Saturday, August 30, 2014

Peaches Supreme, a jam that's not just for breakfast...

I find one of the most gratifying things this time of year is preserving the fruits of summer so that they can be enjoyed throughout the gray and cold months to come. It really is amazing that you can essentially bottle sunshine and the flavors of the fruits that would not "be" without it. 

All of the credit for our peach harvest this year goes directly to Mr. Splendid. He has created a marvelous orchard at our cabin on Orcas Island and after tending it for years, it has literally come into full fruition this year. 

Growing up in Portland, Oregon, my mother planted a fruit tree for each of my sisters and me when we were born. Mine was a peach tree, for my younger sister an apricot tree, and my older sister had the only tree that really produced much of a harvest, a 5~variety apple tree. Like many others in the San Juan archipelago, Orcas Island benefits from the "banana belt phenomenon", a climate that is warmer and drier than the mainland to the south, resulting in a more bountiful harvest of fruits that like a little more sunshine and warmth. In addition to the peaches, we have plum, persimmon, Asian pear, apple and fig trees that are looking quite promising. 

The peaches were wonderful eaten fresh, mostly for breakfast with almonds and café au laits, but we were going to Santa Barbara for a wedding over the weekend and I could tell that they would be too far gone by the time we returned, so I knew I needed to take action. In between trying to catch up on the neglected details of real life after being away for weeks, unpacking from our boat trip and trying to get ready for a celebration filled weekend, I was trying to figure out how to preserve these succulent, honey flavored lovelies, because I just couldn't bear letting them go to waste.

It didn't take me long to find THIS recipe by Kevin West in his book "Saving the Season" on The Splendid Table website. I was drawn to the simplicity of the recipe {only 3 ingredients}, because it is clearly focused on the flavor of the fruit. Below, you'll find my adapted version of his recipe in which I reduced the amount of sugar with great results.

Last night my canning efforts were rewarded when I put out our preserved peaches along with a little tray of treats, mostly from the grocery, for dessert. The fresh fruit flavor, sprinkled with some rosemary from the garden was absolutely irresistible in this dessert "cheese and cracker" offering. 

This was such an easy "dessert" to assemble, and the reviews were so positive, I'm not sure I'll be giving away as many of these jars as I had originally intended. The tangy~creamy mascarpone cheese and whipped goat cheese were the perfect contrast to the crispy cookies and crackers and the fresh flavors of of the fruit. I've always adored Carr's Whole Wheat Crackers, that slightly sweet whole wheat texture and goodness is the perfect base for most any cheese, and topped with a slather of whipped goat cheese, peaches supreme and torn rosemary leaves.... divinity! Butter and I have always been buddies, which is why I love any excuse to enjoy the crunchy texture of Walkers Shortbread Rounds...  so bring on the mascarpone and peaches supreme, and why not add a few blueberries and rosemary leaves on top?

Crispy Walkers Stem Ginger Biscuits add the heat, flavor and texture of dried ginger to the mix, making them the perfect canvas for a smear of whipped goat cheese, peaches supreme, blueberries and rosemary.

Peaches Supreme
adapted from Saving the Season by Kevin West

5 pounds ripe peaches 
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 
2 - 1/2 cups sugar


To peel the peaches, slash a shallow "X" in the pointed end of each fruit. Working with a few at a time, blanch the peaches for 60 to 90 seconds in boiling water, or until the skin loosens. Lift the peaches out of the water using a slotted spoon and set them aside to cool; remove the skins and pits. Slice each peach into quarters, then cut each quarter crosswise into fourths. Mix the fruit with lemon juice, stir in the sugar, and leave to macerate for 30 minutes.

Turn the fruit-sugar mixture into a large preserving pan, and rapidly bring to a full boil. Reduce over high heat to the gel point, 8 to 10 minutes at a full rolling boil, while stirring constantly. Ladle the hot jam into six prepared 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Seal the jars, and process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.
Which fruits are catching your fancy this week? 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rose's Restaurant, Orcas Island, life delicious on the Salish...

No visit {or day, really} on Orcas Island is complete without a meal at Rose's Bakery and Café... and my waistline is suffering for that fact. During the week I spent on Orcas I went to Rose's more days than not.... it was so easy to come up with excuses to go into "town" {aka Eastsound}" which we all knew were codes for "lunch at Rose's", nobody had to be very creative.... "we need bandaids", "let's go to the market to get corn"... "are we without Swiss Army knives"

I was recently asked to name my favorite restaurants in the world, so I quickly composed a list of  dreamy dishes I've written about over the years at places like Chez Vrony, Fidlen, Switzerland, Anjuna Beach Club, Eze Bord-de-Mer, France, The Big Bamboo, Anegada, BVI'sClub 55, Ramatuelle, France, The Taco Bar, Cabo San Lucas, Le Columbe d'Or, St. Paul de Vence, France....

....and then I started thinking about my favorite, relatively local, places I frequent that I have never written about, including this shining gem on Orcas Island. Maybe it's because I'm always so lulled and comforted by the satisfying meals with a French flair I've enjoyed here over the years, but that's no excuse, since these experiences so closely fit my definition of the perfect meal "elegant food in a rustic setting". Rose's truly offers the most elegant food on this remarkable rustic rock, and arguably the entire San Juan archipelago.

The foundation for the goodness of this food is, no surprise, marvelously fresh ingredients.
Orcas is blooming with a number of organic farms which makes the path from farm to table very, very short. Local produce, cheeses, seafood and meats can be found in the heavenly offerings on the menu at Rose's. 

And then there is the wickedly talented chef Dante Miller and his team who create culinary magic on a daily basis {well, not on Sundays}.

His sinfully delicious soups satisfy the soul, lift the spirits and tantalizes the taste buds, like this chicken stew I devoured one day, served over a spread of tender polenta and dotted with briny green olives and plenty of fresh garden vegetables, it was impossible to resist. The meat from the chicken was beyond  falling off the bone tender and the crimson broth was bewitchingly earthy, flavorful and complex.

The next day, I went again, and was so torn between the chicken soup from the day before {I had been possessed by thoughts of it from the moment I woke that morning} and the fish soup {an elegant bouillabaisse}. I gambled on the fish soup {the promise of aioli may have swayed me} and did not leave a droplet of the intense, saffron scented vermilion broth behind.

One dish that is a consistent choice on our visits is one of the thin crusted pizza's made in "Dante's inferno", the pizza oven... a lovely thin, crunchy, toothsome crust, sometimes just a little scorched for extra flavor, topped with cheese, marinara, pancetta and rosemary.... seriously, this pizza shouldn't even be called pizza because it is in an entirely different category, it should be called something like 
"I think I've died and gone to..."

Other menu staples we love are any of the sandwiches, served on their fresh baked, gluten~worthy bread, especially the halibut sandwich with a remoulade sauce, the beet salad with goat cheese, clams linguine and the Salade Nicoise.

Being the shameless hedonist that I am here, I rarely manage to save room for dessert,  but the temptation of butterscotch pudding with molasses cookies was more than I could resist this day. My other favorite dessert is anything topped with their tangy homemade buttermilk ice cream.

In addition to the restaurant, an attached shop offers an assortment of daily breads and desserts fresh from the bakery, cheeses, cured meats, olives, chocolates and other deli delights, a refreshing offering of wines, a unique spread of kitchen supplies and a freezer full of take~home items, including "thou shall not lie" fruit pies, which you can take home and bake off and nobody would know that you hadn't picked all of those peaches, or cherries or apples and put the pie together yourself.... unless they'd been to Rose's.

The third factor that makes Rose's such a special place is the passion, vision and dedication of owners Joni and John Trumbull. When we first started coming to Orcas over a decade ago, they had a small bakery in town that offered the best breads and desserts outside of France. It had started as a bakery/ cafe but soon the bakery and things to go with the breads took over the space. Thankfully, the owners decided to get back into the business of pleasing the palates of local and visiting gourmands and opened this larger den of deliciousness in the islands former fire house. 

Rose's is the result of Joni and John's shared passions and combined talents. John had culinary training in Paris, and learned about wines during a stint at Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley. Joni was a talented home baker who was able to adjust her formulas to a retail scale because the couple knew that good quality, fresh breads were an intregral component for the café they had envisioned. 

This is an inspiring story of 2 people who followed their personal passions {and appetites}, did what they believed in and ended up creating a beloved institution on the island. When I spoke with John, he said they decided to do their best to create something special, with the attitude that if it didn't develop a following, it didn't belong. Stop by any day and you will see that clearly, Rose's "belongs".

The eclectic decor of the current location reflects their passion, style, taste and travels, including art, artifacts, books and even wine buckets from the great champagne houses of France, rich with patina.  

No lunch at Roses's is quite complete without glass chilled of Entre~Deux~Mer

The only disappointment with Rose's is actually a blessing in disguise, because it helps me to not have to move up a jean size each summer, they are not open for dinner. The cafe is open from 8:30 - 4 Monday - Saturday, serving breakfast and lunch. The retail store is open from 10 - 6:00 Monday through Friday and 10 - 5 on Saturday.  

But it's okay, dinner in West Sound can be an enchanting affair. 

If you happen to be heading to the San Juan's you should visit the farmer's market which happens every Saturday May - September in the Village Green at Eastsound from 11 - 2,  and then walk over to Rose's early to get a table. As a back up plan, if the wait is too long, you could buy a loaf of bread, cheese, ham, olives, a fresh baked dessert and bottles of water and wine, then picnic in the adjoining park. 

The restaurant is located at 382 Prune Alley, you can try to get a reservation by calling 360-376-5805, tell China I sent you. 

For more information on how to get closer to this delectable bowl of mussels, click on Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce.

A few off season notes: Rose's is closed for a brief respite the month of January. Also, the Farmers Market moves to the Oddfellows Hall on Haven Street for October and November. 

As a closing note, I asked John if he ever had doubts along the way and he said they were a little concerned about the "low fat" diet craze that was popular when they decided to begin selling an offering an assortment of cheeses to go with the bread, but, as it turned out, once they opened the door they found they had nothing to worry about. 

Further proof to the point that diets may come and go but we'll always have cheese. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Life on the Salish...

I'm looking forward to sharing more highlights from our trip to SE Asia, but right now I am taking the long motor home across the Salish Sea, so I thought I'd try out my mobile blogging skills and share some highlights of living on the Salish Sea.

Worthy of an entire post of its own, we enjoyed many lunches at our beloved Rose's Restaurant, a gem in the San Juan archipelago. 

The epitome of "elegant food in a rustic setting"

We also made many of our favorite meals with friends, including Flank Steak al Grecco...

Washed down with rosé our our favorite Entre du Mer, a perfect summer wine.

After a week on Orcas Island we headed north on the boat. Destination: Desolation Sound.

Where we try to live off the sea. The greatest prize is always the Spot prawns.

Island art at Walsh Cove, a favorite spot for a mermaid cocktail party.

Signs of previous inhabitants on Ballenas Island.

Type "Salish Sea" into the search box for more stories and recipes from this amazing, warm water paradise.

On the way back down we stopped on Orcas to harvest some bounty. Our peach tree produced so much fruit this year! For a fireside dinner last night I used some to make individual peach crumbles, and they were positively delicious, if I do say so myself.  I'm think of making peach jam with the rest, unless you have a better suggestion?

My neighbors garden had an abundance of tomatoes this year. They were amazing in last nights ratatouille.

These pears and apples will last through September in a cool location.

Alright, must get out of my seat now, because the only certainty while boating is that everyone is always hungry and Captain Splendid is giving me "the look". 

Making him Salade Nicoise... thanks for reading my first mobile post.... can't wait to see how it looks when I'm back on the mainland.

Uh oh, grumblings... Really must fly...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hutong restaurant, Kaloon City....

We had an exciting little evening excursion during our stay when we took one of the charming Star Ferries across Victoria Harbor from Hong Kong Island over to Kowloon City for dinner. The views of the lights of the city and their reflection in the water were enchanting, and the half hour cruise went by way too quickly.

I was surprised and a little hesitant when we arrived at our address on the other side, because it was in a very serious looking sky scraper, and I was hoping for a restaurant that was a little more "cultural"....
 Kowloon City is a famous little gourmet hub known for an international mix of casual family run eateries. 

but you know the old saying...



  "you can't judge a book by the cover".  

I was very pleasantly surprised when the elevator doors opened to the restaurant Hutong, which was rich in ambiance and patina, making me completely forget we were in a skyscraper,

until I saw the stunning views, 
and really started to appreciate life at the top.

The restaurant is furnished with materials recovered from the destruction of the hutongs of Beijing, giving the space a rich, historical air. 

Even the ladies room was furnished with a exotically, elegant vintage tri-fold mirror.

Notice the worn red floors, which compliment the intricate wooden panels.

Red fabric lanterns kept the mood deeply exotic.

If  you go, be forewarned the dishes are all intended to be shared... we each ordered a couple of courses and ended up with WAY too much food.

Did I mention there was a fun antique rickshaw perfect for photo ops??

If I had more time I would have loved to spend more time exploring Kowloon City, especially the "night market", oh well, you can't do it all; and it's always nice to have an excuse to come back. 


Zara just opened a store there...

If you like that kind of thing,

and I do....

best fitting off-the-rack blazers EVER!