Monday, April 29, 2013

Sur La Table


On a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon I decided to make a trip to a local gourmet cooking store, Sur La Table. The name of the store, which in French means “on the table” accurately describes what you will find inside, everything related to food on the table. On this particular day I was hoping to get some ideas for a brunch I was planning to make that weekend, and for me Sur La Table was the perfect place to get my creative cooking juices flowing.  I came prepared with the basic knowledge of what I felt a good brunch should have, good coffee, a heavier egg dish, something sweet and something fresh and light but I also tried my best to keep my mind open to anything I’ve already attempted was afraid to try before. My plan (in my head at least) was to try to recreate a brunch experience similar to my favorite brunch spots around town. 

For me browsing Sur La Table always brings out the creative side in me. It’s amazing how, armed with the right gadgets, the right recipes and a little practice a home chef can make meals worthy of five-star restaurants! My first instinct was to make a bee line to the table featuring all the different coffee and espresso makers. I soon realized that whatever it is that you fancy to drink that involves coffee, there’s defiantly a machine for that, provided of course that you are both willing and able to fork over the money. “Dana”, the saleswoman working the floor greeted me cheerfully and offered to make me a coffee drink to sip on while I shop. She asked me what I preferred and after consulting the poster display offering the many different drinks, I settled on a classic cappuccino. Dana happily showed me what she was doing (after all they were trying to sell the machines) and warned me that I might jump at the loud sound. The display proudly stated, “The Impressa Z7 grinds, tamps, brews and cleans in less than 60 seconds.” The machine then spluttered and steamed and a few minutes later out came a beautiful cup of cappuccino which I happily sipped away. Ahhh! 




What a great way to start the day! In the corner, I spotted a box of Italian almond biscotti. How smart and cruel at the same time! Sur la Table, if you’re reading this I really think you should offer biscotti with your cappuccino demos, it just might help seal the deal for some (who can afford it but for me, it will just make my day!). In the meantime I made a mental note to find a recipe to make a good batch before peeking at the price tag of the machine and was shocked, $3199.95! (on sale from the original price of $4,400) Yikes! I guess good coffee does come with a price tag and sadly this machine will not be gracing the counter tops of my kitchen anytime soon. Dana laughed when she saw how distraught I looked, “Yeah,” she said “I get that a lot, it really is expensive but I’ve heard from (the few) people who have bought it that it’s the best investment they’ve ever made.” We both looked at each other and smiled because we know we won’t be those few people who are ecstatic with their new gadget anytime soon. “I’m not really a coffee drinker anyways…” She shrugged. For me, I guess I’ll just have to resort to making some cappuccino biscotti courtesy of Isabelle Boucher from Crumb. Poor me *smile*.


Eat, drink and live well!
-Missy Sunshine

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Brunch!



The word ‘brunch’, according to Merriam-Webster is defined as “a meal usually taken late in the morning that combines a late breakfast and an early lunch." Essentially, brunch is usually a more relaxed meal than breakfast or lunch and can include anything you would eat for both meals. A typical brunch spread at a local restaurant consists of mini multiple courses including, but not limited to, appetizers or starters, breads, a more heavier entrĂ©e (typically an egg dish), and of course scrumptious desserts and coffee. Brunch can be as elegant and sophisticated as a multiple course meal at a fancy restaurant or hotel or as simple as flaky homemade buttermilk biscuits slathered with jam at home. This is what I love most about ‘brunching’, it is what you make it whatever your budget, time, or schedule and there really is no right or wrong way to enjoy it. 



I like to think that brunch is better than breakfast because it involves sleeping in! In the hustle and bustle of today’s world, sleeping in feels like a luxury that many of us cannot afford during the workweek. Of course there always are a million important things you could (or should) do in the morning, but every once in a while, it's nice to be able to turn off the alarm clock and just stay under the covers a little longer without having to feeling guilty about it.


So why have I chosen specifically to talk about brunch you may ask? Brunch for me is an example of true elegance. Few things are as relaxing and romantic as waking up on a lazy Sunday morning to steaming coffee, and a pretty brunch spread to nibble on leisurely. Treating myself to brunch is exactly that, a treat, and way to spoil myself (although having brunch before a spa day would be the ultimate spoiling treatment in my opinion!) and while we would all like to enjoy meals like this every day, because of our more hectic lifestyles sometimes the only thing we can manage for six days out of the week is to pour ourselves a cup of coffee before we rush to leave. It’s always nice to have one day a week where we can sleep in, slow down and enjoy good food in the process. For me personally, there is nothing I love more than sleeping in before enjoying a crab cake benedict and sipping on freshly brewed coffee, before topping it all off with some breakfast ‘desserts’…mmmm… just the thought of it makes me smile. It really is amazing how something so simple can feel so luxurious and start the day on a good note.



And although brunch is always surrounded with a lovely spread of good things to eat, it isn't only about the comfort food.  Brunch is also about sitting around the table with friends and family after a good night’s rest and taking a moment to share the simple pleasures of life. It’s about laughing, and joking, and catching up with loved ones on a lazy Sunday with a hot pot of freshly brewed coffee at arms’ reach. It’s about taking a step back from the hectic days of the week to unwind, relax and prepare for the week ahead. Sharing brunch together, like other meals, is about connecting, connecting with the food, connecting with each other, and even connecting with ourselves. As quoted from a fellow blogger, she says, "Good food even simply prepared takes on an aura of delight that can do more than just fill our stomachs. It can sustain our spirit."  I think that is what connecting over brunch can do, sustain our spirits.

Eat, drink and live well!
- Missy Sunshine

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Foodoir...


My topics so far has primarily focused on “beyond organic” foods and the ever changing quest for truly eating sustainable. For my final (creative non-fiction) paper I’m still not sure what topic or angle I should write about. I wonder, are there many (or even any) food-based creative non-fiction books floating out there? If so, are they captivating and catch the attention of the reader like other bestsellers? These are some of the general questions I have now at the starting line of this project as I just begin to lightly research and expose myself to the many different writing styles and topics available out there.  

One interesting genre I’d like to explore is the currently-trending world of “foodoir” or food memoir. This style of writing seems to involve a lot of what’s important and interesting to me, personal stories of maturing in life (in general) all in the company of good food. A few foodoir books have already been turned into movies, one such movie, for instance, is “Julie and Julia.” This book turned movie focuses on the author, Julie Powell's “attempt to revitalize her marriage, restore her ambition, and save her soul by cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, in a period of 365 days” (Amazon.com). This had my brain in gear. What if I wrote a foodoir about my experiences as a pretty decent (if I do say so myself *blush*) at-home chef? This could kill two birds with one stone as I can also implement my ‘independent field trip” into my challenge by spending a few hours shopping and browsing at my local Whole Foods Supermarket or other gourmet supermarket (unfortunately it’s still a little too early in the season for the local farmer’s market to be open). If so, what goals or focus would I be looking at for a weekend of cooking? Here are a few ideas that popped in my head of what I could possibly write about:


  1. My challenges of cooking nothing but new and somewhat daring or never-attempted-before dishes?
  2.  My quest for restaurant-quality or my favorite restaurant duplicated meals three times a day (think crab cake benedicts, blueberry lemon pancakes and cappuccino for brunch). 
  3. Maybe I can set a goal and challenge myself to cook exclusively local organic foods for a weekend?
  4. My journey into eating strictly vegetarian. We eat healthy but defiantly are meat eaters in this house and a challenge like this would be very interesting and hopefully eye-opening.

These stories will not only showcase good food (and hopefully pictures) but also the smiles and many dirty dishes it brings with it. Sometimes appreciating life in the simple act of enjoying a beautiful meal together is all we need to pick us up from a stressful day. Good food has for many generations brought people together, and for good reason! Whatever the goal, I’m sure it’s going to be a fun challenge for myself and hopefully a fun read for everyone else. Stay tuned…  
                                            

Eat, drink and live well!
-Missy Sunshine