Monday, April 29, 2013

Delicious Discovery

Last weekend my husband and I went out for a bite before attending a local concert. I wanted to check out a new little place that I had read about in the newspaper. The article described it as a restaurant run by a family of three (husband, wife and adult son), with a strong emphasis on homemade, authentic English-style pub fare. It sounded very intriguing.
I've driven by it many times but after reading more about it I wanted to taste and see for myself. I always want to support small family-run businesses, especially restaurants, cafes or bakeries. Homemade food will draw me in every time.

I was sorry to see that on a Friday night at 6:00 we were the only ones in the place. Though small (only three booths inside with a few stools at the bar) it was very quaintly British in decor. Outside there was a beautifully built stone patio which is where we chose to sit after we ordered our food at the bar. The lone employee that night was a friendly, tattooed bloke that chatted with us about the place. I was glad to hear that despite the emptiness of the seats that night, he had had a very busy lunch crowd.

The menu was indeed English pub style with an emphasis on fish and chips, Scottish lagers and...something I was really excited to try...pasties! The article I read described them as rivaling any pastie made in the United Kingdom.

I've blogged a lot about hand pies and pasties. Aside from the fact that I make them myself and teach others to make them, I also lived in a state (Michigan) where pasties have a long history as a traditional food, especially in the mining towns of the Upper Peninsula. Pasties were one of the favorite lunch foods of my husband in his bachelor days when he bought them at a food cart ("King Arthur's") in the city where we lived as newlyweds. I have also learned that I have an ancestor who was famous for his delicious meat pies but steadfastly refused to share his recipe so it died with him an hundred years ago.

Our barkeep/waiter/cook brought both "red" sauce (the way the Australians eat pasties) and "brown" sauce (what the British use) with our chicken pastie. I was really pleased to try the brown sauce- I have never been to England so had not eaten it before (not even on trips to Canada). It was kind of a cross between a ketchup and a barbeque sauce and quite good.

However, I didn't really need any sauce because the pastie was so flavorful it stood well on its own. The crust was flaky and buttery, perfectly baked. The filling- full of chicken and vegetables- was delicious. Because of my ridiculously snobby standards, I have never found a hand pie outside of my own kitchen that I would recommend....until now. I am so happy to know that there is someone else in my community making hand pies the way they should be made- with skill and love for tradition. I will definitely be going back there.

Friday, April 19, 2013

More Moments

These are candid shots taken by my talented photographer son, Kris. I love them all.

Precious time with my grandson.

Serving up the elk at our dinner.

(Some of ) our handsome men.




We surprised the wedding guests by ending the evening with wish lanterns.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wedding Week Summary

We're back! It was a busy, joyful week with no internet service. I wanted to share some of the moments from our grand family adventure as they happened, but sitting in the McDonald's parking lot at eleven at night for a bit of email checking was all I could manage. So here is a photo summary of our week in Missouri, reuniting with far flung family and friends who came in for the big event, cooking enough food to feed several regiments of soldiers, eating one amazing meal after another, and dancing the night away at my son's nuptial celebration.

The girls, little boys and I arrived early to set up housekeeping and bake cakes. When all the men arrived a couple days later, as well as daughter Katie and her family from Michigan, we descended on the new in-laws for a meet and greet and to indulge in our first wonderful meal. The bride's family makes the best smoked pork in Missouri!

The week was chock full of special family times with everyone together and added fun from friends and distant family members. It couldn't have been more joyful.

We were constantly feeding a crowd, the best way to show family love is food. These are my little boys with April Phillip's little boys.

On Thursday the preparations for the rehearsal dinner began in earnest. I prepared all of the food for an estimate of fifty to sixty guests. My son, Kris, helped me grill twelve pounds of Alaskan sockeye salmon.

Friday night the girls set up a beautiful table of food in the Dog Trot (breezeway between the kitchen and parlor in our historic home) right under the slave's quarters. We had an Oregon themed menu of elk served in a garlic mushroom cream sauce over rice (served from the kitchen), grilled salmon, roasted spring asparagus, delicious wood-oven-baked bread from Kansas City, and a mixed green salad with red anjou pears, dried bing cherries, roasted hazelnuts, blue cheese (all brought from Oregon) and a maple vinegrette. We served a cabernet wine from the Columbia Valley in Oregon as well as a Pinos Gris from the Willamette Valley. (I distributed twenty bottles among the ten pieces of luggage to get it to Missouri.) For the beer drinkers we had a variety of Deschutes brews that I picked up at a bottle shop in Kansas City. Dessert was strawberry rhubarb slab pie. I brought the frozen pie dough and pie filling in two coolers on the airplane. Yes. I did. I wish I had taken a photo of our wagon train of luggage but I was too busy and distracted.

April came out to be my kitchen slave and to eat pie. She always appears when I need her.

Saturday morning, the day of the wedding, was also Peter's eleventh birthday. We had a celebratory breakfast. Chocolate chip cheesecake is a breakfast food, right?

He chose strawberry french toast for his breakfast menu.

Didn't I say that we were eating one fabulous meal after another?

Finally, the biggest event of all- the taking of a wife by my middle son, Neal, growing our family once again.

The day was sunny but cool.
That is beautiful bridesmaid Alyssa, in front. Her escort and she made a marvelous dancing couple, twirling and swinging like pros. I wish I had a video of them. I couldn't take my eyes off them. They had the moves.

The reception was held in a charmingly decorated, western style barn. More amazing smoked pork was served, this time in classic Missouri style on homemade buns with a heap of coleslaw and barbeque sauce on top. The signature cocktail was called the Regentini.

My new daughter-in-law wanted a classic, old school wedding cake with lots of piped buttercream.

There are more photos yet to surface. This is all I have to show you my mother of the groom dress, a shimmery, floor length, taupe colored number that is the second most formal dress I have ever worn.

We made lots of special memories that will be cherished for a long time to come.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Southern Charm

This Yankee has crossed the Mason Dixon Line. I'm sure of it because this charming little town has the largest magnolia trees I have ever seen, and every one is in full, glorious spring bloom.

It also has enough brick to rival a European city. Brick houses, brick churches, brick streets and brick sidewalks.

And so many stately, nineteenth century homes. This one is across the street from where we are staying. The beautiful porch takes my breath away. I wonder how many fireplaces it has because there are at least five chimneys.

Our sprawling brick rental house was built in the 1830's and is mysteriously guarding its stories of history. (Notice the purple Victorian in the background.)

There is a fireplace in every room of the newest part. Heating a home with these would be a lot of firewood and fire tending!

The bedroom opens out to the patio and garden views. Just what I need!

The house also has a former slaves quarters. Didn't I say mysterious?

Most importantly it has a fully equipped kitchen where I am working away at baking wedding cake. After a few glitches today I am back on track and looking forward to the rest of the week.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Loose Ends

I have had lots of intentions to keep up with my blog posts, taking photos, fermenting thoughts, but the days are far too short lately for me to actually follow all the way through. So here are a few of the loose ends I've left dangling. I'll catch you up in one fell swoop!

 After a number of years of hiatus, we are pig farmers once again. Samuel was determined to raise a 4-H pig for fair this year. We decided that if we were to raise pigs again (we always grow one for our own freezer too) we would do it a bit differently, giving the pigs more area to roam and root in the pasture, including the acorn abundant section under the oak tree, and feed them strictly organic hog feed. No more GMO corn and questionable feed additions. We got a great deal from a local mill and got some organic chicken feed while we were at it. Now we're trying to find one more piggy to add to the pen. That one would be raised to sell to earn back some of the money spent on the project. It turns out that buying little pigs is a bit different than it used to be. Farmers now sell them smaller and for a MUCH higher price. We're still looking.

The boys were very busy this spring building a dog pen for their best friend. The accommodations under the big fir trees in the back yard are much more comfortable than last year's pen and so much cuter too!

With their dad's help they built a comfortable house, painted it to look like ours, and since our house has a block patio, they felt Danner needed one too. The house has plenty of room for his dog bed and a window so that he can keep watch on things.

The cats love it too.

The main focus of my agenda this last week or two has been to prepare for our trip to Missouri. I am taking two coolers of frozen food to serve our guests at the rehearsal dinner. (Well, I'll thaw it before I serve it.) Last week I prepared the entree for the dinner.
It required fifteen pounds of elk.

 Several pounds of fresh crimini mushrooms...

 Onions and lots and lots (and lots) of garlic.

One and a half bottles of red wine and some tomato paste went into the sauce for Elk Tri-Tip served in Garlic Mushroom Sauce. In Missouri before dinner I'll thicken it up and add sour cream, then serve it over rice. This is how you feed fifty people something nice without mortgaging the house and hiring a caterer. Yesterday I made a wagon load of pie dough. In Missouri I'll enlist helpers to roll it out for me and we'll make pie for dessert (but of course!)

Yesterday we squeezed in a brief field trip to a local farm where some work horse demonstrations were being held for the homeschool group. Initially the boys didn't think it was necessary for them to go since they got lots of experience with working draft horses last year on the Amish farms they visited, but they decided to go anyway and were rewarded with a chance to drive a horse pulling a little garden cultivator.

The last loose end is just a preview. I want to make a separate blog post on an exciting project that my son, Kris, is working on. A CBS news cameraman and interview are involved. Stay tuned for more information!