Travellust.


It was only a matter of time.
29 May, 2007, 7:12 pm
Filed under: Sweets

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After telling all of my stories to my friends and co-workers about my trip to Switzerland, it wasn’t long before they asked me when I was going to make brownies again. I had not forgotten my place in the kitchen and neither had they. Honestly, I could not have been happier. It’s not exactly the time of year for nearly two pounds of chocolate and one pound of butter, (please see all available fruits at your local farmer’s market), but J thinks that any time is a good time (especially for breakfast!).

Many people take their brownie preferences, cakey or fudgey) seriously, ranking up there with cars I think, but I have always enjoyed recipes that produce the latter of the two. I came across this recipe last year during a Barefoot Contessa marathon and tried it on for size. This is a serious recipe, yielding a whole sheet pan, so make sure you have lots of friends and acquaintances that you are anxious to give cavities.

This is very flexible recipe as far as the kinds of nuts and coffee powder goes. I use expresso powder for a more pronounced coffee flavor. While I do enjoy the walnuts that are listed in the original recipe, I opt to leave them out in case of any food allergies, because most of them end up at work as an afternoon pick-me-up for all of the staff working doubles.

The kind of chocolate that you use is most important because it outweighs all other ingredients by two. I use half Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet and half Vahlrona 61%, because again, you get out what you put in. These are best stored in the refrigerator for up to one week (though I am sure you will find they won’t last that long).

Outrageous Brownies
(This was adapted from a recipe for chocolate globs in the Soho Charcuterie Cookbook.)

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa @ Foodnetwork.com

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups flour, divided- 1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups diced walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and bitter chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not overbake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.



Strawberry Fields Forever.
26 May, 2007, 4:22 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It all had to come to an end I suppose, getting on a plane, back to the United States, and then being immediately thrown back in the influx of Americans, whose language I could annoyingly understand. Do not get me wrong, I love my country, but after a very quiet and sound nine hour flight, there is nothing comfortable about being in the mix of hundreds of Americans trying to get through passport control, customs and baggage re-check in order to make a connecting flight. When you live in a country whose language is predominantly German, and others whose are French and Italian, you come to love the fact that you cannot understand what anyone is saying. It was like having peace and quiet for almost three months. Perhaps, now I better understand the phrase “reverse culture shock” that my professors had so carefully warned about.

But all travel annoyances aside, I have been careful to remember and jot down the details of my two and a half month excursion across the pond, if you will. There is something, many things in fact, that are decidedly sexy, relaxed and calming about life in Switzerland. I no longer live on a lake surrounded by the Alps, or have the opportunity to lunch for an hour (and more) with vino or bier, if I so choose. All places have their trade offs. In return for coming home, I now have a full kitchen in which I can utilize, but little time to do it, as serving tables full-time, sucks any minute I might dream of boiling water for canning, away.

Before fully committing my life back to the workforce I was fortunate to get a mini-readjust-relax-get-my-head-on-straight-and-back-on-EST vacation. J and I traveled by car (what? No SBB train!?!) to the Crystal Coast, North Carolina to visit my family for a just a few short days.

On Sunday, after making blueberry pancakes and sausage for brunch, we loaded up the car and headed to Wilmington to eat at one of my favorite restaurants in the state, Deluxe. I couldn’t press the issue enough on having the calamari for an appetizer (which is a funny word to use, instead of entrée). Yes, I know, it is quite ubiquitous, and every restaurant’s is “the best”, but I love this version too. Soaked in buttermilk and battered lightly, it is served beside sweet and sour apricot preserves, and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Call me old-fashion, but when I dine at Deluxe, I always have the N.C. Grouper. I find that few places know how to handle this delicate and flaky fish, and Scott’s place is certainly one of them. Perched on top of well-cooked wasabi potatoes and asparagus, the grouper is pan roasted and finished with just a smidgen of béarnaise sauce. You can’t help but to appreciate the innovation of flavors in a small and culinarily underdeveloped town like Wilmington.

After a few mishaps on the road, road closings, etc, we finally made it to Mom’s house and fell asleep amidst the cool breezes coming off the ocean. The next day we slept in and I woke to a pot of fresh Alto Grande coffee.This is K’s all time favorite coffee, coming from the Lares Mountains in Puerto Rico. He was reminded of it when we had dinner this past winter at Gramercy Tavern in NYC, and I recently sought it out for him by the five pound bag. Known to many as the “Coffee of the Popes and Kings”, the coffee lends a very smooth yet intense flavor with no bitterness. It has a very dominant flavor that should not be missed.
In an effort to see as much of the small nearby beach towns in the limited amount of time that we had, J and I set off. We had NY style pizza in one of the few places in NC that I am able to find it. It’s a place called Luigi’s that is tucked in an old shopping center that even only few locals know about. It’s a classic little place that offers a cool place to sit and enjoy large, thin-crust slices with select toppings, of which I always opt for plain cheese. If you find yourself here, please be aware of the cash only policy.

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To counter the savory we had indulged in, we pressed forward down a little dirt road to Garner Farms to pick strawberries. It has been quite dry this year, and the berries were a bit more sparse and smaller than last year, but it didn’t stop us from grabbing red buckets and heading down the rows of bountiful plants. We picked until we were sure we had gotten the best we could find and then proceeded to cash in on our deal. 2.5 pounds, $5.

We took the long way home, stopping at Bogue Pier and walked amongst the fisherman and the cool ocean breeze guided us along. This is why I love my home. There is nothing quite like the ocean, so overwhelming and yet so calming at the same time. But wait! The strawberries are still in the car and must be tended to.

So home we went, where the rest of the family was preparing for the cookout to be had later on. We made one last stop at Winberry Farms to buy more strawberries so that I had enough to make both fresh strawberry shortcakes and jam.

I used Christine Ferber’s Strawberry Jam recipe, but condensed it down to a four hour process instead of the recommended 3 days, as well as adding vanilla beans and their seeds. Two and a half pounded yielded about three small ball jars, but it was so rich and sweet, that more may have given me a cavity looking at it. My grandfather, who says he is eating it out of the jar, certainly seems to think it’s good.

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Our final stop for food on the way back to the city was at a NC institution, Smithfield’s Chicken and BBQ. There is something that must be understood about BBQ in North Carolina. It is no laughing matter, as the Newport Pig Cookin’ Contest that is held each year is a true testament to its seriousness. It was started in 1978 to raise money for a local school and fifteen pigs were cooked. Today, as many as fifty pigs are cooked every year, with recipes kept top secret and varying greatly from contestant to contestant.

Smithfield’s only has locations on the eastern side of Raleigh, for the main reason that their BBQ is vinegar based. After you cross into Durham it becomes mustard-based country. At over thirty locations, you can purchase sandwiches that have a light and tangy vinegar flavor and all the “fixins”, including fresh (no frozen stuff here!) hushpuppies, and baked beans, flavored with the barbeque. One of the best parts is that it is difficult to spend more than 10$ on two people, and that is leaving very full.

Black Book:

Deluxe
114 Market Street
Wilmington, NC 28401-4442
Open Daily, as well as Sunday brunch

Luigi’s Pizza
5167 Hwy 70 W Ste 12
Morehead City, NC
(252) 240-3125

Garner Farms
HWY 24 E, 5-7 miles West of Luigi’s

Smithfield’s Chicken and BBQ
Various Eastern NC Locations



Eighteen Hours In Paris.
15 May, 2007, 11:05 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

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Some things, no matter how small, can make you laugh at the drop of a dime. After spending the weekend in Paris and Brussels, I’ve found that conversations with Jessica only require a few phrases to make us both double over from laughter. These are taken completely out of context, and any reader will certainly not find them funny, but to me, they are priceless and to be missed when I leave: “Can we talk about that?”, “Uh-ohs!”, “Please hold.”, and finally, “Just kidding!”.

All of the background info aside, Jessica and I hoped on a train for our last weekend away in Europe before we depart Switzerland on Thursday. There are some things that one must note when taking a train to any destination more than a few hours away:
It might not have a dining car, but more than likely a dining-cart.
Ipods and other means of entertainment are crucial if you got up at 4:30 am.
Nothing that leaves you or your company’s mouth is valid if you got up at 4:30 am, for at least an hour.

We arrived in Paris in the afternoon, absolutely famished (i.e. no dining car), but had to make a pit stop at a little shop recommended by David Lebovitz called A l’Etoile d’Or.
Inside, with list in hand, we met with the little Heidi-braided hair lady who was very eager to show us her supreme supply of chocolates and caramels. Though we struggled to communicate in French, all I had to do was say the name of the chocolatier, and I was in business.

Four bars of Bernachon chocolate, a handful of truffles, which I hand picked while wearing a white glove (talk about service!), and a fine selection of Le Roux caramels later, we were on our way to eat lunch.

We arrived at Le Castiglione, a restaurant on Rue St. Honore that I was eager to get back to after just going a couple of weekends ago. Their menu has several offerings, but I come here only for their burger (for which they are “known” for, and the price accurately reflects), fries and a Kronenburg 1964 on tap. The burger, served at a suggested medium temperature, has shredded lettuce, cheese, and a yummy sauce that a frequent McDonald’s-go-er might call a “special” sauce, but far exceeds it. The flavor is rich (no well-done here) and thought it might not be intended, should be eaten with a fork and knife to cut down on the messy-factor.

After re-fueling, we jetted off across the river in search of more sweets. We were on a tight time schedule, so I decided that I should go to a shop that I hadn’t had time to pay my monetary respects to during my last visit, Patrick Rodger. As if the chocolate isn’t enough to make you swoon the design of the store and their packaging will seal the deal. I rounded up another handful of chocolates, truffles and caramels, all of which were modestly priced. After paying, the lady who had assisted me, insisted I try a chocolate, which she called “lima” and lent a sweet citrusy flavor.

That evening we dined at Janou. Our native friend told us that it was always packed, and believe you me, if it’s packed with diners at 11 pm, something must be good. I had a great goat cheese and spinach salad followed by a spring risotto with sumptuous scallops. I finished my meal with a Mariage hot tea, and the four of us shared a very rich chocolate mousse. I highly recommend the mousse, as the waiter will come to your table with a dish in which to put it and scoop it out of a large bowl until you stay stop. A few words of advice here: don’t let your eyes exceed the expectations of your stomach; a couple (well maybe a few…) spoonfuls will do you fine.

All in all, I had a fabulous time, but as with each time I find myself departing the city of lights, any amount time never seems like enough.

Black Book:

Le Castiglione
Known for its cheeseburgers.
235 Rue St.-Honoré

Patrick Rodger
108, Boulevard St. Germain

A l’Etoile d’Or
30 rue Fontaine (9th)

Métro: Blanche

Closed Sundays.

Janou
2, Rue Roger Verlomme

The Five Hotel (in the Latin District)
3, rue Flatters
75005 Paris



To be missed.
8 May, 2007, 7:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

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Adapting to a new place of residence (as some would call culture shock) never gives you the feeling that one day, when you leave, you might miss the small things, which we all inevitably do. For me, it will be such things as afternoon walks with Jes, the anticipation of curries in the dining hall and over all beauty in the small town of Vitznau.

Next week, I depart Switzerland and return to the fast paced, and seemingly never-sleeping country of America. While I am more than excited about getting back into my kitchen, and actually being able to buy groceries to cook with, it comes with a price. My best recommendation to anyone who hasn’t lived outside of the States, is to try it on for size. It might be difficult at first, as any move can be, but the rewards and the new outlook on life that you will likely have is absolutely priceless, even if you can’t cook for yourself for three months and have to deal with everything closing at six p.m.

On the bright side of the post, I will be making a trip to Paris AND Brussels this weekend in an effort to indulge in French cuisine (and waffles + frenchfries), and buy massive amounts of quality chocolate that one could only dream of importing in to the U.S.(i.e. Pierre Herme, La Maison du Chocolate, etc). The final perk and something to be truly missed is being in a city so conducive to walking. In my home city, there is very little area to do it, and the surroundings don’t hold a candle to the Alps that I’ve been living in or the cobblestone streets that I’ve been walking on. Thank goodness there are people like

and

to help us find the best places in short amount of times for such activities.



A Weekend of All Things Divine, Pt. 1
4 May, 2007, 7:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I would never consider complaining about the opportunity to travel, unless of course I had done it for 3/7 days of the week for the past two months. The thought of having at least fifteen train switches within a period of three days was exhausting, but I sucked it up, and I’m glad that I did. Even though this was a trip where I would be traveling with the other forty-three students, I could not have had a better itinerary: La Maison du Gruyere, Callier Chocolate Factory and Obrist Winery in Vevey, Switzerland.

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We arrived at Gruyere for the tour early Wednesday afternoon. The small town of Gruyere is set in the hills of northern Switzerland, about an hour south of Geneva. Your eyes are instantly filled with the lush green that one sees in each direction they look. Even though Gruyere has at least fifteen other production facilities in Switzerland, the one that we visited was the original and provided a small, but fun tour. To much disbelief, there isn’t a whole lot that goes in the flavorful AOC cheese, but it is amazing to watch milk go through a process to become a large wheel of cheese which will age for at least six months and weigh up to 70 kilos. Upon departure, Gruyere bids you farewell with a tasting of 6, 8 and 12-month samples of the cheeses, the flavor becoming sharper with time.

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After the tour, we hoped on a train to Bulle and arrived at Broc-Fabrique, where we walked to the Callier Factory. I had honesty never heard of the Callier brand of chocolate (which I later learned to be a shame), and was not so much surprised to find out that they were a part of the Nestle family. The factory itself isn’t open to the public, but the tour includes samples of the basic ingredients, such as roasted cocoa beans, which they allow you to taste, as well as freshly roasted almonds and hazelnuts. You are also able to do aroma tests with these peculiar tubes that come out of the ground and you put your nose up to them and smell such flavors as chocolate and hazelnut or milk chocolate.

After this, you are given a brief history of how the Callier brand came to be, including the invention of milk chocolate by Daniel Peter who was a neighbor of Henri Nestle. At this point, the chocolate factory may not have impressed you, especially since you really don’t get to see much of the production. But, what happened next would have made any disbeliever forgiving. Our tour guide led us into a room, with backlit frosted glass panels, and a long counter which displayed every kind of chocolate that Callier produced. In your mind you are probably thinking that you are going to get to sample a few, but in reality, your tour guide has just told you that it’s a “free for all” and that we were free to sample as many as we could. As a side note, we were informed that all chocolate under the Callier brand is made with fresh milk from cows in local pastures. After tasting the chocolates, even a young chap would be able to tell the difference it made.

At the end of course she laughed when she knew some had tried so many that they were sick to their stomachs and it is just as if they had anticipated this. Because the next place that you are led to is a small theater that displays old black and whites on a screen, in French, and you are encouraged to sit in very comfortable chairs to watch (or fall asleep after an exhausting day of travel). After you wake up from your mini-nap you can then go to their shop, where all of the chocolates that you tried before are beautifully packaged and modestly priced.

I will post about the winery and details on where to stay in the northern caton of Switzerland in a few days, as a little R+R is in need after such a full week.



The first weekend, the last summer.
29 April, 2007, 1:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

When are sure that something is not going to happen, it does. I found myself eager to go away for the weekend, but my gut continued to speak louder than my anxiety, telling me: “Stay, relax.” So I did. Believe it or not, I was exhausted from travelling, and my taste for it had gone sour. (But only for this weekend!)

I could smell the rain since Thursday and the skies finally broke yesterday, and the roads began to let the steam rise from their crevices. Off in the distance I saw a sun like I had never seen before, red, burning behind the fog and clouds that never seem to burn off.

I couldn’t put a price on the silence that permeated my room, with our balcony door opening and the only music was the sound of the rain drops on our awnings.

With a plethora of time on my hands I began to realize and take note of the things that I was going to miss most when I depart my little Swiss Miss box in three weeks.

“Love, Switzerland”


  • Walking for an hour before dinner with Jessica and an hour after dinner with my chums, around the mountains, beside the lake, and generally, always with the most breathtaking views before our eyes.
  • The amount of curry served in the cafeteria at DCT as well as the espresso machine.
  • #52 at the Kiosk vending machine: Comella Choco-drink, high in protien, low in fat, rich in flavor.
  • The fact that no matter where you look, the mountains and hills are plush with green (even in the winter!)
  • Public transportation: You can take a (very clean)train from anywhere, to anywhere, and it is always on time. Ditto ferries and buslines.
  • The Swiss breakfast: (good) yogurt, museli (better than granola), and fresh breads that are dropped of to the school every morning my our local bakery.
  • The amount of time in a day spent on leisure by the Swiss, and generally all of Europe. (Two hour lunches with wine would never fly in the States.)
  • The ubiquity of Smart Cars.
  • Dogs go everywhere – trains, grocery stores, cafes.

    The list goes on – and this is just in Vitznau. All of the cities that I have been to in the past two months (London, Paris, Rome, Munich, Vienna, Prague, Zurich) all have thier own.

    I’ve been making a list of things that I want to do this Summer, as it will be the last one before I graduate and officially enter the full-time workforce. Of course there is a heavy influence coming from my lack of ability to cook here, and the anticipation of Summer’s bounty. So in short, there are the things I am most looking foward to doing for the next three months:

    • Vegetate in Hilton Head with Jes
    • Make Pesto with fresh Basil that is always cheap and plentiful at the farmer’s market
    • Eat a ripe tomato, and make sauces for the winter.
    • Consume Summer’s bounty, Summer corn.
    • Make Jams, specifically Fig.
    • Pick strawberries from the vine that are still warm from the sun
    • Make buttons!
    • Cook dinner every sunday for a group of my friends
    • Finish reading the Art of Eating by MFK Fisher.
    • Get a Mr. Waffles, also known as our first puppy, a white English Bulldog.