Finally,2016 Musing Awards!



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but let’s just say if it wasn’t for my obsession with musing about eating and boozing, my guess is I would’ve withdrawn from all human interaction shortly after November 8th!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


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.


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

The MAE-AB (may ab)Guide to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

Coaching in Sweaters is a No-No

Coaching in Sweaters is a No-No

Now here's a stylish Coach

Now here’s a stylish Coach


This guide or method if you will to viewing the Madness that comes in March by way of NCAA Basketball you’ll find nowhere else. It’s a nonsensical approach that has nothing to do with brackets, basketball acumen or gut feelings. Instead, the MAE-AB method gives the viewer specific points of observation, much like a scavenger hunt, that makes B-ball watching enjoyable for everyone from the College Hoops Fanatic (guilty) to the poor soul who’s forced to watch with a loved one. What makes the MAE-AB method even more remarkable is that it provides all the tools you’ll need to determine without a doubt which team should win each and every game! As a testimonial, I’ve used this method for years and have NEVER been unable to conclude who should win ….it works I tell you!

I don’t usually keep score, but since you’re new to this method you may want to try out the unusual scorekeeping associated the MAE-AB Method. Each team starts out with 50 X’s and 50 O’s. A team cannot earn any additional X’s or O’s, but they can surely lose them. X’s are worth double the amount of an 0. Let’s get to the X’s and O’s shall we?-

Most Important Observation Point: The Coach

You’ve got to get on this one right away, preferably before the game begins.

Attire: Any Head Coach worth his paycheck wears a coat and tie to games. The most-snazziest of dressers incorporate their school colors in subtle ways, perhaps in the tie or suspenders. Entire suits in the school colors can be distracting especially if those colors aren’t black, navy or gray. For instance, Roy Williams of UNC should be docked an X or two….Carolina Blue Plaid just goes too far. Jim Larranaga at Miami knows how to dress for his coaching duties and if fact easily made the transition from George Mason to Miami in terms of incorporating school color in his ensemble. Observation of the Coat and Tie Coach doesn’t stop at the beginning of the game. You have to pay close attention to when the coat actually comes off. Is at the beginning of the game? When the game gets close? Does he make it to half time? Is it back on in the 2nd half? So many things to consider and luckily you can dock Xs/Os however you see fit. I personally like it when the Coach makes a statement like calling a timeout and then dramatically taking the coat off and maybe even loosens the tie. If the game isn’t close, I say just keep your clothing on. Sweaters in school color should never be worn as game attire and if done so, Xs/Os should be docked at the fullest extent possible in accordance with the non-existent rules. The worst ever is an entire coaching staff in the same sweater…Ugh. Bright Red is appallin  and Orange is just plain disgusting. Sweat Suits should be reserved for practice only (WV) and any coach caught wearing one to his game should forfeit all his teams’s Xs/Os. Way to go Coach!

Name: I realize D-1 Coaches aren’t the same as Hollywood celebrities who change their names for professional reasons. Some Coaches were given names that lend themselves perfectly to their chosen profession. Listen carefully to the Coaches name and how it looks in print. Listen, too, how the announcers treat the name. One of the best active Coach’s name out there is VCU’s Shaka Smart. Oh my, what a great name (good coach too IMHO). Interesting fact, Shaka was named after a Zulu Warrior according to Wikipedia. The great Dean Smith had a perfect first name as a Coach at an Academic Institution. He surely was the “Dean” of College Basketball and what better way to honor his name than the construction of the “Dean Dome”. Fortunately for the MAE-AB Method, some weren’t lucky enough to be given good Coaching names. Names you might consider as poor Coach’s names participating in the Tournament this year are Thad Matta (yes, I do like to pick on OSU), Tony Bennett (I think we all know who comes to mind first) and Bryce Drew (it sounds like the beginning of a sentence). Feel free to decide for yourself what makes a good Coaching name and what doesn’t…just make sure to dock X’s and O’s accordingly.

Second Most Important Observation Point: The Mascot

The Mascot is truly telling of which team should win a basketball game. So many things need to be considered for this observation point. The name obviously, but just important is presentation and representation. My rule of order for Mascot domination is based in preference applied science (trademark pending). Typically a ferocious cat is going to kill a domesticated dog, yet something tells me a silly looking lion won’t have a chance against the Butler Bulldog. Likewise, an animal mascot should eat a plant mascot alive. For instance, any self- respecting Ram should eat a Buckeye for dinner (oops, what happened last night VCU?). Heroic Human-form Mascots should always trump a Satanic Mascot. That’s why a Cavalier should always beat a Devil, unless of course that Devil is Blue…you get the picture? Decide for yourself where bugs, fish, weather phenomenon, and non-descript objects fall when docking X’s/O’s. Throughout the game, observe the mascot whenever possible (I swear some stations spend so much time on the players you hardly see the mascot at all!). Things to consider for X/O dockage is pleasing appearance, dancing ability, the ability to annoy opponent fans and most important the tendency to irritate the mascot’s own fans.

Third and Final Observation Point: The Players and their Uniforms

First and foremost, if a player acts like a smart-ass you dock X/O’s big-time. It doesn’t matter how the announcers might describe an incident, whether fouls are assessed or how the Coach reacts. YOU are in charge here, YOU make the call. While the ridicule of the player’s personal appearance is out of bounds (for the MAE-AB Method only), heavy ridicule of the uniform and warm-up is encouraged. You have to wonder how some of the uniform selections are made and when it was determined okay to dress like a highlighter. Reduce Xs/Os as you wish just try to keep tattoo placement and hairstyle out of it.

By now you probably have a good idea who should win. If by some chance the other team comes out victorious, don’t get upset. You didn’t get it wrong, YOU GOT ROBBED!

The only way to tie this into my blog is to point out that the MAE-AB Method of NCAA Basketball viewing is experienced best while sipping an adult beverage. This evening my beverage of choice is a Dirty Martini followed by Red Wine with my Filet Mignon with Brandy Shallot Sauce. Keep it up Spartans!