Archive for the ‘Food & Wine’ Category

From the Cookbook Shelf


Here are some of my favourite new cookbooks, and some not so new, but all worth a look. Mostly for inspiration if nothing else, some for pure whimsy and some for a look into how other chefs think and their interpretation of the art of food.

1) Mugaritz ~ Andoni Luis Aduriz ~ simply pure genius

2) Modernist Cuisine at Home ~ Nathan Myhrvold ~ a must have

3) Elements of Dessert ~ Francico Migoya ~ inspirational & stunning

4) Japanese Farm Food ~ Nancy Singleton Hachisu ~ educational

5) Dirt Candy ~ Amanda Cohen~ whimsical, funny & awesome vegetables

6) In Pursuit of Excellence ~ Josiah Citrin ~ go eat at Melisse~ perfection

7) Street ~ Susan Feniger ~ travel inspiring & simply delicious

8) A Girl & Her Pig ~ April Bloomfield ~ charming, tasteful & fun

9) Mozza ~ Nancy Silverton ~ best pizza ever

10) Ludo Bites ~ Ludo Lefebvre ~ passionate frenchman, but brilliant

11) Southern Cooking ~ Bill Neal ~ every chef should own this

12) Lucky Peach ~ get your subscription, now

13) Beginnings ~ Chris Cosentino ~ good way to start a meal

14) The Little House Cookbook ~ original “nose to tail” & live off the land

Now this is only my “short” list, I received & perused many many more cookbooks during the past year, but these are “keepers”. Some books inspire, some give ideas or a new way to tweak or re-create a recipe, some are from restaurants that have food that is  just so damn tasty that you want to know, how did they make that! To me, that is the best kind of cookbook. Have fun, reading, cooking and taking it one step higher.

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Okay, sorry this is already over due ( like my daughter was!) but not nearly as painful as giving birth. Thankfully that was years ago and the memory has long since faded away, Thanksgiving on the other hand has not. If those 3 words “Thanksgiving Dinner & Company” send a shiver of dread down your spine and have you running for the liquor cabinet or a xanax, relax. Such drastic measures are not necessary and with some very simple tips, you too can achieve that WOW factor on Nov 24th. Maybe even get a smile and a “that was wonderful” from your in-laws or the foodie know- it -all in the family (everybody has one!).

So armed with a little knowledge, some great music and yes, perhaps a glass of wine you are on your way to creating a memorable meal. Just remember to take your time and above all enjoy yourself in the process. That is what cooking is all about. *

Now that you have the bird well in hand, it is time to think of what to serve with it.  Here are some ideas for the perfect “nibbles” to set out and let your guests help themselves. The point here is not to be slaving away in the kitchen trying to produce a massive spread of hors d’oeuvre. Simply not needed. What you want to do is to “whet” the appetite without getting too full. I have found these to be the perfect starters for pretty much any occasion.

Nibbles #1

1) A beautiful crystal bowl filled w/ spanish marcona almonds.

2) On one of grandma’s heirloom platters or a lovely wooden board set a wedge of good creamy french d’affinois cheese. A small ceramic crock of pitted imported green & kalamata olives that you have tossed w/ some orange zest & cracked black pepper. A nice piece of aged Italian salumi sliced very thin and arranged in ovals. Some beautifully ripe quartered figs and a few sun-dried apricots that have been softened in small amount of cognac.

3) Basket of  good water crackers and maybe some english wheat biscuits or slices of a french ficelle.  Set it out w/ a cheese knife, tiny olive fork and mini tongs for the meat and bread.

4) A crisp Prosecco or Riesling will do nicely here. If your father or mother-in law or Uncle Buck are screaming for a scotch on the rocks, smile and pour them one. Stop at 2. Now is not the time to get hammered. Retreat to the kitchen and let your guests help themselves.

Nibbles #2

Get some large fresh 21/25 shrimp.** Bring pot of water to a boil, add bay leaf, whole black peppercorns, sprinkle of red pepper flakes & 1/2 a lemon. Drop in shrimp (shell on) cook til just pink 3- 5 minutes tops, drain & run under cold water to refresh. Peel & devein leaving tails on, they function as a “handle” & serve in a lovely bowl nestled in a bed of ice. Traditional cocktail sauce and lemon aioli on the side. Making your own is preferred though you can buy store bought cocktail sauce and jazz it up, ditto w/hellmans mayo mixed w/ lemon zest, chives, small amount of pureed roasted garlic.

With that set out a bamboo tray w/ a wedge of mild creamy blue cheese and a side dish of pear chutney. Serve w/ water crackers. Don’t forget a cheese knife and tiny jam spoon.

If you are having vegetarians or vegans, put together a very small elegant crudite w/tiny carrots ( I leave the leafy green stem on and oh so briefly blanch), oven roasted baby bella mushrooms ( if they are large cut in 1/2 or quarters) drizzle w/ evo & sprinkle w/ grey sea salt, some steamed asparagus tips ( I prefer the thick ones) & some baby radishes. Roasted red pepper hummus is perfect.

Nothing that needs to be heated and passed around, thus taking away from your precious time! Just some light tasty treats that will take the edge off with out filling anyone up.

If you are unsure of what wine to pour while people are nibbling you can never go wrong with a good champagne (no not korbel) I mean a Veuve Clicquot or a Taittinger, good bubbly costs a few bucks, but is well worth it.

Get a stunning floral arrangement for the table, a few tiny plates & nice small linen cocktail napkins and you my friend are in business.

* Quick tip! Make sure to have a note pad and pen at hand so you can write down what you bought (and from where!) the cost, how it was received by your guests, what was leftover ( or not!) and any other ideas you may have come up with. Don’t believe for a second that you will actually keep all this in your head for the next go round.

** 21/25 refers to the count per lb. Figure on at least 4 -5 shrimp person.

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My Lunch with Julia

In light of all the recent hype of the upcoming movie ~Julie & Julia, I finally forced myself to start to read the book, sadly to say I have only got to page 146, after 2 weeks.  I usually tear through a book in a day or 2.

Thank god, I only spent $8.00 on a paperback. Well the jury is out on this until I actually plow my way through to the end,so until then, no comment.

It did get me to thinking of of when I met Julia Child, made her lunch, and had a cocktail with her. I was a young culinary student in Paris and the school I was attending often invited well known culinary genius’s to lunch. For fun. Not our fun mind you fun.

So, at school one day, Chef says we will have a guest or 2, fine, no problem. He says Victoria! pastry station. I crumble, I was terrible back then, had no patience for the art and science of pastry making, not any more, but woohoo that one got my blood moving. Chef Albert, our pastry chef, who secretly liked to squeeze my butt, said, oh shit, (merde) come here! He had a ball of dough, which he made a nipple on, said “Sophie Loren”, then he smacked it down flat! Said Sophie Lorens grandmother! Point being, he made me laugh, and relaxed me enough so I could not care less who I was cooking for.

Short, long story growing even longer..I was supposed to make a classic chocolate mousse, I thought, how many fucking ( though I never swore back then) chocolate mousses has she had to endure!

So, I went to my pantry, had made custard & genoise the day before, plus a framboise compote, so I made creme chantilly, crumbled genoise , drizzled w/ grand marnier, and topped w/ my compote between the layers, and fresh whipped cream. It was light, super delicious with just enough booze to make one say Hell Yah! An american bastardized version of trifle, who cares! It rocked.

Simone Beck snorted at me, fuck her. Julia Child was like , well that was truly delightful! If u have ever met met her, you would know that is something she would totally have said.

Then she said what part of Paris are you living in? I said the 7th arrondissment, 104 Rue De L’Universite! She said oh shit! Paul and I lived on Rue De  L’Universite ,  lets go to the corner tabac and have a glass, just us girls. ( If  you have ever met her Julia was not shy with her vocabulary!)

That was my lunch & conversation , my first, but not my last, with Julia Child! She urged me to go pound on James Beards door in Greenwich Village when I returned to New York. But alas by that time the man was quite ill and no longer involved in the culinary adventures of young students.

She was a class act. Never to been seen again! I am honoured to have fed her & traded quips. Sleep well, JC.

J.B.G. by Alizée

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While I sit here twiddling my thumbs until Top Chef Masters comes on at 10pm, she groans,  figured I may as well be some what productive. With Twitter over capacity and the fail whale popping up why not! In light of yesterdays over indulgence of cocktails, ouch, but ohh so enjoyable, started to compile a list of my fondest foodie flicks.  Requirements only need to be a great food or drink scene, and a cool musical soundtrack doesn’t hurt either.

So here we go, sorry if something did not make the “cut” so to speak, these are just my  personal pics.

Who is Killing the Great Chef’s of Europe?  Jaqeuline Bisset as a pastry chef & Eric Segal as a wannabe omelet fast food king = hilarious.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show, seconds on meatloaf anyone?

Rare Birds with William Hurt, Newfoundland, bird watching, failed restaurant, mountains of coke, no not the fizzy variety.

Uncle Buck with John Candy, who wouldn’t enjoy pancakes the size of a garbage can lid!

The Wedding Banquet, Ang Lee’s ode to the feast.

Bridget Jones Diary ~ blue soup, enough said.

Last Tango in Paris, butter will never be viewed the same.

Tampopo, dumplings anyone?

Simply Irresistible ~Sarah  Michelle Gellar out of her Buffy persona. Simply adorable.

Spanglish, Adam Sandler’s late night egg sandwich, yes!

Oliver ~ please sir can I have some more?

Pleasantville, Joan Allen making a TV breakfast to send one running for the lipitor.

Any food scene in Hogwarts Dining Hall ~ or ~ in Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, think I want candy.

Ratatouille ~ No, not any one can cook!

The Little Mermaid ~ Zoot alors! I have missed one!

Wine favs ~ Bottle Shock  and Sideways ~ both have amazing soundtracks.  I personally LOVE merlot!

Bizarre food movies ~ Delicatessen and Soylent Green.

The obvious choices ~ My Dinner with Andre ~ Big Night ~ Chocolat ( just for Johnny).

The cocktail that was responsible for this was : A shot of Absolut, a shot of St. Germain, a splash of cranberry juice, topped with very good Champagne. Ice Cold.

Leave Before The Lights Come On by Arctic Monkeys

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Time to bid a sad adieu to the wonderful & lovely Payard, in New York City.  They shut their doors last night. It was as close to a french pastry shop and cafe as one could get without crossing the pond to Paris. I have enjoyed many a delicious treat there and not just sweet, but savory too.

Due to a greedy landlord who wanted to raise the rent by almost 50%,  Francois just decided to throw in the proverbial towel a month early. They will be sorely missed.

The catering company “Tastings” remains up and running and is trying to absorb as many employees as it can. Hopefully, they will be able to relocate to more affordable digs.

Au Revoir, Payard!

Queen – Another One Bites The Dust

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Located in the heart of Brooklyn comes to you a new brainchild! From Patrick Martin, involved in the Slow Food Movement and now Heritage Foods USA.  He is broadcasting out of a funky backyard of  a restaurant with only 4 or 5 shows to date.

They will have features like “Urban Foraging” and all the shows will deal with some aspect of food and wine  including  interviews with local farmers, chefs, winemakers and others of that nature.

Tune In..


Pass your thoughts along as you listen!

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First up, The Wine Spectator magazine is doing a Video Contest! Whether you are a professional, amateur, or just a lover of all things wine, this is right up your alley!

Submit a  quick video that is  entertaining and educational about your favorite food and wine pairings.

Be adventurous! Creative! Red~ White ~ Zinfandel ~ Champagne. Have fun and just go for it.

http://www.WineSpectator.com/videocontest2009  # 212-481-8610 X1302

Good Luck!!

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Okay, here is a tip for those in the tri-state area or those planning a visit to NYC. There is a really cool club, little known, that hosts great artists and has wonderful food.

It is the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan.

http://www.highlineballroom.com  They have recently hosted Amanda Palmer, Patrick Wolf, The Plastiscines, The Lisps and many more. It is a venue  where you can sit or squish yourself up against the stage. Or do both!

In addition to great music, the food is not to shabby! Created by Ex Chef Eric Blauberg, he has some lovely little plates on the menu. Try the mahogany glazed lollypop chicken wings with spicy peanut cabbage slaw, or mini kobe beef burgers with cheddar cheese, potato straws & house made ketchup! Fancy a three cheese grilled sandwich with fresh tomato soup, it’s here.

And the drink menu is killer. Have a Highline: with wild turkey, honey, cointreau & lime juice. Or a Sundial: stoli, grand marnier, champange, lemon squeeze.

So, rock out, eat well, have a cocktail and go home happy. Hey, thats what life should be, right?

Accident & Emergency by Patrick Wolf

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Guinness & Chocolate!

Oh, this is good! Made a dark chocolate bar cookie with lots of sweet cream butter & topped with butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips, chunked scharfenberger chocolate, macadamia nuts ( sad to say we devoured the remainder of the jar before the cookies were even cool!) cream cheese, graham crackers, & drizzled with melted chocolate icing. WOW!

Even more amazing when paired with a Guinness 250th anniversary stout! If you have not had one yet, get thee to the local liquor store, as these super smooth & delicious treats will only be around for about another month! Then syanorra. So stock up now! If you love Guinness, this will take you there. Guinness & Chocolate a match made in heaven.

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