This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pulled Pork for Chritmas Dinner?

It was a request from our son-in-law, Nick, who loves anything pork--bacon, sausage.

So the menu went like this:

Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Caramelized Onions and Peppers
Cole Slaw
Pan drippings and Porter Gravy
Potatoes Au Gratin
Cranberry Fluff Salad
Pineapple Cheese Casserole
Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

The upper right corner of this entry shows the pork in the process of cooking.

4-5 pound pork shoulder
2 bottles of dark bear
salt and pepper
green onions

For BBQ Sauce:

1 cup tomato catsup
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3 T brown sugar
4 T yellow prepared mustard
1 T molasses
1 T red pepper flakes
1 t cayenne
1 t salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and stir until blended. Set aside for a few hours until ingredients have a chance to marry. Pour over shredded pork or over individual sandwiches as you choose.

Cut off any unwanted fat off the pork shoulder. Coat with salt and pepper. Brown off all sides in a skillet. Set up a crock pot. Turn on high. Place browned off pork into the crock pot and pour two bottles of good quality dark beer around it. Add a few stalks of green onion. Cover and braise for 4-5 hours or until the pork shreds easily.

When pork is down, drain all but a bit of the beer out of the crock pot. A baster will do this well. Using a fork, begin to break up the pork until it is either in chunks of shedded. Pour BBQ sauce over the pork and blend it into the pork. Serve pork over your favorite roll or bun. Spoon a few of the caramelized onions on top or some cole slaw. Pour some of the gravy over the pork if you like for an open face sandwich.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Du Jour Bistro to Close

The end of an era will occur when Du Jour Bistro closes its kitchen on Cornwall Avenue in downtown Bellingham at the end of the month. One of the small handful of restaurants in the Bellingham area that offer a consistently exceptional dining experience, Du Jour had the special distinction of also being a great place to purchase a bottle of wine and then enjoy it at your table. The Vines is the in-house wine shop for the Bistro.

On more than one occasion I and my guests have walked out with several bottles of a wine we were especially impressed with during our dinner. With a very modest $5 corkage fee, and a wide variety of wines at retail price, as opposed to highly marked up restaurant prices, a nice bottle of wine with your dinner becomes very reasonable.

But the food has always been a fabulous reason to visit Du Jour Bistro. The French influenced bistro with a Northwest flair offers locally sourced organic foods whenever possible. Chef Mike Petersen, highly knowledgeable about wines with plenty of suggestions and ready to make special orders, has great talent with his saucing and creative combinations of fresh northwest seafood, lamb, beef and locally grown vegetables.

I am especially partial to the bacon-wrapped dates and the wild mushroom risotto small plates.

The Lamb Osso Bucco is so moist and flavorful. My wife's recent flat iron steak special with a soy-chipotle marinade was melt in the mouth. I have enjoyed a tomato sauce with succulent scallops and shrimp as well. It's just all good and too sad that it has to come to an end.

My advice, get over to the Du Jour Bistro at least one more time before it closes its doors for the final time. You won't be disappointed. And take home a bottle of wine or two as well.

Monday, November 29, 2010

One Very Impressive Thanksgiving Holiday!

About 12:30 pm last Thursday, our daughter, Kate, her husband, Nick, and their friend Sally, pulled up in front of the house and with their gear in tow, walked up the drive way and into the house. We stood with the door open and our arms open wide as the ascended the steps. The ground was covered with a beautiful snow fall. About 3 inches had fallen over the past several days and it made the trip to our house rather treacherous.

We were so happy they had arrived safely.

In the door and up the stairs to the rooms we had prepared for them they went, Kate and Nick into their regular room and Sally just placed her things out of the way in the office since she would be sleeping downstairs in the family room.

Not long after, in walked Richard and Jeanette (he is French and therefore his name must be pronounced accordingly). They moved into the office upstairs and then joined us with Thanksgiving preparations already well underway.

In fact, Mom and I had been preparing for the past several days. Mostly small things in the beginning, but over the past couple of days preparations got a bit more frenetic.

We cut up fresh veggies for the crudite platter, a 20 pound turkey was roasted off, sliced and laid out on a platter, and the day-before parts of several dishes were put together and stuck in the fridge.

By the time our little extended family had arrived, we had another, 25 pound turkey stuffed and in the oven and casseroles of dressing and green beans were awaiting their turn.

Everything was as ready as it could be when Kate and Nick entered the kitchen to begin production of 15 pounds of mashed potatoes! We wanted to be out of the way when they needed the kitchen.

Potato peels flew, potatoes were sliced and diced, popped into their water baths and the special ingredients brought to enhance the mashed potato experience were prepped--bacon, exotic cheeses, butter and cream were readied for their addition to the pots of creamy mash.

By about 4 o'clock others began to arrive and bring their contributions to the festivities. Friends from as far away as Oregon and just around the corner kicked off their shoes, poured a glass of wine and relaxed. Folks we didn't think would come due to the snow actually made it. In the end only 2 (Later about them) didn't make it of the 23 who originally said they'd come.

Everyone brought food. Though most were asked only to bring one dish, most brought two or three. Before long the dining table groaned under the weight, the piano bar was covered with wines and other beverages, the coffee table displayed an assortment of nuts and other pre-dinner goodies. Every counter top was covered, even stacked, with dishes of yams and salads and favorite, wouldn't-be-Thanksgiving-without-them dishes until it became nearly impossible to know what we had or get it all out on the serving table.

By about 4 o'clock we were ready and everyone gathered around the table to pile their plates high. Within minutes every nook and cranny in the living room and family room was occupied with the quietest group you ever heard all enjoying the yummy dinner.

By 6:30 some folks were already drifting out the door to head home for a long winter's nap (the carbs had had their effect). The inhabitants of our home remained surrounded by the remains of the day.

Seven loads of dishes later, the kitchen began to look somewhat normal again. The fridge in the kitchen and out in the garage however, were stuffed with plates and tubs and bowls and casseroles of leftovers awaiting the midnight snack and left over lunches sure to happen over the holiday weekend.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crummy Climate Closes Classes!

A little alliteration to start the day! It's 19 degrees outside as I write this at 6:30 am. School has been closed for the day (the reason I am up at 6:30) and so the day stretches before me. I'll get some prep done for the big Thanksgiving party on Thursday.

Conferences we
re all canceled for the next two days. I don't know what that will mean for making them up. We are giving parents the option of not having one since we sent a letter home with the report cards. So, hopefully, with a couple of exceptions, they won't need to be made up.

We now have 21 coming for Thanksgiving. We have a second smaller turkey thawing and folks will be bringing food as well, so I can't imagine anyone will be starving. It should be a pretty wonderful celebration if everyone can get here safely.

We even went out and bought a couple of new double inflatable beds, so we can now officially sleep nine. With the weather and the distance some are traveling, we may be a full house Thursday night. Warm and cozy! Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

We are beginning the plans for the first big holiday of the holiday season. Sorry, I don't count Halloween kiddies. Maybe when I get grandkids I''ll change my mind about that. I the meantime, make way for, drum roll please. . .Thanksgiving! This year looks like we may well be hosting a big crowd so our plans are getting pretty detailed. For an example we have a tentative menu.
Thanksgiving Dinner 2010



Sage Butter Roasted Turkey

Cider Gravy

Bacon Smashed Potatoes

Sourdough Stuffing with Sausage, Apples and Golden Raisins

Roasted Pumpkin Corn Pudding

Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Mushrooms with Bacon

Cranberry Fluff Salad


Chardonnay and Pinot Noir


Bread Pudding with Warm Whiskey Sauce

Pecan Pie with Cinnamon Ice Cream

Dessert Wine


Coffee and Tea

Sound good? Well, it isn't cast in stone quite yet and a change here and there may yet happen. But I like it! We have begun a shopping list. I won't bore you with cutting and pasting that into this document but it is significantly long. Some of it as a result of the spices that we buy each year about this time. They are on sale and the old bottles that are a year or two old should be tossed in favor of fresher product anyway.

Then there are the items that are seldom brought into the house except at special times like these. For example, real whipping cream. Not the stuff in the white tub or in the spray can. Or, the materials to make pies, cakes, cookies and other sweets that never make an appearance in this house except on very special occasions.

Finally, the turkey or I should say turkeys. They are on sale and the more you spend at the store the cheaper the birds are per pound. So, we each go in to the store and in separate carts acquire the amount of goods needed to get the price as low as it can go. We always buy enough that, the bill split in two, would get us two birds at the low low price. As a result, one goes in the freezer and one in the fridge to thaw. Oh, I hear you. Frozen birds? Why not a fresh bird or a Butterball? Frozen!? Well, I've had fresh turkey and I've had a Butterball and I can't honestly tell the difference. The frozen ones, prepared and cooked right are always moist and delicious.

As for dessert. I don't honestly know why we ever make them. Hardly anyone eats them anymore. They seem to wind up going down the disposal after sitting around for a couple of days and everyone is mostly poking at the the leftover turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and, around our house, the cranberry salad. Wouldn't be Thanksgiving or Christmas around here without a couple of bowls full of that hot pink fluffy sweet and tart salad.

So, only a couple of weeks to go before the craziness that is the holiday season begins. I would miss it. I hope your family enjoys whatever celebrations your holiday season bring. Happy holidays to all!

How Rude!

I'm making a list and checking it twice. A list that is of my pet peeves in a world that seems to have lost a great deal of the civility I grew up with in the 50's and 60's. Saw a segment on The Today Show about this topic this morning and it got me thinking. So here is my list. So far!

1. People who use cell phones in public places and can't do it without everyone else being forced to listen in.

2. People who take or make cell phone calls while having a meal with anyone.

3. People who, while having a meal with anyone, keep checking their text messages and replying to them.

4. People who use cell phones while driving. Yeah, and you who are trying to get away with something by texting in your lap while driving so no one will see you and you know who you are.

5. People who get into line to board airplanes before their section of seats has been called.

6. While on the subject of airlines. . .the way airlines treat passengers. Period!

7. People who don't say please or thank you or no thank you or your welcome.

8. Wait staff who are too pushy and insensitive to the needs of the customer. No one should have to ask for more water or bread. It should just appear. The staff shouldn't interrupt you while you're having a conversation to ask you if you need more of anything or if there is anything else they can do for you. They need to be aware enough to wait for the right moment to ask. It isn't about them and what they need to get done. It is about you the customer and what and when you need something.

9. Wait staff who are too familiar when they say things like "how are you guys today?"

10. Pushy people in general.

I'm still thinking. . .

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vote! For Whom?

So what's going on? Where did this eclectic amalgam of humankind who would never have been heard from only a few months ago? Why has the Tea Party become so populist in nature? After all they seem to be a mess of folks that can't get much passed the single issue of lowering taxes. Ask many of them much beyond that and too often they wind up embarrassing themselves. So how can they possibly be being taken seriously by anybody? Well, in a way you can't blame the interest.

We elect a new president who excites the nation in a way no president has in a generation He is intelligent, can string and entire sentence together without tripping over his tongue AND we get the bonus of electing the first African-American to that exalted post. He also came to power with control of both the Senate and House of Representatives. What could possibly go wrong?
A young, inexperienced president with every move giving the perception of that he had no plan. No plan for health care reform, no plan for getting us out of the banking morass government had allowed the country to fall into and no plan to save the millions of jobs that were annually exiting the United States for overseas addresses where labor could be had for pennies on the dollar. The Republicans saw their opening and refused to cooperate. Period. And so the stalemate went on for months until only a greatly parred down version of health care reform was passed and only a few of the original carefully crafted regulatory oversights on the banking industry were replaced leaving us still at the mercy of an industry that cares little for average American.

So, why would the average Americ
an be at all interested in alternatives to the same old same old? Well, if you can't tell after my rant then you haven't been listening to middle America, the unemployed, the disenfranchised, those sick and tired of infighting in congress that has left their concerns unheard. It's about jobs, stupid! These people want a job, want their home back, want the American dream back. And what do the major parties have to say about it? They continue to fight while the unemployment lines grow, factories that once offered millions of Americans a good job have closed and lie empty, rusting on the horizons of dozens of small towns across our country.

So when someone comes along who says they want your vote and they represent neither of the political parties in power, that they plan to make the government live within its means and lower taxes. Well, you going to get most folks attention who are looking for someone to blame for all their woes. Right now the in office members of those two parties are wearing electoral targets on their backs.
It isn't so difficult to see. No, I can't image why anyone would vote for most of the Bozos I have seen interviewed on national TV. But I fear we are about to find out what happens when people who have taken their power for granted for too long and returned the trust given to them with too little too late. It will be interesting to see what unfolds next. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Making the Cover!

Our 1987 Bayliner 3218 Motoryacht was put on the cover of magazine this week.

After I wrote and mentioned that the boats on their cover were always fancy, high-speed, newer model Bayliners and never older vintage models, I received this week's edition and their she was--The Key of Sea in all her glory.

A number of folks wrote to tell me how much they enjoyed seeing the photo.

I am, naturally, a very proud papa.

Here is a follow up on the bottom paint work being done on the boat. Here are some new photos of the new bottom paint on The Key of Sea just before she is put back i
n the water on Tuesday.

Smooth as a baby's bottom she is. The bumps along the bottom are through-hulls, places where ocean water is pumped in for various purposes and others a
re the sensors for the depth finders and other instruments. These spots were carefully checked to make sure there were no leaks and they had a solid contact with the hull inside and out. The jacks (angled metal devices) holding the boat in place will be moved so that those spots can be painted as well.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Comfort Food on a Stormy Night!

Nothing much in the house, Forgot to defrost anything, I'm hungry now! What to do?

A couple of cans of Starkist Tuna, some mayo and a dill pickle. Drain the cans of tuna, mix in mayo to taste and chop up a dill pickle. Blend the mayo and pickle on the tuna and set aside.

Open a can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup. Not the low sodium or ch
unky varieties. Just the old red and white can of condensed soup with overcooked noodles and bits of chicken. Pour the contents into a pan, add a single can of water and heat it up.

Take two slices of your favorite bread, slather both with mayo, spread tuna salad generously acr
oss one slice of the bread and cover with the other slice. Meanwhile, stir the soup as it heats up. When heated, pour into a cup or bowl.

Your dinner is ready in ten-minutes and your setting on the couch in the front room watching the trees swaying, the rain spattering on the windows and the clouds scudding by on the horizon. Tuck under a blanket and enjoy your supper. Or, set up in front of the TV and enjoy an good movie. To be honest, it doesn't get much better.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Key of Sea On The Hard Deck!

We had the Key of Sea pulled out of the water to clean the bottom, change out the zincs and give the bottom a new paint job.

Ken Marshall and I tootled the boat the 50 yards from our berth at Squalicum Harbor to the pull out dock at the Seaview North boat yard. The trip was uneventful. ha-ha.

She sat at their dock over night and was pulled out by crane on Friday and set up in jacks in their yard.

Saturday morning Ken and I dropped by the yard to change the zincs. After a couple of field trips to LFS and Redden to collect all the different zincs we needed, we managed to get them all changed out without any difficulty.

This week the bottom will be prepared and repainted for the first time in I don't know how long. It needed to be painted when we bought it but we held off another year. A new coat of a black, ablative paint will be applied. This paint literally peels off in microscopic layers over time which prevents many ocean-going plants and critters from attaching themselves to the bottom. I chose a pain that has a 45% copper content and a fungicide both of which also resist living things from making themselves at home.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wok And Roll

Okay, a lousy title for my newest blog entry. I apologize ahead of time.

Behold, the basic carbon steel wok. Hand forged and shaped for use in high heat situations where the foods involved are moved across the rounded surfaces to evenly cook them quickly.

The wok at right isn't ready to use yet. It's new, unseasoned and seasoning is really important to the successful use of the wok. It is done just like that black-as-the-night cast iron skillet handed down to you from your grandmother. The seasoned dark surface creates a natural non-stick surface.

To season your new wok, coat the surface with a light oil and wipe it down with a paper towel. Set the wok on a burner set on high and heat the wok until the surface begins to smoke. Turn off the burner and let the wok cool. Repeat the process a couple of times.

From this point on, never scrub your wok with one of those green scrubbers or a Brillo pad. The abrasiveness will scratch off your carefully created seasoning and you will have to go through the seasoning process all over again. Instead, use a light scrub brush, a little dish soap and fill the wok with hot water. Scrub lightly, rinse and dry. Your wok will darken and season further with time and use.

When using your wok, set it on the burner, turn the burner to high heat, pour the desired amount of oil into the wok. This will depend on the amount of food to be cooked and or the desired amount of oil you wish or do not wish to ingest.

Allow the oil to heat up, then carefully add each of the foods to be cooked in the order of their density. Raw meats go in first, along with onions, then garlic followed by carrots, celery, squash, cabbage, etc. Get the idea. Some foods will cook faster than others. You need to make sure others ARE cooked thoroughly, especially meats. Shrimp or scallops cook quickly so they would go into the wok at the end of the cooking process.

Hold on to the handle of the wok with a folded towel or oven mitt on your non-dominant hand and stir the contents of the wok with the other hand using one of the many wok tools available and that often come with your wok. I like the bamboo handled wire scoop. It lets me scoot the foods around the wok, separate items and serve portions leaving behind the high calorie sauce and oil.

Woks work best on gas burners and the higher the BTU output the better. Most home stoves have one burner with a higher output, but when compared with the burners used in Asian restaurants home burners can't begin to compete. So turn up your home burner all the way up!

What to cook? Anything goes. You are pretty much limited only to your imagination. There are plenty of recipes out there in cyberspace. Perhaps you got a recipe book with your wok. Be adventurous! Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Wedding in Shenandoah National Park

Our family has been through quite a whirlwind over the past few weeks. Specifically, our son-in-law and daughter have really had a rough time getting themselves over here to America. So, when the paperwork still had not been completed and the time had come for a wedding in which our daughter was to be a bride's maid, she had to make the difficult decision to come without Nick.

Elise Reuschenberg and Duane Lambert were getting married in the Shenandoah National Park. Elise was our Kate's maid of honor at her wedding in England. The two of them had met while in the Peace Corps in Guinea, West Africa, where we also met Elise for the first time. Elise is a wonderful lady who has become our east coast daughter. This was our first meetin
g of Duane. He turned out to be (as if there would be any doubt) a wonderful guy, a perfect match for Elise.

Kate arrived in New York the same day we flew into Newark, NJ to rent a car and drive to the wedding. Nick and Kate had arranged for a car to be purchase
d for them to pick up in New York on their arrival. Kate had to pick it up by herself and drive on to the wedding. I wasn't at all sure about making the trip after hearing about Hurricane Earl which was traveling up the east coast. But I decided to go ahead with it and take the chance that the hurricane wouldn't, and it turned out it didn't, interfere with the trip. The drive to Shenandoah was beautiful when we finally got off I-95, one of the main north/south freeways along the east coast. We arrived on Friday, the 3rd of September, checked into our rustic but comfortable room with an incredible view looking out over the Shenandoah Valley hundreds of feet below. Kate arrived a couple of hours after us.

Many of those attending the wedding gathered for a BBQ in the afternoon and we got to k
now some of the family and friends of the bride and groom. Some of the bridal party were also Peace Corps alums who we had met there and had also had in our home a time or two. It was great to get to talk to Kate and let her vent a little. We spent the evening writing out the table name tags for the wedding dinner the next afternoon.

The next morning many of us met in the conference center where the wedding reception and dinner would be held later in the day. The flowers for the tables and the wedding flowers needed to be made and we had agreed to help. My floral design skills came in handy. I arran
ged most of the table arrangement flowers and created the bride's nosegay. I also arranged the flowers for the trellis the bride and groom stood in front of for their vows. A lot of others helped with the bride's maid's nosegays and the boutineers for the men in the wedding party. It all came out beautifully and it was so much fun to be able to help out on Elise's special day.

The wedding turned out perfect though quite blustery. It didn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm and the ceremony went of without a hitch.
We all headed for the reception/dinner where a Zydeco style band played throughout the afternoon and evening. There was plenty of liquid refreshment and finger foods before the dinner. Prime rib, trout and a vegetarian entree I never saw were the options for dinner. Besides the wedding cake, we also had a delicious dish of blackberry ice cream. The music went on into the evening and many danced the night away. I can tolerate only so much loud sounds before I become overwhelmed so about 9:30 I called it a day and headed up to our room.

The next day, many of the folks that had come for the wedding were leaving. We were unsure what to do since Kate still had a car that needed to get across country and no one to drive with her. I suggested that Leslie, who didn't need to be back until later in the month for her classes to start, drive with her. So it was decided that I would head back to Newark, NJ for the flight home and the two of them would head out across country together. That's what we did. About 3:00 PM that day, I loaded up our rental and they loaded up Kate's new car and we all drove off in opposite directions--they headed towards a first stop in southwest Virginia.
It was quite a lonely drive back up the coast through Virginia, past Washington, D.C., through Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. But I arrived home about midnight after a long flight on Monday.

As for our two intrepid adventurers, they arrived at their destination that first night. First thing in the morning they found themselves with brake problems. A generous and friendly local mechanic volunteered to help them out despite it being Labor Day. The rear brake pads needed replacing. They were on their way by early afternoon and made it to Bardstown, Kentucky.

By Tuesday afternoon they had driven on to Chicago where they would turn west onto I-90 and the long straight-as-an-arrow drive to Seattle. At this writing they were planning stops along the way at the Badlands, the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore and on up across Montana and Wyoming (possibly Yellowstone), Idaho and Washington.

Hopefully, before and certainly not later than their arrival back in Bellingham, Nick will also have arrived and they can get on with their lives, finding a home, Kate a job and most importantly, ever so much closer to us.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thanks Tim!

Since the beginning of June we have had the use of the creative talents of Tim Singer here nearly everyday working to create a brand new landscape for our front garden. Tim the rock guy, as we call him, erased our front garden and carefully created two rock walls which hold back two new terraces of garden space. The lower terrace will be newly landscaped with a few mature plants moved from other locations in the yard, but mostly with recently purchased plants we found on Craig'sList. A wholesale nursery west of Portland, Oregon advertised gallon plants for a fraction of the cost in a retail nursery. We drove down and checked out their farm, were very impressed and placed an order. 100 plants will shortly arrive at our home where 100 holes will be dug for each plant's new home. Big job! Behind the upper wall is a second terrace where a new lawn has been rolled out that is watered by our new automated watering system. As the rock walls neared completion we spoke to Tim about the lawn and watering system we planned to install next. He let us know he could do that type of work as well. He bid the job and we were pleased enough to give him the go ahead to do the job. Well, Tim's work is done now. The rock walls are the talk of the neighborhood. Everyone comments on how beautiful they are. The lawn is bright green and thriving with a brown border surrounding it awaiting the plants will that will ring the lawn. An automated drip system will feed just the right amount of water to each plant. The rest of the garden is up to us now and then only time will tell how the garden will turn out. Thanks Tim for your artisan's touch, the strength of your back, your ideas, skills and your insistence on perfection. I know you are proud of the way the project turned out, but we couldn't be prouder either. Well done, Tim!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Biennial Trek to OSF

We have just returned from a few days in southern Oregon and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). Over the 4 days spent there we saw 6 plays. Three were by Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night and Henry IV, Part I. We were also to see Hamlet. More about that later. Along with the Shakespeare we also saw American Night, Pride and Prejudice and She Loves Me.

We were very disappointed with the productions of Shakespeare's plays this year. A new Artistic Director was brought in a couple of years ago and since then the company seems to have taken a new approach to its interpretation of The Bard. The leads in the plays were still as strong as years past, but too many of the supporting actors were very weak and I question certain of the stylistic decisions made. A case in point was the costuming in Merchant of Venice. Now I must confess to preferring my Shakespeare performed in period costumes. However, I have been won over by some past performances that strayed far from the traditional. Two years ago I watched a wonderful performance of Much Ado About Nothing performed in a wild west setting. It was delightful! This year's production of The Merchant of Venice however, went too far. Some actors wore period costumes (the tights and all) while others were in rather modern business suits. During the courtroom scene the clerk wrote up the proceedings with a laptop. It was distracting and confusing. The Play Bill notes indicated the director made this stylistic choice in an effort to show the timelessness of the play's message. Note to director: Let Shakespeare's words convey the message. You can't possibly improve on them by confusing your audience with your schizophrenic choices of when this story takes place. We were so frustrated with the productions that actually left half way through Henry IV, Part I It just plodded on and on and I found myself looking at my watch (something I have never done at an OSF production). and wishing it were over. Again with Twelfth Night. It just didn't fly despite the best efforts of its leads. I finally stood in front of the box office on our last day and sold our two tickets to Hamlet. After three duds, I was not going to chance it on a fourth. We went out to a movie instead. On the bright side, the three non-Shakepearean shows we saw were wonderful! American Night, an American history revisionist play told through the eyes of a young Mexican immigrant about to take his citizenship test was both touching and a hysterical. It is on of 37 plays being commissioned by OSF to showcase American history. Delightful! We also saw a wonderful production of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Solid acting, a beautifully done adaptation that gave me the feeling that I was peeking in on the lives of these people. When Mr. Darcy's and Elizabeth's seeming dislike for one another was finally transformed with their words of undying love and devotion, the audience sighed and daubed tears. Mrs. Bennett was played to comedic perfection as she did everything in her power to marry off her girls to the best matches she could manage. Finally, we were delighted with the upbeat A Love Letter, a Jerry Boch boy meets girl musical based on Illatszertar by Miklos Laszlo. This play inspired the movie You've Got Mail and The Shop Around the Corner, a 1940 film with Jimmy Stewart. This show was originally produced in 196o's. The musical didn't do well on Broadway and quickly faded from memory and production so it is seldom done, yet the audience loved this show. It was a good old fashioned romantic comedy with lots of cute songs and comedy and the old boy meets girl, boy looses girl, bot get's girl ending. What better way to spend an evening? The cast was solid. Wonderful singers, comic timing where required to pull off this show and they were marvelous. The shining star for me though was young lady who played Amalia. What a voice and what a presence on stage. We had some other wonderful experiences while in Ashland. We had a delightful afternoon wine and cheese party with some Bellingham friends we discovered were also at the Festival. They where staying in a rented home in a part of Ashland we didn't know existed. So were able to explore it on a night that happened to be an art walk evening. This part of Ashland has become a neighborhood all its own with restaurants, art galleries, a bakery, coffee houses and the local Co-Op. It also happens to be where the oldest homes are located so it is delightful to drive or walk through.

It was in that little neighborhood that we had our best meal of the trip at the Peerless Hotel and Restaurant. The turn of the century building houses a lovely hotel and restaurant. We found the beautiful garden setting for al fresco dining absolutely perfect. A fountain next to our table made cooling sounds in the afternoon heat of the day. We decided to try some of the small plates. The chose lamb meatballs and rosemary & cumin encrusted lamb medallions with eggplant tapenade and a mint yogurt sauce; sweet potatoes and yams were roasted and served topped with bacon, an onion and walnut chutney and chojija, a mexican cheese and fried parsley; Duck Confit, roasted crisp with moroccan olives, a date gastrique and couscous. We also had dinner with another pair of friends also from Bellingham who were there to play in the local Britt Festival which takes place in Jacksonville, a small mountain community about a half hour out of Ashland.

Dinner on the deck at
Martino's Macaroni's was very nice. We had Ceasar Salads and I had my favorite Spaghetti and Meatballs. Leslie had the winner of the night though with Rigatoni al Pezzetto--Italian sausage, onions, olives, roasted red pepper and feta cheese in a pomodoro sauce. We also had a nice lunch at Si, Casa Flores, Mexican restaurant we love in Medford and had a disappointing breakfast at longtime favorite Black Bear Restaurant.

Finally, our last meal in Ashland was at a new discovery.
Sesame is a place open for about two years now so it has opened since our last trip to the Festival. It sits right across the street from beautiful Lithia Park and right next to the creek. Sesame as its name implies, specializes in asian cuisine but it has quite successfully and creatively made some interesting twists on some wonderful dishes. We started with some lettuce wraps of chicken or tofu in slightly spiced coconut sauce and served with bean sprouts, cilantro, carrots, chopped peanuts and mirin soaked cucumber. Next we enjoyed a fresh and delicious Imperial Palace Salad created using napa cabbage, daikon, carrots, asian pears, orange segments, toasted almonds and topped with a tangerine vinaigrette. I chose Vietnamese Fish and Chips with tempura battered Basa, an Asian white fish with solid pinkish flesh perfect for the light batter. It included sweet potato fries, asian slaw and a sweet coriander dipping sauce for the Basa. Leslie chose Phuket Shrimp with wide rice noodles, a peanut sauce, topped with roasted peanuts, cilantro, mung beans sprouts and lime. A terrific meal taken outdoors along the creekside on a beautiful sunny day in Ashland, Oregon.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bellingham Breakfast Specials

Where's the best place to get breakfast in Bellingham? I thought it might be a good idea to offer some ideas from my perspective. Bellingham is no dining mecca to be sure though there are a few, and only a very few, exceptions. However, where breakfast is concerned a few more options open up. Here is my list of favorite places in no particular order. They all have their pluses and minuses.

Avenue Bakery
Old Town Cafe
The Bagelry
The Mount Bakery
Harris Avenue Cafe
Web Locker

Well, that is a longer list than I thought. It does not include the chains like Denny's and IHOP nor a few other locally owned places that for a variety of reasons don't make my list.

Avenue Bread and Cafe--My wife and I love Avenue for a weekend breakfast or to stop in and buy their delicious breads. We usually stop in to buy a loaf or two of their day old loafs, especially the whole grain loaf. Their breakfast eggenues are a delicious and economical way to start the day. Combined with a cup of their great coffee options, you have a terrific breakfast made with the best organic, local ingredients. Have a seat with your number and the friendly staff will locate you at your table where you can greet local friends or peruse the morning papers.

Old Town Cafe--A real local spot. Here you'll rub shoulders with folks from all walks of life but it does lean toward the college student, granola crowd. We love the community table where several people can sit and you never know who your neighbors will be. Due to the all organic nature of the place, prices aren't the lowest of the spots on my list, but the food is hearty, well prepared and delicious. I enjoy there steel-cut oatmeal with fresh fruit, the home-made granola with yogurt and fruit as well as the full breakfasts with eggs, thick sliced bacon, browns and whole grain toast.

The Bagelry--another local favorite and with good reason. They make some of the best bagels I have eaten west of NYC. These are the real thing. Lots of flavors to choose from and they also offer a good breakfast and lunch. My only grip is that they serve their food on paper plates and plastic tableware. Otherwise, good funky place for a good well-priced hot breakfast with great bagels!

The Mount Bakery--Another funky spot downtown Bellingham, the bakery is noted for its pastries, Belgian waffles, croissants, Eggs Benedict with organic eggs, freshly made hollandaise sauce and local Hempler bacon. Look for you Benedict on a Belgian waffle topped with fesh local crab or smoked salmon. They also make wedding cakes and truffles using Belgian chocolate. My only complaint here is that the dining area's tall ceiling and bare walls tend to make the place rather noisy.

Harris Avenue Cafe--This little cafe is located in Fairhaven, what was once a separate community long ago became a part of Bellingham. It is the most scenic part of Bellingham attracting locals and tourists in droves. The Cafe is quite like The Old Town Cafe in many ways. It too is rustic, funky and attracts the granola crowd as much as the rest of us. Great granola, and oatmeal, organic local products are served. Eggs any style, local potatoes, breakfast meats, and the sweeter side, pancakes and waffles, are served as well.

The Web Locker--Our final stop, this cafe is my most recent find. Due to my new involvement with boating, I found the Web Locker in the local Squalicum Harbor. This place is especially great to sit in the outdoor seating on a beautiful sunny Bellingham summer day. Open for breakfast and lunch, Web Locker's recently got some big attention when it was nominated for having the best burger in western Washington. Its New England style clam chowder is also a local favorite. As good as their lunch is I'm here for the breakfast menu and that ain't bad either. Quick, friendly service, fair prices and good food are what you'll find here. Eggs and omelets, browns, bacon or sausage, toast and a cup of coffee. just what the doctor ordered before heading down to work on the boat.

So get out there and enjoy a good breakfast. Choose on of my favorites or go looking for your own. Only, please, if IHOP or Denny's are your cup of tea, well, just keep it to yourself thanks.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Back to Atlanta and Home

June 31st, our final day on our southern road trip before boarding our flight home to the cooler temps of Bellingham. We packed up and after breakfast at the hotel, headed for Atlanta. The drive was uneventful. We finally took some photos of the Kudzu that we'd seen so much of along our way. This funny looking vine often takes the shape of familiar objects like clouds often do, but sadly it has become a real problem to control here in the south.

As we drove along, Leslie discovered Harold's Barbecue in Atlanta was right on our way into the city. She read its description aloud and it sounded like a place we ought to try so we took the turn off for it just as we came into town. The description read that it was located between a housing project and a state prison, but not to worry as lots of cops ate there as well. The location wasn't that seedy but there were cops there. I had wanted to try Brunswick Stew and hadn't had a chance the entire trip so I ordered that along with some ribs. Leslie ordered her usual pulled pork sandwich. The stew is a thick southern vegetable soup with meat added. In the case of the Georgia style it is usually pork. The stew was a disappointment. It was pretty flavorless and sadly it was a foretaste of the rest of the meal. After Sargent White's, Harold's just didn't even come close to matching up. Later on I read that they had stopped using wood fires to BBQ their meats and had gone over to a gas oven. What are they thinking? A sad, disappointing final taste of the south.

We had a plane to catch.
We had hired our car downtown Atlanta instead of the airport saving ourselves the high airport taxes they tack on when you get the car their. It was an easy and very convenient train ride from the airport to the center of Atlanta and then only a 3 block walk to the car rental agency. We returned our car and they even drove us the 3 blocks to the train station for the return to the airport.

Our visit to the south was wonderful. Oh, I know I have complained a lot in this blog series about the heat and humidity and it was genuinely a problem for me and Leslie as well. I would recommend taking the trip during a cooler time of year, perhaps early spring or fall.

But don't stay home for any other reason. I have long stayed away from travel in the deep south for reasons that are really prejudicial which is rather ironic because that was my image of the south--prejudiced white supremacists driving around in old beater pick up trucks proudly flying the stars and bars, poor blacks relegated to run down neighborhoods, marginalized where opportunities in life are concerned. The separate water fountains, Jim Crow laws, etc. may have been outlawed, but. . .

Now admittedly I am seeing it through the eyes of a caucasian male, but my view of southerners both black and white was one of a warm, friendly and generous folk. The racism so burned into my memory from all those 60's images was simply not evident anywhere during the trip. Instead those ugly ways seem to have been exposed for what they were, not hidden or swept under a rug, but admitted to and now there is a feeling of live and let live.
Oh, I'm not naive enough to think racism no longer exists in the south, I'm just saying that, like the rest of the country, we have come a long way.

Successful, affluent African Americans were quite evident everywhere. The charm of the old south is also evident everywhere--in conversations, the service, courtesy, warmth and friendliness of nearly everyone we met and so one day very soon I'd like to return and continue exploring more of the south.