10 June 2007

Cookbook Talk: Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket

I picked up Jan Mann's Cruising Connecticut With a Picnic Basket (Hillside House: 2006) up at the Department of Agriculture's store last month, because I'm a sucker for locally authored cookbooks and travel guides. I admit I haven't used any of the travel information found in this little book, but I've loved all the recipes I've tried!

The book is broken up into eleven chapters ("City Walking Tours," "Spring Wildflower Hunt," etc) with a variety of activities listed for each and every activity is accompanied by a menu with recipes. While there are no photographs of the actual picnic foods, the black and white photographs of the different tourist spots as well as the amusing cartoon illustrations make each chapter quite attractive. The indices (one for trips and another for recipes) are pretty handy (although the designation of salad or side seems arbitrary).

So far, I have prepared four recipes from this book and have been pleased with all of them. Indeed, I was so happy with "Tortellini Salad" (pg 95) that I have made it twice in the last month -- the use of fresh parsley does make quite a difference taste-wise, but the salad is still good if you use dried so don't worry too much about substituting. I imagine you could easily substitute some nice Greek yogurt for the sour cream with good results, too.

As well as the above, I have also made "Cold Marinated Asparagus" (pg 149), "Tabouli" (pg 186), and "Seafood Pasta Salad" (pg 133).  All were quite tasty and I look forward to making them again.

07 June 2007

Another Rosy Weekend

The Husband surprised me last week by driving all the way up to myplaceofwork just to have lunch with me. Sweet of him, no? And a nice way to start off a long weekend. I had a holiday day I needed to use so I'd arranged to take that Friday off and do stuff with The Husband out in the Big Blue Room.

Mostly, this meant driving up to the Capital to check out the roses at Elizabeth Park. Like the Norwich Rose Garden, this garden is also an AARS-accredited public rose garden which, I guess, is supposed to award them a tidy amount of street cred in rose garden land. Or something. There were a fantastic number of roses in bloom, although not all were labeled, so I couldn't really tell you which ones smelt or looked best to me. There were some ruffled pink ones the size of nickels which smelled divine and reminded me of the ones the old farmers had trained against their parlor window, but does that help identify them? Not in the least. And not that it mattered. It was enough to sit with The Husband in a rose-y nook and quietly bake in the sun. (Oh, yes, we are all set for dotage).

Aside from the two and half acre rose garden, the park boasts several other nice garden areas as well as pathways, greenhouses, lawns, a pond with untidy waterfowl, and a cafe. We had rather nice lunch at the Pond House Cafe (after ice cream for elevenses) and stopped for more ice cream on the way home. I know, ice cream twice in one day. We are decadent and depraved people.

But well contented depraved persons -- and that makes all the difference.

03 June 2007

A Rosy Weekend

What with the weather being nice and me having full weekends off, I'm inclined to do as much outside stuff as possible before the twinkly glow of full weekends fades, the humidity creeps in, and I cannot be bothered to stir from the couch. Anyway, this weekend we hied off to the Norwich Rose Garden in Mohegan Park to sniff flowers and take in lots of healthy fresh air.

Prior to visiting, I'd done a little reading up on the Garden and found that the two-acre garden is one of the 130-odd All American Rose Selections's accredited public rose gardens and features over 120 varieties of roses. At the time, 120 varieties of roses sounded pretty fantastic. Alas, when we visited, the garden didn't seem quite as fantastic as anticipated -- about half the roses seemed either new or so recently (and heavily) pruned they weren't more than greenish brown sticks. (I hear the garden suffered a lot of deer damage last autumn and this may account for the less than stellar rose showings).

After we sniffed all the roses we could and canoodled on one of the shady benches, we explored the rest of Mohegan Park -- quite a nice experience, really. The wisteria lined walk which skirts the pond was quite lovely even though not in bloom (must be simply fantastic when in bloom). We managed to while away a not insignificant portion of the afternoon walking the little woodland path around the lake, watching the fishes, and whatnot.