Monday, September 28, 2009

Dining at the taverns of Colonial Williamsburg

A visit to Colonial Williamsburg is a leisurely trip into the past. Although we have been there several times before, I had forgotten the quaint streets and houses. We were really impressed with the interpreters in the craft shops. The milliner didn't just talk about hats but trims and customs. What was most surprising was what we learned about credit in the colony since everyone's gold was in England. Becauwe gold wasn't allowed to leave the country, a system developed for the exchange of cheques which could take as much as a year to be redeemed.

We enjoyed three meals in the recreated taverns of 18th century Virginia. Our first evening we dined at Mrs. Campbell's Tavern, George Washington's favorite. We both had an entree of assorted seafood including scallops and grilled shrimp. They were served with a side of spoon bread that was light and airy and cinnamony mashed sweet potatoes. I had never heard of spoon bread, a Southern specialty, before we tried it on a previous trip.

For lunch one day we stopped at The Kings Arms Tavern. We were shown to a table in a nook in the corner of the room and told that it was where Patrick Henry always sat so he could see all activity in the other rooms. I had Cream of Peanut Soup that was especially tasty. Very thick and creamy, this rich soup was garnished with chopped peanuts. I was surprised with the appearance of the Rice Pudding. Instead of the creamy Scandinavian style served in Minnesota, a large square of rice baked with egg to hold its shape was surrounded by a creamy creme anglaise. I don't think I like it as well as the creamier style but I did eat it all!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Famous for the Food

We were traveling in the D.C. area including parts of Virginia and Maryland for 6 days which added up to a lot of restaurant meals. We had several three star dinners but some of the best food we found was from two small casual family restaurants.

I'm talking Buddy's Crabs and Ribs (Annapolis, MD) and Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que in Williamsburg, VA.

We asked woman at the front desk when we checked into our hotel near the center of Annapolis where to go for crab. She said Buddy's had great crab so it was an easy decision. We strolled down brick sidewalks crowded with visitors heading to the pier as dusk approached and clmbed the steps to Buddy's.

After a brief wait we were shown to a table. We started our meal with Maryland She-crab soup, tomato based,with large chunks of crab. For old times sake, we had a large steamed crab and used crab mallets to crack the shell and pick out the crab. Large is the biggest size being caught in Chesapeake Bay today due to over-fishing. We used to buy a dozen crabs and make a meal, but this time it seemed like a lot of work althoug it is the best way to taste crab. We both had the same entree, a 5-ounce crab cake that had little filler and lots of briny flavor and sweetness. We ended the meal with a piece of Key Lime Pie that was gummy and disappointing.

Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que was a true experience of the South. "A must stop" says Bon Appetit and Southern Living readers made it a Reader Choice Award winner. The signature dish is smoked pulled pork with spicy barbecue sauce topped with cole slaw on a bun and is worthy of the fame. Sides included sweet potato sticks, onion rings, hush puppies, cornbread, baked beans, green beans, collards and mac n cheese- all traditional southern favorites.

After ordering we sat in a booth with a yellow formica covered table while a juke box played oldies. There was constantly a line to order and miraculously a free table always appeared just as food was served. I thought I had seen a comment somewhere about Carrot Cake and asked about it as we ordered. To my question "You make it here, right?" the response was "it's made by the sister of one of our workers". That's local! It was moist and sweet with a light creamy frosting andstill makes my mouth water to think about it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's All About the Food!

This week I will be in Washington, Virginia and Maryland. I'm really excited that on Tuesday in D.C. I will be eating in two Three-star restaurants, 1789 and Kinkeads. Kinkeads is famous for seafood and I'm planning to have something with crab.(Kinkead's was excellent but no crab!)

Wednesday we drove down to Colonial Williamsburg stopping at a vineyard for lunch and tasting. Our evening meal was at Christiana Campbell's' Tavern and we were welcomed by Mrs. Campbell and there was entertainment by period interpreters. I also have a dinner reservation for Friday at The Fat Canary, another three star restaurant.

Thursday night we had dinner at Pierce's Pitt Barbecue. I will write in detail later because it was everything a BBQ joint in the South should be!

In between I know we'll be searching for more crab. When we lived in Maryland and my husband worked in D.C. our favorite dinner was cracking into a dozen steamed crabs on a table covered with newspaper. We even purchased our own crab mallets for this event. I still have the mallets 30 years later but unfortunately, haven't had a chance to use them in Minnesota! We've not had much crab, maybe tomorrow.

Saturday night we will be in Annapolis, one of our favorite colonial towns, and we're planning to eat on the docks.

Bountiful Baskets

My daughter-in-law called yesterday because she had a question about freezing Plum Crunch (recipe below). She has joined "Bountiful Baskets" in Phoenix, AZ. Bountiful Baskets is a food co-op supporting local farmers and provides fresh produce a low prices. Here's a list of the foods from a recent pick-up: cantaloupe, romaine, broccoli, Brussels' sprouts, cherry tomatoes, peaches, apples, plums, cucumber, bananas, grapes, mange, kiwi, and lime.

Each week you sign up online and then pick-up on Saturday morning. In addition to the basics you can choose organic or not and special packs such as tropical (pineapple, mango, lime and coconut), Italian (garlic, onions, tomatoes and basil) and others.

On Saturday she got lots of plums and she said "a hundred apples". I'm not sure that was literal but she had already frozen two apple pies and was starting on the plums. Her question was whether she should freeze the crunch before or after baking. My advice was to bake it and then freeze. If you try t his, heat it in a 350 degrees F. oven before serving.

Crispy Oatmeal Plum Crunch

Summer and early fall are the best time to find plums in the supermarket or at the farmers’ market. I like that special spark of tartness from the skin, followed with the sweet, juicy taste of the fruit. Plums are becoming more readily available year round due to imports from South America. I like to serve this dessert with crème fraiche.


1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
6 cups sliced plums (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup all- purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cold butter, cut-up

Heat oven to 375°F with oven rack in middle. Spray bottom of 11 x 7-inch baking dish or 2-quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray.
Mix granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, and lemon peel in large bowl. Add plums and lemon juice and stir until fruit is well coated. Spoon fruit into baking dish.

Mix flour, oats, and brown sugar in small bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces. Crumble over the fruit.
Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until juices are bubbling all over and topping is golden brown. Cool slightly before serving—the sweet fruit syrup makes it very hot. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store any remaining in refrigerator.

BAKER’S NOTE: Ripe plums yield to a little pressure around the stem end. I often ripen plums at room temperature for a few days after I purchase them.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: Grate the lemon peel before cutting the lemon and squeezing it for juice.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Peach Season is Ending

Recently Jeffrey Steingarten said on Iron Chef that he "had never had anything made with peaches, that was as good as a perfect peach". Unfortunately it's hard to find a perfect peach, but I know what he means.

In Minnesota the best peaches come from Colorado as our climate prohibits most fruits from growing here. For many years, I didn't buy fresh peaches at all because they never ripened without being mushy.

The best way to judge a fresh peach is to smell it. Peaches that don't have a peachy aroma never become sweet, juicy and tender. When peaches are really hard, place them in a brown paper bag and let then ripen at room temperature for a few days. They should yield slightly to gently pressure.

On a college trip out east, I introduced my daughters to fresh peaches. We bought them at a roadside stand directly from the farmer. They were slightly warm, surrounded with tender skin, perfectly sweet and juicy. After the first mouth-watering bite, we had juice running down our chins.

For dinner with friends recently, I served warm Peach Kuchen with ice cream. Here's the recipe.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, cut up
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 large peaches, peeled, pitted, cut into thick slices
2 egg yolks
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon almond extract

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, salt and baking powder in food processor bowl; pulse to mix. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into a 13x9 inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes.

Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon. Arrange peach slices over crust. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake 15 minutes.

Combine cream, egg yolks and almond extract. Pour over peaches and continue baking until peaches are tender and juices are thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's Never Too Hot to Eat!

Last week I visited my son and his family in Phoenix where it was over 105 degrees every day we were there. It was not, however, too hot to eat!

My daughter-in-law, 3 year old grandson and I had dinner out when the older "boys" went to the Cardinals game. In the hot desert heat, spicy Thai food sounded appealing so my daughter-in-law suggested a nearby restaurant, Latitude 8, a Thai grill in downtown Chandler. We started with spring rolls wrapped in rice paper and filled with rice, tofu and vegies with a mildly spicy dipping sauce.

While waiting for our entrees my grandson amused us by pointing out all the different vehicles passing outside our window, and there were lots!

For an entree I had Pad Thai, my favorite. It had both shrimp and chicken and the grilled shrimp was briny and succulent. The photo shows how beautifully it was presented. My daughter-in-law had Yellow Curry Chicken and Rice.

For dessert we had Mango Sticky Rice which I had never eaten. The rice was cooked in coconut milk and sugar and served with thin slices of ripe mango.

One day for lunch we returned to Joe's Farm Grill that has been featured on The Food Network. I had a grilled ahi tuna sandwich with a wasabi mayonnaise on a buttered and toasted bun with some Asian slaw. The food is always great but what we really go back for are the sweet potato fries. Should I feel virtuous for eating such a healthy food?