The Shop Tart loves to eat. She even loves to cook, but not necessarily on your schedule. Hmph. One of her favorite things to make in the summer is a big plate of Vietnamese salad rolls. Wrapped in rice paper and stuffed with whatever you like (think fresh, local vegetables and leftover barbeque), they are delicious. The Shop Tart’s favorite Vietnamese and Thai cookbook is called, simply enough, The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking. It’s written by Mai Pham and the Shop Tart believes she is a genius, not least because she admits to using ketchup in her pad Thai recipe. Anyone who admits to using ketchup cares more about flavor than image. Love that! As for the salad rolls, use her recipe for technique, then go nuts with your own ingredients. The Shop Tart includes everything from red pepper, cucumber and carrots to fresh basil and mint. And bacon bits. Yum. Tip: If you are taking the rolls to the pool for lunch, put the sauce inside so you won’t have to trouble yourself with the dipping.
Another cookbook she can’t live without is the Larousse Gastronomique. This book is like the internet of cookbooks; you go to look up one little thing and end up, three hours later, having looked up loads and loads of mostly useless but reasonably entertaining information. This is her source for all things French, from clafoutis to pâte brisée (Hint: The Larousse says you can make it with a food processor. Woohoo! Just don’t tell the Shop Tart’s French mother-in-law.)
Risotto is also a favorite dish, like Rice-a-roni, the San Francisco treat, but fancier. The New Basics was the source for her first risotto and she still refers to it, although she now takes quite a few liberties with ingredients. The New Basics is good for demystifying fancy food. Demystifying is our goal in life, n’est-ce pas? She also highly recommends the chocolate chip cookie recipe from that book, but feel free to add extras, like coconut, raisins, pecans or peanut butter chips.
The Shop Tart has been meaning to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life ever since it was released. The other day at Rosewood Market, she sat down to eat her lunch and it happened to be right on the shelf next to her head. This seemed like a clear enough sign, so she read it while enjoying her salmon and salad. She has a feeling this may be one of those books she takes a while to finish, unlike her beloved chick lit, but it’s good. Barbara Kingsolver and her family eat local food for an entire year and write about it. Although most people would find it nearly impossible to eat local food only (unless Pringle’s are local?) the book is inspiring. If you are wondering, “Where have I heard of Barbara Kingsolver?” wonder no more. She is also a novelist and, if you haven’t read The Poisonwood Bible, you should. Great read, not chick lit, though. Well, it’s kind of chick lit, but Jimmy Choos don’t enter the picture. The Shop Tart, every now and then, reads a book that doesn’t include long descriptions of the heroine’s fab wardrobe. Really.
The other day, Mr. Shop Tart brought his wife a couple of books, including Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal. It’s about a wife who discovers, after her relatively young husband’s death, that he was a real sh*t. The Shop Tart is not quite sure what her husband is trying to tell her, but the book is pretty decent. Actually, it’s depressing, but in an interesting way. She is about half-way through and it’s becoming more engaging. She is hoping for a twist, but doesn’t expect one. This doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement, does it? The book is definitely worth a look. How about that? She enjoyed it with another Rosewood lunch, the smoked tofu wrap. This wrap is worthy of an enthusiastic endorsement. Loaded with lettuce and accented with chipotle mayo, the sandwich is worth eating – with gusto – any day of the week. The Shop Tart may just have to go get another one today. Dang, that is one heck of a good sandwich.
Speaking of food you don’t have to cook, the Shop Tart met two friends at Rosso last night for snacks. On her way in, she met one of her dear readers. By the way, for the record, she loves it when people introduce themselves to her in public, especially when they follow the introduction by telling her they love her writing. It rocks. Ahem. The lady and her friend were enjoying a bubbly rosé on the patio. The Shop Tart approves, not that they need her permission. Mwah! At the bar, she enjoyed her glass of prosecco while her friends sipped Aperol spritzes, an excellent summer choice. Aperol, an Italian aperitif, contains bitter orange, rhubarb, gentian…wait. All you need to know is that it’s an Italian aperitif. Fancy enough, n’est-ce pas? The bitter liqueur is combined with Orangina, prosecco and orange slices to make a refreshing, alcohol treat.
The Shop Tart ordered fritto misto, a delicious dish consisting of little pieces of fried seafood, most notable for the inclusion of what she and her table mates thought were slices of deep-fried lemon. Whatever they were, she liked them. Tip: Order a side of the Meyer lemon aioli for dipping. Some of it comes on the plate, but the Shop Tart is a big dipper.
By the way, ain’t nothing wrong with a little bowl of olives. Nothing.
The winner of the evening was the lady who ordered the caprese involtini special, a bed of arugula topped with fresh mozzarella and basil-spinach pesto roulades and an assortment of heirloom tomatoes. Delish!
In the end, everybody won, everybody with a pocketbook, that is. Rosso has something that every bar in the world, no matter how seedy, should have: Bag hooks under the table. Thank you, thank you, thank you! The Shop Tart has actually considered carrying such hooks in her bag and screwing them in wherever necessary. That might not go over too well – it might even be vandalism – but she would be doing the place a favor. Observe her white canvas bag, dangling over the floor, safe from harm.
So, where are you headed this weekend? if you’re in town and have plans to go out, call before you leave, in case your destination is closed for the holiday. In fact, your best bet is to pick up some Port Royal shrimp from the Piggly Wiggly and pair it with chipotle mayo from Rosewood Market and roasted asparagus. Why not head to Simply Savory’s free wine tasting tomorrow afternoon and take advantage of their 15% case discount to get some wine to last you through the weekend? That’s what the Shop Tart would do!
Happy Shopping and don’t forget to tell them you read it on the Shop Tart!
P.S. Have you ever been to the Columbia Museum of Art gift shop? You should, because it’s fab. They have lovely artsy things as well as great stuff for kids, like summer projects and books, including the much-in-demand Van Gogh’s Colors and brand new titles. Great for long car trips!