Saturday, September 29, 2012

"State" of the Fair 2012 edition

Well it's that time again in DC. Saturday September 22 was the DC "State" Fair.  A lot was riding on the fair, last year I entered 3 pies and 1 cupcake. The result: 6 ribbons so this year the pressure was on.
This year I entered  2 cupcakes and 2 pies. So with all the self imposed pressure the hunt for the ingredients started weeks before. Pumpkins, pears, European butter, leaf lard. HUH leaf lard. What's leaf lard? I hear you-- I had no idea what is was either until I met Kate McDermott. Her blog is the I had the pleasure to met her a few weeks ago and we talked pie, lots of tips, lots of pie ideas. So, OK, leaf lard is the fat surrounding the kidneys of the pig and once rendered it is the best fat to use for pie crust. I track down the leaf lard but not sure about it so I used what I normally use butter and Crisco.

So, this is what I entered this year:
Salted Carmel Apple Specluoos Crumb Pie
Sour Cherry Almond Cinnamon Pie
Pear filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Ginger Frosting
Chocolate Pumpkin With Spice Frosting

And by then end of the fair not one ribbon this year, I guess it was not meant to be. So now it's time to plan for next year.
Salted Caramel Speculoos Apple Crumb Pie

Sour Cherry Almond Cinnamon Pie

Chocolate Pear Ginger and Chocolate with Spice Frosting

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Odds and Ends

Draft form to a blogger means a post that was written and saved for another day. So when I was going through my blogs I found several drafts that needed my attention. In 2011 turned a "young in spirit" the big 5-0. Yes, I know those who know me that I am that young! As many of you know the hubster took me to Paris and Rome to celebrate.
To help balance spending Euros on food, we love to picnic. The quinquennial spot is under the Eiffel Tower.

Typical Parisian Picnic
So this was the picnic on the last night. One of the new foods I hunted down in Paris was Speculoos.  It is made from  those little Belgium spice cookies (Delta Airlines has them) it's kind of like Nutella but on a whole different level. And now you can find it in the US or you can get them on line from Biscoff/Louts website or at Jungle Jim's outside of Cincinnati. The potato chips are in another discovery and are in a class all by themselves. I love all the different flavors you can only find in Europe. For me the l'Ancien goat cheese chips -- ARE  the best tasting chips, EVER! I wish I could have them sent here from there! ( I contacted Lays in the US and no they don't sell them here).
Picnicking is a great way to save money on food and a very nice way to spend a warm spring evening well in our case it was really cold, good thing we brought the blankets from the hotel.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Foods of the Bay Area

Searching for the ultimate dinning experiences are always a challenge in new cities. My time in San Francisco was very short only 2 days and 3 evenings to try and fit it all in. But where to eat? As soon as I planned my trip to San Francisco I knew where I wanted to eat. Wayfare Tavern and of course Chez Panisse (that will have to be another post).
Wayfare Tavern is a Tyler Florence creation and my expectations were high. I followed Chef Florence on HGTV and on twitter and it seems that everyone raves about the food created there. I looked at the menu ahead of time and already knew what I wanted to order. My choice, obvious to those who know we well, was the organic fried chicken and the baked macaroni and cheese. I was not disappointed.
Table setting at Wayfare Tavern

Organic Fried Chicken and Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Darlene Peach Pie

In the shadow of the Trans America Building
Wayfare Tavern in close to the financial district. It sits under the shadow of the Trans America building. I had made my reservations for 5 PM, I know it's early but it was my first night in town and after long flights and airport food I was ready for my dinning experience. My server was awesome since it was not busy we had time to chat. After eating as much as one person can with four pieces of chicken and a healthy portion of mac&cheese I wanted to save room for dessert. My server recommended the peach pie and I was not disappointed. It was the best peach pie I have ever had. The local peaches sweet and juicy and still with their skins were enveloped in THE tastiest, flakiest crust EVER (the  secret  I found out, is lard) and the big surprise was the sugared rosemary.  What  pie I could not finish I took back to my hotel to eat as my midnight snack.
Now, I am trying how to get back there so I can order the other items off the menu.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chez Panisse

Chez Panisse opened its doors in 1971, founded by Alice Waters and a group of idealistic friends. A neighborhood bistro, it is named after Honoré Panisse, a character in Marcel Pagnol’s 1930s movie trilogy about waterfront life in Marseille (Marius, Fanny, and César), as an homage to the sentiment, comedy, and informality of these classic films.
From the beginning, Alice and her partners tried to do things the way they would like them done at a dinner party at home, with generosity and attention to detail. The Restaurant, located downstairs, is open for dinner Monday through Saturday, by reservation only. The fixed dinner menu consists of three to four courses. The menu which changes every night is designed to be appropriate to the season and composed to  feature the finest sustainably-sourced, organic, and seasonal ingredients including meat, fish, and poultry. (This is from the Chez Panisse website).
When I decided to go to San Francisco anticipation was building the month before my trip. I did not want to miss the reservation date. I missed the my first date so when I scored my reservation for my last night I screamed like a little girl. Now I had to wait to see the menu, which is posted for the week on Sunday. My night was  the all fish menu. The first course was a onion tart with mesclun and fresh anchovies, next up Grilled shellfish with cherry tomatoes and scallion and squash blossom salsa, the main course California white sea bass with rouille , wild fennel and tomato gratin, and roasted fingerling potatoes and if that was not enough dessert is presented and it was blackberry ice cream with meringata with peaches.

San Francisco's BART transit system takes you to downtown Berkley and after a short walk there I was standing in the door way of "the" restaurant. Dinner was at six and as always I was a little early so I found a bench in front of a very popular pizza joint that have live jazz.

 Eyes to the watch six o'clock finally arrived and I was seated in the dinning main room. The menu printed was on the plate in front of me. From the first course to the last it looked amazing. The restaurant is set up with an open kitchen. I watched with fascination it was the quietest kitchen I have ever encountered. The only thing you could hear besides conversation was the chopping of the herbs. As I chatted with my server he invited me back once I was finished with dinner. As I was eating my fish the was a little commotion in the kitchen. And, there she was, Alice Waters, in the kitchen getting ready to sit down for her meal in the kitchen as well.  As promised, my server took me back in kitchen and watched the quiet symphony of the chef and staff prepare the dishes. As I walked deeper in the work area past the main stove and back to the pastry area I walked by Alice. She smiled at me and because she was eating I did not want to bother her and of course I was tongue tied as usual. She did smile at me at that made my night, no it made my trip.

I want to go back to San Francisco  and when i do the countdown to get my reservation in will start.
The entrance styled in Craftsman style

The printed menu

The very quiet open kitchen

This was the grilled shellfish with cherry tomatoes

California white sea bass , wild fennel and tomato gratin with fingerling potatoes

oooo, there she is behind the peppers

Blackberry ice cream meringata with peaches

cocoa coated almond and a salted caramel

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sights of San Francisco

Cool and foggy, very hilly streets that is what greeted me on my first trip to San Francisco. I loved it! For me it was too quick of a trip and I tried to get in as much as I could. The sights and food ( more on that later) were awesome. I was escaping the relentless heat and humidity of the east coat and to me the cool foggy weather was perfect. I was not able to get a clear picture of the Bay Bridge the two days that I was there but I guess that means I have to come back.
I can't say San Francisco is walkable the maps are very deceiving. They should all be topographical maps. My suggestion is always use public transportation, cable car, street car, bus or BART it really beats walking. If a hill has to have steps cut into it is too steep.

So I tried to hit all the major "touristy" highlights, Fisherman's Wharf, The Ferry Building, Grace Cathedral, and Alamo Square. Now that I know how to get around I can't wait to go back.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Found treasures

The winding dusty paths take you deeper into a labyrinth of stalls overflowing with objects from days gone by. Broken English and broken French are exchanged between buyer and seller but money becomes the universal language as agreements are met.
I love shopping in flea and antique markets wherever I travel. Never knowing what you will find in the cramped stalls, and being careful not to touch the merchandise or risk the scolding by the antique dealer. My favorite antique market in Paris,  Les Puces de Saint-Ouen. It's just on the outskirts of the city. But first to get to this rusty antique Nirvana you must first pass through a gauntlet of sellers with merchandise that ranges from leather goods to "designer" handbags.
Drawer full of corkscrews

Best corkscrew ever found
I was on a mission to find a corkscrew that had a straight point and not a curled end. Hours can be spent looking and searching for that one object but when found its magic. I ended up  purchasing two corkscrews one for myself and one as a gift. To this day it's the one that is pulled out of the drawer that is crammed with all kinds of corkscrews. Why we have so many is a mystery. Should we get rid of them? Of course not because maybe one day they will be the one that object someone is hunting for.