I got home from Seattle today with a mailbox full of fall catalogs. Yikes. Then I was talking to a friend and she mentioned how wild it is that tomorrow’s September. I can name something equally wild: the fact that I haven’t updated this blog in two weeks. The truth is that I’ve been a very busy gal; I’m working on a project that I’m not quite ready to mention because I don’t want to jinx it. But hopefully soon I’ll be able to spill the beans and we can have a little chat. In the meantime, let’s talk about this past weekend.
I went to the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) in Seattle and there were definite moments of awesomeness. I met some fabulous new friends like her, her, her and her. I got a chance to hear photographer Penny de los Santos speak again and sat in on an inspiring talk by Saveur editor, James Oseland. But so many folks have already written about the conference, so I thought I’d tell you what else I was up to. I had some Moonshine cherries. Dear god, have you tried these? My Southern readers–are these in your daily routine? Because I’m going to try and figure out a way to make them a part of mine. Kristina brought them from Tennessee. I knew I’d like her right away.
I also learned a lot about pie. Peach pie, to be exact, made with Frog Hollow Peaches. The lovely Kate McDermott taught a little demo class and I’ve finally learned how to achieve pie-crust greatness.
I stayed with my sister all weekend. And I met her dog Sherman for the first time. I fell in love.
We hit up the dog park and did some serious snuggling. There were also great meals (without Sherman, of course). I finally got a chance to check out Nettletown, the sweet little spot my Seattle friends had told me so much about. It’s one of those places that’s incredibly hard to describe. It has both Chinese and Swiss influences–a reflection of owner Christina Choi’s background. There are great sandwiches, noodle dishes, interesting snacks and desserts (like that peanut butter, chocolate, ginger haystack below). And the space just feels really good. There’s a slower pace and a careful deliberation to the food. Put it on your list next time you’re up in Seattle.
There were glasses of wine, cocktails, laughs until my cheeks hurt, lots of trips over the West Seattle bridge, and homemade Kettle Korn (thanks, Matt!).
And now I’m home–with a big to-do list, staring September straight on in the face. I’ve got new friends to contact, a house to clean before my mom comes home next week (eek!), and a project to keep slaving away on. But first, I’ll unpack. Got to start somewhere.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.