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Acme Bread Company. Gold standard of ARTISANAL bread baking in the United States, based in Berkeley, California, and founded in 1983 by former CHEZ PANISSE busboy and house hunk Steve Sullivan, who was inspired to try his hand at baking while reading ELIZABETH DAVID’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery during an overseas bike trip in his college years. Ferociously devoted to hand–formed loaves and organic ingredients, Acme has a lower profile than the corporate–artisanal brands it inspired, New York’s Tom Cat Bakery and Los Angeles’s La Brea Bakery, but it enjoys a greater mystique, largely due to Sullivan’s ponytailed, shamanistic presence and refusal to sell his wares much beyond the Bay Area. Picked up an Acme herb slab at Monterey Market en route to the Orville Schell lecture.
Adrià, Ferran. Spanish chef of appropriately surrealist, Dali–esque mien who functions as a lightning rod in the Food Snob debate over whether MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY is bracingly innovative or overwhelmed by gimmickry. The popularizer of the vegetable FOAMS that reviewers loved in Spain in 1998 but jadedly condemn in America now, Adria, who operates out of a coastal Catalan resort called El Bulli (The Bulldog), combines a DayGlo aesthetic with a FERNAND POINT fealty to getting the most flavor out of his ingredients, resulting in such weird–ass but surprisingly edible creations as a sardine skeleton enshrouded in cotton candy and skinless green–pea raviolis that look like Dr. Seuss egg yolks. I clocked some Ferran Adrià influence in those fruit soups that we sucked down from medical syringes.
Affinage. The process whereby young cheese is refined and matured, usually in a cave or climate–controlled chamber. The anointed cheese-coddler, known as an affineur, rotates the cheese and beats, brushes, and/or washes it until it is a point and ready to be savored. In the latest manifestation of cheese–course mania, some American restaurateurs now employ their own affineurs, though no one has yet made the logical, inevitable step of marketing home affinage units in the vein of SUB–ZERO wine–storage units.
Asian street food. Increasingly chic trope-inspiration among chefs and restaurateurs (e.g., Jean–Georges Vongerichten and Anthony Bourdain) who have eaten their way through Saigon, Rangoon, Singapore, Bangkok, and Jakarta, and have somehow decided that they have seen the future of all cuisine. My new place will combine Viennese-bordello decor with a menu inspired by Asian street food—pho, satays, potstickers, all that shit.
Bain-marie. Overwrought term for “double boiler,” deployed especially by retailers trying to sell expensive, purpose–built double–pot sets to status–hungry home cooks, even though it’s easy to improvise a bain–marie with garden–variety roasting and sauce pans. Oddly, the marie part of the term (bain is simply French for “bath”) comes from an ancient alchemist known as Mary the Jewess, who believed that using a double boiler’s indirect heat simulated the natural processes by which precious metals formed.
Baum, Joe. Brash, cigar–chomping aphorist–restaurateur (1920-1998), beloved by restaurant professionals, unknown to laypeople, and therefore a god to Snobs. Working first for the New York hospitality company Restaurant Associates and later on his own, Baum was adamant that fine dining in America didn’t have to be toe–the–line French, a vision that he sometimes executed successfully (the Four Seasons, Windows on the World) and sometimes not (the Roman–themed Forum of the Twelve Caesars, featuring gladiator helmets as ice buckets, and the Newarker, a white–linen restaurant romantically set in…Newark Airport). A reliable quote machine for food journalists (e.g., “When in doubt, flambe”), Baum is often credited with/blamed for coining the word foodie. The boob–like double pineapple upside–down cake with Medjool dates for nipples was vintage Baum.
Beebe, Lucius. Poncey, immaculately turned–out American society writer and gourmand of the screwball–comedy era (1902-1966), best known for his florid New York Herald Tribune columns of the 1930s and ’40s, in which he recounted his social adventures as a walker par excellence and his elaborate feasts at gouty Gilded Age–throwback hotel dining rooms. Though verbose to the point of lunacy (“The good life continues unabated in Hollywood even as in the days of hammered silver handset telephones and the first fine floodtide of early ordovician Goldwynisms”), Beebe was one of the first name writers to take fine dining seriously as a subject, earning him the grudging respect of Snobs.
Berkshire pork. Upmarket pork from purebred swine of British pedigree, redder in flesh, more marbled in texture, and richer in flavor than standard, bland American pork (which is justly described as “the other white meat”). In the nineteenth century, some Berkshire pigs were exported to Japan as a diplomatic gift from the Brits, resulting in the pork’s popularity there under the name Kurobuta (“black pig”), a term unnecessarily bandied about by American butchers and restaurateurs looking for a WAGYU–like profit margin. Everything on the menu tonight is outstanding, but I’d especially recommend the loin of Berkshire pork with chestnuts and apple–Calvados chutney.
Blumenthal, Heston. Yobbish–looking but floridly intellectual English practitioner of MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY. Besotted with the works of HAROLD McGEE, Blumenthal, an untrained cook who opened a modest bistro called the Fat Duck in a Berkshire village in 1995, started fiddling with his food as his confidence grew, pairing white chocolate with caviar, fashioning a “sardine on toast” sorbet, and using a liquid–nitrogen bath to prepare a frozen green–tea quenelle with lime foam. Result: his first Michelin star in 1999, and three stars by 2004. Less resolutely molecular than the futurist FERRAN ADRIA and the self-serious Grant Achatz of Chicago, Blumenthal writes a column for the Sunday Times of England in which he provides tweaked, home–achievable recipes for such traditional dishes as spaghetti bolognese, fish and chips, and black forest cake.
Butter-poached lobster. Sumptuous lobster preparation popularized by THOMAS KELLER at the French Laundry in the 1990s and since imitated, CRUDO–style, by restaurants across the land. The lobster is par–cooked, its meat removed from the shell, and then the meat is finished off in a pan, where it cooks slowly and gently in a water–butter emulsion, or beurre monte, resulting in an even richer dining experience and suggestive MOUTHFEEL than the normal boiled lobster with drawn butter. The saffron risotto was topped off with a curled tail of butter–poached lobster: “Unnhh,” groaned my blissful companion after her first bite.
Cardoon. Vegetable of the thistle family, related to the artichoke, though treasured for its celery–like stalk. Long a staple of Italian cookery, the cardoon has gained popularity among Snobs for its versatility (it’s good raw in salads or cooked in soups) and the frisson of pleasure one gets from saying its name.
Carême, Antonin. Social–climbing prettyboy French chef (1783-1833) who transcended his origins as a low–born pastry cook to become the greatest authority on French cuisine of the nineteenth century, concocting elaborate gorgefests for such clients as the French statesman Talleyrand and Alexander I, the czar of Russia. Though Carême is a necessary namecheck for any Snob who purports to know his culinary history, he is often cited in Snob discourse in unflattering counterpoint to French chefs of later eras. The Troisgros brothers unabashedly embrace peasant fare; not for them the lofty pretensions of Carême.
From the Trade Paperback edition.