Here's a look back at 2010 one more time, specifically how it relates to the food I ate. Here are the highlights.
I remember my very first Cannelle vividly. It was our first time to Paris and the magic of the Patisserie windows were enchanting. We came across an old fashioned and well loved looking pastry filled window just around the corner from our hotel in the 15th, a line is often a good sign. I purchased a couple mini cannelles and readiest myself for this new treat. My first bite was a revelation. Slightly crispy and deep caramel on the outside, then a resistant chew, leading to a heavenly moist, interior, custardy but open, with just the right amount of sweetness. The taste was that of flavours that magically transform when the simplest ingredients like eggs, milk, sugar and flour come together in a hot oven with just the right kind of pan. I was delighted. It was like nothing I'd had before, yet there was something familiar. Creme brulee baked, perhaps? Since then I've come across them once in awhile. But nothing would rival that Parisian Cannelle moment and for the most part I pass on them, like pain au chocolate and macarons, not able to withstand the infuriating emotions that erupt when my disappointment becomes unbareable. That was until Ken's Artisan Bakery in Portland, Oregon. While enjoying my obligatory orange flecked "Morning Bun" and Oregon Croissant (turns out they are better with blackberries!) my eyes caught sight of a plate of cannelles, of all things. It was as if a French soundtrack started to play. I can spot a worthy pastry from quite far away, a handy trick when confronted with too many options for this not too tiny tummy, and I could tell these were a must from their consistently deep coloured exterior and just the right amount of shine and texture on the surface, with just a tiny pool of cooled, melted butter in the indendation on top. One bite into these caramelized, eggy, sweet little scalloped pastries screamed perfection, which is no small feat since these beauties are pure technique and just plain fiddly. While that first in Paris will always remain close to my heart, this cannelle was certain to hold its place in my Pastry Canon, holding its own with a Seattle Pain au Chocoalate and a Gerard Mulot Macaron.
Best Dinner at a Friends house: Meat Candy
While 2010 wasn't the first time I had this dish, it was a year I was fortunate to realize I had found my "death row meal". These Bourbon Glazed Ribs, originally adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe, have become, whether she likes it or not, a specialty of my friend Ruth. Plenty of smokey muscovado sugar and so much bourbon the oven door is blown open during cooking, make a sauce that caramelizes into a sticky candy coated lollipop of pork, which is why I've coined it Meat Candy. Those finger bowls are a nice touch, but I don't remember using them much, since there's no way I'm washing away the sticky coating of bourbon, brown sugar and meat juices from these fingers with anything but my tongue! I recommend being vocal about your love for that special dish a friend makes. It gets you invited back! I've never made ribs in my life and don't plan on it. I have a friend who gives me the gift of these Meat Lollys enough times in the year. How lucky for me!
Coming from a city with a wasteland of exceptional wood fired pizza, a good piece of pie is always on my radar when travelling and our fall "foodcation" was full of credible options. Upon arrival into San Francisco we went straight to Pizzeria Delfina. There were very high expectations surrounding this lunch and it did not disappoint. Seated in a sidewalk table in the colourful Mission neighborhood, I literally gasped when this pizza arrived. The only thing thing missing was a spare stomach to try more of their unique pizzas, including one with broccoli raab and several options with housemade sausages. We had a vibrant pie covered in local, fresh cherry tomatoes, bursting open from the ovens heat and fresh ricotta cheese, the tomatoes adding acid and sweetness to the creamy, salty cheese. The lack of a traditional sauce let the pizza dough itself shine through, allowing a chewy, flavourful dough the chance to really be tasted. And all the beautiful charred bubbles were crackly crisp. The second one was one of the most interesting pizza I've ever had, covered in generous guaincale, unsmoked bacon, sliced torpedo onions, plenty of whole black peppercorns and a coating of cream. Think spaghetti carbonara on pizza. This really was my most memorable pizza experience and this place alone will get me back to San Francisco sooner than otherwise. And while I may complain that I can't get pizza like this at home, I'm glad because it makes it that much more special.
Twice last year we had another memorable pizza experience at the much lauded and blogged over, Delancey, tucked away in a residential neighborhood of Seattle. I had been following the progress of this opening all year and was quite excited to see what this highly anticipated newcomer to Seattle food scene would deliver. Brandon, the chef, had spent time across the US studying pizza and he obviously came away with quite the education. I was ready to cry with my first bite as DG and I ate in silence. The pizza being the only thing in the room. Plenty of charred bubbles, a dry, crispy crust, lots of cavernous chewy holes, restrained sauce and a simple menu of classics to show off the time and effort that have gone into creating a perfect pizza pie. A pizza bianca was the essence of simple and beautiful covered in excellent ricotta cheese and wild leeks, another tomato sauced version speckled with house made fennel sausage. So enraptured by this little spot we managed to plan our schedule to arrive in Seattle at opening to enjoy one last meal on our way home across the border. Bravo, Delancey. I am in awe of you attention to detail including your popsicles and fresh made chocolate chip cookies for dessert!
Best Vegetable: Brussel Sprouts -
Its took me over 30 years, but I finally "got" brussel sprouts last year. I've loathed these "little cabbages" my entire life but being the polite child I was raised to be, I took my obligatory 2 sprouts, covered them in gravy and choked them down. Luckily for me my Mom only bought them at the holidays. I hated the sight of them. I hated the taste of them. I hated the entire idea of them, and I certainly wasn't buying the whole "but they are just baby cabbages" rhetoric. Simply put, I didn't get it. Its possible these were the only vegetable I was not head over heels for, as I tend to be, until recently. Turns out roasted in duck fat and smoked salt would be the way to turn my head and I've made versions of this salad about half a dozen times in the last month alone. I can say "I get it"! So much so that I've been buying them by the bagful every chance I get and they have become a welcome source of local green at this time of year. So if you are like me and belong to the haters camp, try them raw in a salad. I'm pretty sure you'll fall hard.
Best Wine of 2010 : Central Otago Pinot Noir
I took some wine classes last year, and spent 3 hours each evening tasting 10-12 wines from all over the world. I learned such things as the role of acidity, flavour characteristics in Left Bank Bordeaux and how leaf canopy affects a wine. Wine has been passion of mine since that first tasting in a tiny Naramata winery almost 15 years ago. The more you know about any subject the more you can truly enjoy it and the WSET courses I took gave me exactly the platform I needed to move my understanding of glass of vino to the next level. And it was certainly the most fun I've had at "school" ever! During those 6 months I discovered what has become my "happy place" wine : New Zealand, Central Otago Pinot Noir. I am a sucker for good Pinot Noir, a grape I've loved since before the "Sideways effect", and I'm am constantly searching for good examples. So what's so great about Central Otago Pinot? It is a bowlful of ripe raspberry and red cherry flavours, but keeps its elegance like that of a fine old Burgundy with a gentle taste and finish. Indeed it shares similar climate, sunshine and altitude conditions as the the worlds most famed Pinot Noir region. But most importantly it is incredibly food friendly. This is one of the worlds greatest wines and I'm looking forward to drinking more and more of it. In fact this new love might just be a reason to finally make that trip across the Pacific.
Best Restaurant Dish: Fish Sauce Chicken Wings from POK POK, Portland OR
Of all the amazing bites of food we've had this year, THIS is the one we talk about most, mostly in the form of insane cravings. Enjoyed one October afternoon on a picnic table of a covered patio that could pass for the middle of Bankok we enjoyed a late lunch at Pok Pok, a Portland hot spot. Words cannot properly express how "freaking good" these were, and I'm thankful for our helpful server for pointing them out to us! Straight one of their cook's home in Vietnam, these are perfectly fried without a trace of oiliness, the crispness enhanced by crispy chile flakes that stick to the sweet glazed surface. They are all at once sweet, spicy and salty. I couldn't stop the moans and groans emanating from my mouth. Everything else we had that day was equally as good, including the simple sticky rice, the drinking vinegars and the satay sauces, but these chicken wings go on the docket as being the single best piece of food I put in my mouth all year and it will also be the first thing I eat upon arrival to Portland in a few weeks time.
Best Cocktail : The Manhattan
While wine is my soul, I certainly appreciate a finely crafted cocktail, and in fact search them out on occasion, trying to only have the best when the occasion presents itself. From my early days of blue or sickly sweet fruity cocktails, my tastes have gone to the other end of the spectrum to stiff, well balanced, sippers. I hate a drink that doesn't taste of its ingredients, or one that is too sweet or too fruity. Balance being everything. Bourbon is my go to spirit. I love its deep, smokey, brown sugar flavours and can enjoy it alone if its good enough. But mIxed with a little sweet vermouth, a dash of bitters, a cherry and a touch of cherry brandy, this is the cocktail I crave. The fact that its one of the oldest cocktails also draws me. This drink was created during the heyday of the cocktail and stands the test of time. While not for everyone, this drink feels right on a Friday night. Some Frank Sinatra on the stereo and a dimly lit bar doesn't hurt. Here's a recipe.
Most Memorable Dining Experiences: Lumiere, The French Laundry, Cyrus, Manresa, Chez Panisse
We ate well in 2010, from simple bowls of ramen noodles and pork stuffed sandwiches to Spanish tapas and cozy Italian restaurants, but some meals stood out as unique experiences that were entertainment on their own. These experiences are some of the meals we will remember for years to come, but there were so many others that while not mentioned are by no means forgotten.
At home Daniel Boulud's Lumiere reminded me of the enriched experience a repeat visit rewards (our server/sommellier brought us a bottle of wine from home) and the way it can make you feel like you've gone away to another country for dinner, simply due to its matured service and luxurious atmosphere. Memorable was the best piece of duck breast I have ever tasted and brioche worth fighting over. How proud I am to have this place in my own city. Its world class and absolutely worth the splurge.
Cyrus in Sonoma wine country was a whole different kind of special and a reminder that often the best experiences are those with little expectations. With only a vague knowledge of its reputation we entered into a vibrant, luxurious room with bright eyes and empty stomachs, eager to start our culinary vacation, this being the first of 2 weeks of great food. The evening that unraveled for us was nothing short of spectacular - each course better than the other. Was that really the best piece of chicken I 'd ever eaten, with chicken skin so perfectly and consistently crispy you swear they removed the skin, roasted it and then re attached it after? Yes, yes it was. And we had Abalone for the first time, a unique, full flavoured, mostly endangered mollusc pretty much unseen where we live (don't worry, theirs is sustainable). We dined in a small, intimate room, experienced service as good as it gets and had our first of Sonoma counties lower profile wines, yet so much better than their higher priced, higher profile Napa neighbors. Chardonnary crisp and barely oaked like a fine Chablis, no over done Napa Chardonnay here and, Sonoma's coastal influence means Pinot Noir country to take note of.
But it was the details that still resonates with me. The caviar and sparkling wine menu when you arrive and housemade cow and goatmilk butter on the table were just the beginning. Then a silver tray of darling bites including shivering savoury jellies, succulent clams, crunchy spring rolls, exotic mushroom broth. There was a cheese cart the likes I haven't seen France. The number of cheeses, perfectly displayed, commendable, the selection even better, filled with difficult to find European specimens alongside a stellar American cheese selection. I would go back for this cheese cart alone. My heart stopped when the above cart was wheeled to our table after dessert, filled with the most splendid display of chocolates, caramels, cookies and pate de fruits. Oh the display was squeal worthy and I indeed felt like a child in a very expensive candy store! They were a beautiful dessert the next night and a lovely extension of the memory of this evening. And just when you thought that was it, this was given to us along with a custom printed menu of the entire nights selections: A single brownie packaged with this fantastic sticker:
While in San Francisco, I knew first off a trip to Berkeley to Alice Waters' restaurant Chez Panisse was not something I was going to miss. Since the first time I saw her on Martha Stewart Living talking about heirloom tomatoes so many years ago I have followed her and her, sometimes controversial, approach to eating organically and locally. Her books are beloved classics that influence me tremendously and have been some of the resources where I have learned how to best approach a new vegetable I'm not familiar with. On that show that day, surrounded by that most amazing display, her passion for those tomatoes grabbed me hard and was one of the influences that shaped my shared passion for not just my heirloom tomatoes purchased by my favourite Columbian farmer, but any manner of beautifully grown vegetable. But like any pilgrimage, which is entirely what this was, there is a worry that an experience couldn't possibly live up to the expection. This one completely did. It was exactly as I expected and wanted it to be.
And this salad is the perfect example of why a restaurant like this, which at one time was so unlike the rest, is so relevant 25 years later. The plate was filled with locally grown, just picked vegetables at their peak, dressed perfectly and respectfully, and presented just as they are, no embellishments or smoke and mirrors. Our entire meal was filled with such examples of "just simple food", including a strawberry sorbet that was indeed the best fruit in ice form I'd ever tasted. It tasted of strawberries, only the strawberries of dreams, the ones most of us know nothing of anymore - a forgotten taste. I can't wait to go back here.
After San Francisco we took a detour and headed south to warmer lands to the shiny village of Los Gatos. Our destination : Manresa, a restaurant I was so excited about. David Kinch's food has a reputation for being incredibly unique and innovative, the kind of cuisine that when done well produces food that you never forget, but when done wrong can be overdone and ridiculous. His much talked of vegetable garden close to the restaurant means vegetables feature front and centre, a draw for me for sure. We enjoyed a 3 1/2 hour meal in this less than full restaurant where service was eager, friendly and surprisingly knowledgeable all at different times. We started our tasting menu after no fewer than 6 mini courses (called Amuse bouches), and before our menu even began we bit into such delights as pillowy vegetable beinets, fois gras creme caramel (!!!) and one spectacular egg.
When dinner began we were already blown away and waited with baited breath for the next dish, trying out best to ignore the couple celebrating their anniversary by playing on their phones independently throughout the evening. Luckily they left well before we did. Our meal progressed flawlessly, nothing disappointing, every dish astounding, full of flavours I never thought of combining yet seemed so natural together. Noodles made from cucumber water with abalone jelly combined with a hearty broth were a lesson in food science. There was ice cream in our pumpkin soup of the nasturtium variety. "Into the Vegetable Garden" was an homage to what was in their garden that afternoon featuring vibrant greens, flowers, shoots, a foam "dressing" and deeply toasted bread crumbs representing the soil. The small, but well selected, custom shiny red cheese cart came with a knowledgeable server whos appreciation for our enthusiasm meant we tried no fewer than 9 cheeses that night - the entire contents of the cart. And while dessert was perhaps the only possible letdown, that homemade lemongrass soda was the perfect refreshment after all. This cozy, comfortable restaurant was a joy to spend those hours in. On our way out we were invited to dig deep into a gargantuan bowl of Vanilla Caramels, which we did. We walked back to our hotel in the warm breeze and were thankful for this memorable evening.
I have followed the mystique and food of Thomas Kellar's 15 year old French Laundry for years, running my hands over the photos in the cookbook, and reading accounts of this famed little restaurant in the Napa valley. Considered a worldwide dining destination and located in a tiny old house in Yountville California makes The French Laundry is possibly the most difficult reservation in the world. While scoring a reservation here is akin to winning the lottery we would try everyday at 10am on the dot and multiple attempts online for almost 2 weeks. The elation I felt when that hold line opened up to a reservations agent was an incredible rush. I secured a reservation for dinner 2 months from that day. We were going to the French Laundry!
Once again, this would be an experience with tremendous expectation. The highest there is in fact in the dining world. I understand what that can mean for the customer. When I asked our incredible server what it was like working somewhere where each person in that room has walked in with the highest expectations imaginable, he told us that indeed it made it easier because his job was simply to figure out the kind of French Laundry Experience each person is expecting that evening and to give it to them. He was obviously good at it.
Before dinner we arrived early and wandered through the vegetable garden, filled with healthy and vibrant specimens that would appear on our plates in a couple hours. And while it might just look like a garden to some, its one of the reasons this place is so special, as is any restaurant able to do the same. Imagine the freshness of something picked in a restaurants backyard, especially the backyard of the Napa valley, and grown especially for that purpose.
We dined in a small upstairs room filled with large and small parties, some young, some more mature, some from far away, some from closer to home, all enjoying each bite and breath of their experience - the feeling of excitement and anticipation palpable in the room. Service was flawless, servers watching every move even when their backs are turned. Service of this calibre is a perfectly choreographed dance, a profession, and one you have to see to believe. We ate specialty dishes like salmon tartar in teeny tiny cones and "Oysters and Pearls" which consisted of a silky and salty mixture of creamy custard with oysters and caviar, and sipped Califoria Sparkling Wine made just for the French Laundry. We slathered housemade rolls with each of the two housemade butters in front of us. Never have I used so much butter on my bread. Vegetables on our plates were treated with such respect and care. We held the perfect little brioche set before us up to our noses, so intoxicated were we from the smell of not just butter, but such good butter. There was lime cured fish and teeny tiny quail and lobster poached in more of that butter. Then there was the Tete au Cochon (yup, that's pigs head). How could anyone be afraid of this? This dish takes days to make and was mind-blowing to me - flavours that went on forever. Ham, but so much better! That dish sums it all up. Incredible technique, time, details, the end result worthy of it all. Tete au Cochon is what you eat at the French Laundry. We had Ethical veal so succulent and juicy it was like it had been injected with extra juices. Dessert hit a home run with the homey flavours of peanut butter and chocolate with elements that crackled and crunched alongside creamy and salty. One last tray of chocolates and petits fours and the meal was over. We were not sad to go though. It had been a lovely lovely ride and we were present and enjoying of each and every moment. Of course everything was not perfect, and dissecting a French Laundry experience is certainly a contact sport for some. A restaurant of that esteem means tables needing to be turned, which ours had to be, but this was as perfect as it could be, and as it needed to be. We ate very well, enjoyed every moment, and really that's all was supposed to be to it. A meal to last a lifetime.
Best New Dish: Paella
I have a "list". Its an ever changing list of dishes I want to challenge myself to. This year I managed to cross off quite a few and one of these items was Paella, the traditional spanish rice dish served with meat or seafood and served table side. When friends were heading off to Spain in September that was the perfect time to try my hand at this national dish. I cooked them a special dinner and there were many spanish specialties. A smooth bread- thickened Andalusian gazpacho, silky and fatty jamon serrano, salty sweet marcona almonds, manchego cheese with membrillo (a traditional quince paste served with cheese), flan for dessert, and all washed down with bubbly Cava and tasty Rioja. For the Paella I brought together all the essential ingredients like smoked paprika, saffron, bomba rice and even bought a paella pan. The steps involved in Paella were not complicated, but there is a procedure, something masters will tell you is entirely what makes a good or bad Paella. It yields a rice dish with such incredible, complex flavours of deep tomato and onion, smokey paprika and full flavoured broth. Alone the rice is satisfying, but bury in a melange of fresh seafood, chorizo sausage and even bits of chicken and you have a meal worthy of a grand celebration. When it is served table side bursting with all that wealth of seafood on top for everyone to dig in this is an impressive meal and something I loved so much I made it more than once. What an excited dish to add to my repertoire!
I suppose its assumed that ones favourite market is their own, but its also not surprising that the grass is greener applies to many things. When I travel anywhere I get the best sense of a community from the Farmers Market. As a passionate Farmers Market-er, it gives me a clue of what it would be like to be a local. While our trip to San Francisco had a much anticipated market highlight in store for me with the Ferry Building Farmers Market, which sadly left me underwhelmed, (although the Ferry Building itself overwhelmed me in an almost religious way), it was actually The Portland Farmers Market that completely stopped me in my tracks. Talk to anyone about Portland OR and there won't be a bad thing to say about it. Its a city with so much going for it, almost a Utopia, especially when it comes to the food and drink scene. This market was bustling on a cold OCtober morning, as the stalls rambled under the trees of the University grounds. Tables plum full of those famous Oregon hazelnuts, bountiful displays of Chiogga beets and root vegetables the like I've never seen. I was stopped in my tracks when I cam across a very busy stand selling nothing but bags of roasted peppers. And behind that stall was this get up made especially for roasting them right there. Brilliant!
But alongside so much great produce you wouldn't even think of buying a california head of lettuce that weekend, were also several fantastic cheesemakers, professional looking bakers, rustic old country breads and even wine. The round it out was a prepared food section that blew me away. It was a tough choice but there was no way we were walking away from this fried chicken and biscuit sandwich covered in local honey and grainy mustard. The biscuits were baked as we waited as was the chicken being fried by a group of young, happy looking entrepreneurs. The atmosphere of the people waiting was relaxed and anticipatory and there was nothing that would have tasted better in that moment. My only regret. That we shared it.
Last year also solidified my love for another much lower profile farmers market in small town Penticton BC. My parents live in this wine country small town in southern part of our province so we find ourselves at this market at least couple times in a season. Every year I became more amazed by this little market that could, and did. Set on a closed off portion of downtown, the strip is comfortable with plenty of space between stalls. This is the centre of the wine country, but it was first fruit country, and luckily there are still some who will still grow it for us. Bins overflowing with apples, pears, peaches, plums or cherries abound at amazing prices and quality. On the concrete a vendor puts together charming bouquets of garden fresh flowers displayed in simple dollar store vases, and mouthwatering pastry galettes filled with whatever is in season are as good as you'll get, actually better, than at the finest city bakeries. Amongst all that you will also find hard to find varieties of the tenderest italian Arugula, bunches of sweet cippollini onions, slender French beans, eggplants of every variety imaginable, bunches of just picked asparagus and bags of dried apricot kernels, things I never find in my big city market. When I visit this market I actually say to myself "I could live here".
I have a bit, well more than a bit, of a crush on Baking Godmother, Dorie Greenspan. Books written by her never leave my bookshelves and are used frequently. When early last year I heard she'd be doing a French Homecooking book I couldn't wait for it to be released. Its rare I order a book on release day, but this one I did. I've since cooked along with French Fridays with Dorie and have countless dishes, many of which will become standbys in this house. But regardless of how much I love her for her previous books, this book is simply a class act. Its written with the wit and approachability that is Dorie's charming style and is filled with well written recipes of dishes that look better and better page after page. Its the kind of book you want to have people over to enjoy, even if they aren't French and its exhaustive content and friendly teaching style will surely put this alongside Julia Child as an absolute classic.
Best Video: Jean Yves Bordier
I'm not sure when exactly I came across this video of Brittany Butter master, Jean Bordier (the very butter I've been known to smuggle home in my suitcase) and his employees lipsyncing to a French pop song "Product of the Year", but no matter what that day was or how I was feeling,I certainly was on a high after it. And I'll admit whenever I need some cheering up, this is often what I go to. Its cheesy, French pop music, but the entire effort seems so down to earth and just good fun that I can't help but sing and dance along. Go ahead, put away you cynicism and prepare to sway and smile for a couple minutes. My dreams of Brittany have been romanticized a little but more after seeing this.
"This is your wheat!". Words spoken with such passion and vigour you have certainly not heard often about a plant most of us have given very little thought to. Yet, Jim shouted these words as though it were matter of going to war for freedom. It made me want to chuckle a little bit, if it didn't send a stab of pride through my body. This really was our wheat and the power of that as a baker, consumer and food enthusiast is really really amazing.
A cool, cloudy, August Sunday found a group of people from the Vancouver area in Agassiz, a small rural, farming community about 1 1/2 hours outside of the downtown Vancouver area. None of us had met, but were all there with a shared interest in the food we eat. We were part of a wheat CSA and shortly before harvest, we were invited to an open house to view the very wheat I'd be making scones and sourdough bread with just a couple months later, enjoy a picnic lunch at the farm, and a good old fashioned hay ride through the fields. I'm a sucker for this kind of thing and it was the perfect way to spend a summer day with friends. The flour from those stalks makes some beautiful food indeed and is worth the little extra effort to support a family farm.
Ju Jubes to me are artificially coloured globs of sugar and gelatin usually found at amy given time in my Mom's pantry. When I saw those same words at a vegetable stand behind a pile of brown coloured fruits that looked like unshelled pecans, I stopped dead in my tracks. We were in San Francisco at the Ferry Building Farmers market and these caught my eye. No relation to those candies we all know, Ju Jubes are actually the fruit of a date, before its been dried. Having never been in contact with a fresh date before, I hadn't given the subject a lot of thought. But Ju Jubes! I bit into one and was surprised at how much this crunchy, juicy fruit tasted of dates, and also of its incredible sweetness even in its fresh form.
Best New Tool: Shun Chef's Knife
I've been coveting one of these Japanese knives by Shun for years and this was the year I would finally take the plunge. Something with this much hype surely comes with doubts. Well, one swipe of a ripe tomato with this knife and I was gaga. I have since barely used my beloved chefs knife of 12 years. These knives are scary sharp, and have a wooden handle that fits in the hand like it was made for me. But mostly its the light, sharp glide they offer to everything I chop. They slice through everything effortlessly. These knives will be with me for a lifetime to come. I'm sure of it.
Best Party: Dinner and a Movie
I co hosted a dinner and a movie night party last year. Our theme was Julie and Julia, a movie I had quite loved. We would cook a meal appropriate to the movie and cook all the recipes from Julia Childs' Classic book. As a follow up to a previous Italian themed evening that included the watching the beloved, Big Night and eating 3 kinds of fresh pasta, and a precursor to a Ratatouille evening with, you guessed it, a Provencal menu, our Julie and Julie menu went something like this:
Kir with Saussicon Sec
Green salad with Vinaigrette
Bouef Bourgignon, Potato Puree, Celery Root Remoulade
A platter of French Cheeses such as Brie de Meaux, Comte, Fresh Goat cheese and Roquefort
This evening stands out for its conviviality and enthusiasm from every member of the table. With each person bringing a great bottle of French wine to enjoy with the meal, and even a very special French inspired play-list created for the evening (thanks, T), no detail was left out. But the preparation was also a party in itself. For someone who's used to cooking alone, and usually prefers it, I enjoy sharing the kitchen with kindred spirits. Ruth and I work in sync, sharing jobs and getting things done, but mostly we just have fun, both of us in the place we feel most at home . While its important to eat together, preparing a special meal together is equally as special. I encourage you to try this.
In honour of my Dad's 60th Birthday, what else would I make but something centred around my Dad's lifetime favoured ice cream flavour. What surely looks like it came out of a display case of your best ice cream parlour I made in an afternoon and what fun I had doing it. Inside this maple syrup glazed walnut topped cake is a Frangelico soaked sponge cake, more of those addictive walnuts and layers of maple and vanilla ice cream. While we snuck as much my Dad's way as we could when Mom was out of the room the great thing about having out of town parents is that it means the ice cream cake stays here. Although there certainly wasn't much for leftovers here.
Best Daring Bakers Challenge: Doughnuts!
Yes I knew that doughnuts were doable at home. Yes I knew they would likely be better than any piece of fried dough I'd wrapped my mouth around before, and yes I knew they really only took a pot of bubbling oil. But that still kept me from trying my hand at doughnuts until a few months ago on a Daring Bakers Challenge. Like so many other "first timers", its took a challenge from my monthly online baking group to get me to finally try my hand at that bubbling pot of oil and some sweet dough. I wouldn't help but wonder at how easy these were. Mostly the look on my friends faces when I served these cinnamon sugar pillows with a comforting cup of hot chocolate was all I really needed.
After 12 years of marriage, DG remains the best dining partner anyone could ask for, unless there's a hockey game on. While I may be the one choosing the restaurants, his enthusiasm for food and sharing these experiences together means we share this passion 100%. He listens to me, asks my opinion and enjoys the entire experience of sharing a meal together. We have spent endless hours at dining tables at home and far away, drinking wine, discovering local specialties and getting inspired for the dinner parties we love to host. Thank you DG, I will dine with you until that last course.