There are so many interesting stories about Julia Child and by her, and I happen to have one of my own. In 2002 we were in DC to look at colleges for Claire. It also happened to be my husband’s
birthday and he wanted to go to Galileo Restaurant, which has since closed.
DC is very quiet in the summer. All the judicial and legislative bodies are recessed and the normal chaos of business is missing. Just us tourists. When we arrived at the restaurant, it was very quiet, we were, however, eating on the early side because my husband is an up and at ’em early morning guy, even on vacation. The rest of us are NOT!
We were seated at a table in a back room, near the kitchen. As we perused the menu, my husband asked what each of us wanted to do while were in DC. He’s a huge museum fan and DC is filled with them. BTW, I’m a fan, but I go through rather quickly, he pauses, reads and studies; needless to say we don’t do much together in museums.
Having said that, my only priority was going to the American Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institute. Julia Child’s kitchen from Massachusetts, completely intact, had been installed that very weekend and I wanted to see it. After expressing my wish, my youngest daughter Margot asked, “Who is Julia Child?” I proceeded to explain her story; how she revolutionized the culinary palette in this country with her first book Mastering the Art of French Cooking and continued doing so for decades influencing both home and professional cooks.
No sooner had I finished this explanation does Julia Child walk down the hallway to the kitchen (the chef, Roberto Donna, was a protégé). My jaw drops and I look at my husband, who had his back to the doorway and said, “You’ll never believe who just walked in. Julia Child!”
She was later seated a couple of tables away from us. I gave the waiter my business card from NYU (Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health) and asked if we could speak with her. She graciously agreed. She was more interested in Margot and signed a menu for her, which I still have (yeah, the kid got ripped off). She was charming and animated, even after such a long day at the museum. Her stamina at the age of 89 still amazes me.
This is one of life’s little coincidences that you can’t expect or predict. The timing was perfect and created a wonderful memory for our family.
An example of Modernist architecture – The Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.
My daughter and I took a long overdue Mother-Daughter vacation this summer to Barcelona. It was a brief trip, only two and a half days, but enough to whet our appetite for a return trip in the not too distant future.
Typical Street in Barcelona
We arrived early on a Thursday, checked the bags at the hotel and went in search of coffee. Sitting outside at a café, I was struck by the chalkboard menu on the sidewalk. I couldn’t possibly have forgotten that much Spanish, which I took in high school and college that I couldn’t remember the days of the week. Still in a fog from the time difference, I finally realized we were in Catalonia and that Barcelona is the capital and there is a mix of Catalan and Spanish in language, culture and food.
Pan Amb Tomaquet or tomato bread is a Catalan specialty and offered everywhere. Fortunately it’s easy to replicate.
Select a thin crusty bread and slice it lengthwise to expose the inside with all its cracks and crevices then cut into individual serving pieces, about three to four inches in length. It’s optional to toast the bread, but well worth it. Pop the cut pieces into a toaster or toaster oven until fragrant. Or, place briefly over a hot grill for a smokier version. Split a clove of garlic in half and gently rub across the warm inside of the bread. Cut a very ripe tomato in half vertically, poke out the seeds and rub all over the bread; a fleshy plum tomato works especially well. Garnish with a drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Most importantly, don’t turn your back on these because they’ll be gone before you have a chance to grab one!
We stopped into a chain called Tapas Tapas for lunch one day and weren’t disappointed. We ordered several dishes and shared.
Beef with Garlic
Other tapas we tried included breaded Camembert with a tomato sauce.
And, tangy Andalusian gazpacho with breadcrumbs for a thicker texture.
I am a big fan of the hop-on hop-off bus tours, especially when it’s a first visit to a new city. You get to see and learn a lot in a short time. The option of getting off and exploring something that piques your curiosity and then hopping on a later bus eases the mind about timing or finding transportation. Our time was short and we rode the orange line our first afternoon, which toured the western side of Barcelona starting at Rambla Catalunya, comparable to Fifth Avenue in NYC. This tour took us past the Olympic game arenas, many, many beautiful landmarks and museums. The next day we took the tour to the west with magnificent views of the crystal blue water, sandy beaches and more amazing architecture.
On the last day, we each had our own special request. I wanted to spend the morning at La Boqueria and Margot wanted to spend the afternoon at the beach; excellent choices and a perfect way to end our visit.
The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, is a large public market in the Ciutat Vella district.
This is the oldest European covered, open-air market with an abundance of options including butchers, fishmongers, fruit and vegetable merchants, cheese vendors, and a specialty of the region and its cuisine, wild mushrooms, to name a few. There are numerous places to eat along the perimeter and within the market. We started the morning with a couple of Illy espressos with a dash of cream each, pretty daring for a girl who barely has a cup of decaf coffee in the morning, but it’s so intoxicating in aroma and flavor that it’s irresistible.
We circled around the long aisles for a couple of hours. I was ruing the fact that I had no kitchen to take numerous purchases back to and spend the rest of the day cooking and eating.
The season for fruits and vegetables is so much longer in warm climates. I was envious of the plethora of vibrant and ripe fruit.
The presentation of the fruits and vegetables surpassed anything I’ve ever seen before. While everything was eye appealing on its own, what a difference the little flourishes of some vendors made.
This egg vendor really went to town with her display. All the eggs are snuggled in straw nests. Try and decide which kind of egg you’re going to buy!
Emu and ostrich eggs nestled in straw.
You rarely see white asparagus in the States, something we just never acquired a taste for. But it is sought after in Europe and considered quite the delicacy.
Barcelona is a coastal town and seafood plays a major role in their cuisine. There were many fish mongers at the market, all with pristine displays of a wide variety of whole fish and filets, shrimp, lobster, octopus, cuttle fish, snails and more.
These prawns were so fresh; I imagined sautéing them in butter and garlic.
If you’re a fan of bacalao, this is the place to be!
There are equally as many fresh meat, game, cured meat and poultry vendors.
This poultry vendor had one of the smallest cases, but she was flocked by many shoppers waiting to make a purchase. Always a sign of excellence.
Oodles of fine cheeses that would pair nicely with
any one of these sausages
some thinly sliced jamon iberico (don’t you love the way they package this prized ham!),
La Boqueria – Jamon Iberico
or a selection from this olive bar.
La Boqueria is a one-stop shopping experience. There didn’t seem to be an ingredient you’d need that you couldn’t find here, including spices, and
fresh and dried wild mushrooms, a specialty of the region.
Check out this candy vendor. This is better than any penny candy store I remember as a kid.
and how cute are these….
Margot topped off her visit with a coconut mango smoothie. I think she’s enjoying it! What do you think?
Next we were off to the W Hotel. Located on the beachfront of the Barceloneta boardwalk, the somewhat controversial hotel is designed to look like a sail, all steel and glass. It’s the modern construction and size that some take offense to. I liked it and thought it’s location suited the design.
We weren’t guests of the hotel, but there are many restaurants along the beachfront and a beach bar, where we spent a few “happy” hours!
Around 6pm, the beach was pretty empty and we went for a stroll. The sand is a little gritty and gave us a soothing foot massage with each step. You can see that Margot was very pleased with her choice for the afternoon!
It was a fast and fabulous few days and I do look forward to a return visit to spend time at some of the museums, restaurants and, of course, La Boqueria. I’m contemplating an apartment with a kitchen!!
Beef with Garlic
Serves: 4 to 6
Garlic has a high sugar content and burns quickly; start the oil and garlic in a cold pan over medium to low heat and stir occasionally to brown evenly. The garlic chips can be made in advance, but be sure to save the garlic infused oil to cook the meat. The optimal size for the filet mignon is about one-half pound each. Cut the meat in half lengthwise and then into four pieces.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1-pound filet mignon cut into 1-ounce pieces
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly ground pepper
Place the oil and garlic in a large sauté pan and keep a lowish flame. Stir occasionally to evenly brown the garlic.
In the meantime, season the meat with salt and pepper on all sides.
Remove the garlic chips with a slotted spoon and reserve.
Turn up the heat to medium-high and sear the meat until nicely brown, about 2 minutes on the first side and a minute more on another side for medium rare.
Place the meat on a serving dish and sprinkle the garlic chops over the meat.
In June, we visited my brother, Tom, his daughter, Rebecca and her family (husband Dominic, daughters Emma – 4 1/2 and Marla – 2 1/2). The first day we spent at Rebecca’s in Malsch. We
made up for the language differences with the little girls with a variety of activities, including making a clay picture. See the snails in the lower right-hand corner and stay tuned!
Art project with Emma and Marla.
Rebecca made a delicious angel food cake covered in vanilla pastry cream with handpicked strawberries. The strawberries were deep red, sweet, juicy and full of flavor. As usual, we had this in the afternoon before dinner. This seems to be a tradition, because we had ice cream on Saturday before dinner. Dominic made a mixed grill of wursts, pork belly and chicken and we had a variety of salads for dinner. It was a great day and a great reintroduction to the little ones after 22 months!
The next two days we spent at Tom’s. He has a spectacular yard, great for picnicking and he and I love to cook together. We especially like to cook some of the favorite things from our childhood. Macaroni salad was a staple of our family’s summer eating. We had it at home for dinner or lunch, or for picnics at the lake or at the various parks where we went hiking. Over the years, Mom became a bit of a “health trend” follower and the mayo went to light mayo or some other concoction. Regular macaroni became whole-wheat pasta. It just wasn’t the same. But Tom and I make it the traditional way. We also made potato salad and three-bean salad, also family favorites.
Potato salad, macaroni salad and three-bean salad.
He picked me up at 9:15 am on a Saturday and we shopped at the Real, a large grocery, variety store (they sell everything like a Costco or Sam’s Club with no fee). The meat, fish, cheese, cold cuts and produce were amazing. We got sausages, steaks and pork spareribs for the weekend, because stores aren’t open on Sundays we stocked up and bought all the fixings for our favorite three salads.
We made a quick stop at a local farmer’s market that sells vegetables, fruit and plantings for your garden. Look how beautiful these “party” tomatoes are. I love that they call cherry tomatoes party tomatoes!
A small Karlsruhe farmers market – party tomatoes!
A small Karlsruhe farmers market – very tender salad lettuce.
A small Karlsruhe farmers market – fragrant strawberries.
We spent the morning cooking and then he left to get my girls, who chose to sleep in, and a few last minute items. In the meantime, I grated these carrot-like radishes that he uses to make a raw tuna appetizer. I like to place the tuna on a cucumber slice, dab a little soy sauce over, add some horseradish sauce and top it off with the shaved radish. Delicious!
Radish – never saw one like this before; it’s quite spicy.
The weather cooperated nicely on Saturday and Sunday and we were able to sit in his yard, barbecue, and hang out all afternoon. The cherries and raspberries are in season and we picked and ate them throughout the day.
Fresh picked raspberries and cherries.
The little ones entertained us by searching the garden for schnecke (snails or more like slugs in this case). They became enamored with snails on their recent vacation to Mallorca. I much preferred their gifts of flowers and fruit to the schnecke!
The girls admiring their new “pets.”
Marla apparently felt that the schencke could use some beautifying and I couldn’t agree more!
We also managed to get in a couple of visits to the Der Vogel, the artisan brewery that’s attached to our hotel. They make an unfiltered Pils that I really like and the specialty beer was Hefeweizen. Tom picked up large take-out bottles for both days to quench our thirst and wash down all his delicious food. We also made it a point one day to have obadtza, a Bavarian cheese spread made of brie and butter, topped with onion rings and a sprinkle of paprika.
We like to spread it on those big fat salted pretzels. It’s outrageously delicious and something I’m glad I don’t have easy access to.
On Saturday night, on the way back to the hotel, we stopped off at Bistro Kiwi This is owned by Stefan, a friend of my brother.
Stefan at Bistro Kiwi
Stefan is a generous host and in addition to the beers we ordered, he comped us a couple of “Jackie’s neat” (Jack Daniels) and shared with us one of his homemade pepperoni wursts. It was delicious and he had Tom take the rest home for later. We definitely had more on Sunday. It was a very special and generous treat. Thank you Stefan!
Stefan’s homemade pepperoni wurst.
As always, the trip comes to an end too quickly. We had a great time in Karlsruhe and look forward to visiting next year for my niece’s 40th birthday and see my two little angels who change too much between visits.
Rinse the macaroni briefly to cool, it should still be warm. Dress immediately with the vinaigrette. The warm macaroni absorbs the flavors better than cold.
Prep Time:20 mins
Cook Time:10 minutes
Total Time:26 mins
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard, spicy is good too
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound elbow macaroni, cooked according to packaging instructions
1/3 cup minced onion
1/3 cup minced celery
1/3 cup diced seeded cucumbers
1/4 cup grated carrots
2 tablespoons mayonnaise, plus more as needed later
Combine the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a jar. Close and shake.
Briefly rinse the macaroni under cold water. It should still be warm. Add to the onion, celery, cucumbers and carrots in a large mixing bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss. Let this absorb for 15 minutes. Add mayonnaise and chill for at least two hours. Add more mayonnaise before serving to moisten as needed.