Tag Archives: Seafood

Tip Toe and Peep

Howdy Susitna Cafe’ friends!  Glad you made a stop at the Cafe’ today!  Seems like we’re always talking about something interesting here…today we’re discussing bird peeping.

What?  Haven’t heard about bird peeping?  Well, you know…it’s like when you look at birds and tip toe around them so as not to scare them away…here at the Cafe’ we call it bird peeping.  “R” and I enjoy the outdoors and nature, and although we’re not regular bird peepers per se, we did do some bird peeping recently.

Actually it all started during our fishing trip in Fulton and Rockport, Texas USA.  We took our camper, fishing gear and Golden Retriever, Gus, to catch “The Big One”.  We fished at night on some piers.  However, some dolphin friends paid us a visit with their babies while we were fishing…i think they chased the fish away because after that we didn’t get anymore nibbles…at least i hope that’s why we only caught a few teeny tiny flounder…i really hope that it doesn’t have anything to do with my BIG Alaskan fishing skills…gee, do you think that i’m getting rusty or something?  Oh, i hope not…

Well, I’m just not going to think about that anymore.  Now, where were we?  Oh yes, bird peeping.  Anyways…the dolphins scared the fish away and that’s that.  Sooo, since the fish weren’t biting, we decided to partake in other activities.  So we did.

We went to Charlotte Plummer’s Seafare Restaurant in Rockport for lunch.  Charlotte Plummer’s Restaurant has big picture windows that overlook the Fulton Harbour activity…

We ordered grilled seafood atop mixed green salad and some fried onion rings.  Quite honestly, the grilled seafood was OK and nothing to write home about, but the fried onion rings sure were TASTY.  In addition, the view was really nice.

Charlotte Plummer Seafare on Urbanspoon

While we were enjoying those TASTY onion rings, we looked out over the pier and noticed some beautiful birds. I got sooo excited, I ran out of the restaurant (with Big TASTY onion rings in hand) and started taking some photos and before we knew it both “R” and I were bird peeping.

Boy, bird peeping is some serious business.  You actually have to do alot of tiptoeing and pretending like you’re peeping at something else other than the bird(s) of interest.  Tiptoeing and peeping prevents the bird(s) from getting annoyed and flying away.  Actually, after a few toe cramps, we got good at it!

However, i’m sure that the customers looking out of the bay windows at Charlotte Plummer’s were sort of wondering what we were doing tiptoeing and all…

After our toes got cramped and sore, we decided to take a break and get some coffee at the Daily Grind.  The flavored iced coffees were sooo good and refreshing…we just got all energetic again!  So, we drove back to Fulton Harbour and bird peeped some more.

Daily Grind on Urbanspoon

Eventually, the sun started to set and our toes got sore again.  But before returning home to our camper, I took one more bird peeping photo…

"Gulf of Mexico - Waiting...Wondering..."

Do you like it?  Hope so!  While taking the photo, I thought the birds looked like they were waiting and wondering as they looked out over the Gulf of Mexico waters and oil rigs.  Since I took the photo about 4 weeks after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and prior to Hurricane Alex’s arrival, I named the photo “Gulf of Mexico – Waiting…Wondering…”.

Oh, did I tell you?  My bird peeping photo will be on display with other talented geo-artists’ work at the Geo Sapiens II exhibit at The Two Wall Gallery on Vashon Island, Washington USA from Sept. 4 – 30, 2010.  Do stop by and see it if you’re in the Seattle/Vashon Island area.  Oh, and don’t forget the Susitna Cafe’ Chronicles’ bird peeping tips while you’re viewing the exhibit at the Two Wall Gallery!  Cheers!

Susitna Cafe’ Hot Crab Dip

Gulf Coast blue crab meat is sooo delicious…we make crabcakes and hot crab dip at the Cafe’ whenever we get fresh crab meat.  We find that the claw meat is sweeter than the lump crab meat, however use either for this rich and decadent dip…

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

1 shallot, minced

1 cup rainbow peppers, chopped (use yellow, orange and red)

8 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese

1 cup sour cream (I use organic Wallaby European style)

1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use SmartBalance Omega Plus)

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated (I use a mixture of Vermont white, yellow sharp and mild cheeses)

1/2 cup romano cheese, grated

1 pound crabmeat (juice and all)

2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/3 cup green onions, chopped

2 teaspoons Gulf Coast seasoning (I use “Slap Ya Mama” white pepper blend, but Tony Chachere’s seasoning will do too)

2 teaspoons Hungarian hot paprika

Heat olive oil and butter in medium sized saucepan over medium heat.  Saute’ shallots and rainbow peppers in hot oil/butter til tender.  Add cream cheese.

Stir until melted.  Add sour cream, mayonnaise and the remaining cheese.  Stir on low heat until the grated cheese is completely melted and the dip is smooth and creamy.

Add crabmeat (juice and all), lemon juice, green onions, and seasonings.  Stir until combined.

Pour into a buttered oven safe baking dish.  Bake at 300 degress for 20 minutes.  Serve warm with crackers or poured over toast points..

Cook’s Note:  Try substituting small sweet Gulf Coast shrimp for the crab meat…another rich and decadent dip for you, your family and your guests!

Traveler’s Notes:  These are some great suggestions from our Susitna Cafe’ friends…

Rockport Restaurant(s) to Try:

The Boiling Pot

Panjos Pizza Pasta and Burgers

Things to See/Do:

Visit the many downtown Rockport art galleries and The Rockport Center for the Arts


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Filed under August 2010

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roules!

It’s so good to see you again here at the Susitna Cafe’!  We’ve been on the road along the Gulf Coast, USA…oh my, and good times have been rolling at Mickey and Cookie’s Annual Crawfish Boil in New Orleans, LA…

Crawfish boils are entrenched in Louisiana family and cultural tradition.  The gastronomic techniques are typically passed from generation to generation.  According to Cajun (a person of French Canadian descent) legend, crawfish are descendents of the Maine lobster.  However, unlike lobster, crawfish are a freshwater shellfish.  A crawfish boil includes crawfish, sausage and an assortment of vegetables boiled and soaked in a delightfully spicy brew.

Mickey and Cookie’s Annual Crawfish Boil has been in their family for about 19 years.  Their family and friends look forward to the event every year.  Only once was “The Boil” canceled, and it required the rath of Hurricane Katrina to prevent this lively event from happening in 2006.  But even then, the spirit of Mickey and Cookie’s Annual Crawfish Boil was alive…despite Katrina, the annual t-shirts were still designed and distributed by Mickey’s family.

This year attendees traveled to “The Boil” from around Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Florida and North Carolina to join the fun.  Lucky for us, the Susitna Cafe’ attended too!

Hey, how about if I introduce you to Mickey and Cookie?  Then we can learn about the gastronomic and other fun details of “The Boil”!

Here’s Mickey busy as a bee.  She’s organizing the troops and getting ready for the big day.

Mickey is retired from the Navy and is a New Orleans street artist.  Mickey served as the Crawfish Boil cook extraordinaire for the first 5 years.  Mickey says “Hi to Y’all!” at the Cafe’.

Oh look!  There’s Cookie getting ready for the Crawfish Boil.  Looks like she’s cleaning up and getting ready for the tents and chairs to be delivered…

She sure is a nice lady…Cookie is a retired bank VP who loves to spend time with her family…Cookie says “Hi to Y’all!” too.

Well, over the years, attendance at Mickey and Cookie’s Annual Crawfish Boil has grown to about 100.  So, now Huey does the cooking with a little help from some of his friends.

Huey is a fun lovin’ New Orleans undertaker with a great sense of humor.  He’s also an amazing Crawfish Boil cook!  Huey tends to say things like “Coooh, luk at da size o dat crawfish!”  (i.e. an expression of astonishment).  Or, he says things like “Please go get de sack o crawfish, sha.” (i.e. dear (French “cher”)).

So my Susitna Cafe’ friends, how does this big party come together?  Well, the food preparations start on the eve of “The Boil”…

First, all the veggies (yellow onions, carrots, celery, red potatoes and garlic) are prepared.

The ends of the garlic and onion are removed.  The carrots and celery are cut into 3-4″ chunks.  Afterwards, the prepared veggies are evenly distributed into 10 plastic grocery bags.  The veggie bags are stored overnight in the refrigerator awaiting the big day…

Next, the yummy artichokes (my personal favorite in the boil) and mushrooms are prepared…

Since the artichokes and mushrooms tend to separate in the boil, they are placed into nylon ladies knee highs like so…

The artichokes and mushrooms are stored overnight, with the other prepared veggies, in the refrigerator.

Next, folks take a break and enjoy refreshments…

Uh-oh…looks like there are no refreshments until tomorrow…

So, back to work…next, the butter is placed in styrofoam containers.   They’re stored in the refrigerator overnight and will be placed on the tables during “The Boil”.

Alas!  The big day arrives so there’s a bustle of activity starting early in the morning…supplies get pulled out of the attic…

The tables get set-up and dressed in ‘Who Dat’ colors (i.e. New Orleans Saints team colors), and condiments, paper towels, bibs, plates and silverware are distributed on the ‘Who Dat’ tables…

Cooking tents and gear get set-up…

Mickey prepares her special seafood dipping sauce with ketchup, horseradish, and fresh squeezed lemon juice…

The crawfish are delivered (very important that this get’s done :O)

The outdoor high-pressure propane cookers for the 60-80 gallon stainless steel boiling pots are fired-up…

The crawfish are purged and washed in water…

All the Bebs (i.e. sweetheart or darlings) provide assistance (very important)…

The stainless steel pots are filled with water and brought to a rolling boil.  Meanwhile, lemons are prepared by rolling and slicing in half.  The lemon juice is squeezed into the water along with the halved lemon sections.  The prepared veggies from the plastic grocery bags are added along with the veggies wrapped in ladies knee highs.  Salt, 2 dry bags of crawfish boil spices and 1.5 cups of liquid crawfish boil are added to0.  All the ingredients are cooked for about 10 minutes or til the potatoes are tender…

Next, the crawfish are added to the pot and the top is dusted with cayenne powder…

After the water comes to a rolling boil again, the boil cooks for about 5 minutes.   Periodically the boil is stirred with a big crawfish paddle.  The sausage, cut in 1-2 inch chunks, are added to the boil and all the tasty bits steep in the spicy brew for about 20-30 minutes…

Around noonish, the guests begin to arrive…

They hug and greet each other…

Beverages are served…

Some folks at “The Boil” label their cups so they don’t get confused with someone else’s beverage.  You know, sort of like using wine charms for wine glasses.  However, in this case, the cups are labeled like “Mr. Wonderful” or whatever else comes to mind…

People smile…

People chat…

More beverages are served…

While some folks buy raffle tickets to participate in a drawing for fun prizes…

Raffle tickets are purchased from the “Hula Girls”, of course…

Or, some folks “people watch”…

Afterall, there’s almost always something interesting to see…

After awhile, some folks say things like “I got an ahnvee  for some crawfish!” (i.e. a longing or hunger (French “envie”))…

So, the crawfish and veggies are poured into the pirogue (i.e. boat) for serving…

Folks serve themselves…

Then…they dive-in!

And everyone enjoys!

People get full…

And the pirogue gets empty…

Oh…did I tell you that people bring desserts?

Like homemade red velvet cake?

Homemade strawberry shortcake…

And Cannolis (a personal favorite :o)!!!

And Susitna Cafe’ pies…

After dessert, people wait in anticipation for the raffle drawing…

Some feel particularly lucky…

So, Mickey calls the lucky ticket numbers while Cookie helps with the prizes…

And people win!

The luckiest win Hawaiian shirts…

After the raffle, games begin…

People smile…

And they’re happy!

So my Susitna Cafe’ friends…Mickey and Cookie say “Who Dat Say Dey Got A Better Boil!”

Mickey and Cookies’ Laissez Les Bon Temps Roules! Crawfish Boil

Protein

320 pounds fresh, live crawfish

10 pounds Conecuh smoked sausage

Veggies

20 pounds #2 red potatoes

12 pounds yellow onions

4 large bags carrots

4 large bags garlic

4 packages celery

4 large cartons button mushrooms

12 artichokes

Flavoring

16 boxes dry crawfish boil seasonings (Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil is good)

2 gallons concentrated liquid crawfish boil (Zatarain’s Concentrated Shrimp and Crab Boil is good)

Cayenne Pepper

Salt

Other

3 packages ladies knee highs (2 pairs in each pack)

Traveler’s Notes:  Be sure to say hello to Mickey and visit her outdoor studio on Jackson Square in New Orleans, LA

Cooks Notes:  Many of the ingredients in the Crawfish Boil are at your discretion.  Add more garlic to intensify the garlicky flavor…add more artichokes if you like them…be sure to use #2 size red potatoes to be sure they conveniently cook for the same amount of time as your other veggies.  Oh, about the garlic…be sure to squeeze the cloves and spread on saltines…

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Filed under April 2010

The Dim-Sum of the Matter…

你好 (nee-how) my Susitna Cafe’ friends!  We’re talking about travel here at the Cafe’.  I know, this is no surprise to you!

Do you like to travel?  I like to travel because I like to learn.  I like to learn what a place is really like.  You know, really get into “the Dim-Sum of the matter”.

Sometimes getting to “the Dim-Sum of the matter” during a short visit can be challenging, particularly when jet-lag is involved.  Last year, we traveled to Hong Kong.  We had anticipated some jet lag.  However, I experienced serious jet lag.

Upon arrival in Hong Kong, I was absolutely sure that my body was  located in Hong Kong.  However, my brain was located elsewhere.  Timbuktu perhaps?  No telling really…

Our planned Day 1 itinerary didn’t challenge our jet lagged minds too much.  We had planned a ride on the Victoria Peak Tram, the world’s oldest funicular railway.  All of our travel guidebooks had recommended it as a “must-do” activity.

After reaching Victoria Peak, we planned to walk amidst the nature trails and enjoy the views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong below.  And so, that’s what we did.

Upon arrival at the Peak, we refreshed ourselves with some strong Pacific Coffee at the Peak restaurant.  And, zoom-zoom!  Off we went to enjoy our walk and fabulous vistas!

The view of  Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong below was sooo impressive…Hong Kong appeared like a modern and westernized city!

Gee, it even looked like a big city in North America (you know, that place where my brain was located…or, was that Timbuktu?).

The Peak nature trails were lovely.  Much of the vegetation was semi-tropical and familiar to us.  Gee, it sort of looked like the same vegetation found in Houston, TX…

“R” really liked the trees along the Peak trails.  According to the horticultural signage in the Park, the trees were identified as rubber trees.  Hmm…we hadn’t seen any rubber trees like that in Houston, TX…

So we walked and wandered amongst alot of rubber trees.  Although still feeling  jet-lagged, I experienced a brief moment of clarity during our walk.  I thought “Hmm…if you can find something different, like a rubber tree, amongst so much familiarity, then our distant view of Hong Kong might be like a wonton wrapper”.

I’m sure that you understand what happens to a person when you walk around and see alot of rubber trees pondering these sort of thoughts my Susitna Cafe’ friends.  As you can imagine, we had reached a decision point during our first day in Hong Kong amongst all those rubber trees.  We decided that this is “where the rubber meets the road“!  Tee-hee 😮

So, at that point on our first day in Hong Kong, we decided to break-away from our planned itinerary and dive-in to “the Dim-Sum of the matter”.  There was no time to lose, so we headed down into the heart of the city to see what was inside the Hong Kong wonton wrapper…

Upon arrival at street level, Hong Kong  appeared very modern and westernized just like our view from atop Victoria Peak.  I think we were still on the edge of the wonton wrapper…

We saw big and western style malls full of fashionable shops…

You know, a funny thing happens when you travel and explore…the more you explore, the more you discover what’s behind the wrapper (wonton wrapper that is…).  Here’s a peak inside the Hong Kong dumpling…an Asian junket amongst a modern and westernized backdrop wrapper…

After seeing the Asian junket on Victoria Harbour, we were excited to really get to “the Dim-Sum of the matter”.  So we explored further.  All of a sudden, we noted that the signage in our surroundings began to change.  Instead of modern and westernized signs, we saw neon multi-lingual signage printed with both western and Chinese characters…

As we delved into the dumpling even more, the street signs changed again.  Now there were more Asian influences…

Soon, our exploration led us to the heart of the dumpling…an evening Ladies Market where we experienced all kinds of tasty ingredients…

This is a vibrant place where locals and visitors enjoy the tasty dumplings…

A place where the friendly ingredients meld so nicely together…

Well my Susitna Cafe’ friends, as you can see, we had a wonderful first day in Hong Kong!  Sigh…there’s just nothing like getting to “the Dim-Sum of the matter” when you’re traveling!

Susitna Cafe’ Shrimp Dumplings

Ohhh…I love yummy dumplings, don’t you?  Although you can use store bought wonton wrappers for these dumplings, homemade tastes so much better!  Ohhh…they’re even better when we incorporate tasty herbs too!

Herb Wonton Wrapper Ingredients

2 cups organic unbleached flour, plus extra for pastry board

1/2 teaspoon gourmet salt

1 large egg

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup cilantro & chives, chopped fine

cornstarch

Combine flour and salt on your pastry board or countertop.  Make a well in the center of your flour and salt mixture.  Next, add egg and water into a mixing bowl.  Whisk until mixed.  Pour the egg and water mixture into your flour well.

Mix and knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball.  If the dough sticks to your pastry board, then add a little extra flour to the surface.

Now add the chopped herbs to your dough and knead to distribute herbs evenly throughout the dough.

Place the dough ball into a mixing bowl.  Set aside and cover with a damp cloth and let sit while we make the shrimp dumpling filling.

Shrimp Dumpling Filling Ingredients

1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, chopped and dried on papertowel

1 cup chinese cabbage, chopped fine plus some extra whole leaves to line your steamer basket

3 Tablespoons carrot, minced

2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped fine

2 Tablespoons chives, minced

2 Tablespoons green onion, minced

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

3 Tablespoons oyster sauce (we use Lee Kum Kee brand with No MSG Added at the Cafe’)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Toss all ingredients together into a mixing bowl.  Stir to combine.

Now let’s work with our herby wonton dough again.  Begin by dusting your pastry board and rolling pin with corn starch.

Next, cut your dough into quarters.  Roll-out one of your dough quarters until approximately paper thin.  Cut the dough with a biscuit cutter.  If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, you may use a 3-4 inch diameter drinking glass edge dusted with corn starch too.

Now let’s make dumplings!  Place approximately 1 teaspoon of your shrimp mixture in the center of your cut-out dumpling wrapper.

Wet the edges of the wrapper, fold-over into a half-moon shape and seal.  You may pinch the edges for a decorative effect.

Or, at the Susitna Cafe’, we often pinch up the wrapper to form a little happy package.

Then we tie our dumpling package with a little chive bow…sigh

Once you have made all of your dumpling packages, pour about 3/4 cup of water into a dutch oven and place a steamer basket inside.  Heat the dutch oven over medium heat.  When you observe steam arising, place chinese cabbage leaves on the bottom of the steamer basket.  Place enough leaves to cover the bottom of the basket.  Now place your dumpling packages in the basket and be sure that they are not touching.

Place a cover on your dutch oven and steam for about 10 minutes or until your dumplings are semi-transparent.

While the dumplings are steaming, you can continue working your 1/4 pieces of wonton dough, filling them and forming the dumplings into the shape of your choice.  If the water is low in your dutch oven, add additional water and wait until the water steams prior to adding additional dumplings in the steamer basket.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauces.  You can make a quick dipping sauce with 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1 ounce rice wine vinegar, 1 ounce cooking sake, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon chili paste, 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger and 1/2 Tablespoon cilantro, chopped fine.

It’s now time to get to get to “The Dim-Sum of the Matter…”



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Filed under March 2010