Labor Day signals the end of the official summer tourist season, not just here in Virginia City, but for most areas that are tourist driven.
Don't get me wrong. We still have plenty of things going on in September and October with races for camels, Ferraris and outhouses, but the mood settles down a little. The kids are back in school, people with jobs are back at work and the crowds are a little smaller with visitors more"experienced."
After so many years of working in seasonal areas surrounded by people on vacation, one can't help but go a little "Dr. Phil" on them. Especially the ones that refuse to give up the reins and go with the flow.
Like the guy who insisted on having his hash browns on a separate plate so they couldn't touch his eggs.
Or the lady who was given a paper napkin instead of cloth and was compelled to tell me about it via email before they even got their food.
I was talking to this one couple who said they mostly eat at chain restaurants when they go on vacation because they know what to expect. Wouldn't you just stay home for the ultimate in what to expect?
Dr. Phil would say these people have control issues.
And that's my point. Vacation should be about going with the flow, "When in Rome ..." Maybe losing a little control. The origin of the word is after all the Latin vacare meaning "be free."
Today's pound cake is not part of my recent health food obsession, but in the spirit of losing control I think it's time for dessert.
Besides being a perfect canvas for summer fruit, another great think about this cake is you can make it ahead - way ahead. Wrapped in wax paper and then plastic it will maintain quality for 4 or 5 days. Just make sure that it iscompletely cool before wrapping.
At the restaurant in Lake Tahoe where we had it on our menu we placed the slices on the grill to toast them a little and glamorize the presentation with the grill marks. If you're not around a grill, brush the slices lightly with a little butter and toast them under your broiler.
The whipped mascarpone is not for the financially faint of heart at $4.99 for the 8oz package (Raley's), but weren't we talking about losing control? If not, whipped cream, CoolWhip, or anything like that will be fine.
And finally, for the sauce, blackberries or raspberries will work just as well as strawberries with this recipe. Taste one of the berries before adding sugar. If they are really ripe and sweet, you can cut back on the sugar slightly while bumping up the lemon juice. Do just the opposite if the berries aren't so sweet and need a little flavor encouragement.
Remember, the next time that you are fortunate enough to be traveling instead of working, go ahead and let the potatoes touch the eggs. You're on vacation.
with Summer Berries and Whipped Mascarpone
For the cake
2 ounces of softened sweet butter, plus a little for buttering the pan
1 cup packed brown sugar
1⁄2 cup sugar
5 large eggs
3⁄4 cup sour cream
3⁄4 teaspoon almond extract
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon minced orange zest
Pinch of salt
11⁄4 cups flour
11⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup cornmeal
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and butter a 91⁄2 by 51⁄5 by 3-inch loaf pan.
Combine the butter, brown sugar and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth and creamy.
Continue mixing and add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Stir in the sour cream, the two extracts, and the orange zest and mix well.
Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the cornmeal, then fold them into the butter mixture along with the cornmeal.
Pour the batter into the prepared mold, and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour and 15 minutes. Test with a skewer - it will come out clean when the cake is done.
Cool the cake then unmold by running a knife around the edge then inverting the pan.
8 ounce mascarpone cheese
2 cup heavy whipping cream
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoon sugar
Small pinch of salt
Put all the ingredients in a stainless steel bowl, and whip until it holds its shape - not too stiff. Will hold refrigerated for about an hour. After that you may have to rewhip it a little.
4 cups strawberries, hulled (or black orraspberries)
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon or so of fresh squeeze lemon juice
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor, and puree. Force the puree through a medium mesh strainer to remove seeds. Taste for sweetness, cover and refrigerate.
• Brian Shaw and his wife Ardie own Cafe Del Rio in Virginia City.