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Thursday, December 25, 2014

A cake fit for a Queen

     Birthdays, I find, should always be about receiving pleasure.  The ultimate pleasure.  To me, nothing brings more pleasure than chocolate, especially when it is the best, most refined European chocolate made into a dense, unique, cake.  It is the philosophy of one of New York’s best chocolatiers, Maribel Liberman. 

     Liberman, a native of Honduras, understands good chocolate when she tastes it.  She owns an exquisite store in New York City called MarieBelle Chocolatier.  And as someone who understands the importance of a good piece of chocolate, she also finds that “life is all about the pleasure and happiness we find in food, art and beauty”.

     Until I became a fan of all things French, I couldn’t picture beauty as being present in food.  The French excel at this.  Everything from the packaging to the way edibles are presented, the thought placed in creating and enjoying meals, the quality of the ingredients, and the sharing of those experiences is conducive to beauty.  Beauty inspires art, and chocolate was the venue, this birthday when I turned 45, for that inspiration.

     The treat for my birthday was a Marie Antoinette Vintage Truffle Cake, made by this chocolate house that also creates artfully illustrated chocolates, raw cacao confisseries, signature ganaches and decadent hot chocolate mixes.

     I ordered the cake through Dean &Deluca, but it is also available through the company’s website.  The cake honors Queen Marie Antoinette of France, who adored the chocolate pastilles that then chemist to the French Crown, Debauve & Gallais, created for her so she could swallow unpleasant tasting medicines.  Marie Antoinette adored chocolate, and this cake, which comes packaged inside a box simulating an ancient book, includes a poem in her honor, and her chocolate:

She stares with puzzle at her treasure book
She can’t help but wonder
What the story is all about inside
She flips the cover
And to her surprise:
A mysterious dark slab
With a rich golden chandelier
Simulating the entrance of a Palace
How amazing!!!
He contemplated her with joy
As she closed her eyes as if
She was going into a trance
He was the man she loved
But at that moment
He took a second place
People warned her that one
Becomes a prisoner of obsession
She held the slab and took a first bite
Melting cream in her mouth she screamed
                                    OH… CHOCOLAT!!

     Indeed, the Marie Antoinette Vintage Truffle Cake is like biting into a truffle.  It is quite small, about 6.5” by 4.5”, but it compensates in richness.  The truffle cream chocolate lies on top of crisp chocolate wafers, so when one bites into it, there is also a certain crunch.  It is decorated with the image of an antique chandelier, faintly showing out of a sprinkle of gold glitter, and to my surprise, it did not fade throughout the life of the cake.

     I recommend a rich, dark shot of Italian espresso to accompany this luscious dessert.  And of course, a trip to this chocolatier is de rigueur during a visit to New York City.

      After the cake is consumed (which will not take long, believe me), the simulated case can be used for storage of cherished secrets – love notes, valentines, etc.

A small piece with a cup of strong espresso is all this cake needs.  It should be cut in triangles as shown here.
You will get 8 portions.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Drinks for a good cause

     The holidays offer the perfect excuse to have nice drinks, and as many of them as possible! This year I was able to get my hands on some supreme quality vodka, and it came with a good cause too.  Snow Leopard Vodka is the contribution of entrepreneur and philanthropist Stephen Sparrow, who after learning of the challenges of the communities in the area the snow leopard inhabits and the danger of extinction of the species, came up with the idea of this beverage.

     The snow leopard (panthera uncia) is the least known of the big cats.  Personally, I find its coat the most beautiful – a white, mushy coat with black markings.  It has an unusually long tail, which serves him well to prowl in the mountains.  These animals are loners, getting together only during the breeding season in winter.  They inhabit the highest mountains in the world – the Tibetan plateau throughout Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal.  The species is on the critically endangered list due to deforestation and black market trafficking with none other than China.  Thanks to people like Sparrow and the Snow Leopard Trust, the species may have a chance.

© 2014 Snow Leopard vodka
      The Snow Leopard vodka is produced in Poland.  It comes in a beautifully designed bottle with a painted picture of a snow leopard.  The drink is distilled 6 times directly from the ancient grain of spelt and has a superbly clean taste, round and creamy.  It makes for a great base for cocktails.  Not surprisingly it has won numerous awards.  Here are two of my favorite recipes.

Appletini (the best version you’ve EVER had)

  • 3oz. Snow Leopard vodka
  • 2oz. Schönauer Apfel schnapps
  • 1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice

      Shake all ingredients with ice in a shaker and pour into a chilled martini glass.  Garnish with an apple slice pierced with a cinnamon stick.

Snow Kitten
     This is a recipe created by the bartenders at the Light Bar, in London’s modern St. Martin’s Lane Hotel.  A place that offers cocktails with a European twist, using ingredients like Elderflower liqueurs, champagne and lychee juice.  It is worth the work in finding the ingredients.


  • 2oz. Snow Leopard vodka
  • 12 blueberries
  • 2 to 5 bar spoons of damson plum preserves
  • 2 bar spoons of honey
  • 1/4 oz lemon juice

     Muddle the blueberries.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir, then shake with ice and strain into a Martini glass.  Garnish with blueberries on a stirrer.

     Keep in mind that when you purchase a bottle of Snow Leopard vodka, 15% of the cost goes to the species conservation.  The company aims to sell 100,000.00 bottles a year.  That would provide about $450,000.00 towards conservation.  An amazing effort and also utterly delicious.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A cozy Thanksgiving

     Thanksgiving is the most celebrated holiday in the American calendar.  That is because mostly every family who lives in the United States participates in the holiday in some way, regardless of religion or race. 

     But what is the essence of Thanksgiving?  Beyond the eating and the shopping, it is the foremost way to celebrate the harvest, and send hopes into the void for a future bounty one.  I like this latter idea of Thanksgiving.  Since I moved to Florida, over 20 years ago now, I especially enjoy the Autumn.  Once the last days of August hits I seem to become alive, and the smells of the new season come alive in my kitchen as well.

     From the entertaining point of view, it is the ideal time of year.  The fruits of the harvest invite a varied sort of cooking, and the chillier weather makes for wonderful get-togethers and cozy moments.

     This year I decided to by-pass the ubiquitous turkey and made an Argentinian classic – carbonada.  This version is by Chef Guillermo Calabrese, one of Buenos Aires top chefs, who started his career at the famous Gato Dumas Restaurant in Recoleta.  I remember eating at this trendy restaurant in the 90’s.  It was a mixture of refined Argentine specialties with a touch of French cuisine, in an ambiance that was stylish without being presumptuous. 

     The carbonada is a fulfilling dish for a cold day, not unlike the weather we were lucky to have for Thanksgiving.  It is served inside an acorn squash, making for a beautiful presentation.  Although it takes some time to prepare, it beats the long hours of the turkey and proves for a dish full of the typical flavours of Fall for which you will be remembered.

Argentine Carbonada in acorn squash:

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 4 small acorn squash (about 6” in diameter)
  • 4oz unsalted butter
  • 3oz sugar
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 3 small corn stalks
  • Corn oil, as needed
  • 12oz plain rice
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 small white onions
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1pd veal, cut in cubes
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 3.5oz white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 oz veal stock
  • 3.5 oz dried apricots
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ Tbsp cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ Tbsp sweet paprika
  • ¼ grated goat cheese
  • More salt and pepper to taste


     Wash and dry the acorn squashes.  Cut the tops, which will be used as covers, clean and remove the seeds, and cut small incisions on the inside with a knife. 

     Coat the insides of the squashes with softened butter, dust with sugar and bathe with a bit of milk.  Place on an oven plaque and bake at 380F for 25 minutes.  Check halfway to ensure the squashes are not disintegrating.  They should only be partially cooked at this point.

     Cut the corn in smaller pieces, blanche and reserve.  In a separate saucepan add about 2 Tbsp of corn oil and sauté the rice no longer than 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and reserve.

     In another saucepan with 2 more Tbsp oil sauté the onions, previously chopped.  Add the pepper, the meat (make sure you clean all the fat) and brown.  Add the tomatoes and deglaze with the wine.  Season and cook until the alcohol evaporates.

     Add the rice, the veal stock, dried apricots and season with sugar, cumin, bay leaves and paprika.  Cook for 15 minutes on high.  Fill the squashes with this stew and bake for another 25 minutes at 380F.  Sprinkle with a nice grated goat cheese.  I chose a Spanish one from La Mancha, flavored with paprika, which you can buy HERE.  It mimicked the flavor of the pieces beautifully.  Serve with corn cobs on the side.

A tablescape inspired by the colours of Autumn
      After such a nice main course, the dessert had to be just as memorable.  And maybe a bit more patriotic.  I find nothing more authentically American than cheesecake.  Thanks to the Martha Stewart magazine, I became aware of a uniquely crafted maple syrup, infused with Tahitian vanilla and Egyptian chamomile.  As soon as I saw the recipe, I ordered it immediately.

     This is a very rich, creamy cheesecake, ideal to have with some strong Earl Gray tea.

Maple-Walnut cheesecake:

Ingredients for 8 to 12 servings:

·         9 Graham crackers
·         ¾ cup black walnuts
·         1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
·         4 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
·         Pinch of fresh nutmeg
·         Pinch of salt, ideally Himalayan pink salt
·         Four 8oz packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
·         ¾ Noble Tonic 02 Maple syrup, available HERE
·         ½ cup granulated sugar
·         4 large eggs
·         3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
·         ½ cup heavy cream
·         1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
·         ¼ tsp maple extract


     Fill a roasting pan halfway with water and set on a rack in the lower third of the oven (this will ensure a very moist environment for the cheesecake to cook into); position another rack in the middle and pre-heat to 350F.  Wrap the outside (bottom and side) of a 9” springform pan with foil.

     To make the crust, pulse the Graham crackers in a food processor a few times until crushed.  Add the walnuts and brown sugar and continue pulsing until finely ground.  Add the melted butter, nutmeg and salt and pulse to combine.  Press into the bottom and about 1” up the side of the prepared pan.  Bake until the crust is golden, about 10’.  Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

     For the filling, beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed until nearly smooth, about 1’.  Add the maple syrup and granulated sugar and beat until smooth, about 2’ more.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Increase the speed to medium high and beat in the flour, heavy cream, lemon juice and maple extract until the filling is smooth and silky, about 1’.

     Pour the filling into the cooled crust.  Transfer the cheesecake to the oven, placing it on the middle rack, directly over the water bath.  Bake until golden and set around the edge but still jiggly in the center, about 45’ to 1 hour.  Transfer to a rack and let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until cold and set, preferably overnight.  Let the cheesecake sit at room temperature 20”, the run a thin knife around the edge and remove the springform pan.  Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

My visit to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival 2014

     Once again, as it is customary for me, I have attended the Food & Wine Festival at Disney’s Epcot.  It is an event I look forward to every Autumn and I truly enjoy.  The festival has grown every year and includes more and more countries each time with more dishes to try.  As an added bonus, one gets to pair the sample-sized servings with regional wines.  A win-win no doubt.

     This year however, I found the quality of the foods offered quite lame, and at times without any flavor.

     My first stop was France.  It is always my favorite country when it comes to gastronomy.  One of the perennial offerings of this pavilion are the escargots.  This year, they decided to do a nice amuse-bouche and they put them into a crumbly pastry tart, thus a Tartlette aux Escargots.  The result was good, and accompanied by the Kir à la Pomegranate it opened up the appetite nicely.

     Next I headed for nearby Canada, as I wanted to try the Seared Rainbow Trout, topped with bacon, friseé and L8 harvest vinegar.  It is very hard to ruin trout, especially if it’s not overcooked.  Sadly, I have to report that these people have managed to do it.  The fish tasted like nothing at all, the only flavor contributing to it given only by the bacon.  And friseé and L8 harvest??  I definitely missed it.  A lonesome single string of lettuce without any dressing whatsoever.  Very bad indeed.  The Neige Première Apple Ice Wine I have had before.  It should have been chillier.

     As I kept walking I stopped at the Italy pavilion, where I tasted some very good Limoncello, and later a shot of acquavit in Norway.  The former very deliciously sweet and fruity, the latter highly alcoholic and without much flavor.  Italy also had in stock some very unique porcelain to serve espresso, and to which I couldn’t help myself.  The line is called I*Wares, by Seletti, and they’re worth exploring.  The espresso cups are made of fine white porcelain and include a spoon.  The only note of bright colour is on the painted handles, making them ideal to mix and match.

The beautiful porcelain espresso cup, here paired with my Mikasa sugar bowl
and some elegant Dalimayr coffee.  Perfect cremma.
     In Germany, I got my hands on some wonderful apple schnapps, which I’ve tried before and thought would be very good to have on hand to add to some apple desserts now that Fall is upon us.  Schönauer Apfel is a delicious mix of Germany's best apples and grain spirits that tastes truly like pure apple heaven.  In Germany, it’s the way a party starts.  It makes great apple martinis.

    For my main course I wanted something I’d never tried before, kind of exotic.  I stopped at Africa’s outpost.  After making sure there were no ivory animal carvings around, I tried the Bobotie with turkey and mushrooms.  This is the national dish of South Africa, pretty much like a frittata, made with egg, curried meat and grapes.  The portion was small, but it was very filling.  Going back to quality ingredients, it made me think that in South Africa, where produce is much fresher and better than here in the USA, this dish must indeed taste wonderful.  Here it was just okay.  I had it along with M.A.N. Vintners Chenin Blanc, refreshing and very helpful in counteracting the spicy flavours of the dish.

     The Bobotie left me without any more want for savory.  So I headed for the “Desserts & Champagne” booth, where I order the customary Dessert trio.  This was probably the biggest disappointment of all.  Usually this trio of desserts is a pleasure to indulge in, but not this year.  It consisted of Passion Fruit Coconut Creamsicle (an average custard with a jelly top), a Blueberry-Lime Cheesecake Roll (the best one of the three, should just have had this dessert in a bigger piece instead of the trio), and Chocolate Espresso Opera Cake, which was an insult to the excellent dessert created by the Dalloyau patissiers (for an excellent Opera cake that you can find locally, worth every one of your tastebuds, go HERE).  Dry, tasteless chocolate, lacking the requisite coffee flavour in the genoise layers.  A disaster.

     The best part of the dessert experience was the champagne.  I ordered a glass of very expensive Ruinart Blanc de Blancs.  It was refreshingly clean, very smooth, and did not overpower the flavours of the food.  A pity to have had it with such poor sweet pairings.

     But even if dessert disappoints at the Food & Wine Festival, if one is local, one has the privilege to bring some very good ones from the French patisserie on site.  I selected Lemon-Merengue tarte and Framboise at the end of my journey and hurried towards the car, as the day was quite warm.

Italian merengue, slightly caramelized, on this citron tart.  Heavenly creamy.
"Framboise" is a combination of velvety
raspberry mousse and chocolate genoise.
     The France pavilion has also recently opened an ice-cream parlor.  They carry some unique European flavours, and I couldn’t resist trying the Caramel Fleur de Sel.  I bought a cone.  It tasted mostly like caramel, and I couldn’t really detect the “sel”.  Still, who cares when you’re hurrying home with some really good dessert under your belt?

Creamy caramel ice-cream finished off the journey

Sunday, September 28, 2014

L'art du pain

     The French and their bread are a case apart.  One can spend hours debating on the subject of bread with French people.  It is just as important to them as wine is.

     In France, pairing the proper bread with one’s food is something taken very seriously.  Rye bread is the only one eaten with oysters, while breads made with lemon or aux hèrbes are reserved for fish.  Pastries, such as tea cakes or cookies, are mostly consumed for the mid-afternoon treat called le goutier and are rarely eaten in the morning.

     Originally, bread was the staple food of the peasants.  It was not until Louis XIV’s reign that bread started to be refined into what is known today as the ubiquitous baguette, and all its extensive varieties.   In the 18th century, the aristocracy decided that the pain de campagne was a bit too heavy for their stomachs, and the refinements of flour in order to produce white bread began.

     Bread was one of the main causes of the French Revolution.  Following a bad harvest, the government decided to raise the price of cereals.  This meant the common folk were not only deprived of the beautiful palaces and glamour the aristocracy enjoyed, but were now also going to starve.  The people revolted, and the rest, as they say, is bloody history – literally.

Kirsten Dunst uttering the famous line “let them eat cake” in a 
still from “Marie Antoinette”
Another still from “Marie Antoinette” showing beaucoup du pain!
     When Marie Antoinette uttered the famous qu'ils mangent de la brioche”, it was indeed an insult to injury to the already starving populace.  She could only keep her head for another four years after that. 

     Nowadays, in Paris alone there are about 35,000 bakeries, which produce about 3.5 million tons of bread per year.  When it comes to baguettes alone, it is estimated that 10 million are sold each day.  In France, it is illegal to put preservatives into the bread.  Hence one must buy it every day.  I remember the practice was the same in Buenos Aires (where I was born).  One would go to the almacén within one’s own neighborhood to get the bread for the day.

     This is unfortunately not the case with bread in the United States, where generally, the bread is very bad.  One can find excellent bread in any bakery in Europe, or even in the supermarket.  But in the U.S., unless one goes the extra mile to find it, all there is available is what I call “plastic bread”.  It is chewy like gum and has no crispness at all.  An insult to the art of baking bread really.

     Luckily, and thanks to the local farm-to-table movement, there are a few places where one can go for just the right amount of goodness when it comes to bread.  I am speaking, of course, of The Olde Hearth Bread Co., a local bakery with a stall at the most excellent East End Market.  They also sell their products over the weekends at the Windermere and Maitland Farmers Markets.  They supply the top local area restaurants and premiere hotels… and I have their breads all over my freezer at home too.  For me it is de rigueur, every 2 to 3 months, to place a large order and stock up on their wonderful bounty.

     Here’s what I got this last time I went, starting at the top right hand corner and then clockwise:

     -          Croissants.  Their plain croissants are the best ones I’ve been able to find in Orlando.

-          Fougasse a l’oignon.  Small breads with onion, ideal for substantial sandwiches to go on a picnic for instance.

-          Ficelles. Two small baguettes to laden with butter and preserves for breakfast in the morning.  For more details on the French breakfast, go here.

-          Chocolate boule.  Yes.  This is a pain the campagne made with chocolate and either dried mango or dried cherries.  I prefer the mango.  Toasted with a slab of cold, salted butter and a cappuccino, it is my weekend treat.

-          Pain de mie raisins.  Smells like the holiday season already.  Great toasted with some butter but even better for French toast.

Not pictured, but also worth trying, are the specialized baguettes aux figues and noisette (ideal for a great cheese plate), as well as the brioche challah loaf, which makes an ideal dipping bread.

     I’ve always longed to visit famous bakeries in Paris, but for now, I am happy I have The Olde Hearth Bread Co. for my monthly supply of bread.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Feeling blue

     Feeling blue is not always a bad thing, especially when it comes to cheese. I love cheese in all its forms, but blues, I have to say, are my favorites. I mostly eat French cheese, but when it comes to “blues” I do like the whole spectrum. Italian Gorgonzola and very British Stilton have a special place in my heart. Recently, I came upon what may be considered the world’s most complex blue. Fellow foodie Sudi Pigott recommended a mysterious fromager in Oregon, with a particularly coveted cheese called Rogue River Blue, which is produced in the old-fashioned way and with lait cru. This unique delicacy of a cheese matures wrapped in Syrah leaves that have been previously soaked in pear brandy. The result is an intensely flavoured cheese, quite similar in intensity to Stilton; however the pear brandy provides the difference in flavours. This cheese also has an accentuated taste of hazelnut and oak. If well-paired, it will burst your palate into delectable heaven.

The leaf-wrapped, brandy soaked, Rogue River Blue
     What do I mean by well-paired?  We all know that proper cheese must be consumed with proper wine.  Generally, blue cheeses pair marvelously with sweet wines, especially Rieslings or Voigners.  Even maybe a Sauternes, for which I would recommend starting your meal with a supreme foie gras.  That being said, my best recommendation for the Rogue River Blue is the great Marcel Deiss and his Altenberg Grand Cru.

          I’d recommend a vintage for this wine no more than six years old.  So if you can get your hands on a 2008 or 2009 bottle, never mind the expense and splurge for your own good.  Alternatively, if your pocket allows for less splurging, you can also try a more mineral Riesling, but nonetheless great with cheese, like “Recas”, from scary Transylvania.  This wine has a soft flavor of peaches and is also floral, with just enough body to pair with blue and slightly strong cheeses, like a Comté or an Emmentaler.

     For an exemplary plate of blues, include also another version like a Bleu de Gex, a creamy, semi-soft cheese from the Jura mountains, also made with unpasteurized milk.  Both of these cheeses will benefit tremendously with a small topping of fruit compote or confit, made from Alsatian white wines and fruits.  Try those from L’Epicurien to impress your guests with the talk of the evening.

     Because it is also made with pears, this confit brings out the flavor of the Rogue Blue unlike anything else.

     And so I made my plate, the two blues, a slice of a very nice Comté reserve and yet another special confit for it, and delectable, melt-in-your-mouth Stilton and pecan crackers.

     They are quite addictive, and taste like heaven in your mouth.  You can double or triple the recipe and keep several logs in your freezer.  Then defrost in the fridge overnight when you’re ready to bake them.

Blue-cheese-pecan Icebox crackers:


  • ½ cup pecan halves
  • ¾ all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp. very cold, very good, unsalted butter (I use Echiré)
  • 3 oz. blue cheese, such as Stilton, crumbled

     Place the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.  Let cool.  Transfer the pecans to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground.
     Add the flour to the ground pecans and pulse briefly to combine.  Then add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add the cheese and process until the dough comes together and is well combined.  Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and shape into a 2” wide log.  Wrap the log in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or freeze for later use.
     When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325F.  Slice the well-chilled log into ¼” thick slices.  Transfer them to a baking sheet and bake immediately, rotating the sheet half way through cooking, until the crackers are golden brown and firm in the center, about 20 to 25 minutes (the crackers should not get brown around the edges).  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Homemade blue cheese cracker
topped with Rogue River Blue.
Pure heaven.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Canadian steakhouse that is worth visiting

     I’ve been visiting Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort for several years now, and as such, I have eaten at almost all the restaurants in the park.  Almost.  There was one that I’d been wanting to try for the longest time: Le Cellier, at the Canada pavilion.

     Le Cellier is a steakhouse, a tribute to French Canada and a pricey one at that.  But the food is great and the service super.  It is the ideal restaurant for a cozy dinner in late fall, although I happened to go in the Spring.  The entryway to the restaurant takes one through a path among a replica of the great Victoria Gardens in British Vancouver.  It looked particularly beautiful at this time of year, no doubt on occasion of the Flower and Garden Festival, which had the whole park blooming.

     Inside, the restaurant follows the theme of its name (“Cellier” means cave or wine cellar in French) with décor as that of the inside of a medieval abbey where the monks used to age the wine in, all with archways in stone.

     A very friendly waitress came and offered me a drink.  I decided to choose something that would go along with my meal, so I had a glass of 2010 Château des Charmes, a Canadian Merlot bottled at an estate in the Niagara Falls region.  It had abundant blackberry notes, with a slightly oaky nose and a hint of vanilla.  It paired beautifully with the meal I had.

     My starter was a plentiful bread-basket, with 3 different types of bread (white, pretzel and whole nut), and a disc of butter that was half spread with fleur de sel, half with sugar maple syrup.  The sugar maple complemented the nutty bread beautifully.  It was such a tasty idea that I will definitely implement it at home.

     For my first course I went with a Spring classic - Navarin d’agneau.  The lamb was cooked to perfection, brown on the outside and very pink (almost raw, but I have no problem eating raw meat) on the inside.  It was surrounded by a velouté of avocado, sautéed and fresh vegetables and…delicious morels.  It was served at an ideal temperature and was filling without being heavy.

     For dessert, the friendly waitress suggested the maple crème brulée.  Once again, it did not disappoint.  The slight touch of maple flavor seemed to be ideally suited for the creamy nature of the dessert (a recipe to look into).

     As I said before, Le Cellier is an expensive restaurant, but one where one can find prime meat that is also cooked as it should be.  This is no easy accomplishment, since most of the restaurants I’ve eaten at locally offer dismal options.  In the fall, the menu offers delicacies like venison rack and a scrumptious charcuterie starter.  Reservations are highly recommended.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Aperitifs à la rosé

     Spring is the time of the year when we can finally venture outside and experience some warmth and sunny days.  I love this time of year here in Florida, when the days are bright and sunny, not too hot and inviting for barbecues and just lounging around with a great cocktail.

     I have become a great mixologist and love to craft cocktails at home.  So I have gotten my hands on a few bar supplies and a few great drink recipes and have followed through in typical French fashion.

     The French are very keen in starting a great meal with what they call an “àpero” (aperitif).  So much so, that there is even an actual drink by this name, which is generally served over ice.  “Apero” is bright orange in colour and has a sharp taste with an aniseed finish.  It is very refreshing and can sideline easily into a meal.

Apero on the rocks
      My favorite cocktail starter however is “Lillet Rosé”, which is a fortified wine blend of Sauvignon and Muscatel grapes.  It smells like flowers and ripe berries, hence making it perfect for a refreshing cocktail, full of flavor.  There are also Lillet Rouge and Blanche, but Rosé is my favorite.  I have created the most delicious cocktails with this àpero, all wonderful for this time of the year.

     The first suggestion is one I have seen in one of Martha Stewart’s magazines.  This is an ideal cocktail to serve at a semi-formal party, where your guests can wander in and out of your home and into a backyard or garden.  It packs a punch, so be sure you serve it with some nice appetizers.

Lillet Rosé Spring cocktail

·         2 ounces Lillet Rosé
·         2 ounces ruby red grapefruit juice
·         1 ounce gin
·         1 edible flower for garnish


      Combine the Lillet, grapefruit juice and gin in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake until well chilled.  Strain and pour into a champagne coupe and garnish with the flower.  Serve immediately.

    Now for those afternoons when you arrive from work exhausted and need a cool, refreshing drink to unwind, may I suggest my friend’s Daryl Robinson’s Sunset Rosé.  You can make it with any rosé wine made out of garnache grapes, but Lillet suits it particularly well.

Sunset Rosé


·         1 ounce Grand Marnier
·         4 ounces Lillet Rosé
·         Club soda, as needed
·         Dash of orange bitters
·         Orange twist, for garnish


                   In a fully iced wine glass pour the Grand Marnier and Lillet and stir with a cocktail spoon.  Top the glass with club soda and add a dash of orange bitters.  Garnish with an orange twist and serve.

    A drink I really do enjoy at the end of a long day is the ubiquitous Martini.  I was thrilled to try Lillet’s own suggestion to make it with the wonderful rosé.  Here is yet another refreshing recipe.

Rosé Reverse Martini


·         4 ounces Lillet Rosé
·         1 ounce gin
·         2 dashes orange bitters


      Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice.  Strain into a chilled martini glass.  Garnish with a freshly cut orange peel, rubbed over the top of the glass in order to express the oils.

So try your hand at mixing the French way this month and let me know how your party went.