at a time on a spatula, tuck the filling way down into the bottom of the pita pocket. Spread it out a bit. Add the remaining filling and spread it. Lightly press the pita together.

     Place on a baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the pita becomes very crisp and the cheese is melted and oozy.

      Eat immediately.

Photographs of Jean-Georges, his ABC Kitchen carrot salad, lobster roll at Pearl Oyster Bar, and Arthur Schwartz admiring a non-guilt-free pizza

not be used without permission from Steven Richter
The photo of Citymeals chefs taking a bow in 2009 is by Tiffany Oelfke

Fork Play copyright Gael Greene 2010.