Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Orleans Needs You

Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast (and the city of New Orleans.) The city is still coming back and is unarguably, the best food city in the US. If you can, go to New Orleans which still needs your support. While you're planning your trip (and to whet your appetite), try this recipe for Garlic Bread from the legendary Commander's Palace.

1 loaf French bread
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, mashed to a puree
1/4 c. finely chopped fresh dill
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice bread lengthwise. Melt butter in a small skillet, add garlic and heat gently for 2 minutes.

Brush the melted butter generously on the cut sides of the bread halves. Sprinkle with dill and cheese.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

The [Positive] Effects of Garlic Bread on Family Interactions

In a 2000 study titled Effects of Garlic Bread on Family Interactions, Dr. Alan Hirsch, neurological director of The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation reported that the smell of garlic bread enhanced positive family interaction by 68.4 percent, while the taste of it increased pleasant communication by a staggering 99.4 percent. If you’d like to test out this theory, here’s the official (finger-licking) recipe from the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Gourmet Alley Garlic Bread

1/2 c. butter and margarine
1/2 c. oil
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. oregano
1/2 c. white wine
3 T. parsley

Melt butter and margarine in pan. Add oil and garlic. Simmer over low heat for 1 minute. Add pepper, oregano, and wine. Bring to a boil. Add parsley. Remove immediately from heat and pour into baking pan. Cut loaves and half. Toast on grill or under broiler until golden brown. Dip toasted halves cut-side down in butter mixture. Serve immediately.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Garlic Deviation - Highgate Cemetery, London

Carolyn and I went to visit Highgate as I was writing a story on Haunted Cities for Delta Sky. As a former Russian Studies major, I paid my respect to Karl Marx, but this write-up of Dr. Yusuf Mohammed Dadoo caught my eye. The following is partial excerpt.

Doctor and political activist, "Doc" was a Muslim Indian born in South Africa ... His life-long commitment to communism overlay a complex amalgam of Muslim, Indian and African identities. He was buried according to Muslim rites just feet away from Karl Marx. Who knew that is was a Muslim custom to bury the dead just feet away from Karl Marx?

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Garlic Smuggling Pt. 2

Quickly raced through customs with my Moldovan Purple and Solent Wight garlics safely stashed in my luggage. (I packed them with shoes hoping to confuse the ruthless beagle, but fortunately, our paths didn't cross. (The Solent is the strait that separates the Isle of Wight from mainland England).

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In Search of Scones

London 09:00

I thought I would cap off my last morning in London with a scone. You'd think I was looking for blood diamonds. The last straw was when I stopped in an Italian bakery (they sold croissants so they weren't purists) and the owner asked me "Scone ... what is this?" A woman in the shop told him it was "Very English ... often taken with tea." Alas, no scone for me.

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My Life

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Garlic Farm - Isle of Wight

Colin Boswell, above, is the owner of The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight. Colin is a true and passionate garlic hunter, traveling through Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Turkey in search of "The Mother of All Garlic." I met him at the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival and while there's much more to write about and learn from him, for now, let me just say that he gave me some of his prized Purple Moldovan Garlic (a special treat for me as my father's family emigrated from Moldova and the so called "unhappiest country on earth" is a major obsession of mine). Fingers crossed that I can smuggle it past my arch nemesis, the notorious beagle brigade at JFK.

The recipe below is from The Garlic Farm Cookbook, edited by his daughter Natasha. The self-published book is gorgeous and informative ... and this recipe is divine. Look for a perfect fall recipe in an upcoming post.

Aubergine, Courgette and Halloumi Stack
(or as we in America would say, Eggplant, Zucchini and Halloumi Stack)

1 large aubergine, thinly sliced lengthways
2 courgettes, slices lengthways
200 g (1 cup) halloumi cheese
5 garlic cloves
Good handful of fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, mint, thyme, oregano)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F). In a roasting tray, start by paying a couple of aubergine strips to make the base of the stack. Drizzle olive oil, crush over one clove of garlic, spread, then sprinkle over herbs, salt and pepper. (Don't add too much salt as the halloumi is quite salty.) Make the next layer from a few courgette strips, again, drizzling over olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper. The next layer is halloumi in thin strips. Continue to stack until you have used all the vegetables -- finish with a layer of halloumi drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and replace in the oven until the cheese has turned golden brown.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Isle of Wight

Carolyn and I arrived on the Isle of Wight, a scant 2 1/2 hours from London if you don't miss the ferry, which we did. Fortunately, that gave us some time to explore the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and learn about The Mary Rose, a Tudor ship that went down in 1545. The ship was rediscovered in the 70s and was raised in 1982. The ship is being restored and will be open to the public again in 2012.

We checked into the Winterbourne Country House, a grand stone mansion overlooking the water where Charles Dickens wrote much of David Copperfield. Dickens declared it "the prettiest place I ever stayed in my life at home or abroad." Owner Andrew Eckert is the gracious owner and host. The house isn't posh, but it perfectly exemplifies gemütlichkeit, the German term for a friendly coziness.

For dinner, we tried out The Pond Cafe, a short stroll through the impossibly lush and serene town of Bonchurch. The cafe is the brainchild of Robert Thompson, the Isle of Wight's esteemed Michelin-starred chef who owns and runs The Hambrough, in nearby Ventnor. The cafe is a tiny boite with seven tables inside and, if weather permits, four outside. The food, prepared by Thompson's protege James Newhan is sublime. Homemade linguine with crab, chili, and zucchini was that rare, but perfect combination of simplicity and flavor.

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Lautrec Pink Garlic Soup - The Verdict

He likes it. The recipe is brilliant. Simple, light, and fabulous! (And since Simon is battling a cold, he's thrilled there are leftovers.)

Packing for the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival. Heading over in a few hours.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Garlic Deviation - Random Ridiculous Picture

Okay, it probably won't make anyone feel better when they hear that this is a bar in Germany. In all fairness, it's a bar in Dessau named in honor of Professor Hugo Junkers, founder of Junkers Flugzeugwerke, a German airplane manufacturer. JU was the aeronautical abbreviation for Junkers. As my friend Joan said when she saw the sign, "Won't they ever leave us alone?"

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Pink Garlic in the UK

La Fromagerie, one of the world's great cheese shops and a wonderful place to stop for a bite to eat in London, has pink garlic for sale. I bought some so tomorrow night, I'm going to try out my Pink Garlic Soup of Lautrec and Simon and Carolyn. If its not good, Carolyn will be polite and Simon will be ruthless.

For lunch, Carolyn and I shared a savory cheddar leek tart, an assortment of French cheeses with fresh figs and a glass of the lush house rose. Life is good.

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A Modest (Serbian) Proposal

Momo Kapor, a Serbian journalist, sort of the Serbian Art Buchwald, writes, "I have never understood why garlic bears the odium of stink and that a man giving off the odor is thought rude! In my view, this is just a matter of convention. Why, for instance, would menthol have a nice smell and garlic, which grows so near to us, smell foul! If we were to agree that it is a pleasant and refined scent (perhaps, by way of holding a nation-wide referendum), we would even be in a position to make even perfumes from garlic, which would at the same time, do away with all manner of diseases, not to mention magic spells, something that highly over-priced perfumes of today are utterly incapable of doing. If lovers agree to eat garlic in the evening, they will have no problems with smell, because the two will neutralize each other. If those who find it offensive do not eat any garlic - they have only themselves to blame!" Serbian Garlic Perfume...hmmm.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More Marvelous Montenegro

Another deviation from garlic. I toured the magnificent Bay of Kotor and the gem-like village of Perast about an hour from Budva and two hours from Dubrovnik.

As I hope the picture above (of Perast) shows, it is truly spectacular. (Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones have a house there.) And there are rumors that Pamela Anderson purchased a former military hospital and plans to turn it into a wellness spa of some sort. Those are not the reasons to go but it just shows that people who can afford to buy anywhere are buying in Montenegro.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Garlic in Montenegro

It turns out that oil loaded up with garlic and fresh herbs is the traditional accompaniment to bread at all of the restaurants here. The best was at Porto, overlooking the marina.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Marvelous Montenegro

The fortified city of Budva is like a tiny Dubrovnik. When I sat down to dinner, the waiter brought me bread and a dish filled with olive oil, tons of freshly chopped garlic and herbs. Cool. The pebbly Adriatic beach is surrounded by rocky outposts and brilliant blue water; the city is back by black mountains. (Thus the name Monte Negro -- from the Latin; its called Crno Gora in the local dialect.)

Budva is filled with lots of tarty girls in scant clothing posing tartily. The boys seem suitably appreciative. During dinner, a live guitarist sang and played: Stranger in the Night in Montenegrin, and Abba's Fernando in heavily accented English -- kind of like the original, only different.

At night, I returned to my apartment in the center of the old city (Stari Grad). The 100 square meter, 2 BR apartment has a private patio overlooking the beach. I love it here!

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Montenegro Airlines

The airline only pays for two people to check in over 100 passengers so it takes over two hours to check in and the flight is delayed. Once I check in and start through security, a guard decides that my bag is too big and I have to go back to the ticket counter and re-check. On board, we're assaulted by folk Balkan Muzak. We're served a sandwich that's an insult to the Earl -- a squishy roll filled with a piece of beef and a piece of cheese. Midway through the flight, a baby starts crying at such a high pitch, I swear I see dogs jumping up at the plane. This is not a promising start.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

La Reserve, Albi

Okay, this is off the garlic trail but a good stop after the Lautrec Garlic Festival

Albi, France was just added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites and it couldn't be more deserved. The stunning brick city is dominated by a cathedral that rivals Chartres. Albi's money came from woad, a dye plant that yielded a beautiful blue pastel. Thanks to this plant, Albi was enormously wealthy at the end of the 15th century. The cathedral's ceilings are decorated by lush blue frescoes. There's an exquisite museum devoted to local son, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec next door to the cathedral.

La Reserve is a Relais & Cheateau hotel on the outskirts of town overlooking the Tarn river. Its run by Helene Hijosa-Rieux, whose brother runs the Hotel Saint Antoine in town. Helene is an absolute delight -- and if she has time, she's been known to give guests a personal tour of her beloved city.

The rooms run the gamut. One is a groovy Austin Powers hideaway; next door might be a lovely country French room with lovely blue or yellow toile; mine was a bit dowdy but the view and the patio made up for any shortcomings. The round bar and terrace are wonderful places to enjoy a glass of local Gaillac wine. (The area is one of France's oldest wine-producing regions and is best known for its rustic reds but I loved the light rose).

The new chef did admirably with smoked salmon with wasabi cream and angler fish accompanied by luscious mashed potatoes. But the killer was the soft chocolate cake with morello cherries accompanied by a sea-salt carmel ice cream. Top ten desserts of my life.

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Pink Garlic Festival in Lautrec

Lautrec is a small, beautiful town famous for its delicate rose garlic. It holds a garlic festival on the first Friday in August. Somewhat poetically, you park on a harvested garlic field. The event kicks off with a parade by the Brotherhood of the Garlic, clad in medieval-ish garb and carrying a flag. They are accompanied by Brotherhoods of everything from Bordeaux wine to carrots. There's an art competition that was won by an awesome air balloon crafted out of garlic skin.

The highlight of the festivall is the free garlic soup. (Picture Above. Recipe below). It looks like water after you've cleaned white paint off a paint brush but don't let that deter you. It is fabulous. Soft garlic flavor in a light broth with vermicelli. Served with rose wine. I met two members of the brotherhood who said I could become a member if the book is successful. I never dreamed of parading through a little French town in a medieval robe, but now I do. Viva la France!

This is the official recipe. When I get home, I'll convert from metric and measure out oil, salt and pepper.

Lautrec's Pink Garlic Soup

For 4 people: 2 liters of water, 10 cloves of Lautrec Pink Garlic, 1 teaspoon of mustard, 1 egg, oil, 150g. of vermicelli, salt and pepper to taste

Pour the water into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the crushed pink garlic and the egg white. Add salt and pepper and mix. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the vermicelli and cook for 3 minutes more. Prepare a mayonnaise with the egg yolk, pepper, salt, mustard and oil. Dilute it with a ladle of warm stock and incorporate it delicately into your soup.

Bon Appetit!

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Thursday, August 5, 2010


Coming Soon to a shopping mall in Hong Kong!

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