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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kentucky Food Bloggers Tasting Event in Danville, Kentucky


Recently, I've been involved in organizing a Kentucky Food Bloggers Association along with several other bloggers.  It all started when I met Lori at Fake Food Free while she was living in Brazil and I in France.  When we moved back to the States, we found that we lived about 15 minutes from each other in Central Kentucky!  We started hearing about other Kentucky food bloggers, and the group was born.  We have a Facebook fan page and will have a website soon, but we're still in our infancy.

We were lucky enough, though, to have our first event in my little city of Danville, which is 45 minutes away from the center of Lexington and is a great place to live.  It's safe and affordable and, as of a little over a year ago, we can buy alcohol.  This sounds a little crazy (especially to my friends and family in California), but before May 2010, we didn't have liquor stores, and alcohol could only be bought by the glass at restaurants serving over 100 people.  Today we can buy it in several shops, and as a result of the change in law, we have several new restaurants and stores that have opened.  I love to frequent small, locally owned businesses, so this change really made a difference in my life here.

When Adam at the Danville/Boyle County Convention and Visitors Bureau heard about our fledgling Kentucky bloggers group, he quickly invited us to come tour downtown and what it had to offer.  We had a group of nine bloggers attend, and we all had a great time!  As one of the two locals in the group, I was lucky enough to have visited all of the establishments before.  So, as an "insider," I'm going to give you my "Best-in-Danville List."  (***Fair warning: This is a long post, but worth the read!)

Favorite Place to Stock Your Wine Cellar or Buy Goodies for a Party: V-the Market


V-the Market is a beautiful little shop stocked to the gills with wines, hard-to-find beers, bourbon, liqueurs, cheese, prosciutto and artisan chocolates.  I just ordered a case of one of my favorite French ros├ęs to start what I'm calling my wine cellar (but is actually a corner of my basement!).  Besides stocking my delusional cellar,  I frequent V whenever I need to bring drinks or cheeses to a party.  Mary Robin, the owner, has never steered me wrong, and I trust her taste in wines.  She also special orders German and Austrian beer for my German-professor husband.






The group was treated to tastings of beer, cheese and prosciutto.  We tasted the Harbourne Blue, a goat blue cheese.  Now, I'm not usually a fan of blue cheese, but this was delicious!  We also tried the Lincolnshire Poacher, which is similar to a hard cheddar (but much, much tastier, in my opinion).  Mary Robin talked to us about the products she stocks, how she sources her products and about beer, cheeses, and prosciutto in general.  If you need something special for your next party, this is the place to go!


Favorite Place for Drinks and Dessert: Mermaids



When we arrived at Mermaids, we were handed a glass of "Mermaid Punch," and when we were finished with that, the glass was replaced with another of "Porch Punch."  I love to meet my friends for drinks here--it's a classy, yet laid-back restaurant with touches of the modern mixed with the traditional.  The last two times I've been to Mermaids, I haven't been able to resist their homemade ice cream sandwiches, although I've heard great things about the tableside s'mores.


To stave off complete tipsiness, we were served a sampler plate of local filet, shrimp wrapped in prosciutto, and an Ahi tuna wrapped with greens in a slice of cucumber--all delicious! 


And when possible, Mermaids serves Kentucky Proud ingredients:


Here are some of the Kentucky bloggers enjoying themselves at the blue-lit bar:


Kelly is one of the owners and spent some time with us talking about the restaurant--he is hilarious, and you'll always leave Mermaids with a smile.


Best Place to Play Pool and Drink with your Friends: 303W


303W is one of those beautiful spaces that just makes you feel comfortable.  There's plenty of space to dine, to hang out, and to play pool.  The lovely brick and warm colors always makes you feel warm and cozy.


The food is tasty too!  We were treated to plates and plates of their appetizers.  Now, I often skip appetizers, but I have to tell you that my favorite was their barbeque wings, and I'll definitely be ordering them next time I go to play pool!


Best Pizza in Town (and Most Family-Friendly): Bluegrass Pizza & Pub


Bluegrass Pizza & Pub is my go-to restaurant in town.  The pizza is delicious with its homemade crust, homemade sauce and quality toppings.  My family has a favorite--the "Wilson Special"--pepperoni, pepperoncini and garlic.  (Just FYI, we are the Wilsons, so you won't find this on the menu!)  But during the blogger event, we were served the Mediterranean Pizza with chicken, red onions, artichoke hearts, basil, green olives and feta.  I'm not usually crazy about chicken on pizza, but I absolutely loved this one!  We were also served bread sticks and cheese sticks (my daughter's favorite).  I love bringing my family here because of the laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere.  They even remember that my daughter loves to have Ranch dressing with her cheese sticks...now, that's service!




Best Place to Hang Out after a Concert: Beer Engine


Beer Engine is one of those small bars where everyone really does know your name.  I walked in and was immediately distracted by a friend sitting there having a drink.  Once I finally rejoined the bloggers, we were served plenty of beer samples.  I'm not a huge fan of beer, so I didn't sample those, but I found out that they had Woodpecker Cider on tap, and they were generous enough to allow me a sample (or two) of that.  This is the only place in Danville that serves cider at all, so I was ecstatic!  I've been to Beer Engine before--the most memorable time was after the Girl Talk concert back in the spring.  It's a great place to go for craft and locally-brewed beers!







Best Place for Coffee and a Chat: The Hub Coffee House & Cafe


We ended our whirlwind tour at The Hub Coffee House & Cafe.  They were closing down, but were generous enough to let us wind down and talk to Adam, our host from the CVB.  The Hub is where I go for work and lunch meetings.  It's a comfortable place to have lunch and be able to chat--they offer coffees, teas, sandwiches and even crepes.


Best Candy: Karamel Kreations


At The Hub, we were presented with goodie bags from a couple of places, including Karamel Kreations, Danville's newest candy shop.  We got to take the caramel candies home to sample, and my family loved it!  My favorite was the little caramel square, which was buttery and flavorful, but if you have kids, they'll love the little Karamel Klubs--my daughter couldn't get over the fact that they looked like little chicken drumsticks!


Best Bakery: Burke's Bakery and Delicatessen


Now everyone in Danville knows about Burke's Bakery--the little bakery that sells doughnuts, cookies, cakes, pies and more!  It's a quaint little shop that doesn't fuss over its delicious desserts, and they were nice enough to give us a sampler as well.  The cookies are bite-sized, and the pies are like the ones your grandmother made.  And the prices are about what your grandmother paid, too!  We love to take our daughter on Saturday mornings for some doughnuts...and when she's lucky, they throw in a handful of doughnut holes, her favorites, just to make a little girl happy.


Best Cupcakes: The Twisted Sifter


We rounded out our evening with lovely cupcakes from The Twisted Sifter (as if we needed more food at this point!).  We were treated to champagne and pumpkin spice cupcakes.  The Twisted Sifter is only a couple of years old, but everyone in town knows that this is the place to go for fancy cupcakes and lovely special occasion cakes.  They have daily specials, and if you'll be in town and you'd like to find out what those are, you can join their group on Facebook.

All in all, this was a fabulous first event for the Kentucky Food Bloggers Association.  We had a great time, and truly learned that it really is "Better in Danville!"


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Monday, August 29, 2011

Kartoffelroulade, or Potato Roulade [Secret Recipe Club]


I have joined a club, a secret club. What kind of club, you ask, did I join that would warrant an announcement here?  Why, a cooking club, of course!  I joined The Secret Recipe Club last month, and am so glad I did.  Here's the rundown: Every month over 150 bloggers are assigned another blog to cook from.  We can cook any recipe on that blog.  The only rule is that we keep it a secret until reveal day--no one knows who has whom.  As of the posting time here, I still don't know who had my blog...I can't wait to see!

Secret Recipe Club

Anyway, I had Heidi's verden, which translates from Danish to "Heidi's World."  Heidi's blog was a perfect match for me--it's even written in Danish, so I had to use Google Translate to read her posts.  I love food from around the world and enjoy learning other languages, so I was excited to try something out that seemed particularly Danish.  I looked around her blog and finally settled on the Kartoffelroulade, or Potato Roulade (Roll). 

We served this with grilled burgers.  I made some minor changes to her recipe and have listed the quantities in American measurements here, but I kept the spirit of the recipe.  My husband and I really enjoyed this, although it does take some work to make.  She suggests grilling it, which I did on an indoor stovetop grill, but I may just try frying it up in a pan next time.  This makes 8 servings as a side, but I could imagine adding a little meat in there and serving it as a main course.  Thanks, Heidi, for this great recipe!

Kartoffelroulade (Potato Roulade)
from Heidi's verdern

2.2 pounds russet potato (about 5 medium potatoes), coarsely shredded
4 egg yolks
2 cups grated cheese (I used 1 cup sharp cheddar and 1 cup monterey jack.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Filling:
2 cups frozen or fresh (leaves blanched) spinach, chopped
1 block cream cheese
2 roasted red peppers

Mix the potato, egg yolks, cheese, garlic and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Cover a cookie sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper. Spread the potato mixture in a square shape on the parchment paper, pressing firmly all around. Bake in a 430 degree F oven for about 30 minutes, or until the potato sheet is cooked through and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool.

Once the potatoes are cooled, spread the cream cheese all over the potatoes. Spread the spinach on top and then sprinkle the red peppers on top of the spinach. Using the parchment paper to help you, roll the potato tightly into a spiral. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to use. (Refrigerating it for a couple of hours or up to a day will help in slicing it later.)

When ready to serve, slice the roll into 1-to-2-inch slices. Spray a hot grill with olive oil or cooking spray and grill on each side until grill marks show, about 5 minutes on each side. Serve.



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Monday, August 22, 2011

Buttermilk Herb Dressing and Dip


We eat a lot of salad in my family.  I think it's because I grew up with a salad (usually pretty simple) with almost every dinner.  We always ate the salad with our favorite bottled dressings--Ranch, Italian, Bleu Cheese all graced our table.  And although I'm okay with bottled salad dressing every once in a while, I just have a hard time buying them with all of that extra nonsense put into processed food these days.  I absolutely love Ranch dressing, but rarely eat it at home, instead settling for quick homemade vinaigrettes.  Now, don't get me wrong--I love a great honey mustard dressing made at home, but sometimes you just need a creamy Ranch-style dressing.

I came across this recipe at a friend's house.  She served a salad with this dressing on the side, and we all loved it.  I asked for the recipe, and she provided.  I adapted it a little for what I had in the house and to make it more herby, but it really is a keeper!  We ate some of it the first night it was made, and it was good, but wait a day, and the dressing will thicken up and all of the flavors will meld into a "Ranch dressing" that beats the bottle hands-down.

Buttermilk Herb Dressing and Dip


1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl red onion, soaked in cold water for about 10 minutes and finely minced (or 1 large shallot)
1/2-3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp curry powder
1 Tbl fresh basil, minced
1 Tbl fresh thyme, minced
1 Tbl fresh dill, minced

Place all ingredients in a jar or other tall container with a lid and shake until mixed completely.  Store in the refrigerator for a few hours and up to three days.  Taste for salt before using.


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Friday, August 19, 2011

The Week in Review


I've finally caught up on my RSS feed this week, so I'm up to date!  What I've been reading this week:
  • I've finally tuned in to Pinterest.  I've seen it floating around, but actually signed up for an account there.  If you haven't been, it's a great way to see beautiful photos that people find around the web in categories like Food, Travel, Home Decor, Photography, etc.  There's pretty much a category for whatever interests you.  You can just browse, but you can also create an account and pin your own photos that you find around the web.  If you have an account, come by and follow me!
  • As for food, I've found this delicious-looking Chinese Chicken Salad with Spicy Ginger Dressing.  After a short spell of beautiful weather, it's gotten hot here in Kentucky again, and a dinner salad is just what I'd love to whip up!
  • And finally, Our Best Bites has a recipe up to either can or freeze apple pie filling.  I'm definitely trying this since my husband loves apple pies.  Now I just need to get out to an orchard and pick some!
What have you been reading this week???

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

CSA Recap

This week we're starting to see squash in our CSA share.  My family's not a big fan of squash (mostly a texture thing), so if you have any suggestions on different ways to prepare squash, please let me know!  :-)

We received the following this week:
  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Hot house tomatoes
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Pattypan squash
  • Sweet peppers
  • Potatoes
I just love the purple peppers and am trying to find something fun to do with it.  Any suggestions are welcome!


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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How to Peel a Tomato


It took me years to figure out how to properly and easily peel a tomato.  Once I learned how, though, it's been smooth sailing ever since!  Last weekend, I peeled and chopped 25 pounds of tomatoes in about 2 hours.  This method is tried and true--and can be used for other produce too.  I peel peaches and nectarines with the same method. 

First you need to clean your tomatoes.  Once you've done that, score a shallow "X" in the bottom of the tomato.  You want to break the skin, but not go so far as to make juices squirt out.



Then place a few tomatoes into a large pot of boiling water.  Let them boil for about 30 seconds to one minute.  You just want the skin to start peeling away where you scored the tomato.


This is about what it should look like:


Once the skin starts to peel, remove the tomatoes with a large slotted spoon to a large bowl full of ice water.  Let the tomatoes sit for a few minutes until they are completely cooled--this will stop the cooking.



At this point, the skins should slide right off, leaving you with perfectly beautiful and peeled tomatoes!



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