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…

Continue reading

Tagged , , ,

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…

Continue reading

Tagged , ,

Parisian Perfection and Family Eating at Helene Darroze

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

————————————–

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…

Continue reading

Tagged ,

A Tart Very Full of Vegetables in a Month of Meatlessness

A moment to savor: I am less than one week away from the end of a Month of Meatlessness.  Cue the shock. The horror! Why?! Well, after eating a few great vegetarian meals recently, my steak-obsessed boyfriend was interested to continue the trend. Out of a sincere desire to experiment with minimized meat consumption (combined with high-reaching ambition and some serious self-delusions), he audaciously proposed an entire month of vegetarianism. Within about 9 painful days, he was found ravenously destroying a blue cheese- draped venison burger at Borough Market. I, however, despite my love for all things bacon, took it as a personal challenge to finish the month without letting a piece of animal flesh cross my lips. To be fair – it actually hasn’t been too much of a lifestyle change for me.  I cook almost exclusively vegetarian at home and can be completely satisfied with a veggie entree when eating out. I only found myself mourning my meat-freeness once or twice when an entire side of smoked salmon tried to seduce me from the fridge and when an entire table of Malaysian meat dishes taunted me from a communal table while I sobbed quietly from the corner.

Continue reading

Tagged , ,

Eatin’ Outta Cups: eggplant bruschetta in toasted parmesan vessels

When we put together a 10-course menu for Tom and Elise’s housewarming party, we resolved to photograph at least one of them from start to finish:

white purple

smitten kitchen

It feels good to be on top.

Continue reading

Tagged

A Magical Summer of Food Porn: The Photo Album

Did you miss me? I know, it’s been a while since any posting has been done. I’ve been busy.

Very busy.

Busy eating, obviously.

Here’s a recap with absolutely no worthwhile information but lots of quality food porn from Germany to Glasgow to London to LA to  a secret little garden party in the country.

We’ll start with the phenomenal brunch platters in Berlin, which should be available at all brunching locales around the world.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

J’adore Paris. I eat Paris.

In true FamilyStyles fashion, these next few posts are dedicated to our mom, an amazing person and one of the reasons that Irene and I place such an importance on good food and family.  We  did  some traveling around Paris and  Southwest France last month to visit friends, a trip which happened to come soon after reading My Life in France by Julia Child.  After consuming tales of Parisian markets and laborious and decadent French meals, my mother was inspired,  bien sur, to do her own search for some serious French food. As the lucky daughter already on the same side of the Atlantic Ocean, I joined her for an epicurean tour of La Belle France and her wealth of gastronomic delights.

From simple picnics of bread and cheese on park benches to Michelin-lauded establishments of the culinary elite, my mother and I ate our way across both the city and the countryside. Through well-laid plans as well as happy coincidences, our meals were shared with old friends from all over the world either living in Paris or happening to travel through the region at the same time.

One of the amazing things about Paris is how easy it is to find incredible food on every corner, from boulangeries to patisseries to shops teeming with foie gras or artisan chocolates.  We started one day at Sainte-Chappelle on Ile de la Cite, a popular tourist destination that was completely worth the wait…

and then proceeded to visit another the spectacular sight of Paris – the fromagerie.

This shop, on Ile-St-Louis, featured a front window display teeming with chevre of all shapes and sizes.  Some looked like moldy grey logs, others like newly hatched dinosaur eggs, others like petrified stones or lumpy balls of grout scraped off your shower tiles.  But the inside…smooth and creamy and bursting with earthy, grassy flavour.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

Amazing Views and Serious Market Adventures in Athens

Only in Athens can you have your moussaka with a colorful rainbow-bright salad of shiny purple olives, green peppers, and red tomatoes,  a side plate of olive oil and herb-dusted grilled bread and an accompanying view of the Parthenon.

You can also visit one of the most hardcore, badass, no-yuppie-bullsh*t central markets I’ve ever had the pleasure (and underlying sense of intimidation) of wandering through. This ain’t no Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid , lushly teeming with expensive port and tapas with caviar and design nerd tea towels.  This is a serial killer basement of unidentified animal dismemberment. If you’re squeamish, I’d just stop right now…

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

Pastravaganza, and other Portmanteaux: A recipe for basic pasta dough, and a non-recipe for the craziest ravioli you’ve ever had

In the midst of our insane winter solstice kitchenfest, we performed the questionable American tradition of watching TV as a family and tuned into the Food Network’s Iron Chef America: Super Chef Battle White House. A lot of great stuff happened on the show (Michelle Obama’s numerous references to sweet potatoes in combination with her sweet-potato colored dress, Alton Brown’s almost-excessive-but-sort-of-really-great dramatism, etc). The greatest thing for me, though, was the beautiful, orgasmic looking and sounding uova di raviolo – a raviolo with an egg inside -which Mario Batali stuffed with ricotta and spinach and characteristically covered with an absurd amount of shaved truffle.

You might argue that he does a lot of things that are absurd. Especially if you are his son, who is obviously responding to his own probably forcibly donned gem-studded crocs with a classic pose for the camera: palm to forehead accompanied with expression of serious psychic pain.

But I digress. There are few things that are not improved with a fried egg with an oozy, slightly runny, richly yellow yolk. I just never thought that thing would be pasta. It was an “I didn’t know you could do that!” sort of moment. Sort of like a lot of feminist theory. Too far? Okay. I digress again, obviously.

We didn’t have a pasta roller (we have since acquired one), but we did have a lot of bicep power between the three of us (Baniel, Captain Tinyfeet, and Beanpie), so with the guiding light of Mario Batali shining upon us and our almost embarrassingly low level of experience, we started to make pasta. We also turned to Alice Waters and Alton Brown for support, and learned that we were to use semolina flour (which comes from durum wheat and is higher in protein) for a better, yellower, more beautiful and pliable dough. Some people just use AP flour, and some use a mix, but we got semolina flour at Weggie World, so we decided to go for it. We didn’t have a recipe guiding us, so we played it by ear.

We experienced failure – heartbreaking, I-guess-we-just-won’t-eat-any-dinner-because-we-don’t-deserve-it failure. But we learned from our mistakes. And also Skyped with Amin, who had actually read Alice Waters’ guide to making pasta dough. And we did way better the next time.

Our improvised pasta dough recipe and a guide to uova di raviolo after the jump. You don’t need a roller, but if you need your arms the two days after, you might want one.

Continue reading