DRUM ROLL PLEASE….. ONE MILLION PAGE VIEWS! IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME!

(Sep 23rd, 2014: comments are shutdown, no further entries accepted) 

Today my Bewitching site hit a wonderful milestone: 1,000,000 page views How on Earth did I get there?  ;-)

onemillion

I am so excited about it, I will offer a small token of appreciation to my readers.  Ottolenghi is about to publish a new cookbook, PLENTY MORE, so if you would like to have it, leave a comment on this post.  The giveaway is open to the whole wide world, by the way…

The comments will be open until September 22nd, and I will announce the winner the following day. Of course, shipping the book will depend on its release, as soon as I get it, it ships.

plenty more

It’s been a ton of fun to keep this site going, and of course hitting this milestone gives me an extra boost of energy!

HEADED TO COLORADO!

Summer is almost over, we’ve worked very hard this year, so it’s time to recharge our batteries.  In a few hours we will start our drive to Silverthorne, for a five-day much-needed break. We intend to play some golf, hike, run, relax just the two of us.  The Bewitching goes on, maybe I will be a little less prompt answering comments and visiting blogs…

Silverthorne

(image from Wikimedia)

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OH, MY GOD! I THINK I SAW SOMETHING….

At the end of a beautiful Summer night we were sitting at the kitchen island chatting about our  day. From the corner of my eye I see something.

“Oh, my God!  I think I saw a mouse!”.

“No, you didn’t”.

(That type of remark never fails to hit a nerve)

“What do you mean, no I didn’t?” 

“You really think you did? Where?”

“From under the stove, I think it ran and passed through the air conditioning vent at the bottom of the cabinet”

composite4(Phil – reluctantly, I must add – gets up and inspects the vent)

“There is NO WAY a mouse can pass through THAT. Don’t worry, you didn’t see anything”

 (I wasn’t particularly thrilled, but accepted that maybe it was all part of my vivid imagination)

clock

 TWENTY MINUTES LATER….

I get up to grab a glass of water in the fridge.  I know, I know, it’s always me. Never anyone else.

A gray mouse dashes between me and the fridge, and hides behind the trash can.

 (Insert high-pitched scream here)

rodentpaht2

You see? You see? I TOLD YOU!  Why don’t you EVER BELIEVE ME?  You think I’m some kind of a Drama Queen, don’t you? So there you have it: THERE WAS A MOUSE ALL ALONG!  We’ve probably been living with this monster for months, maybe there is more than one, maybe there is a whole family, but NOOOOOO, “you didn’t see a mouse, Sally”.

“Ok, ok, I am sorry. We do have a mouse. I tell you what, let’s get the dogs to take care of him”.

So we devised this perfect plan.  First, Phil stood by the trash can with a broom ready in case the creature decided to run away.  Then, doing my best to stop shaking, I locked Chief in his cage, and brought Oscar and Buck to the war zone. I was actually quite optimistic,  having witnessed more than once Buck retrieving and killing snakes in our backyard.

“Ready boys? Ready boys? There’s a mouse, there’s a mouse, GO GET IT!”

(Phil moves the trash can. No action, apart from my preemptive screaming)

“Where IS the mouse?”

“I don’t know, maybe it went inside the trash can, let’s see”

“NOOOOOOOOOOO!  Don’t open it here, if the mouse jumps out I WILL have a heart attack and die, I SWEAR I WILL. You simply cannot open it here. How can you even CONSIDER doing that?

(I think the husband sighed)

“OK, FINE!  I will carry it all the way to the garage and open it there if that makes you happy.”

I did not care for his tone a bit, but was too terror-stricken to let him have a piece of my mind. Plus, the “all the way to the garage” is a few steps, but “I” am the Drama Queen. How unfair is that, can you even stand it?

As he is moving the trash can, the rodent pops from underneath, runs like Usain Bolt, ignores my crazed screaming, and passes right by Oscar’s nose. Our valiant dog BACKED AWAY FROM IT, as if afraid, disgusted or a mixture of both.  Buck? He was already laying in his bed, oblivious to the whole thing.

Mouse disappeared under the stove.  Five minutes later he pops up out of who knows where over the countertop by the sink, sprints in front of my beautiful salt and pepper bowls, jumps and dives through the opening of the stove burner!

mousedive

In a complete state of mental disarray,  I called it a day. Left the kitchen after informing Oscar and Buck that – effective immediately – they were on a diet.

Phil set up a mouse trap with ham and peanut butter and placed it under the stove.   The beast was pronounced dead next morning, around 5:25am, when we entered the premises to have our cappuccino.

Never a dull moment, my friends.  Never a dull moment.

ONE YEAR AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Hoisin-Grilled Chicken & Soba Noodles

TWO YEARS AGO: The Manhattan Project

THREE YEARS AGO: Carrot “Nib” Orzo

FOUR YEARS AGO:  A Sticky Situation

FIVE YEARS AGO:  The Garden

 

 

AND HERE ARE THE WINNERS!

All names were written in pieces of paper, carefully folded.  The husband picked two names, the first one will get the beautifully crafted wooden board, and the second will get the cookbook, My Paris Kitchen.    Not surprisingly, my beloved managed to pick two gorgeous ladies….. he’s got a magic touch, I suppose…   ;-)

winners

 

Congrats to the winners, and please send me your address info so I can get those babies in the mail for you!

 

 

TEN YEARS AGO

We had to say a sudden goodbye to my Dad.  I could not get to Brazil in time for the funeral, which is something that haunted me for a while, but not anymore. Instead, sweet memories of him will be with me forever.

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For those who can read Portuguese, a text written today by my oldest niece.

Ele foi embora há dez anos, mas está sempre presente na minha vida. Muito do que tenho e dos valores que tenho vieram dele e da minha avó, através da minha mãe. Para mim e para muita gente ele foi um exemplo de vida, de caráter, de honestidade, e de muitas outras coisas. Com certeza não foi perfeito, era um ser humano normal, mas principalmente, e sem sombra de dúvida, gente como ele faz a humanidade melhor.

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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…

JeepCDad

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…   ;-)

Rings2

CC

 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