Category Archives: Travel

Bluegrass and Bourbon

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We just returned from a week long road tripping adventure to Asheville and Kentucky, where we visited my grandparents, who live outside of Lexington. We gorged ourselves with southern food, toured Woodford Reserve (I may have eaten four bourbon balls), and spent a day in Louisville—what a quirky little city. We went vintage shopping on Bardstown Road, marveled over the classy Brown Hotel and drove through the scenic Cherokee Park (designed by Frederick Olmsted, who also designed Prospect Park and the similarities were uncanny!) We stopped for Mexican Hot Chocolate and Apple Bourbon Bread at this adorable coffee shop called Please and Thank You, and also had beers in a former church, called The Holy Grale! I’m wishing we could have eaten there because the menu looked amazing (particularly the poutine with roasted corn, jalapeños, cheese curds and duck gravy). Next time around I’d also love to visit Milkwood and Hillbilly Tea and catch a show at The Actors Theatre of Louisville.

As luck has it, I only have a month before my next little adventure. I’ll be reunited with my city…and in the fall! I’ll fly up to New York for a couple days and then take the train into Carmel, to spend my second Thanksgiving with Jay’s family. I’m so looking forward to all of it. I’ve been reminiscing about my time in New York last fall, and thinking of where I was and what I was doing. This month last year, I was going out for Oktoberfest at Radegast, with Louisa, calling every candy shop and purveyor in town, requesting samples for our Halloween candy feature, going to the Serial Killers Haunted House with Molly, and stocking up and freaking out over the impending arrival of hurricane Sandy. Time flies.

Wedding planning is progressing and we met our pint-sized photographer Casey, for pints at The Federal in Durham the other day, and she is so cute and kind and genuinely excited to be a part of our wedding. Check out some of her and her husband Matt’s beautiful work here. I am loving how this process is unfolding.

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared some of the music I’ve been listening to lately. Here’s pretty much what I have in rotation on my playlist:

  • These Days – Jackson Browne
  • Off He Goes – Pearl Jam
  • Firstborn – J. Tillman
  • We are Fine – Sharon Van Etten
  • The Pharaohs- Neko Case
  • Deep Red Bells – Neko Case
  • Lakehouse- Of Monsters and Men
  • My Unusual Friend – The Fruit Bats

and this sweet little gem

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The arrival of fall brings forth a hankering for what I like to call “hibernation food,” you know, warming comfort food, one-pot meals that can simmer away on a Sunday afternoon. Hibernation food is best consumed while wearing socks and sitting on your couch, watching Downton Abbey. It pairs excellently with red wine. Yesterday’s dreary weather  begged for homemade creamy tomato soup  with grilled cheeses and apple salad. And cookies. This afternoon during a beautiful jog, I was thinking about food (as I often do while jogging), and deliberating over what to cook for tonight’s dinner. It needed to be relatively quick because Jay had to leave for rehearsal and I wanted him to be able to eat before he left, which meant I had two hours to grocery shop and make it happen. Since Sundays mean roast chickens are on sale at Whole Foods, I picked one up and made a casserole with some beautiful broccoli I got from Farlow Farm, at the Curb Market. I added some mushrooms that were about to go bad, and some leeks, because leeks are awesome. This simple casserole definitely met the hibernation food criteria. I highly suggest you make some.

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Chicken Casserole with Mushrooms, Broccoli and Thyme  makes 6-8 servings

  • About 4 cups of rotisserie chicken (I used all of the white meat from one) *save the carcass to make chicken stock!
  • 1 cup of cooked brown basmati rice (cook in chicken stock if you can)
  • 2 leeks, cleaned, with green parts removed and discarded; sliced into quarter-inch rounds
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 2 large cloves minced garlic or 3-4 small cloves
  • 1-2 TBS of fresh thyme (I just eyeball this and you can do it to taste)
  • 1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and cut into quarters
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (use homemade if possible)
  • 1/2 cup half and half or whole milk
  • 2 cups broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the rice according to package instructions. While the rice is cooking, shred the chicken (I just do this by hand) and place in a large bowl. In a medium skillet, add olive oil and leeks and sauté over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Preheat the oven to 450. Add the mushrooms, chicken stock, half and half, thyme and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking for about 10 minutes or so. You want the liquid mixture to thicken and reduce a little.

Meanwhile, cook the broccoli in a pot of boiling water for one minute. Drain and set aside. Add the rice, broccoli, and the liquid mixture to the large bowl with the chicken and add 1/2 cup of parmesan. Toss with a large spoon or spatula until everything is combined. Pour the mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan, and some more thyme leaves. Cover with a lid or foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid/foil and place under a broiler until the top is golden brown (about 5 minutes). Put on something comfy and eat.

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Filed under Entrees, Travel, Uncategorized

I Love Paris in the Springtime

This weather has been so lovely…these past two weekends featured a bustling farmer’s market and a post-work belly-busting brunch, an open-air afternoon game of ping pong (with beer of course) and a Sunday feast followed by some backyard frisbee. And it marked the first time sleeping with the window open this year and let me just say, there is nothing like drifting off to sleep, breathing the intoxicating scent of fresh spring air.

And thank you dear Japanese Plum tree in our front yard for blooming (I had been waiting ever so impatiently because our neighbors across the street had theirs bloom a good week or so ago)! Spring and the arrival of April have me daydreaming about visiting Paris in April. I’ve been fortunate enough to have gotten to visit Paris twice but both times were in the summer and I think spring (particularly April) would be a dream. But I’m not complaining! I just think it would be very Audrey Hepburn. And I’m sure I’d be inclined to rent an adorable French bicyclette as my preferred means of transportation around the city. And wear flowery skirts and cardigans and leisurely stroll through gardens with an ice cream cone  and dance in the park with Fred Astaire (or maybe Joseph Gordon Levitt?) and then picnic with the quintessential basket of formage, baguette and vin. Okay maybe not but it’s a daydream so humor me ; ) These daydreams of Paris in the spring remind me of the last time I was in Paris (two summers ago), which is hard to wrap my brain around! I realize much to my embarrassment, I never blogged about my trip (quelle horreur)! I went with my mom in June and we ambitiously traveled to Paris, Aix en Provence, Apt (and surrounding Provencal villages) and to Switzerland—Bern, Lucern, Lausanne and Geneva—in just 10 days! It was a whirlwind trip but such a memorable one, especially in terms of our culinary encounters. So it may be coming two years too late but it would be remiss of me to not share it at all. So I will begin with Paris.

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In Paris, I had one of the most unique, innovative and memorable meals of my life. My mom and I dined at Spring—a modern and intimate restaurant outfitted in a cavernous grotto, in the 1st arrondissement— not far from The Louvre. We were lucky to get a reservation but I think the fact that we were in Paris during August (where the city is as vacant as it will ever get, since that is when Parisians flee the city in pursuit of their own vacation) worked in our favor. Funny enough, the exceptionally talented and young chef is actually American! Chicago native Daniel Rose is the mastermind behind this highly rated gem— worthy of every bit of praise it has received and I was fortunate enough to get to introduce myself and have a little chat with him after our meal.

We had an epic six-course meal that was nothing short of remarkable. It was this meal where I was first introduced to pigeon and sweetbreads and I found both to be surprisingly delightful, especially the pigeon, which was so tender and flavorful and reminded me a lot of duck breast.

We began with champagne of course and some fresh bread with seaweed butter. Seaweed butter! I’ve never tasted anything like it. We also had some bellota—a thinly sliced Spanish cured ham (much like Serrano ham) and also some pickled cucumbers and baby chanterelles.  (Please forgive the lack of quality in these photos—as is the case in most restaurants at night, the light was not ideal).

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Next, we had some stuffed red mullet fish with roasted fennel in a clarified buckwheat and fennel soup (that our waitress poured in front of us, creating a moat around the fish)—the dish was rich with umami and was my first time having mullet.

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Then came the sweetbreads! One of the highlights of our meal. They were prepared in a foamy green tomato emulsion and served with salad greens and a plum jam. They were the most savory, tender little gems and melted in our mouths.

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Then le pigeon came forth, with blanched, pickled onions and a creamy almond mousse, with kalamata olive jus. For the remainder of our trip, my mom and I joked every time we saw a pigeon on the street or in a park (which was a lot) and we’d say, “Ah hello Henri, we ate your cousin!”

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The pigeon was followed by the obligatory (and mammoth) cheese course which consisted of five different cheeses (and sadly I was unable to note the very French names of said cheeses, but we enjoyed them very much).

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For dessert, we received a generous melange, of chilled raspberries and peaches with fresh mint an cocoa nibs, in a peach syrup, a chocolate and salted caramel sorbet, mini coconut macaroons, chocolate-almond caramels and some blackberries and blueberries with a lemon-vanilla bean meringue.

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Needless to say we were left in a post-feast euphoria (which luckily lessened the blow of the bill). Spring is definitely a splurge but one well worth it, because like I said, it remains one of the most memorable and special meals I’ve ever had.

I’ll share more recounts of our European food diversions soon. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of the tunes I’ve been listening to lately:

  • The King of Carrot Flowers—Neutral Milk Hotel
  • Green Mountain State—Corinna Rose & the Rusty Horse Band
  • Rave on Sad Songs—Jason Collett
  • Name in Stone—Dead Man’s Bones
  • I got the Blues—The Rolling Stones
  • Hymn for the Heartbreaker—Corinna Rose & the Rusty Horse Band
  • The Red Rose—Jill Andrews
  • Moonlight Mile—The Rolling Stones

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April 8, 2013 · 5:13 pm