Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pumpkin Time

Rosa carved her first pumpkin with Daddy last weekend. Sadly, we then left it too close to the radiator, and the pumpkin started to "wilt". So, we had to say good-bye to Mister Jack-o-Lantern -- to Rosa's continuing wistfulness.

In happier times:

Monday, October 20, 2008

In Cannes: Macaron Mania

French macarons are gorgeous things – perfectly round, chewy, and often brilliantly colored cookie-like confections made of egg whites, almond powder, and sugar. I tried making them once (pre-culinary school, I should say) and the results were not pretty. I quickly decided that macarons should be left to the macaron professionals.

I stumbled upon some of those professionals while walking through a winding pedestrian street in Cannes off of the famed (expensive) shopping street Rue d’Antibes. L’Atelier Jean Luc Pelé calls itself a “Créateur de Goût” or Creator of Taste. So maybe these macaron professionals aren’t modest… but they are pretty darn creative.

When I first walked into the shop I saw row upon row of brightly colored macarons to my left. To my right and in the back were artisanal chocolates and other decadent delights. But the macarons were too enticing to ignore. In addition to traditional varieties, Jean Luc offered flavors like rosewater, apricot-lavender, fig, and green tea. Even more surprising were the savory macarons, creations that looked just as jewel-like as their sweet counterparts: fois gras and spice, anchovy, olive, foie gras and apple, and tomato and basil. Jean Luc sells 21 flavors of macarons in all and makes them all on-site.

I picked up a few sweet flavors and conducted a taste test with my colleagues Cara and Nicole. Here were the results:

• Caramel sea salt – My favorite. The confection tasted of deep caramel, almost burned, but pleasingly so. The sea salt made the caramel dance on my tongue.

• White chocolate and rosewater – Rose is my new flavor obsession (I also bought rose petal jam at the Cannes Monoprix), but it’s definitely not for everyone. I also loved this macaron. The beginning of each bite tasted like marzipan; it was in the aftertaste that the rose made its presence known.

• Fig – I also love figs! (I guess it’s not surprising since I was the one choosing all of these flavors…). Dusted with poppy seeds, this dusky purple macaron was delicately flavored and just a bit figgy.

• Lemon – Bright yellow and chewy like a lemon square, this was Nicole and Cara’s favorite.

• Lavender-apricot – This one didn’t do it for us. The flavors were too subtle, and only Cara could detect the lavender at all. (And she’s pregnant – doesn’t pregnancy enhance your sense of smell?)

For the spectacle alone, Jean Luc is definitely worth a stop in Cannes, and according to the card they also have a shop in Paris. I’m not able to find a working website, but here’s the address in Cannes: 36 rue Meynadier.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I went to bed last night at 8:30 PM and woke up this morning at 5:30 PM. That can only mean one thing -- I'm back from Cannes and a little jetlagged. Cannes was beautiful, as usual. (I go to Cannes for almost a week every October for my television work). There is nothing like the hour before the sun is fully down when the lights begin to twinkle on the Mediterranean, the boats bob in the water, and the promise of champagne is in the air. And having sensational buttery, flaky croissants on demand is not such a bad thing either.

For the most part the food was terrific; we visited some old favorites and tried some new places that will become favorites. Pictures, links, and stories to come!

Friday, October 10, 2008

French breakfast ... in New York

Yesterday I had a breakfast meeting at Pastis in the Meatpacking District. It’s one of New York’s iconic French bistros – hard-to-book, pitch-perfect decor, great food, and frequent celeb-sightings. But it’s often overrun by tourists. The last time I was there for brunch, about three years ago, the server asked where we were from, and I vowed never to brunch there again.

But, weekday breakfast is another story. With no reservations required, Pastis is relaxed and extremely civilized. Smooth cappuccinos and flaky croissants made it a tasty warm-up for our French sojourn.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Rich Weekend

Every Monday or Tuesday I start puttering around, looking through my latest food magazines, checking what pages I cornered on my current favorite cookbook, seeing whether I need to test anything for Leite’s Culinaria -- beginning to decide what to cook next week.

When I thought about the dishes I wanted to make last week I realized that my culinary cravings had advanced to autumn – I wanted warm, comforting food. In fact, for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I planned all creamy, cheesy dishes: leek tarte, butternut squash lasagna, and potato gratin (to accompany salmon and lacinto kale).

The leek tarte was from Molly Wizenberg’s (a.k.a. Orangette) column in Bon Appetit. The tarte was inspired by her trip to Belgium and is basically a thin quiche enveloping rich, creamy leek confit. It turned out beautifully, although I did make a couple of ingredient swaps: gruyere for the aged goat cheese and whole wheat flour in the place of one-third of the white flour for the crust. The crust swap was a great success. The wheat lent a nutty flavor to the tart, and the crust was still buttery and flaky. The gruyere was good, but didn’t pack enough punch. I will try the tart again with the aged goat cheese.

The butternut squash and sage lasagna, from Martha Stewart Living, was heavenly – rich, cheesy, and creamy. A bit sweet thanks to the squash; deep and woodsy courtesy of the sage. The lasagna was a big hit and will be making another appearance at my table Friday night when my parents come to visit from Colorado.

Last night’s potato gratin was also lovely, with nutmeg-spiced cream and a golden, crunchy top. I have to say that my favorite part, though, was the ultra-thin slices of potato compliments of my life-changing mandoline.

I’m not planning next week’s meals tonight, since Dave and I will be in Cannes beginning on Saturday. Something tells me I won’t be taking too much of a break from my rich, creamy diet in France, either… Spa food for me later in the month?? With even colder weather on the horizon? Probably not.

*Photo from Martha Stewart.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Pop Quiz

Rosaberry’s awesome web designer just forwarded me another project he worked on: a fun, interactive quiz about portion size on Prevention magazine’s website. Sample question: is one standard serving of rice about the same size as four dice, a half tennis ball, or a tennis ball? Some of the answers will surprise you!

The correct answer, by the way is a half tennis ball, a serving size that Dave and I regularly exceed. And, according to the quiz we don't eat large enough servings of vegetables. While we may not radically decrease our rice servings, I will work to up our veggie intake. I always like it when someone tells me to eat more of something...

Click here to take the quiz.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Night in the Village

I met a woman last week who has only been out with her husband three times since their first child was born seven years ago. Granted, they also have four and a half year-old triplets, but that still seems pretty extreme to me.

Dave and I get out every few weeks or so, but it’s usually only for a drink after work or maybe a quick dinner. Wednesday night we did the whole shebang – drinks, dinner, and dessert, at three different places. I realized that that’s actually my favorite kind of night out. Experiencing different bars/restaurants, but still focusing entirely on the food! (I suspect Dave would like to mix it up a bit with a show or something non-food-related thrown in. Next time.) But, we had a great time Wednesday night with the added bonus that we tried three new places!

We started with drinks at Pegu Club, an atmospheric bar on the second floor of a building on Houston St., near Dos Caminos. Pegu Club is named after a bar in Rangoon, Burma during the British colonial days. At the New York version, the pretty servers wear kimonos, and subdued lanterns barely brighten the cozy tables. It feels like you’ve stepped into another world – a slightly glam, very grown-up place. Check out the website, and you’ll know what I mean.

Pegu Club well-known in the food world for its carefully-mixed, old-fashioned cocktails using fresh juices and high-quality ingredients. Basically it has taken the artisanal food movement into the cocktail milieu. I drank a French Pearl (actually two French Pearls) – gin, mint, pernod, lime and simple syrup. It was served in a delicate tulip glass and tasted divine. Dave enjoyed a whisky smash, although he did say it was a touch too sweet for his taste.

After cocktails we walked a few blocks to ’Ino, a tiny restaurant and wine bar specializing in pressed sandwiches. We were lucky to get a table, but by the time we left around 9 PM the place was jammed. We started with a plate of bruschetta including the excellent white bean with thyme and fig with arugula and proscuitto. Dave chose a panino with roasted pork loin, while I ate a delicious panino with proscuitto, bel paese cheese and sweet onion. No more alcohol for us.

While I was eating my sandwich I remembered with a happy jolt that
Grom was near the West 4th subway entrance, where we’d go to head home. Grom is a gelato chain that started in Italy a few years ago using only top-notch ingredients (lemons from the Amalfi coast for example). Its New York branch opened last year, and I’d been dying to try it. For my flavors I chose dark chocolate and caramel. Dave had hazelnut and chocolate chip. They were all good, but the hazelnut was to die for.

We were home by a little after 10, but it was really a wonderful night. I think I fell in love with New York again (I didn’t need to fall in love with Dave again!). The food and beverage choices in this city are happily overwhelming. These spots were all within a few blocks of each other and just three of over a hundred places that we could have tried. But even more thrilling was just being out with everyone else – all the different people going about their own lives in close proximity to each other, all ages, backgrounds, and interests. Who knows who else was in ‘ino Wednesday night: singers, actors, writers, accountants, designers, students, trust fund babies, teachers. The variety is endless, and I love it -- it feeds me.