On being Irish, sort of, and Irish Coffee

I spent my life believing I was Irish.  My grandmother’s family immigrated from Ireland and the proof hung proudly in a frame on the wall in her brother’s living room – County Cork to New York, New York; 1922.  I stood looking at it once, this yellowing paper in a frame – finding it incredibly strange that something like a government issued form would be considered a work of art.  But, to our family, it was.  It was proof of how far they had come, and a reminder to never forget where their roots were planted.  It’s a conflict that perhaps all immigrant families feel, this pull of two different lands, two different homes.  Continue reading “On being Irish, sort of, and Irish Coffee”

Rum Apple Tart

As a child we would frequently drive way out in the countryside on Sunday afternoons to visit family.  My aunt and uncle owned an apple orchard, and as soon as the car pulled into their long dirt driveway my brother and I would run out into the trees, without even so much as a “Hello!” to my aunt who was waiting at the front door.  I used to love to skip between the rows of trees, imagining I was Dorothy on the yellow brick road – and there was always a dog around to play the part of Toto. Continue reading “Rum Apple Tart”

Bûche de Noël

I always return to traditions during the month of December.  Throughout the rest of the year traditions have a reputation for being  “stuffy” or “old-fashioned,” but at Christmas time, when the world seems to be moving at record pace, and not necessarily in the direction we want it to, there’s nothing more comforting than falling back into the old and familiar.  Pulling out the old cookie cutters and sorting through the recipe box for those cookies we bake only once or twice a year; dusting off the boxes of decorations, digging through sheets of tissue paper to find the ornaments we packed away so carefully last year.  It’s almost like a long over-due visit with dear old friends.  (And when the dog accidentally knocks one of those ornaments off the tree, like she did today, and it shatters on the floor there are always tears as I sweep up the pieces.) Continue reading “Bûche de Noël”

An Après-Ski Boozy Hot Cocoa Bar

In Colorado skiing is not just a sport, it’s life, and people approach it with a zeal akin to that of a religious institution.  Here in the city, ski shops line the streets and you’d be hard pressed to find a car that doesn’t have a ski rack on the roof or a bumper sticker that says something like, “White powder is my drug of choice.”  Starting around September, the meteorologists begin their daily weather forecasts with a report of the snow accumulations at the popular ski resorts, and everyone waits with baited breath for Continue reading “An Après-Ski Boozy Hot Cocoa Bar”

Poached pears with whipped mascarpone

Poached pears are the most versatile dessert, don’t you think?  They’re like the perfect little black dress in a wardrobe made up of fall recipes.   Just think about it this way: Poaching them in Champagne is like stepping into a pair of satin Manolo Blahniks… the ones with the diamond swans lacing gracefully up the side of your foot.  You need nothing else to complete the outfit.  The silk hem of your black dress whispers gently around your knees as you head out the door and slide into the cool leather seat of your Mercedes, on your way to Continue reading “Poached pears with whipped mascarpone”

Espresso Madeleines

On a quiet corner in le Marais was a little café called Café des Feuilles d’Or.  I’m not sure what it’s called today, or if it still even exists.  But at the time it had a lovely patio that stretched out along the tree-lined street.   There, at a lacy, iron table, sat a man in a grey overcoat which almost perfectly matched the colour of the sky that cold, autumn morning.  Had you been walking by at the time, you surely would have missed him, as he blended in so well with the other patrons in their grey overcoats sitting on the patio.  I imagine they were all trying to pretend that Continue reading “Espresso Madeleines”

Triple Chocolate Pavlova

Can I just talk for a minute about that certain magic you find only in chocolate?  You know, the one the Mayans knew of and harnessed millennia ago?   The one that has been firmly embedded in our collective human consciousness ever since?  That craving that can be suppressed but never fully satisfied?  Chocolate is at once an aphrodisiac, an antidepressant, a stimulant to fuel passion and to excite creativity.  It’s the food of the gods that’s also known to lower cholesterol, increase life expectancy, prevent heart attacks, and boost the immune system.  Now, if you’re someone who likes to look at the facts, then you may find yourself wondering if dessert, rather than breakfast, is actually the most important meal of the day.  But, if you’re like me and tend to think with your stomach, then you already know that it is. Continue reading “Triple Chocolate Pavlova”

Pear and Honey Tart

Pears are the perfect “transition” fruit.  Ripe at the end of summer when peaches and plums are just beginning to fade but apples are still maturing on the trees.  They bridge the gap, carrying us gracefully from summer into fall.  I always have several big bowls of pears on the kitchen counters and table starting in the first days of September, both as a way to decorate and to tempt the kids into having a healthy snack when they get home from school.  I love all the different varieties and colors, and find them so captivating, so beautiful… Continue reading “Pear and Honey Tart”

Sophie’s Secrets

I’m a sucker for a good love story.  I can’t help it, there must be a hopeless romantic somewhere in me.  Here’s one from long ago; the details are a little blurry because I haven’t heard it since childhood.  It’s the story my grandmother would tell when I couldn’t sleep.  “Please, Grandma,” I would beg late at night, “tell me the story of Sophie!”

“Again?!” She’d exclaim.  She’d probably be standing at the stove, heating a small pot of milk to help me sleep.  But there was always a twinkle in her eye and I knew she love to tell it just as much as I loved Continue reading “Sophie’s Secrets”

Late Summer Berry Tart

I’m still trying to convince myself that summer’s not almost over, even as the leaves are quickly starting to blush and the nights are turning so cool that we’ve had to add extra blankets to the beds (instead of turning on the heat – it’s too soon for that!)  It started off imperceptibly enough, with just the slightest hint of yellow in the top branches of the trees that line our street.  But just yesterday, as I drove through the neighborhood I was shocked to see that the branches are suddenly more gold than green.  When did that happen?  And then the urgency struck.  To make summer Continue reading “Late Summer Berry Tart”