Celebrating 2011 — a yummy year

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The Foodie:

It has not even been a year since we started sharing a few minutes together every Thursday but we have done a lot of things this year.

As I wrote this compilation of the year I realized if I actually included all of the food I cooked, recipes I created, restaurants I have tried and wines I have tasted, I could write a column every day.

What fun this is!

This year:

We found inspiration from:

Emilia Romagna region in Italy
Cheese
Gardening
Summer
My mother
Canning
Failure
Pressure cooking
Parties

Things we celebrated:

Sabre’s Hockey Playoffs
Kentucky Derby
Grand Opening of Melloni’s
Lewiston Tour of Kitchens
Niagara Wine Trail Food and Wine Festival
Being family
Lewiston Art Festival
Peach Festival
Thanksgiving
Christmas
New Year

Drink recipes we shared:

Mint Juleps
Sangria
Limoncino

Food recipes we shared:

Rubbed Bourbon Ribs
Sweet Corn Ice Cream
Chicken & Tomatoes
Grilled Steak
Grilled peach pound cake
Tomato Puree
Tomato Sauce
Vegetable beef soup
Christmas Cookies
Turkey stuffing
Cranberries
Turkey sandwiches

Food we grew:

Parsley
Rosemary
Garlic chives
Thyme
Sage

Food we ate:

Parmigiano Reggiano
Prosciutto di Parma
Yancey’s XXX Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
Yancey’s Double Cream Cheddar Cheese
Steamed Clams
Artichoke French
Black Raspberry Frozen Custard
Rigatoni and meat sauce
Eggplant Rollatini
Rice Balls
Calamari
Creamy Potato Bacon Soup
Chicken Fingers
Corned Beef Hash and Poached Eggs
Specialty Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar
Osso Bucco
Bone Marrow Salad
Soft boiled egg on wild mushrooms, arugula and creamy polenta

Drinks we tried:

Marjim Manor:
Jewel in the Crown
Appley Ever After
True Blue
Cat’s Meow
Black Willow Winery
Bare Cat Blush
Odin’s Nectar
Cabernet Franc
Chardonnay
Trilogy Red and Trilogy White
Chateau Niagara
Chardonnay
Riesling
Gewurtztraminer
Cayuga White
A La Mode
Water Street Landing
Sea Breeze
Madras
Hops-N-Vines
Massaya Classic Red
Predator 2010 Old Vine Zinfande
Rock and Vine Cabernet Saugignon
Les Cigales de Montirius Cote Du Rhone
Eataly
Espresso
Orange Cat
Coffee

Food and Wine People We Chat With:

Anne Macri, Gary Macri
Annie (Brennan’s)
Lewiston Tour of Kitchens
Carmelo Raimondi (Carmelo’s)
Kevin Robertson (Wine on Third)
Richard Schwertfager (DiCamillo Bakery)
Christian Willmott (The Nines Catering Company)
Aimee Loughtan (The Village Bake Shoppe)
Chris Connelly (Kinetic Kitchens)
Dan Gagliardo
Diane and Lou Melloni
Karen Fellow & Kim Lee
Kurt Minervino and Chris Salada
Margo Sue Bittner, Cindy Chanberlain, Jim and Kathy Baker
Michael Broderick and Robin Faulring
My mother and mother-in-law
My son
Tom Tower
Vinny Bevilaqua, Mike Ciulkowski

Places We Visited Below the Falls:

Brennan’s
Casey’s Malt Shoppe
D’Avolio
Hibbard’s
Hops-N-Vines
Lewiston Art Festival
Macri’s Italian Grille
My backyard
Orange Cat
Water Street Landing
Black Willow Winery
Chateau Niagara

Places We Visited Beyond the Falls

Eataly, (New York, NY)
Pizzeria Molto (Fairfield, CT)
Gina Tina Ristorante Italiano (Bronx. NY)
Bambino (Buffalo, NY)

Thank you for joining me on my food and wine travels. I look forward to 2012 and invite you to send me suggestions of places to eat, food to try or wines to drink.

We had a yummy year … cheers. See you next year!

Make some Limoncino for the New Year!

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Four years ago I took a trip to Italy, and one of the first souvenirs I purchased was an apron.

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On it was a recipe for Limoncello, in Italian (Limoncino) and in English (Lemon Liqueur). A little research taught me that Limoncino is a Northern Italian name and Limoncello is Southern Italian. As you might guess, the apron was purchased in Northern Italy. I have stared at that apron for four years and decided to give the recipe a try. I guess it was a leap of faith but what was the worst thing that could happen?

There are a few things worth noting prior to the endeavor. First and most important was to be sure my scale could measure in grams. Yes, it could I am delighted to report. The next thing was to go to the liquor store to find out what alcohol was.

Seriously, no joke, is alcohol vodka or gin or rum? Well, yes it is all of those things, but what my friend Cheryl Butera of Anchor Spirits in Youngstown guided me to was a Polish potato liquor which actually had a lower proof than vodka.

I had a flashback to college where we used to throw bottles of the stuff into a garbage can with Hawaiian Punch and act like kids in college (sorry son, what you are doing now is not original!)…oh back in the day!

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It took about 15-20 minutes to peel the lemons. Be sure not to include any pith because it will make the drink bitter. It was amazing how the lemony yellow color developed over the five days of steeping.

I made the simple sugar as described on the apron but know that I will experiment with other flavors in the future. The first one I think I may try is to add a vanilla bean to the sugar and water mixture to infuse vanilla into the drink. Other ideas include sage and lavender and I am going to use my own fresh herbs.

Here is the recipe:

Lemon Liquor

Wash carefully and dry 1 kg of untreated lemons (it turned out to be 10 lemons), remove the rinds and let them soak in 1 liter of alcohol for 5 days. Prepare a syrup by dissolving 800 grams of sugar in one liter of water, and cool. Mix the syrup with the alcohol and the rinds, and let them stand for 12 hours (I let it stand another day and a half while I looked for cool bottles and corks). Filter and bottle. The liqueur is ready for drinking.

I purchased bottles and corks and know I will start to collect bottles from now on that would make a great gift. For my hair stylist I wrote a description and holiday message on a bottle and shared it with him. I think this may be my go-to gift from now on.

On Sunday, I celebrated Christmas with my family and shared this flute with them as they entered the house.

20120612-073145.jpgYou should keep it in the freezer because it is best served cold. On ice, with a little fresh fruit, or shaken into a lemon drop martini you cannot go wrong with this liqueur.

So, if you start it today or tomorrow you will have something delicious to ring in the New Year.

From my home to yours, blessings at Christmas and always!

Have a yummy week!

Lessons on being the perfect holiday party guest

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This is the most wonderful time of year and many of us have already started attending holiday parties. I try to never arrive empty handed. My usual gift is a nice bottle of wine in a pretty long gift bag or some of my homemade cookies festively wrapped. I try to be sure to label the gift so my hosts know it’s origin because I know in the confusion of setting out refreshments, greeting guests, hanging coats (or the coat pile on the bed upstairs; I always ask for a black sable yet never fail to get back my actual wool coat … bummer) the host could never possibly remember who gave them what.

Here are a few tips to help you through the holidays:

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If you bring a bottle of wine do not expect the host to open it. It is nice to write on the outside of a note card “Do Not Open Until: ____________. Here you could say “you are in your jammies” or “the next time you grill burgers” or something that you know your host would enjoy. On the inside of the card you could tell them why you chose this particular bottle. It may be your new favorite, you know it is their favorite or you want them to try something new. I keep a silver Sharpie

20120612-074608.jpg in my car (I also keep a corkscrew in my glove box much to my son’s delight) in case I do not have a note card handy. It’s fun to write on the bottle!

If you are asked to bring wine be sure to get some guidance from your host. Do you want red or white? How many bottles of each would you like? If you are the host asking for a guest to bring wine, be sure you know them very well. It is not polite to ask a guest to bring either a main dish or main beverage. That is your responsibility as host.

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If you bring food, whether it is cookies or any other type of food, do not expect your host to put it out for their guests. Assume your host has put a great deal of planning and preparation into their menu and does not have room on their table for your gift, no matter how yummy. Be sure it is labeled and does not need refrigeration because they have likely used every micrometer of space for the party. A fancy jam and bread mix for a weekend morning or jar of stuffed olives for a martini lover are very thoughtful gifts.

If you are attending a family party and are asked to bring a dish be sure to bring an appropriate serving vessel. If you bring the salad, try to bring the dressing mixed in advance. Try to do as much preparation as possible before arrival. If you need to use the oven be sure to ask if oven space will be available. A few years ago I purchased a tableside oven and it has saved me more than once when I need to cook the roast at the same time I need to bake the rolls.

Also be sure you bring all parts of the dish (cheese and crackers without the crackers is just…cheese). It is always appropriate to bring the host a gift whether you are related or just work acquaintances.

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But if you really want to stand out, write the host a nice thank you card the next day. You will never know how much they will appreciate it…and it will likely keep you on the guest list for next year.

I send blessings and good wishes to all of my Jewish friends as Hanukkah begins at sunset on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011.

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Have a yummy day!

An Orange Cat social life, five minutes at a time

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The Foodie:

If Lewiston had the equivalent of Cheers, that Boston bar where everybody knows your name, it would be the Orange Cat Coffee Company on Center Street in Lewiston.

My coffee pot sits idle for weeks at a time and I use my coffee press occasionally (with either Orange Cat or Starbucks Anniversary Blend) but prefer to pull the iron handle on the cool door and be greeted by wonderful smells and friendly people.

I have friends that I met at the Orange Cat. My friend Dorothy and I are friends because of the OC and Facebook. It’s a new world. So new, in fact that they Tweet their soup and salad specials each morning like a lunch menu back in school. See below for their Facebook and Twitter links.

Robin Faulring and Michael Broderick opened the OC back in 2004 and they were the only folks who worked there. They now have 9-10 employees depending on the time of the year. They do not look for baristas with experience; rather they look for friendly local people who have a connection with the community.

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I asked Michael about the culture of coffee and he explained that people experience coffee today much like they experience wine. They have discovered new flavors from regions long ago unfamiliar. I remember, back in the day, when we considered it fancy to buy “Columbian” Maxwell House coffee (of course that was when a “pound” of coffee actually weighed a pound). Today we can sample coffee from around the world and know that like wine, the climate, soil conditions and growing practices change the flavor of coffee bean. Michael says we now enjoy, experience and experiment with coffee.

They have many offerings each day – always Roastmaster Rick along with a single origin coffee. The next two are flavored (I don’t prefer coffee that tastes like fruit – that’s what tea is for). Jamaican Me Crazy is an all time favorite of my son who has frequently requested it ground and sent to school for brewing. The bottom two are decafe coffees.

Michael knows people come to the OC for a break in their routine. I know people come there because the coffee is of high quality and the baked goods are made with organic ingredients. They both have seen many wonderful relationships develop over time and are often awed by the sense of community felt in Lewiston and Youngstown.

Robin and Michael believe in the community and are very philanthropic. They began a charity called Pour the Love inspired by Jonathan Miller, a local student who passed away two years ago. JMill’s parents are regular customers and their daughters have both been barista’s there. With Pour the Love they find ways to center donations, to give larger amounts to a few community based charities.

They have many people who begin their day waiting in the fun line where they are most likely greeted by name. Robin and Michael believe their business can be simply defined by the incredible community. I have them to thank for the opportunity to perform on the front lawn of the Orange Cat during the Jazz Festival. My singing partner Loretta Frankovitch and I started Accidental Jazz with the encouragement of Robin who gave us the gig.

When I go in there I feel like the mayor. I am not alone. Everyone seems to know everyone there even if they never knew them before meeting them at the Orange Cat. I am looking forward to Christmas Eve morning where everyone sits around a great big circle sharing a few minutes together before celebrating Christmas with their loved ones.

For me, those wonderful minutes between getting in line, ordering, paying and putting the milk in my cup are my social life, five minutes at a time.

See you at the Orange Cat!

Have a yummy week.

Social media:

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Orange-Cat-Coffee-Co/16993583882#!/pages/Orange-Cat-Coffee-Co/16993583882?sk=info

Twitter @ohrangecat

Next week: I Blame D’Avolio for my Olive Oil addiction!

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