Friday, October 31, 2008

A PNW Tour dejour- Victoria, BC


Lets not bore you with too many details of the trip to Vancouver Island, BC. Just take a look at the view, and totem poles everywhere!



These were fresh lemon cucumbers that I just had to buy and try...

Our dinner consisted of local market bought salad fixings, fresh caught salmon and shrimp that was topped off with a roasted tomatillo cilantro lime cream sauce cooked right in our room!


I highly recommend that you stay at least in one hotel with a kitchen, so that you can visit a local market, like Moss Street in Vancouver and open a great bottle of wine to have with the fabulous meal you cook yourselves.
(Hotel Oswego)




A gateway into fun...



I read various blogs that discuss whether it is tactful to take pictures while you are dining. We feel it helps us remember what we had, so we keep a database of wine bottles too, so we do not have to drag them around with us!


Our China Town food adventure was interesting; trying to decide which one to eat at! My hubby had Jelly fish and Crab, while I stuck with Sweet Sour Soup and Fried Rice.



We went on a Black Bear quest but they were not taking our bait?


I highly recommend Merridale Apple Orchards and Hard Cider (and a cafe we ate at)


Proscuitto and cheese stuffed olives hand made by the mother of the owner


I had never seen this before and would love to know a drink recipe for it! If you cannot read the label it is Saffron Gin.

A PNW Tour dejour- Oregon Trail


(Adina has a very colorful decor)

We first headed to a neighborhood in Portland called the Pearl district. Full of fancy shops that carry antiuqes, home crafted gifts, extravagant bedding, and cafes all along the streets. Andina, a peruvian restaurant that was full of color in its decor and menu. The staff was wonderfully accomodating!


(Crab Stuffed Avocado Salad)



Reading about the rich history of Portland, and wanting a good brew we visited one of the many facilities Kennedy School that McMinnimon Brewery has renovated. You can walk the halls and have lunch or dinner in one of their many eateries. There were no reservations left for us to stay there, so I just asked if we could see one of the rooms, and they gladly took us on a tour. Chalk boards still grace the walls of the old school rooms, and maybe even the laughter of children haunt the many nook and crannies of this charming place.



I took many shots of the schools wonderful and creative (some renovations) architecture inside and out, but I will leave you something to want for.


(Restaurant- Beast...what seems to be chalkboard graffiti adorns even the bathroom)

Reading about the Executive Chef, Naomi Pomeroy, describing her menu as 'Ghetto French', and seeing featured on a food and wine magazine made us crave more. Communal seating, tacky writing on the walls, the menu chosen for you? Hey we did notice you can take your own bottle in with you if you decide not to get the wine pairing accompaniment.


(local grocery/deli has Thursday night open mic out front for locals)

Sometimes I am amused at what I get us into sometimes, being so friendly. This night even with our GPS in hand we got lost looking for a liquor store so I could have my night cap of chocolate and scotch. After urging him to stop and ask this group outside of a neighborhood grocer/deli, I made friends as usual and they treated us to good music and some great wine. Wish I could remember what it was???



Lets get down to the real wine drinking! We hit many wineries along the trail of Willamette Valley; it's subsection, Dundee Hills.




(My hubby tasting at Sokol Blosser)



The vineyards in September were glorious, and many had not covered the grapes yet with netting to keep the birds out the the photo opportunities were boundless.


(Porland's Saturday market is amazing compared to our tiny ones here in NJ)

Our trip along the Oregon trail led us to the Portland Zoo and Farmers Market, so I could see the wonderful black bear exhibit I was told about, but was closed. We also visited the aeronautics museum that holds the 'Spruce Goose'. A great place if you are into that sort of stuff!


(near a winery we noticed someone planted pumpkins near their drive; the ones closest to the gravel had bloomed and were growing rather fast to the other bare vines)

McMinnville was a neat town while vineyard hopping. We stayed in the Oregon Hotel, and that was an experience. The shared bathroom was fine, but our room was tiny! They have many dining options too (great oatmeal for breakfast), but we enjoyed the rooftop bar.

Once we finished polishing off a few bottles of tasting, packing our purchases away, we headed along the scenic coast to Astoria for a stop; then on to Port Angeles, a ferry ride away from Vancouver Island, BC. Breath taking views of wildlife, rivers, and oceanic waves thundering below us. We knew we had to come back here!



This was hard for me to pick only a few from the many pictures I took, but you can always see more I have downloaded on another one of my sites, just email me at elizabeth@cookappeal.com, and I will be glad to share!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Chili?


My husband and I usually open a bottle of wine once, twice, three times a week, but only if the meal is worthy. At least I thought so...tonight he heard 'Lamb' out of Chai Lamb Chili, and ran for one of his prized bottles of du-Pape, 2003.

Surprisingly it worked! Experts say do not have reds with spicy foods, but if it is an aged red, and there are certain combination's in the right ingredients; then you can pair them perfectly. Many times though it can be risky with the heat of this dish.

The flavor of the lamb combined with the cardamom and cinnamon in the graham masala, and bite of the chili powders were fantastic with the same almost flavors in the wine. I have made this recipe with lamb chops before, but not stewed like this. I also believe the sweetness of the cranberry bread helped cut the spicy chili tone done another notch to create a good wine balance of a berry jam and thick like the chili sauce.

This wine is a GSM blend(Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre).

Thumberto is looking Chili tonight!


While on the phone with a friend from waaaaaaaaay back, Rhondo, she asked me what I was making for our dinner tonight. I thought about it for a minute and started thinking about how HouseOfAnnie had a forum on nachos and another blog on types of chips to use. She and I discussed that we hate it when we order them out and they are piled high with chips and little ingredients. My feelings are that it’s sort of like a compost pile, you have to alternate layers or it does not work properly (Okay somewhat food related), and that I hate to look under the first layer of cheese, meat, or whatever come on them finding naked chips. Less than a teaspoon of sour cream and salsa dolloped at the center. Sure, that will help finish them off! Layers are the key to a good pile of nachos in my house...

I told her I had several things in mind for the next few days, and was about to go buy groceries for the weekend cooking. Nachos were then decided for the both of us, and we said we would talk later to see how they came out. As I went wandering through the store without an actual list, only the one I think I remember in my head, I started filing the shopping cart. Green onions, salad fixings, mushrooms…as I was thinking about what I might have in the cupboard…cheese, sour cream, jalapeños, and all that was left was meat and beans.

I have my favorite grocers here in NJ, and I know the meat managers well. Sometimes I call them to see what specials they have for the month if I am having company, and there are no good deals at my catering butcher I shop through. John was in and we talked about making chili, he is a meat man through and through. He remembered having a cut of lamb that he was going to take home, because he couldn't sell it. There was enough to share with me, and there was a nice network of fat running through it. (Marbling is sometimes referred to as 'graining', or lines of fat running through meat). Ah ha! Lamb Chili on nachos was a brilliant idea, and my hubby snubbing his nose up at my home state comfort food tonight was not going to happen. He would get a gourmet version and like it.

I checked out all smiles and proud of my idea. I would show my friend a thing or two about on the fly cooking. Loaded up the goods and drove home. Just as I pulled up in front of my house, I remembered the most vital part of tonight’s menu, chips!

Ay yi yi…what was I to do? I did not want to drive back to the store, so I would go in and see what we have. Maybe some left over chips from game night? They would just get soggy anyway and no one would know the better. Nope, no chips to be found; only a loaf of cranberry focaccia bread I bought and had not cut into. Okay, that would work if I cut them thinly like crostinis. So it was on, and I pulled out my lamb recipes (of my head of course), and remembered a cooking fusion demo I did a year ago, Chai Marinated Lamb Chops. Well it all worked out and now I will give you the recipe, because this was a crowd pleaser.

Chai Lamb Chili & Nachos

In order prepare and cook:

1 Chai tea bag in 1 cup water; steap while you cook lamb

1 medium red onion, small dice
3 tablespoons oil (I used Sokol Blosser grapeseed oil, Citrus Cilantro)
1 lb Lamb roast, cut into small pieces
-saute in pan on high till starts to brown well

1 tablespoon of each or more if you like!
garlic powder
cumin
chili powder
paprika
garham masala
pinch of cilantro (add to flavor, but I always have to have some green at meals)

Salt and Pepper to taste
-saute for 3 minutes

Remove from heat and add cup of chai tea

Cook for 10 minutes; and then add

1 can tomatoes diced
1/2 can tomato paste
can of kidney beans or beans of choice

Simmer for 1 hour covered on low heat until meat is tender and sauce is thick.


Vegetarian version I have added chopped carrots, celery, and mushrooms before, and this works very well with the flavor.




Simmer while covered to thicken



Slice bread thinly and toast for crostini, and then layer cheese, onions and lamb chili



Thumberto says "Muy Bueno, Senorita"! Good thing he helped me straighten out this dinner night disaster...



Thumberto is so happy he tips his sombrero to all of you bloggers!





My husband decide he only heard 'lamb' when I told him what was for dinner, so he opened a bottle of 2003, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and then he felt like he was eating gourmet chili nachos, lol

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Foodie Discoveries


Being a chef has its ups and downs, but mostly ups. having good food around me all the time. One downer is when people find out I work in the field, they begin to ask me questions like "What is your specialty”, “Do you watch Top Chef”, and other various topics. Do not get me wrong,I love to talk about food, duh, but I feel like everyone thinks I am a ‘Know It All’; well the secret is out, I am not. I am just a humble cook that gets to do what I love and make a few bucks for it, but I will always be looking for new foodie addictions.

Wanting food knowledge stemmed from a childhood of being bored with what I thought was bland southern cuisine. Before the phrase ‘foodie’ was coined I was always open to trying new foods. After many nights out of eating new cuisines, lots and lots of cookbook reading, traveling, and keeping my ears open made me who I am today. In retrospect another plus of being a chef is; that when you meet others who share your passion and love to talk about food as you get to hear about their adventures…you can still learn about foods and ingredients never presented or tasted to you otherwise.

Culinary school was a way to see if there was something extra needed in success with operating a catering company back in the late 90’s. Owning another business, Image By Design, a hair salon I was beginning to be noticed and began a catering business. Offering me the chance to let me cater their parties, and make flower arrangements like the ones I had in the salon. I soon realized my passion for food.

I think I will go to my grave craving new information about food and wine. My life has not been as busy in the past few months since my baby moved on and out, I closed my café due to the economy (and the fact the health food store went bankrupt). I work out of my office most mornings, cater on weekends, and do restaurant consulting, so I have a lot of time on my hands now. Most chefs I know, or even people in general with families and busy lifestyles do not have time to surf looking for food websites like I have been lately; then I discovered www.foodbuzz.com. I have been telling many of my extended foodie family about this website I stumbled upon one day in October, 2008. I LOVE IT! Going through each person’s blog and the posts have been great, and is stimulating me to cook at home more. My husband was eating whatever was on the menu for the café or personal chef clients for a long time! (I did cook on Friday or Sunday our movie night) A friend and I were talking about how when it becomes an empty nest the fridge becomes bare and you tend to go out to eat more; then the pounds start to show. Not that we already have put on weight from my cooking period.

In this journey of pouring through each one of your sites have helped me find so many fascinating things I want to try making myself, or my spouse may want to add to our list of places to go. I decided to compile a list of ‘Foods2Try’, and create a word doc. I also email my local foodie friends list once a month to make sure they are informed to (I am obsessed).

So to all you foodbuzz.com and blogger.com friends, Thanks for your support and keep the information coming. I love reading your stuff! -an overly friendly and talkative southern chef E


Jujubes, are also called Chinese dates or red dates, or tao tau in Vietnamese, and are very high in Vitamin C. They definitely taste like an apple and have a core like an apple, but to me they are a little crispier than an apple. – Shaved Ice Sundays

Acerola is in the cherry family- Fake Free Foods

Dutch Babies, reminded me of a B&B in the PNW that served them for breakfast with peaches, and I had never had them or heard of them; now I am going to make them, because I cannot get them out of my mind- Byrdie

Cornish Pasties, they sound like meat pies- Sperte

Scrapple, I am not sure I will ever try this, just sounds like Spam and I ate that as a kid, my mother loved it with mayo- PlayWithFood, and many others in the NE.

Pork Roll, my friend here in NJ orders these sandwiches, so I asked my butcher what this was, and he told me it was similar to Scrapple, and a NE thing. I am not sure I am ready for this either; since I am now trying to eat less meat and more veggies. UPDATE: I had posted Pork Steak and was corrected by my NJ friend, she also said "Heartstopper = Pork roll, fried egg and melted cheese on a hard roll", I say, to each his own...

Cardoons are native to the Mediterranean, and belong to the same family as the globe artichoke. They grow as tall as artichokes, and have a similar prickly, multi-leaved head which develops into a purple thistle when mature. However, it is the leaf stalks of cardoon that are eaten, not the heads, and these are cultivated much the same way as celery, blanched underneath to whiten and tenderize them. Only the inner stems and heart are eaten, so the stalks should be trimmed of roots, prickles and leaves."--From The Two Fat Ladies - SoManyCookbooksSoLittleTime

tequilajito, I love trying new drinks- Eatingproject

Korean Foods, I have eaten it in Dallas with an old acquaintance, but did not know what I was eating in my early 20’s; just knew I liked the new adventure! - FatManSeoul’s

Phillipino Foods, I have had a few things, but want to try more- Paoix

Chicken & Waffles, I have to admit I did not find this on the sites, it was on a menu of a restaurant I recently reviewed, Rolly’s American Bistro, and is supposed to be a southern thing, but I never knew anyone that ate it in Texas.

Pupusas, looks like a burrito, but more like a giant steamed dumpling, and can be filled with loroco (check out the site for the definition)- A Cheap & Filling Meal

Giant Banana
, I forgot to write down the persons website this was on, but someone had a picture of this giant banana, and I think came from Brazil? Said it was not too sweet, and had an orangey flesh tone? I promise I will search again and give credit due!

Square Muffin Pan, I am a gadget girl and need one now!- MyWoddenSpoon

Brownie Pan
, that allows all edges to be crispy and gooey- Unfork

Rice Balls (aka Risotto Balls or Arancine-MyCookbookAddiction)- I have actually made these after my husbands brother brought me back an authentic Italian cookbook from one of his travels around the world. My son actually loves making them, although they get bigger and bigger as he rolls (a lazy technique), but we look forward to trying new stuffing’s from MyCookbookAddiction site.

Purple Perilla, or Tia To! Used in Vietnamese cuisine- FoodWishesVideoRecipes

Peanut Butter Mashed Potatoes- Thanks Liz Stambaugh for this unique recipe!

http://www.foodbuzz.com/foodies/us/maryland/baltimore/profile/liz+stambaugh

Tuna, well we know there is shishimi grade and white tuna at sushi bars, the tuna steaks we can buy at the grocery store, and don’t forget it in the can! Check out his website for more kinds from Japan- Shizuoka Gourmet

Firefly Vodka (a sweet-tea flavored vodka)- Writing As I Eat

Courgettes, in New Zealand and British English) is a small summer squash-
La Recette du Jour's

Black radish, on the market in France and blogged by- Mindy

Delicata Squash, as discovered and uncovered mystery by- DashOfStash

SippitySup's Flavor Profile- Why you ask, because he is some kind of new thing I discovered that keeps me amused with his food videos...go watch...www.sippitysup.com

Tomato Wine- http://farmatnanticokecreek.com/?p=205#comment-269

Fufu Flour- Daily Spud introduced this to us and I will have to go buy some at my local Asain market and make something...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chef E'z Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls














Autumn is my favorite time of year and I have noticed many pumpkin recipes popping up on various sites, as well as hearty soups and such. One in particular caught my attention, Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls. Always admitting I am not the baker in the family I decided to alter this recipe. I give credit to stephchows (foodbuzz name) for her beautiful picture of the batch she made that made me want my own basket full. You can check them out for yourself at:

http://www.foodbuzz.com/recipes/565496-pumpkin-cinnamon-rolls

The weather was nice on Monday, so I decided to spend my day off and journey to PA and visit a poet friend who had surgery and cheer him up with a cooking demonstration. Ha, I know, but it did cheer him up, and he asked me to come back! Well I printed the recipe from stephchows site and make my grocery list...

Large Can Pumpkin Puree
Pumpkin Pie Spice (I have on hand)
Dark Brown Sugar
Powder Sugar (both of these I do not keep on hand, I use Maple Syrup usually)
Buttermilk (I am not fond of drinking this, but my friend did)
Cream Cheese

Oh, and last but not least,

Pillsbury Ready Made Pizza dough in a can (Yes I did!)

If anyone really knows me, I am not much of a baker but will make my own dough, pie crusts and other things for baking. I also did not want to mess his kitchen up anymore than I had to, so give me a break, please.

Lay down wax paper, two sheets overlapped; then open the can of dough; stretch it out just a bit bigger, and if holes start to pop up, pinch it together.

In a medium bowl mix ¼ cup pumpkin with ½ cup brown sugar, and a heaping spoonful of pumpkin spice; blend well and spread onto dough with large spoon or spatula. Do this as evenly as you can and leave ¼ inch on edges for rolling.

Crush some walnuts and sprinkle all about puree mixture.

Gently start rolling the longest end up like a jelly roll or log, and cut ½ inch size spirals.

Spread these out in a non stick baking pan (original recipe recommends spraying, I did not have too). The original said to pat them down, and that they could touch, but I found keeping them apart about ¼ inch away after patting them down that they cook and look prettier.

Instructions for baking stated, 475 degree oven for 23-25 minutes- Due to his having a gas oven that got the kitchen so hot we had to open up the doors, I would recommend testing a few out in your oven first. I turned the oven to 375, and baked them for 15 minutes, and that worked for me. My oven is convection and it does not take long for things to cook in them either.

In a small bowl mix together 1 cup powder sugar, 1 Tablespoons cream cheese, 1 tablespoon buttermilk (I thought maple syrup would have been good too), and mix very well. If it looks runny add more powder sugar as needed.

Let the cinnamon rolls cool and drizzle the icing all over, and bon appetit!

I ended up making three batches to share with friends and they gave the thumbs up as well on these E'z cinnamon rolls, and hey, add your own filling!

Pictures of me making these are on http://www.myspace.com/cookappeal ; click on pics

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Foodies Road Trip Contest





Look Ma, I can sit sideways while I show off the trout I caught!

I love to fish and catch my own dinner! So, I wrote about my Riverside Diner experiences and submitted it to the website...

Fellow foodies, check out this Road Trip Contest and tell them about one of your fun foodie adventures. They will post the story and you wine a prize; its that easy!

http://www.projectfoodie.com/blog/foodie-talk/tell-us-about-your-favorite-foodie-road-trip.html

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Curried Vegetable Soup


Winter is the season for soup, but in my house and café I cook it all year long. Some of my favorite soups seem to have some little kick to them since my mother was from Louisiana and we ate spicy foods at least three times a week. This recipe is so simple that you can play and add peas, crab meat, shrimp to step it up a notch. I like many others out there am always watching my salt and weight, so I stick to low fat and vegetable ingredients these days.

3 T Vegetable oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
(I use my own blends, but bought powders will work, and yellow powders
show the turmeric influence)
8 medium carrots, peeled, and small chop
4 medium stalks celery, small chop
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 clove garlic, finely chopped
5 cups stock (vegetarian, chicken, beef is acceptable)
(I make my own, or buy reduced-sodium and sugar free)
1 T lemon or lime juice
Salt & Pepper to taste
Loaf of good crusty bread
Fat free yogurt

Directions:
Cook onions in oil on medium, stirring for 1-2 minutes; add carrots
and celery, stirring for 2-3 minutes, and just before browning starts;
add garlic, stirring for 1-2 minutes more.

Add curry powder, stir and mix well; when it becomes fragrant then add
stock, and turn up heat to medium-high. When begins to boil, turn back
down to medium-low and simmer until vegetables are soft when pierced.

Note:
If you prefer your soup thicker than you can add a tablespoon of flour
or cornstarch to a some of the hot liquid in a separate bowl, stirring
and then adding it back to the soup, simmering another 10 minutes to
help thicken; of course you can always add bread slices inside the
soup bowl or cup before serving!
(this soup can be frozen for up to two months in air tight container)

Serving:
I add a splash of lime juice (or lemon), and a dollop of yogurt on top
for garnish. Slice the loaf of French bread into large pieces and
bon appetite!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pear Port Cookie Crisp


The name is longer than it takes to prepare this tasty treat. I always confess I am not the Pastry Chef, but love to play with wine, spirits and beer in sweet or savory recipes.

When I first made this it was an idea that came from what to do with a bag or gourmet cookies my husband picked up at a local market since we noticed they were a over cooked (that batch was over looked). I had some pears, a bottle of port, and this became a favorite in my house. It is quick and easy to make with ready made cookies, or the easy crisp recipe below.

I also chose to post this recipe for the Food Blogging Event - The Seasonal Feast - Pears that you will find on News From Quail Hollow-
Life at Quail Hollow: Food Blogging Events for October

For the Filling:
7 ripe yet firm pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch dice
Port- Maserate the pear pieces 1 hour; tossing them occasionally at room temp
1/4 Cup Turbino Sugar
Cold Butter Pieces- If using ready made cookies you will need to place pats of butter atop the crumbled cookies to keep moistened.
Macadamia Nut Cookies- I use Pepperidge Farm brand, and approximately two per ramekin.

6 – 7 Ramekins- I rubbed them down with a little vegetable oil; then place a few spoonfuls of pear mixture inside; half way up, and making sure you add 2 tablespoons or more port juice to each one.

Sprinkle a pinch of Turbino sugar atop pear mixture (unless using crisp recipe below; covers it all)

Crumble approximately two ready baked cookies per ramekin, and then place pats of butter atop crisp mixture; this will help keep already cookies from burning.

Bake- 375 degrees; 20-25 minutes; serve.

For the Crisp Topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup turbino sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 pound (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled (6-7 tablespoons extra for top of crisp)

Combine together dry mixture and cut in butter until it become crumbly. I use my fingers pinching the butter into the dry mix after running cold water over my fingers to keep butter from melting too much.

Sprinkle atop pear mixture; place a pat of butter atop; bake 350 degrees 20 minutes or until browned as desired.

This recipe depending upon heat source might come out with saucy from port, but that just makes it more fun to eat!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Potato Leek Soup


Someone emailed me and ask me for a potato soup recipe because of the economy and the fact that they were stretching out the grocery budget to feed the kids, and I sent her this one. I grew up eating lots and lots of cheap food being from a low income family myself, and as I got older, a little wiser, I tweaked my mothers recipe; which was pretty much potatoes, milk, butter, salt and pepper, oh and a hunk of bread for dipping!

6 – 7 Potatoes- they say red bliss are the best; quarter them

Large Leek
- cut it open down the middle and soak in cold water to get dirt out; slice up in small pieces

Red Onion- cut up however you want its all going into the food processor in the end

Cream/Milk- 1 Cup

Butter
- 1/2 stick

Olive Oil- 4 T

2 Garlic cloves or seasoning of choice

It all goes into the blender in the end with a little veggie or stock of choice (I am a big believer in stock flavoring food better); if you cannot afford stock then add some carrots to this batch and boil them all together and do not throw the water away!

Brown leek and onions (carrots if you use them, sometimes I just add a few for the veggie factor) in oil, till they start to brown well.

Add seasonings of choice, I use two garlic cloves; stir in and saute for a few more minutes.

Add tators…

Pour in water/stock, just to cover a little over ingredients in soup pot; and boil until potatoes start to fall apart when you fork them (think of the politicians while doing this); add water/stock as needed (kind of like cooking risotto)

Reserve water in another container

Blend together in food processor; add just a little cream/milk while puree, otherwise it will go everywhere; add back to soup pot with rest of liquids; add butter, salt and pepper to taste; thin out with stock/water as desired.

Freeze leftover water in bags for the next meal you cook.

Going to Culinary School proved to me that my always roasting veggies in the pan before making ANY soup just adds that extra flavor, I even add the potatoes and turn up the heat, you will be adding the water/stock soon and that will need the high heat. This gives it a caramelized color, not the usual creamy white color, but all my customers at home and in the cafe loved the Potato/Leek version better.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Utensils: Spooning and the Perfect Bite!


I know that some of you out there may have clicked on this blog because I present myself as a chef; we have reputations to live up to and can be 'know it alls'. I do get asked quite a lot about what are the right utensils and what do I use in my kitchen. I am a trained chef, I love talking about food, wine and all the frills of cooking, but this rant today is about my favorite utensil, the spoon. If you do have questions about utensils email me and just ask; otherwise most people buy thousands of gadgets and eventually figure out which ones clog up the drawer. Hands down I love spoons and the bigger the better!

While enjoying dinner recently at a quaint French bistro in Metuchen, New Jersey, Café Paris. I wanted a spoon to eat my Beef Bourguignon, so I kept the one from my soup appetizer. This silver extension of my hand was a nice deep rounded spoon for eating. I liked using it to dip into the mashed potatoes and then into the beef with its red wine gravy, mushrooms, carrots and tiny bacon pieces, and have what I call the perfect bite. A little bit of each ingredient ready to be tasted, and followed by a sip of wine.

I remember as far back in my earliest childhood memories, eating with a spoon. My brother ate his cereal out of the biggest mixing bowls in the house. We all chose to eat with whatever utensil work, right?

Well, my friend saw me reach and grab back my spoon from the bowl as the waitress was removing our empty bowls, so I felt I had to explain that I did not care for forks as much as a spoon. Explain how my husband and I discuss what the perfect bite really is. A chef goes to a lot of trouble preparing dishes that they feel are the perfect match. Many times you find your fish atop spinach atop potatoes or risotto and sauced. So why wouldn't you take a piece of each and see if it is the perfect bite. If they meld together and yet you can distinguish each flavor as it moves about your tongue and cheeks, melting in your mouth until you swallow its succulence. Then the next bite you want to have a sip of wine to see if they also meld together, complimenting one another. Forks just do not hold all of it on without tiny bites of it landing on the table, our laps, or in the woman's case, her plateaus. Seems to me it is more important that others do not see more of the food on us, the table than what went into our mouths.

The bottom line is I am a gravy girl. Dry food does not work for me. I eat pasta with my sauce. I love soup, stew, and sauce with my BBQ. I get upset when I ask someone to put food away in my kitchen and I find the pan in the sink with remnants of sauce still sitting at the bottom. I gasp, and lecture about the importance of that food needing its moisture to help protect it from the cold isolation of a drying refrigerator. Especially if it is chicken, and there is nothing worse than reheating a piece of chicken and finding it dry the next day! You know what forced air does to our own bodies.

I have spent time researching spoons and found websites on a recent book called 'Spoon Theory', loads of knives in the break room, a small child that eats ice cream with five spoons, and even found a website dedicated to a spoon museum. Spoons were around much longer than forks. Try drinking water with a fork, since the whole spoon idea came from liquid flowing through our fingers even if we cup our hands, and I usually have to use both for that one.

Getting more into our conversation with my dinner company I confessed that in my house finding the big spoons was always a problem. My husband uses them like I do, and he eats cereal every morning. So, we only have so many big spoons, and I end up giving in and use the teaspoons; which it is still a spoon. My dinner friend said that her husband only likes the small ones, and we laughed at that one. She did agree at my theory of the perfect bite, and gave it a try. When our crepes came that was the real challenge with the fork, and it ended up we used all three utensils. She ordered the chocolate with Nutella, and I ordered the banana and walnut crepe. We ended up cutting it up and sharing so that I could have Nutella with my bananas. Try forking a crepe with bananas popping out everywhere, and walnuts on a fork? Some foods I admit just are not meant to spoon with, but most can be.

Frankly it is an etiquette thing, but my reality is that food is meant to be enjoyed. If you are eating out with friends they should not care how or what you eat with. If it is a business associate or clients then order food that can be eaten with the proper utensils, but if you like sauce and gravy like me then just confidently pick up the best scooper on the table.

I am still waiting for utensil makers to come up with a more conventional metal version of the spork, I could live with that!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chef's Congress?


I will be the first to admit that I am not as into politics outside of the kitchen as I should be. My catering clients will be glad to know that I search for new ideas and the latest trends in food to bring to their table on a regular basis. The web can provide an endless supply of ideas for the novice chef out there, but somehow, it just does not feel as “educational” as the classroom environment. The student/teacher relationship makes it much more educational.

So let me explain what a Chef’s Congress is.
What feels like about a hundred years ago now, an idea came to me about why there weren’t any culinary emporiums that offered continuing education for an experienced chef like me. I was a hairdresser prior to my catering career, and there were an abundance of classes sponsored by hair care product suppliers, and conventions around the nation and world, that I attended on a regular basis. But honestly, I never felt that hairdressers could command the respect that we deserved. I felt that way even more when I got my big break as a chef about seven years ago.

Sure food suppliers hold shows for the food industry, but walking around tasting different foods and drink samples is not the type of education most of my fellow culinary artists nor I want.

StarChefs.com, a company offering online education, job placement and is a magazine for the food industry, introduced a “Chef’s Congress” learning forum a year ago that doubled in attendance this year. I attended this year’s congress, which had a “Kitchen Without Boundaries” theme. Three intense packed days this September from a food-artist perspective, it was a glorious experience.

The organizers brought in top, name-brand celebrity chefs from all over the country to teach some of their secrets for presentation, like gadgets for making large bubble foam soups and turning solid forms of food into space food, using liquid nitrogen. They all let us chefs pick their brains. I took classes and watched forums that involved cooking with chilies from Stephen Pyles, Chef/Owner/Author from Dallas, Will Goldfarb a New York Pastry Chef build a beautiful tower of natural ingredient dessert that was topped with edible flowers, and was marveled by chef’s who traveled from Errenteria, Spain, France, and the rainforests of South America. I participated in using new cooking techniques, to unusual wine and food pairing; and I saw the latest in dinnerware and was able to fine-tune my presentation demonstration skills.

From my past experience as a foodie and after dropping hundreds of dollars on tasting menus—or even just eating a cheap breakfast in a small corner bistro —I have found that many chefs are so very protective of their recipes. One time, at a restaurant in Bar Harbor, Maine, I asked the waitress if the cook would tell me what the wonderful flavor in the corned beef hash was. The cook had the waitress tell me that the secret ingredient was ‘”love.” Later that afternoon my sensitive taste buds and experience told me it was maple syrup. I was not feeling the “love” when I left their restaurant that morning.

I share my recipes when someone asks me. At the time, I was living in Dallas, Texas, so would I have destroyed their Bar Harbor business if I brought their maple syrup idea all the way down south? Art inspires other art, as they say, and someone will figure that out soon enough.

This “Kitchen Without Boundaries”-themed congress was so inspirational for me, and I’d like to thank all my fellow culinary artist presenters for sharing their secrets.

I also got to meet one of my favorite authors, David Kamp. He wrote United States of Arugula: How we Became a Gourmet Nation and other food/culture books. His book is a good read and I highly recommend it. I can only hope that if he reads this blog, he finds my writings as interesting as I find his!

~ E Stelling

PS The picture of the purple corn is something I brought home from the convention; it is blue corn from South America.

Watermelon Mo'E'to


While I was traveling in the PNW we ate at a restaurant that had a watermelon salad, and I was sipping on some local made vodka, ‘M’, and put some of my watermelon in the glass and crushed it right there with the bartender watching me. I created a new drink for her, and she liked it too.

Ripened Watermelon- Small seedless; cut some into small triangles for garnish, and the edge dipped into sugar; set aside; the rest just small pieces

Basil- rinse and lay between sheets of moist towel

Oil/Vinegar Dressing- Splash; You may think this is crazy, but you have to duplicate the original experience

Vodka- bottle; obviously you want one with a smooth flavor and chilled in freezer works

Take equal parts of just a little oil and vinegar and blend well (I do not recommend using a bottle dressing because it might already contain seasoning that would not work with the taste); place small pieces of watermelon in glass bowl and marinate with dressing, pinch of salt.

In a glass place water melon and basil and crush with pestal; pour in some vodka and shake with another glass over the top.

Pour into martini glass or highball glasses, garnish with a triangle of watermelon on side or in glass and enjoy this unusual drink.

If this does not appeal to you as a drink, then put it on a plate, do not crush the watermelon, just cut the basil into strips and add some vodka into the dressing and you have yourself a yummy salad! -chef E

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jamaican Spice- Apple Poached Fish


I posted this a month ago, but noticed no one has looked at it under the title 'Fall Recipe'. This dish is something I created to help add another version of fish to our diet when you need to cut down on meat, and add more protein!

This is my favorite time of year, and can be challenging in the kitchen when most of the Farmers Markets shut down, and your choice of fresh vegetables is limited. WAIT! Apples are in abundance this time of year, and there are many things you can do with them...first go apple picking in the area if possible; otherwise go to the store and request they get in Braeburn apples. These are sweet, tart, and very colorful! I know some people say they do not like fruit with their regular food, but you just got to try this one! -E

3 Braeburn Apples (or your choice), peeled and cored, and sliced; place in lemon water to keep from turning brown
1 small red onion; sliced in rings
2 clove garlic; peeled and chopped finely
3-4 fillets of Talapia, Salmon (or fish of choice; the thicker the better); rinsed and pat dry
3-4 T olive oil
1/4 cup white wine to deglaze pan and add flavor (your choice, but if your going to drink it why not use it in the food to make a better flavor pairing)
1 1/2 T Jamaican Allspice (health food store)
I discovered this spice one day and use it in
place of regular allspice or pumpkin spice; it
has a stronger flavor, and I am into that!
(you may also replace with Garham Masala)
1 Cup Apple Cider (if using white wine to deglaze pan reduce by 1/4 cup)
Salt/Pepper to taste

In pan heat oil; place onion and garlic and season oil; remove and place aside

Add fish fillets and brown slightly; add onions and garlic;

Deglaze pan with white wine or apple cider; sprinkle dish with Jamaican Allspice; begin to simmer on medium heat.

Place apple slices around the top of fish, and simmer with lid for about 7 minutes; remove from heat.

serve over rice with some sauted green vegetables.

I have also added season squash to this dish and kicked it up a notch with spicy peppers; if you can handle the heat!

A RIVERSIDE DINER


by E Stelling, Chef/Owner, CookAppeal, LLC

The horoscope for Gemini in October claims that they are busy on all fronts. They want to play, flirt, pursue creative projects, sports, and all fun stuff. If this includes walking, hiking, kayaking, biking, or maybe a canoe trip out on the river with plenty of fishing gear and desire; then there is bound to be a twin out there that is ready for an autumn riverside dining experience.

(If you live in the Garden State and picked up this Octobers issue of NJ Monthly; then you know about all the wonderful foliage and the many outdoor activities to do in the months to come. This is just an adventure they do not give much information and its one of this gemini chef’s favorite pastimes since her father used to take her out in his boat, or fish off the waters edge.)

Mid-October weather starts to cool down on a more consistent basis and is worth the day or weekend trip to one of NJ many rivers or lakes. The NJ Parks and Wildlife Services stocks a thousand pound of trout in various locations around the state this time of the year, because these fish like the cold waters. There are also walleyes, hybrid striped bass and channel catfish as well. Muskellunge, northern pike and lake trout come in trophy proportions, and many are traveling up stream. Go on there official website for more information, nj.gov.org.

The Morris Canal Greenway and rivers of Morris County is a good place to start. As you drive up Route 206 you start to notice there is a more intense change of color in the foliage. The morning sun coming through the trees is definitely a beautiful site to behold as you are driving. You will take the exit off Route 206 that points you towards Waterloo Village; then follow all along Waterloo Road. Saxton Falls were many locals would recommend, but there was Stephens State Park, and many little stops you will see trucks and cars stopped along the way.

Bring plenty of fishing gear, canoe or kayak (did not see rentals), waders, cooking equipment, food supplies, hand sanitizer, newspaper for cleaning fish, trash bags, because they have a take in- take out policy in all of the areas. (Head the bear warnings in the picnic areas) Oh, and do not forget your confirmation number for the hotel you are staying at, unless you are camping out, and you have to get permission for that.

There is a great picnic area just a quarter mile south from Saxton Falls, and pay attention to the white painted bridge you will cross over on the left. You will find suitable and clean restrooms, play ground for young children, private and group picnic tables, pedestal grills for cooking (they do not allow ground fires anywhere), and all along the river. The sound of the flowing water is a wonderful touch to this ominous natural dining experience. Now slip into your waders, bait the hook, or get your fly fishing poles ready and go catch something for your day’s meal.

For those of you who do not want to spend more than a few hours playing in the water, or this is just not your cup of tea; then Waterloo Village has a Canal Day every Saturday from 10 AM till 5 PM; until the end of October. The Village has been fully restored and dates back to the Canal in 1831 and full of rich history and culture. Fishing in the canal while you visit is allowed. There are other area things to do including a visit further down to Route 46 in the town of Hacketown. Antique stores dot the main street; many small cafes are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. One place to eat is worth a mention, and it is called Tu Tierra. This is a small place just off the main street as you make that right hand turn from Waterloo Road. The food is Columbian and Costa Rican food and is freshly made each day. You will find the menu also include many things a picky eater would like; rice, beans, plantains, pork, beef, chicken, and fish choices. Try the Ceviche Shrimp, one of the soups, Green Plantain with beef, chicken, and shrimp. This last dish is very tradition of Costa Rican food. The cooked toppings come out on traditional flattened and fried plantains.

Spend the beautiful day exploring the different river locations they mention on the NJ website and you will find alternative bridges, falls and easy access river stops along the way for fishing. By the time you travel west down Route 46 you will reach one good stop by the Pequest Fish Hatchery. You can ask the fisherman what kind of luck they had or stand on the bridge and look down into the river. You will see big trout that have no interest in taking the bait, but it is fun trying. Well, if you find yourselves with no big fish stories; then head out to Salt, Gastropub off Route 206 (saltgastropub.com) and cook one up at the bar. They host a large list of beer to choose from, and a menu full of interesting items to eat.

Do not be too hard or yourself or give up, because many seasoned sportsman will tell you that it’s the tranquility, surrounded by the sights, nature’s sounds, and the aroma of autumn that draws them back to this riverside diner weekend after weekend.

UPDATE: We did return to this area this past weekend, and I caught two beautiful Rainbow Trout, and my husband caught two of his own. We just fished with spin lures and just before dark when they are ready to eat dinner themselves. They went on some ice, and being the cook in this house, I got the fun job of cleaning and preparing them for the smoker. I mixed some alder with a hint of mesquite and smoked them for about half an hour with potato, onion, and tomato slices layered in my cast iron stove top smoker. The neighbors were knocking our door down from the smell, or could it have been the smoke???

(Authors Note: I had already titled this piece and could not have imagined that just a few miles short of Route 31 heading back home I would stumble upon an old restaurant called The Riverside. This barn yard red building just sat there all deserted, and covered in an overgrowth of bushes and falling leaves. The Mobile Oil Company dining car that sticks out of the left side still looks as if it is waiting for its dinner guest to arrive. Curtains outline tables still set with silk flowers in their white vases with the spectacular view of the beautiful woods and river backdrop. If I had a few million laying around I would buy up this property and turn it into my dream weekend getaway, all set with a unique dining experience for my guests. View pictures at http://www.myspace.com/cookappeal )

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pucker Up Baby!


Thursday, October 10th, 2008

I recently visited an older gentleman friend of mine, who also just happens to be a fellow poet and spoken word artist from PA, a neighboring state to my NJ. He was in the hospital, so I made a trip over to hang out with him, and we always have a great time laughing, telling jokes, reading each others work, and talking about how much we like to eat. This time he added politics to the menu of our growing friendship. That is like me sucking on a sour lemon sometimes. I have and always vote, and am trying to understand what is going on out there in the land of donkey's and elephant's, but it can be confusing, oh, back to the purpose...


Well some how the conversation switched back to food, and he put a whole new twist on one of my favorite condiments by telling me that he refuses lemons with any meals when he is eating out at any restaurant. Why? Like many others I hear stories about, getting ill from germs. Either by someone not washing their hands, or fields flooding with waste filled water, or bacteria contamination. Yes, contamination of all kinds, but the worst, hands that have handled money, touched the hair, face, mouth, others, menus, and who knows what during the course of their shifts.


Okay, I thought as he continued to condemn one of my favorite flavor punchers for tea, broccoli, chicken, salad, or any other bland food that is set down in front of me while I am out for a casual meal in town, or on the road. As soon as this conversation had simmered in my head for a day I decided to google uses for lemons and see if I was right about using it to sanitize my own hands in some cases along the foodie avenue. They have many useful purposes and should not be so discarded by the public, and I have even read that a fellow discovered by adding a touch of lemon to something you’re eating; it will help pair fruity or citrus under-toned wines, possibly whites with your meal.

Hello my friend, they are lemons! Beautiful mellow yellow and are used in cleaning products for sanitizing. You can squeeze one on your hands if you cannot get to a sink with soap and water if you feel you might starve or the meal will get cold before you can enjoy it right away. They are green and clean!

Face it, Anthony Bourdain already wrote about how wait staff and kitchen workers touch everything, like your glass edges, straws, the plate your food is on, not to mention any other things that should keep you out of fast food chain places. You might be lucky one of them washes their hands as often as we are taught in those safety and sanitation classes we attend. So, I said to my friend, get over it! Just pucker up in another of my favorite ways, and throw it out to your loving chef and friend.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A New Approach: Fall Food & Wine

The first cool nights of Fall have rolled over into the morning recently—even though we have enjoyed the most wonderful 80-degree weekend weather here in Princeton over the past few weeks!

Believe it or not, it will soon be time to drag out the holiday decoration, and get ready to turn up the heat in your kitchen. Foods like hearty stews, turkey and stuffing, pumpkin pie and cranberries are what will soon start appearing on magazine covers and tables, reminding us that we must either repeat those heirloom recipes, or recreate these comfort foods of past.

Most foods you see in cookbooks, magazines, or on restaurant menus can be turned into smaller and wildly inventive versions of what we are accustomed to being served. Root vegetables (like potatoes or parsnips); bold spices; thick, heavy thick cut meats; and featherless fowl await us. A simplistic approach to what we have made in the past can make holiday meals less boring unless you prefer bland. Just to name a few try Risotto infused with winter squash, and roasted turkey with five types of mushrooms. You don’t have to have meat to make a rich, thick stew—make just a vegetable stew, with a mixture of Indian Dal (lentils), Chinese eggplant, and a variety of other vegetables. Apple cider or orange juices blended with herbs are yummy when poaching fish. Make au gratin potatoes with blue cheese, instead of traditional cheddar for a delicious, new flavor. Try drizzling honey infused with cardamom around your plate of pecan pie. These are just some examples of the bold flavors that have emerged from commercial kitchens in the past few years. Subtle accents can revive old recipes, and aren’t too time consuming for the novice chef.

Dare to pair a bold, hearty wine that you have never tried with a good dish you love. Step over old boundaries and surprise your loved ones with new flavors and ingredients!

Eat, drink, and live hearty as you search bountiful food aisles this season!

~ Elizabeth Stelling

SUPER SIZE ME VACATION

The 'Behind the Wheel Kitchen' chef and traveler is ready to serve you up a large portion of the PNW on this month’s menu. Are you hungry enough for this three week course meal of scenic landscape, snobbery and shabby eateries, hotel ghost stories, wine till you drop, cougars, eagles and bears, oh my? Most of it did end up on my plate, in a glass, or on me any way you look at it.


Some have asked me what is 'PNW', and I reply the Pacific North West like I know it all (well I had not heard that either until we arrived). Each year for the past eleven years my sweetie and I go on a trip across the country(s), and he adds a day or two along the way. I have the luxury of going and coming when I feel like it owning my own company, and he gets three weeks a year. I know, I know, I realize most of you only get a week or two, but I did not say I liked being away that long. Three weeks in a car, hotel, and 24/7 with someone you live with? I might make the poor guy walk the plank, and in this case they would have been pretty cold waters...shiver me timbers!


The last three or four years the trips have gotten longer, yes, but this time I must say...I did not want to come home! I wanted to hibernate with the bears, pick blackberries, and eat salmon all year long. He had to drag me on the plane kicking and screaming, but I calmed down in the airport lounge. Sorry for sharing. I will get to the meat of the subject now, and end with a list of places to eat, sleep, drink, and play.


We started off in Portland for three days staying in the Avalon Hotel. I love boutique hotels and they usually love me back! Plenty of sight seeing if you rent a car (did that) or take those cute hop on, hop off tour buses. There were so many parts of the city to see I am not sure where to begin. I recommend starting off in the Pearl district where you can shop till you drop, and ate at a South American/Tex-Mex fusion place called Andina. What a very colorful atmosphere and great food this place offers. Many of the shops are one of a kind, and very artsy cool stuff you can ship home. There is an old school house in Portland that has been converted to a hotel, McMenniman's Kennedy School. They have three restaurants with a full bar and serve McMenniman's own micro brew. This was worth the extra calories from the beer but you can walk it off looking around the town. They were our first choice in hotel, but no vacancies, so we asked to see a few rooms, and they were very nice about my southern intrusion.


Where did we find the room for dinner next? I am not sure, but we had reservations at a place called Beast. The chef has been written up many times, and it was worth the money. She choices a six course meal for you (the menu changes according to fresh ingredients) you sit at communal tables and enjoy the weirdness. They offer a wine pairing, or you are welcome to bring your own. Most of the PNW is about local, fresh, and organic ingredients, and we are trying to catch up.


The next few days are a blur because we just drove, walked, drove, walked and slept. McMinnville was our next destination and we stayed at the Hotel Oregon. Some of the rooms come with a shared bath area. OK, this can get weird, but I swear no one was on the floor with us except an old prospector ghost (another story) who tried to get in bed with us the two nights we stayed, but I had the whole bathroom/showers all to myself otherwise, and it’s a cheaper deal. This area is where all the good vino is, like the one we all hear about, Pinot Noir of Oregon. Well it’s pretty true in my eyes, and the scenery is like being in Italy, and all along the way places have ‘tasting’ rooms. We tasted, drove, tasted, drove, he tasted, I drove, and we had our threesome. Beware most vineyards and tasting rooms do charge, but they add the cost to a bottle if you buy a few.


The road is leading us up the pacific coast by way of Washington for a scenic drive We see more beautiful landscape, vineyards, sea otters, a large variety of birds, and then we roll into Astoria. There is plenty of wine tasting, and amateur photography along the way. I will only mention one Tex-Mex place that rocked my lunch palate. Since I forgot to write the name down, just try most any in the area, I am sure now that the PNW rocks in that cuisine department since I had two good hits on my trip so far. The maritime museum in the town is a good choice to visit and very entertaining, as well as sea lion watching off the main pier to the left of the museum. The Columbia River is wondrous and worth exploring in this area.

Our next town was Port Angeles, where you catch the ferry across to Vancouver Island. We stayed in a reasonable B & B, Seven Sea Sons that is just up the street from downtown and the ferry. We meet two couple staying there with us, because one of the women tried to break into our room after a night of wining and dining she could swear my door looked like hers (and they did). The couples were very nice and they were heading in our direction, so we all hung out. I have completely forgotten to mention that along the way you will find great road side markets, as well as the Portland Market on the edge of the university. The produce, flowers, and food to eat are great to fill in when you do not want a whole breakfast or lunch. Beware: one of the couples bought too much and if you are going into Canada they will not let you bring them in. We were eating many apples along with the bottles of wine on the ferry, so they would not go to waste. They will not let you carry over two bottles each of wine either!


All six of us swaggered into our cars, off the ferry we drove, and into beautiful Vancouver Island. Victoria, BC is a great place just for the locals in Oregon and Washington to visit for long weekends. We stayed in my 'dream' boutique hotel, Oswego. I was in a one bedroom, fully stocked kitchen, huge bath perfect dream. We went to a local market off Moss Street and bought the fixin's for a Salmon feast. I pan roasted Chinook salmon and shrimp in a Cilantro Lime Cream sauce (recipe in another blog) with a side salad. We had it with yet another bottle of Pinot Noir!

We took the hop on, hop off bus and toured most of the city the first day. You decide what you really want to see and get off and walk around. We did go visit a new eatery and hip space, Stage Wine Bar. I love to sit at the bar when possible, the bartenders are friendly and very helpful (ours had an Irish accent). They have tapas style eating, with wines by the glass and full bar. The next day I had a mission, going on a bear hunt in the Sooke Mountains and lake area. Next time we will not go when it is getting dark and try driving down those rocky roads in a rented Kia Rhondo to find wild life that might or might not eat us. Scary! …no bears, but we did not really walk to far into the woods; it was too dark, so we hopped back into the car and drove fast back up the winding roads to our hotel.


More beautiful scenic ferry rides came as we traveled over to the Islands of Washington, San Juan and Orcas. The rest of the hotels I will not mention because I realize it really is a personal preference, and none really after Victoria, none will ever compare anyway. Food as well just became a necessity after a week and half of eating so many rich meals, so we ate at local places that offered soup and salad. I always travel with my own bottle of scotch for a night cap, as well as buy snacks along the way in case we do not run across eateries we like. There are plenty of local organic markets like in Orcas that you can grab a cup of hot chocolate and piece of bread for breakfast. I believe in supporting these mom and pop places as often as I can even out of town. We visited the one and only vineyard on San Juan, and it is a lovely place. This was the site of an old school house and church, so very charming. We bought a bottle and gawked at the local pet camel across the street. Plenty of charm these places, oh, and I forgot the small deer that are not afraid to come next to your car as you are fumbling for the camera, they wait, and even smile as they nibble on grass. I found out that there was a local place, Doe Bay Cafe, that hosted an open mic with wine and gourmet pizza for me to share my poetry with other creative artists. The next day we just drove around the island and stumbled upon an oyster and clam farm. I had always wanted to visit one, and it was along the path to Doe Bay off to the right off an inlet. The owners had just gotten home and opened up shop just for us. I got to see the whole process, and we sat down outside and ate a few dozen with what? More wine, yes, we bought plenty along the Oregon Trail, and just happened to have our own corkscrew too.


Well, its time to leave and head over to the mainland via Anacortes and again, another ferry ride. We drove to Seattle and stayed put in the same hotel for a few more days. Once again we toured the city from one end to the other, and I saw a troll under a bridge, stopped at a garage sale and I bought a lovely new scarf, went dancing at a local 'fun' bar, Neighbors, drank more local brew, ate good food, visited Pikes Market, and had the best hot chocolate ever! Seattle’s Best Coffee, a triple trio (chocolate overload) all while people watching. This trip has inspired me to try and get back on my bike and loose some weight! I have to mention that my sweetie is a software engineer and what would the trip to Seattle be if we did not look for Bill Gates house? Well we gawked at his...gate (and he was not walking the dog either).


We topped off our trip at Purple Wine Bar down the steep hill from our hotel on our last night, just more good food and wine once again! After all I am the chef and my sweetie the wine guide on our many travels. Thanks for letting me share what I thought would be a long and over indulgent experience to a place that was absolutely wonderful, and we will be back, PNW. -Chef E

The Shared Table

The Shared Table

I believe that life is something we should share and experience with each other. I believe in educating myself on what life has to offer, in the form of food and drink, a part of my daily living. Doing so brings me joy, especially when I can share this joy with others. I see so many people going through life at such a fast pace that they cannot even remember what they had to eat or drink the night before!

We get up each morning, go to work, come home at night, and spend our evenings alone or with family and friends. We sometimes share foods we have produced or prepared at home, or have purchased from a market, with others. But when was the last time you discussed the foods’ or recipe’s origination or why you selected them?

Naturally, we are designed to be social beings. At least once a week or month, why not get together with others and share the good things that happened—or even the bad—during the week? Whether something was a good experience or bad, we need to tell others and share with them. The same should be true with foods and wines. How do we know that a Viognier wine is the right choice for tonight’s meal? Is it just because the label says so? What is a Viognier, anyway?

So many of us only buy wines under $10 because we do not want to potentially waste our money on something we have never tried—and may despise. After 10 years of ever-increasing wine consumption by Americans, why do you think that Chardonnay and Merlot remain the two most sold wines today? We still stick with what we know.

We are such blended and diverse generations of eaters and drinkers. “Fusion” seems to be one of the newest and hottest (and most over-used) words today. Hey, the word fusion has been around for generations! Looooooooong ago, spices came from India to the Americas, down far south, and across again to Asia, in different blends and forms and blended with many varieties of food ingredients!

Take a chance and try something new! Here are some ways to expand your horizons:

  • Share some knowledge. Try a different type of wine with some newfound friends.
  • Taste something that as a child, you could not stand. You might be pleasantly surprised!
    Our taste buds change about every 10 years or so.
  • Maintain traditions by passing family-favorite recipes on from one generation to another. If you alter something, list your new ingredient out to the side of the recipe.

Generations alter traditional foods according to their own taste and the availability of ingredients. Let’s revisit the old. You never know—you might like it, plus, you’ll be keeping your heritage alive.

Join in and appreciate what others have experienced lately. Rediscover what your family has done in the past, and keep those memories alive. Many of our female ancestors did not work. They kept house and ensured that home-cooked meals were always on the table for family members and anyone else who happened to stop by. The great cooks in our families didn’t receive any true glory or honor for what they did—except from those us who enjoyed their delicious meals.

Some of us who stood on our tippy toes by the stove, observing a loved on in action—concentrating on the right consistency for a sauce or ensuring something didn’t boil over or burn—made our career choices right then and there. What a great feeling it is to watch each fork be lifted to each mouth and then see a smile of satisfaction slowly spread on each face as the food prepared delights the taste buds and settles the hunger.

Make someone happy with your favorite food creation. Take a chance on a wine you cannot pronounce, or one that is more than just a pretty label or bottle. Add some books on “gastronomy” and ingredients to your home library. Elevate the quality of your food and drink.

Take time to enjoy what’s available to consume, educate yourself on each item and share the information with others!

Elizabeth