1. Muse & Schmooze: Meeting Ruth ReichlI admit it—I’m a fan girl. Long before I picked up my beloved copy of “Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise”—a great read if you’ve ever been curious about the life of a food critic—I followed Ruth Reichl as the daughter of fierce New York Times readers. Last night, as I chatted with Ruth about espardenyes (sea slugs), fishing in Alaska and interesting Asian fruits, I definitely put a major check on my bucket list!

From our conversation to her New Center Live! conversation with all-star local chef Michael Leviton earlier this week, Ruth shared a few fun food facts that I just had to share:

The “Ottolenghi effect”
Plenty” and “Jerusalem” by the famed Yotam Ottolenghi are two of the best-selling cookbooks these days, and Ruth couldn’t be happier about their impact. She coined the term “Ottolenghi effect” and says, “It’s amazing that he has been able to bring so many Middle Eastern flavors to North America that hadn’t been well known before: za’atar, rose water, sumac.” As someone who has personally long loved za’atar (Middle Eastern herb seasoning), I also couldn’t be happier for our palates!

Kosher bacon
“Did you know there was a movement to make bacon kosher in the 1880s?” Ruth asks me. It sounds crazy, but it’s true! (Not surprisingly, this is when the Reform movement was born.) Whether or not we eat pork according to the rules of kashrut, there’s no denying that many Jews have loved their bacon since long before the current craze.

Young chefs are “refreshing”
Many people are hung up on the great chefs of the past, but there’s no question that with easier access to knowledge, the Food Network (whether you love it or hate it) and seriously increased access to high quality local ingredients is the perfect storm for young chefs to be creative and innovative. “Young chefs are so refreshing and inspiring,” Ruth says. “They give me hope for the future.”

Meeting this former Gourmet magazine editor/author/TV personality—and talking all things treif to Middle Eastern flavors and restaurant recommendations—was a highlight of my year!

And now that summer is upon us, check out Ruth’s first work of fiction, “Delicious!,” a fun beach read that will perfectly accompany your summer barbecue.

*Photo of Ruth Reichl and Michael Leviton by Zev Fisher

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