Monday, May 31, 2010

Eating Local - Lamb Burgers, Garlic-Truffle Fries and a Lime Berry Tart

I recently acquired a new cookbook, "Eating Local". The photography is gorgeous and the recipes divine. I decided to take the challenge this week to prepare "Eating Local" dinners.

Lamb Burger and Truffle Fries

I started with Lamb Burgers from the book, added some Garlic Truffle fries from Steamy Kitchen and rounded off our meal with a Lime-Berry Tart from the June Bon Appetit created by Cindy Mushet. (As a side, Cindy Mushet is my baker crush. She's taught me so much about baking and if you are interested in baking, I highly suggest getting "The Art and Soul of Baking". It's more than a cookbook, it's also a great instructional guide.)

Lamb Burger and Fries

I started with the Lamb Burgers because they seemed simple and Scott loves a good burger. The burgers were extremely easy to make. They did make me wish that we had a BBQ but turned out great grilled on a cast-iron grill over the stove. I served them on Poppy Kaiser Rolls from The Essential Bakery and grilled some spring onions from the farmer's market as a topping along with the melted feta the recipe suggested. I added no other condiments or toppings. Scott commented that the burgers were perfect but thought they would be over the top perfect with some Bacon Jam from Skillet.

Burgers call for fries so when I saw Jaden's Garlic-Truffle Fries, I knew they would be the perfect accompaniment to our meal. The fries were delicious! My only complaint is how much grease was left on my stove after preparing them. If you fry food often, this is where a fry baby would really come in handy. For me though, a skillet full of hot oil was just fine. I don't have a mandolin which if you've seen my kitchen might be a bit surprising so I used my chef knife to slice the potatoes into thin strips before soaking the potatoes to wash off the starch. You fry these potato strips twice creating a nice crispy potato. The truffle salt and oil combined with the garlic and parsley make for a nice combination.

Spinach Blueberry Salad

To add a bit of green to our meaty, fried meal, I made up a spinach salad. I took some spinach greens, threw in a few blueberries (left over from the Lime-Berry tart), added some pine nuts (but any nut would do), crumbled some feta cheese (from the burgers) in with the greens and lightly poured some dressing over the mix. I used my special french mustard dressing which I love making. Basically it's one part Dijon mustard, two parts olive oil, one part lemon juice and a dash of salt shaken together.

Lime-Berry Tart

I finished our meal with a Lime-Berry Tart from the June Bon Appetit. I've never made a tart before even though I've always wanted to. I'm not sure what has kept me from tart making because it's fairly simple and so delicious!

Lime-Berry Tart Drip

The hardest part of this recipe was squeezing all the limes for the 3/4 cup of fresh lime juice. My fingers were beginning to pickle by the time I got my 3/4 cup of juice. The curd is dead simple to make. You just have to keep stirring so careful attention is needed so the curd does not curdle. I did make one change to the recipe, I used Duck Eggs instead of Chicken Eggs. I've heard that Duck Eggs are ideal in curd tart recipes because they make the curd recipes creamier. They were a great addition to this tart recipe.

Lime-Berry Tart and Kato
Even Kato thought the tart looked delicious!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Honeymoon Vacation - Day Nine, Ten, Eleven and Twelve

I amsterdam

Day nine of our honeymoon dawned in Hamsterdam (Scott's name for Amsteram). I love how walkable and small it really is. I love how full of art, history and life the city is. And I especially love how beautiful Amsterdam is.

Rijksmuseum

Scott is a huge art fanatic so our first stop in Amsterdam was the Rijksmuseum which has quite a few Remembrant pieces. Scott's favorite artist is Remembrant and I knew that we'd be remiss to miss those pieces.

The Rijksmuseum also features quite a few Vermeer paintings and he happens to be my favorite artist. Let's just say that both Scott and I were quite happy to be in the Rijksmuseum. It's a smaller museum but full of such great artwork. You leave refreshed instead of exhausted which was a different feeling than the Louvre. When you leave the Louvre, you feel a bit like you've survived a war.

Amsterdam Seating

After the Rijksmuseum, we headed over to the Van Gogh Museum which is only about 200 yards away. We spent a very long time in the Van Gogh Museum. Scott loves Van Gogh and how could I deny his time in there even though honestly I could care less about Van Gogh's art. I think his back story is much more interesting.

Amsterdam Graffiti Building

After Van Gogh, I was museumed out so we headed over to Dam Square and did a bit of window shopping.

Marqt

That night before heading back to the apartment, we found the most awesome of awesome grocery stores. I love grocery shopping so when we spotted this store, I was in love! It was called Marqt and was so swanky.

Karnemelk

Unfortunately most of the products were only in Dutch so I guess when I bought some Karnemelk, hoping it was milk. We discovered otherwise the next morning when we went to enjoy our coffee with Karnemelk, otherwise known as buttermilk. Let me tell you, coffee and buttermilk is GROSS!

Rembrant Seal

The next morning, we headed over to Rembrant's house. Again, Scott swooned. I think he loved Amsterdam due to all the Rembrant items.

Rembrant Kitchen

The house was lovely and quite the nice tour. I enjoyed seeing Rembrant's sketchings.

Cat Crazy

Once done there, we headed toward my favorite place, The Anne Frank Huis. We did stop at the Katten Kabinet to enjoy all the cat art and make jokes about being crazy old cat ladies.

Anne Frank Bookcase

The line was long at the Anne Frank Huis but I'm in love with Anne Frank and all that she stood for. Touring the house she lived in during the war is heartbreaking and so wonderful at the same time. I do wish the crowds weren't so thick. I had to hold myself back from buying a special museum copy of her diary which I now regret. I wasn't sure that I had the room in my suitcase though.

Pancake Bakery

After the Frank Huis, we went to the lovely and tasty Pancake Bakery. If you ever find yourself in Amsterdam, have lunch there. It's perfectly wonderful.

Syrup Bucket

We had a savory pancake and sweet one. You could probably eat there everyday and still not try everything. There are so many choices.

Eyeglasses

After filling our bellies with pancakes, we headed out to the Jordaan area before walking back to our apartment for the evening.

Pringengracht

On our final day in Amsterdam, I took Scott out to the Red Light District.

Rubber Chicken Condoms

We found a condom shop selling rooster condoms which made us laugh. The Red Light District was unimpressive to Scott and it is too me. It's not the nicest part of the city as you can imagine but one does need to visit if they've not been before.

Amsterdam Magnets

After that, we walked to the Dutch Resistance Museum where we read about the Dutch Resistance to the Nazi's during WWII. Even though they were eventually occupied, the Dutch were really against the war.

After enjoying lunch, we discussed what our options were for the rest of the day. I said that we could just go back to the apartment and lounge for the rest of the day. Scott jumped at that opportunity. It felt great to rest up before our 22 hour trek home the next day.

We had a wonderful time in Europe and a very memorable honeymoon. We can't wait to go again but have decided not to be as busy next time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Honeymoon Vacation - Day Seven and Eight

Canal in Brugge

On day seven of our honeymoon, we woke up in Brugges and after a hearty breakfast at our B&B, set out to explore.

Brugge Square

I love Brugges. I love how beautiful and small it is.

Belfry Tower

We headed to the Belfry first and got distracted by a Salvador Dali exhibit next door which ended up being a good thing as the Belfry was closed for renovation. I believe that Scott was grateful that the hike to the top of the Belfry was canceled.

Scott in Brugge

We explored Brugges and walked through the town. We ended up at the Engels Klooster where the Swans hang out. Some where nesting and I watched them for a long time.

Nesting Swan

Then Scott convinced me to leave the swans so we could see the Klooster. It was there that I photobombed his self portrait (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottmon/4569013389/in/set-72157623943256978/)

Engles Klooster

The Klooster is such a wonderful, calm place. I think it might be the reason I love Brugge so much.

After the Klooser we walked the city walls for a bit before returning to our B&B.

Vlaamsche Pot in Brugge

While in Brugges, I was able to enjoy Rabbit Flemish Stew at Vlaamsche Pot. It was delicious and the memory of that dish will linger with me for quite awhile.

On our eight day, we packed up our stuff and headed to Amsterdam via train. We had a lay-over in Brussels along the way.

YIIP: Day 110

When we arrived in Amsterdam, we decided to take a taxi from the train to our apartment check-in location and then asked the taxi if he could wait to take us to the actual apartment. Well! He charged us 25 euro for a 2.5 km drive and didn't even take us to the actual apartment. That was another 1.5 km away over cobblestone streets with our luggage. Really it wasn't a terribly long walk but when you are dragging a suitcase over cobblestones, it is terribly far.

Herzagracht Canal

So after getting ripped off by the taxi driver, I was not prepared for the horror of the stairs in our apartment. This might be the one time I had a bit of a temper tantrum. There is a reason I married Scott and this experience really showed me why. I started to get worked up and was trying to call people to complain (I guess I thought they had magical skills and could make the stairs less steep?) and was flapping my arm around in a bit of fury. Then I started to trip over a stair on the landing. It was then that Scott told me to Chill The F**K Out.

Terrifying Stairs

And I did. I took a deep breathe and said, "OK let's conquer the stairs". He headed up the stairs and I handed the suitcases to him as he hulled them up to the first landing. Then we repeated that for the second set of staircases. Imagine your attic staircase. That was the main set of stairs for our canal apartment. The canal apartments are very, very narrow and if you ignore the scary stairs, they are quite awesome!

Hamsterdam Apartment 2

I'm very glad that we rented an apartment in Amsterdam. It gave us a chance to eat at "home" since by this time we were sick of eating out.

We spent that evening resting up and preparing for our next day in Amsterdam. It's one of my favorite cities, so I had a lot planned for us.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Honeymoon Vacation - Day Five and Six

Montmarte Metro

Day five of our honeymoon brought us the Montmartre area of Paris, a visit to the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, a chance encounter with the Moulin Rouge, a stroll through the Montmartre Cemetery and a mad dash through the Paris Catacombs.

Funiculaire Pain

We took the Metro to the Montmarte. I knew Scott would LOVE the Montmarte which he did. Since the climb to the Sacré-Coeur Basilica is such a climb, we decided to take the Funicular to the top. Unfortunately I stupidly crashed my knee in to the glass bench next to the Funicular. Scott and I sat on the bench until my knee recovered and then took a ride to the top.

YIIP: Day 107

After walking through the Basilica, we headed through the Montmarte. I love the vibe of that area. It's alive with artists, vendors and beautiful food. The strawberries sold in France are a wonderful variety, full of sweetness.

French Strawberries

We stumbled upon the Moulin Rouge and snapped a dozen or so photos before heading to the Montemare Cemetery and DeGas's grave.

Moulin Rouge

The stroll through the cemetery was actually quite lovely. It was quiet and there were a lot of cats hanging out on the graves. We had a great rest before moving onto the Paris Catacombs.

Montemare Cemetary Flowers

The catacombs were frankly too much for me. I hate being underground and combined with hundreds of skulls, human bones and gloom, it was too much for me. I darted quickly through the catacombs while Scott took his time and enjoyed the art of the bones.

Skull Heart

Once outside of the catacombs, we walked the Parisian streets back to our hotel room, enjoying our last evening in Paris. I love the open markets with shellfish, fruit, veggies and flowers proudly displayed.

Langoustine

On our sixth day, we woke up early and headed to the Gare Nord for our train to Bruges.

YIIP: Day 108

We were worried about travel delays due to the volcanic ash from Iceland but since we had reservations, we were set. We had a lovely ride to Bruges where we checked into the most awesome of awesome B&B's.

Brugge Bathroom

We stayed at the Speelmansrei (www.bb-speelmansrei-brugge.be) and Kees was the best B&B host, I've ever encountered.

Merveilleux in Brugge

We had tea at a lovely tea room called Merveilleux before walking around Bruges. We headed to bed early that night ready for another day in Bruges.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Honeymoon Vacation - Day Three & Four

Day 3 and 4 of our honeymoon were full of even more fun for Scott and I!

Notre Dame Gargoyle

The morning of Day 3, we visited the Musée d'Orsay. Scott LOVED the Musée d'Orsay but we were equally disappointed that we couldn't take photos inside the museum. We like to capture our favorite artwork to remind ourselves of what we've seen.

Notre Dame

We then headed over to the Notre Dame and the Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte Chapelle

I love the view from the top of the Notre Dame but I do not love that climb. It's a tight windy staircase but you know utterly worth it. And you can get up and close with the gargoyles.

Pensive Gargoyle

Day four was all about Versailles. And figuring out what train to take to get there took all of our combined brain power.

Scott and me at Versailles

Versailles is utterly beautiful but unfortunately it was super crowded which made me a bit cranky. OK a lot cranky!

Versailles King Hall

The ceilings in Versailles are amazing!

Versailles Chandeler Ceiling

The gardens were gorgeous and it was a wonderful day weather-wise for us. We roamed around the gardens for awhile before heading back to Paris.

Versailles Sucker 2 Garden

Once back in Paris, we headed out to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées.

Arc de Triomphe

Both are must-sees in Paris but really if you miss them, you'd not missing out on much. I think the next time I go to Paris, I'll be just fine skipping both of these sights.

Of course if I had skipped them, I would have missed out on the Japanese Elvis!

Japanese Elvis in Paris
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