Dinner, Fall, Recipe, Appetizer

Agrodolce Onions

Paté begs for a tart accompaniment, something pickled, something sour, something crisp. You must offset the rich fattiness of the livers, gizzards, or whatever other organ meats you’ve chosen to press into delicious service atop a piece of toast. A snap of pickled cucumber, a gentle purple curl of cured red onion, a swipe of grainy mustard, these all carry weighty significance in our minds as we polish off a ramekin of potentially artery clogging delights. The vegetables call out, “Another bite!” You obey, after all, it can’t be that unhealthy to finish the pot if you’re eating veggies. You can’t reasonably leave one slice of pickle on the charcuterie board, and if you’re going to nibble the pickle, you might as well use it to pick up that bit of paté waiting at the bottom of the ramekin. And while you’re at it, why not throw the fat covered vegetable on the last remaining crostini? A perfect final bite, crisp, tart, sweet, fatty, and peppery.


I’ve been reading David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris and reveling in his storytelling. His view on Parisian life through the eyes of a hungry transplant is both funny and astute. The narrative is spotted with recipes here and there, one of my favorites is Lebovitz’s adaptation/appropriation of Judy Witts Francini’s Agrodolce Onions. A jar of these onions provided the perfect accompaniment to my recent tryst with 3 pounds of chicken livers.

Find the book, laugh in public, cook tonight.

Dessert, Holiday, Recipe

Chocolate Sorbet

There are only two things that can lower my body temperature in NYC’s violent sweat season: seltzer and ice cream. With every empty bottle of the bubbling salvation I’m getting closer to buying a Soda Stream. I hate the waste of so much empty plastic, I just need to commit to the machine and find a space for it in my evolving kitchen.

But this post isn’t about seltzer. That would be boring.

It’s about David Lebovitz’s chocolate sorbet. Deemed a genius recipe by the fine folks at Food52, I’ve been dreaming of a batch since the weather lost its edge in March. Though I toured with an induction burner (albeit, briefly), an ice cream machine was out of the question. Traveling with Flashdance made me pare down my necessities in a way that we could all benefit from now and again. Now that I’m back in nesting mode, the ice cream machine that couldn’t explore the country with me is getting all the love it’s missed.

First up, this fine sorbet. Dairy free, gluten free, and quick, this is the dessert I’ll be making for myself until the Fall leaves come calling and I can turn on the oven again. It’s rich and deep, velvety and cold. It melts not into cream, but into rivers of iced chocolate.

I can’t claim any improvements or substitutions to the recipe, it’s perfect just as written. The recipe uses cocoa powder and melted chocolate to achieve the exquisite texture and while any cocoa powder will do, but the good stuff is worth finding. My favorite? This Black Onyx Cocoa Powder from Savory Spice Shop. They’re good folks, selling well-sourced spices and proprietary blends for anything you might want to cook.  Go forth! Churn tonight!


ABC, I’m coming for you.

I began writing this post a week before Anderson Cooper came out publicly. I’d be remiss to neglect the importance of his declaration, and I’m not being glib. Our greatest strength on the path to equality is visibility. I applaud and encourage everyone who comes out, celebrity or neighbor. My thoughts on gender identity in media below…


The short story:
I made this audition video three weeks ago, just before I jaunted off to Alabama for the summer. The last one (for Food Network Star) was a hoot to shoot so I figured it was only logical to try my hand again. This time I’m auditioning for ABC’s latest cooking show. I don’t know whether they’re looking for personalities, chefs or some hedonistic combination of the two, but I wanted to throw my hat in with this snappy video recipe for Berry Clafoutis.

The long story:
As I am wont to do with most things I produce, I showed it to my mother. When it was finished playing she let out a withering, “Do you want me to tell you what I think?”

I boned up and told her, yes, I’d like to hear her opinion, though in truth, by the time anyone finishes asking that question you already have a good idea of what might come next. She told me she didn’t recognize the man on screen. She thought I came off affected, and, meaning no offense, quite gay. She expressed her confusion, was this how I wanted to portray myself? Something I was trying? An on-camera experiment? It was so very different from what she was used to, from the on-camera son she knew.

In the moment, I told her it was something I had wanted to try for a while. Yes, an experiment, but also something I dashed to get recorded before I had to board a plane to Birmingham. We sloughed it off and got back to the business of packing (I was helping my moms move out of their apartment). I had a feeling this was meant to be a larger conversation, but at the time didn’t want to initiate a capital Family Discussion.

I knew it would surprise my mom to find me acting stereotypically flamboyant on camera in great part because I had always played it rather straight at home. But my “straight-acting” self wasn’t a conscious decision, it wasn’t born out of self-hatred; I wasn’t trying to sublimate my sequined heart. My parents are the epitome of support and neither my gender and sexual identities nor my choice of a career in the arts have ever been contentious. My personality at home is a fairly neutral, relaxed version of myself; an outcome of having such a loving and uplifting family.

And part of having such a strong support system is the responsibility to see things from my parents’ perspective. As a parent, I imagine one believes she knows the very core of her child, and that of all the endless possibilities, the version she knows is the most true, the most authentic, the most real. But, in reality, the “me” my mother knows is, indeed, just one variation, one point on spectrums of both character and gender.

It must be startling then, to look at a perfect representation of your child and see him performing and entirely different role, a variation on gender which, up until now, you had known only in the abstract. Is it a character? Is he pretending to be this way?

You see, my mother knows I’m gay. We talk about dates with men, she has seen photos of my glittery nights and she knows I identify with the queer community. But at the same time, she has never actually met anyone I’ve dated (having never had a boyfriend), she’s never been out dancing with me (bringing her to CHERYL is questionable at best), and she has never seen me in the company of my chosen community. As such, my gay life is almost entirely theoretical to my family, while to my friends, the makeup-wearing, lovingly affected dandy I portray is part and parcel of who I am.

How difficult it must be to see someone you know so well acting in a way that stands in such stark contrast to your understanding of their spirit. Knowing that my mom was seeing a side of me she had never witnessed made me wonder what parts of her I haven’t yet met. How does my grandfather see her? What version of my mom does my sister know? Will I ever know those variations on mom? Can I know them? Should I know them?

Watching the video through mom’s eyes I also see the fear that might creep into her heart upon seeing her son act in a manner that might pigeon-hole him in his chosen career. Let’s be honest, I am better served to let a casting office believe I am straight (without lying) than I am to walk into an audition with an outsized personality that distracts them from my work. Much like Anderson Cooper says in his letter, I am a storyteller and blending in can be as important as standing out.

Having had these conversations with my mom, I’m fairly positive she watched the video and thought, “Is this castable? Does he want the networks to see him in this way?” And she’d be right to ask those questions. Despite the growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community, it’s still risky to be an out-and-loud personality in mainstream media. Ideally we’d live in a world that could judge talent and ability equally with or without foreknowledge of sexual orientation. But we don’t live in that society, and consequently, I’d be foolish to pretend we do.

Gender is performative and I am an actor; I was, quite literally, born to play this role. Knowing when and where to employ my various social costumes is essential to pushing boundaries, both my own and the lines drawn in our grand cultural sandbox. I’ve got a gaggle of personae in the clown-car of my body and each of them deserves a turn at the wheel.

This video, something that was hastily shot and edited, launched me into a 7-car pileup of gender and identity questions. Many thanks to those of you who made it through this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Isn’t it electrifying to imagine just how little we know of each other?

Maybe my mom will introduce me to another side of her. (Love you Mom!)






24 Responses to “ABC, I’m coming for you.”

  1. emily | nomnivorousJuly 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm Edit #

    Dan, I have to tell you that I laughed heartily at the video and think you’d be a great on-camera food person. The last lines “All I want to do is talk about food. Feed you. Feed the people you love.” All that? I love it. It’s what I want to do with my life too.

    The post also got my brain spinning. You’ve been able to articulate the thing I couldn’t. I always felt like there were Emilys that my family never knew, and would have never been able to really “get”. And as soon as I moved to NY, it got worse. There’s so much of me that my family doesn’t see, so they completely don’t get. And it’s made me distance myself from them. I feel bad doing it, but you’ve spelled it out in a way that I “get” better.

    Also, a friend is telling me I should try out for this thing. Yep, my brain is a swimmin’ with a million thoughts. And I have quite the essay going!


    • Dan KohlerJuly 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm Edit #

      Emily! Thanks for the kind words. I sent this to my mom before posting and it sparked an interesting dialogue. She said she didn’t think that she had other versions of herself, that while she may present herself differently in a business situation than a familial one, that those were both basically the same mom I already know.

      It made me wonder, is the feeling of having so many faces an experience that one passes through in one’s twenties? Will I reach my mom’s age and find I’m presenting one version of “me” to the world? Or is this something that is new with our generation? Is this an experience brought on by the sharp uptick in technology in our lives? Do I have “multiple personalities” because I’m a member of so many divergent communities, some that are entirely digital?

      Clearly my mind is still jumbly on this.

      And yes, you MUST audition for the show! If not now, when?


  2. TonopahJuly 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm Edit #

    There is only one you. It would be logically inconsistent to say there are lots of you. Perhaps you emphasize different parts of yourself at different times. But those are the faces you always make, the way you have always had of making someone laugh, of inviting them into your kitchen, of making the craft of cooking seem simultaneously simple and elegant, of being genuine, of being interesting to watch, of telling stories, of being Dan. There is only one Dan, and he is effing awesome in all his presentations.

    Gender and sexuality get a lot trickier. They seems to deserve a constant and vigilant conversation. Perhaps not about what they are, but what they are not. Gender nor sexuality shouldn’t define a person; I’m not a girl, I’m a person passionate about helping people. I don’t wear dresses because I am “supposed” to but because they are comfortable. I’m not interested in men because I chose to be, but thats not to say I have never had sexual thoughts about women. Words, cadence, “affectations” don’t define gender or sexuality, they are only a part of the person exhibiting them. However it would be simplistic not to believe that gender, sexuality, and the self have an intimate relation to one another. They are part of how we are seen, and part of how we see ourselves, but all of that is fluid. Some days I like to wear lacy underwear and high heel shoes, other days I prefer jeans and no make up; neither one is somehow more inherently true to myself or my gender. Gender and sexuality aren’t static states of being, but the space to start to get to know oneself.


  3. JosieJuly 3, 2012 at 6:52 pm Edit #

    I love love LOVE the sentence:
    I’ve got a gaggle of personae in the clown car of my body, and each of them deserves a turn at the wheel

    I definitely believe that we are different people at different times and to different people. At work, I was known as the Type-A ass-kicker who had her shit on lock and never backed down.
    My friends definitely would describe me differently. My parents would describe me still differently. I think there’s a lot to be said here, and I also think that bringing gender and sexuality into the mix bring forth even more questions and sides to the story. There are so many expectations and views, from both inside and outside the LGBTQ community, of how one “should” act once the mantle of “gay” has been put on.

    So in the end, all I guess I can say is… great post. 


    • Dan KohlerJuly 4, 2012 at 5:49 pm Edit #

      You make a great point Josie. The weight that “should” carries when applied to how we act and how we identify is extreme. I guess we all have a choice to play into or against expectations. Being aware of the game takes away some of the power, yes?


  4. Jenny McNeiceJuly 3, 2012 at 8:42 pm Edit #

    “I wasn’t trying to sublimate my sequined heart.” Your writing is a performance of wit and I love when you dive a little deeper in these posts sometimes.


    • Danielle MayockJuly 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm Edit #

      Dan, I’m glad to know you and agree with my sister entirely. The article made me tear up and the video made me spit up my tea with a snort, I hope ABC sees what I do, and if they dont, then its their loss


      • Dan KohlerJuly 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm Edit #

        Darlings, make no mistake-I carry you in that sequined heart everywhere I go.


  5. Danielle MayockJuly 3, 2012 at 9:28 pm Edit #

    Dan- I’m so glad you put this up. I heartily agree with Jenny, the post made me choke up and the video made me spit up my tea with a snort. If ABC doesn’t see this video like I do, then they are ridiculous, and are completely missing out on you.


  6. Sarah E. WelchJuly 4, 2012 at 6:10 am Edit #

    I saw drama & life here, not sexuality or gender issues.

    I think the ‘different faces’ thing depends on the person. Some people are truly, authentically one personality no matter what. Others are someone different for each person they met. Once we had caller id at home so that my Dad would know who was calling before picking up, I had my own version of caller id from across the room. I could tell who was on the other end of the line simply by his greeting.

    I still surprise my husband every now and again–after 16 years together. We’ve known each other as friends, classmates, co-workers, spouses, lovers, and more. He’s seen me in so many different settings with so many different people over teens, twenties, and now as DINKs, but he still feels like he’s getting to know me. While I think there’s something to the twenty-something thing (I’m barely into my 30s), I’m not sure that it ever goes away for most of us–maybe settles down a bit. I think that’s lovely.


    • Dan KohlerJuly 4, 2012 at 5:53 pm Edit #

      That’s what I thought I might hear from my mom (and was consequently surprised to hear that she feels somewhat opposite). I hope I keep changing, I hope that the things in my life continue to affect me in deep ways and that I respond with new flair each time. I love to hear that even after being together for 16 years you and your husband are still learning more about each other. Cheers!


  7. Annie vanDykeJuly 4, 2012 at 4:48 pm Edit #

    You are amazing, funny, fabulous, deep, entertaining, instructive and a buncha other identifiers for all those peeps in the clown car! And, can you believe? he can cook…a total package,a dream! You are, without a doubt, much more interesting and real than Mr. Cooper. LOVE YOU! And that crazy clafoutis!


    • Dan KohlerJuly 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm Edit #

      Annie! Honey, go make that crazy clafoutis, you won’t regret it! Thanks for your words, Happy Fourth!


  8. Andrew HydeJuly 4, 2012 at 5:57 pm Edit #

    Fantastic as always Dan.


  9. Sarah Colley JonesJuly 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm Edit #


    It was entertaining, educational, inspiring, and — of supreme importance – fun!!

    I loved it, and look forward to watching your new show, wherever it lands (Food Network? Cooking Channel? Style???)

    Thanks also, for making the clafouti Gluten-Free! I shall replicate tonight, with local blackberries, and a white peach, or two! {to be washed down with chilled Bailey’s — happy Friday to me!}


    • Dan KohlerJuly 11, 2012 at 8:43 pm Edit #

      Happy Friday indeed! How did the clafoutis come out? Local black berries and white peaches sound perfect, I’ll have to try your combo. Cheers!


  10. GailJuly 11, 2012 at 11:24 pm Edit #

    I think this is terrific! You’re so animated, so entertaining and obviously, so knowledgable about food! Much more so than so many other so-called foodie celebrities.

    Clafoutis for all, and all for clafoutis!


    • Dan KohlerJuly 12, 2012 at 5:51 pm Edit #

      I think that may be my epitaph. Clafoutis for all indeed! Thanks Gail!


  11. Kristen TaylorJuly 24, 2012 at 10:04 am Edit #

    I’m late to this, but in time to say – I hope the whole world gets to know this part of Dan Kohler too. As Wilde points out, there are two kinds of people: charming and tedious. You are always charming.


  12. Sarah E. WelchAugust 5, 2012 at 7:06 pm Edit #

    So, I thought I’d also comment on the actual recipe  I made this last night! I used local plums, coconut flour, and almond milk. It was *fantastic*! This is going to be a go-to desert for me. I’m going to pick up some coconut milk ice cream to keep in the freezer. I think it would be a delicious accompaniment!


    • Dan KohlerAugust 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm Edit #

      Oh Sarah! You’ve just made my morning! I really do love this recipe for the summer, glad to know it kicks ass with coconut flour and almond milk (a luscious combination if I do say so myself). I’m off to the market now, if I find some plums I might just make your permutation tonight!


  13. JayAugust 12, 2012 at 11:24 pm Edit #

    I just want to say that I find your two paragraphs below wonderfully insightful. They made me wonder how much I have repressed parts of myself. I do remember going through a flamboyant stage around 5 or 6 and then policing myself to uber butch straightness. Wonder if the real me is different?

    “I knew it would surprise my mom to find me acting stereotypically flamboyant on camera in great part because I had always played it rather straight at home. But my “straight-acting” self wasn’t a conscious decision, it wasn’t born out of self-hatred; I wasn’t trying to sublimate my sequined heart. My parents are the epitome of support and neither my gender and sexual identities nor my choice of a career in the arts have ever been contentious. My personality at home is a fairly neutral, relaxed version of myself; an outcome of having such a loving and uplifting family.”

    “And part of having such a strong support system is the responsibility to see things from my parents’ perspective. As a parent, I imagine one believes she knows the very core of her child, and that of all the endless possibilities, the version she knows is the most true, the most authentic, the most real. But, in reality, the “me” my mother knows is, indeed, just one variation, one point on spectrums of both character and gender.”


    • Dan KohlerAugust 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm Edit #

      Thanks Jay, writing this post really made me reflect on my behavior inside and outside the house. I think we all police ourselves for different character traits, it’s a biological and social need to fit in, right? I’m trying to be more aware of my many different personalities and not be so hard on myself for performing gender roles (be they stereotypical or antithetical). I love the conversation happening around these thoughts here, I really appreciate your contribution.



Kids in the Kitchen 2012

My third year attending the annual International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference has confirmed what the first two years had me suspecting. While the panels are informative and the socializing is good for business, it’s the active, hands-on activities that really charge me as an attendee. With IACP that means the annual event sponsored by The Culinary Trust (their philanthropic wing) and the Kids in the Kitchen committee.

Every year an event is planned in the conference’s home city to teach kids some valuable and basic cooking skills. For the last two years we’ve had the opportunity to work with the kids only once, during the conference. This year was different. The Culinary Trust planned the event to run for three weeks. We worked with the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger teaching weekly cooking classes to a fantastic group of kids, ages 8-18.


I know everyone who works with kids says this, but I have to write it anyway: The kids are fucking fantastic. They showed up week after week, ready to cook, ready to eat, and ready to play. We all had a great time. Who knew making smoothies could be so exciting? Seriously. Kids love a Vitamix.

The Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger is an organization that feeds 11,000 hungry people in Brooklyn every month.
Now read this:
You’re only allowed to shop at the pantry once a month.

So, where are families in need getting food the rest of the month? The neighborhood needs more support.

The Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger has been farming backyard plots for three years to supplement the food in their pantry. They teach cooking classes, pair kids with elderly community members to learn gardening and farming techniques, and provide clothes to those in need. This organization fights hard for their community.

And now it’s my turn to help out. There is a giant empty plot of land next to their headquarters. It’s been empty for 9 years. Dr. Samuels (the executive director of the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger) has tried everything she can think of to get that land for more urban farming. I called the city council member representing that district to inquire about the land. Will you join me in putting some pressure on the local government to help out? The community needs food. Farming engages everyone, from elementary school students to retirees. This is a win-win situation for the whole neighborhood.

Please call Darlene Mealy at 718-953-3097 or email her at Ask her what the plan is for that land. It’s been sitting unused for 9 years. Let’s change that, let’s help the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger feed more people. Leave a comment and let me know when you call!


Keep kicking ass,

Video, Summer

IACP 2011

IACP 2011.

I was in Austin, TX for a week at the beginning of June with a collision of foodniks. The International Association of Culinary Professionals. We talked, we ate, we drank, there were some fantastic panels and there were reasons to play hooky. IACP is at an interesting crossroads (so say I). The organization has been around for over 30 years and acts to connect food professionals from all corners of this industry-photographers, chefs, food stylists, producers, bloggers, authors, eaters, etc. But in an ever more youthful food industry it seems that IACP struggles to bring in the under 35 demographic. Indeed, I was one of a handful of attendees under the age of 30. This was my second year as an IACP member. I joined because it put me in direct contact with people who knew more than me, plain and simple. I started this website in my imagination (honestly, I told people it existed but “was down for service” for a good 6 months before I even launched). It was an idea bubbling in my head and when the bubbles started to burst I found myself with questions questions questions. I needed to meet people (face-to-face, not pixel-to pixel) who had done this before, who had started a website on a whim and turned it into something more. For me, IACP is the place to get face time with peers you’ve known online for ages. It’s a deep resource and I’m happy to have it at my fingertips.

So why is it so hard to get us young folks in the door?

Face time is a hard sell. And with a $600-800 ticket price (not including travel expenses), we have to prove a return of equal or greater value. For people starting out in the food world, be they young chefs or baby bloggers, this is a major expense. Hell, for people not starting out in the food industry this is a major expense. And when I’m about to drop serious cash I look long and hard at the product before I write that check. At the relatively minor cost of $100 I decided not to attend the regional conference in NYC this year. What kept me away? A quick demographic breakdown of the speakers instantly deterred me. I believe that we are drawn to speakers for one of two reasons: 1) They are like us 2)We want to be like them. The average panelist at the regional conference was certainly not like me, late 40′s to early 50′s, but the real struggle I felt was that I didn’t see panelists I wanted to be. Sure there were fascinating speakers, and there were even some people talking about what’s happening in the digital world. But those people were not my people. These were not speakers I’d have picked to talk about food in the digital age. Let’s get the folks behind Foodzie on a panel. I want to hear from the team. I want to meet the people my age who are game changers in the online food world. And more than that, I want action. As someone under the age of 30 (and I know many over-30 year olds who’d agree) I don’t want to sit in a room while someone talks at me for 2 hours. Even if it’s a topic I’m enthused about, I lose interest when my participation isn’t necessary.

If we want to change the demographic of our attendees at the national conference we need to change the demographic of our speakers.

If we want to prove value to a younger generation we need to build active programming.

One place IACP really does it right? The Kids in the Kitchen committee hosts an event each year that is both active and youthful. This year we went to the excellent UT Elementary school and gardened with the kids. We then drove to Whole Foods and showed these funky eaters how to cook what they grew. I left with dirty hands, as sure a sign of value as anything. The best face time at IACP is there, working with culinary peers to educate a new generation. Second best face time? Eating and drinking with new-found friends and old-school cronies while you ditch a few panels and make connections that will last a lifetime. We have to find a way to showcase this value, this nebulous, unplanned, off-campus “networking” that changes your career.

I want IACP to grow, to change, to be the best it can be. It has played a major role in my professional development and I want it to do the same for my peers. I made a video highlighting the Kids in the Kitchen event this year, it encapsulates the energy, passion and integrity that I see in IACP members.

There is great value in knowing people who know more than you. Thank you IACP for another great conference.

Video, Fall

Harvest Home Rocks

Here is what I love about living in NYC:
People do fantastic things. All the time.

Everyone you meet is up to something. This isn’t a city to sit on your heels and simmer. Rather, it’s the best place to fill your pot to the brim and make a fabulous stew of life. Take for instance, Jill Brack. Many of you know her as the founder of Glow Gluten Free Cookies. Here’s what you might not know: Jill is on the board of Harvest Home Farmer’s Market. Harvest Home places farmer’s markets in low income neighborhoods with little access to fresh produce. The markets are set up so the patrons can pay with food stamps, but what’s even more impressive is that paying with your EBT card is incentivized. For every $5 you pay with your food stamps, you receive an extra $2 to spend at the market. In a time when it is often more expensive to buy fresh produce than a Big Mac, Harvest Home goes a long way to shift the balance.

Harvest Home sponsored an event this past week with PS 72 in Harlem. 4th and 5th grade classes were asked to design a poster for the market. One poster was picked and the winning class (Ms. Callahan’s 5th grade) was brought to the market to celebrate. Jill asked if I was interested in cooking a market inspired meal for the kids as part of their prize. My answer-”LOVE IT.” Food always tasted better with company and what better company than 30 5th graders?

I had free reign of the market’s bounty to plan my menu, all of the veggies donated by the farmers. For lunch we at chili and maple roasted squash, braised collards with apples and onions, roasted chicken thighs with a citrus-tahini dressing, a big salad and rice pudding with caramelized apples. Our plates were palettes of Fall colors, filled to the brim. I loved watching the principal of PS 72 sit down with the kids to eat. This is how we can change food habits-eating together, talking about food, learning as a community.