You don't eat caviar because you're hungry. But the portion set before us at a dinner the other night was capable of staving off a serious quantity of pang. We all eyed the presentation set before us perched on the tiny bases of empty, over-turned, long stemmed Riedel Burgundy wine glasses. This caviar "amuse" course was done in the style of the legendary "beggars purses" as created by Barry Wine, once chef and owner of the Quilted Giraffe in Manhattan. Chef Wine used to insist that his guests use no hands, (much less forks or spoons when eating the purse). He favored taking pictures of many of his guests donning elegantly designed handcuffs he had at the restaurant, leaning way over with their arms and hands pulled behind them; taking it between their lips or teeth; and then standing upright and eating the salty cargo within the chive tied crepe. I did not wait for anyone to insist otherwise and picked up my beggars purse with one hand... bit half off enjoying it tremendously... had a small gulp of the 1965 Krug... finished the other half followed by some more of the Krug... The evening was looking up. Did I mention that the purse was filled with beluga caviar? There are three great caviar. Beluga, Sevruga and Osetra. The determination of which caviar it will be is done by several criteria. at this level it is matter of personal taste. Malosol in Russian is the term meaning "little salt" and fresh caviar has very little. The presence of salt preserves it but masks the flavors. Caviar should be served as simply as possible. With caviar of this quality, forget chopped eggs, capers, onions and the like. World-class caviar is one of life's musts even if only once in a great while. Handcuffs are optional.

Works consulted: A.J.McClane's, "encyclopedia of Fish Cookery".


The first time I made an aïoli I was in Key West, not sunny Provence. But the sun connected us through the gypsy medium of garlic!
I was working at a little restaurant called "The Port of Call". There in the port town of Key West I was making my first wave of seafood soups. Bouillabaisse, cotriade, bourride and the like. Bouillabaisse called for aioli's cousin, rouille, but the bourride and cotriade were compatible with aioli.
Marcel Boulestin once said, "It is not really an exaggeration to say that peace and happiness begin, geographically, where garlic is used in cooking." If a little garlic make you happy aioli will have you on the way to delirious, my friends. And speaking of friends, collect only those who love garlic. Who needs the reproach of those whose vapors are so dully uncharged by the magic of garlic?!?
aïoli is the conjoining of two words, ail meaning "garlic" and oil. Egg yolks and a splash of lemon juice complete this sauce.
With aïoli we enter a land that the writer John Lanchester describes as one that evokes "a widening of life's sensuous possibilities, the addition of an extra few notes at either end of one's emotional keyboard, a set of new stops on the church organ of the psyche, an expansion of every cell of one's sensory paraphernalia, a new rapprochement between body, mind, and spirit; that land which is also an idea, a medium, a metier, a program, an education, a philosophy, a cuisine, a word: "Provence".
We cannot deny that Provence is the birthplace of aioli. But it travels well, unlike some dishes it might accompany it traditionally. So change tradition, but bring on the aïoli and get in a garlicky good mood!