In June, and since I have been posting irregularly since then, I have not had an opportunity to post the photos from our little dinner party. I am sure you have organized more amazing activities for your loved one’s celebration, but this year, Ben wanted a small get-together with several friends, Donal, Fiona, Sarah and James. Classy-surf was the theme of the meal it mirrored Ben’s gift- surf lessons and a coffee-table book full of inspirational surf photos from Leroy Grannis.
We served tasty burgers sandwiched in homemade buns. A choice of toppings- roasted tomatoes, guacamole or caramelized onions to accompany the charred beef or the healthy sweet potato chips. A beachy cabbage salad was served in a small craft paper box. Bamboo plates and cutlery made clean-up a breeze and we could move swiftly on to the dessert- brownie ice-cream sandwiches with freshly made mint ice cream. The birthday boy requested this classic combination. This meal had been our first encounter with gluten since we had started doing our healthy eating and this was so worth giving into temptation for.
We threw together a theme-cocktail, a blue berry margarita served in mini-milk bottles. Paper straws are all the rage these days, they look really cute and add some pizazz to your drink, but after about 10 minutes in liquid, they start to crumble, defeats the purpose of a straw. Have you tried the paper straw? Any tips to get it last? Keep it dry?
I have to start planning next year’s celebration- it is a big one for my sweet Ben.
CAKE… Vicky and Ray, two of our fun friends, got married around Christmas, it was a small family affair- Ray does not like crowds or attention, so as their first compromise they hosted a bash for all their friends, unfortunately we were unable to make it- Thailand took us away for a different kind of fun.
In exchange, we invited the newlyweds round for an American-themed wedding reception dinner- steak, potatoes and wilted spinach. All elevated- a steak like Heston, individual ramekins of gratin dauphinois and wilted spinach with nutmeg butter. All that was missing were butter rolls and warm glasses of milk.
And since I think all the rage for wedding cakes these days remains red velvet, we had one of those topped with our asexual hugging salt and pepper shakers proving we too believe in marriage equality!
Have a long and happy life tougher Vicky and Ray!
Apologies these photos are not that great- night photography is something I need to improve.
To celebrate the holiest day of the Catholic calendar, Ben and I hosted a Good Friday Brunch for our newly engaged friends- Australian Sarah and Scottish James. They claim it was their first brunch, but being a well travelled duo, I highly doubt this, but they played ignorant brunchers quite well.
It also happened to be the first time we entertained after my epic trip (the adjectives will get more descriptive as I am distance from this journey!), so I might have gone a bit overboard.
On the menu:
- Blood-Orange Mimosas
- Cinnamon Pecans*
- Almond Danish*
- Grapefruit Cupcakes filled with Grapefruit Curd topped with Vanilla Bean Butter Cream and a nest of Candied Grapefruit Peel**
Sarah and James were generous with their praise of brunch, it could have been the influence of the blood-orange mimosas with the sneaky addition of Grand Marnier.
The Easter Bunny hopped by early to drop off mini-cocottes of goodies. He was season appropriate choosing Le Creuset’s rose-colored casseroles for table gifts (a big thing in the U.K.). Ben traded the red neck ties on the chocolate rabbits for pastel ones.
We had some fabulous waffles on Easter morning topped with grapefruit sections and the remaining tart curd. A spring explosion. Dont’ forget the whipped cream.
(The menu- only in Spanish)
(First impressions are everything)
(So welcoming and love the colours)
One of our fabulous MBA students from Chile gave me some recommendations of things to do/see/eat while I was in Santiago. As you have probably realized, my priorities tend toward the eating variety, so first up is FOOD!
There is a lovely, albeit, touristy place called Patiobellevista, which houses numerous shops selling Chilean handicrafts. Think copper and a blue stone which can only be found in Afghanistan and Chile- lapis lazuli (according to the open-top bus tour commentary). Patiobellevista also hosts some inviting restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating- which for a girl who rarely sees the sun living in Edinburgh, al fresco dining was a must.
I was instantly attracted by the outdoor porch setting of Cebichería Constitución,and understanding what this was, I was in. For you non-hispanophones- it is ceviche and it was the freshest tasting seafood I think I have eaten. This mixed-fish ceviche was served with fresh lime juice, a bit of yam, onions and white beans. I also tried some of their fresh octopus with an amazing black olive ‘dressing’ of sorts. I would love to try to recreate these dishes now I am home, hopefully Ben is game. We just need a Mercado Central* in Edinburgh.
*Mercado Central is a huge fresh seafood market in Santiago. I popped in for a look and smell (so fresh, there wasn’t one)! I was kindly asked several times where I was from- I the wide-eyed lost look always gets me in trouble. They make a famous eel broth here- I gave this a pass.
One of the things we have struggled to find are tasty replacement pastries. We used to love popping to the local boulangeries for weekend treats. Our favourite was at Trois Dauphin on rue Montroge.
We came close this recently with a trip to the Stockbridge Market. Tasty croissants aux amandes, filled with frangipan. In France they use day-old croissants filled with the almonds and then baked- a calorie bomb is there ever was one. These were lighter and probably a bit healthier, but I doubt it.
Other fun things that have been on the menu with some recent visitors:
- Lamb burgers with sun dried tomatoes and feta- very summery (we had three days of sunshine last week) and on homemade bread buns (by me) with James.
- Cinnamon Baked French Toast with Leanne and Robyn.
- We enjoyed these Banana Crumb Muffins with Chloe.
- Have you tried lasagne with lamb, you should try this Lamb and Feta Lasagne.
- Mini-ricotta cheese cakes with added ginger- nice!
Our Edinburgh summer weather has been pretty miserable (this video sums it up). When we moved here last year, we heard, “this is is the worst summer in years”. As soon as this June hit with record levels of rain and now moving through July with flooding, the Edinburghers are saying, ”no seriously, this is the worst summer we have had- ever”. It does not look encouraging for future summers.
On the plus side, Ben and I are never hot, we can sleep under a duvet every night, wear jackets and even wool sweaters. While my American friends and family are looking for ways to cool down we are trying to stay toasty and dry.
This quest means we have been craving some non-summery foods. I found myself wanting tuna noodle casserole this week. When I told Ben the Minnesotan in me was trying to get out, he had a really sweet response, “I love it when the Minnesotan in you comes out, it reminds me you are foreign and exotic and I love you. Peas tuna noodle hotdish sounds great.” I tried this recipe. Ben loved it.
We invited some friends over for Bastille Day brunch and I made the above cake. The original recipe called a triple-berry summer buttermilk bundt cake with lemon glaze (from Smitten Kitchen), mine was a double berry summer buttermilk (make my own bundt tin) cake. We do not have a bundt pan. I also opted against glaze. It was really tasty and the lemon zest was a great addition.
My Mom turned me onto Food and Wine, she has a subscription to the magazine and highly recommended the Four-Cheese Mac and Cheese, which lucky for those of us without a subscription can this and loads of others. For additional smokey flavour she suggests cooking it on the grill, another way to stay cool during those hot mid-west summers.
Both Ben and my cousin Jack have June birthdays, so when Jack was here, I made Food and Wine’s Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Walnut Crust. It was my first cheesecake and it was really nice.
YUMMERS PLUS… When I was at my brother’s, he prepared some really nice meals. He is an excellent cook and has an Architectural Digest-worthy kitchen. Two of the dishes which stood out were a Chicken-Peanut Stew from Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit fame. I want to get his new book, Yes, Chef- there was an excerpt in June’s Vogue (Chef Samuelsson and model wife-they are quite the good looking pair-were featured). For afters Johnners whipped up Blueberry Rhubarb Crisp with Pistachio Crust and threw in some strawberries for extra zing.