Food Porn: Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes


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Spotted at the Brooklyn Heights farmers market: A tomato smorgasbord at the Wilklow Orchards stand.

(I have to confess, it was the intense burst of colors and sexy names like “Stripped German” that first drew me to the stand. I’m shallow that way.)

After tasting some sweet, sour and super juicy tomatoes, the plan for an Asian noodle lunch was immediately tossed out the window. 

Instead, I have me a bag of tomatoes, green, yellow and brownish purple. And balsamic vinaigrette and a light sprinkling of parmesan cheese to come.

Tomato salad it is, then.

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Nantucket: The Art of Winging It


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I’ve always envied people who can look in a fridge, grab a bunch of things and whip together an impressive meal.

The times that I’ve done that, I’ve managed to oh, muster up a ham scramble.

As someone who entered the kitchen fairly late in life, my insecurities always get the better of me. So when it comes to cooking, I’m much more of a planner — I like to think things through a fair bit first if I’ve never made a dish before. I’ll look up dozens of recipes before settling on what to make. And I’ll read a recipe several times over to plan any changes or additions before setting foot in the kitchen.

But, watching the ease and freedom of chefs who cook purely by instinct — that confidence always gets me. I can’t help but feel like the child on a tricycle, watching far braver kids whizzing past on ten-speed bikes.

How to bridge that gulf?

In the kitchen of a little beach cottage on Nantucket, I started taking baby steps.

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Sicily: A Duomo Above Others


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Just about this time last year, I was in a little car, racing four hours across Sicily in search of a good meal.

At the end of the trek from Palermo, in far western Sicily, to Ragusa, in the Southeast, lay Ristorante Duomo, one of just two restaurants on the island at the time to have received a Michelin star.

Now, I’ve gone to many lengths in the name of sampling noteworthy food — this level of devotion is not anything new. But doing an eight hour-trip in a day just for a spot of lunch? Even that was a little insane for us.

What can I say? It was worth it. 

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Challah: A Lesson Learned


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I was never any good at girlish things as a child.

Not jump rope nor dressing up Barbie. (Or myself, for that matter.) And certainly not the braiding of any hair.

So it would be accurate to say that the notion that someday I'd attempt to make challah, the braided bread traditionally eaten on the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays — no, that never once crossed my mind.

In fact, when I learned last week that challah was on the schedule for the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge, I instantly planned to sit this one out.

Me? Braiding? Gummy ropes of dough? I was set to say "No thank you" to failure and disappointment and skip ahead to ciabatta, the next bread on the list. But no, my friends wouldn't allow it. "It's easier than ciabatta," said Heather. "Think of the French toast that you can make after," Geri said.

Since "French toast" is high on the list of magic words in my husband's vocabulary, out came the mixing bowls and the challah-making commenced.

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Paris: A Lunch With A View


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For a first-timer in Paris, the Sister had not done badly.

Sure, we hadn’t managed to get into L’Ami Jean or Hidden Kitchen, but the basics had been covered: Berthillon ice-cream, Laduree macarons, cervelas at Brasserie Lipp, a cocktail at the Hemingway Bar.

What was left on the list? Much too much.

Nonetheless, we decided, end with a bang we must. And so we found ourselves packing into a tiny elevator and rocketing into the gray Parisian sky.

The lunch to end our lunches (for now) in Paris would be at a classic — Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower, which, at more than 400 feet above ground level, offered a sweet spot to sip some bubbly and look out onto the city beneath.

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Paris: The Tried And True


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The upside to visiting Paris with a first-timer: The excuse to retread paths well worn.

There is the Angelina chocolat chaud yet undrunk, the freshly baked Poilane pains undiscovered. 

The sister, she has come to Paris with guidebooks well-marked and images of Amelie’s Montmartre flitting through her head. But first, the basics must be covered; important stops must be made.

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La Derniere Goutte (And A Lovely Discovery)


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When in Paris, we wanted to do as the Parisians do.

Or rather, given our limited French, what some expats in Paris do.

And so we found ourselves wandering the streets of St. Germain in search of La Derniere Goutte, a little wine shop my friend Barbra, a former and soon-to-be-again Parisian, had recommended.

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Le Perigord, Je T’Adore


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It turns out, my mother was right — church is good for you.

On day 1.5 in Paris, we feel drawn to Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. It’s Sunday and the childhood Catholics in us just won’t be silenced. I’m not saying we went to mass — but we did have a holy experience of another sort.

While leaving the church, there it was — tent after tent filled with duck rillettes, honeys, chestnut jams and sweet, sweet strawberries from the Perigord region.

We gawped at the decadent spread and then one another. This street fair — clearly, it had to be a sign. And so we stopped to smell the strawberries.

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Prelude to Paris

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I’ve been thinking about Paris.

About bumping knees with Mike at the petite tables of the always-packed Bistrot Paul Bert. And wandering the streets in search of good bread. Or shoes. Or both.

So when it was announced that Recipe #4 of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge was brioche, I took it as a sign.

Sure, it seemed silly to be attempting to make brioche for the first time when in a matter of days, I’d be in the land of great brioche. But I wanted to understand it. Just last week, I’d made bagels for the first time, a Herculean task that helped me develop a mammoth respect for a bread I’d often overlooked at breakfast.

So, with one pound of butter and a carton of eggs in hand, I steeled my arteries and was ready to go.

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A Glimpse of Things to Come


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There have been some significant firsts of late.

The saucy ones, I won’t go into. But in the kitchen, my oven and I have been busy taking our relationship to another level.

First, there were the first home-made bagels, golden, sweet and soft. And soon, there will be my first petites brioches a tete, attempted for Week #4 of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge.

The waiting, the growing excitement, it’s all been hard on this read-the-last-page-of-a-book-first type of gal with no patience for surprises.

So, here’s an early peek at said brioche, looking rather perfect — if I do say so myself — for just a moment.

If it all goes downhill from here … well, hey, we’ll always have this blog post.


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