Archive for ‘Pretty Pics’

July 29, 2013

Do’s and Don’ts of An Amazing Alaska Adventure

I’ll admit upfront that this post is going to be mostly about the do’s of an Amazing Alaska Adventure. (And yes, I know that apostrophe is completely unnecessary and ungrammatical, but you try writing that phrase without it.)

As I was saying, we didn’t really find many don’ts on this trip. It was amazing. Beautiful. Breathtaking. And, likely, once in a lifetime. So, let’s start with the most important.

DO..

go.

Really, I can’t say it much more simply than that. Get off the couch. Do whatever you have to do to earn a few extra dollars (stick to the legal stuff, please) and plan an amazing Alaskan adventure of your own.  You won’t be sorry.

You’ll get to see things like this:

The many colors of Polychrome Pass in Denali National Park.

The many colors of Polychrome Pass in Denali National Park.

And do things like this:

That's my daddy...on a glacier.  Yes, we all hiked on a glacier.  Try doing that in Massachusetts!

That’s my daddy…on a glacier. Yes, we all hiked on a glacier. Try doing that in Massachusetts!

And eat things like this:

Yes, you can still get bad seafood in Alaska...but not at 229 Parks near Denali. There, it's all incredible.

Yes, you can still get bad seafood in Alaska…but not at 229 Parks near Denali. There, it’s all incredible.

DO…

rent a house.

Hotels in Alaska can be expensive. They can be boring. They can be disappointing. We rented the Eagles Nest at the Canoe Lake Chalet in Palmer, Alaska.  It was perfect.

Beautiful views at our quiet getaway.  I only wish we'd had more time to spend there!

Beautiful views at our quiet getaway. I only wish we’d had more time to spend there!

We wanted a place that could fit the six of us (me and my guy, my sis and her family) and that had room to park my parents RV. We wanted a place where we could fix meals in a real kitchen, and eat together around a table or two. We wanted a place where we could sit outside.

We got all that…plus the great travel advice of the owner, Geri.

Speaking of which.

DO…

walk on a glacier.

Geri suggested that we drive east from Palmer to hike the Matanuska Glacier. My parents had spotted it on their way out to meet us in Anchorage, but my dad really wasn’t convinced it was worth paying $20 just to walk on some ice.

See…according to that link above, the Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier in Alaska that can be reached by car. The glacier itself is on public land, but the only road leading up to the glacier is private. And the super-smart people who own and (barely) maintain that road know how to make a buck.

Let me tell you, that was the best $20 (per person, less for seniors and kids) we’ve ever spent!

Why?

Look at those smiles!

Look at those smiles!

Kids dig glaciers. Really. Tell a couple of kids from Southern California that they get to spend the afternoon walking around on ice and they’ll immediately stop complaining that their legs are sore from yesterday’s hike. Give them each a ski pole to help keep them from slipping…and, yes, you might want to grab one for yourself as well.

Mmm...glacier water.

Mmm…glacier water.

Glaciers provide their own hydration. No need to carry heavy bottled water! Just bring an empty bottle and fill it up. There’s nothing like drinking the water from a glacier…while walking on the very same glacier. (Just don’t try to drink it a few days later. It’s just not the same.)

Ahhh...yeah. We did not pay attention to this sign, but ignore it at your own risk.

Ahhh…yeah. We did not pay attention to this sign, but ignore it at your own risk.

Glacier = Adventure. Yes, you can pay a guide to take you in. But, just take it easy. Remember ice is more slippery on the way down, so don’t climb up anything you can’t slide down, if necessary. Remember that any stream you cross is likely to get bigger as the day goes on (the glacier is melting in those long Alaskan summer days). And remember not to go anywhere near overhangs, because the ice can give away at any moment.

No, I’m not a glacier climbing expert. These are just the little things we learned in one afternoon on the ice.

DO…

check out the breweries.

No, I’m not a beer expert either. In fact, I really kinda hate beer. But, Alaska has a lot of really cool breweries. We checked out as many as we could. They all had really nice (but different) vibes, awesome food, and wine for me to drink.

Yay for wine!

Yay for wine!

Where did we go?

Glacier Brewhouse

Lunch, Day 1.  Might as well get started right away!

Lunch, Day 1. Might as well get started right away!

This one’s in downtown Anchorage, and it’s definitely the most commercial of the breweries we visited. My dad was worried about finding parking, so we went into the garage at JC Penney’s a few blocks over.  Boy was that an adventure!

My meal was good, but Jerry's was better. You're going to have to read the Boston Globe to hear about that one!

My meal was good, but Jerry’s was better. Stay tuned to the Boston Globe to hear about that one!

The menu was big and the food was great, if a bit expensive, which is pretty standard for Alaska. There was wine on tap…which I always love. As long as I’m going to be paying a crazy markup for wine in a restaurant, I might as well not be paying for the pretty glass bottles as well.

As usual, Jerry got the stout…and I loved it!

He loved it to, but that’s not unusual. Let me restate the crazy bit.

I loved this beer. Like, I wished I hadn’t ordered the wine, so I could drink a whole glass.  That never happens.

Denali Brewing Co.

This one’s in Talkeetna, a crazy little tourist trap of a town on the way to Denali National Park.

This is the scene...everywhere you look.

This is the scene…everywhere you look.

When we arrived, we thought they were holding a street fair. It was difficult to find parking in the little dirt lot and the streets were filled with people. I asked the hostess at Denali Brewing Company’s restaurant, Twister Creek, and she told me that this was pretty normal for the summertime. Nothing happens here during the winter, apparently.

What a beautiful spot!

What a beautiful spot!

We found a seat on their outdoor patio, under the most beautiful streaky-clouded sky I’ve ever seen. The beer drinkers were happy with their beer. I was happy with my wine. (No Karen-approved beers here!)

But, really, for me, it was all about the food.

Whoa. Now that's a burger!

Whoa. Now that’s a burger!

I chose the “I can see Russia burger.” I’m a sucker for a good name.

It had two chili peppers next to the description, so I knew it was going to have a good kick.  In this case, the kick came from horseradish.

Basically, it’s a burger topped with coleslaw and Russian dressing spiked with horseradish on a sourdough bun. That combo is amazing.

The beef and the bun are where it’s at.  First, the beef. Alaska isn’t known for having great beef. It’s not surprising. I didn’t see one cow during my entire visit. So, Twister Creek takes what may well be less-than-fabulous beef and seasons it up really well. It’s bursting with flavor.

Then, the bun.  Alaska IS known for great sourdough. Just think…those miners had to make bread somehow, and live yeast wasn’t gonna be available in cute, little packet form. I could eat those sourdough buns by the dozen. (But then I wouldn’t fit in my airline seat and I’d never be able to come back.  Alaska is awesome in the summer, but I wouldn’t want to go there in the winter!)

49th State Brewing Co.

49th State is one of those super friendly places where you know you could hang out for hours and no one would ever get itchy for you to leave. There’s lots of cozy seating inside and big picnic benches outside. There’s an indoor fireplace for those cool evenings. And a big board of beers on tap over the bar.

Sadly, our bartender called that board the “Board of Broken Dreams” because it so often doesn’t actually reflect the beers on tap.  Our bartender was cool.

What a friendly smile!

What a friendly smile!

We didn’t eat, and I don’t drink beer. So, my sister Darla is going to have to do the bulk of the reviewing on this one.

Darla got the sampler. It came in a cool, Alaska shaped tray.

This is the tray after she was done, just so you can tell she did a thorough job!

This is the tray after she was done, just so you can tell she did a thorough job!

Now, you don’t get to choose the beers in your sampler. You get what they give you. I was not on top of things enough to keep track of which beers Darla sampled or even what order she sampled them in. But, here are her thoughts.

I think Darla's got a future in this reviewing business, don't you?

I think Darla’s got a future in this reviewing business, don’t you?

The coolest part of 49th State (at least for a no-beer girl like me!) is the bus.

9340146388_9b66ee206f_z

If that bus looks familiar to you, you’ve probably read the book (or seen the movie) Into the Wild. I haven’t done either, so I’ll do my very best to sum up from what I learned on the internet.

Christopher McCandless gave up everything to live in the wilderness. He abandoned his legal name and started calling himself Alexander Supertramp, which should have been the first clue that this was all going to end tragically.

Chris/Alex hitchhiked to Alaska, where he headed off into the wild with completely inadequate supplies. Luckily, he stumbled upon an abandoned bus, which had been outfitted (by hunters, I believe) with a wood stove. He lived inside the bus until he died, approximately 119 days after leaving civilization.

Oh yeah, this looks like a comfy place to spend the summer!

Oh yeah, this looks like a comfy place to spend the summer!

According to a plaque on site, the bus we saw was from the movie. Recently, a hiker died trying to visit the original bus, and so it was deemed advisable to put the movie bus somewhere accessible.

Either that, or it just looks really cool to have a big green bus on your brewery’s t-shirt.  Believe me, I bought one.

Do…

take a boat ride.

Darla was the brains behind this part of the adventure. She wanted to see the glaciers and the wildlife in Prince William Sound. There are plenty of 150+ passenger cruise ships that do this, but we’re not really a cruise ship sort of family.

We haven't even left the harbor yet, and it's already breathtaking!

We haven’t even left the harbor yet, and it’s already breathtaking!

Darla found Epic Charters, a small company that does a whole lot of water taxi service for kayakers. Their boats are built to drive right up to the beach, so we were assured we could get out and walk around on some of the Sound’s most beautiful beaches (and we did!)  Without those cruise ship passengers in the way, we were assured of a clear view.

Surprise! It's another glacier!

Surprise! It’s another glacier!

The highlight of our day was definitely the Surprise glacier, set back in a bag clogged with chunks of ice. Our guide, Ben, drove the boat as close as was safely allowed and we spent the longest time in awe of the beauty in front of us. We listened as the glacier split apart and chunks fell into the ocean, and then we fished some of those smaller chunks back out again.

Pressure...the same force that makes glacier ice appear blue also turns it crystal clear.

Pressure…the same force that makes glacier ice appear blue also turns it crystal clear.

DON’T…

be afraid to try new things.

On our last night in Anchorage, we wanted to go to Yamaya, a sushi restaurant “Alaska Bob” had told Jerry about.  “Alaska Bob” used to work and live in Alaska, so he knows what he’s talking about.

He said that the restaurant wouldn’t look like much from the outside, and he was right.  From the front, I was pretty sure it was abandoned!

Does this look like the best sushi restaurant in Alaska to you?

Does this look like the best sushi restaurant in Alaska to you?

Inside, the restaurant is small and humble, with just three long, family-style tables. A sign on the wall warns parties of 3 or more to be patient. That’s because everything is cooked by the owner, and he looks to be about 75 years old.

Jerry and I were psyched. Darla was game. But her hubby and kids weren’t so sure they’d find anything on the menu that they liked. Joe settled on a stir fry, which looked pretty tasty. The kids were told that the’d be eating ramen. The were warned that it wouldn’t look a whole lot like the ramen they eat at home.

What they got looked like this:

To me, this is a beautiful bowl of noodle soup. To an 8 and 10 year old, it might as well have been made by aliens!

To me, this is a beautiful bowl of noodle soup. To an 8 and 10 year old, it might as well have been made by aliens!

I was worried the kids wouldn’t eat, but soon the chef’s wife stopped by our table. The waitress (her granddaughter) had told us that she had made the gyoza by hand, so we complimented her on a job very well done. She joked that those dumplings were the cause of the pains in her shoulder…and her back…and her hip. Soon, we were all laughing.

An even bigger miracle? The kids ate those noodles. They even agreed to take a before and after shot for me.

BEFORE
scared

AFTER
happy

I think these kids have the same reviewer talents as their mom!

DON’T…

bother with Wonder Lake.

Let’s start with the good. I loved Denali National Park. The scenery is breathtaking. The wildlife is abundant. And the crowds are minimal. There’s only really one way in and one way out and that’s on a bus. It keeps the number of visitors inside the park to a reasonable number, and the bus driver is always willing to stop so you can take magnificent photos like this.

Don't you love how I just snuck that in there?

Don’t you love how I just snuck that in there?

Yep. We got engaged in Denali National Park. How could I not think it’s the most beautiful place on the planet?

But, here’s the thing. There’s a whole lot to SEE in Denali National Park, but there’s not much to DO. (Besides get engaged, if you’re super, super lucky.) Our plan had been to ride the bus all the way to Wonder Lake and then get out to hike around for an hour or two.

After 5 1/2 hours on the bus, we finally made it to Wonder Lake.

Proof.

Proof.

And immediately got back onto the bus because we were being attacked by more mosquitos than I’ve ever seen in my life! Our awesome bus driver, Ned, had everyone close up the windows. Then, as we were driving away and leaving the nasty bugs behind he said…

“Wonder Lake. Once you’ve gone, you wonder why you went.”

Did I mention Ned was awesome?

June 25, 2012

CSA: The Sequel

You would think the sheer joy of my new CSA would have worn off a bit, now that we’re deep into the second week. Nope! In fact, I’m more excited than ever.

Bring on the veggies!

Bring on the veggies!

Okay, I don’t really look excited in that pic, but the sun was very bright and it was making me squint. And, although the weather was still tolerable on Tuesday, I think my body knew that the heat wave from hell was on it’s way.

Anyway, I still love, love, love my CSA. When I showed up to pick up my veggies on Tuesday, not only were they NOT wilting from sitting in boxes in the heat, they were being delivered straight from the fields (or some place cool and field-adjacent) by a friendly farm hand!

I realize this could just as easily be a person removing veggies from the bin, but trust me.  This is a veggie deliverer!

I realize this could just as easily be a person removing veggies from the bin, but trust me. This is a veggie deliverer!

This was the first week that pick-your-own began in earnest, and we hit the motherload!

Sugar snap peas, baby!

Sugar snap peas, baby!

Way back in college, my friend Sarah’s mom sent us out in her garden in Maine to pick some peas for lunch. I had never experienced peas straight from the vine and I was under the mistaken impression that I didn’t like peas. Boy was I wrong! When we finally made it back to the kitchen, our bellies were full and our bucket of peas was nearly empty. Sarah’s mom was not impressed, but I was. Fresh peas are yummy!

It's a good thing the farm manager told us that they account for what people will eat in the fields.  One small half-pint per share was not nearly enough!

It’s a good thing the farm manager told us that they account for what people will eat in the fields. One small half-pint per share was not nearly enough!

After the peas, I took on the herbs. I kinda went crazy with herbs. Like, really, really crazy. I got bunches for Erin and myself, but then Erin told me that she didn’t need any herbs. Oops! I sense a huge batch of green goddess salad dressing coming on!

I love the helpful picking and use instructions.  They're a lifesaver for a desert girl like me!

I love the helpful picking and use instructions. They’re a lifesaver for a desert girl like me!

When I got home, I surveyed the bounty: easter egg radishes, garlic scapes, dinosaur kale, white salad turnips, scallions, spinach, kohlrabi, and of course those pretty little sugar snap peas. I also got some cabbage for Erin, but I’m not a huge fan of cabbage, so that was all her.

Don't you just love the look of those radishes?

Don’t you just love the look of those radishes?

I really should have been more logical when picking out this week’s items. I went for what was most exciting to me (like those easter egg radishes, so pretty!) without a lot of thought about what went together. For example, I grabbed radishes and salad turnips, both best served on top of salads.  But I didn’t think to get any lettuce! Grr… Gotta get better at this!

I was on my own for dinner, so I decided to make my now favorite kale recipe.  (Have you tried this yet?  Seriously.  Try it!)  I wanted to dress up some chicken with that leftover garlic scape pesto from last week.  But, remember when I said it was lacking something.  It needed something sweet…something sassy.

Something sundried.

Chicken with garlic scape pesto and sundried tomatoes.  Serious yumminess!

Chicken with garlic scape pesto and sundried tomatoes. Serious yumminess!

Wowza. Another week, another CSA success. Though, I still haven’t figured out how to use those beautiful radishes. Any ideas?

June 4, 2012

Tea Party, Take Two

A little over  a year ago, I started this blog.  Soon after that, I held a tea party.

I love teapots.  I love tea.  And I loooove tea parties.  My girlfriends and I sit around, chatting about our lives, drinking mimosas, and eating mini-foods.  Food is so much better when it’s mini.

Don't we all look happy?  It's the mini foods.  No one can be sad when they're eating mini foods!

Don’t we all look happy? It’s the mini foods. No one can be sad when they’re eating mini foods!

As the day of my party approached, I was having trouble coming up with a menu.  I wanted something different. Something special.  And something mini.  It had to be mini.

One day while taking a little break at work, I came across an article in People magazine that described a luncheon hosted by the Queen and attended by everyone’s favorite “it” girl, Kate.  (Kate was apparently wearing a $2000 pink coat dress made from double crepe wool and was seen chatting with Wills and Harry.)

At this luncheon, the Queen (or rather, her staff) served “new season Windsor lamb with braised potatoes and vegetables.”  Now, I’m not sure what makes a lamb “Windsor”, but whenever I think of eating lamb, I hear adorable bleating noises in my head and picture the cute baby lamb ceramic piece painted by my great grandmother that we used to play with when we were kids.  Lamb is not on my personal menu.

Besides, lamb is not mini.

Luckily, the Queen also served asparagus tartlets, vanilla charlotte and strawberries.  Perfect!

So, our menu:

The Queen’s Asparagus Tartlets
Mini Vanilla “Charlottes”
Strawberries with Mint Whipped Cream
Turkey, Goat Cheese, Raspberry, and Caramelized Onion Pinwheels
Erin’s Cucumber Carpaccio
Erin’s “Healthy” Peanut Butter Balls
Annemarie’s Lemon Bars
And a huge assortment of hummus and chips, cookies, scones, cupcakes, girly drinks and some tea that almost nobody drank.

So much pretty, pretty food.  Who could resist?

So much pretty, pretty food. Who could resist?

A few hours later, I was absolutely stuffed and my recycle bin was overflowing with empty champagne bottles. My furniture was all in the wrong place. And I had a huge pile of leftover goodies in my kitchen. Basically, it was a job well done.

I couldn't resist the bird's eye view of my coffee table.  Amazing, right?

I couldn’t resist the bird’s eye view of my coffee table. Amazing, right?

All washed and ready for next time!

All washed and ready for next time!

I’m making a tweak or two to the Asparagus Tartlets before I’ll share that recipe. So, let’s talk about those Vanilla “Charlottes”, shall we?

I’ll admit. I had to look up the word “charlotte” on google.  Wowza.  Those look difficult.  Turns out, a charlotte is a cake with ladyfingers arranged on the outside and a custard filling on the inside.  They’re often topped with fruit and whipped cream.  They’re gorgeous.  They look difficult.  And they’re definitely not mini.

So, I had to come up with something charlotte-like.  Hence…

Mini Vanilla “Charlottes” with Ladyfinger and Pistachio Crust

1 1/4 cup ladyfingers – crushed in the food processor
1/4 cup finely chopped pistachios
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter – melted
1 – 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk (I used low fat. Why not?)
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla (or one scraped vanilla bean, if you have it!)
Raspberries and whipped cream for garnish

In a small bowl, mix together ladyfingers, pistachios, butter, and sugar.  Press scant 1/2 tablespoon of mixture into each cup of a well greased mini muffin pan.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until golden.  Chill.

Mix together condensed milk, egg yolks, and vanilla.  Spoon on top of cooled crusts.  Bake at 325 for 14 minutes, until mostly set.  Chill one hour.

Remove from fridge at least 5 minutes before plating.  Run a knife along the outer edge of each cake, until it pops out.  Top with whipped cream and a single raspberry.

These are so rich and yummy.  I cooked mine a little dark, but everyone agreed that the unintentional caramelization really added to the flavor.  As you might be able to tell from the photos above, I’ve been practicing my food styling.  Still, my favorite photo of these little beauties was taken in the middle of the tea.  While we were chatting and drinking mimosas, I looked over at the last charlotte on my plate, off set by the mint sprig from my Strawberries and Mint Cream cup and Annemarie’s polka dot dress.  It’s still my favorite.  What do you think?

Messy.  Underexposed.  Not at all styled.  Taken quickly with my iPhone.  Sometimes the best photos take the least amount of work!

Messy. Underexposed. Not at all styled. Taken quickly with my iPhone. Sometimes the best photos take the least amount of work!

May 28, 2012

Instagram Weekend

It started on Friday afternoon. I learned (via Facebook, of course) that the reel-to-reel machines in one of our studios were being retired. Back in the day, we did everything on the reel-to-reels. We’d rack up blank tape on one and edited bits of field sound on the other three. Pop a reporter in the studio and stand back and watch the magic. I was pretty good at mixing to reel-to-reel.

Nowadays it’s all done by computers. The Otaris sit in Studio 2, unloved and unused. So, this weekend they’re being taken away. When I heard that, I had to go down the hall for a last visit. They’re rich, black surface has faded over the years, so I decided to give them their due with a nice retro filter on Instagram.

(These are actually newer than the ones I worked with. By the time we got these, the technology was already on the way out.)

Once you start me Instagramming, it’s hard to make me stop. The next morning, I met some friends on the Esplanade for a picnic. A bee found Jeanne’s flowery blanket and set out to gather some pollen. This time of year, there’s pollen on everything. So, I don’t think the poor thing had a clue that it wasn’t “collecting” on an actual flower!

 

We tried to encourage the bee to find a more traditional source of food. But…let’s not talk about what happened next, okay?

 

On our way back to the car my friend MaryAnn and I saw a butterfly sunning itself on some purple flowers. Pretty!

I think poor MaryAnn was bored as I stood there, snapping shots with my iPhone until the butterfly opened its wings just right.

Sunday morning was a flurry of cooking, cleaning, and prettying up, as I got ready to host a tea party!

Anyone who owns this many teacups should be legally required to throw a tea party at least once a year!

 

I’m working on a post with recipes and stories from the tea party, but in the meantime, I thought I’d make you hungry…

This is the closest I’ve ever come to making up a dessert recipe from scratch. I gotta say…it didn’t suck!

May 7, 2012

Go, Team Radish!

Way back in February, my food writing class took a field trip to Nina Gallant‘s food photography studio in Brighton. We learned all about how to make food look pretty (without using anything weird or inedible), and we got to see Nina and food stylist Meredith in action.  We even got to try out some of the tricks we learned using Nina’s vast collection of props, backdrops, and fabrics.  It was awesome.

Turn around, Nina. You're too pretty to have your back to the camera!

That’s Nina in the flowered shirt. I was apparently too enthralled by what she was saying to actually get a good photo of her from the front!

From Nina we learned the best place to buy props (thrift store, Brimfield antiques fair, and Target), the best way to light food (from behind and to the side), and a little about composition. Meredith showed us some food styling tricks and tools. Oh..and contrary to popular opinion, pros like Nina and Meredith don’t use anything weird to make their photos beautiful. Unless you count mashed potatoes. Sometimes they’ll put a layer of mashed potatoes in the bottom of a bowl to prop up the “real” food.  I’m not sure I’d want to eat something that’s been propped up by mashed potatoes, but it doesn’t freak me out, either.

After a while, Nina set us loose. We were pointed toward a pile of veggies and a closet full of props. Vivian and I choose radishes. Why? Because radishes are cool, of course.

Our plan was to show radishes in their close-to-natural state.  We artfully arranged them on a small cutting board, tried half a dozen napkins and backdrops to liven up the scene, and even sprayed the radishes with water and sprinkled them with salt to try to enhance the shot.  Clearly, I’d need to buy a macro lens to see the benefits of that salt trick.

That top photo is cool. I'm not quite sure where I was going with the others.

After class, I sent the photos to Vivian and she made one of them her backdrop. High praise, if you ask me! I wasn’t totally psyched by our efforts, but I was inspired to take a look at my own prop closet.

Oh…wait. I don’t have a prop closet! So, with $10 in my pocket I took a trip to the thrift store. (And then I spent another $10 at Target.) What do you think of my $20 investment?

I don't know what I'll use that mason jar for, but it was $2.  Who can pass up a miniature $2 mason jar!

I don't know what I'll use that mason jar for, but it was $2. Who can pass up a miniature $2 mason jar!

But, back to the radishes.  When I planted my first (and only) garden, I planted radishes.  It was a strange choice, as the only way I had ever seen radishes served was sliced in a green salad.  My dozen or so radishes were all ready to eat at the same time, and I didn’t know what to do with them.  As I remember correctly, I ate two and let the rest go bad in my fridge.

Gosh, they really are a pretty vegetable, aren't they?

I needed to find a way to give radishes their due. Luckily, for my cookbook review assignment, I choose The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food.

There, on page 28, was the answer to my radish needs. Clearly, this is not my recipe. I don’t feel bad sharing it, as you could find it on the book preview on Amazon.com. But, seriously, after you make this recipe and are amazed by its deliciousness, go out and buy the book. It’s got beautiful pictures, amazing recipes, and some of the best food prose I’ve read this semester. And, believe me, I read a whole lot of food prose this semester!

Ian Knauer: my new food hero!

Ian Knauer: my new food hero!

Radishes with Bacon Butter

4 ounces bacon
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 stick butter
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
4 bunches of radishes (that’s a lot!)

Pulse the bacon in a food processor until it’s chopped up in little pieces. (It’ll look like pure lard at this point, but it’ll all work out in the end.)

Fry the bacon in an iron skillet over medium heat until it’s just starting to brown. (Don’t wait until it’s fully cooked. You’ll end up with charcoal and have to make an emergency grocery story trip at 9:30 at night…not that I would know anything about that!)

Add the caraway seeds and let them sizzle and pop until fragrant. (30 seconds to 1 minute)

Let the bacon mixture cool.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and bacon mixture, bacon fat, salt, pepper, and lemon juice until fluffy, about five minutes.

Fold in shallot and parsley.

Butter and bacon. Bacon and butter. Why didn't I think of this before?

Butter and bacon. Bacon and butter. Why didn't I think of this before?

Dip the radish in the butter and eat. It sounds totally weird, but it’s apparently a French and/or Southern thing. I can’t imagine it with plain butter, but the bacon and caraway seeds play off the pepper of the radish just perfectly. So yummy!

Please, no comments about my wrinkly fingers.  They've been wrinkled since I was 10!

Please, no comments about my wrinkly fingers. They've been wrinkled since I was 10!

Oh, and the recipe says to leave about an inch of the tops on the radishes, I think so people can pick them up. But, then what do they do with the tops? And, a whole radish is somewhat awkward to try to eat.

I’d suggest cutting the radishes into more manageable pieces. They’re still perfectly easy to pick up and dip!

Wow. That's a lot of radishes. Cleaning them and chopping off their tops took forever!

Wow. That's a lot of radishes. Cleaning them and chopping off their tops took forever!

For whatever reason, the book claims that this serves eight. That’s half a bunch of radishes per person. Who eats that many radishes? I served it as an appetizer to 20 and still had leftovers. Luckily, my classmates are creative. They came up with many more ways to use the bacon butter. Some of my favorites?

On an everything bagel.
On a grilled steak.
On a baked potato.
On crackers.
On a spoon. (Yeah, it’s that good!)

 

January 14, 2012

Italia: Roman Holiday

Okay folks, this is it! The final update of my Italy journal. Really. I don’t know what you’re complaining about. It’s not like it’s taken me a long time to get it done. It’s only been three months since I got back! 😉

read more »

Tags:
December 12, 2011

Italia: Lucca and Rome

It seems as if I must begin with two apologies.  First, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to post this update.  It takes a ridiculous amount of time to go through hundreds of photos and some very sketchy iPhone notes and turn it all into something semi-coherent.  Second, I must apologize for how long these updates have become.  Feel free to take breaks while sifting through this monstrosity.  Maybe get yourself a cup of coffee or take a walk around the office between Lucca and Rome?  I’ve never been known for brevity.

Oh, and if you’re just joining us…previous journal entries from my fabulous trip to Tuscany and Rome can be found here, here, here, and here!

read more »

Tags:
November 29, 2011

Italia: San Gimignano and Cortona-ish

My lovely Canadian tour mates got together for a reunion on Saturday.  Sadly, I can’t hop on a plane for Toronto every time I want to sip wine and swap stories about my trip.  Besides, we had the most fantastic seats for the Bruins game that night, and there was wine…though, there’s something really off about drinking wine at a hockey game.

Anyway, I’m sorry I couldn’t swap stories in person, but writing up a few more days from my iPhone journal will just have to do!

read more »

Tags:
November 17, 2011

Italia: Pisa and Perugia (and back to Florence!)

So, I suppose this shouldn’t be shocking.  I signed up for a Photography and Culinary tour of Tuscany because food and photography are two of my favorite things.  They’re not necessarily my two greatest talents.  Just as I’m sure my Chicken in Verde Sauce won’t hold a candle to Dianne’s, my photos aren’t close to being as spectacular as Maureen’s.  She started posting them on her blog recently, and I’m completely jealous.

Who are Dianne and Maureen, you might ask?  They’re two of the lovely ladies on my tour!  I guess I should get back to explaining…

read more »

Tags:
November 10, 2011

Italia: Wandering Florence and Siena

I’m gonna have to step up the speed at which I type this journal.  My nifty iPhone tells me I took these notes 27 days ago, and my memory is starting to fade.  I have this dream that 10 years from now I’m going to sit down and read these blog pages and think, “Wow. That was pretty cool.”

Probably the only thing I’ll actually say 10 years from now will be, “Wow. A blog? What a dork.”

read more »

Tags: