The theme was in honor of Les Saveurs du Palais – a very good French movie where the President Mitterand is sick and tired of the conventional, heavy preparation of the regular menu offered by the regular staff chef. President Mitterand requests a woman chef from Southern France to come to the Elysees Palace to cook the kind of meals he ate in the days of his grandmother. You can imagine the conflict between the old establishment, macho chef and the liberal, independent woman chef. You can imagine how thoroughly I loved it and jumped up and down.
I prepared a special dinner for the Alliance Française on Walnut Street. I thank the chef of the Palm restaurant for helping me with using his oven for baking my coulibiac. We were a small group of people who love good food and the French culture. The menu was pâté de foie with truffles served in between a thin sheet of chocolate. Then came salmon in puff pastry with duxelles of mushrooms with a dill sauce. My Saint Honoré dessert collapsed in the car as I hit the break too hard, so I had to create a new dessert of an essence of chocolate with lemon curd in a custard lemon cake. Actually, the new creation was better than the original.
Wednesday Sept. 17th: I catered a private cocktail party offering small, elegant bite-sized foods like shrimp ceviche, radish and beet goat cheese, chicken liver pâte, country pâte, spicy Morrocan sausage with harissa. Benjamin Franklin showed up half way through the party. He explained the history of the early days of Philadelphia looking from a top window in the historic district. Then Betsy Ross (I had a semi-disguise) flipped crêpe suzette, voila.
Once again, I was at the Cook on September 20th presenting a program of variations of chicken.
First came a country pâte.
Then a chicken with lobster bisque sauce following a chicken mole.
Then a vol au vent with chicken calvados cream sauce.
Dessert: crème brulée with raspberries and crème chantilly.
We cannot forget the cheese presentation offered by Stefanie from Milkhouse.
It was a pleasure listening to her and tasting her cheeses.
Visit of the Cosmopolitan Club with a speaker talking about Uzbekistan.
Tour of Henry Got Crops Farm and Crepes demonstration at the Cafe
Private Party with demonstration of brioche and chocolate mousse
A fabulous trip with a lot of work, very rewarding!!
I was a star (!!!) in St Petersburg, with interview for the city paper.
I made pate de foie with truffles and madeira, brioches, chocolate mousse and tajine of Chicken livers for a separate event at the Slow Food headquarter (we had too many chicken livers, so…)
In Nizhny Novgorod I was at a picnic for a big Fair. I made French omelette.
Then in a famous restaurant for two National Russian Television stations I made chocolate mousse and brioche.
In my favorite 3 star restaurant where I was a guest for all my meals, I made sauce calvados and sauce Armagnac. I helped the chef with some help on lobster bisque. They have delicious shrimp from Kamchatka.
To thank them for their tremendous generosity, I cooked a couscous for 12 people with all the garnishes of dates, figs, oranges, coriander and harissa and toasted almonds. I bought Grand Marnier for the hostess and champagne from Crimea, which is very good.
I stayed in a beautiful apartment where the lady who runs the restaurant that I love would pick me up to go to work in a coupe Mercedes!!! Not a bad situation. I am invited to go next year to Siberia not for the gulag… but for being a guest chef in a restaurant in Novosibisk.
Now I am in Suzdal, a famous historic town near Moscow, I am not cooking, I think. I may help the lady of the house with dinner Sautee salmon perch and puree. It is cold and raining I am sitting by the fire.
Last two weeks of July 2012
I had a friend who is a former waitress of mine from the old La Terrasse restaurant. She has a daughter, Emily Hartnett who has a farm called Terra Fata in Paonia; she raises goats, chicken, and sheep. I e-mailed her saying I would love to come cook a few meals, be lodged, and taste all the beautiful cheese and produce of this very rich valley. She directed me to a lady named Annie Ouray, who has a Culinary Retreat, who put me up in exchange for cooking a beautiful meal. (See the first menu)
She is a vegan, so I had to present two sets of menus- a vegan menu and a chicken menu. It was exciting and I learned new techniques. She could not share her kitchen the following week because she was very busy. I marched downtown Paonia already fully aware where I was heading to. It was the Bross Hotel, a beautiful historic landmark. I entered sweaty and out of breath and told the owner Linda that I was looking for a kitchen to cook a gourmet truffle dinner and could she share the kitchen with me. I mentioned I was from Philadelphia. She said she used to teach at Greene Street Friends and her children went to Plymouth Meeting Friends. I used to teach at Germantown Friends and I was involved in a Spanish program with the schools she mentioned. She said welcome to my kitchen! And that’s how I landed in the center of Paonia cooking a great gourmet truffle dinner. (See second menu)
I have to thank Elaine Brett for taking me around the organic farms and vineyards and helping me pick up all the vegetables, fruits, meat, etc for my gourmet meals. Elaine and Jim Brett are very active with the Slow Food movement and very devoted to the local farms (in truth, Jim is the acting head of the local Slow Food chapter).
There was an article about the dinners in the Delta County Independent:
With seven geese pricked over and over again to let the fat run out, we were very busy preparing the different stuffing and waiting anxiously to taste the one that was ready for our dinner.
Chef Michele had the students cook the beans, prepare the duck confit, sautee the lamb and sausages, chop onions and tomatoes for the sofrito, grind stale bread for bread crumbs, and finally assemble in layers the cassoulet. Of course, a cassoulet was already cooking in the oven so that we didn’t have to wait for the recently prepared one. And we all sat down with a glass of red Corbieres and were silent so much we enjoy our dish.