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More Italy Pics; Old Town Blues; Wine & Food, Of Course!

What a lovely day it was today! The sun was shining most the day and while it was definitely chilly, it was really very nice. In case you want to see the many pictures that Mark took while we were in Italy, he has posted themHEREfor you to peruse. There are many photos, and he is a very talented photographer, so hopefully you will find the experience quite pleasant. Hosting 18 people was more work than we thought it would be, and yet we will definitely do it again next year! You can check out the details of the new trip HERE and then sign up to go with us!

I have been busy for the past couple of weeks due to staffing issues. First Sharon had a nasty cold that she is still not completely over, so I was working for her for a couple of days. Now Rheycel is on vacation and Victoria is still rather new, so I have been closing with her and working the opposite end of the day. It’s actually good that Rhey is gone for now, because we have been really slow. Everyone’s hours get cut a bit, though far less since we are technically ‘down’ one person. Hopefully business in Old Town will pick up next week, I have heard several business owners bemoaning the state of our community lately. We want so much to be a destination that is convenient and service oriented, as well as homey and community-centric. We know we have more to offer than the mall and it’s surroundings, yet we seem to get forgotten down here more easily than not.

We are all working on different ideas about how to make Old Town more appealing, and specifically how our business can cater to the needs and desires of the community. We would love to hear from you and get your input and ideas, since you are who matters to us the most! What is on your mind these days? What do you wish Old Town had more of? Less of? Was different from? We could use your help for sure.

Meanwhile I have a couple of fun things for you to know about that, unfortunately, are not in Old Town Silverdale. They are a part of our community, nonetheless, so of course I want you to hear about them. First is Port Orchard’s wine store the Puget Sound Wine Cellar, which is more than just a whimsical play on words. On Saturdays they have a $5 wine tasting from 2-5 and it is generally a great time to be had. John & Ann Ready are the ‘new’ owners, having bought the place in the past year or so, and they are quite fun and funny to hang out with for an hour or two if you are on the bay front in Port Orchard, or taking the foot ferry over from Bremerton. It’s too bad the farmer’s market isn’t there anymore, the two places combined made for a fabulous summer Saturday!

You may remember how much I enjoyed my first visit to Suzy’s Kitchen in Bremerton, from this blog post last April. It is a Korean BBQ joint and I think it is really fabulous. Her food is so good and her prices so reasonable, that she deserves to be more packed than she is, so I thought I would remind you about her. You can get food to go, and I think that much of her business is done in this style, though I would encourage you to try the Korean food for the first time in the restaurant while it is fresh and you can ask questions if you want to. I don’t expect you to fall in love with the decor, the ambiance, or the oddly styled menu. Go straight for the Korean dishes (I am sure the other stuff is great, it’s just that her Korean food is Fabulous, and she IS Korean, so that is what I think you should try there) and remember that when you order a main dish, you get the traditional 6 sides and rice with it.

The other night I needed a quiet moment to myself between working the cafe and heading to a busy meeting, so I stopped in for some ‘soup’. My meal was comforting and wonderfully tasty, and I am so glad that I stopped! For under 10 bucks I had hot tea, a bowl of spicy chicken & pork ‘stew’ with big potatoes, onions, and other things, a bowl of rice, and the 6 side dishes. I love those side dishes! The potatoes were soft and warm, spiced similarly to my ‘stew’. (I just don’t know what else to call it, other than yummy!) Next were some pickled yellow radishes that had sweet undertones to the tang of the pickliness. They were cold and refreshing, crisp and delightful! The soy bean sprouts tasted of sesame oil; also cold and crispy and a nice intermittent bite to take the sting from the spicier dishes. Suzy’s kim-chee is very good. ‘Al dente’ is a good descriptor here, and very spicy, just the way I like it. The broccoli side dish was a surprise, perfectly cooked and reminiscent of the same sesame oil from the sprouts. The last little side was a white pickled radish and it was spicier than the yellow was. It is so much fun to take a bite of one taste, then another, and have the juxtaposition of contrasting & similar flavors and textures, and then jump around to different combinations.

I was told that traditionally Koreans love their food HOT (I mean temperature-wise) and that the bowl of rice is meant for you to spoon a few bites of your main dish into, then eat with the rice. The one thing I noticed is that nearly every dish had some form or another of egg in it, and I am curious to find out what, if any, significants this has to Korean cooking and/or culture. Do you know and will you tell me?

One week until our wine tasting of the new Italian wines that we ordered and I can hardly wait! They have arrived and I have them up and listed, if you want to come in for a preview, or go to the web site wine page.

Last week I said I would offer you the Shrimp Risotto recipe and so here it is. Risotto is a style of cooking that can seem intimidating, though it should not be. After you make it the first time you may be like me and get hooked on making it frequently. It can be homey and comforting, elegant and impressive, and anything in between. Follow a few simple tricks and it will be easy to make, no matter what kind you do. Do pay attention to ingredients and prep everything before you start, and you will have no trouble at all. You may have heard that you must watch the pot and stir constantly; this is not exactly true. There is stirring involved, though it is not constant by any means.

Ingredients:
1 bag of frozen pink shrimp (32-40 or 42-50 work well): head off, shells on, uncooked
2 cups fish or clam broth
2 cups chicken broth (or 3 cups chicken broth/1 cup water if you don’t have the other stuff)
Old Bay Seasoning (optional; readily available in either the seafood or the spice department of your grocery store)
olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice (arborio should be easy to find)
salt & pepper
1/2-1 cup dry white wine (whatever you will serve with the dish)
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
hand full of asiago (or parmesan) cheese (maybe 1/2 cup or so) (optional)
2 TBS unsalted butter, cold and cubed (optional)

Peel the shrimp and throw all the waste into a sauce pan, add the broths and a few dashes of old bay seasoning, put a lid on it, bring to boil, reduce to simmer

Coat the bottom of a heavy bottom skillet or pot with olive oil. Season the shrimp and place them in the pan, cooking them on each side for about 1 minute. You want them to just brown a bit, and barely start to cook; they should begin to turn more pink and curl up. Get them out of the pan and onto a plate; set aside.

Recoat the pan with oil; do not clean it out. Add in the rice and stir to coat all the grains with the oil. You are going to ‘toast’ the rice on medium heat and this step is very important. Keep stirring it around, you do not want it to stick, though you do want to give it a chance to toast evenly, so let it be between stirs.

After it has toasted for a couple of minutes add in the salt, pepper, and wine. You want enough wine to not have it evaporate immediately, but not so much that it completely drowns the rice. Give it a stir and let the rice begin to soak in the liquid.

Strain the broth back into the sauce pan and keep it hot on the stove, over low heat. (You want to add warm broth so the cooking process will not slow or stop.) Once the wine is fairly well soaked in and evaporated put in 2 ladles full of broth. Give it a stir and put the heat down to med-low. Add in the parsley.

You will know when it is time to add more broth when you give it a stir, and slide the spoon across the bottom of the pan. If the liquid rushes back in to fill the space, it needs more time. If the spoon leaves sort of a trail behind it, where the liquid is very slowly filling in, then it is time for another ladle or two full of broth. As the rice cooks, the time between adding in broth will lengthen.

Do give it a stir now and then to check the progress and to ensure that it does not stick. You do not need to constantly stir the pot. As you are adding the broth you may begin to run out. Simply add some more of the broths and Old Bay Seasoning, or just add hot water and Old Bay if you are out of the broth.

When you think it might be ready give it a taste. Make sure the spices are where you want them to be. (If you are adding butter, you may want a pinch of extra salt to go with it; if you are adding one of the hard cheeses, you may want a little less salt, because they will add a bit of salty bite to it as well.)
The rice grains will be ‘al dente’, just like good pasta, not mushy and not hard. Each grain will stand on it’s own; you will feel them individually as well as all together. The ‘sauce’ will be creamy and thick, so that when you spoon it onto a flat-bottom bowl or plate, it will slowly spread, and there will not be any ‘liquid’ or runniness around the edges.

If it is just about where you want it to be, stir in the shrimp and turn off the heat. If you are not adding the butter or cheese, give it a couple of brisk stirs, put a lid on, and leave it while you pour the wine and set the table. If you are adding the cheese or butter do that, then stir it briskly until it is incorporated, and cover for a few minutes.

Plate it up and it will be eaten! The shrimp should be cooked perfectly and the rice very flavorful. You will kiss yourself!