Sunday, December 28, 2008

Best Meals of 2008

We enjoyed a particularly culinary year in 2008, mainly contributed to by our trip to Europe in June/July. This is a summary of the more memorable ones: 1. Homemade pizza, 2/10/08: P made the whole wheat pizza dough before he left for Salem and V and I made the pizza that evening. Pesto based with cheese, mushrooms and olives. 2. Thanksgiving in Spring, 5/9/08: Our 9th Annual TIS (or Ix for the Dune fans). Somehow we overestimated the number of guests attending and had a tad too much food (we made 2 turkeys and a ham), but a wonderful celebration with delicious dishes provided by everyone. Particular standouts were Lois' cheesy potato torte and Dave's Rhubarb Raspberry pie. 3. Every meal on our travels in Germany, Switzerland and Italy: We have many great pictures of the food, and only 3 of our family together. V was pouty about (name anything - she had some attitude issues in the early part of the trip) and somehow still managed to be disapppointed when this pear and ice cream sundae arrived during our dinner in Messkirch, Germany. She warmed up to it after tasting it. At this restaurant in Barolo, the waiter didn't bring us a menu when we asked for one, but instead started bringing out various small plates of food. We ended up with about 10 different dishes, some great wine, and a memorable meal.

After our menu-less adventure in Barolo, I handled the ordering at this small side-street restaurant in La Morra the next day for lunch. We had a lovely chilled Moscato with meaty and cheese sandwiches and a buffalo mozzarella tomato salad. V enjoyed a white-chocolate and coffee popcicle for dessert. No pouting there.

We arrived in the small town of Collodi, Italy, the evening before we planned to visit Pinocchio Park and Gardoni Garden (Carlo Collodi is the author of Pinocchio). For dinner we walked from our mini-RV overnight camping location in the Pinocchio Park parking lot to a restaurant on the Piazza della Vittoria to hang with locals watching the EuroCup final between Spain and Germany. V drew on the placemat and we ordered an appetizer sampler, meat plate, cheese pizza and bruchetta. The owner gave us a bottle of Chianti to take on our travels. (see next photo) The next day, we parked the RV at our campground in Fiesole (in the hills outside Florence). After a dip in the pool, I strolled to a small market in "downtown" Fiesole to buy meat, cheese and bread to accompany the Chianti. We ate in the RV and drank wine out of coffee cups. The next day in Florence, we had another great meal at Trattoria La Casalinga. A carafe of the house red, spectacular pesto that V couldn't get enough of, ravioli and tomato salad. Fortunately V took a picture of the restaurant sign when we let her loose with the camera to keep her from complaining about being bored at the table. We met P's friend Aldo for a terrific Florentine meal with lots of wine, good conversation and a bottle of limoncello and cigars provided by the restaurant owner (or just a hook-up by Aldo - my mind started to get fuzzy around that point). In Parma, Italy we had a nice meal at Croce Di Malta, down a side-street outside an old church. We just ordered randomly from the menu and got adventurous. The dish behind the wine bottle was Vitello Tonnato (cold sliced veal with tuna sauce). Everything was wonderful.

Everywhere we went, every day (sometimes twice a day) we treated ourselves to gelato. You could hardly avoid it, especially with a 6-year old travelling with you. We were constantly being reminded of the availability of it, and of any promises that had been made regarding its purchase.

Early in the morning in Parma, we took a free tour of a parmesano-reggiano factory. The tour was fantastic, starting with the arrival of the morning milk and walking us through every step of the process while it was taking place. Plus free cheese and a bag of goodies at the conclusion, and a spin through their onsite store. This was one of my personal goals and highlights of the trip. We arrived at our guesthouse in Afens, Italy just having missed the dinner service. They recommended we walk down the narrow two-lane road to the next Gasthaus to see about a meal. We arrived in a darkened front entrance, but soon the kitchen was fired up and serving P's favorite beer and the best schnitzel I had. In Bad Tolz, Germany I told P I wanted a sausage of some sort for dinner at this brewery. Due to a temporary lapse in menu translation, I ended up with this super-tasty slab of roasted pork. In Munich on the last day of our trip, I finally got my sausage. This weiss wurst in an outdoor biergarten is the stuff of my dreams. Unfortunately after I got back home I realized that I not only ate it at the wrong time of day (this wurst is generally eaten in the morning and we were there just after noon), but I didn't peel it in the traditional fashion. Anyway, it was delicious. The next morning in the Luftahnsa terminal we received a voucher for food since our flight was delayed. My euros went for more weiss wurst, and I was at least eating it at the correct time (approx 7 am!).
4. Duck breast salad, 7/15/08: This salad turned out so attractive and delicious, I'm glad we took a picture of it. Duck breast wrapped in prosciutto on a bed of baby greens with sliced red bell pepper, an orange vinaigrette and fried wonton strips. 5. Birthday breakfast at Chow, Bend, Oregon; 7/26/08: Banana stuffed french toast and eggs benedict. 6. Job's Daughter's Corn Dogs at Nevada County Fair, Grass Valley, California; August 2008: These corn dogs are an annual tradition, just like the NC Fair, in our family. Crispy on the outside and a thick layer of cornmeal with a hot juicy dog in the center. I can't eat a corn dog anywhere else. 7. Hydration at the Nevada County Fair, August 2008: This barely passes as a meal, except that it is vital to my husband's existence, just like my cooking. First picture is Bitney Springs near Rough and Ready, California. This spring has been flowing as long as I can remember (30+ years since my family first moved there) and was bequeathed by the Bitney family to the local residents. It's a "drink at your own risk" type of place but has always treated us well. We fill up all the water bottles on the way to Grass Valley. Second photo is the method used to enjoy a beer (root or otherwise) at the Nevada County Fair without breaking the bank. Park near the entrance under the shade of the pines, stock an ice chest in the trunk of your car and exit/re-enter the fair as desired. 8. Christmas morning breakfast, 12/25/08: Another family Christmas tradition of fruit, crackers, lunchmeat, fig cake, and gourmet cheese from Newport Market. Also a late harvest Gewurtzaminer from Hauer of the Dauen.