The house detective

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I am notorious for losing things.  Tom is notorious for retrieving them.  I’m not sure what set of genes is responsible for either of those skills, if losing (or finding) things, could, in fact, be classified as a skill.  I do know that without question, Tom is constantly following in my wake and finding the very things that I swear have been permanently lost (as I adamantly exclaim).

This is especially true when it comes to my keys.  I lose them, on (frequent) occasion.  They are always found straight away, by Tom, the “House Detective”; or, is it “Detective in the house!”  Or, perhaps, as Magnum PI, Season 6, Episode 4 is titled, “the Hotel Dick”. But Magnum would correct that and say…”Investigator”!

The latest episode of my key “disappearing act” came when Tom was out of town.  I spent the weekend inside, never leaving the house, doing my usual, um, well, tidying up in-Tom’s absence-thing-that-I-do when he is away.  I honestly hadn’t left the house; not once all weekend!  So, on Monday morning, when I woke up and could not find my car key (!!*), I was perplexed (?).  Needless to say, short of tearing the house apart, I looked everywhere! (*insert, multiple, swear words here)!

Upon Tom’s return, he had a few choice words to say as well since he was also unable to find the key.  Months went by (yes, months)!  In that time, I also managed to lock the spare car key in the car while at work.  I called the dealership to try and get them to  unlock it for me only to be told that they couldn’t.

To add serious injury to the whole lost-not-found key debacle, weeks later when Tom was out of town yet again, I went to start the car with the “spare key”, which happened to be the somewhat mangled key (since it had been in my possession mostly the last 10 years, yet the key I had lost was the “good key”), the key actually failed to start the car altogether.  As in, it was permanently broken (!!*).  No spare key to be had.  The dealership was not helpful in that, Mercedes does not allow another key to be made unless, both  the car and Owner are present in the service shop.  Given the current state of my car keys, this would require the car to be towed into the shop.

At an unsuspecting time, months later, Tom found my keys!!!!!! (?).  House Dick/Private Investigator extroirdinaire.  The keys, it turned out of course, were in my bag all along.  Well hidden, but…well, there they were n o t  i n  p l a i n  s i g h t.

He told me he had a premonition when he went into the bedroom and looked in my bags.  His little voice was saying, look in here (even though he already had).  So, there we had it, mystery solved…until the next time.  Yes, it happened for the other car too, but we won’t go there…

I am not the house detective but I have become very good at detecting great new sources for food.  One of my favorite places to frequent on the infrequent occasion that I venture into the neighborhood of Pioneer Square during my work day, is Rain Shadow Meats.  They are a butcher shop but also one of the best places to grab a great lunch.  The vibe is casual, New York meat packing district cool with a high energy and a long wait during the noon hour and a slow, next-door-neighbor vibe, welcoming you in during the off-hours.  I buy most of my meat from them as well as fresh eggs, and the occasional condiment.

Friday night, along with my late-lunch sandwich that I took back to the office, in addition to other grocery necessities: two butterflied hanger steaks that had been lovingly marinated in salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and preserved lemon.  I served it next to a salad of fresh butter lettuce, sweet cherry tomatoes topped with my buttermilk blue cheese dressing.  To sop up the goodness, I grilled thick slices of Columbia City Bakery sourdough that I picked up at The London Plane, a mere few doors away from my office.  I prepared the bread kissed with olive oil, rubbed with fresh garlic and swathed in a swipe of Romesco sauce before smashing avocados over top.

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HANGER STEAK SALAD

serves 4

Hanger steak is one of the most tender cuts of meat from the cow, but can become tough if overcooked.  Until recently, it had not been readily available in the market yet could be found on menus in many restaurants.  Locally, I am able to source it from Whole Foods or Rainshadow Meats.  It is a deeply flavorful cut that cooks quickly and requires little adornment, but does benefit from a brief marinade.  It should be trimmed with membrane removed by the butcher, so be sure to ask.  If you live in/near Seattle and visit Rain Shadow Meats, they will be happy to butterfly and marinate the steak for you at one of their two locations.

I used butter lettuce last week for the salad but most recently used arugula, which I feel is a more elegant and spicy partner for the rich, juiciness of the steak and blends magically with the blue cheese dressing and the sweetness of the tomatoes.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 lbs hanger steak, trimmed, membrane removed and butterflied

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp Kosher salt + freshly ground pepper (Rain Shadow uses their in-house made salt blend; I use my homemade seasoning salt blend by roasting 1 part salt to 1/2 part black pepper corn and 1/2 part coriander seeds, grind after roasting for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees)

1 TB olive oil + more for sautéing

1/4 of a preserved lemon, finely chopped

1 TB chopped parsley

Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing (approximately 1/2 cup)

12 cherry tomates, cut in half

2 green onions, chopped

4 cups baby arugula, washed and dried thoroughly

Sea salt and pepper for seasoning salad

Lemon squeeze

PREPARATION
Combine the garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and preserved lemon in a bowl.
Add the steak and gently rub the marinade into the steak with your hand.
Scatter the parsley overtop and let marinade, refrigerated, for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add enough olive oil to just coat the bottom of the pan.
Add the steaks and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.  Flip the meat every 30 seconds after the first turn until the temperature reads 120 degrees.
Let rest on a plate while you prepare the salad.
To prepare the salad, toss the arugula with just enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves.  Season with sea salt and pepper.
Divide the salad among four plates and top with the tomatoes and green onions.  Drizzle some additional dressing over top.
Slice the steaks against the grain into 1/2″ pieces.  Divide them overtop of the arugula and squeeze some lemon over each plate.
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10 Legs in the Kitchen

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Ginger:  “Buddy, you didn’t find us some steak while you were up there watching?”

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“Gee, I should have shared with Ginger cuz’ a full belly sure makes me sleepy.”

Past Midnight…

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The clock was ticking…

Anticipation was mounting…

…another year came near it’s end and a New Year was ready to be born.

It is not the end of something really, but the beginning, of new possibilities!

As the clock struck midnight on December 31st of 2016, I was, once again… asleep!

I awoke, a mere 26 (or so) minutes into my slumber, at 12:04 am, to the sound of horns tooting (thanks to my husband) and fireworks shooting.

It is not, however, what happens as the clock strikes midnight that matters as much as it is what happens after midnight passes that counts.

Today, January 1, 2017, as the world reflects on the year that has just passed and the uncertainties, and possibilities that are yet to come, I ponder just 5 things:

  1.  How is it I can stay awake, (way) past midnight, on (most) any occasion, other than New Year’s Eve?!!!
  2. Does (Princess) Ginger like wearing her hat each year or is she silently thinking, “Really, again with the @#$%! tiara?”
  3. Will Buddy and Ginger watch A Charlie Brown’s Christmas, for the third time (this year), and love it as much as us? *
  4. Did the weather man actually get it right, finally, this year, or was he just lucky it snowed last night?
  5. What the hell is for dinner, the ‘fridge is (unusually) bare? **

*Yes, they will.  Buddy and Snoopy were separated at birth, I’m convinced.  Charles Shultz was channeling him…

**The answer to that question is, inevitably, pasta! Bolognese is always a good ideaor some version of it (I smell it in the oven now…you’re welcome Tom; although this was made from grinding prime tenderloin from our freezer and using my, well stocked, frozen, home-made tomato sauce…use of whatever pasta we had in the pantry…).

PS_IMG_9246.jpgNow Buddy counts sheep.  1… snooooozzz.

Old Fashion(ed) holiday cheer!

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We pulled off the ferry late (one somewhat recent) Thursday night after spending a memorable Thanksgiving on Bainbridge Island at the Gil-wards Holiday gathering.  Tom and I are grateful for having secured two of the most-coveted seats on that Island for this year’s celebration between two households, shared with Family and Friends.

For those of you in the know, Tom and I have had a years-long tradition of spending Thanksgiving beachside in Hawaii, grilling our dinner mere feet from the ocean with our  toes in the sand.  It is easy to be thankful while romping in the clear water and warming in the sun all day before setting up a mini-kitchen on the beach, cocktails in hand.  Grateful to be watching the enormous sun slowly disappear beyond the horizon while simultaneously leaving a magnificent glow of color in the sky for those who patiently stay around.  Grateful for waves serenading us with their gentle rhythm as families, dressed in linens, pass by on their way to the nearby resorts for their turkey dinners.  During those precious moments, we always feel amazingly grateful for our lives here on earth, especially on Island.

This year, as I mentioned, Thanksgiving was different.  It was spent in the company of our Family, on an island that poured rain more dramatically than the ocean waves sang and was warmed not by the sun, but by the love (and heaters) in the home (and on the beautifully curated porch).  This was not a tropical island, but I would not have traded that night for one in the tropics. Not this year!

I was reminded of how important it is to spend moments of meaning with Family (and with Friends that might as well be Family).  As we all sat down to dinner, each of us had a name card at their plate, which I assumed was there to indicate where we were to sit.  It was there to do that, yes, but there was more.  After the meal, we were directed to pass our card to the person on the left and to write something for which we are grateful about the person on the card of that passed from the person on our right.  This would go on until the cards with our names made it back to their original spot.  At the end, we all had a card that was filled with things about us for which people were grateful. How fantastic is that?!

I am not one to write something so quickly, so I am sure to have stumbled on my words and on my pen.  To all of you seated around the table that night, I hope you each know how much I love and adore  you (well, I did just meet one of you but if you continue to make Katie happy, I will certainly love you too).  I am thankful to be a part of your lives and that you are in our lives (Tom, Ginger, Buddy and my (life)).  I am grateful for your guidance (Scott), all of your musical talents (not Scott) plus the enthusiasm to experience it all (known and unknown), including family at all important (or not so important) occasions (all of you)!  Grateful for good food, accompanied always with strong drink as well as witty, entertaining conversation, and of course, love.  Grateful that the kids have all grown up in loving and happy homes with the guidance, resources and community support needed to flourish, love and be their best selves!  And they are all amazing, individualistic and loving souls.

As we are now full bloom into the Holiday Season, Tom and I send our official Aloha, having recently returned from the (Hawaiian) beach.  We are warmed, well-fed and happy for the respite, as incredibly short as it was.  We are most grateful to be back with our pups and in our cozy home.  Just as we held up our glasses of prosecco spiked with pineapple last week, we now hold up our glasses filled with happy spirits and say, “Happy Holidays” and then clink our glasses with an a ‘Old Fashioned’ cheer.

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HOLIDAY SPICED OLD FASHIONED (big batch)

If having a party, it is a good idea to make a large batch, set it out on the bar with garnishes, glasses and ice for guests to easily pour their own.  I used Spanish orange bitters here, but it is also good with chestnut bitters, or you can use Angostura or Fee Brothers old fashioned aromatic bitters.

INGREDIENTS

3 cups of your favorite bourbon or rye (I use Bulliet Rye)

3 TB spiced simple syrup (recipe to follow)

2 tsp bitters (see note above)

Peel of 1 orange (in long strips)

TO MAKE

Add all ingredients into a glass pitcher and stir.  Be sure to set out craft maraschino cherries and orange wedges for garnish.  The best cherries are Italian, brandy-soaked cherries that can be found in specialty stores.  I use Luxardo brand cherries.  If you are able, use a big block ice cube tray to make ice for your guests so that the drink remains cold longer and does not get diluted straight away.

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HOLIDAY SPICED OLD FASHIONED (made to order)

If you are making it to order,  which I prefer, simply add a cherry and a slice of tangerine to a glass and mash it with a muddler.  Add a large piece of ice to each glass.  Fill a cocktail shaker 1/2 way up with ice and pour in a healthy pour of your favorite bourbon or rye.  You can make two or three at a time this way; approximately 4 oz per drink.  Add a few dashes of bitters, 1/2 teaspoon of the spiced simple syrup (recipe to follow) per drink (or more if you prefer your drink sweeter).  Stir with a long spoon then strain into prepared glasses.

SPICED SIMPLE SYRUP

Simple syrup is great to use in drinks or sauces that are typically served cold because the sugar is already dissolved when you add it to the ingredients.  The traditional syrup consists of one part water to one part sugar, brought to a simmer and left to cool.  This is no different except that the sugar is slightly reduced (because I try to consume less sugar) and there are spices added to the simmer to infuse it with a little bit of the holiday spirit.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup water

3/4 cups (or 1 cup if you prefer) pure, unrefined coconut sugar (or raw, natural sugar)

1 cinnamon stick

1 cardamon pod, slightly smashed and lightly toasted (in the oven or in a pan on the stove top)

3 pieces candied ginger

A few shavings of freshly-grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cloves

TO MAKE

Add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a light boil.  Reduce heat to simmer for 1 minute, then turn off the heat, remove the pan from the stove top and allow to cool completely.

When cool, press on the ginger to help release some of the flavor and then strain.

You can reserve the cinnamon stick and candied ginger for another use, such as mulled cider or wine.  You can also use the cinnamon sticks as a garnish for stirring.

Store in a small jar for up to 6 months (may or may not refrigerate, I don’t to keep it supple).

“…and that’s a wrap!”

 

 

Kitchen Therapy

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I believe things happen for a reason, good or bad.  Every decision we make becomes part of our story and that story, often has a deeper meaning.  I chose to get a dog my freshman year of college and that dog, Buffy, became such an integral part of my life that I wouldn’t know how to describe that middle part of my life without including her, just as Ginger and Buddy consume our story now.

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it was a long journey

Most of you know Buddy of course.  The scruffy little yorkie that came into our lives at the age of 10, as if he knew he was meant to be with us all along. I sometimes picture him ringing our doorbell with a hobo stick slapped across his back declaring that he’s finally come home. The powers that be brought him to us and then tried, several times, to take him back. Somehow, he has managed to beat the odds and remains a deeply entwined part of our lives today and for everyday in the foreseeable future (knock on wood).

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mommy and daddy, i’m home

Buddy, recently, has had a newly found appreciation for food.  He has never been one to turn down a meal, or a treat (I’d go as far as to say that this one is certainly motivated by food), but now when he eats, it is with his whole heart and he is taking in every flavor, texture and aroma. Buddy eats greedily but thoughtfully, offering gurgles and sound effects that mimic what maybe Snoopy or Woodstock might express or, more aptly, a human might make as they bite into a meticulously cooked meal, enhanced with only the skill and finesse of the worlds finest chef.

He is also experiencing the finer things in life, such as spa days (with bubble baths),  acupuncture sessions and deep massages every night from his daddy. We too are experiencing the finer things in life, such as more time with Buddy (and Ginger) and much more awareness of our mortality as well as theirs. We are embracing the future but enjoying the present with much more gratitude and self-awareness.  This is a choice we should all be making but is hard to see through all life’s craziness and stress.

So to combat the craziness and stress, I am headed to the kitchen where I will emerge happier, healthier and hopefully well-fed.

I choose  Kitchen therapy.

Our lives are busy.  But we still need to eat!  There are so many shortcuts available and it is easy to take them all, which includes eating prepared meals or eating out every day.

I usually feel better when I head into the kitchen and begin cooking…anything. Buddy and Ginger eagerly follow (these days, Buddy usually gets carried along). Then, Ginger sitting on her orange square and Buddy, either stumbling blindly underfoot or tucked in one arm as I work aptly with the other, anticipate the nibbles and bites they will get as the cooking noises and smells begin to permeate the air.

Chop, chop, chop, sizzle, sizzle… A rhythm begins to take hold and an easy, familiar dance begins to carry my stress away.

I taste what I am making. It is very important to taste. Buddy and Ginger are taste-testers too.

Music is playing.  Music must always be playing…
…and Tom is playing the music.  In the background, and in the foreground, chatting with song.

Last night it was our favorite chicken dish and tonight it will be a comfortably quick beef stew.  I know a stew need not be quick, but quick is what we needed, so into the pressure cooker it went.  It emerged an hour later, prep time and all, a fragrant, creamy and comforting meal that carried us away from a busy week and welcomed us into a cozy Fall weekend.

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SIMPLE BEEF STEW (flavored with balsamic, red wine and mascarpone) – serves 4

Stew always seems to taste better the next day, but with the addition of a little mascarpone and the help of a pressure cooker, this stew tastes as good day one as you might expect it to taste on day two. I am looking forward to days three and four, if it sticks around that long.

Even though it is simple, it feels more refined due to the size of the meat, veg and potato;  I usually keep them chunkier but decided to reduce all in size. Using leeks rather than onions and balsamic vinegar along with red wine, an aroma fills the room reminiscent of Italy or France. The mascarpone is stirred in to help thicken without extra time and lends a distinct creamy, sweet quality that might typically be heavier and more familiar.

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 lbs grass fed beef stew meat, cut into 1/2″ dice
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to season
A handful of semolina flour to dust the meat
1 large leak, cut in half horizontally, cleaned and diced
2-3 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 TB balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup diced potato (skin on is fine)
3 stalks celery, cleaned and diced
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups water
2 TB veal demi-glace

1/4 cup diced haricot vert / green beans
1- 1 1/2 cup diced potato (can be a mix of sweet potato and red or white potato)

2-3 TB chopped parsley
1-2 TB chopped rosemary and thyme combined (more or less is fine too)
1 TB Dijon mustard
1 good dollop mascarpone

PREP

1. Prepare all of your vegetables as instructed above so they are at the ready as you begin to cook.

2. Season the beef with about 1/2 tsp kosher salt and fresh ground pepper then dust it with semolina flour just to coat.

3. If you have an electric pressure cooker, turn it to brown and add about 2 TB olive oil to the pot. Brown the meat on all sides.

4. Add the leeks and garlic to the pot and continue to brown until the leeks begin to wilt slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir.

5. Add the 1/4 cup diced potatoes, celery, carrots, red wine, water and demi-glace to the pot, stir and turn to high pressure for 15 minutes.

6. When the pressure releases and you can open the lid, add the rest of the ingredients and turn the pressure to high for 30 minutes.

7. When the pressure releases, stir, adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if needed. If it is not thick enough, add a little more mascarpone. It should sit and simmer for at least 15 minutes or until you are ready to eat as it will continue to thicken and the flavors will meld together.

8. Serve in warm bowls with a crusty loaf of bread or a crostini. A simple salad does well to round out the meal.

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g’night Ginger, I wuv you too!

Operator, I’d like a German Oven Pancake please.

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Do you remember the game Operator? It is now known as the telephone game (so I am told); a silly game that we used to play as kids where everyone sits around in a big circle (usually during a sleep-over or birthday party) and one person whispers something into the person’s ear next to them, and that person in turn, whispers the same thing into the next person’s ear, who then repeats it to the next person, and so on.  By the end of the circle, the last person is to repeat what they heard out loud.  The original statement might have started out saying, “Hey neighbor, your cat’s on our fence.”  But the last person to hear it might have heard, “Hey dummy, your elephant is in our backyard.” or some such nonsense.

The point is, as things get passed down, they get reinterpreted, mis-told or misunderstood.  The small details or misconceptions can end up having significant impacts on the final outcome.  I thought of that game this morning as I went to make brunch.  We were down in Hoodsport three weekends ago (as you already know), and my mother-in-law made a wonderful brunch.  It was a German Oven Pancake which came from the oven puffed-up and delicate.  We slathered it with a little butter then topped it with maple syrup (except silly Tom, who decided to make it savory by coating his in ground pepper).  We also had sausages and a plate of fresh fruit.  And mimosas, of course.  The pancake seemed almost crepe-like.  Oh and I do love a good crepe.  This was a good (crepe) pancake!

As we were leaving, Lois ran upstairs and copied the recipe for me, which she had  hand-written on a recipe card, copied from Tom’s cousin Karen.  I didn’t look at it but thanked her, folded it in half and tucked it into a magazine that I was planning to read on the road (home).

The following weekend, I decided I wanted to make the oven pancake for breakfast.  I pulled out the magazine (which I still haven’t read, because it had been in the trunk of our car) and unfolded the recipe.  The copy was very faint and difficult to read.  Tom sat in the daylight (aging eyes struggling), trying to decipher the writing, reading it off to me, stumbling over some of the words and I typed what he said (sic):

“German Oven Pancake – serves 2-4 (or is that a 6?)
1/2 cup flour, sifted3 slightly-beaten eggs1/2 cup milk2 tsp butter or margarine (what?!), melted1/4 tsp saltsomething, something, confectioner sugar or lemon juice butter.

  1. Add flour to eggs, beating with rotary beater.  Stir in milk, melted butter and salt.  Thoroughly grease bakers joy baking dish pour into mold dish, bake at 450-degrees for 15-17 minutes.  It will get puffy.  Loosen at wide spatula.

     2.  Add butter to flour and eggs then add milk and salt.  Can pour over canadian bacon.”

Seriously, that looks better than what he said.  It mostly made sense, only because I had sat down to brunch with her as she explained that you could sprinkle confectioners sugar over the top, but she didn’t do that.  She also mentioned something about pouring it over Canadian bacon to make it savory.  Which, again, was not done.  If I had just taken the card and tried to follow the recipe, I would have had many more questions.  As it were, my only questions were these:

  1. Does this not use baking powder?
  2. What kind of dish do I bake it in?

I texted over those questions but was inpatient as I was in the thick of my execution and decided to Google, “German Oven Pancake” instead.  The first page that came up was from the Betty Crocker website.  Seeing that the only cookbook my husband, Tom, came to me with was a later edition of the original Betty Crocker cookbook that he had in college (and I don’t think ever used, but he claims Pete did), I suspected it was quite possible that Betty was the first person in the circle to kick-off our little game of Operator.

So it might have started out with Betty saying, “Operator, I’d like a German Oven Pancake, please.”  And I might have finished it by stating, “Operator, I’m a German with a Pancake to Please.”  Finally!  I’m ashamed to admit, it has taken me three tries.

German Oven Pancake (or so I am told)

Adapted from Lois (Bender) Casto via Karen (Bender) Lieberman, via Betty Crocker (maybe?)

Needless to say, my first attempt at this a few weekends ago was not a success.  I think it was because I used whole wheat flour since I did not have any all-purpose flour.  I used almond milk rather than cow’s milk, but it might also have been my choice of pan (Tom says sure, blame it on the pan).  I had not waited for my mother-in-law to respond to my email before heading into the kitchen.  Betty had told us to heat a cast iron skillet before pouring the batter in.  After I did this, I got the email from Lois telling me specifically not to use a hot pan.  I also decided to make it savory, using proscuitto.  Tom thinks it tasted more like a “real” whole wheat pancake.  Not what I had in mind, but edible.

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I treated it a bit like Margharita (not the best choice)

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The proscuitto was tasty.

The following weekend, I thought I might borrow a cup of all-purpose flour from my neighbor Piotr (who was away on job assignment; we were tending to his mail and his garbage).  Turned out he too was with whole wheat flour only (good boy).  So this time I used a cold pan, but still had the wrong flour.  Admmitablely, it looked prettier and (sort of) puffed up but it was a bit dense and not that great (BTW Piotr, your flour is stale).

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Puffy, yes.  Flour, a tad stale.

So now this time, I did use all-purpose flour, but had to use Greek yogurt (thinned with water) instead of milk (yup, you guessed it, I had no milk).  My cake did not bubble up, nor did it get pouffy, like a soufflé (as Lois’ did), but the flavor was spot on!  More eggy than cake-like, fluffy, light and a perfect partner for maple syrup, butter and sausage (and not appropriate for pepper).

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Ahhhh, success (even if the picture tells a different story).

Ingredients

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Prepare

Heat an oven to 450-degrees.

Butter a baking dish (preferably glass).

Whisk the milk, butter and salt into the eggs

Slowly, whisk in the flour being careful not to over-mix

Pour into the prepared baking dish and cook for 15-17 minutes.  It should puff up, but even if it doesn’t, it should still taste quite good.  Divide amongst four plates, put a dollop of butter on top and pour some warm maple syrup over.  Serve with fruit and breakfast sausage if desired.  A mimosa washes it down well (as often he case).

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Can I have some too?

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Anyone gonna’ eat that last bite?  I will, even if I’m about to lose a toof.  Did someone say toof fairy leaves treats?

 

 

 

Last one to the party (misses out on Joe’s sauerbraten!)

So here it is, that time of year again – Oktoberfest! I posted this three years ago and am wanting to let all of you out there know that it is our mission, this year, not to be the last one to the party! We are layering up and heading for the ferry, beer mug in hand! See you on the other side.

I am also going to raise a glass for my niece Catherine, who is studying abroad in Copenhagen this year. Prost!

10 Legs in the Kitchen

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Damn, turns out that was us! I got a text from our niece Catherine saying they were having a party and would we like to come? A little prodding and I was able to determine that the party was for Oktoberfest, it began at 5pm and no costumes were required. I only asked about the dress attire because my sister-in-law is part-German and a young Catherine had previously shown up for no less than three Christmas dinners wearing her genuine dirndl given to her by her grandparents. A little further prodding revealed that there might actually be dirndl and lederhosen afoot, but neighbor/friend Joe G. would indeed be manning the grill. Not sure where to start with that story other than to say, Joe cooks, we’re there (boat dependent). Plus, Grandma Doris bakes a mean tart (amongst other things) and we hadn’t seen everyone since her birthday in April. Seeing…

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Sweet Evolution

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No, I’m not talking Darwin’s Theory stuff here but rather plum torte evolution; yet, evolution nonetheless.  A recipe.  A quite famous (and DEMANDED) recipe!  Not mine but one published by Marian Burros in The New York Times, circa 1983.

“It”, as will it be referred to from here (the plum torte recipe) started out as an idea (I speculate) and turned into an essential, a must have recipe!

“It”, became beloved and popular, for it’s spectacularnous (not technically a word, I know, but I do like to make up words, or Stacey-isms as Tom would call it) and yearned for as a nod to the end of Summer and the beginning of Fall.

“It”, was coveted and found to be genius!  Which, genius it was really, and still is (as all genius things are, which makes them, well, genius).

But…times move onward and forward.  As did “The New York Times”, who published this recipe for plum torte from Marian Burros every year beginning in 1983 and trying to end in 1989 when they decided to (gasp…) quit publishing “It”.  They dared to quit publishing said recipe for plum torte, telling readers that they best cut it out, laminate it and hang it on their fridge because if they lost it, they were on their own.  Ha!

I had a hard copy of the recipe folded and tucked into one of my journals for years.  It had stains and crumples and batter caked onto it’s face.

I have lost it, and found it, and lost it again.  But then, I never laminated it, nor put it on my fridge.

Now, I Google to find it each year.  How’s that for evolution?  Google that!  What would we do without the internet?!

If you are a person who reads about food, loves to think about and cook food, types in searches on Google about food, come plum season, you too, my friend, are sure to have read about the recipe here, or perhaps hereNo?!!!! 

This torte is really a buttery (plum) cake.  It is as simple in its’ ingredients as it is simple in its’ steps for making. The plums transform from their raw, unassuming state into a puddle of inky jam pillowed by the buttery batter.  Mingled with cinnamon and sugar, they become fast friends at any dinner/breakfast or lunch party.

This year, as we were visiting my in-laws, at their Washington “cabin” in Hoodsport, sporting a bag of very ripe Italian plums from the farm down the road (our fave Hunter Farms), among other edibles, and I thought again about this (in)famous plum torte.

When we departed, I left my Mother-in-law, Lois, with the bag of plums, which were still taking up space in the fridge.  I also sent a link to the story, with recipe, for the famous plum torte.  On the way home (a 2 1/2 hour drive), I looked up the story again, to read for myself (having been absent on it for a few years).  This time, I also read an updated article from the Eating Well section of The New York Times published September 4, 1991.  It talks of others trying to make it healthier, but failing.  Not failing so much, as for it just not being the same.

In my young(er) years, I gave no thought to healthy eating.  More butter, meat, and sweets — bring it on!  Carbohydrate was not even part of my vocabulary, let alone something I felt should be cut out.  Whole grains were for hippies and tree huggers; I was completely content with my Wonder Bread, Ritz crackers and Nabisco Nilla Wafers.    Oh you know what I’m talking’ about.

Today, food production has become different as accessibility to new, and awareness of, better ingredients become more prevalent.  Thankfully, I have long ago, ditched Wonder Bread for artisan breads; sometimes whole grain, sometimes not.  I am not a stickler about eating only the healthiest things, but especially when I bake things, I am more mindful of the ingredients that I put into them.  I almost exclusively use whole wheat pastry flour.  Yes, it is slightly different, but it too produces a lovely cake.

I could go on…but I won’t.

At least for not too long.  I promise!

In the Eating Well article, ideas on change were thrown here and there.  Whole wheat.  Less butter.  Gaaasp…margarine instead.  Egg whites, less yolk.  Bananas!  No, seriously, bananas?!  Granted, I’ve talked about using avocado instead of butter before (much to Tom’s chagrin), but even that would not do here.

How can we do this better?   Perhaps we can and perhaps we can’t?  But we can do it healthier.  Of this I am sure!

I have done it, in-fact.  Yes, I have!  As I am sure, so have half of you.  The original recipe was genius.  It allowed many of us to produce a dessert so mind-blowingly good with such little effort that I would speculate, in the months of September and October, at least 20-30% of the Italian plums grown in the United States, still go into the original recipe, or some version there-of.

This healthier version might not be the same.  I am sure it tastes different.  It does, however, taste damn good!  Good to be eating fresh fruit good; even if the fruit has been cooked.  Butter is there, which makes it better and true to the roots.  Less butter.  More roots (from the grass from which the cows ate).  The sugar is unrefined and from coconuts.  Less sugar, more (plum) flavor, sweet!  

I am still a big fan of the Original.  I will never claim this is better.  But it is better for you and it tastes just as good (to me).  The texture is more crumbly, nuttier and more dense.  It has you thinking you are in Italy, sitting street-side, sipping wine in a lovely cafe after sketching some bridge, street or building in your tattered book.  Or writing endlessly about food in your journal.

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Plum Torte (Adapted from Marian Burros version; updated for today’s healthier, modern lifestyle)

Okay Suzanne (AKA, Pug in the Kitchen), this one’s for you.  A healthy dessert we can all get behind, but only for the months of August and September, and perhaps part of October (because that is when the plums are available).  Enjoy for breakfast or dessert; even a mid-day snack or coffee break.  So many ways to enjoy this.  So little time.  Delightfully ripe plums available now in Farmer’s Markets and grocery stores (most) everywhere (at least in the United States).  Make this torte (cake) now and you will be making it forever more.  It will be a go-to thing, I’m sure!

INGREDIENTS

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (all purpose if you stick to the original)
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup unrefined coconut sugar (obviously cane sugar works too, but then itwill not have that “modern healthy lifestyle” vibe nor will it have the depth of nuttiness; unrefined white sugar will be more like the original but then, use 1 cup).
1 stick (1/2 cup) grass fed, unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (grass-fed cows produce healthier butter); you can use regular butter however.
20 ripe, Italian plums, cut in half, pits removed and discarded.  The original recipe calls for 24 but in the pan I use, I can’t squeeze them in.  This seems like a lot, but go with it because the results speak for themself.
a little lemon juice
1 *TB cinnamon  + a little sugar (to sprinkle over)

* the recipe published in the NYT had a mis-print calling for 1 TB cinnamon when in fact, it should have been 1 tsp. As someone who doesn’t often measure cinnamon anyway, I would naturally have put in closer to 1 TB. Do what feels right to you.

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PREP

I started, this year, by screwing up the first step.  Alas, it turned out nonetheless!  I accidentally put the sugar in with the flour, salt and baking powder.  It is suppose to be creamed into the butter.

Whoops.

What I did to undo?  I took a handful of the flour mixture and added that to the butter, whipped it to creamy, then added in the rest of the flour mixture, followed by the eggs.

What you should actually do to prep:

In a smaller bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a larger bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a mixer.

Beat the flour mix into the butter mix.

Transfer batter to a buttered and floured spring-form pan (10″ to 11″ diameter).  If you don’t have one, use a regular cake pan (as I did; to remove, I just tipped over like a cake and invert).

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Bake, in a pre-heated, 350-degree oven, for 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes away clean.

Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche or a slice of creamy cheese.

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 Buddy:  Sugar plum fairies dance in my head…                                                                                   Ginger:  Did someone say cheese?  I like cheese!  I like solid ground too.

 

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Buddy:  Why did you wake me? I want some plum cake.                                                                            Ginger:  You are weird to like plums, mangos are better.                                                                    Buddy:  Am I dreaming?  I feel like we should be floating.

 

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Off we go!

Speed Dating

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What comes to mind when I say speed dating?

I will wait for a moment while you conjure up your thoughts!

I bet you are picturing a row of tables, in a dimly lit room, all lined with desperate people quickly throwing out their best pitch?  Perhaps nervously tugging at their hair?  Twitching their glasses or rhythmically tapping their feet on the ground under the table?  A little sweat seeping out from beneath their brow perhaps, or more likely, from under their pits?

Am I right?

Us too…until we went to the Old Sugar Mill for an excursion during the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) in Sacramento this Summer.

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Think wine tasting meets speed dating.  This is the good stuff!

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Instead of desperate suitors, the dates were knowledgable winemakers that gave a 10-minute low-down on their wine, their style and their passion for the business, all as we were sitting at an intimate table with a handful of other conference attendees, pairing each of their wine selections with an amazing food taste (which was craftfully done by Jackson Catering).  Then the bell rang for the next winemaker to come to our table…

You must also envision the room.

A large, high-ceiling space with concrete floors and historical structure, re-purposed from an old beet sugar mill production plant into a space that romantically encapsulates a feeling of celebration, good taste and friends.

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As our celebration came to a close though, and the others piled back onto the bus, Tom and I stayed behind (because we drove, this time).

Since the winemakers were gracious enough to come to us during lunch, it was our turn to go to them; we decided to check out their wine tasting rooms.  Needless to say, we spent the rest of the afternoon at the Old Sugar Mill and signed up for four wine clubs (whoopsie…).

The Old Sugar Mill is owned by Clarksburg Wine, a sponsor of the IFBC this year.  When we made it past the owners of “Muddy Boot” (a guest winery without a tasting room that has a great story and impressive wine), and moved on from the tasting rooms of Elevation Ten, followed by Due Vigne, we came to Clarksburg’s space.  It was big fun.  I started to feel like we were visiting the set of “Sweet Home Alabama”, minus the hound dog and the drama (we did buy a dog bed though), before even anteing up to the bar!

Lucky for us, we found a friend.  His name was “D” (literally).  As a proud wine maker himself, he was happy to share knowledge about each glass we drank and beyond to the place from which it came.  We learned a lot from D, who harkened from TN (instead of AL) and made his way to CA thanks to the US military.  Thank you!

As a wedding event started to infiltrate the halls, we knew it was time to visit one last tasting room, Three Winery (also a sponsor of the IFBC event), before freshening up back at the room to attend the “Taste of Sacramento” and walk through the “gift suite”!!!  Wow, what a great showing of all Sacramento has to offer!  Who knew?

Cheers!!!…and join us next year?  Please.

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THE FOOD

Wine Country Cheese & Charcuterie Plate with House-Marinated Vegetables, Sopprasseta, Coppa, Proscuitto, Salami (and local + premium) Cheeses, Fresh Fruit & Parmesan Crostinis

Caprese Salad (the sweetest and most succulent) Heirloom Tomatoes, (creamy, fresh) Burrata & Buffalo Mozzarella, (freshly made) Basil Pesto with drizzles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt & Fresh-Cracked Pepper

(Juicy, rare) Carved New York Loin with Creamy Horseradish

Citrus Achiote Marinated + Grilled (tender) Chicken with (local, ripe) Summer Fruit Salsa 

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WINE TASTING NOTES

Elevation Ten Winery:  

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Poured at the wine tasting event but see below for a few others we tried in the tasting room.

Brut Sparkling Wine, methods champenoise ($31, Heldsburg, CA) This is a lovely sparkly to kick-off a Sunday brunch, to open for a celebration or to open, just because…!  Tom and I like the refreshing rose color, soft palette and drinkable texture.  Today, as I write this, it will be paired with my waffles + a side of bacon and nectarines.  We will definitely be ordering more.  It was delicious and substantial.

Festivo ($24, Placerville, CA) – The name comes from sangria, as in, this is good to use in making sangria.  I think it would make fine sangria but to us, it is best drank as is, next to a table full of tapas or enjoyed alongside a good burger!  Bight, drinkable and deep… it will lighten any mood.  Petite Sirah and Black Muscat tango nicely within.

Muddy Boot Wine:

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There’s a story about this winery that won us over.  Three friends (two are twins) read the rest here.

2015 Chenin Blanc (Clarksburg, CA) – Not typically a fan of this grape, Tom and I were both sold at its complex richness of peach and melon, not overly sweet and very drinkable on a hot day (or any day, really). Pair this with a grilled fish, an antipasto of roasted peppers, procuitto and figs or a spicy meal inspired from Thailand or India.

2013 Red Wine (Clarksburg, CA) – This is jammy!  We like Jam.  You can absolutely taste the oak in this and it is 100% barrel aged.  We are loving it with our fresh-off-the-grill ribs.

Three Wine Company:

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This winery comes from the Cline family.

2011 Carignane ($32, Contra Costa County, CA) – This is a particularly beautiful blend of  87% Carignane, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Mataro. Rich fruit, ripe tannins with low sugar make this a wine that pairs well with red meat but is also drinkable on its’ own.

2012 Old Vines Rosé ($18, Contra Costa County, CA) – With flavors of cherry and pomegranate, this complex blend is made from Zinfandel, Mataro and Carignane grapes. Enjoy it year-round with grilled salmon, cherry-glazed pork loin, a simple cheese plate or in a picnic basket.

Due Vigne Winery:

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A classy tasting room with staff who believe in the product; we believe too!  Thanks, Richard.

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Join the Club!

2014 Barbera ($50, wine club members only – La Collina II5, El Dorado County, CA) – Bright fruit and soft tannins make this a perfect pairing for authentic pasta; long-cooked and tangily simmered –  bolognese per chance?

2013 Dolcetta ($26, El Dorado County) – If you aren’t a wine club member, you can drink this with that bolognese!  It is well structured with deep red fruits such as cherries and cranberries.  Big in the mouth but soft on the finish.

Clarksburg Wine Co.:

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Our man D, who really knows his wine!

 

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2012 Chenin Blanc Viognier ($18, Clarksburg, CA) – This is a complex white, tropical and passionate; perhaps on the beach under a coconut tree at sunset? The mineral quality is light but finishes creamy and bright with a citrus tone.  Thanks D, for selling us your last two bottles!

2014 Delta Rouge ($20, Clarksburg, CA) – A propietal blend of Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot, this luscious, berry forward wine is unpretentious and fun.  Think party, picnic or hay ride.  Its’ firm structure holds up well and does not require food (although food is always recommended!)

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Don’t worry Christine, I’ll be at class on Friday…maybe!

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Mom and Dad went to California but at least they brought us back a bed instead of t-shirts!

Smoked Meats (and tangy drinks)

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It seems fitting that I should roast a pork on Father’s Day.  Firstly, because pork brings back “Thoughts of Dad”.  Secondly, because pork is manly and can be roasted on a grill.  Ironically, I found out recently that my Dad doesn’t like smoked meats.  In fact, he doesn’t like smoked food.  Yet, I am pretty sure, as I was growing up, we ate bacon once a week (!), and in last year’s visit, (the one where I became aware of his disdain for smoked food), he exclaimed his love of smoked pork chops.  Perhaps he doesn’t think these are actually flavored of smoke?  In any case, I started writing this last year on Father’s Day and for Dad, I was making pork (even though he was back home in Mexico), and for Tom, the father of our adorable furry kids, I roasted said pork, in smoke!

I could smell it as I typed, wafting smoky loveliness throughout our yard and down our street.  Sadly, I didn’t write down what I did so when we finally get the replacement part for our wood pellet grill, I will explore a re-creation.  Until then, it was one year and two months later that I found myself in Arizona, visiting Dad (and Linda).  It was Father’s Day (again) and I planned on roasting a pork.

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…and Linda brought me to the right place.

Instead, I let someone roast it for us, overnight in applewood smoke, until it fell apart and filled with just the most perfect essence of smoke.

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Did I say Linda brought me to the right place?!

This tender pork I stuffed into charred poblanos along with charro beans, sautéed onions, tomatillo salsa, cumin and coriander.  It was then topped with mozzarella and cojita cheeses before going into the oven for 30 minutes at 375-degrees.  It came out melty, smoky and delicious.

But I’m not here to tell you about that, I am here to tell you about this – a taco bar.  In addition to the poblanos, the pork was set out on a platter with other taco fixings.  We were having a few guests over; and since it was crazy hot out and a few guests could mean two – but could also mean 10, I decided to keep it simple while keeping the kitchen coolish (it was 111 degrees outside).  Since we were in Arizona, a taco bar sounded like a good idea.  Okay, to me, a taco bar always sounds like a good idea.

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As does a fountain!

But not as good as a pool!

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Good thing we got both… a pool and a fountain!

Serving suggestion: Think about using colorful dishes with food set out on large platters surrounded by smaller bowls of salsas and garnish.  Chips and guacamole are perfect to nibble while sipping on cool mango margaritas before dinner.  Festive music should include the likes of Tito Paris, the Champs or Jenny and the Mexicats.

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But first…

...start by making margaritas! It is summer here in our piece of the world and better yet, it is the ideal time for nectarines in the Pacific Northwest. Specifically, in Yakima, Washington.  I don’t have mangos (and am not in Mexico, Hawaii, nor Arizona for that matter) but I do have a large quantity of nectarines.  Picked fresh from the Yakima Valley and purchased yesterday at Hunter Farms, so I’m thinking nectarine margaritas!

The margaritas I made were from these outrageously delicious, tender, sweet with a-bit-of twang perfection.  If you use other nectarines, purchased from a grocer without access to really good nectarines, I will first off, feel sorry for you and secondly, feel grateful that I didn’t.  No worries though, I am here to help you through by letting you know, your margarita will still be stellar.  Perhaps a little more Grand Marnier will do the trick? Peaches, mangos or apricots could be used in place of the nectarine.  Just remember that it is adding most of the sweetness to the drink since we aren’t adding sugar (or even simple syrup).

Nectarine Margaritas:

In a blender or food processor (such as a Vitamix), add the juice of 2 limes and 1 lemon (which should equal a total of 6 TB), 1 large nectarine (minus 4 slices for garnish; pit removed, skin on), 6 oz tequila (your favorite kind or the best you can afford), 2 oz Grand Marnier, and a big handful of ice.  Puree until smooth and serve in salt-rimmed glasses, garnished with a slice of nectarine and a sprig of herb (basil, mint, thyme…).

The fixin’s (for a taco bar):

Chunked Watermelon – lime juice, Serrano pepper & mint (literally that – dice some watermelon and mix with chopped Serrano chili, chopped mint and a little sea salt; very refreshing)

Pork butt – slow cooked, tender and smoky

Swordfish – cumin, coriander & heat

Sautéed Red Pepper and Onion

Black Beans

Sliced Cabbage

Torn Cilantro

Pico de gallo

Mango salsa (see my version here)

Avocado slices

Chipotle lime crème (just add chipotle chile powder or a small amount of the sauce from a can of chipotle chilis, and lime juice to CRÈME fraîche or sour cream).

By the way, if anyone is wondering why the hell I am writing about Father’s Day in August (when it happens to be in, uh, June), I believe you might want to reread this post.

Buen provecho!

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Ahhh summer…!  Buddy: “Do we like nectarines?”  Ginger: “Yeah, remember they gave us their drink garnish.  Is that why your pants are on backwards?”

The “Family” game

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This comes from Sacramento* where Tom and I are currently traveling to Dixon, CA, on a bus, filled with fellow food bloggers; destination unknown, to us anyways (and sponsored by the American Lamb Board).  My husband is sitting next to me and I just consumed a full sandwich filled with smoky slices of lamb; it was delicious!  I also ate the potato salad, all of it, and some of Tom’s.  I’m a little crazy about potato salad, but perhaps not the best idea at the beginning of a bus ride in the country.  I won’t go into that, but did I mention I am claustrophobic?  I certainly am now!   We are sitting in traffic, sun beating in, 101-degrees outside and I am listening to the cackle of many, many chatty voices, which are making me slightly insane!  I do see there is a restroom located in the back of the bus, conveniently, one row behind us.  I keep eyeing it over my shoulder, plotting my path, just-in-case.  I’ve been recently reminded that I can get car sick while riding in the back seat and am flashing back to my childhood.  I am adamently questioning our decision to leave the rental car parked at the hotel?!

* Well, it would have if I posted this last week when it was written, oops!

To keep my mind occupied (and my stomach, um, unaware), I am reminiscing the day leading up to this where we had hiked in the morning, sat in a creek (because it was again over 100-degrees), boated on Lake Wildwood, and best of all, after going my whole life unaware it existed, finally learned Zion Check, the “Family” game.

Tom and I are attending the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) again, but this year it’s earlier in the year and in Sacramento, which turns out, is halfway between Alamo (no, not that Alamo) and Lake Wildwood.  The significance of that geographic trivia has to do with our motivation for attending this year’s conference (in addition of course, to the lure of the farm-to-fork culture of the area and the generous sponsors who will be there, providing stellar food, drinks and interesting + important facts, as usual).

My (our) main motivation however, was that my cousin Julie (you might remember her from this…), lives in the East Bay Area and has a vacation home in the Sierra Nevada foothills, where we have just spent the last several days.  Julie is the daughter of my birth Mom’s twin sister.  We had sadly not spent but a couple short times together since we were quite young, but apparently had spent a great deal more time together than either of us realized when we were young (as documented by the numerous photo albums that we finally got through, and I mean that in a good sense).

As we arrived at their home, greeted suspiciously, by their sweet dog Angela (AKA, Angie) and (slightly) less suspiciously by her husband Joe; Julie whisked us inside exclaiming how while we were here, we needed to look through old photo albums and play the “Family” game.  Growing up at my house in Alaska, we most definitely played games.  We played Cribbage, Gin Rummy and such.  Monopoly, Survive, Battleship, Scrabble and Yahtzee.  Old Maid, Dominos, Risk.  We played Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Parcheesi, Hearts and Go Fish.  The list goes on.  But not once though, had we played Zion Check, which Julie enthusiastically pointed out, we would be playing this trip.

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Ms. Angie on lookout at the bow.

The first night we popped open a bottle of champagne and caught up.  Then we loaded onto their boat with a platter of cheese and our cocktails to set off on a sunset cruise around the lake.  After we got back and finished a late dinner, we all agreed that the next day, Tom and I would learn the “Family” game. The next day, after breakfast on the deck, we decided instead, to escape the forecasted heat by driving 90 minutes northeast to Lake Tahoe, where we parked ourselves at a shaded table, under a tree by the lake, to have cocktails and eat crab.  In Nevada (because we can).  That was a good plan.  Did I mention the temperature had reached 106-degrees that day?

Time was running out and we hit our last day at the lake, no more knowledgable about how to play the “Family” game than we had been any day prior.  We did learn that Julie had been playing it for forty years and playing it with Joe for twenty-three of them. With no breakfast preluding, we kick-started our last full day with a hike.  It was invigorating!  It was hot!  Damn hot (but bonus!) it allowed us to sit in a running river, yay!  Upon our return, I happily watched Joe make a large breakfast, hungrily ate said large breakfast, showered (the hot stink away) and proceeded to look through many nostalgic photos.  It was (now) the hottest part of the day, so we finally sat downstairs (the lake beckoning beyond the windows, but from air conditioned comfort) at the poker table to play the “Family” game.

This was a card game, it turns out!  Perhaps best described as Gin Rummy meets Poker.  Card play can be as ruthless…and tricky but fun. I could tell from the start that this would be no exception.  We all antied up our 55 cents (no pennies accepted) and each got our 11 poker chips in return.

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Cool hand Luke!

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Not our tally sheet, but a history lesson.  Julie often wins.

As Julie wrote out our “contract” (what the heckfire?!), I could immediately tell Tom was getting nervous that this game, might be over his head (he is not a card player as such, but sneakily good and catching on and beating those well-versed).

Well, I have digressed, so, to make a short story less long, I will go back to the bus ride and let you know that it ended just fine (and stomach intact).  As you know, it started a little sketchy.  The bus stopped in the middle of nowhere and we were concerned there might be a bit of walking involved, through cows and sheep and sunflowers, no cool air, hot sun pounding down; I did spy a cute sight though, out the window was a sweet girl and her father on a bundle of hay.

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Now that’s a farm girl!

Turns out we were meant to go on a hayride.  How fun, if it was not so damn hot!  Our guide, Ryan (and daughter Macayla) thought the same thing, so we toured the farm in a bus.  Ryan’s a 5th generation farmer and his family supplies meat to Superior Farm, which, as luck would have it, I do buy a lot of my lamb from.  I have good taste!

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…and he has a cute daughter!

Our final destination turned out to be Yolo Brewery which makes exceptional beer.  I have that on good authority because I tasted them all!  Tom and I were particular fans of the Orange Blossom Blonde (refreshing for the hot weather) and the Coconut Porter (surprisingly delicious!  It was good just by itself but would make a good pairing with chocolate or as a replacement for dessert).

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To be truthful, Tom and I went a little bit rogue.  We did, hard to believe, we know!  Rule breakers.  It was so hot and we all had waited around for so long to understand what we were doing there (in the brewery) besides drinking beer, that is (kudos to Paige (the bartender who spent a short stint in Seattle before succumbing to the gray winters and heading back home) to kick the taps off on her own accord), that Tom and I opted to sit outside under the misters.  Yes, I know this was rude.

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However, not only were we full, we were hot.  The water misters, in hot, fresh air, sounded good.  Stuffed in a warehouse corner, watching a lamb be butchered sounded, not good, for me (us).  There you go; we sometimes roll like that.

the truck copy

Speaking of rolling…

As we reluctantly (did I say it was hot?!) stuffed our very full faces with hallava, from the King Kabob food truck parked outside the brewery (more treats sponsored by the American Lamb Board) we decided we could stuff in some more (because they were GREAT)!!!  Exceptional in fact.  Now Tom and I were on our second one.

kabaabs in box copy

I can’t give you a pretty picture of the food because it was consumed quickly!

I strongly felt the need to go talk to the Man!  Two Men as it were, father and son, to let them know how much we enjoyed their food.  If you recall, I am a bit particular (and may I remind you, already full), so coming from me, I feel there should be put an extra emphasis on how exceptional this lamb dish was!

me at king kabaab truck copy

I swear the guys are in there actually talking to me.

As I got to talking to the Owner, Rasul and his son John, I learned the lamb came fresh from a farm just down the road where Rasul says Chuck sells only the best meat.  I can attest to the fact that the lamb we were eating was the best lamb of its kind I have ever tasted.  Expecting the typical chewy and unremarkable flavor to which I am accustomed to finding in a food truck, I instead bit into tender morsels exploding with balanced flavor.

rice

…and then we had thirds.  This was an offering after talking about the nuances of rice.  These guys know how to make rice (oh yeah, and lamb)!

The two men were at first, reluctant to divulge any of their secrets, but after much conversation and interest, they gave me some information that I consider to be golden (and I didn’t even need a gold pan).  How lucky did I feel when the rest of the bus missed out on the most important part of the trip – getting to know the Makers.  I am reluctant to share those secrets, especially since I haven’t had a chance to try them out yet, so stay tuned…

two guys truck copy

King Kabob:  Find them in Sacramento now…and bring your appetite!

Hope to see you there next year!?