Welcome to Naomi Kooker's blog.

At age 6 my mother let me into the kitchen, alone. By seventh grade I was feigning sick to stay home from school, "miraculously" feeling good enough to make baked-stuffed pork chops for dinner. My passion for cooking led me to a job as a sous chef in a Manhattan restaurant and, later, to stand quietly in the corner of (and eventually do one thing in) Restaurant Guy Savoy's kitchen in Paris. I overcame the ultimate cooking challenge when I made butter cream icing over a Bunsen burner at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. It was for a friend's wedding cake, the centerpiece at the reception the next day. It was midnight. With just hours to go, I managed to whip up the icing, then carefully place the last few candied violets onto the cake before the reception. Oh, how grateful I was for that Bunsen burner and the corner bodega that was open 24 hours.

It all worked out in the end. It always does.

Food, cooking and eating are inextricably linked to life. Life is better when good food is involved, and even better when good company is part of the eating.

Thank you for stopping in and being part of a growing dinner party of readers.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Simon's Swans...And Other Latte Art

Coffee in Cambridge, Mass. is like chocolate in Paris, France—you got to go for it while you’re there because it’s the right thing to drink/eat. It’s like going to the moon and not meeting the man or going to Fenway and not using the restroom.

It took me a while to get to Simon's Coffee Shop but now I’m hooked and it’s not just because of the caffeine. These are serious coffee people. They buy their coffee from Barismo, a small-batch coffee roaster in Arlington started by former Simon’s baristas. (I love that about Boston. Toss a penny in the Swan Boat Public Garden pond and it doesn’t sink to the bottom—it’s too shallow—it casts off ripples. And not only that, Barismo folks are just about to open dwelltime in Inman Square. Ripple.)

Before adding cream I taste the house coffee, El Bosque (the forest) from Guatemala. It’s balanced, not too acidic, a nice medium roast. My friend calls me over to admire the foam on her latte. “Look!” There’s a swan swirl on top. Think the mark of Zorro or the X in Malcolm X. We think Erick did it, or it could be Jay.

Simon’s is narrow. The coffee bar and counter is on one side, tables and chairs on the other. When we go around 1 p.m. on a Saturday all the seats are taken. There’s a woman with her open laptop, and a man who appears to be waiting for someone or something. Nifty photos hang on the burnt-orange walls.

Jason Rayner (a barista) tells me they all practice “latte art”—swans, rosettes. “All of us can do ‘em,” he says, crediting David Schomer in Seattle, Wash. for starting latte art.

I’m taken with the swan. “Do you do skulls?” I ask the guy with tattoos, feeling self-conscious. “I’ve seen them done,” he says politely.

We take our coffees and leave for chez friend.

Photo courtesy @lvanderpool

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