Sunday, February 26, 2012

Larousse French<>English Android Dictionary App - Fantastic!

For years, I have used and loved the Franklin-Larousse electronic French<>English & French<>French dictionaries. The electronic dictionary was superb, but I had hoped that someday, I would have a version on my phone so that I would have one less thing to carry around in my pocket on my visits to France. Now I have it on my Android phone and I love it.

It has 250,000 words and phrases and 400,000 translations. It also has a verb conjugator and pronunciations, and it only costs $6.99 (far cheaper than the $50 - $100 I’ve paid for the separate electronic versions).  This version does not have the French<>French dictionary.

For French dictionaries, pronunciations are very important because French, like English, uses an ambiguous writing system. (The pronunciations are only available when there is Internet access.)

One of the great things about this dictionary is that it has lots of contextual examples.

Some might thing that 250,000 words is an absurd number. However, I’ve found that dictionaries that only have 10,000-20,000 words are inadequate because you often cannot find the words you need once you get beyond the most basic level.

You have to be careful when buying this app because there is another Larousse French<>English dictionary app which sells for the same price, but has 80,000 words.

Alésia Vietnamese-French Restaurant, St. Petersburg - Loved It

Yesterday, friends we were visiting in St. Pete Beach, FL suggested that we do lunch at Alésia Restaurant (, which specializes in fresh Vietnamese-French cuisine. The food was wonderful in every respect. The flavors of the dishes are influenced by the French, Vietnamese, and Chinese backgrounds of the three founding partners.

My wife started with an appetizer of summer rolls - fresh rolls in rice paper with shrimp, rice vermicelli, mint & pork, served with a hoisin peanut sauce for $3.50. (Chicken can be selected instead of pork.)

I started with a small tomato bisque soup with three toasted baguette slices for $3.

My wife and I each had a different version of bánh mì, a Vietnamese sandwich. My wife had the non-traditional version and I had the traditional version. Both versions are available in spicy and non-spicy variants. The spicy variant incorporates sriracha sauce. I ordered the sauce on the side and found it was not too hot for my taste. I like moderately hot spices.

Non-traditional - grilled pork with pickled carrot, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeño, on artisan bread for $8.5

Traditional - the grilled pork is replaced with pâté, salami, sopressata, jambon de Paris (Parisian ham) for $7.

The taste of the contents of the sandwich was enhanced by the excellent artisanal bread.

For dessert, my wife had chocolate mousse for $3.

I had bread pudding topped with sliced almonds & confectioners sugar, served with french vanilla bean ice cream for $4.80.

The four of us shared a 2010 Sonoma County Banshee Pinot Noir for $29.

The total bill for the four of us was $86.89 - very reasonable for a terrific lunch.

The service was excellent.

The lunch menu can be seen at:
The dinner menu is available at:

Brunch is served on Saturdays.

The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor dining.

The restaurant does not take reservations.

While the atmosphere was very nice, it was a bit loud. Parking is limited, but there appeared to be ample parking a block away on 1st Ave S.

Tune-in - A Great Android World-Wide Radio App - 50,000 Stations

I love TuneIn Radio, a great streaming audio world-wide Android radio app, which provides access to 50,000 radio stations and 1.2 million programs. You can find stations all over the world - searching by subject, location, or language. It’s extremely easy to use.

I now have a list of preset Italian, French, and Japanese talk-show and music stations that I listen to on my phone as I’m driving. In one of my vehicles, I plug the radio into my sound system. In either case, the audio is excellent.

The app even has a car mode, which lets you speak commands.

There are two versions of TuneIn:
1. TuneIn Radio - the free version, which I use.
2. TuneIn Radio Pro - The ninety-nine cent version, which allows you to record programs.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Zinfandels of Sonoma & Napa - A Presentation & Tasting

For the past 11 years, I have had the pleasure of belonging to a wine club which effectively focuses on expanding the wine horizons of its members. I have learned immensely from the six to seven tastings and presentations at the club each year. For the past 6 years, I have done one tasting and presentation each year. The topic I chose this year was the Zinfandels of Sonoma and Napa.

I chose six Zinfandels for the tasting. Five were from different appellations (American Viticultural Areas - AVAs) of Sonoma County, and one was from the Napa Valley. I decided to emphasize Sonoma County AVAs because the terroirs and microclimates of Sonoma County seem so much more varied than those of the Napa Valley. The basis for much of the presentation was information gathered during a visit to Sonoma, Napa, and San Francisco that my wife and I enjoyed in October of 2011. As I prepared the presentation, I gathered additional information from Internet research and discussions with the wineries whose wines I had chosen for the tasting.

The wines I chose for the tasting were:

2006 Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County, $23.99
2007 Ravenswood, Alexander Valley, Big River Vineyard, 2007
2010 Truett-Hurst, Dry Creek Valley, Three Vineyards, $19.99
2009 Tin Barn, Gilsson’s Vineyard, $19.95
2006 Louis M. Martini, Sonoma Valley, Monte Rosso, Gnarly Vine, $33.99
2006 Grgich Hills, Napa Valley, $29.99
After tasting the last wine and before I mentioned the prices of the wine, each person voted for his/her favorite wine. (I did not vote.) The results of the voting were:
Wine                                     Nr. of Votes
Grgich Hills                         17
Truett-Hurst                       16
Tin Barn                               15
Louis M. Martini               12
Ravenswood                      10
Dry Creek Vineyard         10

As usual, we had cheeses, homemade bread, and crackers with our wines. One couple purchased the cheeses and two members baked the breads. The breads were delicious, and the cheeses, which were purchased at Publix, were fantastic.

The following are the cheeses we enjoyed:

1. Wensleydale Shires, England - a potpourri of 5 traditional cheeses combined in 5 layers to make one cheese
2. Smoked Rambol, a hickory-smoked French cheese from an area near the Swiss border.
3. Fol Epi - a cow’s milk cheese from the Loire Valley
4. Apple-Smoked Cheddar
5. Swiss Emmentaler
6. Belton Farms Double Gloucester

The following are the PowerPoint slides I used in my presentation. I added further context to many of the slides as I spoke.



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Italian Valentine's Day Dinner

I enjoyed making an Italian Valentine's Day dinner for two wonderful ladies - my wife and our daughter. I was generally very happy with the results. The menu was:

Olive Paté
Zuppa di Carne (Meat Soup)
Braciole alla Pizzaiola (Steaks with Tomato, Garlic, & Oregano)
Carote al Marsala (Carrots with Marsala Wine)
Fritelle di Riso (Rice Pancakes)

The Olive Paté, which I have mentioned in an earlier post, is an antipasto that is not really a paté, but an incredibly easy and tasty olive spread that is served on toast like crostini. It can also be used as a pasta sauce. The recipe can be found at

The other four recipes are from two Italian cookbooks, both authored by Lorenza De' Medici, a descendant of the famous De' Medici family. The Zuppa di Carne is from Tuscany, the Beautiful Cookbook. The last three are from Italy, the Beautiful Cookbook.

I really enjoyed the Zuppa di Carne, whose recipe is on page 71 of Beautiful Tuscany. It is from the town of Arezzo in Tuscany. The dish is easy to make. It takes about 3 hours to prepare:

Serves 6

2 Tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
6 oz lean beef
6 oz lean veal
6 oz lean pork
2 oz pancetta, diced (I used 4 oz.)
1 fresh rosemary sprig, chopped
6 fresh sage leaves
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 lb plum tomatoes, peeled & chopped
1 celery stalk, trimmed & chopped
1 bay leaf
pinch of ground chili
6 cups of light meat stock
6 slice of coarse country bread

1. In a deep saucepan over moderate heat, warm the olive oil. Add the meat, pancetta, rosemary and sage. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat browns, about 10 minutes. Add the onion, tomatoes, celery, bay leaf, and chili. Season to taste with salt, cover, & lower the heat. Simmer for 2 hours, gradually adding about half of the stock to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
2. (I skipped this step because I had chopped the meat fairly fine while browning it, but I'll mention it anyway.) Remove the meat from the pan and chop fairly finely. Return the meat to the pan, and, if necessary, add a little more stock to thin the sauce. It should be quite thin.
3. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.
4. Heat the remaining stock in a saucepan until very hot. Toast the bread in the oven until golden. One by one, dip the toast slices in the stock, place in individual soup dishes, and top each slice with part of the meat sauce. Pour the hot stock over the meat sauce and serve immediately.

Braciole alla Pizzaiola

The recipe for Braciole alla Pizzaiola is on page 151 of Beautiful Italy. The dish, which is from Campania in southern Italy, is tasty and easy to make.

Serves 6 (I cut the meat and tomatoes portion of the recipe in half to serve three.)

1/4 cup EVOO
1 garlic clove, peeled
6 thin slices of beef (I used New York Strip Steaks)
1 lb tomatoes, peeled & coarsely chopped
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano

1. Heat the oil with the garlic in a cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the meat and brown on both sides. Add the tomatoes, season with salt & pepper, & bring to a boil.
2. Turn down the heat. Sprinkle the oregano over the meat & tomatoes. Partially cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes more to reduce the sauce before serving.

Carote al Marsala (Carrots with Marsala Wine)

This dish, which is from Sicily, was tasty and very easy to make, although I prefer the Carote in Stufato recipe, which I have mentioned in another post and which is in the Beautiful Tuscany Cookbook. This recipe is on page 189 of the Beautiful Italy Cookbook. It serves 6. I cut the amount of carrots in half to serve three.


2 tbsp EVOO
1&1/2 lb of carrots, peeled and sliced. (I cheated & used the presliced carrots from Publix)
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup dry Marsala wine (I used sweet Marsala, which seemed to work fine.)


1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the carrots & sauté over high heat for a few minutes. Season with salt & pepper, add a few tablespoons of water & continue cooking over low heat until almost tender.
2. Just before removing the carrots from the stove, raise the heat & sprinkle the sugar over the carrots, stirring so that they become lightly caramelized. Sprinkle with Marsala and let it evaporate.

Fritelle di Riso (Rice Pancakes)

This dish, which is from Lombardy, tasted nice, but not great. My daughter suggested topping the finished pancakes with powdered sugar. We agreed that the sugar enhanced the taste. Other possibilities for topping would be honey or cinnamon sugar.

The dish was very messy to prepare. The recipe is on page 239 of Beautiful Italy. Serves 6.


1 cup (6 oz) of Arborio rice
2 cups whole milk
2 tbsp butter
pinch of salt
1 tbsp superfine (caster) sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp rum
1 egg white
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
oil for deep frying

1. Boil the rice in the milk until the liquid is completely absorbed. Mix in the butter, salt, sugar, and grated lemon rind, and let cool completely. Then stir in the egg yolks and rum.
2. Beat the egg white until stiff & fold it gently into the rice mixture. Form the mixture into small balls. Then flatten the balls into discs that are 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter and 3/8 inch (1 cm) thick. Dredge in the flour.
3. Heat the oil to 350 degrees. Fry the discs in batches on both sides until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Arrange on a plate & serve hot.