Sunday, June 29, 2008

Violet, you're turning violet Violet

I took this shot a few weeks ago when the berries just started to turn from green to blue. Now our two little blueberry bushes are loaded with fresh juicy berries. As some of you know, I'm not a fan of "mooshy" fruit, so it was my preference to not have blueberry pie for the first harvest... but C and I came up with a great alternative for the little purple jewels - Blueberry Scones.

Not in the mood to search far, I punched in "blueberry scone recipe" into Google and went with the first one that popped up. Luckily it turned out to be a tasty biscuity-type scone recipe from a B&B in Ferndale, California - the Gingerbread Mansion Inn.

Click Here for Printable Recipe

4 cups flour
3 Tbsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2/3 cup butter
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups half & half
1 1/2 cups fresh (or defrosted) blueberries
Additional sugar for topping

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease two large baking sheets.

In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cream of tartar. With pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Separate egg - placing egg white in cup and yolk in a small bowl. With fork, beat egg yolk; stir in half & half. Add yolk mixture to dry ingredients and mix lightly with fork until mixture clings together and forms a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, and knead gently several times. Gently knead in blueberries.

Divide dough in half; pat out each half into an 8-inch round, and cut each into 8 wedges. Place scones on greased sheet. Pierce tops with a fork. Brush with reserved egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 15-18 inches, or until golden brown.

Recipe Courtesy of Gingerbread Mansion Inn
Ferndale, California

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Insalata Caprese

The first caprese salad of the season!

Although our tomatoes are not quite ready, I was happy to put some of our fresh mesclun mix to good use with local tomatoes (and some not so local) fresh mozzerella for a simple salad.

Insalata Caprese Salad

mesclun mix
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 large ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
fresh basil leaves
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
To taste: extra-virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar

Pile mesclun mix on a platter. In a circular design around the plate, alternate fresh mozzarella slices with sliced tomatoes, overlapping for effect. Tear fresh basil leaves and sprinkle over the slices. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

C and I usually dress this salad on our plates with oil and balsamic. That way, if there are any leftovers, they can be saved for the next day. If it sits in the oil or vinegar for any length of time, it will become a soggy mess.

Also, vinegar is not traditionally added to a Caprese, but we always ignore this rule.

* * * * *

Just a few weeks ago I transplanted the mesclun mix seedlings out to the garden...

and before we knew it voila!

Monday, June 16, 2008


1312 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone: 215-732-3478

Vetri is an intimate 10 table restaurant in Center City Philadelphia run by Marc Vetri. The Philadelphia Inquirer ranks it among the city’s top 5 restaurants, and there are some (including Mario Batali) who claim it be one of the best Italian restaurants in America.

My thoughts?

Vetri is a haven for foodies.

If you are not serious about food and wine, you will be disappointed. You will think it is over priced. You will walk away confused.


If you are the type of person who would plan a vacation around a restaurant, then I suggest saving your pennies for a trip to Vetri (but start calling now, reservations need to be made at least a month in advance).

The food is unpretentious and delicious.

We started with cocktails and their famous charcuterie platter. A rustic wood block arrived with a variety of house cured meats, sherry-charred brussel sprouts, grilled fennel, house cured pickles, and other delicacies (including one that I can only describe as a savory zeppoli wrap in a paper thin sheet of sweet creamy lardo).

The house made bread is also worth noting. A silent little man with a bread basket seemed to appear out of nowhere to keep our bread dishes filled... and we were happy to oblige and eat slice after slice of crusty goodness dipped in oive oil while nibbling on house cured olives.

We left our wine selection in the hands of their fabulous sommelier. After he and C had a lengthy discussion on the qualities of various gins, we got down to what type of wine we were looking for. He disappeared for a moment and returned with what turned out to be a perfect bottle. I had written down the name, but sadly the scrap of paper disappeared by the time we got back to SC.

Other highlights of the evening included...

Warm salad of wilted greens with pancetta and egg
When this arrived, I was suprised to see the egg was actually a scrambled egg. I tasted with trepidation, but it was really really good. There was something acidic (a vinaigrette of some sort) which really tied it all together.

Spinach Gnocchi with shaved ricotta and brown butter
I would prefer if they called these "spinach dumplings" instead of gnocchi. Don't get me wrong, they were quite delicious, but their texture was a bit unexpected.

Guinea hen breast stuffed with foie gras and prosciutto

Wood fire roasted capretto (baby goat) with soft polenta

As much as Vetri is a restaurant, it's also a dining experience. The first floor of the converted row house is dark and intimate, and you can see the excited anticipation of the diners as they walk through the door. You quickly, without trying, get to know your fellow patrons due to the close quarters. Although the space is large enough for the 10 tables, they are squeezed a bit tighter in order to accomodate a beautiful (but large) hutch and antique espresso maker.

Would I go back? Yes. But there are so many more restaurants in Philadelphia, and I want to try them all, so it may be a while.

PE - you are truly a wonderful gastronomic tour guide and brother. We will definitely be back to do it again soon.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Vaca - Part III - Philly

There's no doubt that Philadelphia is a foodies dream - there are almost too many choices. One great example of this is the Reading Terminal Market on North 12th Street. Fresh produce, meats, seafood, pastries, Amish specialties, sushi, (just to name a few) and my personal favorite - Cheese!

For one of our lunch stops, we took a quick cab ride down to University City to White Dog Cafe near UPenn (thanks RDM for the recommendation!)

White Dog is a barely converted brownstone which prides itself on fresh local ingredients. The dining areas are very cozy...

and the food is as unique as the decor.

Next Stop - Tria

If I were to open a restaurant, I think this would be it... a simple bar/winebar/cafe/tapas joint... a place that's all about good wine, beer, and cheese with a knowledgable staff to help diners have a fantastic experience.

We'll definitely be back next time we're in PHL.

An afternoon cocktail stop - Stephen Starr's The Continental

From the outside, The Continental looks like a retro-chrome diner, but inside is a swank tapas-style restaurant. The highlight for me was my cocktail, called the Buzz Aldrin: a mix of Tang, Absolut peach vodka and triple sec in an orange tang-rimmed glass... what could be better on a hot day?

Even bowling takes on a gourmet twist in Philadelphia - North Bowl is unlike any bowling alley I've ever been to.

with food that you actually want to eat!

Miso at a bowling alley??

But how can you beat six types of Tater Tots?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Vaca: Next Stop.... Home

The next stop on our trip was my hometown - Nutley, NJ.

I wish I would have taken more pictures, but I guess I was too busy chatting and eating. But for me, it doesn't get any better than this - a hot sausage sammich with peppers and onions on a fresh italian roll from Vitiello's bakery.

... and of course eating it with the fam (say cheese D!)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Vaca: day one

*** For those readers not related to me, please bear with my next few vacation posts (although there are always edible adventures along the way) ***

The first leg of our vacation was a 500 mile journey to Chateau Clayton (aka, my sister and brother-in-laws house) right outside Washington, DC.

The wine list was fantastic (as usual)

and although dinner was delicious, I think dessert was the highlight - Cream Puffs!

But what's in there?

That's Bailey's cream inside - YUM!

Thanks R & E for a great night!

To be continued...