Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day: Cape Meares OR

Having come from the restaurant business, Valentine's Day has always been a thorn in my side. It's day on which Ann has wanted me to pay some special attention to her and it has heretofore been the busiest workday of my year, serving hundreds of couples celebrating the day. This year would be our first Valentine's Day together, ever.

And so I wanted to do something special. I made us some pastrami sandwiches on rye, grabbed a bottle of cold Prosecco, and we headed for the coast with the idea to go see the lighthouse at Cape Meares in Tillamook County, the county just northwest of ours. I wasn't sure that the weather would cooperate, but then, this is Oregon in the winter.

While the forecast was for partly cloudy weather with almost no chance of rain, it certainly rained for big stretches of the drive out Highway 18 in the direction of Lincoln City. By the time we hit the coast range, we could see light snow at elevation. At Grand Ronde, we turned northwest to cut through the mountains and to join Highway 101 at Hebo, where we headed north for downtown Tillamook. It was sprinkling on and off along 101 and pretty misty as we were leaving Tillamook headed west for Netarts and the coast.

The sun had just popped out by the time we reached Netarts and turned north for Oceanside and Cape Meares at the end of the road just beyond. Just as soon as we grabbed our mini-picnic out of the truck, it started raining fairly hard, so we retreated back to eat lunch in the truck. Fifteen minutes later, the sun was out again, but all afternoon, we watched raincloud after raincloud blow in off the Pacific and unload somewhere along the shore.

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Three Arches Rocks from Short Beach, Oceanside

Quite the Welcome Sign to Cape Meares
From the parking lot at Cape Meares, you can look down a straight trail and see the lighthouse. In the other direction are located the restrooms and the Octopus Tree, a very old Sitka Spruce with no central trunk. It's much more impressive in person than it is in the photo with no frame of reference for how big it is.

The Octopus Tree

Annie Contemplating Cape Lookout

Gorgeous Panorama Looking South

We Retreated to the Truck for Prosecco and Lunch

From the Overlook Looking North

Panorama Looking North

Watching the Waves Pound the Rocks

Full Grown Spruces Atop the Cliffs

Yet Another Rock
It's hard to appreciate how much swell there is in the Pacific here until you see it crash into a rock and send spray 40 feet in the air.

I've seen a bunch of Fresnel lenses (I admit to being fascinated by the optics/physics behind them) in my life, but this is the first time I've seen one with red glass. It turns out that this is the only one on the mainland and there is another in Hawaii.

Unique Red and White Fresnel Lens

Another View of the Lens

Another Look at the Rocks

Dramatic Backdrop for Sitka Spruce Cones

Pink and Green Sedum oreganum

Three Arches Rocks, Rainstorm Behind

Oceanside From Cape Meares

Annie Looking Out to Sea

One Parting Shot

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Friends for Dinner

We're finally settling in to the point where we can start entertaining again. So, Annie invited Valerie and Michael over to dinner. Michael's our insurance agent and Valerie and Ann had connected via a women's group to which they both belong. Long story short, Ann invited them over and let me run with a menu, mostly. She wanted to reprise the mushroom crostini that we had at New Year's Eve and I decided to keep dinner itself very simple: focaccia, an arugula salad, and porchetta. And a little plate to accompany a bottle of Port for dessert.

Thanks to Valerie for taking some of the photos below and giving me permission to use them here. Go have a look at her blog, V. Estelle Travel. It was so awesome to have someone else take pictures for once, but it looks like we both forgot to take people shots and bottle shots! Oh well, you'll have to trust us that a good time happened!

Chanterelle, Shiitake, Leek, and Taleggio Crostini
I couldn't find dried porcini to make the crostini, so I went with fresh chanterelles, which given all the rain we have had, were in really good shape. We had a bottle of Prosecco with the crostini.

Grinding Pork Trimmings for Sausage
I'm still looking for a good supplier of pork. Alas, the best I have found so far is from Carlton Farms out where we used to live in Yamhill, but it is definitely not the Berkshire and Ossabaw x Berkshire I was used to working with in Virginia.

"Porchetta" Ready for the Oven
I would really have preferred to make my porchetta with a suckling pig or a side of pork belly, but that would have been overkill for a dinner for four. So I faked it by butterflying a top loin and stuffing with a fennel sausage that I ground from rib and belly trimmings.

Slicing the Porchetta

Focaccia and Barbaresco
Focaccia has got to be the world's simplest bread to make. I started it first thing in the morning with a very tiny amount of yeast and cold water and let it rise all day. The first rise took about seven hours. We served Barbaresco with dinner and Michael and Valerie brought a wonderfully rustic Chianti Classico that we had as a second bottle.

Annie Making the Salad Dressing

Arugula with Clementines, Red Onion, Pine Nuts, and Ricotta Salata

Valerie's Plate with Salsa Verde on the Porchetta
I love a sharp salsa verde with pork to help offset the fat. This was parsley, anchovy, garlic, capers, red wine vinegar, and olive oil, all chopped together by hand for texture.

Blue Cheese, Candied Hazelnuts, Dates, Pinot Noir Syrup
For dessert, I had a bottle of Port that I helped blend at the winery and so I threw together a really simple port plate of Gorgonzola-like local blue cheese, local hazelnuts that I candied earlier in the afternoon, a pitted Medjool date, crostini from my focaccia, and a red wine syrup that I made from over-the-hill remnants of Pinot Noir from the tasting room.

This was the first time, other than Thanksgiving, that I have really cooked a nice meal start to finish since I left the restaurant back in August. It felt really good to get back in the saddle again and I really enjoyed getting head down in the kitchen again to knock out all the components of this dinner. It's not like the restaurant where we would have premade batches of salsa verde, salad dressing, candied nuts, crostini, or red wine syrup ready to hand. In that sense, it was an awful lot of fun to create a dinner totally from scratch. And an awful lot of fun to share it with Michael and Valerie.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Eve at Home

Why would you want to spend New Year's Eve at home?

Considering I have worked the prior 15 New Year's Eves as the chef and owner of a restaurant, the answer to that question ought to be obvious! If I never see the inside of a restaurant on New Year's Eve, that will be just fine with me. And of course, Annie was over the moon to have me at home. So we headed to the grocery store to see what we could find. I was in a seafood mood, but there's no good seafood in any grocery store around here. The best we could do was to grab a pound of Dungeness crab, wicked expensive and to my East Coast-born and -bred palate, not as tasty as blue crab. So I decided to do a crab risotto.

While standing in the store, Annie started describing an appetizer that she wanted, "something with mushrooms, gooey, and sexy!" Instantly I flashed on a mushroom crostino, so we got some dried porcini, some fresh shiitakes, and a small piece of funky Taleggio cheese to finish the mushrooms with.

Pashey Sparkling by Trisaetum

Leeks and Shiitakes

Porcini, Shiitake, Leek, and Taleggio Crostini

Who's Happy?

Risotto in the Works with Pancetta

Mise: Pancetta, Goat Cheese, Crab, and Chives

Dungeness Crab Risotto with Pancetta, Chives, and Goat Cheese

Our 52-Hike Challenge 2017

On January 1, 2017 as Ann and I were headed to Harper's Ferry WV for our first hike of 2017, Ann told me of something she read about on a hiking site, a 52-Hike Challenge in which participants strive to make 52 hikes in a 52-week period. She asked if I might be up for it. Why not?

Our real challenge is that I work 6 days a week and 7 days some weeks. That leaves fewer than 52 days a year for hiking especially if you factor in days off for sickness and really bad weather. In any case, challenge accepted for the calendar year 2017 and this is our saga.

Update November 30, 2017: We're definitely not going to make our goal this year. With Carter going off to college in early August, we lost our dog-sitter on Sundays, making it really hard to get away. Then we spent a month closing the restaurant and packing for our move to Oregon and another two weeks driving across the country. Then we spent a month getting established at work and then finding and buying a house. That brings us up to the end of November and still no dog-sitter. Here's hoping that we find our routine and can get back to hiking soon.

Hike (click through)
Oct 14, 2017
Oct 10, 2017
Aug 20, 2017
Aug 13, 2017
Aug 6, 2017
Jul 23, 2017
Jul 17, 2017
Jul 9, 2017
Jul 4, 2017
Jul 3, 2017
Jul 2, 2017
Jun 25, 2017
May 21, 2017
May 14, 2017
May 6, 2017
May 4, 2017
May 3, 2017
May 2, 2017
May 1, 2017
Apr 30, 2017
Apr 23, 2017
Apr 16, 2017
Apr 9, 2017
Apr 2, 2017
Mar 19, 2017
Mar 3, 2017
Feb 26, 2017
Feb 19, 2017
Feb 12, 2017
Feb 5, 2017
Jan 29, 2017
Jan 1, 2017


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Neskowin Beach OR

Carter is out on Christmas Break visiting with us and we wanted to show him the Oregon Coast so we headed out to Highway 101 at Lincoln City and then just north to Neskowin where Neskowin Creek empties into the Pacific.

Hawk/Kiwanda Creek

Looking Across Neskowin Creek

Rough Surf and Cold Wind

Wind Patterns in the Sand

Proposal Rock Right

Sea Flea in Chuck Track

So Sunny, Shot at f/36

Sun, Fog, and Trees

Merganser in Neskowin Creek


Valentine's Day: Cape Meares OR

Having come from the restaurant business, Valentine's Day has always been a thorn in my side. It's day on which Ann has wanted me to...