Deirdre Bourdet: December 2009 Archives

Eating for Luck in the New Year

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By Deirdre Bourdet

New Year's is a time for renewed energy, and renewed hope for a brighter future...given a bit of luck. Small wonder then that most of the world sets the New Year's table with dishes designed to maximize their good fortune in the coming year. Lucky colors, lucky animals, and vegetables that look like money are all welcomed to the party. Here are some ideas to make 2010 the best year yet.

The Gift of Ganache

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Ganache is magically delicious.  Cream + chocolate = sweet perfection, in a preternaturally versatile combination.  The same basic ganache recipe (equal weight boiling cream and chopped dark chocolate) works equally well poured hot over ice cream sundaes as it does chilled in truffle form, or as a thick layer of decadent frosting on a chocolate lover's cake.  And, because hot cream is so easily infused with other flavors, making ganache taste like your favorite herb, spice, or other flavor is one of the most impressive, no-talent-necessary kitchen tricks in the world.

Being a bit of a culinary thrill-seeker, I take advantage of Christmas gifting season to experiment with new ganache infusions.  Last year my friends got jasmine tea, salted caramel, and fresh thyme-meyer lemon zest truffles.  This year it's chipotle, earl grey, and rosemary-parmesan.  It's pretty hard to go wrong with cream and chocolate, so be bold... and maybe start with a small batch. I've found 6 ounces cream and 6 ounces chocolate tends to be a good experimental size.

Mini Bistro, Mega Delicious

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mini mango kitchen shot.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Mini Mango Thai Bistro opened this month in the downtown space last occupied by Bleaux Magnolia, and judging by the packed house and fifteen minute wait last Friday night, Napa's Asian food fans have already heard about it.  The place is indeed mini, as the majority of the seating at that location is outside on the fabulous (seasonal) patio.  But in a commendable show of restraint, the new tenants have not festooned the tiny indoor space with diminutive mangoes as you might expect from the name.  The look, like the cuisine, is minimalist and contemporary, with nary a mango in sight.

Cold-Weather Dining Deals

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Winter is traditionally the off-season in wine country, though it's always been one of my favorite times to visit. Besides the lack of crowds, cold weather brings out local warmth and a slew of discounted activities and menus.

Here are two restaurant deals that should not be missed this year:

Truffling Toward Ecstasy

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By Deirdre Bourdet

My butterlust is only exceeded by my passion for truffles. Funky, mysterious, and mind-blowingly delicious, a single taste of the real thing will alter your life forever.

Needless to say, I've had La Toque's black truffle dinners in my calendar as soon as the start date was announced, and am now counting down to January 8, 2010 with breathless anticipation.

Holiday Hors d'Oeuvres

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smoked oysters.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Smoked Oysters with Fennel and Lemon

(approx. 4-6 hors d'oeuvre servings)
Rediscover the retro magic of smoked oysters! The dressing is highly acidic so you don't want the oysters to sit in it too long, or it will ruin their luscious texture.

Let's Get This Party Started

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cheesePlatter.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Holiday meals are the stuff that memories are made of.  Ritualistic dishes, predictable (and often dreaded) guest lists, a stressed out hostess, and the inevitable family drama combine for pure holiday magic. Whether you are just beginning to establish some edible traditions, or seeking desperately to add a new twist to the rote and routine, punchy autumn appetizers offer a fun and memorable way to jump start the party.

Hors d'oeuvres don't have to be elaborate or fussy. You can build any number of fabulous little taste explosions using a few key ingredients and some creative flavor combinations. 

Here are my tips for appetizer success:

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