Monday, February 19, 2007

Bits and bites

Here are some food related highlights of the past week.

1) I'm not a fan of dining out on Valentine's Day so instead I surprised Sam by whisking him off to Le Chardonnay for all you can eat Moules Frites (Mussels and Fries) on Tuesday night. We don't try new restaurants often, prefering to stick with old favorites rather than risk a disappointing meal. The restaurant is more attractive on the inside than it looks from the street. We had a cozy table for two and while the view of Johnson St. traffic wasn't that appealing, the atmosphere of the restaurant made up for it.
We started with a bottle of Vovray and I'm sad I forgot to write down the brand because I loved it. When you order the moules, you choose from 4 sauces and they arrive almost immediately, a boon for the hungry diner. It takes awhile for the crispy shoestring fries to catch up but they are worth waiting for. Sadly, the spicy harissa mayo that came with them tasted like Hellman's to me. (Many restaurants don't make their own to get around the serving raw eggs issue.) Fortunately, the fries were good enough to eat plain.
We tried all 4 sauces but our favorite was the first; the Ardennaise which had bacon, mushrooms and cream. There is a basket of crusty bread for sopping up the delicious sauces. Le Chardonnay makes 28 sauces in all and offer 4 each week. I can't wait to go back but next time I will opt out of dessert ($9 for a so so dessert when dinner was only $14.95?!) and get an extra dozen mussels.
Mussels are cheap and easy enough to make at home but when are you ever going to feel like creating 4 sauces and making homemade fries to accompany them? Go to Le Chardonnay instead, you won't be disappointed.

2. Fraboni's- This Italian Deli anchors one corner of the old Greenbush neighborhood. Greenbush was once an enclave for all things Italian within Madison but there's not much left to remind us of this historic area. Fraboni's is the kind of store that is threatened by the Whole Foods, Walmarts and Trader Joe's of the world. If you take the time to make an extra stop on your shopping itinerary, you will be richly rewarded.
I always come for one thing and leave having spent much more money and time than I had intended. They have an amazing selection of olive oils and if you are lucky, Steve, the owner, will lead you through a tasting of his favorites so that you can find your new favorite. We often go here for Italian sausages and sliced deli meats (mmm...soppresata). Their selection of artisan pasta is unparalleled. Last weekend I had Lili in tow and she found this beautiful sun pasta.We were having friends over for dinner and the menu took shape as I wandered the aisles. I picked up a three lb. tub of ricotta, shell pasta and proscuitto ends (these were in the freezer section and came in thick, meaty slices at a deep discount from what the regular proscuitto costs) I made stuffed shells, ravioli nudi (naked ravioli- I love saying this so much, I couldn't resist making them!) and rosemary foccaccia.
I made these with locally grown winter spinach from Snug Haven. The recipe called for just butter as a sauce but that seemed a little boring so I cut my proscuitto ends into little nuggets and fried them up with some sliced garlic. Perfect.

3. Sunday dinner was Mexican at M&B's. They made Venison and Chicken Tinga and Sam made Tortilla Soup. I can't be bothered to type out recipes today but leave me a comment if you are interested.4. Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday and I am going to a Chocolate Party. My friend M made gallons of gumbo and I made 16 qts. of soup and everybody else will bring their best chocolate concoction. Lucky for me, I ordered The Essence of Chocolate by John Scharfennberger and and Robert Steinberg from the library and it came just in time! I am in love with this book. It doesn't just have incredibly tempting recipes, it also tells the story of how their company came to be. This is very interesting to me as I try to get my fledgling preserve business off the ground. This is a great read for anyone who has ever thought of starting a small business. More on what chocolate treat I made for the party later...

5. Tea and Mrs. B. both tagged me for the 5 Things About Me meme so I thought I'd give it a go.

1) I don't have a t.v. except for this beauty.
It's not that I don't like t.v. I just lack the will power to turn it off. Now, of course, the computer has replaced the t.v. so I am pretty much doomed.

2) I hate shopping. I tend to be frugal and I find that the best way to save money is to never go shopping.

3) I used to be a pretty hard-core biker. For the first 6 years I lived in Madison, I only had a bike. I biked through one or two winters. I even rode my bike from Seattle to San Diego by myself. Good times!

4) I could easily retire tomorrow and never be bored. I really hate the fact that I have to work for money. I would love to volunteer full-time with groups that do things that I am interested in. I'd garden and cook and take pictures and read books and knit and bike around the world. Sigh.

5) I've wanted to be my own boss since I was very young. When I was about 8, the plan was to own a restaurant called Sizzles. My dad would cook (he always did the cooking in my family), my mom would set the tables (she collects dishes and makes killer flower arrangements), my sister would be the waitress and I would man the cash register. Perfect, right? The dream has changed a bit but it still remains.


At 3:33 PM, Anonymous ann said...

oh, those suns are SO beautiful! they just scream for some kind of vibrant lemon sauce to mirror their sunny happiness!

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Tea said...

You biked through two Madison winters? Hats off to you--that's impressive.

At 5:15 AM, Blogger Crystal said...

I'm with you on #4. Sigh.

At 6:55 PM, Anonymous lisa F. said...

Hi Lee,
I like this "tidbit" post.
B's birthday fell on a Tuesday last year and I took him to Le Chardonnay, where he polished off 5 plates of mussels. But, of course, he grew up in the general "moules frites" region...the waitress said that the record was 8 plates.
I love Fraboni's too--in fact, will be stopping by for some goodies for dinner guests this Friday!
And I 'm with Tea--biking in the winter here--WOW!

At 1:49 PM, Blogger allisonmariecat said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who could retire and not be bored!

Ooh, a chocolate party sounds fantastic. I've had my eye on that book.

At 9:29 AM, Anonymous ali said...

yup, me, too, i'm pretty much OVER the whole "having a job" thing! ha!

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Jeanna said...

Le Chardonnay on Johnson? Geez, do I even live in this city?
I shed a tear when I think of what happened to the old Greenbush neighborhood ~sniff~ home of my nursery school and kindergarten...and grade school.
Thank God for Fraboni's, and thanks for the tip on The Essence of Chocolate.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Lucy said...

I've been meaning to try Le Chardonnay for some time. Word on the street is that they have a classical guitarist on Wednesday evenings...


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