Posts from December 2010

Life Beyond TV Meals, What to Cook and How to Cook It Contest

If your life depends on Pringles and TV Dinners day in day out, are'nt you tired of it.

Jane Hornby comes to the rescue.

She will not be there to hold your hand while you discover what cooking real food and most important serving it and tasting it can feel like.

What she will do is guide you through the process.

If you can already handle cooking pasta or making an omelette, even scrambled eggs she can take you One Step Beyond without the Madness.

She's not a snob. She cares about what you eat like any good food mother does.

If I did not sell you yet on the pleasures of cooking with Jane, forgive me.

After this long rambling are you ready to compete for a precious copy of What to Cook and How to Cook It (Phaidon) by sunny Jane Hornby?


To enter our current contest, answer the following question:

What is the word used in Great Britain for rutabagas?

Send your answer to info [at] njconcierges [dot] com

All entries must be received by  5 PM (US Eastern) on Thursday, December 23, 2010.

There is 1 copy to win so this contest is on a first come, first served basis.

This contest is limited to readers in the USA and Canada.

If you won anything from us in the past 30 days, please let others try their luck.

Bonne Chance!

(* Thanks to Phaidon for making this contest possible)

Skate on the Eiffel Tower, Things to Do in Paris during the Holidays

I did not see dancing at the Bain Douches as one of of the activities offered in What to do in Paris during the holidays (en Anglais) by Mairie de Paris, Paris City Hall in English parlance.

First thing that caught my attention was Skate at the Hotel de Ville and then more of the winter sports with Skate on the Eiffel Tower which sounded dangerous at first until I read the fine print spelling that it's "the highest skating rink in Paris … on the first storey of the Eiffel Tower! Rink open to the public every day from 10.30 am to 10.30 pm. From 15 December 2010 to Wednesday 9 February 2011. Free entry for visitors to the Tower, but you have to buy an entry ticket to the Tower to enter the rink. Skate hire (personal skates not allowed)."

Getting back to the first Skating option Skate at the Hôtel de Ville has "a 1636 m2 skating rink awaiting you! Displays and demonstrations are in the programme: ice hockey, curling, dancing.
From Friday 17 December to Sunday 27 February 2011 – Free entry – skate hire: 5 euros. Place de l’Hôtel de Ville – Paris 4th  - Metro: Hôtel de Ville (lines 1 and 11).
Times: From Monday to Friday from midday to 10 pm. Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays from 9 am to 10 pm, do note last entries 1 hour before the rink closes."

If you are in Paris with children, merry-go-rounds will sound mighty good thanks to " Free Rides in These Locations on Wooden horses and illuminated merry-go-rounds for children of all ages on rides in many areas of the capital. From 18 December to 2 January, from 10 am to 7 pm."

(* Details on Free Rides are all in French but since it's only locations (addresses) you should be able to understand)

Waiting for Santa, Warm Up with Apple Pie Nog, Holiday Recipes

Hopefully you will not be waiting for Santa outside in the wintry cold.

If chilly weather stays with us, an Apple Pie Nog might help keep your blood flowing.

Here’s the Apple Pie Nog Recipe:

16 oz Hasse’s Apple Pie Liqueur

1 quart egg nog

2 – 4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Combine all ingredients in a blender for a quick blend. 

Pour into glass. 

Sprinkle with cinnamon. 

Makes 12 servings.


Save cookies and milk for Santa, you don't him failing to deliver the goods after you.

Cork Campaign Screws Up by Pushing Too Hard?

I don't know what soundtrack if any the 100 Percent Cork campaign is using but one song their approach brings to mind is Pushing Too Hard (The Seeds).

I had noticed the 'natural cork' pushback againgst screwtops without paying much attention until I read Cork Producers Hit a New Low by Insulting Women and Wine Drinkers by Alder on Vinography.

He illustrates the case with a couple videos.

I will only quote the latest prose on 100% Cork News:

"Beware the Holiday Party Faux Pas: 
Wine Topped with Artificial Stoppers
Office Worker’s Career Nearly Dashed by Failure to Choose Natural Cork

December 15, 2010—Her career looked so promising until she committed the ultimate yuletide faux pas: showing up at the annual company holiday party with a bottle of wine – dare we say it?!—sealed with an artificial stopper."

If there is a Fake Anything, the excerpt above from Press Release: Office Worker’s Career Nearly Dashed by Failure to Choose Natural Cork (December 15) looks every bit the part of a Fake Press Release.

Like anything else, there are bad bottles, bad wines and bad corks, good ones too.

On a practical note, they fail to acknowledge that many wine drinkers are not that comfortable 'popping' a cork out of a bottle. Screwtops take the stress out of it.


I don't disagree with the questions they raise on sustainability, recycling and so forth nicely spelled in posters like the one above. I just think part of their approach is heavy handed and counterproductive.

I commend cork recycling efforts.

Any thought on this?

Manga Meets Louvre at BankART 1929, Tokyo, Closes December 17

The title for this exhibit Manga Meets Louvre is pretty self explanatory.

4 Belgian artists Nicolas de Crécy, Marc-Antoine Mathieu, Eric Libelge, Bernard Yslaire and a Japanese Hirohiko Araki share their take on the Parisian institution.

Their work was on display at BankART 1929 since December 6 and closes on December 17, 2010.

It made a previous stop at Kyoto International Manga Museum (November 5 to December 3, 2010) as part of the museum's 4th anniversary.


Here's some insight in the exhibit program courtesy of Kyoto International Manga Museum:

"Comics in France are considered the "Ninth Art"; thus, the Louvre, one of the world's preeminent museums, recognizes it as a respected art form. As part of a project with Futuropolis, publishing company in France, the Louvre asked representative BD artists to create original works with "The Louvre Museum" as their theme, which will be published in a book. This exhibit will focus on displaying these works including original works, rich with the individuality of the five artists. In addition to the four French BD artists, Japanese manga artist Araki Hirohiko will also take part in the series.

In addition to the four distinguished French and Belgian BD artists, Araki Hirohiko, a Japanese manga artist who stands out for his work on series such as Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, is also taking part in the exhibition. This has made international news as a symbol of Japanese manga's growing popularity and influence around the world. We hope you enjoy seeing the skills of the BD and manga artists in this collaborative project."

You can find illustrations, details on the Louvre/ Futuropolis collaboration and the artists in BD and Manga meets Louvre : French and Japanese artists in the Museum (Kyoto International Manga Museum)

A good place to visit for art events in Tokyo is Tokyo Art Beat.

Manga with a Belgian (French) Twist for Tokyo Thursdays # 170

Previously: Soba Making Class with Chef Kotani, Japanese Culinary Center, NY, Dec.20


(* BankART 1929 main site is in Japanese only. I linked to a PDF in English giving an overview of the space and its activities)

Maple Roast Vegetables by Sunny Jane Hornby, Holiday Recipes

Fall and root vegetables go hand in hand.

Jane Hornby proves it in her first cookbook What to Cook and How to Cook it? (Phaidon).

The following recipe is one that requires the least steps (3), a topic we covered in Our Interview with Sunny Jane Hornby. It is suitable for side dishes or a main for vegetarian guests

Maple Roast Vegetables

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Serves 4-6

Boiling winter root vegetables can mean they lose their flavor and goodness, but roasting intensifies their flavor, and the skins crisp up, too. Celery root, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and Jerusalem artichokes could all be substituted if you prefer.


1 medium rutabaga, about 1 lb 5 oz in total

4 medium parsnips, about 1 lb 5 oz in total

5 medium carrots, about 1 lb 5 oz in total

¼ cup light olive oil

6 cloves of garlic

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 tbsp maple syrup or honey, or more if you like

salt and pepper

Maple roast vegetables



Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Peel the rutabaga, but simply scrub the parsnips and carrots, leaving the skins on. Cut all of the root vegetables into large pieces, all about 1 ¼ inches across. Put into a large (ideally nonstick) roasting pan. It looks like a lot of vegetables, but they will shrink considerably in the oven as they roast. Spoon the olive oil over the top, then rub the oil all over the vegetables with your hands. Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes, until starting to soften.


Meanwhile, pick the needles from the rosemary sprigs, then chop them finely. Stir the garlic cloves (still in their skins) and rosemary into the vegetables. Return the pan to the oven, then roast for 20 more minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and golden around the edges. The garlic cloves will be tender within their papery skins.


While the vegetables are still sizzling hot, drizzle the maple syrup or honey over them. Serve the vegetables immediately, making sure everyone gets a garlic clove, ready to squeeze.

Details for our What to Cook and How to Cook It Contest will be announced on December 17, 2010

(* Recipe from What to Cook and How to Cook It (November 2010) by Jane Hornby, Phaidon Press, reproduced by permission of the publisher, Photo by Angela Moore)

Subway goes Slow Food on Terra Madre Day in Paris

Looking for video excerpts from Global Steak featuring Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec, I came back without Meat images and netted instead a low key video on how Subway went Slow Food on Terra Madre Day in Paris.

It seemed to be rush hour, not the optimum time to pass food around.

Maybe next time around subway riders will be expecting it.

I discovered this slice of life in Paris via Food Intelligence (Bruno Verjus) who describes the young crew delivering the goods as food activists. No organic wine on the menu it seems.

Blocks, Rocks, Sprinkled, 'Salted' Afternoon Talk with Mark Bitterman

We gave you advance notice on this week's chat on salt with a Buttlermilk Leg of Lamb recipe.

On a cold and windy afternoon we met Mark Bitterman at the New York outpost of The Meadow (his shop) to talk about his book Salted (Ten Speed Press), 'A manifesto on the world's most essential mineral, with recipes'.


Q: Mark, was your itinerary to becoming a ‘selmelier’, a salt expert, a long and winding road?

It actually grew out of a passion for food and the abundance of salt choices my wife and I discovered while traveling abroad. It had nothing to do with either of us having  previous experience in food business or retail. I was a writer, my wife an art historian.

For the word 'Selmelier', I created it as well as the related 'job'.

Q: Why salt over other ingredients, why not pepper?

Salt has been part of human life for centuries. It is the most important ingredient and a vital nutrient. I felt that the range of salt offered in the USA was poor compared to what we had encountered, tasted and brought back from our trips.

We actually opened our first 'The Meadow' shop in Portland in the Spring of 2006 with our personal collection of 40 something salts like an art collector opening a gallery with their patiently curated selection. The New York store opened in November 2010. Both sell salt, chocolates and flowers. A dinner table without flowers misses something. Portland store also sells wine.

Q: You mentioned on Marketplace recently that a 1000 ‘sea salt’ themed products were introduced in 2010. Is it only in the US? How much is too much?

Actually 14,000 products include salt either for human consumption or industrial use.

Q: Are all products claiming ‘Sea Salt’ cred worth their grain of salt?

When something like 'sea salt' goes mainstream we witness what Michael Pollan calls 'supermarket pastoral'.

Q: Amongst the recipes in your book, which are your favorites?

If I had to pick two, Buttermilk Leg of Lamb with The Meadow Sel Gris (page 227) for the main dishes and Roasted Peaches in Bourbon Syrup with Smoked Salt (page 242) as a dessert.


Q: Salt blocks are a big purchase, what is the best use for them?

You can use them:

-to serve food like green apple and mozzarella-

-to cure gravlax or for sashimi

-on grill to cook scallops and shrimp or eggs and bacon.

Q: Favorite salts?

For soup, court bouillon, boiled vegetables:

-Sel Gris is best for slow cooking

For sauted dishes:

-Fleur de Sel for its minerality, my favorite is Pangasinan Star from the Philippines.

For salads:

-Marlborough (New Zealand), a flaky type, for a basic salad or Bali Rama for a hearty one.

For pastries or ice-cream:

- I would go with a smoked salt like Cyprus hardwood or Fleur de Sel depending on whether it's to garnish or bake.

Q: Are there best practices to store salt?

Keep it in a sealed glass container and away from the light.

Q: Best way to offer it at the table? When should you use a Salt Grader?

Put it in little ramequins. Sprinkling it using your fingers is best so you can feel the texture of various types. The salt grader can be for show at the table. For practical reasons, in the kitchen chefs like to use it for fine grading while plating a dish.


Q: Why do you sell chocolate alongside salt?

Because they are one of the pleasures of life. We sell mostly Chocolate Bars.

Q: Best sellers?

Our starter set of 6, it allows anyone from students to seniors to get their feet wet.

Q: How do your stores (The Meadow) fit in your life project?

We offer elemental things, salt, chocolate, flowers, wine (in Portland), all four add to life's quality.

Thanks Mark for your time.

You can keep up with Mark and gourmet salt on Salt News where I borrowed photo of NY store above.

You will have a chance to win a copy of 'Salted', details of Contest announced on December 24, 2010.

(Other Photo credits: Jennifer Martiné© 2010, from Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes by Mark Bitterman, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.)

Let Go and Swap these Almond Chocolate Crackle Cookies, Holiday Recipes

Back on the Cookie Swapping trail with this second recipe from Small Parties by Marguerite Marceau Henderson (Gibbs Smith). We shared Orange Zest Cream Cheese Stuffed Dates on December 10.

Today Almond Chocolate Crackle Cookies

These chocolate morsels are light and crispy with a hint of almond. Make ahead, and then store in airtight containers. Perfect for the cookie-exchange table or as an addition to a platter of gift giving goodies.


10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

11/2 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

11/3 cups light brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons almond extract

1/3 cup whole milk

1 cup powdered sugar plus 2 cups powdered sugar in which to roll the cookies



Place the chocolate in a metal or glass bowl and melt over (not in) a pot of simmering water (to form a double boiler). Set aside to cool.

In another small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and almond extract; beat until combined. Add the melted chocolate and the dry ingredients alternately with the milk. Mix on low speed until well combined. Divide dough into quarters; wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat. On a work surface dusted with powdered sugar, roll each portion of dough into a log 16 inches long and 1 inch wide. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and transfer to baking sheets. Chill again for 30 minutes.

Place 2 cups of powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. On a work surface, cut each log of dough into 1-inch pieces, roll into a ball, and then roll each piece in powdered sugar. Place the cookies on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake on middle rack of a preheated 350-degree-F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until cookies have flattened slightly and they are starting to crackle. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Sprinkle with more powdered sugar, if desired, just before serving.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies .

(* Photographs by Kirsten Shultz, from “Small Parties” by Marguerite Marceau Henderson. Reprinted with permission of Gibbs Smith)

Green Wines from the Loire, Tremblay, Taille aux Loups, Roches Neuves

From sustainable to biodynamic, here's a trio of Green producers from the Loire.

We start with Domaine du Tremblay 'Quincy' (2009) by Jean Tatin (Domaines Tatin), 100% Sauvignon Blanc, good acidity and floral tones.

Let's move to Domaine de la Taille aux Loups (Jacky Blot) and the Montlouis Sec 'Dix Arpents' (2009), 100% Chenin Blanc, dry, from 50 year old vines.

Next is Domaine Pied de la Butte (also Jacky Blot). We tried his Bourgueil 09 'Pied de la Butte', 100% Cabernet Franc, great expression of the grape.

We get back to whites with Chinon Blanc (2009) by Jean-Maurice Raffault. It is 100% Chenin Blanc, pear and citrus, thank limestone soils for great minerality. Only 500 cases were produced.

Last, Domaine des Roches Neuves, with their Saumur Blanc 08 'Insolite', 100% Chenin Blanc, fresh, straw yellow wine.

Terres Chaudes

From same producer, Saumur Champigny 'Terres Chaudes' (2008) will be great company for Beef with Carrots (a roast) and root vegetables. Great combination on a cold December evening, Cabernet Franc is what it's made from.

One producer is 'biodynamic' (Domaine des Roches Neuves), all the others are 'sustainable',

A quick wine stroll along the Loire for Green Day # 157

Previously: Gigaton Awards, Rewarding Big Steps in Carbon and Greenhouse Gases Emission Reduction