Three Chimneys – Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, Scotland

We arrived at the Three Chimneys about 30 minutes early since we were unsure how long it would take to drive half the island while stopping every 10 miles to shoo sheep from the road. When I first made reservations for dinner some three months earlier, I received a confirmation email along which included instructions on where to moor our yacht and something about a helicopter pad? Really? The small white washed building with its three chimneys sitting quietly on the side of the road surely didn’t look like the kind of place someone would helicopter over to from Edinburgh. Ahhh…but that’s the charm of Scotland for you.

The air outside was filled with bog peat smoke from a traditional home next door. It wasn’t a bad smell mind you…just a particular one..and one that made me instantly drool for a single malt.

We were welcomed into a beautiful small front bar room where we sat in sheep skin pelted wicker chairs next to the fireplace and drank whiskey. We were given a chance to look at the night’s menu, meet our fellow diners and chat about how we all thought we were lost just at the moment we found the place.

The small dinning room and traditional stone walls helped place you in rural Scotland while chenille throws and candlelight made you feel like this was the kind of place you might want to sink into for a while.

Our beautiful meal was my best memory of Skye:

Monkfish and citris salad with fennel and endive
Tartine of squid with wild mushrooms
Warm duck salad with tart greens
Roasted stag with gooseberries
(yes…I know…we over-ordered)
The house special whitefish soup
Clootie Dumpling (it was Clootie heaven)
Coffee,  petite fours, and a long pour of Talisker

Needless to say I fell asleep in the car ride home.

www.threechimneys.co.uk

 

Bacon & Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies With Maple Cinnamon Glaze

 

Yield: 2 dozen
Serves: 2 people

COOKIES:

  • 3/4 cup butter 
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon hazelnut OR almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 lbs high quality bacon, cooked and crumbled (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 lb high quality bacon, cooked in whole strips


MAPLE GLAZE:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple extract 
  • Splash of shagbark hickory syrup (OPTIONAL) 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugars, extracts and eggs. In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir together.
  2. Dough will be slightly soft. If you want a more cake-like cookie, add another 1/2 cup of flour. Mix in chocolate chips and crumbled bacon. Stir until well integrated.
  3. Place dough in refrigerator and let rest 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  5. Remove dough from fridge. Roll 2 tablespoons worth of dough into ball. Set dough balls about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten dough balls slightly with your fingers. Bake about 10 minutes, or until the dough starts to turn golden brown. Allow cookies to cool on cooling rack while you make the glaze.
  6. Maple-Cinnamon Glaze: Mix 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon maple extract, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, shagbark syrup and ½ teaspoon cinnamon with enough water to make a thick glaze, about 3 tablespoons. Wisk all ingredients together until smooth and creamy.
  7. Spread a small amount of glaze on top of each cooled cookie and top with a small piece (1 inch) of crisp bacon.
  8. Sneak off to couch with platter of cookies, watch episodes of 80’s sitcoms (they go especially well for some reason with Punky Brewster or Alf) and enjoy.

Five Amigos – Everyone needs 5 new friends!

 

Drive down east Washington street in Indianapolis at three-thirty in the morning and you’ll see a few things out of the ordinary. One of those will surely be a group of people huddled around a patio heater on the side of the road waiting to order food. Taqueria Five Amigos serves Mexican comfort food favorites such as cabeza tacos, lengua tortas and gringo favorites daily from 10am to 5am.

Originally thinking I’d hit the Latin working-class spot for a late night snack, I’ve been surprised time and time again at the diverse range of people looking for a bite to eat; middle aged women, young professionals, the working poor, homeless and a foodie or two all seem to descend on the place in equal measure.

Their asada, chorizo or pollo tacos are great and at $1.50 each I usually order them by the handful. Another highlight is the Taco-in-a-Bag; a layered taco prepared in a snack-sized Fritos bag and served with a fork. Waste not, want not.

You may be tempted to get your food and run…but don’t. Take a seat under the patio heater and relax a few minutes…enjoy it. The lively group of customers are as much part of the story as the tasty food itself. Last trip I bought a taco for a hungry homeless guy walking by and an insurance agent from Fishers bought me a pineapple cola. Thanks stranger.

 

 

 

 

Pigs In The Mud – State Fair Fare

 

Indianapolis, Indiana

HERE PIGGY PIGGY!

Cooked bacon dipped in dark chocolate, chilled, gathered on a plate and sprinkled with confectioners sugar. DELISH! I’ve followed and wallowed in the bacon and chocolate trend over the last few years and its finally come to fruition as the best selling food item at everyman’s event, the Great Indiana State Fair. Can I get an Amen?

Harvest – St Louis

 

BREAD PUDDING! BREAD PUDDING! GET THE BREAD PUDDING!

The reviews everywhere are accurate…this chef owned restaurant continues to have a great reputation. The decor is dated (home store sphagnum moss, tacky silk flowers and twinkle lights hanging from the ceiling, a cheap color palette taken from Olive Garden and even a website that looks old and prissy) BUT…the rabbit confit was great and the Bread Pudding is the best on the planet (I’M NOT KIDDING).

>My New Favorite Treat – Persian Saffron Brittle

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Sometimes I get so excited about a new food infatuation that I feel compelled to tell the world.

This time around it’s a Persian delicacy called “Sohan Ghom” or Saffron Brittle. It’s a skilled and secretive undertaking trying to locate recipes for this biscuit type brittle made with pistachios, cardamom and saffron. It’s not too sweet, not too hard, buttery, slightly bitter brittle that has a soft hay-like smell and a melt in your mouth richness. I can’t get enough of it!

The city of Qom (or Ghom) in Iran has been famous since antiquity for its Sohan and exports of the dessert from the region can be found in various international and middle eastern grocery stores in town. The Fard Candy company in California also uses these traditional recipes in their versions available for sale online here.

>Machu Picchu Peruvian Restaurant – Indianapolis

>Indianapolis, Indiana

GOOD ALL YEAR ROUND


It’s a hot humid summer day and of course I’m in the mood for a big bowl of steamy soup and a large hearty hot meal, right? I don’t understand it myself, but none the less I knew just where to go.

In winter I find myself tucking-in for a satisfying hot lunch at Machu Picchu Peruvian restaurant on west 38th street at least once a week. They always have large hearty lunch specials and…well…frankly, I’m addicted to their white buttered bread and Aji dipping sauce (peppers, egg, oil, cilantro and green onions…though I can’t get them to give me the exact recipe).

The $6.99 lunch special is almost always a large soup followed with a main of meat, starch and salad. The soups traditionally range from chicken, beef, barley, bean or seasonal corn. The starches are almost always rice, potatoes or yucca (or a combination of two or more…they love their carbs) and the salads are most often a twist on a salsa criolla with onions and tomatoes, cilantro or greens or maybe beets and shredded root vegetables.

Machu Picchu has always been on my favorites list for it’s good tasting quick lunchtime service. Here are a few of their menu selections that keep me coming back for more;


Choros a la Chalaca – Peruvian style Mussels on the half shell ceviched with lime, red onion, aji and rocoto peppers, corn kernels and cilantro.

Yuquitas a la Huancaína – Fried yucca sticks with creamy cheese sauce (think of it as “chips” with gravy or fries with mayonaise, etc).

Lomo Saltado – Peruvian stir fry with beef tenderloin, onion, tomatoes, french fries (mixed in) and cilantro served with white rice.

Papa Rellena – fried potato ball stuffed with minced beef heart  – HUGE portion and delicious  (think of it as rösti with minced wienerschnitzel or tater tots with meatballs).

And to top it all off make sure you order an Inca Cola (or get a 2 liter to go). I’m usually not a pop or cola fan but the lemon verbena zing of the bright yellow drink makes me smile.

$6.99 Lunch Special – Chicken and onion herb vegetable soup, fried pork
with red onion and beet salad,  fried yucca and white rice

Machu Picchu on Urbanspoon

>Locally Grown Gardens – Indianapolis

>Indianapolis, Indiana

BEST PIG IN TOWN

Any place with a hand painted sign sitting out front that says “Hog Roast Daily” is vying for my affection…add then a artist sensibility to merchandising locally grown greens, vegetables, herbs, boutique honeys, butters and gourmet food items, a row of delicious looking pies, a refrigerator stuffed with vintage and boutique colas (Indian Bubble Up, Jamaican Koala Champagne, Victorian Lemonade,) and a seasonal menu of beautifully crafted food…I’M IN LOVE!

Locally Grown Gardens is located in a small service station building facing 54th street, but just like it’s products, the space is beautifully simple. Out front a few cushioned winged back chairs, several small low tables and two sturdy picnic tables are scattered between clumps of potted flowers and herb plants for sale. There is a small out-of-the-sun dinning area inside with a large harvest table and library with books on cooking, ingredients and gardening.


A large blackboard at the back of the store announces what’s in season and what’s on the small menu. The Roast Hog Open Sandwich (roasted on-site out back) is the best pork I’ve had anywhere in town…anywhere in years for that matter and I can’t stop thinking about it! I’m all about eating pig and it was even more succulent than the pig roasts I’ve romanticized from my childhood. I have a feeling Chef Ron Harris that we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other this summer. The home made BBQ sauce was warm, sweet, smoky and tangy.

This is the type of place I’m used to seeing in places like Savannah or Portland…cities where the division between country and city have come together and eateries have formed that boast architecture reclamation, a celebration of a locally grown harvest and a delicious chef-owner perspective on food. These are the places that anchor support for a local slow food community of believers and I’m hoping this town is ready!…and…did I mention the pork?




Locally Grown Gardens on Urbanspoon

>City Market – Indianapolis Farmers Market

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Indianapolis, Indiana

MARKET AT THE MARKET

It’s back again! May brings the arrival of the Wednesday and Saturday morning Farmer’s Market to downtown Indy. Home baked pies, breads, vegetables, herbs, plants, dog treats, furniture, raw food juices, jams and a kitchen sink or two (for a complete list click here) make their appearance on Market Street between Delaware and Alabama from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm.

14 bucks got me three slices of different cake breads from Rene’s Bakery, a heavy bag of organic brunch muffins from Valentine Hill Farms, a few pounds of delicious hot house tomatoes and a large handful of Rhubarb from Blitz Greenhouses.

>Sprout Restaurant – Chicago

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Chicago, Illinois


BRAVO SPROUT

My partner and I made New Year’s Eve reservations at the restaurant where Bravo’s Top Chef runner up Dale Levitsky was making his new home (Sara Nguyen too…sorry…I bet she’s tired of everyone forgetting she made it on the show too). We were excited for the ten course menu and decided to make a weekend out of the event.

We knew there would be a waiting list so we called early to make our reservation. Low and behold it was Dale himself who answered the phone. While wondering why the celebrity chef was answering the phones he made light about it being a small place and that he was in the office to do some ordering anyway. A week before our reservation I called again to ask when the anticipated menu was going to be put online…and again it was Dale answering the call himself. We chit chatted a little about the meal and that was that. Or so I thought. Well…calling four hours before to confirm our New Years Eve reservation we were told we were not on the list and that they were sold out.

“Uh…but I spoke with Dale about it TWICE” I said…”We came into town just for this meal” I pleaded…”It’s bloody New Year’s Eve and the only place that can take us on short notice is Wendy’s” I cried into the phone.

Nothing…they had nothing left…not even a spare table in the restroom and they apologized.

Honestly, I felt like someone had just punched me in the gut. I get so excited about the anticipation of a great meal…getting prepared to go out, the cocktails beforehand and filling an evening with beautiful things…and now…I was all dressed up, its was New Year’s Eve, and I could care less. We decided to make the best of it (knowing I was going to RIP Sprout a new one in this blog) and we made reservations at our standard sushi place.

Then the phone rang.

It was the Maitre’ D at Sprout. He had called the restaurant owners and they wanted to give us their table for the evening. There was champagne waiting for us and they wondered if we needed a taxi. I cried. This was EXACTLY how it should have been handled. BRAVO SPROUT!

Arriving at the restaurant I was sure we were at the wrong place. The dull exterior and large cheap-looking sign looked like the place was a wholesale rubber mat distributor or maybe a place that sold billiard tables to bars. The large bar and warm bistro color palette was on the right track but everything seemed pieced together without any specific point of view…but…it was clean and warm and we had a reservation.

Sparkling Riesling with blood orange bitters with a spoonful of cane sugar greeted us at the door and our table held our first course;

Caviar infused with peppermint, sliced pear and crushed macadamia nuts.
2008 Independent Producers Chardonnay.

Foie Gras with currents soaked in Ximenex with parsnips.
Fume Blanc from Ferrari Carano.

(my favorite course of the evening)

Sablefish with geoduck, cucumber and potato with french spices.
Coteux D’Aix en Provence, Blanco from Mas de Gourgonneier.

(the fish was prepared perfectly)

Pheasant and lamb with brussel sprouts, apricots and steamed salsify oyster plant.
Negre Samso from Clos de Noi Negre.

(I anticipated this one the most and was underwhelmed)

Raspberry Ice
with a nice Muscat

Truffle infused short ribs with mushrooms, radichio and shaved manchego.
Lodi “Old Vines” Zinfandel from Klinker Brick.

(finger licking good)

Cheese course
Cabernet Franc from Lang & Reed.

(too drunk to remember)

Pineapple and golden beets layered with goat cheese with ginger and chocolate.
Bugey Cerdon.

(my second favorite course of the evening…way to go Sara)

Selection of Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Violet Truffles.

(boring)

The meal was followed by the two chefs coming out to thank and welcome everyone to the new year. The small space was packed and they spoke as if we were all invited friends sitting in their living room…cozy, warm and full. I’ll be back … probably in the middle of the week for no particular reason and nothing to celebrate except great food and great service.

Sprout on Urbanspoon