Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:14 AM

A couple of years ago, Patrick went to a workshop for men at our church which focused on sharing ways for fathers to create and enhance family unity. One featured speaker had brought his teenage son; together they disclosed the steps they had taken in this regard. They had made a poetic Family Creed, memorializing in verse their values. They had a Family Song that they sang together which expressed why their family is great. And they had made up a Family Motto: "H______s Make It Happen." Father and son agreed that these simple things had strengthened the loving bonds in their home.

Now, I think this is very sweet. Good for them. But earnestness sometimes brings out the smart alec* in my good husband, and this incident was no exception. During the workshop, he texted his awesomely brilliant smart alecky friend (not me, a guy friend), writing, "Our motto is 'Perkinses Eat a Lot.'" Whereupon his friend responded, "Ours is 'F_______s Blow Stuff Up.'" (His boys had had many an explosive adventure in the basement slop sink when they were teenagers.)

Our little circle of friends now has mottos like "There's No Problem Ice Cream Can't Cure," "The Fewer, the Merrier," and "S______s Never Ask for Directions." I'm sure these fall beyond the scope of the H_____ family's intent, but they have created bonds of their own.

All this is a very lengthy prelude to telling you that I was musing ecstatically upon our treasured Family Motto just last night. Patrick and I went to dinner in the City with two lovely friends from our congregation after visiting the temple, and our meal was exquisite.

We went to Picholine, where Terrance Brennan's cuisine reigns supreme. We've been there several times before; this sublime restaurant features a cheese cave tended by a full-time fromager, Max McCalman. At Picholine, our turophilia can be indulged to the fullest extent allowed by law. The other food has always been lovely as well. But I wouldn't have rated it as highly as that of, say, Chanterelle or Bouley--until last night. I don't know what Terry's been up to, but he has kicked it up a notch.

Patrick's aunt says that you can tell how nice a restaurant is by how much extra stuff they bring you; Picholine excels in this area. The waiter brought us a plate with a shot glass full of a chilled Cucumber Cumin Soup, a tiny 'tot' of Brandade, and a Mushroom Panna Cotta Tartlet with a Parmesan Cracker. The Brandade was like tasting God's recipe for fish sticks.

After these amuse-bouches, my appetizer came: Frog Leg Tempura with Foie Gras and a Curried Mayonnaise. I will confess that I'd never eaten frog's legs before, but I'll eat just about anything with foie gras in or on or near it. Guess what? Frog's legs don't taste like chicken. They have a sweet, smoky, tender flavor all their own, and I was wishing for about 24 more when I was done. Patrick had a Sea Urchin Panna Cotta topped with Caviar--sweet cream o' the sea.

Oh, have mercy. My main course was Lamb Saddle with Artichoke Hearts Barigoule and Garlic. Succulent, with perfectly balanced, complex flavors. I tell you, Terrance Brennan is a chef like Monet was a painter. Patrick had Veal Medallions with Morels, Peas, and this gorgeous cheese called Brescianella Stagionata. I can't tell you how his was, because at this point we weren't even offering tastes to each other the way we usually do. But it looked fantastic.

Ahhh, the cheeses. We told the fromager that we love all cheeses and asked him to make a tasting plate for the table. He did not disappoint. My favorite of the eight was the Fium' Orbu, a sheep's milk cheese made by a little old man on the island of Corsica. The fromager told us this cheese might die with its maker, which I fervently hope will not happen. All the cheeses were lovely.

Dessert. Folks, I make really good apple pie. My apple crisp rocks (the secrets are to use local apples and to double the topping). So when I tell you that the Warm Caramel Apple Brioche with Apple Salad and Salted Caramel Ice Cream was the best apple dessert I've ever consumed, know that I do not speak lightly. I'm serious; I almost broke down crying at the first bite. My lemon verbena tisane was the perfect complement to the brioche's light richness. Or rich lightness. As you can see, it defied my pathetic attempts at description.

More extras: little trays of truffles, nougats, and fruit gums followed the dessert. Call it 'second dessert.' The grapefruit fruit gum was like a rarified Sour Patch Kid. It tasted like real grapefruit, but it had a big, sweet-sour intensity that belied its baby size.

We left the restaurant pleasantly full, still mulling it all over as we drove home. Our two friends also enjoyed the meal very much, but I don't want to double the length of this post describing their great choices.

Perkinses Eat a Lot. And they love their food, be it a Sloppy Joe or an evening's bounty like last night's. I don't hold with demonizing food, or feeling guilty about it, or talking about how unhealthy or sinful it is to indulge in it. Food is a blessing, a gift from God.

I do not believe food makes us sick or fat. I believe that what is going on in our minds and spirits has far more to do with metabolism or the body's other functions than science can yet measure.

All I am saying is, give peace a chance. End your war with food. Don't worship it, but do savor it with thanks and praise to its Creator. Share it with as many people as you can; let's take the energy we used to spend on ambivalence over food and use it to find ways to feed the world. And if you ever get a chance, go to Picholine and raise a glass in memory of me.

*The fact that P is sometimes a smart alec makes him exponentially more attractive to me.
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On 19/5/07 , Amanda1 said...

Yes, I have made piece with food. Sometimes you just have to let it go when you want to eat something delightfully sinful.

On 20/5/07 , Annette Lyon said...

Your descriptions are painfully beautiful. (You know what I mean, right? I hope?) I come from the same school--food is a beautiful thing to be fully enjoyed, not guiltied over. The saddest part, though, is that as I read this, I knew that as of recent years, if I were to attempt to eat half of the flavors you had at this meal I'd end up with a migraine the size of New Jersey. I'm at a really sad point of life right now where I'm not enjoying food--sometimes deliberately to keep the pain away (it's not always working, but hey--it IS keeping weight off. Ironic side effect of mirgraine-related nausea . . .). So do me a favor and savor a few morsels in my name, k? Too bad you aren't around here. I'd sic you on an order of Los Hermanos Nacho Supreme with Chicken.

On 20/5/07 , Adriana Velez said...

Wow, I almost feel like I was there! Lucky you, I've always meant to go to Picholine. By the way, a friend of mine was dating Max when he came out with his cheese book. She dumped him shortly after because, she said, "All he ever thought about was cheese." I don't know, somehow I think I would have been able to overlook that flaw!

On 21/5/07 , P said...

I love that you've weaved (woven?)in references to not one but two television programs in your entry. Well done, but next time, how about a little sharing . . .

On 21/5/07 , i.d. said...

Ah, such evocative writing about sumptuous delights. And this divine indulgence after the temple. Works for me (and, clearly, it works very well for you!).

It's been an age since we had the Picholine experience, though I keep Max's "The Cheeses of Picholine" (a takeaway double-fold leaflet offered to us by our cheese whiz that memorable evening) on hand in the kitchen for inspiration and recall. Have you checked out his website (can't imagine that you haven't!)? Seems to validate Adriana's comment. Mad Max IS all about cheese, after all. Sing praises.

I reread SK’s "On Writing" following the prompt of your great post. I read it the first time round (goodness, in 2000?) on your reco as well. He’s so funny; I had forgotten.

I could go on about all the places your posts take me. For now, congrats on a Family Motto well lived!

On 22/5/07 , bubandpie said...

I see what you mean about the cream and butter! And I expect you're right - ending the war would be far better than the strategic surrenders I keep negotiating with ice cream and cookies.