Winchester House & Folsom Fair weekend

Yes, that is me! It’s  from a poster promoting FSE some years back

Winchester & Folsom unlikely bedfellows… or not?

Because my life isn’t full enough with what I have to do on a daily basis – we still took some time to enjoy Folsom week and the Folsom Fair last week. Having a guest in town gave us an excuse to go and for me to try a few new dishes. But first, it also meant I had company to make my annual trip to the Winchester Mystery House (aka Winchester House or by its formal name while its owners were alive  “). Each year I go to purchase my annual pass and with the pending movie due out by CBS Films starring Academy Award®-winner Helen Mirren (The Queen, Eye in the Sky) and Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Zero Dark Thirty) and is being directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig (Predestination) based on their screenplay.  As with any local favorite – once a film or episode is shot – you can expect crowds – so I really wanted to get in now.

On a side note: because of the film launch, where in the past you could take pictures inside the house – the agreement currently is they aren’t allowing photographs. While a disappointment for first-timers  (I wish they made that fact better known on the websites too)the images I used here are from a 2008 trip and do not include recent upgrades, newly acquired furniture or open rooms.

Winchester House Tours

Since my last trip, in addition to the Mansion Tour, they launched a new tour, called Explore More Tour. This replaces the previous “Behind the scenes” tour and adds several new areas of the house including more backstory on the rooms closed off after the earthquake.  The annual skeleton key pass also gets your guests a reduced rate on the tours! To do both tours will run over 2 hours and 15 minutes. While not exhausting, the tours do include a lot of walking and stairs – so dress accordingly. Either tour offers great insight into this local favorite. For me, Winchester has special significance as it is also a hometown name. New Haven, which is where I hale from,  is the birth (and final resting place) for the Sarah Winchester and her husband. Located right in San Jose, about a 45-minute ride from San Francisco, literally across the street from the major shopping promenade. this afternoon or evening treat ( they offer special night events as we get closer to Halloween) is a perfect “go to” for kids of all ages. If you are curious you can also check out Winchester House’s Blog and/or it’s very interactive Facebook page, Facebook.com/winchestermysteryhouse/. For you thinkers out there – you can also visit the website The Truth About Sarah Winchester I can’t attest to its accuracy -but it does fill in some holes I thought interesting.

Knowing I was going to want to have a simple breakfast on Sunday before the Folsom Fair and did a nice omelet on Saturday for the boys – I opted to try my hand at making this Spicey Cheese Bread. One of the Cooks Country recipes – but if you don’t have an online membership – you can find the recipe here on fellow bloggers site; https://www.browneyedbaker.com/spicy-cheese-bread/

The recipe wasn’t as hard as I anticipated. Don’t get too nervous about the amount of red pepper either – you really need it to balance with cheeses. Note: this bread reheats really well and I can tell on its own or alongside a hearty stew it’s a keeper. My next plan is to play with the recipe and add cooked off diced prosciutto or sausage!

I even managed to get a few decorations up!

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Ptown Week 2 recap and home again

I can’t believe how fast the second week went. but I can believe how much work I came home too

So how did the rest of the week go?  Pretty much the same as week 1!

Mornings I spent at Joe’s Cafe trying to draft out notes for the first two journal article due at the end of the month.  On several occasions, we enjoyed the great foods from Chach (luckily I don’t mind eating in the same places if I like the food) as the other guys liked it as well., we continued to ride the bikes, sometimes some of our road longer than others. Lots of the time we grabbed lunch at the condo to take advantage of the weather.

From Connie’s Bakery, I scored a day old fresh loaf of bread so french toast made a visit this year on the deck. (FYI: both Connie’s and Joes offer day old parties in the am. the best part is they come wrapped in plastic to easy to grab a quick snack for later). But many of sweets and sandwiches they offer are reasonably priced and great tasting.

Other highlights of week two included a few meals at the Burger Queen shack – while set up as fast carry out food – meets the quality of many of the more formal ones. (or as in the case of the Mayflower; exceeds it) and the Canteen which with its new expanded back area makes for a great casual place to hang out and eat.

We even get everyone to tackle the Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument on one of the few gray days. If you have never been – it is well worth a visit. While the Monument itself is a nice walk – the museum also offers a changing collection of history and art.

We took in a beachside jazz night at Herring Cove and got to enjoy the casual mid week time with vacationers and locals alike that ended with a great seaside bonfire.

Of course, we also saw our pal Varla Jean Merman and her new show Bad Heroine (go see it when it comes to a city new you!)

The trip home on Saturday was mostly uneventful on our part. Just a long process and we were ready to get home. Luckily the folks at the Marriott let us park our bags for a few hours while we took in the sites near the waterfront in Boston, then it was off to Boston Logon airport.

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Settling In and stuff

Settling in at the Cove each summer is always a whirlwind for the first few days, but rarely lasts long. On this trip, we also have a few friends here – so its added some fun additional options.

After a very long coach ride into Provincetown on Saturday . It was nice to just sit back and breath.

Come Sunday we were in full vacation mode. Bikes needed to get rented for the next two weeks, as that makes  being able to go to Stop & Shop for groceries much more doable.

So we made the short walk up to the road to PTownBikes   (Address: 42 Bradford St, Provincetown, MA 02657, Phone: (508) 487-8735). After getting our annual “rules of the road” reminders, we were off for a short ride to Herring Cove  to show the boys around that end of the town.

After we got back from the ride, it was nap time for the boys – so I had some time to connect with local friends and get the skinny on the season and the annual “what do you want to do for activities” ticket discussion begins.

Once we were all refreshed and we had enough coffee in us. Yes, I had made sure to run by Joe’s Coffeeshop (170 Commercial St, Provincetown, MA 02657) . You can check out Joe’s Facebook page for more on this little slice of Provincetown. It was time for the dreaded Stop & Shop run.

So, empty backpacks ready,  we got on the bikes and took to the store for supplies to get us through a few days. While we always love eating out – being here in a unit with a kitchen allows me the luxury to also cook some of the days. Especially those when we just don’t want to deal with the crowds. (Note: first time to Ptown? Don’t shop on Saturday if you can avoid it – that’s turnover day in town and usually a mad house. We tend to go later Sunday or even better on Monday am when we can).

It was still early when we got back, so everyone hit the deck for some late rays, while I went in to think about dinner. For tonight, we went with marinated (yes – with bottled italian salad dressing, along with some ginger beer added for zing) to toss on the grill, grilled sweet potatoes and quick pickled carrots.

After dinner we took the first official “ice cream” walk to close out the day.

Monday

Come Monday, we were all in “vaca mode”. I tend to wake up early, so generally out with the camera  walking around by 6:15 then heading back to Joe’s coffeeshop around seven. Spent a few hours drafting some notes for a journal article then met up with Brent and Josh before walking back to the house to figure out the game plan for the day.

All in all, it was just a very nice relaxing day at the Cove; lots of sun and catching up. We ended up eating lunch in doing that old standard “make yourself sandwiches” since we knew that evening we will be going to a show and dinner.

After all getting showered we went over to the Canteen (225 Commercial St, Provincetown, MA 02657) for dinner, one of my favorite of the small places here in Ptown. A nice assortment of fresh and fried foods and probably the best crispy brussels sprouts we’ve had. They do their brussels sprouts cooked to get fried crispy and then top it with the vinegar fish sauce working with the natural flavor of the smoky sprout. The
other guys went with some basic fish and chips,  I opted for “fish fries”, a.k.a. fried smelts.

After dinner, we walked over the Crown and Anchor where we checked out an early show of the Generations Project (thegenerationsproject.info). Part of a new intergenerational, transnational LGBT queer storytelling project that hopes to serve as a bridge between older and younger folks by sharing different stories frint points in our lives (coming out, risk, dating etc.). Tonight’s specifically highlighted the stories related to Ptwn.

After a really well-done show, we once again took a walk so the men could get ice cream and I splurged at the Portuguese Bakery (299 Commercial St, Provincetown, MA 02657) for a pastry; Malasada is  the Portuguese version of a “fried dough” treat. Italians grow up with a similar version serves on Sundays or at street fairs. As they do with the italian version – they cover it with sugar hot out of the grease.

On Tuesday

Paul’s parents were scheduled to come down on the 11 o’clock ferry, so after getting up and doing a few hours of work I went back to the unit and made some breakfast for all of us. 

Then we took a nice leisurely stroll to the ferry for his mom and Eddie. Looking for something to do that wouldn’t require them to walk as much, we decided to make use of the new Provincetown Mayflower Trolley tour.

What a great ride. We were able to get to a bunch of locations with the tour we hadn’t checked out before. While we heard some really interesting stories and history of the people who founded Provincetown. Not to mention learning about the environment & ecological structure.  Overall well worth the money for the $20 tickets and I would reccomemd to anybody who’s never been here to take advantage of it. And I got a recipe to try as well!


We caught sight of some fun street based art that often can be found tucked away in nooks and crannies.
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Another “Salon” dinner saturday night with the perfect “Cowboy” Lasagna. 

This was a dinner shot during the last visit

A gathering of the tribe last night for a “salon” dinner. A night focused on food, talk and stories. For this month, my old friend Josh and his husband Brent were in town, taking advantage of “retiree” time and visiting the Bay Area. Now Josh and I have been friends, “sisters”, co-facilitators, both ran focus groups and volunteers for local programs for many years and all around were “those two are trouble together” for over 24 years.

Instead of a dinner out like in the past (the last visit we took them to Old Skool for a great meal),  I suggested we eat here and invite some other friends we’ve known for years and just kick back old school style.

For the menu I wanted easy, solid and fun. Years ago Josh and I manned a mens social group called the Social Exchange Network as a way to gather men to get out of the city to camp, eat, remember, heal. This was during a time of great pain and change for us, when so many of our friends were dying or sick with AIDS. So the socials and SEN were an opportunity to “stop the madness” for a few days. We did everything from camping trips to Disney World to house parties.

Often for the weekend SEN events, I tended to do all the cooking (except for the junk food table which often held every sweet treat, salty, sugary snack that we ould pre-buy that would sit on a table for the whole weekend for those late-night munchies) while Josh would serve as the front man-cruise director for the social stuff. On those trips when an oven was available – our first night menu was frozen lasagna dinners with a green salad and garlic bread. As it was easiest meal to get prepared on the day of travel as people rolled in.

With this in mind, I thought it would be fun to recreate a home version, but that wasn’t the old school all day sauce version that I normally would make , which I know he loves. So Trisha Yearwood’s  “Cowboy Lasagna” recipe came to mind.  I originally tried the recipe back in a few months ago  (that post is here) after seeing it on her cooking show to a great success. I recall saying that the mean-sauce was like “crack”, “one spoonful and you couldn’t stop tasting it”. To start the night I re-used another favorite starter; my adapted version of  Roasted Carrot Hummus that I have mentioned back in my February post

When all was said and done –  it was a win for sure.  Two of our other friends Russel (Russell has know Josh almost as long) and David,  brought a fresh baked apple pie (crust and all) incredibly infused with rosemary. Which paired perfectly to the lasagna meal.

Mother’s Day Alternative Tea

Since we didn’t travel to see your own moms, and we weren’t really up for doing a full out dinner we decided to host an alternative Mother’s Day tea today.

We asked everybody to bring something; Just choose either savory or sweet.  We then mixed it up some with a different friends and small crowd to encourage different networking and socializing.

Overall a big success.


At first I dug out the mixed matched and “tag sale find” collection of tea cups and saucers and plates..

And the  always handy multi tiered dessert plate stands


Getting the layout on the tables is always important.

 

And then the menu:

Traditional tea sandwhiches with hearts!

Pinwheels with two kinds of cheese and ham, as well as pimento cheese sandwhiches

Gluten free carrot cake muffins, jicama mango salad and picked shrimp

 

Stuffed peppers and devilishly good peanut butter chocolate and marshmallow cookie.

Trisha Yearwood’s Cowboy Lasagna Rocks The Night!

So needing to make dinner one night for friends; I happen upon Trisha Yearwood’s recipe called Cowboy Lasagna who credits some of it to her husband Garth Brooks.

While I love my lasagna – its way to much work for a casual dinner, so this looked like a great option.

So let me say first of.. Don’t screw it the recipe. It is great as is. So good in fact that had I added beans to the sauce mixture, topped it with cheese I would eat it as is and forget the noodles!

You can get the full recipe here

So little time, but so many ways to make cheesy sausage snacks

So last month I found a Low Country recipe for a cheesy sausage biscuit snack from Hoppin Johns Low Country cookbook; unlike a regular fluffy biscuit these are a much more dense & compact bite that are meant to be a  cross between a savory “cookie” and a snack bite. 

The only change I made after making it a couple times is the addition of a topping of pepper jelly, almost making it like a “thumbprint cookie”. The bite and coolness of the jelly on the dense snack adds a nice break in the flavor.

But there was still a taste of “flour” to it that I didn’t care for, so I kept looking for an alternative which I found in a recent more Italian style version from Valerie Bertinelli’s cookbook.

This cheesy sausage snack uses Bisquick instead of flour, uncooked bulk sasuage and a tablespoon of Tabasco sauce with a result that comes out hot, crisp, dark-golden brown and gooey good

Ingredients

  • Oil, for greasing the baking sheets (cooking spray is fine)
  • 3 cups biscuit mix, such as Bisquick
  • 1 pound spicy sausage (uncooked)

Note: you can use so use a pound of mild or sweet sausage and add in several links of hot sausage or any combination of sausage that meets your preference. The key here us it needs to be in bulk or taken out of the casing).

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 8 ounces aged white Cheddar, grated
  • 8 ounces sharp yellow Cheddar, grated
  • 2 tablespoons of parmesan  cheese, grated (this is in addition I added to the Recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco (or to taste)
  • Ground pepper to taste

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 2 baking or cookie sheets and set aside.

Note: I think the oven I use runs hot so 400 actually made them darker than I like, when I cook them in the future I’ll be doing them at 350.

  • Combine the biscuit mix, sausage and rosemary in a large bowl. 

  • Mix with your hands, then work in the white and yellow Cheddars and hot sauce. 

Note: this actually may take longer than you think. Because of the limited liquid, its the fat from the sausage as it warms up with your hands that ads to the binding from  the mixing. So be prepared to knead this until it’s really well combined. One trick is to make sure that your sausage isnt ice cold when you mix it together.  

  • Form into balls the size of walnuts and place on the prepared baking sheets.

Note:  I used a small ice cream scooper to divide them out and I tried both just scooping it onto the tray as well as shaping them into balls with my hands and ultimately they both look the same after cooking. 

  • Bake until cooked through, about 18-20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Date Night is about the food and the man

Traveling so often for work, having our four-legged third, wanting attention along with both of us having demanding work and social time – –  getting time out with just the two of us alone isn’t always easy. So when we can do it, we take it. Last week we wanted to go see the new Meryl Streep’s new film, Florence Foster Jenkins at the CineArts at the Empire and had time to eat at one of my  favorite West Portal resturant; Trattoria da Vittorio. 

I really can’t say much more about them except “just go already”. If you want authentic italian foud with a Calabrian influence you can’t go wrong. 

Home

150 W Portal Ave, San Francisco, CA 94127

Ptown date 08.01.16

Sorting out our “must sees” this am; already top on the list is my pal, Varla Jean Merman’s “A Little White Music” and Varla & Ryan’s “Brown is the new Pink“. Last night, we took in Dina Martini’s show, to a full crowd at the Crown & Anchor.

Also on the list is several new shows & restaurants we had wanted to check out is Saints & Strangers (a take on the book, Saints and Strangers – Being the Lives of the Pilgrim Fathers & Their Families, with Their Friends & Foes: & and Account of Their Posthumous Wanderings in Limbo, Their Final Resurrection & Rise to Glory, & the Strange Pilgrimages of Plymouth Rock),  as well as  a few old favorites like a grown up date night  at Jimmy’s Hideaway and hopefully next week dinner at the Red Inn

One we won’t be able to see is The Calamari sisters  at the Sage Inn, as we found out they had been cancelled for the summer due to health issues.

Capped off last night with one of our favorite Monday night activities by hitting the Showgirls show at the A-House. While you never know what will happen – even tonight took the cake when a “sword swallower” came up on stage…

Easter Family Dinner Prep

Planning for family dinner Sunday with cousins before they leave the Bay Area. So first up; my version of Pear & Cornmeal cake with Rosemary Sryup (gluten, dairy & soy free).

  

Fresh out of the oven with a few modifications; I substituted 1/2 olive (4 tablespoons) oil & 1/2 corn oil (3 tablespoons) for the butter and used dairy free milk (lactaid free milk works too) treated w/lemon juice to stand in for buttermilk.

For the main recipe; 
https://bitetheroad.com/2013/12/28/pear-cornmeal-cake-wrosemary-syrup/