On the Menu: Dragon's Lingerie


I asked Ana Sortun just what she'd put on the piece of sea bass she wrapped with blanched brussels-sprout leaves, a new leaf I wanted to try as soon as I tasted its firm, textured, slightly sweet flavor.

But the rest of what she tucked in while we shot our video was equally fresh and memorable, and though I knew there were new potatoes, I wasn't sure of the spicing. She told me that she sprinkled sumac, the indispensably lemony thyme-like eastern Mediterranean herb, and had spread a bit of parsley-and-whipped garlic sauce. It's a standard component of dishes at her restaurant in Cambridge, across the river from Boston.

It was the broad beans I wanted to buy along with the brussels-sprout leaves--dappled and pretty to look at, almost as good as my plain-Jane favorite summer bean, romano. And I saw them again Monday night, at Peter Hoffman's bright, hip Back Forty, in the East Village. They were part of a marvelous outdoor supper he served family-style, in a big outdoor garden at long wooden tables--the nicest way to eat, I think, and particularly unusual in New York City.

A summer shell bean salad with pancetta was practically as meaty and rich as the slow-roasted pork shoulder he served them with, but it was a tossed-off salad of fresh string beans in a strongly tarragon lemon vinaigrette I couldn't resist. In with the haricots verts (so much prettier and thinner and blander and duller than zaftig romanos) were my new friends, those dappled, yellow-based wax beans.

"Dragon's lingerie!" I cried. Peter and his chef, Shanna, said, "Around here, we call them dragon's tongue."

I felt proud. For once stodgy, starchy Boston had settled on a sexier name than New York!

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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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