Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Betsie River Rocks Steak: A Hunk of Burning Love

A Flaming Betsie River Rock

While seated for dinner in The Thistle Pub at Crystal Mountain Resort in Northern Michigan, a waitress appeared carrying a tray of large rocks.  Not those pretty ebony rocks like massage therapists use, just ordinary grayish rocks the size of  a pot roast.

The lights were dimmed and the rocks were ignited with fanfare- as if a table-side preparation of Cherries Jubilee.  I began to smell the pungent and wonderful aroma of rosemary. 

When the embers subsided, the waiter placed a dish with a rock near me on the table. He also served a platter of thinly sliced beef medallions and yellowfin tuna. He explained that we were to cook our appetizer on the hot rocks though cautioned, "Be careful. The rocks are pre-heated to 500 degrees."

I used a fork to set my portions upon the stone. The beef sizzled; the tuna momentarily got stuck, but both seared quickly. I poured ponzu sauce on top, a citrus teriyaki blend. The steak was kissed with oriental flavors and the fish embraced tangy highlights. Yum. A healthy first course full of protein yet little fat.

Many menu items in The Thistle follow the Peak Performance plan. Northern Michigan abounds in bountiful agricultural tradition and restaurants are insisting on local fare-- even down to local river rocks. The starred Peak Performance dishes focus on natural ingredients, seasonal flavors and leaner portion sizes. Diners can read the calories and number of protein, fat and carbohydrate grams per serving.
Cooking steak on a Betsie River Rock

An appetizer of Betsie River Rocks Steak makes an unusual dining option, one I'd call a hunk of burning love. And, I bet Elvis would agree.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Frixa, By George: Greek Olive Oil

Frixa - Glistening Green Extra Virgin Greek Olive Oil
No surprise that George Chryssaidis is Greek and proud of his heritage. He's the exuberant owner of three restaurants in St. Augustine, Florida: Athena Cafe, Georgie's Diner  and the Alcazar Cafe in the Lightner Museum. Each has its own style and menu, but all serve fabulous,sensual food. That's because George infuses his emotions in the mixture--plus one secret ingredient.

Food preparation begins with olive oil and not just any olive oil-- only Frixa. George imports Frixa, the purest, first press extra virgin variety directly from Greece. Imagine the skin of a green olive melting into a translucent orb, that's the color and consistency of the bottled liquid- a hue I'd call Grecian goddess green.

A small simple bowl of oil was presented to me and like a classic Greek beauty, it needed no frills. The dish glistened with golden highlights, the kind you might see in Aphrodite's hair. Should you choose to add a spoonful of aromatic oregano (George also imports this spice as it grows in the wild- right on the stalk) and a pinch of salt, you have perfected a dipping sauce. Frixa is so divine you might make an entire meal of it smothered on bread. I'm not kidding!

George pays homage to the elixir from Frixa, his hometown hamlet with a population of 500, using about 20 liters a day in his restaurants. I must tell you, I have never tasted such rich and decadent hummus.The best part is that Frixa olive oil is now for sale to customers, so you can take it home and cook with it. Bottles come in three sizes: 250ml, 500ml and 750ml.

St. Augustine stands as America's oldest city, the site where Ponce de Leon discovered the Fountain of Youth. In ancient Greece and Rome, it was believed that olive oil brought people strength and youth.  Frixa oil, found only in the US in St. Augustine, has its own vital force, one that leaps to prize winning heights, perhaps drawn from its roots in nearby Olympia. This very special ingredient will certainly improve your kitchen creations. On the other hand, I'm thinking of trying it as anti-aging emollient on my skin. Who knows, it just might make me more than a mere mortal. It certainly has for George.

To order Frixa oil or wild oregano contact:
George Chryssaidis at 904 823 9076 or athenacafe@fdn.com.

George Chryssaidis shares a toast and a recipe.
Here's George's recipe for spanikopita (those yummy spinach and cheese filled triangles) from the Athena Cafe.

Athena Cafe's Spanikopita

Makes 12 triangle pies
1.5 onion
2 pounds crumbled feta cheese
1 C. Frixa olive oil
3 T. dried dill
1.5 t. dried oregano
10 lb. chopped spinach
2 large eggs
2 boxes frozen phyllo pastry dough

Read this and other food blog articles posted on:Wanderfood Wednesdays.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I'm One in a Million


January 6, 2011

Universal Studios Orlando announced the sale of their one millionth Butterbeer within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.You may recall I bought the drink when I visited in September, 2010, making mine one in a million.

I revisited Harry's World (read about my first encounter here) with my two grandchildren the day before Thanksgiving.The streets of Hogsmeade were jammed, a three hour waiting line formed outside Olivander's Wand Shoppe. We moved through a snaking, stop-start queue before finally entering Hogswart's Castle for The Forbidden Journey. Despite wasting time in line, the ride gets my nod as the absolute best! I flew, I dove, felt hot breath, laughed, screamed and fought along with Harry. I returned three times that day.

The grandkids (ages 6 and 8) jumped onto a few amusements in Dr. Seuss Land,  but none of us were overly thrilled with the opposite side of the theme park.

My family, however, delightedly quaffed mugs of  tasty frozen  Butterbeer on that very hot day. Wonderful stuff.

I researched and found many recipes online, however, most of them concoct a warm version of the brew. While that might be appealing during winter, the directions below describe what seems most like the drink served on the streets of Hogsmeade. 

Butterbeer Recipe
1 pint of vanilla ice cream, softened
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 bottle (24 oz.) vanilla cream soda (very cold)

1. Allow ice cream to soften, about 30 minutes, and bring butter to room temperature, about 2 hours
2. Blend butter, sugar, and spices in large bowl
3. Add to ice cream and freeze
4. Heat cream soda in a pot until warm but still carbonated (at least 3 minutes).  You could also just go with the very cold cream soda (my preference) and have a more frozen/slushy drink.
5. Fill each glass with a scoop of ice cream mixture and pour warmed or chilled cream soda over ice cream
6. Serve!