Monday, May 31, 2010

roasting in the heat

Somehow the word roasted on a recipe or a menu pulls at the comfort strings, and at the salivary glands where the anticipation of caramelized bits of concentrated flavors beckon.So, when I read about this pastry chef who was roasting her strawberries, it stopped me in my tracks: different, bold, may be intensely good.... definitively to try.
You toss them in sugar until they gloss, and put them in a glass dish, all snuggly, at 200 for 2 1/2 hours. What you get is the fruit still intact, but all juicy and enhanced with a ruby syrup to drizzle on your meyer lemon yogurt from St Benoit that you had topped with the roasted beauties.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

my version

E of Yummysupper has always great recipes and photos to share. Plus she is a Berkeley girl and it is always fun to see what she is up to.Her last post got to me...I have said it before, I am a crazy heart when it comes to salads with fruits in them. And I LOVE stone fruits.white nectarine specially. So I modified the recipe a bit, omitting the T.Keller bit about the fruit puree ( I am sure it added another dimension to the dressing, but for weeknight salad,it seemed too much) and kept it simple with only white endives.It was delicious.Next time I will shave some manchego alongside.
thanks E !( for recipe ,go to yummy supper)

Monday, May 24, 2010

the euro lunch concept

You invite good friends, hoping for sun ,since you have a "party deck" all set up for that, you offer great tasty food and many bottles of rosé, you grill some khebabs, the kids roast marshmallows on the open pit, you celebrate your birthday in a French way, a leisurely long Sunday lunch, where laughter grows in intensity as Tavel empties......As we drove home,the wind was picking up, the waves were white and high,the coastline always spectacular. What a great day ! thanks !

Thursday, May 20, 2010

bouquet de persil

When you shop ate the open air markets in France and buy a variety of produce from one merchant, you might be offered a parsley bouquet, as a small gesture of good will and appreciation for your business. This how the herbs bundles are referred to: bouquets....
so, I made one with my flowering parsley, trying to keep the garden under control,between storms.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

moving in

Dot helped me move into my little space, my tiny atelier, my own painting studio. A long deferred dream, finally realized. She immortalized that happy moment by snapping a few still lives of the room, pinning some images that inspire me these days , sharing all that with me.Then , it was off to the Actual Cafe ( close by) for lunch.Loved the space, the vibes, and the food. We shared a cheesy veggie panini and a giant salad that we split.: best dressing, interesting, fresh ingredients( strawberries, currants, almonds, avocado) mixed in the freshest mesclun.There is a massage chair next to the communal table, and as we ate, a couple of people had their back rubbed.....

Friday, May 14, 2010

a wild beginning

I just found this very old polaroid of my first food test when I started building my portfolio.....some 20 years ago. What was I thinking ? twirling tea cups, straw, broken mirrors, weird painted faces, fancy cake. Was I crazy, out of touch or ahead of trends ?

Monday, May 10, 2010

voluptuous pleasures

Every French child know by heart at least one line from the Baudelaire poem"invitation to voyage', usually the refrain:"la, tout n'est qu'ordre et beaute, luxe, calme et volupte" :a place of sensual pleasures that you can always retreat to ,a place of solace and delight from the rocky trails of life.Finding that line recently made me look at the list of chosen words, a little more closely: order, I crave order and find a great calm when everything is in place, beauty: this is the mood enhancer that I look for:finding beauty daily in the big as well as the small, calm: quietness allows me to to get inspired,to be close to the sounds of nature,to go inward, to find my inner voice,voluptuousness: the sounds of the word itself feels like a caress on the tongue.It is the happiness you find in yourself, following your true nature and being able to accept the bad, with the deliciously good.
Speaking of deliciously good, I have had some experiences lately that I like to recall in my mind: a heart warming late morning cafe au lait/croisssant with C, which was decadently buttery with a rich foamy brew that I can appreciate the rare times I have it, the bouquet that Dot brought me for my birthday that had the most gorgeous peonies that swelled in hot pink languor, and the roasted asparagus with parmesan wedges and Saba( an italian condiment using the same grapes as the one used for balsamic vinegar, but reduced over an open fire to caramelize the sugars) that Dot cooked and plated.

Monday, May 3, 2010

two restaurants

Quite a week just went by....It was my special birthday week. Lots of love, presents, cards, emails,phone calls, songs, bouquets,special friend times.I am very blessed and so grateful.
On Thursday, Significant and I went to our bench with a bottle of cremant , a little pique nique of manchego, fig jam, baguette, and we watched the sun set on the eve of my birthday.It was a very windy and cold day, the more reason to snuggle close and appreciate our luck.
Then, the next day it was off to Frances, the new hot restaurant in San Francisco, to meet a couple of dear friends.

The restaurant has gotten a lot of good press, and it is hard to get in.The place is small, joyous when you get in ( which translates as noisy as you sit and strain to hear) and very welcoming. The decor is understated, but elegant and hip.The details are pitch perfect: the hand made carafe, the pretty white napkin, the mix of heath pottery and slim plates, the elegant prints on the walls.
The meal was very delicious, hitting all the right notes of:perfect ingredients,prepared simply but beautifully,presented with grace and attention.
I felt like eating at Alice Waters's daughter( in spirit) restaurant.The philosophy is now ingrained in the souls of Bay area chefs, and we are lucky for that.But, as my Chez Panisse recent experience,I felt that even though the food was exquisite, it felt restrained , under seasoned, lacking a creative pizzaz. I want a bit of whaoo factor when I eat out, I need to be taken out of my comfort zone . At Frances, I had two whaoo:
the house red wine served in carafe and sold by the ounce ( you pay what you drink out of the carafe: smart, affordable): a blend of velvet smooth delicious wine like I have not had before.
The panisses, crispy chickpea fritters that melt unctuously and unexpectedly: a fantastic execution of a lowly Provencal dish.

I had then, the crepe cannelloni with green garlic, wild ramps,savoy spinach,ciabra di capra and mushrooms filling.tasty,well done,not too rich but still very satisfying.

followed by a share of 2 deserts:the presentation is austere, minimalist, to let each simple flavor shine.

Next night was a family celebration. Dot was back from Georgia where she had some sibling time and she had tales to tell.We went to Gather, a new restaurant in downtown berkeley.I wanted to try that famous "vegan charcuterie" platter that has become their signature dish and I wanted my fill of pizza for the week ( I had already snuck one slice on my birthday lunch at the cheese board...).So that is what I had there.The platter felt like it was a collection of leftovers, a mishmash of flavors without a distinctive direction.

The bread served with it was so toasted that it was blackened.I think that Gather doesn't pay attention to details ( unlike Frances). The pizza was nice.Chewy crust, ok filling, but without a sense of deliciousness from an unusual twist.Spinach pizza ( the vegetarian option) was supposed to have some chili oil that I did not detect, so it was tomato sauce, spinach and burrata cheese:uninspired.

The service is very friendly and the chai brittle ice cream was a tasty end to the meal.A meal that tries to "gather" all the notes and turn it instead into a discordant orchestra.