Is it just me? When I feel the warmth of summer fade, swept by the first chills of fall, I want to run away - not to escape the season, but to embrace it. Maybe it's the embedded memories of going back to school. How cruel is it to watch the world magically transform while trapped behind classroom windowpanes? There are apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and corn fields at their peak - somewhere beyond those rows of turning trees. It's just a matter of running out to find them.
Last week, you know I was in Marrakech inside the kitchens at La Mamounia - where all the line cooks in their classic Moroccan restaurant are women. I also had a wondrous lunch at Richard Branson's newly-opened luxury retreat, the Kasbah Tamadot. That same night I polished off a tender, falling-off-the-bone - or should I say falling-off-the-skull - sheep's head at the Djemaa el Fna - the city's nocturnal street-food-filled square.
Back in Paris, I went behind the scenes at Pierre Herme's Atelier for holiday cakes. It's part of his series of intensive pros-only pastry classes. In one almost literally heart-stopping sitting, I tasted seven buches de noel; this year's New Year's cake; three galettes des rois; the limited edition matcha green tea and chestnut macaron; and Jeffrey Steingarten's favourite - the seasonal white truffle and hazelnut macaron.
I worked in a dinner at Senderens - chef Alain Senderens new eponymous restaurant - or the Michelin three-star formerly known as Lucas Carton. It's the hottest scene for serious food people in Paris at the moment - you can't swing a side-towel without hitting a Michelin starred chef or big-time French food writer. But while the food and wine-by-the-glass pairings are good, the service is sadly absurdly bad at the moment - but don't take it personally because I even knew our servers that night. If you go don't miss the surprisingly hip bar upstairs.
Let me also mention that La Semaine du Gout (The Week of Taste) - an annual event organised by the national sugar collective to educate students of all ages about taste and French food - starts today throughout France. A tempting list of restaurants will offer special menus - with reduced prices for students. In Paris I strongly suggest Le Bristol.
And next Monday, October 17th there will be the second-to-last 2005 Le Fooding Wine & Fooding Tour 2005 event. Check their website Thursday, the 13th for the secret password required for admission. Go for the dry white Bordeaux and tripe tapas by former Yves Camdeborde "right-hand" man Stephane Jego, now at L'Ami Jean in the 7th.
I will post more, details, and photos later this week. I'm off to Chicago - perhaps you've heard about my hometown lately? It's the next leg of on my own food tour 2005.
Funny how running away sometimes takes you home.