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Posts tagged ‘food’

Armchair Traveler: Gascony

We love Michael Ruhlman’s writing, whether it’s in a cookbook, his blog or even twitter. But this article in the July issue of Conde Nast Traveler about his culinary pilgrimage to Gascony is enough to make the stomach rumble. It’s possible that we are a little biased; Ariane is quoted in the article, and of course, she is Gascon to the bone.

Settle in and give Michael your undivided attention for a little while. You will be rewarded with an appreciation for Gascony; the people, the beauty of the countryside, the way that agriculture and food are intertwined, and the intense devotion to eating, drinking and living well.

Plus, you will get a sense of the ethos that built D’Artagnan, as Ariane has worked for 28 years to bring these sensibilities to the culinary scene in the United States.

Breakfast at the Kitchen at Camont. Photo: Gentl & Hyers, Conde Nast Traveler

You may want to pour yourself a glass of wine (or Armagnac) to sip while you find out why ancient Gascony is France’s new foodie destination. And then book your trip. It’s that inspiring.

The rolling hills of Gascony, France. Photo: Gentl & Hyers, Conde Nast Traveler

Happy Summer Solstice

Today is June 21: the summer solstice. And it would be fair to say that we will find any excuse to gather and celebrate with food. But the summer solstice is more than just an excuse to party; it’s a party with long-standing traditions.ss

Since pagan times, the people in the Northern Hemisphere have marked the longest day of the year in all kinds of ways. Generally speaking, the solstice (actually known as midsummer, if you recall your Shakespeare) was a time for great merriment, and festivals that involved heavy drinking and eating of seasonal foods. Throw in a bonfire, a fertility ritual or two, wreaths of oak leaves, flowers and herbs, and you have yourself a fantastic holiday, pre-Christian style.

Even our modern ideas about marrying in June can be traced back to these ancient festivals, when the sun seemed to smile down and bless everything.

So while you may not dance around a maypole, spend the day at Stonehenge, the whole night at a street festival, or weave flowers into your hair, there are ways you can celebrate the longest day of the year, and the official start of summer.

In lieu of a bonfire, just fire up the grill; cook and eat  under the stars. Use fragrant fresh herbs and toss some on the grill or in the fire. The summer solstice is a time to commune with nature, so a garden party, or any al fresco dining, is right and proper.

You can eat seasonal fruits, especially those that are red, orange or yellow, to pay homage to the sun. This recipe for Seared Pekin Duck Breast with Orange-Cassis Sauce from the Bromberg Brothers would be a lovely and colorful way to pay tribute.

June is when the best honey is harvested, so honey-glazed pork chops, mead (honey wine), beer or liquor infused with honey, or honey cakes would all work at a solstice party. Even without honey, our orb-shaped Truffle Butter Gourgeres, baked until golden, are welcome at any party. Might have something to do with the truffles.

D'Artagnan Truffle Butter Gougeres

D’Artagnan Truffle Butter Gougeres

Looking for summery greens?  This Smoked Duck & Cherry Salad from Alison Attenborough has both red  fruit and a smoky flavor unrelated to a bonfire. And it doesn’t even require cooking, only chopping and whisking.

And this Bacon, Eggs & Asparagus Salad recipe, from cookbook author and cookie authority Dorie Greenspan, has both seasonal asparagus and lovely soft-boiled eggs that might just remind you of the glowing, golden sun.

Dorie Greenspan's Bacon, Eggs and Asparagus Salad

Dorie Greenspan’s Bacon, Eggs and Asparagus Salad

However you celebrate the solstice, may you have a long and joyful day.

Now is the time for a backyard Garden Party

To some, the term “garden party” conjures images of a haughty affair – one where well-heeled, seersucker-clad guests meander through a topiary labyrinth or a gaggle of biddies nibble crustless sandwiches under a canopy of tea roses. Too stiff? Too stuffy? Not for you? Don’t give up on a garden party! It doesn’t have to be a stodgy soiree. A modern garden party is any convivial gathering, formal or casual, where guests enjoy food and drink in a garden setting. So throw out your assumptions, bend the rules and kick up your heels on your own patch of lawn for a modern day garden party that’s fun for all.

The Setting
While often thought of as a prestigious event, today’s garden party doesn’t have to be stuffy, starched affair. Garden parties certainly didn’t start out that way. Rooted in 16th century Europe, garden parties were a way for fashionable families to receive guests at their weekend country estates without strict formality. Softly lit with lanterns at dusk, a country garden provided a lush, magical setting for an intimate dinner. Marie Antoinette famously fêted her closest companions at the Petit Trianon in this very way.

Even if your garden is less than palatial, you can riff off the Renaissance in your garden party setting. Whether your garden is a modest suburban backyard, cottage potager, rolling country hills, or a big-city rooftop, make the most of the outdoor setting by adding a few special touches. For example, bring the indoors out – a long communal table flanked by pillowed benches makes comfortable, casual seating while white linens and twinkling lanterns turn on the charm. Mixed china, unfussy flatware and footed glasses create inviting settings with sparkling tea lights and loosely arranged bouquets of your favorite flowers as festive accents.

Food & Drink
There are three ways to approach food for a garden party. You can serve an assortment of finger foods and hors d’oeuvre, have a sit-down coursed meal, or a combination of the two. Whichever you decide, the following loose guidelines will take some stress out of preparation.

The majority of food served should be able to be made (at least partially) ahead of time. A garden party is all about mingling, playing games and enjoying the outdoor scenery not slaving away at a hot range or standing over a smoky grill.

All dishes you choose should be able to be served just warm, at ambient temperature or chilled. This helps to ensure the laid-back feeling of a garden party. Guests can graze at will and this is especially helpful if you’re hosting a lot of people – the first guest’s food will be at correct eating temperature even after the last guest is served.

The current season should be taken into consideration when deciding what to serve. Since you’ll be outside, keep the climate in mind. You’d never serve a heavy meat braise in peak summer heat or a cold fruit soup in fall when the air is crisp. Highlight your garden’s seasonality with ingredients appropriate to the setting. For example, in spring feature early vegetables, mushrooms and spring meats like lamb or rabbit, in summer serve dishes starring sun-loving fruits like peaches, melon or berries and in the fall try slightly richer dishes made with cream or cheese, root vegetables and game meats. (Speaking of seasonality, if you grow your own vegetables, a garden party is a wonderful way to share your harvest with family and friends. You may even get some help weeding and watering out of it.)

If hosting a party and only serving small plates and finger foods, start with a few larger shared plates as your foundation such as a cheese plate, charcuterie tray or crudités. Lay out small bowls of shared snacks, like olives, black truffle popcorn or spiced nuts. Then build your menu out from there, adding as many dishes as you like based on number of guests. A good rule of thumb for small hors d’oeuvre is 6-8 pieces per person, per hour.

Your hors d’oeuvre should also vary by texture and taste so you’re sure to have something for everyone. Mix and match compatible dishes with different qualities like salty, crunchy, creamy, spiced, sweet, earthy, delicate and/or chilled. For example…

salty = Cheese Gougeres, Bacon Wrapped Figs, Caviar Blinis with Crème Fraiche

crunchy = Fava Bean Bruschetta, Crostini with Tapenade, Lotus Chips with Spicy Mayonnaise

creamy = Duck Rillettes with Prunes, Foie Gras Mousse, Brandade stuffed Piquillo Peppers

spiced = Roasted Five-Spice Chickpeas, Garlic Sausage en Croute, Pan-Fried Chorizo

sweet = Summer Melon with Jambon de Bayonne, Baked Brie with Honey & Candied Walnuts

earthy = Mushroom Vol au Vents, White Truffle Robiola Flatbread, Wagyu Beef Negimaki

delicate = Vegetable Summer Rolls, Oysters with Mignonette, Potato Pancake with Gravlax & Dill

chilled = Summer Melon with Jambon de Bayonne, Chilled Mussels with Saffron Aioli, Venison Carpaccio with Baby Herb-Salad

Fun & Games
Garden parties can be fun! In the warmer months, offer old-fashioned lawn games like croquet or horseshoes. Or clear a spot for our favorite French game – Pétanque. Don’t forget your garden party playlist. Choose music that adds to the festive ambiance but doesn’t overwhelm your guests (or your neighbors!). Finally, take lots of photos. The relaxed, convivial garden party atmosphere allows guests to be themselves and loosen up for the camera.

Duckspotting @ Eastern Standard, Boston

Duckspotting is snapping & sending in pics of dishes, from your favorite restaurants, made with D’Artagnan ingredients! We supply restaurants all over the country & love to see what creative chefs are doing with our products. Keep sending them in!

Look at this gorgeous pasta carbonara dish made with D'Artagnan pigs blood

Where: Eastern Standard

What: Chef de Cuisine, Matt Audette’s Blood Pasta Carbonara, Boudin Noir, Prosciutto, English Peas, Acuna Egg, Grana Padano

The beautiful pasta before cooking. Check out that color!

How: Eastern Standard is at 528 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215  |   for reservations click here or call (617)532-9100

Dining out & spot some fabulous dishes made with D’Artagnan ingredients? Snap a pic & email with the details to alishah@dartagnan.com. We’ll give you & the restaurant a shout out.

Umami Dearest…

Umami (pronounced /oo-mäme/) is a relatively new term. It’s a Japanese loan-word referring the fifth taste, completing the revamped five-taste model alongside salty, sweet, sour and bitter. The mysterious word which as of late has been popping up frequently in food writing, blogs, restaurant menus, and cooking shows, describes a taste you are no doubt already familiar with. If you’ve eaten a well-ripened tomato, aged parmesan cheese, porcini mushrooms, cured ham, miso soup or even French fries dressed with ketchup, you’ve experienced umami.

Shiitake mushrooms - an excellent example of Umami

The sensation is difficult to characterize but some describe it as savory, meaty, mouth-watering and having depth or roundness. While many fail to recognize umami when they taste it, it plays no less of an important role in making food taste delicious.

So what is it exactly?
Salty, sweet, sour and bitter are fairly straightforward tastes but umami is slightly different. Umami is a distinct but difficult to describe, savory taste caused by the interaction of glutamates (amino acids), and ribonucleotides (naturally occurring compounds in food) reacting with receptors on the tongue, or taste buds. Some umami taste buds respond specifically to glutamate in the same way that “sweet” buds respond to sugar.

Cured hams, like Jambon de Bayonne, trigger umami receptors

Think about biting into a cheddar cheeseburger with ketchup, spaghetti with marinara sauce and a dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano or a salt-kissed slice of Jambon de Bayonne – the saliva-inducing, mouth-filling, deep, satiating taste – that is umami. In addition to being a unique standalone taste, umami seems to enhance foods it is combined with, intensifying other flavors as well.

History & controversy
Although the term is relatively new, the concept of umami is ancient. Examples of umami-rich foods can be traced back centuries. The taste appeared in early cured and fermented foods, such as the Roman condiment, garum, and fermented Asian sauces such as soy sauce, which is thought to have originated over 2,800 years ago.

Ancient Roman fermenting vats, used in the production of Garum

In the late 1800s, the “king of chefs and chef of kings”, Auguste Escoffier, discovered and noted the unique character of umami, when he developed his famous veal bone stock. The exquisite dishes he enriched with the stock had a new quality – one that was deep, rich and could not be described as salty, sweet, sour or bitter. Although he couldn’t fully articulate this new taste, causing French scientists to diminish his discovery, Escoffier knew he had stumbled onto something important. Well-heeled Parisians thought so too, flocking to the Ritz Hotel in droves to experience his dishes for themselves.

Auguste Escoffier & Kikunae Ikeda, Taste Pioneers

A short time after Escoffier’s discovery, the Japanese expression “umami” was coined. In 1908, Tokyo University Professor, Kikunae Ikeda, while studying the palatability of broth made from kombu seaweed noted that the taste could not be classified as salty, sweet, sour or bitter. He combined umai “delicious” and mi “taste” to describe the broths rich, deep, savory quality and wrote a scientific article outlining his find. But just as with Escoffier, scientists rejected Ikeda’s findings. The traditional four-taste model was so dominant, umami’s status as a fifth taste was considered controversial until nearly 100 years after it’s discovery when a new generation of scientists finally took a closer look. They discovered, just as Escoffier and Professor Ikeda had alleged that indeed there is a fifth taste. And it’s delicious.

Duckspotting @ La Esquina, New York City

Duckspotting is snapping & sending in pics of dishes, from your favorite restaurants, made with D’Artagnan ingredients! We supply restaurants all over the country & love to see what creative chefs are doing with our products. Keep sending them in!

 

Where: La Esquina

What: Chef Akhtar Nawab makes a killer pepita mole sauce – here, it finishes arepa dumplings and our Rohan duck breast.

How: La Esquina is @ 114 Kenmare, New York, NY 10012  |   Reservations for the brasserie are taken 21 days or 3 weeks to the day. Call (646) 613-7100

There are 3 ways to enjoy a meal at celebrity favorite, La Esquina – at the walkup taqueria (open daily from 8am – 2am), the street level cafe (open for lunch from 12-4pm, sunset menu from 4-5pm, then dinner 5-midnight, 1am on Fridays & Saturdays, weekend brunch from 11am-3:45pm) and the underground brasserie – see above for reservations. Hidden behind a secret door, the basement level brasserie is well worth the wait. The dinner-only space features an expanded menu, over 200 premium tequilas and nightly live DJ’s from 11pm-2am.

Dining out & spot some fabulous dishes made with D’Artagnan ingredients? Snap a pic & email with the details to alishah@dartagnan.com We’ll give you & the restaurant a shout out

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