Monday, May 20, 2013

Menu: Sound of Music Picnic

For this year's Sound of Music show at Mountain Play, I created a picnic menu that was Austrian-inspired with a decidedly California-flair.  Turned off by the prospect of frying up pounds of weiner schnitzel, I created a foundation of three simple dishes: a medley of sausages, grilled artichokes and a vinegar potato salad. We had quite a meal combining those with a charcuterie plate, radishes, green beans, jarlsberg cheese, crackers, wine and brown bread.  Plus, the amazing dishes everyone else brought too! To serve 16, it took about $80 in supplies and three hours of cooking the day before.

Medley of Five Sausages
This couldn't be easier! I picked five kinds of sausages, including mini bratwurst and a kielbasa, and cooked them on a stovetop griddle pan. Sliced into thin wedges before artfully arranging in a tin lined with parchment paper to refrigerate: 

Salt + Vinegar Potato Salad
I doubled and modified a great recipe from Shutterbean for this potato salad that could go without refrigeration. Quickly pickled sliced red onion in vinegar and salt. Combined with boiled and skinned yellow potatoes.

I added thinly sliced celery for crunch. Italian parsley and green onion for color. Dressed with olive oil, more vinegar, salt, pepper and celery salt.

Grilled Artichokes with Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette
Another simple, tasty and picnic-friendly dish!  I boiled eight small artichokes and drained them. Then cut the artichokes into quarters with a very sharp knife and cleaned the hearts.

I made a vinaigrette with juice from three lemons, six cloves of minced garlic, a teaspoon of black truffle mustard, heaping tablespoons of olive oil and salt + pepper.  Brushed the artichokes liberally inside and out before cooking on the griddle pan.

Wine Spritzers
With the heat and high altitude, it is best to drink spritzers instead of straight wine at the picnic. These combined cold Rosé with berry sparkling water and fresh berries.

Bonus Point: Von Trapp Farm Cheese
Rebecca supplied a wonderfully on-theme intermission snack: cheese from the von Trapp Farm in Vermont with crusty baguette

There you have it: one simple, delicious and relatively-healthy Sound of Music menu for your next picnic!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Our picnic got picked up!

We're so famous (online, in Marin)!  Here's the completely-natural photo of us picnicking today that ran in the Mill Valley Patch. Love it.

Weekends: Mountain Play

You know I love a good theme! This weekend was focused around our annual picnic for Mountain Play - an extra special one with it being the 100th anniversary of the program. This year's show was Sound of Music and we went full Bavarian on both Saturday and Sunday.  (disclaimer: I did zero research on actual Austrian food, know that German-culture is different than Austrian and fully realize the irony that Sound of Music is centered on escaping German influence - it's an artistic interpretation)

On Saturday morning, I got up early to run to Trader Joe's before my hair appointment. Loaded up on sausages, crackers, wine and other supplies for our party of 16 people. Plus, lovely white peonies to spruce up the house for last minute overnight guests!

Spent the afternoon cooking up a storm and sorting out the picnic supplies. I'll share the full menu and recipes tomorrow. Here's a preview of five varieties of grilled sausages:

I also cut kerchiefs from a pair of hideous old curtains to go with the theme:

...and did some more cooking. I love spending a few hours busy at work in our pretty kitchen!

My good friend Shane arrived in the late afternoon with his friend, Maryam. We chatted at the house for a while, then set off for dinner in Hayes Valley.  First stop, Biergarten for german beer and pub snacks!

We continued the theme with dinner at Suppenkuche complete with wiener schnitzel and spätzl!

Continuing with the Sound of Music theme on Sunday morning, we had an epic voyage on foot to cross a major border.  Up very early on Sunday morning, we had to carry picnic supplies on foot to where I had parked our car on the other side of the Bay to Breakers race route.

Rob rode his bike to the top of Mount Tam, while Greg, Kevin and Margaret joined me in our second obstacle of the morning: Tour de California. You can tell summer in the city has officially started with weekends this crazy! We made it to the top of the mountain at 9:30 and got a great picnic space in the shade. Incredible view of the bay:

Everyone arrived at the top of the mountain before the play started. We donned the kerchiefs to match!

And the massive picnic began:

Along with all the food I prepared, we had a ton of delicious contributions from everyone else.  It was such an amazing feast that it literally stopped traffic and a local newspaper reporter interviewed us. Delicious victory!

The play was very well done, with talented children and an amazing singer in the role of Mother Abbess. It was so much fun, and such a beautiful day with our friends:

Very excited when they announced that next year is South Pacific - my favorite! We packed up the picnic and drove back down the mountain to get home at 6:00, completely exhausted. 

Rob leaves for London tomorrow and I'm off later this week to join him in Scotland. A lot of packing and preparations to do before my friend Nicole comes to housesit!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Weekends: First Fog

Get ready, this is a long one! This weekend included 3 days, 7 waterfalls, 20 miles of hiking, 1 amazing secret lodge discovery. 

The start of summer in San Francisco is bittersweet. Warmer temperatures inland pull the marine layer over the city.  Heavy fog last week announced the summer season and left the city freezing in the mid-50s. Time to get out of town!  Nicole, Rob and I packed up the car and headed for the hills on Friday night. We slept in Sonora, and left early when we realized the town would be shut down for the annual Mother Lode Round-up parade and rodeo. Drove down the main street packed with show horses and kids in sequined suspenders on our way out Saturday morning.  

On a whim, we drove out to Hetch Hetchy.  The "lost Yosemite" this valley was turned into a damn in the 1920's to supply water to San Francisco.  The delicious, unfiltered water is delivered to the city through 160 miles of pipes.  And it's beautiful!

We hiked out to Wapama Falls through lovely wildflower meadows filled with butterflies.

We were headed another three miles in to Rancheria Falls...when we crossed paths with a bear!  Nicole spotted the teenage black bear crossing the trail when we were only about 15 feet away. When we backed up, he wasn't bothered at all and climbed up on a boulder to sleep:

Other hikers passed through, but we didn't chance it.  Picnic and naps on the granite apron. On the way back, Rob filled our bottle from the falls - and got soaking wet in the process.

Great 6 miles of hiking!

Rob decided to ride his bike out of the valley. Nicole and I drove out and stopped for a drink and watercolor painting at a lodge we spotted on the way in. Evergreen Lodge turned out to be an amazing find!  We booked a tent as soon as Rob arrived and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the grounds. Rob and I took a nap in a hammock, ran the nature trail and joined Nicole at the brand new pool complete with full bar. We had lemonade shandies with local IPA:

Cleaned up for the evening and enjoyed making free s'mores with the kids at the lodge:

Ping pong before dinner at the hotel restaurant. Love it!
Big meal with blackberry margaritas before turning in to our massive and well-outfitted tent for an early night. I would love to come back to this lodge!

In the morning, we motivated early and drove a few miles over to check out the swimming hole at Carlon Falls. We ran the 1.5 miles in as part of my 5k training - painful. 

The creek was running too fast and too cold for much swimming, but so pretty! I was brave enough to wade in up to the top of my legs.

From there, we drove in to Yosemite Valley - full of blooming dogwoods and heavy running waterfalls.  Picnic lunch along the river:

For a "light" afternoon hike, we headed up Vernal Falls to Nevada Falls - a 6 mile, 2,000 foot climb on steep granite stairs. Great view from the top.

We got soaking wet in the mist both on the way up and down.

Completely exhausted by the time we made it back to our tent at Housekeeping. Rob played chef to make macaroni and cheese with broccoli followed by chicken soup.

We helped our french neighbors light their campfire then crashed into our bunks very early with weary legs.

Donuts and tea in the morning before packing up. We hiked a short path up to Bridalveil Falls and then explored El Cap meadow.  Rob and I stopped here on our very first camping trip back in 2002, when he was a big rock climber. Slept illegally on a bouldering pad in the middle of the long grass (too poor to pay for a campsite) under a full moon with bears splashing in the nearby river. A great memory!

Quick drive back to the city. I quickly showered and dressed up for an important candidate interview at work in the afternoon. Returned home and relaxed for the rest of my day off!

Monday, May 06, 2013

Recipe: Shrimp Ceviche

Mmm. I love ceviche so much. Somehow - despite eating pounds and pounds of the stuff in Mexican sidewalk cafes and shady San Francisco taquerias - I had never made it myself.  That was until last night!

Rob and I exercise on Monday nights ("monday run-day") so I needed something we could prepare pre-run to eat after the run.  This was perfect and so, so easy. If you can make salsa, you can make ceviche.

Shrimp Ceviche
Serves 4 

2 lbs of raw shrimp (I used frozen, medium, with tail on)
2 ripe tomatoes
1/4 white onion
1 fresh jalapeno
4 limes
1 avocado
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt, pepper, chili powder
Corn chips or tostada shells

Thaw your shrimp, if frozen. Pull off the tails and chop into skittle-sized pieces.  Chop the tomato and onion. Finely mince the jalapeno - gauge the amount based on your level of spiciness desired (we used 3/4 of a pepper, no seeds). In a glass or porcelain bowl, combined the raw shrimp and vegetables. Squeeze the juice from 4 limes over the mixture, add the olive oil. Toss.

Let the mixture chill for at least an hour. You'll see that the shrimp has "cooked" from the lime juice when you're ready to eat. Add avocado and cilantro to the mix before serving. It's also authentic with cucumber if you have it.  Season with salt, pepper and chili powder to taste.  

For the authentic presentation, spoon the drained ceviche on a tostada shell.  Or, eat with corn chips like Rob and I did tonight!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Weekends: Around Town

Rob and I started the weekend with a birthday celebration for our dear friend, Allison.  Her husband arranged for us to surprise her at Tradition downtown - where we enjoyed strong batches of "punch" in a private booth. 

From there, the group took private cars over to SOMA Streat Food where we got tickets for the food trucks and free skeeball.  A great night! 

On Saturday morning, Rob left for his usual bike ride and Margaret came over to work on plans for Jackie's July wedding. We worked on the invitation design, bought a veil on Etsy and shopped for vases at the Wholesale Flower Mart:

From there, we drove over the bridge to Ikea for more wedding supplies. I just love it there! Spent time picking out a lamp for myself:

Rob beat me back home, just enough time to clean up before driving to Palo Alto to spend time with the baby and my parents. We were too busy coo-ing over the baby to take photos.

Lazy Sunday morning with the paper and tea in bed. The heatwave that lasted all week finally broke with a rainstorm that morning:

When it started to clear up, Rob and I walked downtown for some clothes shopping before our trip to the UK at the end of the month:

Major cleaning spree when we returned back home. Cleared out the closets, picked up the kitchen and admired the new Ikea lamp assembled in the den. Isn't that a cozy nook!?