Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Palate recalls his visit to Chez Panisse

Oh Willa,

Thank you for the Clementine memory.

I am enjoying your blog from a remote tropical locale this holiday. Egrets and blue herons are looking for an afternoon snack at the edge of the lake in front of my parents' house. Here we eat comfort food, like microwaved vegetables with Cheez Wiz Sauce and Swanson's Salisbury Steak.

The first time I became aware of clementines as being something other than another orange was at Chez Panisse on the day after Thanksgiving ten or so years ago. The menu started with an apéritif, then a butternut squash and Comté cheese tartlet with rocket salad. That was followed by pheasant consommé with turnips, carrots and chestnuts and then grilled swordfish with American caviar butter, braised escarole and spinach, fried leeks and celery root purée. For dessert, warm fondant au chocolat with clementine sherbet and Champagne sabayon. It was quite an amazing dinner and I remember each course vividly, the flavors complemented each other perfectly. The warm chocolate, cold clementine with the hint of champagne ending still lingers.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Just in time!

From Tuesday's New York Post's PAGE SIX:
The elderly proprietor of Albanese Meats - the old-school NoLIta store used by Martin Scorsese in "Mean Streets" and Robert De Niro's American Express ad - got an early Christmas gift Thursday: his life. Mo Albanese was preparing a crown roast for a customer and chatting about the actors whose photos adorn his wall, when he suddenly dropped his knife and collapsed to the floor. The customer, an investigator with the state Office of Tax Enforcement, called 911. Emergency workers quickly arrived to help Albanese, who's now said to be doing fine in a hospital. "Thank God I was there," the customer told The Post's Dan Mangan.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Of Unexpected Acts of Kindness and Clementines

It is either late at night now or early morning, depending on whether you are a "glass half full or half empty" sort of person. I am sitting here sipping a glass of a lovely unfiltered Domaine la Montagnette 2003 Cotes du Rhone rouge which I bought several weeks ago after noticing a little tag saying it had also been selected for the wine list at Jean-Ro Bistro downtown. (I figured if it was good enough for Jean-Robert de Cavel, it was good enough for me!) The last remaining brownie of the batch is close at hand now, the really good kind with two sides of chewy crust, and I am pleased to report that the wine complements its flavor very well. I am tempted to pull a clementine or two out of the refrigerator to rest on the the kitchen table and warm up for breakfast tomorrow. I must admit, I have a real jones for clementines, but their cost is tres cher. Still, I must have them. What can I say? They always take me back to Paris.

After Jef and I left the Montmartre creperie, we headed back to the Abbesses Metro stop where I noticed little flyers advertising the services of gypsy fortunetellers littering the ground. Although they were wet from the rain, I picked one up as a souvenir. Jef walked me back to the hotel from the Cirque d'Hiver and said he'd call me about our plans for Jim's New Year's Eve party the next day.

Once in my room, I collapsed onto the bed and looked at the clock. It was getting late and I had told Denis when he had called earlier that I would meet him at 8 at the little restaurant to the right of the Fontaine St. Michel. Dolling myself up a little with my new Chanel eyeshadow and spritzing myself lightly with Guerlain's new fragrance Mahora, I waited impatiently for my nail polish to dry. Checking the time again, I decided I had to head out. This time I was not going to waste my time taking two trains to get there. I had decided to take the bus down through the Marais to the Latin Quarter. It wound around through a maze of little streets, but it was fun to see the shop windows full of their Christmas displays. In fact, I had tried it out a couple of days before, just so I would know where I was going in the dark. My little evening bag wouldn't hold my faithful companion, Michelin's Paris par arrondissements. But that was OK. After all, I knew where I was going, didn't I?

The bus was crowded and I had to stand, but I was glad to be on my way. The streets were full of people, too, and I enjoyed watching them. But something was wrong. Suddenly the bus had stopped and the driver was making an announcement. We were at Chatelet and he was yelling, "Terminus"! What I hadn't realized was that on Saturday night, the regular Paris buses just stop operating at 8 pm! Luckily, I recognized the area as one that I had been to a few days earlier, looking for the Théâtre de la Ville where the Japanese Butoh group Sankai Juku was scheduled to perform. Everybody on the bus had the same problem now. I decided to follow the crowd across the bridge and soon found myself at the restaurant.

It was crowded and we didn't have a reservation, but Denis was already sitting at a table, waiting for me. He helped me off with my coat and we exchanged bises on each cheek. It seemed a little drafty, we were so close to the door. But who's complaining. I was in Paris on a date with a handsome, intelligent Frenchman. What's not to like? There was some discussion of le vache fou ("mad cow") and Denis said that restaurants were no longer serving steak tartare. He seemed especially disappointed. But soon we ordered drinks and became engrossed in conversation. Originally we had planned to have dinner and then go somewhere else to hear some jazz, but Denis was as green as I was when it came to where to go. He was not a Parisien, he said, in fact he found them rather cold. Although he worked as a research scientist at the Pasteur Institute, he lived in the suburbs and took the RER to and from work. He was single, played the violin, went faithfully every year to the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, and loved Nigel Kennedy's music. In fact that was our common thread. I had met Nigel a couple of years earlier and we had hit it off. He is a geniunely brilliant musician and a generous, passionate, intelligent human being as well. It was a huge pleasure to be invited to spend a little "down time" with him after concerts.

I was so engrossed in conversation with Denis that I cannot recall a thing I ate, but the time flew by quickly and I realized that I had to leave immediately in order to catch the Metro back to my hotel. Ironically, the RER, which the suburbanites use, runs later than the Metro, so Denis had more time to spend than I did. He walked me to St. Michel station and said he would call me the next day. We still had a jazz club to go to before I left for home!

The train came and I was relieved to see it. It wasn't very full. A short time later, when we arrived back at Strasbourg-St. Denis, my transfer point, I thought everything was cool. I could still hear the sound of trains roaring in the background as I made my way to the other platform. And then, suddenly, I realized that I was the only person left, except for a French couple sitting on a bench nearby, seemingly in the middle of an argument. They were attractive and well-dressed, trés bon chic, bon genre, but yelling at each other over the disembodied voice that echoed high above us in the tiled tunnel. I am not exactly helpless when it comes to speaking and reading French, but the voice came out of nowhere and, with it, fumbling noises, like Inspector Clouseau shuffling around a big old-fashioned desk microphone. This happened over and over again! I gathered the jist of things was that we had just missed the last train and so were out of luck. The French woman kept looking up toward the ceiling and yelling for the disembodied voice to shut up. Finally, they rose to leave and then, without warning, she started screaming. There were rats down there and she had just come eyeball to eyeball with one. I could wait no longer. "Pardonnez-moi, madame. Je suis Américaine. Parlez-vous anglais?" She did and we ran up the stairs to the street where they told me they were planning to take a taxi down to Bastille to go bar-hopping. After asking where I was staying, they offered to give me a lift to my hotel. Unfortunately, the queue for taxis was already quite long, so her boyfriend decided that we would walk. He took off at a brisk pace and seemed amused that I was able to keep up. Little did he know how many months of religiously working out at the Y had gone into my plans. Ironically, now it was all paying off.

I was relieved to be in their company, especially since I had left my map at home. Although I'd been through the Strasbourg-St. Denis station many times over the previous week, I had never been at street level and had NO idea where we were. It turned out that we were fairly close to Republique which was not too far from my hotel. We walked down the Boulevard Voltaire at a fast clip, stopping in at a little grocery store along the way. I bought a bottle of vin rouge to take back to the hotel and the boyfriend bought a handful of clementines. He handed me a couple as a gift and they insisted on walking me all the way to the door of my hotel to make sure I was safely home. Safely ensconced in my hotel room, with Johnny Depp and the French version of Polanski's Ninth Gate to keep me company on the television, I opened the wine and poured a glass.

I can't remember their names, but I will always think of my new friends as my special angels, especially after I finally took that first sweet, juicy bite of clementine.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cakegrrl's Places to Go and Good Things to Eat

In honor of Cakegrrl's visit home for Christmas, here's a little list of suggestions for fun places to visit along the way!

1. Madison's Produce at Findlay Market: try their great new line of gelatos;

2. Embrace Sweets at Findlay Market: this mom and daughter duo have some of the tastiest brownies around!

3. Tara's Coffee Shop at Findlay Market: where else can you find both lavender scones and sample some of Kentucky's best premium ice cream, Valentine's (and make mine bourbon chocolate, please, just like Jean-Robert buys for Pigall's!)...

4. Saigon Market: stop in and say hello to Mr. Yip and pick up a bottle of rose or orange flower water for those Moroccan pastries you've always wanted to make.

5. Marble Hill Chocolatier: oh, try these for me, please -- chocolate lavender torte with pistachios; white chocolate bourbon blondie; almond mocha macaroon; “petticoat tails” of shortbread with ginger and cocoa nibs; chocolate chocolate chip and banana cupcake with chocolate curry ganache; and white chocolate lemongrass tart with a cracked black pepper crust.

6. Jean-Robert's Greenup Café: ooooo, coffee éclairs ($2)! And what's this I hear about Bûches de Noë?!? I believe these faboo confections are the creation of pastry chef Jean-Philippe Solnom--and I am wondering whether he is the former pastry chef of the late, lamented Maisonette during Jean-Robert's reign as chef...

7. Bonbonerie: just for old time's sake (and a piece of "Tuxedo Cake"? ;-))

8. Kroger's: how about a few Gold Star Chili seasoning packets for when that Cincinnati Chili bug hits you in Sacramento?

Holiday Flavor Trend?

Has anyone else noticed the proliferation of products with a caramel flavor dominating store shelves these days? Mind you, I'm the last one to complain considering that, after chocolate, caramel has to be my favorite candy flavor!

Folger's Gourmet Selections Coffees introduced a new flavor this autumn called Caramel Drizzle. It has a heady aroma which makes it the primary candidate for my experiment in making coffee concentrate.

Another BIG favorite, is Betty Crocker's Warm Delights Molten Caramel Cake. Given the cooking limitations I'm dealing with in the kitchen, imagine my delight in discovering the commercial for this playing one evening on TV. Although some have compared the simplicity of preparing this little cake to childhood cooking experiences using an Easy-Bake Oven, I can only say I'll take your word for that. The wizards who created this hot from the microwave treat made it as simple as "1-2-3" to prepare. By just mixing in a tablespoon of water to the packet of cake mix in its little microwave-safe bowl, then drizzling the caramel topping over the top of the cake batter, and nuking it for a minute or so, you have a tasty chocolate caramel cake for one. Using willpower to the Nth degree, I can ration these out to one every 3 or so weeks--but not for lack of desire!

One thing that's been around (at least in the Midwest) for the past several years is Marzetti's Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Dip. A modern update of the old caramel-apple on a stick, this rich, but satisfying dip, provides just the tasty memory I want once fall and its crops of apples roll around again. And, of course, the apple part makes it entirely nutritious! ;-)

Twice (Microwave) Baked Sweet Potatoes
2 sweet potatoes or yams
6 T caramel dip
2 T butter
1/8 t ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
2 t toasted chopped pecans (optional)

Wash potatoes, pierce each potato several times with a large fork to allow steam to escape. Place potatoes in microwave on High for 6 to 7 minutes. Turn potatoes and rearrange after 3 minutes. When done, wrap in foil. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut top off hot baked potatoes. Scoop out hot potato with a spoon, be careful to keep shells intact. Set shells aside. In a mixing bowl, combine hot potato, 1/4 cup caramel dip, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat with electric mixer on High speed until fluffy. Spoon mixture into potato shells. Place on a serving plate. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on High 3 to 4 minutes or until heated through. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons topping. Sprinkle with chopped pecans, optional. Makes 2 servings.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Chocolate Lounge Heats Up

Sorry, Cakegrrl! Looks like you'll miss this one, too! :-(

Only one more week until Christmas and if you happen to be in O'Bryonville on Saturday, shopping along its fabulous little Madison Road strip of shops, you might just take a break at Marble Hill Chocolatier's Chocolate Lounge.

Marble Hill will open early at 9am, to premiere new plated desserts made exclusively for Marble Hill by the pastry chefs of the Jean-Robert French Restaurant Group. Breakfast pastry from Jean-Philippe Solnom of Jean-Robert’s Greenup Café will be offered, as well as a Cranberry Walnut Chocolate tart and a chocolate lavender torte with pistachios by Karen Crawford of Jean-Robert at Pigall’s, while Summer Genetti of Jean-Robert’s Pho Paris, premieres a bittersweet malted chocolate mousse.

From 11am to 1pm, Karen Crawford and Summer Genetti, as well as Jean-Robert de Cavel will be on hand to discuss all things pastry and chocolate.

“When you have passion for food, chocolate is always on top of the list. And I am especially pleased to see the talents of Karen, Summer and Jean-Philippe featured outside our restaurants,” says Jean-Robert.

Pastries already offered include a white chocolate bourbon blondie; bittersweet brownie with chocolate and brown sugar; and a take on the Pigall’s signature dessert: macadamia shortbread with milk chocolate; almond mocha macaroon; “petticoat tails” of shortbread with ginger and cocoa nibs; a chocolate chocolate chip and banana cupcake with chocolate curry ganache, and a white chocolate lemongrass tart with a cracked black pepper crust.

“The response to the pastries has been amazing,” says Bill Sands, owner of Marble Hill, “We’re excited to introduce three new desserts to compliment the assortment we already have.”

Guests can relax in the Chocolate Lounge with tea, coffee, cocoa and pastries or the Marble Hill signature truffles and bonbons. Samples will also be available.

“Whether you’re looking for a box of Marble Hill signature chocolates to give, or need to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the season, you can do both in the Chocolate Lounge,” adds Sands.

Pastry prices range from $1.35- $8.00. The beverage menu includes teas by Harney & Sons: $1.50; coffee by Coffee Emporium: $1.50 and exotic cocoas: $3.00 - $5.00.

Marble Hill Chocolatier
1989 Madison Road
Cincinnati, OH
Telephone: (513) 321-0888
Hours: Tues - Sat 11am - 5 pm
Gift boxes of the signature chocolates are available for shipping anywhere in the United States from

Best Ever Bourbon Brownies
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 to 3 tablespoons bourbon
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 ounce semisweet chocolate, melted

Grease and 8x8x2 inch baking pan,; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the 1/3 cup butter, the granulated sugar and water. Cook and stir over medium heat just until mixture boils. Remove from heat. Add the 1 cup chocolate pieces, stirring until melted. Stir in eggs and vanilla, beating lightly with a spoon just until combined. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in pecans. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake in a 350º oven about 20 minutes or until edges are set and begin to pull away from sides of pan.

Using a fork prick the warm brownies several times. Drizzle bourbon evenly over brownies; cool in pan on wire rack.

For frosting: In a small bowl, beat the 3 tablespoons butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed 30 seconds. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating well. Slowly beat in 2 teaspoons milk and vanilla. If necessary, beat in remaining milk to reach spreading consistency. Spread over brownies; drizzle melted chocolate over frosting.

Santa Baby

I've been a really good girl this year. Would you please bring me this Hello Kitty Toaster for Christmas? I'll try my best to leave you some yummy cookies and cocoa on the kitchen table!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I Concentrate on...Coffee

One of the many things that has become a trial for me to do since my stroke is the simple act of making coffee. I absolutely looove the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, but trying to transport the water from my sink via walker's bicycle basket to coffeemaker, along with the ensuing cleanup is a chore. My solution, newly recreated from a 70s-something kitchen utensil called a "coffee toddy", is this little recipe from Cooking with Coffee by Carol Foster (and M.F.K. Fisher).

Coffee Concentrate
1/4 pound coffee, regular grind
2 cups cold water
Makes enough for 8 cups of coffee

Put water and coffee in a glass jar, stir, and cover/chill for 24 to 48 hours. Strain through a coffee filter into a clean container. While it drips through the filter, you should press the grounds from time to time. Squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the filter. Discard the grounds, and store the liquid in a clean bottle in the refrigerator.

To make a cup of coffee: Add 2 tablespoons of concentrate to coffee mug. Add near-boiling water and stir.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pomi's for Your Stocking?

Looking for a small, but tasty little addition to someone's Christmas stocking? How about a $50 gift certificate for Pomidori's Pizza and Trattoria for only $25? Beginning at 9am ET, you can be the early bird and get one of only 75 of these half-price bargains. If you've ever been to Pomi's, you'll already know how tasty their special wood-fired pizzas can be. Have a shrimp and asparagus one for me, ok?

Pomi's (Clifton)
121 W. McMillan St
(513) 861-0080
Sun - Thurs 11am - 12pm
Fri - Sat 11am - 1am

Pomi's (Olde Montgomery)
7880 Remington Rd
(513) 794-0080
Sunday - Thursday 11am - 11pm
Friday - Saturday 11am - 12pm

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pho Paris migrating south of the border

One of our favorite pieces of yellow journalism, The Whistleblower, reports today that "according to Jean-Robert de Cavel's business partner, Martin Wade, the business issued a press release indicating that the upscale Pho Paris restaurant in Oakley would be moving to Covington. The restaurant will be moving into the old Scalea/Continental Lounge space [at 318] Greenup Street and is expected to open in mid-January. Wade said they had some discussions about leasing the Donna's Diner space [at 315 Greenup St.], but decided to hold off on that project until they see how things go with the Pho Paris restaurant. Expect to see something in the newspaper one of these days. Imagine that. Another business is moving from Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky."

A New Year's Eve celebration will mark the last night at the Oakley location. De Cavel decided to move Pho Paris so it could be closer to his three other restaurants. He says the new design will have a more casual atmosphere and somewhat lower prices. "I will be able to spend more time in the restaurant and be with my team," de Cavel said. Pho Paris was No. 10 on the Cincinnati Magazine list of top 25 restaurants in Cincinnati this year.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Herbs and Spice Cooking Demo Sunday at Findlay Market

De Stewart, proprietor of Herbs & Spice and Everything Nice and assistant, Alaina, will present a cooking demonstration at noon this Sunday, December 10, at the Internet Café, across from Silverglade's. Duck in from the cold weather and watch the Colonel and Alaina do a spring mixed salad with mandarin orange; Sweet No Heat Pecans; caramelized onions with Nasturtium vinaigrette; scallops with proscuitto with Chinese 5 spice powder, smoked sea salt and smoked paprika; finished off with some mulled cider.

Friday, December 08, 2006

From Bella to...Boca?

The Inkwire speculates there may be a deal close at hand by Boca owner David Falk for the former Bella space at Sixth and Walnut Streets, adjacent to the Aronoff Center for the Arts. That would be a mighty positive move for downtown! A piece in October's Business Courier mentioned that Falk had shown interest in the site for a new concept. And Boca's manager, Bawe Shinholster, said the company was considering the spot. "We're definitely interested. It's just an awesome location," he said. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Funeral Parade of Roses


What a lovely evening last night. The beginning of what I hope will be many movie club nights with my new projector. The movie, Funeral Parade of Roses. I have always wanted to see it. A Japanese take on Oedipus with a drag/queer twist from 1969. It was really great, hysterically funny and also gruesomely violent. You can see the influence of all the French New Wave directors, but also how it influenced Stanley Kubrick. It is sooooo hard to find. I had only read about it but my friend Suzie found a bootleg DVD in France that had an English subtitle option. I doubt it will ever be on the Channel 5 afternoon movie but if you ever get a chance this is for the must see list.

As you know my deal was that the movie club will include the cuisine of the setting in the movie. As you may also know I have never made any Japanese food so here is what I constructed. Appetizers were edamame, horseradish peas and Kraft spray cheese with rice crackers. (There seems to be a bit of kitsch in some of Asian food I've seen in stores so the spray cheese was an homage to that, as well as to our dear departed Robert Altman who had that party menu in 3 Women that included spray cheese and pigs in blankets. Kraft spray sharp cheddar is not bad by the way.) Main course was Yakitori along with my version of Gomaae except I served it warm over brown rice and added a little sautéed garlic, sesame oil and some shiitake mushroom and garnished with sesame seeds. You know we love our desserts and sticky rice really never does it for me. When ever I go to a Japanese restaurant I almost always have to stop and get a chocolate bar on the way home. My solution to this to make a pound cake that substituted about 3/4 cup of green tea for some of the liquid. It did not raise as much as a pound cake as a result, but it had an adequate amount of lift made in a bundt pan and the sponge had an unusual yellowish brown green color. I then made a basic milk glaze and added the juice of about three inches of fresh ginger to it to drizzle on the top. It was a very spicy/sweet glaze. To accompany the glazed cake I made some lychee sorbet in that ever so handy Donvier Ice Cream Maker. The sorbet was sweet, but not too. Do you have any idea how good this was!? I surprise even myself with these chemistry experiments.

After the feature we looked at some animated shorts and every one took turns showing their favorite recent You Tube shorts. In that time the four of us managed to eat the entire cake! It was a full size cake!!! I guess no lunch treats for me this week.

Any suggestions for future movies? I might revisit The Leather Boys, but there is so much I haven't seen, it seems a shame to repeat ourselves. There is a six hour reality show called ArtStar that a friend made in association with Deitch Projects that will probably be up next, but that will either involve a lot of fast forwarding or a larger group that has the media as background.

My new electronic dimmers came in so I can now dim the room so that the art is illuminated but the screen is in darkness. I have also positioned the screen over the fireplace so if I build a fire far enough back in the hearth there is no light spill over from that either. I am so pleased with my little screening room. I wish you weren't so far away and could come by for an orgy of cinema and food.