French Market in Chicago

French MarketVisiting markets is one of my favorite activities whether I’m traveling or at home.  Chicago has a wonderful little French market for the public.  The “French” title may be a little misleading.  Yes there are cheeses, wines, macarons, and more, but there is also lobster, falafel, and bahn mis.

If you are in the area, and you’re looking for something a little different, check out the market.  If you spend $20 or more, parking is free!  Check out the vendor websites ahead of time to see what tugs at your curiosity.

 Produce

 Meats

 Cheese

Prepared Meals

 Bread & Pasta

 Snacks

 Baked Goods and Sweets

 Ice Cream/Gelato

 Specialty Coffee/Smoothies/Health Drinks

 Special Essentials

Beer, Wine, and Spirits

On a side note, word on the street is that the current ESPN Center in Chi Town will be turned into a giant indoor market.  This is all rumor, so don’t take my word for it, but if it is true, then my dreams are coming becoming a reality!

Learning Italian While Making Tiramisu

TiramisuDabble has got to be one of the coolest ideas I’ve ever heard of.  Basically, you pay a reasonable amount of money for a couple of hours filled with something you enjoy.  Learn something new, try new activities, meet new people; it is just a fantastic idea.

I attended my first class today: Make Tiramisu and learn (a little) Italian.  It was a balance between learning about the Italian culture, basic Italian vocabulary, and the steps to making tiramisu.  I’ve learned enough to make a couple separate posts in the near future, but today, let’s talk about tiramisu.

Did you know it is so easy to make?  No baking, easy ingredients, and perfect for dinner parties because it should be made ahead of time.  I would make some slight changes to the recipe because of my own preferences, but otherwise, this is a great foundation for making tiramisu.

Ingredienti:

3 Large Eggs (yolks and whites separated)

1/2 Cup Sugar

8 oz Mascarpone

Package of Ladyfingers

1 Cup Espresso

1/8 Cup Cocoa

Combine egg yolks and sugar into a mixing bowl.  Be sure to beat until sugar is absorbed.  Add mascarpone.  Fold into mixture.  In a separate bowl, combine egg whites with a pinch of sugar. Whisk until peaks form.  Gently fold this into mascarpone mixture.

Pour espresso in flat dish so ladyfingers can be dipped in it easily.  Douse the ladyfingers with espresso and place in serving dish.  Spread 1/3 of mascarpone mixture onto layer of ladyfingers, then sprinkle with cocoa.  Continue until you are out of ladyfingers and mascarpone mixture.  Do not sprinkle cocoa on last layer of mascarpone mixture.  Refridgerate for an hour, then add cocoa on top.  Be creative by cutting designs into paper and sprinkling cocoa powder over the design.

My Revised Ricetta (Recipe):

Add liquor to espresso mixture (marsala wine, dark rum, amaretto, coffee flavored liqueur)

Do you have your own killer recipe for tiramisu?  Please share :)!

Cooper’s Hawk Winery

Scallops2-2383The restaurant and winery might be a chain, but it is too good not to share with everyone.  Going to Cooper’s Hawk Winery will hit the wallet a little harder than places such as Olive Garden or Chile’s, but the food and wine leave unforgettable flavors in your mouth.

One option to help save a little money and savor a variety of wines is the Wine Flight.  They have some pre-made selections, or you can create your own.  It is a great way to try 3 ozs of different wines and try something different with each course (they even have an ice wine!).

My favorite dish that I have tried so far is the Gnocchi Carbonara.  Every meal I have tried has wowed me, but if I had to a choose a favorite, this is it.  The panchetta creates a rich sauce that the gnocchi absorbs.  The roasted chicken continues that pow of flavor to create a divine experience.

If you are interested in checking out a restaurant, you can look at their website.  The restaurants can be found in:

Illinois

Indiana

Ohio

Wisconsin

Missouri

Florida

Hanging in the ‘Burbs of Paris

GardensI wonder if anyone can guess where I went today…  I sure didn’t know it existed until I was there.  It all started with the hopes of a gourmet cheeseburger.  I’m not sure what it is about craving the beef sandwich, because I rarely order one at home.  For some reason, I appreciate the twist on an American favorite here.

Le Camion Gourmand is “the” food truck of Paris.  The name even evokes a sense of pride.  Surprisingly, they mostly serve the suburbs of Paris.  When a girl wants a burger, she gets her burger.  I viewed their site to see where they would be, and what I could do in that area.  My metro is line 1 which ends at La Defense in the west and Chateau de Vincennes to the east.  Who would have thought there is actually a chateau at Chateau de Vincennes?  Not me apparently.  Well, the name is more than an illusion, there actually is a middle-aged chateau there.  And it used to have a moat!

I followed the metro out to Montreuil for my food fix.  It is a very working class/business kind of district.  It is not quite as high-end as La Defense, but not scary either.  My sketchy photographic memory actually remembered the path to the truck, and I successfully found it without a hitch.  This is quite rare, so I usually have an internal celebration at my unsurpassed success.

The options are fairly simple because all that really changes is the cheese.  Being a big goat cheese fan, I ordered Le Seguin.  In between the bun you will find a delicate burger, caramelized onions, red onion, goat cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickle, and a sauce.  Who can have a burger without fries?  Not me.  I sat on a small post just a few feet away to savor my wonderful burger that was in a box like a present.  Too bad I didn’t have someone with me to finish what I could not.

Feeling like the biggest pig in Paris with my burger stenched fingers, I felt the need for a walk.  I knew the chateau was southeast, so I followed that direction.  I ran right into it.  I was on a roll today.  You can enter the grounds for free, but the chateau and church cost.  I was feeling a bit stingy today, so I just took in the exterior.  Across the way I saw something that intrigued me.  There was greenery, and lots of it.

Just on the other end of the Chateau was a floral park.  I spent a couple hours wandering the paths, smelling the flowers, and running away from the bees.  If you have not met me, you probably don’t know that I dislike insects and spiders.  Dislike is probably not the right word.  I am a child when a buzz sound gets too close.  I know it is ridiculous, but c’est la vie.

I felt like I was returning to my roots of photography because it all began with flowers.  I have thousands of photos, yet I still enjoy capturing a flower just right.  I wasn’t planning on walking much or taking many photos, so I lightened my load by only bringing my point-and-shoot, and not my DSLR or my video camera.  There was a group of guys with big cojones cameras.  I was a bit sad I didn’t bring my heavy equipment, but I was pretty pleased with what I captured today.  Plus, I know I can compete with their images any day.  Not that I was sizing up or anything…

Favorite moments of the day?  Having a desire and meeting it.  Finding new spaces along the way.  Drinking a wonderful wine of the month from Nicolas.  Sharing my photos and experiences with others.  Life is good.

The Miracle of Meandering

Ladder to HeavenMy plan today was to walk around. I had no exact endpoint, but I had some options in mind.  I started early enough to visit the Latin Quarter without everyone else visiting it at the same time.  I considered taking a bus up to Montmartre, but by the time I found a bus that actually went up there, I found something more enticing to do.

With my map sitting on my couch at home, I connected familiar streets with new ones.  While on new territory, I gazed in windows to observe copper pots, cooking utensils, and bakeware.  I found a cookware shop.  And not just any cookware, but the best one in Paris that has been open since 1820 (E. Dehillirin)!  You know, the one that Julia Child used to go to purchase supplies while training at Le Cordon Bleu.  The one my chef recommended at the cooking school.  Of course I stumble in the entryway with excitement.

The first step in reveals what looks like and smells like my granddad’s garage, only filled with cooking items instead of tools and nails.  It is packed with pots, pans, people, and all kinds of nifty little gadgets.  The thrill of a cooking store is always high for me, but this one was like the best roller coaster at the park.  I bumped into people and looked around in awe and confusion.

What is that used for?  Where are the prices?  What do these numbers mean?  I spent at least an hour looking at this table, then going downstairs, then going back to the table, and still trying to figure out what it all costs.  I heard the word catalog and the light bulb turned on.  The numbers refer to items in a catalog which will indicate the price.  I wrote down the numbers of possible purchases and sought out a catalog.  Aha!  I’ve mastered this system.

After careful consideration of my budget, I opt for a few standby utensils.  My dreams are bigger, but my wallet is not.  Enchanted to be buying something from a professional cooking store, I make my way to the counter to pay.  Once again my basic logic of how a store operates proves to be wrong.

First you have to visit the guy with the order notepad.  He records what you have selected.  Then you leave your items on the table and go to the counter.  A new man looks up the prices and returns with a receipt.  Once all items have been paid for, you go back to the table where they wrap and bag your desires.  The man in front of me bought over 450 Euros worth of copper pots.  If only I could afford these pieces of artwork and magic, or be able to ship them home.

What a thrill to learn and achieve success with this wonderful store.  Ready for more, I went down the street to find another cooking store.  The charm and dust were not there, so I left quietly.  If I want to shop at a store like that, I will go to Sur la Table at home.  Let’s just say Sur la Table has nothing on E. Dehillirin.

With a culinary mindset, I decided it was finally time to have some escargot.  Perhaps a restaurant named l’Escargot would be a good idea.  It just so happened they had a special with the tasty little snails and veal.  My meal was good, but I still set escargot I devoured in Madison, Wisconsin as the best in the world.  I think my favorite part of the meal is becoming the cafe.  To think I never used to like coffee, and now it doesn’t feel right to end a meal without one.

Place Monge Market and a Meal

Place-Monge-Marche-1The mist that hung in the air did not deter me from opening the door, and setting out to the market.  I shuffled down to Ile St. Louis, past Hemingway’s home, and through Rue Mouffetard to Place Monge where the market can be found.  Markets look so inviting in the rain with their covered roofs and warm lights.  The smell of roasted chicken permeates the little enclosures until you walk past a cheese stand. Then, a new odor takes over.

A young woman assisted me with the necessary produce for the day.  I asked her what was fresh, and she replied that the apricots were sweet as she offered a hand-sliced piece.  I showed my approval with a purchase to bring home.  We then had a language lesson on garlic.  I taught her the English pronunciation, and she taught me the French word: ail.  I knew that this was the French word for garlic, but I’m so afraid to butcher the language when I speak.  She was kind enough to let me photograph some of her produce.  Be careful with photography at markets.  Some will have signs prohibiting it.  Support the local farmers by purchasing something, even if it is small, and kindly ask to take photos.  Otherwise, be discreet, and try not to get in the way of their business.

I brought my goodies home to place in the refrigerator.  Just as my apartment door was closing, I opened it again to go to my next destination.  I was very fortunate to have good company for lunch.  My tour guide from last year is finishing a tour, so we met up for a bite to eat.  It was such a refreshment to talk with someone I know, in a language I understand.  She is a kind, supportive person, and I enjoyed catching up.

There was a question she asked me about what future I see with travel, writing, and photography.  As I write this post I can’t help but be excited about the prospect of having a future in one of these areas.  I believe in the very cliche statement that everything happens for a reason.  It is interesting to think of the steps that have led me to where I am, and how future steps will lead me further.  How electrifying to think of the possible path ahead.

Does anyone else get excited thinking about the possible future?

Cook’n With Class in Paris Part 2

The-ChefI think I was suffering from the tryptophan of the amazing meal we prepared last night because all I wanted to do when I got home was go to sleep.  Now that I have recovered from the food trance, I’m ready to talk about what an amazing experience I had.  There were several classes offered, but I knew the Evening Market Class was right for me.

First, let’s start with who should sign up for a class.  I know it may be a little scary to look at the price, but this class will be worthwhile for you if at least one of the following is true. You:

-Like food

-Like wine

-Like dessert

-Like cheese

-Like markets

-Like going on field trips

-Like spending time with small groups

-Like learning from an expert

-Like practicing what you learn

-Like kind teachers that are patient

-Like experimenting with food

-Like the French culture

-Or you just want to improve your skill

So, basically if you are a human, this class is for you.  Now that we know who this is for, let’s get to the good parts.  What do we do?

Part 1: Shopping

The trip begins with shopping for dinner’s ingredients.  The menu evolves as we browse the selection and get to know each other.  Patrick did not skimp on quality or quantity.

We began at the boulangerie where we picked up the necessary baguettes.  We even saw the man baking as we walked by the window.

From there, we headed to the butcher.  Fish would be the main course, but we agreed on veal for the entree (which is an appetizer in France).

Next, it was time for cheese.  I think I probably learned the most in this store.  I’m even acquiring an appreciation for the stinkiness of a fromagerie.  Patrick selected five cheeses with us.

Then, we walked to the fishmonger.  Patrick took the opportunity to teach us about farm raised vs. ocean fish.  He also shared techniques for how to determine fish freshness.  He was originally going to pick out one fish, but the fishmonger told us that a different one would be the best because it was caught today.  I think he was right because it was phenomenal (and I don’t care for fish much).

Finally, we needed the produce to tie all of the ingredients together.  A local market housed some of the freshest fruits and veggies that we would later chow down on.

Main Lessons Learned:

-Some boulangeries don’t make the dough there, try to find one where they make the dough and bake the bread.

-Cheeses are grouped together by kind.

-They put the stinkiest cheeses by the door to help with ventilation.

-Cheeses have signs with a wealth of information (pasteurized, not pasteurized,animal it came from, and seals).

-Typically not pasteurized cheese is the best, except with Roquefort.

-Common brie in America is not brie.

-Comte cheese is the most famous in France right now (and my favorite of what we tasted).

-Some rinds of the cheese is eaten by mites, but that is okay.

-Some mold is good (especially for digestion).

-When you go to a fish stand, typically the outermost part is either the fish they are trying to get rid of or it is farm raised.  The best fish is usually inside.

-If you see a small portion of tuna left, don’t buy any.  Tuna is a huge fish and if there is only a little left, it is probably not as fresh.

-Milkiness on the scales of the fish indicates freshness.

-Looking under the gills for a deep red also indicates freshness.

-Fish is expensive and you only get a percentage of the fish close to half of what you pay for.

-Celery root can be substituted with potatoes.

-Look for light green and yellow in the center when buying celery.

Part 2: Cooking

Now that we have the ingredients, it is time to start putting the masterpiece together.  I’m not going to list every detail of how we made our dishes because that is the joy of taking the class.  Here is the menu though:

Entree (Appetizer)

Veal on top of a celery salad with Dijon and Roquefort blue cheese vinaigrette.  Garnish: Candied orange peel

Plat

Fish with celery root gratin, haricot verts, red onions in wine, and tomato/butter sauce.  Garnish: basil and julienne tomato peel

Cheese

Goat, Brie, Roquefort, a stinky one, and one that was my favorite (and the favorite of France, similar to Swiss), but the name is escaping me

Dessert

Cherry cake with improvised sauce

Main Lessons Learned:

-Candied fruits are easy and great as a garnish or addition to dishes.

-Celery makes a great salad with orange and vinaigrette.

-Add cold butter to make sauces to avoid oily sauce.

-To remove the smell of garlic on your hands, rub them on something made of stainless steel.

-I really need to stop touching my meat so much when it is the pan.  Cook, flip, cook.  That is it.

-Celery root is awesome and will now be added to my grocery lists.

-I think I am a fish person after all.

-Blanching vegetables stops the cooking and preserves vitamins.

Part 3: Eating

After slaving away in the kitchen (yeah right), we put together our plates.  We spend some time on garnishing and presentation.  When I looked at my plates, I thought about the couple of extra minutes it took to take a meal from just delicious to beautiful and delicious.  Each dish was a fusion of sweet, savory, crunch, smoothness, and every wonderful combination imaginable.  I will make these dishes again.  In fact, I am eating candied cherries on bread with goat cheese right now.  Not only can I reproduce what we did, but also incorporate twists based on the foundation of skills taught.

Part 4: Rolling Home

After the abundance of wine and food, it was time to roll down to the metro.  This night will probably be the highlight of my trip because of the people I met, food I ate, and experiences I had.  If you are considering a cooking class in Paris, I highly recommend Cook’n with Class.

I’ve shared these pictures in a previous post, but I’d like to throw them up here again now that there is more context behind them.

Cook’n With Class in Paris

AppetizerTaking a cooking class in Paris is a good idea.  Taking a market cooking class in Paris is a great idea.  I browsed the different selections for cooking classes, and Cook’n with Class seemed to fit my personality best.  Hands on learning, “field trips,” eating, drinking, and good company.  We went with the chef to select the freshest food for the day.  From there, he creates a four course menu: appetizer, main dish, cheese plate, and dessert.  I learned so much about food and cooking that will have to be shared in a separate post, later.  They are very generous with their wine, and the hour is late, so I am going to keep this post short because sleep is calling.

Menu

Entree (Appetizer)

Veal on top of a celery salad with Dijon and Roquefort blue cheese vinaigrette.  Garnish: Candied orange peel

Plat

Fish with celery root gratin, haricot verts, red onions in wine, and tomato/butter sauce.  Garnish: basil and julienne tomato peel

Cheese

Goat, Brie, Roquefort, a stinky one, and one that was my favorite (and the favorite of France, similar to Swiss), but the name is escaping me

Dessert

Cherry cake with improvised sauce

The chef will e-mail the recipes within a week.  I think I may have to take another class…  Let the pictures do the talking for tonight.

Raspail Marche in Paris

Marche-5Visiting a market in Paris is both a good idea, and fairly easy to do since they are all over the place.  Before departing from the states I picked up the 2nd edition of Markets of Paris to see what was out there.  One of the top rated ones to visit is the Raspail Marche.  The open air market is located on the left bank near the Rennes metro exit.  This is mostly a food market, but there were some stalls with Provence tablecloths (20 Euros! not bad) and accessories.

One of the highlights of this market if you visit on the right day, is stopping by a food truck for lunch.  I first heard about Cantine California on Anthony Bourdain’s show.  Always ready for a good burger, I planned to visit the market on a day they would be there.  The owner is from San Francisco, and his been a hit since opening up about 15 months ago.  He works with a diverse group of men with different backgrounds.  I was eavesdropping as the new hire was introduced to men from Sweden and France.  I got there right when they opened and only had to wait for my food to be prepared.

They are known for their burgers and tacos.  The burgers are like the kind my dad used to make; a minimum of one inch thick and juicy.  I think mine put me in a food coma because shortly after eating it I walked home and took a nap.  Check out the pictures below to trigger mouth watering (if you are into that sort of thing).

I’m trying to avoid using the metro by walking everywhere I want to go.  Here is the little hike I did today.  I needed it after the calories I ingested for lunch.

Rijsttafel Dinner in the Netherlands

Rijstaffel-DinnerWhen I first found out that I was going to eat at an Indonesian style buffet for the first time in the Netherlands, I was confused.  Won’t I be eating herring, fries with mayonnaise, gouda, or something like that?  Thank goodness our planner knew what she was talking about.

If you are visiting the Netherlands with a group, this is a great option to feast on and enjoy each others’ company.  The variety of options will please even the pickIndonesian-Restaurantiest eaters.  It is a rich experience to taste multiple dishes and realize they are all good.  I would tell you what I ate if I could remember the names of all the dishes.  I was too swept up in the flavor to think too much about what it was called.  Just know that you will find rice dishes, meats, shrimp, veggies, and flavorful sauces.

You may be wondering how Indonesian cuisine meshes with the Dutch culture.  In the past, the Dutch colonized in Indonesia, and their food influenced those that came back home.

Have you ever been surprised by the variety of cuisine in a countGroup-1ry?