Tuesday, July 8, 2008
I'm a Professional Food Writer!
That was the article that started all this. Our friend, and former Big Brother contributor, Josh Tyson, lives in Denver now and is an editor at Dining Out Magazine. He wondered if I wouldn't be interested in contributing. I said, sure. And as we got talking, I realized that Tania and I have a ton of food stories. This one on Bouchon, and the boudin blanc that Keller serves there, was the first to be published. (The actual printed article is above, but my "uncensored" version is below. It was weird when I got it in the mail and saw the illustration that my old friend, and Thrasher contributor, Michael Seiben did of me. Not sure where the zombie-like stare and marble mouth came from, but I like the coat.) I thought this would be a good starting point for Food on Drunk.
I used to hate Las Vegas. I don’t have much interest in gambling, but I’d find other ingenious ways to destroy myself. My hangovers lasted weeks. But a few years ago my wife, Tania, showed me another side of Vegas and I’ve since come to love the city. I think it was the Star Trek bar at the Hilton that pushed me over the edge. “This place is retarded!” Where retarded equals awesome. And while the adult playground aspect of it is still very attractive, the real reason we go now is because of the food.
We’re food nerds. We watch all the cooking shows, from Emeril to that bald-ass granny, Lidia, on PBS. No Rachel Ray, though. Hate, hate, hate. The food is certainly interesting on any given program, but I think the real reason we enjoy cooking shows is because they’re so soothing. They’re the perfect thing to zone out to. Absolutely nothing happens and every show is exactly the same: they boil some water, cook some stuff and at the end it all tastes awesome.
But what does the food really taste like? That’s where Vegas comes in. You can go there and find out because it’s a foodie mecca. Every celebrity chef in the world has a restaurant somewhere on the strip. Who isn’t curious about Emeril’s food? Is it actually good? On my first visit to his restaurant, the answer was no. It sucked. Want to know what celebrity chef is actually really good? Thomas Keller. I have declared his restaurant, Bouchon, at the Venetian, my favorite restaurant in the world.
We’ve been to Bouchon twice now, and both times I have had the most astounding meal ever. “What are you going to get this time?” I asked Tania as we sat at the bar on our second visit. Game plan.
“I don’t know,” she said, “but something good, because last time I fucking biffed it with the chicken.”
Biffed it? I was as astounded as she was that those words came out of her mouth. “How old are you again?” I asked.
But she did biff it on that first visit because across the table from her and her boring ass chicken, in front of me, on my plate, was the most amazing dish on the menu: boudin blanc sausage.
“Oh my God,” I said after my first bite, “you gotta try this.” Tania took a bite and had the same reaction. “Whoa!”
“I think this might be the best sausage I have ever had in my life,” I said. Tania, who is not easily impressed, agreed.
I called the waitress over to congratulate her for serving the best sausage ever. “But what is it?” I asked.
She explained that “boudin blanc” means “white pudding” in French. Presumably because the little baby pigs and chickens they mush up and cram into the casing have the consistency of pudding. Which is due in part to the milk, cream and brandy they mix in as well. It produces a velvety texture that practically melts in your mouth. The flavor is subtle, but extremely pleasant. It tastes like what it looks like: white sausage.
“We get it from a supplier in San Francisco called Marcel et Henri,” she told us.
Oh, so Mr. Hot Shot Celebrity Chef Thomas Keller doesn’t even make his own boudin blanc? “Looks like I’m going to be playing a little celebrity chef,” I said to myself.
So when I got home I visited www.marcelethenri.com to order me some boudin blanc. Unfortunately their site didn’t have any internet order buttons. “But I want to give you money!” So I called Marcel et Henri and I talked to a Marcel, or an Henri, or some woman who sounded like a Marcel or an Henri, and she told me they don’t ship any of their products because of the cost of dry ice, and Fedex, and because they’re French. She was very helpful, though, and put me in touch with a SoCal supplier. Whom I called. He turned out to be a crazy French man with an OOOOOUTRAGEOUS FRANCH ACK-SANT! I could barely understand him, but I gathered that he didn’t sell to the public. Plus he was about to go on vacation and could not be bothered with the likes of me. I made a couple more half-hearted attempts to get a hold of some Marcel et Henri boudin blanc, but to no avail.
I had almost given up on it when I noticed that the Italian deli in our town (Glendale), Mario’s (it’s often written up, and for good reason), sold Marcel et Henri’s blood sausage. A couple “special order” conversations, and a few weeks later, I had 15 links of boudin blanc in my fridge. The question then was, “How do I cook it?” and more importantly, “If it comes out good, am I as good a chef as Thomas Keller?”
Fortunately we own his cookbook, Bouchon, and the recipe for the boudin blanc is in the book. Easy enough. I just browned some butter, added a little salt, pepper and sage, and cooked each side for about five minutes. I didn’t bother making the plum sauce they serve with it at Bouchon, but I did make the mashed potatoes. And it was identical: sausage heaven.
A simple question, a couple phone calls, and I’m making world-class cuisine in my own kitchen. It kind of made me think, “Wow, I never need to go to Vegas again.” But I do. We haven’t been to Bobby Flay’s “Mesa Grill” and, I hate to admit it, but I need to know what that asshole’s food tastes like.