Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pleasant Dining at the Parkview Cafe

 This past summer, I had the opportunity to have lunch several times at a cute cafe in Westfield, New York, a short 15 minute drive from the inn.  When I heard they were starting to serve dinner, I was thrilled!  The Parkview Cafe is right on Main Street, next door to Brazill's on Main, a long time Inn favorite.
 The Cafe is well appointed, with elegant tablecloths, chargers and crystal chandeliers.  The new owners continue to make improvements, and indicate there will be outside seating in warmer weather.

We visited for dinner twice.  The menu was new the first time we visited, and was the same a month later when we returned.  Items are a nice mix of seafood, meat and some limited vegetarian options.

Mussels with Bacon
We started with a special for the day, which was mussels with bacon and blue cheese.  The appetizer was very generous; enough for four, without a strong blue cheese flavor. On the second visit we ordered the Seared Wild Sea Scallop appetizer. They were perfectly cooked and tasty.

My favorite in both visits was the OssoBucco, made with pork shanks (versus the traditional lamb). Again, the portion was large (my brother looked a bit like Henry 8th with the huge bone in front of him).  Meat was tender and tasty, just wish there was a bit more of the dark brown sauce.  Veggies in all the dishes were perfectly cooked.

Scallop Appetizer

Chicken Cordon Bleu

During the visits we tried two of the chicken dishes, the Parkview Chicken (which is like a chicken fried chicken with a white sauce) and Chicken Cordon Bleu (two huge pieces with tasty cheese and ham inside).
Seafood Alfredo

We tried the Seafood Alfredo and the Stuffed Shrimp.  The Alfredo looked a bit dry to me, but I was assured that there was plenty of sauce.

The Stuffed Shrimp, however was a bit dry, make sure that you ask for extra butter sauce if you order.
Dessert on both occasions was satisfying without being spectacular.  The chocolate cake was a bit dry, and the coconut cake had a nice flavor.

Decent Wine Selection
Would we come back?  Absolutely!  The atmosphere is nice, and allows for a relaxing and quiet dinner.
Bunny Salt and Pepper Shakers

Another interesting item is their salt and pepper shaker collection. Each table has a unique salt and pepper shaker, gifted by various patrons who travel.

Salt and Pepper Piggies

Salt and Pepper Piggies in a Tub

Innkeeper Grape Arbor Bed & Breakfast

Monday, May 4, 2015

Baking Biscotti

 I am always up for a challenge, and love to bake things I have never tried!  One treat that my step mother Doris loves is biscotti.  I have always looked at them with a little trepidation, thinking they would for sure break at the very least some fillings, and at the worst...teeth.

So...research!  How was I to know that there were many different kinds of biscotti?  Sweet, savory, chocolate dipped, traditional, with our without butter...yikes!  What to choose, what to choose?  Eventually I decided that it might be fun to make biscotti that paired well with a few of our local wines/beverages.  As you can see above, I decided on a traditional flavor with a little twist of lemon..perfect to pair with Five and 20 Spirits Limoncello (which, by the way, also make a magnificent Lemon Meringue Pie).

Being traditional, there was no butter in the recipe, but toasted whole almonds and some lemon oil.
How do you get the shape?  Well, you form the dough into logs and bake for the first time.
Then (and this was the tricky part) you slice the baked logs on the diagonal once they are cooled, and put the slices back in the oven and bake a second time,

The flavor is very good--almondy, marzipan with a hint of lemon..not too much.  Not bad for a first try!  What next?   I am thinking ginger....

This recipe is from "Ciao Biscotti" by Domenica Marchetti

Lemon Biscotti

(makes about 30)

2 C flour
1 1/4C sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
scant 1 C whole almonds, toasted
3 large eggs, one separated
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon oil

Heat oven to 350 degrees, put parchment paper in 11x17inch baking sheet.

1.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the toasted almonds and mix on low speed to combine and break up some of the almonds.
2.  Lightly beat the eggs and egg yolk, and combine with the vanilla and lemon.  Add to the flour mixture.  Mix on medium speed until a soft, slightly sticky dough has formed.
3.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a disk.  Divide the disk in half.  Lightly moisten your hands with water and gently roll one portion of the dough into a rough oval.  Place it lengthwise on one half of the baking sheet and use your hands and fingers to stretch and pat the dough into a log about 2 1/2 inches wide and 12 inches long.
4.  Shape the second piece of dough in the same way, moistening your hands as necessary.  Press down on the logs to flatten them out a bit and make the tops even.  Lightly beat the reserved egg white and brush it over the tops of the logs.
5.  Bake the logs for 25 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and just set--they should be springy to the touch and there should be cracks on the surface.  Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack.  Gently slide the logs to a wire rack, and let cool for 20 minutes. 
6.  Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.  Transfer the logs, one at at time, to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut them on the diagonal into 3/4 inch slices.  Arrange the slices, cut-side up, on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  Turn the slices over and bake for another 10 minutes, until they are crisp.  The biscotti will keep for up to 2 weeks in a airtight container stored at room temperature.
Innkeeper Grape Arbor Bed & Breakfast

Monday, April 20, 2015

Baking Cookies with Local Maple Syrup

Making the same cookies can get boring!  I know, everyone loves the Chocolate Chip cookies, so I don't DARE not have those out...but sometimes you just want something different.  Today is a bit gloomy...and I see the gallon jug of maple syrup from our friends at Morton Maple Farm in nearby Wattsburg.

I know assistant innkeeper Paul LOVES pecans and maple syrup, so I meander through some of my cookbooks, and find:  Rustic Maple Pecan Cookies (in my "Great Cookies" book by Carole Walter).  It looks promising--lots of butter, melted (which will make the cookies chewy), maple syrup, orange juice and toasted pecans.

Now I have not been a huge fan of nuts of almost any kind until I started an eating plan last summer that encouraged me to have nuts as my only snack..so I ventured out and have found that I like them better than I thought.

So, you melt the butter, add the maple syrup, orange juice, and maple and vanilla extracts.  Stir in the dry ingredients, toasted nuts, and voila!

Here's the recipe:

Maple Pecan Cookies

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen

3/4C (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 C pure maple syrup
1 large egg
2 T orange juice
1 tsp maple extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 C sugar
1/2 C packed brown sugar (I used light)
1 1/2 C coarsely chopped toasted pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare cookie sheets with parchment, or grease well.
2. In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and set aside to cool to tepid.
3. Whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda in another bowl.  Set aside.
4. Using a wooden spoon, add the maple syrup to the melted cooled butter, mixing well.  Blend in the egg, orange juice, and extracts.  Whisk in the sugars, stirring until well combined and free of lumps.  Stir in the dry ingredients in three additions, then fold in the nuts with a large rubber spatula.
5. Drop scant tablespoons of dough onto the cookie sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 9 - 10  minutes, until the edges JUST begin to brown.  Remove from oven and let stand for 2-3 minutes before loosening with a thin metal spatula.  Cool on wire racks.

Innkeeper Grape Arbor Bed & Breakfast

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Creating Easter Dessert: Lemon Praline Torte

 Sometimes I just want to try and make something difficult...just to see if I can.  Last summer, while visiting the King Arthur store

(It's in Vermont and has a WONDERFUL bakery) I bought this book "Extraordinary Cakes" by Karen Krasne.  It has the most beautiful cakes in it.  I attempted one at Christmas.  It tasted fine, but I hadn't budgeted enough time, so it was still a bit frozen when we were ready to eat it.

So I was determined to get it right, and selected the Lemon Praline Torte.  This torte is no joke..when I was making up the store list..I totalled 2 dozen eggs, 4 1/2 C sugar and 3 1/4 C of butter...yowzah!  This time I read ALL the instructions carefully, and plotted out my time over a 3 day period.  Because this torte has the following layers:

Genoise Cake
Lemon Curd
Lemon Butter Cream
French Meringue
Crushed Hazelnut/Almond Praline

So, Day 1 I made the lemon curd and lemon simple syrup.
Day 2 I made the genoise...see below beating the 10 eggs!
Then, the meringue...which is the middle layer of the torte and gives it a crunchy chewy texture:
Then the lemon buttercream, which has an Italian meringue in it...and LOTS of butter:
And you put it all together to make this:

It is spectacular..all kinds of textures, sweet, tart, crunchy, chewy...worth all the work!

Innkeeper Grape Arbor Bed & Breakfast

Friday, April 10, 2015

Lake Erie Ale Trail

Not everyone is a wine lover.  There are some people who prefer beer to wine.  The Erie Visitor's Bureau has put together the Lake Erie Ale Trail--so in the interest of providing more information for our guests, Assistant Innkeeper Paul and I ventured out to visit some of the breweries on the trail.

Brewerie at Union Station
Because we are wimps, we only made it to two in the afternoon that we had. (I should say...I am the wimp, and I was driving).  First we stopped at The Brewerie at Union Station.  I have to admit, I have never been to Union Station in the 13 years of living in this area...and it is beautiful.

It is a train station, and there are many well-appointed tables and areas to sit and enjoy.  There were 8 beers to sample when we were there, and we tasted all 8, which ranged from some lighter ales to stouts.  My favorites were the Big Easy (a seasonal, so it might not be there when you visit) and the Amber, while Paul absolutely loved the Girl Stout Thin Mint!   There is a pub menu..we ordered the pulled pork tacos...yum!
Selection of Beers at Brewerie.

Our second stop couldn't have been any more different!  As elegant and impressive as the Union Station venue is, Lavery Brewing Company is cozy and neighborly.  They are a bit hard to find, and you walk through the outside maze of the bottling area to arrive at the tasting area.  The staff is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about their beer.

Lavery gift shop

Here we tried six beers (now you know why only two breweries).  My favorite was the Space Monkey, while Paul liked the Liopard Oir (hmm, they say it is made for ladies, crazies and connoisseurs). 

We ordered the charcuterie plate to go with, that had some very tasty smoked cheeses, venison sausage and chorizo.

Our host at Lavery Brewery

 If you are a beer lover...mark your calendar for Saturday, April 18, the 9th Annual MicroBrew Festival with 30 craft brewers and 20 home brewers....two sittings, at the Brewerie.

Until next time.....

Innkeeper Grape Arbor Bed & Breakfast