Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Case Study 64: "The Drunken Sailor"

What are springs and waterfalls? 
Here is the spring of springs, 
the waterfall of waterfalls. 
A storm in the fall or winter 
is the time to visit it; 
a light-house or a fisherman’s hut the true hotel.
A man may stand there and put all of America 
behind him.
- Henry David Thoreau

I'm not quite sure when I developed my recent affinity for whiskey.  Perhaps it resulted from being a lady member of a Gentlemans' Club.  Or maybe it came after one debauched night, when after leaving said club, we bootlegged a makeshift flask of Jack in the nosebleed seats of a black tie Christmas concert and got reprimanded by a gang of septuagenarians.  Regardless of mode, all I really know is that it was the naughtiest acquisition I've had in awhile, and I think I know why: it reminds me of the sea.

I know what you're going to say- real sailors were all about the bottle o' rum, about salt, about scurvy-repelling citrus. But both Barnacle Bill and I beg to differ. Whiskey.  Give it to me cold, on the rocks, the smooth crisp bite hitting the teeth like white-capped breakers against the harbor rocks. Give it to me warm, with a touch of lemon, honey, and water, and it's like mother's milk on a misty night, medicinal magic to physical and spiritual pains alike.  Give it to me straight, and I'll give you wicked laughter, a wild run of the town, and the honest-to-God truth all at once.  

"The Drunken Sailor" is a chocolate whiskey cupcake, stocked with chopped pecans and topped with a vanilla maple buttercream.  It's dark and musty, nutty and sugary, and capped off with a shot of pure distilled malt joy.

They say that "what whiskey cannot cure, there is no cure for," and to some extent, I agree.  We go to the city to enrich our minds, to teach us about the world through people and experience, to create new neural pathways with art and voice and sound.   We go to the mountains to stand miles above land, breathe in the fresh air, and feel the reign of humanity in a vast world.  

But for clarity, for soul, for peace, just give me the sand in my hair, the salt mist in my mouth, the rocking waves beneath my hull, and a glass full of cubes and amber-hued booze. For there really is no truer self then he who is reflected in the waters from whence we came.

Notes from the Field: Un petit déjeuner français...

Just having a little French breakfast as the spring rain falls out back in the garden. 

My song au courant is spinning between Gainsbourg and Polnareff favorites and the globe string lights are casting a morning glow through the dogwood off the deck as I delve into a sweet berry clafoutis, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

And for a moment, I am back in France, and it's spring, just as it was many years ago. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Case Study 63: "The Cakebomb"

On a boardwalk bench, sandy feet up against a sky dotted with a few lazy clouds trailing the sparkling caps of slow rolling waves... 

In the slight breeze under an overgrown oak, the fingers of the sun piercing through, on a humid dog day.... 

On a city stoop, prey to the window glares and sizzling sidewalks, aflame with the steam from an underworld rail...  

Is there really anything more delectable, more lusciously refreshing, and more full of dripping drizzling oozing goodness...

Than a cold ice cream delight on a hot summer's day?

"The Cakebomb" is a double vanilla cupcake topped with Burnt Sugar gelato and a smattering of jimmies.   

That, my friends, is summer in a bite.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Case Study 62: "The Hidden Fruit"

"Fish, to taste right, must swim three times -
in water, in butter, and in wine."  
- Polish Proverb

I have friends who are vegetarians, friends who are vegans, and friends who are "pescatarians."  There are the locavores, the brocavores, the ones who ascribe to a shot of cod liver oil and apple cider vinegar, and the occasional worshiper of a caffeine-free god.  I know people who work out in the early morning, people who play squash every night, and people who can't even stomach the idea of exercise.  But regardless of the health trend au courant, in the end, I've always tried to stick to two practices:  try anything at least once and keep everything in moderation.
As an Italian, I was genetically pre-destined to be a culinarian, a foodie, a gourmand.  By the time I harnessed dexterity in my index finger, I sampled the foods of my elders.  Nothing was off-limits, even the baccala I so voraciously desired at 16 months to the delight of my Neapolitan great-grandmother. Growing up, although our family processed food ban cultivated a much handy kitchen prowess, my parents were stellar cooks, and evenings were spent either passionately whipping up meals or relaxing with a bohemian board of cheeses and charcuterie. But throughout it all, we ended up more than aware of the amazing powers of honest-to-God good food in fueling the body and satiating the soul.

"The Hidden Fruit" is a vegan zucchini and dark chocolate muffin topped pillows of (non-vegan) cream cheese frosting and a cinnamon sprinkle.  Made with carrot puree and lightly sweetened cereal, agave, lemon peel and unbleached flour, it's jam-packed with antioxidants and protein, a musty chocolate punch, and a citrusy kick.  Though it's unlikely that I'll put an end to my carnivorous ways, these organic power bites are enough to reignite the flames in any lackluster culinary affair.

Many of my most memorable life moments occurred at the table. I recall squealing in delight over the creamy funk of foie gras at Payard's, grilling up white Connecticut corn in the summer, or sucking down just-harvested oysters in Wellfleet, the freshly shucked cold brine dripping down our chins as we chased them with a crisp dry vin blanc.  Or maybe it was the tart passionfruit and chocolate Pierre Hermes macarons or the Coeur de Chevre I carried back from Paris, stinky and oozing in it's brown paper between my leather journal and a dried lavender bunch in my purse.  And don't even get me started with the time we holed up in Pietro's in Trastevere for hours one January, the Tiber flowing gently outside as we salivated over plates over the most musty and divine organisms this earth has ever created: black and white truffles.  My weakness for these divine sporous fungi is so evident that I once had a boyfriend whose pheromones reeked of something along the lines of a paradiso tartufato to me, and in the end, I'm pretty certain that's what aroused (and sustained) the attraction. 

What I have learned over 25 years of good solid eating is that in the end, what we eat is very much a part of who we are.  Whether we stick to a plan, modify as we go, or just simply don't care what we stick in our mouths, the act of eating shapes and enhances our sensory experience as we travel throughout life.  So don't forget to open wide and eat it up.  In the end, you'll never be hungry for anything but more.  

Monday, May 10, 2010

Case Study 61: "The Icebox Queen"

This Is Just To Say  
 I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
-William Carlos Williams 
To my mother, on Mother's Day, and every day.  Thank you for refilling the crisper without a word when I pilfered your breakfast fruits for my kitchen creations, and thank you for always telling me they were delicious, no matter what.  That is love.