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RI: Connecticut Tigers Game

All of us are baseball fans to varying degrees (I’m probably the most fair weather fan of the group), so it was a unanimous decision to catch a minor league game while we were out East.  The fact that we got really awesome seats for $10 helped to make the decision even easier.  Since we had a bit of time before the game, we stopped by a small eatery to catch supper.  The Sea Swirl reminded me of a Mom & Pop version of a Dairy Queen that also served a nice variety of seafood.

Famous for clams. They definitely can talk the talk and back it up with walking the walk.

There was a lot of clam strip dinners ordered and all of it consumed.  BTW, there are fries in there somewhere.

The clam strips were quite good.  In fact, I used the tarter sauce for the fries because the clams didn’t need any kind of adornment.

I saw this on a building next to the Sea Swirl. I couldn’t help but wonder what is Mystic Soup? Do witches make it? Inquiring minds want to know!

I tend to get this look a lot. Usually it comes after I say a really bad pun or my dorkiness is running amok.

After we ate (and were incredibly stuffed), we made the short journey to the Senator Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium where the Connecticut Tigers call home.

$10 seats and the only thing between you and home plate is a net!!! Seriously, how awesome is that?

The happy couple.

I did take some pictures during the game, but I won’t bore you with them.  Although, I did get some really cool shots with the continuous shooting mode.  I took a series of photos of each pitcher throwing the ball.  It comes out as a nice slow-motion montage.

The Tigers beat out the Brooklyn Cyclones with a home-field advantage.

Since it was a Friday game, they had fireworks afterwards.  Again, I’m totally in love with my new toy.

Oooooh!

Aaaaaw!

Yeah, the new camera is fun.

RI: Mystic Seaport

Before heading to a Connecticut Tigers game, we spent the afternoon at Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut.  The museum consists of many parts which include a 19th Century seaport village, numerous demonstrations, historic ships, a preservation shipyard, and a planetarium.

I took over 150 photos while we were there, so I’ll just show you the absolute cream of the crop.

The ROANN, built in 1947, is an Eastern-rig dragger which pulls the nets over the side as opposed to over the stern like the Western-rig draggers. Powered by a diesel, she drug a conical net called an otter trawl along the sea bed for haddock, flounder, and cod.  Far more efficient than the hook-and-line boats she replaced.  Of course this led to the over-fishing problem that we have now.

I never knew that the fork that we used on the farm for moving silage can also be used to scoop up oysters.

Lobster traps. They look cool and they catch tasty bugs.

I think this is just a cool photo. Minus the modern dress, this could easily have been 150 years ago.

You have to have at least one picture of a cannon if you visit a maritime museum. I’m not sure what to classify it as though. It seems awfully big to be a signal cannon (they would fire a blank before entering port to signal that they were coming in), but on the small side for a weapon.

Jellyfish! These little guys were everywhere in the waters around the ships. It was really cool watching them swim around.

An old blacksmith’s shop. I’ve always found it fascinating what these guys could do with heat, muscle, and a bit of ore. Plus the science of metallurgy is really interesting. It’s amazing how people figured out differential tempering, alloys, blast furnaces, and everything else that is associated with metal working.

The bleeding edge of technology back in the day. The sextant was used to calculate a ships latitude out at sea. By measuring the angle between a celestial body (like the sun, a star, or the moon) and the horizon one can calculate a position line on a chart. The real trick is to calculate longitude, which led to the development of ever more accurate clocks.

The woodshop. Everything was run off of belts, much like modern day Amish woodshops. But instead of using a gas engine to drive everything, in the past people used to use nature, i.e. a waterwheel.

Salt cod drying. Ships would gut, salt, and store the fish out at sea. Once they reached land, the cargo would be off-loaded and laid out on these racks called flakes for their final drying. The little “houses” at the edges of the picture were put over the fish to protect them during bad weather.

Janessa screwing around in a rowboat.

This is a whaling boat. Whalers would pile into this TINY boat and row out to harpoon a whale. This boat is roughly 20′ long and it went after whales that could be around 70′ long. These guys were nuts!

The fo’c’sle on the fishing schooner L.A. Dunton. The forecastle (shortened to fo’c’sle by seamen) is located at the bow of a ship. This is where the crew ate and slept. It looks reasonably sized until you take into account that this space is home to 15 men. Really cozy.

This conch shell was used as a baptismal font in the 1800’s. It’s hard to judge the size here, but it is roughly 18″ across. Just think of how much conch meat you could get from a creature that size!

The museum has a carving shop where they create some ship mastheads. This one seems a bit odd for a ship, but it’s impressively carved.

A bit of a random photo, but it was very intentional. Having recently built a limestone retaining wall at work, I can appreciate the amount of effort that went into making all of these cobblestones. I was working with a relatively soft rock, but here is granite and basalt (?). Both of which are significantly harder. Plus each was squared off and had the corners rounded. A serious commitment of time and labor.

This is a freaking huge pulley used to hoist sails. As a perspective, that is Lindz’s arm and foot in the photo,

The band saw that they had over in the restoration half of the museum. It ran off of a 8 cylinder diesel and could slab wood a couple of feet thick. I have no idea what I would use it for, but I want one.

The bow of the whaler Charles W. Morgan built in 1841 and currently undergoing extensive restoration.

The fireplace and cauldrons used to render whale blubber into oil. Gotta love the idea of a large fire under flammable liquid on a wooden boat.

I know people were generally shorter a century ago, but I couldn’t even stand up in between the beams. It must have been fun working below decks. Yes, heavy on the sarcasm.

Just to give you an idea of how big the ship is. This was taken at deck level looking down about 40′ to the ground. Plus you had the mast a hundred feet or so above you. These were not small ships.

I found this museum to be a lot of fun.  It hit upon many of my interests.  It has old ships, a nice emphasis on seafood production, a really well done job of showcasing the technology of 1800’s, woodworking/shipbuilding/restoration, and capturing the general atmosphere of the past.  If you ever pass through Mystic, CT, and have an afternoon to spare, I suggest walking through the museum and enjoy the past.

RI: Enn

When Chef Aaron from the Seminary found out a bunch of us were going to Rhode Island, he gave us some suggestions of places to eat.  He went to culinary school out East so he had the insider knowledge.  Top of his list was a sushi joint called Enn located in Lincoln (north end of RI).  He claimed that it was the best sushi that he had ever eaten.  So naturally, we wanted to go and give it a whirl.

The happy couple and the last blurry photo!

We went there on Thursday and the special was half priced wine and sake.  Matt opted for the sake, Lindz, Janessa, and I split a bottle of malbec.  Dave was the responsible driver and had his Diet Coke.  Lately, my wine of choice has been malbecs.  It is a full bodied red which is not as heavy in tannins as a merlot, and it has a nice bouquet with notes of plum and earth.  (Yeah, I looked up that last part.)

This was a very good year for the vinyard.

Collectively, the group ordered three apps.  Lindz and I got the fried oysters.  They were quite good and the creamy dipping sauce was amazing.  These were much like the clam cakes that we had at Champlin’s.

5 fried oysters, 5 people in our group.  Coincidence?

Matt and Janessa wisely chose the soft shell crab tempura.  Hands down, this was the best app that we had.  Which is saying a lot because this was the best sushi place that I’ve ever been to.

This. This is worth driving 1400 miles for.

Dave opted for the agedashi tofu.  I’m glad that he ordered it because it is something that I never would have even considered.  There always seems to be something else that would catch my eye (and stomach).  It is a firm tofu that is dusted in a starch and then deep fried.  It is served in a tentsuyu broth that consists dashi, mirin, and soy sauce.  It’s definitely worth trying once if you see on the menu.

I’m middle of the road on tofu, but this has me rethinking my opinion.

As for the entree’s, Matt and Janessa decided to split four rolls between them.  Had they known how big the rolls are, I think they would have chosen differently.  One thing that I found impressive was the plating on a couple of these rolls.  The first one to show up was the Summer Tuna Roll.  Inside it has avocado, spicy mayo, tobico (fish roe), and tempura flakes.  And on top it has maguro tuna, jalapeno pieces, and a creamy sauce.

Seriously cool plating.

Next to come was the Craig Roll.  This one has soft shell crap tempura, cucumber, and avocado topped with eel and shrimp.  If I had opted for rolls, this would have definitely been one that I would had chosen.

Amazing how a little piping of sauce can spruce up a plate.

Their last two rolls came together on one plate.  On top, there is the B-52 Maki (at least I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right).  This one has a crab stick, avocado, flying fish roe, and scallion rolled with yellowtail tuna, then it’s deep-fried and layered with rice.  The bottom one looks like a California Roll which has crab, avocado, cucumber, and fish roe.

Your basic sushi presentation. But the food still looks good, so why mess with the basics?

Dave ordered the Sushi / Sashimi platter.  Which is a gamble in my opinion.  It is an assortment of sushi and sashimi which is left up to the chef to decide what you get.  It also comes with a salad and a bowl of miso soup.  Here in the Mid-West, it usually consists of a couple of kinds of tuna, salmon, shrimp, and egg custard.  All of which I like, but it just reeks of being “safe” and cheap.  I was very impressed with the chef’s choice at Enn.  The platter actually consisted of many things that I normally order a la carte.

At the very top is what looks like a tuna roll. The next row has flying fish roe, shrimp, and surf clam sushi. The row of sushi below that has binchou (albacore tuna), mackerel, and fresh-water eel. The sashimi is maguro (red meat tuna), salmon, and, well, honestly, I have no idea what the last one is.
Update: Dave informed me the unknown fish is “yellowtail, sweet delicious yellowtail.” (hamachi)

Lindz ordered a la carte like I did.  We’ve found that it’s cheaper and we get exactly what we want.

Starting far left and going clockwise: a spicy tuna roll, tobiko (flying fish roe), unagi (fresh-water eel), salmon, and a Blaze roll (at least that is what Lindz thinks it is).

I always get a smile on my face when Lindz explains why she orders the flying fish roe: she like the popping in her mouth as she eats them.  Really I have no room to talk because that is definitely a factor as to why I order them all the time too.  I think I’ve said this before, but the unagi (fresh-water eel) is a favorite of both of ours, so it’s no surprise that you see it on every plate that we order.  The Blaze roll has spicy tuna, cream cheese, and avocado on the inside.  Then the roll is deep-fried in tempura batter and finished with a sweet and spicy sauce.

Finally, we get to my plate!  As I said before, this was the best sushi place that I’ve been to.  It had the freshest fish hands down and it’s very reasonable priced.

Starting at the bottom and going widdershins (because I like to be difficult): I got the unagi, octopus, surf clam, and mackerel sashimi.  And two of the flying fish roe (tobiko) sushi, one with and one without a quail egg.

Honestly, I really didn’t notice much of a difference with the quail egg on the tobiko.  Both were good, but I don’t think it was worth the extra $0.75.  The mackerel (saba) was breathtaking.  It had a nice full fish flavor and was oily without being overwhelming.  The surf clam (hokkigai) was good, but wasn’t significantly better than others that I’ve had.  The octopus (tako) was nice and tender with just the right amount of chew to it.  The unagi!  Oh, the unagi.  Words cannot do justice to this oily, fishy, sweet morsel from heaven.  All in all, this was as perfect of a sushi meal as I’ve ever had.

Well almost.  The only thing that could have made it better was if Ringer was there.  We have a longstanding tradition of going way off the beaten path every time that we have sushi.  I love my standard selections, but I do miss going crazy sometimes.

So Chef Aaron was right.  Making a trip to Enn was well worth it.  It will take a really impressive sushi place to even come close to this meal.

RI: Port of Galilee

A quick apology first.  Since I was just learning how to use my new toy, there was a bit of a screw up.  Somewhere along the way, the camera got switched to manual focus and I didn’t realize it for a day and a half, so there are a bunch of pictures that I’m really less than satisfied with.  Please bear with me, we’ll get to better ones soon.

The whole dream of the Rhode Island vacation started with an invitation from our friend Dave’s parents.  They have a beach house that they were kind enough to open to Dave and some of his Seminary friends for a week.  Through a couple of iterations of who was interested and available, our group came out to be Dave, myself and Lindz, and Matt and Janessa.

Da group. Matt, Janessa, Dave, and yours truly. Lindz was behind the camera.

Our first day in Little Rhodie, we went over to the Port of Galilee for some seafood lunch.  There is a restaurant that Dave’s family goes to all the time that is about a 20 mile drive from the house (or about 10 miles as a crow would fly).  Champlin’s Seafood is located right on the inlet from the ocean to one of the many saltwater ponds in the area.

Champlin’s Seafood. One of my new favorite places ever. Too bad it’s a half of a continent away.

They have a great working relationship with the fishing boats that use the Point Judith Pond as a harbor.  Many dock right outside of the building.  One touch that I thought was really cool is that they have the names of the fishing boats that they buy from on the life preservers hanging up around the building.  Besides the restaurant, they also sell a large variety of fresh seafood.

This is one of the fishing boats that supply Champlin’s. The photo was taken from my seat where I ate the first of many unbelievable seafood meals.

Their menu has a selection that any seafood lover would drool at the mere mention of a quarter of the items.  I would highly recommend at least looking over the menu before you go.  That way, you aren’t staring slack-jawed at the menu board trying to make a decision while people are waiting for you.  They have a full bar, so if you would like a homemade bloody mary, a beer, or just a soda, they have your thirst taken care of as well.  I should warn you that you should be prepared to spend a bit of money.  It’s not excessively expensive, but it isn’t cheap either.  I really should clarify that a bit: the quality to cost ratio is unbelievable, but it’s not someplace most people can afford to go more than once or twice a month.  Yeah, I feel better with that description.

Dave bought a half-dozen clam cakes to share around the table.  Think of a doughy (in a good sense)  crab cake and substitute in some clams.  They were really good.

Deep fried clammy goodness.

Lindz and I went a little wild with our order.  Based on Dave’s recommendation, I went with the deep fried whole-bellied clams.  In hindsight, I should have gotten them a la carte, and shared Lindz’s fries and slaw.  Whole bellies are whole soft shell clams as opposed to clam strips which are sliced hard shell clams.  The whole bellies that I ate had a nice mild clam flavor with a sweet undertone.  You didn’t need tarter sauce or anything to accompany them. I’ll put it another way for you.  I kept eating them after I was stuffed halfway through my meal.  Hands down, they were the second best clams that I have ever eaten.  Lindz ordered a lobster roll dinner for herself.  I think she still has the lobster bug from when we ate at Cosmos.  Ha ha!  Lobster bug, get it?  I’m so punny!  I did swipe a bite and it was really good.  Perfectly cooked and oh, so tasty.  Speaking of Cosmos, that is the reason why I got a 1/2 pint of their lobster bisque.  This was good, but it wasn’t quite as good as the one at Cosmos.  Significantly cheaper, but still slightly disappointing.  I shouldn’t be complaining because it’s still far better than you can find most anywhere.

Lower left: whole belly clam dinner. Upper right: lobster roll dinner. Bottom right: 1/2 pint of lobster bisque. Upper left-ish: 2 cherrystone clams

Finally, I saw that they had raw cherrystone clams on the menu.  I’ve never heard of, much less had clams on the half shell before.  So I ordered two of them.  I figured I’d offer Lindz one and if she declined, then I could eat both of them!  But, she was feeling adventurous that day and decided to try one.  Which still made me happy.  Janessa kindly documented our experience.

A little squeeze of lemon . . .

Hoist them and say “Cheers!” . . .

And suck them down!

I’m spitting out a lemon seed, not the clam.

If I was still hungry and we didn’t already spend a healthy wad of cash, I would have happily gone back and ordered a baker’s dozen.  They were everything that people tell you that good shellfish should taste like.  Slightly sweet and a bit like a fresh ocean.  These are the clams that claim the #1 slot in the best that I have ever tasted.  Lindz even liked them.

As far as seating options go, you can either sit inside (it’s really spacious) or out on the deck (a bit more limited).  It was a gorgeous day, and the place wasn’t busy, so ours was an easy choice: the deck.  I would suggest going there for lunch or an afternoon snack because I heard that around supper time, the line can get up to a hundred feet long or more.

One of the “patrons” hanging out at the restaurant.

Watching boats go by while eating fresh seafood is priceless.

One of my stated goals for this trip was to eat myself stupid with really good seafood.  This place fulfilled that dream and then some.  It also set the bar unbelievable high for the rest of the trip.

My 100th Post

As I’ve been getting nearer and nearer to my 100th post, I have been trying to figure out what would be a good one?  A retrospective?  Too early.  The Rhode Island trip?  Too long.  I have to break that up into quite a few posts.  A dish that I’ve cooked?  Maybe, but which one?  Someplace that we ate?  Again, maybe, but still which one?  Then I stumbled across the perfect idea.

Lindz and I were going up north to visit Grandma Bert after the Rhode Island trip.  As usual, we stopped off at the Burger King in Ramsey, just off of US10.  For some reason, we decided to go in and order food instead of going through the drive-thru.  While waiting for our food to come up (which took way too long compared with the service that I’ve gotten at other BK’s including that one), I noticed a sign on one of the tables advertising a new dessert.

Yeah, Baby! Bacon Sundae!!!

And that, my loyal followers, is my 100th post.

Poached Egg Salad

I know I dropped the huge teasers of a Rhode Island trip and a new camera.  But I’ve been busy with work and making trips up north to make sure Grandma doesn’t go too stir-crazy in the nursing home.  In the near future, I’m going to be posting some short blurbs just to keep up the habit, and to shorten my queue.  So you’ll have to deal with crappy photos and short rambles.  Meh, such is life.

A while back I made myself and Lindz a salad with poached eggs on it.  I really enjoyed the combination.  So when I had some leftover stuff for a salad and I wanted a snack after work, it seemed like a good time to recreate it.

All that went into the salad was lettuce, sliced almonds, an Asian Sesame dressing, and a poached egg on top.  For as simplistic as the ingredients were, it was a very satisfying salad.  If you have a Rainbow Foods (grocery store) near you, I highly recommend getting the Roundy’s dressing (it’s the store brand).

The good kind of Spam

That’s right.  I’m talking about Spam in a can.  The much maligned meat that kept our GI’s going in WWII and helped feed countless people since.

We dine well here in Camelot / We eat ham and jam and Spam a lot

No, nutritionally it’s not the best for you, but it’s not really worse than a Big Mac and people have no problem scarfing those down.  The problem, as I see it, is all in the societal perception of it.  For example, Spam in Hawaii is not a big deal.  They are the largest consumers in the U.S. because fresh meat is expensive and Spam is a cheap alternative.  They even have a dish called Spam Musubi which is grilled Spam is paired with rice and nori to form a sushi variant.  In other words, haute cuisine.  Okay, maybe not in the strictest definition of the word, but definitely in that “cultured” direction.

You know you would try this if you didn’t know it was Spam.

But here in the Lower 48, it carries an image of being a poor person’s or an uncultured person’s food.  Which admittedly, does have a certain amount of truth to it.  But then what about venison or rabbit?  You pay a pretty penny for those in a fancy restaurant, but all these hillbillies and rednecks have been eating these critters for generations and they don’t have a bad rap.  (Trust me.  My family: we hick.)  Another problem is that people just not willing to try it based on its looks.  Again, I point to haute cuisine: oysters on the half shell.  Take a close look at one once.  They look disgusting.

Don’t lie. You hesitated the first time you had one of these. The only reason you went through with it was because of the sophistication associated with oysters.

So what I’m getting at is don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.  Then if you don’t like it because of smell, taste, texture, or whatever, that’s fine.  You can actually say that you’ve tried and don’t like it because of “blah-blah” instead of going “eww, gross” and possibly miss out on something wonderful.

 

p.s.  This post is the result of a conversation that I had with my boss over fried Spam sandwiches.  Seriously, try it, they’re good.

A Cresco Weekend.

Last weekend, Lindz and I went to visit friends down in Iowa.  We stayed at our friend Narren’s place in Cresco, which is around twenty miles from Decorah (our adopted hometown).  On Saturday we spent the afternoon bumming around in Decorah and ate at one of my favorite places.  T-Bock’s sports bar has been a frequent haunt of mine.  It was a block from work plus they have good food at a cheap price.  Can’t lose with that combination.  The basket that I want to single out is the peanut butter cheeseburger.  I know it sounds really odd, but it is worth a try.  The nuttiness of the peanuts pairs really well with the beef patty.  It’s not that odd if you think about it.  Remember the last time that you had beef satay?  Basically the burger is a less spicy version of the same thing.  Funny, but I’ve been eating these burgers for years and have never made that connection till now.

Narren had the Feta Burger. A very good option.

I had they gyro. Completely pre-packaged, but tasty.

Lindz had the famous Peanut Butter Cheeseburger. A weird combo but the protein overload is worth it.

For supper that night I cooked a pork recipe out of the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated that will be the subject of my next post because it deserves its own write-up.  Sunday morning, for brunch, we went to a small Mom and Pop diner called Sue-Z-Q’s.  I’ve eaten there often with Narren and his kids when I’ve visited him, even when I was living in Decorah.  They have the standard fare for this type of eatery, but this time something different caught my eye.  There was a Reuben Haystack.  Essentially a haystack is the same as a hash anywhere else.  So besides the base of potatoes, there was fried corned beef, kraut, Swiss cheese, and a side of 1000 Island.  Of course I had to have a couple over-easy eggs to go with it.  It was a very good combination.  I may have to try and do this one at home sometime.

The only problem is that I didn’t order any toast to sop up everything at the end.

 

Jamaica, honeymoon, and one of the best meals I ever ate.

A bit over two years ago we finally went our honeymoon.  It was closer to the fact that we really needed a vacation and decided to call it our honeymoon since we never took one.  Some of the reasons we were putting it off was because of Lindz was busy with school, I was busy with work, and we really didn’t have the money to spare for it.  Finally, one day we decided that all of those reasons were stupid and just went for it.  This was definitely the best choice because we had a blast.  We found a decent deal on an all-inclusive Couples resort in Jamaica, specifically the Tower Isle location.  All food and drinks were included plus there were no kids allowed!  And if you know anything about Minnesota winters, you will understand why we decided to go in January.  As you can see it’s a bit different:

The view out our balcony looking down on "our spot".

We basically spent all of our time in those lounge chairs reading and drinking and eating.  You can’t see it in the picture, but there is a swim-up bar at the right end of the pool that we definitely took advantage of.  Down in Jamaica we discovered a drink called a Miami Vice.  It was half pina colada mix, half daiquiri mix, half rum, and a bit of pineapple just to make you feel better about getting completely sloshed in the middle of the day during your vacation on a Caribbean island.

You can't see the rum, but trust me, it's there.

A plate of jerked happiness.

There were several eateries on the resort and one that we usually did lunch at was a scaled up hamburger stand.  Besides burgers, they served a handful of other items.  Of those other items, my favorite was the jerked chicken.  Not too spicy and full of flavor.  I’m not sure if it was because it was easier or if it was in keeping with the island style of cutting up the chicken, but it was very rustic cuts.  By that I mean they took a cleaver and hacked the bird into portion sized pieces instead of separating out the thigh, breast, etc. like we do in the States.  For me this was a plus because I’ve always been a fan of rustic cuisine.  They had the usual suspects as far as condiments sitting on each table:  ketchup, steak sauce, hot sauce, and my new personal favorite, the local Gray’s Spicy Sauce.  I had never had anything like this before.  It was a little spicy but amazingly well-rounded in flavor.  The best way that I can describe it is that it tasted like a spicy version of Worchestire sauce with a little bit of A1 thrown in the mix.  Lindz will attest to the fact that I used it on everything.  The chicken, burgers, fries, oh it went great with the fries, and anything else that was on my plate and with the bottle in reach.  Yes, I am completely infatuated with the stuff.

The holy of holy's of condiments: Grays Spicy Sauce.

One of the other restaurants that we went to was one that featured asian cuisine.  It was situated out on a couple of small piers that had pagoda-like structures for seating.  The food was good, the setting was amazing because you were right on the sea, but the lighting was terrible.  We could barely see what we were eating.  Which I am realizing is a huge pet peeve of mine.  That place also would have benefited if they had pulled a table or two out of each pagoda and had a little more elbow room.

The place we ate most often was at the buffet.  It was open for breakfast and supper every night.  This is going to sound strange but it was easily the second best out of the four major restaurants on the resort.  There was a wide variety of food, they switched up the options at every meal, and most of all, it was really good.  This is where I had osso bucco for the first time.  When was the last time that you saw ox tail on a buffet?  I honestly can’t remember all of the different dishes that they had out on all of the nights, plus the salad bar and the piles of fruit available.

The best place that we ate at was the French restaurant.  It was basically on a whim that I ordered the deconstructed beef wellington.  Normally, I am not a fan of anything deconstructed.  I think it is an excuse for chefs to be lazy and charge more for a dish.  This meal was the exception to the rule.  I know a lot of people will describe this or that meat and how it is “melt in your mouth” tender.  Rubbish.  The beef wellington that I had was truly melt in your mouth.  I have never before experienced anything that succulent and flavorful before or even since.  Lindsay had something else, but being the loving husband that I am, I gave her a bite of mine.  Of course, I then had to fight her off until I was able to finish off my plate.  If we weren’t in such a nice setting, I would have licked my plate clean.  As it was, it took all of my restraint not to even in a shirt and tie restaurant.

I would recommend going (especially during the off-season), but I am going to throw in a couple of clarifiers.  We did none of the touristy things the resort had to offer.  No day trips (found out later that they were huge tourist traps), no catamaran tours, no paddle boats, no nude beach (did I forget to mention the little island in the top picture is clothing optional?), and none of the other activities either.  We sat, read, drank, ate, and just generally relaxed.  This is our idea of fun though.

R.I.P. Auntie Theresia

Last Saturday, my great-aunt passed away at the ripe ol’ age of 94.  (The obit is here.)  I have met very few people who were always genuinely happy to see you and Theresia was one of those.  Even if our family visits weren’t the most regular.  For most of my life, she and Grandma Rose (they are sisters) lived in the same apartment building and later in the same assisted living housing, so it was really easy to duck in and say “Hi.”  The catch was that she wasn’t at home all that much because she was off visiting somebody, or shopping, or doing something at church, or out for heaven knows what reason.  One of Auntie Theresia’s passions was baking.  As an added bonus, she was unbelievable good at it.  Her two signature desserts, angel food cake and coffee cake, are the gold standards in our family.  It is considered high praise if someone said that you came close to Auntie Theresia’s version.  Like all great cooks, she loved to share her creations and we were more than happy to oblige.  She was also very prolific in her baking.  When we did manage to cross paths and visit, she always had some kind of treat already sitting on the counter or she pulled something out of the freezer to thaw even before you had a chance to sit down.  And if you were really lucky, you managed to catch her when she was cleaning out the freezer and she would send something home with you.

Many people in my family have tried to reproduce her recipes.  Most have had decent luck with the angel food cake.  No one has been able to nail her coffee cake recipe though.  My sister Michelle probably comes the closest with a version that’s about 87% of Theresia’s sinfully delicious coffee cake.  All the different fillings that Theresia used were wonderful, but the one that everyone fought over was the poppy seed filled one.  It had so much poppy seed in it, you couldn’t pass a drug test for a year after only one piece.  There would be a layer of three-quarters of an inch of poppy seed across the whole cake.  Combined with milk and sugar, the poppy seed layer was always the best part.  As a very close second, was the crumb that she put on top of the cake.  It is a combination of sugar, flour, butter, and lard that approaches foodie nirvana.  Remember fat equals flavor!

I have never worked up the nerves to try this recipe, but here is Auntie Theresia’s Poppy Seed Coffee Cake recipe (as found in the Holy Trinity Centennial Cookbook, Royalton, MN):

Ingredients – Dough:

  • 3 1/2 C Milk – scalded
  • 1 1/4 C Lard
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 C Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 10 C Flour

2 yeast cakes and 1 package yeast dissolved in 1 C lukewarm water, 2 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp sugar add to above ingredients.

Mix and let rise, punch down and let rise again.  Divide dough in greased 10″ round or 7″ square pans.  Spread filling (see below).  Gather sides to the the middle, pinch together and press down.  Spread on dough (beat 1 egg and 2 Tbs sugar mixed so crumbs stick).

Crumbs:

  • 5 C Flour
  • 1 C Butter
  • 1 Tbs Vanilla
  • 2 C Sugar
  • 1 C Lard

Mix until crumbly and spread on dough.

Poppy Seed Filling:

  • 6 C Milk
  • 1 C Half & Half

Bring to boil and add 2 lbs ground poppy seed, 6 C sugar, 1 Tbs Vanilla;  boil slowly for 1 hour stirring frequently; let cool.

Bake at 350 F degrees for 30-35 until brown.

Mind you, this is verbatim from the church cookbook and I’ve never done this before, so if you have questions, ask Michelle.  She is getting better as the years go by.  Michelle did want me to say that this is a very sticky dough, so be warned.

Not Theresia's coffee cake, but it's the closest picture I could find.

As a very strange aside, I find comfort in that Fr. Virnig will be co-officiating the funeral.  He was the priest at Mom and Dad’s church while I was growing up, and then he moved over to Royalton where Grandma and Theresia lived.  Then when Grandma passed, he was one of the officiants at her funeral with my cousin, Fr. Tom.  I guess I just like the continuity.

I just want to leave saying that Auntie Theresia will be missed, and more than just for her food.