Traditional recipes

The Interview: Chef Billy Deaver

The Interview: Chef Billy Deaver

Chef Billy Deaver recently signed on as executive chef for all the restaurants at Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif.: R Bar, Splash Grill, Palms Café, and their flagship restaurant, bluEmber.

The resort is currently undergoing a $5 million renovation, and Deaver’s farm-to-table approach fits right in with their overall philosophy. One of the real standouts on the menu at the new R Bar is the "Billy’s Burger Bar" section, which features 10 different sliders in varieties including the "All American" with American cheese, caramelized onions, sweet pickles, local tomatoes, and R sauce; the "Bacon Lover" with smoked chopped bacon, bacon cheese, and roasted garlic bacon aioli; and the "Crab Cake" with Maryland-style crabcake, avocado purée, shaved red onion, and Old Bay sauce.

Over at bluEmber, Deaver serves California New American cuisine with a high-end approach, with ingredients sourced from local farmers as well as the on-site herb garden. Menu items include Pacific oysters with gin mignonette, preserved onion, and crispy onion; pan-seared striped bass with heirloom carrots, dinosaur kale, roasted fennel, and carrot cashew pesto; shortrib with creamy white Cheddar grits, balsamic roasted shallots, and grilled green garlic; and truffle tots with shaved Parmesan on the side.

We spoke with Deaver about his experiences in the restaurant industry.

What was your first restaurant industry job?
My first restaurant job was as a dishwasher at a neighborhood Italian restaurant and pizza shop. As a kid, I would try and guess as the sauté pans came to the dish pit, if it was marinara, Bolognese, marsala, picatta. Not having the skills of a cook or a developed palate it created the drive to want to be the "guy on the line." That started the fire that stays with me daily in the kitchen.

When you first walk into a restaurant, what do you look for as signs that it’s well-run, will be a good experience, etc.?
I look for the quality of the greeting at the door, smells of the room, details of the table set, smiles on the team’s face. If they are moving like a well-orchestrated team, you know they are on their game!

Is there anything you absolutely hate cooking?
Hate is a strong word. I enjoy all food.

If one chef from history could prepare one dish for you, what would it be?
I would choose my opah, who was a German immigrant. On our farm growing up they raised and butchered pigs, and his ham was truly amazing. He cured and smoked it in our smoke house that they built. By the time I came around he had passed, but my grandfather and uncles kept the tradition going.

What do you consider to be your biggest success as a chef?
My biggest successes have been earning my four diamonds from AAA Mobil and leading my first kitchen in my mid-20s.

What do you consider to be your biggest failure as a chef?
Not traveling through Europe and Asia. I feel that to truly understand a region of food you really need to spend time seeing where it came from, how the locals grow it, eat it, why is it so special to them. That’s how you can understand how to create your own memories in your restaurant, for your guests.

What is the most transcendental dining experience you’ve ever had?
A few years back I was in Manhattan doing some work with a good friend and I took him to Mario Batali’s Bar Jamón. It was a small store front that maybe had 30 seats. The vibe was bustling and it was clearly all about the food, drinks, and friends. There were only about six bar stools and two community tables in the entire place and only two bartenders/prep cooks. They assembled the dishes and poured the drinks with quickness. We ate through most of the menu as it is tapas-style, with Manteca, pickled sardines, head cheese, Ibérico ham.

Are there any foods you will never eat?
I’d have to say I’m not really elated about blood sausage.

Is there a story that, in your opinion, sums up how interesting the restaurant industry can be?
I met my wife in a restaurant up in Tahoe, Calif. She ran the front of the house and I was the chef. A few trips back and forth across the USA, up and down California, two beautiful kids, and 11 years later, we’re still having fun and always enjoy talking about our passion, the restaurant!


Fleeing the Ghost of 1992

This is a convention run by revisionists, determined to obscure if not rewrite recent history, to the electoral advantage of the Republican Party.

Bob Dole and his managers want to erase memories of the shrill animosity that marked their party's convention four years ago in Houston. They want to soften the confrontational record of the Republican-controlled 104th Congress, especially that of the House of Representatives. They want to consign this year's Republican platform to the dustbin of history quickly indeed, they wanted to do so even before it was passed.

The platform may be more conservative than it was in 1992, the delegates may be more unyieldingly conservative than they were in 1992, but the television face of this convention will be more moderate, if the managers have their way. The real audience, the one that will decide who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue after next Jan. 20, is not in the conventional hall but out there in videoland, and it is far more moderate than the delegates.

For the men and women who face the uphill task of defeating President Clinton, if not for the more outspoken conservatives among the delegates here, the first order of business is to make San Diego the non-Houston.

They are not shy about admitting it. For example, Nelson Warfield, Mr. Dole's press secretary, volunteered this during an interview today: ''There's a story to be written here, and the story is, this is not Houston.''

Houston, after all, was followed by the defeat of George Bush, who entered his hometown convention a favorite for re-election, yet lost. Mr. Dole and his circle have thought a lot about that and concluded, one of them said recently, that ''we may not have murdered our candidate right there, but we tied lead weights around his ankles and sent him out to take his licking.''

The people who ran things four years ago are out, and people who made Republican images in happier days are back -- people like Michael J. Deaver, the Michelangelo of the balloon drop, and the joint impresarios here, William I. Greener 3d and Paul J. Manafort, who both made their names in the 1980's, heyday of Ronald Reagan.

Mr. Reagan, ill with Alzheimer's disease, was of course not here, but Billy Graham, Jack Kemp and others appeared in a loving film about the Reagan era, when the Republicans seemed on the way to lasting majority-party status.

Then Nancy Reagan came on, cheered to the rafters. She brought many to tears as she spoke of the long goodbye his illness represented.

Charles Black, once Mr. Manafort's partner in the consulting business, observed this morning that no fewer than 128 people spoke at Houston, where some of the speakers were actually permitted to say what they thought.

'ɿour of those 128 people said things that were considered too controversial, too right-wing, and all of the coverage that came out of that convention concerned those four,'' Mr. Black told a group of reporters over breakfast. ''I don't consider that your fault. I consider it our fault, and we're trying to do better.''

So there will be no Patrick J. Buchanan this time, no Marilyn Quayle -- they were two of the speakers with a snarl last time -- and those who have been invited to speak have been told how long to talk, what subjects to address and how to treat them. Craig Fuller, the permissive 1992 manager who approved Mr. Buchanan's text, is a forlorn, forgotten man in 1996.

A thoroughly pro-Dole Senator, accustomed to having his way, grumbled over the weekend about 'ɻrainwashing'' after his indoctrination session.

Gen. Colin L. Powell is popular enough, and the managers wanted him badly enough, that he could (and did) negotiate the terms of his appearance tonight, which produced the kind of boffo television politicians dream about. Few others could.

The result is that some officeholders with demonstrated appeal to the kinds of urban and suburban voters who hold the key to a Dole comeback, like Govs. Pete Wilson of California, William F. Weld of Massachusetts and George E. Pataki of New York, will not be making substantive speeches here.

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York and Mayor Richard J. Riordan of Los Angeles, who were hailed as party heroes when they won three years ago, are not bothering to come to San Diego.

The big danger, of course, is that in making sure nobody disrupts the message of reassurance from San Diego, everything will seem so relentlessly scripted that it resembles a meeting of a party plenum in the old Soviet Union. Those didn't make for very lively television.

Better dull, say the Republicans, than divisive. And those who do speak will keep to their allotted 3, 5 or 10 minutes -- or else. Haley Barbour, the party chairman, gave them the word again on NBC's ''Today'' this morning, just a few hours before the first gavel fell. ''I'll be darned,'' he said, ''if on my watch, Colin Powell or Bob Dole or somebody is going to speak after prime time, like happened in Houston.''

As is his wont, Mr. Buchanan has a rather different slant on all of this. He wants to rewrite not the notion that Houston was typical of the Republican Party in its intolerance, but the notion that he did anything wrong there. At his rally last night in nearby Escondido, a kind of rump convention, he showed a video that included not only his 1992 speech with its famous proclamation of cultural war but also shots of television anchormen saying he had done his party a service.

After exorcising the ghosts of Houston, San Diego has other work to do. Polls show that the permanent chairman of this convention, Speaker Newt Gingrich, is one of the less popular political figures of recent history.

So the managers have a bold plan. They will give Congress a new identity. No more talk about the Congress That Shut Down Government or the Gingrich Revolution the script calls for the unveiling later this week of the presumably much more salable Common Sense Congress.

The candidates have already begun their makeover. The past squabbles between Mr. Dole and his designated running mate, Mr. Kemp, are to be buried for the common good. They may have produced some of the most venomous remarks aimed by one party leader at another of the same persuasion since Dwight D. Eisenhower found it impossible to think of anything good Richard M. Nixon had achieved as his Vice President, but never mind.

''We're adults,'' the prospective Presidential nominee said on Saturday. ''There was never any head-on stuff. It was always around the edges.''

And never mind that former Senator Dole has spent a lifetime preaching the gospel of balanced budgets first, balanced budgets second, balanced budgets forever, the true faith of the old-fashioned heartland conservatives like Robert A. Taft. He's a supply-sider now, with a supply-side running mate.

But, one might ask, what about the platform, a hard-line document on social issues like abortion and immigration, with an entirely different emphasis from the campaign that will be started here with a thousand sound bites about lower taxes and the American dream?

Mr. Dole tried to take the sting out with mollifying language about ''tolerance'' within the party, ''right up there where people can see it,'' but he failed. The convention that will nominate him, that will ratify his choice of Mr. Kemp, is dominated by conservatives of a much more doctrinaire temperament than his own, and they wanted none of his legislator's deal-cutting and compromise.

But he, not they, made up the convention timetable, and the platform report was adopted in the obscurity of an afternoon session, while General Powell, whom Mr. Dole would have chosen as his running mate had he been available, was given the choicest spot of the evening for his speech.

There is more. No neophyte in these matters, Mr. Dole knows that candidates often turn their backs on platforms once the convention ends. He simply went tradition one better, leaping off the platform before it had been officially constructed.

''I'm not bound by the platform,'' he blithely told The San Diego Union-Tribune in an interview. ''I probably agree with most everything in it, but I haven't read it.''


Top 10 Los Angeles Artisan Food Producers

How do you, how does anyone, define the term artisan today? The answer, less than five years ago, was an independent food crafter of various genres, ages, types and vastly different production yields. The schoolteacher who makes only a few hundred jars of jam annually in a shared rental kitchen. The third generation family of confectioners who make several hundred batches of Mexican candies a week, yet still insist on still making every single piece by hand (and using handmade equipment) in their tiny East L.A. kitchen. That handmade quality was all that mattered.

Back then, being an “artisan” also had nothing to do with whether those jams made appearances at farmers markets or “artisan events” like Renegade, Urban L.A. or Artisanal L.A. And not because their product wasn't worthy of those venues, but by necessity. They were too busy making candy six days a week. Yet in a span of just a few years, we rarely hear of the food crafts that these more established artisans are preserving.

Vicente Mendez Cutting Jamoncillo (milk fudge) On A Slicer Made From Guitar Strings Credit: jgarbee

That's not to say the younger generation of artisans are not equally fantastic. Many of their products are better, even, than their seasoned predecessors. We should be celebrating the new artisan jam and pickle gurus like Jessica Koslow when they are successful enough to open their own café. And we're thrilled to hear that the McCarthy's San Angel Mole sauce finally got on Sur La Table's shelves after so many years of hard work. Even as they expand, they're still artisans in our mind, just as a baker who graduates from a few baskets of pretzels to thousands a day is still one of our very best bakers.

This is a top ten list that varies from our previous Top 10 editions, as the artisans here deliver products that go well beyond flavor. Some remind of us of our culinary heritage, some are recreating lost arts. Others offer a glimpse into our creative future. All are exceptional at their craft. It was impossible to mention them all, as L.A. has hundreds of deserving artisans of all molds, so think of this not as a finite list, but as a catalyst to nominate your favorites in the comments below. Let's applaud L.A.'s artisan diversity this holiday season and in the years to come.

Coldwater Canyon Jams & Pickles Credit: jgarbee

10. Coldwater Canyon Provisions Jams, Jellies & Pickles

Shocking flavor combinations turn artisans into blog headlines. A couple of clever tattoos and a retro apron don't hurt. Hot pepper jelly made by a middle-aged, teddy bear of a guy like Rondo Mieczkowski, not so much. Mieczkowski and his partner, Danny Barillaro, founded Coldwater Canyon Provisions with the idea of taking more of an old-school, pickled-okra approach to their recipes. Many of the recipes are humble tributes to Mieczkowski's grandmother. If he makes a product in a traditional style, like pickled okra, Mieczkowski lets you know not to expect any fancy rosemary and lavender tweaks. Others, like pickled apples, are dubbed “gourmet” for reasons that aren't exactly clear.

It's all part of the charm. What you likely won't hear, as it's not a sales tactic: Coldwater donates a portion of their sales to Under the Bridges and On the Streets, a nonprofit that provides services for L.A.'s homeless. Coldwater Canyon products are available on Etsy , at various craft fairs and local shops (Twig & Willow) check their Facebook page for locations.

Note: We are sad to report that Barillaro recently passed away. You can still find Mieczkowski at craft fairs throughout the year talking about the appropriately named Black Splendor plum-rose water jam they made together this summer.

Clapping Piloncillo Molds Together to Remove The Hardened Sugar Cones Credit: jgarbee

9. La Zamorana Mexican Candies & Piloncillo

An artisan myth: expensive is always part of the handmade deal. One of the benefits of an artisan succeeding on a multi-generation scale is that handmade products often become more affordable. Consider the family behind La Zamorana, who have been churning out the authentic Mexican candies in a tiny, nondescript East L.A. kitchen since 1957. Founder José Mendez immigrated to Los Angeles from Zamora de Hidalgo in Michoacán, otherwise known as the candy capital of Mexico. Mendez first hit East L.A. with a single street cart full of tarugo (tamarind pulp candies) Today his son, Vicente, and grandchildren run the business.

Other than production scale, not much has changed over the decades. The molds that José carved from large wood blocks are still filled with piloncillo daily (photo above). There's no fancy packaging here plastic bags and cake rounds have always worked just fine. You can buy nuggets of garnet-hued camote (sweet potato) and candied calabaza (squash) directly from the factory (if you're looking for piloncillo, call ahead they sell out quickly). Need another excuse to buy more local artisan candy? “Mexico has been exporting candies at really low prices recently because they don't have to follow the regulations we do,” says the youngest Mendez, Vince. La Zamorana Candy is available directly from the factory and at several area Hispanic markets such as La Vallarta.

Biltong (Left) and Droewers at European Deluxe Credit: Elina Shatkin

8. European Deluxe South African Style Jerky

How a German artisan with an advanced degree in sausage-making like Gary Traub ends up making South African-style jerky in Beverly Hills is a classic L.A. story of time, place and opportunity. Go back even further in history, and Dutch farmers did all the biltong (Afrikaans for “buttock tongue”) and droewors (“dried sausage”) curing using locally available meats like ostrich or African antelope. As ostrich is a bit tricky to find in Beverly Hills, Traub cures beef bottom round and, occasionally, when he can get it, farm-raised antelope in cider vinegar, salt and coriander before air-drying them.

It all happens in a tiny kitchen just behind the retail butcher shop that Traub purchased from another German sausage maker, Willie Kossbiel (he taught Traub to make the jerky a representative from the South African Embassy stopped by more than 30 years ago asking for it). A jerky field trip bonus: Traub's handmade German sausages will also be waiting in the meat case. Biltong and droewers are available at European Deluxe Sausage Kitchen in Beverly Hills.

Lemonbird Jams & Pickles Credit: jgarbee

7. Lemonbird Handmade Jams (and Pickles)

Good food, good design. A timeworn comparison. Yet one that so rarely merges in truly unique ways. Typically, beautiful condiment jar labels give way to independently inspired jams, jellies and pickles inside. Not so with Amy Deaver's farmers market-driven creations. They're in a flavor league of their own her tomato-vanilla bean jam is simply remarkable spread on goat cheese, everyday cocktail onions pale in comparison to her pickled cucamelons, tiny Mexican sour gherkins that look like miniature watermelons.

We love them even more for the artistic flair given not only to the label, but the contents inside each jar. Deaver has crafted each to look like a miniature (edible) painting. Inside one, a few pistachios look like an ascending brushstroke in a jammy apricot background. Those pickled “cocktail tomatoes,” cherry tomatoes in various sizes and hues floating in vinegar, could double as a still life painting with the bed of herbs and spices beneath them. Artisan art at its finest. Lemonbird jams and pickles are available on Etsy, at local shops like Caffe Luxxe in Santa Monica and several craft and food fairs throughout the year (check the Lemonbird website for locations).

Zaru Tofu Credit: Meiju Tofu

6. Meiju Tofu

There are those artisans whose crazy flavor experiments, like adding basil to blueberry jam, turn into a signature product. For those striving to recreate traditional (and deceptively “simple”) flavors, hitting on perfection can be a much more frustrating and time consuming process, more so when you're dealing with very few ingredients, as with tofu. Patience is the successful tofu artisan's trump card — and when the lights go out in your production facility, candles so you can soldier on making zaru tofu (so dubbed for the bamboo basket in which it is traditionally served). The number of products Shogo Kariya and his son, Koki of Meiju Tofu make is limited, all with an even more limited shelf life. And we can certainly make tofu at home (Andrea Nguyen's excellent book, the aptly titled Artisan Tofu, is a great place to start), yet most days, we do not.

That's because the tofu the Kariyas make have a subtle quality that our best home batches do not, a delicate flavor and a texture we haven't quite yet, and probably never will, fully master. These are the reasons that we — and many local chefs — buy the Kariya's silky fresh blocks or creamy soft tofu when we see them tucked in Ray Mukai's tiny refrigerator case at Granada Market, one of our favorite stops after a Little Osaka restaurant romp, we always tuck one in our basket. Meiju Tofu sells tofu to the public Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday (mornings only Call ahead they often sell out). You can also find Meiju Tofu at several Japanese specialty markets.

Armand Sahakian Pouring Turkish Delight Syrup Into Candy Molds Credit: jgarbee

5. Nory Locum Turkish Delight

Armenian candy maker Armand Sahakian spends his days in a powdered-sugar dusted San Fernando Valley candy workshop, watching over the sugar syrup bubbling in giant copper caldrons that will soon become Turkish delight. It's a beautiful place, a factory with the charm of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia fantasies. Sahakian, who was born in Lebanon and raised in Pasadena, grew up eating the little chewy squares flavored with rosewater, citrusy bergamot oil or other fruit flavors. There are nut versions too (our favorite: pistachio), all poured into wooden trays to cool, then dusted with powdered sugar and sliced into squares. Sahakian trained to be a cobbler like his father, but later decided he was more at home in the kitchen. The candy factory's former owner, Dickran Jibilian, taught him how to make gelée-like locum (Turkish delight) batch-by-batch (Jibilian in turn learned from Nory Hovagimian, an Armenian immigrant from Romania, who first opened Nory Locum).

Sahakian has replaced the walk-up storefront of Jibilian and Hovagimian's era with online ordering, a necessity in today's traffic-laden times. And simply as a matter of Sahakian's own time management he makes all the candy himself, with only a handful of employees to help cut, package and ship them. You won't find Nory Locum candy at craft fairs or farmer's markets. Not because Sahakian doesn't want to be there he loves to talk about candy making and hand over samples. He just has pounds of powdered sugar to get through. Nory Locum Turkish delight is available online, at several small Middle Eastern grocery stores.

Laio & His Four Thieves Kraut Credit: Brassica & Brine

4. Brassica and Brine Sauerkraut & Pickles

Jordan “Uri” Laio's Brassica and Brine website describes his products as “organic, traditional, wild-fermented foods.” Read on, and promises of the health benefits with each life-altering spoonful follow the buzzwords. But strip away the health claims, and this is simply exceptionally good, naturally fermented sauerkraut — “brassica” is the Latin term for sauerkraut. Laio is skilled at merging traditional pickling techniques with unexpected flavors (a talent he shares with Farmhouse Culture's Kathryn Lukas up in Santa Cruz). We also love the pay-it-forward model to which so many artisans — particularly fermenters, it seems — adhere. Laio offers classes throughout the year to explore your own lacto-fermentation potential.

Flavors vary depending on what organic produce is available. Currently, Liao makes a “Four Thieves” kraut with a mix of lavender, sage, rosemary and thyme (the traditional European mixture was believed to ward off the plague), a caraway and juniper berry-spiced sauerkraut based on the German classic, and his take on kimchi. The contents bubble and burp as you open them — a reminder of the naturally fermented work that went into each jar. Available at the Altadena Urban Farmers Market and Farmshop.

Michel Blanchet's Smoked Fish At His Leimert Park Production Kitchen Credit: jgarbee

3. Michel Cordon Bleu Smoked Fish

We've already gone on a (tiny) kitchen tour of the Michel Cordon Bleu factory, and we've crowned Michel Blanchet's smoked fish the best. But when even the most notoriously picky chefs like Joël Robuchon regularly order Blanchet's fish, we can't leave him off the list simple because we've already praised his Idaho trout with just enough fresh dill to balance the hickory-smoked flavor. You'll find the chef at his small Leimert Park fish factory every morning, lining up Coho salmon filets in a slicer. “You can't get them this thin if you slice it by hand,” he says, holding up an almost tissue paper-thin slice.

The fish comes in nondescript packaging that is hardly Etsy worthy, likely the reason Blanchet's wares rarely show up in glossy magazine pages. But taste that delicately smoked salmon again there's a fresh flavor that belies those hours spent in the smoker. There is clearly a chef behind these artisan stoves. Michel Cordon Bleu smoked fish is available at Surfas and McCall's Meat and Fish.

Patricia Tsai of Chocovivo Making Chocolate Credit: Jessica Koslow

2. Chocovivo Mexican-Style Chocolate

In L.A., we are fortunate to have our share of notable artisan chocolatiers. Pastry chefs like Yvan Valentin have long excelled at making the classic French truffles of his homeland (and this time of year. Buche de Noël cakes) younger artisan chocolatiers like Ococoa's Diana Malouf are introducing new chocolate flavor combinations (she makes great nut butter-filled cups inspired by her Middle Eastern heritage). And then there's Patricia Tsai. In an interview with Squid Ink, Tsai recalls how she had her heart set on making stone-ground Mexican chocolate like those that Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo imports from a small women's cooperative in Mexico.

Chocovivo is a remarkable artisan story of perseverance, un-tempered by Western customer expectations. On first bite, the grainy texture of Tsai's bars can be shocking. But take another bite. The flavor is subtly nuanced, like a really good cup of coffee layered with the flavor of freshly roasted beans. An acquired taste, certainly. But one worth acquiring. Chocovivo is in the process of moving to a new location in Culver City that will open in early 2013. In the meantime, you can find their chocolates at Stronghold in Venice.

Little Flower Sea Salt Caramels Credit: Little Flower Candy Company

1. Little Flower Candy Company Caramels

Former restaurant pastry chef Christine Moore launched her business with sea salt caramels more than twelve years ago today, her candy line has expanded to include other sweets like coffee-flavored marshmallows. You probably know the rest of the story. A Pasadena bakery/café followed, and she recently released her first cookbook (read the book's introduction and she will remind you that starting an artisan food business is hardly easy, more so when facing life's daily adversities). One might predict that Jessica Koslow of Sqirl, the artisan jam maker with an equally sharp business eye, is well on her way to a similar Hollywood cookbook ending.

But the catalyst for Moore's business is the reason she tops our best-of list. Those caramels, a recipe Moore developed while reminiscing about her pastry apprenticeship days in Brittany, are simply divine — perhaps the perfect marriage of caramelized sugar, butter and sea salt on this side of the Atlantic. That she has parlayed each chewy, yet still delicate, little square into a much larger business without affecting their hand-made quality epitomizes the American artisan dream. Little Flower Candy Company sea salt caramels are available online and at Little Flower in Pasadena.


The Company He Keeps

We're in a reaching out sort of mood this Inauguration. We're connecting. We're opening up. We're celebrating diversity and embracing wholeness. We're on an odyssey of self-discovery. We're thinking communitarian, New Covenant, a Government that looks like America, inclusive not exclusive, omnicultural. We're having Renaissance Weekends, wearing our names strung around our necks on pieces of colored yarn and talking about renewal of nation and self. We've released our inner children and are looking for nannies for them. We're feeling a little weepy, but that's O.K. (and you're O.K., too, although your family's dysfunctional). We're wearing clothes that look like the Summer of Love, only a lot more expensive, and the designer gives part of the profit to Friends of the Earth. We're not buttoned down and monogrammed anymore: We have a President named Bill, a First Lady named Hillary, a First Daughter named Chelsea and an Attorney General named Zoe. We're hugging trees. We're hugging each other. We're hugging each other's trees.

The Co-Dependent White House is upon us. The President likes to talk of his family's two generations of compulsions (stepfather an abusive alcoholic, mother a gambler, brother a recovering cocaine addict, himself a fast-food addict). He has admitted to marital problems and has been through family therapy for his brother's addiction.

Vice President-elect Gore also became involved in family therapy as his son was recovering from near-fatal injuries sustained in 1989 after he was hit by a car. In the ensuing years, Gore developed into something akin to the nation's first Senator-Shrink. He enjoyed weekly visits from a therapist in his Senate office, once conducted a group seminar on dysfunctional families and, in the wake of Anita Hill, was host of a consciousness-raising "gender dynamics" seminar for Slow-to-Get-It Senators and their spouses. He decries "psychic numbness," quotes John (Healing the Shame That Binds You) Bradshaw, and has written a book mixing ecology and psychology in sentences like ". . . just as the unwritten rules in a dysfunctional family create and maintain a conspiracy of silence about the rules themselves, even as the family is driven toward successive crises, many of the unwritten rules of our dysfunctional civilization encourage silent acquiescence in our patterns of destructive behavior toward the natural world."

With their Iron John election-night clinch, Bill and Al struck a blow not only against psychic numbness but also against the unwritten political ban on male full-body contact -- strictly observed since the famous Richard Nixon-Sammy Davis Jr. hug in 1972 bruised the reputations of both men.

What it all comes down to is, we're relating again.

Of course, there are relationships and there are relationships. The word covers a lot of territory. Tristan and Isolde had a relationship. But so did Bonnie and Clyde. Scott and Zelda. Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson. George Bush and Ross Perot. David Letterman and NBC. John F. Kennedy and libido. Richard Nixon and bile.

Washington, never mistaken for Sunnybrook Farm, is, on the whole, more comfortable with the darker side of the relationship picture, preferring sharp elbows to Buscaglian embraces. As power transfers from George Bush to Bill Clinton, from the Republicans to the Democrats, the nation's capital is busy with the sort of relating it knows best: conniving and maneuvering, tossing and turning at 2 A.M. thinking about what jobs are available and whose back has to be climbed over, polishing the old brass knuckles and shining up the shiv. There's so much looking over shoulders that the entire city is practically pirouetting.

Here, then, in the spirit of new-age -- and age-old -- relationships, we offer six to watch as the Administration gets under way. How these liaisons, dangerous and otherwise, play out over the next four years will determine the essential character -- and success -- of the Clinton Presidency. BILL AND AL The Incredible Shrinking Vice President

THE SCENE IS A familiar one. The new President is at the podium. He is talking on, in that Washington way, at length and about himself. A couple of steps back, tucked in the shadow of his right shoulder, stands the helpmeet, listening and smiling, with an occasional widening of the eyes to mark an especially orotund piece of rhetoric.

But with Bill Clinton, the adoring one standing in his shadow is not his wife, Hillary. (She is probably busy in a smokeless back room, vetting Supreme Court candidates.) It is Al Gore.

Like every marriage, the private relationship between Clinton and Gore is more complicated than the public one. The delicate tension of this uncommon partnership was revealed during the Vice Presidential debate in October, a night expected to be a cakewalk for an A-student over the class clown.

Instead, as Bill Clinton watched in growing frustration, Al Gore failed, time after time, to answer directly Dan Quayle's repeated charge that the Arkansas Governor did not have the integrity and character to be President. "Why the hell isn't Al defending Bill more?" one top campaign adviser asked another. Clinton aides muttered darkly that Al had missed five shots to stand by his man.

Afterward, Gore called a friend. "Do you think I should have responded more to the attacks on Bill?" he asked. "Some people are saying that, but I don't think that's fair."

To a few close friends, Gore confided that he had gone about as far as he thought he could in sticking up for Clinton. Famously straight-arrow, Gore was uncomfortable in the role of character witness to a man who has not always lived a life as careful and disciplined as his own, whose evasiveness was a problem throughout the campaign.

"He felt an inner constraint," says one Gore confidant. "He could not push himself to say something that would sound preposterous. As he said to me, 'There are certain things you can say and certain things you cannot.' "

When they next met on the campaign trail, the two men patched things up. Each recognized that theirs was a beautiful political friendship, not to be risked over misunderstandings, and for the rest of the campaign, Gore went to great lengths to defend Clinton's character. On election night, he delivered a long and sugary encomium to his boss: "He asked for your vote by challenging you to make America better. Where I come from, we have a name for that. It's called character."

For years before the 1992 campaign, the two Southern politicians had circled each other warily. One from the political aristocracy, one a charmed son of the meritocracy, each saw in the other an unswerving ambition, a sense of generational entitlement to the Presidency.

But these political siblings had their weaknesses. Gore, who had tried and failed to reach the White House on his own, was a man of such starchy manner and deliberate speaking style that he seemed, as the writer Michael Kinsley once noted, "an old person's idea of a young person."

In private, there was a playful side. Gore amused friends by balancing spoons and quarters on his nose and he repeated jokes at his own expense. (He told friends that one perk of the Vice President's job would be free medical care from the Forest Service: "They'll send over a tree doctor.") But his public demeanor was numbingly earnest, even by the standards of Washington, where the Senator had been known to show up at dinner parties with charts and graphs to illustrate a lecture on the fate of the ecosystem.

Clinton, by contrast, was a man of too many faces, all of them smiling. Beset by accusations of marital infidelity and draft dodging, his easy charm and seductive expressions smacked of the actor's artifice.

In their campaign symbiosis, each man helped diminish the other's flaws. Gore benefited from the reflected warmth of Clinton's social skills. More important, Clinton received from Gore a dowry, not of geographical balance or political supporters, but of image. With the square-jawed Dudley Doright from Tennessee by his side, Slick Willie from Arkansas did not seem quite so slippery. Having a Vietnam veteran as his running mate helped shield Clinton as he defended his own troubled war history. And with the openly affectionate Gores holding hands beside them, the Clintons were able to sidestep some old baggage, the appearance that their union was less a romance than an arrangement between two calculating souls. "It was like the gestalt theory -- the whole was greater than the sum of the parts," says Tipper Gore.

The two men campaigned together less like the top and bottom of a ticket than like two sides. They both had healthy egos. Clinton was, in the psychological jargon he favors, outer-directed he craved the adulation he drew from crowds, so much so that he felt compelled to plunge into every rope line he saw, no matter how late the hour, and to keep talking even when audiences grew restless and reporters chanted "Get in the car!" Gore seemed curiously inner-directed for a politician, a man who was nothing so much as his own reflection. It was as though there were two Albert Gores on stage: one a Victorian maiden high on a pedestal the other at the base looking up in admiration and wonder.

Having come to the relationship bearing a great gift, Gore was always determined to be treated with appropriate respect. He made the point in the Governor's mansion, the morning of July 9, as he and Clinton were rehearsing for the joint news conference they would soon hold to announce that Gore was joining the ticket. An aide, acting as reporter, threw out a question accusing Gore of being an environmental extremist.

Gore answered, but then Clinton cautioned, "We don't want to come off like a bunch of Greenpeace warriors."

Gore, the author of a best-selling psycho-environmental polemic, "Earth in the Balance," shot back: "What do you mean we, kemo sabe?"

After a tense moment, Clinton began to laugh, then everyone else did, too. From that day on, Clinton and Gore appeared as the Alphonse and Gaston of politics, handing off the microphone to each other on stage, picking up each other's points. Except for some Southern focus groups' grumping that the two looked like a couple of yuppies with cellular phones and Rolexes, the act went over big. While George Bush campaigned with rarely a mention of Dan Quayle's name, Clinton used Gore to great advantage, employing him to lead the attack on the Bush Administration's prewar coziness with Saddam Hussein, and to serve as ambassador to Jewish and environmental groups.

Gore used Clinton to achieve true national celebrity, glomming great gulps of time at their joint appearances, grabbing the microphone to interrupt Clinton in midsentence. Campaign insiders said that the words Clinton most feared were, "Iɽ like to add something to that."

But that was then. That was back when Clinton had to put up with all sorts of things. He doesn't now. He is President. And Gore is not. Clinton no longer needs Gore to rescue him, because when reporters ask Presidents questions about affairs, they mean foreign and domestic -- not extramarital. And those sorts of questions Clinton can handle on his own.

Those familiar with Vice Presidential territory say the job is always difficult for two reasons: The No. 2 has to try to use a largely ceremonial office to polish his reputation so he can someday run for No. 1, and the natural rivalry between the President's and the Vice President's staffs tends to magnify slights and miscues.

The supremely confident Clinton does seem prepared to give Gore a certain amount of influence and a good deal of attention. Gore's power was evident in the transition, as Clinton included him among the handful of people with a final say on Cabinet appointments. "At the table in the Governor's mansion, there were only five people present on a regular basis," says Mark Gearan, the Clinton aide who ran the Gore campaign. "Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Warren Christopher, Bruce Lindsey and Al Gore."

Gore's first big play was to block the selection of the former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin as Environmental Protection Agency chief. He preferred that the post go to Carol Browner, his 37-year-old former Senate aide who had most recently served as the Secretary of Environmental Regulation in Florida.

But Gore's ambition may outstrip Clinton's largess. Gore told friends during the transition that he expected to have serious say in at least three or four Cabinet appointments. Instead, a friend says, Gore was told, in essence, " 'Look, you can have Environment.' Then they give him the gift of letting him sit at the table." Gore was also disappointed when his two best Congressional friends, former Colorado Senator Tim Wirth and former New York Representative Tom Downey, were passed over for Cabinet seats.

During the transition, two top Gore staff members sat in the main dining room of the Capital Hotel in Little Rock and talked for an hour over breakfast about who might get the job of Clinton's chief of staff. "We've got to get someone in there who is going to look out for Al and not just Bill," one said.

But Clinton soon made it clear that he does not intend to gear his White House to protect Gore's interests. He chose the candidate most likely to give total loyalty to him -- his oldest friend, the Arkansas businessman Thomas F. McLarty 3d.

Another unfortunate omen for Gore came during Clinton's first press conference as President-elect, when he invited his Vice President to join him on stage, but made no opening for him to say anything. Gore stood silently, staring somewhat vacantly into the middle distance with his arms straight at his side. He looked, said William Kristol, Vice President Quayle's chief of staff, "like an environmentally correct wooden Native American outside a cigar store." The humorist Calvin Trillin later memorialized it in a poem for The Nation, asking "What's that, behind the President-elect --/That manlike object stiff from head to toe?"

No one knows better than Gore that he looks awkward hovering in his boss's shadow, and his friends worry that he might take Quayle's place as the favorite target of late-night comedians. "He's getting more and more stiff because he's cognizant of the fact that, as the Administration expands, his power contracts," says one Gore friend.

In response, Gore has developed a tendency to overcompensate. That was embarrassingly clear at the first really big show of the incoming Administration, the 19-hour talkathon in Little Rock on the economy. Clinton impressed many in the audience at the two-day forum with his knowledge of what he called "megaissues and metaissues" -- macro- and micropolicy, human infrastructure and information infrastructure and technological infrastructure and just plain old infrastructure. Gore chimed in from time to time, trying to show off his own command of policy arcana. But it came across as the class salutatorian trying to keep up with the valedictorian.

Gore also faces one nearly insurmountable obstacle to gaining real power in the new Administration. "Al Gore hasn't yet realized there is going to be a co-Presidency, but he's not going to be part of the co ," says one Republican lobbyist, paying backhanded homage to the clout of Hillary Clinton. During the transition, Susan Thomases, Clinton's scheduler and a close friend of Mrs. Clinton's, told associates that Gore did not understand that, once the Administration got under way, he would have to adjust to a smaller role. He could make it easy, Thomases said, or he could make it hard. (Gore had had run-ins with Thomases and other Clinton staff members during the campaign: he wanted more bus tours with Clinton and more visibility in the campaign commercials, and he wanted to make more major speeches.)

One other sign of possible trouble ahead for Gore comes in a story told by a close friend. When the Vice President-elect and his wife did not show up on the invitation list for the highly publicized dinner party for the Clintons at the Georgetown home of the Washington Post Company chairwoman, Katharine Graham, Tipper Gore had to ask Hillary Clinton if that was what she really had intended. Mrs. Clinton said no and instructed a staff member to rectify the oversight. Meanwhile, Graham, who had originally intended to have a separate party for the Gores, had decided on her own to add them to the list. But the Gores blamed the Machiavellian work of Clinton staff members for not making sure they were invited in the first place.

It was for Al Gore a particularly pointed lesson in Vice Presidential humility. BILL AND HILLARY From Policy Maker To Cookie Baker and Back

THE FIRST FIB WAS always that 1600 Pennsylvania was the only household in America where the wife had no say over what the husband did.

Even in the face of strong First Ladies like Abigail Adams, Mary Todd Lincoln, Edith Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush, that fiction about Presidential domestic life persisted.

The Clintons hewed to the hoary "Father Knows Best" script long enough to win the Presidency, and then quickly put to rest the notion that East Wing never meets West. After the election, when he was asked whom he wanted in the room when he makes his big decisions, Bill Clinton replied "Hillary" -- shattering, with a single word, 200 years of Presidential protocol.

"If we disagree and I think I'm right," he told Time magazine, "I just go on and do what I think is right. And then she tells me, 'I told you so.' "

Those who try to Balkanize the influence of the new First Lady -- Is she responsible for the liberal Cabinet appointments? The number of women chosen for top spots? -- are underestimating her. "You can't disentangle the two," says one Democrat who has known the Clintons for years. Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton both came east to the Ivy League to remake themselves, and they ended up doing it together. Those who forecast marital tensions as Hillary, the liberal, tugs Bill, the centrist, to the left also misread the pair. "He's a hell of a lot more liberal than people understand," says their Democratic friend. "But he's guileful and he moves crablike, with certain kinds of conservative cover. Part of their initial attraction was that they are both very political people, and there's not a terrific ideological difference between them."

In the end, the ideological truth about the Clintons is like Poe's purloined letter -- so obvious that no one notices it, even though the couple point it out themselves. "It's rare that I think he's wrong," she said in one interview. "We think so much alike and our values are so much alike."

Both Clintons are committed believers in the liberal religion of their 60's college days, the promise that Government activism and central planning could solve the problems of private lives. But far from being liberal sentimentalists, they are political pragmatists. Both husband and wife were chastened by the lesson of Clinton's 1980 defeat in Arkansas: that the public does not like politicians who surround themselves with the kind of people George Orwell once described as "that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking towards the smell of 'progress,' like bluebottles to a dead cat."

The real tensions in the Clinton marriage have been personal, not political. The focus was intensified by the role Hillary Clinton played in saving her husband's campaign. When she stood beside him, after he euphemistically confessed to past marital "problems," she was endorsing the idea that their marriage was real. As their poll taker, Stan Greenberg, conceded at the time, voters would reject Bill Clinton if they thought that he did not have the imprimatur of his wife, or if they thought the union was a phony arrangement fueled only by ambition.

Some friends say that the Clintons can be affectionate in front of others campaign insiders say that, offstage, the candidate kissed his wife whenever he came into a room. Other friends, perhaps wishful thinkers, even see the strains in the marriage as evidence of its authenticity. As one dryly notes: "You couldn't sustain that level of irritation if it were an arrangement."

Yet the campaign image of their marriage was, in many ways, contrived. Last April, several of their top strategists sent the Clintons a long memo with suggestions on ways of making their relationship seem more affectionate and Hillary more traditional and maternal.

"More than Nancy Reagan, she is seen as 'running the show,' " the memo said. "The absence of affection, children and family and the preoccupation with career and power only reinforces the political problem evident from the beginning." The remarkably detailed course of action recommended for Mrs. Clinton included "joint appearances with her friends where Hillary can laugh, do her mimicry," a family vacation (preferably to Disneyland) and "events where Bill and Hillary can go on dates with the American people."

But whatever romance was dished up for public consumption, and whatever painful patches they have gone through in private over the years, the Clintons have a political partnership so tight that, as one former Carter Administration official puts it, "they make Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter look like strangers."

"I don't doubt that she's probably wanted to kill him sometimes -- and with good reason," says a lawyer who is a close friend of Hillary Clinton's. "But this relationship is more than a cold, practical bargain. They like each other immensely."

More than most Presidential marriages, the Clintons' will need to have a happy public face. The image of the incoming President as a honest, decent man depends on the carefully cultivated idea that though he may have sinned, he has been redeemed. "He can't play J.F.K.," says a top Democrat. "If he does, it would be a killer. All bets would be off."

Bill Clinton told his family long ago that he didn't want to marry a beauty queen. Rather, he wanted to marry the smartest girl in the class. When they met at Yale Law School, he was immediately drawn to her ambition, discipline and love of liberal causes, and since then he has never shown any desire to diminish her -- except when, as in the 1992 campaign, it was politically expedient to do so.

When George Bush decided to run for President, there were suggestions that Barbara Bush spruce herself up. "I'll do anything you want," she told Roger Ailes, the campaign media adviser, "but I won't dye my hair, change my wardrobe or lose weight."

By contrast, Hillary Clinton, supposedly far more independent, transformed her looks from plain to glamorous, from campus radical frump to blond Junior Leaguer with velvet headband -- a curtsy to the mainstream. After her husband's 1980 gubernatorial defeat, she also gave up her surname, Rodham, a sacrifice to prove she wasn't an uppity Northern feminist, and took the name Clinton.

But the R-word was always hovering, just out of sight. Even at the height of the campaign controversy over her crack that she could have just stayed home baking cookies and having teas, and even when she was in a tremendous rush, she always made sure to sign autographs Hillary Rodham Clinton, the same way she signed her tax returns. Staff members refer to her as H.R.C., which is also the magic-marker monogram on her bulging file boxes.

Other First Ladies perpetrated the myth that they would never think of talking to the President about anything as serious and complicated as foreign affairs, but they might whisper to him about some White House staff member who was overstepping bounds. The new one isn't playing that game.

The real Hillary Clinton, superseded for much of the 1992 campaign by a quiet, smiling baker of cookies, popped back up in an interview with Ted Koppel broadcast on Election Day. The Clintons sat side by side in their airplane seats, and twice, as Koppel directed questions to Bill, Hillary answered for him. Her husband did not seem to mind, nor even particularly to notice.

Mrs. Clinton also sat in on her husband's "Man of the Year" interview with Time, boldly answering questions about policy and politics and speaking not of "he" but of "we." That idea is beginning to sink in. Even the Rev. Billy Graham, who will deliver the Inaugural invocation, recently said that Bill and Hillary "will make a unique team to help lead America and the Western world at this period of history."

Clinton staff members are just as scared of offending Her as Him (the Clintons both have a temper with aides if something is not done to their liking), and they know that if She tells them to do something a certain way, they don't have to double-check with Him.

They don't argue about it, either. During the transition, Clinton's staff worked out the usual arrangement by which the President-elect is always covered by a small pool of journalists. One afternoon during their New Year's vacation in Hilton Head, S.C., the Clintons decided to go for a bicycle ride on the hard-packed sandy beach. As they were leaving the house, Mrs. Clinton noticed two pickup trucks, carrying the journalists, getting in position to accompany them on the ride. "No trucks," she said abruptly to the Secret Service agent in charge. And so in a second, because the next First Lady wanted more privacy, the agreement made by her husband's staff was broken.

With the possible exception of Dan Rather, no public figure is the recipient of more unsolicited advice than the President's wife. And the advice is often unpleasantly personal. How the First Lady dresses, how she decorates, what she spends money on, her social manners, the way she raises her children, the way she treats her husband -- these are all subjects the nation has felt utterly free to weigh in on.

Washington, a city prone to devour those who ignore its tribal rules, has always regarded First Ladies as particularly appetizing subjects. Presidential wives who have shown an independent turn of mind have quickly found themselves cast in the role of First Lady Macbeth.

"My sense is that Hillary will get brushed back a little bit," says Edward Rollins, the Republican strategist. "She's got to be careful not to overexpose herself or to play bad cop to Bill's good cop. She can't overshadow him or be perceived as manipulating him."

Sheila Tate, who saw the worst of what can happen to a First Lady's image when she worked as Nancy Reagan's press secretary, agrees: "No matter how careful the Clinton people are to point out how qualified Hillary is, there could be trouble. People don't like the wife mucking about in the husband's affairs. She wasn't elected and they just don't like it."

Mrs. Reagan has told friends that she empathizes with Mrs. Clinton's bumpy press coverage. "They were after me before I even got to Washington too," she told one confidante, and added this about Hillary Clinton's negative publicity: "It's not fair."

One night during the campaign, at a small dinner in a revolving restaurant atop a hotel in Covington, Ky., Mrs. Clinton wondered why Americans treated the First Lady's office as though it were Miss Havisham's dining room, circumscribed by the cobwebs of the past and great expectations for the future. She did not understand why people cared whether Rosalynn Carter attended Cabinet meetings. She did not see why she could not behave in the White House just as she had in Arkansas -- shepherding some legislation in areas of interest to her (education, for example), helping her husband choose who would run departments, being as deeply involved in policy as he.

Hillary Clinton's friends say she does understand, however, that as First Lady she will have to thread her way through at least three sets of demands -- feminists urging her to smash the mold, liberal interest groups wanting to coalesce around her and conservatives complaining she wasn't elected to anything. Like Anita Hill, she will undoubtedly come to serve as the canvas on which others, warring over the shifting role of women in American society, may paint their individual passions. She is clearly a First Lady with her own agenda and power base. What she cannot yet fully know is what structural tensions with the West Wing may surface, and whether she will be able to control the forces that seek to use her name and influence.

"Hillary feels like she's walking into Washington with her arms wide open and smiling, but she's watching on both sides," says Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, the Arkansas-bred television producer of "Designing Women," "Evening Shade" and "Hearts Afire" who has known the Clintons for years. "She's not a fool. She knows that Washington is treacherous." But unlike her husband, Hillary is not someone, Bloodworth-Thomason says, who "feels the overwhelming need to be understood and validated by everyone. She will do everything she can not to be misunderstood. Then she will be who she is and let the chips fall where they may."

But, as Mrs. Clinton has shown through much of her public life and particularly during the transition, she does not intend to jeopardize her husband's efforts to move his party toward the center -- efforts that are at the very heart of his political success.

The Clintons have been careful to keep a strategic mix of liberal and conservative in their Democratic appointments so far. And Mrs. Clinton shares with her husband an ability not only to look for compromise but also to keep both eyes on the prize. When two campaign honchos, Susan Thomases and Mickey Kantor, both "Hillary people," crossed swords with political advisers during the campaign and transition, they were the ones who were forced to back down.

"Hillary is willingly taking on the freight of a lot of liberal groups," says one prominent Southern Democrat who knows the Clintons. "But she is not a little high priestess of idealism, either." The Democrat points out that while Mrs. Clinton served on the board of the liberal-activist Legal Services Corporation, she also served on the board of Wal-Mart and has been a corporate litigator for the Rose Law Firm, one of Arkansas's three largest.

Mrs. Clinton is still struggling to figure out how to bring her role into modern times. She has speculated with friends about the possibility of a job outside the White House, teaching law part-time perhaps. She does not know to what extent she should formalize her position in the new Administration. Should she be in the paper loop of critical documents, or should she just wait until evening to look at them? Should she have office space in the West Wing, to be closer to the action? She still feels she was burned during the campaign by her husband's open talk of giving her a Cabinet post and by the use of the motto, "Buy one get one free." She wants to tread more gingerly now.

But there are signs that the new First Lady has little patience for what is conventionally expected of the attentive political wife. At the end of the Clintons' Hilton Head bike ride, he stopped to play a game of touch football with their daughter, Chelsea, and 40 or 50 others, in front of a cordon of cameras eager for a happy-family-at-play shot. Hillary Clinton never paused in her pedaling but sailed serenely on, without a backward glance at the scene behind her. BILL AND HIS ENEMIES The Top 10, Even Before He Takes Office

CLINTON'S FRIENDS LIKE to say that he cannot hold a grudge. And indeed, the President-elect's instinct for consensus is so strong, going back to his earliest days as a play (Continued on page 48) ground glad-hander, that this chronic conciliator does seem incapable of personal vendetta. But that hardly matters. Bill Clinton's closest advisers, beginning with his wife, are more than capable of making up any shortfall.

Even before Inauguration Day, the Clinton enemies list is longer than George Bush's was after four years. Herewith, the Top 10 at the moment:

John Major, Prime Minister of Great Britain, for sending Conservative Party strategists to Washington to advise Bush's campaign on how to beat Clinton.

Jerry Brown, for being relentlessly annoying, for not knowing when to quit and go home, for just generally being Jerry Brown.

Representative Charles Rangel of New York, for unhelpfully pointing out, again and again, how little time Clinton was spending in poor black neighborhoods.

The Democratic Governor of Maryland, William Donald Schaefer, for, amazingly, endorsing Bush.

Clifford Jackson, a former Oxford Friend of Bill's turned enemy, for his unceasing peddling of dodge-the-draft stories.

Republican Representative Robert K. Dornan of California, for being the architect of the McCarthyite assault to depict Clinton as the last pinko.

The former Republican Representative from Michigan Guy Vander Jagt, for holding a news conference two days before the election to accuse Clinton of having carried on a campaign-trail affair -- without a scintilla of evidence.

Marilyn Quayle, Rich Bond, Bob Novak and anyone else who ever said, implied or even thought anything mean about Hillary.

NBC (the Nail Bill Clinton network, staff members called it), especially the correspondent Lisa Myers and the magazine program "Dateline: NBC," for its long piece during the primaries examining whether, as Governor of Arkansas, Clinton had sought to cover up two allegedly fatal mistakes by his mother as a nurse-anesthesiologist.

Mary Matalin, the acid-tongued Bush deputy campaign manager, who once insinuated that Clinton was a "philandering, pot-smoking draft dodger." Yet Matalin gets a special Presidential pardon on the grounds that she is already undergoing the punishment of writing a "he said, she said" campaign memoir with her lover-political foe, James Carville, sentencing herself to relive her mistakes and his shrewd moves.

Aside from those whom Bill Clinton has reason to dislike, there is another growing list of people who have reason to bear him ill will. Heading that list at the moment are former Senator Wirth, former Governor Kunin and the Washington lawyer Brooksley Born, the one-time leading candidates to head up, respectively, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department. They all came away from talks with Clinton believing they had been chosen, only to lose out at the last minute.

How many enemies a politician makes is not much help in forecasting how he will fare. Richard Nixon stumbled with an extremely long list and George Bush stumbled with an extremely short one. All his life Bill Clinton has tried to avoid having any enemies at all. But the President-elect seems to offend as many people by making them think he agrees with them as he would if only he let them know that he didn't. BILL AND HIS FRIENDS It's Payback Time

FOR THE FIRST Democratic President in 12 years, enemies are not the biggest problem. It's his friends that Bill Clinton has to worry about.

Not his real friends, but his professional ones, the organizers and members of Democratic interest groups. Each faction, from Act Up to Zero Population Growth, holds itself responsible for at least a piece of the Democratic victory, and each wants at least a piece of the President in return.

With his oft-repeated campaign promise of "a Government that looks like America," Clinton had fed the expectations of all. But there was only so much pie to go around, and, by halfway through the transition, some of the President-elect's constituencies were turning on him, and on each other.

"Lesbians to Clinton: Why no Dykes in the Cabinet?" asked a news release from the homosexual activist group Queer Nation.

"Department Secretaries Named to Date: Total: Male 3, Female 1 White 3, African-American 1," counted the Coalition for Women's Appointments during the selection process.

"Dear Mr. President-elect, environmentalists worked very hard to help you achieve victory in November," wrote the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. They were trying to bring Clinton back to the fold after he had selected Hazel O'Leary (black and female) as Secretary of Energy over Tim Wirth (a white-but-environmentally-correct male).

Responding to all the pressures, Clinton complained, calling the feminist pressure groups "bean counters" who were "playing quota games and math games." Some said the outburst was calculated to distance himself from the feminist lobby and to send a warning signal to all the pressure groups to back off. That may have been the case, but Clinton did seem genuinely outraged, his face red, his voice edged with sharp anger.

His feminist friends shrugged the scolding off. "Right now, he's just starting to squirm a little," says Patricia Ireland, the president of the National Organization for Women.

It boggles the mind, but Bill Clinton may have even more friends than George Bush. The President-elect, one of the great Rolodexers of modern times, has been networking and cultivating the rest of the human race on a vast scale since childhood. Is there a city in America that doesn't boast at least a few people who call themselves F.O.B's? The sheer volume of these friends, with their cacophony of points of view and competing desires for White House access, can mean trouble down the road for the new President.

Republicans eagerly anticipate a four-year siege of Bill's friends trying to push him this way and that. "If this continues," says Dan Quayle's speech writer, Lisa Schiffren, "those of us who are packing up our offices now will be packing up to move back in again in four years." BILL AND HIS DIET The President as Omnivore

WHEN Barbara Bush began living at the White House, she worried about all the elaborate meals she was about to be served and how they would affect her weight problem. But when the White House waiters began putting plates in front of her, she noticed something strange: the portions were puny. "Why aren't they feeding us?" she wondered, telling the story later to friends.

Then Mrs. Bush realized what the problem was: the chefs had been instructed by Nancy Reagan to serve social X-ray portions. But Mrs. Bush decided not to reverse the policy of less-than-normal-size meals. "She figured it was good for her and the President to just ask for seconds and thirds," says a friend of Mrs. Bush.

If Hillary Clinton also adheres to to Nancy Reagan's Lean Cuisine regime, expect the local Domino's Pizza to be getting plenty of 3 A.M. calls from the White House.

We have seen the President as communicator, the President as warrior and the President as healer. Now comes the President as omnivore.

"He eats like a Tasmanian devil -- Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's, tin cans," says Mort Engelberg, a Hollywood producer ("Smokey and the Bandit") and occasional Clinton adviser who shares Clinton's accordion appetite. "You'll never find this guy asking for a splash more coffee. He's not a nervous eater. He enjoys it."

Engelberg claims that during the campaign, Clinton had a special radar for finding a Dunkin' Donuts in the middle of the night in small towns. "Heɽ say, 'Let's just get a cup of coffee,' but then heɽ end up eating donuts and soup and broccoli with cheese."

Clinton is not the only President who tends to get, as he likes to put it, "fat as a wood tick." The first thing William Howard Taft did after his Inauguration was to flop his 300 pounds onto a White House sofa, just to prove he was President and could bust any spring he liked.

George Bush eats like a teen-ager, gobbling down nachos, steaks and egg rolls with equal gusto, and once ingested the most disgusting breakfast in Presidential history: oatmeal with a Butterfinger bar crumbled on top.

Clinton eats like a teen-ager, too. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason laughs about her old pal's habit of reaching over and spearing something on a companion's plate, noting, "You don't want that, do you?"

Bill Clinton's favorite foods include chicken enchiladas, tacos, barbecued ribs, cheeseburgers, lemon chess pie, peach pie, beef tenders marinated in Italian dressing and his mom's sweet-potato casserole. (Take 6 pounds of mashed sweet potatoes. Add 1 pound of brown sugar, 3 eggs, half a pound of butter and a pound and a half of sweetened condensed milk. Flavor with nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, allspice and nuts. Top with 10 ounces of melted marshmallow miniatures.)

His weight fluctuates by about 40 pounds, beginning at a minimum of 190 and going up to 226. One of his more embarrassing food moments on the road came when a customer at a Taco Bell greeted Clinton by reminding him that they had met before -- at a Pizza Hut.

James Carville, Clinton's wiry chief political strategist, recalls eating many an awful plane meal with Clinton. A former heavyweight himself, Carville marveled at the candidate's cheerfully gluttonous feeding patterns. "We would get warmed-over lasagna and two-day-old salad, the worst stuff I had since the Marines, and I never did see him complain," he says. "I suspect if they give it to him, he'll eat it. If the White House chef comes down with an elaborate duck a l'orange, he'll eat that, too."

Clinton's eating habits have already turned into something of a national joke. Political cartoonists have portrayed him with his cheeks swallowing up his eyes, while comics and esthetes alike have begged him to stop wearing short shorts while jogging. "Saturday Night Live" depicted the President-elect in a sketch ending a 30-foot run at a McDonald's, where he foraged through the room snatching burgers and fries from startled customers. Jay Leno asserted that Clinton needs to appoint "a Thighmaster General," pointing out that Vice President-elect Gore is "just a Big Mac away from the Presidency."

Warning that the well-upholstered Clinton and Gore might, should their padding increase, become known as "the Blubber Bubbas," the writer and noted eater Calvin Trillin envisioned mud-throwing Republicans questioning whether "men who order the cottage-cheese-and-fruit salad and then pick at a companion's double order of cheese French fries to the point at which the plate requires no washing are really the sort of men you want making life-and-death decisions for this nation."

Even Clinton's press secretary, Dee Dee Myers, said at a recent political dinner in Washington that those who were skeptical when Clinton said he "didn't inhale" had clearly never been to a McDonald's with him.

But girth is no laughing matter to the gastronomically correct. A group of chefs led by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, the exceedingly cutting-edge Berkeley, Calif., restaurant, sent the President-elect a snippety letter urging him to appoint a White House chef who would serve food that shows "care for our waters and pastures."

Clinton, reasonably enough, did not feel the need to respond personally to a dietary tract that included among its signatories Paul Prudhomme, the New Orleans chef who has singlehandedly refuted the poet John Donne's contention that no man is an island.

But will the new President continue to flout the social conventions of a nation of Stairmasterers? Calvin Trillin respects Clinton for going beyond what he disdainfully calls the "show eating" of George Bush -- who used pork rinds as a political statement -- and defended the Clinton sweet-potato-casserole recipe as "not as bad as Tricia Nixon's Chicken Divan."

"I'm not so sure how deep into society this whole calorie-counting, cholesterol-watching, stair-stepping sickness ever really went," Trillin says. "The Clinton Administration could be like the Day the Fat People Invaded. This sort of eating may very well be the secret of Clinton's appeal, his link to the common man." BILL AND THE CAMERA Are They Spending Too Much Time Together?

IT WAS ABOUT HALFWAY between Election Day and Inauguration Day that it began to dawn on people that there was simply no escaping Bill Clinton.

It had become almost impossible to turn on a television set without seeing the President-elect talking or waiting for his turn to talk while someone else talked to him. C-Span had come to resemble some sort of 24-hour Clinton channel: "All Bill. All the time."

The deluge reached biblical proportions at the Little Rock economic conference, a made-for-television event featuring more than 300 people talking for 19 solid hours. Clinton, clearly in his element, had never seemed happier.

"And so the specific question I wanted to ask is in this whole idea of redirecting the $15 billion," he told one participant in a discussion on defense conversion. "Do you think we ought to do it through the Defense Advanced Research Products Agency, through a new agency, through expanding that mission? And how, as a practical matter, based on your own experience in this area -- how much dual-use technology can we really do that will benefit, truly benefit both the commercial sector and the defense sector that we're not doing now?"

When it came time on the second day of the conference to break for lunch, Clinton demurred. "I'm not going to have a break for lunch," he said to his fellow gasbags. "This is too interesting." (He also actually referred to a chart at one point as "moving.")

The participants in the conference seemed equally enthralled never before had so many been allowed to talk so long about so much that was so boring. "Mr. President, words fail me in describing what an extraordinary event this is," said the economic columnist Robert Kuttner.

Clinton replied, "I hope that doesn't mean it's all downhill from here."

It could be. Clinton, the only man in America who would actually pay for C-Span if it became a premium channel, has promised to numb the nation with further colloquia on such topics as health care, welfare reform and the environment. He has hinted as well at further getting-out-among-my-people bus trips, conjuring up the frightening image of the Presidency as nightmare combination of Greyhound tour and "G.E. College Bowl" -- with Clinton leading a caravan of eggheads endlessly through the heartland, touching down periodically for 20 hours or so of stimulating conversation.

In the 1980's, everyone had their 15 minutes of fame in the 1990's, it looks as though everyone will have 15 minutes on air with Bill Clinton -- especially now that the President will have access to 500 cable channels.

Clinton's never-ending conversation with the American public is going over big now, because, after four years of George Bush's headmasterish style of governing, Americans are starved to have a voice in their own political affairs. But there is a precedent from which it is possible to gauge just how long voters can be expected to tolerate all this listening, and it does not augur well for Clinton.

Jimmy Carter, like Bill Clinton, began his Presidency with an extravaganza of populism. He updated F.D.R.'s fireside chats for television, hosted a telephone call-in show to the White House, held a "town hall" in the town of Clinton, Mass., and traveled around the country visiting with "average Americans." The act palled quickly. By the time Carter ran unsuccessfully for re-election, his strategists were advising him that his best hope lay in staying home, out of the public eye.

Ronald Reagan's advisers, having studied Carter's approach, sharply limited the President's visibility. "The more you expose yourself, the more you expose yourself to trivialization," says Michael Deaver, the Washington public relations executive who was Reagan's chief imagist. "And if things start not working, people are going to say, 'Get off your rear, quit talking and do something about it.' "

At the moment, however, the Clinton camp appears not to be able to conceive of a world in which their chatty boss could be overexposed.

"I think you'll see a lot of town halls, of the sort we did in the campaign," says one Clinton official, his enthusiasm rising as he contemplates the future. "Maybe one every couple of months. Also, bus tours, of course. We have to keep doing those, but not so many, maybe one every six months or once a year. And maybe we could do the old capital-for-a-day bit too. You know, move the White House and the entire Cabinet to some place like Bismarck, N.D., one morning and make it the capital of the whole country for a day. Wouldn't that be great?"

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON becomes the 42d President of the United States three days from now an oddly unknown man. He has succeeded remarkably well in being many things to many people, but that leaves the question of who he really is.

Is he the New Democrat, or the same old thing? Will he only tell people what they want to hear, or will he be able to say no to important constituencies? Will he continue to act as though the solutions to the country's problems are painless, or will he explain what sacrifices need to be made?

There is a fundamental tension in Bill Clinton between the glib politician and the dedicated student of public policy, the man always looking for approval and the man who knows that wrenching changes are required to put the country on a new course.

In the end, the most important relationship to be sorted out in the next four years is between Bill and Bill.


Chef Millie Peartree on providing meals to Bronx children in need

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

Yvette Nicole Brown joins.

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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to [email protected]

Between two of her cookbooks, Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic, And Can You Make A Roux? and its sequel of the same name, Marcelle Bienvenu offers seven recipes for gumbo—from a relatively common chicken and oyster gumbo recipe, to one for a decidedly obscure grimille gumbo. That alone should justify her story on our Gumbo Trail, though Marcelle comes with yet more credibility.

Before turning thirty, while living in New York City, she helped craft two now-historical books on Louisiana gastronomy for Time-Life Books. Marcelle’s career then veered back toward her home state of Louisiana, specifically its restaurants: she worked at Commander’s Palace and K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans before opening her own place, Chez Marcelle, in Acadiana. Marcelle has written several cookbooks, freelanced for national food magazines, taught cooking at Nicholls State University, and maintained a recipe column in The Times-Picayune, the New Orleans-area newspaper. She lives on Bayou Teche in St. Martinville, where she cooks for entertainment year-round, occasionally burns a roux, and mostly enjoys gumbo in the wintertime.


Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to [email protected]

A SHORT HISTORY OF GUMBO
by Stanley Dry

Of all the dishes in the realm of Louisiana cooking, gumbo is the most famous and, very likely, the most popular. Gumbo crosses all class barriers, appearing on the tables of the poor as well as the wealthy. Although ingredients might vary greatly from one cook to the next, and from one part of the state to another, a steaming bowl of fragrant gumbo is one of life’s cherished pleasures, as emblematic of Louisiana as chili is of Texas.

Gumbo is often cited as an example of the melting-pot nature of Louisiana cooking, but trying to sort out the origins and evolution of the dish is highly speculative. The name derives from a West African word for okra, suggesting that gumbo was originally made with okra. The use of filé (dried and ground sassafras leaves) was a contribution of the Choctaws and, possibly, other local tribes. Roux has its origin in French cuisine, although the roux used in gumbos is much darker than its Gallic cousins.

Dr. Carl A. Brasseaux, of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, who has written the definitive history of the Cajuns, found that the first documented references to gumbo appeared around the turn of the 19th century. In 1803, gumbo was served at a gubernatorial reception in New Orleans, and in 1804 gumbo was served at aCajun gathering on the Acadian Coast.

Today, the gumbos people are most familiar with are seafood gumbo and chicken and sausage gumbo. But that merely scratches the surface of gumbo cookery, both historical and contemporary.

Lafcadio Hearn’s La Cuisine Creole, published in 1885, contains recipes for several gumbos made from a variety of ingredients—chicken, ham, bacon, oysters, crab, shrimp, and beef, among them. Some of the recipes are made with okra, others with filé. Although there is no mention of a roux in any of the recipes, some of them call for the addition of flour or browned flour as a thickener.

The Creole Cookery Book, published by the Christian Woman’s Exchange of New Orleans in 1885, calls gumbo making an “occult science” that “should be allowed its proper place in the gastronomical world.” A New Orleans gumbo, the book maintains, “can be made of scraps of cold meat or fowl, a few oysters, crabs or shrimps, and, with a couple of spoonfuls of well cooked rice, is a very satisfying and economical dinner.” The editors include several recipes for gumbo, one of which incorporates filé (spelled “fillet” in the book). All the ingredients are useful, natural and completely harmless to men’s health, read about the prices of medicines for potency on the . Some of the recipes are made with various greens and herbs, but, curiously, there is no mention of okra as a gumbo ingredient, although the book includes three recipes for okra soup.

The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook, published in New Orleans in 1901, includes recipes for a variety of gumbos. Among the principal ingredients are chicken, ham, oysters, turkey, wild turkey, squirrel, rabbit, beef, veal, crabs, soft-shell crabs, shrimp, greens, and cabbage. Some of the gumbos are made with okra, others with filé.

Traditionally, gumbos have been divided into two large categories—those thickened with okra and those thickened with filé. According to some accounts, before the advent of refrigeration and freezers, okra was the preferred thickening agent for gumbo, while filé was a substitute used only in the off-season when okra wasn’t available. That sounds plausible, but I’ve also come across references to dried okra as an ingredient in 19th-century gumbos. By drying okra, cooks could use it in their gumbos year round.

In some respects, putting gumbo into either an okra or a filé category is still valid, but for many cooks, a brown roux is the only thickener, and filé has virtually disappeared from their recipes. Often roux-based gumbos do incorporate filé, and to my taste they are the better for it. Filé is used both for thickening and for flavor. It is usually added to a gumbo just before serving, or at the table. Many okra gumbos also incorporate a brown roux and some roux-based gumbo contain a small amount of okra, often cooked until it virtually dissolves.

If all those variations aren’t confusing enough, there are also raging controversies over what constitutes a proper gumbo roux. Roux, of course, is flour that has been browned in oil or some other fat. Both cooks and eaters have their own opinions on how dark the roux should be and how much should be used in a gumbo. There is no agreement on these matters, as anyone who has tasted gumbos from different cooks can attest.

A good place to sample an astonishingly wide range of gumbos is the World Championship Gumbo Cookoff that is held each October in New Iberia. A few years ago, I interviewed contestants about their gumbo philosophies. As for the preferred color of the roux, answers varied from the color of a brown paper bag to the color of dark chocolate. So, too, for the desired thickness of the gumbo. A local banker aimed for a thin gumbo (“gumbo juice,” he called it), while another cook’s ideal thickness was somewhere between rice and gravy and a stew.

Although the New Iberia event requires that contestants cook their own roux on site, the rest of us are not so constrained. For some years, commercially prepared rouxs have been available, and they are a great convenience item. Dry rouxs consisting of only browned flour are also commonplace on grocery shelves and are popular with those who wish to reduce their consumption of fat. When using either, I’ve found that it’s preferable to dissolve them in hot liquid before adding to the gumbo pot.

Contemporary gumbos are made with all manner of ingredients in a variety of combinations. Seafood and non-seafood gumbos are two primary types, and they may be made with or without okra. But some gumbos include ingredients from both the land and the sea. Duck, smoked sausage, and oyster gumbo is one delicious example. Some cooks add hard-boiled eggs to chicken and sausage gumbos, and quail eggs find their way into other versions. A very atypical version is the Lenten gumbo z’herbes, which is made with a variety of greens.

Seafood gumbos often include crabs, shrimp, and oysters. Shrimp and okra gumbo is a perennial favorite, as is chicken and okra gumbo. Chicken and sausage gumbo is extremely popular, and in the households of hunters, ducks and other game birds often wind up in the gumbo pot. Turkey and sausage gumbos appear frequently during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. An unusual but delicious combination is a gumbo of steak, smoked sausage, and oysters. Some cooks use ham or tasso in their gumbos, and others use fresh sausage in place of the smoked variety. The possible combinations are virtually endless.

One ingredient that does arouse controversy is the tomato. Some cooks use it in their gumbos, others wouldn’t be caught dead putting tomato in theirs. In that respect, the situation is analogous to jambalaya, where the question of the appropriateness of tomato is a burning issue. Tomatoes are most often found in okra gumbos, but I’ve had roux-based seafood gumbo that also contained tomato. I don’t have any hard evidence to back this up, but in my experience gumbos containing tomato are more common on the eastern side of Bayou Lafourche than they are farther west. Personally, I am for tomato in okra gumbo and against it in non-okra gumbo.

One point everyone can agree on is that gumbo is always served with rice. But that was not always the case. C.C. Robin, a Frenchman who published an account of his travels in Louisiana in 1803-1805, reported that gumbo was served with corn meal mush.

A contemporary variant on that theme is the experience of Dr. Monty Rizzo, a New Iberia physician and an excellent cook who hunts game in Africa. On a safari in Tanzania, he taught the cooks to make a gumbo with the doves his party had shot that day. The cooks had already proved their soup-making skills with a cream of peanut soup and a Cape buffalo tail soup, but gumbo was unknown to them. There was no rice in the camp, so the cooks served the gumbo with corn meal mush. It was such a hit that before the trip was over, they made it again, this time without Dr. Rizzo’s supervision.

For some reason, gumbo is one of those dishes that men often make. It has some of the same appeal as game cookery or barbecuing, and it is a favorite dish at hunting camps. When men who cook only occasionally make a gumbo the event takes on a heightened significance. Some men use the phrase “build a gumbo” to describe what they are doing, and the occasion demands a good supply of iced beer. If there is an audience, so much the better. On the other hand, for women and men who cook on a daily basis, making a gumbo is more routine, if no less important.

I’m convinced that part of gumbo’s virtue, aside from its deliciousness, is that the dish is very forgiving of the cook. Measurements do not have to be exact, ingredients may be changed to use what is on hand, and unless the diners are so set in their ways that they can’t appreciate change, the result will be quite good.

Consider the options as set forth in a gumbo recipe that appeared in the New Orleans City Guide, which was published in 1938. It is a fairly basic recipe for a gumbo made with crabs, shrimp, and oysters. At the end of the instructions is this advice:

“Okra may be used in place of the filé, but it is cooked with the gumbo. The basic recipe is the same, but chicken, veal, and ham or a combination of veal and a hambone can be substituted for the crabs and shrimp. After Thanksgiving and Christmas the left-over turkey may be made into a gumbo with oysters.”

Stanley Dry is a writer, SFA member, and gumbo lover. You can see more of his work here.


What's for dinner

1 / 4 Restaurateur Tristan Simon and Billy Can Can executive chef Matt Ford think Modern Texas cuisine is one of the best ways to highlight the unique flavors in the Lone Star State. Simon calls the aim of the restaurant "freewheeling -- but serious on the plate and serious in the glass." Here's the melon gazpacho. (Jae S. Lee / Staff Photographer)

2 / 4 Restaurateur Tristan Simon and Billy Can Can executive chef Matt Ford think Modern Texas cuisine is one of the best ways to highlight the unique flavors in the Lone Star State. Simon calls the aim of the restaurant "freewheeling -- but serious on the plate and serious in the glass." The buffalo tenderloin, pictured here, is one example. (Rose Baca / Staff Photographer)

3 / 4 Billy Can Can will also cater to vegetarians, with dishes like this summer pie. (Jae S. Lee / Staff Photographer)

4 / 4 Duros are like pork rinds, but vegetarian. (Jae S. Lee / Staff Photographer)

While Billy Can Can is a modern Texas saloon -- and while Simon and his team believe in the culinary movement of modern Texas food -- the word saloon doesn't get to the seriousness of the menu.

That's on purpose: "A saloon should have a fun, playful gambling aspect to it, a burlesque aspect," says executive chef Matt Ford. He seems shy at first, but words tumble out of his mouth as he talks through the menu ideas he's been simmering for the past nine months.

His menu, crafted with chef de cuisine Michael Llanas and sous-chef Carolanne Treadwell, tells a Texas story inspired by Bonnie-and-Clyde attitude. Diners might find game like venison tartare and buffalo tenderloin gulf seafood like snapper and oysters and Southern classics like deviled eggs and peach cobbler.

And chili (no beans, of course): "There is nothing more quintessentially Texan," Ford says. "Oh, and a burger."

Ford is a passionate member of the team and an interesting addition because he helped open a restaurant called Craft Dallas at the W hotel in Victory Park in 2006. "As chefs, you put your heart and soul into your work," he says. He remembers the Victory Park of a decade ago as a confused neighborhood with not a lot of soul -- and one that wasn't yet embraced by many Dallasites.

"I told Tristan I was hesitant about coming to Victory Park," he says. "But if anybody can turn a district around, it's Tristan."


Everything We Know About Bobby Flay's Love Life

The notorious playboy has been married &mdash and divorced &mdash three times.

After getting to know the star through his cookbooks and Food Network shows, one of the most common questions we see from readers is: Who's he dating? Followed by, is he married? Here are the answers you've been desperately seeking.

Flay and Debra Ponzek &mdash a fellow chef and Flay's first wife &mdash met at a Meals-On-Wheels charity event. They exchanged vows on May 11, 1991, less than a year later, at the classic NYC haunt, The Rainbow Room.

A James Beard Award is one of the greatest achievements for a chef, and in 1992, both Flay and Ponzek were nominated for Rising Star Chef. Flay tried to drop out, but the foundation wouldn't let him, and Ponzek ended up winning. The next year, Flay was nominated again &mdash and Ponzek presented him the award when he won.

The pair divorced in 1993, after two years of marriage.

Flay met Kate Connelly in January 1994, when he appeared on her Food Network talk show. They married on October 1, 1995. According to the New York Times, the officiant started the wedding with, "This will be short and sweet, unlike their courtship, which was short and hot."

Connelly had a son from a previous marriage, but together, she and Flay had a daughter, Sophie. She was born on April 16, 1996.

He and Connelly separated in 1998, and they got divorced shortly thereafter.

You might recognize her: March has been a series regular on Law and Order: SVU from 2000 to 2012. Just as her TV career was taking off, she and Flay met. Their first date was at Nobu in New York City, and March told CNN, "I know it's a cliché, but I remember thinking, oh my gosh, this is the rest of my life."

Flay proposed at the Rockefeller Center ice rink in 2003, and he and March were married on February 20, 2005.

Flay has been accused of missing out on some pretty important moments. When March's appendix burst, Flay was MIA, and he allegedly skipped out on their 10th anniversary, according to The Daily Beast.

Rumors swirled that March kicked Flay out of the house. Three weeks later, he filed for divorce in March 2015.

March's friend blames Flay's alleged three-year affair with Elyse Tirrell, one of his assistants, was the breaking point. Flay's reps responded by saying, "We will continue to refrain from responding to the continued efforts by certain parties to spread rumors and innuendo."

Flay's chemistry with his Next Food Network Star cohost led people to speculate he was dating the chef, but both stars denied those rumors. De Laurentiis has also been linked to former Today show anchor Matt Lauer, prompting her to set the record straight on both fronts: "My long-time friendships with my co-workers Matt Lauer and Bobby Flay are exactly that &mdash long-time friendships."


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