Bowl-PhotoI'm not the outdoorsy type. Picnics with uninvited guests, like ants, are not my idea of a good time. Sitting on the hard ground or wet grass is never much fun. So, my favorite place for a picnic is a box at The Hollywood Bowl on a warm summer night, with a meal that is perfectly prepared by my wife, Peggy.

When we arrive, the first thing we do is set the table. No sheet on the ground for us. A box at the Bowl comes with tables and chairs, so we spread linens that have been cut to table size and then lay the plates and silver. Flowers appear in small vases and the wine glasses sparkle. (Sadly, the Bowl stopped allowing candles, which was the perfect finishing touch.)

Once the table is set, the food starts to appear. Bread and cheese and cured meats or my favorite, Peggy's chilled heirloom tomato gazpacho soup, generally start. From there it might be roast chicken or cold sliced steak or grilled shrimp with mint and feta orzo. Desserts are home made or brought from our favorite bakery, Valerie Confections. And throughout it all there is the wine - crisp bubbly Prosecco, then unoaked Chardonnay, and maybe an Italian red and a sweet sparkling one for dessert. Truly the perfect picnic in the perfect setting.

Read more ...

veggies-pickledIsaac and I have established that a burger isn’t a burger without pickles.  We both agreed that our pulled pork sandwiches (last night's dinner) was no exception to the pickle rule.  I love pretty much anything pickled.  I have been a pickle lover ever since I could remember.

Growing up, my elementary school, Erwin Street Elementary had a fall festival each year.  Some classrooms had a different game theme, one classroom housed all the prizes where one could “buy” stuff with the winning tickets.

Yet, my most favorite classroom of all had a huge barrel filled with the fattest pickles I had ever seen.  The classroom with the barrel of pickles was the place I searched out first.  I could still remember what they tasted like.  And I can still remember the feeling I got with that first bite of that sour, tart pickle!

Each summer I end up pickling some sort of veggies.  This past week I choose English cucumbers, radishes, and purple onions.  I also threw in a shallot, sliced thin!  The pulled pork could stand on it’s own, but adding these veggies made it that much better.

Read more ...

blueberrysaladMoms and grandmas love blueberries. Think about it. Doesn't your family have cherished recipes for blueberry pie and blueberry muffins? What about blueberry cobbler and frosted blueberry sweet rolls?

Why are blueberries so beloved? It could be their association with lazy summer days, Fourth of July cookouts, or time spent baking in grandma's cozy kitchen. Whatever it is, blueberries are sweet and easy-going, like the girl next door.

But like the proverbial librarian who lets down her hair, blueberries can also be sexy. That's right. Sprinkle plump, juicy summertime blueberries on peppery wild arugula or watercress for a stylish salad.

Top crostini with warm goat cheese, fresh blueberries, and rosemary for a sleek summertime appetizer. Add them to a martini made with blueberry vodka for a sophisticated summertime cocktail.

So while they're in season, explore the sexy side of blueberries. Just don't tell grandma. She wouldn't approve.

Read more ...

bestchicken.jpgHave you ever attended a grill shindig where chicken is the star of the show and what you are served resembles eau d'ashtray or worse the bird is literally still raw.  Bleck.

For some reason, people feel the need to char the heck out of grilled chicken, leaving it dry and literally unpalatable.  But you eat it anyway to be nice. 

And then there are those who remove the chicken from the grill too soon because they put the grilling sauce on way too early and now it's burning.  Their solution...take the uncooked chicken off the grill... a very dangerous choice.  There seems to be no middle ground.

Read more ...

tc_vacation_026.jpgFor one week, I had an apartment in south Minneapolis. It was listed on a site that offers vacation rentals by owner. Up to this point, I hadn't spent much time exploring south Minneapolis. It turned out I was in for a real treat. Although I had my bike along (my apartment was just 3 blocks from one of the wonderful Minneapolis trails), several dark, cloudy, soggy rainy days prevented me from spending any time on my pedal-powered two-wheeler. As it turned out, that wasn't such a bad thing. By car, I was available to explore neighborhoods I probably wouldn't have gotten to by bike.

My discovery highlights wound up taking on unexpected themes of bakeries and farmers markets. I had planned to take in the downtown St. Paul farmers market, the oldest in Minnesota. It never disappoints with all of the fresh flowers, herbs to take home to plant, fresh vegetables, honey, meats and this time, even fresh-picked strawberries. The next morning, a Sunday, I paid a visit to the Kingfield farmers market, a relatively new but charming small neighborhood market. I'd read that a person could find plenty for breakfast at this market and it was definitely true. A strawberry-rhubarb turnover from Sun Street Breads was devoured before I could even snap a picture. 

Read more ...