Happy new year!
One of the many things I love about France is that you have the entirety of January to wish people a happy new year. And so, first things first – bonne année! May 2017 bring you good health, happiness, delicious meals with the people you love, and a few travel adventures, too. Here's to a brand new start!
I know, I know – it has been a while since my last newsletter, but I have a good excuse: I spent the last few months completely immersed in writing a new book, and I am delighted to report that I have finally finished it! Hurrah! It's a novel set in France, with elements of wine and World War II, and writing it was one of the most intense experiences of my working life. Superstition prevents me from saying more, but I will keep you posted on news as it happens.
Writing a book is a strange experience. I spent the past year cooking survival food (soup and pasta), and carrying scraps of paper with me so I could scribble bits of dialogue at any moment (usually on the subway). Now that I am free again, I'm excited to resume blogging, as well as this monthly newsletter, which features my latest restaurant, book, and recipe tips. I'd love to hear from you, too! What are you looking forward to this year?
Where I've been eating
Orange County, CA
As a proud Southern California native, I always look forward to my annual trip home for the holidays. This year was exceptionally delicious thanks to an unending taco spree, made possible by this fantastic OC Weekly article, The Only Taco Guide to Orange County You'll Ever Need, and the indulgence of my parents, who submitted to four taco meals in a row. My favorites were the barbacoa tacos from Mi Lindo Michoacán in Anaheim – a wedge of tender beef, braised in a subtly spicy sauce, rolled into exquisitely delicate handmade corn tortillas (I'm half weeping, half drooling as I write this). The chicken mole is also outstanding – a balance of bitter, sweet, and spice – as are the refried beans, the sopes, the tacos al pastor... I could go on and on. Please eat here; you won't regret it.
I enjoyed a delightful dinner at Fulgurances with friends Elizabeth and David (who wrote beautifully of our meal, prepared by chef Tamir Nahmias, on his blog). But the real charm of this experimental restaurant is that it actually changes chefs every three to four months. Fulgurances describes itself as "an incubator," welcoming young professionals – usually sous chefs – to take over their kitchen, refine their culinary expression, and gain management experience before embarking on their own establishment. It's a fun and worthy project, and I can't wait to check out the food of current guest chef, Sam Miller, when I'm in Paris next month. (Photo @fulgurances on Instagram.)
New York City
By this point, I'm sure you've heard of "hygge," the Danish concept of coziness/ curmudgeonliness that has become a recent American obsession (thanks, in part, to this article). But what better way to celebrate Danish culture than with a trip to the new Great Northern Food Hall in Grand Central station? Sweeping across the grand Vanderbilt corridor, this beautiful Nordic food court offers the best of Scandinavia, with clean design lines, and an array of Danish treats, from cinnamon-cardamom buns, to fresh coffee, to open-face sandwiches adorned with smoked salmon, pickled herring, or beef tartare (to name a few). Standouts for me were the Grain Bar, which serves porridge throughout the day (note: it's called grød in Danish, and considered very hygge) – where I enjoyed a savory version of chicken, chervil, and sautéed cabbage, perfumed with a funky Danish cheese – in truth, it was more like a grain risotto than a soupy porridge, but delicious all the same – and I also love the bakery, which offers outstanding loaves of seeded rye bread, dark, dense, and delicious.
What I've been reading
The Tumbling Turner Sisters by my friend Juliette Fay was one of my favorite books of last year, a rollicking tale of four sisters who hit the 1919 vaudeville stage with their acrobatic show. The characters are lovable and spunky, and their tale will keep you turning the pages. I loved this book so much, I wrote about it on my blog, and included a recipe for a modern Singapore Sling.
Another fun book – for the grade schooler in your life (or the perpetually young at heart) – Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague is a time travel tale with a social justice twist, a lovely, heartfelt story about doing the right thing (even if no one else will).
Make your own Danish dark rye bread (aka rugbrød), or just read about it in this terrific article from New York Times Food.
Every author dreams of getting reviewed (positively) by the New York Times Book Review. This article provides an insider's look at how the sausage is made.
Do you have a Cuisinart? The company recently announced a major recall that includes machines from twenty years ago (including mine!). Apparently there have been reports of the blade shattering and causing mouth lacerations (yikes, yikes, YIKES!). Check your model here.
I spend a lot of time contemplating parenthood, work, and ambition. This series from the Atlantic admirably examines the issues from many different angles. Fascinating.
You know what sounds fun? A six-day tour in Umbria exploring goat farms, majolica pottery workshops, and olive oil presses with gastronome extraordinaire, Elizabeth Minchilli! Imagine the wine, cheese, cured meats, pasta... Learn more here.
What I've been writing
I volunteered at the Champagne harvest, and experienced rain, stained fingernails, soaked trousers, and ghosts – you know, a gold mine of material. [New York Times Travel]
I enjoyed discovering Balter, a new restaurant on St Croix in the US Virgin Islands that blends Caribbean and colonial influences. I'm still thinking about Chef Digby Stridiron's kallaloo, a stew of braised greens, pork, and crab, served over a soft cornmeal porridge. [New York Times Travel]
A trip to Sedona, Arizona seems particularly appealing for 2017. [New York Times Travel, #33]
I am forever fascinated by the French frozen food chain, Picard. [The Kitchn]
The creator of the Guinness World Record's "largest gingerbread village" reveals his best gingerbread house building tips. [The Kitchn]
As we hunker through the dark days of winter, nothing seems more hygge (sorry I can't stop) than an afternoon tea party – and these recipes are some of my favorites. Turn on a marathon of the Great British Bakeoff, crank up the oven, and put the kettle on!
Victoria sponge sandwich cake, cucumber sandwiches
Savory puffs filled with lemon-thyme goat cheese
The best British-style currant scones
Thanks for reading, and see you in February!