Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I know, it has been a while. I have been struggling lately to find a muse. A couple of things came to my attention in the past week that I did want to share -

I have been reading a lot of Michael Ruhlman and noticed that he was part of a new shopping site called Open Sky.

Here is how he describes it," Here's why I think Open Sky is such a great idea. Earlier this month, my son James was home with the flu (all's well now, thank goodness!). I scoured netflix for thrillers or sci-fi flicks that both a 10-year-old and his father would love. There was no search function for this. But I went to my local video store, VidStar, explained the situation to a guy named Joe behind the counter, who took me to his personal shelf and handed me a dozen movies that fit my requirements. I chose three, they were awesome and I went back for three more a few days later.

This is an increasingly infrequent experience in our WalMart-Amazon world, one that Open Sky hopes to make less so by asking individuals to create small "shops" comprising products they themselves love and use. There are shops for gardeners, for fishermen, for bird watchers. It's an expression of the Long Tail theory.

Just last week, a reader of my books and blog wrote to me saying she had had enough worrying over E coli and wanted to start grinding her own meat. She doesn't have a standing mixer so I sent her to the grinder I recommend on Open Sky.

This is my shop for kitchen tools—and everything in it is something I either own and use or covet myself. Want to make a proper quiche? I've got the ring mold you need. What's coolest about Open Sky, though, is that I tell my colleagues at Open Sky that I want to offer something unusual, something most people don't know about, and they find a way for me to offer it through Open Sky. For instance, I found a great magnetic knife holder to hang my knives on (they're made from gorgeous woods so are not only beautiful, they also won't ding my knives) made by a small company you've probably never heard of. Now you have. The company is Bench Crafted and the knife holder is called Mag-Blok, and if you want a space-efficient way to store your knives, I highly recommend it. It's also a really cool, affordable gift (it's not like you see these things all over the place).

Another example. Every time I returned to the Culinary Institute of America, I brought home with me 4 or 5 of the side towels they sell and which all the students use. They're really heavy duty sturdy towels, not for wiping your board! or dabbing your brow! as Chef Pardus told our class, "They're FOR GRABBING HOT THINGS!" I hate pot holders and oven mitts; I find them ugly and clunky and inconvenient. I love these side towels (5 towels per order, btw). They have many uses and I always have a stack folded and ready nearby. I used to have to wait till I went back to Hyde Park to buy more. Now I can order them from my own store! I love it. "

The prices are also very competitive, and there are other "experts" in many different vocations. Open Sky, a very good idea.

Second, Michael Symon's new book, Live to Cook! is hot. It's a chef's cookbook that doesn't talk down to the home cook but is completely home cook accessible. One of his old cooks said this, I've never forgotten it, and it remains true: "You know what I like about Michael's food? It's the kind of food you can do at home." So true. He got a Best New Chef award, and last year Best Chef Midwest from the Beard Foundation, by serving "do-at-home" food. That's what I love about his style and the food in this book. I'll post his Mac and Cheese recipe soon, I'll be making it Tuesday night.

Last but not least - new JM. Battle Studies. This is very, very good. I'll keep the link as long as it stays active.

01. Heartbreak Warfare
02. All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye
03. Half Of My Heart
04. Who Says
05. Perfectly Lonely
06. Assassin
07. Crossroads
08. War Of My Life
09. Edge Of Desire
10. Do You Know Me
11. Friends, Lovers Or Nothing


"2009 studio album from the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter. Since the release of his hit album, Room For Squares, in 2001, Mayer has progressed from a sensitive acoustic-based performer into a full-fledged paparazzi-baiting superstar with acclaimed musical detours into Jazz, Blues and Folk. Battle Studies is yet another milestone for Mayer, containing some of his best work to date." here

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