Adventures Elsewhere

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Saturday Drive to Marblehead

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

I had to get out of the house this morning, so up I went to Marblehead (35-40 minute drive). I went for a walk from the neck to the lighthouse point and then drove into town. It was very empty, which I guess is to be expected in late March, before the summer crowds arrive. Don’t let the bright sunshine fool you — it was freeeeeeezing and I needed to sit in a coffee shop for a while once in town so that my fingers and nose would warm back up!

Marblehead in March
Marblehead in March
Marblehead in March
Marblehead in March
Marblehead in March

A few more pictures are up on Flickr too

A Lovely Dinner Party in Snowy Maine

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Had a lovely evening with new and old friends alike and loads and loads of good food. My contributions to the dinner party were Truffled Lobster Risotto and Chocolate-Espresso Dipped Profiteroles. Recipes below…

Truffled Lobster Risotto

Ingredients
2 8-ounce uncooked lobster tails
3 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons white or black truffle oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup brandy or white wine
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425°F. Cook lobster in large pot of simmering salted water until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl of cold water to cool. Drain lobster. Remove meat from shells; reserve shells. Cut meat into 1/2-inch pieces.

Break shells into large pieces. Place on baking sheet; bake 15 minutes. Blend shells with 1 cup chicken broth in blender until finely chopped. Strain through fine sieve. Reserve lobster broth; discard shells.

Bring 2 1/2 cups chicken broth to simmer; keep hot. Heat 1 tablespoon truffle oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots; sauté 2 minutes. Add rice; stir 2 minutes. Add brandy or white wine; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until brandy or wine is absorbed, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add lobster broth and 3/4 of chicken broth. Simmer until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, adding remaining broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed and stirring often, about 20 minutes. Add lobster and cream; stir until heated through. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons truffle oil and chives. Season with salt and pepper.

This is the “cheat” recipe for this (which reduces the time and potentially the monetary investment)

Ingredients
12 oz cooked lobster meat (can be previously frozen, but must be thawed for preparation)
3 tablespoons Better than Bouillon lobster base
3 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons white or black truffle oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup brandy or white wine
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
Bring 3 1/2 cups chicken broth to simmer. Add 3 tablespoons of lobster base; keep hot. Heat 1 tablespoon truffle oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots; sauté 2 minutes. Add rice; stir 2 minutes. Add brandy or white wine; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until brandy or wine is absorbed, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add half of the lobster broth. Simmer until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, adding remaining broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed and stirring often, about 20 minutes. Add lobster meat and cream; stir until heated through. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons truffle oil and chives. Season with salt and pepper.

(resources: Better than Bouillon Lobster Base and Truffle Oil)

Profiteroles / Mini Cream Puffs

Choux Pastry:
1/2 cup (70 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) (57 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Whipped Cream Filling:
1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar

Garnish:
Chocolate sauce or confectioners sugar

Choux Pastry: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.

Place the butter and water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon or spatula, quickly add the flour mixture. Return to heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about a minute or two). Transfer the dough to your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, and beat on low speed a minute or two to release the steam from the dough. Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste. Spoon or pipe mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing them a couple of inches apart.

Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Bake for a further 30 to 40 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color and when split, are dry inside. Turn the oven off and, with the oven door slightly ajar, let the shells dry out for a further 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.

For whipped cream: In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and whisk in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When chilled, whip the mixture until soft peaks form.

To Assemble: Split the pastry shells in half and fill (or pipe) with whipped cream. Place the top half of the pastry shell on the whipped cream and dust with confectioners sugar or dip in chocolate

I Wear My Sunglasses At Night

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Random Simon Photograph…
Corey Hart impression the evening before I left Munich:

Sunglasses At Night 1

Freising on the 4th Sunday of Advent

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

It’s the last weekend here in Munich before I head back to the States, so despite the brutal cold (the common theme of my Munich posts), we decided to head to Freising today, to have a look about at yet another Christmas Market. And the cold really was almost unbearable, especially in the shade. Simon bravely walked the very slippery path up to the Dom however, while Theresa was too bundled up in her buggy to even move (she does look funny in the Winnie-the-Pooh snowsuit). The Dom is lovely, and while hanging out in churches isn’t usually my thing, it was comparatively warm, so we spent a bit of time checking out the Manger-scene. Kudos to both Simon and Theresa for being respectfully quiet.

Familie Eberl in Freising on the 4th Sunday of Advent

Your Clarinet Sounds Like a Dying Frog

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Since I’ve been in my digs here in Munich, every evening — between my “spend the day with one set of people” and “be merry with other people” time — there has been this clarinet player busking outside my window. All good; I have a fondness for buskers, actually.

Two very small dilemmas, however. The first is that this man knows only four or five tunes, max. If that. It might actually just be two songs, because they sort of run into each other in a jumbled mess. It’s not that he is inherently *bad* at playing the clarinet, he’s just not that great either and his repetoire is so limited… It’s like a live-and-in-person (so to speak) ohrwurm.

The second issue, which I suspect why I really don’t like his playing much after 5 days, is that it has been bloody freeeeeezing in Munich since the weekend. I’m used to cold, love it even, but it’s been topping out at -3C / 24F (with after dark lows of -10C / 14F) and you know what, clarinets and freezing temperatures just don’t mix. It isn’t good for the instrument, the man’s fingers or my eardrums.

In Town for the Münchner Christkindlmarkt

Monday, December 14th, 2009

I’m visiting in Munich for a few weeks and it started with a very drunken, very exhausting semi-Junggesellinnenabschiedswochenende (brownie points for being able to say that 10x without messing it up) with Jean and Nikki who joined over from London. I don’t think that I have had that much alcohol in a very long time… from scotch to glühwein, helles to Baileys, to these damn good cocktails at the Anna Hotel (where we stayed) … seriously in need of a few days of detox, but it was more glühwein and bubbles today. Oh well, twist my arm.

Anyone fancy a POE before the weekend?

Jean and Nikki enjoying a POE

(insert your favourite Christmas Carol here)

Whirlwind Wedding-Planning Weekend

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

(Jean’s wedding, not mine)

It was a bit of a whirlwind weekend, so I don’t really know where to start and end. Jean’s in town for Thanksgiving and to sort out a lot of the wedding planning for her and Joe’s big day next summer, so I helped out as best I could, which mostly involved driving, drinking (not at the same time of course [grin]), providing decision making support (“yeah, I like that dress too — so far you look amazing in all of them!” — very helpful!), sampling wedding cake (twist my arm) and documenting the whole extravaganza with the camera. Fun, a little overwhelming (and hell, I’m not even the one getting hitched!) and very exhausting.

We whirled through three bridal shops — in one, Jean tried on at least 20 dresses — and there is one more to go before she makes up her mind. In one of them, they actually let us photograph (which, from what I gather, is a little unusual) and while I did take about a million pictures, as the dress is not to be seen by the groom, I won’t post them publicly. Here are a couple of me though, trying on a bridesmaid dress. Jean’s pretty much settled on those at this point and the color (claret) doesn’t even make me look like Barney the dinosaur (or whatever Barney is suppose to be; the dress is the one I am wearing in the picture of both of us, but in the red/”claret” color). Dress decision making is hard. I mean, it’s easy to narrow down to a few contenders, but them deciding between those is a wracking decision.

DressFitting1
DressFitting2

We also checked out the venue, Pleasant Point Inn on Kezar Lake in Lovell, Maine. It reminded me a lot of one of those old-fashioned resorts from like the film Dirty Dancing (only smaller). It’s got a main house with some quirky guest rooms and the function room and then a lot of cabins. It’s right on Kezar Lake and the perfect place for an August wedding (of course, if you could eliminate all mosquitos, it would be even more perfect!). Of course it is closed for the winter now and even the heat was off so we could see our breath as we looked about the buildings and rooms. Great atmosphere though and the owner who met with us was very nice and accommodating.

If you find yourself in Conway, NH (right across the state line from where the wedding will be), make sure to stop in Riverstones Bakery (don’t think that they have a website). They will be doing the wedding cake and we, of course, had to sample [grin]. I’m not a big fan usually of carrot cake but it was to die for. I suspect that people will be fighting for every last piece of it (I hope I’m not giving away secrets here, but the cake will have a chocolate tier, a vanilla-chocolate chip tier and one of carrot cake – yummy!)

Today it’s meetings with the florist and photographers. I’m back in Boston while Jean stayed up there with her mum and aunt and uncle for a few more days. Wednesday afternoon we have one more dress fitting appointment for her and then hopefully that will be sorted too. Even though I am very work busy today, that is almost more relaxing than running around with appointments for her!

Heavenly Socks Yarns, Belfast, ME

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Heavenly-Socks

For any knitters out there in short supply of good, high quality yarn and find yourself in Belfast Maine (or, like me, make a major pilgrimage to go there), check out Heavenly Socks Yarns. It’s gotten to be a routine that whenever I visit my parents, I have to drive the hour to visit Helen (the owner) and buy new yarn, even if I have no real project in mind. Her selection is amazing! Even better, if you find yourself short on yarn mid-way through a project, she is supper accommodating and will match the dye lot for you and send you more. I’ve had to do that three times already because clearly I am not so great at estimating.

Mom and I went on Saturday; a beautiful day and a good excuse to drive the hour from Orono to Belfast anyway. I am mid-way through two knitting projects so I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for, and once there, was overwhelmed, as usual, by my options. I couldn’t make up my mind but Sunday I drove back on the way back to Boston to for some wonderful baby alpaca yarn for a lace wrap.

Maine for the Weekend

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Being the complete insomniac that I often am, I was awake at 4 AM this morning so I barreled up to Orono for the weekend a few hours early (I was planning to drive up anyway, but leaving at 5 AM meant that I didn’t make the usual stop at Whole Foods in Portland – not open yet – but I did get a jump start on avoiding traffic). They had predicted snow in the overnight, but except for the few inches between approximately Brunswick and Carmel, the roads were clear and dry. It’s cold up here though, so I was a little worried about ice (after last year’s near car-flipping at Christmas, I am a little more careful). The sun was just rising when I drove that stretch and the snow on the trees was simpy beautiful. I, of course, won’t be saying any snow is beautiful in March.

No plans for the weekend up here really, except to hang out with my parents.