Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bread, Cheese...and Tomatoes!

Sorry for the pause. I've been eating the most perfectly delicious tomatoes from my garden and I sort of went into a tomato trance. Has it already been said that a garden ripe tomato is the most perfect food in the history of the universe? If not, then I'm officially sayin so now, because these babies hit all the flavor notes like nothing else I know. And I'm not even THAT much of a tomato person, really, but yea, they're pretty unbelievable. And fleeting, so eat up, right? Unfortunately I have no idea which of my four or five heirloom varieties I've been so entranced with, only that they're tomato crack.
Still obsessing about Paris, and it sure was fun watching the last stage of the Tour de France on Sunday and getting to see "our" apartment and lots of the places we strolled.
One of the obsessions I brought back with me is Eric Kayser Baguette cereales. Depending on who you ask, EK may be the best bread in Paris, a factoid that I cannot confirm but suspect to be true. I sort of haven't been able to shut up about it or get it out of my head, and project #1 since my return has been seeking out a recipe and trying to reproduce it.
Here is my first attempt from Saturday, a bookend WFO bread bake sandwiched in between pizza lunch and a whole lotta pork shoulder:
cereales and pane campagne
The round loaves are pain campagne ala Daniel Leader's book Bread Alone, which i have made a few other times, albeit with a less lovely result.
I must say, the baguette cereales, or batard cereales as mine are closer to, is about the best bread I've ever baked, but SO not as good as the real thing. Perhaps due to missing the amazing French butter with big flakes of fleur de sel in it that I cried to leave:
butter with big flakes of sea salt in it
I used a recipe from over at the Fresh Loaf website which is an adaptation of the recipe from Eric Kayser's bread book which is published only in French (and that I am thinking of buying anyway).
inside the cereales
Both the original and the adapted recipe call for flours that I really have no way of obtaining, so I just punted and used my stand by King Arthur bread and Bob's Red Mill organic AP. The result is delicious, but needs some more R&D to come closer to the real thing.

Another thing I haven't been able to get out of my head is the amazing French cheeses. I've always thought that this U.S. ridiculousness that is the ban on raw milk cheeses is just that, but now that I've tasted some of the real thing, I'm really pissed off. It's like I never tasted cheese, ANY cheese, until I went to France, and that I'll won't get any truly amazing cheese until I go there again, not that I shall stop looking!
eric kayser baguette cereals and st marcellin
This St. Marcellin made the biggest impression on me. Perhaps it was nothing special by French standards, but as one of my first real raw-milk cheese lovers, I shall never forget it. When I was buying it, the non-French speaking customer next to me was asking the cheese guy (in English) whether she could pack some in her luggage to take home. His reaction was a hilarious blue streak of shouted and gesticulated French, and even with my seriously limited French vocabulary it was pretty clear that he was dissing the stupid American rules, too. On the other hand, more for them, and a good reason for me to go back!

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Bags Are Packed

I'm sorry, I'm a little behind with the heads up on this. I'll be at the Mound Spirit of the Lakes Festival tomorrow, Saturday July 17th, from 11am to 7pm, showing off a whole lotta new, cool stuff!

Here's a peek at just a few of the many great bags I've been crafting up:

berry leather perfect bag
silver dotty petite princess
blue suede-stripe modified flap2
pink leather dotty perfect bag
blue suede brown petite princess

Come and check it out, won't you?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Best Date I've Ever Been On

So I turn 40 this year.
My apologies to those of you who who envision me as a 20-something hottie hipster.

To celebrate the milestone, I asked for "princessery' from Boy...and said that I wanted to be surprised. He's not a big planner, you see, so in the interest of princessery, I knew I'd have to give him plenty of heads-up.
Anyway, when I got a call at home one day, Boy asking about my schedule for June, I knew something good must be up.
He aims to please, but as much as I truly wanted to be surprised, when it came right down to it and I was given a set of dates to put on my calendar, I realized there was really no way I could deal with packing for some unknown destination and activity. So at my request the itinerary was revealed a couple of weeks in advance...to much screaming and clapping and jumping up and down by me.

Because what 40 year-old hottie hipster wouldn't want to go to Paris? Excellent, excellent work, Boy. The best surprise EVER!

And can I submit my request now for being taken on a surprise trip for, say, my 42nd birthday?

So I showed you Julia at the Smithsonian the other day. That was our quick little one day warm-up stop on the road to Paris, and for this food and cooking and eating enthusiast, there could not have been a more fitting Paris prelude than a visit to the kitchen of she who introduced us all (Americans, that is) to the idea of food and cooking and eating enthusiasm. Heck, she practically invented the hobby of food.

So Paris...It was the first visit there for both of us and we're already looking forward to going back. It took over my senses like a drug and unlike anywhere else I've ever been. It was amazing and overwhelming, and without a doubt, the best date I have ever been on.
another self portrait fail

Huge, HUGE props to my most excellent Boy. It was princessery by definition, and I can't imagine a better trip anywhere, ever, or with a better companion.

I have lots more to share, coming soon.
Like croissants.
And wine.
And dairy products.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Temple of Julia

Did I ever tell you I have every episode of "The French Chef" on DVD? Way before the blog and the books and the movie, I was a Julia Child fan. I cried when I read that she died.
Some of my earliest memories are of the early days of Julia cooking on her PBS show and of my mother and the whisk Julia brought into her life, conjuring up some "exotic", "new" dish Julia must have shown her. All of which is kind of interesting since I'm pretty sure we didn't have a TV when I was a kid.

Did you ever see the Chicken Cacciatore episode? I remember seeing and smelling that bubbling away in pan in my mothers kitchen. Or maybe it was the Coq au Vin.


Me and Julia, we go way back. And after waiting and wishing for years, I finally got to go see THE kitchen at the Smithsonian. Julia's kitchen. It was something I had been wanting to do forever, and the fabulous Boy surprised me with the trip as a pre-trip to a week in Paris. I though I was going to blow a gasket when he told me and I completely flipped out and screamed and cried and clapped and jumped up and down, and I wasn't sure what to be most excited about!

Needless to say, we had a fabulous time in both places and came home exhausted and happy and with lots of new ideas, inspiration, great swag and a few extra pounds.

Hello treadmill.

Anyway, here was one of my favorite items from the Smithsonian exhibit. "Ecole des Trois Gourmandes" is the name Julia and her pals made up for their cooking school in France. As I understand it from reading her memoir, the name and the patch were kind of a joke, but it persisted and you can see Julia wearing hers-presumably this one- in the early episodes of "The French Chef"
the patch
Because I am a geek and a lab glass addict, I also loved that Julia had a collection of her own:
julia loved lab glass just like me
and a little piece of Minnesota to hold her tools:
a little piece of minnesota in julias kitchen
and an undercounter ice maker:
i'm not the only one obsessed with ice

As a cook, I've always been fascinated by how much I can learn about someone by looking into their kitchen, and that Julia did many of her shows from this very kitchen was always one of the reasons I enjoyed watching. I loved it most because it's a relic of her real life, but getting to see it as the set that appeared on all those shows was fun, too. Getting this up close and personal look at her space and her stuff, the place where the magic of Julia came to life, was a real treat. She was a real gem, that Julia.

Thanks Boy! We had a great trip, eh?
More to come about the Paris leg. It was a dream!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

who knew it would be so gorgeous in person?
I know, theirs isn't for 10 more days, but did I tell you I was going to Paris? I was, and I did, and it was fabulous! It was my first time there and my first real vacation in a really long time. I'll tell you more about it and show you all my delicious swag later, but for now I have some of my photos up on Flickr here.
We made a quick pre-stop in DC to visit Julia's kitchen at the Smithsonian which I had been wanting to do forever. It was awesome, but what turned out to be my favorite part of that leg was seeing the original star spangled banner, circa 1814. It's pretty incredible to see and has an even more incredible history, and you can get a peek of the exhibition here. Go take a look. No better day than today!

I had forgotten how much work it is to go on vacation. Whew. I need a vacation.

My garden is going nuts! I have an insane number of tomato plants and they're all looking good. So far the not cute but functional fence is doing it's thing, but the deer are creepy tame around here this year so you never know. They actually walk TOWARD us instead of running away. I'll try and do a full review soon, but here's where we're at two months in:garden progress july fourth

Happy fourth!

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