Seder to Easter


I love many things about Sally Schneider--her style, her way of thinking about food, a stubborn originality beautifully tempered by an incredibly solid grounding in classic training and the French, Italian, and Mediterranean foods our palates find most pleasing.

And what I love about her today particularly is that the abundant, perfect-pitch spring menu she has given us would be perfect for Passover too. Granted, the days of endless cooking are over--or, for those of us who have been making the seder rounds if not the actual seders, the endless sitting, singing, eating, and driving. But any one of these dishes (except, okay, the olive-oil cake, that'll have to wait even if the Mediterranean theme is apt) will be lovely for the remaining week of Passover--or maybe for the many families I know, mine for a long time among them, who declare by fiat the first Saturday night after the start of Passover to be seder night, to make family gatherings possible.

Also today we have the debut of our resident artisan chocolate maker, Alex Whitmore, whose magical chocolate factory, Taza Chocolates, is in Somerville, just across the Charles River from where I live in Boston. I find it particularly magical because Whitmore pays attention to what I think is most important in chocolate--the quality of the bean, and roasting it to best show off its rustic power. He doesn't conch--mix and massage his chocolate for hours and hours with added cocoa butter for luxurious silkiness on the tongue. Instead he keeps the roasted, ground beans much closer to their natural state, so you taste their graininess and the graininess of good cane sugar. That's the only kind of chocolate I'll willingly eat, and the first time I experienced it, in the form of a ping-pong-shaped brown handmade ball at a Venezuelan market, remains one of the great revelations of my life.

The flavors he describes and loves in Mexican chocolate, the ones he aims to make at his own factory, are close to what you'll find all through Central America and especially in Venezuela and Ecuador, growers of the beans most blenders prize above others. Those beans will only become harder to find and afford as the West African beans most blenders use for the bulk of their blends, generally inexpensive but dependable, themselves become high-priced if alarming news of a new bean blight continues. I'm looking forward to hearing more about the price of beans, and the experience of trying to reproduce a Oaxacan factory in Somerville.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.
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