My parents were always big proponents of the thank-you note. My dad would say you don’t need fancy stationery; his favorite paper was his yellow legal pad (yes, he was an attorney), and his rationale for his stationery was that in its humility, it elevated the words by letting them stand out above all, expressing even greater depth of the expression of your sentiment.
I can’t say I opt for the legal pad too often for correspondence (I’m such a fine paper hound), but the words, I agree, are the most important thing. They begin and end with what I want to say today to you: thank you, a million times thank you for your great enthusiasm for this special community at Rose Water & Orange Blossoms, for cooking and eating our beloved Lebanese recipes, and for encouraging me on this path with your votes a couple of months back in the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards contest.
I just returned from a whirlwind couple of days in Las Vegas, where Saveur hosted the group of food bloggers receiving their Best Food Blog awards. The awards are a terrific honor, and the trip? Unheard of. Most of the time we are working in rather solitary environments, the creative and often upside-down worlds of our kitchens strewn with props and cameras and lighting equipment, along with simmering pots and rolling pins and flour (the camera lenses’ worst enemy!). Even the most famous bloggers among us don’t often get wined and dined and gifted with kitchen bling the way we did out in the desert last week.
I came away with an affirmation of the respect I already had for my fellow food bloggers, each of us with a different passion that motivates us to do what we do despite the risks to career and pocketbook. I also came away with a newfound respect for one of if not the greatest of the Las Vegas hotels, the Bellagio. We were toured “where no visitor has gone before”—that is, behind the scenes in the Bellagio kitchens where the best dim sum chefs hail from China and exceptional pastry chefs from France to make every last morsel served in the hotel…from SCRATCH. And where a master sommelier took us on an “art and wine pairing” tour of the hotel’s museum of fine art. Now that’s a museum tour I’ll take any day!
Our hosts, in addition to the hotel, included revered brands like Le Creuset cookware, Highland Park whisky, and Talenti gelato (yes please!). What do you award a food blogger with? Not a statue, no. A frying pan, of course, inscribed for the occasion.
Then, there was a parting gift of another sort. One of my favorite Chicago restaurants, Mon Ami Gabi, has an outpost in Vegas. A quiet wind-down breakfast there before heading back to Michigan included a subtle plate of melon with mint syrup. Subtlety had not been on the menu all week long; that was so much fun. And all the more reason this plate grabbed my attention.
Our Lebanese love for fresh fruit and our na’na, our mint, found a lovely expression here against their backdrop of a plain white plate and paper-lined table. I share them with you as my note of thanks; the good, sound flavor of gratitude on a quiet sheet paper.
Melon with Mint Syrup
The syrup can be made ahead and kept in a jar or other airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks.
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
Big handful mint leaves (at least 20), torn or cut in chiffonade, plus more for garnish
Lemon or lime wedges
Ripe honeydew or cantaloupe
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring them to a boil over medium heat. When the sugar is fully dissolved, boil for another 3 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the mint. Cover, and let the syrup steep for 30 minutes. Strain and discard the mint.
Serve the melon, cut however you like, with the syrup and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, garnished with mint leaves.