Brought to you by Jason! :)

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I’ve been a fan of Banksy for a little while; in fact I’d now group him with DaVinci as one of my favorite artists (of course, neither is one in the “conventional” sense). If you don’t know who Banksy is, click here for his wiki and here for his site and here for a youtube clip.

Anyway, I was alerted that Banksy set up shop (no pun intended) in NY finally so last night Jacquie and I made the trek to his “pet shop.” Originally, I was just going to post the outside pic to not give much away but after going through the store, I realized that pictures don’t do it justice anyway. I’m posting the pictures for those who can’t make it to the store before it closes on Halloween, but I really encourage you to get to the pet store at 89 7th Ave to see the exhibit in person.

These are pictures of the storefront:

Bird’s eye view:

Unlucky bunny:

Unhappy hen:

Chillin’ leopard (sort of) – this is one that I was completely taken aback by so I won’t ruin the “surprise”

Monkey porn (he actually ate at the same place we went to after our visit!)

Louis the Lizard

Poor Tweety!

I don’t think I need to explain this one (yes, they actually “swam” around the tank):

Dog tanks:

There is so much to be said about this place. There are messages in each piece and the impact is stronger when seen in person.

After that, Jacquie and I wandered around for a while looking for dinner places but ended up going to 5 Guys since we had never been and wanted something quick.

Jacquie went with a little cheeseburger and chose pretty standard toppings (lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickles, grilled onions) whereas I opted for a spicy burger (bbq sauce, grilled onions, fresh jalapenos). And of course, we had to get their famous fries.

The fries were incredible and exceeded our expectations with absolutely no qualifiers. Hot and fresh just like they should be. I’d qualify the burger by saying it’s one of the best fast food burgers I’ve ever had. The subtly sweet bun was particularly good. It didn’t live up to the hype surrounding it – much like the “must go to place” in California – but it was very good.

All in all, our conclusion is that we would go to Shake Shack for burgers (if the wait were less than 30 minutes), and then head directly to 5 Guys for some fries.

Oh yeah, if you’re wondering, 5 guys is better than that CA place. Sorry Californians.

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Lots going on personally and professionally but we are back on the posting wagon! First up is a long but entertaining and informative post from Jason on a trip we took a couple of months back to beautiful wine country! There is a quick summary of where we stayed, ate, and drank at the end of the post for those who need instant gratification.

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Firstly, let me say that Napa is won of the most wonderful places I’ve visited. Between the company, the wine, and the food, everything was fantastic. With a little bit of improvisation and a lot of planning, we managed to work in many different elements of Napa in just one full day and two half days.

When we arrived in California, we made a beeline down to Monterrey where my old roomie was “finally” getting hitched. I won’t go into how happy those two make me as a couple, but I will say they are awesome. As if they didn’t know.

The next morning, Jacquie, G and I made our first trip to San Fran (or SF as the locals insist) so we could pick up the only real wine “expert” in our crew – M. We swooped her and headed northbound to our first tasting in Napa, but not without food first! Jacquie did oodles of research and the one place she insisted on time and again was the famous Taylor’s Automatic Refesher in St Helena, but we were crunched for time so we hit up the new one in the Oxbow Public Market instead.

Finding this one was sheer luck because we were (semi) lost and just happened to realize that Oxbow was literally one street over from where we were. G and M ate the famous Ahi Burger, which looked fantastic, while Jacquie had an heirloom tomato and mozzarella sandwich and I devoured a “regular” burger.

When we were finished filling up on good eats, we headed to our first winery: Del Dotto Vineyards. Before I officially start all the talk of Napa, I want to give a shout out to G’s business acquaintance because he gave us TONS of great tips for Napa, many in this write up that he would recognize as his suggestions to us. Thanks again.

Back to Del Dotto – cool place. It’s a little kitschy but they offer some great wines.

You can see from the pics that our tour was conducted in their caves and we tasted directly from the barrels via a wine thief. While we tasted wine, Jacquie treated herself to some fantastic water directly from the tap.

The guide was extremely informative and very inappropriate, thus making him perfect for our group. He balanced his knowledge of wine (i.e.; staves and coopering) with his non-pc comments (midget jokes). He even managed to throw hot wax all over himself! Let me tell you, I know that shouldn’t have been funny but in reality it couldn’t have been funnier. The guy was trying to pull the bung out of the bunghole but grabbed the tea light candle instead (I’m laughing as I type this) and in the process threw wax all over himself. Save for some embarrassment and shock, he was okay and did lighten the mood by likening the wax in his hair to inappropriate sexual exploits.

What a great tour – we sampled about 10 wines, all of which were about $120 a bottle, and I capped the tour off by buying an excellent bottle of port.

After leaving there around 4pm, we checked into our awesome hotel, Yountville Inn. We tried to find another winery to go to but found out that almost all of the wineries in Napa Valley close around 5pm. We were stuck with 4 hours to kill before dinner but no worries, G and I are a resourceful duo. We went to a local store, bought some hydration helpers (aka Vitamin Water), and a few bottles of classy $8 wine. The 4 of us hung out by the pool and drank wine while talking about how Tablexchange needs to take off so G can pay for us to drink wine by pools all the time.

After a few hours of relaxation, we headed toMustard’s for dinner, where G had one of the best tomato soups I’ve ever tasted. We called it a night after dinner; well, we had some more wine then called it a night. Good times.

The next morning we woke up bright and early, determined to get a winery in before our lunch reservations. We all snacked on some delicious Bouchon pastries supplied by the Inn and then headed over to a winery recommended by G’s parents, Silverado. You’ll notice throughout the post that every winery was recommended since the number of wineries in Napa is overwhelming. Silverado was gorgeous, set up in the hills with a spectacular view of the foothills and the surrounding area.

Whereas Del Dotto (and later Swanson and Schramsberg) was a reserved private tasting, this was the classic Sideways style walk-in. For $15 we sampled 4 of their wines while sitting on the terrace, taking in the views and the perfect late morning weather in Napa.

We finished up our 10am drinking and made our way to what I thought was the best meal of the Napa excursion, Ad Hoc. Sadly we couldn’t justify the $300 per person meal at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, so we made due with Ad Hoc. And by make due I mean we had a f***ing great meal for about 80% of the price. I’m not going to go into detail about the food or the menu or the décor – you can see all that from the pics or their website – but I do want to express my enthusiasm behind the idea of Ad Hoc. Whereas family style eating is usually reserved for Italian and Chinese places, this eatery took it up a level. The presentation was gorgeous, the portions were adequate (i.e. you get stuffed, but can still walk afterwards), and the service was splendid. I 100% recommend this as a must-go-to when in Napa.

Plus you can hop over to the original Bouchon Bakery and grab some awesome coffee when you’re done.

Once we left Ad Hoc we went to Swanson Vineyards, the same Swanson of TV dinner fame. Since their facility is bit a small, getting there became an adventure. We drove onto a dirt road, then past the entrance because we missed the sign, down to a residential area, made a u-turn on a one lane road, and then drove into an actual vineyard because I thought it was the entrance. Well it turns out that wasn’t the entrance and I was just driving in a vineyard. When we called and gave them a description of where we were – narrow dirt road with grape vines closely hugging our car – to see if we were going the right way, they were thoroughly confused. Anyway, we finally arrived and were greeted at our cars with a nice glass of rosato (which I purchased for Jacquie to sample once the baby pops out).

This private tasting was much more of what I expected to see at all tastings: we sat around an octagonal table and paired their wines with cheese and crackers and chocolate, while listening to the story of the daughter who designed the room and the bio of the pro making the wine. Let the record show that the room, though gaudy, was absolutely gorgeous.


At this tasting I was actually a little bit drunk because normally we would finish a glass of wine or two over the course of one to two hours, but at Swanson’s we sampled tons of wines and each time our glass was empty it was refilled by our host. That could be what led to me buying the rosato we were greeted with and an ice wine for our newlywed friends, but whatever. Great tactic on their part.

When we left there around 2, we decided to get in as many wineries as possible before they all closed at the ridiculously early hour of 5pm. We dropped in on one of the most famous wineries in Napa just to say we had been there, Robert Mondavi, but that turned out to be a less than stellar idea though we did get some nice pics in.


After accidentally driving in the vineyards just an hour earlier, G thought he’d go a step further in is hoodlum antics at Mondavi. Fueled by the liquid courage gained at Swanson, G persuaded us that traversing into the “Private Tours Only” section of the winery would be a good idea. He was right and wrong. Again, we snapped some nice pics while there, but we also received a one of a kind request to leave the premises.

Who knew they wouldn’t like us on the “tour only” area when we weren’t paying for the tour. I wanted to debate the fact that we were embarking on our own tour so technically we were a tour group, but I was slightly inebriated and the security guard who was telling us to leave didn’t seem amused. So Jacquie and I left while the yet-to-be-noticed G and M wandered further through the vineyards.

They were eventually asked to leave as well though. The whole exchange with security was rather amusing but I can’t really do it justice via text, so just call G and ask him.

Figuring that a place where we were welcomed would be a good change of venue, we called on M’s parents and they suggested Benessere, a winery of which they are a member.

I have to say that was probably my favorite stop – since they don’t do tours, the lady serving wine just walked around with us, encouraged us to eat the grapes, and shared her wine wisdom. There was also a great dog there with which Gabe fell in love.


Not to mention their wine was superb and very reasonably priced. Benessere is one place to visit for sure. Their “artisanal” feel is a welcome change from the larger vineyards.

Our next stop at Peju was a meeting point for us and the newly weds who drove up from Monterey for their own weekend getaway. Peju was a pretty place design-wise and the fact that they were the only winery open until 6pm made them our best friend at the time.

It was a real cluster there because the staff was pouring wines while several dozen people clamored to sneak an extra glass or two, all the while being sold on bottle after bottle. It makes sense on the cluster-style because it was lushes like us trying to squeeze out just one more bargain tasting. But we’re classy lushes, not maniacal ones – our idea was to chill on their terrace and take our sweet time. In fact, we took so much time that the bartender (?) just gave us our own bottle so he could close up. Nice gesture.


Before we headed to our reservation at Julia’s Kitchen at the Copia, we all went back to the Inn to get ready. We also tried to drink the wine leftover from the night before but oddly enough, it turned into something that tasted more like soy sauce than wine.

I don’t have much to say about Julia’s Kitchen actually, though I’d probably go back again. The space was nice and the food was wonderful but the price to value ratio was a bit high.

On Monday we chowed down one last time on the pastries in the lounge and then headed off to our last scheduled tasting at Schramsberg. Once there, we were given a brief history of their vineyard and then taken through the “caves” where the sparkling wine is aged not in barrels like traditional wine, but in the actual bottles they would later be sold in. The tour guide explained Schramsberg’s intricate and old fashioned process called the methode champagnoise, or champagne method.

After the tour we sat down in their tasting room and sampled their fantastic offerings. Unfortunately, they are a small producer so only a handful of restaurants, and no retail stores, in NY offer their wines.


The only beef I have with them is that they wouldn’t allow K & M to join us because they were allegedly fully booked but there were two empty seats at our table. That was frustrating because K & M had to leave and meet us afterwards, but we saw a Delorean in the parking lot that quickly made up for any disappointments.

Side note: Schramsberg helped us later conclude that Jacquie did a wonderful job of booking a variety of private tours. The first at Del Dotto was kitschy and eclectic, the second at Swanson’s was grand and proper, and the third at Schramsberg was a mix of those two facets but with sparkling wine instead of regular wine. Since we didn’t technically book Bennesere I’ll leave that out of the private tour category, but even it was different in its intimacy.

After leaving Schramsberg, we stopped off for some good (cheap) eats at the Oakville Grocery. It’s a nice deli with good sandwiches and picnic tables outside. With all the cash we were spending on dinners this was an awesome reprieve and when I’m in Napa next, I’ll 100% go back there.

Fully satiated on sandwiches, we left to go to Domaine Carneros where K and M are wine club members. It was the most grandiose place we visited while there, which should hardly be a surprise considering K’s affinity for all things elite (like Obama).

We got to sit on the balcony (and hold in our pee because the bathrooms were broken; broken bathrooms at a place that serves alcohol is torture) and enjoy a nice flight of vino. And finally something non-alcohol (and non-H2O) for Jacquie!


Here are some candid shots of our wonderful party that Jacquie took.


Oh yeah, K bought a 6L bottle of champagne for his brother to thank him for being his best man at the wedding. That thing was HUGE and I believe they had to fill the bathtub in the hotel with ice in order to chill it. This is the box that they sold it to Kelly in.

Our last stop was just across the street and by “across the street” I mean it was a few miles down the road because most of Napa’s wineries are huge. Instead of everybody doing a sampling at Artesa we just bought a bottle of white, sat inside and enjoyed each other’s company.

Sadly the good times of Napa had to end, but they ended with a great “flip book” of me, K and G.

After writing this, I get the feeling that all wineries try to be unique and that’s why each one seemed different so maybe it wasn’t our planning prowess, maybe it was the fact that there are no two wineries alike in Napa. I can’t wait to go back and find out.

Hotel: Yountville Inn
Food: Taylor Refresher, Mustards, Ad Hoc, Bouchon Bakery, Julia’s Kitchen, Oakville Grocery
Wineries: Del Dotto, Silverado, Swanson Vineyards, Robert Mondavi, Benessere, Peju, Schramsberg, Domaine Carneros, Artesa

Due to an inordinate amount of traveling we’ve done, Jason and I haven’t made it to the farmer’s market since the beginning of June. You can imagine our delight when we went today and found a wide variety of the summer’s bounty. We picked up a smorgasbord of fresh fruit: tree-ripened peaches, an assortment of plums, apples, heirloom tomatoes, cherries, and the star of this post, blueberries.

After a great bánh mì brunch with L & C, a craving for some fresh lemonade kicked in and after thinking about it the whole way home, I thought it would be that much better with the addition of some blueberry. Jason and I came up with this when we got home and I can sum up the blueberry lemonade in one hyphenated word: kick-ass.

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Blueberry Lemonade
makes roughly 6-8 highball glasses worth

1½ cups fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 8-10 lemons)
3 cups water, more to taste
2 cups of ice
1 cup of hot blueberry syrup (**recipe below)
lemon slices or fresh blueberries, for garnish
ice to fill glasses

Combine first four ingredients in a large pitcher. Taste the lemonade and if it’s too sour, add ½ cup of water at a time to taste. Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator overnight.

To serve, fill 6 highball glasses with ice and pour in lemonade. Serve immediately with lemon slices and/or fresh blueberries as garnish.

** Blueberry Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup blueberries
¼ cup honey
¾ cup granulated sugar

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, mash the blueberries to help them along once in the water. Add the sugar, honey, and blueberries to the saucepan. Let simmer over low heat (gentle boil) for about 20 minutes but be careful not to let it boil over!

Strain the syrup to get rid of the blueberry pulp.

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Here are some tips we came up with in our journey from turning lemons into lemonade:

  • Juice the lemons while the syrup is simmering so you’re not just wasting time waiting on the syrup.
  • Before cutting the lemons to juice, press down on them on a countertop firmly and roll back and forth underneath your palm. This makes juicing them much easier, especially when you’re doing so many.
  • If you’re patient enough to let the syrup cool, not that we were of course, change the recipe to 4 cups of water and omit the 2 cups of ice. You can even make the syrup a few days ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator.
  • You can double the amount of blueberry syrup and then reduce the leftovers for another 30-45 minutes to make a thicker blueberry syrup, which would be great over pancakes, waffles, ice cream, or even stirred into future cups of lemonade or iced tea. Just remember that you’re doubling the amount you make but NOT doubling the amount you add to the lemonade!

Now go ahead and refresh yourself! :)

Note: JLH v1 is back with another guest post! :) Let’s show him the love he deserves~

A few weeks back Jacquie sent me a link for a Columbia Crest recipe contest. All that was required of participants was to use a Washington State ingredient in a dish that could be paired with one of their wines. I debated between starting with either a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz since I love red wines, but once I settled on blackberries as the star of the dish, I knew the spiciness of the Shiraz was the way to go.

If you’re curious, the prize is a 3 day/4 night trip for two to New York City (including air fare and hotel accommodations), a dinner at one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants, and a chance to prepare your meal with him. The fact that Bobby’s the sponsor may or may not be a good thing because my recipe is based on a technique out of his Mesa Grill Cookbook. Several months ago I made his Peanut Chipotle Ribs but didn’t write about them and even though they tasted good enough to warrant a post, they weren’t my finest (or last) effort so I decided against it. The baste I made turned out too thick but the cooking technique was great so I applied it to my recipe below, but this time I kept my baste thinner.

My recipe below seems complicated because of the laundry list of ingredients but it’s really just a few sauce fundamentals. Most of my sauces start with the basics – oil, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper – and vary from there depending on what the sauce is for. I knew I was using blackberries and Shiraz for the base, but I wanted to make it a little more rib appropriate; thus the molasses, honey, vinegar, mustard, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce were next in the pot. If you hadn’t already guessed, those ingredients plus a tomato product make up a standard BBQ sauce. To get the tomato flavor but keep it unique I used sun-dried tomato halves instead of the commonly used ketchup. I considered adding some heat to go along with the sweet and sour of the sauce, but I knew the chili rub would take care of balancing the dish in its entirety.

Btw, I’m hoping that if I win they’ll just give me a helicopter ride to the city as a substitute for air fare and hotel. Heck, they can even throw in another dinner if they want, but mostly I want to throwdown with Bobby Flay, mostly.

Blackberry Ribs (1 lb pork spare ribs)

Chili Rub

Remove the stems from 3 dried ancho chiles, 4 dried guajillo chiles, and 4 dried cascabel chiles. Dice them up and toast in a cast iron skillet over medium/low heat for about 1-2 minutes. Don’t let them burn; the smoke they create is killer on the eyes and lungs. Thrown everything into a spice grinder and presto, you have an au natural chile rub.

**Note: for this recipe, stop there for the chili rub. However, if you have some leftover (and I did) you can make a homemade chili powder. All you have to do is add some dried oregano, cumin and paprika. I don’t add salt or pepper because I prefer to salt/pepper my food as I cook it since different dishes require different amounts. Also, you can add onion and garlic powder if you want but since I usually cook with the fresh versions, I left that out as well. I really don’t know the ratios to be honest, but basically if you combine the cumin/paprika/oregano separately but in equal proportions, it should be about the same amount as all the chili rub. Not sure if that made sense…

Dry Rub

salt
pepper
1 tsp cumin
1-2 tablespoons chile mix (recipe above)

Liberally salt and pepper the ribs all over. Next, rub about 1 tsp of cumin on the top of the ribs. Then rub in a good portion of the chile mix to the top of the rack. You want to get a nice thick coating. You can rub into the bottom too but be sure to sear that side as well (later steps). Cover the ribs and let sit in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

Baste

1 tsp olive oil
1/3 bottle Columbia Crest Grand Estates Shiraz
12 oz fresh blackberries
¼ medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1.5 tbsp honey
1 tbsp molasses
1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 halves of sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp yellow mustard
2 tbsp brown sugar

½ cup of Columbia Crest Grand Estates Shiraz
2-3 cups of water
¼ cup of fresh chopped ginger

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a medium size saucepan. Toss in the red onions and garlic and sweat the onions slightly (do not caramelize). Add 1/3 bottle Columbia Crest Grand Estates Shiraz and the blackberries. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and then mash the blackberries a bit with the back of a wooden spoon. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes longer (make sure the baste doesn’t reduce too much and become thick. It’s a baste, not a paste).

Remove the sauce from the heat and discard about ½ of the blackberries. Add the remaining mixture to a blender and blend until smooth.

Return the sauce to the sauce pan and add the rest of the ingredients up to brown sugar. You can go ahead and preheat the oven to 500 degrees now. Let simmer again for another 5-10 minutes for the flavors to meld then add back to the blender to puree again. It should be thin enough to pour in a steady stream. Mine was the right consistency but if you find yours too thick, add a little water to thin it out for basting.

Cooking Ribs

If you haven’t already, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Add oil to a roasting pan large enough to fit the entire rack and warm over medium-high heat. Sear the top of the ribs (or each side if you added dry rub to both sides) for about 5 minutes until the crust is nicely browned. Remove the ribs and most of the oil, add in the remaining three ingredients (2-3 cups of water, ½ cup of the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Shiraz and the ginger). Set the roasting rack into the pan and place the ribs on top so they remain above the liquids in the roasting pan. Carefully place the ribs in the oven on the lowest rack (basting before you begin) and then baste every 15 minutes. The ribs should cook in about an hour to an hour and a half. A meat thermometer should register 175 degrees since these are pork ribs.

Take them out when they are done and then let them rest for about 10 minutes. Carve and enjoy!

 

Or something close to it. This meal was so delicious and praise-worthy that I’m sure Dr. Seuss will forgive us for borrowing the name of his much loved classic.

Picture taken with Nikon D80 with Nikkor 60MM Macro lens and the help of the foodio built for me by the father in law :)

Jason used our meat grinder on the pork we picked up from IB on Sunday night and turned it into some of the best breakfast sausage I’ve ever eaten. He has graciously offered to provide that recipe here and I would highly suggest you go to your grocery store so you can make this soon now. On second thought maybe you shouldn’t. You’ll never be able to go back to pre-made/pre-cooked/diner sausage ever again!

On Monday night we decided to use the sausage in a hash with some veggies we got on our last trip to the farmer’s market that we have to use up. We didn’t get to go last weekend b/c we were busy doing this.

Making a dish like this is great way to stretch a little bit of meat a long way whether you’re trying to save a buck or your waistline. Jason had made 2 lbs worth of sausage but we couldn’t in good conscience eat all of that meat no matter how much we wanted to. We used 1/2 a pound in this dish and froze the rest. We threw in tons of veggies and 8 oz of meat made enough hash for two dinners and 1 lunch.

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Green Eggs and Ham
serves two for dinner + 1 small lunch the next day

Hash:
8 oz of homemade breakfast sausage
1 tablespoon of olive oil
3/4 lb of whole baby fingerling potatoes (any waxy potato diced would be fine as well)
1 bunch of diced ramps, whites only
4 oz sliced shiitake mushrooms (any kind is fine)
salt and pepper

Ramp gravy:
1 bunch of ramps, greens only
2 cups of milk, at room temperature and divided (1% works fine)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour

4 eggs, cooked anyway you like

Brown sausage in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once thoroughly browned, remove the sausage from heat and reserve.

Turn the heat down to medium and add tablespoon of oil. Swirl to cost the pan with the oil and add the whole fingerlings. Quickly toss to coat all the potatoes in oil and sprinkle on kosher salt. Let the potatoes cook for about 15-20 minutes. Yes, the first picture is of hands Jason made out of fingerlings.

Prepare the ramp gravy in the meantime.

Fill a small saucepan halfway with water and salt. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Throw in the greens of the ramps and let boil for 1 minute. Drain and immediately place ramps in an ice bath so that it retains the bright green color. You can also just be lazy like us and place a bunch of ice cubes on top of the drained ramps and rinse with running cold water. Either way works. Just get the temp down on it fast.

Place the blanched ramps in a blender or food processor along with 1 cup of milk. Blend/puree until very smooth and uniform. If you want to get your gravy super smooth and have a tamis or chinois, you might want to run the puree through it. Jason’s been itching for one b/c he’s the sauce guy in the family and either one of these instruments would get his sauces much smoother than just the blender alone.

In a small saucepan (we used the same one we blanched the greens in) over medium heat, melt the butter and flour together and whisk to create a roux. Cook the roux for about a minute so your gravy won’t have a raw flour taste to it.

Lower the heat and slowly add the remaining cup of milk. Whisk constantly to break up any lumps that may form from the roux. Add the ramp puree and whisk to combine. Let sit over the lowest heat possible while you prepare the rest of the dish.

At this point, the potatoes should be fork tender. Smash the potatoes with a meat mallet or potato masher to break open the skin and flatten the potatoes slightly. This will add to the surface area touching the heat which will contribute to getting the potatoes crispier. Crispy = yummy.

Add the whites of the ramps as well as the shiitake and toss everything together. If you used a cast iron skillet, you can turn the heat off. The residual heat from the cast iron skillet should cook the ramps and mushrooms perfectly if you keep stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Plate the hash and spoon the ramp gravy over top.

Jason made sunny side up eggs for us to put over top of the plated hash but scrambled, poached, over easy, etc… would work also. Top eggs with plenty of gravy. I didn’t take a picture of that part simply b/c it wasn’t as pretty after the second topping of gravy.

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This dish was by far one of the best breakfast dishes we have ever made. From the ramp gravy to Jason’s homemade sausage, every element of the dish complemented amazingly well. I was a bit apprehensive that the ramp gravy would have a bite to it like but the blanching process mellowed it out and the resulting gravy was subtly sweet. This played out perfectly with the homemade sausage that was both sweet due to the pure maple syrup and salty at the same time.

The dish took us about 45 minutes to make and was well worth every minute and effort we put in. We are so proud of this dish that we plan on serving it at the next (and first) brunch gathering we have. Anybody wanna join us? :)

Another post from our wonderful guest writer, JLH v1!

When Jacquie and I got married we had tons of gift certificates from generous friends and family to many different stores. Now, as I’m sure you can gather from this blog, we had no choice but to spend the credit on foodstuffs. Fortunately, Jacquie let me get a few things I wanted too – a waffle iron, a mini deep fryer, and a meat grinder with sausage making attachment. I have been grinding meat for my burgers since day one and though I have yet to use the stuffing tube, I have finally completed the grey area between those two and made breakfast sausage.

Surprisingly, sausage is simple to make – it’s pork and spices. That’s it. After doing a little research I decided that breakfast sausage was the only one for me. There are of course tons of different sausages out there but I love breakfast sausage the best, or maybe it’s tied with chorizo. That might be the first one I encase. In any case, Jacquie will link to the awesome breakfast-dinner in a separate post so here is my recipe for breakfast sausage.

1 lb pork chops*
1 lb pork butt*
2 tbsp maple syrup (the purer the better)
2 tsp ground sage
2 tsp kosher salt salt
2 tsp white pepper (all the recipes I saw suggested black pepper, but I like white pepper better)
½ tsp marjoram
1 tbsp brown sugar
pinch of cloves

I froze the pork then defrosted it most of the way so when I chopped it up they were more like ice cubes. That actually turned out to be a good strategy because as I ground it up, it didn’t get too warm (though my hands did get very cold). Anywho, I ground the pork, mixed in the herbs all at once, then ground it again. Covered it all with some plastic wrap and let it refrigerate overnight.

By the way, the * is to note that next time I would mix in a fattier cut of meat or throw in some pure pork lard. Even though the flavor was spot on to any respectable breakfast sausage, it turned out a bit drier than I like.

I must confess that I do not make my own pizza dough. It’s not because I haven’t heard of Peter Reinhart’s much-praised dough or am just too lazy (well not 100% because of that at least). I haven’t given it much thought because fresh pizza dough is so readily available to me at Iavarone Bros, which I’ve given love to in the past.

IB makes their dough fresh and freezes them in plastic bags just waiting to be taken home by pizza-lovers like me. Their dough is a dream to work with once thawed and it produces a pizza with the taste and consistency as those my local pizzeria. It’s what I would strive to make mine like so why not just focus on all of the yummy toppings and leave the dough to the experts?

That is exactly what I do and for $1.50 a bag, I keep a few stocked in my freezer so I can pull one out before I leave for work in the morning when I feel a pizza craving coming on. I prepare the toppings when I get home and a fresh “gourmet” pizza will be ready for us within an hour.

I knew that once we brought home the delicate ramps from the farmer’s market, they were destined to be a topping on pizza. I didn’t want to overpower the flavor of the ramps by using heavy flavors like red sauce or pepperoni so I opted for a white pie and used prosciutto to add a delicate saltiness.
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Ramp and Ricotta Pizza

serves two for lunch if you also have a salad alongside

1 prepared pizza dough (I try to flip mine around to make it as round as possible but I wasn’t patient enough to let the dough come to room temperature on Sunday so it was harder to make into a circle. I gave up and made it rectangular instead. It came out to be a perfectly respectable thin crust 18×8 pizza.)
1 cup of fresh whole-milk ricotta mixed with 8-10 cloves of garlic confit
4 ounces of fresh mozzarella, thiny sliced or shredded (I used smoked mozz because I love the flavor of it)
2 ounces of prosciutto
1 bunch of ramps, whites and greens chopped, with a handful of the greens reserved
fresh cracked black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
handful of basil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with an oven rack on the lowest shelf. Set a pizza stone/upside down baking sheet on the rack to heat along with the oven.

Drizzle olive oil on another baking sheet that your pizza can fit on. Place the prepared pizza dough on the pan and start assembling the pizza.

Generously and evenly spread – washed fingers are the best tool for this – the ricotta/garlic mixture onto the dough and go almost to the edge. Since there’s nothing really liquidy going onto the dough, you don’t have to worry too much about any leaking that could happen over the edges.

Then distribute the smoked mozz ramps, and slices of prosciutto over the pizza. Finish by drizzling on some olive oil and sprinkling some fresh black pepper over the whole thing.

Place the pan that the pizza’s been assembled on directly onto the pizza stone/baking sheet that’s been heating in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes and then slide the pizza directly onto the pizza stone/bottom baking sheet to crisp up the bottom. At this point, sprinkle the reserved ramps on top. That way you get two layers of ramp flavor: really cooked and just slightly cooked.

Bake for another 5-10 minutes depending on how toasted you like your pizza/toppings. Take out of the oven and tear basil leaves over the whole thing. Let it rest for a few minutes if you can resist and then slice and enjoy!

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The sky’s the limit when it comes to toppings when you make pizza in the comfort of your own home. Nobody will judge you if you make them w/ anchovies ;)

After having been preparing pizza obsessively for almost a year, I have some bits of advice on how to make a successful pizza at home.

  • If you are making a red sauce, make sure that it is reduced to beyond what would be appropriate for pasta. This is so that it won’t release too much water as the pizza cooks in the oven.
  • Be sparing with the toppings.
  • It’s best to use toppings that are already fully cooked. Meats and vegetables release water as they cook so if you put them on raw, it won’t be a good scene.
  • Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature so everything heats up evenly. This way you won’t have cheese that isn’t melted yet while your crust is nicely browned.
  • Get a good pizza cutter/wheel so the cheese/topping won’t drag as you cut your pizza
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