Slowly, but surely, waking up from a 3 year slumber… With the year that 2016 has been, I realize that it is time to re-tap the fire.
So, it’s official. It actually has been for 3 weeks–I got the announcement right after I had finished helping in the production of Vermont Creamerys “Bonne Bouche.” My worry and stress and sleepless nights paid off. I’m now one of 253 Certified Cheese Professionals in the US/Canada and one of two in Maine. I’m not sure what doors this may open–hell, I’m just happy I passed that exam.
But, on that note, the other bit of news that I have is that I’ve decided to cease updating this blog. It’s been a good 4 1/2 years, but over the past year–with new responsibilities in life–I don’t really have the drive or desire to keep it up.
Thanks to everyone who read and joined along on the trip. It was fun.
This past week, as nights dipped down into the mid-fourties, I’ve more than welcomed fall into my kitchen even if the last of the cukes and tomatoes are fighting to ripen on their vines. This is my absolute favorite time of year because of recipes like this:
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Swirl
1 1/2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups canned solid pack pumpkin
9 tablespoons whipping cream
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon (about) purchased caramel sauce
1 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind ground cookies, pecans and sugar in processor. Add melted butter and blend until combined. Press crust mixture onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides.
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until light. Transfer 3/4 cup mixture to small bowl; cover tightly and refrigerate to use for topping. Add pumpkin, 4 tablespoons whipping cream, ground cinnamon and ground allspice to mixture in large bowl and beat until well combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until combined. Pour filling into crust (filling will almost fill pan). Bake until cheesecake puffs, top browns and center moves only slightly when pan is shaken, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to rack and cool 10 minutes. Run small sharp knife around cake pan sides to loosen cheesecake. Cool. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
Bring remaining 3/4 cup cream cheese mixture to room temperature. Add remaining 5 tablespoons whipping cream to cream cheese mixture and stir to combine. Press down firmly on edges of cheesecake to even thickness. Pour cream cheese mixture over cheesecake, spreading evenly. Spoon caramel sauce in lines over cream cheese mixture. Using tip of knife, swirl caramel sauce into cream cheese mixture. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Release pan sides from cheesecake. Spoon sour cream into pastry bag fitted with small star tip (do not stir before using). Pipe decorative border around cheesecake and serve.
This was posted on Shut Up Foodies and was deeply humbling.
We may never fully understand them, but cooking well has implications that are both far reaching, long lasting, and may never fully be revealed. Over the last few years, there has come about a shift in the way we look at food and, well, how we cook it. No longer satisfied with eating well, we’ve turned food into a game of one-upmanship. We seem to be locked in a race to see who can have the best this or the first that. Oh sure, I’ve been involved in this game. Thing is, I’ve never been able to afford to play. So, over the years since I’ve left home I’ve made a habit of feeding my friends and family what I could, when I could. Just about any given Sunday you could have stopped over for some form of “family meal”. I would put dinner on the table and open the door to my home. It sometimes upset me that I couldn’t get this ingredient, that pan, or whatever cooking technique was the style du jour. Blinded by my quest to cook “the best”, I never realized that I was cooking well. Never, until I found out that I have tongue cancer and the best treatment to save my life is to remove my tongue. I got cancer, fair enough. But in my fucking tongue? The irony is not lost on me. I waited as long as I could to tell my friends, not sure of how they’d react. No one has been happy to hear the news, but something funny has happened. Along with their condolences, they’ve shared past food memories. Not of me being some demi-god in the kitchen, but of me cooking well. The first came from an ex-girlfriend- “I literally was talking about the chocolate cake you made me for my birthday yesterday with my friends. It was awesome and I will never forget that!” We dated almost twenty years ago. The one that really got me came last night. “I haven’t seen Scott in probably 5 years, but I remember a wonderful dinner he once made for a group of us.” I came so close to crying, still might.
Tonight, two days before my glossectomy, I will share dinner with a few of my closest friends. Yes, cancer will take my tongue- but, it can’t take the memories of food cooked well and time spent enjoying it. I won’t taste for months, years, or maybe never again. It doesn’t matter much what we eat, however, as I will have the memory of one last, well cooked, real-food dinner shared with others. You see, in the end, it doesn’t matter much the provenance of your ingredients, the technique of your preparation, the pedigree of your education. What matters is that you did what you could with what you had, you cooked well. You put food on the table and invited others to share. And, at that moment, you became inextricably joined. A bond that will last forever!
I’ve never had a reason to go to South Berwick, ME. Truly, never a reason in the several years that I’ve lived here. But, now, I’ve found one. While the city, the one whole street of it I saw while passing back through from a business trip, reminded me of some smaller upstate NY towns around Ithaca, it didn’t really strike me as a place I’d seek out to go. Small, quaint and quite–all nice things that attracted us to stop there for lunch last week while traveling Rt. 236 to get back to 295.
After we filled ourselves on pizza and fried things, my co-workers and I stopped into Nature’s Way Market on Main St. to pick up some drinks for the road. A little more upscale than Rosemont and, thankfully, a lot more intimate than Whole Foods, Nature’s Way is a food heaven you would expect to find in a larger–MUCH larger–town. Fresh produce, meats, local dairy, beers and jams packed it’s shelf. And somewhere, just above the packaged cuts of meat and just to the left of produce I found my reason to go back.
Oh, sweet mistress of Moulard breast goodness… you’re nearly as giddiness inducing as a day at Toys in Babeland.(NSFW, btw) Seriously one of the best plays on bacon in a long time–nearly as blissful as Nutmeg Food’s Maple Bacon Truffle, with a sweetness and air of smoke to match. And because of this wonderful find, I now have a jar of Liquid Gold–rendered duck fat–contained and waiting to be used with something deemed worthy enough.
Last Thursday, like the Thursday before, gray skies gave way to rain but it failed to put a true damper on Share Our Strength’s Maine Taste of the Nation. Fourteen local chefs shared their time and talent for a great cause. Many thanks to them and to the SOS organization for a great evening.
The Beet topped oysters from Hugo’s were the first things I reached for and, I must admit, I went back several times throughout the course of the evening. The other three offerings were Pemaquids w/Sezchuan Pepper; Norumbega Oysters w/Saffron and Tabasco and Glidden Points w/Lime EVOO aioli. While I loved all of them it was the little burst of beets and horseradish, as the orb broke on my tongue, that won me over.
Sea Glass Inn’s Lobster Eclair was perfect. Though it had rained all evening, the moisture in the air never compromised the texture of the eclair shell and the salad, topped with chive flowers, was light and finished nicely with the slight tartness of the lemon.
Natalie’s was the Mrs. favorite of the evening and the one she ventured back to on our last visit of the tables. Similar to the burst of the beets from Hugos, the whole tomato gave a great textural play on traditional gazpacho and the avocado and cucumber cut the acidity very nicely.
Back Bay Grill put out the best lamb sausage I do believe I have ever had. Simply presented and simply delicious.
Steve Corry and the group at 555 had several offerings of on site made ice creams: Stout and Pretzel, Lime Mojito, Strawberry Milkshake, “Fire and Ice”–Vanilla, cayenne and shaved chocolate and Coconut with Curry Oil. The last two were our choices and, while the Fire was a bit too much for my partner, I had no problem scooping one up for myself. But, honestly, it was the Coconut and Curry Oil that nearly had me in tears as it brought back memories of Baba–a Malaysian restaurant in NYC that closed in the months after 9/11. I’ve had many plays on Coconut Curry ice cream since, but this was the closest I’ve had to their dessert that I’ve missed so much.
I could get into the not so great dishes, but the evening was too wonderful to dwell on the shite. We had a great time, were introduced to some wonderful chefs outside of the city limits and are already making far off plans to see what else those chef’s have up their sleeves.