Reets Eats

20-something and hungry.
Vanilla: not just for baking.
While several of the meals I ate during this trip were leagues beyond my tastebuds’ previous dives, sometimes it was the things just shy of comfortable that surprised me the most. Like this dish: sea bass with pan-fried veggies and a side of vanilla sauce. This was not, as I anticipated, a sweet maple-glazed salmon. No, the fish’s flesh carried the slight salt of the sea, an appropriately flaked backdrop to the savory sauce, a concoction one part salty, one part bitter, and one part sweet. Each flavor did its own tour de la langue, before sliding across the palate to perform a satisfying symphony. 

Vanilla: not just for baking.

While several of the meals I ate during this trip were leagues beyond my tastebuds’ previous dives, sometimes it was the things just shy of comfortable that surprised me the most. Like this dish: sea bass with pan-fried veggies and a side of vanilla sauce. This was not, as I anticipated, a sweet maple-glazed salmon. No, the fish’s flesh carried the slight salt of the sea, an appropriately flaked backdrop to the savory sauce, a concoction one part salty, one part bitter, and one part sweet. Each flavor did its own tour de la langue, before sliding across the palate to perform a satisfying symphony. 

Forget the biscuit, bet on these mussels by the sea.
We were in the thick of our second week of traveling with almost two-dozen undergraduates when we arrived in La Rochelle. For a northern port, the city was surprisingly sunny. With its arcade-lined cobblestone streets, framed by three-story limestone buildings and slate roofs leading to moss-covered piers flanking the historic marina, who wouldn’t be charmed? After running around town sorting out meals for the group’s three-day visit, G. and I settled under an umbrella on a wooden deck by the harbor, sailboats rocking in the green water as we supped on the day’s catch. The moules marinière, with a side of frites and a glass of white wine, was one of the best quick sea-side lunches I had during the trip. Both refreshing and filling, a bowlful of mussels will carry you to dinner without making you feel like you’re lugging a sack of bricks around town - which I needed, as we’d be doing just that within the hour, with our the students in tow. 

Forget the biscuit, bet on these mussels by the sea.

We were in the thick of our second week of traveling with almost two-dozen undergraduates when we arrived in La Rochelle. For a northern port, the city was surprisingly sunny. With its arcade-lined cobblestone streets, framed by three-story limestone buildings and slate roofs leading to moss-covered piers flanking the historic marina, who wouldn’t be charmed? After running around town sorting out meals for the group’s three-day visit, G. and I settled under an umbrella on a wooden deck by the harbor, sailboats rocking in the green water as we supped on the day’s catch. The moules marinière, with a side of frites and a glass of white wine, was one of the best quick sea-side lunches I had during the trip. Both refreshing and filling, a bowlful of mussels will carry you to dinner without making you feel like you’re lugging a sack of bricks around town - which I needed, as we’d be doing just that within the hour, with our the students in tow. 

Flotsam, or Jetsam?
Before packing my bags, perhaps while I should’ve been writing my last paper of the semester, I found distraction in a book on French regional cuisine buried in the bookshelf in my living room. The book is an artifact of a heated debate with K about the merits of French and Italian cuisine, where I snagged the book on the former and K purchased the book on the latter (we concluded that the French know their meats and pastries, but the Italians take the proverbial cake when it comes to grains). Though the book included several vernacular recipes, I was particularly interested in the lists of local ingredients and preparations that would pepper my summer travels. In Bordeaux, the book told me, I should be sure to try, if I could pronounce it, l’anguille - lamprey eel. The one you see here, served on warmed slices of bread, followed my charcuterie plate. The sauce was delightful, not too heavy on the cream with an umami finish that makes me think they stirred in some potent beef reduction before serving it up. As for the eel itself: not my favorite texture (somewhere between tripe and calamari, of which I prefer the latter), but I’d give it a second go, to be certain it’s the fish, not its preparation, that wasn’t up to par.

Flotsam, or Jetsam?

Before packing my bags, perhaps while I should’ve been writing my last paper of the semester, I found distraction in a book on French regional cuisine buried in the bookshelf in my living room. The book is an artifact of a heated debate with K about the merits of French and Italian cuisine, where I snagged the book on the former and K purchased the book on the latter (we concluded that the French know their meats and pastries, but the Italians take the proverbial cake when it comes to grains). Though the book included several vernacular recipes, I was particularly interested in the lists of local ingredients and preparations that would pepper my summer travels. In Bordeaux, the book told me, I should be sure to try, if I could pronounce it, l’anguille - lamprey eel. The one you see here, served on warmed slices of bread, followed my charcuterie plate. The sauce was delightful, not too heavy on the cream with an umami finish that makes me think they stirred in some potent beef reduction before serving it up. As for the eel itself: not my favorite texture (somewhere between tripe and calamari, of which I prefer the latter), but I’d give it a second go, to be certain it’s the fish, not its preparation, that wasn’t up to par.

Gotta catch ‘em all.
When I was young, I looked up to my uncle, M., because I thought he was the coolest thing ever. He was a food and fashion photographer, got to travel around the world, and liked to eat strange things. I tried most things on his plate. Mixing Coke with milk? Check. Hawaiian pizza? Check. Cocktail shrimp? That one was an acquired taste. It took me years to stomach the cold prawns with a smile. Now, I’m a huge fan of chilled seafood and this: charcuterie. My first bite of pâté didn’t go down too easily…and I seemed to have inherited my father’s distrust of cold cuts. But a year of Parisian dinner parties set me straight, and for my second French dinner of the summer, I made a beeline for this plate. My only regret: there wasn’t enough smoked duck!

Gotta catch ‘em all.

When I was young, I looked up to my uncle, M., because I thought he was the coolest thing ever. He was a food and fashion photographer, got to travel around the world, and liked to eat strange things. I tried most things on his plate. Mixing Coke with milk? Check. Hawaiian pizza? Check. Cocktail shrimp? That one was an acquired taste. It took me years to stomach the cold prawns with a smile. Now, I’m a huge fan of chilled seafood and this: charcuterie. My first bite of pâté didn’t go down too easily…and I seemed to have inherited my father’s distrust of cold cuts. But a year of Parisian dinner parties set me straight, and for my second French dinner of the summer, I made a beeline for this plate. My only regret: there wasn’t enough smoked duck!

Cut Spread the cheese.
A seemingly common misconception about French food is that it’s either drenched in a creamy sauce, or comes in the form of a pastry. Let’s clear that out of the way: the French make mean salads. Look at the menu of a typical brasserie and you’ll see at least five variations on the theme, none of which will include the word “Caesar.” Instead, you’ll see toppings like smoked duck,  pâté , fois gras, walnuts, berries, and my favorite: goat cheese. After a week of heavy three-course meals, this bowlful of gooey warmth and bright, fresh greens was the breather I needed: there were many more button-bursting meals ahead!

Cut Spread the cheese.

A seemingly common misconception about French food is that it’s either drenched in a creamy sauce, or comes in the form of a pastry. Let’s clear that out of the way: the French make mean salads. Look at the menu of a typical brasserie and you’ll see at least five variations on the theme, none of which will include the word “Caesar.” Instead, you’ll see toppings like smoked duck,  pâté , fois gras, walnuts, berries, and my favorite: goat cheese. After a week of heavy three-course meals, this bowlful of gooey warmth and bright, fresh greens was the breather I needed: there were many more button-bursting meals ahead!

Lamb chops, play along.
The beau, A, joined me during my two nights in Bordeaux. Here’s the Platonic version of our weekend: long walks along the Garonne, watching the sun set over fishing boats, sipping St. Emilion as we nibbled on slices of Comte. But twenty-one undergraduates make for less-than-romantic company, and that’s who shared our table at our first dinner at Le Plana. An experience redeemed by the opportunity to revive a bit of the romance with a bottle of a local red paired with some choice red meat: lamb chops, browned to perfection and topped with a brown sauce. In some ways, typical brasserie fare, but served with a smile (unlike in its Parisian counterparts). The mashed potatoes were appropriately fluffy, as well. I’d recommend it. Ordering from the carte rather than the menu would be well-advised, as the blokes at the table over had a platter of seafood and choice beef cuts that were eaten too quickly for me to sneak a bite.

Lamb chops, play along.

The beau, A, joined me during my two nights in Bordeaux. Here’s the Platonic version of our weekend: long walks along the Garonne, watching the sun set over fishing boats, sipping St. Emilion as we nibbled on slices of Comte. But twenty-one undergraduates make for less-than-romantic company, and that’s who shared our table at our first dinner at Le Plana. An experience redeemed by the opportunity to revive a bit of the romance with a bottle of a local red paired with some choice red meat: lamb chops, browned to perfection and topped with a brown sauce. In some ways, typical brasserie fare, but served with a smile (unlike in its Parisian counterparts). The mashed potatoes were appropriately fluffy, as well. I’d recommend it. Ordering from the carte rather than the menu would be well-advised, as the blokes at the table over had a platter of seafood and choice beef cuts that were eaten too quickly for me to sneak a bite.

Park your carpaccio right here, my friend.
The architectural portions of my Grand Tour this summer were truly overshadowed by the wealth of first-time food experiences I stumbled upon while country hopping. Emboldened by episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations streaming on Netflix, I decided to make this trip an unforgettable gastronomic event. For the first hedonistic adventure in France, I chose this: beef carpaccio. The cool thinly-cut slices of beef, refreshed by the basil and punctuated by the sharp tang of slivers of Parmesan, was a much appreciated respite from the warm summer day. With the heat wave still blazing along the East Coast, I’m tempted to revisit this memory. Now, to find a Cambridge butcher I can trust…

Park your carpaccio right here, my friend.

The architectural portions of my Grand Tour this summer were truly overshadowed by the wealth of first-time food experiences I stumbled upon while country hopping. Emboldened by episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations streaming on Netflix, I decided to make this trip an unforgettable gastronomic event. For the first hedonistic adventure in France, I chose this: beef carpaccio. The cool thinly-cut slices of beef, refreshed by the basil and punctuated by the sharp tang of slivers of Parmesan, was a much appreciated respite from the warm summer day. With the heat wave still blazing along the East Coast, I’m tempted to revisit this memory. Now, to find a Cambridge butcher I can trust…

The one where I’m still getting over my mistrust of Mexican food.
I developed a dislike for Mexican food as an adolescent mostly because my brother seemed to have the precise opposite perspective, and when it came to choosing a place to eat out, he’d pitch the local Tex-Mex joint, and I would vehemently protest. One might say that I was a contrary child. But in this new-found enthusiasm for making my own meals, instead of relying on the chefs at the university’s dining halls, or the other ladies in my life, I’m also on the hunt for foods I didn’t think I’d like. Considering that I have a healthy appreciation for corn, black beans, peppers, cheese and sour cream, I’m not sure why I held on to the icky-Mexican mantra for so long. This layered lunch was a recipe from Whole Foods (of which, how exciting, there are two within a 15-minute walk of my Cambridge summer home!). The idea I like, but as usual (and I think I’m going to start automatically tweaking seemingly-dubious recipes for this), it lacked some zing. Updates for the next go-around: maybe some cumin, or real chili powder (I only had paprika), some fresh salsa to top it off, and I’d consider adding some sugar to the bean blend to play up the tartness of the limes.

The one where I’m still getting over my mistrust of Mexican food.

I developed a dislike for Mexican food as an adolescent mostly because my brother seemed to have the precise opposite perspective, and when it came to choosing a place to eat out, he’d pitch the local Tex-Mex joint, and I would vehemently protest. One might say that I was a contrary child. But in this new-found enthusiasm for making my own meals, instead of relying on the chefs at the university’s dining halls, or the other ladies in my life, I’m also on the hunt for foods I didn’t think I’d like. Considering that I have a healthy appreciation for corn, black beans, peppers, cheese and sour cream, I’m not sure why I held on to the icky-Mexican mantra for so long. This layered lunch was a recipe from Whole Foods (of which, how exciting, there are two within a 15-minute walk of my Cambridge summer home!). The idea I like, but as usual (and I think I’m going to start automatically tweaking seemingly-dubious recipes for this), it lacked some zing. Updates for the next go-around: maybe some cumin, or real chili powder (I only had paprika), some fresh salsa to top it off, and I’d consider adding some sugar to the bean blend to play up the tartness of the limes.

What’s so French about French toast?
French fries are really Belgian, French bulldogs trace their origins to Nottingham, and French toast? According to our ever resourceful guide, Wikipedia, the idea of soaking stale bread in milk and then frying it can be traced back to a Roman cookbook attributed to Apicius. The French, of course, do it with a too-crunchy baguette. Since I woke up last weekend with a craving for French toast and no stale loaf, I whipped this up with some fresh oatmeal bread slices, a swig of milk, the half-dozen-too-many eggs in our fridge, a dash of vanilla extract and some sugar…and though I followed my mom’s recipe as best as I recollect it (2 tbsp of sugar for every egg, 2 eggs per diner, and enough milk to turn the mixture a canary yellow) it didn’t taste quite the same. Now my eggs were more orange than any my parents ever brought home, and I didn’t know oatmeal bread was an option until last weekend. This version was a bit sweeter than what I ate as a kid (didn’t even need the honey!), but it hit the spot. I find that when longing for comfort food, it’s best just to give in, don’t you?

What’s so French about French toast?

French fries are really Belgian, French bulldogs trace their origins to Nottingham, and French toast? According to our ever resourceful guide, Wikipedia, the idea of soaking stale bread in milk and then frying it can be traced back to a Roman cookbook attributed to Apicius. The French, of course, do it with a too-crunchy baguette. Since I woke up last weekend with a craving for French toast and no stale loaf, I whipped this up with some fresh oatmeal bread slices, a swig of milk, the half-dozen-too-many eggs in our fridge, a dash of vanilla extract and some sugar…and though I followed my mom’s recipe as best as I recollect it (2 tbsp of sugar for every egg, 2 eggs per diner, and enough milk to turn the mixture a canary yellow) it didn’t taste quite the same. Now my eggs were more orange than any my parents ever brought home, and I didn’t know oatmeal bread was an option until last weekend. This version was a bit sweeter than what I ate as a kid (didn’t even need the honey!), but it hit the spot. I find that when longing for comfort food, it’s best just to give in, don’t you?

All ink, no pens needed.
My second course at Paradiso Perduto was the dish for which I came to Venice: spaghetti in cuttlefish ink. Nothing, seriously, nothing, I have ever eaten before (and that includes all the crazy bull testicles and cow nerve I found in Rome) prepared me for this meal. All I knew is I’d be walking away with teeth as black as night. I didn’t know that the sauce would taste of the sea but be as creamy as melted brie. The cuttlefish itself is reminiscent of calamari, and the pasta, well, it was Italy. Not only would I gladly eat this again (and I did, in Spain, but as a squid ink paella), I’m wondering if Boston has a fish market that’ll sell me some of this stuff!

All ink, no pens needed.

My second course at Paradiso Perduto was the dish for which I came to Venice: spaghetti in cuttlefish ink. Nothing, seriously, nothing, I have ever eaten before (and that includes all the crazy bull testicles and cow nerve I found in Rome) prepared me for this meal. All I knew is I’d be walking away with teeth as black as night. I didn’t know that the sauce would taste of the sea but be as creamy as melted brie. The cuttlefish itself is reminiscent of calamari, and the pasta, well, it was Italy. Not only would I gladly eat this again (and I did, in Spain, but as a squid ink paella), I’m wondering if Boston has a fish market that’ll sell me some of this stuff!