Thursday, December 30, 2010

What’s For Dinner? Five Spice Shrimp!

Shrimp was on the list for dinner last night. I had a choice. I could use a packaged marinade and broil them like I often do or come up with something else. Serendipitously I saw several recipes that included Chinese Five Spice yesterday, and it got me thinking.

I took a quick look around and found several recipes that combined Chinese Five Spice, garlic, salt and pepper to season shrimp for pan frying. I added some homemade 2009 Viognier for additional flavor and to ensure the garlic paste I was going to use wouldn’t burn. I had already planned to serve a mushroom couscous and steamed broccoli with the shrimp, but that didn’t seem complete.

I continued thinking about Asian influences and figured that with a couple teaspoons of Five Spice and some black pepper the shrimp might have a little heat. I could throw some sweetness at the shrimp to keep things in balance. Plums! Something I had on hand to eat which would work nicely here. A plum and onion compote is where I landed.

Plum & Onion Compote

3 purple plums, cut into ½ cubes
½ medium onion, chopped
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
¼ cup of water
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 oz spiced simple syrup (2x syrup spiced with cinnamon, clove and allspice)
1 tsp rice vinegar
Additional cinnamon & clove to taste

Using a medium saucepan sauté the onions in the oil over medium heat. Add the plums, water, ginger and garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the coriander, salt, pepper, spiced syrup and vinegar. Mix well. Continue to simmer until the plums are soft but not falling apart. Add additional spices, salt and pepper to taste.

Five Spice Shrimp

30 raw large shrimp, deveined and shells removed
2 tsp Chinese Five Spice
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 tsp garlic paste
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 oz dry white wine

Clean and pat the shrimp dry. Toss the shrimp with the Five Spice, salt and pepper. Allow to sit for 15 minutes. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp and toss to coat with oil. When the shrimp begin to get pink Add the garlic paste and gently mix it in with the shrimp. Add the wine and cook the shrimp through. Immediately remove them from the heat and the pan to prevent overcooking.

For the plating I placed the shrimp overtop the plum/onion compote. The broccoli was steamed using a bamboo steamer and the couscous was the handy boxed kind found in the rice section of your local grocery. We generally season our broccoli with spray butter (Smart Balance to I Can’t Believe It’s Not) and grated parmesan cheese, although that isn’t shown in the photo.

I paired the meal with the 2009 Viognier that I used to cook the shrimp. This particular wine was not as aromatic as I had hoped, but in its later age and mellowing the flavors have come out a bit. It is a great middle of the road wine for a dish that isn’t very rich, spicy or complex.



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sparkling Cocktails for New Year’s Celebrating

When I say champagne cocktails most non-cocktail nerds think mimosas. I like a good mimosa, but somehow I see them as a morning-time drink; a drink fitting for brunch on New Year’s Day. For your New Year’s Eve celebrations I offer three sparkling cocktails that are easy to make and sure to please.

I have experimented with many other champagne and sparkling cocktails in the past including what I called the “Off to the Islands” that I wrote about on Global Champagne Day. A simple blend of St. Germain, brut champagne or sparkling wine and grapefruit bitters, this drink WILL transport you somewhere warm and sunny. The full recipe is at the bottom.

When using bubbly specifically to make cocktails I use inexpensive sparkling wines from outside the Champagne region. The reasons are simple. Firstly, cocktails are blends of flavors and using premium champagne means you won’t be able to taste the premium flavors and are wasting your money. Secondly, using lesser expensive selections mean you can buy more and thus make more cocktails. Once you start making them your fans line up quickly and running out is not something you want to have happen!

I had seen some print ads for Barefoot Sparkling Wine and knew from experience with their other wines that Barefoot offers excellent quality everyday drinking wines for a great value. When you can get them on sale at your local store you will do even better. As luck would have it their sparkling wines have been on sale at my local grocery store in the last two weeks, selling for $8.99 per bottle. Three styles were available to me, a Brut Cuvee, a Moscato Spumante and a sparkling Pinot Grigio. So far we have only popped the Brut. They also make a Rosé Cuvee and an Extra Dry.

Last week I saw a tweet about a sparkling cocktail named the “Jolly Old Elf” at the Celebrations At Home blog. (click for the recipe) The drink contains amaretto, cranberry juice and brut sparkling wine. Not having had the combination of cranberry and amaretto before the drink intrigued me. I bookmarked the link and with a trip to the grocery store already planned after I got off the bus, the bubbly I needed would be in my hot little hands very soon!

The “Jolly Old Elf” is a tasty drink with a luscious combination of fruit and nut flavors. I found I liked a bit more sparkle so using a larger glass worked better for me. Margot was on board with these from the first sip.

In preparation for this post I worked through two other simple sparkling cocktails including a replay of the “Off to the Islands” from above. I can’t get enough of St. Germain and sparkling wine. I think they are some kind of weird non-identical twins seperated at birth. They don't look alike, they don't taste alike, but they make you smile when you see them together.

The third one is a Sparkling Chambord Cocktail jazzed up with some orange bitters. The flavors of berry and citrus blend perfectly with dry sparkling wine. The color of this cocktail is an attractor, a deep purple with columns of small bubbles drifting up from the bottom of the glass.

Any or all of these cocktails will jazz up your New Year’s celebrations. If you normally have a bottle of bubbly waiting for the final stroke of the clock and the debut of the new year, these cocktails will be a nice warm up. In my experience bubbles promote conversation so these types of drinks also work well in mixed groups where not everyone knows each other.

However you imbibe this New Year’s Eve I hope you have lots of fun saying good bye to another year. Whatever you do please be safe. Starting a new year with a calamity from bad drinking choices is definitely never a resolution of mine!



p.s. Before I could even get this posted I got an e-mail from Food & Wine Magazine with a list of champagne cocktails. Most are a bit more elaborate than mine, but if you need more ideas…

{ Recipes }

Off To The Islands

1 oz St. Germain
4 dashes Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters
Barefoot Brut Cuvee Sparkling Wine
Lemon twist

Mix and serve.

Chambord Cocktail

1 oz Chambord
4 dashes Regan's Orange bitters
Barefoot Brut Cuvee Sparkling Wine

Mix and serve.

St-Germain Liqueur

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Am Giving a Scotch Cocktail for Christmas

I bought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red two weeks ago. When I buy scotch I usually go for the single malts and mostly because I am going to sip it with my dad who loves scotch. He actually gave me my first drink of it many years ago. I still remember how surprised everyone was that I didn't hate it. That must have been a sign of things to come!

I bought the JW Red specifically to make cocktails with. There are several very well known scotch cocktails including the Rusty Nail and the Rob Roy. Being the spirits adventurer that I am I felt I needed to pull something together myself; challenging my mixology skills and adding an element of surprise. What I came up with is clearly a twist on a Sazerac using scotch instead of bourbon or rye.

My Little Ginger

3 oz Johnnie Walker Red
1 oz ginger simple syrup
4 dashes Regan's orange bitters
1 ice cube

Mix the scotch and ginger syrup in a rocks glass with one ice cube. Remove the ice and add the bitters, mixing slightly.

The ginger syrup was made by steeping slices of fresh ginger in boiled water. After extracting intense ginger flavor I removed the ginger and used the liquid for a 2x simple syrup.

The balance of spicy, sweet and smoky is excellent. It reminded me of the warmth of a crackling fire with the aromas of Christmas treats in the air. This drink is potent to be sure but I suspect that might be an asset during upcoming family gatherings where the noise and number of people can easily induce headaches!

I wish a very Merry Christmas to my faithful readers!


Ancient Fire Mulled Wine

This mulled wine has it all! Aromas that fill a room, great flavor and lots of warmth for celebrating with family and friends on cold winter days.

Ancient Fire Mulled Wine

1 bottle red wine, good but inexpensive
½ cup water
¼ cup superfine sugar
3 oz brandy
2 large cinnamon sticks
3 cloves
3 allspice berries
2 lemon slices
1 orange slice
3 dashes orange bitters

Boil the water, sugar, spices and citrus and then take it off heat and allow it to steep for ½ hour. Add the wine and slowly reheat to below boiling. Add the brandy and bitters and mix. Strain and serve hot.

This recipe can easily be multiplied and never seems to last long.

Happy Holidays!!!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Local Sips December 19th, 2010

Southern New Hampshire has lots of beverage action these days. I caught two events this past week, a bubbly tasting at The Drinkery and the grand opening of the new space for Moonlight Meadery.

I realized I had a broken camera lens this week and my backup point-and-shoot and other lenses weren’t doing it for me. Lighting also challenged me. While I am learning a lot as a take each new batch of photos, it sure can be frustrating!

A Bubbly Tasting at the Drinkery

Joan at The Drinkery has been lining up events to showcase her inventory and provide opportunities for local makers and distributors to engage her patrons. This past week she lined up five different bubbly’s just in time for holiday entertaining.

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige
This was the only of the lineup I had had before and I never turn down an opportunity to taste some bubbly! This sparkler has flavors of sour green apple with lots of small bubbles.

Gerard Metz Cremant d’Alsace

There was a flavor here that I could place. I conjectured quince and Joan had some quince spread handy for me to compare the flavor with. It wasn’t conclusive. Several of the tasters, myself included, agreed there was some bitter almond in the finish. I had never had a cremant before and I am naively assuming the differences from other sparklers are due to style.

Mumm Napa DVX 2000

This sparkling wine was a real treat. The aromas coming off this glass were truly intriguing. One sip and I realized I was tasting something unique. Fruit flavors were in wonderful balance with vanilla. I also found flavors of buttered toast that I often associate with oaked Chardonnay that I never expected to be there.

G.H. Mumm Brut

This was the only Champagne in the lineup and had well balanced flavors of herbs and citrus. The level of dryness made with think it should be an Extra Brut, but that may have been due to fatigued taste buds.

Petalo Il Vino dell’Amore Proseco

A wonderfully sweet sparkling wine to finish the tasting with. A very perfumed nose and lots of peach flavors made me smile.

Any of these sparklers would serve you well for holiday celebrations. If you live in the Londonderry, NH area and need any of these items be sure and pay Joan a visit at The Drinkery.

Moonlight Meadery Opens in Londonderry

I don’t have a lot of experience with mead so it is with much excitement that I can say a new meadery has opened 3 minutes from my house!

Michael Fairbrother is the proprietor of this new business and based on the information on the web site he has over 15 years of mead-making experience. I also know that he has been a long-time member of Brew Free or Die (BFD) a New Hampshire based home brewing club. Getting to know the members of BFD is on my 2011 agenda.

I popped in during the grand opening of the new space and tasted a couple of meads.

Michael suggested that I try their Sensual, a traditional mead. I found it dry and refreshing with a some nuttiness and a bit of alcohol in the finish. I had heard he makes a pretty mean blueberry mead, named Wild, which reminded me of a light, dry red wine. I am betting it could be paired similarly to a Chianti or a Beaujolais. To cap off my short visit Michael suggested the Desire, made with black currants. I have made black currant influenced wines in the past so I was very excited to try another variation. It smelled like sautéing fruit with plenty of sweetness to go around. This style of mead was the Northeast Regional Homebrew (hosted by BFD) Best in Show winner for 2009. Seems well deserved.

I took home bottles of Desire and Madagascar for future enjoyment. A gift, because he can’t legally sell it yet, of a bottle of a braggit a honey brew made in a Russian Imperial Stout style was included with my purchase. I have already enjoyed this and have to say that the blend of beer and mead ingredients makes for a wonderfully unique experience, one a might have to attempt to recreate.

I also asked Michael if I could contact him in the new year to talk about what he went through to launch his business, something Margot and I have been thinking about for a number of years now.

Check out the Moonlight Meadery web site for the mead lineup, location, hours and special events.



Friday, December 17, 2010

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese w/ a Beer Pairing

Margot is the mac & cheese aficionado in the house. Since college I haven’t been a big consumer of pasta or noodles. No aversion, just a lower than average desire to eat it.

After last weekend’s open house there was leftover cheese. I tend to squirrel this away in the fridge so I can eat it for the next week, but I really didn’t want to do that this time. My first inspiration was mac & cheese in the crock pot. It’s easy and something I could do in parallel with a day of work at home. Margot was quite surprised at the idea, but wasn’t going to turn it down! She actually took the opportunity to the fullest and switched her offering for her holiday pot-luck at work so she could share it with them. I also think getting out of the work of cooking played a part in that decision!

I had a good idea of what would go in it and that I would be keeping it simple. Lots of cheese wrapped around elbow macaroni.

1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked to below done
8 cups shredded/diced assorted cheeses, divided (6/2 of cheddar)
2 cans (24 oz) evaporated milk
3 cups milk
4 eggs
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ tsp dry mustard
Breadcrumbs & paprika for garnish


Coat the inside of the slow cooker with cooking spray. In a large bowl, beat eggs with milks, and spices, pepper and salt. Mix in cooked macaroni and cheeses. Transfer to slow cooker and cook on high for one hour, strirring frequently. Sprinkle remaining 2 C. cheese and turn down to low. Cook for 2-3 hours or until flavor and consistency is as desired. Serve garnished with some paprika and bread crumbs.

Margot has made a similar recipe for me in the past and I have always enjoyed it. The mix of cheese used this time, cheddar (mild and sharp), dill havarti, jalapeno, swiss, parmesan/romano and horseradish, really killed it! The aged cheese flavors are easily accessible and since it wasn’t baked there aren’t any burnt or dried out edges. Margot’s co-workers were happy and my work-time lunch on Thursday caught the attention of a few noses.

On the night I made it I tasted a new beer, the Sam Adams Infinium. Serendipity created a beer paring that I was not expecting to experience.

This newly released beer was made in partnership with the Weihenstephan brewery, the world’s oldest. The goal was the making of a Champagne-like beer using traditional ingredients and processes as approved by a 1516 German beer purity law, the Reinheitsgebot.

The beer is golden/orange in color with sweet yeasty aromas. The carbonation was definitely reminiscent of Champagne with thin columns of small bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass. The flavors of sweet bread are blended together expertly with a nice long finish of malty grains. I enjoyed each sip and could see this style of beer being a great aperitif or a closer for a meal. For everyday drinking it is a beady heady, and at $20 for a 750ml bottle it is pricy, but worth a try. The sweet flavors blended extremely well with the rich cheese and creamy macaroni & cheese. The slight acidity in the mac & cheese was carried along in the finish with the beer extending the pairing. Exceptional!

I hope that made everyone sufficiently hungry. East coast, lunch is on! West Coast, only a few hours to go until you can enjoy some for lunch.



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fifth Annual Holiday Open House

For the past five years we have opened our home for a day in December so friends could come and enjoy some holiday cheer. We consider it the best group gift we could give. With contributions of food and drink from friends (some insist) we also get gifts in addition to the joy of spending the afternoon with people we love. We get the house decorated, holiday music on, all the lights on and we party!

Each year we try to include different elements, whether it is homemade foods, unique beverages, or activities. This way the party never gets stale and the invite is viewed with some anticipation.

This year we decided to focus on beverages and created an activity from one of our ideas. We took the easy road with food so we could focus on socializing and get the most out of our plans.

In my holiday wine advice post I presented a recipe for a mulled red wine. This was new for open houses and it was a hit. I drank the very last glass of it while I was cleaning up. I couldn’t even use the ladle to extract the last bit from the crock-pot meaning my guests had gotten all they could from it. I was so happy. The only tweak to the recipe I made was to add 3 ounces of brandy. I also made a double recipe, requiring two bottles of wine. I used my early bottled (no MLF and limited oak) Chilean Malbec made in May of this year.

The second beverage idea was a holiday beer tasting. Every year breweries all over the world release limited production beers to celebrate the end-of-year holidays. Prior to my research and this tasting I had minimal experience with these seasonal brews. In all of the reading many of the descriptions of the brews intrigued me. The styles span quite a range, with some made merely to celebrate the passing of another year and others representing beers typically consumed during the colder months; with flavors evocative of Christmas. Could I really go wrong?

Some of these beers are not widely available and/or sell out quickly so finding them can be challenge. I lined up the following beers after 6 weeks of searching.

Rogue Yellow Snow
Sierra Nevada Celebration
Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve Ale
Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome
Delerium Noel
Ayinger Celebrator

The order above is the order we tasted them in. I prepared some horseradish cheese and candied pecans to samples with the beers. I always find something to pair add excitement but also helps transition.

( now don't they look happy together! )

A quick break for some food and guest shots.

( Amy's cheese crisps with avocado mousse and roasted red peppers. )

( Ed, Jim, Brian & Margot. Must have been a serious comment about the food... )

( Missy's carefully prepared veggie plate. )

( our tree )

OK, back to the beers.

The overall winner was the Delerium Noel with the Ayinger Celebrator and Sierra Nevada Celebration closely behind. I had more fun than I had hoped and really enjoyed getting to know some new beers. Everyone who tasted had the chance to see what they liked and didn’t, and having had fun at the same time there were no complaints. We are all quite sure Ed does not like hoppy bitter beers!

Here are my notes on the beers:

Rogue Yellow Snow – definitely a golden ale with a nice head and tons of hop aromas. The flavors of citrus were right there for you. It has a bitter finish, but not surprising for an IPA.

Sierra Nevada Celebration – this pours red/orange with a great aroma that isn’t too aggressive. I got great flavors of orange peel, pine and bitter herbs. A bit of spice on the finish.

Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve Ale – this beer has a nice balance of malt and hop flavors with a milder disposition that you might think at first. I didn’t get the spicy flavors I expected, but wasn’t disappointed.

Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome – this is an amber ale with sweet malty flavors and spice that is easy to find. This went down very well.

Delerium Noel – this is a light brown ale with a ton is spiciness and sweetness. Truly makes you think of Christmas. One of the tasters suggested it reminded her of baked beans. This beer is wonderfully balance and shouldn’t last long!

Ayinger Celebrator – this beer is dark brown in color with lots of malty aromas and flavors. It reminded me of Russian Black Bread. The sweetness is there but not beyond beer standards.

( this bottle is so festive! ) 

We didn’t break out the ice shot glasses that I had prepared merely because we didn’t have a second wave that was looking for something new to drink on their way through. We had peppermint schnapps ready to go. Next weekend!

( Melissa and Betsy )

( Wayne & Meredith )

( Andrea and Kristy )

( Paul and Margot )

Everyone who came had lots of fun and some even went home with leftovers!! We had lots of cookies left, but those were shared with Margot’s co-workers.

Cheers to another successful holiday open house!


p.s. I realized when going through the pictures that there weren’t any of me or Margot and I. We failed on that one!

Monday, December 13, 2010

International Blogger Holiday Cookie Recipe Exchange

( it is too early to leave these for Santa, but it sure is a nice idea! )

What foodie doesn’t love a good cookie swap? But how do you do that amongst food bloggers all over the world? You swap recipes and ask each blogger to post their experience with another participants recipe. When I first saw this I immediately thought “that has to be the coolest idea I have seen in some time.” I threw my cookie chops in and a few weeks later received an e-mail from Joanne from Eat’s Well With Others with the recipe for Maple Brown Sugar Cookies.

Maple Brown Sugar Cookies
Makes 24, adapted from Indulgence Cookies

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup soft brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 egg yolk
2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the maple syrup and egg yolk, beating until just combined.
Sift in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and cardamom. Stir with a wooden spoon to form a soft dough.

3. Shape the dough into a flat disk, cover with plastic wrap and put in the freezer for 20-30 minutes or in the refrigerator for at least an hour. (The book tells you to put it in the fridge for 20 minutes. And let me tell you, this was nowhere near enough time. Basically just refrigerate until chilled and slightly hard.)

4. Roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment paper until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 2-inch round cookie cutters. Or if your dough is too soft to do any such thing because you are impatient and refuse to wait until it is cold to work with it. (Not that I would know anything about that.) Roll it into balls and then flatten them slightly with your palm. Place on the prepared sheets 1 1/2 inches apart and bake for 8 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool on the sheets for a minute and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Cookies and I are no strangers and this time of year I always make some and I try to make new and different kinds for a little holiday fun. Last week I posted about making cookies with my Mom, something she and I had done quite a bit since I got interested in cooking. I can recall marathon cookie-making days in preparation for swaps that had so many participants we had to bring boxes to cart our haul home. We would end up with so many cookies I swear we could have fed an invading army!

These cookies are spicy, but the cardomom offers a twist that makes them much less like a Snickerdoodle than you might think. The rooty, earthy flavors from the maple syrup makes a New Englander real happy.

For a second serving of the cookies I went with a twist, ice cream sandwiches! I used pairs of the cookies, vanilla ice cream and Demerara sugar to create a treat for a holiday dinner with friends. The sugar was dusted over the edges of sandwiches before letting them rest in the freezer for 20 minutes before serving.

Another holiday season and another successful cookie swap. Lori from Fake Food Free (the organizer of the exchange) was my recipe recipient and posted the story I shared and her experience with my Mom’s recipe for Russian Teacakes last week. I read the post to my Mom while I was down for a visit. She laughed when I said that her recipe and story were making her famous on the Internet. I could tell she was happy and that made the experience complete.

I hope you are taking some time to enjoy holiday foods this year. If you try something new and would like to spread the word, let me know. I’m always up for trying new holiday treats!



The BostonBrunchers Land a KO with KO Catering & Pies

I was one of the lucky winners of 7 spots for brunch at KO Catering & Pies this past Saturday. There were several exciting aspects to this occasion for me including meeting new-to-me Boston food bloggers and getting to eat food from KO again.

KO has a small space designed for take-out on A street in South Boston. The kitchen space also functions as their base for catering and a truck that will be opening in 2011.

Our host Kara greeted us all as we arrived. KO had prepared a table for us to enjoy our brunch at with favors (Tim Tams!) for each of us to take home. We are invited to order anything off of the “Brekky” menu, which was complimentary for our event, with several special treats planned as well. We’ll get back to the food in a moment.

( these plastic Oragami-looking birds above our head was a nice decorating element )

This week I met my first Boston-area food bloggers. Only being in the city three days a week for work affords fewer opportunities than I would like. Connecting with a community of folks dedicating their time to food and beverage topics like I do is a key step in broadening my experiences, sharing my own and keeping the blog rolling. At this event I met Katie, Athena, Daisy, Rachel, Elizabeth, Kimmy, and our BostonBrunchers host Renee.

You can’t go wrong with a gang like this! The conversation ranged from what Vegemite is to whether you would trade a dishwasher for a washer & dryer in a typically small Boston apartment to dogs snoring at night to where to get a great burger in town. That’s a lot of ground to cover. Thank you to Renee for organizing and it was so exciting to meet everyone, something that seemed to be shared by all.

Kara indicated that our first special treat would be Vegemite on sourdough toast. I knew of Vegemite, a yeast extract spread, but had never had it. Some research ahead of time yielded the knowledge that Vegemite was originally made from spent brewer’s yeast and blended with spices to produce what has become a staple of Australians. I was prepared that it would be very salty and that stereotypically Americans don’t like it. Interesting.

( looks can be deceiving, but not this time. )

( I forgot to buy some, but I'll be heading back! )

The most straigtforward way I can describe it is that it tastes like very salty beef gravy. With some butter on sourdough toast it is excellent, and I can’t really see where any dislike would come from; except maybe the saltiness.

Elizabeth ordered the granola and passed it around to share. Kara indicated that they make it on site. It was very sweet and crunchy with what looked like dried cranberries, apples and bananas in it. I could see eating this for breakfast with some vanilla yogurt.

( you can almost taste it... )

I was last to order and at that point the menu had been covered pretty well, except for the Croque Monsieur. Feeling like we shouldn’t leave a man behind I ordered it. Smoked ham and provolone on sourdough bread grilled to a golden brown. The ham was very flavorful and the cheese was melted all over the place ensuring everything in one bite. As some of my readers well know I have a weakness for cheese and bread so getting some more of the sourdough bread was alright by me!!

( looks great doesn't it? )

I took some pics of a few other dishes as they came around. The cold food after photo shoot food blogger joke created some good laughs.

( sweet corn fritter with bacon & avocado )

The final special treat was the sausage rolls. When Margot and I had the KO pies at the Wine Riot in October I don’t recall seeing the sausage rolls on the menu. When I first took a look at the shop menu in anticipation of the brunch I knew I had to try some one way or another. First the photo.

( that will keep you coming back! )

Kara explained that they source the sausage from a local polish butcher and add their own secret blend of herbs and spices wrapping it all in their flaky crust. I hadn’t yet heard anything that would change my mind. The texture of the sausage was wonderful, so soft and yielding. The spice blend was balanced nicely and the finish with the crust surely made me happy.
A final act of sampling was set in motion with the order (Elizabeth again who has a self-professed sweet tooth) of one serving of the Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream. I had one small bit of this and it was amazing. I might come back for just this sometime! It had lots of flavors going on and was warm and sweet. A great way to finish a fantastic meal.

( it looks so good and it follows through! )

Australians definitely have a sense of humor. As evidence I offer the caption below the clock showing the local time hanging on the wall. Pie time!!

There was a flurry of activity at the register before we all headed off to our respective next destinations. I ordered four pies and two sausage rolls to bring home for future enjoyment. I felt like I need a security guard to keep my treasures safe!

I took a few shots of treats waiting in the warmer. If this doesn’t make you hungry you might want to check your pulse.

I am looking forward to future opportunities to go out with the Boston Brunchers. Monthly events are being planned and the mix of faces at each event will likely change so there should be something new for everyone in the coming months. You can follow the group on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with what is going on and when the next chance to win a spot will be.

A huge thank you is must for KO Catering & Pies. Both Kara and Sam took great care of us on Saturday morning. Much thanks also goes out to Renee for organizing the event. She was talking about logos and the web site for the group during brunch. Hardcore!

( the BostonBrunchers at KO. photo thanks to Kimmy. )

You see lots of smiles and from the wrap-up above I am confident this should be no surprise. I enjoyed my time with the Boston Brunchers and hope some of my readers will check out KO Catering & Pies when they have the chance.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Making Holiday Cookies with Mom

The weekend before Thanksgiving my father found himself in the hospital and as a result my parents didn’t make it up to VT. My mother and I had planned to do some holiday baking during that trip, something we both look forward to and especially when we get the chance to team up. Margot and I went as planned and I cooked the pies for our holiday enjoyment.

Fast forward a few weeks later. Dad is quickly recovering from bypass surgery and I visited today to check in and spend some time with my parents. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my mother had planned to make cookies while I worked. I had my camera with me so this made for a great opportunity for an unexpected post.

My mother subscribes to the e-mail newsletter of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. The daily recipe sent to subscribers on December 4th was for Scotch Rosemary Biscuit Cookies created by Andrea Newberry of the Forkable blog.

The recipe is intriguing for a couple of reasons. First off, it contains scotch. I haven’t baked with scotch before so I didn’t really know how much or little of the smoky flavor from the scotch would come through. Secondly, rosemary. Our friend Amy made rosemary shortbread cookies earlier this year, something that was new for me. I have to admit I ate way too many of them, but the rosemary flavors wrapped in butter and sugar were just too much.

The cookies came out fantastically and I have a nice satchel of them to take home. They aren’t going to last long! I couldn't detect any remnants of the scotch, but the rosemary flavor can't be missed. The coarsely grated parmesan cheese creates a chewy texture that really brings these cookies together.

I am participating in the International Blogger Holiday Cookie Recipe Exchange this month. I’ll be posting the recipe I was assigned early next week. The recipient of my recipe, Lori from Fake Food Free, posted her recreation of the recipe and the story I sent along with it yesterday. As you can see there is a history with my mom, me and cookies!



Celebrating Christmas 1912 at Hildene

( Hildene, restored and cared for by local volunteers )

A quick bit of background. I have been travelling to southern Vermont for summer and weekend trips since I was kid. More recently my family purchased a vacation home that draws family members up there year-round.

Hildene, the estate of Robert Todd Lincoln, is located in Manchester Center, Vermont.

Spending more time up in VT inevitably results in explorations of the surrounding areas to find outdoor activities, tourist attractions and cultural events. A few years back my mother visited Hildene, shared the history and related how beautiful the house (mansion) and grounds were. I figured we’d get there eventually.

We spent the past weekend up at the house again with some holiday baking on our To Do list. With some time to spare I got to looking for holiday themed activities that we could check out while we were there. As luck would have it the holiday celebration at Hildene was kicking off this weekend. This meant the house would be decorated and there would be music and activities at the welcome center.

When you arrive at the welcome center you are met with a couple of options for tours. We went with the self-guided house an grounds tour. You start with a short video that lays out the history of Hildene and a little bit about Robert Todd Lincoln, the only child of Abraham and Mary Lincoln to survive into adult-hood. The key point I took away from the video was that when visiting the Manchester area as a child Robert was taken by the natural beauty of the mountains and river valleys; making it known he wished to build a home there one day. Those are some big dreams.

As luck would have it his life, and all of its twists and turns, brought him into the association of a family who lived in Manchester, Vermont. This association helped him locate a 500 acre parcel of land he eventually purchased for what would become Hildene. Aside: the wealth required to take on this project came from several sources including his tenure as the president of the Pullman Rail Car company.

The house and grounds are absolutely beautiful. This time of year the outside is trimmed back and cleaned of leaf debris. If you close your eyes you can imagine what it might look like in the spring or summer. A return trip specifically to see the cutting and kitchen gardens is planned for next year.

( cutting and kitchen garden )

We entered the home through the main entrance right off the driveway. The smell of pine wreaths was a welcome aroma. We were greeted by one of the many energetic volunteers who invited us to explore the public spaces as we chose. He also explained the new exhibit available upstairs focused on the second inaugural of Abraham Lincoln. The joke about Robert Todd Lincoln’s father being of some minor import to American History was a good laugh.

Based on the way we decorate for holidays today Christmas in 1912 would seem rather spartan. The tree was plainly decorated, and the style of tree called back to a time before commercialized trees designed for visual appeal with dense clusters of needles on full branches. Less is more! Each of the rooms , except for the kitchen and pantry, had some form of holiday decorations presented including mantle-pieces, wreaths, candelabras and bows. It reminded me of my grandmother’s house during this time of year when I was a child.

I found the kitchen and pantry spaces intriguing. The large cast iron stove and cooktop looks like it would be a lot of fun to experiment with! Some of the gadgets look pretty high-tech for their era and were no doubt made possible by the family’s success.

The entire house was constructed in such a way to allow the staff to quietly and efficiently serve residents and guests. Right off of the foyer was a staircase, dumb-waiter and pantry space used by the butler and staff to hide some of the inner workings of the home.

( festive entryway )

( 1912 Christmas tree )

( the library )

( cast iron cooktop )

( the dining room with your patron looking over you )

( the desk of Mr. Lincoln's secretary )

( the parlor and some Christmas music )

The views from most of the rooms were incredible as expected. Knowing this area for as long as I have it is no surprise that its majesty made such an impression on Robert Todd Lincoln and his family. The last picture is a side view of the house and the new snow line on the Equinox mountain range.