Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I'm ready for my real vacation

Title inspired in part by Tony Bourdain's entry in How I Learned To Cook, "Ready for My Close-Up".

But the rest of the inspiration is that we went off to Door County last Thursday, and did some fun things: stayed at the Whistling Swan in Fish Creek; the pictures make the place look more monumental than it really is, but are accurate - I wrote my last blog post in the right hand chair - swiped both of those rose-covered pillows to lean on. We ate dinner at Trio, where the food was good, but the wine was not. We had breakfast at the White Gull Inn, cherry pancakes, yum. We did a bit of biking, and walking.

Our main event was staying at the Washington Hotel, on Washington island. We took just our bikes over on the ferry, leaving the car on the mainland. I took a cooking class from Monique Hooker, where we went foraging for island foods, and came back and drank wine while we watched her cook it. I liked Monique a lot, she was inspirational for me; I'd like to grow up to be a cooking teacher like her, or maybe "retire to" - as she did - is the better way to put it.

We made an olive oil cake with blueberries and apples that we picked (Mark pronounced it "good; needs more fruit" - I think the batter will be the perfect base for Stella's bakery-style rhubarb muffins, that he likes to buy at the market); a braise, or ratatouille of various vegetable we picked - tomatoes on the bottom for juice, carrots, green beans (I missed cutting the green beans, because John called, but she sliced both the beans and the carrots on the diagonal) onion, amaranth leaves. We also ate some purslane that was growing in between rows at the garden - Whole Foods sells it for $4 per bunch, but it's really a weed - it was good, both raw and fried, and it doesn't change color when you cook it (they served us the white wine with it - I sent the pepper grinder around ) Monique says purslane is good for high cholesterol; she is treating herself with it. Monique had found a puffball mushroom in her yard as she was getting ready to leave DeSoto to come to Washington Island - she cut it into steaks, sauteed them in butter, and served them with a sauce made from roasted garlic, reduced balsamic vinegar, and the olive oil from roasting the garlic - John will love it. And we made a soup, that was mostly kale, potatoes, and sausage for seasoning, kind of like the Portuguese soup, that uses their spicey sausage, LinguiƧa - we used a garlic summer sausage; I think Monique said they made it on Washington Island, but if not, it was for sure from Wisconsin.

When we left Sunday morning, the cake was on the breakfast bar, and the amaranth leaves were in a vase on the front desk.

We biked around a bit on the Island, noticing the fields of wheat for Capital Brewery Island Wheat Beer (John's favorite). In the cooking class, we got to see more fields, and a vegetable farm - Leah Caplan, the chef/proprietor of the hotel has some 900 acres planted in wheat, flax, and buckwheat (I am sure I will hear more about this at Food for Thought). We also got to eat a dinner at the Hotel, and their brick oven pizza was as good as advertised.

But ....

Mark vehemently did not like the breakfasts at the Hotel, he thought it was the all-natural version of what you get at Holiday Inn Express - there was coffee, tea, juice, fruit, yogurt & granola; good bread, and a toaster and jam, butter and peanut butter. There were some pastries, but small sweet things, not the scones and muffins that Mark prefers. I thought the presentation was perfect, the dishes were nice, the pitchers were nice, there were cloth napkins, and there was plenty for me to eat, but Mark thought it was extremely disappointing.

And ....

John and a bunch of his friends went to see Rage Against the Machine, reunited, at Alpine Valley, so he & I did a lot of consulting on how to get there, via cell phone. We had 5 straight days of rain, and flooding in Southwest WI (Alpine is SE) so the car got stuck in the mud, on the hillside that Alpine calls a parking lot, and the kids had trouble getting home. We discovered that my cell phone works all over Door County, including Washington Island, and even on the fucking ferry over - at all times of day and night. Which also did not improve Mark's mood - it's not so fun to get waked up by your sleeping companion's cell phone at 1:00 a.m. and again at 6:30, not to mention the ensuing companion's lengthy conversation with kid ...

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