Hmm, it appears that I haven't written in a while, based on my backlog of food photos. Let's see...
We had a nice, low-key New Year's Eve. We went to Bar Avignon (a cozy bistro/wine bar) for dinner, because it had been featured in the Willamette Week food guide, and it's only a couple blocks from our house. Since it's a wine bar, I figured the food would probably be unremarkable, but I was wrong--everything we ate was awesome! The standouts were the meat and cheese board we ordered (fra'mani salami and truffled pecorino cheese with Buzzing Canyon honey* and slices of perfectly ripe red Bartlett pear) and the potato-leek soup with truffle oil. I had actually ordered the butternut squash soup, but I'm so glad they got my order wrong, because the potato-leek soup was excellent. I've always been on the fence about truffles, but I loved both the truffled pecorino and the truffle oil in the soup. We definitely need to go here again.
(*The honey is harvested locally in Estacada, and you can buy a jar of it at Bar Avignon to take home. We may do that next time)
Conveniently enough, our neighbors' frozen yogurt/custard shop (Tart) is just a couple doors down from Bar Avignon, so we stopped in to thank them for taking care of Patches when the snow was too high for the catsitter to get to our house. And of course we got a cup of frozen yogurt while we were there. I was super excited to find out that they still had their seasonal pumpkin frozen yogurt. We had it topped with chocolate mochi. Yum! We were lucky to come in when we did, because they switched to a new flavor this week (I think it's eggnog--another seasonal favorite of mine). I guess my enthusiasm for their pumpkin yogurt must have been clear, because they knocked on our door a couple nights ago and gave us the last quart of it from their shop. Awww...I'll have to make them cookies or something to show my gratitude.
We ate dinner pretty early, and Bar Avignon was supposed to have a fun banjo/guitar act later in the evening (they were setting up some fancy balloon arches when we were there). We walked back around 9:30, but the place was packed, so we just headed home and watched Season 3 of The Office until midnight, and then kissed and watched some far-away fireworks. It was a nice way to ring in the new year.
We're still working out our family food traditions, and it's looking like Dutch Babies might become our traditional New Year's Day breakfast. They're easy to make, and they look impressive. This is the second year that we've made them. Patrick used this recipe, and we topped them with jam, since we didn't have any lemons in the house.
Later that day, our college friends Chrissy and Gunny were in town, so they stopped by the house, and Chrissy stayed for dinner. I made Lasagna Bolognese after seeing Neven's Christmas lasagna. It was definitely tasty, but I prefer my lasagna full of gooey mozzarella. It was nice to shake things up though.
(Let me interrupt my talk of food to mention a funny coincidence involving Neven. See, Patrick reads various computer-related blogs, and he has been following Neven's Flickr photostream for a while. A month or two ago, we got a catalog addressed to Neven in our mailbox, and Patrick recognized his name and realized that he must have been one of the tenants who lived in our house before it was our house (we later found out that he lived there pretty early on and had moved away by the time the house was on the market). And then about a week ago, we got a package from Amazon addressed to Neven and Christa. He stopped by and picked it up over the weekend, and we showed him around the house and talked briefly. I looked back at his photostream, and he has all these pictures of the house from when they lived there. That's our kitchen (with very impressive cakes!)--and our neighbor kid! It's pretty cool. My favorite part is that a Yosemite park ranger (who knits!) lived in what is now our guest room. That explains the Yosemite sticker in the closet. It's one of my favorite things in the guest room. So yeah, small world! I hope we run into Neven again at some point; he seems like a cool guy (his Thanksgiving dinner in 2007 involved an harmonium and a gravy drinking contest!).)
Also on New Year's Day, I got around to making pie dough cookies with some leftover scraps that I had frozen during my Thanksgiving pie-making endeavors. I used Nigella's periwinkle recipe from How to Eat (click on the photo for paraphrased instructions). I think this is my favorite way to use up pie dough scraps so far.
We drove way out to SE 122nd Ave on Friday so I could visit an ophthalmologist for a macular consult (my optometrist saw something weird when he was looking at my retinas, so he sent me there for a second opinion). It appears that I have some lacquer cracks, which isn't surprising for somebody as nearsighted as I am. The ophthalmologist said that there's nothing to worry about right now, and we'll just keep an eye on them at future annual checkups. That's good. Even better is that the doctor's office was only a couple blocks from Puerto Marquez, which was also featured in the Willamette Week food guide. Just as WW said, their bean dip was super tasty, and their seafood offerings were good (I had a burrito with shrimp, fish, and octopus!). I wouldn't drive all the way out there just to get more bean dip, but if we're in the neighborhood again (say, at Fabric Depot, which we totally would have checked out if my eyes hadn't been all dilated from the ophthalmologist), I'd definitely make a return visit.
Next, there was more cooking: stuffed acorn squash (no particular recipe) and a fine batch of chocolate pudding.
I was thinking it would be nice to start having real breakfasts on Sundays (it seems like a pleasant thing to do), so on Sunday I made some oatmeal raisin custard from The Breakfast Book, but it tasted, as you might imagine, like eggy oatmeal. Not great. But I'd still like to try some of the more unusual recipes in this book. It'll be an adventure. However, we have agreed that next Sunday we'll make waffles or pancakes--playing it safe to make up for the oatmeal custard strangeness.
Patrick got in on the cooking action too--he made his first loaf of bread! He used the recipe for basic white sandwich bread from The New Best Recipe, and it turned out great! Coming inside on a blustery day to the smell of baking bread is a wonderful thing.
The same day, he also cut down half of our giant piney shrub with his bare hands (and a pruning saw) so that he could put up the storm window on our stairwell window (much needed, since it's a very drafty window, and right now we're using a sheet of plastic and some tape to keep the drafts out). In contrast, I spent the whole day on Ravelry. But hey, check out this cute owl sweater I found! I totally want to knit it once the pattern is available.
After: Cutting down the shrub uncovered a whole new window (the one next to our basement stairs), and now when I'm going into our basement, I can see the outside world. Very exciting!