I was a foodie before there was the word. I was a wino before it was okay to be one. Now I’ve decide to share with ya’ll (I’m not even from the south)my insightful, yet totally random musings about the things I know best: Food and Drink. I”ll throw in a photo or two taken by me, myself or I for your viewing pleasure (okay, mostly for mine). So grab a cup of hot tea (not the herbal stuff) or a Dirty Martini, sit back and enjoy. You’re gonna be glad you did!
After spending the entire summer musing about relationships and losing as opposed to musing about eating and boozing, I’m back, better, and filled with lessons learned! When you treat someone with loving kindness you should be able to expect that in return….. that’s not always the case. Feminism isn’t age specific, one-dimensional or anger driven…… if you claim to be a feminist, you should be supportive and mindful of all women. My feelings are hurt certainly not for the first time or the last and I didn’t get a proper goodbye ……. I will try never be so “cavalier” with a loved one’s feelings.
Speaking of cavalier, and in this case I mean the Cavalier Hotel, early in September I spent four glorious days at this newly revamped gem in Virginia Beach. I got several musings I must share:
The glasses: Martinis served from the Raleigh Room Bar are superb and the coupe style glass used gives the whole experience a certain elegance of a by gone era.
Becca www.beccavb.com : The more upscale restaurant at the Cavalier serves Cheddar Popovers as the bread option! After one bite of this heavenly puffy, gooey, pastry slathered in sweet cream butter I kinda forgot that I had an entrée coming. I heard one server say the dinner menu changes weekly, I certainly hope that’s not the case for the popovers.
The Hunt Room: Meeting my high school/college chum and her husband is always fun! This occasion was no different. I recommend the duck thigh… it’s succulent, just the right size and the roasted brussels sprouts served with it are divine. In addition, in my opinion the in-house distillery, the Tarnished Truth, produces a fine Vodka and my husband would vouch for the bourbon and rye.
Baladi’s http:/baladicafe.com/ : We dined with my 7 year-old grand-nephew, Dominic (most likely the only actual name you’ll ever see on this blog) and his parents at this absolutely delicious Mediterranean restaurant. Tucked away in a strip-mall, I didn’t expect much but once you enter you’re greeted with a quaint bistro feel and the food was more than delightful. I got the fish special which is prepared the same way as described on the menu just with different fishes. Our night it was Mahi-Mahi and well, it tasted as lovely as it looks. The jasmine rice was tasty as well and I just wish the Cavalier had more space in the honor fridge so I could’ve taken the leftovers. As it were I gave all that I had left to my absolutely favorite nephew who lives in the State of Virginia.
EAT Bistro http://eatbistro.net/: Our last night we made a return trip to a place that we had been to three years ago that was ironically within a short distance of the Cavalier. Eat was very good years ago, but this time it was great! I ordered one of the specials that was on the board, a Halibut dish that was wrapped in rice paper. It was superb! Likewise, my husband ordered a Veal Chop special so I can’t promise similar results but I’m pretty sure everything on the menu is just as succulent.
Some random pictures:
“A farewell to a good relationship is like a fine meal eaten. Although it’s over, you should be thankful for the experience and make sure the chef knows it was appreciated.”
I took the opportunity recently to develop a couple of recipes using a new dressing offering from Gazebo Room, Asian Vinaigrette. With two of my close friends as guinea pigs, I set out to create and serve them an Asian inspired luncheon using the flavorful bottled dressing as a highlight in two of the dishes I prepared.
For the entrée, I changed ingredients but used a preparation for Chicken thighs that I’ve prepared many times. The Chicken ALWAYS comes out tender and very flavorful. The use of one of Gazebo Room’s newest additions had the same delectable results!
Asian Vinaigrette Chicken Thighs
2 Tbls fresh lemon juice
12 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp five spice powder
2 tsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 Tbls peeled fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
1/2 cup GAZEBO ROOM ASIAN VINAIGRETTE
2 Tbls chopped parsley or green onion for garnish
1. Combine lemon juice and chicken in a large zip-lock bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes. Remove Chicken and discard marinade.
2. Pat Chicken dry with paper towels. Dredge in flour mixed with the five spice powder. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet with high sides over med-high heat. Add half the chicken and cook for 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken. Remove all from pan.
3. Add onion, ginger and garlic to pan and saute 5 minutes or until tender. Return Chicken to pan. Add stock mixed with vinaigrette. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour until tender. Garnish if desired. Makes 6 servings (2 thighs with 1/3 cup sauce.
The salad I served was a revamped version of an old recipe I’d clipped from a magazine in 1982.
Far East Rice Salad
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup cooked ham diced
1 8-oz can chunk pineapple, drained
1 green or red pepper cut in thin strips
1/2 cup water chestnuts coarsely chopped
1/3 cup sliced green onion
2 Tbls GAZEBO ROOM ASIAN VINAIGRETTE
1 Tbls low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup mayo
1 can (3 oz) chow mein noodles
Combine rice, ham, pineapple, peppers, water chestnuts and green onion. Blend Vinaigrette, soy and mayo. Mix with the ham mixture. Serve on greens if desired and top with chow mein noodles. Makes 6 side dish servings.
Both dishes were easy to make, tasty and appealing to the eye. My friends gave the meal two thumbs up as well. Give either recipes a try if you’re in the mood for some Asian flavor!
“Laughter is brightest in the place where food is.” – Irish Proverb
Those familiar with this blog page may know that my daughter and I take a birthday trip each Spring sometime after April 13th (the actual day of our birth). Last year, I wrote about Savannah, the year before it was about a stay-cation in the District and the year before that I believe I let the readers know about wonderful Winchester Virginia. This year the final destination was Cape May NJ just before the official start of summer.
To our credit, my favorite daughter and I make an excellent team when it comes to trip planning! We find places to go and things to do that always include extraordinary food and drink as well as giving us a chance to be the HAGs (History, Art and Gardens) we truly are. This trip with the final destination being Cape May was no exception.
We departed from DC on Friday morning taking the 2 hour trip to our first stop which was the Winterthur Museum and Gardens. Since this blog is dedicated to food and drink, I shan’t spend too much time on the wonders of Winterthur but suffice it to say that this place is absolutely perfect for HAGS. The Enchanted Garden designed for children in mind was perfect for this old soul who has believed in fairies for decades. Please put this on your list if you’re anywhere near Chaddsford PA or Wilmington DE. The Cafe which is located within the lovely Gift Shop is perfect for a light lunch and serves wine and beer if you need an afternoon nip.
The next stop with more focus on “boozing” was the Chaddsford Winery. While I can’t say that I found the regular tasting particularly visitor focused, the wines themselves were a delight. I’d definitely wouldn’t mind attending one of the many festivals they have throughout the year when I’m back in the area. Another winery we really enjoyed was Penns Woods Winery. The gal who poured for us was so knowledgeable and friendly. The wine was good too.
Lodging that night was at the kinda quirky Brandywine River Hotel. Since this was our annual birthday trip I spared no expense at this place by reserving a deluxe room complete with a whirlpool tub and gas fireplace. Little did I know when making our reservation that the night we stayed would be the hottest day of the year thus far tipping the thermometer at 90 degrees! Not to be deterred, my girl promptly opened the large windows in the morning after it cooled down significantly so we could enjoy the fireplace before checking out. The BR Hotel includes tea and cookies in the afternoon and a continental breakfast in the morning which makes it perfectly lovely for the price paid.
While spending the night at the BRH, we had dinner at the adjacent restaurant, Brandywine Prime. While billed as your typical steakhouse, I found the emphasis on local produce and appealing ambiance very nice not to mention that the beef was delicious.
After enjoying our cozy fire upon waking and eating a bit of breakfast, we checked out and headed to Cape May but not before going to the extremely fine Brandywine River Museum of Art. I am soooooo glad we didn’t pass this place up! This extremely attractive museum features the art of the Wyeth family on three wonderful floors. I learned so much…those Wyeths were/are quite the talented bunch. If you’re a bit of a HAG, make sure to put this stop on your list.
Now on to the main event, Congress Hall in Cape May for a “Presidential Cocktail” weekend! Yes, you read right, our stay at the glorious Congress Hall was booked featuring the cocktails of the Presidents. I’m not sure the package is even available during the peak of summer but for us it added just a smidgen of whimsy to our stay, perfect for two HAGs also obsessed with eating and boozing. Upon check-in we received our package perks that included coupons for 2 Presidential cocktails in the stunning Brown Room and a hardcover edition of the funny yet fact filled book “Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt”
We had several outstanding meals during our stay but I’ll highlight just three:
Dinner at the The Red Store in Cape May Point is a must-do in my book. The establishment is BYOB, accepts cash only and the best part is that there is NO menu. Our food was expertly prepared and came in 6 or 7 courses. The attentive wait staff asks up front if there’s anything you can’t eat so they can adjust your meal accordingly (I, for instance, don’t eat oysters so I got “stuck” with a fabulous avocado ceviche instead). Dinner is served in 3 separate seatings which made the experience more enjoyable because everyone in the room (only about 20 people) were at the same place in their meal. If you like fresh, well prepared food and are a tad adventurous try this treat.
Dinner at The Ebbitt Room at The Virginia (a sister hotel to Congress Hall) was very good and is a short walk from Congress Hall. Produce there often comes from Beach Plum Farm which is associated with the Cape May Resorts group. Cocktails on the Veranda or in the small parlor is especially nice.
If your at the beach around Congress Hall have lunch at George’s Place. The Gyro and Spinach Salad I had was outstanding. I imagine dinner would be delicious as well but be warned this is another BYOB, cash-only establishment.
Cape May is lovely and staying at Congress Hall made our stay perfect. The charm that that CH holds is intoxicating (as well as the handcrafted cocktails!). Just sitting in lobby area with it’s grand fireplace sipping on a perfectly made Dirty Martini was a real treat. The live music coming from the Brown Room was sublime (especially Saturday night with Darin MacDonald). I can’t wait to go back and this time I might bring the old Coach with me!
“It was the most delightful wine when drank in moderation, but that more than a few glasses always produced a headache the next day.”
— James Madison on Champagne
For me, 2016 pretty much sucked. I won’t bore you with all the specifics, but let’s just say if it wasn’t for my obsession with musing about eating and boozing, my guess is I would’ve withdrawn from all human interaction shortly after November 8th! That being said, I did manage to discover some wonderful culinary products and impressive restaurants throughout 2016 that deserve recognition as recipients of the 2nd Annual Musing Awards.
And the Musee goes to………
Favorite newly discovered Food and Beverage:
Savory- Eat Smart Beets and Greens Salad Kit. I’ve never been a fan of bagged salads. I tend to think I can taste the plastic bag on the lettuce. Thankfully, that doesn’t hold true for salads made of sturdier (and healthier) greens such as kale or brussels sprouts. I truly have enjoyed all the Eat Smart Salad Kits I’ve tried with Beets and Greens being my favorite (and the one that’s out of stock most often).
Sweet-Betty Crocker Limited Edition Salted Caramel Cookie Mix. Okay, okay I realize this winner isn’t exactly all the way “prepared” but they sure make baking easy and delicious! Literally just add an egg and butter (REAL UNSALTED BUTTER) for sweet and salty home-baked heaven! If you care to, add my secret ingredient….1/2 tsp Almond Extract.
Beverage- Cheribundi Cherry Juice. I’m not gonna lie, this stuff is pretty pricey but I find the flavor delicious! Maybe it’s just label persuasion, but I swear if I drink four 8oz servings through the week my joints actually do feel better as the product implies. I tend to purchase the “lite” version when available.
Favorite “new to me” Chef- Neal McTighe . I had the pleasure of meeting Neal at a community outreach program at Dickinson College that I was invited to by a dear friend who’s an alum. My friend and I had no idea what to expect from this particular event that was called “Italy in a Jar”, but what the heck it was free and appeared to involve food! Once seated with a glass of Italian Wine and a few nibbles provided by the Dickinson staff we got to meet and hear the story behind the creator and founder of Nello’s Sauces, a red hot Italian Pasta Sauce Company that’s beginning to appear in shelves all over the place such as Wholefoods, Kroger, Harris Teeter, etc. Even the mail-order meal company, Plated, has begun to provide Nello’s Sauce with their dinner kits. Neal’s rise from Dickinson college student with limited Italian language skills, to teacher of Italian, to Pasta Sauce Chef extraordinaire is not only interesting (“click” on his name above to get to Nello’s website and read all about it) but inspiring too as it is a stunning example of someone pursuing their passion. After the talk, we all gathered into the college kitchen where Neal gave us sauce making tips (do you know the best canned tomatoes to use?) and prepared a huge pot of Pasta with Nello’s Marinara Sauce. I went home with a jar Nello’s sauce laced with lavender which was scrumptious! Ironically, Nello’s Sauce isn’t found near Dickinson College as of yet (closest in probably Wholefoods towards Philly?) but I have my fingers crossed.
Favorite “new to me” Winery- Grace Estate Winery . Like so many other things in 2016, I didn’t get to as many wineries (VA mostly) as I’d would’ve liked or usually do throughout a year. I’m awfully glad my two favorite girls and I were able to get to Grace Estate! Tasting Room-great, Wines-tasty, Outdoor seating and views-lovely. Don’t miss this one when you’re in the Charlottesville area. Look at my blog post from Nov 2016 for more photos of some Charlottesville area wineries visited this past year.
Favorite “new to me” Restaurant-Cosima, Baltimore MD I loved this place! Baltimore really has some gems and Cosima is at the top of my list. Look at my post from September 2016 titled “Charmed, I’m Sure” for further details on this and a few other places I discovered in the Charm City this past year.
Just Plain Delicious- Zunzi’s, Savannah GA I blogged about my trip to Savannah in July (“Oh, Savannah”) which provided details of my culinary experiences. Zunzi’s was without a doubt the “funnest” food I had. Truly coming out of a hole in the wall, you stand in line to order absolutely delicious South African (and a few other countries) concoctions. The “Oliver’s Lunch” shown below really is just plain delicious! Take a look at their website. You can order some of their sauces and Zunzi gear.
Favorite “new to me” recipe-Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives . I guess I must’ve cut this out of a Cooking Light magazine in 2007 but didn’t get around to making it until this past year. I made up for lost time though, because I bet I’ve made this succulent dish at least a dozen times in the past 12 months. It’s that good. Atypically for me, I follow this recipe to a tee except for the cilantro- I never add the Cilantro. Originally I thought 1 hour seemed to be a heck of a long time to simmer chicken thighs but they turn out perfect after a long, slow simmer. Please note that this is a Cooking Light recipe so it won’t infringe on any New Year’s resolution.
Life Time Achievement Award-Shrimp Spread. The LTAA this year has to go to the family Shrimp Spread recipe featured in my blog post “History, It’s in the Making” April 2016 and dedicated to my dad who passed away last February. I can now say that this recipe has gotten my family through the best of times and worst of times. It’s been served at countless parties and holidays to include this year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mom also made it for my Dad’s Military Honors Ceremony and following Reception as a tribute and sweet remembrance of a great husband, father, Officer and gentleman.
So there you have it- the Musing Awards for 2016. Please be so kind as to “click” on a few of the websites I have highlighted. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts on any of the award recipients and would be honored if you’d pass this post to anyone you think might be interested.
I truly hope 2017 brings you all happiness, peace and a multitude of culinary adventures. Next up for me is the Culinary Immersion Weekend at the Omni Bedford Springs!
“They say I need to be seasoned; they say I need to be stewed. They say, ‘We need to boil all the hope out of him — like us — and then he’ll be ready’.”- Barack Obama while campaigning in 2008
As far as I’m concerned in order to thoroughly enjoy eating and boozing your surroundings are extremely important! I’ll go so far as too say when I visit a winery the “view” can enhance the quality of the wine I’m drinking by leaps and bounds. Take a look at the Charlottesville area wineries I visited recently and the sights I got to behold……
Stayed tuned for the 2nd Annual Musing awards the be published soon (in the meantime you may want to review last year’s winners published in March of 2015)!
“Wine is a gateway drug to environmentalism.”
― Katherine Cole
Unplanned culinary adventures are the best! What started out as a weekend in the Charm City to attend “Jazz in the Sculpture Garden” at the beloved Baltimore Museum of Art turned into a food extravaganza. It was so darn hot that the Jazz had to move indoors and doing anything else outside was out of the question. Since we were staying both Friday and Saturday nights at the Inn at the Colonnade, our go-to lodging while visiting the BMA, we had lots of inside time to fill and what better way than to try out some different eateries.
To be clear, my favorite area in Baltimore is not the Inner Harbor area. I much prefer the charm in the Hampden neighborhood near BMA and John Hopkins University Homewood Campus. Usually we leisurely walk through campus to get to the BMA through the sculpture garden, but I would have none of it this time. UBER was an easy and relatively inexpensive way to go this particular weekend with the exception of lunch on Saturday which was right next to the hotel. Are you ready? Let’s get started…..
Upon arrival at the hotel, we lazed around while researching dinner options for the evening. I decided on Cosima and I certainly was not disappointed! Actually finding the entrance was an adventure in itself as our UBER driver had no choice but to drop us off at the top of a steep cobblestone drive that appeared to go to the back of a warehouse. A young gal had also just been dropped off and was just as confused as to where we could enter as we were. Not to be deterred, I took the lead, boldly went down to the depths of that cobblestone, turned right and behold, there was the busy front door (although in the back!) of one of my new favorite restaurants.
Cosima was hopping when we arrived for our 9PM reservation. I was pleased with the décor that was able to exude coziness while still having that made-over Industrial Warehouse vibe (go, you’ll see what I mean). We quickly ordered the meats and cheeses to enjoy with our cocktails and the server in turn brought a basket of crusty bread. Next came the very exciting raw Swordfish you see above. All our food was outstanding with my entrée of Slow Cooked Pork Ribs, also shown above, being my absolute favorite. Go to Cosima while in Baltimore…you’ll like it!
The heat continued it’s vengeance into Saturday when we were informed via email the Jazz wouldn’t be in the Sculpture Garden after all. That being the case, my weekend partner slept until noon (truly not an unusual occurrence) and upon waking after thorough research on my part, I suggested we go literally next door to the…wait for it…VEGETARIAN Restaurant called One World Café. In full disclosure, I totally ignored this place in the past because I had no idea it had an absolutely adorable FULL bar. Who can’t eat Vegetarian with Wine or a Bloody Mary? Fortunately my guy was up for it so we took the across-the-street trek to what ended up being veggie heaven.
Looks are deceiving and to be honest I had always thought One World Cafe was pretty much a free trade coffee place and little more. Also since we both are carnivores at heart (although I did practice Meatless Mondays the entirety of 2015), vegetarian establishments don’t stand out as usual dining options. I’m so glad we decided to live life on the edge and go to OWC! The Black Bean Soup shown at the tippy-top was superb and my eggplant pita was just as hearty as any meatladen sandwich. I even went crazy and had a shot of carrot juice for 2 bucks. Check out their FB page for other photos and menu.
After lunch/brunch I had the rest of the afternoon to watch Lifetime Movies (yes, a favorite pass time of mine only to be out done by Hallmark Movies) and figure out where my next meal was coming from. Reservations were made for 9:30 at the Food Market.
After a fine Jazz concert (unfortunately inside as you know) we took the short UBER ride over to the Food Market and for the 2nd evening in a row were extremely impressed with our meals. My Scallops Deluxe were awesome. I might have trouble ordering something different if I were to go again. I loved the quaint bar at the front of the restaurant and was pleased I could get a glass of a dry Rose while waiting for our table.
Sunday morning and check-out time came far too soon ( in our world that’s noon). Typically on the drive home we stop at a Diner for breakfast/brunch. This trip we decided to get food before leaving the city limits and in doing so came across the absolutely best restaurant find of the weekend! Make no mistake, Johnny’s Restaurant is billed as a diner although after finding the place among some lovely houses it’s evident why it’s description contains the word upscale. Possibly for the first time in my blogging career I was so engrossed in my brunch dish I didn’t even think to take a picture. “Johnny’s Loco Fried Rice” has officially become one of my best brunch foods ever. So much so, I’ve made my own version for breakfast twice since visiting. The Mr. was pleased to be able to order an omelette with his chosen ingredients and his side of Merquez Chicken Sausage was very tasty. I’m going to Johnny’s again, soon, and this time for dinner….can’t wait!
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song over hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world”-J.R.R.Tolkien
As anyone who’s been or wants to visit knows, Savannah is an absolutely beautiful city. To that end, many photos have been taken of the famous fountain, the Bird Girl of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” fame and the historic Squares with trees draped in Spanish Moss. I took those pics too but I feel it’s my duty as a Food and Drink Blogger to submit to you original photos of the culinary side of Savannah. So sit back, relax and experience a “taste” of Savannah my way…..
http:zunzis.com Zunzi’s is truly a hole-in-the-wall where you line up to get spectacular South African food. Savannah has an open liquor law so we could order beers with our lunch and then imbibe in the closest tree lined square.
http://www.elizabethon37th.net/ Elizabeth’s on 37th is in a Grand Victorian Mansion that is as lovely as it’s food is delicious.
http://thegreyrestaurant.com We went to The Grey our last night in Savannah and must I say there’s nothing like saving the best for last. A restored Greyhound Bus Terminal is the backdrop for this spectacular restaurant. The food was outstanding as well as creative. A must stop if you’re in Savannah.
http://www.local11ten.com/ Local 11 Ten was our first meal in Savannah and boy what a welcome. The food was great and the after dinner glass of Port on the rooftop bar called the “Perch” was sublime.
I would be be remiss in not mentioning we did other things in Savannah besides eating and drinking (Telfair Art Museums being one of them…don’t miss! www.telfair.org). For lodging, I highly recommend The Mansion on Forsyth (a Marriott brand for all you rewards members www.mansiononforsythpark.com). In my mind, it’s perfectly situated at the end of the historic district away from the more touristy area. The decor is artsy if not a bit “kitschy” but I like that.
I’d go back to Savannah in a heart beat, but fair warning it was HOT and Muggy even in late April. Next time I might try late March.