Tag Archives: Back in the day…

2016 New Orleans Trip Report – Part 1

New Orleans Trip Report

Latrobe Park on Decatur and Ursulines

I didn’t realize how much I missed New Orleans until I footed my way through St. Charles Avenue for the first time in almost eight years.  Literally footed – I ran my first marathon two weeks ago.  From Lee Circle up to Calhoun Street and back downtown, my eyes were peeled for old landmarks from my college years in the late nineties. My ears open for the sounds of the bands and DJs, and for those spectators that dotted the first half of the race course.   My mind raced to all those times I took the streetcar from Audubon down through Carondelet and back. To all the nooks and crannies I didn’t take the chance to know back then.  That longing to get reacquainted with the city grew stronger as we made our way into the French Quarter through Decatur Street.  The tree lined Esplanade miles through the Marigny and City Park up to Mid City were dotted with regret for not exploring as much as I should have.  And the Lakefront portion made me grateful for a sunny, mild day that could have not gone any better, throbbing right knee notwithstanding.

New Orleans Trip Report

St. Charles Avenue streetcar at ‘my’ stop

The race recap portion of this show is over. On to the first part of this New Orleans trip report, the love letter to my college town and to the great food that enjoyed over five beautiful days.  I knew the city would be packed between the race (over 25,000 runners) and other conventions and events.  The minute we booked our airfare in December I made most of our meal reservations.  If traveling to New Orleans for an event, it’s always better to reserve and then modify reservations than try to walk in to the more popular restaurants. Read More…

French Fridays with Dorie: Curried Chicken with Lemongrass, AHA Moments and my Top 5

curried chicken with lemongrass and vegetables

The fearless Doristas have met their goal.  Last Friday, Mardi of Eat Live Travel Write and Cher The Dabbler cooked and blogged all 300+ recipes of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.  Most members of the group are a handful of recipes away from reaching this milestone.  While my participation in the group was inconsistent (to put it mildly), I rejoice and join the rest of them and toast to this accomplishment.  The following four weeks will allow us to reminisce and recap some of the lessons learned in these four years of cooking and friendship. Read More…

French Fridays with Dorie: Boeuf à la Mode

Boeuf a la Mode

The picture in front of you is my textbook definition of comfort food: fork tender eye round, white rice, and mushy carrots.  When I get cravings for Mama food, this is what I want.  This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Boeuf à la Mode, was one mustard rub away from leaving me misty eyed.

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IFBC 2013 – Bordeaux Wines a la Cookus Interruptus

Bordeaux Wines at IFBC 2013

My three favorite Bordeaux wines from the tasting at IFBC

The following post is a very literal illustration of the seven-part story structure learned during the fun and inspiring session with the Cookus Interruptus team at the 2013 International Food Bloggers Conference. This is also a chance to highlight one of my favorite sessions from the weekend, wine tasting and live tweeting with Bordeaux Wines. For a recap of the conversations, make sure to look through #IFBCBordeaux.

Once upon a time, a young girl with an ID purchased at el Paseo de Diego found herself traveling through the vineyards of Napa Valley with her boisterous family. Through dumb luck, she didn’t get carded at two wineries and sat at the grown-ups table for tastings. And she got hooked on that experience: check the color, swirl the glass, smell, sip, aerate, swallow, sigh in delight, and repeat. Many years later, she would meet a handsome man who shared this enjoyment of good wine and great food. They were lucky enough to go back to Napa Valley, and some other great places where grapes grow and every day life revolves around them.

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Setting the Table

The enjoyment of great food depends on how a meal is presented almost as much as it how it is cooked.  It doesn’t matter if a dish is prepared over the course of a whole afternoon or comes from a takeout container, it will taste better if it is eaten on the dining room table, using real plates and flatware set on top of some placemats or a tablecloth.  I don’t feel the same way eating my morning cereal if I lug the bowl upstairs in front of the computer as I do if I eat it sitting on the dining room table or the kitchen bar.   Read More…

Kitchen Safety – Puncture Wounds

It is time for confessing… for acknowledging another bout of klutziness, of mindlessly doing things that required my full attention.  I’m not showing you my battle wound, but believe me, it was probably not even half as bad as I will make it sound.

Two months ago, we were over our friends’ house for an afternoon-long Sunday dinner, the kind where the conversations flow easily, the kitchen duties are seamlessly shared between hosts and overeager guests.  Most of the meal was ready – all we needed was to plate some avocado slices.

Gooey, slippery Haas avocado + unfamiliar knife that looked far more benign that what it actually was… you can tell where this story is going.  The knife did not make contact with the pit I was trying to remove.  It found the palm of my left hand.  I looked at the pooling blood in disbelief and looked helplessly at my hostess.

“Band Aid?”
“Coming right up.” Read More…

French Fridays with Dorie – Cocoa Sablés

Cocoa Sables

I haven’t baked a cookie since the holidays.  After preparing so many batches right before Christmas, I developed bakers’ fatigue, a made up condition that involves ignoring all recipes that require  the combination of a sifter, stand mixer, and oven.  This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie, cocoa sablés, was simple enough to ease me out of bakers’ fatigue.  I had all the ingredients on hand, including the optional bittersweet chocolate.  I prepared the dough quickly, rolled it out, and left it to rest until this morning. Read More…

Beef Wellington

Sliced Beef Wellington Stuffed with Mushroom Duxelles and Jamon Serrano

My father is a big Beef Wellington fan.  There was a restaurant in Hato Rey back in the eighties, Maxim, that served filet mignons with a spread of mushrooms and paté, wrapped in puff pastry and baked until the pastry turned flaky and golden.  When we were planning my wedding, he suggested having it as the main course and we even tried it at the menu tasting.  When Papa’s birthday came up, I knew I had to give this dish a try even though I had never made it before.   Anyone can get by with a decent recipe and a healthy (?) dose of atrevimiento/chutzpah, right? Read More…

French Fridays with Dorie: Pumpkin Stuffed with Cosas Ricas

“Cuando llega el mes de octubre corro al huerto de mi casa
Y busco con alegría tres o cuatro calabazas…”

Pumpkin patch at Chateaux de Versailles

There is no autumnal chill in the air, no backyard pumpkin patch like in the little song on top, but come October and November, it’s hard not to get in the mood for the holidays.  The Halloween candy is in the pantry (with a couple of missing pieces) ready for the kids who will show up at our doorstep.  We celebrate Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico with lots of local side dishes sharing the table with the turkey and cranberry sauce.  December and January will roll in, with their avalanche of lechónarroz con gandulesmorcilla…  pork, rice with pigeon peas, and blood sausage – and great parties to share them with family and friends.

There is one traditional Thanksgiving dish that I refused to wrap my head around  – and that brings us to today’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good. Read More…

Kitchen Safety – Burns

Last weekend, while preparing yet another batch of David Lebovitz’s delicious salted caramel ice cream, I experienced one of those kitchen “firsts” that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

I got burned by a jolt of molten, caramelized sugar. I should have reacted faster and rinsed off the browned culprit faster, but those few seconds it took me to bring my hand under cool running water were enough to score me a second degree burn.

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French Fridays with Dorie – Mozzarella, Tomato and Strawberry Salad

Mozarella, Tomato and Strawberry Salad

On Tuesday, the day of the summer solstice, I rushed home thinking all the way that I needed a snack to hold me through until dinner time.  Ignoring the vending machine at work was not an easy task.  Halfway through, it hit me – I needed a ‘small plate’.  The mozzarella, tomato and strawberry salad from Around My French Table fit the bill perfectly – it was a wholesome snack to indulge my sweet tooth while getting in some protein and it took next to nothing to assemble!  I was thrilled to have enough daylight to take a couple of pictures.   Read More…

Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream

Maggie Who?

DH and I like to treat ourselves once in a while to ice cream at Maggie Moo’s, a popular chain that has several stores in the greater San Juan area.  They have a lot of ice cream flavors, as well as treats to mix into them.  My ‘usual’ order is butter pecan ice cream, mixed with pecans and caramel sauce.  Eduardo is partial to the Cinnamoo Bun: their suggested mix of cinnamon ice cream, cookie dough, and crushed graham crackers.  While this combination is pretty tasty, I wanted to try to make a true cinnamon roll ice cream.  When my siblings and I were kids, Mama would take us to the Tiendita Pepín (the accompanying store for the Flowers Bakeries affiliate in Puerto Rico) to stock up on cinnamon rolls, jelly rolls, doughnuts… all fresh from the factory.  We were pretty spoiled back then with all those sweets!  I had the habit of unrolling the cinnamon rolls and eating them in the tiniest bites, trying to stretch their sweet and spicy goodness for as long as I could.       Read More…

Harina de Maiz – Breakfast Cornmeal Cereal

Harina de Maiz Breakfast Cereal

Back in the late eighties, before the Internet and Wikipedia, most facts and figures were collected in almanacs or books like the Guiness Book of World Records. Through one of these unforgettable book club flyers, I bought a copy of the Second Kids World Almanac when I was an impressionable nine year-old. I credit (blame?) that book for turning me into a trivia and general knowledge junkie. How did I know that this book was to be trusted as a veritable source for listings of popular haircuts, the true name of pop stars and the origins of unusual animals? In the food chapter, it featured popular breakfast foods around the world. Under Puerto Rico, the listing said something akin to “oatmeal or cooked cornmeal with milk poured over it, coffee”. Clearly these people knew what they were talking about.

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French Fridays with Dorie – Vanilla Eclairs

This is all my parents’ fault.

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My parents made me fall in love with pastry cream at a very early age.  Legend has it that in the hospital room where I was born, there was a box of pastries that my Dad bought from a charming little bakery in Hato Rey, the Swiss Cake.  From there on, we would make at minimum a monthly pilgrimage to the Swiss Cake and us kids would get to pick our sweets.  My brother’s order was always the same: ‘mousse y piña“, shorthand for a chocolate mousse and a chocolate covered vanilla layered cake slice topped with a slice of pineapple and a cherry.  I would always get pastry creamed anything – Napoleons (my favorite to this day), small tarts with fruit, tornillos (puff pastry horns). My sister would vary her order, but would always get an éclair.  Éclairs sold in Puerto Rico are made with pastry cream and the baked choux pastry, but instead of a chocolate ganache, they usually have a hardened candied sugar topping – the sugary crunch paired with the airy dough and the dense pastry cream makes quite a satisfying bite.  The eclairs are usually filled from one of the ends with a pastry bag tip, so the presentation varies slightly from the ‘sandwich’ éclairs that showcase the filling.  Read More…

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