Messy, awesome & delicious: scenes from a crawfish boil

Portland Crawfish Boil

Crawfish Boil in St. Johns

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’re probably familiar with that bridge in the background. It’s the St Johns bridge in Portland, OR and it means I’m cooking at my friend DB’s house.

These pictures were all taken at his Fourth of July crawfish boil. Being a bit crazy, he shipped 45# of live crawfish from Louisiana. Then, worried he would run short on food, he bought an additional 10# of Oregon crawfish. I had no idea we even had local crawfish!

Each batch was cooked in a flavorful broth of seasonings, onions, garlic and lemons. Potatoes were thrown in first and then the crawfish were added. Once they were bright red and cooked through, the heat was turned off, corn and andouille sausages were added and the mixture sat for 20 minutes to allow all of the flavors to permeate.

Then the pot was dumped out on a newspaper-covered table for guests to enjoy.

And enjoy, we did. When I left, completely stuffed full of great food, he was on batch number four, with another 10-12# of live crawfish still remaining!

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Cider + Liquor + Cajeta = Deliciously Evil

I love having a signature cocktail when I throw a party. Last year at my honey-themed birthday party I had a station set up where guests could make a Honey Badger (St. Germain, honey syrup and sparkling wine). So when I hosted my harvest-themed dinner party, I decided to come up with something fun to drink besides wine.

Since I had just made my own home-pressed apple cider, I used that as a base. I heated it up with some mulling spices to give it more flavor, letting it simmer for about 10 minutes with a cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice and dried orange peel. Once the spices were strained out, I contemplated my liquor cabinet.

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Harvest Party: Winning at Wining & Dining in Autumn

Acorn Doughnut Hole Party Favors

It’s a known fact I love nothing more than to throw a party. Give me any reason whatsoever and I will come up with a theme, research recipes and try my hardest to make my house as adorable as possible. So when some of the favorite ladies in my life and I decided to plan a little drinking dinner party, I quickly volunteered to host. We decided on the seasonally appropriate theme of “Autumn Harvest” and decided to do it as a pot-luck style sit-down dinner.

I got into the spirit by decorating my house:

An autumn-inspired wreath helps corral the wine glasses

Autumn potpurri and hors d’oeuvre plates

And as always, a touch of class

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The Cider Press Rules

Apples, apples everywhere

Did you catch a hint of John Irving in that title? If you did, we must be kindred spirits. The Cider House Rules is one of my favorite books, and every time I started typing anything about cider, it kept popping into my head. I couldn’t shake it.

Anyways, if it were required of me to make rules for a cider press party, it would be a simple task.

  1. Buy apples (basically so many apples that it’s overwhelming)
  2. Invite friends (think like Tom Sawyer, more people=less work for you!)
  3. Make good food (this way your friends can’t blame you when they feel used)
  4. Spend the afternoon drinking beer and making delicious fresh-pressed cider

It’s that easy! And, when you see all of the glorious fresh cider come pouring out, it’s also pretty damn exciting.

Here’s some scenes from my first cider press party, which took place the weekend before Halloween.

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Wild About Game: A beautiful day to eat some meat!

I’ve mentioned that I work as a meat distributor. While my job occasionally has its bad moments (lets just say the words “turkey grid” can induce serious panic), for the most part it’s pretty awesome. We participate in many different food events throughout the year, but my favorite one is the customer appreciation party my boss hosts every year.

We travel out to the mountain — this year’s event was held at Timberline Lodge — and eat ourselves silly. All of our customers are invited and we throw down with a party that is truly unsurpassable. There is a marketplace with vendors on hand sampling products (Iberico jamon, foie gras torchons, local elk seared on salt blocks). There is a cooking competition and cooking demos involving some of Portland and Seattle’s top chefs. This year we even had a few James Beard winners compete.

But really it’s all about the meat (well, and the booze!).

So without further ado, I present some scenes from Wild About Game 2012.

Devil Kriek from Double Mountain. This is how you start the day off right! They also donated more than 5 kegs to the event and the afterparty. Woo-hoo!

Treats from Bakeshop — these looked so pretty, it was hard to eat them…okay, maybe it was easy, but still, they were beautiful!

Capunet made with Pheasant Sausage and Veal Sweetbreads — from Carrie Mashaney, the chef de cuisine of Cascina Spinasse in Seattle

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Crudités in Clay: An Unexpected Appetizer in an Urban Eden

Being married to my husband is like having a second job sometimes. Not the actual marriage part (that part is fun and games!) but the part where I am his go-to sous chef for off-site events. I’m definitely not complaining — I occasionally get paid and if I don’t, well, I always get to drink plenty of wine which is just as good in my book.

So, just like his pig roast extravaganza, I jumped at the chance to help him do a multi-coursed dinner to benefit the Portland Fruit Tree Project. You can read more about the project here, but the basic premise is to educate people about urban gardening and to help give those less fortunate access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

The 35-person dinner party was held at a house in SE Portland, known as Tabor Tilth. The woman who lives there grows so many different things in her front and back yards it’s actually overwhelming…and overflowing. She raises rabbits, grows corn, keeps bees, has more tomato plants than I could count, and even has a mullberry tree all on her 1/5 acre of residential property. She has a truly fascinating online video in which she describes her very thoughtful and meticulous system for planting and composting (she uses some very unique manure in her yard!).

To complement her creative urban gardening, my husband served dishes like “compost” beef (rubbed in coffee grounds and herbs) and a mullberry sorbet with lime salt. But my absolute favorite thing he came up with was these planters. Part centerpiece, part appetizer, each potted plant harbored hidden surprises.

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