Local Foods Party 08

This year marks the 3rd annual local foods party at casa du Wren, et al. (previous coverage: year 1 and year 2). As always, it was fun, inspiring, yummy, educational, communal, and more. This year's festivities were markedly more cozy* than previous years, partially due to improper organization on my part* and partially due to extenuating circumstances*. Nonetheless, it was a great time among friends new and old.

For a comprehensive list of the food and drink served, check out the menu. I will, however, call out a few of my highlights. Firstly, it warmed my pea-picking heart* to see that we had 3 different people include their own homemade butter in their recipes! Butter, along with salt, is always what I tell people about to help explain what this party is all about. I'm so glad the enthusiasm is spreading. (Speaking of butter, here's a picture of me making mine. Excuse the somewhat staged nature of the photo. Ma framed it to showcase her fancy new kitchen.) Along with folks getting on the butter bandwagon, I wasn't the only person to make my own salt this year. Keith's efforts put mine to shame with loads of nice clean salt. (My efforts were carbon neutral, though.)

A few great dishes that are highly worthy of calling attention to:
*Linda's zucchini/mint/[something else green] bisque served cold with goat cheese and tomatoes. In fact, I'm about to go ladle up some leftovers right now!
*Keith's dehydrated onions: as simple as it sounds but way better. Great for munching on before hand (and luckily he left us enough to keep for hikes, etc. too!)
*Goat's milk yogurt dressing: salad dressings have always been an issue in the past. This year, Ma came across local goat's milk yogurt and fashioned it into a great dressing for her summer squash salad. Then River threw together an impromptu dressing for his green salad that turned out great as well.

Yes, it was another great celebration of the season and the place we live. Thanks to all that joined in the fun. To the rest of you, I hope to see you here next year.

(Oh, and some photos from the feast: Ma's description of her dishes, the spread, the chilluns wait patiently to eat while the grown-ups goo and gaw over it all, plated goodness, post-feast mingle time.)
Thursday August 21 2008File under: food, Anacortes

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A Day on the Farm

There seems to be a trend of late of getting to know your food and the systems which brings it to your plate. Books like Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and movies such as King Korn are informing people about processes that are often quite hidden in today's boxed and packaged food world. Along with this trend is an awareness of foods that are produced locally and available at farmers' markets and coops.

Being a somewhat trendy guy myself*, I've done hopped on that band wagon. Besides the yearly local foods party (coverage of this year's party soon!), I found myself curious about that which happens before I buy my potatoes, celery, and onions at the farmers' market. So as research for this year's local foods party (and to help out some friends with the hectic pre-market harvest), I travelled up to Moon Dance Farm in Acme, WA to set how the onions get from the ground to the market.

First thing I noticed about Moon Dance Farm was how it wasn't at all what I expected. No vast acres of land planted homogeneously or heavy machinery, just a hugely oversized garden with tons of different plants from corn and greens to flowers and plants that I didn't initially recognize. Then there was the setting - mountains in the [not so distant] distance and trees surrounding everything. It really was a breathtaking sight.

But I didn't have much time to bask in amazement of it all because there was work to be done. We picked many types of onions, squash*, beans, peas, carrots, radishes, turnips, and so much more. After the picking came the sorting, cleaning, and bunching. I never would have guessed how much effort that takes; as much as, and sometimes more, than the harvesting itself. But when you are left with well cleaned veggies, boxed up and ready for market, it is a true feeling of accomplishment.

Yep, harvest day on the farm is enough to fill your head with understanding of the process, your back with appreciation of a hard day of work, and your heart with connections to the land around you.
Sunday August 17 2008File under: food, misc

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Farmers Market Time


Society for Creative Anachronisms folk boff at each other at the Port Orchard Farmer's Market

That time of year has returned again: farmer's market time! Granted early May is a little before most local farms are producing anything edible (at least in the Northwest), but communities are still gathering around those blue- and white-topped booths to look in on local crafts that were knitted, painted, and hot-glued over the winter months. Also prominent are little vegetable plants ready for transplant in your garden. The vendors, however, know that your plants won't produce nearly enough and that you'll be back.

This weekend, I've been to two new markets, one of which I've been wanting to visit for a long time. I've been hearing about Olympia's farmer's market for a long time from friends and family that have lived there. Sure enough, after a visit, I can see why it gets all the hype. Besides having a good selection of local produce and crafts, there is local meat, honey, and baked goods*. We moseyed on down for lunch from one of the many hot food vendors and listened to some of the live music. And as is often the case with every farmer's market I've been to, we ran into people we know.

Good food for now, good food for later, and good friends to enjoy both with: yep, I'm glad it's farmer's market time again.
Saturday May 10 2008File under: food

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The Other Local Food

We have all, undoubtedly, heard me go on and on about local foods, right? Well, I now offer you a slightly different version of the same concept: foods whose ingredients don't necessarily come from the immediate area, but foods which are closely tied to a place either because that is where they were invented/popularized or for some other reason. I took special care to experience as many of these foods as I could while on my trip. Here's the list.

Chicago deep dish pizza in Chicago; Philly cheese steak in Philly (sold from great little sidewalk stands); scrapple served up by Amish people in Phillie; crab cakes in Baltimore*; BBQ, hush puppies, and sweet tea in North Carolina; and New York City bagels* in New York City. Pretty much everything was awesome; each food stuff deserves the recognition it has achieved.

(Also worthy of note, although not famous except in certain circles, is my brief stop in Fredricksburg, VA at Carl's ice cream joint. I can't remember who recommended it to me along the way, but what a place. It was a local place that was so hoppin, I had to wait in quite a line for my shake. Totally worth it (both the wait and the riding my bike all over town to find it after a hard day on the road). It is worth including in this post because in my eyes, it captures exactly what a local establishment can be. Anyhoo, if you happen through Fredricksburg, you should definitely check it out.)
Sunday May 4 2008File under: food, travel

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Freshly Baked Bread

Whenever I hear about someone baking his/her* own bread, two things occur to me. First, there is always some excitement and pride in his/her* voice. It seems like s/he* feels a very strong ownership not only in the product but in the process and the recipe. Second, I realize how much I like baking bread and tell myself that I simply must do that sometime soon.

Since there is no time like the present*, last night I dove in. I used the same "recipe" that I've been using for years: bloom some yeast in some warmish water, then add some salt and flour. Since this recipe relies heavily on the baker's interpretation of "some", the bread always seems to turn out a little different. One thing is always the same though; it comes out of the oven warm and always seems to make great toast*. Add a little peanut butter and homemade jam and you've got yourself a treat.

Someday I might branch out into fancy breads like ciabatta, challah, etc. but this time around, all I was wanting was the feel of dough beneath my palms and an aroma to fill up the house. Done and done.
Wednesday February 27 2008File under: food

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Mexican Food


River and I at one of the many taco stands. (The cook was nice enough to offer to take the picture)
I love Mexican food. More specifically, I guess, I love American*-style Mexican food, as that was pretty much all I knew...until recently. Mexican-style Mexican food is awesome! Granted they don't have some of the staples of their northern cousins (burritos and chimichangas all seem to be imports to Mexico rather than exports), but the street tacos can't be beat.

Even after eating mostly Mexican food for a month straight (I'll admit I had a hamburger every now and again), I am not even close to tired of anything wrapped in a torilla. Aside from the great gobs tacos and quesadillas I ate, I also got to try a few new things: ceviche tostadas, fruit flavored tamales, and avocado pie. Oh man, the avocado pie at Tacos y Mas in Yelapa really hits the spot. (Add that to your list, Sunset Magazine.)

So unlike Italian food in Italy and Chinese food in China, I rate Mexican food in Mexico as as good as or better than the interpretations I grew up knowing. The food alone is a good enough reason to head south.
Saturday January 26 2008File under: food, Mexico

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Fresh Fruit

Tropical climates always have the best fresh fruit (except for berry season in Skagit County, of course). You can just walk around the streets and find people selling fresh squeezed orange juice, freshly sliced pinapple, and all sorts of exotic local fruits. Fruit salads at the restaurants are awesome as well as cheap. Yep, I never lack vitamin C when travelling to warm places.

This past week, however, I've taken fresh fruit to a new level. The place I am staying has fruit trees galore. In our yard, we've got a lime tree that we can't even come close to keeping up with. I've been working on my limeade recipe daily and it is getting better*. There are also banana trees all over the place. The neighbor, who is oh so generous, has 3 different types of bananas, lemon and orange trees (which aren't ripe yet), and passion fruits. I've been making some passion fruit juice that is to die for.

Another abundant "fruit"* that I am absolutely enamored with is the coconut. You can find them littered on the beach or along the paths. It takes some work to get them open but it is definitely worth it. You get a nice sip to quench your thirst and more sustanence than you might think. Amiel, Hallie, and I split a coco on the beach the other day (that I laboriously peeled usingly only a rock) and we couldn't even finish it. Yum. Right now, I've got a bowl of coconut meat waiting for me to attempt to turn into coconut milk in hopes of making a kick ass coconut fruit shake for breakfast. I'll let you know how it goes.
Thursday January 10 2008File under: Mexico, food

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Winter 2007-08 Taste of Anacortes

As the non-tourist season settles in to sleepy old Anacortes, the excuse to get people out on the town known as Taste of Anacortes is afoot again and I couldn't be happier. Last year, I attended 2 Tastes and thoroughly enjoyed them both. (Read about them here and here).

This year, I hope to attend each month's Taste. Good food in small portions ain't something to be scoffed at. If anyone is going to be around Anacortes during one and is looking for a date, I'm totally free.

For those content hungry*, I present you the menu for this latest Taste, at least for the Knife Route, which I took.
    Flounder Bay Cafe: Prime rib with mashed potatoes, and wine if you so desired (two out of the two times our route has included Flounder Bay, it has been the best stop on the route.)
    Il Posto: Bruscetta topped with a chicken meatball sauce. It was pretty good but the atmosphere in that place is about 8 degrees too fancy for me.
    Randy's Pier 61: Crab pot which is a cheesy, creamy crab dip served with festively colored tortilla chips.
    Rockfish Grill: Shrimp salad, which we would have enjoyed way more had we done it as the first stop. The big bonus at the "Rocker" was the Spoonshine Duo was playing. Good times.
    Johnny Picasso's: Carmel drizzled, pumpkin, cream-cheese cake with coffee. I've been wanting an excuse to go in there for the past couple years and I'm glad I finally got the chance. The owner is super nice and, if that cake was any indication, the desserts are out of this world.
Thursday November 29 2007File under: Anacortes, food

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Post-Feast Burrito

Happy Thanksgiving! While the holiday is slightly different for me this year than last year, it will still be great. Instead of being surrounded by palm trees and beaches, I will be surrounded by friends, family, and traditional food. I sincerely hope that you are surrounded with somethings/someones that make you happy as well.

Speaking of food, we all know the standard: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberries, and pie. It is a meal that I look forward to for quite some time, but there is something that occupies the food portion of my brain* more, for which the anticipation is even greater than feast: the post-feast burrito. I claim the invention as my own and this Thanksgiving, I would like to share the recipe with you.

Start with a flour tortilla, preferably the large size*. First lay down stuffing, mashed potatoes, and turkey. Liberally drizzle gravy on top, followed by a layer of cheddar cheese. Zap it all in the microwave for a minute or so, depending upon your portions. Top it off with a little cranberry sauce, fold, and enjoy.
Thursday November 22 2007File under: holidays, food

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Cheeseburger in Paradise

I've been a Jimmy Buffett fan of varying degrees for the past 10 years or so. His music has saved me from completely losing my sanity one summer when I was stuck behind a copy machine 40 hours a week, transported me away from my gloomy cubicle in the middle of a Washington winter (via radio margaritaville), and inspired real life travels to tropical places. So when it came to looking for a place to eat on the Las Vegas strip recently, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to check out the Margaritaville Cafe.

At the outset, I was somewhat skeptical of it being overly cliche and having the marketing shoved down our throats, but in the end, I was pleasantly surprised. While the music was a little loud, it was good*. There were guys on stilts walking around making balloon hats, which gave everything a kind of party atmosphere. Then, once an hour, a bikini clad lady emerged from a volcano, slid down a water slide, and ended in an extremely oversized margarita glass. It was quite a spectacle.

Besides the carnival atmosphere, the food was really good. I couldn't pass up ordering the cheeseburger in paradise. While it wasn't the best cheeseburger I've ever had, it was pretty dang good. Emily had a salad with onion and cucumber relish, bbq sauce, candied pecans, and fried chicken. While it sounded a little out there, it was actually really good.

Yep, good music, good food, and good atmosphere = a dang good evening.
Monday September 3 2007File under: travel, food

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