Eat out

A sneak-peek of my book "As The Romans Do"

 © David Loftus

© David Loftus

Dear reader, my valiant Unknown Soldier, Thank you for stopping by. If you’re reading this then chances are that you’re longing for luscious dolce vita style meals, echoing with imperial ruins and Vespa rides through the side streets of the eternal city par excellence, a panino in your bag.

Rome – a place that’s like an open air museum, disseminated with monumental masterpieces from the Colosseum through Piazza Navona to the 80 years old lady cleaning artichokes – the Holy Grail of the Roman food scene - at the food market. A slice of the historic and a wink at the contemporary gastronomic culture, that’s exactly what the book “As The Romans Do” is about. But that is not all.

This is a cookbook to butter and splatter, that will tickle and invigorate your taste buds. I hope it becomes an integral part of your kitchen and that you’ll fill it with personal notes and tomato sauce stains.

It’s been made with love and its pages spark up with food ideas that you can enjoy simply as they are or freely contaminate with your own touch.

This patchwork of recipes and anecdotes is developed much in the fashion of a day in the life of a Roman, each chapter punctuating a different time of the day. You’ll find crispy pastries to get you started, bringing you the magic of the Italian coffee-at-the-counter routine, vibrant packed snacks (merende) and lunch on the run options – a perfect fit for those busy weekdays. Then come family lunches to feed a crowd and recipes for two if you’re up for romance. I’ll explain to you all about #foodhappiness and the power of organized improvisation, and we’ll indulge in ‘midnight munchies’ with delicious dishes that take just a few minutes to make and even fewer to wipe out.

The images will catapult you right to the very heart of the Italian capital. They’ve been taken by the talented David Loftus and are evocative of an off-the-beaten-track lifestyle. The book contains tons of short stories and tips on how to live Rome like a local. You can share them with friends and family, or simply enjoy reading them while curling up on the couch. I’ll tell you how a Carbonara pasta is reminiscent of those orange splashed Roman sunsets and how Rome is the only town in the world where people of all kinds mix together in an almost contradictory way: you see the vagabond with the prince, the lawyer with the butcher, the florist with that mysterious lady always dressed in black. Just look at the way most people walk, literally trascinati, almost as if dragged by an invisible force, a form of vigorous sloth, just like my dragged savoy cabbage.

I hope to convey to you what Romanity is all about so that, from now on, when in Rome, you can’t help but do…. As The Romans Do.

Want to order your copy now? Amazon has put it at a special price and it's only a click away, if you click here.

Baci & abbracci,

Eleonora

Join #Martini4Milano

The solemnity of the Duomo di Milano and la Madunnina, placed on its spire, while, on one side, a religious procession takes place with the faithful, oldest generations singing to sacred melodies whereas, on top of the restaurant Duomo 21 , lounge music plays harmoniously to get people in the mood for the night. That's my most vivid (and obviously contradictory, like most things in Italy) memory of Milano da bere.

#martini4milano4Literally meaning the drinkable Milan, this concept is linked to the image of the rampant fashion and trendsetter world of the Lombard capital. In Italy in the '80s we all knew by heart the characters of movies such as "Yuppies, I Giovani di Successo" , where the success of the young, smart and ambitious was celebrated, with an accent on turbo cars, easy money, fashionable designs, expensive women and well conceived cocktails.  About 100 metres from the imposing grandiloquence of the gothic monument, stands the Palazzo Martini, and it's world renown Terrazza, which now simbolically characterizes the most convivial time of the day: the aperitivo. I made my preliminary remarks on the theme in this video here.

#martini4milano1So, here is #martini4milano in a nutshell: 4 people, 3 experiences (aperitivo, cena and the Expo), 2 nights, 1 city: Milan.

I'm proud to announce that you can now participate to this animated and colorful experience. How? First of all, join the party by signing in with Martini at both their Facebook and Instagram page. You will be required to explain what is an aperitivo to you (for an insightful how to read my previous post here). A few of you guys will thus gain the chance to jump on a flight to Milan in order to live my same experience.

#martini4milano2

You'll get out of it all dazzled and aperitivoverwhelmed. And there's no better way to properly start the summer, don't you think?

With love, stuzzichini and an extra dry royale,

Eleonora

#Martini4Milano adventure

My  bag is ready, my passport slightly scratched from my many travel adventures, the imagination flowing free. On the agenda, a couple of days of full indulgement in my most beloved Italian delights, aka the magical three: food, drinks and culture. My kind of summary #foodhappiness. Only two dresses and my best spirit. I’m travelling light because I know that I will bring back loads of goods from the city hosting the Expo.

For those of you who still didn’t get it, I’m heading to Milan, where I’ll join 3 fellow bloggers to spend a weekend filled with aperitivo and off-the-beaten track itineraries.

It’s #Martini4Milano, a great opportunity to discover Milan differently.

You know by now of my collaboration with the most eligible and cocktails trendsetter brand. MARTINI, official partner of the Italian Pavilion at the World Expo Milano 2015,  launched the operation # Martini4Milano.

On the program: secret walks in the streets of Milan, visiting the World Expo, introduction to proper aperitivo, Italian dinner and, if all of that was not enough, discovering the new  Terrazza Martini designed by the famous Italian designer Pininfarina in the Italian Pavilion: not to worry, the pleasure of a traditional Martini Tonic is on the menu, too.

May you want to enter the contest and have your try to win an all-inclusive weekend for 4 people at the World Expo in Milan 2015 visit these Facebook and Instagram pages during the months of June and July:

So, to recap.

get on the Facebook page:

answer the questions on the brand;

mention the 3 friends who you would love to go with you.

Subscribe to MartiniFrance Instagram account:

regram pictures of # Martini4Milano, and add in the comment the name of the 3 friends who you'd like to share this trip with.

And now. Let the adventure begin. I will keep you posted.

With love and aperitivo,

Eleonora

Île de Ré Magic

ile4Leaving the hustle and bustle of the city for a peaceful retreat is one of my 1001 dreams. For those of you who know me, I'm in the constant pursuit of #foodhappiness, my personal kind of  Beaudelairish luxury calm and voluptuousness which I lately found in the magnificent frame of an island. ile6

Île de Ré is a French treasure nestled beyond La Rochelle. Its delicious oysters are bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, and so are the dogs, the blond haired kids and the surfers. Once you set foot on Île de Ré, there's a sort of predestination in the air. Yes, I was meant to be getting here.

ile7

The ideal day at Ile de Ré starts with some open air food shopping at the renown market of Ars-en-Ré. I love to go there with my bycicle, to then make a detour in order to find out about the latest aromatic combinations in a pot conceived by Francoise Héraudeau: nearby a beautifully kept church, Les Confitures du Clocher mixes authenticity and audacity in the form of scrumptious marmalades.

The natural landscape is remarkably breathtaking while bycicling among the 10 villages that, between sand dunes, forests and grey salt harvesting make this amazing island. What a pleasure it was to feast with salty oysters and fruity wine in the middle of the fields at Les Huitres de Trousse Chemise.

I stayed in a typical house at Saint Clèment des Baleines. This village is less crowded, but all the more charming: white-washed low houses, green, blue or grey shutters, red-tiled roofs, hollyhocks springing out between the stones of the pavement, narrow, winding streets. My stay at The Sweet Home in The Village was filled with joy as I discovered that the house had it all: the white linen, the summer hats, a fireplace to warm up by, and the sweetest scent of iodine. When it came to dining out, I was in awe for the view and the friendly rudeness (set your ideas clear or your foot out) at  Frères de la Cote restaurant. The most delightfully unctous crab eaten holifully with your hands in front of the most spectacular Western sunset.

With love and oysters,

Eleonora

Polenta panini

Cornmeal has been for generations the alternative flour option as opposed to the more refined wheat. Boil it into a porridge and you will get polenta, which has been for centuries the staple food of entire populations in north of Italy areas. A large dish of polenta accompanied by mushrooms and, in the holidays, by wonderfully sticky sausages, was very common in peasant tables. When white flour was hard to spot, for children's snacks, polenta was offered with the addition of milk and sugar. I love the idea of turning a huge traditional dish into a miniaturized heavenly version with an assured yummy effect. In this aperitivo snack that I created exclusively as part of my collaboration with Martini, which I previously talked about here, I combine the tastiness of cotechino Modena (a fresh sausage made from pork, fatback, and pork rind to be found in specialty stores) with Taleggio cheese's mountain piquancy. The mouthwatering result will be an instant success for your spring parties in #foodhappiness mode on. Want to give it a try?

Polenta Panini for Aperitivo time

Ingredients for 4 people:

• 1 Italian cotechino (500 gr.) • 350 gr. Polenta Valsugana type • 4 lt. plain water • 250 gr. taleggio cheese • 1 pinch of pink peppercorn •1 pinch of fine salt and a handful of rocky salt

In a large pot, boil 1.5 lt. of water at medium fire. When the water gets to a boiling, add  a handful of rocky salt, lower the heat and pour the polenta in. Stir carefully for about 8 minutes and always in the same direction, with a wooden spoon. Spread the polenta cooked on a large dish and let cool for about an hour.

In another saucepan, boil 2.5 lt. water. When the water gets to a boiling it's time to add the cotechino in. Let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cut the cold polenta, cotechino and cheese into rounds using a small pastry round cutter. Divide the polenta slices, 2 by 2, and fill each sandwich with a slice of cotechino and one of taleggio cheese. Heat the polenta sandwich in the oven at 180 degrees for 3 minutes (enough to melt the cheese). To serve, place a stick on each sandwich and sprinkle with pink peppercorn.

With love and polenta,

Eleonora

polenta2

History at the table

There's something reassuring about institutions. Their strong identity, their inevitable attachment to traditions. When it comes to restaurants that have been around for longer than a couple of generations, what strikes me is, that beneath a sense of immaculate transparency as of the roots of each dish, there's a strong, familiar attachment to gastronomic history. It is particularly the case when entering Benoit. I already mentioned here the peculiarity of this Alain Ducasse owned parisian brasserie, once a meeting point for butchers and farmers who would mind their business in the early morning on the right side of the Seine, in the famous Halles market, part of a then infamous neighborhood now under hip rise. From après le marché to après le théâtre the distance was little, but the food, just as honest. I was invited to taste the uplifting gorgeousness of the most renowned historical dishes of France at a table elegantly settled in '30s fashion. First came the gougères. These puffy, over-gratifying cheesy pastries are divinely fluff and seat pompously at the side of my course, for the whole meal. Yes I did eat all four of them in a matter of seconds, and yes the watchful maitre de salle noticed it and promptly gave me more. And more. Oops, and more.

gougeres3I indulged in the celebrated Léopold de Rothschild's favourite crayfish soufflé. Light as air, the soufflé is obtained from the blending of yolks and egg whites beaten stiff. The legendary Auguste Escoffier, one of the codifiers of French cuisine, adds a crayfish cream and parmesan, alternating layers of shaved truffles and crayfish tails and some freshly cooked asparagus between each layer. In his memoirs, Escoffier related a story about "Old Baron de Rothschild", who, when having supper at the Grand Hotel de Monte-Carlo, didn't want any asparagus but the 'green ones' ", launching a fashion that spread all the way to London, and prompting producers to put forward the green rather than the white asparagus.

gougeres2Henri IV's wish is as famous as his white plume "If God still gives me life, I will make sure that no ploughman in my Kingdom does not have means to have a chicken in his pot”. Exhausted by decades of religion wars, robbed by armies and looters plying the country, peasants had only the strict minimum, certainly not a chicken in their pot every Sunday. To restore the image of the monarchy, Louis XVIII made Henri IV an icon, and the inventor of the Poule au Pot. This dish became a national emblem and, much to my delight, was sumptuously carved in front of my very eyes.

gougeres4Does the Charlotte take its name from the wife of the King Georges III Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who bore him fifteen children? Historians are puzzled. It was originally a bread crumb and applesauce dessert, when Antonin Carême, the ante-litteram celebrity chef was inspired to create the Charlotte with biscuits, that he called Charlotte à la Parisienne, which later became the Russian Charlotte. He chose to hide the bottom and sides of the mould with finger biscuits and garnish the inside with a Bavarian device composed of gelatine and whipped cream custard. I enjoyed it with pear and chocolate sauce. An impeccable combination for the ending to a splendid meal.

With love and gougères,

Eleonora

Martini, it's time for aperitivo

For me, transmitting gastronomical heritage is key to a functioning passing of the baton. To exist, tradition must evolve and trespass its own boundaries. I'm proud to annouce my partnership with Martini ® as their brand ambassador in France. For them, I'm introducing the concept of aperitivo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbbp3aOdLL4

In fact behind every dish there's a story I decode with anecdotes, the characters animating them, the art, the land. Whether in Paris, London or New York, with my friends and family we often find ourselves at dawn for a drink. In Italy we do too, but our way. We call this pre-dinner time the aperitivo time. We share a cocktail and we accompany it with very generous buffets of antipasti. Food is central.

So it's a journey to the heart of Italy that I propose to discover through four major cities: Milan, Turin, Rome and Naples. Come on I'll take you, andiamo!

With love and a cocktail,

Eleonora

The End of the World in the Loire Valley

As an Italian person, one of my most developed senses is Smell. Oh yes, we like our aromatherapy in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, what I absolutely love about food shopping in any open market in Italy, is the herbal goodie bag that comes with it: gorgeous thyme, rosemary, curly persil or the inevitable basil, you name it. They'll all be part of the deal. The positive health effects of culinary herbs have been renowned ever since the dawn of civilization. It's common knowledge that Venice, for example, has for centuries been an authentic door of spices interchange between East and West. Lately, I've been wondering around the Loire Valley, and I came across the most exclusive botanical garden & restaurant. Located in Berthenay, near the wonderful Chateau of Villandry (one of the seven wonders of the world), this river estate is surrounded by a garden of aromatic and edible plants. While Benoist introduced me to the wide variety of culinary herbs from all over the world, Emmanuelle would be cooking up a storm inside the adjacent cute little cottage.

I discovered that each region has its own plants that bloom like a symphony depending on the climate. To activate digestion, best served in form of infusion or soup are : fennel, mint, lemon balm, sage (also used as an antiseptic). We went for a walk in the domain, and came upon the wild plants along the Loire: oregano, die, bay leaves, tansy, Moorish. The taste of these herbs is enhanced by sun or humidity. I've been lucky enough to get a full on description of a whole area dedicated to mints. The best flavouring herb? Marjolaine shell. In the workshops run by Benoist, one can learn how to grow these delicate plants in their own gardens or, for the more citizen-types, like me, on the balcony.

Just adding up one herb to an otherwise ordinary meal will bring a whole new meaning and character to it. So have fun, mix up, create, and try for yourself the art of combining herbs with the kitchen. Back in the cottage, Emmanuelle prepared an unforgettable nettle soup. No, it didn't itch.

On the contrary, it was the end of the world.

Consume without moderation.

With love and nettle,

Eleonora

The weekly Food Parlour

‘Food crisis responder’ Marsha Smith takes surplus produce from supermarkets in Nottingham, explains The Guardian, and cooks it for those in need. In a city suffering from food poverty, she is trying to shake up the system for good. Not bad for integrating #foodhappiness, for a social eating advocate. Shopping on an empty stomach? Go and eat something quick! People buy far more stuff and spend more money when they're hungry than when they're full, and that extends to non-edible goods, too, according to a study of the association between our bellies and our belongings discussed on the New Scientist. One day in 2007, Alison Jing Xu, who studies decision-making at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, sat down at a mall restaurant and suddenly regretted everything she had just bought. "I wondered why half an hour ago it had seemed like a good idea to buy 10 pairs of tights, not just the two I needed," she says. So what's going on? When we are hungry, our stomach releases a hormone called ghrelin. This acts on an area of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is involved in reward and motivation, making people want to seek out and consume calories. Jing Xu suggests that ghrelin's effect also spills over into non-food domains – prompting you to acquire more of everything when you are hungry. "We'd like to make consumers aware of the possibility that if they go shopping on an empty stomach, they might spend more money that they intend to – so better feed themselves before they go out," she says.

DIY is taken to a whole new level, as the Daily Mail confirms that workers could save £1,300 a year if they made food at home rather than buying sandwiches and snacks from shops. More than 60 per cent of Britons who buy their lunches out spend an average of £1,840 a year, based on 46 working weeks, the research reveals. In comparison, those who prepare food at home spend just £552 over the same period - a saving of a whopping £1,288. Think of what the surplus could be spent on instead. It could even equate to an extra holiday.

A food supplement first developed by NASA could help fight depression. Brain Food is a supplement rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which has been proven to improve concentration, co-ordination and memory. Steve Ahearne Managing Director of Scholars Nutrition developed the formula, as told by The Express. After reading research linking the chemical with improving brainpower, he decided to develop it into a food supplement to help tackle depression. "Some people still consider depression to be trivial or not a real illness but it can be a crippling mental health condition so any preventions you can take against it are vital," he said.

According to the Independent, people associate the luxury of an expensive restaurant with sexual pleasure, while eating tasty food in a cheap diner is more likely to be compared with drug addiction and physical trauma, scientists found. Diners at luxury restaurants praise the “orgasmic pastry” and “seductively seared foie gras”, whereas patrons of less salubrious establishments justify their food choices by claiming “the fries were like crack” or that they are “addicted to wings”. The findings come from a language analysis of more than 900,000 online reviews of 6,500 restaurants across seven American cities. The study compared the wording people used in giving good and bad reviews, as judged by how many stars they gave to a restaurant.

With love and pastries,

Eleonora

A morning with a chef

The train that took me from the city of light to the city of utter delight was perfectly on time, well of course, just like the inhabitants of my final destination: forward thinkers, dream-makers, fast consumers, but with a discerning approach. Every time I set foot to London my head starts spinning around with the infinite stimulations arising from such a diverse community which makes the heart of this town beating at an incredible fast rate, and everything, suddenly, seems to be possible. The astonished eyes of that little girl from the south of Italy here get food for thought, in the literal sense.

In the middle of a restaurant room that would otherwise be considered as formal, there's a bar. The entire staff is very gracious and caring but none of them wears a tie. I feel like I can be myself, relax and mischievously look at the other customers (following the same pattern, I always look inside home windows when erring on the streets, exceptionally fascinated by the lives of others) while I wait for my + 1. Addicted to the dreamy horizon of being a chasseur de vue.

Hameed Farook guides the magic at 1901 restaurant and wine bar. The space is reminiscent of the Great Eastern, the former hotel institution that was in place before Andaz took over in 2006, with stucco and stone ground floor and dressings in a mildly classical style.

Beyond service, there's a more human element at stake, it's called care. For Farook, a restaurant  is all about breaking bareers: with its food, with its clientele, with appearences. His idea of giving the best in his work is fuelled by the wish that those who enjoy his dishes are going to be at their best, too. Positive thinking additions? I remarkably love.

london1Things are heating up as our pan roasted scallops from Cornwall get in the scene. They are flavoured with smoked haddock, shrimp tortellini and a mild bisque (shellfish based) emulsion. The duck terrine was truffle aromatized, with the accompaniment of pickled vegetables, a crunchy brioche and port wine jelly.

Food that heals. Yes, for this Indian born chef a good meal is a combination of chemistry and seasonal products. Farook's mother used to have a pot of 12 spices, the secret solution - she called it - that would cure any pathology: cinnamon and tea tree are antiseptic, while ginger is a natural energy elevator. No wonder why I can climb to the clouds after lunch.

Wanna do the same? You too can enjoy a shortcut way to the most somptuous views of the world. Inscription is this way.

With love at first sight,

Eleonora

Pascade, la crêpe soufflée

The pascade looks like an impressionist artwork. It's in fact a big pancake, a peasant household dish prepared on the go in farms as well as in small family restaurants around the Aveyron area, southwest of France. Almost unknown anywhere else, its recipe is simple: very fresh (free-range, bien sur) eggs beaten with cereal flour. It was originally served as a generous starter with sugar, chives, etc. at that time of the day when the pots are cooking and the kids so anxious to be fed. The mixture is then baked as a non-runny omelette: flour must be compulsorily cooked. And there's no joke when it comes to French how-to in the kitchen. It can then be filled to taste, and that's where the real fun starts. But let's go back in time. In 2006, when Michelin starred master of conviviality Alexandre Bourdas opened the now renowned SaQuaNa in Honfleur, he found himself for the first time running a restaurant and when he had to think of an appetizer that better could convey his personal values, the idea of a pascade, this warm dish to be shared, so flexible when it comes to combinations, became an evidence.

"Over time I had fun cooking the lovely pascade with different toppings for family and friends, until the day when the idea came to me to dedicate a place to Pascade the same way that there are places devoted to the art of pizza or pancake".

The restaurant design is a cross between an inn and a canteen, and the raw materials used stand for an architectural metaphor of the pascade itself: hard and rustic tables between the student like benches. The result is a mixture of authenticity and tradition with contemporary clean lines. A really different place, adapted to the Parisian pace, where people can go quickly before dinner or a movie as food is served non-stop from noon to 11 pm, 7 days a week.

The other night, I found myself in the company of the lovely chef Carme Ruscalleda, which exquisite recipes can be enjoyed here. From her restaurants in Sant Pau and Tokyo, she flew to Paris, along with her handmade dried fruits filled sausages. As part of a pop up one-dish-only project, this month she created the pascade Catalana, which will be à la carte for the entire month. After accompanying the creation of the pascade Alexander Bourdas leaves the undivided controls to his cooking guests, which change at the turn of the month. In the springtime, it will be his 10 years old niece opening the doors of inventiveness to a staple of French regional gastronomy.

pascade4

With love and pascade,

Eleonora

Chantilly, la crème de la crème

As my great-grandma often put it - less is more - and it does unquestionably apply to the very short train ride (23 minutes only, no joke) that painlessly got me from a Parisian cosmopolitan, hectic dimension to a secular countryside luxurious nest. The culinary most prestigious traditions embrace luxe, calme and volupté in the astounding Auberge du Jeu de Paume. Launched in 2012 in the middle of the historical domaine de Chantilly, the 5 stars retreat looked up to the Michelin sky from its very beginning, having acquired one star over the first year and a second on the next at its famed La Table du Connétable. 

As I arrived, I was welcomed to a room all Toile de Jouy and ornaments which art would resonate with Duc d'Aumale's personal collection, to be found just next door in the imposing Château de Chantilly, which picture gallery is the second most important French pinacothèque after the Louvre. The fifth son of King Louis-Philippe, Henri duc d'Aumale, became the most eligible bachelor of France at the age of 8. He did marry, but for a series of circumstances, amongst which the exhile, that left him widow and childless, this man endowed with military diposition ended up looking after the immense treasure of its domaine all alone. His art collection is today under the protection of the Institut de France (as of the Duke's last wishes) and the trust of the Aga Khan Foundation. I roamed over its corridors to find artworks by Raphael, Watteau, Poussin, Delacroix, to name but a few. The only way to visit the whole outrageous collection is to pass by Chantilly, since one of the the clauses of the legacy, still respected today, expected the artworks never to leave the property.

Chantilly does ring a bell with the most traditional of whipped creams. As reported by François Vatel, the ultimate majordomo of the seventeenth century, there was a certain lady, guest of the Duke and Duchess, who impulsively let out her enthousiasm for the flavoury cream she tasted while a guest at Chantilly. Back at the day it was customary for the aristocracy to be portrayed with monkey features as an act of self-mockery. And it's among these anthropoid cabinets that she whispered the news that would soon become a culinary tradition for the entire world.

While at the Auberge, I enjoyed a unique spa treatment called Les mille et une Chantilly where, after an exfoliating gommage applied with sugar crystals and a chestnuts oil based relaxing massage, I got wrapped in actual Chantilly cream, the epytome of skin hydration, before finishing off with a tasting of the famous cream and some hay flavoured chocolates. It was Poppaea who started the tradition of bathing in milk, Cleopatra who indulged in milk and honey baths daily and ladies of leisure of the caliber of Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of French King Henry II and Pauline, Napoleon's younger sister, who regularly took milk baths in an attempt to keep themselves looking youthful, to such an extent that the servants made a hole in the ceiling above the bath so they could pour milk directly into the tub.

jeu11And here is the original recipe for everyone to replicate at home, delicious on its own or as an accompaniment to cakes or fruits of all kinds.

Crème Chantilly (serves 6 persons)

  • 1/5 lt. double cream
  • 60 gr. caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod

Place the cream and the entire vanilla pod in a bowl, then in the fridge overnight. This way the vanilla will incorporate with the cream and the taste. Place the electronic whisk vertically in the cold bowl and play it for about 5 minutes while slowly pouring the sugar in. Once the cream becomes all flaky and fluffy, it's time to serve it.

This year will mark a series of wonderings around France in order to discover the most off the beaten track locations to truly embrace the traditions of this incredible country.

With love and cream Chantilly,

Eleonora

* Pictured above, before the post: "Le Déjeuner d'huîtres" by Jean-François de Troy, then before the recipe, a picture of actress Claudette Colbert in "Sign of the Cross" (1932)

Ragù and not bolognaise part 1

There is no such thing as a food paradox. Eating pasta garnished with either meat or fish with grated parmesan on top, for example. There are various no-go which, however, in international revisitations of my darling Italian cuisine, are taken as matter of facts. Well, with my 100% Italian bood, I'm here to tell you that no, it's no good to drink cappuccino after midday or you'll only get weird looks since Italians never have it outside breakfast hours and no, there's no such recipe as Pasta all'Alfredo, it's actually an American invention; but most of all, the word bolognaise which, in my school memoir, sound more like a noun stolen from French expressions, is not how we name our world renown meat & tomato based sauce. In fact, this word that makes my ears creak (ouch), corresponds  more to the French way of declining the female inhabitants of a city: milanaise, irlandaise, bolognaise. To be true, though, the sound of it really does come near to the spoken accent of a true Bolognese. However, may you sit down in an off the beaten track trattoria in the heart of Bologna, asking for a Bolognaise, you'll only get the host (who would do anything to make its clients happy) to go grab one of his friends who are not working hard at siesta time in order to keep you company, which you might appreciate, if you're familiar with sign languages. Chances are, the folk can't speak a word of English.

Everyone out there: We say ragù.

The word originally comes from ragoûter, that is, awakening one's appetite in French 17th century language. Originally referring to meat stewed with plenty of seasoning which was then used to accompany other dishes : in Italy , mainly pasta .This delicious sauce has two school of thoughts: one from Bologna and one from Naples.

The girls from Pitaya Agency, with whom I'm collaborating on various projects, asked me to show them how to ragù. Delighted from their considerate approach to the dish, I spent a morning with them in full #foodhappiness mood. And the result will be posted here early next week. Stay tuned!

With love and ragù,

Eleonora

*Photo credit - Arthur Fechoz

Kluger, Fabrique des Tartes

I love to meet and greet with likeminded people in the food sector, discover and learn from the places I go to. Honestly Paris never fails to impress, its vibrant food scene being a constant inspiration for me; I recently came across the very talented Catherine Kluger. A former lawyer turned tarte guru, Catherine decides to leave her legal job, in order to totally focus on the sweet & savoury art of French pies, initially thanks to the help of pâtisserie consultant Nicolas Bernardé. Whether quiche lorraine, carotte-citron confits or courgette-feta-crumble au parmesan, these tartes are a head turner, and her factory is a step into paradise. Why pies? "Because it's easy, useful and practical. Because they are part of French culinary heritage. Because, deep in our memory and our taste buds, lies the taste of a pie. Additionally, they can be easily adapted to urban nomadic life". Mrs. Kruger signed multiple deals over these past few years with French Marabout editions, publishing four books revealing the underside of her recipes, while keeping her store open and running and keep being a busy mom of three. What's more, she's been heading pop up restaurants, collaborating at hundreds of events, and she even managed to launch a Parisian food-truck. I call that the feminine French art of martyrdom.

This lady speaks to us through food, a language that we are all willing to learn. And the Tartes Kluger are, oh, so luscious. Flavour is deep, complex and utterly compelling. What's more their taste is an incredible barometer of the ingredients' authenticity. And the fact that it doesn't take any more than buying her latest book in order to reproduce some of these beauties, makes it a joy. I'm a huge fan of quiches, and I'm always on the lookout for new ways to interpret this traditional dish. For a picnic, a quick lunch, or a earthy party, these tartes are just the perfect fix. I love to have my cake and eat it too along with a warm, comforting soup. Catherine uses organic flours for the pie base and, I must admit, the overall taste does thanks for it.

For a few weeks more, until February 8th, as a result of a collaboration with natural store Sol Semilla, Katherine is snipping in her pies all kind of seeds @ her store at 15, rue Trousseau. The whole idea is to restore vitality and energy with a great powered menu. This, for me, is the magic ingredient here. We are in total healthy territory. Even if, it would be more accurate to say, superfoods heaven. And then there's the sweet version. Yes, I know we are still in the detox month for excellence, yet...every rule gets broken when things are brilliant. On with the dance.

Flan pâtissier*

For a flexible and elastic dough:

  • 250 gr. strong white bread wheat flour
  • 185 gr. very cold dairy unsalted butter
  • 25 cl. whole milk (warmed up)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar

For the cream:

  • 225 ml of whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 45 gr. caster sugar
  • 15 gr. of cornstarch
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp Indian chai spices
  • 30 gr. dairy unsalted butter

Start with the dough: first of all, mix flour and salt, then add the vanilla sugar. Cut the butter into small pieces. With your fingertips, roll it delicately into the flour until it becomes nice and sandy. Keep your hands cool so not to heat up the butter: it should melt as little as possible. In a small bowl, mix the beaten egg and the milk with a fork. Dig a small well in the sandy mixture, pour the beaten egg in. With the flat of your hand, form a homogeneous dough by working the ingredients very cautiously.

Wrap the dough with plastic wrap forming a ball and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour. After that, flatten the dough by tapping it with a rolling pin. Flour the work surface and roll out the dough until greater than the size of the mold disc. Gently pick the dough with a fork. Generously butter the mold and let the dough stick to its entire perimeter. As it is, let it rest for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven at 170°. Line the pastry with baking paper, ideally cut into circle. Place on some dry beans and precook the pie for 35 minutes at 170°. Then free the pie from its shell. Brush it with some egg wash and put it in the oven for three further minutes, in order to dry the gilding and thus make it solid before garnishing it.

Preheat the oven at 210°. Realize the custard: heat the milk, then pour a small amount of whipped eggs with sugar, spices and cornstarch. Pour this mixture into the hot milk and stir until the cream thickens. Pour the custard in the precooked pie shell. Bake it for 10 minutes at 210°, just the time for it to color nicely. Let cool completely before serving. It's better to make this dessert ideally the day before.

With love and flan,

Eleonora

* This recipe is taken from the book "La Fabrique des Tartes" by Catherine Kluger.

PORT EN BASSIN – The cradle of Normandy Impressionism PART 2

There are the seagulls, the walks along the D-day beaches, the low tide, and then there's Port-en-Bassin, where coquilles Saint-Jacques meet shabby chic. A few weeks ago, I interrupted a tale on this post with a - to be continued - tag. Because half of the pleasure lies in the procrastination. Just like the preparation of a good meal, with several of the ingredients needing to be poached, resting, and rising well ahead of time. normandia1Port-en-Bassin is a small fishermen town, counting 2000 inhabitants only, located in Normandy, precisely in the area where apples abound, leading the way to Calvados ageing. There, I stayed at charming velvety house La Maison Matelot, all sailor motif, grey floors and decorative ring-shaped life savers. As I woke up in the early morning in order to head to the local bakery for my usual breakfast ritual, I couldn't help but grin at myself as I listened to the angelic music diffused around the tiny, stoney streets. The majority of the locals are fishermen, that's probably why the service was slightly slow at the local bar, since there seemed to be a crucial backgammon match going on. So I embraced a slow paced weekend. Just like the fishermen, I waited for the tide to be high again, and waved goodbye to them before finding these Popeye-styled boats all coming back to the port around 10 p.m. That's when the show really started. Hundreds, what am I saying, thousands of kilos of pink, perfectly round coquilles Saint-Jacques waiting to be dispatched and distributed all over Europe. The lucky ones coming from this charming shore are haloed Red Label, a French official guarantee of superior quality. When I was a kid, my grandmother used to let me listen to the rustling of the waves inside sea shells. On a plate, that's the most common way they're cooked there, as told by my good friend Astrid.

Coquilles Saint Jacques, Port-en-Bassin style

  • 16 Saint-Jacques shells
  • 100 gr. unsalted dairy butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a bunch of finely chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper

In a pan, melt 50 gr. of butter with the oil at medium heat; once the mixture is well cooked (that is, the butter has melted, looking all white and creamy), cook the coquilles for 2 minutes only on each side, not more, in order to still feel their melting taste. May some molluscs be very thick, cut each one of them in two in the vertical direction, then proceed onto the cooking. Before serving, sprinkle them with half a teaspoon of both salt and ground pepper. At the same time, gently melt in a small pot 50 gr. of butter and eventually add the lemon juice. Pour this mixture into a serving dish and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Serve it while it's hot, along with a wintery soup.

normandia3

With love and coquilles,

Eleonora

A brunch at Semilla

Sunday brunch time is one of those very volatile, very vulnerable moments of the week. Our energy flow is readjusting hence the choice of the meal is crucial to that roaring start of the week. I don't know about you, but when I wake up on the resting day of the week for excellence, the first thing I think of is either a scrumbled, an à la coque, or a benedicte style egg. When in Paris, Semilla is a place for indulging in sweets, freshly squeezed fruit juices, the unmissable sunday roast and, as they call it, all kinds of non egg's options: a lobster club sandwich served with toasted brioche and avocado or a very seasonal beet salad with spelt, fresh cheese and hazelnuts. On the hunt side - it being hunting season, chef Eric Trochon gets an exceptional delivery directly from the hands of his hunters friends - we tried a mouthwatering version of venison burger, moistened with currant juice, served with pak choi (the Chinese version of chard) and the quitessential new potatoes roasted to perfection.

Opened by the will and skills of trio Drew Harré, Jan Sanchez and the chef himself, Eric Trochon, this place, as other excellent ones in town, winks at bistronomie, this phenomenon très à la page that results from the contraction of bistro and gastronomy, applying to those tables combining low prices (with menus worth less than 30€), small team, small places and inventive cuisine made from good and simple products, often orchestrated by chefs trained in academic structures.

Very democratically, and here we go again with patrioctic values such as Liberté & Fraternité, also present à la carte if it wasn't clear enough, the menu comprehends a full list of the producers, often small realities, providing the food and beverages to the house. The wine, in general directly supplied from the grape scented hands of the wine maker himself, can be a Chablis Premier Cru la Forest or a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, both proven to be extraordinarily reassuring tastes.

Last but not least: those of you who know me by now are also well aware of the fact that I love my mascarpone. Either worked in a tiramisu or on a limoncello based cream, you'll know that I'll quickly access to the highest level of #foodhappiness. I reached new heights, though, when tasting the remarkable pears, mascarpone and peacan nuts pie. Powerfully happy before the week's madness.

Restaurant Semilla 54, rue de Seine Paris (75006) TÉL : +33 1 43 54 34 50 MÉTRO : Saint-Germain des Prés, Mabillon, Odéon

With love and peacan nuts,

Eleonora

semilla1

Septime, or the temple of gluttony

The wide royal blue door is distinctive of a certain Parisian trait which can be assimilated with a voracious joie de vivre, containing in itself a profound respect for the tradition as well as a versatile step towards the "now" (why looking towards the future when the present can be so captivating). Set in a neo-urban epicurean valley of the senses, no wonder why Septime - a trendy restaurant in the up and coming 11th arrondissement of Paris -  is right in the spotlight these days. I didn't know what exactly to expect as I inspectioned their website before my visit earlier this week; on the desktop, only a logo and an address provided. Poorly described, I thought. Well, I had to change idea: on the contrary, I was in for a treat, because the food, the drinks and the ambiance truly spoke for themselves.

As I entered, I was warmly welcomed by wine expert and restaurant associé Thèo Pourriat, who presented us with a very small list of truly exquisite wines. He emphasized on the personal relationships developed with the vignerons (wine growers), the identification of which I was already introduced to on the other side of the river, at the Ile Saint Louis celebrated cheesemonger. A real fan on fine wines but totally against getting dizzy in the middle of the working day, I also opted for an infusion fait maison. In Septime there's an actual barman dedicated to the making of these restoring potions made to accompany the daily proposed menus. For me, it was orange, clementine, tarragon, pear and Acacia honey, all raw in a boiling pot.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetThe lunch menu (uncommonly changing on a daily basis), is based on chef Bertrand Grébaut's inventiveness of the moment. I got lucky with a sumptuous Utah Beach (yes, the one of the Normandy D-day) clums soup with gourds and an undescribably refined Xeres vinegar aftertaste. The daikon - oh I dig those radishes -  was deliciously accompanied with mushrooms de la Maure along with exquisite black truffles from the Perigord area (duck and goose products paradise) which I shall absolutely visit soon.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetHaving recently taken part in the Cabinet de Curiosités of Thomas Herber, with showcases of visual artists, designers and chefs indeed, Grébaut now wants to focus entirely on his Parisian food scene, where he gives work and inspiration to an international, young and food-talented crowd. "There's an Argentinian, an American and a British, but we always speak français in the kitchen, that's mandatory" - explains Grébaut, a patriot at heart as all French admirably are, as I ask him about his producers, his rare food findings (like the radicchio from Treviso in the middle of Paris, a true gem) and his sources of creativity: "Sometimes it's the chromatic scale of a dish that grabs my attention first, but then it's the work on the affiliations to make it enjoyable that I have fun with". And that was, and surely will be again, a truly enjoyable experience.

With love and tarragon,

Eleonora

Harry's Bar in Venice

It's an institution in Venice. Every smart-set occasion, it being the Cinema Festival or the Art Biennal, calls for a stop at this world-renowned bar & restaurant, a highly civil Venitian refuge and a place of rest. Women's rare fragrances and a certain ethereal aura fill up the place, at the counter the reassuring preparation of the most celebrated Venetian drink, synonimous of a decadent and stylish cocktail hour. Created in the '30s by Harry's bar founder Giuseppe Cipriani, he christened this white peach cocktail the Bellini (after Giovanni Bellini, the fifteenth century Venetian painter- on the occasion of the artist's exhibition in 1948). Marco, the chief barman today, probably stolen from a 007 movie scene starring Sean Connery, told me - with a decisively assertive yet uberdiscreet manner - many stories as I sipped one fragrant cocktail (which I duly accompanied with fresh water not to get my head turning too fast) and a cheese and ham tramezzino (a triangular sandwich constructed from two slices of soft white bread with the crusts removed) which bread had been cooked in scrumptious butter.

For example, the fact that, to start with, the bar's name had been coined after its founder, Arrigo, it being impossible to be called otherwise as prohibition time was in full swing. Marco told me how the bar counter is kept religiously as it once was, along with all the original paraphernalia, and how Mr. Cipriani decided not to serve beer after an accident occurred causing the cracking of the fine bar's marble in the late '40s and a total change in the clientele target - from then on nothing but the rich and famous, the so called crème de la crème. Ernest Hemingway used to sit at the corner table, its chair as the observatory of a universally glittering micro-dimension that seems to always keep its guard up while entering this timeless place.

As of the preparation of the Bellini, all the elements, starting from the glass, through to the Prosecco and the peach purée, should be as cold as possible.

  • 1/4 peach puree
  • 3/4 Prosecco wine

When the season calls for it, make plenty of white peach (only) purée ahead, but beware: never use a food processor as it aerates the fruit. As strange as it can seem, a cheese shredder might do the trick! Add 1/10 of white sugar to the peach mixture, and you'll have the original Harry's bar effect. Most off all, this is a drink which decoration is the horizon of your imagination, aka don't overdo with additional ingredients like peach schnapps or similar. Less is more.

With love and Bellini,

Eleonora

New Year's Lasagne resolutions

So back to work for us all. The best thing of this time of the year is that we all still feel pampered by cosy images of a long needed precious time spent with family and friends over these past festivities. All this cheerful togetherness, however, has brought along the other side of the coin, which is tangible enough (talking me sadly through my trousers size), and its removal on top of all our new year's resolutions. Undoubtedly no sacrifice can be fully adopted without an exception to the rule. That's why tonight I'm cooking the healthiest red cabbage based vegan lasagna version. Why, aren't you?

cavolirossi

Red Cabbage Lasagne (serves 6 persons)

  • 1 red cabbage (about 1 kg.)
  • 250 g. carrots
  • 125 g mozzarella cheese
  • 150 g cooked ham
  • 250 g fresh pasta lasagne sheets
  • 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 500 ml bechamel sauce
  • 100 g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 30 g dairy butter
  • 6 sage leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the béchamel sauce:

  • 50 gr. dairy butter
  • 50 gr. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 liter whole milk

Preheat the oven at 180°. Clean the red cabbage, removing the outer leaves (if damaged), then cut it into 4 pieces, wash it under running water and put it to boil in salted boiling water for approximately 10 minutes. Peel the carrots and put them to boil along with the red cabbage for the same amount of time. Once the vegetables aree cooked, drain and allow them to cool, then cut them into smaller pieces and put 2/3 of them in a blender together with 20 ml of oil, a pinch of salt and  some freshly ground pepper. Blend until you get a creamy consistency, if necessary adding 2 or 3 tablespoons of boiling water (preferably that previously used for cooking the vegetables).

Prepare a nice thick bechamel. To start with, heat the milk in a saucepan; apart, melt the butter over low heat, then turn off the heat and add the flour, stirring with a whisk to prevent lumps from forming. Then put it back on low heat and stir until it becomes golden. You will have obtained what the French call roux; flavor the milk with nutmeg and a pinch of salt (you can do these operations even as the last step, when the sauce is ready); then join it gradually to the roux, stirring the whole thing vigorously with a whisk. Cook for 5 minutes on low heat until the sauce thickens and begins to boil.

Now you can compose the lasagna in a pyrex baking dish greased with butter. We start with a thin layer of bechamel sauce, then a sheet of lasagne, and then a layer of red cabbage and carrots cream, another sheet of lasagne, a layer of thin slices of mozzarella, carrots and cabbage, a tsp of oil, still a layer of pasta, one of ham, and so on continuing to alternate layers (each cycle calls for a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste). Finish off with a layer of red sauce, then sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese and some butter. Bake for 25 minutes at 180 ° C. Serve the piping hot lasagne garnished with sage leaves.

Happy new year with love and lasagne,

Eleonora

Mind Le Zo(o)

In a time, the late '90s, when sushi in Paris could only be found at fakely high end Japanese restaurants that would even charge an addition for the wasabi sauce, entrepreneur Micael Memmi looked further. He decided to offer Japanese food in an otherwise French-food-only restaurant, Le Zo. And he was the first. Today, at the head of the Il Caffè as well, a chain of five restaurants disseminated around Paris serving Italian dishes fatti in casa, he's dazzling the city of lights.

zo1

I sat down in a room where eastern design meets western contemporary art, and had heart of burrata , beet duo and roasted yellow peppers. I couldn't believe that I found the same taste I did when travelling to my beloved Puglia this last summer on a cold December day in the middle of Paris. I literally melted for the crispy maki asparagus, a crunchy delicious starter. And I clapped my hands as I tasted a good affogato al caffè, which recipe I shared earlier this year with Anne Lataillade, author of the awarded blog Papilles & Pupilles. This guy knows his products, and knew what bistronomie (a contraction between "bistrot" and "gastronomy") is all about much before it was even a trend: "Fusion food is so '90s, we give our customers the possibility to choose whether going for a Japanese, a French or an Italian dish. In each serving, though, you'll find the beating heart of a country". And that's, simply, what my #foodhappiness is all about, too.

Restaurant Le Zo 13, rue Montalivet Paris (75008)

TEL: +33 1 42 65 18 18 SUBWAY: Madeleine, Concorde

Restaurant Il Caffè 5, av. Myron-Herrick Paris (75008)

TEL: +33 1 42 25 02 70 SUBWAY: Miromesnil, Saint-Philippe-du-Roule

 

With love and burrata,

Eleonora