March 2004 Archives

Dispatch from Michigan

Dave Morgenstern writes from Grand Rapids:

We hosted a great almost-all-French dinner last Saturday night. Wow!
Warm-ups: Stuffed mushroom caps, blue cheese cream cheese cake - bring a bottle of French (as you can see, that request wasn't followed!)
Amuse: sugar encrusted figs & blue cheese wrapped with bacon - d'Anjou Rosé
Starter: Seared scallops with risotto - La Moussier Sancerre
Entrée: Roast half duck with cherry jubilee, carrots in Grand Marnier, potato with garlic - Louis Jadot Nuits-Saint-Georges
Salad: Greens with fresh strawberries, diced onion, mayonnaise sauce - Laurent-Perrier Rosé Champagne
Cheese: See the attached jpeg - okay, we went with a old port!
Dessert: lots of chocolate with Banyuls. A late night for many!
A Rose Toast.jpg The Cheese Course.jpg The Spoils.jpg

Dave, thanks for the deeelicious dispatch! As it happens, I wrote about French cheese earlier today; see the next post.

54 pounds of cheese, please

This just in from Paris: per capita consumption of cheese in France is up 60 percent in the past 15 years ... now just over 54 pounds a year. Seems like a lot, but it's actually not much more than a couple of ounces a day, barely enough to cover a Big Mac. Still, there's no arguing that cheese plays a central role in French gastronomy and it's definitely better stuff than Kraft Singles.
DSCN1636.JPG Renée Richard's cheese stall in the Lyon market

Along with the cheese stats comes a survey that food safety & security has supplanted taste as the most important quality that Frenchmen look for in their food. This no doubt in reaction to health scares. Why is it, then, that more than one Merkin politico has slandered the French as cowardly cheese-eaters? Do you think they're just jealous?

Green Beer? Why?

Pardon me, but is Cornichon the only one put off by the cheesiness of so many phony celebrations? Or should we be thrilled to live in a land where we have monthly cultural festivals: Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Gay Pride, Bastille Day, to be shared by all ethnicities and enjoyed by all persuasions? Irish music at pubs like Kell's and Fado makes sense, but what's the excuse for the $2 green beer at Contour? Shameless, shameless.

Sign at Contour.jpg Open.jpg Green beer.jpg

Betz Family Winery

Betz at tasting.jpg Tasting at P-W.jpg Betz bottles.jpg

His beard has more salt than pepper now, but in the decade since we worked together at Stimson Lane, Bob Betz has lost none of his enthusiasm for wine. In recent years he earned the prestigious Master of Wine certification, then left Chateau Ste. Michelle to start his own 1,200-case operation, Betz Family Winery. "Seamless syrahs and cabernets," cooed Wine & Spirits magazine, naming Betz one of the best small wineries in America.

Tasted two releases at Pike & Western this afternoon. The 2001 Clos de Betz [about $30] is very like wine from Bordeaux's right bank [especially the villages of Saint Emillion and Pomerol], based on a high proportion of merlot; the wine is beautifully soft, silky and plummy. The 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Père de Famille [about $45] has a flavor profile more like wine from the Médoc, with a nose of graphite and currants. A big hurrah for both bottles!

"I couldn't have dreamed of a better life," says Bob. Bravo!

Kosher Wines

Kosher wines.jpg Herzog syrah.jpg
A tasting this week of kosher wines, sponsored by the Jewish Transcript in anticipation of Passover. Many observant Jews insist on serving wines that have been certified kosher [the wine making itself done by observant Jews], an attractive market for Royal Wine Company, among others. Royal, which owns the Baron Herzog brand and provided the tasting samples, is building a vast new facility in southern California to meet demand as the market shifts from sweet wines made from native varieties like concord [think Welchs grape juice] to dry wines from varieties like chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. My favorites were the Baron Herzog Russian River Chardonnay, which I found very Burgundian; and their Edna Valley Syrah, which smelled like violets and tasted like ripe berries. Ten years ago, this tasting would have been inconceivable; kosher wines have come a long, long way.

Russian Market Cafe

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Now, the point isn't the 16 kinds of piroshky, although I've got to admit they do look pretty tempting. Me, I'm here for the crescent-shaped piroghies, stuffed with potatoes and cheese. And for the rounded pelmeni, stuffed with beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, spinach. And for the salads: beets, potatoes, coleslaw.
Cafe Yarmarka.jpg Display case.jpg Rosie.jpg Tea cookies.jpg

It's at Café Yarmarka, Russian for market if you couldn't figure that one out for yourself, youssef. In the Pike Place Market, created and staffed by Roza Nazarova, who keeps her gorgeous smile through hours of chopping, kneading, stirring and serving. And if you're very good, and ask nicely, for 69 cents she'll give you a tea cookie, a cloud of pulverized almonds and powdered sugar, that transports you to the heavenly cafés of eastern Europe ... I can't think of a more satisfying lunch counter anywhere.

Rosie w apricot tart.jpg

Beignets & coffee

Beignets.jpg Beignetscoffee.jpg Outside Cafe du Monde.jpg
Cornichon's a sucker for French food words. And on a Monday morning, what better pick-me-up than coffee and beignets. Here's Kristin Espinasse's post for March 8th, 2004, on her terrific French-Word-A-Day site:

beignet (ben-yay) noun, masculine: 1. doughnut 2. fritter Also: Beignet aux pommes = apple fritter Beignets are enjoyed hot or at room temperature, and have various fillings, such as fruit, chocolate, vegetable, meat or fish... My son Max likes them tiede (warm) with apple or chocolate inside...

Today's Quote: Certes, un rêve de beignet, c'est un rêve, pas un beignet. Mais un rêve de voyage, c'est déjà un voyage. Of course, a dream about a doughnut is a dream, not a doughnut. But a dream about a voyage, that's already a voyage. --Marek Halter

Back to Cornichon now. In the US you can dream of a beignet and of travel ... if you lay your head in New Orleans and mosey down to the Café du Monde. Live jazz along with your breakfast, too.

Gypsy party

Ludmilla's birthday, with gypsy dancers from Turkey, fortune-tellers from remote villages, and a splendid buffet. Yum ! And we've got pictures galore.

Salads.jpg Dancers 2.jpg Family.jpg

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