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I recently read the book 52 Loaves by William Alexander. The author, while at a restaurant, ate the best bread that he has ever encountered, which prompted him to bake a loaf of bread everyday for a year in order to achieve that perfect loaf of bread. I loved the story and his experiences (I highly recommend it!). One my favorite lines in the book was “Bread is life.”

I have a bread obsession too. When someone tells me that they gave up bread, I cannot imagine that world. Walking by the bakery section of my grocery store is like candy. Just a woof of the freshly baked bread makes my mouth water. I cannot resist not buying anything. The best day is when the bread is hot or warm… oh my!!

Bread has always been part of my life. Growing up in Romania, bread was served with every meal. My parents used to send me to the bakery and while walking back to our apartment, I could not resist and dig my hand in the soft inside of the bread. I would eat half of a loaf before getting home. My mom would always yell at me. Luckily I always bought two loaves.

A while back I had stomach issues, so my doctor recommended that I get tested for Celiac disease since apparently a lot of folks who are from Eastern Europe suffer from it. I was so grateful that my test was negative. That would have been the worst day of my life (it is bad enough that I am lactose intolerant!!). I wondered why that was though. In his book, William Alexander discusses the history of flour and how the process in the US has changed over the years, including the addition of these enriching ingredients. Can that be the culprit?

Since not much was available in Romania, my mom baked a bunch. Once in the US, she took out her recipe book and started baking the same cakes, cookies, sweet breads that she baked for years. But they never came out the same as they did in Romania. She finally realized that the four was different. Since then, she has found a flour that only the local German or Russian store sells… her baked goods are back to normal. It was very interesting.

A friend of a friend mentioned that her husband owns a bread delivery service and that he delivers via his bicycle. How cool is that!! Two of my favorite things in one! But after a minute I realized how dangerous that would be… I do not think that anyone would appreciate half eaten bread.

Julia likes Mo Willems books, so while at the library, I found Nanette’s Baguette. In the book, Nanetts’s mom sends Nanette to the bakery to buy a baguette. But on her way home, Nanette eats the baguette. Then both Nanette and her mom go to the bakery to buy a baguette and on the way home, Nanette’s mom eats the baguette.

I am glad to see that I am not the only one who finds bread irresistible!

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On Tuesday I found out that Cibon was closing its doors and opening as a French restaurant. Julia had her first sleepover at my parents’ house so Joel and I were childless for the evening. We tried to think of a place where we have not been in a while and after naming a few options, we settled on Cibon.

As soon as we walked in, I noticed a change. There is now a communal table in the middle of the restaurant and new fabric on the cushions. It looks nice. I did not really think anything of it, specifically about the communal table. It seems to be a new fab in Rochester at the moment… everyone seems to be including it in their space. (I associate the communal table with a French place… specifically Le Pain Quotidien.)

Once we sat down, our server stopped by and informed us that it was their last day as Cibon and that they were out of a few items on the menu. I could not believe it! I was speechless! How can that be?? Cibon has been one of my favorite places in town. Joel and I have been going there since they opened, which was at least 14 or 15 years ago.

I remember our first visit. Tivoli used to occupy the space. Joel and I went there a few times and then all of a sudden Tivoli closed and Cibon took its place. I was a little sad that Tivoili closed since the space was kind of cool. Cibon was a nice surprise. Their menu included paninis, which was a new thing and they were only $4.25, breakfast items, such as bread and jams, and juices. It was great! Joel and I practically lived there… we went there every weekend and sometimes during the week too. The food was fantastic and the atmosphere was just as good. They always had the lights dimmed and played awesome music. The place was even greater in the summer since they had the outside seating, although that came later and it was also a new thing. Outside seating was unheard of in Rochester at that time, but it is definitely fantastic and I am glad that it stuck.

I have so many awesome memories at Cibon. I celebrated numerous birthdays there. The space where is now the kitchen used to be a little cozy area that included a comfy couch and a small side table. That was my favorite spot to gather with my friends to celebrate my birthday or just hang out. The staff knew us well since we visited so often… I loved that! I was super disappointed when they converted my cozy space to their kitchen. What were they thinking!! HA! The place was always my first pick for any gathering, even without the cozy space. The food was always consistently superb and the atmosphere was the best in town.

Their menu did evolve over the years, which was expected. I remember when they stopped serving the juices. They were really the only place in town that served fresh squeezed juices so it was kind of sad. At that point, their menu became more of a lunch/dinner spot. They added some pastas, which were fantastic. I feel like they were also one of the first places to serve fresh pasta. I remember the first time we ordered the linguine with pesto and pine nuts. It was to die for! The pasta was super fresh and the pesto was super tasty. It was such a simple dish but so good! Also around that time they started serving the paninis with a large pile of greens and the Cibon sauce. Joel and I always commented how fresh their greens were. I don’t think that we ever had a wilted green… ever!

I always went there for the paninis. I think that I ordered one 98% of the time. My favorite has always been the Michelangelo, which was sauteed shrimp with pesto, goat cheese, and tomato. The bread was always sprinkled with some salt and herbs before it was pressed. It was a bit messy on the fingers but the taste made up for it. I tried other paninis over the years and they were just as good. It was a bit disappointing when during one of our visits we noticed that the bread was different, which is the same bread as they used for a few years now. The previous bread was not too crusty and had a soft middle. Apparently Cibon had the bread made specifically for them and all of a sudden the baker started to sell it to everyone in town. So Cibon broke up with the baker and had to find a new bread. I feel like the bread was not as good as the original, but it was still acceptable.

I can go on and on, but I guess I should stop. I still cannot believe that it is closing. I am sure that the new restaurant will be good but it will not be the same. Yes, I am very sentimental and I do not like when my favorite things disappear. It is also a little surprising to me that the owners are actually changing the restaurant name too. Why not just change the menu. It seems a bit risky to me, but I guess I do not know much about running a business or a restaurant.

I am so glad that we went there on Tuesday night. It would have been so sad if the visit was in the new restaurant. At least I got to try their panini one more time.

Cibon closing feels like losing an old friend. I guess I can always make new friends, but it will not be the same and I will miss it dearly.

 

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The tomatoes this year have been super! Each week I look forward to visiting one of my favorite vendors at the Fairport Farmer’s Market, who has some really nice cherry tomatoes… yellow (round and oval), red (also round and oval), dark red, orange. They are just delicious! Julia loves them too. She eats them like candy… she loves to bite into them especially the oval shaped yellow tomatoes.

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On Friday I happened to catch a show on PBS called A Chef’s Life. The show is about a restaurant called Chef & The Farmer that is located in North Carolina. What caught my attention was the narrator’s (who was also the chef) description of a tomato sandwich that she ate growing up. Two slices of freshly baked bread, thick tomato slices that were sprinkled with salt and pepper, and some mayo. My mouth was watering. As she was describing the sandwich, the footage showed this amazing sandwich that was made on a round loaf of bread that had a hole in the middle. It also showed a chef assembling the sandwich, using the most beautiful heirloom tomatoes. I was immediately taken back to my tomato girl, who grew these just as beautiful and delicious heirloom tomatoes. I unfortunately have not seen her at the market in a long time, but I always think about her tomatoes.

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My friend Kristin and her mom visited this past weekend. They drove from Boston to Rochester and on their way they stopped at a farmer’s market. Once they arrived, Kristin told me all about the market and mentioned that she bought some heirloom tomatoes. I could not believe it! How timely!

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Although I did not have freshly baked home made bread, my sandwich was just as I imagined… super tasty! I inhaled it and had seconds. :) I used Italian bread from Wegmans, that was warm when I bought it, the largest heirloom tomato that Kristin brought, and Wegmans Organic Mayo. The key is sprinkling the tomato with lots of salt and a touch of pepper. It definitely made the sandwich, just as the chef from Chef & The Farmer mentioned.

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My favorite part about the PBS show was the scene where the chef/narrator was meeting with her staff to talk about the menu. She told her staff that they had to really talk up the sandwich, since it was a tomato sandwich and people will think that they were just lazy for serving it. She further told them to mention that the bread was freshly baked in house, the heirloom tomatoes were bought from a local farmer, and that even the mayo/spread (it escaped my mind) was made in house. Who would not want to try that sandwich?!? It is definitely not a lazy person’s sandwich.

Next time you are at a market, do buy some tomatoes and make yourself a tomato sandwich. It is the perfect summer sandwich!

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Sometimes when I find a new place that I fall in love with, I do not want to share the news in fear that it will become super popular and will be difficult to go there. This was the case with The Village Bakery in Pittsford. I have been thinking about dedicating a post to it for a while now, but I could not do it. But it is so good, that I had to share. Plus it has become popular, so I already lost that battle.

As I was driving home through the village last fall, I noticed some construction behind the Starbucks. I kept an eye on it and one day the sign went up… it said “Bakery”. I got excited. I could not wait to check it out. As soon as I walked in, I knew that I was going to spend a lot of time in there. It reminded me of Le Pain Quotidien in DC. The communal table, the fresh breads, the sandwiches, and the pastries… perfect! So the Saturday following my first drop in visit, Joel and I went there for breakfast. I remember ordering the breakfast sandwich that included a poached egg, arugula, pesto, and goat cheese. It was delicious!

We continued to go there for breakfast several more times. Then one day we went there for lunch and I ordered the tuna melt minus the cheese. Oh my! It was the best tuna sandwich that I have ever eaten. I am not kidding! We practically go there almost every weekend and that is what I order each time. I just cannot get myself to order anything else. The bread is perfectly toasted but still super soft and fresh and the tuna salad is just so tasty. I am not sure what they put in it, aside from the obvious ingredients such as tuna and dill. But it’s just amazing!

Ok, maybe I have ordered other sandwiches here and there. The B.A.L.T and the Turkey sandwiches are very good. Joel has ordered the Croque Madame several times and that is pretty good too. The only sandwich that I did not really care for was the Chicken Salad. I really wanted to like it, but I found it too dry. It needed a tomato or something. The actual salad is pretty tasty but as a whole, it is just ok. Same goes for the Egg Salad… it was good. It was tasty and not drenched in mayo, which is a plus in my book. If you like egg salad, I would definitely give it a try.

Each time we go there for lunch, I also have to order 2 cake bites. These are the most delicious and moist cake bites ever! What a brilliant idea… make a cake and roll it in a bite sized ball. My favorite is the vanilla followed by the chocolate peanut butter. The perfect ending to a perfect lunch!

The breads are really nice too. One of my favorites is the VB Table Bread. It’s a really nice everyday bread. It’s not super crusty and the inside is soft. My kind of a bread. I have also tried their brioche and it is good, but does not compare to the brioche at Le Pain Quotidien. That is still the best brioche that I have tasted since having it in France.

I am looking forward to the summer since they have a very nice patio that is decorated with beautiful potted flowers. I spent some time there last summer once Julia was born and I was on maternity leave. It was the perfect location to kill some time while Julia was napping in her stroller. In fact, she has practically grown up there. The place is great for her too. She loves it there. I guess it helps that we have taken her there since she was in my belly. :)

Julia at the Bakery

Julia in the big girl high chair at the Bakery.

Now please try not to go there too much or if you do and is crowded, please save us a seat.

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Quince Jam

Growing up, my mom used to make lots of homemade goodies… cakes, cookies, jams. Food was scarce in Romania during my childhood. All the grocery stores were completely empty, with the exception of some canned stuff. If the store all of a sudden received a shipment of any type of food item, everyone in the neighborhood formed a line the day before and camped all night to make sure that they got that item. I never understood how everyone found out about it. It was a mystery to me. I remember a bunch of times when my sister and I stayed in line all day for things like bananas, oranges, eggs, and other things. A couple of those times, the item was sold out as soon as we reached the counter. We came home crying to my parents informing them of the bad luck. Several bakeries did exist around my neighborhood, but going to them was a treat. Everything was very expensive.

One of the most frequent things that my mom made, as far as jams go, was quince jam. I have never found quince jam in Rochester or anywhere else for that matter. I do keep an eye out for it whenever I travel. I think that quince is not very well known in America. Somehow it was abundant in Romania. Also, it is definitely an acquired taste as far as eating it raw. I personally do not like it raw. Its flesh is very hard and tart. It does however make a good fruit for jams. The jam does remind me of my childhood. I can picture my mom in the kitchen shredding the quince, making the jam, and then canning it. It was definitely a chore, but the outcome was always well worth it.

During one of my phone calls with my mom a few weeks ago, she told me that my dad found quince at a local market and bought a bunch of it. She further told me that she got inspired and made several jars of jam. I was so excited since I have not had it in a very long time.

The jam was exactly as I remembered it. It was sweet and somewhat thick in consistency, similar to a marmalade. The first spoon of it took me right back to my childhood. Yes… I did say a spoon of it. There are certain jams that I can just eat by the spoonfuls. Growing up, jams were desserts (at least at my house), so eating a spoonful of it was normal. Joel always shakes his head every time he sees me doing that. I guess he will never understand. :)

I also like to spread it on a piece of freshly baked bread. It’s definitely heaven!!

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One of the things that I look forward to in the summer is going to the farmers’ market in Fairport. I especially look forward to visiting one of my favorite vendors, which I have nicknamed “my tomato girl”. Her name is Jess, and she owns Raindance Harvest Sustainable Farm. She grows the most amazing heirloom tomatoes! She also grows heirloom lettuces, baby squashes, green and yellow beans, as well as yellow, purple, and orange carrots, which are equally amazing. And on top of that, she is the best looking farmer I have ever met. :) She really is!

Heriloom Tomatoes

I was ecstatic when I visited her stand a few weeks ago and saw that the heirloom tomatoes were available! I went to the market again yesterday and bought a few more. I decided to make a small appetizer with them. I sliced them and topped them with some basil olive oil, salt, and pepper. It was great!

Fresh Tomatoes

I am a sucker for fresh bread. It makes me so happy whenever I can find warm bread while grocery shopping. When I was little, my parents used to send me to the bakery to get bread, and I would come back with 2 loaves, except that one of the loaves would be half (sometimes even more than half) gone. I can eat an entire loaf by myself. While preparing the tomatoes, I thought that some fresh bread would go really well with the tomatoes. So I baked some fresh bread. “You baked fresh bread?” you ask. Why yes, and I have done it numerous times, except that I did not spend hours baking it. I have found the best bread in the frozen section of the Nature Marketplace in Wegmans. They are the French rolls made by Alexia. You just bake them in the oven for about 8 minutes and voilà… you have warm fresh baked bread! I really love the brand! I also buy their sweet potato fries. YUM!

To top it all off, we enjoyed the appetizer with some Watermelon Martinis. :) We used a mix that is made by Wegmans. They also have a mix for Mojitos and margaritas. I bought the mix by chance, since they did not have the Mojito mix. It’s super tasty! I am glad that we tried it.

Watermelon Martini

We enjoyed the appetizer and drinks on our deck.

Appetizers and Drinks

I love summer!

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