I'm writing to you from an "Internet Point" in lovely Florence, where our delightful family vacation is entering its last few days. And I don't think there could be any more appropriate interview to blog about from this city of heavenly eateries than the one on tonight's show, with former New York Times restaurant critic (and current Gourmet editor) Ruth Reichl. Reichl on restaurants was like Michael Jordan on the hardcourt -- a genius of the form. And also like Jordan, who could fake a defender out of his shoes, Reichl had to employ a certain amount of graceful trickery to attain her goals: famously, she used various disguises so she wouldn't be "made" by the restaurateurs. As she writes in her latest memoir, Garlic and Sapphires, she was shocked to find herself becoming the characters she was creating (including, hilariously, her mom).
Being more of an eater than a cook, I had some trepidations about talking food with this formidable former critic, but I found her -- in the character of herself -- to be wonderfully warm and accessible (oh, that smile!). So when we got to the point in the show where I actually did some cooking with her (sort of: our set's "kitchen" lacks certain amenities -- like a stove, for instance), I didn't even worry about violating any health codes. ... As a guest, I give her four stars. ...
And speaking of restaurants, if you ever go to Florence (and who can afford not to, at today's BART rates?), check out Trattoria Anita, on the Via del Parlascio. Tell them the bald American with the beautiful wife and son sent you. ...
Here's the recipe for the cake Ruth bakes on the show:
Ruth Reichl’s Last-Minute Chocolate Cake
This cake calls for a scoop of vanilla ice cream on each slice.
4 ounces fine-quality unsweetened chocolate
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 cup brewed strong black coffee
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan. Combine the chocolate, butter, and coffee in the top of a double boiler or in a very heavy pot, and stir constantly over low heat until melted. Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes. Then add the Grand Marnier, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Stir well.
Stir the flour, baking soda, and salt together, and add this to the chocolate mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
12 comments April 10th, 2006