Yearly Archives: 2012

Ramp Butter

I can hear it now, the silent screams, “Arrgghhh, not another post about ramps!”  Yes, this is about ramps, but it is about what to do with that scraggly bunch that you so optimistically purchased when you first saw them in the farmers’ markets a few weeks back.  Now, they’ve found a home on the bottom of the crisper drawer, and you need to use them up before they decay completely.  One solution is to make Ramp Butter.

Ramp Butter

Ramp butter is perfect for tossing into roasted vegetables, hot off of the grill to give them a punch.  Stuff a slab underneath the skin of a chicken prepped for going into the oven, letting the flavors perfume the meat as it bakes.  Or, as I did one time, place a piece of frozen butter inside a hamburger.  As the meat cooks, the butter melts and bastes the burger from the inside out, lovingly seasoning it and adding a layer of flavor.

Green and white parts of ramps

Fortunately, this year, I didn’t let my ramps get that far gone (yes, that photo is really from my fridge), so I still had bright green, herb-like leaves and alabaster white bulbs to work with.  I chopped them up and added them to about a stick of softened butter.  Then, I combined that with some salt and pepper, dropped it into plastic wrap, formed it, and sealed it.  Before putting it into the freezer for storage, I made sure to label the mixture, so that I wouldn’t mistakenly think that it was another variety of compound (flavored or seasoned) butter that I might have made.  I hope you whip up a batch of this with your leftover ramps and find something delicious to cook with it.

Ramp Butter

Serving size: 1/2 cup (one stick)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

1 stick (1/2 cup or 8 oz.) Unsalted Butter, softened

1/4 tsp. Salt

1 pinch White Pepper

2 Tbsp. Ramp greens (tops), finely chopped (if the greens are too wilted, add 1 Tbsp. finely minced, fresh Parsley instead)

2 Tbsp. Ramp whites (bottoms), finely chopped

Assembly:

Butter with seasonings and ramps

Place butter in bowl.  Add salt and pepper.  Add green and white parts of ramps.  Mix together thoroughly with a wooden spoon or spatula or fork.  This is best to do without a food processor or hand blender, as the butter will get too soft and will start to melt if you use them.

Butter on plastic wrap

Spread out a piece of plastic wrap that is about 10-12 inches in length on a board or the kitchen counter.  Put the butter mixture in the center of the plastic wrap.  This will keep your hands from getting greasy and will make it easier to shape the butter mixture.  Take the piece of the plastic wrap closest to you and fold it over the butter mixture.  With the plastic wrap, begin to shape the mixture into a long, rectangular block.

Shaped butter

Working quickly, so as not to allow the butter mixture to melt, continue to shape it until the block of butter is more or less uniform.  My attempt wasn’t quite perfect, but I knew that I needed to stop fiddling with it as the butter was getting too soft to handle.

Finished ramp butter

When the butter mixture is shaped into a rectangular-ish block, finish it by wrapping the entire form in plastic wrap and in twisting the ends.  Place in the freezer to harden and keep it there until ready to use.  You can cut off slices of the butter mixture as you need to use it, keeping the rest frozen.  Don’t forget to label it!

Buon appetito!

Mad Sq Eats Is Back!

With the arrival of some more consistently gorgeous weather, it is the perfect season for Mad Sq Eats to come back to town.  You can still catch this food-centric pop-up market for another couple of weeks.  I’ve passed through it a few times when errands and appointments have put me over in that part of town.

List of Vendors

There’s some vendors who have sold there in the past as well as a few different ones, bringing new and delicious flavors to this gathering.  The bright colorful Marimekko tabletop decorations and umbrellas add an extra air of festivity to the area and make this an almost vacation-like oasis at the meeting point of busy downtown several streets.

Mighty Balls – Pork Slider with Spicy Feta and Jalapeno Jam

Looking for a quick, hearty, spicy snack?  This photo was taken at the Dekalb Market, but I’ve had these at quite a few food events since I discovered how tasty their combinations are.  Definitely stop by the stand for Mighty Balls and grab one of their sliders.

Arancini Bros. selection

Another great quick bite to have is the crunchy, pillowy, filled rice balls from Arancini Bros.  These Sicilian street snacks come in sweet and savory flavors and are easily eaten on the go.

LaSonrisa – Coconut Curry Chicken Empanada

LaSonrisa empanadas are other delicious portable edibles to check out.  I’m a fan of their pulled pork one, however, the vendor there encouraged me to try out their popular Coconut Curry Chicken.  Tender chunks of meat dressed in a juicy, tropical-scented, lightly spiced sauce all stuffed inside of a crispy shell.  I think this one might be my new favorite of their product line.

Asia Dog – Slow-cooked Pork Slider with Ginger BBQ Sauce and Slaw

Usually when I stop by Asia Dog‘s stand at any market, I pick up the Vinh, a combination of heat and tanginess sort of like a mock banh mi in hotdog form.  This time, however, I decided to go with something different: the pork slider.  It somehow felt a bit more like barbecue weather.  Tender pork with spicy, zippy sauce and topped with crunchy pickled cabbage.  This hit all the right flavor notes.  Why not grab a beverage from Brooklyn Soda Works, which they are also selling at Asia Dog, to go along with it?

Red Hook Lobster Pound – Maine-style Lobster Roll

Sweet, briny chunks of Maine lobster, dressed in mayonnaise placed on a grilled, top-split roll with a bed of cool, crunchy lettuce.  This is an ideal summertime meal, capturing the essence of the seaside in every bite.  I could have almost been at the beach, if not for the honking horns and screeching brakes in the background.

Roberta’s Pizza – Kale and Ramp Pizza

I’m almost embarrassed to confess that I’ve never been out to Greenpoint to Roberta’s to try their amazing pizzas.  Part of the reason why is that I’ve been able to sample them elsewhere when they fire up the portable ovens and bring their pies to other parts of the city.  This Kale and Ramp one combined two of the “it” farmers’ market products of the season for a pizza that had a garlicky kick with a carpet of green over dollops of creamy, sharp pecorino.

Danny Macaroons – Sea Salt Caramel Macaroon

While doing my initial pass through the food stalls, my eye spied a display of Danny Macaroons‘ sweet treats.  The folks at Birch Coffee have trays filled with several of Danny’s flavors.  They also sell their cold-brewed coffee in growlers (jugs) for those who would like to stock up for the warmer season.

People’s Pops – Shaved Ice with Red Plum Syrup

Did you have a Snoopy Sno Cone machine growing up?  Yeah, neither did I.  So, seeing the folks at People’s Pops shaving the ice by hand and then drizzling them with syrups made from locally-sourced fruits and herbs.  I went with the sweet-tart Red Plum version to cleanse my palate.

Steve’s Ice Cream – Strawberry-Ricotta

Last summer, I discovered Steve’s Ice Cream.  They’ve closed up their shops in Brooklyn and Manhattan, so I was thrilled to see them here.  As it’s just turned into strawberry season, I went with the tart-tangy Strawberry-Ricotta which was like eating the berriest, strawberry milkshake ever.

Umbrellas at MadSqEats

This is just a small sample of all the terrific food items at Mad Sq Eats.  It’s a great spot to drop by for lunch (plan to go before or after the rush of office workers), a late afternoon snack, or even a quick dinner.  It closes on June 1, so you only have a few more weeks to get over there.

Buon appetito!

Red Lentil Dal with Tamarind and Asparagus by Naomi Duguid

It’s asparagus season, here in New York, which is one of my favorite times of year.  I never liked these tender green stalks when I was growing up, as I’ve mentioned, but now I look forward to seeing them when they arrive in the farmers markets.  It also means that I start pulling ideas from magazines and website as to how to prepare them aside from the usual steaming, grilling or sautéing.  In this month’s issue of Food & Wine magazine there was an article about Naomi Duguid with a recipe for Red Lentil Dal with Tamarind and Asparagus

Ingredients

The colors in the photo of the dish, plus the fact that I enjoy eating dal combined with the fact that I can now get my hands on some fat, juicy asparagus, made me tear out the recipe to try it.  I found the asparagus at the Greenmarket, had a few of the spices in my kitchen already, and sourced the other ingredients from my neighborhood stores.  The tamarind concentrate proved to be the hardest component to find, but I did locate it after going to about three places.

Asparagus cooking with the spices, garlic, and onions

I’m trying to get more vegetables into my diet and am also attempting to eat less meat in general, so this dish fit those criteria.  It was also a snap to pull together making it an ideal weeknight dinner or quick lunch.  I cut this recipe in half, which gave me about two portions for a light midday meal.

Lentils added to the pan to cook down for a few minutes

As a side mention, if you, like me, religiously follow the list of ingredients in putting together your shopping notes, you will forget to pick up the limes that are listed in the recipe headnotes and at the end.  I’m not sure why, but somehow they aren’t included with the main ingredients, even though Ms. Duguid mentions them as integral to the balance of flavors in the dish.  I bring this up, as I thought that the freshness of the lime juice really brought the whole meal together.

Red Lentil Dal with Tamarind and Asparagus

Served with brown basmati rice and the juice of a sliver of lime, this dish was creamy, tart, fragrant, and earthy, with just a little sweetness from the onions.  The spices provided an aromatic perfume that melted into the lentils, brightening up their sometimes drab nature.  Next time, I might add more of the serrano to the dish to give it some additional heat and a bit of depth, but other than that (and the aforementioned lime issue), this dish seemed to me to be perfect in taste and texture.  It’s definitely one I’ll be having during this asparagus season and many more in the future as well.

Buon appetito!

Schoolhouse Kitchen Closes Its Doors

Part of what I like so much about going out and exploring the New York City foodscape is that I have the opportunity to meet genuinely amazing and passionate people who have created fantastic edible products for us to enjoy.  So, it is a bit sad to share this news today.  About a couple of weeks ago, Wendy Smith, President of Schoolhouse Kitchen, announced that they would be closing down their business effective the end of May 2012.

Samples at New Amsterdam Market

This post, however, is not to mourn, but, rather to let you know that for fans of their products, supplies of their spreadable fruits, chutneys, and vinaigrettes are still available by ordering via Schoolhouse Kitchen’s website, through this Friday, May 18.  I haven’t been over to the Whole Foods stores in the city as yet to see if some of their products are still on hand there.  You might also look to the website to see what other stores have stocked them to see if they still have some on the shelves as well.  Once they are sold out, these delicious items are gone for good.

Thai-Inspired Chicken Skewers

I had developed a few Recipes for the Schoolhouse Kitchen website, as well as featured several items in Product Giveaways and the company in a Product Spotlight back in November of 2010.  These recipes are still available on line, as of this writing.  One of my all-time favorites is the Thai-Inspired Chicken Skewers, which are a perfect summertime dinner starting point.  Over the next few months, I’m going to try to adapt this recipe to see if I can create a similar dish now that her incredible Citrus Coconut Vinaigrette is in limited supply.  I wish Wendy and her family well.  It was a real pleasure getting to  know them and in meeting her mother Patsy at the Fancy Food Show last year.  I hope that all of their future endeavors bring them joy and happiness, and I look forward to our culinary paths meeting again.

Buon appetito!

Brooklyn Uncorked 2012 by Edible Magazine

Wednesday evening, the hallowed halls of the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, an event space now known as Skylight One Hanson, rung with the clicking of glasses at Brooklyn Uncorked.  This annual wine and food event features vintages from New York State producers paired with dishes created by local chefs.  Having been to it last year, I knew that there would be much delicious wine to drink and many tasty dishes to sample.

This was the crowd at one point

My methodology was to experience the wines through the various small plates that the participating restaurants had prepared.  In speaking to several of the folks at the food tables, they told me that they worked with the vintners to create dishes that would work well with the wines that would be available for sipping at the event.

Les Trois Petits Cochons

Before embarking on my first tasting, I visited the booth at the front of the hall to have a few bites of the products by Les Trois Petits Cochons.  The smooth, earthy Mousse Truffée, luscious Smoked Salmon Terrine, and woodsy Venison Pâté were a perfect way to get my tastebuds geared up for all the other wonderful things to come.  These incredible, locally-made products shared a stand at the front of the hall with Orwasher’s Bakery hearty breads, Schoolhouse Kitchen‘s fragrant spreadable fruits.

iCi

Grilled Spring Vegetable Salad with Sopressata & Asparagus & Whipped Goat Cheese

One Woman Wines

2010 Grüner Veltliner

The schmear of tangy goat cheese spread worked well with the rough, crunchy salad and sweet carrots piled high on the plate while the crisp, acidic wine finished cleanly on the palate.  The Grüner Veltliner provided a nice pairing with the peppery flavor of the greens and the zing of the cheese.  This beverage would match well with lots of summer fare.

Palo Santo

Grilled Liver, Heart, Kidney of Rabbit with Aioli & Greens

Roanoke Vineyards Wines

2009 Marco Tulio (Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend)

Grilled to order on the spot, this meaty skewer was not to everyone’s taste, not even to mine.  I did sample it (possibly the liver part?) along with the creamy aioli and crisp scallions and herbs.  The Marco Tulio was more than a match for the richness of the meat with its bold berry flavors.  At the same time, this wine was not overbearing at all, and I could see it as an ideal companion for many a grilled dish.

Northeast Kingdom

Poached Mussel with Ramp Aioli, Lemon Jam, Trout Roe, and Dill

Lieb Cellars

2011 Bridge Lane Rosé

I love the fact that Rosés are getting so much attention on this side of the Atlantic in recent years.  Lieb Cellars also has a special place in my heart because their light, crisp, very food-friendly Pinot Blanc is available on tap (yes, on tap) at one of the places in my neighborhood.  Their Bridge Lane Rosé with notes of ripe, luscious summertime berries (I think I caught some white raspberry flavor in there.) and a barely fizzy texture, complemented the briny mussel and the sharp, salty trout roe that topped the buttered toast round.

Five Points & Hundred Acres

Low-Country Pickled Shrimp with Cornbread-Fennel Biscotti & Yogurt

Dr Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars

2009 Dr. Frank Rkatsiteli

As with the pairing above, this one, too, had a lovely balance to it between the intense flavor components of the food and the wine’s ability to cut through it and harmonize all the different tastes going on in my mouth.  The floral notes and acidity of the wine were an ample partner for the plump, tangy shrimp nestled on a crunchy, licorice-perfumed base.

The Chocolate Room

Single-origin Flourless Chocolate Cake

Bloomer Creek Vineyard

2008 Pinot Noir

When I first encountered Bloomer Creek wines a couple of years ago, I got to know them via their lush, fruit-and-honey-scented Rieslings.  Their ruby-red Pinot Noir, full of the taste of cherries and other berries, proved to be ideal to cut through the dense, decadent flourless chocolate cake.

Gwynnett St.

Sweet Shrimp, Preserved Lemon, Daikon, and Dulse

Bedell Cellars

2011 Taste Rosé

This lightly fruity Rosé was a crisp, clean partner for the sweet, succulent shrimp dressed with sharp radish greens and salty dulse.  This beverage would be an ideal companion for those seafood platters that you might be dreaming up for casual summer get-togethers.

The Good Fork

Mung Bean & Kimchi Pancake with Gochujang-braised Berkshire Pork

Red Tail Ridge Winery

2009 Dry Riesling

Just looking at this photo of the above dish with a crunchy, fried mung bean and kimchi cake piled high with spicy, tender pulled pork and topped with thinly-sliced, salty pickles makes me wish I could come up with another plate of it right this minute.  This pairing was probably my favorite of the evening, with the crisp fall fruit taste of the Riesling melding beautifully with the velvety texture of the pork and the punch of heat from the kimchi and the gochujang.

Blaue Gans

Pork Belly with White Cabbage Salad and Spring Carrots

Wölffer Estate

Classic White Table Wine 2010

Silken slices of pork laid delicately over a bright, crunchy white cabbage slaw and decorated with at sliver of sweet carrot were a refined presentation of a classic Central European dish.  The wine was no less elegant with a nice acidity that paired well with the richness of the meat and the tang of the slaw and ended with a light, clean finish.

Trestle on Tenth

Smoked and Roasted Pork Shoulder with Red Onion Jam on Ciabatta

McCall Wines of Cutchogue

2011 Pinot Noir Marjorie’s Rosé

A hefty dollop of sweet red onion jam made a wonderful foil for the smoky, roasted pork in this slider.  I saw folks going back for a few of these nibbles.  For me, the wine pairing was more so-so.  I enjoyed the wine, but I just wasn’t completely won over by this match.

Allswell

Lamb Belly Toast with Citrus Yogurt & Black Mint

Brooklyn Winery

2010 Zinfandel

The buttery, rich lamb belly with yogurt dressing fell apart gorgeously and just melted in my mouth.  A sip of the sweet, fruity zinfandel went with it perfectly, working with all the fattiness to enhance the flavor of the lamb.  I could have enjoyed several more helpings of this combination.

Gramercy Tavern

House-made Chicken “Mortadella” on Thyme Cracker with Caramelized Onions and Candied Pistachios

Channing Daughters Winery

2010 Blaufränkisch – Sylvanus Vineyard

Another pairing that I wasn’t completely charmed by was this one.  I enjoyed the big, hearty bold berry, cherry, and spice notes of the wine, but I wasn’t completely sure that it went with the mortadella-style chicken creation.  I felt that the food was somewhat overshadowed by the wine.

Tanoreen Restaurant

Mediterranean Baked Eggplant with Tomatoes, Potatoes, Caramelized Onions, and Spices

Paired with a 2009 Merlot from Merliance (no photo available)

Merliance is an alliance of Long Island Merlot producers who blend their wines together to produce a vintage that encompasses the characteristics of all of the vineyards of the region.  I picked up notes of purple plums and earthiness with a hint of spice and vanilla.  This was a terrific partner for the sun-kissed Southern European influence of the eggplant dish which had sweet, savory, and acidic flavors to contend with in every bite.

The Cleaver Co. & The Green Table

Savory Spring Bread Pudding

Shinn Estate Vineyards

2011 Rosé

This bread pudding captured the essence of what the word “savory” means: part salty, part buttery, part nutty-cheesy-dairy.  The herbs dotting the bread, the slivers of smoky bacon, and the brightness of the vegetables helped to balance out the richness of the other ingredients in the dish itself.  This summer-fruit-filled, light textured Rosé was the ideal partner for this plate.  I was tempted to go back for another go-around and end my tasting adventures at this table.

Osteria il Paiolo

Fave Beans with Pecorino

Osteria il Paiolo

Ricotta & Spinach Gnocchi with baby heirloom Tomato Sauce

After passing by several empty tables that had been completely wiped out of food for the evening, I came upon this one that had two Italian-inspired dishes for folks to try.  Meaty, freshly-peeled fava beans are a springtime staple.  The creamy-tangy pecorino is a great foil for the hearty beans.  My favorite of the two dishes was the pillowy-light gnocchi that just seemed to melt in my mouth with a pop of sweet-acidic tomatoes and an earthy backnote of truffle oil.  I could have consumed several platefuls of this dish, and I was so taken with all the incredible flavors working together that I forgot to get a glass of wine with which to eat it.

Colonie

Another table that was empty of plates by the time I arrived at it was that for Colonie.  I was so disappointed as I’d been intrigued to see what this Brooklyn Heights locale was going to present.  Next year, I will need to plan a bit better so as not to miss out on their delicious fare.

Rose Water Restaurant

Meyer Lemon Crudot, Spring Onion, Spinach, Curry Cream

Ravines Wine Cellars

2011 Dry Riesling

The perfumed spice of the curry dressing combined with the dry, crisp finish of the Riesling made a delicious match for the ample slice of buttery tuna crudo in this dish.  This was the ideal cocktail hors d’oeuvre and one I’d like to try to replicate for one of my next parties.

PRINT Restaurant

Roast Strawberry Parfait

One Woman Wines

2010 Sauvignon Blanc

Although dubbed a parfait, by the time I made it to the table to PRINT for dessert, they were offering more of a Roast Strawberry Crumble instead.  After having eaten several heavier dishes throughout the evening, I actually welcomed this intense sweet-tart fruit with toffee-like crumbs just as it was.  The refreshing lightness of the wine was a terrific way to wrap up the evening’s tastings…or so I thought.

Brooklyn Oenology

2010 Riesling “Friend”

I realized that I hadn’t stopped by to chat with the folks I know at Brooklyn Oenology.  They still seemed very busy helping people sample their New York State made, New York State sourced wines.  I was offered a glass of their Riesling and then mused over what I could pair with this honey-scented wine.  I went back for the pork dish from The Good Fork.  At this point, there were no pancakes left so it was just plates filled with mounds of tender, shredded pork dressed with spicy sauce.  The Reisling’s luxurious fruit feel and slight sweetness was a perfect match for the bold meat.  That ended my eating adventures for this year’s episode of Brooklyn Uncorked on a very, full, completely satisfying note.

Buon appetito!

Thank you to Edible Manhattan for providing me with a press pass so that I could attend this event and cover it for this website.  The opinions and tasting notes are mine, as unrefined as they may be, and were not influenced by any of the food or beverage partners or by the magazine and its staff.

Eat, Write, Retreat 2012 Conference Recap

For a few months now, you’ve seen this graphic in the sidebar of the front page of this site.  This past weekend, it was finally here, the second annual Eat, Write, Retreat conference in Washington, DC!  Last year, I had found this gathering of food bloggers, writers, PR folks, brands, and others involved in the culinary media industry to be eye-opening and inspirational.  This year, I walked away with my head and my heart full of all the wonderful things I had learned and the amazing people that I had met during a few short days.


Monica Bhide

I will not fall for Monica’s joke at conference next year; I will not fall for Monica’s joke at conference next year; I will not fall for Monica’s joke at conference next year! 

Having really enjoyed her presentation last year, I was eager to see what valuable insights Monica would have for us.  For me, she pried open those creaky wheels in my brain that have gotten stuck in terms of my writing and this website and made me shine a light on why I started doing this in the first place.  What is the driver?  What is the motivation?  Why me?  In our group exercise, we had to turn to the person next to us and come up with One Word – ONE – that describes our websites.  Try this.  It isn’t as easy as it sounds to distill the essence of what you do, what makes you passionate, in just One Word.

I’m still mulling over my word – GUIDE.  Kathy Hester of Healthy Slow Cooking was my partner for this exercise.  For her, it means that I try to help people discover resources, recipes, things going on in the food-oriented space around them.  I like to encourage folks to learn more about their culinary environment through visiting area markets, eating locally-grown seasonal produce, and enjoying food festivals, so I guess in a way I do see this website and the information that I try to communicate through it as a guide to exploring all of these activities.  Let me know.  What do you think?  Does it fit?

Andy Schloss

Andy Schloss of Chef Salt spoke to us more about the business side of food writing and blogging.  For the most part this site has been a hobby for me, an extension of my longtime interest in food, travel, and the recipes I’ve collected along the way.  On the other hand, I would welcome the opportunity to be able to support myself doing what I love.  Andy’s words of wisdom are that, at this point, you need to build several lines of business in order to survive in the culinary world.  Ads on websites are only a small part of this.  Teaching, affiliates, consulting, recipe development, brand spokespersonship, writing, and other avenues are also necessary to generate enough revenue to be self-sustaining.

Styling Carrots

Food Styling Prop Table (see carrots in background)

One of my favorite parts of the conference from last year was back as well.  We had a hands-on food styling and food photography workshop with Lisa Cherkasky and Renee Comet.  Lisa and Renee took several photos, let us see how lighting and angles have an impact on the final shot, and showed us how they do post-production editing using Lightroom.  They then let us get our own hands in the mix working with beans, carrots, watermelon, and other food props trying to create tantalizing pictures.  I don’t use any extra props in my own photos other than to try to avoid glares on the food and the plate and trying to capture those extra drops of goodness that might drip down the sides of an assembled dish, so it was fascinating to me to see how the pros do it.

Green Juice Shooters (apple, spinach, parsley)

Aside from the opportunity to sharpen our skills and to pick up new ideas for our website, we, of course, had a chance to eat during the conference.  One of our lunches was at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw in Northwest, Washington, DC.  For us, they prepared a special Organic, Raw-Vegan Menu, which we were told takes a week to come together.  Before you turn away, just look at these photos and tell me that some of these dishes don’t look just amazing.  We were told that Elizabeth was inspired to embark on a raw-vegan diet after being diagnosed with breast cancer.  She has been able to heal her body through food.

Lunch plate at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw

Kale chips with spicy coating; vegan “sushi” made with shredded jicama and wasabi sauce; red pepper hummus; a “cracker” made of nut flour; and a cashew mousse “pastry boat” with shaved fennel, red onion, spinach, and truffle oil

Mock “Millionaires Shortbread”

The hit of this lunch was probably the cashew mousse creation, which was creamy and soul-satisfying with the earthy aroma of truffles and delicate anise tones from the shaved fennel.  The “pastry boat” was made from nuts and held everything together with a hearty, crunchy backnote.  While we were munching away, Casey Benedict, one of the conference organizers, interviewed Michael Natkin about his new book Herbivoracious, based upon his exploration of vegetarian cuisine on his own blog.  Then, we all flocked to the table again to enjoy some more of this delicious food.

Guinness Beef Stew

Dinner that evening was what one person termed the antidote to our healthy lunch.  We headed over to AGAINN, a contemporary gastro-pub in Washington, DC that works to source ingredients from local farms as well as organically.  This was hearty pub food at its best, with some of my favorites on the menu including Bangers & Mash with caramelized onions and this dark, rich Guinness Beef Stew.  We even had little jars of Banoffee Pie for dessert, which were gobbled up before I could even get a photo of them.

12-year old Scotch Whisky by The Balvenie

Part of that evening was also spent tasting scotch whisky from The Balvenie.  We were able to sample the 12-year and the 15-year varieties.  The smooth, caramel-like liquid slid down my throat with a slight burn, leaving a warming sensation in my stomach.  I’ve never been a whisky drinker, much as I try, but I can appreciate the care and craft that goes into making these beverages.

Barboursville Cabernet Franc (opening night dinner)

This is a conference that keeps you on your toes, literally in the case of the square dancing exertions from the opening night gathering; tests all your senses between the food, workshops, and exercises; and builds strong bonds among its participants.  What is unique among conferences is that it is a smaller event where bloggers, brands, and media folks interact and get to know each other over several days of exchanging ideas, personal cooking stories, and points of view about what is going on in the culinary world.  We leave the conference with new friends, re-energized spirits, and lots of great new tools to try out in our kitchens, courtesy sponsors like Oxo and Calphalon.  I can’t wait to see what the program will be like in 2013!

Buon appetito!

Here’s some post from the other attendees from this year’s conference, too:

52 Kitchen Adventures

(a)Musing Foodie

Comet Photo

Cooking By Design

Canadian Coupon Mom

Cupcakes for Breakfast

Em-i-lis

Food Musings

I’ll Have What She’s Having

Maroc Mama

My Halal Kitchen

Penny Pinching Epicure

Sarafina’s Kitchen

The Wicked Noodle