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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Downtime

What with feeling like crap all week, and the weather turning sodden, not much has been going on at the ol' homestead.  We had plans to have the neighbors over for sauerbraten and had to scrap them twice.  The roast in now par-cooked and in the freezer.  Thursday was gloriously sunny, and it killed me to stay inside, nursing this cold, instead of getting outside to clean up the tomato and cucurbit beds, which look like hell.  I know myself too well; if I'd suited up into my overalls, I wouldn't have quit after a decent interval, and would have worked myself into a serious setback.  And now Steve is sick (again) as well, so between the rain and the toasty wood stove, we are reading and drinking coffee, and otherwise taking it easy.
I am re-reading (skimming, actually) The Rodale Book of Composting, to try to figure out what's going wrong with my compost pile.  It turns out everything.  This summer I made the mistake of joining my two compost bins together, in the hope that a larger pile would generate more heat.  All it did was make the pile flatter, and much, much harder to cover.  I tried affixing a tarp over the whole thing, but it blew aside during the first storm we had last week.  So now it is too flat, and exposed to the rain.  I need to get back to a three foot by three foot pile, but have an idea for what to do in future with which I'll experiment first and then report on it. 

I have also not been able to weed the flower bed and get into the ground all the fall bulbs that I bought in September.  I also wanted to cut back the salvia and move them to the back of the bed.  Never have I seen salvia get so tall!  The bees and hummingbirds loved them, so they need to stay.  Actually, since planting the garden, the whole backyard has come alive with birds.  We get much more of them in the beds now, and I haven't had to do anything like set out bird feeders, or set out water.  I think they get water in Larry's fountain next door.  It's pretty perfect, as far as birds are concerned.  Later this winter I need to research and build nesting boxes for things like the swifts that fly around here.  A bat house would also be a good investment, since we all know how much I love bats.

In the meantime, I'm happy to report that my half-assed greenhouse has been holding up in the storms we've had, so it's probable that my lettuces will survive the winter just fine.

Now if I could only get out there and get them planted. 

Why is it that even though we know we need to take care of ourselves that we feel so darn guilty doing it?  Why does forced downtime make us so anxious? I have to admit that I'm one of those people who can happily relax doing next to nothing at all, but only if I've worked at something else enough to feel I've earned it.  And I didn't do anything to earn this cold.  I think I'll file some paperwork and clear off my desk. 

And then go take a nap.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bleh

Today is Saturday, and since it's supposed to shower all day and then rain like hell tonight, I'd planned a few indoor things to keep me busy.  One was to finish processing the Anaheim chilies- yesterday I blistered them and piled them in a bowl and covered them.  Then I cooled them and refrigerated them to finish today, which was going to be peel, place in greased muffin tins, and freeze.  The other thing I'd hoped to work on today was getting back to work on the hutch.  It's supposed to rain until Wednesday, and that would give me a bunch of days to make some serious headway with that project.

But between my root canal yesterday (my sixth- for Heaven's sake, don't let your kids chew ice!) and the fact that I am very definitely fighting a sore throat and tickling left ear, I feel like crap and I'm taking it easy today.  I'm also powering down the Umcka, in which I wholeheartedly believe for fighting colds and flu.  My chiropractor in Portland recommended it, and it's the bomb for fighting bugs.  I have a fire going in the stove, and am snug in what passes for jammies these days, and once I get the clean laundry that's strewn all over the couch folded and put away, I'm kicking back and either reading or watching a movie. Bleh.

Steve on the other hand, is being a good doobie and brewing up an alt-style beer today.   We got up early this morning and headed into Portland for breakfast at Pine State Biscuits (WARNING: food porn)(we both had the Reggie and several cups of coffee- they serve Stumptown) and then off to F. H. Steinbart for brew supplies.  Steinbart is another Mecca in Portland, as is Pine State. Actually, Portland has a lot of Meccas.

So now it's time to go check on the fire, fold laundry, and then curl up on the couch.

Bleh.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Its Time Had Come

Our new fridge came today.   This is exciting only if you knew how much I truly hated our old fridge, which is a useless side-by-side.

I've been complaining (vociferously) about the old one ever since we moved in two years ago, and I dunno, I guess the planets lined up correctly because Steve went for it this weekend.  I was dawdling on our way into Home Depot, so Steve wandered over to the appliance section to look at the refrigerators. They had a ten percent off special, and the sales guy gave us all the dope on the tax credit and the $50 rebate from the Energy Trust of Oregon.  Since the special was on until Wednesday and it was only Saturday, we said we'd think about it.

Steve looked up the energy usage of the old fridge, which turned out to be almost twice as much as the new fridge, even though the old fridge, which was built in 1999, was an energy star at the time.  He calculated that even if we kept the old fridge for nine more years, we would save $386.   His calculation didn't factor in the rising cost of energy, so the energy savings potential was even higher.

The fridge we chose was an LG french door type, with the freezer on the bottom, in white, with no water in the door, which we never wanted anyway.  So it was the least expensive of the french door types.  I was very comfortable buying LG, even though I hadn't done any research on them because the Coolbot folks recommend LG air conditioners over all else.  I figure that with the thousands of Coolbots sold, and the Coolbot people recommending LG air conditioners over all else, LG must understand refrigeration pretty well.  In addition, the LG label at the store indicated that this model refrigerator (which was the twenty-five cubic feet size) uses thirty percent less energy than the minimum cited by the government.  The yellow Energyguide label shows the energy consumption to be lower than their minimum as well.

Notice how the interior color between the top and the bottom is different?  That's because the freezer has an incandescent appliance bulb, but the refrigerator section sports  cool LED lighting.

All in all, I'm really happy with this turn of events. 

I think this means that I have to be a good girl going forward, because this thing goes off the charts on my happiness meter. 

I realize that probably doesn't say much about my sophistication, but I really, really hated the old fridge.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hoop De Don't

It all started with Tamar Haspel's post Hoop-de-doo on Starving off the Land.  She got me thinking about what I was planning and it dawned on me that with a little more planning, I could span two beds together instead of separately. 

The beds I was going to cover
 She also got me thinking about the beds that I'd chosen for my winter garden.  Being made of re-purposed plastic decking, and hanging out for the better part of the afternoon in shade, it made more sense to put the hoop house over the two beds that are made of wood, and have sun most of the day.  Things would grow better there and the wood would last longer being protected from the rainy season.

The beds I will cover.  I've cleaned them up, though.
Except I didn't make a hoop house. 

I was trying to avoid having to frame a door, so I over-engineered a PVC frame.

I don't think I could have made it any flimsier.
 Covered in six mil plastic, it looks like a house tented for termites.  If I'm lucky, it won't fly away in the first storm and wind up on someone's radar.

Hoop-de-don't.
I have concrete patio pavers placed around the bottom to help hold the plastic down and keep breezes from blowing up its skirts, but honestly?  I'm sorry I didn't make it like hers, which I think has a much better chance of lasting through the winter.

At least it cost me less than a hundred bucks, but that's not going to cheer me up when my winter lettuces go to hell.

The Resilient Gardener

Carol Deppe is a scientist.  She has a BS in zoology from the University of Florida and a PhD in biology from Harvard.  She's also a gardener. So when she puts together a book about gardening in uncertain times, you can bet that it's well researched and has a lot of good information in it.

I picked up the book because it addresses exactly what I wanted to know about gardening for uncertain times- not knowing what is going to happen in the future is precisely why I'm trying to teach myself to grow our food in good times (if you can call this recession a good time).  I just want to make sure that we don't starve, or have to choose between our meds and eating when we're old.  I think a lot of people are gardening for the same reasons; from what I've read, all the stats say that there has been a huge increase in the number of families that are vegetable gardening.  That's why I think this book is really important.

In it, she covers the Little Ice Age (1300-1850) that occurred at the end of a warming trend since the last ice age.  During the Little Ice Age, weather became obviously much colder, but also erratic. She cites strategies that farmers from that time developed that are relevant now, and gives a very good argument why gardeners may be more important for feeding people in the uncertain future than farmers with their mono-crop, petroleum-based agriculture, which is fairly certain to fail. I don't know about you, but I think that our weather is getting erratic.  It's certainly getting more severe.  I was surprised to learn that based on dendrochronology (the study of tree rings) that the amount of rain falling in the Pacific Northwest these last several decades was because of an unusually stable period, and that we are subject to more droughts normally.  I thought that we were moving to where the water is- now I know better and I can prepare for it.

So the book covers how to grow staple crops in times of erratic and wild weather and climate change and strategies for dealing with that, how to grow with little or no irrigation, how to use tools more comfortably so that you can get done what needs doing without killing yourself, how to customize your garden so that you can deal with special dietary needs, and how to keep a laying flock and use them in the garden as well as grow most of their feed.  Interestingly, I'm convinced now that what I really need are ducks- they'll handle the weather here in the maritime Pacific Northwest far more easily, they lay better and longer than chickens, they can forage more of their diet than can chickens, they'll eat slugs and snails (the bane of the west coast) without damaging the garden (although Carol says that you have to watch them- if you leave them in the garden too long they'll make the first pass through getting all the slugs and start eating your salad on the second pass through).  I think I'll also get chickens, though, because I want something to scratch in the planter boxes and clean them for bugs and weeds, as well as 'fertilize' them. I also want the chicken manure inputs for the compost pile.  Ducks don't scratch.

I'm not going to say that this book changed my life- I did that already- but I will say that now that I've jumped in it, this book is like having a gardening mentor to help me learn what the hell I'm doing out there.  She will save me a lot of mistakes.  I need to stop growing Sugar pie pumpkins, for instance.  They supposedly will keep until December, but I've learned from her book that they'll get stringy and lose a lot of their flavor by then.  What they mean by keeping until December is that they won't rot until then. Cucurbita pepos do not keep long term.  What I need to be growing are Cucurbita maximas, which take longer to cure, but last for months and months and get sweeter with time.  Anything I can store without having to put up or freeze is a good thing.  I also know a lot more about field corn, and why I should be growing it: it's the easiest and most reliable of the grains, and the older varieties of flints and flour corns have a lot more flavor than the stuff we usually buy as cornmeal.  By the way, most cornmeal is from corn grown for animal fodder and the factory- those varieties were developed for yield and shipping, not for flavor.  For all the plants she recommends growing for survival- potatoes, corn, beans, and squash- she lists specific varieties of each type so that you can decide what to look for based on what you want or need or can grow in your area.

She also covers saving your seed and why it's important to hoard some of it in your freezer, and gives a little information on how to select seed that you would want to save and how to pollinate in times of few bees. 

If you don't want to or can't buy this book and add it to your bookshelf on homesteading subjects, at least look for it at your local library and read it.  Read the notes at the back as well- there's a lot of information in there, too.  In my own library on homesteading subjects, this will be the book to which I'll return and reread the most- it's just that useful relevant timely good.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Big Visit

My mom and older sister showed up last Thursday. Far from being the criticism-fest I expected, it was a really nice visit.  We went to Champoeg State Heritage Area on one day and drove through the Hood River Valley on another impossibly beautiful autumn day.  Did I bring my camera? No!

We also made a trip to Powell's City of Books, that Mecca in the city that we know and love.  I bought a truly great book that I'll review later after I've finished reading it.

It was such a nice visit that it felt truly too soon when they left.  I have to admit to a kind of melancholia, but I think that is largely due to the fact that every time I see my mother, she's a little shorter and a little more frail.  She's also battling breast cancer, but I think she's going to beat it, really.  They got it early.

She and I have had our ups and downs, and I know that I'm not her favorite child, but I still love her, and I know she loves me, and I'm just not ready to lose my mommy.

Not yet.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Spicey Pictures

Gotcha!
I made catsup today.  Catsup is the old-fashioned way of saying ketchup.  The spell checker in Blogger doesn't like catsup; it likes ketchup.  If I look for ketchup in the edition of The Joy of Cooking that I have which was published in 1977, I can't find ketchup.   But I can find a recipe for grape catsup, walnut catsup, and tomato catsup.   According to TJOC, catsup is a condiment that originated in Malaysia and its name is comes from the native word for 'taste'.

Last year, I made catsup and even though I didn't have all the spices, like blade mace, it was still really good.  Even better than organic ketchup.  I decided then that I need to make catsup every year. This year I had everything, including the blade mace, and I cooked it a little longer per Steve's request.  It is that much better.  Blade mace, in case you're wondering, is the whole piece of mace rather than ground mace.  Mace is the somewhat brittle net-like covering on a nutmeg, and it tastes very like nutmeg, only spicier and stronger.  Ground mace is a nice thing to add to your holiday stuffing.  Gives it a nice punch.

The spices you see in the picture above are allspice, cloves, stick cinnamon, celery seed, blade mace, black peppercorns, and bay leaf.  The mustard seed is hiding under there somewhere.  I get all my spices from an outfit called Penzeys.  Years ago, I received a catalog from them out of the blue, and while I was deciding on whether I should give them a try or not, I was surprised to see their storefront in the San Marco area of Jacksonville, Florida.  I drove around the block and parked and went in.

I would like to tell you with authority that they have every spice there is in the world, but I don't know what every spice in the world is.  I can tell you that they seem to have every spice in the world.  Lots of Indian spices.  Several different kinds of cinnamon, both as stick and ground.  I use their fancy Vietnamese cinnamon, which is the sweetest and the spiciest, for my baking.  But I recently bought a small jar of the Indonesian cinnamon to use with cumin and paprika for my exotic eastern European stuff, like stuffed cabbage.  For some reason, that combination does wonderful things to the stuffing.  Of the many peppercorns they have, I like to use the Black Sarawak because it's the spiciest.  It's the most peppery of the peppers and I figure in for a penny, in for a pound. I have three different paprikas from there- sweet Hungarian, smoked Spanish, and Hungarian half-sharp.  Beware the half-sharp; it's as hot as cayenne.  They have a bunch of different chilies, most of which I'll never use, but if you're into chilies, they probably have what you're looking for, whether it's Mexican, Asian or Indian.   I still have some older spices from the grocery store in the cupboard that need to be thrown out and replaced, but most of my spice jars are from Penzeys, and I don't buy my herbs and spices from anywhere else.  I can't really do them justice- if you like to cook, you should go check them out.  I should warn you that their website leaves a lot to be desired, but I think they make up for that in variety. 

Clockwise from upper left: blends, seeds, leaf herbs, basics: garlics, paprikas, salts, pepper
You could always just get a catalog.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jewelry and Birthdays

Last night I was being silly at the table, entertaining my husband, and while looking at me bemused, Steve's expression suddenly turned stern.

"When did you take your earrings out?" he asked, looking intently at my right ear.

I constantly wear this tiny pair of white gold hoops that barely clear my ear lobes.  I've had them in for several years, partly because they are comfortable enough to wear to bed, and partly because they are a serious hassle to get into my ears. So I wear them 24/7/365.  We got them in Germany at Christ's (pronounced Krists) in Kaiserslautern four years ago when we were there for World Cup 2006, and I've pretty much worn only them since then. 

I reached up for the ear he was staring at and felt nothing but my ear.  I was instantly upset, because I knew I'd probably never find it.  I've no idea when it went missing.  We searched the bed and behind it, we searched the shower and bathroom, we searched all over the house.  I searched outside by the tomatoes because we'd been picking them.  It's gone, and I'm heartbroken. 

It's stupid to be upset over something like that, especially when you don't really wear jewelry, or maybe that's why I was upset.  These earrings are the only thing I wear, in addition to my wedding ring.  They were both (the earrings and the wedding ring) given to me by my husband and they both remind me of happy days.  Plus, I really liked those little earrings.  But what a bummer to lose one, and especially right before my birthday.

Late last night I was lamenting my loss, and the fact that I couldn't find any of my other 'good' earrings, meaning the pair he bought me for our first Christmas that I don't like as well because they are bigger hoops, and my diamond earrings which I've had for a very long time.  They are somewhere in the house, tucked into a box that I haven't opened yet, and I just don't know where they are.

"That's okay," said Steve.  "I've already researched jewelry stores in Oregon City and we'll go get you a new pair tomorrow.  If I have time," he added. Work has been a pill for him lately.

So even though I didn't really want jewelry for my birthday today, it looks like I'll be getting some anyway. 

I'll tell you one thing, though- it's my husband that's the real gem.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Busy Weekend

Yesterday was the second of two days that would be good for planting below ground vegetables, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac, so that is what I did Saturday, only it necessitated taking out the rest of the onions, among other things.  I've discovered that you can't really succession plant onions so successfully- they really depend on the light that comes with a specific length of day, so if you want big bulbs, get them in early- get them all in.  I still don't know why some grew beautiful round globes, and why some grew bull necks instead.  I've read that cool temperatures, poor stands, and late planting can predispose onions to growing bull necks, but it doesn't explain why onions growing right next to each other formed differently.  I have noticed that the onions forming the best bulbs seemed to be more shallowly planted than the onions growing bull necks, so next year I'll take care to seed them shallowly.  I think that I'll try direct seeding and thinning as well- it should be easier to keep the seed near the surface instead of risking burying the transplant too deeply. 


Another experiment, one that I'm trying this autumn, is going to be kind of interesting.  Several weeks ago I planted carrot seed in two rows between my winter kale and rapini.  The carrots sprouted and then disappeared.  Inspection seems to indicate that they were eaten by slugs.  Autumn is prime slug season, with its cool and cloudy mornings- everything is damp longer so the slugs usually have a field day.  So this weekend after planting carrot, beet and turnip seed, I anchored brand new knit copper over the soil- right over the planted rows.  The idea is to let the seedlings grow up through the copper mesh, which should keep the slugs off.  This summer when my brother-in-law Kent was here, he said that he'd heard that copper only works on slugs and snails when it's new and shiny.  By the evidence of the slug snot left on the copper mesh I installed around the beds this spring and the extensive slug damage on the bed's contents, I would have to say that this is probably true.  I do hope that the new copper mesh works long enough to give the seedlings a fighting chance.  Now the only problem that I can see happening is that everything is going in so late that nothing will germinate!

While I was at it, I pulled all the bell pepper plants and managed to salvage only three bell peppers for freezing.  This makes for an average that doesn't even equal one per plant!  A great many of them rotted on the plants while I was waiting for them to ripen past green.  I don't know if this is because the plants were crowded or because we had a really cool summer.  I'm learning that bio-intensive method aside, some plants just don't do well crowded together, and since it's only Steve and me I'm trying to feed, I should probably back off the number of plants that I put in the ground. 

I also managed to get the two citrus that showed up this week planted.  I ordered a Lisbon lemon and a Bearss lime.  Lisbon lemons are the lemons most commonly found in the grocery store, and I like them much, much better than a Meyer lemon, which isn't really a lemon at all.  For whatever reason, when you go looking for lemon trees, Meyers are all over the place, but for my money, they are too sweet for what I'm looking for in a lemon.  Ponderosa lemons are great lemons as well, but they are huge lemons, and they make a pretty good sized tree.  I don't have room for a Ponderosa.  The Bearss lime is also the lime you're most likely to find in the grocery store- thin skinned and juicy.  I debated plunking them into the ground with the plan to erect a removable green house cover over them every winter, but I read that citrus need good drainage and I definitely don't have that with my clay soils.  I opted to put them in pots instead, and fortunately, they should do fine there.  While potting them up today, I realized that I forgot to order a Bay tree, Laurus nobilius.  Bay trees get HUGE- my mother has one- but their size can be kept in check by potting them up.  I've even seen instances where the tree is planted in a pot in the ground to keep it from getting enormous.  All I know is that fresh bay is supposed to be different than dried, and even ran across a recipe somewhere for egg custard that was flavored with a fresh bay leaf, and since I love custard, I'm dying to try it.


The other thing I worked on this weekend was the hutch.  I got the supports for two more shelves rasped, sanded, stained and put together this week, along with the shelves and their fussy molded edges, so part of yesterday and today were spent getting the new shelves up.  I'm a little less than halfway done, at this point.  I've resigned myself to the fact that it won't be finished by the time my mother gets here, but oh well.  At least I'm making progress on it, but that will have to stop for a few days while I work on getting the house all spiffed up for Mom's impending visit.

Last but not least, I had the inspiration to put up some of my French tarragon into tarragon vinegar.  I'm sure glad that I hung on to that Frank's Red Hot sauce bottle- I had a feeling it would come in handy!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Dutch Baby For My Deutsch Baby

Steve had a lousy week this week, which culminated in a truly crappy Friday night.  This Wednesday morning at around one, and long after we'd gone to bed, I heard my cell phone ringing in the living room.  I got up and groggily pinballed my way down the hall to the living room just in time to hear the voice mail alert go off.  So I called voice mall and it was Steve's work: a server had crashed and they were having a bad time getting it back up again.  He was up until three that morning before he finally came back to bed. 

Then last night after the close of business they were to put in the fix, which necessitated Steve leaving up his work machine and checking in periodically until around eight PM our time (which is eleven on the east coast).  Only the file serving software they'd been given by a vendor who shall remain nameless would not let the server boot up.  Steve got stuck on the phone with the guys back east until one AM this morning when he realized it was four their time and he wasn't going to be of much help to them at this point.  So he came to bed, and got up again at five our time to call in and see what was going on.  He tried going back to bed around nine, but sleep wasn't happening, so he gave up and joined me for coffee.

I was going to make us oatmeal for breakfast, since he can't have cereals or grains at breakfast during the week, but he wanted something better.  He wanted a Dutch baby, so that's what he got.

Dutch Baby

Dutch babies are essentially an individual Yorkshire pudding served with lemon wedges and powdered sugar.  We'd had them out a weekend or so ago for the first time and enjoyed them, so the first thing I did when I got home was to look up recipes for them.  I'm going to give you the first recipe that I tried, exactly as I'd tried it, because it was spectacularly successful.

Dutch babies just out of the oven, falling already
Dutch Babies

This makes enough for two Dutch babies.

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter
4 large eggs
1 cup regular flour 
1 tsp. salt
1 cup whole milk


Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

In a bowl (preferably a batter bowl) beat the eggs until they're light and frothy.   Add one half cup of the flour and incorporate and then the other half cup of flour and the salt and incorporate that.  Add the milk a little at a time to make a smooth batter, which should resemble heavy cream.*

Put two skillets in the oven to heat up.#  Once they're hot, cut up the butter and divide between the two hot pans.  Put back in the oven to melt completely, but don't let it burn.

Take the pans out again and divide the batter evenly into each.  Put the pans back into the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Watch toward the end to make sure the babies don't burn. The pancakes will look like they're minding their own business at first and the minute you look away they'll be  way puffed up and looking like they want to crawl out of the pan.  Just watch and make sure the tops don't get too brown.

Remove from the oven when done and set onto cooling racks to protect your surface.  Serve by sliding onto large plates with a large pancake turner.  The pans are really smoking' hot at this point, so be careful.

Serve with lemon wedges and powdered sugar.

* This method of beating the flour into the eggs and then gradually adding the milk is a great way to get your crepe batter smooth.  I learned it from my Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques cookbook.

# I do not need to tell you not to use pans with plastic handles for this recipe.  I have two deBuyer steel pans,  but you could use anything as long as it's fairly shallow and all metal.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Setting The Record Straight

I think I may have been maligning my husband recently by portraying him as cheap.  He's not cheap- if he were, he would not get me whatever my little heart desires when I want it.  (I have to add that I'm careful about what I want and when I want it. You already know I'm not from the Mall-As-Entertainment Crowd).   Steve is just very careful with his money, and likes to make sure it's well-spent.  Because of that, we're able to get along okay even though I'm not working right now.

Case in point: last night we drove all the way into the city (Portland) to have dinner at Gruner.  We read the menu online and knew ahead of time that it was not going to be a cheap dinner.  But, we went anyway, because we wanted to check it out.  They tout themselves as being cozy Alpine dining, and we're always thrilled when we can find anything that smacks of German cuisine.  First, we had the amazing luck of finding Doris Day parking.  Doris Day parking, if you're unfamiliar with the term, is when you find a parking place right out in front of where you're going.  This Doris Day parking place was actually around the corner from the front of the restaurant, but it was one parking place from the corner and along side the restaurant, so in my book, it was still Doris Day parking.  Then, because the restaurant had a few large parties booked, we couldn't eat in the dining room, but we had our choice of eating at the bar or eating outside- we chose the bar because it was still rush hour when we got there and I didn't want to deal with the noise and exhaust.  This turned out to be quite alright because the bartender was a very personable young man and took good care of us.  Plus, I had fun reading the more esoteric labels in the bar line-up, and he answered all my questions intelligently and patiently.

We listened to the on-tap choices carefully.  I heard the bartender say that the Ayinger Octoberfest was the darkest Octoberfest he'd ever seen.  They didn't have a pilsner for me so, I ordered the  Weihenstephan Helles, and Steve ordered the Ayinger Octoberfest.  When the bartender put Steve's beer down in front of him, he said, "That's the darkest Octoberfest I've ever seen!"  My Helles (German for 'light') was just fine.

We decided to share a salad- the Gruner salad, which was fine but unremarkable.  Except that the dressing was very light and you could taste everything in the salad, so maybe in that way, it was remarkable.

So now to the main attraction:  Steve had the cured double-cut pork chop with spiced red cabbage, sauteed apples and mashed German butterball potatoes.  He said the mashed potatoes tasted very German- evidently they beat the hell out of their mashed potatoes.  We agreed that the spiced red cabbage, although good, was not as good as mine. (But then, I make really great Rotekohl, and I'm not particularly shy about that.)  He really liked the pork chop and said they'd used a light hand with the pickling; I wasn't so enamored of it because it reminded me of ham, and I am not a big fan of ham.  Dry cured, yes, but not regular ham.  Unless it's in a Monte Cristo sandwich, but that's another story.  So his dinner was good, and made him happy.  By the way, the black dot in the picture below is a juniper berry.  Wachholderbeeren (juniper berries) are used a lot in German cuisine- principally with meats and sauerkraut.

Another bad picture- sorry!
I had the spaetzle with braised chicken, chanterelles, riesling, creme fraiche, tarragon and crispy shallots.  It was amazingly good.  I suppose that you would have to be a fan of tarragon, and I am, but the flavors were really wonderful all together, and the crispy shallots finished off each mouthful beautifully.  The only place where I could fault the kitchen was that in three separate bites, I crunched into chicken cartilage, which is about the most distasteful experience that I can have at table.  I can't stand cartilage so much that when Steve and I have chicken for dinner, he saves cleaning up the bones for last and I have to leave the table so I can't hear him chewing on cartilage.  It seriously gives me the willies.  But save for the unfortunate few jarringly-crunchy bites, it was easily one of the most delicious, well-balanced, and inspired meals I've ever eaten, and I was very happy.  It was all I could do to not wipe up the bowl with the last piece of bread.

I should learn how to make this....
Speaking of bread, I should mention that the bread they brought out was an okay bread, and a pretzel roll.  The pretzel roll was wonderful- buttery, with the right flavor on the skin and salted just right- and you know that we know our pretzels.

So between the beers, salad- which we shared, and the entrees, dinner was sixty-two dollars, not counting the tip.  Not exactly a hundred a piece, but certainly enough for a dinner that wasn't to celebrate anything.  It was money well-spent, and we'll go there again.  Someday.

We're still being really careful with our money, which should never be confused with being cheap.