When my husband and I hosted an annual supper last week for his freshman class at Amherst College, I served a familiar menu, one I’ve cooked for more than a decade. A vegetarian dish of rigatoni tossed in a spicy tomato sauce again anchored the meal partnered by a mixed greens salad and warm crusty bread. As usual, for dessert I set out a bowl of fresh berries and fruit along with several chocolate treats, including a chocolate caramel cake and chocolate almond shortbreads. When it came to appetizers, though, I decided to try a new opener—a savory Gorgonzola cheesecake garnished with apple wedges, toasted croutons, grapes, and some fig jam.
Right before the young people arrived, I had a moment of panic. What if this new cheesecake offered as an opener rather than a dessert was a flop. What if the students were not adventurous eaters and the dish was untouched. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry long! From the moment the group gathered around our coffee table in front of a Continue reading
Famous Mont d”Or cheese which arrives for the holidays
Truffles on a bed of rice in my local cheese store–check out the price!!
Countless delicious cheeses–which to choose is the problem
Quatrehomme Cheese Shop
Entry to La Grande Epicerie–the food emporium at Le Bon Marché
Dark Chocolate pastries from Le Bon Marché for our New Year’s Eve dinner
Waters are taken seriously at La Grande Epicerie at Le Bon Marché
A favorite wine shop on rue du Bac
Champagne for tonight!
We’re back in Paris in the familiar Left Bank neighborhood where we’ve welcomed the beginning of many a new year. The quartier where we stay is festooned with lights and bright window displays, and the food shops remind us how important entertaining friends is at this time of year. The French call December 31 le révillon, or St. Sylvestre, and food and Champagne are at the center of every get-together. Here’s a glimpse of a few of our neighborhood stores where we’ve spent the better part of today selecting delectables for ringing in 2015 with friends.
Quatrehomme Cheese Shop in Paris
No matter the meal, the day, or the season, the French have a passion for the table and food that is almost a commonplace, but come the holidays, they become “foodies on steroids!” Abandoning budgets and diets, they indulge in an astounding array of seasonal options. Their markets are filled with displays of crustaceans—varieties of oysters, scallops still in their ribbed shells, mounds of shrimp from the petit gris from the North Atlantic to imperial-sized prawns caught off the coasts of Madagascar. Butchers showcase capons stuffed with chestnuts and carefully cut stately roasts, while patissiers outdo themselves with their glorious bûches de Noël and golden galettes des rois, sumptuously prepared with puff pastry.
My husband and I have been coming to Paris during this season for more than a decade now, so I’ve become an enthusiastic and experienced shopper, filling my cart with favorites and new discoveries. Nothing is better than a food foray during December and January in this magical city!
1. Chanterelles – Although also available other times of the year, I love to sauté these golden, trumpet-shaped mushrooms with garlic, then add them to a sauce to nap a holiday roast beef or fowl. They also look glorious served in a small casserole with a sprinkle of parsley.
2. Foie Gras – At the farmers’ markets or in fancy food shops you’ll find fresh foie gras ready to be taken home to be served with warm brioche or baguette slices along with a sip of sauterne. Every mouthful is such bliss that I don’t even think about the calories!
3. Black Truffles – Fresh winter truffles are a luxe item to buy in miniscule amounts. You can add shavings to pasta or risotto, or even use them in scrambled eggs for an extra special brunch dish.
In October a young friend and former assistant told me of a Concord Grape Upside Down Cake that she had baked for a special dinner. Intrigued, I asked for the recipe, but put off trying it for a few weeks. By the time I got around to testing this seasonal dessert, Concord grapes had passed their peak, and my results were lackluster. The clever concept for an unusual upside down cake, however, stayed etched in my mind, and I began to think of other possibilities. Continue reading