Moveable feast, here I come

midnight-in-paris

I really wanted to write about making Thanksgiving dinner this past Saturday.  This was unusual because the “official” Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. is not until November 26th.  It was made even more unusual because I prepared the entire meal by myself.   Alone.  Yikes!

Unusual and, of course, amusing as only AGMA cooking adventures can be.

But I’m having a hard time.  I can’t seem to muster up any funny words. My heart continues to be heavy for the people of Paris.

Adventures with the undercooked turkey will have to wait.

Many, many words have been written since evil took flight against innocents in Paris last week.  People far more intelligent and gifted have eloquently written about the events of this real life, nightmarish Friday the 13th.  I can add no new insights or analysis.

My response is totally from the heart and gut.

I love Paris.  I really can’t explain why.  Or maybe I can try.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the City of Lights five times in my life.  Five times, I’ve been thoroughly enchanted.

One of my favorite movies is Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.  It totally captures the magical nature of this amazing city.  I really want to hang out with Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Cole Porter…  I want to be part of the great Moveable Feast that was/is Paris.

The last time I went to Paris, I sat on the steps that Owen Wilson sat on when he got picked up by the limo at midnight.  I waited for about an hour.  Nothing.  Crap.

But that’s what Paris does to you.  It makes you believe that anything is possible and totally captivates your heart.

Granted, some Parisians can be brusk to non-French speakers.  But I just flutter my eyelashes and say in my very broken French, “Parlez-vous anglais?”  And when they say “No”, I turn on the big Bambi doe eyes and say “Un petit peu?” at which point they shrug and say “A lee-ttle”.  They then proceed to speak in flawless English.  And become very friendly.

Gotta love Paris.

The people, the food, the history, the wine, the gardens, the beauty… a lifestyle of joy and the celebration of living.

The French have been allies of the U.S. since the beginning of the U.S.  They are our oldest friends as a nation and fought along side us in our bid for independence.  And many of our finest young men are laid to rest in French cemetaries in Normandy.  There is a deep, deep connection between us.  A blood bond if you will.

I mean, they gave us the freaking Statue of Liberty for Pete’s sake…  That’s like the best BFF gift ever.

So I mourn for Paris, and our French brothers and sisters as only family can mourn.  And based on our experience here in the U.S. with 9/11, I know that they will never quite be the same.

But they will endure.  And not only endure, but I have a feeling they will not let this evil fundamentally change their love and zest for life.  It may even deepen and get more intense.

Gotta love the French.

And I do.  So in less than three weeks, I’ll once again be in my mostest favoritest city in the world.

Paris – AGMA’s coming and she can’t wait!

Some of my friends and family think I’m out of my mind.  Perhaps, but I wouldn’t dream of changing my plans out of fear or concern for personal safety.  If I do that, the bad guys win.  In my own small way, I can’t, I won’t, let them win.  I think being a tourist in Paris right now is an act of defiance in the face of those who seek to destroy and who know nothing of joy and love and light.

Reality check…  Okay – so with terrorists still floating back and forth across boarders, I won’t deny that there is risk.  The experts say there will be more attacks.  But I think we risk even more if we cower in fear.

AGMA’s getting crusty in her old age.

So I’m getting ready to eat and drink in cafe’s, go to museums, do some running in the Tuileries, and visit the beautiful Christmas Markets.  And show my French “family” that this diminutive American AGMA has their back.

Viva la France!

Ode to The Hill, Ted Drewes and Toasted Ravioli

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If you ever lived in St Louis, you understand.  If not, I feel a little bit sorry for you…

It’s 9 PM on a Saturday night and I’m into the third day of my four day visit to St. Louis.  At the moment I can’t move.  I’ve eaten too much pasta and had a bit too much wine.  Yet again.

It’s good to be back!

I wasn’t always like this.  I used to be a relatively normal woman with normal appetites and culinary desires.  Maybe a bit of a sweet tooth.  And then we moved to St. Louis.  Paris isn’t the only place that’s a moveable feast…

Seriously?  St. Louis?  Now what state is that in….?  Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas?  You know those midwest cities in those midwest states…  Can’t keep ‘em straight.  Fly over territory.  Who know and who cares?

Big mistake.

St. Louis is one of the best kept secrets in the U.S.  Not only does it have one of the best universities of the nation – Washington University – and free (yes free!) museums and a free zoo and the second largest urban park in the U.S. and amazing old school architecture and a kick ass Mardi Gras celebration and a dedication to their professional baseball team that most cities can only dream of and Clydesdale horses roaming free in the fields at Grants Farm BUT they have some of the best food in the country.

Let me explain…

I moved to St. Louis in 2010 after living in Atlanta for five years.  Big change.  But having grown up in western Pennsylvania and then lived in southern Ohio for nearly thirty years, it felt a bit like coming home.  Medium sized midwestern city with midwestern sensibilities (translation: the mantra is shut up, suck it up, deal with it and don’t give me any crap about it.)  Minimal botox big lips, sun bleached teeth, fake tans and boob jobs.

What I didn’t expect was the food.  The incredibly amazing food. Wondrous food.  And it was all no more than ten to fifteen minutes from our house.  During rush hour.  I gained five pounds in twelve months.

There’s The Hill.  This area was originally settled by Italian immigrants and was, in a much less politically correct world, referred to as Deigo Hill.  Imagine every wonderful Italian restaurant and sandwich place you have ever been to.  Then imagine they are all within a ten square block area.  Then imagine that the prices on the menu are 30% less.  That’s The Hill.  Throw in some totally authentic Italian markets (where the clerks and some of the partrons still speak Italian to each other), Italian bakeries, salumarias, and gelato places and…well…you get the picture.

Then there’s the frozen custard.  Not only is there the famous Ted Drewes on old Route 66, but a bunch of mom and pop places. Fritz’s, Mr. Wizards, Doozles, Silky’s, Spanky’s.  All selling rich, creamy frozen paradise with the option of mixing in nearly a unlimited combination of sauces, candies, fruits and nuts to create a “concrete”.  Think a DQ Blizzard on lots and lots of steroids.

Everything from local bbq and chicken joints to soul food (Oprah made Sweetie Pies famous) to restaurants that serve only locally sourced foods to wonderful microbreweries (in the heart of Budweiser land!) to elegant, formal establishments and everything else in between.  It’s all there and tastes fabulous!

But St. Louis is so modest and unassuming about it’s food.  That’s so Midwestern…  I honestly don’t think the people living there realize how good they have it.  Until they leave.

To natives who had to move away and those of us who were transplants then then yanked out, we know.  We understand.  And we eat when we come back to visit.  Oh yes – we eat.  Fried chicken at Hodak’s, char grilled oysters at The Broadway Oyster Bar, the pasta a Zia’s, toasted ravioli at Lombardo’s, the smoked duck breast at The Shaved Duck, pretzels from Gus’, cupcakes from Sweet Art, pies from Sugaree, and on and on and on…  In a very Pavlovian response, I start salivating when I catch a glimpse of the Gateway Arch from the air or driving in on I-64 through Illinois.

So I only have one more day.  And my list of places to go is far larger than one day’s worth of eating.  Something has to go.  Or maybe not…

I wonder if it’s a coincidence that Tums are made in St. Louis?

[Full disclosure – I wrote the bulk of this on Saturday night, but did some editing today when I was less under the influence of tortellini and Chianti.  Also – just so you don’t think I’m a shill of the Greater St. Louis Restaurant Association – of the food items that are indigenous to St. Louis, I do not like gooey butter cake (too sweet), provel cheese (click the link) and their cracker crust style pizza (no explanation needed.)]