Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Ah France! Our vacation was dedicated to fine food and wine- and there was definitely plenty of that! To start, we visited Hediard and Fauchon, two boutique retailers of delicious gourmet goods. My french came in handy as I ordered un pain au chocolat, et un pain de campagne.... and then asking for du vin blanc.. and some amazing fraises!! We did our picnic in two parts- one in the Luxembourg gardens and then later on the champs de mars by the Eiffel tower. Life did not suck.

For dinner, we tried Au Vieux Comptoir (not to be confused with the millions of other bars and restaurants by the same name- this is the 'old' one. It got to the point where we saw one 'comptoir' restuarant a day, all across france....even in the airport!) (It means 'counter'...)

We shared a plate of white asparagus in a delicious dijon butter thing, and then I had a creamy porcini mushroom risotto, one of the hardier meals I had on our trip. Ry had a steak which he enjoyed with some super creamy mashed potatoes!

And for best lunch, this lovely spot by our hotel- in a pretty little square in the marais- had an awesome salad provencale- complete with egg, tuna, green beans... so delicious!

And of course... the drinking! Our first stop was Champagne- and even the streets are painted with these handy graphics and an _____> to point the way. We tried 3 different brands: Mercier, the most popular in France, Moet Chandon, the most popular... everywhere else, and De Castellane, holder of no significant moniker, but in a 'charlie and the chocolate factory'-esque building. Who could resist?

Very classy tour featuring video with voice over by Scarlett Johanson.

'The people's champagne' with some crazy cool cellars.

Charlie wasn't home.

Then it was off to St. Emilion, Home of Bordeaux. First, a walk through the vineyards outside the city:

Then a little wine tasting... .

Followed by some wine buying..

WARNING: You too may 'storm the castle' after drinking this much wine (kidding...)

Coffee is always better in Europe...

We then spent a day in the Chateauneuf du Pape in Provence, tasting straight from the foudre (big-ass barrel) and checking out the very old vintages (1926!!)

The word is that 2010 is gonna be a good one.

Old (the wine, of course... I would never say that about Ryan!)

For lunch, we had perhaps one of our most outstanding meals at Chez Serge. Truffles, a piece of beautiful fish in a lemony butter sauce, and Ryan had more meat, and of course a really good baba rum cake with berries....

And later, in Avignon, this cute spot- though the food was just ok amongst our many meals, the location and interior had me charmed!!

A great trip, and a lesson learned- next time I will have to blog more as we go so I remember more of each meal!!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

So I was cleaning out my fridge...

And came up with this doozy of a delicious treat!! I recently attended a cooking workshop that encouraged me to go "off book" and cook with inspiration. So, I had 1 medium onion, a can of artichokes, some leftover goat cheese, and at the way way back of the fridge, some herb butter I made for.... Thanksgiving (It still smelled ok, so no judgment!) And this was my creation:

goat cheese
herb butter
sauteed onions
salt & pepper
french bread
olive oil

Spread the butter and goat cheese on the bread. Top with the onions, artichokes, and arugula. Put a drop of olive oil and salt and pepper on top. Broil- Just a mere half a minute. (Notice mine is quite black- whoops!)

I served open-faced with a big salad of arugula in a lemony-olive oil vinaigrette.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pickled beets and eggs

A favorite treat and after school snack:

-Hard boil 1/2 dozen eggs and place in large container. Combine:

1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 can red beets

Let sit overnight, and let the feasting begin.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mis En Place Party!

I needed to spice up my cooking life- and Ronna (of Purple Kale Kitchenworks) was just the lady to set me on my next steps. I, like many people I know, struggle to 'throw something together' on a weeknight- and often end up ordering out instead from the pizza joint across the street.

Ronna's theory is simple: forget life by the recipe and cook each individual ingredient as far and as well as you like- and then use these ingredients to make quick and delicious meals throughout the week.

The principle that struck me best was that if I could cook each item unto itself, the worst that happens is I stand at my fridge, fork in hand, and eat a little of this and a little of that, and get a strange, yet satisfying meal.

So, when the challenge came up of putting together a luncheon menu on super short time (I was going to be out of town the day and morning before!!), I decided to put the theory to the test.

I knew I had only about 2 hours the day of to put everything together, so I spent some time the Thursday night before doing the real prep. I ended up using 3 pots and 1 small saute pan, and it took me 2.5 hours, including time to wash the dishes. At the end of the night, here is some of what I now had on hand:

Steamed Broccoli
sauteed shallots
cut radishes
cut orange pepper
Seared Portobello Mushroom
Crispy browned garlic
herb butter

I walked in my house Sunday at noon, and by 2pm, had the following dishes on hand:

Pasta salad with orange pepper, jarred summer tomatoes, steamed broccoli, crispy browned garlic, and an olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper dressing

Spinach salad with seared portobello mushroom, roasted red pepper, radish, and balsamic vinegar

Crostini with herb butter, broiled baby artichoke, parmesan cheese, and sauteed shallots.

Everyone was impressed by the goods- but really, it wasn't such a cooking masterpiece as it sounded!!!

I'll be preparing my Mis En Place again next week, ready to eat a little of this and that again!!