Posts from November 2012

Niigata Fair, Kitchenware Designed to Serve for Eternity and Beyond, NY, Til Dec. 7

Around the theme, Tales of a Century, craftsmen from Niigata province created tableware and kitchen tools "designed to serve their individual owners for eternity and beyond."


The Niigata Fair produced by Hyakunen Monogatari puts them on display at Japanese Culinary Center in  New York until December 7, 2012.

Defeinitely a place to visit for unique holiday gifts.

Kitchenware for eternity and beyond for Tokyo Thursdays #243


Disposable Wasara Dishes to Racing Skip Desks, Made in Japan, 100 Products and their Creators

Provence has Lavender, Toulouse has Pastel, Carole and Nathalie sing Graine de Pastel beauty story

Thanks to Skype, I let Carole Garcia of Graine de Pastel enlighten me on the history, qualities and virtues of Pastel before my departure for Europe.

Siliques (3)

I continued the conversation with Carole and her partner Nathalie Juin at their Toulouse HQ above the first free standing Graine de Pastel store on Place St Etienne, a charming cobblestone covered locale a block off Rue de Metz.

Here is the result of both conversations.

Q: Carole, what was the genesis of Graine de Pastel idea?

We started with the idea of creating a company with regional roots, steeped in occitan culture and language and linked to pastel's historic heritage. Landmarks of Toulouse architecture like Hotel d'Asezat which now hosts Musee Bamberg were built thanks to wealth created in 16th century by the trading of Pastel, the pigment as a tinting agent for fabrics.


Q: Was there a person you would credit as getting you going on this idea?

Carole's mother sent her a newspaper article in La Depeche du Midi that mentioned thesis written on medicinal and healing virtues of Pastel and it piqued her curiosity while we were both working in pharmaceutical industry?

Q: How did you take the idea of Pastel as health-beauty product a step further?

Nathalie did the research on Pastel's virtues, attributes. All in all it was a 10 year process, including 2 years of planning and 18 months of gestation. Tests were made on cosmetic and dermatologic values as well as bacteriologic issues. Our creations needed a 1 year shelf life to make sure that the attributes stayed what they were.

All my pics 2478

Q: Once all the legwork was done and product Graine de Pastel line was ready for market, did you start selling online first?

From the outset, we sold Graine de Pastel both in stores (Galeries Lafayette, Bon Marche, specialized shops, Harrods in the UK) and online.

Q: Is your line organic?

Our fragrances do not qualify as organic (what is called 'bio' in France) yet we adopted from the start natural practices. We do not use animals for our testing.

Q: Where do source your pastel from?

We get it from local Coop of growers near Pamiers in Ariege.

Q: When was your free standing store opened?

Graine de Pastel shop on Place St Etienne opened its doors in April 2012. We also have a small Beauty Institute upstairs offereing facial and body skincare as well as massages with pebbles from Garonne river and with Shells of Cocagne, all these by appointment only, Monday through Saturday.

Q: Outside Europe where is Graine de Pastel most sold?

Saudi Arabla, Japan, Canada and the USA.

Q: As we are now in the Christmas and New Year gift giving season, who are main recipients of your line as gifts?

First women, then friends and family who live abroad, third as business gifts, Graine de Pastel was one of the gifts featured aboard Airbus inaugural flight of A380.

Q: Name your most popular items?

Right now it would be Baume de Cocagne (Face and Body Butter) and Creme de Cocagne (Face and Body Cream).

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Q: To conclude, describe Graine de Pastel in 3 words?

Natural, green, affordable.

Our soaps start at 5 euros. We take terroir approach to personal care products.

Pleased to meet you Carole and Nathalie.

Under 25 Minutes Recipe, Sumac Crusted Tuna with Watermelon Salad from the Lebanese Kitchen

After spending hours in the kitchen to make that perfect Thanksgiving Meal, shorter and simpler is in order.

Here's an under 25 minutes recipe from The Lebanese Kitchen (Phaidon Press, October 2012) by Salma Hage.

Sumac Crusted Tuna with Watermelon Salad 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 2-4 minutes

Serves 2 


2 x 6 oz/180 g tuna loin steak

Olive boil, for brushing

1 tablespoon ground sumac 

For the Watermelon Salad:

¼ watermelon, seeded and cubed

2 shallots, thinly sliced

¾ cup (3 oz/80 g) pitted black olives

4 mint sprigs, picked

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 teaspoons red whine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper 

Sumac crusted tuna


Put all the ingredients for the watermelon salad into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Set aside until ready to serve. Next, brush the tuna with olive oil and rub in the sumac Heat a heavy skillet or frying pan and, when hot, add the tuna steaks and cook for 2-4 minutes on each side, according to your taste. Serve immediately with the watermelon salad on the side.

(* Recipe from 'The Lebanese Kitchen' by Salma Hage- Phaidon Press, October 22, 2012- reproduced with permission of the publisher, all rights reserved)

Tapioca Coconut Cake Adds Twist to Holiday Sweets, Happy Thanksgiving

Pumpkin pie, apple pie, ice cream will be part of the dessert offerings on the holiday table. 

Add a twist to your sweet treats selection with Tapioca Coconut Cake from Simply Ming in Your Kitchen, 80 Recipes to Watch, Learn and Cook (Kyle Books, October 2012) by Ming Tsai  in collaboration with Arthur Boehm.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tapioca Coconut Cake

This is my version of a cake created by Damien ‘Big D’ D’Silva, a linebacker of a chef, who appeared on Simply Ming. His cake featured pearl tapioca, whose wonderful texture I love.

The pearls are clearly visible in both of our versions, suspended in a cooked egg mixture. I’ve kicked things up, though, by flavoring the cake with coconut and lime and serving it with papaya. This makes a unique dessert, one I urge you to try.

Serves 10

1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, for greasing the pan

1–2 tablespoons turbinado sugar


1 cup small-pearl tapioca

2 cups whole milk

¾ cup dark brown sugar

2 cans (about 14 ounces each) unsweetened coconut milk

Pinch of kosher salt

Juice and zest of 1 lime

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks 


1 papaya, peeled, seeded and diced

Juice and zest of 1 lime

Tapioca Coconut Cake

1 Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 9-inch springform cake pan (see Tip). Grease the bottom and the sides of the pan with the butter. Place the parchment paper in the pan and grease with butter. Add the sugar and tilt the pan to coat the sides evenly.

2 Make the pudding: Put the tapioca in a medium bowl and add cold water to cover it. Let the tapioca to soak for 1 hour. Drain the tapioca in a large strainer, rinse well under tepid running water and set aside in the strainer.

3 In a large saucepan, combine the milk, brown sugar, coconut milk and salt and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Add the tapioca, stir, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring, until the tapioca is translucent but still slightly raw at the centre, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the pudding into a medium sheet pan, add the lime juice and zest and stir to combine. Let cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then transfer to a large bowl.

4 Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs and yolks and whisk until just blended. Pour the eggs over the tapioca, fold to combine, and pour into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is golden brown in spots and still jiggly in the centre, 35–40 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool, then refrigerate in the pan for at least 8 hours or overnight. 

5 In a medium bowl, combine the papaya and lime juice and zest. Remove the pan ring, place a serving plate on the cake, and invert. Remove the pan bottom, peel off the paper, cut the cake into wedges and serve with the papaya. 

Ming’s tips:

To cut parchment paper for lining the baking pan, put the pan bottom on a sheet of the paper. With a pen or pencil, draw around the bottom, then cut out the circle about 1/8 inch in from the line.

After baking, the cake will seem unset, but will become firm when refrigerated. 

To Drink:

A lychee tea, like Blue Ginger’s

(* Recipe from 'Simply Ming in Your Kitchen, 80 recipes to watch, learn, cook and enjoy' by Ming Tsai and Arthur Boehm - Kyle Books, October 2012- photography by Bill Bettencourt, reproduced with permission of the publisher)

Ry Cooder and Woman Gone Crazy Bloody Mary from My Key West Kitchen

A drink with a name like this calls for a soundtrack by Ry Cooder, Little Feat and David Lindley.

Some of your guests on Thanksgiving will certainly enjoy it before their meal.

This recipe comes to us by way of My Key West Kitchen (Kyle Books, October 2012) by father and son team of Norman and Justin Van Aken. This book makes you hungry for a trip to the Florida Keys.

“Woman Gone Crazy” Bloody Mary

For a few months in 1974, we lived on the second floor of a building that had been a bar for about a century. Known as the Red Doors for a long time, it had once been called “the Bucket of Blood,” which points to a period of time when real pirates were part of Key West’s scene. Caroline Street runs along one side of the building and Jimmy Buffett wrote a very fine tune about a “woman gone crazy” on said street. I was mostly crazed from low funds during that time period. We drank Busch beer and fished off the nearby docks with our hillbilly pal Butch to augment our meager dinners. Thank God Butch knew a lot more about fishing than I did. 

Serves 1

11/2 ounces vodka

4 ounces tomato juice or 1 large ripe tomato, blended

3 to 4 shakes Tabasco sauce

1/2 teaspoon pickapeppa sauce (see Sources, page 185)

1 dash celery salt

1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon Sherry wine vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lemon wedge

1 celery stalk

Woman Gone Mad Bloody Mary

Place a few ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Add the vodka, tomato juice, Tabasco and pickapeppa sauces, celery salt, lemon juice, vinegar, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper and shake well.

Strain into a pint glass filled halfway or more with ice cubes. Garnish with the lemon wedge and celery stalk. 

Cooking Note: What will seem crazy about this recipe is the sherry wine vinegar.

I ask you to make it for some friends— not telling them that detail—and see them react as mine did.

(* Recipe from My Key West Kitchen -Kyle Books, October 2012- by Norman and Justin Van Aken, all rights reserved, photography by Penny De Los Santos)

Suffering from Thanksgiving Baking Anxiety? Call or Email King Arthur Flour Baking Hotline

You know how it feels when everything is pretty muxh ready for Thanksgiving including the turkey yet you are suffering from baking anxiety over dessert picks.

You are not alone.

One of the solutions could be calling or e-mailing the Baking Hotline at King Arthur Flour.

Here's how it works:

baking questions

Need help with a substitution or pan size? Trying to work your way through a new recipe? Can’t get your bread to rise? We have professionals standing by on our Baking Hotline to offer FREE information and advice for home bakers.

Hours (Eastern US):
  • Monday – Friday8:00am to 9:00pm
  • Saturday & Sunday9:00am to 5:00pm


In addition, if you need to refill the pantry after cooking like a storm, King Arthur Flour will offer Free Shipping on any '$60 and up' orders placed on Thanksgiving Day.

(* Photo from King Arthur Flour website)

Eastern US Time (EST)

Southern Flavored Thanksgiving, Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie from Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

Can you imagine Thanksgiving without Pumpkin Pie and Pecan Pie?

Here's a spiked southern flavored recipe in time for the holiday from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook, 'Sweetness in Seattle' (William Morrow, October 2012) by Tom Douglas with Shelley Lance.

Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie



To ensure a crisp, thoroughly baked crust, we generally blind- bake a single- crust pastry shell even when the pie shell will be baked again after the filling is added. If the filled pie will be baked in a low oven, as with the Sugar Pumpkin Crème Pie, there is no worry of over baking the blind- baked shell. But since the Old- Fashioned Pumpkin Pie and the Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie will be baked, after they are filled, at higher temperatures, we blind- bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes less time than the master recipe directs for blind baking single pie shells. This way the rim of the pie will not come out too dark after the additional baking of the filled pie. For either of these pies, make the Flaky but Tender Pastry Dough quantity for a 9 1⁄2- inch pie pan and line the pie pan with the rolled- out dough and chill as instructed in the recipe. To blind- bake the crust for either of these two pies, preheat the oven to 350°F. Use vegetable spray to spray the piece of parchment paper that you are going to use to hold your pie weights (such as dried beans) and place it sprayed side down in the pastry shell. (This is done because you may be lifting out the paper and beans before the pastry is completely cooked through and you don’t want to tear the pastry.) Fill the parchment- lined shell with dried beans and bake the shell for 50 minutes. Remove the pie pan from the oven and remove the paper and beans. Return the pie pan to the oven and bake 5 minutes more. Then remove the pie pan from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature on a wire rack. (The pastry shell will be slightly under baked at this point but will finish baking after you add the filling and return it to the oven.)

Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie
Our Kentucky- born- and- raised pastry chef, Stacy Fortner, makes the best- ever pecan pie. Naturally she adds a good slug of her favorite Kentucky bourbon, Knob Creek. If you put the pecans into the shell first, they will rise to the top after you add the filling. The larger than usual amount of eggs gives this pecan pie an almost custardy texture. Toast the pecans until they are lightly browned and fragrant, but don’t let them get too dark as they will darken a little more as the pie bakes. Serve the pie at room temperature with Sweetened Whipped Cream (page 000) or Vanilla Bean or Buttermilk Ice Cream (page 326 or 330). Note that this recipe calls for a slightly larger pie pan than most of the pies in the book.



1 3 ⁄4 cups (7 ounces/198 grams) pecan halves, toasted and cooled (see “How to Toast and Chop Nuts,” page 13)
One 9 1⁄2- inch blind- baked and cooled single- crust Flaky but Tender Pastry Shell (page 183)
4 large eggs
5 tablespoons (2 1⁄2 ounces/71 grams) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 ⁄3 cup (47⁄8 ounces/140 grams) packed brown sugar
1 cup (12 1⁄2 ounces/350 grams) light corn syrup
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon molasses
2 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon, preferably Knob Creek
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Put the pecans in the prepared pie shell, taking a moment to turn them right side up, and set aside.
3. Put the eggs in a bowl and whisk lightly to break them up. Add the melted butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, bourbon, and salt, whisking until smooth. Pour the filling into the pastry shell. The pecans will emerge beautifully while the pie is baking.
4. Bake until the pie is cooked through and set, 50 to 55 minutes. To check that the pie is cooked enough, poke the tip of a small knife into the filling, which should look set up and not liquid. Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool on a rack for about 1 hour before slicing and serving.

(* Recipe from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook, 'Sweetness in Seattle' -William Morrow, October 2012- by Tom Douglas with Shelley Lance, photography by Ed Anderson, reproduced with permission from the publisher)

1 Ticket Left to Win for Art of Restaurateur Nicholas Lander Talk Tonight at 92 Y Tribeca

1 Ticket Left to Win for Art of Restaurateur Nicholas Lander Talk Tonight at 92 Y Tribeca.

Here's a food event that you don't want to miss on if you are in NY area on Thursday (November 15, 2012) and that I am happy to feature here as i have been a reader of Nicholas Lander Restaurant Column in the FT Week End for years.

1 Ticket for The Art of the Restaurateur at 92 Y Tribeca is left the taking.

How can you win this ticket?

Answer this simple question:

What is Nicholas Lander's wife best known for?

Send your reply by 3 pm (Eastern U.S) on Thursday, November 15, 2012 to info [at] njconcierges [dot] com


Here's what's on the program:

"This Thursday, join Financial Times restaurant critic and author Nicholas Lander, restaurateurs Will Guidara (Eleven Madison Park, NoMad) and Maguy Le Coze (Le Bernardin) and famed hospitality interior designer Adam D. Tihany (Per Se, Daniel), with writer Bill Buford (Heat), for a conversation on The Art of the Restaurateur, in celebration of Lander's new book of the same name, recently called "a must-read for restaurant lovers" by Details magazine. 

In a world where chefs get all the attention, the panel will discuss the unsung art of the restaurateur and how the owner's creative vision can often be the difference in making a restaurant successful.  Until 30 years ago, restaurateurs were considered the most important figures in any restaurant's success, with chefs consigned to the kitchen. This process began to change with the elevation of chef-patrons in the 1970s and has continued with the rise of the celebrity chef. The profession continues to evolve in fascinating ways that will be explored in the discussion."

Can you think of a better way to take a break from talking about Sandy and at same time celebrate publication of Nicholas Lander The Art of the Restaurateur (Phaidon Press, Fall 2012)?

Ode to Wooden Spoon Opens 'Consider the Fork' by Bee Wilson

With my car in the shop for past few days and relying at times on public transportation (limited to buses right now in my corner of New Jersey) this morning had side benefits.

I had time to finally put my nose in Consider the Fork 'A History of How We Cook and Eat' (Basic Books, October 2012) by Bee Wilson, who is known to UK readers for 'The Kitchen Thinker' food column in he Sunday Telegraph's Stella magazine.

Book opens in the introduction with her ode to the wooden spoon.

Bee Wilson reminds us how invisible-taken for granted it has become.  

"The wooden spoon is a quiet ensemble player in so many meals that we take it for granted. We do not give it credit for the eggs it has scrambled, the chocolate it has helped to melt, the onions it has saved from burning with a quick twirl."


She then goes on to highlight the practical reasons why we should wood spoons over other types of utensils.

"Wood is nonabrasive and therefore gentle on pans-you can scrape away without fear of scarring the metal surface. It is nonreactive: you need not worry that it will leave a metallic taste or that its surface with degrade on contact with acidic citrus or tomatoes. It is also a poor conductor of heat, which is why you can stir hot soup with a wooden spoon without burning your hand."

Time to get back to my reading.

(* Quotes excerpted from 'Consider the Fork' by Bee Wilson -Basic Books, October 2012- all rights reserved, illustrations by Annabel Lee