Sunday, June 27, 2010

Discovery of New Tastes

Discovering a new taste combination is like discovering a new world. Sometimes it is mixing the delicate with the bold or the sweet with the savory that makes us brighten our eyes and smile. It doesn't jar our senses, but just makes us happy to bring it to light. Last month, my friend Nancy and I had a day of discovery in Paris. We made our way to the BHV department store and as we wandered around the crowded store we noticed there was a big sale going on. In Paris, sales are state regulated and are only 2 times a year. With the economic downfall, the government has relaxed the laws somewhat, and you'll never know when they are to happen. Well, we were glad they were happening that day. A loosened wallet is a loosened spirit! I found a delicate silk scarf with a bold color and some chunky, pearl beaded jewelry. The wallet opened and the spirit lifted :-) A white scarf with a flow of ruffles had Nancy's name on it! We were looking forward to more discoveries during our dinner. Reservations were at 7:30 at L'Agrume for a 5 course tasting menu. So, wearing my happy scarf and pearl bracelets we arrived hungry and ready for what the chef was preparing that evening. We were greeted warmly and seated at a table by the window. A dish of olives came quickly as we were asked if we wanted an apperitif.For the tasting menu, there are no choices to be made. The portion size is reduced for the 35 euro, 5 course dinner. Owner/chef Franck Marchesi-Grandi prepares what is freshest from the market daily and co-owner Karine Perrin cheerfully serves it. There is a counter where a small group can watch the chef prepare the food in an open kitchen. Next time I want to sit there. Nancy and I were at a raised table and could still see some of the magic happening. This local restaurant was recently written up in the New York Times, so you need reservations to get in since it fills up quickly. Being noticed by a large international paper can be a double edged sword. We had a loud American next to us who detracted from our experience. Subtlety and discretion were not her strongest attributes! Once we were settled in, a menu with full descriptions was presented so we could anticipate what was to come. That day there were three fish courses and one duck course along with two desserts. I didn't get a picture of the miraculously disappeared before my camera! Yum! All of the courses were artistically, but naturally presented. The combination of flavors was inventive. Even though this was a tasting menu with reduced size, the portions were perfect. And a menu with 2 desserts on it is my cup of tea! The panna cotta was good, but the star of the desserts was the Peach Compote with Basil. It was the surprise discovery of the peach and basil pairing that dazzled us, like a new world.I knew I'd have to make this at home.

15, rue des Fossés Saint-Marcel 75005 Paris
01 43 31 86 48
Métro 5 Saint-Marcel, Métro 7 Les Gobelins

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Friday, June 18, 2010

The World in the Palm of Our Hands

I heard a gasp behind me as I walked along the Seine in Paris. The year was 1996. I turned around and saw my colleague, Diana with her jaw dropped and eyes wide open. "What?" I said. "It's Notre Dame, do you you think we can go inside?" she asked with sheer astonishment. Sometimes we grow used to the beauty of a face, the way the sun catches a glint in the eye or bounces off of a child's lock of hair. The same can happen to our surroundings as they become the norm. My walks in Paris can regularly take me past places such as Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and other landmarks. Most often I am inwardly reflecting on the presence, beauty and historical significance as I walk around the city. I note the way the setting sun rests upon the architecture, the water and nature and soak it in with each breath. But this was Diana's first trip working to Paris and this wasn't the norm. She had just come over to the international operation and was along with the rest of us for the day. "Of course we can go in," we all agreed. We paused and relived the excitement of seeing and feeling the power inside this magnificent cathedral as the sun streamed in through the rose windows. The world seemed to be in the palm of our hands.

Yesterday, 14 years later was Diana's last trip after 42 years as a flight attendant. We were back in Paris where it's beauty had become the norm for Diana, but like me, she always inwardly felt the love and appreciation of this magical city as she walked around. It became a comfortable love as it grew from the bolt of lightning infatuation to an experienced passion. She had chosen this City of Light to mark the exit from her career as a flight attendant. We all wanted to celebrate by taking her out for dinner. We went to Bistro De La Muette, which was recommended by some of the crew. We arrived for our 7:30 reservation to a table set up near the outside on this beautiful evening.
Two of the flight attendants had ridden the Vélib' bicycles across the city to the restaurant and met us there. The waiter then brought us all a Kir Royale and we made a toast to Diana for a happy retirement. We chose from the 38 euro prix fixte menu which included an apperitif, 3 courses, a bottle of wine for every 2 people and coffee. The first course offered among other choices, Smoked Salmon, Foie Gras and a Tartare of Avocado with Lobster. The main course offerings were equally as appetizing. There were Lamb Chops with Thyme and Dauphinois Potatoes, Southwestern Roasted Duck with a Cherry Sauce and Fresh Tagliatelle, Steak and Frites, dishes with organic shrimp and much more. The desserts sounded so good that we ordered different ones and tasted each others. The Molten Chocolate Cake with Caramel was dressed with pretty pink spun sugar on top. The warm Apple Tart and sorbet had swirly, festive caramelized sugar decorations. The table next to us had Crepes Suzette with a flaming orange sauce. This was traditional French bistro fare at it's best, and the restaurant was packed. I think Diana felt like the Belle of the Ball on this last evening of her airline career, but her feelings must have been bittersweet. We paid the bill and made our way back to the hotel. Five of us took the Vélib' bicycles back for a late night ride, and 3 opted for a cab. The blur of the Eiffel Tower sparkled in the night as we quickly went by. We marveled at this jewel that had become our norm.

At the end of the flight home, as she bade everyone and her 42 year career good-bye, I gave Diana a token of remembrance.
She will always have the world in the palm of her hand!

Bistro De La Muette
10, chaussee de la Muette
metro: La Muette or Passy

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

...And We Have a Winner!!

It rained this morning, but as I walked through the garden I knew there would be sunshine today. I love to give things away and that always brings light. All of the names of those who commented on my CSN Giveaway had been carefully written out, with followers and subscribers entered yet another time. I folded the little white pieces of paper and put them into a bowl. I then closed my eyes while my son snapped the photo as I drew a name. And, the winner is......drum roll.......Cheryl!! Thanks to all who took the time to leave a comment. All of our lives are busy and precious and every time someone stops by my site, I am touched. So again, thanks to everyone and also to the very generous folks at CSN! Congratulations, Cheryl :-) I will forward your name to CSN and you'll get your $40 gift certificate right away!

Have a great week!! May it be full of sunshine!

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lavender Honey Grilled Chicken and a Summer Salad

He was going to London and I was going to Paris. I ran into my colleague and beekeeper friend, Rich on our way to work. As we discussed his bees, he thought I might enjoy visiting a honey shop in Paris while I was there. He scribbled the directions on a scrap of paper and wrote down the proprietor's and apiculteur's name, Jean-Jaques. I would tell him Rich sent me. When I awoke from my nap in Paris on a hot, sunny afternoon, I headed out in search of honey. Twisting and turning up the steep hill to Butte-aux-Cailles, I found the honey/bee keepers shop, Les Abeilles. Jean-Jaques was tending the shop and when I mentioned Rich's name he smiled. The shelves were lined with honey and honey products, as well as beekeeper's accoutrement. As I stood there chatting with Jean-Jacques, a honeybee flew in and buzzed around this friendly place. Nothing like a little ambiance! Small jars of honey were lined up for tasting and I chose a wild lavender honey from Spain to buy. I tucked it into my bag thinking about using it in my tea, salad dressing or on grilled chicken. I went back out into the warm June sun to go to my next stop, la porcelaine blanche. It is a small shop on rue Monge, at the foot of the Mouffetarde. Mainly you'll find white porcelain, but they also have some colorful pottery, too.
White French porcelain has always been a favorite of mine and this is one of many stores in Paris with a good selection. I found a lyrically shaped white plate and a small edged, white dish shaped like the country of France. Oooh-la-la! I was drawn to them like bees to honey ;-) and was already envisioning what I'd put on them.....maybe something with honey, no?!
Hi Honey, I'm home!!

Lavender Honey Grilled Chicken

1 boneless chicken breast, about 1 1/2 pounds
2 tablespoons lavender honey*
2 teaspoons herb de Provence with lavender
freshly ground pepper
*Or use your favorite honey.

Have ready a grill that is medium high temperature.

Rinse and pat the chicken dry and cut it into 4 strips. Coat the chicken with the honey and sprinkle with the herb de Provence. Freshly grind pepper over chicken to taste. Place the chicken onto the hot grill and grill until mostly cooked on one side, about 15 minutes. Turn and finish cooking until nicely browned, but not burned. The sugars in the honey can easily burn, so adjust temperature if it starts to brown too quickly. It should be nicely caramelized.
Once the chicken is done, take off of the grill and put it on a plate to rest. Slice diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces and serve either warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4.

Baby Greens and Basil Salad with Honey Ginger Vinaigrette

5 ounces mixed baby greens, rinsed well
1 ounce basil leaves, rinsed well
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted
assorted herb flowers or other small edible flowers*
4 lavender flowers* on their stems, fresh or dried
*Make sure they have not been sprayed with pesticides or chemicals. I use them from my garden so I can be certain they are organic. Use only the herb flowers in a recipe where you would use that herb, since the flower taste resembles the herb.
In a large salad bowl, mix the basil, baby greens and flowers together. Reserve the lavender flowers for garnish. Add the Honey Ginger Vinaigrette and toss. Divide evenly among 4 serving plates. Garnish with any extra edible flowers and the lavender. For extra lavender flavor, pull the lavender flowers from the stem and sprinkle over the salad. Since lavender has a strong flavor, I like to let each person add their own, if desired.

Serves 4.
Honey Ginger Vinaigrette

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice*
1 tablespoon (or more, if you like it sweeter) lavender honey**
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
good pinch of cayenne pepper
sea salt to taste
*If you can't find Meyer lemons, use 3 parts lemon juice and 1 part orange juice.
**Or use your favorite honey.

Whisk together the lemon juice, honey, and ginger in a small bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking, until thoroughly blended and emulsified. Add the cayenne pepper and salt to taste.

Makes 3/4 cup vinaigrette.

A chilled dry Rosé compliments the grilled chicken and the summery salad very well. Lavender Honey Grilled Chicken recipe.
Baby Greens and Basil Salad with Honey Ginger Vinaigrette recipe.

Les Abeilles
21, rue de la Butte-aux-Caille

metro: Place d'Italie or Corvisart

la porcelaine blanche
119, rue Monge

metro: Censier Daubenton

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Giveaway...And It's Your Choice!!

I was so excited when CSN contacted me with another giveaway offer! They are a large online store site with everything, from your choice of a bathroom vanity to cookware to pets items to baby gear and so much more. With over 200 store sites to choose from you could spend hours just imagining the possibilities. And that is the fun part, you get to choose what you want with a $40 gift certificate. Whether you are renovating or just want a gift for yourself, the only problem you'll have is making up your mind. So with out any more ado, grab a cup of coffee and go shopping at CSN's website, all from the comfort of your favorite chair :-)

For a chance to win the $40 gift certificate at CSN, just leave a comment. If you are a follower, let me know and I'll enter your name twice. And if you are also subscribed to 2 Stews, you'll get a 3rd chance...just mention it in your comment. I'll be drawing a name on Sunday, June 13th.
This is open to all of my readers in the US and Canada.

Good luck!!

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