A recent email from Colleen Elliot Dennis brought back memories. Dennis was a friend and neighbor of McCallie School's French/German teacher Pierre Wagner and his wife, Sarah.
"She was my best friend for many years," Dennis said. "I have many memories of Sarah and her little treats she would always have when I would walk over to visit."
The Wagners rented a home on Chickamauga Lake from my dad, so we would be out there frequently. Pierre, a native of Switzerland, was my first introduction to French cooking. His fondue was incredible. Sarah, a native of North Carolina, could whip up some really good Southern fare, but she also had a knack at creating some of her husband's favorite dishes from his homeland.
One of those was a dessert she called Cake au Vin. I loved it as a child, and when I got married and had a kitchen of my own, she gave me the recipe. I treasure it to this day.
That's not my only French connection of late. My youngest daughter, Taylor, is marrying a young man, Samuel Andre Shapero, who has dual citizenship in America and France. Sam's mother, Francoise Oudin Shapero, is from a small village northeast of Paris and still has family there.
To celebrate Sam and Taylor's future blessed union, I've retrieved the recipe from its safe place in my files and am making it again. I thought you readers might like to give it a try, too. It's particularly good with coffee in the morning.
A note from Sarah at the end of the recipe never fails to remind me of her jovial voice:
"The measurements are very odd because of my translation from grams to ounces then to cupfuls, etc. Good luck!"
I've included my best estimates to make this recipe even easier. This is a very rustic "cake." It's more of a tart than a cake, actually.
Cake au Vin
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour, unsifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup plus 1/16 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar (about 5 ounces)
4 ounces plus almost another ounce (about 9 tablespoons) melted butter
21/2 ounces red wine
Seedless raspberry jam
In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar. Add melted butter and wine, and stir to combine into a dough-like consistency. The dough will be sticky, so you may need to sprinkle it with a little more flour for easier handling. Divide dough in half and pat or roll each half into a circle fairly thick, about 1/4 inch. Place one circle in the bottom of a pie pan and spread with a layer of raspberry jam. Place second crust on top and seal edges. Bake at 325 F for 25-30 minutes or until the top crust feels dry to the touch and baked through. Let cool completely, then wrap with foil. Serve at room temperature.
My hotel stays usually take me out of town. Not so for my most recent one. Over the holidays, my husband and I boarded the Delta Queen for a night out. The historic boat's rooms are quite romantic, and the views of the river are even better. It was a chance for us to experience our beautiful city for a 24-hour period from a new vantage point.
Going to sleep looking out over downtown with the bridges overhead was breathtaking. When I opened my eyes the next morning, the fog had overtaken the river, and downtown lights were barely visible. It was simply breathtaking. I developed a new appreciation for the Scenic City.
This is something I would definitely recommend you do. Other people onboard were visiting Chattanooga and thought it was interesting that we were locals. Several remarked that our fondness for the city gave them favorable opinions as well. One woman with whom I played cards in one of several common areas called me a good ambassador for the town.
If you're looking for a good place to take your Valentine, now's the time to book a room. I recommend asking for one that overlooks the river. Check it out at www.deltaqueenhotel.net.
Email Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org.