From the desk of Christopher Kimball
Dear Home Cook,
I spent a half day rabbit hunting over in Argyle, New York, at Walt’s place. He used to farm it and now he just rents land to a neighbor. It was cold, about 15 degrees, and a good wind was blowing across the golden hay fields into the matchstick hedgerows. Tom’s beagle, Bernadette, worked hard—she ran a couple of rabbits—but the best part of the day was chatting with Walt. He said that, growing up, one of his friends put the excess cats around the place in mailboxes up and down the road—it was a great surprise for the postman, who had to open box after box delivering the mail. (The cats were fine.) Click here for a few shots of Walt’s farm in the dead of winter.
I spent a few days in Paris (yes, a very long way from Vermont), where it was snowing the Sunday that I arrived. I stayed in the 3rd—Le Marais—on Place de Vosges, which is a lovely neighborhood: lots of cafés, small stores, local restaurants, and parks. (Click here for a slide show of “Paris in the Snow.”) My television producer, Melissa, lived in Paris and had lots of great suggestions. The best cup of coffee in Paris can be had at Télescope on 5 rue de Villedo (the French Stumptown), and I think I had the best meal of my life at Le Cinq Mars, a small modern bistro in the 7th. The meal was perfectly simple and simply perfect: leek soup, cod with caper beurre blanc and mashed potatoes, and a winter compote (apple-pear applesauce) for dessert, all served with a bottle of unfiltered organic Pouilly-Fumé from the Loire Valley. The worst meal was had, at great expense, at Le Grand Véfour, which is at the Palais-Royal. The spot is perfect, the view is iconic but the service was indifferent (as if the waiters had just been given their pink slips), and the food was tired. The cod was overcooked and the tiny oysters (the size of a one-euro piece) for the appetizer were served in a tepid, tasteless broth. The pastry chef, however, was in fine form—a clementine tart was light and delicious.
I also interviewed Rose, founder of Rose Bakery, who is still passionate about all things culinary. She said that the produce in London is actually better than in Paris, which was, of course, surprising. (Rose Bakery is a must-stop; order the assiette de legumes and tuck into a caramel tart for dessert.)
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I just reviewed A North Country Life by Sydney Lea for The Wall Street Journal. The book is full of North Country vernacular, such as “colder than a frog’s mouth”; “handsome enough to make a mare eat her own bedding”; and “running out of a house like a hen on a journey.” The author included two stories from an old-timer, Earl Bonnett, that I particularly liked. A bear cub was adopted by a couple and he was eventually set free one fall. The next spring, the husband awoke in the night to find a great weight upon him. He quickly discovered, in a state of panic, that it was the bear that had returned, dissatisfied with a solitary life in the Great North Woods, and he now lay comfortably asleep on top of him.
The other story told by Earl was about Freddie McGeorge, who got so mad that he swore at the local operator on the party line, threatening to do something unnatural to her with the telephone. In retribution, a man was sent out to confiscate the device. McGeorge asked him to hold up a minute—he had to make one last call. He got hold of the operator, and she said, “Oh, Mr. McGeorge, I’m so happy you called to apologize.” He said, “Lady, I didn’t call for that,” and proceeded to repeat the offense.
Sugaring season is coming up in just a week or two. Tom and his crew have been up in the woods cleaning up and repairing the sap lines. We are installing extra vacuum lines to increase the flow of sap down to the holding tanks. We are also trying something new this year: If the main lines are frozen, the sap can also run down the vacuum line to the tank. This should increase production.
A Vermonter bought an old run-down farm and worked hard to get it back in good running condition. The local minister stopped by to say hello. Looking over the refurbished acreage, he commented that it was wonderful what God and man could achieve together. “Yup,” allowed the farmer, “p’raps it is. But you should have seen this place when God was running it alone.”
Enjoy the rest of winter.