Friday, October 31, 2014

Blue Plate Special - Pate Chaud

Thanks for joining me today as I explore more fun with puff pastry!

Seriously, you could wrap just about anything in puff pastry and I would be over the moon so it was no surprise that I fell hard for a great Vietnamese treat that my husband made for me a few years ago - pate chaud. It's basically a little savory meat pie that the man of the place remembered from his childhood. It's the perfect blend of Vietnamese cooking with French influence. 

And it's pretty darned easy to make too!

Just a few ingredients - chopped onion, shredded carrot, minced garlic and pork. We cheated a bit and used a breakfast sausage. The liquid is nuoc mam, Vietnamese fish sauce. There are easy recipes all over the Internet. The man of the place uses more garlic in his nuoc mam than you typically find at Vietnamese restaurants and let me tell you, it's amazing.

Mix all these together and fry them up till the sausage is no longer pink. 

Now comes the fun part

roll out the yummy puff pastry (have I mentioned how much I LOVE puff pastry?) and cut along the fold lines. The man wants me to mention that it's best to dust your cutting service with flour before you open up the pastry to keep it from sticking.

Pile up a clump of the meat mixture (I'm thinking that clump is not the correct term but I'm too tired right now to come up with a more appropriate one) on the bottom half of the pastry. Because it was pre-cooked, it was a bit crumbly this time. We might try not cooking the mixture next time and just trust that it'll get fully cooked during the baking process. If my next blog post is from the hospital, you'll know that didn't work.

Fold the pastry strip over the meat mixture and use a fork to seal the edges. You can beat up an egg and brush it along the edges before folding just to glue things together before you start forking. We actually forgot that step so the little bowl of egg wash in the background is mainly there for show at this point.

Really important step - take a knife and cut a couple of vents in the top so that you don't end up with exploded pie guts all over your oven.

I probably should have mentioned this at the beginning - pre-heat your oven to 400. Put the pretty pies on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven for 20 minutes. Pull them out and brush that egg wash all over the top (see, it wasn't purely there for show in the earlier picture) and then put it all back in the oven for another 5-ish minutes until it's all golden brown and crunchy.

Seriously, these are amazing. They are the perfect winter evening comfort food.

Usually these pies are round and smaller than the ones we've made. All you do is use the biscuit cutter to make 2 round circles for the top and bottom crusts. We decided to make a quick and easy version that I prefer because there is more room for filling.

Voila, here's today's Blue Plate Special!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Drive - the Carmel birthday parade

Carmel is one of those places that enchants a lot of people and attracts busloads of visitors. I can see why, it's beautiful and charming and almost seems like a make-believe town. Perhaps it's all the fairytale cottages or the tree-lined main street, full of shops, that ends right at the edge of the sparkling blue ocean. Maybe it's the assortment of art galleries, high end jewelry shops and gourmet restaurants that leads people to believe that Carmel is a vacation paradise but not the type of place where real people live.

And yet, I assure you that real people live here, dodging in and out of the many visitors who sometimes forget that they can't just stop in the middle of the road to check the map they picked up at the visitor's center. We welcome the tourists and schedule wonderful events for them (Concours d'Elegance, Bach Festival, AT&T golf tournament) but sometimes we like to throw a little party just for us.

The Carmel Birthday Parade is an event for the locals. The town founders were brilliant enough to incorporate the town on October 31, 1916 so every year on the Saturday closest to Halloween, we throw ourselves a little birthday bash complete with a parade. This isn't your usual type of parade, there are no marching bands or floats. This is a real community parade where everyone is welcome to participate. All town organizations are invited to have a car in the parade or to walk behind a banner. The police and fire departments haul out their shiniest equipment to drive up and down Ocean Avenue with lights and sirens going off every few seconds.

The best part, however, is that anyone that would like to walk behind all the cars is welcome. So, many of us turn out every year in our best costumes (or not) and wave at all the bystanders on the sidewalks. There are lots of children in costume but, Carmel being Carmel, the kids are usually outnumbered by all the costume.

Here are a few photos from yesterday's parade to show you why it's my favorite event of the year.

Of course the most amazing dog in the parade was my darling Shifu. 

But there were many other cute dogs there too.

And look, we even had kids in the parade!

It wouldn't be a 2014 Halloween event without an Elsa. I heard that this year's Halloween drinking game will be to take a drink every time an Elsa shows up at your door on Friday. Good thing the next day is Saturday!

Marching down main street - Ocean Avenue.

Our police department has only the most modern of equipment, of course! Isn't that car a beauty. I wish they'd let me take a ride in it one day.

 When it's all over the whole town heads to the local community center for hot dogs and chips. At $5/person, it's the best deal in a long shot!

Oh no, Shifu is dismayed that we've reached the end and it's time to go home. 

We can't wait to do it all again next year!

Friday, October 24, 2014

beyond the garden gate

Have I ever told you about where I work? I don't think I have. 

If you follow me on Instagram you would know that I work in one of the most beautiful places on the face of the Earth - Tor House. I post way too many pictures of this enchanted spot but it's hard to stop because every corner brings inspiration and the views are fantabulous.

Normally you have to pay for a guided tour but follow along with me as we go beyond the garden gate for a little peek.

The courtyard is magical in any kind of weather. It's not always sunny at Tor House, frequently the fog rolls in and surrounds us.

Abalone shells line the pathways to the cottage. Usually they sit in an orderly fashion but this particular day they were all scattered but there were no animal tracks so I can only conclude that the ghosts were having a wild party before I got there. Oh, did I not mention that Tor House is haunted? I haven't run into anybody but the TV show Ghost Adventures thinks they did. I will say that I have heard  noises that defy explanation.

Told you it was a beautiful place!

The quail are frequent and very welcome visitors in our courtyard.

There are many benches where you can rest and reflect.

This is the far end of the courtyard, looking out to the sea. What lies beyond?

More beauty than you can even imagine. We've recently begun a project to bring back the natural wildflowers that would have been there in Jeffers' time.

Would you like to see inside the cottage? Let me go find the key (yes, this is the actual key that I have to use each time I go in there) and we can go inside the next time you visit.

See you soon!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WTF Wednesday - petit pain au chocolate

It's time to bring back one of my favorite blog features - WTF Wednesday! 

 A little over a year ago I discovered the secret to happiness - you can totally make chocolate croissants (or as my French husband would say - petit pain au chocolate - he refuses to call them by the easy name) at home! This is either good news or bad news depending on your perspective, I guess. I am choosing to throw all thoughts of diet aside and declare it the Best. News. Ever.

I took pictures of the entire process to share with you. They are really easy to make, I figure even I could do it...but why would I want to when I have my own personal French chef? ;-)

just a few ingredients away from warm, melty, chocolate croissants!

Lightly flour your surface, unfold the puff pastry sheet and then cut in 3 pieces by following the fold lines

measure about 7 inches and cut the rest off to use for something else

fold over a little at the top

brush on an egg wash at the bottom. this will be your "glue" later

line up your chocolate chips, keep them in the middle when it's all folded over

fold over and press down just a little on the bottom where the egg wash was brushed. don't press too much or it won't puff up in the oven

preheat the oven to 400

set the timer for 20 minutes

put those babies in the oven
about five minutes before time is up, pull them out and quickly (and lightly) brush the entire croissant with egg wash, then put them back in the over for the final 5 minutes

DING! They're done!

Make sure you let them cool down a bit before devouring or else you'll burn your mouth...then again, maybe it's worth a little pain.

Now Wasn't That Fun?
and yummy too!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Glampiversary plans

The "rustic elegance" anniversary party that I blogged about on Saturday wasn't going to be the only fun this past weekend; our plans went further than just one night. We had the whole weekend planned out with activities for all 3 days. We even planned on putting out of towners up for 2 nights at our favorite all-suite hotel in my hometown. I envisioned it being a little like hosting a summer camp for our friends & family without having to rough it. I had taken to calling the whole event Glampiversary.

On Friday night we had planned a private bowling welcome party at a local luxury lane, KingPinz

Now, I'm not a big bowler (I have had my share of strikes but I've also bowled a perfect gutter ball game before) but it's lots of fun with a group and luxury lanes make it even funner...what, it's a word. You rent out 2 or 3 private lanes with tables. Your catered food is brought right to you so that you bowl and eat and eat and bowl.

I was so excited about this event that I'm determined to do it one day with or without an anniversary party attached.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

instagram me

Did you know that I'm on Instagram? Well I am...on Instagram. I am.

Sorry, I got caught up in a loop there. 

I'd love to have you follow me on Instagram though. I try to post at least one picture a day of something pretty. I do hope you'll join me over there.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

happy anniversary to me

Today it's supposed to be sunny and 65 in Northern Virginia.

Since I am not in Northern Virginia right now, this is only important to me because today is the 29th anniversary of the day my husband and I started dating...and we were planning a trip back home to Virginia and a party to celebrate.

If you are wondering why you never received an invitation to this wonderful event, it's because it's not happening. We started planning, found the perfect venue, put down a deposit and then had to cancel...yet again. I've actually lost count of the number of parties I've canceled in the last four years. Ok, that's not exactly true. I remember each and every one.

But, today would have been the perfect day for the beautiful, rustic, elegant, country party that I had planned at Willow Creek Farm.


so to celebrate, I want to throw a little virtual party and share some of my plans.

That's beautiful Willow Creek Farm in Ashburn, Virginia. The restaurant did not exist when we lived in the area but we found it when we came for a visit a year ago and fell in love with the atmosphere. The restaurant consists of 4 vintage buildings and barns that were purchased in the 1980s, dismantled and stored for decades until this property became available and Clydes decided to open a restaurant.

 This is what you see as soon as you walk in the front door.

That gorgeous staircase leads to a set of private dining rooms upstairs. This is the room where the dinner would have taken place.

Oh my gosh, I knew this lace jacket was the perfect anniversary outfit (along with a crocheted skirt) the minute I saw it.

Underneath it all I was going to wear these perfect, perfect aqua boots. Love!

I love purple, it's my favorite color, so when I saw these glass jars I knew they would be perfect for centerpieces with just a few wildflowers. And I just fell in love with these burlap and lace silverware holders. I haunted Etsy for weeks to find unique items for every aspect of the celebration.

What's a party without cake? This suitcase cake is one of my favorite designs.

 We never got as far as menu planning but the restaurant is running a lobster special this month so I have a feeling that would have been on the menu. 

I had so many ideas, too many to show here but if you're at all curious go take a look at my Pinterest board to see what I had in mind.

It would have been an awesome party.