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Springing Forward

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Let it be known, I hate DST. Always have. I call it Daylight Stupid Time.

It is just stupid to mess with the science. Should we replace “High Noon” with “High 1 PM”? The time zones pretty much align with the transit of the sun. Yes, the edges are off a bit. But, equal daylight on either side of noon is what a time zone delivers.

Plus, I hate that complete disruption of sleep that springing forward creates. If our teenagers are already sleep deprived with early school start times, why are we messing with them by making them get up in the middle of the night to go to school?

Thankfully now we are retired. We get up with the sun and ignore alarms.

Next week we pass the equinox, and enter the months of 12+ hours of daylight, whatever the clock says. We enjoyed the great weather this weekend and finally got out to celebrate the slow return to normal after vaccination.

Local, as usual. Our forays into The Common Kitchen Friday. And, Black Ankle Winery Saturday.

We did take out Friday at Anh-mazing Banh Mi.

They have a new Banh Mi. Cajun Seafood.

Banh Mi reminds me of Po’ Boys, but with serious additions. We also got a noodle bowl.

The Common Kitchen has so many options for good food. Our favorites are Namaste Indian and The Koshary, Middle Eastern. Now, we can add Banh Mi to that list.

Then, Saturday we had errands to run up towards Frederick. On the way home we decided, time to eat out for our first time in a year. Enter Black Ankle Winery.

We have been going there since they opened almost 15 years ago. Right now, over 80 tables socially distanced, where you can sit out and enjoy wine, food and sometimes music because Ed and Sarah have one incredible location catering to those of us who appreciate small businesses full of local choices.

We loved the hour spent there having lunch with a very good bottle of Albariño.

Best al fresco dining view in the area.

I am so glad we can get out and support local businesses. Making our way through the transition and springing forward.

Decadent

So OK, it is just Wednesday. No holiday. No significant life event.

But we live a fairly reclusive life, with no restaurant visits, no day trips, no outdoor activities because of the weather. We have been doing a weekly “cooking as a couple” dinner, which was a New Year’s resolution.

Tonight we cracked open a new cookbook of mine, I Cook in Color. By Asha Gomez.

Clam chowder, made with fennel and leeks.

We are using small, local businesses in our sourcing of ingredients for our cooking. We are supporting the small grocers, liquor stores, farms and a friend who is a wine broker.

We love Italian wines. Todd Ruby Wines is a wine brokerage owned by an amateur radio friend. He brings in awesome wines like this Greco di Tufo. Procured for us by The Wine Bin in Ellicott City. Perfect with the rich clam chowder.

As for the soup ingredients, Some of them came from Boarman’s. Our local grocery store. Littleneck Clams. Clam juice. Canned clams. Leeks. Fennel. Yukon Gold potatoes. Diced pancetta, which was a substitute for the smoked clams in the recipe.

We made our own seafood stock yesterday from leftover lobster claw shells. Used my CSA veggies in the stock.

The finishing touch, flour mixed with half and half, used CSA flour from a mill in Amish country PA.

How did we make it? Chopped leek, fennel and potato. Sautéed in butter. Added three cups of seafood stock. A bottle of clam juice and a can of baby clams. Browned pancetta. A pound of littlenecks.

Finished with a thickener of 1/3 cup of flour and a pint of half and half.

We have enough left for another night’s dinner. We only used half the clams from the bag. They were Chesapeake Bay clams from Virginia, harvested Monday, bought on Tuesday and cooked today.

This expansion of our cooking hobby is what is keeping us sane. While enjoying the fruits of our labor. Wonder what we will tackle on Valentine’s Day?

Celebrations

So today my husband turned seventy. Yep, seventy!

Old enough to be labeled on social media as Boomers. Questioning our computer skills, even though he spent twenty five years running the computer lab at APL, making sure all those Masters’ candidates didn’t fry the hardware while doing their lab projects.

We used to program data collection systems in machine language for the Navy, so yeah, we can program our iPhones.

Now, I made a simple extravagant dinner at home. A combination of local and favorite items. Lobster and cake from Harris Teeter. Filet mignon from Boarman’s. Bubbly from The Wine Bin. A beautiful super Tuscan given to him five years ago by an old friend.

The hits of the evening were the lobster and the Tignanello.

This dinner was simple to make. Steam the lobster. Fry the steaks. Open the wines. Make a salad.

Enjoy a leisurely dinner and watch a good movie.

Happy 70th to my best friend, my hubby.

Ruby

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The 40th Anniversary. According to Hallmark, it is Ruby. You know, incentive to buy cards and other things from that Hallmark store.

August 9th 1980. In 95+ degree heat. We got married.

We thought that we would be going away to celebrate but Covid-19 ruined those plans.

As our celebration, like we do for minor events where I cook and we open old wines, we decided to commemorate that Ruby theme by opening an old Port. From the year we were married.

Yeah, it’s no longer ruby red but it was really incredible. We bought these Ports from Wells Liquors in Baltimore. They were from the closed Brentwood Inn. We figured they would obviously survive for anniversaries far beyond what a bottle of wine could do.

I served the Port with a few lovely dark chocolate salted caramels from Sweet Cascades. We picked them up at the Wine Bin.

I made simple pan fried tenderloin filets. Bought at Boarman’s. Seared to perfection. Opened a Beringer reserve cabernet. Buttered fingerlings. Sliced heirloom tomatoes. Nothing difficult to make.

It’s been an adventure. Forty years together. These days far more time together since we don’t get out much. Not the way we intended to spend retirement but thankfully having a larger hone and a big yard we can get some alone time when we need it.

Let’s hope better times are coming. So we can go out and celebrate my husband’s 70th birthday later this year.

Napa and Sonoma

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I think if there was one place that we would love to live, and that we loved visiting, it was California wine country. For me, the combination of agriculture, culture, climate and activities made it one of our favorite vacation spots.

It depresses me to see it burning out of control.

We spent 10 days there, a decade ago. Rented a house. Visited wineries. Cooked. Grilled. Strolled through amazing farmer’s markets. Ate at awesome restaurants.

Chateau St. Jean. In the news now for the damage to their property.

It was one of the first places we visited. Picnic in the gardens while enjoying a glass of wine.

We went to over two dozen wineries that trip. Some of them were known because of our wine dinners at Iron Bridge.

Like Corley.

Family owned. Transplants from Virginia. We still get wines from their wine club, and we hope they are doing OK. They are between the Silverado Trail and Highway 29, fairly far north in the valley.

We first met them at a wine dinner in 2005. Out there, they remembered my husband and were so nice to take us everywhere on the property.

We made other friends out there. One, St. Helena Olive Oil. I would order their oil on line to be delivered here. They lost part of their production facility, although Peggy posted that her house was spared.

The impact on all of us. The loss of produce and fruit. Sonoma was a humongous producer of vegetables and fruit, for the US market.

US olive oils. Hopefully, those old, heavy producing olive trees survived. Otherwise, it could be years before production comes back to normal.

Avocados. Nuts. Citrus. Berries. The melting pot in Sonoma.

Makes me nervous when Florida and California have losses in citrus. Between the hurricane and these wildfires.

Add to it all, the disruption in income when all these businesses can’t open. For them, and their workers.

It’s been a crummy year here in the US, hasn’t it?

Watermelon Gazpacho

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Really. Excellent. Gazpacho.

All because we had it at The Turn House last week, so I had to try my own.

My first visit there, and review.

It’s a locally owned, farm to table menu. They graciously told us what was in the gazpacho, so I came home and tried my version of it.

Recipe: 4 cups watermelon, two large tomatoes, peeled and seeded. Equal amounts of red wine vinegar and olive oil. I used a couple of ounces of them. Half a cucumber, peeled and seeded. Your choice of how much hot pepper and sweet pepper. Two garlic cloves, minced. Salt. Pepper.

Make it to your taste. Your liking. I just throw things in a blender, and adjust.

Perfect for Buy Local Week. What’s not to love around here? It’s watermelon, cantaloupe, tomato and corn season in Maryland. They star in most of our meals. After all, the tomatoes are winning.

Five pounds today. They are making me work hard to preserve them.

Like these. Tomatoes, onion, garlic, pepper, olive oil, salt, pepper, a splash of sugar. Roasted. To put in the freezer to make winter that much more tolerable.

Dinner tonight.

The gazpacho. Cornish hens with local basil and butter. A potato from my CSA. A very good Virginia Viognier.

Buy Local Challenge nailed.

Summer Sizzle

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Yes, baby, it’s warm outside. Time to fire up the grill. Buy locally at the farmer’s markets. Look for refreshing light beverages to serve for dinner. Like craft beers.

Do you have a local liquor store that sells growlers full of light, interesting craft beers? The Wine Bin in nearby Ellicott City fills our growlers with locally produced beers, just right for dinner on the patio.

Maybe a step above. Like a daiquiri or a Dark and Stormy. Made with locally produced rums. From places similar to Lost Ark. Who, by the way is helping us at the Howard County Conservancy with a summer program “cocktail party” with famed Bug Man Dr. Mike Raupp. Stay tuned to see about that August program. In the meantime, check out their rums.

Yep, rum drinks with little umbrellas are awesome, but for us, the best summer drink is either a homemade Sangria, or a locally produced  rosé.

I stumbled upon a great blog post, listing a very large amount of Maryland dry rosé wines, which will help you find a perfect match for your summer sizzle meal. Here is the link.

Tame that summer heat. Don’t heat up the kitchen. Grill and chill.

“Meat” Me in Westminster

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I really miss having a weekly food delivery service, that provides me with locally sourced pasture raised meats. When we lost Friends and Farms, and the reasonably priced option of meats from Wayne Nell in PA, I scrambled while looking for an alternative that gave us something that flavorful, without costing a large amount of money.

Simply put, excellent quality in pasture raised meats isn’t inexpensive.

I discovered Evermore Farm in a roundabout way. I saw their post before Christmas featuring Rheb’s chocolates. They were located not far from one of my favorite year round farm stands, Baugher’s in Westminster. We took a trip out there, met the owner, and became a fan of their products. Their beef, pork and lamb were competively priced, and they were an outstanding product. Love their lamb merguez sausage.

Fast forward to the announcement of their CSA, a four month program, with small, medium and large shares. An option to buy chicken, and eggs. Delivery or farm pick up. I signed up too late for delivery, so we headed out to the farm for our first small share pickup. A good size for two people. 8-9 pounds of meat a month. Roughly $8-9 a pound, with much of what you are getting the more expensive cuts of meat, so it is worth the cost.

Not long after joining this meat CSA, we see that another favorite source, albeit almost as far away from us, Copper Penny Farm, is now offering a meat CSA. Two sizes. Small is 12 pounds and large is 25 pounds a month. A bit more than we would likely use, but a very good value for a family. They also have an egg option.

For us, we did add the poultry and egg option from Evermore.

We could have chosen three dozen a month, but two dozen is perfect for the two of us.

I have already planned my monthly trips. Next month, pick up CSA and hit Baugher’s for vegetable plants for my community garden. June, pick up CSA and head to Old Westminster Winery for my quarterly wine club pick up. July? Head over to Baugher’s orchards to pick peaches. Between the insulated bags, and my various ice packs, we can do this.

 

In Vino Veritas

Spring came to our area last weekend. It doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. It was a perfect weekend for a winery trip, and we didn’t even have to leave the state.

Maryland has over 60 wineries now. When we first got married and interested in local wine, there wasn’t much out there. Byrd, Boordy, Basignani, Fiore, Elk Run, Linganore, and Montbray are the ones I remember. Back then, we were looking to buy a few Maryland wines to have with our wedding anniversary dinners. Knowing that most of the wines weren’t made to age for decades, we focused on whites for the first few years. We also looked for those specially made reds, or dessert wines, to get us through our second decade of marriage. Byrd made decent reds in 1980. So did Elk Run. Not much else. Cabernet Sauvignon wasn’t widely planted in the state. Now, it’s different.

On the Maryland Wine website, I see that we’ve visited 14 of the 68 active wineries. Quite a list to ponder future destinations.

For this “trip”, we went to two of the closest wineries to our home in Central Maryland. Black Ankle and Old Westminster. We have been to these wineries before. I have written about their wines in my local dining challenges, and just in my locavore posts.

Why were we visiting wineries this weekend? Black Ankle, because it was wine club pick up weekend. Old Westminster, because the weather was gorgeous and we hadn’t seen the new tasting room, which opened last year.

If you have good local wineries where you live, you might want to consider their wine clubs. There are many different models. Look into them, you may find one that fits your budget, and your desired types of wine. Also, compare, some clubs are extremely flexible about exchanges and substitutions.

The clubs are very popular. They also give you special events, and small lot wines not available for general purchase. We belong to three in Maryland. Big Cork, Black Ankle, and as of yesterday, Old Westminster.

Why these three? Convenience of pick up, flexibility, and quality/consistency of product. There are quite a few excellent wineries in the state these days. For us, it came down to location coupled with selection. We enjoy the events at the local wineries. We tend to take picnic lunches or dinners with us when we go to get our quarterly allocation.

All three of these wineries allow you to bring in food, and have ample space for you to picnic on their grounds. I finally figured out what drew us to this model. It was simple. Feeling as if we had returned to the days where you could pack a picnic, spread out a blanket, listen to good music, eat good food and drink good wine. We lost that model in our communities and our parks. Restrictions on alcohol, due to liability issues, mostly.

But I digress. We had a lovely weekend around here. It warmed up enough on Friday afternoon for us to take a small cooler with some salads, fruit and yogurt and head out to Mt. Airy. Black Ankle is open from noon until 8:30 PM on Fridays.

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Every Friday night they have live music, year round. Winters, they are indoors. In good weather, they set up out front and tables, chairs and picnic blankets cover the lawn.

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Second Saturday nights, every month, are member only music events. After the winery is closed to the general public. Black Ankle has over 2300 wine club members, so there is always a crowd. A much younger crowd than what we used to see at wineries. Which I think is a great thing. A few decades back, we would only encounter people older than us at winery events. Nice to see the resurgence in interest in good wines. Black Ankle’s wines are pricey. But worth it. Consider a Friday night there as a better choice for dinner and music. Yes, the wines begin at $28 a bottle. They are a bargain compared to spending that much in a chain restaurant for a bottle that retails for $6-10. They are also very well made. All of them.

Yesterday, we headed up to Old Westminster to visit that new tasting room.

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So did many others as seen in the picture taken as we were leaving, just before closing time at 5pm. The building is sleek, clean lined and there is adequate space to host events for the over 1000 club members here. A relative newcomer to the Maryland wine scene, Old Westminster began selling wine less than 5 years ago. They make very, very good sparkling wines. One of only a handful of wineries in our state that make sparklers. It’s the reason we joined their club. Limited numbers of their premium wines.

We will be getting our first trio of wine in March. Looking forward to it. Also interested in food truck Fridays at the winery. They should be fun. Coal fired pizza with wine, anyone?

Stay tuned this spring and summer when we wander the state to see what else is out there.

Simple Indulgences

Just in time for Valentine’s Day. A compilation of some of our latest simple meals. Made with high quality local items and consisting of less than six ingredients (not counting salt and pepper).

I will be cooking at home again tomorrow to avoid the overcrowded restaurants. It will be simple also.

You can easily make these at home.

I did parsnip fries the other day. I loved them so much we will be making them tomorrow again.

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Baked in a 400 degree oven. Just cut the parsnips, lay them on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary. Mix them before putting in the oven. Roast for about 12 minutes. Put them on a paper towel to drain. We had them with a yogurt based dressing for dipping.

I will be making halibut, maybe on the grill like I did these a while back.

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The weather here is going to be close to 50 degrees tomorrow. It’s time to check out the grill and move things back outdoors, as spring isn’t that far away. This grill method is very easy. Minimal seasoning. Brushed with oil. I used some of my pesto cubes from the freezer for this meal, but you can always buy a small jar of good pesto. Or, just whirl some parsley or basil in the processor with olive oil, salt and pepper.

We will have assorted cheeses from my CSA, and do another of our comparison wine flights, like we did here with two local Sauvignon Blancs. These were from Virginia. Glen Manor is made in a New Zealand style. It has that pineapple-y citrus-y taste. It goes well with seafood, and with omelets, and of course, with cheese. The Linden Avenius, made more in a French style, flinty and with a bit more acid on the finish. We served these wines with a mushroom omelet. And with an aged Gruyere cheese.

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Tomorrow, I am thinking of serving two Viogniers for comparison. More on our final decisions when I post again, after Valentine’s Day.

You may want to try a simple meal at home, instead of going out. Take your time. Dine by candlelight. Make something with just a few ingredients.