On a coveted strip of Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood (a stone’s throw from Lucques, Nobu, and Jinpachi), Comme Ça can be many things to many people. That’s probably because the food is delicious, despite the restaurant’s popularity.
It’s modern and sleek inside with a simple, fun atmosphere and not too many rustic accents trying to balance it. The brown paper atop each table, the blackboard with specials in chalk, and the crusty mini-baguette (with creamy, addictive butter) all drive home the point that this French brasserie-style eatery takes itself just seriously enough. Sitting at the bar is one way to experience it, as you face the raw bar on ice and watch as your mixologist creates concoctions from freshly-muddled ingredients while you tuck into their spot-on salade frisée.
Sit at a table if you plan on staying a little while. What’s good, you ask? It doesn’t behoove anyone to say everything, so the tarte flambée, the roasted beef marrow, and moules frites are among the best starters, and while the Comme Ça burger really is top dog, the steak frites, chicken diable, and a side of creamed spinach will keep you coming back for more. Also, the chocolate pot de crème may become one of your very favorite desserts.
There's nothing wrong with loving something that never changes. Classic Halloween candy doesn't get old year after year, and your grandma's macaroni and cheese is called comfort food for a reason. But what if something you thought was frozen in time (albeit in a good way) actually had an amazingly new set of innovative incarnations?
Enter the art of the French pastry, and more specifically, the work of Cheryl Wakerhauser. This month, Wakerhauser, owner Pix Pâtisserie, a Portland-based dessert bar, is out with her first cookbook, Modern French Pastry. The cookbook serves up countless colorful desserts that will confound your preconcieved notions of what makes for a proper
tarte aux fruits or a buche de noel. Yes, these aren't exactly the types of delicacies that Auguste Escoffier or even Julia Child learned to make, but they will no doubt inspire your thinking in the kitchen. Above, six different desserts, beautiful to behold, and even better to eat. And below, Wakerhauser shares one key recipe from her new book exclusively with Vogue. Call it a (berry covered) pièce de résistance.
A Moment of Zen
100 g egg yolks 5 g (1 tsp) vanilla extract 310 g all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling and baking Pinch of salt 140 g powdered sugar 240 g unsalted butter, cold
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla and set aside. Sift the flour, salt and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and combine on low speed. Cut the butter into 1-centimeter (0.5-in) cubes and add to the flour mixture. Continue to mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse sand, about 5 minutes. Do not over mix. If the mixture starts to stick together, it will not absorb the eggs and it will be very sticky and hard to roll. Add the egg yolk mixture and mix just until incorporated and you have a homogenous dough, about 30 seconds. Form the dough into a flattened circle and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour, minimum.
13 g powdered gelatin 65 g cold water 385 g raspberry puree 190 g powdered sugar 385 g heavy cream
In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, combine the gelatin with the cold water and stir well to dissolve. Let sit for 5 minutes to bloom. Place the puree in a medium saucepan. Sift the powdered sugar and whisk it into the puree. Heat the puree over medium heat until slightly warm, about 2 minutes. Place the cream in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk to soft peak. Melt the gelatin on low in the microwave. Swirl the bowl to stir the gelatin every 30 seconds, until it is completely melted. Whisking constantly by hand, slowly add one-third of the slightly warm puree to the gelatin. Add the remaining puree and whisk to combine. Add half of the puree to the cream and fold with a whisk, followed by the second half. Pour into the paisley mold and freeze overnight.
7 g powdered gelatin 35 g cold water 140 g Soaking Syrup (page 198) 140 g raspberry puree
In a medium bowl, combine the gelatin with the cold water and stir well to dissolve. Let sit for 5 minutes to bloom. In a small saucepan, heat the soaking syrup until warm. Add the gelatin and stir until melted. Slowly stir in the puree. Refrigerate.
5 g powdered gelatin 25 g cold water 190 g blackberry puree 60 g sugar
Place a 20-centimeter (8-in) cake ring on a half sheet pan lined with parchment. Pull the parchment up the outer sides of the ring and secure it with a large rubber band. In a small bowl, combine the gelatin with the cold water and stir well to dissolve. Let sit for 5 minutes to bloom. In a small saucepan, combine the puree and sugar and cook over medium heat just until warm and the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add the solid gelatin mass to the puree and stir until the gelatin is melted. Pour into the cake ring. Freeze for at least 4 hours.
CRÈME DE CASSIS PASTRY CREAM
400 g milk 80 g egg yolks 100 g sugar 32 g cornstarch 20 g unsalted butter 30 g crème de cassis 5 g (1 tsp) fresh lime juice
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine all the pastry cream ingredients, except the crème de cassis and lime juice. Blend them with an immersion blender and then place the bowl in the microwave. Cook on high until the top and sides of the pastry cream are set and jiggle like Jell-O when you shake the bowl, 5 to 7 minutes. The center will still be a bit liquid and the sides almost curdled. With a clean immersion blender, mix the pastry cream to combine, scrape the sides of the bowl and continue to blend in the center and also just at the surface until smooth. If, after blending, the cream is still very runny and has not thickened, continue to cook and blend until you have the consistency of pudding. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to use, transfer the pastry cream to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the crème de cassis and lime juice and stir to combine.
Strawberry & Cream Croissant French Toast For Your Weekend Brunch
Those with a creative eye know firsthand that inspiration is all around us. Whether you're energized by the earth tones of nature, a color-filled walk through a local farmer's market, or even by a quick scroll through Instagram, you never know what might spark a new creative project.
In the spirit of inspiring your next masterpiece, we're excited to partner with Bounty to fuel the next generation of artists and designers forward by launching a national design competition. We're calling on graphic designers to apply for a chance to see their work featured on a new Brit + Co and Bounty paper towel collection, set to launch in 2022.
Aside from the incredible exposure of having your illustrations on paper towels that'll be in stores across America next year, you'll also receive $5,000 for your art a scholarship for Selfmade, our 10-week entrepreneurship accelerator to take your design career to the next level (valued at $2,000) and a stand alone feature on Brit + Co spotlighting your artistry as a creator.
The Creatively You Design Competition launches Friday, May 21, 2021 and will be accepting submissions through Monday, June 7, 2021.
Who Should Apply: Women-identifying graphic designers and illustrators. (Due to medium limitations, we're not currently accepting design submissions from photographers or painters.)
What We're Looking For: Digital print and pattern designs that reflect your design aesthetic. Think optimistic, hopeful, bright — something you'd want to see inside your home.
How To Enter: Apply here, where you'll be asked to submit 2x original design files you own the rights to for consideration. Acceptable file formats include: .PNG, .JPG, .GIF, .SVG, .PSD, and .TIFF. Max file size 5GB. We'll also ask about your design inspiration and your personal info so we can keep in touch.
Artist Selection Process: Panelists from Brit + Co and P&G Bounty's creative teams will judge the submissions and select 50 finalists on June 11, 2021 who will receive a Selfmade scholarship for our summer 2021 session. Then, up to 8 artists will be selected from the finalists and notified on June 18, 2021. The chosen designers will be announced publicly in 2022 ahead of the product launch.
For any outstanding contest Qs, please see our main competition page. Good luck & happy creating!
French Styled Range Hood Makes a Chic Statement
This timeless French country kitchen by The Refined Group situated in Arizona exudes livable luxury.
Its contrasting color scheme avoids the monotony that comes with single-hued kitchens by pairing crisp white cabinetry with a sage kitchen island and coordinating tile backsplash. Then there's the classic French-inspired range hood, a stunning architectural feature that makes a chic statement. The vintage wood box planter with herbs is a delightful rustic accent that serves a purpose. Lantern style lightings over the island lend a big dose of European flair.
Literally translated to “little ovens,” French petits fours are small pastries that can be eaten in two to three bites. Petite Pâtisserie skips the commonplace, white fondant covered cake squares and, instead, introduces you to petit pastry in a new, exciting array of flavors, shapes, textures and colors. These 41 original recipes captivate the eyes before intriguing the taste buds. You eat with your eyes first, and that’s what makes these tiny treats perfect for afternoon tea, weddings, cocktail parties or any festive occasion. Et bien sûr, they taste as good as they look.
Cheryl Wakerhauser, owner of the award-winning Pix Pâtisserie and author of Modern French Pastry, provides detailed step-by-step instruction in her books. She is not only a pastry chef extraordinaire but a teacher as well, offering the how's and why's to each recipe. Petite Pâtisserie shares recipes and expertise for a wide range of skill sets, making this the perfect book for avid bakers, pastry chefs in the field and anyone who loves to entertain with their kitchen prowess.
In addition to composed, multi-dimensional petits fours, Cheryl also shares a striking sweet and savory menu for high tea, bon bons that make you rethink the classic truffle, dessert shooters in mini glassware and her take on cookies (think macarons so tiny you can pop them into your mouth like M&Ms). Also discover a caramel mousse with salted almonds wrapped in a thin layer of chocolate that will make you say, “Shazam!”, an adult dessert version of the Old Fashioned in ice cream shake formation and a coconut mousse dessert in the form of, what else, a mini coconut! Playful recipes backed by solid instruction and creative execution. The Parlor Tricks from Modern French Pastry are also back with new innovative techniques for décor and time saving procedures. If you do not have a microwave, buy one when you purchase this book!
Cheryl trained in southern France with the prestigious pâtissier MOF Philippe URRACA. Her dessert oasis, Pix Pâtisserie, has been serving tasty treats and an award-winning wine list in Portland, OR since 2001. She has been featured in Thuriès Gastronomie, Vogue, Le Journal du Pâtissier, World of Fine Wine, NYT Magazine, Food Network Magazine, Oprah Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Bon Appétit.
Modern French Pastry is not a cookbook about the classics. You will find no tart tatins, lemon tarts or opera cakes in this book. Instead, Modern French Pastry gives you 41 original recipes never seen before, in an array of shapes, colors, flavors and sizes.
Pix Pâtisserie award-winning chef and owner, Cheryl Wakerhauser (a.k.a. Pix), is known for combining bold flavors and textures into stunning, edible packages sold at her Portland, Ore. dessert oasis. Now, she shares her techniques, flavor combinations and whimsical design (along with a few parlor tricks!) in her acutely instructional cookbook, Modern French Pastry. Amazing looking and tasting desserts so explicably explained it will be a tossup as to who is more impressed – you or your guests!
French pastry is a study in components. Cheryl breaks each recipe down into easy to follow subrecipes that can be done in advance for convenience and even interchanged with other recipes to create your own signature dessert. Instructions for classic French pastry recipes such as pâte á choux, tart doughs and meringues are combined with modern flavors and design. Blue Cheese Truffles anyone? A Moment of Zen takes the fruit tart to a new level with the addition of crème de cassis, blackberry coulis and raspberry mousse. And the éclairs? Cheryl fills them with Bourbon pastry cream and tops them with cherry jam. Think the dessert version of the Manhattan. For the adult ice cream social, there’s a Beer Float recipe complete with caramelized malted barley dipped in chocolate. Simplify your life with instructional “Parlor Tricks” – cook lemon curd, temper chocolate and prepare pastry cream all in the microwave in minutes! Cheryl is not only a pastry chef extraordinaire but a teacher as well, offering the how’s and why’s to each recipe.
Bullion: the Best French Restaurant in Dallas
Chef Bruno Davaillon finally opened the modern brasserie of his dreams. It was worth the wait.
Come December, my thoughts tend inexorably toward home, and so they turn just as predictably toward France, where I was born, and where the winter season brings memories of firesides and fattened geese. So it felt like an answer to unspoken prayers when chef Bruno Davaillon’s Bullion finally opened at the end of 2017, a restaurant to fill the void where chestnut-stuffed roast game and profite-roles should be.
Several years ago, I spent 10 days shadowing Davaillon, when he was at The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. I knew at Bullion I would find his concentration of flavor, the elegance of his restraint. I didn’t know I would discover an even greater focus, as though feeling for the first time the true heartbeat of his cuisine. It must have been hard for the Michelin-starred chef to sit on his hands for 18 months after leaving The Mansion.
In this modern French brasserie, a lighting designer’s genius has made everything feel soft, dislodged from time. Fine surfaces—the curves of midcentury-style furniture—reflect light. The whole place, inside and out, is ensconced in gold. Within exterior walls of golden scales, people bask in the muted luster of a gold-leafed ceiling, looking more worldly and refined than they should. Beyond the Midas touches, the restaurant is furnished with Christofle silver, Limoges china, and Garnier-Thiebaut linens, all purchased from manufacturers founded under the reigns of Louis Philippe and Napoleon Bonaparte. You could eat a single French fry and still appear regal in these surroundings.
Quenelles, cassoulet, foie gras torchon, panisse, mille-feuille
But Bullion is as much about the indulgences being prepared in the kitchen as it is the trappings of the dining room. The restaurant is far more intimate than any place over which Davaillon has presided—for example, as executive chef at Alain Ducasse’s vast Mix restaurant in Las Vegas, before the staid and storied Mansion. Bullion’s size suits the chef’s aim. Here, he wants to showcase the dishes of the vraie cuisine française, the true cuisine of France. Davaillon does not go for panache. He does not do Escoffier dollhouse preciousness the fundamental shape is simplicity.
One evening, crimped, coin-shaped ravioli each contained a single tender snail and bathed in a butter sauce that sent up tendrils of anise-flavored Pernod, a sauce so good we sopped up the last of it with morsels of gougères, puffy and hot, like little popovers. That night, we had velvety sunchoke soup, accompanied by a decadent compound butter that we spread on a demure square of toasted brioche. I sighed. This—this simple, divine soup poured from a rustic earthenware pitcher—was what I had wanted.
Pâté en croûte, a pastry-encased checkerboard of meat, perfectly seasoned and sculptural, was beautiful the evening I had it, knowing the next night it might change. I sat with a view of the glassed-in garde-manger where a hanging ham haunch kept company with other curing meats. There sits the pâté en croûte, ready to be cut off in thick slices. There are the verrines, layered aperitifs presented in glass jars, the kind you would use for putting up things like the shredded pork rillettes Davaillon’s father taught him to make. In my mind were his stories about Sunday lunches at his aunt’s farmhouse, which ended with a humble tart. You feel that lineage, though the setting and context are vastly different.
I tried to remember the poached and pressed foie gras torchon he had served at The Mansion. Had it been so luxurious and silky? No, it had not. This finer preparation, one he learned from Ducasse—the foie poached whole and set for two weeks—delivers an otherworldly smoothness. When the savory-sweet rush fills your mouth, a hush descends on the table.
None of this is flashy. It is all about technique.
Look to the panisse, morsels of fried chickpea custard (uncomplicated, just milk, eggs, fennel seeds, and cornmeal), perfect beyond anything they have a right to be.
Or the pike quenelles, the specialty of Lyon, so tied to place that it felt like a miracle to see them there, printed as the Monday plat du jour. I had been nervous that the sauce Américaine, with wonderful, voluptuous pieces of lobster, might upstage the fish dumplings with their delicate flavor and texture. I needn’t have worried. They were lobster-scented clouds. I could eat them every Monday for a year they would not lose their magic.
And so Davaillon continues his gastronomical tour of the real France, not a brasserie cliché. In a scallop dish, Alsace makes an unexpected appearance. Bring a forkful of cabbage to your mouth and discover that he has also done wonders with an Ibérico ham broth underneath. Peasant food was never so fine.
The cod brandade was not the Portuguese version of the dish I had expected—a rustic purée—but instead cod belly dressed up with croutons, confit tomatoes, lemon supremes, and a brown butter caper sauce, a Provençal version of the dish, also developed with Ducasse.
I am used to a creamier cassoulet, where the beans have rendered into the body of the stew. Davaillon has lightened it, assembled the duck confit, house-made sausage, and white beans to order, turning the hearty country dish into something more refined. It was wonderful, but there was almost something missing. A deeper sense of rootedness?
As with the cassoulet, I didn’t love everything with equal ardor. I wanted to shake the stiffness out of some of the entrées.
For the poulet patte rouge rôti, the breast is presented separately from the dark meat, which has been tucked up into a painstaking roulade. Between the two is a gulf, a question mark. Technically, it is flawless. Ironically, I found myself wishing for a simpler, more viscerally satisfying roast chicken.
A few prime proteins were cooked ever so slightly past perfect. This was the nature of my frustrations.
For all this, pastry chef Ricardo Sanchez’s desserts strike precisely the right final note. Sanchez was most recently at Flora Street Cafe. Now he’s at Bullion, wanting to try his hand at something more French. There is a mille-feuille, its Arlette pastry so crackly you break into it with all the pleasure with which you’d shatter a crème brûlée. There is a baba au rhum that has soaked up a light vanilla-citrus sauce and accepted the tart wisdom of a passion fruit compote a baked Alaska licked by blue flames, with a heart of ice cream that has the surprising freshness of a just-plucked fig. And there are madeleines, perhaps the best you’ll ever have, shaped like shells with a subtle crunch on the outside, a moist and tender crumb.
That we kept Davaillon in Dallas is a coup. We have every right to suspect that he will relax into himself even further. His cooking is imbued with originality—and a very particular, focused warmth. I understand the warmth. It is tied to the distinct pleasure of coming home.
Dominique Crenn has officially debuedher chic two Michelin-starred-style inBerkeley, in the form ofAntoinette, a French brasserie in the newly renovatedClaremont Club & Spa.
Situated in the Berkeley hills at the historic Claremont Hotel is the modern French brasserie, Antoinette. Led by Chef Justin Mauz, and in association with Dominique Crenn and Crenn Dining Group, Antoinette is currently open for dinner service and will soon be expand to breakfast, lunch and dinner.
While the brasserie will be part of the hotel property, Crenn insists that the brasserie will not just blend into the property’s background, but will be a go-to destination in itself. In a recent renovation to the100-year-old hotel, the new owners,Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, upgraded all of the amenities including therestaurants. Crenn will curate the restaurant (in the former Paragon space) on the property, meaning that although it will be operated by the hotel, it will be her vision from start to finish— that includes hiring the chef and team to execute that vision and working closely with them along the way as a consultant. And in keeping with her vision, the name Antoinette is a tribute to the strong women of France as well as a nod to the luxury-loving French queen, Marie Antoinette.
The concept istrue to the French brasserie style withcasual, butelegant creations. The food will be kept seasonal and fresh and with an emphasis on seafood and vegetable dishes. Locally sourced meat and baked goods will be used where possible.Many dishes will be designed to share, like a whole roasted fish or côte de boeufwith a wide variety of options for sides. Petit Crenn wine director Courtney Humiston will consult on the beverages, which will be composed of French and California wines, heavy on the Champagne cocktails will skew classic.
Find out more about Dominique Crenn’s culinary career
The Claremont Hotel Club & Spa
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Rodolfo Guzmán | Modern mapuche man
Celebrating Chile’s native roots, Rodolfo Guzmán has put the Latin American country on the culinary map at his restaurant Boragó, writes Sophie Cater.
Andreas Caminada shows off his culinary talents with this striking recipe for tongue with apple jelly and wasabi mayonnaise.
Fried oyster with orange mayonnaise
World renowned chef Janez Bratovz shows you how to make this simple but bold oyster recipe…Enjoy!
Fat of the Land | Humble Roots
Sybil Kapoor explores the Kochi Prefecture in Japan in search of the yuzu – a citrus fruit and Asian cooking staple that’s growing in international stature.
Don’t Buy Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Anyone weary of the nonstop hype over Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia this summer had to be happy with this week’s news that the fuss has not all been in vain: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking has finally hit the top of the best-seller list, almost 48 years after it was first published. Unfortunately, that will probably send even more Meryl Streep wannabes straight to bookstores looking for food porn. And they will be sold bibles.
The inconvenient truth is that although the country’s best-loved “French chef” produced an unparalleled recipe collection in Mastering the Art, it has always been daunting. It was never meant for the frivolous or trendy. And it now seems even more overwhelming in a Rachael Ray world: Those thousands and thousands of cookbooks sold are very likely going to wind up where so many of the previous printings have—in pristine condition decorating a kitchen bookshelf or on a nightstand, handy for vicarious cooking and eating.
Thanks to my consort, I have owned the two-volume set of Mastering the Art since 1984, the year after I graduated from restaurant school, but even I have never cooked from it. My copy of Volume 1 is tattered, but only because I’ve used it for reference over the decades—it is infallible as a sourcebook. I would think the problem is my short attention span, given that I grew up cooking from my mom’s 1950s Betty Crocker cookbook and was trained professionally using recipes that had been distilled to their essence so that technique could be taught fast. But Julia’s recipes were written for a rigorous cook with endless patience for serious detail.
Consider the boeuf bourguignon depicted so romantically in the movie, which has had restaurant chefs and amateurs alike breaking out their “9- or 10-inch fireproof casseroles” in the hottest month of the year. The ingredients and instructions for its recipe span three pages, and that is before you hit the fine print: The beef stock, braised pearl onions, and sautéed mushrooms all require separate procedures. Step 1 involves making lardons and simmering them for 10 minutes in a precise amount of water seven steps later, the fat is finally skimmed off the sauce, which is either boiled down to thicken or adjusted with liquid if it’s too thick.
And this is considered an entry-level recipe. Everything in the tome looks complicated, which of course guarantees the results will work but also makes cooking feel like brain surgery. Even simple sautéed veal scallops with mushrooms involve 18 ingredients and implements and two pages of instruction.
If after 26 years of cooking for a living, I am worn out just reading those recipes, I can only imagine how a newbie who can barely identify a whisk will do, let alone how someone who has never seen Dover sole in his supermarket could cook sole meunière, the other iconic Julia dish that restaurants and home cooks have been reflexively celebrating since ogling it in the film. It’s a plot point, and the recipe is not in the book, although others for sole are, helpfully indexed under “poisson.”)
Beyond the careful fussiness, the book has a preserved-in-aspic feel to it. For good or for bad, not many people I know want to sit down most nights to fricassee of chicken or shoulder of lamb stuffed with kidneys and rice. Even for a dinner party, these might seem anachronistic in an age when guests are perfectly frank about sharing their food issues (lactose-intolerant, vegan, gluten-free, etc.).
Americans have also been taught not to believe in butter, especially not in the quantities Julia lavished on food in true French tradition. Anyone accustomed to glugging olive oil into every sauté pan will have some adjusting to do with dairy: Butter burns cream can be cloying. Snobs like me may also be amazed that more than a few recipes suggest using frozen or canned vegetables and canned salmon, a nod to the era in which the book was written and edited, when farmers markets were not even gleams in the most forward-thinking cook’s eyes, before farmed salmon became the new Chicken of the Sea. Seasonality, another new watchword for smart cooking, is clearly a nonissue, or no one would be making beef stew in August in homage to the masterpiece.
Many cooks will probably react like the woman quoted in a New York Times article who substituted a can of cream of mushroom and a can of French onion soup rather than taking the extra steps to braise both vegetables. And the backlash against Mastering the Art is already beginning: The New York Times also ran an article on a newly translated French equivalent of Joy of Cooking that includes a boeuf bourguignon recipe involving exactly five steps (and a lot less nuance and depth).
Julia would be spinning 6 feet under if she knew her book had spawned this kind of cooking. Luckily, her subsequent, more relaxed cookbooks appear to be selling again, too. I was scared off, but friends swear by the 1975 From Julia Child’s Kitchen because the recipes are not all French and allow for the convenience of that new-fangled food processor. In the introduction, Julia writes that she intended for it to be more “personal and informal” than her masterwork, which was conceived of more as a textbook and was written with collaborators, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.
My cynical side suspects cookbook buyers looking for that old French magic would be much happier with other authors. Patricia Wells and Anne Willan have done great jobs translating classic French cuisine, using one-page or shorter recipes, while some of the better modern-French “instructors” include Jacques Pépin and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and even Jeremiah Tower. Also, never underestimate the late Pierre Franey, the “60-Minute Gourmet.” Hardcover editions of his books command a premium online for good reason: The recipes are foolproof and easy but yield sensational results. (You just can’t make beef stew in an hour.)
None of this is meant to take away from Julia Child’s phenomenal achievement. Her book, and the television series that made the recipes look so doable, really did change how America cooked at a time when housewives (and even restaurant chefs) desperately needed encouragement to move beyond casseroles and TV dinners. But given how arduously she protected her integrity, never endorsing products, it’s a little disconcerting to see her masterwork being shilled like a Shrek tie-in at Burger King, with promos wrapped around every copy sold.
Once the mania subsides, Julia Child will still be huge. It will be the movie that looks small.
French Brasserie Cookbook: The Heart of French Home Cooking
I enjoy flipping through any recipe book, but this one is an especially good read with it’s informative wordy bits and easily achievable recipes. Brasserie cooking is probably the best style/type of French cooking to try in the home, as it is not tricky or pretentious, but is wholesome and comforting.
This book covers all the basics like stocks, vinaigrettes, mayonnaise, dressings and the various types of pastry. It is illustrated with great photos and as well as finding all the usual French regi I enjoy flipping through any recipe book, but this one is an especially good read with it’s informative wordy bits and easily achievable recipes. Brasserie cooking is probably the best style/type of French cooking to try in the home, as it is not tricky or pretentious, but is wholesome and comforting.
This book covers all the basics like stocks, vinaigrettes, mayonnaise, dressings and the various types of pastry. It is illustrated with great photos and as well as finding all the usual French regional delights: Ratatouille, Tarte Tatin (although I did like the twist of rosemary and almonds), Clafoutis, Crêpes, Bouillabaisse, Cassoulet and Beef Bourguignon, there are also some more unusual recipes Lime risotto, Vegetable and Chickpea couscous and one of our favourites, a delicious wild garlic soup. The Terrine de Porc recipe came in particularly handy when bought half a pig from a local farm and found ourselves with liver and belly fat that we were unsure what to do with. Daniel's terrine recipe was easy to follow and a great success, looking and tasting fantastic.
The Vermillion Room: A beautiful new French brasserie in the heart of the Rocky Mountains
Fairmont Banff Springs
Calgarians never need a reason to visit Banff. Only a little more than an hour away, it’s the default and perfect playground for everyone, from outdoor sports fanatics to those who just want to relax at the hot springs or spa in the resort town.
Food and wine enthusiasts can now add The Vermillion Room at Fairmont Banff Springs to the list of places to go to unwind. One of the most iconic hotels in North America, Fairmont Banff Springs has long been the go-to accommodation for those who want to experience the best of Banff. This Castle in the Rockies offers a unique setting in a stunning backdrop, as well as multiple restaurants to satisfy the appetites of every guest.
Formerly known as The Bow Valley Grille, the restaurant recently underwent a dramatic facelift. In its place stands The Vermillion Room, a stunning, modern French brasserie brought to life with the help of chef Ryan Watson on the food and Frank Architecture and Design (which recently worked with Fairmont Chateau Whistler, and has designed many of the top eateries in Calgary) on the design.
The newest restaurant within the hotel to undergo a reinvention, The Vermillion Room now boasts a bright interior, blue velvet seats, brass details and marble tops that all work together to showcase the traditional French menu.
Daily specials entice guests every day of the week, from Monday’s Coquille St. Jacques (seafood and mushrooms in a cream sauce and topped with cheese to Sunday’s cote de boeuf.
Chef Ryan Watson brings together Canadian and sustainable ingredients and French techniques in dishes like the locally-raised Rangeland bison bourguignon and Ocean Wise certified seafood features.
“This is simple food done perfectly, having the opportunity to show young chefs the importance of using their senses, and most importantly, tasting everything over and over until it is just right,” says Ryan Watson, chef de cuisine of Vermillion Room.
To complement the French menu, a variety of cocktails, beers, wines, and non-alcoholic drinks are available, all with French or Canadian origins. The cocktails are all classics with a twist, as illustrated by the AAA Caesar, made with Canadian rye whisky and house French onion broth as well as the celery gimlet, made with Wild Life gin and house celery syrup. Its beer list is as Canuck as it gets, including Grizzly Paw Chinook Red IPA from Alberta and Unibroue A Tout Le Monde from Quebec, among others. The Kronenbourg 1664 is the only non-Canadian option and it’s an appropriate nod to French restaurant. The wine list, made up of only Canadian and French wines, is consistent with the restaurant’s philosophy and style.
Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, The Vermillion Room is there for you anytime you want to indulge in traditional French fare in the heart of Banff.
Fairmont Banff Springs
Located in the heart of Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the world famous Fairmont Banff Springs hotel stands as a landmark in the picturesque alpine town of Banff, Alberta. Canada's "Castle in the Rockies", has been providing legendary hospitality to our guests for more than 125 years. Fairmont Banff Springs is a year-round luxury mountain resort that offers a championship golf course during the summer, unparalleled skiing in the winter, the award winning European-style Willow Stream Spa, and authentically local dining experiences.
Color Outside the Lines
If we think of modern beer style guides as canonical coloring books for grownups, then saison is the devil on our shoulders inviting us to venture outside the lines and use all the crayons in the box. Here’s a guide to this playful style.
The first rule of saison is that there are no rules.
Okay, maybe that’s an oversimplification. But if we think of modern beer style guides as canonical coloring books for grownups, then saison is the devil on our shoulders inviting us to venture outside the lines and use all the crayons in the box. Nobody has to know.
Perhaps more than any other beer style, saison embraces brewing that is at once primal, playful, and pernicious. Once widespread in Belgium, saison overcame an uncertain future on the Continent when American craft brewers rediscovered and revived it with characteristic gusto.
The story of saison is really the story of beer itself.
Until very recently, brewing was almost exclusively a local activity. Long before hipsters rolled in on fixie bikes and made locally sourced ingredients trendy and expensive, beer more or less implied homebrew made from whatever was available nearby. Beer styles developed regionally—micro-regionally, even—and expressed diverse cultures, climates, and topographies through their own unique goûtes de terroir.
Saison originated on farms in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region, most notably in the province of Hainaut. The style’s name is simply the French word for “season,” which alone tells us a great deal. Wallonian farmer-brewers made beer during winter in preparation for the summer arrival of les saisonniers, seasonal workers whose tilling and toiling must have induced a powerful thirst.
Nobody knows exactly how the prototypical saison of Hainaut would have tasted. Historical records and folklore offer clues, but it’s impossible to be certain. Variations in crops and hops meant farmers would have brewed with whatever they had, making each year’s vintage unique. Fermentation would almost certainly have featured a blend of house yeast, wild yeast, and bacteria. And since saison was consumed on premises as sustenance, consistency from one batch to another was probably afforded as much thought as your grandmother’s lasagne recipe that calls for a pinch of this and a smidge of that.
A further difficulty in pinning down the style is that we very nearly lost it. The late beer writer Michael Jackson sincerely believed saison was in danger of extinction in 1991 when he wrote, “Perhaps the most endangered [Belgian beer style] is the Saison. . . . [It] needs all the help it can get.”
At Jackson’s urging, American beer importer Don Feinberg convinced Brasserie Dupont to begin exporting Saison Vieille Provision (now simply called Saison Dupont) from Belgium to the United States in the late 1980s. Dupont’s subsequent stateside success had the effect of making it the involuntary standard bearer for the style—not just because it’s a fantastic beer, but also because it happened to be first. To this day, a perfectly adequate answer to the question “What is saison?” remains “Something like Saison Dupont.”
What Is Saison?
To better define the undefinable, I sat down with Gordon Schuck, who, along with business partner Brad Lincoln, founded Funkwerks, Inc., a saison-focused brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado. Gordon offers the best definition of saison I’ve encountered.
“If there is one common characteristic to the style, it is the attenuation. Saisons have attenuations exceeding 90 percent. This lends a dry finish to a flavorful beer. And what is the flavor? That depends on the beer. Saison Dupont is a very bitter yet fruity example. [La Brasserie à Vapeur’s] Saison Pipaix is drier with a mineral edge. [La Brasserie Fantôme’s] Fantôme is less fruity but has more of a lactic acid edge. Essentially, a saison is a dry beer with a character unique to the brewery where it is made.”
Attenuation (the percentage of available sugar that actually gets fermented), it seems, is what makes a saison a saison. It’s not uncommon for a well-made saison’s final gravity to approach 1.005 or less. Achieving such low gravities calls for a special kind of yeast, and therein lies the true heart of the style.
If there is one rule that we must associate with saison brewing, it is this: Yeast is everything. Saison derives its unique flavors and dry finish from aggressive strains of yeast that, given enough time, could probably ferment a Volvo.
And the yeast strains are famously temperamental. Brasserie Dupont’s strain prefers temperatures as high as 95°F (35°C), a full thirty degrees higher than most British yeasts. Gordon and Brad experimented with a blend of ale strains and red wine yeast before settling on a strain that is said to have originated from Brasserie Theillier in France, available to homebrewers as Wyeast 3711 French Saison. (For more about yeast, see “Fermentation Fascination.”)
Some brewers include spices in their saisons, but such seasoning must be done with care. Saison yeasts produce enough spicy notes that augmenting with actual botanicals can easily overwhelm the palate.
So how do such textbook attributes translate to what you and I actually taste? To find out, I walked down to my local craft-beer bar and sampled a flight of four popular saisons (pictured at top):
With the exception of the Funkwerks’s flagship beer, which is distributed in only a handful of states, these examples are widely available from coast to coast.
The four samples exhibit real, but minor, differences in appearance, with clarity ranging from virtually transparent (Tank 7) to hazy (Funkwerks Saison) and color spanning the brief spectrum between brilliant blonde and pale copper.
Aromas vary from peach and passion fruit to lychee and orange, but all exhibit a characteristic spiciness that comes through in the flavor as well. Black pepper, ginger, coriander, and vanilla notes are commonly evident, even in samples that contain no actual spices. It is this difficult-to-describe but easily recognizable combination of fruitiness and spiciness that jumps out and yells, “I AM SAISON!”
The driest examples, Funkwerks and Dupont, offer pleasant finishes that border on tart, while Tank 7 and Hennepin’s higher terminal gravities (2.5° and 2.6° Plato, respectively) are accompanied by sufficient hops bitterness to avoid cloying sweetness.
Experience Saison in Style
The difference between reading about saison and intuitively recognizing it is the same as the difference between memorizing a few vocabulary words and actually speaking French. To truly understand what saison is, you must taste some saisons.
More than any other style, saison really can be whatever you want it to be. I can’t tell you precisely what that is, but to paraphrase former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, you’ll know it when you taste it.