Monday, April 27, 2009

Just say "Wow" to Point Reyes

We did the Point Reyes hike yesterday, and it was awesome! 13 miles was a bit too much. The last 3 miles we were both wishing a golf cart would ride by to take us to the car. But we climbed a mountain, walked along the seashore, and saw some fantastic views. I'll post tons of photos later.

The food has been pretty good so far. At Redd I had the best truffled lobster risotto - the most perfect rice dish I've ever consumed. And my entrée - a skate wing with peas and carrots - was my favorite entrée of the trip so far.

The food at Bouchon wasn't mind-blowing, but was certainly classic French perfectly executed. I had French onion soup (just fantastic) and roasted chicken with peas and greens. This chicken was local and organic, and so much more flavorful than anything you can buy in the grocery store in Mississippi.

Ad Hoc was pretty terrible. They have a set menu each night. We'd been checking the web all week and saw fantastic food. Then on our night there was a good salad with a bland piquillo pepper vinaigrette, truly nasty flat-iron blade steak, fennel gratin, and pecan cake with vanilla ice cream. The cake and ice cream were the only redeeming parts of the meal. If we weren't at a Thomas Keller establishment I might not have believed that the meat we were served was beef. It was so fatty and oily. Ick!! The fennel was unforgiveable. The menu said it was "braised" but it was too slimy to have been braised. I've prepared braised fennel many times and mine tastes good, with sweet, concentrated flavor. If I had to guess, I would say it had been par-boiled and finished in the oven. Eeeww.

Today, we have a wine intensive day. Exciting! We have only been to a few tastings and tour so far and a Pinot Noir class at the Culinary Institute of America. I can't wait to share my photos from Nickle & Nickle and Far Niente.

- Posted from my iPhone with BlogPress

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We Arrive in Yountville

The flight to Sacramento was good. I read Alice Munro short stories and Chip watched This American Life on his iPhone.

This afternoon we took a walk and had drinks at a local bar.

Dinner tonight was at Bottega in Yountville. The Bottega Napa Valley is owned by Michael Chiarello of Food Network fame for his shows Easy Entertaining and NapaStyle. He also has a "lifestyle" and cooking store/catalog called NapaStyle.

The Bottega menu reminded me of L&M (R.I.P.) in Oxford. Our apps were fabulous, especially the grilled octapus. For my entrée, I had the parpadelle with bolognese. This dish was my favorite on the L&M menu, and I was excited to compare the Bottega version to the L&M version. Let me tell you, L&M rocked this dish!!! The Bottega version is good, but not as tomato-y and delicate as the L&M version (if only I could still GET the L&M version). Chip had the wood-fired quail and said his dish was more tender than any quail he'd ever ordered.

Dessert was a berry tart topped with basil ice cream... Divine...

Update: I almost forgot... Michael Chiarello was there. In the kitchen and walking around doing table touches, speaking to some of the guests. I thought that was pretty cool (even if he didn't come speak with us).

- Posted from my iPhone with BlogPress

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Best Wishes, Leah!

Me and Allie

Casey and Me

Me, Allie, and Leah

Casey, Leah, and Me

I had a great weekend in Oxford! My dear friends -- Leah and Brian -- are married and are now honeymooning in Disney World. The entire wedding weekend was just perfect. The rehearsal dinner was delicious, the ceremony was short and sweet (loved it), and the reception and after-party toast was so much fun. Leah and Brian, congratulations and best wishes in your life together!

The past few weeks in my garden I've been preparing the soil in my two new 3x3 Grow Beds. The sugar snap pea seedlings are about an inch tall. I'm sure I planted these peas later than I should have, and I really hope I still get a good crop. I built the trellis myself out of bamboo and nylon netting. Eventually I will get some pine straw to place on top of that ugly cardboard.
In front of the peas I planted 4 squashes: 2 Eight Ball Zucchini and 2 Early Summer Golden Crookneck. Those are just putting on their third leaves. I prepared the other Grow Bed this past weekend, and I plan to put in two Big Mama roma tomato plants and two Black Pearl cherry tomato plants. I also have some Sweet Cal Wonder Orange Bell Pepper seeds from Seeds of Change that I want to try out. I'm a big fan of the red/orange/yellow bell peppers, but I can't stand the green ones.

Last night for supper, we made use of some of the Swiss Chard from my garden and frozen corn from my Granny's garden. I made Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa, Corn and Feta Cheese from Deborah Madison's book Vegetarian Suppers. They were delicious, and I'm looking forward to leftovers tonight. I subbed Swiss Chard for the spinach.

These are my first two Molineux (background) and Golden Celebration (foreground) blooms, and Knockout is in full bloom. My first rose bouquets of the season.

We leave on our Napa Valley vacation tomorrow morning, and I really cannot wait to step on the plane. I hope to get in some iPhone posts while I'm there. We'll see... I'd hate to make you all jealous by posting endless photos of chilled glasses of weekday wine and scrumptious plates of fine cuisine. Vacation, here I come!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

April Bloom Day (One Day Late)

Blooming in my central Mississippi garden:
  • Bridal wreath spirea, "Eleanor Tabor" Indian hawthorn, and azaleas are winding down their blooms
  • Knockout roses
  • Homestead purple verbena
  • Iris
  • H.F. Young, Henryii, and Franziska Marie clematis
  • Catmint "Walker's Low"
  • Pansies

Thursday, April 09, 2009

First iPhone Post

My purple irises will all be blooming soon.

This is my first post from my iPhone. I couldn't get mail2blogger to work with yahoo mail (photos displayed as broken links), so I purchased the BlogPress app for $2.99. So far, I like it! This app was just what I was looking for.

- Posted from my iPhone with BlogPress

H. F. Young Clematis Blooms

My newest clematis has four beautiful blooms. Here is H. F. Young, aka Horace Young.

Height: 6-8 ft.
Spacing: 36-48 in.
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4a to Zone 9b
Bloom Color: Blue
Bloom Shape: Single
Bloom Diameter: Large - 6 to 8 inches (12 to 20 cm)
Bloom Time: Late Spring - Early Summer
Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Sun to Partial Shade
Pruning Groups: Group 2 - Repeat bloomers; prune immediately after flowering

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Spirea and Indian Hawthorne Blooms

This post will be quick because I have a lot of work to do today!

I've been a busy bee in the garden lately. I haven't had much free time on the weekends, so I've been sneaking in garden chores after work thanks to daylight savings time.

First on my list? I cleaned out the front porch beds. They are now ready for spring. The Mexican petunia had to be cut back. The lantana as well. And I had to clear out all the weeds and old leaves. When I took these photos, the spirea, Indian hawthorne, Carolina jessamine, verbena, and creeping phlox were all in bloom. Before the clean-up (March 19):

And after the clean-up (March 22):

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Point Reyes National Seashore

We leave Mississippi for California in 2 1/2 weeks! I'll be on vacation soon!

I want to visit Point Reyes National Seashore while we are in the area. We want to do a dayhike to the coast. I've been looking on the website and on the forums for good dayhikes, and I've decided on the Woodward Valley Loop, the same hike this guy took.

WOODWARD VALLEY LOOP (approx. 21 km / 13 mi.) This trail includes beautiful forest and spectacular coastal hiking. Begin at the Bear Valley Trailhead, climbing either Mt. Wittenberg or Meadow Trail to Sky Trail. Continue to Woodward Valley, one of the lushest, greenest trails in the park. Follow this all the way down to Coast Trail where you'll enjoy open ocean views as you head south to Arch Rock. Beach access is marked along your way at Sculptured Beach, a beautiful and remote beach. From Arch Rock, follow Bear Valley Trail, a gentle grade through beautiful buckeyes, oaks, and Douglas firs, back to the Bear Valley Visitor Center.

I'm really looking forward to this part of our trip!

Chip has been working on the list of vineyards we'll visit and winery tours we'll take. Of course, my only request was that we visit some with great gardens. Here is the list so far:

Far Niente (gardens!)
Nickel & Nickel

Grgich Hills
Mumm Napa
St. Supery

Saint Helena
Flora Springs

Domaine Chandon

Cline (gardens!)
Domaine Carneros (gardens!)

We may add more, or we may not even be able to make to all of those. I think its going to be awesome!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

How I Cook Leeks

One of my favorite things to do with leftovers is make a big pot of soup. We eat a lot of brown rice, and it seems like I always have leftovers. When I roast chicken I try to make extra because I can use it for dinner all week. My go-to chicken soup is made with leftover brown rice and chicken with veggies and seasonings that I have around the house. If you don't have any cooked rice on hand, orzo pasta is a good substitute because it cooks so quickly.

Chicken and Rice Soup

2 Tbs olive oil
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
5 cups chicken broth (or 3 cups broth and 2 cups water)
1 bay leaf
2 roasted chicken breasts, boned and chopped into bite-size pieces
2 cups cooked brown rice

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add leeks, onion, and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until vegetables are softened, stirring often. Stir in broth (and water if using) and add bay leaf and roasted chicken. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in cooked rice and cook until rice is heated through. Ladel into bowls and serve with warm, crusty bread.

I made one of my favorite fennel dishes tonight. I can't remember where I got this recipe from originally (maybe Food + Wine?), but since then I've given it my own twist. Tonight I served the fennel with a yummy pan-seared and baked salmon. Casey and Leah, y'all will get a kick out of this: I sprinkled my salmon with The Melting Pot's Garlic and Wine Seasoning! It was pretty good!

Roasted Fennel and Carrots with Parmesan

4 fennel bulbs, cored, quartered, and cut into 1/3-inch slices
4 carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1/3-inch slices
2/3 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbs olive oil
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375°F. Layer sliced fennel and carrots in a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the thyme, drizzle with oil, and toss to coat. Top with grated cheese. Bake until vegetables are tender and top is golden brown, about 1 1/4 hours.