Chez Madeleine

Friday, September 29, 2006

bon vie, bon vin


I was behind this car today in traffic. This guy knows how to live....

bon vin, bon vie, bon appetit!

plant your own garden, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers


I made myself this lovely meal tonight. It was inspired by my weekly veggie delivery. I roasted slices of eggplant and tomato, and layered them with buffalo mozzarella and basil from my window garden. A drizzle of my california olive oil, fresh cracked pepper, and salt. It was a wonderful dinner for one. Life is too short to wait around for someone to cook for!

Everything is going to be OK

madeleine in window

I've been thinking a lot lately about work. They say that if you find something you love, you'll never have to work a day in your life. I don't believe it, but I think that being passionate about what you do will lead you to take joy and pleasure in your work, rather than disdaining or avoiding it. Americans care a lot about work-its always the first question that someone asks at a dinner party. Where do you work?or What do you do? Ever since I realized this, I actually try to avoid asking that question. I like to ask people what they're passionate about. That's much more interesting than hearing about there job at so and so and so.

I've been very lucky to have a career doing something that I love. Emory is my home away from home, and in some ways the love of my life. A lot of money has flowed from these halls. From me to them. From them to me. But more than that, I met people here that changed my life. When I came to Emory at age 18 (barely), I was not self-aware, or confident. I was intelligent, but not emotionally intelligent. Here, I built up my self-awareness. I developed a personality and a spunk. I found and nurtured passions. After two years, I traveled across the ocean to see if I could change my life in Paris. I did. I learned I could do anything. I experimented, and walked, and dared, and ate, and spoke. For a year, I felt different and free. When I came back, it was very hard to adjust to just being normal again. I've always tried to reinvent myself over and over again.

So, now, I feel comforted by my dreams. I know that I won't have to work every day for the rest of my life. And I definitely won't have to work for someone else. Someday soon my life will be about flavor and spice. Texture and temperature. Service and bread crumbs. My dream changes shape constantly but its always there like a hot fire in my belly.

On this boring, dragging Friday afternoon, in an office, at a computer, with a flesh-colored phone with orange buttons, I am comforted by that fact. I see the sky outside-and its bright and clear and inviting. The breeze is cool. And I know that everything is going to be ok.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Midtown Restaurant Week at Taurus


As you all know, with our super important admissions careers, Emily & I are constantly jetsetting all over the globe. We lounge in the Delta Crown room, go through security with our Longchamp bags, and generally meet tons of important people all of the time.

But, as a result, we haven't seen each other much lately. So, we made dinner plans for Wednesday night for Midtown Restaurant Week to dine at Taurus. Neither of us had been, so we were excited to try. Midtown Restaurant Week is awesome-and I only wish that it had not fallen during a killer week for school. We have two cases due this week--one about Weather and Radio and one about Baseball...can someone please hit me in the parking lot? These subjects are not my forte! So, anyway, this was the only night I could go to dinner and take advantage of the $25 three-course meal.


We both hung around at work until 6ish, and then headed over to Taurus-which is in an upscale strip mall in Buckhead. After dodging kamikaze valets, we entered Taurus on the ground level. The host checked us in and sent us, via elevator, upstairs. It was such a beautiful night, so we requested a table on the patio. For a little while, I thought they were passing hors d'oeuvres around the restaurant-but then we realized it was a private party on the patio next to us.

Here's Emily-studying the menu:


We had a choice of appetizer between a goat cheese tart, an organic african squash soup with pumpkin seed oil and peekytoe crab, and a young arugula salad with pecans and citrus dressing. Emily cajoled me into ordering the tart, and she chose the soup with the idea that we would switch halfway. Luckily, It doesn't take a lot of cajoling to get me to eat a bunch of goat cheese, because Emily's soup was amazing, and after we switched, we switched back. The soup was much like a butternut squash soup, but without the heavy richness. It was velvety and smooth, and the pumpkin seed oil was a beautiful contrast with the mustard-colored soup. The lumps of crab kept the soup from becoming monotonous.

My tart was somewhat deconstructed--crispy potato chips on the bottom, topped with creamy scoops of goat cheese and roasted tomatos, with another chip on top. The potato chips were overcooked and oily, and difficult to cut, but the cheese was tangy and bright.



Emily chose the Charred Flat Iron Steak with Garlic Mashed Potatos for her entree. It was topped with crispy onions. I had the Hot Smoked Salmon Steak with Potato-Portobello Hash. Taurus is known for its meats and its wood-grill, so we knew we'd be pleased with the flavor. Emily's steak was very rich. My salmon was the prodigal son of the wood oven. Crispy outside-imparted with the smoke from the oven, and hot and tender inside. The hash reminded me of a breakfast hash, but the portobellos were woodsy. My meal was outstanding.



We both chose the Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding with Peanut Butter Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce for dessert. I was afraid it would be massive, but the portion was perfect-a little muffin of brioche, and delicate tablespoon or two of rich peanut butter ice cream.


We had fun-outside, catching up, gossiping, eating and drinking. With a meal like that, I think I'll be able to get through today and Friday. If you're free tomorrow or Saturday, look up the Midtown Restaurant Week schedule. There are a lot of fabulous Atlanta restaurants, and you too can have a great night with a friend for less than $40. Now, I'm off, to jetset to the kitchen to heat up my Lean Cuisine...then maybe to Paris...

Healthy Lunch Club


My colleague, Katie, is very healthful. She eats lean meats, and lots of veggies, and usually says no to sweets and sodas. She's the model of someone who cooks healthily for her family. She also works out regularly. She is also always trying to make the world a better place. Katie has a vision for our Admissions Office-that we can learn to be healthier, and encourage each other through eating, sharing tips, and restricting certain habits at the office.

I mean--let's be real--how many of you work in an office where people food dump cookies and cakes and chips and candy from their weekend parties? Then, a few minutes later, Little Unassuming You goes into the kitchen for your morning cuppa and you leave having consumed your daily caloric limit? You weren't planning to have pound cake for breakfast, but the temptation got the better of you. Food dumping is a common practice in office settings, and combined with our sedentary schedules, its a not so healthy way of living. I am just as guilty of food dumping because I love to cook, but don't want to eat I bring it in for someone else to consume.

So-a few months ago, Katie started conceiving of ways that our office could adopt better habits. She talked to Julie, our boss, and they brainstormed incentives and ideas for programming. With a little inspiration from Cooking Light, The Healthy Lunch Club was born.

The guidelines are as follows:
Guidelines (loosely adapted from Cooking Light:)
• Two HLC members will sign up to bring in lunch.
• One person will be the “Head Chef” and the other the “Sous Chef.” The Head Chef will set the theme and make the main course and the Sous Chef will make a complimentary salad, side dish, bring fruit, etc.
• Each HLC member must be a Head Chef and a Sous Chef in a sign up period.
• We will start out with 1 lunch/week on Wednesdays and then vote to see if we want to add more or change the day.
• Sign up sheet will be stored on the S drive.
• Each lunch should have no more than 500 calories no more than 15 grams of fat, should contain whole grains and at least one serving of fruits and vegetables, list of ingredients, recipe. We should prepare enough for 10 (we have 8 in the group).
• We will keep all of the recipes on the S drive.
*Note: Food allergies and sensitivities include: nuts, fish, artificial sweeteners, and dairy. Please be sensitive to colleagues by avoiding these ingredients or indicating when they are a part of a recipe.

So, Wednesday was our 2nd HLC lunch day, and I was the Head Chef! All of my dreams had come true. I decided to do Lettuce Wraps because they seemed like a great way to eat veggies and consume less calories. I found a great recipe for Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps on Caroline signed up to be my sous chef, and she brought in the most gorgeous array of breadsticks, hummus, and fruit.


Here, you can see the spread. I brought the lettuce leaves, and then people filled them with the chicken (marinated with garlic, ginger, soy, sesame oil, orange zest, rice vinegar etc.) and bean sprouts, carrots, mint leaves, peanuts, and a sauce made of the same ingredients as above.


Here's Libby about to eat her lettuce wraps-she said she'd had similar ones at PF Changs!


And here are some other HLC members, (r-l)Caroline, Julie & Emily:


And finally, Caroline brought fortune cookies to go with the asian theme. They were a sweet ending to our lunch. SO--if you work in an office environment, I encourage you to start a Healthy Lunch Club. Its easy, fun, and a great way to share recipes, tips, and great food.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

please say "ici"

creme brulee

On my first day of French class in 1992, I learned how to speak French within the first five minutes. I had started 7th grade in a new school, in a new state, and so most of my classmates had taken French in 6th grade, too. Our teacher, who was skinny with tortoise shell glasses on a beaded chain, began to call our names for roll. Immediately, students started saying, with unwavering confidence, "Ici". I looked around the room at the aliens--how did they know how to say this and what exactly were they saying?? Panic ensued as my name approached. Mon dieu, I was glad not to be named "Adams". It sounded like "eee-cee" but then some students were saying "weeee". I was convinced that there was a conspiracy-some summer reading I had missed, when I heard her say "Sarah" and then, in my first leap into the language I would grow to love more than my own, I said "eee-ceeeee". And she was onto the next name without a moment's pause. I had fooled everyone into thinking that I knew what I was doing.

So, today, in honor of that first day of French class, I am taking roll. Having a much more extensive knowledge of French than I do of blogging, or counting, I am asking you to identify yourself in the comments section of my blog by first name, age, and location. If you're one of my many secret stalkers, and you don't wish to be identified by name, just make up a name, but please don't abstain from posting or I'll find out and my computer programmer boyfriend will track down your ip address and make you pay for not giving me an accurate count of my loyal readership.

Also, no matter when you're reading this-even if its a few weeks from today (September 23rd), please comply.

Merci Beaucoup! And just to inspire you, a shot of the creme brulee I made for one boy in particular about a year ago...ladies-let me tell you, give a man a torch, and he'll be willing to walk through fire for you...

Friday, September 22, 2006

true colors

easter eggs

This week, the easter bunny came early. I didn't have to mix up messy dyes in cheap plastic cups, or carefully submerge eggs with plastic spoons, or decorate with wax crayons. There are no peeps around, or cadburry eggs with their sticky, nauseating, addictive centers.

Fresh from the farm, these eggs represent life's true colors. Deep burnt caramel, light moss, warm khaki. They're almost too beautiful to eat, but I think somehow I'll find my way around that tomorrow night. I'm going to have an omelette for dinner...but for now, I'm admiring the gorgeous things that come from this wonderful world.

Over the past few weeks, I've been so thankful for my life. It seems like its always during the hard times when I realize how much I have to be thankful for. Great music. Compassionate friends. Cool mornings in the park. A curious cat who is so eager to eat in the morning that she often slips on the concrete floor and bangs into the wall. Fall colors, keep warm in your cableknits and suede, herringbone and tweed. Declarations of love on tv. My favorite blanket. Sweet smelling shampoo.

So, even if you're life has been smooth sailing lately, no one's broken your heart, or stomped on your soul, take today to think about the little things you have to be thankful for. Even if its just some colored eggs.

Monday, September 18, 2006

How Kristin read my mind, and picked the Little Owl


A few weeks ago, I excitedly called Kristin to tell her that I would be in New York City for one night for dinner. I'm usually in NYC about three times a year for work, but this would be a very quick trip. I was dying to try a new restaurant. We talked on the phone about options, and dreamily imagined the place where we would go. Somewhere shocking, somewhere expensive, somewhere uniquely New York. I was in sad break-up mode, and wanting to treat myself to a culinary experience.

About a week later, I rethought things. Emailed Kristin and said "take back my earlier musings. Let's go somewhere in the Village. Walking distance from your place. Warm. Homey. New American....does that work?" Kristin replied--she had already read my mind and booked us for 5 at the Little Owl, a new corner restaurant on her block. It would be everything I had asked for and more.

So, at around 8 pm last night, we started the trek down Kristin's 6 flights of stairs, and on to her narrow street, and we arrived within moments at a candlelit corner restaurant called the Little Owl. Ali was there to meet us.

Tables of people were cozily tucked inside, a giant silver ladle hung on the wall, there were fresh flowers on the window ledge, and a giant picture window into the kitchen. The smells were seductive. Roasted pork wafted from the kitchen.

Our table was vacated right after we arrived, but in the meantime, a lovely woman brought us wine so that we could wait in the corner for them to finish. Shortly after, Kristin's other friends, Jen and Jenny joined us. Its a testament to Kristin's unfailing charm that we had the best table(s) in the restaurant. We were the corner of the corner restaurant, and we were entertained throughout dinner by the spoons of couples and threesomes of friends that walked by on their way to their next stops.

I had unintentionally starved myself all day in anticipation for my meal at the Little Owl. Having arrived in NY just an hour before work started, I never had the chance to grab lunch. I scored some cookes at the Hilton-they were just enough of a sugar rush to get me through the afternoon.

Growing up with a parent from Chicago, I have an automatic appreciation for sliders. Those greasy, flattened, burgers whose size gives you permission to eat 14 of them at once-when you're a kid at least.

So, I ordered the gravy meatball sliders (beef, pork, veal and pecorino) to start with. They were divine. Slide, they did not. They were moist, saucy, sharp with pecorino, and I had consumed them almost as quickly as I used to down the White Castles from my youth.


Jenny & Ali split an appetizer special, truffle risotto with an egg on top. They actually were the beneficiaries of an extra egg! Our server split the risotto for the girls, and gave them both a glistening yolk on top to swirl into their creamy beginning. This photo is terrible, but the risotto was divine.


Kristin & Jen started with the bibb salad with hearts of palm, artichoke, fennel and parmesan. Their salad was a buffet of colors and textures...each bite different.


For our entrees, Kristin & I once again had the ESP thing going on-we both walked in wanting, needing the porkchop. Hailed by Frank Bruni, the porkchop has gained acclaim for its size, its moist center and crispy outside. Its a study in phsyics to figure out how something can be cooked so perfectly. The pork chop was served over parmesan butter beans and wild dandelion. Both were good friends to the giant porkchop-the butter beans and dandelion floated in the broth and warm juice and seemed very content to take a second seat to the meat.


Jenny (a former commenter on my blog) chose the roasted halibut with mashed chive potatos and lemon creme fraiche. I didn't try her halibut, but her mashed potatos were dr. seuss quality-green through and through and silky smooth.


Jen had sliders for her meal and seemed to devour them with the same gusto as I had. Ali, who had tasted the fruit of the porkchop tree on her last visit to the Little Owl, chose the crispy chicken with asparagus home fries, shitakes and lemon mustard. She shared her chicken generously and it was indeed very crispy-in a thin crispy way.


Last, we five ladies, who had spent the evening discussing all of the lude things you can see through curtain-less windows in New York, the ridiculous food habits of former men in my life, the crazy things that can occur to you at 4 am on a Friday night when you are trying to break in to your own building, the famous puppets that I met in Costa Rica, and, again, more crazy things you can see through windows, well, we ordered dessert.



And here's where it all came together. The wine while we waited...our wonderful table...two eggs for the ladies who split the risotto, blatant toleration of my taking photos of the food, and the little owl did it again. We ordered the rasberry beignets with nutella, and our server whispered to Jen, "those come in fours, but I'll make sure you get five".


A beignet from a kind woman, and an inviting restaurant on a generous and comforting corner near a great friend's house, just tastes better than it does from any other place in the world. And they did. They were like jelly-filled doughnuts on crack, with crack sauce. Our warm brownie cake was also rich and dense, but we had to give the prize to the quintet of beignets.


Finally, the bill came, tucked inside "Schott's History of Food & Drink"


In the end, I was sad to leave our corner, our stories, and our empty plates behind. I felt at home among beautiful, smart, food-loving, friend-lovin' women. What a perfect night to spend in New York if you have just one.

One more note--for the lovely gentlemen who guessed that I was a blogger and were so nice to come over and say hello. I hope you're reading! If so, keep reading. I'll make a deal to keep coming back to the little owl. Thank you for being such friendly people.

shower the people you love with love


Saturday kicked off the wedding festivities for my sister, Christianne. I flew home to host her bridal shower, along with her two bridesmaids, Casey & Nancy Jane. I planned the menu to be comfortable, but light, and inventive and diverse. I wanted the best flavors to come out in all of the dishes.

We started with Kir Royale's--my favorite Paris cocktail. A thimble-full of creme de cassis liqueur and a long pour of chilled champagne.



Guests dined on:

White bean crostini with thyme, lemon and garlic (my mother expertly sliced the bread on the bias so we'd have these lithe little crostini.


Next, open-faced salmon sandwiches with watercress and roasted red pepper aioli. I roasted the peppers (actually, my dad did) on the grill in the am, and added mayo as needed along with lemon juice and fresh cracked pepper. I painted it on the sourdough squares with a paint brush, and topped with grilled salmon and several watercress leaves.


Lettuce cups with chicken salad with craisins and pecans--to die for. Deceptively easy to prepare, and the bibb lettuce cup was the perfect accessory for the salad.


And last, my nod to ethnic diversity-vietnamese spring rolls filled with shrimp, bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber, green onion, fresh mint and cilantro. I've made these before, but this time I sauteed the shrimp instead of poaching it. It was sauteed with garlic, ginger and cilantro. The dipping sauce was a melting pot of peanut butter, asian fish sauce, soy sauce, scallions, ginger, garlic, vinegar, and brown


And, we can't forget dessert-strawberry tiramasu. I recipe I've adapted from Giada--to make it into individual servings. And-hazlenut chocolate mousse topped with a chocolate starfish (the theme of the wedding).




We had a wonderful time, laughed a lot and everyone enjoyed Christiannne opening her gifts....I couldn't have done it all without my team of sous-chefs-so thanks!



Wednesday, September 13, 2006

curry in a hurry


Tonight, I was so excited to be having my friends (and neighbors) Kate & Jason over for dinner. They live only about 100 yds away from me, so its uber convenient to meet up with them during the week. This has been a bit of a crazy week, but I wanted to be sure to see them before I leave town for the weekend (its my sister's bridal shower!). I set the table with my favorite bowls-a gift from an ex-boyfriend. They are one of my favorite gifts that I have ever received. He bought them from a little shop in Colorado and they are each distinctive and gorgeous.



I knew that I was getting my CSA delivery today of fresh veggies, and that I would only have about a day to cook the veggies before I left, so I was anxious to use them. To that end, I invited the twosome over for a home-cooked meal. Shocking! My pots and pans woke up sleepily from their cabinets and wondered "its been a while. wonder what we're doing now?" I explained to them that they'd be helping me cook an exotic feast with ingredients from thousands of miles away!

See, ever since Emily & Sami returned from their trip to Thailand in May, I've been dying to cook thai food. They were wonderful enough to surprise me for my birthday with curry starters straight from the shady streets of Bangkok. So, when I thought about what to cook for tonight, I immediately thought to the group of little plastic packets sitting in my drawer hoping to be blessed with coconut milk, and joined by vegetables and chicken.


My day today was crazy, and although I wanted to leave work at 5, I was stuck in interviews with my student chairs for admissions until almost 6. I ran out the door at 6 and formulated my plan of action while sitting in traffic on Briarcliff. First, a mandatory stop to Publix for green peppers, coconut milk, brown rice, and chicken. I found pre-sliced "stir-fry" chicken, and grabbed a few green peppers and a few thai chilis. I was planning to use the red pepper I had at home, and the big bunches of basil that I got today in my CSA delivery.


My plan was to immediately put two pots of boiling water on the stove--one for rice, and one for edamame as an appetizer. I was using the wok for the curry, and I would cook the chicken in a saute pan. My burners put out their "NO Vacancy" sign and I went to work to the tune of Allison Krause & Union Station- great bluegrass album if you don't own it already.

First, I sauteed the chicken. Next, I toasted the starters (I used a panang curry and a red curry) with some olive oil. I added the coconut milk to the starters and added a giant handful of sliced peppers. Once the chicken had cooked, I added it to the simmering pot, and then the reducing, and concentrating of flavors began.



While we scraped edamame with our teeth-savoring the salt, and sipped our red wine (break-up wine courtesy of Angela-I got a lot of break-up wine last week and I've been struggling to drink it all!), the flavors concentrated more and more and more. The mixture lost its pale color, and deepened over the course of about 30 minutes. The chicken took on the distinct flavor of the curries, and the peppers softened and their hues became much more muted.

Kate brought a lovely salad that I forgot to photograph (oh no!). It was inspired by her favorite salad at Apres Diem-the Fattoush salad. With bits of pita, cucumber, feta and red pepper, it was colorful and very textural. I dressed it with my lisbon lemon olive oil and white balsamic-such a winning combination!

We chatted about school and life, and eventually served up our curry feast. The reviews were good--we all enjoyed the intense flavor of the curry, and the brown rice offered a nice nutty crunch.


At the end of the night, I packed up my leftover basil to send home with Kate (it won't last through the weekend and I have a window garden), and hugged my friends, and sent them on their walk home. My pots finally had a rest and went back, nestled into their cabinets, hoping to come out soon for another meal with friends.