Noted New York-based cooking teacher and author Paula Wolfert ("Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco," "The Cooking of South-West France," etc.) was in L.A. recently to show locals how to whip up various specialties of Sicily and Catalonia. While here, she managed to visit a handful of restaurants--among them Talesai in West Hollywood and Akbar in Marina del Rey. On one occasion, though, when someone suggested eating at one of the city's newer "California-style" establishments, she allowed as how she'd rather not, reportedly saying: "I get so sick of that kind of food. They grill a piece of tuna and squeeze a little lime on it and call it cooking!"
A week or so later, when I called her to verify the quote, she expanded on the theme a bit: "There's definitely a renaissance going on in this country today," she said, "just like there once was in Florence. The only difference is, back then everybody was talking about painting, painting, painting, and now it's food, food, food. The only trouble is, we don't have any Michelangelos."
Wolfert, incidentally, is now working as a consultant for Courvoisier Cognac, and is specifically concerned with the company's Culinary Classic cooking competition. If you think you can come up with a good appetizer, main dish or dessert recipe (using Courvoisier, of course), you've got till April 30 to enter. Grand prize is a week in Paris and a VIP visit to Chateau Courvoisier, plus $5,000 cash, and there are other cash prizes as well. For details and entry forms, write to Courvoisier Culinary Classic, P.O. Box 3165, Grand Central Station, New York 10163. Only amateur cooks are eligible, incidentally--and, hey, no grilled tuna with Courvoisier-lime sauce, eh?