The other night, I went to Will, a self-described “modern French inspired BYOB” located in a hot Philly restaurant area. The dishes were small and pricey, but the flavors were spot on. If you have the chance to go, I’d totally recommend the Rhode Island Skate, which was moist yet flaky, served with an assortment of light green sauces that all complimented the fish wonderfully.
The restaurant also has its culinary influences proudly on display. Alinea, Bouchon, and The Fat Duck cookbooks are all present, and since I just got a copy of the Bouchon cookbook last week (thank you Ebay for making my guilty pleasures so affordable), I could instantly spot Thomas Keller’s presence on Will’s menu. For one, the chocolate bouchons served for dessert. Also, the Parisian gnocchi, which Keller outlines in Bouchon.
(By the way, the chocolate bouchons are also totally worth trying. They’re like mini chocolate cakes, but denser and chewier and all-around more decadent.)
But back to the gnocchi. I actually made Parisian gnocchi, the same Parisian gnocchi that appeared on a menu at a high-end restaurant. (I’m still in shock.) And surprisingly, it was not that difficult to make.
Before you chalk it up to my amazing cooking talents, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I actually used to be a terrible cook. No lie, my family used to dread what weird dish I would concoct. There were some fantastic failures, like the time I tried to make pan-fried plantains, but instead I used bananas, and I ended up with some spicy, mushy bananas that were all but inedible. Or that time I tried to make carbonara and ended up with burned scrambled egg pasta instead. Oh god, the list goes on and on.
When I started this blog, I was enrolling in self-taught Cooking 101. And now, eight months later, I can actually pull off a reasonably edible version of Keller’s gnocchi à la parisienne. My family can enjoy my meals, instead of forcing down cringe-worthy (and probably barf-worthy) weird culinary experiments.
And cooking for myself hasn’t taken the fun out of eating good food. I may understand more of the “secrets,” but that makes me respect all these chefs so much more. I mean, just check out the Wikipedia page for molecular gastronomy. These people might actually be insane. They’re using syringes and liquid nitrogen and transglutaminase and all these other chemical compounds I can’t even pronounce. They’re turning fat into powder, using an ice cream machine in ways never before imagined.
I’m clearly just an amateur, and I’m definitely nowhere near as good as Will’s talented cook staff, but I have to admit, it still felt pretttty cool to see that they admired the same cooking masters that I admired.
(And let’s be real, it felt pretty awesome to brag that I could actually pull off a fancy restaurant-worthy recipe.)