Traveling through Brittany, I did what anyone would do: I ate pastries rich in one of the region's most famous ingredients: butter. I ate them everyday. Sometimes I ate them twice a day. A friend said it was my duty as a baker; I said it was my pleasure as a traveler.
Perhaps the two most famous sweets of the region are Galette Bretonne and Kouign-Amann: one is dry and one is gooey; one is golden brown and one is deeply caramelized; both are wonderful.
I think we stopped at Port Louis because, while on the road, we were in need of a quick cup of coffee. Next time, I'd make a point of planning a coffee break in town at Nathalie and Mickael Denigot's patisserie/boulangerie. The coffee was good, but those Galettes Bretonnes - they were among some of the best I've ever had. The shop was so busy that we ended up taking our cakes out to a small table in front of the bakery and making good use of my trusty Opinel knife. (I never leave home without one.)
A galette can be a buckwheat crepe, a rustic tart, a thinnish puck-like cookie or a thickish puck-like cake. In fact, these pucks are sometimes called gâteaux. The nomenclature can be confusing, but the eating's easy. The galettes are buttery, but not really moist. They're like a cross between a cookie and a cake. Butter is the first and most prominent flavor and then comes the salt - Brittany is the land of salted butter and fleur de sel, sea salt, and so there's never just a pinch of it, and I love that. The dark line running through the top galette is prune, an important fruit in the area. And the bottom galette is a specialty of the house: Er Goastel (the Bretons still use their own dialects), a galette made with candied bergamote from a recipe that the shop says dates from the beginning of the 19th century. As we traveled through the region, I discovered that every little town has a galette of its own. I don't know how authentic any of them is, but I can attest to their tastiness.
And then there's the kouign-amann ...
...Continue reading Douce France: Sweets in a Very Sweet Country
Having just finished the manuscript for my next book (part of the explanation for my long silence), Michael and I took off for Paris and then re-packed our bags and headed to Brittany, the West Coast of France. Brittany is the land of butter and salt (it's the home of fleur de sel de Guérande) and salted butter and salted butter caramels (caramels au beurre salé, CBS for short); of kouing-amann, which is all about butter and caramel; and of seafood, and fish, too.
The French are very precise when it comes to food. Fish is fish and seafood is seafood and you must make sure to separate the two when you're speaking. That seafood is called fruits de mer, or fruits of the sea, feels just right to me: it's an expression that's not just poetically accurate, but seems to carry it with it a sense of love and respect for what's gathered from the waters.
We spent six days traveling the coast of Brittany, eating seafood and fish at lunch and dinner. I would have had oysters for breakfast, but I didn't think they went well with Far Breton and - greedy me -- I didn't want to give up the sweet flan. (There's a recipe for Far Breton in Baking From My Home to Yours.)
Among the many pleasures of this trip was dinner at Bistrot de l'Ecailler on the port in Kerdruc, just minutes from Pont-Aven. If the bistrot's name sounds familiar, it might be because you know its sister restaurant in Paris on the rue Paul-Bert. Minutes after we were seated on the terrace overlooking the snug port, we were served a basket of great bread, salted butter and seaweed butter, both made by Jean-Yves Bordier, the beloved Breton buttermaker, and a handful of bigourneaux, or winkles. (I love that BBC Food says that 'winkles have a limited following despite being delicious').
Am I wrong, or is it true that we don't see these much in the States?
...Continue reading French Seafood at the Source: Bistrot de l'Ecailler's Perfect Seafood Platter
We are not the only ones concerned that our fruits and vegetables are not being grown well and that they are losing (or have lost) their true flavors. The French worry too. The sign above the tomatoes at a stand in the Quimper market says:
'WHAT LUCK!!! I GREW IN THE GROUND AND I HAVE FLAVOR."
I know I've been gone for a while. I'll write and tell you more about it soon.
As many of you know, I am crazy about the artist, John "Crash" Matos. He's been a family friend for a long time and was the man behind the window of the first pop-up store for CookieBar (now Beurre & Sel). Naturally, when Crash designed a Vapor Case for Tumi, the people who make my favorite travel gear, I had to be the first on the block to get one ... and I was. Now Tumi and the team at LonelyLeap have created a video of me packing in my Crash Case. They caught me as I was leaving for Paris and packing everything I'd need to be able to bake there ... and everything else I'd need 'just in case'.
After packing my suitcase with flour and baking powder and pans and clothes and 'just in case' stuff, I packed a tote that Tumi actually calls Just in Case. It's the bag that held my books and make-up and notebooks and pen and M&Ms too.
To celebrate the video, which is part of Tumi's fascinating Case Studies series (mine's the first video of a woman!), Tumi is giving away a Just in Case bag packed with an autographed copy of Around My French Table and lots of cookies from Beurre & Sel ... just in case you need a nibble on the road.
And if you've got more travel tips, please share.
Bon Voyage! xoDorie
A couple of weeks ago, Michael and I took a road trip to Alsace (Eastern France). It was our first time there and, like so many people before us, we fell in love with the region. The landscape is magnificent at every turn. Mountains and vineyards rising up along slopes that start at the main streets of postcard-perfect towns. Wines with fragrances so luscious you want to use them as perfume. People who are warm and generous and smiling – I can’t wait to introduce you to the "The Jam Fairy," Christine Ferber (I spent a remarkable day with her). And tarte flambee. And more tarte flambee. Tarte flambee every day and sometimes twice a day.
The odd thing was that we mostly (and not incongruously) ate very contemporary meals while we were traveling through medieval villages – more about them later – but no matter what we were eating, or even when, we couldn’t resist the siren call of the tartes flambees. And we found them everywhere. Some were modern and some traditional and we loved them all almost indiscriminately. There, it’s out.
The tarte flambee, also called a flamenkuche, is an Alsatian classic and while I’m sure no right-minded Alsatian would concur with me in calling it a type of pizza, I think it’s the easiest way to explain it. The tarte has a bread-dough base – in some cases (to my mind the very best cases), a paper-thin base – and, at its most traditional, a topping of fromage blanc (also called quark and very much like sour cream) blended with crème fraiche, onions and small pieces (batonnets) of smoked bacon. After that, it’s up for grabs. You can have it gratineed with a sprinkling of Gruyere, covered with salad or topped with anything your imagination can dream up, including chocolate and bananas or strawberries and cream. In other words, like a pizza or a ‘normal’ tart, the crust is the vehicle for whatever you want it to carry.
I've been lost in Alsace for the last week. Lost in the vineyards, which are so gorgeous and which produce such fabulous wine -- I've always loved Alsatian wine and now I love it even more. Lost in the endless varieties of tarte flambee, kugelhopf and cakes with sugar-dusted streusel. And lost among the warm and generous people who live here on the edge of France. I've got lots to share, but I haven't had the time to sit down and write (and my internet connections have been pretty iffy, too). But soon ... For now, I leave with a few mini-kugelhopfs from Kayserberg: strawberry, nougat and bacon and cheese.
As some of you may know, CookieBar was born in the same place as my partner/son, Joshua "The Kid" Greenspan, New York City. But CookieBar's latest incarnation got its start on a ranch outside of Houston. Thanks to Bob Huntley, a founder of CulinApp -- the fabulous group that's creating my Baking with Dorie App for the iPad (more, lots more soon) -- CookieBar took a road trip and it took it in style in a super hip and absolutely adorable Airstream trailer designed in haute Jetson by Chris Deam. Here it is on the Flying MMM Ranch before hitting the road to Austin, where it arrived safe and sound, sans the longhorn escorts.
Not that we were in Austin without escorts. Amy Sherman, she of BlackBoard Eats San Francisco and her own great blog, snapped this picture and wrote that she found it hysterical that I travel with a security team! Of course, I don't. The friendly, cookie-loving police protection came from the city of Austin and they were there to keep the peace, which itself is pretty funny, since when has a gathering of cookie-eaters ever been anything but peaceful?
...Continue reading CookieBar at Home on the Range and in Austin, Too (where AMFT takes the cake)
I am forever ranting about crusts (and cookies) that are pale. I think that if you don't bake dough well enough, you don't get real flavor out of the butter and the sugar. And you miss out on texture too.
And then I came across these fruit tarts in a small pastry shop in Saint-Tropez and wondered, when is well done, too done?
I bought a couple of cookies at the shop and, as I paid, I asked if it was the chef's custom to bake his tarts very dark. "Madame," she said, "les tartes are caramelized!"
Caramelized? Yes. Over-caramelized? Maybe. What do you think?
I've been on the road. Specifically, I've been on the trail of sweets in the land of sweets, France. Michael and I have been to Lille in the north of France, home to waffles, to Lyon, called the belly of France, and now we're in the south of France, in Saint-Tropez, home of the Tarte Tropezienne. I haven't had time to post, but I've got lots to report and will, when we get back to Paris later this week.
In the meantime, here's a picture of cookies and cakes made with praline rose, a specialty in Lyon. The pralines are red sugar-coated almonds and you find them in lots of pastries and desserts, among them these popular cookies, sables the size of flying saucers coated with an icing made with the pralines; these are from a shop in Lyon's famous covered market, Les Halles Paul Bocuse. The color is truly red and no matter how many praline sweets I saw, and no matter the dessert, I was startled each time.
More. Soon. A bientot.
My husband often teases me for going around saying, "I'm so lucky!" But you know what? I really, really am lucky. Lucky because I have so many wonderful friends. And yes, I'm talking to you.
Today is my birthday, an occasion I don't normally like to acknowledge. But today is shaping up to be one of those days that I'll never forget. This morning, I woke up in Dallas (I'm on the last leg of my whirlwind tour for Around My French Table), flipped on my computer and found a message from Laurie Woodward, the creator of both Tuesdays with Dorie and French Fridays with Dorie. It included this picture above, a shot of the cake she made in honor of my birthday (it's a quatre-quarts from Around My French Table) and a message that told me to visit Holly at Phe.Mom.enon and I'd find a surprise!
One click and a short scroll down the page and I was in tears. What Laurie and Holly and members of TWD and FFwD did was to throw me a Virtual Surprise Birthday Party! A huge potluck dinner that includes dishes from every chapter of Around My French Table. It's fabulous!
Click over and this is what you'll find:
...Continue reading A Virtual Surprise Party and A Million Real Thanks
I think it was Groucho Marx who said, “Hello, I must be going,” but it’s a line I’ve been using several times a day on my jam-packed tour for Around My French Table. No sooner do I get to a city than I’m leaving. Why did I pack so much? I’m not in a hotel room long enough to unpack and so only the stuff on top gets worn. You’d think a woman of my age who’s logged as many miles as I have would have known better. And yes, my husband is saying, “I told you so!”
It has been a wonderful trip and it’s not over yet, but wherever I’ve gone the wonderfullest part of the day has been meeting you, dear readers and sister and fellow writers and bloggers. You are fabulous! And I can’t tell you how much I’ve loved meeting you … even if it’s always for less time than I want it to be.
I haven’t been able to post on my blog while I’ve been on the road, and so I’m running my Twitter feed on the left in an effort to kind of keep in touch. I’m also posting to my Facebook page. So I hope you’ll follow me there. (Click on the icons to the left.)
And, sadly, I haven’t been able to cook and post for French Fridays with Dorie. But I know you have, because when I’ve had a second, I’ve bounced around and seen your terrific posts on the Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup. I’ll be joining you in the kitchen as soon as the whirlwind stops whirling.
In the meantime, I hope I’ll meet more of you as I travel around.
Love from the San Francisco Airport (where all flights are delayed) en route to Seattle.
To state the obvious, I love food! But I particularly love food that has a story. It can be story of history or of place, but it’s wonderful when it’s a story of people, which is the case with this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie: Gerard Jeannin’s Mustard Tart (page 154 of Around My French Table).
The story starts in one of my favorite cities in France, Beaune, and with Sylvie Rougetet, our guide. I was traveling through Burgundy with Atout France and a group of journalists and as soon as Sylvie met us in the center of town, I felt as though I’d been re-united with a long-lost friend. Sylvie was smart, gentle, in love with the city and passionate – and so knowledgeable – about the glorious wines of the region. I figured anyone who clearly loved wine and fine food so much would cook, but I figured wrong. “It’s my husband, Gerard, who cooks,” she told me, and then said, “It would be lovely if you came and spent a weekend with us. I’m sure the two of you would have a lot to talk about in the kitchen.”
Invitations like this are often idle chatter, but Sylvie wasn’t an idle kind of woman. And so after a few months I hopped on a train to Dijon, where she and her husband met me at the station. First stop, a visit to the city’s marvel of a covered market, where Gerard bought a truffle, a beautiful, fabulously fragrant splurge; second stop a wine bar near the Musee des Beaux Arts; then finally the drive to their welcoming home, which is also a bed and breakfast, Les Charmilles.
...Continue reading French Fridays with Dorie: Gerard's Mustard Tart + The Back Story
CORRECTIONS!!! In my excitement to tell you where I was heading, I made a few mistakes on my calendar. The actual dates seem to be fine, but I messed up with the days (for example, I'll be in Chicago October 14, but that's a Thursday, which isn't what I wrote). I'm sorry. I think I've got it all cleared up now, but the best thing is to check with the venues -- for sure they'll be more organized than I am at this point.
Shhh, please don’t breathe a word of this to the good people at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. They think they’re sending me around the country to promote my new book, but I’ve got a different take on it. I think my month-long road trip has only one purpose: to meet you! You and all the other people I’ve known for years in cyberspace, but have never had the chance to meet face-to-face.
I’m posting my schedule below, but it’s a work in progress, so I’ll try to let you know as things are added. There’s more information, including venue addresses and links to events at BookTour.
And I’ve got this idea that I’m really excited about, but that I haven’t quite worked out yet. In addition to the events I’m posting, I’ve got bunches of interviews to do in each city, so the days are pretty packed, but there’s always an open hour somewhere in the sched and I’d like to try to use that hour to meet some of you informally. I’m thinking of these get-togethers as a combination of the old-fashioned coffee-klatches and the very-now Tweet-ups.
Since I’m not sure when and exactly where these get-togethers will happen, what I’m going to try to do is announce them on Twitter. I’m hoping to know a day in advance where I’ll be and when I’ll be there – if any of you know a great coffee bar in any of my tour cities that I can hang in and that you come visit me in, please let me know.
I really, really hope we’ll get to see one another at a Tweet-up and at the events below.
Can’t wait to meet you!
...Continue reading I'm Taking Around My French Table on the Road: Hope to See You
After a quick break and an even quicker change of gear, Chef Alain Morville (the executive chef onboard Le Diamant, my home for a week) put aside his Portuguese Seafood Stew and set to work showing us how he makes two iconic Spanish desserts: churros (or fried dough) and crema catalana (creme brulee's closest relative). And how does he make them? Just like a Frenchman.
I had adopted my best Alton Brown color-commentating voice for the chef's onboard demo (just to bring you up to speed, I was the culinary lecturer on a coastal European cruise), but when I looked at the recipes for the dishes I couldn't suppress a little yelp of recognition: The churros were made with pate a choux, or cream-puff dough, and the crema catalana was based on creme patissiere, or pastry cream, two French favorites that are also favorites across the border.
...Continue reading A Frenchman Makes Churros + Crema Catalana on the High Seas
Ahoy there! I’m back on terra firma and only a little bit crazed from having been offline for almost two weeks, longer than I expected and just a bit easier than I anticipated – at least the offline part was easier; there’s nothing easy about the getting-home-and-catching-up part. As I mentioned, I was the culinary lecturer on a cruise organized by Gohagan & Company to Portugal, Spain, France (Belle-Ile-en-Mer and Honfleur) and the walk-around Channel Island of Guernsey. It was a terrific trip and I met great people, including the two chefs aboard: Alain Morville, the corporate chef for the Ponant Company, which sails five ships; and Philippe Tremelle, the chef of our ship, Le Diamant. Not only were these guys talented, but they spoiled me silly. No sooner did I mention that I’d be talking about éclairs in one of my lectures (the one on French pastries, old and new), than they made 200 of them for the group to taste. And when they saw that I spent a lot of time talking about macarons, a batch of the fabulous little pastries appeared at lunch the following day. A girl could get used to this kind of treatment – fast – and I did. A girl could also miss this kind of treatment – and I do.
One part of my onboard job that I really liked was calling the play-by-play for Chef Morville’s two cooking demonstrations: the first was for Portuguese Seafood Stew (above) and the second was for Churros and Crema Catalana (to come). (Photographs by Mathieu Gesta.)
...Continue reading Shipboard Romance: Alain Morville and His Portuguese Seafood Stew
This picture by Nuno Correia comes from David Leite's terrific book, The New Portuguese Table. The dish is a sausage and potato tortilla, think frittata, and, as David explains, it can be served warm as a main course, at room temperature as a starter or cut into slices and eaten as an hors d'oeuvre. Me? I'm hoping to eat it as all of these things as I head to the tortilla's homeland.
I'll be out-of-range for the next 10 days or so (and yes, the prospect is making me twitchy even as I'm hoping that the reality will make me serene) because I'm setting sail on Gohagan&Company's European Coastal Civilizations cruise to Portugal, Spain, Belle-Ile-en-Mer, Guernsey and Honfleur. I've signed on as the culinary lecturer on this trip (Michael signed on as 'spouse') and I'm flying to Lisbon with three slide shows (okay, they're on PowerPoint) that I can't wait to share with my fellow adventurers.
...Continue reading Sausage+Egg Tortilla, Adios, Au'revoir and Cheerio
You know how when you’re little you wait and wait for your birthday and feel like it will never come? Well, that’s the way I felt about going to The Greenbrier Resort to be part of the 25 th Annual Gala to benefit the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center. The Center is part of West Virginia University and it was Joel Brown, a true food-lover and a Special Events Coordinator at the university, who invited me to come and give a cooking/baking class as part of the weekend’s events. I love The Greenbrier (I know, I know, what’s not to love?), I love doing classes, I love Joel and I loved the idea of doing anything I could to help the Cancer Center. So off we went, the ‘we’ not being royal, but used to include Michael, my husband, travel companion and, in a pinch, sous-chef. (No pinches on this trip. I was well taken care of by The Greenbrier’s Executive Chef, Rich Rosendale, Sous-Chef, Matthew McGhee, Pastry Chef, Thierry Delourneaux, Culinary Arts Center Chef, Sue Moats, and Jason Carlucci, a New Yorker who recently joined the apprentice program.)
We arrived at around dinner time and so, after a drink on that gorgeous veranda (just seeing the word ‘veranda’ slows my heartbeat), we headed to the resort’s newest restaurant, Prime 44 West. The 'Prime' tells you it’s a steakhouse and the '44 West' is a tip-off to basketball fans that Jerry West (who wore the number) is involved. (In fact, West lives on grounds.) Once settled into a curved leather booth that made me feel like I was in a swanky club from the ‘40s, out came this surprise:
...Continue reading Peace, Justice + Cornbread at The Greenbrier
On one of the afternoons of our working holiday at Chateau de Saint Paterne, Michael and I took the five-minute ride to Alencon to have a walk around. We arrived just after the 'official' lunch period, a two-hour block during which you have only yourself - not the parking meters - to feed. (I love that in towns all over France, metered parking is free between noon and 2 pm - it's so civilized.) Almost as soon as we started our stroll, I found Michael with his nose pressed against a pastry shop window. The object of his attention? A kouign-amann (kween-ya-monn), an icon of Breton baking, a paean to butter and a pastry that deserves to be better known.
The pastry - it's really viennoiserie and meant for morning munching - is made with a yeasted dough, like a croissant dough, that's wrapped around a block of butter and then rolled and folded a couple of times, but each time it's rolled, it's rolled in sugar, rather than flour. When the dough is cut into squares, its corners folded in (like a pinwheel), and baked, the sugar caramelizes, coating the kouign-amann all over and forming a somewhat firmer coating on the base (it's the base you see in the photo). So you get a sugar crust on the outside and then that wonderful, soft, buttery, stretchy dough inside. It's truly a marvel and one of Michael's favorite treats.
...Continue reading Kouing-amann, Half-and-Half Macarons and an Afternoon in Alencon
August is the calmest month in Paris. Just about everyone is on vacation, and those who aren't on vacation have either been on vacation, are going on vacation or have vacation on their minds. There have been times in August when I've gotten on the number 95 bus to go shopping and have half expected someone to wave a little hanky and call out "Bonne Vacances!" in my direction.
Famously, when the French go on vacation, they really go on vacation, as in out of town for three, four or even five weeks. And, quelles horreurs, they're frequently even almost out of touch -- off they go into the wilds of La France Profonde, only to be heard from when they can find an internet cafe. Just writing this last sentence makes me feel twitchy and reminds me that as much as I adore France and the French, I'm still an American.
And so, Michael and I took an American vacation: we packed up what my friend Stephanie calls our menage a trois -- that would be Michael, moi-meme and our computers -- and drove off into the sunrise for a two-day getaway to the beautiful Chateau de Saint Paterne in Le Perche (in Normandy).
...Continue reading Chateau de Saint Paterne: Paradise on a Deadline
A couple of minutes ago, as I passed my computer, this picture popped up on my screen and with it came a very sweet memory of a day in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). As some of you know, I traveled to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand last fall with our son, Joshua, on a trip in which each stop was a revelation and lots of stops were delicious. (I've included some links to posts from that trip below.)
HCMC, which I'm afraid I'll always think of as Saigon, was our introduction to Vietnam and we arrived with lists of must-go places compiled by our friend Alice Vasseur in Paris, who'd just returned from Southeast Asia, and the chef, and friend, Jean-Georges Vongrichten, who visits often. Both had insisted that we not miss the ice cream. And so, when we took an outdoor table at Fanny at a little before noon and ordered ice cream sundaes, we were just following orders. Yes, it was early in the day for such indulgence, but the way we saw it, we were on an adventure and so all old rules (particularly ones like eating your spinach before you get dessert) were off.
...Continue reading Ice Cream Sundae Vietnamese Style: Don't Forget the Frozen Raspberries
Ever since The Kid, our son, Joshua, and I got back from our travels through Southeast Asia, this sandwich has been a regular in the house. Actually, it's been on Joshua's menu just about every day, sometimes for lunch, sometimes for dinner and sometimes at hours others might not consider sitting down to anything this substantial ... or anything at all. The sandwich, a layered affair, is inspired by the ones we had in Luang Prabang, Laos. There, the chicken sandwich was the last thing we'd eat every night, and in between bites, as we tried to keep up with the heat and the dribble of the chili sauce, we'd look at one another with grins and invariably say the same thing: "I can't believe this is so good!"
...Continue reading The Chili-Chicken Sandwich: Holding on to a Taste from Laos
Don't you agree that it's impossible to look at this picture and not smile?Â Just seeing the glasses and knowing that in an instant they'll be filled with champagne is enough to make your heart sing.Â The only thing better than champagne is champagne with people you love, which is just what I had last week when, only a day after we arrived in Paris, our dear, wonderful friend Christian Holthausen whisked me away along with my husband, Michael, and our friend, Helene Samuel, to Reims, to visit Maison Heidsieck, the winery where Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck Champagnes are made.
...Continue reading Champagne Days with Christian, Piper and Charles
I think that if Joy Ngeuamboupha offered a course in watching paint dry, I'd sign up for it immediately just to be with him, hear his thoughts, watch his technique and learn from his explanations. Joy is the sweet, charming, funny, deeply kind, very generous and extraordinarily talented chef and, along with Caroline Gaylard, owner of Tamarind Cafe in Luang Prabang, Laos, and the chef and culinary guru of the Cafe's cooking school. (Make sure to read about Joy -- his story is truly inspiring.)
...Continue reading Cooking in Luang Prabang: Tamarind Riverside Cooking Classes
Here's the thing about traveling: when you've got time to write, you don't have an internet connection and, of course you know what's coming, when you've got a connection, you're racing around or you're just too tired to put one word after another. This explains why I'm in Luang Prabang, Laos, and was in Hanoi, but am only just getting around to telling you about a cooking class I took in Hoi An.
...Continue reading Cooking in Hoi An
Last night on our way to dinner in Hoi An (Vietnam), we turned a corner and caught the powerful smell of baking bread. Peering into the open door we saw a barechested, barefooted man using his pele to shepherd a flock of demi baguettes out of the wood-burning oven and into a metal bowl. (These are the breads used to make the Vietnamese sandwiches called banh mi.) The job accomplished, he invited us in and showed us his work: beautifully shaped loaves.
...Continue reading Hoi An Hot Bread
It was our last night in Saigon and Geoffrey Deetz, our Saigon Sage, invited us to join him and a bunch of his friends to have tamarind crabs in a back-alley restaurant set up in a part of town that's a you-can't-get-there-from-here kind of place. Fortunately, there was a Vietnamese speaker and tamarind-crab vet in each cab to give the drivers directions -- without them, I'm sure the last crab would have been dispatched and devoured way before we even got there.
...Continue reading Tamarind Crabs Somewhere in Saigon
When Joshua knew he'd be going to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, the first person he called was our friend Alan Richman, a fellow Bon Appetit special correspondent and GQ's go-to man for food. Alan had written a great piece about Saigonfor GQ and Josh wanted to know if he had any recommendations for us. "Call Geoffrey Deetz," was Alan's advice.
...Continue reading Geoffrey Deetz: Our Man in Saigon
Joshua, whom Michael and I have called The Kid from inception, is traveling with me through Southeast Asia. Actually, the truth is that I'm traveling with him, since he planned this trip completely and then invited me to join him. I knew he'd been taking pictures all through the trip (if you're his friend on Facebook, you might have seen his albums), but it turns out he's been writing, too. I found what follows in his notebook and thought it was so evocative that I asked him if he'd be willing to let me publish it as the last word on our short visit.
...Continue reading Josh Greenspan: The Last Word on Bangkok
After a day in the noisy, crowded, gloriously higgledy-piggledy Pak Klong Talat Market and an orgy of street food, we headed to Siam Paragon, a gargantuan shopping center that would have been as at home in Beverly Hills as it was in this part of Bangkok. Going there was the genius idea of Wendy Bank, a Thai native, who with her husband, David Bank, own, Land Thai Kitchen, my favorite Thai restaurant in New York.
...Continue reading Bangkok Sweets
...Continue reading Dizzy in Bangkok
Cheese is a tricky business no matter how you slice it.Â While the paean has it that cheese is the highest achievement milk can hope for, the reality is that first you've got to have good milk.Â And, like everything else about cheese, the milk is a partnership between man and Mom Nature.Â It's Mother N who provides the cows, goats and sheep who'll give the milk and, since she's also responsible for the grass the animals will eat, the taste of the milk is her doing as well.Â After that, it's us humans who turn the milk into cheese, an ancient process that's deeply respected in France, where it's often pointed out that you could eat a different cheese every day for a year and still not have made your way through the country's offerings.
...Continue reading The Big Cheese: Rodolphe Le Meunier in Tours
For starters, there's my visitÂ to the Chateau de Cande, whereÂ Edward, Prince of Wales, and Wallis Simpson, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, were married onÂ June 3, 1937.Â Here, on the walls of the chateau's library, are theÂ Windsors' signatures and theirÂ wedding date, carved with a rotograveur.
...Continue reading Chateau de Cande and the Would-be Monarchs
I'm in Las Vegas for Bon Appetit's Vegas Uncork'd, billed as an Epicurean Experience, it could modestly be called a culinary lollapalooza.Â It's three days of lunches, dinners, workshops, tastings and general jolly-making with tens of Las Vegas chefs, which means tens of the country's best.Â The amount of talent in this town is mind-boggling.
...Continue reading A Taste of Vegas Uncork'd
Passover, which starts at sundown this Saturday (at least in this hemisphere), is probably the Jewish holiday with the most food traditions.Â The best-known Passover custom is the ban on anything leavened -- so long no-knead bread and morning muffins -- and the most dreaded is the typical wine that's served at the Passover seder, the ritual dinner that marks the start of the holiday, which commemorates the Jews' exodus from Egypt.
...Continue reading Passover Wines Not To Be Passed Over
This was the view from our bedroom in Chateau Richeux, Jane and Olivier Roellinger's inn just outside Cancale, a village on the Bay of Mont Saint Michel.
I can't remember the last time I went someplace and felt so at home so immediately. The Chateau, a large stone house dating from the 1920s, with a curl-up-and-get-comfy sitting room, dining rooms looking out onto the sea and gardens filled with fruit trees, has the feel of a house in which children once left their muddy boots at the door and ran up and down the stairs giggling.
...Continue reading Chez Roellinger: Seafood and the Sea
This sculpture of women hauling baskets of oysters sits in the center of Cancale, a town on the rugged coast of Brittany, where oysters are everything.
Here, the bivalves are simply called Cancale Oysters - that's their name; there are no varietals. They come in two shapes: flat and humpbacked; and they come from one place: the oyster beds built in the Bay of Mont Saint Michel.
...Continue reading Cancale: Oysters and Racing Tides
I don't know where the time has gone. Tomorrow I leave for three weeks in France and I haven't even unpacked from my last trip and certainly haven't gotten around to telling you all that happened over the summer. I know I'll never catch up, but there was a place in the French Basque Country that was so wonderful that I've got to tell you just a little about it before I take off.
It's called the Auberge Basque, but it might as well be called dreamland.
...Continue reading Cedric Bechade's Auberge Basque: An Oasis in the French Basque Country
I have a feeling that were you to ask my husband why we traveled to the French Basque Country, he might say that I planned the whole trip around our visit to the Gateau Basque Museum. I hadn't thought I was so obvious, but yeah, that was pretty much the reason. I mean, wouldn't you want to go to a region that nurtures a museum dedicated to one particular kind of cake? And wouldn't you be willing to travel about 8 hours to get there? Of course, you would - and you wouldn't be disappointed.
...Continue reading Homage to a Cake: The Gateau Basque Museum
Before I go back to France next month, I'm determined to write about more of the people I met, the places I visited and the food I ate on my last trip. Of course these are all the things I meant to write the instant they happened, but ...
...Continue reading Bordeaux: The Spirit of La Tupina and Jean-Pierre Xiradakis
Yesterday, I flew to Florida to visit my mom and the travel was a hassle from start to finish: the traffic going out to La Guardia included the usual tie-ups; security was a zoo - travelers convinced they were going to miss their flights and TSA (Transportation Security Administration) inspectors convinced we were all criminals; and, the worst, on the plane, three little kids, who screamed and yelled and cried and jumped up and down and spilled sticky apple juice on no less than 4 passengers while Mom did a word-find puzzle.
...Continue reading An Airport Story
Even people who have lives they love - that would be moi - dream about adding just a little something else to what they know is already more - way more - than enough. In my case, the petite addition would be more time in Beaune, one of the most beautiful towns in Burgundy, one of the most glorious regions in France.
...Continue reading France: Beaune, the Cote d'Or's Golden City
Because I try to be the best friend possible, when people ask me if I'll eat a macaroon for them when I'm in Paris - and people ask all the time - I always say "yes" and I'm always good to my word.
These are the kinds of macaroons I'm expected to sacrifice my girlish figure for. (The picture is from Pierre Herme's window)
...Continue reading French Macaroons: A Tale of Three Cities
I have so much I want to write about from my recent travels - and I will, eventually - but it will probably take me as long to get organized as it did to get from place to place. (Okay, it's already taken me that long and I didn't get organized - but I will, I will!)
In the meantime, here are three great views that tured up in three of the least expected places.
Here's what you see when you walk out of an underground parking lot in Biarritz
...Continue reading France: Three Exceptional Views from the Pays Basque
I don't know about you, but when I walk down the street I don't usually bump into a smiling guy carrying four bottles of Champagne. If you don't either, then the problem might be that neither of us lives in Hautvillers, a place where Champagne is so important and so beloved that I thought (okay, hoped) it might have replaced water in every faucet.
...Continue reading Hautvillers: Rocking the Cradle of Champagne
The first thing you need for a perfect wedding is a couple who are so in love with each other and with life that just seeing them together makes grumpy people grin and pessimists believe that all is right with the world. Meet New Yorker Kerrin Feldman, whom I met a few years ago at The Chocolate Show (you meet the best people over chocolate), and Parisian Olivier Rousset, who were married on France's most important day, July 14 (14 juillet), just outside of Paris in what had to have been one of the most joyous weddings ever, ever, ever.
...Continue reading Recipe for a Perfect Wedding
Last week we stayed in Espelette, a picture-postcard pretty town in the Pays Basque that is about 30 minutes from everywhere you want to go in the region, including the beaches of Biarritz
...Continue reading France: A Great Afternoon in Espelette
...Continue reading France: A Tale of Two Lunches
I've got a bunch of good addresses to share with you from Dijon, but while I'm getting myself organized, click here to read about Fred Mougel and the breads he's got at his stand in Les Halles, the city's covered market.
I had absolutely no time to write while I was traveling, so I'm playing catch-up as fast as I can. Here are a few highlights from day one on the road, a day in Reims, the capital of the Champagne region and a city that should be on the must-visit lists of anyone interested in wine, food and culture, which I'm guessing is all of us, yes?
And, by the way, a city that's now only one hour from Paris since the new TGV (the fast train) started running last month.
...Continue reading Champagne, Champagne and More Champagne: A Day in Reims
People go to Las Vegas for many things, among them volcanoes that erupt on schedule, gondoliers that speak your language, pirate ships with friendly pirates, shopping malls the size of Texas and casinos that never, ever close, even at the airport. Me? I think I might have come to this desert town for the fish. More specifically, the fish at Bartolotta's, Paul Bartolotta's very Italian fisheria built around a huge koi pond in the Wynn Hotel.
...Continue reading Bartolotta's in Las Vegas: A Wynn-ing Dinner
I'm in Las Vegas for the first time in my life and I'm getting a great foodie introduction to the city.
I wrote this yesterday and meant to post it sooner, but since I arrived on Thursday I seem to have gained three hours on the clock and lost all sense of time in my mind. I'm traveling with my guys, Michael, my husband, and Joshua, The Kid - think of them as The Entourage - and snapped this picture from the window of our room on the 36th floor of The Wynn as soon as we checked in. The white block in the center may look like a drive-in movie screen, but it's a water wall.
...Continue reading Las Vegas: A Neophyte's First Day
The high point of my time in Toronto was Friday's all-too-quick lunch with Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, that afternoon's drinks with Rob of Hungry in Hogtown, Saturday's tour of the St. Lawrence Market with Rob and his wife, Rachel, and that afternoon's leisurely lunch with Brilynn of Jumbo Empanadas and her mom. Of course, there was no question these terrific bloggers would all be smart, interesting and passionate about food, but they're also really warm and funny and great company too. I was so glad to meet them and so happy that they could sneak away from their "real" lives to come see me.
...Continue reading Toronto: 60 Good Hours
Just flew into town last night for the Sante Wine Festival, where I'll be baking World Peace Cookies and Rum-Drenched Vanilla Loaf Cakes in Yorkville Park tomorrow between 1 and 2 pm, and hosting a dessert station at a gala walk-around tasting -- there'll be plenty of Caramel-Crunched Chocolate Tart to go around.
...Continue reading Hello Toronto
The amazingly talented Molly Stevens (she of All About Braising) organized a butter tasting at the IACP conference last week and, once again, my favorite butters in the tasting turned out to be the butters I always favor in a tasting, proving both the butters and I must be pretty consistent.
Most of us don't normally "taste" butter, we use it in baking, cooking or as a bread-topper, but I started tasting butter and studying butter about 7 years ago, after the legendary breadbaker, Lionel Poilane, didn't want to give me his recipe for his great butter cookies, Punitions, for my book, Paris Sweets, because he didn't think they'd fare well with American butter.
...Continue reading Better Butter: A Tasting and A Recipe
My last view of downtown Chicago.
I'm just back from Chicago - at last! - about 36 hours, 5 flight reservations, as many cancellations and a pair of totally clogged ears later - arrrgh!
My book did not win the IACP award in the Baking and Desserts category, but a book that looks interesting did: Bread Matters, by Andrew Whitley, which talks about the state of bread in England and includes recipes. It's a British book, not available here yet, but maybe gettable soon.
...Continue reading Back from Chicago
I was sitting at the bar at Shaw's Crab House in Chicago this afternoon having a perfect lunch - six oysters*, one chopped salad and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc - pondering the many ways people dress their bivalves.
I'm from the purist school: I like oysters straight up, solo, pristine. Oh, maybe, if the spirit moves me, I'll squeeze a drop or two of lemon juice over them, but mostly I want nothing to get in the way of me and their flavor.
...Continue reading Oysters at Shaw's: A Chicago Afternoon