“It is better to have beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.”
Hmmm . . . I’m not so sure about that, cakes and ale are pretty good and what’s life without a little adrenaline? What do you think?
Memorial Day weekend the stars aligned and Jim and I escaped for our overdue weekend alone in Westport.
As we neared the end of our two-hour drive to the Washington coast, hunger set in and Bay City Sausage Market appeared on the side of the road like a forest oasis.
Bay City Sausage Market features fresh home-made sausage and beef jerky. You can also order smoked whole turkeys year-round and if you’re the meat raising or fish catching type have your fish or clams vacuum packed and your meat custom cut, processed, smoked and packaged to your specifications. But we were on a search solely for sustenance.
We were greeted by the smell of pepper jerky just out of the smoker and a case stuffed with smoked sausage variety. We chose three in sliced, ready-to-eat snack packs: the Mulligan, a beef and pork blend billed as “EXTRA HOT,” Hungarian, a mild pork sausage smothered in paprika, and German Garlic, a beef and pork blend with a “super garlicky flavor.” With sausage in hand, I started dreaming of a charcuterie and cheese plate paired with a bottle of red, devoured in the sun. Better get something for the road . . .
Gnawing on hot peppery beef jerky, we drove on toward Westport, with a quick stop at the Westport Winery for a wine tasting, bottle of syrah and cheese. Washington State University Creamery Crimson Fire, Wilamette Valley Cheese Co. Farmstead Herb de Provence Havarti, and Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue.
We arrived in Westport and headed straight to the condo’s kitchen to assemble our finds and pour our wine. Then it was out to the back patio to take in the salt air, sun and watch our neighbors below filleting their catch of the day. The cheese and sausage combinations danced and whirled together on our palates. First a fiery blast of jalapeno in the Crimson Fire Cheese, then the mellowing taste of the Hungarian sausage. Next the sharp tang of the Smokey Blue and the heat of the Mulligan. All accompanied by the steadying boldness of the syrah.
No crackers, bread, almonds, or olives needed. This cheese and sausage combination can stand on its own.
What’s your favorite item on a charcuterie plate? Have any cheeses to recommend?
Jim’s daughter Jamie spent last semester in London, just in time for all the Royal Wedding pageantry, commemorative stamps, plates, coins, and other assorted “collectibles.” Knowing my obsession with all things legally ingestible she brought the most iconically British Royal Wedding collectible home for me – tea.
Before opening my gift, I was instructed to smell the wrapped package. The heady scent of rose overwhelmed me and caused me to guess “soap” when prompted. In truth, potpourri flashed through my mind but I’m pretty sure no one’s actually purchased potpourri since the 1980s. Some thin bar like substances in the package – which turned out to be chocolate – also hindered my guess work.
She laughed no and I opened my package to reveal Harrods English Rose Wedding Tea. A mix of black tea riddled with rose petals. Naturally, it needed to be tasted immediately.
When steeped, the tea became a rich caramel color. The rose emitted a luxurious scent that translated to a feeling more than a taste; a pleasant pulse in the middle of the back throat. The tea tasted slightly floral but predominantly soothing like a cashmere throw on a chilly spring night.
It did not need to be gussied up with cream and sugar. Like Kate’s dress, it was simple and elegant. How very British.
When I was invited to get a sneak peek at The Confectional’s new Capitol Hill location and chat with the powers behind the cheesecake – Paul Veron and Destiny Sund – the behind-the-scenes aspect intrigued me, the only trouble was I’ve never really liked cheesecake (my sister Jennifer is the cheesecake devotee in the family). All it took to convert me was one cheesecake truffle.
Paul Veron grew up in a household where the only sugar you could eat was in foods you made from scratch. Foodie mamas take note, this policy turned him into, in his own humble words, “a pretty good baker” and lover of food, unique tastes and experimentation with flavor combinations. The result is The Confectional, a cheesecake nirvana.
Forget New York style cheesecake with canned cherries on top, The Confectional does things differently. Think Lemon White Chocolate with pucker-worthy citrus tempered by sweet (but not too sweet), creamy white chocolate; Cookies & Mint Chocolate (Veron’s favorite) with a texture close to a brownie and a perfect blend of chocolate and mint with a dark cookie bottom crust; Raspberry White Chocolate with actual raspberries (a best-seller); and Caramel with the most buttery cookie crust I’ve ever tasted.
The Confectional’s cheesecakes are the cheesecake answer to an ice cream cone, individual sized and wrapped in pannetone paper, so you can walk down the street and eat it utensil free.
On the smaller side are the Cheesecake truffles (gluten free) and it was the Mexican Chocolate that made me a believer. Creamy, rich milk chocolate enrobed in dark chocolate – at first bite the chocolate and cinnamon flirt on your tongue, then when you’re relishing the afterglow a subtle heat works its way from throat to toes. I’m already planning a dinner party around these transcendent delights. For a peek at how to make them yourself, click here.
You can find twelve flavors of cheesecake, plus two sugar free varieties and ten flavors of cheesecake truffles at The Confectional. Craving a flavor combination not on the menu? The Confectional will make off-menu cheesecakes to order. They’ve made blueberry and white chocolate for a blue and white themed wedding, Pina Colada, Bailey’s chocolate chunk and many more, and by the way they ship – fresh, not frozen (Jen expect cheesecake for Christmas). Sometimes requested flavors don’t work out too well – wine jellies was one such disaster – but don’t worry The Confectional will let you know and help you create something that works.
Creating is something Veron is constantly doing and he and Sund continually whip ideas around. Keep your eye out for an Amaretto cheesecake (in development) and for the special flavors that pop up twelve or so times a year. Pumpkin and Turtle are fall favorites and Strawberry Lemonade is a tall taste of summer.
The Confectional only uses natural ingredients from its local brown cage free eggs to its Maria cookie crust. Local ingredients like Chukar’s cherries and Autumn Martin’s caramel are also incorporated in several flavors. The Confectional bakes daily and never freezes its cheesecakes.
On Saturday, June 4, 2011, The Confectional celebrates the Grand Opening of its Capitol Hill location. Nestled up to poppy on Broadway Avenue East, it seats 16 and features The Confectional’s cheesecake and cheesecake truffles, a thick and not too sweet Columbian Hot Chocolate made with organic cream, Stumptown coffee, Coco Café (a hot chocolate and coffee blend), Dry Soda, Izzy’s and Whidbey Island ice cream bars in six different flavors, including cinnamon.
At the Grand Opening on June 4, you can try a free sample and get your mouth on the Grand Opening flavor, Passion Fruit Seeds (the essence of Passion Fruit, with a teeny bit of crunch that dissolves on your tongue). There will be a drawing every hour for a 9-pack of cheesecake and one lucky person will receive 16 individual cheesecakes each month for an entire year (or you can even order them all at once).
618 Broadway Avenue E on Capitol Hill, between Mercer and Roy, right next door to poppy.
Grand Opening: June 4, 2011, 11 am – 9 pm
Hours: The hours are a work in progress but the tentative schedule is Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday 1pm – 9pm and Friday and Saturday 1 pm – 11 pm, so you can get your cheesecake fix after lunch and before and after dinner. Need cheesecake earlier? The Pike Place location (1530 Pike Place) is open every day 10 am – 6 pm.
For more info, check out my article on Examiner.com.
Growing up, Jim listened to the Indy 500 on the radio every year. But he never made it to Indianapolis for the race; until 2009.
That year I went all out for Jim’s birthday (it was a big one with an 0 at the end) and gave him an insider’s trip to the Indy 500. We went to every event from Carb Day through the race, were driven around the track by two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk in “hot laps”, watched the pit competition from the track, walked the track, kissed the bricks, and watched the race from the Hulman Terrace. We even managed to get an intro to two of Jim’s childhood TV icons, Florence Henderson and Ruth Buzzi, and snapped a picture of him with Florence on one side and Ruth on the other . . . twisting his nipples (through his shirt). (Those ladies are wildly funny, down-to-earth and sassy. But it was the nipple-twisting that pretty much made them my idols.)
The only thing we didn’t do was see Jim’s current favorite driver – Dario Franchitti win. (Jim likes Franchitti because “he has a hot wife” (Ashley Judd) and he’s Scottish, as is Jim, although a generation or two removed from the homeland.)
So we went back last year. And Franchitti won.
This year our work demands precluded a third Indy 500 trip, but we did manage to slip away to Westport for an overnight and decided to recreate race day there.
On race day, two things are required, Foster’s Lager or Miller or Bud Light and biscuits. We settled for Bisquick over Clabber Girl. And gussied our biscuits up with ham and cheese.
Franchitti didn’t win this year – although it looked like he would through much of the race – but the race had its exciting moments and the biscuits were pure comfort food with none of the trackside grease.
Ham and Cheese Biscuits
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add 2/3 c. of milk to 2 1/4 c. Bisquick. Stir until combined. Dice 5-6 slices of ham and 3-4 oz cheese. Add ham and cheese to biscuit mixture (if you want more ham and cheese at this point go for it and add some more in). Knead it altogether with your hands.
Form into 4-6 balls and place each one on an ungreased cookie sheet. Once on the sheet, flatten the balls so they are no more than 2 inches high.
Bake for approximately 10 minutes. When there is a bit of browning and the outside texture feels dry and slightly crisp, the biscuits are ready to be taken out of the oven. Let cool 5 minutes.
Grab your beer, turn on the race and enjoy the greatest spectacle in motor racing.
As a shameless cheese hussy, I know my blues, my gorgonzolas, my triple cremes, my pecorinos. I purchase, eat, and when necessary store with glee. Except I’ve been doing it all wrong. So wrong, that I unwittingly killed and cross-contaminated cheese for years. Yes, I am a cheese murderer. The shame.
In just 4 1/2 minutes, I learned how to store and keep cheese like a pro. No more cheese massacre, no more mutant blue infested cheese. Watch it for yourself here, it will change your life; the cheesy parts anyway.