Friday, February 6, 2009

Chanterelle Season at The Inn at Kristofer's

Early evening sun cast golden rays across Sister Bay, Door County, Wis., as we arrived for dinner at the The Inn at Kristofer's. Dark wood, linen and more stunning views of the water awaited us. As we ordered wine and perused the menu Executive Chef, Terri Milligan, proudly displayed a small tray of plump, fresh chanterelle mushrooms. Another chef had retrieved them during the brief summer growing season the area is sometimes blessed with - and sometimes not. Each spring, he also forages for morels and ramps.

On this evening the kitchen had used chanterelles in a dish made with fresh-caught whitefish, and a crepe with asparagus. Terri says these mushrooms have a softer flavor than morels do, and subtle mushroom flavor interspersed with bright green al dente asparagus in this delicate wrap. Other members of our party ordered Certified Angus Filet Mignon, Veal Napoleon with Wild Mushrooms and Risotto, and Rack of New Zealand Lamb.

We spent several hours at the table. As shadows lengthened and the moon sent silvery light dancing along the water's surface, we savored more wine, and coffee, paired with cheesecake, apple tatin and a thoroughly decadent Triple Chocolate Mousse Tower. Only a soft pillow and a comfortable mattress could make the evening any better.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cranberry Walnut Truffles

If you've spent any time with me in my virtual kitchen, you already know what fun I have creating a new recipe, which uses ingredients that I have on hand. If you love really dark chocolate and surprises, try these low-sugar, low-fat, antioxidant-rich truffles.

Cranberry Walnut Truffles
Makes 16-18

3/4 cup fresh cranberries, washed and sorted
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (add 1-2 tablespoons more for a slightly sweeter truffle)
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup walnuts, grated fine

Place cranberries in a metal steamer and covered saucepan over high heat, about three minutes, until berries 'explode' and become very soft. Yield is approximately 1/4 cup. (VOE - turn off heat before opening pan to avoid additional explosions :)

Combine cream cheese, confectioner's sugar and cocoa thoroughly, and then stir in cranberries. Refrigerate 7-10 minutes, until slightly hardened. Pour walnuts into shallow pie or quiche pan, and line storage container with foil or waxed paper.

Remove truffle mixture from refrigerator and roll into balls with your fingers, approximately the size of a walnut. After you create each ball, roll it in crushed walnuts and place in container. (VOE - making truffles is messy business, but so worth the results) Do not stack truffles.

Return truffles to refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour before serving, perhaps with a glass of semi-sweet red wine or sherry. Keep refrigerated until they're gone. ENJOY!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Photo Shoot by the Bay

I had purchased my digital SLR camera only six weeks earlier, and San Francisco's sometimes fickle winter weather offered a gorgeous respite in early February. With less than 24 hours before I would leave Fisherman's Wharf I checked in to my hotel, and then began walking around the neighborhood with lens poised.

At Pier 39 I found a cornucopia of great images, from the dark mystery of Houdini's Magic Shop to The San Francisco Music Box Company, where tropical snow globes and Venetian jewelry boxes shared the shelves with hand-crank and Swan Lake music boxes. Diners filled the Crab House at Pier 39 and the Hard Rock Cafe; and Bubba Gump Shrimp offered patrons views of a massive Italian carousel where brightly painted horses pranced and thousands of lights twinkled.

Despite the calendar, a riotous rainbow of flowers decorated the boardwalk. But no place grabbed my attention more than this spot along the upper boardwalk, where the carousel's base disappeared, leaving only the 'roof' and it's intricately hand-painted images of the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Chinatown and other popular San Francisco sites in clear view. I savored the sunshine and wrapped my jacket around me, as the Bay sparkled invitingly.