Pain D’Epices – French Spice Bread

September 23rd, 2017

Pain D'Epices

We leave for France on Tuesday.  It has been a long time in the planning.  In honor of our upcoming trip, I made Mimi Thorisson’s Pain D’Epices.  It is a humble spice bread that is good in so many ways.  Serve it warm smeared with butter, top it with hummus for an appetizer, or spoon on your favorite jam. It can be anything that you want it to be. It is both sweet and savory. The following are some of the places that I am considering visiting in Paris.

Le Petit Chatelet

We will be staying in the Latin Quarter on this trip.  We previously stayed in the 7th Arrondissement near the Eiffel tower. I am very familiar with that area of Paris.  The Latin Quarter is in the 5th Arrondissement on the Left Bank.  There are so many historical points of interest there. Our apartment is a block from the Sorbonne, the famous Paris University specializing in the arts, humanities, and languages.  But it is also close to Shakespeare and Company. The original bookstore was opened in 1919 and was a refuge for many early American writers like Hemingway and Ezra Pound. The current location is close to The Notre Dame Cathedral.  Le Petit Châtelet is next door to Shakespeare and Company.  Even though it is in a touristy area, the restaurant is authentic and charming with a delightful view of the cathedral.


Le Caveau du Palais is in a quiet pocket on Ile de Cite.  The restaurant is what the French call charme fou, utterly and incredibly charming.  It is on Place Dauphine, a tranquil triangular park. Outside seating is a pleasant option while watching elderly men playing Pétanque in the adjacent park.

Le Caveau du PalaisIt would be a pleasant place for lunch.


With Gingham curtains at the windows and the smell of wood smoke in the interior, Robert et Louise has been a Marais destination for generations.  Specializing in steaks cooked over a wood fire, it would be a good choice on a cool evening for French comfort food.


But for our special night out, we have chosen Chez la Vieille.  “La Vielle” literally means old woman.  The restaurant was started by French cook Adrienne Biasin who had a strong French temperament.  When it closed in 2012, Chicago born chef Daniel Rose (of the popular Paris “Spring” restaurant) decided to re-open it.  It has been redesigned but retains many of the old school dishes like blanquette de veau.

I will try to post to the blog while we are traveling.  But I will definitely be posting pictures to my Instagram account.  Hope you follow me there.  Au Revoir.

PAIN D’EPICES (Mimi Thorisson)

5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup almonds finely chopped
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cup lavender honey
1 large egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan with butter

In a large bowl, combine the flours, almonds, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.  Add the honey, melted butter, and egg yolk and mix well.

Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Unmold and let cool at least slightly before serving.  This is good at room temperature.

Printable Recipe


Planning for France

September 11th, 2017

Wardrobe 1

We are looking forward to our trip to France at the end of the month.  Planning a wardrobe that I can take in a carry-on bag has been a challenge.  Since we have to change planes in Spain before flying to Marseille, I decided that I did not want to risk lost luggage.  Besides, I like the idea of simplicity.  I will be taking 2 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of black slacks to go with the above tops. On the plane I will wear a light jacket with my comfortable travel clothes.  We will be in France for two weeks. On the first week, we will be on a Viking Cruise.

Cruise MapThe cruise will be on the Rhone River traveling from Avignon to Lyon.  We are looking forward to visiting Arles where Van Gogh painted many of his works of art.

Arles on CruiseVan Gogh's Painting in Arles We have spent some time in Avignon on previous trips so have decided to do an optional shore excursion to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.


Constructed in 1316 as a summer residence for the Avignon Popes, the area has thrived as one of the world’s most celebrated wine producing regions.  The excursion includes a tour of the chateau ruins and a wine tasting in one of the area’s wine cellars.

There will be several more stops along the Rhone River before we arrive in Lyon.  I am looking forward to getting to know more about this gastronomic and cultural community.  If only we had enough time to visit Restaurant Paul Bocuse.

Veranda Suite Viking

We have booked a Veranda Suite for our trip.  One of the advantages is free laundry service so that I will have clean clothes for our trip to Paris.

Paris Apartment 2017 1

Our Paris apartment is in the Latin Quarter very close to the Sorbonne.  I am still working on the details of our week there.  I will keep you posted.  The planning is almost as fun as experiencing a travel adventure.

My thoughts are with Florida and all of our friends there.  We have two of our Florida friends staying with us this week.  Our weather is supposed to be windy and rainy starting this afternoon.  Hopefully we will not lose power.

Husk in Charleston/ Shrimp and Grits

February 24th, 2016


Ever since Sean Brock’s meaningful book Heritage came out last year, I have wanted to visit his beautiful restaurant, Husk, in Charleston S.C. Sean Brock’s philosophy about food hits the right chords in my psyche.  The history of the Southern table, the heritage of lost flavors and varieties from the fields, and the importance of keeping these traditions alive with a new twist, all speak to me.  He illustrates his thinking with the story of Hoppin’ John.  His first experience eating hoppin’ John left him less than excited.  It was no wonder it was disappointing being made from commercial, enriched rice and old, flavorless black-eyed peas.  Once he tried it with Sea Island red peas, originally planted by African slaves, and with re-introduced heritage Carolina Gold rice, he knew why it was such a popular dish from the past.  Heritage seeds and varieties matter and it is important to keep them alive in our industrialized farming world.

Husk at table

Husk is located on beautiful Queen Street in the historic district of Charleston.  We have walked that street often over the years.  On our first trip to Charleston years ago we stayed at The Elliot House Inn, which is almost next door to Husk. Also next door is Poogan’s Porch, another lovely restaurant with a long history.  It used to be a favorite of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Husk is housed in a Queen Anne style house built in 1893 during the grandeur period in Charleston. “The building retains its antique charm and stately exterior while the interior has been renovated with a modern, minimalist theme, designed by Michael Shewan of Michael David & Associates of Charleston, SC.  We were charmed by the dining room with three fireplaces and original tall windows that added light and warmth.


But food is the reason that Husk shines.  The standards are high here.  The food is locally sourced.  The restaurant grows many of its own vegetables.  Whole pigs are purchased and all parts are used.  The kitchen has a pantry of in-house canned and pickled vegetables.  They have a wood burning oven to impart a homey smokiness to many of their dishes.  An example of a winning dish is Husk’s Shrimp and Grits.  The grits are milled from heirloom corn ( A good commercial brand is Anson Mills).  The shrimp are often caught by free-casting a net along a creek bank or from trawlers that go to the deeper waters offshore.  The smokey taste to my dish came from a combination of tasso ham and wood-oven smoked tomatoes.  It was truly one of the best shrimp and grits dishes that I have ever eaten.


David had Husk’s house-made Maple Sausage, Kentucky Bacon Sandwich with Caramelized Onions and Peppers. It came with their signature homemade ketchup and potato wedges.  It was delicious.  But he would have preferred the Shrimp and Grits if he hadn’t had it the night before at another restaurant.  Husk’s version was the winner.

We left the restaurant on a quest for ingredients to make our own Shrimp and Grits.  I should make that singular, not plural.  David was on the quest to find Tasso Ham and good grits.


We found Tasso Ham and the local grits at a nearby market.  David’s version of Shrimp and Grits was not quite the same as Husk’s version, but we loved it all the same. If you can’t find Tasso Ham you can always use a good quality smoked bacon.


(Adapted from a recipe by Stephen Crowe, at The Farmers Shed in Lexington, SC, as featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives)



4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable or seafood, or any combination)
1 tsp salt
4TBL butter
1 cup stone-ground white grits
1/4 cup half & half
1/2 cup good pimento cheese spread

Tasso Gravy:

3/4 cup leek thinly sliced across the stalk
1/2 cup julienned red bell pepper
1/2 cup julienned yellow or orange bell pepper
1/4 cup finely sliced shallot
2 oz finely diced tasso ham
1 TBL chili powder
1 TBL smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
Small pinch seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay
1 1/2 cups clam juice
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
1 cup half & half
1/4 cup white wine, e.g. Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio
1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 3 tsp melted butter (for thickening sauce if necessary)
1/4 cup finely sliced scallions for garnish


2 lb medium or large shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 TBL butter


Grits:  Bring the broth, and salt to a boil in a sauce pan. Very slowly pour in the grits, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat, and continue to cook for 20 – 30 minutes, stirring frequently until done. Add the butter, half & half, and pimento cheese, and stir well to combine.  Keep warm over a water bath until ready to serve.

Tasso Gravy:  Saute the tasso ham in a large saute pan with a little olive oil until the ham is slightly browned and most of the fat has rendered. Remove the ham with a slotted spoon and reserve on some paper towel. Add the leeks, peppers, and shallot to the grease in the pan and saute until soft or even lightly brown.  Add the chile powder, paprika, basil, thyme, oregano, pepper, salt, garlic, and seafood seasoning, and stir well to mix.  Add the clam juice, tomato juice, and white wine and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the half & half and simmer for 15 minutes. If the sauce seems too thin, make a roux with the flour and melted butter in a small bowl, and add a little at a time to the gravy, stirring constantly, until the desired consistency is reached.  You don’t want a thick gravy. It should be fairly runny, and you may not need the flour roux at all.  Add the ham to the gravy and reduce the heat to very low.  Saute the shrimp in 2 TBL butter in a separate large saute pan until pink, then transfer the shrimp to the gravy pan using a slotted spoon, and simmer for 2 minutes.

To Serve:  Spoon some grits onto each plate or bowl, and spoon some of the shrimp mixture around the grits.  Top with some of the finely sliced scallion to garnish.  (I forgot to buy scallions)

Printable Recipe

Dining on the Road

February 18th, 2016


We have had a whirlwind week of travel, going from sunny Florida to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Washington DC. where snow, ice and blowing winds reminded me that winter is not my favorite season.  But regardless of the season, warmth and good food can be found anywhere if you take the time to make good selections.  Fortunately we were lucky to be guided by family (Dave and Darla) to one of their favorite restaurants in Vienna, Virginia just outside of D.C.


Clarity is a neighborhood bistro with two talented chefs in the open kitchen.  The food is creative American fare.  I enjoyed the above Roasted Pennsylvania Chicken with leek and gruyere bread pudding, garlic roasted French beans and chicken jus.  I will be trying to duplicate the bread pudding very soon.


Darla had the Seared New-England Sea Scallops with potato gnocchi, pork belly and cream.  This is another dish that would be fun to duplicate.

IMG_0004Dave ordered the Hand-rolled Tomato Fettucini Puttanesca.  All of the pastas at Clarity are handmade.

IMG_0005My David had the Carolina Mountain Trout with duck confit, edamame, fennel and trout roe.  Trout roe is so pretty.  I recently saw it used with parsnip hoe cakes and creme fraiche.  If anyone knows where I can find trout roe, I would appreciate your input.

We had many more fine meals while traveling and I will let you know about them in future posts.  In the meantime, I am headed to the market to buy leeks and Gruyere to make a tasty bread pudding.

The Magic of Venice

October 28th, 2015

Venice close-up of gondola

Venice is like no other vacation destination.  This decadent, elegantly decaying city is uniquely grand.  From the Grand Canal to the alleyways and waterway tributaries, it is a delight to the senses.  Getting lost in Venice is a good thing.  You never know what you will find around the next corner.

Venice gondoliersWe wandered from the main thoroughfare of the Grand Canal to alleys so small we had to walk single file.

Venice AlleyBut every path led to a view of water, piazzas, and ancient buildings.  I was also on a quest in Venice.  I wanted to find a restaurant that my blogging buddy, Penny of The Comforts of Home, told me about.  While she and her hubby and another couple were in Venice a few years ago, they found a charming restaurant while wandering, but they found it through the back (or kitchen) entrance.  Not having any idea how to get back to their hotel through the front door, they departed through the kitchen and applauded the kitchen staff for a fine meal as they left.   So with the name of the restaurant, Poste Vecie, and the loose directions of “near the Rialto Fish Market”, we found it!

DAY 7 - VEnise 191

We took a little break from our group and had a quiet lunch together while our friends did other things.  As much as you love your traveling companions, it is good to have a break now and then.  It gave us time to shop for family and look at sights that were of particular interest to us.

Posta Vecie Sunroom 2


We had a great meal on the patio of Poste Vecie.  The interior of the trattoria has a timeless warmth.

Poste Vecie Interior

Poste Vecie Fish Soup 2


David’s seafood stew was wonderful, as was my Sole Meuniere.

Assumption of the Virgin


After lunch we visited the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.  It features the work of three great Renaissance masters: Donatello, Bellini and Titian.  Above, Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin was called the most beautiful picture in the world by Canova.

Venice at night

We ended our two day tour of Venice with an evening Vaporetto boat tour of the Grand Canal.  Venice after dark presents an even more charming face.  Our next destination – Tuscany.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.