It probably goes without saying what a complete thrill it was to see Thomas Keller speak live and in person tonight at the Toronto Reference Library. If you’re not certain who the heck Thomas Keller is, see if these names ring any bells: The French Laundry, per se, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, ad hoc, Michelin Three Stars, and on and on and on. I had the foodgasmic pleasure of dining at ad hoc (whose tag line is “for temporary relief of hunger”. Indeed.) in the Spring of 2008 during my first trip to Napa Valley. My very best friend in the whole wide world for the last 18 years was getting married and we had dinner at ad hoc to celebrate. Ad hoc is all about comfort food and *I* am all about comfort food, which means we were a match made in heaven from the word “go”. I mean, any restaurant that has “Buttermilk fried chicken with brussels sprout hash, autumn squash, cippolini onions, chive biscuits and peppered anson mills grits” is, without a doubt, my kinda place. In fact, prior to eating at ad hoc, I wasn’t a huge duck fan, but being the adventurous eater I like to be, tried it there. Essentially, I could have put my face in the dish from the sheer goodness were I not afraid that my mug would end up splashed across TMZ.com for the world to see1. Let me just say that the smells were so good in that place that I could have possibly married them.
The Cookbook Shop had apparently been “stalking” Chef Keller for ten years. Ten years spent trying to get him to Canada, to no avail. Until tonight. His new cookbook, ad hoc at home, was recently published and he is touring in support of the book on, you guessed it, comfort food. I was ticket #65 and thought it would be a small, intimate group listeners, but there were more than 450 others who had the same idea I did — it was packed! The price of the ticket included a signed copy of the book and when I walked in, he was surrounded by about ten people, with boxes everywhere, signing the books. I found my spot and he casually walked to the front to begin the chat. He said more than once how nervous he was and that his comfortable place was next to the stove, which I totally get being the expert chef I am2. He spoke at length about how kitchens are all about teamwork, and rituals3, and how he enjoys eating seasonal foods because he hates eating the same thing all year. I tend to agree — it’s no different than loving the changing of the actual seasons — food seasons are just as much fun to anticipate! He told a little anecdote about going into Pusateri’s today and seeing a lady buying peaches. He walked up to her and said “Don’t buy those peaches. They’re all dehydrated and don’t even have a smell”, to which she apparently stared at him and bought it anyway. He said she was also buying cherries. Cherriesand peaches in November? His point was that we should think about the seasons when we eat just like we think of the trees changing or the snow beginning.
Chef Keller was sweetly nervous and was much more reserved than I expected he’d be. There was a Q&A session and, of course, someone asked him what he thought about Canada and the Canadian food scene4, where he answered that he didn’t know much about it, but that he wanted to eat at The Black Hoof — and so do I, because who wouldn’t want to eat a horse tongue sandwich?! I ate beef tongue in Montréal, so why not horse tongue in Toronto? But I digress. The announced that Chef Keller would stay and personalize the books afterwards and so I sprinted to the back, after having sat myself in the front. The line-forming was mayhem and I had flashbacks to the five hours — FIVE — I stood in line to meet David Sedaris. David Sedaris is one thing — I would stand in a -30C blizzard with snow up to my eyeballs for the chance to speak to David Sedaris for even ten seconds (well, I would pretty much do *anything* to see David Sedaris), but, while Chef Keller is widely regarded as the best chef in America, I wasn’t about to spend the next four hours waiting for him to sign my book “To Carmen”. So home I went, happy as a lark, to eat my comfort food of a fried egg sandwich.
Speaking of food, this week’s New Yorker is their annual “Food Issue”, which means lots of foodie goodness. I was perusing the mag on the way to Chicago and nearly fell off my very comfortable Air Canada flight with economy class in-seat TV when I saw that Calvin Trillin contributed an article on the national food of Québec, poutine!! Firstly, it’s the New Yorker. Enough said. Secondly, Calvin Trillin. Calvin Trillin ranks up there as one of my all-time favourite writers extraordinaire and humourist who wrote one of my all-time favourite books called Travels with Alice. Thirdly, an article on the infamous snack food known as poutine in my beloved adopted country written by Calvin Trillin in the New Yorker. Z.O.M.G. It couldn’t possibly be any better unless David Sedaris was his writing partner, at which point I’d probably roll up into the fetal position on my floor and simply cry out of sheer happiness. For your reading, and listening, pleasure, I’m linking to an exerpt5 of the article in the mag and a clip of the podcast of Mr. Trillin speaking about the article. As good as it gets, fo realz.
And that, my friends, officially brings me to the end of this daily blogging madness for which I signed up called NaBloPoMo. My writing muscles have officially been flexed and it was awesome! Through sleep-deprivation, traveling, and a creative writing class that required me to write entire 1,000 word articles weekly (!) in addition to my daily blog posts, I still managed to accomplish blogging every single day for 30 days (check the badge on the right, yo)!! Let me just say that it takes brass balls to achieve this, and although I know all of you at least one of you6 out there will miss my daily posts, fret not! I’ll be back soon enough, but this time without the mad dash to the finish line whereby I’m wheezing and puffing like a 97 year-old woman. Because you deserve better.
Now that NaBloPoMo is kaput, there are about eleventy-thousand things I’m going to do. I’m going to a) decorate my Christmas tree, b) eat before 10pm, c) sleep, d) reconnect with friends who thought I’d fallen off the face of the planet, e) not lose my job, f) tidy up my house that is in complete disarray, g) take a leisurely bath so as to finally use my favourite Lush bathbombs7 and h) go on the date I’ve been putting off for 30 days, which may or may not include ”g”. ;-)
To those of you who stuck this out with me, thank you for reading my occasionally narcissistic drivel (but also some good posts, too!). I’ll miss seeing y’all here every day, but the next time I bring this kind of cockamamie idea up, please call the po-po – I will seriously need to be arrested. For now, I need a big blogging break. Don’t wait up!
1 Think headlines such as “maid of honour starves herself for so long just to fit in her bridesmaid dress that she chows down like a pig in a trough”. Or something like that.
3 And of which I am also a HUGE fan — maybe I missed my calling, after all.
4 A question I’m asked *all* the time and one I just don’t get. Why is it so important for Canadians to know what Americans think of Canada? You’re a lovely, beautiful place, so stop looking for constant approval from your next-door neighbour, already!
5 Because I’m not a subscriber (yet…Santa!), I can’t download the article in its entirety. Sorry.
6 You know who you are.
7 Which, for the record, are the Avobomb and Comforter Bubble Bar combined. H-E-A-V-E-N.