It’s funny. I looked around just the other day and I was harvesting fresh tomatoes from my garden and lounging around with a healthyvodka and tonic in the hammock. Yesterday the snow was flying and I realized that it was December! Time really does fly when you’re having fun or as my husband the happy punster likes to say, “Time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana”. Sorry, but it is Foodie Sunday!
This is the time of year when I begin to make lists of all sorts. Cooking lists, gift lists, donation lists, card lists, it’s pretty endless. But I’ve also learned over the years to make my own wish list. So here they are in no particular order, some of the Foodie and fun fantasies that I’m longing to find under the tree this year!
So, what would the holidays be without a fabulous glass of champagne? Through the early 80’s and until the late 90’s my bubbles of choice were Laurent Perrier’s ultra orgasmic Ultra Brut and then this offering just disappeared. I was inconsolable, I used to refer to this particular bottling as drinking an elixir distilled from icy cold angels breath. Not too sweet, not too dry, not too yeasty, just perfect because it has absolutely no sugar dosage. The Ultra Brut is perfect to drink for almost any occasion, it marries well with classic French dishes like Dover Sole or Russian delights like roasted sturgeon and root vegetables. It wants to be paired with chilled fresh oysters and it loves my cut crystal flutes,which allow the bubbles to dance up and down the graceful stems like the sugarplum fairies in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite! Just the other day on a whim I sent to the Laurent Perrier site and lo and behold, someone sound the trumpets because my beloved Ultra Brut has returned! You don’t want to miss this…it’s wonderful. Trust me, buy a bottle and tell me what you think. As for me, well I’m asking Santa for a case of it. Luxurious? Yes! Indulgent? Absolutely! But I like to think I’m worth it and so is my white truffle scented popcorn!
Anytime that I’m thinking about champagne, I’m thinking about fine crystal to serve it in. I have beautiful Baccarat stems, but I’d love a couple of St. Louis Crystals beautiful “Bubbles” flutes to serve my Ultra Brut in. For any not familiar with St. Louis , they are the oldest Cristallerie in Europe, founded in France in 1586. These stems are contemporary yet timeless, each rendered injewel tones of cobalt, green , purple, red and a seductive smoky gray and the stems are beautifully crafted and layered bubbles that form a perfect anchor for the graceful bowl. Totally elegant and gorgeous!
2011 was the year that I learned to cook with essential oils and I fell in love with the breathtaking way in which just a drop or too or a wonderful essence could enhance the flavor of my foods and elevate them to a level of brightness that I’d never experienced before. Essential oil of dill took my potato soup to a whole new richness and essential oil of ginger and roasted carrots? Sublime! How to use them in dessert? The possibilities are endless and I now see that my favorite Jeni’s ice cream recipes have been immortalized in a cookbook. The best part? The essences that they use are made by Mandy Aftel and there’s a delightful set available that I’m hoping to find in my stocking this year, 6 beautiful little bottles (Clove, Coriander, Lavender, Peppermint, ylang ylang and wild sweetorange) just ready to make my ice creams and crème brulee’ giggle with flavor. All of Mandy’s delightful chefs’ essences and absolutes can be found on her website so you can handpick them for YOUR favorite chefs!
I have espresso flavored dreams…I really do. I love the aroma and comfort of a steaming mug of cinnamon coffee first thing in the early hours of the morning when the rest of the house is asleep and it’s just me and my laptop spending some quality time together. Recently I spent a week in Boulder with my family and we stayed at my brother and sister in laws gorgeous new home that they’ve built along the Boulder foothills. This house was beautiful with windows all around and and every morning I’d wake up during sunrise when Carlos the rooster would begin to crow. It was the most relaxing week. I’d walk into the kitchen to find Jim already sitting at the table with his computer and he get up and make me a fabulous cup of hazelnut coffee using their Jura espresso machine. I was hooked! The thought of making a wonderful cup of espresso at home sounds wonderful to me! When I figured out what both of us spent everyday on our assorted latte’s and cappuccinos I was flabbergasted. Even the most expensive machine would be paid for in less than a year’s time. I’ve settled on the Jura Impressa C5 machine with Dual frothers available form Sur La Table. The only downside is that I may never leave the house again!
One of the things that I adore are excellent Olive oils and vinegar’s. When I was last in New York I discovered that one of my favorite restaurants, the Fig and Olive sold one of the finest white truffle infused oils that I’ve ever tasted. But they also sell oils infused with blood orange, meyer lemon and basil that are equallywonderful and a truffled mustard that is to die for and a delicious tomato and basil spread that will leave the warm taste of summer lingering for hours on your lips. In fact, everything that they use on their delicious crostini’s are available for purchase so I think that a gift certificate could be in order. Oh Joy!
Because I spent my entire career in the tabletop and entertaining business old habits die hard. To me presentation is everything and I don’t have a champagne bucket! Well, I did but in a moment of artistic frenzy I turned it into a container for a spider plant and ruined it. So now that I’m going to have my beloved Ultra Brut again I’m going to need a new one and I’ve found the perfect candidate, a Mauviel hammered copper beauty from Williams Sonoma that can chill two bottles side by side and look absolutely rustic and glorious while doing so. If you’ve never used a champagne bucket I encourage you to do so. You can find them everywhere at very reasonable prices and they make your presentation so very glamorous. A bottle of bubbly chilling gracefully in a silver or crystal bucket with two pretty glasses and a few lovely hors d oeuvre’s is always in my home a prelude to a kiss…….
I love Macarons, those delightfully French fantasies of perfect almond meringue with fillings that range from decadent to otherworldly. My favorites come from Laduree in Paris and now I’ve discovered that they are making beautiful candles that are scented just like their pastries. They are beautiful, poured into containers of spun sugar colors emblazoned with white cameos and flavors like violet, chocolate orange and candied fruit. There are at least 20 to choose from and they’re all wonderful and there are sets of two and three just in case you’re like me and can’t make up your mind! I’m truly addicted to these so hopefully Santa will take pity on me this year….
While I’m thinking about sweets I’d love a box of the deliciously soft, unbelievably sexy, seriously sugary Marron’s Glaces from La Maison du Chocolat. If you’ve never tasted a Marron, well you’re in for a treat. They are incredible, chestnuts from Turin that have been gently simmered in sugar water in a candying process over a period of about 5 days, so that the liquids in the chestnuts are gradually replaced by the sugar. These traditional French Favorites are the most perfect treat that I know and I like to buy a box and eat them one or two at a timefrom Christmas eve until New Years Day. I do not share these (even with Jim!) so you’ll have to buy your own box but I promise you that they are worth it.
There are many more things on my wish list, like a vintage copy of The Cleveland Orchestra performing The Nutcracker Suite , The “Essentielle de Chanel “ makeup palette, a huge bag of Laurie Stern of Velvet and Sweet Peas seriously potent catnip for my fabulous felines and a huge bottle of Roxana Villas utterly phenomenal perfume “To Bee” which turns into a sumptuous and sensually honeyed feast on my skin.
Mostly though what I’m wishing for is that you my dear readers have the holiday season of your dreams. Why don’t you let me know what’s on your wish list this year and I promise that if I see your secret Santa I’ll let him know! Send me your favorite Christmas recipe for a chance to have a HUGE holiday grab bag of perfume samples chosen by yours truly. (The winnerfrom my Thanksgiving draw was Janet who mentioned chestnuts, my absolutelyfavorite ingredient to use during this time of year. Janet please send yoursnail mail address to Marina and I’ll send out your gift right away!)