Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's All about Meme! July 2008

I was in between travel days in France when I found Michelle's tag for a new meme. It has been a while since I've done a meme so I'm glad to have the chance to do one again. I enjoy reading them as much as I'm intrigued filling in the answers.

Michelle of Accidental Scientist is such a support. She's far more prolific in writing than I am and always an inspiration. Answering her tag is the least I could do for my dear blog friend. Go by and read hers, too.

1. Last Movie I Saw In A Movie Theater?
Yikes! I think the last one I saw in the theatre was “I am Legend” with Will Smith. Not much chance to go to movies in my little village. No movie theatre and I thoroughly do not believe in downloading movies illegally.

2. What Book Are You Reading? Well, of the English language books I just finished reading there was “The Real Food Revival” by Sherri Brooks Vinton and Ann Clark Espuelas, The End of Ignorance” by John Mighton and The Audacity of Hope” by Barack Obama. Food, Education, Biography... the only thing I’m missing is a book on Spirituality. I’m also trying to improve my French by reading the old “Pif” pocketbook comics from The Frog’s childhood and some purchased French food magazines.

3. Favorite Board Game?
I enjoy playing Risk ( We have the Lord of the Rings version) if I have the time and patience. I like the French strategy game, Abalone, too. My tagger need not worry about board game nights. I’ve done that with friends, too, and it can lead to all kinds of great potlucks and conversations. My best memories usually involve a night with games and good friends.

4. Favorite Magazine?
I don’t know how alone I am here. I rarely hear people ooh and aah over Cook’s Illustrated Magazine but it’s the magazine I prefer. I like knowing all the things the test kitchen has tried so I don’t try to take a lazy way out and end up flubbing up a dish. I like their brand comparisons and tests of new food tools, too.

5. Favorite Smells? I love the smell of the rain mixing with dust on the pavement after a long run of heat. I love the smell of sweet peas, honeysuckle and wild roses. I love the smell of cinnamon, particularly in baking. My dog’s warm fur.

6. Favorite Sounds?
The world without electricity. Real church bells (the fake ones just don’t cut it). Birds in the trees. Wind in the trees. Soft rain patter on deciduous trees. Baby giggles.

7. Worst Feeling In The World?
The feeling you get the moment after you said something you shouldn’t have

8. First Thing You Think of When You Wake?
”Where’s the dog?”

9. Favorite Fast Food Place?
Not that fond of anything “fast food”. Does sushi count? They can make it REALLY fast at TOGO Sushi. And it’s really good, to boot.
10. Future Child’s Name?
This has been thought of often so, unlike Michelle, I don’t feel I’d be jinxing anything. Ideally they would be Gabriel for a boy and Marie-Madeleine for a girl.

11. Finish This Statement—“If I Had a Lot of Money,"
... I’d have an organic hobby farm with a small B&B on it.

12. Do You Drive Fast? Hmmm... I don’t think I really do but I do like to drive in places that I can legally go a bit faster like a freeway.

13. Do You Sleep With a Stuffed Animal?
After his dinner, I guess he’d be a “stuffed” Frog. LOL

14. Storms—cool or scary?
Having grown up with Canada’s West Coast’s answer to storms, I ‘d say cool. They’re rarely bad. I experienced my first French plains one a few years back and it had me a bit nervous. Way more violent than anything I’d known before. So the jury’s out on that one.

15. What Was Your First Car?
My first car was a little used red Geo Tracker. It smelled a little. The driver’s side window was completely wonky. I called him “Cooper”. He got me where I needed to go and I miss him.

16. Favorite Drink?
Hmmm... how boring is this—water! But I do like sweet iced tea, iced green tea, raspberry juice and pineapple juice too. Pineapple juice holds a special place in my heart. A number of years back I got sick during archaeology field school. For days I could hardly keep anything down. My first real “food” was a glass of pineapple juice one of the gals gave me in pity because I was restricted from the camp kitchen.

17. Finish This Statement—“If I Had the Time, I Would…"
... go back to school to take culinary arts. Even if it was just for me and not a job.

18. Do You Eat the Stems on Broccoli?
Umm... of course! Why don’t other people???
All you have to do is peel them.

19. If You could Dye your Hair Any Other Color, What Would It Be?
It will almost certainly never happen but I’d like peacock blue or deep purple hair if I could just snap my fingers between natural and fake colours.

20. Name All the Different Cities In Which You Have Lived
– The Greater Vancouver area is the only city I’ve lived in. Anywhere else has been small. Too small to count as a city. Or even a town. *sigh* I’m such a country toad.
21. Favorite Sport to Watch?
I’ve surprised myself lately. I used to be completely intolerant of my father’s hockey and football watching. Football is still on the outs for me but I’m becoming a true Canadian sucker for a decent fight on the ice. You know, the stick and helmets flying kind. Otherwise my preference lies in swimming, horse jumping or gymnastic events. But that’s very rare.
22. One Nice Thing About The Person Who Sent This To You
She leaves lovely comments on nearly everything I post. I really appreciate that she lets me know she’s still out there reading my blog. There’s nothing worse that feeling like you’re talking to yourself on a blog. :-/
23. What’s Under Your Bed?
Paper Storage. Extra sweaters in storage. Mending I still haven’t got to.

24. Would You Like to Be Born As Yourself Again?
I would. It would be a shame to not know the wonderful people I’ve known in my life if I had a different life.

25. Morning Person or Night Owl?
By rights I am a true night owl but having had so many reasons to get up early in the morning (school, teaching, etc), I have trained myself into a morning bird. I wouldn’t go so far as to say a lark. ;-)

26. Over Easy or Sunny Side Up?
Sunny Side Up. Yolks have to be runny. Great preference for it to served on top of a buttered whole wheat toast. That way I can cut the egg without worrying about losing any precious yolk. Too much whites compared to the yolk? Yuck.

27. Favorite Place to Relax?
The bath. Give me a pile of reading material and hot water and I’m happy. The pool, floating on my back watching clouds and birds is related but not as high on the list. Out of the bath, I like to be curled up on the couch with my dog, his head resting on me, a good book in my hands.

28. Favorite Ice Cream Flavor?
Pistachio. Mind you, the French have some amazing flavours of ice cream and sorbets. My favourites of these are coconut, lemon sorbet, lime sorbet and pear. Oh god... the pear. It is SOOOO good.

29. Of All the People You Have Tagged, Who Is the Most Likely to Respond First?
Um. I hate answering this question. If Michelle hadn’t tagged me, I know she’d likely have been one of the first.

Oh dear... now I have to tag 4 or 5 other people. The part I “love” the most. It kinda feels like telemarketing to me. I just hope people don’t mind.

I'm tagging:

Zoomie, always a fun blog companion and prolific writer, at Zoomie Station
Cate, always warm and supportive and wonderful to read, at Sweetnicks
Darling Jasmine, my fellow Canadian, who tried to keep me in touch with the blogging world so many times by email, at Cardamom Addict
The other Michelle, my new blog buddy and a great writer, at Le Potage

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A New Mission Already!

I haven't finished telling you about the first mission only to end up going on the second mission, Belgium, already. It's only a couple of days and I should be back for Friday. Again, this was unexpected as I thought this trip would be later. I'll have to get a lot of writing in on the weekend because we'll again be away for a few days near the Ardennes, home of Froggy Mommy's family come Monday evening.

While I'm away I'll be thinking of sweet Sher, whose dear friend, Glenna, wrote a lovely tribute about her friend. Sher will be fondly remembered. God bless you, Sher.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The First Day Abroad

The lunch of the snobs left me giddy and defiant. Nothing could really top that. And, in a sense, it was in a league of its own. We'd only happen to wander there because there was such a dearth of restaurants to be found in Lunéville.

We'd stopped in Lunéville to see the mini-Versaille built by Leopold, Duke of Lorraine and later occupied by the deposed king of Poland, Stanislaw Leszczynski. We only saw the outside as we spent a little time walking the large gardens attached to the chateau.

We wandered through Baccarat to admire the crystal. Being there only reinforced my love of Lalique crystal even if my pocketbook fainted at the prices. After, we tried to find our way to Alsace through the Vosges Mountains. It seemed we found every twist and turn on those roads but eventually we sunk down into the grape-laden hillsides of Alsace.

I'd mistakely thought we were staying in the town of southern Alsace, Colmar. Instead, we ended up staying on the Ile du Rhine, a lovely hotel right beside the Rhine River. Our room looked out over a lake-like side channel of the Rhine where I found a bit of bliss in the early morning and the evenings watching the ducks and swallows there as well as a pair of swans with their four babies.

We ate at the hotel for dinner the first night. It wasn't the chateau by any stretch of the imagination but it was a good introduction to a new favourite of mine--flammenkueche, also known as tarte flambee. I'd describe as perogy-fixings on a flatbread.--lardons (bacon), creme fraiche (sour cream) and onions-- yet superior. I'd also had a fillet de sandre, a halibut-textured fish, with a creamy reisling sauce but it didn't match the love at first sight I had with the flammenkueche. I could have had a version with grilled cheese or with Munster cheese, but the sheer peasant simplicity of the dish would have been ruined. Having it served on a wooden board enhanced its comfort food status immensely.

Monday, July 21, 2008

While Looking for Lunch at Lunéville

The icy looks left me wondering where this trip would take us. As we stepped through the passage way to a charming, tiered garden my fears were confirmed. It did indeed seem that the longer the road into the deep country one goes to a place called "Chateau de Something", the higher up the social ladder the clientele were likely to be. The customers ringing the tables seemed to ooze money out of their pores. In the moments that passed between my first and third steps on the terrace, I'd vaccilated between wishing my clothes to suddenly turn into Chanel and telling myself to act like I owned this place. It was a bit hard to pull off as we swept past the fluttering silks and linen in runners and travelling clothes. I think I was terrified in the first moments that we'd either be snubbed by the staff or have scandalized chateau guests walk off in a huff. My fears were never realized and I considered the pleasant way we were led to our table to be a successful leap over a huge hurdle. I relaxed. I even started being a bit amused at the occasional incautious glances of the others, assessing our status.

I didn't really want to reinforce the tourist-who-mistakenly-wandered-into-the-palace image we already presented so I never took pictures of the food. There was just no privacy. That room was designed to see and be seen. The food, however, left a big impression on me, enough to remember it in detail.

Let me first begin with the setting. Imagine a well-kept Caribbean estate terrace garden leading onto a covered lanai. The lanai itself is decorated in the fashion of a colonial club room in Southern Asia. Palms, multi-drawered apothocary chests, tiles, white linens--you know, the works.

We all started with the tuna carpaccio. Three long rectangular portions of paper thin belly tuna lay across the width of the plate, parted by light dressed fresh greens with a sprinkling of raw mung beans on top. The tuna itself was dressed sparingly in soy sauce, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds and rice vinegar. A smattering of wasabi/chili oil dots lined the sides of the plate. It was served with an avocado soup/sorbet. The tuna was very moreish, the light bitterness of the mung sprouts a nice contrast to the lusciousness of the delicate tuna. But the avocado thing, my only disappointment of the meal, had a top note of cool richness. The bottom note that played out after, however, was bitter. Not "try not to spit it out" bitter, but certainly not appealing.

After, Papa Frog and I had salmon ravioli. If the tuna was very good, this dish was heaven in a celadon-green glass bowl. In a light salmon broth, awash in a confetti of lightly cooked carrot, turnip and zucchini dice, were a few pieces of luxuriantly-textured poached salmon. Most of the few salmon pieces were half-wrapped in perfectly cooked wonton wrappers. There was a seasoning of herbs in the soup that I think was chervil, parsley and basil. It was topped off with a little green cloud of leek sprouts. It seems too simple to be good but it was a marriage of flavours that defied explination. It took all my reserve to not lift the bowl to my lips to get every last drop of the lovely broth.

My Frog had ordered a cut of beef with a pepper sauce. We thought we knew what to expect. Oh how wrong we were. The rare-cooked piece was so rich and buttery under the knife that I expected Froggie's eyes to roll back in his head. The 'sauce' was actually a pale-green pepper oil served on the side. It only added to the unctuous nature of the little beast. Also on the side was served a collection of lightly poached white asparagus spears and poached radishes. Again unexpected but they worked so well with the rest of the dish. I can say this because it became too much of a curiosity for me not to beg a piece. It was every savoury bit of butteriness that he promised. Every bit.

As I'd ordered from a menu I still had a dessert to arrive. While we waited for the course to come we were given a small bowl of top notch dark chocolate cut into cubes and the most darling thumb-sized madeleines. Those little cakes were strawberry pink and rose-flavoured. Yum! I would have been happy if THIS had been my dessert but the best was yet to come.

I didn't know what to expect of a "passion tart" but I didn't expect what came. A tiny glass of canary yellow passionfruit smoothie with a tiny black straw hovered on the plate above a tart of simple splendour. A cookie-like crust was filled with the most breathtakingly rich, yolky custard, crowned with four perfect fat raspberries and dusted with silver leaf. Yeah... edible silver leaf. Honestly, the snobs could take a hike. I was going to relish this.

I'd entered this place feeling like I better pretend to own this joint. By the end I didn't need to pretend to act pampered. I was.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Next Mission

The Frog and I were surprised by Papa Frog to find that we'd already been booked for our first vacation within a vacation so soon. This Thursday we are off to the French-German border for four days. Strasbourg and Freiburg im Breisgau are on the visit list. I do happily have a memory disk reader now so I'll have pictures to share when I get back as well as stories. However, to those of you who have supported me through my pictureless days, you made me realize again the power of prose. So, sometimes in the future I just may happen to 'lose my camera' to play with the power of the written word.

See you in a few days! Coq au Reisling, Munster Cheese and Gewürztraminer here I come!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Secret Mission

The sun trickles its way across the dark wardrobe. The air coming in from the window, slightly ajar, is fresh. You look out and see a picture perfect blue sky. Closing your eyes, you feel the wind catch slightly on your face and you hear the sweet sound of chirruping birds and the softly distant sound of a bell, tolling Matins. You look back towards the bed and see your beloved gently snoring, splayed across the bed like a child. You smile and return to the few pages left of your book.

As he awakes, your man suggests a lovely surprise for his father and the guests of the last two days, an aunt and uncle. His suggestions pleases you as you wish to do something nice for these two lovely people. Almost instantly after meeting them you warmed to them, their presence in your first few days in France a sweet and unexpected blessing.

Quickly you both dress for the day, whispering in hushed but fervent tones about favourite topics. Quickly you both slip out of the house, trying not to wake anyone. Out of the gate you wander down the lane, chattering and admiring some of the fruit trees belonging to neighbours. The apples seem bonny and abundant and surprisingly flush for the time of year.

You turn to the main village road, pass by the park and cross the street quickly. The road is actually quite busy for the morning but not unexpectedly. People are racing back to work and home after France's National holiday, a long weekend this year. You can even still see a little of the detritus of the weekend's festivities and fireworks along the curb.

The houses of the village press close together like long stone snakes bordering the roads. The early morning sun presses against their shuttered windows. Were it not for the constant bustle of passing cars and trucks, you would have felt quite alone in the streets, so few living things are in your path except the odd cat and the swift-darting barnswallows. But the scent of the flowers are quite alive as you walk, some well known like the deep red roses splashed across the farm building and some haunting, unknown perfume--green yet sweet.

You pass under the blue shadows of the tall, typical Eastern French church. You both pause to admire the tower, topped with a weathered but proud cockerel before continuing on to your destination--the bakery. The shop is quite modern looking, inset amongst the archaic stone buildings. You look in the window and realize that there is indeed life stirring in the quiet country village.

As you enter, an ancient but proud-looking little lady passes by you, a bread loaf half her size tucked almost militarily under her sweatered arm. She greets you with the abbreviated street-greeting so familiar to you now--'Bonjour M'sieurdame'. The greeting is echoed by the cheerful baker's wife, young and energetic-looking. Your darling quickly asks for all the remaining ten croissants, freshly baked that morning. His eyes wander to the little quiches beside the croissants and folds to temptation at the thought of having good French quiche. He orders two. You must hurry out and no longer tarry as people of all shapes and sizes suddenly try to squeeze into the shop, waiting for their daily fresh bread. The village, it seems, is now awake.

You take a quieter, quicker route home, admiring the still-flowering wisteria crawling across the expanse of three stone houses. Faces are now peeking through windows as you pass. The waking of the village has happened so quickly, you're almost breathless. An old lady waddles along the narrow alley to her garden. A troupe of young men discuss loudly as they start working on refurbishing a house. A child babbles as a mother coos in some unseen upper floor. The buttery scent of the croissants drives you on to quickly get back home.

Flushed with excitement and the walk, you both dash through the gate and up the hill to the veranda, laying your treasure out on the table for the sleepy-eyed but obviously pleased guest. Breakfast goods are gathered up and all emerge to partake of the coffee, juice and croissants. You share a bit of quiche with your sweetie and your eyes widen at the beautiful taste of the eggs and bacon. This is nothing like the quiches you've known from Canada. It's far more dense and rich. You know how much the quiche means to him, so you refrain from grabbing the rest. Instead you sink your teeth into a flaky, buttery croissant. Again your eyes widen as this freshly made treat melts against your tongue. 'We ain't in Canada anymore, Toto', you think. They may not be the prettiest you've seen but their bare touch of salt and understated sweetness are infinitely superior to anything you've had before, at least in recent memory.

As you listen to the conversation open up around the table, blending with the hum of a distant lawnmower, you realize that this really IS the life.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


There's nothing as disheartening as realizing that you've travelled thousands of miles to a foreign country to stay for a month and find you've forgotten something you consider rather vital. I brought my camera, batteries, recharger, french plug adaptor... but no download cord. I mean, I suppose it could be much worse. I could have found that I'd left the picture cards or the camera itself at home. THAT would have been worse. We're going to have to see if we can get an outside source download port. The French don't seem to be nearly as tech crazy as North America so I am crossing my fingers on this. The Frog has a friend who has a small computer store/repair shop. He may know what to do if we can't figure it out.

If there is nothing to be done, I'm going to have to rely on my word skill to describe the food. I hope you don't mind. Then, maybe after I get back, I can upload pictures to go with the words.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Let the Games Begin

I've posted so little lately that I may just have last year's France visit on the same page as this year's visit. Yep, you read right. It's that time of year again--a month in France ( and other participating countries).

I anticipate the month with nostalgic and gastronomical excitement. Old friends like my beloved chèvre cheese, brut de pom (apple pop) rilettes de canard and French yogurt have already zipped through the shopping scanner as well as some new hopes like raspberry juice with violet aroma. They are still sitting placidly in the fridge ready to seduce my tastebuds.

One unexpected surprise so far was the champagne we drank on our arrival back to the homebase. I'm not always so keen on champagne alone, preferring the addition of crème de cassis. but this one had such a haunting grape tone that it was far more interesting to my palate.

We hope to travel a bit to the east and a bit further north so my future may hold such delights and curiosities as waffles and coq au Riesling on Spätzle. I know Ze Frog wants to ask about another more local specialty--pig's feet. I'm not sure about it but I'll try at least if offered the chance. Life is too short to be weird about food.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Easing Back Gently

Perhaps I think that I need to create a masterpiece of modern food commentary. Or maybe I think I need to create a masterpiece of modern food recipes. But this is blog, baby! It's not The New York Times or a potential Pulitzer. If it's supposed to be, I'm doomed.

But I say basta ya to my inner self-critic and throw caution to the wind. This IS a food commentary and so, dang it, I'll comment. This IS a place to share food adventures, so, By God, I'll share. No Olympic swimmer dipped into the pool just yesterday and won the gold medal on the day of swimming lesson #2 so I don't know why I seem to think I need to write Shakespeare on my first tries.

So I'm jumping into the dictionary with my waterwings, sweetheart, and preparing to bob up and down until I find my strength. Practice makes perfect says the old adage so I'll work my way up in wordcraft. They may be diatribes, they may be little bubbles of thought but I need to stop kidding myself that I'll be a master with no preparation. I just need to write. So sit back and strap in--you're in for a bumpy ride.