This past weekend, Tony and I celebrated our anniversary. About a month ago, we started thinking about a place to go, not too far from home, not too expensive, and where we could bring Lulu.
I remembered that one of our neighbors had told me about Idyllwild. And, just by coincidence, there was an article in the August issue of Sunset magazine about it. They described it as “hiking, jazz, art – this mountain town has it all…find the alpine magic…in the San Jacinto Mountains, just over the hill from Palm Springs, Idyllwild sits in a forest of mixed pines…offbeat galleries, antique shops…”. Sold. AND…it’s only a two-hour drive from San Diego.
Tony, the vacation planner (vacation planner/gardener) in the family, started looking for dog-friendly accommodations. He found a cabin called “Starlight Seclusion”. Sold. We packed up the car and the dog and hit the road.
“Starlight Seclusion” far exceeded our expectations. It was rustic and charming, quiet and cozy… secluded in a pine forest with views forever. A huge redwood deck with BBQ and hot tub. And a cute little kitchen with an adorable red and tan tiled floor.
Yes, we made dinner the first night in the cute little kitchen.
The menu? Steaks, Double Baked Potatoes with Mushrooms and Cheese and Caesar Salad. The potatoes are from Bon Appétit, March, 2002 issue. I’ve made them countless times since then. I even “once-baked” and filled them at home, and packed them in the cooler to take with us. I made the Caesar salad dressing ahead of time too. The salad dressing recipe came from STCG’s mom, Joy, many, many years ago (back when he was just Sam, long before he was STCG, or even thinking of becoming STCG!)
It was a perfect weekend filled with hiking, reading, relaxing, stargazing and (of course) great food.
So, here are the recipes, from the cute little cabin in Idyllwild (and, please, don’t wait for an anniversary weekend to make them!)
Double Baked Potatoes with Mushrooms and Cheese
6 small russet potatoes (about 7 ounces each), scrubbed
5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
12 ounces mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 large green onions, chopped
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups coarsely grated white cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F. Pierce each potato in several places with fork. Place all potatoes directly on oven rack and bake until tender, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until beginning to brown, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Add green onions; stir until wilted, about 1 minute. Set aside.
Using oven mitts as aid, cut each potato lengthwise in half. Scoop cooked potato flesh into large bowl, leaving skin intact. Add cream cheese, sour cream, and remaining 4 tablespoons butter and mash well. Mix in mushroom mixture and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mound mashed potatoes in potato skins. Sprinkle each half with 1 tablespoon cheese. Place on baking sheet. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Bake potatoes until heated through and cheese melts, about 25 minutes, or 35 minutes if potatoes have been refrigerated.
Sam’s Mom’s Caesar
1 head Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces (or one 10-oz bag all-ready cut Romaine)
1 cup good-quality croutons
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan (like Kraft “100% grated Parmesan” in that green can)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
Combine all dressing ingredients by shaking in a screw-topped jar. Toss with salad ingredients in a large wooden salad bowl.