Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter eggs: Art! Science! Food!

That's right: we set out to combine all three this year. Because Sophie and I are busy, multitasking gals. No—really, just because it sounded like fun.

We joined one of my fav. celebrity chefs Michael Chiarello—founder of Napa restaurant Tra Vigne, cookbook author, cooking show host, and now store owner—for a little natural egg dying. Did you know I met him once? At the opening of his fabulous new store down on Fourth Street.

He was standing at the door personally greeting everyone as they came in. I was so excited I gushed "Oh my god! It's YOU!!!" What an idiot. As if someone else might be occupying his body. He was really lovely (just as handsome as he is on tv) and we had a nice chat about my bright orange Crocs.

I nose around his store, peruse his catalog, and check his website all the time for recipes and entertaining ideas.

Here's what he had in store for us in preparation for Easter: using natural ingredients to color eggs. Just like the Indians! The instructions are a little vague because how long you simmer the eggs varies with what coloring ingredient you use, but here's the basic idea:
Place eggs in a deep, non-reactive saucepan.

Add your coloring ingredient, and then cover with a quart of cold water and two tablespoons white vinegar to fix the dye.

Gently simmer the eggs for 20 minutes or up to three hours, until you like the color. Remove eggs from water and cool.
Since Sophie and I were playing scientist here, we made a chart to record our hypotheses and results—a great chance to talk about scientific method and proper table layout.

Here are the ingredients Michael suggested that we tried:

Red cabbage. He said it would make blue. We got grey.
Blueberries. He said lavender. We got lavender!
Beets. He said pink. We got brown.
Turmeric. He said yellow. We got a lovely yellow-orange.

Lots of fun, but we could not ignore the fact that our results were quite different from Michael's.

So we then had a conversation about the role of the food stylist (you know, those people who shellac caramel apples so you get depressed about how yours come out) and how what you see is not always the reality of the situation even if it is a photograph. Like if my head were ever photoshopped onto a really hot bikini body (not that I'd really mind).

We might go back to Paz next year, but we had fun with Michael this year (the turmeric ones turned out really well), and Sophie completely forgot that Friday evening is her time to watch a dvd movie. Chalk up one for me in my battle against the screen.

Happy Easter!


Meadow Walker said...

Sweet eggs! I think it would be fun to try it! I make Ukranian eggs.
We just had nine inches of snow here in Michigan, Happy Easter!
Love to ski too, lived in Telluride for several years.

dmmlandcruiser said...

Happy Easter! Great effort on the eggs, mine always look like a disaster!

Joy said...

Sounds like fun- the brown eggs were supposed to be pink?!

jilly said...

I LOVE Michael Chiarello. Tra Vigne is one of my favorite restaurants. When I lived in Napa for a bit I frequented his restaurant in order to get my cookbook signed by him.

I love his catalog and show as well.

What a fun experiment!

Sweet Pea Chef said...

Love Michael Chiarello and before I knew him, we had already eaten at Tra Vigne and loved it...especially the little wine bar area.

The eggs crack me up...we did homemade dyes this year, but using regular food dye. I was tempted to try the natural ones, but if I want brown eggs, I will just put our regular eggs out on display.

Thanks for sharin!