Have You Seen This Pig? “Polly” The Pig Stolen From the Ranch House BBQ and Steak House

Some news about the Ranch House BBQ and Steak House I blogged about last month: Their mascot, “Polly” the Pig, has been STOLEN! 

PollyTwin2

“Penny” the pig, is the identical twin of “Polly” the pig statue that was stolen from the Ranch House BBQ and Steak House in Olympia. The Ranch House Steak BBQ and Steak House is on Highway 8, in between Thurston and Grays Harbor Counties.

Some little piggies go to market. Other little piggies stay home. But one particular little piggy was stolen and her owners want her back.

“Polly,” the brown resin pig statue that for years greeted hungry diners at the entrance of the Ranch House BBQ and Steak House, was pig-napped nearly a year ago, and employees at the restaurant have not stopped searching for her.

They’ve put up posters around the restaurant and posted her picture on their Facebook page. They even filed a police report, to no avail.

PoillyAmy

Ranch House owner, founder and pit master, Amy Anderson sits on top of “Penny” the Pig statue. Penny greets customers in the lobby. She is also the identical twin statue of “Polly” the pig, who was stolen last year. Her owners have not given up the search.

“Polly is a symbol of the beginning of our restaurant and where we want to be,” said Ranch House owner, chef and World Champion Pitmaster, Amy Anderson. “We’d love to have her back with her family.”

Polly’s Arrival

Polly was originally purchased in late 2006. Anderson says she was driving down for what would have been the restaurant’s “Express” location in downtown Olympia. However, massive rainstorms in 2007 triggered a mudslide that destroyed the original Ranch House, located on Kennedy Creek Road near Summit Lake. The restaurant was run out of Olympia’s Governor Hotel during the rebuild. When the restaurant re-opened on Kennedy Creek Road the following year, Polly was placed at the entrance to serve as the restaurant’s “greeter.”

Polly was also the restaurant’s mascot. Staff brought her to barbecue competitions and booths at local farmer’s markets. She even came along to weddings and events at which the restaurant catered.

“She was a memory-maker,” recalls General Manager and Pitmaster Joe Gutierrerz. “People took pictures with her. I’ve had customers tell me they remember when their son was 3 and climbed up and was riding on her.”

Night of The ‘Napping

Polly disappeared last year sometime during the night of April 24, 2014. Staffers arrived in the morning and began their pre-opening routine: checking to see if the parking lot is clean start to prep food for the day. It didn’t take long to notice something was amiss.

Gutierrez stepped outside to go to the parking lot and discovered an empty spot beside the bench where Polly used to sit. He and staffers walked all around the restaurant. The only thing that remained of Polly was a broken hoof.

A broken hoof is the only clue left by the pig-nappers.

A broken hoof is the only clue left by the pig-nappers.

“At first I thought it was a practical joke,” Anderson said. “They left the hoof and we were expecting a ransom note.”

The staff have had a few theories as to whodunit. Polly weighs well over 100 pounds, so they think there were at least two co-conspirators.

“It was right around graduation time, so we thought that maybe some of the high schoolers were pulling a prank,” Gutierrez said.

He said employees have investigated tips they have received from customers. Once they thought they might have found Polly in front of another restaurant. But after driving there to inspect it, discovered it was a different pig.

He also said he heard a story of a Thurston County resident who once had a lawn gnome stolen. A year later the gnome reappeared at its owner’s home–with a scrapbook. Apparently, the thief had taken a road trip and, brought the gnome as a travelling companion and took pictures of the gnome at every stop.

But more than a year passed, with neither a scrapbook, nor any further clues as to Polly’s whereabouts.

Gutierrez says it may have been funny at first, but “it’s been a year and it’s not really funny anymore.”

Polly used to travel with staff to farmer's markets, cooking competitions and other community events before she was stolen.

Polly used to travel with staff to farmer’s markets, cooking competitions and other community events before she was stolen.

Other Pigs

The Ranch House has many other pigs in and around the restaurant. Several concrete pigs adorn the garden and walls around the outdoor patio. Wooden pig-shaped cutting boards are hung next to the many trophies and ribbons the restaurant has won in cooking competitions over the years. “Cash,” a giant pig wearing a chef’s hat stands in the lobby. If customers want to know what Polly looked like, they can simply gaze upon “Penny.” Penny is Polly’s identical twin, big, brown and with red handkerchief around her neck.

Since Polly’s disappearance, Anderson purchased “Hope,” a tall, metal pig that now greets diners in the Ranch House’s parking lot. It can easily be seen from the freeway and is probably harder to steal because of its massive size. However, Anderson says Hope won’t fill the void left behind by Polly.

“We got Hope two weeks after (Polly was taken),” Anderson said. “But we didn’t make a big deal about it because we’ve been so bummed about Polly being stolen.”

If you know where Polly is or have any tips that might lead to Polly’s whereabouts, call the Ranch House BBQ and Steakhouse at 360-866-8704.

The "Wanted" Poster describing Polly and what little details are known about the night of her disappearance.

The “Wanted” Poster describing Polly and what little details are known about the night of her disappearance.

I Ate Here: Five Guys Now Has Milk Shakes!

Five Guys now has milk shakes!

Five Guys now has milk shakes!

Puget Sound is about to get hit with a heat wave this weekend, with temps in the mid-to-high 90s. One way to  cool off is with a classic summertime treat–the milk shake. Five Guys burgers now has milk shakes. For $3.99 you can get a basic vanilla shake and for no extra cost you can add as many mix-ins as you like such as Oreo Cookies, strawberries, chocolate, salted caramel and malted milk. For my first shake, I mixed in chocolate and malted milk. It takes a few minutes for the flavors to meld. I sipped mine slowly during my meal and by  the end, I could taste the malt a little better than when I had first ordered it. My finance had the Oreo cookies. Note: The mix-ins are blended really finely, so if you get the Oreo cookies, it’s more like Oreo cookie powder, rather than chunks. Still flavorful, I just prefer that my Oreo cookie shakes have more texture.

The Debate: The Difference Between Malts and Shakes

What’s your favorite milk shake flavor? Comment with your favorite!

I Cooked This! Grilled Cedar Plank Salmon

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Many South Sound Foodies would say you’re not a true Northwesterner until you’ve cooked and eaten salmon.  I recently found a set of cedar grilling planks for $2 at a garage sale, so I vowed to myself I would try my hand at grilling salmon the moment I saw it on sale at the market. I tried the recipe that came with the cedar planks. It is the first time I cooked salon, so I am no longer a salmon virgin! The paprika and cracked black pepper give the rub a strong, robust, flavor. And the cedar planks infuse a wonderful aroma and delightfully smoky undertones.

Level: Moderate

Cook time: Prep: 4 hours 15 minutes. Cook time: 8-22 minutes

salmonplank

 

1. Prepare your cedar plank. In a flat container such as a roasting pan, submerge your cedar plank in water. Make sure to put a weight such as a brick on top of the plank to keep it submerged. If desired, mix in a few tablespoons of salt in the water. Some chefs say the salt enhances the flavor of the cedar when it comes time to cook the salmon.  Allow to soak in water for 4 hours

2. Prepare your Dry Rub Seasoning

Dry Rub Seasoning:

In a bowl Combine:

  • 1 TSP ground black pepper
  • 1 TSP granulated garlic
  • 1 TSP dried basil
  • 1 TBS paprika
  • 1 TBS Kosher Salt
  • 2 TBS light brown sugar
  1. De-bone your salmon filet. Video: How to filet a salmon. If you’ve gotten a pre-cut filet from your supermarket or fish monger, you may still need to remove some of the pin bones. To do this, feel along the upper part of the filet. You will feel some hard spots where the bones are located and will see little white spots where the bones may be protruding. Remove these with tweezers. At this point, you may remove the skin, but it is not necessary. During cooking the skin will add an extra layer of flavor and crisp up to add additional texture to the fish. It will slide off easily after the fish is cooked.

2bone

4. Place your salmon filet on a sheet of wax paper and coat both sides of the salon, pressing gently to make sure the rub sticks to the fish. Squeeze juice of one small lemon on fish. Keep in the fridge, uncovered, until ready to cook.

dry rub

  1. Preheat your grill.
  • To light a gas grill, open the lid. Turn the gas valve to “on” and ignite the grill as directed by the manufacturer. Turn the burners on high. Close the lid and preheat the grill for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium.

Tip: To test the level of heat, carefully place the palm of your hand at the level of the grill rack and count the number of seconds you can hold it in that position. If the heat is low, you should be able to hold your hand in the position for 6 seconds. If the heat is medium, you should be able to hold your hand in the position for about 4 seconds. If the heat is high, you should be able to hold your hand in the position for 2 seconds.

For charcoal grills,  arrange coals evenly across the bottom of the grill, covering an area 3 inches larger on all sides than the plank the coals are too hot, raise the grill rack, spread the coals apart, close the vents halfway, or remove some briquettes.

  • If the coals are too cool, use long-handled tongs to tap ashes off the burning coals, move coals together, add briquettes, lower the rack, or open the vents. MORE TIPS ON GRILLING
  1. Place your plank on the grill and allow it to heat for five minutes. You know you are ready to cook when you hear a crackling sound and the plank begins to smoke.
  1. Place salmon on the grill and close the lid. Allow to cook anywhere from 8-22 minutes, depending on size and thickness of your salmon. You know your filet is cooked when the meat begins to flake easily when you insert a fork into the thickest part of the filet.
  1. Serve garnished with lemon slices or topped with pesto sauce. Salmon can  be eaten alone or used in a variety of ways. You can top toast with it, use it as a protein in an omlet, add it to salads or pasta or substitute it for chicken in a quesadilla!

Note: This recipe used sockeye salmon, but any variety may be used.

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I Cooked This! Grilled Petite Lobster Tails With Garlic Herb Butter

 

 

Grilling is a great way to cook lobster. The shell traps in the smoke for some hickory-like favors.

Grilling is a great way to cook lobster. The shell traps in the smoke for some hickory-like favors.

If tuna is the chicken of the sea, then lobster is the filet mignon of the ocean. #NationalLobsterDay was June 15, but the weather is still great enough to grill lobsters just about any day. The quickest and probably the easiest way to cook petite lobster tail is to boil it in a pot filled with salted water for about 3-4 minutes. But the 10 more minutes of prep for grilled petite lobster tails is well worth the wait. Your patience will be rewarded with some extra smoky flavors. Fun Facts about Lobster

Herbed Butter: (Yield: enough herb butter for two petite lobster tails)

  • 1 /2 stick of  unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, plus some extra for melting and dipping
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 TBS  (or more, according to taste) of your choice fresh or dried herbs (tarragon and dill work nicely here, as do onion chives)

Leave butter at room temperature to soften. The time it takes to soften varies. I find it takes about 2-3 hours in the summer when the house is already warm. You can leave the butter out overnight, or alternatively, you can place the butter in a microwave safe sauce cup and heat on high for about 10-15 seconds. If you use the microwave method, be careful to monitor the butter to make sure it doesn’t melt completely. If you do manage to melt the butter, stick it in the freezer and check it in about 20 minutes to make sure it starts to harden, but is not solid.

Combine all ingredients with the softened butter and stir. Set aside.

grilled lobster tails (2 of 4)

Grilled Petite Lobster Tails

  1. Split and butterfly the lobster tails. This can be done with a good chef’s knife or kitchen shears. With top shell flat on a cutting board, take your knife and piece the shell and continue cutting until you get to the end (tail) Make sure you do not slice through the bottom half of the shell. You want to keep the meat in the shell because the shell contains lots of flavor! Alternatively, you can use a set of kitchen shears to cut the top shell. Open the shell to expose the meat (kind of like you are a heart surgeon spreading open a rib cage).  Here’s a step-by-step photo illustration and a helpful video.
  2. Rinse the lobster tail under cold, running water and remove the vein.
  3. Spread herbed butter on meat and on top and bottom shell of lobster tails with a silicone grill brush.
  4. Preheat a grill to about 500 degress and place lobster tails, meat side down, over medium-direct heat and flip once halfway through cooking. Cook times vary depending on the size of your lobster tail. As a general rule, I use about 2 minutes per ounce. The shells will turn a bright red color and the meat will be firm, but not tough when done.
  5. Remove from grill. Serve with additional  melted butter and a garnish of fresh lemon. If desired, top with a couple shakes of hot sauce.

grilled lobster tails (1 of 4)

 

What’s your favorite way to cook lobster? Leave you answer in the comments.

 

I Cooked This! Strawberry Blue Cheese Crumble Salad Drizzled with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

 

It’s mid June. That means summer’s just days away. It also means it’s berry season! I enjoy  growing strawberries out of a plastic container on the patio.  I also love stopping by Spooner Berry Farms Berry stands. They have over a dozen locations throughout the South Sound including Tumwater, West Olympia and Lacey. There’s even a berry stand on the coast in Aberdeen! (Note: You should buy your berries early, as the berry stands are usually sold out by 3 p.m.) They also have U-pick berry fields that are open seasonally.

StrawberrySalad

Chopped strawberries served over salad greens and blue cheese crumbles, drizzled with honey balsamic vinaigrette dressing

However you get your strawberries, there are thousands of recipes out there. One of my favorites is to chop them up and put them in a salad with feta cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. The combination of acidity from the balsamic vinegar, salty , creaminess of the blue cheese crumbles and tartness of the strawberries might sound strange. But don’t let that stop you from trying it! The secret ingredient that ties all the flavors together is honey. It tames the other bolder flavors, so none of them outshine each other.

Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

  • 2 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 TBS Honey
  • 1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pinch of course salt and pepper

Directions

1. Prepare strawberries: Hull out the centers and cut into chunks

2. Wash and rinse salad greens. Any type of lettuce will do, OR use spinach.

3. Add strawberries to greens in bowl and sprinkle with desired amount of  blue cheese crumbles.

4. Combine honey, oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl and whisk to emulsify. Alternatively, you can add all ingredients to a screw top jar and shake vigorously until combined.

5. Drizzle over salad greens and toss to combine.

A flat of strawberries from Spooner Berry Farm

A flat of strawberries from Spooner Berry Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spooner Berry Farms has plenty of other recipes on their website. Have a favorite berry recipe? Share it below in the comments or email southsoundfoodiegirl@gmail.com.

berrybarn

A Spooner Berry Farms berry barn is an iconic summertime image in the South Puget Sound.

I Ate Here: RanchHouse BBQ and Steakhouse (Olympia)

A full rack RanchHouse BBQ and Steakhouse ribs can feed two people.

A full rack RanchHouse BBQ and Steakhouse ribs can feed two people.

The RanchHouse BBQ and Steakhouse has been a landmark on Highway 8, greeting drivers between Thurston and Grays Harbor Counties.

The bright, red building that looks like a farmhouse (with a giant iron pig at the entrance) has received national acclaim.The Ranch House has been featured on the Food Network special BBQ Country Cook-off, Grill Girls and TLC’s Buzzworthy BBQ. Menu items have also won competitions in several countries. There is a shadow box filled with ribbons and trophies from many competitions. According to the restaurant’s website, owner and Olympia native Amy Anderson have earned championship titles for BBQ from five states, Canada and a championship in Ireland in 2000.

pig1

A large iron pig greets guests who come for dinner at the RanchHouse BBQ and SteakHouse, located on Highway 8 in between Thurston and Grays Harbor counties.

 

A former reporter for The Daily World of Aberdeen told me that the restaurant is a favorite of former Washington state governor Christine Gregoire. It also overcame tragedy. In 2007, a heavy rainfalls caused the creek that runs adjacent to the parking lot (Kennedy Creek) to wash out half the restaurant. Locals and residents from all over Puget Sound stop here to enjoy some award-winning favorites on the menu. So I had high expectations when I stopped in to eat there. The menu has big portions, so one rack of ribs and a couple of sides is enough to feed two people, and that’s exactly what my fiance and I did.

A view of Kennedy Creek, adjacent to the parking lot at RanchHouse BBQ and SteakHouse.

A view of Kennedy Creek, adjacent to the parking lot at RanchHouse BBQ and SteakHouse.

The menu says a whole rack of ribs is supposed to have ten individual ribs. We must’ve gotten lucky or happened to get a mutant pig. Our rack of ribs had 11! The ribs are St.Lois style ribs, which means they are spare ribs which are grilled and heavily-sauced (as opposed to dry-rubbed). The ribs were smoked over cherry wood, giving the ribs a distinct savory, and slightly sweet flavor. (The type of wood used in BBQ smoking can affect the flavor of the meat. Check out the science behind it here.) The ribs were moist, tender and fell of the bone with every bite. I could’ve used a little more sauce. Thankfully, the restaurant has bottles of its signature sauce at every table. It tasted spicier than the sauce that was on the ribs. I’m not sure if this was because:

1) it was a different sauce OR

2) it was the same sauce used in the cooking process but the flavor profile was changed because it was at room temperature and it had not gone through the cooking process with the ribs

In either case, it complimented the ribs well.

A c up pf the RanchHouse BBQ and SteakHouse Chilli. Oh, the beautiful cheese!

A c up pf the RanchHouse BBQ and SteakHouse Chilli. Oh, the beautiful cheese!

I also enjoyed the chili. I usually pass on the chili because I don’t care for most beans. But the chili had a robust flavor and was not overly-spicy. The ground beef and beans were slow-cooked so their flavors combined flawlessly. The best part was the ooey, gooey melted cheddar cheese on top. (My fiance said he wanted crackers to add a crunchy texture to the chili, but I was satisfied because of all the cheese!)

The house caesar salad had large, crispy, green, fresh leaves of romaine and a thorough amount of parmesan cheese. It came served in a small cup–about the same size of the chili cup. It was difficult to eat without spilling over, so I finally just dumped it out on a plate and had no further problems. (FYI: there is also a garden salad and for an additional charge, diners can top any salad with smoked chicken, pulled pork, or beef brisket.)

the house Caesar salad

the house Caesar salad

The menu also has a plethora of sides that include hot wings, chili cheese fries and deep fried macaroni balls. Desserts include mudslide pie (an oreo cookie crust layered with chocolate sauce, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, topped with whipped cream and chopped nuts) and fruit crisp (your choice of apple, strawberry rhubarb, blackberry or peach) that has a cinnamon oatmeal crumb crust served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But I DID NOT try any of the sides or the dessert because I was too FULL from the entree. I’ll just have to make a vow to try of them on a return visit.

In the meantime, if any of my readers has eaten one or more of the RanchHouse BBQ and Steak House’s sides or desserts, feel free to post a review and/or photos in the comments section.

About RanchHouse BBQ and Steak House:

Prices range for entree: $12-28

Sides: $5.49-$12.99

Desserts: $4.50-$7

10841 Kennedy Creek Rd. SW

Olympia, WA 98502

(360) 866-8704

www.ranchhousebbq.com

 

 

I cooked this: Garlic Mozzarella Cheese Bombs

Looking for a quick and easy side dish to serve with dinner tonight? These garlic mozzarella cheese bombs are affordable, easy and take only about 20 minutes to make with items you probably already have in the kitchen! These soft, gooey biscuits have a mild garlic flavor and an “explosion” of cheese.

GarlicCheeseBomb

Ingredients:

  • 1 tube of 10-count ready-to-bake biscuits, any variety (I used buttermilk biscuits) Albertson’s brand was on sale for $1.49
  • Three mozzarella cheese sticks, cut into thirds.  (Grocery Outlet recently had a 16-pack on sale for $3.99); $3.99/16= 24 cents per cheese stick
  • 1-2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • ¼-½ teaspoon dried Italian seasonings of your choice (parsley, thyme, marjoram, etc)
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ Tablespoon garlic powder

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. While oven is preheating, line a non-stick baking pan with parchment paper and place individual biscuits from tube about 2” apart.
  3. Place one portion of each of your mozzarella cheese chunks inside of each biscuit. Fold over sides and pinch to close. Place each cheese filled biscuit on pan seam side down. NOTE: You should only use one third of a whole mozzarella stick in each biscuit. Any more than that and the cheese will bubble out when you bake the biscuits.)
  4. Melt the butter in the microwave in a small, microwave safe container. Glass dipping sauce cups are perfect for this.
  5. Stir in garlic powder, Italian seasonings and pinch of salt into melted butter.
  6. Cook biscuits in oven for about 10 minutes or until rolls have risen and gave a golden brown color.
  7. Brush cooked biscuits with seasoned butter mixture. Serve immediately.