25 March 2011

This recipe is actually my mom's.

Take that, crumbly sawdust shortbread recipes (I‘m talkin‘ to you, Martha Stewart)!  This one’s the best!

Mama Riner’s Oatmeal Shortbread

Makes about 5 dozen pieces.  

1 cup unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups flour
3.4 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cup quick oats

Preheat oven at 325°F.  Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl.  Gradually add the flour, oats, and salt.  Press into a greased 13x9x2 pan.   Bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.  Cool 10 minutes before cutting into squares.  

18 March 2011

Denver restaurant week was awesome

Went to Terroir in Longmont the first day of Restaurant Week(s), February 26.  Here was the special menu:

First Course
Choice of one:
  • Asparagus soup with citrus mascarpone ravioli and lobster
  • Roasted Hazel Dell mushroom salad with arugula, Haystack chèvre and Meyer lemon vinaigrette
  • Arancini with housemade mozzarella and roasted tomato sauce
  • Sweet potato gnocchi with dried cherries, roasted onions and duck confit
Second Course
Choice of one:
  • Grilled marlin served over spring vegetable risotto cake with snow peas and cucumber salpicon
  • Long Family Farm pork shoulder confit served with spätzle, roasted carrots, chard and apple confit
  • Grilled Colorado's Best Beef hanger steak served with chili roasted potatoes, jicama citrus salad and chimichurri
  • Housemade seitan served with curried lentils and winter squash
Third Course
Choice of one:
  • Lavender crème brûlée
  • Chocolate caramel tart with smoked sea salt
  • Warm pear crisp with honey whipped mascarpone cheese
  • Ice cream sandwiches with ginger snap cookies and pumpkin ice cream
Additional Items
  • Wine pairings with each course available for additional $15

I had the mushroom salad, hanger steak, and lavender brulee.  The mushrooms, goat cheese, and vinaigrette were unspeakably good in the salad, but the greens were a big, huge, tangled pile or arugula, which became tiresome after a while.  Would've been good to mix in some other kind of green, I think.  

The steak was to die for--heavily rubbed with cumin and perfectly mid-rare; the chimichurri sauce was light, but the steak didn't need it, anyway.  The potatoes were a rare treat underneath a generous pile of meat, but the jicama-grapefruit salad was too heavy-handed; it became a burden after a while.  I thought it seemed like a nice idea, a sort of cool-off from the other bites on the plate, but there was almost as much of it as there was steak, and the flavor was too sharp and demanding.  Perhaps a light creative slaw of some kind (and a smaller portion) would have worked better. 

The lavender creme brulee was brilliant: lavender was very present in the flavor, but it worked so well.  The top was heavily torched for maximum caramel-goodness and crunch.  

The wine pairings were "meh".  The Prosecco with dessert was the best.

My companion (OK, it was my husband) had the comforting, mild asparagus soup, the tasty but too-dry pork confit, and the amazing chocolate tart with salted carmel sauce.  

All in all, the meal was full of incredible experiences with a couple of distractions.  They shoot for the moon at Terroir and understandably experience an occasional near miss, but I think it's definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.  

246 Main St.
Longmont , CO 80501

17 March 2011

Irish Chicken

This recipe was neither given to me by an Irish cook nor eaten on the soil of Ireland.  But, they like potatoes, cabbage, and bacon as much as I do, so what the hell.  Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit, bitches.  

Irish Chicken

Serves 4

¾ pound new potatoes, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 6-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 slices bacon, chopped
½ small yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
½ small head cabbage (8 oz.), cut into thin strips

Heat oven to 425°F.  On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast, tossing once, until golden, about 25 minutes.  

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown and cooked through about 6-7 minutes on each side.

Remove the chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm; wipe out the skillet and cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 7 minutes.  Remove bacon, add the onion, mustard, and vinegar; cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the cabbage and cook until wilted, about 4 minutes.  Serve over the chicken and with potatoes on the side; sprinkle everything with bacon.  

11 March 2011

My totally weird, but totally perfect new St. Pat's meal

I like to give props to my Irish roots around St. Pat's time, and I do loves me some boiled potatoes and cabbage, but it can be kinda bland.  And not brimming over with nutrients (because Irish cuisine seems to be cooked to death and then drowned in butter, see).

Enter Sauerkraut--I know, it's weird!  But it adds just the right amount of pickle-y zing that Irish food needs, and apparently it's all packed with probiotics and stuff. Splurge and get the stuff in the refrigerated section--the canned stuff is as healthy as corned beef.

Sauerkraut Plate: serves 4

Souped-up Sauerkraut

2 cups prepared (refrigerated) sauerkraut
¼ yellow onion, thinly sliced
½ small carrot, grated
2 green cabbage leaves, chiffonaded
Handful of raisins, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and allow to sit about 15 minutes.

Spinach and lentil salad

1 teaspoon olive oil
4 cups frozen chopped spinach
2 cups puy (French) lentils
½ yellow onion, chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine broth, mustard, lemon juice, and garlic and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet or large saucepan over medium heat.  When it shimmers, add the onion and sauté until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add the lentils and broth mixture and bring to a boil; lower heat to simmer, cover and cook until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir in spinach and heat thoroughly, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Super-salted potatoes

2 pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
¼ cup salt
3 tablespoons olive oil

Pour salt into a large saucepan; add potatoes and shake to coat.  Cover with water and bring to a boil; cook until potatoes are tender but still hold together, about 20 minutes.  Drain and pour olive oil over hot potatoes; serve immediately.

Serve all with pickles, Irish soda bread, and lager.

04 March 2011

What is the big deal with dining alone?

In my line of work, I most often travel alone.  I arrive in a strange city, fumble with an unfamiliar rental car, and do at least some of my eating and sight-seeing alone.  The more gigs I have scheduled for a specific cite, the more alone time I have, because each hosting program assumes someone else is handling me.

Surprisingly, the more urban areas that can handle multiple flute recitals in a week (can anyone?), the more discomfort people appear to display upon seeing me alone in a restaurant.  This is based entirely on perception, of course, which is inherently flawed in various ways, but it still seems palpable to me.  Perhaps rural areas are equally bothered by my loneliness but just act differently.  I will say, I have been engaged in conversation across the aisle in restaurants in Wyoming, South Dakota, and the like too often to count.  Maybe this was how local diners corrected the problem of seeing a companionless fellow diner--they all became my companions.  If this is the case, it was as graceful and pleasant as any negative emotion I have ever seen expressed.

On a recent trip to Seattle, however,  I had a different experience when I found myself waiting in line alone for lunch at a popular French restaurant.   I was OK with the fact that I was by myself, but I was not in love with the fact that I seemed invisible to the staff and all too visible to the other diners.  I would have preferred the opposite.

When the host came to seat me, he looked right over my head to the three businessmen standing directly behind me and said, “Now then, gentlemen…”  Fearing I would have to wait even longer while they skipped the line (no one made any moves to correct him and point out my short presence directly in front of him), I jumped in and said, “Just me, please!”, a slightly awkward moment when met by blank stares from all around.  Or maybe I looked like the kind of sassy little lady to have three dates.

I was then seated at the only two-top in sight, placed right in the walkway at the front of the dining room like an afterthought.    It should’ve been good for getting my water refilled (it wasn’t), but I was plunked down directly interrupting the flow of traffic in and out of the room, which created another perpetually awkward moment.

The restaurant was filled with business groups and “Real Housewives” types in large, boisterous parties, and I caught a few uncomfortable sets of eyes regularly meeting mine.  Alright, I guess I kept looking at them, too.  I will not blame all of Seattle for this situation, but in this particular restaurant, it really seemed like too much of a big deal that I did not have a collection of friends on display at lunch.

My biggest complaint, though, is the way the restaurant dealt with a singular diner.  My waitress was not at all bothered by my presence, although I was pleasant and started off by ordering booze, signifying that I was at least not a total cheapskate.  After watching her take orders from all those seated after me in her area, my order was hastily taken and, when my food came, it was slammed down in front of me while she looked out the window.  Charming.  And on the rare occasion when I actually wanted to order dessert, she silently slid the bill over to me while I was still working on my entrée;  behavior which, by the way, did not seem to be repeated at the full tables around me--cheesy sucking-up lines seemed to be shouted from every corner in those situations.

Friends, sometimes people eat alone.  It is not sad or icky--it’s just the way it happens sometimes.  We also plan to pay with actual money, however, and perhaps our lack of neediness will help make up for the fact that we do not order eight complete sets of meals. Maybe this guide will help.

The ahi tuna was delicious, by the way.  And it was a much cheaper meal than I had budgeted: there was no coffee and crème brulee, afterall, and the tip was rather small in size.