Saying that Las Vegas has a few pubs is on par with saying that Oprah has a few bucks. These taverns are everywhere: every neighborhood, every street, every intersection. Sometimes there are two on opposite corners of an intersection. All of these establishments have an identical generic square shape, and they all bear the same bright neon sign on at least two sides: "24 HOUR DINING AND VIDEO POKER." Some are so bold as to claim that they offer "FINE DINING," but that statement is debatable. The pubs all have names like "Mugshots", "The Last Call", and "We're Here to Take Your Hard-Earned Cash."
In an economy where construction in Las Vegas has almost come to a stop, I am amazed to see more and more new pubs open on what seems like a weekly basis. It is a common occurrence that Eric and I will drive past a building that we could have sworn was not there one week ago. We will crane our necks, looking for a sign that tells us that a new French bistro or a mom-and-pop breakfast joint is opening up in our neighborhood. Unfortunately, nine out of ten times we are disappointed. "Oh good. Another pub."
I'm not a big fan of smoky pub dining, no matter how "fine" it may be, so when Eric asks me where I want to eat on days when I don't feel like cooking, I always say "Foster's Market." The problem with this is that Foster's is located some 2500 miles away in Durham, North Carolina.
Obviously I know that we can't go to Foster's, at least not until we buy the jet (not holding my breath). My point is that I want to go somewhere like Foster's, a place that does not currently exist here in Las Vegas. Foster's Market was a very popular combination bakery-cafe-specialty foods store that I practically lived at during grad school. It is one of those places where you could feel safe ordering just about anything off the menu (providing, for me at least, that there is no mayonnaise involved). Everything was fresh, seasonal, made from scratch, and oh-so-addictively-yummy. Thai Chicken Wraps, Blueberry Scones, perfectly-frothed lattes.........sigh, I miss Foster's.
Over the two years that I stalked patronized Foster's, I got to know the owner, Sara Foster, pretty well. Her self-described "casual cuisine" has been a huge influence on my cooking. Fortunately, she has three cookbooks, complete with mouthwatering photos that jump off the pages, with which I can attempt to recreate some Foster's favorites.
While Sara has the benefit of bountiful Carolina produce year-round, we are not quite as lucky in the desert. So when I found some rare ripe and juicy peaches at the grocery store, I scooped several up. Some were for eating as they are, but others were set aside for making some of Sara's Sweet Peach Muffins with Walnut Streusel (a muffin is not a muffin without a good streusel.) I made a few minor changes, but these are pretty close to the ones that got me through some brutal morning study sessions. Here are a few extra tips for making these simple, sweet muffins:
- I think that these muffins taste best when they are warm, either fresh from the oven or reheated. No butter necessary!
- Sara Foster uses 1 ½ cups sour cream in her recipe, but I substituted 1 ½ cups of buttermilk (because I didn't want to go back to the grocery store.) In a pinch, you can also substitute full-fat yogurt.
- I also added a little bit of salt to the streusel.
- Because the batter contains only a little bit of butter and no oil, the baked muffins might stick to the paper liners. To prevent this, mist the insides of the liners with nonstick baking spray prior to filling them with the batter.
- The streusel can be prepared up to one week in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered.
- With the exception of very soft fruits, such as bananas or papayas, most fruit can be used in place of the peaches in this recipe. Try it with blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, apples, pears, nectarines, or a combination.
Fresh Peach Streusel Muffins
Makes about 18
For the muffin batter
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon brandy
1 ¾ cups pitted and chopped fresh peaches
For the streusel
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts
⅓ cup flour
⅓ cup golden brown sugar, packed
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter, buttermilk, and brandy until well blended. Stir in the chopped peaches.
Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, stirring until just moist and blended. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. The batter should come to just below the rim of the paper liner.
Prepare the streusel: In a medium bowl, combine the walnuts, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt; stir to mix. Add the butter and mix with clean hands until well blended and crumbly.
Sprinkle the streusel evenly on top of the muffin batter, pressing lightly to adhere. Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes, until the tops spring back when pressed lightly and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean.
Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes and then serve.