3.30.2014

Globus Department Store in Lausanne

The Globus department store in Lausanne has a splendid grocery section on the lower level. We're talking cheeses you dream of, fresh squeezed juice combinations like orange-pineapple-basil, a vast selection of interesting produce (including the famous chasselas grapes), and a freezer section well-stocked with Movenpick ice cream. It's pretty hard to to complain when you're in these walls.  
Just outside the store is the Brezelkonig pretzel stand. On my trip, I made several meals out of this "snack." The pretzel dough was soft and chewy, studded with flecks of salt, and slathered with Swiss butter on the inside. I found the grison (air-dried beef) pretzel to be the best, though the other fillings were delicious as well.
I was blown away by the quality of the candy here. Not only were these picture-perfect confections gorgeous, but they tasted every bit as good, with hints of rose and the finest sugar dusted on top.

You shouldn't leave Lausanne without stopping here first- many of the foods would make great gifts for friends back home. (I might even suggest attempting to smuggle their cheeses past customs. But don't say who told you to do it.)

3.16.2014

Scenes from Paris

Some scenes from my trip to Paris last October:

Paris wouldn't be Paris without a protest at Bastille.

3.08.2014

Prima Bistro in Langley


Washington state is home to many quaint island communities including Widbey Island. One of my oldest and dearest friends used to live there and farm for a living. Visits to her often included lunch at our favorite cafe on the island: Prima Bistro. The restaurant is situated on the second floor of the building and we would always sit at the window table, for a beautiful view of the sound. (You might be lucky and get to see a grey whale as we did last time!)
 Creamy burrata and tapenade with fresh bread
Prima burger
Panna cotta
A grey whale!

Prima Bistro on Urbanspoon

3.02.2014

A Wedding in Maine

My childhood memories of summer visits to Maine often include mosquito bite souvenirs, dips in the frigid waters of the Atlantic, and playing late-night capture-the-flag. I hadn't been back to the beautiful state for ages, but last August, I attended my cousin's wedding at the Barn at Flanagan Farm in Buxton, ME. The ceremony took place in the magical woods under a canopy my cousins and uncle had constructed out of driftwood. Before arriving to the ceremony, everyone walked through the sun-dotted woods and got a drink (delicious gin cocktails which helped keep my vicious cold at bay) before heading to the seating area. The ceremony was short and sweet (just like I like it) and after taking photos, we all headed back to the barn area for cocktail hour.
There was a gorgeous spread of cheeses, meats, dips, crackers, and other finger food, while servers came around with other appetizers. 
As night began to fall, we moved into the barn for dinner and enjoyed amazing lobster pasta (caught by the groom's uncle!) and other dishes.
In true Maine fashion, the wedding cake featured blueberries and we were all given jars of the fruit to take home.
The lovely evening concluded with a sparkler send-off for the bride and groom. Congratulations!

3.01.2014

Squash on Toast Recipe (from ABC Kitchen)

It took one viewing of Mark Bittman's video with Jean-Georges Vongerichten to know the next thing I wanted to make in the kitchen- squash on toast. Imagine this: pan-toasted rustic bread slathered with a layer of fresh ricotta (I love this California brand, Bellwether Farms) and topped with a butternut squash-caramelized onion mixture. Finally, a dash of fresh mint is sprinkled on top. It was probably the best thing on toast I have ever eaten. In fact, my dinner last night consisted of this toast and red wine. 

I followed the recipe pretty much to a T (I think it tastes great with butternut squash) but I might even add more onions next time. The caramelization makes them deliciously sweet but they break down in the process, so a bit more wouldn't have hurt. It's the first time I've truly caramelized onions (it took about 30 minutes overall) and I used apple cider vinegar and maple syrup a friend brought from Canada. 

As Bittman mentions, the mint on top takes the dish to another level. Somehow, the sweet and tangy onions, the smooth squash, and creamy ricotta all come together with the herb.

video
Caramelizing onions (patience required!)

2.28.2014

Café du Grütli: Fondue in Lausanne

The gloomy October weather in Lausanne didn't stop us from enjoying the city. It did, however, make us crave comfort food, and what better way to indulge in Switzerland than with fondue? Upon recommendation by a salesperson at the Globus department store, we headed to Café du Grütli on our last evening. 
I love restaurants run by a husband-and-wife team and we instantly felt welcomed by the friendly pair as we walked in the door. The humble and cozy cafe specializes in traditional Swiss dishes and despite an obnoxiously loud and drunk British man a few tables away, we appreciated our dinner. Bread and melted cheese may not be the most complete meal (at least from the point of view of nutritionists), but I can't think of a better combination. 
I was thrilled that Café du Grütli had Gruyère double cream on offer. (I was determined to try it after hearing David Lebovitz write about it.) A true Swiss dessert, double cream is not for the faint of heart. (In Switzerland, it is regulated and must be at least 45% fat content.) I like to think its richness is meant to give sustenance to hearty Swiss mountaineers. It comes with meringues and you can simply spoon the cream on top. While overconsumption of Gruyère double cream could definitely lead to a heart attack, I can't think of a better way to go. (Well, maybe with kaymak.)

Café du Grütli is located at Rue de la Mercerie 4 in Lausanne. Reservations recommended.

2.09.2014

Istanbul Eats Food Tour: Some Highlights

While J. went to work, I kept myself busy. I'd never been to Istanbul and I had a lot to cover in a short period of time. First stop: a food tour with Istanbul Eats. It kicked off with tea outside an esnaf lokanta (tradesman restaurant). We stood in a leafy, crumbling courtyard, sipping tea and watching an older man feed some straggly cats a dish of milk. He jokingly informed us that the cats weren't fasting (it was Ramadan) and neither was he.
My love affair with Turkish food starts with breakfast. The food tour did not disappoint, taking us to another family-run lokanta, for a full-on Turkish breakfast. While not photographically-appealing, kaymak, thick buffalo-milk clotted cream, is a life-changing experience. I was so in love with this stuff, I even bought some before I left Istanbul, which I enjoyed on my flight to Lisbon.
As decadent as the kaymak was, we had more to try. Housemade jams, including rose, went perfectly with the cream and pastries.
The restaurant's owner brought over a hot pan to the table and scooped spoonfuls of fluffy menemen (an egg dish) onto our already full plates. "Pace yourself," I told myself, without heeding my advice.
 Menemen (egg dish) and savory rolls
Following our breakfast, we took the ferry to the Asian side for lunch at Çiya. The restaurant specialized in Ottoman cuisine- this meant lots of fruits and nuts incorporated into dishes, as well as stuffing and drying techniques. Here we enjoyed a plate of stuffed peppers. 
Still at Çiya, we tasted meatballs steeped in tangy cherry sauce (left) and sipped on Subye, a watermelon seed drink (right).
Lunch had to be followed by one of the best desserts of my life: sobiyet baklawa w/kaymak. 
This small pastry shop takes baklawa to another level, invigorating the often overly dry and cloyingly sweet pastry into perfection.
Kaymak-filled baklawa needed to be followed by coffee so we took a caffeine break down the street. We learned that nothing goes in Turkish coffee once it's ready (no sugar, etc. can be added after).
 After filling up on strong Turkish coffee, I got to be a kid in a (Turkish) candy store. Not just any candy shop but a 203-year-old store filled with both familiar and unusual "desserts." 
Powdery lemon Turkish delight (left) and candied fruits and olives (right)
Even though we had just had lunch, it was time for a tantuni break. Tantuni come from the southern part of the country and are wraps filled with delicious meat and veggies. Frothy, bubbly ayran on tap was just the thing to wash down these rolls with.
 tantuni, tantuni, tantuni
Our last stop of the day was at Kimyon, located in an interesting neighborhood. We tried a lot of different dishes here, some mouthwateringly satisfying (like this acidic turnip juice) and others that didn't quite win me over (like the pale soup below).
Head-and-foot soup, aka "hangover soup" (this was more of a cool experience than a culinary highlight)
I enjoyed Kimyon's take on Künefeshredded wheat, goat cheese, and pistachio topped with kaymak.
But the winner was this katmer (which our guide brought back from a nearby pastry shop): stuffed with? That's right, kaymak. Are you sensing a pattern here? Kaymak makes everything better.

The tour ended on such a high note, as we went our separate ways in Istanbul.