Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

tiny bubbles

There were days I wanted desperately to jump into Lake Ray Hubbard.  I was willing to ditch my shoes, climb up on the rail and dive like I did as a kid off the low board at Carolina Golf Club. 

It was a hundred degrees and nothing looked cooler than that silver expanse of shimmering lake as I crossed over on the bridge in the afternoons.  I was in a new city and I was hot. 

Dallas' summer of '80 became historical.  I'll bet some of you still have your t-shirts claiming "I survived the summer of 1980!"  Sixty-nine days of three-digit highs, forty-two of them consecutive.  On my June birthday it hit 113 degrees.  That must have been the summer I began my search for snowflake glasses. 

I love and am fascinated by how we define and categorize our years with things remembered; music, movies, romance, vacations, pets, cars, cities, deaths... 

The years just before and just after that heat wave I've defined in my mind as the Annie Hall years.  Sharing drinks with friends in glasses etched with white snowflakes on sizzling summer days in Dallas struck me as a very Annie Hallish thing to do. 

I never did find any glasses.  I'd long forgotten about them as I opened the gift box from Elizabeth during a recent Christmas.  Thirty years later; snowflake flutes!

So, for the past few summers, long about July, I pull out the flutes.  Spoke pours me some bubbly and I symbolically toast Elizabeth.  Later he refills my glass and suddenly triple digits are not so bad after all. 

If he pours me a third, I kiss his cheek and oops...  I call him Alvy!

written, sipping
champagne on a 103*
day in dallas
"to your health, beth"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

the cafe dog

I had lunch with Oliver the other day. 

Well, actually I had lunch with Becky but Oliver was at the table next to ours and when a doggie that cute comes over to your two-top, wagging his stumpy little tail, how can you resist him? 

Becky was first to arrive at Toulouse.  She was sipping champagne which looked so quenching on that 105 degree day that I had the same.  You've gotta trust a gal who's spent time in Paris and knows her way around a French menu.

We sat on the patio which in nice weather is open-air.  The cafe used to run misting fans in the summer but they can really do a number on a lady's hair and since this is quite a neighborhood see-and-be-seen place, closing it up with clear plastic walls and airconditioning the space seems a brilliant idea. 

I love dining with Becky.  Great conversation aside, she's someone who thinks, cooks, and enjoys food like I do.  We share meals.  Our fathers shared a room.  Room 107. 

Our meal started with a Montrachet tart.  Oui

The tart was followed by a large bowl of mussels in a saffron broth with leeks, pommes frites on the side.  We then split a salad; crisp and rich with poached pear, walnuts and Rocquefort cheese. 

I suspect our next meal at Toulouse might not be shared because Becky was really eyeing this sole. 

(We were both eyeing the waiter.) 

Two weeks later and here I am, craving so many things on the menu; the Vol au Vent; creamy mushrooms topping a pastry shell, Bouillabaisse sounds good even in this heat, or I could go for that Montrachet tart again.  I know next time, I'll be finishing one of those with the lobster salad and a second glass of champagne... 

...unless Becky wants to share a souffle.  Or beignets!  Maybe a cheese plate...  Oui, oui!

I hope Oliver shows up. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

he's #96

I'll tell you how I came to meet #96.

Last night, my sister and I were cooling off at Koto, waiting for the sun to set before we ventured out the door to see which Four Season Market vendors had braved the heat and set up their tents for the evening. 

The sun was taking its sweet time so we took ours. 

I write often about bars because I like them so much.  The wood, the marble, the mirrors, but mostly the beautiful bottles.  Each one is handsome and when they're lined up, filling a bar shelf, it's a spectacular sight to me.  I find an odd sense of order and calm, sitting in view of them, whether by myself or squeezed in an elbow-room-only crowd. 

There are no made-for-movie moments; a despondent guy hunched in the corner nursing his wounds and a beer.  Rarely is there a tipsy barfly.  Instead you'll find very interesting people talking about all kinds of interesting things.

#96 came in for Pad Thai. 

We guessed he was a football player.  A prior NFL player, Quartez Vickerson now plays Arena Football for Chicago.  There's a match against Dallas tonight.  I'll tune in if it's televised, maybe even root against the home team.

I heard Dallas reached a record high of 107* yesterday.  It didn't feel that hot to me.  I was sitting at a cool bar, having a chilled wine, talking to a very interesting defensive lineman about all kinds of interesting things.

Dallas Vigilantes vs Chicago Rush
American Airlines Center  7:30

Friday, July 15, 2011

love those peaches

My dad would have said of a Bellini, that someone just ruined a perfectly good glass of Prosecco. 

I had planned to make turnovers with these peaches and found myself wondering what my father would have thought.  He loved pies, pecan and cherry especially but when it came to peaches, he liked them just as they are.  Was I about to ruin them? 

My dad liked to peel and eat peaches leaning over the kitchen sink, knowing with each bite the peach was going to drip.  That's because our peaches were always ripe and juicy; they were South Carolina peaches! 

When I was a kid growing up just north of the South Carolina border, peaches weren't a big deal.  They were everywhere.  Those summers in the south weren't blazing hot like here in Dallas but they sure were sticky.  It was the season of fans and flyswatters, lightning bugs and mosquito bites, popsicles and...peaches. 

I remember a lot of backyard cookouts.  Sprinklers were turned on for we kids to play in as charcoal grills were set up.  Then someone would bring out an old ice cream machine and the men would take turns churning the cold cream.  Our moms peeled and sliced those small, fuzzy peaches which were added to the mix. 

They ruined perfectly good batches of ice cream. 

When you're seven or eight, even ten years old, you don't eat peach ice cream.  You just don't.

It took my breath away when I discovered South Carolina peaches at Georgia's Farmers Market last week.  I've frozen them in jars and made a few turnovers.  A third trip to Georgia's filled the dining table bowl again. 

It seemed a peachy idea to share them with friends so I've done that too.  Except one; one perfectly ripe, juicy, South Carolina peach.  I'm keeping that baby. 

I plan to peel and eat it leaning over the kitchen sink.

South Carolina Peach Pie Turnovers

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons fine, Kosher salt
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup ice cold water
4 to 5 peaches, peeled and sliced
1 egg, beaten well
confectioners sugar for dusting

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.

Sift together the flour and  salt.  Cut into it, the vegetable shortening.  When the mixture resembles small pebbles, stir in a little less than 1/2 cup of ice cold water and blend until the dough comes together, adding the rest of the water if needed. 

The dough will be a little sticky but with floured hands, form it into a patty shape.  Cut it into fourths and wrap each separately in plastic wrap and chill for about an hour. 

While the dough is chilling, peel four to five peaches and place them in a sieve over a bowl to drain. 

Remove each piece of dough, one at a time, and roll it out on a floured surface to the thickness of a pie crust.  The shape can be circular or square.  Place a large scoopful of peaches in the center and fold the dough over to make a triangle or a rectangle.  If it tears in any place, patch with a little extra dough cut from the rim. 

Secure the edges with the tines of a fork and very gently transfer to a baking sheet.  Brush with a beaten egg then cut three small slits along the top of the turnover which will allow steam to escape as it cooks. 

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Allow to cool on the baking sheet before transferring to a plate. 

Serve warm, at room temperature or cold. 

{makes 4 turnovers}

Monday, July 11, 2011

they gave me garlic

My friends J and N, as they're sometimes called, gave me this garlic which they grew in a small patch of their yard.  It's elephant garlic.  I'm thinking I'll make a stew.  

Elephant Stew

1 elephant, medium size
850 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 rabbits, optional
salt and pepper to taste
brown gravy  (lots) (really, lots)

Cut the elephant into bite-size pieces.  This should take you about two months.  Reserve the trunk; you will need something to put the pieces in. 

Place the elephant pieces and the garlic cloves into a roasting pan and add all of the gravy.  Cook covered, at 475 degrees for about four weeks.

If expecting a crowd, the four rabbits may be added. 
Do this only if necessary as most people do not like to find hare in their stew.

Credit should be given to the cook but it's one of those recipes passed around for decades.  I remember brailling it for young students when they reached that knock-knock age and could get the humor.  (My late mother-in-law, when in her eighties, found it quite amusing too.) 

Joking aside, what a gift. 

Perhaps it's because I'm a city girl or perhaps it's because I'm a romantic --- but when friends give you garlic from their earth, you should do something special with it.  That's what I think. 

Special, never to be confused with fancy, means the first cloves are going into Spaghetti Aio e Oio.  Please don't ask me to pronounce it. 

Aio e Oio is a Roman sauce made of olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and parsley.  Those are classic ingredients but if I go wild and decide to use a little chopped rosemary instead ----- well, Spoke's sure to break into a song.  (His Dean Martin imitation is spot on.)

"Return to me
 Oh, my dear, I'm so lonely
 Hurry back, hurry back, 
 Oh my love, hurry back
 I'm yours"

Fresh garlic is an absolute treat.  The cloves are moist, almost translucent when sliced super thin which I plan to do, their sweetness allowing me to add as many as I want. 

Loaded is the word that comes to mind. 

Aio e Oio combines those few ingredients into one great dish.  It's special, just like J and N are to me.

Aio e Oio

8 ounces spaghetti or spaghettini
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
garlic cloves, sliced very thin
salt and red pepper flakes to taste
chopped parsley or chopped rosemary if you dare

In a saucepan large enough to later toss the pasta, warm 5 tablespoons of good olive oil.  Just before the pasta is al dente, transfer it to the saucepan.  Add the garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and herb of choice.  Toss the spaghetti to coat, adding a little pasta water if necessary.  

Drizzle with a bit of olive oil if you want. 

serves two

{Return to Me; music by Carmen Lombardo, lyrics by Danny DiMinno}

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

it's my party!

Okay, so I did cry a little.  You would cry too because the kindness of people can just do that to you sometimes. 

My sister Robin and my friend Elizabeth, threw a little party for me at my favorite wine bar. 

Wine!  Cheese! 

"Say cheese everybody!"

There were flowers.

And other flowers.

There were sparkly things on the tables.

Someone brought handmade chocolates!  Bless her.

Someone told jokes. 
(She may have arrived on a motorcycle -- I'm not sure.)

Best of all, THERE WAS JAZZ




The Mark McKenzie Quartet was playing and for much of the night it felt like a private party.  Dear old friends came by and new ones too. 

I met Gary.  We talked standards.

The MMQ played the sultry Bye Bye Blackbird for me.  A gift. 

Then boy, did they ever swing with The Way You Look Tonight.  Another gift. 

And, drum roll please......

.......they even played Happy Birthday To You. 

Thanks guys. 

Love you guys. 

You too Sam.

Sam was filling in for Lakewood George.  We were digging him.

Then Peggy tripped and fell.  We got ice.  Peggy went to the ER. 

Time flew.   

Dani stayed late; we talked blogs. 

The quartet played an encore! 

I didn't want the night to end. 

D'Vine Wine, Firewheel
Come hear the Mark McKenzie Quartet - First Friday of each month.

{Peggy's okay.}

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

cranking it out

When it's your birthday and you can choose anything in the world in the metroplex that you'd like to do for the day, you should choose to make pasta. 

Choosing to make pasta gives you a day not unlike New Year's; a day to reflect.  Think about it; you blinked and the past year was gone, wasn't it?  You are, one year older.

You'll realize you need to knead. 

Turning the crank round and round, your thoughts go round and round.  You consider what to do with the sheets of pasta.  You consider the coming year. 

Dear God, let it be a good one. 

Dear God, let my linguine be good. 

Egg Pasta

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 pinches of fine, Kosher salt
3 large eggs

Mound the flour onto a cutting board, making a well in the center.  Crack the eggs and drop them into the well.  Stir them with a fork to break them up and continue stirring as you add flour from the side walls, a little at a time.

{Yes, I've had the wall break.
You just have to repair it as best you can.  It will be okay.}

When the ingredients combine to form a dough, begin to knead it, pushing the ball with the palm of your hand then rotating the dough, folding a bit of it over and pushing again.  Knead until it is very smooth.  For me this is 10 to 15 minutes.

Pat the dough to form a disk, cover the entire disk with plastic wrap and set it aside to rest for 15 to 30 minutes.

Cut the rested dough into fourths and process according to your pasta machine instructions.


Cage Free!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

thursday part two

It was cool and quiet, just three people at the bar. 

I smile at the chandelier in front of me.  Two others like it hang several feet apart in the long dining room.  They are Venetian glass; very thick and bright, the color of tangerines.

I order a house chardonnay and think about Venice, remembering those couple of hours Spoke and I spent in Harry's Bar. 

We walked to Harry's from Piazza San Marco, passing the gondolas lined up at the water's edge, like the chairs lined up at this bar. 

The guy to my left was finishing a glass of white wine.  He had a chocolate cake and was slicing some for the staff.  "It's the best," he exclaimed, turning the Eatzi's box for me to see. 

I told him about Truluck's dark, dark, dark, chocolate cake.  I didn't tell him the restaurant once gave my dad not just the slice he ordered but the entire, multi layered cake.  It was his birthday.  It was December 23rd.  It was the season of O Come All Ye Faithful.

Great restaurants surprise you that way...

The man with the cake box left, giving me a view of the patio and the courtyard beyond.  See the groundskeeper?  He wears a bow tie. 

I watched him work, feeling rather guilty; me on the inside looking out. 

He takes short breaks from the heat, cooling off at the wall in the shade. 

Northpark has a world-class art collection, scattered throughout the center.  This is Corridor Pin, Blue 1999 by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. 

I know because these two guys told me. 

Maybe I'll run into them again.  I hope so.  I have a feeling I'd learn something else new and interesting.

I'll come back to this bar for sure.  I'll bring the groundskeeper some photographs.  I'll invite my sister and we'll share some appetizers.  I'll bring my joyful memories.

Maybe I'll even bring a chocolate cake.

Harry's Bar, Venice, Italy