Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Good Thing About the Rain ...

... is that it makes terrific waterfalls right in your backyard! See you soon, sunshine.

Cheese Fest

One might hear "artisan cheese festival" and think, "that sounds like a fun thing to go to." I hear it and think my heart may stop from sheer bliss.

Being stuck in a room with several hundred fellow cheese nerds, all celebrating the most perfect food known to man? Yep, it was rough.

Here I am holding a plate of butternut squash pudding with bruleed Redwood Hills Crottin. Technically, I was on the job. But I still managed to sample some of the goods- for purposes of quality control, of course.

In between plating, I gobbled down an asparagus and blood orange salad from Harvest Moon Cafe in Sonoma, featuring Laura Chenel's Chevre.

And right after that I sampled a bit of everything from the cheese buffet. Don't be fooled by the flower arrangements. Behind those breadsticks were dozens of platters of artisanal cheeses. I can die a happy woman.

I hope to see you there next year, unless, of course, you have an issue with goat cheese. Or are lactose intolerant.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Clay Pot

Even though technically I'm a professional chef, I'm often let off the hook in the kitchen. It helps a lot having friends and family who love to cook.

Here's what I came home to the other night.

Bear found this terrific clay pot at Goodwill to go with his vintage cookbook full of clay pot recipes. It's very similar to a dutch oven or crockpot, except the clay pot is put into the oven cold. I know, it sounds weird. And a little too 70s fad-ish, at first glance. But now I'm a believer. It's an awesome and easy way to cook for cold nights like these.

Because the clay is porous, it's crucial it is thoroughly soaked in water for 30 minutes before the ingredients are added to it.

This recipe was a Bear original- lamb shoulder with fennel, potatoes, onion and squash. The best part is the meat and the veggies cook perfectly together, even though they traditionally cook at different times and temperatures. The moisture retained in the pot keeps everything juicy and tender. Just add a little water or stock to the bottom before you put it in the oven.

This cooked at 450 for about 45 minutes or so.

It turned out great, don't you think?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cool Site for the Sciencey Type

I recently got turned onto the site Cooking for Engineers. A friend of mine recommended it, and since he works with scientists, I figured I'd check it out. It's great!

I've always been much more in touch with the creative side of my brain than the analytical, but this is good insight for me. My forte is pastry, but it is all chemistry, and this lady didn't do so well in that class. Now I have a resource to help me catch up!

Check it out here. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Good Read

Part of being a ravenous woman is having an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, if not through personal experience, then through books.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson has been on my list for ages now, and I'm delighted to have come across it in the library at just the right time to read it. Bryson shares his experience hiking the Appalachian Trail using the perfect mix of dry wit and appreciation for nature. Can you imagine hiking from Maine to Georgia? I will never complain about parking around the corner again.

This book made me nostalgic for my brief foray living in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts a few years back. The trail cuts through my then-neighboring town, and I hiked it one day, but quit after just a couple hours. I worked with a guy who hiked the trails entirety, and I regret that I never got the chance to sit down and talk with him about his adventures.

East Coast hikes feel so different from the west coast mostly in the smell. As trite as that sounds, it feels foreign to me now to hike in a place where I don't smell redwood or eucalyptus. I was happy to revisit New England through this book, and feel compelled to add some more of the Appalachian Trail under my boots one day.

Go here to learn more and show support for the trail. And read some Bill Bryson, he rules!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Meeting the One(s)

They say good things come to those who wait. I hoped and prayed, and waited a lifetime for the right one(s). And I found it. The perfect pair of cowboy boots that was made for me by heavenly design. And on consignment!

Ladies, never settle. When you find it, you just know.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Visit to the Goat Farm

I can not imagine a better post for the first day of spring. One of Bear's friends runs a goat farm where the mamas just had babies. We got an invitation to meet the little rascals, so now I'd like for you to meet them. Hope you can handle the ridiculous level of cuteness.

This is me holding Teacup. Why is the littlest one always the cutest? I tried not to play favorites, but just couldn't help myself. Can you spot Teacup in each photo?

My biological clock is ticking. Who needs real babies? I was born to be a goat mama.

Happy spring!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What Every Kitchen on a Sunday Morning Should Look Like

To me, this is what a Sunday morning should look like. After sleeping in late and having a big cup of coffee.

I'm making pancakes and I'm going big. That means with blueberries AND chocolate chips. Or chunks, in this case.

My friend turned me on to some quality maple syrup from Coombs Family Farms. Their site even includes instructions for how to tap a maple tree. (Perhaps that will be a project for another Sunday.)

What does your Sunday look like?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Remembrance of Mushrooms Past

There's nothing I love more than the changing of the seasons, but this rain has got to go! It's been a lazy day for me hiding in my cozy cabin and trying to deal with the confusion that is daylight savings time. Anyone else felt a little off the last couple days? Anyone?

I usually like the rain, but I'm ready for spring and sunshine. It does make me nostalgic for the beginning of the rainy season, when the mushrooms start appearing on the beautiful dry days in between. So I'll take the opportunity to post pics from a mushroom hunt I did on one of those days a few months ago.

Just make sure you don't go mushroom hunting without an expert. There are hundreds of wild edible mushrooms in Northern California alone, a ton of which have deadly look-a-likes. I've gone with a couple experts who have years of experience, and about half the mushrooms we see are unfamiliar. As the Sonoma County Mycological Association says, "when in doubt, throw it out!"

Not sure what this one was, but check out those gills!

This was so cool, and the most vibrant shade of red I think I've ever seen in nature. Couldn't find a name after an extensive internet search. Makes me have so much respect for the research involved in serious identifying!

The days of mushroom season are long gone, but the rain has me excited for what's going to pop up next. Perhaps some wildflower hunting is in order soon.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Another Fun Beach Video

Here's a good way to pester clams living on the shore. Makes me excited to go clam digging!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shell to Bait

I realize I didn't explain much in the way of baiting a hook for fish. This is just a hair more complicated than sticking a worm on a hook, but I took a video of Bear opening a giant mussel for fish bait. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fishing, Take 1

This weekend, I went fishing for the first time since I was eight. It was awesome. Bear knows all the great spots along the coast and had the gear and know-how, so I rolled up my sleeves and put my best fish-catching face on.

Here's me holding the bait- isn't it the biggest mussel you've ever seen?

We couldn't have asked for a clearer day. Even if this starfish wasn't poking up to say hello, I would have been able to see him hiding in the kelp.
Here's our bait, ready to get hooked:

Bear slices a piece off and hooks it.

Here's what happens when you get over confident with casting your line:

Jellyfish. Can you see it?

Fishing requires a lot of patience. Like when you're waiting for a tug on the line, don't get too caught up with distractions.

If you do catch something, listen to the ranger and throw it back if it doesn't meet the proper measurements. These folks were bummed to get busted on too-small crabs.

Yep, I tried not to get too distracted while I set down my pole to explore.

A tiny crab tries to squeeze into his newfound home.

In the end, Bear pulled up a starfish, but we didn't catch any fish this time around. I need more work on my casting anyway.

Monday, March 7, 2011

New York Highlights

Though it's been weeks since my trip to New York to celebrate my 30th, I am only now feeling like I've recovered ... and it occurred to me I haven't shared photos! Here are some of the highlights beyond the epic new haircut.

View from the air:

Having brunch in Brooklyn with my lovely Brandy:

Brandy shows us her stuff:

Out at the Levee, a Williamsburg staple:

With my long-time roomie and bestie, Bessie:

In Carroll Gardens with old friends Frank and Abe:

Enjoying a midnight spread of junky bar food:

At an art opening for Bessie's friend, who had a window display on 53rd through Chashama.

Brandy cut her hair, too.

I didn't want the trip to end, but it simply had to. Since I've already seen most of the sights over the years I lived in Brooklyn, this trip was mostly about seeing friends, drinking coffee and eating as much pizza as possible. Next time, my place in California!

When was the last time you visited a place you used to call home? Was it nostalgic, bittersweet, happy, sad? Share your experience in the comments below!