Month: May 2010

Reprising Julia Child’s first French meal

The marvelously bourgeois restaurant La Couronne changed the way Americans eat, so when I was in Fécamp to write about Bénédictine for the Robb Report (see "Leisure: A Secret for the Centuries"), I had to stop off in Rouen on my way back to Paris. Mark your calendar: On Wednesday, November 3, 1948, Julia and Paul Child stopped for lunch after their ferry landed at Le Havre and they began the drive to Paris. Writing years later, Julia called it "the most exciting meal of my life." It was her first taste of French food. Founded as an inn in 1345, La Couronne (31 Place du Vieux Marché, 33-02-35-71-40-90, has a strong claim as the oldest auberge in France, not that the countryside Art...Read More

More asparagus recipes from Friuli

Perhaps I have such an affinity for Friuli because I lived for more than a decade in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, where Hadley asparagus, grown on the rich riverbank soils of the Connecticut River, is some of the finest "grass" in the U.S. I'm in Cambridge now, but I still gorge on Hadley asparagus during the short May season. For the last couple of years I have worked to adapt recipes from an authoritative Friuli book on the subject called simply Asparagi 103 ricette by gourmand Antonio Boemo. It just might be the final word in great asparagus cookery, featuring recipes from some of Friuli's finest chefs. (Thanks, Bepi Pucciarelli, for finding the out-of-print book and helping with the translations.) Here are a...Read More

Friuli has the right wine for asparagus

Asparagus is notoriously difficult to pair with wine because sulfur-bearing compounds in the stalks produce a chemical bouquet that clashes mightily with the tannins in red wine or in whites aged in oak. Eat asparagus and drink your average pinot noir or barrel-aged chardonnay and the wine will literally taste like garbage. The French solve the problem by pairing asparagus with Loire Valley whites or white Sancerre-wines based on Sauvignon Blanc that never see a whiff of oak. But just as Friuli grows some of the best asparagus in Europe (see If it's asparagus it must be Friuli), the northeast corner of Italy also produces the best wine to pair with it. Since 2008 it's been on the market as Friulano, though in Friuli some...Read More

If it’s asparagus it must be Friuli

Guidebooks to Italy have a maddening tendency to completely ignore one of my favorite areas for gastronomic tourism: the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in the northeast corner of the country. Sharing a northern border with Austria and an eastern border with Slovenia, Friuli has both a dialect and a cuisine with strong Germanic influences. The local version of Italian is full of the hard Rs and the chewy "sch" sounds of central Europe, and the menus are laden with pork and a bevy of mitteleuropan dumplings masquerading as gnocchi. Many of the dishes draw their depth of flavor from cream, butter, or smoked fish. [caption id="attachment_854" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Piazza Libertà, Udine"][/caption] But most food in Friuli is based on whatever is freshest from the fields....Read More