spring break

cold but cheerful

Last week for spring break we flew out to Kansas City for a family visit, so I had hoped to come home with a pile of food photos to share. Unfortunately a number of things came up that limited our excursions.

fending off starvation

The low point culinarily was probably when I was standing in a hospital cafeteria that hadn’t opened yet for the evening, staring at the vending machine options and weighing the pros and cons of an expensive packet of peanut butter crackers or, frighteningly, a cheeseburger. Yes, a vending machine cheeseburger. No, I was too chicken to try it. I ate the crackers. Continue reading

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weird weekend

ambience

Our fourth of July weekend was more than a little odd, which is why I haven’t quite pulled myself together enough to post on what we ate.

It all started with a birthday party…

the festive board

birthday canoe

the last checkerboard cake?

My grandfather was turning 98, so of course we had a party. Strawberries have just come in like gangbusters in our area, so we brought a flat, and my mother made yogurt cake and a checkerboard layer cake. It was all very festive and tasty. There were many relatives.

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Portland roundup (long)

view from the train

We got out of town last week and took the train down to Portland for a little vacation, just in time for a massive heat wave. Despite broken-down buses (one overheated and died on the Burnside Bridge – fun!), blisters, short tempers and heat exhaustion, we managed to have a great time and eat quite a lot of food. Also, it was an excellent weekend for sitting in the shade drinking beer, so we made sure to do plenty of that. We started at the Hedge House.

Hedge House

Hedge House

And we had to go to Pok Pok, of course. We have occasionally considered eating here every single night we spend in Portland. One of these trips…

Pok Pok

Pok Pok

Pok Pok

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Zuni

Zuni Cafe

I’ve been wanting to visit the Zuni Cafe for years, ever since I first got my hands on Judy Rodgers’ cookbook of the same name. Her food is homey, yet elegant, and the book is a wonderful instruction manual for the slightly ambitious home cook. So imagine how pleased I was when, as we were driving through San Francisco, my brother-in-law mentioned that we would be driving right by Zuni. We decided to stop in, just on the off chance there might be a table, and there was!

Zuni Cafe

Our table was right by the wood fired oven with a view into the kitchen, something I rather enjoy. I loved the big stack of firewood, the odd shapes of the tables allowing them to squeeze into strange spaces dictated by the old building’s shape, and the cool artwork. The rooms were airy and the bar looked fabulous.

Zuni Cafe

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market day in the city

San Francisco!

One day is hardly enough time to spend in San Francisco, but it’s better than nothing.

Ferry Building

I particularly wanted to visit the famed Ferry Plaza farmer’s market on this trip, after reading other people’s accounts. My main destination was Rancho Gordo, Steve Sando’s heirloom bean company I’ve heard so much about. I have eaten their beans once, actually – Steve donated beans to Duckfest for our cassoulet, and they were, indeed, wonderful. I’ve been considering ordering some, but I hate paying for shipping, so this was a golden opportunity.

touching beans

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Santa Cruz wet wine walk

rainy day

The last time we visited my brother-in-law, we had to drive to get to the local wineries. Up into the hills, usually, on windy roads designed to get the casual tourist completely lost. And many of the Central Coast wineries weren’t open to the public, anyway. This has all changed with the advent of the Swift Street Courtyard complex, now home to at least six different wine tasting rooms and a brewery. Part of the same complex that houses Kelly’s French Bakery (and a number of other shops), this is a wildly accessible arrangement for a person wanting to taste as much Santa Cruz wine as possible. Which we did.

And thanks to everything being so close together, it can all be done on foot even in a pouring rain. Which it was.

Bonny Doon

Bonny Doon

Our first stop was Bonny Doon. Their new space is very spiffy, with a long curving bar and tables set into gigantic barrels, with melted wine bottles for lamps. They had two tasting flights on offer, a regular and a reserve, so we bought one each and figured we’d share. The woman pouring for us took it upon herself to switch around the order of the wines so our two flights would overlap in the most enjoyable manner. We ended up with an exciting spread of bottles in front of us.

Bonny Doon

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Clara

Clara

This week’s Caturday is brought to you by Clara, our cat-in-law. She’s a pretty thing, a bit round these days, but not as pear shaped as our own gray Stella. She has  gorgeous eyes,  loves chasing a laser pointer bug, and has her people firmly wrapped around her paw. She likes to sit in the kitchen sink.

pale green eye

coffee & toast

the surfer's dog

We’re back from (partly) sunny California! Spring break is over, we’re back at work and looking at a rather involved couple of weeks ahead. I want to do a few posts on some food highlights, but in the meantime you’re welcome to keep an eye on my Flickr stream for photos as I get them loaded in.

We were visiting my husband’s brother in Santa Cruz. The house is fabulously located less than a mile from the seashore, and just a few blocks from a pizzeria, a good grocery, a large collection of wine tasting rooms (more on those later) and a great bakery and cafe. On the first morning of our visit, we discovered that most of the breakfast goods in the house had almonds in them, so off to Kelly’s French Bakery we went.

Kelly's French Bakery

I’m happy to report that Kelly’s makes a very nice cappuccino. I promised a coworker that I would drink a cappuccino in Santa Cruz for her, which is the sort of mission I take very seriously.

Kelly's French Bakery

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Duckfest, day two

watering the ducks

On the second day, we slaughtered ducks.

Or, to be more precise, some of us slaughtered ducks, and we all plucked, butchered and ate them.

As you might expect, there are some slightly graphic photos in this post (although I left out the worst ones) so proceed at your own risk.

misty meadow

The day began cool and misty.

making bagels

fresh bagels

Friday breakfast at Duckfest

We met at the farm for strong coffee and vast quantities of freshly made bagels with homemade butter and smoked salmon. The bagels were fantastic – Neal’s wife is an amazing baker.

in our uniforms

Garbing ourselves in fetching outfits and accompanied by extremely excited farm dogs, we went out to the duck shed and listened to Neal expound on the finer points of humane slaughter.

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Duckfest 2010 (day one)

soon to be confit

Despite growing up around livestock (my family raised dairy goats, chickens, ducks, pigs, sheep and rabbits at various times), I’ve never had much to do with the process of turning a live animal into food. I’m not particularly bothered by the idea of eating animals, as long as they are raised well and killed humanely. All of our food comes from other living things, whether plant or animal. However, it’s a little different when you’ve met the animal you are going to eat, and even more so when you are present at, or responsible for, its death.

Jon and I have been buying more and more of our meat locally, and currently have pork, beef and lamb in our freezer from Skagit and Snohomish County farmers. We haven’t yet found a good source for chickens or ducks, but we’re working on it. But the more we buy whole animals straight from the farm, the more we realize how little we know about actual slaughter and butchering practices, and how to get the most from an animal. I don’t picture us raising animals for meat (not on our current property, anyway), but I really feel that knowing our meat from the ground up makes us better cooks.

Duckfest

Hence Duckfest, a workshop designed for just this sort of situation. We spent the first weekend of 2010 on Shaw Island in Puget Sound, learning to slaughter, butcher and cook ducks. The class was put on by chef and farmer Neal Foley, aka Podchef, and by chef, teacher and author Kate Hill, who graciously came out from her farm and cooking school in Gascony to demonstrate cassoulet and confit making. I love her book (sadly out of print at the moment), and I’ve been wanting to visit her school for a long time, so this was a wonderful opportunity – a taste of France just a few miles from our house!

time to start cooking

The workshop lasted three days. We ate a vast amount of amazing food and took far too many pictures, so to spare my patient readers I’ll be writing it up in three installments. Here is day one (Cassoulet):

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