Memorial Day Pizzas

For the Memorial Day edition of the House of Barbecue we had some friends over who are vegetarian, so grilling a hunk of salmon on a plank was out of the question. Bryan and I took the opportunity to try something we’d had at a party a couple weeks ago, which was homemade pizzas cooked on the grill.

They were awesome.

I bought pizza dough at Trader Joe’s for a dollar per blob, rolled them out (even tossed a few in the air!), brushed them with olive oil infused with garlic, and cooked the dough in the oven for about nine minutes. Then my friend and I loaded each crust with various toppings, from sundried tomato-feta-spinach, to mushroom-onion-zucchini on red sauce, to artichoke-feta-tomato.

Bryan heated the coals inside these tower thingies on either side of the grill to produce indirect heat, and he grilled the pizzas another ten minutes until all the toppings were soft and the cheese was melted. The last two pizzas were grilled using mesquite chips, and all I have to say is… yum!

We had five pizzas total, which was way more than we needed, so our friends took some home with them.

This was way easier than I thought it would be, and it was fun to do all the prep work with friends. I highly recommend doing this for a small dinner party – if you made the pizzas smaller, each person could make their own, and everyone could share. You could set up a table or counter in your kitchen with all the toppings, and let the creating begin!

Here’s the rest of our photos from the day.

When Bryan said my hair reminded him of Barry Gibb, I decided to wear a hat.

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There’s a new coffee shop in town that serves cupcakes. It’s spacious, it’s kid-friendly, it’s cozy, and the coffee is pretty good – AND they have a hot pink trash can. Ruthie likes the pink trash can. She calls the coffee shop ‘the pink trash can place.’

We’ve stopped in on several occasions, mostly on lazy Saturday mornings just after I’ve rolled out of bed. We want to support new businesses moving into the area, so even though I’m not a big fan of cupcakes, the kids could always use a boost of sugar in the morning.

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One by one the junk shops posing as antique stores are moving out and more relevant businesses are moving in. Last week a Mexican cantina serving homemade tamales opened up, and I can’t wait to take the kids. And there’s always the wine bar we all love. And the ale house. I think we’ve maxed out on sports bars, though, so I hope we cap that off at the existing three establishments.

I have hope for the future of my community. I have hope for the hip.

The House of Barbecue Returns

We officially launched the House of Barbecue yesterday, on Easter Sunday, with salmon grilled on cedar planks over charcoal and mesquite, veggies in a grilling basket over the coals, and an Asian cole slaw. Friends were in town for the occasion, and more friends joined us for an after party of Jitterbug Martinis. Unfortunately the rain kept us from roasting marshmallows at the fire pit – stupid Seattle rain.

As far as holidays go, this one rates in my top five for the chill factor. Bryan always says that Jesus loves a good barbecue, which is either true or a wild justification for throwing lots of barbecues.

Either way, I get a good party every weekend.

Going Bananas

Tonight I fried up some plantains to see what would happen. While eating out during our travels last month Bryan and I had several dishes that included warm, sweet, plantains, and I was excited to come home and try something out. My version was not so sweet, even after drizzling a little chocolate over the top. I think they were not ripe enough, so I will definitely research and try again.

Saturday Night Wine Down

Saturday night we saw Babel in a cute art house theater in North Portland (review to follow), and we stopped in to this wine bar for something to tide us over until dinner. We ordered a yummy French wine and a cheese plate, and listened to the colorful employees bickering in the kitchen. The bar tender kept apologizing and asking if we’d rather sit in the restaurant (we were at the bar), but we were just happy to be sitting in a local non-chain establishment … even IF the ‘atmosphere’ was not really what we expected!

Death to lattes. The Macchiato is my friend.

The Macchiato is my friend.

After spending the morning at Powell’s we spent the afternoon reading in a coffee shop. I’m not a big fan of sweet drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, and was not in the mood for your standard drip coffee. So I tried a macchiato, which is a shot (or two) of espresso with foam. Have you ever wanted to bathe in a cup of coffee? I wanted to lather it all over my body for the richness and foaminess it possessed – all without the yucky sweetness of flavoring or the stomach-churning dysfunction of milk.

I will never drink another latte again.

Surviving Restaurants

By far the greatest test on my patience during our recent trip to the San Jose area has been eating lots of meals in restaurants with the kids. Our very first dinner of the week at a fresh mex place called Chevy’s was a disaster of great proportions. Ruthie kept getting up from her seat, was grabbing things across the table, shouting, sassing, and generally being a brat. Oh, and she’s discovered that if she says she has to go potty then we jump up immediately to tend to her – so there were many false alarms that evening as well and I was getting fed up with her manipulations.

I made several trips to the bathroom with her for a private, terse rebuke of her behavior, but to no avail. She was simply not going to cooperate. I can’t remember what the final straw was, but at one point before I had even eaten half my meal, I took her from her seat, asked Bryan to have the food packed up, and marched Ruthie out to the car for a spanking, and when we got back to the hotel she got a long time out.

Eating out is not easy for kids, I admit. I usually cut her a lot of slack because it’s not easy to sit still for that long, and that particular evening we were all tired and cranky from travel. The next night we ate at the hotel which provides a full meal buffet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and it’s FREE. You can either eat in their cafe area or bring a tray of food back to your room. The hotel also provides a full breakfast spread every day, including scrambled eggs, sausage or ham, and oatmeal, among other things such as fruits and breads. If you have to stay in a hotel with kids, I highly recommend paying a little extra for one that provides more than just pastries and cold cereal in the morning – the extra amount you pay for the room and amenities will never come close to what you’ll spend eating in a restaurant for every meal.

Other things I did to avoid eating out a lot is to stock our kitchen with a few basic lunch and snack items, and one night we stopped at a Trader Joe’s to pick up some dinner items. The kids had a small cheese pizza, and Bryan and I had huge spinach salads and Asian marinated chicken that we thawed in the microwave. Including some snacks and other goodies, this all came to only $24, which is by far much less than we would pay in a restaurant after tax and tip.

And finally, while most chain restaurants are kid-friendly, I would definitely do your homework before committing to a meal. One night we decided to go in to downtown Palo Alto for dinner and ended up at The Cheesecake Factory. They have high chairs and booster seats, but they do not have a separate kids menu. I repeat, they DO NOT have a kids menu, but rather claim to have kid-friendly food items. Setting aside the fact that their menu is REDICULOUSLY huge with, like, fourteen pages of options, their portion sizes are also REDICULOUSLY huge. I ordered the kids a meatloaf sandwich to share, and what came to our table was a meal of such great proportions that I never would have been able to finish it myself, not to mention my inability to get my mouth around the thing.

In contrast, we drove in to San Francisco’s Pier 39 on Sunday night after visiting the Golden Gate Bridge to find some dinner, and ended up at a surfer-themed place called The Wipe Out Bar and Grill. They caught my attention immediately by posting their kid’s menu outside their door along with the main menu. I may have paid three times the amount for a serving of Kraft macaroni and cheese than if I had purchased a box and made it myself, but the peace and tranquility I enjoyed while sipping a giant margarita and eating ‘shark bites’ for appetizers was priceless.

So all and all we survived this portion of our trip for the most part, with only a few stressful occasions. As an extra special bonus, Bryan arranged for one of his co-workers to watch the kids on Friday night so we could enjoy a nice dinner out ALONE. We ordered a bottle of French wine at a French Bistro and spent two whole hours drinking and eating and talking. Long, slow, dinners are my favorite kind of date, and my husband gets four stars for that special treat.

The Paragon

Last night Larah and I went to The Paragon in downtown San Jose, a sleek lounge with clean lines and simple design. Their specialty is their extensive vodka bar, and I tried their Chocolate Martini which contained vanilla vodka and dutch chocolate creme. It was a yummy, smooth drink, but a bit sweet for my taste. For it to be my ‘gotta-have’ drink, I prefer the taste of dark espresso and bitter chocolates. We shared a bread pudding, though, and it was TO DIE FOR. It contained warm bananas and walnuts and some sort of liquor sauce.

Click here for photos.

Wine Club

Wine has always fascinated me, but knowing what to buy and what meal to serve it with has always been lost on me. This summer we had friends over for dinner and they brought two bottles of wine with them, which got us talking about how they choose their wines. She ordered by the glass at restaurants, then wrote down the names of the wines she really enjoys and built her wine collection that way. Then a couple weeks ago my friend, Sarah, mentioned she had joined the Sunset Magazine Wine Club. For only $40 a month (some wine clubs are nearly $100 a month) she receives two bottles of wine with information about the winery it came from, PLUS two entree recipes that pair nicely with the selection of wine.

I was hooked!

Today my first selections came – three bottles for the first month – AND I’M SO EXCITED! We plan to serve the white for dinner tomorrow when friends come over.