Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Pavlova Debate

According to the Australians, the chef of the Hotel Esplanade in Perth, Western Australia, Herbert Sachse, created the pavlova to celebrate the visit of the great Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. According to the New Zealanders, a recipe was recorded in 1919, long before the ballerina came to dance.
"A symphony of silence! So Pavlova has been described," began the report in the West Australian on Tuesday, July 9, 1929. "But who, seeing the famous ballerina for the first time as she stood on the deck... at Fremantle yesterday, could apply the description? It was Babel itself!" The reporter managed to share her cab into Perth... "They are funny, these Australians," she pronounced in the cab... The next night she gave the first of 11 evening... performances... "Exquisite Pavlova!..." began the West Australian. It was her only Perth season, on her second Australian tour. She died two years later. Yet her memory survived at her hotel, the Esplanade, because there six years later the chef whipped up the meringue and cream cake which perpetuates her name....
One person who had been researching the NZ claims had the librarians of the National Library of New Zealand consult their collection of cookery books. “In fact, they found a recipe for "Pavlova cakes" ... published in 1929. The ingredients were roughly those of a pavlova, but it was not the pavlova as we know it, because the mixture was baked into three dozen little meringues. It seems a coincidence that the NZ cook was impressed by the ballerina's lightness and whiteness.
But there is more to the NZ claim than this. Even earlier, in "Terrace Tested Recipes", collected by the ladies of Terrace Congregational Church, the second edition published in Wellington in 1927, there was a recipe submitted by a Mrs. McRae for Meringue Cake [He then describes the recipe]. From similar recipes published in 1933 and 1934, I think it is fair to say that the Meringue Cake was common in NZ in the early 1930s. Its form varied, but it was to all intents and purposes what we know as a "Pavlova", sometimes even complete with passionfruit on top.
"Bert Sachse said in a magazine interview in 1973 that he sought to improve the Meringue Cake. There was a prize-winning recipe for Meringue Cake in the "Women's Mirror" on April 2, 1935. It contained vinegar, but no cornflour and was of two parts filled with whipped cream. The recipe was contributed by "Rewa", who happened to be of Rongotai, NZ. If Sachse read the "Women's Mirror" and other magazines for ideas, as his widow told me, he might have seen this recipe. We can concede that New Zealanders discovered the secret delights of the large meringue with the "marshmallow centre", the heart of the pavlova. But it seems reasonable to assume that someone in Perth attached the name of the ballerina...
"In the "Good Food Guide" to British Isles restaurants in 1977, a glossary of food terms referred to the pavlova as a NZ offering, which changed the next year to Australian. Hilary Fawcett, who compiled the glossary, wrote to me about the change: "There does seem to be some controversy as to whether the wretched thing originated in NZ or Australia and I was reduced to doing a straw-vote count."
"It is possible, if ungenerous, to deride the pavlova for culinary innocence. It was adopted from New Zealand. Yet Herbert Sachse made a genuine, crystallising contribution. The pavlova served its original purpose admirably. It then caught the popular imagination. Distilling the Australian concept of sweet living, it is the single great discovery thus far of our cooking."
Extract taken from

Whether you are from Australia, New Zealand or elsewhere, this is truly a delightful dessert to eat at any time of year.

Serves 6

Preparation and cooking times

Prep 30 mins
Cook 1 hr 30 mins
Plus time to cool


• 4 egg whites
• 225g  caster sugar
• 1 tsp cornflour
• 1 tsp white wine vinegar
• ½ vanilla pod
• 284ml carton double cream
• 1 lemon , zested
• 450g berries , raspberries, strawberries, or
  blackberries or a mixture
• 1 tbsp icing sugar


1.      Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Cover a baking sheet with baking parchment. Whisk the egg whites with electric beaters until they just form stiff and shiny peaks. Gradually add the sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time and whisk really well between each addition. When all of the sugar is used up continue whisking for 3-4 minutes or until the meringue is stiff and glossy and stands up in peaks, then whisk in the cornflour and vinegar. Spoon the mixture onto the baking parchment and use a palette knife to make a circle about 20cm in diameter. Put in the oven, turn the temperature down to 120C/fan 100C/gas ½ and cook for 1½ hours. Turn the oven off and leave the meringue inside until completely cold (you can make this the day before and leave to cool overnight). 
2.      Carefully peel off the baking parchment and put the pavlova on a serving dish. Don't worry if it cracks. Scrape the vanilla seeds into a mixing bowl, add the cream and lemon zest and softly whip, then spoon onto the pavlova. Mix the berries, spoon the fruit on top of the cream, dust with a little icing sugar and serve.


* Make the pavlova the day before and then whip the cream and prepare the fruit at the last minute.

* You can use whatever fruits you want…get creative!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wine Tutorial

For the new wine lover, few things about fine wine are more daunting than the wine-bottle label. All that small print! All those foreign words and terms! But bear in mind that information brings knowledge, and lots of print conveys lots of information. Learn to decode the label, and you've armed yourself with the tools you need to be a savvy consumer.

Take a look at the half-dozen label images below, and follow the blue numbers from each label to the related numbers in the text for a quick explanation of every label line. Even though these labels represent five countries with five different sets of labeling regulations, you'll soon see that they all provide the same general information, with only relatively minor differences in format and content.

                                  FRANCE                                 ITALY                                    USA

1. Wine maker or winery: The company or firm that made the wine or, in some cases, the wine's trademark name.

2. Appellation: The country or region where the grapes for this wine were grown. This may be as broad as "California" or as narrow as a specific vineyard like "Trittenheimer Altärchen." Note, however, that the California wine pictured here lists a more narrow appellation ("El Dorado County") and takes advantage of the option to denote its specific vineyard source ("Wylie-Fenaughty") as well. The German wine also mentions its region ("Mosel-Saar-Ruwer"). In most countries, wine-growing regions ("appellations") are defined by law, and wines made in these regions will carry legal language on the label such as "Appellation Controlée" in France or "Denominazione della Origine Contrallata (DOC)" in Italy. Most regulations allow up to 15 percent of the wine to be made from grapes grown outside the area.

3. Vintage: This is the year in which the grapes were harvested, not the year in which the wine was bottled, which for some wines may be years later. Note that some countries add the local word for "vintage" to the label: "Cosecha" in Spain, "Vendemmia" in Italian. (Most national wine laws require that at least 85 percent of the wine be harvested in the year of vintage; up to 15 percent may be blended in from other years.)

4. Variety: The specific kind of grapes from which the wine was made. Not all wines disclose varietal content. Most French and Italian wines do not do so, for example, because the wine laws require the wines of each region be made from traditional varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Malbec in Bordeaux, for example; Sangiovese and others in the case of Chianti, and the indigenous grapes Obidiah and Merwah in the offbeat Lebanese white wine from Chateau Musar pictured under "Other." Most countries allow the use of some non-varietal grapes in the blend. In most states of the U.S., for example, only 75 percent of the wine's content must be of the named varietal. In Europe and Australia, the rule is usually 85 percent.

5. Ripeness: In a tradition known primarily in Germany and, in somewhat different form, Austria, some wines use special terminology to reflect the ripeness of the grapes and the quality of the finished wine. The German wine pictured, for instance, is a "Kabinett," the lowest ripeness level in "Qualitätswein mit Prädikat," the highest quality level. For more information on the German system, read John Trombley's excellent article, Knowing the German Quality System for Wines. Some German wine labels will also show "Trocken" ("Dry") or "Halbtrocken" ("Half Dry") to denote wines vinified to less natural sweetness.

6. Estate bottling and winery information: If the wine is "estate bottled" (made from grapes grown and harvested in the winery's own vineyards), this will be disclosed with language on the label such as the French "Mise en bouteille(s) au Chateau;" the German "Gutsabfüllung"; or the English "estate bottled" or "grown, produced and bottled."

7. Other required information: This may vary widely depending on national regulations. German wines, for example, carry an "Amptliche Prüfungs Nummer (AP Number)," the serial number it received during official testing (barely visible on the right in the pictured label). French wines may carry their ranking from traditional classifications (such as "Grand Cru" or "Premier Cru" on qualifying Burgundies). The back labels of wines sold in the U.S. are typically decked out with required consumer warnings such as the notorious "Surgeon General's Warning" and notices that the wines contain sulfites. Wine labels also carry small print disclosing the wine's approximate alcoholic content and the size of the bottle, as highlighted on several of the labels photos. Imported wines in the U.S. normally bear the name and other information about the company that imported the wine.

8. Optional information: Additional information that may range from winemaker's notes or detailed analytical and tasting information to advertising hype are often featured on labels, especially the back label. Not to mention the ubiquitous UPC bar code!

                                 BACK LABEL                            OTHER                               GERMANY

See? That wasn't so bad, was it? I hope this brief tutorial has made you more comfortable with your wine shopping.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ice cream, our favourite experience!

The summer has arrived. Kids are playing in the sand and adults are eating ice cream. Ten Parisian ice creameries cool us down with their latest creations.


Sun or no sun, no matter what time of the day, the faithful ones converge like hordes of zombies to this very simple Italian shop. A blue shop front that one can see from afar, a cool display cabinet where the shop assistant turns the ice creams with spatulas, a couple of tables to enjoy. And that’s all.
Popular flavours: Even if the sorbets (fresh fruits of the season, no dyes or preservatives) flatter the palate, it is the ultra creamy ones that win us over. We adore the skilful recipes like the Cassata Sicilian (ricotta and citrus fruit peel) or that of the more basic flavours like the impressive Madagascan Vanilla or the powerful rich chocolate.

Positive: A legendary product with an ecological ethic.
Negative: Few tables to enjoy on the spot.
Price of Pleasure: cones and cups from 3,50 € (2 flavours).
Grom 81, rue de Seine, VIe. Tél. : 01 40 46 92 60. Tlj.


The star ice creamery of Daumesnil. 

Renovated two years ago, this institution founded in 1947 by the Raimondo family is one of the oldest ice creameries in Paris. At the counter, ice creams and sorbets are served in cones (not in the small cups) or in one litre tubs (30 €). A vast room that serves breakfast, lunch, to afternoon tea and dinner, in addition to its ice creams.
Popular flavours: Voted in winter for its remarkable “chestnut ice cream”, Raimo convinces us also with some rare flavours: Vermont maple, four spices, cane honey, almond milk or Muscat sorbet. Our favorites at the moment: verbena and grapefruit sorbets.
Positive: Variety of the flavours (up to forty depending on the seasons), they offer frozen desserts (bombes, vacherins) to take away or eat on the large terrace (which includes about 40 places) in the calm, shade of the Sycamore trees.
Negative: The prices, and the wait can be very long for take away ice cream (there isn’t one dedicated counter serving just ice cream, the counter serves all desserts).
Price of Pleasure: a cone is 5 € (2 scoops) and served on the terrasse it is 6,50 €.
Raimo 59-61, bd de Reuilly, XIIe. Tél. : 01 43 43 70 17. Tlj.

Martine Lambert

From Deauville to Trouville, playing remakes of Holidays on Ice, sweetened version for more than twenty years! Success has encouraged this Normandy lady to conquer Paris, by opening a very simple shop for take away ice creams.
Popular Flavours: We are far from about the fifty flavours offered in Deauville but the choice of ice creams without colourants or conservatives remain honourable. To taste the very good “Quiberon” (caramel salted butter), “Martinique” (vanilla with crystallised orange and rum) or yoghurt, a little bit different.
Positive: The quality of the products, the service is friendly.
Negative: The chilling prices, and the ice cream scoop is too quickly rinsed (two flavours for the price of one!)
Price of Pleasure: a cone with two scoops is 4,70 €.
Martine Lambert , 192, rue de Grenelle, VIIe. Tél. 01 45 51 25 30. Tlj. sf lun.

Le Bac à glaces

Open since 1982 in Sèvres-Babylone and immediate neighbor of Conran Shop, Bac presents itself as a semi-crêperie semi-ice cream shop. Interior is a little somber and it has a very small terrasse, and a large space dedicated to take aways.
Popular Flavours: It is in cups not cones that we find here the most astonishing flavours like lemon-basil, peach-rosemary or pear-verbena. But on the day the raspberry-rose flavour was presented to our great joy and was an excellent accompaniment with vanilla.
Positive: The ice creams containing little sugar and quality ingredients. Charming public garden of the Foreign Missions, with two blocks of houses to taste them on a bench in the sun.
Negative: The limited range of flavours in cones.
Price of Pleasure: cone with two scoops 4 €.
Le Bac à glaces 109, rue du Bac, VIIe. Tél. : 01 45 48 87 65. Tlj. sf dim.

It Mylk

Aire glaciaire. At the beginning of spring this new address opened. A small temple of the god of milk, transformed into yoghurt to satisfy the desires of the good, fresh and healthy. It is decorated with tones of white and turquoise, and girly atmosphere and small tables where to read your women's magazines…
Popular Flavours: Yoghurt, and nothing but yoghurt, in its frozen version. Always a base of frozen yoghurt, it is with the toppings that you can have fun. With the choice of some fresh fruits cut in mini pieces, or small pieces of cake.
Positive: The concept is cool and the non-frozen version is also well liked.
Negative: A slight bitter taste in your mouth.
Price of Pleasure: ice cream from 3,50 to 6,90 €.
It Mylk 15, rue de l'Ancienne-Comédie, VIe . Tél. : 01 43 26 84 13. Tlj.

La Tropicale

Aire glaciaire. For more than thirty years, this ice creamery awaits wisely the arrival of summer near the place d' Italie. It has a small tasting area, very simple and minimal where they also serve from Mariage Frères and delicious almond biscuits.
Popular flavours: This historical ice creamery offers a permanent selection of about fifteen amusing flavours such as molossol, honey with pine nuts and even sometimes blood orange sorbet and lemon, sharp and fresh, with a little peel to bring a little crunchiness.
Positive: Very reasonable prices, the almond biscuits, the choice and originality of the sorbets and ice creams.
Negative: The décor is a little bit lacking and the consistency of the sorbets because of ice crystals.
Price of Pleasure : cone with 2 scoops is 3,80 €.
La Tropicale, 180 boulevard Vincent Auriol, XIIIe. Tél. : 01 42 16 87 27. Tlj. sf dim.

À la Mère de Famille

Aire glaciaire. Spontaneously, one would not think of it for ice cream. But the oldest and prettiest sweet shop of Paris also makes their ice cream right there on the premises.
Popular flavours: On the whole, 14 flavours of which some rarities like the cream cheese morello cherry, the pink praline, and the pistachio nougat. And other more simpler flavours like mango, are very successful along with the traditional caramel with salted butter.
Positive: The price, the place and the gourmet choices.
Negative: Less choice than a traditional ice creamery.
Price of Pleasure: cones with 2 scoops at 3 €.
À la Mère de Famille , 35, rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, IXe. Tél. : 01 47 70 83 69. Tlj. sf dim. après-midi.


Aire glaciaire. Of the 15 Parisian shops, we tested the one in Bastille. Not the most attractive store but they do their best to serve quickly and efficiently their abundance of ice cream choices. Forget about eating it inside the shop, there are only three tables at the back.
Popular flavours: Curiously, the French fans of these Italian ice creams vote for a traditional flavour like the caramel with salted butter. Choose more refreshing flavours such as organic yoghurt, organic milk chocolate soya, limoncello or the quality hazelnut. If you come in July, their new flavour will be Ivory Coast pineapple.
Positive: Quality ingredients such as Sicilian pistachio from Bronte, vanilla from Madagascar, and sometimes organic eggs, yoghurt and soya milk). A great choice for hot chocolate, in case summer never arrives.
Negative: Our impression is that it is a little too sweet and the cones too thin. Choose the pot if you don’t want it melting in your hands.
Price of Pleasure: cones from 3 € to 5,50 € (3 sizes) and from 3 € to 8,50 € for a cup (up to 5 sizes).
Amorino , 4, rue de la Roquette, XIe. Tél : 01 43 55 31 99. Tlj.


Aire glaciaire. Another Italian ice creamery who does not fail when it comes to quality. The ice cream is served with a spatula and not with a scoop. Apparent stones, pink wall, black and white floor, large counter… the punchy décor deserves a visit even if you get your ice cream to take away.
Popular flavours: The star flavour is Giandiua, a chocolate hazelnut ice cream, that you can combine with milk flavour, or for more balance, with a refreshing pear sorbet which gives the impression you are biting into fruit. The limited choice ensures the quality of the products.
Positive: Very generous servings and unlimited flavours, excellent coffees, and boutique.
Negative: To sit and eat the ice cream there will cost at least 7,50 €.
Price of Pleasure: eating there starting from 7,50 €; to take away from 3,50 €.
Pozzetto 39, rue du Roi-de-Sicile, IVe. Tél. : 01 42 77 08 64. Tlj.

Gelati d'Alberto

Aire glaciaire. Alberto, poet of the cold, the man who perpetuates the family tradition and carves his Italian ice creams with the spatula, giving them the shapes of rose petals. Definitely more rustic than the flashy decor of its shop located in Les Halles.
Popular flavours: A lot of exuberant flavours which go from fruits of the forest to Nutella, to cinnamon-date, then the tiramisu coffee, lemon meringue pie or the Danao (passionfruit-yoghourt-pineapple)! If these strange flavours are respected, we can reassure you, that the coffee and the strawberry are also very pleasant.
Positive: Open from midday to midnight, the prices are rather cool prices, and there is no added preservatives or colouring.
Negative: The presentations of the ice creams.
Price of Pleasure: cones with two flavours from 3 €, three flavours from 4 €, and four flavours from 5 €.
Gelati d'Alberto , 45, rue Mouffetard, Ve. Tél. : 01 77 11 44 55. Et Gelati d'Alberto, 11, rue des Lombards, Ier. Tlj.

Glaces très classe au restaurant

Good news, manufactured ice cream with odd colors are losing people’s interest and in the process are getting rare. Even the great restaurants have their own suppliers.
Thus it goes from Pascal the Glacier (Café de Flore, Lutetia) to Pedone in the Grande Épicerie, who supplies the bistros and Mister Ice (sales outlet at 6, rue Descombes, XVIIe), who keeps secret the name of its prestigious customers. As for Battistelli, he remains the favourite of the Corsicans for creations such as broccio and sweet chestnut.

Article taken from Le Figaro.