Desmond Ritchie

Desmond Ritchie The Older Gen­tleman and other Hoopty-Do’s

Over the weekend we said goodbye to one of our own, who recently passed away.

For 47 years (yes, you read that right), Desmond Ritchie worked here at Pied­mont Gro­cery. He more than earned the moniker Mr. Pied­mont. Our long­time cus­tomers will remember his face, if not his name. He started his tenure at P.G. in 1958 as a teenager folding bakery boxes. His work ethic, loy­alty, and deter­mi­na­tion saw him retire as the store man­ager in 2005. Des was much more than an employee; he was family.

Des was often described as a Big Man with a Bigger Voice—which was true. But it was his big heart that I will remember most. There was no one more gen­erous of his time, atten­tion and, yes, advice than Des. If you were lucky enough to call him friend, you knew he would be there for you no matter what time of day or night or situation…and believe me when my Dad and Des were younger, there were sit­u­a­tions. (Of course, now those sit­u­a­tions have become wet your­self laughing stories…)

As a kid, I knew Des as the man with green car­na­tions and Sees Choco­late Pota­toes on St. Patrick’s Day. Des got really excited about St. Patrick’s Day as any Irish lad should, and because of him, St. Patrick’s Day has always been a big deal for us at the store.

Des remains a legend here at Pied­mont Gro­cery. His flip chart of instruc­tions on how to prop­erly bag gro­ceries has been enshrined in our office, and his worn and well-​​loved cardigan holds a place of honor on our Wall of Fame in the ware­house. He had his own lan­guage, and some phrases can still be heard in the aisles even years after his retire­ment: Hoopty-Do’s, The Turtle Express, Changing tires in the middle of the freeway, Mrs. Jones Yanking on My Tie, and Puttin’ Lead In the Hamburgers.(It may sound like gib­berish to you, but to us here it makes per­fect sense.) Any­thing new or remotely ben­e­fi­cial to your health was imme­di­ately labeled as Hippie. Hippie Chips…Hippie Bread…Hippie Cereal…

For the record, Des would have hated that I have written this, and if he were sit­ting here beside me right now I would be get­ting the look. He was a pri­vate man and wouldn’t have wanted a big fuss. But, here’s the thing…when someone has such a pos­i­tive impact on the people around him you have to cel­e­brate that life. Des was that kind of man, and we will miss him very much.

Des was also a lover of good food and wine, espe­cially a good red. So, in lieu of a recipe this week—I ask that you enjoy a glass of your favorite red, and raise a toast to a life well-​​lived and a man well-​​loved by many.

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Chiles Anchos Rellenos de Queso (Cheese-​​Filled Ancho Chiles)

Chili Relleno Feliz Cumpleaños

My family is a bit dif­ferent. I think we have well estab­lished that, but if we need any fur­ther proof, here it is…

I cel­e­brated my 29th birthday (again) this past May, and my gift from my sister was a culi­nary tour of the His­panic gro­cery stores, bak­eries and butchers in Sonoma. Not your usual gift, but it totally beats a new sweater. It was typ­ical us…and we had a blast.

Because of my Mex­ican food habit, I am no stranger to His­panic gro­cery stores. In fact I shop at my local Mom and Pop all the time for the things we just don’t carry here. (As much as I would love to have any­thing and every­thing, it’s just not pos­sible.) And for the warm tortillas…(My god, the warm tortillas!)

As a card car­rying Foodie, or maybe because that’s how I roll, I have never felt the intim­i­da­tion that others in our tour group felt about shop­ping at one of these estab­lish­ments. Granted, I feel pretty at home in gro­cery stores, but I always fig­ured any lan­guage bar­rier could be solved by hand ges­tures at the least and a love of food at best. So it sur­prised me that some of the other food lovers among us were missing out on really great culi­nary expe­ri­ences because of fear of looking out of place or unknowl­edge­able. The good news? That was resolved that afternoon.

The panade­rias (bak­eries) and the car­nice­rias (butchers) are a whole dif­ferent world of new and inter­esting. Here you will find the legit pas­tries and cuts of meat that you won’t find any­where else–and the best thing is that, for the most part, the people who work there will hap­pily explain how to pre­pare their prod­ucts. We were given quite an edu­ca­tion by the pro­pri­etors, and more than a few ideas for what to make for dinner.

We were also for­tu­nate to enjoy lunch at a local restau­rant, Rancho Viejo. If you are ever in Sonoma and looking for some place to stop and grab a bite, I def­i­nitely rec­om­mend it. The Cochinita Pibil (Pork slow cooked in Banana Leaves) was fan­tastic, as were the Chili Rellenos.

Chiles Anchos Rel­lenos de Queso (Cheese-​​Filled Ancho Chiles)
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Tian de Courgettes au Riz (Zucchini Tian)

Zucchini TianGenius!

This weekend is our Cook­book Club dinner. It seems like for­ever since we last had one, so we are all looking for­ward to it—especially since the book we chose is fan­tastic! If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Food52.com web­site, I highly rec­om­mend that you give it a look-​​see when you have a few moments. It is chock full of great recipes, but some are just that much better than the others. So much better in fact, they are genius. (See what I did there?)

Which brings me to this dinner’s cook­book selection…Genius Recipes from Kristen Miglore, Exec­u­tive Food Editor for Food 52. I have talked (more like raved) about this book before. Every­thing in it is just that good, and if you haven’t picked up a copy you are missing out. This is a must-​​have for your cook­book col­lec­tion. Seri­ously, get off the couch and go get one. If only for the Canal House Chicken Thighs with Lemon…mind blow­ingly good.

Our process for choosing which recipes the five of us will make for our dinner is pretty simple…usually. The hostess sends a reminder email with a few dishes she is pre­pared to make, and then the rest of us chime in with our choices. This time it was like playing beat the clock. We all had the same favorites, and by the time I got my lazy self to my email, mine were taken.

There are, how­ever, recipes that I had not had a chance to try, so I am going with a couple of those. Every­thing I have made from this book has been fan­tastic, so I am not wor­ried about this being the test run. Even if there are fail­ures, I am con­fi­dent that the rest will be so good, and we won’t starve. I expect some­thing like 10 dishes, not including dessert. The car­di­ol­o­gist will be on stand-​​by.

My first choice would have been this tasty dish. It is the per­fect way to try some­thing new as the summer zuc­chini glut ripens. It’s orig­i­nally from Julia…you can’t go wrong with Julia.

Tian de Cour­gettes au Riz (Zuc­chini Tian)
Food 52 Genius Recipes
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Clam Chowder with Root Vegetables and Thyme

Clam ChowderUnder the Boardwalk…Down By The Sea

When I was a kid we had family friends with a vaca­tion home in Santa Cruz, so we would stay with them during the summer. It was great. We would wake up and hit the beach, then hit the Board­walk and ride the roller coasters ‘till we puked. Of course it’s pos­sible that the roller coasters were not to blame. It’s pos­sible that it could have been the amount of food (and sugar) that we ate.

There are an amazing number of dining oppor­tu­ni­ties at the board­walk. From fried chicken to deep fried Twinkies—you can pretty much get what­ever heat attack on stick or sugar bomb you desire. For me, I always liked the old time candy shops like Marini’s. salt water taffy, caramel apples and fudge. Those were my favorite food groups. Corn dogs are another good choice…and bowls of clam chowder on cooler nights.

My family is headed down to the board­walk this weekend for, you guessed it, more base­ball. There is no way we would go to Santa Cruz and not go to the board­walk. What kind of parent would I be, after all, if I didn’t intro­duce my kids to the won­ders of choco­late dipped bacon and the Giant Dipper? It’s going to be a good time out…

One thing we will be avoiding? The water. Maybe because this week was Shark Week on Dis­covery Channel. or maybe because of the recent beach clo­sures due to Great White shark activity near Capi­tola, you will not find this chick frol­icking in the surf. Thank you, no. I’ll hang back on the beach with my bacon. Mega Shark can get his own.

Clam Chowder with Root Veg­eta­bles and Thyme
Adapted from Taste Food Blog Read more…