Friday, April 3, 2009

#67 - 03 April 2009 - The End

This is the last post. I'm going to quickly finish the last five "Commandments for Kitchen Survival" (you can fill in the spaces with your own words...) and move on to new and exciting things. The last three months have been a professional revelation. It will take some time to process it all, maybe the rest of my life, yet - I found answers and substance to my initial question concerning "The Need to Feed." I found that I still have that need. I realized the importance of soul in good food. I re-learned the quest for perfection in the kitchen - in our scarred lives at least we have that space to attempt to be perfect and wonderful...

The space between real life and my stage at The French Laundry, also called "vacation", is nearly over. I will not be checking this web blog anymore so, should you wish to contact me, feel free to send me an e-mail at

"Commandment #6 for Kitchen Survival": Have a Game Plan.

"Commandemnt #7 for Kitchen Survival": De Decisive.

"Commandemnt #8 for Kitchen Survival": Trust Your Intuition.

"Commandment #9 for Kitchen Survival": Get Experience.

"Commandment #10 for Kitchen Survival": Pay Attention.

That's it. The rest is up to you. Peace.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

#66 - 27 March 2009 - Lake Tahoe to Colorado...and home"

The snow-capped mountains literally fall into the deep ice-blue waters of Lake Tahoe. The wind whips up white caps and we motor around and then away from that high sierra gem. Out of California and into Nevada we speed along in relative quiet along I-80. There isn't too much but natural beauty out there. The landscape is punctuated every one hundred miles or so with a dot of a town. We stop for lunch in Elko and then find our way into western Utah. Our dining needs are just that. We eat to sustain our need to drive, not to entertain our palates... Utah is unbelievably flat - the Bonneville Salt Flats and Speedway are just the prelude to the Great Salt Lake Valley... Around Salt lake City to Provo, we finish the day in Nephi, exausted from the monotony of driving.

I stretched in the morning after feeling the miles in my back forming knots and tightness. Something pops and moves across my lower lumbar and nestles it's pain in my lower left back. The next 12 hours are cycles of drug-covered muscle ache to surges of muscle spasms and intense red-hot jabs of pain... O.k., maybe I over did the work thing in California and now just too much driving is causing this pain. I could drive but I could barely walk! Finally we reach Colorful Colorado, the familiar mountain communities of Glenwood Springs, Vail and Frisco. One last stop for herbal medicine (which worked great!) and we were home by 7:00 p.m. 1,600 vacation & tourist miles from the Pacific.

I know that people will ask me... "So, how was it?" I need to wrap my brain around the last two months and will report my answers to you on a regular basis. This morning is, as I hobble around in my post-drive pain, a day to shower, shave, unpack and begin my life - all over again in beautiful Superior, Colorado with my wonderful family, great friends and a slew of business and professional goals... Peace.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

#65 - 25 March 2009 - "Napa to Lake Tahoe..."

The past week has taken me from a final day as a stagier at The French Laundry to a California Wine Country tourist!

Just to catch you up - finished my "Laundry" at 2:00 a.m. on the 21st and drove to Napa, California to meet Colorado friends (Mike & Judy and I slept in the car overnight in the parking lot at their Inn!), took a shower and had breakfast with them and then it as off to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to pick-up my wife and daughter... and then off to Ghiradelli Square, Fisherman's Wharf (had a great lunch at Capurro's with owner Paul C. - Cioppino, of course!), across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and a Fika (Swedish for Coffee break with Pastry in the afternoon - around 4:00 p.m.) at the Sausalito Bakery & Deli and then back to Napa Valley.

Sunday, the 22nd we toured Yountville and had coffee and breakfast at The Bouchon Bakery. Me - and Almond Croissant. So good...! Walked the grounds at The French Laundry for the last time, as well... Took pictures of the garden and the restaurant that proved I actually was there... I will write a blog in the future to put that experience in perspective and to give my thanks to a select group of people.

Left Yountville and tasted at Stag' Leap (loved the 2004 Chase Creek Cab), gnoshed at the Oakville Grocery and then on to Opus (2003 and 2005Cab/Merlot). We lunched at Taylor's Refresher (featured in an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives...) in St. Helena. Next stop was Beringer (very good 2004 Nightingale - Semillion and Sauv Blanc) and then down the road to the CIA - to walk the grounds, visit the store and talk with the desk clerk ("Sam"). As a 1987 graduate of the CIA at Hyde Park he led us upstairs and we were allowed into the kitchen to talk and take pictures. I had spent some time at CIA at Greystone several years ago... I'll have to add all those good pics in a future blog as well.

Next on the tasting trip was Charles Krug and really loved the Zinfandel Port (tasted with a Scharffenberger 62% chocolate). Dinner that evening at Barndiva in Healdsburg, California - Modern Country Food. Pretty good...had Goat Cheese Croquettes, Quail Breast, and Beignets.

Monday the Corey's drove to the coast - Bodega Bay up to Jenner; lunch at River's End... Rte. 116 to Alexander Valley and found Jim's Town...10 years later. Tasted at Alexander Valley Winery. Loved their Bordeaux blends... Back to Santa Rosa and cooked seafood dinner. The last meal with P.S.(Cajun-style Catfish, Petrale Sole Meunier, Steamed Clams in Chardonnay, Shallots & Butter and Potato-wrapped Salmon - with Asparagus, Broccolini, Cucumbers, Butter Lettuce Salad, Roasted Tomatoes, Oven-Warmed Pears and Strawberries with Balsamico and Creme Chantilly).

Took the young Miss Corey to SFO on Tuesday and R & J travelled to Mendocino County and found a gem - Roederer Estates!!! The offspring of the house of Roederer Champagne in Reims, France. Wonderful. Loved the MV 2000, the Rose 2000, the 1999 Hermitage and bought several... Roederer was the first pour at my 24-course dinner at TFL on February 27th... I guess I could have bought a 1999 Cristal, but it was $595.00...

On to Mendocino, Ft. Bragg and then landed in Westport at Howard Ranch Inn at the headwaters of the Howard Creek and the Pacific Ocean and among the quail, sheep, llamas, horses and wild berries. A delightful Country Inn (which was once a 1960's hippie commune) with service provided by Sally and Sunny and a killer breakfast by CCA graduate Josh (good luck in Maui, my man!), fun, fun!

Across the Central Valley of California and up into the Sierra's... In Lake Tahoe tonight and off to Nevada and Utah tomorrow. Along the way I have been planning my April 20th Q & A event and I am re-visiting/re-reading Fernand Point's "Ma Gastronomie" with the forward by Thomas Keller. The one may be a re-incarnation of the other. My culinary hero and my culinary hero's hero....

There is much more to write, so stayed tuned. I also owe you several more commandments. I have them all planned out but I'm enjoying touring right now! I have much to say and do. To paraphrase F. Point - he said, "One must taste everything, cook everything and see everything in order to retain just a little bit." Peace.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

#64 - 22 March 2009 - "Just catching up..."

Good evening, y'all...

Yes, I've finished my stage at The French Laundry. However, I've missed a couple of days of blogging whilst dealing with friends and family flying in to California; my mother having to fly back East and subsequently become admitted to a hospital because of a fall she took (hope you are feeling better, Mom!); and then, of course, my final days at TFL \; and - now, just being a tourist in Wine Country...! I'll be back...soon. Peace.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

#63 - 18 March 2009 - "Commandment #5 for Kitchen Survival"

#5 "Get it Right." Know what you are doing at all times (at any time the Chef might just ask you what the heck you're doing). Seek out the top experts on any subject and learn everything they know. I spent an amazing afternoon with Thomas Keller today, so and I know that learning from the best is very important... Find a mentor for everything that you do. Also, remember to "Do it right - or do it twice." - Devin Knell, Executive Sous Chef at The French Laundry (and others). Peace.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

#62 - 17 March 2009 - "St. Patrick's Day"

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.



#61 - 16 March 2009 - "In The Garden"

Monday was my scheduled day in the garden...

Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration. ~Lou Erickson

My Sunday evening ended on Monday morning at 1:30 a.m.. One hour drive to Santa Rosa in the rain, fog and dark. I realized then, at 2:30 a.m., that I wasn't going to make a scheduled 7:30 a.m. or even 8:00 a.m. shift in The French Laundry garden. I called and left messages to say that I would be late... In bed at 3:00, I "slept" until 7:45 a.m.. Refreshed (!) from my 4 1/2 hours of REM-deprived horizontal-ness, I showered, packed for my weekend (Angel's Camp, California - home to the "Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Samuel L. Clemens - with my mother, brother and sister-in-law) trip and hustled into Napa Valley, arriving at TFL at 9:00 a.m.. Yes, I was late. I knew I had to atone for my belated start. As much as the schedule said I was to be there earlier, I didn't think that a 6 1/2 hour turn-around was really appropriate...or, possible. My apologies were accepted and I went to work. My day consisted of: trimming and scissor-snipping the green onions, removing the brown withered tops and giving them a "spikey-funky" haircut...; weed all the newly-sprouted fennel seedlings; tend the beds of micro-greens and weed them accordingly; spread the thyme, cabbage and greens beds with new straw bale for the expected weekend crowds during the Taste of Yountville; rake and keep the grassy areas between the plots clean and orderly; tend, hoe and weed the Spring Onion bed...

What a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it. ~Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, 1871

Ouch. I begrugingly tended gardens as a child in Sutton, Massachusetts and have home-gardened at various places that the Corey's have lived. The difference is - now I'm 50... however, I went at my tasks with new-found excitement. I really enjoyed the elements and the work. The stretching every 15 minutes or so was necessary, and saw others doing the same... "Tonight is going to be a four-Ibuprophen night", I remember thinking...and, it was. Especially after the five hours I spent night-driving south to Angels' camp. That's another story...

There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling. ~Mirabel Osler

I found myself outdoors for more than eight hours. Eight hours of driving rain, sunshine, wind, drizzle and a continous flow of passers-by who were eager to walk among the well-manicured plots and stop to, like Ferdinarnd The Bull, "smell the flowers (or herbs)", take pictures of their loved ones or aimlessly stroll from one end of the garden to the other - all with smiles on their faces. I smiled, too.

Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it. ~Author Unknown

I respect those that grow things. It fulfills their soul and takes all their time. Time to do it well. It takes passion. Think of the possibilities. Heirlooms. Flowers. Seeds. Earth and soil. Water. Sun and natural fertilizers. Earthworms, ladybugs and the micro-geography of the garden. The quiet solitude in the garden belies the physical effort it takes to till the earth with bare or gloved hands and toil under sun or clouds to grow the flowers, herbs and plants that we use as food. My day was just a small contribution to the efforts that are put forth by TFL Head Gardener and staff. Lovely to look at, the sundry plots of vegetables and herbs are a necessary part-of-the-whole-experience that is, The French Laundry.

It was, in spite of my back pain - a great day. Peace.