Category Archives: Food

Dinner at Jacobi's

Welcome to the Northwoods! Dean and I heard about Jacobi’s from the Pasholks (who hated it but thought we might like it). We did. In fact we liked it so much we chose it for our 30th anniversary dinner (instead of a trip to New Zealand or Newfoundland). Really good restaurants are hard to come by in Northern Wisconsin, but Jacobi’s is definitely a really good restaurant. I chose it because I have history in the area and I love the restaurant. I think you will too.

It’s Saturday, August 18, 2021. The United States has a new (Democratic) president and both the House and Senate have Democratic majorities. As for COVID-19, social distancing worked and the spread of the disease slowed. There is now a vaccine for the virus as well as highly effective treatment. It’s still out there, but with the vaccine and treatment, the world is back to normal.

We step out of the 2021 Subaru Outback equipped with the time and place travel module in front of Jacobi’s of Hazelhurst in Hazelhurst, Wisconsin. The Outback stopped at each of our homes on March 21, 2020 (March 22 in NZ) to pick us up for a dinner in a better future.

The outside of Jacobi’s is unassuming, but when you walk through the door and see the beautiful (and fully-stocked) wooden bar, you know you are in a special place. We have a seat at the bar. I order an old fashioned, and encourage the rest of you to do the same. Susan, who has given up alcohol, has sparkling water (unless, because this is a fantasy, you would like an old fashioned as well?) We’re loud, we know that, but we’ve been friends for over ten years and most of us have never met.

We’re seated in the back room. The one with the fireplace. Even if this is summer, let’s say the fireplace is lit and we’re near enough to it to feel cozy but not close enough to be too hot. Wisconsin late summers can be cool. We examine the menu.

The server brings us fresh baked bread and butter along with a complimentary appetizer of fresh watermelon, feta and balsamic vinegar. She asks us what we’d like for drinks and if we want appetizers. Helen orders dry red wine (a whole bottle!), onion rings and garlic bread (to share). Mali orders spinach artichoke dip to share and a glass of California Chardonnay. IB and Bridgett both order a boulevardier. Maureen orders something, but I cannot hear her over the talking. Susan sticks with sparkling water with a twist of lime (unless, since this is a fantasy…) and Kim orders a drink I’ve never heard of with top-shelf gin. I decide to move onto wine, and order a chardonnay.

Our drinks and appetizers arrive and we talk about our lives and how happy we are finally together in the same place. The food is exquisite as always.

The server returns for our dinner order. Helen orders spinach and garlic tortellini, Mali decides on the blackened chicken pasta but substitutes the chicken with blackened shrimp, I choose the pan fried walleye because walleye is one of my favorite fish. Susan asks if the chef can make her a salad for dinner because salad is Susan’s favorite food. The server assures Susan the chef will make a special salad with berries, nuts, heirloom lettuce, blackened chicken and hard boiled eggs. Bridgett chooses the black angus ribeye — because it is unadorned except for au jus. Maureen orders the pork tenderloin after making sure there were no almonds or anything made with almonds in the dish. IB selects the shrimp and tenderloin en brochette. Kim decides on the honey ginger grilled salmon. We order another bottle of dry red and chardonnay to share.

Our dinners arrive, and a few minutes of quiet descend on us while we enjoy our meals, the only sounds are murmurs of appreciation and a sigh or two. We’re all curious about Susan’s salad, it looks so delicious and healthy.

When the server asks if we would like to see the desert menu, Mali and Helen both order the double chocolate truffle pie. Maureen and Bridgett order the blueberry pie (which contains no almonds so Maureen is safe). I convince the rest of you (except Susan) to have ice cream drinks. I order a pink squirrel and Kim and IB order grasshoppers.

After dinner we sit back in our chairs and talk some more, more subdued now. We want the evening to go on and on, but we are needed back home. We hug goodbye. We climb into the Outback and are whisked back to our individual isolations in the midst of an unbelievable pandemic.

Molasses Cookies

Makes approximately 24 cookies

  • 12 T. Sweet Butter
  • ¼ c. Molasses
  • 1¾ c. Flour
  • ½ t. Ground Ginger
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • ½ t. Ground Cloves
  • 1 t. Cinnamon
  • ½ t. Baking Soda

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° (F)
  2. Melt butter
  3. Add sugar and molasses and mix
  4. Thoroughly beat egg and add to butter mixture, blend well
  5. Sift flour with spices, salt and baking soda, add to mixture, mix. (Batter will be wet)
  6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or alumunium foil and drop a tablespoon of batter on lined cookie sheet, leaving 3 inches between cookies. They will spread.
  7. Bake cookies until they start to darken, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven while soft.
  8. Let cool on parchment paper or foil

When Dean and I first moved to Alexandria we rented a house in the Beverly Hills neighborhood. Shortly after moving in, Ken and Pam, neighbors from across the street brought us a plate of delicious molasses cookies. This is their recipe. It’s good!

Julep

As we near the end of our kitchen renovation (yes, I will write about that here. Someday.) I am going through stacks of papers that we had in the bookshelf of the old kitchen. Today’s item is a ragged, yellowed-with-age recipe for a mint julep that I clipped from the Washington Post back when we lived in Alexandria and had a plentiful amount of mint growing in our yard.

Recipe for Mint Julep from WP in the 1980s. Content printed below picture

Julep

No sampling of bourbon recipes can omit instructions for making a mint julep, a powerful drink that visitors to Kentucky generally find themselves drinking very slowly. A silver julep cup is the ideal vessel for serving the drink as it can be chilled so well, but a glass tumbler does quite nicely in a pinch. This and the following two recipes (not shown here) have been adapted from Marion Flexner’s superb cookbook “Out of Kentucky Kitchens,” published in 1949.

  • 1 teaspoon superfine sugar (or more, to taste)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Shaved or crushed ice to fill the goblet
  • 1 to 2 ounces Kentucky bourbon
  • Few sprigs of fresh mint

Place the sugar and chopped mint in a small bowl. Bruise the mint well with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon, until the mixture becomes paste-like. Add the water and stir into a thickish green syrup. Fill a julep cup or glass half full of shaved ice. Pour the mint syrup and then the bourbon to taste over the ice. Fill the glass to the top with additional ice and garnish with sprigs of mint. Just before serving imbed a straw deeply into the crushed ice and cut it to the approximate height of the mint.

I must have made this recipe. In fact I think I did and decided that I was not a fan of mint juleps. I really should try again. Maybe in early May of next year.

 

Adventures in Sourdough

A little over a year ago I read (and blogged about) Robin Sloan’s Sourdough. One thing I didn’t mention in that post was that I wanted a sourdough starter. I did once own a sourdough starter but the guy who gave it to me neglected to tell me that I had to feed it, although he did send me a recipe for sourdough pancakes. His sourdough (from Alaska) was apparently descended from sourdough starters that the gold rush guys created. Needless to say, the sourdough starter died before I had a chance to use it.

Around Christmastime last year my son, who’d been given a sourdough starter a few weeks earlier, shared some with me and taught me how to feed it. I was hooked. I loved how the regular feedings of flour and water made the starter grow and bubble. I attempted my first couple of loaves of bread using just the nurtured starter. It was delicious, but didn’t rise liked I’d hoped. For my next attempt, I used yeast as well, and it rose beautifully.

I’ve continued to nurture my starter and occasionally bake a loaf of bread or a make pizza crust — which turns out fine, but is a little thick for my tastes.

One thing I didn’t know about sourdough starter is that you must discard all but 4 ounces each time you feed it. I didn’t like that idea — throwing out an organism that I’d nurtured and fed so carefully, so I tried to find ways to use the discard. One way was to make sourdough waffles — which made the fluffiest and most tasty waffles remember having ever eaten.

A month ago I was selected as host for our long-running book group and I chose Sourdough as the book we’d read. When I host book group I always serve food from the book we’ve read — this one was pretty easy. Sourdough! I also decided that I would make enough viable starter so my book group friends could take some home.

Not long after the earlier book group I started collecting the sourdough discard in a separate container than my personal batch. As the month continued I continued to regularly feed my batch, but also fed the discard. It didn’t take too long to have a 7-quart bowl full of sourdough starter sitting on the top shelf of my refrigerator. Not being a wiz in math I was not sure how much I would need for my friends. (duh — 12 4 ounce portions equals a lot less than 7 quarts). I even made a gluten-free starter for my gluten-free book group members.

7 quarts of bubbling ripe sourdough starter.
7 quarts of sourdough starter

So what was I going to do with 5 and a half quarts of lethargic sourdough starter? I googled “composting sourdough starter” and discovered that sourdough starter was a great addition to compost so I grabbed my bowl and headed to the compost bin. I opened it, started scraping the starter and saw bubbles form. I absolutely could not throw this living thing into my compost bin. There had to be another way.

So I advertised free sourdough starter on the neighborhood email list:

Dona Patrick
Fri, Apr 26, 5:39 PM (2 days ago)
to htcanet

I made far too much sourdough starter for my books group (we read Sourdough by Robin Sloan) and before I toss it in my compost bin I thought I would find out if any neighbors were interested in some. It will need to be fed once you get it home.
If so, let me know before Sunday evening.

Dona

I received only one response so I knew I needed to go farther afield if I wanted to find a home for more of the starter so I sent the same email to an email list that encompassed our whole zip code. It wasn’t long before I received ten more emails from people wanting sourdough starter. We negotiated pick-up times and people began arriving.

Everyone who has picked up the starter so far has been excited to get it, friendly and talkative. One woman needed assistance up the steps, other people have walked to the house — some with children in tow.

A couple have not responded to emails asking when they plan on coming, so I sent an email saying I was closing up shop at 1:00 pm. Two more will contact me when they get back to town. I have enough left for the stragglers and no-shows if they do still want some.

A few cups of lethargic sourdough starter
Not much left — this needs to be fed!

This has been a fun experience — I am not really surprised that sourdough starter is a prized commodity — I sure wanted some not long ago and apparently it is a big thing with millennials. I rarely meet the neighbors on the 20187 email list, so I am enjoying that aspect of it. Plus my sourdough starter has gone to some good homes. Maybe people will think about meeting me as they feed their starters years from now. Or maybe they will let it die. Either way, it is out of my hands.

And Robin Sloan is who I really have to thank for this week of sharing the starter with friends and neighbors.

Eat your greens

I don’t like vegetables. There. I said it. I know that the two or three of you who occasionally read this will find that horrific, but there it is. I don’t like vegetables.

While I am not a “super taster”, I think I find more things bitter than other people do. Maybe. I mean, I love Brussels sprouts and I don’t hate raw or barely cooked vegetables, but I also don’t crave them and will gladly hand them to someone else (aka Dean) after I have eaten a few for dinner. OH — and I hate hate hate cooked spinach. With a passion.

Therefore, the fact that I subscribed to a service that sends me a weekly “mini-harvest” of vegetables is kind of crazy. Not only do I get a box (picture a box the size to hold several – 8?- reams of printer paper) of vegetables (did I mention that I don’t like vegetables?) each week, most of them are misshapen, have spots, or are mis-sized. Yes, I subscribe to an “ugly produce” service. And I love it.

For some strange reason, “rescuing” produce makes me want to eat produce. I’ve made it a challenge (not a blog challenge — but, hmm, it could be) that whatever comes in my box gets eaten. I do pay a bit more to “edit” my “harvest” but other than that I eat what they send.

Tonight we’ll dine on artichokes and lettuce to compliment our purple potato puff topped wild rice, hotdish. Tomorrow I think we’ll eat shrimp scampi accompanied by spaghetti squash “noodles”. Sunday will likely be steak with mushrooms and fingerling potatoes with Brussels sprouts and perhaps more lettuce salad. Also, because of a blip in the software, we have too many eggs. I’m thinking lots and lots of deviled eggs.

Six recipes from The Free Press, Elgin, Illinois, 1970

In a bag of recipes, some handwritten, some clipped from newspapers or magazines, I found six that were clipped from the Free Press newspaper.

None of them look very healthy and only a few look appetizing.

Barbecued Short Ribs

I might actually make this recipe — it doesn’t look too bad.

Italian Rice

I’d call this recipe “Spanish Rice” instead of “Italian Rice.” I might make it because Dean likes Spanish Rice.

Quick Bean Broth

This recipe confuses me. Why would you take a small can of pork and beans, add over 4 times as much liquid and a tiny amount of onion? How can this be in any way tasty? I think I will pass on this one.

Crisp Cherry Surprise

I hate to admit that this sounds kind of tasty too. But unhealthy! I might try it if we host a 1970 themed party sometime.

Butterscotch Pudding Cookie and Pumpkin Bread

I might make these too. Just for “old time’s sake.”