0704 Niagara-on-the-Lake

I’ll be honest – I basically forgot that today was the 4th of July until it was far too late to try to see fireworks or do anything patriotic.  We were too busy doing a lot of super fun things, like having outstanding home fries in a Flying Saucer:

Or hiking down into the Niagara River gorge not once but twice, with a crazy trip upriver on a JET BOAT OMG in between.

Hiking Beerses

Or stopping for excellent sandwiches and adequate pie at The Pie Plate, which came highly recommended by Bon Appetit. My grilled ham and cheddar with apple butter was fantastic, and while the ‘steak’ and ‘melt’ parts of Shane’s steak melt were good, the real stars of the sandwich were the mushrooms in a bit of flavorful gravy. It was precisely the sort of place I could imagine Olivia running – except that Olivia’s sweets are MUCH better.

The Pie Plate

Or trying raw milk cheese from Avonlea – a place that previously existed only in novels for me – but leaving Cheese Secrets, also recommended by Bon Appetit, because the prices were Zingerman’s-high, but the quality, service, and selection were not. Or going to the pub next door for a pint, and being told “Well, there’s the menu” when Shane asked for recommendations for Canadian beer.

"Well, there's the menu, sir."

Or watching the sun set over Lake Ontario while we held hands and talked about our families.

Lake Ontario

It was a good day.

The Last 10 Days of Food

Gees, where to begin?  I’ve been pretty diligent about posting to date, but a weekend of friendos visiting from DC followed immediately by a mid-week trip with some of my favorite girls resulted in 10 days of nothing – and very little desire to catch up.  So here’s what I got:

Mike and Bill rolled in on the 27th, kicking off four days of beer, movies, more beer, vegetarian food, still more beer, a trip to Detroit for the guys, additional beer, dinner at Jolly Pumpkin, and oh, more beer.  I’m still not sure if I accurately captured the amount of beer that was consumed over this weekend.   This wasn’t like a woooo spring break!! kind of blow out – rather, it was a series of tastings, sharing rare or regional treats from each of their stashes.  I wish I’d taken pictures of the very serious boys taking their serious beer very seriously.  I know Shane took a picture of all of the bottles, so that’ll have to suffice.

While the boys were busy with the beer, I made a couple of tasty dinners – Butternut Squash and Fried Sage Pasta (hearty and filling, though not quite what I expected from the recipe) and tempeh tacos (always a crowd-pleaser) – and the killer spinach strata that we’d had at Shana’s on my birthday.  When the boys were late coming back from Detroit, I ate without them, then regretted it as Shane stepped up to make a really delicious Moroccan Carrot Soup (which we’re going to re-run for dinner this week).

Stradaaa

And THEN I hopped on a plane to St Louis, where my friend Erin and I collected some of the best donuts in the country and also some legendary pretzels before hitting the road to Carbondale, where we met up with Angie, Kim, and Laurie for a couple of days of hiking, snacking, napping, drinking, and relaxing with farm animals.

Fritters and Globs

In addition to delicious baked goods and a whole lot of other bad-for-us snacks, we grilled out, toasted s’mores over a campfire, and made breakfast together using two pounds of bacon and the most beautiful farm eggs I’ve seen.  We also checked out a bar and a cute breakfast place in Erin’s neighborhood and had an awesome dinner at Schlafly Bottleworks (including curry crackers that I’m committed to duplicating) on our last night in town.

Farm-fresh free range eggs

Suffice to say that the next few weeks (leading up to um, a special occasion) will should be a bit leaner on the indulgent meals – segueing nicely into the beginning of the growing season and the return of fresh things to the market.  It’s been a delicious and ridiculous ten days – and I’m very much looking forward to getting back into the kitchen and back into more normal eating.

Recipes:
Butternut Squash and Fried Sage Pasta from Self
Tempeh Tacos
Spinach and Cheese Strata from Smitten Kitchen
Moroccan Carrot Soup from Bon Appetit

0124 Beer and Onion-Braised Chicken Carbonnade

The January 2009 issue of Bon Appetit featured a menu for a week’s worth of dinners for under $100.  One of these recipes has already made an appearance here – last week’s fish cakes – and a second wound up on our plates tonight, paired with a small salad and a few slices of beer bread from Avalon International Breads.

Tonight’s dinner was a beer and onion braised chicken carbonnade, intended for Friday night’s dinner, but then I didn’t have the beef brother, and then I also didn’t have the beer (amazing, no?), and then I also didn’t have the energy to get either of those things. As it turned out, it was a perfect meal for a night of household chores.  While I browned the chicken thighs (dusted with alspice, salt, and pepper), I did the mise en place and the dishes.  While the onions sweated a bit along with some brown sugar, we folded laundry.  With the chicken back in the pan with the beer and broth, Shane worked on his moped and I got caught up on some office-y tasks, all of which left us hungry and allowed us to give the carbonnade our undivided attentions.  The chicken was moist and flavorful, and the sauce – the sauce! – was wonderfully rich, sweet, and savory when spooned on bites of bread.  I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s leftovers, and to perhaps making this next weekend with the stew meat I picked up this morning.

Recipe:
Beer- and Onion-Braised Chicken Carbonnade from Bon Appetit