Lobster is a luxurious treat

Lobster is a luxurious treat; something my family uses to celebrate.  My father chose lobster for his 55th birthday dinner. For a man that isn’t too fond of fish, he absolutely adores crab, lobster, shrimp and mussels alike. At $14.00/ pound, four of these beauties came out to be $100. We got some fine crustaceans from up north, Maine. It pains me that these are not local, that I don’t get to see the process of raising and harvesting the lobster. Its scrumptiousness told the story.

We went to the local fishmonger, giving the local business the attention it deserves. The options were vast, but lLobster was what we came to get. Our fishmonger suggested we steam each lobster for 7 minutes per one pound. Add three minutes for every extra pound. Pretty simple, who would have thought such an intimidating crawler, was so easy to cook.

The lobsters may have been the star of the show, but how good can the show be without outstanding supporting actresses. We grabbed 10 ears of fresh jersey corn to make a grilled corn salad. The difference in texture was epic. Sweet and spicy crunchy corn paired with the forgiving tender elasticity of the lobster meat just snapped around your tongue. A big salad filled with greens, and of course a fruit tart as requested by my more than deserving dad.  I told him in his birthday card, that nothing comes close to the happiness I feel when dancing around the kitchen with him. It’s a small kitchen, a big island with a decent size stove top, and very little counter space (thank you kitchen aid mixer, and Cuisinart coffee maker). It’s the perfect small farmhouse kitchen, we laugh as we bump into each other, as kitchen bumper cars do, whilst putting away groceries, simmering butter, or dashing off to the grill. It was a perfect day, usually I would object to the birthday being lifting a finger on their day, however I couldn’t dismiss such an eager helper, after all it was his idea. I would have loved to have had this feast outside somewhere, with a blanket to set us atop the grass and away from the bugs, but it was much too hot out as most mid July evenings are in NJ. So we slurped our lobster dinner in the cool air conditioning, not many words were said, our jaws were dropping for the star of the show. That’s when you know you did well.

That’ll do!

Grilled Corn Salad:
* I adapted this from Half baked harvest’s grilled street corn recipe

Ingredients:

-6 ears of fresh corn, husked
-extra virgin olive oil
-two limes, squeezed
-2 tsp of honey
-1.5 tsp chili powder
-1 tsp smoked paprika
-1 jalapeño
-sea salt & black pepper ( I love fresh cracked pepper!)
-a couple stalks of chives chopped
-1 cup of basil leaves chopped
-1/2 cup cilantro chopped
-4/4 cup feta cheese
Instructions:

1) Put three of the 6 ears of corn on the grill, allowing to blacken a bit on all sides, remove and cool, then when you are able to handle, slice the kernels off the cob.
2) Slice the remaining 3 ears of corn so the kernels are the only thing remaining, keep all the juices.
3) Stir all the remaining ingredients together

* I added a bit of chipotle powder to some ranch and had it as a sauce to add on… however I never used it because the flavors of the fresh corn & spices were incredible!

Berry Tart:

I borrowed this recipe from Manger, my favorite food blog, curated by Mimi Thorisson

A very impatient but good boy, jealous of the attention of our yummy berry tart

Ingredients (for dough):
-1 cup of flour
-1/3 cup of butter, softened at room temp
-2 tbsps of sugar
-4 tbsps of confectioner’s sugar
-1/4 cup ground almonds- almond flour will do!
-1/2 egg
– pinch of salt

Instructions for the shortbread crust:


1) in a medium bowl mix all the ingredients together to form a soft dough. Shape into a ball and wrap in cling film, putting in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
2) On a floured surface roll out the dough, to fit the tart pan, gently pressing the edges of the pastry against the pan. Prick the fitted dough with a fork.  Cover with more cling film and place in the freezer for 30 minutes… the longer the better… (this prevents shrinking of the crust!)
3)Cut out parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan, fill with marbles, rice, beans or popcorn (yes it works! And no they don’t pop… however they make a mess when you drop them everywhere)
4) Bake for 15 minutes @ 350. Remove the weight and bake until slightly golden ( 5-10 mins) Cool for 20 before putting the filling in.

For the lemon crème patisserie:
ingredients:
-1 cup of whole milk
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-3 egg yolks+ 1 egg
-2 tsp of vanilla extract
-two lemons zested
-2/3 cups of heavy cream
-juice of one lemon
-1/4 cup of plain flour

instructions:
1) whisk the sugar, eggs, and flour until light and fluffy( 8 mins). Then add the lemon juice & zest
2) Bring the milk, cream, and vanilla in a saucepan to a soft simmer. Pour the mixture gently into the egg bowl, whisking continuously.
3)Put the mixture back into the saucepan, continuously whisking on low heat until the mixture becomes a custard consistency ( this could take 10 minutes or more)
4) pour into a bowl and cover, place in the refrigerator once completely cool, close to serving time
5)Spoon the crème patissiere into the tart and smooth with a spatula.
6) place the berries on top in any fashion that pleases you!

** I would recommend letting this custard sit overnight, it becomes so much firmer for a day 2 serving**

Enjoy!

Xx,

Manger Workshop- Playing Restauranteur

Day Three

(Please read the previous post- Manger Workshop- Remembering a Beginning to understand this one fully)

Photo credits: Oddur Thorisson (our fearless leader, and owner of ALL denim shown above)

The Summer abundance workshop seems to be quite a hit, I have learned that this one is and has been the quick fill out of all the workshops for Mimi & Oddur Thorisson.

Our ‘Playing Restauranteur’ workshop was special, a new workshop but not a new concept. If you have followed Mimi’s blog or maybe read her cookbooks cover to cover you may know that her family presented the town of Medoc with a “Pop- up” a few years ago. They opened the many rooms of their home and transformed it to the ultimate French Bistro experience. Suddenly we were in the big leagues.

Oddur and Mimi separated us into two groups halfway through the second day, Team Lunch vs. Team Dinner. We then brainstormed what we would be presenting, how we would be presenting it, and which lovely sequence of rooms would we covet as our ‘French Bistro’. I was Team lunch. So I will focus on the epic course of events we took to make sure our meal was special, after all we were nearing the end of our great Mimi expedition. It needed to be epic, St. Yzans Style.

The lunch went like this…

We wanted a uniform… but that’s tres dificil to coordinate when traveling as strangers. So we fashioned ourselves in Oddur Couture as I like to put it. Soon he flew down the stairs with 6 chambray denim shirts. We looked Magnifique. It sold our unity!

First we served oysters and Champagne in the garden to get the pallet moving

We had the most appropriate music setting the mood of our French Bistrot. I used the Manger Workshop Playlist you can find on Spotify (It has become a close friend and first thing I turn to when prepping my meals)

We then brought our guests into the Green Room, a room where we had not yet dined for the workshop.

Roberta and Myself, serving the fresh oytsters! By the end of the workshop I named her my Italian auntie

Roberta, a graduate of the International Butler Academy in Holland taught us how to serve, how to approach our guests, how to set the table. Serve left, clear right.  Under her tutelage we turned our French Bistro Lunch into an extraordinary experience with seasoned staff.

Garnishing the Gazpacho

Cool gazpacho took the helb as we sailed into the afternoon. Refreshing and lovely it truly took the summer solstice lunch to the next level, reminding us all just how much we missed tomatoes.

Next course was Asparagus a La Bismark… a favourite of Lady Bismark

Although we were under Oddur’s tutilage, Mimi was a little helpful

Soon to follow was our Quaile stuffed with Foi gras. Served atop the wild asparagus.

Country Quail stuffed with Foi Gras wrapped in bacon

Our desert was Crème Caramel, with the crunchy caramelized top we truly blew away our guests. Lastly we brought out Espresso with an extra piece of caramel candy to close the lunch.

Creme Caramel, Mimi’s granmother’s recipe
Not a piece was left

We wobbled out to our guests once the espresso had been served. Mimi devoted an entire section of her latest book to ‘staff meals’ and although our staff meal was a bit more extravagant than they typically are (i.e., we feasted just as much as our guests did… wine pairings and all, immediately after each course was served). We grew just as most groups would, closer together laughing at the silly mess ups and enjoying each moment for what it was. We all agreed we would absolutely do it again. This was the first ‘playing restaurateur’ workshop, and if they present another, I advise you take it! It means more cooking time with Mimi & Oddur, more jokes and games. More secrets disclosed of the home, more moments to learn from.

Shucking oysters for the first course, Champagnge & Oysters

Now this post has become quite long, as one usually does when chatting about St.Yzans Style and all things Mimi Thorisson. I came to Medoc as a fan and left with many friends. The Voyage to Mimi was well worth every minute of travel, every dollar saved, and every indulgence taken. Cheers Dear Reader, I hope you are inspired to bring a little Mimi into your life.

Xx

Manger Workshop- The Garden Party

Day 2

There isnt much else to say following the first post. One can go on and on about such lovely times but I feel strongly that less is more. Afterall, I want this amazing family to have more business, I cant give everything away, where would your mind then wander Dear Reader?

These photos capture much of the second day… A garden party & splitting up into teams for the final day in Medoc, our restauranteur challenge. Please read the other two posts regarding my time with the Thorissons & my reflections to get a good feel for the expierience. Now, feast your eyes!

My love, the one that got away.. or that Oddur just wouldnt let go!
Mimi gave us a taste of her new adventures in Torino, Italy … Homemade PASTA!
Agnolotti pasta, filled with ricotta mixed with hazelnuts. The black specks you see are a tint of coffee. C’est Magnifique
Making the Red Salad with my little helper, Lucien
Endives, Red onion, purple cabbage, pomegranite, and beet root. Buy yourself a mandolin my friends
We headed to the garden
Rose Champagne was had
The Garden was ravaged for an afternoon of sage fritters

I had the most lovely time. I truly wish everyone I love gets to expierience something of this excitement. Heart is so full!

Manger Workshop- Remembering A Beginning

Where to begin?

Ahh yes, I will try my best by remembering a beginning.

It’s beautiful arriving upon a moment that you have been looking forward to for so long. The experience feels slightly just slightly out of body. I have been awaiting this experience for a few years, reading every post, and every page that  Mimi has shared with the world of food. As each moment pulled me closer to the workshop, I plowed through obstacles, small ones, but obstacles nonetheless that challenge one whilst traveling alone (maybe they happen just as often while with someone, but having the crutch of a companion makes the obstacles seem smaller, more mundane). I think I might cover my thoughts on that topic once I get finished with this one.

I arrived at the Chateau le Ormes de Pres with a happy excitement, driving around the little village 100 times attempting to find the entrance. It’s amazing how well you know a place once you leave, laughing at the moments of complete ignorance that plagued the beginning of your trip.

That night I gave myself a tour of Saint Estephe. If I’m being honest, I was trying to find a place to eat, as well as keep myself busy until night fell. It stays light quite late in Europe. I was puzzled. The area looked abandoned. Moving from one village to the next I was perplexed to find NOTHING. No store of any type, modern conveniences aside. A few locals here and there (even more perplexing, was where did these few people eat! What did they do! How did they survive? Who were they?!) I found more tractors than people.

Fields and Fields of grapes
Seemingly abandoned villages
The Priests home, sitting right behind the Church, hands off people. I will be the one renovating this beauty!

Day one

My fellow workshop attendee, Roberta (and soon to be fast best friend) hopped in the Peugot and got moving, over the hills and around the bends to St. Yzans De Medoc, Mimi’s village. It looks a bit like the others; a church with an impressive steeple, small roads, and stone homes built closely, one abandoned chateau after another. But Mimi’s home is glorious. the smooth fox terriers greet you with anticipation, and you realize there is life to this village after all.

Walking into her home… through what looks like a side door, you land in the La Boucherie. Instead of the traditional boucherie (butcher room) where meat is the main attraction, this one houses heaps and heaps of vegetables. Mimi’s husband Oddur, mentioned on our last day that they surround themselves with an abundance of produce for two reasons, 1) we fuel ourselves with it, we do it for us first, our family and  2) it creates moments that represent our family, when a photographer or journalist pops by we are never scrambling, this is our life and this is what it always looks like (I’m paraphrasing obviously).

The first photo I took of the workshop, Oddur met us at the door, we stepped into a room that seemed like a movie set.

The many photos that represent their family & lifestyle through the years are the raw truth. This family is just as fantastic as your wildest dreams imagined it to be. Soon you walk into the “Big Harvest room,” then the “Green Dining Room” and then to where the heart beats – her kitchen.  Each room is adorned with copper pots; antique this and that, hardwood floors meet tile. Your eyes don’t stop moving, there are moments where you feel small and there are moments where you feel like you’ve left the century you came from. The home is bigger than you think, and I mean that in many ways, she holds history and that beauty exposes itself in every corner.

The room just before Her kitchen, housing the florets, wine glasses etc…
Before we knew it the Savoy cabbage became our dear friend
Chou Farci, from Mimi’s first book, apropriately our first meal in Medoc
These meringues became the most elegant desert

This world they live in is a fairytale. Oddur said it simply, they want to be together as much as possible, and live that way. So they do, and they do everything they can to hold on to this lifestyle.

I soon found myself falling a little in love with this life. The home being wedged between vineyards and abandoned chateaus begins to feel more charming than inconvenient.

So for those of you who are thinking about attending this workshop, I recommend you hop on the opportunity. Of course there is no end date in site but this beautiful family has to live! And I’m sure there will be less and less workshops as the years progress, their adventures are growing as I type. But for now…snatch it up while you can, the experience is that of a fairytale.

Some folks wrote to me asking if the trip was worth it. As I said, this trip exceeded my wildest dreams. The drive to Medoc, the adventure of traveling alone in Europe, renting a car and navigating the vineyards with little to no service was all worth it. However, the workshop itself was magic. Mimi says to make this home yours, relax and enjoy yourself over the next three days. Once you do just that, the workshop transports you, it pauses time. The simple techniques you glean from Mimi as she glides around the kitchen, you could not possibly put a price on. The quality of produce and drink make you amp up your standards for your own kitchen, brainstorming how you can replicate in your everyday usual before you even leave Medoc.

You don’t drink? No problem, there is no pressure to consume any alcohol, cooking with drink, now that’s a must! If you do love wine, Oddur will be sure to help keep your glass full with the most delectable bottles. Mimi herself prefers not to have a glass until the evening, so if you are at all worried I guarantee the pressure is off! The cooking alone is intoxicating and smiles never ever left my face. I go back to those three days often in the short time since I’ve left, truly a Red Letter triage of days.

stay tuned for the day 2 & 3 reflections!

Xx

Voyage to Medoc, Voyage to Mimi!

My rendition of Mimi’s Chateau…anticipating this trip (queue the 8 year old on Christmas morning squeal)

Mimi Thorrisson Manger Workshop- How I am making this work

Taking the voyage to Medoc, France is a dream. An expensive dream. Pitchfork and Pearls started with my own version of a vision board. Not necessarily cutting and pasting images from magazines (haven’t gotten there yet) but writing down goals that would propel me forward in this journey. Mimi was not on the top of the list. And I say this to bring reality to the conversation, I chose simple little goals that would be attainable in a few week, maybe a couple months, non threatening and totally in my comfort zone. I had just bought the new IPad Pro- which to me was a BIG splurge- and was feeling drained financially. As the list of goals got longer the visions got bigger, because 1) why not- no harm in day dreaming 2) its was FUN! Stretching my mind to open to the endless possibilities was invigorating. Physically writing them down was propelling them forward. That list is important and I will absolutely share with you. See how the goals JUMPED.

Apologies for my handwriting

Hmph, I should briefly introduce Mimi Thorrisson before I go on. Mimi, her husband Oddur, 8 children, 14 Fox Terriers, and one Italian Pointer Monte Critso reside in Medoc, France. The Bordeux region, you may have heard of it once?or twice, probably in a wine store. Author & food blogger Mimi shares her excuisite life in France. Inspiring and dropping jaws in seasonal cooking, her travels, her entertaining techniques, and her incredible workshops. Find her on Manger, her food blog, or pick up her book A French County Kitchen. Miss Mimi also has quite the tantalizing instagram account…and if that is not enough many many posts reside on Pinterest gifting you windows of the fascinating life she leads. Ahh yes back to goals.

After writing Mimi’s name down on my vision list I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Visiting France in the summer like so many other lucky glamorous folks, taking so much more from this event, more than a simple vacation. I daydreamed about using this material to create connections, grow strangers into friendships, and picking up more and more inspiration along the way. Addicted. So I emailed Mimi thinking 2020 would be the year of Medoc & Me, & her 14 terriers, maybe I would even go home with a pup.. (heh okay keep your goals in check miss) Email sent, 7 hours later I get a reply from Mimi herself. Yes most of the workshops were full, there was a seat open in a new workshop that might be right up my alley (I told her my goals & my very unique (ha) interest in farm to table food because 1) why not give her the low-down, she knows her workshops best 2) She may not even respond, the least this email can do is get my goals in writing again).

Whoops- guess 2020 goals might just have to happen sooner than expected. Putting these bad boys in writing… was dangerous. So I replied with, let me make sure this can work financially and I will get back to you very soon. I knew if this was going to happen it needed to be smart decision. No room for buyers remorse.

Can I afford it? It would be tight. Is this bettering me & my business, my future livelihood. I 100% believed that it would and so the answer was Hi Mimi- I’m in. Because plans began in January I had time to pay in increments. ½ of the workshop fee now to reserve my spot. Flights & lodging would have to be done in a couple paychecks. And I was going to make it work.

As February comes to a close I am feeling tempted to splurge on warm weather dresses and Brigitte Bardot outfits for the Bordeaux region. I am reminding myself that those aren’t in my goals, my vision list. I will look the part just perfectly when wearing the clothes I have now. I mention this because a shopaholic at heart this might urge a reader to keep their goals in check, writing down ideas and visions that propel you forward, clothing is definitely not optional in this world, but it certainly will not take you to the places you want/ need to go (not for me anyway). Style will develop, transform and leave you like a one night stand. I am toning it down to only investing in staple items when need be. Grow the vision but be sure to not focus on what one is wearing (my personal weakness ladies & gents!)

So this is just the beginning to my next chapter & I am oh so grateful for it. I feel beautiful trips like these need to be broken down into real terms. I do not have deep funds to pull from & make these trips happen. Instead it is a very real budgeting system. Stripping down my ego, spending less. Cleaning out my brain of the luxuries crowding our vision daily (belive me- nyc can be crippling at times) and getting down to the basics. Simple meals can be just as exquisite, just stretching a dollar. Breakfast, stewed apples and plain yogurt, (ah my favorite!) what’s for lunch? Sweet potato brought from home. Keeping the grocery bills lower, the material goods at 0 spending and growing my brain. If this is on your radar, you’re going to make it happen! But there will be sacrifices. Sacrifices that grow you.

I brought this up to my mom when I guiltily explained my next adventure (guilty because I wish she could come with me! She absolutely is my best friend!) and she reminded me of growing up in Vermont, though beautiful it is an expensive place to live. Mum and her friends would do “no spend months” where groceries, gas, and of course monthly payments are the only items you are spending money on. No special dinners out for no reason, no splurges at the mall, and certainly no online shopping. Home, work, grocery store, home, it may seem drab at first but you soon will fine ways to brighten your simple world up. She said she was always so impressed with how much savings there were that she would challenge herself to an extra month of savings. So that’s what I’m doing!

Thanks mom, you truly are always right.