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

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

 

 

 

 

Off Season, My Season

The View from Village Centre at Wintergreen Resort

The View from Village Centre at Wintergreen Resort

 

I really hadn’t intended to write about this weekend past, but given my blog’s subtitle I felt it my responsibility to highlight another perfectly delightful 3 day stay that would fit even the tightest budget. My husband had a couple of vacation days to use this month which meant I needed to find a long weekend destination that was close by, didn’t cost a fortune (we just came back from our “real” vacation) and had the potential of fulfilling my culinary expectations. Enter Wintergreen Resort in Nellyford VA.  While advertised as a 4 seasons resort, Wintergreen’s major focus is skiing. That being said, in mid to late August things get pretty slow up on the mountain which gave us the opportunity to stay 3 nights in a one-bedroom condo at a very low nightly rate (stay 3, pay for 2, Woohoo).

My morning tea scene at Wintergreen

My morning tea scene at Wintergreen

I’d never been to Wintergreen before, but my guess is I’ll be back again. The views were absolutely breathtaking. The landscaping and flowers were beautiful. The Pool and Spa(I loved my massage) were both excellent, not to mention quite empty.  And now for the food:

amuse–bouche of duck with hazelnuts and avocado cream in a fried wonton cup

amuse–bouche of duck with hazelnuts and avocado cream in a fried wonton cup

The few negative reviews I read seemed to indicate that while the lodging may be inexpensive, the resort “gets ya” by hiking up the food prices in their restaurants. I did not find this to be the case. I thought the prices were in line with upscale dining prices in the Central PA area, no more. I  highly recommend making your lodging reservations through the resort website. That way, you can utilize a few “exclusive” amenities that are reserved for members, residents and guests. This is true for dining at Devils Knob Grille. We ate there Saturday night and found our meals so tasty that we went again on Sunday night! The outside dining is lovely and so comfortable. Service was exceptional especially from our charming server Indz and manager Kristy.

Outdoor Dining at Devil's Knob

Outdoor Dining at Devil’s Knob

Sweet-Tea Brined Pork Tenderloin with Pimento Cheese Grits

Sweet-Tea Brined Pork Tenderloin with Pimento Cheese Grits

Bloody Mary Crab Aspic with Sesame Flatbread and House-made Pickled Vegtables

Bloody Mary Crab Aspic with Sesame Flatbread and House-made Pickled vegetables

Chilled Ginger Carrot Soup with Mustard Seed Garnish

Chilled Ginger Carrot Soup with Mustard Seed Garnish

 

 

A few other notes about Wintergreen Resort: the Market carries Boarshead Meats and Cheeses which you can purchase by the pound or have sandwiches made ( get the Spicy Turkey on Rye). Starbucks Coffee is available in the General Store (along with Tazo Tea thank goodness). There’s lots of wildlife around ( saw several deer, no bears). And I probably should disclose that we had absolutely perfect weather!

I ‘d be interested in hearing others thoughts on Wintergreen. Please reply!

Today Online: The Beauty of Virginia Wineries

Probably my favorite, the patio at King Family near Charlottesville. Gorgeous!

Probably my favorite, the patio at King Family near Charlottesville. Gorgeous!

 

After just coming off a 4 night, 5 day stay in Virginia that included as always a few winery visits, I was moved to post my 2nd online photography exhibit this time highlighting SOME of the wineries I’ve visited. For me, winery visits can be the ultimate in sensory indulgence with the TASTE of the wine being only one factor of consideration. My preference is that any winery I visit is a SIGHT to behold. In addition, if there’s music, sweet music (hopefully a live performance) that I can HEAR, I typically enjoy the experience more. Oh! and the blessed aromas…whether it’s the grapey fermentation smell or the freshly baked baguette coming from the kitchen, I love it when my sense of SMELL goes into overload. Last but certainly not least, have you ever just run your hands over a finely polished handcrafted wood bar or stepped on a stone laden path that was painstakingly made for your enjoyment or used your sense of TOUCH for that matter to shake the hand of the talented winemaker.

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world”- Ernest Hemingway

 

Hillsborough Winery and Vineyards near Leesburg

Hillsborough Winery and Vineyards near Leesburg

The outside of the restored barn at Sunset Hills near Purceville-Leesburg

The outside of the restored barn at Sunset Hills near Purceville-Leesburg

The ever-friendly and truly unique Old House Vineyard near Culpeper

The ever-friendly and truly unique Old House Vineyard near Culpeper

The sweet Merlot who stayed with us at Lost Creek near Leesburg

The sweet Merlot who stayed with us at Lost Creek near Leesburg

The wonderful tasting room at Jefferson Winery in Charlottesville.

The wonderful tasting room at Jefferson Vineyards in Charlottesville.

The whimsical Twin Oaks close to Fredericksburg

The whimsical Twin Oaks Tavern Winery in Bluemont, VA

The Thatched Roof of First Colony

The Thatched Roof of First Colony near Charlottesville

At Michael Shaps Wineworks near Charlottesville you taste amongst the barrels!

At Michael Shaps Wineworks near Charlottesville you taste amongst the barrels!