The Story of Hodge Podge Lodge and the Patchwork Garden

20130426_151722000_iosMy favorite Billy Joel song is the less popular “You’re my Home”. Life as an Army brat played right into the lyrics as I moved around a lot when I was young so I never really had a place I could call my very own until I fell in love with my eventual husband with whom I was married to for just shy of 38 years. Thing is, once you find that certain someone and as a couple you have the opportunity to acquire the “right” home together, Billy’s lyrics, while still lovely, don’t adequately portray how truly special it is to live and love in a dwelling that just “fits”.

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We stumbled upon Hodge Podge Lodge over thirty seven years ago. It was only up the road a piece from where my new husband and I were renting. I never gave the long empty, perpetually for sale, seemingly sad house much notice until one summer day when we were walking back from the swimming hole (yes, really and it’s still here) I decided to take a peek into the dirty windows.  

 

To say I was mesmerized at my very first glimpse inside is fairly accurate. The feeling of looking into my future was pretty intense. We were only twenty four years old, certainly not looking to buy, but how could I pass up finding out more about this oddly long house with what appeared to have not one, but two unique fireplaces, real knotty-pine on some of the walls AND ceilings along with nooks and crannies throughout!? The magical acre that surrounded the building was overgrown, buggy and poison ivy saturated but when I squinted a little and took a moment to dream I saw my garden beds, my little pond, my fairy stuff and plenty of room for outdoor entertaining. Another look and I saw our not-yet-born kids growing up here along with a sweet collection of cats and dogs. I was hooked. Fortunately my partner in life was willing to agree to our biggest impulse buy ever! Hence, Hodge Podge Lodge (fondly, HPL) and my Patchwork Garden was born.

A couple of seasons corn was planted among the flowers

We started out slowly, at a snail’s pace really, transforming what was once another family’s “place” (I know this because years ago the previous owners very grown-up children asked if they could spread some of their mom’s ashes down by the creek) into ours or more accurately, mine. The love of my life was no handy man and I, in turn, am no traditionalist. Whimsy is how I roll (even though my career choice was, uhm, restrictive to say the least). That being said, my personal time, my HPL time, for the last 37 some years has been filled with silly photos, tons of super-fun parties, my-style paintings and edible landscaped gardens.

My husband easily went along with my HPL vision while often reminding me he was just along for the ride. Occasionally he’d put his foot down, like when I wanted to put terraced steps down to the creek or create a fitness trail around the perimeter of the property (usually when it required “muscle” from him), but more often than not he let me meander through life at the lodge however I saw fit.

There’s nothing like drinking tea and eating scones on a grownup size toadstool dinette

Through the years parties and get togethers were many! Obviously since I write a blog about it, you already know I’m very fond of food and drink. Cooking is my passion followed closely and not unrelated by gardening. Our social events at HPL through the years are numerous and varied. There was the 60’s Retro Party, the Sangria Competition, and the Halloween Happy Hour where I read everyone’s tea leaves. There were countless Christmas parties, after B-ball game parties, Ladies luncheons and even a “St. Patrick’s” Day or two. Tablescaping (not sure that’s a word) is just like painting for me and to be honest I’m better at it! I love to start with a bare table and create a beautiful table tailored to the festivity at hand whether it be grandiose gala or an intimate dinner for two.

Traditions are huge in our family. Although not always, food and drink naturally plays a role in most of our traditions. We always had Crème Brûlée French Toast on Christmas morning, Spaghetti for the big guy the first night of basketball practice and Pork “Floaters” and Sauerkraut every New Year’s Day. Our famous Shrimp Spread (see my post “History, It’s in the Making” to know more) showed up often. Through the years at HPL, I’ve extended family traditions into my gardening. I grow a whole bunch of herbs. Years ago I developed my own double secret herb mix called Jen Blen. I use fresh in season, but also dry, package and label it. It’s then given to family and friends. I also make make blends of “Charsley”, “Chasil” and “Thanksgiving” all of which that are family staples that make their way to my grown children’s kitchens every year (yes, my daughter and son have become foodies in their own right). I “press” flowers and herbs and use them in art work. I’ve pickled cucamelons while my daughter created Cucamelons Photography! And of course there’s my social media favorite…. Friday Food Faces.

Things were not perfect at Hodge Podge Lodge.  The outdated wiring was a challange that has ever-so-slowly been replaced through time. For years our well water had a tendency to have the appearance of chocolate milk a couple of times a year until we invested lots of money we didn’t have into a heavy-duty filtration system. Poison Ivy has refused to vacate still and deer families and the resident ground hog seem to think the flowers and vegetables planted is their very own all you can eat buffet.

Our home life, like everyone’s, was filled with our own unique set of challenges. Ours was my husband’s health. Early in our marriage, my husband was diagnosed with a kidney disease. Chronic gout, a blood clot and a resulting pulmonary embolizism, kidney transplant, hip replacement and a triple by pass followed through the years. Always an extreme busy man, to everyone outside the home my husband’s health problems were hardly noticed. He rarely missed work except for required procedures and as a varsity basketball coach for 37 seasons he did NOT miss pratice or games….no way! At home it was different though. Hours were spent filling his meds box for the week (in recent years has was taking 26 pills a day, not to mention the monthly infusion given to him at the office or at home). Late night trips to the ER for an elevated heart rate happened several times but somehow he always got stablized so he’d be back at school the following morning. Inside and outside home improvement projects were put on hold in order to address the current health issue. Some of our family holidays can be remembered by whatever ailment “Papa” was suffering from at the time. Thing is though all this happened within the walls of our Hodge Podge Lodge, our family safe place.

Eight months ago my love, the father of my wonderful children, the person I have laughed with the most in my life died unexpectedly. While my grief is still immense, I am so thankful that my little Hodge Podge Lodge is filled to the brim with the sweet memories of our 40 years of life together. The way I look at it your “home”, whether it be your people, a place or both, intertwined with simple pleasures and traditions give you a sense of belonging.

 

We all have it in us to find true happiness, whether it’s with a true love, a place, family relationships or simply self-care. Find your “thing”, find your “person” or find your “place”. Just know that once you find it, no matter what happens you’ll never lose it. Memories live forever. Love, in all it forms, lives forever. I wish you love.

“I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression” – Maya Angelouimg_1653

 

 

 

Something New from Something Classic

20171025_163015337_iOSI took the opportunity recently to develop a couple of recipes using a new dressing offering from Gazebo Room, Asian Vinaigrette. With two of my close friends as guinea pigs, I set out to create and serve them an Asian inspired luncheon using the flavorful bottled dressing as a highlight in two of the dishes I prepared.

For the entrée, I changed ingredients but used a preparation for Chicken thighs that I’ve prepared many times. The Chicken ALWAYS comes out tender and very flavorful. The use of one of Gazebo Room’s newest additions had the same delectable results!

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Asian Vinaigrette Chicken Thighs

2 Tbls fresh lemon juice
12 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp five spice powder
2 tsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 Tbls peeled fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
1/2 cup GAZEBO ROOM ASIAN VINAIGRETTE
2 Tbls chopped parsley or green onion for garnish

1. Combine lemon juice and chicken in a large zip-lock bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes. Remove Chicken and discard marinade.
2. Pat Chicken dry with paper towels. Dredge in flour mixed with the five spice powder. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet with high sides over med-high heat. Add half the chicken and cook for 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken. Remove all from pan.
3. Add onion, ginger and garlic to pan and saute 5 minutes or until tender. Return Chicken to pan. Add stock mixed with vinaigrette. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour until tender. Garnish if desired. Makes 6 servings (2 thighs with 1/3 cup sauce.

 

The salad I served was a revamped version of an old recipe I’d clipped from a magazine in 1982.

Far East Rice Salad
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup cooked ham diced
1 8-oz can chunk pineapple, drained
1 green or red pepper cut in thin strips
1/2 cup water chestnuts coarsely chopped
1/3 cup sliced green onion
2 Tbls GAZEBO ROOM ASIAN VINAIGRETTE
1 Tbls low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup mayo
1 can (3 oz) chow mein noodles

Combine rice, ham, pineapple, peppers, water chestnuts and green onion. Blend Vinaigrette, soy and mayo. Mix with the ham mixture. Serve on greens if desired and top with chow mein noodles. Makes 6 side dish servings.

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Both dishes were easy to make, tasty and appealing to the eye. My friends gave the meal two thumbs up as well. Give either recipes a try if you’re in the mood for some Asian flavor!

“Laughter is brightest in the place where food is.” – Irish Proverb

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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

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

 

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