4 years ago, while approaching our 25th anniversary (Yes 25th, we married very very very young) I said "Frank, for our 25th anniversary I want to go to the most romantic place on earth...figure it out" Lucky for me he didn't come up with Botswana or some such thing, yes he figured it out. As most humans I've always wanted to go to Paris, Frank not so much. I think that mainly has to do with the fact that he doesn't speak one single word of French. Not that I'm fluent mind you, far from it. My French consists of some vague memory of something I took in high school along with picking up quite a bit from the tons of French movies we watch, some tapes my sister-in-law Marta gave me once for Christmas and practising the needed phrases when we drive to Montreal which really isn't necessary since everyone in Montreal speaks perfect English. I figure all those stories people go on and on about referring to the French as soooo rude probably have to do with the fact that most Americans think everyone in the world should speak English and therefore refuse to even try. I however feel that if I'm visiting someone else's country I should at least give it a shot and try to communicate in their language, and trust me once the French hear my abominable pronunciation they'll switch to English immediately just so they don't have to hear the likes of me butchering their lovely language. But I digress; so off we went with much excitement and anticipation to visit the City of Light.
And it was everything it was cracked up to be and then some.
We couldn't be happier
We smiled all the time...and then of course there was the food
Any place we ate no matter where or what it was was just sublime. Whether it was at a high end restaurant or a neighborhood bistro or brasserie or the snacks we picked up at the local Monoprix, everything was heavenly. And how did we do with the language issue? My bad high school French got all our conversations started perfectly well and as I had predicted they immediately switched to English without hesitation or one ounce of attitude...except for the waitress at the excellent Chez Michel who was monumentally rude and even then she couldn't spoil the amazing food and Frank's incredible dessert, Far Breton. Aaah Paris! So since our current state of employment, or lack of, precludes us from going to Paris right now we can still try and duplicate it:
Far Breton adapted from Bon Appetit
5tablespoonsunsalted butter, melted, cooled
3/4cupall purpose flour
1cupsmall or medium-size pitted prunes (about 6 ounces)
1/4cupArmagnac or other brandy
Combine milk, eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in blender jar. Blend 1 minute. Add flour and pulse just until blended, scraping down sides of jar. Cover and chill in jar at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.
Combine prunes, 1/2 cup water, and raisins in heavy small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until fruit is softened and water is almost evaporated, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat. Pour brandy over fruit. Using long match, ignite brandy. Let flames burn off, shaking pan occasionally. Transfer fruit to small bowl. Cool completely. DO AHEADCan be made 1 day ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Butter 8-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Line bottom with parchment or waxed paper. Butter paper. Dust pan with flour, shaking out excess; place on baking sheet.
Reblend batter until smooth, about 5 seconds. Pour into prepared cake pan. Drop prunes and raisins into batter, distributing evenly. Bake cake on baking sheet until sides are puffed and brown and knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool cake completely in pan on rack.
Place piece of parchment or waxed paper on flat plate. Sift powdered sugar onto paper. Run knife around cake in pan to loosen. Invert pan onto paper, releasing cake. Remove pan; peel off paper. Place serving plate over cake and invert. Dust top of cake with additional powdered sugar.
Does it taste the same? Of course it does. And what does Max think of Paris? Well when I told him that dogs go to the cafes and sit at the tables he's practising his bonjours!
My endless rambling about Spring doesn't seem to desist but no worries it soon will, that's because Spring will also and I get to jump into Summer. I can't help one more shot though. One of the last of the flowering trees before everything starts to turn green is the magnificent dogwood and it never ceases to amaze. We have one, just one, and I keep trying to figure out a way to have more, many more. Ours is intertwined in the back with a very large crab apple and a whole bunch of other much smaller trees. It's kind of spindly and long because the crab apple takes up so much of it's light and soil and nutriments and whatever else it needs. But then a few years ago one of the very large branches of the crab apple that surrounded the dogwood was mercifully hit by lightning and the little tree was freed. We figured it would take off and really spread out...well not really, it got taller but luckily we can see much more of it. So every Spring with breathless anticipation we wait for it to bloom so we can admire it's delicate beautiful flowers
which look like they're made out of crepe paper
with those lovely little indentations at the ends of each petal
We love bringing them in the house
so we can admire their beauty
...until the wisteria fills in
ahhh the wisteria.....
And what does Max think about all this waxing poetic about flowers? Not much.
One day about nine years ago right after we moved to South Orange we were driving up South Orange Avenue through the lovely South Mountain reservation when my eyes caught this site:
OK, maybe it wasn't exactly this but close. I looked over at Frank and said, "there's a zoo here" and he replied something to the effect of "yes, I know I came here when I was a kid every year with school blah blah blah blah blah and it's a real nice zoo too" Since then my unrelenting mission has been to visit the zoo, and it has not been an easy task. Every year when spring comes around I start my campaign, like a relentlessly annoying 4 year old, of saying to anyone who will listen: I want to go to the zoo. Needless to say, no one has been listening (it's been nine years!). So when my nephews were born 2 1/2 years ago I immediately jumped on that opportunity! Who in their right mind would deny two adorable young children a visit to the zoo? And after nine years of plotting and planning and nagging and tantrums and crying here it is...without further ado...my VERY long awaited...visit to the zoo!
with my guides and partners in crime: Francisco and Gaspar
a whooping crane...
which we tried to feed...
llamas..who didn't seem to interest some of us very much
so we decided it was time for a pony ride
for some of us anyway...and then we saw penguins...
who actually said hi!
and then we rode bikes
and saw wild turkeys...
Oh wait that's my backyard, which is where Max prefers to lie around.
...ahhh, finally mission accomplished! Now I need to start plotting how I can qualify for the pony ride.