VRAI Magazine’s First Anniversary

vrai magazine anniversary

Happy Anniversary, VRAI!

It’s been a privilege to work with a group of such talented and dedicated writers, bloggers, editors, and creators.

After a year of hard work, now comes the best part – finding a fun way to celebrate.

Head on over to VRAI to read about my Top Five places for a very special occasion in NYC, each offering something completely different to help you mark an anniversary, birthday or an everyday accomplishment.

{p.s.} And make sure to enter all of the celebratory giveaways – mine is a $50 Whole Foods gift card to help you get inspired and start cooking with all the wonderful spring ingredients! Enter through the form below or over on the VRAI site.

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In celebration of the VRAI Magazine Anniversary, here’s your chance to win a $50 Whole Foods Gift Card.

To enter, use the Rafflecopter form: HERE This giveaway is open to all legal residents of the US , Canada and the UK and you must be 18 years of age or older. For all the ways to enter and for the Terms & Conditions, please see the Rafflecopter form.

Ramps and Fried Eggs

IMG_2194 The sight of sunshine streaming through my window means that we’re ready to welcome spring and make ramps & eggs, my favorite most un-recipe recipe ever.

Okay, you get to make salsa verde but that’s the only step-by-step part of this dish, which is a marriage of my two global favorites – green shakshouka and baghali ghatogh. You can add potatoes or gigante beans to the eggs, if you’d like, for some extra substance for the zingy sauce.

Love this for a spring weekend brunch! Let the ingredients shine and say hello to warm weather and freshly grown and picked ingredients – some of my favorite parts of this time of year.

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Fried eggs and grilled ramps

You’ll need:

  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1 bunch ramps, washed and dried well
  • salsa verde (recipe used here)
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • optional: boiled new potatoes or cooked gigante beans

1. Make the salsa verde first, using your food processor.

2. Heat a large pan and grill the ramps – with no oil – on medium-low heat.

3. Add a little bit of olive oil into the pan and break the eggs in one by one. Season with salt and a fresh pepper.

4. Spoon in salsa verde into the eggs and lower heat slightly. Add in the potatoes or beans here, if you’re going to use them. Let the sauce cook down a little bit, taste for salt.

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Serve immediately with some crusty bread and strong coffee (or maybe that’s just me this morning!).

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Coffee cake with Crown Maple and bacon

coffee cake with maple bacon

I am an avid cake eater, as we know, yet not a lover of baking complicated cakes that take you all day to prepare. Because, well, they disappear much faster than that, don’t they?

This coffee – as in, made with actual coffee – cake is still stunning and special but also deliciously easy.

Use your favorite bundt pan for this cake – the nooks and crannies are wonderful for catching all the bits of the maple glaze. Pour liberally - the more dark amber syrup, the better. I used Crown Maple, my favorite, from Maldava Farms right here in New York.

We are sort of a little past the trend of “bacon on everything!“* though I am not quite sure why… you can never have enough of it, and the addition of savory flavor gives this coffee cake that little bit extra and lifts it to being acceptable for breakfast, which is something I think we can all celebrate.

p.s. {if you agree, please, vote for this recipe this month on the Crown Maple website and social media!}

Note: *if you do not eat bacon, it is easy to omit from the recipe. You can substitute in toasted pecans as a topping or even use both.

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Coffee cake with maple and bacon

You’ll need:

  • 100 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cups raw sugar (you can substitute in 1/2 cup maple sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 2/3 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 T ground coffee (dissolved in 1 T of hot water)
  • Crown Maple Dark Amber syrup
  • crispy fried uncured maple smoked bacon, diced

1. Preheat oven to 325F.

2. Cool the melted butter slightly. Strain the coffee through a filter, cheesecloth or just a paper towel.

Whisk together all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl.

3. Grease your bundt pan well and pour in the batter (it will be thick). Shake the pan a bit to spread the batter out evenly.

4. Bake for  45-50 minutes until the cake is set and baked through in the middle. It will be very airy.

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Let cool – about two-thirds of the way – before inverting (use this time to cook the bacon!)

Using a pastry brush, glaze the still warm cake with plenty of maple syrup and top with crispy bacon.

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Japan travel {part two}

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It’s always difficult coming back to regularly scheduled life programming after a trip, but real life seems particularly hard after two weeks in Japan.

For one, full-bloom spring is still quite far away here in New York, and there is not even a whiff of cherry blossoms in the air.

Everything seems excessively loud and even a little abrasive compared to the soft-spoken nature of the Japanese so, that is also an adjustment.

I am no longer having fish for breakfast – that part is actually pretty okay by now – and my soup bowls no longer contain intricate engravings or pickled sakura flowers.

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I’m glad to be back in my own bed after these weeks on the road that took us a little bit all over the place, but I do miss the geranium pillows.

We finished strong with kimono silk painting, chopstick gold leaf plating, and mochi making at the Murakami candy factory in crafty Kanazawa.

I found everything about Japanese culture absolutely fascinating and appreciated how it made me re-focus on the beauty of simplicity.

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Tips for travel in Japan & what I got right/wrong:

  • It’s true that almost no one outside of large hotel staff speaks English – come prepared with essential Japanese phrases, it’s always appreciated!
  • Although we enjoyed some exquisite kaiseki meals, the best food I had was at a simple izakaya (pub).
  • Stay at a ryokan, at least for a few nights, and embrace the entire experience.
  • The concerns I had read about – phones not working, not enough wifi, limited ATM access – were all pretty much unfounded.
  • Train travel in Japan is a point of pride and a true pleasure. It makes a busy itinerary more than doable. Plus, train stations are a treasure trove of local products.
  • Staying at a Buddhist temple is not for everyone but I recommend it as a truly unique experience – from the vegan meals to the early morning service/meditation with the monks.
  • My favorites parts of  ‘sightseeing’ were the activities: ikebana class, sushi making, our candy factory internship, kimono painting, chopstick plating etc. It’s really one of the best ways to familiarize yourself with a culture.

And yes, I am eager to see Japan covered in fall foliage but, boy, those cherry blossoms… you must see it in spring, at least once – it’s full of magical moments. So grateful for the chance to capture them.

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Postcard from Japan {in progress..}

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I feel so desperately behind on life, but wanted to stop by and wish a Happy Easter and Passover to you, if you are celebrating, and say thank you for all the kind comments.

Leaving for Koyasan tomorrow, having gone to Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima, and feeling so grateful and a little overwhelmed by all the new impressions and experiences that abound.

I want to write a much longer post about all of the things that were and were not as I thought or was told they would be & about all of the many wonderful surprises that we have encountered along the way. 

But… in short just for now, the beauty of the cherry blossoms on a sunny or a rainy day is beyond anything I could have imagined.

As ever, much, much more over on instagram.

How to throw a perfect dinner party {part 1}

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I am excited to kick off part one of the perfect dinner party series!

A perfect dinner party is not too big and not too small, runs pretty seamlessly and allows you plenty of time to have a great time yourself.

I simply love to entertain, bring people together, feed them (!), and make lasting memories and connections.

This series will include three parts: the preparation before the party, cocktails & basic decor; cooking and serving the party itself; and dessert & post-party rituals.

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Invitations

The worst thing about modern city life is how incredibly busy everyone gets and how quickly schedules fill up. So, whether you are doing so by mail or email, I think it is best to send out invites at least ten days ahead of time.

That will also give you enough time to plan how much food and drink you will need to buy and prepare.

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I have to admit that I am partial to the hand-written invite, but it’s so easy to print invitations these days too and make them look extra special.

Drinks & cocktails

People tend to bring a bottle of wine for the host or hostess, which is wonderful, but do give them some guidance on what to bring, if they ask, whether it’s simply your favorite or something that will pair deliciously well with the meal.

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It’s also nice to be ready to greet your guests with a signature cocktail to kick off proceedings while everyone catches up or gets to know each other (this all happening while you may also be putting some finishing touches on things in the kitchen).

Here is one of my favorites – a classic bellini with a little rose twist.

{and how perfect are these cocktail napkins with the bellini recipe on them! A unique little touch that your guests will remember. I used Tiny Prints to make mine.}

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Provide some simple snacks as well. Pitted (!) mixed olives, crackers, and sweet & salty cocktail nuts with herbes de provence are easy crowd pleasers.

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Decor

Seasonal, fresh flowers are an absolute weakness of mine. They spruce up any room and any occasion.

Arrange them simply, paired with edible plants or berries to match elegant glass and table settings.

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Stay tuned for the meal… part two coming up soon!

{Dining in NYC}: Cosme & the Mexican revival

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I am off to Japan, as you’re reading this – so excited! – but click on over to my story in VRAI Magazine, live today, about Cosme, the restaurant burning up NYC reviews and the larger trend in upscale Mexican cuisine.

I’m happy to say that I will be writing for VRAI more often, covering various culinary happenings in New York.

I leave you in the capable hands of WordPress scheduled posts for next week and Instagram, as ever, to follow along on our adventures in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nara, Hakone, Kanazawa… and everywhere else.

Pink grapefruit curd

pink grapefruit curd

Mornings can be bracing. Here’s a way to make them zesty with citrus and a little indulgent too.

Two things you need to know:

1. I love grapefruit (grapefruit spoons are pretty revolutionary).

2. I am not a morning person. It’s an incredibly productive part of my day because it needs to be, but it’s rarely welcome.

But add this grapefruit curd to some cake and strong coffee and you’ll get me excited to start off the day.

I first developed a taste for lemon and lime curd while I was living in London – it was just the perfect treat at teatime. As a result, one of the first things I posted on s&h back in the day was a super quick lemon curd recipe.

This recipe uses a double boiler but is not much more complicated than that. You can make it in the morning, let it cool, and enjoy it come goûter time.

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Pink grapefruit curd

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice
  • 2 1/2 T butter, softened
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1gg yolk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 t lemon juice

1. Bring the juice to a simmer on medium heat and let reduce by about half. Strain and let cool.

2. Cream the butter with the sugar in a stainless steel bowl – use the bowl of your stand mixer, for example – that will later become part of your double boiler. Add in the remaining ingredients, including the cooled juice, and whisk to combine.

3. Bring a pot of water, about 1/3 of the way full, come to a boil. Place the curd bowl on top of the pot and cook, stirring often, for about ten minutes until thickened. The curd will coat the bowl and the spoon or spatula that you’re using.

Take off of heat. As it cools, it will thicken and set some more.

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Serve with cake, toast, yogurt… the options are endless!

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{postcard from France..} happy days with baguettes

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When you get the perfect baguette everything is right with the world. Baguette means stick or wand in French and it can, indeed, perform magic.

I may be guilty of biting off a crisp corner on the way home, almost always.

Ever since I was a kid, inhaling the warm, yeasty smell of fresh bread helped to envelop me in a feeling of comfort and home. I am sure it is that way for many people.

My travel in the South of France is up, for now, but, as ever, it has helped me recalibrate a bit.

New discoveries included freshly picked Eze lemons, fluffy ponies at the flea market, and the cutest lunch cafe (practically, in somebody’s living room) in La Colle Sur Loup.  I’ll let you in on a secret – it’s aptly called Comme à la maison.

p.s. {A sneak peak at that lunch & lots more from my travels and impressions over on instagram}

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Artichoke and goat cheese salad {artichauts au chèvre chaud}

Artichoke goat cheese salad

Hope – particularly, for spring itself – springs eternal.

I can sense it in the cool air, the tight flower buds, and the verdant watercress.

The past month has been challenging on many fronts but new seasons also offer new beginnings, and I am content to meet the newness of spring in France with a renewed emphasis on savoring the simple things.

So take a moment, give yourself a little coffee break, stop playing catch-up with the to-do list in your head.. And lunch will be ready before you know it!

Artichoke and goat cheese salad 

You’ll need:

  • baby arugula (rocket)
  • 6-8 artichoke hearts, steamed (high quality canned is okay here too)
  • 1/2 cup mild goat cheese (or the same amount of crottin rounds as artichokes)
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • herbes de Provence
  • pine nuts, toasted
  • salt, white pepper

1. Wash and dry the arugula well and dress simply with olive oil. Toss with a little lemon juice and toasted pine nuts.

2. Place a crottin round or slice a piece of goat cheese and place inside each artichoke heart. Top lightly with herbs and broil until the cheese is just melted.

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3. Top salad with artichokes and goat cheese and season well before serving.

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As most things, best enjoyed al fresco.