Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Witchy Women Swoop Through Coronado and Downtown for Annual Witches' Tea

Raven hair and ruby lips
sparks fly from her finger tips 
Echoed voices in the night
she's a restless spirit on an endless flight 
wooo hooo witchy woman
see how high she flies 
woo hoo witchy woman
she got the moon in her eye...
                -The Eagles

As soon as I pulled up a chair at the sushi bar early last week, I was greeted with warm smiles from the couple to my right.  Melissa introduced herself and her husband James and said she followed my blog. She said she used to live in Coronado, but they now live in Florida. She was out visiting her mom for the month and James had just arrived to visit for a few days. After we chatted a bit,  she reached under the bar and pulled a new purse out of a bag. With the flip of a switch, the stuffed rat sewn to the outside of the purse started flashing its red eyes and shrieking creepy rat noises. When she was finally able to shut it up, she explained the rat purse would accessorize her witch costume for Saturday's annual Witches' Tea.

I didn't know about the Witches' Tea, but I knew I did not want to be a pirate for the third year in a row. Most of my friends were going to the Hotel Del's Hallo-Wine & Spirits Party, but I didn't have a ticket. Melissa suggested I join the witch party and offered to hook me up with the head witch.

I exchanged e-mails the following day with Rebecca and learned how the Witches' Tea began 14 years ago with a group of 10 women who dressed up as witches and went out to celebrate Rebecca's October birthday. The tradition continued, with more and more witches joining in each year. Close to 120 witches were reserved for this year. She explained no one knows the route, mode of transportation, stops or lunch venue; they all just trust her! Over the years, the witches have been transported by city bus, trolley, ferry, party bus, water taxi, pedicabs, and wagons pulled by Clydesdales. Ron's Garage, a local band, has adopted the witches and greets them on the Hotel Del Coronado sun deck at the end of the broom ride with an hour of dancing. Curious family and friends migrate to the Del to ooh and aahhhhhh over the sea of witches in colorful hats and capes, painted faces and striped tights.

I was able to find my witch hat from about five years ago and paired it with a black dress, faux fur coat, boots and jewelry for a last-minute witch costume.

Our instructions were to meet at 11:00 a.m. sharp, in front of the Brigantine.
I was so impressed with all the creative witch costumes!

Cauldrons filled with boozy jello shots were passed around as the witches arrived and filled the entire courtyard on the corner of Orange and Adella.

I was happy to see my friend Kellee, but recognized many faces from around town. The energy was high and I couldn't wait to see what was in store for us. I slurped down a few pumpkin jello shots and was ready to roll. Kellee looked gorgeous in her long eyelashes, hot pink dress and purple hat!

We crossed Orange and made our way to the two double decker buses waiting for us in front of the Del. We stopped traffic and smiled for photos every step of the way.

We were soon all aboard for the first leg of our journey, flying over the bridge to Bub's @ The Ballpark. Witchy Poo Becky passed out drink tickets on the way and the bartenders were waiting for our arrival with wine, beer, mimosas and Bloody Marys.

Here's "Ratty Witch" Melissa in her rat hat, rummaging for something in her screeching rat purse

Glinda was hilarious throughout the day, chasing after cars and spanking pedestrians with her wand. Timing was perfect for her to snatch up Toto as he walked past Bub's.

I was having the time of my life just photographing witches!

...she got the moon in her eye

After finishing off drinks at Bub's, we hopped on our brooms, boarded the buses again, and flew off to our second stop - the sky-level University Club Atop Symphony Towers, on the 34th floor of one of San Diego's tallest buildings.

We sat around tables of 10, beautifully adorned with Halloween centerpieces and candy jars, for a special Eat, Drink and Be Scary menu of butternut squash soup, arugula and bloody beet salad, chicken salad sandwich, and pumpkin cookies for dessert. 

Witchy MC and Head Witch Becky (in the orange hat) welcomed all the returning and virgin witches, and we applauded the youngest and oldest witches in the group.

The youngest 20-something witch

Since it was technically a Witches' Tea, some witches actually sipped on cups of tea. 

Brooms and Bling!

...she's a restless spirit on an endless flight 

...Raven hair and ruby lips
sparks fly from her finger tips

...wooo hooo witchy woman

The centerpieces were auctioned off and the money will be used to help fund next year's surprises.

After lunch, we were back on the party buses and headed over the bridge to the Hotel Del's sun deck for dancing to Ron's Garage.

Warlocks and children greeted wives and mommy witches.

and the wine continued to flow...

As the sun slipped into the ocean and the afternoon came to an end, all the smiling and dancing witches hopped on their brooms and flew home.
This is another Coronado tradition I will look forward to next year!

to see all my witchy photos for the day!


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Baby, it's Beginning to Feel a Little Cool Outside: Black Bean & Bacon Soup with Roasted Chiles and Toasted Pepitas

As I sit at my desk and write this post, the sky is gray and gloomy and the leaves on the two big trees in my yard are finally starting to turn. The owner of my cottage advised me these trees will be cut down next month because the roots are lifting and damaging the wall surrounding the yard. I'm not very happy because they provide nice shade and privacy.

I do like that it's getting chilly at night so I can curl up on the couch in the evenings with a soft, furry throw and then snuggle under my down comforter when I go to bed. I still leave most of the windows open at night and like waking up to the sound of the fog horns or Trapper snoring just outside the patio door. He refuses to sleep inside. It's not warm at all in the house, but I guess he just wants to patrol the yard and sleep in the cooler night air. Every once in a while, usually around 2 a.m., he lets out a few deep barks and then goes back to sleep.

Cooler weather means soup weather. While sipping my coffee yesterday morning, I looked through all the new issues of Bon Appetit, Saveur and Fine Cooking. Of course, most of the content is now devoted to Thanksgiving and holiday features and recipes, and comfort food. One of my holiday desserts will be the Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart on the cover of Fine Cooking. Have you seen it? Oh my, that is most definitely on my list. Saveur's Fall Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, Kale Chips, and Pomegranate Seeds and Bon Appetit's Wild Rice, Farro and Tangerine Salad are both gorgeous salads for this time of year.

I was in the mood for soup today, and this one started out as Bon Appetit's Black Bean Soup with Roasted Poblano Chiles. It's part of the "Good Health" Thanksgiving Survival Diet, designed to be eaten during the week of Thanksgiving so you don't feel as guilty when indulging on the big day itself. But, since we aren't at that point in time, I was swayed by Dave Lieberman's recipe for Black Bean Soup and had to add some bacon.

The ingredients in the Bon Appetit recipe are few and simple: Low-sodium chicken broth, canned black beans, canned fire-roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic, roasted poblano chiles, and a dried ancho chile. Garnishes are crumbled queso fresco cheese, lime wedges, and toasted pepitas. No bacon. Gotta have some bacon.

Start by roasting the poblano chiles, either under the broiler or over gas flame. While the poblanos are roasting, toast the pepitas and ancho chile.

Next, cook the bacon until it starts to render its fat. Add the onion and garlic, and then the poblanos.

Add the remaining ingredients (broth, tomatoes, beans, ancho chile, ketchup, Worcestershire, and cumin) and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Again, I kind of merged Bon Appetit's and Dave Lieberman's recipes together. I did not blend the onions, garlic, tomatoes and ancho chile in a blender. I used a little less chicken broth so I would have a thicker soup. If you want a thinner soup, add more chicken broth or even a cup of beer. Definitely squeeze some lime juice over the top. The toasted pepitas and queso fresco cheese are really nice garnishes. I also nibbled on a few pumpkin flavored tortilla chips.

Black Bean & Bacon Soup with Roasted Poblano Chiles
Adapted from Bon Appetit's recipe, here, and Dave Lieberman's recipe, here
Serves 6

2 poblano chiles
1/4 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 large dried ancho chile
6 slices thick bacon, sliced crosswise into thin strips
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 14.5 ounce can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
2 14.5 ounce cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco
Lime wedges

Preheat broiler. Broil poblano chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet, turning occasionally, until blackened, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam 15 minutes. Peel, seed, and finely chop (I prefer to roast the chiles over the gas flame on top of the stove)

Meanwhile, toast the pumpkin seeds in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat, tossing occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes; transfer to a plate. Toast the ancho chile in same skillet until slightly darkened and pliable, about 1 minute; transfer to plate. When the ancho chile is cool enough to handle, cut off the stem and tear open the chile so you can remove the seeds. Discard the stem and seeds. Leave the chile in one or two large pieces and set aside.

Heat a large heavy pot over medium heat and add the bacon. Saute until it starts to render its fat, about 5 minutes. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the chopped poblano chiles and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the broth, tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, and ancho chile. Stir in the beans, turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat down so the soup is bubbling gently and cook 10 minutes. Remove and discard the ancho chile. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve soup topped with crumbled queso fresco, toasted pepitas and lime wedges.

It's now almost 4:00 p.m. and the sun is trying to peek out for a few hours. Must be time to get out and play a few rounds of Jolly Ball with Trapper and then find a glass of wine. Enjoy your evening!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Saturday Morning Diversion: Ricotta-Orange Doughnuts Rolled in Cinnamon-Sugar

The San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary next month (November 18-24) and I'm honored to be one of the official photographers again. One of my photos from last year's Celebrity Chef Luncheon made the cover of this year's Amuse Bouche (read it online here), and another photo, taken a few months ago, is featured inside with a recipe for Chef William Bradley's Butternut Squash Velouté. Chef Bradley will be preparing his velouté for the Haute French Cuisine & Vintage Burgundy Tasting.

I was scrolling through Facebook the other night and came across a post by the SDBWFF linking to a recipe for Gale Gand's ricotta doughnuts. I met Gale last year in the Chef of the Fest judging tent at the Grand Tasting on Saturday and photographed her dessert on Sunday at the Celebrity Chef Luncheon. She returns this year for the Wine Spectator Celebrity Chef Dinner & Big Bottle Live Auction and Gale Gand's Birthday Brunch with Friends.

I couldn't get these doughnuts off my mind and decided to make them Saturday morning. Next time, I'll make the batter the night before, fry them up just before my walk to Starbucks, and make a bunch of new friends over coffee. That way, I won't find myself alone with 20 unbelievably, tasty doughnuts and a drooling Trapper offering to help me eat them all. I forced myself to toss the remaining 17 in a basket, jump in the car, and make the rounds to mom's and a few friends' houses to share.

Gale says, "My Sicilian-American mother-in-law, Vita Seidita, taught me how to make these tender-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside doughnuts, which she often made for her family on Sunday mornings. All the kids would hover near the stove as she lifted the hot doughnuts out of the oil onto a brown paper bag for draining, and then their job was to roll them quickly in cinnamon sugar."

I halved the quantities in the original recipe, added the zest of one orange, and a pinch of nutmeg for a more "traditional doughnut taste" and opted to roll the doughnuts in cinnamon sugar rather than dusting with powdered sugar.  I think the orange zest is a must, especially with the cinnamon sugar route. Super simple to make and totally addicting.

The batter is rather thick, so a small ice cream scoop works well.

Ricotta-Orange Doughnuts
Adapted from this recipe
Makes about 20 doughnuts 

3 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
8 ounces whole milk ricotta
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of nutmeg
Zest from one orange (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Canola oil for frying
Cinnamon sugar for rolling (1/3 cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon)

1. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add sugar, ricotta, flour, baking powder, orange zest and vanilla extract and stir together until combined, being careful not to over mix the batter.

2. In a small bowl, stir together cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

3. Heat 2 to 3 inches of canola oil in a deep, heavy pot to 325°F. Drop the batter by small ice cream scoopfuls or small spoonfuls (use 2 teaspoons) into the oil and fry for 3 minutes, turning often, until golden brown on each side. Fry the doughnuts in 3-4 batches to avoid crowding the pot. Lift out the doughnuts with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels or a brown paper bag to drain briefly.

4. Immediately roll doughnuts in cinnamon sugar. Serve while still warm. 

Do-Ahead: You can prepare the batter up to one day ahead, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you’re ready to fry, but you will have to increase the frying time slightly to compensate for the colder batter.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Wet Newfs, Friends, Banana Bread and Apple & Pear Crumble

Hard to believe it's been almost a month since my last blog post, and that was a post about gourmet dog biscuits! Trapper LOVED those biscuits and still wanders into the kitchen every now and then to stare at the empty jar. He makes sure to turn and look over at me with his best pouty-face until I promise to make them again.

I should have made a batch for the Newfs at the annual water test a few weeks ago. It was such a beautiful morning at Glorietta Bay...blue skies, about 90 degrees, toes in the sand, soaking up the sun, photographing happy Newfs. It is such a joy to watch these magnificent dogs in the water, but it is even more heartwarming to see and feel the special bond they share with their owners. I honestly cannot imagine my life without a Newfoundland.  Just look at the awesomeness of these incredible dogs! That's why Trapper gets Bouchon Bakery chicken liver and bacon dog biscuits.

This past month has been a blur, but the highlight was when Joe and Sue came to town for a medical convention. Sue and I became e-mail friends after she started following the blog and sent me a personal e-mail one day. We exchanged periodic e-mails over the past few years and I was thrilled when she said she was coming to San Diego. She asked for restaurant recommendations and wanted to meet me and Trapper. We all met for coffee one morning, strolled Little Italy's Farmers' Market on another morning, and went out to dinner together three evenings. We enjoyed the restaurant week menu at Cafe Chloe, a quaint French bistro downtown, received royalty treatment by chef/owner Anthony at Saiko Sushi, and watched the sun sink into the ocean from the patio at ENO Wine Bar while sipping wine and nibbling on wood fired pizza.

Coffee at Cafe 1134

Indigo Rose tomatoes from Suzie's Farm

Wine Flights and Salsiccia Pizza (Fennel Sausage, Charred Broccolini, Garlic Oil) at ENO

Because my kitchen has been rather dark of late, I only have a few worthy recipes to share. The first resulted from a couple of overripe bananas, a craving for banana bread, and some adaptations to this recipe by Tyler Florence. I used light brown sugar instead of white sugar and currants instead of pecans. I added a few tablespoons of dark rum to the melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder to the dry ingredients. Since I only had two bananas, I halved the remaining quantities and made one smaller loaf. I'm not really a fan of nuts in cookies, cakes or banana bread, so I really liked the substitution of currants here. The hints of cocoa, cinnamon and rum were also nice.

Bob and Sandra invited me up to Terra Nova for dinner last evening, which gave me the opportunity to make dessert. I've been trying to talk myself into a road trip to Julian with Trapper, but it hasn't happened. Julian is a historic gold rush mountain town about an hour east of San Diego, known for its cozy bed and breakfast inns, apple orchards, and apple pie. Apples on the brain inspired me to make Brendan's Apple & Pear Crumble. I used a few different varieties of apples and pears for the crumble (Jazz, McIntosh and SweeTango apples and Comice and d'Anjou pears). A scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream is a must-have, so I went with bourbon-spiked whipped cream. I'm not sure how I stuffed down dessert after Bob's fabulous dinner of pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw and hush puppies. I must have eaten at least six hush puppies!

Apple & Pear Crumble

Brendan's Pear & Apple Crumble
Adapted slightly from My Family Table (John Besh)
Serves 8

5-6 cups chopped, cored, peeled apples and pears (about 5-6 whole fruits) 
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the topping:

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss the fruit with the brown sugar, flour, butter, cinnamon, and egg to coat. Spoon the mixture into a medium-sized baking dish or individual ramekins.

Prepare the topping by whisking together the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut the butter into the mixture until the topping is crumbly. Sprinkle over the fruit in the baking dish.

Bake until the fruit is bubbly and the topping turns golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.