Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wine + Food + Good Company + Rain = Great Night Out!

It might have rained little, OK- A LOT! But that didn't stop the 9th Annual Clyde's Farm Dinner in Ashburn, VA.
We have gone the last three years and it never disappoints.  Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm opens the barn door and garden gate to welcome Slow Food members and friends to a tour of their raised-bed garden—where all their veggies grow—and a five-course farm dinner.   The food and wine are both locally source and always delicious.  

Cocktail Time - this year's was a refreshing Peach & Blackberry Sangria. 

We each took a drink and headed on over to the garden.  

Did you get any ideas for your own garden?  We did!

Before sitting there were pass hors d'oeuvres of Corn Pudding Tarts and Egg Salad Crostini Topped with Crab.

The first course was a plate of freshly picked Willow Creek Farm veggies simply prepared.  Some were roasted, some sauteed, or steamed.  It depended on what brought out the best in the individual veggie.  Simple, but satisfying.     

And the the rains came... did I mention we were eating outside?

Knowing it was supposed to rain and we would be outside, we scoped out a table that looked like it would stay dry and we picked correctly!  

We should stop here to praise the wait staff - real superstars!  The rain never slowed them down, they rushed around make sure people were out the weather, moving tables and handing out umbrellas.  Those tables that were wet, they dried and reset with great speed and those guests who wanted to eat inside they settled them with alacrity as well.  Running in and out of the rain serving can't be an easy job, but they were great!

After the rain delay the second course came out - Chesapeake Bay Soft-Shell Clams with herb and Cheese Ravioli and Blue Ridge Dairy Butter.  There's no picture to share as I was too excited to dig in and forgot all about the camera... just trust me it was good!

Next was the most worrisome and surprising part of the meal:  Roast Boarder Spring Farm Lamb.  A trio of lamb (leg, rack, and house-made sausage) with a side of Swiss chard.

I have to be honest and say this was the part of the meal I was least looking forward to, I'm not a huge fan of lamb.   How wrong was I!?!  The lamb was incredible - moist and tasty.  The photo is not so pretty as I was so taken with the food I forgot about the camera again.   

To finish up the evening we were served Roasted Peach Semifreddo with Willow Creek Farm honey popcorn.  Refreshing and light, a great way to end a slightly damp but wonderful evening. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cocktail Success!

So, as we have been doing these little dinners there are a few things that seem to continue to challenged us.  For some it is rice, for me it's a decent cocktail.  The only part of the dinner I have come to dread... The Big Scary Cocktail!  

I am proud to say the I (with maybe a bit of help from Martha) have conquered the liquor, slayed the spirits, quenched the thirst!  

It was midweek and we were getting closer to that Saturday Supper.  My panic over a potential potion to present was growing with each passing day.  To clam myself I started to leaf through my monthly Martha Stewart Living, then as I turned a page the heavens opens up and the sun began to shine, the angels sang... there it was, the perfect summer drink.  I am calling it a Blueberry Gin Fizzy (I can't remember what Martha called it) and it is good.  

I was able to add a bit of Lemon Mint from the garden, too.

So the night was off to an excellent start!  The Amuse was a seared baby scollop on a puree of white beans.  A little something the hubs came up with himself, quite tasty.

Another favorite of the night was the Terrine of Summer Squash topped with Rosemary Infused Honey, made of course with our fav goat cheese purveyor: Cherry Glen Goat Cheese Co.  The tang of the goat cheese mixed with the sweet of the local honey with the mellow roasted veggies was incredible (carrots were also garden grown - extra points).  It was paired with a sweet roasted cippolini onion.  Oh and the honey: you may be tempted to skip the rosemary infusing step - don't!  It adds another layer to an already outstanding dish, don't cheat yourself out of a full tasty experience.     

 A bright and super fresh salad was next.  The Pea Shoot Salad w/ Hummus Vinaigrette was relativity easy, extremely tasty, and a refreshing, and a refreshing interlude between more robust courses.

For the main course we had Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Compote, yum.   As the first of the cherries were coming into season we decide to highlight them in the main meal.  It is a few steps to make this meat, but it is worth it, trust me.  We have made this dish three more  times since this meal.  While the original recipe called for cheery preserves, why do that to yourself when you can get fresh?  I wouldn't do it any other way.  The good news is you can make the compote in advance and let it rest and thicken or even make a day ahead.

We wont discuss the side dish.  Perhaps another challenge for another meal...

Dessert was superb.  A super light and decadent lemon chiffon cake with fresh fruit and an infused whipped cream.  If I get the recipe I might share;)

And of course the Cheese Plate!  Cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery with an late addition from the Cherry Glen Goat Cheese Co.  with the crowd favorite and always a winner:  the Monocacy Ash!  A very welcome and delicious surprise!

Here is the selection of wines from the evening, not a bad one in the bunch.

And the happy, satisfied, and stuffed foodies. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bluberry Gin Fizzies or: Best. Cocktail. Ever.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 6 drinks

1 C Gin
1/2 cup Blueberrys
Fizzy Lemonade
frozen berries

Pour gin and blueberries into a jar and let sit at room temp for 3 days. 

After 3 days drain away blueberries and refrigerated gin until cold.

To mix - pour 1 oz of gin in martini glass and then fill with the fizzy lemonade.

Add ice.

Garnish with frozen berries (we used blueberries and raspberries) and fresh lemon mint out of your garden. 

Tip for freezing berrys - lay out in one layer on a baking sheet, place in freezer until frozen.  Do not put into cup and shove into freezer, won't work.

Terrine of Summer Squash topped with Rosemary Infused Honey

For Terrine:
2-3 summer squash
2 garlic scapes
2 T olive oil
1 t freshly cracked pepper
1 1/2 t salt
1/4 cup goat chevre
1/4 cup ricotta
1 T fresh basil

Summer squash cut to approximately 1/4 inch rounds, toss with Olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Roast at 425 for 20-25 min, adding garlic scapes for the last 10 min

Meanwhile finely chop basil and mix with fresh ricotta - let sit at room temp

In food processor process the garlic scapes and add chevre

Layer squash with chevre and top with a dollop of ricotta, drizzle with honey serve at room temperature

For Rosemary Infused Honey:
1/2 Cup Honey
1 sprig Rosemary

bruise roesmary with the back of knife put in honey and let sit for a day.

This could also be a great side dish (or main) if made with squash sliced lengthwise and layered in a pan (similar to lasagna)

Pea Shoot Salad w/ Hummus Vinaigrette

Fresh pea shoots
Fresh peas shelled

1/4 Cup lemon juice
2 T olive oil
1/8 t pepper freshly cracked
1/8 t salt (or to taste)
1 tsp lemon zest
2 T Hummus

mix all ingredients for dressing except hummus, add hummus just before serving dress salads and add fresh cracked pepper (don't forget the hummus or the salad will be SUPER boring!)

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Compote

Adapted from

1/2 cup oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2 lbs.) trimmed

Cherry Compote
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 small red onion
1/4 cup coarsely chopped shiitake mushrooms
1 cup beef broth
1 cup or more of fresh cherries, pitted
1 1/2 teaspoons  thyme
3 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces

Whisk oil, garlic, mustard, thyme, rosemary, pepper and salt in shallow dish until well blended. Add pork. Cover; marinate in refrigerator 4 hours or overnight.

Make Cherry Compote ahead. Cook after adding preserves and thyme. Refrigerate. Reheat; stir in butter just before serving.

Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and mushrooms; cook and stir until lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add beef broth. Bring to a boil and continue cooking until liquid is reduced by about half.

Reduce heat. Add preserves and thyme. Simmer sauce, continuing cooking until thick.

Heat grill.

Remove pork from marinade; discard marinade. Grill tenderloin until medium done, about 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing diagonally into 1⁄4-inch pieces.

While meat is standing, remove sauce from heat. Whisk in butter, one piece at a time. Serve warm over pork.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Seasonal for June

It's a Copper Pot Supper tomorrow!  Not sure what we are going to make as we need to see what's at the Farm Market tomorrow.  That's one of the great things about dinner during this time of year, you go into Saturday with some ideas about what you want to make, but it could completely change depending what is at the market or in your own garden.

Here are some items that should be in season now:

April 25-June 15    asparagus
May 15-June 20    strawberries
June 1-July 1          peas (green)
June 1-Sept. 15      cabbage
June 10-July 10      cherries (sweet)
June 10-Sept. 15    beans (snap)

And then there are the nice surprises that you might find too if you farmer hot hoops their veggies!

Happy Marketing!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Iron Chef: Open Kitchen Style

A culinary space to eat, cook and entertain is how owner Hue-Chan describes her restaurant/commercial kitchen/catering business.  We describe it as delicious fun.  Open Kitchen is, as their web site states, a hidden gem nestled in the suburbs of DC.

We first found out about Open Kitchen through Slow Food DC .  Back in March we attended the Slow Food U demonstration at Open Kitchen: Homemade Breads and Spreads to Share with Friends and Family, where we learned how to make five different breads and three tasty spreads.  

During this class we got to talking to Hue-Chan and the chefs and learned more about their business.  It turns out in addition to all the other classes, the catering and restaurant service, they also do special events for groups - like cooking demonstrations and competitions.  One of the team building exercises that they run for companies is an Iron Chef-like competition.  And what does one need when one runs an Iron Chef-like competition?  How about some food lovin' judges??  Why yes, we would be interested:)  

A few weeks ago that magical e-mail showed up and our time had come!  So we put on the eatin' pants and said bring it on!    

In addition to us there were two other lovely judges.  The veteran: Gabe, former owner of Pica Deli Gourmet and Wines and current sommelier and wine specialist with Select Wine; and the other newbie: Amy, a scientist by trade, she and her friends enjoy experimenting with food testing taste, texture and technique and writing about it in their Food Lab blog.  

So the team-building company came in and were divided into five teams of 4-5 people each, the ingredients were reveled and they were given 15 minutes to brainstorm and come up with a plan.

There were lots of dry, dairy, starch and produce ingredients provided.  Chicken was the protein.

The Open Kitchen professional chefs were made available for answers, a bit of guidance and some insight.

During the cooking we judges were able to go around and visit each team and see what they were coming up with.

After one hour and 45 min to cook the teams each presented 3 dishes to the judges. 

There was lots to try!  Lots of chicken, some salads, a soup, and even a dessert.


Remembering that these aren't professional chefs, we judged each team on three categories:  taste, presentation, and creativity.  Some were better than others and we did have to take off points for the chicken that wasn't cooked:)   

In the end each team did OK and most importantly it was a TON of fun.  We got to taste some awesome food (thank you Chef Jackson!), great wine (thanks Gabe) and got to spend a evening with like-minded, fun, foodie people.  Does it get better than that?

If you get a chance check out Open Kitchen for lunch or dinner or even a class (they have BBQ and cooking with beer classes if you need a Father's Day gift idea).  They are in Falls Church, right off of Rt 7 and are an Open Table Fit for Foodies Diner's Choice Award winner - you know we are always satisfied with the best, we wouldn't steer you wrong!

Hope we get to do it again - we had too much fun! Thanks Open Kitchen!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Le Jardin

Fava Bean  Plants
So we are taking part in a "community" garden project started by the Fabulous Beekman Boys.  There are 10,000 beginner and established gardeners all around the country planting the same 10 varieties of heirloom vegetables.  We purchased the seeds from Williams-Sonoma and every 2 weeks we get a newsletter letting us know what to do next and what our veggies should be doing now.  So far it has been quite fun.
Fabulous Beekman Boys!

Of course, not content with just 10 veggies, I also planted some additional cold weather seeds:  peas, fava beans (which I will enjoy with a nice glass of Chianti) lots of different lettuces and some arugula.  We use the Square Foot Garden method. 

This is our third year and each year it gets bigger and better.  We started with one box, last year we added another for just asparagus, this year we added 2 more new boxes.  We are now up to four 4x8 raised bed boxes. 

My Winter box, when these are done I'll use it for Fall veggies

It is a super easy system.  The idea is to build a raised bed, divide the space into sections of one square-foot each, and then plant vegetables in the amount of space they need. Advantages?  Organic! And... reduced workload, less watering, very minimal weeding, and easy access to your veggies for admiring and harvesting. 
A few square feet of lettuce & peas

They are fairly simple to put together, this year we bought the corners and just slid the untreated lumber into the slots.  You can cover for winter, though we didn't do it this year.  But, it only took me 30 minutes this March to clean the box out and have it planted.

So last night we had the first real harvest of the season!  A few spears of asparagus (it takes up to three years before you can fully harvest), radishes and lettuce.  Nothing tastes as good or as fresh as veggies just picked out of your own organic garden!    

Monday, March 28, 2011

We're Back!

So it's been a long cold winter filled with good intentions but unforeseen issues, hence the lack of official Copper Pot meals.  But despite even a few challenges that day, we're back!  And in a really yummy way!  Our latest dinner took place a few weeks ago, it ended up being an entire weekend of good food and fun, I'll blog about our Sunday Fun Day later.

Of course two of the tenets of a CP meal is seasonal an local, being that it is still March the rules afforded me the opportunity to visit a few new establishments other than the local farm market - not open until May, boo...

First, a trip to The Tasting Room Wine Bar at Reston Town Center.  I walked in and was a bit worried at first about the collection, which I thought was a bit small, until I realized that this is not a wine shop, but a tasting bar.  It helped that the nice girl behind the counter was able to find the perfect wine to go with with one of our first courses and the best part was being able to taste them!  My next stop was to the Maple Avenue Market in Vienna.  This is a really great shop, all local and seasonal.  It's like a farm market every day of the year!  They had some beautiful greens and great cheeses, beets, mushroooms, and even some dry goods and meat.  

So dinner naturally started off with an aperitif of a champagne cocktail made with bitters, sugar, and a lovely Varitas Scintilla.
This was followed by Parmigiana Crisps Filled with Garlic Mash Potatoes.  A wonderful idea in theory, but the end result was a bit of a let down.  The crisps were not quite crispy enough, but tasty none the less. 

Off to the first course of a Roasted Beet Napoleon by Wolfgang Puck.  This was quite tasty, better than the other beet and goat cheese napoleons we tested.  I think that this was because you candied the beets a bit and added fresh herbs to the cheese.  It's the little touches like these that can really push a dish to the next level.
This was the dish that we picked up the wine at The Tasting Room Wine Bar for.  It was a Kung Fu Girl Riesling.  The flavor profiles of the salad and the wine worked so well together, and I am not a Riesling kinda girl.      
The next course also was a nice thought but could use some refining as well:  a Ragu of Mushrooms with Homemade Tagliatelle topped with Goat Cheese and Sun Dried Tomatoes.  Let's just say we still need to work on our pasta making skillz...  and salt seasoning skillz. 

The main course was a delectable Chilean Sea Bass on a Bed of Wilted Spinach with Bacon and a Roasted Date, Bacon, and Sherry Broth.  Not to worry!  The fish came from a small, sustainable Chilean sea bass fishery around South Georgia Island and that the fishery's sustainability credentials are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.  This was a great dish!  a Tasty fish, great flavor from the bacon and tomatoes, fresh spinach.  We even broke the no bread rule, just so the dressing could be sopped up:) The vinaigrette recipe can be found here: Seared Sea Bass with Roasted Date, Bacon, Almond and Sherry Broth. There are probably lots of applications for this dressing, but add the bacon. Don't forget the bacon... mmmmm... bacon... 

This was followed by my fave part of the meal: the CHEESE course, of course!!  Provided by the Wild Card Couple, the stand out was the Raw Milk Mochego from Spain paired with Marcona almonds and quince paste - I love a good cheese theme.  

Finally came the dessert, a vanilla rice pudding with fresh raspberry whip cream.  Some thought the dessert was a bit sweet, I thought it was just right.  The addition of the raspberries to the cream not only gave it a beautiful light pink color, but also a loverly subtle berry taste. 

 Sooooo... Copper Pot, Copper Pot, who's it gonna be??  Dinners in May, you'll have to wait and see:)