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Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Five: Wynton Marsalis's Five Things I Love to Eat

WyntonmarsalisToday Chez Pim presents a new feature, Friday Five, in which I hoodwink invite fascinating people from all walks of life to tell me five things about food. The first guest -€“ also known as unsuspecting victim -€“ is Wynton Marsalis.

Everybody knows Wynton as a fabulous musician, composer, and impresario extraordinaire. That he is also quite a gourmand is not as well publicized. It's hardly surprising though, he's a New Orleans boy, being a foodie is not a predilection but his birthright.

Get Wynton on the topic of food and he'll go on sans cesse about memorable food encounters from his time on tour,€“ which is practically all the time for him. He told me about this little husband and wife place in Osaka, right by the water. His friend - who happens to be the president of Sony - took him there. He didn't know the restaurant's name or anything besides it being a simple little place by the bay, but his eyes were all dreamy as he described how amazing the food was. His eyes turned even dreamier when he talked about the time he spent at his friends' house in Marciac, in the Gascony region of France, describing all the French country dishes they prepared for him, the home-made pâté and the delicious tortilla española. (Marciac is very close to the Spanish border.)

He also told me about this little place called El Portalon, in Vitoria, in the Basque country of Spain. "The Basque people have a thing about cooking", he said. (He can say that again!) "This was very traditional Basque cuisine, but done on a very high level", he added, "with gambas, squid and all the great seafood they have there." There was also a little something about a certain Basque beauty, but I'm sorry I'm going to skip that part because, well, because this is Chez Pim and not Perez Hilton.

Wynton is working on an exciting little project with something to do with food. I'll let him tell you about it himself - all in good time - but for now, with no further ado, I give you...

Wynton Marsalis -€“ Five things I love to eat

My mama's gumbo
Filé gumbo, at the best place to eat in New Orleans, my mama's house.

My great aunt Marguerite's scrambled eggs

She was born in 1901. She was this quiet old lady, all bent over. She was second generation out of slavery and she had all the old slave recipes from the old South and original New Orleans recipes like Stuffed Mirliton (note: you may know it as Chayote) and Okra Gumbo. She was an amazing cook. Even my mama and my aunts, they are all great cooks, everyone said that Marguerite she had a gift. What I remember and love most about her cooking is her scrambled eggs. Simple scrambled eggs, you know? But it's just not like how everyone else did eggs -€“ I mean, people can really screw up some eggs. Hers, I can't explain, but they were just great.

Lamb
I love lamb. The best lamb I've had was done Indian way - big lamb shank, slow cooked, with all kinds of Indian spices. That was the best. My friend Diane Ward cooked it for me at her house.

Sushi
..of all kinds. I love sushi, even more than sashimi. I know all the gourmet people think sashimi is better, but for me it's sushi. The best sushi place in New York City is Masa. Hands down. Masa. I love watching him work - how he looks at a piece of fish and just ponders it for a while, you know, sizing it up. The way he moves, the way he looks at things. He's an artist, man, that Masa is one bad motherf@#$%&r. I took my oldest son there and he said to me "this is great, this is not sushi, this is something else!" Even he noticed.

Chinese food
I eat a lot of Chinese food. I love Peking Duck - are we supposed to call it Beijing Duck now and not Peking? I don't know. I love it anyway. I go to this place called Shun Lee, in midtown, near where I work. They've got great Peking Duck there.

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