Qu'est-ce que c'est le "Bellybar"?! Got a hankering for dill pickles and peanut butter? Or does the mere scent of a saltine send you running for the door? Well hold on to your breast pump, help has arrived... Click here to find out how!
What does an award-winning Italian chef make for his Christmas dinner at home? Why French consomme, of course! When I left for cooking school almost 3 years ago, I sold most everything - car, furniture, etc. - and gave up/away what was left including my apartment so whenever I come back to visit, I stay with my good friends M & B. I used to work with M at a Huge Software Company down on the Peninsula and B is the award-winning chef/owner Bruno Quercini of Pane e Vino Trattoria on Union & Gough. Needless to say I eat very well when I come home. Click here to read more about the extraordinary cuisine of one of San Francisco's finest...
self portrait, december 12th, 2005 2:15am, procrastinating packing....
Thank you all so much for your many kind emails of empathy, sympathy, and offers to try to fix my laptop. From what I can tell I lost most everything for the past 8 months, May 30, 2005 to be exact and that is the same day I installed AOL on my computer. I hope it is merely a coincidence as I don’t need another reason to add to my intense dislike of AOL.
It is also day I moved into Chateau d’Enfer (Chateau from Hell), that uber-swanky chateau I cooked at last summer that surreally (is that a word?) morphed into Amityville Horror only the evil ghosts were the proprietress and her sleazy sidekick. I mentioned it a bit last summer but the experience was just too dreadful to write about but hopefully now I can begin to tell the story, unravel the threads of this enigma without sending my blood pressure skyrocketing and me screaming to the therapist’s couch. But I digress...
Back to my Laptop d’Enfer. If you sent me an email in the past year, it’s gone, adios, sayonora, along with all my contacts and my calendar which that alone has sent me into a tailspin missing appointments, deadlines, etc a la gauche et droite (left and right). So if you have sent me an email or we have a lunch date, would you pleeeeeze resend me your email or remind me of an upcoming evenement (date) because if you don’t, guaranteed I won’t be there. Once I leaped into my 5th decade, the ol’ grey matter turned to a sieve and is cyphoning memory cells by the billions.
So my Laptop d’Enfer is in the (hopefully) capable hands of the Gateway elves who are (hopefully) rescuing my bits and bytes as I type. We shall see…… Until then, bare with me here on the other side of the world. Losing my laptop is like losing an appendage as I was glued to it. An acquaintance of mine took a picture of her husband’s laptop, wrote “The Other Woman” across the top of the picture, and stuck it on the fridge. Kind of like that....
I am typing this on the Eurostar (aka the Chunnel), slicing my way through the Normandy countryside after a day in London. Since moving here, I quickly grew to love the train system and would hop on a train over a plane any day. Heck, I would take a bike if I could avoid Charles de Gaulle airport, the most dreadful airport in a first-world country. Sorry, but I really despise that airport. It reminds me of the Habitrail I had for my hamster in 6th grade with all the tubes and ramps and wheels. Sorry, back to London.
I stayed at the Cumberland Hotel across from Marble Arch. I found it at the last minute on the Eurostar web site for £99 which has to be the best deal in uber-cher (expensive) London. The Cumberland was recently renovated and the lobby is more Museum of Modern Art than Hotel Lobby and the rooms were surprisingly comfortable, practical, roomy and chic. I straggled in late and exhausted so a quick call to room service for an also surprisingly good Caeser’s Salad and I called it a day.
You’re probably thinking “what does this have to do with the title?” Absolutely nothing. Laser focus is not my strong suit and am distracted by most anything. Undiagnosed A.D.D. no doubt. The title refers to my experience at Heathrow airport last week. I flew from San Francisco to London Heathrow and then was to connect to Paris. Our plane from SF parked at Heathrow's Terminal 3 and I had to transfer to Terminal 1 which required a near-2 mile hike then a bus ride across the airport dodging 767s, gas trucks, luggage trains, etc. I arrived at Terminal 1 after throwing out my back trying to yank my overstuffed carry-on onto the transfer bus. After clearing passport control and another ½ mile hike I filed in to the snaking security line.
I had a 3-1/2 hour layover and wanted nothing more than to collapse into a big overstuffed armchair in the red carpet lounge and have someone ask me if I’d like something to drink. It was not to be. When I reached the conveyor belt, I reached for my laptop.............and nothing. Check purse. Nothing. Check carry-on again. Nothing. OH. MY. GOD. WHERE WAS MY LAPTOP?!?!? OH MY GOD I LEFT IT ON THE PLANE!!! I FREAKED OUT! In a panic, I knocked over my carry-on that had a 6-inch file stuffed with scraps of recipes and food articles from the past 4 years. Papers scattered everywhere, followed by my leopard print bra, and bottles of wine and olive oil went rolling off through the metal detector. I burst into tears, mortified, and a barrage of profanity ensued that made even the cranky security guard's eyes big as saucers.
They practically carried me through security and I threw myself on the mercy of the United customer service agent, tears streaming down my face. She called the gate that I arrived in, gave them my seat number, and asked them to check my seat for the laptop. She then told me I had to wait a half hour. A HALF HOUR?! I’ll have committed hari-kari by then. She tried to reassure me but there was no comforting to be had. I asked her to call the United business lounge in San Francisco airport. I knew I didn’t leave it there but I had to do *something*. I just couldn’t sit around and WAIT. The amount of patience I have on a good day would fit in a thimble and today, well fugetaboutit. But wait I did as there was nothing left I could do other than get arrested or committed which wasn’t far off.
About 20 minutes later the customer service rep motioned me over to the desk. I bolted over. She told me they found the laptop and that I had to go back to Terminal 3 to get it. Heck, I would have gone back to San Francisco’s Terminal 3 to get it, I was so elated. At the United Customer Service desk in Terminal 3, the agent kept telling me over and over how lucky I was, how most people never get their laptops back, blah blah blah. Did I need to hear this? NO! Just give me my damn laptop and let me get a cocktail!
So why all this drama over a laptop that crashed, you ask? Well, this isn’t my laptop that crashed. It isn’t my laptop at all. It is a loaner laptop that a software company I am consulting to loaned me until I could get mine fixed and it took no less than 4 days and 38 emails back and forth between the SVP Marketing and the CFO. I was finally granted permission to leave the premises with a laptop after the SVP Marketing personally vouched for me as well as the VC partner that funded them! So can you IMAGINE if I had to go back and tell them that I LOST their new laptop?! I would have rather died....hence the melt down in the security line. That and the fact that I slept a total of about 8 minutes on the 11-hour flight and in the previous 24 hours. I tried to take a sleeping pill but it fell on the floor and I couldn't find it so I knew right then it was going to be a l-o-n-g flight.
In case you picked up on the word 'consulting' as opposed to 'cooking', I am sacrificing myself to the hi-tech gods to finance my culinary career that has cooled quicker than crème fraîche. I naively thought I could live on minimum wage and while my life is far from extravagant (other than the city I happen to live in) and I sure as the devil don’t shop like I used to, actually I really don’t shop at all other than for new silicon molds, cookbooks, cooking magazines or various and sundry other kitchen gadgets, but there is no way I can live on minimum wage again.
Actually that’s not true. If I had to, I could do it and I did do it. On less actually. I lived on 8 euros a day including phone and subway my first few months in France but to have and to want are two diametrically opposed forces and, had I moved to New York as planned, would have had to share an apartment in the Bronx with 8 people. Fine at 20. Unacceptable at 40. I’m just too old to live like I’m back in college nor do I want to. By the grace of God I didn’t have to as The Man called me over the holidays and offered me a consulting project that I couldn’t refuse.
So every morning I thank the Good Lord for providing me with such abundance, put a smile on my face, and remind myself that this is, as my friend Christine says, just a seat in a game of musical chairs and once in a while we just have to sit down. So cooking is relegated to evenings and weekends for now until my pocketbook can once again bare the burden of a culinary salary or no salary at all as is most often the case in this métier (profession).
The moral of this story? Aesop would have a field day with me here..... Well there are a few. 1. Don’t leave your laptop on a plane. duh. 2. Back up your computer at least once a month. duh. And 3. if you plan on doing the quixotic and leave your steady, well-paying job for a life of culinary adventure, have at least 3 years of saving stashed away unless of your course you can move back into your old room at the folks, or have a friend with a 6,000 square foot house with a wing of guest rooms or are 20 years old and can live with 8 people in the Bronx.
After I retrieved the loaner laptop, I trekked back to Terminal 1, went through security again (they saw me coming and cleared a path to my friends at the conveyor belt scanner who I could tell were ready to alert security should I have another melt down) and high-tailed it to the BMI business lounge where I poured myself a big fat martini straight up extra dry and chased it with 2 beers. Cheers!
A huge congratulations to Jennie Schacht and her new book, The Wine Lover's Dessert Cookbook, that was just published by Chronicle Books. Please try to make it to one of her book signings listed below. She put her heart & soul and a few years of her life into this book. If you see her, please give her a hug from me! Merci, Laura
chocolats apéritifs au fromage (chocolate-cheese aperitifs)
I know I've prattled on endlessly about Pierre Hermé and he will forever remain my favorite simply because he allowed me to walk through his doors and experience the wonder of his chocolate factory, sans wonka-vator, first hand. But I would be remiss if I didn't give fair share to some of the others, and there are many, outstanding chocolatiers in Paris.... Click here to read the rest of the story.
The amazing Abby of Ladie Cutie Troublemaker, now Dr. Ladie Cutie Troublemaker, tagged me a while back. I have been regrettably quite remiss in my response but I was in Culinary Rehab recovering from my most recent cooking adventure at an illicit chateau which I have christened Chateau d’Enfer (Chateau from Hell! more on that later….) and had lost all motivation to write a single mot (word) not to mention ever look at a frying pan again. But after consuming an abundance of Burgundy wine, my fingers are itching to write! Before that though, I do want to congratulate Abby on earning (and I mean earning), her PhD! Felicitations mon blog-amie!
So here goes...
Where I was ten years ago ?
I was living in San Francisco working at a Huge Software Company in Silicon Valley in their first internet group that built one of the first web sites on the internet. It was tres cool!
Where I was five years ago ?
Still living in San Francisco working at another Very Large (not Huge - the only thing huge was the CEO's ego...) Software Company in Silicon Valley doing advance for the CEO and traveling twice a week. It nearly killed me but I did take a great vacation to Tuscany & Paris with all the miles! :-)
Where I was one year ago?
A year ago I was living in Paris (!!!!!) and making thousands of macarons a day at Pierre Herme Patisserie.
Where I was yesterday?
Still living in Paris!!!!! I spent the day in Montmartre (Sacre Coeur) with friends. One gave us an incredible tour of the whole area, the hidden gems, the nooks and crannies, the history and the mystery. Last night was Nuits Blanches where all of Paris opens their doors and music fills the night air until the early hours of the morning (like 10am!). I went to see a friend who is an opera singer perform. Walking home I’ve never seen so many people on the streets of Paris.
Where I am today?
Still living in Paris!!!!! At this moment sitting at my computer telling myself to turn it off and go to the farmer’s market across the street.
Where I will be tomorrow?
Hopefully at the gym!
Five snacks I enjoy?
• Pop Tarts! Luckily they don’t sell them here or I would be the size of the Louvre • Cashews and olives • Cheese, like really good, runny, smelly cheese • Fresh, still on the vine baby tomatoes • Jambon fromage crepe, made right in front of you at the crepe stands.
Five singers (or bands) for whom I know the lyrics to most of their songs?
I am a HUGE music nerd and I would humiliate myself if I told you the songs I knew so I am taking the 5th on this one!
Five things I would do with $100,000,000 ?
• Set up a scholarship fund for people wanting to go to culinary school. • Set up an Edible Schoolyard in every school in the country. • Help all the people that have helped me along the way, whatever they need. • Buy a HOME so I never have to fill out another change of address card ever again. Ever. • Help elect a new president.
• oversleeping • staying up too late • spending too much time on my computer • buying things I don’t really need....like canned cranberry beans from Istanbul, Turkey because I had just written a post about them on Bay Area Bites and thought the label was cool! • not allowing anyone to eat until I’ve photographed their dishes when we’re out in restaurants! (thanks lil)
Five things I like doing?
• Cooking, eating, cooking & eating and drinking great wine all at the same time • All things internet • Meandering through the farmers markets • Discovering new neighborhoods in Paris • On a cold day, sitting on the couch wrapped in a comforter in front of a fire reading a book • Taking long walks on the beach with..... ha! just kidding! :-)
Five TV shows I like? *disclaimer: I haven’t had a TV in almost 3 years but the shows I liked back then are…
Moi with Jamie Oliver at Sur La Table in San Francisco ~ Fall 2002
• Cooking for friends • Cooking with friends • Walking down the street, turning the corner and seeing the Eiffel Tower (see pic above!) • Listening to someone speaking French and being able to understand them. • When someone comes up to me on the street and asks for directions (which means that I don’t LOOK like a tourist, I look like I LIVE here! wahooo! love that! it makes my day!) • A crystal clear morning with a bright blue sky after it has snowed all night.
One of my favorite meals is champagne and pommes frites so I guess it's no surprise I ended up in France. Really good pommes frites, the kind that are crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside and not greasy, are extremely difficult to perfect as I can attest to destroying thousands in my humble culinary career. So when I come across perfect pommes frites, it's certainly cause for celebration. Last week at The Village Pub was just such an occasion..... Click here to read the entire indulgence.
dessert of dark- and white-chocolate covered cheesecake pops!
My bi-continental colocotaire (flatmate) just received his first round of funding to launch his hi-tech start-up so to celebrate we went to Lime on Market Street. A few parking spaces are reserved along the wall across the street at the Thai Restaurant parking lot. For those of you not from San Francisco, it's hard to describe the sheer joy at finding an available reserved parking spot! It elicits high-fives, fist pumping and various other unprintable exclamations. Self-described as “1960's era modernist”, walking into Lime is like walking into George Jetson's home.... Click here to read the entire story.
Slow-cooked Pork Shoulder in an Egg Sauce with Tripe Stew and Carrot
Manresa's Chef David Kinch and General Manager Michael Kean were in London last month to receive an award for #38 of the "World's 50 Best Restaurants." My friend Maggie was on hand for this spectacular event..... Click here to read the entire story.
Not literally! The Bay Area, the San Francisco Bay Area that is, actually rocks, and even more so with this cool new culinary blog, Bay Area Bites, courtesy of KQED, the local PBS station. I am so excited that I am now one if their contributing "bloggers" (hate that name but if the proverbial shoe fits...) and hopefully providing an interesting perspective of culinary life in France. Click here to see my first story about cooking at Chateau de Villette (of The Da Vinci Code fame) just outside of Paris. I'll be posting on Fridays so please stop by and see what life has stirred up on this side of the pond.