Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's Not About Who Wins or Loses, It's All About Who Has the Best Darth Vader Mug

Hethyr:  As Jon put it in a prior post, I’ve got mad skills.  MAD skills.  Like the kind of mad skills it takes to lose a cooking competition to a competitor who didn’t actually cook anything.  These are the same kind of mad skills it takes to hit the mat out from under the ball while playing putt-putt.  There are just so few people who can actually pull off something like that!

Anyway, at the competition this past weekend, the judges' taste buds were a little too "sensitive" for my flavorful dish.  Their spokesman told me it was too sweet.  Honey can be a little overwhelming!  (Sarcasm thoroughly intended.)  If it’s too sweet for you, you’ll probably want to go and put on you big girl panties!  The other chef’s raw watermelon gazpacho was good, but a touch too bland for my wild taste buds.  Hey, what can I say?  I represent the Dark Side.  I need a little excitement in my life!

"Perhaps I can find new
ways to motivate them."

Knowing Heather's angelic ways, I figured she would make something ultra-healthy with vegetables and/or fruit.  I did want to include some produce, but I wanted to show that there are other great foods available at the farmers’ market as well.  We were allowed a few additional items other that what we purchased at the market and I chose raw cream, homemade butter and a couple of spices.  I skimmed the cream off of our raw milk and I made the butter from some of the cream.  We pick our milk up from the Wednesday farmers’ market, so I figured it was the next best thing to actually purchasing it at the market where the "cook-off" was held.

The competition started, yada, yada, yada...  

Chopping peaches

The He*th*rs in action

There was quite the crowd
at the market that day!

Plating my creation

Handing over my masterpiece for judgement

...she won.

After the judges tasted my creation and moved onto Heather’s, the crowd became a flock of vultures, devouring what was left, so at least I know their taste buds were working!  

The vultures moving in

Teresa Farney from the Gazette asks
questions as we clean up our messes

Without further ado, here is the recipe for my not-so-award-winning…

Cardamom French Toast with Lavender-Peach Honey
Serves 4
Photo by Kathya Ethington
  • 2 large ripe peaches, pitted
  • 1 cup raw unfiltered honey, local if possible
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried lavender
  • 4 large farm-fresh eggs
  • 1/4 cup cream, raw if possible *
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 8 to 12 slices of sturdy bread (I used ciabatta), cut 3/4-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons butter plus additional for buttering toast (homemade is best but not required)
  • Whipped cream, homemade from raw cream if possible *

* Note:  Raw milk is not legal in all states... don't even get me started.

1.  Cut one peach into large chunks and thinly slice the other; set aside the slices.

2.  Purée the peach chunks in a food processor and combine with the honey and lavender in a medium saucepan.  Place over medium-low to medium heat and simmer while preparing the toast.

3.  Combine the eggs, cream and cardamom in a flat shallow dish and whisk until well mixed.

4.  Working in batches if necessary, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Dip bread slices into egg mixture and coat well on both sides.  Place into the skillet and cook until first side is golden-brown.

5.  While toast is cooking, strain the honey mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl.  Discard the remaining solids, add reserved peach slices to the honey and stir to coat.

6.  Flip bread and cook until second side is golden brown.  Remove from skillet and plate.

7.  Butter French toast slices, then top with honey and peaches.  Finish with a dollop of whipped cream.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jon:  Ahhhhh, big fat pieces of French toast with a peachy topping and fresh whipped cream on a cool September morning at the farmer’s market.  What could be more satisfying?  For the audience of the chef challenge, apparently nothing.  You should have seen the crowd swarm like vultures on those breakfast plates.  The toast never stood a chance.

The best thing about this whole deal for me was the practice round.  A few days before the contest, Hethyr tried out the recipe on me.  As I stuffed my gullet with a mountain of French toast with that luscious peach sauce, I knew that it was a recipe that would beat the crap out of anything the opponent was making.  And it sure did.  This stuff was amazing, and even more incredible that it was made with fresh, local ingredients.

So don’t worry, it always appears at first as if the Dark Side has been defeated… but I think we’ve all seen enough Star Wars movies and Futurama episodes to know better.  The mug knows best…

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dueling Chef Challenge and Local Food Week

It's Local Food Week from September 17th through September 25th and I'm helping to kick off events by participating in a farmers' market shopping and cooking challenge this coming Saturday (9/17/11) beginning at 9:30am at the Colorado Farm and Art Market which takes place at The Margarita at Pine Creek.  I'll be taking on Chef Heather from Change Personal Chef Service...  Hethyr vs. Heather!  Jon and I get a kick out of this for several reasons.  The similarities/differences don't end with our profession and names.  We're both pretty tiny and around the same age.  I have dark curly hair and she has blond curly hair.  I have a black chef coat, she has a white chef coat.  Sort of reminds me of the concept of yin yang.  Or the movie Black Swan...  MWAHAHAHA!  ;)

Chef Hethyr Pletsch of
Everyday Gourmet Colorado
Chef Heather Mitchell of
Change Personal Chef Service


I'm sure we'd both appreciate all of the support we can get, but since you're a reader of my blog, please come out and cheer on the Dark Side!!!

What:  Dueling Chef Challenge with Chef Hethyr of Everyday Gourmet Colorado and Chef Heather of Change Personal Chef Service
When:  Saturday, September 17th at 9:30am
Where:  Colorado Farm and Art Market at The Margarita at Pine Creek, 7350 Pine Creek Rd., Colorado Springs (map)

And don't forget to check out the other Local Food Week events taking place in Colorado Springs!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hanging in Boulder, Another Year Older

Hethyr:  If you’ve read the last couple of posts, you’ll know that I’m currently on an elimination diet to heal my gut.  I had another appointment with Dr. Restricto last week and was told that I need to be on this diet for at least another month and then we’ll reassess to see if I’m ready to add certain foods back.  I was pretty bummed to hear that but I know it’s all for a good reason and if it makes me feel better in the long run, then it’s worth it.  HOWEVER, I have a birthday coming up this week…  How old am I going to be, you ask?  Don’t you know it’s not polite to ask a lady (or young girl, in my case) her age?  As some country song by someone I’ve never heard of says “I’m old enough to know better but I’m still too young to care.”

Since my birthday is right around Labor Day (and sometimes actually falls on Labor Day), I often get the three day weekend to celebrate.  This year, Jon has a school function on my actual birthday, so we decided to celebrate early this weekend.  I made sure to ask Dr. Restricto if I could do a little cheating and she said “Yes!  Eat whatever you want – it’s your birthday.”  I knew that I didn’t want to go completely overboard or I’d feel like crap, but there are a couple of things that I’ve been missing terribly.  So…

I decided on my perfect day.  We got up without an alarm, I did yoga and then we headed up to Boulder to hang out for the day.  We started with a trip to the famous Saturday farmers’ market.

It's the biggest one I've ever seen!

I was pretty much set on a good loaf of bread, some kind of savory jam or spread (we ended up with two different types of olive tapenade), some good cheese and some heirloom tomatoes for lunch, so we set out with intention.  We found everything we needed and some extra items for good measure.  We brought home some extra cheese, sweet corn and olive tapenade.

Searching for the perfect
organic produce

Where we eventually bought
our tomatoes

A plethora of pretty, pretty produce

With our market booty, we headed to Boulder Creek for a picnic.  We found a nice little spot by the creek’s edge and laid out our feast.  The weather could not have been more perfect – mid-70s and sunny with a tiny bit of a breeze.  Some people were floating down the crystal clear creek in tubes, some were wading around and many (like us) were just lazing near the water’s edge soaking up rays and enjoying the beautiful day.

Boulder Creek on a perfect day

Crusty bread with Camembert, olive and red pepper
tapenade and a gorgeous heirloom tomato

Me with my mouth full

The ducks wanted in on the feast

Drinking wine out of plastic cups
by Boulder Creek - that's class.

After lunch, we headed to Pearl Street for a little vintage shopping before dinner.  Although the vintage shops seem to carry mostly 80s clothing and nothing we were really into (are we seriously THAT old?!?!), we had fun poking around and laughing at some of the tackier items.

At around 5pm, we walked to the restaurant where we wanted to have dinner to check it out and see if we could get reservations (we were told on the phone that they only took reservations for parties of six or more).  Apparently, they do take reservations but they were full for the whole night.  The hostess said for the best chance of getting a table, we should probably come back in about 20 minutes - yep, 5:20pm.  Well, we really, really wanted to eat at Salt the Bistro so we made a quick trip to one more vintage store and then headed back.  We were able to get a table outside and decided to have a drink before ordering anything so we might be a little hungrier when we actually made our order.  Jon had one of our favorite local milk stouts from Left Hand Brewing Company and I had a local gluten-free beer from New Planet.  See?  I tried to be a little bit good.

Finally we decided on an appetizer of crusty bread topped with shiitake and matsutake mushrooms from local Hazel Dell Mushrooms and some kind of buttery white sauce, drizzled with truffle oil.  Of course we never remember to take pictures before digging in, so you’ll probably notice some bites missing…

We knew we wanted to order dessert, so decided against salad/soup and first course and went straight for the entrées.  Jon had a beautiful salmon dish and I opted for the local grilled pork chop with crispy polenta, local green beans and a grilled Colorado peach.  The pork chop was one of the tastiest I’ve ever eaten in my life (it was brined before cooking) and unlike most gourmet restaurants, the portion was so large that I brought home half for lunch today.  Amazingly, this is the dish that I really wanted above anything else on the menu and everything was within my dietary guidelines.  See?  I was good without intention, even!

But then there was dessert.  >=)  Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Cake.  Oh yeah.  The description per Salt’s website is “black onyx chocolate cake with hazelnut butter & housemade Earl Grey ice cream.”  It was devilishly good.

Half-eaten Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

On the way home, Jon and I laughed about how much my idea of a perfect day has changed in the 14 years we’ve been together and about the fact that we’d probably end up in bed by 10pm.  Here’s to getting old!  And here’s my recipe for my perfect birthday…

Perfect Birthday
1 hour of yoga
1 cup of coffee for hubby and 1 cup of tea for wifey
1 hour at the enormous and awesome Boulder farmers’ market resulting in:
1 good loaf of crusty bread from local Udi’s bakery
1 wheel of Camembert cheese from local MouCo Cheese Company
1 jar of olive tapenade and 1 jar of olive and red pepper tapenade from
local Loredana’s Pesto
2 ripe organic heirloom tomatoes from local Cure Organic Farm
2 ripe organic peaches for dessert from western slope Ela Family Farms
6 ears of organic peaches & cream sweet corn to take home
1 wedge of raw milk cheddar-style cheese and 1 wedge of Buckhorn cheese
            from local Windsor Dairy
2 hours of lounging by Boulder Creek eating lunch and drinking wine
2 hours of vintage shopping and people-watching on Pearl Street
3 hours of fabulousness at Salt the Bistro for dinner and drinks

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jon:  Boulder is such an amazing place.  It’s one of those distinctive, uncommon towns where you can have a profoundly entertaining day doing nothing more than walking, sitting and eating.  The creekside picnic with fresh, local bread, cheese, fruits and veggies—and red wine to wash it down—was about as fun and relaxing as it gets.

But the thing that makes Boulder Boulder is the people.  Sure, there are thousands of college kids with every kind of style (and lack of style) imaginable.  But the locals provide the truest entertainment.  Whether it’s the dreadlocked African-mask wearing drummer, or the fire juggling clown, or the mysterious guy who walks around town in extremely slow motion, you don’t need to look any further than the streets and sidewalks for amusement.  My favorite peculiarity of the day came in front of a music stage where a roller-skating dancer was putting on a performance that would almost certainly make a Las Vegas showgirl blush.

Although there were only eight entrées on the menu at Salt, after thirty minutes I had managed to merely whittle my choices down to six.  I decided that I would revert to the “panic order” decision that comes when the server is standing and waiting with pen and paper in hand.  Since she had proven to be friendly and helpful, I went ahead and asked our waitress for her input on my dilemma.  As she was describing all the potential pros and cons of each option, Hethyr brought up the very astute point that perhaps I should stay away from the Pan Roasted Wild Alaskan Salmon because it was not caught locally.  The server mentioned that it wasn’t all that far away—it was just from up there in Alaska.  I bit my tongue and refrained from pointing out that Alaska was actually 3000 miles away from our current location.  I suppose that both Alaska and Colorado are mountainous, snowy, and a part of North America, so I could see where Sarah Palin one could get confused.  Anyway, the point of the story is that I ordered the salmon.

I can see Alaska from here!

Sorry fellow foodies, I promise I’ll eat an extra Colorado peach today as my penance.  Don’t forget to wish Hethyr a happy birthday on the 7th!