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Happy Birthday, Granny Gooch

This sassy bunny is Jean Dau (born Polly Jean Boyles, but she couldn’t stand that first name, so Jean it was), whose 99th birthday would have been today.

She was my one and only grandmother, who we called Gram because as the grandkids started showing up when she was only 50 she would have no part of being a GRANDMOTHER or any such nonsense. I called her Granny Gooch and she called me Nilrad and we got on like houses afire except for when we didn’t. She taught me to ride horses and kick ass and take names and I taught her to swear like a sailor. Peas in a pod, really.

Despite tough times and all the good and bad that go into living on this planet, hers was not a sad story. Hers was a story of a rodeo princess and lifelong horsewoman who became a school teacher and lived the life she wanted to live with no apologies and plenty of grit who even now inspires me to keep putting one foot in front of the other even when I think I’m too tired to ever possibly go on.

At any rate, I digress. Suffice it to say that the only bad thing about my Gram dying at 91 in 2011 is that I don’t get to call her on the phone every Saturday any more. Though I do think I talk to her more often these days, oddly enough. I figure she can hear me better now without any device needed because I’m certain that wherever she is, she’s got her eyes and ears on me.

Every year on her birthday, I try to do a little something to honor the time I was lucky enough to spend with her, which usually involves eating something DELICIOUS that might be BAD FOR ME. Doesn’t that sound like fun??

This year, in honor of GG, I decided to whip up her favorite breakfast of biscuits and gravy and serve it for dinner (as one does). By which I mean to say, tender, fluffy, glorious biscuit pillows soaking up hefty dollops of milk gravy full of sausage and black pepper and served with eggs basted easy in bacon grease. We are, after all, talking about a woman who would sit and eat mayonnaise by the spoonful out of the jar with a look of sheer joy on her face.

There’s a wonderful article from The Sunday New York Times Magazine that came out about 6 months after Gram died, called, “You Are Making Your Biscuits Wrong” that has not one but two terrific biscuit recipes and a sausage gravy recipe that would have met with Gram’s approval. For this particular celebration, I decided to go with the All-Purpose Biscuits, though I’m certain no one would quibble if you decided to go for the Cake-Flour recipe instead!

I pretty much followed the recipe, with the exception of seasoning the gravy. It calls for sage and fennel, but when I reached into the spice cupboard to doctor it up, I discovered no sage…but I DID spy my little tin of fennel pollen and in a moment of inspiration, used that instead. (Side note here: if you haven’t had the good fortune to bump into fennel pollen yet, it’s worth the time and trouble to track some down. It is truly a little sprinkle of heaven! I found mine on Amazon. And if you get some and don’t know what to do with it, the nice folks at the Escoffier SCA have some ideas to share.) It makes it a little schmancier than the gravy that Gram used to eat, but from the results I can vouch — she would have loved it!

So here’s what things looked like when all was said and done. We drank a toast to Jean Dau and then tucked in to our breakfast for dinner (on the china that Gram gave me, of course!).

Baking powder biscuits, sausage gravy and bacon fat-basted egg

Happy Birthday, Granny Gooch! Miss you every day.

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Planning a Trip the Eating & Drinking Way

Getting ready for a très français dinner party!

As luck would have it, we’re planning a trip to London and Paris for later this fall (I know, spoiled, right?!) and we’re busily getting various ducks in a row for said trip (or not so busily, because life seems to be zipping by more quickly than ever right now!), and I must say that the best part of the process is reaching out to our friends for recommendations and thoughts on planning.

For some magical reason, I happen to know a lovely and generous couple who hail from those exact places — she’s from France and he’s from England — who are also both in the hospitality industry. I ask you, who better to shepherd us to all the bestest, rightest things to eat, drink and pretty while we’re there?!

When I pitched them with the idea of getting together, they graciously agreed to come over for dinner and share their thoughts, and so a date was set and the planning of a menu was begun and our home was readied for an evening full of all things French and English and delicious.

But, what to serve? Menu planning was a bit of a challenge, as Seattle is currently cusping from Summer to Fall. A particularly problematic, transitional time of year both for getting dressed and for planning menus, as far as I’m concerned: it’s hot, no it’s cold, no it’s windy, no it’s rainy. So hard to find the “just right,” Goldilocks solution to so many things that are so rapidly changing… don’t you think?

At any rate, after much backing and forthing, I settled on this:

Course 1
Rillettes (recipe courtesy of the always amazing @davidlebovitz) with cornichons and dijon

Radishes with a big ol’ slab of European butter and sprinkled with Maldon Salt (if you have the time and are curious, there’s a fascinating little essay you might want to peruse on the history of said salt on the Bon Appétit website!)

Fresh baguette (from @macrinabakery, of course!)

Course 2
Daube de Boeuf (a truly “arsenal-worthy” recipe from one of my favorite all time books, Cooking for Mr. Latte by the rockstar @amandahesser, formerly with The New York Times and now helming Food52 ) which requires a bit of time management and planning but is TOTALLY worth it (not even kidding… you may never make any other beef stew recipe again!)

Egg noodles fancied up with some compound butter and lots of fresh, chopped parsley

Course 3
Plum Cake (another “arsenal” recipe that comes from the Deb “the Delightful” Perelman of @smittenkitchen!) served with gently sweetened, softly whipped cream

And wine, of course. LOTS of wine. Our friends brought Schramsburg, which went perfectly with the first course and then we opened a beautiful bottle of Chinon (which I picked up at the très charmant French wine bar Cépaé in Bellevue) to go with the Daube. We finished with the beautiful Plum Cake and coffee, followed directly by crowding around the Top10 Paris Guide they had thoughtfully brought with them and my trusty ol’ Plan de Paris from visits past to trade ideas, make notes and plan notre visite à Paris. 

And that, really, was that (unless you count that washing up). So with bellies full and hearts bursting with gratitude, we found ourselves a tiny bit closer to having a proper travel agenda and happily crawled into bed to, as the French so charmingly put it, “make beautiful dreams.”

Bonne nuit!

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Just Say Yes

Yes!

From the very beginning of who we are, says a friend of mine, we have a motto in our heart of hearts. Sort of a “Life T-shirt,” if you will. At every party we went to in our 30’s, that was her icebreaker question to people she would meet, “What’s on YOUR Life T-shirt?

My original Life Tshirt, from birth I swear, is,”You aren’t the boss of me!”. Which morphed, over the years, into, “I don’t know who you THINK you are, but you’re not the boss of me!”. Sassiness, evidently, increases with age. 

And speaking of age, now that I’m (ahem!) a bit older than dirt, I am happy — THRILLED, really — to have discovered that if we’re lucky and paying attention, we might even get to have more than one. So I have added another Life Tshirt to my mental wardrobe. Wanna know what it is? Open up your mind and say AHHHHHHHHH because it’s a really good one, if I do say so myself! 

Are you ready for it? It is: JUST. SAY. YES. Three simple little words strung together in a row that can make things turn out even better than you can possibly imagine, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Just say yes to those you love, to your dreams, to your aspirations, to opportunities that present themselves, to your very own little self…to life. That is it. Just say yes to life. 

Imagine the possibilities!

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A Lovely Logo

So pretty!

I am fortunate to be surrounded by lots of ‘pretty’…after all, making the world a prettier place to be is what I do for a living! Every so often I work on a project that comes out so well and makes me feel so good that it’s hard to resist posting about it. So, the short and the sweet of it is that Treveri Cellars is one of the best wineries in Washington state — it’s a family operation making the most delish sparkling wine in the traditional method (you read that right: ALL SPARKLING ALL THE TIME!!). They just happen to be a client at my day job…a favorite client, if the truth be told, and yes we do ‘drink their koolaid’ as much as we possibly can.

Together, we worked on creating a special logo and label (based on the Grieb family crest) for their Reserve Club which focuses on Extended Tirage sparkling wines (if you want to read up on such things, Wine Folly has a great primer on such things here!). To see more great stuff from our work together, you can surf on over and read about a few projects here here and here. OR, if you’re feeling footloose fancy, free and like a road trip would do you a world of good, skeddadle to their winery in Wapato, grab a bottle of bubs and sit out on their patio and enjoy the view…and the wine, of course!

Cheers, dears!!

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The Prettiest Drinky Drink

Hello, gorgeous!

I am a HUGE fan of simple, delicious, amazing cocktails. By which I mean to say, how few ingredients can we get away with and still fill our cups with an elixir that even the Gods couldn’t resist?

How about you? If you’re in that club, have I got a recipe for you! I found it when I was casting about for a cocktail to serve with Sausage Cheddar Balls (not even kidding) before a dinner of barbecue ribs and slaw with my Fella and our friend Denise Minard (yes, it was scrumptious… yes, she will vouch for that… and yes, I will post about it in future so you can give it a whirl!).

I found this recipe on the Mix That Drink website, and it seemed to fit all the usual requirements. Plus, it’s gin based (which they love and I don’t, really, but a good hostess must make the occasional concession!) AND, really the best part of all, I could use the transformational Empress Gin to make it drop dead gorgeous. Full stop on that — if you haven’t experienced the most beautiful gin on the planet, go out and get thee a bottle right now and mix it with anything acidic and prepare your jaw for dropping. It’s made with butterfly pea blossom, so changes color as acid is added…and if you layer the ingredients properly, there’s more than one color change! Try this: gin + limoncello = green + lemon juice = pink. YAY!

At any rate, it was a smash hit and summery and lovely and so I thought I’d share it here with you. You can find the recipe on my Pinterest quaffs board and I’ve even designed a little pdf you can download if you’d like something pretty to show your guests when you make it…. because you will.

Cheers!

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When One Doesn’t Feel Like COOKING, Exactly…

Lovely picnic to enjoy after a long day of work
Indoor picnic for two

I’m a fan of keeping a larder stocked with lots of things that make certain moments easier. Moments like ‘honey, some friends and I are on our way and everyone is famished’ or like ‘what a day, who’s cooking, oh shit it’s me’. You know those moments, or at least I’d like to think that I’m not the ONLY one with those moments. And in the spirit of sharing our superest and handiest secrets so we can all live our best lives, here’s an example of what one might do in just such a moment.

This is a dinner I threw together one bleak night after my fella and I had experienced a fairly long day. A day so long that we didn’t even want to go out and have someone else cook (!) and I couldn’t bring myself to do absolutely nothing, because doing even just a little something in the kitchen always makes me feel better. And so I turned to some tasty bits that are usually lurking in the back of the fridge and pantry to make a little something out of nothing.

First, I made a batch of tuna and chickpea salad (for which there really is no recipe, but does have lots of lemon juice and zest; chopped onion, parsley, celery and celery leaves; a bit of mustard; a good glug of olive oil and a generous amount of salt and black pepper), which you can see at the center of the board and lettuce leaves for dolloping it into and wrapping around for munching.

To the left is a dish of the most delightful Thousand Islands Dressing (recipe courtesy of Saveur) that our fridge is never without (we use it for dipping things into and spreading onto things and are always amazed at how delicious it is on EVERYTHING) and a variety of fresh veggies sprinkled around it for dunking.

To the far right is a tiny dish of the most potent Fromage Fort (from the incredible Jacques Pépin via Food and Wine, whose father made it originally by tossing bits and bobs of leftover cheese into a crock he kept in the cellar, covering them with a bit of wine and a few cloves or garlic and smooshing it around every now and again until it was spreadable). It is a truly magical recipe, as one can use any kind and amount of cheese, and it turns out differently and DELICIOUSLY each and every time. I’ve made at least a hundred batches of the stuff and I can vouch!

Thrown in some stone ground crackers, a dish of Truffled Marcona Almonds from the Trader Joe’s and a little pile of whatever charcuterie happens to be on hand, and you have yourself a perfect little picnic. We threw a blanket on the floor and opened a bottle of wine and enjoyed it tremendously.

And when you next have one of THOSE moments, I heartily encourage you to do the same!

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