Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival Ashland OR

Its been awhile since I have blogged, as I had anticipated it might be.  I have been running around my hometown getting caught up on visiting family and friends and tying up any loose ends before we head back out on to the open road for the next year. 

Over the past 3 years we have gone to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland OR.  It is just an amazing time, year after year it seems to get even better.  Now, I gotta say, I am not Shakespearean proficienato or anything.  In fact, I was actually the kid that used toothpicks to keep my eyes open during my literature classes in school.  This is not that kind of Shakespeare.  This is Shakespeare modernized by super cool hip and very, very, talented and creative people.  It is often very funny and sometimes they even throw in a little hip hop music every now and then.  There are however the "heavier" "tragic" more traditional plays as well, if that is your flavor.  For sure another "must do" if you ever visit Oregon.

Now to the food...We went to a great restaurant  called The Loft at the recommendation of our hotel ( The Palm Cottages ) manager and it was outstanding. Comfort French fusion is what you get here and they know their stuff.  I can often tell if I am going to enjoy my food right off the bat, if the have good bread.  I swear, I could have sat with the lovely bottle of rose' and 10 loaves of that bread and pound of butter, all night. Following that, I had the beet salad with goat cheese hazelnuts with a sherry vinaigrette and my friend Latania had the green butter lettuce salad, with Djion vinaigrette. Both of our salads where amazing as you can see by the pictures.  Then I ordered the special of the evening, braised lamb shank, with herbed polenta, with a port reduction and micro greens. Perfecto! Everything was cooked perfect and all of the flavors were balanced and complimentary to one another.  The herbed polenta was outstanding.  Latania (a vegetarian friend) ordered the truffle scented macaroni gratin...Yes, it was as you can probably imagine, unbelievably good with it's creamy rich truffely perfection! Of course I ordered dessert don't be silly! I ordered the lemon cheesecake and it was also delicious! I am pretty picky about my cheesecake.  I cant stand when it is really heavy and/or dry.  This was moist, light, creaminess, followed with refreshing and very lemony flavor that was outstanding!  Most everything was locally sourced which I really appreciate!

Now you can to drool on your might want to go get a towel.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Local toffee flight

I had a craving for something sweet the other day.  I remembered my mom had given me a box of Oregon Filberts/Hazelnuts when we were in Bend. I have been wanting to make something with them so, no time like the present. (I have always wondered why they have two names. So if you have too here is a link on all you want and need to know about Filberts.
My craving went beyond just sweet I really wanted salty too, and maybe spicy or chocolatey! There is a salt shop called The Meadow Portland that I had just visited so, I was excited to try some of my purchases. How can I combine all of my desires into a one recipe? A toffee flight! I used a basic toffee recipe I found online and made the necessary substitutions to make the flight of 3.

The three toffee were finished with 3 different salts from The Meadow.  I bought the small Meadow package shown in the tins. I added some cayenne and chili powder and Alaska Pure salt to one of the toffees, some local Oregon Dagoba brand chocolate with the Marlborough Flakey Salt to another and lastly was plain with the Sel de I'lle de Re`salt


    1 pound unsalted butter (preferably Plugrá)
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup brown sugar
    1 Tbsp. corn syrup
    1 1/2 to 2 cups raw almonds , chopped finely or ground loosely (with skins on)
    2 tsp. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean (scraped or split so the seeds will come out inside the toffee)
    1 tsp. salt
    Salt for finishing (optional)
    Melted chocolate , for dipping (optional)

Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed pot on stove top. In separate bowl, mix together white sugar, brown sugar and corn syrup, add to melted butter. Add 1/4 cup water. Cook mixture on medium-high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. Using a candy thermometer—most can clip onto the pot—cook until 240°, stirring hard and fast to make sure nothing is sticking to the pan and your toffee doesn't burn. At 240°, add the almonds. At 260°, lower the heat and finish cooking until your candy thermometer reads 300° and reaches the soft ball stage. It should take about 15 to 20 minutes total to reach the 300° mark. The mixture should be a beautiful, bubbly, golden brown color. At 300°, turn off heat immediately.

Add vanilla (if adding vanilla beans, you must fish them out when you pour the toffee before it cools) and add the salt. Stir quickly. Pour the mixture out onto a marble slab that has been greased with butter, or grease 2 rimmed baking sheets (10" x 15" or around that size). Smooth out the toffee to 1/4-inch thickness. After about 5 to 10 minutes, you can score the toffee with a knife in order to break it up later. Using hot water and wiping the knife clean after every slice can help in scoring the toffee. You may now let the mixture cool. When cool, you can sprinkle with a dash of fleur de sel (French sea salt), break them up and wrap them in cellophane or an airtight container to maintain the freshness.

They came out fantastic! My favorite was the one with cayenne and chili. The sweet crunchy nuttiness with a bit of spicy and salt was awesome! I think the toffee envelope cold be pushed farther by adding herbs maybe sage or lavender? I will keep playing and experimenting with these it is easy and tasty!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Oh Portland, you are just the greatstest city ever!

Home again, home again, and I'm doing my jiggity jig! I have to say, I might find it hard to blog very often for the next couple of weeks we have a lot going on.  There are people to see and business to take care of while we are here for the next month.
It is SO nice to know where I am going when driving around town.  I can throw that GPS in the glove box for awhile. I was running all over town yesterday it was so nice to see some of my old favorites!  Made a trip to Voodoo doughnuts, Bernie's Southern Bistro  and Park Kitchen a late evening cocktail and snack with a couple of friends. I will continue to post my pictures and links of cool places. For those food lovers out there who have never been to Portland you should really make an effort to get over here and check out all of the great restaurants.
I am really going to need to make sure I get some exercise while I am here, or we are going to have to get a bigger motor home; because I want to get in every last bite before we hit the road again in August!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Are eggs now designed by NASA?

Happy belated 4th of July all!  I am still in Bend visiting my family.  I had an interesting experience this weekend and wanted to run it by you all.   My mom has a friend that was throwing a little BBQ for the holiday weekend and my mom volunteered me to make deviled eggs.  I love them and have had great reviews over my version, but what a pain in the butt to make; especially for a party that is expecting 25 guests. I don't know if I am just going crazy or if NASA is getting into the incredible edible egg industry, but eggs seem like they are getting harder and harder to peel. The membrane that is between the whites and the shell is like thick space-grade rubber and the shell seems thinner.  It is almost impossible to peel without damaging the outside of the white.  Now, I'm pretty sure I know how to how to make a hard boiled egg and here is what I do...

*Place the eggs (mine organic) in a pot and cover with about 2" of water.  Bring to a boil and then shut off the heat and let them sit for about 15 or 20 min. Rinse with ice cold water until cooled.

Round one became egg salad because I could not get the damn egg membrane to separate from the whites so they were not presentable for deviled eggs... (Side note: we are T minus 1 hour to the party and I am frantic). I get online to see if there is some magic trick I don't know about and, thank God, I find this video.

I am like "no way he just did that; Woo Hoo baking soda in the water!" I run to the store buy two more dozen eggs, add the baking soda, get them rolling, and cool them off.  I started to peel the eggs and NOPE it didn't frickin work. I was so crushed and frustrated.  I have never had this much trouble before.  Well, I did once and a friend of mine said you shouldn't use really fresh eggs. It's best if the eggs are least a week or two old. The first batch I had attempted met that criteria and were a disaster as I already mentioned, so that wasn't the issue.

Thankfully, we got enough peeled to get the dish together. Baking soda appears to have helped a bit,  but I am a perfectionist and I wasn't doing back flips over the presentation, if you know what I mean. Fortunately, they were delicious, so no one really looked at them before gobbling them down and they were gone in a flash. 

If you know of any tips of ideas please let me know.  Have they added something to the hen's feed to make that membrane stronger and thicker for shipping? Does organic make a difference? Should I boil them in smaller batches?  Hit me back with you best egg disasters or tip and tricks. Thanks!


Saturday, July 2, 2011

UPDATE: House Hunters RV Edition

Well, we heard back from Pietown Productions and we are not going to be in the upcoming episode of HGTV's House Hunters RV edition.  They picked someone that was in line in front of us. Originally, we were a part of the casting call for a season of the show but they decided to just do one episode for now so they went with there fist pick.  We are still on the radar as first runner up if they decide to do more than one episode! So, we'll just have to wait and see what happens. I will keep you posted.