With a bold knife

With a bold knife

Aylin Öney Tan - aylinoneytan@yahoo.com
With a bold knife

The photo is taken from http://www.tinhouse.com/blog/25485/what-we-hunger-for.html

As I held the dreary weapon in my hand, I felt its captivating power and the bold confidence it inspired, despite its feather-like lightness. An image flashed in my mind instantly, an image I’ve never seen, but I have long dreamt of, so often that it was like a hazy memory of my own from a distant past, or more likely an image of a memorable long afternoon from a former life…

My distant memoir was in reality a record of M. F. K. Fisher; a laid back champagne afternoon in Palm Court of the old Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Her piece of writing was so well-depicted that I hallucinated as if I were there witnessing it, as if I were actually tasting the dollar-sized dainty titbits melting away in my mouth. Here it goes:

“The Palm Court was dim and quiet in the lull before dinner. An occasional shadowy waiter pussyfooted in the edges of light and sound, checking on tables, flowers, unlighted candles. Our small table was an island in a hushed sea. We drank slowly from almost invisible glasses, so thin, a blanc de blanc champagne ... M. Hérault scudded toward us with a plate in a huge napkin and then rushed off ... and we unveiled the prettiest pile of the tiniest sandwiches in the whole world, I am sure. They were delicately brown, very crisp, hot, and precisely the thickness and width of a silver dollar. Unbelievably, they were made of an inner and outer slice of white bread, with a layer of Parma ham and one of Gruyère cheese between. They were apparently tossed in a flash of sweet butter and rushed to be eaten. They seemed to evaporate in the mouth, like fried mimosa blossoms. They were an astonishing thing, in fact . . . minute and complete.

I was told, as I snatched mazedly at them and sipped the beautiful wine, that once they had been much in demand in the Palm Court by the top-level courtesans, who measured them sternly with a stack of dollars alongside, and that the cooks hated to make them, demanding as they did most intimate care. The day I tasted them, the same legendary Chinese bread man who sliced for the gay ladies of the last century still sat behind his knives in the basement kitchen of the hotel, making Melba toast like no other, and it was he alone who could cut the bread thin enough, and plainly M.
Hérault was the last of great chefs to have time enough to see that the titbits were properly constructed and then pressed under weights to the right thickness and then fried correctly so as not to gain a millimeter in height. It was, in other words, a historical moment.”

The first time I read these words in M. F. K. Fisher’s “With Bold Knife & Fork,” I felt that was the moment I wished to have lived. I like a well-made croque-monsieur, and I like lazy imbibing afternoons, and I like old-style decadence, and I like the heavenly combination of parma ham and gruyère and crispy crunchy nibbles with my drink. At the same time I felt in vain, that this moment could never be replicated; such a fine croque-monsieur can never be made again, as there will be never the same Chinese bread man with his bold knife to cut the finest slices. I never attempted to make those little dollar-size toasts, but preferred to keep them buried in my memory, as if they were the most cherished bites in my past life.

Last week when the Nesmuk Janus knife was given to my hand by Faruk Sile, the bold and courageous guy who exports the finest knives to Turkey, I thought my verdict on the un-repeatedness of that moment could be changed. The experience of the sheer sliding sensation of the knife gave me that feeling that it could be possible to replicate these dainty dollar toasts. To my surprise, the menu of chef Rudolf Van Nunen included other dollar nibbles that made that un-lived memory flash in my mind again and again. All with a “bold knife” indeed!

Bite of the week

Item of the Week: Check Faruk Sile’s website to see the range of knives and other stuff he is importing to Turkey, including the best of the best, such as Wüsthof, Kai-Shun, Microplane, Triangle and Laguiole en Ausbrac. He usually offers good deals; better to be on the constant watch for a true gift for an anniversary, birthday or any occasion for any person passionate about knives and good food. Thanks to him, our dreams are closer to coming true… http://www.sile.com.tr/

Fork of the Week: To my surprise, Rudolf’s Nesmuk-Janus introduction dinner included sea scallop dollars on beetroot essence. What a happy coincidence! Though they were quite different than those Palm Court dollar-sized toasts, they were equally sensational with a crunchy sesame crust and creamy soft succulent flesh.
Kemeraltı Caddesi No.10, Karaköy, (0212) 703 33 25

Cork of the Week: Both the house white and red wines of Rudolf are amazing. Crafted only for Rudolf Van Nunen by Corvus winery in Bozcaada, Rudolf’s restaurant in Karaköy is the only place you can taste them. The lovely Rudolf’s Bianco 2012 is a lively marriage of Chardonnay-Vasilaki-Viognier grapes and Rudolf’s Red 2009 is a heavenly blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec and Merlot. All are to be savored with memorable dishes by Van Nunen.