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Showing posts with label childhood memories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label childhood memories. Show all posts

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Where to Go, What to Do in London and Paris

A good friend in Paris saw my post asking for suggestions about travel to London and Paris. Randa warned me, "Your request was very brave. You will be swamped with millions of great ideas, and you only have TWO DAYS!!!"

The last time I was in either city was more than 30 years ago. I spent a week in London, a few days in Paris, and four days in Madrid. In Paris I visited Fran, my ex-wife, who had fled the "dullness" of America for the excitement of Paris. Her year in Paris was incredibly productive. She directed a documentary on Salvador Dali, wrote a screenplay, and had the best time of her life. For that trip, the plan was I would see London on my own and she would be my guide in Paris. I don't remember the time I spent in London but what I did in Paris is still vivid to me because I saw Paris through her eyes.

Which is why I am grateful that so many of you sent your recommendations about where to go and what to do in London and Paris. Instead of bringing a generic guide book, having those suggestions is like taking a personal scrapbook with me. I'm looking forward to the trip even more than before. There's so much to see and do, I want to go back and I haven't even been there yet.

I'm posting the ones I've gotten so far. I hope you'll continue to send more. I'll update these lists as more suggestions come in. We'll create our own Guide Book to London and Paris!

About London:

From Susan, "In London there are things I love but hardly unknown things. I love the Covent Garden Hotel. The only danger is that you run into every Hollywood agent you don't want to see. Just across the road, in a tiny and famous courtyard, is Neal's Yard Cheese which you of all people absolutely must go to if you never have. It's heaven. Cheese is a religion there, and it's still a tiny old-fashioned shop. Other obvious things: the Tate Modern, which really is amazing, and specifically the walk from St. Paul's to the Tate across the foot bridge. I just love walking in London basically. Also walking from the Tate to the new Globe. I've never seen a performance there, but just touirng the building is wonderful (for me, anyway).

A somewhat underrated place I think is the Museum of London in the dreadful Barbican. I find that kind of history fascinating. Oh, and the new British Library which has been so derided as bad architecture I think is not that bad at all, and the exhibition room takes your breath away: the actual real Beowulf, Jane Austen's writing desk, the only known recording of Virginia Woolf's voice, first folio Shakespeares etc. etc.

I don't think this is much help, cause I don't have any secrets to offer, but I sure as hell wish I were going. Have tremendous fun."

From Melissa who lived in London with her family for a year, "Some suggestions: I assume you know about the Borough Market. If not, it's open Th-Sat, but Fri (from noon) & Sat (open @ 9?) are the best days.

Vendors I liked:
Brindisa Spanish Foods (they also sell amazing Grilled Chorizo sandwiches with piquillo peppers).
Neal's Yark Dairy
Monmouth Coffee (the BEST cappuccino I have ever had outside of Italy)
Total Organics green grocer (Jamie Oliver is rumored to shop there)
The Ginger Pig (great butcher shop)
Konditor & Cook (bakery) Every bakery there has a thing about brownies - huge mountains of them...I thought K&C's were the best.
The Rake (extremely small pub known for its amazing beer selection)

Marylebone High Street Area:
Marylebone Food Fayre (Farmer's Market) - Largest one in London with about 40 vendors (they think that's a lot) - nice (depending on the season) but small. It's in the Cramer St. Car Park on Sunday from 10am-2pm
The Natural Kitchen (a small market and cafe) River Cottage (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) is one of their suppliers
The Fromagerie - great cheese store & cafe
The Ginger Pig (also at The Borough)
Rococo - chocolate shop
The Providores - Tapas - Spanish by a New Zealand Chef. Downstairs - breakfast, lunch dinner...very casual/Upstairs - more upscale

Ottolenghi - Amazing prepared food & pastries served at communal tables (although the Islington location actually has table service). I love this place (there are 4 locations) - they just published a terrific cookbook.
Baker & Spice - similar to Ottolenghi, but smaller.
Whole Foods (yes Whole Foods). JUST as we were moving back to LA, they opened up a gigantic Whole Foods on Kensington High Street. It is so different than any of the UK supermarkets, and I was very sad that I wasn't really able to shop there. If this market does well (I haven't kept up with how it's been received) it will really change the way London shops for food.
Waitrose - The Gelson's of London. Locations all over London. The one on Marylebone High Street is rather small (they revamped it to compete with the Natural Kitchen) and not indicative of what they stock.

I know this is a lot more than you have time for - but these were my haunts and thought I'd share them with you. I didn't list any restaurants but if you tell me where you're staying, I'll try to come up with some suggestions of places in the area.

Have a wonderful trip!"

From Tom a memory from his semester in London when he was a starving law student, "You have to go to a chain called Wagamama. They're everywhere. I ate at Wagamama almost every single day because it was affordable and delicious. Total comfort food. And the Food Court at Harrod's. It's out of control. You could eat every meal there. Relatively sensible meals at affordable prices."

From my Rhode Island friend Hank,
"London is it?...Hmm, I'd suggest an afternoon visit to the Tate Modern and an early dinner at the River Cafe...

The Tate resides in a converted power station and houses, as the name suggests, a rather extensive collection of "modern" art. It's a hoot and the crowd is youthful, lively and oh, so interested....a fun afternoon.

The River Cafe is all it's cracked up to be....That is a hip, timely, expensive and the place to see and of course eat. It's busy and buzzing with all those who count and is operated by a couple of woman proprietors who take food, cooking and consuming very seriously. I like these "serious cookin'" places and these gals do a bang-up job.

Oh, and if time allows, you might zip out to Kew Gardens, a very interesting horticultural gem not more than 20 minutes by tube from most parts of London. The green house dates from the mid 19th century and houses a world class collection of tropical flora (this place is something like 300 feet long and 3 stories tall-incredible). The grounds (many, many acres) are home to huge collections of....everything that you need to see that grows in the earth and can survive at Kew.....

And the only thing I can recommend for Paris (been too long to remember much) is a mass at Notre Dame...breath taking.

Rock on Mister Latt....lucky you!!!!"

Hank's recommendation of The River Cafe was seconded by Chris, "You have to go to River Cafe--it's a ride out to West London, but it is the epitome of local, seasonal, sustainable 'let the ingredients speak' cooking in the UK."

Sibyl remembered both London and Paris, "How fun that you’re taking a trip to London and Paris. Back when I was married my ex and I spent our first anniversary having dinner at the Savoy in London. It was one of the best meals I’ve had, and the atmosphere was incredibly romantic and classy. The Kirov ballet company was at the next table. So that’s the only thing I’d recommend in London.

I was in Paris last summer with my kids and we stayed in the Latin Quarter where there’s a bakery called Keyser (I think it’s spelled that way and named after Eric Keyser, the owner) that we went to every day. It was amazing. Always a line that moved very quickly. Try anything they make with pistachios.

Have fun!!!"

About Paris:

From Ned,
"About five years ago Helena and I were taken by a friend to an astounding dinner at L'Arpege, Paris. Still dreaming about it. Their strange website: http//
An accurate review:

Valerie remembers a seriously wonderful cook store called E. Dehillerin (18 rue Coquillière, 1st arr., 011-33/1-42-36-53-13). That made me curious about other cookware and cookbook stores in Paris. Online I found Clotilde Dusoulier's 2005 comprehensive survey, "My Paris is Better Than Yours," from MSNBC ( and the full article with other foodie-recommendations: and Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel.

From Marii a recommendation for a restaurant she still thinks about,

From Maria Elena who lived and cooked in Paris and so has a great intimacy with all things food in France, "Two of my favorites when I would house sit for my friends Brad and Em, were near their old apartment in the 15th arrondissement: Le Florimond, 19 ave de la Motte-Picquet (at rue Bougainville) 7th arr, metro: Ecole Militaire--great basic French food, wine (says my sister) and the most polite owner around--he greeted, served, and apparently did a lot of the cooking; phone: 01-45-55-40-28.

L'Os a Moelle, 3 rue Vasco da Gama, 15th arr (at rue de Lourmel), phone: 01-95-57-27-27. You need to make a reservation ASAP for this. One fixed price menu for the night, 3 courses, great wine. The 2 sittings are always packed. Last time I was there we had raie (skate fish) in a sauce, pork chop with potato puree, and a chocolate dessert with saffron."

David lived in Paris years ago and even though he hasn't been back recently, he's never forgotten what he loved, "Here are the tourist things worth doing including FLEA MARKETS, take a night cruise on a bateau mouche on the Seine… do not eat dinner… do drink something… Paris lit from the river is beautiful.

Two of my favorite restaurants in the day were Brasserie Le Balzar and the informal patio restaurant at La Closerie de Lilas; I used to get the choucroute at Le Balzar and the steak tartar was great at La Clos; Place des Vosges; Rodin museum; Louvre & Musee D’Orsay; Eiffel Tower; Musee Pompidou and surrounding Beaubourg neighborhood; Ile St Louis with a visit to Bertillon for ice cream; Old Jewish quarter, from there walk to the Picasso museum."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How Do I Love Thee, Egg Salad, Let Me Count the Ways

If you like eggs, you probably love egg salad not only because it tastes so good but because it evokes Proust-like memories of childhood, family picnics, and happy times. On Bitten I have a post about the egg salad my mother used to make and how I made it my own: Fancy Egg Salad A Mother Would Love.

Please take a look at the posting. The Comments are worth reading because they make the point that the creaminess of egg salad provides an opportunity to add a great variety of spices and herbs from every corner of the planet: capers, parsley, cilantro, olives, cumin, chutney, dill, lemon zest, pimento, tarragon, anchovies, smoked salmon, white truffle oil, sun dried tomatoes....

For dinner parties I like to serve an upscale egg salad- appetizer made with grilled shrimp.

Egg Salad With Chopped Grilled Shrimp

If you don't have a grill, the shrimp can be roasted in the oven.

4 eggs, farmers' market fresh
2 shrimp, medium sized, washed, shelled, deveined
1 tablespoon Italian parsley finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
1 large shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 slice of bacon, crisp, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Sea salt and pepper
Olive oil

Season the shrimp with olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Either grill or roast the shrimp in a 400 degree oven. In either case the shrimp will cook in 2-3 minutes. Remove, let cool, roughly chop, and set aside.

Cover the eggs with water in a saucepan and gently boil for 30 minutes. That may be longer than you're used to but cooking the eggs at a lower temperature makes the yolks moist and flaky. Let the eggs cool, then peel and chop them using a food processor or by hand with a knife. Mix together the shrimp, eggs, parsley, capers, shallot, bacon, and mayonnaise. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the egg salad with bread, crackers (especially Saltines), or hearts of romaine.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 30 minutes.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Twofer: Roast Chicken with Fresh Rosemary & Chicken Stock to Use Later

Every home cook has one foolproof recipe. Mine is a roasted chicken with fresh rosemary. Easy to make and, with just one more step, the recipe produces a quart of homemade chicken stock.

Rubbing on olive oil and seasoning the outside with fresh rosemary, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper adds layers of flavor to the chicken as it roasts.

The chicken can be prepped ahead, trussed and seasoned, then wrapped in plastic wrap, put into a Ziploc bag, and either refrigerated or frozen. What I've learned with beef and chicken is that seasoned oil protects the meat from being effected by freezing.

Prepared this way, even the most ordinary supermarket chicken will taste good. Finding a better quality chicken will improve the flavors. Antibiotic-free chickens should always be preferred for health reasons, although I'm not entirely certain that you can taste the difference. In my experience there's no question that a Kosher chicken and free range, organic chickens do taste better. The meat is more tender, the flavor "cleaner." In Los Angeles, Trader Joe's carries several varieties of high quality chickens, as do upscale markets like Gelson's, Whole Foods, and Wild Oats. The best place to buy the freshest, healtiest chickens is at a local farmers' markets. In our neighborhood, Lily's Farm sells the freshest eggs and chickens at the Santa Monica and Palisades's Farmers' Markets. The prices for these chickens vary greatly: $1.29/lb at Ralph's to $3.75/lb for Lilly's. If you can afford it, you'll taste the difference.

Roast Chicken with Rosemary

1 whole chicken, 3 ½-4 ½ lbs., washed, pat dried
Fresh rosemary, a 2" sprig, washed, the leaves removed
2 cloves garlic, peeled, thinly julienned
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Line the bottom of a roasting pan with tin foil to help with clean up. Put a small rack on top of the tin foil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

With kitchen twine, tie the legs together and the wings. Rub the olive oil all over the chicken, season with sea salt, black pepper, garlic, and the rosemary leaves. Put the chicken on the rack breast side down and put in the oven for 60 minutes.

Using tongs, turn the chicken over and return to the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and check for doneness: the legs should move easily and the juices should run clear. If needed to make the skin crisp, roast a final 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. If you're going to make a gravy, now's the time to transfer the pan drippings to a small sauce pan, add a pat of butter and 3 tablespoons of chicken stock and quickly reduce.

The chicken can be presented whole or cut apart so the pieces are easier to serve and can be served with a great many side dishes. A plain green salad with the chicken is perfect for a simple meal. Adding roasted vegetables, like potatoes, string beans, asparagus, or Brussels sprouts, makes a feast. If you want a gravy, that's easy enough, just make a simple reduction of the pan drippings, a pat of sweet butter, and a few tablespoons of chicken stock. Delicious.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 2 hours.

Homemade Chicken Stock

To make the chicken stock, just gather up all the bones and put them into a large pot with 3 quarts of water. Simmer for 60 minutes. Strain out the bones and discard. Refrigerate the stock. In the morning, peel off the fat and discard. The stock will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days or, put into pint sized Ziploc bags, for several months in the freezer. Use the stock to make sauces or soups.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Cooking Time: 60 minutes.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Appreciation Makes the Cooking Worth All the Effort

If lonely J. Alfred Prufrock measured out his life in coffee spoons, for me, the measure has been in roasting, sautéing, and grilling, making meals for my family. As a parent, what your kids really think about you, is pretty much a mystery.

Today is my birthday and my sons, Frank (23) and Michael (17), decided I didn't need another pot or a kitchen gadget, because I pretty much have every kitchen tool imaginable. They decided instead to write me a memory about my cooking.

From Michael:
Every Thursday night when I was younger, doing homework, I would wait in my room for my dad to come home. He would bring home a whole chicken that he would marinate with rosemary and olive oil. My brother and I could tell when he put the chicken into the oven, because it made the whole house smell amazing.

When the chicken was finally cooked, my dad called all of us into the dining room. The table was covered with the finest dishes: roasted potatoes, flour-less chocolate cake, and, my favorite of all, the golden, baked rosemary chicken. I was always the first one in the room and the first one to grab a piece of chicken from the dish. It was crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. The breast meat was my favorite, but I wasn't the only one in the family that loved it. Each member of the family had their favorite part. My mom loved the wings, my brother loved the legs and thighs and dad loved the dark meat.

From Franklin:
At an early age I was introduced to cooking. My father, when he wasn't working on a set or writing, was either in the garden or in the kitchen. I didn't realize it then, but cooking made him happy. It let him experiment and test the boundaries of his own creations. I was always there to fill my stomach with some of my favorites: roasted chicken, grilled carrots, banana bread, roasted beets, and steamed artichokes. I could count on there being food in the fridge, and, with a little asking, dad would whip something tasty together in a heartbeat.

As much as I dreaded the start of another school year, it did mean one great thing: dad's homemade, signature lunches. Every day at school, I had a lunch that no one else had. Some days it was a bbq NY strip-steak sandwich, salad with homemade dressing, and sliced apples. Other days, it would be a roasted chicken with avocado sandwich, carrot sticks, and a piece of pound cake. With each lunch came a napkin, a plastic fork, and each item on the menu was individually wrapped in Saran Wrap or packaged in a deli pint container. In my eyes, my father had mastered the art of gourmet brown paper bag lunches and there wasn't anyone at school who didn't know it.

When I left for college at 17, I had my dad write me a recipe book of all my favorites, so I could impress my new friends as well as have a little taste of home away at school. Some of my favorites: NY Steak, Chicken with Dumplings, Chicken Soup with Vegetables, Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing. Today I'm 23 and still call my dad for recipes when I'm in a cooking jam. I always have some of his homemade salad dressing in the fridge, some pound cake in the freezer, and a few other of his latest creations that I'm dying to try.

In the next couple of days, I’ll write up the recipes for their favorite dishes. Right now, I just want to enjoy the realization that my cooking made a difference to them. I couldn't imagine a better gift.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Bing Cherry Sauce Makes Everything OK

When we lived in Banning, a small crummy town two hours' drive east of LA, my mother loved to go to Cherry Valley when the cherries were ripe. The window for the picking season was only a couple of weeks. The cherries had to be picked quickly before the birds pecked them apart or a freeze made them inedible. After the trees had been picked by the farmer and the crop sent to the markets, for $5.00, you were given a bucket and a ladder and sent into the rows of trees to pick whatever was left, which was a lot. My memory was that you had a time limit for your $5.00. An hour, I think, to pick all you could, and, of course, to eat 'till you were sick of cherries.

Maybe it's that memories are often better than reality, but since then I've only had fresh cherries that tasted that good a couple of times. Fat, dark red Bing cherries, warm from the sun, sweet, juicy--they were the best.

Bing cherries make great sauce. Without the sugar, they make a savory sauce with roast pork or duck. With sugar, the way I like them, they're delicious on ice cream, yogurt, or even a slice of a quality cheddar, like Neal's Yard.

2 cups Bing cherries, washed, halved, pitted
1 cup water
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Put everything into a small saucepan and simmer on a low flame for 45-60 minutes, stirring frequently. After 30 minutes, taste and adjust the flavor if not sweet enough by adding a sprinkling of raw sugar. The liquid part of the sauce should thicken as it reduces.

Makes ½ pint. Serves 6.

If you do go cherry picking or find yourself with a bucket of cherries, after you've eaten your fill, try canning them so you have them in the off-season. All you need are Ball or Kerr glass canning jars and lids. Submerge the jars in boiling water for 30 minutes, remove, empty out the water, then fill to 1" below the rim on the top of the jar. Put the lids into the boiling water for 30 seconds to soften the rubber, then seal the jars snuggly not super tight. Put the filled, sealed jars back into the boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove, cool, dry, and store in a cupboard. In the winter, a jar of cherry sauce is the perfect treat and it makes a great gift for someone you really like.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes. Cooking Time: 45-60 minutes.