Reviews


French Women For All Seasons

French Women For All Seasons

I just recently received French Women For All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes, & More by Mireille Guiliano. And having never really gotten into the French Women Don’t Get Fat craze, I more than respect the knowledge that she has shared with hordes of American women. I just simply never envisioned myself reading either of her books.

But now, as I’m sitting here sipping coffee and flipping through the book (and, well, typing), I am wondering why the heck I was ever so skeptical and/or cynical. This book isn’t *just* about how to control portions, which is what I was afraid of. It has [delectable] French recipes {ranging from goat cheese and fennel tartines to rabbit loin with hazelnuts}, fashion, food culture…my trifecta of F’s, the three things that I am most interested in. There’s even a section on the many varieties of cheese [insert excitable screaming of “I LOVE CHEESE” here]. And of course her message of feeling good in your skin while enjoying food and life in general doesn’t lose the attention of a modern girl, as body image is something so, so fragile these days.

The main idea, though, is seasonal eating; i.e. eating the fruits and vegetables that are in season for that particular time of the year. And although I feel like seasonal eating is something that should be so obvious, it quite apparently is not considering the constant supply of bananas and apples in my kitchen, no matter the time of year. I’m a college student so I simply cannot afford to give up my simple fruit supply (because then I guarantee I’d be getting no fruit in my diet, other than the canned variety, come school time), but the basic ideas seem so easy to employ into any eater’s life. I guess I’ll find out…

Fleur de Sel caramel

Fleur de Sel caramel

First off, let me just say that this review is biased because A) I love fleur de sel caramels *and* any sweet/salty dessert and B) I have been coveting a pint of this ice cream for about 2 weeks now and dug into it like a hungry wolf

[cue Duran Duran’s Hungry like the Wolf]

Ok, now that I’ve gotten the disclaimer out of the way, I can dig into the meat and potatoes of this review: I LOVED this ice cream…more than any precocious-sounding adjectives could describe. There are just no words. Simply put, taking a bite of this ice cream was like having a party in my mouth…complete with dancing taste buds.

From the Haagen-Dazs website:

Fleur de Sel caramels covered in a chocolaty coating blended into caramel ice cream with caramel ribbons and French sea salt accents. Crisp, salty nuances harmonize with rich, creamy caramel for the ultimate combination of sweet and salty.

                                                                                                                                                            

I will say that after being completely immoderate and eating the entire container for dinner, the saltiness was a bit overpowering. But I’m sure that, with appropriate serving sizes and restraint, this tiny flaw in the ice cream would not have been apparent. I also found the chocolate to not really add anything to the experience; it certainly didn’t detract but I’m just not a milk chocolate girl. And mainly, the flavor was truly just as the description illustrates: sweet and salty harmonizing together in a creamy caramel ice cream.

I give Haagen-dazs fleur de sel caramel a 4 out of 5, mostly because I am a chocolate snob and a tiny part of me was wishing for dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. But overall, an A+; I got the exact sweet and savoury flavor I imagined in my head before I took my first bite and that is so important to me when eating a spin-off of such classic flavors. And I whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone who wants a stand-up ice cream performance. Or a way to eat away unhappiness, because I most definitely cheered up. Just don’t eat the whole pint 😉

Mmm. Pizza

Mmm. Pizza

I’m a pizza gal. There’s no other way to put it. Cheesy, crunchy pizza rocks my world. I’m not, however, a fan of greasy Domino’s or Pizza Hut pizza. I do not like to feel my arteries clogging as I’m eating. Frozen pizza usually falls short; it’s either too soggy or too cardboard-y.

But, as a fan of Amy’s products in general, I decided to give Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza a try. I was a bit apprehensive because of it’s lack of cheese and nearly added on my own mozzarella, but I am so glad that I didn’t. This pizza needs no add-ons or modification. I nearly died and went to heaven, it is *that* good, people. The box asserts that the Roasted Veggie Pizza tastes like the best foccacia you’ve ever had, and it does. By leaps and bounds. Not only does the crust crisp up deliciously (I’m pretty sure it’s the pre-cooked state of the pizza that aids this. Go Amy’s), but the toppings are just scrumptious and wonderfully not oily. Sweet carmelized onions? Yum. Roasted red peppers? Yes please. Marinated artichoke hearts? The bane of my existence.

I’ve fallen in love. It was nearly impossible not to. And, because Amy’s uses ingredients that any normal human being can pronounce, it’s far healthier than the average frozen pizza. Far more delicious too, of course.

I give Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza 5 out of 5 stars. Cheese? What’s cheese?

Friends-with-benefits tart

You take one deliciously proofed tart crust, fill it with bittersweet chocolate, and top with more bittersweet chocolate shavings. All together, the butteriness of the crust is balanced out by the sweet yet bitter flavor of the semi-sweet chocolate.

The recipe? Chocolate tart. It’s clearly what every girl should bake when things with her love interest are going less than spectacularly and she’s up at 2:40 in the morning, unable to relax [insert indifferently sarcastic yet sad baking smiley here].

Unfortunately, I could not actually bake this tart as I happened to eat all of my dark chocolate before it could go into any sort of delicious confection (which I’m sure is contributing to my sleepless night). I can, however, say that Green & Black’s 70% dark chocolate is amazing and everyone should give it a try. It’s far from being milky sweet, which is a nice break from Hershey’s milk chocolate that I so often find myself with, and has just the right amount of bite.

So yes, go out and get yourself from Green & Black’s 70% dark. Dark chocolate lovers will not be disappointed.

(I would also like to apologize for this poorly put together post. I realize it probably sounds like scrambled eggs, so please forgive me!)

There is quite the shortage of local, independent coffeehouses in the suburbia of Hartford. Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts can be found on nearly every corner of every main intersection, but true, honest to goodness, homegrown coffee shops are sadly few and far in between.

So when I stubbled upon The Bean & Grape in Old Wethersfield, CT, I was more than thrilled.

The little coffee shop is innocuously located in an old, shared building next to the locally famous Comstock & Ferre seed company. Although the shop is not free-standing, it being within an older building gives it a lived in, “I’ve been here before” feeling that is irreplaceable when stopping by for a Sunday morning caffeine fix. The interior was recently renovated and not only are there cozy tables facing Main Street inside the cafe, there are also a fair number of (fenced in) tables outside. These outside tables, where I sat, give a beautiful view of the Comstock and Ferre flower beds. It was a great area to just sit back on your chair, take in the fresh[ish] air, and have a conversation over a relaxing cup o’ joe. The garden and the pleasantly refurbished but aged interior certainly allow for a cozy, cheerful, and pleasant ambiance. I have three words for the setting of this coffee shop: splendid, splendid, splendid.

And, of course, the coffee…the main point of contention when visiting a coffee shop. It was good. I am not a coffee connoisseur so I cannot accurately critque how well the coffee was brewed, how fresh the beans were, etc, etc; but for an average person with a fairly tuned-in palate, the coffee was great. Not too strong or bitter and definitely not watery. I think my favorite part about the coffee is that there is a rotating “regular” blend; some days it might be Ethiopian and some days it might be Columbian so there is a large variety of beans to be found, pleasantly surprising given the shop’s petite size. For non-coffee-drinkers, there is also a large variety of teas, from chai to black to green. [At night, the Bean & Grape serves wine instead of coffee, making this cute little coffee shop transform into a nice place to wind down and taste some good vino. I am underage so of course I cannot partake in the libations as of yet 😉 ].

The Bean & Grape also offers normal coffee shop treats, such as bagel, muffins, and pastries…all I presume to be locally bought or made because of the un-freezerlike quality that my accompanying friend’s bagel had. This may be a hasty assumption, but based on the fact that this is a local coffee shop with local aspirations, I would like to give the benefit of the doubt. Other non-traditional foods are also served, such as fruit plates and summery salads.

But the creme de la creme of this coffee shop had to have been the customer service. The service, which I was not expecting to be all that different from Starbucks, only accentuated the setting and the coffee. Although it was more than apparent that the girls working behind the coffee bar were fairly new at the job, they were 100% willing to do anything to make the customer happy. The girls were extremely personable and did not give off any “you’re just another customer with money for us” vibes–when I ordered an iced coffee, me waiting for the brew to finish was a concern of theirs. Would that sort of thoughtfulness be readily found in any chain place? I think not.

Overall, I give The Bean & Grape 5 out of 5 stars. I was extremely pleased with the service, the quiet and non-intimidating setting, the reasonable prices, and the non-chain carmfrapaccinolatte coffees. Moreover, I am just over the moon that such a cute little local coffee shop has opened up right when supporting local businesses is the “chic” thing to do; I wish it much prosperity and success and I will definitely be a returning customer.

Bean & Grape Cafe $$
251 Main Street, 860-436-6488

[The area under the large tree on the far left is where the outdoor seating for The Bean & Grape can be found]