Thursday, December 27, 2012

There's a Newf in My Soup's Reflections on 2012 - Memories and New Beginnings

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
                                                 ~T.S. Eliot


Dooley celebrated his 13th birthday in January, but we had to say goodbye in June. Trapper came into our lives in March and celebrated his first birthday this month. I turned 50 in June. In September, after six years, John and I went our separate ways. There were many tears in 2012, but I cherish mostly happy times, friends - old and new, family, health, a beautiful place to call home, amazing food and wine, my blog, doors opening to reveal new adventures, and the Newfs in My Soup who will always share my life through its ups and downs.

Dooley and Trapper meet in March

Goodbye, sweet boy - Wynship's Seabiscuit "Dooley"
(01/17/99 - 06/11/12)

Hello sweet boy - Wynship's Guardian of Trapper Peak
"Trapper" (born 12/17/11)


Travel was limited, but we kicked off 2012 with a week at The Home Ranch in Colorado where we provided food and ranch photography while savoring gourmet ranch cuisine, cross-country skiing, horseback riding in the snow, and cozy evenings in front of a roaring fire. Blog posts with more photos of our visit can be found here and here.

The Home Ranch, Clark, Colorado

Ranch breakfast of Tuscan Eggs

Making Pasta with Chef Hunter

Cross country skiers with ranch dog Amos leading the way

Venison Chops

In June, we ventured across the border to Rancho La Puerta in Tecate for a few days of healthy spa cuisine, massages, swimming, hiking and a Peruvian cooking class with visiting chef Liz Caskey. See our photo albums on Facebook here and here.

Early Morning - Rancho La Puerta's dining courtyard

Breakfast Hike to Rancho Tres Estrellas, the organic farm, and
 La Cocina Que Canta "the kitchen that sings"

Spa Cuisine


Although I haven't figured out a way to make a full-time, second career from blogging, it has opened several doors to exciting new ventures. I joined Wine & Dine San Diego as a reporter and photographer and have contributed articles about local restaurants and food and wine events. Our Friday lunch at Bali Hai with Chef Ben Lieberman (who has unfortunately moved on to a restaurant in Arizona) was particularly delectable with his creative presentations of local seafood and farm produce.

Bali Hai Island Sashimi Salad

We had a great time sampling a dozen or so Coronado happy hours to write this feature. In the fall, we were thrilled to attend the Tyler Florence Wine Dinner at Herringbone, La Jolla where I met and chatted with one of my most admired celebrity chefs turned winemaker.

Tyler Florence talks wine

We were excited to be part of the audience for The Greatest American Chefs Tour's final San Diego filming at House of Blues. Local chefs Matt Gordon, Ryan Johnston, Isabel Cruz and William Gustwillers entertained and enticed taste buds during an evening that began with lobster and ended with chocolate.

Chef Matt Gordon - Greatest American Chefs' Tour

Saiko Roll at Coronado Saiko Sushi's Happy Hour

Dessert of the Year - Butterscotch Budino with Salted Caramel
Sip Wine Bar, at Flavor Del Mar (similar recipe here)

My next assignment in January promises to be one of the best adventures yet, combining travel, food, world renowned chefs, and stunning winter scenery at the annual Chefs' Holidays, Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite.


We provided food photography services for several Coronado restaurants, including Il Fornaio, Coronado Brewing Company, Leroy's Kitchen, Village Pizzeria, and Delux Dogs, and photographed various food and wine events, including San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival, Gingerbread City, Celebrate the Craft, Suzie's Farm Strawberry Jam, Wine & Dine Prohibition, Navy Southwest Culinary Competition, Evolve Cuisine's Cambrian Event, and many Tuesday Night Tastings at Il Fornaio.

I spent an afternoon in the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival's Chef of the Fest judging tent. The Chef of the Fest Competition is judged by the San Diego Chapter of the American Culinary Federation, a professional organization of chefs and culinarians. In addition to ACF judges, celebrity chef guest judges rounded out the judging panel and included Food Network alum and James Beard award winner for 2001 Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year, Gale Gand, Food Network alums, The Hearty Boys, and Chef Suzette Gresham of Michelin-rated San Francisco restaurant Acquerello.

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival Celebrity Judges for Chef of the Fest Competition

Gale Gand's Bergamot Bread Pudding
 San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival Celebrity Chef Luncheon

Chef James Caruso, La Boca, Santa Fe, New Mexico
San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival Sherry Amore Class

Suzie's Farm Strawberry Jam

Wine & Dine Prohibition Party

Village Pizzeria, Coronado

Il Fornaio, Coronado - Tuesday Night Tasting
Festa Regionale Sicily

Il Fornaio, Coronado - Tuesday Night Tasting
Festa Regionale Puglia

Coronado Brewing Company Wahoo Tacos

San Diego Polo Club Spreckels Cup Finals

Chef Bernard Guillas, The Marine Room, La Jolla
Garnishing Lobster Bisque at Gingerbread City


I continued cooking along with French Fridays with Dorie, but not as much as I would have liked. Several of us exchanged Christmas cards and it was very touching to receive so many cards from all over the world, including one from Dorie in New York. A few stand-out recipes I tried from Around My French Table included Nutella Tartine (divine), Mussels and chorizo with pasta, Cocoa sablés, Warm scallop salad with corn, nectarines and basil, Endives, apples, and grapes (unique and surprisingly one of my favorites), and Chicken tagine with sweet potatoes & prunes.

Endives, apples and grapes

Orange-Cranberry Crepes with Nutella and Hazelnuts
Inspired by Dorie's Nutella Tartine

Mexican Hot Chocolate Sables
Inspired by Dorie's Cocoa Sables


Our Coronado Concert in the Park culinary challenges continued during the summer, with a little less involvement due to so many other projects. The first concert of the season, An Evening in Corsica, was inspired by one of Saveur magazine's dinner party menus. I shared my blog post with Saveur and we were awarded Plugrá Gourmet Club of the Month in August 2012. We received $500 to throw a gourmet dinner party which has yet to be planned.

Insalata di Baccelli e Pecorino (Fava and Pecorino Salad)

Themes for the other concerts in the park included: Mushrooms, Flowers & Weeds; Diners, Drive-ins and Dives; The Pacific Northwest; Fusion; Twisted; Beach Shack Snacks, and Stripped and Dipped. We polish off so much food and wine on these Sunday afternoons making it next to impossible to choose a few favorites. Out of my contributions to the picnic table, I loved Grandma Maroni's Meatballs (Diners, Drive-ins and Dives) and Salmon, Halibut and Scallop Ceviche (The Pacific Northwest) an interesting ceviche due to the combination of fish, coconut milk and lime juice in the marinade, and presentation in chunks of fresh coconut. 

Salmon, Halibut and Scallop Ceviche

Grandma Maroni's Meatballs


I'll conclude this year-end recap with a few more notable recipes of the year, in no particular order:

The Amazing Thomas Keller's Curried Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad

Tyler Florence's Ginger Spice Cake with Warm Cranberries
for Kai and Hillari's Novemberfest Party

Shucks, Why Did We Wait So Long?
Grilled Oysters with Garlic-Chile Butter

Pasta Love: Strozzapreti all'Amatriciana

Take Me Back to New Orleans! Donald's Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Trapper's Pumpkin Peanut Butter Holiday Treats

Now you can see why I don't have much time for the law ;-)

I look forward to many adventures in 2013, in and out of the kitchen, and wish you all a very Happy New Year filled with love, laughter, travels and, of course, good food and wine.


Denise & Trapper

Hotel Del Coronado Wine and Spirits Party

Elf on the Shelf Holiday Party

Trapper and his summer watermelon treats
Winner of Embrace Pet Insurance's Facebook Pet of the Week

Friday, December 21, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie: How to Make Dinner with Cheez-it-ish Crackers

Along about Wednesday afternoon, I took a look at this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe - Cheez-it-ish Crackers. Simple enough to make with only three ingredients and some spices, and I happened to have a 4-ounce wedge of Manchego cheese sitting by its lonesome in the refrigerator, but what was I going to do with a few dozen crackers mid-week?

Contemplating this further and deciding to stay with my Spanish themed Manchego Cheez-it-ish Crackers, I stopped at Whole Foods on the way home from work to gather up some complementary nibbles for a tapas platter...thinly sliced Jamón ibérico ham, shrimp, olives, membrillo (quince paste), and Marcona almonds.  I'm not into making much of a dinner for myself on weeknights, so tapas with a bottle glass of Tempranillo wine sounded just about right.

Dorie's Cheez-it-ish Crackers are your basic cheese crackers, best served freshly baked and still warm, with a glass of wine or cocktail before dinner.

Make the dough with 4 ounces of cheese (Dorie suggests cheddar, Gruyere, or Emmenthal), 5 ounces flour, 1 stick unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon white pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Pulse the ingredients together in the food processor until curds form. Dump out the dough, knead it together, divide in half, form into two disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to 3 days. Roll out a disk of dough, cut small rounds with a cookie cutter, transfer to a lined baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes. I gently pressed a Marcona almond into the center of each round before baking. Repeat with second disk of dough, or keep the second disk refrigerated and bake fresh crackers on another night.

While the crackers baked, I poured a glass of Tempranillo, arranged the deli items on my board and prepared Gambas al Ajillo - shrimp sauteed with olive oil, garlic, Spanish paprika, red pepper flakes, dry sherry and lemon juice.

Tapas for two, inspired by a recipe for Cheez-it-ish crackers!

Buttery, flaky, a touch of heat from the cayenne, and added crunch from the almond...


French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Trapper's Table: Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

It's my birthday today - I'm ONE year old!

It seems like only yesterday when I left my Newf mom and brother Paddington in Michigan and flew to San Diego. I'm so happy brother Nicholas came with me in that big scary airplane. When we arrived in San Diego, my new mom came up to see me and Nicholas. She didn't know which of us she would be able to take home, but I tugged at her heart strings and she fell hard for me.

When mom found out she could have me, I was so excited to come to my new home to Coronado. Dooley was there waiting for me. He was 13 years old and I'm fortunate to have been able to spend some quality time with such an awesome half-brother. He taught me a few things in those four months and I'm proud to carry on his gentle spirit.

I was kind of lonely when Dooley left us, but quickly made friends all over the island.
Just look at me - I was such an adorable pup. I attracted so much attention at Starbucks every morning, especially from cute little girls who came up to hug me all the time. They still do. 

 People always ask if they can take my picture and mom goes through the daily questions like how much I weigh, what breed, how much do I eat, and do I shed. And then there's those folks who point at me and call me a bear or, even worse, a St. Bernard or  Bouvier. Please! I just shake my head and let the drool fly.

Of course, during my first year, I did what most puppies do. I tore up a few plants and swallowed a few socks. I still seek out socks, but my latest trick is grabbing the dish towel off the counter and running through the house.

Mom buys me toys all the time, but I chew them up pretty fast.
For some reason, I just love having something in my mouth. My jolly ball is one toy I haven't been able to destroy and boy do I love that thing. You can see me in my jolly ball video on the blog's Facebook Page. 

This is my green duck. I actually still have him, but he's now the headless green duck.

 This used to be my favorite napping step, but then I got too big.

 This was my squirrel-cat. He was supposed to be indestructible.
I think he was almost $20. Bad kitty - he was history in less than 8 hours.

During the summer, I loved going out in the front yard for my watermelon snacks.
This photo won me "Pet of the Week" on the Embrace Pet Insurance Facebook Page.
After eating those three socks, mom decided to insure me.

I have not been to the vet in several months, so I'm not sure how much I weigh - I'm thinking at least 150 lbs. Mom feeds me well with a part raw diet of fish, turkey, lamb, veggies and fruit. I have my own Vitamix for blending all the veggies and fruit and we shop at Restaurant Depot for cases of fish and meat. I'm a growing boy!

Here's a fairly recent iPhone photo of me at Starbucks. Mom posted this one on Facebook and my Newf fans just went crazy. I have so many of my own Facebook fans it's ridiculous. Mom gets a few likes when she posts her food photos, but my likes skyrocket in comparison.

For my birthday, I got a new jar of Quackers duck jerky strips. Uncle Bradley surprised me with a bag of Nutter Butters at Starbucks this morning. Mom also made me these holiday dog treats featured in the American Kennel Club's December newsletter.

They're definitely blog-worthy, so I'm sharing them with you. Tell your mom to make you some!

This morning, on my birthday walk to Starbucks

Homemade Newf Treats all wrapped up for me!

They're made with whole wheat flour, pumpkin puree, peanut butter, eggs, and cinnamon! 

Simply whisk together the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another.

Combine the wet and dry in one bowl, knead it all together until a dough forms, roll it out, and use a dog bone-shaped cookie cutter to cut out about two dozen biscuits. 

Gather up the dough scraps, roll it out again, and cut more biscuits.

Bake for 40 minutes, allow to cool, and then sit like a handsome boy until you get one.

Happy Birthday to me!

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Biscuits
Courtesy of American Kennel Club
(Makes about 2 dozen biscuits)

2 1/2 cups whole wheat or barley flour
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Stir dry ingredients in medium bowl. In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, and peanut butter. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and knead thoroughly. Dough should be dry and stiff (add small amounts of water as needed to make it workable.  If dough is too sticky, add small amounts of flour).

Roll dough into half-inch thickness and cut into half-inch pieces, using a knife or cookie cutter.

Bake about 40 minutes, or until hard and dry. Feed a couple to a slobbery Newf and store in an airtight container.