Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Plant City Strawberry Agua Fresca

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Traveling to Florida is always a bit perplexing, foodwise. Has anyone else ever wondered how the sunny coast of California inspired smoothies and gourmet vegetarianism, while Florida is perfectly content with chain restaurants and a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner? Add to that the fact that the state surrounded on three sides with water is a virtual wasteland when it comes to safe, sustainable seafood choices (as per Seafood Watch‘s handy iPhone app), and well, it can be easier to try not to think while eating out. (Gulf shrimp, when you can find them, appear to be the safest choice.) We didn’t even time our trip to catch a weekend farmers market, so a quick stop at a roadside stand promising Plant City strawberries was the extent of our local food foraging (well, aside from taking advantage of my sister’s citrus trees). 

Plant City, Florida, is the winter strawberry capital of the world. While you can find Florida strawberries in supermarkets down here, the ones at the farmstand seemed fresher and juicier — without that telltale white top of berries picked before ripeness.

I picked up a couple quarts and made a pitcher of agua fresca back at the house. This is a fun project with kids, particularly if they’re old enough to safely hull strawberries. (If not, they can take a pass at plucking the stems at least.) Instead of lime juice, I used an orange from one of the trees at my sister’s house — one whose fruit tastes almost like a cross between a lime and an orange.

Recipe: Strawberry Agua Fresca
adapted from Cooking Light


  • 6 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of the berries)
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

Instructions: In a tall pitcher, stir 1/4 cup sugar into the water until dissolved. Place strawberries in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into the pitcher. Stir in the orange juice, taste, and add additional sugar if desired. Chill in refrigerator several hours. Garnish glasses with a small strawberry, and enjoy! Makes 8 cups.

The finished drink was lighter than a smoothie, cool and refreshing, and a big hit with the kids. A sweet end to a day at the beach and a nice taste of things to come as our own berry season is just around the corner.

Eat, Play, Love the Columbia Gorge

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Part 3 of 3 in the Oregon 2009 travelogue, and the first in an occasional “Eat, Play, Love” series* of quick notes and reviews from our family’s favorite places.

The past several years our trips to Oregon have included jaunts to the Coast, but limited time this year sent us east of Portland, instead, for a day-trip up the Columbia Gorge. It’s too gorgeous (haha) to do it justice in a short post, but here are a couple highlights. The most well-known of the Gorge’s incredible waterfalls is Multnomah, but there are about a dozen in total along the Historic Columbia River Highway scenic route, several visible from the road and others you’ll have to hike in to see.

columbia gorge waterfalls oregon

EAT: Pack a picnic to eat at the base of Multnomah Falls, where you can watch salmon smolts swimming and get up close and personal with passing freight trains. (Keep an eye out for roadside stands on the scenic route by Crown Point offering fresh berries or other seasonal produce.) There is a restaurant if you don’t want to pack your own food, and you can reward hungry little hikers with soft-serve ice cream and/or fudge at the base of the falls. If you time your day to end, as we did, in Hood River, mom and dad will enjoy the libations at independently-owned Full Sail full sail at hood riverBrewing Co., where they do have a verbal children’s menu if you ask, and kids and parents alike will enjoy the view of tug boats, barges and kitesurfers in the river below.

PLAY: Swimming is no longer allowed in the pool beneath Multnomah Falls after a large chunk of rock broke off several years ago. But you can continue a little further down the road to Horsetail Falls and splash or swim at will in the refreshingly cool pool. Water shoes recommended as the bottom is rocky. Kids who can hike at greater than a .25 mile per hour pace will enjoy the loop behind upper Horsetail, where you can actually walk behind the fall. Out at Hood River, beaches provide ample playing space for smaller kids, and the adventurous can sign up for windsurfing or kitesurfing lessons.

LOVE: It’s been 14 years since I lived in Oregon, so I rely on NW Kids and several Oregonians I follow on Twitter for new ideas or reminders of old favorites when we head back: some faves, @magazinemama (of NW Kids), @LizEBoz, @designmama, @pdxmama, @lelonopo, @sarahgilbert, and @thiskat.

* I thought I was being clever with my “Eat, Play, Love” theme riff on the best-selling book Eat, Pray, Love, but it turns out someone else beat me to it. Check out her fun blog, too – especially this awesome kitchen sink salad on a waffle.

At the Beaverton Ore. Farmers Market, SuperBlueberry, Hot Crepes and Cold Berry Sodas

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Part 2 of 3 in our Oregon travelogue. Read about our farmers market visit, or skip to the end for some Maryland local food events this weekend!

beaverton farmers marketAs I mentioned previously, it is berry season in Oregon and the food theme of our trip can be summed up in three words: berries, berries, and berries. We found more than a few at our market destination of choice this trip. The Beaverton Farmers Market, one of Oregon’s largest markets, is located in a western suburb of Portland and has a distinctly family-friendly vibe. From the balloon man to the kettle corn to the live music, kids have plenty to tempt their eyes and taste buds, not to mention the fountain to cool off in and adjacent playground.

Have you ever met a Superfood in person? We did, the charming Super Blueberry who handed out recipe pamphlets courtesy of the Oregon Blueberry Commission. (Really, blueberries need marketing? How do I sign my kid up for that gig? They could pay him in berries.) My son was thrilled to receive a bookmark “with smiling blueberries because blueberries make me happy!”

super blueberry

I could go on all day about the wonderful produce – artichokes, sweet sugar snap peas, Walla Walla onions, Rainier cherries, apricots, dried cherries – meats and seafood, bread and baked goods, wine (yes, wine tasting at market), flavored vinegars and of course some of my favorite cheeses, not to mention the coffee truck (Pony Espresso) and cold drinks served in compostible cups — or the fact that I didn’t even make a complete pass through the market and still left green with envy — but I’ll just point you towards two favorites to wrap up your shopping trip with a satisfying brunch: Zest crepes and Hot Lips local berry sodas.

brunch at beaverton farmers mkt

You might be surprised to hear such a ringing endorsement from me for a soda, but Hot Lips Soda is truly a special treat that kids will love and you foodie tot\'s first sodacan feel good about. Hot Lips is a Portland pizza chain I had more than a few pies from during my high school years, but since I’ve left town they’ve branched out to create their own line of all-natural, locally-sourced fruit and berry sodas. The ingredients are simply carbonated water, fruit, cane sugar and organic lemon juice. In that order. While sweet, they taste of pure, ripe fruit, without that chemically-sweet aftertaste of conventional sodas. Strawberry is so fruit-laden it is almost as thick as a smoothie, and the strawberry flavor is so intense you may have a hard time settling for a plain old berry after drinking this. My favorite is the boysenberry, the heady, fragrant berry just tastes of summer. Pear is crisp and clean, and you can get a few limited-edition flavors, like currant or loganberry, on tap at their stores. And not only are the ingredients local, but the bottles are manufactured from recycled glass in Portland.

sweet basil crepe Zest crepes are made to order from market-fresh ingredients, fun for the kids to watch and of course they have their own menu options to choose from. The boy enjoyed the “Cheese Louise,” naturally, and I had the “Sweet Basil” with basil, tomato, feta and mozzarella. Delicious. If only I had had room to try a sweet version as well, with flavor combinations including berries and mascarpone, berries and Nutella, and lemon curd and ricotta. Zest debuted at the market this year and plans to open a stand-alone shop in the near future, but for now you can find them at the market on Saturdays, 8am-1:30pm, May through October. (The market is also open Wednesday afternoons, June through August.) See more pictures of our market finds here.

Note for DC-area local food lovers: Maryland’s Buy Local Week is wrapping up this weekend, and you can celebrate the best of the Old Line State close to town with the Montgomery County Farm Tour or venture further afield to St. Michaels for the 2nd annual Chesapeake Folk Festival on Saturday — my favorite local foods event of the year. And if these crepes have you drooling, visit Farm Fresh Chef up at the Clarksburg Md. farmers market on Sunday (or make your own).

And, save the dates for National Farmers Market Week, August 2-9, which will be observed in Virginia with a Virginia Grown recipe competition.

One Local Summer, Pacific NW edition

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

We made our annual trek to the Pacific Northwest this past weekend, a little earlier than in recent years which put us smack in the middle of berry season.

sauvie island berries or

It was, as always, too short a visit and I didn’t manaburgerville milkshakege to cook anything myself this time. (Oh, how those lovely artichokes at the market taunted me as we were headed back out of town! Not to mention the local fishermen …. oh, that beautiful red wild salmon. Sigh.)

We did savor our quick stop at Burgerville, home grown fast food with a sustainable flair, where we enjoyed Walla Walla onion burgers and fresh raspberry shakes. How green is Burgerville? The kids meal toy is a tomato seed kit!

After an afternoon kayaking on Sauvie Island, we stopped at Kruger’s Farm Market for ice cream, cold drinks (homegrown Henry Weinhard’s Black Cherry cream soda for me) and fresh berries – Kotata blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries, blueberries — all perfectly ripe and oh so sweet.

That evening the boy took a ride on Grandma’s horse, snacked on fresh-picked blackberries and passed out sticky and content on the drive home.

kayaking sauvie island or

Pacific NW Snapshots: Barking Dog Farms

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

On last year’s trip to the Oregon coast, my mom and I visited the Lincoln City Farmers Market and came across the largest zucchini I’d ever seen. This year, we headed to the source, Barking Dog Farms, just south of Lincoln City at the base of the Siletz River. This was perhaps the greenest, lushest little farm I’ve ever seen, clearly benefiting from the cool, damp climate. The toddlers snacked on watermelon and picked dandelions while the rest of us checked out the offerings.

My sister-in-law chatted with the owner about their heirloom seed supplier as we drooled over the beautiful tomatoes, zucchini, and cut-to-order herbs and greens. I brought back a large, freshly harvested leek, garlic chives, romanesco zucchini, black russian tomato, pluots and some local goatzarella cheese from Fraga Farm. The leek and chives were used in my oven-roasted salmon, and I made a roasted zucchini, tomato and goatzarella salad to serve on the side. Just two of those hearty zucchini fed the entire family of 10!

Hitting the road soon? Check out Culinate’s “Local 50: Good things to eat in every state.”