Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category


Chicago Weekend Part II: Gingerbread & Broccoli

December 4, 2009

Along with visiting The French Pastry School in Chicago, we walked up and down the Magnificent Mile and of course did some eating.

We stopped in at the Marriott on Michigan Avenue to see their gingerbread house. Almost 1000 pounds of gingerbread and a giant teacup pouring chocolate! So big it can’t fit in one photo!

If you’re in the neighborhood, it’s definitely worth a stop in at the Marriott. We saw last year’s gingerbread house too, and I was happy that this year’s was on display when we were there. I’m working on a gingerbread house right now and I guarantee you that it looks nothing like this.

We interrupt this post for some broccoli!

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I am a broccoli fanatic. I can’t explain it, but I love it. Lunch was a Spinoccoli (spinach and broccoli) pizza at Pizzeria Uno.

Just look at all the broccoli in that pizza! Nothing beats the original Uno’s on Ohio Street in Chicago, and nothing beats a pizza full of broccoli.

The next day, breakfast-for-lunch was a broccoli and cheese omelet at Lou Mitchell’s.

Ah yes, more broccoli. Michele at Veggie Num Nums told me about Lou Mitchell’s. It’s a fun place and the food is fantastic.

Lunch at the Weber Grill restaurant in Schaumburg was broccoli-free, but it was still good, and you gotta love the giant grill!


Visiting The French Pastry School in Chicago

November 27, 2009

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting The French Pastry School in Chicago for a tour and demonstration, which they call the French Pastry Experience. We started off with a tour of the school. First up, my favorite part: the chocolate machine that dispenses perfectly tempered chocolate all day long!

Next, their impressive collection of silicone molds and a handy rolling rack of ring molds.

Then a stop in the walk-in cooler to look at the chocolate sculptures.

Before we sat down for the demonstration, we helped ourselves to croissants, jam, madelines, chocolates, tuiles, and coffee. All of it was beautiful and delicious! The demonstration, given by two chefs, Jacquy Pfeiffer and Laura Ragano, included:

  • Lavender, Honey, and Lemon Madelines
  • Grand Marnier Caramel and Fleur de Sel Molded Chocolate Bonbons
  • Pecan and Nespresso Ristretto (coffee) Florentin Tuiles
  • Slow Oven Roasted Vanilla Pineapple
  • Mango Sorbet
  • A plated dessert with the pineapple, sorbet, madeline, and a coconut basil emulsion and soaked basil seeds.

Both chefs did a great job of explaining and demonstrating, plus they answered a ton of questions from the group. The best part was when someone asked if you could use Pam on the madeline molds instead of buttering and flouring them. Chef Pfieffer called for security to have the woman removed! He was joking of course, but I would recommend never using the word Pam in the same room as a French chef! He was very funny and it was a fun and lively demonstration. I took lots of notes, so I hope they make sense to me when I look them over and try some things out.

They had it set up very nicely with an overhead mirror and a monitor on the side so that everyone could see what the chefs were doing.

After the demonstration, the staff was available to answer questions about the school. They offer professional programs in pastry and cake decorating, as well as 3-5 day continuing education classes for professionals and food enthusiasts.

They sent us home with a goodie bag, which included a loaf of bread and a cute package with candies, a madeline, and a jar of caramelized dark chocolate hazelnut spread.

What a fun way to spend a morning in Chicago!


Snow City Cafe, Anchorage Alaska

October 2, 2009

When I was planning a recent trip to Alaska, I did a little restaurant research. I haven’t had a lot of luck with restaurants listed in guidebooks, so for the past couple of vacations I’ve looked online for recommendations. Sites like urbanspoon, Yelp, and Trip Advisor have reviews from real people (though you may need to weed out some of the really strange-sounding people!). A look at those sites plus a quick Google search helped me put together a list of possible places to eat in the different cities we were visiting in Alaska. Although I do like to wander around and stumble on a place that looks good, it’s also nice to have some ideas as backup.

One place that kept popping up for Anchorage was Snow City Cafe, which is open for breakfast and lunch. It looked like a good bet, so we went there for breakfast the first morning. Here’s the front door.

Snow City

I ordered oatmeal. Yes, there is oatmeal under the raisins, dried cranberries, Snow City’s own granola, and brown sugar.


My husband ordered pancakes, which he described as being bigger than his head.


We liked what we ordered so much that we went back the next day and both had the same thing again! Our choices had a lot of competition from other good-sounding selections on their menu. If we had been in Anchorage longer, we’d have gone back for more breakfasts!


My Baking Adventure in France

April 9, 2009

We just returned from visiting some friends who have a second home in France. I brought along some recipes in case I had time to do some baking, and when I saw their funky orange stove (featuring three separate ovens), I knew I had to give it a spin!


One afternoon, our friends were away, so I decided to bake Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate Armagnac Cake. The last time I made this cake, it was fantastic. This time, it was super-fantastic! Did it taste better because I used cognac and prunes instead of brandy and raisins? Or perhaps it tasted better because everything tastes better in France? I’m not sure. Maybe I need to go back to France to try again!

I didn’t get a photo of the finished cake, but here I am hard at work.


I had one little glitch with the ingredients. I needed powdered sugar, so here’s what I bought. My French isn’t that great, but I was pretty sure poudre meant powder. And maybe it does, but this was granulated sugar. Oh well. I do wonder if Daddy Sugar has anything to do with a sugar daddy?


Despite the lack of powdered sugar, the challenges of working in an unfamiliar kitchen, and having to do some weight and temperature conversions to metric, the cake turned out great! Our friends loved it and no one blinked an eye at the “secret ingredient” of prunes. I chopped them really small and they disappeared into the cake, adding to the moistness and contributing a bit of a fruity flavor. If you want to give this cake a try, go here for the recipe. It’s a winner in any country!



October 21, 2008

Coffee in Rome.  Mmmm.

Rome coffee

Coffee in Istanbul. Hmmm.

Turkish coffee

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