Last Meal: Blanc's César Ramirez Gets His Goat

Categories: Last Meal

César Ramirez, a longtime protégé of David Bouley's, is busy manning the month-old kitchen at Bar Blanc, where he makes things like confit of baby pig with chanterelles, brussels sprouts, and natural jus with cinnamon star anise and orange. We sprung the question of his last meal recently, and he asked for some time to think about it. Not much time—he called back five minutes later with some rich memories.

I decided you have to leave with something that brings you back to the beginning, like a dish I grew up with: barbacoa. It's a goat, cooked in the ground for 24 hours. An amazing dish. Every time I smell lamb, it reminds me of this. I grew up in Mexico—well, I was born in Mexico; I grew up in Chicago.

How old were you when you left? I left Mexico when I was four years old, but I couldn't forget this food. Do you know how it's done? With this charcoal like iron, so it stays hot, and banana leaves. The hole is covered with plywood.

Isn't this where the word "barbecue" comes from? It is sort of similar to barbecueing, and the word is close . . .

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Fabio Trabocchi's Last Meal: Back to Mussel-Shucking

Categories: Last Meal

Fabio Trabocchi, who took over the kitchen at Fiamma in September, was wholeheartedly excused for a menu that seems too fussy to be Italian when Frank Bruni gushingly renewed the restaurant's three-star status last month in The New York Times. (Those original three stars were earned by Michael White, now at the helm at L'Impero and Alto.) As we dialed Trabocchi's cell-phone number the other day, we prepared to ask him to spell the names of the fancy wines and obscure ingredients he would want to indulge in for his last meal. But as it turns out, his fantasy involves his home province on Italy's Adriatic coast, an old bike, a tiny fishing boat, and nothing French.

So, if you could have anything in the world, what would your last meal be? Probably my last meal would be in the same place I started being a chef. It's a little restaurant in Le Marche, where I'm from. It's not well-known, just a simple summer/beach place in a town called Numana, but I think that's where I would have to be, just because it's like going back to where I started. They did certain things very well, like grilled fish, because it's all very fresh. Very casual. It was only open in the summer.


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Last Meal: Sara Moulton is Really Hungry

Categories: Last Meal

Sara Moulton, a Julia Child protégée, Gourmet Magazine's executive chef, a cookbook author, and former Food Network star, will be back on TV in April. Her new show, named after her second cookbook, Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals, focuses on sitting down to real dinners during the workweek. Moulton describes herself as a teacher, and it seems fitting that, this time around, she'll be on public TV.

What would you eat for your last meal? Here's the thing: I really fantasized about this and decided I'd be very hungry. There are just too many things I would want. When I was done, I realized it was all carbs and fat. I'm really going to hell in a handbasket, but I guess that's the point.

Sounds great so far. I have to have some absolutely beautiful caviar. I'm imagining that the Russian stuff isn't endangered, so I can start with osetra on homemade blini. I haven't decided where to put the cheese, so I just put it at both ends.

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Last Meal: Dave Wondrich Drinks Himself to Death

Categories: Last Meal

David Wondrich, a writer and historian whose passion is America's drinking tradition, has just published Imbibe!, a book chronicling the life of "Professor" Jerry Thomas, who wrote the first known bartending guide, How to Mix Drinks, in 1862.

Wondrich translated 100 of the professor's recipes into modern measurements, so we can all learn how to prepare a proper toddy.

It's been an exciting morning here—there was a fire next-door.

Yikes. Did it make you hungry, by any chance? I'm always hungry. It makes me focus on my mortality, at least. I think I would have to do this a little bit backwards. It would be street food, a steady stream of little plates. Some Spanish chickpeas and fritters, some dim sum, maybe a nice pork sandwich from Reading Terminal in Philly. I have to get the drinks just right.

Oh, backwards, meaning the drinks are the main menu, and the food the accompaniment. What's first? A vintage Henriot champagne. I would be with my closest friends, of course. We'd sip that, and as long as you've got the champagne, there should be caviar and blintzes. We'll interpret "street food" liberally.

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Last Meal: David Chang's Time Machine

Categories: Last Meal

David Chang is even busier than usual, with his third East Village restaurant, Ko, about to open and his original Momofuku Noodle Bar having just relocated. But he took a few minutes to ponder the menu he would request as his final feast. Although it's really more than one meal, it represents him well: a love of ramen, of course, and a deep admiration for fine dining. But then again, don't forget the pork rinds or booze.

Are you ready to talk about your last meal? I dunno. I mean, what are the parameters?

There are none. You can travel through time, whatever . . . Well, I think, besides mom's cooking—some braised short ribs and maybe her crab cakes—I'd have to have some meals that I never got a chance to eat. Like Lespinasse, when Christian Delouvrier was there, probably the opening team of Jean-Georges at Gramercy Tavern in 1998. These were all legendary crews. We just don't have restaurants like that anymore. And I'd go to other places I have never been—like I've never done Europe before. I mean, I've done it like a bum, going from hostel to hostel, but I would go and do the fine dining there: Pierre Gagnaire, L'Arpége, Michel Bras. That's just the start. There are so many places I've never been to. I've never eaten at El Bulli. I'd make sure all the friends were there for the whole trip, of course, and we'd just go everywhere. And be drunk the whole time. I mean, I'm on my deathbed, so I might as well.

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Last Meal: Rocco Brings back his Nonna

Categories: Last Meal

Rocco DiSpirito's new cookbook, Rocco's Real Life Recipes, takes inspiration from his family, his technical training, and the kinds of creative flavor combinations he was known for at his restaurant, Union Pacific. Having worked with DiSpirito, a recent guest judge on Top Chef before and having had the chance to spend time eating and cooking with his family, we would have been shocked if his last meal didn't involve an old lady and a lot of olive oil.

My answer's boring. You know, my grandma's eggs.

C'mon, let's hear it. OK. So, I was probably six the first time I remember this. My grandma had a chicken coop and a rabbit hutch. I used to stay with her a lot [on Long Island]—most of the summer—and she used to get fresh eggs for me. And then, in a big pan, she would fry some garlic till it was brown, and some green peppers, which she grew herself—it would all be in a bath of olive oil. She would cook the eggs in there. The bottoms would get cooked, and the tops, but they would still be a little runny in the center.

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Last Meal: Michael Ruhlman Eats it all the Time

Categories: Last Meal

Michael Ruhlman, the author of The Making of a Chef, The Soul of a Chef, and The Reach of a Chef, has a new book out, The Elements of Cooking, a glossary of terms from "acid" to "zester," with many more exotic entries in between (such as "myoglobin"). He's also the co-author of The French Laundry Cookbook, among others.

What's this all about?

I ask you what your last meal would be, and then you talk about that. It's a very easy thing to answer. I'd have an enormous steak frites dinner with a big, fat, juicy Zinfandel, because that's my favorite thing to eat. No one knows when the inevitable catastrophe of death is going to come, so it's best to have your favorite meal all the time. If you're not doing what you love, what's the point? What are you waiting for? Why not just end it now? I eat this meal as often as possible, and it never ceases to please me. Am I making any sense?

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Last Meal: Mark Bittman Does Not Want to Talk About it

Categories: Last Meal

Mark Bittman, The New York Times' "Minimalist," has a gigantic new book out, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, in which he provides about 2,000 meatless recipes without relying on weird fake-meat products. This is vegetarianism we can live with—it seems just like real food.

Have you been thinking about your last meal? I didn't think about it, frankly. This last-meal stuff, I don't know. Am I supposed to take this seriously? I mean, am I about to be executed? Or am I going to die a beautiful death?

It's up to you. I think if I were about to be electrocuted, I'd want to eat quickly—I would be too nervous to enjoy it anyway. I would keep it simple, too: three or four fried eggs, cooked in butter, as much bacon as I want— really good bacon, not too crispy— some Poilâne bread. Maybe I'd want coffee, I don't know. I guess a cappuccino, but just one. It's going to add to the jitteriness.

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Last Meal: Anne Saxelby's Got a Tug Boat Full of Curds

Categories: Last Meal

Anne Saxelby, the dairy enthusiast who started Saxelby Cheesemongers last summer at Essex Market, was bound to request some stinky items for her last meal. But was there room in her heart for any other edibles? It turns out that her travels and friendships have yielded love for other delicacies, and she'll even throw in some fruit for the lactards.

You basically do all the work here. Yeah! Where do you even start? It would definitely be outside耀ome marshy, beautiful waterfront area, under a tent or some covered thing with flowers growing on it, maybe. In the water nearby would be parked a tugboat. I don't know what that's for, but I want it. I have a thing about tugboats. Maybe the party could move to the boat for ice-cream sundaes or something様ike do up your own cheese plate on the tugboat!

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Last Meal: Padma's Place is in Her Kitchen

Categories: Last Meal

In some unexplainable way, Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi is pretty even over the phone. She's like the good-looking girl at school who you want to hate, but then it turns out she's really friendly and laid-back, and you almost hate her more for that.

At first, she thought we were asking about the last meal she ate, which was at Vermilion, in Chicago (where the Top Chef winner will be crowned tonight). Lakshmi says Vermilion is one of the best Indian restaurants in the country. For her very last meal, though, she'd do the cooking herself, all from her new cookbook, Tangy, Tart, Hot, and Sweet.

You could have anything, anywhere, cooked by anyone . . . I would probably have, um, the veal ragu with fresh linguine from Cipriani, which I have a weakness for. Or my own coconut-milk beef curry, with fresh curry leaves. And then I'd have cardamom cr駑e anglaise with candied ginger.

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