The rainy season is upon us. I know it seems like an understatement after the past few days, but that is only because it really didn’t start until then. Every single day last week had at least an hour of sunshine and blue skies, which served as a lovely reprieve from the otherwise constant rain. The only exception was Saturday & Sunday, and boy oh boy was that an exception! We were really lucky last week in that we had at least one catering job almost every day and we love that. It is a bit unusual that we only have a couple of catering jobs in the next 2 weeks, but there is still time for it to fill in, and the special orders (where people order a cake, or 2 dozen Christmas cookies, etc) are filling up the board nicely. We really need this month to carry us through next, because so many folks hibernate in January, and it is always a little scary during that extra quiet month. We have given away 1000 prize envelopes (red envelopes) already! This is the earliest that we have ever run out, which is a great sign, and next year I believe I will have to increase the number of prizes that we give away. That’s good for everyone!

Being that busy means that we did not get out much last week, though last night we were treated to a wonderful dinner with friends and we had a great time. We went to Bay Street Bistro in Port Orchard, which is the newest place in town, and it was fabulous. We were there for the Terre Madre Sunday Supper, which celebrated local foods as they do in Italy. Bay Street Bistro always has Sunday Supper, this one was extra special. The chef/owner is John Strasinger, partner of Matt Carter of Carter’s Chocolates fame. In fact the bistro serves Carter’s creations for dessert. Our menu last night was as follows:
The meal is generally served ‘family style’ and the starter platters included Roasted Garlic from Gary’s Gourmet Garlic in Bremerton, Oil-Cured Organic Eggplant from Alvarez Farms, and toasted baguettes to enjoy them on. Then we moved on to soup, a light consomme with Oregon mushrooms bobbing about, which was a wonderful palate cleanser after the sweet garlic. Next up was a fabulous Seafood Cannelloni with Oregon Bay Shrimp, Alaskan Scallops and Washington Sole. The flavors were so delicious and the sauce was as good as the filling. The main course was Line-caught Neah Bay Red Rockfish, pan-seared with ginger and garlic, served with the pan sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked, which is a real treat in this region of chronically over-cooked fish. The sauce set it apart with a tang of lemon and the ginger and garlic working subtly to add flavor without overpowering anything. The portions were perfect, nothing was too filling and yet it was a real meal and not little plates of foo-foo tastes. The last course was an Apple Torte from Carter’s Chocolates, served with Mt Townsend Trailhead cheese, which I adore. The torte was light and airy, tangy and sweet, and rounded beautifully by the slice of cheese.

Our friends poured wine with every course and the last one was Bainbridge Island’s Siegerrebe and it was delicious with the dessert! There were 8 of us at our table and the conversations were fun and interesting, and we lingered over dinner for almost 3 hours, which really reminded me of Italy. We are so lucky to have such generous friends, especially as they introduce us to other interesting people. I can’t wait to go back to Bay Street Bistro, which is now serving lunch as well as dinner Wednesday through Saturday, and Sunday Supper every week.

Today is a ‘catch-up’ day and I got an email from Saturday’s catering customer that sure sets a nice tone for the week! She had a cocktail party for 70 so Erin and Vicki served for her, and she loved them at least as much as she loved our food, which makes me so proud! She has had many parties catered and she told me that our gals provided her the best service she has ever had; how awesome is that! We are always proud of our team and that is just one of the reasons why. I have been busy finalizing their Christmas gifts: for the second year we are exchanging gift cards with other businesses in the area, which allows us to give them better gifts than we could if we had to buy them outright. Some of them are general trades for things we hope they all can use or will enjoy, and some of them are staff-specific, and it is especially fun to set those up. Now I just have to go get their stockings to stuff and manage to wait until the 24th when they get them! Super Fun!

Story time with Mrs Claus is next Saturday and filling up fast. It is one of my favorite events because the kids love it so much. It is really special to witness their reverence for Mrs Claus-after all, she has a direct line to the Big Man! Plus all the little surprises we shower on them and the delight in their faces is just too good to miss. If your in the area on Saturday around 1:40, look up on our roof top and you just may see Santa’s sleigh dropping her off!

It’s time for me to put a couple chickens in the oven so we have something to eat this week. I will put up a recipe for you and I hope you are in the mood for soup. This is one of my favorite soups and last week I was craving it so I made it just for the 2 of us and figured out how to scale it down for you. I just cleaned out the pantry and crisper so I am going to give you the actual recipe, and along side I will show you what I changed, so you can see how easy it is.

Chickpea Quinoa Soup

olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1-2 celery stalks, diced
(I also added 1 large carrot, peeled and diced, plus some parsnip, but that is not how we do it at the cafe. I just needed to use them up)
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 quart broth (we use vegetable at work. I had turkey stock left over so I used that)
1 cup quinoa (which I changed in the original recipe from farro, so you could use that instead, or even brown rice or pasta)
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, marjoram and nutmeg until the veg are sweating, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile puree the chickpeas with the broth in a blender or food processor.

Pour in the chickpeas and remaining broth, bring to boil, add in quinoa, reduce to simmer.

Cook 20-30 minutes, until quinoa is opened (or whatever grain you used is cooked). The soup will be think and creamy and delicious!

Adjust the seasonings to your palate and top each serving with a swirl of premium olive oil.