polenta

La Fin

by Anne Maxfield on February 29, 2016

Accidental Locavore Nice at NightIt’s always at the end of a trip that you discover stuff you wish you’d known before. On the next-to-last day in Nice, the Accidental Locavore discovered that if you hit the good bakery just at 12:30, the baguettes are blissfully warm! If I didn’t have a lunch reservation at one of my favorite restaurants, Le Victor Hugo (another last day discovery on a previous trip), the bread would have been covered with one of several cheeses I’d collected. And if Victor Hugo was open for dinner…

Accidental Locavore Green and White TulipsAnother idea that occurred to me on the way to the marché, was that I should have been looking for events etc. on Meetup. Duh. One of my goals there was to build a network, but it’s difficult when you really don’t have a starting point. I’m also used to the old France, before smart phones. People had conversations in restaurants with whoever was sitting next to them (or at least their dogs). Now everyone is so involved with their devices (also guilty) that they’re in their own little worlds (and the dogs look bored).

Accidental Locavore Sausage and PolentaChecking out a couple of AirBnB apartments for future trips would have been a good idea and it would have been fun to see some real estate. There were a couple that looked good in the pictures, but I’d want to know exactly where they were before committing for a month.

Accidental Locavore Fountains in the ParkMy last lunch was at a tiny wine store, not far from the Promenade du Paillon, a beautifully rebuilt series of parks, dividing the old city and the beach from the rest of the city. They’ve got a great selection of biodynamic (organic) wines and a small area in the back with marble tables and funny Formica chairs you may remember from kindergarten. There’s a plat du jour but only at lunch, otherwise, it’s just cheese and charcuterie (never a bad thing). That day it was Figatellu a Corsican sausage, slightly smoked, and served over polenta, with some poivron for color. So simple and just amazing—I’ll be back!

Accidental Locavore Along the MedLike tomatoes in August or wine at lunch in France, some things are just better sur place. I’ll take home with me the memories of walking along the beach by the Promenade des Anglais, hearing the tumbling of the rocks in the sea. I’ll wish I was one of the insiders at Safari, getting bisous from the waiters who have been there as long as I can remember. And if I was a resident, maybe even bisous from the women at Victor Hugo and the crew at the boulangerie.

Accidental Locavore Golden PotatoesI’ll come home and wish the potatoes had flavor, the bread had crunch and the cheese, ah well the cheese. But I’ll also know that I’ll be back, and soon!

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A BK Afternoon

by Anne Maxfield on July 13, 2015

The Accidental Locavore’s friend Peter had long been tempting me with an excursion to his neighborhood of Park Slope. Long famous for its co-op and stroller traffic jams, recently, like the rest of Brooklyn, it’s become a real Mecca for foodies.

As it turned out, we had a beautiful day for our adventures. We started with a quick walk around the ‘hood, peeking through the windows at Royal Palms, where you can partake of the latest gaming trend – shuffleboard! Peter said it was the hottest place on the weekends, with people lining up well in advance to get a court.

Almost next door was Ample Hills Creamery, a well-known ice cream shop. We took a quick look at the flavors so we could decide whether it would be ice cream or gelato from any number of places after lunch.

Accidental Locavore Al Di Laal di laTrattoria is a neighborhood Italian place, cozy and rustic and one of Peter’s favorites. I was curious about the soup special—described as clam with couscous, so we ordered that along with an escarole salad and polenta topped with wild mushrooms. The soup was a big surprise! Baby clams floated in a lovely broth with tomatoes and couscous. There was a lot of lemon zest and possibly some saffron—all-in-all, a terrific combination! The polenta was your essential Italian comfort food. Lots of mushrooms, greens and cheese topping creamy polenta, what’s not to like? As we left, we tripped over the ubiquitous strollers, deserted at the entrance, marring what otherwise was a lovely lunch.

Accidental Locavore Al Di La PolentaTrying to burn off some of the polenta, we walked over by Peter’s apartment and did a little shopping. I found the perfect birthday present for my bestie at Bhoomki, a little boutique on 5th Avenue, and then we just had to check out some of the gelato places to see if they’d have any flavors more interesting than Ample Hills’. Further down the street, we ducked into the Lion in the Sun, a great stationery store owned by some friends of Peter’s. Although the WTF sticky notes were tempting, I somehow resisted.

Accidental Locaovre BeyglWhat I didn’t resist was a bag full of bagels at Beygl. Peter said they were the best, and it’s one of the things we really miss from the city. They were really good, but do not knock Murray’s off of the top of my list … but if I lived in Brooklyn, it might be a different story.

Chuckling at the irony of it, we dodged yet more strollers, and checked out Fleisher’s – ironic because they started just across the river from us in Kingston and I’ve never been there. It’s a cool store, with lots of perfect-looking meat, along with interesting, local, artisanal condiments. Now I’m definitely going to check out the Kingston store, since it’s easier to bring things home from there.

Accidental Locavore Russo'sFurther down 5th Avenue, we went into Russo’s – it’s one of those old neighborhood places that has somehow managed to survive gentrification. There must be 100 different varieties of fresh, homemade pasta, including some great-looking ravioli. I was very envious of Peter, who could just grab some and take it home, but I wasn’t smart enough to bring an ice pack and cold bag (next time!). We each got a container of grilled artichoke hearts, which were a great addition to my dinner that night.

Feeling that we’d walked off enough of lunch, our last stop was back at Ample Hills. I tried a bite of Salted Caramel Crack but wasn’t addicted. My universal ice cream search is always for dark chocolate, so I had a big cone of that. It was good, but the search goes on.

Tripping over $10,000 worth of strollers in front of the Park Slope Co-op, we said goodbye and vowed to make Arthur Avenue in the Bronx our next outing. Any recommendations?

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Accidental Locavore Duck ConfitSilken legs turning into succulent thighs. A Rockette? No, how about the duck confit the Accidental Locavore made the other night? This was so good that once I started crisping them up, I started tasting them and once I started tasting them…

The secret? Sous-vide. If you’re not familiar with sous-vide, it’s a way of cooking something for a long time in simmering water. Think sophisticated boil-in-a-bag, but oh, so much better!

To start: the Locavore prepared a couple of duck legs with a dry rub and let them sit overnight in the fridge. The next day, after a quick peek at Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide, I rinsed them thoroughly, patted them dry and put them in a vacuum bag with a nice coating of duck fat. Vacuum sealed them and put them in a water bath in my slow cooker. Eight hours later, tender to the touch, they were done.

Accidental Locavore Duck Confit With PolentaThe next night for dinner, I crisped up my duck leg (nibbling all the while). While that was cooking, I made some polenta with some local stone ground corn meal. To add a note of bitterness to the meal and maybe a bit of healthy eating, the Locavore steamed some broccolini (wanted broccoli rabe, but there was none to be found in three local markets, what’s up with that?) and after the duck was nicely crisped, tossed the broccolini  in the pan with the remaining fat and some sliced garlic for a couple of minutes.

The result? Amazing! There was the lusciousness of the duck against the great texture of the polenta, with the slight bite of the broccolini. Cooking it sous-vide really brought the texture of the confit to another level. The last batch I made was good, but didn’t have the melt-in-your-mouth scrumptiousness of this one. Another advantage? It didn’t take nearly as much duck fat as the traditional way and when it was done and cooled, the fat and the jelly part (needed for rillettes, stay tuned) separated cleanly.

What’s next? Certainly more duck confit! But now the Accidental Locavore is really curious to play with some more food sous-vide. Anyone out there have any sous-vide favorites?

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