Most underrated ingredient: Aside from love? So much of how we -- or maybe it's how I -- appreciate food is connected to memories, to feelings and to emotion. I often find myself thinking of ideas, plates -- whatever -- based on those connections. Or, salt and acid are good answers too, I suppose.
Favorite local ingredient and where you get it: Ramps and garlic scapes from the Boulder farmers' market. I love those things. You can put ramps on anything and they're awesome, or just eat them on their own. I love grilling them with just a little oil and a pinch of salt. I could eat piles of them -- scapes, too, although I don't like them quite so much on their own. A while back, I did a lamb liver and goat terrine with garlic scapes running through the center of it, and I even took some back to Boulder to share with the farms I'd bought everything from -- that was really awesome, and a great feeling. This year I hope to have time to pickle a bunch of both so I have them for months rather than just a few weeks.
Favorite spice: Coriander. It just lends itself to so many things. We're not using it half as much at Williams & Graham as we did at Highland Tavern, but I'm still always running down to the Savory Spice Shop for more. Coriander can be that touch of citrus in this dish, the soapy flavor (in the best way possible) in that dish, or the question mark in another. It's not cornered into one style of food, either: It lends itself to Asian, Mediterranean and African cuisines and a whole lot more.
One food you detest: Ketchup. Our obsession with slathering food with condiments disturbs me, but I hate ketchup the most. I've had some good housemade versions for sure, and I wish more people would make their own, but unfortunately, most consumers don't like them. I guess they don't have the crack factor that store-bought ones do. Standard ketchups are just so saccharine to me. Maybe it's the high-fructose corn syrup thing, which is all I taste, or maybe it's that I'm not nine years old anymore. As a kid, I used to put ketchup on everything -- specifically, to hide the taste of foods I didn't care for -- but as an adult, I can't stand it. I have a hard time even watching people eat it. One of my favorite ad campaigns is Vienna Beef's "NK-17 rating." It's a big photo of a delicious Chicago dog with a "No Ketchup Unless Under the Age of 17" rule.
One food you can't live without: Here's where I get to say pork. I loved it before belly was on every menu, and I'll still love it when it's passé. I love that you can use the whole animal, from head to tail. And, really, wouldn't you rather have a pork shank over a bowl of chicken feet? Actually, I might be able to go either way on that, depending on the day. But have you ever tried making airy, crunchy chicharrones from beef skin? There's a reason that pork rules: The snout, cheeks, tail, chops, loin, liver...I love the different flavors, the versatility, and I even kinda love that it's been an unappreciated meat for so long. And don't even get me started on lard.
Favorite music to cook by: It depends on the day. Some days, if I'm by myself, it's Elliott Smith, Hefner, the Builders and the Butchers, ethereal Sonic Youth or TV on the Radio. Other days it's Beethoven or opera. If one of the guys wants to put something on, it's fair game just as long as it's got the right energy and isn't hippie jam, the Beatles, or unintelligible grind-scream-black-Norse-god death-core. I secretly believe all those songs are really about kittens and rainbows, but they still drive me up a wall.