January is not all Bad

I have been known to complain aloud, quite often, concerning the reality that months such as July and September just fly by while January progresses at a crawl. Considering the difference in the months, this just isn’t fair. It should, it seems to me, be just the opposite – wouldn’t it be better to have June go on and on, and let January go by in a flash?  But perhaps I need to rethink this. I mean, really, what is so bad about January?  For one thing, who can complain about our January weather in this age of climate change?  We “suffered” through four days of temperatures under 35 degrees last month; the rest of the time the range was a low of 37 to a high of 71 during daytime hours.  While this might make it hard to plan your wardrobe day to day, it certainly is not cause to diss the entire month.  And definitely the quality of food available during this month has not suffered, not when you can get some of the sweetest spinach you ever had from Anchor Nursery at the Farmers Market, as well as greens from John and sweet potatoes and celeriac from Theresa and bread from Carl and some of the best eggs you’ve ever eaten from Kennedyville.

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This photo is of some of that Anchor spinach beneath a couple of poached Snyder/Malone Kennedyville BackYard eggs.  July should be so lucky.

When else but January are you going to make hand-pies, filled with chicken and winter squash, as Kevin did this month for the Market?

And you won’t find a 13 year old in the Kitchen on a fine Saturday in May, but you might find him there on a raw Saturday in January, right?  Our friend Adam came to cook with Chef Kevin again this year, helping to prepare his Mom’s birthday dinner at the K-B Market.  He’s only about a foot taller than he was last year and his passion for cooking has not diminished either.

Pecan praline bars, roast lamb chops, fried oysters, these are not readily available in June, which adds to January’s cache as well.

It’s beginning to look like January is not so bad after all, at least as far as weather and food are concerned.

But there is still the time thing.  Does January really move at a snail’s pace, compared to the more “attractive” months of our year?  This issue may not be quite resolved, in part because of the shortage of daylight hours that accompany the month.  There is just too much darkness.  Plus it seems we do spend an awful lot of time in January wishing it were April, or, in our case, anticipating vacation, which does not help speed the passage of dark time.  So, since January is going to last forever anyway, it makes sense to continue to focus on the seasonality of your meals, which, while this activity might be a little more difficult than it is in August or October, is something to do while you are waiting for spring to get here.  Right?

One of our quests this month has been for chicken.  We have been researching chicken for quite some time, and over the course of our experience have tried several brands, from Bell and Evans which you can find at Whole Foods, to organic chicken from d’Artagnan.  When one of our customers told us they got the best chicken ever at a local store, we called to find out the brand.  And indeed, Murray’s chickens are up there with some of the better commercially raised birds; we’ve used them for years at Brooks and beyond, but we wanted to take it one step further.  We wanted air-chilled chickens.  We wanted to get away from the water/ice/chlorine bath that conventional chickens are bathed in after processing, some of which they can absorb through their skin.  Bell and Evans chickens are air-chilled: check!  But the distributor for this bird does not deliver above Kent Island, which obviously was not going to work for our us.  Eventually a google search brought us to Smart Chicken.  Since we are 40 miles from the closest Harris Teeter – which has an exclusive arrangement with the Smart people – we could offer it, and it is distributed through one of our regular purveyors. So far, so good. We met with a rep from the company, proceeded to swallow the propaganda hook, line and sinker… and then we finally tasted it.  And that was all it took. When was the last time you roasted a whole chicken and not only was the breast still juicy and savory but the skin so crispy it actually crackled?  I will not proclaim that the meat is as full-flavored as that chicken you harvest from your own backyard, not at all, but is it absolutely better than the average chicken you can get at the grocery store?  Yes it is. This is not a “local” poultry product, which for a lot of these better quality poultry products means Pennsylvania local. Smart Birds are raised in Nebraska, but of course that can be justified by the fact that the feed they eat does not have to be transported to them and the water they use does not run off into a bay or its tributaries.  Apparently shipping processed birds to market is a lot more cost effective than shipping grain to the birds.  (As I said, I swallowed the propaganda…)  But eventually proof is in the pudding, and we are sold:

We are going to carry these beautifully packaged, flavorful and well-raised chickens until something better comes along.  They are doing (almost) everything right.

Of course, nothing would be more local, more natural and more free range than:

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…wild turkeys.  But they are a bit harder to procure and slightly difficult to cook.

Here’s hoping your meals in January were as seasonal as you could make them, and once we get through slow month number two – February – it will be March, which means that soon asparagus will begin poking up to announce that our diets are about to get much more diversified!  Use the time wisely.

Cheers!

Fast Away the Old Year Passes

Hail the New!    This first post of 2017 is going to carry the usual theme of food as its central topic, but it won’t be all about Kevin’s food.  With the Holidays comes travel, and the opportunity for dining at other tables, which in turn often offers the inspiration to expand ones own waist repertoire as a cook.  Today I’m going to share not only a couple of plates from the  K-B Market kitchen, but also  photos of many of our dining adventures in New York, Philadelphia and Comegys Road from the past few weeks.  Luckily this is something you can do (or not) on your own time, rather than sit through a slide show in our living room…

From the K-B Market the last weeks of December brought many wonderful things, including Kevin’s should-be-world-famous pate:

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…and some choice lamb chops for a dinner party on December 30th:

But frankly, lately the focus has been on eating as much as cooking. As I mentioned in the last post – pre-Christmas – we enjoy an annual trek or two to Philadelphia, this time of year generally to spend several hours at their famous Reading Terminal Market.  The pretzel dogs at Martin’s are often our first stop, and this year I was caught thus:

Mission accomplished!

Christmas Weekend found us tightly ensconced on Comegys Road, with our usual Eggs Benedict breakfast starting the Day of Feasting off on the right track:

The sight of Kevin cooking in his bathrobe is a rare one indeed.  For the evening menu, we remained true to the French themed plan of steak au poivre and crepes Suzette:

Possibly one of our most successful Christmas Dinners ever.  And let me tell you, that is a relatively rare accomplishment!

Kevin spent one morning during Christmas Week in the Luisa kitchen working with the cousins as they broke down a SBF veal.  As usual, he had a terrific time.

After the Holidaze were over, we felt we needed a break from reality and so took the Amtrak to Manhattan for a BirthWeekend extravaganza.  Talk about eating!  We ate as much as we walked, to keep the balance, and we did a LOT of both.  Best dish? IMHO, it was the L’ile Flottante at Le Coq Rico in the Flatiron neighborhood.  We went for dinner on Sunday night with our friends Marie and Frederick, and at the end of that very good meal, when we all wanted to order what is supposed to be the best version of Floating Island in New York, (arguably even better than the dreamy one at La Grenouille), we were told “sold out”.  What!!!???  That is what we (I anyway) came to this restaurant specifically to order!  Disappointed ruled and we accepted no substitutions.  However, we did have a plan B.  We went the next day just for dessert!

I will tell you, maybe it was because we had it after a relatively light sushi lunch at SugarFish (conveniently located across the street), but this was an incredibly delicious dessert, and more than likely better appreciated than it may have been the night before, when its appearance would have occurred after a much larger meal.  The richest creme anglaise ever.  Each spoonful was an “OMG”.  Perfect.

But that wasn’t the only spectacular dish we consumed over our weekend of gluttony.  We had our best overall meal at Atoboy, a restaurant manned by a former chef of one of our favorite NYC restaurants Jungsik, with a small plate format that suited us perfectly.  The Peking Duck at Decoy was probably second in line; it lived up to the hype and will probably be one the few places that could make it on the annual must-go lists. We managed to get in a dim sum lunch at Jing Fong, already on that annual list, as our go-to in Chinatown for that special dining experience (chicken feet!!).  There were pastries to be had at Maison Kayser all over town, bagel competitions,  Chinese noodles from Xi’an Famous Foods and Pichot Ong’s latest venture Chaan Teng , Swedish candy on Christopher Street, Mexican at Rosie’s and of course a couple of food halls to fill in the gaps.  At the Winter Flea Smorgasburg we had one of the best pork sandwiches ever, from the Tramezzini stall, and at the New York outpost of the Japanese noodle chain TsuruTonTan we marveled over the Tuna Tartar cones.  Then we gobbled them up.  So many places to eat, so little time.  We’ll deal with the credit card later.  And thankfully the walking helped with the caloric intake…

Here are a few pictures:

What a great city!  We already can’t wait to return.

Whew, what a whirlwind.  We came back to the Eastern Shore on Monday, marveling at the quietness of it all.

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The beauty of it is that New York will be there, but there is no place like home.

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Well, as usual, December has gone way fast and now it is the Winter Solstice and Christmas is literally right around the corner.  People are asking “are you ready for Christmas?” and my response remains the same: “Always!”  Who wouldn’t  be ready for a day off from work, complete with a fancy meal, champagne and packages of surprises?  With Christmas on a Sunday this year some of us are getting a bit ripped off in the “day off” department, since we are always off on a Sunday, but it will still be Christmas, which is slightly different from a normal Sunday, right?  Yes, we are ready.

One of the most fun things we did this month – aside from getting our wreathes at Simmons’ that is – is hosting a birthday cooking class for a 17 year old novice cook.  It was what Luke asked for – cooking classes – and we picked him up at the Farmers Market on a Saturday morning to start his birthday in the kitchen with Kevin on a buying note.  (We introduced him to vendors as “our new son Luke” – ha!)  His goals were simple – he wanted to be able to make dinner for his family.  By the time his mom and sister came to pick him up at noon, he had succeeded in doing just that – spaghetti with red sauce, a green salad with a basic vinaigrette and garlic bread was ready for lunch.

Of course everyone who came into the market that day assumed that Luke was hoping that learning some new cooking skills would also enhance his skills with the ladies…

Another event in December included more hands-on participation by the diners, with the guests shucking the oysters and pressing the duck:

The menu featured Kevin’s smoked duck breast, as well as pate and confit, eventually bringing the whole bird to the table.

But, as is often the way, I neglected to get any pictures of the plated meal…suffice to say, the host came back the next day to order more smoked breast!!

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Oyster fritters were served at two dinners this month, as this small version attests.  I felt compelled to put it in full size, it looks so good.

The stuffed pork tenderloin below was part of a supposed small plate menu, but by the time it came for this pork dish, most appetites had already been satisfied and many to-go plates were requested.  The crab cake plates in the second shot are missing the turf part of the menu – roasted leg of lamb.

Kevin has really put in the time this month – last week he worked 70 hours!  One of these days I am afraid he is going to ask to be compensated for it!  He managed to make bread from wild yeast, which was a major goal of his, and the walnut bread produced resulted in walnut bread croutons, which is one of the best conduits for pate found on this earth. The new favorite dessert has to be the Salted Nut Caramel Tart, which he made several time for various groups.  Why there aren’t more pictures of Kevin’s food this month, I don’t know…cheesecake, stuffed rockfish, seafood chowder, pumpkin pie – where are they??  I suppose we know what my New Year’s Resolution will be now…

Anyway, I admit, I’m just ready for the Holiday Weekend to begin. We have our menu all planned – steak au poivre this year – and managed to get the cards and packages in the mail with not a moment to spare, according to our Local Post Mistress.  Traditionally we enter our Winter Holiday season with a laying of the greens at the family plot in the Still Pond Cemetery the second Sunday in December, during which we unabashedly drink champagne, eat biscuits and Christmas cookies and amble around the graveyard visiting family and friends in their final guise.  It is a wonderful way to start the holidays. This is followed by a visit to Simmons’ Tree Farm, to select a couple of wreaths with which to grace our doors.  Simmons is a Kent County Treasure, that is for sure, and the train set gets larger every year. Picking out our annual poinsettias at Anthony’s is another December event – nothing gets you into the Holiday frame of mind faster than entering their greenhouse filled with poinsettias as far as you can see. After that it is the usual hustle and bustle, with time made for a quick trip to Philadelphia to do some shopping at the Reading Terminal Market, although this time it was more about grazing than shopping.  (I cannot resist Miller’s pretzel dogs, and this year was no exception.)  We also must visit Di Bruno’s, on Chestnut Street, just to see and smell, wandering past aromatic cheeses, all the charcuterie you could imagine, trays of Christmas cookies and platters of roasted vegetables and meats.  It is quite a sensational place, and while we often leave empty handed – “just looking, thanks!” – we never leave uninspired.

And of course now that the LaMotte wreath is up and lit, well, let the Holly Daze begin!!  We are looking forward to our Eggs Benedict on Christmas morning, as well as the cheese fondue spread we will feast upon with our neighbors the night before. Our Christmas Dinner will be long and festive, with a big fire outside to keep us warm. And don’t tell Kevin, but the food angle of this holiday will be continued into the stocking phase as  well!

We have had a great year with you, and we are looking forward to the next one, with many more food experiences to share.  Thank you so much for your support!  We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a most Happy New Year!

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Ho HO Ho!

The Holidays Approach

It is no secret that I am a sucker for the Holiday Season.  I am already chomping at the bit to get the Christmas Mugs down from the attic, and while I am not ready for the onslaught of Christmas music – I’m so glad I don’t work in retail this time of year – I look forward to its eventual arrival at home and office, and to the annual viewing of every version of The Christmas Carol known to man.  It is only one month out of twelve, and I figure we might as well take full advantage of this Holiday of Lights while we can. When if is over it will be January, February, March.  So, let the Holly Daze begin, particularly the menu planning!

We’ve had a lot of fun at the K-B Market this month – and why did November fly by so quickly? – including an Evening with Mimmo, a couple of OysterFests, several private dinner events plus regular life in Kennedyville.  All loosely documented for sharing here and elsewhere.

We’ll start with Mimmo.  As most of you know, Mimmo and his cousin Vinny own Luisa’s in Chestertown.  We respect them as solid restaurant owner-operators, and we have been fortunate to develop a mutually beneficial relationship over the past several years.  We spoke to Mimmo several weeks ago about the possibility of having him come in here to do a class on Risotto, and he was more than game.  It was a sell-out, of course, and Mimmo was a star:

(Once again, don’t forget you can click on the pix to see them in a larger format.)

The following week, Mimmo wanted to come back to learn how Kevin makes his bread.  He arrived on the Wednesday before ThanksGiving, and spent most of the day making the bread – which is an all-day process – and watching out for his side-kick, his four year old daughter.  It was a blast having them here.

Party food has been pretty spectacular this month.  We had several where the hosts say “You go for it Kevin”, and off he goes!

We held two OysterFests in November, and could probably have held ten more!  (we’ll do it again in February or March!)  It was a lot of fun and a lot of oysters.

One of the items we offered on our ThanksGiving Market Menu last week was Maryland Beaten Biscuits.  I posted about this last year, including my tutorial with local Beaten Biscuit Queen, Laurette Sisk.  These biscuits are a staple at many Eastern Shore Holiday Tables, and with the adjournment of the Orrell Family in recent years- whose bags of orbs had always been in plentiful supply at the local Acme – we needed to step up to the plate and provide a source for this vital Holiday food.  They aren’t hard to make, they just take time, and time is what we made for them last week.  We baked about 12 dozen and sold out.  Full disclosure – we learned a new trick this year!

As mentioned last post, fruit cake was also on the November agenda, and four were made.  We began selling it for the TG Menu last week, and guess what?  Gone.  Well, almost gone.  It is amazing to me, since so many people profess to not like fruitcake.  Thank goodness there are more than a few that do!  We have enough left for sampling during Christmas week, and next year I will have to make eight I guess!

One of Kevin’s favorite seafood purveyors, from decades of restaurant business, came by to see us this month, and on Friday after TG, he again pulled into our driveway, but this time he did not stay.  He dropped off a goose for us, a freshly killed Canada goose, ready for plucking.  Well, seeing as Kevin has never plucked anything before, we got a little help from our friends and then he proceeded to clean it up.  Apparently the fact that it was still warm made it much easier, and, if you are still with me here, that fresh liver was one of the most delicious things we ever ate.  Thank you Frank, you made our Saturday night.  We roasted half of the breast for dinner, slow braised the legs for a future  meal and froze the rest of the breast to smoke in December for our Christmas Dinner.  That goose did not die in vain.

ThanksGiving is over for another year.  We have turned our pumpkins into soup, our leftovers are spread far and wide and we are ready to begin entertaining the idea of eggnog and eggs Benedict.  December is food-centric around our house, with trips to WholeFoods and Reading Terminal Market sealing the deal.  Chocolates arrive in the mail, champagne gets ordered by the case and we just hope that too many pounds don’t stick to our ribs.  It seems there are so many more food traditions at Christmas and New Year’s than any other time for us,  some written in stone, some a bit transient but still happily anticipated.  Some from our childhood and others created by our own history together.  It all adds up to comfort.  In a few weeks we will be in the thick of it, ready to see our favorites again and ready to make some of yours.  In the meantime, ThanksGiving 2016 will go down as one of the best ever, with much to be Thankful for, especially for the people who make our lives as full as our bellies were last Thursday.  Cheers to all as we look forward to another Holiday Season in Kent County.

It’s National Food Month

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Ha!  Just kidding!  Every month is Food Month at the K-B Market.  Every day.  It’s what we do.  We start thinking about next week’s food last week.

And so we once again start with dessert.

Fall is apples and pumpkin, sweet potatoes and turnips.  And trust Kevin to make it all taste good.  He made some roasted vegetables for an event last week, and took those sturdy root vegetables and concocted a savory tart out of them – what’s not to like?  Especially when there’s  a little cheese in there.

And then there’s pork belly – who doesn’t like pork belly??  With a soy sauce glaze and a hint of Five Spice?

We’ve had several special events recently, including a couple of Farmers Market demo-dinners, a surprise birthday for three and a Father/Daughter pasta making class.  We even “catered” some of the food for an off-premise gathering in Chestertown!  (No, we will not be making a habit of doing that – when I commented to another participant about how much I disliked catering, he responded by comparing it to moving, which is exactly the right parallel, including the fact that both are hard on relationships.  There is a reason why caterers charge so much for their services…)  And despite being busy, October moved along at a nice comfortable pace, giving us time to enjoy some life outside of work too – although we completely missed the whole of DownRigging this year.  The closest we came was a drive through town on Sunday in search of FoodTrucks…

Through it all, Kevin’s main oven remains inoperable:

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Several visits from technicians attempting to breathe life into the large oven – which began to show signs of failure right after the “fix” for the problem of heat dispersion was implemented – have failed.  It is amazing #1 that no one can seem to solve the problem with this expensive piece of equipment and #2 that Kevin has managed to work around the issue!  Eight working burners and a small oven – which barely holds a half-sheet pan – and he hasn’t missed a beat.  Kind of makes you wonder why we got this big Blue Star to begin with, eh?  (just kidding Kevin!)  Currently we are waiting for the company to send an entire new “guts” for replacement installation.  What that is going to cost us is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, Kevin continues to produce some inspirational food for our guests.

The aforementioned birthday dinner was a surprise for the Husband who had been a big fan of Brooks.  We tried to include some of his past favorites, including the French Onion Soup.

Kevin got a smoker to use out back, and he has not given it much rest since it showed up to work.  You’ve seen the pictures of the first pork roast to emerge from its clutches, and it’s been in use for a few other smoky items as well:

The smoked bluefish was particularly successful, and we hope to see more of that as fall continues to affect our menu choices.

And of course Kevin continues to have fun with pork:

One of the best times in our kitchen lately was the Dad/Daughter pasta class.  For her tenth birthday, this little girl wanted to learn how to make pasta, and what better teacher than Kevin!  Here’s a bit of a slide show as to how that went:

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On the home front, or, rather, the camping front, Chicken Cacciatore made its debut at our most recent campsite, to much success.  This is a dish from my youth, when my cousin used to prepare her version for me on any number of my regular visits to her kitchen from my college dorm.  I loved it then and it has gotten even better with “age”.  It was quite sensational with the added bonus of being cooked over the open fire.  And with David King’s mushrooms of course!

I leave you with our favorite little visitor – Perfect Peter – who is new to Chestertown, but probably has yet to meet a heart he hasn’t won.

Time to go – there are Beaten Biscuits to work on and Fruitcake to make!  I’ll update you about the progress of those iconic holiday foods when next we meet!

Cheers!

He Just Keeps Cooking

The geese are in the building.

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And then there’s this, another sure sign of Fall:

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And if that weren’t all we need for proof that summer is over, here’s this:

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One of the many good things about being back here at our Kennedyville Location is that Kevin can pick up the chestnuts out in the yard while they are still fresh, before they get attacked by the chestnut weevil.  Kevin loves his chestnuts, so you will most likely be seeing them on his menus in the next few months.  And they are very pretty.

There’s been a lot of good things on the menu this Fall so far, as we wean ourselves slowly from watermelon and tomato and head to butternut squash and apples.  But first, before any of that can happen, the Health Department has to stop in and guarantee that we are going to be safe eating Kevin’s food.  No one should ever complain about the presence of Environmental Health entering their establishment – not if they want to eat out at other places!

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I was out in the parking lot when they drove in, and at first when I saw Erica and her Intern pulling on their (cool) blue jackets I thought it was some kind of kitchen help sent over by Colchester to work with Kevin on the vegetables he was preparing for their OctoberFest event.  But no, it was the Health Department, who managed to give us a thorough inspection during Market Hours, perfectly timed with the aforementioned veg prep and the break-down of some large cuts of pork from Sudlersville.  It was all good, and everyone was left satisfied that it is okay to eat our food.  Kevin often mentions safe food handling and storage during Demo-Dinners; one of the first things he would give new hires was a book called something like “Food Safety 101” to emphasize the importance of keeping your customers healthy and secure.  It’s basically about trust – someone you don’t really know cooks your food (usually behind closed doors) and you rely on them to do it in a way that will not harm you in any way, right?   It’s a valuable commodity, that trust, and we would not do anything to jeopardize it.

So, just to show you, here are the vegetables being prepared for Colchester:

Enough for 100 people!

So, what else would you like to see from the K-B Kitchen?  I say, let’s start with dessert!

Finally managing to serve a proper Lemon Meringue Pie was the biggest accomplishment of all of these, since the first time we did it we failed to understand the temperamental attitude of the meringue versus the filling.  We ended up serving lemon sauce with meringue.  Not a complete disaster but pretty close.  This time we relied on the Joy of Cooking to mend our ways and correct our reputation.

Some nice appetizers have been on the table too:

I think the best thing to come out of Kevin’s oven so far this month has been the Langenfelder pork rib roast he produced this past Friday night.

It actually was just as juicy as it looks.  It’s what I want for Christmas Dinner now.

There is more:

This is some good stuff our Chef Kevin is doing.  And he is really loving it.

Plus, we get to eat the leftovers on the weekend – such as the two fillets of rock fish left from last week, along with the undersized crabcake that couldn’t be sold:

I know, I know.  I am one lucky woman.  What normal person eats like this at home?  One who is married to a Chef!  and who has a dishwasher!

It’s getting to be time to start to think about the upcoming season of Joy that seems to start right after Labor Day.  (My brother whose birthday is in early October maintains that this date marks the official beginning of the Holiday season, and he might be right, especially if you notice what is already for sale in stores of all kinds.)  We have to think ahead if we want sauerkraut for ThanksGiving – and who doesn’t? – and fruitcake for Christmas.  And yes, we are also thinking about beat biscuits.  And have you ordered your turkey yet?  See, the Holidaze have already begun, in your mind, so don’t deny it.  Revel in it and let Fall be the time to embrace all that is good with the world and especially the food in it.  Is there any better slogan than “Eat, Drink and Be Merry”?  I think not.

Meanwhile, here’s our happy Fall Mum, with a happy partner on board:

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Cheers!

Vacation Report, Restaurants and the Arrival of Fall

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We stopped at a really great Farm Market on Monday, on our way back from Milburns to pick up our annual fix of HoneyCrisp apples.  Detwiler’s Farm Market is on Locust Point Road off 213, easy to find (especially if you know where Baker’s Restaurant is), and terrific spot to source your annual fall decorations – many varieties of pumpkins, beautiful chrysanthemums, lots of gourds and such, not to mention turkeys.  That being said, the fall picture above was taken at our own Chestertown Market, which is much closer and way more social…

I know.  All this talk about mums and pumpkins is sort of depressing.  But it has been a terrific summer, we’ve eaten quite well, been to the beach a few times, kept to our camping schedule every month, had crabs a couple of times.  It’s time to head into the next season.  And this dreary week of grey weather will help put us in the mood for big pots of stew, oysters on the half, and gallons of cider.  It’s all good.

We had a terrific vacation, spending a week out in the trailer and then the second week staycationing here in God’s Country.  We ate like champions, of course.  The first week, which was the weekend of TS Hermine you may recall, we pulled out early on Sunday for a first night stay at Trap Pond State Park, near Laurel Delaware.  After pulling in and out of a few sites we finally settled in to A1.  Dinner that night, after a leisurely bike ride along the lumpy trails, was chicken legs, left over from our KV BackYard chicken.  Kevin browned them up over the fire and we paired the meal with a semi-wedge salad.

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That looks pretty good, eh?

We headed toward Assateague State Park the next morning, for our Monday reservation.  Of course if we’d had internet we would have known that the Park was still closed due to the wind and flooding conditions along the ocean, from Hermine, but we did not, so when we showed up all excited and ready for our week by the sea, we were met with only barricades.  We made other – horrible – camping arrangements and in our despair that night we supped on popcorn and wine…

But that was the only low point.  We returned to the State Park bright and early on Tuesday and spent a glorious week doing…nothing.  Our meals from then on reflected the bounty of our larder (or what is known as planning) and the grilling skills of the camping chef:

You might notice #1 that we are eating indoors and #2 that Kevin is carefully covered from ankles on up.  It wasn’t mosquitoes that were after us, it was the hordes of black-flies that had taken up residence with the waning of the Tropical Storm.  There were three days of them, and it was particularly unbearable after a swim in the ocean.  You know it’s bad when you see grown men running for their sanity over the walkway from the beach…

We ate one meal out while down-the-ocean, at a really terrific spot in Berlin, called Blacksmith.  This is one seriously good restaurant folks, which I would recommend next time you are visiting the West Ocean City environs.  Or Berlin.  There were four of us at this point, and we sat out on the patio where the noise level was more manageable.  We ate the menu, from the French lentil salad to the crispy eggplant to crabcakes.  It was simply one of the best restaurant meals I’ve had in a long time, with an inventive menu – and I see from the website that it is already different from when we were there earlier this month – intelligent service and fair pricing.  Sure, I’m old school enough that I would like to see a little more conformity as to how the staff dresses, partly so I don’t ask a fellow customer for the location of the ladies room, but partly too for that all important professional attitude that a “uniform” helps convey, but that’s a small, small point when the food and service is way above average.

The only real downside to this meal is that Kevin fell in love.  With a beer.  The DogFish Head 90 Minute “Burton Baton“.  Recommended by the bartender, there is no looking back.  And at $14 or $15 a four-pack, it’s a luxury beer, but it is currently in our refrigerator…

And yes, in case you are wondering, there were again Predator Ponies:

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Back home we did a bit of back-yard vacationing, visiting our favorite local dining spots, crabbing at Eastern Neck Island, biking the  C&D Canal Trail and checking out a few new-to-us places as well, among which was Prime 225 in downtown Chesapeake City.  We sat – of course – at the bar, which was quite pleasant, and tried several of the menu items on offer.  The fried calamari was a YUGE portion, more than enough for the two of us to share, and very good, with rings and tentacles, as one always hopes.  Kevin had a great burger, done to his preferred rare, while I had the “225” nachos, skipping the meat, which were just sort of so-so.  We shared a couple of sides – deliriously decadent macaroni and cheese and green beans in a sweet-spicy sauce.  This is not a restaurant for the faint of heart when the bill comes – the burger alone was $17 –  but it was an agreeable splurge for a  hardworking couple “on holiday”.

I am constantly amazed at the people who continue to open restaurants, against all odds.  These folks who opened this steakhouse in Chesapeake City, just this past January, with apparently no previous experience in the hospitality industry, seem to have it down.  The atmosphere, the appointments, the food and beverage – it works.  We had no serious complaints.  We’d go back.  Yet a place we visited earlier this summer, which also opened just about six months ago, recently gave it up, closed it down.  And we know why – it was terrible when we discussed it in May.  Service was bad, food was poorly executed, the atmosphere was not well thought out.  And this operation was opened by people who were “in the business”.   What is more important?  food? service? atmosphere?  We’ve been a few times to a pub in Middletown, which, while we’ve felt mixed about it, we returned because there was still enough to keep us coming.  The bar was really great, beer selection generous, bartenders – well, two out of three – were professional and attentive.  The food proved to be only adequate though.  So this third time – just this past Tuesday night – is going to be the last, despite the pluses mentioned.  The food is what really counts.  And when you order a so-called wedge salad where the bacon reminds you of bacon bits, and the blue cheese dressing smacks of Sysco, you feel a little cheated.  When the charcuterie plate costs $19 and you get ice-box cold chunks of cheese, with commercial croutons and not-very-good duck prosciutto, you get a little nervous.  The results – not going back.  And how hard would it have been to keep us coming – add some blue cheese to the salad dressing, chop the bacon into larger pieces so it looks like the real thing, call the smoked salmon smoked salmon rather than saying it is gravlax, which it decidedly was not.  We want these places to make it, we want some variety for dining out, but sometimes I wonder if the customer-turned-restaurateur might make a better success of it than the career insider, simply because the customer/owner possibly has had the experience of eating in a variety of dining rooms and may actually know what counts the most. Food is first.  Service is a close second.  And atmosphere is bonus points.

And the number one restaurant in Middletown Delaware remains:

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Wow.  Long time since I’ve ranted like that…

Now, lets go where the food is really good, the atmosphere unique and the service, well it’s okay.  But at least they don’t charge a gratuity!  Dinner at the K-B Market is the best deal in town, if you can get a seat – we are really busy the next few weeks with several events and many private dinners.  Our Friday Night Gang had their Farewell Dinner this past weekend – we may see them once more this fall, but most likely it will be Spring before Kevin cooks for them again.  This last meal was leaning toward fall, with a lingering farewell to summer.  And in departing, the hosts gifted us with two very large buckets of scotch bonnet peppers, to do with as we choose.  Well, we managed to re-gift one bucket to an employee from Arnold Farms, but the rest remain unspoken for, although Kevin is going to stuff some with ricotta cheese tonight – poppers! – and we hope to process the remaining globes of heat into some sort of condiment.  We tried to give some away as door prizes to the Fall Farmer’s Market Demo-dinner attendees last week, but no takers were at the forefront…

The Farmer’s Market dinner on Saturday was a lot of fun.  Kevin came up with some very interesting dishes for all of the peppers and squash and beans you can still find at the markets, including a dish with its roots in North Africa, called Shakshuka, which may have been the highlight.

A few other duck parts have been smoking outside lately – this week it’s the legs.

And a few other things have been coming out of Kevin’s Kitchen in recent weeks:

We did not cook at home too much over the Fall Break, but the best thing to come out of our kitchen was a chicken dish from the most recent issue of Saveur.  We “Cooked the Cover”, as they say, and managed to make a passable replica of the Chicken with Riesling Cream and Chanterelles found on page 76.  There was – of course  – a bit of tweaking by the resident Chef, and a few substitutions were made, spinach for chard, oyster mushrooms for the more desirable but unattainable chanterelles, the addition of green beans.  But, all in all, quite acceptable.

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There is no denying a change of season is upon us; it is always so hard to say good-bye to summer.  It’s hard to watch the days get shorter and shorter.  It’s hard to start that layering on of clothes.  It’s hard to see the oil bill.  But I much prefer these changes – which also bring Canada geese and oysters, butternut squash and zinfandel, and don’t forget Fruitcake! – rather than a year of the same weather month after month. Sure, in February a year round temperature of 72 degrees sounds mighty fine, but in reality the change of season is what makes life on the Eastern Seaboard, and more specifically, right here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, so alluring.  Fall brings its own style to  the party and we look forward to attending.  Plus, the best part is, we know that summer will come again.

So, cheers!  Let’s have a fire tonight!

Pictures of Food and Not Much Else

I have dozens of pictures of food to share.

Let’s start with hors d’oeuvres.

Of course there’s a theme in August and that would be melon. (And maybe hominy cakes?) Hasn’t the watermelon – particularly the seedless ones we get from Redman’s – been delicious this year?

And here’s one of the best examples of edible art you could ever hope for:

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Kevin did this caprese salad for a carry-out party.  It is pretty spectacular, no?

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This platter of capicola was more than an appetizer – it went to help feed the group of Washington College Freshmen we hosted during their outing around the County for Orientation Week.  We had two visitations of such students, but the second set were not only visiting but also participating in food production.  With Professor Schindler at the helm, they worked with Kevin to make mozzarella to eat for lunch and to use on pizza they were going to bake the next day, and they prepped about a bushel of tomatoes for their pizza sauce.

As usual Kevin was a great teacher and the students were quite an appreciative group.  They feasted on capicola, salad, mozzarella and watermelon after all the work was done.  I think they particularly liked the flat bread that he made them…

That was just about the only topic I have that falls under the category of “Not Much Else”, especially if you consider the turkeys that passed by during a Demo-Dinner as “food”.

Hopefully you can see the Momma and several of her seven pouits.  Kevin went out front to make sure they made it safely across 213…

Anyway, back to the main topic.  Food.  (It certainly is lucky we are in the food business, because it is pretty much all we think about.  I don’t believe Kevin ever stops thinking about it, whether it is what he is going to make here or at home, and if he’s not making it or thinking about it he’s reading about it, not to mention looking at it, let alone eating it.)  There have been some classics on the plates this month.  CrabSteak was a request from one dining group, complete with the much missed lemon butter sauce.  Rock Fish made an appearance as well, as the second most favorite Chesapeake Bay seafood this time of year.

Kevin took another Eastern Shore menu standard, stuffed shrimp, to new heights in August, working it into several meals, where it was met with enthusiasm.

Seafood was featured prominently on most menus, as is expected this time of year.  Kevin has served North Atlantic halibut, sea scallops, squid and black sea bass to varying diners recently, with unvarying success.  The fresh squid was perhaps his favorite, albeit the most involved to prep, but I thought that the halibut, steamed with zucchini “scales” was the best.

There have a couple of things for the non-seafood-eaters to enjoy as well:

And, of course, there has been desserts:

Just a few more, bear with me.  I have to include the delicious pan of baked beans Kevin made for a carry-out,  and the Beef Kebobs he put together to sell at the Market.

When will it stop??  I haven’t even gotten to the “Food at Home” segment…

Kevin’s brother Tom stopped in this month, a great surprise.  He came to “pick up a few things from the Market”, just a short trip from his home in Spring Lake New Jersey.  Cleverly,  he brought a cooler.

In case anyone is wondering, Tom is the genius behind the Confidentiality Agreement we had everyone who took the Crab Class sign, before we would release Kevin’s previously secret crabcake recipe to them.

Kevin worked 13 straight days in August, from the 15th through the 27th.  He’s not complaining though, since he gets to dress like this:

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Never before has a cook in one of Kevin’s kitchens been allowed to wear shorts.  Not a cook, not a dishwasher, ever.  However, this summer, exceptions have been made.

So what, you might ask, does Kevin do when he is not at the K-B Kitchen, working his pants literally off?  Well, he spent a couple days in the Luisa Kitchen this month, helping Mimmo and Vinnie butcher two veal calves they bought from St. Brigid’s Farm.  He had a blast.  I think mostly he loves going into someone else’s commercial kitchen and then leaving again.   You can see more, and better, pictures on Luisa’s FB page.

On Saturday we picked up the half bushel of pickling cucumbers we had ordered from Anchor Nursery, and on Tuesday we got about the same amount of jalapeno peppers from the Redman stand on Route 20.  It’s pickle time!  Wednesday and Thursday was mostly spent making sweet cucumber chips, bread and butter pickles, and CowGirl Candy, which is our name for the hot and sweet condiment known as CowBoy Candy in Texas.  (We can’t call them by their “proper” name, because of this:

“Pursuant to registration Number 3,738,661, W.H.H. Ranch Co. is the legal owner of the U.S. registered trademark of Cowboy Candy for jalapeno based food products/recipes. It has come to our attention that your product/recipe has been using the Cowboy Candy name in violation of this U.S. registered trademark.

You are hereby commanded to cease and desist your use of the Cowboy Candy name on any and all of your products/recipes that are jalapeno based food. Failure to do so will result in W.H.H. Ranch Co. legal enforcement of its trademark without further notice to you. Thank you , Elizabeth Burch Hamzy, W.H.H. Ranch. Our address is P.O. Box 311, Shepherd TX 77371”

…so we went with the politically correct “girl” instead.  It tastes just as good!)

The jalapenos were/are quite hot.  Instead of slicing them into rings, we put them through the food processor, since we typically chop them up when we use them, and the fumes that they put out not only made us turn the hood on, we had to cover our faces to protect our lungs.  I posted a picture of that on FB, and my sister commented “And I’m supposed to consume this???”!  It’s going to be a HOT batch.

We use my sister Marty’s blue ribbon recipe for the B&B pickles, but we added our own Jimmy Nardello peppers, as well as bell peppers, for that little spot of red.

Okay, do you have time for the last segment – Eating at Home?

Our Kennedyville BackYard Egg neighbors gifted us with a spectacular roasting chicken, hand processed by Dean and roasted by Himself.  It was an awesome bird and it turned out perfectly from our home oven.  It brined for 24 hours, and the breast meat was as juicy as you could ever wish.  We managed to eat the wings and a few slices off the breast for our dinner, but that was enough for one meal!  This was a nine pound bird, after all.

And then there’s pizza.  Kevin has rigged up a little pizza “oven” for our fire pit, and it works great.  Some of our good tomatoes, fresh mozz from the K-B Market up the road and a couple rounds of Luisa’s pizza dough and we are in business!

There isn’t too much that is more fun than sitting on the patio with a glass of red wine, watching the pizza as it cooks in that oven.  We are pretty easy to entertain, eh?

Also on the grill, at our neighbor’s one steamy Sunday recently, we had pork tenderloin, stuffed with capicola and mozzarella.  What’s not to like about pork with pork?

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I realize that this post is ‘all about Kevin’, so I will leave you with a meal he didn’t cook, a classic August dinner on the porch:

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Happy Eating!

Produce is King

If there is ever a better time to eat in Kent County than July and August, I don’t know when it is.  July is when the produce starts going totally crazy and if you don’t like sweet corn you are in the wrong place.  Watermelon = can never get enough.  Peppers of all varieties, squash (of course) and tomatoes!  Heirlooms and Big Boys, cherries and romas.  Beans and peaches, cantaloupe and eggplant, potatoes and cucumbers and okra.  Okay, we can skip the okra.  It’s all at the markets, at farm stands scattered around the county and in our own back yards.  We actually have two tomato plants that are happily producing some of the best tomatoes we have ever grown.

Which is partly why our Farmers Market class was so much fun, I think.  Kevin came up with a few different preparations of these offerings and hopefully gave his “students” something a little out of the box to think about doing with all of this bounty.

I have way too many pictures to post – that’s what you get when you wait too long between posts and someone in the kitchen is cooking up a storm!  Here are a few examples of recent private dinner dishes:

The Market is “producing” some good stuff as well:

I admit, two more pictures of the up-side-down cake in one post is a bit much, but it looks so good!  The peaches we have been getting have been the best ever; I am sorry they are being shortchanged in other areas, but thankfully we’ve been getting not only our fill but some of the sweetest in recent memory.  Our favorite dessert – besides the over-photographed cake – is to slice them, toss them in a little lemon juice and then top them with a mixture of sour cream and brown sugar.  Just put in enough brown sugar to the sour cream to get it to the sweetness level you want.  So good!  Put it under the broiler if you want.  Or not.

One of the best times we have had at work recently was with an 11 year old Texan, visiting his transplanted GrandParents here in the Land of Pleasant Living.  There is not much Kevin enjoys more, than a young person who enjoys spending time in a kitchen.

Ayden greeted customers as they came in to shop, remained nonplussed when he was grilled by the local Liquor Inspector and took home the mozzarella he successfully made.  He was a great guest and he and Kevin had a great time together.  We look forward to a repeat experience next summer!

It’s all about food here at the K-B Market (and wine of course), a tradition which began 30 years ago this past July, when Kevin and I opened the white table-cloth Ironstone Cafe on a disgruntled street in DownTown Chestertown.  It wasn’t until years later that we learned our landlord really had no confidence that we’d succeed, but he had enough faith money to help us get started anyway.  We were two 31 year old restaurant workers,  with years of restaurant experience between us but never before as owner-operators.  We learned the backside of the business  pretty much overnight, by necessity and with a lot of luck.  Besides that luck and the requisite determination and passion to make a go of it, we had a lot of help from family, friends and those first employees who believed in us too.  And so it was, against some odds, we began back in 1986 to bring Farm to Table dining to the area long before it became the foodie buzzword it is today.

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We were so naive.  Proud, excited, naive.  Great combination for a new business…

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Even back then, Kevin was totally about the local produce.  It was a great time and we were immediately embraced by the community, support which continues to hold us in good stead to this very day.   (Some of you might remember that so-called screen behind Kevin which we had in the dining room, separating the kitchen from the customers…those were not the most popular tables in the room!)  Kevin continues to hold his own in the kitchen, with an unfailing energy to take the diner to new levels at his table.  Thirty years later, he is not bored, still intent on turning out exciting and satisfying food and still loving being at the stove.

Thank you so much for allowing us to have this great life in this great place.

Let’s eat!

Summer!

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I could probably stop right here and all of us who thrive on the thrills of Eastern Shore summer produce would know exactly what I mean.  A trip to the Chestertown Farmer’s Market is fraught with decision making anguish.  Redman’s seedless watermelon are here – pick one out for me, Bill!  So many beautiful peppers!  all those squash! and here are the heirloom tomatoes and so  much corn!  It’s a tough call, and you better bring a big basket! We are really looking forward to our two “Cook the Farmer’s Market” classes, scheduled for the next two Saturdays, when Kevin will offer some of his experience with vegetables to would-be shoppers.

I am allowed to say that I think Kevin is at his prime right now.  He is making some amazing food.  I am so totally impressed with some of the food he comes up with.  He has always been very creative, thinking out-of-the-box for a long, long time, which was largely responsible for our success within the local restaurant community.  But now, with so much less pressure (and less business!) he is really shining.  And, of course, loving it.  I just wish I loved washing dishes as much…

Anyway, here are a few pictures of recent food activity here at the K-B Kitchen:

We hosted an amazing Mexican demo-dinner, which, while causing some of the more stressful moments of Kevin’s current life, was totally successful food-wise.  I got one single picture, much to my regret: the stuffed squash blossoms awaiting roasting.

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I don’t really know how I missed the opportunity to take pictures of the plates he prepared for the lucky few at the counter, things like salmon ceviche, house-made tortillas stuffed with shrimp and black beans, hibiscus aqua fresca, pork with orange and esquite.  No melted cheese, no rice and beans.  It was incredible.  And undocumented – ha!

Here’s Kevin making the shrimp filled tortillas for the dinner:

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We’ve been eating quite a bit of the on-the-cob version of esquite lately, called elotes,  since the local corn has started to appear, both at home and out.  Last weekend we had it three times, twice at pay-to-eat venues and once at home.  All three times the most important aspect of the dish rested with the quality of the corn – the fresher and more tender the better.  There is no disguising old, mature corn, no matter what you do!  Making elotes at home is easy and well worth it, resulting in an extremely satisfyingly messy dinner.  The recipe in the link is classic, and I’ll add one tip – leaving a bit of the stalk on the end of the ear of corn when you husk it makes it a lot easier to “handle” on the grill.

One of the versions we had recently took it a step further and braided the husks:

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This was at Agave restaurant in Lewes, where you go at six to put your name on a wait-list, then head down the street to Half-Full – where we enjoyed wine served from a Tall-Boy for the first time – to wile away the 90 minute wait-time, and eventually go back to Agave for some seriously good New Mex food.

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I’ve been trying to locate a Maryland distributor for this canned wine, but so far I have not been successful.  The rosé was delicious, if a little less dry than I prefer, and the 16 ounce can was perfect for sharing.  I asked the proprietor how it was selling – at $15 per it was a commitment – and she agreed that some people were hesitant to order it because they couldn’t taste it first, and the price tag seemed high.  Until you realized you were getting two healthy glasses of wine at $7.50 each.  Anyway, we enjoyed it and the packaging has a lot of positives going for it.  Kind of like screw top wine, eventually will cans be “normal”?

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Kevin has made waffles before, but none better than this.  These were as light and crispy as a waffle could ever dream of being, delicious even before you put a little butter on them.  The recipe came out of one of Kevin’s oldest cookbooks – Uncle John’s Original Bread Book, by John Braue.  I will bring the book back in to insert a copy of this recipe, but meanwhile, trust me when I say these were some good waffles, fresh out of the cast iron waffle iron and almost as good a day later out of the toaster.

The Friday Night Gang might see some this weekend…

Most of you know that soft shell crab is my death row meal.  Especially in a sandwich.  And particularly when cooked by Kevin.   As this post morphs into “Food We Cook and Eat Ourselves”, I must share the recent meals of that classic summer favorite:

The sandwich was on a Carl’s Burger Roll pedestal, accompanied by a slice of one of the first heirloom tomatoes from Arnold Farm, (which was also paired with a little left over guacamole, where it became immediately apparent that tomatoes need to go into our next batch), plenty of mayonnaise and a big napkin.  Heaven.  We ate this as our breakfast last Saturday – after the weekly trip to the Farmer’s Market – or what we prefer to call “brunch”,  since not too many people like to confess that they ate soft shells for breakfast.

Another recent “break fast” meal:

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Leftover peanut sauce on noodles with loads of fresh vegetables.  Hey, it’s all going to the same place, right?  Who needs bacon and eggs, cereal and toast, when you can have this?

Leaving work for a weekend camping is where the real magic occurs.  Kevin likes to cook over a live fire whenever he can, and camping is not the exception, it’s the rule.  Most recently we were keeping with our somewhat NewMex theme and had one of our best campground meals ever – his version of what is known as al pastor.  This is a dish you often see at authentic taco stands, where they have that big chunk of meat spinning in the background, from which the cooks carve slices to put on your freshly made tortilla.  One of the best places to find this is at the Chelsea Market outpost of Los Tacos.  But better yet, do it at home!

Kevin works very hard, so it only stands to reason that he plays hard too!

The final picture will be of my favorite summer flowers, fresh from the Arnold Farm fields:

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If I had my way there would be a vase of these cheery orbs on the table every day.  I have some of my own growing in our yard, but there are so many happy honey bees buzzing all around them, I’m really hesitant to cut the blooms and take away their supply of pollen… I’ll just continue to let Sara pick me out a handful.

Meanwhile, stop in and see us on your way to the Cross Street Market in Galena – on Monday we got some of the best white peaches I’ve ever had – and see what Kevin is up to.  This week he’s working with Romano beans – so good! – and making some ratatouille, rolling out wrappers for dumplings, and fine-tuning the cold-poach peach method we tried over the weekend.  You really never know what he is going to be doing.  All you know is that he is loving it.