I’m Guest Blogging at Cooking to Save Today!

While my friend Susan takes a blogging break for some family time prior to her first born’s college launch, I am posting to her fabulous food blog at cookingtosave.com about my first kitchen adventure with tomatillos.  See you there!

The inspiration for my Citrus Cilantro Shrimp with Tomatillos recipe


Traveling with Teens: Paris

While our teens generally make for well-behaved and pleasant company, visiting lots of museums while suffering from a bit of jet lag has brought out a few groans. The trick to keeping things cheerful seems to be regular breaks for food. En route from our hotel to the Louvre we stopped at a Salon de The to fortify ourselves with croissants before exploring the many wings of the massive museum.  After navigating the collection, and the multiple swaths of tour groups, we ventured out to the Tuileries garden, and then to a table at the Terasse de Pomone for salads and sandwiches. One in our party had expressed a craving for a Croque Monsieur and apricot juice and these items figured prominently on the menu, along with an outstanding citron presse.  A tall glass containing a couple of ounces of freshly squeezed lemon juice was served along with packets of sugar and a carafe of water- a hit.

Next we paid a visit to Monet’s magnificent water lilies at the Orangerie, and also their current Paul Klee exhibit. While half of our group found the Klee to be an outstandingly curated collection, well-balanced between history, information and artwork, the other half needed a modest antidote to a mild case of museum overexposure. This we found outside the museum in the form of a foot-long segment of baguette, swabbed with mustard and stuffed with a hot dog- a classic.

We continued our walk, across the Place de la Concorde, stopping to discuss relevant history- both the French Revolution and The Devil Wears Prada. Then along the Champs Elysee, en route to the top of the Arc de Triomphe.  To prepare for the rigors of the climb, we made a pit stop at Laduree. Our offspring decisively selected a dozen of the renowned macarons in such flavors as caramel, rose, coconut and, of course, chocolate and vanilla. We took the lovely package of cookies out to a bench on the Champs and made short work of its contents.  Thus refueled, we made our way to the top of the Arc for a spectacular, and well-earned, view of beautiful Paris.

En France, In Brief, Day 2

Significant attention, effort, time and resources are directed to the aesthetic environment in France. While I appreciate the market-driven gritty frugality and respect for the taxpayers in New York City, it is very pleasant to spend time here in Paris. Here, even in an incredibly busy, complex urban environment, simple beauty abounds.

En France, in brief

Paris has a nice idea for low-consumption, low-emissions transit. The Velib – a system of self-serve bike rentals. There are almost 20,000 bikes available for short term rental at multiple locations through out the city. You can rent in one location and return at your destination. It’s not particularly good for parent’s traveling with young children, people with substantial cargo, or people with limited physical abilities but it’s a nice resource in the effort to make our world a little less petroleum-dependent.

My Top Ten List of Paris Favorites

American opinion appears to have returned to an appreciation of the French. Witness the recent run of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking at the top of the New York Times Bestselling Advice Book list and the omnipresence of Gilles Marini.  I have had the good fortune of visiting Paris on a few occasions and am now in the midst of planning a trip to Paris and Rennes with my family, the first for our children.  So now that it is safe again to love the French, and there is much to love, particularly their living-as-art-form approach to domestic life, I thought I would share some of my favorite things to do in Paris.  Please add your own recommendations.

Here’s a 10-item list  (sort of Lettermanesque) of my favorites, and other thoughts, from our time in Paris.

1) Boat Ride on the Seine at night. Very classic tourist activity– but of course it is.  It’s a really nice thing to do.  We used Bateaux Mouches, Pont de L’Alma, but Bateaux Parisien also looks good.  Be prepared; it’s light out until 10:00 pm, or later.

2) Gerard Mulot, Chocolats et Macarons, 76 Rue de Seine in the Saint Germain (6th) arondissement.  The pastries were the best we’ve had in our travels and we put a lot of research in on the ground.  You order at the counter; the guy gives you a slip, you pay at another counter and they stamp the slip, and then you bring the slip back to the first guy who has your order all nicely packaged.  Then you unceremoniously enter the street, tear open the pretty package and slobber all over it’s contents.  Yumm…

3) Deux Magots, 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés.   The cultural history alone of this perfectly-located cafe makes it worth a visit.  The cafe of choice of such luminaries as Picasso,  Hemingway, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, a seat at Deux Magots by the sidewalk provides a ceaselessly entertaining view of passersby.  We enjoyed brunch there and the food was very good, especially the Poilane bread which I had with baked goat cheese.  In my opinion you really can’t eat enough goat cheese.

4) Berthillon, 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile.  The place for ice cream in Paris.

5) Fountaine du Mars, 129 Rue St. Dominique, 01 47 05 46 44.  Make a reservation for a street-side table.  We’ve had dinner here a few times and the food is great and so is the atmosphere.   The Obamas dined here on their last trip to Paris and apparently agreed with our assessment.  For dessert they do a nice job with Ile Flottante (Floating Island), a delicious French classic involving meringue and caramel.

6)  Le Petit Nicois, 10 Rue Amelie, 01 45 51 83 65.  Lovely Mediterranean restaurant with great seaf00d.    They do wonderful things with artichokes.

7) Tastevin, 46 rue St. Louis-en-l’Ile, 01 43 54 17 31.  A truly exceptional restaurant on Ile St. Louis.  Very tiny.  Amazing service.  Get the cherry clafouti.  We had the best table by a window that opened onto the street. 

8) Walking. Free and essential to balance out the caloric impact of the above-listed items.  A great walk is to stroll  through the Tuileries gardens to the Orangerie Museum, stop in for a visit with Monet’s Waterlilies and canvases from Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir and many others,  and then continue your trek over to the Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triomphe.  Climb to the top of the Arc for a great view of the city.  Must have good shoes!

9) The Pompidou Center, Place Georges Pompidou.  In my opinion, a waste, except for the view and the wonderful crepe I had from a street vendor before we went in.  I had mine with Creme Marron (chestnut) – very tasty.

10) And, FYI it is my observation that caffeine and cigarettes play a significant role in keeping  French women from getting fat!

Also, the Cluny museum, shopping at Dehillerin, the Conciergerie, Napoleon’s Tomb, shopping at Galeries Lafayette and so much more.  Great food, art, history and shopping.  What are your favorites?  What have your teens and tweens appreciated about Paris?

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Everything You Need to Know About Social Media You Should Have Learned in Pre-school

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

When you take away the high-tech veneer – the fancy apps etc.,-  and the various forms of Social Media are appraised for what they really are, things get pretty easy.  Social media are simply new communications tools and as such, the same basic principles for effective human communication apply and anyone can learn them.  In fact, everything you need to know to use Facebook, Twitter and the like you should have learned in Pre-School.  But in case you didn’t, here is a refresher:

1. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Never put anything in digital form (email, wall post, tweet, whatever) that you are not comfortable sharing with the whole world for eternity.  Once you put something in digital form, it can potentially reach every person on earth until the end of time.  They don’t call it viral for nothing.  You have no control over the reach of your postings, so keep control over your content

Never be negative.  Ever.  No complaining.  No kvetching about anyone.  Negative comments when written on a screen, come off as petty and mean, much more so than is generally intended.  In the words of my mother, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

2.  Share.  Once you get on Social Media, say something.  Participate in the conversation.  Don’t just lurk.  Remember the golden rule?  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?  There is a reciprocity culture in Social Media and if you want people to pay attention to you, eg. by following you on Twitter or liking you on Facebook, pay attention to them.  Post things that may be useful to others.  Retweet or Share (on Facebook) something you  find interesting or amusing.  Comment on the posts of others.

3.  But don’t share too much. Though shalt not overtweet, or over post.  When people post too often, say six posts in a row on Twitter, it is oh-so-easy to just roll right through them.  Over-posters become like white noise.  So what is the right amount of posting?  It depends but bear in mind the old mouth-to-ears ratio comment.  It’s about right.  Listen twice as much as you speak.

4.   Content is King. Ok, so maybe you didn’t learn this one in pre-school but you should have because it is true.  Do not use Social Media tools to only promote whatever it is you may be selling.  To get people to pay attention to you and to keep them interested, you have to add value.  Your social media strategy should be to become an interesting and relevant voice in the conversation. When that is your focus, you are more likely to be successful so carefully consider the ratio of non-promotional content to promotional content in your postings.

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Our 6 Favorite Cape Cod Restaurants: Reasons to be Cheerful

Bayview Beach, Dennis, MA

Bayview Beach, Dennis, MA

It was 91 degrees today and, regardless of the date, we are shifting into summer mode and thinking about the beach, which for our family usually means Cape Cod.   When I was growing up, my family would spend a couple of weeks each summer at whatever rental, some much more successful than others, my father had found over the winter.  A highlight of the visit was always dinner at Thompson’s Clam Bar in Harwichport.  Thompson’s was a Cape Cod institution, like Cape League Baseball and 4 Seas Ice Cream.  Perched on a pier on Wychmere Harbor, it had the perfect balance of clubbiness, family friendliness, good food, and fresh salt air.  I returned to the restaurant with my own children for a few summers until one day, we arrived to find that they had become a private club.  It was a tragedy as far as we were concerned but it did force us to branch out on restaurant loyalty and find some new places to eat.   Each year we add one or two more establishments to our list.  So here is our family’s current list of favorite Cape Cod restaurants.  Feel free to add your own ideas.

The Marshside28 Bridge Street,East Dennis, (508) 385-4010 – This restaurant underwent a complete transformation a couple of years ago from a great little joint to a perfect, spacious restaurant.  It’s new Adirondack style with a massive front porch and open lodge-feeling interior, makes it a very pleasant stop.  Nice bar to wait at if you don’t get seated immediately.  Lots of seating adjacent to massive windows that look out over the marsh and on to part of the harbor.  Good menu, reasonable prices, slightly dressy.

Sesuit Harbor Cafe- 357 Sesuit Neck Rd, Dennis, (508) 385-6134 – SHC is a classic clam shack.  The freshest seafood you are going to get.  The fried seafood is especially light and tender; they also offer grilled and steamed entrees. You order at the counter and find a place to sit among the small grove of umbrellaed picnic tables outside looking directly over the harbor.  It is a beautiful view and a very relaxing place to spend time.  BYOB

Chapin’s- 85 Taunton Avenue, Dennis, (508) 385-7000 – Chapin’s is another area restaurant to undergo a complete makeover, although in the case of the former Joe Mac’s, the name now memorialized on a glass panel in the bar, it was much more necessary than with the Marshside, which we did happily frequent in its former humble configuration.  Joe Mac’s was a roadhouse-style burger joint with pool tables and little to recommend itself, other than it’s location adjacent to Chapin beach, one of the best beaches on the planet.  The new place does a nice raw bar, great seafood- including an excellent cioppino and great chowder (as is required by local statutes)- and is also family friendly and offers outdoor seating.

The Lobster Pot- 321 Commercial Street, Provincetown (508) 487-0842 – Yes, this delightful venue overlooking Provincetown Harbor is called the Lobster Pot but I have two words for you- Portuguese Soup.  A great use of chorizo.  Very family friendly.  The rest of the food, including of course the chowder, is also excellent.

The Chatham Squire- 487 Main St., Chatham, (508) 945-1111 – A casual, cozy, clubby place right on the main drag of Chatham.  They do an awesome cioppino as well as a perfect bowl of chowder.  Great food, also family friendly.

The Ice Cream Smuggler- 716 Main Street, Dennis, (508) 385-5307 – After you’ve had dinner, you need to have ice cream.  Any day we are on the Cape, we go to the Smuggler.  You simply can not beat their fresh ice cream made on the premises.  Our favorite flavors are black raspberry, peppermint stick, coconut, ginger, chocolate, junior mint, cookie dough and coffee oreo yogurt.  The last night of vacation we splurge on banana splits.

Although we have never quite recaptured in a new venue everything we appreciated at Thompson’s, we’ve enjoyed some great food on the Cape in our search.

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