Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Ceremonial Changing of the Tablecloth

Four consecutive days of 90+ degree F. heat and humidity and it's not even summer yet? Allow me to welcome you to May in the Ohio Valley.

On the bright side, at least it's got me thumbing through The Heart of France, my big coffeetable picturebook, again, drooling over the cool blue-trimmed stone houses with lace-curtained windows and admiring the bistro menus written on chalkboards in that mysterious, French cursive hand. Although I've only been to Provence vicariously in the company Peter Mayle ;-), I will do my part to transport myself there again today by making the ceremonial "changing of the french flowered kitchen tablecloth" from fall's olive green to summer's Provençal blue. (Mind you, this has more to do with altering my state of mind than it does with good housekeeping.)

Yogurt pot avec sucre!

I will adorn the table with a blue and white spongeware pitcher filled with dried mustard-colored yellow yarrow and fill the little brown pottery Yoplait Saveur d'Autrefois yogurt pot that my friend Mary brought me from Paris with those sugar bûchettes you find in French cafes.

And lunch will be a delightfully light crabmeat and veggie salad, served on a seafoam green plate, with a small bowl of fresh strawberries and a glass of iced tea. Please feel free to join me!

Crabmeat Salad (2-4 servings)

2 (6 oz.) cans crabmeat, drained and flaked
1 cup chopped celery
1 medium sweet red, orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into smallish squares
1 small Vidalia onion, chopped
1/2-3/4 cup light mayonnaise + 2-3 T chili sauce, mixed together
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium tomato per serving
Romaine lettuce leaves

Mix crabmeat, celery, sweet pepper, onion, mayo/chili sauce, salt and pepper. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Cut each tomato into 6 wedges, almost to stem end and fill with crabmeat mixture. Serve on lettuce-covered plates.

Macaron envy

Oh, goodness. Béa at La Tartine Gourmande is blogging about Pierre Hermé's macarons today. I am so jealous (but in a good way)!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bento Boxes as New Diet Aid??

I was doing a Google blog search on "Trader Joe's" today when I came across a food blog called Diet Porn. As I scrolled down the page, I noticed that the blogger, a Californian known as Sweet Cherry, posted photos of her meals as she wrote about them and that the portion sizes looked remarkably controlled due to the simple little bento box-like containers she used. Clicking back to the first month of her blog's archives, I found a post containing the link for Laptop Lunches, the company which makes these shibby little items. There's even a cute, furoshiki-like cloth carrying bag! (American-sized Bento box lunch sets start at $19.99 without the insulated carrying case.) A "green" company, their website also offers healthy lowfat recipe ideas as a little bonus. Thank you, Sweet Cherry, for bringing these helpful little things to my attention. It's almost enough to make me emulate your good example! ;-)

Monday, May 29, 2006

Hot Time in the Big City

Memorial Day weekend in Cincinnati to foodie wannabes means just one thing: A Taste of Cincinnati. A three-day-long event, Taste draws almost 500,000 people from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana in search of a chance to sample selections from over 40 local restaurants, while listening to live music which, this year, featured (among many others) local funk legend Bootsy Collins presenting his protegés.

While I used to love to go to this eatfest, plotting out both my path and my courses, east to west along Central Parkway in advance, I can no longer tolerate its huge crowds, newly raised prices, and, hélas, all those yucky "portalets"! And so, as I maintain my status as a spinsterish recluse yet again this weekend, I can still be there vicariously by reading about Taste in the newspapers. I especially loved this quote from Hot food, hot sun, hot time in this morning's Cincinnati Post (5/29/06):
The Muirheids of Mason stopped by Taste because they were looking for something to do for the day.

Ronald, 53, and his wife, Lauri, 49, sampled a filet mignon sandwich, seafood noodles, potato cakes and a frozen daiquiri.

"We're going to find dessert next," Lauri Muirheid said.

The couple noted the most interesting thing they saw was a man wearing a red dress and high heels.

"He looked real nice," Ronald Muirheid said.

"Apéro" time!

Hmmm. I'm sure this little drink I've just created (blogging can be such a taxing endeavor!) must already have a name -- I mean, really! If Crème de Cassis mixed with white wine is a Kir, would that make my little concoction of Crème de Pêche and white wine a Pir? (And let's not forget, red Beaujolais with Crème de Cassis is a Communard!)

Make your own Crème de Pêche!

And read cookbook author Daniel Young's Bastille Day 2004 Los Angeles Times article: The long, exquisite moment: The French know the best way into a meal is slowly. That's the beauty of an aperitif.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

You are a dainty Violet...

Carolyn at 18th Century Cuisine has a great post about my favorite little spring flower, the violet, complete with the original French recipes and her eloquent translations thereof:

You are a dainty Violet...

Julia Child Bio-Pic in the Works?

According to a recent post on, actress Joan Cusack has been chosen to play much-loved French Chef icon Julia Child in an upcoming bio-pic! This tidbit was reportedly revealed during an appearance Cusack made on Martha Stewart's television show last week. I admit my first thought 5'8", she's not tall enough!

And, in other movie news, Variety reports that Nora Ephron is set to direct the movie version of Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen based on the food blog of the same name.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Crane Lake Petite Sirah 2003

How can such an inexpensive little wine have such a BIG, fruity flavor? When I recently came across a shopping cart full of Crane Lake's Petite Sirah 2003 at my local grocer on sale for the bargain price of $3.99, I couldn't help myself. I grabbed three bottles of it. I mean, I had to - memories of a prior tasting of it at a friend's house proved too strong to hold back.

Petite Sirah came about through the cross-pollination of two types of grapes, Durif and Pelousin, both French varietals native to the Rhone Valley. Grown now in California and favorably compared to big, hearty, full-bodied cabernets, petite sirah wines have made a recent resurgence in the marketplace. Winemaker Larry Rocha calls his 2003 Crane Lake Merlot a wine with marked black cherry, blueberry and boysenberry and pepper flavors, silky smooth with soft tannins. It received accolades last year at the 2005 Orange County Fair. And it receives accolades from me now, too, as a tasty, economical choice for my personal "house" wine.

Check out the website Petite Sirah, I love you which sings the praises of this noble grape.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Embrace Sweets

Embrace Sweets! Now there's a command I can gladly follow anyday. In this case, though, it is also the name of an impressive young Cincinnati business specializing in homey, high quality desserts. Founded by a graciously warm and attractive mother-daughter duo, Sandi and Brandi Daniels, Embrace Sweets has grown from a home kitchen-based venture to one which has blossomed into a stand at Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine, as well as a booming mail order and internet-based business. Whether you're in the market for a luscious snack for yourself, searching for the perfect dessert for a dinner party or special event, or looking for that special "taste of home" to send to a loved one overseas, Embrace Sweets can fill that craving with a wide variety of wares.

Their dense, intensely fudgy brownies, voted one of the Top Five Brownies in the country in 2005 by CHOW Magazine (Nov/Dec '05), come in varieties such as white chocolate, walnut, hazelnut, Jamaican rum, rum-raisin, and dairy-free chocolate chunk are $2 apiece. To my cardiologist's vast relief, when I got to their stand early last Saturday afternoon they had already run out of the devilishly tempting "triple-chocolate chunk"! ;-) Instead I sampled the "Toffee Almond Crunch Brownie" -- oh, who am I kidding -- "sampled"? I ate the WHOLE thing! -- and thought I even discerned some chocolate chips in there. There's also a butterscotchy "Sweet Georgia Brown Blondie" which is next on my list of things to try!

Large saucer-size cookies, including Snickerdoodles, "Blissful Chocolate Chip" (loaded with Guittard semi-sweet chocolate), white chocolate pecan macadamia, and raisin pecan oatmeal, are $1 each and worth every penny.

Sandi also makes a fabulously moist cinnamon coffee cake sprinkled with chopped nuts and drizzled with vanilla icing. It was all I could do to restrain myself from dunking it in my chocolate milk the next morning; at least I did try to practice a little discipline by cutting the generous portion into two pieces, so I could enjoy it for one more day!

This month Embrace Sweets was honored as the winner of the 2006 Entrepreneur of the Year Star Award by the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce. Sandi and Brandi can be found selling their delicious sweets at Findlay Market on the weekends and during the week in Manna's Restaurant on Main Street.

Embrace Sweets at Manna
633 Main St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm
Telephone: (513)241-8343

Findlay Market
Hours: Saturday, 9am-5pm and Sunday, 11am-4pm
Call (888) 905-2345 or to inquire about Catering or Corporate Gift Giving.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Today Is My Birthday...

And so I treated myself to this intriguing little present: a Dagoba Organic Dark Chocolate bar, flavored with lavender and blueberries. According to the company's website, this is "a combination said to help calm the spirit and relax the body. Bring on a little spring scented air with this delicate floral-infused bar."

I'll get back to you later and let you know if the corporate hype is true. In the meantime, I'm setting it aside until my craving for chocolate becomes impossible to ignore!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Xtreme Cuisine

Oh, my! One just never knows when one will come across a disconcerting food review, does one? I mean, all I did was click on a link from The Drudge Report virtually shouting CHEF CLAIMS HE SERVED BRANDO HUMAN FLESH! And what did I find but an article by Stephen Lemons in the Phoenix New Times (5/11/06) titled Xtreme Cuisine: Arizona's cunning culinary wizard Chef Kaz Yamamoto prepares taboo illegal moveable feasts for the elite and über-rich.

Dare I say it, but this article evokes what I normally would have believed could have only come from the hand of T. Coraghessan Boyle!

Among the menu items for the dinner recounted in the story:
--purple taro root bisque flavored with bacon cut from the belly of a wild Indonesian boar
--Tenderloin of Bichon Frise, medium rare
--ramekin of Key lime custard, made with sea-turtle eggs
--ferruginous pygmy owl, roasted with the head intact
--three strips of bighorn sheep in a light dusting of peppercorns with a maple-whiskey glaze
--two pieces of seal sushi, prepared nigiri-style, wrapped in gold leaf.

For the past three years, Yamamoto has maintained his moveable feast right under the noses of law enforcement authorities, placating the jaded palates of the wealthy, famous and powerful with such bewilderingly bizarre preparations as monkey brain stew, roasted flank of gazelle, and dry sausage crafted from the pink, lardaceous hindquarters of the great African hippopotamus.

..."Angelina Jolie and Mr. Brad Pitt love my giraffe tongue," he huffs, working himself into a lather, pacing the linoleum floor of his kitchen as he recalls the dish. "Giraffe tongue very tough. I marinate for four day in red wine and garlic before braising with leeks, shallot and carrot. I also make them monkey meat tartare, with caper and cornichon. Mr. Pitt go bananas over monkey. Even lick plate....

....Then there's the way Yamamoto obtained spider monkeys and sea lions.

"The Phoenix zoo have lot of monkey," shrugs Yamamoto. "Sometime they lose one. Maybe they think it escape. Maybe they should pay their employee better. For guard on night shift, $500 is lot of money. Same for sea lion at SeaWorld. If sea lion not perform in show, sea lion go bye-bye."

Please, please, me! You've just got to read this!

Those interested in Chef Kaz or Le Menu can e-mail him directly at

Equus Run Vineyards

Equus Run Vineyards -- what an absolutely perfect name for this young (established in 1999) Kentucky-run venture. The Cincinnati Post's food editor Joyce Rosencrans fills us in on its history and future in her article, Vineyard visit:Equus Run in the bluegrass region offers concerts, picnics, wines and a country stroll (May 10, 2006).

Equus Run Vineyards
1280 Moores Mill Road
Midway, KY
Summer hours will be 11 am to 7 pm Tuesday-Saturday; the winery is closed Sundays and Mondays. On Saturday, May 20, Equus Run will celebrate its eighth anniversary with an open house. Click here for directions from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky; Lexington; or Louisville.

Taste Test

I am so hungry!!!!