Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A month of gourmandise

Gourmandise: nf fondness for food; delicacies
Gourmand, gourmande: adj fond of eating; nmf hearty eater

I love this French word.  I admit to being a bit worried the first time I was described as une gourmande.  I was associating it with gluttony, which doesn't sound so pretty.  One of the seven deadly sins and all that.  It conjures up an image of a fellow too rotund to push away from the table.  Now I realize that it is a compliment.  Or at least it sounds like a compliment when translated by Webster's New French Dictionary.

June was a great month for eating, which I am indeed fond of.  I found quite a few delicacies to dine upon.

I am actually going to start the ball rolling with a mini-celebration at the end of May for the BFF's birthday.  Foster's for Côtes du Rhône rosé and cheese straws.  The girl loves her some cheese straws. Bon anniversaire, mon amie!

Then along came Atlantic Beach Lemon Pie, a treat concocted by Bill Smith, chef at Crook's Corner, a restaurant in the Boro as my buddy Señor calls Carrboro, NC.  The pie was baked up by Dr. Latin, a colleague-friend at school.  The recipe was featured in a recent edition of Our State magazine and evidently we both drooled over it.  I dog-eared the page and she actually made it and brought me a slice to celebrate the end of the school year.  (You can't see it, but there is sea salt sprinkled on top...)

Can I get a chorus of School's out for the summer?  No, not forever for me yet, but for a couple of months.  Watch the video, if you can stand Alice Cooper and his bad make-up.  Johnny Depp is playing guitar on this live version.

Back to the food.  Next up to the plate-- pickle chips and beer at Bull City Burger and Brewery.  I dream about these things.  Pretzel-coated house made dill pickles with an aioli dipping sauce.

The BFF and I drove to Charlotte for a baby shower for my pretend daughter Mata Hari.  I love this girlie dearly.  She is my French teaching dean of students protegée and now she is expecting and due to give birth within the week.  Bon courage, ma chère.

The cute cake (it was really good, too)-

Next in the June line-up, a weekend trip to Milwaukee with Sister Moo.  An all expenses paid trip to see the unveiling and world debut of Bombardier Recreational Products' newest baby.  I was her VIP SP Guest.  (I got to hear quite a bit of French spoken since the company was founded by a Québecois and the company is headquartered in Valcourt.)

The star of the show--

Let's just say that this baby makes boats go really fast.  We were treated to an afternoon of rides on various boats on Lake Michigan (lake temperature 38˚F-- no swimming or falling in!).  900 HP of Evinrude on this one.  Oh yes, it went really, really fast.  Hang on to your life jackets, ladies.  Moo and I even skipped lunch so that we could ride more.  It was well worth it.

We didn't skip an afternoon Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, though, at a little outdoor bar facing the Milwaukee River.  I am quite proud of myself for introducing Moo to this summer beer.  M. Pastis introduced me to a beer-lemonade drink when I was in France in the summer of 2010.  Yum.  (Not Guinness, just served in that glass.)

We strolled along one of the downtown streets and found The Spice House.

Here's my haul.  Was it worth getting patted down at the airport because I had suspicious looking herbs in my carry-on?  Oh yeah, you'd better believe it.

I also came home with their catalogue for reference and future ordering.

I wish we had a store like this in Durham.

Lunch one day was a catered affair at the Hilton downtown Milwaukee.  Great chicken and potato salad.

Brownies and lemon bars for dessert.  Don't they look sweet all cuddled up next to each other?

Moo and I decided to go to a local seafood restaurant for dinner (using our generous prepaid Visa cards from BRP).

What a great weekend spent with my baby sister.

Tomatoes from the Durham Farmers Market.  'Mater sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner, anyone?

A major baking binge (the Ex-Ex's new term for my fits of baking), producing blueberry scones and assorted cookies.  In my defense, if it pleases the court, Sons #1 and #2 were home and that means that the maternal instinct to make things with butter, sugar and vanilla kicks into high gear.

And then it was off to Asheville for a little mini family vacation and the wedding of our nephew. Rocky's Chicken Shack is evidently a local favorite and where Son #1, now a resident of Asheville, wanted us to have lunch.   We started off with fried macaroni and cheese balls.  We are in the south, y'all.  The first bite was followed by a "You could make these, Mom."  And I am sure I will try.  Really good.

Make my chicken tenders not too spicy with mustard greens and mac and cheese on the side, please. No, it is not possible to overdose on homemade baked macaroni and cheese.

The Thirsty Monk features a local beer every Wednesday and you get to keep the glass.  We met some reps from Catawba Brewing Company (one bought Son #2 a beer) and I thoroughly enjoyed their White Zombie.  And how about a pint of bacon to go with that?  No need for dinner that evening.

Let me tell you, Asheville is an eater's and drinker's paradise.  It was not that way back in the '70's when we used to head over there for date night.  Pizza Hut on Tunnel Road was as good as it got back in those days.  Fast food or pizza wasn't much of big deal yet in our neck of the woods and we thought that a night out with a pizza was heavenly.  (It still is, but more about that later in the post and it doesn't involve Pizza Hut anymore.)

Breakfast at Sunny Point Café - not your typical Southern biscuit... kind of brioche-y is the only way I know to describe it.

Chocolate mousse at French Broad Chocolate Lounge-- chocolate and caramel whipped up and layered.  (Someday, I am going to get to the bottom of the name of that river.)

Hmmm... Asheville or Paris?  Where exactly was I?

I've added Bouchon to my to-do list for the next visit.  French comfort food.

Son #1 lives in a lovely spot.  This is the view from his living room window.  I like to think he has a bit of mountain blood running through his veins.  Certainly enough to enjoy sunsets such as this one.  (My camera doesn't do it justice, unfortunately.)

 A more traditional Southern biscuit at Biscuit Head.  With eggs sunny side up and grits with chèvre.  And really good coffee.

My dad used to call biscuits catheads.  The Sons pronounced that weird.  But evidently he was not the only one.  I was more than happy to read this.  It just happened to be our order's marker.  Coincidence?

Upon the return home, IronWoman and I went to a rosé dinner at Four Square here in Durham.  She shares my love for the Drink Pink way of life involving dry rosé wine.  This was a big splurge for me and my budget but worth every penny.  The wine was made possible by Hope Valley Bottle Shop. Drew, the owner, sat at our table.

The meal and wines were divine.

Duck meatballs with an orange glaze to begin, served with Pierre-Marie Chermette Les Griottes Beaujolais Rosé from Burgundy '13.

Prodigal Farm's Hunkadora Goat Cheese with strawberry and yellow tomato gazpacho.  Wow!  Served with Elk Cove Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley '13.  (This course was my favorite. I could have stopped there and had a second bowl and been a very happy girl.  Way to go, Shane, Dave and Kathryn!)  I love happy goats that give the milk to make the delicious cheese.  Give a listen to Kathryn on their website talking about the cheese.

We moved on to Jerked Mahi Mahi served with Champagne Grognet Rosé, Marne NV (non-vintage).

Then Columbia River King Salmon with fried okra, summer vegetable salad, and truffled sweet corn coulis.  Two rosés accompanied this course.  Ptujska Klet Pullus Pinot Grigio, Slovenia '13 and Clos Cibonne Tibouren Cru Classé, Côtes de Provence '12.

And yes, dessert, too.  Roasted Jalapeño Tart with peaches and brown butter almonds served with Bel Star Cuvée Rosé, Italy NV.  (It used to be called Prosecco but can no longer be called that due to a change in Italian wine laws.)  It is made from the galera grape and the bubbles are just right.

And last, but surely not least, two lunches at Pompieri Pizza.  Yes, two in one week.  I went down to help Seth out a bit with some French translation and he paid me in lunch.  The BFF suggested salaprese.  The first bite of that was one of those When Harry Met Sally moments.  "I'll have what she's having."  Chills ran up my spine.  I kid you not.

Description first.

Voilà.  The star of the show, ladies and gentlemen.

Then a couple of slices of the Veggie Pizza of the day, featuring fresh green beans and corn.

I took the leftover slices home.  Son #1 looked at it skeptically.  I just told him to hush and try it.  It was gone in a flash and he conceded that it was pretty delicious.  There is hope, my friends.

When Arles Lucy phoned up a couple of days later, I invited her to lunch.  I wanted to share that Pompieri goodness with her.  Yep, I ordered the same thing and she ordered it, too.  I think the story of our "moment" with the salaprese has now been used with customers at Pompieri.
My Favorite Parisien texted while we were having lunch. He was in Nîmes with an ACIS group and thought of moi.  So, we sent him a photo of us.  We miss you!

So, that concludes the month of June.  May July be just as delicious.

Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie

This is a newer version of a pie that is commonly served at seafood restaurants on the North Carolina coast. Chef Bill Smith has been serving it at Crook's Corner and at special events for about a year. He calls it the easiest recipe in the world.
Makes one pie
For the crust:
1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
1/3 to 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
For the filling:
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two
Fresh whipped cream and coarse sea salt for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Crush the crackers finely, but not to dust. You can use a food processor or your hands. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8 inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust colors a little.
While the crust is cooling (it doesn't need to be cold), beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.
Bon appétit to summer eating and drinking and to all the amazing cooks, chefs, cheese makers, brewers and winemakers who make it all possible!  And to those who clean up after the eaters and drinkers. Merci, y'all! 

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