Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Belated Valentine

This is a rather belated time to be writing about love, what with Valentine’s Day being last Tuesday and all. But love isn’t a cliché to me, nor do I believe it should only be considered a once a year phenomenon. Love comes in more colors than white, red, or pink, and it certainly symbolizes more than fat golden-haired cupids and chocolates in a heart-shaped box.

I do admit, however, that I love receiving cards and silly gifts and flowers (the Iris species being my favorite) around this time of year. And yes, I did fall under the stereotype of being a cynical single when I was a teen, filled with unrequited love and youthful angst. Maybe it has to do with currently having a boyfriend, but I found that besides a lovey-dovey text in the morning, that was all I really wanted. 

We don’t need a designated holiday for something we feel every day. We have a lifetime of days to celebrate it. 

For our second anniversary we celebrated two weeks later, simply because he was in Harrisonburg and I was up in Old Town and Fairfax, both of us working. I went down and was immediately swept off my feet to Oakland, MD, in a large cabin by the lake for a night and a day, filled with his spirited and industrious colleagues. While they worked, I made healthful oatmeal cookies (more on that later), went for a light run until it started snowing, and began a fiction novel I’d been more or less thinking about for over a year. After that, we drove back to Harrisonburg for a night on the town, more specifically a very romantic dinner at the Joshua Wilton House.

Right when we're heading out...

One new feature to the Meals with Morri site you may have noticed is the link of lists titled “Restaurants, Coffee shops, and Foodie fun… Oh My!” on the side column of the webpage. It occurred to me that there have been plenty of places I’ve eaten at or bought cool kitchen stuff (i.e., food, books, and gadgets) since my gluten free adventure began, and I should honor them for it. Actually, it was after visiting this wonderful restaurant that I came up with the idea.

The Joshua Wilton House is a mere few minute’s drive from James Madison University. Much like Choices By Shawn in Fairfax, the restaurant was built inside a renovated home from another era. The majestic interior and exterior of the building itself, the romantic appeal of the soft lighting and separate dining areas, the mouthwatering aromas wafting from the kitchen in harmonious waves and tones, and the beautiful artwork that laced the halls raised the standard of fine dining for me.

Unfortunately, since cell phones were to be turned off or silenced, I felt that taking photos of the food with my DSLR camera was also out of the question.

In a way, not being in Meals with Morri mode turned my focus to the food I was eating and the company I was with. Without my camera, it was like falling in love all over again and experiencing everything without the barrier of the lens. 

So why am I writing about this restaurant so admiringly when there's a boyfriend to love and cookies to bake? Besides the fact that I believe the chef is a brilliant mastermind in the culinary field, the hosting and waiting staff went above and beyond in their tasks of making it a perfect evening for this gluten freer and her date. I made reservations online for two, and in the comment box I listed my dietary restrictions and that we were so excited to have dinner there. Hours before dinner I receive a call with the assurance that most of the entrees could be made gluten free or were gluten free already. Almost all were soy free anyway, and they typically didn’t add refined sugar to their food unless it was for dessert.

For dinner I had the duck confit that fell apart with a slight prodding of my fork on top of a sweet potato puree that melted in my mouth. The plate was decorated with pan seared Brussels sprouts and bacon pieces caramelized to perfection and a red wine reduction I am still raving about. I think hed had a rack of lamb over soba noodles (not gluten free), but I don’t remember the details of his dish since they change their menu so often. We drank wine, ate delicious and perfectly portioned meals, held hands and lovingly looked into each other’s eyes. Naturally, it was only fitting to finish off the meal with dessert.

For a while, we debated whether or not to have dessert. The only gluten free dessert they have is their crème brulèe, but they said it would be no trouble to make a fruit cup. So, with a pot of “Mandarin Silk” tea (with hints of lemon myrtle, marigold, and vanilla), we were served fruit drizzled with honey-sweetened yogurt in a martini glass.

No matter where we go in life, I hope to make dining at the Joshua Wilton House an annual tradition. Next time, however, we’re staying at the inn connected to the restaurant for the full package.

Now, about these cookies…

I mean, I guess you can call them cookies, but they’re more like easy handfuls of breakfast or cylindrical oatmeal bars that pair wonderfully with a strong cup of Joe. Had they been made smaller, I think they would have been more cookie-like, with crispy edges and a nice gooey center. But I loved the moist crumb from the Applesauce, the explosion of juices and color the fresh Blueberries provided, and the natural sweetness of the dried Currants. Consequently, the A-B-C oatmeal cookie was born.

This recipe would go well topped with ice cream as a dessert, a fika treat for any time of the day with a cup of tea, and definitely a great breakfast for a person on the go.

ABC Oatmeal Cookies

56 g Coconut oil
1 1/4 tsp. Baking soda
338 g applesauce
240 g CGF rolled oats
2 Eggs
175 g Peanut butter (if unsalted, add 1/2 tsp. Sea salt to the recipe)
75 g Dried currants
100 g Fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the wet ingredients (coconut oil, applesauce, eggs, and peanut butter) until lump free with an electric mixer or by hand.
Fold in the dry ingredients and leave on the counter to let the dough set and rise slightly.
Line two or more baking sheets (depending on how large you want the cookies to be) with parchment paper and put the desired amount of cookie dough at least two inches apart (this cookie will spread).
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the cookies are baked throughout.*
Raise the parchment papers and lay them on cooling racks until room temperature before serving (I couldn’t wait that long… and they were delightful warm).
 Makes 15 large cookies (or 45 small ones).

*Baking time will vary depending on size.

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