MAJESTIC SEDONA, TAKE TWO

A couple of years ago I wrote about Sedona, a place I fell in love with at first sight. Impossible not to.  What I did not know at the time is that Sedona would be back in our lives for a very special reason. It was the place chosen by my stepson and his fiancée (aka “the coolest couple in L.A.) to tie the knot.  And tie the knot they did,  on a breathtakingly beautiful spot around a rock formation known as “Merry-Go-Round Arch“.

CarlyCaseySedona, April 12th, 2014

We drove over 16 hours to attend the magical wedding ceremony performed by a Native American Indian.  As the sun slowly set down on the horizon, we were all mesmerized by the beauty surrounding us, and united in our wishes of happiness for the newly weds.

Our trip was an opportunity to connect with the three “kids”, who are kids no more. It was also an opportunity to connect with our beautiful planet.  It could not have been more special than it was.

I share a few additional shots of our adventure
(click to enlarge each composite photo)

 

There was some golf… (both good and bad golf, as expected). Obviously, I am standing up too straight to start the shot, oh, dear Lord of the Golf, when will I ever learn?)

CompositeGolf

We had a great rehearsal dinner at René Restaurant in Sedona. Here we are, waiting for our guests, Phil carefully studying the wine list… Me? I was trying to win the fight for attention with the wine list. Not an easy task, but I like a challenge. That explains the golf too.   ;-)

RehearsalComposite

The afternoon of the big day, and the excitement of getting ready for it… Remember my other stepson? J & M got married only 7 months ago.  He got his PhD in Cancer Research at the University of Arizona, in a flawless defense we attended a couple of days before the wedding, and they will move to San Francisco very soon. This was a week with many reasons to celebrate!

GettingReady

The jeep ride to the site, and the arrival of the beautiful bride with her proud Dad…

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After the wedding and the jeep ride back to town, we had dinner at Heartline Café.  During the meal, a fantastic caricaturist made drawings of all the 13 members of the party. What a cool idea that was, everyone left with a unique and quite personal souvenir of their wedding day!

Drawing-side

I close this post with something special we found while walking around town the day before our departure. Rings made by a local artist, in copper and silver.  We decided it was a nice additional souvenir to remember their happiness, and celebrate ours…   ;-)

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 ONE  YEAR AGO: Secret Ingredient Turkey Meatballs

TWO YEARS AGO: Swedish Meatballs and Egg Noodles

THREE YEARS AGO: Italian Easter Pie

FOUR YEARS AGO: Black Olive Bialy

LASSERRE, A FRENCH CLASSIC

Our recent scientific trip to Paris was intense to say the least, and started with a curve ball from my beloved, who tried to be casual when he advised me – twenty-four little hours before our departure –  to “place a change of clothes in my carry-on.”  Because, “… who knows if the hotel room will be ready for us early in the morning?”   American visitors typically land in Paris around 7am, and on further (insistent) inquiry he revealed that “our first meeting at Institut Necker will be at noon.”  Five short little hours after stepping out of the plane.

I don’t do scientific discussions very well after an intercontinental flight, no shower, and with a sleeping pill hangover, so to put it mildly, I wasn’t thrilled. Our exchanges on the subject ended with his usual “it will all be fine.” Maybe that’s true, but I’d like to get some credit for it: I wrote the hotel and begged them to get us a room as early as they possibly could. The wonderful folks at “Hôtel Londres Eiffel” had our room ready by the time we made it to Paris, after the usual tribulations of customs, luggage retrieval, and train ride. So,  I only had to deal with the sleeping pill hangover. Isn’t life grand? ;-)

As usual in this type of trip, our schedule was hectic, but we promised ourselves three things: wake up early each morning to go running under the Eiffel tower like in the good old days, walk to all our commitments instead of taking the metro, and enjoy one special meal (just the two of us) on the weekend.   Phil made a reservation for lunch at Lasserre, a place we had been before when we lived in the City of Lights, back in 2002.

Restaurant_Lasserre_avenue_Franklin_D._Roosevelt_Paris
Lasserre opened in 1942, got its first Michelin star seven years later and its second in 1951.  The restaurant, under the talent of Executive Chef  Christophe Moret is located at Avenue Franklin Roosevelt in the 8th arrondisement,  a place surrounded by embassies and with that majestic aura that comes so naturally to some neighborhoods of Paris.  Once you set foot inside, the adventure begins… You will be greeted by a stylish maître d’hôtel and led to a cozy lift that will take you to the second floor where the dining room is located. In all its glory and splendor.  Glory and splendor are indeed the two words that will be in your mind throughout the whole meal.

Lasserre1
The restaurant offers many options for a lunch meal. You can order a la carte if you prefer, but a better deal is to pick one of their prix fixe menus. They have several kinds of menus: {Starter + main dish + dessert},  (Starter + two main dishes + dessert},  and also a more extravagant option with several desserts in very small portions at the end.  Their pastry chef,  Claire Heitzler, is well-known for adapting classic recipes and turning them into slightly lighter fair. That’s what we were told, but even with that assurance, we opted for one dessert only, merci beaucoup.   ;-)  Of course, Lasserre also offers a menu including one type of wine matched to each course, but I don’t care for wine at lunch (I know, I’m a bit odd, right?),  so Phil was happy sipping a single glass of Bordeaux with his meal.

On a quick side note: all my photos were taken after I asked for permission.  To keep things as discreet as possible, I used my cell phone and only snapped one picture per plate, so don’t expect great quality in the images.

Let’s get this show on the road…

Starter Course

FoieGrasSoup

Phil went with (no surprise!) foie gras.  The foie gras was first poached, then grilled, and served in a delicate ginger-broth with daikon, a touch of passion fruit juice and seeds (that gave an unexpected crunch!), mango and shaved, toasted coconut.  The foie was superb and the combination of flavors was delightful.

GreenPeaVeloute
I chose a green pea veloute’ soup, poured on top of lettuce leaves and very small croutons made of… foie gras. I am clueless as to how they were prepared,  but each small crouton retained a delicious,  rather subtle foie flavor, with a lot of crunch.  Wonderful!

Main Course

VealPicatta

For his main dish, Phil had the veal piccata. The preparation surprised me, I thought it would be a type of fricassee with the meat in small slices, but instead there were two large pieces of meat, cooked to perfection, in a wine-reduction sauce over wilted spinach.  Luscious…

Lamb

I opted for the lamb, served with farro in a sauce with dried figs and warm spices such as cinnamon and coriander.  The lamb was carved by the waiter using a spoon and a fork, so that the tenderness of the meat becomes evident, and acts as a great advertisement for other guests who might be trying to decide what to choose from the menu. You can see our waiter carving the lamb on the second photo of this post.

Dessert Course

Phil closed down his meal with their  version of tiramisu, which happens to be one of his favorite desserts… It was spectacular, with an absolutely perfect coffee ice cream crowning it.

tiramisu

I went with the Paris-Brest…which Claire Heitzler assembled with an almond-based whipped cream, and fresh raspberries. A small portion of raspberry sorbet was served alongside. The presentation was spectacular, as you can see.

Paris-BrestSorbet

Once our lunch was over, they offered a batch of very small lemon-scented madeleines, fresh from the oven – comme il faut – and tiny cubes of a chocolate concoction that reminded me of flourless chocolate cake in texture and taste.  Superb!

MadeleinesChocolateCubes

Back in 2002, when we were in Paris for a full year, we went to several special restaurants like La Tour d’Argent, Le Jules Verne (at the Eiffel), Taillevent, Le Violon d’Ingres, Benoit, Clos des Gourmets, and Lasserre (at that time for dinner).  In my opinion,  Taillevent (reviewed here) and Lasserre tie for first place as far as dining experiences go.  Of course, the view from Jules Verne is spectacular, the location of La Tour d’Argent cannot be beat, but Lasserre has a touch of elegance and charm that is quite unique. Also, a special added bonus: a ceiling that can be kept closed (showing a painting of dancers and angels by Touchagues) or open to the sky on beautiful nights and sunny days.

Ceiling

In our dinner in 2002, the ceiling was closed, but they opened it a couple of times during the evening.  In our  visit a couple of weeks ago, the weather was spectacular, so the ceiling stayed open full-time, except while the waiter was preparing Crêpes Suzette for guests, and getting ready for the final flambee. The ceiling slowly closed, the lights were dimmed, and the whole restaurant stopped to pay attention to the show.  If it was me trying to prepare that dish under the scrutiny of so many people, a lot more than the crêpes could be set on fire… but the waiter was impecabble, bien sûr!  ;-)

I hope you enjoyed our recollection of a very special time in Lasserre…  

I close this post with my favorite photo of the week, taken on our way to dinner with a colleague.

P&S_SunsetParis2Au revoir, Paris… et a bientot!

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

TWO YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

THREE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

NIGHT AND DAY

Last night….

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This morning….

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The blog will go on with pre-scheduled posts, but I wanted to say hello.  My ability to reply to comments or visit other blogs will be limited until we fly back home next week.  We are here on scientific business, but I hope to be able to blog on a special meal we have planned this weekend.  Stay tuned, mes amis!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

P&SVAL~1Paris, Valentine’s Day 2003… Restaurant Vin Sur Vin, unforgettable evening….

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I  hope that you will have a wonderful evening, no matter your take on Valentine’s Day.   We are not in Paris, but we will dream about being there… and act accordingly   ;-)

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

ONE YEAR AGO:  A Few Blogging Issues

TWO YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

THREE YEARS AGO:  Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

SWEET FIFTEEN

Today Chief turns 15 years old!  He was just a tiny, incredibly cute puppy when I got him, but his strong personality was already evident. Whenever I corrected him with a loud and firm “NO!” he would furiously bark back at me, much like a teenager challenging the orders of a parent. To celebrate such an important milestone in the life of our dear four-legged friend,  let me share  a few pictures.

chief11This is perhaps my favorite shot of Chief ever!  Before getting married to Phil, I lived in a small house, my backyard separated from the neighbor’s by a simple wire fence. My neighbor also had a dog, a female Springer Spaniel called Maria. Chief used to squeeze through the holes of that fence very easily to play with her. At some point, I traveled to attend a meeting, and left Chief with a friend.  When I came back 10 days later, he had grown so much that passing through the holes was impossible! The photo captured well his expression of frustration faced with a reality he could not quite comprehend. ;-)

Chief2He loved to eat his treats laying over the lawn. But you can more or less read his thoughts… “Why are you taking my picture?  I am not sure I should allow it!

chiefp~1All those treats gave him strong jaws!  As an adult dog, he had no problem to deal with leftovers from a pulled pork.   The bone ended up clean as a whistle… And, in case you are wondering about that bulky thing on his collar, it is a gadget he had to wear all the time to prevent him from digging under the solid wood fence in our home in Oklahoma. Quite a digger!

CrzyMidgt3He loved playing with the hose… Still does, but his jumping days are over…

mudchiefAnd loved playing in mud almost as much. This particular photo was taken 45 minutes after a bath, and almost caused me to go into cardiac arrest.

DSCN1279Always able to find the best spot in any room…

compositeHe loved his buddy Pits, and we know his life has never been quite the same ever since we had to say goodbye to our beloved dalmatian. Pits had the patience of a saint. Seriously.

sallybr
Happy Birthday, Chief, you will always be a puppy for me!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Sesame and Flaxseed Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: Green Beans with Miso and Almonds

THREE YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

FOUR YEARS AGO: White Bread

2013 IN REVIEW

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 280,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 12 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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A TWENTY YEAR MILESTONE

Pateur
Right after Christmas 1993,  I left Brazil with the firm, but slightly far-fetched idea that I was not going back.  Many things made my departure hard.  A marriage. A lovely home. Toby, a dog I was crazy about. I could only take two pieces of luggage with me. Everything else was left behind. Books, dishes, pans, photos. But, much harder than that, family, friends, and the safety of a job at the best university in  the country.

At the time, I had no idea whether I was making the right decision.  I left São Paulo at the height of the summer, I arrived in Paris on a very cold night,  a few days short of New Year’s Eve to face months of loneliness like I had never experienced before.  I quickly realized I was fully unprepared for it, but giving up and flying back to Brazil was not an option I was willing to take. My former husband at some point told me: the struggles you are going through today, one day will be like invisible medals you will be proud to wear on your chest. Wise guy.

Twenty years flew by.  I cannot express how fortunate I feel for taking that risky first step. I do not mean this as advice, it’s rather a personal observation:  the only way to move forward is to take some risks, and to accept the idea of being very uncomfortable for a while. So, when in doubt, take a deep breath, and dive into your dreams!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
(opening line of a favorite book, read in Paris, March 1994).