Sophisticated Savories

Sophisticated Savories

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Fresh, Healthy Crab Cakes

The culinary world is very much a man-dominated profession.

Especially in Paris.

All chefs possess one common trait: we work hard.

Understatement of the century.

The world of cuisine and pastry is not one of luxury. Kitchens are hot. Burns are normal. Long hours. Holidays and weekends are spent working.

All chefs possess actually possess two common traits: we work hard.

And we are motivated by the love of our craft.

Be it teaching or serving, when I see someone smiling as a result of my talent, I become overjoyed. Ergo, it motivates me to work harder, learn more and refine my skills… in turn, to help others. (Oh the vicious cycle of serving!)

My first restaurant experiences were in two 3 Michelin-starred restaurant. In Paris. Hotel Le Meurice and Hotel de Crillon.

Talk about baptism by fire. In my cook book that I am writing, I recount the story of how I was able to earn the respect of my fellow chefs at Le Meurice… a funny story involving crab. In the meantime, I will share a healthy crab-cake recipe.

One of my favorite foods to enjoy is crab. The mildly sweet crustacean may be enjoyed in a plethora of styles… though crab cakes is one of the most common dishes.

A problem exists when the delicate meat is disguised by mayo or fried batter. Why not enjoy the crab in a manner of actually being able to taste the meat?

Healthy, yet flavorful crab cake:
1 c. fresh lump crab meat
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ c. 0% Greek Yogurt
2 tsp Cajun Seasoning
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
2 tsp smoked sea salt
1 tsp cilantro
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp butter

In a sauté pan, melt the butter on a medium heat. Add all herbs/spices and allow to cook for several minutes (intention is to integrate the herbs into the crab meat).

Remove from the heat and add lemon juice and yogurt.

Since there is not a plethora of colors, add some micro-greens and edible flowers to aid in the presentation… taking the mound of crab from simple, to elegant.

When I was preparing my crab, I noticed a few tomatoes on my counter that were on their “last legs.” I simply chopped the tomatoes into slices, then tossed with EVOO and the same herbs that I used to season the crab. Roasted at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes (until tender and falling apart). I then mashed the tomatoes together with a fork and served atop the crab cake… not only providing color, but a necessary sweetness/acid, per the tomatoes.

Not only will your taste buds actually get to experience crab meat in its tender, juicy form… but your body will love the fact that the meal is actually good for you.

"I have the simplest taste. I am always satisfied with the best"- Oscar Wilde

Love y’all! ♥



“Typical” meals are generally tried and true… why change a good thing? A sandwich is composed of a protein/veggies in between two pieces of bread. Lasagna is a patterned layer of melted cheese/meat/veggies – difficult to identify one element form another. Salad is tossed with a dressing and protein/veggies/cheese are generally added. Most meals are of comfort… what we are used to… nothing too outlandish or surprising.

But what occurs when one separates all elements of a certain dish… then rebuilds in a new creation?

Deconstructed food is artistic and modern. The classic components found in the “original” dish should be incorporated into the new plating… but each of the components are often treated “as their own.”

A smore, if you will.

A classic campfire smore is composed of: graham cracker, chocolate, marshmallow, graham cracker. Toasted and smashed together – who does not love the gooey mess, despite the sticky-finger result?

Now many would say, “why even mess with a thing of perfection?”

Well… why not? As a chef, I love to challenge myself in the presentation-avenue. Edible art. But always first and foremost: maintain the taste. Sure, we eat with our eyes first… but the taste should even exceed presentation.

Back to the smore. Living in downtown Dallas, I do not exactly have access to a campfire. Ergo, stove. I would not recommend using a scented candle to toast the smore, as the marshmallow will acquire a slight hint of the fragrance… yes, I speak from experience. I have found that the stove top works the best (gas or electric). Toast until warmed through and gooey. (Unfortunately, the “smokey/burned” taste of a campfire cannot quite be emulated… but we make do with what we have!) In order to give the marshmallows more texture, I had roasted almonds, then chopped to a fine powder. After toasting the marshmallows, I rolled them in the toasted almond powder… provides an additional hint of smoky/nutty flavor.

Graham cracker… using a food processor, chop the graham crackers into a crumbled mess (yes, that is the “professional term.”)

Chocolate… using a bain marie (French word for double boiler) – melt the chocolate slowly on the stovetop.

In terms of plating… drizzle the chocolate sauce on a white plate, then add the marshmallows… sprinkle the chopped up graham crackers atop the fluffy sweet pillows of sugar and again – drizzle with more chocolate.

Do you see how this is a “deconstructed dish?” Taking a traditional smore… treating each of the ingredients as their “own element”… then recreating the dish – with the same elements – in a different presentation.

Now will the taste and texture be the same as a traditional smore? Absolutely not. But it is simply a different manner to create a “traditional dish.”

Don’t be afraid to colour outside of the line.

“The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.” - Charles Dickens

Love y’all! ♥

Creativity with "Leftovers"

A small filet of sea bass.

Frozen turkey bacon.



Creativity commence.

In order to challenge myself, I will often try to use the random “leftover” items in my fridge… and somehow pair them together. Items that might not necessarily be an obvious match… but find a common denominator to unite them.

Herbs and spices work wonders when “tying” foods together. Rendering the fat from bacon/duck/goose also aid in marrying the elements.

How does this work?

Take the four “random items” listed above. First, heat a sauté pan on medium high heat, then add the turkey bacon. After cooking until crispy and dark red/brown, remove the bacon from the pan and place on a paper towel. The paper towel will absorb the excess fat from the cooked bacon and allow the bacon to crisp even further (if the bacon remained in its own pool of fat, it would become soggy).

And we all know that there is nothing worse than soggy bacon.

Next, season the sea bass (skin on) with smoked sea salt, herbs de Provence, a touch of cayenne pepper, drizzle of lemon juice and oregano on both sides. Reheat the bacon fat on medium-high heat. When the fat is hot, add the sea bass – skin-side down first. As the fish is cooking, place a plate atop the fish. This will allow for the skin to cook evenly (rather than curling at the ends). Leave the fish cooking with the plate atop for about one minute. Remove the plate and allow to cook until skin begins to crisp (about 4-5 minutes), until almost cooked through. Flip the fish and cook for an additional minute (in order to get a nice sear and color on the second side).

Remove the bass as soon as it begins to flake (it will continue to cook throughout from the heat generated in the initial sauté). Deglaze the bottom of the sauté pan with red wine and a touch of vinegar. Add some chicken stock and reduce to create a sauce. Reduce to a thick-consistency (not quite as thick as molasses). Season with the same herbs/flavors as the fish: smoked sea salt, herbs de Provence, a touch of cayenne pepper, drizzle of lemon juice and oregano.

In order to incorporate more protein into the meal, I simply poached two eggs (I’ll write about poaching eggs soon… it can be intimidating at first). Fried/sunny-side up eggs may also be substituted… but be sure to keep the yolk “runny” (it will provide a natural ‘sauce’ when breaking the yolk with a fork).

In plating, add the lettuce leaves to the bottom of the plate. Strategically place the poached eggs, sea bass (skin side up) and turkey bacon on top of the lettuce. Drizzle the sauce on the plate.

Now how does this tie-together.

The sea bass was cooked in the bacon fat. The brownings from the sea bass were used to create a sauce. The sauce was seasoned with the same herbs/flavors as the fish. When cutting into the plate, the egg yolk will combine with the sauce and pool over the entire plate, binding it into common flavors.

Sure, eaten separately, the elements would have been decent. Good, even. But together, they formed an even better dish, bursting with flavors and colors.

“Today, surround yourself with positive people who will push you towards greatness!” - Anonymous

Umm. Did I just sneak in a “life-lesson” in a cooking lesson?

#mindblown #thatjusthappened

Love y’all, dearly! ♥

Devein Shrimp

Culinary etiquette demands deveining shrimp.

We live in a modern world. Fortunately, one can simply walk into the grocery store and purchase already peeled-and-deveined shrimp.

Quick sprinkle of seasonings, flash on the sauté pan and voila… healthy, flavorful crustacean consumption. 

So what exactly does it mean to devein a shrimp and why is it important?

First of all, deveining is purely for aesthetics. The digestive tract of a shrimp (known as the “vein”) runs in a line along the back of the shrimp. When one “deveins” a shrimp he or she is removing the digestive system, eliminating ‘grittiness’ and ensuring that the ‘waste’ produced by the shrimp will not be consumed. Now, if one decided to leave the vein in, they will essentially be serving the “waste” of a shrimp to guests. This will not hurt the consumer… but it will not exactly “add” to their dining experience.


Deveining is simple. The easier manner? Purchase shrimp that have already been peeled and deveined for you!

In order to save a few dollars, most certainly do it yourself.

Simply remove the shell of the shrimp and discard (or place in plastic bag in order to use for later and make fish stock).

When looking at the shrimp, one can generally see the dark vein running along the back of the crustacean. Using a small paring knife, make a ¼ inch incision along the back of the shrimps back (following the line of the dark vein). Using the back of the knife or fingers, remove as much of the black vein as possible. If you cannot see a black vein, then apparently the little guy did not have much to eat before being caught.

Season, sauté and enjoy!

Fresh, healthy combo? Dice mango and cucumber, then drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil, freshly crushed sea salt and cilantro. Season shrimp with sea salt and herbs de Provence, then quickly sauté (about 1-2 minutes on each side - depending on the size of the shrimp). Serve together with reduced balsamic vinegar … a few scallops are great additions!

“Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There's, um, shrimp kebabs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pan fried, deep fried, stir fried. There's pineapple shrimp and lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich... That's, that's about it” - Bubba Blue (Forest Gump)

Love y’all! ♥

How to Make a Cream Sauce

A perfect sauce can either make or break an entire dish. 

The secret to French sauces?


Oh, and cream too.

Not exactly low calorie… yet leaves your taste-buds screaming for more.


The most common mistake when making a cream sauce? Breaking the sauce.

What does that even mean?

The Heisman of sauces is a rich, gleaming, unbroken emulsion, bursting with flavor. When a sauce is broken, it becomes a thin, grainy-curded mess. Essentially, the fat separates from the emulsion – resulting in a “broken sauce.” Sad day in the life of a chef. Since most sauces are emulsions (one substance suspended in another), is it essential to follow a few basic rules when creating any type of cream sauce.

One. Remember to combine “like temperatures.”

If, for example, you sauté a tender filet mignon on high heat, you will achieve beautiful “brownings” on the bottom of the sauté pan. These brownings are bursting with flavors (they are not “burned” to the bottom of the pan!”) In order to “set free” the brownings, remove the steak from the sauté pan and gently the wipe away the excess fat/oils from the bottom of the pan (may use a paper towel, but be careful, as the pan will be extremely hot!) Place the sauté pan back on the stove and heat to a medium high temperature (this should not take long to do, as the pan should still be hot!) Deglaze with a white wine (wine should be one you are willing to drink, but not one of your best wines).

To deglaze, simply pour the wine onto the pan. Typically, a mushroom-cloud of smoke will billow from the pan (watch your face!) – but this will allow the brownings to be “set free” from the bottom of the pan and be incorporated into a sauce. After pouring in the wine, immediately begin to scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula. Add stock and reduce (chicken/beef/vegetable, etc.) When wanting to incorporate cream, it would seem logical to simply go to the refrigerator, open the cream and add to boiling sauce… right?

RIP sauce. Cause of death? Cold cream.

In honor of Paul Harvey… “and now it’s time for the rest of the story…”

If fat is not properly added to a sauce, the sauce will break. Remember to always combine “like temperatures.” First, bring the cream to a boil in its own sauce pan. This will ensure that it is the same temperature as the sauce that it is being added to (helping to ensure a successful transfer of creaminess). Adding the fat too quickly will also cause a problem… ergo, slowly drizzle the cream into the boiling sauce, all the while whisking “énergiquement. ”

I always loved when my Parisian Le Cordon Bleu chefs used this phrase… “énergiquement. ” Essentially translates to “whisk energetically.” Whilst a student at Le Cordon Bleu, I used to stand in place, smiling incredibly too big, and whisk with vigor… with every intent to get my chefs to smile as I whisked away happily.

Worked like a charm. Every time.

Another factor in causing a sauce to break? Time. If a sauce sits out for too long, breakage will occur. No doubt.

Rather than dunking your perfectly cooked protein (be it meat or seafood) in sauce, use the sauce as decoration on the plate. Not only will this allow you to taste the protein by itself (believe me, a perfectly cooked piece of meat or fish doesn’t even need a sauce to accompany!), but it will also allow moderation to be practiced, as well as decoration for the plate. We live in a world that is slowly realizing that food is not just food… it is art as well.

We as chefs are artists. Though our works of art are temporary, they fuel the mind, body, spirit and soul. They unite people of every culture, race, religion, sex, gender, age, shape and size… everyone has to eat.

Why not make it beautiful?

“Happy and successful cooking doesn't rely only on know-how; it comes from the heart, makes great demands on the palate and needs enthusiasm and a deep love of food to bring it to life.” - Georges Blanc

Love y’all! ♥

Sur La Table Chef

Absolutely adore working at Sur La Table! Great team of chefs who are passionate about teaching... The true joy of cooking! 

Come and take a class! You know you want to!{cooking classes for calendar}

By the way... This is what happens when you go from your Accounting job, straight into helping teach with culinary class... Cooking with style? 

Love y'all ♥

Sea Salts

Sea Salts.

Growing up, I was blessed in having a mother who loved to cook. Aside from a few, well… one dish earned the name “dud-muffin,” and was never attempted again… but almost every meal was a home-run. Fresh, organic vegetables composed the vast majority of our meals. A brilliant cut of meat or fish, along with brown rice or potatoes were also present. One essential element to cooking was missing.


Now granted, from a health perspective, humans should not consume vast quantities of salt. Our bodies will ever react when too much has been consumed (do you ever wonder why you sometimes wake up with puffy eyes and hands after eating a meal the evening before at a restaurant?) Often times, restaurant meals can be over-salted.

But an even greater crime, in the culinary world?

No salt whatsoever.

Be still my heart.

#suchashame #gordenramsey

Entering the doors of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, I was a chef instructor’s dream student. I had zero culinary experience. I had never worked a day in a restaurant. Aside from fine-dining, I had no ‘salt’ palate developed.

No bad habits to break.

While the familiar adage, “an old dog can’t learn new tricks,” is most certainly false, it can be said that it is harder to break aged habits… though not impossible if the passion and desire to change are present.

While in Paris, I developed the “proper” palate for seasoning food. How much was not enough… how much was too much… and how much was “just right.”

When I moved back to the US, I encountered smoked sea salts for the first time. Since I live in a high-rise apartment in downtown Dallas, I am unable to have a grill on my balcony. However, by experimenting with smoked sea salts, I am able to impart brilliant, smoky flavors to meat, fish, roasted/sautéed vegetables, eggs, etc.

There is an absolute plethora of “flavored” sea salts available on the market today: bamboo leaf, bitterman’s chocolate fleur de sel, black truffle, lemon flake, pinot noir, soy, saffron, cherry plum, rosemary flake, vanilla, habanero… to name just a few.

Believe me, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Flavored sea salts impart a subtle, yet ample amount of desired flavor into foods when used in appropriate manners. The can be used in place of regular salt, simply to add another dimension to food. For example, with a habanero sea salt, this will add a kick of flavor and “heat” to your dish. The added spice will not be as potent as using a real habanero when cooking, but it will be subtle enough that you will notice a slight hint of a kick.

For example, habanero sea salt would be brilliant to season quinoa with cilantro, avocado, tomatoes, onion and scallions. It would aid in elevating any white fish. A smoky habanero sea salt would pair brilliantly with any dark meat (lamb comes to mind!) Roasted asparagus, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes… truly anything that you desire a subtle, yet flavorful salty heat.

Experiment. Grow in confidence. So often, we hear that “the only way to truly learn is through failures.”

But is it truly a failure, if the result is that we learned, grew… matured?

I found several photos of my “early” plates in my culinary career. I remember being so proud of myself when creating the meals… the lamb was cooked properly, the vegetables were seasoned to the perfect manner… but compared to what I am able to create now… well, there is no comparison. I have been able to develop flavors more now, simply because I have more of a passion for cooking, love to challenge myself and am willing to experiment with products that I have never used (flavored sea salts, being one!)

“Allow yourself the freedom to be great.” - Yours truly.

Love y’all! ♥

Cooking Oils

Cooking Oils.

Olive. Sesame. Avocado. Almond. Walnut. Pistachio. Grape seed. Peanut. Hazelnut. Garlic. Basil. Safflower. To name a few…

Unlike balsamic vinegar, cooking oils actually do go rancid and spoil after a period of time. While the method of storage can add greatly in terms of the duration of life for cooking oils, eventually the culmination of heat, light and exposure to air contribute to the spoilage of oils. Darker, hydrogenated oil will generally last longer than other more delicate oils; however, the maximum amount of time to keep an oil is one year (once opened). One manner of contributing to a longer shelf life? Store olive oil in the fridge – only if consumer does not use the oil on a daily basis. While the oil may congeal, remove from the fridge, about one hour before use, in order to have a proper room-temperature consistency.

Cooking oils should be stored in a cool, dry place (pantry is brilliant), if using on a daily basis (my hope is that as you continue to gain more confidence in the kitchen, you will cook more often – thereby needing us use oils on a daily basis!) When oils come in contact with the air, oxidation occurs. The byproducts of oxidation have an unpleasant flavor and unpleasant fragrance – thereby contributing to the spoilage of oils. Oxidation also have a negative effect on the nutritional value of oils. Ergo, be sure that the lid id tightly closed after using the oil.

So how does one know when oils have gone rancid? It would be nice if oils could magically change color or transform into a solid matter, in order to indicate the need to replace. But alas, that would be too easy. In terms of spoilage, the nose knows. Well, come to think of it, the mouth does as well… but why have to introduce an unpleasant flavor to your lips if you can avoid by simply smelling? (or cooking so often that the oil must be replaced before ever spoiling!) Rancid oil truly permeates a stale odor. Purchase a new bottle of oil… take olive oil, for example. Become familiar with the smell of “freshly opened” olive oil. Then, smell a bottle that has been “lying around” for three months. By smell, you will know. The taste will be quite obvious as well.

Granted, yes… not all oils are created equal. But in terms of shelf-life, I treat oils one in the same… my general rule is to discard after three months (although since I cook often, I generally will need to replace before the three-month span. Remember… salad dressings and vinaigrettes, as well as marinades may be made with different oils. This will aid in using the products more often.

A robust olive oil pairs brilliantly with roasted or sautéed vegetables. A wonderful appetizer? French haricot verts (essentially – green beans) and roasted tomatoes. Toss olive oil with thinly-sliced Roma tomatoes (about ¼ inch thick), freshly crushed sea salt, dried Italian herbs and cracked black pepper. Lay the vegetables on an aluminum-foil lined baking sheet (aids in clean up). Allow to roast at 400 degrees F, for about 30 minutes (they cook quickly, since they are cut thin). When tender and nicely roasted, place tomatoes in a large mixing bowl and smash with a fork (do not blend – as the mixture will turn into a sauce… intention is to have “chunky/textured/lumpy” consistency. After properly “mashed,” set aside.

Before blanching the haricot verts, line the beans together and cut into the same size. This will give the dish a more polished, refined demeanor. Place uniform-cut beans in boiling salt water, and allow to cook for two minutes. After the 120 seconds in the boiling water, removed and immediately “shock” in ice water. Not only does this halt the cooking process, but it also maintains the bright green gleam of the beans.

Say that three times fast.


Hash tag.

Dry the haricot verts with a towel and mix with:
1c. 0% fat Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp smoked sea salt
1 Tbsp. dried Italian herbs

Essentially, the yogurt mixture is a means of “binding” the beans together for presentation, as well as adding a subtle, creamy component.

Presentation: Place a ring-mold in the middle of the plate and add the tomato mixture (about ¼ in thickness) – use a spoon to level the mixture. Remove the ring mold and place beans in a stacked manner, in the middle of the tomatoes (resembling a “camp fire.”) Again, the yogurt will aid in sticking the beans together. Drizzle around the plate with fresh olive oil (be sure to place cap back ON when finished), as well as a few micro-greens to “soften” the dish.

“Once someone tries a real extra virgin -- an adult or a child, anybody with taste buds -- they'll never go back to the fake kind. It's distinctive, complex, the freshest thing you've ever eaten. It makes you realize how rotten the other stuff is, literally rotten. But there has to be a first time. Somehow we have to get those first drops of real extra virgin oil into their mouths, to break them free from the habituation to bad oil, and from the brainwashing of advertising. There has to be some good oil left in the world for people to taste.” – Tom Mueller

Love y’all! ♥

Balsamic Vinegar

The greatness of balsamic vinegar?

By its very nature, the shelf-life of balsamic vinegar is indefinite. 


A true, authentic balsamic vinegar is aged for years in wooden barrels/casks in Moderna, Italy. The proud label “acento balsamico tradizionale” ensures for a steep purchase price.

Like most material things of this world, the finer it is, the more it will cost.

A less expensive, less flavorful version can be found at any local grocery store. The difference between two is that the more humble, commercial-grade balsamic actually has additives in order to mimic the true, authentic tartness of Italian balsamic (sweetener, caramel color, etc.)

While many commercial-grade balsamic vinegars actually post a “best by” date on the label, the Vinegar Institute has conducted surveys, confirming that balsamic vinegar had un unlimited shelf-life (

That being said, occasionally you may notice a gel-like substance/film floating in the vinegar. This is known as the “Mother” and is harmless. It is produced as a part of the fermentation process (basically, not all of the carbohydrates in the grapes have been converted to acetic acid). Most of the true, barrel-aged balsamic vinegars form Mothers when not used on a daily basis. Simply strain to remove (again, no problems will occur if consumed). Since most commercial-balsamic vinegars are pasteurized, they will not develop a Mother.

If a sedimentation forms at the bottom of the jar, simply shake and it should dissolve into the liquid. Sedimentation simply is the remnants of grape skin that did not completely dissolve (it is not an indicator that the balsamic has “gone bad.”)

One of my favorite used of balsamic vinegar is reducing the sweet/tart flavor into a thick, syrup-like sauce. Very easy to accomplish: simply pour the vinegar into a sauté pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Allow the vinegar to boil, then simmer for about 2-4 minutes, whisking continuously until the viscosity resembles a thin-syrup. Remove the sauté pan from the heat.

The reason that one should not reduce the balsamic to a thick-syrup state on the heat? The balsamic continues to thicken, even off the heat (from the heat already generated on the pan and temperature of sauce).

When ready to plate, use a spoon to swirl designs/transfer into a squeeze bottle in order to have more control when decorating the plate. Reduced balsamic vinegar is a brilliant addition to salads, fish, even poultry, eggs and red meat.

A “tried-and-true” pairing of reduced balsamic vinegar? Heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil. Fantastic appetizer/amuse bouche/pass-around hors d’oeuvre. A healthier option? Replace the mozzarella cheese with artichokes. Yum!

A healthy, easy way to dress up zucchini/carrots/jicama? First grate all vegetables with a cheese grater, then combine with a sesame dressing:

¼ cup low sodium ponzu sauce (similar to soy sauce, but with a hint of lemon)
1 Tbsp sesame seed oil
1 Tbsp rice wine
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lime zest
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp smoky paprika
1 tsp garlic (powder or freshly chopped)
1 small shallot (fine dice)
2 tsp agave nectar (optional – if wanting a touch more “sweet”)

Since the vegetables are grated in a fine manner, they do not need to be cooked (again, best way to consume food is in its natural state – your body will benefit the most from absorbing the most nutrients from raw food).

In plating, form the veggies into shapes (of your desire) and sprinkle with sesame seeds… drizzle reduced balsamic vinegar atop the dish.

Oh, the possibilities!

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers” – Laurie Colwin

Love y’all! ♥

Blueberry Quinoa Pancakes - Breakfast for Dinner

Breakfast for dinner! Blueberry quinoa pancakes (appetizer) with a small dollop of creme fraiche. Love y'all! ♥


In a large mixing bowl, combine 1c. whole-wheat flour, 1/2c. unbleached flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tablespoon sugar and a pinch of salt. 

In a second bowl, mix together 2 large eggs (beaten – or four egg whites), 1 1/2c. skim milk, 1 tsp Madagascar Vanilla bean paste, 1 tsp lemon or orange zest, juice of 1 lemon or orange and 2 tablespoons walnut or almond oil. 

Briskly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Do not worry if a few lumps exist… then fold 1 cup cooked quinoa.

Heat a griddle of medium heat and brush with oil/non-stick spray. Spoon 3-4 Tablespoons of batter and add a few blueberries while the pancakes are cooking. Cook until the batter begins to bubble, then flip (a few minutes). Cook until a nice, golden brown color forms.

Remove from heat and serve with fresh fruit (berries/bananas/mango/papaya, etc). A touch of blueberry syrup, dollop of creme fraiche or drizzle of homemade caramel sauce would definitely do the breakfast (dinner) justice.

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My classroom at Sur La Table in Dallas... 

Where the magic happens! 

Check out the cooking class schedule 

Love y'all!  ♥


Native to Greek, Spanish, Italian and Japanese cuisines, calamari is a culinary treat that is healthy and unique.

The squid dish, cut often into strips/circles, has become ever more increasingly popular in North America.


Fail on the “healthy” adjective.

The decision to gravitate towards frying calamari is often motivated by dual reasoning: it is easy to overcook (becoming rubbery and too chewy to enjoy properly), and without a decent amount of culinary knowledge/experience, it can be a challenge to impart an enjoyable flavor to the mollusk.

Easy, healthy recipe (kick the fried away)… simply stir-fry in almond oil/EVOO/sesame oil/safflower oil… depending on your desired intent in taste.

Having been classically trained in French cuisine, I tend to “French” things up.

Proud of it, too.

First, sweat shallots in almond oil (allow to cook on medium heat until tender… no longer crunchy (about 5 minutes). Add desired vegetables, remembering that the harder the vegetable, the more time needed to cook until the sugars break down and it becomes palatable.

One of my French chefs at Le Cordon Bleu once told me, “Sarah (as the “r” in my name sang in his French accent), les garçons n'aiment pas quand les légumes sont durs.“

Essentially, “French men do not like crunchy vegetables.” is easy to overcook (becoming rubbery and too chewy to enjoy properly), and without a decent amount of culinary knowledge/experience, it can be a challenge to impart an enjoyable flavor to the mollusk.

Easy, healthy recipe (kick the fried away)… simply stir-fry in almond oil/EVOO/sesame oil/safflower oil… depending on your desired intent in taste.

Having been classically trained in French cuisine, I tend to “French” things up.

Proud of it, too.

First, sweat shallots in almond oil (allow to cook on medium heat until tender… no longer crunchy (about 5 minutes). Add desired vegetables, remembering that the harder the vegetable, the more time needed to cook until the sugars break down and it becomes palatable.

One of my French chefs at Le Cordon Bleu once told me, “Sarah (as the “r” in my name sang in his French accent), les garçons n'aiment pas quand les légumes sont durs.“

Essentially, “French men do not like crunchy vegetables.”

I never served a crunchy vegetable from thenceforth.

So, calamari.

I actually paired mine with mushrooms, scallions and tomatoes. After seasoning with smoked sea salt, lemon juice, Cajun spicy seasoning and herbs de Provence, I then threw the calamari into the pan and allowed to cook with the seasoned vegetables (be careful when cooking, as it cooks quickly… within 1-2 minutes, depending on the size). Calamari is ready when it turns from translucent, to bright white and tender.

In order to add some much needed color, I used edible flowers (I am such a girl sometimes). But the flowers aided in “softening” the presentation.

Gracefully spoon the calamari onto a white plate, strategically placing the flowers in a classical, light-hearted manner.

“It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate… you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.” - Julia Child

Love y’all! ♥

I never served a crunchy vegetable from thenceforth.

So, calamari.
I actually paired mine with mushrooms, scallions and tomatoes. After seasoning with smoked sea salt, lemon juice, Cajun spicy seasoning and herbs de Provence, I then threw the calamari into the pan and allowed to cook with the seasoned vegetables (be careful when cooking, as it cooks quickly… within 1-2 minutes, depending on the size). Calamari is ready when it turns from translucent, to bright white and tender.

In order to add some much needed color, I used edible flowers (I am such a girl sometimes). But the flowers aided in “softening” the presentation.

Gracefully spoon the calamari onto a white plate, strategically placing the flowers in a classical, light-hearted manner.

“It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate… you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.” - Julia Child

Love y’all! ♥

French Toast - Savory

French toast.

A true jackpot? I’m pretty sure that the end-all for most rainbows is a pot of gold.

Aka. French toast station in buffet lines.

A sea of melted ‘gooeyness’ that YOU have the ability to compose… dripping in syrup, caramel, crème anglaise, chocolate sauce, sugary fruits, toasted nuts…

Utter bliss.

Until the surge of sweetness takes its course and inauguration of sugar crash commences.

Do you remember as a child, consuming ridiculously large amounts of candy… and still feeling great?

Time is no friend to sugar and its effects on the body.

Most individuals do not equate savory/smoky flavors upon first mention of French toast. However, an entire world of ambrosial aromas exists – through savory spices, herbs and sauces.

A few ideas… rather than dunking French toast in a bath of eggs/sugar/cream and sautéing in butter, healthier options exist. Being the “staff of life,” bread is an important dietary component. Whilst the “carb” fear still exists, everything in moderation is an important dietary practice to ensure a healthy lifestyle. Ergo, simply watch your portion control when consuming French toast. Whole wheat bread would be the best option, but in terms of flavor, French baguettes and challah bread tend to impart the most pleasing textures and gusto to the “base” of the dish. One can either drizzle the toast with EVOO, smoked sea salt, sprinkle of herbs and toast in the oven. This will result in a “dry” French toast that can be paired with a fine red-wine reduction. To accompany, cooked mushrooms are a brilliant option (moral, portabella, black trumpet, button, etc. – more on mushroom soon!) Roasted asparagus and tomatoes with a balsamic vinegar reduction also pair brilliantly (with fresh basil, herbs de Provence, rosemary… hint of lemon juice – perfection). A soft, sunny-side up egg is a wonderful accompaniment, as the bursting of the yolk is absorbed into the bread.

To serve a softer version, simply dunk the toast in a mixture of:

3 eggs (scramble with work)
Juice of ½ lemon
½ c. milk (or cream to impart a more rich option)
Assortment of herbs – rosemary, thyme, herbs de Provence, garlic, onion powder, cayenne pepper, smoky paprika, etc.
2 tsp smoked sea salt

Sauté on medium heat on a skillet… cook each side until golden brown… pair with savory sauces and vegetables.

Another option… smoked salmon with dill/chive cream cheese (or crème fraiche and caviar). Very easy to prepare… simply chop dill and chives, then mix with either cream cheese (room temperature makes it easier to mix) or crème fraiche (more cremier version). Top with caviar.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. And the savory counterpart to sugary French toast will not leave you in a daze of sugary, lethargic befuddlement.

“Noncooks think it’s silly to invest two hours’ work in two minutes’ enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet.” - Julia Child

Love y’all! ♥

Culinary Questions?

Culinary Questions?  Let me know!

Love y'all! 

Salt Substitutes

Several months ago, my oldest brother had a health scare resulting in the elimination of the majority of salt from his diet.

Sad day in the life of a chef.

Salt, which contains iodine (necessary dietary component for healthy hair, skin and nails) is added to foods in order to enhance flavors. However, just as every single individual is uniquely made, some can tolerate more salt than others. For those who cannot consume copious amounts of salt (actually, no one should in terms of a dietary point of view), there are several “seasoning tricks” to eliminate salt, without sacrificing taste/flavors.

Since most sashimi use saltwater fish, enough natural salt exists in the fish, without having to add additional salt (aka soy-sauce). The following are substitutes that one may use as a “seasoning” in order to enhance flavors… without the use of salt:

Spicy Salt Substitute:
2 tsp. ground oregano
1 tsp cayenne/chili pepper
1 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp mustard powder
6 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp paprika (smokey or regular)
3 Tbsp Italian herb mix (dried – no salt)
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp herbs de Provence

Combine the spices and grind using a hand mortar and stone or electric spice blender. Keep in a spice shaker and store in a cool, dry location.

Zesty Salt Substitution:
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp grapefruit zest
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp chili pepper
2 Tbsp onion powder
2 Tbsp cream of tartar
1 tsp Italian seasoning (dried - no salt)
1 tsp dill weed

Combine the spices and grind using a hand mortar and stone or electric spice blender. Keep in a spice shaker and store in a cool, dry location.

Vibrant Salt Substitution:
3 Tbsp herbs de Provence
3 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp ground rosemary
1 Tbsp ground thyme
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp mustard powder

Combine the spices and grind using a hand mortar and stone or electric spice blender. Keep in a spice shaker and store in a cool, dry location.

You have to love the names that I came up with… right? Apparently I’m lacking in the “creative naming department” today ;)

My recommendation in order to enjoy the seasonings… combine with either lemon or grapefruit juices and drizzle over sashimi/poultry/meat, etc. Use, essentially, the same as salt.

Other ideas… generally balsamic vinegar is low in sodium. Be sure to read the label (as far as salt content) – but that would be an excellent flavorful substitution (especially when reduced to a thick “syrup-like” state.

Greek yogurt (0% fat) pairs beautifully with citrus juices and spice combinations (listed above) – as well as lemon juice and dill (almost like a tzatziki sauce).

Cheeses generally contain a high salt content… but a little goes a very long way. Blue cheese is incredibly pungent – paired with honey – glorious… even does well with sashimi (yes, really!)

“Trust no one unless you have eaten much salt with him” – Cicero

Well. I’m not sure about that one. But I do know that we are the salt of the earth.

Love y’all ♥


One of my favorite elements of sashimi, aside from the numerous health benefits form raw, lean fish… is the ability to turn a plate into an edible work of art. Bursting with colors of the thinly, raw fish, as well as picked vegetables and fruits as garnishes, sashimi plates often resemble blank canvases, splattered with paint.

Organized chaos.

Sashimi is often served at the beginning of the meal as a palate cleanser, though more recently individuals have begun to consume the dish as an entrée. Saltwater fish is the most common form of sashimi (abalone, bass, bonito, bluefish tuna, fish roe, octopus, salmon, snapper, mackerel to name a few). Why? Many freshwater fish actually contain parasites that could in turn cause intestinal discomfort if consumed. It is essential that the fish be purchased at the highest grade, quality and trustworthy supplier – since the fish is consumed raw.

When preparing sashimi, it is essential to use a sharp knife, to ensure a thin, beautiful slice. The cuts are generally executed on the bias (or diagonal) slice of fish. I love pairing sashimi with citrus – lemon and grapefruit are brilliant when acting to brighten the dish. Picked fennel and watermelon are also wonderful additional (these unlikely pairings work somehow!) Of course, the traditional soy sauce, picked ginger, wasabi, sesame seeds, eel sauce, etc.

“Everyone has a ‘rick muscle.’ You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don’t, it atrophies. Make it a point of using it at least once a day.” - Roger Von Oech

Happy Valentine’s Day… love y’all! ♥

Valentine's Day Ideas

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner… remember to be creative when plating! Since it is the one time of the year when “hearts, gold, glitter and red/black/white colors” are encouraged… why not allow your artistry to shine on the plate?

A few ideas… if you have time to make your own chocolate sauce, you will not be disappointed. If time is a commodity, purchase an already made sauce… Sur La Table, Central Market, Fresh Market, FRESH by Brookshire’s are a few stores that carry chocolate sauces. Simply transfer your sauce into a squeeze bottle (in order to have more control). Be sure that the sauce is at room temperature… too hot and it will spread too much; too cold and it will not escape form the squeeze bottle! Channeling “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” it should be “just right.” Again, room temperature or slightly warmer will do the trick. One can easily drawl hearts and other decorations when plating dessert. Remember a brilliant combination: chocolate and raspberries… be it chocolate molten lava cake/truffles/pot de crème… raspberries provide a necessary sweet tang to brighten chocolate (especially dark chocolate, since that is the most bitter in flavor).

Crème anglaise, though a more advanced sauce, is a wonderful compliment to almost any dessert. What is crème anglaise? Essentially, it is the “base” of French ice creams. In fact, the only difference between crème anglaise and vanilla ice cream? The crème anglaise is run through an ice-cream machine and frozen. Aside from that process, there is no difference. So why can you just not melt ice cream in order to transfer the process and make crème anglaise? When ice cream freezes, ice is incorporated into the frozen state. When melted, ice cream is diluted from the increase in water (melted ice). Ergo, the “crème anglaise” would not be as potent, nor creamy as compared to freshly made. Crème anglaise may be served warm or cold… although I prefer cold since it more closely resembles ice-cream (without the ice-cream headache bonus!)

In terms of an easy, yet sophisticated dessert… using a martini glass, place chocolate cake at the bottom of the glass (about ½ way full). Add a layer of smashed raspberries, then cover with crème anglaise (to the top). In the middle of the crème anglaise, create a circle of dots with chocolate sauce. Using a toothpick, to swirl through the circle, creating a circular trail of chocolate hearts, floating atop of the crème anglaise. Finish with a sprinkle of edible glitter to add an extra dazzle.

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” – Harriot Van Horne

Love y’all! ♥

Healthy Lasagna

Lasagna. Oozing cheese, heavy noodles and butter.

Heart-attack, commence.

Every once and awhile, one should absolutely experience the true, delicious experience of an authentic Italian lasagna. In fact, I would highly recommend savoring the “melted wonderfulness.” However, on a day-to-day consumption, one simply cannot afford to lavish in such a substantial dish. And if your diet requires gluten-free… then a problem exists.


Although the taste will not be the same, one healthy alternative is actually using polenta in place of noodles. Made from dried corn kernels, polenta is not only gluten free, but low in calories/fat as well (120g pack contains 70 calories, 0 grams of fat and only 15 grams of carbs). Not too shabby for a day-to-day diet.

Remember, you are what you eat.

In order to create a more healthy “lasagna,” sauté vegetables in extra-virgin olive oil. Brighten the dish with fresh lemon juice, smoked sea salt, a plethora of fresh and dried herbs. Rather than suffocate the polenta in melted cheese, simply sprinkle a dusting of parmesan cheese on each layer. Since parmesan is a robust cheese, a small amount will do the entire dish justice. In terms of a tomato sauce – make your own by roasting tomatoes in the oven, then blending in a blender/Vitamix. The fresh ingredients (as opposed to canned) make a world of difference. Sure, it takes more time in preparation… but your taste buds will thank you.

And in terms of a healthy, daily diet, your waistline will too.

“All cooking is a matter of time. In general, the more time the better.” – John Erskine

Just because it is ‘good for you,’ does not deem it unpalatable. Rather, take the time to make it delicious by purchasing fresh, organic products and learning how to use herbs, spices and different cooking techniques to impart the most flavor, without loading on the excess fat.

Love y’all! ♥

Cooking Fish Skin

While sautéing on high heat is the most common form of cooking fish, one would naturally think that the same technique to cook a fillet would apply if the skin was still intact or removed from the filet.

Quite the contrary. 

When cooked correctly, crispy skin may earn the award of being named “best” part of the fish – in terms of flavor and texture. So how does one accomplish one such feat? 

Begin with fresh, clean filets (boneless if possible… otherwise, be sure to remove bones with fish tweezers. With the back of the knife, be sure that all fish scales have been removed (simply run the back of your knife in the opposite direction that fish scales would usually run… then rinse with water in order to guarantee that no “runaway” scales are still intact. Thoroughly dry entire fish filet with paper towel (if the fish is too moist, it will actually start to “boil” in its juices, as opposed to getting a nice crisp skin and sear.

Pour a layer of kosher sea salt on a plate and place the fish, skin side down, atop the salt. This process will not only season the skin of the fish, but aid in drawing as much moisture as possible from the fillet. Leave fish atop salt until ready to cook (no more than one hour).

Scrape away all salt when ready to cook and lightly season the top of the fish with smoked sea salt, as well as other desired herbs (herbs de Provence, rosemary, dill, cayenne pepper, smokey paprika, etc.) Sprinkle a touch of lemon juice onto the fish. Heat oil (I prefer almond or walnut… even avocado oil is delicious with salmon) on MEDIUM heat (just enough to have a light coating on the bottom of the pan). Why is Medium heat important?

Most searing of meat/fish is done on high heat (at the “smoke point” - when the fat from the pan actually beings to generate smoke). However, if one were to place the skin of the fish on a smoldering pan, it would indubitably burn.

Yes, I just said, “indubitably” when describing culinary techniques. Sweet life, sb.

Medium heat will absolutely do the fish skin justice – as it will have the opportunity to cook, then crisp. After placing the skin side of the fish on the medium-heat oil, simply place a small plate or pan atop the fillet as it is cooking. This will help to “flatten” the fish skin and cook evenly (if not, the ends may curl upwardly during the cooking process and the skin would be cooked to different degrees of doneness).

Remove the top plate after about 1 minute… but continue to cook the fish for about 2-4 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fillet). When the fish has cooked through the middle, it will begin to “flake.” At that point, flip the fillet over, but remove the sauté pan from the heat. The residual heat from the pan will cook the other side, to the appropriate amount, since the fish was basically cooked through on the first side. Allow to remain on second side for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (again, the thicker the filet, the more time needed to cook). Serve skin side up immediately!

In terms of plating, I will generally try to have all elements of my dish already plated whilst my fish is cooking… this prevents the fish from overcooking, as the fish is served immediately (as opposed to having to continue to cook from its own internal heat while waiting to be plated).

Pictured, I served seared salmon (skin on) with edamame puree (“wonder food” and great for you!), Marcona almonds, roasted cherry tomatoes, celeriac puree, pomegranate seeds and micro-greens.

“The preparation of good food is merely another expression of art, one of the joys of civilized living.” - Dione Lucas

Love y’all! ♥

New York Strip

When cooking New York Strip Steaks, it can be a challenge to cook the meat tender enough to melt in one’s mouth. 


Whilst New York strip does have a nice chunk of fat that is typically lining the cut of meat, there is not a plethora of marbling throughout the meat. What this means is that New York strip is a learner cut of meat – not too much fat is actually present in the cut of meat. Translation: per 3 oz of meat (trimmed of all fat) – there exists 155 calories, 5g fat and 25g protein. From a health point of view? Brilliant. From a culinary point of view? Tricksy.

Whenever New York strip is on the menu for my classes at Sur La Table, I usually will sear the meat, then “finish it off” by roasting in the oven. Sauces that have a touch of citrus incorporated (lemon/orange juice) will aid in breaking down the proteins, making the meat more tender and less chewy. From a time constraint, this is one technique to help make the meat more palatable. (Sous vide also helps to tenderize the meat if there is a race against time).

Without time constraints, red meat possess two best friends: low and slow cooking temperatures. I will often sear the meat (about 2 minutes on each side – depending on the thickness of the cut of meat) – then deglaze the pan with wine and actually pour either chicken, beef or vegetable stock into the pan in order to tenderize the meat.

Why this entire process as opposed to simply placing the meat in a slow-cooker? Absolutely, that is most certainly an option. However, in order to impart the most flavor into the meat (and accompanying sauce), I will actually sear the meat (in order to have an initial “crisp” of flavors). Deglaze with wine in order to allow the brownings to be “set free” from the bottom of the pan (from the initial sear) – then pour stock in the pan to cover up to ½ the height of the cut of meat. Bring up to a boil, then allow to simmer with the lid on for hours. Believe me, cooking meat in this manner – although it takes time – is well worth the effort.

Melt in your mouth, I kid you not.

To accompany red meat, fruits are often brilliant. I also love pearl onions, although they also take time to cook. Ergo, make it easy on yourself and either sauté the pearl onions in order to caramelize them, or simply throw them into the pot with the meat – they will cook for hours and absorb the aroma and flavors of the protein (as well as release their own sweet astringency). Cook until the stock has reduced to a thick sauce… season with fresh herbs (love rosemary), as well as a touch of cayenne pepper. In order to add another dimension, add a touch of dark chocolate to melt into the sauce. Roasted figs are the perfect finalization.

A composition of flavors to create confidence in the kitchen.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you’ve got to have a ‘what-the-hell’ attitude.” –Julia Child

Love y’all ♥

Savory Soufflé

Whenever I create savory soufflés, I will often add a plethora of herbs to the delicate egg puff. While Goat cheese is a popular cheese to use for savory soufflés, I have also used parmesan in the past. Since goat cheese has a very robust, powerful tang, it can be a little too dominate when incorporated into a soufflé. Parmesan can be slightly more mild – allowing the consumer to taste the herbs that are incorporated into the dish:

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp All-purpose flour
1 c. milk
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch smoked sea salt (not too much salt, as Parmesan is already a salty cheese
1 tsp smokey Paprika
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2/3 c. Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
2 Tbsp Herbs de Provence
2 Tbsp Rosemary – freshly chopped
3 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites – room temperature

First preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using softened butter, coat the inside of your soufflé molds, then lightly sprinkle with flour. Discard excess flour.

With this savory soufflé, a blond roux will first be prepared. A roux is simply equal parts flour to butter (or flour to oil) cooked to different degrees of doneness (depending on your intended use). A blond roux mean that the flour and butter will cook quickly – not developing any color. First melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and constantly stir for about two minutes – maintaining a medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk in the milk – stirring to prevent clumps from forming. When fully incorporated, bring back to the heat and allow to simmer. Cook until the consistency is a “thick pudding.”) Remove from heat and stir in cheese, herbs, salt, paprika, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Cover and allow to remain at room temperature. (Note – soufflé base can be made up to two hours ahead of whipping egg whites to fold into mixture).

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks to blend. Slowly add soufflé base to the yolks. In a separate mixing bowl, whip egg whites to a firm peak (meaning that if you were to turn the bowl upside down, the egg whites would not move). When whipped to stiff peaks, add 1/3 of the egg whites into the soufflé base and mix well. This is called “sacrificing” the egg whites. The intention is to slowly “introduce” the soufflé base to the new addition of egg whites. Gently fold in the remaining 2/3 of egg whites to the soufflé base, trying to leave as much air as possible into the folding process. Using a spoon, carefully fill the soufflé molds to about 75% capacity… allowing room for the soufflés to rise.

Bake soufflé until the top is puffed and a golden, crisp brown. Center should be fully cooked in about 30 minutes.

In the past, I have actually served a whipped herb goat cheese and mango coulis with the savory soufflé. Why does this work… the herb goat cheese is simply a plethora of herbs mixed into a softened goat cheese and a touch of lemon juice. The tang of the goat cheese compliments the parmesan within the soufflé. Mango coulis… this aids in brightening the entire dish. Simply blend one mango, ½ c. orange juice, juice of 1 lemon and 1 Tbsp agave in a blender/vitamix. Pour through chinois/sieve (strainer) and reserve the liquid (discard the solids).

In presentation, be sure to have herbal goat cheese and mango already made and plated. When soufflé had finished baking, immediately transfer to plate and serve. Top soufflé with pomegranate seeds, as well as basil leaf in order to incorporate a touch of color. The pomegranate seeds will also aid in providing a textural “surprise” for your tongue.

“When we no longer have good cooking in the world, we will have no literature, nor high and sharp intelligence, nor friendly gatherings… no social harmony.” – Marie-Antoine Careme.

Love y’all! ♥