Life in the Slow Lane



Ah, Life in the
slow lane, at last. School’s out, we are
in Florida,  took
a long walk on the beach this afternoon with the dogs (who have come down here
with us for the first time), and all’s right with my world.

I meant to make a long
detailed post about the Lebanese feast I wrote about here, but now it seems so
long ago that I will only say that is was wonderful fun cooking with Cindy and
Candy, that the food was great (and way too much!!) and that the evening ended
with me laughing as much as I have laughed in a long time. It doesn’t get much better than that. I have some good pictures of the food, which stuck pretty
close to the menu I posted before, but I didn’t save them properly on my laptop, so I can’t post them.

Since then, and it
seems like a year ago, there have been some other very good food moments in my
life. I had my food and politics class
over for dinner (the very next day after the feast, which is one reason I never
got the post done) and made the squash and shiitake mushroom pasta dish I
usually make since it uses good ingredients I can get locally and that’s what
the class ends up being about. But these
students asked me to cook something with grass-fed beef since we had just
finished reading Omnivore’s Dilemma and they were curious about what it tasted
like. Fortunately, Sahara Mart is carrying
Fiedler Farms beef again, so I was able to get two large chuck roasts and cut
it up into stew for 22. Browned it and
braised it in red wine and added a million garlic cloves and onions and
mushrooms and cooked it for hours. It was pretty good, though I am not sure
anyone could tell that the beef was different from the kind they usually
get. Interestingly, though, even some
vegetarians were willing to give it a go since I could vouch for the humane
raising of the animal. And of course,
they knew my story on that.

We also had our
first meal at FARMbloomington, Daniel Orr’s new restaurant. Daniel has quite the resumé, but he really
isn’t trying to put his cooking skills to the haute cuisine test in this place. He bills it as “Real food for real people”
and it is – delicious, well-cooked Hoosier-bistro-type food, relying on local
ingredients when he can get them. We
tried a lot of the tapas items from the bar as well as most of the dishes on
the limited dinner menu (you don’t want to know what we managed to spend!) and
the highlights were some fabulous fries, with chilies and garlic in a saffron
aioli, a great skirt steak (Fiedler Farms again) with celery root puree and
onion rings, a terrific pizza with wild mushrooms and feta, woodsy and
wonderful, the salmon tartare (Daniel shines with raw fish preparations),
prawns with an excellent fruity and spicy dipping sauce, and some really good
spiced nuts. The desserts were good too,
but honestly, by the time we got to them I could hardly breathe, let alone
taste. I look forward to seeing what
else he does with the place when it officially opens on January 14, but the
initial signs are good – a great thing for Bloomington to have another casual,
good restaurant that relies on local stuff.

What else? We had a yummy meal at Avenue Sea, here in Apalachicola on Christmas Eve (a place I have written about here and here.)   Two of us started with
oysters – clearly the best of the bay – fat, fresh and perfect. They were dressed with a radish julienne and
the juice of a kumquat-like fruit that I think they called a Calamondin Orange.
[That’s them in the pic at the start of this post.] Anyway, the oyster-lovers
among us said they were among the best oysters they had ever had – pretty high
praise from these picky folks. I had the
chestnut soup because I think David Carrier’s soups are superb and I never miss
one. I had this one last Christmas Eve too and it is lovely. Then salads – a shrimp salad with
arugula that I had a bite of and that was very good. I ordered a plain green herby salad with a cabernet
vinaigrette. I am not precisely sure why
this vinaigrette is so good but it is outstanding – and I order it every time I
am there. For main courses most of us
had the grouper on mashed potatoes with wild mushrooms. It was moist and delicious and though I am
not a fan of huge slabs of protein on my plate, even when they come from the
sea, this was just right. Desserts were
also good, as always. Mine was a crème
puff filled with a tart, lemony cream and surrounded with little triangles of
citrus. Gorgeous and delicious. We are going to go try the bar menu there
tonight, and then we will be going back tomorrow with the friends of some
friends – folks actually that I met on the Internet through this blog. I am sure I will be reporting back on that.

For Christmas
dinner we ate here at home (our Florida home, that is.) A trip to Island View Seafood in Eastpoint was a delight.  We made Alligator Point clams
steamed in white wine with garlic and tomatoes. I threw some butter into the broth and didn’t think about the fact that
it was salted butter, but with the saltiness of the clams it was almost too
much. Another reason to remember to get unsalted
butter! After that I made a shrimp dish with
pasta. I slit the shrimp almost all the
way through and seared them hot and quick in a skillet in (salty) butter and
olive oil. They cooked in a second and a
half and I pulled them out and set them aside. Sautéed some shitake and button mushrooms in more butter until they
browned up, added some minced garlic and scallions and chopped red peppers, and
some diced roma tomatoes. Seasoned it
with a nip of good curry powder (it wasn’t distinguishable in the final product
but it gave it some good depth), a quick hit of cayenne, and a splash of white
wine. Cooked it down and squeezed in half a fat orange’s worth of juice and
then swirled in a bunch more butter to get a nice creamy sauce. Added the
shrimp back in just to get hot, squirted in some lemon to freshen it up, and
tossed it all with some linguini. It was
super, super good.

So, that’s what’s
new on our plates these days. I am on
leave this next semester (time to revise our American politics textbook) so I
hope to have a more flexible schedule for cooking, eating and
blog-posting. How about you – what
delicious things did you eat over the holiday?

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Lydia says:

    Sounds like wonderful feasting — and wonderful holidays — at your house. For us it was sweet potato latkes, vegetarian lasagna, and lots of salads. And chocolate. Happy New Year to you and your family.


  2. Christie says:

    My mouth was watering at the description of your Christmas dinner, and I don’t even like shrimp!


  3. Ronnie says:

    Tell Jer to check out the schedule of events at Avenue C. Wines of Oregon tasting in April. Would be fun to meet you there…and can’t wait to try Farm. Sounds like we would love it.


  4. Oh, enjoy your break, Christine, savoring every moment and morsel.


  5. pikawicca says:

    Farm opened for lunch yesterday, and Kathleen and I went today. Had excellent soups (butternut and vegetable noodle)and very good salmon wrap and okay turkey/cheese panini-type sandwich.
    Then went to Bluboy for a caramel and coffee, and got to taste the pistachio macarons that David is working on. He’s not satisfied with them yet, but it was a damned good cookie!
    I envy you all of the fresh seafood you’ve been eating.


  6. Sarah A. says:

    The seafood Christmas dinner sounds amazing. We had Christmas at my caterer aunt and ex-Southewestern restauranteur uncle’s house. I brought a Yegerlehner standing rib roast, Uncle Tim made amazing turkey mole, plus sides, which all amounted to just way too much food.


  7. Christine says:

    Sounds luscious, Lydia. We are taking a leaf out of your book for our New Years celebration and having a First Light morning instead of a gala the night before.
    You don’t like shrimp, Christie??? Have you had a shrimp fresh from the gulf? Might change your mind. 🙂
    So, Ronnie, when are you coming to B’ton?
    And same to you, Susan! Sounds like some serious savoring is going on over there too.
    Cindy, I agree — David’s pistachio macaroons are great. I wonder what he is tweaking?
    I love that you carted a Swiss Connection roast all the way home, Sarah! Good for you! Uncle Tim sounds like a good guy to have in the family!


  8. I seriously need to get a lazy hideaway on the Gulf Coast, but for now I’ll just enjoy the slow life through your eyes. Happy New Year, Christine!


  9. Ed Bruske says:

    your food & politics class must have lots to chew on these days


  10. Rebekah F says:

    Thanks for exposing your students to our beef. I think the best way to taste the difference of grassfed beef is trying a hamburger. The fat contains the grass flavor and most of the health benefits.
    Sahara Mart only wants to stock fresh beef and pork, so they get about a quarter of a beef whenever we harvest an animal. Look for fresh pork January 10th at Sahara Mart.


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