Honoring Mom!

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Happy Mother’s Day Weekend! I took this photo in the Versailles Garden at the Four Seasons Ocean Club some time ago.  What struck me about this beautiful sculpture is the love and devotion that is so captivating between this woman and child.

Celebrating Mom the second Sunday in May began in 1908 when Anna Jarvis had a memorial service for her mother at St. Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Anna’s Mom, Ann Jarvis, a peace activist who took care of soldiers in the Civil War (on both sides), started Mother’s Day Work Clubs that brought attention to public health issues.  Anna wanted to continue and honor her mother’s work by proposing to Congress that Mother’s Day become an official holiday. Congress rejected the idea, but Anna did not give up and in 1914, Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May, Mother’s Day, a national holiday.

We honor our Moms with cards and flowers, and a traditional Mother’s Day Brunch.  Of course, at our house, any celebration is all about the food! This Mother’s Day, I’ve shared one of my favorite Mother’s Day Brunch menu ideas with these Fun & Simple recipes.

Wouldn’t Mom love to wake up to Chocolate Covered Strawberries? So simple to prepare and so much fun for the whole family to make! Then treat her to a wonderful Mother’s Day Brunch at home with my Eggs Benedict in this luscious and lemony lobster cream sauce with a delicious side of fresh Asparagus. And, who doesn’t love chocolate? My favorite special chocolate dessert is my Chocolate Soufflé, rich and decedent, but surprisingly light! Give it a little extra special love with warm Chocolate Crème Anglaise. Simply click on the photos for the recipes!

I wasn’t blessed with children of my own unfortunately, but have so many wonderful nieces, nephews, godchildren and other special children in my life who bless me each day and always make Mother’s Day a super special day for me! You can find all of these recipes and many more of my favorites in Fun & Simple Gourmet! Get your copy today at iTunes for your iPad and other Apple devices or hardcover copy right here on the website or at Amazon.com!

Wishing you and your family a most wonderful Mother’s Day Celebration! What are your plans to make Mom feel extra special this weekend? Don’t forget to send me your photos! And of course,

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Fun & Simple Delicious Ideas to Celebrate Your Valentine at Home & Away

Call me a hopeless romantic but my absolute favorite day of the year is Valentines Day. Champagne, chocolate, roses, and hundreds of renditions of my very favorite song playing all day…what could be better than that! Needless to say, we make it a day of culinary traditions. I like to set a fun, whimsical and romantic table to set the mood, then we start the day with strawberries and champagne and our traditional Valentine’s Breakfast, Chocolate Waffles! Super chocolatey, crispy on the outside, surprisingly light and spongy on the inside, with whipped mascarpone cream & pure maple syrup, a decadently delicious way to start the day! My favorite part of Valentine’s Day, besides the food of course…hundreds of renditions of "My Funny Valentine" (Rodgers & Hart circa 1937 from the musical Babes in Arms) playing throughout the day.  From Frank Sinatra to Chaka Khan, Ella Fitzgerald to Big Muff, Paul Brown jazz guitar, every genre of music imaginable!  I know, silly right? I’m sure it makes Jeff crazy hearing the same song all day long, but believe it or not, each rendition sounds so incredibly different that it really doesn’t seem like the same song.  Regardless, Jeff has put up with my Valentine’s Day shenanigans for 25+ years now, so he must not mind so much!

Valentine’s Day is synonymous with Chocolate, so I thought I would share some of my favorite Fun & Simple Chocolate Delights! Decadent Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes, a Flourless Chocolate Torte with Cabernet Glaze, a lusciously light and airy Chocolate Mousse and my rich Chocolate Souffle. (simply click on the photos for the recipes)

Don’t forget to read to the end for recommendations of my favorite romantic places to celebrate with your Valentine. From New York City to Napa Valley, Charleston and the islands of the Bahamas, these destinations are the perfect getaways for two!

About drinking champagne…the glass actually does matter! I love the Coupe, classic, nostalgic, elegant and romantic, but not good for bubbles if you are a big fan of keeping your bubbly, bubbly. The Flute is perfect for young Champagne and great for keeping the bubbles. The Tulip is my second fav…perfect for mature Champagne (aged to the point where it will not gain further complexity by continuing to store) and believe it or not a regular Wine Glass is ideal for high end more complex Champagne varieties. In addition to being festive and delicious, champagne also has some major health benefits, in moderation of course.  Scientists say that drinking 3-4 glasses of champagne per week may actually help us live longer! Not only is it heart healthy, just as good as red wine, it improves circulation and may reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease.  Champagne is low in calories compared to other wine varieties and according to a study at the University of Reading (and others) champagne can boost brain health and help prevent dementia and memory loss.  Full of antioxidants, bubbles are great for your skin and skin tone.  As if I needed another reason to love champagne! 

Lily Bollinger said it best, “I only drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.”

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A perfect compliment to champagne on Valentine’s Day is my Lobster Cocktail, also delicious with fresh shrimp, and a wonderful beginning to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner at home. So simple and can be prepared a day ahead of time, just put it together when you are ready to serve. This simple, yet sophisticated and decadent appetizer could just as well be an elegant meal, served in a martini glass alongside a nice chilled glass of bubbly, I can’t think of a more beautiful way to start...or finish!  You can boil the lobsters yourself, or have your fish monger steam them for you, making it even more simple to prepare.

If you are looking for romantic getaway ideas with great culinary, I have a few favs! Click on the links for their websites and more information:

Dune Restaurant Terrace - Four Seasons Ocean Club Bahamas

Dune Restaurant Terrace - Four Seasons Ocean Club Bahamas

Four Seasons Ocean Club Bahamas - One of my favorite places in the world and definitely my favorite beach! With Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s French-Asian cuisine with a hint of the islands, a delicious menu and what could be more romantic than oceanfront dining on the beautiful turquoise waters of the Bahamas?

Meadowood Napa Valley - Nestled among the tall pines of the Napa Valley, this casually elegant gem is the ultimate of wine country romance. From the beautiful spa, croquet, golf, tennis and modern American cuisine at The Restaurant which sources from local artisans, growers and of course wineries, the Meadowood experience is like no other in Napa Valley. Chef Kostow calls his cuisine “evocative and playful,” what could be more romantic than that?

The Surrey New York City - There isn’t a more romantic city than New York, and no more romantic spot than this favorite upper east side gem. Small and quaint, the bar is reminiscent of a lovers rendezvous next to the incomparable Cafe Boulud, cozy, intimate french cuisine by Chef Daniel Boulud, exquisite! Then, walk across the street after dinner for drinks and jazz at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle.

Planters Inn Charleston, South Carolina - Located in the heart of historic downtown Charleston, the #1 tourist destination in America according to Conde’ Nast and Travel & Leisure, this Relais & Chateaux property exudes southern charm and romance. Have drinks in the candlelit Champagne Bar before dining in the velvet lined Peninsula Grill Dining Room and you must finish with the 12-layer Coconut Cake…simply divine to share with your Valentine!

And, while you’re in Charleston, New York and Nassau, check out my Jeff’s historic walking tour app on your smartphone for a fabulous GPS guided self-walking tour of the city, complete with audio histories, local activities directory and directions. It’s beautifully done and so simple to use on your time, just the two of you. Check it out at historicwalkingtour.com.

So, that’s it! My idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day either at home or away! Of course, it’s all about the food, lots of champagne and chocolate, all while enjoying Your Funny Valentine

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Me and My Funny Valentine!

Me and My Funny Valentine!

Fab Flavors of France

Chocolate Creme Anglaise with Berries

Chocolate Creme Anglaise with Berries

What to do with a little leftover chocolate creme anglaise from last night's dessert soufflé, serve it with berries for breakfast of course!  A chocolate lovers dream petit dejeuner!  As we continue celebrating "April in Paris" and the Fabulous Flavors of France, we wrap the month with my favorite Francais inspired desserts, of course, it has to be chocolate, like my chocolate soufflé (pictured below).  Rich in flavor, but light and airy in texture.  French cuisine has influenced the culinary world for centuries.  The French have mastered the art of savoring food and wine, never in a rush, always taking time to enjoy every bite, every sip, every moment of a meal.  Ending with something sweet is thought to be a great way to create balance for the palate.  Just like me, the French have an affinity for chocolate and custards.

Hope you enjoy making my Chocolate Souffle.  It is so simple to prepare and oh so yummy!  Send me your photos!  Remember April in Paris isn't just a time of year, it is a feeling and always a good idea!

Wine Wednesday ~ Perfect Pairings!

One of My Favorite Pairings ~ Cabernet Sauvignon and Morbier Cheese

One of My Favorite Pairings ~ Cabernet Sauvignon and Morbier Cheese

It's Wine Wednesday and it is no secret to those who know me that I love a good California Cab.  The Cabernet Sauvignon grape was an accidental breeding in the 17th century between a red Cabernet Franc grape plant and a white Sauvignon Blanc grape plant, a beautiful and divine intervention!  Cabs are full bodied, dry (not sweet) and meant to be enjoyed and paired with food.  Aged in oak barrels, this amazing wine mellows with age and exudes wonderful flavors of blackberries, cherries and a hint of vanilla from the oak.  I prefer a smooth Cab that is lower in tannins and alcohol content.  When it comes to pairing with cheeses, I recommend a semi hard aged cows milk cheese such as an aged Vermont Cheddar or this beautiful French Morbier (pictured above) or a semi hard sheep's milk cheese such as Pecorino or Manchego, another favorite!  And, of course, who doesn't love a soft ripened French Brie which softens tannins and enhances the fruit flavors of the wine.

For meal pairings, Cabs pair very well with fatty red meats such as beef and lamb, or fatty red fish like salmon or ahi tuna due to the ability of proteins and fats to negate some of the tannins in the wine.  And of course, there is no better pairing than red wine and chocolate!  Serve my beautiful Chocolate Souffle' for dessert with one more glass of bold Cabernet!