I tend to talk quite a bit about the connections we make through food. The people we meet while attending events, the conversations had over meals, the friends from around the world that feel like you’ve known forever when really, you’ve yet to meet. I know some fellow bloggers will agree that the connections we’ve made through twitter, email, facebook or whatever medium you use can sometimes feel stronger and more connected than some “real-life” relationships.
I have quite a few of these connections to speak of, people I’ve met at conferences and chatted with endlessly online, but there are a few in particular I hold close to my heart. Lindsay Anderson, known to some as Linds Eats, is one of those special people. We met, funnily enough, through a job we were both vying for. When the city of Richmond, BC was hiring a food blogger to live there and visit/write about a new restaurant each day for 365 days, I jumped (of course). Lindsay and I made it to the Top 3 and were flown to BC for our interviews (well, Lindsay lives in Vancouver so she mostly just hopped on the skytrain). Our respective groups of friends/supporters proclaimed us enemies as they prepared for us to head out for one of the biggest interviews we’d been faced with. I worried that the intensity of competition would sour our ability to enjoy the dinner that was planned for us all to attend (and of course, my anxiety was at an all time high… as usual). To make a long story short, we connected almost instantly over our twisted senses of humour, love of all things food, and loud, boisterous laughs. Though we came from much different backgrounds, had varied relationships with food, and lived on opposites sides of the country, it was obvious that our similarities were far greater than our differences. We’ve kept in touch over the last year and a half, offering support to each other when needed, drooling over our keyboards when one or the other posts something delicious, congratulating each other on small successes or sharing a laugh over something we’ve seen online.
When Lindsay broke the news that she and her longtime friend Dana VanVeller would be travelling across Canada for their new (ambitious!) endeavour, Feast On; An Edible Road Trip, and would be stopping in Ottawa on their way through Ontario, my gut stirred with excitement knowing I’d get to see her again soon.
Lindsay and Dana have been here since Saturday and are now headed on to the next leg of their journey in Montreal. I was lucky enough to get to see them twice during their time here; Sunday morning we greeted each other over big hugs and popped into the dank but completely charming and always-delicious Ottawa favourite The Manx for some brunch, followed by a trip to the Ottawa Farmers Market where the gals were introduced to two of my favourites, Michael and Pascale. We strolled through the market, Lindsay and Dana snapping photos and taking it all in, me buying up everything I could. We came back to my place and made some Za’atar Pretzels together; Lindsay explained that she worked in a pretzel shop in England while living there and showed us the proper technique to roll one… I didn’t catch on very quickly.
When all the sights had been seen and we hugged goodbye, I felt so happy and honoured to have been able to show them the city that I love so intensely and the food and people that make it so special to me. It was a whirlwind trip but sometimes those are the best kind of visit as they force you to really milk each moment before it’s gone. It was such a treat to see and re-connected with Lindsay (in REAL life) and finally meet Dana after talking through keys for the last 6 months.
While we were at the market, I had picked up some blue plums from Warners Farm with the intention of making a trifle, but this cake was what came out and I’m actually pretty thrilled that it took that turn. We all need a 30-minute cake in our repertoire, right? I’m glad you agree.
Brown Butter Blue Plum Skillet Cake
adapted from Serious Eats
I tried to get a little fancy with the plum placement. As usual, I regretted trying to be fancy immediately Just toss them in all willy-nilly. You’ll be able to get more in there, thus balancing the sweet/sour and it just looks prettier when you let it be messy. Lesson learned.
- 5 tbsp (1/4 cup + 1tbsp) unsalted butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch cardamom, optional
4 small, ripe blue plums, seed discarded + thinly sliced into wedges
2 tsp coarse sugar like turbinado (or granulated sugar if you can’t find coarse)
Preheat oven to 350 and place oven rack in the middle.
Melt 4 tbsp of butter in a hot skillet over medium heat and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until it starts to foam. Remove the pan from the heat and continue to swirl as the butter finished browning (5-7 minutes), it should smell nutty but not burnt.
Whisk in the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract. Pour the buttermilk/brown butter mixture into the dry ingredients and stir only until batter is smooth. Don’t overmix.
Grease skillet with remaining 1 tbsp butter and pour batter in. Top with sliced plums and bake until golden around the edges or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.