I often say how lucky I am to write a cookbook with Johannes Klapdohr, a Michelin-trained chef. Before I started, I could never imagine what this process would be like or how it would feel to stand next to him in his restaurant kitchen, creating dishes together. I have to admit that, less than a year into the project, Chef Johannes has already taught me so much, sharing culinary secrets and tips with me. At times, I feel as if I am in a top culinary school in Europe.
While spending long days with Chef Johannes, I get to see firsthand the back of the house in the restaurant business. I can easily now say that this is exhausting work, but also very creative and exhilarating.
This week while I was working in North Carolina, Chef Johannes extended his hospitality and invited me for dinner in his home. (To all fans of the Library Kitchen and Bar, it was on Monday, when the restaurant was closed.)
Johannes prepared an amazing fish called plaice, which I tried for the first time. Honestly, I had never even heard of it. It’s from the English Channel, just between the southern part of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It is caught right at the coast of Holland and Germany and imported fresh to the USA by a single source. You won’t find it in your local grocery store. If you are lucky enough, you will find it at a good restaurant. I was amused by the appearance of the fish: cute, orange, pea-sized dots on its gray skin.
How did the chef prepare it? Simple—he dusted the fish in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika and curry. (Don’t ask me how much of each, as I don’t know.) Then he sautéed the whole fish in olive oil and served it with sautéed fresh broccolini.
Though I have not achieved the status of being a food expert, I’m taking the leeway to say that this was one of the best fish dishes I’ve tasted. You really don’t have to be Chef Johannes’ friend to enjoy this dish—all you need to do is call the Library Kitchen and Bar and make a reservation, as this fish, plaice, is being served as a special dish for a limited time. Trust me, you will not be sorry.
And to make this meal perfect, we started with Tuna Tartar and finished with Strawberries Romanoff, both of which are recipes from our upcoming cookbook.
Last but not least, the wine—a chilled bottle of Cuvee Luke 2015 from the Davis Family Vineyard (also on the LKB menu).
The meal was incredible and I was very grateful for the opportunity to dine at Johannes’ table with him and his wife, Liz, and of course my husband. I realize how lucky I am.
To hear more stories and meet us in person, join us at the 6th Annual Lavender Fest on June 24 and try some of our dishes.
In my blog from May 23, I wrote that it’s time to catch up and to get in gear. Since then, I have been in a full swing—doing nothing but working…more precisely writing. Even my time spent with Chef Johannes is more in front of the computer than in the kitchen.
I just returned from Sapphire Valley in the beautiful North Carolina mountains, about 17 miles northeast of the Highlands. The drive there and back is always magical to me. Each season brings different colorful, powerful scenic views to me, making my drive memorable. Yet, this time it seemed as if the air was fresher, the colors more vibrant, and life was more vivid there with the sweeping mountain views and the waterfalls. Was it just the time of the year, or the energy that filled my days while I worked with Chef Johannes?
While still collaborating on our cookbook, Chef Johannes and I were preparing for the upcoming Lavender Festival, on June 24th between 10:00 and 5:00, in Sautee-Nacoochee, Georgia, near Helen, hosted by The Lavender Cottage & Garden. At the festival we will share some dishes from the cookbook for you to try, so come out and see us.
We will feature four dishes from our upcoming cookbook at this festival in limited quantities: Creamy Gluten Free Hummus, Five-Seed Lavash Bread, Walnut and Pistachio Baklava, and Heavenly Strawberries Romanoff, also gluten free. These are exclusive recipes Chef Johannes and I created, all of which are preservative free and will be freshly made by us for the event.
While Johannes will sign free chef hats for children, I will sign copies of my novel, Pinnacle Lust, the companion book to the upcoming cookbook. Together we will keep the day shining bright with three drawings: one signed hardcover copy of Pinnacle Lust, one $25 gift card to The Lavender Cottage & Garden, and one $100 gift card to Chef Johannes’ restaurant, The Library Kitchen & Bar.
If you are in the area, please stop by, say hello, and take a bite from our upcoming cookbook.
Michelle (& Chef Johannes Klapdohr)
FB friends are often strangers, and still, we give them validation through likes, loves, laughs and sympathy as they capture our hearts with their personal stories and lives.
Yesterday morning, a FB friend posted about a moving experience while helping out at the cemetery, posting the American flags in front of the veterans’ graves. Not only did I react to his post with heart, but my stomach was in knots and my spine shivered. An hour later, I commented on Mark’s post: Your actions are stronger than words.
As the day passed, I couldn’t stop thinking about his story.
Late that night, I sent a private message, asking Mark if it would be okay to use the picture from that post for a post on my author’s page. I planned to post his pic on Monday, along with a few words. However, after his response, I felt that in memory of all the brave veterans of the USA, it was my obligation to share the entire story with the world.
Here is what Mark wrote to me: “Would be honored. I didn't know any of the soldiers but found myself crying for them and felt unworthy to be in their presence. These soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.”
Veterans on the other hand, whether we know them in person or not, are our saviors if not our angels. They are far from strangers. Do we really show them enough respect? Do we say thank you as often as they deserve? I’m not sure!
And I wonder how it happened that Memorial Day, the day when we are supposed to honor and remember our fallen soldiers, has become a BBQ day with an over consumption of alcohol, and playtime on lakes and beaches. Needless to say how ironic it is that this day now records so many casualties on the roads from drinking and driving. Where did our reverence for our fallen brothers and fathers go?
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for a good party. But maybe these celebrations should be reserved for Independence Day, when we celebrate our freedom… not when we remember those who died for our freedom.
So please take a moment this weekend to stop whatever you are doing—and reflect on those who have gone before us, on whose shoulders and backs our country stands. Remember the origins of Memorial Day and love a little deeper, care a little more for one another, and hold your family and friends a little tighter. Take the time to tell the next generation about our country’s heroes and history. Just like Mark did with his daughter.
God Bless America.
As the spring flowers pop up all around and the trees start their budding, I’m reminded of the signs of new beginnings. It’s a time for renewal and fresh endeavors. It’s a time to refocus and get my ducks in a row. A quarter of the year has already passed and obviously I’m behind on my goals. My resolutions from January, to accomplish more this year, seem to rekindle this time of year. It’s time to pour on the gas.
We are only four months into the year, and 2017 has already presented its share of hurdles and even some endings, but also fresh starts.
I don’t want to dwell on the past, but I will point out that both endings and fresh starts equally devour my time.
Moving forward, I intend to make the most of the remainder of this year. I’m going to put my wellness on the front burner, refocus on my writing projects, quit sweating the small stuff, and spend more time nurturing myself.
As I sit with my bum in the sand, still warm from the hot sunshine of the day, and watch the sun sink into the gulf as the surf laps at my toes, I realize how truly blessed I am. As a writer the details of life are not lost on me. Then the realization hits me: The secret to staying on track lies within the ability to not allow the unexpected to paralyze me… to be aware of my senses and surroundings… to exist in the present and continue to enjoy the world around me.
For me, writing is both my escape and my grounding. For the remainder of 2017 I want to experience more of that. Hopefully it will be the fuel I need to catch up.
What has spring inspired you to accomplish?
I’m frequently asked about the moral dilemma associated with my novel, Pinnacle Lust—the affair between a young, single nurse and a married doctor. After I published my book, I heard worries about whether the hospital setting lends itself to this type of situation.
Yes, there is a moral dilemma associated with this kind of affair. And yes, a hospital has the right ingredients to cook up a steamy story. I was there, I witnessed it, and I lived it. And this may be why my opinion is a bit different.
While the attention of readers seems to focus on the morality of the affair, I struggle with other moral issues. Each time I get to the following part in Pinnacle Lust, my heart rattles.
“My beloved daughter,
The first chapter of my life was special to me but relatively ordinary.
The second chapter was different and very significant. It was, and still is, a beautiful part of my life. There were times when my life was overloaded with excitement and happiness deluded with loneliness and distress—times when my heart was aching more than it was relaxing—days when I could not distinguish between being silly and being brave.
Most of what happened to me then remains locked in my heart. Some of it turned into memories, some was buried in me, and some I still live every single day. Back then I had to keep it all to myself. I had to stay away from nosey people who would do anything to find out about me and about the life I lived. But I was faithful to my beliefs and to the man I loved. Later on, some of this material gave the city something to talk about, the other part is still besieged and locked within my heart and in my notes.
During the last nineteen years, from the moment you were conceived, it never crossed my mind that one day I would turn these notes to be the evidence of who you are. I never thought that my lie could be your truth.
I have to believe that you are mature enough to understand how babies come into the world. I’m sure you will not argue that it’s easy to make them. Yet I doubt if you know how difficult it is to preserve them and how harsh it would be to lose them. I doubt if you ever thought how you got into my world, certainly you never asked.
I am wondering if the world I provided for you really compensated for the missing part I held away from you.
The last part of my life is everything that happened after my last note—the part which I will never regret.
The pages you are about to read are my notes, but more importantly they are YOU! Please be patient; read them all before you make up your mind.
~Pinnacle Lust by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre
In my eyes, the real moral dilemma in Pinnacle Lust happens right here in this passage. It is buried in the decision Sharon Lapidot made to withhold the truth from her daughter, Leigh. Should she have waited eighteen years to tell her daughter that the man who raised her was not her biological father? Was protecting her daughter from a potential custody battle her decision to make? Will she ever gain her daughter’s trust again? Should she have told her daughter at all?
The struggles Leigh has with coming to terms with her mother’s past life show the depth and complexity of the mother-daughter bond. Like any real relationship between mother and daughter, it’s not always rainbows and sunshine, but hopefully the foundation is strong enough to weather the storms.
How will you be celebrating that special relationship with your mother this weekend?
Happy Mother’s Day.
It has happened to all of us. Someone in our life has died and our world slams to a halt. Sensations of texture, sound and taste are dull, as though a cloak of melancholy has been draped over the world. In the following days, memories run through our minds like home movies, replaying the moments we shared. At the end of time that’s really all we have left of the ones we love. Memories of perfect moments, each one of them a pixel in the picture of our lives.
As the weeks pass, we wonder how to move forward. Movement feels like slogging through mud. Over time, I suppose we each find our own way to shake off the lethargy and continue on with our lives.
But what am I to do if you were the inspiration for my current work in progress? The loss is staggering. How am I to keep from picturing your face as I write? You were my inspiration and my imagined audience all of these long nights of writing. Living the dream of never saying goodbye and the hope of tomorrow are what I’ve buried in the next logline.
How dare you say goodbye to me now?
As the days pass, the question in my mind begins to change: “How can I continue to write?” slowly morphs into “How will this change my story?” Because the story must still be told—the characters demand it.
And this one is for you. Fly high and rest with the angels. We will meet again one day.
How much has grief affected things in your life? Does life ever go back to normal?
I leave the stresses of the day behind me as I step out my door. The telephone, the possible writer’s block, the frustrations over my latest recipe, marketing materials… all of it just floats away with the breeze as I feel the sun caress my skin and take in the endless sand beach. I walk to the water’s edge, the wind combing its fingers softly through my hair. I dig my toes in the sand as the water kisses my feet, with rolling waves and white froth. The salty tang of ocean air coats my tongue.
I walk along the beach, each step bringing me farther from my troubles and more into the moment. The day is perfect, the sky a deep blue and the warm air blowing all of my thoughts from my head. I am more present in the now than I have been in months. This is my home. My place to get in touch with myself… The one place where nothing can touch me... Where I feel free.
As I enjoy the sharp cry of the gulls and the children playing in the sand, my characters come back to me and we pick up right where we left off… like old friends. I think I’ve found my muse.
How do you get in touch with your muse?
If you’re like me, you use different foods for various occasions. You probably would also agree that food has its own power and can enhance whatever ambiance you choose to create. It can make or break any occasion, from summer BBQs to a first date. What menu would you prepare for Valentine’s Day? I bet it would be different than the one for a child’s birthday party or the Fourth of July. And if you’ve been told that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then you know you should pay attention to any menu you put together.
Yes, food can say a lot—from what is in your heart to what is on your mind.
What you put on a plate can reveal what kind of a mood you are in, convey a certain message, cater to a specific theme such as a sporting event or be geared toward a specific audience such as a ladies’ luncheon or tea.
Society makes it easy on us, as it quickly labels foods related to certain situations. We know exactly what to expect from junk food, holiday food, healthy food, party food, finger food, romantic food and so on…
Yet still, each time my co-writer of my upcoming cookbook, Chef Johannes Klapdohr, pairs a dish with a scene from my novel, Pinnacle Lust, I have to take him out of his kitchen and walk him into the pages, between the words of the story so he will feel the emotion that I want him to put on the plate.
What a task…but what a wonderful outcome.
Yes, food can carry out our emotions…so let it speak for itself.
The process of writing a cookbook is far from what I ever imagined. By all means it is unlike anything else I have ever written before. It is a totally different story. I’m finding that each recipe in the cookbook is a project by itself—each dish requires attention and love, just as each of my characters does.
In our cookbook, Chef Johannes and I take pride in creating recipes based on authentic food, history, and stories—plates that are related to places, events, and memories found in Pinnacle Lust. However, we are elevating these dishes so they meet the standards, tastes, lifestyles, and trends of today’s diners.
And once that happens, Chef Johannes—not me—will seal the deal, giving the final okay on each recipe. And with each approval the chef gives, I feel as if we have just given birth…especially if it is for one of my original recipes, just because I’m not a professional chef.
Today, as Chef Johannes presents the spring menu for his restaurant, Library Kitchen and Bar, some of the recipes from our upcoming cookbook will be included on the regular menu and some will be integrated as a daily special. You can discover for yourself the delicious plates we’re preparing in the cookbook before it’s released!
To me, tonight’s reveal feels like magic. My heart is pounding at the thought of these recipes being served live in a top restaurant…that this food will be consumed and judged by top customers and savvy diners like you.
And yes, I will be honest—my stomach is in a knot.
If you’re around the Sapphire, NC area, stop by Library Kitchen and Bar tonight and order a plate. I can’t wait to see what you think.
Michelle (& Chef Johannes)
As an author, being invited to a book club discussion is always exciting and flattering. For me, it’s the icing on the cake. It brings validation to my writing career.
Book club discussions are handled in various ways. As a guest, I tend to go with the flow—I let the members lead the discussion and I try to provide answers to all their questions. I enjoy listening to their take on the story and its characters. Yet, when face to face with my readers, I’m always sure to make this opportunity a special and memorable event.
I expend a lot of effort and thought so the members can learn something for the next book they read. I normally like to tell about how I develop my characters. I share techniques that I’m using, tricks that help me to stay focused and, at times, some secrets from my desk.
Tonight, I am taking a new approach. I’ll bring my next book into the discussion—a cookbook that is a companion book to my novel, Pinnacle Lust. Actually, I’ll go wild, take my chances and give them a bite of it—I will prepare one of the recipes from the cookbook. I want to bring my readers closer to the flavors and colors that I created in Pinnacle Lust. I’m anxious to know if they will associate the food with the right scene, or if the flavors will make them see any of the characters differently.
With each new novel I write, I bring new flavors and colors into my kitchen and new recipes into its companion book. More books and flavors are scheduled for the future.
What scene or food from Pinnacle Lust piqued your mind and palate? Did reading about any of the foods in the book make you wish you had the recipe?
Schedule a post-read discussion with me and get a real bite from my upcoming cookbook—maybe even a recipe.