Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Scandinavian New Year

In the past couple of years, it's become a tradition of ours to spend New Year's Eve cuddled at home leisurely sipping some bubbles and making a special dish we wouldn't normally think to make. In choosing a recipe, we also have come to embrace the theme and/or tradition of the culture in which the dish comes. Last year we went Greek with Moussaka paired with Retsina wine, made from pine tree resin (it was a valiant effort, but we quickly switched to some nice bubbly Cremant). However, the full on bechamel, lamb, roasted eggplant moussaka I can still taste it a year later, and in truth, although time consuming and labor intensive, it was really fun to make.

This year, without knowing it, we tossed around both our English and Danish backgrounds for recipe ideas. While enjoying a traditional Harvey's Bristol Cream with my father on Christmas, we decided on a traditional Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding English feast would be the choice. - not to mention our fondness for Jamie Oliver. As the day has drawn near - we have been hemming and hawing, not getting too excited about the whole thing. Then it really came to us - a Scandinavian feast! Perfect for the full moon that falls on this New Year's Eve. Light, fresh and clean. Truly a great way to start off the new decade. While the actual dishes have not been determined, we have turned to one of our fave PBS cooking shows, Scand Cooks for some inspiration. Stay tuned and Godt Nytår!

Images via The Scandinavian Cookbook

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mid-Summer's Dream

With the cool summer we've had, I suppose we could be forgiven for our low expectations regarding the garden. Plants seemed as though they'd never grow taller than our knees, vines would creep along centimeter by centimeter. I would say inch by inch, but it was not that fast. We coaxed them along, even when our new neighbor seemed bent on destroying our garden by tuckpointing his entire building. We replaced soil, adjusted pH levels, added manure (which made us extremely popular with the rest of the tenants). It did not seem promising. At the beginning of July, however, the first blossoms started to appear, and it seemed as though we might get a little reward for our efforts.

It was shocking though to see peppers go from blossom to this:

in only a couple of weeks. Needless to say, we are excited that there is fruit sitting on all of our plants, from the first tomato at marble size:

to clusters waiting for the ripening sun, and a nice caprese salad.

Maybe the cool weather made our plants hardier, maybe it just made us appreciate what actually has come to fruition. Regardless, we now know patience is a virtue when dealing with our garden. I will not underestimate the power of sun, soil and seed again. And if you're lucky enough, we will be sharing seeds with all of you this winter. Save a sunny spot in the yard.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Coolers

We have talked amongst ourselves about how the internet is full of drink blogs, and while we enjoy our drinks, our site isn't dedicated to them. Thank goodness, as there is only so much our livers could handle. Plus, I get very ornery after a couple, so we try to limit our experimentation.

Two that we have been very fond of this summer are very different in their origins. First, the Pimm's Cup, which has seen a splendid resurgence thanks to people rediscovering the pleasure of liqueurs and light mixers. It might be the easiest to make, but with as much complexity to the flavor profile as you want. Our recipe is as follows:

highball glass

2 1/2 oz Pimm's No.1
juice of 1/2 lemon
cucumber spear

The nice thing about this recipe is the flexibility. I like a touch more Pimms, Ness prefers a little more lemon. Easy to accommodate. Thanks to my Mom for insisting I try this when I was 21. It has been her summer standard for years, though just how many years is Top Secret.

Our second favorite was born out of necessity. Ness needed something refreshing and didn't want another gin & tonic. Not that she has those to excess, nor are they a tired drink; she merely wanted something she hadn't had before. Looking in the fridge, we had recently purchased Trader Joe's Pomegranate Limeade. Possibly the easiest and freshest mixer we have ever found. Mint from the yard, soda, Hendrick's gin: the birth of Ness' Mint Lemonade Mixer.

rocks glass
fresh mint
2 oz gin
3 oz TJ's Pomegranate Limeade
w/ soda

lime wedge

Again, flexibility with the mixer, but this drink isn't rocket science; it's just really tasty. We have also talked about how it is probably a sin of the worst magnitude to be using Hendrick's in a drink like this. Well, our justification is that is seems to be the only gin we have around! Now to see if the garden will provide us with more cucumbers and mint so we don't run out of essential supplies.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bud break in Chicago

It isn't as though we had hoped to make wine from our lone vine in the yard, especially since it happens to be some odd midwestern varietal; but, come ON! We had to wait till mid June for the buds to break out? Now with a half dozen leaves unfurling, it is somewhat exciting to see that the weeks of sub-zero weather didn't shatter the roots or vascular system. With time, I feel like this could turn into more than a hobby.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Blind Lovely

I have a terrible soft spot for rhone whites. Viognier, Roussane, Marsanne; from intense candy store perfume to sublime flinty subtlety, it is always a surprise when you open a bottle. Last month when Sam Tannahill was in town, we were discussing our love of these wines while we should have been talking about the lovely pinot noir he was pouring. Still, it is fun to talk about a shared passion when everyone else in the room is getting shnockered.

Since Sam had been on the road for quite a few days and was feeling pretty shredded, I brought along a pound of Metropolis coffee to send home with him. It is our favorite local roaster, even though Intelligentsia has had more success in their nationwide growth. Sam reported that he and Cheryl, his lovely, talented wife, enjoyed the coffee over Mother's day weekend. That made us happy.

What made me even happier is when a package arrived from Sam this week. Enclosed were two bottles from their Francis Tannahill label; a 2005 Grenache, and a 2006 Blind Love. These were tiny bottllings; 138 and 93 cases produced respectively. While A to Z and Rex Hill might pay the bills, these bottles seem to represent what they can really do when unleashed in the winery. Elegant and balanced wines both.
We had the Blind Love with a nice light dinner of grilled asparagus, fresh homemade ricotta, baby greens and poached eggs. I also tried doing a pizza on the grill, but failed miserably; I will have woodfired pizza at home by the end of summer or die trying. The wine, on the other hand, was tremendously successful. When we first opened this there was a full nose of perfectly ripe fruit, and a nice spring floral bouquet. We expected it to be almost too big on the palate. On the contrary; what a lovely, creamy mouthfeel with a gentle but present acidity to give it a clean light finish. Light enough that I kept wanting more. It was a wine that was perhaps too elusive; but we loved every drop.

The second wine was the 2005 Grenache from the Rogue Valley. We had this the following Wednesday while I listened to the fifth game of the Blackhawks/Redwings series. (a tragic finish, even as I write this. 2-1 Detroit.) Ness was home late from work and we wanted something simple for dinner, so we settled on one of our standby favorites. We call it Beans & Greens, but it is a recipe that we lifted from one of our favorite blogs, who in turn lifted it from Splendid Table. A fantastic filling salad with beans, baby greens, bread crumbs and toasted cheese. The wine was superb from the first taste; my first impression being that of a clean, young Chateauneuf. The color was rich and opaque, but by no means inky. It just had the look of a wine that had been given ample opportunity to develop naturally, and had nothing taken away from it in the racking ad aging process. The nose was nowhere near overpowering, instead delivering exactly what it promised; balance, backbone, and finish. As the night went on, we talked about how it progressed, ending with "plum jam on toast with white pepper." At that point, we decided to end the pretentious wine talk and cut ourselves off.
Sam, thank you for two delicious, elegant bottles. We had a great weekend and look forward to a summer of nice bottles, and good thoughts for good friends.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Is it Summer Already?

Just when I thought spring was in bloom - summer rushed in with all it's grilling, picnics and patriotic glory. Happy Memorial Day, Summer is here!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Favorite Thing

Every spring I seem to forget that lilacs are possibly my favorite flower. The smell of a lilac tree after a light rain is truly intoxicating - and I don't throw around that word - nor do I use it regularly, so it must be pretty amazing.
I only request one thing of our next house or apartment - a lilac tree outside my bedroom. Lots of very happy dreams.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Surprise Cheddar

We knew we were in for a treat when we finally cracked the lid on our tin of Natural Cougar Gold from Washington State University. Not to say we weren't skeptical; a lot of university agricultural products we've had in the past have been safe, sterile, and frankly a little bit bland. Not this time.This cheddar is reminiscent of a market style, without the bandage wrapping. A pleasant grassiness combined with a buttery, creamy mouthfeel. It crumbles nicely into small bites and was delicious on its own or with a crunch in a delicious grilled cheese. We must find some good apples, though they are in short supply right now. Please visit to learn more. I will be lobbying family to send another tin, asap.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Loved our trip to Omaha - complete with great food, visits with long lost family, and a drive through a tornado. Truly, the Midwest at it's best. Just a few to get started - we will post more to come.

Weekend Project

While waiting for the reputed 80 degree weather that was supposed to arrive by the end of the week, we spent some time building our Salad Bar. This is a perfectly utilitarian design, but looks so bountiful when filled with salad greens, herbs, and other shallow rooted edible plants. We hemmed and hawed about building it, but when the weather started turning and we realized the tulips were going to be holding down valuable real estate for a few more weeks, the need for another container became clear. It is a simple plan, but always measure twice, cut once. Since our 2x4's were pretty clean and straight it took less than ten minutes to have all of our pieces cut and laid out. We put a light coat of sealant on the wood, as per recommendation, to prevent mildewing or rotting wood. Our sealant, once cured, is not supposed to leach into the soil. Very important. We used two wood screws in the corners, and only one on the cross beams. In a moment of Danish over-engineering, we applied quite a few staples to the screen in the corners, even though the wire mesh will help to hold the screen in place. With mesh and roofing nails in place, it was time to get some soil in place and hope for the best weather possible.

Another easy planter we have been using comes from my job in the fine wine industry. Many producers still utilize wooden cases, and these are sturdy, attractive, and are nice for their ability to eventually break down and decompose. Drilling 1/2 inch drainage holes in the bottom of the boxes prevent soggy roots and can even allow deeper root growth when placed on bare soil. While we are not even close to what one would call professional gardeners, we have always had good success with these boxes, yielding plenty of potatoes, carrots and whatever else we felt the need to grow. Plus it is fun to see potato shoots popping up where four hundred dollar bottles of wine once were.

I started our greens, tomatoes, peppers and carrots in a few small greenhouse trays in our apartment. The greens are cold weather friendly and grow much faster than the toms and peppers. It is always fun to grow your own food and to start to see nearly immediate reward.It is also funny how folks perk up when you mention even the mere potential of having fresh tomatoes and peppers. This morning I ran into Mary, out mail carrier, and she was already staking out a claim on any excess tomatoes. Even if only half of our plants start to produce, there will be plenty to go around! Come on sun!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gulity Pleasure

Sure, ordering coffee from Seattle isn't the best way to celebrate Earth Day, but what a fine guilty pleasure it is. Caffe Vita has been one of my favorites from way back when I wouldn't have to pay for shipping and could pick some up while in Seattle visiting friends over a weekend. Sigh; what coffee love will do to us.
We ordered the old standby "Queen City Blend", never disappoints with the full mouthfeel and lush nutty chocolate finish. If only we could go to Uptown Bakery and grab a couple of scones now.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

All things lemon are lovely

A serious shout out to our favorite food blog of late. Smitten Kitchen. All would be smart to bookmark this site now. Run don't walk!

Images: Smitten Kitchen

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April in Paris?

For the past few weeks, we have been loving french macaroons, really. A trip to Laduree in Paris this April is a mere fantasy for now - but we can daydream....and frequent the most amazingly fantastic patisserie, Bittersweet, right here in Chicago. It's only a short bicycle ride away and since we have been enjoying all 6 flavors (pistachio, lemon, raspberry, almond, chocolate, vanilla) per visit, it's a good thing we are on 2 wheels.

Images; Laduree Paris, Copenhagen Chic.
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