Tag Archives: Pique-Nique

Recipes For A High Tea Hike

October 2012

Cambridge, England…

Just shy of one year ago, I spent an amazing two weeks in London, which also meant the opportunity to visit one of my dearest friends. My very smart friend had attended Cambridge University in her “uni” years and wanted to show me the town. With its peaceful pace and historical charm, Cambridge seemed like the prime spot for me to have a proper spot of tea. Though the experience was a bit rushed, and I accidentally ordered a full tea service (meaning enough food for two), I could finally say I had experienced a proper British tea time!

When my blogging friend Heather Mulholland invited me to be a part of her “A Cup of Tea With…” series, I was equally honored and inspired. In her honor, I channeled my British tea experience for A High Tea Hike, which meant scones, egg salad sandwiches, and cucumber goat cheese sandwiches. We even took loose leaf Early Grey into the forest for authentic sipping! The recipes are listed below should you be interested in hosting your own high tea. Hiking is optional but highly recommended!

Butternut Squash Scones

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup firmly packed organic brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) organic unsalted butter, cut into chunks

3/4 cup roasted and pureed butternut squash
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon organic half & half

1 large egg yolk
Raw cane sugar
Cinnamon
Nutmeg

Directions

In a bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, spices and salt.

Add 1/2 cup butter and, with a pastry blender or your fingers, cut or rub in until pea-size crumbs form.

In a small bowl, whisk squash and 1/2 cup half & half until well blended. Add to flour mixture and stir just until dough is evenly moistened.

Scrape onto a lightly floured board, turn over to coat, and gently knead just until dough comes together, 5 or 6 turns.

Pat dough into a 6-inch round 1 1/2 inches thick; use a circle cutting tool to cut small circles. Place shaped dough on a parchment lined baking stone.

In a small bowl, beat egg yolk and 1 tablespoon half & half to blend; brush lightly over tops of scones (discard any remaining egg wash).

In another small bowl, mix raw cane sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste; sprinkle evenly over scones.

Bake in a 375° regular until scones are golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.

Transfer to a rack; serve warm or cool.

Egg Salad Sandwiches

Ingredients

8 eggs (local/free-range)
1/4 cup organic mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced red onion, caramelized
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper
*Rocket

*Rocket is British for arugula. I bet British children eat far more leafy greens than American children based on that name alone!

Directions

Place eggs in medium saucepan, cover with 1 inch of water, and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Remove the eggs from water. Once they are cool to the touch, remove the shells. Place the eggs in a medium sized bowl, and chop them into smaller pieces.

Add all the remaining ingredients and mix together.

Serve with “rocket” on sprouted whole-grain bread.

Happy High Tea!

A High Tea Hike

October 2012

Alex said, “How about a hike?”
I said, “How about high tea?”
Then autumn summoned summer,
And they worked in perfect harmony.

Serendipitea [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee] (noun): the good fortune of picking THE perfect day for a hike and a high tea picnic; the culmination of inspiration from various sources.

In the words of the great philosopher, Steph T., “If you greatly desire something, have the guts to stake everything on obtaining it.”

The hike unfurled like swatches from a paint sampler, with one hue following the next. There were paths through deep yellows, followed by walks through green blankets of ferns, and then there were falling reds and oranges. I felt like Dorothy on a mission with the Tinman, the cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow.

The horses marked the spot, and it was here I began to feel like Alice in Wonderland with a Mad Hatter and a crazy cast of characters seated for a proper tea (of sorts).

The forest tea table marked the culmination of previous journeys, past ceremonies, growing friendships and new inspiration.

The forest tea table marked one of my most treasured days. I hiked playfully. I sipped tea warmly. I ate contentedly. I laughed heartily. Put quite simply, I was happy, really, really happy!

As we finished the fall flavored scones, egg salad, cucumber sandwiches and mugs of tea, we continued along the playful path of imagination, on which little mounds of moss became the rolling hills of a distant land. Like little children who play their hearts out until the sun begins to set and mothers call for their return, we had enjoyed one of the last beautiful bursts of fall to its fullest.

Recipes for this Raccoon Creek State Park adventure to come! Stay tuned.

[It Really Was Quite] Outstanding in the Field! (Part I)

August 2012

In the foodie world, a chef’s name can carry the weight of a Hollywood celebrity. There’s an awe, mystique and fascination with those who are changing food scenes, tweeting their menus, gracing magazine spreads and most importantly, feeding us their finest. When one of those innovative and highly regarded chefs takes to the road, partners with farms and offers some of the most beautiful and authentic farm-to-table meals possible, the fan following escalates to that of a touring band.

After I first learned about Outstanding in the Field (through this beautiful blog post on Roost), I became one of the adoring groupies, routinely checking the tour dates and locations. I nearly flew myself to Florida, so great was my obsession. However, fate and luck and a chef named  Justin Severino intervened, and I finally had the long awaited opportunity to attend an event close to my Pittsburgh home.

[Outstanding in the Field's] mission is to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.

Outstanding in the Field is a roving culinary adventure – literally a restaurant without walls. Since 1999 we have set the long table at farms or gardens, on mountain tops or in sea caves, on islands or at ranches. Occasionally the table is set indoors: a beautiful refurbished barn, a cool greenhouse or a stately museum. Wherever the location, the consistent theme of each dinner is to honor the people whose good work brings nourishment to the table.

Ingredients for the meal are almost all local (sometimes sourced within inches of your seat at the table!) and generally prepared by a celebrated chef of the region. After a tour of the site, we all settle in: farmers, producers, culinary artisans, and diners sharing the long table.

The site of the magical meal was Blackberry Meadows Farm, a real work of love by farmers Jen Montgomery and Greg Boulos (and wee little farmerette Evelyn). The couple’s introduction and tour of the farm was truly moving. They are committed to community and future generations, as exhibited by their communal, brick oven and the trees they planted that will reach their real grandeur long past their children’s time.

Ella the cow under her umbrella…ella…ella…

The Plate Tradition

OITF added a personal touch to the meal through this tradition. Participants were encouraged to bring a plate and add it to the pile. The plates then appeared at the field where the seemingly, never-ending tables were located. Diners could pick any plate from the burlap pile, adding a more communal element to the dining experience as textures and patterns rekindled memories of our own kitchens or other dining tables of note.

As the event kicked off, we lingered near the farm house for starters, drinks, mingling and a history of Outstanding in the Field from artist and founder Jim Denevan and lead cohort Leah Scafe.

I wish my childhood had been filled with this version of “dirt” rather than that gummy worm and chocolate pudding version (sorry to spoil your childhood memories if you hold “dirt” near and dear, but after prepping a batch with a bunch of grubby, VBS kids and their dirty, grubby fingers dipping into the bowl, my memories of that dessert still feel funny and are less than fond…tangential rant concluded). Chef David Racicot, of Notion, really embraced the farm dinner theme with this playful hors d’oeuvre of roasted and dehydrated baby carrots emerging from edible “dirt.”

Ceramic bowls and fresh blackberries would later appear as the clafoutis to close out the meal. Oddly enough, even though the blackberries were locally sourced, they were not sourced from the namesake farm. Apparently, the farm was named (several owners ago) for the wild blackberries that grow in the fields, which require more sugar than its worth to counter their tart flavor.

From the field plate to the table plate…

Heirloom tomatoes atop red and yellow gazpacho with parmesan foam and fresh herbs.

When heirloom tomatoes are the source of a gazpacho’s flavor, one cannot let said gazpacho go to waste, even when in the company of new acquaintances. I call this one “And God Shined Upon The Gazpacho..,” which is to say, Cavan Patterson, of Wild Purveyors, made the right decision. He was a real champ!

Melon Salad
cucumber, garden flowers, red miso, coconut, mint, basil, jalapeño, nori

Chef Kevin Sousa (Salt of the Earth, Union Pig & Chicken, Station Street Hot Dogs) used liquid nitrogen to freeze the melons in this salad, which added a crisp, refreshing, textural contrast to the light greens and flowers, whereas a regular piece of fruit would have added too much water or mushiness on a hot, farm day.

As one would expect, Chef Justin Severino (Cure) prepared quite the impressive salumi spread garnished with violet, saffron and dijon mustards.

Though it’s easy to envy founder Jim Denevan’s role, it was clear this labor of love required a lot of persistance and passion to launch and grow to the whirlwind tour it is today. We Pittsburghers are quite lucky to live in the same city as Chef Justin Severino, who was instrumental in putting Blackberry Meadows Farm on the event schedule. Jim also declared Justin to be his favorite chef. Coming from a man who travels and eats the best the country has to offer for a living, that is not a praise to be taken lightly.

Roast* Chicken
chanterelles, bacon, tallegio

* roasted in the farmers’ communal brick oven!

Lamb Belly & Sweetbreads
green beans, potato, black garlic

The plates cleared, the candles appeared, the lights flickered, and the laughter grew in volume until finally, we applauded all efforts tremendously and meandered into the night. My work here will have been done should you read this and become one of the OITF groupies! Perhaps we shall meet in a field soon?

Riverside Picnics & Party At The Pier Tickets: A Pittsburgh Giveaway!

August 2012

This past fall, I took the solo sort of stroll and sat by the Allegheny River, amidst the wildflowers and shrubs. There were boats and quiet breezes. I quietly ate a scone, sipped a coffee and read. The slower, quieter time refreshed me, and the views renewed an appreciation for this steel town.

I’ve often critiqued the underutilization of the Pittsburgh riversides. There have been noticeable improvements as far as trails and overlooks are concerned, but the riversides still have yet to reach their full potential. Hence I was excited to learn about the Riverlife group whose mission is simple: Reclaim, restore and promote Pittsburgh’s riverfronts. Make them the environmental, recreational, cultural and economic hub for the people of this region and our visitors.

I’m also excited to offer my readers a chance to participate in a Riverlife event!  I am giving away a pair of tickets (a $250 value) to the annual fundraiser, Party at the Pier

Party at the Pier
Friday, Sept. 7, 2012
7-11 pm

Join Riverlife as Pittsburgh’s North Shore is transformed into a dazzling electric playground for Riverlife’s Party at the Pier 2012: Neon & Nature, presented by PNC. Water, land and light come together at what is sure to be one of 2012’s brightest events. Enjoy dazzling river views, delicious bites, electric cocktails, Gateway Clipper jaunts and a neon dance party at the stunning North Shore riverfront amphitheater in front of Rivers Casino (777 Casino Drive, Pittsburgh PA 15212). All proceeds benefit Riverlife and their efforts to reclaim, restore and promote Pittsburgh’s riverfronts.

The menu will focus on fresh, locally sourced food with a farm-to-table philosophy. Here’s a peek:

Yellow, red and white gazpacho shooters
Grilled corn with chipotle mayo, cojita cheese and lime zest 
Seared Lamb Loin with braised white beans, bacon, golden raisin, pine nuts and mint

How To Enter

Leave a comment on this post describing a riverside picnic or dining experience. Describe a riverside meal you’ve already eaten or one that exists purely in your imagination. Tell me about your ideal menu or your favorite spot for picnicking by the rivers. Let yourself be inspired, and maybe we’ll share some farm-to-table food at the Party at the Pier. I will randomly pick from the comments and announce a winner on MONDAY, AUGUST 27th, which will leave you plenty of time to plan your neon ensemble and pick your partner for dancing.

What do you say?

 

AND THE WINNER IS…

Based on the numbering system of…

1:  Francisco
2:  Patricia
3: Kate & Charlotte
4: Hal B Klein
5:  The Small Change
6:  Amanda
7:  Sean

Congrats to Patricia Wojnar Crowley! She is the winner of TWO tickets to the Riverlife Fundraiser “Party at the Pier!”

Thank you all for your beautiful picnic ideas! Maybe we should all have a riverside picnic?!?

Italian BBQ On The Farm, Part II

August 2012

We gathered at White Oak Farm to partake in an Italian BBQ prepared by some of the city’s best Italian chefs, and what left such a lasting impression was the enjoyment those chefs derived from the afternoon. Their antics and laughter made the serene setting, the seemingly infinite table and each exquisite course all the more memorable. Here is what I mean…

Thanks to all involved!

Italian BBQ On The Farm, Part I

August 2012

There once was a Sunday that stretched lazily in the sun like a cat who knows no schedule. It was a Sunday filled with beauty, with the slow meandering path of a tractor in a field, with pillowy clouds changing course, with laughter and clanking glasses. It was the Sunday of an Italian style BBQ, at White Oak Farm.

This was no ordinary Italian BBQ! It was the culinary culmination of some of the city’s best Italian chefs, as envisioned and curated by Justin Severino of Cure. I once praised Justin for creating more than a meal, but rather, for creating an entire dining experience, and this was the epitome of a dining experience.

While peeking around the barn, we met one of the owners of the farm, Tony DiCio, who was as eager to give us a tour as we were to see everything. The farm had been in Tony’s family for generations, and he and his brother had long talked about restoring it. Realizing time would continue to pass them by if they continued to talk about their farm plans, the two proactively began getting to work.

They read a lot. They consulted with farming experts. They did some dirty work. Gradually, the farm became what we were seeing on that beautiful Sunday, and it was a lot to see! From the antique farm equipment slated for restoration, to the chickadees, to the horse in its own small barn, to the lake and quiet opening in the trees, the farm had so clearly been born again with a thoughtful passion and a history to share. Soon the farm will be sharing its produce as well. Keep an eye on the local food scene for ingredients from White Oak Farm. Many of them have already been enjoyed at Cure.

(Appropriately for my thematics, the above vintage beauty is a grain separator!)

Walking around that farm made me question my need for urban spaces and busyness. Tony has the advantage of alternating New York and the farm as his home bases. The combination of extremes struck me as ideal! We talked about the importance of slowing down to re-evaluate and recharge, a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately. He described the farm’s revitalizing effect in his own work. Each time he stayed there, he developed a new focus in his return to his busier, business life. Sign me up!

Walking up the stone driveway, into the grassy field, and finally, to this table, provide so many details to behold! I was so excited by the beauty of that table that I nearly failed to eat some of the starters, but I quickly regained my food focus.

I can’t thank Justin Severino (pictured above) enough for inspiring this event, which combined the talents and efforts of so many people. It was a truly memorable meal with a very palpable energy from the chefs and in return, respect from their diners. Rather than dissect the menu, I am structuring this post much like my own experience. I read over the menu initially, but once the food started coming to the table, I just took it in with my senses (and of course with my camera as well). Hence, what follows is a visual delight rather than a course-by-course review! Believe me, each course was impressive and need not be dissected!

The Menu

Reception
Salumi & Negronies
[where there is a Justin Severino, there is surely a Negroni]

Heirloom Tomato Salad
w/ Pine Nut Brittle & Balsamic
Wine Pairing

Grigliata di Mare
2010 Bisson Bianchetta Genovese
“U Pastine” Liguria

Pizza A La Griglia
2010 Monteforche
“Lo Sfuso di Collina”
Cabernet Franc Veneto

Pork Belly
Coenoebium “Rusticum”
Lazio Bianco, Central Italy

BBQ Brisket
2000 Calabretta Etna Rosso Sicily

Watermelon & Olive Oil Cake
2004 La Stoppa “Vigne del Volta”
Malvasia Passito Emiglia Romagna

Do you spy little green spears? Those were sea asparagus, and they tasted like little baby asparagus spears! I have to admit, after an all too vividly textured octopus eating experience in Spain, I was hesitant to try those purple tentacles atop the sea asparagus, but I quickly found myself converted! I didn’t feel as though I was eating an octopus (if you ate what I ate in Spain, this statement makes sense), and the combination of flavor and texture worked! Bravo Michele, you sold me on eating octopus!

These two pictures sum up what I appreciated the most about this bbq event. I had anticipated an amazing meal and to be in awe of the setting, but I was pleasantly surprised to feel so inspired by the chefs. What impressed me the most about this experience was the camaraderie, the antics and the overall enjoyment the chefs derived from sharing their craft in a rustic and somewhat challenging fashion.

Thanks to all the chefs involved! I also walked away from this experience with the inspiration to visit the restaurants I had yet to try.

Justin Severino, of Cure
Sam Di Battista, of Vivo
Michele Savoia, of Dish Osteria
Domenic Branduzzi, of Piccolo Forno
Stephen Felder, of Stagioni

And thanks to the fellas of Bar Marco for orchestrating the libations!

By the time the brisket arrived at the table, my camera had called it quits, so I had to pull from the talents of my pal Alex Mohamed to show you just how deliciously this meal ended…

This was by far one of the most memorable meals I have ever experienced. The hours passed without us knowing, and we all left feeling mentally lighter, happier and more relaxed. It was ideal, and I am tremendously grateful I had the chance to share in this event.

One Last Note…

Stay tuned for more Justin Severino/Cure events and be sure to keep updated on the Cure website so you too can join beautiful food festivities such as this. Also, check out Adam Milliron’s photos from the event on the Cure Facebook page. I could look through his photos for hours! You might even spy yours truly in front of the camera for a change.

Fit For A Piquenique: Lemon & Lavender Cake

July 2012

The Pursuit of Lavender:

Lavender: 1
Quelcy: 1!!!

After lavender officially beat me last time, I decided to put on my serious face, and I re-approached the challenge of baking a lavender cake with a new vigor. The issue was sourcing a larger supply of organic lavender. Contrary to the numerous suggestions I received, I wasn’t about to dig in Pittsburgh soil and “borrow” flowers. Pittsburgh was an industrial steel town [read: polluted]! Who knows what’s in most soils here?!? Fortunately, I found a Pittsburgh ally while shopping the vendors at the Farm to Table Conference. My sachet of organic, dried lavender was part of a horticultural therapy program for kids with autism. Suddenly my long pursuit seemed worth the wait!

I found another game changer via Brooklyn: Royal Rose Lavender-Lemon Simple Syrup!  For foodies like me, who are obsessive about sourcing and the ethics of food, Royal Rose comes with quite the guarantee.

Royal Rose promises…

We use only 100% organic, fair trade cane sugar made from evaporated cane juice. We make our syrups by hand, in small batches, using whole ingredients. All of our herbs and spices are organic and fairly traded. Royal Rose sends all of its products to an independent laboratory for analysis to ensure a consistent, high-quality product. We recycle our waste and re-use cardboard boxes. No chemical preservatives, added colors or artificial flavors, ever. We source our ingredients and packaging materials for the highest quality and the best price possible.

This cake was filled with so many good intentions, including my own. I was making it for a relaxing, Sunday brunch with friends. This cake was my Fleatique Piquenique spotlight offering!

Lemon Lavender Almond Cake

Ingredients

1 cup turbinado sugar, divided
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 Tablespoons dried local lavender flowers, divided
[Next time I’d probably use 3-4 Tbs to push for a real burst of floral flavor)
~2 Tablespoons lemons zest (from two organic lemons)

1 cup organic butter, softened
5 eggs (local/free-range)
1 cup wildflower amber honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons organic almond extract

1 cup (8 ounces) Neufchatel cheese
1/4 cup organic heavy cream

2-1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Grease a 10-in. stone bundt pan and sprinkle with flour; set aside.

Place 1/2 cup turbinado sugar, almonds and 2 Tablespoons lavender in a food processor; cover and process until finely ground. Add the lemon zest and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter, remaining ½ cup turbinado sugar until light and fluffy; add the honey and continue to beat.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.

In a small bowl, combine the Neufchatel cheese and heavy cream

Combine the flour, almond mixture, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with Neufchatel mixture, beating well after each addition.

Pour into prepared pan.

Bake at 350° for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lavender Glaze

½ cup organic powdered sugar
2 teaspoons lavender simple syrup
2 Tablespoons wildflower amber honey
1 teaspoon organic lemon juice
little bit of filtered water

Directions

Whisk together all the ingredients except the water.

Whisk until smooth. Add water to thin if necessary.

Drizzle over the cake.

Sprinkle with dried lavender.

**************************

Take some time to fully appreciate the notes of lavender and the companionship cake brings!