Archive for FOODIE STUFF

 Tuscany on the Eastern Shore

photos: m&j

A magical evening occurred last month on a beautiful farm by the bay in Wittman, Maryland – an al fresco dinner, to which a few of us lucky souls were fortunate enough to be invited. Both the meal and setting will be remembered for a long time to come. And even more impressive than the natural beauty of the site, the graciousness of the host and hostess and the many talents of those who caught, grew and skillfully prepared the bounty of sumptuous offerings we gorged ourselves upon was the company, itself. It’s hard to recall an evening coming together so perfectly. It was supposed to rain, but instead the sun came out and set with a lovely blush to match the delicate Charles & Charles and Sancerre Rosés. Some of us had not previously met, but we are now communicating regularly and planning future escapades. The event and, indeed, the menu was only casually discussed, but suddenly it all seemed to come together as if it had been planned for months.

This is one of those great evenings that we see in photos and wish we could’ve been a part of. And, delightfully, we were. And it all came together in a relaxed and flawless manner that is the hallmark of great entertaining – thanks to the deft hand and eye (and taste buds!) of delightful Carol Bean (our hostess, chef, stylist and farmer), her charming husband Mark Connolly (a third generation waterman, who, along with his brother, caught the delicious fish we ate), Rachel Vecchio (a super-talented baker and pastry chef who supplied the desserts) and Kathy Bosin (a local blogger who graced us with her presence and charming dinner company).

We began with the lovely wine and worked in some freshly pressed & chilled watermelon juice for pacing. Then came the Red Cloud goat cheese served with grilled French bread drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and Carol’s special, handmade “fish” crackers with sesame seeds and black lava salt. While the whole rockfish – stuffed with lemon, garlic & fresh mint and wrapped in fresh fig leaves from one of the farm’s three fig trees – was grilling along with eggplant brushed with olive oil & sea salt. The parade of delicacies began to emerge from Carol’s magical kitchen; quinoa cakes with slow-roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes, yogurt and finished with the tiniest micro-arugula we’d ever seen, fresh honeydew melon salad with blackberries and radish micro greens – tossed with a lavender white balsamic vinaigrette, barley salad with fresh, local raw corn, slow-roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes with fresh basil and fresh feta cheese, freshly grown and made chilled cucumber gazpacho “shooters” with a hint of lemon and garlic topped with beautiful, tiny micro greens – all fresh from the garden and Carol’s French green beans, pickled in her own chive flower-infused vinegar. As we ate, drank and enjoyed every nuanced bite of these super-fresh, simple yet complex culinary delights, the dessert table started to beckon …

Carol popped the cork on a bottle of Domaine Du Pre Semele and we started nibbling dates stuffed with mascarpone cheese, rolled in chopped, dark chocolate covered espresso beans, then fresh, local peaches, soaked in a lemon verbena simple syrup, dusted with fresh lavender flowers, drizzled with balsamic reduction which had been grilled on the fire and finally ripe brown Turkish figs fresh from Carol’s incredibly productive tree, sliced over the most delicate and decadent St. Angel cheese, drizzled with local honey. It cannot be stressed how delicious this cheese was (it will be eaten again. Soon!).  And then, just when we all thought things couldn’t get any better, Rachel brought out her now famous honeyed-thyme brown Turkish fig crostatas (made with local figs picked in nearby Neavitt and honey from Sand Hill Farms) served with homemade orange blossom whipped cream and an absolutely out-of-this-world rustic peach galette (made with peaches from Caroline County, and served with lavender-scented homemade whipped cream. Wow. Wow. And wow. We are still quite floored by it all and frankly, just longing for an encore! September, anyone?

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a study in Victorian cookery

photos: m&j

When we purchased this 19th century antique recipe book from a dealer in the UK, we had no idea what an absolute treasure we were acquiring. We like to imagine this well-used guide to the cookery of the day as something often referred to and notated by the likes of Mrs. Patmore from the fictional Downton Abbey. And though its story may be somewhat less dramatic (though we did recently hear back from the antiques seller that it was a part of the estate of an artist who had belonged to The Bloomsbury Set), it’s impossible to imagine there isn’t a story – and, likely, quite a good one. From the study of highbrow to lowbrow penmanship in the plethora of entries to the almost perfect browning and spotting on the pages to the fanciful recipes (blancmange, anyone?) themselves, time has most certainly turned this once utilitarian handbook into a gastronomic work of art!

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Good-bye, Nora Ephron

Having been huge fans of her work pretty much since her work first began, we are taking the passing of Nora Ephron pretty hard. From Heartburn to Silkwood to Harry & Sally to This Is My Life to the amazing Julie and Julia to Love, Loss, and What I Wore – we were captivated, charmed, obsessed and inspired by her poignant, witty writing and subsequent directing and playwriting. Our friend and collaborator, the wonderful food stylist, Susan Spungen (of Julie and Julia provenance, pictured above with her French onion soup) was with us on set the day the news of Ms. Ephron’s passing broke. And she shared a story of the two of them first bonding over a coconut layer cake that Susan had done for an early cover of Martha Stewart Living – a sweet and simple story, which brought tears to our eyes. A funny feminist and a real “foodie” before there even was such a word, we feel like Nora Ephron was truly in our tribe. But, of course, that’s how everybody feels. And that is why she and her wonderful work will be so sorely missed.

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Mas (la grillade)

photos: m&j

When walking down Seventh Avenue South near Leroy Street, you suddenly begin to smell that comforting fireplace scent we now know means we are in the vicinity of the lovely Mas farmhouse offshoot, Mas la grillade. And what better excuse to go out for a leisurely and slightly pricey lunch there than a special birthday? J’s provided us just the opportunity to wile away the afternoon hours, meandering through “a seasonal menu of locally grown foods cooked solely over wood fires of oak, apple and other hardwoods.”  And so the meal of fire-grilled delicacies began, with us trying and thoroughly enjoying the likes of smoked peanuts with bacon and chili, fire-popped Oak Grove popcorn tossed with fried herbs and parmesan, pit-roasted head of garlic with olive oil and grilled bread, grilled tartine of garlic scape, walnut pesto, shitake and goat cheese, simple and delicious grilled fennel, smoky pea soup with dry-aged Virginia ham, mint & croutons, grilled salmon with a teriyaki glaze, smoked celery root and a puree of escarole and Shelburne Farm cheddar on grilled miche bread with cornichons, sourkraut and local organic greens. We finished up with a local strawberry chiboust (our new fave!) with panna cotta gelato, whole-wheat sable and candied kumquats and a lavender shortbread with roasted little meringues over macerated local strawberries and an all-important underground grill tour – wow!

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Saturday Brunch at Wallsé

photos: m&j

Who knew that practically right under our noses on the corner of Washington and West 11th Street exists a pretty terrific and lovely restaurant we had never even heard of, filled with enough modern art to feast our eyes, as well as a plethora of modern Viennese treats to make for a particularly delicious and leisurely brunch? Tucked under a giant Julian Schnabel painting at Wallsé, we enjoyed a first course of Bloody Marys made with fresh tomato water and “cucumber delight” cocktails made from pear-infused vodka, muddled cucumbers, elderflower syrup, lemon and Sekt. The meal continued with hits like spätzle, braised rabbit, wild mushrooms & tarragon, poached eggs, creamed spinach & Bavarian ham and a particularly amazing assortment of desserts including Salzburger Nockerl – a creamy soufflé of buttery meringue over a warm huckleberry compote – YUM!

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poached guinea eggs and pea shoots

photos: m&j

Our farmer friend, Jaime Lamond’s White and French Pearl guinea hen eggs were a fabulous treat, poached (perfectly – thank you, Amanda Hesser and your awesome youtube video) on toasted Eli’s Health Bread and served over fresh, flowering pea shoots. As mentioned in our earlier post, the diminutive eggs have a high yolk to white ratio and very hard shells (you really have to give them quite a little whack). But once you break through to the golden richness inside, the rewards are plenty! Always check eggs by submerging in a large bowl of water: if they stay at the bottom and don’t float up, they are fresh and good to be enjoyed. Thanks again, Jaime, for these truly special and super delicious, little brunch stars!

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kitchen inspired paintings

images: Heather Chontos

We just adore these food and kitchen inspired works by our good friend and sometimes collaborator – prop & set stylist and artist, extraordinaire, Heather Chontos. These and other delightful works are available on her site and blog, milk farm road. Her talents are a constant source of inspiration to us both.

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freshly foraged morels!

photos: m&j

We’ve been so excited to order our freshly foraged morels ever since we first read about Earthy Delights  – the wonderful wild harvested/foraged food company out of Michigan – back in March. And have been anxiously awaiting both morel season and a coinciding break in our work schedule to plan a shipment of wild fungi/cooking day. And the experience was a blast from the moment we started talking mushrooms with Chef David and Stefanie at Earthy.com. They told us that, because of all the crazy weather we’ve had this year, the blondes had peaked a few weeks early (sad!), but that we were just hitting peak black morel season now and that they were hoping to get a really tip top shipment of freshly foraged mushrooms within the next 24 hours and that we should call him the following afternoon to discuss. This is our type of detail – happiness from the get-go. And just look at these stunners – with wrinkly little honeycomb structures that conjure up ancient civilizations, the French countryside and even elves, if we’re completely honest. We’re planning to make a simple vegetarian dish with fresh asparagus and butter and just enjoy the pure love of this oh-so-special taste. We recommend you do the same – hopefully, Earthy Delights will still have a few left for you!

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El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

© Alive Mind Cinema, 2011

This documentary about famed Spanish Chef and food provocateur, Ferran Adrià and his legendary El Bulli (now, sadly shuttered) just blew our minds. Creative to the point of “avant garde” as Adrià puts it, this food is not for everyone. And much of it seems less like food than science. But it is definitely art. And watching this documentary about the creation and coming to life of one of the last season’s menus of what many called “the greatest restaurant in the world” is completely engaging. The personalities alone in that kitchen are worth the trip. Our favorite quote from the film: Ferran Adrià to his sommelier – “Our problem is, there are a thousand combinations. At the moment, the taste doesn’t matter to us. That comes later. At the moment, what matters is whether something is magical, and whether it opens up a new path. And later, in the restaurant, the dishes are created. Constructed. Now it’s more research and there is more research with creativity.” Simply riveting.

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Cooking in the kitchen with Wallis

photos: m&j

When we came across this vintage cookbook at an antiques shop, we just had to have it – Some Favorite Southern Recipes of The Duchess of Windsor is a collection of down home Southern American fare, culled by this now infamous non-Brit for her friends and others in the United Kingdom. As we scan the pages, we wonder how home cooks and entertainers in England were really enjoying her Smothered Chicken, Waffles & Syrup, Picked Watermelon Rind or Crab & Okra Gumbo. But it does, however, seem quite possible that her Frozen Tomato Salad and Tipsy Charlotte were quite popular in 1958 when it was first published. This one’s a real gem, not to mention what a fabulous hostess gift it will make if one is ever invited to the home of Madonna!

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