Saturday, December 22, 2007

Affordable Food

Today a friend came down from Creston, B.C. and we joined some other friends at a local favorite, Under the Sun: a cafe, and clothes store, and just French style general store. I'm not doing justice to it. It's not just a great place for gifts, but also wonderful to browse. Family owned, one daughter does the cooking, another orders the clothes, and yet another does the books. But that's not fair either, because they all do everything, including dishwashing. And Dad fixes whatever goes wrong.

Mom, Shelley, does most of the organizing as well as help with everything: from ordering to cooking to assisting customers to washing dishes. She is amazing and so are her three daughters!

Daughter Kynsie orders clothes, helps at the register, makes coffee drinks, and acts as waitress. Every day Kynsie provides a personal fashion statement with yet another change of clothes, shoes and sometimes even hair. She really belongs in Paris!

It's a busy day for lunch at Under the Sun. Everyone came in at once! Daughter, Kendall, is swamped, but she always has time for a smile! Lunch was delicious, as usual.

The store is in what used to be about the best hardware store in the world: Lindsey-Helmer Hardware. It has a wonderful skylight, shelves up to the ceiling with the wall-sliding ladders, and wooden floors. I hope the photos provide some idea of how wonderful and interesting this place is. At this point, the hardware store has become a bit of France in north Idaho, selling unique items for the home, and, also serving a delicious lunch.

Posted by Picasa

Lunch is simple but delicious. The food is organic, well-prepared, and bound to satisfy anyone on any given day. And, if a person needs something to start the day, the organic, fair-trade coffee, lattes, and expressos are wonderfully matched to the homemade berry scones that are always available. The occasional lunch specials are all made from scratch and I highly recommend Mom's homemade chicken noodle soup. The Greek salad is also very popular, especially in summer, mounded high with mixed greens, Bulgarian feta cheese and Kalamata olives. I'm also partial to the sandwiches because I can pick and choose my bread and all the ingredients. From turkey to ham to tuna, several kinds of cheese, fresh veggies and different spreads, a sandwich can be built to satisfy any appetite or diet. Homemade spelt bread is available as well as La Brea bakery bread. And lunch stays within the $10-$20 price range. Now that's affordable.

What is not affordable, at least to me and many of the people in my neck of the woods, is Alain Ducasse's newest restaurant, the Jules Verne, at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Oh, don't think I wouldn't want to dine there! The description by Angela Doland, Associated Press (as reported in the Spokesman Review) has already made my mouth salivate. "Roasted imperial langoustine with sauteed green vegetables and black truffles; pan-seared beef tournedos and fresh duck foie gras with souffled potatoes and Perigueux sauce" isn't even in the same category as a ham and cheese sandwich. And that view! Whew! But even if I lived in Paris, I don't think that the price is "'accessible to everyone,': about $108 for lunch and $216 for dinner, without wine." Maybe, if I were employed in my profession (university professor) and if we lived in Paris and if we weren't paying everyday taxes that rise precipitously, then, maybe, we could splurge on such a meal. But given that we are not part of the wealthy elite, the best we can do is copy the menu in my own home kitchen because, as we all know, necessity is the mother of invention. Well, copy except for the fresh truffles....

Actually, for those kinds of prices, I personally would rather attend a day or half day at Ducasse's cooking school, L'Ecole de Cuisine d'Alain Ducasse. But that's out of my budget as well. However, I can read and I can afford cookbooks so I practice and learn on my own and I'm very happy with most of my homemade "haute cuisine" meals. So thank you Monsieur Ducasse for the inspiration, but I'll have to forego personally tasting meals prepared by you and your excellent staff and continue to dream of how I can turn such a menu into affordable cuisine.

Bon appetit!

Friday, December 21, 2007

In Linda's Kitchen

Well, I succumbed and decided to write a food blog. My other blogsite, IdahoRocks, just had too much about north Idaho and politics and very little about food. And food is something about which I really want to write. Food, all things food, food that usually ends up in my kitchen, but food from the garden and the farm, and what is happening with food in our world today. It all interests me, thus, you are invited into my kitchen to see and hear about what I do with food.

"Virtually" is about the only way you can come into my kitchen because it is so small! And not nearly enough cupboard space. I have baking equipment in my root cellar, extra pots and pans in the laundry room, and my favorite pasta pot and risotto pot are in the linen closet. But I make do…..although I would love to have a kitchen like Michael Ruhlman's or one of those ads from Gourmet or Fine Cooking. And I especially want a very high quality gas stove, as well as a built-in electric oven. I HATE my oven. But that’s another story.

Living in north Idaho, I have some of the best food. Morels in the springtime, huckleberries in summer, an abundance of game, lakes and rivers for fishing, farm-raised beef, pork and lamb, and a garden that overwhelms me every year. And for any fruit or vegetable I don't raise, why there's always the Farmer’s Market.

And like many people, I could turn to the web….although I try to depend on local food and sustainable food. Unfortunately, living in this small rural area where the next closest town is either in another country or an hour away, any sort of 100 mile diet just doesn’t allow enough diversity to satisfy a food lover like me….

We do cheat in our household on the locally grown because we usually visit Seattle at least once every two months. Our son is in Seattle at the University of Washington, we do research at the university library, and two very good friends are on the Olympic Peninsula. Plus the book sales, book stores, antiquarian book fair, and well, that’s also another story….

Back to the food, last week I found two, big, local, smoked ham hocks, and stealing from a meal we had at Feierabend in Seattle during their Oktoberfest celebration, I coated them with Dijon mustard and brown sugar and then cooked them in a low oven for several hours on top of some shredded cabbage. They were so big that we had them two days in a row, and this is how they looked on the second day before we decimated them.

I decided to repeat this idea for Christmas. I bought a ham, will follow the hocks idea, but this time I'm cooking it on top of shredded red cabbage, with some homemade spaetzle, brussels sprouts with chestnuts, fresh baked bread, and something else to lighten up the dinner a bit. I'm thinking of salad but we'll see. For dessert, an old Bon Appetit recipe, Pots de Creme Turinois (December 1980), pots de creme with chestnuts. Yummy!