Boomers, now of a “certain age,” remember home cooked meals as often being constructed of soup mixes, powders, and canned goods. It was the smart way to cook. My mother was of the opionion that intelligent people did not spend much time in such an earthy task. All of this was going on while Julie Childs, very much off my radar at the time, was reportedly teaching American women how to cook French food. But did they really cook French food, or just read about it? (more…)
Archive for August, 2009
Perfect use for late-season soft peaches? Try drizzling Balsamic Vinegar on halves, letting them sit for about 15 minutes so it can soak in. Then heat your grill to 350/medium, and grill cut side down for 3 minutes, then flip and grill another minute. Peach purists will love them just like that; those with a sweet tooth will try them draped on vanilla ice cream or gelato. Here’s to the Dog Days!
Our picks for the Balsamico? Try Ariston (our refill-and-save Balsamic), or Oliviers and Co. Premium Balsamic (a little more complex, more savory notes with the sweet). For a full flush of flavor, our signature Vanilla-Fig Balsamic Vinegar tops the charts!
August is a big hammock of a month. A big harrumph, it straddes its’ polar opposites: the whirling, spiraling energy that is July and sobering get-back-in-lines September.
It’s a big lumpy hammock and, cocooned inside, you lie still as tree tops whistle and sway overhead. Rocking back and forth, we hear September’s siren call back to order and purpose but think better of it, and drink one last glass of syrupy sweet tea. Transfixed by Sirius’ throbbing crystal light, we hold the dog days close and forget for a moment that they will surely slip away. (more…)
I’m in love with a summer canteloupe. The big, bold belly-laugh of this just-cut fruit, explodes into crystallized layers of candy-like sugar flavor in my mouth, just saved from too much sticky sweetness by
a hint of savory. Unlike its springlike cousin with its sly half-moon smile, this guy fills the kitchen with aroma, and rockets me back in time to my childhood at my grandparents’ where even a little canteloupe made the insides of my ears itch, something I couldn’t scratch or stop thinking about.
He’s a summer love; I know it won’t last, but right now I just want to dive in, grab the seeds from his belly, whirl around inside and savor every last drop from this succulent gift of the season.
The French are lovers of detail, fabulous little touches. For one thing, they “get” breakfast: big bowls of cafe au lait without a handle so you can really “hug” your morning joe. Another touch we’ve loved and will be using at home is the practice of mincing a few fresh herbs and tossing them atop a fresh salad or cold plate.
Pictured above is my cheese plate from La Souris
Gourmande (the gourmand mouse) in Tours. Included are the local St. Maure de Touraine goat cheese, Rebelchon, and Camembert with fresh melon, a little cured ham and olives. But the fun punctuation mark, grace note, is the handful of fresh herbs sprinkled on top: just enough to make it a game to figure out which one’s which! Literally miles away from the tasteless “garnish” that limply adorns too many American dishes!
Grab a few herbs out of the garden or the veggie bin tonight, try something new, and let us know if you like it as much as we do!
We’re writing live this week from France, where we’re dogsitting somewhere west of Versailles. Very happy for the opportunity and we’re learning everything we can. This week’s food find? The Galette: a specialty of Bretagne that’s somewhere between a rollup sandwich and enchilada. Shown above, it’s made with buckwheat “ble noir”, with savory fillings and a fried egg on top just for fun! This one is from Le Salamandre near Amboise in the Loire Valley but we also loved Creperie Bretonne in Orleans, and Creperie Saint-Louis in Versailles.
Victims of museum fatigue in Paris can venture out on a day trip or two and experience the plein air settings that so inspired the Impressionist masters. First, try a trip to Giverny, Claude Monet’s home and gardens. A visit provides even the most jaded tourist an opportunity to see things in a different light, to understand for a moment why the famous artist painted the same thing over and over and OVER, just to catch the light. The home is lovingly refurbished but likely lacking the atmosphere in which Monet, his family, and guests moved and lived. Copies of many of his most famous paintings, which are in reality scattered in museums across the world, line the walls and provide a sense of the scope of Monet’s work. Family photographs frame the inhabitants in the same place, different time in which we live. The colors of the dining room and kitchen are most likely closest to home; cheery yellow dishes and vivid blue tile bring sunlight and water inside. (more…)
The Billionaire’s Vinegar is the perfect summer read. It’s well-written and engaging, but also educational. You’ll learn more about Thomas Jefferson and his years in Paris (don’t try to find his house on the intersection of the Champs-Elysees and the rue de Berri; it was razed in the 1800′s). Jefferson had a passion for wine, so you’ll also learn about Bordeaux and the cult of the “first growth” wines such as Latour, Haut-Brion, Mouton, Margaux, and Lafite Rothschild. Then bring it up to date and read this article in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal. Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher debunk the 2006 vintage, with bottles costing an average of $579. Not a good tasting experience or investment, say they!
The evening began badly. In the unquiquely, impenetrably French manner of just saying “Non!” our waitress inexplicably refused us the option of sitting outside Restaurant La Bergerie. Instead of sitting under perky red umbrellas on a balmy summer’s eve, we were relegated to the claustrophobic interieur, filled with rows of tables perfectly designed to accommodate the tour bus crowd.
It went downhill from there as the wait staff made no effort to hide their foregone conclusion that Americans are all boorish tourists, unworthy of consideration or interaction on a human level. Normally, we would have left, but it was late in the trip, we were tired, and the group had settled in.
I ordered Normandy oysters and mussels with frites. That’s when the whole out-of-body experience began. How to enjoy wonderful food in a restaurant that I’d already written off? (more…)
Renoir’s easily-loved “Luncheon of the Boating Party” is a cheerful, masterful painting throbbing with color, texture, and illumination. It’s been a favorite of mine since Art History 101. So it’s not surprising that, when staying at a house not too far from Chatou, a visit to the scene of the painting became a Holy Grail quest that dominated an entire day of travel.
Because I had read Susan Vreeland’s eponymous book I was ready to step off the train into the bucolic countryside and walk in the steps of the masters up to Maison Fournaise, maybe even have a cafe au lait on the balcony. It wasn’t to be. (more…)