Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year 2010 In Pictures

It’s New Year’s Eve! Many recent newspapers and magazines have been filled with photo retrospectives of the year. Since most of my photos throughout the year were taken in my kitchen and at my table, here is my own personal recap of 2010 using some of my favorite Kitchen Fiddler images from this year.

There were cold beverages in varying degrees of intensity.


Salads came in a variety of textures and vibrant colors, building me up with each bite.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Poached Pear Cheesecake Loaded With Happy Memories

If you are anything like me, you have a mile-long list of recipes that you’re dying to try. In fact, there aren’t enough meals in the year to work my way through all of the recipes on my Must Make list. But sometimes life spins wildly out of control and I need to go back to an old familiar favorite to feel anchored again. My Poached Pear Cheesecake is one of those recipes that make me feel that all is right with the world again.

It’s been one of the most unusual weeks of my life, largely because of the “60 Minutes” story that aired last Sunday, featuring me and the small handful of others with a rare and extreme autobiographical memory. The filming began more than a year ago and was completed in the spring, and though the story was expected to air in the fall, we wouldn’t actually know the exact airdate until just a few days before. Fall came and went without incident, but December 19th turned out to be the big day in which the two-segment “Endless Memory” piece was finally broadcast to an audience of nearly 19 million viewers. (You can check it out here and here, if you'd like.) I was thrilled out of my mind but, not having been allowed to see it ahead of time, I was also a nervous wreck.

Yet dear friends and family surrounded me when I saw the show for the first time, and we turned the whole evening into a celebration. Julie threw a viewing party for me in her beautiful apartment, and when she offered to host the party, the first thing she did was plan a menu composed of dishes that had particular emotional significance for me. (And you wonder why we’re great friends?!) I was on dessert duty, as per usual, and I knew I wanted to do something involving poached pears.  Julie was an angel and made all of the savory party food using Kitchen Fiddler recipes, especially those loaded with great memories for me.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Project X Revealed

I’ve made occasional references to a certain “Project X” over the past fourteen months, promising you that I would share more about it when the time was right. Well, the time has come, and I have some big news. I would like to invite all of you to tune into "60 Minutes" on CBS this Sunday evening, December 19th. I will be featured in a two-part story about people with an extraordinarily rare memory condition classified as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory.

Some of you know about my unusual memory that causes me to remember every day of my life with intense clarity. For example, if you ask me about a random date from 1985 onward, I know what day of the week it was and what I did on that day, what the weather was like, possibly what happened in the news, etc. I have written on Kitchen Fiddler about some of my culinary time-travel experiences where my awareness of the current date—and the memories of what happened on that day in any given year—is the actual trigger itself for some very insistent cravings based on meals I’ve had in the past on that particular date.

For the past year I've been involved with memory studies at University of California, Irvine at their Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. I've been working with Dr. James McGaugh and Dr. Larry Cahill, the neuroscientists who are the first to ever study this extreme autobiographical memory condition. I'm thrilled to be part of this unusual research that is writing a brand-new chapter in the field of memory studies.

I am one of five subjects—along with Brad Williams, Rick Baron, Bob Petrella, and Marilu Henner—who participated in group interviews with Lesley Stahl and in exhaustive memory tests with the UCI researchers throughout the year. The “60 Minutes” film crew also came to a solo recital I gave in New York earlier this year, and they also filmed me in my apartment during CocoaRoar season while I was making Peanut Butter&Sea Salt Truffles. I doubt that the chocolate-making clip will make it into the finished story—I haven’t seen the piece yet—but even without that, I hope that you will tune in on Sunday night and share this crazy and exciting memory adventure with me!

Photo op with Lesley Stahl!  This was taken after our big group interview on 12/7/09.

Friday, December 10, 2010

CocoaRoar Has Its Own Webpage!

Greetings from the chocolate trenches! CocoaRoar is in full swing this month, and I have recently created a separate webpage for my chocolate endeavors. You can click here to check it out. Or you can just stay here for a moment, if you’d prefer. Either way is fine with me.

I am enjoying my time in the chocolate kitchen more than ever. I thoroughly reorganized my kitchen in November and am able to be more efficient than ever in this small space. Believe it or not, this is where the magic happens, people.

I’ve discovered that using the food processor is a foolproof way to mix up large quantities of chocolate with infused cream, creating the silkiest most luxurious chocolate ganache imaginable. Isn’t that gorgeous?