Category Archives: Food Stuffs

culinary exploration

Food Education

 

Here’s a list Matt and I compiled a couple months before Olive was born.  These are foods or food experiences that we would like her to eventually have.  There’s no time frame on these (especially since some she can’t enjoy till she’s 21) and this list will grow and grow, as she does.  But this list is full of items we have felt connected to in one way or another.  Some items are really high class.  Some are junk food.  Some are sophisticated, some are comfort food. Whether it’s simply outstanding flavor (Kow soy soup) or a memory (Granna’s Christmas eggnog), or even just the SMELL of certain things cooking, we want Olive to enjoy as many foods as possible and to create a list of her own some day.  Here’s our list; ever growing:

  1. Pad Thai
  2. Fish Cakes
  3. Kow Soy
  4. Thai Tea
  5. Vietnamese Coffee
  6. Seared fresh tuna in Hawaii
  7. Wasabi
  8. Eggs Benedict
  9. French fries from Bouchon
  10. Sourdough baguette
  11. Isaphan from Pierre Herme
  12. Cassoulet
  13. Ragu
  14. a ripe summer tomato
  15. Matt’s homemade bacon
  16. duck confit
  17. fresh baked bread with cold butter
  18. homemade ice cream
  19. caramel (also homemade)
  20. bananas foster
  21. Macaroni and cheese – Keller
  22. warm banana bread
  23. homemade chocolate chip cookies
  24. grilled cheese sandwich
  25. tomato soup
  26. Granna’s eggnog
  27. Double Stuff Oreos
  28. Potatoes Sarladais
  29. Potatoes Gratin
  30. Almond cake
  31. Buttered popcorn
  32. Onion Rings
  33. Yeasted waffles
  34. apple cider
  35. potato salad
  36. deviled eggs
  37. Black’s bbq beef ribs
  38. avocados
  39. guacamole
  40. corn pudding
  41. Sticky Toffee Pudding
  42. Creme brulee
  43. brownies
  44. apple pie
  45. chess pie
  46. blue cheese and honey
  47. pears
  48. Zinfandel from Napa Valley
  49. Chex Mix from the oven
  50. Cheese ball and crackers
  51. sausage balls
  52. chicken fried steak
  53. challah
  54. cinnamon rolls
  55. brown sugar bacon
  56. soft scrambled eggs
  57. cheddar cheese souffle
  58. poppyseed chicken
  59. carrot and ginger puree
  60. properly roasted chicken
  61. Brussels sprouts with bacon
  62. thumbprint cookies
  63. Reese’s Peanut Butter cups
  64. chocolate truffles
  65. truffle risotto
  66. cheesy polenta
  67. grits cakes with tomato marmalade
  68. summer strawberry
  69. fresh whipped cream
  70. chili and cornbread
  71. BLT – all homemade
  72. baklava
  73. lamb gyro
  74. hushpuppies
  75. fish and chips with tartar sauce
  76. mashed potatoes with beef gravy
  77. meatloaf
  78. beef wellington
  79. chili cheese hotdog
  80. tater tots
  81. sopapillas and honey
  82. chili rellanos
  83. garlic naan
  84. chicken tikka masala
  85. pizza
  86. fried mozzerella
  87. chocolate malt
  88. Gin and Tonic
  89. beef stroganoff with marsala cream sauce
  90. cheese burger from the charcoal grill
  91. charcuterie
  92. manchego
  93. nutella
  94. peanut butter banana sandwich
  95. spinach dip
  96. pina colada
  97. crab cakes
  98. crab legs in butter
  99. crawfish etoufee
  100. The smell of mire poix in butter
  101. Bbq brisket
  102. Pork Ribs in Memphis
  103. A good apple – Sweet Tango, Honey Crisp
  104. Truly Fresh Coffee
  105. Fresh pineapple
  106. Roasted green chilis
  107. Buffalo wings
  108. Fried rice with fried egg
  109. Tacos al pastor
  110. Gumbo
  111. Lasagna
  112. Chips and salsa
  113. Macarons
  114. Cheesecake
  115. Croissant
  116. Stuffing
  117. Corn on the cob
  118. Pommeau
  119. Carnitas
  120. Cream soda
  121. Root beer float
  122. Red beans and rice
  123. Pulled pork sandwich with vinegar sauce
  124. Bread and butter pickles
  125. Raw honey
  126. Gougere
  127. Chipotles
  128. Pesto
  129. Roasted garlic
  130. Caprese salad
  131. Old fashioned donut
  132. Ramen
  133. Crepes
  134. Jalapeno pretzel
  135. Mufaletta
  136. East Side Kings pork bun
  137. Homemade apricot jam
  138. Toasted marshmallows
  139. S’mores
  140. Beef Burgundy
  141. Breakfast burritos
  142. Fish taco with crunchy cabbage
  143. Spaghetti Carbona
  144. Bagel and cream cheese
  145. Queso
  146. Shrimp and grits in Atlanta
  147. Biscoff spread
  148. Jerk chicken
  149. Creamed corn
  150. MomMom’s orange cake
  151. Dutch Honey Syrup
  152. Pigs in a blanket
  153. Salt and Vinegar kettle chips
  154. Osso Bucco
  155. Seared scallops
  156. Maple blondie ice cream

157. Scraping a vanilla bean and swirling the contents into a pot of simmering heavy cream.  Then licking the remaining beans off your thumb.

I just now added that last one 🙂

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Filed under Eating Adventures, Food Stuffs, General Hoo-Ha, Parenting and the like

Homemade Granola Bars

I’ve got granola bars in the oven to send with Matt on his 65 mile hike this weekend.  I am pretty sure by the end of the three days, he will loathe the sight of “snack foods,” but I hope during the hike, he will be reminded of the sweetness of home when he has these granola bars for breakfast.  We don’t spend many days apart.  We are each others’ favorite thing.  I would honestly rather be doing nothing with him than doing something with someone else.  Like eating granola bars.

This recipe is easy and wonderfully adaptable.  Take a gander:

Chewy Granola Bars

Makes: 16ish bars, depending on the cut

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup AP flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
12 tbs butter (1.5 sticks – melted.  It’s a lot of dry ingredients, don’t panic)
3/4 cup honey (I warm it up in the microwave slightly to be easily mixed)
2 cups of mix-ins.  Whatever you prefer.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325

Mix all the dry ingredients together.   Add the vanilla, melted butter and honey and mix well.  This part takes some dedication – I think the best thing to use is a wooden spoon.  It’s just a lot of dry ingredients and it needs to be mixed pretty thoroughly.  After well incorporated and no super sandy oats are left at the bottom of the bowl (they lurk – dig for them), mix in whatever you love the most.  I typically use dried fruits.  For this batch, I used dried prunes, apricots, blueberries, cherries and cranberries (all dry – I think fresh berries would be too wet.)  Two cups’ worth.  I dump the fruit in and mix it all up with my hands.  I like touching my food.  However, you could substitute one of the cups of mix-ins with a cup of dark chocolate chips or cashews or toasted coconut – the options are really endless.

Press mixture into a greased, 9×13″ pan.  I press it down pretty firmly so I can have more solid bars.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top.  Let cool COMPLETELY before cutting, or they will crumble apart.  I  dumped a bunch of dark chocolate chips on top of the bars as soon as they came out of the oven and once the chips melted, I spread it around to make a smooth topping.  The chocolate firms up when cooled and you have an awesome chocolately top layer on your granola bars and at least two or three more people who like you better than before you let them try one.

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Eating words

I’ve been culinarily stunned in three ways, recently.  The first was by finishing a wonderful book entitled Heat, by Bill Buford.  He quit his job as a writer for the New Yorker to work for Mario Batali and his restaurant, Babbo, and eventually moved to Italy to further learn how to cook pastas, learn to be a butcher and all the while, do research for writing his book.  Near the end of the book, he writes a thought about cooking and about the possibility of owning a restaurant and I felt while reading it, that I’d finally found a voice to answer the question Matt and I get asked on a monthly basis: Why don’t you guys open a restaurant already?!

“When I started, I didn’t want a restaurant.  What I wanted was the know-how of people who ran restaurants.  I didn’t want to be a chef: just a cook.  And my experiences in Italy had taught me why.  For millennia, people have known how to make their food.  They have understood animals and what to do with them, have cooked with the seasons and had a farmer’s knowledge of the way the planet works.  They have preserved traditions of preparing food, handed down through generations, and have come to know them as expressions of their families.  People don’t have this kind of knowledge today, even though it seems as fundamental as the earth, and, it’s true, those who do have it tend to be professionals–like chefs.  But I didn’t want this knowledge in order to be a professional; just to be more human.”

That is exactly it.  I am fascinated by cooking and learning as much as I can about food and food preparation because it links me to the past – to what people have been doing for generations and what my generation makes ever more difficult to achieve by its shortcuts and 30 minute meals and food that can live in a box.  I’m not against time-saving methods, but I think that just focusing on saving time is missing the point of cooking for your family.  That brings me to another quote from Heat that is just spot-on:

“Food made by hand is an act of defiance and runs contrary to everything in our modernity.  Find it; eat it; it will go.  It has been around for millennia.  Now it is evanescent, like a season.”

The second stunner came from a recent episode of No Reservations on the Travel Channel.  Tony ventures to Louisiana, around the New Orleans area and spends a couple of days with some locals out at a farm.  The big event is the killing and preparing of a whole pig.  But for an entire day before the pig’s sacrifice, everyone prepares the side dishes for the feast.  You see about 10 different cooks – all cooking in cast iron over fire, some on bbq grills, and each has a very specific and very important task.  From making a pot of coveted Étouffée to making a simple corn succotash, no dish is less important than the other.  Kids run around the yard, taste-test the food being cooked and a quartet of banjo, accordion, guitar and fiddle accompany the preparations.  The people playing the instruments are also cooks – everyone cooks.  Everyone has an opinion and a heated debate breaks out about the proper way to stew turtle meat.  The next day at 6 a.m., after saying a prayer over the pig, Tony is given the task to kill it.  It’s a clean kill and in seconds, a group of 6 or so men get to the job of preparing this animal: cleaning it, saving the blood for boudin noir, dividing up the meat into seemingly dozens of portions and assigning each of the cooks a cut of meat to prepare.  It’s fascinating to watch this humble animal, deeply respected and therefore, used of every single part it has to offer, eventually used to feed between 40 and 60 people.  Matt and I basically had our jaws on the floor the entire episode.  We were humbled by seeing so many people working in the heat for the culmination of the meal.  We are currently recruiting friends who like to cook as much as we do.  We have three or four but we’d like 15 at least…who live HERE.  🙂

The third stunning moment came the second I picked up the book, The Supper of the Lamb, by Robert Farrar Capon.

I’m only a few chapters in, but I’ve already found immense wisdom on food preparation and dizzying theology concerning the concept and reason and respect for cooking.  This book had me observing the complexities of a shallot before I chopped it up for dinner tonight.  It has me saying “amen” on almost every page and it makes me want to be a better steward of life and food in general, which is quite something for just four chapters of a book.  Here are some compelling quotes so far:

“To be sure, food keeps us alive, but that is only its smallest and most temporary work.  Its eternal purpose is to furnish our sensibilities against the day when we shall sit down at the heavenly banquet and see how gracious the Lord is. Nourishment is necessary only for a while; what we shall need forever is taste.”

“The poor man may envy the rich their houses, their lands, and their cars; but given a good wife, he rarely envies them their table.  The rich man dines festally (lavish), but unless he is an exceptional lover of being – unless he has the soul of a poet and a saint – his feasts are too often only single: They delight the palate, but not the intellect.  They are greeted with a deluxe but mindless attention: “What was it, dear, sirloin or porterhouse?” Every dish in the ferial (meager) cuisine, however, provides a double or treble delight: Not only is the body nourished and the palate pleased, the mind is intrigued by the triumph of ingenuity over scarcity – by the making of slight materials into a considerable matter.  A man can do worse than be poor. He can miss altogether the sight of the greatness of small things

Isn’t that amazing?  I’m excited to finish this book. I may do a proper “book review” after and I encourage anyone who loves food and cooking to pick up this book today.

I hope everyone is inspired by something this week.  Be it the cooler weather, the foretaste of the fall to come and with it, ciders, stews and oatmeal cookies, or just a book that challenges you to think differently and to be a better version of yourself.

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Sausage Fest 2011

We had the most amazing little road trip with Matt and Anna last week.  We started in Abilene and made our way through little TX towns to Austin and then back up.  I’m going to post most of the text from our tumblr account written about the places we visited and then stick in the more “fancy” photos I took.

Perini’s in Abilene, TX

We had dinner at Perini’s, which the waitress cautioned us is a working ranch. From what I can tell, they raise cats! The wood fired steaks were wonderful (mine was a perfect rare), and the burgers lived up to the hype. The bread pudding had a great balance of whiskey and vanilla flavor, and was made how I always hope it will be (heavy on the sauce). More than anything, it was nice to be together again after so long!  -Palmsey

Coopers BBQ in Mason, TX:

Cooper’s is known for their pork chops but have numerous other choices. We sampled just about everything and found the pork chops to be one of our least favorite. The meats that we felt we could repeatedly put in our mouth from this place were the brisket, chicken, jalapeño sausage, and ribs. On a side note, here’s a math problem: Palmsey’s age + Mrs. Palmsey’s age + Zatt’s age + Tiny Zatt’s age = the next youngest person in the dining area here at Cooper’s. Now, we are off to Fredricksburg! – (written by Anna)

Fredericksburg:

We did a lot here and not much included bbq joints.  We sampled olive oils, chocolates, wines and German cuisine.  It was also Stupid Shirt Day.  So here is a sampling of our time in and around Fredericksburg:

Olive oils

Chocolate shop

Example 1 of Stupid Shirt Day – Matt Ray

Anna’s milkshake brings all the boys to Fredericksburg

Matt’s home sweet home in this returning classic

What’s more patriotic than a Maltese?

Stupid shirt couple photos

Always out-hammed by the Zatts

A cute little bakery where we got muffins for breakfast for the next day.

After roaming around downtown Fredericksburg, tasting jams, dips and various salsas that 400 other people were trying, too, we headed out of town about 20 miles to Becker Vineyard. The grounds were beautiful and lavender fields spread out behind the main tasting building.

We all bought a tasting ticket and tried several varieties that I didn’t know Becker even made. Beyond our beloved claret and malbec, we sampled some great tempranillo, grenache, zinfandel, barbera and a reserve cabernet from a vineyard near our west Texas home. Unfortunately, many of these are only sold at the winery. If you get a chance, try their signature red blend, “Raven” – it is lovely and would have gone great with some of the steaks from last night!

So far Fredericksburg has been charming and reminds me a bit of Napa Valley. Except for the hundred degree heat!

Becker Winery

The lavender fields behind Becker Winery

Dinner at the Auslander

For dinner in Fredericksburg, we ate at Auslander Biergarten Restaurant (across from the Nimitz Pacific War museum). You might ask yourself, “With thousands of German restaurants in Fredericksburg, why Auslander?” First, it sounds like Saveur editor-in-chief and Top Chef Masters judge James Osland runs the place (quite fabulously!). Second, a brochure promised those massive 64-oz. glasses of beer! (I never bought one…I chickened out.)

Feasting in the shadow of a wall of cuckoo clocks and stuffed moose/elk heads, we devoured several plates of meat slathered in red wine gravy. The ladies’ wienerschnitzel was crispy, Palmsey’s pepperwurst was the perfect accompaniment to spicy mustard and sauerkraut, and my rouladen (pickles, onions, and mustard rolled into beef) was fantastic…and I think it had some corned beef or pastrami inside it.

Many online reviews blasted the place for tasting like German cafeteria food, but we agreed that 1) it was exactly what we needed after a long day of travel, walking sidewalks with throngs of middle-aged tourists, and dealing with the Hill Country’s oppressive heat, and 2) let’s face it: it ain’t Le Bernardin and doesn’t pretend to be. Overall, I’d be willing to kinda overlook that whole Nazi thing due to the food being so tasty (I said “KINDA!)

Looking forward to Austin!

– Matt Ray

Weinerschnitzel, spaetzle and gravy.  Can’t get much more comforting than that.

Me taking a pic of Matt taking a pic.

The pic Matt took as I took a pic of him taking this pic.

Blanco, TX:

We’d read about the Blanco Bowling Club Cafe and how they have pies to write home about.  We hoped to get to bowl to work off some awful calorie packing we’d done, but it was just for league bowlers certain nights of the week.  The waitress was super cool and told us that we could go “behind the curtain” and look at the lanes.  It was super awesome of her and really fun to see the ancient lanes!

Coconut cream pie – it was absolutely as good as it looked.  Creamy, slightly warm coconut curd and fluffy as air meringue with toasted coconut on top.

Dark chocolate cream pie with that same incredible meringue

Tart cherry – it was the least “wow” but it was a great pie.  Obviously no fake fillings in this joint.

Anna has a pic of us doing this same thing (I think)

Blanco has so much small town charm.  They could really film a movie here as it seems stuck in the past.  Oh wait, they did:

The courthouse where the Rooster trial was filmed.  Unexpected find in beautiful Blanco!

On to Austin:

First stop, Home Slice Pizza.  Austin wasn’t really an exploration of bbq joints.  Sorry.  It has too much to restrict ourselves.  Home Slice has NY style pizzas with folding-size slices and incredibly high quality toppings.

Much like the rest of Austin, Home Slice is quirky.  Down to the coloring projects for children – a “color Hall and Oates”, which we decided to make into a competition among the couples and had our waiter judge.  Behold, two very different sets of Hall and Oates:

Matt and Anna’s.  Quasimodo and Tom Selleck?

Mine and Matt’s: Hall and Oates or John Travolta and Lionel Richie?

My favorite comment about these pics came from Paul Hunton after Matt texted him this photo:

Anna Ray wins since she made him look like a sexual deviant (second drawing, Oates #1) I’m about 80% sure Alisa’s drawing is racist (Oates, or Lional Richie)  Matt P. wins the silver medal and Matt R is 40 years too late. – Paul Hunton

Needless to say, we got tons of laughs from our first Sausage Fest competition. I guess the stupid shirts could be another competition – any votes on the worst?

This next part is going to be brief. I thought, in a completely sober state, that doing a baby shoot with Matt Ray would be near the funniest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  I was correct.  We swaddled him with the hotel comforter.  Here’s a pic of me in action:

And here’s the three best from our shoot.  I did black and white as we weren’t exactly dealing with the greatest colors.  I’m only posting three because I don’t want to disturb the readers TOO much:

There really is no good way to transition after those photos so…then we went to three food trucks later that night!  That’s right, three.

Torchy’s Tacos!

Anna got the Trailer Trash (fried chicken, queso and green chilis), Matt Ray got the Dirty Sanchez (eggs, poblanos, carrots) and the American (fried chicken, pineapple slaw and bacon) Matt P also got the American and the Jerk (chicken, fried jalapeño, cilantro) and I got the Baja (fried shrimp, pico, and ranch) and the Fried Avocado (implied) and we all got some awesome green chili queso to share. Awesome late night snackery!

After Torchy’s, we went to a dive bar called Liberty because associated with Liberty is East Side Kings – one of the greatest food trucks around.  They serve Asian style steamed buns filled with various, amazing things.

Mine was fried chicken, basil, cilantro and a Thai spicy sauce

Matt P got his with pork belly

“That was all my favorite foods rolled into one. A flavor-gasm. – Matt Ray about the peanut butter curry bun from East Side King.”

The last food truck stop (at 1 a.m.) was at the OTHER East Side Kings to try their bowl o’ ramen.

And here’s what Matt P had to say about the food truck experience:

We stopped by The Liberty Bar on east 6th street tonight. It was skeezy-looking enough that we had some second thoughts, but I’m so glad we went. Everyone was super nice, and as Stefan would say, this place has it all: cheap PBR, a jukebox, IPA on tap, teddy graham people, friendly pups running around, and the reason we came here, East Side King. This little food truck in the back of the bar serves up the type of food you might expect to find at a David Chang restaurant – pork buns, fried Brussels sprouts, curries, and in general a strange mix of Asian flavors and down home ingredients such as fried chicken, beets, and mayo. We had seen the place on the “Heartland” special of No Reservations, and I was excited to try anything that came with such a hearty recommendation from Anthony Bourdain.

The steamed buns filled with pork belly and cucumber kimchi were my favorite, and Alisa preferred the ones with fried chicken and spicy Thai mayo. Matt was very happy with the deep fried peanut butter curry buns. This place gives a while new meaning to “bar food.”

We even hit up another East Side King outpost in the neighborhood on our way home. The dressed up instant ramen and pork belly ssam were great, but it’s hard to compete with something as fabulous as the original location.

Tomorrow we visit the town that has become synonymous with Texas-style barbecue: Lockhart!

I’m going to stop here with this post.  Because it’s already freakishly long and because the next installment has such mouth-frothing passionate views about Lockhart BBQ that it needs its own separate space. Stay tuned…

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Brownie Battle 2011

We had the very first annual Brownie Battle this past weekend.  Matt had talked about wanting to have a brownie competition for some time, for no other reason than to find an even more perfect  brownie than the one he already had.  So we put out the summons and people responded very well!  We had about 25 people participate and some just come to taste and there were roughly 15 different types of brownies to try! At first we were going to have it outside at a park, but with the temps in the triple digits, Matt pointed out that drinking milk and eating chocolate in the heat might not be the best idea.  So last minute, we moved it inside to Smooth Fusion, which was just the right size for everyone to get cozy, talk and eat crazy amounts of brownies.   The participants and their brownies!

I voted for Summer’s as being the best.  It had a velvety texture and was just so…different.  Found out she used the back of the box recipe on the Ghirardelli brownie mix, only doubled the salt and vanilla and used dark brown sugar instead of light.  She won Best Traditional!

Matt and his favorite – dark chocolate brownies with melted chocolate toffee bars on top.  These got a lot of votes and was tied up TWICE for best traditional brownie

Louise was very ambitious.  These are two of her submissions.  She brought three.  The one on the left is the Kahlua Cheesecake Brownies and on the right are Chipotle Brownies with a layer of dulce de leche in the middle and on top.  Amazing.  She took home the gold(en) prize for the kahlua cheesecake brownies!

Rod and Jill and their strong contender.  It really got a lot of points.  A very classic, rich brownie!  (with a sample already gone)

Tim and Lindsey and the most amazing brownie with salted caramel!  They almost won (by like 2 votes) the best creative brownie.  Kahlua will get you every time 🙂

Jennifer and her ambitious entries – on the left, snickerdoodle brownies (and she made home made snickerdoodle ice cream to go with it!) and on the right, a classic brownie with chocolate icing.  She ended up winning Prettiest Brownie for her Snickerdoodle brownies, but she got a lot of votes for regular favorite, too!

Cassie, Nixon and their traditional (and amazing) double chocolate brownies.

Jonathan, the baker, and his amazing version with ground cherries and toasted walnuts.  These were astoundingly good.

Shannon with Peanut Butter Nutella brownies.  This girl loves her Nutella.  They were awesome, of course!

Kelson had heat exhaustion (he participated in a triathlon earlier that morning), I think because he stared at me like this every time I talked to him, haha.  He brought golden brownies – like a glorified sugar cookie!

Philip and his brownie/caramel/pecan concoction of awesome.

I am not pictured because while I did submit brownies for judging, they sucked.  I didn’t let them finish baking and they really suffered in texture.  I’ve since eaten some after letting them settle in the pan for a couple days and they are chewy and awesome but that day, they were a bit grody.

 Jill enjoying Nixon

 Danielle and Ty made it!

Richard, Louise and Shannon

 Sweet Cass

The traditional side of the brownie display.  So this category couldn’t include anything too crazy.  Just simple chocolate on chocolate action, maybe some nuts, toffee, coffee, etc.

The creative side.  Snickerdoodles, chipotle, salted caramel, cheesecake, Kahlua, etc.

Ashley and Audrey.

An example of a tasting plate.

Kelle had a little somethin’ on her teeth…

We voted with poker chips.  Blue chips = your top fav, Red chips = second fav, White chips = third and Green chips were for “prettiest” or really, just an excuse to give out another award 🙂

Who wins for worst fake smile?  🙂

Nixon should have got the Most Cuddly award.  Thank you, Cassie, for letting us all pass him around!

Handing out awards

Louise won the coveted Golden Whisk for her Kahlua Cheesecake Brownies!

Some of my awesome clients even came!  Rika and Joseph and Gunnar Brake

Taking home the spoils!

So what should the next battle be?  Enchiladas?  Sliders?  Cast your vote in the comments!

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Panther Gathering

Last night we got to have our Sunday morning Bible class over for food and ideally, some board games and Rock Band.  Thankfully, about 35 people came!  That meant no room for one more loud thing in the mix (Rock Band) and I mourn not getting to hear Rod sing Fat Bottom Girls.  He was just bluffing anyway cause he knew it wouldn’t happen 🙂  I really was humbled that so many came.  We are relatively new to that class (a little over a year) and people with kids must know that (currently) childless couples might not have the most child-proof home.  But I’m so glad that didn’t hinder a lot of the families.  They brought their children and it was a windy beast outside so we all stayed indoors together.  I heard so much laughter coming from Saundra telling about her April Fools joke on David (that they were having twins),  I got to talk to Ashley Brown about her children and experiences as a mother, I learned that Mitch Morgan is a black belt in Tai Kwon Do and makes jam as much as I do, several people learned that Matt was into the Dark Tower series and so much nerdy talk ensued there and Cash got to follow around plenty of kids, acting like a Hoover for all the crumbs they dropped.  Joy.  I’m definitely a Mary in these situations.  I am mildly concerned if people have what they need (I tell them once where to find the ice, drinks, etc and figure they can spread the word after that) and am even less concerned if things are spilled, broken, cleaned up, etc.  After they all left and our home looked totally used, I just smiled.  I loved it.  True, a smaller group could have talked a bit more, played some games, stayed longer, but that big crowd just doesn’t get together very often and so it was really great to have them.

Everyone brought food and so Matt and I really only had to concern ourselves with a couple of recipes we just wanted to try and providing ice and drinks and (not enough) plastic utensils (sorry.)  Matt made the most glorious patty melts and I tried out two recipes from  my new favorite food/mom blogger, Annie’s Eats.  I tried out her Banana Caramel Whoopie Pies, which tasted a bit like a cookie version of Banana’s Foster (which is the best dessert, in my opinion.)  The cookies were perfectly soft and baked exactly as they said they would (I’ve had bad baking luck baking recently) and the caramel cream was worth the effort.  You make your own caramel and beat it into a Swiss meringue butter cream.  It takes a while but anything worth having takes hard work.

screen shot from Annie's Eats

I also tried her Jalapeño Popper Dip, which was a very Sandra Lee type of recipe, (nothing from scratch) but it was very tasty nonetheless.

screen shot from Annie's Eats

Everyone loved it and it really did taste like jalapeño poppers.  I also added some fresh basil to a batch of Country Time lemonade and crushed it up so it would be really basil-y and everyone loved that, too.  So all in all, we didn’t try as hard to impress with food as we normally do and I was frankly, glad for the reprieve.  I think pot-lucks are where it’s at.  Not only can you rely on everyone who comes to provide food, but when they leave, they take 95% of the mess back home with them!

The Panthers are an amazing group of people and we used to not have church attendance as a very high priority in our life till we joined this class.  It’s such an eclectic mix.  From retired age, to people right out of college, to people like us just starting families, to people who are on their second and third kid.  We get to learn from people who have been down the roads we are on and we can share with those who are on the same journey.  There are even a couple of people who have been in and out of jail and one in particular who was in jail last year and while she was finishing her sentence, a couple of families kept and raised her baby for about 6 months.  That is just such a loud testimony to me the power of a church group – of a people bound together by more than pot lucks and free coffee.  No one lays down their own rights as quickly as the Panthers.  If you need something done, someone to sacrifice time or resources for you, you could call any member of our class and you’d get exactly what you need.  I feel so lucky to be a part of that.

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Filed under Food Stuffs, General Hoo-Ha

Rubes in Paris: Cheese, Risotto, Chocolate and oh yeah, art

After our crazy day/night with Angela, we decided that in the morning, we would take it a little easy.  So we woke up and explored the market that was just right around the corner from our hotel.  This was on a street called Rue Clair and we passed by it every morning and night going to our hotel.

We saw these tiny, perfect strawberries, so that was item #1 for breakfast.


beautiful and exotic mushrooms


fish counter


the most perfect tomatoes I’d ever seen.


The sign says, “Veal Stew and Vegetable Stew”

me waiting for a tasty treat I saw a vendor making. I believe it was like a fried bit of puff pastry with bits of potato inside called pommes dauphine.

Item #2 for breakfast that morning – assorted samples of cheese from a really fantastic cheese shop.  So: fresh strawberries and cheese that ranged from smoky to nutty to sharp and tangy – it’s simplicity and quality of ingredients that made for every meal we had so wonderful.

We went to another little market by the Bastille that was mostly art and unfortunately, not food.  So since it had been at least 2 hours since our cheese and strawberries, we went in search for lunch.  Rick Steve’s (good travel book!) suggested Chez Janou.  A cute little bistro off the main roads a bit and it turned out to be one of the best meals we had in Paris.

We had a minuscule table right by the bar pass.  However, I was thankful to get a table because once we sat down, the bar filled up with people waiting for tables.


That was our waitress behind me


Our appetizer.  This was incredible.  Ratatouille served with an olive spread and crusty baguette.  Drizzled in a warm, bright basil olive oil.  It was the perfect lightness on top of that crusty bread.  The crunch of the warm bread mixed with the chilled, sweet tomatoes and eggplant swimming in the basil oil could have been my entrée and I would have been completely satisfied.

But then my entree came and I quickly take back what I said.  This. THIS was perfect.  Seared scallops on top of creamy risotto and drizzled with a thick, sweet balsamic reduction.  This is at least in my top two things I ate my entire time in France.  So simple and I’ve had things like this before, but it was just done perfectly and with risotto and scallops, that can be tricky.


Matt had rabbit on top of potatoes, surrounded by some savory broth.  Also very good, but he agreed that my risotto was the winner.

 

After lunch, we wandered on and looked up in my Patisseries of Paris book a shop called Dalloyau that apparently invented the Opera cake.  A multi-layered cake of almond sponge cake soaked in espresso and layered with coffee and chocolate butter cream.

The Opera cake

We got one of those little pink sandwich looking things in the very middle row, (called Ispahan) although we should have waited because we later found the Holy Grail of those macaroon sandwiches later at Pierre Herme.  More on that later.


Just ok compared to Pierre Herme’s version, who invented it.  Believe me, I will go into deep detail when I get to the real thing in a later post as it completely changed my food life.


After our snack, we headed on to see the Musee d’Orsay, which they wouldn’t let us take pictures inside, but it was filled with a lot of more modern art.  Van Gogh, Renoir, etc.  It was huge and frankly, we had already walked halfway through the town so I was beat.  But again, you can’t sit for long in Paris!

The quick pic I took inside the museum before anyone saw.  I loved the architecture.  And Matt said that it actually used to be a train station and that was the original clock.


On the way out, someone saw us doing this


So they took our pic for us in front of the Orsay and the bridge we are standing on, spans the Seine river.


Look how cute they are!  I saw this couple happily taking photos of themselves in front of the museum as well and I thought they were so chic.  So of course, I creepily took their photo.

The Musee d’Orsay


We travel along after the Musee and hit up Jean Paul Hevin.  One of the best chocolatiers in Paris.  We get an assortment and admire the window displays.

Inside the immaculate store.

I will have to cut this post off here.  Later we go to one of the TOP restaurants we’d read about, Spring, and I want that to be an entire post in and of itself so I can talk at length about each course. 🙂  It was a good story, too, as we were an hour late for our reservation.  Thanks for reading!

 

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Filed under Eating Adventures, Food Stuffs, Trips