The Last Bite Axiom (and Corollaries)

As you well know, I give a fair amount of thought to food (understatement of the year). Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about the special ways in which we eat our food. In paying attention to this, I have noticed the host of small unconscious ceremonials that I conduct while eating, and I wanted to share them with you.

I hope you’ll recognize yourself in this and I won’t feel so neurotic.

The Last Bite Axiom says : “the last bite has to be the best”. When eating a dish, I will always make sure to prepare for the last bite, reserving a little bit of the best elements of the dish as I go, in a specially designated area of my plate. Water/Wine Corollary : if thirsty, it is important to drink before the last bite, to maximize the lingering time of the last bite’s sensory experience. (And please, do not just snitch a taste from my plate haphazardly, or you may very well have eaten my Last Bite.)

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2004 Weblog Awards

The Bloggies

I am thrilled and honored to announce that Chocolate & Zucchini has been nominated for the 2004 Weblog Awards – also known as “the Bloggies” – and is one of the five finalists in the Best European Weblog category. This is a public vote-for-your-favorite type of award, so if you enjoy this blog and would like to express your support, it would sure be appreciated!

To vote, you can go to the Awards page. Scroll down about one third of the page to the “Best European Weblog” category and pick your favorite. At the very bottom of the page, type in your email address then hit the “submit” button. (Of course, you can vote in the other categories too, but it is not mandatory.)

Thank you so much!

The Travelling Gourmande in London

Hot Cross Bun

And here we are, back from a fabulous week-end in London! Our friends Zoe and Richard (wonderful and kind and funny and smart) had invited us to stay at their house in Lightwater (lovely and bright and cosy and welcoming). We spent two fun-filled days together, walking and shopping, talking and joking, eating and drinking, and just generally having a grand time. And! and! and! I got to meet a food blog friend in real life!

Here is an account, as food-focused as truly yours!

# of Restaurant meals eaten : 3
– At Felicitous in Notting Hill, a delightful picnic of antipasti and bagels in their tiny downstairs seating area (sprouted beans salad, marinated artichokes, roasted asparagus, smoked kalamata olives, herb sausages with relish).
– At The Red Fort in Soho, a hip yet delicious take on Indian food (venison in mango sauce, baby aubergines with coriander and tomato).
– At The Wolseley in Piccadilly, my first ever “high tea” (a feast of assorted finger sandwiches, fruit scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, assorted pastries and a pot of Assam tea served with an tiny hourglass to time perfect infusion) in a beautiful and impressive 1920’s décor.

# of Cool bars visited : 2
– The Criterion (where they have awesome bottles of Pouilly Fumé)
– The American Bar at the Savoy (where they serve the world’s tiniest bottles of Diet Coke)

# of World’s tiniest bottles of Diet Coke brought back so my friends won’t think I’m making it up : 1

# of Delicious home made food items sampled : 5
– Zoe’s lasagna, the best I’ve ever had
– Zoe’s scrumptious puffed apple pancake
– Zoe’s family nut bread, one of the 14 loaves baked by Zoe and her grandmother for Christmas in Seattle
– Richard’s grandmother’s strawberry jam and orange ginger marmelade, made for her church fund raising

# of Recipes shared by Zoe the amazingly talented cook : 2
– Zoe’s best lasagna ever
– Zoe’s scrumptious puffed apple pancake

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Lemon and Fleur de Sel Butter Cookies

Sablés au Citron à la Fleur de Sel

[Lemon and Fleur de Sel Butter Cookies]

Jackie recently talked about Fleur de Sel on her great Daily Bread blog. As I was adding a comment about my favorite uses of the wonderful substance, I remembered these butter cookies. I was taken up on my offer to share the recipe, so here it is!

This is a recipe I made a few months ago for a Sunday afternoon tea with parents and Maxence’s mother (and this was in my pre-blogging days, hence the lack of actual pic). I had clipped it from a magazine (Biba, if you must know – their cooking section is always great), and followed it pretty closely, apart from the glazing : the Biba recipe called for brushing the cookies with a beaten egg, and this struck me as somewhat drab, so I used my mother’s perfect, sweet and tart glazing recipe instead, which I adore.

The resulting cookie is crisp at the edges and a little crumbly in the center, with a nice lemon flavor made complex by the use of both juice and zest, and the hint of fleur de sel gives it a very nice tang.

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Aux Lyonnais

Aux Lyonnais

Last Friday, on the eve of my darling Maxence’s 25th birthday, I took him out to dinner. Usually, I know exactly where I want to take him, and like to make the location a surprise. Last year was easy : I had heard great reviews about a restaurant called “Le Maxence”, where the chef was the talented David Van Laer. It fit the bill perfectly and we had a lovely evening with wonderful food.

But this year, for some reason, I was very irresolute about it. There were about twelve different restaurants I wanted to try, but couldn’t decide which one I liked the most or, more importantly, which one Maxence would like the most. I spent a week agonizing over this, researching reviews, changing my mind every few hours, and actually making four (yes, four!) different reservations, three of which I ended up canceling, with apologies and as much notice as my indecisiveness allowed. The good thing is that I now have a fully qualified list of the top-twelve Parisian restaurants I want to go to!

When the whirlwind of doubt ended and the dust settled, the winner turned out to be Aux Lyonnais. This is a restaurant in the 2nd arrondissement, close to the Bourse (the Paris stock exchange). It is over a century old : first opened in 1892, it has been operating non-stop ever since, serving dishes typical to the French city of Lyon. Even more interesting is that this place was bought out, renovated and revamped just two years ago by no other than national hero Alain Ducasse. His brilliant idea was to take this somewhat declining old-fashioned restaurant and turn it into a sophisticated version of itself, lightening and sprucing up the traditional menu.

I set my heart on it because I know Maxence is partial to authentic historical settings, and has a weekness for charcuterie and down-to-earth popular dishes : he is known to eat pied de porc, oreille de cochon or croustillant de tête de veau without batting an eyelash, so I thought Aux Lyonnais would cater to this penchant. I gamingly kept the exact address a secret until the very last moment, narrowing it down only when absolutely necessary, to the general area, then to the street, and even then I arranged to meet him at another street corner. You would think I was trying to cover my tracks from mafia thugs or something.

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