Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Only Julia Childs Could Lead Me Into Temptation

I try so hard to be good, and for the most part, I keep myself reigned in. Every now and then, however, I stumble and fall, and this time I did it in a big way.

I got a notice that a local shop/cooking School, Bodacious Shops, was doing a special Julia Childs dinner, a seven course dinner using genuine Julia Childs recipes.

“AdventureMan!” I shouted from my office to his, “AdventureMan, there is a Julia Childs Dinner at Bodacious Shops! They are using her recipes!”

“Book it!” shouts AdventureMan back from his office.

We miss France. We miss French food. We miss travel. We just moved, we have a house on the market, utility bills for two houses and projects for the newest house. We are masking and socially distancing to the point that we never eat in a restaurant, except two weeks ago when we ate outdoors at Flounders. Every item points away from an event like this, and we jumped in with both feet and never looked back.

When the day came, we were busy with normal family projects and a grandchild. When the grandchild got picked up, a storm was rolling in. I got in my nightgown, and settled in with a great book I am reading. At 5:47, AdventureMan called from his office “Don’t we have a dinner tonight?” and oh yes, and it started at 6:00.  LOL, we scrambled. We got there by 6:10, last ones to arrive but ten minutes could happen to anyone.

We were very correct, very socially distanced, and masked, except it was a dinner, so masks came off.

The dinner was delightful. It could have been all formal, but it wasn’t, and it was a lot of fun. Chef Nick is very funny as well as skilled and knowledgeable, and as it is more a presentation than a hands-on course, we didn’t get too messy.

We started with salmon mousse. It was divine. It was as good as anything I’ve had in France.

The next course was Vichysoisse. It was really good. I make Vichysoisse myself, and I am happy to say, this was very similar, tasty!

The next course is mussels, which we love. We eat mussels in the Pacific Northwest, and we eat mussels in France. We ate a memorable bowl of mussels in Dubrovnik. AdventureMan makes a mean dish of mussels steamed in white wine, seafood broth and garlic, so Chef Nick was up against a tough standard. The mussels were good, and I can’t eat mussels without using my fingers, so it was delicious – and messy.

We had a salad, and we had a sorbet, and then a little break before the main course, Boeuf Bourguignon.

I’m used to a little stewier beef burgundy, but I liked this one just fine. It was rich and textured, and had a lot of flavor. I was delighted that they kept the portions French-like, smaller. When food is well prepared and full of flavor, you don’t need to eat so much.

A little French cheese, a Compte and something very soft, a lot like Brie but it wasn’t.

Ummm, there was actually more of the Compte (top one) but I forgot and ate a couple pieces before I remembered to take a picture. Forgive me!

And the evening ended with a lovely very chocolatey chocolate mousse, served in a little pastry puff.

 

Balanced against the risk of eating out in a town where the positive rate for COVID is still hovering between 13% and 14%, we agreed that this was a relatively safe bet. This was not a real downtown restaurant, but a specialty shop were they do cooking classes and special events. The number of attendees was limited by the space, the spacing, and, frankly, by the price.

We felt safe. It was a group of people who love good food, who weren’t drinking too much or talking loudly. People respected the 6 foot rule and wore masks when not eating.

AdventureMan said it was a good risk and a good investment in another way, in that we didn’t have to take a plane or a boat to France.

So yes, it was a risk. And yes, some risks are worth taking.

August 15, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Chocolate, Civility, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, France, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant | , , | Leave a comment

Grown-Up Holiday Interlude

Mostly when we go to New Orleans, we have our grandchildren with us. We go to a family friendly hotel, we go to the Zoo, the Aquarium, maybe the Insectarium, we ride the cable cars, we eat food the kids like – pizza, sushi, crepes. Fortunately for us, they have developed a taste for French food, so we can take them to some places with decent food that we like, too.

But this time, we took a Grown-ups Getaway!

We had so many agendas, and we accomplished the most important – we had a wonderful time.

Our first stop was the Cafe Abyssinia, (3511 Magazine Street) for a combination of several vegetable dishes and lamb tips with injera, the fermented pancake-bread you use to eat the food with your fingers. It was so delicious, and so satisfying, and on the day after Christmas in New Orleans, it was easy to find a parking place.

After lunch, we needed a good walk, and what better place to walk – and shop – than Magazine Street, full of quirky shops with unique items. The funniest part was my husband wanting to visit a shop, Mayan Imports, which turned out to be a cigar shop (not his thing at all.) As we left, we noticed all the signs that said “Cigars” and it’s like we didn’t even see them as we were walking in. They were hard to miss.

Late in the afternoon we checked in to our hotel, and as soon as darkness fell, we went out to City Park to see the lights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish I could have caught all the dinosaurs at the front entrance for you. They were magnificent. We had no idea that City Park lights was such a big deal. There was a huge crowd, and for $28 you could buy tickets to ride all the rides all night. (Just admission was $10.) We had learned about City Park Lights as we waited to pick up our Christmas Eve dinner in a crowded restaurant, talking with another person who had preordered and was also waiting. Some pieces of information are pure gold!

An article I found online about the hottest restaurants to open in New Orleans in 2019 led us to Costera, a Spanish restaurant in the same space where we had once had Thai food, (4938 Prytania) near our favorite ice-cream place.

 

We got there early. It filled up fast, and no wonder. The food was fabulous. We had rapini, a broccoli-like vegetable, a beet salad, bread with a tomato smear and aioli lashings (out of this world good), duck in a rosemary sauce with mushrooms, and scallops on fideo, fideo being thin noodles with a tangy flavor. Each dish was mind-blowingly delicious. I loved the rapini, and I loved my scallops, but we shared everything and my husband’s duck was also as good as any duck we have ever eaten in France (sort of our standard for measuring) or anywhere else.

 

 

 

The food was light enough – we loved having tasty vegetables – that when we finished we walked over to Creole Creamery, just a couple doors down, where I had a small ball of bittersweet chocolate (intense and lovely) and my husband had a bittersweet chocolate fudge sundae.

 

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of our hotel as we returned; it is beautiful and elegant, The Park View.

Once inside, my husband had a glass of port before we went up to our room. The downstairs rooms are gorgeous; lavishly decorated for Christmas.

 

I shouldn’t show you this photo of our room; I should only let you see it all made up, but something about the morning light in this room compelled me to take the photo of the room in dishevelment, It’s beautiful anyway!

 

On! On! To our friend Henri, and Zito’s Plating and Polishing Works, where we have a nice visit and leave some treasures to his excellent magic.

 

We hit the mall in Metairie, a mall I really like because there are so many great seating areas. We often split up to shop, and when one finishes before the other, there are a lot of good, comfy places to sit and watch people while you are waiting.

And then, to finish our visit in a grand way, a visit to Drago’s, the original Drago’s, for their incomparable grilled oysters. Yes!

 

We are happy! We head home, content, satisfied, making conversation, falling silent, making more conversation. We have our best conversations when we are on long road trips together.

And one final photo, looking out over Mobile Bay before entering Florida:

I promise I will return to the trip, just getting ready to leave Bordeaux for the Dordogne and Auvergne. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed this short interlude.

December 27, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Chocolate, Christmas, Civility, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Pensacola, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Will Eat Every Bite, and You Will Smile”

We wander the streets, following Guido Brunetti’s path, and then wander back towards San Marco and our shuttle back to the hotel. We’ve spent the day wandering, on foot and on vaporetto, and we are beginning to feel a need for a nap before dinner. Wandering in Venice is sheer delight:

 

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When we get to where the shuttle is supposed to be, there are, literally, hundreds of touristy looking people, and fortunately, several Viking people. We ask about the shuttle back, and they say it will come in half an hour. We head for the nearest cafe and check to make sure it has a ladies room, which it does, but oh-my-goodness, no seat, no lid, and a pull thing to flush, just like the old days when we lived in Germany when I was a kid.  These people know the value of location – take a look at the prices.

 

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The waiter was shocked! Shocked! when we asked for ice cream. No! No! Never in October! (LOL, we didn’t know!) I ordered a coffee and AdventureMan ordered a Tiramisu.

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The Tiramisu was fabulous, everything we have dreamed of so long. It had liqueur in it! It had that unforgettable taste!

 

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We tell a story in my family of our first trip to Italy, when I was 15 and my sisters were younger. It was my Mother’s birthday, and at the hotel where we were staying, they presented her with a surprise birthday cake. It was all so lovely and so gracious. My Mother cut the cake and the waiters brought pieces of it to us, and then, as my mother bit into her piece, she grimaced – the cake was soaked with liqueur. She told my father in a low voice, and he looked at us girls, with a fixed smile that told us he meant business and said “You will eat every bite, and you will smile.”

We were raised to be gracious, and to have grateful hearts. I don’t remember being so all-full-of-gratitude at the time, but I grew to like the Italian style. and didn’t realize how much I had missed it until I tasted this REAL tiramisu.

I remember that also, very graciously, after we had each eaten our piece, even my little 6 year old sister, choking down that liqueur soaked cake, my mother asked the management to please share the joy of her birthday by sharing the rich cake with all the employees and guests (it was a large cake).

November 15, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Chocolate, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Humor, Italy, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Travel, Venice, Women's Issues | | Leave a comment

Stacey’s Fountain in Foley, AL

After we had lunch at 7 Spices (see below) in Mobile, we decided to take a Spring drive – yes, yes, it is spring now and then in FloraBama – and we head down to a place we love, Fairhope, AL, and then through Foley, AL to get to the beach road coming back in through Perdido Key. This route takes us right past a blast-from-the-past, an ice cream parlor so old timey it’s hard to believe it still exists.

Stacey’s Fountain is along highway 98 coming into Foley from Fairhope:

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Here is the menu. The sandwiches and the sundaes are old fashioned, in small containers, not all super-sized like today. We each had an ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce and felt like we hadn’t hurt ourselves too badly.

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February 23, 2015 Posted by | Chocolate, Food, Living Conditions, Road Trips | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fruitcakes and the Sun is Not Over the Yardarm

It is a nice, cool, wonderful day in late October, and today I am going to make the annual fruitcakes with my Mom’s old recipe. I always set a target date of 31 October, and try to make them somewhere in that week so they will have time to mellow in the refrigerator.

The recipe is my Mother’s, although she says she barely recognizes the result. I can remember as a little girl in Alaska sitting at the kitchen table and cutting dates with scissors, taking the seeds out and cutting the rest into pieces, and then the prunes. For a long time I was not fond of dates or prunes, LOL! They were STICKY!

Now, dates and prunes come in packets already pitted, and you can even buy date pieces (I don’t) so you don’t have to cut them up. The Cuisinart does a great job, makes all that cutting into small pieces a 10 second task. It takes longer to load and clean the Cuisinart than it takes to chop the dates and prunes.

I watch the stores for the candied cherries and citron, and use a lot. After all, it’s supposed to be a FRUITcake, isn’t it? The first one is ready by Thanksgiving. I make a few larger ones to use during the holidays, and several smaller ones to give as gifts, but only to people who really like fruitcake and won’t use it as a doorstop. They are dense, and heavy as bricks, LOL.

Yesterday, AdventureMan brought home a couple of his friends from the garden club. Wouldn’t you know, I had just poured a bottle of brandy over the raisins and microwaved them to soak overnight, so the raisins in the fruit cake would be plump and tasty. As they all walked in, the house reeked of brandy. I could imagine them wondering if Adventureman’s wife was hitting the bottle that early in the day. Not only was the sun not over the yardarm, but wasn’t even near.

I hope to have them all baked and wrapped and stored by tonight.

UPDATE: Mission accomplished 🙂

October 27, 2012 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Chocolate, Christmas, Cooking, Cultural, Generational | 2 Comments

Dubai Easter Camel

LLOOLL, saw this in the Dubai Airport and could not resist taking a photo. I would have loved to bring some back for Easter basket surprises on Easter morning, but they are surprisingly bulky, as much fun as they are:

March 25, 2010 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Chocolate, Cross Cultural, Easter, Holiday, Humor, Travel | Leave a comment

Dr. Kessler and The Power of a Chocolate Chip Cookie

This is an excerpt from an article in The New York Times; Health and you can read the whole article by clicking on the blue type. Dr. Kessler has written a book about how food is engineered to be irresistible. Yes, we all need to develop a little self-discipline. And yes, the decks are stacked against us.

Did you know that almost the entire taste of a potato chip is on it’s surface, designed to give you an immediate impact of taste?

This article talks about Dr. Kessler’s new book, and it’s implications for our food choices:
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(photo from Bon Appetit magazine chocolate chip cookie and strawberry gelato sandwiches)

As head of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. David A. Kessler served two presidents and battled Congress and Big Tobacco. But the Harvard-educated pediatrician discovered he was helpless against the forces of a chocolate chip cookie.

In an experiment of one, Dr. Kessler tested his willpower by buying two gooey chocolate chip cookies that he didn’t plan to eat. At home, he found himself staring at the cookies, and even distracted by memories of the chocolate chunks and doughy peaks as he left the room. He left the house, and the cookies remained uneaten. Feeling triumphant, he stopped for coffee, saw cookies on the counter and gobbled one down.

“Why does that chocolate chip cookie have such power over me?” Dr. Kessler asked in an interview. “Is it the cookie, the representation of the cookie in my brain? I spent seven years trying to figure out the answer.”

The result of Dr. Kessler’s quest is a fascinating new book, “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite” (Rodale).

During his time at the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Kessler maintained a high profile, streamlining the agency, pushing for faster approval of drugs and overseeing the creation of the standardized nutrition label on food packaging. But Dr. Kessler is perhaps best known for his efforts to investigate and regulate the tobacco industry, and his accusation that cigarette makers intentionally manipulated nicotine content to make their products more addictive.

In “The End of Overeating,” Dr. Kessler finds some similarities in the food industry, which has combined and created foods in a way that taps into our brain circuitry and stimulates our desire for more.

When it comes to stimulating our brains, Dr. Kessler noted, individual ingredients aren’t particularly potent. But by combining fats, sugar and salt in innumerable ways, food makers have essentially tapped into the brain’s reward system, creating a feedback loop that stimulates our desire to eat and leaves us wanting more and more even when we’re full.

Dr. Kessler isn’t convinced that food makers fully understand the neuroscience of the forces they have unleashed, but food companies certainly understand human behavior, taste preferences and desire. In fact, he offers descriptions of how restaurants and food makers manipulate ingredients to reach the aptly named “bliss point.” Foods that contain too little or too much sugar, fat or salt are either bland or overwhelming. But food scientists work hard to reach the precise point at which we derive the greatest pleasure from fat, sugar and salt.

The result is that chain restaurants like Chili’s cook up “hyper-palatable food that requires little chewing and goes down easily,” he notes. And Dr. Kessler reports that the Snickers bar, for instance, is “extraordinarily well engineered.” As we chew it, the sugar dissolves, the fat melts and the caramel traps the peanuts so the entire combination of flavors is blissfully experienced in the mouth at the same time.

Foods rich in sugar and fat are relatively recent arrivals on the food landscape, Dr. Kessler noted. But today, foods are more than just a combination of ingredients. They are highly complex creations, loaded up with layer upon layer of stimulating tastes that result in a multisensory experience for the brain. Food companies “design food for irresistibility,” Dr. Kessler noted. “It’s been part of their business plans.”

June 24, 2009 Posted by | Chocolate, Customer Service, Food, Health Issues, Marketing, Shopping, Social Issues | | 1 Comment

Northpole Goodies

In an e-mail I received this week, a friend had a loooonnnnggggg list of Candy and Cookie recipes for the upcoming Christmas season. Purely out of curiousity, I clicked a few – and wow. These recipes are quick, delicious, and easy.

I don’t think there is a nutritious recipe in the whole website! All the recipes are for sweets! Here is just a partial selection from the Pies department:

I admit it, I am not that vulnerable to candy, but chocolate truffles are my downfall – and I am going to have to try their chocolate truffle recipe!

Here is the website: North Pole Kitchen Cookbook.

Have fun!

October 12, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Chocolate, Christmas, Cooking, Food | 7 Comments

Craving Chocolate? Indulge!

You can read the entire article at BBC Health News, by clicking on this blue type.

Trying to cut out all thoughts of your favourite, fattening food may actually make you eat more, claims research. Women who tried to stop thinking about chocolate ate 50% more than those who were encouraged to talk about their cravings.

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(Photo courtest Virtual Chocolate.com)

This “rebound” effect could also apply to smokers, say the Hertfordshire University authors in Appetite journal.

Experts at Weight Watchers said a “varied diet” was the best way to lose weight.

Dr James Erskine, who led the project, recruited 134 students who were asked to either suppress all thoughts about chocolate, or talk about how much they liked it.

They were then asked to choose from two brands of chocolate, believing that it was this choice that was being recorded by the researchers.

However, the quantity they ate was recorded instead.

Women who had tried to suppress their cravings ate on average eight chocolates, while those who had talked freely about it ate five.

Men did not show the same effect, with the group told to talk about the snack eating more.

The article continues HERE.

October 23, 2007 Posted by | Chocolate, Diet / Weight Loss, Experiment, News | 7 Comments

Nanaimo Bars – A Cool Weather Treat

Nanaimo Bars – a Pacific Northwest Speciality
Makes about 25 small squares

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Mom sent me several recipes for these, but this is the one that works – except In Florida, Doha, Kuwait, etc where the climate is hot.These are truly a Pacific Northwest specialty; they melt too easily in heat and humidity! On a cool day – or in a seriously air conditioned house – you can make these incredibly delicious treats.

Bottom Layer:
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1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

Middle Layer:
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1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 Tablespoons whipping cream
2 Tablespoons vanilla-custard powder (pudding)
2 cups powdered sugar

Top Layer:
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4 squares (1 oz. each) semisweet chocolate
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1. For bottom layer, melt butter, granulated sugar and cocoa powder together in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Add the egg and stir constantly until thickened, about 2 – 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir into graham cracker crumbs, coconut and almonds. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 x 8 inch pan.

2. For middle layer, cream butter, whipping cream, vanilla custard powder and powdered sugar together. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

3. For top layer, melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. When cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator about 15 minutes, then cut into bars. (These bars can be made 3 – 4 days in advance and kept covered and refrigerated.)

October 18, 2007 Posted by | Chocolate, Cooking, ExPat Life, Recipes | 8 Comments