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.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Chicago Sushi

Chocolate Avocado Cakes with a Ginger Rice Mousse & Cashew TuilesNo you are not seeing things. Yes, I have finally cooked {baked} for my food blog. Behold! And the clouds did part, the angels sang, someone perhaps danced, I ate some fruit, and it was good.

While neither being sushi, or having anything to do with Chicago, the name makes complete sense. To me. What else matters. Occasion: friend's birthday, and let her be dubbed S. S hails from the windy city; the home of the cracker Jack, the city cool enough to have two baseball messieurs, Chicago Illinois likes everything to be big, the best, and the first. Whether you're a fan teams, the world's tallest building, the largest cookie factory (that would be Nabisco), a history of sewage problems, and the heaviest packed public library in the world. Yes mesdames and of Chi-Town or not does not matter to Chicagoans who are as proud of their ear-raping northern drawl as they are of their, what is that then--deep dish pizza? I have never been to Chicago so i speak only in riddles of hearsay. But S is as Chicago as {I hope} it gets. Her being from Chicago is pretty much it, as I am not sure whether or not there is a long or heavy demand for sushi in the region. Anyways. S loves sushi {revelations} we often frequent our corner sushi shop for rather late meals--as it is often open post 22h00. As a vegetarian, S hates everything. It is true. Almost everything. Meat-less sushi is her preferred late night of choice. Though I morally disapprove of any meal not involving a dead animal, I grind my teeth and proclaim my support for her Bambie love disease and resist the urge to continually demand, "what is wrong with you?"

Recalling my "Mora Projects," (the Jake Cake and Guinness bundt) I decided to create a recette particularly catering to S. Sushi was the result, as a raw lamb shank sculpted out marzipan and butter cream with a cherry sauce most likely would not be as funny to others as the idea is to me. Was. For about 12 seconds. Rather morbid now in reflection. Cake: chocolate avocado. They will be round, and individual. Rice component: a molded ginger rice mousse of the same diameter layered atop the cake. Over the top garnish to procure an aesthetic of pleasure: cashew tuiles. Avocado, rice, ginger, cashew--Asian flavors reminiscent of sushi. Yes, as a child I always had intensely themed birthday parties.

Cautions, tips, and anecdotes on the recipe: make the cake flat so it is more easily cut into circles. My oven is the size of a microwave, as such my pan was too small and my mold-ring could only fit two circles on the over thick cake. Use whipped cream in the mousse, I whipped bought creme fraiche as whipping cream continues to avoid me here in this country. For the molding of the rice mousse use culinary rings--I do not posses such objects, and as they are 5euros a piece at the Galleries Lafayette Home Store, I compromise. Green bean can with the top and bottom cut off. Very professional, and somewhat frightening I am now to many the Frenchies as they witnessed my hack sawing of the cans with a steak knife in lieu of can opener. Rather dangerous actually. Tuiles should be shaped over an object such as a rolling pin, which undoubtedly works much better than empty yogurt jars. Thats all.

Chocolate Avocado Cake:
1 big bar of dark baking chocolate, 2 avocados mashed, 0.5 cup butter, 1.333333 cups sugar, 2 eggs beaten, 1.333333 cups milk, 0.5 tsp salt, 1.5 tsp baking soda, 1.5 cups flour.

Melt chocolate in a pan, beat sugar and butter until light, add eggs followed by avocado followed by milk. In separate bowl combine dry ingredients, add melted chocolate to viscous mixture, then combine with flour mix. Pour into shallow pan and bake 30* minutes at 350. Cool, and cut into circles using mold ring.

Ginger Rice Mousse:
1 cup whipping cream, .5 tsp vanilla extract, 1.5 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 tbsp gelatin (2.5 sheets), 2 cups whole (or half) milk, .5 cup sugar, 1.5 cooked round rice.

boil milk, rice, and sugar in sauce pan. Add gelatin softened in cold water, and vanilla. Cool until starting to set. Whip whipping cream with ginger, and fold in. Place molds on top of cut cake rounds and line the interior walls with parchment paper or wax strips. Fill molds and refrigerate for 2 hours minimum. Remove mold and peel off paper--but do not let sit out at room temperature, they will begin to relax.

Cashew Tuiles:
This recette is Clotilde Dusoulier's, celebrity chef and author of Chocolate & Zucchini (whom I have met and have had a drink with and now we are the best of friends. Or maybe it was that really awkward dinner party I met her at, anyways, we've talked. You are jealous and can feel it), Maybe she will want my autograph now--"Clotilde, I left my copy of your cook book in the US, as my suitcase did have a 50lbs limit, will you sign my moleskine?" "You want me to sign your moleskine?" "Well, it's a nice moleskine. You can have a whole page to yourself if that would make you feel better,I even have a cute little red pen for you to use. " Though I did pull a fast one on her with this recette and switched the hazelnuts with Cashews. What say you now.

.5 cups flour, 2 tbsp butter, 0.3333333 cups sugar, 2 egg whites, crushed cashew.
Mix everything (not the cashews).

Line a baking sheet with parchment, using a teaspoon smear a small amount into an oval disc shape. Sprinkle with cashews. bake for maybe 10 minutes at 350F. When the edges start to brown, extract from oven and QUICKLY lay on a rolling pin (or whatever object you choose to shape them on).

They were liked. People just look, I won't lie that is my favorite part. Unfortunately I used trick candles. Big bad wolf scene follows. S made me promise to always give her free Chicago Sushi at my bakery, as it is her cake. To this I agreed. The rate I'm going It is becoming not a bakery, but a private yacht club. Personal, is always better. So what shall I make for you?

A bientôt

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Au Chat Bleu

The Chocolate said MeowWhen I set out to find the Paris location of Au Chat Bleu, a chocolatier I had visited in Lille last month, I did so with intentions of acquiring material for a premium gastronomic blog post. However shortly after arriving at the (closed) chocolate shop, I realized that I could not just write about a chocolate. Not I. Just one little chocolate. Where is the story? The dramatics? The raison d'etre? How many words, how many stringing adjectives could your impoverished patience handle on the subject of a small chocolate shop? A challenge of brevity is in order here, and I guilelessly accept.

Au Chat Bleu, locations Lille 3 rue des Manneliers, and Paris 85 bd Haussmann. There is a third, but as I do not know where or what Quimper is, it interests me not. Why is this chocolatier more deserving of attention than the 300 other chocolatiers? I will enlighten you--logo: quite adorable, Jam in the window: a symbol of perspicacity, stripes: sailor is always a good look--if you are privy to my closet then you already know my sentiment on this issue, labels denoting chocolate's origin: a symbol of modesty and truth, syrups as well as the jam: an appreciation for the noble art of canning, blue: my eyes are blue. There you have the virtues of the Chocolatier Au Touquet--I will save you the Wikipedia visit and tell you Toquet is a hoity-toity beach town in the Nord Pas-de-Calais region, where, I beleive, the first Au Chat Bleu chocolatier appeared in 1912. Not a hershey bar, not a belgian bonbon in a box, but a chocolate and a blue cat. What, in all of humanity, could be more deserving of promising and deep heartfelt sensitive prose? If you even utter the beginning consonant of the word kabob I will mar you where you sleep.

Hand made, imported and labeled for their origins (primarily from Latin America and Africa)--the many truffles, clusters, and bars rape you at gruesomely bitter prices, but who could expect otherwise. Laundry or chocolate. Formulate a scheme. It is worth, always, to pay for quality, even if the quantity is the inverse of abundant. The one, dark swirling sample a 2.60euro proffered was unlike any cocoa eperience--the chocolate lady, I muse, oh how she would blissfully descend into one of her many erotic and exotic chocolate fantasies, with her Aztec stories of not-truths if only presented once, just once with a trifle of this caliber.

Chocolat. Chocolat. Chocolat. Perhaps with pineapple. Though if indeed with pineapple, then I insist it only be eaten on the roof and in the coming dusk. For now I can think of no other way. Now that is done. Finito. Go and get the cocoa bean my friend. Was that then brief?

A bientôt

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Boulevard Haussmann--What Lies beyond Lafayette Does Anyone Know?

Meet the Baron. such heavy boots
It is not folly of cliché to dub repetitively Paris the shopping capital of the world, as it is a truth. Not in reference to haute couture is this idiom made, but rather in general to the inexhaustible French ability of consumer purchasing prowess. What justification, you may rightly ask, is there to cast such an invective upon the culture of refinery--and by an Americaine no less--well it is this: I see Americans everywhere. But they are not Americans. No. They are the French, the British, the German, the Japanese, the Spanish, the Mexican--yet, according to the world's definitions, they should all be Americans. I have never kept secret my embarrassment at being an American born with the worldly isms of capital and consumer, and the sins of self and greed--but it is not an American burden to bear alone as the world wishes all to believe. Whether the thousands who pack the shopping galleries and city side-walks are Parisian or not--the city of Paris is a never sleeping consumer capital.

January: the time of the soldes (sales) where just as in America, the concept of a just passed holiday season of gift-giving is completely forgotten by the flashing beacons of scandalous savings for all the things you wished people would have bought for you. Do not mistake me for a hypocritical wanna-be Ghandi follower, I am not. I own possessions, more possessions that I should, and I possess that lust for their acquirement. Walking the Parisian streets it is impossible to not see an object of temptation--shoes, pearls, cookbooks, that bathrobe (that yes I did buy and no I do not have money), bracelets, perfume, small matching espresso cups that according to George Clooney are absolute kitchen necessities--I love shopping, who, in honesty and truthfulness does not secretly love prancing around in front of the mirror in the new dress just purchased with the months grocery money--Stacy and Clinton, you know I am faithfully yours. though, today on an errand in search of a small chocolate shop to be reported on in this very blog, I had no honest desire running through my veins to buy, try, or even look at anything--every block, every corner, every alley--a shop. A sale. Is there ever rest? Is there anything else in Paris aside from shopping?

SOLDES SOLDES SOLDES. A sudden desire to knock the key from the gloved hand of the valet at the entrance of Chanel and bark at the Mercedes owner to get a life is overcome only when realized that if i had the means, I too would be squandering listlessly inside the uptight boutiques. The store tables of the lower bourgeois class are quagmires of disheveled piles of wrinkled silks and satins, the aftermath of the blitzkreig performed by the expert sniper shoppers. Shopping cards...that woman bought the same shirt bought in three different colors...I am embarrased. Walking quickly i dislodge every last centiem jingling in my coat pocket to the nearest street beggar--too ashamed to even make eye contact as she utters her thankfulness, and even more ashamed later when i remorse over the loss of the days laundry money. I refuse to believe that Paris can proffer only Shopping and food. There must be something more. There must. Parks yes, oh so many museums, but what else is Paris? Why is this Paris? What happened to the old romantic Paris? It is in reality no secret, it is called progress and western culture. But, it is much more romantic to blame it on a historical event, and so I give you the story of the Baron who burned Paris.

It is utmost fitting that the Galleries Lafayette lie on Boulevard Haussmann, as well as many of the other main shopping arteries of Paris including the Champs Elysees, boulevard de la Madeline, des Capucines, l'Opera, and perhaps every single other street in the city. "Baron" Georges Eugene Haussmann, Paris' "great modernizer" viewed alternately as either the great builder or the villainous destroyer of la vrai Paris began renovations in the early 1860's under the request of Napoleon III to transform Paris into a more "safe" and "clean" city. Ultimately, what this implied, like most political decrees of a central government for the "benefit of the citizens" was in reality intended to create a more uniformly structured layout with wider boulevards to make rebellious blockading more difficult and troop mobilization easier with central links to the grand train stations (note where the 4 grands are eh? l'Est, Nord, St. Lazare, Austerlitz--all are flanked by wide sprawling boulevards with critical links to the direct-most channels across the city.) The Haussmann buildings that define the Paris of today with their uniform height and identical shape replaced nearly every previous living space. Smaller lanes and streets were combined to create the symmetrical systems of boulevards that connect to main circles, places (i.e. Place de Clichy, Place Victor Hugo, Place de la Concorde, Place de la Bastille, etc.)

Medieval political Paris was wiped, and replaced by the whimsical commercial and social Paris of today. Paris' nineteenth century renaissance bloomed in a period of a new prosperity for a new social class--the rising bourgeoisie who were rapidly replacing the dying aristocracy. The luxuries of the new "upper middle class" were thus centrally affixed in the cities creation--no different from the city beautiful movements of first Chicago and then New York in the United States (Dr. D if only you read my blog, this bits for you) the cities were designed for leisure and uniformity; in the US to alleviate a time of social unrest and in France for a recovery from (and hopeful prevention of ) civil protest. Was Paris lost in its renovation? Does it matter? Are there those now, aside from historians, who know that the Paris of the past, of the days of revolution, philosophy, and politics was a completely different Paris from that of today? Does it matter? There was nothing in Chicago to lose other than the smell of bad sewage, but in Paris, perhaps, was lost something more.

Let us then blame Haussmann for man's greed. Or perhaps better, let us just be thankful for what we have. After all, there is no better selection of fine leather purses than in Paris, and 75% off really is quite the bargain. The rat terrier inside the boot boutique--I know why we shop. Olivia would look stunning with that black diamond collar of the same design. This is France. This is Paris. In search for other than shop, I find thought. And Haussmann, thank you for the park bench that allowed me the finishing of my novel. Capitalism, commercialism--these are things shared by many. While wrongly placed on the shoulders of Americans alone, it is undoubtedly as French a trait as it is American. But, I do not see it as an unforgiving fault. This world is become small, smaller than any could have predicted. Walking the shopping streets I see an American Café and smile; "The American Dream Café" sidewalk signs held by Mexican caricatures waving around tacos. Yes, the American dream, France touché, who knew you could be so cheeky.

The western West may be dubbed the material bastards of globalization--but secretly coveted in 32 Starbucks and 84% of the playing films is the fact incognito yet known to all--France, we all know Sarko's not the only Frenchie wearing the Yankee hat around town, though, any hat bought in Paris would be twice the price. Oh how you spleen me. But eh, vive la France!

A bientôt

Monday, January 14, 2008

Going Hungry--Where's the Food Gone?

“The codfish lays ten thousand eggs, The homely hen lays one; The codfish never cackles, To tell you when she's done; And so we scorn the codfish, While the humble hen we prize; Which only goes to show you, That it pays to advertise”

What the hell is meant by that last bit anyways? Hmmm thats a lot of baby cod running around everywhere. Nice for stew. yadda yadda.

A bientot

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sojourn to Save My True Love--

His name is Nikon D 70.
Breath breath my peers of the photographing and blogging community! I will say this quick-- he has and never will be lost, but rather one of his appendages went astray for a short period--id est my largest lens, which, being a 300 sadly is not that large at all, though is quite dear (and expensive) to me all the same. Those of you in my closest confidences know of this grievous offense committed several weeks ago, but to all I must now confess, and plug a tourism add for a Parisian suburb that I believe may do the fig man some justice.

I lied about the tourism add, attendez and all will be explained. On the weekend market trip to Germany and Holland in early December--some of you may remember reading of the exploits--I, sadly, and for the first time, left behind a part of my camera. I will set you the plot: sitting at my desk, most likely typing an over dramatic blog entry as I am doing now, my eyes meander guilelessly to the (one) shelf in this cupboard of a room and notice the empty spot. Huh. Wheres that lens. After 15 seconds it is determined to not be in this cupboard, therefore there is only one thing: it was stolen, as I could never--never lose anything concerning the word camera. The logical solution, I mused, as I never even switched lenses as the trip was curt. As much as I denied the possibility of my own bastard foolishness at leaving an object, I had nothing to attempt, and after walking in tiny circles a call to the hotel in Germany was made. "Gutentag Geisler Hotel" -"Erm, ja, hallo, eh, Ich kann nicht Deutsch sprechen, can. you. speak. english. by. any. chance?" -"Oh, yes." -"Great! I was in you hotel last weekend with a big group from Paris and--" -"Yes we have rooms this saturday how many?" --"No no, I was already there, the last weekend, you see--" -"Not expensive if you say now" --"Ay! No I was There already." -"Oh you were here already." -"Yes and I left something in the room, I think--" --"Can you call tomorrow? I don't speak English" --"Oh, yes of course I--" --"Do you speak Spanish?" -"...No." --"French?" --"Oui! je parle la francais--monsieur je pense que j'ai perdu quelque--" "Too bad I can't speak French." and so it ensued until an email was sent.

Environ one week later, the return was received: "Monsieur (eh, Mallory is toujours on this continent a mans name) camera black thing found. Sent with another driver today. His name is G. Find your travel agency. We helped you, hope it worked. Regards." Why--I had resolved and accepted the loss, swallowed (actually wiped, lets not lie now, I may be slightly calloused but I would weep for my camera) the tears away as a case of mere bad luck for a material object. But it has come back to me! But then--I did let it fall from my bag, oh my darling how I have betrayed you!

Running to the travel agency office. Wrong building, accross the street madame. Next building--ah, the man at the desk has no idea what I am talking about. I show him the drivers name. "Ah yes, I'll give you his company's number." Call the company--telephone conversation follows as one above, (in French) "I lost something at a hotel, but one of your drivers has it, its a .....(whats the word for lens!)...its a thing for the front of a camera." -"You lost your camera?" -"No, its a black thing for a camera, it--" -"A black camera bag?" -"No, it goes on the face, makes the things bigger, it is long, and spins, and--" -"A zoom." -"Yes!" -"I will call you tomorrow." What follows is that yes my lens had been found, trucked around with a bus driver, stowed at his house, and then transfered to the bus company's location. I was given the address at where to retrieve it: sadly not in Paris.

Excuse me--where the hell am I? 7hoo, cold, dark, RER C out of Paris--I find myself in ghost town walking along a deserted industrial dirt road that appears to never end. Pinned between running rail tracks and chain link encased packing yards, I walk the road for a near 40 minutes. Parisian suburb, Villeneuve le-Roi just East of Orly. Brilliant. I don't often have thoughts of death, there was that time in Oregon when out of bounds skiing with that frozen river...that night in the park followed home by...that surgery I am a very safe person. This is just a nice little street with lovely dogs ready to break free of their ropes--am I supposed to be here? Perhaps I will be arrested. That would be nice. I stop in the middle of the road: why am I constantly finding myself in situations like these? Why--suddenly I burst into laughter. If any passersby were to view this (though I do not believe there was a human for miles) I would be taken for a schizophrenic presently escaped from the hospital. Oh thats enough of that. finally, the address, where is the doorbell? Sit and wait. A delivery truck comes, and a little boy pops out--with my lens. That is over.

Now let us find the city center. I have a skip in my step to discover this quaint town. I take it back. There is nothing to be found here. But I must find breakfast. Bakery, bakery, brasserie, ah fruit man! Two apples and 7 dried figs please. No 8, for I am very hungry. "Are you from England?" No. "Ah I get you best apples my American!" I speak French." "I know, but I like English, I want learn English." Go to America I tell him, I came here to speak French. --Though the novelty I am, it becomes tiresome after months of wishing to improve my French that the locals everywhere (though the man was very confused as to why I was at his fruit stand at 8:00 am in the middle of no where) wish to speak English. Oh well, English it is--thank you very much sir, have a wonderful day and say hello to your family.

The lens is back, have I atoned for my sin, perhaps it was the industrial walk, perhaps I just finally got damn lucky. A lens is just a lens, just an object, though an object I am very glad to have back--as it is tiresome to photograph food without an adequate zoom. I am blissfully happy and thankful for such a very chance-ful turn of events. However, my Nikon, if he were to be misplaced, I may in fact be persuaded to kill. Yes. But, my friends, that could never happen. Stop smiling.

A bientôt

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Making Tea

This beautiful little film by upstart film-maker Thomas Gallagher is without a doubt one of the most charming videos i've come across on the internet, and I must share it with you. It feels to me an allegory of my own life. Wake up, and Tea. Always time for tea. For just, one more, milky tea. If you know me at all, then you know the word tea.

The electric kettle, the Tetley round, bottle of milk--though my junky splenda addiction replaces the two spoons of sugar used in the film, and even though he does not let the bag steep long enough, it is my life black and white. Tea is a methodical ritual. A slow, melancholy, methodical ritual. Time after time we make the same cup of milky tea to perfection, then dart out the door for lateness that is assured, and even intended with the boiling. And in the end, if you break your favorite teacup, you must find another use for it. Never, ever throw it out. Scotch tape seems, as silly as it may, to work.

Watch it, I know (and I do know) that you will enjoy it.

A bientôt

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Wazemmes Market

The Soul Mate of ChèvreThis will be the last post of Lille I promise you--yes I have been back in Paris for a near week now, but in reality there could never be enough time, space, or patience to do justice to any one city. And yes, I have made many a post on the outdoor market--Munich, Koln, Aix, but this one is actually in France--how bout that! So say adieu to Lille through the crowded walkways of the immense and permanent market of Wazemmes, a weekend ritual for many in the northern French town since the turn of the century.

The 'downtown' center of Lille is split into three districts that have existed since the medieval era: Fives, Old Lille, and Wazemmes. The preserved antiquity of Lille is apparent through the lose cobblestones that keep you on your toes, and the omnipresent mal-odor that seeps through the stone walls, alleys, and streets of old Lille. Fine, sewer smell. The market that bears its locations name is opens its indoor and outdoor stalls and booths on and around rue Gambetta every Monday, Thursday, and Sunday to produce and bargain seekers both local and on the tourist track. Inside the covered Halles de Wazemmes one finds the assortment of shops found on any Parisian or French street--though all in one place. the crémerie, bucherie, poissonnerie, fromagerie, boulangerie, pâtisserie--as well as your specialty organic honey and--gasp--organic gluten free shop! Though there was no cod to be found bathing on the ice of the fishing stalls, the assortment of dressed chèvre for snacking (goat cheese) found in the windows of the fromagerie stalls has changed my entire outlook on the use of the curds.
While I adore goring on little morsels plain and pure, or accompanying a salad or slice of apple--these snacks give flair to any idea of "party cheese". Small slices or balls of goat cheese are rolled in a plethora of varying treats--from dried fruits ranging from golden raisins, pinapples, and tropical fruits, to crushed hazelnut, diced shallot, ground peppercorns--any small delight that will stick--then placed in a small cupcake sized wrapper, et voila! The cocktail party appetizer of the century. To wander the market with one in tow makes the experience all that more enjoyable, a French market, eating a ball of goat cheese rolled in dried pineapple--vive la France. Goat cheese and dried fruits were made for each other. I am starting to miss Mora's Goat Cheese & Fig ice cream.

The crowded outdoor alleys proffer as good a bounty as the indoor halles, though may the claustrophobic be warned, for the old-world market style comes alive in the pushing grunting throng of shoppers eager to get in out and eating. The Chances are your feet will be crushed, and sides poked and jammed by shopping bags and protruding baguettes. The produce vendors aid the chaos with their ear piercing cries of prices, bargains, and deals. The shear volume of imported fruit, local vegetables, hot roasting chickens dripping on electric spits, honeys, jams, and rustic breads galore is overwhelming for the first-time marketer (and short people, poor M). Easily passing over 100 varying vendors of non-edible items, their wares including bargain clothing, shampoos, jewelry, imports from china, India, and Turkey, antique vendors, and, anything and everything one could find at a garage sale. The flower row catches one on the descent, a last item to juggle amongst all of the purchases.

What, you ask, did I purchase--2 mangoes, 3 apricots, 7 lychees, 1 pear, 2 nectarines, an eggplant, goat cheese covered in dried pineapples, and a bag of gluten free granola. Let me lose in a market, and--well let anyone loose in a market and they will buy things. Conversing with salespeople what and how many you wish for is not only an amusing activity, but an opportunity greater than the classroom to practice language. When asked why, out of the myriad fish offered, there was no cod to be found, the monger replied "what would you want that for?" Well, the French do have their downfalls, I never said they were perfect.

Adieu Lille, I leave you; your markets, ancient streets, goat cheese, northern accents, jellied meats, and Brazilian themed restaurants until next time we meet.

A bientôt