Tuesday, August 19, 2014

the dog street pub; dinner in colonial williamsburg

a saturday in the summer is the best day to visit colonial williamsburg.  yes, there are a lot of people-it is tourist season, but there is also a lot more to see.  the historical village is alive with people in period costume and they are busily re-enacting everyday life as the colonists experienced it.  they are also friendly and will patiently listen to you and answer every question you have for them.  just be prepared for canons to go off-they can scare the crap out of you if you are not watching the performance and are just strolling the nearby gardens...

after a busy day of driving in endless loops looking for a place to live, we wandered back to colonial williamsburg to see the village.  something to keep in mind, you can enter the village freely and wander the streets without buying a ticket.  many of the gardens and exhibits allow you to enter for free as well but to see and experience the entire village, you will need to buy a ticket since many areas require it for entrance.  we had only an hour or so to walk the village and decided to wait to buy tickets on a day that we could truly stay and experience it all.

after spending much of our time just wandering gardens, we ventured back to merchant square and into the dog street pub for what we thought would be a drink in the bar and a chance to cool off and get out of the hot sun. we sat at the bar sipping drinks; a glass of pinot grigio for me and a glass of the founders pale ale nitro for darry.  since we were a bit tired from all of the time spent driving, a little overheated from the hot summer sun and apparently hungry, darry decided to order something to snack on.  we started out with house made hummus.  the lovely presentation of a glass jar and freshly baked croutons was almost too pretty to dig into.  the light, creamy hummus was made with just the right amount of garlic and lemon and was just what we needed to accompany our drinks.

of course, one thing led to another and we stayed for dinner-but don't worry, we went home at a respectable hour and there was no walk of shame...darry has a thing for burgers and the dog street pub did not disappoint him.  the feta and onion stuffed lamb burger was devoured quickly and every burger he has eaten since (he does love burgers) has been compared to it-none have come close.

anyone that knows me, knows of my love for mussels.  these were simmered in a cider and bacon broth.  i ate each and every one and used all of the bread available to soak up the broth.

i think i will like living so close to the bay and the ocean, especially if it means these will be fresh and readily available.

the pub has quite the selection of beer on tap but none is as unique as the "real ale" which the bartender was kind enough to explain.  the brewing process uses traditional ingredients but also includes a second fermentation process in the container.  the ale is only served from a special tap on the bar and this tap does not use the additional carbon dioxide or pass it over cold plates like beer served from a standard tap.  the result is that the ale is a little less carbonated, a little less cold and it likely will have a trace of sediment from the fermentation process in it.  the real ale available on our visit was a legend brown ale and it had a nice deep amber color and a smooth flavor with absolutely no bitterness- a good thing since i am not a beer drinker (as if that wasn't obvious already) but if i had to, i could have easily consumed a 10 ounce imperial half pint.

the two beers, side by side, the real ale on the left and the pale ale on the right.  it was an enjoyable way to start the evening, we look forward to being able to do this again especially as the seasons progress.  the chance to see the colonial village during the different seasons is something i am looking forward to.

many thanks to the bartenders on duty during our visit, they gave us great service and answered all of our questions-even those about where they lived; well, we are trying to find a place to see the menu, and the beer list check out the website.

and one more thing, we were not compensated in any way for this, we paid for our drinks and food ourselves!

Monday, August 18, 2014

farmers market foray; colonial williamsburg

this week, i am posting from colonial williamsburg, the area i will be calling home in the very near future.  hard to believe but after a quick 19 years, darry and i have sold the house and are relocating to williamsburg for his new position.  as part of that transition, i went out there this week to begin the search for a place to live.

part of that process included getting to know the area.  sure, i visited colonial williamsburg as a kid but this is the first time i have done so as an adult.  my father will be proud to know that this time, i truly appreciate the historical aspect of the city and i am looking forward to getting to know all i can about this beautiful place.

during the summer, the historical merchants square is home to a weekly farmers market.  each saturday morning, the street is filled with vendor booths stocked with products ranging from flowers, baked goods, chocolates and produce to meats, cheeses and honey.  if you cannot find it here, it just isn't in season!  be sure to check out the website as it lists the vendors who will be in attendance each week-yes the website is updated weekly, so you can plan your trip in advance if there is a specific item you would like to purchase.  darry and i spent the morning wandering from booth to booth while listening to live music courtesy of a local group of what we assumed were very talented high school students.  the best part about the market, you can purchase wooden nickels, tokens if you will, for $5 each and then spend them all season long at the market-a great idea if you want to stick to a budget or if you happen to pop in at the last minute and are short on cash.  these tokens spend like cash and if your total is less than $5, they will give you change in cash.

having lived in tennessee for a while now, i was a little surprised to see such a small variety of tomatoes.  it seems that the folks in nashville are much more tomato crazy-must be the tomato sandwich that drives it.  only one vendor had cherokee purples-a tomato that darry is completely hooked on, and rightly so!  we settled on a basket of mixed tomatoes to snack on.

i love fresh flowers and was amazed at how many of these bouquets had giant marigolds in them. looks like i will have to plant the monster sized ones in my new garden so that i can put them in bouquets too.  to see them here, look at the blue bucket in the bottom left corner, that was mostly marigolds.

 nothing like fresh berries from the market-just picked and juicy!

apples are coming into season here.  we were going to snap up a few honey crisps but as we approached the booth, they were wiping them off the list because they had already sold out...maybe next time!

 no shortage of freshly picked melons here, love these baskets-they would be great for the garden

this sign made me laugh-embrace new cultures...did someone tell them we are moving here?  trust me, we may be moving a mere 660 miles but it is a whole new world and a completely different place and culture!

did you know that the virginia peninsula which is where williamsburg is located, meets the chesapeake bay making fresh blue crabs and mollusks a truly local product.  the virginia seafood booth in the market sells cooked crabs (without the claws) for a dollar a piece.  while that may seem like a bit of a rip off, the majority of the meat is in the body and as we stood there looking into the cooler, darry's eyes lit up; he had visions of an inexpensive source for crab shells to make bisque and that totally works for me!

and while i am truly sad to be leaving friends, gardens(as well as gardeners) and fellow food bloggers behind, i am comforted to know that my suspicions are correct:  pie fixes everything!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

pennington's icebox cake; a no-bake summer dessert

summer is the season for no-bake desserts.  honestly, who wants to turn the oven on when it is 90+ outside?  while i can say that i am guilty of baking during the heat of summer, having discovered icebox cakes, i will probably think twice, especially since they are so easy to make.  the best part about them is that by simply changing cookies or adding a little something to the layers, you have a whole new dessert each time.

for this version, i used biscoff cookies and pennington's strawberry rye and it was as tasty as it was easy to make.  the hardest part; letting it sit in the fridge long enough for the cookies to soften!
 whip up 2 cups of heavy cream with 2-3 tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla until stiff peaks form.  choose a plate that is completely flat and spread a tiny bit of the whipped cream in the center to act as glue for the cookies.   line up 6 cookies as i did in the photo above and brush them with about a tablespoon of pennington's strawberry rye.  cover the top of the cookies with some of the whipped cream and repeat the process until the entire package of cookies is gone. there should be five layers of six cookies with a thin layer of cream between them.  for those of you that like a lot of cream, go ahead and whip up 3 cups of cream with a 1/4 cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla, the rye amount will remain unchanged; you will need at least 1/3 cup.  if i recall correctly, there will be a couple of cookies left over so just dip them in some additional rye and eat them quickly, i'll never tell...

 it comes together quickly and easily.  the hardest part is waiting until it is soft enough to slice.  refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours so that the cream and the rye will soften the cookies and make  slicing it possible.

 i liked the way the sides looked with all of the layers showing but you could easily whip up another cup of heavy cream and frost the sides of the cake.  use the tip of the spatula to make a zig-zag pattern on the top.  fresh strawberries would be a pretty addition when served.  slice them in half from the top down to make heart shaped garnishes and give each of the guests a shot of pennington's to sip with dessert.

 just to prove my theory, i tried the cake with gingersnaps.  publix supermarkets sells a private labeled gingersnap that is the spiciest snap i have ever eaten.  luckily, the whipped cream tempered the heat.  while the flavors blended nicely, i thought the spice of the snaps overwhelmed the fruity flavor of the rye and honestly, as much as i like gingersnaps, i preferred the biscoff version much better.

twenty minutes of work and five minutes of cleanup equals one tasty icebox cake to serve and savor on a hot summer night!

special thanks to my good friend the food sheriff for sharing a bottle of pennington's strawberry rye with me!  to see the other desserts i made with it, follow these links:
triple chocolate truffle bars
(coming soon)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

strawberry tea-ramisu; a no-bake summer recipe

if you give a pastry chef a bottle of pennington's strawberry rye, chances are she will whip up a dessert.  and if said pastry chef is feeling a little daring, she might just reinvent the classic tiramisu into something totally southern.  guess what, this happened, it really, really happened!

with many thanks to my good friend, the food sheriff, i found myself in possession of some penningtons, strawberry rye and the instructions to "make something!"  have i ever told you that i am good at following instructions?  okay, that is stretching it, a lot, but this time, i did exactly that.

 if you have made a true, classic tiramisu, you know it can be a little intimidating.  zabaglione is one of those recipes that require you to follow instructions carefully for the best results.  but that does not mean that you cannot improvise.  for this recipe, the technique is intact, it is the components that have changed.

the first change came when i decided to replace the espresso with a strong batch of black tea.  this dark tea was combined with the pennington's strawberry rye and a little sugar to make the soaking liquid for the savoiardi.

to further adapt the recipe, the traditionally called for marsala was omitted from the zabaglione and the strawberry rye was used in a one to one switch.  to keep it light and simple, whipped cream was used rather than whipped mascarpone cheese.  the result of these changes is a lovely, creamy whiskey and tea infused dessert that is both simple and sophisticated.

the best type of cookie for this recipe is a true italian savoiardi, a crispy lady finger that soaks up the tea and rye syrup.  finding them in the grocery store can be a challenge but in nashville, i quickly found them at publix.  for best results, make the dessert the day before so that it has time to set and make cutting it into portions for serving.
 strawberry tea-ramisu
1 (8"x 8") pan serving 6-8

1 (7ounce) package of savoiardi 
1 pint fresh strawberries
white chocolate shavings
tea syrup, recipe follows
zabaglione, recipe follows

press plastic wrap into an 8"x 8" dish so that the sides and bottom are covered.  dip a few of the savoiardi into the tea syrup and line them up on the bottom of the dish so that the surface is covered.  carefully spread a third of the zabaglione cream over the top using a small, offset palette knife or a spatula.  place enough tea soaked savoiardi over the top of the cream, going in the opposite direction to completely cover it.  top with another third of the zabaglione cream and spread it out evenly.  repeat the process with the final portion of tea soaked savoiardi and zabaglione cream.  press plastic over the surface and allow it to sit in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.  

to serve the dessert, carefully invert the dessert onto a plate-do not remove the plastic on the cream side, leave it intact for now.  holding the plastic wrap that is lining the bottom of the pan, gently pull the dish away.  remove the plastic wrap that is on the cookie side of the dessert and place a serving dish over the dessert and invert it.  remove the remaining plastic wrap and using the tip of the palette knife to create a swirled design over the top of the dessert.  cut into the desired portions and serve with slices of fresh strawberries and a generous sprinkle of white chocolate shavings.

tea syrup
2 cups water
6 black tea bags, single cup size
3 tablespoons pennington's strawberry rye
1/3 cup sugar

bring the water to a boil over high heat.  add the tea bags and allow the tea to steep for at least 5 minutes and as long as 10 minutes.  remove the tea bags and gently squeeze the liquid out of them and into the pot.  

to make the syrup, measure out 1 1/2 cups of warm tea and combine it with the rye and sugar.  gently mix to dissolve the sugar.  set aside to cool completely.  can be made several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

zabaglione cream 
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup pennington's strawberry rye
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

in a heat proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and rye together.  to create a double boiler, choose a pot that is large enough to allow the bowl to rest over a few inches of water without touching.  over medium-low heat, whisk the mixture continuously until it reaches 135 degrees F.  

pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer with the wire whisk and allow it to whip until it reaches a thick ribbon.  fold in the whipped cream and use immediately.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

savory wheat crackers; a tuesdays with dorie post

after a truly action packed month, i am glad to be back!  the master gardeners chapter i belong to hosts a festival each may and last month, i was the co-chair of the event.  not sure what i was thinking when i agreed to do that-it ruled my life that last few weeks before the big day!  

for the first challenge in june, the tuesdays with dorie bakers chose a simple, savory wheat cracker.  the dough has 3 ingredients; whole wheat flour, water and salt.  a variety of seeds and a spritz of water tops them off.  

 the dough is mixed up quickly in the food processor and then allowed to rest for 30 minutes.

to make thin, crispy crackers, it is necessary to roll the dough out as thin as possible and to roll it out so that it is all the same thickness.  to do this, i used a pair of 1/16" thick dowels.  the dowels prevent the rolling pin from going any further and the result is a consistent thickness throughout the sheet of dough.

so thin!  it was actually pretty easy to roll out the dough.  resting it was the key and lots of flour on the table and the dough helped too.

 i made half of the recipe and cut it into 4 pieces.  each one was cut into a different shape.  for this first sheet, i gave it a sprinkle of nanami togarashi, a japanese pepper blend.

to keep it interesting, i also changed the topping on each sheet of dough.  these were simply sesame seeds.

 because i love everything bagels, these are a combination of poppy, sesame, salt and onion flakes.

 can't go wrong with a sprinkle of salt!  this is pink himalayan salt and i love the way it sparkles.

 they took longer to bake in my oven than the recipe states.  instead of 2-3 minutes, i baked the crackers for 8-10 minutes.  in my opinion, the ones that were dark were the crispiest and the most flavorful.

 the lighter crackers just do not have the crispy crunch a cracker needs.

 the salted sticks are my favorite-especially so since they are also the darkest.

 the spicy japanese pepper blend is a nice addition to the crackers.

 all together in a tin-hopefully, they will stay crispy; a true challenge in the hot and humid south!

to see what the other bakers came up with, be sure to check out the tuesdays with dorie website.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

chocolate chip bundt cake in caroll's garden

sunday mornings are perfect for gardening.  there is a certain sense of peace that the demonstration garden has early in the day which i find comforting.  today i went out to the garden with a chocolate chip bundt cake and spent a few hours weeding the beds and chatting with my fellow master gardeners.
as master gardeners, we spend time preparing gardens for tours and on occasion,  those gardens are our own.  it is a chance to share our most prized possession with fellow gardeners.  this afternoon, i had the pleasure of visiting the garden of one of my fellow demonstration garden volunteers.

caroll has a backyard that consists of a large wooded slope.  the run off that was produced by the paved driveway, the house and the nature of gravity itself was eroding the slope.  over the last 3 years, she has spent countless hours correcting drainage and preventing erosion by building an intricate system consisting of perforated pipes to harvest the water.  the hillside now features beautiful rock walls that help sculpt and terrace the yard which is now home to many mature, shade loving perennial plants.  in a word, the view from the bottom of the slope up to the house, is jaw dropping.  thinking about how many hours she spent just observing the landscape at all times of the day and during each season as well as during heavy rain, leaves me awestruck.

there is nothing she has not considered.  there are features to attract and nurture wildlife and the yard is a certified wildlife habitat.  and because caroll is who she is, there is also a touch of whimsy and that blue bottle tree is just a small taste of all the accent pieces that are scattered throughout the yard.

her selection of plants was carefully considered.  these firepinks "pink coral" (silene virginica) combine beautifully with the native geraniums, cranesbill "tiny monster"

here is caroll leading a tour of the area beyond her yard.  the area is actually woodland that contains a spring which is one of the area's well known "seven springs" which also gives the area it's name and helps form a wetland.  the nearby apple creek feeds into mill creek which is a major part of the watershed in this area and home to an endangered crayfish species.

visitors to the demonstration garden will recognize this guy.  he is a miniature version of jimi tindrix, the tin man who lives in the herb garden.  caroll saved many cans for fellow master gardener shirley, and in return, shirley made a tin man to hang in her garden.

just one of the many views from below looking up at the house.

the bear's breeches were putting on quite the show for us.

the lady herself, in the garden with cake, as it should be.  we all snacked on cake as we walked around the various parts of the garden and listened to caroll tell the story of the garden.

for this part of the garden, caroll had 10 yards of topsoil delivered and she sculpted it to form a level area suitable for sitting and enjoying the landscape.  her plan is to add a fire pit to this area and if you ask me, that would be perfect for cold weather use of the garden.  nothing like a roaring fire to cozy up to and enjoy the evening in the fall.

love the blossoms on the bear's breeches.

chocolate chip bundt cake

1 small bundt cake serving about 12
(or 40 if they are gardeners limiting themselves to tiny slivers of cake...)

2 ounces almond paste, buy the kind in an 8 ounce can and remove it from the can by opening both ends and pushing it through.  cut it into four equal pieces and save the remaining pieces by wrapping them in plastic and storing them in the freezer; thaw it as needed.
1 1/4 cup sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar

preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour an 8 cup bundt pan and set it aside.  place the almond paste and the sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse it to cut up the almond paste.  allow the machine to run so that the almond paste is finely chopped.

add the butter, vanilla, almond extract and the salt and process until a smooth paste is formed.  with the machine running, add the eggs, one at a time and process to combine.  scrape the bowl and run again until the mixture is smooth.  scrape the batter into a mixing bowl.

place the flour and the baking powder into a sifter or a mesh strainer and sift it over the batter.  sprinkle the chocolate chips over the flour and fold the mixture a few times.  drizzle the buttermilk over the batter and fold the mixture together until no streaks of flour remain.

using a large spoon, dollop 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan.  resist the temptation to smooth this out and dust the top of the batter with 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar.  repeat this process once more and then top it all off with the remaining amount of batter.  this time, smooth the batter out so that it is level across the pan-it will bake more evenly this way.

bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack to cool.