Monday, November 24, 2008

I Left My Heart

I recently took a trip down to the SF Bay Area to meet up with some friends. I hooked a visit with my family onto each end and had a good time with my mom and sisters. There was a lot of eating out on this trip, so I'll be doing some restaurant reviews here!

I flew Alaska; they're one of my favorite airlines. I've never had a bad flight with them. My sister picked me up on Saturday afternoon and we stopped by their house (she and her family live with my mom), dropped off my luggage, admired her Halloween decorations (the house looked great), and then headed to the movies with her kids, Sawyer and Tristyn. Her husband, Chris, was already there saving us seats. Cuz you know how many people were just dying to see Beverly Hills Chihuahua! It actually wasn't too bad. And the gardener—excuse me, I mean landscaper, was easy on the eyes. We ate dinner at home that night; Jan made Chinese chicken salad and we ordered egg rolls, rice, and crab puffs to go along with it. Yummy! After we got the kids settled in bed, Jan and I watched 27 Dresses on dvd. I like that movie a lot, but I think it gets really too silly at the end when she runs on the boat and takes over the mic at someone else's wedding. It's embarrassing really. I wish they had figured out something else for the ending.

Sunday we took the kids over to the Pumpkin Farm in Half Moon Bay. It hasn't changed much over the years, except it gets more crowded every year. Sunday night Jan, my mom, and I went out to dinner at Kingfish, a restaurant in San Mateo. I had a filet, and it was okay. Not great but not bad either. Sunday's movie was Hitch. I love Will Smith and he's great in this one.

Monday mom and I did some errands, and then after the kids got out of school, we all went out to Half Moon Bay for their swim lessons. They are both great little swimmers. I don't know too many 7-year-olds who can do the butterfly! We had reservations at Pasta Moon, on the other end of Main Street, so I walked down while the kids got dried off and dressed. I had enough time to browse in a great little bookstore next door which I read this morning is for sale! It's one of the better small-town bookstores I've been in. I picked up The Good Thief as I had recently read some good reviews. I'm a few chapters in and enjoying it very much.

Dinner at Pasta Moon was a mix. If you are a party of 6 or more, you have to reserve in advance with a credit card. That was a new one for me. Also, they automatically include an 18% tip. The service was terrible. I guess they figure they already have the tip. They didn't even come to take a drink order. They never checked back to see if you needed anything, and since they don't put salt and pepper on any of their dining tables, it's a sure bet at least one person at the table is going to want that! I was definitely not impressed with the service. The food was a little better. My butternut squash raviolis were very good with the exception of being too oily. Or maybe it was butter. At any rate, they were swimming in it, and I noticed that every single plate ordered at our table had an excess of oil. Too bad because the raviolis would have been perfect without that. They were topped with amaretti. Amaretti what I have no idea, but it was sweet and a nice addition to the raviolis.

Monday night's movie was Casino Royale. Daniel Craig—need I say more?

On Tuesday afternoon, Jan and I worked a shift at the Dickens House in Hillsborough, a holiday house which benefits St. Matthew's Episcopal Day School, where Sawyer is in 2nd grade. Each family has to contribute 30 hours toward that project, so my 3 hours helped out a little.

Tuesday night I was in charge of dinner, and I made my 'harvest medley' meal, which everyone enjoyed even though the snowpeas were quite overdone. Jan and I watched My Fellow Americans, with Jack Lemmon and James Garner, which I had never seen. It's a very funny movie and I highly recommend it.

On Wednesday I went down to Stanford Mall and met up with Jena, one of my friends coming in for the SF trip. Jena's from Nebraska and came in early to stay with her sister in San Jose. We shopped around the mall a bit (it changes every time I go there, but I still think it's the prettiest mall I've ever seen), and then met Jan back at the house so she could take Jena and I up to SF.

We checked into our hotel, The Handlery, and after a snafu on the room type (I had only made the reservations 6 months or more in advance and called them easily 8 times to confirm things, so one can understand how they could make a mistake so easily), we got situated in our room and then headed out to North Beach to see Beach Blanket Babylon. I've seen it before, but because they constantly update the show with current affairs, it's always fun to see again. It was nonstop laughing from beginning to end, and we just loved it. We ate at Calzone's in North Beach afterward and had a nice outdoor dinner under some heat lamps. My lasagna was so-so. It was very meaty. I think they mix beef and sausage because it tasted 'heavier' than just beef. But we had fun and the service is great there.

Thursday morning Jena and I walked around Union Square. I was disappointed to see that Gump's had moved and in the process changed quite a bit from when I used to go there. Very high end now and they really didn't have anything I couldn't live without. I hate it when that happens.

Around noontime Jenny (Ohio) and Paula (Texas) arrived from the airport. We went out to Kuleto's for lunch, on Powell just around the corner from our hotel. Jan had given us a lot of restaurant recommendations. They lived in the City for quite a while before moving in with my mom. I had soup and it was excellent. At the end of our trip, we all agreed that that meal was the best we had in the City. I wished I had gotten something more substantial than soup!

We took a cable car out to Fisherman's Wharf and hung out at Pier 39 for a bit.

Then we headed off for the Alcatraz night tour. I had never been to Alcatraz before (it's amazing how you can live somewhere for 45 years and never do any of the touristy things!), and it was great. The tour itself is very well done, beginning with interesting tour guides and then moving into a self-paced tour with headphones. The only thing we didn't like is that the narration has a lot of background noises to make it seem realistic—like gun shots, fighting sounds, cell doors clanging—and we all thought that was a bit much. The views looking back at the City with all the lights was just stunning. It was pretty late when we got back so we dashed over to Calzone's again, since we knew it would still be open at 10pm. This time I had shrimp and tomatoes over pasta and it was not really very flavorful. But again the service was great, as was the pinot grigio I had. And of course the company was divine.

Friday was our much-anticipated limo tour to Napa to go wine tasting. It did not disappoint. We took the Bay Bridge route, stopping at Starbucks along the way for coffee. Our first stop was Domaine Chandon. I did not personally care for any of their wines. but the other girls liked them. I also didn't care for the fact that they really push their wine club on you.

Our next stop was recommended by our limo driver, and it was Peju Winery. This was our favorite of the day, not only because their wines were delish, but also because we had a great tasting guide, Allen.

After pouring the second wine, Allen broke out in quite a long rap song about the wine, complete with motions and sound effects. Highly entertaining. He had a poem ready to go with the third wine, which he energetically recited. It was great fun.

The tasting rooms are housed in a beautiful building, and their gift shop is the best one I've seen in any winery I've been in – great selection of pottery and cookbooks. I exercised great control and escaped with only two cookbooks.

We picked up sandwiches at a deli our limo driver recommended, and I wish I could remember the name of the place. It was a grocery store and was really an excellent high-end store with wonderful picnic choices. We ate our sandwiches in the limo as we drove so as not to waste valuable drinking time.

Next we headed to St. Clement as I am very fond of their wines and needed to pick up a few to bring home. They were delicious as usual.

Our next and final stop was Sterling. Beautiful views from the top of the tram and consistent good quality wines.

Now it was time to head back to the City. Our driver raced back hoping we would get to Cline Winery before it closed, but alas it was not to be. We drove back to the City over Golden Gate Bridge and enjoyed the views.

For dinner we decided to go out to Ghirardelli Square, to McCormick and Kuleto's. I think this must be somehow connected with the Kuleto's we had lunch at on Union Square. We had a wonderful window table with great views. I had parmesan-crusted sole, which was a bit overcooked. Plus the coating was too heavy for the sole. But since I don't find sole on too many menus, I enjoyed it. My green beans were way undercooked and unfortunately I only had a few slivers of some excellent carrots, by far the tastiest thing on the plate.

The taxi ride home was hands down the wildest taxi ride I've ever taken. Jena had remarked on one of the hills as we went down it. The driver said, "Oh, are you from someplace flat?" Jena said, "You can't get much flatter than Nebraska." So I guess he decided to give us a thrill. There were two more hills in succession with a flat cross-street in between. He gunned it down the first hill, bottomed out on the flat portion, and flew down the second hill. I was laughing so hard, my stomach was in extreme pain. We all were. This only egged him on to drive faster. We arrived back at the hotel in record time. He told us we were the most fun he'd had all night!

Saturday morning I got up and walked down to the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building. It was amazing. Hundreds of stalls with every kind of food imaginable. I found some Italian Bombolini and I could be happy just eating bombolinis the rest of my life and nothing else. A little sugar donuty kind of ball with custard in the center. It was heaven.

I then met the rest of the girls and we took a bus out to Chrissy Field. It just happened to be Fleet Week. Hey sailor. We sat on the wall there and watched the Blue Angels perform. It was a beautiful day. In fact, the entire trip was graced with gorgeous fall weather. I couldn't have asked for anything better.

We took the bus back to Union Square and had a late lunch/early dinner at The Cheesecake Factory at the top of Macy's. I had a Kobe burger and don't understand what the big thrill about kobe beef is. It tasted just like any other good burger I've ever had. It was good though. We spent the rest of the evening sitting around the pool yakking.

Sunday we didn't really do too much. We hung around the hotel, walked around Union Square, went into Barney's, bought some souvenirs (not in Barney's!), etc. We went out to Fuzio's on Castro Street for dinner and were befriended by two very funny guys at the table next to us, drank way too many watermelon martinis and discovered Jenny could tie a cherry stem into a knot with her tongue in under 10 seconds! Jena could also perform this amazing feat but it took her considerably longer (10 minutes).

It was a memorable meal. I had chicken marsala, not very good at all. Jena had mac and cheese, which was more like a pasta dish than plain mac and cheese, and it was really good. I should have gotten that. My garlic and parmesan focaccia bread was really good. I could go for an order of that bread and one of those watermelon martinis right now, in fact.

Monday we ate breakfast at Lefty O'Doul's at Union Square and then headed back to the airport. The girls flew back to their (flat) states and Chris picked me up to take me back to mom's for one more night. Jan made a delicious pasta dish and even more yummy margarita's. The best meals on the trip were the homemade ones. Jan should open a restaurant.

All in all, the trip was great fun. It had been a long time in the planning and flew by. It's hard to believe it's behind us now and not something we're still looking forward to. Oh, well, guess it's time to start planning the next trip!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gordon Gets Cooking

Yesterday I had the good fortune to attend a cooking class at Gordon's on Blueberry Hill in Freeland.  I had read in the paper a few weeks ago that there was to be a class and when I called to reserve a spot, they were full and I had to get on the waiting list.  Friday I got a call asking if I was still interested – YES!  So at a few minutes before 11, I walked in the door looking forward to some good food served up with a helping of fun.

I've attended many cooking classes in my lifetime, so I had a preconceived notion of how this would work – and was way off.  This was more like a long lunch while you watched the chef cook.  Tables were set up as normal in the restaurant except that the center was cleared out and a long table for the cooking demo was along one side.  The restaurant is small enough that every table had a good view of Gordon's cooking station.

We started off with Ginger Chili Marinated Prawns (which also included Deer Creek oysters).  While the food we would be served was being prepared and plated in the kitchen (there seemed to be about 40 of us), Gordon demonstrated making a small portion.  He is quite the showman and very entertaining, with a great sense of humor.  Oh, he is also a fabulous cook.  His restaurant is one of my favorite restaurants in the world and I'm lucky enough to live 15 minutes away!

We learned how to shuck oysters and also not to wash or rinse them as the flavor of the brine is what oysters are all about.

The presentation for this first dish was stunning – a cantaloupe cut in half, scooped out, filled with a sauce, the oysters arranged on the cut edges of the cantaloupe and the prawns around the outside, garnished with cilantro, lemon and lime wedges, and a pepper flower.  I had taken a camera with me, but alas, the batteries were dead.  Gordon's presentations are outstanding.

Gordon had teamed up with a wine salesman for this class and so we got some wine education along with the cooking demos.  This first course was paired with Whidbey Island Winery Siegerrebe, a spicy white wine that was 'crisp and cleansing, not bone dry, with a whiff of sweetness," and an excellent pairing with oysters. 

Our next course was comprised of Peppercorn Encrusted Sirloin and Parsnip Potato Mash – yummy!  The steak featured a blueberry sauce that was to die for; the veggie included roasted garlic and was drizzled with maple syrup.  Unlike most cooking classes/demos, we did not get small portions to taste – each person was served full-size portions that included large steaks.  And it was delicious.

The wine paired with this course, which was also used in the sauce, was a 2007 Doña Paula Malbec from Argentina – a big wine with a smooth finish that does not linger in the mouth which would interfere with the flavor of the steak.

Finally, our dessert, while titled Drunken Apple Sorbet with Cinnamon Crisp, is more accurately described as an apple sorbet served in a hollowed-out apple on a plate napped with pecan brandy caramel sauce (so tempting to lick the plate) with a cinnamon and sugar puff pastry alongside.  The sorbet, which can be made from any fruit, also included Muscat wine, which was the wine served with this final course.  I am not a fan at all of sweet dessert wines, but I loved this one – Marchesi Di Gresy La Serra Muscato D'Asti from Italy.  It's just the kind of wine you want to linger over at the table, (while you wait until no one is looking so you can lick the plate).

All in all, a very fun way to spend three hours on a Saturday, and I can't wait until Gordon's next class.

Ginger Chili Marinated Prawns
18 large prawns peeled and deveined
1 cup Mapeloy chili sauce
lime juice from 2 limes
1/4 cup pickled ginger, chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
2 T minded garlic
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 cup rice wine vinegar or mirin
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup orange juice
Sesame seeds for garnish

Put all the ingredient except for the prawns in a bowl.  Set aside 1/2 cup of the marinade for dipping when you serve.

Add the peeled and deveined prawns to the rest of the mixture and marinate the prawns overnight in this.

The next day, heat a large empty saucepot to high heat.  Add the marinade and prawns, bring it to a boil, and cook until the prawns have turned pink, approximately 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and mix in 2 quarts of ice.  Cool in the fridge until ready to serve.  This is a great do-ahead recipe.  Serves 6.  See above description for presentation in the cantelope.

Peppercorn Encrusted Sirloin
6 six oz sirloin steaks
3/4 oz olive oil
generous amount of cracked black pepper
truffle salt or steak seasoning
2 sprigs rosemary
1/4 cup of huckleberry jam or blueberry jam
1 sliced red onion
1 T minced garlic
1/2 cup malbec or port wine
1/4 cup strong beef bouillon or beef stock
3 T room temp butter to finish
Mix the pepper and seasonings and press them lightly onto the steaks.  Don't press so much that it's going to overwhelm the wine.

Heat oil in a pan and add the sirloin.  Sear for two to three minutes on each side.  Remove the steaks.

Lower the heat to medium.  Add more oil if needed.  Add sliced onion and garlic to the pan and saute until the onions are slightly carmelized.

Deglaze the pan with the wine.  Add jam, rosemary and bouillon and reduce by half.  Remove the rosemary sprigs, add a few whole berries if you wish, and finish with the butter.  Drizzle over the steaks and serve the remainder alongside the steaks.

Parsnip Potato Mash
5 - 6 peeled russet potatoes, cut up
6 medium peeled parsnips, cut up
5 T roasted garlic puree
1 cup heavy cream
6 - 8 T butter
salt and pepper to taste
maple syrup

Boil the potatoes and parsnips until tender.

In a separate pan, add the garlic, cream and butter and bring to a boil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Drain the potatoes and parsnips and put them back into the pot.  Add the cream  mixture and whip it with a wire whisk until you reach your desired consistency.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The early bird gets the worm

I decorated my first tree of the season today, at a decorating workshop I went to. This went in the master bath. Those of you who have been here might remember there are birdcages in there and it has sort of a 'bird' motif. Still needs the 'skirt' which will be some cool twiggy stuff I brought home and to tweak things a bit. Notice the brick holding it from falling over. The front is so heavily decorated and the back is empty since it's up against the wall. It stood up until I put that last little white bird you can see peaking out under the other bird's tail. Then it promptly pitched forward. The workshop was a lot of fun. It was an auction item I purchased last December and was donated by a local floral/interior designer, who is extremely talented. There were six of us decorating trees and wreaths and we all had a super fun time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

If It's Tuesday, I Must Be at The Clyde

One of the best things about living in a small town is our small town movie theater, The Clyde. The Clyde shows one movie at a time and they switch it out twice a week. It costs $6 for adults to get in and you can get popcorn and soda pop for another $2. It's the last great deal in the United States. I absolutely love The Clyde. After we moved here, I couldn't wait to go to my first movie, which I did within the first week of moving here (although I don't remember what I saw).

The owners of The Clyde, Lynn and Blake Willeford, are great people. Not only do they go out of their way to keep The Clyde affordable and bring in the best movies, they do a lot for our community. Among other endeavors, they are active in Friends of Friends, Hearts & Hammers, and Fair University. This year they organized the first RainDance Film Festival. They are busy people!

The ticket takers are all 'volunteers.' In exchange for taking tickets one night a week, my family and I get into any and all movies, and I get a drink and popcorn, for free! If this isn't a deal, I don't know what is.

Sometimes I sub in the snack bar when one of the regular ladies needs a night off. This is great fun as it affords a longer opportunity to chat with people while they stand there and decide what to buy. We have our regulars. Bob always gets a large coke and a large popcorn. Billy likes his popcorn tamped down just so and refuses to take a straw with his drink. Many people are under the misguided impression that snack bar ladies are mind readers. "A medium soda, please." Then there are the kids who just cannot make up their minds. Faced with goodies galore, they stand there in a daze until forced to make their decision by an impatient parent or snack bar lady.

Tuesday nights are my night to take tickets and last night I saw Bottle Shock, a delightful movie about the Napa wineries in the mid '70s, most specifically Chateau Montelena, and the French/California 'Judgment of Paris' wine tasting that put California wines on the map. I was completely unaware of this event and the associated history, although I'm a California girl and have been to the wine country many times.

The movie was especially timely for me because I'm planning a trip to California next week and, along with 3 girlfriends, will be touring the Napa wine country in a private limo. I get giddy just thinking about it!

Bottle Shock has that great indie movie feel to it. I would be really interested to know how much is real and how much was made up for the movie. For instance, one would hope that Jim Barrett, owner of Chateau Montelena, is not such a crabby person. I hate to think one of my favorite wines is made by a crabby appleton. One also has to wonder why cute female intern Sam switched from the adorable Gustavo who had such a passion for wine to the badly-wigged Bo, slacker son/heir. Guess she's just a wine-ho! Alan Rickman is wonderful as Steven Spurrier, a British wine snob living in Paris, who organizes the blind tasting. He appeared to be enjoying himself tremendously in this role. Maybe the glasses had real wine in them! I whole-heartedly recommend this movie, followed by a glass of your favorite wine.

(After writing this, I found an interesting article online regarding the accuracy of the movie.. Guess even indie movies have to go a little bit Hollywood.)

Before tonight's showing, a local shop around the corner from the theater, The Chef's Pantry, will be recreating the taste-off with a blind tasting of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and the best French Meursault. How fun is that?!?!?!

Smokin' in Seattle

Photo courtesy of Mickey

 Several years ago, while awaiting arrival of Dorothy, our Aga cooker, someone mentioned to me that there was a bbq I should look into that was the griller's equivalent of an Aga.  It was called a Big Green Egg.  Of course, I immediately had to investigate this oddly-named thing and learned that it was a ceramic Kamado-style bbq.

Here is Jim looking oh-so-excited about his new toy

 One thing led to another and within fairly short order, Jim was receiving his very own Big Green Egg for Father's Day. Never mind that he had never even heard of it before, let alone requested such a gift.  I needed one, which meant he needed one, and that is how Dimples, our large Big Green Egg, came to live with us.

The Big Green Egg has a terrific cult following which means a great online forum where all things Egg-related can be discussed at any hour of the day or night.  Having a problem in the middle of your all-night pork cook and need some advice?  No problem, there is guaranteed to be at least one 'egghead' up and online to help you out or commiserate or show off photos of what he cooked for dinner earlier that night.

Pulled pork cooked overnight on the Egg

 The BGE, or simply Egg, is not just a cool bbq and smoker.  It makes hands-down the best bbq I have ever tasted.  What's more, it doesn't stop at bbqing and smoking.  You can bake in it, stir fry in it, and if you get the extra-large, you can probably take a bath in it.  I have personally made French toast, chocolate chip cookies, s'mores, mashed potatoes, bacon-wrapped tater tots, quesadillas, and asparagus and other assorted veggies.  Sometimes we do meat on it too.

Bacon-wrapped tater tots from Eggfest 2007 - always a big hit!
Now although the Egg makes delicious food, that isn't even the best part about it.  Whenever you have a lot of people conversing often online (and the BGE forum is very chatty), they will sooner or later start wanting to meet up in real life.  This phenomenon had happened with the Eggheads long before I ever came upon the scene.  In fact, they had been meeting up at Eggfests all across the country for 8 years when I stumbled in the door.  There is the big main Eggtoberfest put on by and at the Mothership in Tucker, Georgia, every October.  This was started back in '97.  As time went on, smaller but no less enthusiastic Eggfests were started by just regular old eggheads, sometimes with the help of their local Egg dealers.  The main gist of an Eggfest is that you get a dealer to sell a number of 'demo eggs' at a discount to anyone who is too cheap to shell out the full price.  These Eggs are cooked on by anyone who wishes to do so and then the used-for-one-day Eggs are taken home by their happy new owners.  In the meantime, for a fee, other people can attend and eat the food that is being cooked all day long at the Eggfest.  The cooks get in free, thus saving between 25 and 50 dollars, and in exchange they get to slave away cooking food they have provided at their own expense often totaling in the hundreds of dollars.

Alas, there were no Eggfests in the Seattle area, nor anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, not even on the entire west coast.  What was to be done?  For a couple years, it was discussed often to start an Eggfest in the Seattle area.  I was all for that.  It got talked to death but no one was willing to take it on.  I approached the dealer I had purchased my—I mean, Jim's Egg from, and they were not interested.

Another year went by and the subject came up again.  Being the great organizer I am, I decided I would put on my own Eggfest.  If I couldn't find a place to have it and a dealer to sponsor it, I would just end up inviting some fellow Eggheads in the general area over to our house for a bbq.

I put the word out on the forum that I was planning a PNW Eggfest.  This apparently is all that was needed to get the ball rolling.  The next thing I knew, I had dealers lined up insisting on being allowed to participate.  Eventually w approached the local distributor, AES, who came on board and agreed to be our main sponsor.  We ended up with 3 dealers on our team, a few having dropped out once they found out that they would be expected to actually put up some money and maybe do a little work.  We held our first Pacific Northwest Evergreen Eggfest (Smokin' in Seattle) in September of 2007 at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah.  It was a huge success with 25 cooks and over 250 people attending from 7 states.
Tonia came with her husband Larry from Florida

This brings me back to my sentence, "Now although the Egg makes delicious food, that isn't even the best part about it."  The people I met at our Eggfest were absolutely the nicest people I have ever met in my life.  I'm talking about the people who worked for AES and the dealers and the fellow Eggheads who came and cooked.  The people who came and ate were pretty nice, too, but it was the true Eggheads who stood out as being exceptionally nice people.
Love Brian's shirt!
Men in kilts cooking - does it get any better than that?

Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ, our guest chef

Our first Eggfest was very successful and AES and the dealers got together and sent me to Eggtoberfest in October of 2007 as a thank you for my part in starting it up and all.  Again, the people I met when I attended that amazing event (200 cooks, 1500 people eating) were just beyond nice.  I don't know what it is about them.  I certainly meet a lot of nice people as I go through life, but there is just something about these Eggheads that puts them a little bit above average nice.  I keep hoping some of it will rub off on me!

Sean Alexander, the generous and talented Egger who designed and maintains our website

Eggers are a colorful bunch

So this year we held our second Eggfest, again in September and at the same location.  We had 32 cooks and over 450 people, so we grew a bit, although we only had 6 states represented.  Again, it was a super fun day with just the nicest people showing up and helping out, cooking, and having fun together.  I walked away with new friends, some great new recipes, and the hope that maybe a little bit more of that niceness had rubbed off on me.

LOVED this kid!

The heat is on!

Pizza on the Egg - delicious!

Couple of satisfied customers

Monday, September 29, 2008

A is for Apple

Yesterday we had friends over to pick and press apples. This is the second year we've done this. We have a few apple trees and friends also brought some. Our friend Barbara Taylor owns South Island Properties, a property management company, and on Friday Jim and I joined Barb and Eric at a vacant property with 4 huge old apple trees and picked for a couple of hours.
There were about 12 of us on Saturday picking and pressing. Jim and I purchased an apple press off Craig's List earlier this summer. We bought it from a guy whose dad had made it. It has a motor on it and this made the pressing go a lot faster than last year when our friends and neighbors Marcia and Andy Statz brought their antique press up. I had been looking for a press ever since we did this last year and wanted one like the Statzes because it is just so cool looking. This motorized one was the first I came across I liked, and I'm glad we ended up with a motorized one this year.

Statzes' cool press we used last year

We spend four and a half hours pressing I don't know how many bushels of apples. We ended up with 33 pretty large containers of juice. Barbara and I had been saving empty juice containers all year, but she beat me out by a mile. We didn't even have to use the ones I had saved.

We started off at 2 pm picking apples off our trees. After loading the tractor cart with drinks and appetizers, Jim drove it down near the trees. It was very Martha Stewart-ish! We had a blue cheese dip with homemade french bread, mango & bean salsa, apple salsa, and candy corn.

The men were chomping at the bit to get back to try out the apple press. They were intrigued! We broke into work stations with Barb and Shelley in the kitchen sterilizing the containers, Jill and Jesse washing and cutting the apples, and the husbands all standing around admiring the press. We got into the swing of things, figured out the most effective process (stopped cutting the apples first for one thing), and things went smoothly.

There was a small bit of excitement about halfway through. Andy came into the kitchen where Shelley and I were sneaking in a sitting break to ask if we had any bolts as one had worked its way loose and gotten lost. Andy and Jim went off to fix that problem and a short while later Shelley and I heard a loud metal pinging noise, followed by much excited chatter, and then another very loud metal banging noise. I thought the press had come apart at the seams mid operation and was exploding in all directions, piercing everyone with sharp metal projectiles in the process.

Things seemed to calm down and there were no loud "Call 911" shouts, so Shelley and I ventured out to see what had happened. A piece of the tire jack, which was used to press the juice from the shredded apples, had slipped loose, soared about 20 feet into the air, and come crashing down hitting the other end of the press, missing Kelsey's hand by a breath. It left quite a dent where it hit, so Kelsey must have had her guardian angel watching over her. Typical of a 16-year-old, she was not phased in the least.

At 6:30 Kelsey tossed the last apple into the press and we topped off the 33rd, and last, bottle.

The juice is delicious. The variety of apples produced a tasty drink and it is a superior vintage to last year's, in my humble opinion.  It tastes like liquid apples--duh--and is just delicious.

We retired inside for a potluck featuring sweet onion sausages from our local farmer's market with homemade mustard and my cousin Joe's bottled BBQ sauce, spinach salad, broccoli apple salad, smoked cheddar and apple au gratin potatoes, baked apple pie beans (are you beginning to see a theme?), taboulli, apple cookies, and apple cheesecake. All washed down with--you guessed it--wine!

The new press draws admiring looks.

The apples get washed…


...go into the crusher…

… and then get pressed. (Only strong macho men need apply for this job.)

A year's worth of saved bottles.


Long-time friend Mike came down from Orcas Island for the day.

The last apple goes into the hopper.  Kelsey's hands were stained yellow at the end of the day.  What a trooper!

Four and a half hours later after we started!


 The hard-working and thirsty crew.