After risking my sanity, ears, and not to mention the perfect pair of mini silver hoops I finally found in Paris, my first column for the new CHOW magazine is up. This premiere piece is on absinthe paraphernalia. Sure I could have tested them with pastis or even plain water, but kind of fun would that have been?
The first time I tasted absinthe was just a couple of years ago - at Cantada when I was location scouting for No Reservations in Paris. Have you been there yet? I'm actually kind of surprised by how few people have dared. Yeah, sure, it's in a dicey neighborhood and the regular clientele is made up of goth-biker-punks draped in black leather, chains, and spikes protruding from every visible orifice - and some that are not - but I assure you they are the sweetest people. The owner Mickey - the nicest guy who tolerates his fair share of Mouse jokes even though he looks like he might jump the bar and rip your jugular out with his scary teeth - has the biggest absinthe menu in town.
My friend and world-renown absinthe expert Peter Schaf first told me about the place - you might have seen him faciliatating Anthony Bourdain's hallucinations on NR. More importantly Peter introduced me to the exquisite pleasures of Ted Breaux's Nouvelle-Orleans absinthe. If you've heard anything about absinthe in the past few years, you know about Ted. He's the New Orleans chemist who analyzed real samples of pre-ban absinthe in his own lab and is now recreating it himself in the original distilleries in France. His stuff has blown the European competition away.
While Mickey serves Ted's Nouvelle-Orleans at Cantada, he doesn't have all the cool accoutrements - because quite frankly after a few drinks we'd steal them. But he does have an absinthe fountain he'll fill and get up and running if you ask nicely - that thing's too big to pocket.
The glass pictured above is on Peter's site Absinthe Online. The spoon you'll see in the article is from The Absinthe Spoon - absinthe historian David Nathan-Maister's site. You'll meet David on Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie.
This is the first of what will be my weekly Gear columns where I'll review products from a chef's perspective but in normal human language - thanks to the editorial prowess at CHOW.