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I got a brake job for Christmas, which isn't what I asked Santa for at all, but experiencing near brake failure while hurtling into a parking lot tends to make the gift of being able to stop a good deal more attractive than most anything else really.  The point being made especially crystal clear as I shot towards the end of the lot, foot pumping pedal and yanking on the emergency, with a 50 foot cliff looming beyond the curb and a short launch to a frozen beach on Lake Michigan. Gratefully the brakes grabbed and I stopped abruptly with plenty of room to spare. Later on I  learned that I'd had something called "caliper failure" combined with a broken brake line that slowly leaked hydraulic fluid as I made my way out to the Big Lake  for an all day work retreat.  Of course, I chalked it up to the universe doing its usual occasional job of trying to maim, kill or just generally make my life miserable but my work mates insisted upon praying over me and giving thanks that my life was spared. Which was a very sweet gesture, even if the attention made me uncomfortable in light of my lackadaisical attitude towards most kinds of spirituality.
After spending  the better part of my bank account to make sure my car doesn't kill me, there wasn't much left for Christmas joy, but we managed anyway. I gave myself a Spotify premium account having recently re-discovered the service after abandoning my account a few years ago. I enjoy stringing together playlists for myself and being able to access the music anywhere without having to be online.  Also, except for records, I don't buy physical music any more. I like the old tunes from my youth but I like new stuff too and using Spotify lets me explore new music without the commitment. Cuts down on the buyer's remorse.

               I recently cooked a Chef's Table  dinner for 15 students who had signed up for the dinner ahead of time on a first come, first served basis.  I served a French continental menu composed of dishes from Escoffier, Joel Robuchon,  and other legendary French chefs. It was a meal I had done 30 years before for a different set of students and I reprised the menu as a sort of celebration of the anniversary of that long ago meal.






 Another culinary project that I've had on my list for a while is to do a Japanese style Kaiseki meal.   Kaiseki is a large multi course meal featuring local goods served with meticulous presentation and focusing upon a harmonious progression of traditional and modern dishes. The meal can be  up to 14 courses and is typically a parade of small plates executed to perfection.  It's like a culinary version of running a marathon. That is, if you ran the race perfectly, in a perfect setting, looking absolutely perfect while doing it.  In West Michigan we are blessed with one of the most diverse and bountiful agricultural regions in the country and despite the winter  shortened growing season, the main farming area stretching across six counties along the shores of Lake Michigan  produces close to 3 billion dollars in agricultural output every year.  With that in mind, I would plan out a Kaiseki dinner that would celebrate that agricultural bounty through a story arc of American home style dishes both modern and traditional, native and immigrant, I would plan a baker's dozen courses just because and pair them up with West Michigan wines, beers and ciders. I'd likely charge upwards of 200 a head in order to pay for the food and drink. Anything left over would go to charity.  I'm in it just to do it.  It's a lot to plan; it'll take months and I'm just now at the kicking around stages, but I'd really like to take a good crack at doing it this year.