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Snotty McSnobster held his annual holiday hijinks soiree right before I skipped town for Buff last month. Celest was my +1. In attendance at the party were James Beard award winning chefs, cookbook authors, restaurant critics, PR guys, restaurant managers, bloggers, food advocates, wine distributors, master sommeliers, bartenders, foodies, a cardiologist (check out the menu below and you’ll understand why) and one unassuming, cookie-carrying FOOD Maven. Moi.
On the menu was a host of imported holiday treats: a master tin of Spanish Osetra caviar, blinis made to order, duck rillette, baked raclette, foie gras laced charcuterie, a cheese plate laden with freshly shaved black truffle vacherin mont d’or, and my very own recipe for bacon-chocolate-oatmeal cookies.
After a couple stints at the stove flipping blinis, I returned to find Celest three champagne coupes deep in conversation with the former Feedbag aficionado and self-titled “Mr. Bacon”, Josh Ozersky. I say former, because Josh just announced his intention to walk away from The Feedbag in pursuit of a new writing gig and webseries tied to Eater co-founder, Ben Leventhal. If you follow these foodie trailblazers this news is surely notable, but it’s essentially beside the point.
The point is that when I stepped out of the kitchen and back into the fray of Snotty’s foretold fête, I found Celest fielding a question from Josh about my bacon cookies. We all got to talking, and I got to exclaiming the virtues of the new butcher shop in Chelsea Markets, Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, which serves up animal proteins from small-scale, sustainable farms, including the goddamn best bacon I’ve ever tasted (smoked in-house, of course). More to the point, it was only upon reflection that I realized in that perfect moment, surrounded by friends and food luminaries left and right, I was living the food life I set out to create for myself.
Mission accomplished. Or so I thought.
Later that night I got to thinking about the food personalities in that room and what it means that I now get to stand there among them. I wondered if I’ve earned my place beside them. I thought about past attempts at failed recipes and those critics who question my legitimacy as a chef. I thought even harder about my adventures in catering and squeaking out a high-end business in the midst of a lowly recession. I reminisced about my past life as a writing professor in the ghetto and the chocolate-peanut butter brownies I used to bake to seduce attendance, wondering what my students would think of me now that I make my money cooking food for rich people. I questioned whether I’m doing enough to advocate and celebrate real foods. I asked myself, “Am I doing it right?”
In a few days time I’d be home, sipping this year’s Christmas cocktail with the fam, slinging another type of pancake over the stove, and cherishing every moment I get to cook for pleasure rather than profit. I’d then take off for Vermont with the self-assigned duty to prepare feasts of biblical proportions for new friends I hope to grow old with. Returning to New York, I’d cook for a 9/11 charity auction and try my hand at a Singaporean luncheon for investment bankers with a penchant for the exotic. Along the way, I’d write about food, I’d shop for food, I’d photograph food, I’d talk about food, and surely, I’d eat food aplenty. There’s no shortage of food adventures or misadventures in my life, rather, there are but moments in which I recognize the joy their journey brings.
Schooling Mr. Bacon on the new butcher in town was one such moment. Realizing I deserve to be there, another. Doing it “right” is almost beside point. Doing it at all means welcoming a new decade with open arms and a hungry spirit. It means my mission is ongoing but that now is where I need to be. It definitely means doing it with a cinnamon-straw Hot Toddy in hand!
(serves as many as you pour)
• 2 parts Bourbon
• 1 part Maple Syrup
• 2 Lemon Slices
• 5-6 Whole Cloves
• ¼ cup boiling Hot Water or Hot Tea
• 1 Cinnamon Stick
Pour bourbon, maple syrup, and the juice of 1 lemon slice in a 6-ounce brandy snifter. Top off your mixture with hot water or tea (I recommend orange spice or vanilla spice teas) and stir until the syrup is dissolved. Stick the cloves inside the remaining lemon wedge, and place the clove-spiked wedge in the glass along with a cinnamon stick “straw” for sipping. Drink it Up!