Friday, May 18, 2012

Heirloom Tomatoes, Cherry Cobbler & Julia Child!

One of the things that Grandma used to love most about traveling around the US was that every place had their own distinctive foods, available nowhere else.  Going out for a meal was always different and you could almost tell where you were by the food on your plate.   Recently, though, local flavors have become thin on the ground in favor of Chili's and Red Robin and Applebee's and a dozen other chain restaurants, mostly owned by the same one of two companies.  Sometimes the menus are so similar you can't even tell what restaurant you are in and Grandma has frankly become a bit tired of laying out the better share of a $100 bill for mediocre food in a cookie cutter restaurant with, at best, mediocre service.  Recently, though, Grandma has seen a faint glimmer of hope . . .

Photo Credit, Chip Natvig, Black Krim Tavern
A few days back  Grandma and her daughter went to pick up her hubby from work and were informed that he had just learned that a friend from high school had a restaurant in the area, so we were going around the corner for drinks and snacks at the Black Krim Tavern in Randolph, Vermont.  ( For those of you who don't know, a Black Krim is a variety of heirloom tomato that hails from the Crimea, bordering the Black Sea.  Most of them are quite some bit larger than the one in this picture.  They're a deep chocolate on the outside with brown to deep red flesh and usually quite some bit bigger than this one. If you're growing heirloom tomatoes, this is a great addition that makes stupendous sauce! )

We had the loveliest meal!  Grandma had a Chicken Quesadilla that was served with a small mixed green salad, dressed with a light vinaigrette - and can't begin to tell you she surprised she was to find fresh violets mixed in with the salad greens and bits of the very best Roast Chicken sandwiched  between paper-thin corn tortillas in the quesadilla.  Black Krim Tavern and the menu they serve is small - the menu has just 4 or 5 offerings in each of four categories daily.  Grandma had a chance to speak directly with the chef-owner, who tells me that she sources nearly everything locally and that the menu changes a bit almost daily depending on what is fresh & seasonal.   All four courses (small bites, appetizer, main, dessert) run to about $23 per person, a bit more if you feel like indulging in their specially paired wines - just about the same as one of those chain establishments.  Grandma found her Quesadilla, BTW, on the Children's menu, her appetite not being what it once was! Here's a sneak peek at something they'll be serving up in the July 2012 issue of Vermont Life Magazine:

Roasted Corn Cakes w Pesto Sour Cream
Photo Credit, Chip Natvig, Black Krim Tavern

So, now Grandma knows you're dying to know just what exactly do a little restaurant in Vermont, heirloom tomatoes, and Cherry Cobbler have to do with each other . . .  and just how, exactly, does Julia Child fit into this.  It's like this . . . sometimes you just learn the darndest things on the internet.   Yesterday Grandma  learned that it was National Cherry Cobbler Day (Why May?  Cherries aren't in season until July!), that May is National Strawberry Month and National Hamburger Month (more about those later), and that August 15 will be the 100th Birthday of Julia Child, who made one heck of a Roast Chicken!  Here's Julia -

As it so happens,  Grandma learned to cook partly from Julia Child.  Heading off to live in Europe as a new bride she took only two books:   JOY OF COOKING and Mastering the art of French Cooking !  It was Julia who taught Grandma to roast a chicken - and a turkey.  When Grandma's children came along and it became obvious she was going to have to learn to eat vegetables other than asparagus and broccoli, it was Julia who taught Grandma how to cook them so that they were something other than gray mush.  Grandma can't begin to tell you how many fond memories she has of watching Julia Child on TV over the years and she's  been delighted the last few years to receive gifts of Julia's  DVD's for various occasions. Julia Child is still as bright and funny and as good a teacher as she was nearly 50 years ago, well worth watching and learning from!

Roast Chicken is the little black dress of the cooking world.  Every bit as much at home on a picnic as it is on your Sunday dinner table, Roast Chicken is great for company and yet perfectly suitable for just two.  If you're lucky enough to have leftovers, the possibilities are endless.  If you learn to cook only one thing, learn to make a great Roast Chicken!

Until yesterday Grandma could have shown you the entire Roast Chicken episode.  However,  PBS has had most of Julia Child's early videos removed from YouTube.  If you would like to see that episode, you'll find it on

   Julia Child - The French Chef

Among the 18 episodes included in this particular set are Julia's wonderful Chocolate Mousse, French Onion Soup, Salad Ni├žoise and Omelettes.

We'll make do instead with  this version of Julia's Roast Chicken -

All things, of course, go out of fashion and for me, so did French cooking.  For many a year Amazon would pop up French cookbooks recommended just for me and Grandma couldn't get away fast enough.  And then one day Grandma started seeing these gorgeous pictures around the internet, all associated with something called French Fridays With Dorrie".  One Grandma found particularly beautiful was an Orange Tart.  The woman who had made it gathered oranges of a number of shades from the deep red of blood oranges to  segments that were almost yellow, and then she arranged them in rings, round and round so that her finished tart looked like it was topped with a glorious blooming rose with a deep red center.  It was just stunning!

Nowhere, however, could Grandma find any of the recipes - not even one!  As it turns out, there are several "cooking clubs" online where people get together and cook their way through a particular book - but you have to buy a copy of the book.  Grandma resisted for quite some while - Around My French Table is not an inexpensive book - but eventually Dorrie Greenspan's lovely book made its way into Grandma's library and there, right on the cover, is another fantastic roast chicken dish, Dorrie's Chicken in a Pot!  And wouldn't you know, when Amazon sent Grandma a list of the latest Bargain Books late yesterday afternoon,  guess which book is  on the Cooking, Food & Wine list?  

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