Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Double Birthday All The Way

On Sunday, May 22nd, I celebrated by 22nd birthday. I have literally been waiting for this birthday since I was 8 years old and I realized that this would occur. Sure everyone gets a golden or double birthday, but most are either not old enough to realize the significance of this date. So I am fortunate enough to have a birthday later in the month so as to properly give it the attention and respect that such a birthday deserves.

Planning for this event started early. Back in January I asked a good friend of mine if he would put on a little concert for my party. I gave him some songs to learn which included Broadway and Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls and Do You Love Me by Guster. My favorite bands by the way. Patrick graciously put together a band just for me, really it was just 60% of The Terks. If they ever become famous, I will be able to say that they personally serenaded me on my grandparents back porch on my birthday.

I decided that I wanted to have a classy dinner party replete with French food, live music, wine glasses purchased from Dollar Tree and janky miss monogrammed napkins from a Down East outlet on the ghetto West side. I also decided to force everyone to dress, as I wanted this to be a black tie affair. I was over dressed in a silver evening gown and a string of pearls in homage to Julia Child, and was subsequently up staged when a friend of mine showed up in the exact same dress. Sigh, happily the only hang up of the night.

The menu I planned was, what I can only hope, worthy of my hero Julia Child:

1st course: Potato leek soup
2nd course: Variety of cheeses (dill havarti, gouda, smoked gouda, aged goat cheese, and brie) served with freshly baked sour dough baguettes
3rd course: Beef Bourguignon with haricots verts
4th course: Apple and pear tart with a apricot almond vanilla glaze and cinnamon served with Martinelli's

Yes, the Beef Bourguignon was Julia Child’s recipe, yes, did take me the threatened 5 hours, and yes, I did conquer my fear and touched raw meat for the first time in my 22 years. But, it was literally the best beef stewy/ roasty kind of thing I have ever had. Totally worth it, but probably the only time I will ever make it. I am actually quite proud of how it turned out.

Except for the minor clothing crisis, the dinner went off without a hitch. Everyone had a great time. The food was amazing, though I do say so myself, the music was great, and we even got in some quality sing along time. I wanted my 22nd birthday to be memorable and this one certainly makes the books.

Beef Bourguignon: Master Piece
This tart was literally the best I have ever had. It was a flavorful as I hoped it would be
Make shift fancy table setting

Yes, I made place cards. Got to use those scrap booking skills some how
Some favorite friends
Lovely friends and family
More lovely friends
Last of the lovely friends
Some France friends: The Jamie and The Madeline
The Jam Band: Patrick, Stu and Christian
Maddie in her thrifty French 1980's prom dress

Me and Chrissy Dearest
Sarah and Brandi

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Graduate from College: Check!

There are a few things that everyone kind of expects you to do in your life. Among these are: graduate from high school, go to college, get your degree, get married, have kids, get a job, etc. I am slowly whittling away at this list. On Friday, I graduated from BYU with a degree in Food Science! I love food and I pretty much think about it all the time. You may have noticed this from my other posts. But that's a separate problem. I am very lucky to be able to say that I love Food Sience more now than I did when I started. However, getting the degree is is a small portion of the story. Let the job search begin!
I graduated with my very good friend Chrissy. She is so funny and I miss getting to see her every day.

As a graduation gift from my parents they gave me the KitchenAid mixer of my dreams. I pretty much love anything as long as it is green. My birth stone is an emerald, so I was pretty much destined to be obsessed with the color green. I had a hunch that I was going to get a mixer, because I am a food nerd and this is what I really wanted (my second choice was an ice cream maker, but I'm pretty sure you can buy an ice cream maker attachment for this mixer), but I figured it would just be the run of the mill white. So when I opened the box and it was the most beautiful shade of lime green, I was extatic. I have this weird hankering to sleep with it tonight like a teddy bear. But I realize that this boarders on insanity, so I will restrain myself.

Hello Gorgeous, where have you been all my life?
The other part of my graduation present was a bit of a joke. Since my return from France, I have been longing for Nutella. I tell my parents contantly how amazing the stuff is. It practically has healing powers. So, my loving and appeasing parents went to Costco and bought me the two pack. God bless them!

Nutella Love'n: Double your pleasure, double your fun

Monday, April 18, 2011

France What is it Good For? Absoluetly Pastry and Gelato

My last week in France was very nearly perfect. If it wasn't for the finals and papers, it would have been the best vacation. I still managed to fit in a pastry or two a day. Plus, Nice has an inordinate amount of gelatorias. So in addition to the pastries I tried as many gelato flavors as possible. 20 different flavors in fact:

Cassis- black current. Most fruity flavored thing I have ever eaten
Chocolate cubain- chocolately chocolate with chocolate
Crème brulee
Chocolate Piment- spicy chocolate. Loved it
Ferrero rocher
Pear and chocolate- excellent combination
Profiterole- pastry plus ice cream baby. Can't go wrong with that one
While chocolate rocher
Kinder- if you don't know Kinder, you are living a half life
Chewing gum- not good at all
Citron vert- hate this flavor
Chocolate orange
Rose- kind of like eating perfume, but in the best possible way
Pim- chocolate and orange cookies
Cactus- it was like being at home
Rum raisin- it was very alcoholic tasting, but also really really good. Is that a sin?
Strawberry Tagada
Ginger chocolate- surprisingly really good, but very interesting
Vanilla pepper rose- I actually really like this one. It was a very special. The only improvement I would made is leave out the whole pepper corn in the gelato

I didn't actually catch the names of any of the pastries I tried this week. So I will just graphically describe them to you.

This little gem jumped out to me. It is flaky pastry wrapped in a spiral and then covered in caramelized sugar. It was chewing crunchy from the sugar and then flaky crisp from the pastry. This one is up there with Saint-Honore in my book.

This one is basically the French equivalent of a  snickerdoodle. It was very crumbly, but had a really interesting chewing texture. I love anything that has cinnamon, so this one was a total winner.

Mmm, eating pastries on the beach

Beach glamor shot of this little delight
 I feel like I didn't eat enough cake in France. But this one made up for that. It was soft spongy vanilla cake with a light and highly flavored vanilla creme filling. Not to mention streussel on top.
That's a three for one if I counted right.

Chocolate chip meringue. You see these  things everywhere. I figured it was about time I tried one. I am a sugar junky, so I loved this. Also, the night I sampled this fair, I was desperately trying to finish my political philosophy final and needed to stay up. It was the perfect sugar delivery system I needed to make it through discussing Marx, Locke and Hobbes.

Not everything I tried was great. These things were the most dissapointing pastries I tried. One was a nutella filled canolli. Should have been great right? Wrong. It was pretty much flavorless. And the other guy was filled with a pistachio, we'll call it, gunk that was very reminiscent of playdough in texture and taste. They looked cute though.

Nice was just a great place to get straight up good food. Just down the road from the hotel I stayed at was Pizza Sun. I got the vegetarian pizza and was not disappointed for a second. Sometimes I just want a pizza that is covered in toppings and that is what I got. Egg plant, artichoke, olives, peppers, onion, basil, good cheese, tasty sauce all over a chewy crust. Amen!

Sexy lady and a pizza

Sorry it's so blurry, but you get the idea

Marseille is famous for soap. I just got a big kick out of the fact that poppy in French is opium

Marzipan fruit. Very tempting, but not worth the price tag
Lasagna Bolonaise. Best lasagna I have ever had in my entire life. This was like going back to my childhood, except my mother was Italian and I made my own pasta. It was a revelation. It was soupy, meaty, cheesey. The pasta was al dente. Which is hard to do in a lasagna. It came out bubbly hot it its own little casserole dish. It looked like so much food that I would not be able to finishe the whole thing, but when something is this good, you make room. Every bite, even at the end when I was totally stuffed was delicious. I will chase this lasagna for the rest of my life

Jamie and I conquered the lasagna!
Every bite delicious. Not sure if this photo is a happy or sad one. Happy because I ate the whole thing, sad because it's all gone

Nice is gorgeous. This picture proves how perfect this place is.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The New Pastry a Day Challenge: Take it if You Dare

The "Pastry a Day Challenge" still continues. Here is what I have had this week:

Day 5: Far Breton and a Delightful Assortment of Macaron
The Far Breton was by far the most unexpected pastry I have tried. I have a strategy when making hard decisions, like picking out pastries, I stare at all of my options until one speaks to me. Eventually, one will jump out as if to say, "Pick me!" and so I do, and I am generally not disappointed. I was staring at the case, and when I was asked what I wanted, I looked down and Far Breton was looking right at me. So I just got it. I had to idea what it was, just took a chance. 

You've probably never heard of Far Breton  before. It's a kind of cake that tastes alot like custard. When you make it, you basically make a custard and then add flour to it. This gives it a dense and extremely moist texture. The surprise was that the unidentifiable fruit turned out to be prunes. Despite not being 75, I happen to like prunes, but I don't eat them hardly ever. So I was pleasantly surprised by my selection. I would totally get this again, though it might not be for everyone.
Mysterious dark fruit pieces... Yup, not cherries, prunes

Mmm, those prunes were tasty
Later that night, Maddie and I busted out with a little box of macaron from La Duree. We munched on a selection of green apple, chocolate, vanilla, orange passion fruit, pisachio, and rose flavored macarons. Each was delightful. 

Macarons are not the macaroons you may be envisioning. They are cookies made of almond flour and have a very light frosting filling. They are like nothing you have ever tried. The good ones just melt in your mouth and are moments of bliss until they are gone.
Chocolate and Rose Macaron

Day 6: Beignet Pomme
Sorry Mom, but this beignet was way better than the ones you make. It could have been the apple inside. A simple pillowy round of fried dough with a creamy apple center. Amen!
Simple yet delicious
Day 7: Chocochaude and Baklava
Dear Maddie tried the chocochaude and found it so good that she brought me back one. It is just flaky pastry with a custard like filling with chocolate chips dispersed throughout. It is a winner.
So good I very nearly ate 2!

When my friends and I took a little trip to the Jewish quarter I saw this treat in the window and knew I had to have it. I can't tell you the last time I had baklava, but I knew I liked it. This was the best reminder I could have had.
The Jews just know how to make baklava

Day 8: Viennoise Pomme
Basically a sweet roll with baked apple inside. I am a fan of baked fruit so I liked it. But, to be honest, I did not love it. There were a few things they could have changed to make it really good, but that is because I love me a good sugar over load, and this was not that.
Not as sweet as you might want it to be. I suggest the addition of sugar and cinnamon
Yes, that is a whole apple in there

Day 9: Croissant aux Amandes
Light flaky pastry sprinkled with almonds, a delightful glaze and a snow of powdered sugar with an almond cream on the inside
I don't think you understand how good this was!

Day 10: Butterstruselfladen and Quarkballchen
God bless Germany and their pastries. The butterstruselfladen was a refreshing treat after eating French pastries. It was different and wonderful. The pastry wasn't flaky, but bready with baked cherries and strussel. You pretty much can't go wrong wit that combo.

Oh, my dear Quackballchen. The best doughnut hole you will ever have. It is dense and has an almost custard taste to it. I loved every bite.
Little ball of joy and happiness
Day 11: Rugelach
Not going to lie. Not my favorite in the least. It was a pastry rolled with a fig puree and a strussel topping. I could have lived without this one. But, I'm glad I got to try another German pastry.
Looks way better than it tasted, which is why i got it.