City of Light

I just had the best time in Paris! I met family at Charles DeGaulle airport and off we went in a taxi to our charming hotel in the first arrondissement near the Tuileries and Louvre.

The family kindly pretended my French was perfect. The Parisians kindly accepted my French as acceptable for an American. The French will find you charming if you attempt to speak their language. A bit like Americans, don’t you think?

I’ve been to Paris a few times, but this was the trip to do everything touristy, especially with a 9-year-old in tow. We gazed up at the Eiffel Tower, but did not ascend because we had not thought to reserve tickets online ahead of time.IMG_6312

Later, we slurped up pudding-like hot chocolate and pastry at Angelina on Rue de Rivoli that was Coco Chanel’s fave place for an afternoon break. Another suggestion: go early before the swarms of tourists get there.IMG_6390

The Louvre is, of course, a centerpiece of majestic art and should not be missed. After peeks at Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, we went to other galleries and enjoyed them without the crowds.

Another cultural high point is the Musee D’Orsay. Paintings and sculpture are not the only focal points of this former train station. Seeing the giant clocks from the inside are worth the price of admission! IMG_6343

And, what would Paris be without a day trip to Versailles? The RER train got us there in less than 45 minutes. If you go to the palace in summer, make sure to arrive early in the morning. Having visited in late March we contended with fewer tourists, but missed the brilliance of the gardens that weren’t in bloom. Despite the trade-off, overwhelming opulence is on display year-round at Versailles.IMG_6650

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Versailles is the sewer system of Paris. If you’ve read Les Miserables, you have a sense of it, but now you can take a tour of Les Egouts. Yes, it did smell a bit, but we handled it.IMG_6512

Finally, as you might suspect, the French are as precise about their baked goods as they are about their language. A patisserie makes sweet pastries as opposed to a boulangerie, which bakes bread. One afternoon I got to meet the owner of a local patisserie. Melodie is better than a witch in her kitchen… her pastries are magnifique!  She had the good grace to ask me about baking brownies, which I can happily attest is an art the French have not yet mastered. </: )

Cookbook #2!

At the beginning of last month, I hit the submit button for cookbook #2, or I should say the writer I’ve been working with tapped that magical key. Lucy Baker – with two cookbooks of her own – was fantastic to work with. It’s a relief to clear the first hurdle, but the road to publishing is long and the only certainty is that changes will be aplenty. The new book might be titled Fat Witch Bake Sale, but the publisher has the final say.

So what’s in book #2? Cookies, cakes, bars and, of course, many kinds of brownies. 90% of the recipes are from my personal baking file. I’ve been baking these treats for a long time, but most had to be re-configured for a 9-inch square pan. I just re-tested Sweet and Salty Blondies – it’s one of my favorites and is so easy to bake!

sweetsaltyblondies

We are starting photography for the book soon. The editor wants a working cover immediately even if it’s not what will be used. We will bake each recipe at night, and the next day haul the goodies over to the photographer’s studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn. While the stylist and photographer set up the shoot, I’ll try to keep my big mouth shut. Yet, often I put in my two cents, as it’s hard not to chime in when you are used to running a business and having the final word. I will also be running around taking photos of the photo shoot much to everyone’s angst. Stay tuned for preview pics!

It’s still cold in NYC. Winter just won’t melt away. Like most Manhattan-ites, I eat out often, but there is nothing like something right out of the oven for a Sunday supper with friends. Last week I made a mushroom quiche and bought most of the ingredients at the Union Square farmer’s market. mushroomsThe only difficult part for this witch is making a good crust for a 10” round pan. Shhh… dare I confess that I buy my crusts in disposable foil pie pans at the supermarket? And then it’s 1 cup of half & half to 2 eggs and dump in all the other stuff that there’s space for in the pie pan. I love mixing different kinds of mushrooms with a blend of shredded cheeses. The plated product is lovely with a spinach salad.

quicheI am going to Paris in the middle of the month. Needless to say, I will be writing about this adventure for April’s newsletter.

Best Witches to you for March!

Combat the cold

 Feb 2014 blog

February 2014

Last month wasn’t just chilly in New York City, it was downright COLD. Temperatures often sank below zero (okay, that’s figuring in the wind chill factor). NPR voiced a few jokes about Manhattan-ites dressing for the ski slopes even though our hills are no more than slight inclines.

To combat the cold, one day I ventured out wearing 2 scarves, 1 hat, 1 padded coat, 2 pairs of socks and my insulated boots. I headed to Lexington Avenue where a string of Indian restaurants and stores set up shop years ago. My favorite is Kalustyan’s, a specialty food store focusing on South Asian and Middle Eastern products, on Lexington between 28th and 29th Streets.Feb 2014 blog 2

Spicy food is another solution to battle the elements. I had a lovely warm potato concoction combined with a delicious fava bean concoction served by a charming man who endured my mispronunciation of Indo-Pakistani dish names.

If you are in NYC and love to cook spicy, flavorful food, Kalustyan’s is not to be missed. You can buy more kinds of curry than ever imagined, tea from the highlands of Darjeeling, nuts with spices mixed in, and so much more than I can even describe. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind place, and is especially inviting in wintertime.