It was a step back in time, starting with parking by the horse-filled barn, then entering into dining rooms resplendent with candlelight from hurricane lamps and candelabras, reflecting the polish of old pine floors, walnut tables, English pewter, and white ironstone.
When reserving your table, you ordered the entrée from four choices. The meal began with a plate of three hors d’oeuvres; soup followed, then salad. Desserts were always yummy. It was Mr. Simpson’s beloved salad dressing that spurred the food business – so many of us asked for, and were given, small jars to take home.
After launching their specialty food line, I interviewed Mrs. Simpson about their venture and one product in particular – the Muirhead Farms Pecan Pumpkin Butter – which by then was seasonally available at Williams-Sonoma.
Not just a talented cook and gardener, she was gregarious, charming, and a gracious hostess, who happily shared her bread pudding recipe with me. The handwritten page has been used countless times. It’s been a harvest season ritual – a jar of pecan pumpkin butter and cheers to Mrs. Simpson for her bread pudding and those unforgettable farmhouse dinners.
Alas, daughter Barbara Simpson, who helped expand and eventually took over the business, suspended Muirhead Foods’ operations in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions and other factors. Williams-Sonoma now makes their own spiced pumpkin butter and a spiced pecan pumpkin butter bread mix. I’m sure they’re delicious, but for now, like those dinners at The Muirhead, I’ll keep her bread pudding in the memory pile.
Eat Well & Age Gracefully with Chef Barry Infuso, the monthly AARP-sponsored series, is a huge hit. AARP’s generosity makes it possible for you to take these classes for free. Thank you, AARP!
Thursday’s Chinese Vegan Kitchen class is sold out.
Three seats remain for Love Your Heart on September 25. Chef Barry takes his inspiration from Dean Ornish, MD, an advocate for using diet and lifestyle changes to treat and prevent heart disease. On the menu: Hummus, Pasta Primavera topped with nutritional yeast instead of cheese; and a “nice cream” frozen treat made in the bullet: Frozen Bananas and Blueberries with Almond Milk.
The October 12, Love Your Gut, class is sold out.
Celebrate Oktoberfest with Chef/Butcher Brett Sippy on September 27, the theme of his monthly Behind the Butcher Counter class. The taste of Bavaria menu is Pork Schnitzel with Classic Lemon Sauce; Warm German Potato Salad with Applewood Bacon; Barrel Cured Sauerkraut with Caraway Seeds; and Cranberry- Apple Mini Strudel.
What’s the Buzz on October 18? Like wine, cheese, and chocolate, honey has joined the ranks as an artisanal obsession. Experience honey from the Sonoran Desert, as well as from around the world, like never before and taste it like a sommelier tastes wine with beekeeper and sommelier Noel Patterson of Dos Manos Apiaries.
Wishing you joy in the kitchen,
Mrs. Simpson’s Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Yield: 8-12 generous portions.
2 cups heavy cream or half and half
4 large eggs
1 cup spiced pumpkin butter
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon table salt
1 loaf French bread (Must be at least a day old, if not more. Don’t use fresh because the pudding will be too mushy.)
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes and place in large mixing bowl.
2. In another bowl, whisk together cream, eggs, butter, pumpkin butter, cinnamon, and salt. Pour mixture over bread cubes and let soak 10-15 minutes then mixture into a 9-inch x 13-inch ungreased baking dish. Cover with foil.
3. Bake 30-40 minutes. When done, cool on a wire rack.
4. May be served warm or at room temperature. If desired, top with unsweetened whipped cream.