Sunday, December 13, 2015

13 December 2015

What an amazing and fun weekend in Canton! The Main Street program held its innaguaral Holiday Art & Wine Walk in our historic downtown core. This idea was the brainchild of my dear friend and neighbor, Pat Gold. She has talked about and researched a wine walk for a couple of years. Pat and the Main Street Board decided to combine the wine walk with a downtown art ramble, and 20 merchants and restaurants hosted a different artist and poured samples of great wines. So, attendees were able to taste several interesting varieties and shop for art and the guality merchandise featured at our local retailers. Jeff Brown was Pat's partner in crime for this event, and they pulled it off without a hitch! In addition, countless volunteers stepped up to do the wine pourings at the different locations on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

I volunteered to pour at Stout's Growler Shop on Friday night, and it was a blast! I got to see so many friends, and it was a pleasure to meet several new Canton residents. We even had a lot of people from out of town who had heard about the event or were here visiting for the weekend. The comments by the participants were overwhelmingly positive. However, I did hear, over and over, many people say they had "no idea" downtown Canton had so much to offer. A lot of newcomers visited Stout's for the first time on Friday night, and they were elated to find such a cool shop over on North Street. Many walkers also said they had been downtown to eat at one of our restaurants but had no idea there were a wide variety of places to shop. This is exactly the result Main Street wanted from this event – lots of happy participants filling the sidewalks to support our downtown merchants and businesses. I heard from several retailers that it was their best night ever, so thanks again to our capable Main Street Board, and especially Pat Gold and Jeff. Give them a well-earned pat on the back next time you see them!

On Saturday, I did some Christmas shopping in the morning and continued when I had the pleasure of taking the Art & Wine Walk for myself. In addition to the summer-like weather, the vibe downtown has never been better. I ran into so many friends, old and new, and had an opportunity to catch up. Everyone was in such a great mood, and they were raving about the event and all of the positive momentum in Canton. I was elated to hear this, of course, and my euphoria resulted in lots of purchases for gifts and even a few for myself.

Unfortunately, it appears the warm weather and sunshine are going away tomorrow, but I took the opportunity to enjoy the tropical weather by cooking some Cuban dishes. I did have a chance to catch one cooking show on Saturday, and one of my favorite chefs, Jacques Pepin, was making some of his favorites soup recipes; including black bean. This was my inspiration for tonight's meal, and the leftover soup will come in handy for the rainy and cooler weather this week. In addition to the soup, I also made fresh Cuban sandwiches. I found delicious Cuban rolls at Ramirez Grocery, and I always go there for bread when making a Cubano. For dessert, I had received beautiful Harry & David pears from my attorney and friend, Tom Roach, so I used a few to make a simple thin pear tart with cream cheese crust. Everything was delicious, and another Sunday Supper has come and gone.

Next weekend, I am hosting my family for our annual Christmas gathering on Sunday. As usual, my brother, nieces and nephews may make it down the night before for some fun and games. It is always such a treat to have them here in Canton and spend time celebrating our many blessings. Of course, we will miss so many of our dear ones that are no longer with us, but we will also enjoy a new arrival this past year, my darling grand niece, Caroline. It's so wonderful to have new children in the family, and we even get to welcome two new additions in a few months.

Here's hoping your holiday strolls and celebrations are full of joy, love, laughter and, last but not least, great food. While you're at it, don't forget to share your good fortunes with others who are struggling this season and throughout the year. Give until it hurts, and spew kindness in 2016!

Photo by Gary Mullet

The Menu:

- Black Bean Soup with Bananas

- Cuban Sandwiches

- Thin Pear Tart with Pear Brandy Whipped Cream

The Recipe – Black Bean Soup


1 pound dried black
3 quarts water
1/2 cup brown rice
8 ounces pancetta or lightly smoked bacon
1 bay leaf
2 medium onions chopped
8 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons hot sauce
1/8 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
1 lemon juiced

Garnishes (optional):

2 bananas
Chopped fresh cilantro
Lemon slices
Extra hot sauce

Sort beans for rocks and broken pieces and wash in cool water. Drain the beans and cover with cold water. Soak for 4-5 hours.

Drain beans and add to pot with 3 quarts water with rice and bay leaf. Cut the pancetta or bacon into 1/4-inch pieces and add to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Skim off any foam that rises to the top. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 1 hour.

After an hour, add the onions, garlic, herbes de Provence, chili powder, tomatoes, salt and pepper to the pot, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for another 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Using a hand blender, emulsify the mixture in the pot for 5 to 10 seconds to thicken the mixture slightly but leave it chunky with some full beans in the mix.

Add the sherry or vinegar, hot sauce and lemon juice to the soup and adjust the seasoning.

For Garnishes: Peel the bananas and cut them into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Toss them in a small bowl with the lemon juice and pepper. Chop cilantro and serve with extra lemon slices and hot sauce.

Recipe adapted and modified from Jacques Pepin.

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