Three Very Good Things: Honey Pistachio, Farmhouse Bread, and Single-Cow Butter

Pistachio honey

{This is part of a series in which I share three delicious things recently tasted and enjoyed. Please feel free to share your 3VGT list in the comments below, or on your own blog!}

My latest “three very good things” are as follows:

~ Pistachio honey from Sicily

Maxence and I recently chanced upon a gelateria* in Paris’ seventh arrondissement. It was pouring rain, but that didn’t lessen the pull of gelato one bit, and as we sat down to our little tubs of vanilla (for Maxence) and chocolate sorbet (for myself), I noticed a shelf stocked with miscellaneous jarred goods of Italian origin.

Among them, a Composto Miele e Pistacchio from Sicily, described on the little label as a mix of 85% honey and 15% pistachios. These being two of my favorite things yet seldom seen together, I promptly bought a jar. We tried it on toasted sourdough the next morning, and were smitten with this creamy, golden spread, the flavors of honey and pistachio melding together in a most titillating way.

The only problem is that it is disappearing fast, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to get more: the lady who served our ice cream informed us that the gelateria would be closing soon, and the company that makes the honey, a Gioiello di Sicilia based in Milo, Sicily, has a limited online presence: the website listed on the label no longer exists, and their facebook page is dormant.

So what I plan to do instead is make my own: I’ll mix some of the creamy springtime honey I bring back from the Vosges with a bit of the pistachio paste from Terre Exotique I’ve been saving for just this type of worthy purpose.

* VasaVasa, 41 avenue de la Bourdonnais, 75007 Paris, +33 (0)1 47 05 84 30.

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Papa gâteau

Papa gâteau

Illustration by MelinArt.

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Papa gâteau.”

Literally translated as, “cake daddy,” it is used to qualify a doting father, one who’s affectionate and good-natured, and possibly one who allows his children to wrap him around their little finger every once in a while.

Example: “Il n’a jamais été très branché bébés, mais depuis qu’il en a un, c’est un vrai papa gâteau.” “He’s never been big on babies, but now that he has one, he’s a real cake daddy.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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Three Very Good Things: Squash and Coffee Soup, Lo Bak Go, and Honey Lemon Tea

{This is part of a series in which I share three delicious things recently tasted and enjoyed. Please feel free to share your 3VGT list in the comments below, or on your own blog!}

My latest “three very good things” are as follows:

~ Red Kuri Squash Soup with Arabica Whipped Cream

I was just in Valence for a work project, and had the opportunity to dine at one of Anne-Sophie Pic’s establishments: not the three-star gastronomic restaurant, but her chic bistro, simply called Le 7 (after the highway that runs alongside it!).

We had a wonderful evening and ate very well, and I was especially taken with my first course, a velvety soup of potimarron (a.k.a. Hokkaido or red kuri squash) served with a scoop of whipped cream spiked with Arabica coffee.

I had heard about another vegetable/coffee pairing that Pic does, partnering beets with Blue Mountain coffee, and this one works just as well, shaking up the sweetness of the winter squash with a measured touch of bitterness. Coffee is an underused ingredient in savory cooking; shouldn’t we all do something to change that?

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Best of 2011

Happy New Year! May your 2012 be a year of glowing health, simple pleasures, serene prospects, and dreams fulfilled.

2011 has been an eventful and wonderful year for me, full of exciting and gratifying projects in both my personal and professional lives. I got to travel around France (Deauville, Aix-en-Provence, the Basque country, Corsica) and beyond (Marrakech and Toronto), I was invited to be the host of an international food festival and the writer in residence at a chefs school, I worked on The Art of French Baking and on a new book of my own devoted to vegetables (to be released by Clarkson Potter next year), I did a two-week stint in the kitchen at my favorite vegetarian restaurant in Paris, I had my kitchen and living room remodeled, and I was admitted as a member of a famous French chocolate appreciation society, which had long been on my life list.

Beyond those big events, here are some specific highlights from my year, in no particular order. I’d love to hear about yours, so feel free to share in the comment section!

Most frequently made dish: Chicken in a bread crust, inspired by a dish demo’d by Saturne’s Sven Chartier at the Omnivore Food Festival.

Most frequently made dessert: Butterless apple crumble, a dairy-free version of the classic that is possibly even better for breakfast the next day.

Most elusive ingredient: Kale, a beautiful and nourishing green that is near-impossible to find in Paris, but which I filled up on while in Canada.

Most popular ingredient: Chestnut flour, which I brought back from Corsica and have been slipping into everything since.

Favorite new utensil: Bear claws, handmade in Canada, to toss salads.

Favorite homemade condiments: Dukkah, an Egyptian spice mix, and Celery salt, after a recipe by my friend Heidi.

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Three Very Good Things: Bumble Bee Dumplings, Excellent Vegan Food, and Old-School Chocolate

I want to express my sincere thanks to all of you who took the time to share recommendations for my stay in Stratford and Toronto. I spent most of my time in Stratford and very little in Toronto, so I feel another trip is in order to explore the city and try many more of the tempting places you wrote about. But I did make it to Chinatown, to the Kensington and St-Lawrence markets, and to the Distillery District (all in one walk-intensive afternoon).

And even though I spent little more than a day in Toronto, my picks for this week’s Three Very Good Things are all drawn from the city:

~ Bumble bee dessert dumplings at Lai Wah Heen. I had a very good and very fun lunch at this upscale dim sum place, located inside the Metropolitan Hotel, and we ended our meal with these deep-fried, mochi-like dumplings, filled with a green tea paste. Adorably shaped, too, as I’m sure you’ll agree. They tasted like Japanese wagashi, only deep-fried, and the interesting plating touch — that sprig of curly parsley, those loose strands of grated carrot — makes me laugh in retrospect.

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