A Spicy Wedding
Our foodie gifts included a subscription to a wine-of-the-month club, a gift certificate to a new restaurant in Boulder founded by "French Laundry" proteges, a turkey roaster, cheese paraphernalia (platters, plates, knives, labels), rice cooker, cookie jar, good knives, baking dishes, handmade serving bowls, Irish tea set, Japanese pasta bowls, and other good stuff. (The one item to which we reacted quizzically was a "carrot curler" that arrived in a "Sur la Table" gift box with no tag or card. We stared at this bright orange plastic implement for a while, wondering if we'd really ever use it. According to the directions, we can also use it for curling parsnips. Apparently every bride and groom get one gift that makes them wince or scratch their heads--this one's ours!)
Appropriately, the other two tarts found very cool stuff that we love. Melissa, who spent time in London and has a great appreciation for tea, picked out a burgundy teapot with two beautiful cups in a traditional pattern and added a tin of gourmet tea:
Take a closer look at the tin--it's called "wedding tea" and the bags are actually silky cloth pyramids with the white tea leaves inside. And in addition to the leaves, there are flowers too--rosebuds. It smells, oddly enough, like chocolate, and it's delicious. (Mr. Tart asks for it by name on most mornings now.)
Tara and Mark also found something delightful: a box of Provencal goodies from Penzeys! http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/shophome.html
Packed in this wooden crate, nestled in between bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and nutmeg, were a pepper grinder, three vanilla beans, and about twenty jars of French herbs and spices--tarragon, herbes de Provence, thyme, lavender, and lots more. We just sat around smelling them for a long time. Now I need to figure out how to use some of the less common ones (or at least the ones I'm less familiar with, like "French Four-Spice Powder").
Tara's gift, however, posed a problem: we now had hit herb impasse in the kitchen. In between my herbs and spices, Mr. Tart's, and the new ones, they wouldn't all fit on the allotted shelf, and we had some duplicates. Some of his spices dated back to grad school--which was over a decade ago! So I decided to do a sniff and taste test to get rid of all the dead ones, combine jars, keep all the freshest ones, and give the older ones away.
You know how most of the cooking gurus say to get ride of herbs and spices after six-twelve months because they lose their potency? After tasting a lot, I discovered that many of ours still had the flavor I associate with them. They were old, or old-ish, but still seemed like they'd do their job. Is this just a cover-up, a conspiracy by spicemakers to make us replace the jars continually? Anyway, it was much fun to play with all our jars and make room for them and start cooking with them enthusiastically. Plus the drawer where we're storing them smells so good now!