I'm only about a third of the way through Elizabeth Bard's LUNCH IN PARIS: A LOVE STORY, WITH RECIPES, but I'm already hooked.  I'm such a Francophile, even when it's of the rose-colored glasses, in-the-middle-of-a-love-affair sort of variety.  Bard has an approachable way of writing that makes me want to hang out with her.  And, luckily, the food writing is unpretentious and entertaining.

I was sitting at Guy and Gallard this morning, reading this book.  For those of you who don't know, Guy and Gallard is a small-ish chain here in NYC.  They definitely aren't the best quality, but the coffee isn't all that bad and I just can't resist the darling way they wrap my muffin in this parchment/tissue-type paper that crinkles.  Having the joy of unwrapping my lemon poppyseed muffin makes the muffin itself just a little more palatable.

It was while going through all this that I read this passage:

Where croissants are concerned, I've found two principal schools of thought.  Some prefer a brioche-like model, with a golden hue, a little spring, and an eggy chew.  Not I.  I like a flake, a croissant with an outer layer so fine and brittle that you get crumbs all over yourself from the very first bite. When you pull it apart there should be some empty space, pockets of air between the buttery layers of dough.  When you finally do rip off a hunk to dip in your coffee, it stretches a little before it breaks.  More crumbs, but utterly, completely worth the mess.

And then I giggled as it was followed by this passage:

My first trips to the boulangerie are not all ogling.  I have to keep my head about me as I place my order.  First there is the gender issue; every French noun is assigned a sex, masculine or feminine.  Personally, I think my croissant is a woman, as tender and fragile as a Brontë heroine.  But apparently, the Académie Française, the guys who make the dictionary, have decided that "croissant" is masculine, un croissant.  I have been outvoted.

The good news is that I just adored these passages.  The croissant just become a tangible thing for which I longed, and I loved the simile of a croissant being as feminine as a Brontë heroine.  Lastly, the idea of a flaky croissant being worth the mess is some sort of metaphor for life, peut-être?

The bad news?

All this talk about airy croissants put me off my leaden, dry lemon poppyseed muffin completely.

Eat, drink, and c'est la vie.


Meeting Gabrielle Hamilton

I shouldn't be allowed to meet anyone remotely well-known (or well-known to me, anyway).  I just shouldn't.  I get all flustered and dissolve into verbal diarrhea and spend the two weeks post-meeting dissecting every stupid, incoherent thing I said.  It happened when I met Eric Rohmann, Kenny Loggins, Armistead Maupin...and the list goes on.  That said, there are a number of times when I kept my cool.  For example, it didn't happen when I met Mireille Guiliano because I didn't speak a single word to her in an attempt to break my streak (to which Adam later said to me, "Why didn't you say anything?!  You seemed crazy!").  And it didn't happen when I met a very famous children's author/illustrator, but that's mostly thanks to him - he is one of the most disarming, down-to-earth, and kind authors I've met to date; it was impossible for me to screw it up.  But, mostly, I suck at meeting authors and other awesome people.

Meeting Gabrielle Hamilton was no exception.  Gabrielle Hamilton is a renowned chef (of Prune fame) and author of BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER (which I posted about here), and I had the good fortune to hear her speak recently at Little Red Schoolhouse/Elisabeth Irwin H.S. here in NYC (thanks to Jen for hooking me up with a ticket!).

Gabrielle Hamilton was lovely to listen to.  She was charming and gorgeous, and she read from her own work really well.  If all the dog-ears on my book's pages are any indication, Ms. Hamilton could have chosen any number of sections to read from and I would have been happy!  She read from the seventh chapter where she is accepted to University of Michigan's master's program for fiction writing.  The whole room laughed along with her, as we have all had that experience where we have chased dreams...only to realize that, once achieved, the dream isn't all it's cracked up to be.

For the book signing afterward, Ms. Hamilton was sitting next to Roseanne Cash, who read from her book COMPOSED: A MEMOIR during the evening.  What do I immediately say to Gabrielle Hamilton?  "I love the book so much.  I blogged it and I compared you to MFK Fisher.  It's that good."  And if you're thinking that all this came out in a mad torrent of jumbled words, then you're right. To which Ms. Hamilton archly raised an eyebrow and said, "MFK Fisher?  Really?"  This might have been that moment:

And this is the moment when I should have walked away, having already done some damage.  But, no.  I kept going...

So Roseanne Cash heard me babbling and interjected, "I love MFK Fisher!"  To which I replied by holding up BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER and saying, "But have you read this?!"  Roseanne Cash said that she had not read it yet.  I answered, "Well, you should!"  This is the moment when I'm saying that to her (Roseanne Cash is the redhead):

Good god.

And to complete the night, this is how Gabrielle Hamilton signed my dog-eared galley of her book:

I'm so happy to have had a moment with Gabrielle Hamilton, as I really was rocked by BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER.  I'm just not so sure this is the moment I had envisioned.  To her credit, Ms. Hamilton handled herself with endless grace and poise, even when presented with a ridiculous fan girl.

Eat, drink, and grab the words before they fall out of my mouth!


Pear Pork (and my 700th post!)

I haven't given proper attention to what has recently become one of my absolute favorite cookbooks: FRENCH FOOD AT HOME by Laura Calder.  I have tried twelve recipes so far and every one of them - I do not exaggerate - has been a smashing success.  Truly.  And shockingly simple to make.

Last night, I tried the Pear Pork for the first time.  It didn't sound difficult to make, and I'm just in love with all things pear-related right now, especially when they're paired with bacon, as in this recipe.  I just adore sweet and salty pairings, don't you?

As usual, I changed a few things about the recipe that appears in the cookbook.  The original recipe calls for 2 pork tenderloins, 3/4 lb each, but I substituted boneless pork chops, cut about 1/2-inch thick.  That cut the oven time by about 10 minutes (bonus!).  Calder says to use "white wine or apple juice"...but I happened to have some apple cider and decided to give that a go; to be frank, I don't know that I would have noticed the difference between any of the three options.  Use whatever you have handy.  Lastly, I love garlic.  So I amped it up to 5 cloves of garlic over the called-for 4 cloves.

Why do I tell you all this?  Because I just want to illustrate that it really can be quite easy to change around most recipes to suit your own tastes and preferences.  Laura Calder gave me the recipe created for her own tastes, I changed it to suit me, and I certainly expect that, should you try this, you'll change it up too.   Which is, among many reasons, why I love and adore cooking: the choices and opportunities for creativity are endless.

But enough of my babbling.  Let's get on with the recipe, shall we?

Inspired by Laura Calder's FRENCH FOOD AT HOME
Serves 3-4

4 boneless pork chops, each 1/2-inch thick
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound bacon, chopped
2 large pears, firm and ripe, of any variety, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 branches rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine, apple juice, or apple cider
1/4 cup low-sodium beef stock

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Season pork with salt and pepper; set aside.

2. Preheat a skillet until very hot.  Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and fry the bacon until browned, about 3 minutes.  Remove, leaving the fat behind, and toss together with the pears, garlic, ginger, rosemary, and another tablespoon of oil in a baking dish.  Add the remaining oil to the skillet, if needed (note: I didn't need the extra oil - the bacon I used left behind quite a bit of fat).  When sizzling, brown the pork well on both sides, about 3 minutes each side.  Remove and nestle in the baking dish.

3. Deglaze the skillet with the wine (careful, it spatters!), scraping up the good bits on the bottom, and boil until only about 1 tablespoon remains.  Add the stock and boil to reduce to 3-4 tablespoons.  Pour over the meat in the baking dish.  Transfer to the oven and roast until the pears and garlic are soft and the meat cooked through, about 20 minutes.

A NOTE ON KID-FRIENDLINESS: This one wasn't too successful.  I tried scooping just the cooked pears and bacon onto Bug's plate.  Added some apple slices.  I also served sliced bread with honey butter, and Bug had two slices of that.  But she somehow managed to pick out all the bacon pieces, eating only one bite of the pear, declaring she didn't like cooked pears.  Le sigh.  So my kid had buttered bread, apples, and bacon pieces for dinner.  But...still...fruit, starch, protein in one meal?  Success!

NOTE ABOUT THE SIDE: I served this with endives that I sliced, sauteed with butter, then tossed with some honey and walnuts.  Add a little salt and pepper - done.  It worked...okay.  Adam liked it much better than I did.

This was a great weeknight option.  Other than the very short stove-cooking time, everything got put into the oven.  Which meant I had 20 free minutes to enjoy a glass of wine (Beaujolais) and help Bug with homework.  With Christmas carols playing in the background.  A great night.

Eat, drink, and give FRENCH FOOD AT HOME a try.



As you may have guessed from my previous post, I was not looking forward to Thanksgiving in Orlando.  Thanks to my publishing job, I had already been to Orlando for conferences twice in the last year, and one of the last places on Earth I wanted to go was back to that land of manufactured reality.

It turns out that all my self-indulgent whining was just that: self-indulgent and whiny.  We had a fantastic time at Harry Potter World.  And the Thanksgiving buffet?  Well, all-you-can-eat crab legs and dessert don't suck at all.

And did I mention the bottomless Champagne?  I might be coming around to buffets after all...

That said, we had lots of amusement park food: soft pretzels, hot dogs, fries.  So, by our last night, I was more than ready for some real food: we made reservations at Emeril's Orlando.  I was skeptical...but it was everything I had hoped for: delicious food, gorgeous list of wines by the glass, and attentive service (but not overly so).

We started with the New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp, which came with a diminutive but delicious rosemary biscuit.  The sauce added a touch of heat but it didn't make me scramble for my water glass (which is a good thing).  We also started with oysters in a creamy sauce with frisée and bacon.  It was okay...but I realized that I really love my oysters raw and adorned with only a squeeze of lemon; with all the other goings-on, I could hardly taste the oyster.  I drank a glass of Champagne, which held up to the barbecue shrimp surprisingly well.

Adam and I shared the duck duo for the main dish, which included a perfectly seared duck breast and duck confit.  Brussels sprouts and steamed potatoes were served with it.  And because we were having duck, I naturally drank Pinot Noir with it, specifically Foris Pinot Noir which is from the Rogue Valley in Oregon.  It was one of the rare times that Adam admitted my wine paired with the dish waaaay better than his beer.  I won, I won!

For dessert, we shared a vanilla crème brûlée which...I have to say...might be the best crème brûlée I have ever had.  How they got that thick sugary crust caramelized so perfect, I will never know.  It was outstanding.  The server recommended a glass of sweet bubbly for a pairing, which was lovely, but I was sort of jonesing for the espresso Adam ordered - it covered our table in a fragrant cloud.

It was an amazing meal with my amazing family, and it reminded me that my attitude can be such utter crap sometimes.  Orlando isn't that bad.  I'll never forget the trip and I'm so glad that we went.

I hope you all had a lovely holiday (you USians, anyway) with loved ones!

Eat, drink, and celebrate family.


Happy Thanksgiving

Well, lovely readers, I'm off for the holidays.  Think it's odd that I haven't mentioned what I'm making for Thanksgiving?  That's because I won't be making anything this year (nor did I last year - I was in Anguilla, eating grilled local crayfish).  This year....wait for it...I will be eating at a Thanksgiving buffet in ORLANDO.  Or-friggin-lando.  A million self-pitying sighs.

But before you feel too bad for me, let me tell you why we're going there.  We're finally taking Bug to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, otherwise known as Harry Potter World.  And the best bit is that Bug doesn't know: we told her we didn't have money to travel since we're saving up for a European trip next summer.  But we're going to wake her up on Thanksgiving morning and, with her bag already packed, tell her we're leaving on a jet plane to Harry Potter World.  Bug's love of all things Harry Potter has been documented here, and this is going to be nothing short of outstanding.

Parents of the Year Award?  Perhaps.  No, no, no.  I'm just happy to be nominated by the Academy.

Before I take off, though, I must share with you these fantastic stuffed fruits and vegetables from IKEA:

I'm in love.  I can't tell which one I want more, the broccoli or the carrot.  The strawberry is too predictably girly.  Wouldn't these make fun gifts for young foodies...or old ones too?  (Enormous thanks to my pal Marjorie for the link)

Well, guys, I'm off.  I'll be back next week with picture of the buffet in Orlando!  You excited?  Yeah, I thought you might say that...

Eat, drink, and do it for the kids.


Risotto with Leeks and Shiitake Mushrooms

Risotto is one of my favorite things.  And not just one of my favorite foods but one of my favorite things...ever...out of all things.

I've been in a funk for the last couple days, brought on in large part by an email from Bug's teacher, letting us know about our daughter's defiant behavior on a field trip.  I take this sort of thing so personally and, even if it's not rational, I feel like I have failed in some way.  Ugh.

So it's times like this that I make risotto.  It's a solid 30 minutes of standing in my kitchen and calmly stirring, stirring, stirring.  It's meditative.  It's surprisingly easy to make.  It's comforting.  Rather than running all over the kitchen, I get to stand in one place.  I can even make it with a glass of wine firmly in hand.

I have had the recipe for this risotto from Bon Appétit since 2007 (here's the original).  Inexplicably, I let it sit and never made it.  I've made some changes to the recipe I linked to - first, I didn't add an actual shaved truffle.  I mean, seriously, who does that?  Especially a family of three during a weekday.  And in this economy.  Additionally, I used vegetable stock, like the recipe says, but it gave the risotto an odd orange color; I'll use chicken stock next time.  Lastly, the recipe said to roast the mushrooms and onion for 45 minutes, but that was waaaay too long in my oven - they were blackened to a crisp and I had to pick out only the good ones.  So beware the cooking time.

Adapted from Bon Appétit, September 2007
6 servings

2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved, sliced thick
3/4 cup whipping cream

1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices
1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 tablespoon white or black truffle oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups hot low-sodium chicken broth (Note: if you run out while making the risotto, just add water)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons white or black truffle oil (optional)

Chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan

1. For the leeks: Bring leeks and cream to a boil in heavy medium saucepan.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until leeks are tender and cream is thick, stirring often, about 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper. (Do ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover and chill.  Rewarm before using.)

2. For mushrooms: Preheat oven to 400 degrees, Fahrenheit.  Toss all ingredients on rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast until mushrooms are tender and light brown around edges, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.  (Do ahead: Can be made 2 hours ahead.  Let stand at room temperature.)

3. For risotto: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add rice; stir 1 minute.  Add wine and stir until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute.  Add 1 cup hot broth.  Simmer until broth is almost absorbed, stirring often, about 4 minutes.  Add more broth, 1 cup at a time, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next and stirring often, until rice is tender and mixture is creamy, about 30 minutes longer.  Stir in leek mixture, mushroom mixture, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, cheese, and (if desired) truffle oil.  Transfer to large bowl, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.  (Alternatively, you can transfer the risotto to individual bowls and serve that way.)

NOTE ON KID-FRIENDLINESS: I made this kid-friendly in the last step.  Before adding the leeks and mushrooms to the risotto, I transferred the plain risotto to a bowl for Bug and garnished heavily with Parmesan.  The heavy use of Parmesan helps mask the pieces of chopped onion in the risotto.

Eat, drink, and stir your way out of a funk.


Weekend Plans

What are you doing this weekend?

I'll be enjoying a lot more of this, as it's so fleeting and it's one of my favorite things on Earth:

I'll definitely be doing more of this because I finally bought my own skates...which means I skate for FREE at Bryant Park:

I'm still formulating my menu but I think I'll be making THIS for a dinner party tomorrow night.

So what are your plans?

Eat, drink, and make the next two days count!


Linguine with Brussels Sprouts and Speck

"Pasta?  AGAIN?!"

That was the plaintiff cry from Bug a couple days ago.  But you know what horrible kind of mother I am?  I didn't care about her pasta prejudices.  It's finally cool enough outside that I can keep the pasta pot boiling for an hour and it won't make my kitchen unbearably hot.  I adore pasta in the fall.  Pasta, to me, means endless possibilities and a blank canvas.

So it's no surprise that I tend to go overboard.  Last winter, I made a deal with Bug that I'd limit my pasta dishes to only once a week.  Which didn't keep me from stretching it...I made linguine one night and then, two nights later, I claimed that risotto wasn't pasta - "it's rice."  Similarly, I tried to convince Bug that orecchiette was actually "ears," which - of course - she didn't buy for a second.  *shoulder shrug*

I maintain that I make the menu, do the shopping, and do all the cooking.  And most of the clean-up.  So they'll eat it and, by god, they'll LOVE it.

First up is this awesome recipe inspired by one I found in Saveur (which was created by Missy Robbins of A Voce): Linguine with Brussels Sprouts and Speck.

The joke in the family is that I say every recipe I make is "so easy."  Adam or Bug will say, "This is great!  So good!"  To which my standard reply is, "And it was so easy!"  And, like all things that are said too often, it has become an inside-joke in our family.  But this really is easy.  Not to mention that it's super kid-friendly - it was really easy to add just the speck and ricotta to Bug's pasta and then the Brussels sprouts separately to ours.

Lastly, I'll add that this is a different way to present Brussels sprouts.  By the end of the autumn, I'm so sick of roasted, flash-fried, and sautéed bee-sprouts.  This is a fresh alternative when you need a break from the same ol' same ol'.

Eat, drink, and talk them into pasta.

Inspired by Missy Robbins' recipe in Saveur

1 pound fresh or dried linguine
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 cups Brussels sprouts, quartered
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces speck, sliced into ribbons (can substitute with pancetta or prosciutto)
1 sprig rosemary
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (can substitute with Parmesan)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

1. Put a pasta pot filled with water on high heat and bring to a boil.  Put about 2 tablespoons of salt in the water.
2. Rinse the Brussels sprouts, trim the bottoms, and discard any brown or discolored leaves.  Cut into quarters.
3. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add olive oil.  Add the speck and cook for two minutes, stirring until fat is rendered.  Add the garlic and cook for 15 seconds.  Add the Brussels sprouts and saute until browned, about 5 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add the chicken stock and rosemary.  Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Set aside.
4. Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain, reserving a half-cup of pasta liquid.
5. Add the pasta to the sauté pan and reheat over medium-low heat.  Add the butter.  If the pasta is too dry, add just enough reserved pasta liquid to moisten.  Stir in the cheese.
6.  Add pasta to individual bowls and garnish with a dollop of ricotta, a drizzle of good-quality olive oil, and freshly ground pepper.

NOTE ON KID-FRIENDLINESS: I make it kid-friendly in step 5.  Before adding the pasta to the sauce pan, I put a little aside in a bowl for Bug.  I spoon sauce on hers, sans Brussels sprouts, and add speck and cheese for garnish.  Done.

* A thank you for Classic Pasta for the recipe.  I tore the recipe out of my copy of Saveur but proceeded to lose it - I was relieved to find it online!



And the winner of the giveaway for THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE and WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT is Tanisha!  Congratulations, Tanisha!

For those who read my thoughts on THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE and either didn't enter or didn't win, I'll take this chance to recommend them again: they're an invaluable resource!

Thanks so much for your comments, "likes", and follows.  I have another recipe post coming up but, in the meantime, make sure to stop by my Facebook fan page, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Seriously, are you guys on Pinterest?  I'm addicted...

Eat, drink, and thanks for playing!



You may or may not believe me when I tell you that I don't know a lot about wine.  I know what I like, of course, and I do a reasonably decent job at identifying what it is I'm smelling and tasting in a glass.  But appellations?  Vintages?  Tannins?  Nope,  I couldn't tell you much about those.  Which is absurd because I've read a lot on the subject of wine.  Unfortunately, none of those technical terms ever sticks in my brain and so I go on, blissfully ignorant, enjoying what I'm sipping regardless.

With that in mind, I really love the books of Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.  I met them back in 2008 and I've been a fan of both them and their books ever since.  WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT is one of my favorite books; I'm going to go out on a limb and say I use it more than any other food- or wine-related book on my shelves.  It makes sense, of course, seeing as I drink wine with every dinner (and sometimes with lunch), and I consult this book nearly every time.  I also highly recommend THE FLAVOR BIBLE.  I don't use it as much since I don't regularly go off-recipe when making a meal, but it's a brilliant resource when you're cooking off-the-cuff, trying to make something happen from random ingredients in your fridge.  Ultimately, both books are useful, smart, and reliable; I couldn't do without them.

So I was ecstatic to get Page and Dornenburg's most recent book THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE, which appears to have a lofty goal: marry the concept of WTDWWYE and THE FLAVOR BIBLE to make one major reference tome for food and wine pairing.  FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE, more than the previous two reference books, attempts to educate the reader.  So, while it serves up information in a bullet-pointed style that is easy to read, it still wants the reader to gain knowledge and confidence in drinking and enjoying wine.  First and foremost, Page and Dornenburg want to demystify wine and stress that drinking it is a subjective experience, free from judgement and wrong answers.  I particularly loved this quote from Mark Twain to start the 2nd chapter: "There are no standards of taste in wine ... [One's] own taste is the standard, and a majority vote cannot decide for him or in any slightest degree affect the supremacy of his own standard."  The aim of this book is not to tell the reader what's good and what's bad but, rather, to help the reader understand what it is they're drinking so that they might better enjoy it (or, if not, then understand why they're not enjoying it).

One of the things that I love about this book is the historical timeline.  Yes, Page and Dornenburg actually try to tackle that beast: the history of wine in the United States.  I found out all kinds of trivia, such as the fun fact that Thomas Jefferson reportedly bought more than 20,000 bottles of wine while in office.  The timeline helps give some context to how far we've come in the United States, particularly when you find out that there were more than 2,500 commercial wineries before Prohibition and, after it finally ended, only about 150 wineries remained.  As of 2010, there are more than 6,000 wineries in the U.S.

There are also some helpful graphs and tables.  In particular, Page and Dornenburg include a large list of how to choose wines by flavors, which is extremely helpful for someone very new to wine.  For example, if you love apples, then perhaps you should try Chardonnay (especially unoaked), ice cider, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, or Vouvray.  Being a strawberry gal myself, I see that Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, rosé, and Tempranillo are the suggested wines (and, sure enough, those wines feature heavily in my own wine refrigerator).  I love that tools like this give the reader language and context with which to describe and enjoy wine, especially if you're talking to the salesperson at your local wine shop or the sommelier in a restaurant.

Yet another plus to FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE is the extensive list of wines.  There are wines here that you can't find in WTDWWYE, such as Carmenère.  Another feature is that each wine has "Comparables" listed.  This is where I'll use both of these books as a cross-reference.  For instance, let's say that you've looked up brussels sprouts in WTDWWYE (which actually happened to me the other night).  The only wine that is listed there is Sauvignon Blanc.  Of course, it just happened to be the rare time when I didn't have a Sauvignon Blanc stocked in my fridge.  So I went to FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE and looked up Sauvignon Blanc.  The comparables listed are white Bordeaux, Fumé Blanc, Graves, Pouilly-Fumé, and Sancerre.  Guess who just happened to have a white Bordeaux!  Yep, me, and it went very well with the brussels sprouts.  Don't worry if you don't know any of the wines I just listed - FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE helps you decipher all that.

Last but not least, a major bonus - especially for newbies - is that each wine listed also includes a pronunciation key!  I recently discovered the Bastianich Friulano and had no idea how to pronounce Friulano...but no more (it's free-oo-LAH-noh).  Now I can feel like less of a jerk when I ask for it at Eataly!

All that said, if you're going to pick a single wine book to buy from Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, then I would recommend WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT.  That's the one that you can rush to look at while you're in the midst of making dinner; the best thing about it is that you can look it up by food and that's what makes it completely invaluable to the home cook and wine drinker.  But don't get me wrong - you'll still want THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE because it does provide more in-depth information and the cross-reference possibilities are huge.  And THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE provides more educational opportunities.  Really, the two books go hand-in-hand.

In fact, I feel so strongly that both books are essential to the home cook that I'm hosting my very first giveaway on Pinot and Prose!!!  I'm giving away THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE along with WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT to one lucky reader!  Here are the rules:

  1. Write a comment telling me about a wine you love, or a wine you'd like to try, or a food & wine pairing you enjoy.  Heck, just comment anything about wine.
  2. Then, if you haven't already, go to my Facebook fan page and "like" me.  (Oh, heaven's, I feel desperate asking you to "like" me...)
  3. And consider yourself entered!
Only one entry per person and no family members, please.  I'm going to open it up to my international readers so feel free to enter if you live across the pond.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, November 7th and I'll announce the winner on Tuesday, November 8th.

Good luck!

Note: I just have to share this inscription that Karen and Andrew wrote in my copy of WTDWWYE back in 2008: "To Laura & Adam - From one compatible pair to another, with our delicious wishes, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg."  Don't you love that?


My Cup Runneth Over

Leaving publishing and libraries behind recently wasn't an easy decision.  And it still isn't.  Likewise, when I left culinary school two years ago, that was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made.  But it's okay because it's led me here.  I can't believe I'm able to do freelance work, talk about food, take pictures, spend more time with Bug, travel whenever I want...like, as my life.  This is an amazing time for me and I'm loving every second.  I am so incredibly lucky.

Speaking of lucky, it's been a very good few days for me; let's just say that the mailman has been my friend.  Check out all the delicious treats below:

The lovely Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg sent me a copy of their newest book, THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE (review coming up).  I'm such an evangelist for their FLAVOR BIBLE and WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT - I'm thrilled to be reading the latest.  I now have the trifecta of foodie reference books...and so should you.  Go get them (or give them away for the holidays!).

The awesome folks at Sterling sent me a copy of EDIBLE BROOKLYN: THE COOKBOOK by Rachel Wharton.  I just got it yesterday so I haven't cooked anything from it yet, but I can't wait to dig in.  It's the first cookbook I've seen born from the Edible magazines.

I won a contest!  Thanks to Cooking with Libby and Tate's Bake Shop, I have a copy of their cookbook, TATE'S BAKE SHOP COOKBOOK.  I also got three bags of their Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate cookies.  Review?  So good!  I don't normally like my chocolate chip cookies crunchy but these are different: they have this lacy delicateness to them that I just adore.  I'm happy to dig into these instead of Bug's Halloween candy!

And I won another contest!  In a few short hours, I'll be joining Google Places and Midtown Lunch for lunch at Food Gallery 32!  I have to confess that I've never tried Korean food so this will be a treat.  I'm also going by myself, which means I'll have to be social and introduce myself to strangers.  Eek!

Last but not least, I just found out from a friend of mine that I might be able to see Gabrielle Hamilton speak about BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER, a book that I compared to the work of MFK Fisher.  I'm so beyond excited...really, I can't even express it.

And this is my life.  I can't believe it.  And I can't thank you enough for letting me share my food, my drink, and my table with you!

Eat, drink, and cheers to you!  I'll be paying it forward soon, I promise!

NOTE: It's not all fun and games.  In the midst of trying to get my still-life shot, this kept happening:


Garlic and Wine Soup

I had the loveliest morning today.  I stopped at Joe: The Art of Coffee for an Americano and a coconut cream doughnut.  Instead of walking down the street, munching, I stopped in Union Square to sit on a bench and enjoy my impromptu breakfast.  Small, but bold, birds hopped within a foot of my hand and the morning sun came through the yellow and green leaves.  I thought about autumn.  This season makes me feel contemplative, relaxed, and sleepy (in a good way) - it's, hands-down, my absolute favorite season.  At the risk of sounding corny, my heart just felt so full, sitting there, and I couldn't believe my good fortune in being able to sit in the park and enjoy the morning.  It was, in every way, perfect.

The changing of the seasons is always the best time for food and drink, I think.  By the end of summer, I'm rather grumpy about the heat, declaring that I won't make a single thing for dinner that requires heat and pining for the day when I can roast and braise and fry.  Not to mention exchanging my Vinho Verde and Hefeweizen for Pinot Noir and porter.  Well, the day has come.

It began with the Cauliflower Macaroni and was followed by Garlic and Wine Soup.  Jonny and Amy over at We Are Never Full posted the recipe for this soup ages ago; I bookmarked it back in November 2009 and I've only now gotten around to making it.  And, goodness, I wish I had made it sooner!  It is the perfect way to herald in the new season with its creamy richness and earthiness.

Amy and Jonny, in their blog post, recommend pairing this with a rustic red wine, which I think would be lovely and much welcome in the winter.  However, I went with WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT and drank a Sauvignon Blanc with dinner (the same one I used in the recipe...which is why you should always cook with a wine good enough to drink on its own).  I found the bright citrus notes very refreshing with this soup - it cut right through the richness.

This soup truly celebrates a new season.  And don't be afraid of all the garlic; when simmered for a long period of time, it turns sweet, mellow, and fragrant.  My last piece of advice is that you avoid the mistake I made: don't wait for two years to make this soup.  Make it this week.

Eat, drink, and don't worry about your breath.

SOUPE A L'AIL ET AU VIN (Garlic and Wine Soup)
Adapted - only slightly - from We Are Never Full
Serves 2

4-5 heads garlic (50-60 cloves)
4 oz pancetta, cubed
3 tablespoons plain flour
5 cups warm low-sodium beef stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 egg yolks
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1 cup Cantal cheese (Gruyere or Emmentaler would work too), grated
4-6 slices toasted country bread

1. Separate each clove of garlic from the head and crush lightly with the side of a knife.  Do not remove the skin.

2. Reserve one clove.  Peel it and chop it finely.  Keep for later use.

3. Gently render the cubed pancetta over medium heat in a large stockpot, until pieces are golden brown.

4. Add flour and stir into the fat.  Cook for 3-5 minutes.

5. Gradually add warm stock to the roux, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.

6. Bring to a boil and add the garlic.  Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, mix the white wine with the egg yolks in a 1-quart measuring jug (or a large bowl).  Also, place bread on a baking sheet and toast under the broiler for about 3 minutes.  Add grated cheese and broil for an additional 2 minutes.  Keep a close eye on it so it doesn't burn.

8. After 45 minutes, strain soup through a sieve to remove garlic, skins, and pancetta.  Return soup to pot.

9. Add several ladle-fulls of the simmering liquid to the eggs and wine to gently heat (temper) the yolks.

10. Then, add the egg yolk mixture back to the stock post and stir well.

11. Reheat soup until it shows a few bubbles.  Do not allow to boil.

12. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.

13. Mash the reserved garlic clove with chopped parsley (make a persillade).

14. Ladle soup into bowls.  Add bread slice on top, ladle soup over the bread, and sprinkle the whole thing with the persillade.  Enjoy!

NOTE: I actually forgot the parsley on my grocery list.  Which is why you see no persillade in my photo. It worked okay but I'd recommend the persillade, if not for flavor then at least for looks.

A NOTE ON KID-FRIENDLINESS: Who are we kidding?  Bug wouldn't touch this with a 10-foot pole.  She had "Kid Dinner" and then we enjoyed this for "Adult Dinner" after she had gone to bed.


Jamie Oliver's Cauliflower Macaroni

I'm just going to say this now because I know it'll come through anyway as I keep talking: Jamie Oliver's recipes are, hands-down, the most frustrating that I follow.  With measurements like "a full wineglass of dry white wine", "a knob of butter", and a "glug of olive oil", don't expect a lot of guidance from him.  He's loosey-goosey, to say the least.

So why do I keep buying his cookbooks?  Well, for a couple reasons: 1) they're styled and designed beautifully and 2) I love his unique combination of flavors.  And the secret third reason is that he is one of the hot men of the cooking world.  With that, I happily bought a copy of his newest book MEALS IN MINUTES.

The book is laid out in a completely different way, and I haven't quite got used to it yet.  Oliver put together menus.  For instance, it's not just a recipe for Cauliflower Macaroni; instead, it's a menu of "Cauliflower Macaroni, Belgian Endive Salad with Insane Dressing, Lovely Stewed Fruit."  Then the instructions assume that you'll be making all three together: a step for the macaroni is followed by one for the fruit, then we're back to the macaroni; the salad follows behind.  For this recipe, I made the macaroni and the salad but I didn't make the fruit; I found it easy to just skip the fruit-related instructions and move forward with the rest.

That said, I had A LOT of other problems.  Oliver calls for "8 slices pancetta".  But it was like an itch I couldn't scratch: "HOW THICK?!?!"  When I buy pancetta at Eataly, they tend to slice it thin.  When I order it from Fresh Direct, they give me a choice of "standard" or "thick".  Which is it, Jamie?!  I went with Fresh Direct's standard slices, which are approximately 1/8" thick.

Another thing that I just didn't get was that, in both the macaroni and salad recipes, Oliver specifies that the garlic should be unpeeled.  But never does he say that the peel should be removed later.  So, with that in mind, he means that we just blend it in?  That we have peels floating around in the macaroni?  I couldn't get on board with that.  Could you?  I made the call and peeled them.  And I want you to have that confidence too: if it sounds "off" in a recipe, make your own decision.

That's one thing that can be said for Oliver's cookbooks: they encourage improvisation.  Or thrust it upon you.

Okay, I'm done ranting.  So let's get on with it.  See below for my adaptation of Jamie's recipes.

Adapted from Jamie Oliver's MEALS IN MINUTES
Serves 8

8 slices pancetta (about 1/8"thick)
1 large head of cauliflower
1 pound dried macaroni (or similar shaped pasta)
9 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese
4 thick slices of country bread
a few springs of fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup crème fraîche
Parmesan cheese, to serve

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Fill a pasta pot with water and boil on high heat.  If you choose to grate the Cheddar cheese using a food processor, put the coarse grater attachment into the machine.

2. Lay the pancetta in a 9 x 13 roasting pan (I used a Pyrex dish).  Put into the oven and bake for about 8 minutes until slightly golden and turning up at the edges.

3. Trim off the tough base of the cauliflower stalk and quarter the head.  Put in the pasta pot with the pasta, on high heat.  The water should be just a few inches over the cauliflower and pasta; drain some water, if needed.  Season water with about a tablespoon of sea salt, drizzle over about a tablespoon of olive oil, then stir and cook following the instructions on the pasta package, with the pot lid askew.

4. Grate the Cheddar in the food processor and tip into a bowl (or you can grate coursely with a hand grater).  Fit the standard blade attachment, then get your pancetta out of the oven and blitz in the processor with the bread, rosemary leaves, and drizzle of olive oil (approx 1 tbsp) until you have a coarse breadcrumb consistency.

5. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and then drain the pasta.  Add the macaroni to the same roasting pan you cooked the pancetta in and add about 1 1/2 c. of the reserved pasta water.  Add finely chopped garlic cloves and mix in the crème fraîche and grated Cheddar, gently breaking up the cauliflower with tongs or a potato masher.  Taste for seasoning.  The pasta sauce should be loose and creamy; if not, add another splash of pasta water.

6. Spread the pasta out evenly in the dish and scatter over the breadcrumbs.  Put in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and the pasta is bubbly.

NOTE: See the photo below?  That's all our leftovers.  Jamie says this dish is for 6 servings but, with the salad, I think it's closer to 8 servings.

Adapted from Jamie Oliver's MEALS IN MINUTES
Serves 6

2 heads red endive, or 1 large radicchio
2 large heads Belgian endive
a small bunch of fresh basil (about 12 leaves)
1 clove garlic, peeled
3 anchovies, drained from jar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons natural yogurt (such as Fage)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil

1. Trim the bases of the endives and thickly slice them; scatter in a salad bowl or over a platter.  Tear 3-4 basil leaves and scatter over the endives.

2. Put the remaining basil leaves into a blender or food processor.  Crush in the garlic clove, then add a pinch of salt and pepper, the anchovies, mustard, yogurt, vinegar, and olive oil.  Add a tablespoon of water and whiz until smooth.

3. Taste the dressing for acidity; add more olive oil if you want to mellow it out a bit.  Pour the dressing into a jug or glass for serving.

A NOTE ON KID-FRIENDLINESS: This macaroni dish is perfect for kids.  I mean, you can't go wrong with crunchy breadcrumbs and nearly a pound of Cheddar cheese.  That said, Bug still managed to eat around all the bits of cauliflower.  Of course.  And I substituted the salad with the tried-and-true apple slices.



I bought the new Jamie Oliver cookbook yesterday: MEALS IN MINUTES.  I could lie and tell you that I got it at my local indie...but...yeah.  I paid full price at Barnes & Noble, guilty as charged.

I can't wait to try the recipes - you'll see some of them here soon (note the tabs I've already inserted for the recipes I want to take on).  I'm particularly excited about this one:

It's Quick Lemon and Raspberry Cheesecake.  You pound gingersnaps and hazelnuts with a rolling pin then, after mixing them with melted butter, you press them into the bottom of individual dishes.  Add store-bought lemon curd.  Sprinkle raspberries over the curd.  Top with creme fraiche (or mascarpone or cream cheese) that has been stirred together with some sugar, vanilla extract, and milk.  Last but not least, grate chocolate on top.

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is my kind of "baking".  Future dinner party guests can expect to see this one soon.

Eat, drink, and move to the 'burbs to make room for your cookbook collection.*

* Note to self: count how many cookbooks, reference books, and food memoirs I own.  I'll share the number with y'all when I do.


Sublime Pairings

I don't know what happened this past week but I was in a scheduling funk.  I hadn't planned a dinner menu, I hadn't gone grocery shopping, we had to keep eating out...  I was just out of sorts.  Menu planning for me is all about the routine: creating the menu, making the grocery list, doing the various shopping (Fresh Direct, farmers' market, Todaro Bros.), and then the actual cooking.  And when I don't go through every one of those rituals it just throws me off.  Ugh.  I'm getting stressed even recounting all this to you.  Last week wasn't my best.

It was in this mindset a few days ago that I decided we couldn't eat out another night; I was just going to have to create something from what I had in my kitchen already.  I had pasta because I always keep a package of fresh linguine in the freezer (another Fresh Direct stand-by).  I also had a butternut squash that I had picked up randomly a couple days earlier.  The squash was roasted, the pasta boiled.  I melted some butter, browning it and then adding some dried sage.  The last touch was to toss the pasta in the butter, put it in a bowl, and top with the squash, some freshly grated nutmeg, and Parmesan.

As usual, I checked WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT to see what they suggested as a wine pairing.  As luck would have it, Viognier was recommended with butternut squash and I just happened to have a bottle of Sobon Estate Viognier in my wine fridge.

It was, in every way, a divine pairing.  The earthy sage and salty Parmesan brought out all the warm butter and wood from the Viognier; together, it seemed to be autumn personified.  I actually gasped out loud; it was that perfect.  It's not to say that I don't enjoy most of my wine-food pairings because I do (thanks to Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page!)...but every once in a while you hit the perfect one and there's just nothing like it.

And what about a bad pairing?  We once had a young family friend - she was about 18 at the time - ask us how you know when a wine-food pairing is bad.  I responded, "It'll turn your face inside out."  If you've experienced it, you know exactly what I mean.  This pairing was the exact opposite of that.

Eat, drink, and pair up.

NOTE: Your kid(s) won't touch butternut squash?  Neither will mine.  So I didn't add any to Bug's bowl - she pretty much had just buttered noodles.  Then I sliced up an apple and put that on the side for her since that's about the only fruit/vegetable she eats gladly.

Recipe by Pinot and Prose
Serves 4

1 pound fresh linguine (dried is fine too)
1 medium butternut squash (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp dried sage (or to taste)
1/4 tsp freshly and finely grated nutmeg (or to taste)
4 tbsp finely grated Parmesan
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Peel butternut squash then cut in half.  Remove seeds.  Cut squash into 1/2-inch pieces.  Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Put onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake for about 30 minutes until squash is pierced easily with a fork and starting to brown.

2. In a large pot, boil water over high heat and then add 2 tbsp salt to the water.  Add pasta and cook according to package instructions (fresh pasta will take only about 2-3 minutes).  Make sure you try pasta before draining to make sure it's done.  Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

3. Melt butter in a large saute pan.  Add sage and the cooked pasta; toss.  If the pasta seems dry, add the reserved cooking water, 1/4 c. at a time.

4. Add pasta to individual bowls.  Garnish with roasted squash, grated nutmeg, and Parmesan.  Serve immediately.  With a big, buttery Viognier, of course.


Apple Tart

Despite the unseasonably warm weather we've had lately in NYC, we're still acting like it's autumn as much as possible.  And that included apple-picking this past weekend (note the flannel shirt on Bug...even though it was 75 degrees last Saturday).

We went to Masker Orchards, an apple farm we had never visited before but it came recommended from Time Out New York.

The selection was good: Empire, Jonagold, Macintosh, and the ubiquitous Red Delicious.  We filled a huge bag for $25 and bought a dozen amazing cider doughnuts.

On our way home, we stopped by a park to eat a picnic lunch and dip our toes in an ice-cold stream.

And while more than half of the apples ended up going to Bug's class for snack, we saved a few to make one of the few things I bake: Ina Garten's French Apple Tart.

Her recipe calls for handmade puff pastry which, of course, I don't do.  Heck, even Ina Garten says that you can cut corners by using store-bought pastry.  I buy my pastry from Fresh Direct but Pepperidge Farm's version would work just as well.

French Apple Tart
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 6

4 Granny Smith apples (I used Empire apples this time, which worked well)
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small-diced
1/2 cup apricot jam (Ina recommends sieving it...but being less detail-oriented, I don't worry about it)
2 tbsp. Calvados, rum, or water

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

2. Make sure that the packaged puff pastry is thawed before rolling.  Dust working surface lightly with flour.  Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 x 14. Use a small kitchen to trim the edges of the pastry so that they're even.*  Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

3. Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem.  Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baller (I use an apple peeler for this task, instead of a knife - reference photo above).  Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-thick slices.  Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices.  Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup sugar and dot with butter.

4.  Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apple start to brown.  Rotate the pan once during cooking.  If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out.

5. When the tart's done, heat the apricot jam together with the Calvados and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jam mixture.  Loosen the tart with a spatula so it doesn't stick to the paper.  Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

It really is as easy as it sounds, maybe even easier.  See?  I even messed up the pastry dough:

And it all turned out fiiiiine.

The results were delicious, and I even ate a piece for breakfast the next morning with a steaming cup of coffee (from Joe: The Art of Coffee...since I'm trying to break myself of the Starbucks default).

Eat, drink, and bake sometimes.

* If you follow the recipe link for Ina's version, you'll see that not only does she cut the dough with a knife to make it even...she even recommends using a RULER.  For heaven's sake.  Yeah, I don't play like that.  Not only did I NOT use a friggin ruler...I didn't even cut it with a knife to make it even.  I rolled it out and considered it done, crooked lines and all.  If you're the type of person to use a ruler for something like this, then my blog must drive you crazy.  I'm so not that kind of cook.

NOTE: I'm going to make this again soon because there are some variations I want to try.  I think it could be awesome with crumbled bacon on top of the tart.  And I also think you could grate some sharp cheddar over the tart, stick it under the broiler, and have a savory treat.