Home Cookin’ (Away From Home)

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When I’m home in Maryland, I eat about half my dinners at my restaurant (Firestone’s Culinary Tavern), and about half at home, where I’m my own chef. I do this for variety (good as it is I can’t eat restaurant food all the time), and also because I like to cook.

I do about the same thing on vacation. The local restaurants around Carmel, and in the Carmel Valley where I’m staying are good, but it’s fun (and cheaper!) to whip something up at my temporary “home” some of the time.

The biggest problem with that is finding where everything is. Jim Haxton, the owner of the house I’m renting for a month, has a very well equipped kitchen. It’s nicely organized, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to figure out where everything is. It takes me about a week. Of course, when I use things, I’ve got to remember where I got them!

I don’t follow recipes, but just rely on experience or experimentation. I look to see what’s there and try to put it together. For example, the picture above is the result of putting together a meal from two other meals. I had fettuccine one night and a turkey burger another night, and left over ingredients from both. So, I cooked the pasta, sautéed ground turkey, put them together with leftover baby kale for color, threw in a little half and half to make it a little juicy, seasoned with salt and pepper and some fresh thyme I happened to have, sprinkled ground parmigiano-reggiano on it, and there I had it! It was delicious, especially with a little Sauvignon blanc.

Another favorite is seafood, of which there is plenty around here. A local seafood store is piled high with fresh product. They have everything you can imagine. Two of my favorites are Pacific coast specialties: petrale sole, and sand dabs. Both are flatfish, smallish, with the sand dab smaller, and they provide nice meaty fillets, sweet in flavor, that are great when sautéed and seasoned simply with salt and pepper. (I would put a picture here, but I haven’t figured out how to do it!)

I’m not a pro, but I have fun!

Here’s to good food,

Kim

Carmel Valley

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My history in the Carmel Valley goes back to 1952, when my Stanford fraternity held it’s annual “Spring Fling” overnight party here. I probably didn’t behave myself very well at that party, but maturity was not my strong suit in those days. Now, 65 years later, my behavior has improved.

I’ve always had a fondness for the area, and for the last three years it’s been my January escape from the frigid winter climate in Maryland. Other than enjoying the normally pleasant weather, I can do things I normally don’t get to do much of at home: I can visit with my kids and grandkids; I can play golf; and I can get greatartichokes, great seafood, and great cheese.

Two places in Carmel are my go-to spots. One is Flaherty’s Seafood Grille and Oyster Bar, and the other is the Carmel Cheese Shop.

The former has been open for more than 30 years, and was a favorite place to go with my dad when he lived in Pebble Beach. Packed into a small space with a white marble bar and closely-packed wooden tables and chairs, in the heart of Carmel, the big attraction here is clam chowder. Served with sourdough bread, a little creamy but not too thick, it’s always on the menu and it’s always good.
They’ve got lots of other good stuff, too.

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The Cheese Shop is a cheese-lover’s paradise. On walking in, one is confronted on the right side by a wall of cheese wrapped in clear plastic, and right next to it a refrigerator case loaded with various blue cheeses. Somebody  behind the counter will almost immediately offer you a taste of something, and then pull out anything else you want to try. In the back of the shop is a huge wlwction of wine, and on the left wall are crackers and other cheese-related paraphernalia.

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Well, I’m struggling to format this post cuz I haven’t done it in a while. I’m going to try and publish this, and hopefully do better next time.

Here’s to good food,

Kim

 

 

 

Anybody There?

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In this picture I am peering through the hole we made in the brick wall separating the restaurant from what was to become our new Raw Bar.
We had about a year’s worth of work yet to go.

It also symbolizes my search for the tools I need to get this blog working again. How do I acquire new photos and put them where I want them? How do I get the right font? How do I keep a draft I’ve done from disappearing? How do I do all this with a new iPad that I’m not familiar with using?

Does anybody but me care?

I’ll work on it.

Kim

Goodbye 2015

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Mark off another one! The years are piling up, and the pile is getting higher than I ever imagined it would. Would it ever have seemed possible to be looking  back towards 70 and thinking  it seems young? Well, here I am at 82, and even that doesn’t seem so old. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Of course, the body that’s now going into its 83rd year doesn’t work  quite as smoothly as it used to.  Random pains in random places are not uncommon. People often show me more deference than I feel I’m entitled to, and middle-aged ladies call me “honey,” without any hint of romantic interest. I look at myself in the mirror and think I haven’t changed that much, but a picture from 30 years ago will have me thinking “Who was that young guy!”

Last year I went to my 60th college reunion. The fact is, I haven’t stayed in close touch with many of my classmates, and when I think of them I still visualize  college freshmen. At the reunion, I think “Whoa, what happened to these guys?” Despite the passage of years, however,  memories remain fresh, and sharing them is exhilarating.

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At my reunion

All in all, 2015 was a good year.  Firestone’s Culinary Tavern continues to do well and is a source of pride. Both the bar and the dining room are flourishing. The staff is solid. We successfully moved the Market on Market to a new building adjacent to the old one, and the move has worked out well. Our efforts to turn the old building into a combination of newly-renovated apartments upstairs, and a raw-bar-extension of the restaurant downstairs have been slowed by the need to get building permits and the bureaucracy involved therein. It’s not easy to meet modern codes in old buildings!  Could I turn myself back into a teenager?

Anyway, it’s a new year, bringing hopes and expectations. Some may be realistic, some not so much so, but hope does spring eternal!

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Here’s to 2016! May it bring everyone health, success and peace!

 

Reconnecting

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Do I feel guilty when I leave the ice and snow of Maryland for  the sunny, warm (albeit overly-dry) climate of Northern California, for the month of January?

Well, maybe a little. The positives way offset the negatives, though. Much as I love the routines of the little farm in Middletown, where I live, I don’t mind taking a break from breaking up the ice in the chicken house so my dozen hens can get water. I don’t miss getting out the snow shovel so I can get down my front steps. I don’t miss jumping over piles of snow to get from the street to the sidewalk, and into my restaurant and market in downtown Frederick., even though I do miss the people and the action there.

“Hey,” I tell myself,”I’m 81 years old. If not now, when?”

What do I find when I move into the house in Carmel Valley that I rent for a month? Other than good weather, I find a peaceful setting in which:  a flock of wild turkeys casually wander around the property; deer poke there heads out from the trees; a big vegetable garden  supplies some of the needs of the Carmel Valley Ranch (where my house is); and beekeepers watch over bees making honey.

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Turkeys on a Stroll

PLUS,..there’s golf to play, a beautiful ocean coastline to admire, art galleries to wander through in Carmel, and a host of good places to eat, most of them on the casual side.

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 Grilled chicken at Café Rustica

But the most  important part of it all: I get to connect with my kids and grandkids. Three out of four kids live in California, and the other would fly from Texas just to play golf, even if he didn’t care about seeing me! They can’t all come at once, so they take turns, fitting in two or three day stays coordinated with their own kids school/work schedules.So far I’ve seen son Chris, with his wife Whitney and their three young boys; Rhodes, Wilson and Clay; and daughter Carey has visited, with Tim and sons Sammy and John (Alison and Michele couldn’t make it).

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Clay (l.) and Chris

I also got a chance to take a side trip of my own, driving 3 1/2 hours to Lemoore, where my stepson Boris is stationed as a navy pilot. I met some of his squadron mates, took a tour of the base, and had a chance to see what it was like to “fly” a simulator.

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Boris

Was it the pull of family or a passion for golf that brought grandson Sammy Romer out from New York for the weekend, and back in time for work Monday morning, on the red-eye? Of course, he just wanted to see his grandpa! Anyway, with Sammy, brother John, and their dad Tim, I had a great time playing a round at Cypress Point. Carey came out to watch our struggles (the struggles being mostly grandpa’s).

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3-Generational Foursome

Curtis and Leonard will be coming later, and Borya is also planning a trip up from Lemoore. On top of that, brother Brooks is going to try to get up for dinner, if Kate’s recent hip replacement is doing well enough.

A great family time, and, if I’m lucky, the ice will have melted by the time I get home!

Procrastination

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I recently got a copy of my college alumni magazine. The friend who writes up class notes kindly mentioned that I had started a blog. “Oops” I thought, realizing I hadn’t come up with a new post since sometime last summer. Funny how time gets away from you.

Well, I’m still here, still showing up daily at Firestone’s Culinary Tavern and the little Market on Market next door, and still attempting to make progress on a project that involves moving the market to a building next door and using  the abandoned space to expand the restaurant.

If I was limiting my blog posts to updates on this project I wouldn’t have had much to write about anyway. Making changes to buildings in the historical district of Frederick, where probably 80% of the buildings are functioning fine, but don’t meet current codes in some way, is not easy. There have been lots of negotiations and compromises. We are finally starting to get some work done!

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A Start

Obscure but inflexible regulations of our Liquor Board require us to be ready to open by February 28th if we want to transfer our license to sell wine and beer. It might be tight, but we’ve got a great building crew and if anybody can do it they can.

What else is going on? A recent highlight was a trip to Ft. Worth to celebrate Thanksgiving with my son Leonard and his family. Leonard is also in expansion mode, with his distillery and, like me, has also run into unexpected delays. It’s a long story, but it looks like it will have a happy ending, allowing for more production of his excellent TX Whiskey and its yet-to-be born aged bourbon brother.

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Leonard at work on the turkey, aided by a nearby glass of TX whiskey

The weather was good, we brined the turkey and it came out perfect, and we watched a lot of football. Exercise consisted of running his kids around, and as you can see below, leaf-raking gave them an excuse to take a break.

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Nothing like a bed of leaves