May 17th, 2013
cheeseburger in paradise
In the twenty plus years I have come and gone to France, I have never eaten a hamburger in France. Until now. I heard about Le Camion qui Fume (the truck who smokes) several times and for several reasons. Le Camion qui Fume made history because it was the first “food truck” in Paris. This adventure was pioneered by Kristin Frederick, a fellow American who coincidentally is also from California. Based upon my experiences in France, let’s just say that I cannot even imagine the French paperwork (nor the taxes….sigh) involved in the undertaking; however, it did not deter Frederick who brought her concept of “French-i-fied” American food — burgers and fries on the go — to the City of Light. And, of course, this Californian included a “double-double” (double boeuf, double fromage) on the menu. Read the rest of this entry »
April 22nd, 2013
Terrior Parisien® and a little Alléno in your bowl:
lentil and Brie soup with bacon and chives
The favorable buzz was more than I could bear. It proved to be well-deserved. This week we are visiting Yannick Alléno’s bistro Terroir Parisien® and our weekly simple pleasure is an adaption of his cream of lentil and Brie soup with bacon and chives. Read the rest of this entry »
July 18th, 2012
venez avec moi à Banon:
a carefully wrapped chèvre, fennel confit,
and fleshy balsamic-drenched fig jam
You may have heard of a French cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves and that this cheese is typically served with fig jam. The rumors are true and the cheese is from an actual village in Provence: Banon.
Running in Provence, I was thinking about both the cheese and the jam (which I had enjoyed the night before); however, there was a problem which my grandfather would have referred as “skinny.” No, he did not use the word to describe a person but an undesirable thin consistency of a gravy or jam. Grandpa would have said that the fig jam is skinny and he would have been right. Figs are lush. It is a shame to reduce them to a seedy consistency, losing all of that fleshy texture. It is akin to a peck on the check when you could get a full kiss on the lips. I do not think anyone would choose the former if you could have the latter. My Millay fleshy fig/lip thought was only interrupted by the fennel growing wild on the side of the road and the thought of Apt’s candied fruit. It was the culmination of these thoughts — fleshy figs, creamy cheese, candied fruit, wild fennel, and that Millay sonnet — which inspired this week’s (regional) simple pleasure: Banon de Banon A.O.C. with fleshy fig jam and fennel confit. However, before you go there, venez avec moi à Banon (come with me to Banon). Read the rest of this entry »
July 10th, 2012
picking cherries in the valley of the Gods: venez avec moi à Gordes
It is 9:30 p.m. and the sun is setting, but not so quickly. The sun is taking its time; everyone is. It is difficult to put an end to a day filled with Provençal sun, the calming smell of lavender, and the song of the complacent cicadas. As I write, I see expansive green valleys filled with cherry trees below me. The sound of pea-gravel crunching under the waiter’s feet (as he brings me a Châteauneuf-du-Pape and something warm for my shoulders) is only a momentary distraction from the twenty birds swirling above my head trying to get in their last flight before heading to bed. I am in Luberon. I have eaten and explored my way through the day: jambon with truffles; cherries I picked off the trees; fougasse lush with salty olives and olive oil; wild boar sausage; fresh chèvre bathed in crushed lavender and honey, aïoli with perfectly steamed vegetables; rosés from nearby vineyards; hearty and robust reds from nearby Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I think I found the land of the Gods and perhaps that is why the Romans had once claimed it as their own centuries ago. It am in Gordes and it is Gordes which inspired this week’s simple pleasure, cherries poached in fresh lavender and thyme. However, before you go there, come with me to one of the Luberon’s most beautiful villages: venez avec moi à Gordes.
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June 11th, 2012
venez avec moi en Normandie: Omaha Beach,
a war approach to food, and making the most of a peach
This last week marked the 68th anniversary of the day the Allies landed in Normandy, France: D-day, June 6, 1944. En route to the D-Day sites, the flags of the Allied forces are flown along the roads and posted everywhere from public buildings to the windows of the small country farmhouses, particularly in the month of June. You cannot come to Normandy and tell me that the French dislike Americans.
My uncles fought in World War II. My father is also a war veteran. I read and re-read Stephen Ambrose’s book D-Day and Cornelius Ryan’s The Longest Day. I have seen Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers more times than I can count but I have always wanted the touch the ground we landed on 68 years ago. One summer after teaching classes in Normandy, I finally did. The inspiration for this week’s simple pleasure, soupe de pêches au gingembre frais (peach “soup” with fresh ginger), was my journey to Omaha Beach. The recipe is in a companion post but before you go there, venez avec moi en Normandie (come with me to Normandy): Omaha Beach.
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June 2nd, 2012
family traditions of easy summers in Provence:
Pissaladière à ma façon
Every summer I travel with my daughters to the southeast of France. We stay in the same quaint port village, about 15 minutes from Nice. Year after year we celebrate summer with the same families. The children catch little fish and crabs in the clear blue ocean and chase one another in the fields of wild herbs and lavender. The adults gather over a bottle of Provençal rosé produced nearby and discuss what has gone on throughout the last year. We pick up where we left off and not much changes except the height of the children. It has become a family tradition. Summer is just around the corner and we will be in back in France very soon. However, my head and palate are already there and as I was sitting in the never-ending Los Angeles traffic, I was whimsically thinking of Provence and that morning daydream inspired this week’s simple pleasure: Pissaladière (à ma façon). Read the rest of this entry »
May 20th, 2012
venez avec moi en Alsace
A family member, I deeply love, is loosing her sight. She has never been to France. She never will go. On a recent trip to the Alsace (alzas) region in the northeastern area of France, I called her. She asked me what Alsace was like.
I stood on my hotel balcony and I gazed upon vineyards blanketing the entire Alsace region, the green horizon only broken up by small villages and castles. I struggled with words to place her there with me because descriptions can be flawed. Nevertheless, I tried to convey the warmth of this place and its people, the comfort of its food, and the beauty of the region. I told that:
- The Alsatian people are warm and as welcoming as an embrace between reunited loved ones.
- The country breeze is peaceful and dreamy and it makes you whisper.
- Grape leaves wave majestically in the breeze as if they were swaying to your favorite classical melody.
- The food is generous with family-style plates of comforting meats, yet refined at the same time with the warm flavors of bacon, rendered goose fat, tangy cheese and sauerkraut, and notes of juniper berries, fennel seeds, and cumin.
- The smell of cinnamon, allspice, and ginger spills into the streets from the boulangeries and fill you with the anticipation only a child knows waiting for Santa.
- Biscuits and breads are generously baked with French butter, nuts and dried fruits. It is Christmas everyday.
- Friends bond over apéritifs of the region’s delicate and fruity wines served in an elegant, petit green-stemmed glass and served with goose liver pâté de foie gras that has been embellished with a hint of ginger.
- Where one vineyard ends, the next begins. Together they weave a green quilt with varying patterns and shades of green. Each square unique and adding to the richness of the region as a whole.
- Driving on the wine route is like watching the end of the film Cinema Paradiso (where scenes of couples in various films are spliced together to form one continuous and passionate embrace) because leaving one winery, and approaching the next, fills you with a continuous reoccurrance of joy and anticipation.
I realized then that the words were spilling quicker and quicker from my mouth and my voice was filled with excitement and she was appreciative but I was even more so, because it feels good to share a special discovery with others.It is now with the same spirit that I share my culinary visit to Alsace with you.
Venez avec moi en Alsace for a little taste of this special corner of the France.
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April 1st, 2012
hungry no more: The Hunger Games Menu
Peeta’s nut and raisin bread with Prim goat cheese
Rue dandelion salad with tracker jacker dressing
Katniss’s rabbit (or chicken) chasseur
Roasted blackberries on a vanilla pod bow with vanilla seed ice cream
and fresh violets for Gale
Impossible for me to resist. I love food. I love books. The title is The Hunger Games. Coincidentally the book (part of a trilogy by Suzanne Collins) is a fad among tweens and teens and it was race with my eldest daughter to see who could finish the book first. She won. We both loved the book and the food references throughout sent my creativity into orbit. However, the power of this book goes beyond the ability to encourage a child’s love of literature, it can also encourage them to eat good food (unbeknownst to them), and as I quickly turned the pages, this week’s simple pleasure, a Hunger Games menu, was born.
“Happy Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in your favor.”
“Gale holds up a loaf of bread with an arrow stuck in it, and I laugh. It’s real bakery bread, not the flat dense loaves we make from our grain rations.” (page 7)
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March 10th, 2012
It is just the way I see things; baby spring vegetable
and Puy lentil salad
Spring is my favorite season. Budding bulbs and blossoming trees bring a sense of renewal and the promise of a fresh start. Returning to my apartment from my baguette run, I was filled with anticipation. Partly, because I could not wait to slather apricot jam on this airy piece of crispy goodness I clutched in my hand, but also because the morning air was filled with the smell of narcissus, daffodils, and hyacinths. The corner florist had opened their doors. Spring has sprung and the evidence was artfully presented in round baskets for shoppers to take home and bring a little bit of spring indoors (even if the radiators were still turned on). I stopped and as I looked at the displays this week’s simple pleasure was born: baby spring vegetable and Puy lentil salad. Read the rest of this entry »
March 4th, 2012
venez avec moi en Provence: Peille
“D’où que l’on vienne et pour survive ensemble,
la culture est le lien indispensable.”
([Peille is] where one comes to survive together,
culture is the indispensable link)
Notre Village, Juillet 2010
by Roger Perruquetti
taken from Peille festival poster
One of the reasons I am drawn to France is that it is a place where tradition, manners, and history are respected and honored. Throughout France, down to the tiniest of villages, its inhabitants come together (usually annually) to celebrate the bounty of their region. These “fêtes or manifestations” range from apple picking and lobster trapping in the north to the harvest of jasmine, lemons, and lavender in the south. You will not find sponsored banners or advertisers promoting the events. These are local affairs. If there are 8” by 12” posters, they are designed and hung by the locals themselves. Read the rest of this entry »