Apricot jam, the way I make it

A staple of my summer and my personal favorite jam to eat and make, my apricot jam does not have a technical recipe. This tendency to go without recipes limits the possibility of posting many of my kitchen creations. The way I make jam explains why I cook more than I bake and how I can to pull off a bright dinner each or any night for my family on a whim.  I just know how to make it, I can feel it, I can see it, and no matter what happens, I can fix it. That may not work in baking but it gives me a chance to play and make food freely every single night, nose out of the cookbook. I grew up seeing apricot jam being made in a ritualistic but very matter-of-fact way each year. I remember vividly one year when my grandmother left it on the stove too long. So long that the bottom of her giant dark orange Le Creuset pot had a thick deep layer of black burnt apricot stuck to it that took some serious determination to remove. Of course, my grandma removed it.

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Best Bites: Duck Tasso at Bittersweet

I love duck. I love that it takes skill and care to make it shine and I love the versatility that duck allows in preparations. The point for me is not the type of dish- it can be prosciutto, tacos, fried wings, or cassoulet and I will likely order it and probably love it as long as it is done, well, right. I found an outstanding duck dish tonight at Bittersweet: the Duck Tasso. An appetizer, the Duck Tasso is a play on the Tasso ham, a Louisiana specialty made of pork shoulder. Traditionally, the pork cured in salt briefly then rubbed with a spice mixture that includes cayenne pepper and smokey paprika. The duck version at Bittersweet takes duck breast cured in salt then rubbed with a variety of spices that make it just slightly tingly hot on the tongue. 

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French Laundry Post-Dinner Blues

I had dinner at the French Laundry last week – it had been a long time coming. I debated writing about it for a variety of reasons. I don’t want to brag or to review or to ooh and aah about it. And I don’t think I can add much that has not been already said. Because of these reasons, I did not take pictures of my dinner and constrained myself to only mental notes that allowed me to enjoy every second I had there.

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Go Now: Grand Cochon

Among the 100 things you should do before you die, attending the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen is a given. It is outrageous, spectacular, overwhelming to the senses. For the food lover, it is like being at the Oscars and roaming among the stars, eating, drinking, small talking. The Food and Wine Classic 2012 is in full swing this week and parties happen as I type so my call to action here is a tad on the later side but here is the good news. There is a mini version of this event that you can still experience, the tail end of the fabulous weekend – the Grand Cochon.

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Father’s Day Drink: Americana aka Point and a Half

Father’s Day has to include cocktails. Actually, any celebration should include cocktails but it is imperative to include liquor when celebrating any parent. My better half likes a good cocktail, but more than once he found himself sporting a pink drink in a girly glass in a bar or restaurant. And I could not perpetuate that on Father’s Day. Today’s cocktail is the best adult cherry cola you have ever had. It is a summery Americana Spritz made with a lot of un-American ingredients.

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Best Bites: Ritual Chocolate

Rich, smooth, snappy, Ritual Chocolate is my go-to treat. The presentation is clean and simple. The chocolate bar is glossy, the flavor is deep and rich, the taste stunning. Months ago when I fell in love with Ritual, I considered hoarding the information just in case there wasn’t enough once it got discovered. Now I need to just say: this is the best bite of dark chocolate one can get in the state of Colorado. Ritual Chocolate is a small production company: one couple- Robbie Stout and Anna Davies, an old-fashioned philosophy of crafting chocolate, vintage machines, and countless hours spent sourcing the best cacao beans and transforming them into pure joy for the dark chocolate lover. This chocolate is made with two ingredients: cacao beans and cane sugar, which makes it: vegan and gluten-free. Until just weeks ago, Ritual produced only one variety: Costa Rica. A new addition of cacao beans from Madagascar, provides some diversity to the offerings. I get it at my favorite coffee shops: Crema in Denver and Boxcar in Boulder, but you can also find it at Curtis Park Deli, Marczyck, and the Market.

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Gabrielle Hamilton, the interview.

Do you do that thing where you imagine everyone in the room in their underwear? Gabrielle Hamilton asked me when I confided that I was a little nervous. I looked at her for a long second, then said she still looked great. I met Gabrielle Hamilton at Frasca Food and Wine for an interview yesterday afternoon. As I drove there, I was nervous – not the star-struck way knot in my throat nervousness. It was more the butterflies in my stomach- please-don’t-disappoint-me way. I respect and love Hamilton for all she is – a solid cook, a skilled writer, and a well-recognized figure in the food world.

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Get a Whey with the Truffle Cheese Shop

Last year I practically begged to go on this trip. I missed my chance to sign up by a couple of weeks and it was, not surprisingly, sold out. The Truffle has organized a farm trip every year- one farm, one day, a bus full of cheese-lovers loyal to the shop and thankful they were on the ball enough to secure their seat. Because of the popularity of this trip, Karin and Rob Lawler, owners of the Truffle, decided to do a double day at the farm. Join the Truffle for Get a Whey on Sunday, May 27th or Monday, May 28th at Ugly Goat Milk Company – departure 8:45 a.m. from Denver, return at 3:00 p.m.   Ugly Goat Milk Company is spectacular- there are goats and cows, dogs and ducks, geese and a few sheep, horses, alpacas and a couple llamas – a lovely mix to be enjoyed by kids and grownups alike. To reserve your space on the bus, please call the shop at 303-322-7363. All of our knowledgeable staff can answer questions you may have. Cost $65 per person for adults, $55 for children. Cost includes transportation to and from the farm, personal tour of the farm, gourmet lunch prepared … Continue reading

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Which Kids Eat Everything?

Not long ago, a good friend sent the link to an article talking about the new and buzzy book French Kids Eat Everything. It made me uncomfortable and that discomfort and similar previous nagging feelings gave birth to the Family Meal, a new section of the blog. I did not read the book, but the title irritated me. Say this to yourself – French kids eat everything – and you will hopefully get uncomfortable too. Seriously, think about it. There is nothing magic about French kids. They are born the same way all kids are born: 10 fingers, 10 toes, two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and a blank slate for growing, learning, and developing everything including taste in food. French kids and American kids and Romanian kids and Venezuelan kids – probably Martian kids too if there were any- all of them eat everything. They are wired to eat everything, sooner or later. Must you look up to the special French kids who eat everything? Take their example? Follow their lead? Wonder in shock and awe, whispering, How do they do it? You got it: no. If you have a kid, your kid eats everything. So stop. Stop thinking … Continue reading

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