Arrivederci for a Few Weeks

September 13th, 2015

 

 

Italy, Milan 2

 

We are on our way to Italy this week.  It has been a whirlwind of activity proceeding our departure.  I have had little time to plan ahead.  But much of our itinerary is already in place.  We will be doing another motorcycle tour with our French friends in charge and the other couple from the states who have accompanied us on many of our trips.  We will fly into Milan and spend two days acclimating ourselves to the time zone.  While there we will view Da Vinci’s Last Supper at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, visit the Duomo, and do a little shopping.  Since Milan is the Fashion Capital of Italy, that is a necessity.

Italy, Lake Como

From Milan we will travel to beautiful Lake Como.  We have reserved a lovely 3 bedroom house on the lake (Not the one pictured above) for 3 days.  I am hoping to take a cooking class at Ristorante Il Caminetto.

Italy, Stelvio-Pass

David and the other guys are looking forward to riding the Stelvio Pass.  It is a winding road in the Italian Alps that is popular with motorcycle enthusiasts. We girls will probably find something else to do.  One of the advantages of the trip this year is that we are staying put in one place for a few days at a time, which allows the guys to do day trips around the area.  We also have a van at our disposal.

Italy, VeniceVenice will be a lovely experience I am sure.  My friend Penny told me about a wonderful restaurant, Poste Vecie, off the beaten path that I am looking forward to finding.

Italy, Tuscany

From Venice we will travel west into the region of Tuscany. It should be wine harvest season and all of us are looking forward to the beauty of the region.

Tuscany Kitchen

The Tuscan farmhouse that we have rented appears charming.  It is an easy bus ride into Florence.

Italy, Florence

There is so much to do in Florence.  It is nice to have the luxury of a few days spent there.

Italy Rome

Our last stop will be Rome.  I will do my best to chronicle our trip either on The Lake Lure Kitchen Facebook page or my personal Facebook page.  I will also try to post our adventures here on the blog.  I will see you back here soon.

Montaluce Winery

August 11th, 2014

Montaluce 1   Spending a day visiting wineries is always a pleasure.  We loved the wineries in the Loire Valley when we were in France last year.  We also spent an idyllic week in Napa Valley a few years ago.  I have great memories of the beauty of the acres of grape vines, the wonderful food that seemed to be an extension of the wine experience and the stately wineries where the tastings were held. North Georgia has more than 12 different wineries.  It just so happens that the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northern Georgia have the perfect terrain and soil to produce wines very similar to the wines produced in Italy’s Piedmont Region.  I have been wanting to visit there since I read the post that Sam of My Carolina Kitchen wrote a few years ago.  The fact that we have wineries of this caliber so close to home makes me very happy. Montaluce 2   I chose to visit Montaluce Winery because of the beauty of The Tuscan style tasting villa.  The winery abuts the Etowah River and the Chatahoochee National Forest.  It is just outside of the college town of Dahlonega, Georgia. Montaluce 3   It has sweeping views of the vineyards where they grow 10 different varietal European style grapes.  This is the view from the table in the dining room where we had lunch.  The restaurant, Le Vigne, was the other reason I wanted to visit.  Executive Chef, Austin Rocconi, has designed his menu around the organic ingredients grown in the Montaluce garden and from purveyors participating in the Farm to Table movement. Montacuce 5   My lunch was something I could not resist.  It was a BLT, but not just any old BLT.  It included Benton’s bacon.  Yes, that’s right Larry, the bacon from your neck of the woods in Tennessee and your very favorite.  Also on the sandwich were some of the best fried green tomatoes that I have ever had.  It was further garnished with heirloom lettuce and a delicious ramp aioli.  The bread was also made in house.  A very good BLT indeed.  Right up there with the sandwich that David Scott and I made from the Benton’s bacon that Larry gave him. And you are not seeing double, triple or more.  I had a flight of 5 different Montaluce white wines.  I especially liked their 2012 Viognier. Montaluce 4 David was not too hungry because he had stopped for a late breakfast after trout fishing.  He had a small plate of house cured smoked salmon, creme fraiche, whipped goat cheese, pickled okra and smoked blueberries. But he did end up eating 1/4 of my sandwich and several of my house made chips.  Plus sips of my wine flight since he ordered just one glass of the Viognier. Monteluca 6   Here is a view of their outside eating area.  Since it was a hot day, we ate in their beautiful inside eating area. Montluca 6   This is a view of the the tasting area. Montaluce tasting area   Another view of the tasting room.  We had a tour of the winery after lunch and only wished that it was harvest season, which will start in a few weeks, to see the activity of the pressing of the grapes. Montecuce 7   After leaving the winery we visited the organic gardens.  There are still green tomatoes on the vine. Monteluca 8   The garden is in transition now between summer and fall crops. Montaluce vineyard   It was a special day and we came away with good feelings about the direction that this area of our country is going.  The fact that exceptional wines can be produced from land in Northern Georgia is a promising development.  Terroir is a word that sums up what is happening here. Loosely translated it means a sense of place.  The combination of soil, climate and geology of a region results in crops that are unique to that particular place.  The wines of Northern Georgia have won awards for their excellence.

Julia Child’s Kitchen and a Wintry Trip to DC

February 8th, 2014

Julia's Kitchen

 

We are in Washington DC visiting with good friends Darla (My DIL’s Mom) and Dave.  We would not normally go to our nation’s capital in the middle of a brutal winter, but Dave and Darla had tickets for all of us to see David Crosby in concert at Wolf Trap.  The day we arrived it was announced that David Crosby had to cancel his concert due to illness.  In spite of that, we are glad that we came.  We always have fun in DC.  Of course, I had to return to the American History Museum to see Julia Child’s Kitchen again.

Julia Food Display

 

Her kitchen has been moved to a permanent exhibition of the history of food in America from 1950 through 2000.  There have been great changes in our relationship to food over those 50 years.  It explores the new technologies, the people behind the changes and how we relate to the food that we consume.

Julia Kitchen with me

 

But the heart of the exhibit is still Julia Child’s kitchen.  I love Julia Child.

Julia and me 2

We also love the restaurants in Washington.

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Friday night we ate at Birch and Barley.  It was recommended to us by Darla’s Son David (do you notice a pattern in names here?), who was a chef in DC for a time. It is a brew pub with hundreds of beers on tap.  But it is also known for its innovative food.

Birch and Barley Flatbreads

We sampled three of the flatbreads on the menu.  From left to right, cotechino sausage flatbread with Asiago cheese, walnut pesto, preserved lemon and arugula, next is Fig and prosciutto flatbread with gorgonzola cremificato and caramelized onions, and last salt roasted pear flatbread with smoked aged provolone, confit of fennel, dill and onion puree.

Birch and Barley Brat Burger

One of our entrees was a Brat Burger with beer-braised sauerkraut and emmenthaler cheese and hand cut fries and cornichon.  Perfect with beer.

Birch and Barley Duck

Another entree was Honey Glazed Duck Breast with leg confit, wild rice, brandied cherries, radishes and hazelnuts.

Birch and Barley Cod

We also ordered the Pan-Seared Cod with roasted fennel, butter-braised celery root, pomegranate puree and blood orange segments.

Today there is a chance of snow flurries.  David and I are off to visit the National Gallery of Art.  We have reservations tonight at a French restaurant called Bistrot du Coin.  We are bundling up in warm clothes.

Up On Crippen Creek

July 8th, 2011

Situated in a remote area of southwestern Washington, down a winding country road, lies The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm.  The first sight that greets you as you enter the pebbled drive is the goat pen with fresh-faced goats curious about your passing.  Then you see the pig enclosure and are further greeted by scampering chickens as the beautiful yellow farmhouse comes into view.  After a long bike ride from Port Angeles, Washington,  it was like arriving home.  And that is just what Don and Kitty Speranza have created here; a home away from home for weary travelers.

The Inn at Crippen Creek is outside the small town of Skamokawa, Washington and close to Astoria, Oregon, the Columbia River and Puget Island.  The area is popular with kayakers, fishermen and nature lovers alike.  Because it is so isolated, with prior arrangements, Kitty and Don will provide their guests with dinner as well as the expected breakfast.  I knew this before we arrived.  But what I didn’t know was that both Don and Kitty are passionate about cooking.  They are part of the Slow Food Movement and former caterers in Portland, Oregon.  They grow much of their own food and offer cooking classes in their gourmet kitchen.

We were not the only guests at dinner that evening.  A writer and a photographer from Sunset magazine and their guests were also at the table.  It made for lively conversations.  Also, I had fun taking pictures of the food with my point and shoot camera while next to the photographer, Joshua, with his professional equipment.

Over wine and hors d’oeuvres on the porch, Don mentioned that the dinner to come was inspired by Thomas Keller’s wonderful cookbook, ad hoc at home.  Thomas Kelller’s other two cookbooks, The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon are complex and sometimes intimidating to the home cook.  But ad hoc was written specifically for the home cook.  It is full of recipes that are part of the family (meaning staff) meals prepared at the restaurants.  Thomas Keller has opened his Ad Hoc Restaurant down the street from his famous French Laundry Restaurant in Yountville, CA to showcase such dishes as fried chicken, pork ribs and other comfort foods.  Our meal may have been comfort food, but it was anything but simple.  It was, in a word, sublime.

The menu included Salmon Cakes made with fresh caught sockeye salmon, Potato Pave’ (resembling paving stones), and  Sauteed Rainbow Chard with Pine Nuts, Golden Raisins and Serrano Ham.  Don had prepared most of the meal ahead of time and only had to saute the salmon cakes, give the potatoes their final browning and warm the chard dish before we sat down for dinner.

The most complicated dish on the menu was the potato pave’.  This glorified scalloped potato dish requires time and involves several steps but the crunchy, buttery results are worth every minute and hour spent on it.    Reading the recipe, the procedure of stacking wafer thin potato slices was not immediately clear to me, but the video of Thomas Keller preparing the dish on the Martha Stewart Show makes it abundantly clear.  Click on this link to find the video.

Even dessert was a labor of love.  Kitty made a cherry pie from fresh cherries and Don made homemade buttermilk ice cream.  They are a collaborating force to be thankful for.  Our bedrooms with lush linens were just as welcoming after a long day and full stomachs.

Our breakfast the next morning included farm fresh scrambled eggs, bacon from the pigs raised on the farm, home fries, cheddar buttermilk biscuits, and fresh blackberries with panna cotta sauce.  It was difficult to leave such wonderful hosts ( I should say friends) with whom we had so much in common.  If you are ever in the area, this is an experience not to be missed.  Here are a few more pictures of the farm.

The free range chickens.

The wily pigs.

 
The garden.

Here are the recipes from our Thomas Keller inspired dinner.  Also visit The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm website for more of Don and Kitty’s recipes and information about the Bed and Breakfast.  

SALMON CAKES

1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely diced onion
2 tablespoons finely dicd red bell pepper
1 garlic clove
1 1/4 pounds cooked wild sockeye salmon, chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup mayonnaise
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, or to taste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 cups panko crumbs
1 large egg
Canola oil

Position two oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat the oven 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion and pepper.  Grate the garlic with a Microplane grater directly into the pan (or mince it and add it).  Cook, stirring often, until the onion and pepper are tender, about 5 minutesw.  Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

In a large bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the Worcestershire, mustard, parsley, Old Bay, salt, and lemon juice to combine well.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the panko crumbs and the onion mixture.  Gently fold in the cooked salmon.

Put the remaining 2 cups panko crumbs in a shallow bowl.  Divide the salmon mixture into 12 equal portions.  One portion at a time, gently shape the mixture into a ball (the mixture is very delicate because there is only a small amount of panko in it), roll gently in the panko to coat, and shape into a slightly flattened ball about 2 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick.  Add a bit more panko as needed to coat, and set on a plate.

Heat some canola oil in each of two large ovenproof frying pans over medium heat until it shimmers.  (If you don’t have two pans, cook the cakes in batches and transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet, then finish in the oven.)  Add the cakes, pat down gently, still maintaining the rounded shape, and cook until golden brown on the first side, about 5 minutes.  With a spatula, gently turn each salmon cake over and cook on the second side for another 5 minutes, or until golden brown.  Transfer the pans to the oven and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, to ensure that the salmon cakes are hot throughout.

Line a small baking sheet with paper towels.  Transfer the salmon cakes to the towels to briefly drain.  Arrange the salmon cakes on a serving platter and serve with remoulade or your favorite sauce.

POTATO PAVE’

1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshley ground black pepper
3 pounds russet potatoes (three 1-pound potatoes if possible)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon softened and 4 tablespoons cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Canola oil
2 thyme sprigs
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed, skin left on
Minced chives

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pour the cream into a large bowl and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Peel the potatoes.  Cut a thin lengthwise slice off one side of a potato so it will rest flat on the mandoline.  Lay a Japanese mandoline or other vegetable slicer over the bowl of cream and slice the potato lengthwise into very thin (about 1/16 inch) slices, letting them drop into the cream.  (If you can’t lay your mandoline across the bowl, slice the potatoes, adding the slices to the cream as you go.)  Stop from time to time to toss the slices in the cream to keep them coated and prevent them from oxidizing.  Repeat with the remaining potatoes.

Brush a 10-by-6 1/2-by-3-inch high pan with half the softened butter.  (Don’t use a shallower pan – you need the depth this size pan gives the pave’.)  Line with parchment paper, leaving a 5- inch overhang on the two long sides.  These extensions will be used to cover the potatoes as they cook and later serve as handles when unmolding.  Brush the parchment with the remaining softened butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Trim the potato slices to form a solid even layer in the bottom of the pan and lay them in the direction that works best to fill the pan.  Repeat to form a second layer.  Dot with a few cubes of butter and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Continue layering the potatoes, adding butter and seasonings after each two layers.  Fold over the sides of the parchment to cover the potatoes.  Cover tightly with a piece of aluminum foil (to allow the potatoes to steam as they bake).

Bake the potatoes for 1 hour and 50 minutes, or until completely tender when pierced with the tip of a knife or a wire cake tester.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.  Put a weight on top of the potatoes (see Note), cool to room temperature, wrap well, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 2 days.

To serve, run a palette knife around the two longer sides of the pave’ to release it from the pan, and use the parchment handles to lift the potatoes from the pan, or invert onto a cutting surface.  Trim all sides of the pave’.  Cut the pave’ into 12 equal pieces and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat some canola oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes cut-side-down, add the thyme and garlic, and cook, basting with the liquid in the pan, until browned on the first side, then turn carefully and brown the opposite side.

Arrange the potatoes on a serving platter, browned side up.  Put a small piece of butter on each piece to melt, and sprinkle with chives.

Note:  The easiest way to weight the pave’ is to cut a piece of cardboard just smaller than the top of the pan, so that it will cover the top of the pave’ without resting on the sides of the pan.  Wrap the cardboard in aluminum foil, set it on top of the pave’, and place a few cans or other weights on the cardboard for even weight distribution.

RAINBOW CHARD

2 tablespoons pine nuts
Kosher salt
4 to 5 pounds rainbow chard
About 1/4 cup cup canola oil
2 tablsespoons finely chopped garlic
1 ounce thinly sliced serrano ham, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
2 tablespoons Wine-Steeped Golden Raisins (See Note)
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Spread the nuts on one of the oined pans and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, until evenly browned.  Remove from the oven, transfer to a plate, sprinkle with salt, and let cool.

Cut out the thick stems from the leaves of chard and set aside.  Stack the greens in batches and cut crosswise into thirds; set aside.  Trim the stems and cut them on the diagonal into 1-inch slices.  You need 2 cups stems for this recipe (reserve any remaining chard for another use).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the chard stems and blanch until tender but still slightly resistant to the tooth, 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain and spread on the second parchment-lined baking sheet.

Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil into each of two large saute pans and heat over medium heat (if you have only one large pan, cook the greens in 2 batches).  Add 1 tablespoon of the garlic to each pan, reduce the heat, and cook over medium-low heat until softened but not colored, about 1 minute.  Add one-quarter of the chard greens to each pan, season with salt (salt lightly if your ham is very salty), and cook for 3 to 5 minutes over medium to medium-low heat, until the chard wilts to about half its original volume.  Add the remaining chard and cook until wilted and tender, 15 to 20 minutes total.  Spread the greens, with their liquid, on the third lined sheet.

To serve, heat some oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the ham and saute for about 45 seconds to crisp.  Add the pine nuts and raisins and toss.  Add the chard stems and greens, toss to combine, and heat through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a serving bowl.

Note:  Wine Steeped Golden Raisins
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 star anise
1 whole clove
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

Combine the raisins, star anise, and clove in a jar.

Bring the wine to a boil in a small saucepan.  Pour over the raisins and let cool to room temperature.  Let stand for 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month.  Remove the star anise and clove before serving.

Printable Recipe Salmon Cakes

Printable Recipe Potato Pave’

Printable Recipe Rainbow Chard

Scenes from Victoria, British Columbia

July 6th, 2011

We left Juneau, Alaska by ferry and spent the next three days cruising down the inner passage toward Vancouver Island.  There were many great sights along the way.  After arriving at Port Hardy on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, we rode to the Southern tip of the island to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia.  The above picture was taken in the Inner Harbour of Victoria with The Fairmont Empress Hotel in the background.

I took this picture while still on the ferry.  For more information about our passage, check out David’s blog.  We met a delightful young couple from Tours, France who are riding their motorcycle from Canada through the United States, Mexico, and Central and South America before returning home a year later to France.  They are stopping for a visit at Lake Lure near the end of this month.

The Inner Harbour in Victoria is a busy scene.

All of us in front of the Parliment Building built in 1897.

Our evening stroll coincided with the arrival of a group of Prom attendees at the Empress hotel.  The bright gowns made a vivid mark on the beautifully landscaped lawn.

We loved seeing a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman amongst the group.

How brilliant to have Prius taxi cabs. 

We had dinner at Nautical Nellies, a harbour landmark.  I loved the crabcakes with peach and sweet pepper chutneys.  The filo crisps, olive oil and balsamic vinegar were a nice added touch.  I must remember this presentation.

David had their paella with halibut, salmon, scallops, shrimp, chorizo sausage with peppers and onions in a spicy creole rice, garnished with steamed clams.

Our accomodations for the two nights we were in Victoria were at Marketa’s Bed and Breakfast.  It is located within walking distance of the harbour.  The breakfasts were enormous and delicious.

I had already dug into my pancakes before I remembered to take a picture.

“Ah, Excuse me Dave.  Let me get a shot of that before you eat it.  Thank you.”

After our “way too much but delicious” breakfast we again boarded a ferry and left the Victoria Harbour for Port Angeles, Washington.  I had no idea of what awaited us at Crippen Creek.  It was a gourmet delight.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.