The House That Tile Built

After Baja I went to LA to visit friends. (California seduces me with the weather but I don’t think I could cope with the traffic.) One day we drove to Malibu to tour the historic Adamson House—a wow especially as it’s not always open. At one point, the Rindge family owned pretty much all of present day Malibu, buying the property in 1892 for roughly $10 an acre. (Thirty years later, it became the most valuable single real estate holding in the United States—think 20 miles of coastland.) When she was widowed, May Rindge, a woman with more than her share of moxie, found herself land-rich and cash-poor so she looked for oil on the property. Instead she found buff and red clay and voila:  the creation of Malibu Potteries, a short-lived but  influential tile company that produced authentic versions of Mayan, Moorish, Moroccan, Saracen, and Persian- design tile.

From Malibu Potteries

In 1929, May’s daughter, Rhoda, and her husband, Merritt Adamson, used thirteen acres of the property to build a beach house. Now, set in gorgeous grounds, it’s a National Historic Monument and a California State Park. You need a docent to tour the Spanish Colonial style house. After passing through the front door which is surrounded by tile, you visit most of the rooms including an entryway with a Persian carpet made of tile right down to the rug fringes

Note fringe

and a bathroom tiled on all sides including the ceiling. Outdoors are several terrific fountains (tiled, of course); a magnificent tiled pool overlooking the ocean and a huge (tiled) bathtub where the Adamson family bathed their dogs. There is also a pool house that was commandeered by the military during WWII to house officers (enlisted men got tents.)

Dog bath–when only tile will do for Fido

The whole thing is “how the other half lived with tile’ – it’s very unusual and makes a great half-day visit. For the full Monte, here is the link to the property: http://www.adamsonhouse.org/main.php

This recipe showcases lemons, one of the quintessential Californian fruits. It’s easy, makes 4 dozen pieces AND you cut it into bars which are sort of like tiles, right?

Lemon Angel Cake Bars

For the bars:

1 package (16 ounces) angel food cake mix (see, a mix!)

1 can (15-3/4 ounces) lemon pie filling (and a can!)

1 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut

For the frosting:

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mix cake mix, pie filling and coconut until blended; spread into a greased 15 x 10 x1-in. baking pan.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar. Spread over cooled bars; sprinkle with lemon zest. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Cut into bars (or triangles.)

You could drink a good California wine with whatever preceded the lemon bars or slosh lemon juice into your iced tea. Whistle California Here I Come as you pass the bars. Enjoy not being stuck in traffic.

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Slow But Pretty Steady

Just before sunset on a beach near Todos Santos, an art-filled town in Baja, Mexico, people gather to release newly-hatched turtles into the Pacific. The program is operated by volunteers and depends on contributions; hatchlings are released December 1 through the end of April. One night Olive Ridgeley hatchlings—the size of a silver dollar with flippers—were sent on their way but Black sea turtles and Leatherbacks are also launched from this site. This is a link to the program with a good video: http://www.todostortugueros.org/

At the top of the beach in a plastic-surrounded enclosure all things sea turtle were explained before we went further inside to see an incubation nest.

Digging incubation nest

Then the babies were scooped into colorful plastic basins and carried (mostly by kids) down to the ocean. At a signal, the hatchlings were dumped onto the sand a few feet from the incoming tide.  The trip from dumping-off point to ocean took longer than I’d anticipated –about twenty-minutes as some babies stopped, some got flipped over and had to right themselves or get help from a wave– and the flotilla, (the formal name for a group of sea turtles), doesn’t move that fast even with instinct behind them.  

Hatchling in plastic tub

Meanwhile, about fifty onlookers produced a lot of encouraging yelling, sort of a turtle Derby. As the man next to me said, our presence meant that birds weren’t picking off the babies who are also prey for crabs, certain fish, raccoons and feral dogs. Out in the ocean, sea turtles are a treat for large sharks. It’s estimated that only one hatchling in a thousand makes it to adulthood.

As amazing as the release was, I was fascinated to learn that when they mature, guided by magnetic force the females return to the same beach they started from to lay their eggs. (Turtle sex takes place in the water.) Once the eggs are in the nest incubation takes about sixty days although sand temperature influences the length of time.

Goodbye and good luck!

Sunset in Baja was gorgeous but watching the hatchlings move from sand into open water made the evenings I went to watch even more magical.

Food (and drink) in Todos Santos was terrific.  This recipe isn’t entirely authentic but the end result is great—and doesn’t require plane fare.

Chicken Quesadillas

2-1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken

2/3 cup salsa (bought—not the same but no effort)

1/3 cup sliced green onions

3/4 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

6 flour tortillas (8 inches)

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Sour cream and guacamole (bought if you wish)

In a large skillet, combine the first six ingredients. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 10 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Brush one side of tortillas with butter; place buttered side down on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spoon 1/3 cup chicken mixture over half of each tortilla; sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese.

Fold plain side of tortilla over cheese. Bake at 375° for 9-11 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Cut into wedges; serve with sour cream and guacamole.

Easy Margarita: use blender into which you put ice, Minute Maid lime juice, tequila. Hit the button to crush all together. Ask (or YouTube) if you want to know how to salt-rim the glass. Olé!

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Going to the Dogs


In this case, at the brand-new American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog, 101 Park Avenue just a block south of Grand Central. It’s in the lobby of an office building entered from around the left side.

What a hoot! The whole shebang is small enough to take in during an hour+ but, if you had serious research to do (or a kid to entertain) you could spend a lot longer. There are interactive displays like one at the entrance where you take a photo of your face and it matches you to a breed.

(I look nothing like my photo or a German Pinscher but hey…) and many on the second floor including one where you “train” a cartoonish puppy who is learning to be a service dog with your voice and hand commands.

There are lots of paintings, the requisite Wegman photo of Weimaraners (four wearing orange life jackets sitting in a canoe), sculpture both larger than life and small, some pre-Columbian pottery as well as some Staffordshire;  artifacts including this dog cart

Dogcart (big dogs only please)

used by kids in the 19th century and a fossilized dog paw print from roughly the 2nd century CE.  Also dog movie posters, a nicely curated gift shop area, a beautifully arranged space where little ones can draw and what looks like an area where dogs get photographed. However, unless yours is a service dog, he or she is not welcome at the museum but perhaps there are other days when Fido can come by special invitation and be readied for his close-up.

You can search for a particular breed on a computer device and learn about it or do more complex research in the upstairs library. The whole museum is well-lit and cleverly made, right down to a moving frieze of breeds that runs around the upper outside edge. Thanks to all the AKC supporters who made it possible.

Did you anticipate a recipe for dog food? Nope, this recipe uses bones, (preferably not those your hound has already worked on), to make a great beef stock which can be the base for cooking any kind of grain or vegetable or turned into soups. Added value—it’s ever so trendy.

Bone broth for man or beast

Beef Bone Broth  (Rhoda Boone, Epicurious)  

4 pounds beef bones, preferably a mix of marrow bones and bones with a little meat on them, such as oxtail, short ribs, or knuckle bones (cut in half by a butcher)

2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 medium leek, end trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 medium onion, quartered

1 garlic head, halved crosswise (less if you’re not a garlic fan)

2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place beef bones, carrots, leek, onion, and garlic on a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Toss the contents of the pan and continue to roast until deeply browned, about 20 minutes more.

Fill a large (at least 6-quart) stockpot with 12 cups of water. Add celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, and vinegar. Scrape the roasted bones and vegetables into the pot along with any juices. Add more water if necessary to cover bones and vegetables.

Cover the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook with lid slightly ajar, skimming foam and excess fat occasionally, for at least 8 but up to 24 hours on the stovetop. (Do not leave on stovetop unattended, just cool and continue simmering the next day.) The longer you simmer it, the better your broth will be. Add more water if necessary to ensure bones and vegetables are fully submerged.

Remove pot from heat and let cool slightly. Strain broth using a fine-mesh sieve and discard bones and vegetables. Let continue to cool until barely warm, then refrigerate in smaller containers overnight. Remove solidified fat from the top of the chilled broth.

You can freeze to continue the operation later on. Arf arf.  

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Hostess with the Mostes’


Pearle Mesta, the real Hostess

As part of the Encores! series at City Center, I saw Call Me Madam, a revival of the 1950 musical that starred the incomparable Ethel Merman.

I saw the original and, even as a young teen, recognized Merman’s talent, especially her ability to belt out a song and completely dominate the stage. This is a link to her –with Donald O’Connor in the 1953 movie– singing the counterpoint hit, You’re Just in Love https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LAijDQ2cIE

 In the original stage production the young attaché’s part was played by Russell Nype. The show’s music and lyrics were by Irving Berlin; George Abbott directed.

Madam was built around the doings of Pearle Mesta, Washington DC socialite, party-giver and Democratic fundraiser, who had been appointed as Ambassador to Lichtenstein. When the idea was first broached to Merman (who had no interest in politics) she reportedly said “who the hell is Pearle Mesta?”

This Encores! version has terrific choreography, great costumes that neatly summoned the 50s with ball gowns and fluffy skirts and, of course, that wonderful score with numbers like The Best Thing for you Would be Me, It’s a Lovely Day Today and even They Like Ike performed with panache by Adam Heller, Stanley Wayne Mathis and Brad Oscar, as two Representatives and a Congressman. There’s also a number set at the faux Mittle European “Lichtenstein” town fair complete with guys in lederhosen, girls in pseudo dirndls and ocarina music that’s a hoot. What the production lacks is Merman or a performer of her ilk like Tyne Dailey who handled the role in another revival. In this version, the lead is Carmen Cusack who looks great but can’t come close to matching Merman’s chops. The performance was fun but Merman’s oversize personality and great song styling gave the original a lot of pizzazz that’s missing.

Ocarina

Poodle Skirt

Ah the 50s, when no one was gluten-free, girls wore poodle skirts and spinning was something kids did to make themselves dizzy. (Of course there was also the Civil Rights movement, Cold War and a lot else.) Before nostalgia overtakes, here’s a recipe for something I actually served for h’ors d’oeuvres way back when:

Salmon Ball

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 Tbls. lemon juice

1 Tbls. horseradish (from a jar)

1 /4 tsp salt

Dash of liquid smoke (It came in a bottle and was likely a carcinogen. As a friend once said, “a bottle of this will last a marriage. Mine did. )

1 can of pink salmon

Mix it all together, trying not to wince, and shape into a ball. I vaguely recall rolling it in chopped nuts. Serve with Ritz crackers and a lot of alcohol (Did we drink wine then? I recall Scotch.) In fairness, the salmon ball tasted pretty good but what did I know?

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Land of Lavash, Chess and Christianity

Armenian Flag –bottom color is technically ‘apricot’

As a kid I was a very picky eater.  The adults around me inevitably urged me to clean my plate, saying that my uneaten breakfast/lunch/dinner would be sent to the starving Armenians.  I had no idea who these people were but they were welcome to the food.

Fast forward to the wonderful (and closing January 13th) exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, somewhat oddly titled Armenia! (note exclamation point). As Jason Farago, who reviewed it for the New York Times said, “It is not an exhibition that favors razzle-dazzle.” This is a link to Farago’s review: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/25/arts/design/armenia-exhibition-review-metropolitan-museum-of-art.html  I thought the artifacts deserved an A although the didactic material, hard to grapple with both because the exhibit is, of necessity, dark and also as it’s filled with unfamiliar words, was closer to C.

Reliquary said to contain part of the arm of St. Gregory’s last male relative

Prior to my museum jaunt my knowledge of Armenia was scant –I thought that the country was the home of Mount Ararat of Noah fame. In actuality, Ararat isn’t one peak but two and is located in eastern Turkey.  Armenia, the first Christian country, has a long, incredibly complex history and a language related to Greek and Iranian, spoken by 96% of the population. Chess is compulsory in Armenia schools and more Armenians live outside the country than in it.

Chess in school (Wall St. Journal)

Among many notable Armenians are painter Ashile Gorky, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof, tennis great Andre Agassi, and yes, the Kardashians.

A cursory search revealed that travel to Armenia is considered relatively safe although there are ongoing tensions with Turkey and Azerbaijan.  It’s not yet on my must-visit list but looks interesting with ancient churches, a deep history of wine-making, the world’s longest passenger ropeway, beautiful scenery, and much else.

What constitutes Armenian food depends on who you ask and where they live. Apparently Armenians outside of the country see things in a more global manner, hardly surprising.  The cuisine has a great similarity with that of Greece with an emphasis on eggplant, lamb, tomatoes, yoghurt and bread. This eggplant-centric dish looks delicious:

Armenian Eggplant Casserole

1 eggplant

4 tomatoes (in winter I’d substitute about 1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes)

1 green bell pepper, diced

14 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely minced

1 ½ tsp salt; fresh-ground black pepper

1 medium onion, sliced

1 12 teaspoons salt

¼ tsp basil, chives, parsley, tarragon, oregano (recipe sketchy here; use whichever you have on hand—adding two or three won’t hurt)

Sour cream (served in a dish alongside). According to several recipes, this is what makes the dish.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Peel and dice eggplant.

Heat oil in skillet; add onion, green pepper and eggplant stirring over low heat until eggplant is soft.

Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Add whatever herbs you are using and simmer a “few” minutes (I call this 7-10 or until nicely melded.)

Turn into casserole dish and bake at 325 degrees F for 40 minutes.

Serve hot or room temperature with sour cream on the side.

The most popular alcoholic beverage in Armenia is cognac which sounds a little much for the meal. Perhaps beer or wine of your choice—Armenia is said to produce some good reds.  Kenats’y (cheers rendered phonetically as the alphabet is entirely different.)

 

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Christmas Comes to Kathmandu

Returning to Kathmandu, Nepal, after two weeks of hiking in Bhutan, a friend and I enter the lobby of the five-star Hotel Regency Kathmandu.

In contrast to the rough-and-ready guest houses we’ve been staying at in Bhutan, this place screams sophisticated luxury: the bar area has upholstered sofas and chairs, soft rugs cover the floor, and a long table is stacked with newspapers from all over the globe. It’s twelve days before Christmas and the lobby is festooned with holiday decorations, including several oversized Christmas tree ornaments suspended from the ceiling and a display of gingerbread houses. Five chefs in sparkling white aprons and traditional French toques proudly parade around carrying fancy layer cakes.

All photos provided by the author

Western holiday cheer seems a little jarring in Kathmandu, especially as the hotel is within sight of the Boudhanath Stupa we visited before leaving for Bhutan. This stupa has a gilded dome and eyes painted to see in every direction. It is a major pilgrimage stop for Tibetan Buddhists. Regardless of when you visit, there will be people circling the stupa, sometimes stopping to pray and turn prayer wheels.

We were easing back into the softness of civilization, which came in sharp contrast to several of the guest houses we’d stayed at in Bhutan. One had repeated power failures, another often ran out of hot water at peak shower hour, and two offered a DIY approach to heating with wood stoves that the guest was expected to feed every twenty minutes to maintain a semblance of warmth in frigid rooms. We had a fascinating time, but one of the few things we missed was a pre-dinner cocktail. As drinking can increase the likelihood of altitude sickness, we had steered clear of alcohol during the trip as neither of us wanted to risk feeling ill.

Still, my friend and I had clandestine chats on our trip about martinis which we both enjoy. Now, on our way home, we can finally relax and indulge.

Approaching the bartender, we explain exactly what we want – two martinis, one straight up for her; the other on the rocks for me with olives all around. “Please use dry, not sweet, vermouth,” we add. The man nods and repeatedly assures us that he understands.

A full half-hour later, our drinks emerge. My friend’s looks as a martini should, although she notes that it has an odd taste, like very sweet licorice. I’m handed a large cocktail glass with a tall mound of pulverized ice and little straws sticking out at angles. I sip and taste mostly water with the tiniest hint of vodka.
“Exactly what you ordered,” my friend says, “a vodka slurpee!”

Just then we hear a roar and look up to see Santa zipping through the lobby on a motor scooter.

He circles the room three times before exiting to cheers. On the far side of the room, a largely Nepali group of guests bursts into Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree followed by Joy to the World, entirely recognizable, although the melodies and rhythms are slightly off. I check out the singers to see who’s participating: mostly parents and kids, including a few babies. The adults drink mulled wine and everyone seems to be having a great time. Teen girls fluff each others’ hair while showing off fancy dresses that could have come from an American mall.

Near the singers, a group of monks in traditional crimson and orange robes enjoy the music, tapping their sandaled feet to keep time.

I return to my friend and we burst into laughter. Forget the royal palaces in Durbar Square. Never mind the Boudhanath Stupa, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1979. We were experiencing the –slightly unreal— joys of Christmas in Kathmandu. For the moment, Namaste had given way to Old Saint Nick.

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Alike Yet So Different: German, American and British Cemeteries at Normandy

This was published November 9, 2018 on Go Nomad. The link will take you to the full article with photos.

France: A General’s Tour of D-Day Sites at Normandy

 

 

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Another French Chef

Jacques at Cooking School

Unlike Julia, this one is actually French, male and does his thing in Cancale, Brittany.  Jacques Antoine, a chef/sommelier at La Cuisine Corsaire, speaks excellent English, a good thing as his menu was fairly intricate. My foodie group had a great time watching his demo of Saint-Pierre Retour des Indes, basically, John Dory (the fish) with seasoning reminiscent of India, a recipe created in the 80s by master chef and spice dealer, Olivier Roellinger, the fish accompanied by a green apple and mango puree and a toss of green cabbage.  We sat next to the area where Jacques worked, marveling at the stove top, a flat induction surface that someone described as “cooking as playing air hockey”  as the top enables the chef to slide pans around. Jacques claims the surface—to date a strictly pro appliance–allows for greater control. I was also awe-struck by his filleting skills.

After Jacques cooked, he served the end result for a delicious lunch accompanied by an appropriate wine, (of course, it’s France.)

Lunch after the demo

A demo/lesson at the cooking school costs about $80 pp which may depend on the size of the group. Here is the link to the school (in French only): http://www.cuisine-corsaire.fr/

After lunch, we staggered across the street to Grain de Vanille, a patisserie, for dessert. I had a Florentine, while others opted for the Kouign-amann which was better in terms of more caramel at other patisseries sampled during the trip. Cancale, known for its oysters, is attractive: little streets and alleys; antique shops, some good, some filled with standard-issue thrift; a movie theater.  Behind the Roellinger spice shop, where every seed and powder is laid out as though on display in a high-end jewelry store, there’s a lovely little garden where I sat for a while for relief from the hot sun.

The day ended with a late afternoon sail in the Bay of Cancale. Jerome, the too-cool-for-school guy who sailed the boat also managed the food and drink while pointing out key islands. He handed out plastic glasses on ropes that go around the neck, and served a delicious, lethal cocktail of simple syrup flavored with vanilla, rum and cider.  To go with this, he set out containers of both duck and mackerel rillettes, bread, tiny shrimp, (you’re supposed to shell them but the crunch is delightful so I didn’t), and roasted pumpkin seeds.  The finale was oysters straight from the source, very salty and delicious with the bonus of throwing the shells overboard.  The oysters kept coming until we could eat no more.

Under sail in the bay

While we ate, sailed and watched the sunset, Mt. Saint Michel floated in the distance; up close was Poilane Island, a former fortress turned into a second home by the eponymous Parisian bread baking family whose son was killed in a helicopter crash. After the tragedy, the house was sold to someone who has revamped it in a sort of Japanese style. Huge and accessible only by boat, it’s probably wonderful but a little challenging to get to.

Apparently Brexit has had an anticipatory effect on British fishing for scallops in this bay which technically belongs to France. Some nasty encounters have taken place. Mon Dieu!

Personally, what I do with oysters is eat them. However, should you wish to, um, stir the pot, you could make Oyster Stew

Serves 4

2 Tbls. butter

1 clove minced garlic

2 minced shallots

½ cup dry sherry

24 freshly shucked oysters (reserve oyster liquor)

1 ½ c whole milk

1 ½ cup heavy cream

Sea salt

Garnish:

1 pinch Paprika

Oyster crackers

 

Stir butter and garlic in stockpot over medium heat until butter begins to brown. Remove garlic and discard.

Stir shallots into browned butter. Cook and stir until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

Pour sherry over shallots in the stockpot and bring to a boil while scraping any browned bits off of the bottom of the pot. Simmer until liquid is reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes.

Pour reserved oyster liquor, milk, and cream into the stockpot; bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in oysters; cook until oyster edges begin to ruffle, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir in parsley; season with sea salt to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with sweet paprika and oyster crackers.

Champagne anyone? Beer would work fine also.

 

 

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Egalité, Fraternité and…Butter!

Normandy and Brittany

“Walk in, waddle out” was how a woman I met on my trip to Normandy and Brittany put it, referring to how we often felt after a particularly wonderful meal.

Looking back, it’s hard to single out one spectacular food or dish. Would it be the oysters eaten on a sailboat off the coast of the Cancale peninsula near Mt. St. Michelle, shucked as fast as we downed them by Jerome,  the boat captain, an “I’m too sexy for myself’ type?  The pudding-textured fresh, young Camembert, ordered and very kindly shared at Coeur Verte, a family-run restaurant near Mont Dol in Brittany—the cheese the consistency of Greek yogurt with a taste like heaven.  But I’m omitting my pigeon at the same restaurant, served with the feet sticking over the edge of the dish (very chic, très French) and cooked

sexy legs

to perfection.  Also overlooked, the ubiquitous Kouign-amann, (pronounced “queeen amon”), a classic Breton pastry whose name comes from the Breton words for “butter” and “cake.”  It looks unpreposing but that caramelized top is TDF.  Let’s not overlook a particular Grand Marnier soufflé or the

Kougn amann, a butter-lover’s delight

tiny fish packed with bits of pimenton we ate as part of a semi-impromptu picnic, as well as every really good croissant that was often part of a breakfast that might also include a special quiche and homemade preserves.

Lest this sounds like all I did was eat, I also climbed the three hundred fifty steps to the top of Mt. Sainte

Mt. Sainte Michelle

Michelle as well as the 17th century bell tower in Batz-sur-Mur complete with narrow, winding steps and a dubious rope handrail, walked around the Normany beaches and the Guerande salt marshes where the famous Fleur de Sel is produced, and hiked through various parks and around lakes.

At home I think of butter as something I occasionally use on bread and often cook with. In this part of France where La Brun, French Simmental and Jersey cows graze the fields, butter is a religion.  It has a totally different taste from American butter and I often ate more (delicious) bread then I’d planned simply to have a platform for the butter.  And why not?

Although I did not eat this lovely sandwich on this trip, I’ve enjoyed it many other times. It’s easy and looks as good as it tastes. If you can get French butter, by all means do so. Ditto something close to a real baguette.

Radish and Butter Sandwich

This makes enough for two servings as a nice hors d’oeuvre.

 2 tsp. unsalted cultured butter.  (The recipe suggests Plugra although real French butter has it beat every way)

14 tsp. sea salt (Fleur de Sel would be good)

2 slices baguette, cut on the bias (see picture)

2 large radishes, scrubbed clean and sliced into 18” rounds

Fresh ground black pepper

In a small bowl, with a small spatula blend together butter and salt until butter is soft and airy. Spread baguette slices with butter, arrange radish slices on top, and finish with a grind or two of pepper.

And of course you’ll eat this with a glass of good (preferably French) white wine.  Á votre sainté! Vive la France!

 

 

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Pack It In

Eiffel Tower at night seen from The Esplanade du Trocadero

Digressing big time…bear with me. I’m packing for two glorious-sounding weeks in Normandy and Brittany with a quickie three-day stop in Paris at the end. For someone who travels a fair amount, I should be used to packing, right? But I’m not. I insist on traveling with a very small suitcase, small enough to carry-on should the airline gods smile on me, and a backpack. After all, I’m responsible for toting my goods wherever I am. True, Vogue will not have its eye on me as a candidate for travel chic but I doubt if that was the editors’ plan anyway.

Lipault suitcase that weighs little and holds, well, enough

I realize my fear of packing is sparked by not having something I feel I should have brought. This is entirely ridiculous when going to France, not so much when I went to Bhutan last fall. But I like my own, broken-in clothes; even more, I like, make that insist on, shoes I can walk reasonably comfortably in. This is more of a problem than it may seem because I have narrow feet, a high instep and absolutely no fat pad on the bottoms. I’ve had this problem since I was in my twenties so it’s not strictly age-related. Recently I consulted a podiatrist who sent me off for OTC insoles which I dutifully bought. Of course, even cut down they don’t fit in most of my shoes… Anyone else out there with shoe problems will sympathize but with our country in such disarray and the climate situation, this is pretty small potatoes.

I’ve read or watched endless articles/videos on how to pack—roll or fold seems to be the biggest area of contention with fold winning (although I bet the companies that make packing cubes don’t agree.) My problem is acerbated a bit as I was married to a champion packer who returned home from every trip, be it a month in Asia or a week in Maine, with every single item of clothing clean and folded.  To no avail I pointed out that we had a washer and dryer but gave up. His suitcase was a neatness manual; mine he referred to as “the soup.”

Then there was the time I returned from a trip with my first husband, entering the US through Miami.  We were lined up to go through a customs line behind a Menonite family followed by two guy backpackers. The inspector donned latex gloves and carefully scrutinized the family’s belongings.  All clear.  Next she addressed the backpacks, trying not to wrinkle her nose at what must have been ripe belongings. Their stuff was also fine. Then I put my suitcase on the counter, she opened it and…out jumped the largest bug I’ve ever seen—several inches long, just missing the inspector’s nose. She went through my husband’s bag with care probably looking for the mate but only I was, um, carrying.

If anyone has packing strategies, I encourage you to share them. Meanwhile, I need to figure out my electronic cords and connectors and leave a piece of cooked chicken for my cat.

Fuji, 16 +

DYI Trail Mix

Excellent for on the road anywhere at any time. ½ cup of this sweet and salty mix is only 146 calories.

1/2 cup unsalted mixed nuts

2 1/2 cups multigrain toasted oat cereal

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup M&M’s

1 cup mini pretzel twists

1 cup whole-grain cheddar Goldfish crackers

Mix ingredients together. Portion into ½ cup plastic bags. Serve with the warmish water in your travel bottle.  And happy trails.

 

 

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