Meeting Elizabeth Falkner and Other Tidbits

November 30th, 2007

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One of the great things about living in the Bay Area is, of course, the vibrant culinary scene. It’s amazing to think that I am tootling around the same area as people like Alice Medrich or Michael Recchiuti or a host of other gastronomic luminaries. Case in point: last night, I attended a book signing of Elizabeth Falkner’s new dessert book at Charles Chocolates’ factory and store- talk about a sweet evening!

Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts is a book I got a month or so ago and sadly just have not found the time to try out the recipes. But I read through the whole cookbook and I loved the punky, irreverent aesthetic – as well as it being a showcase of Falkner’s incredible talent and creativity.

In person, Falkner is as funny and outspoken as her cookbook, very knowledgeable and so passionate about her work. It’s not surprising she has a background in art, since she seems to draw her inspirations from all around her and her desserts all seem to be grounded in such strong visual and textural concepts. Whether it’s a deconstructed-and-reconstructed take on apple pie or a literary allusion in the naming of a cake, Falkner’s desserts are witty and intelligent – food for the brain as well as body.

I mentioned that Falkner seemed to enjoy playing with powders and gelling agents in her desserts, much like the savory molecular gastronomists, and she responded that she didn’t really see why experimenting with gels and such should be considered intimidating or strange, since there are tons of ingredients in the world to explore and integrate into what we consider traditional western or european-style pastry. For example, agar agar and tapioca are common ingredients used in Asia as thickeners or binders, yet they are rarely used here. In a way, Falkner seems very similar to Alice Medrich, even though their cookbooks may seem very different, in that both women are curious to break outside the conventional boundaries of pastry and introduce new ingredients and techniques into the language of baking.

Trying some of the recipes from Falkner’s book is surely on my list of New Year’s resolutions, as well as visiting her new restaurant. Here’s a great example of how her mind works: when asked what the desserts at her new place would be like, Falkner replied that they wanted to try and create an invisible dessert, to surprise and confound diners. I’m looking forward to that!

Ok, on to a few little tidbits before the weekend and the beginning of December! (Oh my, how did it get to be that time of the year already!) First of all, I apologize for being so remiss in answering everyone’s comments and questions – I love all my readers, so please don’t desert me for my inability to keep it all together! I have actually answered all the comments from my last few posts – those of you that comment regularly know that I used to respond personally over e-mail, but with the holidays coming up it’s just become too time-consuming, so know that I’ve responded on the post itself!

Second, I am leaving in about a week and half for Hong Kong, hence the reason I’m madly dashing about doing shopping and baking now, since I’ll be gone so soon. However, I will still be posting! and I am participating in this year’s Menu for Hope so please be sure to check back here on Dec. 10th to see what fabulous prize I will be offering! (Hint: there is a tiny clue to what it’s associated with somewhere in this post!)

And lastly, because I like to have a little bit of pretty in all my posts, here is what I contributed to Baking911′s December newsletter: Mini Coffee-Pecan Eclairs. Get my recipe in the newsletter!

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Happy weekend, and happy December to you all!

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12 Comments so far ↓

  • bea at La tartine gourmande #1

    Don’t stress over not responding to comments Anita, life gets busy at times, we like you all the same! ;-) Especially when you interview a pastry chef for us, and make these delicious eclairs! Have fun in Hong Kong!

  • Hillary #2

    I love miniature eclairs! These look so cute and tasty!! Mmmm…

  • brilynn #3

    Those eclairs are gorgeous! I need to try making some again, last time I wasn’t so successful.

  • Ivonne #4

    Oh, Anita! How coud we ever desert (or dessert) you?!!! That would be so sad never to see all the beautiful sweet things you make.

    I too have Falkner’s book and am looking forward to trying some recipes in the New Year.

    Love the eclairs!

  • kat #5

    ooh another one to add to my list :) enjoy HK!

  • Victoria #6

    ohWOW. eclairs. I’m so hungry right now. OH! Have fun in Hong kong! I’m leaving tomorrow, for 2 weeks. how exciting! We’ll have yummy stories to tell!

  • monica #7

    how fun you got to meet elizabeth! i had the opportunity to briefly meet her when she dined at gotham bar and grill last year, and i must say she was incredibly friendly. you’ll have to let me know what your favorite recipe from her book is once you start baking….

    and the mini eclairs are so cute and alluring!

  • veron #8

    I really envy your Bay Area perks with all the great bakeries and meeting the people behind them. Have fun in HK. The last time I was there was in ’96 and I had a blast!

  • Maria #9

    I just picked up Falkner’s book! It looks great! I am glad you got to meet her!! I really need to move to SF, the culinary scene is way more exciting than Salt Lake!

  • cheryl #10

    The cutest eclairs ever. So beautiful.

  • Amy @ Wheeler's #11

    Wow, I wonder how one would make a dessert invisible… Hm… And I’m just going to jump on the bandwagon and say those eclairs look amazing! Have fun in Hong Kong!

  • Anita #12

    Bea,
    Aw, that’s so sweet! Thanks so much!

    Hillary,
    Thanks! It was fun making them!

    Brilynn,
    I’ve had my share of deflated puffs. It’s so great when they come out well though!

    Ivonne,
    Thank you, and looking forward to seeing what you do next year too!

    Kat,
    Thank you! I think it’s a great book!

    Victoria,
    I hope you have a great time in HK as well!

    Monica,
    Elizabeth is definitely fun! I’ve got a really long list of recipes to try for this year!

    Veron,
    Thank you! I’m looking forward to the trip!

    Maria,
    I feel very lucky to live here, the cool opportunities (usually) outweigh the costs of living!

    Cheryl,
    Thank you! I’m glad you like them!

    Amy,
    I’m looking forward to reporting on my visit to HK!

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