Raclette: Thank You Switzerland!

I have Switzerland to thank for some amazing memories, beautiful scenery, and our latest kitchen gadget. (“Kitchen gadget” said with my fist raised, a silent “arrgh,” and scowly look to Jan.  My ongoing battles with kitchen gadgets are cataloged here (dehydrator), here (pasta machine), here (ice cream maker), and here (sous vide water bath)). 

It’s a Raclette machine.

Much as I wanted to hate it (and did, when it arrived from Amazon.com), I think it’s pretty cool.

To Americans, Raclette is the lesser-known cousin to Fondue, though both are dishes based on combining an assortment ingredients with melty Swiss cheeses.  To make fondue, cheese like Swiss cheese and Gruyere cheese are melted together with garlic, white wine, cherry brandy, and spices in a large, heated pot.  Chunks of bread and cooked vegetables are dipped in the cheese with skewers or forks once the cheese is melted and smooth. Continue reading

The Real Foie Gras in France

Traveling in our rental car from Switzerland into France, Jan and I spent our first night in France in the tiny village Gevrey-Chambertin in the Burgundy region outside of Beaune.  Our room at Hôtel les Grands Crus overlooked a beautiful vineyard, and in the early evening, we walked into “town” to tour the cellars at winemaker Phillippe Leclerc.  Sampling several wines (and buying a few to take home) and touring the extensive cellars brought us right up to our 8:30 dinner reservation at Chez Guy, a restaurant that came highly recommended by both our B&B host and Rick Steve’s guide book (and it also happened to be the only restaurant in town open for dinner).

While Jan and I didn’t understand much on the menu, we could pick out “foie gras,” and I did my best with some words I could make out from my knowledge of Spanish.  We ordered wine and picked a few other items in addition to the foie gras, figuring that we would just be surprised with whatever came out (though we realize this attitude only works with an open mind—and without a pre-set list of dietary and/or meat restrictions). Continue reading

EuroTrip

I’ve been away for a bit, and my excuse is that we’ve been on a whirlwind trip to Europe, and before that, in a whirlwind of preparations for the trip!  I’ve eaten my way through Switzerland and France (with a day in Germany and one in England) in a matter of two weeks, and that’s enough bread, wine, cheese, and chocolate to give me plenty to think and write about.  I’ll post more in depth reports in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, here’s a quick preview of the adventures: Continue reading

Shrimp Cakes

Forget cupcakes and cake flavored vodka (all great things!), I’ll take shrimp cakes.  They just might be one of the most crispy, delicious bites you’ll eat, especially if you make them yourself.  And I’ll never have a pre-made crab cake again.

So maybe that’s a bit drastic, but this all started last week when dinner was in the oven, an hour or so away from being served, and Jan was rummaging around the kitchen for an appetizer for us.  I asked if we had any crab cakes, because on occasion, we’ll buy frozen crab cakes as an appetizer to serve with a Sriracha-spiced mayo/yogurt sauce and lemon wedges.  After a quick look in the freezer, Jan told me that we did not have any crab cakes, to which I said “OK.”  It was just a suggestion, after all, and we had plenty of cheeses to make a mini plate, or some other “fast” foods to rustle up. Continue reading

Spring Rolls by way of Banh Mi

With a love of all things sandwich, I have been curious to try the Vietnamese-style sandwiches called Banh Mi that I’ve been hearing more and more about, thanks to all the food-related television we watch.  On our trip to Idaho last December, I finally got to sample my first Banh Mi in Boise, and of course it was delicious. How could it not be with marinated meat served with pickled, vinegary vegetables, and cilantro on a fresh French baguette? Continue reading

It’s My New Favorite Pizza

Spinach-Basil-Pesto-Pizza_Slice

It was thanks to our friends Amy and Russell that we first experienced how amazing homemade pizza could be (link: Pizza Perfected). So of course it was only fitting that they once again led us to a pizza revelation. One night, when we all went out together for pizza and beers, we decided to order a couple of pizzas. The special that night was on any combination of four toppings, and Jan ordered a combination of meat and veggies (very standard supreme). For her order, Amy told the waiter: pesto sauce (doesn’t count as a topping), tomatoes, spinach, grilled chicken, feta cheese, and artichoke hearts (added that as an extra topping).

Never being a fan of “new age” pizzas (sorry, CPK and any fans of barbecue chicken, mushroom alfredo, and/or brussell sprouts and lemon pizza), I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as always, kept an open mind. Continue reading

Adventures in Idaho

Over the holidays, with a rare bit of time off, I was dying to go somewhere, so I told Jan we had to do something (like that for a specific wish list?). He suggested Sun Valley, Idaho—a place neither of us had ever visited, and not too far for us to drive with all our ski gear. Besides, Jan had a coworker who lived nearby who once suggested we visit if we were ever in the vicinity.

It had been a strange weather year with our nearby Sierras still lacking snow, so a good ski vacation seemed perfect for us to finally realize that the season was, in fact, winter.

In typical fashion for us, we embarked without much of a plan. Continue reading

Chestnuts Roasting…

We can all finish this line, but does anyone even really know what a chestnut is, let alone, taste like?  When Jan came home with a bag of chestnuts, he was going to help me and some of our friends find out.  He described the smell of roasting chestnuts as typical European street food in winter—recalling vendors roasting them on the sides of the street for people to enjoy from paper bags. Continue reading

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

And no, I’m not talking about the song or saying this because it’s the holidays. I realize it might make me a bit grinchy, but I don’t like Christmas music. The one and only time I will permit Christmas music to be played in the house is during the decorating of the Christmas tree. I got my three hours of Christmas music in two weeks ago. And the Christmas tree looks beautiful. And yes, it’s real, so I won’t have any more people calling me bah-humbug.

For me, it’s the most wonderful time of the year because it’s roast season. It’s cold outside and cozy inside when you’ve got beef slowly cooking in the oven. I once told Jan that my favorite meal growing up was the beef stew my mom made with carrots and potatoes. That the beef fell apart with a fork and it was amazing. And I didn’t have to describe any more before he got to planning his own roast beef dishes. Continue reading