Finally,2016 Musing Awards!

 

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Tonna Crudo-tuna,cucumber,pickled fennel, fried capers, anchovy aioli

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but let’s just say if it wasn’t for my obsession with musing about eating and boozing, my guess is I would’ve withdrawn from all human interaction shortly after November 8th!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).

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This one is good too w/ Poppy Seed Dressing.

Sweet-Betty Crocker Limited Edition Salted Caramel Cookie MixOkay, 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. 016000451025

Beverage- Cheribundi Cherry JuiceI’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.20170103_164730633_ios

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.20161016_195521473_ios

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.

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Ragu Di Cinghiale- slow cooked wild boar, fennel sausage, pancette in tomato sauce over polenta

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.

Oliver’s Lunch at Nunzi’s. The best!

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.20170113_172146093_ios

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

Charmed, I’m Sure

 

Black Bean Soup at One World Cafe

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…..

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Slow cooked pork ribs, fennel sausage, pancetta in tomato sauce over polenta

 

 

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Swordfish, anchovy aioli, pickled fennel and fried capers

 

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.

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Scallops Deluxe w/mashed squash risotto, roasted tomato, bacon soubise

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French Onion Rings with Beef Broth, gruyere, asiago, chive AND  Salt and Pepper Tuna w/avocado tzatiki, marinated cucumber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Johnny's

Johnny’s

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Savannah!

The Squares, the Trees, the Mansions,....beautiful!

The Squares, the Trees, the Mansions….beautiful!

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…..

"Our Little Hummingbird" lunch time cocktail at Old Pink House

“Our Little Hummingbird” lunch time cocktail at Olde Pink House

Gazapacho at the Old Pink House. Hence forth Gazpacho will ALWAYS come with celery stuffed with Pimemto Cheese!

Gazapacho at the Olde Pink House. Hence forth Gazpacho will ALWAYS come with celery stuffed with Pimemto Cheese!

 

 

 

http:www.plantersinnsavannah.com

Oliver's Lunch at Nunzi's. The best!

Oliver’s Lunch at Zunzi’s. The best!

 

 

 

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.

 

Local Flounder atop Crispy Fried Rice from Elizabeth's on 37th.

Local Flounder atop Crispy Fried Rice from Elizabeth’s on 37th.

 

http://www.elizabethon37th.net/ Elizabeth’s on 37th is in a Grand Victorian Mansion that is as lovely as it’s food is delicious.

 

Beef Shank with Hoppin' John Cake at The Grey

Pork Shank with Hoppin’ John Cake at The Grey

 

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.

 

 

Our vivist to Savavnnah wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Gryphon Tea Room housed in a cnetury old Apothecary.

Our visit to Savavnnah wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Gryphon Tea Room housed in a century old Apothecary.

This is the rooftop bar at Local 11 Ten. You can't see much, but you get the idea.

This is the rooftop bar at Local 11 Ten. You can’t see much, but you get the idea.

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.

Yeah, that's right. It's a sculpture right outside the Lounge window!

Yeah, that’s right. It’s a sculpture “view” right outside the Lounge window!

Looking down at the relaxation pool from our room.

Looking down at the relaxation pool from our room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

History, It’s in the Making (or It’s all about the Shrimp Spread)

The Easter Tablescape this year

The Easter Tablescape this year

As an Army Brat, an Officer’s daughter no less, one of my Mom’s jobs as so many other Officer’s wives was to entertain. We had lots of Cocktail Parties, Sit-Down Dinners, Luncheons and Teas at our home wherever we were stationed. That being said, I became interested at a young age in the art of entertaining. I also picked up one of my Mom’s habits that has defined me in oh so many ways! You see, just as my mother before me, with each and every social ocassion I host, I produce an “Index Card” that not only lists what I served, but what I liked, what I didn’t, who was invited and what notable occurances happened before, during or sometimes after. They became a historical record of sorts that through the years has served as a  remembrance for me of days gone by. I can tell you for instance that I made Chicken with Bell Pepper and Onion Confit (Bon Appetit September 2001 Issue) for my Mom’s  birthday dinner 3 days after the Attacks of 9/11. It is documented that my son had Hardee’s Chicken for four birthdays in a row (ages 3-6), yet by the time he turned 12 his tastes had become so refined that I prepared Pepper-Seared Tenderloin w/Horseradish Cream. According to my index card that same sweet boy used the “F” word in front of his grandparents at my Dad’s 80th Birthday (hopefully the Sausage Ratatouille I made buffered the shock). My index cards fit perfectly in a sweet pastel basket where 35 years of entertaining is recorded. I’ll admit, I’ve missed an ocassion or two here or there and some cards lack detail compared to others. By and large though, the cards tell a lot about my family’s past.

A few statistics:

I have 204 recorded occasions. ( I know this is where you that know me are trying to tally how many parties you were invited to!)

I’ve hosted 18 Ladies Luncheons and Teas. The first one was the luncheon I had for my Bridesmaids in April of 1981 where I served my sure to be famous Ham and Egg Roulade which I have never made again! According to the card though, it was delicious and appeared in “Home Entertaining” magazine.

40 parties were Christmas parties (yes, some years I’ve had more than one) and remarkably I’ve had several Labor Day get togethers.

Of those Christmas/Holiday Parties, I served Shrimp Spread 22 times not to mention the countless other times as well. This brings me to the other portion of this post….

 

The ever faithful Shrimp Spread. This time made by my 88 year-old Mom just the other day.

The ever faithful Shrimp Spread. This time made by my 88 year-old Mom just the other day.

The Shrimp Spread

Apparently not all families serve “our” Shrimp Spread as a matter of routine. I know for a fact that it became a family staple for us in 1969 when my Dad was stationed in Fort Sill Oklahoma. The “Guided Missle Department Cookbook” was a collection of recipes contributed by the wives and was housed in a two-ringed binder with a bright red cover and is where this coveted appetizer first appeared. Somehow my mom is no longer is in possession of this publication, but no matter as the glorious Shrimp Spread recipe has been rewritten, shared and republished many times over.  When friends come over for repeat visits they immediately look for the Shrimp Spread. Who knew canned shrimp (always use the tiny or broken, mushed up!) could be the base for shellfish heaven? I’ve shared the recipes more times than I can count and the recipe now appears in several local Cookbooks either submitted by me or a friend I shared it with. Amazingly, I poured through 60 Shrimp Dip/Spreads on the “AllRecipes” website and not a one was precisely the same as “ours”.

I’m not gonna lie, as I’ve written before, I don’t make ANY recipe exactly as written. In this case when I double the recipe (and I always double the recipe!) I adjust some of the ingredients upward (hint, hint you can always use a bit more egg). I use green onion and I truly believe fresh parsley is a must although I know one particularly picky friend of mine who loves this stuff uses onion powder and dried parsley.

Well used recipe card as you can see

Well used recipe card as you can see

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In my other life as a Contract Negotiator, we were constantly reminded that “documentation is key”. I strongly believe this is the case in our personal lives as well. Be it through writings, photographs, recordings, momentos or simply memories engraved in our minds, holding on to those experiences one way or another gives us a sense of family, friendship and belonging.

This blog post is dedicated to my dad who passed away on February 5 2016. A true Officer and Gentleman who shared my passion for collecting memories and experiencing life through his tastebuds. You will be forever missed.

The table is set at my Dad's beloved "Vintage"

The table is set at my Dad’s beloved “Vintage”

 

 

 

The Paris Vacation that Wasn’t

In early years, the alligators in the fountains at The Jefferson in Richmond Virginia were real

In early years, the alligators in the fountains at The Jefferson in Richmond Virginia were real

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve planned a vacation to Paris and it was canceled because of a Terrorist Attack I’d have…well, a nickel and that is exactly what I have! Abhorrent timing made the trip my daughter and I planned for months disappear that awful Friday. We were supposed to depart for Paris on Saturday. Instead, we spent the morning frantically canceling what we could and keeping a close watch on what was happening to the beloved city of Paris. When it became clear that our European vacation was not to be, we decided to quickly put together a State-side alternative that became affectionately known as the Non-Paris Vacation……. new destination: the State of Virginia.

Let me just say that the Old Dominion State was very kind to us and made it very easy to enjoy ourselves without wallowing in self-pity for the Paris vacation that wasn’t. Our first stop was the Sassafras Shade Vineyard just off I-95 on our way to Richmond. It’s certainly worth a stop to taste the wines from this relatively new winery. www.sassafrasshade.com

After enjoying some Rose’ we headed to Richmond to spend one glorious night at the historic Jefferson Hotel. I’ve wanted to stay at The Jefferson for years and timing for this visit was perfect. A Sunday night stay in mid-November is quite affordable, not very crowded and the accomodations are superb. We ate dinner in their upscale Restaurant “Lemaire” (it sounds French, doesn’t it?) which was delicious. I also must note that I had the best peanuts ever while sipping my Dirty Martini in the Lounge…..Smoked, but not with a spice coating on them, just smoked. If anyone knows where I can purchase such a delight, PLEASE leave a comment!  Make sure to take a look at the website to get an idea of how lovely this place truly is. http://www.jeffersonhotel.com/

edward's bacon / caramelized cipollini bulbs / field arugula / walnut banana bread croutons / pomegranate reduction

edward’s bacon / caramelized cipollini bulbs / field arugula / walnut banana bread croutons / pomegranate reduction

Monday in Richmond included a perfectly delightful visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts where we went directly to the French wing in order to keep with the Paris theme of our vacation. While my heart will always remain with the Baltimore Museum of Art where I am a member, the VMFA is an exceptional attraction. Admission costs nothing yet the artwork is vast and of excellent caliber. In an amazing stroke of luck, the Cafe in VMFA is called Amuse and is french themed. We had their version of French 75 Cocktails for Lunch which only added to our quest for Parisian ambience.

Virginia Museaum of Fine Art

Virginia Museum of Fine Art

 Citadel Gin | Rose | Lemon

Citadel Gin | Rose | Lemon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a few more stops in Richmond and a return visit to Saude Creek Winery http://saudecreek.com/ (love that place), we made the short trip to Colonial Williamsburg where we would be spend two fun-filled days and nights at the Williamsburg Lodge.

I could go on and on about our short stay in Revolutionary City. Let me just say that the week before Thanksgiving is the perfect time to visit the historic site. There are no crowds! We had our own private tour of the Governor’s Palace. We sipped hot chocolate in one of the Colonial Homes while discussing King George with a Pastor and played a gambling game with a housekeeper in another. But I digress, this blog is about food and drink.

Fat Canary http://www.fatcanarywilliamsburg.com is located in Merchant Square at the tip of Revolutionary City. Within easy walking distance from the Williamsburg Lodge, FC is an outstanding restaurant in my opinion. Our dinner there was extremely enjoyable and enhanced with a Bottle of Moët Champagne as we were supposed to have been touring the Moët & Chandon Cellars http://www.moet.com that very day had we been in Paris.

Chilled Maine Lobster, Avocado, Serrano Chili, Beet, Cumin

Chilled Maine Lobster, Avocado, Serrano Chili, Beet, Cumin

I credit my daughter in finding the perfect venue for our Wednesday night stay…..The Inn at Warner Hall. Again, I can’t say enough about traveling the week before Thanksgiving (and mid-week no less). It allowed us to reserve the lovely Washington Suite in this beautiful 11-room Inn. The Chef on site was not preparing a served meal the evening we stayed so we opted for the Cold Supper Basket that suited us just fine as we ate it by our in-suite fireplace. Shrimp Cocktail, Salad with Poached Salmon, Quinoa Salad and a Chocolate Terrine were just some of the deliciousness in our basket! We even had a glass of French Wine at the adorable boathouse that is on the property as well. Consider this charming Inn for a Special Occasion or when your European Vacation gets postponed….I’m glad we did! http://www.warnerhall.com/

My French Wine and the view from the Boat House at Warner Hall

My French Wine and the view from the Boat House at Warner Hall

The Inn at Warner Hall

The Inn at Warner Hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a made-to-order breakfast at the Inn the next morning, we headed to our final destination: a three-night stay at my beloved Tides Inn http://www.tidesinn.com. If you’re familiar with my blog, you already know how I feel about the Tides…….it’s a jewel. I highly recommend an Autumn stay, especially the weekend of the Taste of the Bay festival (this was the 3rd Annual). The Festival is held on the premises which makes staying there all the better.  Tastings of Food, Wine, Beer and Ale are plentiful not to mention a sundry of arts and crafts. The surroundings of the Tides Inn are glorious and the weather was absolutely perfect which made this particular stay fabulous. In addition to attending Taste of the Bay, this visit we did a few new things such as  toured the Christ Church, took a Cove Cruise and finally ate breakfast at the Car Wash Cafe in Kilmarnock! The Northern Neck area is a great place to visit in Virginia I tell you!

 

 

Dirty Martinis at our tableside FirePit at the Tides Inn.

Dirty Martinis at our tableside FirePit at the Tides Inn.

Another beautiful view from the Tides Inn, Irvinton VA

Another beautiful view from the Tides Inn, Irvinton VA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although our hearts were heavy with the realization of what had happened to the people of Paris and the extended terror threats in Brussels (the last leg of our planned European trip) we really had a great alternative trip State-side. Paris- We WILL see you in the Spring.

We should feel sorrow, but not sink in its oppression- Confucious

 

Fitbits and Fit Bites

Handmade Tiles with Herb Imprints from the garden

Handmade Tiles with Herb Imprints from the garden

Family health issues kept my culinary adventures close to home for the last couple of months. That being said I thought it perhaps was time to rewind, recap and share some of my summer highlights that involved my passion for food and drink. Here goes:

-I got a fitbit. It’s proved to be not only helpful in tracking my steps, but also has energized my garden and kitchen prep to a new level! I find my self purposely making multiple trips to my 2nd fridge just in order to chalk up additional steps. Outside, I pace back and forth taking one watering can at a time to water my edibles just to trick my device into thinking I’m actually working out. Heck, I even wander through the house with cheese and cracker in hand to get to my step goal (hey 10K steps a day is HUGE ala Republican candidate for President Donald Trump). I had two dear friends over for lunch a few weeks ago and I told them of the night before when I walked through my hallway, all after sipping 3 rather large glasses of wine, just so I could get my last few hundred steps in. I’m starting to consider myself an athlete and may compete if Iron Chef ever becomes an Olympic sport.

A good day's bounty

A good day’s bounty

-I feel I got the very most out of my garden this year and for that matter  I still have stuff coming. Certainly not a fresh herb has been purchased for the last three months and my usual household of two easily stayed stocked with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, chard and various other greens. Naturally, I made some of my by now famous spice mixture, Jen Blen (in dried/packaged and fresh form) and I also created and dried a limited edition signature blend simply called “Thanksgiving”. I added potpourri to the mix this year by creating a blend I call “Sweet MariAnnie”. I’d like to thank “Everyday with Rachel Ray”http://RACHELRAYMAG.COM September 2015 edition page 39″Make a great Impression” for the great idea/inspiration for the tiles I made.

 Potpourri!

Potpourri!

-As always, I was able to make a few visits to my most favorite local restaurants that I’ve posted about previously: Boiling Springs Tavern http://www.boilingspringstavern.com, Restaurant Sidney   www.restaurantsidney.com, and Fidler and Company Craft Kitchen http://fidlerandcompany.com. I’m happy that Carlisle PA has added a few new eating spots downtown. While I haven’t been moved yet to actually include in a blog post, I think Brick Kitchen and Bar http://www.brickcarlisle.com and 1794 The Whiskey Rebellion  http:// www.comfortsuitescarlisle.com/1794 are certainly worth a visit.

-I had delicious food at EAT-an American Bistro in Virginia Beach http://www.eatbistro.net . While down by the Oceanfront, EAT doesn’t have a touristy feeling at all. I’ll definitely go again when in the area. Speaking of Virginia Beach, we vacationed at Sandbridge Beach for the first time this summer. We were so pleased with our rental at Sanctuary Condos and equally happy with the establishment right across the street, Baja Restaurant http://bajasandbridge.com…….lots of good food and drink. My favorite Winery visit this summer was probably at Morais Vineyards in Bealeton VA http://www.moraisvineyards.com. The wines are Portuguese style and quite delicious with Touriga being one of my favorites. Heck even the so sweet but very “port-ish” Cherry Wine is good. I really like that the tasting includes food pairings. It makes the experience all that more fun. The setting at Morais is lovely as well. I highly recommend.

Corn growing amid the flowers

Corn growing amid the flowers

The green and yellow of the Herb Garden

The green and yellow of the Herb Garden

-Edible Landscaping continued to be a real treat for me during the summer months. Corn grown in the midst of of the flowers along with zucchinii created a Ornamental Grass effect that I really liked. I was even able to save myself 5 bucks by making my own corn stalks at the end of the season. Celebrity and Mortgage Lifter tomato varieties (just one plant each) did great and looked smashing among the Beebalm with a few Giant Marigolds added for color and pest control. The Herb garden was (still is) awesome this year and provided me with the freshest tasting recipes ever.

-Speaking of recipes, I subscribed to one those mail-order fresh ingredient meal delivery companies. The one I use is “Plated”. I like it because I can opt for an every-other week delivery, pick my own menus and I can block out weeks for non-delivery anytime I wish. Some of you who follow me on Facebook might’ve seen some of my “Meatless Monday” pics.  Plated is definitely for those who like to cook, but want to have someone else do the shopping every now and then. I invite you to take a look at the website https://www.plated.com/

As summer has come to a close, I hope to post a tad more frequently and certainly intend to add more fun and frolic! Until then, may we all be mindful of the quote below:

Let my words, like vegetables, be tender and sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.
–  Author Unknown

A Fond Farewell

The "Southern Picnic" themed table at my retirement celebration

The “Southern Picnic” themed table at my retirement celebration

A co-worker asked if the Retirement Reception that was organized in my honor was blog worthy. At the time, I didn’t know how to respond because I knew she was speaking about the quality of the food that had been prepared. Since my foodie tendencies are well known throughout my department at a very  service oriented Navy facility that day in and day out does an outstanding job of supporting our war fighters at sea, the” party planners” for this event had paid particular attention to food quality and décor. As I came home after experiencing such a truly lovely outpouring of affection I knew I indeed needed to include this extraordinary event in my blog. The food was outstanding but that is not the point of this blog post. The fact that a wonderful group of co workers went out of their way to give me a retirement sendoff  with every nuance of my personality considered is what makes the occasion “blog worthy” (for you, Andrea).

Just part of the tablescape at my retirement reception

Just part of the tablescape at my retirement reception

The Glorious Cupcakes served at my retirement reception at work

The Glorious Cupcakes served at my retirement reception at work

Not to be out done, my sweet daughter with help from the rest of the family had planned a big retirement bash at Vintage (read my post “Thanksgiving at Vintage” to learn more about this magical place) where long time friends and close co-workers were invited to celebrate MY “Independence Day”.  As the guest of honor, I contributed very little to the affair only making the family Shrimp Spread and a couple of other bites to pass. The rest of the menu was squarely the responsibility of my incredibly talented girl. The Party should’ve been covered by our favorite magazine, Southern Living! From Ham Biscuits and Chicken Tenders with Alabama White Sauce to Market Potato Salad and Gazebo Room Pasta Salad, from Pimento Cheese and Mommy and Mamie’s Cheese Ball, from Spiked Blackberry Basil Lemonade to Troeg’s Sunshine Pils and everything in between……….this get together was fantastic!

The cake , fruit and candy bar at my Independence Day celebration

The cake , fruit and candy bar at my Independence Day celebration

Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate- Alan D. Wolfelt

Thanks ever so Jen, Jill, Nikki, Andrea, Jason, Amy and Kay.

I love you all- Mamie, Austin, Pat, Jamie, Mom and Dad, Rick, Laura, Cloey (Nick of course too) and Hailey.