Go now: Step Up to the Plate

Before there was Alinea, Eleven Madison Park, and Red Medicine, there was Michel Bras of Bras, 3-Michelin star restaurant in Laguiole, southern France creating Le Gargouillou, likely the most outrageous vegetable dishes known to man. Step Up to the Plate, a newly released documentary, tells the story of Bras with a focus on the tense but unavoidable transition of kitchen control from Michel, the man who built the restaurant from scratch, to Sebastien, his son who has dedicated 15 years to working and learning the Bras kitchen and philosophy inside and out.

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I took my four year old to a chicken slaughter

how to slaughter a chicken

On a Friday afternoon, we were asked if we would be interested in attending an informal chicken slaughter and processing class at a private farm close to Denver. The answer was a categorical yes – no hesitation, no second thoughts. I called the organizer and informed him that it would be the two of us, my husband and I, and that we will be bringing our 4 year old daughter, Lulu. Not once did it cross my mind not to bring her. He hesitated. I assured him that she has been on farms around animals before and that she is very well-behaved. I was looking forward to this experience. In the morning, I told Lulu that we would be going to a farm. I wanted to make sure she understood what we were about to do. I talked to her about all the chicken things she eats- the chicken soup, the roasted chicken, the fried chicken, the chicken salad, the chicken schnitzel, and the chicken wings. I asked her where it comes from — the chicken farm, she answered. I wasn’t convinced she got it so I asked what does the chicken look like — a chicken, she said. This … Continue reading

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Zucchini, Romanian-Style

I am not a gardner. I am not sure what the opposite of a green thumb is but I have it. I blame my lack of magic touch on plants of all kinds (I once killed a cactus) on a lifetime of urban condo living. I have never lived in a free-standing home which means that I have never really had a garden (yes, I once had an extensive patio where mint thrived), which excuses at least some of my lack of talent with plants. That said, one year I had a zucchini plant. It not only survived but produced zucchini at a rate that was worrisome particularly since there is only that much one can do with zucchini. Zucchini grows like a weed to the most talentless gardener and there is always a lot of it. I no longer have a zucchini plant, but recently I got a few giant zucchini specimens from friends. I called on my inner zucchini lover to find a few ways to use the bounty and came up with two that bring me back to my Romanian roots – zucchini with tomato sauce and stuffed zucchini. I managed to shoot a few pictures of … Continue reading

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Go Now: Bucharest

I am back in Denver, slowly digesting the month that I spent in Europe, some of it traveling in France, some visiting Romania. I left Bucharest 11 years ago and returned to visit each year with great pleasure. This year it was more than great pleasure – I did not want to leave.  Bucharest is where I grew up, where I learned to play, to read, to kiss, to drive, to cook. There, I learned to walk on cobble stone in high heels, to hail a cab, to ride the metro, and to parallel park in impossible conditions. In the last two or three years, the city has changed – I felt revived magic, spectacular additions, great changes. I cannot wait to go back so to cure my blues I wanted to share some of my favorites. This is by no means comprehensive – it is a teaser of sorts, an insider’s short tip list to be added to an itinerary that celebrates and recognizes the culture, architecture, and art that Bucharest has to offer.

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Can It: Peaches!

I compared peach canning – and canning in general – with child birth. It is not complicated, but it is in many ways hard. And if one remembered how it feels, it would likely never be done again.  Like many others, I don’t remember so I go back to the well year after year . Each year I get all excited about engaging in a marathon of making jams, jellies, and canned fruit in syrup — peaches being my favorite subject of canning. One Saturday morning, I came home with 40 pounds of Colorado peaches.  I was ultra excited about canning these beauties in perfect halves in the lightest syrup to have when the short Colorado harvest season ends. By 2 a.m., as I was still filling jars and boiling them, my excitement subsided and reached a bottom low as I looked at the remaining 15 pounds of peaches. But those are now distant memories and I love the results so much that I would do it again tomorrow. You mustn’t be as greedy as I was with quantities –  you can do this with any amount of fruit. It is labor-intensive but really easy and very rewarding. And at … Continue reading

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Dinner on the Grill

Dinner on the Grill

I’m one of the lucky ones: I cook and my husband does the dishes. I have to admit that I’m spoiled — not having to wash pots and pans makes cooking so much more enjoyable. My husband feels fortunate to be the recipient of my cooking, so he usually doesn’t complain. It’s just that night after night of heavy dishes can be tiring (I use many pots and pans, prep bowls, etc. in my cooking). With summer in full swing, I’ve made many whole meals on the grill. Of course, we’ll still use real flatware and plates, but those are easy enought to put in the dishwasher with a quick rinse.

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Apricot jam, the way I make it

A staple of my summer and my personal favorite jam to eat and make, my apricot jam does not have a technical recipe. This tendency to go without recipes limits the possibility of posting many of my kitchen creations. The way I make jam explains why I cook more than I bake and how I can to pull off a bright dinner each or any night for my family on a whim.  I just know how to make it, I can feel it, I can see it, and no matter what happens, I can fix it. That may not work in baking but it gives me a chance to play and make food freely every single night, nose out of the cookbook. I grew up seeing apricot jam being made in a ritualistic but very matter-of-fact way each year. I remember vividly one year when my grandmother left it on the stove too long. So long that the bottom of her giant dark orange Le Creuset pot had a thick deep layer of black burnt apricot stuck to it that took some serious determination to remove. Of course, my grandma removed it.

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Best Bites: Duck Tasso at Bittersweet

I love duck. I love that it takes skill and care to make it shine and I love the versatility that duck allows in preparations. The point for me is not the type of dish- it can be prosciutto, tacos, fried wings, or cassoulet and I will likely order it and probably love it as long as it is done, well, right. I found an outstanding duck dish tonight at Bittersweet: the Duck Tasso. An appetizer, the Duck Tasso is a play on the Tasso ham, a Louisiana specialty made of pork shoulder. Traditionally, the pork cured in salt briefly then rubbed with a spice mixture that includes cayenne pepper and smokey paprika. The duck version at Bittersweet takes duck breast cured in salt then rubbed with a variety of spices that make it just slightly tingly hot on the tongue. 

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French Laundry Post-Dinner Blues

French Laundry Menu

I had dinner at the French Laundry last week – it had been a long time coming. I debated writing about it for a variety of reasons. I don’t want to brag or to review or to ooh and aah about it. And I don’t think I can add much that has not been already said. Because of these reasons, I did not take pictures of my dinner and constrained myself to only mental notes that allowed me to enjoy every second I had there.

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