Charming Brunch

We didn’t go to the French countryside, but enjoyed a taste of French Country decor & cuisine all the same…I recently took my mother to brunch at the adorable Stella Mare’s restaurant in Santa Barbara, California. The house was originally build in 1872 and moved to its current site on the edge of the Santa Barbara Bird Refuge in 1962.

Stella Mare’s Victorian house is a designated historic landmark.

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A Holiday Meal Extraordinaire

Our friend Susan hosted this event on the first night of winter. It kicked off our fabulous holiday season and it was also the first night of Hanukkah. Last week I wrote about how we spent the day preparing the food together and shared the recipe for the decadent tartiflette.

Susan’s Christmas decorations and Santa collection are amazing. And her dining table is jaw-dropping gorgeous! It was a pleasure to spend such a lovely evening amidst beautiful surroundings with my family and charming delightful friends, both old and new.

Susan presented Don and Kristy with an elegant Menorah. Here, they recite the blessing in Hebrew. The shamash candle (servant light) is lit, then it is used to light the other candle on this first night of Hanukkah.
The significance of Hanukkah and the Menorah:
The Jews had lost their religious freedom. In a rebellion led by the Maccabees, the Jews regained their freedoms and cleansed and rededicated the Temple around 165 BCE. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates the Maccabees’ victory and the Temple’s rededication. The Hanukkah Menorah, with its eight candles plus the shamash, is lit to commemorate the one-days-worth of pure oil that miraculously lasted for eight days keeping the Temple lights burning until new oil could be obtained.

Let’s Eat!

Mussels with Pernod and Crème Fraîche

I sautéed sliced leeks and celery in butter, added white wine, thyme and bay then reduced. Later this mixture was transferred to a large pot with more wine, brought to a boil, then 5 lbs. PEI mussels were added. When the mussels open they were removed to the serving bowls and the sauce finished with a 1/2 c. Pernod, 8 oz. of crème fraîche and lots of chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the hot broth over the mussels. Serve with toasted French baguette.
The distinctive flavor of Pernod is created through a combination of star anise, fennel, parsley, chamomile, coriander and several aromatic herbs and plants. Pernod adds another dimension to this mussel broth. I look forward to cooking with it more often, specifically in vegetable and fish dishes.

Chèvre Chaud, Green Salad, Dijon Vinaigrette

Filet Mignon Chausseur
Tarragon Horseradish Crème

Vol-au-Vent filled with Vanilla Yogurt
Quince, Pear, and Orange in a Cinnamon Syrup
I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Susan for her friendship, generous hospitality, delicious meals, the laughs and the good times. We look forward to spending more time together in 2009.
I hope you all had wonderful holidays. Wishing you an abundance of love, friendship, peace, health, prosperity and happiness at the New Year and always.