Book Review: Recipes from Heceta Head, Oregon's Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast

Wind sweeps across the Pacific Ocean, battering the rugged coastline with foam-flecked waves and sheets of rain. Defying the elements, gnarled Evergreens clutch weather-beaten cliffs, and refuse to fall into the sea. Rich with timber and easy access to salmon, this land has been home to traders and trappers for centuries.

Against this stormy backdrop, Heceta Head Lighthouse warns of the impending coastline. The adjacent Queen Anne-style homes with cranberry-colored shingles, housed the lighthouse lamplighters. Throughout the night, they worked in four hour shifts, manually keeping the flame alive.

Technology advanced and automation eventually eliminated the need for lamplighters. As the buildings deteriorated, local citizens fought to preserve these historic structures.

Enter: an innovative idea + the husband and wife team of Mike and Carol Korgan.

Today, an interpretive center sits on land owned by the U.S. Forest Service, and the lightkeeper residences have been converted into Heceta Head Bed & Breakfast. Mike and Carol played a crucial role in preserving these landmark buildings and served as the B&B’s first proprietors. Now retired, the torch has been passed to their daughter Michelle and her husband, Steven.

Oregon coast’s Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world and the corresponding B&B is renowned for their seven-course breakfast. The Lighthouse Breakfast Cookbook (Westwiinds Press, 2009) documents the history of Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B, and reveals their most coveted recipes.

This book has become my secret weapon! Making regular appearances at brunch or as a light dessert, the Almond Butter Cake is my go-to recipe. Dense yet incredibly moist, its light kiss of sweetness makes this cake surprisingly versatile.

Included in the book is James Beard’s cheater version of Liver Pate. Beard, a former Oregon resident, once slipped Mike the recipe…and I made it immediately! The secret? A hearty mixture of liverwurst and cream cheese. Embellished with a dash of this and that, you’d never guess the origins, but trust me, it’s a welcome addition. Over the holidays, this Liver Pate was the first to go, every time. (Warning: double the recipe. You’ll want more!)

Chapters in the Light House Breakfast Cookbook follow Heceta Head B&B’s famed seven course breakfast menu: Fruit; Sweet Bread; Seafood; Frappes; Eggs; Meat; Dessert; Fruit & Cheese.

Composed Fruit salads make a welcome addition to entertaining menus as well as weekday breakfasts. In the Moroccan Fruit Salad, for example, the usual suspects of pear, apple and banana get a guild-the-lily flourish with orange flower water, mint & pomegranate seeds.

My one quibble lies solely in the Sweet Bread section. Each recipe makes three loaves. This is not a problem with tried & true recipes, but for the untested, it can be a risky maneuver. “Serve one loaf, freeze the other two” works great if you’ve got a winner. The Lemon Poppy Seed Bread was not a favorite. I had middle of the road results—not bad, but certainly not great--and I had three loves on my hands! Going forward, I’ll tread carefully in this section, and divide the recipes accordingly. (Portion sizes in other areas of the book are less risky, serving 6, on average.)

If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll want to keep this book close at hand. Wild Chinook Salmon Sweet Corn Cakes and the Oregon Dungeness Crab, Fennel, Orange and Avocado salad with Mango Curry Dressing were quick additions to my permanent files. Other recipes like Bay Shrimp Mousse and the Scallop and Bay Shrimp Seviche scream: easy entertaining with big flavor payoff.

In the seven-course lineup, frappes are served as palate cleansers. This section includes intriguing flavor combinations, such as: Strawberry, Candied Ginger and Fresh Mint; Hibiscus, Melon, and Wildflower Honey; and Pear with Orange Blossom Honey and Cardamom.

The Eggs chapter offers more than a few unexpected surprises. Imagine serving your houseguests Shirred Eggs with Oregon White Truffles or a Sweet Potato, Sage, and Juniper Grove Smoked Chevre Strata. Houseguests may never leave!

By Meats, they mean sausage, mostly. My first sausage-making foray was a revelation and I was thrilled to discover several new recipes in this book: Greek Lamb Sausage (with pine nuts, kalamata olives, and mint); Roasted Garlic Chicken Sausage; or the more exotic Thai Coconut Green Curry Chicken Sausage.

Desserts run the gamut from strudels (apple, poppy seed, or Marionberry), cakes (pound, almond butter, or cranberry upside down) to tarts (pear or lemon). While this is the longest chapter, some dishes do double duty as dessert or breakfast (crumbcake, crepes, or apple pancake).

The Fruit and Cheese chapter profiles local cheeses and serving suggestions. Whether you’ll be able to find these cheeses is debatable, but even if you substitute other varieties, the serving suggestions are worth exploring. “Siletz River Stones River’s Edge Chevre – This hand-ladled Crottin is full flavored and spiked with green peppercorns. The spicy surprise joins nicely with a pomegranate syrup and the clean, crispy textures of Asian pears.”

Ingredients for the majority of these recipes should be readily available nationwide. Worth noting are the few recipes that require special ingredients. Coconut Powder was new to me. Fortunately, the Special Ingredients Glossary explained “Just as the name describes, it is powdered coconut. Read the label before buying because some have added sugar or are just coconut-flavored powder. Coconut powder is fantastic for any application that calls for coconut milk when fresh coconut is not available. Just reconstitute the desired consistency.” A source or DYI alternative would have been nice. So far, the only place I’ve found coconut powder, sells it in a 10 pound box. (My guess: I’ll be able to replicate coconut powder with unsweetened dried coconut and a handy mini Cuisinart.)

The Resources section threw a spotlight on several new-to-me Oregon-based vendors (most with mail order capabilities). I’m looking forward to exploring GloryBee Foods (honey), Schondecken Coffee Roasters and the Oregon Lox Co.

Photos in the book are by San Diego-based Tim Mantoani. Plating at the B&B is individual, as opposed to buffet or family-style and the presentations come across well. A large majority of the images leap off the page and are mostly food-centric. A limited number of images are of the B&B’s interior, which is a little disappointing, and none of the dining room itself. Archival images and family photos lend themselves well to the historical context in the introduction.

I love local books that give a sense of place. The Lighthouse Breakfast Cookbook - Recipes from Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B offers well-crafted storytelling and recipes with an emphasis on local ingredients. Within these pages, there’s plenty to enjoy--even if you don’t have easy access to Dungeness Crab or Umpqua Oysters.

And if you’re yearning for a seaside respite with jaw-dropping views? Mosey along the Oregon stretch of Highway 101 and find your way to the Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B. Lull to sleep with the sound of sea and surf. But most important…save room for breakfast! Seven courses await you.

Votes: Submitted, Tallied, Awarded - Favorites from the Tasty Awards

It's a tough job, I know. My assignment? Watch hours of T.V. and online videos...and select a handful of winners.

While judging this year's Tasty Awards, I came across several shows worth watching. Looking for a little inspiration? Here's my short list:

Three Sheets

Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie Obsessives

Without Borders

Cake Boss
Check out the bridezilla episode....oooh! I wanted to knock her out!

No Reservations

View the full list of Tasty Awards nominees and winners here. (Click on "Finalists")

Cookbook Review: Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen

Andrea Nguyen’s latest book, Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More (Ten Speed Press, 2009) is a stunner, demystifying delectable dishes from Malaysia to Mongolia.

Recipes in Asian Dumplings span three distinct subregions of Asia—East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. The book’s chapters are divided according to technique: filled pastas; thin skins; stuffed buns; rich pastries, etc.

Nguyen’s introduction is exceptionally informative and provides a perfect primer for what lies ahead. Cornstarch, for example, is found in both doughs and fillings. She explains, “In Asian dumpling making, cornstarch is used to bind fillings and to make dough. The silky fine starch contributes resiliency to superthin wonton and eggroll skins and prevents them from sticking. Cornstarch and tapioca starch have similar thickening powers, but when used in rice-flour batters, they show subtle differences. Cornstarch adds a firm-but-chewy quality, and tapioca provides elasticity.” Nguyen’s recipes are equally well thought-out and will have you mastering homemade wonton wrappers in no time.

Images in the book are a smart combination of diagrams and photos. The illustrations include thorough steps for a variety of folding and wrapping techniques. Do you know the difference between a pea pod, nun’s cap, or crescent? Nguyen shows you, step-by-step.

The drool-worthy photography is by Penny De Los Santos, whose images frequent the pages of Saveur. Careful thought has been given to images that are not only beautiful, but informative. Styling and camera angles reveal seams (as in the samosa folding technique) and well-thought out vantage points illustrate dumpling pleating techniques. When you’re stuck midway through a recipe and panic is just beginning to set in, sure enough, there’s a diagram or a photo, revealing the end goal. (This is especially helpful since many of the dishes were completely new to me.)

Arm chair cooks and travelers…there’s plenty here for you, too! Recipe header notes provide wonderful insights, and often expand into the dish’s ethnic, regional or historical context. I was thrilled to discover a recipe for one of my favorite street-side snacks, Sesame Seed Balls (page 201). In the accompanying header notes, I learned that Sesame Seed Balls are a Chinese New Year Specialty and likely originated in the Tang Dynasty as palace food. Nguyen explains that the dish varies by country. In Canton, they are filled with sweetened red mung bean paste, but in Vietnam, they are typically filled with buttery mung beans, resulting in a flavor and texture similar to marzipan. Ground peanuts are another option. Recipes are included for all three fillings, along with a discussion on mung bean varieties.

Whether you’re a seasoned aficionado, or merely dumpling-curious, Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings is a fabulous resource. Approachable, yet informed, this book has a prominent spot in my collection. The Pork and Napa Cabbage Water Dumplings deliver big on flavor and I was surprised how easily the water and flour-based wrappers came together (So pleased with my results, I kept thinking, “Look, mom, I made it!”). Next on my list? I’m torn between the Chinese Char Siu Pork Buns or the Singapore Curry Puffs. Even better, why choose? Share the adventure…and host a dumpling-making party! With a wealth of textures and tastes, this book is a perfect excuse for social gatherings. Chill the Singha & invite your friends for a DYI dumpling feast!

Hungry for more? Check out:

Andrea Nguyen
Book: Into the Vietnamese Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2006)

Penny De Los Santos

Reflections on 2009

Late 2008, I was working as an analyst in real estate finance. The real estate bubble burst and what followed in 2009 was the worst recession since the Great Depression. My employer was a privately held company and while they hung on as long as they could, it was evident drastic changes were on the horizon. Eventually, they shed 30% of their staff, including me. (A second round of layoffs followed a few months later.)

I kicked off 2009 in a funk. Job prospects in my field were dismal. Within a matter of months, my condo dropped 30% in value. Without a job, I panicked and put my house up for sale. It languished in the declining market.

Well-intended friends asked about plans for my ‘round-the-world trip.

I laughed at the thought. “ ‘Round-the-world? I’m fighting for survival here!”

In just a few short months, I went from being secure and making bold plans for my future to mid-morning pep talks and consciously making an effort to get out of bed.

I attended mandatory training at the unemployment office. With a stack of “Worker Retraining” and “How to File for Unemployment” papers in hand, the counselor looked me in the eye and directed me to the nearest shelter providing free food. I navigated past screaming children and a waiting room full of false optimism, and threw up in the parking lot.

For the next two months, I hid under the covers and slept. Channel surfing through cartoons, I took my rage out on Curious George, “What the hell are you so happy about???” and secretly yearned for The Man with a Big Yellow Hat to help restore the pieces of my life.

My lifeline came in the form of Twitter.

Everything from the fascinating to the profoundly mundane mingled within my Twitter stream. It was comforting to see people going about the normal business of life...and eventually, I joined them.

I was still inching my way back when my friend Catherine suffered a debilitating brain aneurysm. Just two days after a fabulous dinner party, she was in intensive care with a ghastly post-surgery suture and swollen black eye the size of my fist. Her long blonde hair was in a lopsided do--half-shaved, and the other half in a gnarled, matted mess against the pillow. We spoke in hushed voices while a battery of equipment beeped softly in the background, and prayed the predicted seizures would never come. Six weeks in ICU plus two weeks in the hospital, were followed by months of recovery at home. (Related post is here.)

Suddenly, my worries seemed so very trite.

Still in my cartoon phase, I took a cue from Frosty the Snowman and put one foot in front of the other….

Looking back on 2009, I can honestly say it was the best year of my life--the good, bad and seriously depressing…I wouldn’t change a thing.

When I finally jumped off the pity party train, it was astonishing to see what happened. Beginning in the spring, I dove head first into a number of projects and continued that frantic pace well into the winter. (In hindsight, it’s clear I was trying to reclaim my wounded ego.)

I had a powerful yearning for community…and that became a central theme in 2009. In a town known for the legendary “Seattle freeze,” could I really make a difference? The idea began to build momentum. What began as dinner here and there, eventually mushroomed into the first International Food Blogger Conference, a documentary screening & panel discussion, speaker events, and a 90-person communal potluck!

While my plans are uncertain for the new year, if 2009 is any indication…brace yourself! It’s going to be a wild ride!

Life’s a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it
you can. - Danny Kaye

Traca’s 2009 highlights:

– Dinner for New Orleans Chef John Besh, organizer

- Americana Community Potluck, organizer

Artisan Beef Institute’s Seattle Tasting Series, organizer

International Food Blogger Conference, co-founder

Fearless Writing Workshop (San Diego, CA), attendee

End of the Line exclusive Seattle screening & panel discussion, organizer

– Lunch with Michael Escoffier (August’s grandson), hosted by Sur La Table owner Renee Behnke

- Outstanding in the Field Dinner prepared by chefs of SPUR, attendee

- Artisan Butcher field trip for chefs, organizer

- Umami field trips (rhubarb & strawberry) with Jon Rowley & Kate McDermott

- Herbfarm Restaurant farm visit & dinner

Ventana Restaurant, consultant and opening PR

Canning Across America Project, founding member

– 3-day Northwest Sustainability Discovery Tour (Portland, OR), attendee

- Named a “Foodie to Follow on Twitter” - Seattle Magazine

– FoodSnap: Food Photography workshop with Lou Manna, attendee

Coffee Fest, attendee

– Photographer Scott Bourne’s lecture on Previsualization, organizer

– American Lamb Board’s Lamb Jam, judge

- Interview with Momofuku’s David Chang

- Dubbed “Food Guru” - Edible Seattle

- Interview with Will Write for Food author Dianne Jacob

– Culinary Institute of America’s World of Flavor Conference – Street Food & Comfort Food (Napa, CA), attendee

- Lunch with Saveur co-founder Dorothy Kailins

– Taste TV’s Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon, judge (2008, 2009)

- Cooking demo, Queen Anne Farmer’s Market (my first!)

– Theo Chocolate’s 3-part Chocolate University, attendee

- Coffee from the Grounds Up, 9-part lecture on coffee, attendee

- Chef’s Collaborative Summit, attendee

– Lunch with author & New York Times columnist Mark Bittman

- New blog series: Books that Paved the Way

- Serious Eats, photo credit

- Travel & Leisure, photo credit

Tasty Awards, judge

- Food News Journal, Best of the Blogs [December 18, 2009]

A Moment with John T Edge

On my list of lifetime goals, an invitation to the prestigious Worlds of Flavor Conference figured prominently…and at long last, I was on my way.

Weeks before the conference, I studied the speaker lineup. The list read like a proverbial who’s who of chefs, writers, and anthropologists. Among the culinary luminaries, I was particularly interested in one person: John T Edge.

John T ranks high among my favorite writers and I’ve been collecting his work for years. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Saveur, Southern Living, The Oxford American and he currently writes a monthly column for the New York Times called “United Tastes.” In 2009, he was inducted in the James Beard Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America.

John T is also director of the Southern Foodway Alliance where the demand for their annual Southern Foodways Symposium is so high, spots have been awarded by lottery. (I have it on good authority that begging for admission will get you nowhere….)

My admiration for John T goes beyond anything I can properly express. His writing is like a well-seasoned cast iron pan, richly layered in both past and present, reverent with a sense of place.

At the Worlds of Flavor Conference, I worked up the nerve to say hello…and stifled a hint of Beatle mania-style giddiness whenever he walked by. While there were several near misses, eventually I gave up…and succumbed to a rare bout of shyness.

On the final day, I was standing in the back of the room, listening to a particularly moving speech by Jessica Harris. As her speech concluded, I wiped sentimental tears from my eyes. John T suddenly appeared next to me and said, “Did I miss it?”

A moment later…he was gone.

John T Edge at Watershed Best [Photo credit: Yvonne Boyd]

For this fourth installment of Books that Paved the Way, I reached out to John T by e-mail, holding my breath while I hit “send.” His gracious response left no doubt that my respect and admiration was well-founded.

John T's Most Influential Books:

White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler --

At first glance it's a campy sendup of working class white folk cookery. But look closer and you'll see the influence of Agee and Evans and their masterwork Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Smokestack Lightning by Lolis Eric Elie --

A history of barbecue in America, masquerading as a road trip. Smart and well-observed, this catalog of essays and photographs shines a bright light on unheralded pitmasters across the South and beyond.

Gumbo Tales by Sara Roahen --

We all love the city of New Orleans. We all want to be situational New Orleanians, with easy access to fat oysters and fatter po-boys. Roahen is the outlander with whom you can identify, the nose beneath the gumbo curtain.

Southern Food: At Home, On the Road, and in History by John Egerton --

The reigning tome in the category. Elegantly written, generous and inclusive, and cognizant of how race and class define what we eat and with whom we eat, Egerton's book remains relevant as it closes in on the quarter-century mark.

American Fried by Calvin Trillin --

He started out exploring race and various American dilemmas. Trillin has continued that tack, while writing some of the best prose on any damn subject. Along the way, he's made brief detours into the world of food. American Fried, from the 1970s, was his first collection of food writing. It's a brilliant hymn to local eats and local people, with prose that still leaps off the page today. (In his most recent piece for the New Yorker, Trillin wrote of poutine, and managed to craft a paragraph that referenced both cheese curds and teenage circumcision.) In other words, the man is a gimlet-eyed genius.