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Whinge

Belated, Happy; Bon Manger, Sappy
posted: 03/27/07

Sorry.

It's been several holidays (and, okay, four months, give or take) since I've checked in. As always, there have been things. Many, many things. Still, I'd be remiss if I neglected to say I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving (we did), a groovy Holiday Season (quite, yes), and a festive New Year (we did our best, along with friends, to send '06 out with... something of a whimper; I caught a bug, lost my voice, I suspect no one minded). Though I realize I've skipped a few bank holidays and such, that should bring us up roughly current.

Holidays notwitstanding, what have I been up to? Ah. Well. Things. Many, many things.

The trip to London and France was grand, as was previously mentioned. Why I've delayed so long in writing up a few details, posting several hundred beautiful pictures taken there... I can't really say. No, seriously. I've regained use of my voice. And nothing [much] incriminating occurred on said trip, so I should be able to speak freely. I just... haven't quite gotten around to it (slight lack of motivation set in after I looked at ~600 photos to sift and edit, but I'll get it done). I've taken a fairly long break from live performances after the Europe tour, partly due to continued though somewhat manageable problems with my shoulder, partly to clear the head, partly to rest the bones and the finer motor muscles, partly to work a bit on and perhaps reformulate a few things for the next record, partly because it's been really, really cold lately, and partly... actually, I'd say in quite large part... yes, very big indeed part...

Because I've become obsessed with cooking.

And there's just so very, very much cooking (and drinking of fine wine to accompany the cooking, of course) one can do.

Yes. It's true. It has happened to me too. At long, long last.

It only took ~35-36 years, but I'm into it. It's such a very good fit for me, and I can't really grok how I'd gone on so long without it, actually mocking the activity, decrying it as something trivial, basely relegating food to the body's equivalent of fuel. Garbage in, garbage out. I'd really been missing... everything, it seems. It's true that I was lured into cooking by the persistent but gentle urging of my wife (an excellent and highly capable cook) and moreover shamed into the practice by her extended family, foodies, chefs and restaurant folk all (the bar being set terrifyingly high - we're talking serious psychological damage to a non-cook here: "Can you give me a medium dice? Julienne those carrots, please. So what exactly is in your rep? Do you even know how to grill?" [No, I couldn't/couldn't/had none/didn't, and I was scared to light it.]). And yes, I watched a fair amount of FoodTV, here and there, which wormed its way in, though I'm finally breaking myself of the habit. Yes, I still read too many food and wine blogs. Also on the wane. I'm working on it. The upshot is what I'm doing at this point, more and more, is cooking. And I'm totally digging it.

What I could not have anticipated was just how compatible cooking and I might be. An artist in the kitchen I am not. But an assembler, a technician and a detail-oriented tinkerer, a contrast-within-cohesion-seeker, a beverage pairer, a man with a plan, a lover of very sharp implements and gear turned out in bright colors; I am all of these things. I worked with mise en place - in many aspects in my life, actually - before I knew what mise en place in the kitchen was. There are few pursuits more suitably geared toward the obsessive than cooking. The OCD in me is getting its fill daily. Cooking and I work well together.

I'd been doing a long apprenticeship under the tutelage of my wife, working up from scullery to commis to sous. Now we trade off nights (I still prep/sous/scull for her; I'll often go solo when I do the cooking) and I subject her to, well, honestly, really big dishes, because I'm largely innumerate and I have trouble paring ingredient quantities down from 4-6 servings to dinner for two, so I'll just turn out this gargantuan pile of ready-made gluttony. Think leftovers. For days. I'm certainly not a terribly good cook at this point, but I am building both technique and repertoire, and alarmingly often I'm just dumb enough to say of some notoriously difficult recipe involving 2-3 days worth of prep, reducing, braising and eventual no-going-back final application of heat, emulsification or the combination of the two that could ruin it all (and cost a mint): "How hard could it be? Yeah. I'll have some of that."

OCD + naiveté = a few really tasty meals (and many pretty good ones, as well as the odd clunker), so far. And still no trips to the hospital, neither for gastrointestinal illness nor severed finger nor blunt object trauma.

Which brings us - potential injury, that is - to the latest chapter in the annales de cuisine at Chez Golay.

For the last few Valentine's Days my wife and I have gone to a local haunt, a very nice, very pricey brasserie down on the waterfront that we both enjoy. We actually tried to go there with our friends for New Year's Eve, but for whatever reason, after taking our reservations, said joint decided to close service for that night (you know, one of the two biggest nights to make money in the restaurant biz). This was before we showed up, but only hours before we showed up (they called to say they'd left a note on the door for our party, in case they weren't able to reach us by phone). Okay. Odd, off-putting, but, you know, we roll with it, so okay. We got Vietnamese takeout, which saved the night. But I digress.

My wife and I decide to call the place again - all is forgiven, just feed us well, stay open, even - and they tell us they can have us in for Valentine's Day, yes. But of course. And at what time would we like to have lunch? I'm kinda blinking and staring at the phone. Valentine's lunch? I ask if somewhere around 7pm-8pm would be doable. I'm then told they won't be doing dinner on Valentine's Day. But hey, how about lunch?

Non. Merci. (And also: whatever.)

So my wife and I hem and haw for a few weeks about other places to go, but we can't really get all that excited about anywhere. It's always such buildup, and it's often a total p.i.t.a. going out for Valentine's Day. Two years ago we went to the place above and were seated mere feet from a "couple" composed of a girl mired in deep regret upon having said yes to a V-Day dinner with a guy "friend" who spent the entire evening desperately and forcefully pleading with the girl to tell him why (oh why?), couldn't she love him like he loved her? How do you spell awkward? S-T-A-L-K-E-R. It can also be ridiculously expensive. And so it came to pass that I asked my wife if she might want to stay in this Valentine's Day and cook a special meal together.

Cook. A meal. A special meal. Together. Great idea. In theory. But there would need to be much coordination. Much planning. Much prep, significant sous'ing. And would we be able to work as one on such a high-stakes meal? Would she respect my meez? Would I cause her soufflé to fall? Could this have disastrous consequences? Would the fire department need to be called? There were many concerns, not the least of which was alpha dog behaviour in the kitchen, recently covered to a "t" in The Times. This, on Valentine's Day, we did not need.

But we decided we could get it done. We hashed over the menu for a few weeks, talking through who would do what dishes (we essentially contributed to all of them in the end), how we'd accomplish getting all of them in and out of the oven and/or off the stovetop or toaster oven at more or less the same, or at least a relevant, time, what temperatures within which we'd have to work, what could be done ahead of time and what needed to be done when. A few days before we finalized things we 86'd an amuse bouche (possibly the only regret, but there's always next time). I went shopping on Tuesday and prepped the dessert puree that night. Otherwise we started the kitchen up around 5:30pm Wednesday night and had the meal plated up and sur la table with nary (very, very, very nary) an incident regretable by 7pm. Take that, Gordon Ramsay. You move, donkey.

Ready for a little food porn? Okay, presenting...

valentine's day at chez golay.

la Maison
14 February 2007

First Course
Roasted stuffed tomato with herbs, parmesan and breadcrumbs
Crab stuffed mushrooms
Champagne toast (the liquid variety)

Main Course
Filet mignon with beurre rouge
Roasted asparagus with fleur de sel and thyme
Potatoes au gratin

Dessert
Chocolate molten lava cake with raspberry pear liqueur puree
Vanilla bean ice cream

Vin
Perrin & Fils Chateauneuf du Pape Les Sinards

the glasses, they go clink, yes?

Full-on slideshow here.

Yes. It totally rocked. And I am a very lucky man.

I'm getting re-energized on the music front, and I do want to most sincerely thank everyone for your support over the last several years. I'm looking forward to heading back into the studio on the new record soon, getting out and playing again, and podcasting the heck out of all of it. Look for updates soon.

Happy day to ya, and bon appetit.

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Last updated, fixified, or otherwise jiggered: 03/27/07.