When we moved into our new house, I planted a bed of asparagus in the front, so I’ve been waiting for several years to enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of my labor. You don’t want to eat it the first year, and not much the second, so it gets nice and big and strong.
So last year, when we were able to eat it, we had an early warm spell followed by a hard freeze that pretty much squashed those hopes. Thawed, mushy asparagus is not good.
So this year, while the first couple spears up were similarly frozen, we’ve been picking every couple days to keep up with it. It’s such a seasonal treat, gotta enjoy it while it lasts!
A few weeks back, we had a chance to visit Grovewood Tavern for a night out on the town. Which, at this point, means we eat an early dinner and are home by 8.
Grovewood is truly a neighborhood gem, as it’s literally located in the middle of a neighborhood in Euclid. No shopping strip or plazas, just houses. It’s a bit eclectic, but has the “feel” of a tavern, whatever that is. The menu is quite wide-ranging, not like your stereotypical pub food.
Ah yes, the food, the only real reason I write these up. For a starter, we tried the forest mushroom pate, a blend of mushroom, walnuts, and red onions. Served with bite-sized crostini, this was a nice way to begin the meal. It was light, but had a nice earthy flavor.
S, as she often does, tried the blackened diver scallops. The scallops were poached in an ancho honey cream, with chorizo, cheddar, and scallion whipped potatoes. These were excellent, with a hint of heat in the cream sauce, but nothing overbearing. And the potatoes, well, what do you think happens when you add sausage and cheese to mashed potatoes? Near-divinity.
I partook in a tender bison pot roast. Slow-braised, and served over fresh gnocchi and root vegetables. Fell apart with merely a glance.
Dessert, as it somehow seems to end up being quite a bit, was a moist, flavorful caramel bread pudding.
The verdict: Grovewood Tavern gets 5 1/2 stars out of seven. The food was great, service was great (probably the quickest entree delivery we’ve ever had), and prices were, for the most part, perfectly reasonable, with a few ranging toward the high side (entrees run from $17 to $29), . Very nice experience.
Okay, that’s a Tolkien reference that probably went right over most of you…
But anyway, to go along with our new chickens, I also decided to start a few mushroom logs. Nothing like a spinach and mushroom omelet.
Since we like our mushrooms, and they’re not especially cheap at the market, I thought, why not grow our own (that’s just the way my mind works – not everyone automatically jumps to that conclusion)? With that decision made, I picked up some shiitake and blue oyster plugs.
They’re fairly easy to grow, and the process is straightforward. First, you need logs. Common recommendations are roughly 4-6″ in diameter and 3-4′ long (they can probably be longer if you’d like, but it gets hard to carry around 8′ logs). Shiitakes like oak, but any good hardwood should work. We don’t have any oaks nearby, so I used a beech and a maple, and I’ll compare how they do. Oysters will do okay on most woods, but I found them growing wild on tulip (poplar) here, so that’s what I’m using. Don’t use pine for anything.
The logs need to be fresh (if you use something that’s been laying on the ground for a while, chances are it’s already infected with some other fungus), so you’ll probably have to fell a small tree, or find something with big limbs. We have a good supply of youngish trees, so I took a couple down. This can also be part of a good forest management program – thinning out the trees will reduce overcrowding and allow for stronger survivors.
The logs should sit for a week or so (not too long though) to allow some of the natural anti-fungal properties to dissipate. Once that’s done, you need to drill holes, probably about 5/16″ and a little over an inch deep if you’re using the standard dowel plugs. Starting about 4″ from the end of the log, make a rough diamond pattern, about 4-5″ apart. I did four holes around, and 8 or 9 rows per log, so about 35-40 plugs per log.
Next, pop the plugs in the holes. You might need to lightly hammer them in – they should be snug, and lie not quite flush to the surface.
Many people will tell you to put some wax over the plugs to keep them moist. I didn’t, mostly because I don’t really have the time to dab melted wax over 300 small holes right now, but I figure if mushrooms can survive around here without my help, well, then they don’t need my help. Waxed or not, you do need to be diligent about making sure they stay moist enough – if the log dries out too much, goodbye mushrooms. Obviously (or not), stack them in a shady, damp place where you’d normally find them growing. Mushrooms don’t grow in the middle of your front yard that gets 12 hours of sun a day, so don’t put your logs there. If you haven’t had much rain, put them under the sprinkler for a bit.
You won’t see anything for many months, as it takes time for the spawn to fully inoculate the logs. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a few in the fall when it’s cooler and wetter, but then should get a good bunch in the spring. You can force them into fruiting on a more regular schedule – I’m not heading that direction, but you can look it up if you’re interested.
The logs should last for a good 4-5 years if they’re taken care of, so that’s a pretty good payoff for not a whole lot of work. Growing your own food can be somewhat labor-intensive (certainly more so than filling a shopping cart), so any time there’s something that’s mostly hands-off, I love it. Stay tuned to see how this fares in about six months.
About six weeks ago, we took the next logical step on our homesteading journey… okay, logic has nothing to do with it. There’s a distinct lack of that around here sometimes.
Anyway, I picked up 10 chicks. The egg-laying, feathered variety. Although back in my heyday, I could have picked up… I’ll stop, since S is no doubt reading, and I don’t need to remind her of college
So, we have some Buff Orpingtons, Barred Rock, Australorp, and Easter Eggers (the Americana mutts that lay blue eggs). They grow fast, make a lot of noise, and poop a lot. (Again, we’re talking about chickens, not the kids.)
The coop is currently under construction, and assuming it ever warms up, they should be in their new (outside) home in a couple weeks. Once they start producing, I figure we could get a few dozen eggs a week. I like not having to buy food.
Apparently C was in a Buckeye kind of mood the other day.
I went to get him after quiet time, and he’d changed his outfit. Not only did he have everything on the right way, he’d managed to squeeze himself into a size 12 (12 month, that is). And to top it all off, since mom was at work and couldn’t stop it, dad (gasp) let him wear it out into public… at least the top (which is actually a onesie, but looked kinda nice with shirttails).
I did manage to change his pants before we left the house, but he put up a fight with the shirt, and I didn’t care enough to stop him. At least he coordinated his outfit – that’s more than can be said for me, sometimes.
The final stop on our “Oh crap” tour takes us to Washington Place, a bistro tucked away in the neighborhood of Little Italy. I didn’t know a whole lot about them, but I was quite pleased with our experience. The only negative that I can think of is the parking – almost all the streets around it are resident-only parking, so about the only option is valet, unless you manage to find something and are able to walk a bit (and we looked). Aside from that, it had a nice ambiance, and we sat in a room with lots of windows, almost along the lines of an enclosed porch.
Our starter was a roasted beet salad, with candied almonds, fennel, and a goat cheese ranch (from nearby Mackenzie Creamery). With a variety of beet colors, it was just as much a pleasure to look at as it was to eat.
S had the Mack and Cheese, with (clever name) more Mackenzie cheese, chorizo, and a goat cheese strudel. Really creamy and rich, with a tinge of spice. All mac (or in this case, penne) and cheese should be made with sausage. The strudel was a very nice addition too – wrap anything in a flaky crust, and it makes it that much better.
I went with a duck confit, which came with an apricot-ricotta gnocchi and a mix of sautéed greens and root vegetables. The duck was perfect. The gnocchi was a nice idea, but the apricot flavor was hard to detect – a little more of that sweetness would have been great.
And for dessert, we had a bread pudding made from Presti’s (a local bakery) donuts. Bread pudding made from donuts, topped with vanilla creme anglaise and ice cream? Yes they did.
The verdict: Washington Place gets 5 1/2 stars out of 7. The food was all quite good, the prices aren’t bad, and service was more than adequate. And they have bread pudding made out of donuts.