After several weeks of menu planning, and a few days of prep cooking, I was finally ready for the run-up to the French Food Camp Paris Bistro event at home in Laguna. The night before, I stayed up very late to make some crème brûlée infused with my favorite-of-the-moment Ladurée tea, amongst other to do’s. My Biscuit Dog is no help, but she is a lot of support, watching me from her bed underneath my favorite kitchen chair at midnight. This look says Mommy, enough! Time for bed~
The next morning, I rose early to crank out three shortbread crusts, then go off to the market do to the final shopping. Some of the produce stays outside the kitchen door since there isn’t enough room inside. Guests who come up the kitchen stairs can see what is going into today’s meal just by glancing at the various baskets as I greet them at the Dutch door. Today, leeks, various potatoes, citrus, various herbs and lots and lots of salads~
In the kitchen, before the guests arrived, I plumped up some sun-dried figs with some citrus and port. This glorious combination will go into a chocolate tarte.
And a trio of beet varieties from the Irvine Farmers Market got dressed with fresh thyme and a quick drizzle of olive oil, then into the oven wrapped in foil. Roast at 350 until they pierce with a fork (they should be tender). Cool and then slip the skins off. A must for a Parisian Salad!!
Meanwhile, outside, Jill set the table, with Limoges and lots of roses, corks and candles. We added glassware later. But a communal table was fun and reminiscent of some of my favorite bistros in Paris, past and present.
When I think of Paris bistros, I think of roses. There may be one big bunch in a Champagne bucket, or a single rose on each table. But we went for a row of Champagne buckets, stuffed with roses, down the center of the table. You can buy them by the bunch for $3.99 at Trader Joes. Accordion music was playing, and it was a fun atmosphere for a lunch.
The hour before the Camp began was like the hour before the opening of a bistro….is it all in place? Napkins? Menus? Mustard and butter and water on the tables?? Oui~ Check. The scene was set!!
My prep was interrupted for a bit when a car I didn’t recognize pulled up the drive. None other than the fabulous Jonnie of Bread Artisan Bakery. She and her colleague brought a mass of baguettes, French-style in the flour sacks, along with a handful of seeded epi and three loaves of au levain miche.
I can not be more excited about any bakery in Southern California….this is my comfort food, my staple, the one bite and it-takes-me-home kind of food. I’m going to have an event at home for Bread Artisan Bakery as soon as we can coordinate it, but if you live in Southern California and love truly authentic French bread, you must try this bread. I sent the last of the baguettes and epi home with my friends, and the miche was sliced by Jill and put in the freezer, with the bits being used to make herbes de Provence croutons. Every morning I have a slice of this bread and an egg for breakfast; it’s insanely good!!! You can buy this bread at the Downtown Santa Ana Farmers Market on Thursdays 4-8pm, otherwise it’s wholesale, or you have to beg Jonnie to sell you some, I guess!!
As guests arrived, I gave them a tour of the bread and appie table…we had my favorite celeri remoulade (bistro comfort food if there is one) and a terrine I made of porc and veal. Chicken liver galore and potted herbed goat cheese…
Jill wrote out the abbreviated menu on an enormous LP mirror supplied by my antiquaire friend Leah~
the pop-up brocante was a lot of fun, to browse and to shop and to admire the enormous glass cloches…
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, we got busy assembling a variety of dishes. When I lived in Paris and frequented many bistros, I loved potato cakes with bacon. In Paris you got a slice, but I decided to make minis.
Personal potato and bacon cakes; these were soooo good and worthy of any Paris bistro.
On the other side of the kitchen, we rolled out shortbread crust and talked about pastry and Paris at length.
I demonstrated how to roll out a full crust, with all tips you need to do this right~
We ended up with a table full of desserts, including chocolate mousse two ways, lemon tarte, and passion fruit tarte~
The passion fruit tarte is adapted from the Picasso of Pastry, my very favorite patissier, Pierre Hermé. It’s Jill’s favorite patisserie moment from Paris, can you tell~
This sweet confection is now going to be her signature tarte. It was delicious, surprizing, delicate, amazing, gorgeous, nothing less than expected for a Parisian patisserie~
I layered one of the chocolate tartes with figs and port wine with citrus. Wow, in a bite~ To be a Parisian patisserie it must be better than the rest, in taste, ingredients or texture.
A Katie-Approved dessert plate~~!!!
Oh, but while some of us got started on the desserts, there were still main dishes to enjoy. Like any bistro, we cranked out the plates from the modest kitchen. Steak-frites, with fries three ways: salted, herbed and truffled. Universally loved by all the diners. This was reason enough to come for lunch for the afternoon~
There was a gorgeous bistro salad plated for everyone. Very simple but delicious with a Dijon vinaigrette and fresh herbs~
Or did we love the desserts more? this is the problem of dining in France and in Paris…it’s all good, and if you came to the class, you’d know how to make these dishes yourself~
The next French Food Camp is next month in Laguna, for spring foods. If you would like to host your own French Food Camp or have me come show you how, please contact me;