Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Peanut Butter Bites: Not Just a Christmas Cookie

Peanut Butter Bites

Every year I experiment with at least one new holiday baking recipe and I didn't get around to this one until December 24th.  But for goodness sakes-- I am so glad I did.  These peanut butter bites are not your typical peanut butter cookies; they have half a mini Reese's peanut butter cup hidden inside. The result is a creamy puffy ball of wonder. Forget visions of sugarplums! 

The recipe was ho-ho easy to follow and prepare and I will absolutely bake these cookies again-- and not just at Christmas time. 

I found the recipe in a free booklet at my Publix, grocery store, saved from Holiday 2009. However, a Google search reveals  Better Homes and Gardens claims recipe ownership. 

Creamy Peanut Butter Bites
Makes about 40 cookies

•    3/4  cup  butter, softened
•    1/2  cup  creamy peanut butter
•    1  cup  sugar
•    1/2  teaspoon  baking powder
•    1/8  teaspoon  salt
•    1    egg
•    1  teaspoon  vanilla
•    2  cups  all-purpose flour
•    20  miniature chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, halved
•        Unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine butter and peanut butter. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. If necessary, cover and chill about 30 minutes or until dough is easy to handle.

2. Shape dough into 1-1/2-inch balls. Press a peanut butter cup half into each ball and shape dough around peanut butter cup to enclose. Place cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are very lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool. If desired, sprinkle cookies with cocoa powder. Makes about 40 cookies.

To Store: Place cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
The bad news: Each cookie is about 110 calories with 6 grams of fat. But indulge, they are yummy.

Read this and other food blog articles posted on Wanderfood Wednesdays

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Colonial American Ambiance at The Wayside Inn

The Wayside Inn, Sudbury, Masschusetts
Anyone who knows me understands that I am drawn to Early American decor; the richness of cherry wood,  furniture with simple elegant lines, and the practical usefulness of tools. I don't know why but perhaps I lived a prior life in that time period. Anyway, I  feel comfortable sitting in a straight back chair at a wooden trestle table, adore the streets of Colonial Williamsburg and sleep in a canopy bed.   

So, when I traveled to Boston to visit my daughter Abby, we went to the Wayside Inn in her hometown of Sudbury, Massachusetts. The Wayside Inn is America's oldest operating inn replete with colonial furnishings. (Click here to see my previous article on this Inn.)

As it was December, the rooms were adorned for Christmas with greenery, flickering candles and glowing fireplaces. The taproom just to the right of the main door overflowed with lively merriment. But, we had little Jonah (age 20 months) with us and sitting in the bar just wasn't an option. His attention span is limited and we wanted to eat and leave before he became unhappy -- and the dining room filled with customers. 

The three of us were seated in the tavern style restaurant and Jonah was delighted with the cracker tray!  I ordered roast duckling and Abby chose scallops.  The service was friendly and prompt and the food excellent, not haute cuisine but very tasty simpler fare.  On Sundays the establishment traditionally offers Yankee pot roast. 

On our way out we popped our heads into the bar since the crowd had thinned. A fellow with a guitar sat at a table and when he saw Jonah, he immediately started playing Jolly Old St. Nicholas. Jonah's face burst into smiles and he clapped and bounced along. Next came Jingle Bells. What fun to feel so festively welcomed and have a child be enjoyed instead of shooed out.

Thank you Wayside Inn for a memorable evening and wonderful meal.
Read this and other food blog articles posted on Wanderfood Wednesdays.  
Roast duckling and sweet potatoes

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Baking with the In Crowd--Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet cupcakes seem to be popping up everywhere, so I just had to make a batch. And...I humbly confess, they're darn good!

Below is the recipe I used, however, I think I should have made fewer cupcakes as mine did not rise to the top. Did I overbeat or was there not enough batter for 30 cupcakes??? Who knows.  I also used less food coloring, just because the entire bottle seemed like overkill.

Nonetheless, the cupcakes taste great even if they didn't rise over the sides of the paper cups. 

Unfrosted red velvet cupcakes
Red Velvet Cupcakes
-- Makes 30  or so cupcakes

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 bottle (1 oz) red food coloring
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Mix flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar in large dowl with electric mixer on medium speed 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Mix in sour cream, milk, food color and vanilla.  Bradually beat in the flour mixture on low speed unti blended.  Do not over beat.  Spoon batter into 30 paper lined muffin cups filling each 2/3 full.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  cool in pans on wire rack for 5 minutes.  Remove from pans; cool completely and frost.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Beat 1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened, 1/4 cup or 1/2 stick butter, softened, 2 tablespoons sour cream and 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract in large bowl unti light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in 1 box (16 oz) confectioner's sugar until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sugar Cookie Gingerbread Men and Chocolate Crackles

Santa would love Double Chocolate Crackles
Baking in Boston

I flew to Boston last weekend to visit my oldest daughter and my youngest grandchild, Jonah-now 20 months old. Abby and I decided to bake Christmas cookies but thought Jonah would like the taste of sugar cookies better than gingerbread. I mixed up the batter and he had his first taste of cookie dough right off the spatula.

He loved putting mini M & M's on as eyes, nose or whatever!

When Jonah took his nap Abby and I made a batch of chocolate cookies. The recipe came from the Food Network Magazine I'd purchased and read on the plane.  The process was fast and easy, required no mixer and tasted delicious- not too sweet.  Abby declared them,  "two bites of goodness."

Read this and other food blog articles posted on Wanderfood Wednesdays

Double Chocolate Crackles
From The Food Network Magazine- December 2010
Makes 24-30 cookies

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup confectioner's sugar

1.  Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk in the melted butter and eggs until combined, then stir in the white chocolate chips.  Cover and chill until form- 1 hour or longer.

2.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon.  Put the confectioner's sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll tablespoons of the dough into balls, then roll in the confectioner's sugar until well coated.  Place 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.

3.  Bake until the cookies are puffed and tops are cracked, about 10 minutes.  Let cool 2 minutes and on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bizcochitos and Posadas for Christmas

New Mexico's State Cookie : Bizcochitos

I've written about Florida's Key Lime pie and Massachusett's Boston Cream pie, both declared their official state's dessert, but New Mexico was the first to have a state cookie: the bizcochito (bees-ko-CHEE-toh). In 1989, New Mexico lawmakers passed House Bill 406. They didn't the battle over the adoption, but how to spell the cookie's name. Several lawmakers of the House floor desired an "s" others a "z" and eventually the stalemate resulted in the cookie's press credentials as "bizcochito".

According to my limited  research, the first Christmas celebration in Mexico took place back in 1538, when a Fransican Monk, Fray Pedro de Gante invited the native tribe surrounding the mission to celebrate Christ's birth. Over the years many pueblo people were converted to Christianity and began to incorporate the holiday customs into their culture.

Christmas in Mexico begins on December 16th -- the day Las Posadas begins. The posadas re-enact Mary and Joseph’s travel to Bethlehem and search for lodging. They roles are often played by friends and family who travel from house to house looking for shelter. The posadas last for 9 days, up until Noche Buena or Christmas Eve. At the last house all are welcomed into a festive party. Many southwestern restaurants now honor this celebration with gala menus on December 24th.

Traditionally the end to each posada has been a piñata made in the shape of a star, to recall the one that  guided the Three Kings to the newborn Jesus. Now piñatas come in all shapes and sizes and are filled with candy, toys, and sometimes money.

In addition to the the posadas meals, bizcochitos are treats frequently made and served at Christmas.The  rolled anise and cinnamon wafers are similar to sugar cookies, but also resembles shortbread. They can be cut into shapes or left round; either way and on any day, holiday or not, they are officially New Mexico's state cookie.

Read this and other food blog articles posted in Wanderfood Wednesdays

Recipe for Bizcochitos

The traditional recipe below includes lard.  Personally I prefer butter, but offer the authentic version.

3-4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup of lard
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon anise seeds - crushed
Cinnamon sugar for dusting

Combine 3 or 4 eggs (depending on size) with 1 cup of sugar, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1 cup of lard. Mix ingredients thoroughly.

After eggs, sugar and vanilla are mixed thoroughly, add 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 4 cups of flour. Mix in 1 tablespoon anise seeds (crushed to bring out the flavor). Mix into a dough the consistency of pie crust dough.

Roll the dough thin and cut cookies. Dip tops in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar before baking.

Bake at 350 for 12 to 15 Minutes

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Turkey Leftovers?

Got leftovers?

On Thanksgiving I cooked a 22-pound turkey for my fourteen guests. We did a good job of consuming most of the bird, but leftovers are inevitable and I think desirable. This year I tried a new soup recipe; one that I found in my newspaper supplement: American Profile. The Southwestern spice appealed to me and gave a completely different flavor than the usual day-after Thanksgiving meal.  

Turkey Tortilla Soup
Serves 12


1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 cups cooked, skinless turkey, cut in strips
1 (28-oz) can chopped tomatoes, undrained
6 cups fat-free chicken broth (I made my own by simmering the bones in a crockpot overnight)
1 (4-oz) can chopped green chiles, drained
1 (16-oz) package frozen corn
1 (15-oz) can Great Northern, navy white or black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice  (Must brag that I used limes grown in my backyard.)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 Tablespoon chili powder
4 (6-8inch) flour tortillas, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese
1 small avocado, peeled and chopped (optional)


1. Coat a Dutch oven with cooking spray. Add onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat until tender, about 7 minutes.

2. Add turkey, tomatoes, chicken broth, green chiles, corn, beans, lime juice, cumin and chili powder.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes.

3. While soup is cooking, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4.  Place tortilla strips on baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes, until crisp.  I substituted broken tortilla chips.

5. Serve soup in bowls and top with tortilla strips, green onions, cheese and avocado. 

Nutritional facts per one cup serving: 209 calories, 4 grams fat, 37 mg cholesterol, 20 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 571 mg sodium.

This joins other food blog articles posted in Wanderfood Wednesdays on Wanderlust and Lipstick.  
RJ and Kyra, my two oldest grandchildren, eye the turkey.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chocolate Curling in Italy?

Ingredients for making Chocolate Truffles
Ski in Chocolate? Sounds like fun ...
     but I learned to make chocolate truffles in Florida.

Italy’s Cortina d’Ampezzo announced it will stage a ski race with a chocolate theme during the Eurochocolate Festival held in the famous Italian ski town from December 16-19th.

It is the very first time that the International Chocolate Festival, Eurochocolate, takes place at altitude and the race is just the tip of a chocolatey iceberg. Eurochocolate Ski will offer chocolate experiences directly on the slopes or skiers can warm up with an invigorating cup of thick hot chocolate in one of the traditional mountain chalets.

Those who prefer can indulge their desires at a downtown Chocolate Slalom. The Audi Palace, a village of tents, will host a ChocoMarket with sweet exhibitions, an educational chocolate experience for children, chocolate-tasting classes for adults, a chocolate spa and beauty treatments. And since virtually every winter sport is practiced in Cortina, there will be Chocolate Curling. Now, that I'd like to see

Tempered Chocolate is messy.
Unfortunately, I won't be making it to Cortina, but recently attended a local chocolate festival of sorts. Peterbrooke Chocolate of Jacksonville gave a hands-on demonstration at the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association workshop.  Phyllis Geiger, Peterbrooke's owner, taught the group how to make truffles, even allowing attendees the opportunity to get down and dirty in the tempered liquid. My fingers never tasted so good.  Peterbrooke is famous for introducing chocolate popcorn to the South. I watched a batch being prepared but,of course, the best part was nibbling the finished product. 
IFWTWA nenbers get a hands on demonstration

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's a Slugburger?

A Slugburger, onion rings and shake
The story behind the Slugburger dates back to the depression. Seems a local Mississippi butcher tried to stretch his meat by combining beef and pork, plus a filler, containing a few ingredients I'd probably rather not consider.  He shaped the meat into a patty, then deep fried it and served the combo on a bun with yellow mustard, onions and pickles. At the time the sandwich sold for a nickel, which carried the nickname-- a slug. Thus, the birth of the slugburger still found in Corinth, Mississippi.
Borroum's Drug Store in Corinth, Mississippi

If you visit Borroum's Drug Store on Waldron Street, you can taste one at the counter installed in the late 1930's.  Borroum's is worth a visit because it's the oldest drug store in the state with displays of the original cobalt blue dispensing bottles and assorted antique drug store items. The glass cases give a peek into your great, great-grandmother's  medicine cabinet. 

When I visited Corinth I ate lunch at Borroum's. I took a bite of the slugburger, currently priced at $1.75 and honestly, can't really recommend it, but I can wholeheartedly rave about the milkshakes. Wow- these are the honest soda fountain treat. Mine was creamy, made with full fat milk and ice cream, and thick enough to just sip through a straw. Shakes and malts come to the table in metal blender containers so you can pour yourself get a second helping!
A bright red Cherry Coke

My friends ordered regular hamburgers and were very pleased and I loved every bite of my taco salad. I also tasted some extraordinarily good, lightly battered onion rings.  For those dreaming of an original soda jerk cherry coke, you're in luck. The bright red colored drinks are also on the menu.  

Should you go to Corinth to visit the Civil War battlefields and museums (I highly recommend them) or for any reason, you owe it to yourself to step back in time at Borroum's Drug Store and take a leap toward a delicious meal.

This joins other food blog articles posted in Wanderfood Wednesdays on Wanderlust and Lipstick.

Borroum's Drug Store
604 Waldron Street
Corinth, Mississippi 38834

You may be interested in reading my review of Abe's Grill, also in Corinth

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Abe's Grill: A Southern Tradition in Corinth, Mississippi

Abe's Grill in Corinth, Mississippi
Customers stand in line waiting for a seat in Abe's Grill.

The moment you drive up to this little diner you know the place is special. First of all, their parking lot stays full, always a sign of good food. And the diner's exterior, a hodge-podge of signs, slogans and placards, grabs your attention and pulls you in.

The 17 stool lunch counter grill was opened in 1974 making it the oldest diner on highway 72 in Corinth, Mississippi. Abe and Terri Whitfield are the worker-bee owners and operators of the establishment. Just enter and Abe will fly over and make you feel part of the hive.

And, when he tells you to grab an open seat, you'd better make a beeline as there's usually a swarm waiting. Never fear, service and turnover are speedy and the prices won't sting your budget. Two eggs with bacon, sausage or bologna with biscuits and sawmill gravy plus coffee is only $4.59.

Abe's Famous Country Breakfast
I buzzed over for breakfast and found a heaping mound of bacon and sausage stacked near the grill. These meats had been cooked earlier in the morning (doors open at 5 am). When they run out, about 10:30, Abe switches to the lunch menu featuring burgers and fries.

Homemade biscuits with gravy or honey are famous. I tried slathering something called chocolate gravy on some bread.  Not quite sure what was in the nectar of melted chocolate; my friends raved, but I must admit it wasn't my favorite.

In 2008, Mississippi Magazine voted Abe's Grill as the Best Place in the State to Ruin Your Diet. Now that's gotta prove they produce southern style cooking worth the weight.

This post joins other food blogs on Wanderfood Wednesday.

Abe's Grill
803 Highway 72 W
Corinth, MS 38834
(662) 286-6124
Open Monday through Friday - 5:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Abe's Grill: A Corinth Tradition

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chocolate Wine? Yes

A Product Review : ChocoVine:

Chocolate and red wine? Sounds questionable but for the sake of this food blog, I 'd experiment.

According to the wine maker," ChocoVine is a fine French Cabernet subtly combined  with a rich dark chocolate from Holland, paired together to create a decadent, silky smooth drink. It can be served on the rocks or as the main ingredient to an array of sinful cocktails."

Now, Cabernet Sauvignon is my favorite wine and I adore chocolate, so why not?

WOW.  I was not expecting much but ChocoVine is a real find. Honestly.  My first sip tasted like Bailey's Irish Cream but smoother. The drink rolls on the tongue and feels like super creamy, liquid pudding. Yum, I really liked the chocolately goodness, which doesn't over power and blends nicely with delicate red wine. Smells wonderful, too.

The literature also states, " The right chocolate paired with the perfect wine can create a near-orgasmic taste experience. But the wrong wine opposite a too-sweet chocolate creates nothing but horror. Many have taken the challenge...and have failed." Well, I'm sitting at my desk by myself but feeling pretty good!

And if that isn't enough," research shows that they are both rich in antioxidant, making it a healthy combination as well. ChocoVine is gluten free."

Can't argue with that. Get yourself a bottle and try some instead of dessert.  

By the way, I purchased my bottle in a Publix Grocery Store for about ten dollars, so you don't have much to lose.

This joins other food blog articles posted in Wanderfood Wednesdays on Wanderlust and Lipstick.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Luscious Lobster In Nova Scotia

I recently flew to Nova Scotia, Canada to participate in a photography workshop given by Bryan Peterson but, truth be told, I was eagerly awaiting the taste of lobster. The workshop was based in the Peggy's Cove, known as the "heart" of Lobster Country.

I dug right in, having the delectable signature lobster club sandwich at the Finer Diner; I consumed a yummy lobster roll at Tea and Treasures. I supped some hearty seafood chowder containing chunks of lobster at the Mug and Anchor Pub in Mahone Bay.  But, when my group arrived at the Sou' Wester Restaurant in Peggy's Cove, we were too late. Seems the steamers had already been turned off for cleaning.

Not to be denied, on my last afternoon Barb, my photography buddy and I walked to a nearby spot. The little cottage sits right off the dock in Indian Harbour, where the fisherman bring their catch. Ryer Lobsters, Ltd. is a local establishment specializing in fresh lobsters.

The restaurant consists of nothing more than outdoor picnic tables but the atmosphere is honest, pure relaxed Maritime heaven. Barb and I each ordered a one and a quarter pounder and were delighted at the price- only $9.00.  Imagine that? Barb also ordered a half dozen oysters. 

When our cooked crustaceans arrived on paper plates, we practiced out photography skills, proudly snapping pictures and then tore into the delicacies. No disappointment here; this was steamed seafood at its freshest and finest. Absolutely sensational, succulent and sinful. Dipping a morsel into melted butter just made each mouthful slip down more smoothly and taste more decadent.
Our lobster lunch was exactly what I had dreamed of and, in fact, Barb was so high, she ordered a second!
If you get to Peggy's Cove, be sure and stop at Ryer Lobsters: one of Nova Scotia's roadside delights - 8494 Peggy's Cove Road.

The lobster roll is Nova Scotia's  fast food.  Here is recipe provided by: Taste of Nova Scotia. I chose this simple recipe for those of us who don't live in the Province. It's made with frozen meat.

Lobster Roll

2 cups or one 11-oz tin frozen lobster meat
1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp diced celery
2 Tbsp minced onion (optional)

Thaw and drain lobster meat. Chop into bite size pieces. In a small mixing bowl combine mayonnaise with lemon juice, celery and onion. Add to lobster and mix well. Spread the lobster salad on your favorite bread, croissant or use as a pita bread filling. 
Makes 4 to 6 servings

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Oktoberfest and Pumpkin Ravioli

An Autumn Recipe

Can't let October slip by without thinking Oktoberfest.  Two trips to Munich, Germany, home of the Bavarian festival, converted me a beer drinker, thought I still prefer wine. I've found I like the taste of Sam Adams. 

According to the advertisement, the Boston brewed beer " has a rich, deep reddish amber hue which itself is reflective of the season. Samuel Adams Octoberfest masterfully blends together five roasts of malt to create a delicious harmony of sweet flavors including caramel and toffee.  The malt is complimented by the elegant bitterness imparted by the Bavarian Noble hops."

Sounds good to me.  They suggest pairing the drink with Pumpkin Ravoili for an autumn meal.  Here's their very simple  recipe, which I haven't tried, but how could you go wrong with pasta, butter and cheese?

Sam Adams Pumpkin Ravioli

•    24 store bought pumpkin ravioli
•    2 shallots
•    6 T butter
•    2 T sage, chopped
•    6 oz Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer
•    ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Sautee shallots in butter and brown. When butter is browned add beer and sage, salt and pepper and Parmesan cheese. Pour over ravioli. (Serves four).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Feasting and Fun in Funky Santa Fe

My first night in Santa Fe began with an al fresco cocktail party that was anything but ordinary. The happy hour flowed with award winning concoctions shaken and stirred by famous mixologists from the Secreto Bar in the St. Francis Hotel.  Famous indeed; Daniel Gonzales won the 2010 Shake it Up! Cocktail Competition in Las Vegas, Nevada. He and fellow bartender, Chris Milligan, infused top shelf liquor with in-season, local New Mexican produce.
Secreto Bar Mixologists

My favorite highball, Sweet Heat, was created from a mixture of tequila, green chilies, mango, Grand Mariner and Agave nectar. Yes, it included hand-pressed green chilies and was joyfully shaken with a smile. Chris feels the smile adds the mandatory punch.

If those beautiful drinks weren't indulgent enough, my group was then treated to a sinfully rich meal prepared by former monk and current St. Francis Hotel Executive Chef, Estevan Garcia. Please refer to my  previously blog post about his signature dessert, which I called a Friar's Flan.

The next morning I set out to explore the town nicknamed "The City Different." Soon I came across an amusing arrangement of stone fish leaping from a courtyard of pebbles. They seemed so out of place but...why not?  Art in public places is encouraged in New Mexico and funky Santa Fe flaunts a multitude of outdoor creations.
Rocky Durham, Santa Fe School of Cooking

In the afternoon I enrolled in a restaurant walking tour given by The Santa Fe School of Cooking. Chef Rocky Durham, culinary director of the school, radiates a personality as full of life as those fiery red chilies I saw hanging all over town. Rocky lead my small group to an extraordinary, behind the scenes, tasting tour of four of the city's most famous restaurants.

Santa Fe's largest restaurant, Rio Chama Steakhouse, is managed by renown Chef Tom Kerpon. While the building's square footage sprawls, numerous dining rooms separate the space giving a warm, homey feel.  The impressive 11,000 bottle wine cellar holds an inventory valued at $330,000 amongst 860 different wines. Chef Tom seated us in the kitchen to sample red chili honey cherry glazed short ribs. The name's a mouthful, but the taste begets lip-smacking. The sweet, succulent meat literally fell off the bone.

Wine Cellar, Rio Chama Steakhouse
Next we walked to the sophisticated Inn of the Anasazi and met Oliver Ridgeway, an English chef. He prepares legendary modern American dishes with a southwestern twist. The Inn is listed in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, so you know it's special. Here we supped in the wine cellar on a Diver Sea Scallop with ranchero sauce and roasted blue corn salsa. What can I say- a huge, heavenly scallop enrobed with a devilish sauce.
Chef Ridgeway's Sea Scallop

The group meandered down the street to La Boca, a very popular small eatery. Chef James Campbell prepares tapas or small plates with big bold flavor. The hot spot features an extensive collection of Spanish wines. We savored artfully arranged hanger steak with smoked sea salt caramel, green chili's with sea salt and fried fingerling potatoes. Wow- I was honestly getting into the gastronomy of green chilies.
La Boca Tapas

Lastly we met Chef Matt Yohalem at Il Piatto, an Italian restaurant modeled after a Tuscan farmhouse.  He embraces the philosophy of "what grows together, goes together," and his seasonal menu calls for field fresh local produce and organic meats. By this late afternoon hour, I was ready to burst from all the exotic food and wine when Chef Matt treated us to a vintage $234 bottle of Saia Nero d'Avola wine with 13.5% alcohol.  I just had to imbibe. Somehow, I did not record the food presentation, but fortunately, I took a photo that shows a delicious array of soup, apples, nuts and sliced tongue.

Il Piatto's Assortment

After hours of savoring and sipping through four food fantasies, I waddled back to the St. Francis Hotel, thankfully a place of retreat that can restore one's spirit.

I give  my highest accolades to the SFCS walking restaurant tour but recommend skipping lunch beforehand. I also suspect you won't want any dinner. 
One of the many new dishes I tried in New Mexico was Carne Adovada, a spicy meat stew.  I first indulged my taste buds with the entree at Maria's New Mexican Kitchen, a traditional southwestern cantina. Maria's is famous for serving over 100 different margarita's. I did not get the recipe from Maria, so I'm adding one from the Santa Fe Cooking School.  I plan to try it soon, but need to order a few spices from the School's online Market.  

UPDATE:  Ordered the spices and followed the recipe. Fantastic results.  Everyone raved about the flavor and the meat is a very inexpensive cut.I will make it again.

This post joins other food blogs on Wanderfood Wednesday

Interested in hearing a web podcast about the cooking school and Rocky Durham's excellent lecture about foods native to the Americas? Use the following links to Tom Wilmer's NPR radio archives. 

34 minute Web Podcast Version includes food lecture:

15 Minute on-air version about The Santa Fe School of Cooking:

Thanks Tom.
Carne Adovada

Carne Adovada : Santa Fe School of Cooking
1/3 c. peanut or vegetable oil
3-1/2 lbs. pork loin or butt, cut in 3/4-inch cubes
2 c. diced onion
2 T. minced garlic
4 c. chicken broth or water
2 t. ground coriander seed
2 t. dried Mexican oregano
2 t. chile caribe
3/4 c. Chimayo ground red chile, mild or medium
1 T. red chile honey
2 T. Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown pork in batches. Set the pork aside. Add the onion to skillet and sauté until golden. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Deglaze the skillet with 1 c. of the chicken broth, loosening the browned bits with a spoon.

Place the coriander, oregano, chile caribe, red chile, honey, vinegar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor. Add the cooked onions, garlic and broth from the skillet and 2 more c. of chicken broth. Process until the mixture is thoroughly combined.

Place the browned pork, the chile marinade and the remaining 1 c. chicken broth in an ovenproof pot or dish, stir to combine well, and cook for 1 hour or until the pork is tender.

Serves 8

Optional seasonings: ground canela, ground cumin seed, toasted ground chile seeds, toasted ground pumpkin seeds.

Note: This dish reheats wonderfully and is better the next day.

Note: The traditional method for making this dish is to mix the marinade ingredients together and pour this over the meat. Cover the mixture and refrigerate overnight. Pour the meat and the marinade into an ovenproof casserole or pot and bake, covered, for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, or until tender. The method described above, although not so traditional, brings out the flavors of the onion, garlic and pork because the ingredients are caramelized or browned first. Whichever method you choose, the dish is full of flavor and will be a favorite. You can serve the Carne Adovada over chile rellenos, rice, wrapped in a flour tortilla as a burrito, or with beans and posole.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Santa Fe Southwest Breakfast

Exterior of La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe
La Fonda on the Plaza sits at the corner of the Old Santa Fe Trail and East San Francisco Street in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The location is one of the oldest hotel corners in the United States hosting an inn or fonda for more than 400 years. In the past cowboys came to water their horses in the fountain, Russian spies supposedly lurked the grounds during the days of the Manhattan Project bomb development, and guests have always mingled with locals at La Fonda's bar. The hotel's signature restaurant, La Plazuela, is "the gathering place" in Santa Fe and I decided to make a visit.

La Plazuela stood as the hotel’s original 1920s patio and now huge potted trees provide an outdoorsy feel.  Arriving for breakfast, I entered a sun-kissed room where natural light danced off 460 hand-painted windows, one of the hotel's treasures. The ambiance from rustic carved furniture mixed with the Southwestern spirit to create a visual treat.

Huevos Qaxaquenos
Couldn't resist ordering one of the house specialties, Huevos Qaxaquenos, described on the menu as green onion cilantro scrambled eggs with crispy fried tortilla strips, salsa roja, poblano rojas topped with assorted Mexican cheese, and served with black beans and grilled breakfast potatoes.  The colorful plate infused the air with a delectable aroma when presented. The eggs tasted spicy, but not hot and the texture of the tortilla strips added an appetizing crunch. 

If you're visiting Santa Fe, you owe it to yourself to enter this landmark hotel, if not to dine, to at least soak up the legendary history.

La Fonda on the Plaza
100 E. San Francisco Street
Santa Fe, New Mexico
505 982 5511

This post joins other food blogs on Wanderfood Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Friar's Flan

Chef Estevan’s Garcia prepares what he refers to as monastic food. He ought to know; he’s a former member of the Franciscan Order. But Garcia no longer cooks in the monastery, he rules as the Executive Chef at the elegant St. Francis Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Both the hotel and their restaurants feature beautifully simple but refined taste.

I was treated to an indulgent meal designed to awaken the palate with flavor. Each course presented me with an unusual treat. The highlight of the night was the Chef’s signature dessert, a goat’s milk flan. By then, I was full, but thought I would  try a bite. Saints preserve us! It would have been sinful not to savor every morsel on the plate. And when I looked around, I saw every other member of my group had done the same. Not one plate held leftovers.

The flan tempts with amazingly delicate and rich taste, yet not over powering. The smooth creamy texture simply dissolves into luscious delight. This flan rises into a spiritual sensation and is obviously inspired by connections from above.

Bless you Chef Garcia for sharing the recipe.

Goat’s Milk Flan

Makes 6

½ quart/1 pint heavy cream

¼ quart/1/2 pint goat’s milk

¼ vanilla bean

¾ cup sugar

6 egg yolks

4 egg whites

1. Mix ¼ quart heavy cream and ¼ quart goat’s milk.

2. Stir the vanilla into the sugar using a fork and add to the milk mixture. Boil until it looks like it’s about to boil over. Remove from the heat and add the other quart of heavy cream to cool it down.

3. Mix the egg yolks and white until they are well combined and then add them to the milk mixture. But, if you don’t temper your milk mixture into the eggs first, the eggs will foam.

4. Carmelize the sugar and then put it on the bottom of the ramekins, but let the sugar get hard before you put the milk mixture on top of it. Also, make sure that your sugar is dark enough so that it looks like it’s almost burnt.

5. Put your six flans in a pan and fill it halfway with warm water, and then put it in the oven for three hours ar 250 degrees.

This post joins other food blogs at WanderFood Wednesday.