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

Online Exhibit: What’s in your Backyard?

The Sunflowers have lost their petals, but will provide seed for the birds during cold weather

The Sunflowers have lost their petals, but will provide seed for the birds during cold weather

The Peppers had just begun

The Peppers had just begun

As the season comes to an end it’s nice to take one last look at Summer’s Glory right in your own backyard……..

A good day's bounty

A good day’s bounty

Corn growing amid the flowers

Corn growing amid the flowers

A glimpse of the Adirondack Chair Refuge!

A glimpse of the Adirondack Chair Refuge!

 

 

 

The green and yellow of the Herb Garden

The green and yellow of the Herb Garden

Morning with a cup of Tea is the best time to garden!

Morning with a cup of Tea is the best time to garden!

This........

This……..

Turned into this. Potpourri!

Turned into this. Potpourri!

Spirit Tree lives among the Lillies

Spirit Tree lives among the Lillies

Real frog sits on a fake lily pad in the pond!

Real frog sits on a fake lily pad in the pond!

A peek into a Secret Garden

A peek into a Secret Garden

I can only imagine what next year will bring

I can only imagine what next year will bring

 

 

 

 

Districtly inclined to Dine

Springtime at Dumbarton Oaks

Springtime at Dumbarton Oaks

 Recently I got to participate in one of my favorite activities……. Mommy-Daughter Birthday Weekend! This year we deviated from the norm of winery visits and meals in some of the charming towns of Virginia and instead opted for a “staycation” in the District of Columbia ( my daughter’s place of residence). The thought was save bucks on lodging and thus have more for eating and boozing. With this theory in mind, my daughter was responsible for two very important facets of our weekend: 1. Get her apartment in a suitable state to receive a visitor as distinguished as her Mother and 2. Make the dinner/brunch reservations. Truth be told, my sweet girl failed miserably at # 1 but more than made up for it by planning a whirlwind of restaurant and garden activities that were perfect for us! 

Friday: Union Market and the National Arboretum ( R-boar-E-tum) by day, Komi by night 

Union Market http://unionmarketdc.com was a perfect choice for lunch. While the market has some produce, meat and seafood, the space is taken up primarily by an eclectic collection of restaurant stands. The choices are varied and all include an option of beer or wine. We settled on sandwiches from Red Apron Butchery http://www.redapronbutchery.com mine being a Choripan (a sandwich made of Chorizo, Avocado, Smoked Chimichurri and Pickled Onions) which was delicious washed down with a chilled Lambrusco. After a thorough walk-thru of the rest of the market and a purchase or two, we set out for our afternoon destination: the National Arboretum http://www.usna.usda.gov.

The grounds at the Arboretum are quite lovely and the Bonsai Collection is truly magnificent. What’s most impressive is the cost for the experience…..$0! (thankfully, given what came next!)

One of my favorites in the Bonsai Collection

One of my favorites in the Bonsai Collection

KOMI-What can I say? As the subtitle of my blog indicates, I am definitely NOT in the 1%! That being said, Komi and restaurants like it, are a once a year experience for me and  company limited to one other companion. Every dollar spent was well worth it though because dining at Komi http://komirestaurant.com/ is an adventure rather than a meal. When first seated, our very attentive server asked if we wanted to see the menu beforehand or just be surprised with each offering. We chose the latter and also opted for the wine pairing which adds a whole other dimension to the experience. Picture taking is frowned upon so I have none to offer but let me just say the presentation was magnificent and the flavors divine. Foodies only for this trip…… two tastings, two wine pairings, DC tax and an appropriate tip took this bill to in excess of $500.

Saturday: the Flower and Garden Festival in Leesburg VA and dinner at Le Diplomate

After spending a perfectly lovely afternoon at the Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival, we returned to the District to get ready for our evening culinary activities. First up was a stop for cocktails. I felt immediately transformed as we left the bustling city street to enter the cool, sleek basement establishment of 2 Birds 1 Stone http://2birds1stonedc.com/. Here, your cocktail is truly handcrafted and will be served in vintage glassware. I enjoyed two (yes, two) perfectly created Gimlets, while my daughter opted for the very appropriate Mamie Taylor first time around and then a Bourbon concoction (of dark liquors I’m not a fan).

A Fine Drinking Establishment

A Fine Drinking Establishment

Dinner at Le Diplomate http://lediplomatedc.com was next. This venue is the first Steven Starr creation located in DC. It’s probably no surprise that it’s fashioned after a crowded French Bistro. The place was hoppin’ but that didn’t take away from the exceptional service and flavorful dishes we received. My Steak Au Poivre was delicious and the Potatoes au gratin were decadent. I would definitely go again if only for the incredible little Lemon Cake bites we got at the end of the meal!

Sunday- Brunch for 4 and Dumbarton Oaks

My son and his lady-love were able (I should say invited) to join us for Brunch at Fiola Mare http://www.fiolamaredc.com along the waterfront in Georgetown. After a rocky start, that was quickly resolved once the manager  intervened (thanks Elizabeth) we all had an absolutely wonderful brunch. The ladies (3 of us mind you) chose the Brunch special which included choices for 3 courses and bottomless cocktails of Mimosas, Bellinis or Sangria. My first course of Smoked Salmon Piadina was sublime and more than enough to share with my son. My second course was a take on Eggs Benedict, however the Rosemary Hollandaise made it extra special. Brunch at Fiola Mare is great especially if you reserve early enough to get a seat on the Veranda.

After Brunch we went to the a favorite place of mine…..the Gardens of Dumbarton Oaks http://www.doaks.org. Atop the hill of Georgetown, DO is just beautiful in any season (I’ll admit, I haven’t been in winter) and is well worth the admission of $10.

As always, Mommy-Daughter weekend was one to cherish. I couldn’t imagine sharing a birthday with anyone else but my sweet girl.

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” — Julia Child

 

A Food Frolic

A Lettuce Centerpiece confirmed we were having a Springtime Brunch indeed

A Lettuce Centerpiece confirmed we were having a Springtime Brunch indeed

Last weekend my adult children (I call them the DC Contingent) came from our Nation’s Capital to partake in what I dubbed as our “Spring Frolic Weekend”. We kicked everything off on Friday evening by meeting in the booming (not) town of Biglerville PA. It is there that you’ll find a gem of a restaurant called Fidler and Company Craft Kitchen (http://www.fidlerandcompany.com). My kids have been raised at my hand so needless to say they, too, have Foodie-like tendencies and fortunately Fidler’s fit the bill for our reunion. I’ve been there once before for brunch and dinner. The past dinner experience, while delicious, was somewhat disappointing in that I was told AFTER I ordered the Pork Belly and Kimchi Pizza that they were out of dough. I had tried thwarting the same situation this time by providing a veiled threat in my email reservation request ……”you better have pizza dough this time”. Unbelievably, one of the first snippets of information our server gave us when we settled  at our table is that they were out of pizza dough! Did I just hear that? Fortunately and not a second too soon one of the Fidler brothers (Dan, I believe) came over to greet us and told me he had held back enough dough to make two pizzas for us. Saints be Praised! We ordered the Pork and Kimchi Pizza that I was cheated out of last time and in a stroke of good fortune we were able to enjoy the special pizza of the evening……..thinly sliced beets, sautéed spinach (or maybe arugula, I forget), goat cheese and horseradish cream-yum! More appetizers followed as my son (credited with the photo below) and daughter both ordered the impressive and tasty Steak Tartar. The presentation was outstanding as the server lifted a glass filled with smoke from the steak and quail egg once the plate was placed. My Entrée was the Duck Salad which was fabulous, while my husband ordered the Swordfish Special that was delightfully prepared.

Impressive Steak Tartar after the smoke has been lifted

Impressive Steak Tartar after the smoke has been lifted

We split up among the girls and the boys on Saturday. The girls continued with the Food Frolic theme by lunching at Garryowen Irish Pub (http://garryowenirishpub.net) in Gettysburg. I been to the Pub once or twice for a beer, but this was the first time I had eaten there. I was more than pleased with my Salmon Roulade Salad. The Pub is in an old Civil War era home so the eating areas are broken down into a variety of rooms. The room we ate in was recently opened and very charming in décor. I definitely would go back for lunch or dinner. After lunch we visited our “go to” place near Gettysburg if the weather is halfway decent…. Hauser Estate Winery (http://hauserestate.com). The view from the Tasting Room is beyond compare and the wine is more than drinkable. Since we had just had lunch, we chose not to get cheese with our tasting or glass, but believe me you’ll want to try the Bay Cheddar from Conebella Farm….it’s great! (http://conebellafarm.com)

The dressing served with this salad compliments perfectly. That's crab rolled in the smoked salmon!

The dressing served with this salad compliments perfectly. That’s crab rolled in the smoked salmon!

 

The Main Food Frolic Event occurred on Sunday at Brunch hosted by none other than yours truly. As always, I had spent the better part of the week prior (when I wasn’t at my real job, of course) planning and prepping. What fun I had preparing the Spring Menu and Tablescape! I have to give a shout out to Dave and Rachel who operate the best flower shop ever , The Whimsical Poppy (http://thewhimsicalpoppy.com), for having beautiful Lettuce Planters again this year!

The Menu:

Homemade Corned Beef Hash- a recipe I saved from Southern Living years ago. I roast the Brisket a few days before and then chop with the potatoes and pepper. Believe it or not, a bit of nutmeg makes all the difference.

Oven Roasted Bacon- the best way to cook a lot of bacon in my opinion. Just set raw bacon on a rimmed baking sheet covered with crinkled foil, place in the oven THEN set the temperature for 400* and walk away for about 20 minutes.

My Heavenly Chicken Salad with Lettuce wraps

Deviled Eggs

Spring Vegetables with Warm Vinaigrette – recipe in the April edition Food Network Magazine on page 118

Pimento Cheese in Cucumber Cups- from the new cookbook “Lighten Up Y’all” . This cookbook is really great. I love the photography and the author, Virginia Willis, has done a grand job of slimming down many Southern Comfort Food recipes. (http://virginiawillis.com)

White Cupcakes with Creamy Frosting- No kidding, I made the best cupcakes using Pillsbury Purely Simple White Cake Mix. Without added preservatives and artificial flavorings, this mix creates a cake to rival traditional wedding cakes. Likewise, I tried Duff’s (the Ace of Cakes) canned White Creamy Frosting and had to keep reminding myself I didn’t make it from scratch. Both products can be found at your neighborhood grocery store.

There you have it. By 2:00 pm the DC contingent and my lovely parents were on the way to their homes, my husband settled in to read the Sunday paper and I started the process of cleaning up all the while reminding myself that this is what I love to do.

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. ~Voltaire

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