Technically it’s still winter in Paris. I’m even having some friends over for cassoulet this weekend! But, we’ve also had a warm snap, so it’s already starting to feel like spring. Meaning my mind is on seasonal transition in terms of food, drink and space.
Today, I’m cooking a blended vegetable soup with local veggies from the Loire that I get at a tiny little farmers boutique near my house, Lunes des Moissons. It’s in a little glass box of a building, no bigger than nice-sized kitchen (and coincidentally a space I used to rent for events, so it always feels a little funny familiar when I go in there.) On my visit there last weekend, I looked around and all I saw were drab, dirty winter goods like potatoes and a bunch of “boring” root vegetables. I felt totally uninspired. Until the veggie man offered up a suggestion of parsnip and watercress soup (recipe below).
The soup was not only really good but it had a light and brightness in addition to an earthiness that made it a really nice winter-to-spring soup. I’m glad I sought a little external inspiration because now when the seasonal selection might not looks as exciting as in spring or summer, I know there’s more than to it. And, though part of their locavore philosophy is “no exotic fruits”, I have to say that parsnips and celeriac can feel pretty exotic when you become numb to the seasonal changes and just cook the same few vegetables, harvested in green houses or imported from long distances, over and over.
Thinking of seasonality in my kitchen, of course has me thinking about seasonality in my cocktails. I’m thinking this weekend will probably be the last of my winter cocktail menu and I’ll start to focus on what I want to bring in for the spring and summer months. As I talked about last month, I’ll be looking to replace more of my bottles with local options and am thinking of putting a lot more French aperitif options forward like Byrrh, Sweet Vermouth, Suze, etc. I’ve always been a big fan of these and periodically push them on my guests – but thinking they’ll be put more to the forefront this season. Otherwise, I’ll be maybe keeping it more with spritz-style drinks in balloon glasses with seasonal fruit twists…currently mulling over what I can do with the nice, fresh cherries that will start showing up in the veggie boutique around summer time. Finally, I’m thinking I’ll need a margarita on the menu. Although you can drink a good tequila straight or in a cocktail any time of year, I’m kinda basic when it comes to a margarita and think it just means sunshine and good times. Plus, the Viva Agave festival will be happening in March, so even more reason to start thinking about and exploring agave spirits. (Oh and Jennifer and I will be pairing a margarita up for our March Cocktails X Cheese project!)
And, finally, as we head into warmer weather, I’ve got the spring cleaning bug. This weekend I took all the bottles off my bookshelf of a bar and cleaned everything. As I dusted bottles that had been tucked into forgotten corners I made a few “discoveries” (Like, I forget we had that beautiful bottle of Banyuls…time to start thinking about a nice meal to finish up with that!) I also tossed a few things that had been sitting on the shelf for waaaay too long that surely weren’t still up to the task (low ABV or things with creamy bases.) And, does anyone want a never-opened bottle of Get 27 or blue curacao? (how did those even end up there!?)
Parsnip Watercress Soup
(serves 2 for light lunch or 4 for a starter)
1 medium parsnip
1 bunch watercress
1 bouillon cube
1 clove garlic
crème fraîche or sour cream for garnish
Cube all veggies
Clean watercress and remove larger, tough stems
Saute onion and chopped garlic in some butter
Add cubed veggies
Cover with water
Add bouillon cube*
Simmer until veggies are soft
Blend with hand mixer
Service with drop of crème fraîche
*I like to use the bouquet garnis stock cubes. But, lately, I’m trying to be better and use the salt-free vegetable stock cubes. I’m sure it would be even better with homemade stock, but I’m human and I like something quick and easy on the weekends.