Meeting Thomas Keller

I first learned about Thomas Keller from Anthony Bourdain. That was years ago on the “French Laundry” episode of his Food TV show “A Cook’s Tour”. A whole episode more or less dedicated to a dinner at TFL that Bourdain shared with a few friends of his. Since then, the cooking of Thomas Keller, has changed the way I cook at home. His recipe for quiche is still to this day the trickiest, most challenging and most finicky recipe I make. but, man does it make a fantastic pie! Every time I strain a stock or sauce three times or pass a soup through a sieve to get that perfectly smooth texture, it is because of chef Keller. Blanching green vegetables in a big pot of salty water? ditto. For me he represents one’s pursuit of perfection in his craft.

I have not been lucky enough to visit his French Laundry or Per Se restaurants yet. So, when I heard he will be signing copies of his latest book “Ad Hoc at Home”, I picked up a copy and stood in line. It was cold but worth it. The odd thing is for a chef who has no TV shows and hardly appears on anyone else’s, there was over 400 people waiting in line! Keller was gracious with his time he chatted, asked about the kind of food I cook and how I use his books. He definitely got a kick when I mentioned how many times I cursed the author of the Bouchon Cookbook when I first attempted the aforementioned quiche.  Another fun fact, one of the employees at this particular store made a comment of how “nice” chef Keller was posing for pictures and chatting with the hordes of fans. She then made it a point to say how different he is from “other celebrities” who signed books there. After some coaxing she told me who that was. It was that nice, sweet “girl-next-door-cook-from-a-can” Ms. Rachel Ray. Who knew. Apparently she is a bitch.

Ad Hoc at Home is certainly Keller’s most approachable book for the home cook. The recipes are from his latest casual restaurant Ad Hoc and is chock full of simple kitchen wisdom, homey recipes (split pea soup, fried chicken, leek bread pudding, brownies,…) and glorious photographs. I especially love the chapter labeled “Life Savers”. Here we get many dressings, unique pickles and other pantry items that can, with some creativity, make an excellent meal in a snap. While the recipes are straight forward, this book still asks you to cook and certainly does not compromise. I would expect nothing less.

Roger Waters – Dark Side of The Moon Tour

The weather was perfect Sunday night at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, the company was great, the Pavilion’s surround sound system was fantastic and Roger Waters delivered one spectacular concert. From the opening tune, ‘In The Flesh’ if memory serves me right, all the way to the best encore triplet one could ask for (the timely ‘Vera/Bring the Boys back Home’, ‘Another Brick in the Wall pt.2’ and the ultimate finale ‘Comfortably Numb’). Like most people, I was there to hear Pink Floyd songs and was not disappointed. He even performed ‘Set the Controls to the Heart of the Sun’, talk about trippy!. However, one of Roger’s new-ish songs, ‘Leaving Beirut’ was great and charged with his own personal experience and appropriate anti-Bush messages. Being from Beirut, and the fact that the city is going through tough times right now, I especially loved this epic song.

Then of course there was the huge flying pig, with more political messages scrawled on it. It was paraded over the arena during ‘Sheep’ which closed the first act. It was then released and it floated away. Pretty neat. The only thing that could’ve made a concert like this better would be Gilmore, Wright and Mason. We can always hope that they would get together for a final cut at some point however unlikely that may be.

Mario Batali Book Signing – Central Market – Houston

I stood in line, bought a book and got it signed. That’s pretty much how it went. It really was too fast, but it’s cool to meet the guy (well one of them, the other is Jamie Oliver) who got me so interested in Italian cooking. The first cookbook I ever bought was his “Simple Italian Food” and I still use it.

Apparently there was some sort of cooking demo before the book signing. Now THAT would be cool to attend. Unfortunately that was not advertised and it was by ‘invitation-only’. As one of the store managers explained to me, Central Market not Mario invite a group of people for the demo. I wonder how to get on this list…

Outside the store

In line, right outside the cooking school at Central Market

Random poster

The latest book

Batali and Bastianich

Yours truly