Keith and I just paid a visit to the Walker House for the opening day of its bakery. For now, it will be open on Saturdays from 8 AM until noon but orders can be made and picked-up during the week. The place was abuzz. There were a lot of items to choose from: elephant ears, pasties, muffins, cookies, loaf breads, peanut cake bars, donuts, coffee cakes, blueberry pie, caramel apple rolls, cupcakes, sheet cakes, and many more. We enjoyed some coffee and a few bites of strawberry cream cheese cake. I ended up chatting with Brooke Garrison, who was filling up the shelves with more treats. It turns out she was the assistant baker. She invited me up to the kitchen to meet head baker, Lisa Govier.
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Hi everyone! I’m writing in bed with a wool blanket, two down comforters, and the puppy on top of me (with a glass of wine nearby). Keith is in Paris right now doing secret scientific stuff which has me reminiscing about my French cooking adventure this past summer in Lyon. Before going anywhere, I usually search for food blogs in the area to try get to know a place from the locals. In researching Lyon, I stumbled on Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook, a scrumptious blog by American expat Lucy Vanel. Even more exciting, she had recently started a cooking school, Plum Lyon, out of her home in the historic Croix-Rousse district. I signed up for her market to table class and counted down the days until I could be there.
Keith and I stayed in a room on the fourth floor of an old building with unusually large and winding stone steps and windows that opened onto the courtyard. There were large pots of multi-colored hydrangeas and birds darted in and out a lot, their squawking amplified by the stone courtyard so much that it felt as if I had a flock right above my head. You could also hear everyone’s conversations (mostly they were talking about how loud the birds were!). Golds, burgundy, and emeralds dominated the room, just how I imagined it to be. The curtains were a heavy silk and damask combination held open on one side by a thick rope of gold and silver silk. The walls were covered with a a shimmery cream wall paper with ornate pattern. There was a marble and cast iron fireplace and the lights just bright enough to make everything look even more golden. In the sitting area were red velvet chairs (perfect for writing in my journal or lounging with coffee). The bathroom was bright and modern with a full-sized tub. I was pretty in love with all of it.
I walked to Lucy’s neighborhood on the first morning in the city toward the old silk district. It was lovely and hilly. I wore my favorite flowy lace skirt, a striped t-shirt, sandals, and black sunglasses. The stair steps were neverending. My favorite part was going through a traboule that was like a secret passageway. It was actually used for silk transport back in the day so that the fabrics didn’t get wet. Finally, I got to 49 Rue des Tables Claudiennes, Lucy’s cooking school. We had a little coffee while we waited for one other student that day. Her name was Gina, from Mt. Prospect Illinois, of all places! We headed out or shall I say “up” to the market. I saw the reason for Lucy’s market bag on wheels.
Continue reading “Drifted” Appetite: Cooking in Lyon Part I
The other day, I made some marshmallows for the first time. Keith and I fun pretending it was summertime and we toasted some using our fireplace. Marshmallows plus fire or marshmallows plus chocolate is never a bad idea. One of my favorite treats is Gail Ambrosius’ hot chocolate mix. It’s a rough mixture of chunky Columbian dark chocolate. When you open the brown bag, you’ll get a strong, intoxicating aroma that will make you feel an extra jolt of verve during these frigid, wintry days. Trust me, you’ll want to make a warm cup of this delicious elixir. Make sure you’ve got some really good milk. We love Sassy Cow Creamery.
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Most people in Wisconsin are dreaming of being somewhere warmer right now, like Tobolsk (a town in Siberia), Russia. This morning, the thermometer outside the kitchen window read negative twenty degrees Fahrenheit. Of the eight years I’ve been living in Wisconsin, I have never seen it dip that low. It feels absolutely brutal out there. The last time Keith let Ollie dog out, he lifted three of his paws from being cold and then fell on his back. The poor little munchkin didn’t want to move. He had to carry him in.
Anyway, I’ve been wanting to make homemade marshmallows for awhile now. It would be perfect to plop atop hot chocolate, as a special treat for my music students. It’s actually very easy. The key is to have all your materials ready, and your ingredients measured before hand. Also, don’t worry about having the final fluff perfectly leveled and flat or else you will have a stringy sticky mess all over you and your kitchen. Give the pan a little shake and it will flatten out.
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Hi everyone, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. This year, we decided to go a non-traditional route for the first time ever (Keith *loves* traditional Thanksgiving) and did a Spanish-y tapas style meal. We built our menu around a wonderful cured Berkshire pork leg from Edwards of Surry, VA. It is America’s answer to Italy’s prosciutto or Spain’s serrano. Recommended by Eric Ripert no less. It was a lot of fun and not too much cooking. The night before our celebration, I put together the colorful paper lanterns we were going to use for a summer party that never happened and hung them inside the house. Instant Spain.
Continue reading ‘Tis the Season
It has been absolutely gorgeous out these last couple of mornings. Right after I woke up and looked out of the kitchen window the other day, I felt this big desire to take a picture of a frosty maple leaf. Does that ever happen to you? So I bundled-up, stepped outside, and searched for just the right leaf. It was a perfect bronze color, slightly curled at the tips, and the tiny specks of ice surrounding it sparkled silver from the early light.
Continue reading Café con leche on a Frosty Morning
We are getting pretty excited about the Driftless Film Festival, which starts this Thursday. I thought it would be hard to top last year’s opening night, the magical Beasts of the Southern Wild, but I’m even more excited about the film opening this year’s festival: Of Some Fair Place. Of Some Fair Place is the story of the artists and artisans that saved Mineral Point from both figurative and literal decay. They bought and restored old buildings in the town, saving a precious part of Wisconsin’s history and bringing new life and energy to the community and the economy.
Eve Studnicka, the filmmaker, is the child of two Mineral Point artists, and her grandparents were among those that bought and restored the crumbling buildings in town. If you don’t know Eve, by the way, meeting her is reason enough to come to the screening. She’s an old soul if I’ve ever met one, and I can still hardy believe she’s barely even a college freshman (studying filmmaking at Columbia College in Chicago). She’s a great example of the new generation of creative people who grew up influenced by the Mineral Point dreamed up by the subjects of Of Some Fair Place. To read of Eve’s thoughts on the documentary, check out the November Voice of the River Valley.
Eve recently stopped by our house to talk about her film and to make figgyhobbin with Leslie:
Continue reading Of Some Fair Place & The Figgyhobbin
On my kitchen counter sits a basket of colorful squash. There is the traditional orange pie pumpkin, a dark green Japanese Cabocha with an orange bottom, a light yellow Delicata, a Butternut, and a Festival one which looks like it has been splattered with green and orange paint. I’ve been eager to experiment with these beauties!
The first dish I had to make was one of our favorites, butternut squash lasagna. It is flavored with sage infused browned butter, roasted pecans, a couple of cheeses, and a dash of nutmeg. I like to roast the squash at least one day ahead to make things easier. One bonus, it makes the house smell “in season”.
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The past two weeks has brought us some of the best autumn colors in the Driftless Area. Sadly, we probably just have this weekend left to enjoy it. I have picked the last remaining fruits from the garden. I got a few more poblano peppers, green tomatoes, bitter melons, one opo (Asian zucchini), chamomile flowers, and the last bowl out of my over 50 pound glut of Concord grapes. Last weekend, Keith and I packed in several of our favorite fall activities. We made a trip out to Peck’s Farm Market West in Spring Green mainly to hang out with the goats and to look at their kitschy Halloween décor. I took the customary crazy pumpkin display picture. This year, they even had a golf cart with a giant pumpkin on the back. I also took a silly picture with a giant head of cabbage and realized that my own head was just as big in comparison!
Continue reading Autumn Notes & Molasses Poppy Seed Bread