It was a sweltering hot July afternoon in 1945 when famous jazz vocalist Mel Tormé showed up for a writing session at the Toluca Lake house of his lyric partner Bob Wells. Mel let himself in and walked over to the piano. There, on the music board, was a pad of paper with four lines of a verse:
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos
When Wells walked in the room, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, Tormé asked him about the little poem.
“It’s so damn hot today, I thought I’d write something to cool myself off,” Wells replied. “All I could think of was Christmas and cold weather.”
And that is “the rest of the story” behind one of America’s most loved contemporary Christmas hits, A Christmas Song. With this intro, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and all of the best for 2018.
2017 has been a great year for me and I hope for you as well. Getting this blog up and running was no mean feat. I especially want to thank Mary Adler for all of her advice and editing skills that focused my rambling words into coherent prose and Debbie Gray for taking my very nebulous ideas and turning them into a real blog. Without these two ladies, I would still be scratching my head and looking at photos of food porn.
A couple of weeks ago, we returned from another mind (and stomach) expanding trip to Europe.
We revisited some of our favorite places in Italy and France, discovered some exciting new places in Italy and France and survived a whirlwind three days in London.
I will tell you all about the trip over the next months. It goes without saying that we enjoyed incredible food and stellar wines. As you have probably guessed by now, I appreciate good food whether it is Foies Gras au Torchon or Chorizo con Huevos – just as long as it is well prepared using top-notch ingredients.
From the best cassoulet that I have ever tasted in Castelnaudary to Michelin starred restaurants in Alba and London, to a tiny family bistro in Amboise, we dined well.
We tasted (and bought) some amazing wines in wineries of the Langhe, Montepulciano and Montalcino and stumbled upon a superb little wine shop for Vouvray in (wait for it…) Vouvray.
One of the high points, for me, was the White Truffle Fair in Alba where I only needed to walk into the tent to experience the heavenly scents of fresh white truffles (it was probably a good thing that the aromas were free because this year the price was up to €6000 per kilo for the rare fungi.)
More details are coming in the new year, but in the meantime, here is my Christmas present to you – a recipe that Karel and I have developed for the world’s best cookies. Make a batch for gifts but I feel certain that you will not want to share too many after your first taste.
Chocolate Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
- 1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, fluid and warm—roughly 105°F
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, cold
- 3/4 cup, gently packed, light brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt; half as much by volume if using table salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats—not quick-cooking or instant
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup dried cranberries or cherries
- ¾ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 350°F. Line two aluminum baking sheets with parchment (not wax paper).
Combine butter, vanilla, egg, brown sugar, white sugar, kosher salt, cinnamon, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
Stir until no lumps remain, then fold in rolled oats, followed by the flour and dried cranberries or cherries and the chocolate chips.
Divide into 1-ounce portions with a roughly 2-tablespoon scoop and arrange on prepared baking sheets. Let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
Bake until pale gold around the edges, but still puffed and steamy in the center, about 14 minutes. Cool directly on baking sheets until firm, about 10 minutes. Enjoy warm, or store in airtight container up to 5 days at room temperature.
to my American and English friends: Merry Christmas
to my French friends: Joyeaux Noël
to my Italian friends: Buon Natale
Bye for now – see you in January!