Sunday, June 23, 2013

Last Mango in Paris

I wrote recently about a gorgeous dessert from Paris that featured a puree of mango and passionfruit.  Mango is apparently a big thing in the French culinary world these days, because we saw it in several places.

Here's a filet of roast cod, swimming in a sea of carrot puree and topped with mango.

Here's a spring roll filled with crabmeat, vegetables and mango.

Here they are on special at the market.  The sign said they come from Mali by air.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Presentation counts

There are a few important differences between food fixed at home and fixed in a nice restaurant.  Professional chefs, of course, have equipment that home cooks don't, and probably access to better produce and meat.  But one difference that always delights me is how good chefs present the food, beautifully arranged and garnished.  You almost hate to dig in and ruin the picture!

Perhaps because Paris has a reputation to uphold as the world capital of fine cuisine (whether that reputation is valid or not) its restaurants do a great job on presentation.  Here are some beautiful plates served at our tables on our recent trip.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The first watermelon

We're eating the first watermelon of the season this weekend.  It's not as deeply red and sweet as you'll find as summer wears on, but it's not half bad for mid-June.

Yes, those are seeds!  And most interesting, it came from the supermarket.  And it was big.

This is quite a change for our market.  For the last couple of years there have been no seeded melons at all.  Everything has been seedless, and most of the melons have been dinky little things.  Apparently people don't have the refrigerator space to store a big melon, or don't love watermelon enough to eat it twice a day for a week.  And obviously they don't have the patience to pick out the seeds.

But I just don't think the little seedless melons taste as good as the big old-fashioned ones.  We've got our fingers crossed that maybe something has changed and we'll be able to buy them all year at the market.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

At the market

Before we went to France on vacation, I read an article in the New York Times about how conservative the local tastes are regarding vegetables.  It described a Normandy truck farmer who decided to branch out as "a maverick in a field where most farmers grow pretty much the same produce: leeks, carrots, a handful of lettuce varieties, turnips, celery root, beets, onions, shallots, parsnips and maybe Jerusalem artichokes."

So I was interested to visit a farmer's market in Paris, where a much wider variety of stuff was on display.  The stalls were beautiful, often decorated with artfully cut fruits and vegetables so you could be tempted by the delectable flesh.

Often the produce was taken from its shipping crates and arranged on big trays like still lifes.

But even the crates seemed to have been packed by an artist.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sphere au chocolat

Well, friends, enough of sewing machines in small restaurants in Kentucky -- I've just gotten home from Paris!  The food was glorious, of course, and I made myself obnoxious by photographing not just my own and my husband's plates, but those of everybody within camera range.  What a fabulous assortment of ingredients and presentations.

I'll start by sharing Ken's favorite dessert of the trip.  He liked it so much that we returned to the same restaurant for our farewell, and he ordered it again.  I was happy because on the first trip I was so busy taking pictures of somebody else's dessert that he had already eaten half of his, thus spoiling my photo op.  And you can see why it demanded a photo.

The name of the dessert was Sphere au Chocolat, and when the plate arrived, there was the sphere, nestled in a bit of yellow-orange puree.

Carefully tip the top hemisphere off, and you find more of the puree (mango and passionfruit) and a little scoop of ice cream.  Ken thought it was something other than vanilla because of the little brown specks, but I thought it was just -- well, you know, French vanilla.

While he ate, I wondered just how you make the little chocolate hemispheres.  Do you dip an icecream scoop type of device into the chocolate, let it drain, then pop off the chocolate with an icecream scoop type of mechanism?  Or do you dip your round tool in upside down and let the chocolate form around the outside?  Who knew chefs had to be engineers.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Appropriate restaurant decor

It's always nice to find a restaurant whose decor complements your vocation or avocation.

The Fuzzy Duck Coffee Shop in Morehead KY has several tables made with Singer sewing machine bases, copacetic for a party of three textile artists.

I grabbed the long side of the table so I got to rest my feet on the treadle, which still moves.  The food was good too.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lima beans again

I wrote a few days ago about the Mayan method for cooking lima beans.  Coincidentally I ordered limas at another nice restaurant recently that were just as good, but different.

The common element in both preparations is not just the limas but the fact that something crunchy is sprinkled over the top.  In this case it was toasted breadcrumbs with garlic, and lots of butter.  The beans were a big portion, in a big dish with a serving spoon so others could share.  I think that's a nice touch -- we frequently share anyway, but this is more elegant than poking your fork onto somebody else's plate.