Chant du Cygne Sunday, Apr 10 2016 

Swan song en croûte.


Inscribe the date.

A final somewhat selfish fabrication to celebrate and honor the nuptials of 2 cherished, well deserving friends who are straight after all.   Tamworth pâté en croûte with heart, tongue, wedding vegetables and mini-mortadella inlay.


Both their birthdays, too.

After 13 years and a few months, there’s no more juice left to squeeze, so fuck it, we’re done.  There have been countless friends, a reunion with a sister, 5 issues of Gluttony Digest, a dozen freedom BBQ’s, suckling pigs, turkey variations, fancy pumpkin, jobs here and there, bars that have expired, bars that have been raised, 2 cats, 2 presidents, legalized pot, statehood not, some competitions, softball, a blog, pictures, trips, broken thumb, brownouts, blackout, heartache, dwindling friends, steeper rents and relentless sirens at all times of the day and night.


There’s a swell bell.

My sweetheart, the cats, bric-a-brac and I going out to pasture to become sharecroppers and manage a little slice of country living in Einstein’s getaway on the Northern tine of  Eastern Long Island  nestled between the LI sound, Peconic bay and some shitty vineyards.  We’ll be living in a 1940’s house with an original built-in murphy-bed style ironing board on an organic sheep farm with pigs, chickens and a garden; upstream and closer to the source of food. We’ll eventually help open and run a full service butchery & grocer using products grown on the 28 acres outside.  What’s more, there is a 2 acre garden where we can grow jelly beans, cotton candy and our very own dildo tree.  Hurray.


A little lopsided, as is often the case with love.

Thank you all for your readership. There are arcane liquor and zoning laws up here, cellphone service is sporadic, there are many spiteful low-watt Trump supporters and public transportation is virtually non-existent save for the occasional single-track diesel train that still runs in 2016. So we are pretty much moving back in time with the rest of you, but the barns and people are charming even if they tawlk funny.


Looking out my backdoor.

2 jours dans le 11éme Tuesday, Jan 19 2016 

2 days in the 11th

La cave de l’Insolite is a  small restaurant with a very decent list of organic free-thinking hippie wines, which can be taken off premises for 50% less, you don’t need a paper bag and there can be titties on the label. Hurah.  There was an unusual but pleasant red Arbois Pupillin Trousseau from Jura. Light, fruity, mineral and pleasant to drink with the richer cooked ham, duck and poularde du Gâtinais.  It has a farmhouse thing going on, with a cozy wood-burning stove in the corner, handsomely chiseled hutch keeping the stemware, communal tables and large zinc plated table that dominates the dining room.  The kitchen is smaller than a 1 car garage, but they are efficient and put out simple, elegant, well-seasoned food, though the chef has a bit of a light foot as some of the items (chicken, duck, pork, cabbage) would have benefited from being waved over stove for a minute or 2, though everything was exceedingly tender and nothing short of delicious.


There isn’t a wine list so much as there are 2 wine shelves to choose organic wines (no added sulfites) from and the shelves are well stocked by knowledgeable and hospitable sommelier/owner Axel.  Riding the coattails of Christmas enthusiasm and as a sign of good graces from the folks’ repeated visits which they disguise as forced solidarity for a bruised 11th neighborhood (Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan were within earshot), Axel treated us to a startlingly clean eau-de-vie de houx (holly berry) from an antique glass carboy, sucked up with an equally old glass thief, which went down exceedingly well at 120 proof.


Good memories of the fantastic immature English cheddar which had all the characteristics of similarly pressed Cantal/Salers style cheeses but less than 2 months old, sweeter, less salty, grassy and creamy.

Back-up wines are stored in the basement on the way to the boudoir, which has its own techno soundtrack piped in (they are still very into that, over there) complete with neon and disco ball.

Their sister restaurant/bar is the diminutive 20 seat L’Acolyte de L’insolite with a tinier kitchen but puts out a decent brandade de morue even if it has the superfluous potatoes and I would have discretely added chopped capers and lemon juice if I had them to the husky 130g portion of dry aged, lean Charolais beef tartar

La Bague de Kenza (3 locations I think) on Rue du Faubourg St. Antoine on the edge of the 11th is an Algerian pastry shop with a stunning collection of sweet almond-paste confections and a smattering of savory pâte feuilletée pastillas filled with either, anchovies, cheese, or leafy greens and such.

The level of craftsmanship and dedication to a single delicacy is comforting and a reminder of how such a store is like an American Sasquatch sighting.


Across the border in the 12th at 1, rue Théophile Rousseau (who stymied public drunkenness with a series of buzzkilling laws in 1873)  is Le Baron Rouge,  namesake of the pizza-peddling Tom Selleck impostor and extraordinary wine bar on the fringes of the bustling Marché D’Aligre which is kind of like outdoor market shopping if all the vendors on rue d’Aligre are fellow contestants and you’re the next one on the Price is Right.

Open since 1979, it hasn’t really changed much, or so we told by a veteran and somewhat withered waitress who must have been quite the boozy candy striper autrefois.  A little bit of everything reasonable from all over France,  satisfying plates of cheese and charcuterie, oysters on weekends and there is even a chalk-written sign to let you know what the jazz is all about (it was Sonny Simmons).  2 glasses of Sancerre, 1 Terre Grillée Roussillon, 1 petit Chablis and plate of aged sheep’s milk cheese for 20€ ($21.50) was fine by us.  Best yet, they sell table wines by the 5 and 10 liter jug from the barrel, like a growler for you to chug-a-lug shamefully at home.

The shittiest bar in the 11th, if not the upper half of France is Le Fanfaron, namesake of Dino Risi’s 1962 cult movie and slang for a bragger with swagger:  the perfect caption for the sole owner/employee/failed actor and dear friend of almost 20 years Xavier, who is not as sly as his “the fox” nom de plume would suggest.

He is functional, mostly, and on this visit he was playing mini ping-pong with 3 of his unemployable 40-ish sycophant friends in matching underwear, wearing sombreros.  Despite his crapulence (it was only Tuesday) he was able to play some records (the only form of music) save for the rare live gig, pour drinks (nothing more complicated than Pastis and a side of water) and tally tabs (cash only).  It is on a quiet cobblestones street, the bar is about 5 feet wide and don’t put your elbows on it.  You’ll know why when it happens. It is a tribute to Russ Meyer’s busty agenda, Iggy Poppish punk,  emphysemic French crooners and there is plenty of Day of the Dead bric-a-brac on the walls.  Most of the harmless drunks can say some English words and with enough pantomimes you can tell your life’s story or be left alone.

Tête de serpent Monday, Jul 28 2014 

Snakehead pie.

Pie from the sky.

Pie from the sky.

Snakeheads, in mother fucking savory pastry

with mushroom catsup and some pickles.


Nasty creatures. They can live outside of water for up to 4 days, cross from one body of water to another and are alleged to even use public transportation.  They eat just about every and anything.  By law they have to be killed if you want to keep it.  Everything from mice to batteries have been found in them.  The flesh is similar to sturgeon in texture, but kind of tastes a but dirtier. With proper brining, curing and smoking however (and cutting with catfish), it can be quite delicious.

Ugly little bastard fish.

Ugly 10lb bastard fish.


if an angler wishes to keep a legally caught northern snakehead, the fish must be killed to be in possession, and the angler must call the hotline and report the angler’s last name, date of catch, location of catch and size. Kill the fish by:

  1. removing the head,

  2. separating the gill arches from the body, or

  3. removing the internal organs and put it on ice as quickly as possible.

The pasty is made by clarifying brown butter as with all afore-detailed pâtés in pastry.  A fine shortcrust with thyme or summer savory, eggs, vinegar, water, molasses, discipline and such.

Hotdog fish

Hotdog fish

Mushroom catsup is an olde timey English condiment and reads more nicely than the initial “white devil” sauce, particularly in a gentrifying, historically black neighborhood.  Mushrooms (button and chanterelle) are roasted and simmered with beer, white wine vinegar, shallots, aromatics and blended smooth.

Snug as a bug in a savory rug.

Snug as a bug in a savory rug.

The snakehead is a bit drier than the other fish I have used for fish pies (most of them are frozen immediately after they are caught and thawing releases too much moisture) so forcemeat is more of a farce fine with up to 100% cream by weight of the fish trimmings.  The smoked filets are put in the middle of the forcemeat, bundled up all nicely and baked at 425F for 17 magic minutes.  Some say it smells like hotdog via the far east.

Championnat du Monde de Pâté Croûte 2012 Tuesday, Jan 8 2013 

2012 World Pâté Croûte Championship:

Special Chump Edition.

World Champ.  Slices of life on the farm

World Champ. Slices of life on the farm

Here is a close approximation of my performance at the 2012 World Pâté Croûte Championship. I was exposed to dizzying level of professionalism and experience and feel that I fell short. Having to bring my wares from so far away put me at a considerable disadvantage, perhaps more so without the ooh-la-la garnishes & flair (though presentation accounted for few of the 200 total points) and I picked #12 at random, placing me last in the tasting, at which point the judges may have had their fill of 23,000 calorie forcemeats. Judges included Regis Marcon (Le Clos de Cimes ***), 2011 winner Eric Desbordes (Le Bristol ***) and numerous MOF’s. My mistakes were significant, but at least my slices stayed together –another contestant’s aspic was too loose and the pastry collapsed when cut. First and foremost, my pastry (80 points) did not achieve enough color, likely a result of baking 3 at once, thereupon lowering the temperature of the oven. Had I cooked it longer at that temp, I would have risked overcooking the forcemeat. I did not have a consistent gap for the aspic either.

Color me humbled.  Bravo Yohan (insert applause emoticon).

Color me humbled. Bravo Yohan (insert applause emoticon).

Upon speaking with Patrick Henriroux (La Pyramide **, MOF) he said that the judges prefer a chunkier forcemeat, and that I should have kept the gizzards whole. Keeping pace with the gin flavors I finished the slice with fleur de sel mixed with lime zest and ground juniper berries. M. Henriroux explained that juniper is not a flavor that the judges crave. Pickled cauliflower lightly dressed with an orange zest & confit fat soffrito didn’t compare to some of the Bocuse d’Or inspired garnishes put forth by other competitors, but wasn’t worth many points anyway. Lastly, I should have pulled the pâté out of the fridge earlier so that it would have been served at room temperature which otherwise mutes the flavors. Now I know better and being exposed to such work has been invaluable.

My piddling pâté, in all its underbaked splendor.

My piddling pâté, in all its underbaked splendor.

This is the high water mark of cookery; the confluence of discipline, theory, practice, technique, artistry and finesse. It is an absolute honor and pleasure to have been selected. Any and every cook should aspire to have the substance of their work judged blindly in such a format that transcends the stylistic pandering to photogenic tattoos and irritable congeniality. The gentleman whose work I witnessed and tasted are legitimate craftsmen*.

I represented, at the very least, be it ever so crooked.

I represented, at the very least, be it ever so crooked.

Yohan’s pâté had been in the works for almost a year and was stunning, though I thought the liver flavor was a bit strong. The theme was “the farm” and included something from every farm animal. The black dough fabrication & application of the lettering was clever and the detailed flower inlay nicely centered. Virtually all the forcemeats were chunky to the point where they fell apart after cutting the slice (mine had a firm yet moist texture) and more than half featured exceptional quality foie gras, not the excessive 2 ½ lb+ David Crosby sized lobes generated here which loose too much fat. Very rich and significant amount of care went into layering and inlays. One criticism from the judges is that they fear the aesthetics may begin to trump the flavor. Other inlays included especially savory ballotines, intricate designs and even whole cèpes with an intensely mushroom flavored aspic. All other pastries were cooked closer to perfection than I have ever seen and nothing short of delicious. An absolutely remarkable event with plenty of Mumm bubbles and M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers to wash it all down. We plated in 10 minute intervals and I was not able to see the first 8 pâtés plated.  I got pretty juiced on complimentary wine afterwards.

1% meatloaf sampler.

1% meatloaf sampler.

*The romantic suggestion that cooking at this level is art is nonsense. I do not know of any artist that must consistently replicate such a varied standard of work on a daily, weekly, monthly basis (we each had to bring 3 identical pâtés). These cooks are in the rare league of polished tradesmen like woodworkers whose creative artistry is seen through clean dovetails and moldings. Artists make one-offs. Craftsmen don’t.

Bocuse d'Or is next month, sir.

Bocuse d’Or is next month, sir.

Pâté en Croûte: Distraction Spéciale «Merde Sandy, Il Pleut». Monday, Oct 29 2012 

Pâté en Croûte:

Special “Crap Sandy, its Raining” Distraction.

Ivy League Edition: Beats Harvard and Yale. Both flooded.

With the absolutely crippling, thrilling, paranoid fantasy of a shotgun full of delusional diluvial rain pointed at what seems like the crotch (the good kind of crotch) of North East America, take the time to call up your local utility provider and courteously thank them for the thankless services they provide  before rabidly barking at them 72 hours from now when you have to suffer the inevitable consequences of weather and the fallibility of electricity when you are not able to sustain your sedentary lifestyle with less than 3,800 calories of raw fruit.

It might float your boat.

This silly culture of irrational fear is remarkable.   It has been suggested by the media, home improvement store magnates and toilet paper manufacturers that such coincidental weather patterns are more likely brought on by the really very real threat of Al Qaeda, gays marrying homosexual pets or iced cream, a second socialist term of a totally radical left-handed Muslim president and running out of milk.  A scholarly professor-type in the family posits that America’s atavistic pilgrimage to the milk aisle before hyperbolic warnings of fire, rain and brimstone is a terrifying emotional regression to an infant state nurtured by mother’s milk.  An erudite cynic at the local tavern professes that toilet paper consumption during fo-rizzle rapture-inducing drizzle can be attributed to giardia brought on by desperately drinking tainted river water.

The Arc that I baked.

But rather than curse your flooding basement, here’s a metaphorical lifeboat, or, if you still have electricity, a worthwhile distraction since this thing will sink like a 3rd world ferryboat.

Sturdy hull.

This “inadvertent argyle peppercorn-nipple edition” is hardly waterproof, is not sea-worthy and will not power a flashlight or lightsaber, but doesn’t need any appliances or utilities to cook.


Baking Bad.

Chunky ration.

Le Pâté en Croûte: Édition Spéciale Canard et Cerises Sèches. Tuesday, Mar 6 2012 

Pâté en Croûte: Special Duck and Dried Sour Cherries Edtion.

Pretty feathery pastry.

Some duck marinated in Sailor Jerry rum.  Damn fine rum.  Nice & spicy.  Then a nod to Neil Diamond’s fruit of choice.  Farce a gratin (chicken livers marinated in brandy, shallots, duck fat), pork (30% of the weight of the duck), confit gizzards, fatback, pistachios and some warm spices.  No structural breaches and the most recent pastry proportions provided noteworthy savor and palatabilitinessness.  A worthwhile endeavor.  It’s be even more worthwhile is someone bought any of the damned stuff rather than gazing mouth agape at the meat case as if it were some sort of kooky dead animal exhibit at the zoo.

Doing what Pablo Neruda wants me to do with cherries in preparation for spring, I think.

Plenty of similar cooked charcuterie offerings available, in addition to raw sausages and a wide variety of cuts from all animals.

Le Pâté en Croûte : Édition Spéciale Coings Thursday, Jan 12 2012 

Pâté en Croûte : Special Quince Edition

Procession to the wailing wall of cured meat.

Tis the season for forgotten fruit cousins of apples and pears which are virtually inedible raw but when placed in a sock is a practical alternative to more useful soap when applied to bludgeoning a dopey donut craving liability. Afterwards, they can be fed to the elderly for absolute hilarity.

Envince the quince

As per the usual, the quince were prepared by carving them into segments and slowly braising in a 3/1 water/sugar syrup jazzed up with rosemary, clove, lust and pride. As they cook, the quince turn pink and then ruby red as a result of the tannins which help to create anthocyanin pigments and a consequence of all your past profanity. And lies.

Eden’s forbidden meatloaf

The organic pork shoulder, heart, tongue and liver came from a conscientiously raised Berkshire pig which called High View Farm in Berryville, Virginia home. The heart was cured and confit in lard whereas the tongue was brined and simmered. A farce fine was made with the liver and thrice ground pork. After being puréed smooth a diced garnish of tongue, heart, quince, fatback and loin was mixed to the farce along with spices, salt, #1 and such. Naturally, the pork was marinated in booze, olive oil and aromatics for a week prior to processing.

Convincing quincing

A new pastry recipe was developed based on some research from the World Pâté Croûte Championship (this fall’s stage took place at Gilles Verot who honorably placed second). Seeking a krustyier though austere pastry  lard represents 70% of the fat while some of the flour percentage is replaced by cornstarch which helps to make a smoother dough.


To highlight and represent the overlooked fruit encased within, quince and leaves were delicately carved then adorned on the roof much like your average consumer Joe-Christmas puts jingly crap all over his roof for the holidays.  After a deep rubdown of egg wash the thing was baked, left to cool slightly and delightfully filled with port aspic -no leaks.

Savory fresco.

There were few if any faults in this edition. The pastry was firm, savory and a pleasure to eat, though it could have cooked slightly more on the side juxtaposing the forcemeat. The forcemeat was complex, though tender and well seasoned. Spice and booze from the marinade was noticeable and the variety of textures/flavors offered by the heart, tongue, ham, fatback and quince were nothing short of satisfying. Future editions might include an inlay of quince paste.

Merci-donnant 2011: Édition Spéciale “Nouvelle Frangleterre“ n. 2 Tuesday, Dec 13 2011 

Thanksgiving 2011: Special “New Frangland” Edition.

Part II.  Super Soup

A complete, coastal package.

Gloucester chowder  and acorn squash goldfish.  No big deal.  A veritable Tetris of flavors and juices Just had to make sure the guests remembered to wear their dental dams as they were about to get fucked in the mouth .  The likes of which inspires pop-culture folklore.

Healthy dinner eco-system

Navy beans cooked with bacon, garlic and bay leaf.  Bacon rendered, then celery and red onion cooked in the fat, finished with lemon segments.  Littleneck clams then mussels cooked with white wine, toasted garlic, the skin from thick-cut bacon and parsley.  Legitimate salted cod (not pollock) simmered with lemon zest and shrimp then poached with the salt cod liquid and ground chili.  After reserving some cooked beans for the garnish, the remaining were puréed with 75% of the weight in bean, clam, mussel and salt cod/shrimp juice.

Selfless shells & fish

A bowl of shrimp, clams, mussels, salted cod, navy beans, leek and celery leaf ready to welcome in open arms a hot ladle of chowder freckled with bacon, celery, onion, beans, sage and lemon zest.   Rich, savory, smooth, pleasant saltiness and acid notes from the salt cod, lemon and white wine, subtle smoke and crunch on behalf of bacon, creamy beans and fragrant greenery courtesy the blanched leeks.

Going for gold. Soup sopper.

Accompanying the decidedly chauvinist (in a good way) chowder were, appropriately enough, cornbread-acorn squash-goldfish hybrids, essential for sopping up the palpable bean porridge.  Yep.  Your hypothalamus probably just got a confused erection or crapped. Or both. You’re welcome.  Acorn squash roasted with olive oil, salt and a few select wintry spices after which the pulp was incorporated into a soignée cornbread recipe and baked in a delightful fish-shaped cornbread mold found at Happy’s flea market  in Roanoke for price of 3 cans of local suds.

Salt-water angle.

The chowder was well within the limits of being branded as “too salty” and in an effort to highlight the shellfish as well as potage, a carousel of lively and aromatic salt varieties was passed around.  Grey, lavender, Persian blue, smoked, espellete and fleur de sel.

To Be Continued…

Pâté en croûte d’anniversaire; Édition spéciale jour de naissance Tuesday, Jul 12 2011 

Anniversary pâté en croûte;  Special birthday edition.

When this bun came out of the oven.

Happy birthday to me.  No real surprises in this production.  Another exercise in a series of fabrications benefiting the fabrication of a legitimate pâté en croûte which is structurally, texturally, tastefully and aesthetically sound. Measurements in the pastry have been slightly altered (60/40 butter/lard) and recorded as have the forcemeat participants to ensure a consistent fill without excessive surplus.  Forcemeat components were raw cured shoulder, pistachios, fatback, currants and tongue.  Future filling tests will have the raw shoulder replaced with cooked ham.  Pork and chicken livers marinated in brandy and port along with aromatics bound all the stuff together after being partially frozen, ground twice (meat and fat separately so that the fat doesn’t smear or melt) and puréed –but not too long as an extended stay in the whirly blades incorporates too much air and lightens the color.

Forcemeat genesis.

Stenciling the date into the pastry lid involved several delicate dances of draftsmanship before an efficient routine could produce crisp, evenly spaced numbers.  A proper cutting instrument was essential for the surgical incisions as was the temperature of the doughy patient.  Warm dough is virtually impossible to cut with any precision.

Save the date and incise it.

For some reason the forcemeat did not shrink much and left little to no gap between the lid for the aspic.  No birthday shrinkage.  How about that?  Needless to say, what little  aspic made it through the numerical chimneys was sturdy and flavorful as far as savory port flavored Jell-O goes.  Pastry was enjoyable and similar to past episodes though it eventually softens and is not as crisp as the purported hot water crust meat pies from theUK.  Hot water pastry needs to be worked before it cools but is alleged to yield a firm crust (insert that’s what ___ said).  Prototypes will be experimented with shortly, perhaps in a less sophomoric manner.  And a special kudos to the dearest sister for the trademark slideshow.

Another C-section, 37 years later.

Édition Spécial Heraldique District de Columbia No. 2 Monday, May 16 2011 

Pâté en Croûte.

Special At-Large 2.0 DC heraldry Edition.

Pork barrel degustation

Commissioned and cheerfully donated to a Bryan Weaver At-Large campaign party, and a follow-up to the inaugural DC heraldry edition.

Stately pastry

The endeavor failed to sway votes but allegedly swooned attentive eyes and registered palates. Coincidentally, Mr. Weaver was in attendance at an Easter party and following an introduction as the progenitor of the jingoistic meatloaf, pictures corroborating his alleged enthusiasm for the creation were shown. A doughy, half-baked plan was kneaded, the filling of which was to raise Mr. Weaver’s profile by staging an abduction and sequestering him in a Mt. Pleasant villa. Spanish television in the background of all telephone conversations would complete the Central American kidnapping ruse. The sleeper agent at the party was to have been provoked into seizing the candidate by a singular pickled shishisto pepper flavored jelly bean, but after having ingested a multitude of tutti-fruity jellied beans necessary to maintain appearance of legitimate mingling, the agent’s palate was muddled, incapable of distinguishing root beer jelly beans from keg beer and the plan had to be aborted.

The Flavoring Candidates

The meatloaf campaign was similar to past efforts with proportions of garnish (fatback, pistachio, figs) based on 1/3 of the weight  of the forcemeat which was comprised of pork marinated in brandy and port, then supplemented by chicken livers and a foie gras & truffle mousse which had been idling in the fridge for the better part of the Obama administration. As an added bonus, an inlay of cured pork ran through the middle.

Federal Jambox

In its raw state, the pâté was remarkably stately, albeit with a mid 1980’s boom-box allure.  After a repose in the heat (as any observer of the prolonged effects of sunbathing and gravity can corroborate), there was a little bit of sagging. The drooping consequences evoked either smarmy little bastard Stewie Griffin or brainy rolling robot Johnny No. 5.

Victory is mine. (Weaver’s will have to wait).

Coloring the aspic red in a thrifty manner proved to be a considerable challenge given the home bar’s absence of grenadine, the tremendously bitter properties of annatto and burgundy results of red beets. In the end, a heavy hand of red food dye squeezed from a sizeable stone would have to suffice.

Red #40 alive.

Excess forcemeat was cooked in a small terrine and sampled in accordance with the terms of epicurean accountability. The forcemeat was moist, smooth, tender, properly seasoned and offered hints of the brandy in which it marinated. Sadly, there is no documentation of the pâtés interior and concerns about an uneven distribution of the aspic linger. However, Mr. Weaver’s lively presence a fortnight later on the eve of the election was evidence of the pâté’s gustatory success, though it surely can not be blamed for his unfortunate loss.  At the very least it deserves to be in good company with state dinners and other notable political dinner roasts.

Meat Party demographics.

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