Friday, October 30, 2009


Along with the passing out of the Halloween candy, I always bake Ghost and Black Cat Sugar Cookies. I'm not sure how scary they are, but they are a welcome treat.

In my neck of the woods, Halloween is taken seriously. My town sits next to Salem, Massachusetts, that is infamous for the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690's.

In contrast, Witches seem to be embraced in our current era, as can be seen all through the city. Is that Samantha from "Bewitched"?

Walking through Salem yesterday though, I can't attest to what happened to the witch that this hat belonged to! It did just rain......

During Halloween, beautiful Salem Common takes on a carnival type atmosphere, complete with fried dough stands and costumed partying. Every town is a little different in their celebrations.

Back in my Marblehead Old Town neighborhood, trick or treating can be like being on a movie set. The star studded movie, The Witches of Eastwick, was partially filmed just a few blocks from my house. This time of the year, neighbors here set their own scenes. On crisp Halloween nights with a full moon it feels otherworldly. Angry Pirates,

creepy spiders,

with their webs,

dancing ghosts,

untimely deaths,

and far reaching mail slots are just a few of the settings.

I'm not sure if I'd want to walk through Marblehead's Historical Old Burial Hill on a dark Halloween night,

but on a sunny October afternoon overlooking the harbor, it is a place for reflection and reverence.

Revolutionary heroes and prominent historical figures are buried here and marked with headstones that speak volumes. And if you look hard enough, you might even see a visitor. Happy Halloween!!

Thanks Zac!

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Potato Gratin Dauphinois

What is it about potatoes baked with a garlicky cream and oozing with Gruyere cheese that is comforting? Is it the cheesy browned crust on top, or the creamy potatoes underneath that warms the soul? After I finally got my car back from my upstate New York adventure last week, I needed a little more soul warming! When dining in Paris, it is my secret wish that my plat comes with my favorite traditional French side dish. Potato Gratin Dauphinois is right beside a melting chocolate dessert on my dining hierarchy. These potatoes are even sold at the Parisien Food Markets, ready to be scooped up for you by the vendor.

Their origin is from the Dauphiné region of France, but their destiny is all mine ;-))

Potato Gratin Dauphinois

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz. freshly grated Swiss Gruyere cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1 large garlic clove, peeled and halved
2 lbs. firm fleshed potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin
3 TBSP butter

Prepare a shallow 2 quart gratin dish, by thoroughly rubbing with the garlic halves. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

In a large saucepan, bring the milk to boil over medium heat. Add the cream and 3/4 of the cheese, stirring to blend. Finely chop the garlic used for rubbing the dish and add. Season with salt, pepper and a grating of the nutmeg. Add the potatoes and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat, stirring often until the potatoes are half way done, about 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Transfer the potatoes and their liquid to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and butter. 

Place in the center of the oven and bake until the potatoes are cooked through and the top is crisp and golden, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves four to six.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Rainbows, Diamonds, Trust and Fortunes....

The moody sky outside my bedroom window was dark and rainy as I was getting ready to go to work. While thinking it was going to be a "bad hair day," a rainbow appeared. It wasn't fleeting, but stayed long enough for me to reflect on it's beauty and magic. I was even able to take a picture before it was time to go. I gathered up my suitcase and other bags and loaded them into my trusty car, and drove to the airport for my 3 day trip to Paris. Life in the airline business is full of security checks,

x-ray scans, pat downs,

alarms and armed guards. Often, as a society, trust can't be trusted...and so many seem to be just looking out for their own self interests. We have to mentally check and cross check as we maneuver through our day. I returned home from my trip and had planned to be up at 4am the next morning to drive to Rochester, NY for Family Weekend at my son's college. Setting out into the dark morning, the long drive was brightened by the changing foliage. All seemed well five hours into the trip on the NY Thruway, until alarms started going off in my car. The dashboard panel displayed a dire warning..."STOP THE CAR NOW!" At 70 mph, that is what we did. Large trucks whizzed by, shaking my ailing car. Thank goodness for cell phones and AAA. After about 1/2 hour, the tow truck arrived and towed my car to the nearest town, Herkimer, NY. At 12 noon Saturday, on a holiday weekend, we were informed almost everything was closed, including rental car agencies. There was a small local hotel that might be of service until Monday. Monday? I have to go back to Paris on Monday! But wait, there was one place that might be of help....the Goodyear store was open. Arriving there in the cab of the tow truck, I visualized the rainbow of a few days prior. Eric, the owner of the store dropped everything and had his mechanics assess the problem, while he made phone calls. Sitting in the waiting room, we learned of the claims to fame of this small western New York town. There are mines in Herkimer that have quartz, called Herkimer Diamonds. They are known worldwide for their shape and clarity, with scatterings of the mineral, Goethite. The healing properties of these crystals are used to promote universal love and to teach us to relax, let go of the small stuff and learn to enjoy this journey through life. The inside of them sparkles with silvery light and rainbows. Rainbows?? OMG...I expected Rod Serling from the 1960's TV show, "The Twilight Zone", to appear before me right then...Do...Do...Do...Dooo. OK, back to reality, and hopefully with no macabre twists! Eric informed me the car issue could be too big for his shop if there was engine damage, and that would take more time and expertise. Knowing that we were going to Rochester to visit my son, Eric and his wife Rita, offered to loan us a minivan they owned. My jaw dropped....he trusted us to take his car to Rochester??? "Could I pay you?"....."No, just continue your trip, visit your son, and bring it back when you're finished", they said. My car remained behind in a bay of his garage.

We incredulously were back on the NY Thruway heading west, just a few hours later, feeling the universal love, letting go of the small stuff, and enjoying the journey, overwhelmed by their generosity and trust.
We arrived in Rochester in time for my son to show us some of his photography, give a tour of the  darkroom he uses, to see his room all set up and to meet his roommates. I gave him the treats I brought and we headed off to dinner at a favorite Asian restaurant. The food was warm, comforting and delicious. When the fortune cookies arrived, I was a little apprehensive due to the eventful day. Carefully breaking the cookie in half, the fortune serendipitously read, "Confucious says, don't see through people, but see them through." Whoa!

Fortunately, the parents of a friend of my son's were there for Family Weekend. They kindly met us back in Herkimer the next day, where we returned the minivan and rode the rest of the way back home with them. We chatted the whole way back and we all know each other a little bit better.

It is now a week later and I just received word that my car is finished and I can pick it up. Well, I have to go back to Paris again next week I'll make the trip back to Herkimer, a journey filled with the trusting gems of people, and friends I'll never forget.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Come Shopping.....Parisien Food Markets

There are street food markets all over Paris, that are open a few days a week. The vendors set up their stalls full of fresh and prepared food, fish, and meats. Flowers and herbs as well as some clothing, jewelry and kitchen wares are also offered. Last week my friend Debbie and her husband, Don and I went to the Grenelle market in Paris' 7th arondissement. It was a sunny fall morning and the crowds were out. We were greeted by fresh fish and seafood on ice.

Elbow to elbow, we were moved along by the sweet scent of fresh picked flowers.

I parted with some euro when I caught a whiff of dried herbs, oils and vinegars, and salt and pepper from the south of France.

There aren't many fruits or vegetables that are allowed back into the US, so we just admired their beauty and bounty.

Each one was more seductive than the next.
The bright and deep greens of the Romanesca, artichokes and cabbage, counterbalanced the creamy colors of the potatoes, pasta and cheese.
I'm not too sure though, that I could bring myself to have a taste of this bleu cheese from d'Augverge.

Black walnuts, hazelnuts and honey all complimented the many cheeses.

Tea and jam had fresh baked breads and pastries ready to be taken home with them.
Suddenly a loud "cock-a-doodle-doo" echoed under the tented roof. The animated butcher sang the song of the rooster, as he merrily prepared his goods for the waiting customers, on his well worn board. Trotters and tongues mingled with sausages, and hams.
Roasted whole chickens and freshly laid eggs,

could be taken home alongside prepared lentils with carrots, and rich Potatoes Dauphiois.

And, if all of those fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and flowers aren't the end of the market you can buy some colorful lingerie. But, will you be able to fit into them after the prior indulgences?!

Bon Appetit!

Paris Street Markets locations and times.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

This Little Piggy Went To Market...

This little piggy went to market and this little piggy should have stayed home! Walking into the classic and bustling brasserie, Au Pied de Cochon in Paris' Les Halles area, the vision is what you would want in a Parisian dining legend. Waiters are clad in black and white, and have the air of longevity in this Art Nouveau decorated brasserie. Art glass chandeliers hang from the ceiling recalling an era when decor was feminine and joyous.

This brasserie has never closed their doors since it's opening in 1946. It has evolved from a local eatery that has always been open 24/7, to a traditional brasserie full of tourists and locals. Our cloth covered, reserved table of 4 was pulled back to welcome us, as we took in the atmosphere that was seemingly halted in time.

Menus were presented and a Confiture de Cochon was brought to the table with bread. It was interesting, but not special.

We wanted to order what this institution is known for. None of us were tempted though, by their well known Pig Trotter's in Bernaise Sauce. After a time that seemed extraordinary, the waiter took our choices. More time passed. Finally, we shared fresh and tasty oysters on the half shell that came with a red wine vinaigrette. My friend Michelle, had to try the French Onion Soup that the Les Halles marketeers dined on after the end of their long days, more than fifty years ago.

The cheese was hot and had that long pull to it, but the broth was a tasteless brew. Our main courses were Duck Confit and the plat du jour, Sausages (we got some pork involved!) with Lentils. The duck arrived ice cold and was returned for reheating. The Sausage and Lentils were good when slathered with lots of Dijon mustard, but really not a reason to come here.

We eyed the seafood plate at the table next to us and wondered if it was a better choice.

Maybe yes, maybe no. We thought about trying to snag a crab when they got up to have a cigarette outside.....our experience here was starting to "go to the pigs!" Perhaps dessert would bring us back. A question to the waiter regarding the Molleux au Chocolat, was met with rudeness, so we paid our bill and decided to have dessert back at the hotel. Sitting in one of the small and private pocket rooms in the dining area of the hotel, we had the Cafe with a selection of varied and satisfying desserts.

Commenting, we were glad to have tried Au Pied de Couchon, but we would not be trotting back very soon!

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