Monthly Archives: March 2011

Squat Lobsters, Clootie Dumplings, and Muppet Cows: The Highlights of the Highlands

The Highlands of Scotland!  I just got back from Applecross Bay up at the top west end of Scotland, right across from the Isle of Skye. Accessible only through the vertiginous Pass of the Cattle where you can drive through the clouds, Applecross is amazing for its incredible seafood, the spectacular sky above Skye, the undulating mountain walks over spongy marshes and sheer rock faces, the abundant sheep and wild-roaming deer and ridiculous-looking hairy cows like Jim Henson’s Muppets roaming outside your house and in front of your car.

Yup, that’s a highland cow.  And that’s our house (or rather, country mansion) in the background. Coming up just at the end of the off-season, we got a great deal on the Bramble Lodge in the west wing of the Applecross Trust estate which, most importantly came with a massive kitchen complete with enormous farmhouse table and TWO stoves.  Perfect for sitting and eating hot Oak Smoked salmon from nearby Torridon…

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It’s a fruit! It’s a meat!? It’s…AMAZING.

Recently, I had meat and fruit for dinner.  To be precise, I had meat fruit at Dinner, the new London restaurant from insanely inventive culinary evil genius, Heston Blumenthal.  Look at my appetizer: it’s fruit!

Or so you think…

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Parisian Perfection and Family Eating at Helene Darroze

I started this post just about exactly 6 months ago. Time to work on my procrastination…

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I’m a big believer in the fact that meals don’t have to be fancy or expensive to be smack-you-in-the-face-amazing. Sometimes the best dishes come from handing 2 bucks to a taco truck parked on a side street of San Francisco, or wrapped in paper with no forks from a fiery pit in the Middle of Nowhere, Texas.   But every so often, a magical meal comes along that is schmancy-fancy and uber-expensive and draped with foams and reductions and molecules and essences. And instead of being horribly pretentious and self-important, it’s pure perfection and worth every penny. Or rather, every Euro cent. And that’s what I got at the phenomenal Helene Darroze in Paris, thanks to my foodie mom Elaine and her desire to try a fabulous French restaurant on our trip there last month.

You know your meal is going to be spectacular when it starts off with a plate of black acorn-fed jambon, sliced at the table with your own special jambon-slicing machine.  And when the salt & pepper offer themselves to you from webbed feet.

Gorgeously light and nutty, the jambon melted in my mouth and I could have gnawed at a leg of it for an entire meal. Except I had about 10 courses to come, so I’m quite glad I didn’t. Since it was over a month ago and I drank quite a lot of wine, I can’t remember the exact order of dishes. Plus, they were all written in French. But here’s a slightly blurry, ecstatically happy, poorly translated overview of one of the best meals of my life…

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