Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Whispering Pines

A long, long time ago there was a steakhouse on Auburn-Folsom Road between Folsom and Roseville called The Whispering Pines. I only remember it from my fairly early youth, but I loved it. It was dark and in the triple-digit temperatures of the deep summer months it was deliciously cool. They served great steaks, thick and dry-aged and slightly charred off the grill. They were delivered on metal plates that were nestled on Bakelite trays – the metal plates were heated in the kitchen so the steaks were still sizzling when they got to the table. They had decent sides of house-made scalloped potatoes and little gravy boats of some sort of sauce that was completely superfluous. They also served salads that were composed of iceberg lettuce, a cherry tomato and some shredded canned beets. None of that mattered: At the Whispering Pines, the steaks were the stars of the show.

The Whispering Pines was far from my parents' home, and it was a fairly rare treat when we went. It is long gone now, but we drive by its old location on a fairly regular basis. It is an empty office building now. It is easy to spot, as it is right next to the Whispering Pines trailer park, and, sadly, whenever we drive by my mouth starts watering.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bicycle Building

I have been contemplating the purchase of a new bicycle for about a year now, but choosing which one has become an ever-growing conundrum. The price must be low, but I would like a touring type bicycle. My ideal bike would be a Pashley Gov'nor (3-speed), or, better yet, a Gov'nor Plus Four, but my budget is strictly limited. So, surfing the Internet I sought options.

Eventually I stumbled upon a website called Ratrod Bikes. These are, for the most part, old bikes that are brought back to life with little concern about the original nature of the specific bicycle. On this site, one of the special interest sections is devoted to what they call "Board Track" bikes, or bicycles that are hotrodded in the spirit of the old racing cycles from the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. They have lots of really innovative and old style bikes on that site which are based on frames that are more modern than the bikes that they are emulating.

In any case, the short version of this story is that I really want to build my bike in the spirit of the Pashley, but based on a more modern style and less expensive frame. I am planning to get a late 70s or early 80s Motobecane touring bike frame. I am going to paint the frame black and equip it as a three-speed. I am going to get some period style downswept handlebars and, hopefully, a pair of painted rims on which to mount either white or brown period style tires. Overall, I want to evoke the look of a 1930s style gentleman's touring cycle on a more modern and much lighter frame.

If this project sees the next phase I will post updates and photos.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Grown Up Lemonade

Whilst watching a terrific old episode of The Galloping Gourmet the other day, Graham Kerr reminded me of what a fantastic combination lemon and cardamom make. And this time of year we are always looking for a cool cocktail to moderate the 105° temperatures. I think that this classic fits the bill.

Cardamom Lemonade

  • 40 whole cardamom pods, coarsely cracked with the side of a heavy knife
  • 1 cup sugar or honey
  • 3 cups good water
  • 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 750 ml bottle inexpensive asti – you want something sweet and light, not syrupy. Our current favorite is Cinzano Asti available at BevMo and probably a grocery store near you.
  • Good ice
  • Lemon slices and mint leaves for garnish
Combine cracked cardamom pods, sugar or honey and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes, attending carefully so it does not begin to caramelize. Cool completely and refrigerate for at least 2 hours – this may be done up to three days in advance.

Strain into a 3 quart pitcher. Add lemon juice and Asti. Depending on the honey/sugar/Asti used, you may want to add additional sweetening now. Serve in tall, generously iced glasses with a slice of lemon in the glass and a sprig of mint atop, if desired.

Makes 6 servings. Serves 1.