Fancy Schmancy Post-Valentine’s Day Celebration Dinner

Sometimes, when you live with a bear, that bear has to work late.  One such occurrence happened on Valentine’s Day, so our Valentine’s Day feast was postponed a week.  But then we went all out.  Oh yes we did.

For the first course, I made the Caesar Salad for Two.

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Now, if you are like me, you have probably never made Caesar dressing at home.  Maybe the anchovies scared you off.  Maybe it was the raw egg.  Either way, it’s a daunting proposition.  I decided to give it a try anyhow (because someone had to) and let me just say, you should ignore all of your fears and hesitations regarding this and just make it for heaven’s sake!  It’s so good!!  The bear was so thrilled with it that he literally made me make it three more times in the following week.  It tastes neither fishy, nor eggy.  It tastes like what comes out of a bottle only 100 times more flavorful and delicious.  Do it!  The good thing about this recipe is that it is a small batch too, just enough to make a decent size bowl of salad for two maybe three people.  I’m not sure how well homemade caesar would store in the fridge so this recipe is ideal.

We followed our salad with Steak and Shrimp with Parsley Potatoes.

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Well really, the steak was for the Bear, and the shrimp were for me.  I did try the steak (the first steak I ever cooked) and I thought it was quite tasty.  It wasn’t too beefy just tasted nice and seared and salty.  (I tried to replicate it with a different cut of meat and again it was too beefy).  The shrimp were cooked perfectly.  They were sweet and buttery.  I think scallops would also be good in this recipe.  The potatoes were also quite tasty.  They were buttery and the perfect little side for the decadent shrimp and steak.

And finally… oh yes, the Fresh Orange and Yogurt Tart.

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Navel oranges are for chumps so I used blood oranges.  This was an awesome desert folks.  Just spectacular.  After such a decadent meal this wasn’t so over the top sweet that we would instantly fall into a food coma.  Nope it was light and satisfying.  It was an amazing texture and I will absolutely make some variation of this again.  I think it might be pretty awesome to make the yogurt part and then top it with a curd, maybe like that incredible orange curd I made for the pavlova.

So there you have it, a feast to end all feasts.  A feast to end the Jan/Feb 2010 issue.  Next up, March 2009!!

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Where do these editors shop?!

Alright folks, boneless skinless turkey thighs don’t exist.  I looked.  G looked.  The bear looked.  You can’t find them.  So unless you want to cut the legs off a full sized turkey, then bone and skin the thighs, skip the turkey and go for chicken.  I am of course alluding to the Turkey Kebabs with Cabbage Slaw recipe.

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I really enjoyed the flavors in this recipe.  I don’t know if it is necessary to make them into kebabs (especially when one doesn’t have the option of grilling them).  I think it would have actually been better in my case to cube up the thighs and marinate them, then toss them in a pan and fry them up.  There would have been a lot of caramelized/seared goodness on that chicken.  The marinade is a keeper.  Malt vinegar is definitely a good thing.  And the slaw tasted fresh and healthy.  

This recipe came with a bonus next day suggestion.

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It basically consisted of throwing the leftovers into a whole wheat wrap.  I do not know what this tastes like.  I made the kebabs the night before I came down with the flu and thus I was in full “soup only” mode when it came time to eat the wraps.  The bear said they tasted good, but a touch dry.  I believe he added mayo, however the fever may have addled my memory.

Sunday dinner for four.

Dinner!

Dinner!

Dessert!

Dessert!

Beet and Carrot Slaw, January/February 2010, pg. 21

Our Sunday night dinner this past week included a beef roast grilled at a low temperature on our charcoal grill, mashed potatoes, beet and carrot slaw, and black forest upside-down cakes.

Dinner was delicious, especially the beet and carrot slaw.  I love raw carrots.  On average I eat them 6 days a week: on salad or just plain carrots (Bugs Bunny style).  I love the sweetness of them and crunch.  I also really like roasted beets.  They are sweet and have a very unique color and taste!  I had never had raw beets or beet greens before so I was looking forward to this colorfully sweet slaw.

The slaw was very simple to make, although a little dangerous and it turned my hands pink!  I must admit I was pretty nervous grating the beets, picturing myself loosing pieces of fingers, every time I pushed the beet down the grater.  Next time I won’t cut both ends off the beets, so I will have a little more to hold onto while grating.  Washing the grated beets took a lot more water than I expected.  They WOULD NOT stop bleeding pink!  I finally got relatively clear water and called it quits.  The slaw dressing was very good.  The sweetness from the orange juice and tangy taste of the mustard and vinegar complemented the vegetables well.

The beet and carrot slaw was a hit!  Everyone went back for seconds, but we still had one serving of slaw leftover.  P brought it for lunch a few days later and said it still tasted great, however, everything had a pink tint.  Definitely a recipe to eat the day you make it, if you want three distinct colors!  I will be making this slaw again.

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Black Forest Upside-down Cakes, January/February 2010, pg. 51

The black forest upside-down cakes tasted good but the baking process was not positive.  As I made the batter, I was convinced the cakes were going to be a disaster.

My parents had dinner with us, so I doubled the recipe.  I was not a fan of the recipes directions.  The recipe tells you to stir room temperature butter (it’s January, so room temperature is 65⁰F) and sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy.  Are you joking me?!  That was NOT going to be possible, so I got out my electric hand-beater.  The butter and sugar never got light and fluffy, it didn’t seem like there was enough butter to get the fluffy texture you usually get after beating the two ingredients.  (Since I doubled the recipe, so I checked my math and I did put the correct amount of each ingredient in the batter.)  Then I stirred in the rest of the ingredients and the batter was not what I was expecting.  It reminded me of an extremely thick brownie batter.  The batter was so thick, it stuck to my wooden spoon as I was putting it into my cherry lined pans.  I pulled up a few of the cherries as I was trying to evenly spread the batter in the pans.  At this point, I was positive, we wouldn’t be having dessert…

I ended up baking the two cakes for about 45 minutes.  This was probably because of my pan choice.  I didn’t have ramekins, but I did have two 5” springform cake pans.  While I let the cakes cool for twenty minutes, I made the whipped cream.  I left out the rum, because I’m not consuming alcohol anymore, and followed my grandmother’s advice for homemade whipped cream.

Put a glass bowl and the metal beaters in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before making the whipped cream.  (Yes, specifically a glass bowl.  I’ve gotten scolded for using a metal bowl, I honestly don’t know the reasoning behind the glass bowl but that’s how grandma does it.)  The cream whips much faster if all the utensils are colder than the cream.  Add a teaspoon or two of white sugar and then whip together until you get the consistency you want.  Back to the cakes…

The springform pans worked really well!  The cakes looked perfect.  Although, I think the batter was a little thicker and I probably should have used a third pan or pans that had a larger diameter.  This would have made the cherry to batter ratio more equal.

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Everyone really liked the rich tasting cakes.  One small piece for each person was more than enough.  I had never had sour cherries before and they were very good and went well with the chocolate.  But, honestly what doesn’t go well with chocolate?  I also liked the portion size of the cake.  In hindsight I didn’t even have to double the recipe.  The four of us ate one of the two cakes that night.  Personally, the cake was a little too dense for me.  I am going to blame the density on the very thick batter.  At this point, the black forest upside-down cakes, are a one-time experience for me.

Sometimes I forget a main ingredient (and to take a picture)…

Spicy Sausage, Bean and Cheese Nachos

[Insert photo here… please.  Maybe you could make this dish properly and email me a photo. Thanks!]

Where to begin.  First of all, I had been driving all day.  Like all day.  I got in the car around 9:30am and aside from a couple of brief stops, I drove until arriving home at 8pm.  I had looked at the recipe before I left for a weekend away and had bought all the necessary ingredients.  I thought it would be something I could throw together quickly when I got home if it was late.  Well, I was right about that part.  Although, it was obviously quicker since I forgot the entire bean component.

Yeah, I threw it together without looking at the recipe again.  So I had sausage, cheese, green chiles in place of jalapeños, and black olives.  Super easy!  Super tasty!  I bet it would be great with the beans as well…  And like a recipe that might actually belong in a magazine and not like something a bunch of college kids tossed together when they got home from the bar on a Friday night.

And yes, I also forgot the picture.  Moral of the story.  Don’t trust yourself to cook for a blog after a day of driving.  In fact, don’t trust yourself to cook at all.  Maybe just pick up some take out.

I think you should try this recipe.  And then tell me how it actually tastes.

Thank Goodness for the January/February Issue!

You may have noticed, we fell a little behind on the writing again.  Ugh.  Who knew so much writing would be required for a blog? Anyway, as usual, we have been cooking in a timely manner, just not updating you on all of our adventures.

So, let me introduce the Jan/Feb 2010 issue!  The Light Issue.  Lots of lean meats and veggies in this one.

I started the year off making the Pasta with Roasted Vegetables and Arugula.

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As is often the case with the EF pastas, it seemed a little dry.  I don’t think this would have been an issue if I had doubled the roasted vegetable recipe.  The vegetables were pretty delicious. Roasted garlic, shallot and tomato make a nice, savory combination.

I say, go ahead and make this, just double the veg!

Three desserts and nearly 2 dozen eggs

Who knew that December was such an eggy month?  I certainly didn’t.  Since there were so many sweets this month, M,G, and I decided to split them evenly.  And somehow I ended up with the Orange Cream Pavlova (8 eggs), the Chocolate Soufflé (4 eggs), and the Tangerine Cake with Citrus Glaze (6 eggs).  Okay, so that’s only 1.5 dozen, but you have to admit those are some egg heavy desserts.

Let’s get started.  I decided to make the Chocolate Soufflé at my mom’s house over the holidays, almost entirely because she actually had a soufflé dish, but also partly because it’s better to share supremely decadent desserts right?

The dish I used was slightly too large so you can't tell how puffy the soufflé was here, but I promise you it was very fluffy… until I cut into it with a spoon...

The dish I used was slightly too large so you can’t tell how puffy the soufflé was here, but I promise you it was very fluffy… until I cut into it with a spoon…

I may have made one (minor?) mistake with this recipe.  Instead of whipping the sugar with the egg whites, I may have melted it with the chocolate… (I also may have had a few drinks before making this).  As a result, I think the texture was very slightly grainy, which I don’t think it would have been if I had done it right.  Oh well.  The sugar coating the dish made a nice crust on the outside of the soufflé so it was really easy to pull out 4 servings and not losing a ton of chocolatey goodness to the dish.

Mmm… fluffy chocolate.

Mmm… fluffy chocolate.

Looking back, I might recommend eating this with a side of ice cream just for the warm/cold contrast.  The outcome is basically like eating super rich, deeply chocolate fluff.  All you tastes is chocolate.  In a good way.  It’s not exactly creamy, but its not exactly caky either.  It’s enjoyable.  And its really, really, really chocolatey.  It’s a holiday win!

My next venture into whipping egg whites was the Orange Cream Pavlova.  I managed to make this one while completely sober, so I added the sugar at the appropriate time.

This was so thick I had a really hard time molding it into a circle.

This was so thick I had a really hard time molding it into a circle.

This lazy girl didn’t bother drawing the circle on the parchment and I think I managed a pretty decent circle on my own.  If I had been entertaining with it (which I totally should have been) I might have made the effort, but I really don’t think it would make a huge difference.  Word of warning, baking meringues is a little bit tricky.  The magazine didn’t mention that having higher humidity would prevent your meringue from drying.  So I baked for 2 hours as instructed and left in the oven (without opening it) for 5 hours.  When I went to check it, it was still quite smooshy.  So I turned the oven on for another hour.  Smooshy.  Another hour, smooshy.  At that point it was getting too late in the evening to let it go much longer so I cranked the oven to nearly 500 for maybe 10 minutes, turned it off, went to bed and kept my fingers crossed I would have a crisp meringue in the morning.

Thank goodness I did.  I may have just given up on the whole dessert if I hadn’t.  Once the meringue was secured, I worked on the curd.  It was my first curd making experience so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It was really quick.  You definitely need to keep your eye on it, because before I knew it, it was nearly boiling.  I almost went really lazy again and wasn’t planning to strain the finished curd, but at the last minute I did.  And I’m glad.  There was a ton of zest that came out and some little eggs chunks as well.  I’m pretty certain that wouldn’t have made any major impact on the dessert but at this point I’d been working on it for a full 24 hours so I wanted it to be good (and pretty).

Orange curd might be even more delicious than lemon curd.  And look at that color!

Orange curd might be even more delicious than lemon curd. And look at that color!

So the final step was whipping some cream.  I’ll spare you the details.  And then layering the meringue, then curd, then cream.  Ta da!!

The dessert that nearly killed me.  Isn't it beautiful?!

The dessert that nearly killed me. Isn’t it beautiful?!

Oh, what’s that?  You want to know how it tasted?  It tasted good.  It tasted citrusy and light and New Yearsy.  Did it taste so glorious that I didn’t mind all the effort and struggle of the meringue?  No.  Honestly, I didn’t love how hard it was to chew the meringue.  It hurt my tongue a little bit.  However, the combination of the orange curd and the whipped cream was a win.  Next time I would skip the meringue and go straight to a store bought angel food cake.  Now that would be heavenly.

And finally, the Tangerine Cake.  This was a fairly easy recipe to follow.  It did, however, make me realize I need to upgrade to a Microplane.  My rasp happens to be one that Everyday Food sent as a gift with subscription many many moons ago. For the most part it works just fine.  Or it used to.  It might be getting a little dull.  Also, the skin on a tangerine is pretty thin and the combination of dull rasp and thin skin led to more pith in my cake than I hoped for.  It did not effect the taste.

The magazine would lead you to believe that the glaze is thicker than it actually is...

The magazine would lead you to believe that the glaze is thicker than it actually is…

Most of my glaze slid right off the cake and onto the plate.  As a result, when serving the cake I scooped “extra” glaze onto each piece.  So, the flavor.  It was really orangey and good.  It had a really nice texture.  It was moist yet pleasingly dense at the same time.  I sent the majority of the cake to work with the bear.  It was a hit.  I really need to make up some sort of business card that he can set next to the samples next time.  After two different people asked him for the recipe, I asked him if he gave them the blog address… And he said not only “no”, but “no, I don’t know what your blog is called.”  Sigh.

If I was one to make cakes on a whim, I would keep this one in mind.  As it stands, this blog keeps me busy enough with other sweets that I probably won’t return to this again soon.  I hope you give it a try.

Blah. Turkey Curry.

OK, yet another November recipe without an online friend!  Ugh!

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Double ugh, because I hate curry.  Always have.  Most likely always will.  I keep trying it in the hope that my palate has changed but no luck so far.  So the “blah” in the title is for two reasons (well maybe three).  Blah because I don’t like it to begin with, blah 2 because we forgot the celery, and blah three because the low fat yogurt wasn’t creamy enough (it was greek and that is as creamy as low fat yogurt gets.).  My mother, the taste tester in this case, thought the grapes were very enjoyable, that it definitely needed the celery, and that it probably should have had some mayonnaise.  My stepdad also tried it but ate it on a sandwich and found it quite tasty.  And that’s about all I have to say about that.

Here’s the recipe:

Curried Turkey Salad on Greens

Ingredients

1/2 leftover turkey, shredded (check!)

1 celery stalk (oops!)

1/2 cup seedless grapes, halved

1/3 cup plain low fat yogurt

2 – 3 tsps fresh lemon juice

1 to 2 tsps curry powder

salt and pepper

salad greens (or if you are like my step dad, yummy bread for sandwiches)

This is not rocket science.  Toss it all in a bowl and mix it up!  If you wanted to be fancy I suppose you could mix the lemon juice, yogurt, curry powder, salt and pepper together first and then toss in your grapes, celery and turkey.

*Adapted from November 2007, issue 47, pg. 54

Mushroom-Cheddar- (Sausage) Frittata

Mushroom-Cheddar Frittata

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Yeah, we added sausage.  Because we had sausage.  Pretty much anything with sausage (or bacon or ham) is better than without.  So that sausage we failed to use for breakfast went straight into the pan.  As a result, we had to alter cooking instructions slightly.  First, I used a braiser.  Mostly, so that I could use it on the stove top and put it straight into the oven.

So I browned the sausage then tossed in the potatoes and mushrooms and stuck it in the oven to roast… well actually my mom did that.  I managed to get a little dehydrated working all day on Black Friday and started to feel like fainting while I was browning the sausage.  She also did the rest of the recipe… although, she actually followed the instructions from that point on.

It was super tasty.  The sausage was a nice addition, but I’m sure it would have been delicious with out it too.  It was pretty quick and easy too.  It had all the flavor of a quiche without the bother of a crust.  I’ll definitely make it again.

Thanksgiving Stuffing!

Simple Stuffing with Apples, Raisins, and Walnuts

November 2007, pg. 100

I almost forgot to take a picture...Oops

I almost forgot to take a picture…Oops

Simple Stuffing Recipe

After vegetables have softened in step 2, stir in 2 apples (such as Gala or Granny Smith), cut into 1-inch pieces, ½ cup of raisins, and ½ cup of coarsely chopped walnuts. Cook until apples start to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add wine and continue.

*adapted from Everyday Food, Issue #47, pg. 101

This year, P and I went to his parents’ for Thanksgiving and his mom asked if we would bring the stuffing. I told her that would be perfect since I needed to make the apple and raisin version of the simple stuffing recipe for the blog. Before making the stuffing I showed P the recipe and he requested that I also add walnuts, so I did. We also brought homemade double-vanilla ice cream, blueberry scones, and homemade bread.

The night before Thanksgiving I just wanted to relax after a full day of baking the other items we would be contributing to the holiday weekend. I convinced myself to get up early the next morning and make the stuffing. I woke up at 7 am Thanksgiving Day giving myself 2 hours to shower, make the stuffing, eat breakfast, and pack the car. It took us 3 hours to get all of our chores done. Maybe next time I will take the advice given at the beginning of the recipe and make the stuffing the night before, so we can leave on time. But there were no worries of showing up late for dinner just missing out on playtime with our nieces.

The stuffing was very easy to make, it just took some time with all of the chopping. I must admit that I did roast the bread a few days before, eliminating that step the morning of. I chose to put two Gala apples in the stuffing and a cheap Chardonnay for the called Chard. It was definitely a cooking wine and not drinking wine. We had a glass later that night and decided the rest of the bottle would be used to cook with and not drink. I also used our own chicken stock instead of canned chicken broth. I honestly didn’t measure the amount required to saturate the bread but seemed to be less than the 29 ounces the recipe called for. I put the stuffing in a 9 x 13 inch Pyrex dish that was buttered and I covered it with buttered aluminum foil. NOTHING went inside our turkey.

The simple stuffing with apples, raisins, and walnuts was a hit! We had way too much food at our Thanksgiving table but everyone tried the stuffing and some even went back for seconds. The following day we had leftovers for lunch and the stuffing disappeared. Another success!

Vermonts-giving

A Very New England Thanksgiving starring B and G

not pictured (or discussed): nightmare radicchio slaw

not pictured (or discussed): nightmare radicchio slaw

We’ve got a holiday treat for you, dear readers.  A joint post about a joint meal!  B and I cooked this one when I visited her in Vermont.  I did sort of demand a ham for my visit.  B, being awesome, was happy to oblige.

Ham, spinach and cheese puff, and herbed mashed potatoes

Ham, spinach and cheese puff, and herbed mashed potatoes

Mmmm….ham…  I wish ham was a Thanksgiving thing for my family.  sigh.  I’ll let B describe how to make the ham.  I will have to add that we almost didn’t make the ham at all because the pilot went out in B and the bear’s oven, and we couldn’t figure out how to get it lit.  D figured it out via text message.  Good thing, too.  I googled how to cook ham in a slow cooker, but I wasn’t very optimistic…  Oh, B!  How do you make that ham of yours?

B here!  D is a handy guy!  G didn’t mention this, but in addition to not being thrilled about the crockpot ham options, our ham also did not fit into  the crockpot so we could have had to do some pre-cooked carving.  Let’s just say, disaster averted.  Thanks for the help, D!

So ham. Not being a beef eater, I have a thing for ham.  A big thing for ham.  It is one of the reasons I ended my days as a vegetarian.  The other reason was bacon… so same thing in the end.  The bear’s mother makes an awesome ham.  She uses an old school recipe from an old school cookbook called Yankee Magazine’s Favorite New England Recipes.  

Basically, you put the ham, cut side down,  in a pan lined with foil, making a little bowl around the base of the ham.  Then you pour in a cup or so of apple cider, or Coke, or ginger ale.  Then you cover it with another bit of foil and seal it together with the other piece of foil so the ham sort of steams in the sweet liquid.  I can usually fit the ham in my dutch oven and still fit the lid on so I often do that instead of the foil. Then you let it bake at 325 for hours, 20 minutes per lb of ham.  At the very end, you crank the heat up to 400 0r 450 and you glaze it.  To glaze you have to take the ham out and carefully score the skin in a diamond pattern so that glaze can stick.  Then mix up about a cup of brown sugar, a couple table spoons of dijon mustard and just a little splash of apple cider.  The glaze should be really thick, just wet to the point where the sugar is starting to dissolve a bit and stick together.  It’s really just a splash or two, maybe 2 -3 tablespoons tops.  Then drizzle it on and put the ham back in the oven to get awesome.

G also mentioned a gravy… Once the ham is out of the oven there will be a ton of liquid.  Some drippings that have come out of the ham and a lot of the cider left from cooking.  Additionally, some of the brown sugar and mustard from the glaze has gotten into it so the flavor gets pretty awesome.  I usually start the gravy in a brand new pan and just get the drippings into it however you know how.  I usually use a turkey baster.  Get some heat going underneath it, not too high.  And slowly whisk in several tablespoons of flour or corn starch.  It varies depending on how much drippings you have.  If you don’t whisk and slowly add the flour in you are going to get lumps.  You can also make a slurry if needed of your flour in some more cider instead, which should help with your lumping.  And there you have it.  Ham.  Ham gravy.  Good stuff.

On to the sides!

Spinach-and-Cheese puff

puff in B's lovely Le Cruset

puff in B’s lovely Le Cruset

G here.  The spinach puff was basically a way to make creamed spinach for a crowd.  It has nutmeg in it, which reminded us of how Rachael Ray always says that’s the secret to all of her spinach recipes.  Is it, Rach?  You tell us constantly.  The secret is out.  At this point, the secret would be to omit nutmeg.  Oh, and I have to recommend assigning a towel in your kitchen to be your “spinach towel.”  Otherwise, you can wind up with a random green-stained towel.  The first time I saw anyone on TV wring out spinach with a towel, it was a green towel.  That could not have been a coincidence.  Anything to add, Ms. B?

B here! I enjoyed the spinach puff, although I did sort of expect it to be a little bit more puff…  As in more soufflé like.  But it was a nice texture as is.  And it’s nice being able to eat spinach without a giant puddle of spinach liquid pooling on the plate around it.

Herbed mashed potatoes

maybe not the greatest picture.

maybe not the greatest picture.

G’s back.  The mashed potatoes were pretty much B’s gig.  I really liked the herbs.  I thought it made for brighter mashed potatoes.  The challenge with Thanksgiving foods is to cut through all the richness.  At some point gravy tastes like turkey tastes like stuffing tastes like potatoes.  If you don’t mix it up a little, it’s so rich it’s bland.  The herbs play that role here.  I loved these potatoes.  How was it to cook them, B?

B again.  It was like cooking… mashed potatoes.  Since we had the spinach puff on our table we opted to go with milk rather than half and half to cut the richness of the meal just a little bit.  Don’t worry, I still used the butter!  Also, since we had the scallions for the radicchio slaw… we used those instead of chives.  These taters were good!  Even better when smothered in gravy!

G again.  Well, we don’t need to belabor the point about how nasty the radicchio slaw was.  That’s been handled elsewhere.  Suffice it to say that that cider gravy will cover all manner of sins.

Oh, and the wine was a 2011 Cakebreads Chardonnay.  Cakebreads is hard to find in the Midwest.  This was not only available, it was only $40!  I think D and I paid double that the last time we bought a bottle.  Ah, Vermont.

Finally, there was dessert.  Having come all the way to the ancestral homeland of Ben and Jerry’s, I had to indulge.  So I tried many, many flavors.  My favorite flavor is Coffee Caramel Buzz (formerly known as Bonaroo Buzz), but my favorite combo is Phish Food and Peanut Brittle.  Since returning to Chicago, I’ve learned that you can only get one of those three, Phish Food, in town.  Sigh.  Guess I’d better go back to Vermont…  Will you have me, B?

B says… Maybe… I suppose I could pencil you in for 2014… 🙂