Friday, August 29, 2008

Peach Upside Down Cake

I made a quick Peach Upside Down Cake with some of the peaches that I got from our Chesterfield fruit picking expedition. It turned out great!

Peach Upside Down Cake

1/4 cup butter
1/2 brown sugar
2-4 small to medium peaches, sliced
1/2 cup butter
1/2 sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 salt
1/2 c milk

Grease a 9 inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 350. Melt 1/4 cup of butter. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly into baking dish. Arrange peaches on top of butter and sugar. Cream butter, sugar and egg together. Mix flour, baking and powder together in a separate bowl. Alternately mix flour mixture and milk into butter mixture ending with flour. Pour batter into baking dish. Bake f0r 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool cake in baking dish for 15 minutes or so. Turn cake out onto serving platter.


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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pictures from Stawberry Hill in Chesterfield, NJ

The Kids

A beautiful crape myrtle tree


My girls

Japanese plums

Italian plums

Macintosh apples ready to pick

Lots of nectarines

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Happy Trip to Pick Fruit in Chesterfield, NJ

I just got back from a trip to Stawberry Hill Farm in Chesterfield, NJ. Christine, my youngest daughter and son and his girlfriend drove along the beautiful backs roads on western Ocean County and Burlington County to the farm. The weather was beautiful. We set our GPS to "avoid highways" and traveled amongst the beautiful farms and woodlands. I commented to Christine, "It's hard to believe we are riding through the most densely populated state in the country". Many people from other states and other parts of New Jersey don't know that this part of Jersey exists. It is what gave New Jersey it's nickname, The Garden State.

The farm has a had a very good growing season. We picked Gala and Macintosh Apples. We picked perfeclty ripe peaches and beautiful nectarines. We also picked purple plums. I have plans for all of them which I will be sharing with you here.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Remaking My KIds' Favorite: Kicked Up Shepherd's Pie

One of my kid's favorite meals is Shepherd's Pie. For years this dish has been a quick and easy weekday meal, but for me has always been marginal because we always use prepared ingredients that are in the pantry. Our usual way of making this dish is to brown a pound of ground beef, mix in a can of mushroom soup, pour in a can of drained corn and top the dish with instant mashed potatoes and bake the whole thing in the oven. (Sounds gross, I know). I decided to do this dish, but to kick it up a notch, (to quote Emeril). I browned the beef as usual and deglazed the pan with a little beef stock. Then I browned some chopped onions and sliced mushrooms. I mixed these with the beef as well as some left over corn I had cut off the cob. Then I mixed in a thick bechamel sauce. Next I made fresh mashed potatoes that I enriched with cream cheese. Finally, I topped the whole casserole with Muenster cheese and cooked it in the oven until it brown and bubbly. It came out pretty good!

Kicked Up Shepherd's Pie


2 T butter
1 package mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion
1 lb ground beef
1/2 beef stock
1 c thick bechamel sauce
1 & 1/2 cups corn removed from the cob or a can of corn
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. sweet paprika
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground allspice
salt & pepper

Saute the onion until slightly caramelized. Remove from pan. Saute mushrooms until soft. Remove from pan. In the same pan brown the ground beef. Pour off excess fat. Remove beef from pan. Deglaze the pan with beef stock. Return all the ingredients to the pan. Blend in bechamel sauce, corn and spices. Pour into a casserole dish.


4-5 medium potatoes, boiled
2 T butter
1/2 c. cream cheese
1/2 c. shredded Muenster cheese.

Mash potatoes with butter, cream cheese and milk. Spread on top of beef mixture. Top with shredded cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to one hour until top is nicely brown and the filling is bubbly.


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Friday, August 22, 2008

A Big Bunch of Basil

I bought a big bunch of basil at the Toms River Farmers Market. It was so beautiful I couldn't pass it up. It was practically the size of a small bush and was only $1.25. When I got it home I thought -- what should I do with this? I put it in water and brought a bunch of it up to my sister-in-laws when we went to my niece's birthday party. Betty used it on some nice fresh mozzarella and tomatoes she had.

This is one of my favorite things to do with fresh basil and the window of opportunity for the most delicious rendition is short, probably from the end of July when the first Jersey tomatoes appear to the middle of September. I put this together in a really simple way. I arrange slices of tomato and mozzarella in a concentric circles around a large plate. Then I chiffonade a good handful of basil. Then I drizzle the whole plate with extra virgin olive and finally sprinkle it with a few twits of freshly ground black pepper. This is one the most tasty and simple pleasure.

Another thing I did with the big bunch of basil is I made washed the leaves, put them in baggies and froze them. The girl at the farmer's market told me I could do this. I haven't tried it before so it will be interesting to see how it does.

I also made a beautiful frittata with fresh tomato, asiago cheese, and Parmesan cheese. I arranged the basil leaves in a pattern over the top of the frittata before popping under the broiler. That was pretty tasty.

Alas, I did not get to make the pesto that I had hoped to make. Unfortunately my blender container broke and I have to get a new one. Fortunately we still have a few weeks for bumper crops of basil, so I will give the pesto idea on more shot.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's For Dinner? How About Some Goat?

I read an interesting article today in Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette about goat becoming a more common menu item. I have only eaten goat twice, both time while in Jamaica on a missions trip where I had curried goat and a soup made with goat. I enjoyed the curried goat but the soup seemed to be mostly bones, although the flavor was good. In our area we have a lot of hallal butchers where you can buy goat, although I think my wife would object to me using some. Anyone out there cooking with goat?

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Friend's of Meghan Beef Steak Dinner

Last night Becca, Christine and I attended the Friend's of Meghan Beef Steak Dinner. Meghan is a young lady we have known for years who is fighting brain cancer and the community came together to raise money to assist her in her fight. It was an awesome event. For those of you who don't know what a Beef Steak Dinner is, you can read all about it here. It is a North Jersey way of raising money for politicos, high school booster clubs, and all kinds of other causes. It was catered by Baskinger's in Clifton, NJ. They did a great job. I have posted some food oriented pictures of the event for your enjoyment.

Luscious slices of beef tenderloin roasted rare, dipped in butter and served on rounds of Italian bread.

Some folk skip the bread, keep the slices to keep track of the how much they have eaten and then the table builds a bread tower. Above is one of the more impressive bread towers.

However, Table 11 constructed by far the most impressive tower. It was a great evening.

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What Can I Cook With Ground Chicken?

I've never asked for recipes on House Hubbie's before, but there is a first time for everything. My wife thinks I need to eat more healthfully. In her campaign toward that end, she bought a package of ground chicken. Now I have lots of recipes that use ground beef, and I have started to figure out what to do with ground turkey. I am of the belief that in most instances a cook should not just substitute ground turkey for ground beef as the two have different flavors and whatever you do, you try to enhance the flavor of the main ingredient not hide it. So, with chili for instance, I make chili that uses ground beef differently from chili that uses ground turkey. Also, in the case of "turkey burger", instead of just fixing it like a hamburger, I put "thankgivingish" condiments on my turkey burger--I put a couple of sage leaves on it as it cooks, I use cranberry sauce as a condiment on the sandwich, etc. I have gotten to enjoy ground turkey not as a substitute for beef, but as an ingredient that has its own unique flavors. So today I am wondering, how can I accomplish the same thing with ground chicken. If you have a good recipe that uses ground chicken, post it with a link to your recipe. Thanks for the input.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nana Noding's Norwegian Waffles

Becca, my oldest daughter is spending a few days at home before heading back to college. When one of the college kids is home, they always want ask us to cook some of their favorites. Yesterday the favorite that was requested was Norwegian waffles. Norwegian waffles are sweeter than regular waffles and have sour cream in the batter. They are usually baked on a heart shaped waffle iron. You can top your waffles with sour cream, preserves, fruit compote or thinly sliced Gjedost cheese, or you can eat them the way Becca likes them--with butter and a sprinkle of sugar. Here's my wife's family recipe for Norwegian waffles.

Norwegian Waffles

3 eggs, separated
1/2 c sugar
1 c flour
1/2 pint sour cream
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t vanilla
pinch salt
1 T melted butter

Whip egg yolks together with sugar. Add flour, baking powder, vanilla, salt, sour cream and butter. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites. Gently fold into batter. Cook on heart shaped waffle iron.


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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lightning Stikes During Lunch!

Wow, has this ever happened to you? I was having lunch with my two daughters, my wife and my daughter's friends at La Carreta Restaurante Mexicano in Keene, NH. It was a really good meal. We finished our entree's and were beginning to ponder whether or not we should share a slice of fried cheese cake for desert. All of the sudden, a sound like an explosion rang out, I saw a fire ball of red and orange out the window and sparks traveled from the window across some pipes on the ceiling and along an iron rail! I heard the sizzle of electricy and the smell of ozone filled the air. I jumped up to go the window to see what had happened. We saw a lamp post with broken right near the window. We realized that the building had either been struck by lightening or there was a near miss. After the excitement died down, we sat down to begin our contemplation once again. The waiter came over to us and said, I need to ask you to evacuate the building because it is on fire. So we went outside and waited under the awning for our check while the fire trucks started to pull up. Then we went across the way to get ice cream for desert. Crazy and true!

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Who Knew? Julia Child, the Original Celebrity Chef Was a Spy!

I did for one! The internet and newspapers have been all atwitter lately about the release of the personnel records of 24,000 people who were part of the OSS (The Office of Strategic Services). The OSS was the WWII era forerunner to the CIA. Among those whose records were released were Arthur Schlesinger, who later became a speech writer for John F. Kennedy, Miles Copeland, father of Stewart Copeland, drummer for the band The Police, and Julia Child, the original celebrity Chef. For the foodies who read these blogs, Julia Child's spy connection was already well known. I first read about Julia's OSS history in The Greatest Generation, and the connection was elaborated on in the Food Channel's excellent documentary on Mrs. Child.

I always tell my wife, "Julia Child taught me to cook". I was just a kids when I became fascinated by Julia's black and white TV antics on The French Chef. Here are a couple of videos in tribute to Julia. Bon Appetite!

And then there is this classic!

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Downtown Toms River Farmers Market--Toms River, NJ

Christine and I took some time yesterday afternoon to visit the Downtown Toms River Farmers Market. It is held at Huddy Park in Toms River every Wednesday from June to October, from Noon to 6 p.m. Besides being a great place to find locally grown produce, it is a great place for a nice stroll along the river on a lazy summer afternoon. The number of vendors is not huge, but there is a nice variety and the folk are displaying their wares live, work and farm right in our own backyard.

Being the pickle lover that I am, the first stop I made was to the Pickle-licious stand. Their booth is an homage to all things brined or pickled. They offer a large variety of pickled cucumbers, fresh sauerkraut, green tomatoes and olives. Grab a toothpick to sample a taste of any or all of their products. My favorite were the half sours which are crunchy, briny and garlicky almost fresh cucumbers. The other favorite were the citrus olive. This was was a medley of Greek olives, kalamata olives, and various green olives with slices of lemons and oranges in a spicy brine.

In addition to Pickle-licious other prepared food purveyors at the market include The Lithuanian Bakery, Italian Treasures, and the Peanut Man.

We purchase produce from several of the stands. We made arrangements with Krowicki's Farm in New Egypt to get a half bushel of cucumbers for the bread and butter pickles we are going to do later this month. We purchase a giant bunch of basil from Fresh Pick Farm in East Windsor, NJ for some pesto that I will be making this evening. Our favorite stand though, for the sheer variety of produce and quality of the products was E. & R. and Son Organic Farm from Monroe Township. The picture above is of some of their products. Each of their bins has a picture of the field from in which the produce was grown on the front of it which was interesting.

A really fun stop was to the Herbertsville Honey Company stand. The Bergs are award winning beekeepers who produce their honey from apiaries located at various organic farms and other properties located around central NJ. Mr. Berg was kind enough to give me jar of Herbersville Heat, which is chili pepper infused honey. This honey won the hot pepper award at the 2007 New Jersey State Beekeepers Association Show. I can't wait to experiment with it. I'll be doing about post about my fun their product.

With summer winding down, you can take a walk along the Toms River on a Wednesday afternoon and have fun cooking with changing bounty of nature's harvest. It's worth a trip.


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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Easy as Pie: Simple, Quick and Delicious Pie Crust

To make a great pie, you need a great pie crust. Pie crust is easy. There is a simple ratio to making pie crust and you adapt it anyway you want. Just remember this, the more short the pie crust is (that is the more the fat to starch ratio and the bigger the pieces of fat) the more flaky the crust. Also, the less water, the more tender the crust. The perfect ratio is of fat to starch is a 1 to 2 ratio. However much crust you want to make use one part fat to two parts starch and just enough water to bring the dough together and make it easy to roll out. For my pies I unsalted butter and all purpose flour. I don't have unsalted butter, omit any salt. I also use ice water. The ice water keeps the fat globules form melting into the flour. Also, I use the old fashioned pastry cutter method to cut the fat into the flour because I think a food processor mixes the dough to much. Remember it is those fat globules that are going to melt in the oven and give you a crispy, tender, and flaky crust so you want nice little pieces of fat covered with flour--this is what you are shooting for. Also, if you don't have a pastry cloth and stocking for your rolling pin, you should definitely invest in one. It makes rolling out the dough and transferring it to the pie plate so much easier.

Here is the recipe for the single 9 inch crust I used for my peach crumb pie.

Pie Crust

1/2 cup of flour
1/4 cup of unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
ice water

Mix flour and salt together. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter until it is crumbly and about the size of dried navy beans. Add ice water (about 3 T to start) and mix the flour mixture together with a fork until the dough just comes together and can be rolled out. Place dough on a floured pastry cloth and shape into a disk. Roll out dough with a floured rolling pin into a circle just larger than the pie pan. Dust the dough with flour, flip it in half by folding over the pastry cloth. Dust underside of dough with flour and flip again folding dough into a quarters. Slide dough from cloth into pie pan. Press around the edge, and trim edge to about a an inch below outside of pie pan. Fold dough under around edge of pie pan and crimp with floured fingers.


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Peach Crumb Pie

Peach Crumb Pie

1 nine inch pie crust baked blind for 15 minutes at 350 degrees

4 cups freestone peaches, peeled and sliced
3 Tbs minute tapioca
1 C sugar
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
dash salt

Crumb Topping
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 T butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients for filling. Combine ingredients for topping, work with fingers until large crumbs form. Sprinkle topping evenly across filling. Make a tin foil color and put it around outside of pie crust, bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until thick bubbles appear and crumbs are lightly browned to the center of the pie.


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Monday, August 11, 2008

How to Freeze Fresh Peaches

Last weekend in our jaunts around Pennsylvania Dutch country we headed over to Weaver's Orchards where we bought a half bushel of peaches for $16.99. We wanted to put up the peaches in the freezer so we could enjoy the juicy sweet taste of summer all winter long. We probably ate a dozen or so peaches in the next couple of days, and put aside enough to make a fresh peach pie, but what was left yielded eight quarts of peaches.

It is a pretty simple thing to put up fruit in the freezer. You save some money and have the taste of summer all year long. We used to can peaches, then we progressed to freezing them in syrup and finally over the year we perfected this really simple way to freeze peaches.

The most important thing to do is to start with a good peach. They should be freestone peaches and be ripe, but not soft. They should also have a skin that peels easily without having to blanch the fruit. The peaches we got from Weaver's were Red Haven peaches. This is the variety that we like to use for freezing and it always produces a great result.

The most labor intensive part of the process is the peeling and slicing. I make a slice around the seam of the peach and pull the skin off starting with the peach. If the peach is of proper ripeness the skin should pull off without having to cut off any of the flesh. After peeling, I cut slices off the stone. Next you need to treat the peaches with Ascorbic Acid so they don't go brown. I use Fruit Fresh, but I don't follow the proportions on the label as they use to much sugar in my opinion. Finally you need to pack you fruit in sugar.

Recipe for Freezing Fresh Peaches

8 quarts of skinned and sliced fresh ripe peaches
8 quart freezer bags
8 T Fruit Fresh
4 C sugar

Divide the peaches among the bags making sure to leave some head room. Mix 1 T of fruit fresh and 1/2 of sugar into each bag. Stir the fruit and sugar mixture in the bag. Allow to sit for 15 minute or so until some juice forms. Seal bags and place them in the freezer.

I love to eat these peaches all by them selves or over vanilla ice cream. You can also use a quart for the filling for a pie or a peach cobbler.


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Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Fun Food Filled Day in Lancaster County, PA -- Part 2

Day two of our overnight at our friends home in Lancaster County began with coffee and getting ready for a task that is not part of our New Jersey life style . . . taking our to the dump. Not a very pleasant task, but the side benefit is that on the way home we stopped to get our breakfast treats from a hidden Lancaster County Gem. Way up in the hills overlooking the fertile ridges and valleys of the least touristy section of Lancaster County, there sits a yellow house that turns out delicious hand made donuts and backed goods. Sadie's Bakeshop is run out the the basement of their Amish farmhouse. The address is 489 Lambert Rd, Narvon, PA. As we arrived for our morning selection, we spotted freshly put up banana pepper and dill pickles, waiting to be shelved. Russ picked up a jar of dills. Since I plan on doing my own pickles in a couple of weeks, I held off on these. I was there for the baked goods. I picked up 2 trays of pecan sticky buns, some cream filled donuts, some apple fritters, and some butternut covered donuts. These baked good are like nothing you get from Krispy Creme or Dunkin' Donuts. They are made with loving care from old family recipes, using an abundance of top quality ingredients. "English" (that's what the PA Dutch call us outsiders) drive from miles around for Sadie's donuts, sticky buns, and pies.

Something that is pretty interesting about the Amish is that although they live separate from the "English" world and shun much of modern technology, they have figured out ways to have some comforts and conveniences without connecting to the "outside" world. For instance, at Sadie's if you look up you will see pipes running along the ceiling. These pipes are nut for water, rather they are for compressed air, which they use to power such things as fans, and presses and other tools. All of the cooking is done with bottle gas, so they do not need to rely on the gas company. Their lighting is from bottle gas and you will notice in an Amish or Old Order Mennonite home light fixtures that have the kind of mantles in them that are used in Coleman lanterns.

After feasting on coffee and Sadie's goodies back at the house, my wife and Debbie headed off to look at furniture at the shops in the area and Russ and I continued our food journey. We traveled along on of the roads along the way, stopping at different stand run by the locals. Our final stop was at the farm stand started by Russ's friend, whom we know as Pappy. Pappy and his wife Mammy, preside over an Old Order Mennonite family near our friend's house. They have twelve children, most of whom are married and have farms surrounding Mammy and Pappy's place. We stopped at Pappy's farm and I picked up some freshly picked cantaloupe and some zucchini and a loaf of Mammy's home made bread. After doing our shopping we went around back to Pappy's house and he invited us in. He offered us some watermelon, which he had just picked from their fields. It was sweet, juicy and delicious. We spent some time talking about our families and lives. Pappy took us around back to show us his son's carpentry shop. One of pappy's son has made a living harvesting wood from old barns and making rustic furniture from it to sell to the "English". He does beautiful work. In keeping with the Old Order Mennonite ways, all of his tools, from planers, joiners, tables saws, et al, are powered by hydraulics driven by a propane fueled generator.

After leaving Mammy and Pappy's place, we made our way over to Berk's County for a stop at Weaver's Orchards. I bought a half a bushel of peaches. When we got back to Jersey I put 12 aside to make a peach pie and I froze the rest. I am looking forward to the winter months when I can thaw out a quart of peaches and think of my happy weekend in PA.

When we got home the girls were waiting for us. We had a bite to each, finished our card game, noshed on the baked stuff from the morning and the left over cake from the night before, laughed about old times and then headed back to New Jersey so we wouldn't be driving in the dark. It was a great little get away and I am thankful for good friends who live in interesting places.

Stay tuned for recipe's for Peach Pie, a pasta zucchini dish I made with produce from Pappy's stand and instruction on how to freeze fresh peaches.


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Monday, August 4, 2008

A Fun Food Filled Day in Lancaster County, PA -- Part 1

Our friends from my seminary days, Russ and Debbie, live in a beautiful part of Lancaster County, PA. Several times a year we get together with them to play cards, eat, laugh and share our lives together. Lancaster is pretty touristy area but because of Russ and Debbie live there, we get to enjoy the wonderful things about visiting Pennsylvania Dutch country without the tourist traps. They live far away from the main tourist arteries in rolling hills among Amish and Mennonite farmers. It is a beautiful peaceful place.

One of the joy we share with the Russ and Debbie is a love a good food and enjoy the bounty of the land is always a part of our visits there. We arrived on Friday night and stayed over till Saturday afternoon. On Friday Russ took us to a great steak house called Johnny's Bar and Steakhouse in Stevens, Pa (the north central corner of Lancaster County).

The four of us are all beef eaters and I was unaware there was a steak house in this part of PA that could serve up a steak as good as one you can get here in the New York metro area. Johnny's is a hidden away spot and from the outside you would never think of it as a premium place to eat. It is downstairs and around the back from the Silk City Diner (not about place to eat either I am told) on Rt. 272 between Adamstown and Ephrata. However, when you walk in the place, all doubt about the prospects for a good meal are replace with anticipation for a mouth watering dining experience. The room is sports modern decor, a bustling bar and creative neon lighting. We were seated at a table for four that was under an air conditioning vent. When we told the server that our wives were to cold, they quickly moved us to a table in the corner.

We spent some time looking at the menu which included a great selection of steaks, chops, chicken, fish and salads. In addition to the regular menu there were several specials that were tempting. We ordered our drinks and put in an order for a crap dip appetizer to share. The dip was a delicious concoction of large pieces of lump crab meat, mayo, cream cheese, artichoke hearts, and a variety of cheese, served brown and bubbly in a casserole with pita points. The casserole was plenty for four but the pita points were a bit skimpy. No worry however, because the dip was so delicious we finished it with our spoons.

We ordered our entrees which came with a choice of soup or salad and a choice of a side dish. We all ordered salads, which were garden salads with a choice of dressing. I had blue cheese dressing. The salads were a nice, chilled, fresh mixture of crispy iceberg, romaine and mesculin served with ripe tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots. It was nothing special, but was well prepared and tasty. They served some outstanding freshly backed rolls along with the salad.

Our entrees arrived in a timely fashion. Russ ordered the 24 oz Angus porterhouse that was a special. Christine and I had the Johnny's Special, which was a 10 oz center cut sirloin and Debbie ordered the baby back ribs. I have to say that the steaks were indeed "seasoned and grilled" to perfection as the menu described them. Russ's 24 oz medium rare porterhouse was nicely charred and beautifully juicy on the inside. Our 10 oz sirloins were pink, juicy and tender. Debbie's baby back ribs were a full rack of meaty ribs that fell off the bone. I ordered a baked potato for my side, Debbie ordered garlic mashed potatoes and Christine and Russ ordered asparagus with hollandaise sauce. In addition we shared an order of sauteed mushrooms. The sides were great. My backed potato had a nice crust of salt on the outside of it's crispy skin. The garlic mashed potatoes were creamy and flavorful. The asparagus were tender and the sauce had a nice balance of butter and lemon. The mushrooms were sauteed in wine and were quite delicious.

After dinner, instead of getting desert we ordered a tiramasu cake from the diner upstairs to eat at the house later. When we got home, Russ and Deb's daughter and son in law were married. A couple of years ealier I officated at their "renaissance" themed wedding. It was good to see them doing well. Russ' 8o some year old mom who lives with them joined us as well as their 14 old son. We played a rousing game of "Apples to Apples" and munched on the tiramasu cake. After the game we spent a few more hours playing the first half of our favorite card game, Shanghai. Christine was winning when we could no longer keep our eyes open. It was a great night, and the next day we had a similarly great time which I will write about in part 2.
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