Thursday, July 27, 2006

Very Cherry Pies

Want to enjoy a freshly-baked cherry pie without slaving away in the kitchen?
Check out my review of Grand Traverse Pie Company in the latest issue of Belly DuJour!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Another Summer Tidbit

The August issue of Gourmet includes a lovely supplement that's chock full of memoir-style food essays by the likes of Pat Conroy, Calvin Trillin and infamous roadfood junkies Jane and Michael Stern. My favorite line in the whole issue comes from bestselling Bel Canto author Ann Patchett, with this lovely line about summer vacations:

I think the best vacation is the one that relieves you of your own life temporarily and then makes you long for it again.

(Sunset photo taken by yours truly at Donegal Bay, Beaver Island, Michigan)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Erratum and Other Food for the Mind

Many of you know I collect and document the grammatical errors and mispellings I encounter in my travels about town--writerly sensibilities know not the bounds of the 9-to-5 working world, and thus my inner copy editor never takes a vacation, even when the outer copy editor is, well, taking a vacation. I captured this latest misdemeanor on our recent sojourn to Greece. Yes, yes, I know that this is mostly a case of "lost in translation," but it still was too good to pass up.

In other writing-related news, I wrote the cover story for the July 28 issue of The National Catholic Reporter, hot off the press today! Read it here.

My companion and I recently checked out Wordplay, the entertaining documentary about New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz and the puzzle's many devotees. (Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart and the Indigo Girls are featured prominently.) We both loved it, and consequently find ourselves spending far too much time on the NYT crosswords in the evenings.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Why I Love Summer

You're looking at the fruits of my labors after a quick trip to Jacquemin Farms: blackberry blueberry shortcakes! Central Ohio blackberries have burst onto the scene here, much to my delight. They taste so sweet and perfect it almost makes me sad--berry season is ruefully short here, which means that, just when you get used to having succulent berries around, they're gone! That, my friends, is why you need to live it up right now and make lots of summery DESSERTS. (I found the shortcake recipe at While visiting Jacquemin Farms I noticed they had lots of fresh raspberries on hand, and I also secured their very last 10-pound pail of Michigan sour cherries.

Speaking of cherries, if you're in the Grandview area here in Columbus be sure to stop by Jeni's Ice Creams to try her fabulous braised cherries ice cream topping. I sampled them on a scoop of apricot yogurt, and it tasted like sweet summery heaven! (That being said, my companion also gives mad props to the Savannah buttermint ice cream.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Layered Guacamole Dip with Shrimp and Salsa

Appetizers are one of my favorite things to make, and I'm always looking for new variations on old favorites. This "Layered Guacamole Dip with Shrimp and Salsa" is a fresh take on Mexican seven-layer dip. It's fresh-tasting and colorful, and you can assemble it in a matter of minutes. The recipe is from Rick Rodgers' Celebrations 101, a book I highly recommend if you're looking for fun things to make for friends, as I did for our company on Friday night. I borrow Celebrations from the library from time to time, and I always find great, seasonally appropriate recipes, whether they're for a tailgate party (Go Irish!) or our annual Mardi Gras Bash.

Here's my own abbreviated version of the recipe:
3 ripe avocados
1/2 c. light sour cream
2 T. fresh lime juice
1/4 c. minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt, to taste

1 lb. coarsely shopped shrimp (peeled and deveined)
2 T. olive oil
2 t. lime juice
1 c. bottled salsa
1/2 c. light sour cream
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro

1)Mash the avocados, sour cream, and lime juice with a fork until the mixture is chunky. Stir in onion and garlic, and season generously with salt. Set aside.
2)Toss shrimp in oil and lime juice. Spread the shrimp in a thick layer about 9 inches in diameter in a rimmed serving platter. Spread the guacamole on the shrimp, leaving a border exposed. Spread the salsa over the guacamole, leaving a border. Finally, spread the sour cream over the salsa, again leaving a border around the edges. Sprinkle the cilantro over the dip.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Food Fit for the Gods

In Greece, I looked forward to our hotel breakfast each morning for one reason: Greek yogurt drizzled with Naxos honey. Unlike much of the yogurt we eat in the U.S., it's not at all sweet, it's unprocessed, and it's made from sheep and goat's milk. It was so thick and creamy and smooth, especially blended with the honey provided by bees and beekeepers on the very island where we were staying. (We even saw the hives as we drove around the island's mountainous interior one day.) It was an experience I have tried to recreate at home, with limited success thus far. I did manage to find some Greek yogurt at Wild Oats--Fage is the brand--but I was disappointed. The container had a honey-filled compartment attached to it, which I don't need since I have lots of good honey stashed away--some W. Virginia honey from my dad, some farmer's market tupelo honey, and some rich, delicious liquid gold given to me by central Ohio beekeepers while I was writing a story on honey for The Dispatch. The Fage yogurt was quite sour, whereas the yogurt I had in Greece tasted more like a fresh, creamy glass of milk. I'll have to check a few other places, and I'll let you know if I'm able to find anything that resembles the real thing!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Travel Tip for Foodies

If you're seeking memorable (and not necessarily expensive) dining experiences on your upcoming travels, I highly recommend looking beyond the traditional guidebooks for restaurant recommendations. Here's my tip: Go to a used bookstore that carries old magazines and flip through back issues of Gourmet, Saveur, and Bon Appetit. They'll often feature roundups of good eats in cities both stateside and abroad. Before we left for Greece I spent about 45 minutes at Half Price Books here in Columbus, and I dug up food-related articles on Athens in a couple of magazines that cost me only 50 cents each. An article in a 2001 issue of Gourmet authored by Greek cuisine expert Diane Kochilas was especially helpful. Even if you don't end up visiting any of the recommended eateries, you'll get an excellent introduction to the names of local specialties, which is especially fun when traveling abroad. Plus, torn-out magazine pages weigh a lot less than guidebooks, which is a bonus when you're pounding the pavement all day!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Greece's Greatest Hits

On this trip I was reminded just how difficult it is to find good food when you're traveling abroad on a budget. It's not that satisfying food can't be found, it's just that between jetlaggedness, long days of sightseeing on foot, language barriers (including a different alphabet in this case), and unfamiliarity with neighborhoods all lead a traveler to sacrifice interesting dining experiences for convenience and ease. In addition, I found that most guidebooks like Frommer's (we used Lonely Planet) don't offer much in the way of really great restaurant recommendations, since they're dedicated primarily to sightseeing.

That being said, I was able to sample lots of traditional Greek dishes both in Athens and on Naxos, many of which I had already tried back at home. What was interesting to me was observing the difference between Greek-American food and Greek food. Take the classic Greek salad, for example. In the U.S. it's typically comprised of shredded romaine, kalamata olives, chopped tomatoes, and feta crumbles. Lettuce was conspicuously absent from the salads I ate in Greece, however, and there was nary a feta crumble to be found. A sizeable bed of fresh-tasting cucumber and red onion slices replaced the lettuce, and the feta was always served as a thick slice--never crumbled. And unlike the gyros you often eat in the U.S., my gyro fixings were served neatly arranged on a plate, never tucked into a pita, with generous dollops of tzatziki (yogurt dip studded with chopped cucumber) rimming the plate. I really enjoyed all of the little touches provided by each taverna at the outset of each meal: a generous basket of fresh bread with silverware and napkins tucked inside, and big glasses or pitchers of ice water provided at no charge--a rarity in Europe.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Greek Cuisine

One of my favorite parts about the Greek islands was that there was seafood everywhere! Every little taverna showcases its wares either in a small refrigerated case in front of the restaurant, or, in the case of octopus, hanging out to dry on the clothesline! It's very common to see several sets of slippery octopus tentacles waving gently in the breeze as you walk by.
I tried some of my companion's roasted octopus, and it was delicious--the texture was very similar to calamari. During the dinner hour (which in Greece starts at 9 p.m) it's also fun to walk around and check out the outdoor grills, where many of the tavernas prepare their seafood for all to see and smell.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

At the Table in Greece

Greetings to my lovely readers! My apologies for the lack of recent updating. I have been in Greece, both on the lovely island of Naxos and in Athens. I have many culinary adventures to share, and will begin my reflections tomorrow, after I catch up on a little work and try to kick this nagging jetlag. In the meantime, here's a tantalizing photo from the trip.