Saturday, August 9, 2008

Washington Island Wake

There's only one way to reach Washington Island, Wisconsin with your vehicle in tow. The Washington Island Ferry, Inc. crosses a six-mile waterway between the Door County peninsula and the island, a watery expanse known as 'Death's Door,' a dozen times each day.

I put on and removed my jacket three times during our half hour ferry ride, as rain clouds and wind currents ebbed and flowed. Dozens of passengers craned their necks for views of the calm blue waterway while gulls soared high above. SUVs, motorcycles, and other passenger vehicles, many decorated with kayaks and bicycles, crowded the lower deck.

After several hours spent exploring the island we returned to 'the Door,' as evening sun rays lengthened and the water's surface glittered like a million stars. Storm clouds receded and a frothy wake foamed and churned behind us.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Baking in Healdsburg

It has been 85 years since Costeaux French Bakery opened in the sleepy Sonoma, California village of Healdsburg, and nearly 30 years since the Seppi family made it their own. Today, the bakery is renowned for its sourdough and specialty breads that have won numerous gold medals and sweepstakes, as well as irresistible desserts and pastries.

But there's more to Costeaux Bakery than baked goods. Stop by for a bowl of French Onion Soup, a thick brown broth with plenty of pepper and three small medallions of sourdough floating near the top, large onion chunks and mozzarella gratings. Or try their grilled turkey sandwich, with tangy cranberry, pungent aioli, creamy Brie, crisp microgreens, and ultra-fresh avocado, on multigrain bread.

Residents also turn to Costeaux for great-grandmother's anise-flavored biscotti, decadent pastries and amazing custom wedding cakes. It could take several luscious weeks to try all of their 1,000+ products.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Luscious Lemon II

Many people know the tiramisu in Italian restaurants as a dessert that incorporates ladyfingers, mascarpone cheese, chocolate, coffee, and perhaps marsala wine. But I recently tried a recipe from Whole Foods for Lemon Tiramisu, which gets its creaminess from part-skim ricotta cheese, and its lemony zing from Limoncello as well as lemon juice.

There's no baking involved and, after a few hours of refrigeration, this lemony treat easily 'falls' from its upended serving dish onto a plate, ready for serving. Check out this recipe for a summery version of an old favorite.

Lemon Tiramisu
Serves 6-8

2 pounds part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
zest of 3 lemons
juice of 3 lemons
1/3 cup Italian lemon liqueur
2 teaspoons cold water
6 ounces ladyfinger cookies (about 40 small cookies)

Special equipment = 1 3/4 quarts capacity bowl or mold

In a large mixing bowl, use a spatula to mix the cheese, sugar, pinch of salt and lemon zest together well. Taste cheese mix and add more sugar if needed, according to taste. Set aside.

Strain lemon juice and mix in a small bowl with the lemon liqueur and the water. To start assembling tiramisu, dip the ladyfinger cookies (one by one) in the liqueur lemon juice mix briefly, and then arrange the cookies in the bottom of the serving bowl. After covering the bottom, place the soaked cookies up the sides of the bowl, overlapping slightly if necessary to cover all around the bottom and sides of the bowl.

Add all the cheese mix to the bowl and press slightly with spatula. Cover the top of the bowl with the remaining soaked cookies. Cover with wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for about 2 hours. Once firm, the tiramisu may be turned over onto a plate to unmold or have the servings scooped from the bowl directly onto plates.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Al Johnson's Goats

At Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay/Door County Wisconsin, the goats that graze on the roof are almost as famous as the Johnson family's authentic Scandinavian cuisine. Soon after the Johnsons transformed their restaurant operation by importing log buildings from Norway to Door County, in 1973, one of Al's friends put the first goat on the roof.

Today a short lawn - complete with clover flowers - grows across the entire roof of the main building. Approximately half a dozen goats, from young kids to older adults, graze and play there, snooze, and bask in the sun on each temperate day, between May and October. But throughout their work days, the goats are seemingly oblivious to their celebrity status and the hundreds of photos taken by amazed onlookers.