Sunday, September 29, 2013

Week on the West Coast: Wine Country, SF

I didn't get a chance to post about the meal we shared with friends at the Bounty Hunter in downtown Napa, but sitting here in SF after tonight's meal gave me the necessary motivation.

BBQ and wine (and champagne) together? Hell, yes! says the Hunter. Four and a half** hungry people sat down for this meal, and little was left of the ribs, brisket, and pulled pork when we finished. A lovely charcuterie plate was a nice beginning, multiple wine flights gave us enough variety to satisfy any palate, and even the chocolate dessert confection was rich and tasty. A mostly unknown find turned out to be a favorite!

As for tonight, we went a little coastal at the Blue Mermaid in the famous Argonaut Hotel. I sampled three chowdahs: mussels & sausage (the red one), crab and corn (the white one), and California style (the pink one). The first was spicy and tomato-based, reminding me strongly of conch chowder. The second was hearty and flavorful, with a base nearly identical to classic New England style. The third was an unexpected pleasure, though a tad on the salty side.

Paired with fresh sourdough bread, there was little to detract from this palatable diversion. I would order larger servings of all three any day!

** The "half" is our dear friends' little girl, currently still a "player to be named later."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Week on the West Coast: Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

There are many ways to measure a trip: miles, days, cities, coffee cups. I thought it would be a nice diversion for me to catalogue this vacation here on the blog in meals -- good food (or perhaps just memorable food) is an easy marker with which I can measure out how we spent our time.

Now, I don't intend to relentlessly snap-and-post every single meal and snack we consume, but the notable surely deserve their place in the sun.

Pictured here is the basil tomato soup and grilled cheese I enjoyed on our first night in Yosemite. Lodge food is notoriously unreliable, but this meal was a very pleasant surprise. The soup was thick and flavorful, and the sourdough bread gave my sandwich a nice kick. After long hours of weary travel, it was a satisfying end to the day.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tasting Spring

I am so pleased to announce that it is officially farmer's market season! My Saturday mornings definitely just got a whole lot better (and earlier).

Right now the vendors are pumping out the garden starters -- herbs, lettuce, flowers, etc. -- to plant at home, but the seasonal produce has started to make an appearance. This week I loaded up on fresh new gold potatoes to accompany our dinners, and some beautiful rhubarb to fashion into a dessert treat.

Speaking of which, I have just now finished taste-testing my strawberry-rhubarb crisp! I admit to being a little nervous about this one, especially since rhubarb is an entirely new ingredient to me, but with some helpful hints gleaned from no less than four (only four) different cookbooks, I gave it a go.

And boy does this crisp go! As quick to make as any other fruit type, the filling and topping were ready to meet the heat in a flash. I could smell this crisp baking for the entire 35 minutes, and it took a whole lot of self-restraint to wait out the cooldown time.

Tangy and sweet, crunchy and gooey, this one will absolutely make multiple appearances on my table.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Good Start

They say the best way to get your day off to a great start is to eat a good breakfast. I couldn't agree more, which is why my first contribution to the blogging world after a short hiatus is the classic buttermilk muffin, done this time in sweetly-tart raspberry.

I'm composing this post on a mobile device for the first time (alas, we're in need of a new home computer and have been too busy to buy one) so please forgive the final product if it's out of my usual style. I made this recipe with some prior experience under my belt, and I'm happy to report that it remains as consistant as, well, the sun rising.

Powdered buttermilk is a brilliant invention, one I frequently turn to thanks to my mother and her insistance that buying and keeping "real" buttermilk is a waste of good money and fridge space. The lemon zest adds depth to the crumb and dimension to the fruit, so I always make certain to use a fairly large one.

This muffin holds together well, sticks to your ribs, and never fails to bring a smile. J ate just one almost straight from the oven and is gazing longingly at the rest. Sadly for him, those are reserved for my lovely coworkers at our weekly meeting.

So, suffice it to say, I'm back in action! My job won't let me cook & bake up a storm, but with summer slowly making its way in behind the chilly spring, I'm sure the kitchen will beckon more often.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


If you're alive and not conveniently dwelling in a Salinger-esque woodland retreat, you will almost certainly be aware that today is the first day of spring. Here in the northeast, of course, we have about a foot of snow, but elsewhere (and in some local greenhouses, I'm sure) the season of growth and renewal has actually begun.

In an effort to embrace that illusive seasonal feeling (and to get inspired for all the gardening I'll do), we trekked in to the annual Flower Show. We used to go every year, but with a venue change, admission price hike, and lack of interest, our attendance has fallen off in recent past. With heavy snows and a lot of unexpected downtime of late, I figured it was time to go back. Who doesn't love the smell of mulch, moist soil, and forced-growth flowers?

New Derby hat trend, perhaps?

Hello, lovely patio setting!

Of course, you might all guess the real reason I'm so eagerly anticipating the arrival of true spring... yes, I want my farmer's market back! Oh, to have fresh and local produce at my fingertips again. I'm determined to expand our veggie palates this summer: fried eggplant? Arugula salad? Leek soup? 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Honest Cooking

This was supposed to be my big apology post, where I beg my readers' forgiveness and promise to update faithfully starting right now. I was going to say how busy I've been, and that I haven't cooked anything worthwhile to post about, yadda yadda yadda and other excuses.

But that would be dishonest. And really, who wants to read another blogger fake-apology-post, when there are so very many out there as it is?

So I'm going to be honest: I haven't posted because I got lazy about maintaining this blog, and I've been too depressed to cook or bake anything super new and exciting and "blog-worthy." Yes, I was pretty busy during and after the holidays, with visiting family and celebrating my one-year wedding anniversary (yay!). I have some nifty new cookbooks, and I'm planning on creating some new dishes that I'd like to share with more than just J. But I also lost my job, and along with it my desire to be fun and creative and willing to spend money.

I don't operate well without a plan, and I enjoy a routine that is well-rounded and satisfying. Nothing against spontaneity, but those moments should be the clams in the chowder -- plentiful enough but still a delightful surprise when they appear on the spoon. When my usual life is interrupted by long stretches of boring, do-nothing days (like now), I find it more and more difficult to shake off that feeling of ennui.

In the last few weeks, I did manage to cook and bake a few things. Those cranberry bars? They're now a staple, and I made another batch for Valentine's Day. I also cooked my very first petit filet mignon (a success!) as a very special treat. Even my recent foray into the realm of bone-in chicken worked out beautifully, with the interesting side effect of getting me hooked on dark meat. So it's not a total loss, I suppose.

I don't want to make any promises about the future of this little enterprise, so I'll only ask for your patience. The kitchen still calls to me, and I hope it too will be patient, and willing to re-embrace its former occupant when I feel ready to get back in there.