The Pantry is our special place in which we will store an assortment of ideas, thoughts, and philosophies of food and wine in the good life.  If you have a special tip on foods, beverages, cooking, shopping, dining, or any related subject, please share with us.  Also, email us at pantry@jacquesandcompany.com with your favorite quotes from literature.

Pears

There are thousands of varieties of pears.  The taste for pears dates to antiquity, capturing the fancy of Greek poet Homer in the 8th Century B.C. who referred to them as “a gift from the gods.”

In this country, the most popular of all is the Bartlett Pear, grown successfully in various parts of the west, particularly in California. This variety originated in Europe, transported here by early colonists where it took the name of an orchardist in Massachusetts.  In other parts of the world, it is still known as the Williams Pear.  Bartlett Pears spread with the movement west and took hold all along the West Coast.

Bosc (bahsk) Pears are an elegant variety, with distinctive crunchiness and sweet spicey flavor under the brown skin that set them apart.   Another European variety, the Bosc was first planted in Eastern United States in the 1830s.  Today, the Bosc thrives in the soil and climate of Oregon and Washington State.

Sorrel

Sorrel is perennial green member of the buckwheat family. The two most common species are garden sorrel and French sorrel. Sorrel’s flavor is similar to spinach, but with a sour tang.  Unlike spinach, sorrel is more tolerant of heat and grows throughout summer.

Used in cooking since at least the Roman era, it was initially employed for medicinal purposes to “attempter and coole the bloud.” 

The more acidic garden sorrel is sometimes called “sour dock,” and is used to flavor cream soups and accompany meats and vegetables. French sorrel is appreciated for its more mild and lemony flavors.  Both can be used raw in salads (sorrel is a common leaf in mesclun mix)  as well as cooked or added to sauces. Why not begin your dinner with a creamy Sorrel Soup?

Fresh Northwest Cherries

 

 

 

The Rainier is the star of Northwest cherries, with it's firm flesh, juicy and incredible flavor.  The Bing is also great when fully ripened.  Let's not forget the sour cherry, harder to find but I think the best for a pie. When buying cherries the fresher the better.  Always look at the stems...if they are wilted and brown they are past their prime.  A freshly picked cherry should have crisp and greenish looking stems. Try our recipe for a simple, delicious starter course Cherry Clafoutis.

Balsamic Vinegar

Among the variety of vinegars, Balsamic has emerged as a popular ingredient with impressive flavor that is at once sweet and oaky.  There are now many commercial products, some that are made virtually overnight and not very good.  The real stuff is a traditional product of central Italy, the Modena or Veggio regions, made by a painstaking process of cumulative aging and evaporation in wooden barrels.  This long aging, at least twelve years, sometimes more, results in intensely warm, flavorful vinegar sometimes imbibed by Italians as a liqueur.  This special product has “aceto balsamico tradizionale” on the label, is very expensive, and used sparingly.  Over the last several decades, some commercial products have done a good job of producing a “halfway” balsamic that is aged, but over fewer years.  Still comparatively expensive, these products are wonderful ingredients for sauce reductions and salad dressings.  If you have a good bottle, you will want to drizzle this vinegar over savory dishes or fresh fruit, as in our recipe for Strawberry Shortcakes.

The Pantry

 

At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.

W. Somerset Maugham

In his classic book "Culture and Cuisine," Jean-Francois Revel wrote that food is inseparable from imagination, culling cultural references from great writings of the ages. 

“From Aristophanes to Zola, from Juvenal to Gogol, passing by way of Fielding or Goldoni, poetry, the novel, or the theater offer us a reflection of the contemporary gastronomical sensibility of a given society that is all the more believable in that it is usually involuntary and peripheral.”

Let us kick off our own pantry full of literary references to gastronomy with a quote from the writings of Francois de La Rochefoucauld, a seventeenth century French author.

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.”

For another, consider the celebrated British modernist writer of the early twentieth century, Virginia Woolf:

  “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”

 

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