Saturday, May 30, 2009

Shopping In Denver, Colorado

Large shopping malls seem to be ubiquitous in city suburbs all over the world these days, and the Park Meadows Shopping Center in Lone Tree, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, is no exception. What I found fascinating about it was the way it was constructed with a Western motif, to appear very much like a Colorado Ski Resort. All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

As part of the Rocky Mountain theme ski lodge theme it had timber ceilings, boulders, waterfalls, indoor evergreen trees and displayed numerous pieces of landscape artwork. There were wonderful lighting fixtures and many decorative touches of copper as accent pieces.

Park Meadows combined Colorado outdoor ambiance with 160 retailers and restaurants. Some of the store names included Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn Kids, Sundance, Planet Funk, John Atencio, Janie and Jack, and the restaurants were P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, California Café, and The Cheesecake Factory, as well as 12 fast food eateries in the Dining Hall.

This was my favorite feature in the center - a gigantic working fireplace in the food court area, surrounded by cozy couches and benches. Quite a few people were snuggled up in them, waiting as their friends or family members shopped.

My son, grandson, and I stopped into the shopping center one afternoon when my daughter-in-law was on an interview, and we had a nice time window shopping.....

...and of of course Nonna bought her grandson a new toy, which he enjoyed with both his hands and his feet!

In my next blog post I'd like to show you a very interesting Long Island, New York shopping center, built on the site of what was once considered the "World's Premier Airport'!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Julie and Julia" Movie Inspired Potato Leek Soup

We had a busy Memorial Day weekend with a wedding and a few other occasions to attend, and yesterday my husband took a day off so we could catch a movie. One of the movie previews we saw was for a new movie expected to be released in August of 2009 called "Julie and Julia."

The movie is produced by Nora Ephron and stars Meryl Streep as the iconic French chef Julia Child, and Amy Andrews in the role of Julie Powell, a blogger who was inspired to cook every recipe in Julia Child's first cookbook "Mastering The Art of French Cooking." The movie is based on two true stories.

The first theme of the movie is about Julie Powell, an American author best known for the book "Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen" which was published in 2005.
Living in Queens, New York, and feeling trapped in a dead end job, Powell began her blog called The Julie/Julia Project in August of 2002, chronicling her attempt to cook all the 524 recipes in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in one year. The blog quickly gained a large following, and Powell eventually signed a deal with Little, Brown and Company to turn her blog into a book.

The other theme of the movie is based on Julia Child's autobiographical book My Life in France, where she was the wife to a US diplomat in France in the 1950's, and while there attended the prestigious French cooking school Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. It goes on to show her being a cowriter of the cookbook "Mastering The Art of French Cooking," which demystified French recipes for an American audience, which lead to her of immensely popular cooking TV shows, beginning in the 60's, called "The French Chef."

You can watch the official movie trailer at this YouTube link
(I'm sorry that it does not allow it to be embedded, so I can't display the video clip here.)

The movie appears to be absolutely charming, with Ms. Streep acting in her usual superb way as Julia Child, and Amy Adams portraying a cleaned up version of the sometimes expletive speaking Julie Powell. Adams, as an actress, reminds me a lot of a young version of Meg Ryan, the ingenue type that quickly wins your heart.

I especially laughed at the lines spoken by the Powell character in the trailer: "I can blog --I have thoughts!" and Julia's line when her husband asked what she was good at, and she replied exuberantly: "Eat!" I can identify with both of these sentiments 100%!

My version of "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking" is a book club edition I bought second hand, but it has always been a pleasurable cookbook for me to peruse and learn from. I was a fan of those 1960's "The French Chef" shows when I was a young girl and I followed Julia Child's more recent appearances in the 1990's with chef Jacques Pépin. Ms. Child died two days shy of her 92nd birthday, on August 13,2004.
I loved how Ms. Child always made everything she cooked look so easy to do, and how she bantered along in her unusual, high pitched warbly voice, with her unpatronising and unaffected manner. I think she influenced me to believe I could cook anything, as long as I could read and follow a recipe, and she also inspired me to not be afraid to try substituting, or adding to, ingredients in a recipe. To Julia, a cooking disaster was only a learning experience, and one which sometimes lead to a better composition of the recipe the next time she made it.

One of the staple recipes I use frequently from her cookbook is for -
Potage Parmentier -- Leek and Potato Soup.

For two quarts, serving 6 -8 people

1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups leeks, thinly sliced (white and tender green parts only)
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
4-6 tablespoons whipping cream or 2-3 tablespoons softened butter
2-3 tablespoons minced parsley or chives


1} Simmer vegetables, water and salt together, partially covered, 40-50 minutes until vegetables are tender.

2) Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork, or puree in blender. Taste and correct the seasoning to your preference.

3) Off heat and just before serving, stir in cream or butter by spoonfuls. Pour into a tureen or soup cups and decorate with the herbs.

4) Good hot, cold or room temperature. Served cold it is often referred to as Vichyssoise.

I use an immersion blender -- a wonderful gadget to use if you like to make pureed or creamed soups.

Look how smooth and thick the final results are!

There are many variations that can be added to this soup, and you can use a chicken or vegetable stock in place of the water if you desire a richer base.
The following ingredients may be simmered along with the potatoes and leeks at the start:
Sliced or diced carrots or turnips or cauliflower
Peeled, seeded or chopped tomatoes or strained, canned tomatoes.
Half-cooked dried beans, peas, or lentils, including their cooking liquid.

The following may be simmered for 10-15 minutes with the soup after it has been pureed:
Fresh or frozen diced cauliflower, cucumbers, broccoli, Lima beans, peas, string beans, okra or zucchini.
Shredded lettuce, spinach, water-cress, sorrel, or cabbage.
Diced, cooked leftovers of any of the preceding vegetables.
Tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced and diced.

As Ms. Child says in the cookbook: "Proportions are not important and you can use your imagination to the full. Many of the delicious soups you eat in French homes and little restaurants are made this way, with a leek-and potato base to which leftover vegetables or sauces and a few fresh items are added."

As Julia would also say with gusto: "Bon appetit!"
Edited on 8/13/09 --I am adding this blog post to the Julia Child birthday event going on at Lisa's blog Champagne Taste that will take place on August 15, 2009. Thank you Lisa for remembering Julia in such a nice way! Be sure to check Lisa's blog for links of all the blogs participating in the event on August 15.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I Met Another Blogger!

I met Sherry from the Edie Marie's Attic blog in lower Manhattan on Friday!

Sorry that the photo of us together is a little dark, but we were standing on the end of Pier 17 in a shadow under the overhang, so that we could get a view of The Brooklyn Bridge.

Sherry, and her daughter-in-law Chris, were on the last leg of a two week driving tour of many states, visiting other bloggers along the way, as part of a special celebratory birthday trip for Sherry. .

Sherry and Chris went to the Empire State Building in the morning and in the afternoon took the subway downtown to meet me on Wall Street. The New York Stock exchange on Wall Street is in the photo above.

There were also many sailors and marines in New York this weekend as there were Navy ships in the harbor for the 22 annual "Fleet Week." There were a lot of tourists in the area, too. I think Sherry was a little surprised by how much "hustle and bustle" there is on the streets of New York!

We also saw Federal Hall National Memorial across from The Stock Exchange. It was the first capitol of the United States of America and the site of George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States on April 30, 1789. It is also the place where the United States Bill of Rights was passed.

We walked over to Trinity Church at the end of Wall Street and stepped inside tp spend a few quiet moments.
There have been three Trinity Church buildings at Broadway and Wall Street. The present Trinity Church, designed by Richard Upjohn and consecrated on Ascension Day in 1846, is considered a classic example of Gothic Revival architecture and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
We also strolled around the burial ground at Trinity Church, which includes the graves and memorials of many historic figures, including Alexander Hamilton, William Bradford, Robert Fulton, and Albert Gallatin, as well as many old headstones dating back to the 1700's.
Sherry giving a very regal pose as she stands on the plaque that commemorates the spot where on July 9, 1976, the church was visited by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, and she was presented with a symbolic "back rent" of 279 peppercorns.

We then walked passed Ground Zero. As you can see there is a large construction fence around the area and many construction cranes at work as the rebuilding is in progress.

We then walked over to St. Paul's Chapel, located directly across from the World Trade Center site. St. Paul's, is the only surviving church in New York of the Revolutionary era. It is also the oldest public building in continuous use in Manhattan.

This sign describes the importance of this little chapel.

George Washington worshiped here on Inauguration Day, April 30, 1789, and attended services at St. Paul's during the two years New York City was the country's capital. Above his pew is an 18th-century oil painting of the Great Seal of the United States, which was adopted in 1782.
The ornamental design of the "Glory" over the altar in St. Paul's is the work of Pierre L'Enfant, who designed Washington, D.C. The "Glory" depicts Mt. Sinai in clouds and lightning, the Hebrew word for "God" in a triangle, and the two tablets of the Law with the Ten Commandments.

After the attack on September 11, 2001, which led to the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, St. Paul's Chapel served as a place of rest and refuge for recovery workers at the WTC site. There are still many exhibits inside St. Paul's in remembrance of that time.

I then took Sherry and Chris over to Pier 17 to see the Brooklyn Bridge and the view of the northernmost part of my borough of Brooklyn. As always, there was a lot of ship traffic in East River!

Chris and Sherry enjoyed this little tour of some of the sights of Lower Manhattan, and I think I wore them out a little with all the walking and sightseeing that we did!

Sherry and Chris at the Irish pub where we had dinner together. We had a lot of fun together and I'm sure Sherry will tell you more about that on her blog, and more about the other stops of her trip, when she has the opportunity to update it when she and Chris both return to Ohio on Sunday.

We joked that good bloggers have to take photos of the special dinner they have at restaurants so here is a photo of my delicious Shepard's pie and salad. Pub food is usually wonderful in NYC and this dish was no exception. Sherry and Chris had fish and chips and we even indulged in dessert. I surprised them with a box of Italian cannolis to take back to the bed and breakfast they were staying in on Staten Island, as Sherry had told me that she was hoping to find some to eat while she was in NYC. I hope they stayed cold enough in the cooler bag I had them in, Sherry!
We also exchanged little gift mementos that we had for each other during dinner. Sherry gave me this wonderful patriotic themed bag that she made! I'm always carrying books, a newspaper and an umbrella when I travel, so it will be a perfect accessory bag to take along to hold those few extras.
Thank you so much Sherry! It was so nice to meet you and Chris, and I was so happy to show you a little bit of my city and spend some time getting to know you better. I hope you had another wonderful day in New York on Saturday, and were able to do all you wanted to see and do!

Isn't it wonderful how blogging has made the world a smaller, more friendly place? It's so nice meeting new friends!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful and safe Memorial Day Weekend. Please take some time to honor the brave men and women who have served our country and have protected our freedom.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Seven Sparklers in Manhattan

So, what was the special "French themed" celebration my daughter and I went to in Manhattan to celebrate her upcoming Master degree graduation that I hinted about in my last blog post?

It was a champagne tasting event hosted by Gotham Wines at the Rouge Tomate restaurant located at 10 East 60th Street, in midtown Manhattan!

I read about the tasting in the New York Times newspaper and called for reservations right away as I knew my daughter and I would love to take part in this fun event!

Champagne first gained world renown because of its association with the anointment of French kings. It is a sparkling wine produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of the wine to effect carbonation, and is produced exclusively within the Champagne region of France, form which it takes its name. Champagne has been associated with luxury, festivities and rites of passage.

The event took place in the lower lounge of the Rouge Tomate. It was our first visit to this large and beautiful restaurant and lounge. The restaurant follows a healthy nutritional cuisine under the acronym of "S.P.E" which stands for " Sanitas Per Escam" or "health through food" and was developed by chefs and nutritional experts for balanced and optimal nutrition through sourcing, preparing and enhancing.

The principles are explained as:

"Sourcing: by selecting ingredients seasonally, locally and with a focus on nutrition.

Preparing: using cooking techniques that preserve the integrity and nutritional qualities of the ingredients.

Enhancing: optimizing nutritional value by synergy of the product combination and menu diversity."

It sounds like an interesting philosophy for restaurant cuisine and I'd love to go back one day to have dinner at this establishment.

The tasting was held in a relaxed walk-around format, allowing the guests to take time and enjoy, and enjoy again, the champagnes.

We were given a booklet describing the different vintages and their description and suggested order of tasting, with a place to record our own notes.

I purposely blurred the next few photos as I did not ask permission to take photos of the Sommeliers pouring the champagne, and of the other guests, but it will give you an idea of how the tastings were done. I'd say that at least a hundred people were guests at the event.

The seven champagnes available for tasting were:

Moet Imperial

Moet RoseMoet Imperial

Moet Grand Vintage 2000
Dom Perignon 1999

Dom Perignon 2000

Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1993

Dom Perignon Rose 1998

Selected canapes were also served during the champagne tasting, prepared by Rouge Tomate Executive Chef Jeremy Bearman.

Here are some that I was able to take photos of:

Duck Pate with Rhubarb and Pistachio

Beef Crostini with Caramelized Spring Onion and Horseradish

Avocado Torchon on Toast with Tomato Marmalade

Jumbo Asparagus Spears with Crab Almond .

There were also stuffed dates, with goat cheese and pistachio, and steamed pork and vegetable dumplings. Everything was delicious!

The event lasted three hours from 6PM till 9PM. It was wonderful to try the different vintages of champagne, some of which we would never be able to afford to buy. We are not connoisseurs of wine or champagne by any means, but we did learn a lot at this event and were happy to find out that we actually preferred the least costly champagnes!

A wonderful part of the champagne tasting was the gift bag were given on our way out. It, alone, was worth the price of admission!

It was a gift box of Dom Perignon 2000 champagne with two wine glasses!

The champagne tasting was a perfect "mother and daughter" outing that made us feel elegant and pampered for the evening. It was also a wonderful way to celebrate a very happy occasion, and now we both have a very special bottle of champagne to share at our next happy event!
Thanks for coming along with us, and "Cheers!"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blooms and Paris Cafes

My chives are in bloom! Don't you love their color?

I've been busy the past few days working diligently in my garden. I usually wait until the weekend after Mother's Day to buy my annual vegetables and flowers and herbs, as I then feel confident that my Mid-Atlantic gardening zone will not experience any episodes of frost. Now my tomatoes, peppers, annual herbs and flowers are finally all planted, and I can relax and rest my sore knees and visit every one's blogs to see what I've missed!

I received this wonderful surprise today -- I won a give away on the Fifi Flowers Blog -- a full set of eight of her beautiful French Cafe Note Cards!

They are romantic outdoor scenes, so I thought I'd display them outside under my pink azalea shrub that also finally bloomed a few days ago.

Here they are again in front of one of the flower boxes I just planted.

Thank you so much Fifi! I love them! I felt as if I could step inside the paintings and be a part of the Paris scenery.... perhaps to sit on the balcony of Cafe De France to sip my latte and look down at the beautiful flowers that line the boulevard? Ou la la!

These beautiful Paris Cafe scenes were hand painted by Fifi in her signature style, using fun, vibrant colors and charming attention to detail. They are also available for sale in her ETSY Store! Fifi also takes painting commissions, and is presently busy painting beautiful scenes for some lucky customers. I hope you'll visit Fifi's blog and see more of her wonderful artwork and allow her take you on one of her virtual trips to Paris -- her favorite place to escape from everyday life!

And speaking of Paris, I am going to a very French event with my daughter in a few days. It's a little reward for all her hard work in going to graduate school part time, after her full time, demanding job! She'll be graduating soon and I was so excited to see this activity advertised in the New York Times as a way to celebrate with her a little bit before hand.

Be sure to check back to see what fun event we went to! Can you guess what it will be?