Thursday, September 30, 2010


They're back in the petri dish, er, school. It is just matter of time before whatever is being cultured in that sticky, warm classroom medium comes home to us.

Is it possible cute germ graphics will encourage them to reach for a tissue rather than use their sleeve?

We can only hope.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We Need A Hero

Our nomination - an unidentified woman in Montana used what she had at hand, a 14 inch zucchini, to keep a bear from pushing its way into her kitchen. (The following scene is a recreation, not an actual photo of the incident.)

Yes, it happened last week while we were selfishly going on and on about a ho-hum trip-of-a-lifetime to Paris when we should have been keeping you all informed of the latest developments in really good uses for overgrown squash. A thousand pardons. Read all the fascinating details and see a photo of the actual lifesaving zucchini here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Au Revoir

We were still floating on a cloud of reverie as we ascended to cruising altitude...

and then, at 30,000 feet where there was no escaping it, reality was served up by a friendly flight attendant, and we knew - We aren't in Paris anymore.

Thank you for indulging a rather lengthy transition period. NDL is ready for reentry now. See you in the alley.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Montmartre - Amelie's Neighborhood

If you lived in Montmartre, even for a very short week...

you might pass colorful wall art on your way to...

having a bowl of cafe au lait with a crispy croissant or a crusty baguette at a charming boulangerie and cafe such as Coquelicot.

You might pass by one of the many Wallace fountains in Paris that have been providing clean drinking water to Parisiens since 1872.

You might decide to take the metro and enter it at the Abesses station under one of the last remaining art nouveau style metro canopies or...

you could take the many stairs to get up and over la butte instead of through it. The funicular, would also get you to the top. Taking it is an interesting experience, and would give you the chance to say funicular repeatedly on the way to the top to amuse yourself.

If you choose to walk, you may pass poor St. Denis who, after being beheaded on the hilltop, accomplished the impressive feat of carrying his head for several miles preaching a sermon the whole way. He is the saint to call upon for headache relief. Really.

On your way back from a busy day of shopping, cooking and eating in the 18th arrondisement, you might pass little French boys who are either returning from school or perhaps... looking for their wayward Red Balloon.

At the bottom of the hill you might stop to enjoy a setting from the movie Amelie...

or perk up with a late afternoon espresso at Cafe des Deux Moulins where she worked.

Then you might pass by this fellow who doesn't really fit the typical profile of a graffiti artist...

and this minou peu on the Rue Des Abesses on your way to climb the three flights of stairs to your hotel room where nothing ever felt better than sitting on the edge of the bathtub and soaking your feet in cool water while sipping le vin rosé and recollecting your very busy and wonderful day in Montmartre.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Marché Biologiques

On our last day in Paris we shopped at the Batignolles Marché Biologique, an organic (bio, the French say) outdoor market open at this location only on Saturdays. Business at the stalls was brisk as shoppers who care about organic foods stocked up for the week ahead. Our group was in search of plums, watercress, shallots, cheese, duck breast, fennel and crimini mushrooms.

Mission accomplished we tied the aprons on once again Chez Madelaine to prepare a sumptuous lunch of Fennel and Mushroom Salad and Terrine of Fois Gras,

Duck Breast with Red Wine and Lentils,

...and a pretty, purple Plum Tart that was apparently devoured too quickly to even get a photo of it while still whole.

It was all such a blur of wonderful fromage everyday of the trip, but I believe it was on this last day that we tasted the cheese that topped all other cheeses. An Aquitane, raw sheep's milk Roquefort.

- Roquefort is a good example of one of the oldest cheeses on record. It's a raw sheep's milk cheese from Larzac, Averyron in the Aquitaine region of France. It has been called the King of Cheese and the Cheese of Kings. The milk has 52% butterfat and the curds are cut by hand, not a machine, to help them release their whey, then are packed into molds with a layer of powdered penicillium Roquefort shaken over the surface, and then more curds packed on top of that. Industrially produced Roquefort cheese has the penicillium injected into the curds as a liquid through needles. But all versions of Roquefort cheese come from sheep's milk collected from that particular region. It is aged 60 to 90 days, being turned several times per day to keep the moisture evenly distributed. The rounds are aged in the famous caves of Roquefort, which are catacombs inside limestone hills. The air current is cool and humid, creating a perfect environment for the cheese to "affinage" or age, and the air naturally contains the penicillium. A charter to control and protect its quality was signed in 1411 by King Charles the VI of France, but the legend of its origin is that 2000 years ago, on a hot summer's day, a shepherd had his daily lunch in a leather sack, some rye bread topped with fresh sheep cheese, and stuck it in a nearby cave to keep it cool until lunch. The sheep were threatened by wolves, so the shepherd quickly took his sheep from the area, leaving his lunch behind. Reluctant to return the next day, he grazed his flocks on other hills. Three months later he returned with his sheep to that same hillside and found his sandwich. The cheese had developed a blue mold from the penicillium-laden air it was exposed to in the cave. He found the taste was wonderfully nutty and slightly sharp, and the rest is history...

From: For the Love of Cheese by Gale Gand

Friday, September 24, 2010

Le Souffle

Under the guidance of Madame Bullwinkel we created Mirabelle Plum Souffle with Crème Anglaise on our second cooking day. We took turns beating eggwhites by hand in a very large copper bowl with a balloon whisk and wondered how anyone could have the endurance to achieve this feat alone. Magically the whites came to fluffy, glistening perfection, but not without some muscle burn and a little faith.

The rest of the menu was spectacular - Girolle Mushrooms Sauteed with Garlic and Parsley, Potato Gratin with Cantal Cheese, and Roast Lamb with Thyme, but in the final act the souffle came center stage, chewed the scenery, and totally stole the show.

The next day we had lunch at a restaurant called Le Souffle. All souffles all the time. If NDL and friends lived in Paris this would be our number one ladies' day out lunch spot. It is just around the corner from the Tuileries Gardens and the Place de la Concorde. Watch this video from the website and listen as the narrator says the names of the sweet and savory souffles they offer. Even if you don't understand every word you can tell by his voice that he is talking about something wonderful.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

To Market to Market

On three of our days in Paris we went each morning to cheese, meat, and fish markets, the greengrocer, and boulangerie where Madame Bullwinkel carefully selected ingredients for our lunch menu of the day. We then proceeded to her apartment, the Paris location of Chez Madelaine, and cooked together.

Each day we sampled at least three kinds of cheese between the main course - le plat, and dessert. Though the task of choosing which of the hundreds of beautiful cheeses to try seemed daunting, Madelaine made thoughtful selections and every one we tasted seemed better than the last.

On the first day, our first course was one of the most delicious combinations of foods NDL has ever tasted - Roasted Fresh Fig and Goat Cheese Salad.

Le plat that day was the same dish served at the first meal that Julie Child had upon arrival in France - the quintessentially French fish preparation that made Meryl Streep/Julia Child swoon in ecstasy, and of which the real Julia said, "The whole experience was an opening up of the soul and spirit for me. I was hooked, and for life, as it turned out." Sole Meuniere with ratatouille expertly executed by Madelaine produced similarly appreciative sighs from our little group of - not theatrically trained, but very enthusiastic budding gourmands.

Lovely little Reine de Reinette apples were the foundation for a beautiful Paris Market Apple Cake for dessert.

And, not wanting to miss a single chance to experience la cuisine française, we still managed to go to a restaurant for supper that evening at La Pomponette, just down the street from our hotel, where we enjoyed the salade de fromage and a fine vin blanc.

We know. Impressive dedication to "having it all" wouldn't you say?