Fenton’s was my all-time favorite restaurant. Whenever I could, I would arrange client meals at Fenton’s.
You want a steak place? Well, Fenton's is famous for their steaks! You prefer vegetarian? Fenton’s has some of the best vegetarian food I have ever had. Seafood? Fenton’s! Chinese? Erm, let’s go to Fenton’s instead.
And why did I like Fenton’s so much? Because they had a vegetable bread that haunts me to this day.
Fenton’s closed, oh, about a million years ago. There were plenty of rumors as to why, but the one that persisted is that the waiters ate them out of house and home. I don’t know if it is true. But a waiter friend who used to make me divine iced tea once consoled me with this story:
One day, in the heat of service, I saw a lady frantically call over her waiter as he was trying to serve another table. “There is no shrimp in my shrimp scampi!” she complained as she stabbed her plate with her fork. “Madam, there are also no angels in your angel hair pasta,” he said as he scampered past with an armload of dishes.
The story was cute, but it didn't help with my problem. Namely now there was nowhere to get Fenton's famous vegetable bread. Which is what kick started my interest in baking. And which, in turn, brings me to the point of this post. Namely two neat new baking finds.
Amazing baking find#1: Convenience
I find it bloody awkward to grab baking pans when wearing bulky oven mitts. I just know that, sooner or later, something is going to slip out of my grasp.
So I’m wandering the Web the other day when I trip across an old Cook’s Illustrated review of baking pans. The one they rated highest was a Frieling pan. And, oh lookie, it has handles.
I do so love baking finds, don’t you?
So let me introduce you to these neat pans. These come in a bunch of different varieties — round and loaf, non-stick and, erm, stick? — and the prices go from the low $20s up to $40, so they are not cheap, but the handles are brilliant and make me envision a world where all my pans are easy to grab, easy to turn upside down to decant cakes, and easy to hang from pot racks.
Pretty good, eh?
Amazing baking find #2: A little bread love
You have to really love bread to get these things, but if you love bread the way I love bread, well ... then let me introduce you to Bannetons. Bannetons are bread-rising baskets made from coils of handwoven cane. They give your bread a wonderfully crunchy crust. They give your bread a good rise. And, best of all, they give your bread a beautiful ribbed-for-your-pleasure texture. A texture you normally would only get from bread at the baker.
They come in a variety of sizes, they are horribly expensive ($30 give or take, each which adds up quickly if you want different shapes and sizes), and I love them so much I won’t bake breads without them.
A plea for a recipe
Now, I have yet to recreate the Fenton's bread. So if anyone out there remembers it — it was sort of a cornmeal loaf (or a loaf with a lot of crunch) that was packed with vegetables — please, please post the recipe in the comments. I would be all silly with gratitude.