Farmer and the Fish

Last night, after 5 or 6 attempts on previous weekends, we were finally able to obtain an 8 pm dinner reservation at Farmer & the Fish, which is a restaurant in the nearby community of Purdy’s. Since its opening this past spring, this restaurant has seemed perpetually busy.
Farmer & the Fish
Located at the crossroads of Route 116 and Route 22 near North Dreadful (where I live), this promising-looking restaurant has a packed parking lot which surrounds the historic old home.  Inside are wide, uneven gorgeous wooden floor planks and exposed hand-hewn ceiling beams. The walls are hung with historic photos of North Dreadful, on loan from the local historical society.  
We arrived on time and were seated fairly promptly (after the hostess accidentally made eye-contact with one of our party and therefore led her to another table with another couple). Meanwhile we were distracted by a grinning, middle-aged man in an arm-chair in the bar area in conversation with a middle-aged woman on his lap. I found it hard to stop looking at them as much because they were entwined like ice dancers in the final pose of their free dance as they were seemingly having productive discourse in an environment so noisy the hostess could not understand either me or my husband telling her what name the reservation was under.
They have decent wines by the glass, a full bar, and reasonably attentive wait staff who persist in trying to hear and understand despite the noise level. Our waiter was pleasant and earnest. We ordered oysters and salads and halibut and two different lobster dishes between the three of us, and each of us enjoyed our food. The fresh and home-grown quality of all of the produce was notable, from the interesting young lettuce leaves in the salad to the steamed purple carrot on my plate.  
For dessert, we tried a dish which might have been offered as a “berry crisp;” it was tasty, served covered in a lot of vanilla ice cream, but seemed to be simply baked fruit without any baked crisp bit on top at all. I ordered what I believed to be a white chocolate bread pudding with caramel ice cream; my dessert was very pretty and tasty, but the bread pudding seemed to have a brown sauce tasting more like a tangy gravy than anything I’ve been served for dessert before. 

White chocolate bread pudding
Towards the end of our meal a few large parties finished and left, making it possible to hear the music which had been playing in the background. Earlier, my technology-loving husband had tested the sound level using an iPhone app, and measured almost 90 dB. Because the iPhone is not a true scientific instrument, and there are a number of different ways to measure dB, we can only consider this an approximate measure. But as a rule of thumb, a normal conversation might measure 60 dB, and the noisy restaurant at 90 dB is actually much, much louder, and comparable to a lawn mower. Prolonged exposure to loud noises in excess of 85 dB is detrimental to hearing, causing gradual hearing loss. No doubt our pleasant and earnest waiter will expose himself to plenty of loud music or power tools or motorcycle rides that will contribute to his noise-induced hearing loss when he is middle aged. Perhaps by the time the pleasant and earnest waiter is middle aged, he will have a health care plan which will pay for his hearing aids so that if he finds that he is a patron of a trendy restaurant with a woman on his lap he can hear what the woman is saying to him.

Gluten-free Thanksgiving Desserts

Dessert is a pretty important part of the Thanksgiving meal, even if you are usually too full to really enjoy it.  Because our guest maintains a gluten-free diet, I made it my goal to have most of the meal be gluten-free.  Pies present a real challenge, since it is the gluten in wheat flour which makes the dough stick to itself and be able to be flaky instead of crumbly. The freezer case at our supermarket had a frozen pie shell, and it would have to do for pumpkin pie.
For a second dessert, I made a gluten-free cheesecake.  No, plain cheesecake is not necessarily a traditional Thanksgiving dessert, but it is my husband’s favorite.  Since this is a rental house, we do not have access to my inventory of too many cake pans and are forced to make do with an inexpensive electric mixer and inadequate mixing bowls. We can report with conviction that it is even possible to make pies in cast-iron frying pans and they will be delicious.  
Our cheesecake cracked while it cooled.
I’m pretty sure a proper pan would have prevented it.
Gluten-Free Cheesecake
Cheesecake is pretty easy if you have an electric mixer of some kind, and the foresight to allow all ingredients to come to room temperature. While the 325°F oven preheats,  I put ½ a box of gluten-free graham crackers(about 6 oz.) in a re-sealable plastic (ok, Ziploc) bag and crushed them with a wooden spoon until I got bored. For future reference, I really should have crushed them completely.  To the crushed crackers I added 4 T melted butter and 2 T sugar.  I was supposed to also add ¼ t nutmeg, but I didn’t have any. This mess was pressed into the bottom of the cake pan. Well, ok, actually, we don’t have a cake pan right now, so we used a round 9”ceramic oven-proof dish with high sides.  I think we were supposed to refrigerate this while we made the cake filling, but we forgot to and it didn’t matter.
To make the filling, unwrap 2 lbs. softened cream cheese into a large mixing bowl (yes, Virginia, this is 4 8-oz. packages). Mix in 1 c. sugar. When combined, beat in 4 eggs, one at a time. (At this point there was cheesecake batter all over my shirt and face.)  Next, beat in 1 c. sour cream, 2 T cornstarch, and 1 t vanilla extract.
When smooth, pour into cake pan and bake for 45 minutes.
Make the sour cream topping by whisking together 1 c. sour cream, ¼ c. sugar and 1 t vanilla. At the 45 minute mark, take out the cake and gently spread as much of the topping onto it as you can.  Return the cake to the oven and bake for an additional15 minutes. Turn off oven and leave cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour before removing.

Cool completely and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.