The French Laundry’s Winter Garden…Radishes Anyone?

Food trends fascinate me.  A few years ago, the highly acclaimed baker, Nancy Silverton (and co-owner of the Pizzeria Mozza Restaurants) put Butterscotch Budino on her menu…she got rave reviews for this tasty pudding…and all of a sudden we started seeing budino’s and butterscotch on dessert menus everywhere we went.  Beets is another item that has made the rounds on menus –  various varieties,  colors, sizes, & cooking methods  are offered as the golden or red beet may be pickled, smoked, roasted, or served raw… along with their leaves too.

When in Napa Valley, I love to walk  to The French Laundry (TFL) gardens in Yountville…located directly across the street from Thomas Keller’s famed restaurant.  After visiting this winter…I predict the humble radish to be the food trend we see adorning plates everywhere…from bulb to leaf. The gorgeous TFL gardens were prolific with baby broccoli, chives, nantes carrots and more…but the radishes really caught my attention…while I was not familiar with most of these varieties, I can see why TFL likes them…they offer a crisp texture, pungent, peppery flavor and plenty of color lending themselves to be a valued addition to almost any plate.

The French Laundry Winter Garden…featuring…the radish…a cool season vegetable that is easy to grow.  Takes three weeks to harvest.

The French Laundry Restaurant…unassuming, easy to drive by and miss

The French Laundry Restaurant…unassuming, easy to drive by and miss

 

TFL Garden hothouse…radishes anyone?

A stunningly beautiful February morning at TFL Gardens and hothouse…radishes — baby carrots — baby lettuces — the veg is honored here

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Nutritional information about the radish … One cup is just 19 calories, 4 grams of carb., 29% of your recommended daily vitamin C and 7% fiber…there are also several minerals, including potassium.

So, what’s your radish?  My preference is to enjoy them thinly sliced or julienned over a fresh salad…my husband can sit and eat several whole ones as a snack.  However you choose, using them offers a little more depth to a dish…either in texture, crunch, color, and that bit of peppery flavor.

Three types of radishes…tender and peppery and crunchy

Three types of radishes…tender and peppery and crunchy

It’s National Wine Day…Experience It With The Perfect Cheese Pairing …

Arrowood Winery, Sonoma, Ca…winter 2014

Arrowood Winery, Sonoma, Ca…winter 2014 – note the winemaker in the field…she is checking the bud break and seeing what the freezing night air did to the vines

IMG_0143 IMG_0144 IMG_0147Today is National Wine Day….so, I thought it a great time to share with you one of my favorite wine & cheese pairing experiences.   While I am a big fan of good wine…I’ve got to have it with food.  And what better food to have with wine than quality, artisan cheeses which have been astutely matched with the perfect accompaniments.  Well, that’s what we experienced twice at Arrowood Winery in Sonoma, Ca.  – We enjoyed their Chef’s conclusions about what cheeses and accompaniments to match up with their wines so much last June, that we recently went back again. The experience is just spectacular and enlightening to one’s taste buds.  The private room is set up just for us…and we are even left alone to taste and talk and relish in the aromas and combinations with no one watching over our shoulder…it was truly awesome.  Above is a pictorial taking you through our walking in…seeing the winemaker in the fields checking the bud break…the tasting room toasty with the fire going (it was cold out for us…in the 30’s)…below reflects photos of our tasting set up.

The Arrowood team is informative and let’s you go through the tasting at your own pace…always there when you need them too.

The variety of taste sensations just knocked my socks off 🙂

The cheeses and what they are paired with..seriously well-done by the Chefs…we were told they worked on this for days

The cheeses and what they are paired with..seriously well-done by the Chefs…we were told they worked on this for days- most are from local cheese makers – stunning cheeses, paired immaculately

 

Tasting read for us…mmmm

Tasting ready for us…mmmm

The pairing with accompaniments

The pairing with accompaniments – we really loved them all, each were so different and just so thoughtfully put together

 

 

Ready to go…5 wines with five different cheese pairings

Ready to go…5 wines with five different cheese pairings – we agreed that the chardonnay with the triple cream cheese and grapefruit jelly was not only a great start but a stunning combination…but then again, doesn’t cow’s milk triple cream go with EVERYTHING 🙂

Thin rye cracker for the cheese….perfect

Thin rye cracker for the cheese….perfect  — with cute forks…

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All done…wine gone…cheese gone…ready for a little nap :-)

All done in – in more ways than one…wine gone…cheese gone…ready for a little nap 🙂

Happy National Wine Day…I am going to have a glass right now to celebrate…I’ve had about 4 great cups of tea today, so feel ready for the wine 🙂

 

Valentine For A Friend…Heart-Shaped Scones From White Lily Flour

Happy Valentine’s Day…

My good buddy and “sounding board”, Hils,  loves my biscuit scones.  She is quite a disciplined eater, but will indulge when it’s worth it.  These scones are worth it…top with a tart lemon curd and you’ve got the perfect, decadent pairing.  I made heart-shapes and used White Lily Flour …which we discovered at Surfas.  The signage claimed that this soft winter wheat, light flour is what makes Southern biscuits and Southern baking sooooo wonderful.  The flour is really fine..feels a bit like cornstarch and certainly made an outstanding scone.  I love using this product.  We baked a batch  with all-purpose flour too and tasted them against the ones made with White Lily…both were excellent, the Southern scone was lighter and a bit flakier, very nice.  There was a bit more texture to the ones made with my general, all-purpose flour (which my husband actually preferred…and he’s the Southern one ?!*#  🙂 ).   We will bake with the White Lily a few more times and let you know our findings.

Heart-shaped scones made with White Lily flour…a Southern favorite

Heart-shaped scones made with White Lily flour…a Southern favorite

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Packaged and ready to deliver to Hils…

O.K…all she needs is a nice cup of tea with these …

I still have some old Martha Stewart gift boxes w/ wrapping that we got 5 years ago when in New York and at her t.v. show…makes great Valentine gift wrapping.

I still have some old Martha Stewart gift boxes w/ wrapping that we got 5 years ago when in New York and at her t.v. show…makes great Valentine gift wrapping.

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The Modern Teapot…I Think I Am In Love :-)

I just love being able to SEE my tea as it is steeping.  The visual aesthetic of watching leaves unfurl and liquor release into the water is relaxing,  pleasing, and meditative.  My fine china and porcelain teapots will aways have a place on my shelves, and in my heart (as many were gifts from truly special people in my life)…however, these modern teapots are what I gravitate towards now as practical, functional and let’s face it…really “cool looking” vessels.   Some are award winning designs, such as Denmark’s, Eva Solo teapot pictured just below.

Eva Solo tea maker - even has a silicon jacket

Eva Solo tea maker – even has a silicon jacket

“While we are slurping our teas and traveling to tea estates, Eva Solo is slaving away designing beautiful pots to brew our teas and infusions. This fat bottomed pot comes with its very own zip up neoprene jacket (or perhaps we should call it a wetsuit?). Not just a pretty pot, this tea-maker has won awards for its functionality. The built in filter stops the leaves from escaping as you pour. Available with a black or red jacket.” Description is from the Teapigs site.

This concept of “a wetsuit” keeping your tea warm is a fabulous idea.

 

Scandanavian tea pot

Scandinavian tea

Menu Norm Glass Kettle Teapot with Tea Egg

“Norm Glass Kettle Teapot uniquely embraces the meeting of two traditions – the Asian zen philosophy and modern Scandinavian design. A special feature is the teapot’s transparency that grants a visual experience of the tea and stimulates the senses of sight, touch and smell alike. As a fine design detail the tea egg is placed in the center of the pot and is easily raised by pulling the attached silicon string when the tea is ready for serving.”  Super stylish…

I first saw this on the shelves in the shop at Zinc Cafe in Laguna Beach.  I loved it.  I went back in to look at it and vacillated over purchasing it for at least a half hour.  I talked myself out of it, as the last thing I need is another teapot, then kicked myself for not getting it.  I was back at Zinc with my sister and nephew a few weeks later and told myself…”if that teapot is still there, I am getting it.”  It was not 🙁 .    It’s still on my wish list and I have since found that I can purchase these from a few different sites online (I googled “cool looking Scandinavian teapots”).  Below is another one I saw which has a nice tea light warmer stand.

Smart Tea Set

Smart Tea Set

 

Of course, you can make a cup of tea in any bowl-like vessel with a filter of some kind to strain the leaves…but it is so lovely and civilized and thoughtful to brew one’s tea in a beautiful container.

No matter what you steep your tea in…it matters that you have quality tea leaves…organic when possible…get them from a source you can trust.

I actually enjoy looking at these teas almost as much as drinking them (almost) 🙂

Drink tea…it’s good for you.

 

Think Garnish…Whimsical, Beautiful, Rustic, & Compelling

You might have heard the phrase, “you eat with your eyes first.”  Those who know me, know I love to eat.  I love food.  It’s as simple as that.
I also love foods that look good.  The older I get, the less I seem to be able to consume and keep healthy…so, smaller portions are in order.  This fits perfectly with my passion for afternoon tea menus.  Beautiful petite bites are what I seek at tea time.  Often I prepare my own, and  while I thoroughly enjoy cooking, I am not very good at the detail work of decorating –  so, when I want that little something to make my dish yield an extra smile that warms the heart, I use garnishes.  Innovative packaging, serving pieces, cutters, and papers simplify my work and can take an ordinary dish to being something special.  With little effort, let your garnish reflect the beauty, whimsy, or rustic appeal you desire.   For my most important events, when I need things to look really awesome with a “wow” factor, I call on my niece, Sammycakes…she is masterful at creating spectacular looking (and tasting) desserts.  Knowing my interest in creating compelling, unique small bites; my sister-in-law and niece sent me a link to a site they thought interesting called Think Garnish.  I believe they saw the site in Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Check it out, there are clever ideas awaiting you there.

Think Garnish describes what garnish is all about this way…”Have you ever wondered what makes the difference between something special and spectacular?  It’s the Garnish…that little something extra that brings a sparkle to the eye and a giggle to the heart.

A few of my latest favorite festive garnishes are below:

Ricotta cheesecake baked and served in these festive cups…normally this special family recipe Easter pie is not very attractive as a whole pie…these cups dressed them up nicely…topped with a little heavy cream…gorgeous

Ricotta cheesecake baked and served in these festive cups…normally this special family recipe Easter pie is not very attractive as a whole pie…these cups dressed them up nicely…topped with a little heavy cream…gorgeous

Shot  glass sized dessert cups…just about guilt free in size…these were at the St. Regis Tea and Tinis buffet

Shot glass sized dessert cups…just about guilt free in size…these were at the St. Regis Tea and Tinis buffet

 

 

Sometimes garnish with parchment paper and a square mold are the look you want…this photo from la Cucina Italiana…it is a mini lapsing soughing tea cake

Sometimes garnish with parchment paper and a square mold are the look you want…this photo from la Cucina Italiana…it is a mini lapsang souchong tea cake

From Think Garnish…this cute small tulip cup is available from their site…these are just up my alley.

From Think Garnish…this cute small tulip cup is available from their site…these are just up my alley.

Pinterest offers an enormous amount of ideas for beautiful and clever garnishes…these tea bag cookies take a little extra time cutting and are so cute --

Pinterest offers an enormous amount of ideas for beautiful and clever garnishes…these tea bag cookies take a little extra time cutting and are so cute —

Think Garnish says that “products are blank canvases just waiting for your expression. Totally customizable, they offer infinite possibilities. Take this opportunity to let your personality shine through… and make every occasion a special occasion. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to bring simple sophistication to everyday life. Garnish provides all the ingredients and ideas you need to create an experience that everyone will remember. Remember, there is no one perfect moment to add a little Garnish…every moment deserves to be Garnished.”

I encourage you to express yourself through adding a little garnish…Valentine’s Day is coming…the perfect opportunity to create a new memory through food.  Food is Life…it may as well be interesting.