Thursday, December 29, 2011



New Year’s eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.
- Hamilton Wright Mabie

The fog hangs low and heavy, shrouding the city in an icy white mist. The sky is a now-familiar leaden gray and yet for the manifest moroseness of the weather, there is something so romantic, so palpably mysterious about the gloominess, the whiteness that swallows one up as one steps over the threshold, that thrills me to the bone. I wrap my heavy coat tightly around my body, tug it closer around my neck with gloved hands and hurry outside, excited and energized by the Arctic chill that heralds the onset of a true winter. The house is alive with activity, the blaring of the television set alternates with music bursting from husband’s office, books are strewn across the sofas and tabletops pell-mell with stacks of old photos, crumpled gift wrap and discarded ribbon. A beautiful, confusing chaos reigns, a chaos that only arrives at holiday time when everyone is home with few worries or cares other than being cheerful and merry, the sole responsibility being that of purchasing and receiving gifts, eating cake and cookies and watching all of the old black & white movies one can possibly watch in a minimum of time, only alternating with curling up on the sofa, dog tidily nestled in one’s lap, reading a good book.

The year inches to a close, a new year slowly opens her waiting arms and as we stand here on the brink, teetering on the edge, my mind races back over all that has happened in 2011 and the truly extraordinary year it has been. At the risk of getting all weepy eyed with nostalgia, I wander back along the road that I have traveled, the places I have been and the people – the friends – that I have met over the course of the past year. I have had an amazing array of opportunities and have joyfully grabbed at each one, as we each should do. From Europe to the United States to the Middle East, I have stood in the searing Omani heat at the foot of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, wandered through the Old French Quarter of New Orleans on a stifling summer day, strolled along a Florida beach, biked along a canal in Brittany and stood in a Tuscan vineyard. In one single year I have eaten bratwurst in Germany, panzerotti in Italy, beignets and po’ boys in New Orleans, tielle in Sète, been refreshed by icy lemon mint drinks in Muscat, sipped Cognac in, well, Cognac.

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in.
A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.
- Bill Vaughn

Cape Town, South Africa, February

Weimar, Germany, May

Brittany, Canal Nantes à Brest, June

New Orleans, August

Satellite Beach, Florida, September

Muscat, Oman, September

Tuscany, Italy, October

Milan, Italy, November

Cognac, France, November

Here on the homefront, the battle against mankind rages as we have made a first tentative step out of the rat race, as far as it is possible in this day and age. We carry on our business happily (not to say that we aren’t often frustrated) and are thoroughly enjoying having the time to work on our own personal projects and chart out our own future. We allow our imagination to run wild as we make plans, jumping from continent to continent in our dreams and permit our creativity to take over the everyday. We cook together, eat together, spend our evenings together as a family. The boys work on the (in)famous Lambretta renovations down in the chilly garage coming back upstairs in time for JP to prepare lunch or dinner. Happy am I to have him take over the kitchen! Côte de beouf, Parmentier, couscous, fragrant, mouthwatering odors emanate from the kitchen day in and day out, only alternating with the scent of orange, apple, cinnamon and chocolate as I bake.



Ribollita & Crostata


As I wallow in my memories, old sentimental fool that I am, the Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations wind down and we begin to prepare for New Year’s Eve. JP was finally relieved and just a tad thrilled when the last candle was lit, as the decorations were packed up and returned to their hiding place in the cupboard, as the last present was bought, wrapped, offered, unwrapped and oooohed over. The eight days and nights of Hanukkah seemed to go on forever, the responsibility of making sure everyone received a gift each night weighed heavily on his shoulders and he vowed that next year only Christmas would be celebrated with its single night and morning of festivities. Little does he know…. (cue for evil chuckle). And now, in our own particular haphazard, rather whimsical fashion, with no rhyme or reason and with only ourselves to please, we begin to plan our New Year’s Eve celebration and meal. Once again, as is customary, we will wander through the market and fill our baskets with whatever tempts: oysters – always, smoked salmon and blinis, fresh pasta and traditional boudin blanc. A trayful of glistening olives in every shade of green, brown and violet, tiny marinated artichokes and luscious, devilishly divine goat cheese wrapped in speck ham will grace our coffee table, to be nibbled on as we sip chilled Prosecco, the bottle to be finished off with orangettes and chocolate truffles as we toast in the New Year.

I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.
-Anais Nin

(some photos courtesy of Brad Lau, Anne-Laure Jacquart, Arthi Iyer, Meeta K. Wolff, Simone Van Den Berg, Roger Pratesi)

And what of 2012? My secret wishes, desires and goals are impossible to hide from anyone although I try and remain ever-so discreet and professional: to be published. Yes, I work hard, writing, writing, writing, and have been submitting articles to magazines, putting together book proposals and all with the love, encouragement and support of my network of very talented friends. I hope for the chance in the coming year to again teach and speak as sharing my knowledge, experience and passion is more than a pleasure; it has become part of my being, it feeds my soul, it inspires me as I hope to inspire others. I hope that 2012 will see so many of my husband’s goals and desires come to fruition, for he more than anyone deserves the gratification, the satisfaction, the reward of his multiple talents and hard work. Joy will be mine if my baby boy finds his way, his passion, his direction and both sons find happiness and success. And I pray that excellent health return quickly to wonderful Lael and Andrea, never to leave them stranded again.

And as far as the frivolous and selfish goes? I want to travel. I want to spend time with my friends. Face to face rather than just via internet. I want to move somewhere new, fresh and exciting, the next step in this great adventure alongside my husband, a somewhere filled with discovery, pleasure and possibilities.

From New Year's on the outlook brightens; good humor lost in a mood of failure returns. I resolve to stop complaining.
- Leonard Bernstein

I needed something spectacular to end this old year and see in the new, something boozy, something festive, a cake that reflects the joy I feel, the excitement in the air; a dessert to make us settle back in our seats and sigh with pleasure and utterly forget the worries and cares that haunt our day in and day out; a treat elegant and sophisticated yet frivolous and sexy, a cake we want to hover over, linger over, enjoy with sensuous abandon. And I have found it! As its creator, Rose Levy Beranbaum, describes her Golden Grand Marnier Bundt “The divine flavors of orange, Grand Marnier, chocolate and almond – supported by a mellow sour cream butter cake base – combine to produce a sensational cake!” The orange juice and zest, orange flower water and Grand Marnier give this moist, dense yet very delicate cake a wonderful hint of citrus, in no way overpowering. I have added a luscious drizzle of chocolate ganache glaze to heighten the sensuous experience and bring together the perfect flavor duo to create the ideal dessert to ring in the New Year!

From the wonderful Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

½ cup (85 g) mini-chocolate chips
¼ tsp Grand Marnier
1 ½ tsps cake flour

3 large eggs (about scant 5 fluid ounces/150 g)
1 cup (250 ml) sour cream (I used 0% fat fromage frais)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp orange flower water (if not using, increase vanilla to 1 ½ tsps)
2 ½ cups (250 g) sifted cake flour (I loosely spooned the flour into measuring cups)
2 ounces (60 g) finely ground almonds
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 ½ tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
2 Tbs finely grated orange zest (I grated the zest of 2 large oranges)
1 cup (8 ounces/225 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

Grand Marnier Syrup
½ cup (100 g) sugar
¼ liquid cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 liquid cup (80 ml) Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour a 9-cup fluted tube or Bundt pan and shake out the excess flour.

In a small bowl, toss the chocolate chips and the Grand Marnier until all the chips are moistened and shiny. Add the 1 ½ teaspoons flour and toss until evenly coated.

In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs, ¼ cup of the sour cream, the orange flower water and the vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and the orange zest and mix on low speed of an electric mixer for 30 seconds to blend. Add the softened butter and the remaining ¾ cup sour cream (I added about a quarter of the egg mixture as well). Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened and then increase mixer speed to medium (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 ½ minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients. Scrape down the sides. Stir or fold in the chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter in the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a wire cake tester inserted in the center (halfway between the side and the tube) comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly. (As my own oven is very uneven, the cake began browning quite quickly, so I simply covered it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil; my cake also rose into a hill and cracked: no need to worry, it refound its shape as it cooled and the bottom, once flipped onto the serving platter, was perfectly flat.) The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.

Shortly before the cake is done, prepare the Grand Marnier Syrup: Place the sugar, freshly squeezed orange juice and the Grand Marnier in a small saucepan and heat just until the sugar is dissolved; do not allow to boil. As soon as the cake is out of the oven, place on a wire rack, poke the top all over with a wire tester and brush on half of the syrup. Cool in the pan on the rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack placed over a piece of waxed paper or aluminum foil and brush all over (top, outside and inside) with the remaining syrup (I waited until the cake was completely cool before turning it out of the pan and brushing with the remaining syrup). Cool completely then carefully place on a cake/serving plate or platter.


2 oz (55 g) dark semi-sweet chocolate
¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
1 to 2 Tbs blanched and slivered almonds for decoration, optional
1 to 2 tsps edible sugar pearls for decoration, optional

Chop the chocolate and place in a small heatproof glass or pyrex bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat just until it reaches the boil and bubbles appear around the edges. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, until desired drizzling thickness. Drizzle evenly over the top of the cake, allowing the ganache to drip down the sides of the cake. Dust with slivered almonds and sugar pearls.


Astrid and the kitties Kashim, Othello and Salome said...

Oh Jamie! What a wonderful look at 2011! It's been a great year - best of all to have met you in person!

You know there are some doors that are always open for you in Vienna...! ;o)

Jamie said...

@Astrid: I LOVED spending time with you; you are truly a kind, generous, talented and fun person and I will definitely find my way to Vienna! xo

Sips and Spoonfuls said...

What a super year you have had Jamie! So much travelling- I'm jelaous! I hope 2012 brings you health and prosperity.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What an amazing year you've had! You've experienced so much within the last 12 months.

All the best for 2012! I'm looking forward to reading you for many more years and hope we'll be able to meet soon...



Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

What an amazing journey this year has been for you...both personally and've been everywhere girl! Well, except Denver, CO. :)

Excited for you and know more good things are coming soon. I can feel it. Happy New Year!

Jamie said...

@Rosa and Barb: you are both most definitely on the visit list for 2012! xo

Junglefrog said...

What a wonderful recap of your year Jamie! I feel like I've been in small way a bit a part of that as I finally met you in person and it already seems such a long time ago. I sincerely hope 2012 will bring us together again at some point and I'm sure your dream of getting published will come true in some major way. You're such a talented person!! All the best in 2012!

bunkycooks said...

Cheers to the New Year and all that it may have in store for you and your family! 2011 has been quite the year of journeys and meeting friends and I am glad to have been a part of it with you! xoxo

Cake Duchess said...

A lovely recap of your incredible year. How blessed you have been to visit all these beautiful places in such a short time (and we got to meet at one of them:). And you will realize your dreams. I just know it. It's just around the corner. Nothing like a bundt cake and yours is delicious. Buon Anno e tanti baci!xx

Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes said...

Beautiful photographs, I love the texture of the sliced almonds and pearls atop the bundt- and what an amazing year you have had!

El said...

Wow. You've had an incredible year. It's inspirational, really. I can't get over all of the travel. You're so lucky to be close to everything (and have a good train system- unlike the good ol USA). Cheers to you and yours. Happy New Year.

Robin O. said...

Savoring life through your words and images Jamie. You are an inspiration -- not of the other worldly, unapproachable kind, but human, genuine, a gifted observer and penchant for life.

May your dreams be fulfilled and new adventures abound in 2012. So glad to have spent time with you in Tuscany.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

What a spectacular year you have had! I wish you all good things in 2012. May all of your dreams come true.

Dianne Jacob said...

Breathless and happy, and no wonder. What a year!

Great things await you in 2012, my friend. Happy to be a part of it. Let's get you published, already, since that is your goal.

DebbieK said...

Beautiful post, beautiful photos, beautiful prose, beautiful friend...may 2012 bring only wonderful things to your life and may those of us lucky enough to call you our friend get the opportunities to see more of you in person <3 Ths is your year Jamie-mark my words-I said it months ago that 2011 was the lead up, 2012 is Jamie's year!

Lisa said...

Is there anywhere you haven't been in 2011? Oh, yeah..NYC, but you will be in 2012!! Love the photos! It's the book of 'Jamie 2011' and so much fun to look at and read. I love the photo of you and your bratwurst lol I also love your buns, umm..bundt. It's beautiful, and that's what I meant by 'refined baker'. Your baked goods are always visually stunning and perfect. Here's to a 'just as' or 'even more' awesome 2012! xoxo

lisa is cooking said...

What an incredible year, and I bet your 2012 is even more exciting! This cake is definitely a great way to celebrate. The buttery cake with orange flavors and the chocolate glaze looks delightful. Happy New Year!

katiez said...

Love this post - what a fantastic year. Hope 2012 is even more fun!

Deeba PAB said...

You must be the luckiest dear girl...what an incredible year to live, so packed with the folk you love, places one can only dream of visiting in 365 days, and loads of connect. Theres so much energy your writing, still so much thought. I hope 2012 makes the rest of your dreams come true, with plenty of sweet surprises thrown in! Hugs to you and your band of men ... MWAH!!

Maris (In Good Taste) said...

Thank you for sharing the beautiful post and pictures. Your dream will come true and we will reading your books one day as you are such a talented writer. Happy Healthy New Year!

Aparna B. said...

As always you take the most gorgeous pictures. It sounds like 2011 was a great year for you - such beautiful photos from your travel adventures! I hope 2012 is even better for you and brings all you hope for! <3 Happy Holidays Jamie!

Kitchen Vignettes said...


Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I have just discovered your blog and wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. What a lovely way to finish the year...your cake it beautiful.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

So I am getting teary eyed and emotional - so happy that we found each other and even more glad that 2011 was spent sealing our friendship. Looking forward to sharing 2012 with you sister and I get goose bumps just thinking you will be a part of my 2012 again! Love you!

tasteofbeirut said...

Sounds like you had a great year! Wishing you another great one for 2012 and the following years! You look adorable in those photos, like a twenty-year old having a blast! Cheers!

Nancy Baggett said...

You are such a fine, evocative writer--and I don't give praise lightly. You got me to thinking about all the highlights of my year, too. And a Bundt with Grand Marnier--well actually most anything with Grand Marnier and chocolate is totally irresistible.

Hope we get a chance to meet in person sometime. Have a super New Year.

peasepudding said...

What an amazing year, good luck for 2012 and happy new year!

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

What a year it's been for you Jamie. I have a feeling that 2012 will have even bigger and better things in store for you. Grateful to know you my fun, fabulous and talented friend! Wishing you and your family and wonderful New Year.

Heather @ said...

What an absolutely amazing year you've are such a jetsetter! ;) I loved all of the pictures and memories, thank you so much for sharing them. And the Bundt...YUM! Happy New Year, Jamie =)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

You've had an amazing year Jamie and you deserve every moment of beauty! I hope 2012 is full of fantastic moments! :D

Ivy said...

What a wonderful post. That was an amazing year for you! Best wishes for 2012! May the new year bring you more joy and happiness.

Magic of Spice said...

What a beautiful re-cap and gorgeous photos!
Happy New Year!

Aimée @ Food, Je t'Aimée said...

Agree with all the others - a heartfelt and beautiful summary of 2011, from the perspective of Life's A Feast!

Hoping your travels bring you this way someday soon, for some of that face time you mentioned.

Warmest and happiest wishes for you in this new year, Jamie. May all the inspiration you give others come back to you ten-fold. 2012 is your year, my friend!

Nuts about food said...

That was quite a year, may all your other dreams come true.

Jun Belen said...

A fabulous cake for a fabulous year! Happy New Year!! Hope to meet you in 2012!

Fahad Khan said...

Wish you a very Happy New Year,Jamie!:) Wonderful that you traveled to so many amazing places in 2011,I wish that the magic continues for you this year,and many more years to come!
The Bundt recipe is great,I am a sucker for both,orange and chocolate preparations,and this one has both!
Oh,and I love that black fork you have placed alongside the cake,LOL.

Jeanne said...

A great recap of a great year, Saucy! Can't wait to see what 2012 bring for you - and for our band of sisters! :)

Terra said...

I am so glad you shared this post, I missed it last year. Your travels last year look like they were beyond memorable:-) This bundt cake looks amazing, I am a huge lover of Grand Mariner! Truly beautiful post, Hugs, Terra


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