Tag Archives: Vacation

Takk fyrir

Mostly, I wanted to tell you about the light.

About how, on my last day in London, it glistened on the River Thames, making everything seem sepia-toned. Making us all nostalgic for events even as they were happening.

Is there a term for that?

No matter.

I went back to the Tate Modern’s Rothko room, where I had spent so many hours so many months prior. A friend of mine commented on the quiet that surrounded us when we walked in, and I spoke of waiting there back in late October; of how I took solace from the hushed tones and subdued images. Being back was like revisiting a favorite book. The plot the same but my reading different, colored by the intervening time, because I had been.

It felt good to return and even to be leaving since it was on my own terms this time. Even so, it was far too soon. But, I was off.

When we arrived in Reykjavik, it past midnight and looked like it was barely dusk—midnight sun and all that.

Again it comes down to the light.

If I could write the way that J.M. Turner painted, I would conjure up images of clear skies and endless open vistas and tell of how the days seemed long in all the right ways; satisfying and tiring and filled with exploration.

Þingvellir National Park

Instead, I’m stuck with the same hackneyed phrases and a new found appreciation for Monet’s haystacks, which previously stuck me as pointless and, frankly, evidence of his failing eyesight. I think that, at last, I understand the appeal. When we were standing atop the first lookout point at Þingvellir National Park, my friend Mike commented on the radiance around us. It was, he said, the sort of thing that none of us would have taken notice of when we were younger.  So, it seems, we’ve all grown.

On that first night in the city, we four were determined to stay up to watch the rising sun. The hours passed until it was just me and Ben, the ice cubes slowly melting in our drinks, making the bouquet more and more fragrant. I thought then about how the last time we had done this was the weekend of his wedding, sitting beside a roaring fire in the Scottish Fall, the air charged with the excitement of things about to unfold. I thought, too, of how it took me being stuck in London to want to return so desperately.

We missed the sunrise by all of a quarter hour. In the end, it didn’t really matter; it had never really set.

osar

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What’s happening right now…

.is that I am thinking about beginning to think about packing.

I am not making much progress otherwise.

On Thursday morning, I’ll board a plane and head back to San Francisco. I’m going here:

Or some place near as similar at any rate. I haven’t planned much. That’s the whole point.

You won’t hear from me in the mean, but at least this the time the excuse is one marked by exploration, excitement, and any number of effusive other words beginning with the letter e. I won’t be gone long, really. Barely enough time for it to count. By Tuesday morning, I’ll be back in New York. Wednesday: back to a day filled with meetings. Still, it’s something. My hope is that getting away will still be just the thing. And, when I return, I’ll be refreshed, ready to share more recipes with you and tackle those long delayed projects. The very real ones, like cleaning out inboxes and closets and the metaphorical ones. And, my hope is that, maybe, just maybe, I’ll find that still space before leaning forward into the next crazy venture beneath the skies*.

My hope is that you’ll be here when I get back to writing regularly soon enough.

*ten points for you if you know the reference.

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What I did on my [Indian Summer] Vacation

A while back, I mentioned that I was taking a 3-day long bread making class.

Naturally, when I went, it didn’t occur to me to bring my camera. I’m not sure that it would have mattered anyway, as I was too busy learning to knead, and shape, and create sponges, sourdough starter, and biga and, well, you get the idea.

Last night, a few of my friends came over, for conversation and wine and lots and lots of bread. This is why I do such things. To learn, yes, and to perfect my techniques, of course. But, mostly to share my table and my home. I couldn’t have been happier.

I’ll be doling out the remainder of the bread though out the week’s end, and, come next week, testing out my sourdough starter.

For now, I’m hanging on to that last bit of relaxation, before I head back to work come morning. And, sharing some links.

First, details for the aforementioned class can be found here. Do a little digging through the site; there are great offerings. I’m plotting what I’ll take next, in fact.

moma_talktome

And, a completely unrelated call to action: If you’re in New York, get to MoMA immediately (or, at the very least, before November 7). Do not pass go. Do not Collect $200.

It’s your last chance to see Talk To Me, which, aside from being utterly fascinating, is interactive. And, has robots. Robots!.

Need I say more?

The Met’s current exhibitions are fairly interesting, too. But you’re not under the same time constraint.

Clearly, I packed a lot into my 3-day staycation.

Moma_MaxErnst

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A Perfect Day for Berry Picking

On another continent, my friend Ben is making pretentious raspberry currant jam.

Me?

I’m making downmarket raspberry sorbet.

Clearly, this is going to require some sort of explanation.

One of my favorite moments during my trip to Switzerland happened in France.

It occurs to me that I’m not helping to clarify anything.

Bear with me—as with most things, it’s about the journey.

Wherein our story begins. Really, it’s a case of a well placed road sign, and a pitiful knowledge of French on my part.

When I travel, I often find myself wishing I knew more of the local customs, knew the language better. In this case, though, I’m not sorry.

How could I be, when a simple question, “What are groseilles?” led to an impromptu stop in the fields of the Alsace region of France in order to pick raspberries and groseilles—red currants as it turns out. Kilos and kilos of them. My friends are nothing if not overachievers.

It was a brilliant end to a wonderful trip to Zürich and beyond (just wait to see my pictures from Lugano).

And, with my flight back rapidly approaching—the next morning, in fact, I found myself growing more and more nostalgic by the moment. For the week, yes, and for memories almost long forgotten.

Suddenly, I was thinking about summers long gone going to the U-pick fields of Long Island and wearing my sister’s strawberry stained shoes from berry picking the summer before. My mother may be the only person I know with the foresight to save stained shoes so as not to ruin a new pair. It’s a life skill, I think.

I was thinking, too, surrounded by dear friends, of how relationships evolve, yes, but the good ones remain, despite the oceans and the miles and the time differences or months of silence. And of how Ben and I had an idea for a blog, where we could still keep in touch through cooking, in kitchens and countries apart. We joked about starting it out this way—see, I told you I would explain that first sentence. We were kidding, of course, as we often are, and mocking bloggers who start posts with such ridiculous assertions as “while I was in Alsace” all the while knowing that we would likely be doing the same.

So what?

I’ll even take it one step further, by adding in a pretentious quote.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

And, now, to bring it back to the scene at hand.

Because after all of that musing, I stopped thinking of anything at all, instead just enjoying exactly where I was, which is to say, in a field, in the hot sun, with berry juice running through my fingers.

The berries were tart, and there were kilos of them.

Ben was planning on taking them home to make some currant raspberry jam. And, since I couldn’t fly with berries, I was going to have to settle for grocery store raspberries and no currants at all since I couldn’t find then anywhere.

But before all of that, the buckets needed to be weighed and we needed to drive a little further to Ville d’eguisheim where we had dinner plans and where a vintner would take a break from his foosball game to allow us to sample wines that his family had been making for three generations.

I lead a charmed life.

Fine, fine. I’m being glib, but, really I mean that.

Downmarket Raspberry Sorbet

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup raspberry, pureed
1 TBS kirsch

Make a simple syrup by boiling water and sugar, until the sugar melts completely. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Once the simple syrup is cooled, combine it with the raspberries and blend until the mixture is completely pureed.

If you don’t like seeds, strain the raspberry puree at this point, using a cheesecloth placed over a strainer.

Add the kirsch to the raspberry puree and stir to combine.

Chill in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.

Makes 1 scant pint

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When In Zürich

I’m a firm believer in trying the local cuisine when I travel. Particularly when said cuisine involves lots and lots of potatoes and cheese.

If I get to cook with my friends, all the better.

So, you can imagine how happy I was when, during my trip to Zürich, my friend Ben suggested making raclette.

First, there was the fact that, after spending eight out of ten years on different continents, we were finally on the same one—thanks to his generosity and that of his fiancee, we were under the same roof.

Secondly, we would be cooking on his deck, overlooking the alps. Really, the photo doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

And, then, as if all of that wasn’t enough, the cooking involved a kitchen gadget.

By now, my love of such things has been well documented. I’m a frequent haunter of kitchen stores, and event went as far as to ask for a kitchenaid mixer as a birthday gift a few years back instead of getting a big screen tv (which, I maintain, is still one of the smartest decisions that I have made to date).

All of which is a long way of saying that I was bound to be impressed by the raclette machine. Hardly surprising when you consider how easy the meal was to prepare—you boil potatoes, cut up some Gruyere and then go! all while you’re all sitting at the table, enjoying your wine and conversation. Just what vacation eating should be, authentic in its own way.

But, if you’re really, really going for the authentic experience, after you finish your meal, follow it up with lots and lots of Luxemburgeli from Confiserie Sprüngli because both you and your friends have decided to stop on your way home. They are the perfect cookie: small enough to justify eating a few to try all of the flavors, nice enough to show up as a wonderful gift, good enough to eat.

Needless to say, now that I’m back in New York, I’m seriously considering buying my very own raclette machine. I’m also toying with the idea of revising the French Macaron project in a new variation. So, if any of you out there in the blogsphere know how to make a good Luxemburgeli, comment away.

Luxemburgli

Raclette

This recipe is meant to be used as a basic technique. Adjust your quantities according to the crowd you’ll be serving.

12-15 small potatoes
3/4 pound gruyere, cut into 1/4″ thick pieces
1 jar cornichons (optional)
1 jar pickled onions (optional)
2 shallots, chopped finely
freshly ground pepper
paprika

Scrub the potatoes and boil in salted water, until fully cooked, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and set aside, along with the sliced Gruyere, pickled onions, diced shallots, and cornichons.

When you are ready to eat, heat your raclette machine. Place gruyere on the raclette tray, seasoning with diced shallots, paprika and ground pepper to your taste. Allow to heat for 2-3 minutes, until the Gruyere has melted. Once you remove your Raclette pan from the heat, the melted cheese should slide out easily. Slide it over your potatoes.

Serves 4 as a main course

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Coming Attractions

I’m back! And, very, very jet lagged.

In other words, there are still piles of clothing to be put away, gifts to be handed out, emails to be attended to. All of the demands of regular life beckon. A little too loudly.

Did I mention that I was jet lagged?

I’m also aching to share some of the sights of Zurich, Lugano and Alsace with you (and, embarassingly several recipes from the days before I left for vacation.) So, there will be more to come. With recipes and stories that are both charming and more smartly articulated than I can promise at the moment.

Consider this a small preview for the time being. Or, better, yet, an apéritif.

Appropriate enough, given that I’m leaving you with a recipe for my new favorite drink—an Aperol Spritz.

Before we go on, let’s get this out of th eway: Aperol is, in fact, an Italian bitter.

I read about a few months back, on Orangette. At the time, it felt too cold for something that seemed, to me at least, so summery both in color and flavor profile. So, the craving was filed away for summer. And then, it was summer. And, I arrived in Switzerland and saw it on offer throughout the cafés of Zürich and, later in the week, just a hopskipandajump away from Italy, in Lugano.

As for the drink: It’s quintessentially Swiss. Or, maybe not, but the friends who I visited told me so, and that’s good enough for me.

Think Campari but without the rough, bitter edge. Instead, it’s just got a slight bitterness rounded with the floral notes of rhubarb that keeps it from veering into the “drinks I drank when I was seventeen” range. And, when mixed with prosecco or seltzer, it is a vibrant shade of orange.

It’s positively celebratory, if you ask me.

Just the right kind of drink to enjoy on your vacation. Or, perhaps, the rest of your summer.

Aperol Spritz
Recipe courtesy of Aperol

2 ounces Aperol
3 ounces Prosecco
Splash of Seltzer
Ice
Orange Slices, to garnish

In a wine or highball glass, add ice and pour in Aperol. Top off with prosecco and seltzer, and then garnish with a thin slice of orange.

Makes One

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

When you spend your days in high rises and on the subway, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the natural world. Especially if you’re like me and generally keep it at an arm’s length, referring to the great outdoors as “the nature.”

That said, when you wake up with a view like the one pictured above, it makes you appreciate it—and your generous hosts—even more. Needless to say, it was a relaxing weekend.

I even hiked!

Ok, fine. That may be a slight exaggeration. But, that photo is real and is slightly intimidating. There were also trails leading to a waterfall that I walked along. And, my legs may still be slightly sore (I’m not out of shape, really. I blame the fact that I was wearing flip flops…) There might even be a photo of me in the nature to show that it actually happened.

Mostly, though, the weekend was about doing very little, just sitting around with good friends and breathing deeply, taking a moment to enjoy.

We also ate and drank well, from the white sangria whose recipe I’m hoping to share soon to the copious amounts of grilling that happened to the stop on the ride home for ice cream. A day later, and I’m still full.

I can’t wait for the next trip.

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