Food & Art: “L’Art et Les Biscuits”

A few weeks ago, I found an odd little book titled “L’Art et Les Biscuits,” which features the historic advertising and marketing campaigns of Lefevre-Utile, the French biscuit company known as LU here in the United States (originally founded in Nantes in 1846, LU was purchased by Kraft Foods in 2007). “L’Art et Les Biscuits” captures LU in its heyday, documenting the company’s ad campaigns from 1897 to 1914, the same era that marked the Golden Age of French lithography. As one might expect, the lithography movement influenced a large portion of Lefevre-Utile’s advertising and packaging, and many of these lavishly-colored materials remain highly collectible today. Published in 1978, “L’Art et Les Biscuits” offers dozens of pictures, though very little text (save for a brief introduction and an index to the artwork itself). The cover of the book is pictured above, with the reverse side pictured below. A [… read more …]

Food & Art: "The Natural Cuisine of Georges Blanc"

Sauteed Eggplant and Baked Whiting in a Butter Sauce

While killing some time between meals the other day, I finally turned up a copy of “The Natural Cuisine of Georges Blanc” at a used bookstore in Berkeley. It was a nice find, and one of the best discoveries that I’ve recently made “in the field” (as opposed to trawling eBay for such an item). Originally published in 1987 — just six years after the eponymous author earned his third Michelin star — “Natural Cuisine” earns its stripes for its lavish photography, with the pictures outnumbering the recipes by almost three to one. Although long out of print, the book remains a prescient example of the cookbook-as-coffee-table-book concept, an approach to food-related publishing that has become increasingly popular over the last 25 years. In the case of Blanc’s “Natural Cuisine,” however, the photography itself is rather straight-forward, although maybe that’s actually for the best: Blanc’s classic geometric designs and [… read more …]

Label Deconstruction: Ridge

I was doing some research on Ridge, when I finally learned that Optima is the font that the winery has used as its brand for the last 40 years. I’ve always admired the look of Ridge’s packaging, and the wines themselves have delivered so much personality, they have remained a perennial favorite as well. In an age when a lot of frou-frou and slick packaging can be used to sell wine, Ridge retains a classic look, and offers a lesson in elegant simplicity.

In my recent interview with Aurajo winemaker Matt Taylor (also of Taylor Cellars), our discussion of the Eisele Vineyard led to the mention of the wine pictured to the left. This historic bottling by Ridge was the first to feature “Eisele” on a wine label, and was also one of the first vineyard-designated wines produced in California (even predating such legendary cult labels as Diamond [… read more …]

In Photos: Tafoni @ Salt Point State Park

I was hoping that this warmish December weather would tease out a few late-season porcinis at Salt Point State Park this week, but I couldn’t find anything edible today. Mushrooms are often mysterious, but I suspect that once the first frost of winter occurs, porcinis may go dormant for the year (in which case, their off-switch had already been tripped at least two weeks ago). Either way, I was skunked at Salt Point for the first time in 2009, and it will be a long, patient wait before my next fresh porcini. Still, the weather was perfect this afternoon, and I was able to snap some photos of tafoni.

Tafoni is the name given to these reticulate patterns in sedimentary rock, and Salt Point State Park is one of the few places on earth where this phenomenon exists. Although geologists have not fully explained how this unique [… read more …]

Ton Kiang Dim Sum & Andy Warhol at the de Young


My tendency to pair dim sum with trips to the de Young Museum is two-fold: (1) there are some noteworthy dim sum restaurants in the Richmond District, just a few blocks north of Golden Gate Park, and (2) since I have very little will power with dim sum, the de Young is a great venue to wander around while the bloating slowly subsides. Last week, I stopped in at Ton Kiang before heading to the “Warhol Live” exhibit, which began three weeks ago and runs through May 17.

The dim sum at Ton Kiang is exemplary, and while I’m totally content to put up with surly attitudes at many dim sum venues, I’d have to say that the service at Ton Kiang is exemplary as well. In some ways, Ton Kiang represents the bridge between the fancy restaurants with the dim sum carts and those [… read more …]

Food & Art: More Janet Fish Paintings


Here are a couple more scans from the book “Janet Fish: Paintings” by Vincent Katz. As you can see, Windex bottles were a whole lot sexier in 1972 than they are now (I do realize that, technically, Windex is not food). Jars of mustard pickles, on the other hand, haven’t seemed to change a bit. As always, I have tried to include scans of paintings that are not widely available on the web. Please click here for my link to other Janet Fish paintings. Or, click this link for even more great work by Janet Fish.

Janet Fish, Windex Bottles, 1972

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Janet Fish, Mustard Pickles, 1970

Book Review: “A Day at elBulli” by Phaidon Press


I purchased a copy of Ferran Adrià’s “A Day at elBulli” today, although I wondered if I even had any business doing so. After all, Catalonia’s famed elBulli restaurant is at the epicenter of the molecular gastronomy movement, and Adrià’s culinary techniques often employ chemicals and equipment that would be very difficult to turn up, even in the most well-stocked kitchen. Liquid nitrogen? Surgical tubing? Sous vide rigs? I consider myself pretty far ahead of the curve, especially when it comes to culinary gadgetry, but I certainly don’t have any of these items at home. And who does?

Considering the level of expertise required to replicate one of Adrià’s dishes, I surmised that few people could actually put the recipes in “A Day at elBulli” to practical use. But then again, how many of these fancy cookbooks actually see any time in the kitchen anyhow? [… read more …]

Food & Art Appreciation: Jack Kleinberg

Jack Kleinberg, Gene's Po-Boys, 1991-2006

Jack Kleinberg, Gene’s Po-Boys, 1991-2006

I don’t know much about Jack Kleinberg, but I found these images while reminiscing over Gene’s Po-Boy the other day. From the date of his work, I assume that Kleinberg relocated to Los Angeles after Hurricane Katrina. I find it strangely fascinating that one of Kleinberg’s Los Angeles subjects is Tito’s Tacos, which was one of my guiltiest pleasures as an Angelino. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as though Kleinberg has an official site for his work, but he does have a gallery, if you click here. Although Tito’s and Gene’s are nearly 2,000 miles apart, both spots are located just a few blocks from the 10 Freeway.

Jack Kleinberg, Tito’s Tacos, 2007

Shawn Kenney: Will Paint for Food


Somehow, I stumbled upon the “Will Paint for Food” project that has been happening since 2006 in Providence, RI. The artist providing the work behind this fund-raiser is Shawn Kenney, who creates some captivating food-related paintings. Most of these paintings are very small, usually just 4×6 inches, and are composed of acrylic on panel.

Kenney paints one of these small pieces each day, as a warm-up to more serious work. I find that rate of output amazing, especially since many of these paintings really do capture the essence of their subjects with just a few dabs of color. The pre-packaged-food paintings are my favorites, although many of the other still lifes are equally stunning.

Many of these images don’t have dates, but I believe they were all painted within the last two years or so. To visit the artist’s official site, or to [… read more …]

My New Orleans: Bud’s Broiler, City Park

Skip Bolen, Bud's Broiler, 2004

Skip Bolen, Bud’s Broiler, 2004.

They say that the famous sauce at Bud’s Broiler is some simple ratio of cane syrup and Heinz chili sauce. From what I remember, it sounded plausible, but who knows, really? The original Bud’s Broiler — and the only location that I have ever visited — opened in 1952 on City Park Avenue. I used to stop here after my day shifts at K-Paul’s. Coincidentally, this photo was taken right about that time, in 2004. Stare at this picture and imagine the potent smell of a charcoal grill in the air. Ah, that’s more like it.