There’s a lovely journal post over at Kinfolk Magazine detailing the beautiful Grand Aioli dinner I threw with Michelle Marek almost two months ago. The night, which was full of chaos and love and fresh vegetables, was one of the highlights of my summer. As we approach fall, it’s so nice to relive the moment when we were still thrilled by the emergence of garlic, and the warmth of sunshine. Anthony really couldn’t have summed up the night better:
Between the food, the wine, the ambiance, and the assembly of enthusiasts, something magical happened that evening. Somehow Montreal’s natural joie de vivre merged with a sense of Provence’s. One terroir (the one that produced our vegetables, flowers, cheeses, and breads) was united with another (the one that produced the wine). And the vehicle for this experiment in teleportation was as honest and elemental as they come.
I took a few photos too, though they’re aren’t as nice as Etienne’s, and I’ll share them soon…
Things have seemed a little quiet around here, haven’t they? The truth is, I’ve never been busier in my life.
Somewhere around the end of July, Marc Cohen of Lawrence — one of my very favorite restaurants in the city — approached me with the opportunity of a lifetime. Was I interested in being his new assistant pastry chef, he asked. My first thought was: I’m no pastry chef. I never went to pastry school, and I’m definitely self-taught. I’m more of a writer, an observer, a consumer. And I felt so safe and cozy being part of the Depanneur Le Pick Up family, making brownies and cupcakes and granola bars. This was something else altogether, something strange and scary.
There was so much doubt and nervousness, but also excitement. (Let’s just say there were a lot of pep talks delivered from loved ones.) But I wanted the job. Badly. Even if I meant that I would fail. So I did my trial shift, finished my training, and now I’m officially Lawrence’s assistant pastry chef. Things are different but the same — I’m working in a kitchen with people I really respect, learning about an art that I’m totally in love with, at a pace and in an environment that’s challenging, exhilarating, exhausting, gorgeous, and surreal. (I mean, just take a peep at this beautiful menu!)
I was worried that my crazy new schedule (50 hours a week! What was I thinking!) would affect the amount of time that I would get to hang with Adam. But then I woke up one morning, tired and overwhelmed and missing him, and found a little present on my doorstep. Half of a perfect watermelon, a market gift from him to me. I need these sweet reminders from the people who believe in me, and share my excitement.
I’ll keep writing here, but I was thinking that the content will shift. I want to write more about this new restaurant life, my new pastry skills, my new insane schedule. Life is so weird. Here I am, a California girl making pastry in Montreal. I never, ever would have imagined this would be my life. But I am so grateful.
Picking (and eating) organic peaches in Georgia with my two favoritedudes. Can summer really get any better than this?
(Oh and Sasha totally has the right idea when she says the ugliest peaches are the best. I hunted for the most gnarly-looking peaches — they were the most intense and sweet, like little water balloons of sugar, flowers, and syrup.)
Adam’s awesome brother Julian (don’t they look so similar?) married the beautiful and talented Annie Briard this past weekend. It was honestly the most fun I’ve ever had at a wedding — full of so much incredible love for the bride and groom. I gave them two presents: a basket of Sable Breton, dotted with lemon thyme from my garden (similar recipe here), and the gift of music. I DJed the entire wedding, cocktail party, dinner, and dancing — I haven’t danced that much since university! Adam joked that I found my true calling that night: as a wedding MC. He’s not entirely wrong, I’ve never felt more in my element. (At one point, I was leading everyone in a group macarena, via cordless microphone.) Adam’s gift to the newly married couple? He was the sommelier for the entire party! Congratulations Annie and Julian!
1. Pick up the phone. Call Romados. Make sure to call by 7pm at the latest, because they always sell out of chickens by 7:30pm. Order two whole chickens, double order of french fries.
2. Make some salad. Okay, make a few salads. Maybe add those crisp, lithe French green beans from Birri, which taste spectacular after just a few minutes of steaming and a twist of black pepper. Get those French radishes, too, which love a fat smear of country butter and flaky salt. And red leaf lettuce. And cucumbers, and radish, a few melons, grape tomatoes, and Borlotti beans. And field basil, and thyme, and kale. Hell, buy it all. It’s summer, and who knows when it will be this good again. It always seems like an eternity. When you stack it all up on your plate, you won’t even be able to see that golden chicken or those crispy french fries. Somehow, this makes it all healthier.
3. Buy beer, lots and lots of it. Preferably something that you can stick a lime into. This is no night for wine. Have a signature cocktail, too, like this bourbon sour for dummies (a glug of Woodford reserve, a big squeeze of lemon juice, and one ice cube).
4. Call 6 or 8 of your hungriest friends. Eat until bursting.
I’m so excited to announce the next special event at Le Pick Up, featuring the talented duo behind Rau Rum, an independent and local catering company. We attended a preview event for the dinner last week and the food was totally mindblowing — everything was so incredibly fresh, flavorful, and healthy. I’ve never had Vietnamese food like that in my life! See the full details for the dinner here.
There’s nothing quite like a proper summer BBQ — held outside on a drizzling, humid July night — that pools together the talents of your friends. Cassady and Adam opened beautiful bottles of wine all night, and made sure I never saw the bottom of my glass. Noam from Kaizen, having just finished a 10-hour shift at the restaurant, grilled a few dozen quails until golden and charred. (What a champion!) Adam made a delicious spread of smoked eel from Kamouraska, fennel fronds, and milk bread toasts. Marc from Lawrence grilled duck hearts, served alongside simple salad of green beans, anchovy and radishes. And I roasted vegetables — beets and new potatoes from Birri, wrapped tightly in aluminum foil, and tossed directly on the coals — and made the easiest dessert ever. (This cake, which has yet to let me down.) We were spread around Cass’ back stoop, dishes perched on our laps, and picked at the tender quail meat with our hands, throwing the bones directly into the fire. Messy, delicious eating, and one of the best moments of the summer so far.
A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Katherine’s delicious and virtuous shredded beet and carrot salad, seasoned with lemon juice and parsley; River Cafe-style navy beans, simmered until just tender (stewed with fresh bay, tomatoes, swiss chard, and butter; a similar recipe here); roasted beets with orange blossom water, pine nuts, dill, and sunflower oil; a few new potatoes roasted in duck fat and sage. It was pretty good eaten warm and fresh the night I made it, but even more satisfying when consumed right out of the tupperware the next afternoon, at room temperature.