Category Archives: Food

Berkshire Beauty

Recently, I visited one of my favorite places, The Berkshires, with two of my favorite people, my parents, Bev and Tom. My sister, Joanna, and her wonderful family also joined in on the fun. If you have not visited the Berkshires, it is well worth a trip.  Rolling green hills, hydrangeas in bloom everywhere, stately homes, lots of ladies wearing linen. How can one go wrong?

The reason for our trip was to hear John Williams conduct his music at Tanglewood. Founded in 1940, Tanglewood is the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer time home and a place where talented young performers come to study with the best.  It’s also a fabulous concert venue with an incredible season. Only at Tanglewood can you get your honky-tonk on with Dolly Parton and then sit in awe as Yuja Wang plays Rapsody in Blue.

Oh yes, and then there’s Wheatleigh…

IMG_7946
Welcome to Wheatleigh…where all your dreams come true.

Henry H. Cook built Wheatleigh in 1893 as a wedding present for his daughter, Georgie, who married a Spanish Count (in Girl World that’s called winning). Inspired by a 16th century Florentine palazzo most of Wheatleigh’s materials and many of the craftsmen came from Italy.  The verdant exteriors of Wheatleigh were designed by none other than Frederick Law Olmsted. Georgie and her Spanish Count spent six weeks a year there, living in luxury, cared for by a staff of forty.

Today, a royal pedigree is not required to visit Wheatleigh.  Even commoners can enjoy Wheatleigh’s fabulous restaurant, spectacular hotel, and gorgeous grounds (in The CCC’s world that’s called winning).

IMG_7938
Wheatleigh awaits you.

I first discovered Wheatleigh over a decade ago with my good friend, Kiki. I have many happy memories there.  I was thrilled to create some new ones with Bev and Tom and my niece, Claire. We enjoyed a sumptuous lunch at The Library.  If you don’t have a lot of time lunch at The Library is a perfect way to enjoy the property and pretend you are a lady of the Gilded Age.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A girl never forgets her first cheese plate. Claire enjoys a triple-cream.

IMG_7915
All God’s creatures love Wheatleigh.
IMG_7955
The CCC schooling Claire in the finer things… (Photo by Bev)

After lunch it was time to head back to the real world and dinner! We met up with Joanna, her husband, Drew, and my nephew, Jason at Bistro Zinc. This is a lovely French bistro with true “Berkshire buzz”.  You never who you’ll meet at Bistro Zinc: artists, musicians, singers, ladies in linen???

IMG_7957
Jason and Claire enjoying the buzz at Bistro Zinc.
IMG_8040
The Black Swan Inn on Laurel Lake. Our home away from home.

After dinner we headed to our hotel, The Black Swan Inn.  The Inn, located in Lee, is five minutes away from Tanglewood and downtown Lenox. It’s a very comfortable hotel with super nice staff.  Joanna, Drew, and Jason stayed a bit down the road at the adorable LakeHouse Inn. Both hotels are perfect places to rest up before you get your Tanglewood groove on.

IMG_7992
Drew, Joanna, Bev, & Tom (l to r) enjoying our picnic supplied by Tanglewood and Guido’s Fresh Marketplace – an incredible grocery store well worth a stop. (You can rent chairs at Tanglewood if you need to.)

While you can purchase tickets for seats inside the concert hall, picnicking on the lawn pre-concert is a perfect way to enjoy the Berkshire beauty and each other.

IMG_8016
A proud auntie with her wonderful nephew, Jason.  How did I get so lucky to have such delightful nephews and nieces?
IMG_8018
The grounds at Tanglewood are never so crowded one can’t enjoy a game of catch.
IMG_8036
Shhhh….it’s time for the music (and magic) to begin.

The CCC’s San Francisco Favorites #5: Hog Island Oyster Farm with Sandy and Jim

Numerically speaking, this San Francisco Favorite is #5 but really the Hog Island Oyster Farm in Marshall, CA is the CCC’s Number One San Francisco Favorite.   Located 50 miles north of SF in beautiful Marin County, the Hog Island Oyster Farm is most special to me.  In my two decades of living in San Francisco, no place holds so many joyful, delicious, and occassionally silly memories. (Ask my husband, Brian, about the time I offended a lady over the oysters she ate in Las Vegas. I didn’t mean to be snooty.)  There is no better place than Hog Island for savioring freshly shucked oysters while you sip a glass of champagne and soak in the sun (I’m not meaning to be snooty. 🙂 ). Truthfully, there is nothing snooty about Hog Island Oyster Farm: rustic picnic tables overlooking Tomales Bay with the hills of Tomales Bay State Park in the background.  It’s an idyllic locale perfect for appreciating the good things in life with your friends and loved ones. If you are a tourist, Hog Island is a great place to observe us local folks engaged in our Northern California lifestyle, that is, eating oysters and drinking champagne (we don’t mean to be snooty).

Recently, I was thrilled to bring my wonderful friends, Sandy and Jim, to Hog Island. They are no strangers to the NorCal lifestyle or the good things in life. (And, they are absolutely NOT snooty!)

image
Sandy, a fellow nurse practitioner, world traveler, and good friend for over 20 years, looking glamorous and ready to enjoy some of Hog Island’s very best. I don’t know how Hog Island is able to raise an oyster that is both briney and buttery. Fabulous.
image
The secret to a great Hog Island day is to bring a picnic. You are allowed to bring anything you want, except the oysters which you must buy from the Farm. You can purchase them shucked or shuck them yourself (much cheaper).
image
Sandy and Jim looking relaxed and happy. How could they not be?
image
BBQ Oysters anyone? These little treats are not to be missed. Perfectly grilled and dressed in a chipotle butter sauce. YUM!
IMG_5356
The Boat. This is where you order and pay for your oysters. They also serve decent (but overpriced) wine, cheese, and charcuterie. Experienced Hog Island devotees supply their own provisions.
image
The Hog Island picnic grounds. The inner tables are first come, first served. Get there 15-20 minutes before they open to avoid a wait. The outer tables are reservation only. The tables book up 4 months in advance. No, I am not joking.
IMG_5355
Jim and me soaking up the sun.
image
Sandy and me. Best buds.

Thank you Sandy and Jim for coming to visit and creating another happy Hog Island Oyster Farm memory for me. Here’s to the good things in life: friends like you.

The CCC Celebrates in CT!

“The CCC Celebrates in CT!” If that is not a perfect aliteration then I do not what is.  Just saying it makes me happy as the phrase conjures wonderful memories from my visit with good friends, Aimee and German, in Fairfield, CT.  As the “rush, rush, busy, busy” of another holiday season descends on us, there is nothing more calming than remembering the warm, easy days of summer – especially when the memories were so fun to make!

1 BBQ Farmers Market
Flowers at the Westport Farmers Market.

Aimee is my culinary soul-sister.  She has taught me so much about cooking and I occassionally teach her something too!  We love to cook together and this trip we were inspired by Laurie Colwin’s book, “Home Cooking”.  Part cookbook, part memoir, Colwin’s warm and friendly prose makes you want to get in the kitchen and create. Following Colwin’s chapter, “How to Avoid Grilling”, we prepared the perfect summertime meal: marinated short ribs, potato salad with cucumbers and creme fraiche, and heirloom tomato salad with red onion and soft boiled eggs.  I am salivating with the thought of that meal!

2 BBQ Farmers Market 3
For our produce we stopped at the Westport Farmers Market – an excellent selection of seasonable fruits and veggies. For everything else, we shopped at Westport Superior Seafood. Their meat counter is also superior with very helpful butchers.

After a busy morning of shopping, it was time for…wait for it….

5 Grey Goose Bloody Marys
The Grey Goose Bloody Mary!  Is there anything better than a Bloody Mary in a pint glass? (No, there is not.)
6 Grey Goose Aimee
Here’s to you, Aimee. May there be many more cocktails in our future!
8 BBQ Ribs getting ready
After our midday respite, we headed into the kitchen with Laurie Colwin as our guide. The  marinade is a combination of lemon, honey, soy sauce, oil and spices. The trick is to let the ribs marinate for at least 24 hours.
9 BBQ with friends
Friends enjoying our fantastic meal. Aimee’s husband, German, at the head of the table with Sandy and Jim (our good friends from grad school) on the left and my wonderful cousin, Kris, next to Aimee. Ahhh … al fresco dining … a most lovely summer memory.
10 BBQ EM and Kris
The CCC with her cousin, Kris.
11 BBQ EM and Sandy
Sandy and me. Sandy and I have been friends for over 20 years! She is also a wonderful and inspirational cook.
15 Bike Ride EM
The next morning Aimee and I went on a bikeride through Southport. Riding bikes was delightful way to spend time together and burn off the calories from last night’s dinner! Here I am taking a break with one of Southport’s inlets behind me.
16 Bike Ride Southport Harbor 2
The Southport Harbor. One of our stops along the way. Aimee and I sat on a bench nearby and talked for hours. One of the CCC’s preferred ways of spending time: long talks with a good friend.

Hours of cycling and meaningful conversation makes the ladies hungry. Time for a Fancy Lady Lunch at Artisan.

17 Artisan menu
Restaurant, Tavern, & Garden. I could not have said it better myself.
18 Artisan Outside Patio
The Artisan outdoor patio. Did someone say, “I’d like a glass of champagne, please?”
20 Artisan EM and Aimee BFF
Aimee and me after too much champagne. We could not ride our bikes home. Thank goodness for German who came in his truck to pick us up. He also paid for lunch because we forgot our credit cards (whoops!).
19 Artisan Aimee and German
Aimee and German. German is the perfect match for my good friend.

After all of our feasting and fitness, it was time for some culture. Aimee’s cousin, Andrea, recommended the Annual Sergio Franchi Summertime Concert.  Sergio Franchi was an Italian-American tenor in the 1960s. His dreamy voice and even dreamier looks made him popular in both operatic and contemporary music venues.  He founded the Sergio Franchi Music Foundation to support young vocal artists. The Foundation’s annual concert, now in its 20th year and hosted by his glamorous wife, Eva, is a celebration of up and coming young opera stars. The day-long event is a great way to enjoy the summer sun and hear some of opera’s greatest hits, like Turandot’s Nessun Dorma and Carmen’s Habanera.  What made the day even better was that we were joined by our favorite friend, Kiki!

23 Sergio EM and Kiks
The CCC and Kiki. Friends forever.
24 Sergio Kiki and Aimee
Kiki and Aimee enjoy some most needed shade.
21 Sergio with the ladies
What lady doesn’t love Sergio Franchi?
25 Sergio Aim and Andrea
Aimee with cousin Andrea. Thank you Andrea for a fantastic suggestion and a fantastic day!
26 Beach Day 4
No trip to the Connecticut shore is complete without a trip to the Connecticut shore! Aimee, German, and I spent my last hours in CT celebrating the joys of living close to the beach. Here, German and Aimee enjoy low tide while a flotilla of boats parties in the background.
27 Beach Day EM and Aim
A beach day with my best buddy, Aimee – the quintessential summertime memory.

Thank you Aimee and German for a most special week-end and being most special friends.  I think “The CCC Celebrates in CT!” should be my new mantra.

Inspirations

Please press play!

I love to cook.  Cooking is a wonderful way to shake off the stresses of the day and keep myself busy during the week-end.  It’s also a chance to sip wine and listen to Beethoven – two of my favorite activities.  More significantly, spending time in the kitchen allows me a chance to reminisce about the lovely people in my life who have helped me become a better cook, like Aimee, Sandy, Meera, Susan, Bev, and Lee – and that makes me happy.  Recently, I read a NYT article about The Four Seasons restaurant, where I have had the good fortune to dine with Kiki, and was inspired to make their recipe, Chopped Lamb Steak with Pine Nuts. My version was probably not as refined as the restaurant’s but it was still quite tasty and I will certainly make it again.

Paprika
The secret ingredient is Sweet Hungarian Paprika. I love box and that color red. (Yes, the little girl figurine is a Hummel – a gift from my sister, Lee.)
Chateau de Combes
Is it the cooking or the wine that makes kitchen time so relaxing? This Chateau de Combes was a bit tart up front but once it opened up it had the flavors of spicey cherries, tobacco, and (expensive) leather. Yes, I have been working on my wine palate!
Lamb patties
The recipe instructs the cook to make “five-inch egg-shaped patties”. Mine were not so pretty. Next time, I will stick with a more traditional burger shape.
lamb in butter
You can cook the patties in the broiler or sauteed in butter. I tried them both ways. Sauteed in butter is the way to go. It keeps the meat tender and juicy. Six minutes per side over medium heat gets a nice sear without overcooking the lamb.
Vinegarrette
For the side dish, I made a butter lettuce, flat-leaf parsley, and fennel salad with my shallot vinaigrette. Thanks to my cousin, Bobbie, and my friend, Meera, I do make the best vinaigrette around. Bobbie taught me to add salt to the vinegar until the vinegar tastes sweet. Meera encouraged me to use dijon mustard to make a truly French vinaigrette. I add just a touch of dijon and it brings flavors of the dressing together. Thanks ladies! Because of you, I have this dressing nailed!
salad
Ta-dah! I just love this salad! (Yes, I know I need to work on my food photos but trust me, this is a delicious salad combination.)
Wiggles
Miles aka Wiggles aka Pupchop is always ready to assist with tasting or cleaning the floor.
Dinner is served
Dinner is served! This meal is dedicated to all the lovely people in my life who helped become a better cook and with whom I have enjoyed so many wonderful meals! Thank you, friends!

Listen to Beethoven! This piece is, “Presto” from Piano Sonata No. 6 played by Jonathan Biss.  Whatever your musical tastes, Beethoven will be a welcome addition to your library.