The Gleeful Gourmand: October 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Merry Halloween!



I adore Halloween. It’s one of my favorite holidays, especially since my birthday falls near it. Before I had my son, the memories that would surface when I thought about Halloween centered around homemade costumes and the meal we would eat every Halloween night – my mom’s homemade vegetable soup and ham biscuits. It was a quick, easy, eat-on-the-run type of meal. It wasn’t my favorite meal she made (and she is an excellent cook), but if it was Halloween, you knew what you were in for as far as dinner. A lot of my not liking it stemmed from the fact that she would slather both butter and mustard on the rolls, and back then I had a very strong aversion to butter if it wasn’t melted. Of course, that isn’t the case now. Now I am truly my mother’s daughter and will take butter any way I can get it.

When I got married, I decided to make a new traditional Halloween dinner of turkey chili, cornbread, and pumpkin pie – the first of the season. But the food isn’t what pops into my mind, however, when I think of Halloween these days. Neither is my son’s adorableness as he figured out that if he said "trick or treat" he would actually get candy in his bucket. Not that we let him have much of it. Because we were pilfering most of it.

Let me take you back to when I was pregnant with my son: 9 months pregnant to be exact, and due any day. It’s Halloween afternoon, and I’m in the throes of chili-making. I’m hot, way too hormonal to be rational and listening to Christmas music on my iPod. Yes, you read that right. The week before I had decided (since this was my first child and had no idea what I was in for) that I needed to make a Christmas mix (about 20 hours worth) since I would be way too busy, or foggy, or whatever to make one during the actual holiday season.

So I’m making chili, finishing Halloween decorations, listening to Christmas music, and crying my eyes out because the music is making me so emotional. I remember standing in the kitchen thinking how utterly ridiculous and absurd it all was as I sobbed, sang, and stirred. That is the Halloween memory that has stuck with me the most. And you know what? That memory always puts a smile on my face.

Do you have a favorite Halloween memory? Leave it in the comments!
P.S. - The picture is of this year's jack-o-lanterns. Try not to be jealous.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Eating


According to the September issue of Bon Appétit magazine, Las Vegas is now second only to Paris for the number of celebrity chefs boasted:

When France’s Pierre Gagnaire opened Twist restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental this year, he joined fellow countrymen Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy, and Joel Robuchon in transforming Las Vegas into a world capital of French dining. With a combined 58 Michelin stars among them, they have secured Vegas’s place as second only to Paris for pure star power. You could travel to the City of Light, where each of these chefs has a restaurant, but in Vegas an intrepid foodie could conceivably enjoy Ducasse’s pressed chicken and foie gras, Savoy’s artichoke and black truffle soup, Gagnaire’s langoustine five ways, and Robuchon’s decadent pommes purée in a single night. Although making it a four-day feast is more advisable.
“Top Trend: Vive Las Vegas.” Bon Appétit. September 2010: 31


Both my husband and I thought this note was incredible. As my husband put it, who would have ever thought that Las Vegas would suddenly be a contender for the culinary epicenter of the world? My husband has been going to Vegas long enough to remember a time when your fine dining choices were a buffet and a buffet. Back then the major draw was simply the casino itself. These days the casino does well, but it’s taken a major backseat to the pool parties, clubs, shows, and of course, fine dining.

When I read the above statement I immediately recognized how very true it was. I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to partake in some truly spectacular meals over the course of my life, and I can, without a doubt, rate the most spectacular as having taken place in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas never used to be on my radar. As a Christian, I often looked at it with disdain and even a little bit of fear. There is no denying that it is a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, but when I started traveling with my husband, we found ourselves there quite often. For instance, every year the ERA (Electronic Retailing Association) trade show is held there. This is a major event for my husband and his business. It’s almost like the Golden Globes – it’s where a grand majority of deals are put into motion – and they even have awards! I’ve been very fortunate to be able to occasionally tag along with him. Also, other times we’ve coincided the trade show with our annual jaunt to see Buck’s family in Hawaii. Las Vegas is a great place to stop when you’re traveling halfway around the world with a toddler (I know that sounds strange, but I’ll get into that in another post).

Anyway, this particular dinner came about at the ERA trade show, and we were invited to dine at Le Cirque at Bellagio by a business associate and her husband. It just so happened that her husband, who is French, also owned somewhere around 30 fine dining restaurants and clubs worldwide. He also knew the chef at Le Cirque, and demanded to choose the wine for the table. Nobody objected. What followed was the most incredible meal of my life. From the impeccable service, to the mouth-watering wines, to my dinner (this was a few years ago, so what I remember was a melt-in-your mouth duck breast and a tiny, personal sweet potato soufflé), it was truly a meal to remember.

But that was nothing compared to the dessert. The chef sent out, on the house, several of their best desserts that we all shared. Among them was crème brulée, two different soufflés, and an ice cream bombe that when broken through the hard chocolate coating, revealed its creamy goodness inside. And also some sort of chocolate-within-chocolate ball that was painted with edible gold. It was dessert heaven, and I know if I have the fortune of partaking in such a meal in the future, it will be nothing short of a miracle.

Of course, I’ve had lots of other wonderful meals in Vegas as well: coffee-rubbed steak at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill (Caesar’s Palace), steak that would make a grown man weep at SW Steakhouse (The Wynn), late-night mac-and-cheese at FIX (Bellagio), and sumptuous breakfasts at Society Café (Encore at The Wynn). I could really care less about gambling, going to clubs, and crazy pool parties. But all you have to do is mention that fine dining will be a priority and I will find a way to get to Las Vegas.

P.S. - Have a favorite dining establishment in Vegas? Leave it in the comments!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Focus! (Or Lack Thereof)

One of the things holding me back from starting this blog was the fact that I don’t really have a “true” focus. While I’m saying the focus is food, and more specifically our emotional connection to food, I’m not always going to write about food. I expect to go on tangents sometimes that may have nothing at all to do with food, except maybe that I’m eating food while writing it. And I hope that’s okay. I mean, of course it’s okay, but I hope it doesn’t make anyone roll their eyes and say, “Oh geez, another rambler. Isn’t this blog supposed to be about FOOD?!”

Of course if that person is typing in caps, or really yelling that, then maybe that person has some anger issues they need to work out, and should be focusing on that rather than my blog. See what I did there? I digressed.

What you need to know about me, and this blog, is: I love food. It’s really simply. One of the things I love most besides eating food is reading about food. My favorite part in books, even as a youngster, was reading people’s descriptions of food. When an author can describe a scene revolving around food so well that it makes your mouth water, and your stomach grumble, that’s a great success. I also really enjoy reading not only cookbooks, but also books by chefs like Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential”, or Dalia Jurgensen’s “Spiced”. And don’t even get me started on what I consider to be one of my favorite books of all time, Judith Jones’s “The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food”. Check out the sidebar for some of my favorite books about food to the left.

I also love watching food being prepared, which is why my default channel is always Food Network. I can’t even begin to express how enticing it is for me to see a cook or chef prepare something and hear the passion in their voice, and the gleam of excitement in their eyes as it all comes together. I’ve also learned a tremendous amount about cooking and tricks from watching Food Network.

And, of course, I love to eat food. Someone once referred to me as a “foodie," and I was honestly shocked to be labeled that. Mostly because I have no clue what a “foodie” really is. It sounds slightly sinister, and let’s be honest, kind of snobby. The person who called me the name meant it as a compliment (I think). But I want to make one thing clear: I am not a snob when it comes to food. Yes, I know a fair amount about food, mostly because I read a lot about food, but I’m still learning every day. I can create an elaborate meal, but that doesn’t mean it’s my favorite meal to create. I have absolutely zero desire to become a chef or work in a kitchen restaurant. As I mentioned, I read “Kitchen Confidential” and that pretty much squashed that romantic notion. I love eating at foodie-type restaurants, but I’m not above admitting that every time I think about going to Chick-Fil-A I get really, really excited. And luckily, since I have a toddler, I eat there once a week.

So, all that being said, I didn’t want to give the wrong impression about this blog – that I’m only going to be talking about cutting-edge trends and the best restaurants, or what have you. On the contrary, what I’ll mostly be doing is writing about food and our emotional response to it. And hopefully we’ll all have a lot of fun along the way.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Welcome!

Welcome to The Gleeful Gourmand! My name is Jenna and as my profile shows, I'm a lover of food and drink, a writer, and a stay-at-home Mom to one toddler. After much consideration and thought, I decided to start this blog after the roommate of one of my dear friends planted the idea. I'll set the stage for you: Four women, out for a fun night in Charleston, South Carolina. The restaurant: McCrady's, headed by Sean Brock, winner of the James Beard 2010 Best Chef Southeast award. The wine is flowing, and we are all just having the time of our lives, even though we're technically sitting in the bar. The food is so sumptuous that my friend, who was previously a vegetarian, throws her lifestyle promptly out the window and orders the Gallantine of Chicken (I was having the Beef Tenderloin). We're talking about food and writing, and that's when my friend's roommate tells me that what I should be doing is writing a blog about food.

At first I balked at the idea. I'm not an expert on food. I like food. I enjoy cooking and baking, and I love to read about food. But do I really know enough about food to start a blog? My friends all agreed - yes. I should give it a go, if for nothing else than to actually be writing and to do something creative and fun. And so, here I am, giving it a go. So, what's this blog all about, really? Well, besides just food, it's hopefully going to be about food and our emotional connection to it. I'll be writing a lot about my food experiences, but I'll also be talking about literature and life, and how it all ties together. There may be the occasional recipe as well, and maybe some restaurant reviews.

I hope you all enjoy it. Please bear with me as I figure out all the new blogger stuff. I'm trying to make the design more fun and approachable, but it's going to take some time. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading!