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.

  • karen

    Happy New Year :-)
    Still waiting for your wonderful desktop calendar for jan. 2012!:-)
    Many greetings from Denmark/Karen.

    • Thank you Karen! I am taking a break from the monthly calendars this year — I realize the feature will be missed and I am sincerely sorry, but I needed to lighten my workload a bit to make room for other projects (including writing the new book!). I hope you understand.

      • I, too, will mourn the loss of those beautiful desktop calendars but am cheering the new book in the works. Congrats!

      • pao

        I loved the monthly calendar and I will miss it. However, I’m happy for you, you are taking onto new adventures and projects. Good way of starting the new year!
        Have a wonderful 2012

  • Caroline

    Completely understand the need to lighten one’s workload… we’ll just have to wait till 2015 to start recycling the calendars from 2009 when you started!

  • Marilyn

    I am really disappointed that I won’t have you calendar on my desktop.

    Well, you do have to earn your living too!

    Your blog has been important for me too! Happy New year,

  • Susan Chardin

    Am very disappointed about not having the monthly calendars ;-(

    Thanks for the past ones!


  • Liz Thomas

    Oh! I shall miss the calendars! I loved them and looked forward to them each month.

    I do understand about workload though, especially with a book to write and you have to be totally focused. I have had a guide book on the back burner for several years but other things keep getting in the way and knocking my train of thought out of kilter.

    Anyway, Happy New Year, and I hope it will be a great one for you. Will still eagerly look forward to my C&Z News each month. Many thanks for so many great tips and ideas.


  • est

    while mourning the calendars too ;) I will add to your list the homemade deodorant which really has become a classic recipe! so much fun to make, and it works!! anyway, last but not least, thought I would ask what was your favorite film of the year?! xx

    • I’m delighted you’ve adopted the déo recipe! ^_^ I can’t think of a favorite movie for the year off the top of my head, but I can mention a favorite television series: Homeland. Brilliant!

  • Clotilde, I am so very jealous of your opportunity to travel around France for you various projects. As an avid Australian traveller it will be a dream to visit France one day! It sounds like 2011 was a great year so all the best for an even brighter 2012!

  • Happy new year!

    A new book about vegetables? Sounds amazing, I can’t wait!

    You absolutely have to come to Devon and visit the Riverford field kitchen as research. Flybe fly direct from CDG to Exeter and I promise there’s an abundance of kale here!

  • I visited Japan for 5 weeks this autumn, definetly the highligh of the year.
    While my interest is mainly in gardens, I love my food also. I took along the list of your highlights and tried to follow as many as possible. Tokyu Hands was a particular favourite as was Toji market, where I tried to sample as much unknown food as possible.

    • Wow, five weeks in Japan, what a luxury! I can imagine how that would be a stand-out in your year. And I’m glad some of my recommendations were inspiring to you!

  • Susan

    Could you share your favs in Corsica and maybe an affordable but
    nice hotel ? Thanks for including your new addresses in Paris for 2012.

    • I drew up a post about our Corsica trip on the blog. Hope you find some inspiration in there! Regarding the accommodation, we had rented a place in Cargese, and while the place itself was great, the manager was a bit of a lunatic (harmless, but still) so I wouldn’t recommend it. :)

  • JanetinMaine

    OMG. I too logged on to get the new calendar. I look forward to it every month. Just so you know….your calendar was what drew me to your site.

    • I appreciate the feedback, Janet, and I’m sorry. I wish I had infinite amounts of time to accomplish all the things I’d like to, unfortunately that is not the case so I have to make choices.

  • Anna

    So sad about the calendar — it’s been a first-of-the-month tradition for me for a long time!

  • Robin Kelley

    So disappointed not to have the calendars any more; but perhaps an edible idiom will still find its way into the newsletter? Happy New Year, and good luck with your new book.

  • Thank you (again!) for the book mention…Loved the chouquette article and share your enthusiasm – I made them for my birthday dessert last week. Stuffed them with whipped cream and made salt-butter caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, and strawberry sauce for toppings…not very French but so delicious!

  • Madonna

    Congratulations on an interesting year. I’m looking forward to your new vegetable book. I found a copy of The Art of French Baking under the tree on Christmas morning. Since one of my 2012 resolutions is to become a better baker, I’m looking forward to trying many of the recipes.

    If your travels ever bring you to Indiana, I promise to feed you lots of kale from my garden.

  • Happy New Year,Clotilde. You sound like it is going to be a busy one.

    Never mind the monthly calendars, you can resume when your book is out!

    We’ve started on a circumnavigation, which so far has taken us from France to the caribbeans (crossing the Atlantic with the family one of 2011 highlights!) and I wanted you to know that your blog is always one the first things I check whenever we have an internet connection. You are such an inspiration, I wonder if you realise the impact you and your blog have on so many people. So much so in my case, I’d love to see your take on Caribbean food.
    Sailing thru the Grenadine islands right now, sampling different vegetables, and since you’re writing a new book…Maybe you could add a trip to the Caribbeans to your uber busy 2012 schedule!

    • That sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime trip!

  • Wow, what accomplishments for 2011, congrats! So inspiring. I know 2012 is going to be even better. You might surprise yourself.

  • I can’t believe the calendar is no more! I guess I’ll have the Dec ’11 one up for the next 6 months until I figure out what to do. Oh well, good luck and have fun in 2012!

  • At the threshold of a brand New Year I always send out a special message to my friends and family, a message that reflects my mood-of-the-moment and encapsulates some of the lessons I have learned in that year and before and that I wish to share with my immediate, larger and virtual family. The message goes out as New Year greetings and to my mind serves to fill the time slot and opportunity that ending of one year and beginning of another present.

    Here is a quick trip back in time to those messages, if you wish to revisit –2008, 2009, 2010.

    Here are the lessons, in no particular order, flowing out just as the reflections reappear on the horizon of my mind and the thoughts take form. I may have learned much more, either consciously or subliminally; so why just 31 lessons? I did the simple math of adding 20 and 11 together. Perhaps I could do a part 2 to the ongoing process. But here are my 31 cents worth whatever they may be in the lanes of life, aspiring to be important milestones on its meandering roads –

    Lesson 1 – The most important guest that you should usher in is Opportunity. Opportunity, nay, opportunities knock on the mind’s door – loud and clear. You must be ready in your Sunday best to greet them and be hospitable towards them. You must always be fitted out in branded clothes to welcome this VIP guest and the brand must always be of hard work, calibre and perspicacity.

    For all the 31 lessons, please go here.

  • belated happy new year clothilde – hope 2012 is a good one – loved the recap – helps e catch up on things I missed – and I loved that novel Room – such an amazing perspective on life!

  • Katie

    Oh boo hoo. I will sooo miss your calendar but certainly understand the need to take a break. Most importantly – take care of you. Love your site and writings.

  • Clotilde! Happy New Year – I always love the list you make every year for the format and the eclectic nature. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you, Valerie, I enjoy the process of putting it together, and I’m glad you like the result.

  • Happy New Year! I still haven’t found chestnut flour, ever since you posted about it I’ve been searching, maybe I should bite the bullet and buy it online (sigh)

    look forward to another year of Chocolate & Zucchini!

  • Bonne annee Clotilde, and congrats on the new cookbook – I look forward to buying it, and hope you might be doing a booksigning in London…??

    A few of my 2011 culinary highlights:

    Most frequently made salad – your roasted pattypan and chickpea salad

    Favourite new cocktail – elderflower bubbly (prosecco + St-Germain + a single raspberry)

    Most memorable restaurant meal – my work farewell dinner at China Pavilion in Santa Barbara. One of my former colleagues is Chinese and on excellent terms with the restaurant owners, so she ordered an epic feast of dishes not on the menu.

    Resolution for 2012 – learn a lot more about Chinese cooking (see above!).

    May you have a wonderful 2012 – I’m looking forward to hearing about new adventures!

  • Joan

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

    oh and that for you as well Clotilde..

    A new year…brimming with prospects!

    Glass of bubbles …with beaded bubbles winking at the brim…dear Keats…

  • Chestnut flour? I can’t wait to see what greatness comes out of this. I so enjoy your blog.

  • Highlights of 2011:
    Delivering a beautiful baby boy and moving him to Paris! I don’t know if you remember meeting at your book signing in Boston in 2007 when you signed a recipe card for my wedding shower, but now we’re neighbors on this side of the ocean. Maybe I can finally get to one of your C&Z anniversary parties.

    (I never used the calendars, I have always come to your site for the food inspiration and will be serving your radish and avocado canapes at a meal tomorrow night, thank you!)

  • Marie

    Here is another one that will miss the desktop calendars terribly!

    Good luck with all your future projects and all the best for 2012!

  • Amanda Pronko

    Don’t want to make the comments sound like a broken record, but I am totally going to miss your calendar of the month… I think my co-workers will too!!!

    I kept coming back everyday to check if it was up yet… I still have December on my screen! I understand that you are so busy, I just wanted you to know how much I love it and look forward to it :) Best of luck in all your plans for 2012!

  • I will definitely miss the desktop calendar. I would always get so many compliments on it!

    Good for you for recognizing things you need to cut back in order to make room for new things! Can’t wait to see the book!

  • It sound like 2011 has been a great year for you. Thanks for the link to chicken in a bread crust. It sounds wonderful.

  • Cara

    Hi –
    When you mentioned Kale you said ‘near-impossible’ to find in Paris, not ‘impossible’. I have actually been searching for kale in Paris for the last 6 months. I found some at Whole Foods in London, I had some in Italy over Christmas, and France is right in between so I’m not ready to give up yet. If anyone has any clues as to where I might find kale, ornamental or not, please let me know…I’ve looked everywhere I can think of. Thanks!!!

    • I wrote “near impossible” because there *has* to be some vendor somewhere who sometimes has it, unfortunately I don’t know who or where at this point. I’ll keep looking!

  • JC

    Wow. I am shocked that kale is hard to come by in Paris. I thought this crop was ubiquitous worldwide. I will appreciate its abundance in New Jersey from now on. I hope you at least have easy access to chard and beet greens.

    • We do, thank you! Chard is very easy to come by, beet greens you can get at the beginning of beet season, when they’re sold in bunches.

  • Alors en français ça s’appelle comment le kale ?

    • Il semblerait que ce soit du “chou vert demi-nain” !

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