Sunday, November 17, 2013

Food and Wine Tips for Thanksgiving

I, like most Americans, have food traditions for Thanksgiving. I always make my family's traditional sausage-and-onion stuffing (technically "dressing" since we never stuff the bird with it, but we've always called it "stuffing"). I don't think the recipe for this stuffing was ever written down--it's been handed down from my father's mother. Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without it, and woe to the host/ess of a family Thanksgiving celebration who makes it badly or [gasp!] attempts a different stuffing recipe.

I know all of the ingredients by heart, but can't give you the exact portions of each because I've never measured things like the amount of sage, chopped onion, etc. It's always been a matter of eyeballing it according to the amount of stuffing I need to make for the meal that year. So I think I shall try to document the recipe when I make stuffing this year, will share it in the future.

Today I shall share another recipe that I use to prepare our turkey. It's not actually my recipe, though.

My husband and I lived for a few years in Sonora, California. Sonora is north of Yosemite, in the Sierra Foothills. It is also the home of the Diestel Family Turkey Ranch. There is something incredibly satisfying about being able to pick up your Thanksgiving turkey directly from the ranch, especially when we're talking about free-range, organically raised turkeys. They are, by far, the best turkeys we've ever had.

To this day, if we can get our hands on a Diestel turkey for Thanksgiving, we get it. Luckily, Whole Foods Market carries Diestel turkey in Texas, so we drive down to the one in Plano to get one. If you want to see if there is a supplier near you, Diestel provides a finder.

The first time we picked up a turkey from the Diestel ranch, I also picked up one of their pamphlets that provided recommendations for cooking. Included on it was this recipe. Even when I haven't been able to get a Diestel turkey for Thanksgiving, I've used their recipe because it gives me a perfect turkey and perfect gravy, every time. Note that in their recipe for "Old Fashioned Turkey Gravy", they give an "optional" step of pouring a cup of hot white wine over the turkey half way through the roasting process. They really should include this as a mandatory step in the roasting process itself, because it is critical to the gravy. If you follow their instructions, including the wine, all you end up having to do at the end is separate the fat from the rest of the juices in the pan, then thicken it with a flour paste, and you have a wonderful gravy that needs absolutely nothing else added it.

Every good Thanksgiving dinner needs a good wine to go with it. Although you might think you need white wine to go with your white turkey meat, I beg to differ. We've found the best pairing with our Thanksgiving turkey is an Oregon Pinot Noir. If you pick up a Diestel turkey and want to keep with the organic, sustainable farming theme, I recommend a Pinot Noir from Sokol-Blosser.

Have a happy Turkey Day!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Frogg for Brunch

My husband and I are discovering Watters Creek in Allen. Our initial motivation to go there, a couple weeks ago, was to visit the Eddie Bauer store there in search of a jacket that I saw online, but didn't want to order until I tried it on. (Eddie Bauer has closed the stores that used to be in the Stonebriar and Willow Bend malls, so now the nearest is in Watters Creek.)

We got there early on a Sunday, after breakfast but before the shops opened, so we spent some time walking around the area and scoping out the offerings. It's a development similar to The Shops at Legacy, with shops at street level and apartments up above, except with significantly better parking (i.e. more spaces in both outside parking and in parking structures, and the ramps in the parking structures aren't so steep that they endanger the noses of sports cars). On a nice Fall day, it is a great place to visit, walk around, and hang out in the open-air seating available in restaurant patios or the benches along the trails.

On our first visit, we stopped at Frogg Coffee Bar & Creperie and picked up some mochas to take on our walk. In addition to coffee and espresso drinks and a selection of breakfast breads and pastries, they also offer (as their name indicates) a selection of sweet and savory crepes. We didn't partake of any food on that visit, but we scanned their menu and filed away the information for later.

Fast-forward to today, when we decided to go someplace other than our usual haunt for Saturday breakfast. Although it is a bit of a trek from our home, we decided to try Frogg.

Although there were one or two children in the café, Frogg is definitely more of an older-teenager and adult establishment, in both atmosphere and food choices. The brunch menu does not have a lot of choices, but the selection is eclectic enough to provide something for everyone. Since we enjoyed the mochas on our first visit, we each ordered them again, as well as a "Lone Ranger" crepe for each of us.

The modus operandi of Frogg is like other cafés--you order at the counter, get a number, and they bring your drinks and food when they are ready. They have both indoor and outdoor seating, with the outdoor seating overlooking the picturesque creek that runs through the development. Unfortunately the weather was a bit cool with an even cooler breeze today, so we had to sit inside. Although Froggs had a steady stream of customers, they were not overwhelmed and we were able to find a table for two.

I wouldn't exactly call the food and coffee preparation "speedy", but I wouldn't call the wait "excessive", especially given the number of people coming through to either eat or get a drink to go. It was evident from their open kitchen that they have a small staff (not surprising from the size of the café), who were  diligent about getting the orders cooked and delivered to tables, and clearing the vacated tables for the next customers. That being said, this is definitely a place I would recommend for couples and small groups, rather than big family outings.

Our mochas arrived first, with cute little heart and flower designs in the foam.  Our food arrived half-way through the consumption of our mochas. The crepes, with their filling of scrambled eggs, potatoes, and chorizo were substantial, though not so big that we couldn't finish them all. The fresh pico de gallo and spice of the chorizo was just enough to wake up our taste buds. The hollandaise added a nice creaminess to the crepe, and I'm pleased that they didn't drown the crepe in it, as so many restaurants tend to do.

In concept, the fruit on the side was an excellent accompaniment to the crepe because it adds a light, fresh component to the dish. Their kitchen staff needs some lessons in selecting and cutting up melons, however. The pieces were tiny (something you'd expect in a canned fruit cocktail), and while that might have ensured that plenty of fruit fit in the ramekin, the small pieces were almost impossible to stab with a fork because the cantaloupe was very under-ripe and the honeydew wasn't much better. After successfully skewering and eating a couple of pieces, I gave up because the other pieces were jumping away as I tried to stab them and threatened to leap out of the bowl.

Fruit aside, we enjoyed our experience at Frogg. Our crepes were tasty and fulfilled our desire for "something different" than our normal brunch fare. Although their location isn't exactly convenient for us, we will definitely stop in again.

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