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What I Did On My Summer Vacation Part 2: Modernist Cuisine

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Before little Dirt Candy goes dark tomorrow (!) I wanted to make sure I put up the second half of my summer vacation, which involved three of my favorite things: lady chefs, lots of food, and plenty of booze. One of the biggest cookbook events of the last four years was the publication of Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine. Of course, the second biggest cookbook event of the last four years was me unwrapping my copy of Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine.

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The pea course involved super-punny placards.

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And in June, I got to go have dinner at their lab.

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What Dirt Candy Can Teach The World About Being Small

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Dirt Candy is small. Really small. Really, really, really small. Just look at this tiny kitchen:

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What does that have to do with you? Well, if you’re one of 35 million Americans who lives in an apartment, then you probably have a tiny kitchen, too. Or maybe you live in a house that was built without a kitchen for some reason and you’ve had to construct one yourself. In a closet. Either way, over the past six years of running Dirt Candy I’ve learned a lot about how to make the most of an absurdly small amount of space and some of my tips might help you.

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Parsley, the salt of the vegetable kingdom

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I do a lot of interviews and that means press people are always asking me to state preferences that I would never think about in real life: what’s your favorite soup? Where’s your favorite toast? What’s your favorite kitchen implement? And the one question to rule them all, the one question that pops up in every single interview: what’s your favorite ingredient? I’ve never sat around arranging and re-arranging ingredients in a complicated but graphically appealing personal preference chart, but after getting this “What’s your favorite ingredient?” question five million times I’ve finally realized the answer. My favorite ingredient? The one I use more than any other? The one I use in almost every single dish? The one I find myself buying by the case every week? Parsley.

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The Original Moosewood

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One of the coolest things that happened to me while I was touring with the cookbook last summer, was going to Omnivore Books in San Francisco. The store itself was amazing and the event was packed which was great, but the best thing was finding a first edition copy of the Moosewood Cookbook on their shelves.

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If you’re a vegetarian, you have a copy of the Moosewood Cookbook. If you don’t, that just means you lost it. Moosewood is the training wheels to being a vegetarian home cook, the book that launched a thousand plates of brown rice and tofu. The New York Times claims it’s one of the ten best-selling cookbooks of all time. Just holding this spiral-bound, stained, faded, typewritten and hand-lettered cookbook felt like reaching back into the misty past of vegetarianism. But then, something crazy happened.

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The Moosewood Collective in all their world-changing glory.

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One of the people attending the event was Phyllis Boudreau, one of the original members of the Moosewood collective. Moosewood was a vegetarian restaurant operated under collective ownership in upstate New York. Earnest and committed to political change, this cookbook was going to be their big foray into the world. However one of their members, Mollie Katzen, took their name and style and recipes and started publishing her own Moosewood cookbooks without the collective. There was a falling out and the whole thing ended with Katzen getting rich and a lot of hurt feelings and bad blood.

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It was kind of awesome to get to experience some of this history first-hand because this was a major moment for vegetarian food in America, and it reminded me of how many stories in the food world there are outside the sphere of celebrity chefs and French cuisine, and how many of them haven’t been told yet. I wish more of them were getting written down before they’re forgotten.

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Smoking or Non-Smoking?

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Smoking is one of those techniques that home cooks stay away from because it seems intimidating and complicated when, in reality, it’s really easy. Smoking food steps up your game, and it’s something I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of, so in the spirit of giving away my few secrets, here’s Dirt Candy’s Rough Guide to Smoking. Get ready to impress people!

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Impressed, yet?

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Good health to you, Sid Caesar!

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Sid Caesar passed away this week, so I wanted to share a bit of his show. It’s Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca in a great hat, and I think Carl Reiner is the waiter. Good health, to you!

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Vegetables Get Dirty

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What do we do in the kitchen during service? Now the shocking truth can be revealed. The kitchen crew at Dirt Candy shoots vegetable porn in the kitchen…while innocent diners are eating their meals just a few feet away!!!

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50 Shades of Doughnut

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Sometimes customers bring the kitchen crew at Dirt Candy treats, and treats are always welcome. But sometimes a customer goes that extra mile and brings us treats with a theme. So a huge thank you to Kelly who brought us Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream and donettes. Why? Well, if you were at packed, standing-room-only, Dirt Candy Food Porn-a-copia at GoogaMooga, then you know exactly what these treats mean. If you weren’t there, then realize that these foodstuffs mean that things are about to get very, very dirty at Dirt Candy.

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Happy International Vegetarian Day!

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To celebrate international vegetarian day, I want to take a walk down memory lane. Let’s all cast our minds back to the olden days of vegetarian food. Like the rule says, we should only be eating food our grandmothers would recognize, and here are some of the vegetarian recipes they were making back in the day.

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Mmmm…eggy gloop surprise!

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I think that’s an eggplant surrounded by minty jelly squares that jiggle.

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Remember the good old days when we used to sit around eating potato “hamburgers”?

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I really miss egg mold with green onion sauce…

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My favorite old timey recipe: grape fantasies…

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I actually do kind of miss things like these garlic cheese balls, however.

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The Gentle Art of Entertaining

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Life Magazine’s Picture Cookbook (1958) does not skimp on pictures. They’re right there in the title, after all. And it’s only by looking at these pictures that I learned how to entertain at home. Thank you, Life Magazine.

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Lesson 1: it is easy to make everyone dine at the coffee table as long as the men wear tuxedos and the women wear enormous gowns. However, rude women checking their phones will have to wear pearly gray numbers and sit in a chair against the wall.

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Lesson 2: when planning a beach picnic, it is essential to have two enormous wedges of cheese, a loaf of bread the size of a small child, at least nine roast chickens, and a sectional beach table (do NOT substitute a lighter meadow table – your guests will notice!) which means you must have many daughters so that they can haul the necessaries through the dunes. If you get tired, don’t worry. Touching the bowl of cherry tomatoes will be enough to bring a smile to your face.

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Lesson 3: when having an informal gathering at home you need AT LEAST 13 different snack dishes. Also, if you have a friend who is a foot fetishist, put him in charge of photographing your party.

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Lesson 4: opening a thermos can be FUN! It is your job to find joy in everything you do to serve your family.

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Lesson 5: glazing a chicken with ketchup should only be attempted by a man. However, while he bastes you will have time to rest your chin on your hand and contemplate the mysteries of existence: why is fire hot? Is it overly sexual to husk your corn before grilling it? Shouldn’t someone make little jackets and pants for dead chickens so they are not so shamefully naked? Is there such a thing as cold fire? Should I wait until Gary is asleep before putting a bullet through my brain? Or after? Which room in the house would it be most considerate to kill myself in?

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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Tomato $13
tomato cake with smoked feta,
yellow tomato leather, herb puree

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll$10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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