Chez Lutz: Gougère au jambon

I’ve blogged before (here and here) about the surprising relationship between food and Joanne Harris, who wrote Chocolat and now has ventured into children’s/YA literature with Runemarks.

It’s been a few months since I’ve made anything from The French Market, and I’m so glad I revisited this cookbook tonight.  Both books – The French Market and The French Kitchen – challenge me and my abilities…yet they do so in manageable ways for a full-time working mother such as myself.  Tonight I made the gougère au jambon, and it turned out mighty fine:


 I didn't use the exact right-sized dish (I should have gone a bit bigger) so the ham mixture didn't cook as thoroughly as it could have.  Even then, I added five minutes to the final cooking time because I realized my dish was too small and deep.  But it tasted RAD.  Unfortunately, I can’t post the recipe since I followed it exactly (minus the one extra clove of garlic I added – the recipe called for two cloves).  But here are links to other related recipes:

- Gougères stuffed with ham mousse (Emeril Lagasse)

Gougères (Epicurious)

I also can recommend The French Market by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde.  In addition to the gougère recipe, I have also made their salad with walnuts (salade aux noix), their warm salad with Camembert dressing (salade tiède au Camembert), and their potato, cabbage, and Camembert casserole (tourte au Camembert)…all to huge success.  Not to mention that you can impress the hell out of your guests by giving them the French names for the meals!

Mangez, boivez, et parlez français!


WINE NOTES : Thanks to Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s What to Drink with What You Eat, I found out that an Old World Chardonnay would work well with the gougère.  So Adam picked out the Chateau Lafayette Reneau Seyval-Chardonnay.  I said, “Honey!  That’s a New York wine!  It’s not Old World!”  To which Adam responded, “But it says Chateau!”  All you French speakers out there will appreciate that there is no l’accent circonflexe in the word “Chateau” on this bottle.  But the only other Chardonnay we had was Casa Silva 2007 Chardonnay…from Chile.  So I had to take a leap.  And the Casa Silva was fantastic with it.  I’m drinking a glass right now, post-dinner, and it’s rather oaky.  But the oak just disappeared with the gougère and they perfectly complemented each other. 

A cornucopica, if you will...

Oh, for heaven's sake, you guys!  I was having such a lovely, relaxing - albeit, cold - weekend...and when I sit down to my computer on Sunday night, I find that you all have been busy posting all kinds of awesomeness.  On one hand, it makes for fascinating reading and I'm always for that.  However, it means that I have all kinds of thoughts I want to blog so now I have to do that.  And I worry about some of you not having a life away from the computer...but I suppose that's your business...and I don't really know most of you on a personal level.

ANYWAY, here are some of my favorites:

1. The gals at Haphazard Gourmet Girls have started an off-shoot blog: Obama Foodorama.  Naturally, anyone interested in food and its policies is curious to see what impact our President-Elect will have on our future...on the food revolution.  So the Girls are now tracking it.  As I've said, I don't always agree with the Haphazard Gourmet Girls but, to their credit, they always get me thinking and mulling.  Let's hope the upcoming administation can actually enact some CHANGE on agricultural policy in the U.S.

2. Chicken Spaghetti has a post up about the movement of Slow Blogging, as reported by the New York Times.  Curiously, I get the weekend Times and somehow missed this article!  Naturally, the movement of Slow Blogging is inspired by the Slow Food movement*.  I love the idea, of course, of both slow food and slow blogging...however, especially in the U.S., I wonder how much of it is a trend and just paying lip service.  As a country, are we really committed to slowing down?  To doing less?  To turning off the world for awhile?  To being more intimate?  I'd like to think so, but the skeptic in me is doubtful.  The NY Times article quotes Todd Sieling as saying that "slow blogging is a rejection of immediacy...It is an affirmation that not all things worth reading are written quickly."  Okay, I get it.  I do.  But isn't that the point of blogs?  Immediate information?  Having your finger on the pulse?  If I want something contemplative, something poetic, something life-affirming...well, I certainly don't reach for the blogs.  That's what books are for, n'est-ce pas?  But ignore me.  I'm just posting on my blog.  Thanks, Susan, for the link - it gave me food for thought on a Sunday evening!

3.  This is for all you New York foodies out there: Sustainable Table has linked to information about a "Food Wheel" that helps you ascertain which foods are in season when in New York state.  This is going to be incredibly helpful to me because, like most Americans, I've become so accustomed to having year-round access to all foods that I have ceased to understand the seasonality of my local area.  Hint: if you're living in NYC, this is NOT the time of year for asparagus...even though my nearest grocer recently had it on sale.  Don't even get me started...  Additionally, I have a copy of the Field Guide to Produce: How to Identify, Select, and Prepare Virtually Every Fruit and Vegetable at the Market by Aliza Green (which I named on my list of Top 10 Cooking Books) and I find it enormously helpful for determining the seasonality of different produce (though it doesn't help with NY specific).  It also identifies what to look for in ripe produce and various suggestions (no recipes) for preparations.  

4. Pink Me has the Cybils' graphic novels list up.  I'm pulling for Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever by Jay Lynch and illustrated by Dean Haspiel.  It's a huge hit with Kiddo, and it truly nails the sibling relationship...at least, the one I had as a kid with my brother.  I love Jellaby by Kean Soo.  Really, I looooved it - the spread where Jellaby is kicking the leaves is joy personified.  But I found the ending SO abrupt.  I can't get past it.  It was a needle-scratching-across-the-record sort of ending.

5. This didn't come to me via Bloglines but, rather, through Facebook.  My new friend, Ariel from Sesame Workshop, just handed over a recipe for "hot apple butterbeer."  No measurements so apologies to you more exact baking-type people.  But here's what she said: "apple cider, lemon, rum, maple syrup, butter, allspice, cloves, cinnamon.  Just add all the other stuff to the cider and keep tasting".  She also added that you need to "serve it HOT" or the butter starts solidifying.  It's Sunday night so I'm not quite in the mood for this drink, but you can bet your arse I'll be whipping it up come this weekend when my Soul Twin and her husband come from North Carolina for the holiday!

Eat, drink, and enjoy all the warm alcoholic drinks that winter brings!

* Ironically, I'm on the mailing list for Slow Food NYC...but never have time to go to any of their events.  


National Book Award winner

As anyone involved in children's literature knows, last night the National Book Award was announced and What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell won. Congratulations!

I haven't read the book yet; as it stands, I have The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks in my book bag, and The Underneath is sitting at my desk, waiting for me. So it might be awhile before I get to What I Saw...

However, I do want to note how frustrated I get when I see the cover for What I Saw and How I Lied because it should have been the cover for Ten Cents a Dance:

The cover for Ten Cents a Dance just isn't as impactful as it could have been (which I discussed in my review), and this cover -

- is exactly what I wished for Ten Cents a Dance. Luckily, Christine Fletcher's excellent sense of time, place, and character rise above the less-than-stellar cover.

"Have you ever stopped to think that plate of fries might just as soon feed you to the dog?"

I just received the Winter 2009 Hyperion catalog, and here's what caught my eye:

Food Hates You, Too and Other Poems by Robert Weinstock (February 2009)

And here's a sample poem from the catalog:

Benjamin Benjamin Dietz

Meet Benjamin Benjamin Dietz.
He repeats and repeats what he eats.
He eats sweet-flavored meats,
With his meat-flavored sweets,
And eats beets with his beets with his beets.

The catalog also shows a spread of a great Goodnight Moon parody.

I anticipate this will be the perfect antidote to the plethora of baking-as-family-bonding books coming out soon (or already out).


My Addictions: Food-related books and the Luxe series

Kirkus has published a review for yet another foodie book for kids: Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie by Robbin Gourley (Clarion, 2009). I look forward to any book where the reviewer says: “A mouthwatering morsel that should come with the warning to eat before reading.” Between this book and Kitchen Dance, it looks like Clarion is on the foodie bandwagon. So now I need to figure out why Clarion is one of the few publishers who don’t send me review copies. Dammit! I keep pimping these books and I haven’t seen them yet!*

In other children’s literature news, I am officially the last librarian in this country who has not read The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. You hadn’t heard that news? Well, I am. Which means I’ll probably feel like a real arse tonight if it wins the National Book Award. Why couldn’t Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson have been nominated? Or Rumors by Anna Godbersen? The fluff I read never gets awards, alas.

Speaking of Rumors, when-oh-when will I get my itching hands on a copy of Envy, Godbersen’s upcoming entry in the Luxe series? Elizabeth must triumph over that evil Penelope…

And now I have done a fine job of illustrating why I never seem to find (or make) time for the lovely award winners.

* Actually, I see that Amazon now has the "Look Inside" feature available for Kitchen Dance, which wasn't there when I previously posted about the book.

And, now, the more practical side of food...

Aside from its sensual pleasures, food keeps us healthy, too.

For most of my teenage and adult life, I have been hit by the flu at least once, if not twice, a year. However, in the past 3 years since I’ve been eating healthier and wiser, I have vastly improved my record. I haven’t had the flu at all, only minor colds and sniffles (though I did get strep throat, which the flu shot wouldn’t have prevented anyway because the flu shot doesn’t prevent 7-year-olds from bringing every imaginable disease home from school). Even when I am sick, I tend to get over it so much faster; rather than a week, the snifflies only last 2-3 days.

My point is that I attribute my improved health to my diet and I’m a big believer that, if you’re getting most of your vitamins and nutrition from your food, you can stay healthier naturally. Sustainable Table has some good specific suggestions, such as incorporating oregano into your diet for antioxidants. And I don’t need Sustainable Table to encourage me to eat more garlic – as it is, I already add an extra clove to most recipes I make! Luckily, as a perk, it keeps me healthy too!

Eat, drink, and do both to stay healthy this winter season!


Food books and Queens

Horn Book has a booklist up about food.  Naturally, I came up with completely different ones here, here, and here.

Which all reminds of some sad news: I just noticed the other day that How Pizza Came to Queens by Dayal Kaur Khalsa is out-of-print.  It's the one book we could truly call our own!  No longer.  

So thank goodness for David Ezra Stein.  Oh, and Mark Siegel.  Both Queens residents.  I'm definitely taking some consolation in that.  So boo to you, Brooklyn, and your silly Jon Scieszka.

Diner food is sometimes the best way to go

I've been longing to eat at The Loeb Boathouse ever since I moved to New York (thanks to When Harry Met Sally)...so we're going on two years now that I've dreamed but have not achieved.

Amateur Gourmet has made me seriously reconsider ever going there.  I'll stick to my Georgia Peach for brunch, thank you very much.

Eat, drink, and stay away from tourist destinations.


Even librarians need librarians!

So I’ve tried to dispel a myth here before: if one is a children’s librarian, it does not necessarily mean that one’s child will be an avid reader. We have struggled with Kiddo since Day One with the reading. It’s not that she’s dyslexic or anything like that; she’s just…apathetic. We have to cajole and convince her to pick up a book.

For awhile, she was all about Mercy Watson and read those books over and over again. Then I received a lovely package of books from Françoise Mouly: Jack and the Box, Stinky, and Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever. For a brief and blessed time, we didn’t have to push Kiddo to read – she gladly picked these up for her twenty minutes of nightly reading (as prescribed by her teacher).

But then she tired of all of those, which is natural after having read each about 30 times. This is when I went to the Central Children’s Room of the library, looking for anything she might read. And here’s what happened: I was no longer a librarian. I was a frustrated parent, and I couldn’t think of a single book my kid would read. Luckily, the librarian saw my face – you fellow librarians know the face – and asked if she could help. When I told her my dilemma and whined about how Toon Books couldn’t produce books fast enough, this is what she said:

“Well, have you tried Babymouse?”

The parent in me saw the skies open up and the heard the heavens sing. The librarian in me flicked myself in the forehead for not thinking of it sooner. OF COURSE! And the irony of it is that I actually have a copy of Babymouse: Queen of the World on my personal bookshelves…but it’s a pristine hardcover edition that Jenny and Matt signed at BookFest, and I have it on a high shelf with my other signed books, not exactly accessible to children. I know, I know. Judge me all you’d like.

So imagine my delight when I showed Kiddo the five Babymouse books I checked out for her, and she yelled: “COMICS!!!!” And promptly started reading Queen of the World. Not only did she read for the prescribed 20 minutes...but then she read for 10 minutes more without a single word from us.

The next day I went back to the Central Children’s Room with the sole purpose of giving the librarian a hug. I was going to give her flowers, but I thought that might be over the top.

Since then, Kiddo has read and re-read most of the Babymouse books…but I’ve nailed her pattern, and I sense the interest waning. I’ve brought home Kaput and Zösky, but the sense of humor didn’t quite click with her, not to mention that the font is teeny tiny. Bad Kitty wasn’t comic-y enough. Amelia Rules and Sardine in Outer Space also didn’t pass the test.

I’m thinking of running Garfield and Calvin & Hobbes by her next. In the meantime, she has re-discovered Talented Clementine and thinks that gluing beer bottle caps to the soles of your shoes is about the funniest thing ever.

Anyone have any additional book suggestions?


Meeting Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg

I had an unexpectedly delightful evening last night.  First, it only took me 45 minutes to get to Pour on the Upper West Side…which made me feel bad about all the melodramatic grumbling I did about having to go “up there.”

I met my friend Ellen, and we were first to arrive (we were told by the genetically blessed women who work in the store that Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg were in a cab and on their way).  This gave us ample time to peruse Pour’s offerings.  I was mighty impressed.  It’s a small selection, which usually indicates that it’s carefully and thoughtfully chosen.  The whole set-up of the shop is boutique-y with a modern-yet-cozy atmosphere.  The shop is separated into categories, such as “Bright”, “Velvety”, and “Plush.”  And each wine has its own card hanging on hooks, and you can take the cards with you.  For instance, I bought a 2006 Lavradores de Feitoria Vinho Tinto, which was in the “Velvety” section.  It’s tasting notes describe it as “a little earthy, a little nutty, and sup

er silky”, and it tells you all the info about the varietals: “30% Touriga Franca, 25% Tinta Roriz, 20% Tinta Barroca, 20% Touriga National, 5% Other Varieties.”  I didn’t recognize a single one of these which, naturally, is why I bought it.  It is from Douro, Portugal and felt reasonably priced at $17.

So what about Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page?  Well, they arrived…Ellen and I played shy and intimidated and just hung around them…and eventually were shoved over to them by one of the shop ladies who knew we were there to meet them.  I’ll just cut to the chase and inform you that they were delightful: approachable, eager to chat, and very informative.  Among the gems I took away from our meeting, Andrew suggested serving Champagne close to room temperature as a pleasant surprise to guests: its Chardonnay qualities show themselves when served closer to room temperature.  Karen also whipped out this temperature gauge thing: it looks like a tire gauge, and you put in the wine glass just above the wine.  It takes the wine’s temperature but, lest you think Karen and Andrew pretentious, they proceeded to giggle about how much this gadget freaks out sommeliers in restaurants.  Karen asked us how much we get out to restaurants and, I had to admit, I don’t get out much between the job and the family.  So I whipped out that Rare’s burgers were some of favorite in the city.  Ends up that Karen knows it!  We waxed poetic about their fries and onion rings…and I felt so cool.  It wasn’t until the end of the evening that Andrew mentioned they live in Murray Hill so, naturally, they would know Rare.

Karen remembered (or faked it really well, anyway) my blog because I reviewed What to Drink with What You Eat.  As a thank-you, they signed an extra book for me, The New American Chef, which was fascinating reading on the subway ride home.  I also bought my own copy of What to Drink with What You Eat since I had previously been working from the library’s copy.

Lastly, I have a few other wine notes.  The shopkeepers asked Karen and Andrew what they wanted to open up, and they suggested a sparkling rosé wine, Bugey Cerdon.  It was initially sweet but had a pleasantly dry finish.  What was fun was how clearly Karen and Andrew enjoyed the wine – they were practically giggling over its effervescence, which was incredibly endearing.  Additionally, I bought a second bottle of wine from the “Bright” section of the store, and you’ll get a kick out of the tasting notes: “You’re going to think we’re crazy, but we get salty, fresh bacon on the nose of this wine.  Don’t worry – bacon isn’t the only aroma there; we also get boysenberry-like ripe fruits and earthy minerality.”  THIS is MY kind of wine store!  The wine was a 2006 Corte Rugolin Valpolicella Classico from Veneto, Italy ($21).

Overall, a fantastic night.  Much thanks to Karen Page, Andrew Dornenburg, and Ellen (who gave me some tips on my soufflé)!

Eat, drink, and buy a copy of What to Drink with What You Eat 


Geeked up much?

So I'm nearly certain I'm going to have the chance to meet Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page tomorrow night (Tuesday night), as I've been told by my awesome publicist friend H- that they'll be on the Upper West Side to discuss their books.  And I'm willing to trek more than an hour from Queens to get to them.

Not sure what I'm talking about?  I mention them here, here, and here.  Oh, and you may have read their column in a rag called The Washington Post: here is their latest column, among others.  No?  Well then, try their books: Becoming a Chef, What to Drink with What You Eat, and the new one The Flavor Bible.  If you appreciate an accessible approach to food and wine, then you need to know about them.

In anticipation, I'm already chanting to myself: "Be cool, Laura.  You can do this!  They're just normal people.  Just like anyone else."  Because I'm the biggest geek in the world who tends to turn incoherent around people I admire.  

Eat, drink, and move to a city where people like this are around all the time!

NOTE: Click on their names above, and you'll get to Karen and Andrew's website.  They have a fantastic blog but, I'll warn you, it's difficult to slog through and I can't link to a single entry.  A ways down the page, there is a great post about a signing they did at Hastings Farmers Market.  Pasquale Le Draoulec, the director of the market, is quoted as saying: "People are craving community and turning to Facebook, while we've created the real thing right here at the Hastings Farmers Market."  I found that to be incredibly poignant, particularly since I have spent about an hour tooling around Facebook tonight, rather than interacting with real people...


Sorry, everyone, for the delay in Ina posts!  On Wednesday we had the French Bistro Steaks with Provençal Butter, and here's how that turned out:

Then on Thursday, I finished the week out with the Pasta with Pecorino and Pepper:

I loved the steak dish.  The butter added such an interesting dimension: the flavor was salty and fishy, which cut the richness of the steak really well.  Ina called for a hanger steak, but all I could get was sirloin.  I adjusted the cooking time a bit and it turned out perfect.

The pasta was also fantastic in its simplicity.  The key is really to add LOTS of pecorino and pepper to keep it flavorful.  Ina calls for tagliatelle; however, I had Adam get fresh pasta from the Italian shop in Chelsea Market.  And he got pappardelle.  Which I thought, initially, was going to suck.  Again, I judge before I taste the results.  The pecorino and pepper is surprisingly rich so you definitely want a wider noodle to stand up to it - the pappardelle was a worthy opponent.  While Ina does call for dried noodles, I have to admit that I disagree with her here.  If you have access to good quality fresh noodles, go there first.  Even if you get pappardelle instead of tagliatelle.

Eat, drink, and...take a photography class.


All Ina Week continued...

Continuing my All Ina All Week thread, here was Tuesday night's dinner: Bay Scallop Gratin.  Here is the result:

As I mentioned before, my local fish monger only had sea scallops but Ina said you can use those and just quarter them - that worked great.  Ina asks for a tablespoon of Pernod, but I didn't have any Pernod on hand so I just used white wine instead - I have 2-3 recipes that call for Pernod...and even then, each recipe only calls for 1-2 tbsp of it.  And I can't justify a $25 bottle of liquor for that, especially when substituting wine works great.  So no Pernod.

My last comment is that I don't feel like my topping got crispy and toasted enough.  What happened was that I needed to put it under the broiler for two minutes, per Ina's instruction.  But I got jumpy - I've destroyed soooooo many things under that damn broiler.  It's an inferno from which few dishes have survived.  So I turned the setting to "low" instead of "high."  It was under there for 3 minutes, and I was still unhappy with the topping.  However, I was fearful that I was going to waaaaay overcook the scallops.  So you have the photo above.

We had a fun time debating which was better: the scallops themselves...or the bread dipped in the juices*.  It was a toss-up.  Overall, it was another success: the flavor was rich without being cloying (yay, lemon!) and the portions were the perfect size.  It was immensely satisfying.

Eat, drink, and all hail Ina!

* Ina called for a crusty French bread, but I used the fresh ciabatta I had on hand.  It worked swell.

NOTE: In the dish and with dinner, I used Mezzacorona 2007 Chardonnay from Italy (specifically in the foothills of the Dolomites).  While it was fairly oaky on its own, it was balanced and light with the dish.  Great pairing.

More foodie books for kids

It’s official – food has infiltrated children’s literature! And children’s lives! Kids are hearing about nutrition and obesity in schools; they’re studying the food pyramid and doing more physical activity. Numerous organizations are diligently working to improve school lunches in our country. Even Brian Jacques, during his wildly entertaining speech at NYPL’s Bookfest (see Betsy’s recap), spent a significant amount of time discussing the role of food and feasts in his Redwall series.

So it’s not surprising that I have a list of food-related children’s books I’m currently trying to read:

- Madame Pamplemousse and her Incredible Edibles by Rupert Kingfisher, illustrated by Sue Hellard (Oct 2008). I have yet to see a copy, but Booklist compared it to Roald Dahl’s work and Kirkus gave it a star. How darling is that cover?

- Kitchen Dance by Maurie Manning (Oct 2008). This is the one I’m most looking forward to – it just looks and sounds jubilant. The reviews are glowing. Quite frankly, I’m hoping that it will reflect the kitchen in my own home, where I’ve laughed endlessly with Adam, where I have sung the entire High School Musical catalog with Kiddo while emptying the dishwasher, and where we always end up hanging out with guests…even though the kitchen is closed off, tiny, and barely fits 4 people. I have high hopes that this book will celebrate the kitchen as the center of a family’s life.

- Little Bunny Can Bake by Janet Stein (March 2009). I heard about this one at the Random House Spring 2009 preview so I haven’t seen it yet. It’s another darling cover.

Unrelated to this particular title, I do have to ask – what’s with the baking trend? Why is it kids and baking are always paired together but cooking gets shorted? I just find that inexplicable. Perhaps publishers are hesitant because of the sharp-knives-so-we-have-to-include-a-safety-warning thing? Disturbing to see a bunny wielding a 10-inch wide-blade Wüsthof (god, I love mine)? I can’t speak for all kids, but I can tell you that Kiddo had just as much fun watching the gratins get crispy in the oven last night as she would have watching cookies bake. And I didn’t have to compete with a sugar crash. The food and the book itself do not necessarily need to be precious to have kid appeal.

- The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice (Feb 2009). I picked this up at the HarperCollins Spring 2009 preview and have yet to read it. It does trump my earlier question – the main character, an 11-year-old girl, cooks. I like that this one is a full-fledged fiction title and, as soon as I’m finished reading Suite Scarlett, I’m reading this one. An early review is already up at Kidliterate.

One more question: where are the boys cooking? Are we only to look to Sam Stern as the bastion of young males in the kitchen?

Eat, drink, and share food and books with our children

NOTE: Here are my previous posts on foodie books for kids: here and here.


First recipe from Ina's new cookbook? Success!

As I mentioned earlier, I bought Ina Garten's new cookbook last week, but I wasn't able to incorporate the new recipes into my repertoire until tonight.  So tonight, and for the next three nights, it's All Ina, All the Time.  

For tonight, I made Mâche with Warm Brie and Apples.  Here are the lovely results:

I've never been able to find mâche at my local store so I tried using frisee instead, but that didn't work too well.  I'll probably just use baby arugula next time, if I still can't find mâche.  Other than this, I didn't change anything from Ina's instructions.  Drizzle some honey and sprinkle the pistachios over the Brie and bake it at 350 degrees for 3-5 minutes.  Toss the greens with balsamic and extra-virgin olive oil.  Toast bread.  Slice Granny Smith.  Fifteen minutes later...voila!  Really, if I can do it, I know you can!  And for Kiddo, I substituted a bunch of grapes for the salad.  

For the rest of the week, here's the Barefoot Contessa menu:

Tuesday: Bay Scallops Gratins (my local fish monger only had sea scallops but Ina says I can just quarter them)
Wednesday: French Bistro Steaks with Provençal Butter (Kiddo is having "Kid's Night" and we're having "Adult Dinner"...which means we eat after she goes to bed...woo hoo!)
Thursday: Pasta with Pecorino and Pepper.

Oh, it's going to be a damn fine week in the Lutz household.  

I do have to share one tidbit about the new BC cookbook: she finally took note and made some recipes with smaller serving sizes, not as much of this 6-8 servings nonsense.  She does still have them, but there are quite a few of the 4-serving recipes.  Much friendlier to the small family who doesn't host dinner parties in the Hamptons.

Eat, drink, and be assured that any recipe with Brie is usually a good one

REVIEW: Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle

So I was recently a bridesmaid in a wedding in Missouri.  Other than Chicago and Marion, Ohio I have made a snarky point to avoid “the middle.”  Nevertheless, I had a phenomenal time at the wedding and made new friends that love red wine as much as I do.

In the midst of all this wine appreciation, a friend of the bride and groom mentioned there was a Waffle House in the parking lot of his hotel and he was so vair vair happy about that.  He is a native of Georgia who is currently in Boston at Berklee…and he’s on perpetual Waffle House withdrawal.  When I ‘fessed up that, as a California native, I was naïve in the ways of Waffle House…well, he pledged to introduce me.  Naturally, I had to have the hash browns “all the way” and I was, indeed, in heaven.  It’s moments like that…with the crappy wood paneling, the tacky talkative server, and greasy potatoes with the perfect dichotomy of softness and crunch…I thought that there isn’t another place in the world I want to live more than America.

And thank goodness I had this experience or else I would not have appreciated a large portion of Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle.  As the cover suggests, it is cozy and fuzzy and comforting.  It is a hot apple cider on a cold winter’s day (or, in my case, a hot cocoa made with Scharffenberger chocolate, nutmeg, and a cinnamon stick…spiked with amaretto.  That’s how I roll).  And a large part of the storyline(s) takes place in a Waffle House.

Each author tells a different story (so three stories in all), yet there are common threads and characters that are interwoven into each story.  By the end, it all ties together nicely…with the proverbial red bow.  I won’t name them specifically, but there were definitely one or two of these stories I liked better than others.  I’m not sure if it was the actual storylines I preferred, thus being a matter of personal taste.  Or if there really were some that were stronger than others, thus being a matter of quality.  Because this is where I confess that this is the first I have read of any of these authors.  I know, I know.  I’m working on remedying that.  Hence the fact I’m reading Suite Scarlett right now. 

This is THE book to read with the holiday season coming up – it’s light and frothy in the most heartwarming way.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.  Even if it makes you long for those hash browns “all the way” again and all the great memories they entail.

Other reviews: 

The Compulsive Reader