It’s All About Finesse…

Thomas Keller signed my copy of The French Laundry Cookbook in 1999 ...I didn't realize the phrase "It's All About Finesse" has long been his mantra

Thomas Keller signed my copy of The French Laundry Cookbook in 1999 …I didn’t realize the phrase “It’s All About Finesse” has long been his mantra until our visit to Yountville, Napa Valley earlier this year

What excites me in the food arena are those things which require finesse.  A stunning afternoon tea menu takes a good deal of finesse.  Beautiful, whimsical, petite bites require skillful élan and artistry to pull off effectively.  There is certainly a time and place for quick and easy food prep; however, that’s not what energizes and motivates me.  Experiencing awesome ingredients, finessed into even more awesome food bites is what I seek.  I appreciate the artistry, mastery, and subtlety required to put together a composed dish, along with the effort it takes…whether a home cooked meal or one at a famous chef’s establishment.  Many of my favorite moments in life are spent contemplating, perusing, and indulging in these artists’ works.

Finesse doesn’t have to mean complicated, although at times it is, and it doesn’t necessarily equate to expensive, although sometimes that is the case (I save up for those rare occasions – i.e. The French Laundry 🙂 ).

Several months ago, we were at our favorite Napa Valley town, Yountville …often referred to by locals as “Kellerville” as Thomas Keller has three restaurants, one bakery (talk about awesome), and his beautiful vegetable garden including chicken coop running down the main street in this small burg.  On this visit I noticed a new magazine in our inn titled Finesse, then saw he has this beautiful small store hidden away in town…

Finesse...Keller's magazine, as well as, his cool shop located in an inconspicuous small center in town...

Finesse…Keller’s  cool shop located in an inconspicuous small center in town…

While undeniably one of the best chef’s in the world, Keller is also an obvious master at branding.  His shop features his clean, cool, finessed style reflected in the items he brands to his French Laundry, Bouchon, and Ad Hoc environs.  I couldn’t resist purchasing a few small things (as expected, nothing was inexpensive there…but the quality excellent of course) and the store manager knowledgable, conversant, and  engaging.  Below are photos of his teeny shop.

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Inside Finesse, the shop

Inside Finesse, the shop

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Our dear friends, who are Dutch (and J. is an  incredible chef too), introduced us to the French Laundry restaurant in early 1999.  We get to enjoy dinner at their home a few times a year where they now “whimsically” set the table using  “Dutch Laundry” clothespins they’ve created at each place setting (a trademark of the French Laundry is the clothespin with each napkin).  Here are my purchases and a small gift for our “dutch laundry” buddies …

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French Laundry kitchen towels, wooden spoons with their trademark logo of the wooden clothespin...and our dutch laundry friend's clothespin version :-)

French Laundry kitchen towels, wooden spoons with their trademark logo of the wooden clothespin…and our dutch laundry friend’s clothespin version 🙂

Lately I’ve felt that some main market food media, whether magazines, online or television, have focused content on the “dumbing down” of meal preparation.  Learning the basics is important and a good thing, but let’s elevate our experience too.  Julia Child made French cooking accessible to us…she didn’t try to make it fast…or easy…or diminish your skill in preparing it.  Over the next few posts I will feature some of the finesse in food I’ve recently come across. Sometimes it’s all about the garnish…sometimes the food product.  All of it is perfect with a nice cup of finely grown and harvested tea….of course.

 

Our New Kitchen Gadget…Juice It Up!

My darling husband has claimed that the best gift I ever got him was his Nespresso coffee machine. The second best, his soda stream for creating his own sparkling water – yay, no more lugging home cases of Pelligrino from Costco.  However; he says my latest gift to him ranks right up there too… our new Breville citrus juicer. He is just in love with it and is “citrus” juicing up a storm…meyer lemons primarily.  Breville products are outstanding in function and design.  This juicer is much larger in size than we expected, but boy, does it get the juices flowing.  It’s addicting.  Once you start, it’s hard to stop.

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Our new Breville Citrus Juicer...beautiful design, stainless steel, easy to clean..a bit large for the counter---actually rather "giant"

Our new Breville Citrus Juicer…beautiful design, stainless steel, easy to clean..a bit large for the counter—actually rather “giant”

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, he juiced more lemons than needed, so I snagged a cup and made my infamous, tart, lemon curd, the recipe is here.  It’s quick to prepare…don’t sweat the seeds or lumps, as you will strain the end product to come out with a smooth, luscious curd.

Silky, smooth lemon curd...straining out any lumps, seeds, or bumps.  My recipe is below...it is on the tart versus sweet side

Silky, smooth lemon curd…straining out any lumps, seeds, or bumps.

This prompted me to fulfill a few requests from friends for scones…so I threw together a batch (takes all of 10 minutes) and I had instant gifts for two of my scone and lemon curd-loving friends (after I taste tested a few, of course).   Note: my favorite little biscuit scone (recipe here).  Chunks of butter show and the dough is light and fluffy (not rolled or flattened), this makes for a delightfully light texture in your scone.

Of course, this curd and scone is lovely with a cup of tea…in particular a Jasmine Pearl green tea.  Enjoy.

My favorite biscuit scone...note the chunks of butter ...these make for a nice texture...and the dough is light, fluffy (not rolled down)...again, makes for a finished product that splits apart easily to take on your curds, creams, and jams...

My favorite biscuit scone…note the chunks of butter …these make for a nice texture…and the dough is light, fluffy (not rolled down)…again, makes for a finished product that splits apart easily to take on your curds, creams, and jams…

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