Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stalking Nancy

If ever there was a good time to talk about Nancy Silverton, it's now. My last handful of posts have been about disgusting food, unfulfilled food pilgrimages, and being called a "motherfucker" in cooking school.  

It's time for a post about good food. Even though I claim not to be a foodie, I do love good bread and good olive oil and good cheese and good ham, and desserts that aren't too sweet or too fancy or too much, and all those things mean I love Nancy Silverton. She is my sister in palate. Hers was the first dessert cookbook I ever opened. I cooked and baked my way through it, which is no small feat because Nancy Silverton is a bitch for the details. Her recipe for starter, which is the fermented flour and water first step in bread making, is 9 pages long. 

Among countless other things, Nancy started LaBrea Bakery in Los Angeles. LaBrea Bakery is why you're not eating Wonder Bread anymore. It set the wheels of the whole 'good bread' movement in motion.  

The first time I had one of her desserts, I loved it so dearly, so completely, so unconditionally, I ordered a second one after licking the first plate clean. When there's a promise of getting more of Nancy's warm, sugared donuts with vanilla ice cream and huckleberries, any self-consciousness I may have about looking like a gluttonous pig completely evaporates.   

On another visit, I begged the waiter to ask Nancy to come out. She was very accommodating (and perhaps a touch apprehensive because apparently, I can sometimes look like a stalker, or so I've been told). She talked about how she slept in three separate shifts everyday so she could be at the bakery for each of the three bakes. I was so enthralled, so starry-eyed, so rapt, they probably made a notation in the margin of the reservation book about me: FRIGHTENING AND UNSTABLE!!!!! KEEP THIS WOMAN AWAY FROM NANCY!!!!!!

At subsequents visits, I would peer into the open kitchen, hoping to get a glimpse of her. What is she doing now? Is she making caramel? Saucing a plate? I wanted to yell, "Hi Nancy! It's me! Remember me?" I would spend the entire meal with one eye on my dinner companion and the other on the kitchen, Marty Feldman-style, while eating Nancy's focaccia, which, by the way, is spectacular, with just the right amount of rosemary.  

But I assure you, I'm not a crazy stalker. Just a fan of a great tart crust (hers is the best I've ever had) and the best gazpacho recipe ever (she's multi-talented, which you have to love  -  I do). So if you're in LA anytime soon, she has a new venture, Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza. Could you tell her Wendy says "hi"? 

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