Friday, July 30, 2010


Since returning home on Wednesday, I've been sleep walking through the days;
I'm really looking forward to relaxing this weekend and catching up on my sleep. I'm too old to be doing all-nighters any more!

Join me next Friday morning, August 6th for a great class at Great News here in San Diego. We will take the contents of the Farmer's Market bag from Specialty Produce and I will cook up a storm, using all that lovely produce, so at the end of the class, you will go home not only with the recipes, but with a Farmer's Market bag from Specialty Produce. This is a great chance to sample some of the finest and freshest produce Southern California has to offer, and learn some new recipes, too. So come on down---I hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Baker's Dozen Reasons to love France

1. The food! There is nothing like a ripe cheese, fresh produce from the markets, and pastries from the patisserie, not to mention ....

2. The bread; how can three ingredients, flour, yeast and water yield so much crusty goodness? As the saying goes, you gotta be there!

3. The wine: OK, French wines have gotten a bad rap for pretentious reputations, but European wines, unlike those in the US, Australia and South Africa are made to be drunk with food; they are not a beverage like Coke. Taste a French wine with a French cheese, then tell me it's as good at that Yellow Tail you've been drinking.

4. The scenery: spectacular from Paris, to Normandy, to the coast of Brittany, along the Dordogne, into the Languedoc, Provence, Alsace, the Loire, all looking like story book towns with ancient castles, ruins, and even prehistoric cave paintings.

5. History: You cannot escape it here; prehistory in the Dordogne in the caves at Lascaux and Cro Magnun man in Les Eyzies, Roman ruins, ancient castles, chateaus reminiscent of an era of wealth and opulence, Paris with its museums celebrating art, and history of France, Normandy with its wealth of World War II historic places. Around every corner, there is another reminder that this is country rich in history, and culture as well as the food.

6. Lunch: Every Frenchman sees it as his duty to have his lunch from 12 to 2, shutting his shop to enjoy the pleasures of a meal. The French don't eat, they dine. Long lunches with several courses, washed down with local wines to pair with the meal.

7. Aromas of the markets: Head to the local market and be assaulted with the smells of fresh produce: musky melons, bright strawberries, ripe tomatoes, garlic, onions, fresh lettuce (yes, it does have an aroma) olives, fish smelling only of salt water, and not the least bit fishy, and the aromas of ripened cheeses. Compare this to the antiseptic grocery stores, that we frequent in
the US and there is a reason you will be begin to shop at farmers' markets when you return.

8. The language: I admit it, I have NO ear for French, but I have to say that everything sounds better in French, even if you have no idea what is being said!

9. The transporation system: Not since I lived in Japan, have I been on such great trains, traveling at speeds over 150 mph through the countryside. They are clean, efficient, and comfortable. Ditto the metro and buses in Paris--the taxis in Paris sometimes go more than 150 mph, but that is another story!

10. Cooking and eating like the French: I had the opportunity this week to teach 6 amazing students at La Combe en Perigord. We used local ingredients, and they learned new skills to add to what they already knew. I even had a carrot master in my group, who'd never peeled a carrot. The fact that we could use the finest ingredients in the world, only enhanced their experience. Our last lunch was a 12 course tasting lunch at a 1 star Michelin restaurant--tres bon!

11. Shopping: Much has been said about the shops in Paris, but leave the cities and go into the towns and find lovely shops selling vintage clothes, beautiful linens, hats (why don't we wear more hats in the US?) copper pots, housewares, and local specialties.

12. Macaroons: Laduree, the legendary shop in Paris selling macaroons in every flavor imaginable, has been copied in every patisserie in every small town. These are not the cloyingly sweet macaroons you remember but rather a subtle taste that is divine.

13. Meeting the people: I had the opportunity this week to meet a truffle hunter and his dog, a woman who still does duck decoupage (no she doesn't use modge-podge--she butchers the duck) and vendors in the market places---all full of smiles, a wink of the eye, and maybe an extra macaroon if you play your cards right.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Exploding ice cream and other air travel delights

I probably should have posted this yesterday, but Paris was on my mind yesterday. I fly almost 100,000 miles each year, so I've been through a lot of airline adventures (note the Charlie Trotter meal) On Sunday when I flew from San Diego to Toronto to connect with my flight to Paris; I flew Air Canada for the first time. Service was fine, and before we landed we were served ice cream and fresh cookies---I've never met a cookie I didn't like, so I was ready---when I began to open the Haagen Daazs mini ice cream cup it exploded all over me, the computer and my black airplane clothes. The flight attendant then told me it was becasue of the pressure in the cabin, but it was really because the ice cream had melted when she'd cooked it alongside the cookies-the replacement she gave me was also melted--I may not be the brightest bulb in the pack, but at least I know that much!
I'm off to find a sandwich for lunch on the train, and possibly a fruit tart at the little patisserie next door to the hotel. That's the good news about Paris, there is something good to eat on every corner. Bon jours from Paris, next stop La Combe en Perigord.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Searching for the real France

This morning I arrived at Charles De Gualle airport in Paris; me and 300 sleepy passengers, stumbling off the plane, into the light, and then down a tunnel into the baggage claim area, all tapping our feet, wondering whether we'd ever see that bag we packed 2 days ago. Why is it that baggage claim is your first hint of what the country will be like---I think that's pretty unfair, since France is a lovely country, once you get outside of the cities. Although my friends love Paris, it's not my favorite city --- granted it's got great art, food, and culture, but it's also congested, sprawling, and today it's an oven. I hopped over to St. Germain des Pres on the Metro and stopped in at Simrane a lovely store that sells linens and some women's furnishings; the ride over on the metro was hot, hot, hot, and reeked of BO, sweat, leather and gym socks. I walked back to the hotel, it was worth the sun burn. Tomorrow I will be going to the real France, the one that isn't crowded with tour buses, or Ma and Pa from East Oshkosh complaining about everyone speaking a foreign language, and the pace is slower. When I come to Europe, I want my clock to slow down---I'd stay at home if I wanted to continue at Mach II. A two hour ride on the TGV high speed train to Angouleme, then we will be picked up and whisked another 2 hours away to La Combe en Perigord ( for a week in the Dordogne. I'll have students, and we'll do 3 hands on cooking classes, but the rest of the time we will be going to markets, seeing the incredible sights this part of France has to offer, including the prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux. And the food---if you ask any Frenchman where the best food is in their country, they will say the Dordogne. Foie gras, goat cheese, walnuts, prunes, and Bergerac wines---I'm ready and will be posting this week as time allows with photos and stories, as we savor the joy of the real France.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dear Charlie Trotter,

I'm writing to ask why you would associate your name with airline food; you, who own the temple of cuisine, where reviewers and diners swoon at the mention of your tasting menus, and scores of people will wait months for reservations. Why Charlie, would you put your name on this?

The FIRST CLASS United Airlines menu described it as seared chicken with lentils and cumin scented butternut squash. What I got was rubber chicken, with skin the consistency of a latex glove, only with grill marks. The lentils were brown and weepy, and the butternut squash oozed neon juice that smelled rancid. OK Charlie, I know you had something else in mind, these three things don't even go together, let alone sound good. And have I said how this tasted?? Trust me, you have had better TV dinners, if you ever ate them as a child. I would have been happy with a nice bowl of soup and a salad, rather than this, it was downright awful. The only thing that saved it was the ice cream sundae (which didn't have your name on it) Charlie, I was flying to Rome, don't you think you could have come up with something that reheats well, like Osso Buco, or a beef ragout, or chicken balsamico; no, instead I get some vanity that you have chosen to inflict on customers that are paying upwards of $5,000 a seat to (hopefully) get something decent to eat. Fly the airline that makes your food, I have a feeling you will strip those menus from them, and then run back to the safety of your temple of culinary delights screaming.
Yours sincerely,