Posts from March 2010

My Blog for A Beer, Jacques Brel, Jacques Higelin, Frere Jacques, Now Jacques d'Azur

You might remember the fellow who was ready to give his empire for a horse. I am not ready to trade my blog for a beer.

I really don't drink beer that much except for micro brews in the summer.

Getting back to my story of beer, horses, emperors and love for sale takes us to a roomful of Jacques.

Where you ever caught red handed singing Frere Jacques?

Are singers Jacques Brel or Jacques Higelin amongst you favorites?

Well someone decided to add to the Jacques field, the facetious and fictitious Jacques d'Azur who likes nothing more than chase starlets, girls like Stella?


Where does this leads us?

To an amorous-humorous online campaign for the Stella Artois tune.

BLT Fish Gives New York A Drink Break on Tax Day, April 15

I did not spend my day by the sea, but there sure is plenty of fish in my writing today from Chocolate Fish Fry earlier to BLT Fish right now. It was not planned.

This BLT Fish does not have a BLT Sandwich on its dinner menu. All Entrees are from the fish and seafood department except for Filet Mignon.

BLT stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel and is located in the Flatiron District.

Appetizers below give you a feel for the place.

Raw Hamachi / Chive Blossoms / Soy Citrus 18
Arugula / Fennel / Artichokes / Pecorino 12
Yellowfin Tuna Tartare / Cucumber / Fresh Wasabi / Spicy Yuzu Dressing 18
Tiger Shrimp a la Plancha / Hearts of Palm / Thai Basil 16
Grilled Portuguese Octopus / Chickpeas / Roasted Red Peppers 17
Ricotta Gnudi / Seared Rock Shrimp / Morels / Spring Peas 18

In a spirit of shared sacrifice "on April 15th, BLT Restaurants across the nation help take the stress out of Tax Day with half off of all alcoholic beverages. All cocktails, beer, wines by the glass and bottles of wine will be sold at 50% off all day long!."


As I was wrapping up this piece I learned that BLT has lost its LT as LA Times announced Chef Laurent Tourondel leaves BLT Restaurant Group (Daily Dish, March 1).

I found my way to this restaurant thanks to my friends at Champagne Tarlant whose Zero Champagne, a sugar free Brut Nature is ready for the taking at BLT Fish.

Could be the prefect antidote on Tax Day, especially at 50% off.

Chocolate Fish Fry, Caramels, Salted Butter and Brittany, Henri Le Roux Interview

After admiring the craft of Henri Le Roux for a while, I received a copy of his book Caramel et Beurre Sale (Cherche Midi, French only) which prompted me to ask the master chocolatier if he had time for an interview.


Thankfully for us he did, here's what came out of it.

Q: Henri, did your interest in Caramels grow in tandem with your love for Chocolate?

My parents were pastry chefs . I spent all my childhood between my dad's lab and mom's boutique...You will understand where my passion comes from.

Q: Were you fascinated by Caramels per Se or just the Caramel Beurre Sale (Caramel made with Salted Butter) from the start?

All children are fascinated by caramels. Caramels made with salted butter did not exist in Brittany until I created them in the early 70's.

Q: Where can you trace the roots of CBS?

After moving from Pont-l'Abbe to Quiberon in 1976, I took over a pastry shop on Rue du Port-Maria and decided to give up pastries and focus exclusively on ice-cream and chocolates. To mark my arrival on the scene, I decided to create my own signature treat, the CBS, caramel au beurre sale.

Q: Would you say that Salted Butter is part and parcel of Brittany's history?

Of course, it is like Breton's own Star Spangled Banner.

Q: I was surprised to discover the Butter Market of Lorient for the first time in your book even though I was born in the city across the river. I can't remember ever hearing it mentioned by my grandparents ?

No wonder, the picture of the butter market in my book must date back to the early 1900.

Q: I have a vague memory of being sent to buy butter at the deli (l'epicerie) around the corner and having the owner give me a taste and then wrapping my slice of the 'motte de beurre' (my order) in wax paper. Am I embellishing or is it what happened in the late 50's, early 60's?

In the 1950's-1960's, my grandmother was running an Epicerie (Deli) in Concarneau and she was selling salted butter by the pound or shaped by a mold like the pictures in my book (CBS) on pages 21 and 28. Her shop was on Place de la Mairie.

Q: Where does the writer Pierre Jakez Helias fit into keeping 'butter' memories alive?

Pierre Jakez Helias and I, both come from the Bigouden area. He must have mentioned butter's importance to the Breton culture in one of his books even though I cannot say I am a 100% sure.

Q: For this CBS, are you making only one type?

The recipe for my CBS is unique yet he can be offered in a cellophane wrap like papillotes or with chocolate coated or as a spread sold in a glass jar for Tartines time. I named that caramel spread 'Caramelier' (and trademarked it).

Q: Besides France, in which countries would you say your caramels are the most popular?

Japan definitely. John Russell called them the best in France in Light and Shadow in Brittany (NY Times, March 1984).

Q: You also experiment with other flavors such as green tea and chocolate what got you started on that?

Creation knows no boundaries except the creator's own limits and good taste of course.

Q: Your creations are on sale in Asia. Have you been influenced by your visits to japan? Has it changed your approach, your esthetic?

Crossing borders, meeting other human beings, exchanging ideas, all this keeps you open-minded, broadens your horizons and definitely has been a source of inspiration for me.

Q: At the latest Paris Chocolate Show you chose a Brazilian theme. Which places outside France and Asia have you drawn ideas from?

The equator for its rich chocolate (a key factor for a Chocolatier), Russia in the 80's when I named a chocolate Kyra as a tribute to Kyra Bormann, daughter of Mr. Bormann, Chocolatier in St Petersburg and purveyor to the Tsar. Brazil as well with my lime flavored Guarani. Yet France has so many quality ingredients of its own that it's not necessary to wander far away. Two examples of that approach are my Truffe de Truffe, a ganache infused with black truffles from Perigord and Sarrasine, a ganache infused with ble noir (buckwheat used for galettes). I also have Louison a tribute to Louison Bobet (cycling champion) and Chtou, a soft caramel with salted butter and Lambig (a distilled spirit made from Cider).

Q: Could you name 3 or 4 favorite chocolatiers outside France?

Jules Perliat of Coba in Basel (Switzerland) in the 50's-60's.

Mr. Oberweiss in Luxembourg

Mr. Kawagushi of Origine Cacao in Tokyo

Q: Easter is almost here, I noted your 'friture' (bag of tiny chocolate fish and shellfish). It reminds me of my childhood. Are these still very popular?

Friture never goes out of style. 

Q: Which is your favorite holiday as a chocolatier? As a Person?

Definitely Christmas which has made kids big and small dreamy eyed and will continue to do so.

Thank you so much for your time Henri!

The Wednesday Interview...on a Friday...You need to bend the rules sometimes.

Doggy Bag Committee Celebrates Its First Anniversary in Japan

How mistaken I was to think that only in America, land of the monster portions, was food waste a big issue in restaurants.

In Japan, leftovers and food discarded by shops once it's past the freshness date amounts to an annual 5-to-9 million-ton mountain according to numbers quoted by Eriko Arita in Can doggy bags save the world? (Japan Times, March 21).

She got these numbers from Tokyo based non-profit the Doggy Bag Committee which celebrates its first anniversary. It was founded in March 2009.

I don't think Eriko is right as far as Americans are concerned when she traces the origins of the expression 'doggy bag' to the fact that people might be embarrassed asking to take their leftovers home.

It might be true in France where doing that used to mean you had no class.

In Japan, taking leftovers home is not part of the culture so the Doggy Bag Committee (DBC) besides encouraging the practice is also educating both restaurants and customers as to how.

They decided to adopt the English name 'Doggy Bag' as there is no Japanese equivalent.

The Japan Times piece also notes that the DBC does not want to turn efforts in reducing food waste into a landfill problem if people discard 'doggy bags' after use:

"The Doggy Bag Committee wants more people to start carrying reusable doggy bags with them for when they eat away from home. They suggest plastic ones by ReacJapan "Because the bag is made of one sheet, it doesn't leak liquids, the foldable box was designed using traditional origami techniques."


A related piece, Doggy bags slowly infiltrate Japanese dining scene (Japan Today), quotes Owner chef Shuichiro Masuya of Osteria Lucca in Hiroo who has been providing reusable boxes since 2008. 

He says "that the restaurant’s customers are mostly regulars and happy to take leftovers from the usually large portions" and that “as a professional, I don’t let them take raw food like carpaccio. But if it’s a meat dish, I’ll even hand them a recipe for the next day. I can’t stand watching food wasted,” he says enthusiastically from his experience working in an Italian restaurant in China. Leftovers also cost a recycling fee, Masuya explains, at the contracted rate of 1,000 yen for 10 kg."

The article also notes that "people in this country used to take leftovers home after weddings just a few decades ago".

As my grandfather used to say: clean your plate.

No food waste for Tokyo Thursdays # 132

Previously: Land of 80000 Ramen Shops, 9 of them at Shinyokohama Ramen Museum

(*illustration from article on same topic at From Japan with Love)

Is it a Mirage or is it Venice, Venezia Food and Dreams By Tessa Kiros

A number of books have landed in my mailbox in the past week and I am playing catch up.

The hardest part when you get a number of appetizing titles might be deciding which to feature first.

Why is Venezia, Food and Dreams by Tessa Kiros (Andrews McMeel Publishing, October 2009) my catch of the day?

I would not cite food as the first reason for starting with this tome but rather the dreamy quality that surfaces from the book.

You feel like a guest in a timeless, slightly unreal city.

I wonder what it feels like to explore Venice on a foggy morning or once the night sets.

Do you really meet characters straight out of a costume ball?


Food you may ask now after my lengthy introduction.

For one, the Capesante al forno (Scallops) gracing the cover whose recipe you can find on page 083.

They reminded of the beloved Coquille St Jacques of my French years.

Risotto lovers will have their fill in the Patience & Risotto chapter (page 149 to 175), 11 choices, one of them a Risotto di pesce (seafood). She had her best version of this dish at Trattoria alla Madonna which she calls a local institution, classy and old-fashioned.

Not just aborio rice but also vialone nano and carnaroli get put to use in these risottos Tessa writes.

In the Secondi, I like the look of her Rombo con patate e funghi al forno (Fish with potatoes and mushrooms) serves 4 (page 206).

She suggests a flat fish such as turbot or flounder served whole, head and tail on, as the centerpiece.

In the sweet treats, I vote simple pleasures with Sbriciolona or Crumbler cake on page 271 which the locals Tessa says eat while sipping a glass of red or white Fragolino, a sweet wine.

Do not confuse this Sbriciolona with Salami of same name.

I could go on and on with other dishes as Tessa put a spell on me but I will bring this piece to an end right here.

I can always come back with a second helping.

The golden trim and fabric bookmark add to the charms of Venezia.

Jessica Faye Carter, Women of Color in Tech Waters for Ada Lovelace Day 2010

What is a old white guy like me doing writing about women, technology, even more so women of color in tech waters?

Blame it on Stephanie Booth for putting Ada Lovelace Day (started by Suw Charman-Anderson) on my map in 2009.

Ada Lovelace Day is "an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science" and March 24 is the date when it all takes place.

In 2009, I chose Passionate Heather Luttrell as my pick.

For the 2010 Vintage, I chose Jessica Faye Carter, a young African-American woman and social media entrepreneur.


She wants to convince more Asian-America, African-American, Native American and other people with what she calls 'hyphenated' identities that there is a world of opportunities for them in the tech world at large.

Jessica Faye Carter also works diligently to bring more and more companies to speak to these diverse audiences.

She recently won the 2010 Global ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award.

Here's her take on Diversity as a source of technological innovation:

In Living Color for Ada Lovelace Day 2010.

Darts and Writers at Crush Wine Bar in Whitefish, Montana, A Bistro A Day, March 23

I put it in my head that for this edition of A Bistro A Day, I had to find a Bistro, a Wine Bar with a Literary Bent.

I was about to give up when I found Crush Wine Bar in small town Whitefish, Montana.

No combination bookstore-wine bar here though I know there are some places that fit that profile.

No website that I know of either but a Crush Wine Bar Facebook page.

Here's what they stand for (in their own words):

"An innovative new bar on Central Avenue in Whitefish, Montana, specializing in an eclectic selection of fun affordable wines, handcrafted and specialty beers with a lounge like atmosphere featuring great music, desserts and appetizers."

Where's the book connection?

In collaboration with the Whitefish Review, a local literary magazine, Crush Wine Bar hosts readings and other events.

The latest was with a book release 'party' with Jon Turk for "The Raven's Gift: A Scientist, a Shaman and Their Remarkable Journey Through the Siberian Wilderness" (St. Martin's Press) on January 19.

On March 25 (6 to 8 PM) they have a "Great night of darts!! Wine Tasting: $15 for apps, desserts and wines from Washington state!"

Not a bad way to spend the evening.

Moving to Montana Soon?! Darts, Wine and Writers for A Bistro A Day on March 23.

Saving Trees, One Receipt at a Time, Transaction Tree

What happens to our receipts when we leave a store?

Do we store them neatly, scan them, enter all that data in our favorite money management software?

More often than not, they might just pile up and add to our clutter.

I wonder how many trees it takes to print all the receipts for all the purchases made in one day in my state of New Jersey.

Some companies are trying to solve both the clutter and the paper and tree waste.

One of them is Transaction Tree which allows retailers to issue electronic receipts which customers can then access on Transaction Tree site.

Reduce clutter and cut less trees for Green Day # 120

Previously: Want to Green Your Life, Start in the Bathroom suggests True Green Home

Food Scouts Unite for Sold Out Foodstock, March 24, Bois de Boulogne, Paris

Have you been at one of these evenings where music, food and good company are all part of the mix recently?

The always creative crew at Le Fooding is holding one of its Veillées Foodstock on March 24 at 7 PM at Chalet des Iles (Bois de Boulogne) in Paris.

Unfortunately for those of you who read this and might be interested, they have a full camp of food scouts for this Foodstock so registration is closed.


On the menu:
Warm Irish Seafood Chowder- Clonakilty Black Pudding Salad- Mocha Hazelnut Meringue

The strummers:
Hugh Coltman, Paco Volume, Mina Tindle

MC of sort is young Irish chef Donal Skehan of Good Mood Food Blog fame who announces Je Suis A Paris to his fans (March 22)...

As you can see, there is an Irish thread throughout the evening.

Price was only 10 Euros per person with all funds donated to Action Against Hunger.

Last September, Le Fooding served Le Fooding d'Amour to New Yorkers.

(* illustration courtesy of Le Fooding)

Mono Tasking, Is Changing Scenery a Productive Move?

For the past few days, my internet connection has failed me.

While these issues are solved, I moved my office part time to the local public library.

It offers free internet connection, quiet space (which is not the case in say Starbucks)and few distractions besides people watching.

I have a hard time writing in a noisy setting.

OK, their chairs are not as comfortable as my home office chair. You cannot ask for perfection.

The temporary relocation made me reorganize my work.

In the past 24 hours I sent questions for 2 interviews.

I used my old faithful notepad (yes, pen and paper) to couch my questions then typed them and all i had to do once I got to my connected space was copy and paste the whole thing and send it.

Each step involved less distractions than if I had been online all the time.

I was able to better focus on the task at hand.

Did the circumstances make me an illustration of what Douglas Merrill calls 'How to Get Stuff out of Your Head, Find It When You Need It, and Get It Done Right' in his new tome Getting Organized in the Google Era (Broadway Books) co-written by James A. Martin.


Mono tasking for Monday work Etiquette # 134