Beer at lunch

It turns out I can drink at lunch even if there is no where for me to immediately lie down and sleep.

After a 3 hour slog around Paris we ducked into Ladurée after a quick look at the newly wrapped Arch de Triumphe (à la Christo, in some sort of homage type deal—apparently the French cannot think of other more productive things to do with their money—at least I can say I saw it, you know, so . . . score). I was more interested in where and what we were doing vis à vis lunch. Laudée is a favorite spot, it was near and since we were killing time between our Parisienne domiciles. . . .

We moved out of our hotel at 9 am but unable to access our AirB&B until 4pm. In retrospect a 7 hour lag time between squats is not exactly optimal following a grueling few days of travel that followed a grueling few days of worrying about travel.

Ladurée did not disappoint. I had some sort of avocado toast contraption and he had an asian chicken sandwich. But the real point was that I had a beer (in a super cool aluminum bottle) and I did not fall immediately asleep which is usually what happens if I drink at lunch. Of course I could have just laid down on a bench and pretended to be a Parisian (a down and out Parisian, but a Parisian nonetheless) instead we trudged all over hell and back logging an astonishing 14 miles, arriving with some difficulty at our new abode around 4:30. Just in time for that nap.

A long time in the coming, a longer time in the making, it has come to pass—Paris

A few weeks ago my sister Ann and her husband left for Italy sending me some desperate messages about the brutalities, demands, irregularities, inanities and misinformation that surrounded their 3+ hour experience at O’Hare. They did make their flight but not without any number of anxiety-provoking indignities. Then my friend Karen left for Italy, receiving an email in the middle of the night that she needed a specific kind of visa to enter the country and spent 4 hours in the early morning online to resolve the issue.

See for these people this is off putting, slightly unbalancing, disturbing. and frightening. I know this feeling. i embody it. This is how I experience all travel so as my date of departure loomed, I arose ANXIOUSLY everyday checking each and every email Air France was sending every 40 minutes with revised updates to updates. In the end, as I understood it (I MADE EXCEL SPREAD SHEETS, for chrissake) I’d need my passport, of course, my ticket, naturally, a signed and sworn statement that I did not have covid, proof of my covid vaccination status and a covid test within 12 minutes of departure—but the test would have to be an AFrBi39H1hn, or a M17yyu89kl or Fd23 antigen test if administered on a Tuesday or Thursday in months beginning with the letter R. The day before departure I received an email telling me I would need to arrive at 3pm for an 8 pm flight!!!!!!!!! I remained calm. Or rather as calm as I can remain. My driver could not come sooner so I would be arriving well after (and hour and a half after the recommended 3 pm arrival date.) I breezed into terminal 4:30 pretending a calm I did not feel.

Not. A. Soul. In. Front. Of. Me. No one. The clerk had to have a large man lift my luggage (I am so sorry about that) onto the conveyor belt since it was as tall as she was and weighed more the I did. She took the vast supply of documentation, approximately a small forest worth of paper and then pushed it back at me with only the mildest look of annoyance. “We don’t need this stuff.” she smiled sweetly. “Oh,” I said just as sweetly, “your 65,000 emails tell a different story,” hissing through my teeth. “Oh, hahahaha. You’re ready to go Mr Dillon.” And that was that. It was 4:30, I’d survived the one and a half hour anxious sprint down there only to now spend 3 and a half hours waiting (the security line didn’t take 2 minutes—go figure). It was fine. The flight was fine. We landed early. The taxi ride was lovely, the hotel had my reservations.

And then this. Oh joy oh rapture. Paris.

The balcony at Printemps shortly before the baby started crying

Be sure to listen to her sweetness and my fine French accent.

Main course tomato tart

Usually I make a tomato tart as an appetizer or side. But for this particular meal I souped it up enough to become the main event. I didn’t really add much more sustenance, just prettied it up and doubled down on flavor. Of course, I used my sour cream crust but I toned down the mustard with mayonnaise which ends up being creamier and I added caramelized onions to that base. I cut the tomatoes (mostly yellow) very thickly and dehydrated them in my oven for a few hours. And I added extra Gruyere.

I love these big greek olives so much so that I make special trips out to the “European” grocery store (check them out) for them. The store also has awesome greek feta, not that I used it here. I threw on little bits of artichoke hearts for design, not really adding much in the flavor department. I decorated with capers, and roasted red and yellow peppers which added a decent punch.

Even after the dehydration the tomatoes gave off loads of liquid that I self-consciously blotted before my guests caught a glimpse of it. It was beautiful and delicious.

Garden salad

I gave my neighbor some of my extra produce and she made me a meal in return. Seems fair, I give her a couple 3 tomatillos and a cucumber and she gives me an entirely cooked meal with salad. She’s Puerto Rican and an excellent cook. The whole meal was great but the salad was especially good. It was a chop salad that included tomatillos. That was eye opening. I never know what the hell to do with them except make salsa.

So I took it a step further. I used my little black tomatoes, tomatillos, cucumbers and onions, all from my garden (now in decline—although the green beans did not get that memo) and I added some corn I had lying around. And while her dressing was simply vinegar and I was good with that, as per usual, I felt the need to do something a little more exotic so I found a recipe for honey lime dijon vinaigrette on a site unfortunately named The Yummy Life (insert eye rolling emoji). You can see the recipe here.

I make a lot of salad because I like leftover salad. There wasn’t much leftover, my guests went right for it, but I ate what little there was standing at the sink cleaning up that same night.

The 3 stages of beans, a philosophical discussion

I had a revelation this year about beans. I am not such a fan of them, green beans, I prefer wax, or yellow beans but I have an envelope of “Blue Lake” beans from some specialty super-enviro-chi chi place and so I plant them year after year. Four or five plants is enough to meet my needs and then some. The seed packet has like 700 seeds (beans) in it so I’m kinda stuck with them for now.

When they start producing, they produce. I watch them turn from slim haricots verts, which are what I would prefer to eat, to the fatter pickling size and then, I realized this year, I can leave them on the vine at this point when they are not really edible (to my delicate taste buds) and they will become bean beans. I have raised beans for shelling before but hadn’t really thought too much about the fact that green beans can become shelling beans too. We certainly did not do this growing up.

The main advantage of this is that I don’t have to worry about picking them at the tiny, more toothsome haricot vert size. If they get fat and too tough for elegant mouths they can be pickled but that requires the work of pickling and needs to be done in a timely manner. So once they pass the point of no return the beans can just be left on the vine to get collected at some indefinite point. That’s more my dead-ass lazy style.

Again with the tarts

I had the dough. And company coming, I made tarts, well, tartlets to be more precise. Nectarine tartlets. On the whole they were fine even if the pastry was too thick and the nectarines were less than fully summer-flavorful. I drizzled it with some ho-made (not by me) raspberry jam. As I have said before, you can hide a lot under ice cream. And you’re good if no one complains.

Sometimes my memory issues work in my favor

It’s that time of the year when there are tomatoes, and by tomatoes, I mean TOMATOES. So usually I am making sauce with the plethora of them and it’s pretty easy. (Having said that, my own tomato harvest was pretty dismal, this small crop was from my sister.) Even though I didn’t have billions of them I threw them all in a pot with thyme, bay leaves, oregano and basil and went outside to attend to them many hundreds of things that need attending to.

At some point later in the day I had the sudden realization that the tomatoes were still on the stove. I calmly put down my spade and strode deliberately. . . not really, I yelped “OH CHRIST!” out loud and ran frantically (but in a masculine way) to the kitchen. They were fine. The sauce had magically thickened and darkened, caramelized I’d say. After a pass through the ol’ Foley food mill I bottled it up. Since a lot of the water had evaporated there is barely a pint but OMG is it so good.

Seems like a lot of rigmarole for such a small amount of sauce but really the work was only in the food milling other than that I was elsewhere totally forgetting I was making sauce.

Peach blueberry tart

I think these two things probably don’t go together all that well but the container of blueberries was too small for a pie and two containers would have been too many so I got a couple peaches as a supplement.

As I suspected the combo wasn’t all that great (not that it was terrible) and the peaches (not from my yard) were a little too unripe, hence more crunchy than one prefers in a pie. It was pretty and if you put ice cream on most things (not anchovies) no one will notice or at least no one complained. I rely on that outcome a lot.

Pure, unadulterated joy

So a squirrel sauntered casually up to my window with some sort of nut in its mouth and I waited for a moment and then I leapt up and it fled, dropping the nut as it ran. Well, I was not going to let that damn thing keep it so I went and picked it up. I set it inside the house with the door open but the screen closed. I thought I’d taunt it because I’m so, you know, mature. Not really imagining that he’d come back for it. But he did.

“One word buddy,” I screamed at him. “One word, PEACHES.”