What Makes You Think That Is French?

I’m going to Provence and Paris soon.

We’re scheduled to go to this flower market. Beautiful.

One of the things that I’m going to be looking for is whether or not or not our Americanized vision of shabby chic French is actually something French people do in their decorating.

I’m not so sure.

I’ve only been to France once, and I’ve only been to Paris and Normandy. I’ve seen beautiful cotton lace, I’ve seen lovely textiles, and I’ve seen well-worn finishes on furniture. I’ve also seen classically elegant rooms like this one.

What I’m not sure about is all of the things I see on American blogs using layered laces and trims, chippy paint, and white, white, white. I’m pretty sure that there is more to French decorating than that.

I feel as though I’m going out on a very thin limb here, and maybe I’ll fall off with a big thud. Or maybe not.

I’m eager to find out what people are buying in Provence and Paris and I hope to post photos for you to see.

Or do we care?

My mother-in-law did, and as a result, my house is full of beautiful Provencal furniture and dishes from France. And none of them is painted white or is chippy.

I can’t wait to find out. That is one of the reasons for travel — to find out what one does not know.

Are you with me on this?

Happy Easter!

I’m thinking of my parents this morning — they created many special Easters for my brothers and me.

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I’m pretty sure that my mom made that beautiful dress for me, too.

But it wasn’t Easter without going to church and singing Christ the Lord is Risen Today. In our family, Jesus was the reason for the season, even if we did love the pagan trappings of the Easter Bunny.

Here’s a blast from my past that has been part of my Easter celebrations for almost all of my life. It’s also not Easter if Peter Cottontail’s song isn’t cranked out of my treasured Easter music box.

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IMG_7479Sometimes an oldie is still a goodie — when it comes to our religious celebrations as well as our secular ones. Enjoy your day — whatever you are celebrating.

Bookin’ and Cookin’: Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

It’s been a long time since I started reading a book that I just could not put down.

If you love food and love restaurants, you will really enjoy Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise. From glimpses of her start in the Berkeley food scene of the 1970s to leaving The New York Times to move to her position as Gourmet magazine’s Editor in Chief, Reichl spins a tale of great food, great friendships, and great fun.

I was hooked on page one as Reichl tells about meeting a waitress on an airplane bound for New York in the summer of 1993. She had just accepted the position as the restaurant critic for the New York Times and was making a scouting trip to look for schools for her son. The waitress sitting next to her told her that every major kitchen in NYC already had her photo pinned to the wall so that staff members would recognize her when she came into their restaurant. That was when she realized that she would need to develop disguises to go incognito when scoping out restaurants for potential reviews.

The book tells tales of visits to very famous restaurants that were on bullets lists for foodies and tourists during the 1990s — Tavern on the Green, Windows on the World, Daniel. She also tells of visiting not-so-famous restaurants in hopes of exposing the Times readers to great food and broadening their palate. She would visit a restaurant in disguise multiple times and with different groups of people, checking on service as well as food quality. Then she would go back for a final visit as “herself” to see if Ruth Reichl, the NYT restaurant critic, got bigger raspberries, a better table, more attentive service, and better cuts of meat than did her alter egos.

I loved the insider’s look at places I’ve dreamed of, read about, and in several cases, never got to see, such as Windows on the World, which perished along with America’s innocence and the World Trade Center in 2001. Ruth Reichl wrote about the restaurant, in this article from 2011.

There’s talk of a movie being made of the book, which I think could have some promise, but apparently they are having a hard time getting it made. Too bad — I’d watch the movie of this book if the movie is actually true to the book.

I encourage you to try some of the recipes that appear in the book — she was a working mother who cooked dinner for her family when she wasn’t going out to dinner at some fabulous restaurant — and she started her career in California as a chef. She has a number of recipes linked up on her website, as well.  I’m going to try the mussels, myself. I’ve never made it at home and Ruth’s recipe makes me think I can be successful.

I’ll let you know.

Ham and Pineapple Fried Rice

I’ve gone through some crazy days in the last couple of weeks and have fallen away from my cooking at home efforts. Too much take-out and too many restaurants — even if there were some really good restaurants, which I’ll link up later.

When I got my daily email from Once a Month Mom, I knew I was ready to cook again if it involved making this easy Ham and Pineapple Fried Rice.

Except that I didn’t have any ham. But I did have Sriracha sauce which I bought on impulse after a friend talked about it on Facebook. I didn’t even know what it was.

I substituted shrimp for the ham and added a big granny smith apple to give it even more fruit. We served it with three sauces on the side — peanut sauce (Music Man’s favorite), sriracha sauce, and sweet and sour sauce. The sriracha is quite spicy and the sweet and sour toned it down a little while still leaving some zing.

Easy, easy, and delicious. What’s not to love?

As for restaurants, we went to an opera dinner at Villagio, in Roselle, Illinois, and enjoyed both the music and the food. Then we discovered Mia Figlia, in Chicago’s Edgebrook neighborhood, which we’ve added to our take-everyone-from-out-of-town and in-town list of favorites. It was unpretentious and that good.

I encourage you to try OAMM’s Ham and Pineapple Fried Rice. Or shrimp. Or chicken. Or pork. Or with no meat at all. You will love it.

St. Patrick’s Day and Spring Bonanza

Nothing says St. Patrick’s Day like a touch of green, right?

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So nothing says St. Patrick’s Day better than 32 touches of green. That’s what I’m telling myself.

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We were having about 20 people over for book club and I wanted to table to just “whisper” St. Pat’s and not scream it. We’re not Irish and don’t really get into the celebrations here in Chicago, but there’s something to be said for a city that takes its melting pot of heritages seriously.

When I found these beautiful napkins at Tuesday Morning, I was thrilled — but there were only two packages of eight. Not enough for my party. I didn’t buy them, but the next day I found myself still wanting them. I buzzed out to the other Tuesday Morning a little farther from my house and they had two sets also. They also had some other wonderful beauties, but that’s a story for another day. I grabbed the two sets, scurried back to the original TM, praying that the other sets were still there, and found my holy grail of napkins. Thirty-two gorgeous green napkins for book club and parties beyond.

Of course there’s always a little fly in the ointment. After laundering, they needed to be pressed, but there’s something soothing about the rhythm of spraying and pressing linens.

P. S. If you were wondering why I’ve been slow to post over the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken on the responsibility of producing a musical at my church. It’s gonna be pretty time-consuming if the last weeks are any indicator. On the other hand, doing my tablescaping and taking the photos is a welcome escape.

P.P.S. For a view of some amazing St. Patrick’s Day decorating, click here to visit Cuisine Kathleen’s St. Patrick’s Day Blog Crawl.

Reblog from Quintessence: NY Botanical Garden Orchid Dinner

Yes, it’s getting old. Snow and more snow.

I encourage you to click into these two posts about the New York Botanical Garden Orchid Dinner. The place settings are awesome and just what we need if you are someplace where winter is still out in full force.

Click on the photo to go to Quintessence for more beautiful table settings!

Click on the photos to go to Quintessence for more beautiful table settings!

NYBG-Orchid-dinner-James-Rixner-for-Saint-Louis-PuiforcatHave a lovely day and enjoy whatever weather (or orchids) your day brings you.

Jennie