cookbook travels and banana bread squared

A show of hands here–who brings cookbooks home from their travels?

Even with the rise of the electronic recipe (my 11-year-old daughter Googles recipes, despite her mother’s large cookbook collection), paper cookbooks remain popular vacay take-homes. They give travelers return trips, even if just in mind and taste buds.

Opening Makers Mark® The Special Touch cookbook, a Kentucky purchase, I smell the bourbon of distillery tours. When the pages of Savoring San Diego are flipped, I see the ubiquitous flowers of that fair city. The Montana Cookbook brings back a sense of open land and Simply Colorado invites visions of rocky mountains.

While relatively close to home, the city of Duluth was another vacation spot worth remembering. (Culinary details from last summer’s camping trip recorded here.) An especially impressive restaurant stop was The Duluth Grill, and their cookbook told the tale of evolution from Ember’s franchise to one-of-a-kind comfort-food haven. The parking lot garden speaks volumes to their emphasis on fresh, locally sourced, and sustainably raised ingredients.

The book’s $30 price tag gave me pause and I left without, knowing I’d find it online for far less. Except I didn’t. The Duluth Grill Cookbook was available only on the restaurant website. I kicked myself (and certainly deserved a kick for not supporting small business when I had the chance), but found redemption in a friend who was making a quick trip that way. She, too, is a big fan of this much-loved restaurant and agreed to bring the cookbook back for me.

sauce with bookJust last week, then, I finally held a copy of this beautiful and lovely book in my hands. To prove its worth, I immediately set out to make Tofu and Walnut Marinara (taking a pass on the walnuts). It was hearty, flavorful, and packed with good-for-you veggies. Two days later it tasted even better and I know I’ll be making this sauce again.

now THIS is a tofu marinara sauce

now THIS is a tofu marinara

beet lemonade and it was really quite good

beet lemonade and it was really quite good

I have my eye on the Ratatouille recipe as well as the Buffalo Tofu Strips, both dishes I enjoyed while there. I’d also love to make their Beet Lemonade, though will have to riff on their standard Lemonade recipe as they do not share the beet version I was so enamored with during my visit.

Minnesota’s bitter cold winter called for a baking recipe, so I also made TDG’sr Chocolate Chip Cookies. In the same manner as an earlier cookie adventure, I experimented with each baking sheet, sprinkling some unbaked cookies with chocolate salt, some with vanilla salt and also mixing in marshmallow bits and even leftover movie popcorn that was sitting on the counter just asking to be poured into the remaining batter. Even without my improv, these cookies were amazing and hit all the right sweet, salty, tender, crisp notes.

cookies

because one photo of these amazing cookies would not have been enough

because one photo of these amazing cookies would not have been enough

So here’s to cookbooks and here’s to travel and here’s to those cookbook gems we find when we travel. If you’re looking for the recipe for either the sauce or cookies, let me know in comments or at deLizious facebook and I’ll pass them on your way.

And speaking of sharing recipes, I’ve been on a bit of a banana bread binge lately after finding two renegade recipes on favorite food blogs that demanded to be made. The Cottage Grove House rocked my world with Rye Whiskey Banana Bread

there's rye whiskey in my banana bread!

there’s rye whiskey in my banana bread!

and Shanna over at Curls and Carrots kept my spirits up with Rum-a-Dum-Dum Banana Bread. Thanks, ladies, for two fabulous loaves!

rum-spiked banana bread

rum-spiked banana bread

campy food and more

My husband and I both camped when we were younger and want to enjoy these trips with our family as well. Yet, it went so poorly with babies that we set those plans aside a few years until our daughters were at a better age for travel. Last year we hit South Dakota and it went amazingly well–we wanted another week of camping this summer. So we headed to Minnesota’s North Shore, which offers miles of gorgeous Lake Superior views.

Hiking, shopping, tenting–all good. But my favorite part of camping–and travel in general–will always be the food. Memories of childhood camping include my mom planning menus and packing food in crates and coolers. Mom is far more organized than I, so my planning and packing efforts pale in comparison, but just the same I love to think through meal possibilities and pack accordingly.

Then there are meals out, which I like having at one-of-a-kind stops along the way. (Though there’s compromise as kids and husband appreciate the Taco Bells and Subways of the road.) I armed myself with a ripped-out feature from a local paper titled Destination Duluth: Where to eat right now, circling the places I wanted to hit. And…

toasting

toasting

Breakfast

Many of my husband’s family’s friends gave us camping gear as wedding gifts, most likely with the hope of taming the “city” in his “city girl” bride. One such gift was a camp-stove toaster, which toasted sourdough English muffins for egg sandwiches. We’d also brought an Italian-spiced bacon from a favorite meat market and I’m already planning a return trip for more.20130816_081949

Lunch

Typical drive-in food at A & Dubs.

Chicken basket, fries, cole slaw. The butterscotch malt? Already gone!

Chicken basket, fries, cole slaw. The butterscotch malt? Already gone!

The Duluth Grill makes a great case for going your own way. Originally partners in the Ember’s chain, the owners tell of the day they ran out of pancake mix. Choosing to make their own ‘cakes from scratch–which tasted better and cost less–was a light-bulb moment. Their partnership with Ember’s eventually flamed out and they now have vegetable and herb gardens (the server’s shirts read “Veggies fresh from the parking lot.”) and serve imaginative fare–some out-there, some more down-home–all of it made onsite using local and organic ingredients. My one regret was not having room for the When Pigs Fly sundae: vanilla ice cream topped with cherrywood-smoked bacon, pecans, homemade caramel sauce, and Hawaiian red sea salt.

buffalo tofu strips

buffalo tofu strips

bison burger with homemade onion rings

bison burger with homemade onion rings

ratatouille over polenta sprinkled with goat cheese

ratatouille over polenta sprinkled with goat cheese

beet lemonade--surprisingly tasty!

beet lemonade–surprisingly tasty!

20130813_113627While not technically a lunch stop, I enjoyed wandering a downtown outpost of the Duluth Farmer’s Market. My favorite find: curry coconut granola.

Supper

My oldest daughter likes to have her night as head chef to serve up Girl Scout Gumbo (no scouts were harmed in the making of this dish, haha). A hearty mixture of potato, ground beef, bell pepper, alphabet soup, and onion, it goes over especially well when camping.

girl scout gumbo with a side of veg

girl scout gumbo with a side of veg

Hobo dinners are another childhood camping memory, so these fire pit-roasted beef-and-veggie packets were on our list. We changed it up by using chorizo instead of beef and I’ll never go back. The chorizo’s spices (and fat) gave the veggies immeasurable flavor and tenderness.

hobo dinner chorizo-style

hobo dinner chorizo-style

I’d read earlier about cooking breadsticks over a campfire, so had made up a ziploc of dry mix at home and added the liquids at the campsite. They were tricky to cook on a stick, as they tended to droop with the heat and fall into the fire. And cooking too close to the flames left them charred. What finally worked? Laying them in a skillet and turning them often.2013-08-12 18.37.09

Dessert

banana boats with c chips, mini 'mallows, and cut-up caramel pieces

banana boats with c chips, mini ‘mallows, and cut-up caramel pieces

Banana boats and s’mores. Typical campfire treats, but the s’mores were extra special this year as I’d made graham crackers à la Smitten Kitchen before leaving home.

gimme s'more!

gimme s’more!

skidmarks on my heart

skidmarks on my heart

Positively Third Street Bakery: This tiny gem’s cookies sold out quickly. We never made it before noon in our two visits (to go back twice in five days says something about how badly we needed these cookies), so only had a few to choose from. Handwritten labels listed basic ingredients such as butter and sugar, but each variety had an extra “something.” Adventure, perhaps. Or Joy, Love, Good Times. Our favorite is the Skidmark: deep chocolate, hit of espresso, chocolate chips, etc. And the “special ingredient”? Burnt rubber–what else?

Betty’s Pies is state-famous (though the website claims world fame) for its North Shore location and crazy good pies. Just as fun is the kitschy blue-and-white checker decor.

apple, coconut cream, 5-layer chocolate a la Betty

apple, coconut cream, 5-layer chocolate à la Betty

Another bit of culinary fun my oldest brought to the trip was ice-cream-in-a-bag. In a 1-quart ziploc, she combined 1/2 cup milk (didn’t seem to matter if it was full-fat, skim, chocolate, nonfat half-and-half–everything worked), 2-4 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and pinch of salt. After sealing the bag, she put it in another ziploc and surrounded the sealed bag with rock salt and ice. Five or so minutes of tossing the bag from one hand to another (wrapping it in a towel makes it easier to handle) turned out top-notch soft-serve ice cream. Because we’d picked up malted milk balls at a candy shop that day, we crushed a few and mixed them into the ice cream for a bit of texture and extra flavor.

ice cream in under 10 minutes, better than DQ

ice cream in under 10 minutes, better than DQ

Northern Waters Smokehaus came highly recommended from multiple sources. A quick-order sandwich shop, they also smoke and sell their own meats and if I lived in Duluth it would be a regular stop. Their sandwiches are inventively named (my bahn faux mi layered Berkshire Ham, paté, carrot, cabbage, cilantro, quick pickles, hoisin, chili sauce, and butter–can you even imagine?); I beg you to click on the above link for a taste of their creativity.

a really good sandwich

a really good sandwich

Just for Fun

PhotoGrid_1376430421888Fizzy Waters focuses on sodas of all kinds–vintage and craft especially–as well as a smaller selection of old-fashioned candies. My daughters enjoyed a turn at the make-your-own-soda fountain and I’m giving my youngest the prize for most innovative with her version of Chocolate Sprite.

Duluth Coffee Co. is said to be the antithesis of Starbucks and I can see why with its dark and spare space. As a non-chain fan (see above), I adored it. This coffee is served all around town for good reason. Roasted in-house, it’s fragrant, well-balanced, deep, and dark. I took home a bag–despite the steep price tag–as I need that coffee magic every morning in my own kitchen.

We were glad to come home to warm beds and indoor toilets, but there is so much more food to be enjoyed that we’ll be back. I anticipate a Duluth Dining II post (camping optional) sooner rather than later.