Saturday, February 7, 2015

On A Winter’s Day

Of the four seasons, winter is my favorite time of year in Laguna; late-winter to be exact.  The tourists are mostly gone, the weather is slightly cooler, and the sunsets are often the most spectacular of the year.  Mediterranean gardens such as ours are alive and thriving due to the scant rainfall.  It amazes me that we can pour water on our gardens all year long, and as soon as we get a quarter inch of rainfall, the garden bursts forth.  But most of all, in winter, we have some of the best foods of the year.  I am thinking today of the East Coast blanketed in snow; of the chill of Burgundy limestone and tomettes underfoot in early February, and then I wander out on the patio in Laguna and pick a gorgeous and huge pink camellia off the bushes.  Why, this bloom and its huge, glossy green foliage almost make me want to whip up a five layer chocolate cake to set them upon!!  Yes, I say, it’s great to be in Southern California in winter…


Lazy-me has not pruned the roses yet, and my most prolific rosebush gave me one more Yves Piaget this week.  The single bloom had about 100 perfectly perfumed petals, which I candied today, using French and American sugars.  At the Irvine Farmers market this morning I found the first batch of my very favorite heirloom organic  strawberries from Berumen Boyz.   I love the French varieties at Chino Farm, but in Orange County, these are the bomb….it’s all I use for jams and sorbets…and in a few weeks for the Paris Food Camp, for strawberry tartes.  The season is short and I am mindful of that so I’ll be busy with these for the next month.


We are so lucky to have the benefit of local citrus.  Forget Morocco and Spain, these come from the kids at Cal Poly.  Meyers lemons and blood orange.  The darker the skin, the darker the flesh, fyi.


The egg basket was also refilled today, with free range eggs.


Returning home, I found a basket of passion fruit and kumquats from my niece’s garden.  Not bad for a backyard gardener in SoCal….


These organic beauties will become a sauce for scallops at Monday’s Food Camp.


The strawberries were expertly hulled by Mom, they given a quick pour of homemade rose syrup and sprinkled with rose sugar and left to macerate for a day or two.  These will be strawberry-rose sorbet for the ladies on Monday.


Meanwhile, I set up the vegetable stock for Monday, in the big copper faitout stockpot; organics from today go into the pot.


I wish the farmers left the whole root on the leeks, like they do in Beaune, but I know enough that these are basically freshly harvested.


And then there is the business of putting away all the rest of the day’s purchases.  I see peas and prosciutto in the menu this week.  And asparagus and mushroom omelettes.  And lots of citrus.  I prefer to buy produce with the leaves attached….Mother Nature does not lie….this is fresh! 


Meanwhile on the stove I set up pots of quince, and pear,and quince trimmings, in a Champagne-based syrup, all for a few dishes for Monday.  The blue willow saucer on top holds the fruits under the poaching liquid.  I will turn these off soon and let them sit overnight in their sauce.   It was an afternoon for multitasking, and trying to figure out how to best capture all of this local goodness right now.


And then on to a little soft and pretty stuff.  For Monday’s class: generously oversized French linen lap-napkins, with a French finish.


I know the ladies will love this.  I love this!!!!


And while I was drying the linens, how could I not appreciate the orchids, which bloom after the first cold nights.  They  never disappoint.  This one is decades old.  I love pale pink phalaenopsis~


The linens were dried in the fresh air, folded and organized.  For lap-napkins or possibly for sale Monday.  Pry these incredibly soft or incredibly rough linen 19thC beauties from my hands, maybe...


And maybe, also, a French sterling Puiforcat butter or cheese knife.  I Loooove this~


I hope to have more of these in my online store this spring.  Perfect gifts….for yourself!!!


Enjoy your winter weekend, where-ever you are~


  1. Lovely! I am savoring every word and picture!

  2. All your colourful fresh fruits & veg, makes me drool for summer to return and outside eating again on the terrace.

  3. Dear Andrea, such delicious decadent images , fresh and natural. I miss living in southern California and just picking the fruit (including avocados off of my trees)! Oh and those winter sunsets! I am hoping to see more of your French finds on your site. Beautiful butter knife!! You know I am at your classes in spirit!!

    The Arts by Karena New Feature

    The Arts by Karena New Feature

  4. I'm drooling. This is simply all eye candy. Such beautiful ingredients and pictures!! I love the butter knife and linens. There's nothing quite so soft and wonderful as those vintage beauties. xoxo

  5. Such a lovely post! Your photos are very inspiring! I truly wish that I could be a part of your classes as you show so much detail that I would love to learn about! Thank you for sharing your loveliness! Colette

  6. So beautiful! I second cocoquilts' sentiments. Question: the eggs. Do you keep the basket in the fridge or on counter? I always wonder if I should be refrigerating them,since the store does? But they seem to always be displayed at room temp. I would like to leave them out if possible. XOXO

    1. Hi Nettie~ I keep mine in the frige as our kitchen is relatively warm. I have many friends who leave them out on the counter all the time; best to be on the cool side, and most defintely not in direct sun or heat...I think if you are going to consume them fairly quickly there is no problem having them out...

  7. Oh Andrea, i havé longed to be in Your beautiful company ever since my dental mishap that kept me from a dinning experiance at your home when Karena made her trip out. Yet seeing you over at out dear contessa' home aka Elizabeth I felt as if I were the puppy begging at the table pictured in her sharing post. It must have been a real treat to entertain that group with all your fineness :)
    As for your fresh picks I am with you on the leaves and also stems attached to the picked freshness, not to mention it not only looks natural but it feels just so a long stem on an artichoke!

    The linens are divine and I would be prying them out of your hands for sure. Will love to hear if you caved and went ahead and sold them.
    Looking forward to a spring season and the beauty you will be creating.



    1. My Dear Dore, why don't you and Hannah come to one of my cooking classes, as my one end of to see you and email you tomorrow!! xxooA