Do you love cookbooks? I do! I love to read them cover to cover, like I am reading a novel. I don’t necessarily read every single detail of every single recipe, though I do for many of them. I love to know what the author uses for salt, and the good ones include stories or background on at least the author, if not many of the recipes as well. I have lots of favorites, though there are a few that I always come back to both at home and at the cafe. One of my favorite places to get cookbooks is an antique store. I have found several unusual, fun and well-loved cookbooks at various ‘junk’ stores, especially up on Vancouver Island, in Sidney, BC. That tiny town has tons of old book stores and I have picked up some treasures in them.

I also enjoy watching certain cooking shows, too, and I get lots of inspiration from Ina Garten, Sara Moulton, Jacques & Julia, and others. For Valentine’s day my dad bought me a cookbook that I have wanted for a couple of years. I had not purchased it for myself because it was over $40 and I was not able to find a way to ‘need’ it for that much money. The book is ‘The Gourmet Cookbook’ which is edited by Ruth Reichl, whom you all may know I love and admire! I have read all of her books and her writing style shines through in this cookbook. The book was on sale for $10 and now I see that it is only $7.22! I just bought some for gifts because… and hear this: I! LOVE! THIS! COOKBOOK! I just about slept with it the first night, as I fell asleep with it in my lap. Ms. Reichl adds so much to it, and the fact that many of the recipes are as old as Gourmet is, well it is just special. The stories are good, the food is fabulous, and I think it is an essential for any kitchen. (ps Linda, If you don’t have this one, I have you covered, no need to buy it!)

I can sing the praises of many cookbooks, and if you are interested I will share with you some of my favorites, though I most certainly have not read them all. In fact my cookbook wishlist on Amazon has 106 items on it and grows all the time. I have about 6 shelves worth between home and the cafe, and that is pared down… Hi, my name is Monica, and I am addicted to cookbooks. The good news is that I don’t purchase them if I don’t think I will absolutely love and use them, and if it turns out that I don’t use them, I pass them on to someone who will. And then there are the books about food… I shouldn’t even get started there. I just had to share with you how much I love this cookbook so that you can pick one up while they are this fabulous price. I imagine they are getting rid of it, since it is a couple of years old. It was totally worth the wait! It makes me smile every time I see it sitting on the table, waiting for me to read some more.

Last Saturday after a long day of catering, one of our gals (Lori!) bough Mark and me each a shot of Patron tequila. We had never had it before and I must say: SMOOTH. It was indeed the nicest tequila I have ever sipped, and that was just the silver, so someday I will try the repisado, since that is my favorite style. I don’t drink enough tequila to warrant rushing out and buying a bottle, but I will put it on my Christmas list! If you haven’t had it, and you enjoy sipping tequila (this is not a party shot!) I highly recommend tasting it.

On Sunday Mark and I went to the Ballard Farmer’s Market with Erin and a couple of friends. I have been wanting to go there for so long and it is truly amazing! With nearly 100 stalls (I think they said 97?) it is very much like the European markets that we see in Italy. A wonderful variety of locally grown and produced food items, along with art and crafts, and other household necessities. It was pure pleasure checking it out, and of course it was a sunny, albeit chilly day, which made it even better. We all had a great time and I must say if you haven’t been, go. They take EBT at the market booth, and many vendors can take credit cards as well.

After we were done wandering the market we went into Bastille for cocktails and a little something to eat. My favorite cocktail, especially for brunch, is a Bloody Caesar, which is really difficult to find around here, unfortunately… (They are prolific in BC.) Another favorite is a Kir Royale, which is just sparkling wine with a splash of Creme de Cassis, a currant liqueur. I was about to order that when I saw they had a special cocktail called ‘La Muse’: Vodka, grapefruit & Cassis with a splash of Crémant, served on the rocks. Oh yes! It was so yummy! It went nicely with the best fries I have ever had! Unfortunately we were there at the tail end and they were out of several dishes, but the food that came was delicious and well-prepared. The interior of the place is remarkable and I loved looking around in there. It felt a little like a New York restaurant, which I consider a compliment… maybe it was the subway tiles on the walls. (Such a comedian, I know!)

It is finally snowing after threatening to all day. I am working really late because I was feeling really behind, and then I got the urge to check in with you to say hello. This weekend we are in for a huge treat (actually many treats) that I will share with you next week. Meanwhile, I hope we all survive the ‘asnowcalypse’, no one loses power and everyone still comes to the cafe for lunch! Would you like a recipe? How about Ina Garten’s mustard-roasted fish. It is so easy and delicous, and it uses things that I always have in my pantry. When I go to buy the fish I would get the creme fraiche and be good to go:

4 8-ounce fish fillets (snapper, tilapia, etc…)
salt and pepper
8 ounces creme fraiche or sour cream
3 TBS dijon mustard
1 TBS whole grain mustard
2 TBS minced shallots (or onion if no shallots)
2 tsp drained capers (or caper berries)

Preheat the oven to 425 and line a sheet pan or baking dish with parchment (or cooking spray)

Place the fish fillets skin side down and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl, along with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.

Spoon the sauce evenly over the fish, making sure each fillet is completely covered.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until it is barely done. The fish will flake easily at the thickest part when it is done. It is easy to over cook, so be careful or it will dry out.

Serve it hot, right away, with the sauce from the pan spooned over the top.

I would serve this with roasted potatoes and green beans, both of which will be great if the sauce gets on them!

Ciao for now!