The Sugar Shack at Cooks’ Woods

The first sign of spring in these parts is when there is available sustenance again, in the form of maple syrup.   This was our third year visiting Cooks’ Woods for their sugaring and open house.  Sugaring in the states can be traced back as far as the 1500′s.  The whole process always feels like visiting an old friend.  As we turned down into their driveway from Ebenezer Rd. there were the familiar rows and rows of Christmas trees (which are sold in season). When the road went up again, there was the humble sugar shack.  The steam billowed out of the chimney and carried the scent of maple syrup.  A little flag with maple leaves on it swayed by the door.  Right when we walked in, we were greeted by an even more intoxicating scent of syrup.  The massive evaporator was to the right.  It can boil off 35 gallons of water per hour.   Ten gallons of sap will make about one quart of syrup (or 2 pints).  We spotted Dave Cook, who wore a bright orange cap, chatting with visitors.

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2014 Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Championship

It’s that time of year– the snow is melting, the wind is a little less frigid, and the Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Championship is coming back.  Just about a month from now, April 27th, the 3rd annual competition will be held at Harris Park in Dodgeville.

We here at Driftless Appetite have been involved with the Championship since the beginning.  First as a competitor (Leslie) and then as a judge (Keith).  Judging at last year’s event was a blast and I was thrilled that they asked me back this year.

I believe right now there are a few slots left open for competitors, but you’ll want to act fast.  Check out the WGCC website or their facebook page for more details.

You should also check out the Wisconsin Foodie episode filmed at last year’s event (see it here).

“Drifted” Appetite: Plum Lyon Teaching Kitchen

I think we can safely say goodbye to the polar vortex now.  Happy springtime to all of you!   A lot of the ice has melted.  The nearby creek is robustly flowing.  Ollie dog and I went for a two hour ramble the other day and he got properly happy and muddy.  Some of the trees were showing off tiny yellow-green buds and it was wonderful to see bright green moss growing on rocks.  Soon the rhubarb will be popping-up its brainy heads in the garden and foragers will be delighted to have morels, wild leeks, fiddlehead ferns, and watercress to pick. Today, my favorite maple farmer, Dave Cook, said that the sap is finally flowing in time for sugaring season.  What are you excited about?

Come along with me to the beautiful city of Lyon to whet your appetite for the upcoming bountiful season.  If you have not been following the blog, check out the first part of my cooking adventure at the Croix-Rousse Market.  We spent a day shopping at the market and cooking up a multi-course meal at Lucy Vanel’s teaching kitchen, Plum Lyon.  Heaven.

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The Walker House Bakery

Keith and I just paid a visit to the Walker House for the opening day of its bakery.  For now, it will be open on Saturdays from 8 AM until noon but orders can be made and picked-up during the week.  The place was abuzz.  There were a lot of items to choose from:  elephant ears, pasties, muffins, cookies, loaf breads, peanut cake bars, donuts, coffee cakes, blueberry pie, caramel apple rolls, cupcakes, sheet cakes, and many more.  We enjoyed some coffee and a few bites of strawberry cream cheese cake.  I ended up chatting with Brooke Garrison, who was filling up the shelves with more treats.  It turns out she was the assistant baker.  She invited me up to the kitchen to meet head baker, Lisa Govier.

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“Drifted” Appetite: The Croix-Rousse Market & Cooking in Lyon

Hi everyone!  I’m writing in bed with a wool blanket, two down comforters, and the puppy on top of me (with a glass of wine nearby).  Keith is in Paris right now doing secret scientific stuff which has me reminiscing about my French cooking adventure this past summer in Lyon.  Before going anywhere, I usually search for food blogs in the area to try get to know a place from the locals.  In researching Lyon, I stumbled on Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook, a scrumptious blog by American expat Lucy Vanel.  Even more exciting, she had recently started a cooking school, Plum Lyon, out of her home in the historic Croix-Rousse district.  I signed up for her market to table class and counted down the days until I could be there.

Keith and I stayed in a room on the fourth floor of an old building with unusually large and winding stone steps and windows that opened onto the courtyard.  There were large pots of multi-colored hydrangeas and birds darted in and out a lot, their squawking amplified by the stone courtyard so much that it felt as if I had a flock right above my head.  You could also hear everyone’s conversations (mostly they were talking about how loud the birds were!).  Golds, burgundy, and emeralds dominated the room, just how I imagined it to be.  The curtains were a heavy silk and damask combination held open on one side by a thick rope of gold and silver silk.  The walls were covered with a a shimmery cream wall paper with ornate pattern.  There was a marble and cast iron fireplace and the lights just bright enough to make everything look even more golden.  In the sitting area were red velvet chairs (perfect for writing in my journal or lounging with coffee).  The bathroom was bright and modern with a full-sized tub.  I was pretty in love with all of it.

I walked to Lucy’s neighborhood on the first morning in the city toward the old silk district.  It was lovely and hilly.  I wore my favorite flowy lace skirt, a striped t-shirt, sandals, and black sunglasses.  The stair steps were neverending.  My favorite part was going through a traboule that was like a secret passageway.  It was actually used for silk transport back in the day so that the fabrics didn’t get wet.  Finally, I got to 49 Rue des Tables Claudiennes, Lucy’s cooking school.  We had a little coffee while we waited for one other student that day.  Her name was Gina, from Mt. Prospect Illinois, of all places!  We headed out or shall I say “up” to the market.  I saw the reason for Lucy’s market bag on wheels.

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Hot Chocolate

The other day, I made some marshmallows for the first time.  Keith and I fun pretending it was summertime and we toasted some using our fireplace.  Marshmallows plus fire or marshmallows plus chocolate is never a bad idea.  One of my favorite treats is Gail Ambrosius’ hot chocolate mix.  It’s a rough mixture of chunky Columbian dark chocolate.  When you open the brown bag, you’ll get a strong, intoxicating aroma that will make you feel an extra jolt of verve during these frigid, wintry days.  Trust me, you’ll want to make a warm cup of this delicious elixir.  Make sure you’ve got some really good milk.  We love Sassy Cow Creamery.

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Marshmallows

Most people in Wisconsin are dreaming of being somewhere warmer right now, like Tobolsk (a town in Siberia), Russia.  This morning, the thermometer outside the kitchen window read negative twenty degrees Fahrenheit.  Of the eight years I’ve been living in Wisconsin, I have never seen it dip that low.  It feels absolutely brutal out there.  The last time Keith let Ollie dog out, he lifted three of his paws from being cold and then fell on his back.  The poor little munchkin didn’t want to move.  He had to carry him in.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to make homemade marshmallows for awhile now.  It would be perfect to plop atop hot chocolate, as a special treat for my music students.  It’s actually very easy.  The key is to have all your materials ready, and your ingredients measured before hand.  Also, don’t worry about having the final fluff perfectly leveled and flat or else you will have a stringy sticky mess all over you and your kitchen.  Give the pan a little shake and it will flatten out.

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‘Tis the Season to be Baking

Hi there!  What have you been up to?  Me, I’ve been on a baking spree for about a week now.  So much so that the only way I could whip up breakfast this morning was to scramble-up some cookies.  Not really,  but we did have tea and cookies for breakfast.  The first thing I made was the filling for the mince pies.  My first encounter with this (which came out of a package) was not so pleasant but I decided to make it to see if it’s any better.  I looked at several recipes and decided to make it with whatever I had on hand.  Some key things to have is fruit, dried fruit, sugar, and booze.  My mixture consisted of pears, pear cider, homemade orange liqueur (“Grand Marnier”), orange juice, homemade blood orange marmalade, sultanas, dates, walnuts, poppy seeds, maraschino cherries, and molasses.  The scent was absolutely intoxicating and it tasted just as lovely.  Here’s a nice article and recipe by Nigel Slater.

Mince Pies, Pink Cookies, & Pork Pies

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‘Tis the Season

Hi everyone, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  This year, we decided to go a non-traditional route for the first time ever (Keith *loves* traditional Thanksgiving) and did a Spanish-y tapas style meal.  We built our menu around a wonderful cured Berkshire pork leg from Edwards of Surry, VA.  It is America’s answer to Italy’s prosciutto or Spain’s serrano.  Recommended by Eric Ripert no less.  It was a lot of fun and not too much cooking.  The night before our celebration, I put together the colorful paper lanterns we were going to use for a summer party that never happened and hung them inside the house.  Instant Spain.

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Café con leche on a Frosty Morning

It has been absolutely gorgeous out these last couple of mornings.  Right after I woke up and looked out of the kitchen window the other day, I felt this big desire to take a picture of a frosty maple leaf.  Does that ever happen to you?  So I bundled-up, stepped outside, and searched for just the right leaf.  It was a perfect bronze color, slightly curled at the tips, and the tiny specks of ice surrounding it sparkled silver from the early light.

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