So many stories.
First, here’s my first crisp of the season, made during the last week of August: peach, nectarine, pluot blackberry crisp. Blackberries from the thorny bushes in the alley, the other fruits from my recently re-instated CSA, Full Circle Farms. I used Ina Garten’s recipe, which included both orange juice and lemon juice, and zests from both. And the cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon were baked with the fruit instead of the oatmeal crumble topping. Good and tart, with layers of spice and fruit gel then a soft crunch into buttery oatmeal cookie crumbs. So good.
Oh, and then there were two months when I worked at Fran’s Chocolates. Yep, that’s me, grinning like a choco-maniac as I shift salted caramels at the fabulous boutique located in the foyer of the Four Seasons Hotel and across the street from the Seattle Art Museum.
From May 9th to July 8th I had the privilege of handing out samples and putting together boxes of some of the finest chocolates I’ve ever tasted. And I especially liked it when I was asked to make the hot chocolate base (which involves lots of steamed milk and chocolate shavings and going to town on ‘em with an industrial immersion blender) because I’d sneak a little cup for myself as a reward. I now know how to tie a mean ribbon from all the boxes I tied up during shifts. And after sampling everything in the shop, my favorites are 3: milk chocolate covered caramel dappled with smoked salt (a bestseller even before Obama admitted he favored them), espresso truffle: milk chocolate-covered espresso-infused dark chocolate ganache . . . a staff favorite and an unsung hero, if you ask me . . . I admittedly did my darndest trying to convince dark chocolate purists that the milk chocolate balanced with the espresso perfectly. And finally a classic, Fran’s Pure Dark truffle, because I am a dark chocolate lover above all, even if my 3 favorites wouldn’t seem to suggest that. Aside from the wonderful people I was lucky to work with, dear Pure Dark truffle, I miss you most of all. I can stop by and order up some, of course, but it’s not quite the same as going to work and having them just there for the sampling.
Then there was the time this summer when I torched my 1st burnt creams, or as they’re better known, crème brûlées. I tried turbinado sugar, thinking it would create a thicker crunch with a more molassesey taste. Unfortunately, it took longer to melt the sugar down, resulting in some burning. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but my next attempt with regular cane sugar had a more successful sugar shell*.
*the best part is that I smuggled half of this batch (not shown) across the border into Canada, along with my kitchen torch, so that I could present my boyfriend’s mom with her favorite dessert, when we vacationed together there. My boyfriend likes to tell this story to illustrate my relentless eccentricity to others. Heh.
The recipe, btw, is FABULOUS.
For my birthday (July 26th, since you asked), my boyfriend gave me this book:
He was honest that he had bought it as much for himself as for me, and since, in the months hence a corner of the living room has been set up to collect the growing collection of rye, whiskey, bourbon, rum, vermouth (3 different kinds, of course), gin, and an assortment of classic bitters, I have no complaints. When a mutual girlfriend of ours loaded us up with a load of apples, I slyly hinted that I’d already made a crisp recently and what did he think about turning all those apples into his first batch of homemade bitters . . . . well, now the table is overflowing with tiny brown paper bags filled with barks and powders and god knows what else, since my boyfriend wisely picks up on my best hints. So deep into fall we should be ready to try our first batch. Full disclosure: I can’t wait!
And then of course, the biggest news is that I began working at Sur La Table corporate, joining a writing team of four. September 11th is the 2 month anniversary of when Nat and I began writing for Sur La Table. This, by the way, is our first joint writing project, the Birthday Card for the Leadership Conference.
The great advantage of having a job as this is that I get to combine my love of writing with my love of all things related to the kitchen . . . a dream job. The disadvantage is that because I am constantly thinking about food and thinking about preparing food at work, I am almost continuously hungry or convinced that I’m hungry. Since I’ve never experienced such a continuous sensation, I sometimes find it unnerving. As with so many things, I suppose I’ll eventually adjust (hopefully not my waist size).
My regular project is creating new descriptions for cooking classes every month and dreaming up clever titles. I write headlines and occasional copy for print catalogs. I write descriptions for products that appear on the website. And then there are other ongoing projects. My favorite so far was developing an espresso menu for the retail stores that is being printed on a large display to hold the Jura Giga 5 Home Café. Writing about espresso drinks made me nostalgic for my barista days back in college, over 12 years ago.
Another effect of working in this industry has a way of knocking one’s sense of seasons completely off schedule. I’ve been writing this blog in mid-September, but at work I’ve been writing about Christmas cookies and candies. Who knows, maybe this effect will have the benefit of helping me finally get ahead of the curve on planning out Christmas gifts.
Finally, I’ll mention the book I just finished reading.
My boyfriend laughed over the title, and I had no particular interest in Paris when I picked it up. But Mr. Lebovitz wrote “The Perfect Scoop,” which I’ve mentioned on this blog a number of times because it transformed me from being just a baker into someone who can deftly whip up ice cream, too. And while TSLIP should not be considered a guide book per se, it is a helpful primer on the people and customs surrounding the ordering of food at markets and restaurants, and it’s filled with all sorts of recipes I can’t wait to try. And the writing was so charming that I’m debating on sending David a marriage proposal.
I’m very much looking forward to the fall . . . and apple bitters.