December 2012

Ralph Waldo Emerson —
There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.
Pear1 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

12.28.12 The Perfect Pear (and a Winner!)

As I mentioned in this post the other week, one great thing about restaurant food is the diversity of flavor and technique on the plate. I'm always thrilled to get a dessert that combines tastes and textures without being too overwhelming. A simple panna cotta becomes so much more interesting when it comes with a pile of velvety macerated fruit or even just a generous pour of aged balsamic. I remember dining at Aureole way back when it was still in its original townhouse location and ordering a dessert that was a symphony of lemon—fluffy curd in a pastry shell, decadent ice cream, candied peel. This may seem like way too much work to attempt at home, but I recently managed to put together a layered dish with a few elements I had on hand to pretty great effect. The combination of a cinammon-scented roasted pear with a creamy smear of intense blue cheese, a drizzle of cider syrup and the sweet crunch of walnut brittle made a festive (and not too heavy) ending to a holiday meal. Everything was made ahead so it could be quickly plated at the last moment—a must when I'm entertaining.
Ashanti proverb —
One cannot both feast and become rich.
Eating 790 xxx
photos by george billard

12.26.12 A Matter of Courses

Our Christmas Eve tradition is to gather with friends and enjoy delicious food. This year, chef MiK (not his main profession) outdid himself with an epic menu of small plates that left few culinary stones unturned. We turned up early at Beaver Dam (other photos here and here) to help with the cooking, but the lion's share had been done and I was happy to play sous-chef for the night. The kitchen features an enormous wooden island to which guests and cooks alike moored themselves throughout the evening. It's where the action was. Round 1: bay scallop ceviche with fennel-grapefruit salad and a drizzle of chile oil. Portions were modest and the courses just kept on coming.
Calvin Coolidge —
Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
Tartare 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

12.24.12 Light Fantastic

It's a moment for feasting. Wherever we turn, we're inundated with images of glistening roasts and spun-sugar delights—and with the real things, too. No one arrives without a bottle of champagne or a plate of cookies. Fudge abounds. The scent of bacon permeates the air. No wonder we're all bloated and cranky, popping Tums and yearning for naps. Go for it, if you must. But remember, every meal doesn't have to be a pig-out just because "it's the holidays." While everyone else is tempting you with nutella-frosted monkey bread and seventeen-cheese lasagna, I'm going to present you with a lighter option that doesn't skimp on luxurious flavor. It's great cocktail party fare and makes a lovely lunch, or a light supper if you've had an over-indulgent day. Consider it my gift to you.

(And don't forget to leave a comment here to be in the running for my giveaway of three superb spice blends from La Boîte à Epices!)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow —
The world loves a spice of wickedness.
Age of aquarius 790 xxx
embrace the new

12.21.12 New Age (& A Spicy Giveaway)

It's the winter solstice today. 12.21.12 is a date that's been the subject of much speculation. Apparently, the ancient Mayans predicted that this day would mark the end of our age— but must this really be interpreted as meaning the end of the world? I choose to believe the highly intriguing theory that this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius! On this day, our sun and the earth cross the Milky Way galactic plane, an event that occurs once every 26,000 years. The axis of rotation of the Earth does not remain constant but wobbles in the same way that a spinning top does. This wobble has a rotation period of around 26,000 years. For a period of approximately 2,000 years, the earth's rotational axis, or north-south pole, points to a different constellation in the sky, each one corresponding to a sign of the zodiac. After 26,000 years the whole zodiac is traversed. So we are about to transition from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. And with it comes greater freedom, equality, cooperation, collaboration and global consciousness. Reason will prevail over emotional reactions. We should prepare for greatness. As an Aquarian, I am elated to be living through this time. I think it calls for a celebration.
John Updike —
What art offers is space, a certain breathing room for the spirit.
Pomegranates 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

12.19.12 Culinary Art

Are you house-proud? It's one of the simple satisfactions of domestic life. I believe that living in a clean, uncluttered space that's well-organized and smells fresh is essential for health and happiness. Your house doesn't have to be big (mine is tiny) and your furnishings needn't be fancy, but you can surround yourself with things that are pleasing to the senses. Right now, I've made some small adjustments in honor of the holidays. I'm burning this fabulous juniper incense all the time (I also love their Big Sur cabin spray) and I've brought in bunches of red winterberries and boughs of fragrant pine. My three big silver mercury glass ornaments (jumbo versions of these that I got at the old Takashimaya) and our two embroidered stockings are out—small tributes to the Christmas tradition in which I was raised. And I'm also loving incorporating Jan Richter's lovely drawings into little vignettes around the house. Those are her gorgeous pomegranates, above. Have you been to the GFL shop yet? Her work is for sale there.