Fill Up this February

“Why do I write about food? Because like other humans, I am hungry…. but more than that, our three basic needs, for food, security and love are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.” ~ M.F.K. Fisher, iconic food writer, author of 27 books, including Consider the Oyster and How to Cook a Wolf

So, aren’t we lucky that February comes with tons of fabulous food! 

It’s time for CRAB!

Dungeness crab season is here, and hundreds of crab feeds are in full swing along coastal California. Charity groups, service organizations, high school athletic clubs, and many others have found crab feeds to be a dependable source for annual fundraising while serving good food and fostering community service. Silent and live auctions often add to the festivities.     

All you can eat crab extravaganzas likely arrived here when Northeast settlers migrated west and attempted to replicate mid-Atlantic crab boils with the fat, sweet Dungeness crab they found in the Pacific.  The term “crab feed” made its debut in the Baltimore Sun in 1902. 

Crab feeds evolved into fundraisers in the 1960s and early 1970s—crab was relatively cheap, and could be cooked, cracked and cleaned ahead of time. Now, most crab feeds include garlic bread, pasta and salad. It’s usually BYOB (bring your own butter!) with a no-host bar nearby. Some people bring butter warmers and crab crackers but the casual, fun ambience requires nothing but your appetite.   

Contribute to the cause of your choice while enjoying the season’s most delectable crustacean treats. Check out this month’s calendar of events and choose a crab feed near you!

Who doesn’t love the good times and good food that come with MARDI GRAS?

The Mardi Gras Carnival season begins on the twelfth night, January 6, also known as Three Kings Day, marking the day when many believe the Three Wise Men visited baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Carnival season ends on Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) on February 13, 2024, the day before Ash Wednesday. This is the final day of feasting and celebration before the beginning of Lent in the Christian faith. Although celebrated worldwide, there is a particular over-the-top revelry in Mobile, Alabama, and New Orleans, Louisiana, with lavish masked balls and float processions throughout the season. 

King Cake” is traditionally served on Three Kings Day and up until the eve of Mardi Gras to celebrate the coming of the three kings.

This year, our own One House Bakery is offering beautiful King Cakes in two sizes. You can pre-order online for pick up on February 10 and 11. They may also be available from the bakery case. 

The Workshop in Benicia offers outstanding Cajun and New Orleans specialties, galore. You can’t lose with Fried Catfish, Red Beans & Rice, or that super special Oyster Po Boy.

If you’re in the mood to spend some time in your cozy kitchen, here’s a special Gumbo recipe adapted from Mr. B’s Bistro, part of the famous Brennan family of restaurants in New Orleans. 

Gumbo Ya-Ya 

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil 
  • 3 Tablespoons flour 
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced or chopped 
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped 
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped 
  • 1 cup cooked white chicken, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon butter 
  • 2 teaspoons gumbo file seasoning
  • 2 cups good chicken stock or chicken bone broth

 

ROUX:  Heat oil in a heavy Dutch oven, preferably cast iron.  Add flour and cook on medium heat stirring constantly until as dark as possible without burning. This can take 15 – 20 minutes or more. Remove from heat immediately. The darker the roux, the better the flavor. 

In another saucepan, sauté andouille, onions, green pepper in butter for about 10 minutes.  Add 2 cups of chicken stock, simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn up heat and bring to a gentle boil. Add roux, mixing thoroughly, and let simmer for 10 minutes more. Add the chicken and salt and pepper to taste. Serve over Uncle Ben’s converted rice. Add hot sauce or pepper flakes to taste. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley or scallions if desired. 

Serves 4 hungry Cajuns.

Treat Yourself and Your Valentine! 

Valentine’s Day, also called the Feast of St. Valentine, has become a celebration of romance and love in most of the world. The day became associated with love in the 14th and 15th centuries when “notions of courtly love” flourished like “lovebirds” in early spring. Love is in the air!

  • One House Bakery offers a delightfully delicious Valentine’s 5-course meal by pre-order. Vegetarian available. And, specialty hand-made chocolates, of course. 
  • Benicia Main Street conveniently carries See’s Candy in seasonal heart shaped Valentines Day boxes. It doesn’t get any better than See’s.
  • The Chill Wine Bar is offering a chocolate and wine pairing on February 14th at 5:30 pm—the perfect combination!
  • Fox and Fawn Bakehouse is all about sweet desserts—order a special cake topped with fresh flowers or share their famous cupcakes.
  • Drift Benicia is featuring a gorgeous Rose Vanilla Latte sprinkled with romantic rosebuds!
  • The Cafe at the Inn at Benicia Bay announces a special Valentine’s Day menu along with other local restaurants including Bella Siena, Aung MayLika, Venticellos Ristorante, Baxters Restaurant & Bar, Lucca Bar & Grill and others.  Choose your favorite eatery. Reservations are a must! 

Here’s an impressive prelude with which to pamper your sweetheart as you start your Valentine’s Day celebration:

Not Your Father’s Champagne Cocktail

  • 1/2 ounce each of Brandy, Cointreau, orange juice 
  • Dash of Chambord
  • Champagne

Shake all but champagne in shaker with ice. Strain into a flute or coupe glass. Top with champagne and add an orange twist if desired. 

Lovely!  Happy Valentine’s Day!