The Secret to Perfect Sauces

I went to Back to Basics cooking school at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts a few years back and blogged about it for Misstropolis.com. The website no longer exists so I’m reprinting them here. Enjoy!

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The everything-you-need-to-know-about sauces book.

Day Six

Shakespeare said, “The sauce to meat is ceremony; Meeting were bare without it.” In Medieval times, sauces were more than ceremony, however. They were used to disguise the taste of food, much like perfume was used to hide someone’s odor. These days, sauces are meant to be the supporting actor: They ought to enhance food, not overpower it. For me, sauces are nostalgic: Hollandaise conjures up the Eggs-Benedict Christmas mornings of my childhood. And I’ll never forget the buttery polenta blanketed in Taleggio and wild mushrooms that my husband and I ate in a hillside town outside of Venice.

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself sauce-challenged but many of my favorites—the artery-clogging, classic French sauces like béarnaise–have always eluded me. Making sauces like these require time, focus, and calm not characteristics I often possess at the dinner hour. As a result, we relegate sauces to special occasions. Day Six of the “Back To Basics” cooking class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts means to change all that.

Instructor Steve Nill introduces “Sauces” with a history lesson. In the mid 1800s, French chef Antonin Careme systematized four mother sauces: espagnole, veloute, allemande and béchamel. In the early 1900s, another French chef, Auguste Escoffier, standardized and codified the cooking of the 19th century and affirmed the importance of these mother sauces. He classified the four as espagnole, veloute, béchamel, and tomato, and to a lesser degree, hollandaise and mayonnaise. Because our “Back to Basics” curriculum is based on classical French tradition, tomato-based sauces don’t make the cut. But Steve provides a great aside: according to legend, the French stayed away from tomatoes because they feared them and were convinced that they made you crazy. Tomatoes were finally deemed acceptable in the mid-1500s, when Catherine de Medici introduced them from Italy.

After our history lesson, we head to the test kitchen to make these mother sauces and some of their derivatives, known as “small” sauces. My partner, Lauren, and I have been assigned the dessert portion of the meal: pears poached in red wine with crème anglaise and caramel. We start by peeling, coring and sanding the pears to give them a smooth look. The sanding, although laborious, is easy compared to the coring. No amount of stabbing, digging and twisting seems to get all of the seeds. My beautifully sanded pears end up looking like Swiss cheese. Not the challenge I expected in sauce class.

Then it’s on to the caramel. We heat sugar and water with a few drops of lemon juice over medium heat until we get a dark amber color. We add butter, whisking until it melts. We take the pan off the heat, count aloud to three, then add the cream and whisk again. Easy.

The crème anglaise, regrettably, is not as simple. There are many places to go wrong and we find them all. We whisk eggs yolks with sugar and a pinch of salt until the mixture is pale yellow and forms a ribbon (no ribbon–requires a re-do). We scald some milk, cool slightly and pour it in a steady stream over the egg yolk (requires a re-do–the milk is too hot). We place the mixture over heat, stirring constantly until it is smooth and coats the back of a wooden spoon. It should not boil (oops!) and the temperature should never exceed 180 degrees (oops again). After serious intervention by Steve’s assistant Dave, we finally arrive at a consistency, color and taste we can share with our classmates.

We ladle the sauce on to a platter, arrange our pears on top and drizzle them with caramel. We then sit down to eat poached eggs with chipotle-orange hollandaise, salmon in a wine court bouillon, grilled tenderloin with sauce Robert, crispy almond squid with sauce gribiche, chicken supreme allemande, crisp potato cannelloni with zucchini and shrimp in béchamel and our pears. Despite their battle wounds, our pears are delicious; the crème anglaise is lap-it-up liquid gold.

I head to my home kitchen, vowing to add more sauce to my repertoire. My crystal ball, aware that I’m sauce-challenged, remains skeptical.

Tomorrow: pasta

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Did I Invite You to My (Winter) BBQ?

I went to Back to Basics cooking school at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts a few years back and blogged about it for Misstropolis.com. The website no longer exists so I’m reprinting them here. Enjoy!

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Day 5

Barbecuing is a manly endeavor—like taking out the garbage. It dates back to the time when men were hunters and women were gatherers. Only now, instead of a woolly mammoth shot on the plains, we have pasture-raised, antibiotic-free, boneless chicken breasts bought from Whole Foods. The only hunting involved is for a parking spot on a busy Sunday.

Grilling has never been my thing and I am thankful for the very capable skills of my husband. While he mans the fire, I focus my efforts on making the perfect vinaigrette. But this division of labor has always been an irritant to my feminist side. So, it is with this desire for equality that I enter Day Five of the “Back to Basics” cooking class at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts with Steve Nill (father of five girls!) at the helm.

Steve starts the class with a discussion of the different methods of dry heat cooking: broiling, grilling, roasting and pan-broiling. “Dry heat cooking is quick and great for tender cuts of meat,” he says. “Broiling requires a cold pan to start or the meat will stick. The thicker the meat, the further it should be away from the broiler.”  Steve’s first rule for grilling is to start with a hot, clean grill. The protein will tell you when it’s ready – when you can lift it easily off the grill, it’s done. That sounds easy enough except for the “talking” protein part (maybe that’s a male thing). We learn that roasting is ideal for large cuts of meat and when pan-broiling, don’t move the meat until it is seared. Like grilling, if meat sticks to the pan it is not ready. We also learn that meat needs to have air around it during cooking, and should never be crowded in a pan.

Steve says that the goal of dry heat cooking is to produce meat or fish that is tender and juicy, not tough and dry. Toward that end, he suggests that meat be at room temperature before cooking. The eyes and fingers of the cook are the best tools to determine if the meat is done. If it’s rare you will see blood droplets and it will feel squishy. If it’s medium rare you will see blood coming to surface and feel a little resistance when you pinch. If it’s medium, the juice is at the surface and if you poke it, it bounces back. If it’s well done, there is no juice, and it’s stiff to the touch (corpse-like). You may go hungry, but Fido will be happy.

Next we head to the test kitchen to try our hands at dry heat cooking. My partner, Lauren and I, quickly volunteer to make the diablo skirt steak. The recipe looks simple enough: an easy marinade tossed with the meat in a big plastic bag for ½ hour. Heat the grill to high. Cook 3-4 minutes on one side and finish with 2-4 minutes on the other. Slice thinly against the grain. Seems like child’s play. Years of mastering complicated recipes ought to fill me with confidence; I’m just grilling a simple piece of meat, after all. Yet I still feel like I stepped onto someone else’s turf.

The time arrives to test my mettle. Christian, the singing chef, hovers near us for moral support. Today for some reason, his presence is unnerving. Maybe it’s because he is a dexterous griller who elevates barbecue to an art form. Or, maybe it’s because he is the proud owner of so many barbecues – including a Big Green Egg Smoker – that I feel insecure. The seconds tick away on the clock, and I poke the meat. It has been grilling for more than four minutes, and it’s still squishy. Christian suggests I flip it. Ten minutes go by, and now I can’t tell whether it is squishy, bouncing back or stiff. I think longingly of the meat thermometer I once gave my husband for Christmas that he never deigned to use. Then, Christian eyeballs my steak and exclaims, “Now!” I pull the meat off, and slice into it. It’s perfect, but I’m rattled.

Lauren and I put the steak on a warm platter with the salsa on the side and then sit down to eat. In addition to our steak, platters brim with honey spiced pork roast, Indian flavored grilled vegetables with paneer, and grilled swordfish verde. The finale – grilled cranberry-orange zinfandel bread with orange mascarpone cream – is astonishingly wonderful.

Despite my success in the test kitchen, I remain tentative about grilling and still feel the tiniest bit out of place when I’m in charge of what’s going on over the coals. A little more practice with these new skills will soon take care of that. In the meantime – and please don’t tell Gloria Steinem – husband will still man the fires in our house.

Tomorrow: sauces

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Stewed About It: Braising for Beginners

This is my favorite braising cookibook

This is my favorite braising cookibook

Day Four

Stew is soup’s hard-working cousin — succulent, warm and hearty. Tough and unrefined at the beginning, mellowed and presentable at the end, stew is Eliza Doolittle personified. For me, it is a crowd pleaser that comes with a whiff of nostalgia.

The summer after my mother died, when I was eight years old, my Navy Captain Dad decided to make boeuf bourguignonne for my brother and me. I can still remember the sounds, the smells and the anticipation we felt as he chopped and diced away in the galley kitchen of our rented flat in Newport, Rhode Island. The meal lived up to all of my expectations—tender and intensely flavorful. Since Dad had quadrupled the recipe, there were leftovers to be had and then some. We ate it the next night, the night after that, the night after that, and by the time it was all gone—after so much freezing and defrosting–it had acquired the consistency of canned dog food and a new name, Barf Burgundy.

Many years later, my husband and I saw a fresco in Italy depicting Hell as a bunch of bad guys in a big pot, being cooked over a fire. Bad Guy Stew entered our family vernacular—our version of being in the doghouse.  But all things tough, even miscreants, can tenderize with time, some liquid and a heavy pot. I have eaten many stews since that summer night 33 years ago, and I have been in Bad Guy Stew often enough but I have never actually made a stew myself.  Steve Nill at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts is happy to show how it’s done on Day Four of his “Back to Basics” class.

Steve starts the class with a discussion of the different methods of moist heat cooking: braising, stewing, blanquettes and fricassees. “Braising,” he says, “is typically used to cook tougher pieces of meat—the working parts of the animal. These muscles contain a lot of hard, white connective tissue called collagen, which breaks down into very tender gelatin under the slow process of moist heat cooking.”  With braising, we learn that the meat usually goes into the pot whole with liquid added halfway up the sides. Aromatics are added at beginning and strained at the end.  With stews, the meat is cut into serving size pieces and covered with liquid. Aromatics are added only at the end.

Steve’s instructions for braising are:

Trim excess fat off meat and sear on all sides in butter or oil; do it in batches if necessary so as not to crowd the pan.

Remove meat, deglaze pot with wine or other liquid and scrape up yummy brown bits.

Put meat back in pan, fill pan with a liquid half way up the side of meat and bring to a simmer.

Put inverted lid (parchment paper first with aluminum foil on top–shiny side down) right on top of meat.

Cook in the oven at 325 degrees or less until meat is fork tender with no resistance.

Take meat out; strain out aromatics.

Use a bulb baster and suck the good stuff from the bottom of the pot, leaving the fat behind. Make a sauce, if you like, with the de-fatted liquid.

In the test kitchen, I quickly volunteer to make Braised Short Ribs with Dried Cherries. After a sublime short ribs experience at Casablanca restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, two years ago, I have been on a quest for a worthy challenger. My partner Lauren and I brown the meat in batches. We then deglaze the pan with wine as Christian, our singing chef, melodies the praises of the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. We put it all back into our large enamel casserole with liquid halfway up. We cover the mixture with an inverted foil lid topped by the enamel lid that goes with the pot. While the short ribs braise in the 325 degree oven for 2 hours, we learn how to cut fennel and baby artichokes. We also learn to separate cilantro leaves from their stems with minimal effort.

At long last, it is time to sit down. I skip over the fricassee de lapin, pork and butternut squash stew, poulet au vinaigre a l’estragon, sea bass over fennel, red cabbage and artichokes and dive, fork first, into the short ribs. Mmmm.  Casablanca, I’ve met your match.

Tomorrow: dry heat cooking

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Recession Special: Soup

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This is the chickpea, tomato and bread soup from Yotam Ottolenghi’s sublime cookbook, Plenty. Delicious!

Day Three

Soup: glorious, versatile, wholesome. Smooth, refined and velvety, soup can be served in your finest china. Chunky or spicy, it can be spooned from your favorite thermos. It is cool, crisp and refreshing in the summer, warm, hearty and nourishing in the winter.

Judith Martin (aka Miss Manners) puts it this way: “Soup does its loyal best, no matter what undignified conditions are imposed upon it. You don’t catch steak hanging around when you’re poor and sick, do you?”

Soup is the perfect B.O.B.S. meal—short for “Best of a Bad Situation.” My husband Tim and I coined this phrase while traveling in Costa Rica.  At a nondescript restaurant, we were served something that looked like it was resurrected from the compost pile. Tim took the slop on my plate, mixed it with the slop on his plate, added every hot sauce and spice he could lay his hands on, tossed it vigorously and voila!  Sure, it still looked like compost, but the taste was out of this world.

With a little stock, some spices and a blender, you too can transform random leftovers like chicken carcasses and limp vegetables into a lovely soup. Add a simple salad and a warm baguette, and the situation goes from bad to great.

Great situations notwithstanding, I have a confession to make. In 21 years of cooking, I have never, ever, made my own stock. I know, I know–it is supposed to be easy and it gives that essential depth of flavor that makes a soup sing. But I have always opted for the lazy way out: I pull back the plastic box tab and pour.

It is with this guilt that I walk into Day Three of my “Back to Basics” cooking class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Instructor Steve Nill stands at the front of the classroom with a tray of tiny plastic cups filled with chicken stock. He hands out four samples to each of us. Three are store-bought: Pacific Foods Organic, College Inn, and Swanson Certified Organic; the fourth is homemade. For the record, toothpaste and chicken stock aren’t the best taste combination at 9:30 a.m.  However, the winner is obvious—the homemade. As for the others, Swanson Organic tastes the most like chicken. One other, which shall remain nameless, tastes a bit like the water that splattered into my face when my husband cleaned the gutters last spring.

After our taste test, Steve asserts that anyone who likes to make soups will eventually be drawn to stock making, because great stocks mean better soups. He continues, “Stock is a flavorful liquid resulting from the proper extraction and concentration of fats, oils, juices and liquid compounds from various organic sources; generally bones, vegetables, meat and fish. Spices, herbs and aromatics are often added to create more complex flavors. Water and sometimes wine are used for liquid.”

Meat stocks, we learn, take at least three hours to make. As we don’t have that much time in our class, Steve gives us detailed instructions and some tips: 1. Always add cold water to the meat or poultry when making stock. Water should barely cover the bones. 2. Add vegetables/aromatics after initial skimming. 3. A stock is simmered, not boiled. 4. Don’t add salt. Always season the sauce or soup later. 5. Strain everything. 6.When stock is cool, the fat will rise to the surface and can be removed.

Then, we head over to the kitchen to try our hands at soup making. Christian, a student in the professional program at the school and an old friend of mine, has made the stock that simmers on the stovetop. As my partner Lauren and I dice bacon and peel potatoes for fennel corn chowder, Christian breaks out in song. His voice is like the stock on the stove–rich, clear and full of depth. There is nothing better than this–a simple recipe, a homemade stock and a singing chef.

Finally, my favorite time of class arrives. We sit down to eat our soups: southwest squash, fennel corn chowder, lentil and brown rice, panade, onion au gratin, and cream of potato with pesto. It is true; they all have a depth of flavor that I don’t get at home. Maybe during the next blizzard, when I can’t leave the house, I will try to make my own stock. Until then, with two small children and a busy life, I’ll probably continue to go store-bought. Shhh.

Tomorrow: braising

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Cracking Eggs

eggI went to Back to Basics cooking school at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts a few years back and blogged about it for Misstropolis.com. The website no longer exists so I’m reprinting them here. Enjoy!

Day Two

I have always loved eggs. Not only are they beautiful, they are fun. Once, I fried one on the streets of San Diego. They are fragile and messy, especially when they’ve found their way to the kitchen floor. They are magical—they can be transformed from a runny mess into a soufflé. They are light and fluffy in a scramble, or structured and firm in a meringue. They can be dangerous if you have high cholesterol or they have salmonella. Whether it’s eggs benedict smothered in hollandaise, silky crème anglaise, or the elemental but perfect, soft-boiled egg on toast, nothing is as versatile, nutritious and astoundingly delicious as that simple little package: the egg.

“Although I cannot lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelets.” I didn’t say that-George Bernard Shaw did- but I concur.  I know the difference between homemade mayonnaise and Hellmann’s. I can smell the difference between a fresh and a rotten egg. Knowing doesn’t mean doing as I learned in last week’s knife skills class. So, this week Steve Nill at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts is my guide to egg enlightenment.

Steve starts the class on eggs with some pointers on safety. “The most common contributors to salmonella poisoning are time and temperature abuse, cross contamination and personal hygiene,” he says. I learn that an average consumer might encounter a contaminated egg once every 84 years. Pretty good statistics, but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily good for another 43 years of cookie dough. I should probably curb my habit.

The bottom line protocol for egg safety is: refrigerate, wash your hands, wash your cutting board and cook to the right temperature. Further, if you’ve thrown out the carton and have doubts about an egg’s freshness, drop it into a bowl of water. It’s good if it sinks; if it floats, it’s garbage.

Steve demonstrates his three-bowl egg separation method (extra dirty dishes, thankfully, are not a problem in cooking class). Then, we move to the stainless steel table in the kitchen where we are assigned a recipe and a partner. Lauren is a 30 year old, recent transplant from San Francisco with big beautiful eyes, a warm smile and self-deprecating humor.  She and I are the designated quiche-makers. We start by making a pate brisee, or short pastry, for our crust. We pile flour and salt on the countertop and add butter with our fingers. We form a trough down the middle, and add water a tablespoon at a time.  We fluff it—with our fingers once again– until it is the right texture.

While our dough chills in the refrigerator and blind bakes in the oven, we learn how to poach an egg and flip a crepe.  We observe a soufflé in the works: Steve whips egg whites in a copper bowl. We take turns helping, until carpal tunnel and complaints set in. Unfazed, Steve turns the bowl upside down, and nothing falls out. They are perfect. Next, Steve constructs an aluminum foil collar, coated with butter and grated cheese, that extends about three inches above the soufflé dish.  This prevents the rise from spilling over the sides.

While the soufflé bakes, we concentrate on scrambled eggs. “The key is low heat and a lot of patience,” Steve says. We learn that the opposite is true with omelets, which require speed to avoid overcooking. Mystery solved: my scrambled eggs taste like omelets because I have been using the high heat, impatient-Mom method.

Lauren and I remove our pate brisee from the oven, where it has pre-baked. We let it cool to room temperature, while we whisk eggs blended with whole milk, Swiss cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg. We pour the mixture into its shell, topped with diced tomatoes and chiffonade basil.  We put it back into the oven, and after about thirty minutes my stomach starts to growl and my mouth waters uncontrollably.  This whole place smells like Sunday brunch and I am starving.

At last, we gather serving dishes from the warmer (such a nice touch) garnish our creations and sit down to eat this orgy of eggs. There is soufflé, quiche piperade, scrambled eggs, frittata di cipolle and eggs benedict. Although my quiche was a little under-seasoned, the raves were otherwise unanimous. After practically licking my plate, my stomach and I waddle out together, in mutual awe of the egg.  Back at home, I vow to go on a 24-hour fruit fast.

Tomorrow: soup

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Getting a Grip: The Business of Knives

3284369_2cc1c8ba04_mI went to Back to Basics cooking school at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts a few years back and blogged about it for Misstropolis.com. The website no longer exists so I’m reprinting them here. Enjoy!

Day One

I have been cooking nutritious and creative food for friends and family for 20 years.  I think all fed would agree that they are preprogrammed to expect only the best when they arrive for a meal.

Along the way, I have picked up tips from cookbooks, magazines, and friends. I eavesdrop at the fish and meat counters, and pester chefs at my favorite restaurants for their advice and insight. And yet, for all of the tasty and adventurous meals I have created, few have been perfect.

Mind you, I don’t aim for Martha Stewart perfection, and in fact, I relish my supply of mismatched napkins and odd-sized glasses.  For me, it has always been about the food and I am my own worst critic.  Sometimes I feel that my dishes lack depth of flavor. Other times, the seasonings might be right but the meal is all the same color. And so on. So, after two decades of cooking by the seat of my pants, I decide to take action.  I enroll in a six-week “Back to Basics” cooking class at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.

Day One. I walk into a large room with desks at one end and a professional kitchen at the other. It is surprisingly un-fragrant, considering that this is a kitchen that has seen a lot of action. Eighteen of my fellow cooking students sit at their own desks and face a counter with a large adjustable mirror above it, positioned so that we can see our instructor Steve’s hands.

Steve Nill is a tall, handsome man in his 50s with a grin that suggests total job satisfaction.  At odds with that is Steve’s assertion that kitchen work is a young person’s job complete with low pay, few benefits if any, and a great deal of stress.  He adds the occupational downer that you’re always at work when your friends are at play.  Steve wears a chef’s uniform of checkered pants and double-breasted white jacket topped off with a toque—a hat that evokes a perfectly risen soufflé. His enthusiasm indicates that it is unlikely he will ever return to his previous career- in finance.

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Introducing Steve Nill…

We get down to the business of knives.  “The four must-have knives of every kitchen are a chef’s knife—preferably 8 inches; a boning knife, a serrated or bread knife, and a paring knife.”  Steve demonstrates the most stable and controlled grip: grasp the handle with three fingers and hold the blade between the thumb and index finger. Horror and relief hit me simultaneously; although I have been holding my knife incorrectly for twenty years, I haven’t shed any blood because of it. In fact, I have managed to escape with only two kitchen injuries, neither of which involved knives (don’t ask).

Steve also demonstrates proper knife sharpening, on a stone at a 20-degree angle.  After a few words about knife safety, he shows us some basic dicing, mincing, and slicing techniques including how to cut an onion properly (tears notwithstanding).

Then, we gather around the large stainless steel table in the middle of the kitchen to practice. There’s a designated area for each of us, complete with apron, cutting board (secured to the counter by a rug pad fragment), 8-inch chef’s knife, a paring knife and, according to Steve, the essential “y”-shaped vegetable peeler. We are told to face the counter squarely and grip the object to be cut with our “claw” (thumb tucked under so it doesn’t accidentally end up in the sauté pan).  The claw feels awkward and I develop a slicing pain across my upper back. Steve tells me to relax, but the combination of claw grip, sharp knife and roomful of strangers makes this easier said than done.

At the end, we sit down together at a long table and eat our experiments—minced garlic on bread, diced pear-zucchini soup and perfectly julienned French fries. We are especially thankful that the food is flesh-free. I have a lot to learn.

Tomorrow: eggs

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Indulgence on Route 2: A Christmas Tradition

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December is almost here and it’s time to start thinking about Christmas trees. In our neck of the woods, many people I know choose to cut down their own Norway spruce or red pine. They usually drive to New Hampshire or the Berkshires, hike to a pristine place, and breathe in a lot of fresh air. Sounds so romantic. But in our family, we opt for the already cut variety at Gerard’s, a farm stand/boutique, on the busy Route 2 in Lincoln, MA. Believe me, it’s not because we don’t love nature or because we love car exhaust. It’s not even because it’s close.

It’s because there’s something magical about Gerard’s and a visit to his shop at Christmas time has become a family tradition. Every December, my husband and I and our two kids, ages 12 and 10, pile into our station wagon and drive 20 minutes west. We zoom past Gerard’s on the left and make a u-turn about a mile up the road. We pull into the parking lot, giddy with anticipation.

My husband, Tim, scouts for a Frazier fir while Sammy, Anna B., and I race past the cedar garlands and refrigerator filled with mouth-watering homemade fruit pies into the little store. Inside we find the impractical and often pricey Christmas decorations that we have come to treasure. After all, isn’t that what Christmas is all about? A little indulgence? There are red currant scented candles, sparkly rain deer wearing faux-mink collars, oversized antique etched glass ornaments. Gerard, originally from Belgium, and his wife, Amy, have had the shop for 18 years. Antique and new finery, much of it from Europe, fills their shelves inside. Local products including decorated wreaths and apple cider can be found outside. We come for both.

Sammy and Anna B get to pick one decoration each—ornament or accessory—every year. (And we all get one of Gerard’s homemade chocolate turtles, conveniently located next to his cash register, to eat on the drive home.) The first time we did this, seven years ago, the conspicuous and brightly-colored mini trees that Anna B and Sammy chose flummoxed me. After all, Tim and I had been celebrating Christmas together for 15 years and we had our aesthetic all figured out—nothing too frou-frou and little white lights on the tree.

Anna B and Sammy’s choices derailed my vision. How could glitz and sparkle fit with our minimalist approach? But I held my tongue and added two new doodads to the Noel decor in our living room. At first I resented their showiness and thought they tarnished the scene. But after a little while, I came to love them and what they represented. Christmas wasn’t just about my aesthetics, after all. It was about building a tradition together as a family. And color and sparkle was part of that package.

So this year look for us at Gerard’s. Who knows what wild ornament we’ll be carting out this time. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will look great with our Christmas tree beautifully lit up with blinking, colorful lights.

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