I love the Daring Bakers because they push you out of your comfort zone with the challenges. I had no interest in making danishes. After all, it's so easy to just go to a bakery and pick them up. And I usually only eat danishes when I'm at some hotel offering only a continental breakfast or at some breakfast buffet. They aren't exactly high on my list.

But lo and behold, the challenge for June was to do a Danish Braid. The requirement was to make at least one braid and you could do whatever you wanted with the other half of the dough. You could fill it with whatever you wanted, as long as you made it. I went a little hog wild. You'll find below recipes for the different innards I used and I'll just link here for the actual dough recipe/instructions.

I was intrigued by the challenge because it would never cross my mind to make danishes, but at the same time, I was surprised to see how easy the instructions were. It really isn't that hard to make the dough. But I think most of us do take the easy Pillsbury way out and buy some refrigerated dough and then just plunking filling in it. And, after all, that is the typical Pampered Chef way to do things. Take a short cut and use a pre-made product.

I spent part of a Saturday making the dough. It's not difficult, just time consuming. You have to roll out, fold, and chill the dough four times, each spaced 30 minutes. So this day alone took close to three hours. During each 30 minute wait I'd be mixing up another filling. Then on Sunday I got up bright and early to head to the Farmers Market (conveniently located two blocks from my house). You see, the instructions say that after you fill and construct your braid, you have to wait another two hours for the whole thing to proof before you can actually bake it. Since I wanted this for breakfast, I was at the market at 6:30 a.m. to pick up apricots, cherries, and berries.

For the braid I made a pistachio frangipane, then pastry cream, then topped with apricots. Yummy.

For the pastries I made the following:
- some cinnamon sugar snails (the most boring of the lot, but used up remnants of dough)
- croissants with almond paste and chocolate chips
- sweetened cream cheese and lemon curd
- pastry cream or cream cheese topped with cherries or berries

Interestingly I thought the cream cheese/lemon curd ones would be pretty dull and they ended up being my favorites.

So I had mentioned the almond paste earlier this month and you can look at that if you want that recipe.

For the cream cheese I just took a 16 oz package and mixed it with a 1/4 cup of sugar.

I got the pastry cream from Dorie Greenspan. Since pastry cream is pretty basic, I'll go ahead and put it down.

Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk.
Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, contstantly and thoroughly bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.
The pastry cream can be kept, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Pistachio Frangipane

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons shelled natural unsalted pistachios (about 3 ounces)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg

Process 1/2 cup pistachios, 1/4 cup sugar, orange peel, and baking powder in processor until nuts are finely ground, scraping down sides occasionally. Add butter and egg; process until blended.

I found the above picture of mom with Orion in 2003.

Mom was big into sewing and quilting. The above pictures are some of her work.

Some of her friends put together a quilt of some of the last work mom had been doing with stencils, a technique we were unaware she was doing. Following are pictures from the quilt they put together. Unfortunately she did not get to see it.

My mother died peacefully today 3.5 years after a massive stroke left her disabled and bedridden. We are both sad and happy. We of course grieve for the loss of her, but are so happy that she is free in form and spirit in the afterlife after being trapped in her unresponsive body for so long.

Following is her obituary.

Silvia Enfield, beloved wife and mother, passed away peacefully in her sleep after a long illness. Silvia was born March 27, 1938 in Manila, Philippines. She received a degree in Chemistry at St. Scholastica College in Manila and her medical technologist’s training in Philadelphia. In 1962 she immigrated to St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada where she met her husband, Peter. They were married on October 26, 1963. Her daughter, Catherine, was born in Montreal in 1964 and later joined by a brother, Paul, born in Newport, Oregon in 1967. The family moved to Spokane, Washington and Woodland, Maine, before moving to Saudi Arabia for 16 years. After their retirement in 1987, Silvia and Peter moved to Salem.

Being an avid sewer, Silvia was one of the founding members of the local chapter of the American Sewing Guild. She was also a member of the Willamette Valley Quilt Guild, Directions Group, and the Sew and Sew Neighborhood Group, of which she was a group leader. She enjoyed attending sewing workshops in a number of cities in the Pacific Northwest. Afterwards, she would share what she had learned with the members of the local sewing guilds.

Silvia also volunteered many hours at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift and the Queen of Peace Catholic Church.

Silvia is survived by her husband, children, and grandson, Orion.

I encourage you to read my Lessons Learned posting from 6/13.

Here she is as an infant. Eddie, Josie, mom, Earnie, Tongie

With Earnie.

Wedding to dad, Peter, in October of 1963.

With me in the 60's.

The family in the 70's. My brother is Paul.

My high school graduation in 1983.

Mom and dad's 30th wedding anniversary.

Happy at a sewing event in the late 90's.

My name is Susan Olsher and I have been a friend of Silvia Enfield for 10 years and I know a lot of you have known her a lot longer.

When I first came to Salem she took me under her wing. She thought I needed something to do during the long gray winters. My daughter was leaving for college and I decided I would make her a quilt. Silvia thought that was a great idea but wasn’t so thrilled about my choice of fabric, but hey this was my first quilt what did I know. I thought you used scissors to cut the fabric. Silvia was the first person to show me how to use a rotary cutter.

There was another thing about Silvia and that was the spelling of her name. Never and I mean never spell her name with a “y”. It was spelled with an “i”. SILVIA.

Silva was constantly on the go and everywhere I went with her she knew someone. It was amazing. And by the way, I don’t know if any of you ever traveled with her, but you didn’t want Silvia telling you how to get somewhere. She could get lost or turned around easily.

Silva was my friend and I have and will miss her.
From Me:
I've had a hard time thinking of stories to tell, but I can tell of these memories that make me think of my mom...

She was always sewing clothes. A lot of it was due to necessity since we lived in Arabia and we were growing kids. Many times mom's clothes for me were hit or miss. I either wore things forever or never wore them at all. When I left home it was convenient because she never knew what things I basically gave away. But other items I wore for over ten years. We usually were good about picking dresses that were classics and so I could wear them for many years. If I was with you today at this service, I had planned to wear the last dress that I still have that she made for me. All the others no longer fit.

She also made the most important dresses in my life. My high school graduation dress was a smocked wedding gown (we all had to wear long, white dresses) that had a lot of fabric and the smocking was done by her friend, Mrs. Stanley, I believe. Then when I got married I had a small wedding and I chose kind of a blouse/short skirt combo. She made me a white skirt and bow for the wedding and then another black satin skirt and bow so that I could wear it as evening wear, which I did on our honeymoon cruise. The left over fabric and lace was then made into my wedding album.

My dad and I discussed how mom wasn't all that affectionate, but she showed her love through sewing. This continued for her grandson, Orion. She made him many clothes and his halloween costumes. And many family members have her quilts.

Mom also took me to boarding school. We did a lot of shopping for all those items you need for dorm life. I remember the last day when she dropped me off and left me to return to Arabia. I sobbed. I wonder if she did too.

On a funny note, she always sneezed in threes. We never figured out why, but they would be three small sneezes in succession.

We all know that she is in a much better place after these last three years. It makes our grieving easier to know that she is finally at peace.
From Paul:
Leading up to this event, I had been apprehensive about writing and sharing what follows. You see, as Catherine has already mentioned and many of you probably know already, my mom was not the most open person. As such, it is really difficult to express in words my relationship with her, and what she meant to me and my son. Despite this, she was important, influential, and loved by both of us.

My family has struggled to express our feelings amoungst ourselves verbally. As a result we've always relied upon our actions to speak of our feelings. As Catherine indicated my mom's actions were through her handywork. Her expressions of love were through her creations. Such creations were offered to both me and my son Orion. We both will cherish these forever.

I have a personal belief that our own self worth can be demonstrated by the good that our children bring to the world. I look at my life and am grateful to what my mom gave to me. I'm happy with the person I've grown to be, and I credit that to her. When I look at my son, I am immensely proud at what he's growing to become as well. He's a caring, and talented boy with insight and compassion. This too I credit to how I was raised by both of my parents.

In my good-bye wishes to my mom, I expressed these sentiments. I thanked her. I thanked her for helping me grow into the person I am today, and the care she gave me throughout my life. I also offered up my son Orion as proof for the impact she has had upon the world.

This last visit was encouragingly fulfilling. Throughout my time with her, she was very focused and attentive to what I was saying. And despite having virtually no control over her right arm, she very explicitly reached out to touch me in a very controlled manner. The focus and determination required to make this gesture was enough to tell me how much she cared. I will never for get it or her.

Thank you all of your support for my family. God bless.
Cousin Susie:
My favorite memories of Auntie Silvia are about
weddings. When I was little, I remember driving to
Canada for Auntie Silvia and Uncle Peter's wedding.
When people asked us if we were in the wedding, my
brother said, "Suzi is the flower girl and I am a
spectator." According to family stories, I wore my
flower girl dress and Dennis wore his Spectator Suit.

Many years later, the entire Enfield family flew out
east for my wedding. Cathy was one of my bridesmaids.
As a wedding gift, Auntie Silvia presented me with a
beautiful framed bible passage which she had
needlepointed. I look at it every single day and
remember Auntie Silvia. We are all very lucky that
Auntie Silvia was able to share so much love and the
needle arts with her family and friends.

Here is the passage that Auntie Silvia needlepointed.
She did not know at the time that it would be read at
my wedding, and now at her memorial service. Auntie
Silvia told me that she liked the passage very much.

Love is: patient and kind. Love is not jealous or
boastful. It is not arrogant or rude. Love does not
insist in its own way. Love does not rejoice at wrong
but rejoices in the right. It is not irritable or
resentful. Love bears all things, believes all
things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love
never ends.
From dad:
For several years Silvia was one of the women who prepared and served food at funerals. Also for several years she was a Meals on Wheels driver, delivering lunch time meals to those less fortunate. In 1963 when we met and later married, it was rare to see a mixed race couple together. This was before the Vietnam war when many men came home with Asian wives. It was common to see people turn around to look at us, but it never bothered us. After a while we didn't even notice. Silvia made friends easily, no matter where we were living. Even Saudi women when they had no common language. She had the ability to learn a language easily and she made the effort to learn Arabic, but stopped after she realized everybody wanted to improve their English and would not reply to her in Arabic. She was a very intelligent woman and could learn anything she put her mind to. As I said before, she became very good with her dress making and made clothing items for each member of the family. She also made many quilts for relatives and those children who the police or firemen found on their visits to problem houses. She was one of those people who, when they found a need, made every effort to do something about it. She was a very generous and thoughtful person. When a new family came to live in the small town or camp where we were living she would bake a cake or something and take it around to welcome them. She would often take the wife around to the local shops etc. so they could return on their own later. This was very important when you are living in a Moslem country. There are dress codes in these countries and it can be embarrassing if you don't know the do's and don'ts. Almost every time she went out grocery shopping she would buy me a chocolate bar or some such treat like a slice of cheesecake. Rarely did she buy the same for herself. The reason I purchased a motor cycle for myself was because she encouraged me to buy it as she knew I would enjoy one. We got a helmet for her to wear but was unable to use it before she had the stroke. Silvia told me many years later, she knew she was going to marry me the second time we went out together. Not long after this we went to visit some friends in a small town in Ontario, Canada close to some lakes. These friends had a Ski Boat and wanted all of us to go to a local lake for some skiing. I had a bad cold that weekend so I was unable to do any skiing. Wanting to impress how athletic she was, Silvia tried to get up on the skis but each time the boat gunned it she went splash head first into the water. After three or four try's she gave up. It was not until several years later that I leant Silvia could not swim. What some people will do to impress. Silvia was a perfectionist and always passed any exam she took with top marks, but she was crushed when it took her three tries before she passed her driving test. It was the first time she had failed at anything. When her father had a stroke similar to the one she had, he was bedridden for 5 1/2 years. After she visited him in Manila shortly after he had the stroke, she came back home and went right out and found a job. She sent $500.00 a month to him as he had to have a nurse on duty 24/7 and she did not want to send any of the money I had earned to take care of her father. This she did for 5+years. She wanted to send money she earned for his care. Silvia became very good with her dress making and quilting and before she purchased any new machine she would always ask me if it was all right. She knew that I would never say no unless there was something unusual that prevented it. Luckily there never was. For several years she would go to few cities in the Pacific Northwest to attend workshops teaching new techniques in dress making. She would then come home and teach,free of charge, these techniques to the local guilds. She attended so many of these workshops that she got to know many of the women attending from other cities. Silvia had difficulty in telling someone she loved them,including family, but she showed it in actions and other ways. We all knew she loved us even though she never actually said it. We have all found that rather strange. If I think of anything else I will send it along.
Her brother, Eddie:
Silvia always valued her independence but balanced that with her need to be with family to keep her going. We will always love her as our sister and share the joy she had with her immediate family.

World War II broke out when she was only three years old. At age seven, she had to flee with the entire family on foot while the battle for our district in Manila were raging all around us. She probably did not remember this but in spite of the hardship, the noise, the fires, bullets, explosions, she patiently and courageously came along and cooperated completely, causing zero problems for all of us. This trait would ring true for her entire life.

Our parents decided that the best inheritance they could provide us was education overseas in any field of our choice. Silvia chose to be a Medical technician. We asked her to be our Maid of Honor at our wedding. He finished her education in Philadelphia and landed a job in Canada. While working there she visited us in our Chicago area home to be with family. We were very pleased to be with her. In the course of her work, she met Peter Enfield. In the early 1960s they were married in St. Catherines. We were honored when they selected our daughter Suzi to be their Flower Girl at the church ceremonies.

Peter and Silvia lived for the longest period of Peter's professional career in Saudi Arabia. One time, Silvia came over to look lup her friends in the east coast and she used our home in New Jersey as her base. It was a pleasure to host her since she fitted herself perfectly into our routines and was grateful for all the side tripswe took with her. Peter and Silvia also visited our father in Manila several times. That was significant because our father was completely paralized, and undboutedly the presence of Silvia and Peter cheered him up.

We visited with her in Salem to enjoy her beautiful home which Peter practically built by himself, an achievement few can duplicate. They drove us around to show us the beauty of her Salem, Oregon countryside. We then noticed that she inherited our mother's patience and skill working with fabrics. She was fabulous and very serious with her hobby.

Her atrial fibrillation condition caused her to suffer her total paralyzing stroke. The first time we visited her after her stroke, Peter and I decided to cheer her up by talking all about how funny her beloved bulldogs were. Although she could barely move any part of her body, she showed that she enjoyed the conversation greatly. We all know that with time her medical condition worsened. On our subsequent visit many months later, she seemed to be hearing what we were saying to her but she could not respond inn any way, not even with the blink of her eye.

Finally, in August, 2007, we brothers and sisters decided to visit her as a group and take her back to her home which she had not seen since her stroke. We wanted to enjoy her presence and we wanted her to enjoy our presence while she was still alive. It turned out to be a celebration of her life. At her home, her spirits were visibly uplifted. She drank in everything that was going on, listening to every word spoken and she generally soaked in the joy of being home again. But sadly this had to come to an end when Peter had to take her back to her nursing home. Peter has been a saint in taking care of her, he has the admiration and the love of our entire family for all he has done to make Silvia as comfortable as possible and for researching all avenues that might help cure Silvia. Of course there were none.

Her condition continued to worsen until finally God call her to join Him in heaven. We are happy to have provided her a last family group visit that she could enjoy and recall until her final hours. We are happy too that she is now with our father and mother who loved her so dearly.

We love you Silvia and you will always be in our hearts, we cannot and will not every forget you.
Formaggio Taverna and Patio on Urbanspoon

Big hotels have the obligatory restaurant. In some cases the hotel restaurant can be outstanding and can even create quite a reputation for itself in the local community. In major cities there can often be restaurants that are not affiliated with the hotel but rent space from them.

That being said, locals don't generally go to a hotel restaurant except maybe for a Sunday brunch. We know our own good restaurants in town, why go to a hotel?

Formaggio is an Italian restaurant that is inside the Marriott at Hwy. 50 and Sunrise. Their head chef recently came from Il Fornaio. The promotions gal, Megan, is diligently doing her job of trying to drum up business for them. I give her a lot of credit. She's contacted Yelp members and different dining groups around town. She contacted me because I lead the Dining Out Meetup and invited me to try her restaurant. I took Deon along with me.

The restaurant is medium in size and nicely decorated. At one end there is a pizza oven and prep bar area. More on that later. They are along the back patio, although I didn't get the impression that they serve out there as a normal practice.

Service was good. Of course, they knew who I was and why I was the there. But since it isn't too busy, I would expect them to be pretty attentive normally.

I started with the above shown mussels. I was surprised at the quantity and also a little disappointed because I expected more of a brothy sauce. But they were delicious even with the tomato sauce. Deon had the Caesar salad, which came as unchopped heart of romaine with parmesan shavings and a homemade dressing. You can always taste a mixed Caesar dressing versus a bottled concoction.

Deon chose the seared tuna steak. It was served medium rare, although I thought it came out more medium. Considering how Deon likes raw tuna, I expected him to be disappointed at how much it was cooked, but he was OK with it.

I chose the Veal Saltimbocca - veal with proscuitto and a sage sauce with mashed potatoes and vegetables. As you can see, my only comment was there was too much sauce. Is there something under all that? Yes, three nice slices of veal. The potatoes were fresh and lumpy and the baby vegetables were perfectly cooked and it all had a nice flavoring of sage.

I chose the Dolce di Latte Panna Cotta - Italian caramel custard with fresh cream and Amoretti shortbread. Where's my shortbread? Guess they subbed strawberries. Anyway, I didn't care for this. It was like a flan, but the texture was off.

Deon scored with the Warm Lemon Budino - lemon cake and pudding with fresh huckleberry sauce. It was as yummy as it was attractive.

Overall impression is that Formaggio is nice and the food is good, though not great. Definitely above Olive Garden, but not as high as Il Fornaio. It would be good to go to once in a while if you live at that end of town and considering that that area has mostly fast food and big chain restaurants. But it wouldn't compete against the restaurant glutted downtown.

As for my plans for the group? Megan and I discussed some fun ideas. They are totally willing to do some imaginative or special events. We may do a cooking class or a pasta station dinner. We'll see.

Chocolate Fish on Urbanspoon
Chocolate Fish's Menu Board

Updated 1/21/11

Tucked away in a corner of the CalPERS building (3rd & Q) is our little coffee secret. Chocolate Fish is a New Zealand style coffee house. Operated by Andy and Edie Baker (Andy is the Kiwi), their coffee hideaway is mostly frequented by State workers and others in a close vicinity to us. They are only open til about 4 Monday-Friday and til about 2 on the weekends.

Andy says that New Zealand espresso is more of a medium roast, with lots of caramel tones and sweetness coming through the bean. They get their coffee from a network of growers and then roast the beans themselves at their roastery off 65th..


I just go for the hot chocolate. I don't drink coffee or tea, but everyone tells me the coffee is fabulous. I think the only complaint I've heard is that they only sell two size cups and everyone was used to the three Starbucks sizes (got to have that super Venti). They do say that they use a double ristretto in the smaller cup. Not a coffee drinker, I didn't know what that meant, so I looked it up.

Ristretto is a very "short" shot of espresso coffee. Originally this meant pulling a hand press faster than usual using the same amount of water as a regular shot of espresso. Since the water came in contact with the grinds for a much shorter time the caffeine extracted in reduced ratio to the flavorful coffee oils. The resultant shot could be described as bolder, fuller, with more body and less bitterness. All of these flavors are usually attributed to espresso in general, but are more pronounced in ristretto.

The shop features flat screens showing surfing videos and there is a lot of comfortable seating. Although I suppose we State workers aren't supposed to be loitering around drinking coffee. Anyway, it is very friendly and cozy.

There is a pastry case and a selection of other drinks, including a favorite of mine, Izzes. They also serve a nice variety of teas and the one Andy served me had a lovely floral smell and light taste. I do want to learn more about teas too, so I'll have to give some of them a try.

Oh, In New Zealand chocolate fish apparently are little treats given as thank yous, kudos, rewards, etc. The little fish sold here are made over at Ginger Elizabeth's.

As an aside, I went to New Zealand as a child and highly recommend the ice cream. It was so good! And I told Andy every time I enter his shop I think of Rotarura, their version of Yellowstone. I just love the name, Ro ta ru ra. LOL
Dads Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Update: May 2012

OMG! I'm in love with this chili mac n cheese from Dad's now. They take their chili and mix it with their mac n cheese. Dad's makes great chili, both with meat and vegetarian. You can have the chili mac made with either or even both! I had it done with both and it was the bomb! A new favorite. Small is only $3 and this large crock is $7. 

Original Post: August of 2008
Yes. I am completely biased when it comes to Dad's because they are my friends. But don't rule out my opinion because of that.

We went to Dad's last night for dinner, about a month since the last time. Changes already. Eric, who was the opening chef, is out. So they have completely rejuggled the menu. Gone were almost all of the entrees and in were all the sandwiches from the deli. I'm happy about the sandwiches because I thought they needed that and that's what their reputation was built on. The entrees....well maybe they'll be back some day. What they kept was the meat loaf and the mac and cheese. They are also doing one featured entree each night. Last night it was a NY strip steak with a green peppercorn cognac sauce.

Dean had the special but substituted the fries. They have the seasoned fries and so Dean chose the blue cheese and chili sauce fries and loved them. He was also happy with the steak except for...no steak sauce. The guy is from the midwest and is used to well done steaks with a lot of steak sauce (UGH!).

I had the meatloaf with a ketchupy sauce and mashed potatoes and green beans. The meatloaf was a mix of pork and beef and they served me a big, honkin slab. It was good, not too dense or dry. Both of us had nice, crispy side vegetables.

Epicurean Paul can't see why I love Dad's sandwiches so much. But I only ever order the hot sandwiches and definitely have my favorites. I love the hot tuna. I have to tell them to hold the olives and tomato, but I keep the cheese, spicy mustard and red onions. The tuna salad is super green from the tons of dill in it. I also like the reuben and the Blue Collar Dream with the tri tip, but that's one that Paul had a problem with. After discussion at dinner, I think he hit the place right when they were turning over chefs.

Oh well. I'll discuss Paul and my sandwich argument in a future post when I finally get some pictures of his favorite place.

Update 7/19/08: regarding comments on kids at Dad's -

7/28/08 Had the mac and cheese yesterday. The small was a generous bowlful! I liked that it was peppery. Yummy!

I had never cooked with fresh apricots before. Now it is apricot season and I'm reading about how lucky we are to have fresh apricots at our disposal. That 95% of all apricots come from California. So I figure it's time to make something. I had one Pillsbury crust left in the freezer so I figured I'd do a down and dirty, quick galette. I'm all for cheating once and a while and Pillsbury pie crust is a great cheat.

I quartered about 10 small apricots and just lightly tossed them in about 1/4 cup of sugar. I had read about an almond paste for a different dessert and decided to try that too. So I ground up 1 cup of almonds (or buy almond meal) with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. I then mixed in 1 egg to create a paste.

I laid out the pie crust and spread the almond paste evenly in the center up to about 1/2 inch from the edges of the crust. I then piled on my sugared apricots. I folded up my edges and then baked the galette at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. I melted a bit of apricot jam and spread that over the top of the finished galette as a glaze.

Verdict? Darn good. I love the nuttiness of the almond paste and the tartness of the apricots. It was just a bit on the dry side. I thought the apricots would be juicier than they were. Problem solver? Ice cream or whipped cream. I'll definitely make this again and also try different fruit. I might also use the apricot/almond paste combo for this month's Daring Bakers challenge. So check that out at the end of the month.



Bridges on the River on Urbanspoon

I love it when I get to try a restaurant that's been on my To Do List. Even better is when it turns out well. On Wednesday we went to Bridges on the River. Dean had one of the half-price deal coupons so that we had a $50 gift certificate.

We had been to the gym and so we were out for a late dinner. We arrived at the restaurant at about 8:15 and could see it was slowing down. It took a while for us to find a host to seat us. Turns out they finish at 8:00, but they happily seated us and even seated another couple after us.

The restaurant is definitely lovely. It sits on the river right by the I-80 overcrossing, thus the name. There is a lot of seating outside on the terraces and an area for outdoor buffets on special occasions and for bands. In fact, on Sundays they do feature bands and drink specials. The building has a bar area close to where the band plays on the patio. Then there is a second floor with a large dining area in sections with plenty of window seating looking over the terrace and river. Because it was karaoke night we opted for the upstairs seating, out of range.

Our server was very nice and encouraged us to try the bread. They bake it themselves and he was proud of it. Boy, was it good! It's not a crusty bread, rather a medium loaf, super soft, warm and sweet.

The special was highly recommended and rightly so. It was a sea bass crusted in panko crumbs on top of a potato cake and spinach with a paprika butter sauce. It was divine!

I wanted something different. I also can be leery of fish, even though I know I should order it, because I hate it when it is disappointing. Wish I had ordered the special. Anyway, I ordered the Asian skirt steak with mashed potatoes. It is on the small plate menu. The flavoring and portions were good, but the steak was tough. It was especially tough and they just did a terrible job cutting it on the bias. So my jaw got a workout. Also, even though it was well flavored, it had no extra sauce or glaze. It was just the cuts of steak on top of a mound of mashed potatoes.

The dessert menu was very limited, but again the server was very proud of their creme brulee, which is a favorite of mine. Since we hadn't reached our $50 limit, we ordered one. It was good, but not exceptional, like the waiter implied.

The waiter took our bill and was very cool about coming back and noting we were still only at $45 and he just wanted to let us know that the extra $5 would not be allowed for the tax and tip. Did we want anything else? Dean asked for a slice of key lime pie to-go. We liked the honesty so that we got our money's worth.

I look forward to going again, perhaps for a Sunday brunch or for the Sunday afternoon band.

This is what I took to the Food Bloggers Potluck last weekend.

My favorite Filipino dessert is Sans Rival, which means 'without rival'. It is an extremely rich dessert. There are layers of cashew meringue with buttercream icing. For many years I didn't have the right equipment to make it. I'm so 'Pampered Chef'ed' that I didn't have normal metal bakeware. I also needed a mini-food processor to chop the cashews fine enough. Now I had the materials and an event, so I decided to make it again.

This recipe is from a Filipino cookbook my aunt had given me. It was specially written for cooking outside of the Philippines. You know, when it might be harder to find the ingredients, etc. I will note that it did not make enough icing to really cover or decorate the cake, as you can see from the pictures. But it is so rich, that I didn't want to double it. I did add a teaspoon of vanilla to the icing as well.

Here you can see the meringue being folded with the chopped cashews. Note for next time: use parchment paper and bake a little longer for extra crispiness.

And a note on the icing. It is an Italian buttercream and lighter than some other versions that could be too heavy for this dessert. But it is very buttery and very susceptible to heat. Therefore, it is important to keep the cake chilled as much as possible. The picture below shows the interior of the cake and it is now getting a bit goopey from being left out.

Note on cake pans. I used rounds and did four layers. You can also do this on cookie sheets and should get three layers.

This was a big hit at the potluck. I am anxious to make it again soon. I've never tried it with flavors. Think I will try chocolate buttercream next time. Can't be anything but fantastic with chocolate and cashews!

10 egg whites
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups chopped cashews, toasted

Oven 325 degrees.
Line cake pans with parchment paper or butter and flour the pans real well.
In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle with cream of tartar. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in nuts, reserving enough to sprinkle on the top for decoration. Divide meringue between the 4 pans, and spread evenly to edges.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the meringue from the baking pans while still hot; allow to cool. When cool, trim edges so that all 4 meringue layers are uniformly shaped. Set aside.

6 egg yolks
1/2 c light corn syrup
2 T water
1/2 c sugar
1/2 lb butter, room temperature

Beat egg yolks until smooth.
In a small saucepan, mix together corn syrup, sugar, and water. Bring it to a boil and let simmer for about 2 minutes.
While beating the eggs, slowly pour in sugar mixture in steady, thin stream. After all is incorporated, let the egg mixture cool.
In another large bowl blend up the butter til light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg/sugar mixture. Continue to beat until all is blended and the icing is light and smooth.