Farmers’ Markette

In Hudson NY, the farmers’ market has been indoors for 2 weeks. Lick, an ice cream shoppe in summer, is hosting a tiny farmers market outpost as well. Last night feasted on lamb chops from Pigasso Farms in copake; roasted fresh beets with feta; and a loaf of ciabatta from Loaf. It’s 2 degrees out today, so glad we shopped yesterday!

More post-party meals

A weeks worth of meals made up of post brunch-party leftovers. Turns out one of my favorite dishes, Israeli couscous and eggplant salad, which is rich especially after I add some mint-infused oil, pairs quite nicely with the acidity of fresh meatballs in tomato sauce. Then some gourmet grilled cheese with a mixture from cheese plate leftovers on sourdough, refrigerator soup livened with the rinds from the aged gouda, and that frankly mediocre champagne-based salad dressing got us through the whole week. And the bottled party gifts just keep on giving. Lovely start to the new year!

Day Old Champagne

Day old champagne is about as appealing as. .. it sounds. But despair not; the carbonation may slowly fade, but the good cheer doesn’t need to. We had our annual new years day party, and were left with several open but half-consumed bottles of bubbly, and I have a few pleasant plans for the remains.

  • Cocktails.  Less than fresh champagne is revived by liquid company.  If you have succumbed, as have I, to a beautiful bottle of St. Germain elderflower liqueur try 1/4 shot of fresh lemon juice, 1 shot elderflower liqueur, top it off with champagne. Might as well serve it in a flute because they’re still out anyway.
  • Salad dressing.  We’ve all seen recipes for champagne vinaigrette ( here’s one example at epicurious) so one option is to make vinegar out of your left-over champagne (sort of like lemonade out of lemons.  . .).  Apparently, folks have taken sides regarding the wisdom of homemade champagne vinegar (of course they have. . .).  Martha says go for it with an unusually simple approach; others go hard-core artisinal, others seem to caution against it all together pouting that homemade just doesn’t have the acidity of the properly prepared stuff.  All I can say is that I’m going to give the old champagne vinaigrette a go without wading into the vinegar wars. Will report back.
  • Dinner.   Champagne does not need all of its bubbles to be a terrific addition to cream sauce for chicken, serving as a de-glazer and flavor-enhancer.  Try it with scallops, chicken, shrimp.
  • Late advice.  Should have posted this two days ago, but my mother, champagne-lover extraordinaire, has always insisted that if you put a silver spoon into the mouth of an opened champagne bottle, handle first, it will help keep the champagne fizzy. So note to self next year, you may not have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but.. . .

Holiday Food Regifting

I’m not talking about fruitcake – those jokes are too numerous to repeat. I’m talking about the third tin of candycane bark from a reputable company. One household can only consume so much candycane bark; no shame in passing on the love, especially if you are travelling to someone else’s place for the holidays. A sealed food gift can be a great in person gift. It doesn’t have to be consumed in front of the giver (if you can regift, so can they after all); it doesn’t mess with their menu plans; it travels well; and it isn’t going to waste collecting dust in your pantry. When my parents get three high-end mail-order cakes as holiday gifts, I say great, I don’t need to make dessert on Christmas.

Hotel Breakfasts: After Coffee

So some people need more than coffee to start their day. Or so I hear. Although some of my most magical meals out have been breakfasts (a recent morning at a Cafe on the Place des Vosges in Paris, with perfect cafe au lait, perfect baguette tartine, perfect butter. . . However, when traveling it’s often more economical and easier to get a move on if breakfast happens before you go out the door.  If your hotel room has a fridge, lots of options open up: yogurts, cereal, etc.  If you’re traveling with kids, those fun-pack bad-for-you cereals are still a blast – and you just cut open the box and add milk: no bowl needed! Eating cereal, on a  bed, while watching cartoons – now that’s vacation!

Hotel Breakfasts: Coffee

Fist, I should acknowledge, that for me, coffee is an essential part of breakfast.  It kind of is breakfast, actually.  Hotel breakfasts are not why we stay in hotels.  They’re usually overpriced and uninteresting, or included and uninteresting, and most criminally, typically involve appearing in front of strangers.  I find these options unacceptable.  And usually, no matter what hotel breakfast option you take the coffee is just not ok. Even if there’s a Starbucks bar in the lobby, it’s always manned by a barrista who doesn’t really understand foam. However, you can manage to have a decent cup of Joe before facing the world even when you need a card key to get into your own bedroom. First of all, almost all hotel rooms now come standard with a small coffeemaker, and pre-filled pouches of coffee.  They usually make bad coffee (at least the ones at my hotels do – but then I don’t stay at the places with the Wolfgang Puck option. If you do, brew away!).  But when they do, that’s because they use bad coffee.  Mimi tip: When you book your hotel, ask two questions.  1) if they have an in-room coffee-maker, what kind. and 2) will there be a mim-refrigerator in the room.  Even if you’ve travelled 3,000 miles to your hotel destination, you can surely squeeze in a double zip-locked baggie of your favorite ground coffee. If you have a standard issue coffee maker, replace the coffee in the pouches with your own, and you’re already starting to cook with steam. If your room has the kind of coffeemaker that takes pods, you can come equipped with ones you like. A small container of milk at the local Stewart’s, Bodega, market, whatever, and you’ve now avoided that strange powdered creamer option.  Even if there is no refrigeration, there are small containers of milk that can stay on the shelf just fine while closed (Horizon and Organic Valley make them, and they’re organic!). So, rather than gulping down the hotel room coffee like a stiff drink, you can brew something you’ll enjoy drinking before you step out into the real world.

Greetings and post-prandial reflections

Welcome to my blog about eating and cooking away from home.  The week after our national celebration of nostalgic food consumption seemed like a good time to start my musings on what food means to us.  When I took my first trip abroad, in addition to sensible sandals and appropriate airplane attire (I date myself), my mom packed peanut butter.  Now, it should be said that my mom is an excellent cook from whom I take my mediterranean kitchen default settings, but my mom also loves her peanut butter (and chunky please; don’t even mention that other kind).  Peanut butter packed, mom could be sure nothing bad could happen; no amount of truculent children (I am not an only child dear readers), missed turns, uncooperative weather, or other travelers’ challenges could conquer the power of peanut butter.  That trip did not involve cooking, so the peanut butter was not for the last-minute peanut noodle recipe, or stir-in to up the protein ante in a banana bread, no, that peanut butter was going to be eaten with a spoon. Out of the jar. With gratitude. Just as when you scooped up that last bite of stuffing and gravy you were not so much eating as feeding the need for that taste.

When we are away from home, food changes from being the regular thrice-daily comfort of our bodies and soul, to something much less reliable.  In foreign places unknown foods can make us long for tastes from home we didn’t even realize we liked.  When in a vacation rental, making food that is up to snuff, without recreating our own pantry, can result in too many trips to the overpriced local shops.  Holidays on the road are exciting, but often still need to have a taste of home.  Combining local flavor, with a taste of home, and returning home without excess spending or waste – these are some of my food-related travel goals.  I do not pack peanut butter, but she has been known to stash a batch of homemade pesto into her weekend bag.  Now that I typically travel with at least one child in tow, the combination of food both exotic and familiar takes on a new dimension.  Mimi hopes to share with you how to make eating and cooking when away from home fun, easy, and fulfilling. I’d love to hear how you accomplish that too.

This thanksgiving, I did what I have for a few years now: eaten two, yes two, thanksgiving dinners in the one day.  I bring a dish; a divine version (if I do say so myself) of baked sweet potatoes that does not skimp on the bourbon. It cooks up quickly before I leave; is still warm for the midday meal; and does not suffer for the reheating in the evening. When traveling with a dish, pick one that improves by sitting in its own flavors a while.  It tastes like home. And tonight, leftovers will be pureed to give fish a sweet but sturdy backbone.