Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bon Année

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Bon Année from Paris. By some crazy bit of luck, the dinner reservation we had tonight ended up being in the 7th (where the Eiffel Tower resides) and not in the 5th, as I had thought. And not just anywhere in the 7th, but two blocks from The Lady herself. And when we found ourselves walking out of the restaurant at 10 minutes to midnight, it was pretty easy to figure out where we were heading.

Check out the (for some reason now audio-free) video above, as the clock strikes twelve, the fireworks go off and The Lady turns from blue (her color during France's EU presidency, which ended at midnight) to her regular golden white-ish hue.

Happy New Year!

Long live the Queen

While it's snowing in Cambridge, NY, it's blowing here in Baltimore. Sixty mile an hour winds are predicted with temperatures in the 20's... too cold for going to fireworks so we are spending a cozy evening by the fire. Each of us chose a favorite food to bring in so we are having quite an eclectic dinner... ribs from The Corner Stable (best in Baltimore), crab cakes, Three Cheese Pizza, and for Gabe wings from Cluck-U in Towson. Then I made this flourless chocolate cake. It's a favorite Julia Child's recipe called Reine de Saba. The almonds on the side didn't work too well though... should have used crushed almonds to dust the sides. But the chocolate buttercream icing will be to die for. We are topping it all off with sparkling juice in honor of Gabe's eight months of sobriety. A much better New Year's than one year ago for sure. I echo Debra in wishing all of you a very happy, peaceful, and joy filled new year.

New Year's Eve Day in Cambridge, NY

"...do, do, do, do out my back door!"

Last year, 20-inches of snow fell on New Year's Eve and it looks like this year may top that. I'm loving the snowfall but not the shoveling. It's winter in Cambridge, NY an we always love a good snow. I've got the cross-country skis waxed and ready and the snow shoes are geared-up. If you're going to live in snow country, you may as well learn to love it and get out and play.

Happy New Year to Noah and Sarah in Paris; Chuck, Gretchen, Stacy and Brian in the San Francisco area; Robin, Greg and Gabe in Baltimore; and all the folks that enjoy life, where ever you live.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

PURPLE PRIDE

I JUST HAD TO POST THIS... GO RAVENS!!!!!!!  MIAMI HERE WE COME
THE RAVENS WILL TOTALLY RULE THE DOLPHINS!!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Most Awesome Christmas Lights Ever

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Noah shot these Christmas lights over in the Marais on Christmas Night. Well, technically it was very early on Boxing Day (2 am or so). Please ignore the silly drunk people at the end and focus on the awesome lights in the beginning.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day in Paris, Continued

Just a few scenes from our Christmas Day in Paris. Above is the first shot of the morning, taken at the cafe while we drank un express on rue Montorgueil. Everyone was running to the bakery for their daily baguette(s). We'd grabbed one at the very end of the day before from Eric Kayser. His natural leavening made for a bread that was still fresh and tasty for this evening's meal.
After our cafe trek, we came home for the impromptu variation on Noah's family tradition for breakfast - bagels and lox. Here it was lox and a baguette with a fresh chevre from the local fromagerie. Have I told you about the five kinds of cheese in our fridge right now? Yum. There's the fresh chevre, a bleu, a Vacherin, a Brin d'Amour and another goat cheese that is delicious. We're kind of in heaven.

After breakfast we took a nice three hour walk around Paris, including a stop at the ice skating rink in front of the Mairie in the 4th. We didn't go skating, but it looked like a blast.
Down at the rink there were a bunch of street vendors selling roasted chestnuts and I had to have some. They were good, but I think it was more the ambience - a crisp Christmas day - than the quality of the roasting that made them so good.
From there we headed over to the Ile de la Cite and the Ile St.-Louis. This tree was in front of Notre Dame, amidst the frenzy of tourists and rush of "ladies in long skirts" aka local con artists. A quick trip through the gardens provided a much less frenzied view of the church - a view I prefer anyway. We wandered a bit further, over to Ile St.-Louis and through its beautifully decorated streets before heading back up the Marais and over to the 2nd.

It was time to prepare dinner, as our friend Chris was coming to eat with us. He too decided to ditch Los Angeles in favor of a more traditionally weathered Christmas spot. We put together a fine dinner, despite a total lack of skills when it came to starting/lighting/using the oven and burners in our rental. The menu: Cote de Beouf, Brussels sprouts with lardons, salad, cheese and this beauty:
Okay, the picture does not do it justice - it's a Bouche de Noël from Gerard Mulot over in the Marais. Dark chocolate, with caramelized almonds, it was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

After dinner we headed out, back over to the Marais for a drink. What turned into many drinks. Hence this post going up at all hours, after a night of boozing. But damn, it was fun.

A Doggie Christmas


Even Cassie and Cole got into the spirit although Cole was terrified of the flash on the camera and kept hiding behind the couch... thus more pictures of Cassie then Cole.

We enjoyed our stockings and of course the Judao-christian
tradition of bagels and lox for Xmass breakfast... then it was
off to the gifts under the tree... Greg wrapped up a big box to look like a fed ex delivery and filled it with doggie treats for the pups... they thought they were in heaven. Everyone had a wonderful Christmas and got just what they hoped for... Greg will be very busy building the next World War II fleet (you don't call planes a fleet, do you?) and I will be reading for several months... Debra will be cooking stock and middle Eastern delights in her new Tagine and Stockpot. Gabe has lots of music and books to amuse himself with. We here in Finksburg hope you all are having a wonderful time. More posts after dinner...

Dickens Village... A Church Family Tradition

What the Dickens... this year we added to our collection. This scene is all about the neighborhood... it hosts Scrooge's house, Marley's place and of course the village ice rink with the coffee sellers. Central to all is the Conservatory... definitely one of our favorites. The setting up is more than half the fun and takes a few days but we are getting more and more adventurous and this fall I plan on taking a class on how to display and build more areas to show off the collection.

This year we added a lot to our retail village with the addition of the shipbuilders house and the choclatier complete with the horse drawn wagon for delivery. Of course there is the gin cart too and the two gentlemen (I use the word loose ly) who have had a bit too much ale at the inn.
The villages which are lit up at night add so much atmosphere to the living an d dining room. It's one of the things I love most about decorating the house. One day you can all fight over who inherits these treasures... for now just enjoy from afar!

Joyeaux Noël a Paris!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night... er, day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Scenes from Paris

We arrived in Paris yesterday afternoon, minus a wallet (mine, which I left at home after re-arranging a bunch of stuff in my purse last minute) but on time and with all our luggage! Trust me, this is a rare feat for Noah and I when it comes to our foreign travels. We checked into our apartment in the 2nd arrondissement and then set out for a quick tour of the neighborhood. We chose the 2nd because on our last trip we fell in love with the local market street, rue Montorgueil (pictured above). It's mostly pedestrian and full of patisseries, fromageries, boucheres and marchand de vin.
One look in the window of all the patisseries and I knew we had to get ourselves a traditional bouche de noel (aka yule log, only so, so much swankier) for Christmas dinner. So this afternoon (day 2) we took a trip over to the 3rd, to one of David Lebovitz's recommended patisseries - Gerard Mulot. We bought the Feuille d'Automne, a dark chocolate and carmelized almond delight.
And since it's Christmas, we had to have a tree! I bought a tiny, plastic one at Urban Outfitters and stashed it in my suitcase as a surprise for Noah, along with a string of multi-colored lights. The mini-tree (oh yeah, it's classy and plastic and white) sits on our living room table, the lights are strung up on the flower box outside our windows.
And tonight, we took the metro over to our most favoritest restaurant in the world. Literally. Hiramatsu is a Michelin starred French restaurant that was established by a famous Japanese chef. The food there is full of French flavors, but with a deft (and light) Japanese hand. We had dinner there in May 2006 during our honeymoon and it was #1 on the list for this visit. We were not disappointed - the Delices Gastronomique (chef's tasting menu) was superb. The highlights this time included a safron risotto in a bouillabaisse with pan fried cod. The fish was perfectly cooked and the flavors of the risotto and the bouillabaisse were brilliant. Our other favorite was a perfectly cooked young duckling breast served over chantrelles cooked in a foie gras cream with black truffles as an accent. Decadent and dreamy. The desserts (one used as a palate cleanser, a combination of frozen and granita'd citrus fruits) were equally as stunning and will probably have my lactose intolerant self paying at some point tonight for my sins. It was worth it!

The picture above was taken during the metro trip home. It's an advertisement for Orangina, which they sell in vending machines at most stops. It cracked me up and creeped me out in equal parts.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Perfect Christmas Treat for the Neighbors!

Thanks to the folks at Cooking Light, here's an alternative to Christmas cookies. It's simple to make and tastes amazing. Best of all, it's low calorie and only 3 Weight Watcher points per slice.

VANILLA BUTTERMILK POUND CAKE

13.5 ounces all purpose flour (about 3.5 cups)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1.5 cups low-fat buttermilk
Cooking spray (Pam Baking works great)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Weight or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir with a whisk.
3. Combine sugar, butter and vanilla in a large bowl; beat with mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and buttermilk to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
4. Spoon batter into 5 (5-3/4 x 3- 1/4 inch)pans, coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center coms out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pans. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: 5 loaves, 6 servings/loaf.

You can also prepare cakes in two (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans. Bake for one hour or until done.

Serving size: 1 slice

Calories : 144
Fat: 5.1g
Protein: 2.2g
Carb: 22.3g
Fiber: 0.3g

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Menu For Hope 5

I'm sure many of you have already heard about Chez Pim's Menu For Hope, a raffle that food bloggers around the world help put on to raise funds for charity. But just in case you haven't, or if you still haven't donated, here's the scoop:

This year's raffle is to benefit the World Food Program's school lunch initiative in Lesotho, Africa. Last year they helped the WFP set up this program that benefits kids in one of the poorest parts of Africa, while also helping local farmers - all of the food is bought locally.

For every $10 donated, you get a raffle ticket which can be applied to any of the multitude of donated gifts from bloggers around the world. You can get wine dinners, kitchen appliances, personal guided tours, not to mention the plethora of food and wine gift packages put together by people who actually love food (and wine). You can see a master list of prizes here.

It's a worthy cause, it's tax deductible and it comes with the chance to win some amazing prizes. So if you've got an extra $10 (or more), head on over and check it out.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

10 Days Before Christmas

Living just 5 miles from the Vermont border , winter comes early to Cambridge, NY. We almost alwyas have a white Christmas, but this year we're having an Ice Christmas. 1.5 inches coated the area on Friday as temperatures dropped into the single digits. I'm sure it sounds awful to all the Californians, but the ice and light combine to make a magical kingdom outside my office door.

This apple tree is the waiting area of the miriad of birds that come to my various feeders. All the usual suspects are in attendance, black capped chickadees, titmouse, cardinals, nuthatches, finches (purple and house) but nothing can match the wonder and variety of woodpeckers that stop by.





One of the visiting woodpeckers is this male downy. He usually comes in the morning and afternoon. In between, a hairy woodpecker, northern flicker, and on occasion a redheaded stop in. The large pileated stays away, but I hear his pecking in the woods.

Bird watching entertains both me and my two cats. After local skiing and being able to snow shoeing right out my back door, watching the birds is one of the reasons I love living in Cambridge (especially in the winter).

What sort of wildlife roams in your neck of the woods?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

O Christmas Cookie, O Christmas Cookie

There are about a million cookies you can make for Christmas every year and most years I think my mom tried to make them all. It was pretty great, especially for my sugar deprived sister and I. Yeah, we had one of those health conscious moms who try and convince you that carob and chocolate are TOTALLY the same thing. Other sugar restraints in our childhood included a ban on sugar cereals (anything more than 6g of sugar per serving), bubble gum ice cream and soda 99.6% of the time. Today, I appreciate mom's efforts to not turn us into obese children. But when your best friend has a Nutella sandwich on white bread for lunch every day and you have tuna, well... you get what I'm saying.

So the holidays were those rare times we knew we'd be getting some sugar in our lives. Every year we'd comb through the recipes and convince mom she should make some if not all of the following: gingerbread persons (mom is also a feminist), nutmeg logs, sugar cookies with flavored icing, candy cane cookies, lebchuken, rum balls and the cookies you find here today - Crescent Cookies.
These guys are fairly traditional. I've seen them on food blogs, food tv, in food magazines and in the recipe cards of several friends. They're sometimes called Russian Tea Cookies or Mexican Wedding Cookies, in their many variations. You'll often see them in a round shape, but mom always made them into crescents, hence the name. The recipe was passed down to her from my father's aunt and originated with my great grandmother. So these babies have history. So much so that they were included in the cookbook I made for family members as a Christmas gift last year.

They're quick, not super sweet and don't require a period of refrigeration. Perfect for all you busy bakers out there. And while they may not scream "Christmas!!!" the way gingerbread does, they'll quickly find a place in your holiday baking repetoire. I guarantee it.

Crescent Cookies
recipe from Great Grandmother Kucserka

1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. water
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. chopped pecans (I substituted walnuts because we had several bags of them in the freezer. You can also use almonds or hazelnuts. You can chop by hand or use a food processor.)

Cream the butter; blend in sugar, vanilla and water. Sift together flour and salt; stir into butter mixture. Add nuts and mix thoroughly. Use portions about the size of a walnut, roll into crescent shape. Bake at 325 degrees farenheit for about 20 minutes. While warm, roll in or sprinkle with powedered sugar.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Persimmon Drying - Hachiya


We are drying persimmons this year from Gretchen and Chuck's Tree. We watched a TV show about it and got super inspired. Also we have been looking into it online for a while. Here is what we did,

1) Cut hachiya persimmons from tree when they are still hard, but have turned orange in color. Keep the T shape of the stem, for the hanging phase.

2) Peeled the persimmons

3) Attached strings around the T's

4) Hang them to dry.

5) 1st - Five days in the sun (take inside if it is very moist out or raining). We have had fog at night, so are bringing them in.

6) 2nd - 2 weeks or so, massage each persimmon for about 30 seconds. This helps bring out the natural sugars. If it feels like a water balloon about to pop, then skip massaging those ones for a day or so.

7) 3rd - 2 -6 weeks - Allow them to finish drying indoors

8) Should look like a crystalized shrunken version of itself in the end.

9) Eat and enjoy, be careful of any inside seeds when eating. I think there is one bigger one.

So, this is the first time we have tried this. We built a rack with wheels so we can put then in and out of our garage. Chuck and Gretchen are trying this too, but under the eves of the roof on the house. It will be interesting to see how this all come out in the end. It is an old Japanese tradition to dry persimmons this way. Cool thing to do with all that beautiful fruit that is so hard to eat all up once they go off.

Stacy and Brian


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dried Figs and a Champagne Cocktail

You know when you just have one of those days? A day where you solve a problem, then have a curve ball thrown into the mix, forcing you to re-solve it. Over and over again. Yeah, it was one of those days for me. All I wanted to do was go home and eat my left over salad and sandwich from lunch (Noah's got a work dinner tonight) and have a glass of wine. White, preferably.

But all that was in the fridge was a bottle of champagne left over from Thanksgiving. Well, why the hell not? And if you're going to go, go whole hog and make a champagne cocktail, dammit. I love the tres sophisticated cocktail. It was great, but it got even better when I pulled out a couple of dried figs for dessert.

This summer, figs became the fruit I lusted after. Last summer it was apricots, but this year the fig harvest just seemed to be exceptional and I could not get enough of them. The second flush (each tree delivers two crops, one in late July-ish and the other in late September-ish) was worth the wait, smaller and sweeter and just plain more full-flavored than the first. And man was I sad to see them go. But the dried figs that my favorite figuer sells (yeah, I made that word up) are a good winter substitute.

If you need a little pick me up, try this petite dessert out. Okay, sue me, we're leaving for Paris in less than three weeks and oui just can't wait. Hehehehe.

Champagne Cocktail
by ?
1 glass champagne, chilled
1 sugar cube
bitters

Douse the sugar cube in bitters, drop it into and empty champagne glass and fill with champagne!