Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I survived my first nor'easter since, well....I can't remember when I experienced the last one.  With Dave Mac in NC, my sister spent the night and she explained it perfectly as we were sitting on my couch looking out the windows at the snow.  It felt like we were in a cottage inside a snow globe and being shaken fiercely!  We woke up to over a foot and a half of snow and no way to leave the house.  Caffeinated and trapped inside a small cottage with no where to go is the best time, I found, to bake!  Since we were approaching the holidays and it couldn't feel more blustery outside, I would bake some traditional treats!  Turning the temperature up to 350 on the oven I started toasting almonds for linzer cookies and mixing dough for a holiday challah bread.  
Challah (pronounced hallah) is a Jewish celebration bread, baked typically on the Sabbath, brushed with egg and braided.  Following a recipe from The Bread Bible that stated it made one loaf, I dutifully braided my three strands, thinking to myself that it seemed awfully big already before the proof.  As the loaf rose it grew and grew and grew right out of the pan I was planning on baking it on.  I transferred pans, egg-washed, and baked big bertha off...an hour later as I pulled it out of the oven, it looked like a character out of ghost busters.  Laughing hysterically I placed it on two wire racks to cool and thought to myself it could probably feed a whole village!
Linzer dough has an Austrian history dating back to 1653, named for the City of Linz, this sweet treat is one of Austria's most famous desserts.  The dough traditionally consists of flour, ground nuts...typically almonds, sugar, yolks, spices and lemon zest and filled with preserves.  This gave me the chance to use some of my hand-picked, homemade blackberry jam that I had made in Oregon (although traditionally black current preserves are used).  I took my time rolling and cutting out each cookie then sandwiching the tasty jam in between, the final product looking just as hoped!
Wrapping up my projects, the scent of fresh baked bread and toasted almonds filled the cottage and I couldn't have felt more satisfied...hope you all had a fabulously warm and cozy holiday, see you in the next year!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

time for a change...with the season

Happy Holidays to all!! 
For all those that know me, I am a sucker for change and with the extreme change in the season, I felt a different shade for the blog was needed.  A breath of fresh air. . . a jolt of inspiration.  I also felt the need to cut out the word "bakery" from the title, merely because I have been feeling more inspired lately to write on anything that feels good.  Baking will always be my #1 priority (adding some of my favorite recipes to the mix) and I will continue to write as much as I can about what is fun, new, and interesting in my world of food.  I hope you all like the new changes and I would love your feedback!  
Before I go, I wanted to give you a little glimpse of the "festivities" in the cottage:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

For as long as I can remember my grandmother has been the core of our Christmas celebration.  Yes, my mother has been the driving force behind our belief in the magic of the holiday, the ultimate advocate of "be good or there will be nothing but coal",  "Santa is watching", and her love for the enchanting nature of the entire experience.  

However,  Nan always sat quietly by as if patiently waiting her turn to tell the "true" story of Christmas. . . and tell it she would.  On Christmas Eve every year after all the excitement of Santa and presents and cousins and family and loudness she would sit us down in our matching pajamas (for real) and read to us out of the Bible. 

As I grow and experience life, I have spent a few Christmas's away from family on my own and I realize that the sound of her voice and the depth of her belief in this holiday as she knows it is really something to treasure.  I feel so completely thankful to be back in her presence one more Christmas Holiday and look forward to her story as we are sent off to bed... (or Santa won't come...according to my mother).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

something a little new

With Thanksgiving over and the pies all baked I thought I would try a little something new and fun at the store... something a little christmas-ie.  I found a recipe for cinnamon pecan shortbread and thought I would give it a go this morning.  Now, I figured it would be a bit of a chance to try to sell them at The Sea Store, shortbread in a fancy wrapper is not really the style of most customers there. They like the classics:  chocolate chip cookies, whoopie pies, chocolate cake, you know, the comfort foods.  
However, I am coming to realize there are a few out there that would enjoy a treat such as these and I think it is due time to say thank you to my number one fan at The Sea Store - Mrs. Warren, who, as if on cue, was at the store when I brought the shortbread in this evening and bought the first bag.  Thank you Mrs. Warren for all the support and advice.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Finn Biscuits

As you all know, and we are now WELL aware, we have a new pupster, Finn.  We are beginning to feel as though we were possibly not told the true age of our adorable new addition.  He has much more puppy in him than we first thought...so I have spent the afternoon making "Finn Biscuits" for "training." 
Man, does this guy have energy!
After a bit of research and Dave Mac's one qualification of no grain, I found a recipe that included:

          oats, peanut butter, 
potato flour, oil, vanilla
  ....and one squirrel cookie cutter
Finn waited very (using the word loosely) patiently at the edge of the kitchen
for the final product.

After an initial taste test by Finn, I put them into a basket with a sign and sent them to the Sea Store... they were quite a hit...a hit for the human customers that is, who couldn't resist tasting the biscuits themselves.  Next time, a bigger sign that says "FOR YOUR DOG"...if there is a next time. :)

(i do hope those that those that sampled the Finn Biscuits enjoyed!)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

now introducing....FINN

Have you ever attempted to hold a laptop, angle it the right way, and snap a photo of a dog and it's owners before? No? Well, these are the results.  Two really stupid looking owners and one very confused dog.  We brought ol' Finn home last night for a sleep over and have fallen madly in love with this mixed-breed-albino-freckled pupster.  He is an absolute doll!  So, as you might guess...I am off to make home made biscuits for our new found friend (well, after thanksgiving that is, I have quite the load of pies on my hands!)  Wish us luck!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

tis the season!

For apple pie!  
Mom walked into the cottage the other afternoon while I was baking apple pies and said whatever it was that was in the oven reminded her of her grandmothers house when she was a little girl...and to tell you the truth, I found a little bit of joy in that.  It smelled cozy and organic inside that little cottage while it was brisk and windy outside and I was really glad that there was someone to share that particular moment with, someone that would appreciate it as much as I, especially my mother.  If anyone far away from family is wanting a nostalgic moment, I would highly recommend making a simple pie dough, tossing some apples with cinnamon and sugar, baking it up, then sit down with a cup of hot chocolate, your favorite book, and enjoy the fabulous aroma escaping from your oven!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

chocolate cake with the real-deal classic buttercream

Thursday, November 6, 2008

let them eat....granola

I have a 50# bag of oats staring at me every morning when I wake up...and that same 50# bag of oats sees me off to bed every night.  Dave Mac finally looked at me and asked "can we get rid of the bag if you are not going to do anything with it?"  Note taken.  With oatmeal raisin cookies bombing at the store, I wondered how the customers of The Sea Store would take to oats, almonds, honey, and nothing more.  Dave and I love this recipe, actually, we more than just love it.  It is easy for us to consume a pound in one sitting, and when my father stopped by while it was cooling on the stove and tried a bite, then two, then three, and left with a half pound, I thought, hey, I just might have something here.  As soon as it was cool enough to break up, I bagged it and brought it directly to to the store along with a bowl full of samples.  

The next morning I noticed all the bags I had stocked the night before were gone and replenished with more...if the granola is a hit, I must say, there is hope for healthy treats at The Sea Store!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

let us digress...

"There is a renaissance occurring, a return to some time honored methods of producing food.  The increasing interest in sustainable agriculture is one, the revival of wood-fired ovens for baking is another.  This project is for us both a means to making a living, and a template for others to follow --people who are seeking authenticity in their lives--right livelihood."  -Robert Hunt owner/baker of Bohemian Bakery in Vermont on building his wood fired oven.  

While researching artisan breads and ovens online (which I do on a regular basis), I stumbled upon Robert Hunt the owner and operator of Bohemian Bakery.  His philosophy on returning to time honored methods of producing food encompasses my ideology regarding food, it's production and consumption.  I have believed for so long that there is a way to harmonize as humans with our food source (the earth) from planting seeds and growing to harvesting and preparing.  The sad truth is that we have lost touch with what is solely responsible for our day to day existence - the air, water, and earth - and it's effects are devastating .  After surrounding myself for the past few years with people who think and eat very similar to myself, it is a bit of a shock to encounter this cultural divide in the way of food, and I wonder to myself, just how do we reach these people?  The "food as fuel" people, the ones who merely eat to get them through the next part of their day.  

I am not saying that I expect everyone to eat with such passion as I, but to put some thought into the nutrition (or lack there of) that is going into their bodies.  To try new things, to put effort into needing less super sweet and appreciate the natural sweetness of many foods, the natural goodness of food in its most raw state.  Education is the only way.  Teaching our children where our food comes from, teaching our parents and adults where to find and how to prepare native fare.  The more I researched the more I found that Maine has many great resources beginning with Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) that have endless educational opportunities, links, phone numbers, farmers, publications, and much more.  I am making a commitment to try and expose these great programs, meetings, and events as well as I can...I hope you all stay tuned.

Until then, take a moment to wonder, just where the food on your plate came from, who has helped it get there, and how it is effecting your body now and in the future. 

Saturday, October 25, 2008

my morning commute

Every morning between 6:30 and 7:00 I am driving across the causeway to deliver hot danish to the store and every morning, there is a different version of this view.  If only I had a coffee in my hand and my best friend by my side, it could easily be the best moment ever - hot danish, sunrise, and a good espresso.  Even without the coffee and best friend, I still pull over some mornings to appreciate the true beauty of coastal Maine, it's islands, and the beautiful sunrise!  

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

the story of anadama...according to my mother.

Anadama bread is the one bread I really remember my mother making from scratch when I was young (and no, the brown bread in a can DOES NOT count mom) and every time she made it she told the same story of how the name "Anadama" came to be called just that.

According to my mom there was a fisherman, and this fisherman had a wife, Anna.  Everyday when he came in from hauling she would have waiting for him, a loaf of bread made of cornmeal mush and molasses.  Day after day, this cornmeal mush and molasses bread began to get to this fisherman.  Finally, coming home from an extremely long and hard day only to find that same loaf on the table yelled "Anna, damn 'er!" 

 And so...it came to be.

I still love this bread, and have been making two loaves a day for The Sea Store for a week now (though I would love to make more!!) and they seem to be a hit!  Stop by anytime, or if you want a special order, send me a quick note at squashblossombakery@gmail.com!  Thanks to everyone for all your support.

the danish are in...

After a couple of different recipes, Dave Mac and I sat down this fine morning and tediously tested the danish to see which recipe was better...and the second try was the best...of course it takes everything I have to give the mass of dough three turns, then roll it out into a big square, but hey, it was significantly better.  Hope you all enjoy!  This morning there are blueberry cream cheese, homemade peach butter (made by yours truly) cream cheese and fresh Maine apple turnovers. So get to The Sea Store while they are hot!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

seasons of change

A little taste of fall in Maine for those who have never been or those who may be missing it!  The trees are on their way out now, just past peak, but still beautiful with all the muted reds, oranges, and yellows.  What a welcome fall gave us when we arrived!  I wish it would last a little longer however, this morning when I was loading pastries and bread into my car, I had to scrape frost off my windshield...ahhhh, here comes winter!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Yesterday was my first bake day for The Sea Store in Spruce Head and all went well!  As of today here is what's available:

  • Maine blueberry cream cheese danish
  • Anadama bread (cornmeal/molasses for those that don't know the story of "anna")
  • Sourdough baguettes
  • Banana bread
  • Chocolate Whoopie Pies
  • Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
  • Chocolate Chip cookies
  • Ginger Molasses cookies
  • Maine blueberry muffins
My sister Alicia and her fiance Matt have done a fabulous job in renovating this old General Store into a warm friendly place to meet neighbors and friends, have a quick snack, cup of coffee, or order breakfast or lunch. . . wood burning stove included.  There are daily food specials the Matt makes to order as well as breakfast and lunch menus.   I encourage you all to go and check it out!  It may be a bit out of the way, but what a beautiful drive!! See you there!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

oh how far we have come

While sipping our fresh french press coffee the other morning at my parents cottage in Millinocket, Maine, Dave Mac stumbled upon an old local cookbook titled Campfires to Cupboard. The only reference to a date was in the introduction when the author made note of her father cooking in 1918, so I think it is safe to say, this book is "old". However, the first recipe we came to really dated the book. . .here it is, verbatim (spelling and all).

-Grand Lake Guide's Coffee-

2 Qt. coffee pot, filled 2/3 full of water

(Grand Lake water if possible)

Hang over open fire on the end of a pole. Take 1/4# coffee and one egg. Break egg and mix with coffee, shell and all. Let water come to a near boil pitch and dump in coffee. Set in as close as possible to fire with nozzle towards heat. Let it boil up over the nozzle and back into the pot. IT will circulate as a perculator. Let boil 10 minutes and set back a foot and pour in a cup of cold water. Watch it settle. Taste it It's good.

Yes my dear friends, this was how coffee was consumed in Grand Lake, Maine in the early 1900's, and to give credit where credit is due ~ thank you to the author, Mr. George MacArthur.

I am quite Smitten

While at my best friend Anna's place (yup...the one in Star, NC), she shared a new yummy site I would love to introduce to you all, it's called Smitten Kitchen http://smittenkitchen.com and this woman has some wonderful treats sweet and savory. I have really enjoyed scrolling through and seeing what's new!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

MP B&B part two

We sat down to dinner...a bowl of roasted sweet potato/parsnip soup and a three bean salad on a bed of "rocket" (also known to the rest of us as arugula). Simple enough. Then came the wine pairing. There were four beautiful glasses placed before us: one for white, one for red, a water glass, and a small crystal dessert wine glass. The table couldn't have been anymore beautiful and intimate. We started with the bean salad and a white and learned that the acidity of the dressing on the salad and the acidity of the wine offset each other just enough to create a nice smooth finish.

Then came a warm, creamy, caramel sweet potato soup that paired perfectly with a red pinot noir from Cotes de Rhone Mark Parsons chose. So gentle were the flavors when mixed together, like no other wine I had ever sipped. Following the main course, naturally, there was cheese. A fresh Gouda made at the monastery on the hill and a five year aged Gouda
were paired with a very sweet wine from a small South African distiller. . . and get this. . . only seven hundred bottles made by a friend of his.

It doesn't end here. After a deep comfortable slumber, we woke to coffee brewing from the French Laundry, juice, and home made Belgian waffles with real maple syrup. It was truly difficult to tear myself away from Mark's home. The hospitality that was extended to us is impossible to put into words and I am forever grateful for his knowledge, wisdom, class, humor, and love. A million times ... thank
you M.P.

MP B&B part one

I have decided that I am quite the wine lover...this discovery comes after spending a mere 24 hours with a dear friend Mark Parsons. Now, I always expect nothing but a fabulous time with this man. There is hardly a moment that there is not something new to learn...here is how the day began: we arrive at Crosskeys vineyard that Mark manages and get a private wine making 101 walking tour of the fresh grapes off the vine, fermentation tanks, and oak aging barrels (where we learn what the term "oakey" means). Next we have our own personal wine tasting seminar where I was taught how to taste (first over the tongue, then down the sides of the tongue, then over the tongue again...slurping is not necessarily mandatory to appreciate the wine).  We tasted
six wines: Joy Red, Joy White (both table wines), Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and a Meritage. The most fascinating and tasteful to my palate was the Meritage who's name stems from the words merit and heritage blended together and is a label used exclusively for a specific American grown Bordeaux varietal.

This was only the beginning.

We then followed him up the mountain to his warm and welcoming apartment where, in a whirlwind of activity, we roasted up sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, and shallots in the oven, whipped up a coconut custard pie (a recipe he had memorized of his aunts)...(oh, did I mention he is from the south??!) and set a divine table for three. The veggies emerged from the oven sizzling and caramelized and tossed into a pot of warming vegetable broth and brought to a simmer. This, my friends was shaping up to be a fabulous soup! Dave Mac had the honors of "blitzing" the soup to a pulp and then we learned a magnificent trick.


By adding an acid, either lemon juice or an aged balsamic, to the finished product you will have a completely different experience. The lemon juice we found to to brighten up our earthy soup, leaving you with a burst of fresh citrus-y nutty-ness. However by adding a few drops of aged balsamic you will find a deep caramel flavor instead. The evening was cool and caramel sounded so inviting...balsamic it was.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

family + friends + food = LOVE

rustic rosemary-feta heirloom tomato tart

A pause in North Carolina has allowed us to indulge in some baking with family and friends... and to stretch our legs and eat good food again.  We arrived in Hendersonville by Monday afternoon and by dinner time we were indulging in a meal fit for kings at our friends Dave and Amy's house with everything on the table being freshly plucked from their wondrous garden out back. We also arrived just in time to have the opportunity to stroll through Ashville's farmers market on Wednesday, which of course made us dearly miss Portland's farm fare, however, there were goods enough to fill our bags:  heirloom tomatoes, fresh goat cheeses, beets, greens, carrots, onions, fresh eggs, and of course one of my favorite bakers in North Carolina...Dave from Farm and Sparrow.  This man knows how to bake, offering naturally leavened wood fired breads, pastries, and bialys.  We had a feast that night with Dave Mac's family of rosemary tomato tart,  fresh mushroom, red pepper, and tomato fritatta, and a salad simply garnished with pears, toasted almonds, olive oil and lemon juice.  All of this accompanied by plenty of laughs and stories.

In the middle of all the madness, it is so incredible that good food, family, and friends can calm the nerves, fill the belly, and provide all the nourishment one needs in life.

Thank you to all those who fed, housed, and love us in North Carolina, we are forever grateful to you all. XOXO.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

as i promised

cold but beautiful....crater lake

yosemite left me completely speechless.  there are no words.

6 am sunrise at abandoned state park in eastern Nevada

this pretty much sums up 7 days of camping from Oregon to Illinois...

no joke, the real deal as promised....and yes it is on the dining room table.

this has been our trip so far...hope you have enjoyed the pix.  we are currently chillin' in NC visiting old friends and eating fabulous food!  More to come...part 2: wine vineyard in VA....

Sunday, September 28, 2008

highlights thus far - good, bad, ugly.

in chronological order:
  • crater lake of course (which, upon arrival was deserted......however, emerging from the car the brisk 30 something degree weather explained having the place to ourselves).
  • eating a burrito the size of my head in Mt. Shasta City (as Dave said, it would have been an appropriate size if we were going to summit Mt. Shasta or bike across Rt. 80....Cliff and Ali take note: Seven Suns Bakery egg burrito)
  • waking up to frost outside the tent on night #1
  • a tempting " all clothing $3.99" sign in Groveland, CA
  • the abandoned campground at Stanislaus National Park (I wasn't sure I had been so scared in a while until nights #3 and 4 and 5....oh and 6 too).
  • Having to grind coffee in a restroom bathroom out of pure desperation - apparently if a National Park is abandoned it has not water OR electricity.
  • Yosemite, Yosemite, Yosemite.
  • Antelope Valley, more specifically Topaz, CA population 100.  Dave wasn't sure but thought Tremors just may have been filmed here.
  • ELKO a must stop!  For those that have not been informed, Elko is the home of cowboy poetry....and apparently there are words that rhyme with varmant.
  • Coffee out of a styrofoam cup.  Need I say more.
  • Surviving the odometer turning 131313.
  • oh...and tonight, I got to view a real life skeleton of a woman on a dining room table.  Pictures to come.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

coffee of the GODS! (no joke)

If this is not the picture of perfection, I'm not quite sure what is.  I spend entire mornings dreaming about espresso from the Cellar Door.  I have NEVER in my WHOLE life had a coffee as good as the Cellar Door's coffee.  The owner, Jeremy and his wife Andrea, roast their own beans and know (as far as I'm concerned) everything I ever wanted to know about coffee...and more.  I have drank a lot of coffee from countless places as far reaching as New Zealand, France, and Hawaii and have really enjoyed some coffee, even loved some coffee....but this...this is in a league of it's own.  Smooth, consistent, and perfect every time.  If you live in Portland, OR or plan on visiting, I would highly recommend just stopping in on the corner of SE 11th and Harrison in an old pharmacy, simply decorated with great character.  The music is never so loud you can't think and Jeremy welcomes you to stay as long as you want.  I also feel quite spoiled because on my early bake days when I get off around 9am, I will bring him some hot fresh bagels and I get an Americano in trade.  I have convinced him he is getting a great deal, but I think I really come out on top!  Thank you Jeremy (and Andrea) for all the wonderful cups...we will see you next time!

Monday, September 15, 2008

just another tastebud birthday!

Yesterday was a fairly busy day...I woke up a 4a.m. to bake two loaves of a chocolate sourdough cherry bread for the NW Chocolate Festival in which I was somewhat coerced into doing a chocolate bread baking demo by a man I met in San Francisco at the Slow Food Convention.  Of course before I had to lecture to this group at Whole Foods I panicked thinking maybe I wasn't the baker I thought I was and why are these people showing up to listen to me speak?!  Needless to say I survived and could answer all questions about bread except the differences in salts (even after suffering the The History of Salt, I couldn't muster up an answer).  

Feeling satisfied with my performance, I went home to begin the construction of an apple galette and a peach, vanilla, almond tart tatin for a friend at Tastebud, Ashley, who was having a house warming/birthday bash all in one that evening.  (P.S....Ashley, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your new place!)  I had been dying to make the tart tatin, a classic french dessert said to have been created accidentally by the Tatin sisters who ran a hotel in france.  The story goes, being overworked, one day Stephanie Tatin left the apples simmering in the butter and sugar to long in the pan so she put the crust on top and stuck it in the oven.   Once it was baked and set, she flipped it out and voi-la! Tart Tatin was born!  It is quite a beautiful tart, with the peaches (or apples/pears/fruit of your choice) caramelized and arranged in circular fashion.  All in all, it was a good day for baking.

A quick note on the apples Ashley gave me to bake in the galette...I have never seen an apple like this in my whole life.  Yellow on the outside, I really didn't expect much from the color of the inside of the apple.  Just another yellow apple I thought, and then, this watermelon shade came bursting out on the first slice and took my breath away, I still haven't stopped talking about it.  I have been trying to find out the name of these apples so if anyone has any thoughts, please, please let me know!

Friday, September 12, 2008

a mini vaca

There is no better way to wake up on a crisp (boarder line cold) morning when camping than with hot coffee, a hammock, and a warm fire.  Dave and I just returned from a mini three day excursion in Bend, Oregon where we did some hiking, some exploring, and of course some eating.  

I had picked up some pastries from  Little T American Baker's new place on Division (which I have been wanting to try even BEFORE he opened up).   We could hardly wait until the next morning to eat them, but man, it was worth the wait!  Warmed up over Dave Mac's little camp stove, we had a chocolate croissant and a fresh peach turnover, homemade granola and yogurt and of course hot french press.  It couldn't have been any better.  I savored every moment of the morning wake up knowing Dave had a hike in mind! 

 We got an early start to Smith Rock so we were not suffocated by the heat of the mid day.  I must admit, it started off great.  We parked the car and wandered down the trail to the "trail head" sign. . . this is actually when the day began.  Standing in front of this sign (I give you one guess which one Dave "really really really wanted to hike"):

 you guessed it, the mere sound of Misery Trail got Dave all excited, there would be no Morning Glory or Burma Road for me this sunny day...
Not ONLY is it Misery Trail, but I don't think you can read the fine print up above...it casually mentions to "watch your surroundings because you are now entering rattlesnake territory."

Enough said.

In case you were wondering, there were no rattlesnake sightings (or cougars for that matter, apparently it is "cougar country" as well).   The rest of our trip went off without a hitch, we took a very quick dip in the Deschutes River and had a couple great dinners next to the fire and after an emergency whisky run to the liquor store, had some yummy whisky cocktails with Reed's Ginger Ale.  Ahhhhh, Bend was great!

Friday, September 5, 2008

SFN in review

I had high hopes leaving Portland last Thursday to go down to San Francisco and volunteer at the first ever Slow Food Nation (SFN).  I signed up a month ago when the Bread Bakers Guild collaborated with SFN to find professional bakers to help out at the weekend event.  I was hopeful that I would have the opportunity to meet bakers from all around the nation and chat about bread as well as an opportunity to talk with people attending the convention about the movement of "good, clean, and fair."  When I left the event I found myself wishing I had skipped volunteering to hit the music festival happening on the hill just above the event.

The way I saw Slow Food, with its motto being "good, clean, and fair" was as a movement to inform the world (rich and poor) about farming, buying local, and cooking healthy.  What I found, it seemed, was a group of people who could afford not only the $65.00 admittance fee but also fees and ticket prices reaching  upwards of $250.00 for benefit dinners.  (I realize some of the more "pricey" dinners were fundraisers for Slow Food where the money goes for education and outreach but I didn't realize that fundraising was part of the event).  Coming from the point of view of a volunteer, it was still quite expensive to fly out to CA, find accommodations, pay for food and transportation and then on top of these costs, each lecture, demo, and dinner was extra.  

I had the idea that the SFN was a spin off of Slow Food Terra Madre.  Located in Italy every other year this event brings together farmers and food artisans from all over the world  "to give voice and visibility to the rural food producers who populate our world."  This event in San Francisco, however, seemed to represent the glamor that California had to offer, celebrity chefs and all.  

After much reflection and mixed feelings about the event, I am hoping that the message reached the people who could afford to attend and the essence of the message of building an American food system that is sustainable, just, healthy, and delicious, will "trickle down" and reach the masses.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

who is coming to the table?

Just wanted to give you all a sneak preview into the next post which sums up my experience at Slow Food Nation involving just who came to "the table."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

and away I go....

That's right folks I am off tomorrow to the first annual Slow Food Nation.  Five days of food, oh fabulous food!!  I will be volunteering Saturday and Sunday then exploring Berkley on Friday and whatever San Francisco has in store!  Wish me luck....

Sunday, August 24, 2008

well helooooo there mr. stripey!

As far as I am concerned, there could be no better representation of the peak of summer as the heirloom tomato.  These fanciful tomatoes grow in a multitude of varieties with names that will evoke a little giggle such as the Hillbilly and Green Zebra, or arouse your curiosity like the Cherokee Purple and the Mortgage Lifter.   While some are quite enchanting with names like Jubilee, Mirabell, and Elfin.
If you haven never tried an heirloom tomato (first off, I'm a bit disappointed!), a Mr. Stripey is a good place to start.  Mild in flavor and texture, this tomato is really quite versatile.  You can find a variety of heirlooms at the local farmers market, just ask around and start trying all kinds of varietals.
The definition of an heirloom (as far as how old the seed has to be) ranges from 50 to up to 100 years but the significance doesn't change.  With agribusiness and mono-crops growing, it is ever more important to be growing and preserving seeds of the past to feed the future.  There are two fabulous groups out there right now that I am aware of:  Renewing America's Food Tradition better known as RAFT and the Ark of Taste.  These two organizations are focused on "saving cherished slow foods through rediscovering and cataloguing" endangered seeds.  There is so much to be said for these two groups please stay tuned for blogs dedicated to RAFT and ARK for more information!  

Ultimately, whether you try them for their history or to support your local farmer or merely for the imaginative names, I promise you, you won't be disappointed!  

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

did I say peaches? I meant pickles.

I figure if we do it a third time it will be considered a pattern, however, if we have learned anything from our past two canning experiences it is to "cut the recipe in half and double the number of jars we are using," according to Dave.  We had 16 pounds of cukes in all.  According to the recipe it was eight pounds of cucumbers per three quarts of pickles.  Just so you all don't think we are crazy, we picked double that for six quarts of pickles.  Long story short, we have fourteen quarts of pickles...whole, halved, and speared.  With pickling spices and without, with garlic and without, processing 15 minutes, processing 10 min.  By eight o'clock last night, we decided a cucumber salad for dinner would be just fine.

peaches peaches everywhere!

sauvie island farm flowers

Dave loves pickles....Dave really loves pickles.  So, last Monday in a drizzle of rain, we trekked out to Sauvie Island (a predominantly farmland and wildlife refuge which is an absolute must see for anyone visiting the area) to pick our own cucumbers for pickling.  While we were there, we noticed that peaches were a mere $1.25 a pound when you bought 15 pounds or more...you guessed, we got 20 pounds, thinking, no big deal, we LOVE peaches, we'll just can those too!  We got them home, started peeling the skins off and found that were were up to our ears in peach, while searching for more bowls to put them in we wondered what else could we possible do with them?  Peach butter it was, but still after simmering down 8 pounds of peaches, we STILL had more
........so there we sat, after a marathon canning extravaganza eating peach cobbler on the floor (for every surface in our apartment was now covered in canned peaches of one kind or another.  All said and done I think we have eight quarts of canned peaches, five pints of peach butter, and enough peach cobbler to feed our apartment complex (or apparently Dave for breakfast if he's "real hungry").    

Pickles would have to wait till tomorrow.

Monday, August 18, 2008

a hikin' we will go

                                                         arriving at the falls in one piece!

So, I finished baking really early on Sunday and Dave had a brilliant idea to go enjoy the natural beauty of Oregon while we are still here.   He took me out to Oneonta Falls (don't ask us how to pronounce it for no one here is quite sure!) about 30 minutes away from downtown Portland.  No matter how it is pronounced, it is one of the most beautiful places I have been to yet.  Set deep in a gorge, with walls of rock that are covered in a gorgeous green moss, we hiked over a huge log jam (a bit unnerving) and back through a stream (waist deep at times of freezing cold mountain run off) to the waterfall.  It was really quite breath taking... as was the icy water, but refreshing after the 100 degree weather we have been sweating through the past couppla days!                                                           

the log jam we precariously climbed over!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

For Love of the Oven

Where oh where to begin?  I promise folks to try and keep it short, I just wanted a chance to give a bit of background on my passion for the wood fired oven and why it is one of the few things I can not live without in my life.

I have had the pleasure of working with five different wood fired ovens in the past two and a half years, mostly Alan Scott designs with the exception of the current oven which is a Mugnaini (pronounced moohn-ya-ni).  No matter what the name, I have found a rhythm with each oven and a relationship forms - though none of the ovens are my own personal oven, I feel they have become a part of me.

The Mugnaini that I use currently at Tastebud, I must say, has been the most intimate.  Early bakes, long bakes, hot bakes... I have spent a lot of time in front of this oven (on my tippy toes none-the-less!) sweating, smiling, and cursing when baking upwards of 960 bagels (at the most!) 70 pizzas, and oh....maybe 200 pitas.  Even when I feel I couldn't slide another pizza off the peel towards the sizzling flame Mark is generally right there reminding me there's a good 20 left so get moving!  (Not really, he's usually pretty compassionate in those times).  The Alan Scott ovens I used were at the Flat Rock Village Bakery (FRVB) in Flat Rock, NC, Camp Arrowhead in Tuxedo, NC and West First in Hendersonville, NC.  During my internship at the FRVB, I was trained to bake rustic wood fired breads and pizzas.  At that moment when Scott Unfried showed me how to light the oven, scrape out the ash, mop it, and slide each loaf off the peel and into the dark corners of the oven...right then, I knew, I would never go back.

Moving to Maine in a couple months I am in a bit of a panic wondering what I will do, how I will manage for a bit without one and wonder how soon I can build something to suit me until I have one of my own, and well, Dave and I put our heads together and came up with a solution.  We will set to build a cob oven as soon as we arrive and would love to invite any and all people who are interested in the process to join.  This way I can keep my fire burning! (Stay tuned for time and location of this exciting event!)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

cake...cake...and more cake!!!

Happy happy birthday to the lady of Tastebud...Miss Alexandra! I volunteered/was elected/given the honor of making dear Ali's birthday cake this year. Given her favorite of all times is carrot, I figure I have it in the bag. You see, there was this carrot cake I had at a Thanksgiving dinner a few years back on a farm and was so in love with it, begged the hosts to pass on the holy recipe. Since that evening three years ago I have made this cake numerous times and it has yet to fail me. Then came the challenge: "My mom makes the best carrot cake ever!" I began to question my fabulous cake recipe...WHAT IF her mom's WAS better? I am never one to be out done, well, not if I can help it! I received over five pounds of carrots from the market, though that was an excessive amount it gave me the option to pick the best. Well, I gave it a go, it was the most fun I had had making a cake ever, knowing it was going to fill the bellies of all the friends I adore here in Portland. I also got a bag FULL of nasturtiums to decorate and found a couple of whimsical birds on long skinny wires from a local vintage store and TADAH! I had a birthday cake.
Kelly and I loaded it into the car and headed off to the festivities. Arriving safely the cake made it to the a table overflowing with a cornucopia of Portland Farmer's Market's finest...everything from squid to Mediterranean salad (like none other!), fire roasted pork, potato salad, and a fabulous lime/cilantro/corn/black bean mix which I put with warm tortillas paired with a fabulously light queso fresco...and people, that was only the beginning! What a sight. Needless to say after indulging in all the savory treats, the cake was a hit...it went home with the birthday girl and was enjoyed even a couple days later. Thanks again to Jessie and Andy for hosting. What a fabulous night!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

a shout out to my musical friend

Spencer and I went to the river the other day...and while I lounged in the sun (with loads of sunscreen and a big floppy hat) reading D.H. Lawrence, Spenc picked at his acoustic guitar. I thought I was in heaven. I love the acoustic guitar, he could play for hours and I could listen for hours....and so we did, all afternoon. When we got home, I had the fabulous idea that I wanted his music on my blogspot, bribing him with oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (boy what a sucker!) he went home and created this beautiful music you are listening to. After a couple stressful hours of trying to figure out how to load it onto my page, it is here for you all to enjoy, oh and if you like this stay tuned and I will post a link to his website as soon as it is finished so you can all listen whenever you like! Thanks again Spencer for the wonderful early morning tune...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

to can or not to can...

My dear friend Spencer said to me last Saturday on our way home from the lustrous Saturday Farmers Market: "you are going to can the whole city of Portland aren't you?!!" His comment followed my fifteen minute babble on all the things at the market I thought I could fit into a jar. To tell you the truth, if I thought Portland would fit, I wouldn't mind taking a piece of it home with me (which pieces...now that's a whole other blog!).

I had my first lesson in the art of preserving - given to me by another brilliant friend of mine, Sarah. You see, preserving is having a renaissance here in Portland, people are returning to gardening and want to use the products of their labor all year long and share with friends beyond the growing season. It is so inspiring to see my generation immerse themselves in this culture of preserving food and taking control of what is going into their bodies. Sarah was a great teacher and the lesson went so well we successfully canned an amazing blueberry-lime and a separate batch of blackberry. All I could think of was how great those would taste on homemade biscuits one cold stormy winter morning in Maine! The next weekend I ventured out on my own and made a batch of raspberry-marionberry which I am looking forward to using in a chocolate layer cake already...just tart enough to offset the most bittersweet of chocolates. It's prime pickin' time here in Oregon, and I don't want to waist a minute of it. Next on my list: pickles, peach conserve, and if I'm feelin' frisky I just might go all the way with a chutney! (Nervous Nelly eat my dust!)

Here we are enjoying the fruits of our labor with a little local brew.