A First!

We have just returned from a ten day trip to Copenhagen and Stockholm. We had never been to Scandinavia and so when this popped up on Road Scholar, we thought, let’s do it. Well that was over a year ago and everyone must of had the same idea because by the time I tried to book the trip all of the dates had waiting lists. So when the 2018 trips were announced we quickly made reservations. Most RS trips are all inclusive, that is, accommodations, travel and meals are all included in the price. And they have you scheduled for tours and activities most of the day.

This trip however, was a Flex trip, lots of free time and many meals on us. Our guides still were available with suggestions and one afternoon before our first dinner “on our own” we asked Hanna her for ideas. Luckily Noma was closed as they planned their move to new digs (not that we had a reservation [needed at least a year in advance] or could have afforded it anyway). But she had a couple of alternatives in mind.

We settles on Vaekst (pronounced “Vixst” as best we can remember). When we arrived the hostess asked if we had reservations…oops…well no. She asked us to wait a moment and disappeared. After a few minutes she returned and told us we would be seated if we could be done by 7:45pm. It was only 6pm so we readily agreed. We were taken to the lower level, literally walking through a greenhouse of hanging plants. Our table for two was surrounded by large tables (6-8) of young professionals. This was a Wednesday evening in Copenhagen, Denmark and the place was humming.

Before we even had a chance to look at the menu a waiter arrived and poured us each a glass of champagne and announced they were celebrating tonight because they had achieved full sustainability. This was a good beginning.The menu arrived and it was very simple. There was a meat choice or a green (vegetarian) choice. The meat menu offered pork breast with the option of two items for substitution, beef tenderloin or brill. The rest of the menu was wine pairings. Curt went with the pork breast and I went Green. However,  as you will soon see, it only looked simple on paper.Before our first course arrived a beautiful bowl of a cream cheese dip with baby carrots and zucchini, broccoli florets and French radishes was put on the table. The dark bits were malt crumble and the cream cheese wasn’t plain but had a bit of lemon and herbs I could not identify. It tasted fresh and summery. Then came the rolls and just fabulous butter. The Danes know how to do butter.

Vegetables w/cream cheese dip, Whole grain bisquits and butter

By now we were done with our champagne and ordered wine. There was also water on the table. And when you ask for water you always are given the choice of still or carbonated.

Next came our first course. On the menu mine said Tomatoes with Roasted Almonds, Ramson & Sesame sauce. I asked what the ransom was and as far as we could make out it was either ramps or green onions. What arrived was a bowl of red, yellow and green tomatoes in an oil and vinegar dressing with a sprinkling of, what I can only guess were, ransom shoots and almond pieces. The little cake was made with chickpeas and the “sesame sauce” was a delicate sesame soup.

Chickpea cake, Sesame soup and a Tomato Salad w/ Ransom shoots

Curt’s first course was the baked hake, which is a mild fish in the cod family.  It came in a bowl along with chive blossoms, mixed herbs and micro-greens and a golden caviar.  Once presented, the server poured a rich buttermilk broth into the bowl.  Yum.

Baked Hake under a buttermilk sauce

This was truly a fun beginning. The presentations were beautiful and the food well-prepared. With great anticipation we awaited our main course but before it arrived another dish came to the table. I believe the waitress called them pancakes but I would say they were little crepes filled with fennel, micro-greens and a lemon creme.

Vegetable crepes

After this tasty snack, the main courses came to the table. Curt’s was Fried Pork Breast with Cabbage, Lemon and Yogurt. A salad arrived with the pork, which we think had the lemon and yogurt as a dressing.

Fried Pork Breast

Mine from the Green Menu was Grilled White Asparagus with Truffle & Porcini Mushroom Sauce.There were also artichoke hearts tucked under the asparagus. Another extra dish of small potatoes in a creamy sauce was put on the table.

White Asparagus, artichoke hearts, porcini mushroom sauce

Curt’s greens & radish salad, a bowl of new potatoes to share

By now we were getting pretty full because even if the portions were small, there were many of them. But we had come this far on our culinary adventure and would not be passing on dessert. Also by now our time was getting short and 7:45pm had come and gone, but no one mentioned it or tried to hustle us along. So Curt ordered an espresso with his dessert. His Strawberry Sorbet had White Chocolate Chips on top, and it was surrounded by a buttermilk and vanilla cream sauce. Mine was a Dark Chocolate Sorbet on top of a Rhubarb compote with a Caramel Chip. Okay, this was heaven.It was a wonderful evening but the final surprise came after we left. As I was taking pictures of the front of the restaurant, because of course I was going to write about it, we saw a little framed card on the outside wall of the building. We had just eaten at our first Michelin starred Restaurant. Wow!  We walked back to our hotel smiling all the way.

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What Makes a Great Brunch?

Thursday evening we hosted a casual dinner for friends. Chicken wings, baked beans, potato salad… we opted for Kofta instead of burgers and we added a Tabbouleh just because we could. It was a reunion of friends who had not been together for a while so when the evening ended, Barbara said, “If everyone is free on Friday why don’t we continue all this conversation over brunch? I’ve got some eggs and bacon, and I think there is some fruit in the fridge.” This worked for us and our out-of-towners didn’t have any obligations till that evening. We volunteered to pick up some cinnamon bread and so it was set.

When we arrived the next morning the wonderful aroma of bacon greeted us. But that was only a hint of the delightful meal awaiting us. When my friend said she had some eggs, I was expecting some scrambled eggs but instead we had a wonderful Egg Bake.

Egg Bake a la Barbara

Then there was the fabulous oven-fried potatoes (white and sweets), bacon and fruit. The Raisin, Walnut, Cinnamon bread we brought fit right in and it tasted great with the Cloudberry Preserves from our Bellingham friends.

White and Sweet potatoes

BACON!!

Strawberries, oranges …sorry, this was taken before the blueberries were added.

Raisin, Walnut, Cinnamon Bread from Uncle Mike’s Bakery

Cloudberry Preserves

This was  accompanied by coffee. The food was all wonderful but you know what really makes a great brunch? The people you share it with. Here we are in deep conversation about the issues of the day or maybe it was just a discussion about the latest Scandinavian Noir mystery series we watched on Netflix?

The Brunch Bunch minus the photographer.

Below is the recipe for the Egg Bake. So simple yet sooo good.

Egg Bake a la Barbara (feeds 6 – 8 hungry people)

11 large eggs
1 cup milk ( 2% is fine)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper, to taste
1 1/2 Cups White Sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

•  Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 2 quart shallow baking dish ( about 2″ deep)
•  Whisk together the eggs, milk, S&P, and Cayenne till smooth, then whisk in the
cheese
•  Pour mixture into baking dish. Bake until puffed and golden, and the eggs are set.
Check at 20 minutes. Time seems to vary 20-25 minutes.

A very versatile recipe. You can try it with fresh herbs or different cheeses. Makes a great presentation for your guests if you can time it to come out of the oven just before everyone is seated.

 

Final Asparagus Patch Post

As I was preparing this post I discovered that I do a lot of whining about our asparagus patch. In 2010 I thought for sure that our then 30 year old patch was done, finished, kapoot! Then 3 years later I was amazed at how much asparagus I was picking even though the thistles and weeds had pretty much won the fight for supremacy.

But this year the almost 40 year old patch is really all but dead. There are not just mystery weeds, dandelions, and thistles but trees, invading raspberry canes, grass and lots of Queen Anne’s Lace.

The original patch began at the bottom of the above picture and extended to the edge just before the back field. Grass and dandelions are now the main crop. Curt has been mowing the front area but further back trees and raspberry canes have taken over and we will need a saw before we can mow that part.But as the saying goes, “Hope springs eternal.”  Last week I noticed in the front area a few green stalks that looked different from the other stalks. Sure enough, a few asparagus roots were valiantly trying to survive. So I kept looking, even in the back section. Here are the Magic Eye pictures of asparagus hunting. In each pair, the top picture is of a spear, the 2nd picture has an arrow so you can see the spear. Scroll slowing.Or try this one.

So with enough patience and a little bit of foraging across the road (where some volunteers from somewhere are coming up) we came up with enough for our dinner salad with a few left over for omelets in the morning. Nothing like the 20-25 pounds we used to get when the patch was young but still interesting.

Top bunch was from the old patch, bottom bunch from across the road.

Thanks for sticking with me all these years but enough about asparagus, I hear the garlic crop is doing well.

Honor the Source

We have a dear friend, Kenn, who grew up a hunter in Northeastern Wisconsin. He long ago moved to Washington State but returns almost every fall to hunt for deer with his son and other relatives. Some years the hunt is better than others. Those years, when he is lucky, we are gifted with a piece of venison. This year Kenn appeared at our door on Thanksgiving day with a piece of loin, a prime cut.

The loin was about 1-1/2# and as beautiful a piece of meat as you could want. But what to do with it? I felt that however I prepared it, I should take care to honor the source – both the animal and my friend, the hunter.

A pound and a half of venison loin is pure meat. Aside from the silverskin, there is no loss to trimming. A pound and a half is also too much meat for two people to eat at one sitting. What ever I did would have to take into account the inevitable left-overs in an equally respectful manner.

This is the tale of the first meal from the loin. The two subsequent meals gleaned from the leftovers follow here;

Honor the Source; Thai Venison Salad
Honor the Source; Venison Potato Salad with Garlicky Dressing

Venison loin. Honor the animal. Honor the hunter.

I don’t get to cook venison very often and am always hesitant in doing so for fear of ruining it. It’s not like I can just go down to the grocery and pick up another loin if I screw this one up.  So it’s taken me from Thanksgiving until March to work up the courage and confidence to tackle this.  My plan was to cook the whole loin in the first pass in such a way as to leave myself some leeway in dealing with the rest in the second and third meals.  Rather than roast the loin whole, I cut it into thick medallions as a form of portion control (remember, there’s supposed to be left-overs).  To season the meat I chose a rub that promised to enhance the flavor of the meat without overwhelming it and without limiting too much what I could do with the remaining meat.

Pan Roasted Venison Medallions with Smoky Chipotle Rub

2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 Tbs. smoked paprika
1 Tbs. sea salt
1 tsp. chipotle chile pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2# venison loin, cut into 6 portions
1 Tbs. duck fat

Mix the dry ingredients and coat the venison medallions well on both sides.  Set aside to rest for several minutes

Coat the venison medallions with smoky chipotle rub

Preheat a well seasoned cast iron skillet to near smoking.  Add the duck fat and tip the skillet to coat the bottom.

Sear the venison in a HOT cast iron pan

Quickly add the venison medallions, spacing them evenly in the pan.  DO NOT MOVE THEM AROUND.

Turn once a nice crust has developed

Leave them sear for 4 or 5 minutes to let a crust develop.  Turn each medallion over and continue to saute for an additional 4 – 5 minutes or until done to your liking – I was shooting for medium-rare.

 

Oops. I always get carried away and forget to take a picture of the finished dish until I’ve eaten half of it.

Remove the venison to a serving plate and let rest 5 minutes.  Serve with a vegetable and a starch of you choosing.  I chose crudites (cucumber, radish and carrot) with a lime dipping salt (2 pts. sea salt, 2 pts. sugar, 1 pt. lime zest – mix well) and purgatory beans cooked grandma style with sage and bay.

When done well, a small piece of venison is satisfying and I hope I was respectful of the animal that provided it and to the hunter who gifted it to us.  Thank you Kenn.

Plan in Place, Dinner Party in Action

Dessert cakes were done the day before. Morning of dinner, butterscotch sauce was made. Corn soup with Indian spices finished before noon. Brioche pudding in oven.

By 1:00 PM we had a strong start on what would be five courses. Guests were due in five hours.

I am sorry to say actual pictures will be few since we got so caught up in cooking and greeting and serving that the camera was forgotten. So I will use some pictures from the cookbooks. Our food looked exactly the same (smile).

The appetizers are pretty self-explanatory. Suffice to say once we decided on the Chicken Livers with Sherry Glaze we found a ton of recipes on the web. It was more common than we thought. So just Google it. Once guests arrived we quick grilled them and the Pears and Prosciutto.

Dinner began with Corn Soup w/ Indian Spices from David Tanis Market Cooking. The spices included garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, black mustard seed and cayenne. It had a wonderful tang over the creamy corn flavor. It may be the first time we’ve done a soup puree but it turned out quite nice. A tablespoon of whole milk yogurt and some chives topped it off. The yogurt in the photo seems to have cayenne in it.

photo from David Tanis Market Cooking

The Fennel, Radish and Mushroom Salad was from the same book. The lemon/olive oil dressing had been made ahead and the vegetables were all cut so it was any easy job to combine, plate and serve. We used watermelon radishes which looked so nice with the pale fennel and mushrooms.The main course was from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Nopi. The original recipe was Chicken Supremes with Roasted Garlic and Tarragon Brioche Pudding. We substituted duck breast. Because the brioche pudding is so different from anything we have made before I am including the recipe here. If our guests read this I think the ingredients may surprise them. It is very rich.

Tarragon Brioche Pudding

2 heads garlic
1/4 C olive oil
4 eggs
1 1/4 C heavy cream
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp grd cinnamon
1/2 oz. finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
14 oz. crustless brioche loaf, trimmed and cut into slices
Sea salt and Black pepper

Cut off the tops of the garlic cloves, place on a square of foil. Drizzle w/ 2 Tbls olive oil, sprinkle w/ salt, wrap up the bundle and roast for 35 minutes. Once done and cool to the touch, squeeze out the insides of the garlic and crush to a fine paste.

Place the eggs in a bowl and whisk. Add cream, nutmeg, cinnamon and tarragon with 1 tsp salt and a grind of pepper. Put aside.

Lightly grease a 9″ x 4″ loaf plan with butter and line with parchment paper. Brush a bit more butter on the paper then layer the bottom with brioche bread. Spread half of the garlic puree on top and pour over a third of the cream mixture. Another layer of bread, pushed down so it gets soaked in the cream. Then spread the rest of the garlic, pour another third of the cream and top with the last layer of bread. Finish with the remainder of the cream. Lightly press down and set aside for 30 minutes.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Should be brown on top and a knife inserted should come out clean. Once it is cooled and removed from pan it looks like this.Cut off the end edges and slice into six pieces. Just before serving, fry the slices in a bit of olive oil over a medium heat. Here is what it looks like when served with the duck and the peas & tarragon au jus.

Brioche Pudding: photo from Nopi by Yotam Ottolenghi

It was yummy but alas the recipe serves six so there were no leftovers.

After some time of talk and laughter and wine we served dessert which was described as Sticky Toffee Puddings but in reality looked like little cupcakes with butterscotch sauce and whipped cream on top. They didn’t look great but tasted good.

So with thoughts of an early Spring I had daffodils and green napkins and a floral runner on the table. (My hopes were high but as I write this, two days later, rain turning to sleet and ice is carrying on outside.) It doesn’t matter the dinner was a success.

Afterward: It only took us till noon the next day to clean up. But being exhausted we did sleep in a bit. However it is always a high doing it and we hope your next gathering is as fun. Bon Appétit!

Dinner Party Prep or A Month of “How about this?”

We are planning a dinner party. Yes, we have done it before, many times, but it is always the same craziness and seemingly endless decision-making. The problem lies in the attitude of the two hosts. Me, who wants everything decided and organized at least a week (2 weeks would be ideal) before guests arrive and He, who says we have a whole week yet before guests arrive. Now you may think that this is because He doesn’t do the actual cooking but He is the main Chef. I’m the time, date, invitations, house cleaning, table setting and dessert person. In other words, Management.

All of this starts at least a month before the actual event. Once we settle on who we wish to invite, the dance of dates begins. We are retired but not everyone we invite is retired and everyone, whether retired or not, has a million other things they are involved in. So at least 6 dates are emailed out to guests before an actual invitation is sent and, fingers crossed, at least one works. That is the easy part. Now, what to serve?

We do a lot of talking and suggesting and mulling but finally a day comes when the cookbooks come out and a decision on the main course must be made. Once an agreement is reached, another afternoon is needed for h’ordeuvres, salad or soup or both and dessert. This time I got things started by suggesting a chicken dish we had a couple of months ago but neither of us really could remember where it came from so I just started going through some books and marking other possibilities. Most of my suggestions get rejected…but he doing the cooking so that’s OKAY, at least we’ve started looking. However this usually gets him to mark a variety of dishes and together we whittle this down to the MAIN. This time Yotem Ottolenghi’s cookbook Nopi, was the winner. (that’s it on top of the post). A day later He called an audible and substituted duck for the chicken.

NOPI -Yotem Ottolenghi

I had already found a dessert, like three weeks ago, so we were set there. He rarely questions the dessert choice and even after throwing out a few other ideas we both went back to my original dessert. This came from the Fall 2017 issue of Sift magazine.

After a lot of dancing around other course ideas for awhile, yesterday, a week before the dinner, the cookbooks came out and decisions were made.Even Martha was consulted, but she didn’t make the cut.The winners eventually were NOPI: main, DAVID TANIS MARKET COOKING: soup, PLENTY: salad, SIFT: dessert and a surprise entry, Mallmann ON FIRE: appetizer. Francis Mallmann is a culinary pyromaniac from South America. We will modify his recipe since he usually specializes in large portions.

pears and prosciutto

So now the store list gets made, I start attacking the house clutter, tableware is chosen and a plan of action for cooking day is developed. Hey, we’ve got a whole week. Ultimately it is all about food and friends and we enjoy every minute.

PS: Post dinner I will write about our successes and near misses.

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.