Thursday, December 29, 2011

winter holiday treats

Hi friends! How are things? I'm enjoying the mix of lingering holiday spirit combined with a bit of back-to-reality and work this week...and wanted to share a post on some favorite flavors that for me represent festive winter luxury and celebration.

This year we had fun with a rich assortment of cheeses for a Christmas get-together with special friends (still knee deep in home selling preparations, we stayed local this year).

 A really gorgeous and mild blue cheese from France called Persille de Beaujolais was a highlight, it went beautifully with plum-quince paste! Duck pâté, herb-rolled goat cheese from the Pyrenees, tripe creme brie and Gorgonzola dolce, a scattering of fresh figs rounded out the (decadent) selection:

I'm using tangerines in all kinds of sauces recently and bright citrus has Christmas associations going back to earliest childhood.

The scent of whole cloves plunged into citrus makes me feel instantly five years old again, evoking an entire, magical scene: the incandescent flicker of the fireplace, bright lights from the decorated tree, music, somehow all contained as a sense memory released by the spicy impact of dark clove as it mingles with orange citrus...

Provencal tangerine-clementine preserves continue the festive-citrus theme...yum.

Duck pâté on multigrain bread with fresh basil...

I asked Santa for this special and favorite liqueur--it makes the most amazing cocktails, especially combined with fresh squeezed citrus. I love its artistinal and delightful combining of Asian and French traditions. Domaine de Canton is made with organic ginger from Vietnam...heavenly!

We had some really nice beef leftovers from Christmas dinner, which hubby amplified the other night with an infusion of red wine, mushrooms, and his special TLC. 

Here it is bento'd in a little green container on a bed of endive, fresh herbs and lettuces, with fresh figs, some of that lovely French blue cheese, dressed in walnut oil...

Dessert side with tangerines, raspberries and a store-bought mini cheesecake:

I fell in love with this holiday card by artist Jane Ray with its magical animals...

Wishing everyone a wonderful 2012, may it be filled with vibrant happiness, creativity and friendship!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

thank you, Robin!

Thanks to my dear foodie pal Robin, a most talented and creative cook and the author one of my very favorite food blogs, What About the Food, for sharing a lovely bottle of walnut oil from Limerock farms with me! This gorgeous, amber oil made possible a wonderful snack today of radicchio drizzled with walnut oil (the bitter, delightful leaves wrapped around triple creme brie, fresh figs and walnuts). Yum.

Beautiful organic popcorn from Limerock was also included in this sweet gift...we had some with walnut oil and a little butter: truly good! Stove popped popcorn is a fav snack of mine...

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

thoughts of home, szechuan breakfast

Hello friends, sorry that its been ages since I've posted! All caught up in work and home-work, I've missed sharing and visiting blogs! Today, doing some final photos for our home sale ad...

We started the day with a wonderful breakfast, one that combined a Szechuan eggplant dish from China Star (also including wood ear mushrooms, ginger) with fresh dill, scallions and eggs...awesome!

It was a big deal for us to get rid of our kitchen table last weekend so that the kitchen would stage/show more spaciously. It was the heart of our home--endless hours spent there! Some views of the rearranged kitchen:

A favorite antique map of Provence...

Everyone warned me that once we'd gotten the house ready for sale, that I'd fall in love with it again and not want to leave...some truth in that as I look around and recall so many great memories, happy times, things I'll miss...

Hopefully we'll find a new home to nest in that will make us at least as happy...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

welcome to brighton beach

Hi bento pals! A highlight of our Thanksgiving visit to New York was a visit to Brooklyn's Brighton Beach--a sensory odyssey into Old World flavors, cooking traditions, gourmet shopping...wonderfully deposited in a gritty, vivid neighborhood located under the subway tracks.

Amid the rumble of the trains, this area offers an intact tradition of such savory, salty brightness. We were lucky enough to enjoy a unseasonably warm day for our explorations which included a sidelong glimpse of Coney Island as well.

 We had a long lunch at Cafe Glechik on Coney Island Avenue, a restaurant I cannot recommend highly enough! This cozy spot hit the mark with its warm and helpful service, diverse menu, and incredible skill and care with which each dish we ordered was prepared...and we ordered many dishes. Just a stunning experience.

The flavor spectrum managed to be both subtle and very exciting...foresty, earthy flavors highlighted with hints of vinegar, the tang of excellent sour cream, and bright green herbs.

The stuffed cabbage completely revised my sense of what this dish can offer with its tender, herby filling, the cabbage leaves braised with rich tomato vinegar amazing start to our feast. Note the lavish sour cream garnish and delicate dill:

Eggplant and peppers salad--another "wow" dish with wonderful sweetness, brightness:

Tender chicken pelmeni with onion, sour cream:

"Chanahi": sauteed leg of lamb with tender vegetables in broth. So simple, so perfectly done. The broth conveyed both bright vegetable flavors and a hint of meaty depth...

Country style potato salad with peas and carrots, topped with rich mayonnaise (almost "a la mode" style)...yummy!

White radish salad with spiced chicken livers--so interesting and good. Everyone enjoyed this!

Cold green borscht...refreshing and full of that quiet, characteristic umami we were coming to love in this Ukranian feast...

Shrimp in a delicate cream sauce...luscious!

And more dumplings, these with minced meat and white pepper (Jamison's pic):

Happy and full, we emerged from lunch to walk off some its considerable calories while checking out the offerings of area markets and shops:

We found several wonderful gourmet markets on Brighton Beach Avenue with so many types of sausage, cheese, cured fish, beautifully and joyously presented...a real sense of the serious pleasure of shopping European style here!

As Jamison points out, Eastern squirrels really do have ears like this!

Loved the rich architectural details all around, happily featuring two of my favorite styles: Art Deco and Gothic Romanesque revival--expressive, jazzy, full of joie de vivre:

Many textures, indications of rich cultural/religious traditions in this community...I'd love to return and explore these layers with much more time to do so.

Keeping time with the rest of the world--I liked the contrasting fonts used for London, Brooklyn and Israel...

We walked down to the beach as twilight arrived: streaks of glowing and intensifying apricot, purple, vermilion against a soft blue violet sky...

I think this photo of Jamison captures the buoyant fun of the day:

Next stop, Coney Island, closed for season and quiet yet full of interesting neon signs, tokens of summers past, beautiful on this unseasonably warm November night...

Thanks for coming along!