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.

Favorite new salads: Roasted squash and einkorn wheat salad for winter, and Lentil and kohlrabi salad for spring.

Favorite new easy snack: Olive oil and black pepper tartine, an extremely good and extremely simple way to tide you over till dinner.

Favorite new beverage: Water kefir, a naturally fermented, slightly fizzy, wonderfully refreshing drink.

Favorite non-food recipe: Homemade natural deodorant, made very simply, from three ingredients you can keep in your pantry.

Favorite discussions on C&Z: Cooking for one, Thoughts on food gifts, and How not to cry.

Favorite series of posts on C&Z: Cooking on vacation, for which I asked friends and fellow bloggers to tell me about what they cook when they’re away from their own kitchen. A fun and inspiring read if you need a little shot of escapism.

Favorite food-related books: En Cuisine avec Alain Passard, a graphic novel set in a three-star kitchen; Bi-Rite Market’s Good Food, a sound guide to food shopping; and PastryParis, a gorgeous and clever little book by my friend Susan Hochbaum.

Favorite non-food-related books: Alexandre Dumas’ Comte de Monte-Cristo, my favorite book of all time, which I’d first read fifteen years ago and devoured again this fall; Emma Donoghue’s chilling Room (please don’t read *anything* about it before you read it, or it will spoil the book for you); and Suzanne Collins’ un-put-downable Hunger Games (volume 2 and 3 of the trilogy are, sadly, not nearly as good). {More books I’ve read.}

Favorite place to vacation: Corsica, where we spent too short a week in August, and hope to spend many more in upcoming years.

Favorite new bakery: Gontran Cherrier’s boulangerie in Montmartre. Contender: Benoît Fradette’s (new to me) Farinoman Fou in Aix-en-Provence.

Favorite new Paris cafés: Coutume Café in the 7th, and Kooka Boora in the 9th.

Favorite new Paris restaurants: David Azoulay’s Di Loretta for pizza al taglio, and Bertrand Grébaut’s Septime for a fresh and modern gastronomic meal.

Favorite new Paris chocolate shop: Le Roux, a Quiberon-based artisan reknowned for his salted butter caramels, but whose chocolates I like even better, especially the dark chocolate buckwheat praliné named Soizig.

Favorite show: Les Sea Girls, a hilarious song and dance show (in French) by four exceptionally talented women. They will be playing in Paris and elsewhere in France until May, and I urge you to book tickets if you can: you’ll come out of there feeling giggly and happy, a mood I hope you can sustain throughout 2012.

And if you’d like to hop aboard the C&Z time machine, it will take you back to see the:
~ Best of 2010
~ Best of 2009
~ Best of 2008
~ Best of 2007
~ Best of 2006
~ Best of 2005.

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