cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Autumn Falls Early--so the menu reads

Adieu adieu a toi ma soeur! Tu es mon meilleure amie, mais au meme temps l'epine dans ma pied! Ah je t'aime, et j'espere que tu ca sais. J'ai vu cette pomme tomber a la terre, c'est jusqu'a Automne, et l'heure de dire au revoir.

As my sister R's days of summer wane, and the sentiment of a new school year draws near, I begin to realize I shan't be seeing her again until nearly July. And it unsettles me. But a year is nothing. However, I am now beginning to feel that this is the beginning of how things will come to pass. It is unrealistic to imagine spending every holiday with family year after year. Unrealistic to imagine always returning to my parents house for summer holiday. Yes, when we graduate high school we are told we are 'off to the real world' that is college. That phrase is a wash. The truth is, there is nothing 'real world' about college. Paid dorm, meal plan, residence life community and staff, packages from home--I remember doing this all before, it was at girl scout camp. The American college is boarding school for the big boys. For how long are you 'on your own' really? Thanksgiving holiday, winter holiday, spring holiday--one is never away from home for more than 3 months! The American college is summer camp with beer and the guise of self-enhancement. But when will I not be back at my parent's every summer? When will my life not be seasonal? I'll answer that rhetorical prose for you: it's not a manner of when or a snap of the finger, but rather a progression. Seeing my sister off to the airport on her way back to school is a turning point: I will miss this Christmas, she will most likely miss the next, and then the next? Who will be absent two years from now? What will I be doing--perhaps back in Paris? There are none yet in the know. Holidays are not religious for me, I view change as a necessity, and yet the thought of missing something I've done for the past 21 years wraps me in a chill. Regardless of it all, change is good. Frightening yes, but what can we say is not. Excitement and fright are cousins often mistaken for one another. Instead of a mournful departure, make it bitterly sweet. With a four course meal. The farewell menu reads: Autumn Falls Early. A preview for transition. In the poetic version Autumn represents change, "turning over a new leaf" literally eh? It always represents moving on, which is simultaneously a thrill and a moment of lament. This dinner is for Fall, to make up for all the Autumnal meals we shall be missing with each other; life happens around the table. So apple, maple, honey, and nuts--fall flavors to usher in the excitement of a season we love to hate.

Lentil Soup with Saucicon


Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Brussels Sprouts in a Maple Glaze


Warm Honey Vinaigrette with apples and chevre


New Hampshire Pie & Apple Crumble

For me, lentils exude the idea of October. The aroma of thyme is a premonition for the holiday season a few months away, a sort of tease that fills the house with the idea of Thanksgiving. This lentil soup is Ina Garten's and is found in Barefoot in Paris. Lacking in a few of Ina's ingredients, I substituted kielbasa with turkey sausage, and added tarragon as my second herb (its French lentil soup ain't it?) Perfect starter for the lighter main that followed.

To sneak in the last bit of summer into the meal, we do seafood: sea scallops seared in maple for the autumnal tie in. Lightly pan-sear the scallops on each side, and reserve glaze to sauté the Brussels sprouts in. The salad course is warm: frisee leaves with tart apples {here come the apples, you know 'the fall harvest'} crumbled goat cheese, walnuts, and a honey vinaigrette courtesy of Michael Chiarello {At Home with Michael Chiarello}. Wine cuts in here, whites {well the main is seafood} For dessert, apple crumble--the September fare--and New Hampshire pie.

Scallop Maple Glaze
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch cinnamon & cloves
Honey Vinaigrette
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 tbsp diced shallot
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
Now I know you are wondering what this "New Hampshire Pie" is, I always do when there is no mention of ingredients in the title. The inspiration for this was found in Laura Brody's Maple Seven Layer Bars (in The New England Table). My pie is of similar ingredients, however, there really isn't any maple in it. From the beginning I faltered, (I can never stay with a recipe) I made a thin pie crust of oats, rice flour, and butter, that was pressed into a 9 inch cake round. Baked until golden, the crust was then smothered with toppings and baked again until bubbling and brown. The pie emerged rich and crisp with a creme brulee style facade. The pie is so named for no particular reason, (as the state food is a pumpkin, and the mother recipe was found in the Vermont section of the book), I just felt it should be dubbed such. Perhaps a premonition that many New Hampshire-ans would find it tasty. I have never been to New Hampshire, but as the state boasting the largest percentage of French-Canadian immigrants and descendants in the nation, I think I might like it. Indeed if anything then a possible future home for the Salty Cod Bakery.

New Hampshire Pie:
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp zanthum gum
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350. Combine the flour, oats, soda, gum, and sugar. Add melted butter, and stir until incorporated. Using fingers, press firmly into bottom and sides of a buttered 9 inch cake round. Bake for approximately 10 minutes until golden. Leave oven on. Layer in hot crust first 1 cup of butterscotch chips, 1 cup chopped walnuts, 1 cup chocolate chips, 1/2 cup peanuts, and 1 cup shredded coconut. Drizzle with 5 tbsp spiced pear syrup (just use maple). Poor 1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk evenly over top, sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for additional 20 minutes.

R I will miss you, but as Autumn and a bitter sweetness, so do our varying departures. Excitement of the year ahead out ways the sadness, for we have years and years to relay back and forth all the findings of each impending year. Paris may be this particular year, but I will have you to talk to for all the years when Paris is just a memory. Fall is here and we are moving on, and I must say, I very much like the taste.

A bientôt

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Un Post du Rien

It is not that I havn't been cooking...I really have set about a little. But what I've been able to scrape out of the oven has not been post worthy. Whole wheat maple scones tasted like...whole wheat. And the gluten free cranberry banana bread emerged like a sunken soufle. Gluten free baking is more difficult than one would imagine. All of this, and i'm reformating my laptop. Alas, my pictures are trapped on the camera. I had imagined that not having class would provide me all the time in the world to tinker in la cuisine, but no. There is the job. The blasted job that sucks not only the 6-7 hours it requires of me daily, but the rest of the day as well. The few free hours before noon are stained by the looming hours ahead. I have no evenings. Period. Let the countdown begin: two weeks to this day and I leave the confines of the immaculate yet sticky ice cream parlor with its youthful staff of minors. Babysitting will soon be over. Well, to be fair there are exceptions (my buddies J, H, and E). I admit to sounding comme un Scrouge; an old man in the corner with walking stick and brandy grumbling about the lack of musical taste of "kids theses days." Alors, I do beleive that is how they percieve me. I have a nasty habbit of acting as la mere, I do it to them as well as my younger sister K. Oftentimes I beleive they are afraid of me; the warden. But they are my new little siblings. So I will miss them.

On the subject of ice cream, I must say I am at the cash register a lot spouting to the customers the eybrow raising total of their outrageously expensive ice cream they have just purchased. Though the prices are clearly posted behind my head, the shocked look of dissaproval at such a scandal is not only universal, but expected. There are 4 sums that stand out, as our prices are set and there really can only be so many combinations. The 4 most popular combination: 3 small waffle cones come to a total of 15.96, 3 sugar cones and a small waffle amount to 14.92, 2 sugars and a small waffle require 11.72, and 2 small waffles come to 10.64. Alors, the point is that if you look at these numbers as dates, then the mundane ping of the cash box begins to sound like a history lesson. 1492 is a bit tiresome, however. Every customer (well, not every) chimes back at me "...Columbus sailed the ocean blue!" How charmant.

How clever those primary school teachers are in instilling knowledge in the minds of the nation's youth with their rhymes. I smile and say very good, and then also non chalantly bring up other events in said year; such as the Reconquista of Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella with the Edict of Expulsion that outlawed the region's 200,000 Jews. I am flooded with memories of History 112. Most just meekly smile, but those that are interested keep me going...oh and then it is their folly, for shutting me up is a challenge. However no one gives a damn about 1596. So I spend my minutes inbetween ice cream patrons solving the issue. Mais j'ai trouve rien. 1596 was one of those years that boasted little; a few arctic voyages, some Dutch port bombings, and a ferryboat trajically crashes in Paris. Though the Austrian occupation of Calais does spark some memory as well as interest, the year was quite a pastille. Merde. 1064, I assure myself, has to have been a year for the books, full of politics and power. Not quite. While the year did mark the beginning of Turkish interest and excursions into Anatolia, nothing of striking prominance occured. My magical dates are drawing me blanks, Columbus I will have you yet! My last hope: (not a jedi) 1172, a year, to my dismay, that is catalogued in the Annals of the Worcester Priory as a "year in which nothing memorable happened." Alas! Mon dieu I am defeated, je n'ai pas du chance. Oh well Columbus you win this round. I will just take the money and count out the change.

Euh, there are recipes in the future though. These duds will be attempted again, suffering defeat at the hands of a muffin--unspeakable! I will continue to convert dollar amounts into dates, hoping to stumble apon a good year, until my final hours. My summer job is here aqcuiring mythic description; it really isn't that bad, I have a flair for the dramatics, though I am sure you have garnered as much. But these years now I am stuck with, their trivial events won't seem to leave me. As such I am expectant that their legacies will be found somewhere instilled in the decor and ambiance of the Salty Cod. Keep with me on the countdown.

A Bientot

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

See Seattle When the Fish Don't Fly

You've seen it. The Seattle this world loves to see. Every food and travel show dives into the same joints: Pike Place Market, the first Starbucks, Pioneer Square, the Space Needle, and my favorite Emerald City cliche--the ferry boats. Yes my friends I give you Seattle. It has always been there for me, but always just there. Taken for granted. The portal for when there is somewhere I need to go, someone I need to see, never just itself. Have I taken this iconic city for granted? Missed my chances to discover the real Seattle? Failed to sip a latte on every corner? Have I not done Seattle? Here is the scandalous truth: I have never been to or in the Space Needle, I have never bought a flying fish from the public market, and I have never penetrated the bouncer worthy crowd wriggling like netted tuna in futile attempts to enter the legendary coffee shop. But do I need to? I know they are there, passed by, observed, tucked the images away as static features of the scenery. Ferries are transportation, basal elements of necessity for we the island and peninsula dwellers. So there they have been, and as I prepare to leave the country, I decide to pay tribute to my birth city, to fall in line with the thronging out of towners and tour, just tour. Sperry's on and Nikon at the ready, we do Seattle--noting the famous food finds, and thinking back on all those collectively we have experienced throughout the years. You've seen Rachel, Giada, those bastard Dean Brothers, and Bordain--the only one with a brain--but now you see me. And Rachel, you got nothing on me. Nothing.

Ah we will leave at 10 a.m. Can we catch the 10:45? No, not today. Why does my hair take so long. 11:30 we make. 35 minutes--we dock. First up: coffee. I've only had one cup, pick a Starbucks, any Starbucks. But no, why not find another joint, another "Seattle coffee". Through pioneer square we go, strolling gaily in search of our mom and pop. Well, there are dozens. We pick a bright one, with a back door and umbrellas. Organic, how quaint. Yet you taste the same. Hmmm. What's next--ah shopping. An interesting phenomenon occurs upon entry into any bookshop in any part of the nation, deja vu. For as much as I love books, and beleive me of my lust, I cannot help but feel that the amount of bookshops I have visited pales only in number to the amount of restrooms I have toured. I have seen many of those. Shopping seems to all blend together in the end; that picture frame is lovely, it would sit well next to the last dozen we saw. Is it time for the food yet? Welcome my friends to the International District, home of the super sized Asian grocery market Uwajimaya.

This is a grocery store. Fruits, vegetables, cereal, and chips--as well as packed seaweed, frozen quail eggs, dried suction cups, sake aisles, and a steady hum of conversations in Japanese. Only here does the air forever smell simultaneously of soy sauce and floor wax. Don't be fooled by the foreign charm of "imports"--there is nothing cheep about Uwajimaya. That Hello Kitty card box costs as much as any other. The produce is phenomenal, here you find the specialty roots, the hard to find spices and Pacific delicacies foreign to the shelves of our paltry Albertsons and Safeways. What to buy at Uwajimaya; white rabbit coconut candies, sake in a fish shaped bottle (it must be a cod I tell myself) and sushi for lunch. Mind you not that bland California vegetarian crap, but real sushi, packed with as much crab, roe, and salmon tartar as possible. To sit in the food court surrounded by sizzling woks, under rows of hanging paper lanterns, and adjacent to greasy windows housing some specie of whole-fried bird complete with head is a wonderfully comforting experience. We share our sushi, it is gone too fast. And my face is now sweaty, as I am ashamedly a very sensitive spice wimp, and even the smallest amount of wasabi is a rush. Enough of our "China town", it is time for more coffee.

The walk across downtown from the International District to the public market is the most familiar. On it we pass the infamous dines featured on television and in travel guides. We pass Salumi, the sausage shop made famous by the shop owner's son, Mario Batalli. Bourdain paid the charcuterie a visit, lunching on slabs of meat with the owners before heading to the beach for a fresh caught dinner of goeuoyduck. Ivars seafood bar--dinner before every Mariners baseball game, "keep clam" is the slogan, bubbling chowder and battered halibut are as Seattle as it gets. Rachel Ray had some fries there, I beleive. Before her visit to Agua Verde in the U-District, where, I must say, the best halibut tacos are to be found. I promise I will get to the market, or rather the zoo in a more proper sense.

No one is buying produce. No one is buying fish. They are just looking, looking and taking pictures. I can't breath. How can this many people fit in here? I want to be screaming fire code violation. But this is the fun of it eh? The soul of the market, I will beat you to the best flower bouquet (which I do--I always get the best--straight from the flower lady's hand, the Barbie pink bouquet thank you). We take our time, sampling the honey, graciously accepting the peach sliver offered on the edge of the vendor's knife. The meat on a stick truly is the best.

Across the street from the market is the location of the first Starbucks. Now they serve the same coffee as they do in the other five thousand Starbucks around the world; but this one is special. This one has the original logo, original lights and counters, and this one has a line sprawling the length of the market. A 45 minute wait for a latte. By the size of the crowd one would expect to find a raucous celebrity studded night club inside. Nah, I think we'll go get a cup at the bucks a block over.

The ferry ride back to the Island at the days end was particularly enjoyable; I realized my absolute favorite aspect of the city: seeing it shrink away as the ferry pulls away from it. It consolidates, becomes intimate, a package by the see all palatable in one glance. It seems to perch on the edge of the sound, almost as if it emerged from the sea. This is how i like Seattle, this view from the ferry as head home to my blackberry bushes, suburban roads and country neighborhoods. I love Seattle because it is there. It is always there. I have a city when I need it, but only when I need it. I don't need a trip to the Space Needle, a fondness for grunge, and a ride on the touring Duck mobile to know the city, I have my city; my backdrop city that symbolizes the view from home, and will always be home.

Rick Steves I dare you to top that. And for the rest of you, my readers, next time you are on the Best Coast, take a trip to Seattle and visit all those traps of legend, and if superfluous rides on ferries amuses you, then by all means I urge you to indulge. Now what you should do when you get to the other side is beyond me. I suppose get back on. Unless you'd like to stay for dinner.

A bientôt

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Lovely Little Lamingtons

I have recently finished reading a memoir by an Australian ex patriot struggling to adjust to a new life in Paris. The read turned out to be more than just a journal trailing after the author's personal experiences, it evolved into a psychological deconstruction of the city; delving into the highs and lows encrusted in Paris' centuries old aura. Offered raw and stripped of their guild, the true tones of the city are exposed--the beauty, the flaws, and the secrets. The New York Times best seller Almost French, by journalist Sarah Turnbull, is a preview for life in Paris--a preview both exhilarating and worrisome. Reading of the countless cafes and bistros to visit, the never ending lanes of fresh market stalls and glittering boutiques to roam, and the undiscovered pockets and alleys of the less glamorous and forgotten quartiers to explore has left me with a restlessness that can be appeased only by the long in coming arrival of 14 September. A commentary on what to expect, Sarah's tales have, if anything, made me more certain than ever of my conviction and need to go as well as instilled in me a flutter of new nerves. The city, as she describes it, is a minefield in which every step must be carefully chosen and played so as to abide by the unwrit regles du ville. One such rule is the superficial, yet highly crucial upkeep of appearance.

Early one morning Sarah's boyfriend pleads her to be "fair" to the baker and trade her track suit casuals for slacks and a blouse. Uh huh. Personal upkeep is an omnipresent necessity for Parisians, a necessity that foreigners are expected to adhere to as a proffering of "respect" for the scenery. I admit my secret joy upon reading these words, I agree with the Parisians on the importance of personal upkeep as a sign of respect, for I maintain my life-long aversion to the American trend of wearing sweat suits and the like out of the confines of ones home. There is no less comfort in wearing jeans or trousers to stroll the aisles of a market, or sit through an hour long class lecture than there is in wearing floppy gray sweat bottoms. And I can find no need for one to ever wear runners when one is not running, that is why man created leather. No I will not keep my opinionated insecurities to myself, this is my blog. I say Parisian for the city exists in a world of its own; an island floating landlocked and impervious to the vast difference that is the rest of the country. To a Parisian, there are the French, and then there are the Parisians. Regardless of my own style convictions which, I admit, pale and fade in their conservative tones and cuts to the sleek and haughty cotour of the native Parisians, I find style as a rule superficial and insensitive to individuality and personal choice. But who am I to question another culture's inner workings--as the saying goes, if you don't like it, leave. So put some pants on.

Overall Sarah's insights appear helpful; warnings of the difficulties of foreign acceptance, the language barrier (ah oui, I suppose there is a difference between my textbook French and the vrai langue francais), the laundry list of people and places to visit, and the warning of falling madly in love with the entire package: the streets, dogs, people, smells, sounds, and feel.

As a dedication to Sarah, and an admittedly strange gesture of appreciation for my overall liking of the book, I decided to bake a treat that has been on my to-bake list for weeks: Australian Lamington cakes in tribute to the author's homeland. How thoughtful I am, I know.

Lamingtons are defined as any variety of cake--sponge, pound, or butter--cut into cubes, dipped in a chocolate icing, and then rolled in coconut. Traditionally they are served with a creme fraiche or jam sauce, or just plain. The equivalent to French croissant and American muffin, Lamingtons are statically found in coffee shops and bakeries throughout the nation. The confection is often the crux of tea receptions following naturalization and citizenship ceremonies. I henceforth dub said confection the patriotic kiwi cube, as Australian as Apple pie is American. Like most dishes that boast a national sentiment, the Lamington is wrought with an Urban legend as convoluted as any. Word has it that the cake derives its name from Charles Cochrane Baillie, the Second Baron Lamington of Queensland. Mind you the second. How the cake came to his honor is under wide dispute, one account attributes the incident to a government dinner party when Lord Lamington accidentally plopped a piece of cake in a gravy pot, ill mannered as he was, the Lord proceeded to chuck the gravy soaked cube over his shoulder whence it landed in a tin of coconut. The gravy was later replaced by a chocolate icing. Another account attributes the cakes creation to a savvy manor chef, who, overwhelmed by an abundance of stale plain cakes, invented the recipe to make the cake palatable. Still another merely draws the connection to a similarity in appearance with the Lord's favorite style of hat. Nevertheless, what is unanimously agreed upon is the Lamington's disapproval of his namesake pastry, he is remembered for having referred to them as "bloody poofy woolly buiscuits." Mine certainly are quite woolly.

To begin, I awoke early and proceeded with a gluten free batch, and a normal batch. Surprisingly--and undoubtedly for the first time--the gluten free batch surpassed the wheat flour with high marks. The former was an adaption of the recipe by the Kiwi food blogger, Bron Marshall. The later was an anonymous recipe from an evidently non Australian chef, as it broke into crumbly pieces upon its acquaintance with the chocolate icing. The coconut to be used is actually dessicated coconut, which to my naivety is different from shredded coconut. It worked non the less, an added sweetness. Although mincing the shredded coconut would have aided the appearance--less woolly. Bron's recipe was definitely a sponge, as it called predominately for eggs and no butter. The result was a dense, yet airy sponge that yielded few crumbs and held tightly to fork and absorbed the perfect amount of icing. The other, well lets just say I have created a new recipe--Lamington puddding. A clear sign of gluten free superiority.

Gluten Free Lamingtons:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup gluten free baking mix (I used Pamela's Kitchen)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
Beat eggs (whole eggs, not just whites) in electric mixer 6-8 minutes, until creamy. Add sugar until incorporated. Sift flour and bp in separate bowl, and gently fold into egg and sugar mix. Pour into greased and floured square or rectangle baking tin. Bake in a preheated 350 degree over for 20 minutes, or until done (tooth pick tested) cool completely on rack, and then cut into cubes.

Chocolate icing
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 tbsps butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • coconut
Melt butter in small sauce pan, add milk. In another bowl sift sugar and cocoa, add butter and milk mixture. Using a fork, skewer the sponge cubes and submerge in icing until coated. Let drip the excess, then roll in coconut. Let dry on wax paper.

The wheat flour batch, though a complete disaster, did not go uneaten. After polluting my remaining icing with bits of the crumbling cake, I decided to throw the massing pieces back into the square baking pan of their birth. Already gritty mass that resembled turkey stuffing, I smashed them down bread pudding style, and to moisten mixed milk, melted butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar and proceeded to soak. The remaining chocolate icing was then spread thickly on top, and layered with coconut. Refrigerate overnight, pop in the oven the next morning, and voila! You have lovely Lamington pudding for breakfast. Never waste, and never make it look like an accident.

A recipe in honor of an author's homeland--hey whatever inspires. Lamingtons are delightfully simple, and are sure to impress a crowd. Whether or not Sarah's account will hold true of Paris--we shall see. The journalist's experience will be played against the students. Either way await my departure. As of now Sarah and I undoubtedly share a common link, as she states: "On the stress-factor scale, encounters with the French bureaucracy send the needle soaring into the red. Living legally in France requires a breathtaking amount of paperwork, and getting it all in order requires inhuman reserves of patience, not to mention a second life of spare time." Preach it sister, preach it. I need another Lamington, but with milk or merlot is the question.

A bientôt

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Little More Tart a Little Less Tatin

The traditional tarte tatin is the French equivalent to the classical pineapple upside down cake. Apple tarts can be found gracing the desert menus of nearly every restaurant and and cafe in the country. Typically it is served with either an ice cream or creme fraiche, but the mark of a truly divine tarte is when it is perfect sans embellishments. Made inversely in the pan, (similar to the pineapple upside down) a caramel sauce coats the bottom side of the pan, followed by apples, and then a thin pastry crust on top. My desire to create a tart on this uncharacteristically warm morning sprang first from being greeted by a clean kitchen (ha ha!) and second from my daily visit to my routine food blogs. Bea of La Tartine Gourmande indulged her readers with photos of a savory sweet apricot tart. The simplicity of a tart is astounding, yet the finished product demands respect and admiration, the quint essential physical representation of minimalistic beauty. Crust, a fruit or custard filling, and either a glaze or topping is all that is required in a tart. The crust was graciously borrowed from Bea, and the rest was of my own.This recipe, though not a tart tatin, is my French Apple Tart.

Crust is the crux of any pastry confection; a bad or chewy crust ruins the pallet for anything the filling has to offer. In tarts, a thin light and crispy crust is the bakers aim. Tart dough is traditionally a blend of flour, butter, sugar, and milk. Bea, however took the tart a step further, introducing variant flours and fats. This dough, though for a sweet tart, contains quinoa flour and olive oil, a little spice of savoriness that marries well the tangy apples and sweet caramel. My fruit basket hosted a bounty of pommes verts today, and as such they scored the leading role. (Yana this recipes is for the pair of us; unrivaled apple connoisseurs.) The tarte tatin is apples coated in a caramel sauce, this variation is the inverse. A thin caramel sauce is brushed over the raw pastry dough and then layered with thin apple slices. Atop the apples, what else could be paired but crushed walnuts. To seal the the filling, the remaining caramel sauce as well as a generous amount of honey is drizzled over the top and baked until bubbly. Perfection from little.

Tarts and tartlets are versatile to the extent of virtually any imaginable ingredient. The French prefer apples, while others pineapple, and even others fish or potatoes. There is no end to tart innovation, just the range of the bakers ability and creativity. Instead of ordering a tart at a restaurant make one yourself. It will impress to degrees that far exceed other confectionery genres. Tart pans are kitchen essentials, but do not let the want of one deter you, smooth muffin tins are just as able. Improvising in end produces a shinier gem.

A word of caution though, do not overwork the dough!

Bea's olive oil tart dough: (with small variations)
  • 1.25 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flour
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Mix dry ingredients together in electric mixer with dough paddle, add olive oil and mix until crumbly. Gradually add water until dough completely pulls away from walls in a ball. Let sit at room temperature for at least on hour. Roll out and line tart pan(s).

Tart filling:
  • 2 large apples (any, for this I used granny smith)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3tbsps butter
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup crushed almonds
  • 1/4 cup honey
In a small saucepan heat brown sugar and water, swirl around until bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in butter until dissolved. Brush caramel on bottom and side of the fitted tart crust, reserve a little. Thinly slice apples and arrange on top of caramel. Sprinkle with walnuts, and then drizzle with remaining caramel and honey. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes depending on size and over variants. Cool completely before serving.

A bientôt

To Wine and Dine with Diana

Early August evenings in Seattle are particularly enjoyable for those who prefer comfortable and tepid weather, warm enough to forget blankets, but cool enough for sweaters. Clear skies with rose streaked clouds makes necessary the ray bans instead of the umbrella precariously perched on the porch. While the weather may be held at a steady room temperature, the wine, however, is to be kept on ice. The Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery; not only a beautiful backdrop for a secluded country pick nick, but an unrivaled venue for live music. On this particularly beautiful evening in Woodinville, the grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle were honored to host Diana Krall; Canada's princess of ivory. Jazz is a fascinating subject, it has sparked revolutions, defined and made heard cultures and regions, and has accompanied and carried movements throughout history. It represents change and pain, while at the same time tradition and pleasure. The versatile nature of jazz has carried it through myriad generations of listeners, musicians, and connoisseurs each with their own unique needs for it. Yet, the songs remain the same. Those played by Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole have been carried by Sinatra and now by Bublé and Diana, but each rendition is wholly fresh and varying from the others as black varies from white. Lounging on blankets in the lazying sun while over-consuming the Chateau's reserves paired with classic bowls of fruit, dried meats and fish, soft cheeses, and croûtons is truly the description of relaxation and luxury--if not clichéd images of snobbery and the overindulgent bourgeoisie class--yet such luxuries can be taken humbly and without guilt, if only one is willing to take such evenings with gratitude and acknowledgment of how truly lucky one is to be found present in a setting of such beauty, sound, and taste.

The bragging rights of Chateau Ste. Michelle are many, as the oldest and most established winery in the state of Washington, Ste. Michelle hosts a trophy arsenal to rival those of many American wineries. While the wine is processed and distributed at the chateau in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville, the vineyard can actually be found in the dry and warm deserts that lay east of the Cascades in Eastern Washington. The ancestral roots of the winery reach back to 1934 when the Pommerelle and National Wine companies were formed. In 1954 the two merged, and in 1967 a premium line of wines deemed Ste. Michelle Vintners was released, followed a decade later by the building of the Woodinville chateau. The wines produced are many, the pearl of the vines being their Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon, described to exude "aromas of black fruit, molasses, cocoa, cedar, earth and a touch of black olive." Described so as I have not had the privilege of its acquaintance, my wine palette is much more naive, uncultivated, and virtually pleased by anything. As such my sister and I were satisfied with 2005 Chardonnay and Semilon, whites to counterbalance notre pere's ardor for tepid reds.

We were met at the concert by a few of my dad's work mates, who, in saintly fashion, came leaden with ground blankets, mini chaises, pick nick foods, and drink. Though our brie, smoked salmon, and fruit salad paled in comparison to the excessive wicker basket loaded with silver candlesticks, crystal glassware, and tinned pate of our neighboring pick nickers, it was more than perfect for the evening whose focus was pinned on wine, and more acutely on Diana.

Food, music, and drink: the primordial triforce not to be meddled with. They all say it; memories with loved ones are predominately created around said social situations. Food and drink brings us together in company and conversation, music playing the accentuating factor. This is a universal human trait. Miss Krall was amazing, better live than any I have heard, a true musician whose untampered with voice can stand on its own. Surreal bacchanalian situations such as these are the definition of escape--no work, no worry. Jazz puts you at ease (with or without the wine), and, as witnessed, is coddled by a vast range of ages that for each represents something entirely different. So, eat, drink, and if you can, just listen.

A bientôt

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Storming of the Bastille: 12 Hours in the Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(first and last time opening as a journalist) My first visit to the Bay Area lands me an estimated 9 hours in the actual city, and three in the airport. Not the most ideal duration of a holiday, but this was business. Expectations of the city's iconic images have been culturally branded into the minds of outsiders; the Golden Gate, Fisherman's Wharf, West Coast homosexual liberals, row houses inhabited by Bob Saget--all of which, sadly, I did not see. My journey kept me linearly on Bush and Market Streets, and a few lines running adjacent. My purpose was singular: visa. For an American living west of the Mississippi there are only two locations where one can obtain a long stay French visa; San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Consulate General in France accepts long stay applicants only on Monday and Wednesday between the hours of 2:00 to 3:30 and by internet appointment only. My appointment, scheduled 3 months ago, was for Monday 6 August at 2:00, late applicants not accepted, future appointments booked until late September. I am building this up for you so that when I tell you I missed my appointment you gasp. Laugh then, your choice. Seatac, Seattle's International airport (Sea-Tac: Seattle-Tacoma) is, not to be dramatic, my Mordor. Airport grief is not mine to bear alone, however, I have never once traveled without problems. Delays, lost luggage, planes returned to tarmac for mechanical problems, etcetera. Just getting there is riddled with problems as well. Buses (why am I in Federal Way?), missed exits (how are we in Burien?), how do I get out of the parking garage! Pay for the ferry, or pay for the Tacoma narrows tole plus added hour of driving. End whining. This time, however, was near fatal. 9:35 departure from Seattle to San Fran would have landed me downtown at 11:30, 2.5 hours ahead of my scheduled appointment. Security check went smoothly, no checked luggage, excellent start to my in and out business flight. Gate board: SFO on time, SFO on time, SFO on time, SFO canceled. That last one happened to be mine.

Panic. After an unsuccessful near hour of soliciting help from useless United employees whose responses of "good question, I don't know, and I can't help you" left me not only blisteringly angry, but with a feeling of absolute surreal-ness. In near hysterics, I am finally helped by a man who stops boarding his passengers to Denver to answer my question. "Go back to ticketing." Why couldn't the wax robots standing stoically behind their empty counters have just said that? I am reminded of a scene in the film Meet the Parents where Ben Stiller impatiently waits while a gate boarder boards the non-existent section 1, 2, and 3 passengers when clearly he is the only passenger. The novel will end shortly, 2 + hours in the re-booking line. My appointment is going to be missed. Evil thoughts of no late appointments, booked till late September, no visa, no, France run through my head. My mobile's battery is near death as I have been unceasingly dialing the consulate general (voice recording), my mum, one of my Paris advisor's, and everyone else I can think of in a desperate attempt to keep from having a nervous breakdown. Somehow, with some divine and uncanny stroke of luck my mum calls and reveals she has obtained a private number of a visa officer. Absolutely mad, how does one accomplish that? "Anthony said if you get there before they close at 3:30 you will be fine!" Who's Anthony!? When it is finally my turn with a customer service agent I am near livid. "I NEED to be in San Francisco, now! Emergency, Please help you are ruining my life!" But, not in so many words. Everything is booked before 5:00. I get my mum back on the phone; "call Anthony back!" a few minutes wait, ring: "He says he'll squeeze you in on Wednesday at 2:00!" Clouds part, the earsplitting wail of the hour-long screaming child begins to sound like a Victorian Waltz: "can you get me a ticket for Wednesday morning?" My ticket agent is sill typing furiously, "yes! we'll put you on the earliest one out!" I want to hug her for spending nearly 25 minutes with me while the ever increasing switchbacking line of my fellow disgruntled passengers sends silent curses at my back. Bus. Downtown Seattle, King Street; my dad's office. We walk down a block and he buys me a 1:30 drink at an empty bar. How terribly unlucky I am, but then I suppose I am not. Unluckies would not have miraculously obtained Anthony's number, and would not have had such a helpful ticket agent. Unluckies would have gotten on the wrong bus. But I got lucky.

8:45 a.m. outside the French Consulate General on Bush Street. Hmm closed until 2:00. I'll explore. China Town is two feet away. Exciting, just like the pictures, paper lanterns strung across the street, characteristic Chinese pavilion architecture, and row upon row of shops carrying imports, knock offs, and food. But everything is closed at this hour. Looking is just as fun. I walk in a square around a few blocks of the central downtown shopping area, Coach, Banana republic, Burbery, bebe, Ralph Lauren. The shear size of these buildings makes Seattle look cheap. I call my friend S, one of the two friends from high school I still care about. He's living in the city for a summer internship, remarkably successful if you ask me. Haven't seen him in a year though. I am undoubtedly a great friend. We meet up for coffee&tea and he shows me his office, but a half hour later he has to go back to work. It was short, but seeing him made the city seem a bit more familiar. I do beleive San Fran has more Starbucks than Seattle, a shock but there must be at least 12 on Market street alone. As my Visa appointment draws nearer nerves take over. The check list of items needed for this measly stamp it colossal. Tired of wandering alone I sit in a small French cafe fittingly across the street from the consulate, Cafe de la Presse.

Charmante, to say the least. Seeing as this e journal is dedicated to culinary discoveries, history, and French things, I feel my out of style travel ramblings must be supplemented with a mention of food. Journaling restaurant finds is a thrill, Anthony Bourdain style mind you, not that charlatan Rachel Ray. Two hours of sipping one cappuccino and a salad while observing the hustle of the French speaking waiters and the quick wrists of the bartender made my longing for France reach an all time peak. I will get my visa, even if I have to turn the Consulate into a Bastille. Bottled water poured into dainty glasses and refilled after nearly every sip. The lunch menu, all French of course, boasted such classics as boeuf bourgignon, croque madame, steak et frites, soup d'oignons, salad nicoise, coque au vin, and many other exceedingly savory dishes and French wines. My nerves allowed barely for a salad of hazelnuts and warm dressing. I vowed that if all went well with my visa I would return for a glass of Chardonnay.

At the door to the Visa office we were checked on a list by the security guard, mine being scribbled in ink at the bottom. Anthony remembered me. "You zee one in Seattle who meesed zee flight?" Anthony you are my hero. When I returned triumphantly to Cafe de la Presse my waiter greeted me, "allo, you are bake agin". I had my celebration cup joyously not alone, but with a girl I met at the visa department, coincidentally from a city outside of Seattle and was catching the same flight back as me. Return flight: delayed. But what does it matter, I have my visa. There is nothing between me et cette pays now. Only time. I would love to see San Francisco thoroughly, the bridge, the wharf, the night life. I will, and I'll have the lentil soup at Cafe de la Post, and I won't leave without a ride on the trolley.

A bientôt

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

An Almond Affair

Almond. Amande. Or perhaps just amore? A previous post thrust us into the lifeblood of everyone's favorite sweet treat, chocolate, mais maintenant c'est le temps for my confectionery mirth--marzipan. There is something dangerous in the slightly bitter taste of marzipan, a tingling feeling of doing something one ought not to do. Yet the urge to curl into a mischievous smile is unabashedly compulsory. I am not suggesting that Eve's fruit was secretly sculpted out of Niederegger, but merely that there are other, dare I say 'dangerous' delicacies aside from the wearied cocoa bean.

The amoretto for amaretto. The Italian amare fittingly means bitter, for raw almonds and drupe seeds are exceedingly bland. While today amaretto liqueurs are assumed to be predominately made directly from almonds, traditional amaretto is derived from a variety of drupes--the hard pits of such fruits as peaches, dates, apricots, and any other fruit or nut in which there is an outer hard husk, or inner stone surrounded by flesh. Drupes exude an 'almondy' flavor which causes the sharpest among us to assume amaretto is almond. Honest mistake. Being wrong has become a sport of mine, a sort of game which impulsively drives me to exhaust the topic beyond need. Amaretto is as diverse a substance as wine, the variation of drupe stones and sweeteners, such as sweet almonds, creates distinct liqueurs. Disaronno, the choice amaretto for many world wide, originated in Saranno, Italy, where legend has it the liqueur as well as the biscotti, amaretti, originated: di (of) Saronno. The Disaronno brand liqueur claims the original title of first amaretto, a fusion mainly of apricot drupe and almond, however, the claim is challenged by rival liqueur brand Lazzaro Amaretto di Saronno whose recipe differs by an actual infusion of amaretti with the liqeuer. Lazzaro Amaretto di Saronno also manufactures a brand of macaroons, to keep pace with the almond theme.

Amaretto, bitter or not provides a flavor unmatched; whether one would go as far as the awkwardly embarrassing television advertisements of Disaronno's "warm and sensual flavor" I leave purely to personal discretion. The non alcoholic syrup, however, is essential in my cooking. Sweeter than extract, amaretto syrup is copiously found in my tea, coffee, oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese, and even popcorn. An almond obsession can only be pushed one step further: marzipan.

Almond paste and sugar. C'est tout. Traditional marzipan is flavored by rosewater, however many variations in sweetening and flavors have augmented marzipan around the world with such ingredients as honey and other nuts. Like amaretto, marzipan can be created with various drupe stones such as apricots and peaches, creating distinct fruity yet almondy variations known as Persipan. Pure marzipan of unrivaled quality is undoubtedly that produced in Finland and Sweden, where law requires at least 50% almond ratio. The best, however, is the European Marzipan capital of Lübeck, Germany, where Niederegger is produced with a promising "2/3 almond ratio by weight." The quality variation is similar to that of milk versus dark chocolate. Which would you choose. Yes, I thought so. Marzipan, a word derived from the original English, marchpane (march bread) originated, like so many others, in Asia, making its way to Europe, particularly the Baltic states, as a privileged snack for royalty. Now you see the attraction.

Cake icing, painted fruits, sculptures adorning the tops of cakes (Dobby, Arthur), covered in chocolate, and sliced thickly from a foil wrapped log, you may take your marzipan any way you desire. Bitterness is the signature; bitter and sweet, the classic "little bitter love." The Italian linguistic similarity between bitterness and love may or may not be responsible for the association with bitter love, in my opinion there is no need for a linguistic explanation, almond amaretto exudes the taste of longing all by itself. Arrivederci.

A bientôt

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Happy Birthday Harry

Disclaimer: I am quite the unashamed Harry Potter fan; movies, books, etc. It holds no taboo for me, no embarrassment. I join the millions of others out there whose love affairs with Harry and wizards will last a lifetime. Therefore I wish to share with you his 27th birthday party hosted by a few of my school mates at their home in Bellevue.

It is quite easy to celebrate the birthday of a fictional character, particularly one so famous. His birthday is numerously mentioned by the author to be on the 31st of July, as well as his birth year to be 1980. I do beleive this year was the third annual celebration of Harry's birthday at the Gockel's place where new guests are sorted upon entry into the category 4 houses of Hogwarts. Returning guests arrive already wearing their house colors of either Gryffindor red, Hufflepuff yellow, Ravenclaw blue,or Slytherin green. The sorting ceremony unscientifically depends on a random draw from a palm pilot based on hair and eye color. I was placed in the Hufflepuff house. Oh well, yellow is my color. The scene was quite endearing: children and adults alike gathered to bellow with no shame a rousing tribute of "Happy Birthday" to the Hero. There were a few bits of party food, a store bought cake, and a bowl of fruit punch spouting fumes of the ever-magical dry ice. A bowl of Berty Botts every flavor beans were passed amongst the guests daring the brave to nibble a pickle or vomit flavored jelly bean. Personally I would have preferred a licorice wand or chocolate jumping frog alongside a pint of butterbeer. Party food is an art, and I will be Prefect on the planning committee for that one next year. No harm though! For we arrived with cake in tow, a tribute not only to the art of cake sculpting, but to Harry's magical world as well.

Cake is my confectionery love, unfortunately I made this one inedible for myself. Inconsequential, for it's consumers were enchanted by it's appearance as well as taste which is better than a self-indulging bite in any chef's view. Le gateau was a two man job: I baked and frosted the beauty, while my marzipan-sculpting sister, Ryan, yet again created enchanting figures to adorn the top in tribute to the fallen character Dobby the house elf. Aside from a Dobby figure, she sculpted and painted clothing items to be strewn about the elf's feet as well. The actual cake was a two layer chocolate cinnamon rum cake with a hazelnut frosting. The star ingredient: Nutella. Nutella is quite a sticky agent for a buttercream frosting; it is aggravatingly runny when spreadable, but thick as mud in less than 2 minutes time. A word of caution to the torpid cake frosters out there. Either way Dobby's selfless sacrifice in book 7 was commemorated in marzipan, which I proceeded to consume upon the cutting of the cake.

Let us not forget Harry's birthday drink, which is nearly as important as the cake. To show him a bit of hometown love we presented him a simple table white from the Bainbridge Island Vineyards. Ferryboat White, for none aside from the inhabitants of Kitsap County ride the ferry to and from Seattle. An irksome detail often misrepresented by television and entertainment (such as ABC's Grey's Anatomy) in which Seattle residents are shown commuting to Seattle via ferry. Please.

(Hufflepuff house photo, me in the plaid. We are acting 'hungry')

Success in the cake and success in Harry's celebration. My philosophy, as many know, is any excuse for a cake. Harry's 27th, however, did not merit an excuse for it was a necessity. Happy Birthday Harry, and many happy returns.

A bientôt