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How do I come up with the menus for the annual birthday dinners for She Who Must Be Obeyed? I pay attention to dishes that she’s enjoyed over the course of a year, either prepared by me, or that we’ve enjoyed while dining out.



We began with the same cocktail I made for the last Can’t Talk, Eating: Lemon, ginger, honeycomb, lapsang souchong tea, Laphroaig and Johnnie Walker Black whiskys.

Onion Soup


Sweet onion soup with pain de mie croutons and parmesan shavings.



A variation on the classic PB&J, made with toasted pain de mie, foie gras torchon, and homemade black cherry preserves. Served with a 2012 Karthäuserhof Riesling kabinett. 



Spring ramp risotto with herbed ricotta. Served with a 2012 Belleruche Côtes du Rhone (a gift from our diner at Damon Baehrel).



Cured pork belly with poached green apple, chard purée, chard stems, pork reduction, and mustard vinaigrette. Served with a 2008 Ravenswood Belloni Zinfandel.

Coffee and Donuts


Coffee gelée, glazed donut ice cream, and a Pocky “cigarette.” This was a variation on an earlier presentation.



Even though it was her birthday dinner, She Who Must Be Obeyed insisted on making this dessert: flourless chocolate cake with raspberry jam, fresh raspberries, chocolate ganache, and whipped cream. Served with a Taylor Fladgate 2o year old tawny port.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Onion soup: Study, Cambridge, MA

FG&G: Swine, New York, NY

Risotto: Serious Eats

Pork: Per Se, New York, NY

Onion soup photo by Daphne Strassmann

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Smoke ’em If You Got ’em

February 28, 2016

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It was our turn again for Can’t Talk, Eating, our quarterly dining club. Due to the host rotation this was our first winter meal, so we planned on heartier fare. We settled on a theme of “smoke” for all the courses, in both obvious and subtle presentations.



Baguette, fig and butter spread, Serrano ham, brie.

Lamberti prosecco



Lemon, ginger, honeycomb, lapsang souchong tea, Laphroaig and Johnnie Walker Black whiskys.

This cocktail was infused in Portholes, which are used at Aviary in Chicago (next door to Next).



Cauliflower soup with bacon and scallions.

Scallop, Dill


Smoked scallop crudo with meyer lemon salt, dill crème frâiche, rice cracker.

2012 Peer Lauer Riesling “Stirn”



Oat-crusted haggis, pommes purée, hakurei turnips in brown butter, lamb reduction.

Ardbeg Supernova whisky

This is a more refined version of the traditional Burns Night meal.

Duck, Fennel


Spice-brined, seared, and glazed duck breast, smoked duck hearts, smoked fennel confit, duck reduction.

Ravenswood 2008 Icon “Mixed Blacks”

This recipe can be found in Heston Blumenthal’s Historic Heston cookbook.

Currants, Cheese, Cedar


She Who Must Be Obeyed made Eccles cakes, which we served with Lincolshire Poacher cheese and cedarwood vanilla ice cream.

Taylor Fladgate 20 year old tawny port

Prep for all the dishes was simple, with the exception of the duck, which required a week’s worth of work to get from whole birds to a cup of reduction. Our Smoking Gun also got a serious workout.

A friend, after seeing the dinner photos, commented “You seem to be working in the beige-to-ecru palette.” That’s true, but not intentional. Even though we’re living with spring weather, it’s still February, months away from the first spring vegetables. There’s only so much I’m willing to add to a plate just for the sake of some color. We’re starting our lobbying now to host the fall meal.

First composite photo by Cecilia Tan.

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Birthday Dinner at Tasting Counter

December 3, 2015
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Deciding where to have dinner on my birthday is a process that can begin months before the actual meal. After all the planning that went into last year’s wd~50 dinner, I wanted to limit this year’s choice to the Boston area. After reading this review in The Boston Globe, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I decided […]

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Dinner At Damon Baehrel

November 16, 2015
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I have a lot of foodie friends. We cook for each other, share recipes, trade restaurant info, and sometimes arrange to eat at some of the country’s (or world’s) best restaurants. One friend in particular, Scott Edelman, has a knack for wrangling “impossible” reservations, which has resulted in amazing meals at Alinea, The Fat Duck, […]

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Introducing Reading While Cooking

August 2, 2015
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Two weeks ago I saw this post from Rose Fox in my Twitter feed: Intrigued, I replied: Rose answered: Rose and I have worked together before, so after a few email exchanges we divided up the tasks. We grabbed a domain name, set up a WordPress blog, launched a Patreon campaign, and within 24 hours Reading While […]

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Meet Meat

July 9, 2015
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During last summer’s London trip, we ate at two of Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants. The first, The Fat Duck, was reported here. The second, dinner at Dinner, was an evening that I preferred not to document. The restaurant bases its menu on updated recreations of historical recipes researched by Blumenthal and recorded for his Heston’s Feasts series. […]

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Tenth Annual Birthday Dinner

May 4, 2015
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  It’s hard to believe I’ve been cooking a birthday dinner for She Who Must Be Obeyed for ten years. This year I decided the menu would include some new dishes she had enjoyed over the past year, which would present some interesting technical challenges for me. Charcuterie I changed up the traditional charcuterie starter by […]

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Carrying a Torch

March 23, 2015

I have devoted a lot of time and effort into arriving at a consistent perfectly cooked steak. A combination of sous vide cooking and a high-heat final sear works every time to produce a medium rare result with a good crust. But there’s always room for improvement, which I found in the form of a new […]

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Birthday Dinner at wd~50

December 14, 2014
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When chef Wylie Dufresne opened his restaurant wd~50 in 2003 he unwittingly sowed the seeds of his eventual demise. Choosing Clinton Street in Manhattan’s lower east side was a clever move, in that the rent was cheap due to the sketchy neighborhood, but the restaurant was so good that the area improved due to the […]

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Pasta My Prime

September 28, 2014
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I‘m something of a Kickstarter junkie. I’ve backed projects as diverse as interacive fiction games, immersion circulators, titanium collar stays, graphic novels, music, and more. When I saw the campaign for Pasta Flyer, I practically screamed SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! How could I not contribute? I would get a chance to work with chef […]

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