‘Tis the season to pick strawberries. Last week I went headed to New Market with my friend and her almost three-year old to have a berry picking adventure. We went to North Alabama icon Brown’s Farm and it lived up to my high expectations. It had a restroom, very important when traveling with a toddler. That was our first stop. Our second stop was a cute, little cabin to buy jams, honey and to get our strawberry picking buckets. Buckets in hand and hats on head we headed to the fields and started eating… I mean gathering strawberries. Some of us were a bit better at collecting strawberries than others, but there was a particular member of our picking party that ate far more than he put in the bucket.Please note the very emptiness of his bucket! Eventually he realized that strawberry picking was very similar to Easter Egg hunting and got onboard. The fields were nice, accessible and the attendant pointed us the best section to pick berries.After buying store-bought berries I sometimes I forget how strawberries are supposed to taste: sweet and juicy with a hint of tartness at the very end. In other words perfection. We picked for about an hour and had three very full buckets of nature’s candy, but as it approach noon it got hot and we started to wither. We didn’t bring lunch with us, but the farm had a lovely covered picnic area.I fully planned to come up with a recipe for the strawberries but we ate them all before I had a chance. Sometimes it’s just best to eat them as is.
While I was visiting Kyoto I had the pleasure of staying at the Sakura Terrace. There were many great amenities at the hotel, not the least was a free happy hour where guests got a free cocktail of choice each evening.
My plan was to try a different cocktail on each of our 4 nights at the hotel and on the very first night I got a violet sake cocktail. I LOVED it!! I’d never even thought of making a cocktail with sake, but it was delicious, perfectly balanced, refreshing and beautiful (I am a sucker for pretty libations). On the second night I got the violet sake again. By the third night both my husband and I got the violet sake and by the end of the trip I had never branched out. When we got back to the states I make it my mission to create my own violet sake. For months I played with various sakes, syrups and sodas to create the best possible drink. It was a fun project and my husband especially enjoyed the position of official cocktail tester. So here is the recipe!1 oz Monin Violet Syrup
2 oz Nigori Sake
3 oz La Croix Lime flavored sparkling water
Mix syrup and sake. Add water and ice and stir. Enjoy simple perfection!
You may have noticed the uniformed little ladies gripping the rim of the glass. They were vending machine purchases. One of the many things that I loved about Japan was the large amount of toy machines that contained the most bizarre little toys. For 1 or 2 yen you could buy the craziest figurines and I bought many of them. Far more than is acceptable for a full grown adult, but they were so interesting!! They had machines that sold nothing but old men sitting on benches, peeing dogs and even cute animals made into foods, such as a puppy made into a hamburger. You can see what I’m talking about on the far right below. I bough my flexible little ladies, a squat toilet, a woman serving sake, but the weirdest machine I bought is below!How weird is that!!! It is a baby head with an alien inside. I didn’t have any coins when I spotted it so I dragged my husband into a cafe to get change so I could buy it! The best 2 yen I’ve ever spent!
Over the Christmas holidays my husband, my sister-in-law and I jetted away for a whirlwind, two day trip to London. We were going to spend several days in the city, but (London Fun Fact) the trains shut down on Christmas Eve Eve (Dec. 23rd) so we shortened the trip.
Since we only had two days we hit the highlights and stuck to the most stereotypically touristy parts of London: Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, fish and chips, tea, etc., but it was still immensely fun.
Now let’s be honest, Great Britain isn’t exactly known for their culinary prowess. True they have tea, scones, and fish and chips, all of which are lovely, but they also have a mysterious, slightly scary, tar-like substance called Marmite, which I’ve gathered you eat on toast (Is it like jam or closer to peanut butter?) and Stargazy Pie, which maybe delicious, but honestly just looks terrifying. (Are you supposed to eat the fish heads?) My point being, I had very mixed expectations when it came to English cuisine.
I am happy to report that most of the dishes were wonderfully delicious and I would eat them again. That being said, I played it pretty safe and avoided the fish head pies and jellied eels (look it up).
In the morning went sightseeing, shot the obligatory photo at Big Ben, toured Westminster Abbey with an audio recording by Jeremy Irons (fancy), complained about the pesky tourists (Wow, Americans are SO loud! Sorry rest of the world), and in general enjoyed this wonderful, exciting city.
When we finally decided to stop for lunch we had no plan, so we picked the first interesting place we across: Westminster Arms. Apparently we picked well because in addition to being frequented by politicians and journalists, it has also been visited by Desmond Tutu, Angelina Jolie and Bill Clinton. All of this I learned after I got back to the States.We walked downstairs to the crowded restaurant portion of the pub and I fully expected to be turned away or a long wait.
“Are you here to eat?” asked a man brusquely. He definitely seemed like the owner, so from henceforth I will refer to him as such.
“Yes” I answered. I reined in my Americanness and said it with polite, deference rather than the exuberant, enthusiasm I’m used to in the States. Polite, deference would never fly at T.G.I.Fridays. They waitstaff would harass you until you faked absolute bliss to be eating artichoke dip. Being an American can be exhausting, who wants to be that upbeat and energetic all the time.
The owner walked up to a table filled with pint sipping patrons and said to the people “These people are eating, you need to leave.”
My husband and I were shocked, but the people seemed to take it in stride, got up and headed upstairs so we could take their table. I guess it is tavern protocol.
I ordered the most tourist dish possible, fish and chips, which was more for the mashed peas than the fish and chips. I’ve tasted canned Mushy, which I wasn’t a fan off, but it made me want to try the real stuff. As I suspected, real mushy peas are delicious! Of course the fish and chips were also wonderful. My husband went for the second most touristy dish, bangers and mash, which was also quite good. I’d like to visit again and try something less obvious, but overall everything was well-cooked and plated. The tavern itself was nice with booths, tables and a bar at the front. Everything was covered in wood and complimented with appropriate art and decor.
The ladies’ toilets were also an adventure. There was a sink with two facets: one for hot water and one for cold water, but none for comfortable temperature water. I’ve been told this is fairly common in Great Britain, but this was the only sink I encountered like this, granted I was only there for 2 days.The restroom also had charming wall art to keep you entertained during your visit. I’m not sure what ‘cor scrummy’ means but I take it to mean something good. ‘Sexy’ maybe, ‘tasty’, it’s possible. If anyone knows please feel free to educate me.
See how happy I am to be about to drink my chicory. Sadly moments after this photo was taken I slipped and dumped the entire contents on the ground. I should have taken a photo of that, but I was too busy cursing and my husband was too busy laughing, so alas, there is no photographic evidence.
Though Alabama didn’t get the massive piles of snow that the rest of the of the East Coast received, it get enough to make winter official.I lived much of my childhood in New England, so any bit of snow makes me nostalgic and wistful for a simpler time. I love bundling up in heavy socks and sweaters that I almost never get to wear and crunching through the fresh snow, savoring the moment and knowing that tomorrow it will most likely be gone and year before I see it again.After fun in the snow I like to drink a hot cup of coffee, but as part of my 2016 initiative to be healthier I have been trying to cut my caffeine intake down. Happily I discovered the delights of chicory, which is caffeine free and quite delicious. Chicory is a blue flowered plant whose root has a similar flavor to roasted coffee beans. There are lots of claims of medicinal uses, such as improving calcium absorption and bone mineral density, as well as helping with weight loss. I just started drinking it, but I let you know if I increase bones and decrease fat. It is also used in flavoring beers, especially stouts, which is probably another reason I like it.I started drinking Pero, which has barley (containing important dietary fibers), rye (with several markers of blood sugar control) and chicory. I can’t really say if I’m feeling healthier, but I enjoy it nevertheless.I also got to break in my new tea-cup, which I’ve been dying to use. The cup and saucer were my souvenir from a recent trip to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. It’s a gruesome homage to Romeo and Juliet, depicting a pierced heart and the quote, “For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” So dark, I love it!So stay warm everyone and enjoy a cup of Pero.
Today is the day that the three wise men FINALLY showed up to bring baby Jesus some sweet swag. In various parts of the world this is celebrated by eating a cake that has a trinket baked inside of it. The person that finds the trinket, without eating/choking on it, is dubbed king, given a paper crown and a year’s worth of bragging rights.
This year I spent Christmas in France with my husband and in-laws so so we celebrated Epiphany a bit early with Galette des rois (King Cake).
The french version of King Cake is lovely, with a buttery, flakey phyllo housing sweet frangipane. The trinket or fève is of a nicer caliber than the misshapen plastic Jesus that typically adorns the American versions and can come in a variety of shapes and themes.
My mother-in-law has collected fèves most of her life and has a impressive collection tucked away in a coffee tin. Over the years people have added to her collection and she now has hundreds of miniatures. There are nativity sets, Disney Characters, monuments, barn yard animals, 1920’s actors, books, etc. I love looking at the every Christmas when we visit.
I ate my slice fastidiously, confident that THIS year I had the fève. No fève. But no one got it, so we had to try again later than night at dinner.
I carefully ate tiny bits, not wanting to break or swallow the ceramic prize. And the Queen was…
My husband. Every freakin year!
The prize was an adorable ceramic book: Le Diamant de la Couronne (The Crown Diamonds.
But it wasn’t a totally loss for me. After careful consideration and dagger looks from his wife, my husband dubbed me Queen of the King Cake and I got to wear the crown for a bit.
It’s good to be Queen!
If you want to make your own King Cake you can get my recipe from last year. It is simple and easy because I am a lazy chef, but it was pretty tasty if I do say so myself.
It is rainy and gloomy today, but as I’ve been under the weather for the last couple of weeks it is a perfect day for me to stay home, watch vintage movies (I’m in the mood for something creepy and Vincent Pricey) and eat warm homemade soup.
I photographed this wonderful recipe for Event Magazine‘s current issue and not only is it delicious it is insanely easy to make. Puree ingredients, warm, eat; it doesn’t get much simpler than that unless it is from a can, in which case it is usually rife with preservatives and sodium.This recipe was created by the chefs at D & L Bistro. It is a wonderful location, with lots of nice nooks and crannies for me to photograph in and a lovely patio for pleasant weather dinning. Asparagus Soup
1 bunch of asparagus
1 medium yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
1 large Yukon gold potato
1-quart chicken stock (vegetable stock may be used as a vegetarian option)
¼ cup heavy cream
1-tablespoon canola oil
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
On a trip to one of my favorite produce markets, Garden Cove, my husband and I came across pints of fresh dates. Neither of us had ever encountered fresh dates, though we are fans of the dried variety, so we were standing in the aisle debating how to eat them when an employee walked by.
“Excuse me,” said my husband to the employee. “How do you eat fresh dates?”
“Just raw,” the worker said. “But they are not for everyone. I love them, but there are many people who don’t like the taste.”
“What do they taste like?” asked Olivier.
After some pondering the employee said, “They taste like shirt.”
Olivier and I stared blankly trying to figure out what he really said, because surely shirt wasn’t what he meant.
Then the man pulled up the neck of his cotton t-shirt and pantomimes eating it.
“It tastes like… shirt?” Olivier asked skeptically.
“Yes, yes, shirt,” said the employee enthusiastically.
So, of course, we bought some to taste this shirt-flavored fruit for ourselves.
When we got home I washed and dried the dates anxious to give them a try.
Olivier and I bit into our fruit at the same time and damn it if it didn’t taste just like shirt! I mean seriously, it tasted like freshly laundered cotton and the texture was a bit mealy like a pear giving your mouth a drying affect, just like you shoved the corner of tee-shirt into your mouth. Very weird.
I was going to make an arugula salad with sliced raw dates and pine nuts, but decided to go with something more desserty. Plus I had just impulsively bought a lot of honey. The dates do have pits, so Step 1, halve 25 dates and remove the pits. Preheat oven to 400°. Put date halves in a plastic bag (or bowl if you’re not lazy and don’t mind stirring) and add 3 tbs honey, 2 tbs olive oil, and 1 tsp Balsamic vinegar. Shake or stir (good for you for not being lazy) vigorously. Place the coated dates on a cooking sheet and place in the oven.I roasted the dates for 10 minutes and then flipped them. Then I forgot to set my timer, got distracted and frantically pulled them out of the oven after another 20 minutes in the oven. This seemed to work out nicely for me and added a candied, honey-burnt edge to the dates. They were quite tasty. Combine 2 oz of chèvre (goat cheese) with 3 tbs of heavy whipping cream, a splash of vanilla extract (I was going for half a tsp, but knocked my hand on the edge of the bowl and added a splash instead). I also added a half a teaspoon of confectioner sugar, not sure if this did anything, but I added it.