Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books about chefs–most notably the books of Michael Ruhlman: The Making of a Chef, The Soul of a Chef, and The Reach of a Chef.  I’ve also read The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon cover to cover.  Although I do not now and have never had the least desire to be a chef, I do love to read about them.  And I’m talking about real chefs here, not people like Emeril, who started out as a chef but has become something else, or other people on the Food Network who are not chefs at all.  Thomas Keller is my hero and my ideal, because he has a passion for cooking, he does not fancy that cooking is an art (though his creations certainly look like art), and because he has ideals.  He strives for perfection but does not think it can be reached, because if it is it becomes something other than perfection.  He cooks clean and neat, and he demands that everyone who cooks for him does too.  Eating at The French Laundry would be a high point of my life–one I probably will never achieve, but it’s a nice thing to think about.

The trendy thing right now is the tasting menu.  I love the idea of small amounts of lots of different courses.  I would like to eat that way, and in the past whenever I’ve cooked a big fancy meal (as I did in the days when I would have my department at work over for a pre-holiday dinner) the difficult thing about it was always limiting myself to just a few dishes. So although I don’t do the departmental dinners anymore, I now have a plan to invite my retiree lunch group (The Gang of Six) over for a tasting lunch.  I’ve been reading cookbooks and blogs and restaurant menus and I’m still having trouble limiting myself.  Some of it will be self-limiting because I don’t have enough hands or refrigerator space.  Anyway, it’s a lot of fun to plan.  I will be making some new things that I haven’t made before, so in preparation I will try some of these out for my own eating pleasure.  I guess I’ll also take photos of the successes (and failures, which I’m sure will be aplenty).  Later today (or tomorrow, or sometime) I think I’m either going to start with some little potato bases for the beginnings of an amuse bouche I’m contemplating, or maybe struggle with some tartlet cases.  Pie pastry is my nemesis.

I was at Bed Bath and Beyond yesterday and I noticed that they have all kinds of plates and dishes to accommodate the fad of the tasting party.  I have enough dishes in my house so I will make do and resist the urge to go out and buy all these cute little dishes, but it is tempting.

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