Cuisines editor Virginia B. Wood says goodbye to Craig Claiborne and gives the low-down on some exciting food events for the upcoming week.
Though I never had the pleasure of meeting former New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne, his work made a significant contribution to my life. As a restaurant reviewer, he changed reviewing from glorified ad writing to informed, anonymous criticism. Later, as the Times food editor, Claiborne was in a position to recognize the talents and influence the careers of many great cooks. It was he who encouraged the wife of a Times colleague to present cooking classes on the cuisine of Interior Mexico and later to write a cookbook. Diana Kennedy's Cuisines of Mexico, with a foreword written by Claiborne, was a landmark book and is one of the definitive works on Mexican cuisine.
Claiborne also discovered a Miami Beach woman who made incredible desserts for her husband's restaurant. Dessert maven Maida Heatter went on to write several books about desserts, cookies, and chocolate that set a high standard for quality and reliability in the world of baking. In a telephone interview last week, Heatter reminisced about her dear friend. "The first time Craig visited our home and saw a table covered with desserts I'd made, he insisted that I had to write a cookbook!," she said. "I never would have written a recipe in my life if it hadn't been for Craig. He was so generous with his time and encouragement."
Many of the stories published about Craig Claiborne since his death January 22 have recounted the tale of an outrageously expensive dinner he once shared with his friend and collaborator Pierre Franey as though that event somehow defined his career. In my estimation, the important thing to remember about Claiborne is the number of careers he influenced. Diana Kennedy and Maida Heatter were but two of the many cooks Craig Claiborne mentored during his professional life.
Considering how much I've learned from those two women's works, I'll be eternally grateful to Mr. Claiborne for the example he set and his gifts to me.
The Monday night wine tastings resume February 7 at Ella's Restaurant & Bar (One Jefferson Sq., 458-2148). Each tasting will present wine varietals from four regions paired with four small plates. Commentary will be provided by the GrapeVine Market guys... To commemorate the debut of Austin City Limits' 25th anniversary season on KLRU, Whole Foods Market will donate 5% of the total gross sales from both Austin stores on Saturday, February 5, so Austin music lovers should shop, shop, shop... Crescent City Beignets (1211 W. Sixth, 472-9622) has expanded its lunch offerings to include a choice of three Blue Plate Specials such as red beans and rice, crawfish etouffe, and chicken and sausage gumbo every day... Messina Hof Wine Cellars (4545 Old Reliance Road in Bryan, 409/778-9463) invites you to witness the Marriage of the Port where brandy (the groom) is united with a superb red wine (the bride). This marriage will take place during regular winery tours from February 5-19. Guests will be treated to tastings of wine, port, and wedding cake with a tour of the port-blending lab. On Port Saturday, February 19, a day of food and wine activities will culminate with a wedding reception and feast. Call for reservations.
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