Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Best v.250

I told Sean today that it feels like we're trapped in a freaky friday where I complained so much about feeling like I do everything around the house, that God cursed Sean with an injury that made me see how much he really did! I learned how to mow the lawn this weekend — truly, I'd never mowed a lawn before — and I'm completely beat. I've also been doing the dishes (another Sean job), laundry (a me job), cleaning (me job), cooking (me job) and playing nurse. I have a LOT more respect for caretakers whose relatives have much more serious injuries or illnesses. 

Whew. All of that said, I've seen lots of great and interesting links all about the internets in the past week or so, and I'd love to share:

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Happy Birthday Trip to Jersey

This past weekend was an eventful one! We ventured up to New Jersey to celebrate the (belated) joint birthdays of my grandparents, who both turned the big 8-0 this year. It was a great weekend of family reunion time, seeing cousins and relatives I haven't seen in years!

We enjoyed a day of games, drinking and eating, followed by a luncheon on Sunday with more of the same. It's a beautiful thing to bring a family together, share memories and celebrate. We're super lucky to have such great grandparents; I always feel like I hit the grandparents jackpot!

All of the grandkids! I'm the oldest, if it's not abundantly obvious. I felt old, y'all!

We had every intention of spending a portion of the rest of the weekend in New York, but sadly, Sean managed to sustain a serious leg injury while playing soccer with the family. We're still waiting for the full word on that, but let me say: life seems really stressful until you don't have a healthy body, and then you know real stress. We're lucky it's not worse, but it hasn't stopped me from complaining about having to do all his chores yet. It's a good reminder that despite how I might complain sometimes, he does plenty around this house!

To make ourselves feel better about our poor fortune and canceled vacation plans, we made a point to stop at the famous Brown Dog Ice Cream, where I had scoops of black raspberry and lemon poppyseed ice cream. Delicious!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wine Wednesday: Steak Night

Wine Club gathered at my house last week for one of our most brilliant ideas yet: BYOS, or Bring Your Own Steak night. Each of the girls brought a cut of steak for Sean to grill and a bottle of red and it was a delicious, easygoing night. We sampled:

  • Hob Nob Pinot Noir: An easy-to-drink, almost sweet pinot perfect with steak and heavy food.
  • Belcreme de Lys Pinot Noir: Probably my favorite of the night, this pinot was also light and drinkable for a red, with notes of cherries, strawberries and mocha.
  • Corison Cabernet Sauvignon: A floral and fruity red, a great counterbalance to our steaks. Notes of blackberries, blueberries and plums.
  • And I brought a sangiovese that I unfortunately failed to note! I remember liking it, so if you recognize the label, it gets the Amber seal of approval.

 To go with our steaks, I served up a salad with tomato basil goat cheese, slivers of salami, focaccia croutons and my trusty Olive Garden dressing, plus Alexia's seasoned tater tots and the piece de resistance: Tupelo Honey Mac and Cheese. The top got a good dose of "coal dust" when I left it under the broiler a little too long, but every bite was still delicious.

 The girls enjoying the meal.

 Mmmmmm a messy food shot!

 Glorious mac. This recipe is also one of the easiest I've ever made. Just cook your macaroni, then once it's drained, add 3 cups of cream, two bags of shredded gouda, splashes of green hot sauce and Worcestershire, sauteed onions (if you'd like...I don't think they're necessary) and cook until the sauce thickens and the cheese is melted.

Once that's done, spoon it into a buttered dish already lined with a mixture of crushed Ritz crackers, panko bread crumbs and butter and then add the remainder of that to the top and heat in the oven until everything is melted gooey goodness. It was so good and so easy!

For dessert, I served up lemon sorbet and champagne floats. They were delicious, and a little bit potent!

Just writing this post made me crave that mac and cheese me, I have a problem!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday Best v.249

Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and their cats.

After a busy week at work and staring down another busy week, I've spent a blissful day doing nothing but reading! There are few things I love more than disappearing into a book. If you'd like some distractions for your Sunday evening, here are some favorite links:
  • The greatest of mashups: Uptown Funk and Newsies.
  • Inspired by Sonya Clark's new performance art piece, unraveling a Confederate flag.
  • A little too complicated for your average DIY, but how to create your own neon light art!
  • Taylor Swift and the Women's soccer team. Girl Power!
  • More Girl Power: the female cast of Ghostbusters.
  • An awkward first date goes viral.
  • FINALLY! Yankee Doodle lyrics explained.
  • New advice for the new millenium: always let them see you cry.
  • The Post ranks the best books so far this year, which had me updating my GoodReads list lickety split.
  • Free online courses that can advance your career skills! I need to actually get off my butt and do some of these.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Food, Glorious Food at Tupelo Honey Va Beach

It is very rare that I love food at a restaurant so much that I want to buy the cookbook, but that's what happened the first time I ate at Tupelo Honey in downtown Asheville back in 2011. Their sophisticated and inspired takes on Southern classics was completely satisfying and it's not surprising at all that they were able to build on the name and turn it into a fast-growing franchise across the South. So when I received an invitation to attend one of their soft opening meals this week at the new Tupelo Honey Virginia Beach before they officially open, I was all on board and invited Ashleigh for a night of stuffing our faces.

Although the atmosphere and venue is a far cry from the downtown charm of the original location, it's still a great addition to the Virginia Beach Town Center food scene. It's a beautifully designed restaurant with local touches, like the found metal sculpture by one of my favorite local artists, Sam Hundley.

Everyone got to select from a limited sample menu. In an effort to try as many different things as possible, Ashleigh and I planned to get all different dishes and share everything!

We started with the Rosemary Lemonade and Island Sunrise Punch, and split one cocktail (the Honeysuckle Lavender Flip). The lemonade was a little heavy on the rosemary, but that's to be expected when the staff is still working things out. The Island Punch was delicious! The Honeysuckle Lavender Flip was good, but the honeysuckle is very subtle and I almost wish it was more present in the drink.

 For our starter, we tried the warm pimento cheese. It was more like a queso than we expected, but I was all about it. It definitely had the distinctive flavor of pimento cheese and was a great consistency — not drippy, but not too thick.

 For our entrees and sides, we had the Jumbo Shrimp, fried and served with a cherry pepper lemon aioli that is to die for. This was absolutely good to the last bite and could easily give Bonefish Grill's Bang Bang shrimp a run for its money.

Tupelo Honey excels at transforming simple sides into special dishes in their own right. The goat cheese grits were insanely good. I think Ashleigh and I would have licked the ramekin if we thought no one was watching. The Benne Asparagus (coated with sesame seeds) was also good, although not quite as world-rocking.

One of my favorite things I had at the original location were the Ginormous Biscuits with blueberry compote and although these are certainly different, they did not disappoint. The sweet blueberry compote with the buttery biscuit is just perfect.

Ashleigh ordered the Beef and Bacon Meatloaf topped with the restaurant's signature rosemary shallot gravy. It was perfectly seasoned, with the bacon adding a smoky flavor to the classic dish and the tomato gravy a great substitute for ketchup. It's not as sweet as the typical ketchup-covered loaf, but that's a good thing.

We also had the shaved brussels sprouts, which would be a wonderful item to add to your potluck/picnic recipe list. But enough about that because:


Seriously. Next Tuesday is National Mac N Cheese Day, so I suggest you celebrate accordingly.

Although we barely had any room left in our bellies, we had to stuff the slice of Brown Butter Pecan Pie drizzled with chocolate ganache down our gullets. The brown butter flavor really elevated this above the usual pecan pie and the addition of chocolate was brilliant.

All in all, it was a freeloading feast that left us already making plans for our great return to have the Appalachian Egg Rolls I've been craving for four years and more mac and cheese. The downtown old-timey Appalachian character of the original restaurant may not quite translate, but the important part — the food — made the trip and I'm excited to have a piece of my mountains here by the beach.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fourth of July 2015

As you may or may not know by now, the Fourth of July is my favorite holiday because a) I like the patriotism, b) I love fireworks, c) There are no rules, fights or pressures to do it a certain way the way it can be with other holidays.

This year, we ventured out to a friend of a friend's house party in Chick's Beach. Unfortunately, the fireworks were canceled, but fun was still had! Here are some pics from the weekend:

Sean grilling up some dogs for us in his most patriotic tee.

I love dressing up so much, I had an outfit for the Third of July...

 AND the Fourth. What a crazy person.

I stuffed my face with patriotic cupcakes and tequila-spiked watermelon lemonade, which was a good idea at the time but necessitated my college hangover cure (McDonald's) the next morning. Oof.

Party friends!

And if nothing else, at least there were sparklers. I'm not sure I could've lived without sparklers. 

Take a peek at Fourths of July past: 2014201320122009 and all about why it's my favorite. Till next year, patriots!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sunday Best v. 248

I hope you're having a magical long weekend! The Fourth is my favorite, but I was sad to see no fireworks other than sparklers yesterday...they keep getting canceled for rain, year after year. Thank goodness we at least have sparklers and tequila to get us through. For your lazy day reading pleasure, here are some links I've enjoyed:
  • Conan joins his female staff to see Magic Mike (watch till the end!).
  • The way couples tell how they met can be a great indicator of longevity!
  • A quick guide to the new Apple Music.
  • beach ball pit in Washington, D.C. Looks fun!
  • Art students turn an electrical tower into a stained glass work of art.
  • After 30, are you set in your ways?
  • Always late like me? Maybe we're just optimistic.
  • Classic obituary of the week.
  • Reading Hillary Clinton's emails is endearing. Bless her, she's all of our moms combined when it comes to tech.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Match Made in Heaven: Indian Food and German Wine

Forgive me; we had this wine club eons ago and I've just been such a busy bee I forgot to post about it! We're still on our neverending quest to better understand how best to glug our wine and in that effort, we decided to experiment with pairings for spicy Indian food. Can you guess what works incredibly well? Sweet, sweet German wines! 

Here's a sampling of what we tried:

I brought Clean Slate Riesling, a sweet peachy wine that perfectly balanced with the spices in our Indian dishes.

Our hostess Erica picked up a delicious array of Indian dishes from Saffron, including samosas, tandoori chicken, lamb tikka masala, chutney and much more! Everything was tasty, most especially the lamb!

These little honey buns were a great counteracting agent against the spice, too!

We finished the night with Corazon Gewurztraminer, which was my favorite match. So crisp and clean with the hot dishes! 

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Much-Delayed Housewarming

For pretty much always, I've been preparing to host my own parties in my own house. From when my Nana would make me pass hors d'oeuvres at her parties to when I was throwing my first parties in high school, I was thinking about hosting my first house party and it finally happened this weekend!

We've been so busy that when we finally looked at a calendar, we realized this past weekend was truly one of the only weekends all summer that we would be free! As a kid, I thought grown-ups had parties all the time (that's how it looked on TV!) but now I see why they don't; life is too damn busy! We were excited to have a great group of friends come over, and I got to pull out some of my favorite recipes and party supplies. Here's some pictures of the evening:

Summer means Pimm's, a popular liqueur in Britain that is typically served with cucumber and is super refreshing.

I made a Peach Pimm's Punch (recipe adapted from this one) with 2 bottles of Bombay Sapphire Gin, 2 bottles of Pimm's, a LOT of peach-flavored soda and sliced cucumbers and peaches. It was delicious and refreshing, like a spin on spiked iced tea.

We set up a fully stocked bar...although I think most folks stuck to punch, Melissa's sangria or beer.

I did make myself a rainier cherry caipiroska, though.

We dined on burgers and hot dogs, cocktail shrimp and lots of delicious fruit!

I also made a twist on caprese salad with peaches instead of tomatoes, and it was predictably tasty.

 But the best part was seeing our house full of revelers!

 Yay for friends and housewarming parties!

The piece de resistance was our dessert (definitely an idea from Pinterest...I can't take credit): S'mores Strawberries. My sister in law Katie and friends Laura and Jody helped make my dream a reality! They dipped the strawberries in melting chocolate, then in graham cracker crumbs and finally in marshmallow fluff. We used my little kitchen butane torch (a wedding gift to make creme brulee) to toast the marshmallow and it was definitely just dangerous/safe enough to be fun!

They were a pretty big hit.

At the end of the night, a few of us raided my collection of leftover wedding sparklers and danced on the deck, singing Ariana Grande songs. It was a wonderful night and a great first house party, of which I hope there will be many!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer in Savannah 2015 Edition

For the third year in a row, I've been blessed to spend a long weekend in Savannah with my besties Bret and Ashleigh. We journeyed down to Low Country this past weekend and enjoyed many a cocktail, sniffed many a $60 candle and generally annoyed and delighted the populace with our joie de vivre. Clearly we were missed; Tybee Island greeted us with a rainbow!

We kicked off the festivities with a return to the Tybee Island Social Club, where we treated ourselves to a round of the Summer Socialite cocktail and a pitcher of White Sangria that had us giggling like little kids. We love the atmosphere there; it's definitely a place to kick back and stay a while. I especially love the steak tacos and the ceviche appetizer.

On Saturday, we started our day in Savannah with a trip to J. Christopher's, where I couldn't resist the siren's call of the day's special: Oreo Pancakes. So simple, yet so perfect.

 Ashleigh tried the Huevos Avocados, with scrambled eggs instead of poached.

From there, we hit Broughton Street, a main drag mix of both thoughtful locally owned boutiques and big name stores, like LOFT and Urban Outfitters and Marc by Marc Jacobs. My favorite of all time forever will be The Paris Market, an impeccably curated shop of curiosities, decor items, jewelry, edibles and generally things you don't need but have to have. This shell and coral display gets. me. every. time.

 It also has delightful oddities, like this "wood pile" of quartz. Thanks for bringing in the kindling from The Neverending Story, Bret!

All that shopping left us thirsty, so we were delighted to take advantage of Savannah's wonderfully lax open container laws to get Cucumber Basil and The Red Clover cocktails from Chive Lounge, one of our favorite spots. It's weirdly fun to take cocktails into the Gap and not hear a word about it from anyone.

Later Saturday night, we met up with Ashleigh's dad, who happened to be nearby, for a delicious dinner at The Public Kitchen and Bar; Bret and I visited last year and thought its short-but-sweet menu of creative burgers, steaks and fish dishes would be a good fit. We started with a round of cocktails, natch.

Our favorite: the Trois Baies, made with Hendricks Gin, St. Germain, strawberries and the key ingredient of reduced fig balsamic vinegar. It was so good!

Ash and I ordered separate burgers and shared halves. I ordered the Savannah Philly, with provolone cheese, caramelized onions and sriracha mayo; she got the Roma burger, a twist on caprese with pesto aioli. Both were good to the last bite!

 We'd decided to go on our first-ever ghost tour and geared up for the possible frights with Wet Willies frozen alcoholic concoctions. By some crazy coincidence, Ashleigh and I ordered the same combo of mango and peach, despite being on opposite ends of the bar.

It was brutally hot and sticky, so much so that Bret had to create an improvised headband out of an undershirt. Necessity is the mother of invention! We went on the Beyond Good and Evil Tour, a fun and snarky take on a walking ghost tour. We saw some spooky houses, learned a bunch about voodoo and since it was adults only, snickered at a few blue jokes. All in all, a super fun night!

On Sunday, we roasted on the beach on Tybee and had a chill evening, laughing and crying through a screening of Pixar's "Inside Out," before heading to the Flying Monk Noodle Bar.

 We sampled edamame dumplings, a combo I haven't seen before and really enjoyed.

 Bret got pho, Ashleigh got a Thai Curry noodle bowl that was delicious, and I ordered the Five Spice BBQ Pork with rice.

It was very filling! I also tried a peach sake-tini that was subtle and refreshing.

 Tradition dictates that we hit the road with bellies full of delicious Southern food from Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, a family-style eatery that has people lining up well before its first lunch seating at 11 a.m. Imagine a Southern food and it's probably on that table when you sit down, from collard greens to jambalaya to stew to fried chicken.

 My first helping! The succotash was surprisingly delish!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, so we bid adieu and have to return to the real world. Until 2016, Savannah!