Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall fun for all foodies

Simple Sauces/Dinner and a Class - Friday, Oct 2 at 6:30 pm
Master preparation of sauces that can make everyday food special in this hands-on, basic skills class. The recipes will include: Winter Lettuces with Warm Sweet and Sharp Dressing; Crisp Chicken with Sherry Vinegar Reduction Sauce; Pork Tenderloin with Pomegranate Sauce; Sirloin Steak with Whisky-Mustard Sauce; Cauliflower with Whiskey-Mustard Sauce; Steamed Asparagus with Mustard and Caper Vinaigrette; and Ice Cream with Bittersweet Chocolate and Butter Rum Caramel Sauce. Cost: $45
Indian Cooking - Sunday, October 4 at 11:30 am
Komali Nunna, local cookbook and delicious cook, teaches a demonstration and hands-on class on sumptuous Indian comfort food.
An Italian Evening with Michele Carbone - Friday, October 9 at 6:30 pm
Join us for a delicious dinner with the author of Friday Evenings and prepare and enjoy ravioli.
Saturday in the Kitchen/Fall Soups - Saturday, October 17 at 11:00 am
Learn soup basics as we make soups perfect for autumn in this hands-on, basic skills class for cooks 12 and up.

Starting October 1st, McGrath will be offering all sorts of Halloween festivities. These include a FREE Corn Maze Monday throughThursday, Pick-Your-Own Pumpkins (priced by size), and wagon rides on weekends (on the hour)! The cost is $3 for the Corn Maze and $3 per wagon ride...or both for $5. Add a visit to the animals and your visit is only $7!

Annual Holiday Wine Tasting
Sunday November 15, 2009
$25 Per Person
This is the tasting of all tastings and one that is not to be missed.

Yeast Breads: I think I can, I think I can

For once and for all, I am determined to overcome my fear of yeast breads. See, I've been scarred by past experiences with bread that never rose, ingredients wasted, and dense, flat loaves of rock hard bread. Maybe for some this would be acceptable...to just give up, to never make homemade bread. But, I come from a long line of women who are beyond adept at yeast breads, women who produce buttery puffy rolls, homemade cinnamon rolls, and homemade Moravian Sugar Cakes that would make you swoon. And, given that I consider myself a cook, succumbing to this fear is just unacceptable.

On a recent trip back to North Carolina, my Mom took me into the kitchen for my third lesson on proofing yeast, and this one seemed to work. She taught me to add a pinch of sugar to the yeast before adding the "warm" water. The sugar gives the yeast something to feed on, speeding up the activation process. As she showed me how, I was surprised at how hot the water actually was. And since neither of us uses a thermometer to measure the water, its all about the touch. Many cookbooks talk about using warm water, or water the same temperature as a baby's bottle; but her water was hot to the touch.

And now that I'm adding the sugar and using what I would call hot water, I'm loving bread making for the first time in my life. There is nothing like the feeling of seeing the yeast and hot water mixture bubbling and puffing up. There is nothing like the smell of bread baking in the oven; and there's nothing like the taste of a warm slice of bread fresh from the oven, slathered in butter. This is the bread I made today - a simple white bread from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My eating and drinking adventures

So, you probably knew this already, but I absolutely love what I do. I don't make much money (heck - some of my writing is practically for free) but my joy is sky high. For the VC Reporter I write restaurant reviews every few weeks; and for the quarterly magazine Edible Ojai, I just started writing the Edible Notes column. I get to research new foods, places, restaurants, products, books, movies (pretty much anything food or drink related in Ventura County) and then I get to write about it.

Yesterday, I had yet another great opportunity to expand my taste horizons. This time it was Ventura Limoncello, a handcrafted lemon liqeur that is made right here in Ventura on Palma Drive. Imagine your grandma's best homemade lemonade married with a hint of Italy and the grown-up sophistication and kick of pure grain alcohol.

Lemon peel is steeped with pure grain alcohol for a set period of time, filtered, and then mixed with sugar and water to make this delicious liquid. Limoncello originated on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, and is traditionally served ice cold as an after dinner drink. Yet, there are a number of local chefs taking this sweet drink to a whole new, and sometimes savory, level. The Chef at Brooks restaurant does limoncello mussels, and the Chef at the Crowne Plaza makes a limoncello vinaigrette and a limoncello creme brulee. While I may not make anything quite as grand, I'm definitely looking forward to integrating it into both my cooking and my cocktailing. Stories and recipes to follow.

I also got the chance to visit the Knead Baking Company in Ojai. Intrigued by the mother-daughter pair that own this bakery and cafe, I'm writing a story on them for Ventana Monthly Magazine. While they have been selling their bread at the Ojai Farmers Market for a few years now, their storefront location is fairly new. They greet customers like old friends; and sitting there sipping my coffee, I felt like I was sitting in someone's kitchen.

High ceilings, lots of windows, tangerine colored walls, and light colored wood accents give the space an airy and comfy feel. Their baked goods are both pleasing to the eye and the taste-buds. My friend and I sampled a chocolate croissant- crisp and filled with a warm layer of chocolate hazelnut spread. The quiche of the day was built with a perfectly thick and crispy crust, and filled with potatoes, bacon, and lots of fresh dill. The cheddar dill scone was dense and full of flavor. Knead is definitely striking a perfect balance between high quality fresh food and a sense of environmental responsibility (serving organic coffee, selling reusable market bags, etc.) without a bit of pretension, making this a refreshing stop for a coffee, a sweet treat, or a full meal.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fall events calendar

We Olive: September 14th from 5:30-8pm: Monday-night easy appetizer event, where you can learn how to make simple, tasty finger foods. There will be food and beverages to enjoy and sample menus with recipes for gourmet tailgate parties of your own. Attendees will receive a 10% discount on all purchases that evening. Tickets to this event are $10.00. And, Saturday, Sept. 19th, from 1-4pm - Jeff from the Los Olivos Olive Oil Company will be in-store sampling their delicious oils and vinegars.

Taste of Ojai at the Ojai Valley Inn. September 19th from 3-6pm.

Boccali’s Tomato Festival and wine tasting September 26th (5-9pm) at their restaurant at Reeves Rd. and Hwy. 150.

California Beer Festival. September 26th, from 1-5pm. Mission Park, Ventura. 60 beers, live music, free souvenir mugs, and some stand up comedy.

McGrath Family Farm Have kids? Like pumpkins and field trips? This year the farm is offering a wagon ride through the fields, PLUS pick your own organic pumpkin, a corn maze, and the opportunity to check out their animal center...all for $4 a student!

Ojai native Anna Thomas' new book, LOVE SOUP, will be in bookstores on September 21, and they're having the hometown party at Treasure Beach on October 3rd at 2pm. Stop by to taste some soup, have a glass of wine, chat, and she'll sign books. She says, "Soup saved my life over and over -- it's the way I survived in the wee kitchen. I could still have great home-made food, and have people over for casual dinner parties -- I could keep cooking. I fell in love with soup all over again, and had to write a book about it."

November 14th “Wings and Wine” event. Taking place in a hanger at the Camarillo Airport, several local wineries will be pouring wines in between historic World War II planes such as a Japanese Zero, a P-52 and many others. Money raised will assist in the maintaining of these historic aircraft.