I’d hate to write two back-to-back posts involving the same person, but after CRUX’s trip to the Ravenswood area of Chicago to check out the Rare Tea Cellar’s HQ, I decided it needed to be done.
Meet Rodrick Markus.
I remember running into Rod for the first time on my first day at Schwa. He walked through the front door cradling something in his hands that I couldn’t make out through the plexiglass window that divided the 26-seat dining room from the loud, Whip-It fueled, demoniac kitchen. When he finally made it back there, he said something along the lines of “Chef, you gotta see these.” Carlson walked over and Rod whipped out these five white balls. They kind of looked like truffles but I thought they were too white and orbicular. He said, “These are Hungarian honey truffles, they’re sweet.” Carlson ate a shaving and thought they tasted like aspartame. He later used them in a beet sorbet and snail roe dish.
Fast forward 9 months and we meet again through a friend’s recommendation while on the hunt for Osmanthus flowers.
When I told him what I was up to, he wanted me to come by the shop to see what he was up to. Upon entering the tempature-controlled room, my jaw dropped – as did the rest of the team’s. He told me about his travels to China (and most recently India) in search of the the most scented Jasmine teas, the best Chamomile, and the finest vintages of Darjeeling. At the table, where we began to taste, there was a fist-sized, partially shaved Australian Black Truffle that you could smell within about 5 feet of its placement. He pulled out fresh wasabi from Michigan, not just the root but stems and leaves as well. He had other projects working but, at this time, I will keep them to myself for fear of his competition catching wind. And that wasabi…
The Perfect Egg- Examples of Culinary Obsessions
The finding of this book was by complete chance. I’m not sure why I had never heard of this hand-sized, easily overlooked 1979 translation by recently-deceased author and architect, Aldo Buzzi. But I’m sure glad I found it. It’s a series of articles in which the writer felt so moved by perfectly-executed dishes that he was compelled to write about them. These dishes include such simple things as lime soup, buttered salsify, and semolina pudding. Dishes, a modern cook like me, often take for granted. Until now.
My personal obsession
My personal compulsions with food and how it’s created work the same way my addictions did, often boisterously and unmanageable. I pen my thoughts where they are constantly in my face, so no matter what time of the day it is I can just look up and fixate on the details of every ingredient. Some call this the early stages of schizophrenia, I call it passion.
“When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy, that is what cooking is all about.” -Thomas Keller