Sharing inspiration, interiors, art, food and culture

Monday, December 29, 2014


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Saturday, August 24, 2013

late summer brunch





Late August in Vermont brings a mix of emotions underscored by new weather patterns.  The early mornings and late evenings begin to have a crisp nip to them and just as fear of the "w" word starts to creep in the late mornings and afternoons slip back into warm dreamy summer days.  The blue trumpet morning glories on my backyard fence have finally made their majestic appearance and to dine next to them is sublime. These are the times when I want to grab hold of the late summer harvest and make the most of easy alfresco meals. Beautiful small yellow Shiro and red Santa Rosa plum varieties from Scott Farm have been bountifully displayed at our local farmers market and I was seduced.  I purchased a pint of each and dreamed about a plum galette.

This morning I awoke to a desire for coffee 'out' and drove to a nearby coffee shop, not for the coffee or the food, both are less than mediocre, but the space is a dream, the perfect blend of Paris meets Vermont European architecture in a small French settled former mill town.  After arriving and taking in the glory of the space, I imagined, for the one hundredth time, how amazing it could be if only it were mine. I took one look at the reality, a teenage barista barely trained in the art of espresso and a meager offering of flat muffins and unrecognizable items wrapped in too much plastic, and turned on my heals and headed back home to make the food that I really wanted. 

As soon as I arrived in my warm sun-filled kitchen I put on some music and busied myself with a rustic plum galette, a variation on Martha Stewart's version I like to experiment with a mix of whole grain flours to create a hearty and a tad bit crumbly pastry dough. I also tend to like my sweets less sweet, especially when it's a breakfast pastry.  I very rarely use sugar in any of my pies, tarts or galettes, allowing the natural sugars in the fruits to present front and center. When I do add a sweetener, I use honey, maple syrup or a variety of raw sugars.  Usually a small addition of cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg is all that's needed to marry with the fruit and the flavors live happily ever after.  Using fresh local organic ingredients is a blessing and intensifies the flavor and nutrients for all my recipes. I use freshly milled flours, local eggs, butter, milk and fruits in season.  That aside, I'm mostly drawn by visual color when curating any meal and strive for a beautiful balance of nutrients and presentation.  Feed the body, feed the artist's soul.

I have an egg in some form most days and I knew instantly that a coddled herbed egg would pair nicely with a warm slice of plum galette. Coddled eggs may at first seem too labor intensive to make for any occasion but they are truly quite simple and like a one dish casserole.  Have some good porcelain ramekins on hand along with some fresh herbs of your choice and a good aged cheddar and with your galette in the oven you're half-way to brunch.  Add the eggs to the oven for the last 18 -20 mins of the galette's baking time and you'll be freed up to make the espresso.

I'm a would-be barista, there is a barista class in my future, and I constantly research for the best, inexpensive machines to have at home.  The latest find and prospective purchase is the ROK espresso machine.  It is a perfect fit for me because it is almost completely operated on human energy, is made of stainless steel and fits an environmentally friendly lifestyle while offering another form of exercise in the morning! I encourage you to watch the demo video, if for nothing else but to listen to the inventor talk in his lovely British accent.  Possibly even more important than the brew for me is the cup in which it is served.  I love my Apilco porcelain latte bowls and use them every morning.  The way the bowl fits and feels in my hands is form meets function.  Simple elegant pleasures in the comfort of my own home. I'd rather invest in these $20 each bowls than to have a month's worth of 'to go' coffee.  I also am not a gadget cook, in fact, the simpler used and rustic tools, the better.  I feel more at ease with a fork instead of a food-processor, maybe because it recalls warm memories of making pies with my mom in our 70's kitchen, she showing me how to make a well in the center of the flour and then pouring in the iced-water and gradually blending with a fork until the dough comes together.  I am a 21st century cook, however, and I do own and use a food processor to save time with my full schedule.

With the smells of fresh brewed espresso melding with the buttery plum galette in it's last moments in the oven, I set up a lovely outdoor table next to the morning glories, then pulled the coddled eggs et all from the oven.  Maybe someday I'll serve this brunch menu in my beautiful Parisienne cafe atop that mill town hill.

Plum Gallette Recipe:
rustic plum galette, based on this recipe from martha stewart
serves 8
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup buckwheat flour + 2 tbsp
1 cup cold earth balance margarine, cut into pieces
4 tbsp + 1 tsp organic cane sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cardamom
nutmeg for dusting
1/2 cup ice water
1/4 cup raw almonds
5 or 6 fresh, local plums
1 tbsp almond milk - See more at: http://cupcakesandkale.blogspot.com/2011/09/plum-galette.html#sthash.endGlUPm.dpuf

1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c buckwheat flour + 2 TBS
1/2 c white flour
1 c unsalted pasture butter, cold and cut into 1/4 in. pieces
1 tsp sea salt (sel de Guerande)
1/2 c iced water
8-10 small yellow and red local plums
2 TBS raw honey, maple syrup, agave or raw sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 TBS heavy cream
*optional fresh basil or thyme
Serves 8

Combine flours and salt in a food processor or bowl and pulse or mix with fork, add the butter pieces and pulse or mix with fork until the mixture resembles course meal.  Add 1/4 c of the iced water and mix until dough just comes together, add more water as needed until dough is crumbly but comes together if you pinch with your fingers.  Form dough in to a ball, handling as little as possible, and refrigerate for one hour or you can roll it out on a flour dusted surface now.  If I'm in a hurry and don't have time to chill the dough for long, I roll it out to 1/8 in. thickness and place it on a baking sheet and refrigerate while preparing the fruit.



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Wash and dry the plums and cut in to quarters.  Assemble on pastry dough in a circular or free form pattern, sprinkle with cinammon, cardamom and nutmeg and drizzle with the natural sweetener of your choice.  Fold the corners of the dough in toward the center of the galette, turning the baking sheet clockwise as you fold to make an easy spiral fold.  Brush the crust with a bit of cream or not and sprinkle with a light dusting of raw sugar if you like. 



Bake on rack in top third of your oven for approximately 45 mins or until golden brown and the fruit is bubbly.  Remove and cool on rack for 10 mins before transferring to a serving plate.  Optional garnish with fresh herbs, basil or thyme.



rustic plum galette, based on this recipe from martha stewart
serves 8
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup buckwheat flour + 2 tbsp
1 cup cold earth balance margarine, cut into pieces
4 tbsp + 1 tsp organic cane sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cardamom
nutmeg for dusting
1/2 cup ice water
1/4 cup raw almonds
5 or 6 fresh, local plums
1 tbsp almond milk - See more at: http://cupcakesandkale.blogspot.com/2011/09/plum-galette.html#sthash.endGlUPm.dpuf
 Herb Coddled Eggs Recipe:

Cultured pasture butter, salted / 1/2 tsp per ramekin
8 Medium eggs (local and organic if possible)
Cream (local and organic if possible)
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper corns
Aged cow or goat cheddar / organic and local if possible
Fresh herbs / oregano, thyme, basil
Boiling water
lemon zest
Serves 4
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Butter the inside base and walls of four 2 1/2" ramekins and place in a 2" deep baking dish. Place 1/2 tsp of butter in each ramekin, crack two eggs into each and top with shaved cheddar slices, 1/2 tsp cream, the herbs and salt and pepper to season. Cover each ramekin tightly with tin foil.  Pour boiling water into the baking dish to cover half of the height of the ramekins.  Bake for 18 - 22 mins until whites are set and yolks are soft but not runny.  Sprinkle with lemon zest and additional chunky sea salt to taste.






 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Vergennes Laundry


Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  Maybe it's because I wake up and have a clean slate, a new day dawning with new beginnings and possibilities to dream over coffee.   My little city of Burlington has a good selection of breakfast cafes featuring locally sourced farm to table menus and delightful interiors however it's not uncommon to have an hour or more wait to be seated.   When I don't feel like joining the line I hop into my car and head to Vergennes, a sleepy little gem of a town 25 miles south.  Some people think I'm crazy for driving so far to go to breakfast but if Texans drive two hours to go to a barbecue then I'm doing fine.  My friend Lee , a somewhat recent transplant from Santa Barbara, asked me ' if you want to get out of Burlington why would you go to an even smaller town in VT?  Are there any men there?'  I couldn't admit to her that quite possibly my attraction to a pristine case full of exquisite pastries may render me useless to notice an attractive man.  I wouldn't travel that far unless I knew that on the other side of that drive was something worth the time and gas.  That something is Vergennes Laundry.

After the 30 min drive through the bucolic countryside, where my mind has had a chance to relax and be in the moment with the scenery, I arrive.  I see the tall steamy windows of the pure white 18th century building and glimpse the foggy images of those already inside buzzing with weekend community.  I enter and smell the wood-fired oven, fresh baked European style french country bread (levain) and roasted espresso.  The atmosphere is communal with three long blond wood tables end to end with benches and chairs so the chances of striking up a conversation with your neighbor are built in and natural, breaking bread with strangers and making new friends.  The interior is contemporary rustic with views of the wood-fired oven and baking as performance art.  The owner and baker in her denim bib overalls and white apron lithely moves from counter to fire wielding wooden paddles and yielding trays of pastries.  The thing I love most about this bakery/cafe is that the food is simple, rustic yet elegant and made with the finest ingredients so that the flavors stand on their own even though beauty in presentation still plays a role.




 The daily menu is handwritten on a brown craft paper roll cascading down the wall behind the counter next to a chalkboard featuring the espresso selections.   I order the granola, grapefruit, yogurt tray and I see featured 'this just in, Mirabelle (little yellow plum) jam from France!' so I add the baguette with butter and jam to my order.   The granola also has been baked in a wood-fired oven and is chock full of flavor with roasted hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts and just the right touch of natural sweetener, served with plain greek yogurt and a demi-pot of local honey it's the perfect starter.   After spending a month last summer in Paris and drinking the most delicious espresso every day I can say with pleasure that I have finally found a real European latte in VT!!  The owner-cum-barista artfully prepares the dark delicous steamy brew in a traditional French Apilco porcelain latte bowl with a heart that never ceases to please.  The baguette is beyond perfection with a crusty exterior that yields a soft tangy earthy interior with a blend of flours and for certain some secret francais.  Top that with Vermont cultured butter, using a traditional French Laguiole butter knife, and imported Mirabelle jam from France, made from lovely yellow plums, and I can guarantee that you have glimpsed heaven on earth. 




A view of the wood-fired oven is accessible from any vantage point in the cafe and it warms the heart and peaks my curiosity waiting for each delectable item to arrive in the display case.  Among the morning regulars are butter and savory meat croissants, pain au chocolat, a fruit galette, and pain au raisins.  If you are looking to prolong the experience take home with you a box of dark cocoa dusted truffles or a dozen chocolate sables cookies to cheer you up after dinner.  The latter of which inspired me to find a recipe and try them out myself , a close second when I don't have time to make the trek.  On my list for my next visit is the lunch menu for a roasted vegetable tart and for dessert le financier, a small French almond  ( and here I mean ground almond flour, yum) and honey tea cake and the petit pot a l'absinthe with candied kumquat (what?!), amen.  What I really want to do is spend the day and  start with breakfast and stay through lunch and dessert.  I may have to break it up with a walk around the town square as picturesque as any small Parisian park.  Who knows I might even see un homme or two.



Vergennes Laundry on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Heart of the Matter





I think there is such a thing as design overload, design junkie, design noise.  As I check myself on this topic I fall into several traps.  I love to spend hours pouring over design magazines, interiors mostly, blogs, websites, etc.  Design* Sponge, Apartment Therapy, Pinterest, Etsy, NotCot, Lookwork, are all sources of continual inspiration, the possibilities are endless.  However, I've noticed that the more I submerge myself in this sea of design 'experts' the less I actually create.  It's like anything else 'out there', there is a lot of noise, some gems and a few icons worth noting but hours lost in weeding through them.  I'm creating virtual visual mood boards, fun, fun, fun but to what end?  Where does the addiction stop and the creativity begin?  I do not work in the design industry so there is no direct application or result of my 'research'.  I only have my small living space to design, again and again.  This leaves me feeling inadequate most of the time.   I see a new great 'space' on Design*Sponge and I experience the thrill of the new and then instantly the deflation of my own space now not as creative, cool, hip, "Design*Sponge worthy". 
 It's the old 'keeping up with the Jones's' syndrome and my pocketbook, time and energy simply can't keep up. 


Our living spaces have a certain sustainability in real life.  Our living rooms and bedrooms are not pages in a magazine or posts on a blog, really.   The beauty of our homes is in the familiarity, family heirlooms, pieces we've acquired over the years, each with a story or day spent with someone or no one in pursuit of the perfect credenza.  I can spend time moving objects, rearranging and renewing my space with the mood or the season, small changes most often.  The heart of the 'matter' is in the every day rhythms and rituals that take place in our homes and the people and animals we share our lives with.  The aroma of freshly ground coffee beans, the sound of the water from the kettle pouring into the french press and the thwump, thwump of the milk frother to the final pillowy pour into the cafe au lait bowl, ah, heaven.  The fullness of the pantry after a shop at the market, featuring a bouquet of yellow and orange carrots. Opening the blinds and shutters to each new dawn and closing them as we settle in to our beds to snuggle up with a book.  Tending the plants and animals.  I spent hours on Etsy and Ebay this weekend looking for the perfect kilim pillow to lend some color to my otherwise fairly neutral palette.  I saw 1,522 and couldn't settle on one but did narrow it down to a dozen in my cart.  Do I really want a kilim pillow or have I just seen the trend and feel that I must have one?  Getting back to basics is what is required, the heart.  What do I have a sincere response to?, what do I really like?, what inspires me? and watch for the second guessing if I'm getting it 'right'.    Real creatives don't follow, they set the tone.  Time to unplug and reconnect with my heart where the real satisfaction can be found.