Thanksgiving 2016

We sat 26 people down for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.  Some family but also friends.  Our menu was as follows:
Thai pumpkin soup
Smoked organic turkey
Roasted organic turkey with confit legs
Fried organic turkey
Roasted shrimp with rosemary
Roast duck
Stuffing
Chili-bathed sweet potatoes
Dinner rolls
Rice
Kimchi
Gravy
Orange cranberry sauce
Roasted carrots with creamy nuoc chom sauce
Mashed poatoes
Hashed Brussel sprouts with lemon
Chocolate pumpkin cheesecake
Blackberry pie
Apple pie

The spread was quite impressive (since boiling water is a culinary highlight for me, I can say that).  🙂

img_3612img_3613

Thanksgiving spread

Thanksgiving spread

apple pie

apple pie

blackberry pie

blackberry pie

chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

We also had the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast of homemade sticky buns.

img_3616

Most importantly for us on Thanksgiving, however, is to be grateful for life’s blessings.  And so we give thanks for our good health and the family and friends in our lives.  We hope your Thanksgiving was as full of gratitude as ours!

turkey massacre 2016

turkey massacre 2016

Halloween 2016

We have a Halloween family tradition of over 10 years of inviting ourselves over to a friend’s house who has considerably more trick-or-treaters than we do (given that have zero).  The kids decided (very reluctantly) that they were too old to go trick-or-treating by themselves and contented themselves with giving large amounts of candy to the kids who came by.  But, of course, costumes are a must.

Jim’s office offers prizes to the best costume and does a Halloween lunch in full costume every year.

img_1131

And we are a family consisting of a Loki, Willy Wonka, Steven Universe, and Nerds.

dsc_1230

Hope your Halloween was as much fun as ours!

4th of July in Nantucket

We were kindly invited by some good friends to join them in Nantucket for the 4th of July weekend.  Nantucket is one of the very few places on the East coast that reminds of us God’s country (otherwise known as the West coast).

There were magnificent sunsets:

sunset on Nantucket

sunset on Nantucket

IMG_2190

Fun 4th of July fireworks (lit off on the 3rd of July but why quibble?);

on the beach for fireworks

on the beach for fireworks

A town water gun fight on the actual 4th of July (let’s just say that no one escaped unscathed from the battle):

9AEF36C4-B8C6-43CF-B47B-DA67513930F2

A parfait-making contest:

IMG_3389

And fabulous food, with many home-cooked meals, and a wonderful dining experience at American Seasons (to be blogged about on a later blog post).

It was a wonderful four days of rest and relaxation and good times and friendship.  And, by the way, Happy Birthday, America!

Inn at Little Washington Over The Holidays

Jim and I have a tradition we’ve done for many years, which is to go spend a night at the Inn at Little Washington between Christmas and New Year’s, just the two of us. (This does not go over well with the kids, who also want to dine there and spend the night, but we ignore their protests.)

The menu has changed a bit since I last blogged about a meal there, so I thought I’d take you through what we had last night.

We started, of course, with one of my favorite dishes there—truffle popcorn. You will never want to have movie theatre popcorn again after having this. The popcorn is tossed with some herbs and spices, but the whole point of this popcorn is that it is topped with shaved black truffle. Yummmmmmm…..

truffle popcorn

truffle popcorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up were an assortment of amuse-bouches. These included miniature veal cheek sandwiches with homemade chips and miniature pickles;

miniature veal cheek sandwiches

miniature veal cheek sandwiches

the world’s smallest baked potato topped with caviar, “chips & dip,” cucumber rillettes topped with fish roe, and a red wine risotto ball.

assortment of amuse-bouches

assortment of amuse-bouches

Next up was a pheasant consommé accompanied by a chive gougère. The consommé was simply unbelievably fabulous and went onto my list of all-time favorite dishes (it’s a long list with a lot of Inn dishes on it).

pheasant consomme

pheasant consomme

The next course was an egg filled with a mousse of foie gras and port gelée. Not rich and decadent at all…

foie gras mousse in an egg

foie gras mousse in an egg

An old favorite of the Inn’s was resurrected and reformulated–fire and ice, which is now seared tuna served with watermelon radishes in a sesame-ginger sauce and topped with cucumber sorbet. It was like welcoming back an old friend.

fire & ice

fire & ice

I then had a raviolo of spinach topped with—you guessed it—white Alba truffles. Delectable (and so good for you, too!).

spinach raviolo (with truffles!)

spinach raviolo (with truffles!)

Jim had sweet-and-sour diver’s scallops accompanied by a shisito pepper. The sweet-and-sour was restrained and elegant, and the shisito pepper gave the dish a nice contrasting flavor (or so I’m told, I didn’t get a bite of that).

sweet and sour scallops

sweet and sour scallops

The final “entrée” was a short rib of bison that had been cooking for 14 hours, served with mustard greens and topped with homemade onion rings. The slight bitterness of the mustard greens went well with the richness of the bison and the slightly sweet onion rings.

short rib of bison

short rib of bison

The palate cleanser was the Inn’s version of a dreamsicle accompanied with crumbs of shortbread.

dreamsicle

dreamsicle

And finally (not pictured) was a Granny Smith apple tart (for me) and a visit by Faira the Cow and Cameron the cheese maestro (for Jim). And the beautiful cappuccino accompanied by a slice of biscotti.

oh, biscotti!

oh, biscotti!

The Inn was, of course, still decorated for the holidays, with festively decorated trees and garlands and holiday lights. It was a wonderful way to bring the year to an end!

Disneyworld & the Osborne Family Lights

We haven’t been to Disneyworld for the Christmas season in years, but when we learned that this would be the last year of the Osborne Family Lights at Hollywood Studios, a visit was a must do and off to Orlando we went on the first weekend of December.

We landed on Friday evening and headed straight for the lights. They were even more spectacular than I had remembered.

Osborne lights

Osborne lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1565

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1562Saturday morning was the Wild Animal Trek, something we had never done before. (Shock!) It takes place at Animal Kingdom, and half the trek is done with a harness so that you go over bridges and look at hippos and crocodiles up close and personal. The other half of the trek is essentially a VIP version of the Safari ride. The ride was particularly memorable for two reasons: first, there was a baby rhino out and about and feeling particularly frisky, chasing zebras and running around (so adorable!); and two, we had a (successful) proposal in the group when we broke for lunch (also adorable).

baby rhino!

baby rhino!

wild animal trek

wild animal trek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the trek, we resumed our normal Disney activities with multiple rides of various rollercoasters and other rides at the parks. We returned to Hollywood Studios, had dinner, and headed for the lights one last time on Saturday. <sad face>

It was a spectacular trip. We had forgotten how festive Disneyworld is for the holiday season, and it was a good reminder. As our daughter said, “I really wasn’t in the Christmas spirit until I saw the lights again.”

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

We have friends who host a gingerbread house decorating party every year.  Below is this year’s creation with the side decorated by the 14 year old son.  (The 17 year old daughter couldn’t make it this year.)

My favorite touches this year are the chimney (decorated by Jim) and the fish in the pond (made out of cut rock candy and jelly beans) and, on the right, the snowman putting up a (gummy bear) decoration.  Both of those were created by the son.

The thatched roof is generally my responsibility because it takes no creativity, but it does take consistency and persistence.  And, besides, by the time I finish with the roof, the rest of it is usually already decorated.  🙂

As usual, this year’s effort was a lot of fun!  Thank you, Joanne and Joe, for another delightful year of gingerbread houses!

IMG_3088

Thanksgiving 2015

We sat 31 people to dinner for Thanksgiving this year, which is rather a lot for us and a tremendous amount of fun (and a teeny weeny amount of stress). Thank goodness for Robert, Jim’s nephew, who came early and helped tremendously with the cooking. Together, we managed to feed everyone the following menu:

Thai pumpkin soup

Thai pumpkin soup

Thai pumpkin soup

Smoked organic turkey

smoked turkey

smoked turkey

Roasted organic turkey

roasted turkey

roasted turkey

Deep fried organic turkey

fried turkey

fried turkey

Honeybaked ham

Roasted shrimp with rosemary

Roast ducks (from Mark’s Duck House)

Stuffing (vegetarian and non-vegetarian)

stuffing & mashed potatoes

stuffing & mashed potatoes

Chili-bathed sweet potatoes

Dinner rolls

IMG_3045

dinner rolls

Rice

Kimchi

Gravy

Orange cranberry sauce

Red wine cranberry sauce

red wine cranberry sauce

red wine cranberry sauce

Roasted carrots

Mashed potatoes

Hashed Brussel sprouts with lemon

brussel sprouts

brussel sprouts

Chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

Blackberry pie

blackberry pie

blackberry pie

Apple pie

apple pie

apple pie

the spread, part 1

the spread, part 1

the spread, part 2

the spread, part 2

And the obligatory day-after-Thanksgiving sticky buns, of course…

sticky buns

sticky buns

the lone remaining sticky bun

the lone remaining sticky bun

As we do every Thanksgiving, we each express what we are thankful for this year. And so this year, I am incredibly thankful for our family and friends and their continued good health. I am especially thankful for Jim and the kids for making me happier and more blessed than I could have possibly imagined.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Halloween 2015

You might think we were a bit too old for Halloween and trick-or-treating, but it’s our favorite holiday (and you are never too old to beg for candy).

The family Halloween photo featuring The Tardis, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and Captain Cold:

The Tardis, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, & Captain Cold

The Tardis, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, & Captain Cold

Another one of the kids:

The Tardis & Captain Cold

The Tardis & Captain Cold

And just as full disclosure, Chewbacca was The Grinch at his office Halloween party.  Much more appropriate in some ways…

DSCN1011

Inn at Little Washington (December 2014)

Every year, Jim and I try and spend one night at the Inn at Little Washington sometime between Christmas and New Year as a way to relax and spend some time together. This year, we decided to bring the entire crew (the kids, our exchange student, and Jim’s mom) to spend the night there. (Gift certificates are wondrous things.)

We stayed at the Claiborne House (named after Craig Claiborne, an influential food reporter and chef). The Claiborne House is an extremely cute, over-the-top decorated two bedroom house, complete with its own well-equipped kitchen. (Although why anyone needs a kitchen when they’re staying at the Inn is beyond me.) As an example of the Inn’s attention to detail, we discovered that the cookie jar in the kitchen is stuffed with cookies made at the Inn. (And they are quite delicious!)

Naturally, we had a lovely dinner. The Inn has changed its format somewhat and now offers three different tasting menus, including an excellent vegetarian one. You can swap out items between tasting menus to suit your own tastes. The portions are small, to suit a tasting menu. Much as we don’t particularly like change, we like this change very much. It matches well to our inclination to taste as many different dishes as possible, you can customize the menu, and you don’t feel uncomfortably stuffed at the end of the meal. It’s perfect for us.

At almost every meal we have there, we start with some off-the-menu appetizers, and I never remember to record them. This time, I did!

To start out, there is a new bartender at the Inn who does an amazing job with non-alcoholic drinks. This is only one example of the many concoctions he came up with that evening. They are sophisticated and delicious and worth trying, especially if you are the designated driver. This is the one time you won’t be sorry to be limited to non-alcoholic drinks!

equally attractive non-alcoholic alternative

equally attractive non-alcoholic alternative

Truffle popcorn is one of my favorite dishes at the Inn. This is no ordinary popcorn. It’s been tossed with a variety of spices and a little butter. But the crowning glory is that as the popcorn is being served, a generous amount of black truffle is shaved on top of it. I could eat nothing but a giant bowl of truffle popcorn and still consider the meal to be one of my favorite meals at the Inn!

truffle popcorn

truffle popcorn

The tasting menu starts with a shot of soup. For some, it was a white bean truffle soup and for others, it was apple rutabaga soup. Both soups are served with a fried risotto ball on the side. My preference was the white bean truffle soup as the apple rutabaga soup was a bit sweet for me, but that was definitely not a unanimous opinion.

white bean truffle soup

white bean truffle soup

apple rutabaga soup

apple rutabaga soup

There are two raw fish dishes being served on the current menu. The first is a sashimi of Japanese yellowtail served with jalapeno peppers and dusted with espelette.

seared japanese yellowtail

sashimi of  japanese yellowtail

The second is ahi tuna tartare served with cucumber sorbet.

ahi tuna tartare

ahi tuna tartare

Both are spectacular, and the quality of the fish is superb.

Next up are Brussels sprouts served with honeycrisp apples, spiced pecans and Madeira-soaked raisins

Brussel sprouts

Brussel sprouts

Beet carpaccio accented with orange and vodka gelée

beet carpaccio

beet carpaccio

A marriage of hot and cold foie gras with sauternes gelée and blood orange marmalade

hot and cold foie gras

hot and cold foie gras

Off the vegetarian menu is a lemon pepper risotto

lemon pepper risotto

lemon pepper risotto

The best new item on the menu is a thinly shaved Australian wagyu beef “shabu-shabu.” The beef is beyond tender, and the shabu-shabu broth has a bite to it that is both unexpected and leaves you wanting more.

waygu beef shabu-shabu

wagyu beef shabu-shabu

This is a truffle-stuffed breast of pheasant on savoy cabbage and braised in champagne

breast of pheasant

breast of pheasant

The vegetarian equivalent is a winter turnip gratin with a quail egg and parmesan broth.

winter turnip gratin

winter turnip gratin

This is a sweet New England bay scallops dish served with candied yams and young coconut. A bit on the sweet side for me with the yams, but the scallops were delicate and wonderful.

bay scallops

bay scallops

The “meat” entrees included a pork chop with sauerkraut braised in Virginia Riesling, local apples and potato purée.

pork chop

pork chop

Duck breast served with foie gras and endive and wild rice.

duck breast

duck breast

And a cauliflower “steak” with yellow Indian curry, green grapes and candied walnuts.

cauliflower steak

cauliflower steak

As a palate cleanser, we were served a cranberry orange sorbet and hickory ice cream popsicle.

palate cleanser popsicle

palate cleanser popsicle

Desserts included a Granny Smith apple tart with buttermilk ice cream

apple tart with buttermilk ice cream

apple tart with buttermilk ice cream

A lemon meringue tartlet

lemon meringue tartlet

lemon meringue tartlet

And the painter’s palette of sorbets

painter's palette of sorbets

painter’s palette of sorbets

Even the lattes are beautiful…

latte

latte

A lovely way to celebrate the end of the year!