letter of recommendation: the macaron tower

macaron tower.jpg

The New York Times’ letters of recommendation oversing the praises of silly or humble things that usually don’t get much love. My letter of recommendation oversings the praises of something fancy that is already amply adored but upon which I would like to heap more adulation.  Continue reading

Senegal, kay lekk! (If you don’t know what that means, read today’s earlier post.)

One summer when I was home from college, I trained to be a Philadelphia trolley tour guide. (I was too lazy to study for the exam so I never actually became one.) I don’t remember much of what I learned about my quasi-hometown’s history, but I do remember a piece of advice that a seasoned guide gave us during an instructional tour. He said that if we ever forgot the name of a landmark, we could take an educated guess that it was Franklin [Hospital / Square / Bridge / Museum / Parkway / Institute / Etc.], because, “9 times out of 10 it’s Ben.

In Senegal, a bastardization of this rule can be perfectly applied to food. If you’re not sure what you’re going to be eating on any given day, well:

“9 times out of 10 it’s thieboudienne.” Continue reading

breakfast of Senegalese champions

This millet porridge is called lakh and it’s the traditional breakfast across Senegal. It’s really heavy and in olden days was perfect for keeping farmers full all morning in the fields. If you’re a working stiff with a desk job, though, it’s a bit of a soporific, so these days in Dakar a baguette with Nutella or Chocopain (the Senegalese equivalent, made with peanuts instead of hazelnuts) is a more typical morning meal.

Traditionally, lakh is eaten with sweetened lait caillé – fermented milk, sort of like a very pungent yogurt. But here the Lo ladies are just eating regular store-bought yogurt and some condensed milk on top.

It is delicious and filling and a gluten-free alternative to the rice cakes I’ve been eating every morning and which got really old really fast (even smeared with exotic bissap/hibiscus or baobab jelly).

I wonder why millet isn’t more popular in the States. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before people start saying that millet is the new quinoa. Although amaranth might get there first…

talk pancakes to me

This has absolutely nothing to do with language learning or wanderlust but I’m just too proud of my culinary masterworks to keep them a secret. Look at these beauties! I made these.

berry buckwheat pancakes

raspberry buckwheat pancakes

Here is the recipe, if you’d like to try it. (I altered it slightly, using 1/4 cup gluten-free all purpose flour and 3/4 cup buckwheat flour.) These pancakes turned out 100 times tastier than my ill-fated galettes experiment. I would venture so far as to say that even a wheat-eater would find them delicious.

The syrup comes care of my brother-in-law and is so easy to make that I wouldn’t even call it a recipe: in a saucepan, warm equal parts maple syrup and berries until they meld together into a compote.

Bonus: your pancakes will be Talk Foreign to Me approved if you daydream about your next travel adventure while eating them.

Everything I ate in France

tea time

I’ve heard a lot of superlatives about Paris – that it’s the most romantic city in the world, the most beautiful, the city of light. But I think its most-fitting top billing is tastiest.

Why? Because I got a contact high every time I passed a bakery. Because the freshly made mayonnaise at a hole-in-the-wall cafe was so far beyond what’s eaten in America that the two deserve different names. Because a 3:00am omelette at a randomly selected bistro was the best I’ve ever had. Because my first bite of entrecôte with bearnaise sauce propelled me to break my 3-day French-only streak with an awestruck, “Are you fucking kidding me?” directed at no one in particular, since I was alone.

And that’s only Paris. In Alsace, they took meat and potatoes to a whole new expletive-inducing level. In fact, except for one unfortunate breakfast, everything I ate in France was better than 90% of what I’ve eaten in America.

Granted, I am one for hyperbole. But even if you take me with a grain of salt (which, incidentally, was also more delicious in France), there’s no denying that the French have a very special way with food.

So without further ado, here’s everything I ate in France:


First row: (Alsacienne) baeckeoffe; smoked duck and goat cheese salad; camembert with pine nuts and honey; best-tasting omelette and fries; charcuterie and cheese plate. Second row: confit de canard; choucroute garnie – note the thing that looks like a layer cake but is actually the fattiest, most delicious chunk of ham ever sliced; the (weak link) omelette; smoked salmon; steak with potatoes and pesto. Third row: gluten-free croque monsieur made by philippe; coquilles st. jacques; picnic lunch bought at the only open store in a tiny alsacienne village; steak and vegetables; pot au feu (after the soup was consumed). Fourth row: smoked salmon and goat cheese salad; breakfast of cheese and jam and nutella; potatoes and lardons and extra fat; entrecôte with bearnaise sauce; chef salad. Fifth row: Homemade jams; adorable baby radishes; three glutinous things that, full disclosure, I watched my dining partners eat but did not actually eat in France (two tarte flambees and a croque monsieur).

And that brings us to… DESSERT!!!


First row: creme brulee; gluten-free canelé and madeleines from Helmut Newcake; pavlova; delightfully decorated ice cream; Laduree macarons; a chocolate-covered meringue on top of mocha-flavored buttercream – I think this type of pastry might be called a merveilleux (and it certainly was); chocolate pot au creme, caramel pot au creme, pistachio creme brulee and caramel creme brulee (aka best breakfast ever); cherry, straciatella and chestnut ice cream; rose-flavored sorbet and coffee ice cream, because we couldn’t find rose-flavored ice cream anywhere; a gluten-free madeleine; creme caramel; some sort of ice cream cake; gluten-free chocolate cake and gluten-free chocolate cookies, made by Philippe; chocolate mousse; a gluten-free religieuse from Helmut Newcake; and gluten-free tarte tatin, also made by Philippe.

The only thing on my wish-list that I didn’t end up eating and really wish I had is raclette. It sounds like God’s gift to cheese and potato lovers, but the specialty restaurant we tried to go to in Paris was all booked up and we ran out of time to find an alternative. I guess this gives me a reason to go back…

everything I’ll eat in France

French Pastries

One (or, let’s face it, two) desserts per day:

Glacé fleur – the most delicious confection in the world. Here’s a handy guide to the best ice cream in Paris.

Creme caramel

Creme brûlée


Chocolat pot au creme

Mousse au chocolat

Mousse aux noisettes

Flourless chocolate cake

Some sort of soufflé

Something from Chambelland and something from Helmut Newhouse, gluten-free bakeries

In addition my never-tasted but nevertheless-beloved choucroute garnie, I plan to dine on:



Boeuf bourguignon

Brie and Camembert and Roquefort

Coquilles Saint-Jacques


Oeufs en meurette

Coq au vin


Confit de canard


A French omelette (and by that I mean an omelette made in France)

Steak frites




And last but not least, copious quantities du beurre, in any form or fashion.

I will accompany every single meal with a glass of Sancerre.

It’ll be hard work, but I’m up for the challenge.