Gallery

Online Art Exhibit: Edible Landscaped Splendor

As late autumn sets in and my flowers dwindle in the garden, it makes me want to take one last look at this past season when edibles and blooms collided. Please enjoy:

Jen Blen Begins

Jen Blen Begins


A Sensory Haven

A Sensory Haven


A Garden Friend

A Garden Friend


Peppers, Nasturtium and Kale Dance among the Flowers

Peppers, Nasturtium and Kale Dance among the Flowers


Chives and Chard and Other Things

Chives and Chard and Other Things


The Hedgehog scurries among the Mint

The Hedgehog scurries among the Mint


Eggplant and Cucumbers mingle with the flowers

Eggplant and Cucumbers mingle with the flowers


My Koi hidden in the reflection

My Koi hidden in the reflection


The first Foodie Buddy

The first Foodie Buddy

Late Summer Harvest poses for one last picture

Late Summer Harvest poses for one last picture

Wine about C-ville

Our Wine Flights at Early Mountain après la tasting

Our Wine Flights at Early Mountain après la tasting

This past weekend was my annual Fall Winery Mecca to Charlottesville Virginia. Whether it’s my husband or daughter (or anyone else for that matter) who ends up being my travel companion, there are a few rules I strictly enforce: 3 Wineries on the way down on Friday, 3 more Wineries on Saturday, Lodging on the Pedestrian Mall at the Omni or at least close like you can get at the Courtyard by Marriott and Dinner reservations made by me at the restaurants of my choice. This weekend was no different with the exception that the weather didn’t cooperate like it usually does thus my pictures are good, just not great. Here are the highlights:

As we drove up to Early Mountain Vineyards http://www.earlymountain.com/ I had a distinct sense I’d been there before. When we walked into the tasting room I was less sure until the pourer cleared up everything for me. This Winery used to be called Sweely until about a 1 1/2 years ago. My daughter and I had been there and as I recall the interior was very dark almost Gothic in décor. Now the tasting room is beyond lovely…light and airy along with a full service dining facility.
Tasting Room at Early Mountain Vineyards
What I found especially fun is that after we had a traditional wine tasting, we were able to order interesting flights of wine that featured wines from other local vineyards as well. I got a “Taste of Fall” that featured a wine from Blenheim and Barboursville. We also ordered cheese, olives and charcuterie… perfect with our wine flights.
Next up Reynard Florence reynardflorence.com . It’s a very small tasting room venue and I’m not sure they want to expand their clientele, but the wines aren’t bad and for me being able to spend time with T-Ray the Corgi was all I needed. My family is totally against me dream of having a Corgi someday so when I can get a “fix” I take it!
T-Ray the Corgi..my dream dog
After checking into the Omni in Charlottesville, we dined at the Downtowne Grill  https://downtowngrille.com/. If Steak is what your craving, I’d highly recommend it. My Filet topped with Crabmeat and Asparagus was superb.
A cloudy, but still lovely day at First Colony
Our visit to First Colony Winery is the stop I’d like to highlight for Saturday. http://www.firstcolonywinery.com/

The Thatched Roof of First Colony

The Thatched Roof of First Colony

I loved, loved, loved my experience at First Colony. Upon arrival, we were lucky enough to be greeted by Bruce, one of the owners, and a precious Beagle named Dudley. Once inside the cozy and pretty tasting room (being made even prettier due to a wedding taking place that evening) we were fortunate to have Abby as our pourer. We chatted quite a bit during our tasting about lots of things, wine…not so much. That was okay though because the wine tasted good and I was far more interested when Abby told us of her husband’s recent endeavors of making small-batch chocolate bars by roasting the cacao with the machine he uses for coffee beans at his shop, Shark Mountain Coffee (www.sharkmountaincoffee.com). Although we didn’t have time to stop before coming home, the chocolate must be good because it’s featured in Fall publication of “Edible” Magazine (Blue Ridge edition). There are several features of First Colony I enjoyed such as the various scenic views available, woodsy in the back and a panoramic view of field and mountain in the front with all sorts of seating and tables for your wine drinking in enjoyment. Visitors are welcome to bring picnics, but they have a selection of cheese, crackers and other snacks as well.

A wall of growing edibles at Red Pump Kitchen

A wall of growing edibles at Red Pump Kitchen

Saturday night we dined at Red Pump Kitchen www.redpumpkitchen.com. and we enjoyed our meals immensely. Only opened since July, this Tuscan-style kitchen is supremely located on the Pedestrian Mall and has already received a host of positive reviews. I was especially enamored with the wall of live edibles. A closer look and a couple of questions later, I found out when they had first opened the attempt was to grow all their herbs on the wall. When that didn’t work, they opted for some edibles and mixed with a few house plant….it still looks very cool though and the mint is harvested! For an appetizer, we shared a Fennel Sausage, Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Red Onion and Mozzarella Pizza (the menu told us to do it!). My entrée of Mushroom Agnolotti(that’s pasta), Butternut Puree, Parmesan Cream and Shaved Black Burgundy Truffle was delicious and while I don’t always mention my dining partner’s meal, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the Squid Tagliatelle, Clams, PEI Mussels, Bay Scallops (can you say that PD?) with Uni Butter was a pleasure as well. Check out the Red Pump Kitchen. You’ll be glad you did.

What a Pizza Pie!

Dear readers, I encourage you to “click” on the websites I’ve highlighted or check out other Charlottesville wineries and restaurants. C-ville is a great weekend destination and while I always focus on food and drink, Virginia history and culture abounds. Please also share your thoughts about the many, many wineries in this region.

DIY with Edibles

I’ve waited all summer season to write this post for here is where I’ll just scrape the surface of where Edible Gardening can take you in the creative realm. Better yet, everything I’ll share this evening is do-able without growing anything yourself…it’s up to the foodie in you! First up: Nasturtium Infused Vodka

Beautiful Nasturtium getting ready to be submerged in Vodka

Beautiful Nasturtium getting ready to be submerged in Vodka


Nasturtium soaking in Vodka

Nasturtium soaking in Vodka


This is so very easy. I scoured the Internet, but ended up using a hint from the “Cooking with Flowers” by Miche Bacher cookbook my lovely daughter gave me for my birthday. I simply added the Nasturtium flowers and a few leaves to 2 cups of Vodka ( in this case Penn 1681..I really like it …distilled in PA). For me, infusing one week in the refrigerator provided the flavor I was looking for. Nasturtium flowers and leaves are totally edible and possess a spicy peppery flavor reminiscent of radishes. In a Dirty Martini, the infused vodka was a complete and utter success. I’ve also made Chai infused Sweet Vermouth (my husband is a Manhattan drinker)in the past. That’s simple as well, 2 ounces of loose leaf Chai seeping in the contents of a small bottle of vermouth for an hour and a half, strain back into the bottle…done! The Internet is filled with all kinds of Infused Alcohol recipes with most being super simple.
Tomatillos grow in my garden

Tomatillos grow in my garden

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa


I have to take this opportunity to brag about my Tomatillo plant. This is the first season I grew the green globes with a paper-like husk but it definitely won’t be my last. In fact, it might’ve been my most prolific edible with 20 of so already harvested and another 15 still coming. I’m also a novice cooking with Tomatillos so the picture you see above was my own made up concoction that turned out pretty darn good if I do say so myself.
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Chopped Tomatillos to taste
Chopped assorted Peppers to taste
Chopped tomato- only one medium (turns out too watery otherwise)
Chopped onion to taste
At least 4 unpeeled garlic cloves
Chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro and chive

Place on a foil lined baking sheet
Drizzle with Olive Oil ( I used Cilantro flavored Cottonseed Oil that came in my Hatchery Box https://hatchery.co/tasting-box/)
Sprinkle w/S and P and roast at 375 for 40 minutes or until you are happy with the results.

Use with absolutely anything you’d like

Compound Butter made with fresh herbs

Compound Butter made with fresh herbs


Last but not least, please try making compound butter with fresh herbs! So easy and so delicious! Just chose your herbs and add to softened butter.

My favorite Gettysburg Address

I had totally planned that my next post would be about a Jimmy Buffet Concert Tailgate (you may recall, I posted about a Bruce Springsteen tailgate earlier). While I could go on and on about the tailgate itself, it wouldn’t have much to do about eating and boozing but rather more about my visual experience. Full disclosure, I am a Jimmy Buffet Concert novice. The friends I attended with had told me all along that I would see some outrageous stuff and that certainly was the case! From shirtless men sporting coconut bras (women too, but the men were far more comical) to a fake parrot on every other shoulder, a JB tailgate is not so about the food and drink, but more about a homage to the Key West/Tropical Island life style. Don’t get me wrong, tailgaters (to include my own crew) put on a perfectly delicious spread of Cheeseburgers in Paradise and Tequila in many forms (thanks Amanda and Bri-on for the Papaya Infused Tequila Shots!), but fussiness in the culinary realm is surely lacking….which is a good thing at a Buffet Concert.

Dessert at Sidney...Double Chocolate Cake, Milk Chocolate Mousse and Dark Chocolate Mini-Milkshake

Dessert at Sidney…Double Chocolate Cake, Milk Chocolate Mousse and Dark Chocolate Mini-Milkshake


Alas, I feel I must make this post about something near and dear to my heart…the fact that “we” have not one, but two choices in Central Pennsylvania to experience the great culinary artistry of Chef Neil Annis. Neil’s first location, Restaurant Sidney, in East Berlin Pa opened several years ago. Newer still, is Sidney at Willoughby Run in Gettysburg PA. I love them both, but must say that the Gettysburg location has an edge due to it’s small plate format. Our most recent visit not only provided us with a superb meal but gave me the opportunity to re-connect with Chef Neil who truly, truly appreciates support from those of us who reside in Central PA. Please come if you’ve never been before. Both locations will provide culinary experience that can be as informal or upscale as you’d like to make it….just check out the website. You’ll be glad you did!
My meal. Pork Loin and Herbed Spaetzel

My meal. Pork Loin and Herbed Spaetzel


My husband's meal. A beautiful fish dish.

My husband’s meal. A beautiful fish dish.

Northern Neck Paradise

View from the Tides Inn Terrace

View from the Tides Inn Terrace


I love my home. I even like my day job. I gotta tell you though, leaving the Tides Inn and the beautiful views like you see above is always gut wrenching for me. The Tides Inn is a Virginian Paradise! Located in Irvington, part of Virginia’s Northern Neck, the Tides offers a perfect vacation spot….lovely setting, the perfect mix of activity and relaxation, but most important for me great food and libations. This trip had us eating dinner three out of six nights right at the Inn. Each meal was quite delicious with my favorite being a succulent duo of Beef Tenderloin and Sea Scallops.
Perfectly prepared Sea Scallops and Beef Tenderloin

Perfectly prepared Sea Scallops and Beef Tenderloin


While at the Tides, I was delighted to meet and talk with the very personable Chef David Schmidt, Executive Chef at Enchantment Resort in Sedona Arizona. It turns out the Tides Inn and Enchantment are sister resorts hence Chef Schmidt and family were on vacation. Upon meeting, I immediately googled Enchantment Resort and became, um…….enchanted! Consider it if ever staying in Arizona. I know I will. Checkout Chef David Schmidt’s Facebook page and the resort website http://enchantmentresort.com.
There’s other fun and tasty food choices in and around Irvington. A favorite is Merrior along the water in Topping, the restaurant at the home of Rappahannock River Oyster Company. This summer was my second visit and the second time I ate the least amount of oysters of anyone in my party. That being said, I find sipping on something cold and bubbly (the ladies in my group had a French Rose’) while eating an oyster or two a very pleasurable experience. Rest assured everyone else at my table will attest the Oysters at Merrior are very, very good. I believe Chef Schmidt thinks so as well since he told us that he gets Rappahannock Oysters for the restaurants at the Enchantment Resort…….who knew the Oysters from the Northern Neck area made it all the way to Arizona?
Something cold and bubbly, the very best with Oysters!

Something cold and bubbly, the very best with Oysters!


If you go and can’t embrace eating dozens of raw oysters like me, I’m happy to report there are lots of other delectable options. I recommend the Stuffin Muffin (just the right amount of oyster flavor mixed in a moist bread stuffing) or the Peel and Eat Shrimp with Spiced Vegetables not to mention the assorted specials they have each day. You can read all about the Rappahannock River Oyster Company at http://www.rroysters.com
Nate’s Trick Dog Cafe is another great eating establishment within walking distance from the Tides Inn. It’s only open for dinner and closed both Sunday and Monday, however. We’ve been there several times and have always enjoyed the food. This trip my entrée of a Pork Shank braised in coffee and cocoa with chorizo and spinach ravioli was superb. The favorite appetizer for the table was the Salmon Tartare. Make sure to call for reservations as this place fills up with vacationers and locals alike.
A loaded Bloody Mary at the Kilmarnock Inn

A loaded Bloody Mary at the Kilmarnock Inn


The only other meal I’m going to highlight in this post is lunch at the Kilmarnock Inn. This lovely Inn is a Presidential-themed Bed and Breakfast of sorts serving breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week. If I didn’t suffer from my Tides Inn addiction, I’d be liable to stay here once in a while. Alas, that is not to be so I settled for lunch in the charming dining room. My husband ordered a Bloody Mary that could serve as an entire meal for someone with a small appetite. He found it delicious while I was more than pleased with my Roasted Tomato and Corn Chowder and Poached Salmon Salad. I will definitely try dinner at the Kilmarnock Inn next time I’m in the heavenly Northern Neck area.
I’ll close with just a few more recommendations. For food, try the relatively new Northern Neck Burger Company in Kilmarnock or drive a bit to Reedville for an incredibly reasonably priced meal at the Crazy Crab (get the Sugar Toads if they have’em in season!). For Winery visits, don’t miss the Dog and Oyster Vineyards (you can ride a bike from the Tides Inn) or Good Luck Cellars only a few miles away. For the best in scenic views, by all means go to the Tides Inn.
Just another day at the Tides Inn

Just another day at the Tides Inn

Call Peppa

Just one of the lovely areas used for entertaining in the 1960s at the Glen Burnie House and Gardens Just one of the lovely areas used for entertaining in the 1960s at the Glen Burnie House and Gardens

http://themsv.org
My long-awaited summer vacation had arrived. This year my husband and I decided to meander down south to our beloved Tides Inn by way of Winchester and Culpeper Virginia (re-read the title to this post to get the proper pronunciation according to my dear friend born and raised in Roanoke). While in Winchester, I practiced my southern drawl by sweet talking my husband into stopping at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley to get a glimpse of the gardens. Once we arrived we were told no admittance into the gardens without a ticket purchase for the whole museum, so we trudged up to the building to pay a whopping $8 each expecting to exit the building immediately and head back to the gardens. An hour and a half later we had yet to make it back outside! Turns out the MSV had one particular gallery that was right down my alley and tied in nicely with the gardens I would see later. Called the “Edible Feast”, the gallery is an interactive display chronicling the entertaining that went on at the Glen Burnie House (on the Museum property) during the 1960s while occupied by Julian Wood Glass Jr. and his partner R. Lee Taylor. Not only did I read about lavish menus and gaze upon tablescapes made of heirloom serving pieces but I got to play games too. What fun I had helping Alfred the Butler guess how to properly set the table for a formal dinner party in two minutes or less via video game! I suppose I should mention that the MSV has several other outstanding galleries as well it’s just that this one spoke to the foodie in me.

The wonderful café on MSV property is run by Bonnie Blue Southern Market and Bakery also in Winchester The wonderful café on MSV property is run by Bonnie Blue Southern Market and Bakery also in Winchester
Gazpacho at Bonnie Blue Café Gazpacho at Bonnie Blue Café

Speaking of food, after spending time looking at the great indoor galleries, we were hungry. To my delight, the café downstairs not only served wine (remember, I was on vacation) but had Gazpacho….my all time summer favorite. The gazpacho was of the smooth variety and came with a drizzle of basil oil on top. I also ordered a salad of mixed greens, candied walnuts and dried cranberries topped with a herb dressing. The goat cheese croutons that accompanied the salad were what I can only describe as two heavenly quarters of a toasted cheese Panini filled with gooey goat cheese. We were fortunate to be able to talk to Christian, one of the owners of Bonnie Blue (the café as well as the market, bakery and catering business), who shared a lot about the local produce and meats they use in the operation of their businesses. When in Winchester, definitely go the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley and Bonnie Blue. Check out the Bonnie Blue website at: http://www.bonnieblue.us On to the gardens……..

Marigolds used keep pests away from the grapes at Old House Vineyards Marigolds used keep pests away from the grapes at Old House Vineyards

On the way to Culpeper (remember, say call peppa) the plan was to stop at the Old House Vineyard. Boy, am I glad we did! We had a delightful time tasting wine and talking with Alison, the owner of this very beautiful property. I’m especially fond of the Chambourcin called Wicked Bottom and the port-style dessert wine called Mutage. Many of the wine labels feature artwork that translate into local folklore. We were fortunate that Bill, quite a historian of the area, was there during our visit so we learned a lot. Proving once again it’s a small world, it turns out Bill was once the ROTC Instructor at Dickinson College in Carlisle Pennsylvania (where I spent most of my time growing up) and graduated from West Point in the late 50s when my dad was an instructor there. Who knows how many times our paths may have crossed! Old House Vineyard is a must see and taste destination.
http://www.oldhousevineyards.com
Next we checked into our lodgings for the night, the Suites at 249. I could go on and on about this place but as it doesn’t fit the Food and Drink category of my blog, I’ll just sum it up this way: GO….I recommend the Verde Suite. http://www.suitesat249.com
Dinner at Culpepper was at It’s about Thyme (thanks for the recommendation Alison). I know, I know, I had Gazpacho for lunch but I couldn’t resist ordering it again in the evening when I saw this version included baby shrimp. True to form that no gazpacho is alike, this one was chunky, had lots of baby shrimp and was equally delicious. My entrée of Veal Shank was superb as well, but alas was a special so won’t always be available.

It's About Thyme rendition of Gazpacho It’s About Thyme rendition of Gazpacho

http://www.thymeinfo.com
We had such a grand time on our way down to the Tides Inn. Stay tuned for more musing….

Pizza with a Princess

Recipe for Smoked Chicken Pizza as it appears in Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication: 30-Minute Dinners

Recipe for Smoked Chicken Pizza as it appears in Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication: 30-Minute Dinners


Ingredients gathered to adapt the Smoked Chicken Recipe

Ingredients gathered to adapt the Smoked Chicken Recipe

Dear readers this post will be my first ever to not only promote a recipe and a food product or two, but to introduce a fabulous cooking piece that has me giddy! Any gal my age may remember the “Princess House” parties our moms or grandmas had bringing friends and family together to purchase crystal glasses and vases that were only used once a year or more often given as wedding gifts. The Princess House Company has endured, but let me tell you, fancy crystal is only a sliver of the type of products they now peddle. Still only available through home parties or direct order from your consultant, Princess House offers fabulous cookware that fits my “Foodie without Big Bucks” lifestyle perfectly.http://princesshouse.com
A few nights ago I adapted the above recipe to fit my need-for-speed, taste and most importantly my desire to use my “Ultimate Grill, Bake and Serve Stone” recently purchased from my dear friend and personal PH Consultant (thanks C!). This stone is as versatile as it gets….grill (gas or charcoal), bake, broil, chill or freeze…..it does it all. This night, after getting my ingredients together, every step of preparation was done on the stone atop my gas grill as shown in the pics below:


Besides using the grill, changes to the recipe for me included use of a deli-roasted chicken, one large whole wheat pizza crust and probably more like a 1 1/2 cups of smoked mozzarella. The smokiness of the cheese is what gave this pizza a rich and unique flavor. I substituted iceberg lettuce and my own tomatoes for the arugula because my guy likes the crunch of a fresh iceberg (no matter that it’s nutritional value is nil) and besides my edible landscaping is paying off in tomatoes and other veggies currently. As one might guess if you’ve read my previous post, I drizzled Gazebo Room Salad Dressing on the whole darn thing in lieu of plain old EVOO……yum.http://gazeboroom.com

Finished Product

Finished Product

Springfield Manor Revisited

Springfield Manor Winery and Distillery, Thurmont Maryland

Springfield Manor Winery and Distillery, Thurmont Maryland

Almost a year ago (July 13th to be exact) I wrote the post below after spending a lovely afternoon at the newly opened Springfield Manor Winery. While there, we learned that plans were made to put in a Distillery  to compliment the Winery. I’m happy to report that the Distillery is in currently making Pear and two different Apple Brandies that can be sampled and purchased to take home. There’s also plans for more liquors to be distilled too!

Again, my favorite wine tasted was  the Ironmaster Reserve (actually I like the regular Ironmaster a lot as well).  We also repeated getting the large meat and cheese platter which is still huge and the same price as last summer.  When you visit, if you get Chris as a pourer you won’t be disappointed. This young man is extremely knowledgeable and holds a treasure trove of information about the Winery. The Patio area filled with umbrella clad tables is quite large and typically on weekends you can listen to live music.

Springfield Manor is a perfect venue for weddings and from what I understand, it can accommodate both small and large events, rustic or formal. This visit, I got to see a Wedding Party getting pictures taken in the Lavender field where the flowers were just starting to bloom….so beautiful!

In addition to having another exceptional experience at the Winery, I’m thrilled to report that Zoey the Zebra and Zack the Zonkey were happily grazing in the pasture across the way. What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

The Post from July 2014:

Headline: Zebra hunter discovers Winery instead!

The Lavender Fields of Springfield Manor Winery

The Lavender Fields of Springfield Manor Winery

http://www.springfieldmanor.com

 

 

Zebra? Donkey? Both – The Frederick News-Post : Archive.

http://www.springfieldmanor.com
Having adult children who live in Washington DC, I find myself traveling a familiar stretch of US Route 15 a lot. For the last few years as I made my jaunts to DC, I swore I saw out of the corner of my eye what looked like a Zebra in one of the farm pastures around Thurmont Maryland. On one occasion I was absolutely sure that I saw a zebra so I googled the darn thing and sure enough, Zoey the Zebra indeed resides along Rt. 15!

Generous Cheese and Meats can be found at Springfield Manor Winery

Generous Cheese and Meats can be found at Springfield Manor Winery

On a trip a few months ago while my husband was driving I was determined to get a glimpse of Zoey as I hadn’t seen her for quite a while (read the article in the link above and you’ll find out why….a zonkey, who knew?). To my dismay, Zoey was no where to be found but as I turned my head my eyes beheld another exciting sight….the grand opening of Springfield Manor Winery and Distillery! Immediately I knew what our next day trip would be.
Springfield Manor sits along Route 15 as well, but is far back on somewhat of a hill so the traffic sounds aren’t noticeable. I found the wines quite good with the Ironmaster Reserve being my favorite (and the most expensive of course). On this particular Saturday they were offering pre-made platters of meat and/or cheese. We got a large one which was way too much for two people so we actually took home a doggie bag which is definitely a first for us. The weather was perfect which made sitting outside ideal, but I must say the tasting room while somewhat small is quite nice.
The most unique aspect of this winery is the lovely Lavender Field which is a prominent part of this venue. You can pick it, have it in lemonade, buy T-shirts with pictures of it or be like me and just frolic in the field much to the amusement of my husband. I love the fragrance of Lavender!
What a great day trip for anyone who lives within an hour radius of Thurmont. I plan to visit again soon and hope that Zoey and baby Zach will be out to pasture next time!

The Patio at Springfield Manor

The Patio at Springfield Manor

Chow down in Chi-Town

A bit of the Bubbly on the 96th Floor at the Signature Lounge A bit of the Bubbly on the 96th Floor at the Signature Lounge

Since our daughter was doing a rotation in Chicago for work, my husband and I took the opportunity to visit her as well as the city for the first time. My daughter knows me well and is a bit of a foodie herself. She did an excellent job planning a long weekend packed with “touristy” stuff and a sampling of the fantastic restaurants Chicago is famous for. As with all my blog posts, this will pertain to the culinary portion of our visit!

Roasted Bone Marrow was just one of the exciting choices at the Purple Pig Roasted Bone Marrow was just one of the exciting choices at the Purple Pig

We arrived just before lunch so after a short walk along the river we found ourselves at our first restaurant….the Purple Pig. The subtitle on the menu is “Cheese, Swine and Wine”. I felt obligated try all three. One of my picks was the picture you see above. I was given instructions with this dish…slather the marrow on freshly baked bread, sprinkle with sea salt and top with herb salad. I followed the instructions to a tee and was rewarded with a taste like no other. A few of the other dishes we tried were Chorizo Stuffed Olives, Pigs Ear with Krispy Kale topped with a Fried Egg and Pork Secreto with Roasted Pepper, Leeks and Pickled Watermelon Rind. My first meal in Chicago was better than great!
Next up was a glass of Bubbly at Signature Lounge which was only ninety-six stories up…definitely a tourist trap but well worth the surprisingly short elevator ride to experience that view!
Dinner that night was at GT Fish and Oyster. Again, delicious food with my favorite being the Squash Blossom with Crab, Zucchini and Mozzarella. I also totally loved the Halibut Romesco with grilled peaches and scallions.

Who knew Chicken Thighs could be such an exciting lunch? Who knew Chicken Thighs could be such an exciting lunch?

My daughter and I had girl-time the next morning with breakfast at Xoco (a Rick Bayless place). We shared a Chorizo-Egg Torta and a wonderful Churro with Pistachio Glaze. I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but my daughter will attest to the Chocolate Cappuccino being excellent.
Lunch was at Eataly, a place which more sophisticated foodies than I will say is a bit touristy. Well call me a Country Bumpkin…I thought it was great! My lunch was Seared Chicken Thighs with Sundried Tomato Bread Salad of Kohlrabi, peppers, green onion and tomato vinaigrette. The Thighs were about as tender and juicy as I’ve ever had outside my own home. If you’ve never been, Eataly is like a Foodie Amusement Park. You can shop, get food to go, dine amidst the butcher, the baker and fish monger or go to one of the sit down restaurants. What’s really appealing is you can take your glass of wine or beer with you throughout the two-story establishment. I could’ve stayed for hours but eventually we had to leave to get ready for the ball game at Wrigley field….my chosen destination for a Chicago Hot Dog (oh, and the Cubs were playing the Nats). Chicago Hot Dogs Rock!
Brunch on Sunday was at Siena Tavern which resulted in another great meal. I ate light as I knew what was coming up for dinner that evening (spoiler alert-Beef), but couldn’t have been more satisfied with my Shrimp-topped Salad of Roasted Red, Yellow and Candied Striped Beets with Pickled Fennel, Toasted Hazelnuts, Creamy Nocetto (a sheep milk cheese)and pea shoots.
After a full day of seeing the sights we arrived at our dinner destination which was Bavettes Bar and Boeuf. A Classic Rib Eye-Chicago was shared with my daughter. We had them put maître d’butter on top…yum. The side dish I found most impressive was Elote style corn with chili, lime and parmesan.
I’ve just scratched the surface of the fantastic food we had while in Chi-town. I love being with my family and others who love to share food and sample a large variety. Chicago truly is a great city and while it’s not keeping with the title of my blog I just have to mention how beautifully the city is kept. The city and park gardens are in pristine condition. Some even have herbs and vegetables growing in them. I can’t wait to visit again.

Herbs of the Marrying Kind

This becomes Jen Blen

This becomes Jen Blen

My trusty Dehydrator that I plug-in right outside

My trusty Dehydrator that I plug in right outside

 First packets of my custom herb mixture, Jen Blen, processed for season 2014

First packets of my custom herb mixture, Jen Blen, processed for season 2014

I been planting an herb garden for years now, but it probably was only about four years ago that I started drying my own custom herb blends. The one shown here is the original blend that has become a family (immediate and extended) staple and has been given to the most special of friends. If you’re reading this post and have received this blend of deliciousness consider yourself in an elite class. Other blends I’ve concocted included: Dr J’s Sleep Inducing Elixir, Sumpthin Fishy and Charsley (you might be able to guess the contents of this one!).

Fresh herbs are always best, but if you’re like me, you always plant more than you can chew so why not extend your garden through the winter months with your dried creations?