Friday, September 28, 2012

Sage, Apple, Cheese Scones for Fall

Fall is upon us! Tomorrow night brings the harvest moon (one of the brightest moons of the year, once important to farmers). And just around the corner is my favorite holiday, Halloween. `Tis the season of corn mazes, haunted houses, and pumpkin flavored everything. Just thinking about autumn gets me all smiley. 
One of the things I adore most about fall are the colors. Playing around with a few new lenses, I have every excuse to be outside enjoying the last of the near-summer weather. Of course one of my trusted four-legged sidekicks makes for great photo material. Such a good boy, all he wants is for me to throw the ball (forever). 
However, he does not get kudos for substituting our hard-shelled buddy here for his ball. A story I shall return to another day. Poor guy, I call him Walter. This is about the 8th time we have had to rescue him from the jaws of death (i.e. Clover the wonder dog). I now have a turtle play pen area I keep sectioned off for when Walter here needs a few minutes to regain his composure in between Clover carrying him around in his mouth. 
Another thing I love about fall is the reminder to use up everything in the garden before frost season sets in. We planted a small pineapple sage bush in our front area (turtle play pen) and it has become a beast of a plant. Needing an excuse to trim it back, I ran across this recipe for scones using sage. Perfect!
In addition to replacing half of the sage with pineapple sage, I used a large gala apple as my apple of choice and had left over shredded cheese blends in the fridge which I opted to use in place of dicing up a block of cheddar. The result yielded a moist scone (perfect for reheating) with a subtle flavor. Next time I think I might opt for the original sage instead or possibly add some honey to the top if I keep the pineapple sage. Mmm, more scones. Enjoy!

Sage, Apple, Cheese Scones
Adapted from: Sage, Apple, & Cheddar Scones
  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup very cold butter cut into small pieces
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 apples, finely diced
  • 3 teaspoons finely minced sage (half pineapple sage if possible)
  • ½ cup diced or shredded cheese (I used an Italian/Mexican blend)
Preheat the oven to 375˚. 

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Pulse to mix. Add the cold butter to the flour mixture and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in the apples, cheddar and sage. Place in freezer for 5-10 minutes.
In a small bowl combine the eggs and ¼ cup of the heavy cream. Whisk well to combine.
Add eggs and cream to the flour mixture and stir until dough just comes together. Add additional tablespoons of heavy cream if necessary.
Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface. For mini scones divide the dough into four equal portions. Form each portion into a rough circle 5-6 inches across. Cut each circle into 6-8 wedges. For large scones form two 8-10 inch circles, then cut into wedges.
Place wedges on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fly Fishing & Almond Butter Cake

Fly fishing is an acquired art. One that I obviously need to practice more at because every fish I have ever caught measured in at under 4 inches. Hey, at least I get out there and try, right? My pole is nearly twice my height...
For me, it's more about the time spent out doors and less about the fish. Don't tell my fishing buddies that, though.
Some days it feels like I am out tree fishing as opposed to fly fishing, casting from tree branch to tree branch. Those of you who fish smaller streams will hear me on this one. It's mind-blowingly frustrating, but much like other skilled arts practice, practice, practice.
In the midst of a fishing Sunday, I was hit with the baking urge but without the desire to put a lot of effort into anything. Stashed away in the back of my to-bake recipe pile I found this one for Boterkeok, or a type of Dutch (almond) butter cake. Imagine something in between marzipan and a small breakfast butter cake - that's where this recipe steps in.
I modified the recipe to add some cream in during the batter making as I was worried it was too thick, and also the addition of cranberries in place of sliced almonds. I think by adding the cream it ended up making the cake more similar to marzipan, so if you hoping for more of a cake batter try it without the added cream. The cake is wonderful for breakfast, for a snack, or actually any old time as that seems to be when I was picking at it. Happy baking!

Almond Butter Cake
Adapted from: Butter Cake

  • 1 1/3 cups butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1-3 tbsp cream 
  • Milk or cream for brushing top
  • Sliced cranberries to decorate top (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prep two 9" cake pans for baking (butter and flour). 

Cream butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Then add eggs and almond extract and beat well. 

Next add baking powder and flour and mix well. Finish by adding in a small amount of cream (I thought the batter was way too thick, and then decided to incorporate a little liquid to offset the original recipe). 

Spread evenly between two 9″ cake pans or pie plates. Brush tops with a little cream and top with sliced cranberries if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until light brown – do not overbake or cake will be dry.

Let cool on rack before slicing and serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Local Eats: The Asheville Public

It's been nearly six months now that I've been bumbling around Asheville and I have yet to do a local review. Bad food blogger, tsk tsk. To make up for it, here is a recent spot I tried out for brunch one lazy Saturday - The Asheville Public. Reviews on Yelp were mixed, not a good sign, but the other half wanted to give the place a fair shot so we went and sampled. And in all honesty, I don't think they deserve the lousy two stars awarded to them on Yelp. They are at least a three star joint. The decor is delightful, a mix and match of old diner and modern deco, and the food portions are more on the French style than the American style (good for the waistline). The location is sweet if you want to avoid the congestion of tourist-clogged downtown Asheville, and next door is the hippie flea market for any shoppers wanting to walk off their brunch.
The shining star of our brunch - their Porky Bloody Mary. Yum, yum, yum. Every once in a while I am blessed in enjoying the beauty of a damn good bloody mary and The Asheville Public definitely serves up one of the best I've had in ages. They are on their A-game with their bloody marys, especially with the added pork fat rimmed glass salted with old bay seasoning and scrumptious beef jerky spear keeping the tomato juice happy.
I opted for their huevos rancheros while the hubby had the steak and eggs. Even with the portions being more on the demi side, the dishes were fairly good without being stellar. The huevos rancheros consisted of refried black beans, topped with a poached egg, and various garnishments all sitting within a (in my case, stale) tortilla cup.  The steak and eggs were tasty, however the menu advertised hashbrowns while oily breakfast potatoes were what ended up on the plate. And both of us were hungry again within a few hours, so take note not to go expecting a belly-full. All in all I'd try their brunch again and maybe swing in for a dinner or two as well before I write them off. If for their swanky diner decor more than anything. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Carrboro & Chapel Hill Charm

Another travel weekend under my belt. This time, to the beautiful Chapel Hill and Carrboro area of North Carolina. A little exploring, a bit of music, more work than I care to admit, and lots of opportunities to try new eateries! Here are a few of my favorites enjoyed over the weekend.
Close to the hotel we stayed at is a mixed live-work complex with the newly opened Elements tucked away on the main pedestrian level. It was open just three weeks by the time we arrived on a lazy Friday night, and I was blown away with how together the place seems to have it for being in its infancy.
I opted for the walnut shrimp, which was to die for! Some of the best I have had in years. We tried a few appetizers including their charcuterie plate, a bottle of vino, and entrees apiece - all winners in my book. Funny side note - I'm fairly sure they thought I was a food critic once I whipped out my camera and started taking notes (easy way to get superior service).
Following a night of um, heavy libation, we were starved for a good brunch scene and found ourselves at Venable Rotissarie Bistro in Carrboro. It's located at the end of the Historic Car Mill (lots of history round these parts) and offers a four hour brunch menu on weekends that is surprisingly tasty. I opted for the huevos rancheros and a side of cheesy gritz, both of which immensely satisfied my state of hangover. It appears they are still learning the fine art of bloody marys as the one I had wasn't quite right, but I have faith in them. The wait staff is entertaining and sassy, my kind of server, and I highly recommend swinging by for a visit.
I have a new catchphrase for the Aloft Hotel in Chapel Hill, and actually for all Aloft Hotels - hotels for hipsters. The vibe in this hotel was very much geared towards the under 30 crowd with pop music blaring out of the speakers in any and every common space area near the lobby and the trendy WXYZ bar bringing young patrons in until late in the evening. The room was comfortable and reasonably affordable for the price, the location was damn near perfect, and having the live-work complex right next door made lazy (fine) dining easy to come by.
Acme in Carrboro deserves an honorable mention as does Nana's in Durham, NC. I tried Acme for a lazy Sunday breakfast (stellar) and tried Nana's for a fancy dinner the evening before. Both were wonderful and on my list to return to for the next time I'm in town. And if anyone visiting the Chapel Hill area needs a good laugh, go check out the frat boy college scene on Franklin Street some weekend night - hilarious!