Food, Fellowship and the Flag

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If you could have seen the sight I had from the Main Stage at the Lewiston Jazz Festival you would have an idea what I am talking about.

As far as the eye could see, on Center Street, the main street of Lewiston NY, people were everywhere. If it was a surface, they were sitting on it…bag chairs, railings, and even window boxes (awkward) provided a base to listen to amazing music and chat with friends. Those without any surface were standing; either trying to find a place to listen or they were trying to move to a place where they could listen to conversation.

Everyone was eating. And, they were drinking.

Local restaurants sold their signature dishes on the street and outside vendors served up everything from brick oven pizza (from a portable brick oven with visible flame) to sushi. There were IPO beers and local wines, red and white sangria and the most delicious Mojito’s that had so much mint you felt like you are getting your daily dose of fiber.

It was noisy, not always easy to navigate and there was zero personal space.

The cacophony of retail, music and conversation would be harsh if heard without context. It was just plain loud but few people seemed bothered. Actually, they seemed invigorated by it. The louder the sound, the more intimate the conversation.

Have you ever noticed how a shared pizza pie or a cold beer act like a binder, providing commonality until conversation can get to shared experience?

And, Western New Yorkers play that game better than anyone I know. We can meet a stranger but know that our Godmother taught their nephew in grammar school in record time. We love the connection.

As I stood on the Main Stage I knew the folks were anxious for the headliners to start their show. I was the last thing between the community service announcements and the music which brought them all together in the first place.

Who could have blamed them for being impatient with the lovely practice of honoring the flags of the two countries sitting side by side?

But honor them they did, standing at attention as I sang the Canadian national anthem. “Oh Canada” their “home and native land” stood just a mile or so behind me. Many Canadians come to our little piece of New York State heaven for this festival as they pour here every day to enjoy the retail and the strength of their dollar.

Clap clap clap. They are sweet with their recognition that I sang their beautiful song with few errors.

Then, as they continued to stand, hats removed and many covering their heart, I began the Star Spangled Banner. I waved my hand as a request for them to join in and to my surprise and delight, they did.

Oh, if you could have seen the view from the stage of bodies everywhere, stopped for just a minute to sing a song that binds us just as an egg binds a meatball, you would have had shivers.

If you could have seen their faces, rapt with pride and a sense of belonging, you would have truly appreciated how food, fellowship and the flag truly represent needs we have as humans to survive not only physically but in our hearts and minds, as well.

 

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Fabulous 4th of July in #Paris

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04-July-2013

Today is the official beginning of our tour, French Waterways by #Tauck. I am here to say, Tauck is the best travel company you may have never heard of.

Our happy plan began more than a year ago when a group of neighbors and friends decided to go on a European river cruise. I will always be grateful that one of them invited my husband and me. One very bright gentleman actually did a spreadsheet laying out many options offered by several reputable travel companies. Tauck won hands down because what you see is what you get. There are no additional upgrades/shore excursions/meal plans to purchase on the boat so everyone is on an equal keel.

The rooms on the boat were slightly larger because they configure their boats for fewer guests. I will tell you more about the boat on Saturday.

Today we checked out of our posh Marriott on the Champs-Elysees and checked into the tour hotel, the Hotel du Collectionneur. We sat in the lobby and watched as the many members of our tour arrived from the airport. I was very glad we flew in the day before. It really takes a day to get your legs under you.

We gathered some of our group and walked a few short blocks to a corner cafe to get some breakfast/lunch depending on what time our body clock was telling. When we thought about ordering  French Onion Soup we had a giggle. That order would be much like ordering Buffalo Wings in Buffalo at a restaurant restaurant. The food was fresh and well prepared except for the slow service we would come to expect throughout France.

The other thing that took some “getting used to” was having to ask for the check. In Europe no one ever hurries you. Your table is yours forever if you do not ask. We see that as a lack of service while they intend it as the ultimate courtesy. Once again, very civilized!

Upon return to the hotel  our room was not ready so we headed out again for a walk to the Arch de Triumphe and with our own orientation yesterday we easily navigated to it. I have always loved the sounds of any city and European emergency vehicles have a sound unlike here in the USA. At every turn I felt like I was on a Hollywood set.

We returned a while later and our room was ready. It was a large room by city standards and had all of the conveniences we are used to back home…actually, probably more! I think a room with a robe and slippers is so much fun.

As we waited…and waited for our luggage to arrive my husband took a few minutes to relax. I became impatient and set off downstairs for a walk. I have never been uncomfortable walking in a city alone and Paris was screaming my name…in French, but of course.

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I wanted to have something sweet along with a cup of coffee. My wandering lead me to La Pain du Faubourg. The building was quaint with the promise of a Boulanger (baker), Patissier (pastry chef) and Traiteur (the keeper of a French or Italian eating house). What’s not to love?

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The pastry case was beautiful.

I could not wait to try out my newly reacquired French.

I would like a cup of coffee with milk and that beautiful pastry.

I ordered the coffee well but stumbled with the pastry. I resorted to the usual foreigner tactic of pointing. I felt foolish but the server was polite and did not actually laugh in my face. I will be forever grateful for that.

The pastry was called a millefeuille or what we call a Napoleon here. The cream was not overly sweet and was a good balance with the squint your eye sweet of the icing.  The pastry was crisp so either a bite or a fork would squish the cream all around. This was not neat to eat but I was not aiming for style points. My only regret was there were no tables out on the sidewalk to enjoy my confection.

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Even the packaging was pretty!

Back to the hotel for me to find my bags waiting for me. Time to prepare for our first dinner with the group at Fouquet’s, the famous restaurant on the Champs-Elysees to see and be seen.

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We filed up the elegant stairs to an upper room exclusive to our group where we were formally introduced to our tour directors. Each welcomed us to the iconic city or Paris with information about what to expect throughout the trip. We sat with a few couples who would then become our new traveling companions. It’s amazing how quickly you bond with people over French wine and delicious food.

After dinner we boarded buses again for a nigh time tour of the City of Lights. We were introduced to a song familiar to some but not yet familiar to me called “Aux Champs-Elysees.” Click here for a cute YouTube version with very pretty photographs.

The bus brought us to the Trocadero where there is a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. It was a long and wonderful day.

Tomorrow: #Paris in One Day

The Glamour of Traveling

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When I had the honor of singing the US and Canadian national anthems at Toronto’s Skydome (before Rogers amassed their billions for the naming rights) I met a woman who was to throw the first pitch. Prior to the game all of the pre game folks rehearse according to a carefully prepared and timed script.

She had to go to the mound…or many feet in front of the mound and practice throwing to the catcher. Wow, that’s hard. I was impressed she got it even near the plate. She said she had been throwing the ball to her husband for weeks to practice.

When it was my turn to practice they cued my tape and I (shudder, yes, I lip synced) sang the anthems with all my heart into a dead mic. Easy peazy lemon squeezy.

This whole process blew first pitch woman’s mind. “Wow, you sounded great! Where do you sing? Are you famous?”

“Um…I sing most often in church and I am decidedly not famous.” But, she was not buying it one bit. Not famous? Not possible. She kept at it. “How often do you sing the national anthem?” At that point I had sung for the Sabres a few times and sang at what is now Progressive Field in Cleveland for the Indians.

Of course I was famous, or so she believed. When she gushed again she declared my life must be so glamorous. By then I didn’t have the heart to tell her differently since she already didn’t believe me. Even today, whenever I clean my bathroom I think of first pitch lady and the glamour of my life.

Travel is glamorous. Traveling is not.

I write this from a hotel room in North Carolina at about 12:30 AM. A ten and a half hour journey took nearly fifteen hours today.

Apparently God picked Florida up by the Keys and shook it like a rug, flicking everyone without a Florida zip code back to the northern state where they belonged. I’m convinced that the only people left are the senior citizens and the food service folks who serve them their early bird specials.

It took 3 1/2 hours to drive through South Carolina and those that were not in their cars in post holiday gridlock were eating at the Cracker Barrel. No lie, my mom and I had to wait 20 minutes for a table at 9 PM. Thank God they have biscuits. And sweet tea. And grits.

But the trip was worth everything we experienced today because my family was mostly together last weekend (missing a nephew and family who stayed back home and a niece who was traveling through Italy).

Cousins got to make new memories, siblings and parents played Monopoly and 500 Rummy and I got to cook.

My sister and I prepared our annual seafood feast on Good Friday. The kids actually look forward to it and I don’t think we disappointed anyone. It is a hefty investment but worth the expense and time. We really kept it simple this year with only one hot side (my orzo with roasted grape tomatoes) and a “nice” salad. Our cousin brought a really cool bread bowl and cupcakes. We had a great evening.

20130414-203607.jpgHere is a quick trick for grilled shrimp: marinate them with the shells on with lemon, lots of garlic and good olive oil. Get your grill screaming hot. Instead of just one skewer, use two to create some stability. Cook each side for only a few minutes until just pink.

One of the highlights of my trip was dinner at the Chart House in Fort Lauderdale. The dinner was as good as the view. There are many of these restaurants across the country. Each one has a view of the water. My favorite is in Dana Point, California. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend it. It will be a special dinner so be prepared for a pricey a la carte menu.

From Thursday through Monday we had nine people living in a two bedroom condo. Close! But I wouldn’t trade the joy on my mother’s face when she saw an entire pew filled with her family on Easter Sunday.

No, traveling is not glamorous, but well worth the effort knowing we once again made memories of a lifetime.

Have a yummy day!

Nothing Tastes Better Than The Food We Remember

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A few weeks ago I posted this picture on my Jude The Foodie Facebook page.

My status:

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“Working from home…actually licked the dip off the plastic cover…is that wrong?”

Now, at the time I had 122 wonderful foodie friends following me. If 50% of them viewed this picture I would have been over the moon. Facebook does all of these cool analytics and they will tell you how many people saw each post. They give two numbers. The first group is described as organic (those folks who subscribe to my page). As of now, 74 or my followers have seen this post. That means that 60% of my foodie friends saw this post. Cool!

Here’s the cool kicker: 357 more people were viral viewers. This means they saw the post from a friend or a friend of a friend. Even cooler! In addition, 23 people “liked” it and there were 34 comments.

And this is all because I mentioned that I licked the dip off the plastic cover. Maybe I should not call it the cover but the removable film that protects the product from contamination. I would never lick the actual cover that you put on to store it in the refrigerator, not unless I knew I was going to eat the whole thing, like a yogurt.

We love food. Food brings us back to memories of youth, to a simpler time, even if it was anything but simple.

People talked about that delicious Bison French Onion Dip like it could help them channel their youth. And for those few moments when they were engaged in the conversation they may have actually gone back in time. I had friends from around the country wax poetic about how they would buy it in Western New York when visiting and bring it back home to enjoy.

This past November when my son came home for his first Thanksgiving since moving to New York he posted a list on my personal Facebook wall. What was number one on his list?

Bison Dip

Number two was Molson Canadian (in bottles) and number three was DiCamillo’s bread.

There were as many comments about the “dip delivery system” as there were with the dip.

It was interesting having my dipping moxy challenged.

I had some multi-grain pita chips and decided that Crosby Stills and Nash were right when they crooned that you should “Love The One You’re With.” But Bison Dip purists would agree that Wavy Lays are the best chip to use because the need for “chip extraction” is reduced.

I laugh as I write about “dip delivery system” and “chip extraction” because these were part of a real conversation I had with my son and nephew who have thought way too much about this whole business.

Yes, we love food. We love to eat it, prepare it and talk about it. I asked my friends to talk about their favorite food memory and where they grew up. I delighted in their answers.

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Jucy-lucy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My cousin Sharyl, who has lived in Minnesota for many years, spoke about a burger called the Juicy Lucy.

Her description: yum!

I did some research and learned it is a cheese burger with the cheese on the inside. You have to wait a few moments before biting it because many people are burned by the melty cheesy goodness that squirts out.

There are two bars in Minneapolis that spell it differently. The 5-8 Club calls it the Juicy Lucy and while Matt’s Bar calls it a Jucy Lucy. The competition reminds me of Philadelphia and their cheesesteak where Pat’s and Geno’s duke it out every year.

We love food.

Karyn mentioned a pizzeria/bakery in Niagara Falls (it is now in Lewiston NY – a top 10 Small Town in the USA). I remember Trucello’s because it was not far from my grandmother’s house. Karyn says “it covered all five senses. A true food experience.” I just remember the oil dripping up my arm as I ate it. And, that was not a bad thing.

Mary, who grew up in Annapolis Maryland remembers Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs. There is nothing like eating seafood that was likely swimming the day before.

“My grandmothers cornbread made in little cob shaped cast iron molds. She served it with butter and honey! Yumm!” was posted by my friend Sandra who hails from Nashville, TN. My sister and I pass our grandmother’s molds back and forth because you cannot beat a well seasoned pan.

Terese remembers Rocco’s Pizzeria in Waterford Michigan. “My Mom and Dad took us every Friday on a pay week! Mr. Rocco was behind a glass window flipping the dough for your pizza!” I asked her what made it so special and she said “the sausage they used for a topping, and the wonderful show he put on for his customers! It was definitely a treat to go out for dinner!”

I’ll bet she hasn’t thought about Rocco for years but simply by the detailed description she went back to a simpler time, when dad got his paycheck and the family was together.

We love food.

Close your eyes and remember the one food that brings you back in time. What is it? Care to share?

Have a yummy week.

Last week: Setting The Table for 2013 JudeTheFoodie.com

Beyonce – I’d Listen To You Sing the Phone Book!

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Dear Beyonce,

Beyonce VMA Red Carpet

Beyonce VMA Red Carpet (Photo credit: mp3waxx.com)

Sorry to get a gushy but I think you’re divine. I mean, really? Your voice gives me the chills, you seem like a very nice woman and you are beyond gorgeous.

This “lip-syncing” controversy is really stupid.

Anderson Cooper did a fabulous segment on Anderson Cooper 360 last night that not only made me smile, I actually talked to the TV like he and his viewers could hear me. “As far as I’m concerned, it is Beyonce’s world and we are just living in it.” “Francis Scott Key himself would send her a fruit basket.”

“Talk to me after you’ve gotten on a stage in of the President of the United States (just Ralph Wilson, the owner of the Buffalo Bill)   hundreds of thousands of people (75,000 here) to sing the National Anthem in 40 degree weather (20 degrees here). Until then that particular bomb is bursting in air on the RidicuList.”

A. It was her beautiful voice.

B. She was singing her heart out, even if the mic was dead. You cannot fake that throat movement without actually making the sound. I “sang” the US and Canadian National Anthems at the Rogers Centre in Toronto years ago to my own taped voice. The game presentation folks would not leave the many perils of singing live to chance. Did I sing at Skydome? You betcha. Did people hear my voice singing the anthems? You betcha again.

C. Why leave the conditions to chance? Would you prefer the exceedingly talented Christina Aguilera’s FAIL at the 2011 Super Bowl?

Beyonce – you could sing the phone book and I would listen forever.

Your friend,

Jude

Desk Dining: Osso Buco from Sinatra’s

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20121220-130718.jpgEnjoyed a wonderful dinner with friends last night at Sinatra’s Restaurant on Kenmore Avenue in Buffalo.

I had a particular favorite, Osso Buco Cremolata. The peas in the risotto made it taste like home. The dish was presented with a marrow fork…so I could mine that deliciousness!

Have a yummy day!

Gratitude

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Gratitude….to all my friends around the world I thank you today for reading my blog and celebrating life with me.

In the few short months since spinning my blog into my own website I am blown away by the international following I receive. Good food, good friends and a good life transcend borders.

On this day of gratitude in the United States I extend my best wishes to you on what is the kick off of the holiday season.

Thank you!

Have a yummy day!

JudeTheFoodie.com

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RIP Twinkie…

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20121116-210855.jpgI cannot remember the last time I had one but I can still taste it. I can still feel the sponge cake in my mouth and the way too sweet cream filling. So bad on so many levels but so right in the culinary cavern in my mind.

Have a yummy day!

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Lewiston NY: One Of The 2012 Best Small Towns in America

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My friend Mary Lesa posted something on my Facebook wall yesterday. My beloved home town was included in the 10 Best Small Towns in America..

Lewiston NY was ranked fifth on the list. Our town participated in the 2012 Best of the Road contest and rallied together to host the Road Bros in what turned out to be an epic visit.

Small towns can be quite amazing. It is difficult to explain unless you experience it. When you walk into your local cafe someone will know you. Your local pubs are filled with folks to clink your glass. The food you eat in local restaurants are not only prepared by your neighbors but they are likely family recipes passed from generation to generation.

To my friends in Lewiston and Youngstown, feel free to comment on this column and plug your restaurant or shop. Let’s build some momentum for Shop Local Saturday.

“Like” my Facebook page and give yourself a shout-out to let folks know why it’s not only fun but smart to shop locally.

I will feature as many as possible so come on, play!

Have a yummy day!

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