What does artisan butcher mean?  What does artisan mean, for that matter? I’m grateful to Abigail Blake, an American living, cooking, and blogging on the island Tortola, for her comment on my most recent mini-post: I like this explanation from a 1913 Websters: “An artist is one who is skilled in one of the fine arts; an artisan is one who exercises any mechanical employment. A portrait painter is an artist; a sign painter is an artisan, although he may have the taste and skill of an artist. The occupation of the former requires a fine taste and delicate manipulation; that of the latter demands only an ordinary degree of contrivance and imitative power.” Basically, almost any butcher who doesn’t deal in mass production could be considered an artisan. “Artisan” and “artisanal” are certainly useful Read On »

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Ten days in Italy with Brian Polcyn and Nic Heckett for a salume tour of northern and central Italy—primarily Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria and Emilia-Romagna. Damn, Italy is beautiful.  There’s a reason Tuscany in particular is so romanticized.  Its rolling, forested hills and little towns perched on hillsides are breathtaking, particularly, I assure you, if you live in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. I’m buried in work after being gone, so I will note a few highlights but of course keep the salume revelations for the book—there was one huge transformative one.  The book, a follow-up to Charcuterie and the reason for the trip, is due to the publisher September 1.  Yikes. The top photo was what our nightly table tended to look like in the beginning, salume tasting and notes.  What a pleasure it was to travel Read On »

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Update 9/13/07: Chicago Tribune writer Kevin Pang and anonymous reviewer are first to review the dish. I personally will not rest until this dish makes it onto The Cheesecake Factory Menu. Yesterday I received a heartening email about my plea to rid the nation of the tragedy called the Chicken Caesar Salad and my suggestion for a protest replacement.  It wasn’t from an esoteric ADD freaking madman cook putting rooster tops on romaine.  It was a man of the heartland, a relative unknown, a cook who’s spent a plenty of time in corporate chefdom.  His name is Mark Mavrantonis and he’s the chef at Mike Ditka’s suburban outpost in Oakbrook Terrace, a half hour outside Chicago.  (You gotta trust a chef who goes after his own king crabs.) It’s proof that some of these guys Read On »

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It’s the only way to redeem the catastrophe of the Chicken Caesar.  Wed it with pork belly that has been briefly cured, then gently poached in fat, cooled in fat, then sliced, breaded and deep-fried.  I want to say it again: Pork belly confit, deep-fried.  Oh, man it is soooo good. Following what I think is an extraordinary thread of comments on the Caesar Salad in America, for which I want to express huge thanks to those who took the time to write and argue; all of you help me to know what I think and I hope think better, and I am grateful—I humbly introduce … The Chicken Fried Pork Belly Caesar.  I didn’t do the croutons because of the crispy nature of the pork but Donna suggested that for a truly innovative interpretation, Read On »

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