In the early 90s I visited Washington for the first time. It was easy to see why it was such a magnet for creative, artistic people. There were mountains, rivers, desert, islands, and even a rain forest, to inspire and awe, and as a tourist, I fell in love. I’m no camper, but I’d go back to the San Juan Islands in a heartbeat and sleep in a tent happily.
We spent some time in Seattle, a city I found to be smartly set-up with highways that flexibly changed their direction according to traffic demand and rush hour. Clever. Of course, we went to Pike’s Market and did a little shopping. I don’t remember buying anything from the market other than edibles, but nearby at sidewalk booth, I found some pottery that I immediately loved. The pieces on display were gorgeous – rich colors, weighty and beautifully formed. At the time they seemed expensive, but as a recent college graduate living in NYC, many things were beyond my financial reach.
The replacement piece
It turned out that there was an outlet nearby where Bruning sold their pottery seconds. You know, stuff that might not have turned out as perfectly as planned, yet still was lovely and useful. I came back east with a couple of pieces and an undying love for their work. Over the years the collection has grown (we eventually had dinner service for 6 or 8), divided (divorce) and diminished (breakage), but there was one steadfast piece that I retained and used regularly for making quiche and pies and serving, a deep blue dish that I absolutely loved.
The bonus piece
I noticed a couple of months ago that a crack had formed in this dish and was paralyzed by the thought of no longer having it in my cabinet. I went online, searched Bruning Pottery and got a contact email address. After a series of emails, I selected 2 dishes to replace my old steady, one a very similar color, the other completely unlike any that I’ve owned before. They’re a little fancier with their fluted edges, but when they arrived in the mail I felt like I was welcoming an old friend home again. I just may bake a pie this weekend.
Yeah, you. My reader. It’s been more than 7 years, 2 domains and a divorce since DelSo was born. Over the years I’ve shared a lot of my life and self here, in print. You, as a reader, have come to know me on some level from my words. What makes you return here (assuming you’re not new around these parts) and read what I write? Let me remind you of some of what I’ve related to you in the hope that you might feel inclined to share with me – who you are, reader? Why are you here?
There have been so many miles – more plane rides than I could have ever imagined, along with runs and races and road trips. I’ve explored cities with my boys and my girlfriends and solo. My feet have run in a half dozen different countries and probably about the same number of states.
My home has evolved from a house with two full-time parents to one of three part-time children. There have been physical improvements, rooms repurposed and painted, new rugs and furniture rearranged. It feels different. After a refinance or two, I know it’s mine.
I’ve written about books I’ve read and movies and concerts I’ve seen. Increasingly, politics and my dismay with our current leadership have been topics I’ve felt compelled to write about.
My children and the challenges of being a parent frequently provide fodder for posts. While the joys outweigh the frustrations, parenthood remains a roller coaster ride that keeps me on the edge of my seat with a scream threatening to escape. It’s a heart racing ride.
Sometimes I cook or bake and post recipes and photos of the fruits of my labors. Food and wine are a big part of my life and I’ve happily shared my experiences with you. Oh – and there’s that wine bar that I own.
There have been times when I wrote with sadness or anger, but I think I mostly write from a place of understanding and acceptance. Balance and moderation are woven throughout much of what I write.
Health and wellness have been covered and the miracle of menopause has been mentioned. The heartbreak of addiction and the threat of cancer have been present. I’ve learned to ski and have found bliss in pigeon pose in a room heated to 100+ degrees.
It’s all here – my life. Not perfect, not necessarily what I ever imagined it to be, but a life that I feel grateful for in a city that I have come to love.
Will you tell me why you visit my life?
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One of the things I really miss about my life pre-restaurant ownership (in addition to loved ones, fretless sleep and true downtime) is cooking. Remember the days when I would have recipes and pictures posted here of yummy food made in my very own kitchen? These days, I’m lucky if I cook an evening meal for my family twice a week. Well, three if you’re willing to count grilled cheese and ramen. While it is certainly a luxury to eat meals prepared, served and cleaned up by others, I definitely miss being in my own kitchen puttering around sometimes.
During a recent break from school, I took advantage of having some extra time by indulging myself in a little kitchen therapy. Actually, I indulged all of us now that I think about it. One of the items I prepared was a new recipe while the other was an old favorite. Both were from recipes I had originally found in the New York Times. Maybe you don’t think of the NYT as a source for recipes, but my vintage copy (1966, baby!) of the NYT Cookbook would prove you wrong. It is one of my favorite recipe collections and I refer to it frequently.
The sides puffed up remarkably.
The new recipe that I attempted, with great success, was for breakfast Christmas morning. In years past, bagels, cream cheese and lox were our holiday morning go-to meal, but since my divorce things have been a bit more unpredictable. I’ve made variations on pancakes and waffles and one year went to great trouble to make cinnamon rolls. They were good, but not great and, in my opinion, not worth my efforts. Crepes were requested for this year, but, honestly they’re a little more labor intensive than I like at the start of a long day. But, the Dutch Baby recipe from the Times? Well, that was perfect!
Requiring only 5 ingredients, all pantry staples, this oven baked “pancake” was one of the easiest and most satisfying breakfasts I’ve ever made. Taking only 40 minutes, start to finish, the Dutch Baby is something that can be made even on a regular school morning. It is my new favorite breakfast treat and I think I’m going to make it again this weekend. You should, too.
The ease of the Dutch Baby was definitely offset by the work involved with making the Meat Lover’s Lasagna. I’ve been using this recipe for more than a decade, despite the extensive list of ingredients and time demanded, and consider it to be a solid version of lasagna, but it comes at a price. First, there’s the actual cost of ingredients – pancetta, pecorino romano and sirloin aren’t cheap, my friend. Then, there’s the time involved in preparing this beauty. Conservatively, it takes about of 4 hours to put this delight together, maybe less if you cheat on the meatballs step. The payoff, though, is good. It is a dense, delicious and hearty entree that will provide multiple meals. That’s a good thing since I won’t have another chance to cook for days!
I think I may have mentioned in the past that my youngest son is a bit obsessed with Asian food. What can I say? He was born on Chinese New Year. This school year began with his new lunch box, more specifically a Bento Box, which he tasked his father and I with filling with various Asian noodles, sliced beef or chicken, scallions and some kind of sauce – hoisin, peanut or kecap menas. The first few mornings of school were not easy with his culinary demands, but we figured things out and he happily ate his gourmet lunch, with chopsticks, natch.
Our favorite soup dumplings.
On our last trip to NYC our itinerary completely revolved around where we would eat. We started at Joe’s Shanghai for soup dumplings, moved to a small Japanese place for ramen in the evening and wrapped up with Korean bar-b-q for lunch the next afternoon on our way to Penn Station. It was a good time, but his hunger for dumplings remained unquenched. Luckily, we found a local source for affordable, convenient and tasty dumplings – Northeast Dumpling House on Central Avenue Some friends turned me on to this place and I’ve dropped in a few times since to pick up frozen dumplings (pork, lamb and cabbage) to stash in the freezer for a quick meal. At $13-15 for 30 dumplings, this is a killer deal and genuine lifesaver on a busy day.
I mentioned to a Chinese friend that Quinn can’t get enough dumplings and that we’ve been enjoying those from the Dumpling House. It turns out her family is visiting from China and that her mother makes dumplings. Imagine how thrilled I was the other night to get a text from my friend offering to share some homemade dumplings with us. We met Thursday morning and she gave me a bag, generously filled, of pork and vegetable dumplings that we’ll be eating this weekend.
Coincidentally, another friend dropped in to Lark + Lily the same evening to give Quinn a cookbook that she was weeding from her extensive collection: Classic Chinese Recipes. It looks to be a terrific resource and I’m excited to have Quinn pick a few recipes for us to try. The cookbook was accompanied by 4 super cool melamine plates, which I know my boy is going to love, and will pair perfectly with the chopsticks our family thoughtfully brought upstate for us after their recent meal in Chinatown. Talk about Chinese delivery! How lucky are we?
Over the summer, I did a little more than my usual television watching. It was too hot to do anything else, people. Don’t judge! I binge watched the entire Breaking Bad series, finally finished Downton Abbey and, on my chiropractor’s recommendation, blew through Grace and Frankie. I don’t regret the hours I spent on the couch with the remote nearby, but I do wish I had devoted more time to another Netflix series, Chef’s Table. I mean, if I had, I could have spent longer mooning over Massimo Bottura…
Despite working in restaurant for decades, I’ve never dated a chef, (hmmm, maybe that’s because I’ve worked in restaurants for decades?) but this Massimo guy is absolutely dreamy. He’s handsome, funny, beyond creative in the kitchen, appreciative of his employees, generous and madly in love with his wife. Pretty much the ideal guy.
Read this article, preferably with a hunk of good Parmesan-Reggiano and a glass of wine. I think you’ll like him, too. Do you have a chef crush?
Things have been so busy lately that I’ve fallen a bit behind in my Bon Appetits. I finally took a few minutes this weekend to catch up on the most recent issues, and the timing couldn’t have been better – there was a simple pasta recipe and, other than the pancetta, I had everything on hand. A quick trip to the grocery store and I was all set.
This recipe is easy – a handful of ingredients and very little hands on prep until the very end. I could definitely imagine swapping out the squash for cauliflower or some other roastable vegetable (sweet onions?) according to season.
Bon Appetit has really been killing it lately. The recipes, articles and illustrations have been wonderfully inspiring while remaining approachable, unlike, in my opinion, Gourmet. If you’re looking for a simple and quick meal that is perfect for family, or someone you may be interested in impressing, this just might be the one. Two thumbs up.
So far, it’s been a particularly relaxed holiday season. I’ve been on my game – my freezer has 8 quarts of assorted homemade cookie dough ready to thaw and bake, the door has a wreath and the dining room a decorated tree. The last of the Christmas cards went in the mail 3 days ago and I’ve got 4 rolls of wrapping paper – and tape.
Holiday preparations are so well in hand that I’m adding challenges to the upcoming days. I’ve got a few recipes which I’ll be debuting over the next few days, a riff on apple fritter waffle donuts, overnight pull-apart brioche cinnamon roll bread and a killer roast for Christmas Eve. And, yes, I already ordered the beef from the butcher. How did I manage to be so on top of things? I’d have to say it was because I remembered to put a few things for myself on this year’s gift list.
Last week, I loaded two of the three boys into the car and drove to go pick out a tree. At Price Chopper. Yep, we bought our tree from the Golubs, the same folks from whom I bought the potatoes and onions for our latkes. Talk about one-stop shopping! Generally we go out to rural Rensselear County for our tree, not suburban Slinglerlands, but the week’s wet snow made the appeal of tromping through a field searching for a tree pretty minimal. I gave myself the gift of simplicity. $35.00 and car filled with pine needles later, we have, as always, the perfect tree.
Last night, I had a hankering for latkes. Even though it was Friday and I felt kind of beat, I made the effort to grate the potatoes and chop the onion and fry a batch of latkes. With each step, I considered, then accepted, what I had to do next to get this out of the norm meal on the table. As the pancakes fried, I peeled apples for a quick sauce and grilled sausages. We didn’t sit down to enjoy our dinner until after 8:00, but I felt so relaxed because I didn’t rush the process or myself. I gave myself the gift of indulging in something I was really craving – sour cream and generous glass of Riesling included.
During these often hectic holiday weeks, when so very much (festivities, shopping, food and drink) is crammed into each day, I purposefully left my calendar open. I quietly refused to commit myself or take on obligations. It has been remarkable. I’ve been available to do some fun relatively last minute things. I’ve been writing and reading, taking long walks with Jeter and enjoying my home and boys. I gave myself the gift of time.
I hope you’re giving yourself something priceless, too.