When in Door County, WI, act like a Bier Zot

A what?

from B.C., Johnny Hart

No, not that Zot.

Translated from the Flemish: Bier = Beer   Zot = Idiot or Crazy :  To be a Beer Idiot or someone Crazy for Beer who goes to the Bier Zot Beer Cafe in Sister Bay, Door County, Wisconsin.

Bier Zot front door ( that space in the right side of picture is Wild Tomato 2 Restaurant) , Menu pic

We discovered this fun place last Friday but it has been there since 2014. We’re a bit slow sometimes. The Bier Zot is a Belgian style Beer Cafe that serves 11 drafts, one cask and 100 bottles of craft and Belgian beers. Couple this with a “European inspired” menu and you’ve got a tasty combination. The restaurant has casual pub style decor with outdoor seating as well.

Now the only way we found this place was through another restaurant, Wild Tomato, owned by the same people, Britt & Sara Unkefer. That restaurant in Fish Creek (further down on the peninsula) serves really great wood fired pizza. We did a short post on it in 2010. Last year the owners decided to open Wild Tomato 2 alongside their Bier Zot so while stopping for pizza at the new location we discovered it (the entrances share a hallway.) On this latest trip our destination was definitely Bier Zot, no pizza distraction.

Once seated the Beer Board offered an interesting selection. The waitress helped us navigate through it. There were full descriptions of the beers in the menu as well.

Curt went with the Ommegang Rosetta, a sour beer that I find hard to take by itself but it goes very well with food. I wanted something in the pale ale range and she suggested Boulevard Tropical Pale (half pour please). On both of these we were allowed a sample before committing to a glass. Our friend Carol was with us and she went with the Ommegang as well.

Ommegang Rosetta and Boulevard Tropical Pale

Next up, food. Now Bier Zot describes itself as a European inspired cafe and for the most part that is true. I saw a lot of German influence ( Thursday night was actually German Night) but there was French influence and some just creative cuisine as well. Find their menu here.

I went with the Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich. Schnitzel is just a pounded, seasoned and breaded meat that is fried. I am sure you are familiar with Wiener Schnitzel which is a breaded veal cutlet. My Chicken Schnitzel was served on a pretzel bun with greens, a yellow heirloom tomato and Dijon horseradish sauce. I liked it.Carol chose the Bier Zot Bratwurst. This was their house recipe brat on pretzel bun accompanied by sauerkraut and Dijon mustard. We can only assume they make these on the premises because it was extra long and it fit the bun, sort of. It had a taste and found it milder than many Wisconsin brats, more like a veal sausage.  I am ordering that next time. Finally Curt started out with a half-dozen Washington State oysters, which seems to be a new addition to the menu, pending availability. He followed that with the Aubergine Zacusca. This was grilled eggplant with tomato, greens, shallots, basil chevré and ground cumin on Naan. Our server told us this was concocted by a former staff member who is Muslim and had a hard time finding anything Halal in the kitchen.  It was a success and  found a permanent home on the menu.  It was excellent.

You can tell we passed our dishes around so everyone could get a taste. Hmm, maybe I’ll have this one next time.All in all it was a very enjoyable lunch and we will return.

One more thing. It took us a minute to figure out what the wooden tables were constructed from…..can you see it? Bleachers. Sturdy and a good reuse. In case you don’t feel like an idiot, Zot can also be translated from Albanian as “god”.  Beer idiot?  Beer god?  Maybe there’s not much difference between the two.

Wow! It Suddenly got Quite Fragrant Here

I’ve been upstairs in the office working on various projects.

Catching up on emails, monitoring the weather, drafting a blog post (not this one) and working on a woodblock design, when what to my wondering nose should appear the smell of onions closely followed by curry and other smells I couldn’t identify.

My husband is downstairs experimenting in the kitchen.

I immediately had to investigate the source of all this olfactory stimulus. It was Vadouvan, a spice blend recipe. So what I was smelling was a combination of onions, shallots, garlic, fenugreek, curry, cumin, cardamom, brown mustard seed, turmeric, nutmeg, cloves, red pepper flakes and vegetable oil. By the time I arrived it had all been ground and combined and placed on parchment paper and was now in the oven browning.

Curt had seen one of the home cooks on the Masterchef television show use it and Mr. Curiosity had to know more. Basically it is, or will be, a ready-to-use blend of spices that is a French derivative of a masala. A masala is a South Asian spice mix. If it is a success we will be enjoying it on our chicken thighs tonight with a side of cilantro/vinegar/oil dressed potatoes.

For now, with the house closed up because of the heat and the impending storms, I feel like I am living in a spice market somewhere between France and South Vietnam.

Institutional Food #2 – The Rehab Facility

So I was discharged from the hospital at 11:00 am and got to the Rehab Facility around 11:30. Got checked in and installed in my room by 12:30 pm. I know someone asked me if I had eaten and something was brought to me but that is lost in the mists. Probably because dinner that evening was very memorable, a Pizza Burger.

Now before I go any farther I have to explain the meal situation at this place. It is an  Assisted Living and Rehabilitation Facility. That means there are short-timers in rehab, like me, and there are long-timers or people who actually live here. We are separated into two wings but we can intermingle. I could have gone over to the other side for Bingo and a Packer Party on Sunday but I passed. Long-timers are mostly elderly seniors (Hey! who you looking at?) and as a group they mostly want their noon meal to be the main meal (what I call dinner) and their evening meal light ( what I would call lunch). They outnumber us so that’s how the meals are served. This will all make sense later.

Now, the Pizza Burger. As in the hospital you get a little menu ticket. On it are usually two choices for a main and then a bunch of sides. You can circle everything if you want. I think one of the choices that night was fish so I went with the Pizza Burger, on my Certified Nursing Assistant’s (CNA) recommendation. Later, I had to remind myself that I really didn’t know anything about their taste in food so recommendations were a crap shoot.

Pizza Burger

Pizza Burger

My dinner included a very soft bun, a beef patty covered in Marinara sauce and a few bits of cheese, a bag of chips and yellow jello w/ cool whip top. But that’s not all that made this a PIZZA burger. When I bit into it, surprise! it was stuffed with mozzarella. The cole slaw was good.

After getting pancake/sausage bites one morning for breakfast, I decided to stick with cereal, raisin bran, because I needed to stay ‘regular’. However this place is the same as the hospital, that is, make sure you ask for everything. If you don’t circle milk, you’ll eat your cereal dry. And the raisins are usually dumped in a pile in the middle. So I would break up the clump and get some milk and it was a good breakfast.

Sausage/pancake bites are soggy pancakes around breakfast sausage with some syrup for dip. A three year old would love them.

Sausage/pancake bites are soggy pancakes around breakfast sausage with some syrup for dip. A three-year old would love them.

Remember my explanation of lunch vs dinner servings? This is what I mean.

Meatloaf, Turkey and Swedish Meatballs

Meatloaf, Turkey and Swedish Meatballs

These were usually pretty good but whoa, that’s a lot of food for lunch. Each had a dessert and beverage as well. Veggies could have been crisper but I don’t think they were from a can. Then there was dinner.

Billed as chicken salad (left) and potpie on a bisquit (right)

Billed as chicken salad (left) and potpie on a biscuit (right)

On the menu it said chicken salad on tomato slices. I love chicken salad but an ice cream scoop of salad on one little tomato slice was pretty disappointing. Potpie on a biscuit was also a controlled serving. More like chicken a la king. It was fine but I wanted more! And come on folks! It was September. Our garden and our local Farmer’s Market still had really good tomatoes coming in. So did the grocery stores. Where are the people at this facility forced to shop? Here’s what I mean. One night a BLT was on the menu. Well can anyone resist a bacon sandwich, with a red ripe tomato and crispy lettuce on toasted bread? Sorry. This just didn’t come close.bbllttFortunately when I got home my Sweetie made me a BLT worthy of the name.

Finally, did you recall that tossed salad I praised in my hospital food post? When I saw tossed salad on my Rehab menu I thought oh yes! that will make up for any sins of limp bread, pink tomatoes or fruit cocktail. However, one tossed salad is not like another.

1. Actually different items to toss 2. iceberg lettuce.

1. Actually different items to toss (hospital) 2. Iceberg lettuce (rehab)

Oh well. I don’t mean to diss the food service at rehab too badly. The food came pretty promptly, I had choices and except for a few missteps, it was all edible, sometimes pretty tasty. However the whole time I was there I kept clicking my heels and repeating, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

Institutional Food #1 – The Hospital

We talk a lot about food on this blog. Food we make ourselves, wonderful restaurant food whether it be from a high-end place and a basic roadside diner. We have written about meals friends have served us. We have talked about the sources of the food we cook with, like the Farmers Market, online shops or just out of our own garden. But I don’t think we have ever addressed institutional food. You know, the high school cafeteria, the college food service or the hospital experience.

Since my knee replacement surgery two weeks ago I have been subjected to hospital creations and then the meals at a rehab facility. Whose is better, let’s start at the beginning, the hospital. My first dinner after surgery was predictably unexciting. I was coming off of anesthesia and my meal ticket said ‘soft diet.’ My tray appeared at 5pm with vanilla ice cream, an Ensure shake, a banana, milk, juice, tea and a bowl of cream of wheat. I was hungry but not really in an eating mood. I drank some tea, had some juice and then bravely took a spoonful of Cream of Wheat, bleh! It tasted as bad as it looked. So I cut up the banana and added it to the bowl with two packets of sugar…two more packets of sugar later and it still was pretty bleh. So I ate the ice cream.

Cream of Wheat

Cream of Wheat

Everyday you are in the hospital they give you a little menu sheet where you choose your upcoming meals. For the day after surgery breakfast I stayed away from Cream of Wheat and went for scrambled eggs. Also orange juice and oatmeal.

Scrambled eggs?

Scrambled eggs?

When I lifted the lid from my plate I thought I was looking at chunks of butter. The eggs, all naked w/o benefit of salt, pepper, onion, cheese or green pepper, didn’t taste bad but they looked fake. They were obviously poured into a pan, then cooked or baked , and then cut into chunks and served. A very weird-looking scramble. I also had oatmeal that morning which was more palatable than the CoW but it also needed sugar and milk, which if you don’t circle on the sheet, you do not receive. This is the same if I had ordered dry cereal.

However after these meals the food at the hospital definitely improved. Turkey and gravy and a roll with green beans was pretty good. Especially the green beans. They were fresh green beans, not canned or frozen, and not cooked to the consistency of soft paste. I was shocked! I gobbled them up and sent my congratulations to the kitchen. Positive reinforcement is a good thing.

Beans with a crunch!

Beans with a crunch!

Encouraged I chose the roast beef, sweet potatoes, broccoli and tossed salad for my next evening meal. Oh, they finally took me off “soft diet”. Yes, I had done my bodily duty and my system was functioning again.roast-beefLooks pretty normal, right? Well except for the strange rectangles the meat was cut into. From the picture, my husband thought I had meatloaf but it was indeed roast beef. broccoli was good, the sweets weren’t bad but look at that tossed salad? Spring mix, tomatoes, even a cucumber slice! The kitchen was scoring big points with me. Oh, keep that salad in mind, it is going to look even better when I get to my next culinary adventure.

To top it off that’s chocolate pudding with whipped cream for dessert. I was starting to like hospital food more and more. However, all good things must come to an end. Friday, September 23, I was transferred to the Rehab Facility. First meal of the evening, a pizza burger.

 

Ever Eat a Daylily, Bud?

Once again my husband tries something new from the garden. This time it is from the flower garden. We have some beautiful daylilies blooming right now. The perfect ingredient for a tasty appetizer?lily3

But for the ingredient in this recipe you have to look past the lily.lily2

You’re getting close but you have to go a little further past the flower.

budsAh there they are, right next to the flowers. The buds.budThe new buds are what you want to pick to make

Pickled Daylily Buds

2 1/2 cups water
4 Tbls salt
35 daylily buds ( the tastiest are those just about to open)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, halved

1. Place 2 cups of water and the salt in a bowl, stirring until the salt dissolves. Add the daylily buds and let stand overnight, covered.

2. In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar and garlic.

3. Put the drained daylily buds in a clean pint jar. Add the hot cider to almost the top, cover, and allow to cool on the counter. When cool, place in the refrigerator and leave for 2 weeks to pickle. We ate them in 24 hours and they were fine.

They taste like pickled beans and are a nice accompaniment to a sandwich or as an appetizer with a piece of cheese and a glass of wine. Fun Summer food!jar

I ate an oyster and I liked it

No seriously, I did. It wasn’t bad. This experience won’t make me run out and order raw oysters the next chance I get but it was interesting and not unpleasant.oyst

How did I get in an oyster eating situation? Me, who hardly will touch cooked fish, eating something raw. Well it was our anniversary, the 43rd. Not a significant number according to the Wedding Gift list. After 25 it skips every 5 years so I have to wait till 45 for my sapphires. Uh-huh. But we like to go out and do something fun or different on our anniversary no matter what year it is. This year we decided to go back to Restaurant Three-Three-Five where we took a close friend of ours for a retirement celebration in January. As I mentioned in that post they are only open to the pubic one day a week and take reservations one week in advance. And their menu is different every week. So I called and was told that this coming week they were having an 8-course prix-fixe Crudo menu. Each course included a drink pairing and in this case it would be craft beers. Curt, of course, knew immediately what Crudo meant but I needed to ask details. Crudo is Italian for raw and basically the meal would be composed of raw fish and raw meat (tartare). I expressed my reluctance to raw fish to the person on the phone who said they could accommodate me so… I made the reservation.

I really don’t know why I said yes. Maybe I am at an age where having a new adventure doesn’t happen that often so what the hell! Anyway, the week went by quickly and all of a sudden I found myself at a restaurant where I was going to be presented with raw fish. What the hell is right, as in what the hell was I thinking? Do I really want new adventures?

We were greeted at the door, offered a glass of champagne and seated outside (it was a pleasantly warm June evening) to wait to be seated. There were two (2 hour) services that night and we were in the 5:30 one. Once they were ready for us we joined 8 other adventurous souls at a long counter that faced the kitchen. We were going to be able to watch as everything was plated and prepared. Food Theater!

Lft: Counter of ten, Beer expert presiding. Rt: Plating area

Lft: Counter of ten, Beer expert presiding. Rt: Plating area

Before each course we were poured a small glass of beer and the beer expert or cicerone explained the source, the ingredients and/or the brew process.

Craft Beers; sweet, sour or earthy

Craft Beers; sweet, sour or earthy

So far, so good…then the first course arrived and naturally it was raw oysters. However, the chef had obviously taken good notes when I made the reservation because my course was fried oysters with pea shoots. How nice. But there was Curt, looking at me with those questioning eyes and then saying, “Would you like to try a raw one?” Long pause…….I said yes. The raw ones came with toppings or accents or mignonette of rhubarb or lemon. I tried the rhubarb. Yes, I put it to my lips and in it went. I chewed once or twice and then slipped it down my throat. And….it was tasty. No gagging, no funny faces.

Fried vs Raw oysters

Fried vs Raw oysters

The next four courses were Razor Clams (w/ green strawberries, osstra caviar, dill weed), Hamachi fish (w/ daikon “noodles”, chive blossoms, toasted pine nuts, cold-pressed pineapple juice, pineapple week), Tuna (w/nasturtiums, crispy capers, pickled capers, celery sprouts) and Trout (w/crispy chicken skin, pickled fennel). Curt’s were raw, mine were poached or lightly seared. All amazing flavors and the beers paired with them were great matches. (To see the dishes larger just click on the images)

Lft to Rt: Razor Clams, Hamachi, Tuna, Trout

Lft to Rt: Razor Clams, Hamachi, Tuna, Trout – top row cooked, bottom row raw.

But for the last three courses (fluke, scallops and lamb) the Chef came over and asked me if I wanted them cooked because he suggested they would be much better raw and he thinks I would like them. How can I disagree with the Chef? Okay…in for a dime, in for a dollar.

The Fluke was delicate. It had garnishes of sliced radish, pickled rhubarb, micro greens and buttermilk sauce.flukeCJThe Scallops were sliced impossibly thin and were tangy with Fresno chile, kiwi pulp and micro greens. We each got a tiny finger lime which we squeezed onto the scallops. Our fingers smelled wonderful.

Finger lime and scallops

Finger lime and scallops

And just before dessert we had Lamb Loin Tartare. This had pickled mushrooms and Mt.Rainier cherries and I would have loved a second helping. lambJC So now you know what you get for your 43rd wedding anniversary – seafood. As we finished I realized I had  just eaten more seafood, and raw seafood. that I had ever eaten in my entire life and I liked it. We ended with a dessert of lovely strawberry slices topped with balsamic vinegar and black pepper. Can’t wait to find out what we will do for anniversary 44.

 

It’s Sandwichtime!

Yesterday was a weird eating day. Curt took out some boneless chicken breasts to thaw for dinner. In the meantime we decided to go to a movie, Anomalisa. We had read some interesting things about it and it was one of those films that we knew would be gone in a week. Showings were at 11:45am and 4:50pm. We opted for the earlier showing since we also had tickets to a play in the evening. The play was at 7:30. Then my Mom called and asked if we could stop over to her apartment to do just a few simple projects.

All of this threw our eating schedule into the weirdness I spoke of. Since the movie was during our normal lunchtime, we ate some crackers and cheese to tide us over till after the movie. The movie got out around 1:30 so off we went to lunch before heading to my Mom’s place around 2:30. Left her place an hour later and did a couple of errands. By the time we got home it was 4:30. We usually eat dinner around 7:00 but we had the play at 7:30 so that meant eating earlier but no one was hungry. So more cheese and crackers and a glass of wine and out the door in time to get to the play. Once we were home no one wanted a big meal so we each found a few snacks.

Where is this all leading? Well remember those chicken breasts Curt was thawing out for dinner? They were still in the fridge this morning and they became lunch today. He first made paillards of the chicken by putting them between two pieces of wax paper and pounding them pretty flat. Then they were breaded with Panko bread crumbs and sauted. He baked two whole wheat “take and bake” rolls, and made a spicy sauce from mayonaisse and Korean chili sauce. tomat

Put those together with a slice of tomato, some shredded flat leaf parsley and curly endive, and we had a great lunch. Just like MacDonald’s spicy chicken sandwich or rather 100 times better.

Curt's spicy chicken sandwich

Curt’s spicy chicken sandwich

Oh, What a Night!

Last night was almost surreal, or maybe I was hallucinating but a little “sort of surprise” retirement party took a lot of interesting turns. If I was Alice I might have thought I was sliding into the rabbit hole but no, we were at a new restaurant, to us, called THREE THREE FIVE. Seems it has been here in Green Bay for almost six years and we vaguely knew of it but had never been there. Fine foodies we are. Anyway this all started because a dear friend of ours is officially retiring from a fine academic career and we, Curt and I, and three other of her friends wanted to celebrate this milestone. We were initially called by Sid who proposed this outing. We readily agreed and the planning began. This particular restaurant was her first choice but they are a bit unusual as they are only open on Wednesdays to the general public. The rest of the time they host private parties, cooking classes and corporate gatherings. They tout themselves as an upscale private dining studio. Also they only take reservations a week ahead so on the off-chance we could not get a booking, Sid put an alternate plan in motion. She reserved us a table at Cafe Chanson, a local restaurant featuring French cuisine. If we couldn’t get THREE THREE FIVE, Cafe Chanson was a lock.

THREE I THREE I FIVE with Christmas lights reflected in window

THREE THREE FIVE with Christmas lights reflected in window

Fortunately she was able to get us a table and our guest of honor promised to hold the date open. We weren’t telling where we were going just that Curt and I were picking her up at 5:40pm. No dancing shoes required but bring your appetite.

When we entered the dining room we immediately saw two other friends and former colleagues from the University who had retired a few years earlier. They are great foodies and it wasn’t surprising that they had discovered this restaurant and were regular diners. They, of course, had a seat at the counter which overlooked the kitchen and the food prep. We greeted them and asked about the food, needless to say they gave it a vigorous thumbs up.

Once seated we got caught up in the atmosphere and the menu, which was printed on origami paper and had extremely small type. This group does not have young eyes and this was REALLY SMALL type and the lighting was dim. We muddled through but Ginny dug out her magnifying glass. The theme of tonight’s menu was the chef’s interpretation of Japanese cuisine.  We discovered later that each Wednesday is different and some evenings the menu has twice as many choices. Tonight happened to be Asian.

Origami Paper Menu

Origami Paper Menu

Three Three Five menu 1/6/16

THREE THREE FIVE menu 1/6/16

Once we started ordering I didn’t think of taking pictures of the food but this being a special occasion, it really wouldn’t have been appropriate. Some of us just wanted to graze on starters while three of us went directly for the Tonkatsu Ramen. Between the 6 of us we ended up trying everything except the Bread & Butter and the Steamed Bun (which we saw on another table and it looked great).

Now is when some of the special things happened. The chef arrived at our table saying this must be a special occasion because a couple at the bar wanted to buy us a bottle of wine or two bottles or cocktails. Well of course it was the friends I mentioned earlier. We went with a bottle of champagne (and asked him not to break the bank with his choice.) He chose well, not too dry, not too sweet.

After a few more plates were brought to the table, the chef sent an order of sablefish with his compliments. Okay here is the second weird thing this night. If you read us regularly, you know I don’t eat fish. I can’t even get it near my mouth. But Carol, after tasting the sablefish said I had to try this. It didn’t taste fishy. I would like it! All right, for the guest of honor, I would try. it. I am embarrassed to admit, I liked it. It was almost buttery. And…I had a second piece. Whoa! we were definitely down the rabbit hole.

As we ate and observed the other diners, we started to recognize people we knew but were not acquainted with, like the new director of the public library. He started after I retired so I was a stranger to him. Also one of our local sports stars, Jordy Nelson, from the Green Bay Packers. He is on the injured list so obviously can go out for a nice dinner instead of sweating it out somewhere preparing for this weekend’s playoff game.

As to the food… the Tonkatsu Ramen was amazing. Fabulous broth, mushrooms, slices of super tender pork belly and a perfectly cooked egg with a firmly set white and a totally runny yolk inside. We were so impressed with the egg that we asked the chef for details on how he accomplished that trick.

Curt pronounced the oysters good even if there was too much granita on top.The Wagyu Beef Dumplings were fabulous. Sid and Carol gave us some little tastes but kept the majority for themselves; they were really almost too good to share. The only real disappointment was the Chilled Foie Gras…lots of Riesling gel, lots of ground pine nuts, slices of lychee but if there was foie gras in there, Ginny couldn’t find it. The rest of us looked too. Maybe they waved it over the plate before bringing it to the table.  But that was a minor blip in the evening.

The major surprise came at the very end when we asked for our check and was told, “your bill has been taken care of.”. What?  No way. Our friends again.  Where are those two?  Gone.  Of course, the waitress wouldn’t tell us what it came to so we might tip her appropriately and we couldn’t thank our benefactors. So one of us asked if THREE THREE FIVE had gift certificates. They did, so we left a $100 certificate for our generous friends and an additional tip for the waitress. Next time our friends come in, it will be their turn for a surprise.

Like I said, What a Night!

 

 

Just a Little Nutty, vol.1

Walnut/Parsley Pesto

About a year ago Jeanne subscribed to Bon Appetit magazine. We had some extra airline miles or reward points, who knows, so she thought we would take a chance on a new subscription. I was skeptical. We have a subscription to Saveur, and in the past we have gotten Fine Cooking, Gourmet, and the much-missed Cuisine (now defunct). But for some reason Bon Appetit seemed to be equated with Good Housekeeping in my mind. But surprise, surprise, we have gotten some fine recipes out of this publication. The December issue arrived the other day and the theme splashed across the cover was “Cookies!”. So of course it was the holiday issue and I immediately said there wouldn’t be much to cook from this issue.

However that evening there I was with the magazine open on the counter and ingredients for a Bucatini with Walnut-Parsley Pesto gathered next to it. As I browsed past the Buche de Noel and the Ombre Rainbow cookies this recipe jumped out and I knew it sounded good and that we pretty much had everything needed to prepare it.  Of course, with some make-do substitutions.

First off, we had two sizes of bucatini, a long,hollow, macaroni-like pasta, but not enough of either size to make a meal. So, I used both. Luckily, even though they were technically of different overall diameters, the wall thickness of each was the same and so they would cook at the same rate.

noodles

Bucatini, big (right) and small (left)

Now onward to the recipe, with a few apologies to Bon Appetit.

Ingredients

Adapted to yield 2 servings

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 Piquillo peppers and 2 Piparras peppers.  The original recipe called for 3 pickled Calabrian peppers or 1/2 Fresno chile with seeds.  Calabrian peppers seem to be the darling of the food world these days but we didn’t have any.  The Piquillo are sweet pimento-like peppers and Piparras are small pickled, mild, chili-like peppers.  We used Matiz brand of both.  Pimento and Pepperoncini, seeded, would be an acceptable substitutions.
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • 3/4 ounce Parmesan, finely grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 – 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 3/8 pound bucatini or spaghetti (about 6 ounces), broken in half lengthwise
Ingredients measured and ready to go

Ingredients measured and ready to go

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.  You can do this in a dry skillet too but watch carefully so you don’t scorch the walnuts.
  • Reserve 2 Tbs. of the walnuts.   Pulse remaining walnuts in a food processor or blender until very finely chopped (but not pasty). Reserve remaining walnuts for serving. Remove stems from Piparras peppers; add Piquillo and Piparras peppers to food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer walnut/pepper mixture to a medium bowl and stir in garlic, Parmesan, oil, and parsley. Season pesto with salt and pepper.  Taste to adjust seasoning.  You should be able to taste the walnuts, garlic, cheese and parsley without any one of them taking over.  Try to avoid eating the whole bowl before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

    Ingredients, chopped and mixed waiting for the pasta to be cooked

    Ingredients, chopped and mixed waiting for the pasta to be cooked

  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente.   Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot and add pesto along with 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Toss, adding splashes of cooking liquid as needed, until pesto coats pasta and sauce is glossy.
  • Crush reserved walnuts with the flat side of a knife. Divide pasta among bowls and top with walnuts and more parsley.
  • Do Ahead: Although the pesto can be made ahead, and kept covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days, it hardly seems necessary.  The prep takes little time, there’s no actual cooking involved and the pesto will taste best when freshly make.

I usually like to add a bit of protein so with this dish I coated a few shrimp with Korean chili sauce (G0chujang ) and fried them separately.

Chopped peppers, Shrimp in Koran chili sauce

Chopped peppers, Shrimp in Koran chili sauce

Now when Jeanne cooks a new recipe it is very important that there is a picture. She measures her success on how close her finished dish looks to the photo. I, on the other hand, cook from the recipe.  Pictures are nice but not essential. In this case I think Jeanne would be pleased at how close my shoot-from-the-hip attitude matches the photo.

2plates

Left: Magazine photo from the December, 2015 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  Right: Curt plating (before adding shrimp)

The final plates that came to our table had the shrimp. Bon Appetit!

plate1

This post begins a series that will center around nuts.  I was please with this dish and, my addition of a couple of shrimp notwithstanding, it’s a pretty simple meatless meal.  The nuts add a richness and texture that is appealing.  The recipe got me thinking about nuts in other well known or not so well known dishes.  In the future I will follow my nose and post some other nut based, flavored or inflected dishes that I hope you will like.

Oysters on Chuckanut

view3Oysters on Chuckanut?  Is that a variation on the famous hors-d’oeuvre, Angels on Horseback?  Or, maybe some obscure British pub savory like Toad in the Hole.  Or, possibly a dessert even more obscure than Spotted Dick?

More precisely, it’s The Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive in Bow, Washington where we had more great food, more great views and more time with friends. But first, a bit about The Oyster Bar because I did a little homework.

During the Great Depression, the Rockpoint Oyster Company built an oyster shack between a cliff and Washington State’s first scenic highway, Chuckanut Drive. Here, oysters were sold by the plant manager, Mr. Maekawa, to the travelers that passed by. The little stand did so well a lunch counter was added and the Rockpoint Oyster Restaurant was born. But Maekawa’s family was interned during World War II and the restaurant sat empty from 1942-1946.

When Otto Amos bought the restaurant in 1946 his wife renamed it the Oyster Bar and they coined the slogan “The oysters that we serve today slept last night in Samish Bay.” The menu consisted of deep fried oysters and a ham dish. It was sold in 1954, major renovations were made, and the menu now included prawns, scallops, fish and chips and clam chowder.oldoyster barSince 1970 it has been bought and sold a couple of times and given a makeover in structure, the menu and the wine selections.

The Oyster Bar (2015)

The Oyster Bar (2015)

We were introduced to The Oyster Bar about 5 years ago when we were visiting our friends, Pam and Kenn, in Bellingham. As an afternoon diversion with our Green Bay foodie friends, Barb and Micheal, they suggested that we take a drive down Chuckanut Drive and have lunch at The Oyster Bar.  Well, the drive was spectacular, in part because of the view of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands; in part, because of the breath-taking, sometimes white knuckle, curving road; and, in part, because of the precipitous, densely forested rise on the inland side and an equally precipitous and attention getting drop-off on the Bay side of the road.  About halfway between Fairhaven and Bow, The Oyster Bar is delicately perched on a steep cliff at a wide spot in the road with barely enough room to park a car between the roadway and the restaurant.

On this trip, because it is one of her favorite restaurants, Pam made reservations for all of us to go there for dinner. Once inside the restaurant you feel like you’re dining in a tree house because the view out the windows is nothing but trees and bay.  Here is a peek of the view from our table, that’s our friend Kenn in the corner enjoying the evening.

View from The Oyster Bar

View from The Oyster Bar

Once we pulled ourselves away from the view, we concentrated on the menu. Our waiter was very knowledgeable and steered us to a nice German Reisling to start things off. Not to dry, not too sweet. Something for every taste at the table.

A German Reisling

This was followed by appetizers all around.

row 1: crab cakes, gravlax row 2: raw oysters, mixed seasonal greens

row 1: crab cakes, gravlax
row 2: raw oysters, mixed seasonal greens

Curt, of course, had the oysters which he thoroughly enjoyed.  The high point of the oyster presentation was that little cup of a hard cider mignonette granita.  It was so refreshing and unexpected that, even though he normally takes his shellfish au naturale, he actually added some of the mignonette to his oysters this time.  I thought the salad, a combination of greens, toasted walnuts, blue cheese, red onions, gala apples, red grapes and a maple cider viniagrette, was fabulous. The gravlax disappointed. The salmon was very good but there was just too much goat cheese which overpowered the fish and most of which went uneaten. More on the crab cakes later.

After much laughter and talk and more wine being ordering, our entrees arrived. First up, Fresh Alaskan Halibut.

Halibut

Halibut

Pam and Barbara ordered this dish and found it delicate and perfectly cooked. The braised rhubarb and rosemary gastrique on top was a special addition. Going around the table, Kenn was next with Steak and Maine Lobster Tail.

Surf & Turf a la The Oyster Bar

Surf & Turf a la The Oyster Bar

I thought the presentation was interesting. This little tower didn’t last long once Kenn started to eat. I am not sure of the topping. From the picture it looks like pine nuts and maybe onion?

Michael ordered the special, Rockfish.

Rockfish

Rockfish

He described it as a very firm fleshed fish. As you can see by this picture and others, the vegetable of the evening was small new potatoes, steamed carrot, brussel sprouts and squash. Each entree also came with a starter of watermelon sorbet and a cheese souffle, see it up there above the rockfish?

Curt was next with, what else…the Fresh Local Oyster Fry!fried oysters?Not as pretty as the other dishes but he said they were great. They had a crispy parmesan breadcrumb crust and the dipping sauce was a creamy sour apple aoili.

Lastly, I had the Oyster Bar Crab Cakes ( from the entree menu). crabcakesPretty much the same as the appetizer, but a little bigger: Dungeness crab, Jonah crab, celery and onion cakes with a mango chutney. The chutney was a nice sweet addition along with the curried aoili.  And of course the vegetables of the day.

So if you are in Washington State, up near Bellingham, and someone says, “Let’s have oysters on Chuckanut”, run, don’t walk, to The Oyster Bar. Make sure you have good friends with you.