Ok, so this is just an interesting read. Ferries are safe and as you travel about, don’t shy away from considering them as a mode of transportation (often, the rides are pleasant and provide stunning views).
So desperately need a getaway…even if just for a weekend. While I was a bit concerned about how skewered to the South and West this T+L list is at the beginning, I quickly realized they saved the best for last, the great Nor’ east! While I’ve be to both the NH and ME attractions, it was long ago and must say, after the winter we’ve had, a weekend sojourn is definitely something we, my husband Tony and I, must get on the calendar (albeit, weekends for us start Sunday afternoon after he’s done teaching on Saturdays).
Note, am testing Windows Live Blogger with this post…apologies if it’s all screwy, duplicated, etc…
Well I did it; this weekend I made a King Cake in honor of Mardi Gras (why else would one make a King Cake?). I didn’t have a recipe readily available so did the Google thing and found one on allrecipes.com. The reviews were solid and the recipe seemed straight forward, albeit I was hesitant to bake with yeast, something I’ve never done before. While I followed the recipe to a tee, that sucker came out hard as a rock and those I served it to were a bit thrown by the lack of a cake-like texture. I was appalled, but hey those eating it were kids and let’s be realistic, they’ll eat anything.
I’ve only had King Cake once before, many years ago, and don’t remember it being that hard. My husband, who is pretty agile when it comes to baking with yeast, was of no help. After tapping the hard exterior he began drilling me about my technique. Apparently, following the recipe should have yielded a softer cake. I’m confident I did everything right, but was a tad bit devastated, pondering what went wrong and where I went amiss.
The dough was slow to rise, which I believe was my down fall (and was the reason I dubbed it the Jewish King Cake). We believe that the kitchen wasn’t warm enough and the air too dry. In speaking with a colleague, an engineer who loves to bake (something about the exactness of the measurements and the reactions between the ingredients that thrills those types), he offered some advice:
- Make sure the yeast isn’t old or expired.
- Preheat the oven to ~ 100 degrees, once the dough is ready for the rising process, turn off the oven and pop the dough, in a lightly oiled bowl, into the oven.
- Run a kitchen towel (clean, obviously) under the faucet and wring out cover the bowl with the towel.
We’ll have to wait another year before I attempt this festive delight again (who can eat that much sugar more than once a year?), however will be fine tuning my skill set when it comes to yeast between now and then; ultimately, hoping to create, next year, a cake that doesn’t require a saw to cut it…
It’s been a long winter, way too long (almost as long as I’ve been neglecting this site), and the natives are getting restless. My taste buds and desire to travel, however, were tempted by a recent post on CNN about Tasting Your Way through 2014.
While most events aren’t based in the Northeast, I wondered ‘what’s a girl to do’ when the artic vortex has left us knee deep in Snowmaggedon? So, I took matters into my own hands, hunting down these Northeast Jems to get us through the remains of winter:
The 6th Annual New York Beer Week, winding down this weekend, has a lot to offer, including a Beer Crawl through Williamsburg and the PSE&G Blackout, both taking place tomorrow, and an Urban Oyster Brewery Wine Tour on Sunday (say that 10 times fast). We’re also smack dab in the middle of NYC’s Restaurant Week, where 3-course meals can be had for $25/lunch and $38/dinner, not bad for some of NY’s finest restaurants.
In Pennsylvania, there’s the 4th Annual Uncork the Alleghenies Wine Festival, held on March 8th which features more than 15 PA wineries. The event also offers special VIP sessions with private wine tastings (tickets are limited, so get them while they last). On April 11th & 12th, there’s the PA Herb Festival in York featuring ‘nationally known speakers, workshops and numerous vendors of plants, herbal crafts, products for the gardener, cook and crafter’ if that’s your thing (not telling the big man as he’ll be dragging us there, and Lord knows we already have more herbs than we know what to do with…).
In April, the fine folks in CT pay tribute to the American Liver Foundation with its Flavors of Connecticut event, held on April 1st in Plantsville. The event ‘is a culinary experience that goes beyond the traditional gala and provides each table of attendees with a local chef who will prepare a multi-course dinner tableside.’
In my hometown of Boston, there’s the March 4 Taste of the South End
benefit for the AIDS Action Committee of MA that features more than 40 restaurants and is held at the Boston Center for the Arts. There’s also the 25th Annual Boston Wine Festival held at the Boston Harbor Hotel through April which is the nation’s longest running wine and food pairing series hosted by either a winemaker or wine proprietor.
In April, in NH, Share our Strength holds its Taste of the Nation Manchester event. Guests will enjoy cuisine from more than 50 of New Hampshire’s top chefs paired with wines from 30 vineyards courtesy of 5 local wine distributors. Taste of the Nation is New Hampshire’s premier culinary event features guest mixologists, beer, specialty cocktails, and fabulous entertainment!
In Vermont, later in the season, one can enjoy The 16th Annual Stowe Wine & Food Classic, taking place June 13-15 at Trapp Family Lodge. As Maria just passed away, I’m sure it will be a celebration to remember.
Nothing to report for Maine, they’re still under a pile of snow; and I tend not to go much farther south than PA, so these will have to do for now. This weekend, in honor of Mardi Gras, I’ll be making a King Cake; something I’ve always wanted to do, but have feared. ‘Why,’ you ask. Well, yeast intimidates me; but I enlisted the big man, aka Tony, my husband, to actual make the cake, so we’ll take some videos to provide you with a fun and entertaining way to herald in the Lenten season.
Oh, yes, you may see a wine/beer theme going on here…tends to be the trend in the Rivera household…may need to rename the blog.
Friday night; the night I usually do my ‘once a week’ things (sad, used to be the night I’d go raging on the town). Blogging might just prove to be a fun avoidance from those pesky little things moving forward.
Am baking O’Henry bars and an apple pie, for youth ministry and thanksgiving, respectively. An old family recipe, the O’Henry bars are quick, easy and I’ve yet to find someone who does not like them. The apple pie recipe I tend to use, and I have a ton of apple pie recipes, is from the ‘bible,’ aka The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Given to me by my sister, who excitedly exclaimed as she presented it to me, ‘it even tells you how to boil eggs’, I find the book to be a valuable resource in my various culinary endeavors.
So, before I go embark upon my exciting Friday night, a few thoughts:
Don’t be afraid of the crust: Pie crust is easy to make and takes one’s pie to the next level of yummy. While I remember, as a kid, making crust with Mims, my grandmother, my mother was the one who introduced me to the frozen crust. “It’s so much easier than making it from scratch and just as good,” she said. And dutifully, I listened. Well, it is easier and I’m a proponent of keeping one around just in case; however, it definitely isn’t as good (sorry Mom). So, go ahead, try a crust. The bible has a few easy recipes and you won’t be disappointed.
Fresh is the way to go: We’re a childless couple, and in the food department, that’s borderline being single. My sister and her family came over once, the kids were hungry, and the only thing I could offer was a can of sardines; apple sauce, that expired 3 years prior — we may have even moved in with the jar; or rice, that wasn’t cooked. My sister triumphantly pulled a box of microwave popcorn out and, we, sadly, couldn’t produce a microwave (we even called friends). So, sometimes, it’s a sad state when it comes to the food in our house. This doesn’t bother me as we tend to buy food as we need it, whether it be from a grocery store, the farmer’s market, or the local ‘farm’ by work, DePiero’s. And, I’ve grown to enjoy this. We don’t have food sitting around aimlessly and the quality is always better than things left in the fridge for Lord knows how long. So, I say go local, go fresh. In fact, my husband, Tony, and his friend, Manny, even buy a lot of our meat as needed and I’ve vowed to go with them to the chicken farm to pick out our dinner one night…ekks.
Ice can be fun: My fine friend’s at Maker’s Mark (who have a marketing budget I would kill for) send gifts at Christmas to their ambassadors (yes, I’m an ambassador). The gifts have been great, Maker’s Mark wax stamp, they’re known for their wax bottle top; a mini shaker and bar accessories; and, last year, bourbon ball ice cube trays. Well, we loved the frozen bourbon balls and used that thing so much that it cracked apart. So, for Tony’s birthday, I got him some fun ice cube trays. Actually, what I got him was this silicone baby food freezer thing from Williams Sonoma (really? Do people really make their own baby food?). So we have half bourbon balls and they’re fun. Sometimes, it really is about the simple things.
FYI, Ikea also has fun ice trays, however, the main draw back is that the ‘cubes’ are little.
Keep the basics around: I once needed to make cookies for some sort of event (thanks, Tony, for the advance notice) and really didn’t have a lot of things in the cupboard (again, we don’t keep a lot on our shelves). I pulled what we did have out and searched the verybestbaking.com website for some recipes. Happily, I now have a recipe for amazing pumpkin cookies!
Holiday Shopping: It’s that time of year. I work in a department with few employees. Christmas time has always been awkward with gifts. However, last year I stumbled upon an amazing candy jar at Williams Sonoma. I got the assortment and used them as gifts for my colleagues, which they loved. So, I highly recommend, for those needing to buy for numerous people, these fun confectionery treats as they’re inexpensive, yummy, and a classic gift for just about anyone.
I’ll update you on my baking endeavors this weekend and hope, as we get closer to Thanksgiving, to hear about your successes, challenges, and tips and techiniques you used to keep sane…opps…I mean to make your masterpieces.
It is the most wonderful time of the year…for baking! I’m a baker, albeit an amateur baker; but, none the less, I’ve always enjoyed baking. Is it because it brings back fond memories of helping my Grandmother, Mims, when I was a kid, the wonderful aromas baking fills the house with, or because I find comfort in the simple pleasure of baking and watching those I love enjoy the fruits of my labor? Not quite sure and not really interested in pondering it (at this moment), but I do love baking.
There’s a certain je ne sais qoui about growing up in New England and the various epicurean pleasures that abound. Chowdah made with cream, the wonderful scent and even better taste of an apple crisp coming out of the oven on a chilly fall day, clam bakes by the ocean. The food is delightful and the entire region is right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Warm, inviting, harking back to a simpler time and place; capturing this feeling and offering it to those I love has, over the years, become my mission.
And, today, I begin to share this with all. Why Nor’east? Well, because I’m now a Jersey girl (must be read in a obnoxious tone…Jerzee). And I’ve grown to love…ekks, that may be a slight exaggeration, the area. Why Epicurean? Well, I’d like to enhance my skills as a baker and perhaps figure a thing or two out about cooking. So, I’ll be traveling the Northeast, taking baking and cooking classes, visiting culinary artisans, sampling local fare; and will bring my discoveries here to entertain, educate and delight readers of all ages.
So, I invite you to join me. Come to a class with me, share recipes (I get a kick out of old family recipes and trying to recreate them), tell me about your journeys and epicurean discoveries along the way. Most importantly, I hope you enjoy the journey I take you on.