Monday, October 01, 2007

On the Road to Improvement

On the road to Durham

A week ago I listened close to my gut instinct and took in its constant scream of, “Science ties me up in knots, get me out of here!” I took three days off lab, rearranged and rebooked travel plans and attended a food blogging event in Durham, North Carolina, organized by the wonderful folks at BlogTogether. A food blogging event alone would have been enough to send my instincts into convulsions but with Michael Ruhlman as the guest of honor/speaker/author/blogger idol, I had no hope of resisting.

The first part of the event was a book reading at the Regulator Bookshop. Michael Ruhlman read an excerpt from his book, talked about writing books and blogs, the direction of American cuisine, cooking, eating and generally enjoying life to its fullest. He then signed books for a line of eager blogger worshippers such as myself, taking time to chat with every one of them.

When my turn came I was awkward and tongue tied, due no doubt to stress and science (I blame everything on science these days). Happily, Bora covered by saying that I am shy. Thank you! We bloggers need to stick together. [As an aside, I may be a great many things but shy I am not. Inarticulate and unsociable at times, yes. Shy? Not so much.] I did manage to squawk out a bit about my own blog and food writing, which Michael sat through with all his composure and obscene patience.

The next day was spent in anticipation of dinner at Piedmont. Chefs Drew Brown and Andy Magowan based practically the entire dinner on one heirloom pig that was raised on a local farm. I don’t know if it was the knowledge that all the ingredients save for the olive oil were born and raised in locally or that the execution of the dishes was flawless, but the food was rich, alive, fresh, simple, and cared for. In other words, it was great.

Housemade charcuterie and local cheeses: pate, lomo, rillette, head cheese, new moon, chevre camembert and accompaniments
Le Colture Fagher Prosecco

White sweet potato puree with pancetta
Pierre Henri Chardonnay 2006

Arugula salad with cherry tomatoes, pickled oak-grown shiitakes and herbs (basil, tarragon, fennel fronds and dill were all I could pick out)

Pork loin with butternut squash polenta, braised chard and jus
La Gironnere Cotes do Bordeaux 2003

Scuppernong* granita with moscato d’asti, cookies


Michael took a look at my blog and was kind enough to give me his opinion on how I can improve. I have to be more me, he said, have to give the reader a better sense of my voice minus the snarky, to which I am massively prone. Good idea? Yes. Easy to execute? Nope. I’ll be working on it, over the next 20 years or so.

Pictures from the dinner here, courtesy of Anton Zuiker.

*Don’t know what scuppernong is? I didn’t either. It’s a large grape with a thick skin that is grown in NC and is used to make a sweet wine. The granita was pale green, smooth, and almost creamy. The taste came forward in stages – sweet at first, perfumey and floral last.

P.S. Impressions? Michael Ruhlman is a pretty neat (and tall!) guy - well-spoken, attentive, with a barely concealed edge (always the best part of a person) which I unintentionally coaxed out at dinner. I have a tendency to do that. That’s another bit of me that may need to be kept in check.


coturnix said...

Scuppernong wines are also very good for you so there is a connection, again, between food and science.

jo said...

What? No mention of the crush?
Indeed I have no shaken the hand of the girl who has shaken the hand of the man who has shaken the hand of Mr. Bourdain.
*sigh*, it's such a small world.

mistersugar said...

Anna, so glad you made the trip south. I'm honored to have met you.

Anna said...

Bora - I didn't know that there was more resveratrol in muscadine grapes! That's really interesting. Guess I will have to venture outside of red wine. Unwillingly.

And the NF-kB link? Too weird. HSV and NF-kB was a project I got scooped on. Wine just got a little too close to herpes.

Jo - Alright, you outed me. Just a bit of a crush. But with all that food and blog talk, how is a girl supposed to keep her head on straight? In my defense, I also developed a crush on Clotilde
after meeting her.

Anton - The honor was all mine. Thank you again.

coturnix said...

The funny quote of the day:
"Wine just got a little too close to herpes."
I will not ask any further questions...

ruhlman said...

great to meet you, anna. and thanks for this post. i was about to post myself--can i steel this picture? will link back to here

Anna said...

Bora - Yep, the fewer questions about hers, the better :)

Michael - Steal away, anything you need. Thank you!

JC said...

I'm glad you had a good time!

I would have have offered my sister's house as a place to stay in Durham, but she moved back to San Diego last month.

Look at you still rocking the pink hair!

Pig was an absolute necessity in North Carolina.

DD said...

I am so incredibly proud of you! It seems you had a great time on this trip!

Hillary said...

Anna -

How fabulously jealous I am of you! Blog Together is awesome for putting this event together. I can't believe you got to meet Michael Ruhlman! He definitely gave you some good insight, but I already think your blog is fantastic :) Keep up the good work!

Anna said...

JC - I appreciate the thought :) Durham is a neat little town. Pink hair, yes. It's become something of a necessity. That was some good NC pig, I have to say. Still regret not getting barbeque though. Bad move on my part.

Archna - Thanks :) It was a good time. Good people and good food = good time.

Hillary - I am glad you like the blog. I don't know why, but it makes me really happy to write and maintain it. That's a good sign, right? And you should totally be jealous of me. He was an interesting person to meet.

Varmint said...

An evening of friends who hadn't met will be in my otherwise feeble memory for years to come. Anna, I see in you a part of me from 15 years ago -- disenchanted with science but finding the soul of people, often around the dinner table. Fortunately for you, you're much more ambitious today than I was then. Good luck to you, and if you do need a barbecue guide, I'm happy to lead a tour.

michelle said...

I hear you about the science, sister (plus, it's good to "hear" you again!) as I was just daydreaming to get away and is why I am currently ignoring my experiment and perusing blogs. Very cool that you did this to give yourself a break...I can only dream of getting away for now!! (and I like your snarky-ness...)