Crackly Sparkling Cranberries

This is one of our holiday favorites, albeit it newer tradition. This year, I had a bottle of Basque still cider that I wasn't fond enough of to drink, it was so yeasty and apple-y I couldn't toss it. What to do? Cranberries, of course! The added benefit: at the end of the process you have lovely spiced apple simple syrup that goes so well with Mescal. It would be fantastic with a hot rum or Bourbon drink, too. So really, you end up with TWO terrific products. Now, if you're not familiar with apple ciders I urge you to get to a good wine shop and ask for an intro. There are so many lovely ciders out there now, many made with heirloom apples. They're great with pork chops (in brine or a pan sauce) and they are fantastic with cranberries.

Crackly Sparkling Cranberries

For this recipe, start with whole fresh cranberries. If you have frozen whole cranberries it should work, but I've not yet tried it so I can't guarantee it. Begin this recipe a day ahead as the cranberries will get an overnight rest in their syrup. The active time for this recipe is minimal but you'll want to include resting/drying time and start the day before you plan to serve these.



  • 1 lb. Whole fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups Granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (most of one bottle) apple cider
  • Raw or brown sugar (here I used turbinado)
  • a few cloves, a star anise, (a cinnamon stick would probably be great, too.)


  1. Line a half sheet pan with waxed paper.
  2. Place sugar, spices, and cider in sauce pan, heat and stir to dissolve sugar.
  3. When sugar is fully dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Rinse cranberries, pick out stems.
  5. Syrup should still be pretty warm but not scalding. Dump the cranberries into a container that will go into the fridge overnight. Pour hot syrup over the cranberries.
  6. Rest overnight in the fridge (the cranberries not you, you've got other things to do.)

Next day:

  1. Remove cranberries strain from syrup (and save that syrup!)
  2. Place turbinado sugar on a dinner plate. Take cranberries about a cup at a time and roll around in sugar, then place on prepared sheet pan.
  3. Rolling cranberries in small batches prevents too much dripping and caking of the sugar. Should you get lots of lumps in it, just remove the lumps into the simple syrup.
  4. When all your cranberries have their first coating of sugar, move the tray to a cool, dry spot to rest and dry completely. Should take a few hours.
  5. For the second toss in sugar, you can simply re-roll. I find a light brushing of the simple syrup helps the second coating adhere better.
  6. Let dry completely.

Crackly Sparkling Cranberries

crackly, sparkly cranberries

Spiced Apple Simple Syrup

spiced Basque apple cider syrup


sparkling cranberries and a roast duck

Gather platter cranberry

sparkling cranberries, small chestnut apples and kale surround the Thanksgiving platter

30 Days of Vitamix - Say hello to Red!

I like red for so many reasons. It's lucky. It's life. It can pull me out of blue. It's the color of World AIDS Day, the color of Women's Heart Health. And it's just plain sexeh.

Meet Red

There's my early Xmas/Birthday present: a Pro Series Vitamix in Candy Apple Red. I'm calling her "Red." She's strong. Powerful. Occasionally loud. Gets the job done. I think we're going to be good friends. I hope she'll last half as long as my old handmixer did. (see Ode to a Handmixer.) That little Black & Decker handmixer, bought my first year of law school just died. I mean, like last week. The Waring anniversary blender a couple weeks ago. I thought I could make do with the food processor but I'm telling you, I'm a fool in love.


There's Red. She's a beauty, isn't she?


As I registered her, I saw something about an affiliate program. Well, stay tuned on that.


I'm starting a new series here: "30 Days of Vitamix". I'll be including posts on using the Vitamix. I'll cover techniques, ingredients to know, tips, and recipes, including some healthy and some boozy inspirations. Frozen Negroni anyone?  Here's a taste of just some of the things we'll be writing about soon.



Vitamix Collage

Thanks to my wonderful husband for this terrific gift! A great addition to the family!

Mescal and Apple - a Match Made in Heaven

With gratitude to Misty Kalkofen (goddess of mescal) for the inspiration.


Mansana de Mañana

1  oz Basque Apple Cider simple syrup 1 1/4 oz Mescal 1/2 oz lime juice (half a lime) 1 cardamom pod, pinch of cinnamon

Muddled cardamom in shaker. Add ice, remaining ingredients. Shake well.

Strain into ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with pinch of cinnamon and apple slice.

Smokey, slightly sweet and appley.

If you don't have hard apple cider of some sort on hand, use apple liqueur or even fresh apple cider might work.

Buy a Carafe and Think of Ryan or Derek, and Drink Water.

Today's healthy eating tip comes to you from supermodels. Sort of. I'll make it simple enough for even a brainless beauty to understand. DRINK WATER



Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.  Derek Zoolander


Okay my beautiful babies, here's the tip of the day.

  1. Get yourself a nice carafe or an old milk jug, something that you like to look at.
  2. Fill it with water.
  3. Put it on your kitchen counter or your desk.
  4. Drink it down.
  5. Repeat.


So simple, even a really, really, ridiculously good looking supermodel like Derek could follow these steps.

8 glasses a day, more or less

The truth is many of us grew up hearing the "8 glasses of water a day!" advice and few of us follow it or even come close. Various factors affect how much water any one of us actually should drink. For example, nursing or pregnant women have different intake goals than the rest of us, if you exercise you'll want to drink more, in a hot or cold climate, high altitude, etc.

Without making it sound too complicated, short of illnesses, the fact is that most of us need to drink more water than we do and few of us could drink too much water.

I don't know about you, but I can't remember what I was walking across the room for, much less track how many of those 8 glasses I've consumed. By putting a pitcher out, it's a visual reminder. I feel better when I drink water. I just forget unless it is right in front of me.

Water not only helps our vital organs function efficiently (this includes eliminating waste, more accurate than the "flushing toxins" that is common misused terminology), water also helps us feel full or at least more comfortable. Many times what we think we recognize as hunger is actually thirst. Try this little experiment yourself. The next time you feel the urge to reach for a snack or head to the vending machine, drink a large glass of water. Do something else for a few minutes to distract yourself from that "hunger" message. Answer some emails or pull up a picture of Ryan Gosling. Then after a few dreamy moments your "hunger" pang will have passed. I bet 9 times out of 10, you will find you've forgotten the "hunger" pangs altogether. It was thirst. ('course you may have pangs of a different sort, but save that for after work.)

If you truly are still hungry, treat yourself to something healthy and tasty. Or unhealthy if you're craving it, but enjoy it - really enjoy it. Denial doesn't work. And drink more water after. Get the pitcher or carafe refilled for your "re-set" and go on about your day.


In the photo above, I also included a soda siphon, for making bubbly water. Many people find it more refreshing than flat. Treat yourself to a pretty new one like I did  Santa brought me. You will enjoy using it and probably drink more water as a result. Using a soda siphon is a nice way to wean yourself of bad colas, too. Try mixing half and half until you back your taste buds away from the overly sweetened drinks they're accustomed to. You can do it!

Q Ginger Moscow Mule

If you really like soda, I recommend splurging once in a while on one of the crop of new sodas that are small batch, locally made with fine ingredients. Usually, they have real sugar not the crap in the big ones. I adore the Q sodas. Try one of those and, again, really enjoy the expensive treat of a finely made soda. Then go back to water for the majority of your hydration.

Also in the photo above, a beautiful bowl of lemons from our in-laws (Thanks guys!) - adding lemon to your water, especially if you can get your hands on beautiful Meyer lemons, is another way to mix up your water habit. By the way, hydrating doesn't only mean water. Something like cold hibiscus tea is refreshing, tart, and caffeine-free. You can control the sugar yourself, and it's loaded with good nutrition, too.

You may have noticed I used the word "treat" quite a lot. It is intentional. Wellness and good health are treats. Feeling good is a treat. Treat yourself well and remember:

...wetness is the essence of beauty.


By the way, did I mention? You look mahvelous!



Oyster Happy Hour and Milestones to Remember

So we're having our first Oyster Century Club© happy hour at Les Zygomates this Friday August 24 from 4-6 PM. This is a milestone to note! Come join the fun and spread the word. No fee to join the tweetup, members buy their own sips and slurps. If you are not yet a member of the OCC you may join by clicking this link to Paypal.

Please let me know via Eventbrite page that you're joining us, so we can give the bar a heads up on numbers.

We have a couple fun surprises in store...


Welcome to the Club

We are delighted to announce Les Zygomates as a sponsor of the Oyster Century Club©. Another milestone...

les Zygomates Oyster Century Club Sponsor


And, as some of you know, the Mister and I had our first date at Les Zygomates. 'Twas a four-hour blind date (longer than that tour to Gilligan's Island!) - never looked at my watch. Some things were meant to be.

Each year we return to "our" table to mark the date. These are truly milestones to remember - (remember Doc, the warranty's expired, you are stuck with me now!)

Back in the early days, there was no "Jazz side" - imagine?  I'm still regularly delighted to realize anew our local favorite offers free live jazz, in addition to a highly decorated wine bar, raw bar and always fine menu. Easy to see why it's often our go-to spot for dinner or drink, it's one of those spots that makes us grateful to live here in the Leather District.


Photos, Facts, Fun

Photos (L toR): the most recent anniversary dinner at "our" table. (I think we'd already polished off some raw bar), followed by the steak frites and burger.

The pre-Workbar raw bar meeting with two of our first Oyster Century Club© members. That's Brian (AKA Mr Eyelashes) and Ruth (Tasting Queen or should I say "la reine de goût?) Left and right of Brian and Ruth are the vanishing bivalves...

Zygomates oyster collage


"les Zygomates" is French, and refers to the zygomatic muscles that makes us smile. The sister restaurant is Sorriso, Italian for smile.

True to its name Les Zygomates leaves us all smiling.


Join the OCC, come meet us at Zygomates, and members who bring their sheet will be entered in a raffle.

Go Here, Eat This: North Shore Edition - Enzo Restaurant

I may be the worst (or best?) procrastinator on the face of the planet. I can use the excuse that I am intermittently reinforced for this habit and thus feel powerless in the face of it. I'm mostly joking and do get an awful lot done, but never quite as much, as quickly as I would prefer. This North Shore edition of "Go Here, Eat This" (my series of occasional restaurant reviews) focuses on the Enzo Restaurant in the town of Newburyport. Chef Mary Reilly and husband Dave invite you to relax and enjoy fresh Italian cuisine, interpreted through hyper-local ingredients. If you love knowing that your fish was swimming that morning, your pork was humanely and sustainably raised, your chef is supporting local farmers, fishermen and distillers; well, Enzo is for you.

Last summer I was delighted to be introduced to one of our local distillers and equally happy to discover that Enzo carries these distilleries' fine products on their bar. Of course! After my first meal at Enzo, I floated away on a cloud of sated happiness and promised to tell everyone. Mary was kind enough to share the recipe for one of their house cocktails, and I tested it out with my fresh-late summer produce. I muddled, mixed, sipped, and shot.

Farmers' Market Martini, Enzo

Then life happened. A lot of it. Good and bad  -- and just took over -- as it does -- and here we are in AUGUST already. Luckily it's a great time to try this cocktail (again.)

Farmers' Market Martini

This cocktail takes advantage of the smoothness of Beauport vodka and the fresh flavor of summer vegetables.

  • 4-6 cherry tomatoes, or 1/4 of a medium tomato
  • 2-3 slices cucumber
  • a few sprigs of herbs: parsley, basil, chives, summer savory (whatever you have on hand)
  • pinch salt
  • 3 oz. Beauport vodka
  • cucumber wheel or cherry tomato for garnish

In a mixing glass, muddle the tomato, cucumber and herbs well with the salt.  Really make sure you mash all the vegetables up so as to extract as much juice as possible.  Add the vodka and ice and put the top on your shaker.  Shake well to make sure the you get everything super cold and well combined.  Double strain* into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cucumber wheel or cherry tomato.

* Double straining is a technique used when you make a drink with a lot of "bits" in it. In addition to a standard Hawthorne or julep strainer (or the strainer built into your cocktail shaker), strain through a fine-mesh strainer into your glass. A simple way to do it: hold the shaker/strainer combo in your right hand and hold the fine mesh strainer over your cocktail glass. Pour directly into the fine-mesh strainer - all the small bits will get caught, leaving you with a clearer drink.  If you don't have a fine-mesh strainer, no worries, the double strain isn't essential; your cocktail will just be a wee bit chunkier!

Getting Back to Enzo

The good news is that Enzo Restaurant has passed their first year anniversary, they're gaining steady clientele and gathering a slew of good reviews along the way. You really must go and experience it for yourself. It's comfortable yet sophisticated. As North Shore folks are wont to do, there are plenty of customers in well-worn shorts and deck shoes in evidence. The freshly coifed and the couples celebrating having found sitters on the same night (so it seemed to me) were also out in equal numbers. I was pleased to see a fair number of guests who knew the staff and to learn our server likes the place so much she'd brought her partner back on her day off! Not many restaurants can make that claim. Everyone should know this is a warm and welcoming place.

This recent meal was full of delicious surprises (left to right):

The olive oil and foccacia were delicious and a statement in pink and green.

Nonna Rose - Enzo's first barrel-aged cocktail with Milagro blanco tequila, Aperol liqueur and vermouth spend a month in an oak barrel to produce this smoky, slightly spicy cocktail. Served on the rocks with a flamed orange peel.

Pat Woodbury's Clams (wanted a bathtub sized bowl of these babies, clean, ocean-y).

Rhubarbarita, Fried Polenta, Fried olives stuffed with cheese (one of the few olive dishes Doc loves).


Nonna Rose, Fried Olives


Since the Striper was caught that morning, I couldn't resist. The fish was perfectly cooked, sat on a bed of three local beans and potato dice.

Doc had the free form lasagna, housemade cheese, local sausage.

Dessert - sorbetto so rich and chocolatey you might think you were given gelato instead. Correto.


EnzoResto Striper, Lasagna

So, Mary & Dave - we will not wait another year to come back! I'm hungry again looking at all the delicious food. Wonderful evening beginning sips to last. Mille Grazie!

Enzo Restaurant

50 Water St., #304 Newburyport, MA (978) 462-1801

Opens at 6:00 Tuesday through Thursday and 5:00 Friday through Sunday

Closed Mondays

Highlights: Local, seasonal, handmade food.

For diners with allergies: Enzo is one of the best at accommodating allergies and offers options for nearly everyone.

Phone ahead for reservations and let them know of any allergies then.


Where to Go? What to Order?

Looking for a place to eat in Boston? The “must-try” spot for Chinese food? Dumplings? Dim Sum? My favorite burger? Pizza? A Gluten-free joint? Who does the best dollar oysters? Roast pig? People often ask me where they should eat in Boston and what they should order when they get there.

“Go Here, Eat This” 

Quick posts sharing notes of good spots to eat, highlighting what’s unique about the place,  favorite dishes, house specialities, indicative of the cuisine, or just ones that I really enjoy. I’ll also try to note things like whether the place is friendly to those with allergies, or disabilities, etc. Just stuff you ought to know.

Slurping Oysters & Sipping Sake by Richard Auffrey

Today's guest post is offered by Richard Auffrey, The Passionate Foodie (AKA The Tipsy Sensei). Rich is a certified saké professional and has introduced me to a most wonderful pairing: oysters and saké. Please enjoy and visit him at his blog or find him on Twitter @RichardPF. Slurping Oysters & Sipping Sake

 "An oyster, that marvel of delicacy, that concentration of sapid excellence, that mouthful before all other mouthfuls, who first had faith to believe it, and courage to execute? The exterior is not persuasive."

--Henry Ward Beecher

It irks me. When I visit an oyster bar, the menu will usually have numerous wine options to pair with my raw bivalves, from Sauvignon Blanc to Muscadet, from Champagne to Chablis. But many of these restaurants fail to carry one of the best pairing choices, Japanese Sake.

Let me preface that my comments are primarily for raw oysters, and cooked oysters deserve their own article. Why is Sake such an excellent accompaniment to raw oysters? I think one of the main reasons these oyster bars don’t carry Sake is their lack of understanding of this diverse and intriguing Japanese beverage. In addition, many of their customers don’t understand it either, so they don’t ask for Sake to accompany their dozen bivalves. So let me explain why Sake and oysters work so well together.

Sake photo by Richard Auffrey

First, we should understand that oysters have different flavor profiles, often dependent on their geographical location, the impact of merroir. As a broad generalization, East Coast oysters tend to possess a more briny flavor while West Coast oysters are usually fruitier. So, the same wine may not pair well with different types of oysters. For example, the saltiness of oysters can cause problems for numerous wines, especially red ones. It is similar to the problem that many red wines have with the salty content of many cheeses.

Sake too does not possess a single flavor profile but rather has an incredibly diverse range, from sweet to dry, fruity to floral, bold to elegant, earthy to herbal, and much more. Sake has at least as much complexity as wine, and more in some respects, possessing twice as many aromatic esters as wine. That means Sake has the potential for twice as many aromas than wine, and aroma plays a significant role in flavor.

With all the different flavor profiles and types of Sake, there really is a Sake that is appropriate for nearly any type of food including oysters. The Japanese have an apt saying, Nihonshu wa ryori wo erabanai, which basically translates as "Sake does not get into fights with food." It is an indication that they feel Sake pairs well with many different foods, and generally won't overpower anything or be over powered by some dish.

There is some science behind Sake’s ability to pair well with different foods. There are twenty different amino acids in Sake, a greater variety than found in any other alcohol. Amino acids, at their simplest, are the basic building blocks of proteins and each amino acid has its own specific function. These amino acids play a significant role in the utility and versatility of Sake.

The quantity of each amino acid will vary from Sake to Sake, dependent on several factors. The protein in rice is generally located in the outer layers, which often get polished away, at least in part. That means that a higher quality Sake, like a Daiginjo, with a higher rice polishing rate, will have less protein available for conversion and subsequently a lower level of amino acids. A lengthier fermentation process also tends to produce more amino acids. The more traditional brewing processes, Kimoto and Yamahai, which can take twice as long to ferment, generally have the most amino acids of any Sake.

Five kinds of amino acids are considered to most affect taste: alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid and succinic acid. Alanine is said to produce sweetness, while arginine produces bitterness and aspartic acid can produce acidity and astringency. Glutamic acid and succinic acid may be the most important components though because of their role in creating the taste of umami.

You probably already know the four basic tastes, including salt, sweet, bitter, and sour, but there is a fifth as well. Umami, this fifth taste, is often described as “savoriness” or “meatiness” though it is probably best understood through tasting foods rich in umami, such as soy sauce, ripe tomatoes, parmesan cheese, scallops, and mushrooms.

In 1908, Professor Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese chemist, discovered that glutamic acid gave kombu seaweed a very distinctive taste, which he labeled umami. Later scientists would identify two other sources of umami, inosinate and guanylate, two nucleotides. Inosinate is found mostly in meat and fish while guanylate is most often found in mushrooms.

Umami does more than just make food taste better. It can also serve to suppress our appetite, causing us to eat fewer calories by convincing our stomach that it has had enough protein. In addition, because it tends to round out and deepen flavors, then it can also deter us from adding extra salt and fat to our foods.

On average, Sake contains 100-250 mg/l of glutamic acid while wine contains only 10-90 mg/l and beer even less, only 10-15 mg/l. As Sake possesses a high level of glutamic acid, it possesses plenty of umami taste. So what is the impact of that umami in regards to food pairings? First, you can pair glutamic rich Sake with other glutamic rich foods, which is similar for example as to what is sometimes done in Italian cuisine. Ripe tomatoes, used in red sauce, and Parmigiano Reggiano are both rich in glutamic acid which is partially why they are considered an excellent pairing.

Second, there is also a synergistic effect with umami, which means that when you combine foods with different sources of umami, the overall taste is intensified. So, when considering foods to pair with umami-rich Sakes, which are high in glutamic acid, then you can seek out foods with high levels of inosinate or guanylate to create that intensification effect.

Oysters also possess umami, derived from a high level of glutamic acid, so pairing them with an umami-rich beverage makes sense. It is thought that during the fall and winter, oysters possess their highest umami level.

Sake can also easily handle the briny nature of oysters, just as it handles well the salty aspect of cheese. Also consider that Sake does well with salty, umami-rich soy sauce. If Sake can handle soy sauce, then handling oysters should be quite simple. As for the fruitier oysters, Sake can easily handle those as well. For example, melon is considered a common descriptor for some West Coast oysters, and some Sakes possess similar melon flavors as well as other complementary flavors.

Besides glutamic acid, other amino acids in Sake provide additional benefits. They help to neutralize fishy flavors in seafood, something wine generally cannot do. Thus, Sake may be a better pairing with seafood than wine, especially any seafood that might tend to possess a stronger flavor, like uni or oysters.

We also have to consider any toppings you place on your raw oysters, from a spicy cocktail sauce to a mignonette. Once again, that topping could wreck havoc with a wine pairing. Your wine might not be able to tolerate the vinegar in your mignonette or the horseradish in your cocktail sauce. Yet Sake once again doesn’t have a problem with any of these. For example, Sake stands up to hot wasabi so a spicy cocktail sauce is not an impediment.

Embrace the versatility of Sake the next time you eat a dozen raw oysters. If your local oyster bar does not carry Sake, then recommend that they do. Go to your local fish market, buy some oysters and enjoy them at home with a nice, chilled Sake.

Richard Auffrey writes The Passionate Foodie blog, is a Certified Sake Professional and is also the author of the Tipsy Sensei series, a collection of Sake-related short stories. He consults to restaurants and wine shops and teaches classes on sake appreciation in and around Boston.
Oseki Junmai photo by Jacqueline Church
I put Rich's advice into action and thoroughly enjoyed this Junmai with the last of my Sunday Oyster Fest.
Blue Point, Salt Aire, Little Island, Beavertail Oysters

Cool, Creamy and Savory

Yogurt, Panna Cotta, Verrines and other cool creamy things are very appealing in these dog days of Summer. I wonder how many cool and savory applications we could come up with?  

Cool, Creamy and Savory

In the pantheon of savory cool and creamy, there is, of course, Tzatziki. The Greek cucumber and yogurt dish which is similar to Indian Raita and as with raita, pairs well with savory meats or spicy stews or curries. And we now know we can make our own Greek-style yogurt at home for a song, The Secret to Homemade Greek-style Yogurt. (One reader at Suite insists I was referring to Turkish-style yogurt, but I'm only going by what I started with which was Greek-style yogurt I purchased in the store...)

Today an email from The Tasting Table - Culture Shock - Yogurt is the Beefcake of the Dairy World - got me going on this creamy, savory thing. There's a recipe in that TT link for a savory almond oil-infused yogurt served with charcuterie and a reference to a cold-smoked yogurt used as a panna cotta base served with tomato, watercress, cucumber salad with nigella seed dressing. By the way, you know panna cotta should wobble like a woman's breasts, right? pannacottaDulce de Leche Panna Cotta - yes, it wobbled properly.


Layering it On

There was also an NPR story on Verrines  - Verrines a Glass Act - which describe various verrines. Essentially parfaits of yogurt and other items, verrines it turns out, can also be savory. I made yogurt parfaits for the family recently and served them again with brunch for friends.  Here is a photo of my parfa -- um -- I mean Verrine:



So now I'm thinking of savory verrines for a summer lunch or a light dinner. Use a large jar and some cold poached chicken - you can even make it in a microwave -- layered with chickpeas, chopped cucumbers and curried savory yogurt. This could be a picnic lunch. Or do a seafood mousse and layer with shredded lettuce, summer tomatoes. Cold poached fish and some Greek style yogurt seasoned with Grapefruit bitters, top with watercress or chiffonade of greens, perhaps?

I'll bet a silken tofu could be buzzed up with other ingredients to make a dairy-free but creamy item that could be spooned into verrines.



At a recent tasting for The Bitter Truth aromatic bitters a group of food and wine writers got a lively and entertaining introduction to this artisanal product. The range of bitters produced by The Bitter Truth guys is astounding. I immediately began thinking of savory culinary applications. A celery bitters panna cotta as a base for a summery tomato dish? The Xocolatl Mole Bitters has a deep chocolate note which would make an interesting panna cotta with say, cold poached chicken.

Crème Fraîche is another creamy delight that is used in savory applications. It enriches sauces without breaking up, so you get the benefits of sour cream or yogurt without the risk of curdling. Blanquette de Veau and curries are both enriched and made velvety by the addition of Crème Fraîche at the end. A cool application could include a rich, velvety bitters-enhanced Crème Fraîche, layered with poached chicken or fish and vegetables.


Cool and Savory - but not Creamy

Why stop at creamy applications? When the mercury rises, classic aspics are another, non-dairy, cool to eat dish. Flavored and chilled gelatin, an aspic can contain many different items or almost none. A chilled tomato juice or tomato water aspic can be accompany savory grilled meats or they can envelope cool poached ones. Why not do grown-up Jello shots flavoring gelatin with bitters? Grapefruit bitters and vodka, celery bitters and tiny sweet 100 cherry tomato halves perhaps?

Play with shapes and maybe use teacups for little individual molded aspics? vessels-wm Do you do aspics or verrines? Every made savory yogurt sauces or dips?

Culinary Stars, Lucky Students, Master Recipes

Jacques Pepin's Ballotine of Chicken Jacques Pepin teaches Ballotine of Chicken at the New York Culinary Experience - and I was there!

The annual weekend called The New York Culinary Experience is a fundraiser for the school's scholarship fund and is co-sponsored by New York Magazine. See Up Close and Personal with Renowned Chefs.

You can get a feel for the class by watching the slide show below. For step-by-step instructions see Iconic Chef Jacques Pepin Demonstrates Ballotine. You can also see the true Cassoulet from Gascony, taught by Ariane Daguin.

Dorothy Cann Hamilton founded The French Culinary Institute in 1984. I got the chance to chat with her upon her induction into the James Beard Society's Who's Who list. (See the full interview in my Gourmet Food column: James Beard Inductee: Dorothy Cann Hamilton - Who's Who Honoree - On Wanderlust, Recessions and a Perfect Peach.

This is just the second year and it sold out completely. I talked with "students" who were clothing designers, prostodontists, landscape architects, programmers, bartenders, retirees. It's hard not to be gobsmacked walking the halls and seeing the culinary stars. The most amazing part of being there is that the staff are all so open, friendly, accessible. They are obviously friendly and respectful of each other, too. It's a beautiful atmosphere and the whole weekend carried an extra charge with eager students (and equally eager press) in attendance.

In 2006 Nils Norén Formerly of Aquavit joined the school as VP of Culinary and Pastry Arts bringing his considerable industry experience to the school’s curriculum. Also in 2006, The Italian Culinary Academy launches at The International Culinary Experience with renowned Italian chef Cesare Casella as its Dean. The first program to launch is the Italian Culinary Experience program, the first-of-its-kind that combines hands-on study in cuisine, language and culture at The Italian Culinary Academy in SoHo and ALMA, The International School of Italian Cuisine at  in Colorno, Italy, followed by an optional nine-week stage at a top-rated restaurant in Italy.

Nils Noren Dave Arnold Cocktail anyone?

True Tuscan at work (also the name of his cookbook)


Feeling for pin bones


Holding the tail end with his left hand he gently pulled the knife across the side in a back and forth sawing motion.


Making ribbons of cucumber.

Chopping chives. Voila! Gravlax, Salmon Tartar - very easy to make and great luxury for entertaining. The bread was spread with a radish butter, stacked and cut into these seasoned slices for serving the salmon.

All very easy to do ahead.

This NYCE weekend was heady stuff. Everyone I spoke with was having a blast, excited by what they were learning and thrilled with who they were learning it from. It's really a unique weekend. What a great gift for a special birthday or anniversary or say Christmas?