Earlier this afternoon we got back from a few heavenly days in the desert—a perfect end to an otherwise imperfect year. Tiny G and his dad went out with a splash in matching Vilebrequin swimsuits, a Father’s Day gift from my parents’ earlier this year. In an hour we will be joining some of our best friends to ring in the New Year at Lucques. While there are many reasons to happily close the books on 2009, there are just as many reasons to be thankful for all that has transpired in the past year, not the least of which is my sister, Claire, moving to Los Angeles, the health and happiness of our family, being crazy in love with my husband and—this one brings a tear to my eyes—Tiny G’s first steps. Look at him go! Adios, 2009. ¡Felíz año nuevo!
Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page
We are heading to Palm Springs for a couple of days with my husband’s dashing brother Tim and family. (You cannot imagine how excited Tiny G is to be spending the week with his cousins Thomas, Alexandra and Cecilia!) Not sure yet if we’ll have a chance to play any tennis while we’re out there, but in the meantime, I wanted to share pics of some of my dad’s favorite vintage TAD Davis wooden rackets. They are even more exquisite in person.
Yesterday morning my sister and I ran 8 hilly miles through the misty vineyards and woods in St. Helena. We were hellbent on undoing any good we might have achieved, and so hightailed it to Hog Island Oyster Co at the Oxbow Market in Napa for lunch. The dozen oysters—Hog Island sweetwaters—would have been virtuous enough had we stopped there. But we didn’t. Instead we piled on with a pint each of Lagunitas IPA and steaming bowls of clam chowder, which consisted of Manila clams, bacon, potatoes, carrots and celery in cream. Mr. Foodinista, who did not run 8 miles, must have been experiencing fondue withdrawal from the other night. He opted for a grilled cheese sandwich featuring Cowgirl Creamery Gruyère and Fromage Blanc with housemade pickles. I may have indulged in (read: demanded) a gooey delicious bite…
As soon as the last plate of prime rib had been cleared on Christmas night, my husband declared that he was already starting the countdown to Christmas 2010. The one-two punch of fondue on Christmas Eve followed by Christmas dinner at my parents’ is by far the best meal sequence of the year—every year. We start Christmas evening with osetra caviar (this year we splurged on Caspian instead of domestic) and Champagne (Salon ’97).
Then my dad roasts a prime rib using a classic recipe out of James Beard, which calls for steady low heat. This year my husband made Yorkshire Puddings from an old Gourmet recipe. My mom has a great popover pan, which produces perfect individually sized puddings.
Here is indisputable proof that my father makes the best prime rib on the planet, and that Mr Foodinista has a way with a carving knife:
This year with the prime rib we enjoyed a 2003 Far Niente Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon along with a bottle of 1999 Cakebread Cellars Benchland Select from my alma mater (yours truly used to work at Cakebread Cellars right out of college over a decade ago), and a bottle of 2003 Eisele Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon from my friend Christiane’s family winery. We finished off the evening with some stilton and vintage port. And ibuprofen. I mean, let’s be serious.
And so the countdown to next year’s festivities begins! For a look at last year’s, click HERE.
Before going to bed on Christmas Eve, I put together French toast to soak overnight in an egg and eggnog bath. Shannon Kuleto—wife of San Francisco restaurateur Pat Kuleto—shared this simple recipe with my mom. Simply whisk together 9 eggs, a pinch of salt and about 2 1/2 cups of egg nog, preferably Bud’s of San Francisco Famous Eggnog. Divide custard between two 13x9x2-inch glass baking dishes. Arrange 12 pieces of French bread (sliced about 3/4-inches thick) in single layer in dishes. Let soak 10 minutes. Turn over, cover, and refrigerate overnight. We then cook on a George Foreman Grill at 400 degrees, about 4 minutes a side. Serve with melted butter and hot maple syrup.
Every Christmas Eve, my family makes fondue for dinner. We start off civilized and seated, but before long we’re standing over the fondue pot each trying to claim the best bite. Over the years we’ve perfected the cheeses in the mix to include Gruyère, Appenzeller, and Swiss or Emmentaler, with the ratio being 3:1:1. Ricardo at the Oxbow Cheese Market in Napa selects the cheeses each year, and Beeler Gruyère always plays the starring role. This year we enjoyed with a couple bottles of Zind Humbrecht Pinot d’Alsace, which is rich and honeyed with apricot flavors. FANASTIC with fondue!
The Foodinista’s Fondue
This recipe comes from my paternal grandmother, Esther, who is the most elegant woman I have ever known.
1 garlic clove, halved
1 1/4 cups dry white wine (preferably a bone-dry Chablis)
Juice of half lemon
3 cups grated Gruyère
1 cup grated Emmentaler
1 cup grated Appenzeller
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons kirsch
Dash of ground white pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 large boule French bread cubed (cube 12 hours before serving)
We make this stovetop in a saucepan, and then when finished transfer to a Le Creuset fondue pot, which we set on the table. Rub inside of saucepan with cut garlic clove. Pour in wine and lemon juice and cook over medium heat until bubbly. Turn heat to low and stir in cheeses with a wooden spoon.
In a small bowl, whisk together kirsch, cornstarch, nutmeg and white pepper. Add to cheese mixture and stir to blend. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until mixture is thick and smooth.
Bring fondue to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. (Careful not to let fondue boil). Transfer to fondue pot set over flame. Serve with cubed bread and salad.
And beware of lurking Spaniels…
We are cozily ensconced up at my parents’ house on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley, with the bluest skies imaginable and welcome chill in the air (after leaving 70-degree temps in not-so-festive LA). My sister, Claire, and I went for a four-mile hilly run along the vineyards this morning and—brrr—was it chilly. We came home and warmed up with a cup of coffee, topped with some Bud’s of San Francisco Famous Eggnog. It’s beginning to taste a lot like Christmas.
A few weeks ago, I made these Deviled Eggs with Sour Cream, Chives and Salmon Roe for our holiday party, and they were a huge hit. Love the egg on egg action! The roe adds just the right amount of oily, salty decadence and is great with a crisp blanc de blancs Champagne. Fa-la-la!
1. Cheerful Money, by Tad Friend ($24.99)
A wonderful memoir from New Yorker writer Tad Friend, aka Mr. Amanda Hesser, that takes a look at WASP culture—or the decline thereof—in America. It’s a stylishly written, entertaining and insightful blend of family and cultural history.
2. Tennis Fashion, by Diane Elisabeth Poirier ($18.95)
Obviously I need this book and am, in fact, irate that I didn’t write it myself! Looking on alibris.com, I can pick up a like-new copy for as little as two bucks, but wouldn’t it be more fun to go to the swanky new Assouline store on Melrose Place in the former Bastide space? And about the cover…a tennis beret! Fascinating food for thought.
Here’s a book I refer to often, not just for excellent cocktail recipes and inspiration, but for fascinating cocktilian history. It’s written by a friend and colleague, Dave Wondrich, whose stories you’ve undoubtedly read in Esquire, Bon Appetit and Saveur. A must for any cocktail lover.
4. The GastroKid Cookbook: Feeding a Foodie Family in a Fast-Food World, by Hugh Garvey ($22.95)
If we are friends and you have kids, chances are you got one of these from The Foodinista for Christmas! I love this book, love the message, and love the author. Hugh is a friend, colleague and neighbor—and in addition to being a totally great guy, he can cook. I love his recipe for roasted chickpeas even better than the original Babbo version on which it’s based.
5. Freidlander, by Peter Galassi ($165)
For the photography collector on your list. I desperately wish I’d bought this book when I saw the exhibit back in 2005 at MoMA in New York. I love the vision and wit of Friedlander’s images of everyday life (billboards, storefronts, cars), and perhaps my most prized possession is one of his photographs—a self portrait taken in 1966—that hangs above our fireplace:
6. Momofuku Cookbook, by David Chang and Peter Meehan ($40)
Here’s a must-have cookbook for the food obsessed from my very favorite restaurant in New York, Momofuku Noodle Bar. David Chang’s ramen with Berkshire pork belly and poached egg is reason enough to hop a flight to JFK. My friend Alex gave me a copy of this book for my birthday last month, and we’re planning a cooking date where we take over her kitchen or mine for a day and try to recreate (I’m told the ramen broth takes 10 hours to make). We’ve already sourced the pork belly at Huntington Meats at the Third/Fairfax farmer’s market. Game ON!
7. My Wonderful World of Fashion, by Nina Chakrabarti ($19.95)
It’s been a while since I’ve been interested in coloring books, though something tells me I’d better get my head in the game with Tiny G just learning to wield a crayon. I think this coloring book for fashion addicts just might do the trick! There are gorgeous illustrations to color, pages on which to design your own creations, and brief historical notes for inspiration. Santa, baby?