Monthly Archives: November 2011

ON WINE

Have you seen it yet? Adam has a piece in the No. 20 issue of Five Dials, an excellent online-only journal based in London and published by literary titan Hamish Hamilton. His piece is on Hemmingway’s The Moveable Feast and Mâcon wine. It’s wonderful.

Download the issue here.

WEARABLE CATS

I have just enough money in my Paypal account to get this. Do I dare?

REAL DEAL

I have a new favorite cheese, and it is the Crottin de Chavingnol, a famous French chevre made in the Loire Valley. Montrealers can buy it at La Fromagerie Hamel for about $6. (Look for the AOC stamp of approval to know it’s the real deal). It’s a small thing, a tiny, hard puck of goat cheese encased in lavender-grey mold. The cheese tastes faintly of nuts, goaty tang, and hay, and has an irresistible, crumbly texture when eaten cold; I like to cut it into thick wedges the size of postage stamps and pop it into my mouth as is.

But Richard Olney suggests that it’s even better spread thinly onto buttered toasts and broiled quickly under the oven — and we always do what Richard Olney tells us to do. He was right, of course. The transformation of this chevre into something sleek and smooth was astonishing, and made all the more powerful when accompanied by a simple Bibb salad dressed in walnut oil — and even better, unsurprisingly, with a dry, slightly metallic white wine, like a Sancerre. (Interestingly, our crottin was made in the Berry village, though it is also made in Perigord, a major center of walnut oil production!) It was just the right kind of dinner when you don’t really feel like “dinner.”

FRIDAY SURPRISE

Weirdly enough there seem to be a lot of Thanksgiving-themed Black Friday sales here in Canada. Though I rarely go shopping these days, I took advantage of Anthropologie’s extra 50% off sale to buy a pair of Rachel Comey oxfords (with the perfect Southwest color palette!) that I’ve had my eye on all season. I seem to be averaging around two Comey heel-related purchases per year; the collection is growing nicely. Hunting around for her other designs, I found that Comey also designed the perfect pair of slippers. They’re so amazing and cuddly (and made from baby alpaca fur!).

(Image via Creatures of Comfort).

ON GRATITUDE

A lot of Montrealers have asked me if I plan to cook a blow-out Thanksgiving feast today. They assume, I think, that I’d use Thanksgiving as a great excuse to devise of some over-the-top, decadent, butter-drenched affair. But the thing is, I realized that Adam and I have never needed a reason to enjoy a crazy meal, to spend five hours in a kitchen getting something just right, to uncork eight bottles of wine, to spend weeks researching recipes. The way we cook, the things we like to eat, is a special part of our lives, something still unfamiliar to me, something I’m still settling into, this idea that I could ever be paired with someone who loves food as much as I do.

Looking back over the past year, we often have meals that are more elaborate than most Thanksgiving feasts I’ve attended. A lot of foods that Americans consider “special holiday food” — mashed potatoes is a classic example — we enjoy on the regular. Nothing is off limits. There never needs to be a “special occasion” for us to cook something that we love. Why do so many Americans wait until one day a year to drool over roast goose, or to puree yams or bake pumpkin pie? It’s not just fancy foods, though, that I’m grateful for today. Adam has a way of making every meal seem special, whether it’s two fried eggs and leftover lentils for breakfast, or a roast chicken and seared scallops feast the following night. I’m grateful for that, for my special teacup that is painted with scarlet roses, for fresh-squeezed orange juice every morning, for wild mushrooms soaked in duck fat, for fluffy slices of chocolate cake, for the plenty and the abundance that appears in our lives every day.

Happy Thanksgiving.

AFTERNOON ROOFTOPS

Some behind-the-scenes photos from an exciting story that I’m working on… I can’t wait to share more details!

It was such a magical afternoon. Imagine shucking boxes of oysters until your fingertips turn blue. Imagine immediately shooting the briny specimens back and feeling a shock of icy ocean water running down your throat like a punch in the neck. And imagine that happening on a freezing, windy rooftop in Old Montreal.

PB&J BLISS

The whole wheat peanut butter and jelly squares that I bake for Le Pick Up are impressively decadent and extremely sweet in a vaguely trashy, over-the-top kind of way. Just how we like it at Le Pick Up. People are always asking me for the recipe, so I think it’s finally time to spread the joy: the PB&J bars are the brain baby of other than the magnificent Contessa herself. Yesterday afternoon I indulged in a mini-marathon of her episodes (like the classic steak cook-off she has with her husband, Jeffrey), snuggled under a blanket and with a bag of potato chips. I just love her so much, she’s so serene and composed and she loves butter even more than I do.

(Recipe by Ina Garten via Ezra Pound Cake)

NOVEMBERFEST: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

 

(All photos by me, except last photo, by Bartek)

The Depanneur’s first-ever Novemberfest was successful on almost a disturbing level. The amounts of sausage and sauerkraut consumed, for one; the abundance of genuine lederhosen and dirndls worn by dining patrons, for another. (Those in costume received a generous discount).

I had never considered making pretzels from scratch before, and I was surprised at how easy and fun it was. Our Bavarian chef insisted we make them the authentic Bavarian way — raw dough dipped in a toxic bath of lye. We handled the solution with trepidation (wearing protective eyewear and gloves at one point), soaking the pretzels in the chemical bath and finishing them with a quick eight minute turn in a very hot oven. They emerged from the oven salty, yeasty, and perfectly pliant, with a handsomely mahogany-hued exterior. We served them piping hot, with a thick Bavarian cheese spread spiked with butter, scallions, and paprika.

And dudes. I also made my first-ever apple strudel. This is major. I had (a lot of) help from my friend and pastry chef Camilla Wynne, but I had to make the second strudel without her guidance. My brain insisted that I had no idea what I was doing, and panic and total intimidation gnawed away at my insides. But the pressure-cooker situation of needing to feed people in three hours made me steamroll through my own self-doubt and just get it done. (I think the best compliment I received all night was when someone described my strudel as tasting like ’those tiny deep-fried apple pies you buy at McDonalds.’) This is why people cook for others, I think.

PICKLING RECAP

Finally! A belated sharing of photos from Camilla’s latest picking workshop at Depanneur Le Pick Up. Once again, Camilla blessed us with her staggering amount of preserves-related know-how (she is Preservation Society, after all) and we all listened, rapt. When the evening closed, we were the lucky recipients of warm, glowing jars stuffed with pickled green tomatoes and spicy apple chutney. Camilla advised us to wait at least one month before cracking our jars open, but truth be told, I struggled to wait even one day.

Thank you Camilla for such a wonderful night!

JAMAICAN ME CRAZY PT. V

On our first full day in Negril, we visited an outdoor fish market tucked into a riverbank that opened up into the ocean. It was pouring that morning, and we hid out in our van until the rain subsided slightly. When we ventured outside, all of the fish were shining with rain water. It was a beautiful sight. I watched, transfixed, as an old man with a rusty knife scaled fish so quickly that the scales sprayed in all directions like glitter. Our chef friend Kevin bought a big bag of fresh red snapper to give to his mother-in-law, who then made us lunch with the fish. I spotted hundreds of egrets nesting in the trees across the river, dotting the branches like a million tiny lights.