After meeting beekeeper and chocolatier Susan Brown, and after sampling her handmade honey bon bons, I started dreaming of keeping bees in my own backyard. Susan’s combination of honey and black chocolate is a brilliant concept, and the resulting flavors in her Mademoiselle Miel honey bon bons are so delightful and intense. Each honey bon bon is hand-decorated with 23K gold leaf resulting in little, edible works of art. As a photographer and food lover, I was thrilled when Susan asked me to make some photographs of her beautiful bon bons and honey.
Brown’s bees live in hives (patterned after those in Luxembourg Gardens in Paris) on rooftops in both downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis. As she’ll tell you, these bees are amazing little creatures that can travel 2-3 miles from their homes in search of nectar. In winter the bees survive and stay warm by clustering together in the hive, generating heat with their wings. Honey bees work together so efficiently that each hive can produce 60-100 pounds of surplus honey – an incredible amount given that the bees must visit more than 2 million flowers to make a pound of honey.
It’s no wonder Mademoiselle Miel’s honey-filled chocolates taste so special!
Today’s post is short and sweet! I want to show off these amazing pastries I brought home after a Minnesota Public Radio News “Appetites” assignment at Sun Street Breads in south Minneapolis. The story was about restaurant couples (it aired the day before Valentine’s Day), including award-winning baker Solveig Tofte and her husband Martin Ouimet. Solveig starts baking before daybreak, and as she ends her shift Martin arrives to take care of the front of house. Together they serve up delicious breakfasts and lunches, in addition to a beautiful array of homemade breads, pastries and cookies. As a treat to yourself, I recommend a visit to Sun Street one morning for a latté and perhaps a vanilla kolache – or whatever pastry catches your eye – to nibble and sip from one of the cafe’s sunny window seats while watching the world pass by.
I fondly remember my trip to France last fall as my “trip-of-a-lifetime” for a lot of reasons, one of which is the week I spent with my mother Irene sightseeing in Paris. (The original purpose of this trip was to attend cookbook author Aran Goyoaga’s amazing food photography workshop in the Dordogne, which I blogged about here, here and here.) It was our first visit to Paris, so the week passed in a blur as we tried to fit in as much sightseeing as we could while still making time to wander without a destination, stopping to shop, eat or explore.
We stayed six nights in the shadow of St. Sulpice Church on a quiet street in the 6th arrondissement at the wonderful Hotel Récamier. We arrived at the hotel in time for a breakfast of chocolate croissants and hot, dark coffee served with warm milk – delicious even in our jet-lagged state. We spent our first day getting to know the streets near our hotel – window shopping at the many boutiques, visiting St. Sulpice Church and strolling through a bit of Luxembourg garden. Looking back now I think we were awestruck by all the ornate, old architecture, the narrow streets which never intersected at right angles and the crowded sidewalks filled with fashionable Parisians and other people from around the world. But after a good meal that evening and a night of sleep, we jumped right into our sightseeing itinerary.
During the week we walked the famous Champs-Elysees and the fashionable Rue Du Faubourg St. Honore; viewed the city from the Arc d’ Triomphe; and gazed at the impressive art collected in the musées Jacquemart-André, d’Orsay, de l’Orangerie and du Louvre. We marveled at the gothic sculptures adorning Notre Dame and the beautiful stained glass windows at Sainte-Chapelle. We took a day trip to Versailles, where based on the number of photographs I made of Louis XIV’s lavish palace and grounds, I was suitably impressed. On our last day in the city we walked around the Marais neighborhood and shopped for souvenirs, finding a few fun things at an outdoor art market and along a lively corridor where vendors selling antiques stretched for blocks and blocks. And later that evening we watched the sparkling light show at the Eiffel Tower as the sky turned to twilight, and in those moments we felt like the two luckiest women in the world.