It’s Not Boring

Four years ago I pulled out one of my favorite quotes from Ruth Reichl when posting about upcoming changes at our former restaurant Esquina. I find I am drawn to it again…

“Moderation in all things is a mantra we’ve been hearing a lot about of late. It is healthy. It is sane. It is morally correct. It is also very boring. I much prefer people with passions. There is nothing more exciting than watching someone fall so deeply in love – with a food, an object, a way of life – that they throw caution to the wind and follow their heart.”

Robert and I put the house we have lived in for the past sixteen years on the market last week. It was here that we brought both of our daughters home from the hospital; where we lived with endless renovations to create a beautiful space; where our home restaurant earned a highlight in Food & Wine; where our daughter is currently learning to park the car in the garage in what is admittedly a tricky angle.


This house has been and is good to us. Even during times of neighborhood strife about our home business, these walls have been a refuge. It is not a light decision to consider parting from them. Yet it feels like the right one. Many of you reading this dined with us as customers in this house, during a wonderful time in our career. Never a fan of moderation, our new ventures have brought changes. Robert is expanding the burger concept in New Mexico (look out Santa Fe!), while I am pursuing a writing career. These changes can be uncomfortable – I’ve stopped doing that which what I have many years of experience and expertise; I now often feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. Robert travels often and we are parenting two teenage girls. But I am grateful – for all of it – and I am certainly not bored.

We plan to stay in Lawrence whether or not or house sells. If you are curious about our house (it’s changed a lot since Krause Dining), here’s a link to the wonderful photos our realtor took of it. 

If you want to keep current about events surrounding the launch of my novel Joy Again, I’ll post them on my website

And finally, thank you for sharing this ride with me. I’ll end with another favorite quote of mine, this one by Sugar aka Cheryl Strayed…

“We’re all going to die, Johnny. Hit the iron bell like it’s dinnertime.”





My All Time Most Requested Dessert From Days Gone By…


Back when I was the pastry chef for Krause Dining, I planned and executed the nightly menu’s two served desserts as well as the small plate of mignardises (at least three tiny sweets) to pass at the table. I tried to change these items regularly, but one dish I put together was hard to ever switch out. Mainly because it was the most delicious, interesting and beautiful dish that I ever created.

Apple-celery granita was layered atop vanilla panna cotta in a champagne flute. A wasabi glaze drizzle and pinch of black Hawaiian salt accented the layers and the presentation was finished with a dried Granny Smith apple chip and candy sugar sticks. After my recent post A Cookbook Story…with Recipes, someone requested this recipe, which made me happy that someone remembered the dish.

This recipe was one of the two hundred that were not included in The Cook’s Book of Intense Flavors. You’ll need a juicer to make it…

“Apple With a Kick”


The bright, tart flavor of apple is beautifully contrasted by a creamy mouth-feel and spanked with an edge of heat. This combination is most intense when the tartness of the apple is the leading flavor. A more mellow flavor combination offers cream as the prominent note and would result in sauces or soups. In any combination, adding the wasabi requires the most sensitivity as it can quickly dominate the entire dish. For other applications, think of sauces for pork dishes, as apple in particular accompanies birds and game meats nicely.

APPLE – For purity of flavor, extract juice in vegetable juicer (or use a good quality natural apple juice) and use for a reduction, gelee or granita. Use raw apples for greatest texture and crisp flavor. Cooking softens the intensity of the apple’s flavor but brings out its natural sugars. Varieties that are nice all-purposes choices are Granny Smith, Pink Lady, and Braeburn.

CREAM – Use as the base for a savory sauce, soup, or starch. Whip, set with gelatin, or make into a custard for ice cream. For this combination, cream can be quickly take these ingredients in new directions by being the vehicle for interesting sauces. Don’t be tempted to replace milk for the cream, the richness of the finished dish is dependent on the additional fat in the cream.

WASABI – Best used as an accent and with restraint! Comes as a powder or paste and generally used as a garnish for sushi. Use the prepared paste for the most strength, or the powder when wanting to tame its heat with other flavors. It can be thinned down with a liquid (water, wine, or juice) to be used to drizzle or as an accent with a sauce. Go easy with it, you can always add more or have portions on the side for those who want it – you want to be able to taste the apple in the dish.

  • Tart ice on silky cream with a wasabi spank
  • Apple-Celery Granita

            Granitas are a wonderful way to make a flavorful frozen dessert without using an ice cream machine.

Serves 4

1 teaspoon ascorbic acid, crushed from 2 vitamin C tablets (1,000-mg)

½ cup sugar

6 Granny Smith apples, skin on, cut lengthwise to fit in juicer opening or 1 ½ quarts of good quality apple juice

6 celery stalks, leaves cut off


Electric vegetable juicer

8 inch square baking pan

Place an 8 inch square, or similar sized baking pan in the freezer to chill.

Combine ascorbic acid and sugar in container that will both fit under your juicer and hold up to 1½ quarts of juice. Juice apples (or use juice) and celery into container. Skim any foam off of the surface. Gently stir until sugar is dissolved.

Remove chilled pan from the freezer and pour in sweetened juice. Put into freezer and set timer for 1 hour. Stir with fork or bench scraper once an hour until no liquid remains and granita has been chopped to a uniform size. Wrap with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

  • Vanilla Panna Cotta With Wasabi Glaze

            This is a wonderful, simple dessert that is very versatile. It’s perfect in the summer months because it doesn’t need to go in the oven. It has a custard-like quality, but because it is thickened with gelatin and not eggs, it is lighter in your mouth. It is delicious with whatever fruit is in season. More refined that whipped cream, it is not much more difficult to prepare.

Serves 4

1½ teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin

1 tablespoon cold water

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise with seeds scraped


4 parfait glasses, small bowls or ramekins

Put water in a small bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin. Set aside to soften.

Combine cream, milk, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a large saucepan. Over medium heat, stir to dissolve sugar and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and add gelatin. Whisk to dissolve gelatin in cream mixture. Pass through a fine mesh strainer and transfer to a measuring cup with a spout.

Evenly divide into four glasses, small bowls or ramekins. Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Wasabi glaze

            Adding the sweet element of the juice as a liquid to thin down the wasabi does not diminish the kick it offers, but it does create some complexity that is well suited to the other flavor components.


1 tablespoon wasabi powder or paste

1 tablespoon orange juice

Mix together wasabi and orange juice in a small dish. It should reach the consistency that is freely falls from a spoon in a steady stream. Add more juice or water if necessary.


Place several drops of wasabi glaze over vanilla panna cotta, so that it barely covers the surface. Top with apple-celery granita and serve promptly.

Let’s not be reasonable…

I cut out a quote years ago from Gourmet magazine written by Ruth Reichl that is taped to my computer in my office. It reads:

“Moderation in all things is a mantra we’ve been hearing a lot about of late. It is healthy. It is sane. It is morally correct. It is also very boring. I much prefer people with passions. There is nothing more exciting than watching someone fall so deeply in love – with a food, an object, a way of life – that they throw caution to the wind and follow their heart.”

So true. I do not find myself just leaving well-enough alone; if it’s not broke,don’t fix it – this I reject. My husband Robert and I have opened and closed (or sold) many restaurants over the years; New City Cafe, Krause Dining (a few times, it’s a long story), The Burger Stand at Dempsey’s, The Burger Stand at College Hill, The Burger Stand at the Casbah, and Esquina. Maybe this reveals an attention deficit problem, but I prefer to think of it as a pursuit of passions. Our work life together has changed so many times it is dizzying. A lot has changed professionally for us over the years we have been married (14 years today!) but room to throw caution to the wind and go in a different direction professionally has provided the most exciting ride I can think of.

This is all to lead in to the fact that we are going to do something different at our restaurant Esquina. We will change the emphasis of the cuisine to Mediterranean with a dose of Spain; elevate the service experience to full table service; alter the interior to make these changes aesthetically pleasing. Our last day of service of the current Esquina is Friday Feb. 10th, we will reopen to the public on Sunday Feb. 19th.

This is exciting stuff for me. We are essentially opening a new restaurant, one in which is going to serve delicious food in a cool environment. It is not a decision that was driven by a sense a moderation, however. No, this is throwing caution to the wind for a restaurant adventure. Will my schedule change and become unpredictable? Likely. Do I know how regular life will happen during this busy time – rides to gymnastics classes, vacuuming the floor, exercising? Not really.

And while experience tells me there will be some bumps along the way, this time I am not bracing myself for them. This time I smile at the future, hoping that I am showing our daughters to not be afraid to take on new challenges. I don’t want them to settle for the healthy, sane or correct at the expense of following their heart. Could that lifestyle cause some bumps along the way? Probably, but at least it won’t be boring.

Cooking Class

I’ve been waiting for the inspiration to hit and low-and-behold it has! Looking over the pages the publisher sent us of our upcoming cookbook has got me excited about the content. So, I’ve decided to teach a cooking class at The Bay Leaf in downtown Lawrence using the same concept we used in our book – combining flavors. I’ll demonstrate some the recipes showing how the same combination of ingredients (like citrus, fennel, and nuts) can be prepared for both savory and sweet preparations. Come and get a sneak peak of some of the recipes from the book (due to be released in October). We’ll eat, drink, and hopefully… be merry.

Here are the details –
Thursday May 6th from 6:30 – 8:30 PM
The Bay Leaf at 717 Massachusetts
$55 per person – includes food, wine, and recipes
All reservations are taken through The Bay Leaf at (785) 842-4544

Hope to see you there!

Buy a Food Memory

An interesting post on Gimundo about “Why a Vacation will make you happier than a new car” has got me thinking. It states that spending your money on experiences (like travel and meals out) will make you happier than spending it on possessions (cars, gadgets, etc.).

We sometimes buy objects like computers and phones that we think we keep us better connected with other people. But they are expensive, they break, get lost and otherwise can cause us more hassle than we want. We want memories, fun, and meaning but that can get lost in the pursuit of the right “thing” to bring ease, comfort, and let’s face it – coolness.

Food memories can be especially vivid – from the smell of the green beans served in your grade school cafeteria to the first (and maybe only) time you tried brains. Sometimes our kids can’t remember what we bought them last year for their birthday, but they recount with detail the time we brought barbecue home and ate it picnic style on their bedroom floor. Or the rough decision of choosing between pina coladas or strawberry daiquiris on vacation. Robert and I had an amazing meal on a rooftop restaurant with friends in Zanzibar in which I can’t even remember what we ate. And yet I wouldn’t trade that experience, and the ability to relish in the memory of it, for anything – even a cute, convertible Mini Cooper.

Maybe it’s another case of “Food is People”.


When two things hang around together long enough they are bound to rub off on to each other – couples end up using the same expressions, dogs and humans seem to actually resemble each other, your daughter takes up her best friend’s habit of using “like” in every sentence.

And so goes it the kitchen as well. I’ve had a lot of fun over the years with making my own infusions, most typically infusing alcohol with various ingredients to make the specialty cocktails that we featured at Krause Dining. The culinary concept of infusing goes beyond the liquor cabinet however, as many sauces (both savory and sweet) are labled as being ‘infused’ with something. At its most basic form, infusing usually involves a liquid spending time with an flavor (like an herb, fruit, or spice), often with the element of heat, to impart flavor to the liquid. The liquid may or may not be strained, resulting a flavor that cannot be separated (unlike your daughter and her best friend).

I’ve made lavender-infused creme anglaise for fresh berries and green tea-infused pot de creme. Robert has always made a variety of infused oils to season his dishes. Stick a few stalks of rosemary in a bottle of olive oil and voila – an infusion.

We are having a lot of fun filling up some jars at the front of our bar at Esquina – infusing rums and tequilas with pineapple, mango, fennel, and spicy peppers. Take a stroll by 8th and Massachusetts and you’ll see them, the clear liquor getting richer with color day by day as the liquid sucks the flavor right out of the ingredient.

Or better yet, stop in and have a drink – the pinepple rum made into a pina colada martini is my new favorite.

The Low-Down on Esquina

Thank you so much to those of you who showed up at Esquina last night, it was great to be among so many friends. Things went well for an opening night with throngs of customers – no major disasters (only a few minor ones). In our effort to get our doors open, we haven’t gotten everything that we want completed – website, written menu, etc. – but it is all coming soon.
In the meantime, here is a bit of clarification on how Esquina works.

**Esquina is open 7 days a week from 11am – 10pm.
**Esquina does not accept reservations. Orders for food are taken at a counter with the menu on a chalkboard. We deliver food, drinks, and desserts to your table.
**Esquina has a very cool bar with fun cocktails that you will want to drink.
**Esquina’s cuisine can be described as ‘upscale taqueria’ (my description, not Robert’s). What do I mean? Come down and check it out!
**Esquina is located at 801 Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence. Street parking can be tough sometimes, but there is a large parking lot behind Esquina, accessible from Vermont Street (one block west of Massachusetts.)

Thanks for being so awesome, I hope to see you soon.