Hungry by Darlene Barnes – ISBN: 1401324770

  • Full Title: Hungry: What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me about Life, Love and the Power of Good Food
  • Autor: Darlene Barnes
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication Date: August 6, 2013
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401324770
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401324773
  • Download File Format | Size: epub | 2,59 Mb
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“The book is as much about nourishment as it is food. Barnes’ affection for the fraternity brothers carries the narrative. . . . A heartening memoir of good food and tough love.”
Kirkus Reviews

Newly arrived in Seattle, Darlene Barnes stumbles on a job ad for a cook at the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity on the University of Washington campus, a prospect most serious food professionals would automatically reject. But Barnes envisions something other than kegs and corn dogs; she sees an opportunity to bring fresh, real food to an audience accustomed to “Asian Surprise” and other unidentifiable casseroles dropped off by a catering service. And she also sees a chance to reinvent herself, by turning a maligned job into meaningful work of her own creation: “I was the new girl and didn’t know or care about the rules.”

Naively expecting a universally appreciative audience, Barnes finds a more exasperatingly challenging environment: The kitchen is nasty, the basement is scary, and the customers are not always cooperative. Undaunted, she gives as good as she gets with these foul-mouthed and irreverent–but also funny and sensitive–guys. Her passion for real food and her sharp tongue make her kitchen a magnet for the brothers, new recruits, and sorority girls tired of frozen dinners.

Laugh-out-loud funny and poignant, Hungry offers a female perspective on the real lives of young men, tells a tale of a woman’s determined struggle to find purpose, and explores the many ways that food feeds us.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Few sane cooks would take on the trials of cooking five days a week for a fraternity house, but Barnes did just that at the University of Washington. Working as a private chef in Dallas for a sociopathic billionaire and family had given her a thick skin. But nothing prepared her for the challenges of cooking for a houseful of testosterone-driven undergraduates. Her first task beyond simply keeping the kitchen vermin-free turned out to be getting her complacent suppliers to deliver fresh produce and meat at fair prices, so that she could feed her charges more than typical processed institutional foods. Recruiting competent kitchen help proved similarly daunting. Over time she gained first respect and then love for her guys, and they learned to appreciate more than just her cuisine, especially in the face of devastating tragedy. She has included a few simple recipes with this unique, funny, touching memoir. –Mark Knoblauch

About the Author

Darlene Barnes has been food and word passionate all her life, cooking professionally for the last eleven years. Born in the New Orleans area, she spent most of her precollege years in London, eventually moving to Canada with her husband and graduating from Queen’s University with a BA in English. From 2006 to 2013, she cooked for the men of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, offering fresh food and largely unsolicited advice to her college-age customers. She blogged about the experience at and continues the teaching, learning, and connecting through food at Barnes lives with her husband in Seattle, where her two grown sons also reside.



Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook (revised)

The New American Cooking

The Foods of Israel Today

Jewish Cooking in America, Expanded Edition

The Jewish Holiday Baker

Jewish Cooking in America

The Jewish Holiday Kitchen

The Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen

An American Folklife Cookbook

The Flavor of Jerusalem (with Judy Stacey Goldman)

This Is a Borzoi Book

Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Copyright © 2010 by Joan Nathan

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Nathan, Joan.

Quiches, kugels, and couscous : my search for Jewish cooking in France / by Joan Nathan.

p. cm.

eISBN: 978-0-307-59450-1

1. Jewish cooking. 2. Cooking, French. 3. Jews—France—Social life and customs. I. Title.

TX724.N38 2010 641.5’676—dc22 2010020280


In memory of Annie (Nanou) Cerf Weil,

July 24, 1944-April 16, 1988,

a dear friend who introduced me to the France she loved so well,

but who died much too early







Breads, Both Sacred and Secular


Chicken, Duck, and Goose

Beef, Veal, and Lamb

Quiches, Kugels, Omelets, and Savory Soufflés

Grains, Pulses, Couscous, and Rice



A Sampling of French Jewish Menus

Glossary of Terms and Ingredients

A Source Guide




EACH BOOK I WRITE transports me to new worlds filled with research and human relationships. Without the melding of the two there would never be satisfying results. During this period, which lasts for three to five years, my work becomes my life.

This book took me into homes throughout France. My hope is that the reader will be enriched by my account of these experiences and the recipes gleaned from each adventure. When I started studying French in high school, little did I know how helpful it would prove to be throughout my career. My proficiency in French opened so many doors, as did my lifelong friends and relatives who led me throughout France to otherwise unavailable sources willing to break bread with me.

I have many people to thank, in addition to those appearing throughout the book, to whom I am eternally grateful. During my trips revisiting France in the past few years, I felt like a peeping Tom, watching home cooks and chefs in their kitchens, and forging new friendships.

Thanks to Connie and Dominique Borde, Catherine and Jean-Bruno Dufort, Hélène Goldenberg and Richard Moos, Marthe Layrle, Patrice and Herb Miller, Claudine and Henri Moos, Elie and Gotz Schreiber, Irene and Michel Weil, and Sandrine Weil and Mathias Laurent, who opened their homes to me.

In each city, people have extended themselves to lead me to the right cooks to tell this story and have had the patience to talk with me. Without the help of Yves Alexandre, Gilbert Brenner, Georges Dalmeyda, Marie-Christine Daunay, Lydia Elhadad, Peggy Frankton, Jacqueline Frydman, George Gumpel, Michel Gurfunkiel, Nathalia Hercot, Natan Holchaker, Julie Mautner, Alex Miles, Gérard Monteux, Professor René Moulinas, Lucie Optyker, Jean Paulhan, Gilles Pudlowski, Bernard Saltiel, and Patricia Wells, I could never have been so well accepted into the French Jewish communities.

The staffs of museums and libraries have been invaluable: Carol Ambruster and Peggy Pearlstein of the Library of Congress; Marc Masurovsky of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Rebecca Federman, Roberta Saltsman, David Smith, and Michael Terry of the New York Public Library; the staff of the Alliance Israélite Universelle in Paris; Isabelle Pleskoff at the Jewish Museum of Paris; and the remarkable Philip and Mary Hyman, who let me work in the wonderful world of their private library.

Elizabeth Alpern, Amy Bartscherer, Claire Blaustein, Jan Buhrman, Sandra Di Capua, Krista Gallagher, Maria Gudiel, Merav Levkowitz, Theresa McCulla, Doug Singer, Jennifer Visick, and Rebecca Wall have helped me invaluably in the kitchen and with research.

In addition, I want to thank all these people in the United States, who have led me in the right direction: Howard Abarbanel, Ann Amernick, Daniel Boulud, Lori Chemla, Annick Delacaze, Richard Delerins, François Dionot, Carol Goldberg, Katja Goldman, Barbara Greenwood, Jean Joho, Francis Layrle, Dalya Luttwak, Patty Ravenscroft, Trina Rubenstein, Jonathan Sarna, André Soltner, Jeffrey Steingarten, Cathy Sulzberger, and Paula Wolfert.

Yves Alexandre, Jennifer Breger, Beatrice Fink, Thomas Head, Professor Lisa Leff, Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, Professor Ted Meron, Professor Pamela N
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ury-old recipes, then eating meals made from them, has been my path for understanding and interpreting social trends and historical events.

Everyone has a favorite meal that brings forth a vivid memory or a dish that captures a moment in time: A taste of homemade peach ice cream immediately conjures up a summertime front porch. A holiday sweet-potato casserole Aunt Minnie always made brings memory of her to the table when she no longer comes. Sometimes the memory begins with food preparation. Just about every time I sit with a mixing bowl full of fresh green beans, I recall the blue-and-white bowl on my grandmother’s lap as we sat in the screen porch snapping beans forty—no, fifty—years ago. I can almost see and hear the rowdy Tobias boys next door running around to the side yard, their Boston bulldog chasing them as fast as its stocky legs could carry it, and the porch swing squeaking as my grandfather sat, reading the paper and waiting for dinner.

I also remember vividly the first “antique” recipe I made, and the delight that drew me into this area of study. I had been struggling to understand everyday life for the Jemison family in 1860s Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was doing public relations and fund-raising for the restoration of their antebellum town home. The elegant Italianate structure had many stories to tell—architecture, state-of-the-art engineering, political and Civil War history—all of it well documented. But I was searching to find a way to reach the lives of Robert Jemison, his wife, Priscilla, and their daughter, Cherokee. Then I found Mrs. Jemison’s pencil-scrawled household notebook in the archives at the University of Alabama.

Mrs. Jemison had written down two recipes. The recipe for a “jumble” intrigued me. I’ve baked and cooked since I was ten. It was obvious this was some kind of cookie, biscuit, or muffin. The mostly familiar ingredients were listed. Measurements were sketchy in the style common to mid-nineteenth-century cookbooks. There were no directions. Several days of research among the century-old cookbooks in the library stacks and dozens of test versions baked in my kitchen later, I had the perfect reconstruction of Mrs. Jemison’s jumbles. One friend, whose family had Alabama roots five generations deep, gave me the highest compliment: “They taste just like my great-grandmother’s tea cookies.”

My rediscovered jumbles were a crisp, not-too-sweet doughnut-shaped cookie. From them I was able to construct a life incident. I imagined Mrs. Jemison made a batch in the modern “range” she had in the basement kitchen and packed them in a tin for her husband to take with him as he rode off from Tuscaloosa to take his seat in the Congress of the Confederacy, meeting in Richmond.

Jumbles were just the beginning. Several other recipes had caught my attention as I carefully leafed through the fragile cookbook pages seeking jumble-like treats: cakes, breads, meats, vegetables. I began making some of them, too, just to see what they were like. They were wonderful! And I was hooked on this adventure of tasteful discovery. Now, thousands of recipes and five books later, I wondered: Could an expertise that began with the study of a family from the Confederacy ironically lead to an introspection of the man who dedicated his life to saving the Union? I began reading, thinking, and cooking.

The joy of studying history through cooking is that foods provide a complex sensory immersion into the past. This study, and the eating that follows it, is time travel at the dinner table and the only common experience that engages all the senses. An essay by food writer M. F. K. Fisher highlights the special power food memories have. In a 1969 book she recalled a dish of potato chips with lasting and real physical impact: “I can taste-smell-hear-see and then feel between my teeth the potato chips I ate slowly one November afternoon in 1936 in the bar of Lausanne Palace.… They were ineffable and I am still being nourished by them.”

Food has the added benefit of being accessible. Everyone has to eat, and most of us cook to one degree or another. The most committed non-cook interacts and prepares food, even if simply pouring milk into a bowl of cereal. And, cooking is largely the same as it was in the nineteenth century.

On the face of it, that similarity seems an unlikely idea, but in my experience it is true. Of course there have been significant changes in the application of heat and cold for cooking and storing food, but to my mind, the essentials of cooking are unchanged from Lincoln’s kitchen to mine or yours. Knives, forks, mixing spoons, and bowls; frying pans and stewpots—I still use the same tools as 1820s Hoosier pioneers or 1850s sophisticated Springfielders did. Butter, flour, eggs, milk, cheese; chicken, beef; carrots, turnips—we all still cook with the same ingredients. Mixing, stewing, braising, frying—the basic methods are the same as well. What’s more, cooks across t
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ti, con l’aiuto di una spatola, appoggiatelo su una teglia foderata di carta forno).

Cuocere in forno a 200 °C per 3 minuti. Tostare il pane. Servire in un piatto con il bacon e il pane tostato.




• 25 g di lievito di birra fresco

• 150 ml di latte

• 4 uova

• 100 g di burro

• 50 g di zucchero

• 500 g di farina

• salmone affumicato qb

• sale

per la maionese al frutto della passione:

• 1 frutto della passione

• 100 g di maionese già pronta

In una ciotola sciogliere il lievito nel latte tiepido. Unire anche 3 uova, sbattendole leggermente, poi fondere il burro e aggiungere anche quello. Completare con lo zucchero e un pizzico di sale.

Incorporare la farina agli ingredienti liquidi e impastare almeno per una decina di minuti. Far lievitare l’impasto per un’ora, ben coperto e lontano dagli spifferi. Trasferirlo quindi nello stampo da plumcake imburrato e infarinato e farlo lievitare per un’altra ora. Spennellare con l’uovo rimasto e cuocere in forno ventilato a 180 °C per 30-35 minuti.

Per la maionese al frutto della passione: aprire il frutto a metà, svuotarlo della polpa e mescolarlo alla maionese.

Servire il pan brioche con la maionese al frutto della passione e il salmone affumicato.




• 400 g di farina

• 50 g di zucchero semolato

• 15 g di lievito di birra fresco

• 150 ml di latte

• 60 g di burro

• 2 uova

• 100 g di marmellata di fragole

• 4-5 fragole

• zucchero di canna qb

• sale

Mescolare la farina con lo zucchero, aggiungere il lievito sciolto nel latte tiepido e unire il burro fuso. Mettere anche le uova e un pizzico di sale, quindi impastare il tutto per circa 5 minuti.

Stendere 2 dischi con il mattarello infarinando un po’ l’impasto. Lasciarli lievitare per un’ora coperti da un canovaccio.

Sistemare il primo disco in una tortiera rotonda foderata di carta forno. Farcirlo con la marmellata, quindi richiudere la focaccia con l’altro disco, sigillando bene i bordi. Schiacciare un po’ la superficie con le dita. Completare con le fragole a fettine e lo zucchero di canna.

Cuocere in forno a 180 °C per 20-25 minuti. Lasciare intiepidire e servire.




• 4 uova

• 150 g di zucchero

• 120 g di cioccolato fondente

• 120 g di burro

• 60 g di farina

• ½ bustina di lievito per dolci

• 140 g di noci sgusciate

• 3 pere

• sale

Sbattere i tuorli con lo zucchero. Sciogliere il cioccolato in un pentolino con un goccio di acqua, aggiungere il burro e lasciarlo fondere. Far intiepidire la crema, unirla ai tuorli, poi incorporarvi anche farina e lievito. Montare a neve gli albumi con un pizzico di sale e mescolarli al composto di uova e cioccolato. Aggiungere le noci tritate e versare il tutto in uno stampo da plumcake imburrato e infarinato.

Senza sbucciare le pere, tagliarne la base, togliere il picciolo ed estrarre il torsolo. Infilarle nell’impasto tenendole intere.

Cuocere in forno a 170 °C per 50 minuti, coprendo con la stagnola se il plumcake dovesse scurire troppo in cottura.




• 250 g di zucchero

• 125 g di burro

• 3 uova

• 1 cucchiaio di caffè solubile

• 90 ml di panna fresca

• 150 g di farina

• 1 cucchiaino di lievito per dolci

• 1 bustina di vanillina

per la glassa:

• 25 g di burro

• 3 cucchiai di caffè solubile

• 125 g di zucchero a velo

Mescolare lo zucchero con il burro fuso, aggiungere le uova e sbattere leggermente. Sciogliere il caffè solubile in 2 cucchiai di acqua bollente e unirlo al composto di uova e zucchero. Mettere anche la panna e infine la farina con il lievito e la vanillina.

Amalgamare bene gli ingredienti fino a ottenere un composto liscio e omogeneo. Trasferire il tutto in una tortiera rettangolare foderata di carta forno. Cuocere in forno a 180 °C per 30-35 minuti.

Per la glassa: sciogliere il burro, unire il caffè solubile, poi aggiungere anche lo zucchero e mescolare energicamente fino a ottenere una crema della giusta consistenza.

Tagliare la torta a cubotti e versarci sopra
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not to let any yolk get in the whites!), then let the whites come fully to room temperature. Use only spotlessly clean bowls, ideally metal (copper is the best) or glass, never plastic. Wipe the inside of the bowl with a little lemon juice or vinegar to remove any trace of oil. Adding a bit of cream of tartar will help to stabilize the foam, and using superfine sugar will help it to more fully dissolve into the meringue. Beat the whites until they’re glossy and form stiff peaks, then stop—they can become grainy if overbeaten. Be sure to spread the meringue all the way to the edges of the pie crust to prevent it from shrinking. Finally, adding meringue to hot, freshly baked pie fillings helps to prevent “weeping,” the watery layer between the filling and the meringue.

tools of the trade

I am hardly a snob when it comes to gadgets. In a pinch, I’ve rolled out pie dough with wine bottles. Pie is a rustic dessert that can be made from very humble ingredients, in very humble settings. Take these as guidelines, for when you’re ready to trick out your arsenal of baking tools.


* * *

If you get nothing else on this list, get a scale. Pastry differs from savory cooking in that precision really matters, especially with an ingredient like flour, whose weight can vary drastically depending on how you put it in your measuring cup. I find that using a simple kitchen scale (it doesn’t have to be digital, though those have their benefits) leads to reliable results, time and time again. Plus, there are some really cool-looking ones out there!


* * *

I’m putting this second on my list because I’m obsessed. I think I might have a touch of the pyro in me, because I will never get tired of using my blowtorch. If you plan on baking meringue pies, or that s’mores pie, or crème brûlée, or you want to add a little color to a pan of glazed veggies, you can justify owning a torch—mostly because they’re just so fun. Mine is from a company called Iwatani, which uses replaceable butane canisters. Unlike propane, the butane doesn’t impart any flavor to the surface of your food. If you do decide to buy one, avoid the tiny models you see at specialty food stores. These are very weak and tend to die out pretty quickly. They’re also overpriced.


* * *

You may not have these lying around the house, but bench scrapers are among the most versatile, useful kitchen tools you can own. I use mine to gently pry dough off of countertops, to clean off my work surfaces, to cut butter, and to make pie dough. I always have two on hand. I prefer the ones pictured, which have sturdy metal panels and easy-to-grip plastic handles. My preferred runner-up to these when making pie dough is a…


* * *

There are two types of pastry blenders out there: those with thin, round strands of metal, and those with thick, blade-like pieces of metal. You want the latter. These will more quickly and easily cut through the fats you’re blending into your flour.


* * *

There are two main types of rolling pins. The traditional American-style pins are usually made of wood or marble, and have a round cylinder that spins, with one handle on each end. French-style pins are long dowels that are thicker in the middle and taper at the ends. I greatly prefer the French pin, which I feel gives more control and rolls more evenly. Try them both, and see what’s more comfortable for you.


* * *

Which to use? Glass, ceramic, aluminum—they all have their place. I use the light, disposable aluminum tins every day when baking whole pies for customers. Pies tend to bake more quickly in these inexpensive tins, and you don’t have to worry as much about the bottom crust being underbaked.

Glass pie plates are prettier to look at, and the transparent sides and bottom allow you to clearly see when your crust has turned golden. They are thicker than the aluminum tins, and therefore generally need a bit more baking time.

Ceramic plates are beautiful, but I’d argue that they’re best for experienced pie bakers, who can gauge when the pie is ready without needing to see the bottom crust. The thicker walls of these plates mean that even for fresh fruit pies, you might need to blind-bake the bottom crust first so it finishes at the same time as your filling. You can also help ensure a well-baked bottom crust by putting this dish on the floor of your oven in the last fifteen minutes of baking.


* * *

Baking sheets prevent a lot of disasters on the way from the counter to the oven. If you’ve got a jiggly custard crust, those spills are going to wind up on the baking sheet instead of all over your floor. If you’ve got a fruit pie that just can’t help but bubble over, those juices will wind up on a much
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ou to be a superhero, so if you need help chopping, recruit a friend or family member. If you’re having a big party, enlist a few people to be on standby to pass things around and pick things up as the evening progresses. You don’t have to do it all single-handedly.

One handy but easily forgotten tip when preparing is to clean as you go along so that your guests don’t arrive to a mess and so you have an easier clean-up afterwards. Chuck out packaging, put things in the dishwasher and wash-up bowls or utensils. It’ll also help keep your head clear if your space is as clutter-free as possible.

Try to remember that part of the fun of entertaining is the preparation itself. So crank up the music, pour yourself a glass, and go for it! Remember, everyone will appreciate your hard work and probably only you will notice if something isn’t quite as you expected. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s all about the having fun and sharing great times with those you love. Be prepared to have a few mishaps and you’ll have a much better time!

I hope this book helps you create many memorable meals. Above all, enjoy!


Getting together with friends and family doesn’t always mean ‘dinner’. You can have just as special a meal before the sun goes down. Birthdays, Mother’s Day, or just getting together with the girls are reason enough to plan a nice meal together. Brunch is one of my favourite meals- it allows you to put a little extra something into what is essentially a late breakfast, and it means you can have a sneaky glass of something fizzy or a Bloody Mary before noon! Here you’ll find many ideas for easy and special daytime meals.


Baked eggs with creamy kale

This is delicious for brunch. If you can’t get kale, use spinach. I love to use the Irish farmhouse cheese Glebe Brethan for its delicious flavour and melting texture, but you can use Gruyère instead.


25g (1oz) butter

900g (2lb) kale with stalks removed before weighing

Salt and ground black pepper

350ml (12fl oz) single or regular cream

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

6 eggs

350g (12oz) Glebe Brethan or Gruyère cheese, grated

Six 100ml (3½ fl oz) ramekins or ovenproof dishes

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas mark 4.

2 Add the butter to a large wide frying pan and place over a medium heat. Add the kale and season with salt and pepper. As soon as the kale wilts and becomes tender, add the cream and nutmeg, then allow to bubble for 3–5 minutes until thickened.

3 Divide the kale between the ramekins or dishes, placing it around the inside of each dish and leaving a small well in the centre.

4 Break one egg into each dish and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top. Bake in the oven for 8–10 minutes or until golden on top and bubbling around the edges. Scatter over a little pepper and serve immediately with a little toast on the side.

Wild mushrooms on toast with chive hollandaise

I like to use chanterelles or oyster mushrooms for this recipe. Chanterelles are one of my favourite mushrooms. They have a huge amount of flavour and their colour is like liquid gold. Here they transform what is essentially just mushrooms on toast into a luxurious breakfast treat.


3 generous handful of wild mushrooms

50g (2oz) butter, plus extra for spreading

6 slices of bread

100ml (3½fl oz) chive hollandaise (see below)

For the chive hollandaise

2 egg yolks

100g (4oz) butter, diced

Squeeze of lemon juice

1–2 tbsp chopped chives

Salt and ground black pepper

1 First make the hollandaise sauce following the instructions on page 159, stirring the chopped chives into the cooked sauce just before seasoning,

2 Next carefully clean the mushrooms. The best way to do this is to brush off any soil or debris with a pastry brush. Avoid washing them as this will make them soggy during cooking.

3 Place a large frying pan on a high heat and allow it to get quite hot. Add the butter and when it has melted and starts to foam, tip in the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3–5 minutes, tossing regularly.

4 Meanwhile, toast the bread and spread with butter.

5 When the mushrooms are cooked, taste for seasoning then arrange on top of the hot buttered toast, drizzle with the chive hollandaise and serve immediately.

Citrus honeyed fruit

The sweet-sour combination of lime juice and honey is a lovely way to enhance the flavours of some fruit. I like to add chopped mint for a fresh taste. This is ideal for serving at breakfast.


Juice of 1–2 limes

1–2 tbsp runny honey

2–3 tsp chopped mint (optional)

750g (1lb 10oz) mixed fruit, such as melon, bananas, raspberries, pineapple

1 In a large bowl, mix together the lime juice, honey an
to build a hot fire and grill a rib-eye for three minutes on each side, but that’s inexact. In the end, cooking that steak is your experience, not mine. You should think of cooking that steak, or the clam chowder, or the pulled pork, as just that, an experience. I want you to have as much fun cooking the food as you do eating it.

While we often give approximate cooking times and cues, (your stove’s medium heat might not be my stove’s medium heat), these are not necessarily precise. So when you’re cooking, I want you to use all your senses constantly. I want you to taste, smell, touch, look, and, yes, even listen to your food. Listen to the rhythm of a stock. It should be, as Louis Armstrong once commanded his band, “Not too slow, not too fast, just half-fast.” Cooking should be sensuous, so open up that smoker and get your hands on that pork.

Although it took a while, I finally got the hang of measuring ingredients. I tested all of the recipes at home, to be sure that the dishes tasted like they do in the restaurants and to find the easiest path for you to arrive at the same flavors. In doing so, I hope I’ve been able to bring a little something from each of the kitchens I’ve been fortunate enough to work in these past thirty-five years.



WHEN WE WERE CONCEIVING TOWN HALL, many conversations focused on how we could make our restaurant feel more like a great dinner party. These discussions had nothing to do with food or recipes. They were about all the subtle, sometimes unconscious ways that we could use to make people feel more at ease, more relaxed and comfortable. After all, food is not the only reason you have a great time at dinner. It’s a lot about how you feel and how these feelings can be altered in subtle and small ways. Here are some ideas to help you throw a great dinner party that people will remember.

1. Let dirty plates sit on the table for a few minutes too long. This is by far the best part of the meal, so don’t kill it. People have eaten, had a glass (or two) of wine, and the mess makes them feel comfortable with one another.

2. Pack your guests in tight at the table. You don’t want too much room between place settings. Think of it as a wall of guests and any space between them is space for all of the energy to bleed away. Never leave the ends of a rectangular table empty; always cap them. If someone doesn’t show, remove the empty place setting right away.

3. Never move your guests. If they are all congregating in the kitchen or the front foyer or the hallway, leave them there. They are all there because (probably unconsciously) it’s the place they all feel the most comfortable. If you had a vision of hors d’oeuvres and Prosecco in the living room, let it go.

4. Avoid a lot of speeches and toasts. They break up the conversations that are just beginning to get going.

5. Leave formality to fine-dining restaurants. It’s okay if your silverware and/or plates are mismatched. Sometimes a table that is too “precious” creates an uptight feeling among the guests.

6. If little kids are present, always take care of them first. Forget about the food-magazine dinner party picture you have in your head. Feed them before they destroy your gathering.

7. Focus the lighting and candles (lots of small, low ones) on the table and avoid bright lights.

At Town Hall, we’ve seen it fifty times: A group buys out the whole restaurant and 150 people show up. All 150 crowd into a tight, little space at the bar and communal area and the entire dining room sits empty. People want to be crowded in with one another! They want to connect. Make it easier for them to do so.



Fresh Chickpea Hummus with Grilled Flat Bread

Pickled Vegetables with Coriander and Celery Salt

Marinated Olives with Mint and Chiles

Angels on Horseback with Rémoulade

Hamachi Tartare with Melon and Cucumber

Bienville Stuffed Mushrooms

Grandma’s Chopped Chicken Liver

Potato Croquettes with Peas and Ham

Hot Mixed Nuts with Truffle Honey and Maldon Salt

Medjool Dates Stuffed with Peanuts and Tasso

Like most chefs, I LIKE TO EAT WITH MY FINGERS. The variety of “small bites” here offers a touch of that chef’s penchant for “kitchen tasting,” the grabbing of a little something off a sheet pan while passing through on the way into the dining room. At our restaurants, guests will order snacks like these with a cocktail at the bar, or while looking over the menu trying to decide what to eat.

BY PACKING COMPLEX AND SOPHISTICATED FLAVORS into a small bite, these finger foods will get your guests’ attention and put them in the right mood for the rest of the meal. That’s because whether in a restaurant or your home, small dishes like these are the first contact with the kitchen, and serve as a harbing


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