Italian Dinner Party for 30

July 31, 2008

Every year I host a dinner party for my law firm as a recruiting event for our summer associates.  I first started doing this about 10 years, and it’s become an annual tradition.  The concept of the party is to make it interactive, to get the guests cooking, plating and serving.  I come up with a multi-course menu of Italian dishes (or at least Italian-inspired dishes) and pair each dish with an Italian wine.  I buy all the food, prep it, do some preliminary cooking that might be needed, and then invite the guests to help with the final cooking and assembly.  I’ve had them make ravioli, stuff arancini and stir risotto.  They’ve made pizza, shaved truffles, and whipped cream.  It’s turned out to be a ton of fun, because a summer clerk may end up working on a dish with the firm’s managing partner.  I’m always surprised by  who really wants to get their hands dirty in the kitchen.

Anyhow, I made the brilliant decision to host this year’s party on Saturday, just a week after I returned from a 2-week trip from Alaska — a week of catching up on the work that came in while I was gone.  I just came up with the menu concept on Tuesday, and then bought the wines yesterday.  I made it pretty simple on myself, as the two main courses involved dishes prepared in the oven.  For a crowd of 30, that’s very helpful.   Almost as helpful as renting all the dishes needed for these dinners.

The event is two days away, and I thought I’d share my menu with y’all (after the break).  You’ll see that I kind of took the notion of specifying the origin of the ingredients a bit too far, as a sort of insider foodie joke. Read the rest of this entry »


Kayak Soup

July 31, 2008

(Click on any picture for a high resolution version)

Today’s entry is about our great sea kayaking trip with Seaside Adventure Eco-Tours, a small mom and pop outfit in Little Tutka Bay, just across Kachemak Bay from the lovely town of Homer, Alaska.  You need to take a water taxi to get here, but the trip, and the entire experience, are worth the logistical difficulties.  You quickly learn in Alaska that getting from point A to point B often entails travel by means other than an automobile. Read the rest of this entry »

Ginormous Portions in Alaska

July 29, 2008

There’s a t-shirt that you can find in most Alaskan gift shops that says, “Size Does Matter”, showing an outline of the state of Alaska and well within those boundaries, Texas.  It’s a pretty funny t-shirt, particularly if you want to rib one of your Texas friends, but the notion of “bigger is better” is alive and well in Alaskan diners.

We stopped at Rose’s Cafe in Healy, several miles north of the entrance to Denali National Park.  Rose’s is a fairly typical diner, but they really like serving large portions of food.  The entrance area is filled with pictures of individuals who have eaten the one-pound burger (or burgers consisting of several of the one-pound patties — one guy ate a 5 pounder!).  OK, that’s for the crazy people, but Rose’s also has normal sizes, thank god.

My son decides to order pancakes.  The waitress informed him that one would be enough.  One pancake?  For a hungry 9-year old?  She must be crazy.  Well, the picture above shows you that the waitress gave us great advice.

Another example of ridiculous portions comes from the less-than-average, well-past-its-prime, tourist-trap Gwennie’s in Anchorage.  This is really a lousy restaurant, the worst one we visited in Alaska, but the place didn’t disappoint when it came to quantity of food.  My father-in-law decided to eat breakfast for dinner, and he ordered a waffle and a side of reindeer sausage.  We had first had reindeer sausage at our Anchorage B&B, the wonderful Alaska House of Jade, and my father-in-law wanted some more.  Well, he got a lot more.  The amount of sausage he received was so great that it turned his stomach (mine, too).  We hardly touched the stuff.

Not every place in Alaska serves humungous portions, but we didn’t find a place that skimped on quantity.  Maybe size does matter — at least when eating in Alaska.

Dining with the Bears

July 27, 2008

We’re back from our 2-week Alaska vacation, and what a trip it was!  I’ll spend the next week or two posting mostly about some unusual culinary aspects of Alaska, with some occasional scenery thrown in for good measure.

Today, I’ve provided a picture of our group eating lunch at Hallo Bay in Katmai National Park and Preserve, the area of Alaska that required us to land in the ocean surf in a sea plane to view Alaskan brown bears (also known as grizzlies or Kodiaks).  I’ll write a LOT more about this trip, which might be the single most memorable day of vacation I’ve ever experienced, but for now, this will suffice.  We packed our own lunch, consisting of turkey wraps (which minimize crumbs, as you don’t want to leave ANY food for the bears to find, as we don’t want them to establish a link between humans as a food source).

Anyhow, this is what we watched while we dined.  Click on the photo for a higher resolution shot.

What I Saw Today in Alaska

July 20, 2008

I saw 31 brown bears today (AKA grizzly bears).  What did you see?

Greetings from Homer, Alaska

July 19, 2008

I just wanted to show you the view from the rental house where we’re staying in Homer, Alaska.  This was taken at 10:00 tonight.  It’s now 11:15, and I’m still staring at those mountains.  They’re no longer bathed in sunlight, but it’s not anywhere close to being dark.  What a beautiful state this is!

Off to Alaska

July 11, 2008

You might have noticed that I haven’t been posting a lot of content lately.  It’s probably going to get worse for a couple of weeks, but that’s not a bad thing.  I’ve been busting my butt, getting ready for a two-week vacation to Alaska.  We’ll be taking planes that land on glaciers and on lakes.  We’ll commune with the bears, moose, and whales.  We’ll spend times in sea kayaks, rafts, and crampons.  Oh, and we’ll eat now and then, too.  When we go fishing, I’m hoping to sample the freshest sashimi I’ve ever had.

Anyhow, thanks for your support, and if I don’t post anything for a couple of weeks, just realize that I’m building up content.  All for you!