Archive | October, 2011

Anne of Green Gables: The Culinary Triumphs and Trials of a Titian-Haired Spitfire

30 Oct

Out of nostalgia, I started re-reading one of my favorite childhood books with one of my favorite heroines: L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. I had lucked upon the reruns of the PBS miniseries earlier in the year while I was in culinary school. After watching Anne of Green Gables again, I was instantly smitten and had to Netflix Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel.  To this day, I can’t hear the words “Anne of Green Gables” without picturing the stunning, spirited and poised Canadian actress Megan Follows who played the series’ namesake. She truly embodied that role and somehow made “that Anne girl’s” maudlin speeches equal parts heartfelt and humorous. And when she broke that slate over the ever-dashing Jonathan Crombie’s (Gilbert Blythe’s) head, it was magic. I’ll show you CARROTS!!!

Of course, I can never forget the genius supporting performances of Colleen Dewhurst and Richard Farnswsorth. I’m 34 years old, and it still brings a tear to my eye when Matthew succumbs to a bad heart in the middle of a cow pasture and, gasping his last breath,  tells  Anne that he “is so proud of his little girl.” (Matthew’s demise in the novel is much less (melo)dramatic, but nevertheless deeply touching given its roots in financial woes.)

While reading AGG this time around, it occurred to me that a large part of Anne’s education and “civilization” in Prince Edward Island (the P.E.I.) revolved around learning the domestic arts of entertaining and cooking.

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Boston Book Festival: Eat Your Words

23 Oct

Blue skies were smiling at me on Saturday as I made  my way toward Copley Square for the Boston Book Festival. The festival was extremely well-attended, which has to be a good sign: a city that reads together, stays together, at least in my book.

Boston is a city that loves its books (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

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Food in Films: The Trip

15 Oct

For my second installment of Food in Films, I have chosen to review Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip. This was a movie that I had wanted to see in the theater; having missed the opportunity, I patiently bided my time until it was available on Netflix.

The titular trip is a tour of fine dining in Northern England. Steve Coogan, originally aiming to impress his foodie American girlfriend Mischa, has planned a romantic week as a celebrity restaurant reviewer for The Observer. Determined to keep the gig despite Mischa’s premature return to America (the two are taking a relationship break), he enlists Rob Brydon, “a short Welsh man who does impressions,” as his new companion-in-arms. Rob is known particularly for his Man in the Box routine.

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Hi-Rise Bread Company: A Corner Bakery That is the Real Deal

14 Oct

Last night, I got off the train at Porter Square to do a few errands, and on my way back home, I stopped in my tracks. It was getting dark, but the light behind a storefront’s papered-over windows attracted my attention. And then I saw the letters that spelled out “Hi-Rise.” Could it be related to Hi-Rise Bread Company, I thought (rather excitedly)?

I inched closer, trying to read the writing on the wall (or rather, the windows) without looking like a stalker. I saw a figure or two exit a door to my right, and then, as I was lurking, I noticed someone start to tear down some of the butcher paper from one of the inside windows. Yep, this was definitely a bakery. The bakery.

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Food Writing Worth Reading: What’s on My Bookshelf Now

11 Oct

One of my only regrets this summer was not finding enough time to read. It remains one of the great pleasures of my life. I still remember the long ago thrill at age six of being able to read myself  “a big kid’s book” (or one without a photo on every page). I had checked out Beverley Cleary’s Socks from the public library. I spent the remainder of the day reading through its 160 pages by myself. From that point, I knew I was hooked.

My internship this fall has certainly been demanding on a physical level; it makes me want to curl up even more with a good book at the close of a day. Or bring a book to read during my train commute; I spend just enough time on the T to get absorbed without fear of interruption. (Of course, this works even better on the D line where I am more likely to get a seat.)

The Harvard Bookstore (still going strong after more than 75 years in business) has become a bit of a haunt for the purpose of perusing new candidates. The basement is dedicated to an impressive array of used and remainder books, quite a few of which are food-related (everything from cookbooks to food memoirs). These days, I suppose you could have worse habits than buying used books; the place and its prices are hard to resist.

So here are a couple of recommendations based on my recent reading:

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Harvard Science & Cooking Lecture: Chef Grant Achatz Sets the Bar High

5 Oct

Last year as I was beginning culinary school in Charlotte, I read enviously about the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ inaugural course, “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter.”

Last Year’s Harvard Science & Cooking Lecture Schedule

The only food-related course I took while an undergraduate at the College was an excellent Food and Anthropology class taught by Dr. (now Professor Emeritus) James Watson. Watson is an ethnographer who studied South China for four decades. While he certainly peppered much of this core class offering with lessons from his research in China, I recall covering a range of cultures and issues. We were also able to choose our own topic for our major research paper. I wrote on the history of the bagel/its assimilation into the culinary mainstream of America and consequently spent some fun hours sleuthing in the culinary collection of Schlesinger Library.

But I digress . . . All this is to say that there was certainly no science of cooking curriculum during my college years; nor could I have dreamed of the possibility. When I learned that I would be interning in Boston this fall, I knew that I wanted to take advantage and attend the (free) public lecture series based on the Science and Cooking Harvard College General Education course. Culinary heavy hitters, including some chef deities, come for free every Monday and give us mere mortals a peek into their fantastic brains.

The Monday, October 3 lecture (entitled “Food Texture and Mouth Feel”) featured visionary chef  and author Grant Achatz. The topic of the night was Achatz’s ground-breaking, innovative cocktail bar, The Aviary, which he opened this year in Chicago’s meatpacking district.

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Rain or Shine: The Boston Local Food Festival Delivers Both the Goods and the Good

2 Oct

This Saturday, the threatening rain couldn’t keep me away from the Boston Local Food Festival. A glowering sky and morning showers gave way and while the sun only broke through in brief patches, the morning chill did dissipate.

I hopped on the Red Line and got off at South Station, and then promptly proceeded to the Children’s Museum, site of the Food Festival. From afar, I glimpsed a white sea of dots–the vendor and demonstration tents–but it wasn’t until I entered the festival grounds that I realized the (impressive) magnitude of the event.

One Wing of Saturday’s Boston Local Food Festival (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

The Food Festival, in its second year, is one of the SBN Local Food Committee’s seven initiatives aimed at growing the local and regional food system.  Upwards of one hundred vendors were offering samples and selling their products; local chefs and butchers gave culinary demonstrations; nonprofit organizations disseminated materials and information; local bands serenaded.

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I’m Shipping Up to Boston

1 Oct

Okay, so let’s dispense with the elephant in the room. Obviously a good chunk of time has passed since I last posted on Tortefeaster. Apologies to my two loyal readers (LOL). Before you start judging me, it is not as bad as it looks. After finishing up very intense sophomore level pastry labs (including the particularly taxing specialty cakes that was a brutal–rather than beautiful–struggle) this May, I moved back home from Charlotte and almost immediately began my internship with the Dining Editor of Northern Virginia Magazine.

Anniversary Cake I Made as Part of My Specialty Cake Lab (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

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