Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Labor Day Weekend

While I believe that most people really enjoy the three-day Labor Day weekend, I'm not sure they could ever understand what it means to me. Labor Day is the rare Monday holiday when no contractors will come to the restaurant, nobody will be making deliveries, my bank will be closed and so will every other store in town that I need to visit in making my usual Monday resupply runs for the restaurant. Labor Day is one of the few days a year when I can get nothing productive done at or for the restaurant. And so I am forced to take a very rare ("scarce as hen's teeth," my mother would say) two-day weekend. Only if you work six days a week will you understand what a forced two-day Labor Day weekend means to me.

To say that I was really looking forward to it would be a gross understatement, especially after Saturday night, which was the busiest night in months. Everyone decided that Saturday was the day to come to One Block West. After a very late Saturday, I was really foggy on Sunday morning when the dogs begged to go out at 8am. But I was up and it was beautiful out, so after I fed the beasts, I went back outside and wandered about the yard to see what could be seen.

"Orphan" Rose of Sharon
It turns out that the new Rose of Sharon that I planted about July 4th has its first bloom, bringing some color to what is otherwise a pretty bleak, brown, and crispy landscape. Ann and I chose the plant at a local nursery where we bought it without any kind of label, not knowing what color it would be, rolling the dice and hoping for something special. The color fidelity in this photo is not great: it is mauve with a red center. We did this with an orphan wisteria a few years back and were rewarded with a gorgeous blue one. Our luck continues.

Final Sunflower of the Year
I also found one remaining sunflower blooming out behind the grill, so I brought it in for Ann. She has decided that she will call them Happy Flowers from now on.

Black Swallowtail Larva on Parsley
Later on after Ann came out to join me for coffee, she spotted a couple of Black Swallowtail larva feeding on the parsley out in the garden. The parsley has gone to seed and is useless to us so why not let the butterflies do their thing? They have very specific host plant requirements, feeding exclusively on members of the carrot family, including dill and parsley. I'm happy to share my parsley in exchange for beautiful butterflies.

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich
We had planned to go on a picnic on Sunday afternoon and so I made grilled vegetable sandwiches of grilled focaccia spread with parsley pesto goat cheese, and filled with grilled yellow and green squash, roasted red peppers, and grilled onions. Unfortunately, Carter's mouth got the best of him and Ann cancelled the picnic. Ann and I enjoyed the sandwiches at home for lunch. This is a pretty awesome sandwich.

Polenta with Marinara and Fresh Mozzarella
Apropos of pretty much nothing (that I know about) Ann said that she really wanted polenta with marinara and mozzarella for dinner. That's a pretty unusual request in my book but we had about 250g of polenta in the pantry, a bunch of tomatoes on the counter, and I had brought home four balls of mozzarella leftover from Saturday night dinner service.

Into the blender with a lot of tomatoes, some garlic, and a bunch of basil and about an hour later, we had piping hot batches of both marinara and polenta. When making marinara from fresh tomatoes, I usually have to add a little sugar to help attenuate the natural acidity of the tomatoes. In this case, I actually had to add about a teaspoon of rice vinegar to amp the acidity, so sweet and blah was the tomato sauce. Go figure.

Fried Polenta and Bacon
Monday, Labor Day itself, I put the leftover polenta to good use, frying it in bacon grease for breakfast. We needed a poached egg on the polenta, but I didn't feel like getting a pot of poaching water simmering.

Ann's Gorgeous Bread

On Sunday, we decided that since I had brought home a goat cheese, some mozzarella, and three kinds of sausages that on Monday, Ann would bake a loaf of bread and we would feast casually. So Sunday afternoon, she threw some dough in a bowl to work overnight. This plain loaf, which she claimed didn't rise well, was absolutely one of her best efforts. It was silly good, so good that we gorged on it. Annie, if you're reading this, you done good!

Sunday Smorgasbord
Our dinner was this pitiful selection of meats and cheeses: a crazy ripe Valençay from Shepherd's Whey Creamery, fresh mozzarella, a Chianti soppressata, hard chorizo, and an all-beef kielbasa from Texas.

All in all, it was a great weekend of feasting and relaxing! I can't wait for my next two-day weekend. Memorial Day 2016. Ugh! Such a long time to wait.

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