Gardening -101

May 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

Living in New York, I never had any sort of outdoor space of my own, so when our place here came with a little 2×4 plot, the visions started:  Clearly I would cultivate this land into perfect, grid-like rows that produced all the spring and summer produce we could handle (“Yes, the blueberries in this pie came right from our garden”)! In reality, I picked out some seed packets at Whole Foods and dropped them on the ground. The silver lining is, I’ve already learned so much!

1. Seedlings can actually be planted in pots. This is helpful because you can start them inside when it is still too cold. I also have a feeling that herbs that prefer sun should stay in pots so you can move them around based on the lighting. Just putting 1 and 1 together.

2. Mint supposedly takes over shiz, so beware.

3. Every site I read says an herb garden should be planted in an area with good drainage as no herbs will grow in wet soil. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to figure out how to test drainage, so I interpret this as “Don’t water often.”

If you’ve been considering a similar no-maintenance herb garden, here are my results:

My cilantro is off the heez. It sprouted easily, grew tall and is absolutely delicious, I use it all the time.

My chives and basil have yet to blossom. At this point, I can’t even weed because I don’t know if it is herb or a weed until I yank it out to smell it and it is too late.

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Y.B. Eat Place, Cape May NJ

May 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the tradition of celebrating Memorial Day in Philadelphia, we packed up and headed to the Jersey Shore. To people who are unfamiliar, I assure you the bad rep attributed to the area from the “popular” MTV “reality” show is not warranted. In South Jersey, the beaches are beautiful, the towns are quaint and the food is some of the best around.

One of my favorite spots in Cape May, NJ is George’s Place Restaurant. It’s a Greek joint and always packed so when we heard the hour wait time, we decided to keep moving. Just a few doors down on Beach Ave, we came across Y.B. Eat Place–the YB standing for “Younger Brother,” as in the younger brother to George’s Place Restaurant owner, John. We decided to check it out and I am so glad we did. There was no wait time, our server was friendly and the dishes were really creative, delicious and affordable.

Unfortunately, I did not possess the self-restraint to snap photos of the food when it arrived (on that note, check out the outdoor fire pits at the Rusty Nail for happy hour if you are in the town) but trust me on this one. We had an omelet with spicy feta and roasted red peppers, veggie eggs benedict, and a breakfast flatbread with sausage, onions, cheese etc. and some delicious sweet sauce on top that I wanted to bathe in.

Audrey Claire, Philadelphia

May 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Continuing to log my time in Philadelphia, I have to recommend Audrey Claire. It is the most charming little BYO on a street of fairty tale brownstones. They call themselves, “Philadelphia’s own little slice of the West Village.” With open air windows, white washed walls and breezy atmosphere, you’ll feel transplanted to the Mediterranean. It is the perfect spot for a date, to gather with family, or a dinner with girlfriends (especially because it is BYO).

 

Not to mention the food is fresh, flavorful, even succulent! We started with the Grilled octopus w/ feta, salad and it was perfect—nice and light but the octopus was meaty and smokey. After watching 8 orders of mussels go by, we just had to taste. The mussels themselves were enormous and served in a bowl of delicious, spicy tomato broth for which we ordered an extra basket of bread. Finally, the pappardelle w/ portobello mushrooms—I have a weakness for pasta and this made me weak in the knees. The pasta was buttery and soft and the mushrooms were earthy, there was sautéed arugula to balance out the richness and my mom called the whole thing, “The best thing I’ve eaten in a long time.”

Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival, Philadelphia

May 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

My trip back home to Philadelphia was timed very well as I got to catch the annual Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival. Each year, more than 50,000 visitors flood Rittenhouse park area (extends down 6 blocks) to take advantage of the music, food, fashion and arts festival.

The weather was downright gorgeous and even with a 3-month-old in tow (not my kid), we had an absolute blast. It’s so refreshing to walk around, uninhibited, beer-in-hand á la Bourbon Street as the area turns into one enormous outdoor café with restaurant booths from Philly staples (i.e. Di Bruno Bros), Steven Starr restaurants (i.e. El Rey) and yes, Philly’s own, not-yet-opened… Shake Shack! If you are thinking about taking a trip in the spring, you must plan your visit around this event. Unless it happens to rain, then you’re on your own.

I Tried a Merlot and I Liked It

May 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

One of the perks of having friends in the food business is … food. And another perk is wine. I got a call last week that a local distributor had dropped off some samples of their merchandise and I booked it over to take advantage of the goods. In the spirit of spontaneity I decided I would go out of my comfort zone and be open to trying anything. Normally I stick to Cabernets or Pinot Noirs; Merlots seeming heavy and daunting. But I picked a bottle at random and blindly poured myself a tasting-appropriate-sized glassful. It smelled oak-ey and inviting so I sipped it and was enjoying the light, warm, somewhat fruity tastes until it was brought to my attention that what I was so casually delighting in was–gasp–a Merlot!

Estancia Merlot

I’ve since purchased it to enjoy inappriately-large glassfuls in the comfort of my own home and at approx. $13 a bottle, there’s no reason you can’t try a Merlot too!! Go nuts, kids, it’s Friday.

NRA Show, Chicago

May 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

Last weekend, I attended the National Rifle Restaurant Association’s annual conference in Chicago, IL. Not only was it my first weekend at the show, but my first time visiting the windy city! For anyone who is involved in the restaurant industry, I highly recommend attending next year. While my favorite part was walking the giant hall and sampling everything I passed, there is something for everyone there–whether your goal is to find new software, a new meat freezer, or just meet Richard Blaise, Kenny Loggins (rockstar, still kickin’ at 64), or Bill Clinton (ex-president, still kickin’ at 65).

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In addition to the Grand Hall, they have educational sessions throughout each day and I attended a brilliant discussion on utilizing social media to grow business. I bet a lot of deals go down every year as a direct result of this. Here is a video of the first day from their website.

I was probably most excited just to try some of the amazing food Chicago has to offer and I recommend these spots if you’re planning a visit:

Xoco – Rick Bayliss’s casual Mexican spot has melt-in-your-mouth caldos (mexican soup) like the “Pork Belly Vermicelli” (Fideos): Crispy-tender pork belly, toasty-tender noodles, woodland mushrooms, zucchini, avocado, salsa negra. YUM. They also have churros with dipping sauce and handmade vanilla ice cream. I MEANNNN just look.

Sunda – It’s a New Asian bona fide Chicago hot spot, and its da bomb. You will actually not believe the Crispy Brussel Sprout Salad could possibly be vegetables and ask if this special little bite is on hand–silky white fish wrapped around sticky rice and topped with a truffle potato chip. Then inhale. I also always thought I hated sake but their Peared Sake cocktail tastes like sweet pear and cinnamon. Dessert? It is simply called “The Ridiculous”–tempura-fried, ginger carrot cake-covered vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce and candied nuts.

Obligatory Chicago Bean Pic, duh

Yes, it was a misty rain for the entirety of our stay. Chi-town spring ain’t got nothin’ on Nashvegas.

Garlic & Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

One of my first tasks when I moved to Nashville was to sign myself up for a good old-fashioned library card and I’ve decided to dedicate one post a month to a fabulous read that I want to share with you, readers. Book clubs I’ve tried in the past usually ended up with a lot of wine, no one reading the book, and a heavy dent in the cheese spread.  I’d like to think I’ve matured since then and can successfully carry on a book of the month discussion. And if I haven’t matured, the virtual platform is a built-in restraint.

I just finished Ruth Reichl’s Garlic & Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.  It’s not her most recent work, but it’s a really fun way to indulge in your secret fantasy of being The New York Times restaurant critic, name dropping and all. Without giving too much away, this book made me want to don a wig, jet to New York, and get down and dirty in some fine dining. Memoirs are my favorite genre and Ruth’s voice is very honest and hilarious. I also love that she included some of her own recipes–I am def trying her Roast Chicken with Potatoes (and will share the results here)–so I can do some of my own name dropping as well.

If, when you finish, you just can’t get enough Ruth, you can find her everyday next to your D&G since she is the Editor of Gilt Taste.

P.S. Whoever just renewed Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones and Butter checked out of the Green Hills branch, you know who you are, I’m coming for you. Now open to any and all recommendations.

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