I am the type of martini drinker that does not even open the vermouth bottle while making my own. Just glancing at the bottle while I am shaking the shaker away is just fine by me. So the fact that I am liking a reverse martini comes as quite a big surprise to me. This all came about when I was finishing up my latest read Dearie, about Julia Child. Whether or not she came up with this idea I am not certain, but it is the first I had ever heard of it. A reverse martini is 2/3 vermouth to a 1/3 gin. Shaken and then served over ice. I first gave this a try the other day at Hawthorne, and I really liked it. Super refreshing. It has the feel of a Summer drink. I don’t really drink martinis during the hot months, as they seem to get warm as opposed to super chilled, which is how I really like them. Plus a big tub of gin in the heat makes me sleepy. With this, the vermouth becomes the star. The gin is just a stylish background singer. A fresh bottle of vermouth is helpful. My studying around on the topic found that vermouth can loose a bit of its fabulousness when old. So often a bottle can last ages, so easy to see this happening. We had a newish bottle of Dolin that worked quite lovely. Julia preferred Noilly Prat, so we picked up a bottle of that yesterday, which meant I had to give it a test run last night. Insert smile. I think I actually preferred the Noilly. Julia gets it right again.
I have been savoring each and every page of ‘Dearie The Remarkable Life of Julia Child’ which has been such a treat to read I just don’t want it to end. I have been parceling out chapters over time out at WestWard, enjoying each little tidbit of Julia history. She has always fascinated me. Julia came to the game of food love later in life. So many of the books I have read in the past center just on that culinary aspect. This comprehensive biography by Bob Spitz covers in detail so many parts of her life that I never knew about from previous readings. She was just a character. Larger than life. She brought joy to every part of her life, but thoroughly blossomed when her interest in food was awakened. From her very privileged upbringing in Pasadena, her Smith College years, working in New York City, to working for the government in exotic places around the globe, to meeting her husband Paul, to their life in France and other locales–so many fascinating details to read about along the way. If Julia holds a special place in your heart, this read is for you.
This book Provence, 1979 has been at the top of my list to read for awhile. I forgot to grab one as I was packing up at the shop the day before we left for New York last week. I wanted so badly to read it on this stay, we purchased it at the charming bookshop in Chatham the other day. It has been such a treat. A bit like taking a Provence trip while being ensconced at Hawthorne. Not a bad duo in the least. Written by the grandnephew of M.F.K. Fisher, it is a look back to a slice in time in the culinary world when a group of food legends (Julia Child, James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher) converged on Provence. It is a bit like being a fly on the wall at a very special time. Change was in the air for the group of them. Many at the top of their game, the book centers on how this visit to Provence at this time in 1970 was pivotal to them all–how it shaped the next moves in their careers and in their lives. Being a lover of many things French, it is so interesting to read how many of these things influenced all of them as well. Like honoring the meal, savoring simple ingredients, and finding beauty in so many things/moments that the French are regaled and known for. I rarely read a book in several sittings, preferring to savor it over time. But this book is an exception. Even though I know how it all ends, I have just not been able to put it down. So good.
Just a reminder, if you are in the Hudson Valley area of Rhinebeck this afternoon, please stop into Paper Trail from 4 to 6 for my book signing. Would love to see you!
After being back for a few days, I thought I would share with you a bit of what we did in Santa Barbara. TPS had visited when he was a youngster, but I had never made the trip. It has been on my list forever, so a quick 2 day visit after my conference was over in Los Angeles would be the ticket. We drove the Pacific Coast Highway to get there, which was an amazing treat. The ocean views and activity along the way made for such an enjoyable ride over.
With just 2 days, we had quite a bit to cover that was on our list of things to do. I was a bit worn out from a busy, few days at the conference, so both mornings I slept in a bit and read the above book. More on that later. Mister Sive is much more outdoorsy than moi, so he went on a hike up Rattlesnake Canyon. Yes, there are rattlesnake. I found that out later. He did not encounter any, but it certainly would have stopped me going. I guess that is why I am not a hiker. He also spent time wandering around the Old Mission & the Santa Barbara County Courthouse to feed his love of architecture. When we later drove by the building, I could see why he had wanted to see it–stunning.
Extraordinary Mexican food was a big highlight of the visit, and a stop at La Super Rica was a must. Made famous by Julia Child being a fan, we knew we were in for a treat. A dinner at Los Agaves was so good we went back the next day for lunch.
We spent an afternoon wine tasting in the town of Los Olivos. It is about 45 minutes from SB, but so worth the drive. The little town is filled with quaint tasting rooms. It was fun to try wines from the area, many of which are exceptional.
It is always such a treat to see someone you know on a trip. We popped in to see my friend Liberty. For those of you from the Seattle area, Liberty and her mom had a fab shop in Kirkland, called Liberty 123. She is now living in SB, and working with a lovely jewelry designer. Adesso is in a charming old house where there is a workroom, the studio, and a retail space. Very worth stopping in. It was so fun to see her!
And of course, we had to sniff out a cool coffee place. Santa Barbara is such a special place. Walks on the beach, walks around town, and just hanging out. The relaxed vibe made our 2 days there so enjoyable. We caught a late, late flight back to Seattle, but not before another glorious drive along the PCH.
It was my intention to mention, say that fast 5 times in a row, the 100th birthday of Julia Child yesterday at the end of my blog post. Julia, please forgive me for being tardy by a day. Turns out it is best that I do it today, as I was able to fully read the wonderful piece in the ‘Dining’ section of The New York Times. The piece written by Jacques Pépin was so heartfelt and full of insight and stories that I had tears running down my face by the end of it. What an incredibly sweet friendship. If you have not read it, here it is. I think you will love it. Enjoy.
Here is one of my favorite parts, as I think cooking with and for friends is one of the more special gifts we can give or receive. “Gloria helped Paul with the oysters he was opening and arranging on a plate as Julia announced: ‘I have a rack of pork. What do you want to do with it?’ I cut the rack into chops, which we sautéed and served with skillet potatoes and string beans with butter and rosemary. A green salad and a perfectly ripened Brie followed, and we finished with Julia’s compote of fruit served with ice cream. I do remember a delightful Chambertin from the late 1950s that Paul brought up from his cellar, which contained wonderful Burgundies. It was a simple, perfect meal to share with friends, my type and her type of cooking, which Julia always referred to as cuisine soignée, meaning a simple meal made with great care and the best possible ingredients.”
Cheers to simple meals made with great care and the best possible ingredients! Thank you Julia, for all that you gave us and shared with us. A happy belated birthday–we miss you.
I just finished reading “As Always, Julia” which I thoroughly enjoyed. The book is centered around the letters sent between Julia Child and her pen pal Avis DeVoto. What I was struck most by was the affection that they closed each letter with. They were all very tender, and showed how much they cared for one another.
Love, hugs, and kisses, in unlimited quantities, Avis
I love you both, Avis
Love again, J.
All my love, Avis
Write as soon as possible, and keep well and happy, and much, much, much love from us both, J.
Lashings of love, Avis
Loads of love, dears, Avis
Most love to you both and now I must get back to my taxes. Avis
Loads of love, all kinds sacred and profane, Avis
Love and love, and write every day, J.
In our current times of texts, tweets and e-mails, getting a hand written (in their case, many times typed) note takes on even more specialness and importance. More on that topic later…
Love and love, and I promise to write every day, TKW.