This cocktail was inspired by both the heat and what I got in my CSA this week. I fretted a bit over grinding up such beautiful local blueberries, but this is the third week I received them, so I went for it. Since I had such an abundance of basil and was too lazy to make pesto, I threw in a handful of basil leaves for a nice green touch. When it came to the booze I went girly, indulging with vanilla vodka and also some lillet wine. The result was a sophisticated slushy. It is delicious eaten with a spoon or slurped after it has melted it a bit.
I recently returned from a too brief mini-vacation to the South of France. I friend and I traveled to Nice, with trips to Cannes, Eze and Monaco thrown in for good measure. We had some great food while we were there, and lots and lots of Rose! The food highlight was a trip to a three Michelin star restaurant in Monaco - Alain Ducasse's Louis XV, which is at the very ritzy Hotel de Paris right next to the Monte Carlo casino. I have never had a Michelin star experience before and I must say this one really met, if not exceeded my expectations. We went at lunch, which takes some of the financial pressure off, sat on the beautiful veranda, and were treated to the most attentive service and exceptional food. I have documented most of it, in pictures after the jump. The meal started with an adorable amuse, a mini-pan bagnant sandwich with only the best ingredients - the most perfect tiny vegetables, delicious bread, a white anchovy, olive oil poached tuna belly and a quail egg. The Pan Bagnat is the official sandwich of the south of France - round french bread is filled with beautiful vegetables, including radishes, layered with tuna, olives, hard-boiled egg and an anchovy. The bread is drizzled (or doused) with olive oil and pressed together vigorously. We had a mediocre version in Eze, a beautiful medieval village on a very high cliff, but the version at Louis XV was really special and a perfect start to the meal. My most amazing bite was dessert though, I had a Strawberry Vacherin - which included fresh strawberries, a coulis type sauce, meringue, strawberry and vanilla ice cream and a rich a vanilla flecked whipped cream. The dish had those perfect tiny fraises du bois (strawberries of the forest or something like that) and really was the most delicious thing I have ever tasted - it truly was the perfect ideal of what you imagine a strawberry to taste like. OK, enough about the meal. After the jump I will share some pictures of the trip, some food we ate, as well as my version of a Pan Bagnat. I apologize for the volume of photos, it was just too hard to narrow down!
Although the title of Geraldine Brooks' Caleb's Crossing implies that the book is about a character named Caleb, the star of the book is Bethia Mayfield, a pious young woman living with her family on Martha's Vineyard in 1660. Bethia is a minister's daughter whose curious, sharp mind makes her feel constricted by the traditional role she is expected to take as a woman. She listens to her father's lessons to her older brother of Latin and Greek and absorbs them well, reaching a level of understanding that her distracted and disinterested brother is unable to achieve. Out wandering the island one day she meets a young Native American boy of the local Wampanoag tribe who eventually becomes known as Caleb. After some misgivings at first, Bethia (whom Caleb names Storm Eyes) and Caleb, who is the son of the chief of the tribe and the nephew of the tribe's medicine man, become good friends and teach each other about their worlds. Bethia teaches Caleb to speak and read English and about Christianity, Caleb teaches Bethia the Wampanoag language and culture, and shares with her everything he knows about the nature on the island. While Bethia enjoys her time with Caleb, she is wracked with guilt because by spending time with him, alone, she is breaking every rule she has been taught. The book is told from Bethia's perspective, through her journal entries starting as a young girl on the island, through her time as a scullery maid at Harvard and eventually as an old woman, on her death bed. The book transported me completely to late 17th century New England and Bethia joins the pantheon of inspiring young women heroines in literature (Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennett) whose intelligence and disposition isolate them from their time.
When I flipped open the paperback version of Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding I found a several paragraph blurb from a glowing review by tough New York Times critic Michiko Kakitani. The book was also listed on multiple best books of the year lists, making it to the number one spot in some instances. Needless to say, I had high expectations for this book. I had first read about The Art of Fielding about a year ago in a Vanity Fair article. The article is written by one of Harbach's friends and it chronicles the long and winding road Harbach endured to get The Art of Fielding published. Harbach worked on the book for ten years. The book was rejected by many agents, but eventually it became the subject of a bidding war by the big publishers and after his years of toil, Harbach is now a well paid literary darling. Well I am happy to report that for me, the book truly lived up to the hype. I loved it and Harbach has created a group of lovable and indelible characters that to some extent are extraordinary for their ordinariness. Some may describe this as a book about baseball, but for me this book was a loving portrait of a small liberal arts college - here, called Westish. Having gone to (and loved!) such a college, the book really struck a cord with me. I was surprised to read that Harbach went to Harvard undergrad, since he creates such a realistic and detailed depiction of the small liberal arts college experience. Baseball is a big part of the book though - it follows the story of a young South Dakotan baseball phenom who becomes the unlikely star of the Westish team. The baseball theme of the book led me to attempt to make homemade crackerjacks. More about the popcorn and book after the jump.
Here is my requisite red, white and blue post for Fourth of July! And the good news is, these are so easy to make that you can run out and get the ingredients now and they will be ready with ample time to spare for your Fourth of July barbecue. They are also great if you are on a diet, as they contain a relatively modest amount of sugar and no fat. As with everything I make, these are not as totally perfect gorgeous as Martha Stewart or some of the more particular food bloggers out there, but even with my messy swirls I think they look quite fetching!