Busby Bakes

thoughts on cooking + eating by one who lives for the daily feast

Archive for the 'shopping' Category

manger à Genève

The Husband is on an extended project in Geneva, Switzerland. Sound glamorous? Turns out, we’d rather be in Jersey if it meant we were together. Trying to make the best of it, we plan to see each other every 3 or 4 weeks. Last week marked my first visit.

I arrived at the end of a marathon work weekend for the Husband and his team. So we eased into our dining extravaganza. Joined by a few coworkers, we all ordered giant salads at funky Café Art’s, just a few blocks from his apartment and his office. And the red light district.

The next night, we took a ferry across the lake for a swanky date. Total romance at l’Adresse: cocottes of butternut squash gnocchi,  razor clams, a bottle of Johannisberg—a white wine from the nearby Valais region—and a full moon in their rooftop garden.

On Wednesday, we met for lunch at a sweet little crêperie; mine came with roquette and chevre, the Husband could not resist ham and cheese with a fried oeuf on top. That night we nibbled on cheese and cured meat from the neighborhood’s Italian grocer.

I went to the Left Bank the next afternoon to explore and have a coffee and a treat. While the chocolate charlotte at Gilles Desplanches was quite good, the waiters were snooty. Perhaps they were right: our evening began with a couple of  “lake cans” with the Husband’s coworkers. Then we hiked it to the old part of the city for mussels, frites, and trotters, crème brolée (which is what you get when 2 dudes share dessert), and lots of wine  at Au Pied de Chochon.

And then an “unwinder” at La Bretelle, a hole-in-the-wall that advocates smoking, in many forms.

Friday brought a lesson: there are no rooms to be had, even expensive ones at dumpy-looking hotels, on beautiful fall weekends in the countryside near Geneva. After hours of searching for someplace, anyplace where we could go for a weekend of hiking and yodeling, it became obvious we weren’t getting out of town. So, we went out to dinner: foie gras, Champagne, and outstanding thyme-infused fish at La Table in the charmingly groovy suburb of Carouge.

Saturday night saw another picnic in the apartment, this time assembled from our morning stroll through Carouge’s outdoor market: Tunisian olives and Italian sundried tomatoes from the friendliest of olive vendors; delicious cheeses from the stall with the longest line; a bottle of local red; a loaf of le Glâneur; viande des Grisons (thinly-sliced dried cured pork) from Bronnimann & Fils, a stunning charcuterie; and fruit. After shopping we stopped for open-faced sandwiches (fresh anchovy for me, smoked salmon for the Husband) at the quietly hip, completely friendly Vert Boutielle. The Husband had a beer and I chose a complex, unfiltered French white from their list of biodynamic wines.

Sunday, we just had to get out of town. We decided to visit the Château de Chillon at the far west end of the lake. Before our early-morning train to Montreux, we ran down to the local boulangerie for big, buttery, flaky croissants, including a Nutella-filled variation.

That evening a comforting, lovingly made, truly delicious dinner of curry and whole roasted fish at Jeck’s Place completely made up for the unhappy discovery that this place was not open for late lunch. After a emailing ahead. And receiving confirmation. And an expensive taxi ride up the mountain.

On my last day there, after learning how to work the spotless laundry mat that the neighborhood streetwalkers use (note to self: don’t stand outside whilst waiting for the dryer cycle to finish), I set off to find locally grown green lentils. Much as I would have loved to visit Ferme Courtois, the train sure wasn’t going to get me there. In an email exchange (thank you, Google Translate), Madam Courtois suggested I buy them at Manor, which was a 10-minute walk from the Husband’s apartment.

Holy mother of gourmet goodness: It was Whole Foods meets Harrod’s in a country that loves their food and drink. The enormous section dedicated solely to chocolate was packed with tourists and locals alike. The bakery and patisserie were mobbed. There were dozens of kinds of butter. I saw charcuterie so beautiful, I almost started crying. They even sell salt cod. A bit heart-broken that I’d only found this shrine to the palate on my last day, I bought my lentils (and an embarrassment of chocolate) and can’t wait to return in November.

Then I headed to the old town to satisfy my desire for an indulgent hour spent sipping coffee, eating pastry, and reading at a quiet outdoor café. And of course I’d forgotten my book. After some bewildering moments in a Christian bookstore, I found a newsstand and bought something to read (Vanity Fair, the one with Lindsay Lohan on the cover). And then I wandered around…and around. It seemed the best patisseries were take-out only. And the chocolateries/tea rooms were packed with tourists on traffic-y streets. I didn’t want lunch or a drink, so no cafes. All week, this quest eluded me. I almost caved at a charming crêperie. But I really wanted a pear tart. Or apple, if there was no pear. Frustrated, I compromised.  A patisserie doing steady business on a remote corner offered slices of a gorgeous tarte aux poires. So I bought one and went home. And I had my coffee and ate my tart at the Husband’s tiny desk with the window open.

It was time for a proper Swiss send-off. That night we met with the Husband’s coworkers at Au Petit Châlet, an inviting Heidi-styled place, for rotisserie chicken and a bottle of Swiss Gamaret. In lieu of an unwinder, we indulged ourselves at Mövenpick. Glad I did a lot of walking. Can’t wait to go back!

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Crazy, Glaze-y Days of Summer

Readers, it’s been a crazy summer. Happy to report that the Husband and I have been putting our former neighbor’s cast-off Weber to good use. A recent weeknight dinner was inspired by a New York Times recipe for a Stout Citrus Glaze.

Lacking a true stout, I used a random bottle of Java Vanilla Porter from Atwater Brewery. No idea how it migrated from Detroit to the back of our fridge.

The strong flavors of the beer settled down with the addition of balsamic vinegar and lemon. The Husband spread this sticky brew on some gorgeously thick lamb steaks from Mint Creek Farm, purchased on my sole trip to the farmer’s market this summer. Delicious!

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dinner no. 29: FAIL

We were supposed to meet up with a friend and his lady who were visiting from L.A. The Husband’s flight home from D.C. was delayed. I had some work to do. We bailed on the plan.

I decided to stay home. My dinner consisted of olives, some addictive crackers, an apple, and slices of a brown sugar and fennel salame from Boccalone that a friend had brought from San Francisco.

The Husband tried a little harder. He had a sandwich from Potbelly at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (Terminal B).

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dinner no. 22: Whole Foods

Whole Foods

30 W Huron (at Dearborn)

An evening return home from a business trip and a long week had me thinking that the Husband might not feel like going out. So I cheated and went to Whole Foods on my way home to procure an assembled dinner. I bought baby greens, grape tomatoes, a loaf of crusty bread, and from the prepared food counter, a gingery Asian-inspired black quinoa slaw  and grilled salmon. Presto! Healthy, protein-rich salad.

The Husband approved and said it surpassed his dinner from Panda Express last night.

Total unclear due to addition of cat food and body lotion to shopping cart. $24, maybe?

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dinner no. 20: Pastoral

Pastoral

53 E Lake St (at Wabash)

As the Husband has a last-minute business trip to prepare for, tonight we cheated a little and picked up sandwiches from Pastoral to eat at home.

But that doesn’t sound right. Pastoral doesn’t make just any old sandwich. They carry some of the best cheese and bread in the city. They take their cured meat seriously. And the combinations they put between two pieces of bread are incredible. This is sandwich artistry of the highest form.

The Husband ordered a Bocadillo de la Mancha: Serrano, Manchego, greens, membrillo and dijon on a baguette. I ordered my favorite, the Canard Balsamico: duck, cipollini onions soaked in balsamic vinegar, baby greens, oozy Fromager D’Affinois,  and dijon on a baguette. Le sigh. We really should get back in the gym.

Total was $20 even.

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dinner no. 02: Chicago French Market

Chicago French Market

131 N. Clinton (at Randolph)

For tonight’s dinner, we strolled from office locales to meet friends and their 2 younguns at the city’s attempt to “bring back the European-inspired marketplace.” Located at the Ogilvie train station, the French Market consists of a hodge-podge of items to consume onsite as well as lots of ingredients to take home. Also square pegs like homemade soap and woven baskets. The meat, cheese, and fish vendors displayed some great-looking stuff. Live lobsters in a tank entertained the kids. One of my favorite places, Pastoral, has a prime spot by the front door. But as a whole, it felt like the gastronomic version of a buddy cop film: suburban mall food court is paired with an urban gourmet shoppe and as long as they stick together, they’ll be given one hell of a deal on rent.

We camped at a table and took turns hunting and gathering before returning to the den with food for the kids.

From Frietkoten Belgian Fries & Beer: Frites with curry mayo and blue cheese mayo. But no beer, as the liquor license is still snarled in the city’s red tape machine. The allure of frites+beer after work had been the focus of my afternoon. Le sigh.

From Necessity Baking Co.: Tsoureki (Easter egg loaf shaped like a wreath with dyed, hard-boiled eggs as garnish). Turns out an entire hard-boiled egg can cram nicely into the mouth of an 18-month-old.

From Bowl Square: Bibimbap with beef. Also “some kind of really spicy French dressing.”

From Chundy’s Bistro: Curried chicken and saffron rice. Also a discussion about being allergic to chicken.

From FLiP Crepes: Buckwheat crepes filled with brie, fig jam, onion confit, walnuts and spinach. Also samples of Nutella-filled crepes that were for the chocolate tour group, not us. Completely busted by chocolate smeared lips and fingers. This would be the adults, not the kids.

From Vanille: A chocolate eclair. Also a perfect-looking raspberry macaron, which fit into an 18-month-old’s mouth in a single bite.

From Delightful Pastries: An small cake loafette, decorated like an Easter egg. Crumb survey revealed that the 3-year-old was a big fan.

Overall, everything was pretty tasty. And the company was excellent, with ample entertainment by adorable children. I estimate that we spent about $15 a person (not including the kids).

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Wisconsin’s finest

wisconsinhaul

The Husband and I spent the past weekend in Viroqua, Wisconsin with his family.  Twas beautiful, rural, hilly, beery.

Saturday morning we went to the farmer’s market. Small but some good finds among the baskets and beaded what-not. And a vibrant, friendly vibe. Bored Amish kids hung in the buggy while mom and dad sold deep, dark, grade B maple syrup. Chatty, pink-cheeked farmers sold seedlings, rhubarb, and spring onions. I scooped up a couple of jars of picked veg: baby brussel sprouts and asparagus.

Dinner on Saturday night was outstanding local prime rib at the
Olde Town Inn in Westby. We felt a bit guilty upon leaving the restaurant when we noticed a herd of cows across the road. Um…thanks?

On our way home, we stopped in New Glarus, a super Swiss Miss-ed town. Seriously, even the Citgo looked like a chalet. But we were there for the beer. New Glarus Brewing Company makes delicious, small-batch craft brews that aren’t available outside of Cheesehead territory. So we stocked up. Those Old Style tall boys in the fridge had better make room.

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Sausage School

Last Sunday, the Husband and I met some friends for a hands-on cooking class. Our mission was to learn the secrets of chef George’s house-made sausage…and to end the humiliation suffered at a grillfest some 10 months back. At a barbeque last summer, the Husband and I showed up with “fresh” sausage from Whole Foods. Our hosts smacked down that yuppie nonsense with a batch of sausages so delicious, so porky, so incredible that even the guys at Bari would have approved.

Turns out, the encased perfection came from August. A small neighborhood grocery, August is the kind of place that will grind the beef for your hamburgers. Their fish selection is small but incredibly fresh. Stacks of cookbooks are on hand to lend inspiration. And they make a nightly dinner special for the hurried or the harried. And sausage, did I mention the delicious sausage?

Here’s a quick version of the class, which was really fun. Chef George made sure we knew the why behind the what, which I always find extremely helpful.

Step One: Chop up a cold Berkshire pork shoulder. If I recall correctly, 30% fat is desirable. Feed the chunks through a meat grinder.

shoulder

Step Two: Divide the meat in half. To one half, add chopped oyster mushroom and fresh herbs; to the other, blanched leeks and hot pepper. Salt and pepper to both. Combine with your hands. Keep the meat mix cold.

mixing

Step Three: Stuff into casings. Casings being the small intestine of a pig. Don’t think it was the same one who gave the shoulder. Mercifully, the cleaning and rinsing had been done by the butcher.

casing

stuffer

raw

Step Four: Cook each type of sausage two ways: Brown in a hot pan, then cook through in a hot oven.
grilled

And steam (never, ever boil) then brown in a pan.

steamed

A BYOB dinner at the counter followed, where despite our best efforts we reached no consensus on the best sausage nor the best cooking method. Will have to revisit when we cook up the links we brought home. And again upon purchasing more from August. To all of our friends with grills: this summer, we promise to show up with the good stuff!

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Six ways to grind

pepperlove

Here is a shot of my Valentine’s Day present. I’ve been wanting this baby for ages! The Husband is so good to me (swoon).

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Spread the love

spread2

Along with a box of delicious homemade cookies, over the holidays a friend gave us 2 little jars of chocolate-peanut spread from, well, Spread, a restaurant in San Diego.

The dark chocolate peanut version (No. 14) has made a few appearances with my afternoon snack of toast and coffee. A delicious combination.

For some reason I waited until today to break out the other one, white chocolate pretzel (No. 73 ). Forget the toast: this one just needs a spoon. It’s criminally good. I’m eating it as I type. Don’t know if I can stop.

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