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June 2009


Chez Papa in San Francisco | Restaurant Review

lunch at chez papa on mint plaza in san francisco

This is a delicious French restaurant in San Francisco with a beautiful quiet terrace, set on a plaza not far from Blue Bottle Coffee. I am showing you the lunch we ate on the terrace of Chez Papa on Mint Plaza last Monday.

My Grilled Arctic Char with Fingerling Potatoes, Capers, Lemon and Brown Butter was excellent. Jerome, my husband took the Niçoise Salad. I almost regretted not taking it since it was one of the best Niçoise I tasted this side of the Atlantic. On the menu, it is described as a Seared Ahi Tuna Niçoise with Roasted Peppers, Haricots Vert, Artichokes, Arugula and Meyer Lemon served with quail eggs in a pesto sauce.

chez papa dessert of the day

The dessert of the day was equally delicious. We paired it with a French white wine.  After all, I needed to get the full experience of the restaurant to give you a proper review. I will definitely go back to Chez Papa.

+ Chez Papa
+ Follow Chez Papa on Twitter


Restaurants are Embracing Twitter to Reach their Customers

Boston restaurants on twitter

I told you on my other blog that Twitter can be an efficient marketing vehicle for businesses. One type of business that benefits well from the free marketing platform that Twitter provides are local restaurants.

What I like is that I decide which local stores and restaurants I want to follow on Twitter. This way, I can learn in advance what is on today’s menu and when they host special events.

Cheap and On the Spot Survey

The benefits for small businesses do not stop there. Twitter is great to survey the opinions of customers. You can directly ask questions. Or you can set up a Twitter poll in less than a minute. I recommend twtpoll.

Myers + Chang‘s chef and co-owner Joanne Chang used this method to validate a request from a customer. She tweeted: “Should cilantro be listed on menu item when it’s an ingredient?” Four hours later, she received enough answers to be convinced that plenty of customers would like to know which dish has cilantro in it. She went further and decided to give the option to have the dishes without cilantro.

Twitter allows businesses to quickly find information, features and services valued by their customers and to react accordingly. In a competitive market, it is an opportunity that small businesses cannot afford to miss.It costs almost nothing to tweet a few times a day. You can tweet with any smart phone. It does not require a computer or any technical knowledge. Your account can be up and running in less than a minute. Unlike a blog, it could take only a few minutes a day to maintain.

I now follow a few Boston restaurants and restaurant reviews accounts on Twitter. I will be in the know when I will go there next August. You could also explore the Alfresco dining options in Boston for some clues on where to eat.

+ Restaurants using Twitter for cheap, effective marketing by Devra J. First for The Boston Globe
+ Pictures: L’espalier on Twitter and Myers + Chang on Twitter


Honeycomb Toast and Tea Set by Jason Neufeld

toast and tea ceramic set by jason neufeld

Finding unique, outstanding gifts mostly assure you that you will be invited over and over. Plus, you avoid the awkward situations where you bring the same gift than another guest to an anniversary or a housewarming party. This is why I am always on the lookout for cool and original gift ideas.

Beware that the ceramic creations Brooklyn-based designer Jason Neufeld could generate some Awe! The one thing that grab my attention was the Toast and Tea Hexagon Set. Inspired by honeycomb, the plate provide a place for jam, jelly or honey. The best part is that the raised honeycomb pattern keeps condensation from your toasts. These are a nice alternative to the wood sandwich boards or the diy wood trays I introduced a few months ago.

I guess that you need to contact the designer by email to order them since they are no other information on his Web site. There no price information either.

+ Jason Neufeld


Better Cooking Start with Ingredients, Techniques and Cookware

juicy warm chicken with lemon couscous salad :: inspired by Donna Hay

The Warm Chicken with a lemon couscous salad recipe by Donna Hay is a dish I prepare twice a month at home. It is delicious and fast to make. For everyday entertaining, this dish nicely pairs with a Gentil Hugel or Les Jamelles Sauvignon blanc.

My husband sometimes cooked the chicken breasts on the BBQ but most of the time, I use a griddle pan on my gas cooktop. I tried several things but until now, my chicken was always a little dry. Not anymore! I did not change my technique. My success relies on two factors. Plus, I am proud that I cooked a juicier chicken without adding fat.

Using Another Type of Chicken

First, I used Halal chicken which is now available at my local grocery store. I switched since the week before, a foodie friend told me that she tried the Halal chicken for the first time. She thinks that it tastes much better. She is right. It will be Halal chicken on my kitchen from now on.

New Stoneline Cookware by Shopping Clodine

shopping clodine :: cookware and mezzaluna with bamboo cutting boards

Secondly, I used the Griddle Pan with 2 sprouts that I received for free from Shopping Clodine to test drive their products. Made in Germany, the pan is made of natural stone and die-cast aluminum. You need to season it before the first use. Then, there is no need to add oil or butter. But I may use a tiny bit for the taste.

All Stoneline products have an innovative, scratch-resistant, non-stick coating and come with a 25-year limited warranty. It is the best griddle pan I used so far. It is a keeper! I am glad that I got it since I was on the market to replace mine. I stopped my search.

They also sent me their Mezzaluna with a bamboo cutting boards. The design is handy. You store the mezzaluna inside the main round cutting board. It also comes with a removable flat cutting board. I have been using it over and over to cut my herbs from my herb garden.

I received two more samples that I still need to test. At first glance, they look great and seem to be well-constructed. You will be pleased to display the bamboo mortar and pestle on your counter. The mortar is deep so you will not make a mess and the pestle feels comfortable. The assorted set of 3 bamboo cutting boards are pretty. I am thinking of keeping them for when I need wooden trays to serve food.

The packaging is in French and English but for now, the Web site is only available in French. If you are interested by these products, Shopping Clodine ships anywhere in Canada. If you cannot read French, try ordering by phone at 1 877 CLODINE, I supposed (have not try) that they must have at least a bilingual operator. You can save up to 50% on shipping if you buy 2 or more products. You can also pay in 3 installments.

+ Griddle Pan with 2 sprouts $89.99 CAD
+ Mezzaluna from Bamboo Cutting Boards $49.99 CAD
+ bamboo mortar and pestle $29.99 CAD
+ Cutting board set $29.99 CAD for 3 assorted boards


Summer Cocktails Made with Campari

cocktails made with campari for summer :: campari orange, campari grapefruit, negroni and negroni sbagliato

Let’s revisit my favorite cocktails for summer besides the mojitos. I love Campari on a summer day. I often served Campari to my first friends because it is unexpected and simple to make.

I typically go for tall drink recipes. You save time this way and the alcohol level is typically lower.

A simple way to greet your friends before a BBQ is to prepare a pitcher Campari Orange.

  • In a tall glass (juice glass) filled with ice cubes, pour 1 part Campari
  • 3 parts of orange juice
  • Garnish with an orange slice.

Campari Grapefruit is done the same way. The recipe is 1 part Campari for 3 parts of grapefruit juice. Also garnish with an orange slice.

Negroni Recipe Adaptations

When I do not mind something stronger, I sip a Negroni in an old-fashioned glass.

  • Pour on the rocks,
  • 1 part of gin, you can use Bombay Sapphire Tanqueray or the lighter Plymouth gin
  • 1 part of Campari
  • 1 part of sweet vermouth (red vermouth)
  • Garnish with an orange slice.

If you opt for the Negroni as your signature drink, make sure you get some soda water next by to please everyone. In fact, I usually pour a tiny bit of soda water on my Negroni (not to be mistaken with an Americano, which has no gin). The tall Negroni is less bitter and more refreshing.

Even that may be too much bitter from some people. For them, you could substitute the Campari by a Punt e Mes, an Italian vermouth made by Fratelli Branca with a less bitter component. Use 1/3 gin, 1/3 Punt e Mess and 1/3 red vermouth.

Negroni Sbagliato is another more delicate Negroni version that is supposed to be popular in Italy. You make it with

  • 1 part Campari
  • 1 part red vermouth
  • 1 part Spumante brut (or Pinot Chardonnay sparkling wine)
  • Garnish with a slice of orange.

If you wish to create a more bitter version, replace the red vermouth by the Punt e Mes (1 part gin, 1 part Campari, 1 part Punt e Mess). Personally, I would not try that more intensely bitter version.

+ 24 cocktail recipes made with Campari


A Cool Trick to Make your Own Cucumber Water or to Serve a Summer Punch

inserting a square vase for ice cubes into a jar

I saw that trick yesterday at the Fairmont San Francisco. I had to share it with you. It looks great on the cucumber water and the lemon water as shown here. But it would be even better for sangria, punch and any other summery cocktails.

The idea is that instead of putting the ice cubes directly in the drink, which will water down your drink on a hot day, you insert a tall square vase into a jar to separate the ice cubes from your beverage. A tall square vase is easy to find at your local florist shops.

Depending on the beverage, it may be appropriate to place an ice bucket with tongs next to the jar to fill the glasses with ice cubes before serving.

If you wish to make your own flavored water, check out my recipes:

+ Cucumber and Rosemary Water + Citrus and Apple Water
+ Spa cucumber water

Take a tasty cucumber, the fresher the better. Cucumber with smaller seeds delivers a more refined look.

September 26th, 2009 Update: Since this post, I learned that the manufacturer of these square canisters is Cal-Mil. Click here for more details.


Tabletop and Party Favor Accessories by L’Atelier Modele

I am responding to my interior designer friend Jennifer Mitchell of Design Hole who spotlighted these French-made tabletop accessories having me in mind. She was looking for an excuse to throw a party.

This concept was developed by L’Atelier Modele. Every product from Lajolitable series would add a festive touch to your table on any occasions this summer. The hand made items are made of polypropylene, which means that they could be reused. After usage, you simply need to carefully clean them with a damp cloth. You select the color you want from 16 colors.

abletop accessories :: placemats, decorations and coasters

If you are into birds, here are some items you may enjoy:

+ Lejolinom, a cute birdy place card holder  €1.20
+ Ballotin de chocolat, a party favor box with a ribbon flower that can hold 5 chocolates – starts at €4.50
+ Placemat €6.00
+ Birds Coaster, to match with the placemat (bottom right) €3.00
+ Brindille, a flat flower used as a decorative element on a table or hanging from a branch €0.50
+ Oiseau, a decorative element for a glass or a plate. Remove when you are ready to serve. €0.80

+ Via Design Hole


The Landscape Room by LiD Architecture

landscape room by lid architecture photographed by christopher heany

Without going into details, I needed some relaxing views today; you may have noticed that my blog was down for a couple hours. It happens as I was sitting and live blogging at the Social Gaming Summit 2009 in San Francisco.

Therefore, I was glad when I came across this amazing modern architecture project done in Ireland by LiD Architecture. I found my dreamy moment for the day.

LiD Architecture created a lounging indoor space that opens up to a cool outdoor space. The fireplace, the in-ground flower bed and the small pond are beautiful. If it was my space, I would prefer a deeper outdoor space so it would be easier to put furniture outside. But otherwise, it is a great place.

+ Photography by Christopher Heaney and LID Architecture
+ Via Comtemporist


Inspired by the Retro Design of Hea Sofa by BG Norge

hea sofa by bg norge

There are furniture you love at first sight. Hea by the Norvegean sofa maker BG Norge is one of those times.

creative use of patterns on the hea sofa by bg norge

The creative use of patterns grabbed my attention. The design cleverly mixes fabrics in the front and the back. It is also interesting to see how the design fits well in what looks like a cottage.

Sadly for us, BG Norway seems to be available only available in Norway where they got more than a hundred retailers.

+ Hea by BG Norge
+ Via Apartment Therapy and Alvorada


Elevating the Home Cooking Approach at Parties

I was interviewed last Friday by a Montreal-based journalist about the art of making menu when you hosting a party at home. My best advice has always been to cook dishes that you are familiar with. This way, you will not stress out. Your meal must taste great. It is not the time to experiment. To make your dinner special, simply be original with the food presentation.

The home cooking approach is invading formal events like weddings. The New York Times published Readers’ Wedding Food to illustrate this trend. You will see that it crossed over a wide range of wedding budgets, from high to low.

Easy Inspiring Food Presentation

It is not complicated to serve french fries in paper cones. But it makes it more special. You can use parchment paper, newspapers like they do in Belgium or gingham waxed paper. Opt for professional grade grease proof waxed paper to keep your food.

french fries in paper cones :: comfort food gets elegant

I gathered from the NY Times article the best pictures that you could use for your parties this summer. My photo collage at the top would be perfect for Canada Day or the Fourth of July. As you can see this home cooking trend mixes with eating seasonal food.

+ Lobster bake on the beach in Massachusetts – photo by Paul McEvoy
+ Decorate a cheese platter or for a grand event, your cheese and charcuterie table with seasonal berries and figs
+ Be creative when preparing skewers of vegetables and fruits. An old-time favorite appetizer is a Caprese salad assembled on skewers. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar or put a small bowl of balsamic vinegar for dipping.

grilled portohouse nicely served on a wodden tray

2009 Trends in Weddings

Going back to the article on the New York Times, it talks about the current trend in weddings, even upscale weddings, to serve home cook style meals. People do not do it for saving money. It costs the same and sometimes more to elevate comfort food. This trend started out of a desire to feel less opulent. It also conveys authenticity to their celebrations. Is it representative to what you have seen in weddings this year?

One thing I would say it that guests should dress up even for a simple country weddings. It is a special occasion for the bride and groom. Tell them you know how special this day is by NOT wearing casual clothes. It is one element of etiquette that I strongly believe in.

+ Waxed Paper Red Gingham $5 USD for 50 sheets
+ Down-Home Celebrations by the New York Times


Do You Make Your Own Ice Cream?

delightful frozen assets:: ice cream by canadian chefs

I dream of making my own ice cream. My brother even bought me a machine a few years ago. I am ashamed to admit that I never made my own.

But it is about to change. I read on a plane an article about unique flavor combinations that inspire me. Ice cream made with chocolate and cooking herbs I adore. It reminded me of the pleasure I got when I first tasted a dark chocolate bar that contains thyme.

On my to do list this summer are (scroll a little bit the page):
Alex Burgess’ Lavender Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Susur Lee’s Chocolate and Coriander Ice Cream with Roasted Almonds

I was curious to know. Do you make your own ice cream? If so, what is your favorite flavor? Have you experiment with unique taste?

+ Frozen Assets in En Route