Eats of Eden

April 10th, 2006

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).

Josh interviews Ruth ReichBeing 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 egg
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.

Entry Filed under: tv episodes

12 Comments

  • 1. Sarah Doull  |  April 10th, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    Any chance you could post the recipe for Ruth Reichl’s Last Minute Chocolate Cake? Thank you for your show, Josh – I am a huge fan.

  • 2. ann  |  April 10th, 2006 at 7:42 pm

    How dare you make that chocolate cake and not give us the RECIPE!?!?!?! Do I have to buy the book??

    It looked TOO yummy and I want to make it NOW. I love, love, love your show and even though I live up in the wooly wilds of the California foothills and KQED doesn’t come in very well, I watch you whenever I can. Hope you and your family are having a wonderful time.

  • 3. Maggie  |  April 10th, 2006 at 7:44 pm

    I just watched your interview with Ms. Richel (sp?) and wanted you to know that I enjoyed it tremendously and felt like I was standing right next to you while you were waiting for Ms. Richel to taste the chocolate cake that you baked with your son. Josh. You were cute beyond belief with your eyes darting to her every other second to see or hear what she REALLY thought about the cake yor baked. I could tell that the cake turned out fine and you were so excited about her response. Really. Too cute. So cute that I will check out her book just for that recipie and also for her writing. Oh yes. I will watch your show again. so fun.

  • 4. Helen Roberts  |  April 10th, 2006 at 8:37 pm

    I, like the others that commented are upset that you or she did not share her recipe with Josh’s viewers.
    She was such an interesting and down to earth woman I may have to buy her book to get it, or was that the purpose of the cake?

  • 5. Lori  |  April 11th, 2006 at 9:32 am

    Hi Sarah, Ann, Maggie, and Helen… Thanks for tuning in! Here is the recipe for the cake Josh made 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 egg
    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.

  • 6. Sue T.  |  April 11th, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    I’ve read all three of Ms. Reichl’s memoirs and they are totally delightful, even if you’re not a foodie (but who around here isn’t?). I wish there were photos of her in the disguises she donned while at the NY Times! The interview on last night’s show was lots of fun, and got the highest praise from my husband (who hasn’t read Ruth’s books) — when Josh said goodbye to her at the end, he exclaimed, “It couldn’t have been a half hour ALREADY!” The time really did fly by!

  • 7. Michael Clahr  |  April 14th, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    On the show with Ruth Reichl, you mentioned that your favorite restaurant was one where the hamburgers were delivered on a toy train. Would thoses restaurants be “The Hamburger Train” (in Rego Park) and/or “The Hamburger Express” (in Forest Hills)? I LOVED those restaurants as a Kid! I went to F.H.H.S. (’63).

  • 8. Josh Kornbluth  |  April 15th, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    Hi, everyone: Thanks so much for all your comments! As you can see, my intrepid producer, Lori, posted the recipe while I was in Italy — let me know if you make it, and how it turned out. (It’s best when served still warm, with the cold ice cream plopped on it.)

    And Michael: I don’t remember the name of that great restaurant, but it was in Manhattan, perhaps on the Upper East Side, and it did have a name like “The Hamburger Train”!

  • 9. Pia Gregan  |  April 17th, 2006 at 9:39 pm

    This was another great segment in the Josh shows. I really can’t believe that he can wrangle all these great responses out of such diverse media personalities!
    my big question for this segment is this-
    JOSH! Since you mentioned that your biggest culinary experience in your memory was having a hamburger delivered to you by a toy train; was this by any chance at hamburger Choo Choo near Huntington, Long Island in the 50′s? I was there too! After my parents took me to see Bambi we went to have a snack there. It was one of my most spectacular memories and influeced me profoundly! Ever since then i have always asked “how did they do that?” in all of my jobs. I figure you have too. Best of luck and your show is a very fun gift!
    Pia

  • 10. Judith Bruder  |  July 25th, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    Ruth Reichl’s memoir was great fun, but her cake turned out to be a disaster.

    Does it really bake at 300 degrees? For 30 to 40 minutes? After 40 minutes at 300, mine was still liquid in the center. Anybody else have a problem?

  • 11. Josh Kornbluth  |  July 27th, 2006 at 11:24 am

    The cake — amazingly! — worked out great for me, a determined non-cook. But I have to admit that, because our oven seems to get way hotter than it’s set to be, I did a lot of the “toothpick test” along the way — which seemed to work. (When you can stick a toothpick in the center of the cake and pull it out cleanly, the cake is done.)

  • 12. SanDiegan  |  October 15th, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    I tried the cake recipe after reading the book. The cake was very dry and crumbly, and I can’t figure out what I did wrong. I followed the recipe, the only thing I can figure out is I left it in 5 minutes too long? Could that have affected it that much?


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