Tuesday, December 16, 2008

After five performances and countless edits it's time to call it a wrap on The Georgia Youth Ballet's thirteenth year of the Nutcracker Ballet!

Truly, this was one of the easier and more pleasant "gigs" that we have worked in recent years. Each performance delivered holiday magic with stunning costumes, charming actors and talented young performers.

A special thanks to Cay Ellis, mother of Co-Director, Randi Lancaster, for the original suggestion to co-ordinate episodes of Home At Last! with the rich history and foods traditionally associated to the dances of the Nutcracker.

Some of the recipes developed for the show will seem familiar and simple, but I have also developed a few recipes to challenge your perception of what can be easily accomplished with a little planning and a few quality ingredients.

The most enjoyable surprise of the season was my homemade Honeybell Orange Brandy created to enhance my Strawberries Romanoff episode.

One of my all-time favorite tea desserts, I imagined how delighted Czar Nicholas I would have been with my vanilla brandy sweetened with sun-ripened Honeybell Orange juice and richly-scented oils extracted from the plump skins.

Unlike the Limoncello that requires 80 days to develop its lemony-goodness, this velvety brandy can be accomplished within two weeks! But be warned, you might want to double the recipe! I paired the brandy with Paromi's new Coconut-Almond Tea for a winter hot toddy! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!




Monday, November 24, 2008

Visions of Sugarplums . . .

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there!"


On a cold dark night in early December, 1965, there was an unexpected knock on the door of my family's apartment at our base housing in Phorzheim, Germany.

A dark, mysterious white-bearded man draped in a flowing red cape swept into our living room, his head covered with a tall polka-dotted red hat. Across his back was a long sheath filled with branches and twigs. In one hand he carried a tall miter leaving his other hand free to point and inquire, "Have you been a good little girl?"

As St. Nicholas leaned in close to my sister she let out an awful scream.

No amount of fruit and nuts was going to save that night. St. Nick was quietly escorted from the apartment grateful that tradition demanded short visits with each child.

Christmas in Germany was a wonderful experience for our young military family! O.K., maybe not the St. Nick incident, but his visit remains a cherished childhood memory. Stationed in countries where American television was not a part of our nightly routine we relied on family traditions and new friends to celebrate Christmas abroad.

At home, my mother baked and cooked all of our favorite Southern holiday treats. She made pralines, Divinity, fruit cakes, decorated sugar cookies, pies, cakes and my personal favorite, fudge! Neighbors and friends often dropped by with gifts of American and German Christmas specialties.

There were fanciful Gingerbread hearts, spicy Pfeffernuss cookies, and Stollen, a traditional bread-like cake filled with Marzipan. I delighted in the brightly wrapped foil Christmas ornaments of German chocolate and enjoyed an occasional delicious foil-wrapped chocolate bottle filled with German liqueurs. Colorful Advent Calendars filled with tiny chocolates behind the windows of candlelit houses were a special treat and uncovering the tiny treats each day filled our holiday home with great anticipation

There were parties throughout the season and I remember those happy times when our apartment was filled with adult laughter. Friends of the family stationed in other parts of Germany would visit on weekends, adding to the merriment and fun-filled weekends.

Unlike the German tradition of decorating a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve my parents held with their own tradition of ordering us a tree and having it delivered to our apartment about ten days before Christmas.

My mother would lay out the boxes of shiny ornaments and lights. Delicate glass ornaments made in Germany were added to our decorations brought from America. My favorites were little colorful glass birds with feathers, red polka dot glass mushrooms and tiny bubbling candle lights.

The turntable was stacked with albums of Christmas carols and holiday favorites. I always liked "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause" although I am embarrassed to tell you how old I was before I "got" it. Another childhood favorite was Alvin and The Chipmunks. Our family cheerfully sang along wondering if Alvin would ever get his Hula Hoop!

We reminisced about friends and family who weren't able to be with us. We gave thanks for a peaceful evening together in the glow of our beautiful tree. The tree was finally declared our prettiest ever and ended with the official tree lighting.

As Christmas Eve drew closer the excitement and anticipation grew around or tiny community. There were holiday shopping trips to the PX and hours of gift wrapping. My older sister and I would shop in the nearby village, admiring the quaint shops beautifully decorated for Christmas.

Filled with the holiday spirit, the family would gather around the tree after dinner on Christmas Eve and open one small gift before heading off to bed. My parents reminded us that Santa wouldn't come until we were fast asleep. I never figured out how Santa knew we were living in Germany.

Christmas Day was a festive, but quiet day. My mother started us out with plenty of fresh biscuits with Country Ham and homemade cinnamon buns. The day leisurely unfolded with lots of time to enjoy our gifts and help out in the kitchen. Our Christmas Dinner was a typical Southern feast and my mother amazed us by serving everyone's favorites! I remember her in her tiny kitchen, gently whistling or humming as she prepared our holiday meal.

I miss those family Christmases. The holidays were rich with family traditions and new friends. Our tiny apartment was the center of activity and my parents were gracious hosts to their friends and neighbors.

My husband and I hope to return to Frankfurt Am Main in Germany this holiday season to experience the magic of a traditional German Christmas and to recapture the joy of Christmas Past!

Dating back to 1393 A.D. the tradition of German Christmas Markets is a focal point of the holiday season in Germany. The Frankfurt market is a spectacular example of the markets held through-out Germany during the Christmas season.

Boasting some of the most beautifully decorated market stalls in Germany, vendors offer handcrafted German toys, decorations and culinary creations dating back centuries. This year's market runs November 26th through December 21st. To learn more about the Frankfurt Christmas Market please visit their website at http://www.frankfurt-tourismus.de.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Review of El Serpis Olives

Originally submitted at Cost Plus World Market

El Serpis has been a popular brand of Spanish olives since 1926. The company originally pioneered the production of anchovy-stuffed green olives. El Serpis olives, whether stuffed with anchovies or red peppers, are tasty on their own as a snack, in a martini or as part of an antipasto.


Love this Olives with Anchovies

By Patty from Newnan, GA on 11/10/2008

 

5out of 5

Pros: Flavorful, Non-Perishable, Easy To Prepare, Well Packaged

Best Uses: Anytime

Describe Yourself: Foodie

I make an Italian-style pannini with Toma Cheese and the wonderful anchovie olives.

(legalese)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Garden-fresh Pasta (Serves 4)

1 pint yellow pear tomatoes (coarse chop)

3-4 Roma tomatoes (coarse chop)

3 tbsp olive oil

1 pinch of dried herbs (sage, basil and chives)

1 pinch garlic powder

1 piece shallot (finely chopped)

1 clove of garlic (finely chopped)

1 tbsp fresh basil + 2 tbsp basil for chiffonade

1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

½ tsp lemon juice

1 tbsp butter

Pepper

2 tbsp of Sweet Grass Goat Cheese

9-12 oz angel hair or spaghettini pasta


 

*Pre-cook angel hair pasta for about six minutes-al dente. Strain and set aside.

Allow pan to preheat on medium heat. Add olive oil and wait a few seconds before adding chopped tomatoes. Add dried herbs, shallot, garlic, fresh basil and chives. Stir gently allowing ingredients to incorporate well. Add salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice.

Roll basil leaves into a chiffonade and slice into fine ribbons for garnish. Set aside.

Add butter to finish sauce. Stir in another 2 tsp of chopped basil. Place angel hair pasta in sauce and toss until well coated. Top with crumbled goat cheese and fresh basil chiffonade.


 

Fresh Goat Cheese

Sweet Grass Dairy

Thomasville, GA


 

Convenient Online Ordering

www.SweetGrassDairy.com

Friday, July 25, 2008

Chocolate Martinis in the Big Apple

Flying over NYC, recently, I decided that when
the occasion called for it - I was only going to order Chocolate Martinis.

With plans for an upcoming episode on the history of cocktails I wanted do a little research. I know how that must sound . . . but, wait . . .listen! I was dedicating myself to the research [for ya'll] and quite frankly, I came back pretty well informed! For the life of me, though, I don't know what I did with my notes.

My research began at the lounge at the Renaissance Hotel in White Plains, New York. You know . . . now that I'm thinking about it, my research actually began with two Bloody Marys on the plane trip up! And even though this blog isn't about tomatoes this might be a good time to share news about another new blog, Tomato Patty. . . http://www.tomatopatty.blogspot.com/.

Do ya'll mind if I take a break here? I'm going to go mix up a batch of Chocolate Martinis.

Ok, I'm back. . . anyway, as we sat there in the glow of the candlelight [at the Renaissance] our waitress made a fuss over shaking my Chocolate Martini tableside and pouring it into a tall martini glass laced with chocolate. Nice touch.

Oh, here's my notes . . . I conducted my research in the hotel lounge . . . twice! And, let's see. . .several times at the Davenport Club in New Rochelle . . and finally at Ruby's Bistro and Oyster Bar in Rye, where I expertly paired my Chocolate Martini with a Lobster Roll that actually tasted like genuine lobster!

Satisfied that I could create the perfect Chocolate Martini back in Atlanta I called it quits.

My findings . . . hmmm . . .

I never met a Chocolate Martini I didn't like.


Home At Last! Chocolate Martinis for 2

4 oz premium Vodka

¼ oz Godiva Chocolate Liqueur

¼ oz Kahlua

¼ oz white crème de cocoa

½ oz 2% milk

Pour ingredients into a shaker. Stir until cold. Place martini in the freezer while you prepare two martini glasses by drizzling each glass with chocolate syrup.

Strain cold Chocolate Martinis into glasses and serve.

Yeah, baby!





Sunday, July 20, 2008

Home At Last! travels this week to Thomasville, Georgia,
home of Sweet Grass Dairy.

Award-winning artisan cheese-makers,
Jeremy and Jessica Little share their passion for the most delectable cow and goat cheeses available in America today!

Available in specialty markets and wine shops
across the America, Sweet Grass Dairy has recently added
convenient online ordering. Your artisan cheeses arrive
beautifully packaged and carefully packed to ensure freshness!

Aah . . .life's simple pleasures!

A lovely plate filled with fresh fruit, Majool Dates and a simple Toffee Pear Galette. Try this simple galette with a simple cheese board from Sweet Grass Dairy, add a sparkling rose Cava and you’ve got a party!


Toffee Pear Galette

Cut Puff Pastry into 3" rounds.
Spread Dulce De Leche Caramel
within 1/2 inch of outer perimeter.

Slice a halved, cored pear into slices about 1/8 inch thick
Slice pear thinly-allowing for gentle fanning of pear.
Place pear half on top of caramel.

Create a simple egg wash and brush over galette.
Bake in preheated 400 degree oven
for ten minutes or until golden.
Serve with fresh fruit, Thomasville Tome & a sparking rose Cava!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Discovering Italy

In June of 1999, I was invited to review a Bed and Breakfast at Villa San Pietro in Montichiari, Italy, in the Lombardy Region of Northern Italy. Fueled by memories of exotic family travels I was anxious to create the same kind of romantic memories with my husband, Ron. We marveled at our good fortune and eagerly agreed.

From Frankfurt, Germany we made our way south towards Switzerland. With a heightened sense of excitement, we were eager for adventure. We giggled every time we saw another sign pointing the way to Italy.

One sign, in particular, stood out! Gotthard Pass With my rusty German, I offered my interpretation to Ron. “I think if we turn here-we will totally pass around the Swiss Alps!"

And so began our slow, arduous climb over the Swiss Alps. The narrow pass was jammed with holiday travelers and tour buses. Traffic slowed to a crawl, dangling us over ravines covered in snow.

Climbing over 6900 feet at a snail’s pace I witnessed every glorious waterfall and chiseled snow-covered rock. White-knuckled I snapped photo after photo, thinking I was capturing a once in a life-time event! Wrong! I never could remember what that sign meant! After several trips and several errors in memory, we agreed that we would only look for signs with pictures of tunnels!

We arrived in Lugano,Italy, more Swiss than Italian! But I needed a glass of wine and it was technically Italy! Remember now, we were “newbies” back then! I had to wait until 7pm. In Italy, restaurants don’t serve dinner until 7 pm. I was tempted to sit at our outdoor café-sipping wine until 7 pm. I had plenty to do. I was already imagining a T-shirt that read. . .”I survived the Swiss Alps!”

Situated on Lake Lugano, which is actually in the southern tip of Switzerland, Lugano is a charming gateway to Italy. We checked into a modern American-style hotel for the night. After settling in, we walked the neighborhood, strolling into a local market, enjoying the sights and smells.

Our journey to Montichiari continued the next morning after a robust morning coffee at the local McDonalds. There are some unexpected conveniences through out Europe that make everything comfortable and familiar. We continued across the Autostrade headed southeast until we came to the roundabout marking our destination. We arrived in the ancient village of Montichiari-only to realize I had left my contact information at the hotel.

Sure that I could find the information on the web I inquired about a cyber-café (?!) We were directed to The Hotel Elephant. The young hotel clerk took it upon himself to deliver us safely to the café. He flew out of the hotel, jumped on his Vespa, and straight out of a foreign film we chased after our young guide, flying through the ancient walled streets of Montichiari, arriving winded at the cyber-café. After rounds of coffee and beer for the entire café, Ron and I finally bid our new friends a fond farewell and made our way to the massive entry gate to Villa San Pietro Bed and Breakfast.

Our host, Anna Ducroz, greeted us warmly at the entry to the inn. Anna and Jacques Ducroz operated an American-style Bed and Breakfast and hoped that a glowing review would encourage other Americans to visit their village.

Villa San Pietro is Anna’s 400-year old family estate, divided into several large apartments, housing several generations of Anna’s family.

We entered the compound through a lovely courtyard garden fragrant from delicate pink roses, making our way along worn brick paths laid out in a beautiful basket weave pattern. Anna escorted us through the gardens and past a wicker-filled loggia with typical Italian arches and stately travertine columns.

We were invited to drop off our luggage and rejoin them for a brief tour of the apartment reserved for the guests of the Bed and Breakfast. There were four or five guestrooms as well as some common areas and small shared kitchen. A brief tour of the apartment revealed remarkable18th century frescoes being lovingly restored. As restorations have continued over the years frescoes were uncovered from the 16th century, detailing life in the village 500 years ago.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent in the shade of the loggia. The Ducroz family was hospitable and gracious and eager to share their lives in their beautiful Italian village.
Later in the evening Anna’s mother treated us to a wonderful regional dinner of stewed chicken, followed by tiny glasses of homemade Limoncello, a delicious family recipe.

Jacques Ducroz, a former captain in the French Foreign Legion, was a charming, attentive host and shared exciting tales of life in the legion. It was an enchanted evening with a gracious Italian family.

After a lovely evening with Anna’s family, we made our way back to our large tiled guestroom with a beautiful antique bed. We marveled at our private bath with walk-in tiled shower, stocked with fluffy towels and plenty of Anna’s wonderful toiletries and shampoos. We enjoyed a good night’s sleep, followed by a lazy breakfast served outside our apartment, in the sunny courtyard.
As our visit to Villa San Pietro drew to an end, Anna directed us to the village antiques fair, taking place in the town center. We enjoyed the slow pace of the weekend and found a few baubles to remind of us of our first visit.

It was a perfect first experience. long enough to get the lay of the land and to understand that there would be many return visits to Italy! Please visit Anna and Jacques website for more on The Villa San Pietro Bed and Breakfast at http://www.abedandbreakfastinitaly.com/

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Home At Last! has a new look!

Earlier this month my new website for Home At Last! With Patty Gironda went live. (www.HomeAtLast.net)

There was a flurry of emails from friends and associates congratulating me on the new look, the exciting line of products and general well wishes!

Happily for me, there were also a lot questions about the slideshow of Tuscany. Is this your village? Do you know the people in the pictures? Is it as romantic as you hear? Yes, yes, and yes!! Tuscans are generous, passionate people. Their love of good food, fabulous cheeses and fine wines is apparent in every village, market and social gathering!

Open-air markets through-out Tuscany offer the freshest produce and seafood, regional cheeses, smoky-cured meats and sausages, porchetta (roasted pig) and fried polenta and olive oils. Restaurants through-out the region specialize in seasonal dishes that include truffles, wild boar, pears, and super-Tuscan wines. It's a feast for the senses!

The anticipation of entering a town square filled with stalls of glorious Tuscan specialties causes my knees to weaken and is only remedied with a hot, frothy cup of cappuccino enjoyed at a local coffee bar. Due cappuccini, per favor!

I hope you will take a moment to visit the new site. Be sure to check out the Summer Special from our friends at Villa LaGrotta, in lovely San Guistino Valdarno. Claudia, the manager, was featured on Home At Last! and cooked a beautiful meal for our audience. You can download or print her recipe for Turkey Stuffed with Mortadella in my Recipe Section.