Sunday, April 6, 2014

If It's April, It Must Be Paris/Marrakesh!

If It's April, It Must Be Paris/Marrakesh!
by Kathy Davis

I landed at Charles De Gaulle and hailed a taxi bound for Paris.

It was raining and the smell of diesel and Gitanes filled the air. The rear lights of the cars darting in and out of the Parisian traffic at night shone like patent leather on wet asphalt.

My heart raced, jazzed to be in Paris yet again, after too long a pause. My uniform My uniform was any number of Chanel suits slightly varied and adorned with a white or golden Camelia. Paris was to be a pause, en route to Marrakesh for an extended visit in North Africa and Europe. Unknown to me at the time, I would be returning to Los Angeles in very different form than my arrival in Paris (joyfully with child).

The Queen Elizabeth was a hotel labyrinth loved visiting because labyrinth could simply cross the street and enjoy my favorite jazz club in Paris, Calvados. It was a thrilling way to appease jet lag and yet interesting too, due to a small crowd of colorful patrons, inclusive of Baby Doc and sometimes even Gaddafi (and other political renegades and dictators). Maison du Caviar, one of my favorite dinner haunts ,was a short jaunt in high heels from the hotel. After a late dinner of Norwegian smoked salmon on petit toast with minced onions and capers, fettucini Alfredo with several ounces of Sevruga was served and a bottle of Moet Chandon. Dessert was a Calvados while taking in the jazz at the club Calvados and all the while, Baby Doc smiling as though with recognition. I squirmed uneasily.
It was the first time ever that I tasted Calvados and funnily enough, the last time as well, though unintended.

Marrakesh called and the Mammounia sated in every sense. Morocco is tantamount to entering another dimension. The architecture is exotic, curvaceous, and in sherbert colors.It feels like laybrinths upon laybritnhs and taunts with the dichotomy of sensuality, yet religious restraint. The cuisine is visually beautiful and dining is festive and absolutely all of my senses were engaged. I want to breathe Morocco, eat Morocco, feel Morocco.

I long to return to Marrakech but only if, by way of Paris.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

An Egg To Remember

by Kathy davis

Although there are many memorable dinner parties I have enjoyed there is one that is etched indelibly in my memory.Sonja is a friend that I had in France who lived in a stunning Art Nouveau town-home. She was known for her eccentric style and great ease in which she entertained.To be invited to one of her dinner parties was to experience the quintessential culinary and visually pleasing meals.

When Sonja greeted you it was with an almost ,self - contained wisp of a smile, as if she had some secret delight in knowing that you would almost require resuscitating from the pleasure that filled your every cell.

The particular evening that is forever in me, took place on the cusp of Easter. As I entered the cream - colored monochromatic home, my eye was captivated by a twenty four - inch - high, sky - blue Easter egg displayed on a gold Louis XVth stand. It looked much like our planet Earth embossed with billowing clouds, yet egg - shaped. What an extraordinary, monolithic,

white chocolate creation, evoking multitudes of symbolism.The egg was a creation of a well - known confisserie in Paris.

Dinner was served by Sonja, on a cream linen table cloth on white porcelain china. It began with white sautéed asparagus, served with white truffle oil and black cracked pepper. A salt encrusted ,roasted Mediterranean sea bass with head and tail intact was presented on a large oval platter.I watched in fascination as Sonja cracked open the hardened salt that moistened the fish while roasting.She made a sauce of extra virgin olive oil and lemon to drizzle over the fish.Steamed potatoes were served with a compote of jalapeño and garlic . Salad was Belgian Endive with semi - hard boiled eggs and Dijon vinaigrette with walnuts. After an array of sensuous cheese and crusty baguettes, we actually made room in our stomachs for a yellow cake with marzipan and berries for dessert.We sipped countless antique Lalique flutes of Rose Champagne and did so, all the while under the imposing eye of the grand, monolithic sky - blue Easter egg.

It was, an egg to remember.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Worlds In A Bite

by Kathy Davis

Food is political, seductive, sensual and can evoke the most powerful memories. Whether I am savoring the aroma of a chicken in a pot or risotto with white truffles, I feel as though I am tele-transported to the past, inclusive of relationships, other eras and cities in which I have lived.

Having grown up for much of my youth in Los Angeles,during my teens, salads abundant with avocados, sprouts and seeds were my mainstay, punctuated by yogurt, fruit and cheese. Although content with my limited culinary staples, my taste buds were in for a sensory voyage the day I descended from Air France and embraced Paris as my new residence.

I easily welcomed the eponymous croissants and baguettes, steaks aux frites and of course my frites were enhanced with strong Dijon mustard.Mornings were embarked upon with bowl - sized cafe au lait, and dinners were an enticing introduction to Moroccan,Vietnamese,Thai, Italian and numerous regional cuisines of France.

It was in Orleans in late July ,while staying for the week - end in a seventeenth century stone farmhouse, while basking in the early evening sunlight with my eyes closed,that I tasted for the first time,foie gras avec le truffle noir on a tiny toast. Both texture - wise, and taste - wise, it was the most sensuous, delectable gourmet experience to have ever graced my palette.

I have had numerous sojourns in Italy,some for vacations and some for modeling jobs and I have come to realize that I associate different "dishes" with towns and cities.For me, Milan is Risotto with White Truffles in Fall, Rome is unrivaled for Anti Pasti, anytime. Summer is Capri, dining "al fresco" with an endless seafood buffet for lunch, in a bathing suit sitting at a table on lava rocks overlooking the churning indigo sea while the ocean spray cools. New York is poached sea bass with "sauce verde" and cucumber salad and New York Sunday mornings are fresh water bagels piled high with cream cheese, smoked salmon and the requisite thinly sliced purple onion. Mimosas wet our palettes.I could wax on and on,and I will, but in future posts. For now and again,worlds are in a bite, and my fresh Compari Tomato Sauce with Penne Arabiatta with Roasted Garlic and Seared Chili Flakes and Grilled Green Asparagus Salad accompanied with a Barbaresco for dinner are calling...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Guardian Angel

My Guardian Angel
by Kathy Davis

My paternal Grandmother mothered me for most of my first ten years. She was Scotch/Irish and raised on her family's farm in Butte Montana. Her name was Kathryn Farrar. I was the daughter she never had, for years before, her only daughter was stillborn and Grandma kept an album of poetry expressing her grief tucked away. I only discovered it amongst some of her personal belongings that had been guarded for decades in a box. It was a treasure of an insight of her grief and vulnerability that no one would have ever sensed she possessed while alive.

Kathryn Farrar ran away from her family farm toting her violin and long eared rabbit when she was fifteen.A boarding house became her home and she made a living playing violin and piano. In private she recounted how numerous times she endured being locked in a closet and beatings by her mother. Her crime was putting her finger in the cream to taste a bit while churning butter.

Things must have been very bad at home to risk running away,yet Grandma made quite a life for herself. She became the leader of an all female orchestra and became famous in the West with the aid of her violin and piano.Newspaper clippings from the early 20th century portray a spunky pretty woman armed with her female troop of musicians.

Before Kathryn Farrar played in my Grandfather's cabaret nightclub and eventually marrying him, she played violin duets with a man named Flex. She confessed that he had been the love of her life. I remember hurting for my Grandfather when she shared her heartbreak with me for it was the first time I had ever thought of anyone other than my Grandpa being at the center of her life.Her secret was safe with me for two reasons; loyalty to her and wanting to protect my Grandpa. Flex died from salmonella poisoning after eating lemon meringue pie while traveling with Kathryn Farrar on a train en route to a violin duet. I can only imagine the grief she must have endured while feeling so alone in the world after losing the love of her life. I keep a photo of Flex and Kathryn Farrar tucked away much like Grandma did with her secrets. My loyalty is to my Grandpa, but I feel honored that I was trusted enough that she knew her secret was safe with me.

I can see her now in my mind's eye with Rapunzel - like auburn braid, flawless pale skin and flashing green eyes. Life was hard for her in the beginning but she was made of the stuff to turn her life around. She shadows me in mine, and I call to her with knowing and feel, she is really is around, but this time, as my Guardian Angel.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Athena's Gift

by Kathy Davis

The ubiquitous olive, is the fruit of the Gods. Athena, for whom Athens was named, is known to have brought the olive to the Greeks as a gift. She planted the first tree on a rocky hill that is now known as the Acropolis.

It is native to Asia Minor, and made its way from Iran, Syria and Palestine to the Mediterranean six thousand years ago. Zeus offered any God or Goddess all of Attica if they could discover a commodity that could produce the most revenue in all of the ancient lands.

It was the Phoenicians who spread the olive to the shores of Africa and Southern Europe.
The Minoans credited their wealthy empire to the production of olive oil,for it was Crete's largest export to the ancient world.

Athena's gift had a variety of uses such as lighting lamps in antiquity and anointing the early Christians' heads in baptisms. The olive also has an indespensable list of medicinal uses such as anti inflammatory properties to combat diabetes,asthma and cancer.Women of the ancient world used it cosmetically as well. Feral olive shrubs in the Middle East are related to original olives of the ancient world.

Our modern world would make Athena and Zeus proud by our heightened appreciation and capitalization of their legacy for the greater good. Few commodities can be realized from antiquity as beautifully and comprehensively as the fruit of the Gods.

Eat, drink and savor the olive in any of its forms, for we are blessed to be able to enjoy Athena's gift, and of course, Zeus would approve.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Market Vignettes

by Kathy Davis

In a world that supplies every kind of spice and sauce ready - made, I am truly aghast by how easy it is to make everything fresh, and from scratch. My pleasure knows no bounds while shopping for fresh herbs and produce in an open market. I attribute perusing at open - air markets in Paris the reason I learned to speak French so quickly.

Having arrived in Paris the day after high school graduation, I took to the metros and also walked no less than miles everyday with my seventeen year old feet! As I headed to any of the fourteen "go sees" a day for modeling jobs, I was spellbound by the markets and shoppers ordering the cornucopia of produce. Shopping for food enabled me to think in French,for there was no translating.

The panorama of the city streets of Paris during my modeling days, was like a cultural anthropological museum replete with side - walk cheese markets, butcheries, produce, bakeries and flower markets. What a sensory explosion just to shop for a meal! I was instantly smitten with all things culinary and in time became absolutely passionate about all things related in any form.

I treasure returning to this exploratory time while shopping,chopping, stirring and making magic with the gifts that our incredible Earth has to offer. The essence of who we are is that we desire "connection" and what better way to "connect" than beginning with a wonderful meal?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Remembering My Filipino Family

by Kathy Davis

It never occurred to me when I was a little girl that not everybody had people from all over the world as a part of their daily life. I was raised in a "global" family. Various family members were from any of the continents.

One of my uncles was Filipino/Swedish. His mother, who was Swedish, helped deliver me when I was born. My Swedish Filipino cousins were like sisters for me. I would have lengthy stays with my Filipino relatives and one of my coziest memories is of the chicken adobo wafting throughout their house. There was always a rice maker on the kitchen counter contributing to the aromas of lunch and dinner. There are fun and interesting memories of my time with my Filipino! kin. Upon entering their house we had to remove our shoes and leave them by the door.It would have been a cardinal sin to wear shoes in the home! Pork and chicken adobos,chilies and stir fried veggies were a mainstay. Everyone was very lean but I did not realize at the time that their healthy, delicious way of eating had anything to do with how lean they were.I felt joyful while staying with them for everyone wore sweet and slightly self contained smiles as they moved through their day.

My very favorite uncle for whom I was the fondest was named Uncle Gene.He was an orphan and a veteran from WW1. Bald and barely 5 ft. 2 inches, he delighted in making stinky feet toast for my cousins and me. Although the toast truly was foul smelling,it tasted delicious! Uncle Gene smiled with tolerance to our naughty giggles as we ate our stinky feet toast. He wore a smile even though his circumstances were tragic from WW1 but I could sense some sadness through his smile and kindness in spite of my having been four years old.

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To this day, when I cook adobo I feel utterly nostalgic for those days in my early childhood when the rice and adobo wafted throughout the air.Those memories make me feel at home inside of myself,no matter the kitchen in which I may be cooking at the time. 

I pray for the people in the Philippines who are suffering and those who have lost their lives in the typhoon.May their safety and healing be restored.