16 May 2019

Travel Review - Paso Robles Wine Country

Travel Review - Paso Robles Wine Country / www.delightfulrepast.com
I'd been craving a wine country getaway since my first whiff of autumn in the air, but it took us until well into spring to make it happen. Wherever you are in the US, wine country isn't far away since all 50 states have vineyards now. But it had been nearly two years since our last California wine adventure, and we really wanted to head back to the Paso Robles American Viticultural Area (AVA).

Even if you're not into wine, it's a beautiful area to visit. Paso Robles (or Paso, as the locals call it) is midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, about a 3 1/2- to 4-hour drive, depending on your chosen route, from both SFO (San Francisco International Airport) and LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). And you can fly into the nearby (40 minutes) San Luis Obispo airport from Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle and Denver. Don't like to fly? Amtrak stops in Paso Robles. 

Travek Review - Paso Robles Wine Country / www.delightfulrepast.com

There are good accommodations at every price point and of every type. Some vineyards even have a few guest rooms, I learned! We were fortunate enough to stay at the full-service resort we stayed at on our first trip, Allegretto Vineyard Resort, and enjoyed every minute. We needed what I like to call a "personalized self-guided wellness retreat" or "one-stop ultimate relaxation and rejuvenation." Or as Mr Delightful put it: We needed a vacation like nobody's business!

Travel Review - Paso Robles Wine Country (this photo - Cello Ristorante & Bar) / www.delightfulrepast.com

Of course, we went out and about, tasting wine, eating wonderful meals, seeing beautiful scenery, visiting charming downtowns; but if we had never left the property we could have been happy. The restaurant, Cello, is not your usual hotel restaurant. It is a serious--but unstuffy--restaurant where you'll run into as many locals as guests. Headed up by executive chef Justin Picard, it is about fresh, local ingredients and artisan cookery. 

Travel Review - Paso Robles Wine Country (this photo - Cello Ristorante & Bar) / www.delightfulrepast.com

Though I could have tea in my room any time (someone had thoughtfully replaced all the Keurig coffee with assorted teas; and I had brought along, as always, my tea travel kit), I was thrilled to be able to get a proper cup of tea in the restaurant, even at the bar. If you are a tea aficionado in the US, you know what a rarity that is!

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to experience the Spa at Allegretto, but it looked lovely. Here's a peek at their outdoor relaxing area.

Travel Review - Paso Robles Wine Country - Spa at Allegretto / www.delightfulrepast.com

This property is a labor of love for its owner-creator whose personal collection of art and artifacts spanning multiple centuries and cultures is seen throughout the resort, inside and out. One of my favorites is this one, and I bet you can guess why!

There's plenty to see and do, even if you have no interest in wine. We would have enjoyed the Pioneer Museum, but it's only open Thursday through Sunday. And there's horseback riding, zip line tours, a water park, craft breweries and distilleries (we prefer wine), all sorts of things we didn't manage to drag ourselves out for. The charming downtown is walkable and so fun!

There are lots of great places to eat in Paso Robles and the surrounding area, including Fish Gaucho, Thomas Hill Organics and Novo. Novo Restaurant & Lounge, in downtown San Luis Obispo, features locally sourced, globally inspired cuisine in a serene creekside setting.

I wanted to walk over this gorgeous little footbridge, but it didn't happen. Next time.

In inclement weather, it would have been a pleasure to dine in the historic building, but we never miss an opportunity to dine outdoors. The comfortably heated patio perched over the creek was idyllic. Mr Delightful was so dazzled by the setting I was afraid he'd not pay enough attention to the food! But the food stood up to the view. And the service was outstanding.

We enjoyed visiting the tasting room at Allegretto, sampling the excellent wines and watching Stephanie work the room. I have no idea how she kept track of what everyone was tasting. She was knowledgeable about the wines, and we also appreciated her restaurant recommendations.

Our visit to Eberle Winery, which cultivates 64 acres of vines over five vineyards with different soil-climate combinations to suit particular grapes, was the highlight of our stay. The time we spent getting acquainted with the Eberles was priceless. Both raconteurs, they kept us entertained! We even got to meet the winemaker, Chris Eberle (not related).

Following a tour of the 16,000 square feet of underground wine caves (photo below), we sat on the deck overlooking the vineyard and tasted lots of wine. Like any self-respecting blogger, I should have taken a picture of the view from the deck, I should have taken lots of pictures; but I was in the moment.   

Travel Review - Paso Robles Wine Country - Eberle Winery (this photo of the caves) / www.delightfulrepast.com
Photo courtesy of Eberle Winery

As we sipped wine and nibbled cheeses, savories and dried fruits and drank in the view, we learned the history of this pioneer of Central Coast winemaking and a lot about the region and wine in general. 

Tasting each wine, I pictured what foods I would pair it with; for example, a pork roast and fruit sauce with the Syrah, a traditional roast beef dinner with the Cabernet. Can't wait to break open a bottle!  

Disclosure: Though parts of this trip were comped or discounted, I assure you that does not alter my opinions or influence my review. I always tell my readers exactly what I think.


09 May 2019

Clotted Cream - A Tutorial

How to Make Clotted Cream - A Tutorial / www.delightfulrepast.com

Clotted cream, which doesn't sound that appealing to the uninitiated, is the delectable accompaniment to scones that elevates that simple bake to an Occasion. In the US you'll sometimes see it called Devonshire cream just because it sounds better, but it's only Devonshire cream if it is clotted cream made in Devonshire; Cornish cream is clotted cream made in Cornwall. 

Here in the US, imported clotted cream is quite expensive and few tea rooms make their own. So it's usually only seen at the poshest of afternoon teas. Its unique taste and texture take a simple scone to new heights. In Devon, the tradition is to put cream on the scone first, then jam. In Cornwall, it's jam first, then cream.

How to Make Clotted Cream - A Tutorial / www.delightfulrepast.com

There's nothing difficult about making clotted cream. Though it does take time, it's time you actually spend going about your business while the cream does its thing. So I don't know why there are so many "mock" versions out there. 

One popular American television personality and celebrity chef would have you strain cream through a coffee filter and call it clotted cream. Sorry, that's not even close. Others would have you add various things to whipped cream. Tasty perhaps, but again, not clotted cream. 

You will find sources telling you that it must be made with raw cream (not true), or with cream that has not been ultra-pasteurized (not true). I’ve made it with organic heavy whipping creams of all descriptions: minimally pasteurized, pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized. This method has worked well with all of them.

How to Make Clotted Cream - A Tutorial / www.delightfulrepast.com
The clotted cream on the left was cooked covered with foil, and the cream on the right was cooked uncovered. I much prefer clotted cream cooked covered.

I’ve made it both covered and uncovered. The cream cooked uncovered developed a buttery yellow "crust" and after cooling and stirring had tiny bits of yellow butter throughout the finished cream. The cream that was cooked covered developed a softer top layer and had a smoother texture. So that is how I’ve made it ever since. 

I’ve found that clotted cream freezes beautifully, with no loss of quality, and so always make a double batch and divide it among four 4-ounce jars and pop them into the freezer. Then when I’m going to need it, I move a jar (or two) from freezer to refrigerator a day or two ahead. 

But if you're new to making clotted cream, just do a single batch at a time until you've discovered any quirks your oven might have.

Do let me know if you have any questions or comments about the recipe (or anything). And if you like this post, be sure to Pin it and share it on your social media! 

How to Make Clotted Cream - A Tutorial / www.delightfulrepast.com

Clotted Cream

(Makes about 1 cup) 

1 pint (16 fluid ounces, 473 ml) pasteurized organic heavy whipping cream

Note: I like to put it in the oven at 6 a.m. and take it out at 6 p.m., refrigerate it until 6 a.m. the next morning, then scoop it into a container.

1 Preheat oven to 180F/82C. 

2 Pour cream into an 8-inch (20 cm) diameter baking dish (I use a Pyrex). It can be any shape, as long as the cream is about 1/2 to 1 inch (1.25 to 2.5 cm) deep. Cover with foil. 

3 Place foil-covered dish of cream in preheated oven and set timer for 12 hours.

Note: Some ovens automatically turn off after a certain number of hours. If yours turns off in something less than 12 hours, be prepared to restart it.

How to Make Clotted Cream - A Tutorial / www.delightfulrepast.com
This is what the clotted cream looks like after 12 hours in the oven covered with foil. But it's not ready yet! Let it cool at room temperature, with the foil lifted a bit to vent, then cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for 12 hours undisturbed.

4 Remove from oven, lift foil a bit to vent, and let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes; cover and refrigerate for 12 hours. 

5 Using a flattish spoon, scoop up layer of clotted cream into jar or serving dish. Keeps for several days, covered and refrigerated. Save the leftover liquid in the pan to use in your next batch of scones, pancakes or whatever you happen to be making. I like to make Classic Cream Scones with the leftover cream.

Note: I've found these cute little Ball 4-ounce freezer-safe canning/storage jars with plastic caps perfect for clotted cream. One recipe makes two jars. 

Now put the kettle on and Make a Proper Cup of Tea

Disclosure: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon .com and affiliated sites. We are a ThermoWorks affiliate, earning a small commission at no cost to you on purchases made through our links. This helps cover some of the costs of running the blog. Thank you for your support. 


02 May 2019

Chicken Fried Steak - Southern Comfort Food Classic

Chicken Fried Steak - Southern Comfort Food Classic / www.delightfulrepast.com

Chicken Fried Steak is a Southern comfort food classic, so you’d expect a glossy Southern magazine would give you the best recipe for it, right? Well, I was cleaning out old emails this morning and came across one I’d sent to myself a year ago that said:

“This recipe is so stupid it makes me mad!” And there was a link to said recipe in that glossy magazine that should know better, so I checked it out again; I was right to send myself that email! That’s why I’m reposting my Chicken Fried Steak recipe from 2012.

Though I don't subscribe to the old Southern saying, "If it ain't fried, it ain't food," I do occasionally indulge. But only if it's worth it. And a properly made chicken fried steak is definitely worth it. Also known simply as CFS among those who really love it, it's the ultimate comfort food in certain parts of the country.

I don't think it deserves its reputation as a greasy, high-fat food. At least not the way I make it. I use organic grass-fed beef, all organic ingredients, and shallow-fry it. 

The oil needs to be good and hot (or you will end up with greasy steaks!), but you can't really get a temperature reading on such a shallow depth of oil; just aim for something less than smoking hot. I add back just 3 tablespoons of the pan drippings for 2 cups of gravy. Sounds pretty healthy to me!

Of course, my Southern grandmother used Crisco, bacon grease or lard for all her frying. I do not use Crisco, but I have no objections to organic lard or bacon grease. Though I’m not altogether happy about even organic canola oil, I sometimes use it for frying. I even use extra virgin olive oil for some frying.

Are you a chicken fried steak and cream gravy fan?

Chicken Fried Steak - Southern Comfort Food Classic / www.delightfulrepast.com

Chicken Fried Steak

(Makes 4 servings)

The Steak

1 pound (16 ounces/454 grams) top round steak
1 1/4 cups (6.25 ounces/177 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt plus more
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper plus more
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 large egg
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces/118 ml) milk

1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces/118 ml) organic canola oil

The Gravy

3 tablespoons pan drippings
3 tablespoons (1 ounce/28 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups (16 fluid ounces/473 ml) milk (or replace 2/3 cup with beef broth)
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 Cut the round steak into 4 pieces. With the textured side of a meat tenderizer (OXO Good Grips Meat Tenderizer), pound each piece (on a meat-only dishwasher-safe cutting board) until almost double in size and about 1/4 inch thick. 

2 In shallow dish combine the flour with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt, coarsely ground black pepper and cayenne. In another shallow dish beat together the egg and milk.

3 Working with one piece at a time, season both sides with salt and pepper, dip into the egg mixture, dip into the flour mixture, dip into the egg mixture again, dip into the flour mixture again. Really press the flour in. This really goops up the hands, so just use one hand and keep one hand clean; you'll need it.

4 When all meat is coated, heat oil to a depth of not more than 1/16 to 1/8 inch. You just need enough oil to cover the pan generously. In my All-Clad Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan, that's 1/2 cup. When the oil is hot, put in two pieces at a time; don't crowd the pan. Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, or until well browned and crunchy. With tongs, turn steaks and cook second side for about 3 or 4 minutes. Turn carefully so as not to lose the crust; chicken fried steak is all about the crust.

5 Drain on a paper towel-lined plate (wad up the paper towels; don't just lay them flat on the plate). Repeat. Then proceed to the most important part of chicken fried steak--the cream gravy! Pour off the fat in the skillet, then measure back into the skillet 3 tablespoons of the pan drippings. Use the ingredient list above, but go to my Cream Gravy post for the directions (and a little story about a real pioneer woman, my great grandmother).

6 Plate up the steaks with a generous serving of Mashed Potatoes on the side. Pour the gravy over both. Biscuits and a bowl of collard greens on the side round out this classic Southern meal. 

Disclosure: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon .com and affiliated sites. We are a ThermoWorks affiliate, earning a small commission at no cost to you on purchases made through our links. This helps cover some of the costs of running the blog. Thank you for your support. 


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