Last Wednesday was the 5th annual Cookbook Social that Tom Douglas puts on at his Palace Ballroom. Chef Douglas invites several local cookbook authors, who all bring books to sign & sell and samples of their food, and we get to go see the authors up close and personal, as well as try their samples and peruse and purchase their cookbooks. I love cookbooks! I have wanted to go since he started this holiday tradition and this is the first year that I have been able to go. I was going to play it by ear to see if I could go or if we would get some catering or special orders in that I would need to be at work for. Therefore I was going to go alone because it is just not cool to invite someone to go out and tell them that you may have to cancel at any time. Then I got an email from Cynthia (aka Farmer Rosie) at Rodstol Lane Farm asking if I wanted to go and suggesting we invite other girlfriends to go along as well. I was in! We ended up gathering 10 of us together and it was more fun than I even imagined! I carpooled 5 of us as far as the Tukwila light rail station and we took that the rest of the way. We met the others there and we all showed up! Of course it wasn’t the type of event that we got to spend real quality time with each other, but it was really great to get out with them nonetheless.

I have known Christina & Shelly from Cosmo’s Ristorante for close to 5 years now and we have tried to get together socially on several occasions, all to no avail. I Met Marty & Stacy from Agate Pass Cafe about 2 years ago and it’s the same story: when any of us had a night off, we could not get our schedules to match up. We have worked together and visited each others’ restaurants, and on that day the stars aligned to get us all together. Cynthia brought 2 friends, and we were joined by my friend Teri and my mom. Each $20 ticket got us a glass of wine and all the samples we wanted, as well as an entry into the raffle. The atmosphere was very festive and the place was packed from beginning to end. I am listing the cookbook authors who were there and if you are looking for a gift for me, any of these books will do. I don’t remember every single sample and who it belonged to necessarily, but for those I remember I have listed them as well. Everything tasted so good!

Amy Pennington, Urban Pantry (This has been number one on my wish list since it came out)
Becky SelengutWashington Local and Seasonal Cookbook
Cynthia Nims, Gourmet Game Night (She had the most flavorful little bites! It was a tiny potato scooped out and filled with I don’t know what, but it packed a powerful flavor.)
Edible Seattle, Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods
Keith Robbins, Tini Bigs Big Martinis (Yes, they had samples of martinis! It was awesome!)
Kim O’Donnell, The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook
Lara Feroni, Doughnuts
Lisa Dupar, Fried Chicken & Champagne (I love the title…She had little bites of perfect fried chicken and small glasses of champagne! I may have made more than one trip to this table…)
Lorna Yee, The Newlywed Kitchen
 (Lorna is one of my favorite food bloggers and while I did not have a copy of her book when I went in, with one taste of her triple chocolate fudge brownie had me wanting to marry her! I bought the book just for that recipe!)
Piper Davis, Grand Central Baking
Rachel Saunders, The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook
Shauna James Ahern, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef (They brought little Lucy, too! They had fantastic bread-gluten free of course- and a bean spread to go on it. YUM!)
Tom Douglas, Seattle Kitchen, Tom’s Big Dinners and I Love Crab Cakes (Our crab cake recipe is derived from several of his recipes in the crab cake book, but I have never owned the book. I do now!)

There were at least two others who are not listed here (and maybe more). I distinctly remember a cookbook called something along the lines of “Better Bacon” and I loved the look and heft of the book. It was novel-sized and looked old fashioned to me. The other one was a fish/seafood cookbook that I cannot remember for the life of me, which is sad because her bite was one of my top two picks.

My favorite bite of the evening? It is a tie! Tom Douglas’ crab ‘cake’ was more like a crab salad with fresh crab and some fish roe and I think wasabi… and every person in there was mumbling ‘oh my gawd’ when they took a bite. The first thing I heard when we walked in and started assessing the room was ‘you HAVE to get a crab cake, they are delicious!’. My other favorite bite was sort of a ravioli, or Asian dumpling, with the lightest of pastas surrounding salmon in a Thai green curry. It made me a little weak in the knees it was so good. I went back for seconds on both of those tables! Now mind you Lorna’s brownies were my favorite sweet bite, so dense and fudge-like, not a cake crumb in sight! Luckily she is as sweet as her baking is and when I went over to say goodbye she pressed a foil-wrapped packet of brownies into my hand and said I should have Mark try them. Mark did get half of them, honest! But lets face it, I tend to choose savory over sweet 99% of the time, and not even chocolate can beat crab or salmon!

After about 2 hours of fun and gluttony (such small samples can sure fill you up!) we headed home, our arms heavy with cookbooks, our bellies full, and our heads a little buzzy with all the excitement of the evening. I sure hope we can pull it off again next year! And I hope I can get together again with all of those amazing ladies who accompanied me. Yay Cynthia!

Mark and I got to Seattle again on Saturday. It was yet another rsvp ‘maybe’ and since no one booked us for the evening we got to go to a house warming party that a couple of long-time friends threw themselves. They bought a gorgeous Craftsman style home in Columbia City, and there were a few other old friends who showed up and it was really fun to see them. We were heading out the door at the same time as my BFF Linda, her husband, and the lovely Sheree, and we all decided suddenly to get into one car and head to the International District for dinner. We haven’t had great Chinese food in ages (unfortunately there is none that I know of on this peninsula) and once we had all of our dining criteria met we ducked into a little place and ate family style. It was really good and even more fun and since we can spend weeks trying to plan a get together than never happens, the serendipity of a spur-of-the-moment dinner out was not lost on any of us.

We are busy with catering all week (hallelujah!) and our Story Time with Mrs Claus is starting to fill up, but no one has booked us yet for their holiday parties and that is unusual. We shall see what happens… Meanwhile last night Shannon Harkness, the WSU Extension Canning Queen, held a class at the cafe about canning jams and jellies. I am very intimidated by canning (more-so now that I took her class!) as it seems very precise and full of rules. I am not great at precision or rules. Mark is really good at those things and I know he will be really good at when we tackle this project. I think I will have a guide for my first time and then I will feel better about it. I have always wanted to know how to can! I see other people’s cupboards full of gorgeous preserves and the value so great! I could preserve the harvest and eating season while ultimately saving money on the things that we use the most, both at work and at home. I am going to be studying up on this. We pickle lots of things at the cafe, right now we have locally grown cabbage and beets pickling in the cooler and just today I did up some pink pickled onions (I stole that one from Shelly at Agate Pass a couple of years ago…they are SO good!) that will go on a smoked salmon platter for a party this Saturday. I also have some marinated mushrooms in there that are preserved in olive oil. Nikki, our farmer from Pheasant Fields Farm, brought over some end-of-the-season chilies that were starting to go over. Leslie pureed them all and I took about a pound out to make a Tabasco style hot sauce. I will let you know how that goes in a couple of weeks, I am letting it steep in the fridge. We are freezing the rest to use as we need them and we are going to try to make a chili jam with them. I love the combo of sweet/spicy!

We actually freeze lots of things, so much so that we have lost track of some of the things in the freezer. Canning would save freezer and cooler space, and we can preserve things in larger quantities. Learning how to do that is a wee bit scary to me.

So with all this canning and preserving in mind I have had some recipes dancing in my head. What would you like to try? It’s holiday season, would you like to make something sweet? How about a ‘dessert’ focaccia? It could be used as an appetizer or dessert. It’s easier than it sounds:

Dessert Foccacia

2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 -115 degrees)
1 /4 ounce (1 package) dry yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon light oil
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon mint
1 teaspoon olive oil

In the mixer bowl, dissolve the sugar in the water. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water mixture and let it stand for 10 minutes, until it foams. Combine 3 cups of the flour, salt and cinnamon. Add to the yeast mixture. Slowly turn on the machine and work the dough together. Turn it up to medium and mix for 5 minutes. If the dough is sticky, continue mixing and gradually add the remaining flour. Place this smooth ball of dough in an oiled bowl, cover and set aside to double in size, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface; knead briefly. Pat or roll the dough into a sheet and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush the dough with oil and sprinkle with salt. Lightly poke your fingers around on the dough, leaving visible finger marks that indent, but do not completely puncture the dough.

Mix the honey, mascarpone, and the mint together. Spread this mixture on the dough.

Bake focaccia in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until dough is crisp and toping is melted like glue all over it.

So good!