Sunday, November 13, 2011

Farm to Table at Sur La Table

Some wise person once said “to teach is to learn twice.”  Not only does one have the opportunity to explain certain techniques, recipes and concepts, a teacher is challenged as the students ask the inevitable questions of “why this” and “why not that.” 

It was my distinct pleasure to conduct our class today, which started with a tour of the Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market and ended with three hours in the kitchen at Sur La Table in nearby Carlsbad.

I know what I might do to embellish tomato sauce jars; it’s so interesting to convey concepts and provide materials and see what others can do; my style of teaching not rigid; I prefer to make a simple set of suggestions and set out a range of the materials.  This was so pretty, my guidance, but interpreted by Marlene & Francoise~


Kerry was the vanguard, arriving with what seemed to be half my kitchen & our supplies packed up into eight large French market baskets.  My utensils, including Dehillerin wooden spoons, whisks and shears were in their own container; I covet the Breville food processor-“fait-tout” we used today it made mince of about 40 pounds of tomatoes ~


We discussed Nicolas d’Appert and his early 19thC jarring techniques, a full 60 years before pasteurization; please see my post HERE regarding the French methods of food conservation; I had a few old l’Ideale jars set out but we used new ones from Sur La Table and French le Parfait jars, my absolute favorite with the plastic gasket, which I get at the Laguna Beach Ace hardware store.  In any case, there was just a ton of stuff set out~


Our class participants were some new friends and some old friends; they were all adorable…S, we loved you and your beret~


Everyone was given a vintage, very worn, very soft French dish towel from my personal stash for their shoulder, to use for cleaning or drying your hands; this is how I cook, and mes eleves were all instant adopters, here one of my dearest friends, Francoise; we lived in Paris at the same time and I was honored that she and her husband B came to the class; so cute all three of you with the towel over your shoulder, prepping pecans for rum cakes~


Everyone was eager to cook today; the formidable team of P&P got to whisking the rum cakes together~


We made rum cakes, recipe to follow this week; and rather than use an electric mixer, we used antique French copper bowls, known a a Cul de Poule.  While today we think of these just for egg whites, the old ones weigh 5-10 pounds of solid copper and I use them to mix everything.   Raquel, our market manager, you crack me up, look at you here whisking up that rum cake~


Kerry was capably in charge of the rum cake station; I just showed her the recipe yesterday, but she was right on it today, taking care of set up while I was touring the market, and showing everyone how to make the cakes, with her signature panache~


Meanwhile, I was showing off a few other ideas, including a centerpiece or gift, which A finished off nicely with fruits I had brought~


more photos this week, but it was fun~


I will post recipes and more pics this week, but the main event was Roman Tomato Sauce, which M LOVED~


I ran through the garden this morning gathering a variety of flowers and aromatic plants including myrtle, rosemary, bay, parsley and thyme.  We used cuttings of a tattered French Vichy check duvet cover I found at the Rose Bowl recently to make the jar toppers; finished with velvet rope~


A fresh camelia on a jar makes it special; who would not want to receive this as a gift?  If possible, plant your garden for things you can use for gifts, and search your garden or a friendly neighbor’s garden before going out to buy anything fake~


I rely heavily on the Toyon or California Holly.  It is not as prickly as true holly, but the red berries do not bruise and last for a week cut; and they are readily found in our area especially by Crystal Cove~


I let everyone “go to it” with the décor, and complimented them one and all; there is no “wrong way” or “right way” to do this, it is your personal expression and a genuine gift from the heart, to receive a gift such as these jars of tomato sauce, made by hand and with love, embellished with care, would surely be a fantastic sign of thanks and appreciation~


After the tomato sauce and rum cakes, we moved on to the evaluation of two kinds of chocolate mousse~


There was one “quick” recipe to which I added “black onyx” cocoa, and we also sampled the Julia Child MTAoFC recipe; no one could decide; 


M pronounced Julia’s to be divine; she is French and adorable and with impeccable taste, so I listen to her opinions~


The rum cakes then came out of the oven and there was a joint effort glaze then powder & package them; this is the fuchsia tulle I’m lovin’ for this year, with dove grey double satin ribbon~


I also showed red tulle and more California Holly, with Merry Christmas and Joyeux Noel satin ribbon; it is from Levine’s downtown LA and they have a $50 minimum order in order to ship though I will be going there soon for holiday materials and so can buy some for anyone who is interested; or check Joann’s or your local fabric store~


The table began to fill with all the completed goodies~


We also had green tulle; not as good with the food for the color but cute with the vintage Shiny Brites, and kudos to the team for coming up with this décor, which I would not have thought of, so fun and original~


Someone else decided on green tulle with camellia, which works very well here~


As well as a simple swoosh of grey satin and rosemary~


More holiday décor ideas to follow; this was such a fun day, we will do it again on December 11th for a Holiday/New Years menu.

Special shout out to D from Texas, we missed you and your husband today, and I will email you tomorrow!


  1. Andrea,

    I love seeing such homemade gorgeousness and ideas for wrapping so unique. I am planning to do a lot of treats such as these after your inspiration! The class looks so fun!!

    I hope you received my email!


    Art by Karena

  2. Wish I could be there too! Looking forward to receiving the recipes.
    Bonne semaine.

  3. Andrea! You did it!! Lovely in every way! Everyone looks like that had a great time and your natural touches are perfect. I loved the camilla on the green as well as the berries on the red. You've given me some great ideas to get started... I'll be looking around my yard for things to add to my own gifts this year.

  4. Wow...we are just too far away to attend your classes...Think about one in Williamsburg!
    Once again you provided me with ideas for Christmas for my COOKING friends....Merci beaucoup

  5. Just beautiful! No doubt word will soon spread...

  6. My husband loves rum cake. I've only tried making it once and it was just fair. I am a towel on the shoulder cook as well - even if I'm wearing an apron. If I don't have one there, I feel something is missing :)
    Those thick bowls are beautiful, must feel great to work with them.

  7. Andrea!
    I wear a towel on my shoulder just like my Italian Grandmother! She also grew the most beautiful Camelias.

    The setting is so warm... beautiful! Gosh...the copper bowls...(I need to talk to Papa Noel.)

    Thank you for sharing your recipes. I look forward to my next visit!

    Such a grand time! A wonderful post!

  8. Andrea, Your amazing!
    I loved all your dishes!
    When are you doing this again in Encinitas?
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Thank you for your sweet blog and love for life!