Then there was our three-day road trip to Napa. We knew we needed to make the most of our time since we had no idea when we’d ever be back — this is always our excuse for gorging ourselves — so we planned to get in as many meals as our stomachs would allow.
We left Portland at 5 am on a Friday morning on a mission to drive nearly non-stop to San Francisco. I say nearly because we made a pit stop in Redding for my very first In-N-Out burger. Hours later, we suffered through an excruciatingly good meal at Incanto, followed by a two-course brunch at SPQR the following morning.
From there we went to Yountville where we pillaged the paté case at the Fatted Calf, a lovely charcuterie shop, before venturing on to our hours-long dinner at the French Laundry. The very next morning we hit up Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc for brunch, stopped at the Bouchon bakery for sweet treats and then started our 10-hour drive back home.
Locket my Mormor (maternal grandmother in Swedish) gave me when I turned 16.
Happiness should be the one thing always present during the holiday season — after all how times do you hear the word ‘joy’ uttered in December?
Unfortunately, it’s not always effortless to be happy this time of year — there’s so much to do, so much stress and so many expectations that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. My job is particularly crazy in the winter. If people seem neurotic about their Thanksgiving dinner, imagine being responsible for the meat for hundreds of Christmas Eve and New Years Eve dinners. Some of the chefs I know could out-diva Mariah Carey and her requests for rooms full of white kittens.
So this year my co-workers and I came up with a brilliant idea — a happiness advent calendar. Each day one participant brings a small gift to the other 14 participants. It’s been awesome. I’ve come into work every morning to find treats on my desk, amongst them a peppermint Rice Krispie treat, a seasonal beer and a camel turd. There was a platter of apple slices with a jar of caramel sauce, a homemade lollipop and even a taco bar.
Peppermint Krispie Treat & Hot Cocoa
Let me tell you — it’s a mood lifter that I desperately needed this year, as my grandmother, one of the people I was closest to my whole life, passed away on Dec. 3rd, just nine days before her 96th birthday.
The second installment of “A Very Thomas Keller Thanksgiving”
Our dinner at the French Laundry wasn’t the first dining experience my husband and I had at a Thomas Keller restaurant.
We hadn’t been married more than a year when we spent a spontaneous three-day weekend in Vegas. The trip was a blast — we saw a Cirque du Soleil show, had a fancy dinner at Mario Batali’s B&B Ristorante and even took a rather hilarious gondola ride through the Venetian hotel. You’ll notice the one thing we didn’t do — gamble.
Neither of us is really into casinos and the only chips we put down were the two free ones we got from the front desk when we checked in. The trip — like our lives — focused on food, ending in a fantastically elegant meal at Bouchon a few hours before we left town.
A Very Thomas Keller Thanksgiving, Course 1: Oysters and Pearls, French Laundry Cookbook
My husband and I like to make lists.
But instead of “things to do” or “places to go,” most of our lists revolve around food that we’ve already eaten. One list is the fullest we’ve ever been. For me, hands down, the winner is after our meal at the (now defunct) Incanto in San Francisco. I was so stuffed I almost cried when the kitchen sent us a complimentary dessert and champagne at the end of the meal. It felt more like a punishment than a gift.
We also talk about the longest meals we’ve had (the Herb Farm is definitely up there – so much food!) and, of course, the best things we have eaten. This list is constantly changing but for both of us the ultimate winner is the same — the Oysters & Pearls from our dinner at the French Laundry back in 2011.
This is one of Chef Thomas Keller’s most iconic dishes. The base is a custard made with small pearl tapioca, cream and oyster trimmings. The mixture is baked in individual ramekins and then topped with a gently poached fresh oyster, a silky butter sauce, a scoopful of caviar and a dusting of chives.
Kitties are my weakness — maybe even more so than beer and foie gras. At house parties I am the person on the floor making friends with the host’s cats. In my neighborhood, I’m the house that stray cats flock to, knowing they will get food and pets (if they allow it).
When I started this blog, I had three cats each of whom got their own introductory post. I lost the oldest one, Friday, a few months later. Since then I’ve had only two, tuxedos Lucifer and Gus Gus, both strays that my husband and I took in after finding them on the streets. Even though they are years apart in age, they have clearly come to love each other like brothers.
Gus Gus giving Lucifer a bath.
While I adore my “gruesome twosome,” I admit over the past few months I have been dreaming of kittens. I’ve put off seriously looking to adopt because I guess in my heart I believe taking in a stray is the best thing to do. I also believe (since they’ve always managed to before) that the right stray will find me.
And — almost like magic — two days before Thanksgiving an abandoned kitten needing a home practically dropped in my lap. Well, literally, she was dropped at my company’s farm out in rural Oregon. I won’t spend much time talking about how callous a person must be to dump two kittens barely a month old in a box in the middle of winter…I’ll focus on the good part.
The kitten and her adorable brother, both deemed healthy by a vet, were brought to the office and immediately cuddled and fawned over by the whole staff. I laid claim to the girl kitty, a teeny tiny tortoiseshell, who the vet said weighed just over a pound. Her brother was taken home by one of my co-workers so the story really is a happy one.
While some people get excited every fall for the debut of the heralded Pumpkin Spice Latte, I am the girl patiently waiting for the inevitable return of the peppermint mocha. While I know it’s available year-round, for me this minty treat is best savored slowly while strolling down a street in the winter, checking out Christmas lights and window shopping.
Most of the year I drink straight-up black coffee so when December rolls around my first sip of the peppermint mocha is pure chocolatey, sugary bliss. This year I decided to take that deliciousness and turn it into a Jello shot.
Because, well, why not?
I’ll admit I was a little concerned about the basic idea of gelatinous chocolate, or gelatinous coffee for that matter. Usually when I think Jello, I think fruit so this was a bit of a stretch for me.
After doing some Google researched, I made my first batch using coffee, hot cocoa mix, a blend of alcohol and a touch of coffee syrup (have you tried this stuff? It’s like crack!).