Slow Checks, if Not Food

(At last the Urban Farm Junkie has returned from her globetrotting and overcome jetlag to the point that she can sit at her computer again and then stumble off to the Saturday Bellevue Farmers Market--because heaven forbid she run out of cherries before the Thursday market.)

Greetings, foodies. I had hopes of sending a post written while I actually was in Paris, Florence, or Rome, but only the Paris hotel had any free computer access, and even my dedication level was not sufficient to compose a post typed in on my iPhone "keyboard." But good news--I've learned how to say organic in French and Italian! It's "biologique" or "biologico," respectively. Since European countries tend to have much stricter laws about what can and can't be done to food, I actually didn't think too much about it, but I did notice a few places bragging about "bio" eggs. Can't tell you whether or not the taste was superior because--ugh--it was soft-boiled. If there's anything American cooks have contributed to world cuisine, it's cooking everything within an inch of its life--a definite improvement where eggs are concerned.

Because we didn't swing south on this Italian journey, I missed the lavish displays of roasted vegetable antipasti, but there was still plenty of delicious food throughout the trip. Cafe LaDuree in Paris featured hot chocolate so thick and rich you could almost stand your spoon in it, as well as croissants so flaky that nearly exploded on contact. I had a croissant "fouree" the first day, the filling being a mixture of hazelnuts and almonds, and then one with chocolate and a pistachio mixture the next. Uh huh. Yum. Plenty of good cheese and bread, even in the restaurant at the Orsay Museum!

On to Florence, where our dinner at the Quattro Leoni won hands-down for best trip meal. Prosciutto and melon for starters, but not just your standard canteloupe. This was some smaller, darker, oranger melon at its very peak of ripeness. It wasn't a Charantais, either. I'm dying to ask our melon farmers when we hit the season. This was followed by my sublime entree of little pasta purses stuffed with a pear(!)-cheese mixture and bathed in a cream sauce. Oh. My. Goodness. This is when one yearns for gut-busting, American-size portions because I could have eaten about fifty of those little guys, but as it is I had to settle for gelato afterward. Just as with American ice cream, you can spot the better gelatos by the color. Banana should be gray-brown, not yellow. And pistachio should be gray-sage, not green. In Rome we risked our lives storming the completely disorganized counter at Giolitti's where they pile your gelato high and then ask, "Con panna?" Meaning, do you want whipped cream on your iced cream? Fat with your fat? Yes, please.

I was sad to come home from the mid-80s temperatures in Rome to the low-60s here, but at least summer marches on in theory! Here come all the berries and cherries and the first early-variety peaches. My youngest and I made quick work of the Tieton cherries from Johnson Orchards and look forward to Bings in a couple weeks. A friend reports that the grass-fed lamb chops she bought Thursday were to die for--she basted them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and then grilled them up in no time. And the snap peas are everywhere. This week I might pick up a little spinach and saute it as my husband enjoyed it in Rome: olive oil, raisins, and pine nuts.

Happy Market Day and buon appetito!