Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dinner Party

Yes, we are taking the first step. Entertaining on the small scale.

Yeah right.

So naturally, we invited two other couples to join us for dinner.

We never do anything the slow and easy way.

Of course, one of the couples run our favorite Japanese restaurant, Katsu, Katsu Imamura and his wife, Haruko Romanoff. The other couple, old friends from college and my husband's business partner, Sanj and Sapna Rathi. Definitely a group with high expectations about the quality of food that they eat.

What to fix? Something that I can do well, obviously.

So this is how it went:

Appetizers (served with Bellinis):

Buckwheat blini with Sno frisk cheese and smoked salmon
Goat cheese and teriyaki mushroom melange in phyllo (I use those little cups)

a composed salad course:

blueberries, toasted hazelnuts and Black Diamond cheddar cheese crumbles over vinagrette tossed baby greens. (yes, the vinagrette was home made... basil oil, olive oil, sherry vinager and dijon mustard mixed with salt, pepper and garlic powder)

Main course:

Allen Brothers New York strips cooked to perfection on the indoor grill (and for once we did not set off the fire alarm)

Lemon risotto (I use lots of lemon so it is tangy and carnoroli rice)

Roasted red and golden beets, glazed with a reduction of dry riesling, flavored with coriander seeds, lemon peel and white pepper


Individual Cherry Almond Clafoutis

I have to say, it all turned out pretty well. Our old friends, Sanj and Sapna and our new friends, Katsu and Haruko all got on well together and everyone enjoyed the dinner. Like any dinner party at Chez Maman, the wine flowed as did the conversation.

Shortly after midnight our guests departed and we relaxed knowing that we managed our first official dinner party with aplomb.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bad Pie Baker


I am such a bad maker of Bad Baby Pie that I forgot to post a picture of my end results. Here it is in its various stages of development... Prebake. With the smoked ham front and center, (I used a 1/4 inch slice of black forest ham from Sara Lee which was then cubed.

Next is imediately post baking. Man, that is one tall pie! Yes, the premade (yeah, I am a cheater, what of it?) crust could not contain the bad baby-ness of this pie. It even took the crust with it, proving what a bad baby it is!

Lastly is the pie served up... the crust of the cheese was absorbed into of the pie... mmmm, tasty. That is one bad baby pie!

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cruel Food

My daughter has become a vegetarian (again... we'll see how long it lasts this time). And with the zeal of the newly converted she has begun lecturing me about the utter cruelty of meat. Naturally her sources are the unimpeachable PETA and other similar organizations with axes to grind and propaganda to spread.

But what is cruel food?

Meat in general? Even those that are raised sustainably on their natural diets? Or Kosher or Halal slaughter which requires the fastest and most painless death for the subject animal as well as offering prayers to the god and thanks to the animal for the gift of its life.

What about eating animals that we consider beautiful or live with as pets? Guinea pigs were raised as food in the Andes. Horses are eaten in France. Rabbits are consumed world wide. Is their cruelty based on our sense of the cuteness of the animal or true cruelty?

Is it formula fed veal raised in boxes? What about veal fed grain and hay (which Julia Child felt should be more appropriately called calf), what about milk fed veal that live in pens instead of crates?

And foie gras, which is currently banned here in Chicago? This is an ancient method employed as far back as 2500 BCE to prepare fowl. Of course the process for creating foie gras isn't performed over the entire lifespan of the goose or duck, but rather the last 12-18 days before slaughter.. so does that make foie gras less cruel than veal?

Or what about the traditional method for preparing ortolan? Ortolan or French Buntings are caught and either raised in the dark or blinded, force fed oats, millet and figs until they reach four times their normal size. At that point they are drowned in armagnac (or cognac), roasted whole for 6-8 minutes then eaten whole, bones and all. The eater covers his head with a cloth, most likely his or her napkin in order to preserve the aroma, or as is believed by some to hide their cruelty from the sight of god.

But who is to say that vegetarianism is without its cruelty?

Jains believe that they must protect plants from harm and as a result eat only plant products that will not kill the plant by their use. You may harvest a 1,000 oranges without killing the tree, but eating one carrot will uproot and kill the entire plant. As a result Jains abstain from root vegetables.

As for myself, I am content with the knowledge that I am not separate or superior to the world around me. I am an animal and will work to meet my own needs for food in the most efficient manner possible. As a thinking being, however, I will do what I can to lessen the pain of those beings that I consume, but pain is indeed part of life. As is death. Animals would certainly do to us, what we do to them if they had the understanding or capacity to do so.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Boston Tea Part, Part Deux


I am vindicated further....

I was reading an account of the Boston Tea Party in History Bites, by Judith Millidge and discovered the morning after the Tea Party, one of the "revelers", George Hewes (1742-1840, shoemaker, militiaman, privateer), reported that the boxes of tea dumped the previous evening were seen floating in the harbor and boats we dispatched to make sure that the tea sank in order to make it unusable.

Additionally, he fought with another 'patriot' to make sure that the other man did not steal some of the cheap british tea for his own personal use.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

I want pie!

Yes, I want it in the worst way... See, I saw the movie, Waitress, and now I am filled with longing for the pies that Jenna (played by Keri Russell) makes for her family, friends and lover..

  • I Don’t Want Earl’s Baby Pie (then renamed Bad Baby Pie)
    Quiche of egg and brie cheese with a smoked ham center
  • Kick In The Pants Pie
    Cinnamon spice custard
  • I Hate My Husband Pie
    “You take bittersweet chocolate and don’t sweeten it. You make it into a pudding and drown it in caramel…”
  • Baby Screaming It’s Head Off In The Middle Of The Night And Ruining My Life Pie New York style cheesecake, brandy brushed, pecans and nutmeg…
  • Earl Murders Me Because I’m Having An Affair Pie
    “You smash blackberries and raspberries into a chocolate crust.”
  • I Can’t Have No Affair Because It’s Wrong And I Don’t Want Earl To Kill Me Pie
    “Vanilla custard with banana. Hold the banana…”
  • Pregnant Miserable Self Pitying Loser Pie
    “Lumpy oatmeal with fruitcake mashed in. Flambé of course…”
I even want the pies that are named but not described:

  • Marshmallow Mermaid Pie (created during Jenna's mermaid phase)
  • Falling in Love Pie (there is some sort of chocolate in it that is all I can tell)
  • Naughty Pumpkin Pie

Sadly, there is no way to know how these pies were envisioned since the writer/director of the film, Adrienne Shelley was murdered in her apartment in NYC in November 2006. I guess I will just have to use my imagination.

I will be starting with Bad Baby Pie... and will report on its outcome in due course.

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Can someone tell me if anyone in Chicago (or a reasonable drive from there) a store that has IN STOCK Bradley Smoker Bisquettes...

I bought Fun Daddy a smoker for Fathers Day that arrived early (and was too large to hide) but it did NOT come with any bisquettes... and now we are on a quest.


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Maman's Summer Camp

Yes, it is summer vacation Chez Maman...

You might be wondering what this has to do with gastronomy or nerdiness. Well, I am getting to it!

See with mes filles now running amuck, I had to come up with something to do with them... So I have Camp Maman. Part summer school, part field trips and part hands on lessons. As we completed our first week at camp we had our first hands on day and even picked up an extra camper... The Angel's friend, Frieda.

Their assignment today?

A home ec lesson of sorts. Gather supplies for a well balanced dinner for four that costs under $5.00.

It was an adventure. Explaining unit prices, exchanging more processed, higher priced items for less processed and cheaper choices. Showing them how to estimate their costs using the scales in the store.

At the end of the trip only one camper pulled off the challenge. Frieda! Her meal of roasted drumsticks and herb vinagrette potato salad came in at $4.65. What did they learn? Food costs more than they give it credit for. But also, that you can feed yourself and you family nutritious food inexpensively. You just have to think about what you are doing.

I can't wait to hear how her meal was received at home... and to find out how the Angel and Imelda's meals turn out.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ever have one of those nights?

You know the type... You are tired and angry and want to lie in bed watching your favorite shows (mine are all on the Discovery Channel) and sip a nice cold libation?

Yeah, I had one of those last night...

I tried this out after finding it at the local fruit market...

It was lovely and refreshing. I wonder how mint got to South America? Is it one of those herbs that kind of grows everywhere or was it brought by the Spanish... hmmm, things to ponder.

All righty... the dorky side got the better of has a subcosmopolitan distribution (you find it almost everywhere) and is a good companion plant to both peppers and tomatos.

and the mojito was cuban and Hemingway's second favorite drink after the daiquiri...

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

On the menu

This morning I fixed cinnamon ginger french toast and papaya agua fresca to the sleepover crowd at my house...

I am really beginning to get the hang of this stove thing... other than the grill portion, which sets off the fire alarm at an alarming rate...(Yes, it is always something with me).

Anyway, I am planning on writing more regularly now that I have pulled things here together (somewhat anyway).. in the meantime, here are some of the first meals that we have enjoyed!

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Where have I been?

Oh, I know that it has been a while...

But I had an excuse.. really.

I have been moving into the house with the wonder kitchen!

And cooking! Really! More on that later... in the meantime, I do have some interesting news...

Fun Daddy and I attended the end of season event for WTTW's, show, Check, Please! Even better, Fun Daddy and I managed to score VIP tickets courtesy of our friend, Barry.

Wow! Great food. Great drinks. I mean, really, people! Kumquat Mojitos? Margaritas made with vanilla and pineapple infused vodka? Oy! Those were amazing.. as was the Pisco sour and the real sangria served from a porron! All while listening to the stylings of the Orbert Davis Trio!

But even better was the food... All the restaurants that had been featured on the show participated...
Making the food, well, amazing!

The restaurants there were:


Naturally we enjoyed every minute. And when you enjoy things you have too much fun for words... that means Fun Daddy and I hit the silent auction tables with gusto!

We assumed that we would have to be aggressive with seasoned charity event goers. We had learned this from the Lycee... as it turns out, the French school parents gave us the baptism by fire! 'Cuz we cleaned up at the auction...

We managed to score a barbeque, a pretty grand one that will be hooked up next week or so, a painting by Liz Tuckwell, entitled Window on the World (after WTTW), I will be working for an afternoon (and possibly, evening as chef's help at Carlo's in Highland Park. Oh and best of all?

I won the raffle!

Three of the raffle spots were to win an audition for Check, Please!... Not even an actual chance to be on the show! But me? I won the right to be the bartender on the show. Yes. I will be filling the glass of Alpana Singh (The second Rajput Singh I know! and the Youngest Master Sommelier EVER!!!) I have met Ms. Singh a couple of times, and I have always loved chatting with her. She is smart, funny and other wise amusing.

I am SO looking forward to being on the show.

What could be better for a foodie like me?


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