Through The Red French Door
What’s new at cafe’ Paradee?? We had a fantastic time feeding these lovelies…the Woodward Boomer Dance Team, for their pre-homecoming game dinner. What a pleasure it is to be a part of our Kloey’s life and as a ripple effect, get to embrace the entire team. I love being owner/chef of my establishment. There are so many perks that come with wearing the many hats this business calls for. Perks like: my grandson #5 Kole, quarterback for the Boomers, bringing some of his buddies in for lunches. Yes, of course, they eat free ..my dancer/artist/actor, Eve bringing in her little clan of girlies when nothing else will do OR..their allowance is running low. And yes…sponsoring the dance team’s dinner. Whatever the reason, we are a close family here at Cafe’ Paradee. Whether you are our blood kin or you are a customer. We love seeing you. And I can assure you, after the first visit through our red French door, we look at you as family. We love hearing your story. We love seeing your lovely faces. And surely, we are blessed to watch over this safe space. For everyone, no matter their income, title, race, age or gender…everyone needs a safe space. And we cherish and delight in the fact that we are this habitation and space.
COFFEE TALK…it’s for you, IF you have ever needed to…
COFFEE TALK…it’s for you, IF you have ever needed to…
“We got a lot of wind and much rain” says Philemon, the older gentlemen to my right. “But our fields have survived” When you sip my coffee, here at Cafe’ Paradee, this is the face of the man who works so hard to produce such an excellent bean.
Edmond, to my left, is our interpreter. Edmond speaks 6 languages by the way….He lives just across the border into the Dominican Republic. He moved his family to a higher altitude for the duration and they are okay as well.
The Ramirez Estate in Jarabacoa closed their doors, sent the workers home and hunkered down. And I am relieved to report that they have been spared as well.
What a great report I received. And all is well.
This is the Cap Haitien airport we flew into on our coffee sourcing trip.
This pic is now…after Irma. Of course the coffee fields of DonDon are a little further inland. Praying Philemon’s crops that Cafe’ Paradee and customers replaced this past Spring have survived. I continue to see the faces of those precious souls as they do what they know to do to survive. My heart is in turmoil.
One Love…Coffee, it brings people together from the mountains of DonDon Haiti, as we crossed rushing rivers in the back of trucks, making our way up to a higher elevation on foot through rain forest like trails to see and touch and breathe in the experience where organic Blue Mountain coffee trees grow, to 2800 ft. above sea level in the Dominican, where I snacked on organic Caturra beans, drank fresh brewed pour through on the side of the mountain, gained knowledge about the life of the coffee bean from a seedling to the roasting and last but not least…danced a little Salsa in the local coffee shop; it was a trip that is forever stamped in the depths of my soul. An opportunity only my God could have orchestrated. An opportunity of a lifetime very few coffee shop owners will ever experience. To meet and thank the farmers who grow our liquid gold was an honor. And to them, again I say THNK-YOU. This is in part…my journey. And I am grateful.
Many of you know from the day Cafe’ Paradee was conceived in my soul that bright, sunny day in Northern Texas, as I stood stirring a beurre manie’ into a hot simmering pot of Beef Bourguignon during a FRENCH class in culinary school, my vision was to serve society the best, the freshest, most palate pleasing lunches possible. No frozen soups. No prepackaged desserts. No vegetable oils or deep fat fryers. No iceberg lettuce and most of all, no preservatives. My finals in culinary school was to design a restaurant on paper; menus, recipes, budget, along with the decor style, right down to the fabric I intended to use. At age 51, I graduated earning the sought after title of “chef” with a A++. We began our search for the right location in and around Ft. Worth’s historic district. Nothing seemed right and all doors seemed to close to this dream as I travailed and strived to make things happen. Long story short…the dream was to come to fruition but not in the city I had planned. Skip forward a year and all I had to do was take out my final school project, open the binder and follow the plan…here we were, back in our home town of Woodward America where Cafe’ Paradee was birthed. The passion still ablaze to cook and serve and greet the people with fresh healthy REAL food. Skip ahead again…here we are, Main Street Woodward, 7 years latter. One thing lead to another and my hard work has paid off.
We have been chosen and have earned our certification as a “Healthy Eating” establishment in the state of Oklahoma. I am so proud to say I was chosen, because I didn’t go looking…the certification came to me.
As long as I can, I will continue to dream of superior food to serve you, my special people. And when the day comes I can no longer do fresh, do real, do it the healthy way. I will close my doors. Until then…we’ll see you for lunch and lattes.
I always tell my Grands that they are my favorite. They each bring a special spark into my life, bringing joy and laughter only each can bring. So are all of you..my favorite customer…each bringing your own uniqueness into our lives here at Cafe’ Paradee. You all are special to us. The simple truth is, you are the reason our doors remain open. Thank you to every one for sharing your life, your laughter, your ups, downs and victories with us. Cheers to you all. Merry Merry Christmas. And may your New Year be filled with hope, happiness, hilarity, and plenty of your favorite things.
We will be open today until 11.00 am for coffees and special pick-up orders. We will be closed all next week. Sunday morning after Santa comes we begin the road trip to LA with some of our kids..yes my friend, we have rented a 15 passenger van. The Griswald Christmas Vacation on the road is gonna be real. I’m sure there will be plenty of anecdotes to tell. You’ll want to stay tuned.
I know how nostalgic the green bean casserole is on many a holiday table. I also know and understand just how many additives, sugar, and fillers that go into our grandmothers recipe. That’s why I went into the kitchen lab here inside my red French door and made my own rendition of this tradional dish. There’s nothing faux about this dish, just pure goodness. For those who know me well…you are witnessing a miracle, haha, for I hardly ever give out my secrets. ?? So here it is ladies and gents…give it a try. I’m pretty sure you’ll love it.
Chef Rita’s Green Bean Cassarole
1/2 lb. fresh cremini mushrooms
1/2 cup thinly diced shallots
1 lb. fresh haricot verts (French green beans)
1/4 lb. real, unsalted butter
1/3 cup flour
Salt, white pepper, to taste
Pinch of cinnamon/nutmeg mixture or epices fine
FRENCH’s fried onions
1. In heavy pot, blanch beans in salted boiling water for 1 minute. Emmerse in icy water to stop the cooking process. Drain
2. Sauté shallots and diced mushrooms until aldante
3. In heavy skillet or Dutch oven, melt butter stir in flour to make roux. Add 1/2 & 1/2 until med. consistency resembling a gravy. Add mushroom/shallot mixture. Pour over beans. Transfer to buttered cassarole 9×13
4. Sprinkle frenches fried onions over top.
5. Bake until bubbly. 350*
Christmas Day is upon us. I know we all are hustling around doing the last minute shopping, planning our menu and wrapping presents. At this point most of us are feeling like we need an extra hand or maybe even wish we could clone ourselves.
I laugh as I remember the first Thanksgiving dinner Neil and I hosted. Believe it or not, but I was in waayyyy over my head. I was 20 at the time, and I only thought I had planned. Needless to say…I was a wreck. I had 1 small oven, w/many dishes needing to be baked at once, potatoes waiting to be peeled, hot rolls raising, a dessert needing finished, plus the stuffing mirepoix hadn’t even been cooked. And let’s not forget the septic tank that decided it could not hold 1 more gal of sewage. We were farmer/ranchers at that time, living miles from a handy sewer person, and here we were hosting a dinner party for our families and we couldn’t even flush the toilets let alone wash dishes. But we made it through. The meal was late but we found a pumper to rescue us and our sewage problem. We ate turkey, Watergate salad, cornbread stuffing, rich and creamy mashed potatoes, several side dishes and plenty of Neil’s mom’s Apple pie. I was exhausted, didn’t see much conversation but I was proud as punch I had pulled it off. AND I learned to plan, to prep in advance and to delegate. Here are a few things I wish I had known 40 years ago.
1. Plan a menu that allows you to do some of the dishes and sauces ahead of time. If for instance you are making a corn bread stuffing, bake the cornbread several days in advance. It will be just as good for the base of the stuffing and possibly be a little better. Most veggie casseroles can be made a day in advance as well. Cakes can be baked and frozen in advance and are easily iced the morning of.
2. If using your China, set out and dust a day or 2 before, even setting the table early is a great way to get ahead and relieve last minute pressure. Choose serving bowls early and make sure you have the right pots and roasters to do your cooking in before the last minute. Decorate with your table scape days ahead or at least have your decor purchased before the day before.
3. Of course your wine can be purchased as early as weeks ahead.
4. Peel your potatoes the day before and cover w/water. Set them in refrig. until time to dice and cook.
5. You can always assemble your crudités platter ahead along with the dip. Dip is always better when done ahead and flavors are allowed to meld together.
6. Throw away the pride and delegate. You don’t have to be Wonder Woman. Haha
7. Don’t forget to enjoy. Keeping things tidy and organized after your guests have arrived is not the most important thing. You joining in on the stories, laughing, and making memories is. The dishes will always be there when the day is done.
Hope this helps. Merry Christmas.
My heart, my soul is a blaze with fervent adulation..Haiti and their farmers; we have kindred spirits.
I married a farmer/rancher. We lived on the Barney homestead for 25 years. My husband worked the land, sowed the grain, harvested wheat and alfalfa that fed the cattle. He chopped ice in the winter to water the stock, and fixed the fence to keep them safe. Together, we raised our 3 kind, successful, talented children as he worked out in the elements sweating buckets in the summer and freezing in the winter to help feed the nation. He never complained because the cowboy life was his way. Putting food on other’s tables was in his blood.
This is the understood compassion and hope I have for the precious coffee farmers in Haiti. No, they don’t experience sub zero winter temps, but their livelihood is threatened by severe earthquakes, devastating hurricanes and extreme poverty.
This past summer my roaster extended an invitation to me to join him on a sourcing trip to Haiti, giving me a chance to meet the dear people that work so hard growing our rich, dark, smooth, nutty, energy boosting, wake me up beverage we call coffee. Mostly, we never give these families a second thought, taking them and the luscious beverage for granted each morning as we sip away in our comfy homes, reading the newest posts, stir the pot satires and opinionated blogs on our up-to-date electronics, leaving hate messages when we are not in agreement with the writer, watching the latest violent protests and temper-tantrums on our big screen tv’s, even going as far as blacklisting our friends as we, feeling so pious, believe our way of thinking is the only way. We are a spoiled Nation. We demand a continuous sucking on the breast, throw fits when we can’t have a paci, we suck our thumbs and cry for our blanki’s. What sadness…what an inflated view we have of ourselves. It is shameful, to say the least.
Both excitement and humility rise up inside my heart as I prepare in a few short weeks to visit the Haitians farms, meet their families and allow them to show off their country and their vocations. I will understand how hard they work to make a living, as we in some ways have kindred spirits, knowing all the while, their way of life is simpler than ours. Maybe I will find they are the fortunate ones, seeing they are thankful for their families, their little piece of land, their accomplishments, as they work hard with their hands and strong backs to survive what life has thrown at them. I’m expecting this trip to be a breath of fresh air for me. An honor. I just might be able to say, in some ways, we, as Americans can learn from these valued people, manners and hope and respect. For I believe it is important to “love your neighbor as yourself.
Bowl of cold rice plus a dash of cream taste more delicious than words can say, especially when you’re 9 years old and its your grandmothers leftover rice she had been saving for you since morning. You see, we lived only 3 blocks from my Grandma H’s house when I was but a girl. I’d take the cut across to her house several times a week on my way home from school, so I could have that after school snack with her. Most of the time it was a cold bowl of rice or maybe leftover fried mush, nothing fancy because my grandmother, like all grandmothers in those days, had raised their children during the depression and they learned to take what they had in their cupboards and make it taste like heaven. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway; I loved my grandmothers food simply because she took time to save it specially for me.
It’s funny how even the slightest aroma, or even a thought of certain foods can transport our minds back to our childhood days. I was reminded a few days ago just how powerful food is, not only for feeding our physical bodies but for our souls as well; A gentleman, in town on business, stepped inside our red French door, for the first time last week. The soup de jour happened to be a French Country white bean stew. He ordered a bowl, lingered at his table, complementing my server on just how much he had enjoyed the lunch. As he was paying out, he began to share a childhood story with me…He said as he ate his stew, his memory transported him back to the age of 5 when his mom had made a bean soup for their dinner. He chuckled as he spoke, remembering how straight forward he was with his mom that he definitely was not going to eat those beans and that was final. He said his dad, not willing to allow him to be so ungrateful, scoped him up, delivered him to his room, and there he sat, the rest of the evening, by himself, having ruined the opportunity to have eaten. He explained as he continued, latter on as he grew, he did eat his moms soup and discovered what a shame it had been for him to have been missing out on such a tasty dish for so long.
So many personal stories over the past years I have had the pleasure of hearing, as people dine with us. So many simple dishes not only nourishing physical bodies, but stories of how those same dishes have taken my customers back to their loved ones homes, their tables, their lives, filling their souls with warmth and happiness and smiles.
And for me? It’s that rice. So much so that a rice pudding is a must for our dessert menu. Make no mistake, I have fancied it up making it smooth, sweet and creamy, then garnish it with a sauce of strawberry/rhubarb that has been poached in a Cabernet Sauvignon, but none the less…the memory of that blonde, curly headed, 9 year old girl, setting at her grandmothers oil cloth topped table, savoring her grandmothers cold rice on a hot afternoon, comes flooding back with every luscious spoonful I take. And my soul too is renewed with the hope that as I prepare special dishes for my loved ones, there’ll be a time in years to come, that in some cafe’ some where, my children and their children will taste a favorite of theirs and the memories made with me, their mum, will come flooding back. And that makes me smile.