Wednesday, June 6

Our Culinary Club whips up a French Country dinner in a Poggenpohl kitchen

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The makings of a delicious,
authentic French country meal
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When I planned our culinary dinner club's May get-together we decided to create a French country meal, so I went straight to Pinterest and pinned several beautiful images which depict countryside scenes. There is something special about the French's flair for combining high style with rustic beauty, and most often with a lovely patina.

check out my Pinterest French board
These images transported me instantly to warm summer days in Provence
where life is splendid, simple and quite delicious.

I was very grateful when German cabinet maker Poggenpohl generously offered up their showroom at NYC's A&D building as a place to host our upcoming dinner.  Since 1892, Poggenpohl has been creating luxury kitchens with a focus on cabinetry design and custom made in Herford, Germany. If you are in the market for a new kitchen, I encourage you to stop into the Poggenpohl showroom at 150 East 58th Street.  With an emphasis on ergonomics and space optimization, Poggenpohl offers both classic and contemporary styles.  In the showroom there is an award winning Porsche Design, another kitchen by architect Hadi Teherani and a newly designed kitchen by Eric Ripert, chef of 3--star Michelin rated restaurant Le Bernardin.  The day before we hosted our dinner they installed a fourth kitchen with a shiny black modern sensibility.  There's something for everyone's taste in the showroom. 
nesting, nest by tamara, interior design, tabletop, house and gardenWith Eric Ripert's newly installed kitchen in place, it was a perfect backdrop for us to come together and share a French inspired dinner.  Appliance company, Miele teams up with Poggenpohl to outfit their kitchens with state of the art appliances.  Miele generously donated the dishware and cutlery for our dinner.  Thank you Poggenpohl and Miele!
I  planned a signature cocktail for the evening, a fragrant French Martini infused 
with lavender, rosemary and lemon peel and served them up in Mason jars.

with this fourth kitchen installed just days before we utilized the space to create our bar offering a French martini, a variety of wines and champagne.
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Randal chipped in as bartender
the aesthetics:
I chose bright hot pink peonies as the flower for our evening, not a fancy intricately arranged bouquet but I opted for all one flower and in pink to infuse a sense of spring. The cabinets designed by chef Eric Ripert's kitchen at Poggenpohl are textured in a chocolate brown hue.  The pulls are modern chrome, and the chunky bar is a creamy white Caesar stone, so I chose the pink coloring and juxtaposed it with the mossy pots filled with rosemary and lavender to balance a French country flair with the modern style kitchen. 
I took a trip to the NYC wholesale flower market early that morning and picked up a bunch of these hot pink peonies already opened, but since it was an unseasonably hot day, I preserved them by keeping them cool near the air conditioner at home.  A little secret about peonies -- If they start out a very vibrant color remember the more they open they will literally turn another, much more pale color.  These pink peonies opened to a perfect shade of lighter pink with salmon coloring.
another serendipitous happening -- Roberta Freymann offered to donate some of her fabulous table linens from the Roller Rabbit line. I love Roberta's caftans and festive jewelry. In 2003, Roberta launched Roller Rabbit, which is an eclectic collection of fun prints and patterns including beach bags, tablecloths, napkins, place mats, furniture covers, curtains, bedding, pillows, quilts and more. You can even buy the collection online. Each linen is hand block printed and sun dried which adds to the charm. Roberta generously gifted us with six pretty pink placemats to use on the kitchen island. While in the store on 74th and Lexington I also picked up votives, cocktail napkins and a tablecloth from Roller Rabbit in hot pink, white and salmon color combinations to add to our table.
I filled my French lantern with a mossy pot of fragrant rosemary as a centerpiece, flanked by two salmon iridescent vases filled with the pink peonies.
While away for weekend, I stopped into Bridgehampton's Agway (one of my favorite places)and bought potted rosemary and lavender. I re-potted them in stylish mossy pots.
the food:
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I got a little fancy and printed up these menu cards. I picked up these cards and traditional Italian flame pattern napkin ring holders from my favorite paper store Il Papirus also on Lexington Avenue & 74th Street in my neighborhood.
I sourced two cookbooks 
for menu inspiration. 
Our culinary dinner group is a collaborative effort and each couple prepares and brings a dish they most like to cook, and the host decides upon the menu. 
 this duck's richness was balanced with the slow roasted vegetables and citrus.  With all these items in place and the two cookbooks as my guide, we set off to create a spring country meal.  
Melissa and Barry's 
frisee salad with lardons
in 2005 I took an informative cooking class at the Culinary Institute of America with author and food expert Alexandra Leaf in New York City. We prepared recipes from this book, which were favorites at this infamous cafe where Van Gogh lived and spent the last few months of his life. I learned to cook a quintessentially French Country meal. 
Van Gogh's Table
Poggenpohl generously gifted me a copy of 
Eric's newly released cookbook Avec Eric
which is chock-filled with French-inspired recipes.
Here's what we prepared and shared...
a combination of country pate with 
Jan's Farmhouse Crisps, and four different Country Pate: Pate de Campagne, salmon, vegetable and duck foie gras with truffle
Jan happens to be one of my oldest and dearest friends, but that does not bias me because these crisps are a perfect accompaniment with cheese.  Each bite promises a sliver of pistachio, raisin or cranberry with a hint of sweet and savory together.  Jan personally bakes each batch herself in her commercial kitchen in Stowe, Vermont! 

a French classic -- fresh radishes with sea salt
and there is something about the tangy bite of a fresh spring radish mixed with good salt.
Irene and Rob prepared a traditional cheese course, but rather than serve it before dinner, 
we ate it after our main course and before dessert - loved this circular slicer, called a girolle. 
notes on the cheeses Irene and Rob chose:
One was Tete des moines, which is swiss, not French. The French version is P'tit Basque and you can serve it the same way on the girolle 
The others were Chabichou du Poitou, Fourme d'Ambert, and morbier.
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 before dinner:
I brought my own cast iron pan (it's been curing for ten years) and seared scallops in a white wine, lemon and mustard reduction sauce with  chives and cracked pepper.
For our dinner we shared these dishes:
Gail and Brian prepared a simple fresh pea and onion which perfectly pairs
with beef and duck
for my beef bourguinon recipe, I included Julia Child's classic recipe because that is how I originally learned to make this dish.  However, over the years I have tweaked it and change it up a little bit each time.  This time I adapted it slightly and used a combination of Alexandra Leaf's beef stew and Julia Child's classic version.

Diana and Enrique's Duck l'orange
Melissa and Barry's frisee salad lardon *recipe bottom of post Julia Child's beef bourguinon over egg noodles Gail and Brian's French peas with onions
Diana and Enrique's duck l'orange with roasted vegetables homemade herb butter with herbs de provence french bread from Balthazar bakery 
after dinner:
Irene and Rob's a traditional French cheese course
Ed and Susan's almond cake (adapted from the original Cake Bible on page 37).
I was able to find an online link noting the recipe on CrumbsandCookies blog
Ed prepaired a Classic raspberry sauce
and Neoclassical butter cream recipe on page 230 of the "Cake Bible"
Irene and Rob's handmade Macarons with chocolate and raspberry
The Aiellos took a class with legendary Pierre Herme to make these macarons 
 the hot pink theme took on a life of its own, and Irene and Rob's  macarons were the icing on the cake.  A special note about macarons:  they should never be eaten the day they are made, but rather, spend 24-36 hours in the fridge so the cream filling permeates the shell. Be sure to take them out of the refrigerator at least two hours before eating.
 a little Italian flair to the beef dish - these Cipriani egg noodles are the  lightest and you only need a little bit in each bowl
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half the group sat around this cozy table, and the other half gathered around the white Caesar stone bar of Eric Ripert's kitchen.  Eric designed this kitchen with a special ideology of cooking that is both casual and incorporates the guests.  He specifically designed the bar deep enough for plating food at the island cook-top so the home cook can chat with guests while cooking.

 Miles was a good sport - I caught him taking a break as photographer for the evening
All photograph credit to Miles Stephenson for this post
Miles chatted and dined with the Poggenpohl ladies who were the sweetest and most helpful, and very gracious!
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Irene made the most delicious and beautiful handmade pink cookies (yes we all love Laduree, but they were even better).  
They were chocolate and raspberry and this color truly wowed!
Ed baked the almond cake from the "Cake Bible" - see links above.  Let me first begin by telling you I am not usually a cake fan.  Sometimes too dense, other times too sweet I am a bit picky about cake, however, this was truly one of the most delicious cakes I have ever had.  It was light with just the right amount of almond, and the frosting was divine, and not too sweet.  

everyone left happy, full and in awe of the kitchens, and traveled home with a small bags of La Maison du Chocolat straight from Paris (well, actually from Madison Avenue and 79th Street) but the flagship store is right in the heart of Paris. I had to go all the way to Paris to find out that my favorite chocolate in the world was actually only four blocks from my apartment in New York City.  That was several years ago and now I frequent this chocolate shop on special occasions. I wrapped the small bags with a sprig of dried lavender to remember our evening!
Melissa & Barry's 
Room Temperature “To Go” Version of Frisee Salad 
with Egg and Warm Lardon Vinaigrette
For The Vinaigrette
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper   
 For The Salad
2 heads frisee lettuce trimmed
1 head radicchio di Treviso, roughly chopped into bite size pieces
3 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and quartered
 8 ounces thick cut slab bacon, cut into 1/2-by-1-inch pieces
Heat fry pan.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and bacon. Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and set aside to drain on a paper towel.
vinaigrette: Using a blender, mix together shallot, vinegar, mustard and oil until emulsified.  Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust portions of ingredients to suit.
salad: Toss together frisee and radicchio in a large bowl. Add lardons and eggs. Drizzle with vinaigrette, and gently toss to coat.
NOTE: One can also add 1 bunch of chopped chives or 3 tablespoons of chopped tarragon to the salad to give additional flavor. 
Tamara was not paid for this editorial.
photograph by Gabby Stephenson
Stop back in July for my next culinary dinner story  following our beach blanket get-together
this summer on Fire Island!