June and July 2018
LA VACHE QUI RIT IS EVERYWHERE!
A Vietnamese snack…
. . . more Vietnam adventures
When in Hue, head for Han’s
You missed a good one: Book Club Bingo and Novel Network
California Center for the Arts: Watercolor Show
Got art? Need frames?
Very, very cool: radio stations around the world
Cookbook collectors: get organized
Talks and presentations
Lots of interesting links en français
and in English
Tipping remains a mystery? Here’s help.
Spanish Potato Tortilla..with tomatoes
As I write, the 12 young soccer players and their coach have been extricated from that ghastly Thai cave. Thank Goodness the divers succeeded. The far away drama took our minds of dramatic political events closer to home. And then the peripatetic Anthony Bourdain decided to take his own life. I don’t know about you, but my brain is exhausted. What else is there to do but carry on!
Last month, I left you in Hanoi.. Today, let me take you to Hue:
This former Imperial City and now a World Heritage Site, lies midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh (Saigon.) Its imposing Chinese Citadel suffered major damage during the “American War” and is undergoing extensive Unesco-funded restoration. Less known to the outside world, is that Hue is renowned for its cuisine. When in Hue, head for Han’s and sit down among the locals for a memorable lunch:
Then take part in Being like a farmer at Eco Garden. We began with a leisurely bicycle ride among orchards of pumelos and rice paddies of Thyu Bieu village a few miles outside of town.
After our bike escapade, we donned the outfits of a Vietnamese farmer, complete with brown baggy pants, loose shirt, and coolie hat, before trying our hands at milling rice. I tried in vain to manipulate the grindstone and sift the rice meal. . . not possible. Before long, we were hard at work digging for sweet potatoes along the banks of the Perfume River. Later, we savored the fruits of our labor at dinner served under a thatched-roof hut and a cacophony of cicadas.
The next morning a mini cruise on the Perfume River was capped with a cooking class at the Hue EcoLodge.
Clad in EcoLodge aprons, and inspired by the scent of grilling pork kabobs marinated in lemongrass and stir-fried green beans fresh from the lodge’s garden plots, we followed the instructions of our young instructor. As I bit into a warm bite of the sweet potato we had just dug up, it occurred to me that the Hue Ecolodge may be riding the crest of a new food trend: Farm-to-Chopsticks…
Suite au prochain numéro (next time): low-key, historic Hoi An..
I came across this site par hasard earlier a few weeks ago. In case you missed their review of Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories, a couple of years ago, here it is. FYI: Alimentum is one of the best sites for food literature on the web. Thank you Alimentum
Mint Tea and Minarets: A Banquet of Moroccan Memories
“… But if you don’t cook Moroccan at home, are not near a Moroccan restaurant, and are nowhere near Morocco, you can still smell the aromas, feel the air and atmosphere, hear the languages of both Arabic and French, by opening a book: Kitty Morse’s Mint Tea and Minarets.
Ms. Morse was born in Casablanca and spent her growing-up years there. Her father was English, her mother French. So her perspective straddles both Western and North African customs. Her newest book (she’s written many) is an exotic yet personal memoir festooned with spectacular recipes.
Ms. Morse journeys back to her family’s home just outside Casablanca. She has a mission: to sprinkle her father’s ashes in the river near Dar Zitoun (the name of her family home) and to transfer the title of the property from her father to herself. Both activities come with a full set of red tape that puts Ms. Morse through an obstacle course filled with cultural antiquity and modern day greed. The true colors and characters of Morocco emerge. This is at once familiar, frustrating, and endearing to Ms. Morse. Her endeavors bring her back in contact with a large part of her identity—a part she treasures and needs. The longer she stays, the more she is drawn back into this unique lifestyle. And its food. ..”
New this month: My editor and I are hard at work turning Mint Tea and Minarets into an eBook downloadable on Kindle and all other platforms. I am very excited since I only have 120 hard copies left.. with no thought of reprint. .
Stay tuned! Use your KINDLE!
Kitty in the media:
Santa Rosa Press Democrat
This one is inspired by a recipe in “Cooking At the Kasbah: Recipes From My Moroccan Kitchen” by Kitty Morse (Chronicle Books, 1998, $22.95). NOW IN ITSTENTH PRINTING!
Kitty’s next presentation:
I love our local libraries. They serve as community centers for all age groups rather than as just a depository for books. And librarians are models of patience. Last week, I was invited by the Poway Public library. Thank you for the lovely welcome!
On July 25th, at 1PM, catch me at the San Marcos Public library for a talk (and food samplings) on Mint Tea and Minarets. It’s fun, educational, and air conditioned! And need I add, FREE of charge!
2 Civic Center Drive
San Marcos, CA 92069
New art exhibit in Escondido:
The California Center for the Arts in Escondido (I am a docent there, book a private tour!)is holding its upcoming exhibition beginning July 14 to August 26th.
The American Watercolor Society 151st Traveling exhibition and local color.http://artcenter.org/museum/
Amis français, le saviez-vous:
French school named for North County D-Day veteran
“…. une école a mon nom. . . ..from our own North San Diego County….who knew??
Book clubs: Have you checked out Novel Network? In the last Chronicles, I announced that I participated, along with 22 other writers, in Book Club Bingo, an event organized by the newly formed Novel Network and Adventures by the Book. You missed a good one! Close to 100 participants gathered on the top floor of San Diego’s architectural wonder, our Central Library, for a day of seminars, meet and greets with authors, a luscious box lunch, and networking galore. This is the brilliant concept: Book clubs register for free on the Novel Network website, look for an author (now at 45 and increasing) and book their favorite. Voila… I can also conduct SKYPE interviews no matter where your club meets! Ever thought of writing a family cookbook? I can help you with that too!
Got Art? Need frames?
Just to let you know we have a wonderful frame shop right here, in Vista. The gifted Gina of Art and Frame Studio, 610 E. Vista Way (760)806-7777 (same parking lot as Chin’s restaurant) carries a wide assortment of frames. She just reframed a half-dozen pictures for me, and I am thrilled.
Links of interest about Morocco and elsewhere:
An addictive site: Live music streaming from stations around the world
http://radio.garden/live/vancouver and elsewhere
For a laugh and an education! Accents around the world
Cookbook collectors may find this of interest: Organize your collection. . . I have always wondered how to do that…
CELL PHONES IN CLASSROOMS? What do you think?? Teachers, especially?
The Beat Generation in Tangier:
Vous les connaissez ces messieurs-dames?
Sooooo condescending from my point of view. Didn’t they have anything better to do, surrounded by maids, cooks, drivers, and who knows what other kind of help, but smoke, drink, get high, and criticize the “natives”? Is that what makes a literary icon?
Les courses automobiles à Casa dans les années 50,
When I was growing up in Casablanca, my father helped organize car races. Remember Sterling Moss? I recall the cars roaring along the Corniche and meeting the famed racer: who does these days?
Zagora, in the Moroccan Sahara. We hunted far and low for medfouna (meaning: hidden) which I managed to track down (this was in 1970), and adapt for my first cookbook, Come with me to the Kasbah: A Cook’s tour of Morocco. Sort of a cross between stuffed pizza and calzone. . .
IS the US a visa free country?
Incroyable mais vrai? Et honteux….And I thought being bilingual was an advantage:
France: Dommage, les bons petits bistros disparaissent. . .
Les petits bistros de quartier disparaissent : https://france-amerique.com/fr/parisian-bistros-appeal-for-unesco-world-heritage-status/?
Meanwhile in Tunisia, where I spent many weeks researching recipes for my book,The Vegetarian Table: North Africa (Chronicle Books)
https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2018/may/02/return-to-tunis-why-now-is-the-time-to-visit-this-historic-city? (Actually, Tunis looks much like Casablanca, a treasure trove of Moorish Art deco architecture. Sidi Bou Said, on the sea, is charming! It is VERY VERY hot in Tunis in the summer)
And in 2016, Tunisia ranked 62nd on the Global Entrepreneurship Index. Today it ranks 40th worldwide and is No. 1 in Africa for entrepreneurs.
Bravo to Khaled Bouchoucha who started his career working on planes – now he’s running a startup that optimizes the health of hives. https://www.ozy.com/rising-stars/the-data-engineer-on-a-mission-to-save-tunisias-bees/87037
Confused about tipping? I am. Here is a possible guide.
Has anyone cooked with this? I haven’t tried it yet. I have to laugh though: you have to purchase most ingredients to take advantage of the barley inside the packet?
To keep you cool, a Vietnamese drink!
and Bon appétit.
(now in its 10th year!)
My Most Excellent Vietnam Adventure: Part 1
Has it really been 3 months since I last published The Kasbah Chronicles? You will soon understand why.
On a “roll” in Vietnam
Dining à la Hitchcock
Feasting à la Marocaine in Oceanside (CA)
Presentations and book signings
My “mentee” graduates!
Links of interest
Morocco and beyond
BOOK CLUB BINGO IN SAN DIEGO!
Get a special discount and come meet 22 nationally known authors.
Yes, I have been on a roll. . .A Vietnamese egg roll that is..
This will explain my tardiness: I spent 3 weeks in Vietnam in April. Thus, March was spent preparing for the trip, in April I ATE MY WAY THROUGH VIETNAM from North to South, and May finds me roaming the aisles of local Asian markets to locate the ingredients with which to prepare my newly acquired recipes!
My travels will take up at least two editions of The Kasbah Chronicles. .. so please stay tuned for Part 2.
At a zillion dongs (actually 22,000 to the dollar)
how could we go wrong? Vietnam is fascinating, welcoming, and affordable. As I did when went I travelled to Chile two years ago, I planned my own tour using Asiatica.com,a Hanoi-based tour operator found on the Internet. China Southern Airlines(discovered while perusing Trip Advisor) flew Amy and me (a most compatible roommate), in cocooned comfort (business class), from LAX to Hanoi and return. As I mentioned above, my requests to our dedicated agent, Phoebe, of Asiatica, was to forego war memorials, tunnels, and war museums. All we wanted were cooking classes, markets, and local eateries… Boy, did she deliver! If you want suggestions for our itinerary, shoot me an email.(oops, I almost forgot to mention we also spent 2 days in Angkor Watt.…)
My photos tell part of the story:
Hanoi:Hectic, fun, historic, and better yet, food, food, food… Great cooking class with a local instructor in her home, a farm house outside Hanoi. Mandy (www.cookinginhanoi.wordpress.com) taught us all about crab soup and la lotleaves. Can’t wait to find some here!
la lot leaves eggrolls:
and an exquisite salad of fresh banana blossom
Hanoi has a mosque!
We soldiered on under a warmish rain through the insanely busy narrow streets of Old Hanoi, past dozens of pocket-sized shops. Shades of a Moroccan souk came to mind. The merchandise was quite different however. When saturation set in signaling an empty stomach, we dashed into a stall to sit in child-sized plastic chairs (they are everywhere and adults usually occupy them…) While a trio of Hanoi teens fingered their cell phones, out came a young woman bearing a hotpot, the local version of French pot-au-feu. We were wrapped in a cloud of star anise, cinnamon, lemon grass, and cilantro, and dipped into the pot with chopsticks to retrieve butter-tender pork shoulder, vegetables and bits of fresh pineapple. And, to cap it off, an addictive blend of salt, lime juice, and chili (I think).
Ha Long Bay: Phoebe asked if we wanted to cruise on Halong Bay. Why not? She booked us onto into a Jr suite with Signature Halong Bay Cruise. Our young cruise manager, Mr. Cuong, fretted over us like a mother hen:
Our bathroom came complete with a JACCUZI! For close to 24 hours (I wish it had been 48) we cruised among the dozens of tree-capped islands of Halong Bay,
and dined on dishes worthy of an A list restaurant.
Sara, the on-board hostess, doubled as our cooking teacher to demonstrate nems, REAL Vietnamese eggrolls. Les vrais!
The next day, a short flight out of Hanoi landed us in Hue, site of Vietnam’s historic Imperial City. Upon landing, our driver took us straight to Eco Garden,so we could experience life on a farm.
Have you ever tried to grind rice? It ain’t easy! We tilled the earth for sweet potatoes and enjoyed the fruits of our labor during an al fresco cooking class held under a riverfront cabana. Cycling among the lush banana and pumelo groves surrounding the Eco Garden really increased our appetite.
We were pointed to Hanh restaurant near our hotel. Our lunch encompassed such an array of local specialties, that Amy and I coined a new logo for them, When in Hue, head for Hanh’s, a strictly local hang out, where we joined the cook in the open kitchen to watch her prepare eggrolls, dumplings, pho… and my very favorite rice pancakes: you get the idea.
Our four hour drive from Hue toHoi Antook us along the Mandarin Road, and past Danang’s bayfront. This industrial city caters mainly to foreign sun-worshippers who stay in the resorts out of town.
Hoi An and its centuries of Chinese occupation beckoned an hour south. The town’s architecture still reflects this influence.
he pedestrian friendly city center is jammed with stores and restaurants, including the most unusual Reaching Out Tea House, run by a deaf staff. It was heavenly sitting overlooking a tiny patio without any auditory distractions. (Yes, they have WI FI.)
Hoin An holds other attractions, including eating a superb banh misandwich at Mme Phuong(like Anthony Bourdain). I am happy to say, however, North San Diego County now has a plethora of Vietnamese restaurants to choose from, many of which make mouth-watering banh mis.
Ah, that cooking class at Mme. Vy’s: UNFORGETTABLE (https://tastevietnam.asia/vietnamese-cooking-classes). 5 hours of culinary bliss, instructed by a professional chef, and her numerous assistants. This extraordinary establishment holds much more than a state of the art culinary center. Street level holds a huge dining area surrounded by tasting stations… so many samplings, so little time (read more about them on my website www.kittymorse.com)from a guided boat ride and market excursion, to a variety of samplings too numerous to name: snails, banh mi, freshly made noodles, breads and pastries. My head still swims. We were told that Mme Vy is in the process of exporting her concept to Melbourne! Dear Australians, DO NOT MISS IT!
. . . . suite au prochain numéro.
Read the next edition of The Kasbah Chronicles for more on my Vietnamese experience.
My instructor at Mme Vy’s:
I already mentioned that we have a well-stocked Vietnamese market in the North County, in Escondido (CA). San Diego cooks will head to the enormous Zion supermarket on Convoy Street, but we live further north. La Sorpresa Barata(asianmarketescondido.com) has morphed into The Asian Marketbetween Fig and Date streets(. . .and that’s the story of immigrants…) Next door is an excellent little Vietnamese take out restaurant.
How cool is this request?!
When I was growing up in Casablanca we couldn’t wait for Hitchcock’s films to be screened in English at cinema Rialto. One of my favorites was The Man Who Knew Too much.
“New comment on my post “Kitty’s Bio”
Author: merri mullaney
“Hi, I have just purchased a tagine, can’t wait to start cooking. There is one recipe I have searched for, sounds crazy, but in the movie “the man who knew too much” there is one scene that takes place in a restaurant in Casablanca (K: it was Marrakech, I think). The chicken and olives and other ingredients looked absolutely delicious and beautiful. Is there a recipe for this dish, and also the bread served with it?”
-I think the restaurant Merri is referring to was Dar Es Salam in Marrakech where my annual tours used to dine in the mid 1980s, (http://www.daressalam.com) average food and very, very touristy) but the scene where James Stewart struggles to fit his long legs under the low table is priceless. I haven’t seen the film in years, but if they featured a Moroccan dish, it had to be Chicken with Preserved Lemons! Does anyone know??”
Presentations and book signings:
I will be happy to plan a presentation on Moroccan cuisine or edible flowers, for your book club or garden club. Just send me an email.
May: Private book club/dinner in Oceanside, CA.
I was flattered to be asked to speak to this Oceanside book club, one that has been meeting for 20 years. This time, rather than gather at someone’s house, the group planned a Moroccan dinner based on the recipes in Mint Tea and Minarets and Cooking at the Kasbah, at one of North County’s BEST patisseries, Petite Madeline(sic), (www.petitemadelinebakery.com) just about as far north as you can drive on the Coast Highway in San Diego County. I knew I was in good hands when Chef Marc Mialo said he obtained his culinary training in Australia, where, I hasten to add, they SELL MOROCCAN PRESERVED lemons in every deli! Australians love Morocco’s cuisine, something I found out when I visited over 15 years ago.
La Petite Madelinereopened for us past their 3PM closing to welcome the book club. Once dinner began, we were treated to mouth-watering renditions of a trio of cooked and fresh salads,
kefta(ground beef) kabobs seasoned just right, baraniyaeggplant and tomato tagine, with dates stuffed with almond paste, orange slices in orange blossom water ( all found in Mint Tea and Minaretsand Cooking at the Kasbah) AND ice cream bestila for dessert filled with the chef’s own lemon mousse (WOW!) I demonstrated how to make traditional Moroccan mint tea. At this writing, I am lobbying for this gifted and imaginative young chef, and for the restaurant’s owner, Christine, to add a couple of these dishes to their regular menu. . . Chef Marc would probably duplicate the menu if Morocco’s cuisine (and Mint Tea and Minarets!!!) figure on your reading list.(www.petitemadelinebakery.com) and I’ll be happy to come and chat!
Saturday, June 10: 9-5PM.
Book Club Bingo
San Diego’s spectacular central library
300 Park Blvd.,
Special Events Room, 9th Floor
San Diego 92101
MENTION THE KASBAH CHRONICLES OR KITTY MORSE FOR A SPECIAL DISCOUNT.
Call Adventures by the Book at 619-300-2532 and mention
KITTY’s name and you will obtain a $25 discount
Book Club Bingo, a day-long LITERARY EVENT takes place at San Diego’s spectacular central library. All proceeds from book sales go to the library. 22 authors from around the country, all of whom are excited to connect with book clubs, will participate in seminars, panels, and book signing opportunities.
My mentee, Laura, graduated from Cal State University San Marcos, where, last Fall, I had the honor of being selected as a mentor. Last week, Laura gave the commencement address to 600 grads in the college of Humanities, Art and Behavioral and Social Sciences! I had attended the opening of this latest Cal State campus in 1992 with 2000 students. . . It now counts 45,000 alumni. Go Laura! If you live in San Diego County and you want to know more about this fabulous mentoring program, shoot me an email.
Links of interest about Morocco and beyond:
To makebaghrir, semolina flour pancakes, one of my favorite Moroccan breakfast foods, see Mint Tea and Minarets page 246. Serve with honey or apricot jam!
Who “invented” couscous?”: A diplomatic quandary
“Slimane Hachi, directeur du Centre algérien de recherches préhistoriques, anthropologiques et historiques (CNRPAH) et promoteur du projet, a précisé à la radio algérienne que l’initiative devrait réunir Algérie, Maroc, Tunisie, Libye, Mauritanie et même Mali,.. . »
Tangia:See Mint Tea and MInarets, page 124
Yes, it’s true, many families (including me, when I am in Azemmour) cook tangiain the glowing coals of the baker’s oven which is usually adjacent to the hammam. Tangiais great for entertaining, as it can be made the day before (I use a slow cooker.) Sorry, I haven’t practiced with the Instant Pot yet! View my recipe in Mint Tea and Minaretspage 124.
Your Next Serving of Truffles Should Be From Oregon
Of course: We have it all, right here, in the US. The Beaver State is serving up fancy fungi that might be just as good as the imported varieties.
“Food for thought” à la française:
Concerned about California’s Water history?
Rita Schmidt Sudman’sis an expert on the subject.
and a long time observer of the California water scene. She led the Water Education Foundation for over 30 years. Her insight into the historic and current water conflicts provides context for the past and solutions and answers for the future. Hers is an anthology in art, history and story. https://watermoreorless.com
Les alligators en Louisianne:
« Voilà un gros », lance-t-il en français. « Lui, il a plus que trois mètres. » Dans la direction qu’il désigne, sur un tronc d’arbre à demi-submergé, sommeille un alligator. Tous les jours, de février à octobre, il emmène jusqu’à 66 personnes en excursion sur le lac . . .
Need a graduation gift? I ship books!
Tune in next time for Vietnam edition, #2…
Kitty travels Afar and Afield
Lady Liberty upon my first visit to New York in 1961:
New York today
The new World Trade Center slices through the clouds like a silver blade
Musings on New York and elsewhere9/11 Memorial
Grazing New York: Harlem Shambles, Eataly, Murray’s Cheese, FishsEddy, Grand Central Market and more
Rodin and Gertrude Stein
Walking through Brooklyn Heights
Overheard in Flushing, NY
Dia de los Muertos in Escondido, CA
A hop to Avalon on Catalina Island
Recipe: Pumpkin Garbanzo Bean Soup
Mail order gifts
Moroccan pastries made in the USA!
How to help Sonoma winemakers recovering from the fires (après les incendies de la Californie du Nord)
Classes and presentations
News of Morocco and beyond
Art Buchwald’s famous column on Kilometre Deboutish (aka Miles Standish) explique pourquoi nous celebrons Thanksgiving, le Jour de Merci Donnant (voir ci-dessoous.)
Afar and Afield in New York City and
Return to New York
As always, it seems I just wrote my last edition of the Kasbah Chronicles, but two months have already gone by. So Happy Thanksgiving! It is Thanksgiving eve and 85 degrees. I love a little chill in the air, and even snow on the ground at Thanksgiving. But not in these parts.
This afternoon I remain bemused and befuddled at the administration’s decision to remove restrictions on the importation of African elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, and allow more big game hunting there. Can anyone explain to me how a country in ruins like Zimbabwe can honestly manage its conservation program? Fortunately, I just heard the edict was rescinded (maybe??)
I am not here to dwell on politics but rather on my bucket list. The first destination is New York. One of my goals was to say “thank you” to the Statue of Liberty. This I did, from the deck of the Circle Line. Without her welcome and acceptance, I wouldn’t be writing to you today. My mother, brother and I were immigrants, and this is the original trunk we arrived with, on board a Yugoslav freighter loaded with cork, and in the WORST storm I have ever encountered.
By the time we entered the bay, Lady Liberty was bathed in sunshine, just like this!
The statue viewed from the Circle Line in 2017
My other mission was to visit the 9/11 Memorial.
What a stunning building
The enormity of the destruction of the site, the number of lives lost, the evil cunning and planning of the perpetrators along with the heroism of first responders took on a larger-than life dimension as I stood in the footprint of the building. Hundreds of visitors from around the globe milled about in a hushed atmosphere that added to the poignancy. A wall of remembrance displayed images of the victims, and these, coupled with individual bios. So many personal tragedies on display.
New York for me also holds bucketsful of happier memories. I lived in The Big Apple for a few months in 1965, to work at the NY World’s Fair. At that time, there was nothing more exciting for a wide-eyed 18 year old than to occupy the cashier’s cage and collect entrance fees to the fake Tower of London that sheltered fake Royal Jewels. . . in Queens, NY!! That’s when I fell in love with NY.
The city has evolved, and the BIGGEST SURPRISE was its cleanliness. My last visit, which probably took place 20 years ago, showed a New York in decline with dirty streets, crumbling buildings, and graffiti everywhere, including the subway. No more graffiti in the subway. Incroyable!
I had the good fortune of staying with my friend Vivian, a seventh-generation New Yorker, who lives in Harlem, an up and coming section of town. We walked across Barnard College (and cooled our heels a Max Caffe, a college hangout), ambled through CCNY, saw Hamilton’s home (yes, that Hamilton), which occupies a prominent hill in Hamilton Heights.
Trendy restaurants like Maison Harlem and Ponty Bistro with its French-speaking Senegalese waiters, and superstar chef Marcus Samuelsson‘s Streetbird Rôtisserie (www.streetbirdnyc.com) have all turned into gastronomic destinations. Vivian, a superb cook, shops at the famed Harlem Shambles butcher on Frederick Douglas Boulevard where we purchased merguez and a rosy breasted organic chickens as plump as a poulet de Bresse. What a thrill for me to stand under the marquee of the fabled Apollo Theatre! wwwapollotheatre.com. Harlem is a cool place!
Now onto more serious things:
I did manage to dash into several museums: The Rodin exhibit at the MET was as crowded as Grand Central. I wanted to see the Moroccan courtyard built by Moroccan artisans. It was a bit of a letdown for our own centuries old riad courtyard at Dar Zitoun is three times the size. The Museum of the City of NY was an eye-opener, with a tour led by a passionate docent who delighted in divulging some of the city’s darkest secrets. One day, we stumbled upon an Ai Wei Wei installation, a mesh “Arch” with two cutout figures, occupying the center of the marble arch at Washington Square Park. My favorite remains a discreet bronze statue of Gertrude Stein, holding forth in Bryant Park, behind the NY Central Library. Gertrude and I became well acquainted (on paper) during my graduate studies.
Food was never far from my thoughts, bien sûr. From Mario Batali’s lively EATALY (www.eataly.com) to the Chelsea Market, that soft scallion bun at the Chinese bakery next to the subway station on Flushing’s Main Street, and a gargantuan croque-monsieur at the Chinese-run Tous les Jours bakery, also in Flushing, NY delivered.
I am not a fan of Mario Batali’s but his idea is a great one: Across the street from the Flat Iron Building, he has assembled all foods Italian under one roof. Each stall features a specialty, from prosciutto and artisanal hams, to wheels of parmesan, fresh seafood, hand made pasta, and pastries. Ordering at EATALY, where the posted mantra is “LIFE is too short not to EAT WELL” is in itself a New York experience. Take a seat in the eating area, until a waiter appears.
Waiter: “Talk to me.”
Me: “Excuse me?”
Waiter (brusk but pleasant, sort of): “Talk to me.”
Me: “OK” (as I finally grasped his New York speak.)
His final words when we paid the bill:
“Just another day in paradise!”
We nibbled at a generous platter of sliced prosciutto, pâté, freshly baked bread and fig preserves, and the price was very fair. Contrast that with the nearby Chelsea Market, which I found on the tacky side with its dozens of touristy boutiques lining tunnels that were once a Pillsbury Cookie Factory. My native New Yorker friend led me along Ladies’ Mile (search the origins) to Fishs Eddy (www.fishseddy.com) a very early precursor of Sur la Table, with kitchen gadgets galore (pricey!!), Murray’s Cheese (www.murrays.cheese.com), the heavenly, decades-old cheese emporium on Bleeker Street in the Village. The counter at 8PM was as crowded as on a Saturday morning. Onto nearby Joe’s Pizzeria, another New York institution and, which, according to Vivian, makes the best pizza in New York, and for good measure, the Grand Central Market and its cascades of luxurious edibles inside the station. Phew.
Vivian works in Flushing, so off to Flushing I went, on a graffiti-free subway! Eavesdropping there was a challenge since hardly Chinese and Korean prevail. As I was waiting in the doorway of Modell’s Sporting Goods (Gotta Go to Mo’s), a Flushing institution, an elderly Caucasian couple walked past me:
OVERHEARD in Flushing:
Old man: “Why should we pray for him? NO need to pray for him! He doesn’t care about anybody anyway!” Sporting a pensive look, the old lady continued shuffling her way through a tide of Asian faces…
We capped my visit with a hop to Brooklyn, where I had never been. We explored Brooklyn Heights, a yuppie haven of tree-lined streets and nannies pushing strollers past historic Pilgrim Church. Jacques Torres, the chocolate king, maintains a storefront here, near the very first Hagen Daaz ice cream store. A highlight was a walk along riverfront The Promenade and wilderness preserve towards the famed Carrousel. All this and the location for Moonlight, the classic movie featuring Cher, where I gazed upon the very same view of Manhattan she did.
This will warm the cockles of your heart
Kitty’s Pumpkin and Tomato Soup with Garbanzo Beans
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 pounds butternut OR Mediterranean squash, peeled and cut into chunks
4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
5 medium tomatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons tomato paste
15 sprigs cilantro, tied with string
1 cup drained garbanzo beans
1 teaspoon cumin
2 to 3 cups chicken broth
Milk to thin soup, optional
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
A touch of cayenne, for serving (optional)
In a large saucepan or soup pot, combine the broth, squash, celery, tomatoes, and cilantro. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until vegetables are tender, 20 to to 25 minutes. Let cool. Discard the cilantro. In a blender or food processor, blend the vegetables and the garbanzos
In increments, adding the reserved broth a little at a time to obtain a smooth, thick puree. Return the soup to the pan. Bring to a simmer. Add more broth or milk for a thinner soup, and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Meanwhile back in San Diego County:
I flew home in time for the Dia de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead celebrations, which is turning into an ubiquitous multi-cultural ritual in our border city. I joined in at the Escondido Center for the Arts where, alongside dozens of other families, I created an “altar” to honor my mother, which, according to custom, contained one of her favorite foods: calisson cookies from Aix-en-Provence. Keep an eye out for tbeir upcoming Nikki de Saint Phalle exhibit (San Diego’s collection of her sculptures is much more impressive than what I saw at the Pompidou in Paris years ago.) I am now a docent at the California Center for the Arts and am thrilled that the center is holding an exhibit of Niki de Saint Phalle’s artwork from January 13 to March 4, 2018. Don’t miss this! Did you know she was a “local?” You are in for a treat! http://artcenter.org/museum/
A quick trip to Avalon on Catalina, allowed me to catch the Chihuly exhibit at the newly opened Catalina Island Museum. The show is over in early December, but the museum is worth the detour. As we did last time we were in Catalina 2 years ago, we lunched two days in a row at Blue Water Grill. The waterfront restaurant still offers the best value for the money on the island, and the location couldn’t be more idyllic on a sunny day: watching the waves lap at the shore through the slats in the deck as you savor an assertive Caesar salad or a bowl of addictive poke. I had no idea this was a California chain until I complimented the chef on using chermoula, the classic Moroccan marinade. I haven’t tasted their paella yet, but judging from the other dishes, it is sure to be a winner. A new Blue Water Grill is now open in Carlsbad (where Fish House Vera Cruz used to be.)
Kitty in the media: Edible Flowers
Modern Salt is one of the most literate food blogs:
Classes and presentations:
Great organization if you are a food buff.
January 20, 2018: Free and Open to the public
Tagines and Couscous: a history
10AM; San Diego Central Library
LIFE, Mira Costa College
Presentation and book signing
Poway Library, Poway CA
A taste of Morocco
Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories
MAIL ORDER GIFTS:
While in New York I met up with Mehdi Menouar, an enterprising young Moroccan businessman and founder of MESKA SWEETS, that produces REAL Moroccan pastries in New Jersey, and distributes them by mail order (www.meskasweets). I can vouch for the classy packaging and authenticity of flavors. Mehdi and his wife employ a team of bakers turn out mignardises from gazelle horns, chebakia (honey coils), feqqas (biscotti), and almond cookies according to traditional family recipes. Great gift, corporate or personal. The company contributes 5% of its proceeds to educate underprivileged Moroccans (in Morocco).
Help a Sonoma winery destroyed by fire
Ancient Oak Wine Cellars (ancientoakcellars.com)
was entirely destroyed in the Santa Rosa Fire. “On Redwood Road, there is nothing there, just flat blackened earth”, told me the mother of winemaker Melissa Moholt-Siebert. “Their website is the best place to order wine by the case or bottle,” she adds. Should you wish to contact her directly, go to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
http://www.montemaggiore.com/product/Holiday-Special-2017 makes and distributes fine wines in Northern California. Read their enlightening blog about the fires: http://www.montemaggiore.com/blog/Effects-of-the-fires-on-2017-wines
For aspiring authors:
Annie Lamott is a wonderful author who writes for and about writers. This is worth a look:
Anne Lamott: 12 truths I learned from life and writing | TED Talk | TED.com. https://www.ted.com/talks/anne_lamott_12_truths_i_learned_from_life_and_writing
News of Morocco and beyond:
The new Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech:
Casablanca, the movie, memorialized: https://www.wsj.com/articles/commemorating-a-battle-and-bogie-
The French are coming (encore une fois)! The French are coming! https://france-amerique.com/fr/once-again-the-french-are-colonizing-quebec/
And on the subject of memorials:
Thanksgiving: Le Jour de Merci Donnant:
reprinted from the New York Times
The dinde is dandy, so let’s give thanks
By Art Buchwald
Published: Thursday, November 27, 2003
One of the most important holidays is Thanksgiving Day, le Jour de Merci Donnant. . . . “Le Jour de Merci Donnant was started by a group of pilgrims (Pèlerins) who fled from l’Angleterre before the McCarran Act to found a colony in the New World (le Nouveau Monde) where they could shoot Indians (les Peaux-Rouges) and eat turkey (dinde) to their hearts’ content. They landed at a place called Plymouth (subsequently a voiture Americaine) in a wooden sailing ship named the Mayflower, or Fleur de Mai, in 1620. But while the Pèlerins were killing the dindes, the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pèlerins, and there were several hard winters ahead for both of them. . . .”
Everyone wins in Toulouse!
Cruising the Canal du Midi
Invasion of the Ripe Tomatoes
News of Morocco and beyond
Links of interest
North San Diego County discoveries
Kitty contributes to The Vista Press
A French wedding menu
Kitty is selling: Moroccan items
Three piece 1930s-style, carved oak, vintage living room set
My last Chronicles described my travels to France in April to reconnect with childhood friends from Casablanca. We met up in Paris (1st part), Vienna, and Nice. Next in store is TOULOUSE. ( I have so much more to say about Paris, that Ill devote my next Chronicles to the rest of my Parisian interlude)
Liz was the friend I reconnected with in what the French call “La Ville Rose” so named for its abundance of red brick buildings (in Morocco, we call Marrakech “The Pink City” as well).
Liz and I both attended the lycée in Casablanca, and she hosted the very LAST party I attended before I set off for Tangier with my mother and brother in August 1964 to catch the boat that would bring us to the US.
A few decades later, my friend was waiting for me at the charming Blagnac airport, all smiles, and looking much as I remembered her (and she immediately whisked me off to a bakery to sample fenétra, a special bread. What a friend!
Many of my lycée classmates headed to Toulouse to go to university. Fifty years on, I wished I had gone to visit them at the time. Students make up 1/10th of the population in this town of 900,000 inhabitants.
Toulouse, aka (as well) la Cité des Violettes, straddles two major waterways: the wide river Garonne, one of France’s longest. When the sun is out, hundreds of étudiants sun themselves on its grassy banks. And the placid, 17th century, man-made Canal du Midi, that stretches between the Garonne and the Mediterranean to the west and the Gironde estuary near Bordeaux. More important for gourmets, is the fact that Toulouse is the navel of the universe for cassoulet, and for foie gras, which I sampled in numerous iterations over three days —— along with Liz’s home-made cassoulet, stuffed with the region’s famed saucisses.
But first things first: We hot-footed it out of the spotless metro the next morning, onto Toulouse’s wide Alléees Jean Jaurès in the centre ville, near Les Américains, a café bistrot ideal for people watching. Liz was on a mission: to reach le marché Cristal on the Blvd de Strasbourg before closing time. For a list, seehttp://www.toulouseinfos.fr/pratique/decouverte-de-toulouse/9264-marches-toulouse.html)
I tried not to trip as I craned my neck to look up at the handsome brick buildings along the tree-lined boulevard. In minutes, we were engulfed in the colorful sounds of the daily marché .Asperges! Tomates! Champignons! Poulet de Ferme! And some Moroccan: Labès, madame! Many vendors hailed from North Africa. Slightly breathless, and loaded down with a cabas (bag) filled with produce, we took a seat at a table outside the Rose de Tunis café, a few blocks away. Nothing like a glass of piping-hot mint tea and a honey pastry to set you back on the right track.
Thus fortified, we boarded the free shuttle that crisscrosses downtown,along the narrow streets, lined with universities and historic sights: the imposing fifth century basilique Sainte Marie de Toulouse or Notre Dame La Daurade, with its black Madonna; the Gothic style Couvent des Jacobins started in 1230, with its palm-tree shaped pillars. We got off at the Office du Tourisme in the Donjon du Capitole, which borders the football field-size Place du Capitole not far from the 4th century Eglise St Pierre des Cuisines. The cuisine refers to the Latin “coquinis” or food stalls that once occupied the neighborhood. St Pierre des Cuisines is the oldest church in Southwest France — there you have it, even saints think about food.
A few zigs and a zag later, we reached the banks of the Garonne. On this glorious day, students were out en masse, sunning themselves on the lawn, or dangling their feet above the water. Liz had more for me to see. She had me cuddle up to the statue of local songwriter Claude Nougaro, one of my teenage heartthrob.
My friend needed a ripe wheel of Brie, and knew we would find the perfect fromage at SENA FROMAGER, across the street from the Marché des Carmes, the historic covered market. SENA has been in business for 6 generations. Indeed, the young vendor behind the counter was busy upholding tradition, and handing out samples. http://www.senafromager.com/contact.html.
Liz had promised me an unforgettable lunch, and she delivered once again. The airy and wide-open La Cantine de l’Opera lies on the Allées Jean-Jaurès, near Place du Capitole. Chef Stéphane’s seasonal menu changes daily and encompasses all of Toulouse’s gastronomic riches, from foie gras de canard and cassoulet toulousain aux haricots tarbais (bien sur) to Jambon Noir and Tartare de Boeuf. http://lesjardinsdelopera.fr/la-carte-de-la-cantine. You can’t miss the big green frog that decorates the entrance.
We needed to make one more stop before taking the metro home — at the Terre de Pastel (www.terredepastel.com) a charming magasin that sells everything related to the violet, L’Or Bleu de Toulouse (the Blue Gold of Toulouse) the city’s symbol, imported centuries ago from the palace of the Sultan of Constantinople. I purchased tins of candied violets, the same delicate treats that I once received from my French grandmother.
My friend had saved the best (among the best) for last: a day’s cruise on the Canal du Midi. Her friend Bruno’s flat-bottomed péniche is the classic way to explore one of France’s most scenic waterways. I was living a dream, navigating the canal at 3 miles an hour, keeping pace with the cyclists waving from the shore, and gliding under the dappled shade of an arch of centuries old plane trees. Liz had planned lunch along the canal, near the lock at the Ecluse du Castanet (http://www.l-ecluse-de-castanet.fr). I stepped out of my dream into a postcard: a flower-filled chalet, once the home of the lock keeper, now a restaurant on the water. My Salade Océane would have fed four. Did I mention more foie gras? And scallops in garlic butter? I waddled back onto the péniche, and let the lapping of the water induce a gluttony-induced nap.
For the best couscous in Toulouse:
One of the peculiarities of this man-made ribbon of water is that the CANAL flows OVER the freeway . . . What a way to escape the busy traffic below.
I am already plotting to return to La Ville Rose.
RECIPE OF THE MOMENT
Tomates, tomatoes, pomodori, matisha=BLISS this month
My current favorite:
Soft White Bread (forgive me)
Sliced, sun-kissed tomato right off the vine