2016 Advent Calendar — Brigadieros

Assorted Brigadieros

Hello, it’s nice to see you again! I thought I’d jump back into blogging with both feet, so welcome to this year’s Advent Calendar, a joint effort with my friend and local food stylist, Darcie Hunter. In addition to her beautiful styling work, Darcie’s an excellent cook and a recipe developer, so we thought it’d be a lot of fun to collaborate on the calendar for this trip around the sun. For the next 25 days, you’ll get holiday posts, recipes and gift ideas when you visit either of our websites.

We’ve decided to break up the month into weekly categories to bring a little more organization to this endeavor than you’ve seen in years past. Today through Sunday, we’ll have gift ideas for family and friends (including those of the four-legged/furry variety). Starting next Monday we’ll bring you seven days of drinks, followed by a week of small bites, then a strong finish for Christmas week with sweet treats to enjoy while waiting for Santa.

So let’s get started, shall we? Our first gift to you is a recipe for Brigadieros, little Brazilian candies with a caramel base that can be customized to fit your tastes. These are fun to make with the kiddos and package well in a small tin for thoughtful, homemade gifts.

We hope you enjoy them. For the rest of the Advent Calendar, you can follow along here for my daily posts and check out Darcie’s posts at her website, Gourmet Creative. We’ll also be sharing to our Instagram feeds, @amyrothphoto and @darcie_hunter, so there will be no shortage of ways to find us each day.

Now, let’s get to cooking! We’ll see you again tomorrow.

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Brigadieros

Allergy Milk, Tree Nuts
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable
Occasion Christmas
These Brazilian caramel candies are simple to prepare and make a beautiful packaged gift.

Ingredients

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa per batch (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon gingerbread or pumpkin spice (optional)
  • sprinkles, chopped nuts, coconut flakes, cocoa powder (optional)

Note

I've listed a few suggested flavorings and coatings as optional in the ingredients, so pair up the ones that sound good to you — cocoa with chocolate sprinkles, coconut extract with coconut flakes, etc. — or make up your own! And if you find a great combination, please be sure to let me know in the comments section.

Directions

Pour the sweetened condensed milk and butter into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 10-20 minutes, stirring continually to avoid burning. The mixture will thicken and darken. You will know it is ready when a spoon dragged through the mixture separates the caramel for a few seconds.
Remove from the heat and stir in flavorings as desired. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, scoop out small spoonfuls and roll into balls. Immediately coat in toppings such as sprinkles or nuts. Place finished Brigadieros in small candy cups and serve, or package in cute boxes for gift-giving.

Last-Minute Gifts for the Coffee Addict

One week and a smidge before Christmas and you’re still not sure what to buy for a certain someone? Well, if that someone loves a great cup of joe, you’ve come to the right place.

1. I’ve gone on at length about how great our coffee is now that my barista husband uses a Chemex 6-Cup Coffee Maker. Or try the smaller 3-Cup model if they don’t need quite so much coffee at one time. Buy from Amazon and get free 2-day shipping.

2. Another reason for our great coffee? Great coffee beans. Tonx sources high quality beans, roasts them perfectly, then sends out your package within one day of roasting so you have the freshest cup of coffee imaginable. Sign up for a gift subscription here by Dec. 16th and receive it in time for Christmas.

3. Grind those beans perfectly with a Kyocera Ceramic Coffee Grinder. This manual, adjustable burr grinder puts you back in charge of your coffee. Order from ThinkGeek by Dec. 16th and get 25% off plus free shipping.

4. If you don’t like dealing with paper filters, the Able Kone Filter is a treat. Pricey? Yes, but so worth it if you want to get every last drop of those delicious coffee oils.

5. Maybe your coffee lover is all stocked up on beans and accessories. How about a coffee-themed photo print or two? U.S. customers can still get Christmas delivery from my Etsy shop if you ship via FedEx ($13), plus all prints are 25% off with code 25MERRY at checkout. Just DM me through Etsy to set up a custom listing for Christmas shipping.

6. A fun mug with a message always makes a great stocking stuffer.

What are your favorite coffee-related items? Anything on your wish list?

Cookies! Get Your Cookies Right Here!

 

Though I normally don’t thrill to baking in quantity, The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap piqued my interest when I read about it on my friend Kasha’s Facebook page. The brainchild of Lindsay from Love & Olive Oil and Julie from The Little Kitchen, this event brings together bloggers from around the world to share cookies and support a worthwhile cause. After registering and paying a nominal fee, you receive the names of three bloggers and send each of them one dozen freshly baked cookies. In return, you receive one dozen cookies from three other bloggers.

How could anything go wrong? Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you how. Things can go wrong if you only skim the instructions then start baking weeks later without returning to them. If I’d reread the instructions before diving in, I might have saved myself a bit of time and a lot of trouble, but then three bloggers wouldn’t have received THREE DOZEN gluten-free cookies each. But it’s the season of giving, and I hope Sara from And a Little Chaos, Jackie from La Casa de Sweets and Jennifer from Nibbles ’n Bites are enjoying the cookies as much as I enjoyed baking them!

As you can imagine, all of this baking really put the damper on my already-minuscule sweet tooth, but I really did love all of the gluten-free cookies I received: Oatmeal Toffee Cookies from Andrea of Delicious by Dre, Classic Soft & Fluffy Sugar Cookies by Ariana of Ari’s Menu and Spicy Gingerbread Cookies by Heather at A Sweet Simple Life.

But on to my entries! Spicy molasses cookies and oatmeal cookies are always duking it out for my favorite cookie, so I thought I’d send both. With the help of this brilliant post at Gluten-Free Goddess, I managed to substitute flours pretty heavily for the molasses cookie and they turned out GREAT; the flavor was just what I was looking for and the texture was spot-on — not overly soft, as you’d expect from a gluten-free cookie.

GF Molasses Spice Cookies | Minimally Invasive

For an oatmeal cookie that would stand up to shipping, I made Oatmeal Lace Cookies adulterated with loads of spices.

GF Oatmeal Lace Cookies | Minimally Invasive

And you didn’t think you’d get out of this holiday season without another tweaked version of my Pecan Macaroons, did you? I added some coconut flour to bind the ingredients together and hopefully keep them in one piece during shipping.

Pecan Macaroons | Minimally Invasive

But that’s not all! Once I realized my mistake, I went COMPLETELY overboard, figuring I might as well bake more and turn it into something special for the holidays since I’m not doing my annual Advent Calendar this year. Instead, I’m debuting an online magazine called Savory & Sweet! Check it out here or click the picture below for the three recipes from the cookie swap, plus several more. And let me know what you think. I’ve been a little bored with the standard blogging format, as you might be able to tell from my infrequent posts, so I’m considering putting out one of these online magazines every quarter or maybe even every month.

Savory & Sweet | Minimally Invasive

The cookie swap was a success, by the way. We raised over $13,000 for the charity Cookies for Kids’ Cancer! If you’re interested in participating next year, sign up here for updates.

Molasses Spice Cookies adapted from Recipe Girl

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp teff flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon psyllium husk
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup dark molasses
additional sugar for rolling

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (teff flour through salt).

Melt butter in medium saucepan over moderate heat until foam subsides, then lower heat and swirl butter in pan until milk solids turn light brown and smell nutty.

Combine butter and sugar in a stand mixer set to low. Increase speed by one level and blend in molasses, then egg. Add dry ingredients a little at a time until well blended. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least four hours or up to three days.

Preheat oven to 350°F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a melon baller, scoop out a spoonful of the dough, roll it into a ball, then roll it in the additional sugar. Place dough balls about three inches apart on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are set and starting to crackle on top. Cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Oatmeal Lace Cookies adapted from Hippo Flambe

2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1/4 cup sweet white rice flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over moderate heat until foam subsides, then lower heat and swirl butter in pan until milk solids turn light brown and smell nutty. Stir in brown sugar, vanilla extract, salt. oats, flour and and spices until well mixed. Turn off heat and add egg, stirring well until batter is thoroughly combined.

Drop batter onto baking sheets in two teaspoon increments. Leave at least two inches of space between cookies, as they’ll spread in the oven. Use the back of your teaspoon to flatten each cookie into a two-inch round.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, rotating trays halfway through baking, until cookies are browned and set.

Cool cookies on baking sheet, or cool for five minutes then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

Pecan Macaroons

1/4 cup organic palm sugar, packed
1 large egg white
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, preferably homemade
Pinch of coarse salt
1 teaspoon coconut flour
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Whisk together sugar and egg white in a large bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients and allow mixture to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Form dough into sixteen 1-tablespoon mounds and drop each onto sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake macaroons until golden-brown on bottoms and edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely.

To finish, using a spoon, drizzle melted chocolate over cooled macaroons. Macaroons will keep, covered, for up to one week.

Print
Almond Bites

Sugary, almond-y, and the perfect little bites when you want a nibble, not a full-blown dessert.

Course: Dessert
Ingredients
  • 1 cup almond paste
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups finely ground almond flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 egg whites, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • slivered almonds
  • powdered sugar, optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. In a stand mixer set to low, mix almond paste and sugar until ingredients start to combine. Increase speed by one or two levels until ingredients are well mixed. Reduce speed, add almond flour and salt, mixing again until thoroughly combined.

  3. Add egg whites, jam and almond extract, and beat at medium speed until a wet dough is formed. It will be very sticky.

  4. Scoop out a level tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball between your palms. Place dough on prepared baking sheet and continue with remaining dough, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between cookies.

  5. Top each cookie with a pinch of sliced almond, pressing almonds down into the cookie until cookie flattens into a disc about 1 1/2 inches wide.

  6. Bake at 300°F for 25-30 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets.

  7. Dust cooled cookies with powdered sugar if desired. Store in a closed container at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

This recipe calls for finely ground almond flour. Brands I've used and can recommend include JK Gourmet, Wellbee's and Honeyville. Whatever brand you use, just be sure the flour is finely ground, as this recipe will not work with almond meal.

Day 25, Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Thank you so much for joining me these past 25 days! It’s been an enjoyable, if exhausting, ride.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas (or just a happy December 25th if you’re not of the Christian faith) and the best new year yet! I’ll probably take a few weeks off, but hope to pop in now and then to say hi and share a recipe or two.

xoxo,
Amy

Day 1, Mini Apple Pies

Hello, and welcome to this year’s Advent Calendar! Are you in the holiday spirit now that December’s here? Maybe you’re the organized sort with your shopping done and presents wrapped. Maybe you’re dreading the idea and hope to put it off for another day. If so, consider yourself among friends; have a glass of prosecco and hang out for a bit. If you’re looking for inspiration, I’m here to help! My goal with this series is to post every day till Christmas with gift ideas and recipes (many southern-inflected, all gluten-free). Think of it as my own NaBloWriMo, only my failure is guaranteed the posts are planned to end on Christmas day. Wish me luck; it’s a huge undertaking for someone who typically posts once a month.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 1

You won’t find sweet stuff here everyday, but let’s start off with a bang, shall we? For your consideration, mini apple pies: all the goodness of the deep dish version, but portable, adorable and (hint, hint) perfect for giving. If you’re missing Hubig’s —and who isn’t? — okay, this isn’t the same, but close your eyes and pretend for a bit, then send some love their way.

For this recipe, as ever, I turned to Joy the Baker, who is unable to steer you wrong in matters of pie. Like Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson sifted together, she’ll buck you up and won’t let you fail. But even if you do (hey, shit happens), it’s still pie, and you can eat your mistakes.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 1

Once again, I brought out my prized Cup4Cup flour, which cured me of a fear of pie crusts. I don’t fear much in the kitchen and mostly keep my cool no matter what, but I absolutely am a big old drama queen when it comes to pies. Silly, I know, but you weren’t around to witness my abject failure whenever I tried to make a gluten-free version. Vapors were experienced, cursing ensued. But this flour is a dream to work with and the flavor’s right up there, too.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 1

But you’re not here to read about my issues. You want pie, and pie you shall have. With pictures. After the jump.

Continue reading “Day 1, Mini Apple Pies”

Holiday Treats, Part II

…and a side of insulin.

I’ll continue to post about pralines every year because they really are one of my favorite things of the season. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas until I have my first bite. After my 20th bite, it just feels like I need a nap.

Creamy Pralines

After making several batches of these in one weekend, I have a few tips to ensure success. First, spray the waxed paper very well; these are sticky suckers that need the lubrication. Second, don’t bother with the candy thermometer until about 5 minutes after you’ve added the pecans; it really just gets in the way and the mixture won’t come up to temperature before that. Third, after you’ve added the vanilla extract, beat the praline batter vigorously until it really begins to thicken and your arm is getting tired. If you spoon them out too soon, they’ll spread too much, which leads to thin pralines that take up far too much counter space.

2 cups white sugar
1 stick butter
16 large marshmallows
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 cups pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
finishing salt

Cook sugar, butter, marshmallows, and milk over medium heat, stirring constantly until all ingredients are melted, then add pecans. Cook, stirring constantly, to soft ball stage, 235-240 degrees F. (I always go to 240 degrees. The end result is much better at the higher end of the range.) Remove from burner. Add vanilla and beat until mixture thickens. Drop by tablespoon or two onto greased waxed paper. While still hot, sprinkle with finishing salt.

Yield: 48 small pralines or 15 large.

Holiday Treats, Part the First

Hi, everyone. For the second year in a row, I’m afraid my schedule won’t allow for an annual Advent Calendar. (For honestly annual Advent Calendars past, see the 2007 & 2008 installments.) Part of the craziness is just my day job, which always astounds me with its busy-ness — you’d think I’d get used to holiday madness after working for a clothing retailer for 10 years, wouldn’t you? — but also

< < < < BIG ANNOUNCEMENT > > > >

I have a photo assignment! I’ll be shooting photos for a cookbook (not my own) starting next weekend!!!! It’s really just a dream come true, as clichéd and silly as that sounds, especially because I’ve toyed with giving up on this blog so many times. But without it I certainly never would have learned enough about photography to even consider doing this for a living. (Just putting it out there, universe…)

Anyway, instead of the Advent Calendar, I’m hoping to squeeze in a few posts on easy-to-make treats that might be nice for the holiday season. These little chocolate & pomegranate nibbles were inspired by something I saw in a comments section somewhere, but I just can’t remember the site. (If they look familiar, please leave a comment and I’ll give credit where it’s due.) Just melt chocolate in a double boiler, add pomegranate arils to achieve a chunky consistency, spoon onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet and top with more arils, then chill until ready to serve. The juicy, tart arils really are a delicious foil to the smooth, bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate of your choice). I used only the two ingredients that were suggested, but I’d imagine they’d be delicious with the addition of chopped nuts, warm spices or a little liqueur.

And a little housecleaning:
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Check out my portfolio. It’s still very much a work in progress, but I think most portfolios are.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I didn’t make latkes this year for my husband because we’d much rather eat McDonald’s fries than any fried potato that comes out of my kitchen, but we did get the dogs to dress up for another portrait session. (One of the really, truly annual things on this blog. 2009 edition. 2008 edition.) Poor guys.

Happy Hanukkah!

not thrilled with this Hanukkah thing
Otis, rakish

Will there be treats?
Rufus, dubious

Stay tuned for Christmas photos next week.

Amy’s first risotto

091222_risotto

So… yeah. It’s been a while. How’ve you been? You’re looking great — have you lost weight? My apologies for abandoning this site, but things got seriously out of hand at work those last few weeks leading up to Christmas, and I couldn’t find time to do any cooking at all, and what’s a food blog without food? Keeping quiet seemed like the way to go.

The weekend before Christmas was a little less hectic, so I did manage to cook something before taking off for Louisiana — a risotto. Actually, my FIRST risotto. (Oh, stop your gasping.) I’ve always avoided it because the thought of standing in one spot stirring for so long didn’t appeal, but it was snowing and I had a bunch of mismatched ingredients in the house that didn’t add up to much else, so hey. Why not? It was that or shovel the driveway.

My parents sent me back to Jersey with about five pounds of frozen shrimp and crab meat the last time I visited. All that was left in our freezer was one container of crab, so I set my sights on turning out a delicately-seasoned risotto. (Going easy on seasonings isn’t something that comes naturally to me, but crab requires a light hand.) It couldn’t have been easier, really. I sweated some onion in a decent amount of olive oil and butter with 4 bay leaves, added a little garlic once the onion was translucent and cooked it for 30 seconds or so, then added a cup and a half of arborio rice, stirring it in the fat until the grains were just starting to look chalky. Then the laborious process (or so I imagined it would be) of adding liquids and stirring, stirring, stirring started. I began with 1/2 cup of dry white wine, cooking until it was absorbed, then added warmed shrimp stock one ladle at a time, until the rice was creamy and cooked through.

At this point, I stirred in about 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, then folded in the crab and some finely chopped green onions. And you know what? It blew my mind. I really thought that making a passable risotto would be beyond me, but when you start with great ingredients, I guess it isn’t so hard.

091222_arancini

Of course, I made extra so we could have arancini with the leftovers the following day. To start, I made a quick tomato sauce with another freezer find — a Ziploc bag containing about half of a large can of crushed tomatoes. (I don’t throw anything away if I can help it.) I added it to some sauteed onions and garlic, then hit it with a shot of sherry vinegar, a pinch of sugar and some crushed red pepper, before setting it aside to simmer while I finished up the rest of the meal.

The spinach was simply wilted with some olive oil and green onions. It would’ve been heavy on the garlic if only I had some in the house, but no. Rassafrassin’ snowstorm.

For the arancini itself, I mixed in a little more cheese and some milk to the cold risotto and formed it into golf ball-sized portions, stuffed with a small piece of cheese. (Which I think was taleggio, but can’t say positively. We always have a few types of cheese in the fridge at any given time.) The rice balls went into flour, then egg wash, then panko bread crumbs before spending about 15 minutes in the freezer to firm up.

Now, for someone raised on deep fried foods, I have a distinct fear of frying on two fronts: leaden, soggy food and an oily smell permeating the house. So this was the first time in maybe 20 years I’ve actually fried anything in more than a few tablespoons of oil. Heating the oil to 375F helped with the leaden aspect, and the fact that each batch took only a minute or so to fry didn’t leave my house smelling like a fast food joint. Can’t say deep fried stuff will appear on the menu very often, but I’m much more comfortable preparing it now.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Due to circumstances beyond my control, there wasn’t much in the way of cooking at Christmas, either. My parents are renovating their kitchen (and it looks AMAZING), but the appliances didn’t make it on time, so we ate out. A lot. Not a problem if you like fried seafood (which I do), but let’s just say it’s good to be back in my own kitchen, reacquainting myself with green vegetables and whole grains.

It was a difficult Christmas, to be honest. Everyone was “off,” as we had an unexpected death in the family just a few weeks ago and, as always in such a large extended family, someone’s going to be in terribly poor health. But it wasn’t all bleak by any means and there were many bright spots to be found — laughing with my cousin over her mother-in-law woes, watching a young cousin pulling a flaming barbecue pit on a toy wagon tied to a modified big wheel (no, seriously, I was crying with laughter and yes, I have pictures, but I’m pretty sure his mom would kill me if I published them), talking food and dogs with one of the best cooks in my family (who promises to give me his recipe for pickled mirliton, mmmm). But the icing on the cake was seeing two of my oldest and dearest friends from high school again, one for the first time in about 20 years. I can’t even tell you how happy Facebook makes me at times.

Because we ate out so much, I have almost no food pictures, but did snap a few of my dad shucking oysters on Christmas Eve. Good stuff.

091228_oysters

091228_shucking

091228_shells

Hope you all had a great holiday. Here’s to 2010 and wishing you all a happy turning of the page. Thanks for stopping by in 2009!

Sittin’ here in La-La…

And we’re back, after spending almost a full week with family in Louisiana; catching up with everyone was lots of fun and the purpose of the trip, of course, but the balmy weather was what really put smiles on our faces after our 15-degree week here in the northeast. “But what about the food?” you say. Glad you asked…

Our first meal of the trip came shortly after we landed in Kenner. Gil and I had been up since 3:30am (early flights — what can you do?), so we weren’t exactly in the mood for a big production. Good thing there’s Spahr’s, just across the bayou in Lafourche Parish.


Neither Spahr’s nor the bayou, but a shack on scenic Dufrene Ponds behind the restaurant. Kind of takes what little romance there was out of it, huh?

At Spahr’s, seafood’s always on the menu and it’s usually deep-fried, though when crabs or crawfish are in season, boiled is also an option. What I’m saying is, you don’t come here for heart-healthy food. Gil and I split a seafood platter and left very happy and on the verge of passing out. No pics of the food, because a big plate of fried seafood is really only interesting if you’re sitting before it about to dig in.

When we left, my nephew Mason looked for the alligator that sometimes hangs around the restaurant.

Sadly, it was not to be found. Mason was inconsolable, and offered his head to the Catfish God.

The food we eat when we visit my family has turned into a strange mix of traditional Cajun dishes supplemented with Sandra Lee-ish recipes. Yes, friends, we had Velveeta and all manner of processed foods in abundance. But there also were platters of boudin, gallons of gumbo, and more jambalaya than our gathering of 40 or so could handle. Still, the sheer amount of sodium and fat we ate last week really took its toll and we’re on . . . well, not a diet, but a whole foods sort of eating plan again.

On our last day with the folks we went to Smitty’s, another hole-in-the-wall seafood joint that’s known for its oysters. Doused with Tabasco (or Smitty’s surprisingly delicious cocktail sauce), the plump, juicy oysters could be a meal in themselves.

We spent the last night of our trip at the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter — a necessary indulgence, because we had a late dinner reservation at Restaurant August with my cousin Wade and his wife Robin and didn’t want to drive the hour back to my parents’ house. I ate at August shortly after it opened; it had a very limited menu then, so I was curious to see how things had changed. I knew it was well-regarded, and John Besh has become a bit of an It Boy in food circles, so I expected great things. And what can I say? It was a terrific meal — no real surprises on the menu, but everything was perfectly done. I had the foie gras three-ways appetizer (I’m helpless in the face of foie), followed by a turtle soup that wasn’t swimming in an ocean of sherry (yay, for the light hand!), and grilled sablefish. The only dish of Gil’s I tried was a smoked (I think) pumpkin soup, which filled me with an insane jealousy the likes of which I only experience when he wins the ordering war in restaurants.

We rolled out of there three hours later, stuffed to the gills, ready for bed, and happy to have only a short waddle back to the hotel.

The next morning, we weren’t hungry in the least, but when you’re staying in the Quarter, you suck it up and have the world’s most perfect breakfast, anyway.

Beignet and café au lait at Café du Monde, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure.