Friday, September 26, 2014

Beautiful Reward

I mentioned a while back that I had not been able to get out to enjoy the Tailgate Markets as much as I'd like this year. The upside is that I was happily busy in the studio and/or with fun clay-related events, the downside is that shopping local/seasonal fare from the Farmers and Makers is one of my favorite things to do. I think I also mentioned that I would be rewarded, and my reward came in the form of a dear friend needing someone to cook a special dinner for her wedding night. I might mention here that she runs one of our town's Tailgate Markets, and that almost the entire meal would be shopped from that Market. My Beautiful Reward: a dream shop at the Tailgate, and a dream cook for a dear friend at a love-filled event. Even better, my side-kick and co-conspirator in kitchen fun was another good friend, so it could only be wonderful. And it was wonderful.

I'm already off on another adventure, but I wanted to share some of the highlights of this very special experience. And maybe even a recipe (or something like that) or two. The photos are sparse, as we were just a little busy, but you'll get the idea...

Me and my main cohort, Julia (one should always have Julia in the kitchen!)
We were greatly assisted as well by Elizabeth, Shay's Market Manager. Rockin' trio!
Bounty of the Season!! All from the wonderful vendors at the North Asheville Tailgate Market.
We had planned the meal of course, but it was SO wonderful to wander through the Market and make adjustments based on a delicious find in any given stall. The charcuterie board served immediately after the ceremony carried cheeses from Three Graces Dairy, along with hard salami and soprasetta from Hickory Nut Gap Farm. Crackers from Roots & Branches, apples and grapes from McConnell Farms added a sweet touch.

Spicy Candied Duck Bacon with Mango Sriracha Hummus:
sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy, spicy, smooth, and cool.

A few things came from outside the Market, and one that was a huge hit was a passed nibble of Spicy Candied Duck Bacon (from Katuah Market) served with a dollop of Roots Mango Sriracha Hummus.

Salad greens and ingredients came from across the Market,
and included arugula, gorgeous oyster mushrooms, tomatoes, and nasturtium.
We were lucky enough to pick up a special order of Tzatziki from Gypsy Queen Suzy Phillips, which was slated for part of an appetizer, but when we tasted its cool goodness, we re-cast it as a salad dressing. The salad included greens from several vendors, tomatoes from Flying Cloud Farms, oyster mushrooms from Carol Dreiling and nasturtium from Osada Bee Farm.

Trout lined up and ready to go.
Our entrees, Roasted Trout or Rack of Lamb, both came from East Fork Farms, and were both exquisite. Julia did a simple, yet sublime, oven-roasted trout with herbs and lemon that was beautiful and delicious.

The lamb was so good I'm still thinking about it. Extra thanks to Matt at Roots for brainstorming ideas on the prep. This is one I'll definitely do again, and the recipe follows:

Not the sexy shot I had in mind - it was fast and furious, delicious,
then I realized I forgot to take the picture! And it looked very pretty all plated up!
Rack of Lamb (for one 8-chop rack, cleaned and Frenched)

4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed & finely chopped
1 1/2 - 2 cups fresh basil & mint, finely chopped
1 cup ground pecorino romano cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 TBSP ground coriander
olive oil

dijon mustard

salt, pepper
apple cider vinegar
tamari sauce

Combine first four ingredients, then add just enough olive oil to make a paste. Set aside.

Season the rack with salt and pepper, and douse with vinegar and tamari. Massage the seasonings into the meat. Heat a deep sided pan over medium-high heat. Sear the rack on all sides to a nice brown and move to a roasting pan or sheet, fat side down. Spread dijon mustard over the rack, then pat the herb mix on top.

For rare, roast about 20-23 minutes or to an internal temperature of 125. Remove the rack and let rest 10 minutes before separating chops.

not a glamour shot of the sprouts, but boy did I love
this pan that Julia brought!
The sides, which were plated when we realized the tables wouldn't hold everything, each held a taste of the coming Fall. Brussel Sprouts from Katuah Market were accented with more beautiful oyster mushrooms from Market vendor Carol Dreiling and proscuitto from Hickory Nut Gap Farms. The butternut squash mash included leeks and shallots, all from Gaining Ground Farm, and the string beans were one of those spur of the moment, "look how gorgeous those beans are!" additions, and I can't remember exactly which lovely farmer grew them. All was accompanied by fresh Market breads from Farm & Sparrow bakery.

The mini-wedding cake, topped with nasturtium and two vintage swan figurines from
Shay's beloved grandmother's collection, was joined by three different
flavors of cupcakes.
Our finale was a sweet little mini-wedding cake, plus 60 cupcakes in three flavors, all from Short Street Cakes. More nasturtium dressed the cake, along with a beautfiul pair of family heirlooms that Shay has from her grandmother. Adding the absolute perfect compliment were 50 French Macarons, in assorted flavors, from So Fine Chocolates.

pretty macarons!!
A beautiful day, and such a privilege to be a part of a completely love-filled event. So happy for the beautiful bride and her new Mr.!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What a Summer, and What a Fall!

I was amazed to see my last post here was in June, and more amazed to think about all that's happened since then:

Glaze testing continues on the Potters Mark glazes. I may have mentioned it's a slow process. I may never match the glazes, but I'm getting close to getting ... something.

recent tests for Potters Mark Red
I feel grateful every day that I am working at what I love to do, and even more so that I get to do it in a studio with people I love and respect. Studio traffic has been steady and Gallery sales continue to grow as we prepare to celebrate our third anniversary at The Village Potters, I am happily working hard just to keep up with inventory demands. It gets even better when I look through the work I make for my clients, who are all inspirations as business leaders and as people. If you're in my area, you should check them all out:

These little piggies are on their way to Cúrate!

New design for Biltmore Village Inn! (photo by Camilla Photography)

Asheville Bee Charmers, where you'll find an incredible honey tasting bar,
along with some of my mugs, honey pots, and even these sweet necklaces.
Can't wait to see the new boutique at the new
French Broad Chocolate Lounge location!

Have a nice cup of tea after your mass-aaaah-ge
at Sensibilities Day Spa!
And add to that, The Village Potters have been named Finalists for Martha Stewart's American Made Awards in the Crafts Category. It's an exceptional opportunity, and we are humbled to be considered and thrilled to be among so many fine Makers. Did you know you can vote six times a day

You know I believe "homemade tastes better on handmade", and I've been fortunate to have some good experiences on the 'homemade' side a bit more lately. I cook regularly at the studio, to a ridiculously receptive crowd, which only makes me want to do it more (hmmm... I see their plan!). And I was honored to cook a love-filled special meal for a good friend, and with a good friend. It got even better as we got to pick from the absolute cream of the crops and design the entire meal around what was fresh from the Farmer's Market. Watch the homemade tastes better food blog for recipes from that.

And now I'm off on another culinary adventure: I'll be cooking for private groups of eclectic folks gathering to study the hammered dulcimer, and I'll be doing it for three weeks at Virginia Beach. A reasonable question would be 'why am I leaving the studio for three weeks?!' In the final analysis, I tried out two statements: "I got to cook for folks for three weeks at Virginia Beach" and "I passed on a chance to cook for folks for three weeks at Virginia Beach". Adventure wins. And this wasn't a bad motivation either:
Sunrise at Va. Beach (photo by Laurie McCarriar)
And when I get back to Asheville and back in the studio, I get to dive into crazy production to make pots for the holiday season and refill inventories. It will no doubt be highly stressful, extremely exhausting, and at times a tad bit frustrating, but I still wake up every day and think "I get to do this!"

Friday, September 12, 2014

On the subject of Fine Dining and Dinosaur Pasta

“When life is hard and the day has been long, the ideal dinner is not four perfect courses, each in a lovely pool of sauce whose ambrosial flavors are like nothing ever before tasted, but rather something comforting and savory, easy on the digestion – something that makes one feel, if even for only a minute, that one is safe.”  ~Laurie Colwin

My friend Kay Crane posted this quote at the bottom of her recent post on her blog, Big Fat Art Cloth. She wrote on the occasion of her birthday, which, as I notice the clock ticking over as I write this, is today. 

Enjoying one of many lovely meals in Italy with Kay. Grappa Limone!!
As you may read on her blog, we've known each other a good while and yes I used to really have a thing for Tupperware. We've shared many a meal, and many of them quite spectacular in composition and quantity. But our beginnings were much more humble, and in truth, I was always a bit surprised at how impressed and grateful Kay was to have me offer her up dinosaur pasta with butter and cheese. That was my go-to meal on the go when we were in that short rest between our day jobs and our evenings working on a production of "The Miracle Worker". I thought she was just happy someone else was cooking, and that it wasn't peanut butter crackers from the gas station, but I do believe more it was good midwest manners that her Mama Ceil instilled from an early age. 

When I read that quote by Laurie Colwin, the last line really rang true for those experiences we shared and the vast amount of dinosaur pasta we ingested. It's no wonder they're extinct, but in those moments, we were safe. Safe from the crazy of the day behind us, safe from hunger, safe to take our day, part two, well into the evening. That alone would make me want to read more of Laurie Colwin's writing, and now I won't have to wait as Kay has sent me one of her books and I know I'm going to love it. 

So in honor of my good friend's birthday, I have re-invented our dinosaur pasta. If you've read my blogs and 'recipes', you know I am challenged to follow a recipe to its word. That goes for my own recipes, too. I regret I no longer keep dino-pasta stocked in the pantry, but I did have some rice penne. And the cow dairy products don't sit too well with me anymore, but I did have some goat butter and odds and ends of lovely sheep's milk cheese. And the basil - well, one does want a touch of color!

What Dinosaur Pasta Looks Like almost 20 Years Later (ok, gotta work on the name for this one):

Rice Penne (I use Tinkyada - the only rice pasta I've found that doesn't go all mushy)
Goat Butter, a couple of knobs
Mangego Cheese, finely grated
Pecorino Romano, finely grated
Salt - a sprinkle in the water while boiling the pasta
3-4 leaves of Basil, julienned

Quantities: start with how much pasta you're cooking, and use an amount of the other ingredients that fits the amount of pasta. No, I didn't measure, I was too busy being nostalgic, but I have great faith that you can work this out. Boil the pasta, drain it and put it in a bowl that already has the butter, which is close to room temp. Melt the butter on the pasta, then add the basil, then the cheese and combine. 

In honor of Kay's birthday, I ate this out of the bowl with the wooden spoon sitting cross-legged on the couch. There's no real relationship to Kay or her birthday and this style of eating, I just thought I should do something special.

Happy Birthday, Kay!