The way to a man’s heart and a smidgen of mine – my first crush and sugar cookies

Featured Recipe: Sugar Cookies

sugar cookiesI was three and a half, and he was three…he was the boy next door (literally), and I was a toddler with a spirit for adventure. Because of that spirit for adventure I had child locks on my bedroom door to stop me from escaping, but those things were no challenge for me and one summer day I managed to break loose and make a dash for the front door. His mom was in the kitchen and he was in the backyard so I broke him loose as well and took him along on my adventure. Since I was the older of the two I knew enough to hold his hand so he didn’t get hurt. We headed off to my great grandmother’s house (aka Nana’s house) about a half kilometre away, and by some miracle we made it there. Now the normal reaction of a grandmother having two toddlers show up on her door step would probably be to call their mothers (who at this point are panicking thinking their children have been kidnapped), but not my Nana. Nope she invited us in, served us some calico tea and sugar cookies. Our lovely tea service was interrupted by a phone call by my mother, who had alerted the police of our missing status. Not the first or last time the police were contacted or involved in one my childhood escapades. I loved my Nana’s sugar cookies, but I can’t seem to find the recipe right now, so I’ve baked up a batch of Alton Brown’s sugar cookies instead and they are quite good. My Nana put a raisin in the middle of her sugar cookies, I can pass on that now a days. And resort instead to a little bit of royal icing, which is more the style my mom made when we were kids. On Valentines Day we always used to bake up sugar cookies in heart shapes and decorate them with icing and cinnamon hearts. That summer my family moved to a new neighbourhood, but that wasn’t the last time I’d see him, as in grade school we’d meet again and for a short time I even had a crush…my first crush.

Cookie Tips – so I made Alton’s cookies in Calgary where it is extremely dry, so I had to add a splash more of milk to keep the dough together. You absolutely have to chill for 2 hours…so don’t bother trying to cheat on that. And use the icing sugar instead of flour for rolling out…this is key.  I also added the seeds of a whole vanilla bean to the mixture, and the result was delicious!

Click here for the recipe Alton Brown Sugar cookies

Julie & Julia a la Alyssa – Host a party for the movie release!

Alyssa hosted a splendid event of lunch and a movie for the Julie & Julia movie release.  A movie based on two books first Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, by Julie Powell and the second My Life in France by Julie Child and Alex Prud’Homme.  Guests were invited to bring a bottle of French wine  (I brought a Beaujolais Villages wine) or a French cheese and Alyssa prepared a splendid feast from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking for lunch.  We started with stuffed mushroom caps, followed by vichyssoise (cold potato leek soup).  Then the cheese and bread course, and then the Pièce de résistance, Crab Quiche served with a tossed salad and homemade vinaigrette.  She made the quiche while we were there, so it came out of the oven warm and perfectly set for eating!  Everything was sooo delicious!  We finished our meal with a wonderfully fragrant French tea, and these delightful little French Macaroons.  For an amazing food blog and great collection of Macaroon recipes visit this site:  http://www.mytartelette.com/search/label/macarons.  It is the kind of blog that makes me realize I’m such a hack as a foodie and blogger – and wished I had the creative energy to produce something so splendid.  After lunch we all went to the cinema to catch the flick!

I recently read Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen and I enjoyed it for what it was.  An easy read, with a bit of sarcastic humor (which I always appreciate), by someone who seems a little more disgruntled with the world than perhaps her apparent lot in life affords.  She makes herself look bad by being harsh with and about her seemingly saintly husband, but she wrote it herself, so I think it is intended to be self deprecating humor.  Julie’s description of Julia’s Oeufs en Cocotte (you can find the recipe here) in the book is so appealing I’ve decided I have to make them…so as soon as I find the appropriate ramekins I’ll get those whipped up.  There were parts of her struggle in life reaching thirty and being childless I have to say I identified with.  And because I love food, I just enjoy books right now that get me thinking about it.  But because of the humor and writing style, I definitely appreciate the opinion of some of my friends that the book just wasn’t that good.  What I haven’t read yet, but would like to pick up is My Life in France.  I enjoyed that the movie combined the two books playfully such that I didn’t feel I was just re-experiencing the book.  Both of the stars did an exceptional job at bringing life to their characters on the big screen, although I would say some of the sharp edges of Julie’s character were  shaved off by the script and Amy Adam’s performance.  I will be shocked if Meryl Streep doesn’t get an Oscar nod for her outstanding characterization of Julia Child…if you don’t realize how marvelous it is, watch a clip of Julia Child on youtube…and you will be amazed.

Check out Alyssa’s post on the event!  http://wherearethekeys.wordpress.com/2009/08/10/french-food/

So bring together some girlfriends with a flavor of French food experience and watch Julie & Julia.

Share your comments on the book, the recipes, or the event below.

The way to a man’s heart and a smidgen of mine – Love, tradition, and blueberry pancakes

IMG00430So recently I had a couple of experiences regarding love and romance that have inspired introspection and lead me to decide to do a feature called ‘the way to a man’s heart, and a smidgen of mine’. It is much more personal than my other blogging, but I think the road of exploration will reveal some comfort foods you’ll enjoy and unearth some of my food exploration how my comfort foods broadened from basic chicken and dumplings to include international food treats. All of my relationships with men haven’t been perfect, in truth the first relationship I had with a man (my father) was tough to say the least. And of course they say that is one of the most important relationships for a young girl. But despite the challenges in that relationship, I have some positive food memories with him and I’d like to share with you. As to the other relationships with men I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have some really loving and wonderful men in my life (some family, some partners, some friends). But whether it be a challenging relationships or just a splendid one they all make for interesting stories, and because I love food so much, I’d like to share those relationships with you through the lens of food memory. In some cases I think I’ve got a couple creative recipe ideas to highlight some interesting parts of my relationship experience as well.

So to kick off the feature I’d like to share with you a recent story. In the last couple of years I have shared a growing relationship with one of my uncles. He has been helping our family immensely by taking care of my dad, who is not well. I respect my uncle endlessly and despite his own challenges he has really been present in our lives and helping us out over the last several years. He plays a significant role in my life, and my best memories are from our breakfast tradition. We’ve been doing it for a couple years now – each time I come to town to visit he takes me out one morning for breakfast (without fail, every time). Those moments we have together talking, chatting, me pushing the boundary on how much girl talk he can handle, him sharing advice with me on everything from real estate, to golf, to romance. These are my most treasured moments. What we always struggle with in those breakfasts is the world’s biggest breakfast quandry – eggs or pancakes (or savory sweet)? And we’ve now mastered a plan whereby we get our eggs…but we also share one or two blueberry pancakes. So in honour of our blueberry pancake tradition I’d like to share with you a recipe from Martha Stewart Living that is perfect for blueberry season and includes some of my favorite ingredients cornmeal and buttermilk. Cornmeal – Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes (click link below for recipe). I’ve included a few Gayle modifications in the notes. I made these pancakes today and shared them with a friend…they were pretty yummy. A bit of room for improvement in my pancake cooking style, and I need a much better pan…but when the fresh local blueberries pop open in your mouth it is delightful!

Click here for the recipe for Martha’s Blueberry Cornmeal-Buttermilk Pancakes.

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“Hung the cat up by it’s tail…but there’s one place in the world…”

A little thinking out loud on the subject of the economy and drinking…While enjoying a glass of wine this past weekend at Lucy Mae Brown the bartender interrupted our conversation when he overhead my friend say “I’m interested in buying a car” because he thought he heard “I’m interested in buying a bar”. This bartender told us he had important business advice to share with us. He told us that there are a lot of bars for sale in Vancouver (of this I’m not sure, but I’ll believe it), and that his point of view is that regardless of the economy people drink and that having a successful bar is more about location and concept so the successful ones will survive and the losing ones will fail regardless of economy. And ultimately his advice to us was to go out and buy a bar while the price is good, but a good one…though logic would serve (based on his argument) that those one’s aren’t suffering. While our discussion was about Ferraris, not Pubs it got me thinking about people’s drinking habits in times of economic downturn, and I’m afraid the numbers don’t really support our local bartender’s story. According to the LA Times those that drink are all still drinking, but more of us are doing it at home. Which while bad for the bar business has its upsdies for example statistics show it actually reduces drunk driving incidents. However, it isn’t as clear cut as that though, because the same article says that hard drinkers cut back, while social drinkers increase their drinking during tough times. Catherine Rampell has a couple interesting blogs related to this subject including “Wine as an Economic Indicator” and “Vices and Economic Slowdown”. Her piece on wine as economic indicator brings up an interesting point which is “the recession is forcing middle-market consumers to move down-market.” Anecdotally I would say for me that as I’m staying in more and drinking out less ‘the spend’ has stayed relatively constant (or reduced), but the quality has improved because I’m not paying the same mark up as I would in a restaurant or bar. Now I know that the Friday night of this story I had less drinks than usual but that was more about the 10 miles we were running in the morning, than the economy…The short of it is I need to do a bit more research to get to the bottom of this pint…if you’ve read anything on the subject let me know.

No formal rating on Lucy Mae, but I’ll give it a Very Ok…and I will note business looked slow for a Friday night.

A commentary on namesake restaurants

Written by an accomplished writer (as I was reminded in re-reading it), and in some ways motivation for this blog is this post on Vij’s. You will not be able to spot me in the post, but I was present at the meal, and I thank David for encouraging me to start my own blog. As a follow-up comment to that post, two of my favourite restaurants in Vancouver are namesake restaurants (Tojo’s and Vij’s), so there might be something to that equation. Vikram may have had something with his comment about needing to be in the house to make a namesake restaurant successful, Feenie’s is now DB Bistro Moderne, named for the new executive chef of Lumière, Daniel Boulund. From what I’ve seen of it Feenie had a very aggressive marketing circuit, and I can’t imagine him being in the kitchen of his namesake restaurant all that much given that schedule, and the demands of running the critically acclaimed Lumière. Since this isn’t a gossip column I will say that the end of the affair, for Rob Feenie and the owners of Lumière, seems ultimately much more sorted. I really enjoyed Feenie’s the handful of times I have been, and if I manage to get over the food poisoning I got at Cactus Club once, I might stop by to try his new work. I’ve not yet been to any of Boulund’s restaurants, and they aren’t high on my next stops list, but eventually I am sure I will visit. I think DB Bistro Moderne is a very interesting choice of names given that just a few doors away is Moderne Burger, notably my favourite burger place in the city (recommended by one of its most dedicated fans, David).