Friday, December 21, 2007

Girls Night Out

Fabulous night out at Number 9 in Lambertville last night. My friend Kathleen puts together an annual girls dinner this time of year. Much merriment ensued - I'm sure to the annoyance of all the other diners - and we had no problem laying all the wine to waste from Doug's wonderful cellar. (If earth is about to be hit by a giant meteor, I'm heading to Doug and Kathleen's wine cellar with a corkscrew and Reidel wine glass.) Thanks Doug! Great hooch! And thanks Kathleen for putting it all together...I, for one, am honored to be counted among your friends.

I loved my beet salad starter and pork chop main, but every time I got a whiff of the short ribs from Joanne's plate, I was sorry I had not made that my choice. I've got to get that beet salad recipe. The beets were sweet and creamy without the bite of over-vinegaring and the dressing was a perfect compliment.

I was kicking myself on the drive down to Lambertville because I raced out of the house without my camera. We were all mighty fine looking and it should have been captured for posterity, or at least this blog.

I was happy we had such a lively political discussion without bloodshed. I especially appreciated Pat T's input about the Clintons - first hand knowledge is enlightening. Ladies, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think we all decided the election would be between Romney and Clinton. I can hardly wait to see if we called right... Stay Tuned.

Oh, the brownie recipe. I almost forgot. You can find it here. The recipe makes a very intense gooey, chewy brownie that is only about 1/2 inch high. One clarification - for the 2 squares of chocolate called for in the recipe, I use one 4 oz. bar of best quality unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate which makes for more gooeyness (is that even a word?). You could use as little as 2 oz. - but why would you? I also add two optional items - 2 teaspoons of instant espresso powder and a large handful of walnuts. These brownies are seriously addictive and should not be given to small children or anyone with a weak heart. :o)

And could someone clear up my memory about our conversation at the end of the evening...something about a pajama party, Caleb, pot and a "comfortable" blond?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Book Club and a Recipe

Friday we met at Ursula's new home for our Christmas luncheon and discussion of The Book Thief (by Markus Zusak). Normally we meet at the Milford Public Library...practical, but not as much fun. Everyone who read the book, loved it, even though Death is the narrator.

My contribution to the lunch was Nantucket Cranberry Pie. A big hit and I promised to share the recipe. It is simple to make and has a festive air about it - perfect for this time of year. The recipe comes from an old Gourmet magazine article by Laurie Colwin. It was published posthumously in 1992 as part of a series of her articles. I mention this because her work is still published today, 15 years after her sudden death at age 48. To read Laurie Colwin is like having a chat with your life-long, best friend in the whole world. I'm not trying to be sappy here, but I cried when I read of her death. If you are not familiar with her, google her name. Top chefs today consider her a guiding light. She was/is one of my all time favorite writers and I have read and re-read her books. There is a wonderful article about her here and another one here.

Nantucket Cranberry Pie

I guess they call it a pie because you bake it in a pie plate, but it really is a cake. I like to make it in a 9" cake pan. I dust it with confectioners sugar and put a little sweetened whipped cream on each piece.


Unsalted butter, to grease the pie plate
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (don't thaw if frozen)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped


2 eggs
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the cranberries in a buttered, 10-inch pie plate. Toss the sugar and walnuts over the berries.

In a mixing bowl, cream the eggs and the butter with the sugar. Add the flour and almond extract to the mixture, lightly tossing with a fork.

Pour the topping over the cranberry mixture and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Yield: makes a single cake layer - 8 servings

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Storm That Wasn't

We were all bracing for the first big blow of winter - that awful ice storm that wrecked havoc in the midwest. Instead it just produced a lovely sunrise winterscape for me to capture with my digital camera. I do not know what it is about the early morning light here at the farm, but it has taken my breath away more times that I can count.

I love my digital camera! What a great tool for experimenting with photography. Take a hundred pictures and throw them all away with nary a care. It really frees up the creative process, for me anyway. All the pictures on this blog are taken with a Kodak Easy Share I bought earlier this year. I was giddy with it in France. Tiny and easy to carry, I took over 500 photos. Sure, the vast majority were not worth the chip space they used, but the ones that turned out thrilled me. I still love my old 35 mm, but I have not taken it on recent trips as it is bulky and I tired of worrying about it getting lost or stolen.

I took both these shots from our front porch looking across the creek to the neighboring farm. Everything was coated in ice to dazzling effect.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Birthday Weekend

In early November for the past couple years, we have celebrated our birthday with a weekend in Cape May, New Jersey with Craig and Melitta Cronce . The Virginia hotel, which is yet another one of the interesting and fun places Melitta knows about, is our base of operations. Check out their website at Melitta has a wonderful ability to ferret out the best of the best no matter where she goes and lucky for us, is willing to share her finds with us. I am crazy for the decor, which is this 30's glam but all updated, plus lots of red splashed around.

One of the highlights of our stay is dinner in the Ebbitts Room at the hotel. I think as good as any top NYC restaurant. Before dinner we laid claim to one of the small, cozy rooms off the main lobby and toast our friendship, our birthday and Craig and Melitta's anniversary. All great reasons to celebrate. Last year, the server told us we needed to save room for the chef's signature dessert, Sticky Toffee Pudding. Well, we just ordered one to share as we not huge dessert folks. Chris and I fighting for the last couple spoonfuls was much so, the staff was mobilizing to break it up (the chef was gratified by our enthusiasm, however). So this year, for some reason I can't fathom, they insisted we each order our own!
A walk on the beach is a must and I love this pic I captured of Craig and Melitta.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Barging in Burgundy

Our great travel adventure for 2007 was a September trip to France. We were joined by Jeff and Julie (son and daughter in law) and good friends Craig and Melitta Cronce. The first week was spent aboard the barge Sarouche, captained by a most jolly Kevin Tickell and his chef wife, Jodie. What comfortable and beautiful accomodations. The food was beyond wonderful, as Jodie is a creative and accomplished cook. (There is a lot more information and pictures of the barge at We highly recommend this barge. We think there is none better.)

Chris, Julie, Craig and Jeff relaxing on the deck of the barge as we meandered down the canal.

Jodie's Boeuf Bourguignon...I was so inspired by this dish, I just had to try it when we got home. The recipe I found and liked the best was from Bouquet de France (an old Gourmet magazine publication) called Vinters' Beef. I tried Jodie's Lapin Dijon one night...loved it. Unfortunately, all my travelling companions gave me a hard time for eating Flopsy. Or was it Mopsy or Cotton-tail...don't know, don't care - it was wonderful! And don't EVEN think of emailing me about what a rotten person I am and "how could you eat the poor wittle wabbit." blah, blah, blah... With a knife and fork, I say!!

The next leg of our trip took us to the middle of France, just north of Limoges, and a charming bed and breakfast run by Kathy and Martin Missen - Le Canard de Parapluie. The house used to be the hotel at the rail depot. She says they are still laughing at how we toasted the trains every time they passed by the house. Didn't matter what we were drinking - coffee, wine, whatever... Hey, we know how to have a good time. We spent one day touring the town of Oradour-sur-Glane ( - a fascinating website created by an enthusiastic historian). It was very moving. The town was destroyed and all its residents murdered by SS men just before the close of WWII. The town has been preserved just as the Germans left it as a memorial. This is the doctors car near the town square.

Our final night in France at Les Caves de Marson near Saumur in the western Loire valley. The restaurant is in a Troglodyte cave and only lit by candlelight. I had the mother of all colds, but it was still pretty special to be sitting there with my sweetie enjoying a glass of Coteaux du Layon.

More on the trip later...