Our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest was marvelous.
I feel like a broken record saying this over and over again, but the experience really was that remarkable.
After traveling, eating and gathering inspiration – attending & speaking at BlogHer Food to cap off our vacation helped me tie all of my disconnected thoughts together.
I learned so much from my fellow panelists during our Storytelling panel, even though we are all experienced in our own ways of storytelling, there is so much we can still learn from each other.
“Your approach will be different because we all have stories to tell. Make a list about what else you’re passionate about – besides food. Look at that list and find inspiration from it.“
That really got me thinking. I love photography and I use it to tell my stories, but is that enough? After some brainstorming (and reading through old blog posts) I came to the realization:
Culture and travel are my two main sources of inspiration.
How a place or location influences the area’s food and people has been something that has interested me since childhood. Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains of Southwest Virginia as a Taiwanese-American kid with parents who owned a Chinese restaurant, lends itself to some interesting food and culture experiences.
These days, traveling and really learning about those places is something I love to do. Paul and I enjoy trying local dishes and hearing stories from the locals.
Part of our vacation was a relaxing three days in Olympic National Park. This was probably my most favorite part of our time in the Pacific Northwest. Even though I am a self-proclaimed “city girl,” on my time away I tend to prefer spending time exploring trails and beaches, as opposed to eating at fancy restaurants and shopping in a big city.
Shocking? Maybe the fancy restaurant part.
I would much rather see places like this, instead of gorging myself on fancy food (which I am completely capable of). The below photo of Ruby Beach is my Pirates of the Caribbean shot.
For more photos from our Olympic National Park trip, take a look at the blog post on my photo blog.
During one of our hikes through the Quinault Rainforest, Paul spotted berries growing on tall bushes on the side of the trail. In my infinite wisdom as “food blogger of the family.” I concluded the fruit to be blackberries that hadn’t ripened yet. Paul doubted me, thinking they were raspberries, but I stuck to my guns.
They were blackberries. And I was right… for the next four days.
On the very last day of our trip, we made our way back to Pike Place Market in Seattle for one last food excursion before hopping on a flight back to Atlanta. A friend suggested that we stop by Johnson Berry Farm‘s table. Being the google addict that I am, I immediately looked up the business and found that they sold jams made from this fruit called the Tayberry, a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry.
Ah HA! So that’s what those berries on the trail were: Tayberries. I was wrong once, but I was definitely right this time.
We stopped at Johnson Berry Farm table and tried some of the Tayberry jam – oh, so good.
But Paul, still convinced that I had no idea what berries we actually saw in the Olympics, asked the jam guy about those orangish-pink berries that we saw during our hike.
They were Salmonberries. I was wrong again.
I really need to learn my berries.
Maybe I can be allowed some slack since tayberries and salmonberries aren’t very commonly known. But, can you imagine? Spending time on a berry farm, learning about all of the different types of berries and watching those scrumptious little morsels of fruit be turned into jam?
This was truly a berry-centric food trip. We had the most mouthwatering blackberry pie while in the Olympics, at this place called the Salmon House. After seeing all of those berries on our hike, it was only appropriate to enjoy a piece of berry pie.
Blackberry season is upon us in Georgia, and we had quite a bounty ripening on the bush in our garden before our trip. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that more berries grace me with their presence in the next couple of weeks.
Blackberry Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust (about 12 servings)
2 cups gingersnap crumbles
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Cheesecake Filing (adapted from MarthaStewart.com):
3 cups low-fat cottage cheese
8 ounces reduced-fat bar cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
Juice from one lemon
Preheat oven to 325˚F. Coat the bottom of a springform pan with cooking spray and line the sides with a long strip of parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine gingersnap crumbles, brown sugar, flour, salt and melted butter. Mix well, then press the mixture evenly and firmly into the bottom of the springform pan. I used the bottom of a drinking glass to press the crust mixture down compactly.
To make the cheesecake filling: Using a food processor (I used my Ninja), combine the cottage cheese and cream cheese until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Then pour the cottage & cream cheese mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sugar, sour cream eggs, flour, vanilla and salt. Mix until the mixture is just combined. Then pour the mixture into the springform pan, on top of the gingersnap crust.
Place the springform pan on top of a rimmed cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 1 hour, turning the cheesecake 180˚ halfway through so that the side that was facing the front is now facing the back. This is so that the cake bakes evenly.
Turn oven off and let the cheesecake stay in the oven for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the topping. In a large saucepan combine the blackberries, sugar and lemon juice. Mix to combine the ingredients and bring the mixture to a boil. Then turn heat down to medium low and let simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Scoop the topping and spread evenly over the top of the cooled cheesecake.
Place the cheesecake in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours up to overnight. Slice, serve and enjoy!