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The Perfect (New) Macaron

One of the great places for lunch in Paris is Cuisine au Bar (8, rue du Cherche-Midi), which has been touted as the French version of the sushi bar. The servers are welcoming and generous, and the tartines (open-faced sandwiches) are the most inventive and marvelous in all of Paris Probiotic powder. A dedicated friend of mine lunches there every day.

I met Pim for lunch, and we both ordered the same thing: the chicken sandwich, a toasted slice of Poilane levain bread (the bakery’s just next door) moistened with homemade mayonnaise, slices of plump chicken, filets of anchovies and a scattering of capers wine tasting, which kept rolling off. We both systematically added flecks of coarse sea salt, then consumed. Delicious. Pim, being far more polite than I am, ate her sandwich perfectly reasonably with a knife and fork. I wolfed my down, polishing it off in record time, licking my fingers afterward.

After braving La Poste together afterward, we parted, making plans for eating Thai food with other Paris bloggers in June. However after we parted, I noticed she made a beeline to the astonishing pastry shop of Pierre Hermé on the Rue Bonaparte Burgundy wine. So a few days later, I returned as well, and tasted one of the most stunning pastries of my life, his Arabesque macaron, which Pim had rhapsodized over earlier in the week.

Normally a classicist, I prefer my macarons with chocolate, coffee, or pistachio. But this was an amazing creation. Delicate, crackly pistachio-dusted meringue cookies flavored with apricot. The filling was a melange of apricot cream and caramelized nut praline. Each season, M. Hermé introduces new flavors of macarons, some successful (olive oil-vanilla lafite rothschild, rose-lychee, and caramel-beurre-salé) and some less so (his white truffle and ketcup come to mind.) However Arabesque was perfection and I was sorry that I only bought one.  

Posted by objects at 12:05dc gear motors


Cool Community Canning, and Exciting Places to Eat

Garden bursting with vegetables? Got carried away at the farmers' market? If you're in Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Canning Exchange might just be your new best friend. The Exchange has launched a community that's both social and practical, turning traditional preserving into a fun, popular activity.
One of the Pittsburgh Canning Exchange's founding four, Sara Blumenstein, told us how the Exchange supports local farmers, encourages newbie canners, and creates community. She also spilled the beans on the best restaurants and cafés in Pittsburgh right now.
Can you give me a little background on Team PCE?
The Pittsburgh Canning Exchange is four friends working together -- my partner Rob, our friends Gabe and Chelsea, and me. We all have day jobs (I'm a designer, Rob is a web developer, Chelsea working in economic development, and Gabe works for Phipps Conservatory) and work on the Canning Exchange in our spare time. We started cooking up the idea of having a canning swap in Pittsburgh two winters ago, and the project evolved from there. I think that our talents and interests balance each other well, and we have a lot of fun working together and meeting people through the Canning Exchange.
How did you get interested in canning?
My friend and co-founder Chelsea taught me how to water-bath can. Like Chelsea, I grew up preserving food -- back home in Michigan, we picked apples from our family orchard and made apple sauce and apple cider, but instead of canning, we froze everything. Now, as an adult living in a little row house in Pittsburgh, there's no room for an extra freezer; canning is great way to preserve the harvest when you're living in a small space.
I'm also interested in canning as a way of sharing intergenerational knowledge: Many of our moms, dads, and grandparents grew up canning, and people who know how to can have lots knowledge (and recipes!) to share.
How does canned produce tastes in recipes?
Tomatoes and peaches that you've canned yourself taste wonderful in the middle of winter -- there's something magical about opening up a jar and having summertime right there. We also can a lot of salsa, which we eat with chips and also cook with. And then there are things like pickled green beans or jams or jellies that work well on their own or as condiments. But regardless of the specific thing that you've canned, I always feel a sense of accomplishment in having done it myself and a nice memory of the day I canned it whenever I open up the jar .
Some canning cookbooks specifically include recipes for using your canned produce, which is a really interesting approach: The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant and Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan are two notable examples.
I like canning because it combines the fun of cooking -- tasting and making small adjustments as you go -- with the hard and fast rules of food science. I love learning how to do things, and I also greatly enjoy the cooking (and cookbook reading) side of canning.
Do you work with local farmers?
Yes, supporting local producers and connecting people with local agriculture are key parts of our mission at the Canning Exchange. We use local and (when possible) organic produce at our Canning Parties, and are developing relationships with local farmers to figure out how we can best help connect them with our audience. Who Cooks for You Farm has been an early friend to the Canning Exchange.
How many members does the Exchange have?
Officially, it's just the four of us, and then we have a network of friends who help us run Canning Parties, or have spoken at our events, or helped us conceptualize the project early on. Among them are Sara Kreidler, who writes the local cooking blog Cook.Can.CSA; Jill Ciciarelli, a local author who wrote a fantastic book about fermentation; Regina Koetters from Marty's Market, an innovative market and café here in Pittsburgh; Trevett Hooper, the chef from Legume; the good people at Slow Foods Pittsburgh; Susan Marquesen, who is a Penn State Master Food Preserver; and Marisa McClellan, the wonderful canning blogger and cookbook author who recently visited us from Philly.
What's involved in your Canning Parties?
Our original intent for the Canning Exchange was to make a canning swap through which people in farming communities would diversify their pantries before winter, in Pittsburgh. We were lucky to be supported early on in the project by the Sprout Fund, which gives small grants to social enterprises with a creative bent here in Pittsburgh, and went on to develop a growing season full of programming to engage newbie and experienced canners.
Canning Parties were the result. We rent a commercial kitchen, buy lots of local produce, and invite people in to can salsa or pickles or applesauce together. Chelsea taught me to can in her kitchen, and working through a recipe together from beginning to end made me much more confident about canning in my home kitchen. We hope Canning Parties will similarly empower newbie canners to go home and try it themselves, as well as give experienced canners a fun opportunity to can together (we always have music playing and slices of pie to eat) and not mess up their own home kitchen .
Any new developments in canning technique, or are the traditional methods still the best?
Water-bath canning technique is pretty unchanged from our grandparents' time, but there are always new recipes and gadgets to try. And because the basic food science of home canning has been around for awhile, there's a lot of accumulated knowledge (methods and recipes and tweaks) that we all can benefit from.
Do you have exciting plans for this year?
We're focusing on running about one Canning Party a month during the growing season, through October, and then getting ready for our next Canning Swap in November. And then a nice winter spent planning next year's events and enjoying the things we canned over the summer.
Where do you like to eat in Pittsburgh these days? Any cool places or chefs we should look out for?
Pittsburgh is an exciting place to eat these days! I particularly like Legume and Butterjoint, which is Legume's nextdoor bar. I'm also a big fan of Kate Romaine's E2 for brunch and dinner, and lunches at Marty's Market, and burgers at Tessaro's. (And in my neighborhood, Bloomfield, I'm particularly excited about Bread and Salt, a new bakery; DJ's Butcher Block, a fantastic local butcher; and Fukuda, which I think does the best sushi anywhere.) Pittsburgh also has some great Vietnamese restaurants, and a famous banh mi cart. And Food Glorious Food, which does catering during the week and opens up a wonderful bakery on the weekend.  

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