Last fall, I headed up to northern Wisconsin with My brother and some friends. During that trip, two of the bunch proposed a monthly cook-off. The original theme was simply ‘make Your s*** fancy.’ What can I say, it was a weekend of drinking, shooting and dirt bikes. The feast idea changed slightly after that and starting this past January, Fancy Feast had begun. Instead of making it a competition, it is a slightly less intense meal making endeavor. Four courses minimum, guests bring a bottle of decent booze as tribute, or declare themselves the next host/cook for the feast.
First up was My friend Keith, who made some beet and cheese appetizers that were quite good. Followed by a lobster and shrimp torta with lima beans, avacodo topped with seasoned cream cheese and an encrusted herby salmon bake. Then, He banged out a lovely candied bacon, puffed cream and brownie desert.
February went to My brother, Chris. Churning out seven dishes and various drinks. I did however neglect to catch a picture of the fresh pumpkin bread desert. Pictured are His mushroom soup, with leeks. Egg cooked in swirling water and hash, a topper variety plate, cold soba and soy sauce, what I think was a chorizo dish and meatballs cooked forever in a pho soup stock.
I called March’s meal. My theme was simply to do something different. So, no stir-fry. No grill, or smoker. No cajun spices, chili blends, sherry, or even soy sauce. I struggled a bit, making multi-course meals that come round after round doesn’t mesh particularly well with My laid back, ‘just throw some stuff together and hope it’s good’ cooking tendencies. I produced the minimum of four dishes. Bacon and baby lima bean soup, spicy sweet potato mash with roasted brocolli and pistachios on toast, fruit stuffed pork tenderloin roll and finished with citrus gratin. The desert was kind of odd honestly, but it had much potential to be delicious. Something to ponder on how to go about improving.
I have expanded the ‘tropical Minnesotan attic jungle’ again. I bought six new dwarf citrus trees from Four Winds Growers out in California. I probably shouldn’t have ordered them during the hottest time of the year thus far. The two younger trees arrived looking good. Some of the others seem to have suffered from the heat of being trapped in an unventilated box, inside a baking semi trailer for two and a half days. The little ones are a Valencia orange and a new Kieffer lime to replace My old one that had an unbeatable scale infestation. I aquired a second Improved Meyer lemon tree as well.
Due to many favorable reviews around the web, I also opted to get an Oroblanco grapefruit tree. They don’t get pink/red, but are said to be very pot friendly and unlike most citrus, doesn’t need a lot of summer heat to sweeten the fruit. Sounds like a no brianer to Me.
Then there is the Gold Nugget mandarin orange tree. Which is very bushy and compact, but has been in a state of perpetual drooping since it got here. It doesn’t appear to be dying, but has yet to show Me any signs of changing it’s current mood.
Rounding out the order is a Mexican Sweet lime tree, which does not look the greatest either. All of the most recently grown leaves are curled up really tightly. I am assuming for now that it was heat during shipping that caused these little trees to look so glum. They have been here for 10 days now and none of them look like they are going to die. Maybe they will bounce back after this 90+ degree weather passes. Hopefully I can take better care of these trees than I have with some of My older ones. Having ordered trees from the same grower a couple of years ago and gaining My own growing experience over the last few years, I believe that things should be ok. So long as I can keep the scale away from them.
This Year was My second mandarin orange harvest. Eleven times more fruit than last year’s haul, which was one orange. The tree that gave Me that orange, gave three this year, in an escalating size range of two, to nearly four inches in diameter. They were VERY sweet and not particularly acidic. The largest one however was quite bland in flavor, I think I picked it too late? My other satsuma tree gave Me eight little oranges. I picked them in varying lengths of time after turning bright orange. Today, I picked the last five, about a month later than I think I should have. Quite a day, plucking fresh oranges from a tree when it is 7 degrees(F) outside..
The fruits from this tree were far more acidic and powerful in flavor, but not as sweet as the ones from it’s sister. They are the same age and from the same source, but I planted them in very different soil mixtures, to see what would work better. I can only assume that this, is what caused such dramatic variation in the experience delivered to My taste buds.
Having also plucked the last meyer lemon, there is just one fruit left growing in My tropical Minnesotan attic jungle. It is the first grapefruit from My nearly six year old ruby red tree.
There is nothing like freshly harvested food. It has been great to experience the cycle of these trees and of course, reap the rewards! I can’t wait to see what I get next year.