going to france for dinner via chester county

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We have this sort of unofficial supper club with some of our Chester County residing Shipley friends. Last night, we were treated to dinner at the home of one of these friends.  We all went to France via Chester County because another guest at the table was renown local chef, (an actual honest to goodness amazing French Chef)  Sylvie Ashby.

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Chef Sylvie 

Chef Sylvie lives in West Chester. She was born and raised in Normandy, France. She always wanted to share the love and passion for French cooking and comfort food the French traditional way by only using seasonal fresh produce and meats from the local markets.

Last evening’s dinner was one of my favorite meals ever.  I grew up on bœuf bourguignon or beef Burgundy or bœuf à la Bourguignonne is not some ordinary stew, as delicious as they may beef.  It is elevated far beyond that and if done properly like last night, the meat does not disintegrate but melts in your mouth. Last night, it was probably hands down the best I have ever had.

We started with hors d’oevres of belgian endive boats piped with a light and fluffy goat cheese, goat cheese toasts, and one of my favorite purely French treats I have never made, gougères!Related image Gougères are these fluffy puffs of warm pastry made with Gruyère cheese.  (Check out this recipe for gougères from Alain Ducasse.)

After our main course of bœuf bourguignon we had a marvelous salad with fresh greens and a delightful vinaigrette with an amazing blood orange infused olive oil from a Taste of Olive in West Chester. And the bread? Amazing as always from La Baguette Magique in West Chester.

The beef and cheese were also locally sourced.  I forget whose goat cheeses we had, and

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Chef Sylvie Courtesy Photo

I do not know the farm name for the beef but for some reason I think it was from down near Landenberg.

And dessert? Channel your inner Julia Child, it was Floating Island! Floating Island is a light as a feather dessert consisting of meringue floating on crème anglaise.  The crème anglaise is custardy and delicious.  Chef Sylvie finished the dessert with a light caramel drizzle.

This dinner was a true mini vacation to France.  I love when we get together to have dinner with our friends, and we loved being introduced to Chef Sylvie.

And guess what? You too can hire Chef Sylvie to bring the taste of France to your home for intimate gatherings.  Chef Sylvie specializes in French country cooking, bringing France to the comfort of your own home for private dinner parties.  And her prices are emminently reasonable. She also will cater events like birthday parties, Girls ‘night out, Crepes bar party, Book Clubs, Wine Clubs…her website is cuisinedesylvie.com . You can also find her on Facebook Cuisine de Sylvie.

One thing I did not ask her is if she teaches cooking classes.  I think that would be super fun!

Stay safe in the snow and ice!

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the evolution of apple-pear butter

I love Apple Butter and Pear Butter. Snd I like to make a hybrid cross mix of both in the fall. I always have. Maybe it’s my Pennsylvania German heritage shining through – my maternal grandmother was Pennsylvania German and I learned how to make a lot of things from her.

I have been reading various recipes on the Internet and decided to try making my apple pear butter in the Instant Pot.

I have an 8 quart Instant Pot. I cored apples and pears. I cut them into chunks of a fairly even size, and filled my Instant Pot to just below the “max” line.

I know, I know that isn’t very exact for some of you home cooks but apple butter consists of apples cooked down….

I did not peel either the apples or the pears because when you make everything all fine with an immersion blender after the fruit is cooked it all is very smooth and lovely.

But let me back up. After the fruit was loaded into my electric pressure cooker, I added a quarter cup of orange juice, maybe closer to a third of a cup I wasn’t measuring too precisely.

To that I added half a cup of brown sugar, four cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon ground mace, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, a healthy dash of salt, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

The vanilla is a quirky thing I read about it in a recipe when I was researching this and I thought I would try it and it ended up working out well.

Anyway give everything a toss within your Instant Pot to make sure the apples and pears are kind of coated.

Set your Instant Pot to the manual high pressure setting for 9 minutes. The valve should be at the top sealed position. When time is up, turn off the machine and allow the natural pressure release to occur. That will probably take a good half hour or so. I didn’t time it exactly.

Meanwhile make sure your canning jars are properly prepared and sterilized and get your big pot ready for water if you are doing a canning bath.

When your pressure cooker is de-pressurized and it is safe to remove the lid, take off the lid and remove the four cinnamon sticks. Using your immersion blender, blend the fruit until it is smooth and seamless.

But wait, it’s not ready yet here’s the next step.

Turn your Instant Pot back on to the sauté setting and adjust the sauté setting to LESS. Simmer the apple pear butter for 30 to 40 minutes until the apple pear butter is thickened and at your desired consistency. Most recipes I studied suggested 15 to 30 minutes but I actually did 40 minutes today to get it where I wanted.

I will caution you to stick around in your kitchen with a silicone spoon or spatula. You will need to stir it occasionally while it’s continuing to cook down or it will stick to the bottom of the Instant Pot.

When you think it is thick enough and cooked down enough, turn off your machine and allow the apple pear butter to cool down. I basically ignored it for a good hour.

At that point you can jar it up and either do your canning bath or store in the refrigerator. I did the canning bath because now that I have gotten the hang of it it really is my preferred way of dealing with preserves and chutneys and things like this.

I will leave my jars sitting on a wooden cutting board on the kitchen table until they’re completely cool and then I will add the labels and the date I made the apple pear butter. I made six jars. Not big jars – small jars and two taller skinny ones – see the photo at top of the post.

Making apple pear butter is one of those fall things. It’s definitely something that fills your kitchen full of false spice smells. And I do tend to combine both fruits when I make it.

You can serve apple pear butter on toast, bagels, English muffins, cheese and crackers, pork roast, all sorts of things.

I will note doing it in a pressure cooker reduced the time spent canning considerably. I think I am going to research other kinds of preserves and even chutneys to see what else I can make and can via the Instant Pot.

Try it!

pronouncing italian food should not sound like butchered pig latin

That is, or was, my grandmother Beatrice. I called her grandmom. One of the only photos I have of her. She was not considered the beauty of her sisters . That probably was my Aunt Millie or even my Aunt Rose. A very strong willed woman with a spine of steel. I look at her and see so much of my late father, and as I age, even myself. Especially as my hair grays.

I have written about my Italians before. They are very definite parts of my DNA. And the time I spent with my Italians as a child is burned in my brain. I loved my familial old people on both sides.

Even grandmom, except she was an acquired taste. I think she wasn’t so good with kids. But as an adult I enjoyed visits with her by myself. Without the stress of the fractured relationship my father had with his sister and brother. But that is a story for another day.

These Italian women were pretty amazing cooks. As a little girl I’d go to market with them and spend time in the kitchen. Especially at Millie and Josie’s house. They lived on Ritner Street in South Philadelphia. My grandfather Pop Pop who died when I was pretty little was also a good cook. He made a mean chicken salad. And grandmom made pizzelles among other things.

Aunt Millie and Josie had a little corner grocery store they preferred that I think they called “Anthony’s”….I have no idea of the actual name but I remember the old fashioned store with tall shelves of goods behind equally tall counters with glass front cases. And bins of whatever fresh or seasonal produce was available.

Then there were the trips to the Italian Market, only when I was growing up we called it 9th Street. I went to 9th Street with my parents and great aunts.

I loved that market growing up. Hawking fish and fruit and vegetables on the street. The original DiBruno Brothers, with it’s long and narrow store with sawdust on the floor and giant barrels of pickled things and meats and cheeses hanging from the ceiling and in the glass front cases. Buying meat and fresh made sausage at Cappuccio’s where family lore has it, my grandfather fabricated the abattoirs.

And at different times of year there was livestock in pens. Not to be forgotten were the old spice ladies in the spice store sort of across the street from DiBruno’s. I don’t remember the name of the store. What I remember is having to add up the totals of what you were buying because those little old ladies didn’t bat an eye when they would add on and additional dollar or two to the totals!

So I have these memories. Things were bought fresh, cooked fresh. Way before Whole Foods, Wegmans, and other than the Reading Terminal Market or Lancaster Central Market. Having your recipes in your head as you went to market, and you also cooked seasonally. DiBruno’s only had the little salted anchovies at certain times of the year and ditto with the fish mongers and smelts.

Intermingling Italian and English when shopping on 9th Street and Intermingling Italian and English in my great aunt’s kitchen.

Now that I have set the table of my past and sort of growing up pfoodie memories, I bring you back to today. I still like shopping fresh when possible and cooking seasonally in my own kitchen. The voices of my childhood kitchen experiences still live in my memories and sometimes I hear the long quiet voices if I am making gnocchi or Sunday pasta sauce. (Go ahead, click on the epicurious link as it’s one of my recipes and won me an Italian basket from them in a contest in 2005!)

So why this post?

I was enjoying having the time today to catch up on my growing pile of magazines. A friend of mine had gifted me the Fall 2018 Number 20 of edible PHILLY and I was giving it a try.

I will admit as a native born Philadelphian I have always rankled at the Philly of it all. To me it’s an unattractive diminutive. Our city, America’s birthplace of freedom has a lovely name. Phil-a-del-phia. It glides off the tongue. Why shorten it? There is no Baltimore-ie or New-y York-y so why Philly?

Sorry, not sorry, just a pet peeve.

Then there is the whole mispronunciation of Italian foods by non-Italians. I will stick to that and not even get into the gravy vs. sauce of it all. I call it tomato sauce. My great aunts and grandmother alternated between “gravy” and “sauce” but they were Italian, so papal dispensation.

Not so much leeway for pretend Italians who also make lovely food names sound like fractured and murdered Pig Latin. It’s like nails on a foodie chalkboard to me.

“Mozerel.” No, it is mozzarella. It’s a lovely cheese and a lovely name. Say the name.

“Proshoot” it is, for the love of God, prosciutto. Another lovely Italian food with a lovely Italian name, not a twisted basketball term.

But then there is the third one so often butchered. “Gabagole” or “Gabagool“. Don’t you mean, capicola? See how easy that was to say? Don’t gobble, pronounce it correctly.

If you go to Italy, they are NOT going to butcher the words. I have mainly heard this slang in the Philadelphia area, which almost makes sense, like it’s a perverse dialect or a bad accent that led to mispronunciation.

What does this have to to with edible PHILLY? Page 22 of the Fall 2018 print edition (I do not see it online yet.) The article is The Butcher & The Chef by Alexandra Jones. Totally interesting article until she lost me at page 28 at the end of the article. And there it was. GABA freaking GOOL.

So here I am, venting my Italian spleen. If you want to dish on Italian foods, cook Italian recipes…please pronounce things the right way. Write them the right way. Not like Pig Latin was murdered.

Capice?

Thanks for stopping by.

file under “progress” kills tradition in ardmore, pa or something else? is viking pastries closed for good?

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My friend Michelle found this sign waiting for her today when she stopped in Ardmore to #shoplocal at Viking Pastries

So has progress in Lower Merion Township’s downtown Ardmore put yet another tradition, another long-standing business out of business? Or is it something else? Or something related? Or just simple economics?

Viking Pastries appears to be done as in dead as per this hand lettered sign.

62 years…*POOF* ??

How many of us who grew up on the Main Line had memories of Viking Pastries and Walter’s Swiss Pastry which was located in Bryn Mawr and closed years and years ago? (Can’t remember exactly when.)

Those were the bakeries of many of our childhoods – Viking Pastries and Walter’s Swiss Pastries.  My mother always bought our annual Christmas Bûche de Noël complete with it’s chocolate bark and meringue “mushrooms” from Walter’s.  She also bought  things from Viking too.

Both bakeries had fierce loyal and devoted followings once upon a time.  Now they are but memories of a Main Line that used to be.

In 2013 Viking Pastries was part of a bakery makeover show called Save My Bakery. Save My Bakery was a show in the Nancy Glass Glass Productions Stable and appeared on Food Network and/or DIY Network.  (Click here and see some of the original makeover.)

This was covered extensively at the time by local media.  It was wonderful.

But maybe this wasn’t enough to save Viking long term? Don’t forget the bakery’s family has seen horrible tragedy in the form of the still unsolved disappearance of Richard Petrone.  Richard Petrone and Danielle Imbo vanished without a trace leaving a Philadelphia bar in 2005.

This family and bakery were always part of local events.  When I was on the Main Line, if there was a local fundraiser or get together, you could always count on the generosity of Viking Pastries.  I worked on many events where they donated boxes and boxes of their delicious cookies.

When Viking got their fancy T.V. makeover, we all had high hopes. But still there were kerfuffles. Like the August 2017 temporary Department of Health closure as reported by Main Line Times. Here is an excerpt:

“It was a plumbing issue caused by the construction across the street,” said Viking Pastries owner Marge Petrone of One Ardmore Place being built on the former Cricket Avenue Parking lot. “That [project] has been a nightmare.”

According to Petrone, water from the construction site flowed into a hole left in front of the store and straight into the bakery’s basement. “We had an inch or two of mud there. There was low water pressure – we couldn’t flush the toilet.”

Petrone paid for a Port-a-Potty to be placed outside the back of the shop, but ultimately, she aid, “if you can’t use the bathroom, the county is a stickler about that” and will shut you down.

Except my opinion, personally? I also have to wonder about the Ardmore Tartification Effect on old school businesses like this?  As Lower Merion Township has strived for decades at this point to make Ardmore what they envision, the old time businesses have fallen off one by one, haven’t they? Some say, when the movie theater closed and they didn’t get a new theater chain in that THAT was the beginning?

Ardmore has had peaks and valleys.  I had high hopes when parts of the Main Street business community were saved from eminent domain for private gain, but now? Sadly, today, I barely visit a place I used to be in practically every other day for years and years.  I live just far enough away that getting there is a hassle with regard to never much parking and crazy traffic.  That and the site of towering apartments rising up on Cricket Avenue behind what was the movie theater to overshadow everything and everyone like Godzilla.

Who owns Viking’s building?

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Who is 35-39 Cricket LLC?

35-39 CRICKET LLC

Who has owned the building over the years and years?

who owns what

These are all public records off Montgomery County and PA’s corporation database. County court dockets sadly show open items so is this closure in part financial? Sadly I did  also find  landlord tenant and other things going back  a few years, so is the economy as much to blame?  Also as the property changed hands did the rent just keep going up?

Whatever has happened, it’s a crying shame.  It represents the death of another small business with a long history in a Main Line Community.

RIP Viking Pastries. Thank you for all the wonderful years you gave your customers.

(the photo array is assembled from a couple of my photos and ones I found on Google)

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when lisa vanderpump comes to town….

My friend Trish went to the Ardmore Wine and Spirits Store yesterday to celebrate a little rosé all day!

Lisa Vanderpump of Bravo fame (Vanderpump Rules and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) was in town with her daughter Pandora to sell their namesake rosé.

She sold out!

As a rosé drinker, I look forward to trying it when back in stock.

Many thanks to my friend Trish for letting me use her fun photos!

Thank goodness she left Jax in L.A.!

raisin sauce for that easter ham

Raisin sauce for ham wasn’t a family tradition. It was somebody else’s tradition that they shared with me years ago. Or more precisely, they said they would really like to have that with ham but didn’t know how to make it.

So I monkeyed around with it and came up with the recipe I’m about to share with you. Having done research over the past few years again on a raisin sauce for ham mine is different because I add onion, and I use the Wondra quick dissolving flour and not cornstarch. I also add both a dried mustard and a grainy mustard, allspice as well as cloves, a bouillon cube, and a little hot paprika.

What you end up with is a savory sweet sauce for ham. It complements the smoked salty nature of a ham rather well.

Here’s how I do it:

* 1 cup dark raisins
* 2 cups water (hot with a bouillon cube added)
* 3 Tablespoons Wondra flour
* 1/3 Cup brown sugar
* 1/4 Teaspoon dry Coleman’s mustard
* 3 Tablespoons grainy mustard like Grey Poupon Country Mustard
* 1/4 Teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/4 Teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/2 Teaspoon hot paprika
* 4 Tablespoons butter
* 1/2 Sweet onion diced
* 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar or maple champagne vinegar

Chop up the onion and toss it in the sauce pan with the butter. As you are cooking the onion down and it starts to get translucent, add the raisins.

Then add the water with the dissolved boullion cube, add the sugar. When the sugar is dissolved add the flour – and yes I pretty much stir continuously at this point. Next add the spices and the mustards (powdered mustard and the grainy mustard), and finally add the vinegar.

A lot of people when they’re making the sauce will serve it right at this point. I don’t. I turn off the stove and I put the lid on the saucepan and I let it sit for at least an hour. I reheat it gently when I am ready to serve my ham and all you do is put it in a gravy boat and let people spoon what they want over warm ham.

Oh and I changed up my ricotta pie this Easter. I toasted up pine nuts and chopped pistachios and added them to the ricotta mixture before baking!

Happy Easter!

snow day minestrone

Another snow day…I do not know what it is about snowy days that makes me want to cook, but it does.  It’s like another form of nesting, I suppose.

So today I decide one more last hurrah for the winter soup of it all.  I have a bunch of leftovers, a bunch of fresh vegetables, and a bone and gizzard bag in the freezer for Instant Pot bone broth.

The first step was loading the following into my Instant Pot: 1 roasting chicken carcass I had frozen for such a purpose and 2 packets of frozen necks and gizzards saved from other chickens.  To that I added a bunch of celery ribs (cut in half only), a chunked red onion, 4 or 5 carrots, cut in half.  I add 1 bay leaf, a small handful of Juniper berries, quatre epices, salt, pepper, herbes de provence.  I add water half way up my 8 quart Instant Pot and I set to manual and 50 minutes.

When the 50 minutes are up, I turn the Instant Pot off and let it de-pressurize by itself.

Meanwhile I take my big dutch oven (8 quarts) out and get ready to add stuff to it.  I recently got a new dutch oven because my large vintage Dansk was getting a bit shabby.  I replaced it with a Sur Le Table Lightweight Cast Iron Dutch Oven and so far so good.

Into the dutch oven I put: 1 drained can of Goya chick peas (15 oz), 1 can of Hunt’s Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes (14.5 oz do NOT drain), 2/3 cup Israeli couscous (dried not cooked), 1/2 cup orzo (dried not cooked) , a few ribs of celery chopped up (over a cup), four carrots rough chopped, 5 small to medium red potatoes chopped, 1 red or orange or red bell pepper, chopped small, an end of a solid piece of Parmesan grated rind and all (I save odd bits of cheeses and cheese rinds for cheese sauces and other uses like this), some more oregano, basil, thyme, a couple solid dashes of sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, leftover roast chicken shredded, and a smoked sausage (or kielbasa) cut into manageable pieces.

When my  Instant Pot was de-pressurized, I removed all of the bones, gizzards and cooking vegetables and strained my broth into the stove top dutch oven. I brought my broth and veggies and pastas (orzo and couscous) to a boil on a medium low heat (uncovered), stirring frequently.  I then put the lid on my dutch oven and turned off the stove.  There it will sit covered until about 40 minutes before dinner time at which time I will warm up on a low flame to serve.  Add a green salad on the side and it’s a wonderful winter or end of winter snowy day dinner.  If you have any fresh biscuits or a crusty bread, even better.

Buon Appetito!