Monday, 24 November 2008

Alive in Vancouver

Well I am still alive but I've been too exhausted to blog, sorry. My body still hasn't decided what time zone it is in. My return to Toronto from Paris was only three days before I set off for the west coast. That was not enough time for my body. I am still waking up in the middle of the night craving cafe au lait and a freshly baked croissant. Despite a wacky body clock, my Seattle was visit was great. I met some serious dedicated foodies at Microsoft; one was fellow Aussie from Sydney. They were all keen on fat and we had a passionate discussion about butter. I discovered a good choice of butters in The Creamery at Pike Place market from France, Ireland and Vermont. As I still had a three-day stop in Vancouver before returning to Toronto, I only bought the Kerry gold. Sunday morning before leaving for Vancouver, I enjoyed two thick slices of toast thickly spread with this Irish gold, and reluctantly left the rest for my friends.
During my stay with my friends, I replaced the skinny milk in their fridge with whole milk and convinced them to cook their eggs in butter. One family at a time is my motto.
The flight from Seattle to Vancouver, a mere 35 minutes was spectacular, clear skies and a wonderful view over the snow-capped mountains.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

West Coast

After just three days back in Toronto I've left it again. As you might guess from the photo I was happy to escape again.
It was snowing on the way to the airport and we were late leaving because they had to de-ice the plane. No snow here in Seattle just misty drizzle. I will make an attempt to keep you up to date with my adventures here on the coast
I am going to Microsoft to talk about Fat this afternoon.
I hope they don't find out I am an Apple girl!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Silence is not always golden

As most of you will realize I am not very techno-literate, I still don't have a cell phone! I want to thank John for emailing me to tell me my posts feed wasn't working. I seem to have fixed it by some lucky accident. While I was attempting this I discovered that as well as being able to post your comments on my blog I could reply to them. I have gone back through a month or so of comments and posted replies, although probably most of you have long given up hope of hearing from me. I apologize for my silence, I wasn't ignoring you, I am still learning this whole blog thing. Any suggestions or helpful links welcome and from now on I will try to be more responsive.

Thursday, 13 November 2008


This is just a short note to explain why I haven't blogged for a couple of days. I return to Toronto on weekend so my last few days are too precious to spend in front of a computer screen, sorry.
This photo reveals what I prefer to do. Although the weather has turned colder the cafe terraces are still welcoming. Nab a spot in the sun, or under a gas heater, away from the smokers who are now exiled to the terrace, and you can easily pass the afternoon for the price of a coffee, or in our case a beer and a kir. Time to stop, reflect, and watch the passing show that is Paris life. I can't help wondering and wonder why I would ever want to live anywhere else.

Sunday, 9 November 2008


The French have always been known for eating more challenging dishes, notably frogs legs and snails, than the anglo-saxons or les rosbifs. Oddly, in Paris at least, you see these two ingredients on menus less and less. You can buy snails in the markets, already prepared and stuffed back into their shells with a wad of garlic butter, but frog's legs are rarely for sale. My friend Laura gave me the address of snail farm on the northern edge of Burgundy and I went just to see how they were raised.

The snails, as my husband pointed out, are ranched. The farm consists of three large fenced green spaces or parcs were the snails "are sown", the eggs are imported from North Africa. As it was the almost the end of the season, the frost kills them off, there were only a few left in one of the parcs. In the photo you can see the snail farmer in the corner of the parc. The fence that surrounds it is topped with an electrically charged band to prevent the snails from escaping. Some seem more immune to the discomfort of an electric shock than others and make a bid to escape the cooking pot. They live and grow on the underside of wooden planks leant against long wooden trestles. They are feed a mixture of powdered grain and calcium and are kept moist with a sprinkler system.
Good-looking beasts they were too. Their feed gives them strong shells and a pleasant pale grey colour, while guaranteeing the quality of their meat. They are processed, removed from the shell, vacuum packed and sent mainly to Paris. We asked where we could eat them and our farmer listed several names, all famous chefs, including Robuchon and Ducasse. You can of course buy snails cooked in various bouillons, we chose Chablis, well we were in Burgundy, at the farm itself or by mail order. We took couple of jars with us and gave them to my friend Caroline, who is from Burgundy, to prepare. She bathed them in the traditional garlic butter, as seen here and they were as tasty as they look.
This really is the best way to eat them, forget stuffing them back into the shell, they are too damn hard to get out, even with the right utensils if you happen to have them. Save that challenge for eating them in a restaurant, where, if you are like me, you'll end up wearing more than you eat. All you need is good Burgundy wine and lots of bread to mop up the butter. And what do they really taste like? Well lesser beasts often taste of nothing but the butter and garlic and are chewy. These were earthy, tender and held their own against the garlic.

If you are in Paris just for a few days and don't have time to visit or mail order from Burgundy then visit La Maison de L'Escargot , which has been in the 15th arrondissement for over 100 years.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


One of the reasons to be in France in the autumn is to eat wild mushrooms. There is a long tradition of mushroom foraging in France and just last week the television featured a story about harvesting mushrooms in the forest of Fontainebleau. This forest, which surrounds the chateau, is not far from Paris. The French nobility were smart in building their homes close to large woods, which provided not only mushrooms but also lots of wild game to hunt. Mushrooms can be gathered in the closer to Paris in the Bois de Boulogne, but you are likely to come across another form of wild life there!
The tradition is encouraged by the fact that you can turn up at any pharmacie and have your mushrooms checked to make sure that your sauté or omelette won't kill you or your guests. I usually buy my mushrooms at the market, that way I am sure to survive dinner but I did go foraging with my friends Lise and Franck, (the cassoulet makers), in a forest close to their country house. Their son had found a cepe the week before so we were all were convinced that we'd come back with basket full of mushrooms. The walk in the forest was invigorating, I love that swish of dried leaves under my feet and the weak sunlight straining through the trees. The only mushrooms we found were those in the photo and some pale purple ones. Even I didn't need to take a one to the pharmacie to know they weren't edible.

Back in Paris we went to the market and bought some and here is what we did with them. The first was a simple mushroom risotto made with what I call chanterelles but the French call girolles. The French don't know how to make risotto - never order it in Paris unless the chef is Italian, and even then you are probably better making it yourself or taking a train to Italy. The second is really my favourite a mixture of wild mushrooms. Here there are cèpes (porcinis in Italian), French chanterelles and trompettes de la mort. The last, a black mushroom, is also know as horn of plenty, but trumpet of death is a much more dramatic name especially as it is not poisonous. The only trick to cooking a mixture of mushrooms is to cook them separately, whatever the recipe tells you, preferably in duck fat. Then cook some shallot, garlic, and thyme sprigs in more duck fat add the cooked mushrooms back to the pan, heat through and season well and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Absolutely delicious.

Monday, 3 November 2008

From People to Amazon in two weeks

This has been quite a good couple of weeks for FAT - first a mention in People magazine - right there along with Madonna and Guy, and now I am thrilled to learn that Amazon editors have placed Fat as the number 5 in their selection of top ten cookbooks for 2008.
Authors become obsessed with Amazon numbers - I don't know what they really mean or if I am selling lots of book or none at all. However, I am proud to be in the elite company of famous chefs and authors. Now let's hope all of our books sell well.