On Saturday night in Cambridge, on a young friend’s recommendation, we dined at The Russell House Tavern, near Harvard Square, where chef Michael Scelfo and his mischievous band of cooks put out excellent high-end tavern fare. I was delighted when my 13-year-old son perused the menu and immediately asked, “Can we get the charcuterie board?” This question has only one correct response. I especially appreciated Scelfo’s pork rillettes, which were topped with a creamy layer of duck fat. Scelfo has a menu that would seem to be designed exactly for me, with items such as “Pig’s Head Cake” and “Crispy Pork Belly Sandwich,” but also deviled eggs and superb fried oysters. But it was the fact that he, like so many other chefs, offered charcuterie. Indeed the charcuterie or salumi board is now ubiquitous in American Read On »

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I’m introducing today Sandy Bergsten, a friend since 7th grade, and a relatively new blogger who has something to say about entertaining, which is what her site AndSheCooks2.com is all about: “Entertaining with ease.” Sandy is a former professional cook who loves to entertain and she simply has always given the best dinner parties—whether from her tiny Manhattan apartment when she lived there or her house in Cleveland, and now in Dayton, Ohio. She was so good at it, made it look so easy, I encouraged her to blog about it.  She’s taken up the challenge and I’ve requested a brief Q&A on entertaining issues people have and what she advises. Sandy is also sharing with us her recipe for Risotto Carbonara.   Michael Ruhlman: Hi, Sandy, thanks for being here and answering a few of Read On »

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What follows is an example of the best of all possible processed foods. In an effort to be better connected with the food I eat, I visited the Schmidt Family Farms in Medina, Ohio. It’s managed by Susan Schmidt, whose specialty is honey. She gave me some of her good stuff and it’s the best honey I’ve ever tasted. By far. Tastes like the actual wildflowers around her home. Susan’s farm is organic. She gives Bradley Cramer, who works in a music store in Medina, a small part of it to raise chickens on during the summer. (“People don’t realize that chicken is a seasonal food,” he told me.) He keeps them in large hoop cages that he wheels around the pasture every day so they have fresh bugs and stuff to eat. He tried letting Read On »

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One of Ohio’s treasures is a farm called Chef’s Garden, run by the Jones family. Long-time commercial farmers, their crops were obliterated by hail in 1980. They had to decide to try to rebuild or find another line of work. They would keep farming but had to start small. They began selling at farmers’ markets in Cleveland and often got special requests from chefs. Within four years they took a gamble and decided to grow only for chefs, with a focus on special edible plants. Good at growing and uncanny promoters of their produce, they soon enticed some of the best known chefs in America. Charlie Trotter was one of their first and biggest promoters, Alain Ducasse another. Amanda Hesser wrote about them in The New York Times in 2000. They continue to sell great Read On »

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A year ago, I drove a couple hours south of Cleveland to a strip mall off Interstate 71 to film part of an episode of Bourdain’s “No Reservations” heartland episode, at a stellar Japanese restaurant called Kihachi (google map it, look at all the parking lots and new housing developments). During the meal Bourdain, I made an off-handed remark about how extraordinary to find a restaurant of this caliber in the heart of Applebee’s country.  That was it, that was all!  And it’s still how I still see it, namely that strip malls off interstates, miles from any actual metropolis, is, indeed, Applebee’s country. Regrettably, this episode of the show featured Columbus, Ohio, the state capital, home of OSU and the Buckeyes, and the good people of this heartland city, eager for the national spotlight Read On »

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