Tag Archives: the antiques diva

And the winner is….

The Year of Meat has come to a close. We have a winner, and his name is Peter Barrett.

Peter writes the visually stunning and always wry and clever A Cook Blog. From the very beginning, everyone noticed his spectacular, extravagent and enviable way of answering the challenges. I’d Like to Be Alone with the Sandwich for Awhile, My Salami Brings All the Goyim to the Yard, and the Charcutepalooza winning post Gratitude is the Attitude are three of my personal favorites, but any of Peter’s writings combine charm, insouciance, and knowledge, garnished with stunning photography that reveals his artistic training.

Peter is first an artist. Trained at RISD and the Art Institute, he pursues his art in many ways, and of late, cooking and food writing have become part of an already broad portfolio ranging from gallery shows of large CAD-assisted art to exceptionally fine lined, Asian-ish ceramics in food friendly colors and shapes. You’ll find his writing in Edible Hudson Valley and Chronogram, where he is food and drink editor.

Well before Charcutepalooza, Peter had been messing around with Polcyn & Ruhlman’s Charcuterie. He made bacon, pancetta and guanciale and all the other gateway meats. Following is his grandfather’s tradition, he bought a “dirt cheap Home Depot smoker” and began to regularly smoke chickens and other meats. He perfected the smoked meats, and then, for whatever reason, stopped his progression along the meaty path. He was happy with bacon and smoked chicken. When he moved from Brooklyn to Woodstock, NY, he hauled the smoker with him, but then began to think about his Grandfather’s pickles. And from there, vinegars, and cheesemaking, and bread. When Charcutepalooza came along, he turned his gaze again to meat.

Peter’s cooking, which he gamely admits might be a bit obsessive, is the result of many years of practice and who knows how many cookbooks studied. During his years at RISD, he spent time in Rome, cooking and eating and taking in the world. Graduate school brought dinner parties with the similarly gastronomically inclined, and from there a most serendipitous and unlikely job as a private chef.

Now, years later, at home in Woodstock with wife Christine and son Milo, 7, Peter has complete control over the newly renovated kitchen, admitting to a bearish growl ready for anyone who messes with his space. A “functional stove”, tons of counter space, an enviable antique farm table that seats many, his mother’s KitchenAid mixer (with original metal grinding attachments… green with envy here) and a MacGyver’d sous vide acquired through barter with a fellow blogger pretty much makes up his arsenal. You might think he’s a gadget guy, but he’s not.

Peter, a self-proclaimed curmudgeon, says he’s not a joiner. But the irreverence of Charcutepalooza appealed to him from the beginning, and the prize was never far from his mind. One thing he didn’t expect? How Charcutepalooza has brought so many new friends into his life. Sure, there is an active online community, but in real life, Peter’s son and Kim Foster‘s daughters are becoming fast friends.

Peter is off to France, thanks to Trufflepig Travel. He’ll spend a few days with Kate Hill, Stephanie, Bacon, the Chapolards and all the other wonderful people of Gascony, then on to Paris for a trip to the Ham Market with The Antiques Diva and a celebratory cocktail party. We’re all very happy for you, Peter, and wish you bon voyage.

And since I have your attention, this is a perfect opportunity for me to remind you of all the people who helped make Charcutepalooza such a rousing success.

Trufflepig Travel is a gem of a company. They’re putting together Travel Experiences in the most clever, modern, eye opening ways. And they’re taking care of Peter’s travel and lodging. Thank you thank you thank you.

Kate Hill. Well, I’ve already gushed here and here… so you know how I feel about the Duchess of Camont. Kate, thank you for such a rich education all year long.

D’Artagnan. Ariane Daguin who has been at the forefront of honest, properly farmed meat. Thank you, Ariane, for providing the community the opportunity to source meats at remarkable prices. And a big shout out to Lily Hodge, who was such a pleasure to work with, even when I gave her no forewarning.

Armagnac Casterede. I cannot wait to meet Florence in Paris, where they will be providing Armagnac for the party. We will raise a glass to the art of Armagnac then.

The Antiques Diva. Toma, I still laugh when I remember our whirlwind trip around Paris. One of the best days EVER. Thrilled that a Diva will be our guide around the Ham Market.

Food52, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, who were so encouraging early on. Thank you for hosting the challenges all year, and particularly all the attention you provided the final challenge, bringing the Charcutepalooza fun to a big wide audience. Thank you so much. And Kristen Miglore – I have no idea how you keep all those balls in the air. And also write the most elegant Genius Recipe columns? I’ll have some of whatever she’s having.

Barb Kiebel and Kinetic Web Solutions, thank you for helping me navigate technology all year long, from the large issues to those you managed in 140 characters.

And of course to Kim Foster. A terrific partner in meat. Your irreverence, your tales of sausage encounters, and all the humorous ways you’ve used meat in a sentence – it’s absolutely set the perfect tone all year long.

And to every single one of you who participated and those who followed along on the adventure. Thank you.

So, what’s next?

Everyone has been asking. There will not be a Charcutepalooza 2012, but the posts will be here, so you could actually do the whole year by starting with the first challenge and working through to December. The community is still active on Twitter, so if you have a question, just hashtag #Charcutepalooza and see what happens.

I will be writing about more meaty adventures, along with other preserving projects. There is jam to be made, pickles to brine, and tomatoes to put in jars. I am learning to make fresh cheeses and will soon be writing about it, and I’m working on other projects here and there. The list of posts half started and the ideas jotted down will finally get attention.

I have been called a serial careerist, and I’ll admit, that’s true. Once again, my life is in transition. 2012 holds so much promise already.

I have closed down my landscape design business. The economy was changing the nature of the work, it was less satisfying and the lure of the kitchen was just too much. Today it occured to me that my cooking process is no different than the way a landscape design forms. My mind so filled with ideas that Dennis says he misses me. Covering the walls of my studio with inspiring photos and more sketches, piles of books joining eraser dust on the floor. Sketch madly, scraps of trace with pavement patterns and tree placement and driveway curves littering the drafting table. The final product, weeks in the making, hand drawn, carefully colored with pencils and markers and water colors. Models constructed of paper maché, balsa wood and copper wire, twisted to resemble tiny trees.

Now, cookbooks pile up, counters are flour dusted, sinks full of dishes, bowls of food in various stages tucked here and there around the kitchen. And a camera at hand. The final product, the post, the essay, the recipe carries with it all of that experience.

Beyond the creative satisfaction of cooking and developing recipes, there is an unmistakable need to write. To get words on the page. To corral my busy mind by editing and crafting and moving phrases here and there. I’m edgy and anxious when too much time has passed between blog posts, when I feel that gnawing sense of words piling up in my head.

So, in 2012, I am pursuing the life of a food writer. I have three assignments already, which both thrills and terrifies every cell in my body.

The first step is to redesign this site a bit. With any luck (and with the able help of Barb Kiebel, a renovated Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen will be revealed in the next ten days. In the meantime, if you come to visit and things are wonky, please be patient.

Here’s to 2012. It’s going to be an exciting year, I just know it.


charcutepalooza december challenge. showing off.

This is it. The last challenge. It’s time to show us what you’ve learned. You’ve had a year of experimenting and practice. You’ve had the benefit of this exceptionally creative and daring Charcutepalooza community. And ‘tis the season.

What better reason to gather your friends and family than a celebration of all things charcuterie? It’s exciting to serve up these homemade lovelies. No reason not to crow a little. You’ve earned it.

Cassoulet is a natural. Choucroute garnie, as well. Perhaps Schweinshaxe? Or a long simmered Italian “Sunday Gravy?” A tapas offering? What about dim sum? We’ve looked cross culturally for so much of the year, the possibilities seem endless with a little internet research and a dollop of imagination.

Create a menu, a meal, a dish, a platter. We challenge you to create a celebration.

Use at least three items (Apprentice Challenge) or four items (Charcutiere Challenge) from the following list.

•Smoke, cure, or brine a whole cut of meat, poultry or fish (for instance, ham, duck proscuitto, roulades, pastrami, smoked salmon)
•Dried, cured sausage (for instance, soppresata, saucisson sec, salami, landjager, chorizo)
•Pork belly, any preparation (for instance, bacon, pancetta, ventreche, red cooked, braised)
•Sausage (for instance, bulk, in casings, smoked, emulsified)
•Pate, terrine, or mousseline, en croute, if you wish
•Rillettes or confit

Your deadline is December 6, 2011. Yes, this is different than the date first announced, for a very good reason – the details are revealed at the end of this post.

Good luck and have fun. We can’t wait to see what you do.

It’s just a fancy name for franks and beans.

I love my friend Katrin. She has been my BFF for many many years. She’s witty and warm, with a huge heart. Her Martha’s Vineyard home, circa 1680, the second oldest home on the island, sports low hanging doorways and wonky windows. This wonderland has been the site for a gathering of ‘girls’ for the last fourteen years. Some years there are over a dozen of us, and some years, it’s just six. But every year, this weekend recharges my spirit.

So when I set about planning the final challenge for this extraordinary Year of Meat, Martha’s Vineyard seemed the perfect spot. I wanted to share a Camont recipe for cassoulet and all the new knowledge from Girls Meat Camp with these dear friends. Katrin’s response? “Cassoulet? I’m not a fan. It’s just a fancy name for franks and beans.” I was determined to change her mind.

Start with the Best

To prepare, I engaged in some crazy suitcase packing, again. Noix de jambon, rillettes, fresh saucisse de Toulouse, ventreche and couenne snuggled in next to garlic, thyme from the garden, and some kitchen tools. I secured it all in ziplock bags, and tucked the bags in between my clothes. Hello, TSA!

Our friends at D’Artagnan had everything, shipping the remainder of what was needed for the perfect cassoulet, duck legs and duck fat, and a real treat – prunes stuffed with foie. (They’re called French Kisses. Rhapsodically good.)

D’Artagnan also carries the official bean of cassoulet – the Tarbais. This bean is like no other, and sports a great back story. It cooks perfectly, with some beans shedding their skins and softening to create a thick backdrop for the meats, and other beans magically remaining whole, but meltingly tender. A perfect texture for cassoulet.

(I also ordered a good sized roasting chicken, air chilled. This bird was delicious and chicken-y. I stuffed D’Artagnan’s outrageous truffle butter under the skin of the breast and legs, then served it with duck fat roasted potatoes and green beans.)

Take note. This month, for our last Charcutepalooza challenge, D’Artagnan will offer a remarkable discount on their entire product line. Watch your email for the code. You must call to get this discount, and talk to the sales reps. They are so knowledgable and will steer you in the right direction every single time. It’s a rare opportunity for this access – imagine, game birds, wild mushrooms, every cut of pork and lamb, wagyu beef and foie gras.

Constructing the Cassoulet

The beauty of cooking something like cassoulet is the minimal hands on time.

Soak the beans the night before. Sauté the ventreche and couenne, and the aromatics, then cook the beans for an hour or so in plenty of water. Just do this in the morning while the rest of the household wanders in and out of the kitchen for coffee and bagels imported from Brooklyn.

There was more than enough time for a walk through Edgartown, unearthing a new charcuterie shop as well as the divine baker, Rickard’s.

In mid afternoon, with the help of one able assistant (thank you, Jessie!) we added the browned duck confit and rope of saucisse de Toulouse. This concoction cooked for three plus hours. Occasionally, I would reach into the oven and stir everything around a bit. It was dinner time when a nice crust had formed on the top and the smells were so intoxicating we simply had to dig in.

I was a little sad that I couldn’t bring the traditional cassoulet pot Kate gave me, but the suitcase was already absurd. In the Vineyard kitchen, we unearthed an enameled cast iron dutch oven from the back of a kitchen cabinet and it was perfect.

The divine recipe and some tips from Kate:

The couenne, or rolled, tied, pork skin, adds a silky, delicious feel to the simmering beans. Add it with the ventreche, at the start.

Later, when adding the meat, untie and unroll the couenne, dice it the same size as the beans, and add it to the pot. These little pieces of goodness will rise to the surface and add a crispy je-ne-sais-quoi to the cassoulet crust.

The ventreche, carrots, and onions should be diced the same size as the beans.

Cook the beans in a full two quarts of water per pound. Don’t panic if there is a lot of liquid left when the beans are soft. Just add the browned meats and sausages and get the mixture simmering and hot. It will all work out.

Cook the cassoulet in a 325° oven, uncovered, and make sure it keeps the simmer. The cassoulet will develop a rich brown crust in good time. Be patient.

Serve with a very acidic, crunchy salad and a rough, earthy red wine.

Celebrating Charcutepalooza

While waiting for the cassoulet to finish, we enjoyed bourbon manhattans and a charcuterie board of jambon de Camont, pork rillettes, duck rillettes, cornichons and pickled asparagus. It should come as no surprise that we watched Bridesmaids.

And oh, it was a marvelous cassoulet, with duck confit, saucisse de Toulouse, ventreche, couenne and Tarbais beans. As authentic as it could be, from this side of the pond. Kate, I hope you approve!

Cassoulet is a food made for celebrations, and sharing it with good friends feels like a great big hug.

Charcutepalooza, Food52 and The Grand Prize

The Grand Prize will be awarded in just a few weeks. Kate Hill, Trufflepig, and The Antiques Diva have been dreaming up amazing fun for our lucky winner.

The dates are now firm – the winner will fly to Paris on March 2nd and fly back on March 10th, 2011.

There will be one night of fun in Paris, then off you go on a fast train to Agen, the Lot-et-Garonne town near Kate’s Camont.

You’ll spend four days in Gascony experiencing charcuterie at the source, then you’ll hop back on the train to Paris, where you’ll have an afternoon to explore the city. Friday, March 9th will be packed with fun: start your Paris day with a visit to the historic Ham Market with The Antiques Diva and then wrap it all up at Friday night’s blogger cocktail party. A true Charcute-folie!

Eligibility and Entries

We’re beyond thrilled that FOOD52 has agreed to host the Charcutepalooza final competition. Watch the FOOD52 site for details about the Charcutepalooza contest that will close up the year. That’s right, from December 29th and ending January 4th, 2012, the two finalist’s entries will be featured on FOOD52. Are you ready for your close up?

For now, this is a good time to review the eligibility requirements for your entry, and to begin to gather your thoughts.

We’ll be looking for quality writing, beautiful photography, and an original recipe, so scan your posts for the best example(s) of your charcuterie skills.

Your entry, due no later than Midnight EST, December 6th, 2011, must include

•your name, blog URL and email address
•a profile photo (jpg format)
•50 words describing your Charcutepalooza experience
•links to the 12 Charcutepalooza monthly challenge posts on your blog
•links to no more than two of your Charcutepalooza blog posts that you wish to nominate for the grand prize competition

Send this information in an email to Charcutepalooza at gmail dot com by 12/6/2011.

Kim and I will review all the entries. It’s up to us to whittle them down to the best six and we already know it will be tough – you all are so awesome.

The semifinalists’ posts will be forwarded to the judges, who will whittle the six down to two. The two finalists’ blog posts will be presented on FOOD52, where the community’s vote will decide the winner.

It’s all very exciting. And it’s coming right up.

off to gascony

I may be the luckiest person in the world.

I am leaving for the airport in just a few hours. Tomorrow, Paris, and a day of crazy SHOPPING at Saint Ouen, Portes des Vanves and the other flea markets and brocantes around Paris. I’ll be on the lookout for terrines and plates and pretty things for food photos. These are the trinkets that the French do so well. I already have a few treasures in the kitchen from past Parisian shopping excursions, but I expect this time is going to be even better.

Taking me on this shopping trip?  The Antiques Diva. Toma Haines is American, but has lived in Europe for more than a decade. She’s very clever, I can just tell. Check out this brilliant business concept. The Antiques Diva offers shopping tours in France, Italy, England, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands, soon expanding into Spain and Portugal. The private tours range from one day to two weeks and are individually tailored to the client. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun. And of course, we’ll end the day enjoying charcuterie and champagne!

Sunday, I’ll take the TGV to Agen in Gascony. Kate Hill is hosting Grrl’s Meat Camp and I am going! When I look at the list of attendees, I’ll admit I get a little nervous.  Because I may be a Dame of Meat, but at heart, I’m a home cook, and I just want to be able to Keep Up with the other Grrls. Wish me luck! I can’t even imagine – cooking, learning, sharing … markets, farms, charcuterie, butchery – and all things Gascon.

So, who’s going to be there?

Of course, Kate Hill will be there. Kate is one of the generous sponsors of the grand prize for Charcutepalooza, and presenter, with Dominique Chopolard of the Cochon and Charcuterie workshops earlier this year. (OMG, cannot WAIT to see Dom again!)

Kate is an author, a former barge captain, a cook, raconteur, ex-pat-American-now-Gascon-near-native, and an awesome resource – she collects marvelous people around her and has that way of making connections. That’s why I am so excited about this opportunity – the chance to meet these fascinating women.

As of this Fall, Kate will be splitting her time between her beloved Camont and French farm to table workshops in Gascony , and running the butchery program at The School of Artisan Food in Nottingham Forest.

Kari Underly, Founder of Range, Inc., will be coming to Gascony by way of NYC and the Today Show. She’s got a brand new book to talk about, The Art of Beef Cutting. Kari is a third generation butcher.

Camas Davis has the distinction of being the first woman to sign up for the Kitchen-at-Camont’s five week Butchery & Charcuterie program in 2009.  Camas embraced her French experience, returning home to creating the Portland Meat Collective.

Barb Ostmann is a former president of IACP, with a solid background in Agricultural and Food Journalism. Barb and her hunt-loving veterinarian husband host a Wild Meats BBQ every year at their home in the Missouri countryside. Barb is the author of several books and articles, including the Recipe Writer’s Handbook.

Beth Gilliam and Rachel Gordon are students of Chef Sarah Wong of Seattle Culinary Institute, a leader in sustainable culinary education. Unable to come herself, Sarah organized a scholarship drive to get these students to Camont.

Sarah King (and Bubba) live on The Collective in Portland, Oregon. Sarah raises pigs, and writes wonderfully.

Melora Koepke attended one of Kate’s charcuterie classes last year and caught the Gascon bug. A travel writer, Melora visited Camont this summer to write about the night markets of Gascony and just couldn’t stay away from Grrl’s Meat Camp.

I’ll be tweeting, posting to Facebook, and sending dispatches every day for The Washington Post’s All We Can Eat. Check in for Tales of Gascony.

Gros bisous, Dennis, for telling me to experience everything and encouraging me to make this trip.   xox