Storms, laughter, nourishment, and beauty. My Girl's Weekend at Grand Beach was all of these and more.
It was a crisp and very cool May afternoon in Grand Beach, Michigan. It was Thursday, the car was packed to the gills, and the GPS chirped happily when we turned into the driveway and surveyed our home for 4 days. Hurrying to see the docile blue waves gently lapping the shoreline, I wished instantly I was running along its edges. But that wasn't to be. My knees were just beginning to respond to the supplements I hoped would remove the agonizing ache in my joints. But it would all be okay. I was spending the whole weekend cooking. I could have command of an expansive culinary space that looked out upon a sapphire horizon. I would be surrounded by women who had known me for nearly three decades. I couldn't wait to unpack, put on my apron, and get to work.
"Yes, Tricia. I will be there for our Beach Girl's Trip!" I had said last fall, quickly answering a heartfelt email from my lifelong friend who needed to gather all of her most special women together for a rendezvous at the water's edge. The condition was I wanted to be the chef for the whole weekend. I wanted to nourish all these friends; these women who have been my safety net for almost 30 years. She accepted my terms without hesitation.
The home was grand, which is an understatement. But then, isn't everything at Grand Beach? It provided a canvas that we painted with tastes and truth. Each of us bringing to the friendship and the table a different skill. Each of us sharing secrets that easily emerged once the first cork was dislodged and the first course served.
As you might guess, I set about getting the lay of the "kitchen," so to speak. Locating the tools, arranging the food, and reviewing the handwritten menu I had scrawled only the day before so everything was poised for perfection.
Our first evening was simple, and full of flavor. Baked cod topped with a Blackberry Ginger Chutney made by simmering oranges and blackberries with ginger, a bit of champagne vinegar, red onions, and a knob of ginger. It was placed atop a puree of cauliflower scented with a hint of coriander, garlic, and cream, and served alongside a simple salad of dressed baby kale. It carried us through the night as we listened to the calm outside turn to a loud and satisfying spring storm and chose between a dessert of Texas sheet cake and delicious apple bars. Each bite represented a nudge up in dress size, but we were in no mood to be good!
I love it when a Friday feels like a Sunday. Leaving the week behind for the sound of yawns and coffee flowing at dawn I arose early on day 2, took on the mantle of nourisher again, and began to chop the vegetables that would fill the personal omelet cups. With the smell of bacon filling the air, and grated cheese falling like lace, we prepped for brunch. Although the eggs were perfect, the star was the small heirloom carrots, sliced lengthwise and roasted in a 425 degree oven with rosemary and orange vinaigrette. After tossing cantaloupe with a hint of lemon and cinnamon it was time to bring on the hungry!
When breakfast is at 10, and dinner is at 7, you need something in between to keep you vertical. After all, the wine was flowing along with the food, so our stomachs growled us into submission and we snack elegantly on a simple apple, celery and walnut salad with lemon herb dressing. It was served with quintessential southern deviled eggs featuring sweet pickle relish and peppadew peppers. Delish!
I'm not sure how we segued, but our plan to go out to dinner Friday evening was quickly voted down. Maybe the desire to eat in started with the first bite of chutney the night before. Perhaps it was the citrus on the roasted carrots at brunch. In any case, the unanimous cry was for me to cook again, and we would cancel our reservations at the swanky eatery 20 minutes away opting instead to gather all 11 of us around our little lake table.
I love a 180 degree shift in food planning. It is my favorite thing to create a meal on the fly. Taking stock of our food inventory for the weekend, which included a few stand-by items, I knew I could put together our feast that night with just a few extra groceries. So after heading to the local market, I purchased some lovely ground turkey, and the ladies bought a few more bottles of wine, along with a bag of perfect Yukon potatoes. Nada decided she would make her famous crepes for dessert, and we were all salivating by the time the first appetizer was served.
By adding orange slices, a bit of balsamic, and some honey to bottled fig jam, I created a glaze for the flavorful Mediterranean turkey meatballs. Adding golden raisins to the meat insured moisture, and a last minute thought to bind the orbs with rice cracker dust since we couldn't find bread crumbs was inspired. We slow simmered onion and potatoes as our side dish.
Then, while it was simmering, I was summoned to the dining room. It was there I would experience the biggest surprise in a long time. I was presented with an apron, signed by all, as a thank-you for nourishing them during our trip. I was so honored, so caught off guard, so danged excited! Ladies, we all know it. Nothing is stronger than a tribe of true friends!
You know me. You know that while I was crying one eye out, I also had the other on the stove. I couldn't burn the meal served on the heels of my honorary apron ceremony! And since all had pitched in while I blubbered, dinner was a success!
Wait, it's now day three and it is only Saturday! WOOHOO! More chances to cook, to nosh, and to make memories. I would make my famous scones along with fresh fruit, cook some sausage, and we would gorge like we hadn't eaten in days. (Or hours!) Good cinnamon, golden raisins, and just the right touch produced these prized scones. All I could think to say was, "tah, dah!!!
Do you feel you've gained 10 pounds just reading this blog entry? Well, don't stop now. Just loosen your waistband and keep reading. There's more to come.
After a trip to Three Oaks, MI for Bourbon tasting and shopping, we settled into our last night of food. Since we felt stuffed, I decided on a meal that represented our affliction by serving spinach and artichoke stuffed chicken breasts, and a colorful side of brandy roasted root vegetables.
Using some of the leftover sausage, and lightening the stuffing by adding a little yogurt instead of all mayonnaise, a simple meal became exquisite. I've long used spirits to help create a depth of flavor with roasted vegetables. If you don't like the taste, I suggest you try a little maple syrup and lemon zest with the oil and salt and pepper. Toss, spread out on a baking dish, and let them become jewels of perfection!
As approach the end of this food journey, we close with a satisfying frittata, served with beautifully ripe fresh fruit and some of the remaining scones. Simple, flavorful, and celebratory. An apt closing for a culinary week that will long be remembered.
Thank you ladies for your honesty, your willingness to be sous chefs, for keeping my wine glass full at all times, and for letting me bind our memories to nourishment and love.
Over and out. Kitchen empty. Hearts full!
Even though I've been back home in North Carolina for awhile, (I was in Utah during July and August!) I can still smell the desert in my nose. The dry, herbal and clay-like aroma of Utah in the summer stays in my soul. It is a place where I grew up. Where I made my parents proud and also made them worry. Where I did things I want to forget, and things I can't seem to remember. Where I first drove a car. Cried over a boy. Went to prom. Had stitches and was crowned Miss Utah State University. (Someday I will tell you more!)
I return now that I'm older to think about how fast the time goes. And to embrace my family with passion. Because family, and food, and love is everything.
When I first arrive in my hometown of Logan, Utah, after a long, cramped plane ride, I go to the grocery store. I can't wait to get my hands on a pan, a knife and some food so I can cook for my tribe and get to the business of being HOME.
I love being inspired by the smallest things, like seeing apple butter and knowing it will make a fantastic sauce for chicken. Or grab a crimson pear knowing that it will sing with happiness if I poach it and top it with cheese and some maple glaze. I buy artisan and commercial brands. Fresh and canned. The point is to nourish with love.
I was able to spend enough time during this visit to be home when both of my sisters had birthdays. It's been a long time since that happened. I was able to have my niece Nicole and her husband Seth show me their new home nearly ready for love. We talk about the double oven; the battle over getting it. And hugged long and hard. I got to meet my new grand niece Quinn, see my superstar niece Maryn on stage, eat at my favorite haunts, and cook twice with Jaren...my niece's Claire's new adorable husband. And I got to hug Ollie and watch him learn so fast it made me dizzy.
But then there was the food. The food that embraced each memory. That tinged each event with love and color. Every plate something I worked hard to create and share. And it's all here for you.
Fresh Trout with Lemon Dill Sauce, Honey Roasted Carrots and Cheese Stuffed Banana Peppers
First of all, I never miss the chance to cook some delicious Utah trout. I used to fish the rivers up Logan Canyon with my dad, watching the iridescent glow of the rainbow scales glisten in the hot summer sun. I loved the smell of it fresh, like life-giving water and grass, and infused the the scent of rain. Delicious. I lightly dusted it with flour and cornmeal and just salt and pepper, topping it with a simple dill sauce made from butter and cream.
Five Spice Turkey Meatballs with Herbed Veloute, and Roasted Vegetables over Ramen
Then, after finding some beautiful garden radishes, and fresh thyme, I set about transforming ground turkey by infusing it with bold middle eastern spices, and sweet raisins. Then serving it with a mild cream sauce over ramen noodles aside roasted potatoes and asparagus and bulb onions. It was as much fun to eat as it was just to stare at!
Turkish Perfumed Chicken Thighs with Gribiche, over Mashed Yukons and Pickled Red Pepper
I had two opportunities to cook with Chef Jaren. Witness his passion. Watch him perfecting techniques. And gettin' all geeky about our favorite knives. The first night we assembled a meal that featured a Gribiche, (tweaked a little and sans the eggs,) and poured over roasted turkish spiced chicken thighs and quick pickled red peppers. Seriously, this is a sauce you have to make for everything. Not only for those you love, but FOR YOURSELF. It will lift your spirits no matter what kind of a day you've had.
Butter Seared Salmon with Hollandaise, Potatoes Lyonnaise, and Orange Scented Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.