Congratulations to Chef and all my colleagues at Jean-Robert’s Table for topping the 2012 Zagat List in Cincinnati!

Autumn is my favorite time of year… I love waking up to a chilly & foggy morning. The brisk air making easy the choice to wear a jacket during my commute to work. The jacket comes into my office with me, then it’s a lunch-time decision to wear it or carry it as I leave the building. Right now, the decision is mostly to carry it, and that suits me fine.

Our yard is the most treed in the neighborhood, dropping loads of brightly colored leaves that carpet our lawn, and blow all over the street. Two neighbor boys came one Saturday morning offering to clean up the yard. 15 giant lawn bags full of leaves later, they were exhausted and had completed only the front lawn! We haven’t seen the boys since. The dogs enjoy romping around in the leaves, and Buster (wiener dog) charges bravely/foolishly through drifts of leaves that are taller than he is.

I like coming home to a warm house. Even if the day, which started crisp, has turned warm enough to doff the jacket, I still enjoy the waft of warmth when I arrive home.

This cool weather causes the animals — all 10 of them — to crave warmth and become cuddly. Our newest kitten, Eunice, has recently discovered the pleasure and warmth of going “under” — that is, climbing under the covers in bed, and snuggling securely in the crook of an arm, or the bend of a knee. She has not — yet — learned that the Sparkle Ball toy (which she adores) must be abandoned before climbing into bed. Or perhapswe haven’t learned to put them away at night, as Eunice woke us up at 3:30a by playing with the toy. In bed. Between our heads.

Fall foods are among my favorites. Roasting and braising are practically mandated cooking methods during autumn — that can be easily interpreted as proof that nature endorses foods prepared that way. (My culinary students will testify to my instruction for roasting root vegetables — “Roast diced root vegetables until you think they’re done (turning frequently for even color). When you think they’re done, leave them in 5 minutes more. Repeat.”) Soups of the season become more hearty, and stews — not invited to summer events — make their appearance. I have not yet had “enough” pumpkin/butternut this year, so look forward enthusiastically to using those ingredients. Long cooking times (roasting & braising, etc.) perfume the kitchen with great smells.

Among the seasonal Cincinnati traditions that we enjoy and anticipate, I am excited about the annual Over The Rhine Christmas show at the Taft Theater. After hosting their after-party for several years, I needed to take last year off, but am back at the helm this year and looking forward to it very much. I’ve invited an out-of-town friend to join me for those events, which will provide his introduction to the band.

Soon comes the winter and I am not excited about that at all. But for now, autumn suits me just fine.

From WILD FOOD FROM LAND AND SEA, by Marco Pierre White:

“A young female food writer once asked why chefs couldn’t cook a nice plain piece of grilled fish. Well, we can and we do, but we have to dress it up for our customers. No one would be happy to pay up to $60 per head for something that could easily be cooked at home. People come to restaurants like mine for precisely the foods and dishes they can’t easily get in their local shops, or are reluctant to cook themselves — like lobster, langoustines, and foie gras. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a nice piece of grilled fish, but most diners want something more exciting when they’re out to have a good time.

That’s what I dislike about food critics, whether in magazines, newspapers, or food guides, this lack of true insight into what we do, their blinkered attitude. Very few of them have undergone the long, exhaustive and exhausting years of training we have, yet they feel licensed to pontificate about restaurants, food, chefs and their cooking, sometimes destroying a hard-won reputation overnight. Far too often their reviews reveal to us chefs just how little they actually know about food.

There are only a handful of critics whose opinions I respect — they have been around a long time, they have eaten in enough establishments, and are cooks themselves. But sadly there are many more who lack style (would you come to a two-star restaurant wearing a cricket sweater, or bicycle clips?), who lack culinary knowledge (one revered critic’s last job was on the sports pages), who are envious of others’ success, and who are therefore lacking considerably in good judgment and understanding.

I think it totally irrelevant to criticize the decor of a restaurant — all such things are personal, and what does it matter anyway? — or to elaborate for half the review on the designer clothing worn by the restaurant’s clientele, male and female. Eating out can be an all-around experience, encompassing surroundings and fellow eaters, but it’s the food that matters ultimately. When critics home in on all these other things, it really makes me wonder if they can write at all about food. And in all honesty, I don’t think someone who runs sausage-cooking competitions in a newspaper should be allowed within a mile of top-class restaurant.”

What do you think?

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”


Sunday, 5/20/2012 was a very sad day at the Vogel household. On Sunday evening, we reluctantly bid farewell to Merrick, a cat who was Wendy’s “perfect, precious angel boy”.

Merrick was 16 years old, and one of the original “Wendy Trio” that came with her into our relationship, along with Ringo (RIP) and Oliver (still alive and peeing on stuff). Of those three, Merrick was the sensitive mama’s boy. His love for hairdressing was legendary — he would perch on Wendy’s chest and lick her hair until it was perfectly ‘done’ (in his feline eyes).

Years ago, as Wendy & I were becoming a couple, it was fascinating to watch Merrick, who only had eyes for Wendy (and food, but mostly for Wendy). He didn’t notice me at all, so brightly did Wendy shine in his eyes. I’ve never observed such a singular love as Merrick had for Wendy.

Wendy rescued Merrick during her vet schooling, and he’d been with her ever since. It was a fitting end, last night, that Wendy sat with Merrick on the couch, holding him close, until his little heart stopped beating.

He lived every breath for Wendy. Merrick will be missed terribly.

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