Tahoe recipe: Pop’s comfort food – and farewell to a great man

Cheers to Pop (seen here in a Don Miguel advertisement), who put the "food in "foodie" long before it was trendy. His cooking was all about love.

Cheers to Pop (seen here in a Don Miguel advertisement), who put the "food in "foodie" long before it was trendy. His cooking was all about love.

That guy clutching the beer mug in the advertisement here is my father, Paul Albert Grandmain, known as “Pop” to his family and friends and who passed away last month at the age of (almost) 75.

Man, he was handsome. So good looking that somewhere around 1981 he was approached while strolling in downtown Jakarta, Indonesia, by San Miguel beer’s marketing people who begged him to pose for this ad.

Pop was just walking around on his lunch hour, taking a break from his duties as president of Sterling Drugs, and said, “Sure. Why not?” So they all trudged back to his office and did the shoot right at his desk.

I was in my first year of college when the ad broke and I was so stoked because it was featured, full page, in Times’ “Man of the Year” issue — page two, right-hand side. That was my Pop, man of the year.

Man of every year. He was the real deal. Funny, loving, incredibly smart, devoted to his family, sentimental, creative — just absolutely beloved. The emails, text messages and phone calls I have received from his high school buddies, co-workers, friends and family around the world have been universal in their theme: “Your dad was my hero.”

The man touched globally, but it was here in Truckee-Tahoe that he spent the last few years, in my neck of the woods, and for that I am so grateful. He moved here shortly after my mother died, and I was blessed to spend every day with him, really get to know and enjoy him.

We went to the river or Donner Lake every day in the summer (Dock 37!), had our favorite restaurants in town (Marty’s!), fished, walked and talked. We drove up Hwy. 267 during each heavy snowfall to “check it out,” me gripping the car door handle with white knuckles, while he blared his Ry Cooder CD and put on the brakes repeatedly to see “how bad the roads were getting.”

Weekly trips to Reno were par for the course. Coscto. Home Depot. Movies (don’t ever watch ‘Wolf of Wall Street” with a parent) followed by his $23 salad bar at Whole Foods. He was a busy guy and I was usually in tow.

One of the best things about my dad living in MY town was he became a sibling magnet. My brother and sister were often paying visits — or we were headed out to see them. We went camping in Sequoia and celebrated many holidays with Gigi, Greg, August, Lyla and Forrest in Truckee.

The road trip we took to spend Thanksgiving with Gineau, Ashley and Landon (who called my dad Mr. Bubble because of a “beauty mark” he had on his left cheek) remains one of the most cherished memories I have of the time I spent with Pop, even if I did have to listen to him talk to his GPS system for the entire nine-hour drive. (Sorry. That thing is going in the trash.)

When the house I was renting sold (someone out-bid me by $450,000) I moved into Pop’s cabin and we had a blast working on this recipe column together. The system went something like this – Pop cooked, I took pictures and wrote.

You see, even though my dad could speak five languages fluently, was tall, handsome, scary smart, funny and charming, it was his food that impressed. The man really knew his way around a kitchen. So many times I would come home and the house would be full of friends (my friends!) watching a game on TV and digging into one of his world-class creations.

It got so he themed his Monday Night Football menus to reflect the playing teams’ hometown fare. (I am very glad the Patriots did well this last season as New England brought some pretty tasty seafood to the table.)

A week before he died he had a huge group over for his usual biscuits and gravy Sunday breakfast and I couldn’t even find a place to park in my own driveway! Dogs and people were everywhere, the noise was deafening, the huge country style table was loaded with platters and he was bringing out yet more from his kitchen. We called it “Pops bed and breakfast.”

When he died it was not expected and I was beyond distraught. I was crying to my friends, “I never got to come up with a sign, you know, a sign? So I would know he was OK UP THERE.” My friend Terry leaned over and whispered in my ear, “It will be in the food.”

She’s right. Pop’s food was full of love and comfort — like the man himself. Pop lived a big, full life — so jam packed he wanted his tombstone to read, “Been there done that.”

A life so full of love and adventure and amazing experiences I could write a hundred recipe columns dedicated to his story and still not get it all in. And you know what my dad would say? He’d say what he always said when I talked too much — zip it. So I will and end this with: We love you Pop.

Recipe: Pop’s Candy

This English Toffee has a fan base that encompasses many continents and time zones. It is unbelievable. Pop was often hit with requests to sell it to local merchants, but he just made it and gifted it, made it and gifted it.

I can see him now, The Forensic Files blaring on TV while he is at the stove, stirring the toffee to a perfect consistency. Make it and gift it..

Ingredients for candy base:

1 candy thermometer

1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted almonds

1 cup (2 cubes) plus two tablespoons butter

1 cup sugar

1 tbls. light corn syrup

3 tbls. water

Ingredients for chocolate nut topping:

1 1/2 cups Nestles’ chocolate chips

1 cup finely chopped roasted almonds


Line bottom and sides of 13x9 inch glass pan with foil, cover bottom of pan with the coarsely chopped almonds, set aside. Rub down inside of medium sauce pan with the two tablespoons of butter.

Melt one cup of butter in over medium heat until melted. Add sugar, stir until dissolved. Add corn syrup and water, stirring until blended. Put candy thermometer in sugar mixture and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thermometer reaches 290 degrees, about 15-17 minutes. Pour over nuts, smoothing to edges with spatula.

HERE IS THE SECRET: While still hot, pour chocolate chips evenly over candy surface, let melt. Once soft, spread with spatula, evenly, to edges, then sprinkle with chopped nuts, gently patting down nuts to stick. Cool in fridge or a few hours in the freezer. Peel off foil, break into pieces. Your life as you once knew it will never be the same.

Simone Grandmain is an internationally published travel and food writer who currently calls Truckee-Tahoe home. She welcomes your recipes, kitchen “must-haves” and food news at simonegrandmain@gmail.com.


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