Archive for the ‘Food & Drink’ Category

Charm-i-days: Pomaireware plus adoration

November 27, 2009

Pass whatever’s in that fetching casserole dish, please.

So much to adore, so little time.

Ideal for the people on your list who fancy themselves domestic, these Pomaireware fish- and pig-shaped dishes are more than cute – they’re versatile, lead-free (unlike some clay dishes) and fair trade-certified. Sounds like a stylish and peaceful way to bake.  These pots from Delight.com are happy in the oven, on the stove or in the microwave, and they may lure all kinds of people into the kitchen. Handmade in Pomaire, Chile.

Consider giving a dish along with a similarly endearing “I adore you” dish towel from Blue Q or an inspiring cookbook:  See NPR’s list of best new cookbooks in 2009 for ideas.

Pomaireware Handcrafted Bakers from Delight.com, $35.50
I Adore You Dish Towel from Blue Q, $9.99

Advertisements

My charming walk through Paris

November 6, 2009

The day the streets were paved in baguettes and chocolate.

poilane_pierre_herme

Behold the Poilane bread! All hail the Pierre Herme macarons!

This post kicks of a new series called Story Charms: favorite moments and experiences of note from writers, readers and charmers like you. I’m launching the series with an adventure of my own.

I took a solo trip to Paris a couple of years ago and treated myself to a culinary walk offered by Context Travel. Context gives expert tours for small groups – a medieval architecture tour might be led by a history professor, for example. In my case, the culinary guide was talented chef and food blogger Louisa Chu.

Engaging and friendly, Chu took us to some of the most delightful places I’ve ever been. She led us to the bakeries that make the best croissants and baguettes (Poilane, of course). She took us to chocolatier Patrick Roger’s shop and pointed out a boucherie that still sells horse meat near the farmer’s market on one of the original roads to Rome. We made our way to Laduree and picked out boxes of the famed Parisian-style macarons. We serendipitously ran into Dorie Greenspan on the street, so Chu introduced us to the baking queen, who was happy to chat and told me about her favorite bakery in Nashville, where I live at the moment.

Then finally, the stop that changed my life: Pierre Herme. This is the man who many say revived Laduree back in the day. This is the man who creates haute flavor combinations each year to coincide with fashion week. This is the man who invented the Ispahan, that magical pastry with rose, litchi and raspberry. So I took my turn at the counter like every other person lucky enough to stand in line and ordered my array, including macaron flavors from olive oil to pistachio and a concoction of chocolate, caramel and fleur de sel.

Then I had the rest of the evening to open my pastry boxes and gaze transfixed at my purchases. I stepped into a baroque-style church on the way back to my hotel to admire the Delacroix frescoes. But those macarons: seriously transcendent.

<!–[if !mso]> <! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } –>  

My charming walk through Paris

 

The day the streets were paved in baguettes and chocolate.

 

This post kicks of a new series called Story Charms: favorite moments and experiences of note from writers, readers and charmers like you. I’m launching the series with an adventure of my own.

 

I took a solo trip to Paris a couple of years ago and treated myself to a culinary walk offered by Context Travel. Context gives expert tours for small groups – a medieval architecture tour might be led by a history professor, for example. In my case, the culinary guide was talented chef and food blogger Louisa Chu.

 

Chu was engaging and friendly and took us to some of the most delightful places I’ve ever been. She led us to the bakeries that sell the best croissant, the best organic baguette and the best overall baguette (Poilane, of course). She took us to the shop of chocolatier Patrick Roger and pointed out a boucherie that still sells horse meat near the farmer’s market that stands on one of the original roads to Rome. We made our way to Laduree and picked out boxes of the famed Parisian-style macarons. We serendipitously ran into Dorie Greenspan on the street, so Chu introduced us to the baking queen, who was happy to chat and told me all about her favorite bakery in Nashville, where I happen to live at the moment.

 

Then finally, the stop that changed my life: Pierre Herme. This is the man who many say revived Laduree back in the day. This is the man who creates haute flavor combinations each year to coincide with fashion week. This is the man who invented the Ispahan, that magical pastry with rose, litchi and raspberry flavors. So I took my turn at the counter like every other person lucky enough to stand in line and ordered my array, including macaron flavors from olive oil to pistachio, the famed Ispahan and a concoction of chocolate, caramel and fleur de sel. Then I had the rest of the evening to open my pastry boxes and gaze transfixed at my purchases. I may have stepped into a baroque-style church on the way back to my hotel to admire the Delacroix frescoes. But those macarons: seriously transcendent.

Become a sugar goddess

October 14, 2009
Sugar sold separately.

Sugar sold separately.

Anita Chu’s Field Guide to Candy paves the way to your confectionary immortality.

Most candy cookbook writers would be satisfied producing a book brimming over with gorgeous color photographs, clear instructions, handy tips and a thorough glossary of candy-making terms and techniques. Anita Chu does all of that in Field Guide to Candy: How to Identify and Make Virtually Every Candy Imaginable, but she gets a sugar-coated gold star for also featuring fascinating historical tidbits about each candy.

A Greek candy called pasteli, for example, may be the world’s first candy and has an impeccable literary pedigree to boot. Chu notes that the Iliad mentions a pie made of sesame and honey, which are the main ingredients in pasteli. Never has candy-making felt so steeped in tradition. Chu elevates her recipes by taking readers on a culinary tour from the caves of Spain to the medicinal origins of licorice in England to the complex sweetness of 17th-century France to the American contribution of chocolate-covered cherries in 1929.

The guide includes recipes for favorites such as peanut brittle and truffles, some old-fashioned ones such as molasses taffy and buttermilk candy, some Asian sensations such as Chinese milk candy and daifuku mochi and some unexpected delights such as candy corn.

One of the more surprising recipes is based on the same fizzy notion as Pop Rocks. Turns out that a medieval Arabic drink called sharbat evolved into frozen sherbet as it migrated across Europe. Once it reached England, some clever fellow invented a fizzy powder to go with it that results in that familiar, effervescent tingle. You can use Chu’s version of sherbet powder to make a drink fizzy, or you can eat it like Pixy Stix. Genius, I tell you.

Speaking of brand names, Chu also fills readers in on how to make homemade versions of Butterfinger candy bars, Tootsie Rolls and Reese’s peanut butter cups.

I love that Chu embraces all manner of candy-making – she generously compares such American inventions as the chocolate-covered potato chip with the haute fluer de sel caramels of famed French pasty chef Pierre Herme. And that may be the most charming thing of all.

Field Guide to Candy, $15.95

Perfect antidote to nearly everything

May 29, 2009

Still occasionally screaming for ice cream? A surprising recipe offers a new reason to indulge.

Got buttermilk!

Got buttermilk!

Buttermilk always reminds me of the pioneer stories I read obsessively as a girl, so I’m forever tearing out magazine recipes featuring the old-fashioned-seeming drink. Buttermilk-cardamom pie! Buttermilk and lemon curd cake! Buttermilk fried chicken! No buttermilk mention is too small to warrant my immediate attention. One case that actually made it from “Oh, that looks interesting!” to “Gee, your ice cream tastes terrific!” is an incredibly simple recipe for iced buttermilk.

A couple of summers ago, I began an ice cream quest. It’s sort of like a tundra-based vision quest. Instead of wandering in the desert, you eat ice cream. You can see the similarities already, I presume. I invested in one of those no-muss, automatic ice cream makers that comes with a bowl you stash in the freezer and started trying recipes.

The recipe in question is courtesy of Emeril Lagasse and contains only sugar, lemon juice & zest, a pinch of salt and buttermilk. His recipe calls for lots of sugar, but I reduced it with tasty results. (You can see the recipe below, or click through for the original on the Food Network site, complete with a cake that he serves along with it.)

The kicker is that since buttermilk is cultured, it has the same health benefits of yogurt. Since the buttermilk is so creamy, the texture feels much fuller than other low-fat ice creams. And thanks to the tang, the taste is similar to that addictive-to-many Pinkberry frozen yogurt.

If you really want to commit to your ice cream experiments (that sounds downright scientific – it’s like summer school, really), try David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop. My favorite recipe in the book is Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream. I’ve also had fun convincing my friends to try his concoctions of Olive Oil Ice Cream and Goat Cheese Ice Cream.

But seriously, try the buttermilk. It does an ice cream quest good.

Emeril’s recipe on Food Network site (scroll past the cake for the ice milk)
The Perfect Scoop, $16.47
Ice cream maker, $49

Emeril’s Buttermilk Ice Milk (Food Network)
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar (Note: I reduced this amount.)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinch salt
3 cups buttermilk

In a large non-reactive bowl combine sugar, lemon juice, zest, salt and buttermilk and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled, about 1 hour. (Note: I never bother to chill it since I’m not a purist and the buttermilk is already cold.) Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Yield: about 1 quart

Charm-i-days Idea #9: Water bottled up

December 15, 2008
Drink water like it's 1883.

Drink water like it's 1883.

Everyone on your list drinks water. But are they drinking stylishly and with eco-flair?

We’ve been given plenty of reasons to give up bottled water over the last couple of years … full landfills, heavy carbon footprints and plastic toxicity concerns. Add another reason to list: pretty, shiny objects.

Experts can argue about the dire nature of all the other reasons to switch, but I haven’t found anyone yet who will deny the high charm quotient on these aluminum alternatives.

Perhaps the most spectacular aluminum water bottles of all are based on Arts & Crafts Movement patterns designed by William Morris in the late 1800s. The nature themes are typical of that style – the movement was a rejection of excesses of the Victorian age and the dehumanization and mass production of the Industrial Revolution. (These water bottles sound very important now, yes?)

Sigg bottles have been around for a while now, too, and they’re mighty fine as well, although I can’t claim any historical significance. But you know, they’re from Switzerland. Mountains, pure streams, timely trains and all that. I love my turquoise Maharadsha bottle, and REI is selling a holiday design.

I refill my bottles with my Brita filter pitcher, but when I’m a millionaire, I’m going to buy my own seltzer maker and drink bubbly water like there’s no tomorrow. I’ll be so far beyond plastic and aluminum at that point that I’ll likely use a sterling straw. But I digress. My point is: save the planet, get a friend or family member hydrated, make a historical/design statement and cross someone off your gift list in one fell swoop.

William Morris-inspired water bottles, $14.95
Sigg Maharadsha bottle, $24.99
Sigg holiday bottle, $24.99
Sigg, Sigg and more Sigg

Charm-i-days idea #3: CB2 stemware

December 3, 2008

From CB2 to you

From CB2 to you

Create a festive mood with just-right champagne and cocktail glassware … and maybe something tasty to pour.

These handsome Valencia martini glasses and flutes are ostensibly Moroccan-influenced, but you can interpret the filigree however you’d like. The relatively new CB2, a younger sibling of Crate & Barrel, specializes in home and office furniture and accessories that are affordable, modern and fun. I’ll drink to that. The company’s Gigi stemware would also make sipping merry – the flutes and wine glasses stand out (and up) with outrageously elongated, slender stems.

CB2’s celebration-friendly glasses are unique-looking and budget-friendly, which is an entirely jolly combination. They’d make a great gift for newlyweds, new home owners, the consummate entertainer on your list or perhaps someone like me who loves the idea of entertaining but never got around to filling the cupboard with appropriate dishes.

If you’re making room in your own holiday entertainment budget for these pretties, you might want some holiday cocktail ideas, too – Martha Stewart has some tasty-looking ones.

CB2 Valencia and Gigi stemware, $4.95 each

Charm-i-days idea #1: Zingerman’s treats

November 22, 2008

Try some sugar and spice. And by that I mean from brown muscovado sugar from Mauritius and smoked paprika from Spain.

The charming Zingerman's bread lady

Mmm ... Zingerman's bread

Holiday food gifts have moved so far beyond fruitcake that even fruitcake is going to be trendy again one day. If anyone on your list has a sophisticated palate and likes to dabble in a kitchen now and then, head straight to Zingerman’s online store. Acclaimed by everyone from Mario Batali to Jeffrey Steingarten, this Michigan food shop and deli makes amazing breads and desserts and is a trustworthy source for all kinds of other goodies.

Just pick and choose based on the taste of whichever lucky person you have in mind – even with a selection of random items, you can’t go wrong. How about some light muscovado sugar and a tin of smoked paprika that magically transforms soups and meats? Or a bottle of aged balsamic vinegar and a jar of wild Italian cherries? Throw in a jar of licorice jam or a chocolate-hazelnut spread that leaves Nutella in the cocoa dust.

The breads you can order online come with instructions for reheating, and I recommend starting with either the chocolate sourdough or the paesano loaf. Zingerman’s also offers gift baskets and unusual clubs, like bacon of the month or the rare olive oil club. I could go on and on, but it’s much more fun to just go look at their site.

The economy being what it is, culinary delights seem like more of an indulgence than ever – and a comforting one at that.

Brown sugar from Mauritius, $4
Pimenton de la Vera Paprika – dulce, $7
Hazelnut & chocolate spread, $22
Licorice Jam, $17.00
So many more delights, prices vary