Monday, February 14, 2011

Mixed Plate: I'm Just a Love Machine

The Prime has never been one to fully embrace Valentine's Day as a full-on holiday, but maybe being around a lot of restaurants and food-related work, it's hard not to get swept up in the lace-trimmed, pink hearted wonderland of L-O-V-E. This year, I found myself making homemade sweets for friends using a recipe from Alexandra Hedin's sweetheart of a book, Entertaining at Home,  and trekking around Woodinville, to get some sweet and savory inspiration at the seasonal chef's demos at Willows Lodge.

These peanut butter and chocolate treats should come with a warning: Highly Addictive - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Getting straight to dessert first, Alexandra's book is a great mix of both lifestyle and recipes, which I think they should almost have a new category for books simply called Hostessing with the Mostessing. Is it grammatically correct? Heck no, but it kind of covers it all, as her book, Entertaining at Home, is one of those where you really take in the full experience of each meal, not just the individual dishes. You look at where a meal is held, how the food is presented, and the little decorative details that aren't necessarily edible, but provide a satisfying experience for the whole occasion. I have to give mad props to a local food and lifestyle talent having a book published and much mad propitude to her peanut butter and chocolate squares recipe, which I made a double-batch of. When I was done stuffing my face with the irregular-shaped end pieces, I cut everything down into little bite-sized rectangles and put into Valentine-themed candy cups, stacked in celo bags and decorated with a strip of red and white polka dot fabric. It's not the typical heart-shaped box of chocolates, but it was a little sweet thing to give to friends to let them know how sweet they are. The book is available at bookstores, or you can order directly through Alexandra's site - I'm sure she'd love to hear from you!

Barking Frog's Chef Bobby Moore cooking up savory dishes at Willows Lodge chef demos - Photos by Wasabi Prime

You know what goes really well with peanut butter and chocolate squares? Sea bass with carrot ginger beurre blanc and oysters! Maybe not. But switching gears and puttering over to the Willows Lodge hotel in nearby Woodinville, there are chef demos the hotel graciously hosts at seasonal times of the year. I went to the holiday demos, which included presentations on cocktails, appetizers and desserts. They hold these events midweek, right in the Willows Lodge lounge area, past their big fireplace as you walk into the main entrance. They usually start around 5 or 5:30, but you really have to get there as early as possible -- 4:30 is adviseable, as the lounge area becomes standing room only. It's like the best kept secret in sleepy Woodinville-town... and I just let the cat out of the bag!!

Flourless chocolate cake, flavored with raspberry by Pastry Chef Matt Kelley - Photos by Wasabi Prime 

It's a really nice treat, as you're sitting there with a happy hour glass of wine, maybe one of their tasty appetizers (I love their lamb burger with sweet potato fries), while Chef Bobby Moore or Pastry Chef Matt Kelley at the neighboring restaurant, the Barking Frog, prepare something right in front of you, recipe cards are passed out, and you get to sample everything they make. For the Valentine-themed presentations, Chef Moore prepared an appetizer of oysters topped with an herbed mascarpone and brioche crumbs, a lighter twist on the typical Oysters Rockefeller, and then seared bass with a sweet carrot ginger sauce over a fennel risotto. Pastry Chef Matt Kelley made a rich flourless chocolate cake with a raspberry truffle center, topped with raspberry chantilly cream -- divine, no? On the night of Chef Moore's savory demo, there was the added treat of sampling wines from Dusted Valley Winery, who co-hosted the presentation. While they don't have these every week, they generally hold these special cooking demos around holidays, and I believe there's another one coming up in March - check the Willows Lodge events page for updates.

Whatever you decide to do for Valentine's Day, whether it's going out for a special dinner, staying in and making a special meal, or getting one of those heart-shaped pizzas from Papa Murphys, have a heart-shaped day, and hugs n' kisses to all!

Sweet and Savory Valentine Wishes to ALL - Photos by Wasabi Prime

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