Wednesday, October 19, 2011

California Part 1: Santa Cruz

In the last week of September, I had the privilege of visiting my oldest friend in her new home - San Francisco. Sandy and I became friends in the 5th grade, in that awkward horror that is middle school. We were each other's port in an uncertain, head-geared storm. Sandy has been a port in the storm for me ever since. But life happens, and alas, adults with jobs do not get to spend hours talking and giggling nearly as often as they should. This would be the longest stretch of time with my dear friend that I had spent since high school and I had looked forward to it for months. With the amazing trip more than 2 weeks behind me, I'm sorry it's over and yet so glad to have those memories forever.

And while I may not reveal all that we talked and giggled about during that week, I will tell you that we ate, drank and toured spectacularly. Knowing that there's nothing this girl appreciates more than a good itinerary, Sandy prepared a jam-packed one that proved to be the perfect mix of Northern California's best. Since we did so much, I'm going to break up the posts into the areas we visited, starting with our first order of business... Santa Cruz.

Since my flight arrived at a mere 10:45 and we were already south of the city, we ventured further south to Santa Cruz on the day I arrived. Surfers, hippies, more pot wafting through the air than I've smelled since college... Santa Cruz is like Disney Land for the mellow, life-loving type. It's possible I MIGHT be too uptight for Santa Cruz. But I sure enjoyed exploring it.

This family of sea lions was unperturbed by our proximity.
They went about their barking and frolicking like a bunch of reality TV stars.

After our day of frolicking, it was time to get down to the business of wine at Soif Wine Bar, followed by dinner at Gabriella Cafe. Open since 1992, Gabriella's focus is on serving only the freshest seasonal, local, organic produce and with it, hearty, flavorful entrees.


My poor photo does little justice to the rich, meaty lamb shank,
served with organic vegetables and polenta.

Dirty Girl Farm tomatoes with basil, olive oil and burata

I took away from Gabriella a full belly, a happy heart and just a taste of what the rest of my trip would bring.

Check back for more!
Part 2: San Franciso & Sausalito
Part 3: Point Reyes & Mendocino
Part 4: Napa Valley

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Outstanding in the Field

On August 18th, I had the good fortune to experience Outstanding in the Field, a dream come true for any foodie. A ticket to this unique event will buy you a beautiful evening at a local farm, or in this case, a vineyard; a full belly courtesy of a local chef; a challenged liver, courtesy of said host vineyard and a local brewer; and delicious memories that you'll want to savor again and again.

The setting: Westport River Vineyard, Westport, Massachusetts
The drink: Westport River Vineyard wines and Pretty Things beer
The chefs: Beau Vestal of New Rivers, Providence, RI and team.

My experience, in pictures, after the jump.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nostalgia for Dinner

Back in our early 20’s, my friend Stacey and I would go out for drinks, believing ourselves to be both the coolest and hottest girls that ever were. We would put on our “going out” get-ups and order Cosmopolitans and bask in the knowledge that we would never be wiser or more worldly than we were at that moment. (Hey, we all go through it.)

Too cool for school...

Our wallets were pretty tight at that point, and there were plenty of options for frugal 20-somethings in Providence. Thayer Street comes to mind – back then, it was pretty awesome. But remember, we were “So Cool.” So our destination of choice to start an evening of festivities was usually Neath’s on South Water Street. We loved that we knew of such an upscale spot. We loved that we drank martinis and ate actual culinary creations instead of slugging back beer and pizza. But on our limited budget, we usually stuck to an appetizer and a drink or two before we moved on to - well, cheaper pastures. Our most favorite, favorite appetizer was the grilled bread with coconut scallion dipping sauce. Conversation would all but stop when this dish arrived. We dropped the “cool” act and ate with reckless abandon.

Long after Neath’s closed, Stacey and I would still occasionally reminisce about the luscious, sweet sauce, contrasted with the salty, grilled bread. And then it happened. The heavens parted and Edible Rhody published Neath Pal’s recipe for this venerable dish.

On a recent girl’s night, with Stacey at the helm for this one, we made the grilled bread with coconut dipping sauce and were so giddy while eating it that it was almost as though we were 21 again. Though we had traded our Cosmo’s for a simple Vino Verde, and our “staying in” get-ups leaned a little more towards the comfortable, we couldn’t have been more anxious to dig into the dish we remembered so fondly. And miraculously, it was just as good as we remembered.

So here it is, with slight modifications...

Grilled Bread with Coconut Dipping Sauce

1 baguette
3 Tbsp olive oil
kosher salt
4 cups coconut milk
¾ Tbsp palm sugar
(Since we did not opt to pay through the nose for palm sugar, we did a little research and discovered that a mixture of brown sugar and maple syrup do just fine. About 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar and 1/4 Tbsp of maple syrup, blended)
1 ¼ tsp nam pla (fish sauce)
2 Tbsp scallion, sliced

Slice ½-inch pieces of baguette on a bias. Brush slices of baguette with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Grill or toast baguette slices until golden brown on both sides.
(Grilling was not in our cards on this particular evening. We baked the slices in the oven and they worked just fine, though grilling is preferred.)

Make the dipping sauce in a saucepan. Bring the coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. (Upon tasting, we added a few drops more of nam pla and a scoche more maple syrup.)

Add scallion slices and spoon over grilled baguettes. Serves 6.


Monday, July 11, 2011

One Rockin' Hors d'oeuvre

On Friday, I was going to a girlfriend's house for wine and girl time and was looking for a morsel as tasty as the gossip would be. And I was feeling decadent... this is not new for me. An extensive cruise through the interweb lead me to this little gem from Bon Appetit.

Crostini with Figs, Robiola Cheese and Pistachio Oil

First, I must apologize for the agressive "brownness" of my photo. I think we are all comfortable admitting that you come here for my writing and NOT for my photography skills. But this one is definitely worth sharing, despite its  brownness. Below is the Bon Appetit recipe, with my two cents interjected in green.

You'll need:
12 slices ciabatta bread (Sliced as thin as your knife skills allow.)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (I only had white wv. That was fine.)
2 tablespoons sugar
6 dried figs
2 tablespoons pistachios, toasted and shelled (Pistachios at a certain organic grocery store were very expensive for a container of way too many. So I bought a snack-sized pack at a drug store. Hello, resourceful.)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Robiola cheese (Man alive, the Robiola..)

The low-down:
Combine vinegar, sugar, and dried figs with 1/4 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let sit until figs soften, about 30 minutes. (Since I was bringing the components to my friend's house to assemble there, I put the figs and liquid in a container and let them relax in the car with some good music.)

Halve the pickled figs lengthwise. (Hey, cut off that little nubbin, too. Nobody wants that.)

Finely crush pistachios and combine with extra-virgin olive oil.

Grill bread slices. (It was a very rainy night, so instead of grilling the bread, I brushed it with olive oil and baked. Not as good, but a fine alternative.)

Smear room-temperature Robiola cheese onto warm toasts. Top with halved figs. Drizzle with pistachio oil. (I used an obscene amount of Robiola.)

These little babies were flavorful and rich and a giant hit... especially when served with my friend's family wine. And the bonus was the extra pistachio oil. I mixed a teaspoon full with balsamic vinegar for a nutty, complex salad dressing tonight. I continue to look for ways to use that wonderful stuff...

Thanks, friends!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ravioli Improv

A pasta craving does not go away until it is fed. And I have some mean pasta cravings. Last week when the pasta monster came to call, I was in a distinctly non-grocery-shopped state. So I improvised with the packaged ravioli I had in the fridge and some other scrounged ingredients and got a result worth blogging about. I even repeated the effort for dinner guests shortly after. Here it is.
- Packaged ravioli, any variety that floats your boat
- Olive Oil
- Butter
- Heavy Cream
- Garlic, chopped
- Italian style sausage links, chopped into pieces (I used Al Fresco chicken sausage)
- Shitake mushrooms, stems removed, chopped into strips
- Sun dried tomatoes, patted dry of excess oil and chopped into strips
- Parmesan Cheese
- Fresh Parsley and / or basil, chopped

1. First, I boiled some water in a big pot for the ravioli. Drop the ravs in to the boiling, salted water and cook for about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, sauté the garlic in olive oil and butter. Don’t be shy with any of these ingredients. But keep your flame low so that you don’t burn off all of your butter.
3. When the garlic starts to get nicely golden, add chopped shitake mushrooms and chopped sausage. When those are nicely browned, add chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add more butter at this point if your pan is starting to get dry.
4. Over the heat, pour about a half cup of heavy cream into the mixture and cook. What? I never claimed this was a healthy meal! Add ravioli to pan and delicately stir to incorporate. Continue cooking until raviolis are warm and lightly golden. Adjust seasonings.
5. Transfer ravioli mixture to plates. Top with Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh parsley and / or basil and serve.


Friday, July 1, 2011

A Very, Very, Very Fine House

 Chez Coquette has moved! As charming as our old place was in its advanced age, it left a few modern conveniences to be desired. And so we packed up countless boxes of belongings and hit the road… exactly 12 blocks.

I’m sure you can be with me on this fact: a new place to live changes your whole outlook. Seven years of same-old was a distant memory and I was intoxicated by the shiny and new. It felt great. Needless to say, I started entertaining right away.

As we start to settle in and the newness begins to turn into familiarity, I’m so happy to be here. I want to cook more, simply because it’s such a joy to do it in this kitchen. I want to have people over because I’m so proud of where I live. Mr. Coquette agrees. He planned his work rotation to be home for the move, but he basically put the boxes down in our new place and left to go back to work. When he came home two weeks later and marveled at how settled everything was, he walked through nodding and touching the appliances. He made a personal quest out of readying the whirlpool bath for my long swims. Dare I say, he nested right along with me.

So as they say, c’mon down. I’ll be here cooking something good up for you.

(Poor Girl Gourmet's Blueberry Crumble)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

On Not Blogging

Well, it’s entirely possible that I simply don’t have the discipline to be a blogger. But I’ve missed it! And I thank you for joining me back here at a whim. Here are a few things I’ve been up to since I’ve been away.

Finishing up school for the summer with Baking & Pastry...


Top: Chocolate and rum lava cake with mango coconut ice cream in a coconut cup
Bottom: Peanut butter creme br with strawberry coulis and a chocolate wafer cookie

Eating Barbecue (and visiting Mom & Dad)


Top: Duke's BBQ, Aiken, SC
Bottom: Dickey's BBQ, Seekonk, MA

Travelling... Near and Not Too Far

Chapel, Sanibel Island, Florida

Chapel, Scituate, Rhode Island

Water View, Middletown, Rhode Island

Water View, Sanibel Island, Florida

I've got some posts coming up that I think you'll enjoy. I hope you'll be back!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pursuit of Perfection, Days 2&3

I'm not going to lie. I'm tired!
Today was my third day in a row of waking up at 5:30 to go to they gym before work, which is great. I feel really good about that. But I'm dragging a little. 8PM bedtime, anyone?

Yesterday I decided on something I wanted to add to my experiment: try being nicer. It's not that I'm mean per se, I can just be impatient - a typical New Englander quality. I'm working on it.

Overall, things are going well. I have yet to bite my nails. I'm trying to avoid mindlessly sitting in front of the television. And I'm checking in with my body every once in a while to make sure I'm not slouching. I can already tell the "shoulds" that I'll carry with me and the ones I'll leave behind. I'll save those for later.

Tired and all, I know I've been more productive the last couple of days. Maybe not a better human, but at least more productive. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Pursuit of Perfection: Day 1

Well. This is serious business. My day began at 5:30 when I woke up without using the snooze button to get ready for 6AM spinning. Before I left, I made my bed and straightened around the house.

Keep the house immaculate: Check
Go to the gym five days a week: 1/5 Check

I was three quarters of the way to work when I remembered that keeping up with the news was one of my goals. Switched the station to NPR. Became depressed. Switched back to my iPod. Fail.

I drank massive quantities of water while I worked.
And peed. A lot.

During my lunch break, I planned dinner menus for the week and I shopped after work. It's amazing how much better things seem when you have a stocked refrigerator.

I refrained from even looking at the vending machine and opted for 2 Hershey kisses to satisfy my intense, after-lunch chocolate craving.

And I write this as a delicious and healthy dinner works away on the stove.

Am I a better person yet? I don't know. I do feel a little more organized and on top of things though. Stay tuned. It's only Day 1!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In Pursuit of Perfection?


Do you ever notice how often those words slip from your lips? Lately, I’ve been noticing that I ignore “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” a lot. With work, culinary school, family and friends, I have a busy schedule and often I find myself letting go of the things I “should” be doing just to get a few blissful moments of peace with a glass of wine and my DVR.
But is that helping me? Making me happier? I know folks who spend so much time doing what they should – eating salads for lunch, waking up early to go to the gym, doing yard work on Saturday, balancing their checkbooks, flipping their mattresses. Sometimes I hear these Type A personalities talking about their “to do’s” and I feel rather smug knowing that I myself am not a slave to “shoulds.” Sometimes I park myself on the couch from the moment I get home from work until the moment I go to bed. Sometimes I spend my Saturdays lallygagging. Sometimes I wait until the last possible moment to do an assignment for school. Sometimes I leave dishes in the sink. (OK. A lot of the time I leave dishes in the sink.) Sometimes I don’t blog for 5 months.
But this week getting ready for work, as I maneuvered around the laundry I haven’t done yet and determined that I did not have sufficient groceries in the house to whip-up a healthy breakfast in no time flat, I wondered if maybe those Type A people have it right. What is a normal “should” to “screw it” ratio? If you browse the pile of magazines geared towards women accruing under my coffee table, you’d find that you could occupy every moment of your time with tasks that would help you to have a happier / healthier / more beautiful / more time saving / more money saving / more stylish / more delicious / more fulfilling life. All with the end goal of having more time to spend doing the important things.
I got to thinking. What are the important things? Am I really a happier person because I’m not beholden to “shoulds?” Or just a lazier person? So I’m going to try an experiment. For one week, I’m going to do as many of the things one “should do” as possible. I’ll try it their way and blog about it. Off the top of my head, some “shoulds” I tend to ignore:

 Plan ahead in order to have a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner.
 Not partake of the office vending machine.
 Do a load of laundry after work on most days rather than battling a giant pile.
 Keep the house immaculate.
 Drink plenty of water.
 Take my make-up off and moisturize before bed.
 Go to the gym 5 times a week.
 Make my bed every day.
 Catch up on the news every day.
 Iron my clothes.
 Not bite my nails.
These are, of course, not the most meaningful goals in the world. I could be striving for world peace and understanding. I also started writing this on Thursday, before the Japanese earthquake. So for this week, fear of seeming frivolous aside, my goal is to see if doing all the things “they” tell you that you should will make you a better human. And blog about it at the end of each chore-filled day. In the meantime, let me know what “shoulds” you find especially important (or annoying.) Is there anything you think I should throw in for good measure? Monday will be day-one of Super Kate. See you then!