On the left, red grapes on the stem, covered in Stilton and rolled in chopped port-glazed walnuts. You can see some of the whole walnuts scattered around the sauce. The sauce is the reduction of the glazing liquid, and has port, sugar, black pepper and bay leaf. On the right, a Seckel pear, which was roasted in a baking dish with a mixture of Carlos VII and sugar at the bottom (recipe adapted from here). That was used as a basting liquid, and later reduced to the caramel sauce. Lying jauntily against the pear is a crisp of 5-year Boerenkaas aged gouda. And a few toasted hazelnuts for good measure.

I invited a few friends over to kibbitz and taste. Here are their comments, so you'll have some idea of the flavors as well as the looks!

Dave: There is great synergy in the pear-sherry-hazelnut-cheese combination. Not only is the pear taste accentuated, but you get an added taste of fig, and a nutty flavor that comes not just from the nuts, but from the cheese wafer, that finishes with a smoky, almost a charcoal taste.

The combination of Stilton cheese and grapes did not work as well, not because of any discordance in the tastes, but I believe because of texture. The grapes are too watery to be paired with this cheese. I recommend chilling the grapes first to firm them up.

Beth: you can never go wrong with Stilton in my book, and the combination of Stilton and 'ported' walnuts was a fantastic combination of sweet and shocking-salty. however the taste of the grape itself was lost. i found that drizzling further with the port reduction added back a nice, fruity flavor.

the pear-gouda had a nice nutty taste as well - i've never had an aged gouda, and the process intensified the nutty flavor that worked well with the pear.

Hope: the stilton-grape-ported walnut combination was absolutely delightful - the delicacy of the grape wasn't overwhelmed by the stilton, and the walnuts gave a wonderful contrasty texture. There could've been a little more of the port reduction sauce, which had a wonderful flavor. The pear-gouda-sherry reduction combo was a little too sweet for my tastes, but the gouda laces set off the sweetness very nicely, and were very tasty all on their own. There were some delightful Montgomery cheddar 'eclairs' that were wonderful, but sadly didn't work with the red wine gelato - though both were very good on their own. All in all, a wonderful evening - it's so much fun being one of Tammy's 'guinea pigs'!

My comments: I over-reduced both sauces, which made it easy to make them stay where I wanted on the plate, but made them too sticky and sweet for good eating - I'd correct that in the future. The pear-gouda-sherry combo worked as well in reality as it did in my head, so that was cool. I'm with Dave and Beth on the issue of the grapes - the Stilton did overwhelm the grape. I think because the amount of Stilton needed to wrap the grape made it too much. I probably should have done what most recipes suggest and cut the Stilton with cream cheese. If I make these for a party sometime (and I might - they are tasty and unusual), I will do that. And chill them - these ones warmed up while I was getting everything else ready. Oh, and the plate needed more of the port sauce for that amount of grapes/cheese.

The two parts of the plate didn't really go together, but neither did they clash. If I was serving the pear on it's own, I would do it in a little bowl, because then I could use the unreduced sauce, and that would be very tasty. And while the crisp was fun and made for a nice presentation, I think some of the sweet butterscotchy flavor of the aged gouda was lost, so I'd just do shavings of the cheese.
Over on eGullet, there's a weekly pastry and baking challenge, and this week I got tagged to be "it." Here's my challenge:

One of the things I rememberabout her foodblogs is something that you might not instantly pair with sweet desserts: her interest in cheese and wine. So, my challenge to Tammy is to sweeten up the cheese course! Create a dessert with at least 2 different wines and 2 different cheeses. At least one of the cheeses has to be a savoury rather a 'sweet' cheese (so no ricotta, mascarpone etc.)

I get a week to play around with flavors and post pictures and recipes.

Ideas I have so far:
Something with goat cheese
Port-glazed walnuts (cause they're awesome)
Red-wine sorbet
Grapes covered in blue cheese and rolled in nuts (I like the idea of incorporating grapes because of the play on wine.) I especially like the idea using grapes because of the wine connection. If I go this route, I'd love to do a little bunch of 3 or 4, still on the stem for a nice presentation. Maybe chop the port-glazed walnuts and use them as the nuts. I like the way this is coming together! Now I just need to go taste a bunch of blue cheeses with grapes to see which has the combination I want.

Anybody have any ideas? You can follow along with the thread here.
Last night I cooked common meal. It was a pretty small meal (for me, anyway) with only about 45 people. I made up two different fruit toppings for the fish - peach-tomato salsa and blueberry-corn relish. The fish itself was just tilapia, which is very mild. I baked it in the oven, which was great - very quick and easy - took just 15 minutes to cook 12 lbs of fish. While the result was not as tasty as my pan-friend pecan encrusted tilapia, it sure was a lot less labor intensive...

The blueberry corn relish was the surprise hit of the night. It's very simple - just corn cut off the cob and quickly cooked, blueberries, chiffonaded basil, and a vinaigrette of olive oil, champagne vinegar, salt and pepper. Crunchy and fresh - definitely more than the sum of its parts. The peach salsa would have been better (or at least more what I wanted) if I'd used my original recipe. But there was a Zingerman's event in the common house in the morning, and there was a big bowl of peaches with chiles leftover. So we used those, but it just didn't result in the fresh taste I was looking for. Still good, just not what was in my head.

On the side, I served some leftover cucumber-feta-mint salad also from the Zing thing, some green salad, and boiled potatoes tossed with olive oil and parsley. Dessert was a Texas Sheet Cake, something I'd never heard of until someone in my eGullet "Cooking for 40" thread suggested it. It was reasonably tasty, although not all that interesting, but certainly simple and fast, which is a big plus when it comes to common meal. It's a very thin cake, cooked in a jelly roll pan. It's a little bit chocolate, and a little bit cinnamony, and a lot sweet.

Speaking of my eGullet thread, it's very odd. I have fans. People read the thread regularly, and if I've been slacking on keeping it up and do a big catch up post, I get comments saying how glad they are that I posted, that they'd been wondering what I'd been up to. Here's a recent comment:
Tammy, I just read from page 1-7 and I am bleary-eyed to say the least.I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these, and I am so glad you have beenposting all your meals. I have been cut and pasting them into a folderfor future reference. Thanks! Pages 1-7 equates to over 200 posts, that she sat down and read in one sitting! Wow.

Eric thinks I should start a separate blog that's a more public food blog, and put all of my food related posts there. What do you all think of that idea? I kind of feel like eGullet meets my public blogging desire, but it could be fun to do something for a potentially broader readership. Eric thinks I could just point LJ people there and stop posting food stuff to my LJ, but I said I'd still want to double post, cause I like having things in one place. I just created a Vox account (tammylc, just like here) so I could use that as my food blog and keep this as my journal...

If I get a job at Zingerman's, it seems like I'd definitely have lots of content to put in a food blog. Yes, I'm back on that trip again. I have an appointment Monday morning to talk to Grace, the managing partner of the Deli. I want to learn more about a) what kind of jobs there are there, b) what openings there are or that are coming up, and c) how much the pay and hours would suck. I'm growing increasingly bored with my job. They love me there, and I do good work when I can get motivated to do so, but that's not really often enough for me. And, as my paunch grows every paunchier and my body is starting to show the ergonomic strain of sitting at a computer all day, I'm actually thinking I might like a job that got me back on my feet and out from behind a desk. We'll see.
I've think I'm previously mentioned here that I will be hosting a gathering of food and wine lovers the weekend of August 4-6. You are all invited to attend. Details about what's planned so far (plans are still evolving) can be found at http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=87063.

In a week or two I'll be launching an online survey to take RSVPs for the different events, so if you think you might like at attend, please comment and I'll be sure to send you a pointer to the survey. There are things going on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (all described at the link above).
This is a "save the date" notice for all of my local (and not-so-local) foodie friends - I'm hosting another gathering of the eGullet message board. You can read about last year's festivities here. This year's gathering will feature a presentation on wine and food pairing by sommelier Ric Jewell. And the usual sort of shopping and cooking and hanging out and talking about food. On Sunday, Eric's coordinating another visit to the Zingerman's Coffee Roasting company.

I'll remind people as the date gets closer, but if you think you'd like to come, get it on your calendars now!
In case you missed my last announcement,here's a reminder. This weekend I'm hosting a gathering of food lovers from the eGullet website. Tomorrow we'll be touring Zingerman's Bakehouse and Creamery (and maybe coffee roaster), shopping at at the Farmer's Market and cooking a multi-course dinner for 25 or 30. Tonight we'll be having dinner at Jefferson Market and coming back to my house for drinks and conversation afterwards. Sunday there will likely be some sort of brunch. If this sounds like your idea of a good time, comment and I'll get you the details.
On July 16 I'm hosting a regional gathering of folks from an online foodie discussion board, eGullet. We're going to be touring Zingerman's Bakehouse and Creamery, then hitting the farmer's market and Kerrytown for the best local bounty, which we'll bring back to Great Oak and turn into a sumptous feast for 30 or so people. If you're interested in attending any of this, please comment and I'll get you additional information. It's okay if you just want to come for dinner, and not be part of the cooking or shopping. There will be a small fee charged to cover the costs of food.

If you're not available on Saturday, a small group of us will be going to dinner at Jefferson Market on Friday, and there will be some sort of breakfast/ brunch gathering on Sunday as well, so those are other opportunities.

We've got a bunch of interesting folks coming - Steven Shaw, aka Fat Guy, is the founder of the eGullet site and is flying in from New York. Torakris lives in Japan but is visiting family in Ohio and will be coming up with her nephew and a Japanese friend. There's a crew from Chicago, and then people from Michigan and Ontario. Should be a lot of fun, if talking about and eating good food and wine is your idea of a fun time...
The week that I was foodblogging, I went to several outposts of Zingerman's. Rather than write them up one by one, I saved them all and wrote up a post all about Zingerman's, with all the pictures I'd taken throughout the week. In addition to including it in my blog, I crossposted it to the "Heartland" forum on eGullet (the geographical area that MI is in).

So, I'm in the midst of organizing a gathering of eGullet folks this summer. To make the trip more enticing to out-of-towners, we're trying to line up a couple of special opportunities, including something to do with Zingerman's. In my email to Zing to start making arrangements, I included a link to my write up.

Today I make my near weekly stop at the Roadshow to pick up lunch for Sue and I, and the Roadshow girl greets me with "Hey - you made us famous!" Apparently a link to my eGullet post got sent to the Marketing Director, who sent it out to the whole company! From what she told me it was really well received - Ari wrote a followup email and everything! The Roadshow staff were down at the deli and someone there recognized them from my pictures (the reason for the "famous" comment.)

So that's all nifty and cool. I keep thinking that if I do want that career change and think working for Zingerman's would be cool, now might just be the time to try to make that happen, while my "talents" are on their radar screen...

The post is here.
I haven't been posting much to LJ this week, because all of my writing time has been going into another project - writing a foodblog for eGullet. A different person does it every week, and I volunteered to do this week. I did one before, back when I was pregnant with Liam, and I thought it would be fun to do one now that he's eating too.

If you'd like to check it out, you can find it at http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=64580. I started blogging on Tuesday and finish up on Monday.
[livejournal.com profile] malawry and I met via eGullet and upon checking out her journal and personal web page, I realized that we had a few more things than a love of food in common. So I friended her, and eventually we started exchanging emails. Since I was coming into town, she offered to be my tour guide Friday afternoon and to let me stay at her house Friday night.

But work and travel coordination meant that I met her delightful SO [livejournal.com profile] choralmusic first. (Note to [livejournal.com profile] sarahf, he looks much less like Legolas in person.) Our attempts to find a parking spot near our ultimate ending point for the day were utterly thwarted, so instead we drove back out to their house, met up with [livejournal.com profile] malawry and took the Metro back into town.

Meeting someone in person that you've only met online is always a little strange, and this was no exception. But we got along pretty well. We spent the afternoon at the Museum of American History. Our first stop, in honor of our shared culinary interests, was at Julia Child's Kitchen, which was very cool. After that we wandered around a bit, looking at Beatles photos, Ella Fitzgerald stuff, and the First Ladies exhibit. But we only had a couple hours until the museum closed (which was just as well - this body doesn't deal with walking around museums real well right now!).

After that we headed off to Zaytinya, where we were meeting up with a bunch of other folks for dinner. Zaytinya is a busy and popular restaurant in DC, which does not take reservations after 6:30. Since we couldn't get everyone there until 7, she and I were the advance guard, going early to get our name on the list. This was helped by her knowing the maitre d'. We hung out in the bar (pregnant woman karma kicked in and allowed us to get a table in the bar right away) and chatted while our group accreted, and eventually sat down.

As often happens when you're visiting a new place and trying to see as many people as possible, it was a mixed gathering of fans and non-fans, which is always interesting and only occasionally catastrophic. Thankfully, this visit fell more towards the interesting side, especially after we did some seat shuffling to put the people who had the most to talk about next to each other. Our cast of characters included [livejournal.com profile] malawry and [livejournal.com profile] choralmusic, Heather (a foodie, who I know from eGullet and who already knew [livejournal.com profile] malawry and [livejournal.com profile] choralmusic), [livejournal.com profile] penchantnyc who I met via a foodie commmunity on LJ and who also posts to chowhound and occasionally eGullet, and [livejournal.com profile] jonsinger and [livejournal.com profile] lisajulie, fans and foodies combined.

Dinner was a wide variety of middle eastern tapas/small plates. Several people at the table had eating restrictions, but the small plates format meant that everyone (even Jon!) managed to find something they could eat. I (not surprisingly) ate far too much, since I had to try a little bit of everything!

I had a really fun time at dinner, getting to know new people, and plotting with [livejournal.com profile] jonsinger and [livejournal.com profile] lisajulie about getting to their favorite Burmese restaurant when/if I come back to DC in December for SMOFcon. Jon gifted me (and Little Bean) with a beautiful tea cup, which I hope will inspire me to drink my pregnancy tea religiously for the next 9 weeks. Thanks again, Jon! Then it was back to [livejournal.com profile] malawry's house, where we all pretty promptly headed off to bed, exhausted from our busy days.

Objectively speaking, that bed was probably the least comfortable of the three that I've slept in this week. But I had my best night's sleep in it, so that shows you how good objective measures of comfort are, now doesn't it?

Saturday morning [livejournal.com profile] malawry cooked a fabulous breakfast/brunch that included a frisee salad with toasted walnuts and her homemade duck confit, creamy scrambled eggs, chicken apple sausage, and her justifiably famous homemade scones with homemade blackberry jam. These last were *wonderful* and a particularly welcoming gesture, as both she and [livejournal.com profile] choralmusic are currently on the Atkins diet and couldn't eat any of them! I was so touched that they were willing to torture themselves for me!

After breakfast it was time for stage 3 of my trip - off to Baltimore to spend the rest of the weekend with [livejournal.com profile] rivka and [livejournal.com profile] curiousangel. That's where I am now, but I've posted enough for the morning, so that report will have to wait until the weekend is over!



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