Lilia Write Now

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For the love of country August 22, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — llipps @ 6:01 pm
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If you were to ask me if I am a city girl or a country girl, well by default I would have to say city girl.

However, I would add a special category for myself.  I am a civilization girl.

You see, I could never live in the “big city” like New York or Chicago or Boston.  Those are all great places to visit but after a few days, I’m done.

I also could never live in the country.  I need people around me.  I need shops within a reasonable distance.

I need to feel a part of civilization.

But just like the big cities are fun to visit for all their thrills and frills, some time in the country is good for my soul.

On Sunday Todd and I headed to Wayne, OH for the annual Lipps family reunion.

For the first few years that Todd and I were together, we didn’t go.  For starters, most of the family that attends these reunions is a little bit county, so not necessarily what we can relate to. Second, and much more importantly to my husband, they always used to schedule the reunions to coincide with the first NFL sunday game.  He wasn’t so keen on that.

So, they switched it to being the third weekend in August and dutifully, for the last few years, we have gone.

The reunion itself was fine, uneventful.  It was the usual mix of people, the same types of food and visiting with people we don’t get to see very often.

After the reunion we headed to Todd’s cousin, Mallory’s house.  Mallory and her husband Nathan live in the house that Todd’s grandmother lived in.  She raised 4 kids, including Todd’s dad, in that house.

They recently built a big red barn on the property.  I think the barn is bigger than  the house.

But driving up to the house, it was such an idyllic scene. Big red barn, white house, blue sky with cotton candy clouds.  I just felt calm.
                                                   

Over to the right of the property, there is a BIG garden.  They have everything in there.  I mean this is a garden from which you could construct an entire meal.
                              

And on the front lawn (really, so much more than a lawn….it is a giant expanse of green) there are two perfect white Adirondack chairs, under the shade of a beautiful tree.
                                

Mallory’s husband Nathan has recently gotten into bee-keeping.  And while everyone else went down to look at the bees, I reclined in one of these lovely chairs. I sat back, looked around me and took it all in. To the right of me were acres upon acres of corn fields.  I could see the wind ruffling the tops of the stalks.  In front of me, at the end of a very long driveway and across the street, were 5 cows walking around their front lawn.

Everything was so quiet.  It was a perfect 73 degrees.  There was a slight breeze and I could feel the sun on my toes as I stretched them out in front of me.  I felt so calm and so good.

There’s something about being in that kind of state, and also, surrounded by people that you love and that you know love you, that just makes you feel like you never want it to end.

Normally if I am out doing something on a Sunday I want to get home sooner rather than later so I can have my last few precious hours of rest before the weekday grind starts again.  But not this time.  This time I felt myself lingering, allowing myself to be bathed in the warm glow of love of contentment that I was feeling.

I hope you had an equally blessed weekend.

             

 

Gather ’round the table August 8, 2012

“The fondest memories are made when gathered around the table”

At least that is what the quote on the dining room wall at Gatherings Kitchen says.  And I would have to agree.

Back on July 20, Todd and I, along with a couple of my co-workers, had our first Gatherings Kitchen experience. What is Gatherings Kitchen? It is “a warm, friendly and interactive cooking experience. It’s part restaurant, part cooking class, and part home.”

They pick a new menu every month, with a different theme.  For our experience in July, we worked with the “American Road Trip” menu.  They offer supper club cooking classes on Friday nights that accommodate 16 people. You can make reservations ahead of time, either for yourself or a group of friends.

We got there at 6:15 on a Friday night.  We were lucky enough that despite how hot this summer has been, that particular night felt downright fall-like with temperatures in the high 60’s.  I loved it.  Especially since I was going to be in a kitchen cooking.

When you walk in off the street, you walk right into the beautiful dining room with a huge table set to match the theme of the menu.  There is a beautiful chandelier that originally hung in Cowell & Hubbard back when it was a jewelry store.

You walk through the dining room and into the large commercial kitchen.  There, they have stations set up with the different components that make up the meal.  All the ingredients are pre-measured and the recipe is printed out next to the supplies.

Our menu for the evening was to be as follows:

  • Mini Lobster Rolls
  • Kansas City Barbecued Chicken Thighs
  • Cedar Plank Salmon with Wild Mushroom Pierogi and Dill Cream
  • Peach, Goat Cheese and Blueberry Molasses Vinaigrette with Candied Bacon
  • Grilled Ribeye with Walla Walla Onion Rings, Warm Potato & Corn Salad and Steak Sauce
  • Berry Crisp with Honey Whiskey Ice Cream

   

Todd and I walked around the kitchen and scoped out all the stations.  Since my husband is not a huge fan of cooking and I was shocked that he had even agreed to this activity, I didn’t want to overwhelm  him, so we chose the grilled peach salad station.  I had also been told that if you select one of the less involved recipes, you would be done earlier and that would free us up to walk around and observe as everyone else was making the other dishes.

Gatherings Kitchen provides all the food as well as soda and water, but beyond that it is BYOB.  Many people that night brought wine.  As we all started cooking, people were drinking their wine and chatting and there was a general convivial atmosphere in the kitchen.

Once we finished cooking we started to make our way into the dining room.  First up were our appetizers, the Kansas City barbecued chicken thighs and the mini lobster rolls.  There are no set rules as to how many servings you are entitled to per se, but I will tell you that I more than ate my share of the lobster rolls.  I couldn’t help it.  Sweet, succulent chunks of lobster with fresh tarragon and lemon, on a buttered and grilled mini hot dog bun…There was no way I could stop at one.  However I only had half of one of the chicken thighs, so I figure it all balances out.

After the appetizers, the chefs plate the entrées and start serving us one course at a time.

First we had the arugula salad with goat cheese and peaches. Mr. Lipps and I opted to slice the peaches and grill them which produced a lovely caramelized end result.  This was paired with goat cheese and bacon crumbles.  The dressing, which we also made, was odd but tasty.  It consisted of white wine vinegar, shallots, dijon, blueberries, molasses and olive oil.

Next up was the cedar plank salmon with wild mushroom pierogi.  The salmon was brushed with dijon mustard followed by a sprinkling of brown sugar.   Having just made some cedar plank salmon at home, I found that the brown sugar in this recipe was unnecessary.  It made the fish a little too sweet, in an artificial way and I didn’t feel that was needed.  The pierogies, maybe because they were not made by professionals, were a little thick, the dough should have been rolled out a bit more.  However, the filling was delicious.

Following that, we had the grilled ribeye with warm potato corn salad and walla walla onion rings.  The chefs asked all of us how we wanted our steaks done and grilled them to order.  As someone who does not enjoy her steak still mooing at her (go ahead, tell me I am a hillbilly for liking my steaks medium to medium-well) I appreciated this.  Normally I have experienced that when meat is being cooked for a group, it is generally all made rare to medium-rare and I always find myself missing out.  This was a welcome change.  Also, at the risk of sounding like a snot, I usually only eat filet mignon.  This is not because I am some sort of meat elitist, I just really cannot stomach the fat that comes with other cuts of meat.  However, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this ribeye.  There must have been some kind of voodoo.  The warm potato corn salad was unremarkable and needed to be seasoned a bit more.  The walla walla onion rings were amazing.  They were light and crispy and although they had been fried, they were not heavily battered and did not have that deep fried taste.

By now we were all holding our stomachs and moaning and groaning about how full we were.  But, we still had one last course.

This is the one that I knew, as a dessert professional, I would be most critical of.  For our final treat, we had berry crisp and honey whiskey ice cream.  The crisp was baked in individual ramekins.  The oat crumble topping was a little hard to push my spoon through and overall, I didn’t love it.  The ice cream however, was absolutely delicious.  I would have gladly traded in my crisp for a bowl full of ice cream.

By the time we were done, it was about 10:30 and we had been there for 4 hours.  To me, the time flew by.  We were eating, chatting and laughing.  At one point my friend Molly even got down on the floor to show my other friend’s husband how to do frog pose.  You can’t buy that kind of entertainment.

                                             

I will definitely be going back to Gatherings Kitchen again for another culinary experience. If you would like to see additional pictures from this night, including the delicious food, click here.

Although the menus have not yet been published, here are their themes through November:

  • August – India
  • September – Spain
  • October – Octoberfest
  • November – Italy

I will definitely be doing Italy and may be interested in Spain as well.  Who wants to go?

 

Maybe I Can Get Misny To Make Them Pay August 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — llipps @ 6:15 pm

Disclaimer: I am writing this blog post before knowing the results of the contest.

I acknowledge that sometimes I may take myself too seriously.  I try not to.  But sometimes it is just too hard to change the fabric of who you are.

Before I continue with any editorial comments, I will tell you about the event in which I participated today.

My sister’s friend, who works at Hillcrest Hospital, told her about this and asked her to pass the info on to me.

The Cleveland Clinic was hosting their second annual Cupcake Wars to benefit the American Heart Association. bit.ly/LIdbxW 

There were five categories you could enter in:

  • Heart-healthy
  • Specialty
  • Anything Goes
  • Youth
  • Professional

I of course chose to enter in the professional category.  After some deliberation I elected to enter with Salted Caramel Cupcakes, my most popular flavor.  After making them, I had a debate with my husband over which decoration to go with.  Here were my two choices.

The husband convinced me to go with the one on the left, so trusting his opinion, I did just that.  I finished decorating my 24 cupcakes, boxed them up and stowed them in the fridge for the night.  This morning, bright and early, I transported those cupcakes to Hillcrest Hospital to enter them in the contest.

This is the point at which I will stop giving you just the facts, and will give you my review of the event.

Remember at the beginning of the post when I said it is hard to shake the fabric of who you are?  Well, I have had a lot of professional experience as an event planner.  Naturally, any time I attend or participate in an event, I cannot help but to analyze how well it is done.

There seemed to be a lot of disorganization to this event.  The flyer boasted Cleveland celebrities as judges but I didn’t find out who the actual judges were until this morning when I got there.  I asked several people when the judging would take place and when the winners would be announced.  No one had an answer.

The judges all arrived at random times.  They took their seats at the judges’ table but seemed more concerned about posing for pictures and signing autographs (if you knew the control I am exerting right now over the snark that is threatening to spill out of me, you would be so proud) than they were with actually focusing on the cupcakes placed in front of them.

Because there were over 40 cupcakes to try, the panel of 6 judges were split into two groups of 3, with each group sampling half of the cupcakes.

(Here is a link to their FB album from the event: http://on.fb.me/RgRZj2 as well as a link to mine http://on.fb.me/OLPB5M)

    

Tim Misny was one of the judges and I noticed one of the contestants talking to him at length, telling him her story, which cupcakes were hers, etc.  It occurred to me that maybe the contestant should not be allowed to talk to the judges while judging was taking place.  It just seemed maybe it would be most fair if they weren’t biased by getting to know the contestants.

Close to the end,  I realized that it was the other group of judges that was getting mine to taste.  I walked over to watch them.  One of the judges on that side was former Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano.  My cupcake was placed on a plate in front of him. A “fan” came up to talk to him and knocked over a placard, causing it to fall onto my cupcake, smashing the top and the lovely decorations.  He also spilled a little coffee.  After he apologized and walked away, I watched Sam take my cupcake, place it in a box at his feet, and mark my score sheet with a 6, 6, and 7.

HE NEVER EVEN TASTED IT.  Not even a lick of frosting.

Now I understand that this is the point in this post where it may sound like sour grapes.

But here’s the thing.  If he had tasted it and scored it that way, then fine.  Everyone has their own preferences.  You win some, you lose some.  But to not even taste it and arbitrarily score it a 6 felt a bit like a slap in the face.

None of the judges took it very seriously, but at least the rest seemed to taste the cupcakes that were placed in front of them.  If you are going to have a Professional category, maybe you should have people that are qualified to judge.  Or who are at least willing to taste everything.

At the end of the day, I realize this is a small silly contest that doesn’t amount to a whole lot.  But, it is the principle of the matter.

The silver lining to all this is that the American Heart Association is the winner in all of this.  The cupcakes that were not used for judging were sold to the public, with proceeds benefiting the AHA.  And the public came out in droves.  It was a feeding frenzy.

So, bad contest, good fundraiser.

What do you think?  Am I overly bitter?  Would you feel the same way if you had entered the contest?

 

 
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