Dec 1, 2007

December 2007

Hi Luna/tics:

Let me get this out of the way: Bah hum-bug.

I feel better....

I will feel much better the day after Christmas when all the hubbub has died down a bit, and we begin to think quickly about New Years Eve.
Tell me why the emphasis on Christmas is "get it done, get it done, get it done!" while New Year's celebrations lean toward "Yahoo! It's champagne and food time!"

I don't get it.

But I love Christmas season because it lets us look at all of the boxed Christmas tree treasures we put away for 11 months out of the year and have such awe, mystery and joy when seeing over and over again as soon as we pull them out.

Gary and I have a slew of ornaments collected over the many years (he is so lucky..... ). Souvenirs from trips, friends, relatives, each other, employees and customers that we keep and remember each person from. --(let me re-phrase this: Gary remembers them all, and I mean ALL. Myself on the other hand, I look at something that has probably been hanging on the tree each year for the last 35 years and ask him "When did you get that?"......My misspent youth in the 70's is always taking its tole on my brain {THIS IS YOUR BRAIN::::} The late 60's and early 70's have become my own cliche.....)

But the funny thing is this: we will get the boxes out, open them up and the stories all come flying out of his mouth about the circumstance in which we either purchased it or were given it. And it is always a comfort to know that this time of the year I get to listen to them all once again. This is the type of Christmas season truly loved by us.....the memories of Christmas pasts and the fun of the current Christmas.....getting on and over with it.

I have come to the conclusion I am not an exceptional person.
But I have always tried to surround myself with exceptional people. They make me look really good.

Although this past year has not been full of good things health-wise, the people I associate with and live with are full of the kind of amazing personalities and purposes that makes me a better person. And they are reminding me of the simple pleasures that seem to knock me most off my feet.

I am amazed at wonderful cooks - people who can just "throw things together (Gary's sister-in law Darlene has this comment about his mom: She could make mud-pies taste good"). Good speakers. People with beautiful gardens. Patient people. People with a great nose for wines, tastes, art, writings.....the list goes on.

But I am most amazed at those in my life that are kind.

Not the people who go out of their way to be kind, but the ones who just have this aura of kindness that radiates from their every pore.

I am amazed at people who are naturally witty and fast with their jokes, quips, etc. These are the people I love to have over for a dinner, or wine or find a reason to just hang out with. The friends and people you meet that can just make you smile and you cannot get enough of their company.

But on the opposite side of this coin, I do love the vicious ones almost just as much.... You know: The gossipy, "take-no-prisoners" kind of friends who just make my mouth drop open with their funny bitchiness that - I am sorry to admit this - make me fall off my chair with their evil wit and sarcasm. (My mother was right: watching to much television as a kid did make my mind a pile of mush!).

We have this friend who we love. We also love to hate this person sometimes, but consider him/her part of our family. The sarcasm, wit and joy at certain things are hilarious. The mean streak is also something to behold. ("Sweetheart, if you can't say something nice about someone, sit next to me....") He/she is the relative/friend that we all have in our history that makes you cringe when they are in a bad mood yet can't wait to hear what is coming out of their mouths next ("Honey, get me a drink. A good stiff one.....Auntie needs a cocktail.....That's a nice boy....."). It seems that these over-the-top Auntie Mame types always lived a bigger life than you, knew the most interesting people, traveled to the most exotic places and seem to have had many loves in their lives. In life, it hasn't been to gather and hold on to friends, but to meet the most people. And yet, inevitably, they live alone and are alone, save for the relatives and friends who like to hear their stories......over and over and over and over again.....

I love my "every-day-every-year-lets-get-out-the-ornaments-and- make-sure-we-eat-Trifle-for-Christmas" existence. It is a comfort.
And so, along this line: a recipe of one of my favorite holiday dishes:
Gary's Pumpkin Pie Cake Recipe: this is one of those recipes we always have during the holidays. A friend named Norma gave it to us probably 20 years ago, to which we have dolled up with more or less ingredients. But it is easy, and great tasting and makes your house smell great. Go for it. And serve it with cold cinnamon whipped cream... Perfect!

I'M GOING TO DISNEYLAND. Well, let me put this in proximity: Gary and I just got back from Disneyland. Wednesday night to be honest. No kids this time. Five over-40 adults who just wanted to ride all the rides and see all the exhibits and watch the parades.....We did and we did and we did......I was kind of afraid that five grown-ups waiting in line for the Log Ride, or the Haunted Hollywood Hotel ride might bring the smiling guards over to us asking what we were doing with no children.....but they didn't....and it seems to me that there were lots of adults indulging themselves with the same addiction to speed and roller-coasters and getting sprayed from water that we were seeking......Ha! Who says you can't have fun over 50? (Well 41, 55, 60, 63, and 69 to be exact). We got just as sick and queasy as the little ones! Fun! Quote me on this: It's the happiest place on earth.

I am going to give you an incredible website address:
Josh let me know about "pod-casts" available for the iPod I purchased for Gary almost 2 years ago this Christmas (he doesn't know how to use it because I have not let him have it yet.....but the thought was there....). I went to the iTunes website, and looked up available "pod-casts" and found this one, under food and then The Splendid Table. Let me start by saying that Pisces persons are prone to addiction. I am listening to everyone of this woman's radio shows because they are absolutely fascinating. Not so much a "recipe" show, but rather a food, history, travel show. When I say this old dog (me) is learning new tricks, it may be because of things such as this. Absolutely inspiring, informative and fun. The website does have a whole bunch of off the wall recipes, and the shows are great!. I truly recommend this site to all the foodies out there! (Who knew the real reason a butter knife has a wedge in it?).

This Month's Menu:
My Aunt Sandi and Uncle Paul have over 50 Meyer Lemon trees planted on their property over in Loomis. I help her out with recipes, sauces and what-ever else she needs so that I do not feel bad when we bring home two or three bags of these beauties. We are using the zest and the juice in our Salmon Cakes under our appetizers. Wonderful flavor and tang....

We are running our Hot Head Special of Jerk Pork. Mr. Mike loves this recipe, and it is always fun to see how red his face gets after he eats it. This is a very researched-out recipe that took me forever to develop. It is mole-like in its ingredients, but with a Caribbean/Cuban/Afro accent in its use of many spices and chile's. Pan-sauteed and then simmered boneless pork served with rice. Heat scale: 9 out of 10 (Whew!!). This is the one that makes Josh hic-cup (a weird reaction he has to spicy food.....not so much anymore: the boy has developed the cast iron stomach needed for hot spicy foods. Good for him!).

Rack of Lamb: Just what the weather has needed.....racks coated with a bread crumb, herbs, whole-grain mustard and olive oil breading, roasted in our convection oven, and served with a minted mustard sauce. Wonderful.

Hanger Steak: this wonderful piece of meat is so flavorful and great on the char-broiler. We rub it with our own "Monterrey Spice Rub" (see attached recipe) made with lemon zest, dill, pepper and other herbs. Let it marinate, then char it (medium rare is preferred). Served with a Port butter sauce that Josh developed, it is so great.....

Sonoran Seafood Stew: mixed shell fish and white fish simmered in a rich Mexican styled vegetable broth served with rice, vegetables and grilled tortillas. Warming, flavorful and full of seafood. Yum!

Piri-Piri Prawns: Josh and I got into a conversation about Afro/Caribbean foods, and how much flavor is derived from certain mixtures of herbs, spices and rubbing them down brings out more flavor than you can imagine. Then we talked about how condiments are used so heavily in these nations. So, this is our result: large prawns marinated for several hours, pan-sauteed and then served on a bed of coconut-lime rice with a fresh papaya sauce dolloping the top. Very good mix of flavors.

Mr. Don's Pan-Roasted Chicken: Two wonderful friends love this dish. So we put it back on because it is such a perfect winter dish. "French" style chicken breast pan-sauteed until golden and crisp served on a bed of baby gnocchi, Fingerling potatoes, and button mushrooms simmered in a rich chicken stock. It is one of my very favorite chicken dishes I have ever conceived. Thanks Mr. Don! Other peoples memories make mine look better.

New Wines: Some notes on newbies...
Have we told you about Miraflores Zinfandel and their Petite Sirah? We are offering these incredible local wines by the glass. Our customers are in love with this new addition to the menu. They are here in El Dorado County, and their web-site is:
Go there on the web, and in person.....lovely.

We went to a wine tasting, Gary, Miss Sally and myself last month. We had an incredible experience tasting some new wines (to us) from California, Washington, Oregon, Spain, Australian, and New Zealand.

We tasted this one sherry, Dios Bacos Pedro Ximenez Sherry, that blew our socks off. What I found out is this: Pedro Ximenez is a type of Spanish grape used to make this highly fortified sherry. It is full-bodied, sweet and perfect by itself as a sipper after dinner. But what we did find out is that it goes so well with certain desserts, and also great to finish some of our meat/chicken sauces (think: deglazing your pan with this wonderful stuff). If you like after dinner ports and sherries, you will love this one.

We also purchased a wonderful white wine from Spain called
Saineval Albarino. Very dry and full bodied, no oak, with honey, pear and tropical fruit with a minerally over-tone. A wonderful seafood wine, or a spicy food wine. We loved it.

In all, we have added about 25 new wines since October. I will high-light them for you in our wine book. And if you ask Gary when you come in, he can give you a lot of good recommendations. (" I love it......It's my favorite.....Here's to ya!...Happy days are here again..."---wait a second....that is me, not him....)

We are having a Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday night special of some 50% off wines, at whim. Come in to see which ones on which days......

And do not forget: WINO WEDNESDAYS. (It just sounds like a party doesn't it? Or a meeting at a rehab center....on Wednesdays I would suppose...) For those of you who do not know about this, it is all wines on the menu under $35 are 30% off. This is a great opportunity to try some wines or maybe several.

Recipes Attached:
Brining recipe: this is the recipe that we use for our pork chops, pork tenderloins and other cuts. We talk about it alot, and let you know how much flavor, and juiciness is the result. So here is the recipe.

And our Monterrey Spice Rub: keep this made up and in your pantry. It is great on most cuts of meat, poultry and fish. It gives a great accent to all of these items either pan-sauteed, char-broiled or just barbecued. We use it on the Hanger Steak, but have used it on lamb, chicken, and a good solid piece of fish (which we mix with a bit of olive oil). Great gift for any of your food friends also.....

We will be open again this year New Year's evening. Make your reservations early. We will be closed New Year's day.

And finally: remember, the recipes and menu's are in PDF format. If you have any trouble with them, let me know. I hope to get back to you soon.

Have a merry everything. Hope to see all of you soon. And thank you all for the kind notes and letters I get from you when this goes out.
It makes for a happy heart.

Take care all of you.

David at Cafe Luna