Happy Birthday, Dorie! A French Fridays Celebration

Happy Birthday

Today’s French Fridays with Dorie assignment has been set aside for a celebration. Not only are we wishing Dorie Greenspan the happiest of birthdays, but we’re also baking from her soon-to-be-released cookbook, Baking Chez Moi. This celebration has been orchestrated by two of our fabulous French Fridays collaborators, Liz and Susan, who gave us four recipes from the new book to choose from.

I chose two, but the good news is that I’ll be baking through the entire book with Tuesdays with Dorie, starting in November – and you can, too. All the details are in this post on the TwD site.

Paletes de Dames, Lille Style

PaletsdeDames

These little cookies manage to be elegant and homey all at once. The cookies themselves are flavoured with vanilla and have a cake-like quality, while the icing has a few drops of lemon juice and sets in that shiny, smooth, pastry shop way. They can be dressed up with tinted icing or some sanding sugar, but really I think they’re perfect just as they are.

Brown Butter-Peach Tourte

Peach Tourte

One of the things I love about French baking (well, besides all the butter) is that a good number of the desserts are far less complicated than the results would suggest. This tourte, with its free-standing crust and its sparkling surface, looks like it requires effort and expertise to carry off. The truth is that once you’ve mastered pâte sablée, the rest is easy. And if you have Dorie’s instructions for pâte sablée (or sweet tart dough), that part’s easy, too.

I used some of the last of this year’s peaches to make this tart, but I think it would work equally well with any juicy tree fruit. In fact, I think I might try it again with mango this winter. I think it made an admirable stand in for a birthday cake and might be even more welcome than cake at the height of peach season.

Sliced

It’s been an amazing four years cooking and baking with French Fridays and I’m looking forward to the last six months or so of working through Around My French Table. I’m also starting to get excited about getting my hands on Baking Chez Moi and working through it with the Tuesdays with Dorie brigade.

So, again, happy birthday to you, Dorie. I’ve learned so much more about cooking and baking in these last few years, thanks to your work. I deeply admire your love and enthusiasm for food and the community it creates – you write about it beautifully.

Below you’ll find the full line up of posts for this French Fridays celebration. (Click on the name of the dish to find the recipe, so you can join in on the fun, too.)

Mini Cannelés

Chocolate Cream Puffs with Mascarpone Filling

Paletes de Dames, Lille Style

Brown Butter-Peach Tourte

A Little Celebration of a Small Accumulation

A Shelf of Books

I’m not so much a collector as I am an accumulator. When we were kids, my mother thought that my siblings and I should all collect something. I didn’t see the appeal, as I was too busy trying to read as many books as possible, so she ended up choosing something for me. Somewhere in my storage space is a box of thimbles that I got from various relatives, mostly as part of a Christmas or birthday present. When I run across them, I enjoy the associations and memories they bring up, but I don’t have any desire to add to the collection. As an adult, I can better understand the appeal of collecting. My budget doesn’t allow for art collection and my accumulation of teapots doesn’t really count, but there are a few book series that I buy.

The Massey Lectures, published by Anansi Press, is the series that I’m trying to complete. I’m missing some of the earlier lectures. I also really like the Canongate Myths series, though I’ve been a little lackadaisical about keeping up with the new releases. The rest of my book collection is quite scattershot – a little biography, a mixture of mostly Canadian, Commonwealth, and British fiction, as well as a lot of non-fiction on a bunch of different topics. It’s nice to have a little coherence added to the mix.

My other growing collection is a significant number of cookbooks. My partner and I have had to move our cookbooks from a small bookcase to a larger one, as they mysteriously go on multiplying. There’s even a series of books that bridges the gap between my cookbooks and my other book collections. Penguin’s Great Food series reprints food writing ranging from Samuel Pepys and Brillat-Savarin to Elizabeth David and Alice Waters. I think the entire series will be taking up some shelf space here before long. The books themselves are beautiful, with some of the best cover design I’ve seen in some time. The writings promise to enlighten, amuse and even offend. I think I officially have a new book (set) crush.

Since I’ve been accumulating quite a lot of posts here, one-hundred today in fact, I thought I would do a little something to celebrate and show my appreciation for those of you who’ve visited over the past year. I’ve loved your comments and even feel as though I’ve got to know some of you a little bit. I bought two of the books from the Great Food series and I’m going to give them away. As it’s also my one-year blogoversary (again, that is too a word!) on September 20th, I’ll announce the winners then. All you have to do is leave a comment, letting me know what you like to collect and which of the two books you’d prefer. (If the winners pick the same book, the person drawn first will get their choice.)

The books are these: Charles Lamb’s A Dissertation upon Roast Pig and Agnes Jekyll’s A Little Dinner Before the Play. I have to confess that I didn’t choose them because they’re my favourites of the series, but because – of the titles available at the bookstore I visited – these were the two with the prettiest covers. I do have my moments of superficiality.

A Dissertation upon Roast Pig

A Little Dinner Before the Play

Travelling at Home

Looking east over the rail tracks from Vancouver Lookout.

This summer seems especially full of community events. Part of it is Vancouver’s125th Birthday, with events like this past weekend’s Summer Live. Another part of it is that there’s been a groundswell of community creativity around public events that’s been supported by the current City government. Organizations like Vancouver Public Space Network, websites like Vancouver is Awesome, and initiatives like Car-Free Vancouver are helping to drive this movement. Public Dreams pioneered such community-making, espousing a grassroots ethos that includes making these events free of charge.

A view toward the west from Vancouver Lookout.

I think this atmosphere is inspiring traditional institutions like Tourism Vancouver to follow suit. This May, they ran a promotion of local attractions called Be a Tourist in Your Own Town, which was open only to residents of Greater Vancouver. Each day of the promotion, residents could download coupons good for a range of destinations around Greater Vancouver, ranging from the well-known to the obscure.

I managed to take advantage of two of the offers, admission to Vancouver Lookout and Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden. The first was one I’d never considered, while the second was a chance to re-visit one of Vancouver’s treasures.

Looking from the top of the Vancouver Lookout over the rail lines and cruise ship dock.

Vancouver Lookout sits atop Harbour Centre’s tower, which was Vancouver’s tallest building until 2009. It still gives a clear 360° view, looking out over downtown, the west and east ends of town, and toward the North Shore. Even on a rainy day, the views were compelling. It made for a nice exercise – trying to identify our neighbourhood from that height and distance; seeing the roofs of most of the downtown’s buildings; getting an aerial view across the water.

Through a window onto the garden.

I went to Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens on another grey day, but the rain held until near the end of my visit. The Vancouver Tourism offer coincided with the garden’s 25th Anniversary celebration, so we were treated to tours, activities and goodies. I loved watching the koi feed, hearing the history of the garden, and contemplating the symbolism of elements in the scholar’s garden. The garden is not just a contemplative space, providing a venue for theatre, music and conferences.

Orangy koi fish coming up for food.

Mottled, mostly white koi fish grabbing a snack.

                       
                                               
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       

I try to approach living in this region, where I grew up, in the same way I do unfamiliar places. Looking at one’s home through traveller’s eyes means trying to discover both the surprising and delightful, along with what’s most authentic. But tourism has its rewards, too. Thanks Tourism Vancouver, for reminding me of that.

Looking up toward the pavilion.

100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day – Vancouver Parade & Festival

It felt good to march in the International Women’s Day parade today – great energy and a wide spectrum of participants. The march ran from McSpadden Park down Commercial Drive and up Adanac Street to the WISE Hall. I skipped the community festival, as the little dog had had enough by that point, but the crowd was amazing, filling the hall and spilling out onto the street.

Here are some pre-march photos for you: