Quips and Quotes and the Art of Renaissance Cooking in the Twenty-First Century…

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Joyeux Noel From Terminal 3

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ARRIVAL TIME NEWARK NJ AIRPORT 5:30 AM
Plan A: GOD SAVE THE CUISINE!

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To kick start my Quebec City Holiday, I waiting out the perfect storm with a lay-over in New Jersey. Remaining Beckham poised, I pulled my beret over my brow and dipped my frost-bitten fingers into a hot cup of cocoa while anticipating arrival at the Fairmont Chatéau Fronténac. Envisioning being seated with an incomparable view of the St-Lawrence River where the grey matter that surrendered to the Winter vortex was brilliantly illuminated under elegant chandlers.
Anticipating the Tourtiere – a ‘Farm harvest’ meat pie, I researched the menu online and noted that it highlight a black pudding with pig tail and arugula with lard. French cuisine predominates in Quebec City, so be prepared to create a diverse media diet when planning to wine and dine from online. Note to self: When traveling, beware of newsy foodies ‘yelping’ with 4 and 5 stars thus creating a filter bubble in your bookmark file.

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Heavy on meat, maple and money will surely make you a Quebecois carnivore and dining can be quite ‘gamey’. You are much more likely to encounter uncommon meats on the menu such as venison, caribou, duck, emu and bison.

Plan B: THIS IS NOT A BANANA REPUBLIC!

The agri-food industry is a major contributor to Québec’s economy. It is the largest pork producer and third largest cranberry and maple syrup producer………Aunt Jemimah was never to be mentioned. In celebration of the ‘Belle Époque’ Paris Centennial, a food or history tour is a good idea. Noting that a stroll along the cobblestone streets of Quebec City is like a Charles Dickens novel come to life. “May I have more porridge please” would never pass these lips…”Food, glorious food” is found on every corner of this Canadian jewel.The 400 year old town of Rue Saint-Jean in Old Quebéc is the home to J.A. Moisan, the oldest continuously operated épicerie in North America (140 years). I Imagined that fresh bread, pates, chocolate, regional cheese, and crepes would be discovered in iconic places with evocative décor. But without so much as a salutatory pastis, singing angel or gold foil doily, I discovered that the fast food of QB is Poutine, a messy pile of fries, gravy and cheese curds.
Upon reading Edward Behr’s book: ’50 foods, the essentials of good taste’, I knew when to eat and when to discard the rind of cheese, properly shuck a oyster and when to put down my fork………

NEWARK NJ AIRPORT 12:00 PM

PEACE MEAL IT
It doesn’t matter if you are a hard-core, part-time, aspiring, wanna-be, i-wish-i-could-do-it someday Francophile……What’s important is you are TRYING. I found that even the French can teeter-totter. The conversation around French cooking remains rooted in its traditions. No one is expecting a thesis, or even a comment beyond: “Nice wine,” then talk about something more interesting. That’s what most Que-Fre people do.

Posing for a ‘selfie’, with the elfie at the air terminal, I felt I was finally cultivating the ‘Art of Living’…….!

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NEWARK NJ AIRPORT 3:00 PM
To save time, cost and frostbite, it is in one’s best interest to eat breakfast and the traditional Christmas Buffet at the Fairmont Chatéau Fronténac. The celebratory Christmas Eve réveillons begins at midnight and ends with the traditional “four beggars”, consisting of dried fruits and nuts, representing the monastic orders: Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinian and Carmelites…no comment on the irony of this.

DEPARTURE TIME SD 6:49PM

Although this crumb of a bag-uette never did make it Quebec City, I gave thanks for all the delicious meal choices I had in the 16 hours spent at Terminal 3.
Foot Note:
Breakfast: Cocoa, bottled juice
Lunch: Apple slices, Cheese, Carrot Sticks, Trail Mix
Dinner: Chocolate Cupcake
MileagePlus miles: 4850 miles

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Here’s looking at you kid……

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San Diego is not chomping at the bit in the boutique industry that is namely cheese, but it is on the trail of tastings in California…… Sonoma and Marin county selectively get the blue ribbon for best cheese category. The place to learn the 101 on cheese is Venissimo, San Diego’s official Academy of Cheese . I attended a Venissimo cheese making class at the ‘Pink Lady’ (for those in the know)…The Valencia Hotel in La Jolla, wrapped in swank retro style design, amidst a sea foam blue horizon. Where upon entering, you envision Humprey Bogart straddling a bar stool wearing an immaculate white tuxedo jacket and sipping a French 75 ~ Our class included Executive Chef Lance Repp, who would cook a meal showcasing the cheeses we made with a modest, “here’s looking at you kid (goat cheese) menu”, locally made cheese is not a grass-fed affair. With the balmy San Diego Mediterranean climate, goats and their off-spring (milk) fair far better in wooly weather – Northern California. For sustainability sake, I wondered if we were making solid milk products using locally produced goat milk? Farms such as North Valley Farms, a Grade A commercial goat dairy farmstead cheese making operation with a free range herd andBodega Artisan Cheesebothbring permaculture practices to their goat ranch through sustainable water and solar systems, tree cropping, native plant restoration, and more. Yes, Goat cheese can be found at San Diego Farmers Markets, Nicolau Farms located in Modesto Ca, serves fresh Chevre available in Plain, Garlic-Chive, and Spicy Red Pepper, a regular at the Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market. And for all you Naa-Sayer’s cheese making is simple to do. There are many online sites to demonstrate, but one of my favorites is Farmer Henry Milker. Here’s looking at you kid…….

Edible Cabo-forged friendships, slow meals and a sustainable ideal

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July 2011-I suppose the old adage, “when one door closes, another opens” applies. I anticipated seeping tea leaves with Merida, Mexico’s slow food capital. But due to certain sicario constraints, I maintained my allegiance and arrived at the tip of Baja instead. I enjoy traveling and eating and cooking all wrapped together like authentic beef tamales. But on this journey, there would be no ‘conceptual’ or ‘intellectual’ food on the menu, just spicy, salty, sweet, starchy, crispy things that you crave when hungry. Without keeping constant paralyzing track of your dwindling dollar, you can drink up the warmth and hospitality of Mexico like it was ice-cold beer in a number of way’s; resort style, street style, and now farm style. Although I have nothing, in the traditional sense, to qualify me as a chef, I have an expansive state of deep satisfaction from fresh food that meets my hunger.

Los Tamarindos Organic Farm / Cooking School located in San Jose Cabo is an extension of Chef Enrique Jose’s ‘bigger’ picture. It is a growing metropolis of forged friendships, long meals and a sustainable ideal. I tied my apron strings and dove in. The cooking program starts with a cup of mango tea and tour of the twenty acre property. Situated on a hillside, discussion focuses on vegetables and fruits used for seasonal variety and flavor in meals. A nice surprise, the unique aromatic herb, Hoja santa Leaf. Used only fresh, has a heart-shaped velvety texture with an aroma that carries a whiff of black pepper. It has been compared to eucalyptus, licorice, sassafras, anise and tarragon. Native to South America, the herb is commonly used to wrap fish or meat for cooking. It is also an essential ingredient in mole verde, the green sauce originating in Oaxaca, Mexico. On the menu, chili rellenos, tomato cream, rocket salad with heirloom tomatoes and beets, fish Hoja Santa, bulgar wheat with parsley, rosemary flat bread and Jalea De Mango. The guest manned their stations and began prepping while the sweet & smoky scent of baby heirloom tomatoes and rosemary flat bread baked in the wood burning stone oven. Using freshly bundled herbs we brushed the tomatoes with olive oil, chopped vegetables, de-stemmed herbs and rolled dough using an olive oil bottle.The farm also has a packing house that distributes locally to over eight restaurants and hotels. Los Tamarindos is certified organic by both the US and Canada and Enrique anticipates creating and marketing a signature smoked heirloom tomato salsa. Expansion also includes a restaurant that seats sixty people with overnight accommodations. I also enjoyed a meal in town at one farm to fork restaurant that utilizes Los Tamarindos produce.Tequila was just as charming, located within a patio area sprinkled with twinkling tree trimmed lanterns and garden ambiance. I dined on octopus ajillo, organic house salad and fresh baked bread topped with a signature margarita.

End Note:
There are numerous Mexican agents along the route who ask you if you are bringing home any food items from Mexico. Telling agents that you are not smuggling in two varieties of mole paste from Mexico is just as much a white lie as when you were a child telling your mother you brushed your teeth thoroughly before bedtime as you breeze past her. Excuse me while I go prepare my chicken mole poblano. Bueno Provecho!

S Poynter ~ Herbal Gourmet

More images of my culinary experience can be found on Facebook

Under The Tuscan Sun

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Arbor at VRG Farm

VRG Farm, an authentic replica of an Italian rustic stone retreat usually found on an Italian fattoria (farm) is owned by Nic Romano, a self-educated man and proprietor who is reclaiming his roots. Given an opportunity to manage and farm the unused areas surrounding the Bella Collina Towne and Golf Club in San Clemente, Nic decidedly wanted a old world feel and started by building a beautiful arbor as the focal point of the garden.

VRG Farm

He explained that most all of the structures within the garden were built using reclaimed wood from the San Diego fires. Unabashedly humble, his vision is to reconnect students and families to the natural environment through organic gardening, fresh food, an artist studio and community engagement.

Leek Flowers

Handing me a a few leek flowers to taste, I was suddenly transformed under the Tuscan sun by the pungent onion flavor. A new sustainable farm concept, utilizing the open space on a golf course, VRG Farm is the only one that features over 30 Italian heirloom vegetables and herbs planted from seeds imported direct from Italy. Fruits and vegetables are grown and harvested for events and cooking demonstrations as well.

Mango Sage Honey - VRG Farm

Gifted with a jar of mango sage honey and a pocket full of leek flowers, I regretted having to leave the old world behind, and look forward to returning to help harvest and enjoy a meal among new friends under the arbor of Umbria.

For more information visit vrgreenfarms. Farmstand open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

More images of VRG FARM-

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.220638894623603.57290.100000324831281&l=df3734682f

Honey Buns and Bear Claws in the Wild

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Located just 90 miles East of San Diego County, is the idyllic and enchanted forest called Idyllwild. I had a vague recollection of it’s charm and appeal when my folks had taken my brother and I on a back roads trip by dropping a two-ton Winnebago on a plot they purchased just outside of town. It was a short-lived adventure but roused my curiosity once again. A cafe sits at the center of town, and this day it was rimmed with big beautiful shiny chrome from various bikes and outside diners. Being a foodie, the hunt and peck started by searching for bakeries. I found the Idyllwild Tea Company and Bistro on Front Street and It was bustling with people, yet appeared to be a destination where time slows down and tea indulgences are encouraged. Upon entering, a gentleman was slowly strumming a guitar, and I was glazed over by the beautifully displayed baked goodies and shelves of exotic tea.

Heading up North Circle Drive towards Mt. Tahquitz and hiking trails, I stumbled upon a place called Honey Buns and Joe’s Bakery. A bit tricky to find, simply defined by a tall sign that proclaims “Bakery”. The menu and decor is just as homey, with a touch of Gma’s kitchen. The owner uses fresh, local produce to create the strawberry bread that lined the shelf but the “hot” sticky honey buns were the main attraction. A cup of Joe, a banana bread loaf and one lemon ricotta cookie were savored at the outdoor patio with a lovely view of the pine forest. Upon departing, the owner led me to the kitchen to share a beautifully designed birthday cake depicting a Idyllwild mountain scene.

Taking a nibble out of each bakery was a bite over the top, but hiking Tahquitz Peak would inspire (or perspire) me enough to get a few goodies to go from Nature’s Wisdom. They advertise as a Ovo, lacto and vegan-friendly, Juice bar and feature a full lunch menu with an organic market that served delicious baked goods & European apple streudel. 

Idyllwild’s funnest and funkiest fine dining establishment, supporting the community of entrepreneur’s & worker-bees, hippies, old school jazz cats & classical musicians is Cafe Aroma. Boasting the best scones in town, they proudly support local farmers, wineries & brewers – such as Sage Mountain Farm, Bautista Creek Ranch, Inland Empire CSA, Middle Ridge Winery, Hart Family Winery, Thornton Winery & Green Flash Brewery.The day had ended with a beautiful hike and I looked forward to going back, next time on the quest for the most curious sandwich, aptly named: The Unofficial Directors’ Guild of Idyllwild Sandwich (a Steve Savage Production).

Natures Wisdom-Organic Juice Bar/ Bistro 54235 Ridgeview Drive, Idyllwild

Honey Bunns & Joe Bakery 54385 North Circle Drive, Idyllwild

Idyllwild Tea Company 54241 Ridge View Drive , Idyllwild

Cafe Aroma 54750 North Circle Drive, Idyllwild

Food Swap-This isn’t your Mama’s Bake Sale

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By Spring time, those of us in the know start planning delicious ways to harvest our crops, build our gardens, and swap recipe ideas. And for generations, bake sales have been an American tradition, a fabulous way to rally the people in the local community. But what about a food swap? I first read about food swaps while researching for a trip to Merida Mexico, the slow food capital of the Yucatan. While you can certainly have a food swap on your own at your office or school, in general, the rule is “the more, the merrier”. 

I attended my first food swap last weekend and anticipate seeking out more in So Cal to swap with. At last weeks venue, the participants all had a story to share about their prized recipe, whether it was a ‘family secret’, heirloom recipe or a way to promote farmers market produce, everyone took pride in displaying their homemade gourmet goodies. It became an opportunity to build from the recipes we loved cooking, and connect with like-minded people. Variety is the spice of life, and foodies should be reminded to bring options for the gluten and nut allergy folks, plus create ways to wrap and package items, so they’re easier for the eaters to take to-go. The Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking Blog gives tips on how to host your own food swap. There are a variety of types of food swaps: Southern California Neighborhood Food Swap trades backyard veggies and fruits hassister chapters all over the USA, and the LA Food Swap is branching out very quickly. All swaps generally carry the same set of rules: They ask that all food swap items be homemade, homegrown, or foraged by you. Think baked goods, jam, pickles, spreads, honey, Empenadas, curries, pasta, marinades, candied fruits, pickled vegetables, herbs, spices, homemade sausages, backyard eggs.To sign up link to San Diego Food Swap …and lets forage to forge a slow food future of food swapping!