Thanksgiving Prep

I’m not much help in the kitchen (besides my mad dish washing skills), but I always eagerly volunteer to set and design the table. In honor of Thanksgiving tomorrow, I’d thought I’d share some pretty tablescapes to get you inspired as well as a few reminders on the ins and outs of holiday meals:

My favorite place setting of all time from Mrs. Lillien because it provides for three types of wine.

But, for those who may want to focus more on the meal and less on the wine pairings, this graphic prepares you for all scenarios:

Also, check out Cup of Jo’s wonderfully illustrated guide to table manners.

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Thankful for Good Neighbors

Since the Hubs and I moved into our house two years ago, we have become really great friends with some of our neighbors. They would all do just about anything to help out one another and it is such a peace of mind to live in such a tight knit community. So with Thanksgiving coming up this week, I wanted to be sure they knew how thankful we are, so I made them a little pumpkin bread as a little pre-Turkey thank you. If you have someone that could use a little past-due THANKS, check out the recipe below.


Sabrina’s Pumpkin Bread (makes two 9×5″ loaves or 3 smaller loaves)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup salad oil
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbs. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2/3 cups water

Directions:

  1. Cream sugar and oil together.
  2. Add eggs and pumpkin. Mix well.
  3. Combine all dry ingredients.
  4. Add dry ingredients to mixture alternating with the water.
  5. Pour into well-greased and floured loaf pans.
  6. Bake at 350° F for 1 hour 30 minutes if using large loaf pans. If using smaller loaf pans start checking after one hour. Knife should come out clean when done.
  7. Cool completely before removing from pans.
  8. Wrap in your favorite paper, adorn with ribbon and spread the neighborly cheer.

Foodie Friday: Food Truck Park

A couple of weekends ago I was itching to get out of the house and starving, so I hit up the Fort Worth Food Truck Park. I’ve long been an admirer of Austin’s food truck scene and was excited when DFW picked up on the trend. It is the perfect Saturday mid-day lunch trip. You can choose from burgers, tacos, Korean food, cupcakes or even sushi. Then hit up the beer truck and stretch out with a group on the picnic tables. I was solo this trip so I cozied down with a book and my Lee’s Grilled Cheese for a great late lunch. Here are the trucks I’ve tried, all of which I would recommend.

(1) Fred’s Food Truck – I still prefer the brick and mortar version, but when you want on of Fort Worth’s best burgers to go, this is your place.

(2) Lee’s Grilled Cheese – I eat grilled cheese sandwiches about twice a week (I know I’m almost 30) and these are some of the best I’ve ever had. I had the pesto, tomato goodness and it was excellent.

(3) Red Jett Sweets – a truck that sales cupcakes…need I say more. They also have really cute “Pup”cakes that my sweet Sigma swallowed whole.

(4) Ssahm BBQ – I originally tried this in Dallas at work one day and have gone back for more. These Korean BBQ tacos are legit and the Kimichi fries will change your life.

Next ones on my list to try in Fort Worth: The Drifiting Bistro and Salsa Limon. When we get through these we’ll head over to Dallas to see what they have. Let me know if there are any others you’ve tried and loved.

Foodie Friday: Charleston, SC

Sorry for the belated post. We threw a super fun couple’s shower this past Saturday and I’ve been running on high speed since last Wednesday to get everything done. We’ll just play a little catch up this week. I wanted to devote an entire post to the amazing food we had on our Charleston trip. I’m dying to take the Hubs and parentals back with me because they would be in heaven. We tried a little of it all and I can honestly say we didn’t have a bad meal. Settle in because this will be a long post – we ate a lot! Here’s the breakdown:

(1) Magnolias – my friends Geoff and Katy actually recommended this one and after walking by it, I don’t think anyone had to be convinced. We just did lunch here, but the entire menu looked amazing. The atmosphere is beautiful with big magnolia branch centerpieces. The pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes come highly recommended as appetizers. We had the blue crab bisque and a couple of the salads, all of which were delicious. Geoff and Katy went for dinner and said the filet topped with pimento cheese was not to be missed.

(2) FIG – This is one of the hottest restaurants on the Eastern seaboard right now (they even catered Blake Lively’s wedding). The atmosphere is fancy, but inviting with warm yellow and orange walls. The wine and cocktail menus are extensive, and the actual menu is small, but on point, with everything coming from local farms. This was a great dinner for a girl’s night and would make a great date night as well. Their “NBD” prosecco cocktail starts your evening off right as does their cheese plate with fig mustard. Follow up with one of their awesome fish choices or stick to small plates like the delicious gnocchi.

(3) Social Wine Bar – The thing that initially attracted me to this super hip wine bar/restaurant was their $15 wine flight pairings. We had perfect timing and were in Charleston for their Restaurant Week, so I had the three course meal with an awesome wine pairing. My favorite course was the St. Andre Cheese with strawberry tarragon preserves for dessert. I want to come back here and try all of the awesome cheeses and charcuterie on their menu. (Images from Social’s website)

(4) Poogan’s Porch – This was perhaps my favorite meal. Even if the food had been awful I would have loved this place. It is in an old house that is beautifully decorated (and there is even a ghost story to go with it). They seated us upstairs in a big, but quaint room where we could all easily talk to each other. But, the food wasn’t awful, it was amazing. We tried a variety of the appetizers, but the gouda mac ‘n cheese was hands down the best. In true low-county spirit I had the buttermilk fried chicken for my main course and it was even better than I expected. (Second image from Poogan’s website).

(5) Husk – After dinner at Poogan’s Porch we went next door for drinks at Husk. Husk is also an adorable restaurant (and the number one restaurant in Charleston right now) in a huge house, and adjacent to it (in a slightly smaller house), they have a wonderful craft cocktail bar with mixologists that totally look the part. The awesome bartenders also let me sample Jack Rudy’s Small Batch Tonic (finally!) and its amazing – gin and tonic girls, (I’m looking at you, Kathryn) this is a must. Besides the perfectly-made cocktails I also had a delicious banana-flavored craft beer that I would highly recommend (if I could remember the name of it). Garden and Gun was way ahead of us.

(6 & 7) AW Shucks & Charleston Crab HouseWe also got lunch at two great casual seafood chains on Market Street. I took full advantage of our coastal location and got the peel ‘n eat shrimp at both. At Charleston Crab House, Michelle and I split perhaps the best oysters I’ve ever had – they were smothered in garlic butter and topped with Parmesan cheese. These are both great spots for some just down and dirty seafood.

(8) Vendue Inn Patio Bar and Bin 152Since the whole point of the weekend was to celebrate Michelle’s upcoming nuptials, we tracked down a few good watering holes as well. We went to the Vendue Inn’s rooftop patio bar twice because the view was amazing and the drinks were cold. This is where I discovered Palmetto beer, my local brew of choice for the weekend. My favorite bar, however, was Bin 152. If Bin 152 was in Fort Worth, I’m pretty sure I would never go any where else. They have a huge wine selection and amazing cheese plates to go with it. The decor was shabby chic with a huge gallery wall that made me swoon and the woman behind the bar was French. Maybe I should just open one of these in Fort Worth myself…

(9) Kings Pops and Bakehouse – Two other spots worth mentioning (before I starve to death this morning from talking about all this food) were Kings Pops that we came across at the farmer’s market in Marion Square and the Bakehouse where we stopped to rest our tired legs after shopping all day. Kings Pops is a popsicle stand with yummy flavors like blackberry ginger lemonade, chocolate sea salt and watermelon mojito. Bakehouse is a super cute coffee shop/bakery that makes great coffee drinks and thirst quenchers. I mention both of these because you will need a lot of these cool refreshments if you go to Charleston in the summer; even in September it was still hot and humid.

If you missed the previous Charleston post, check it out here.

Foodie Friday: Southern Comfort

(Belated Foodie Friday)

I usually reserve eating fried chicken for church potlucks and picnics, but this summer I’ve discovered two home-cooking gems that merit more frequent visits.

Sissy’s Southern Kitchen & Bar

This is a new Dallas restaurant that exudes Southern charm. It is the bustling Knox-Henderson neighborhood that makes me wnat to move to Dallas. The wait staff sport way cute 1960’s inspired Southern duds complete with pinned up waves and newsboy hats. Beautiful Southern-style vintage china and deer heads are mounted on the wall. There is an awesome screened in porch area and a beautiful bar that was packed for happy hour. I had the Cucumber Cooler and a Shiner Ruby Red that perfectly complimented my meal.

We were celebrating a co-workers birthday and did it right. We ordered a bucket of the Sissy’s Fried Chicken as an appetizer so that we could all try out one of the other fabulous entrees as our main course. I got the shrimp and grits which tasted like a really delicious gumbo. The fried okra was wonderful (they cut them in half instead of slicing them up which equal more yummy okra and less breading), but the must-have side was the macaroni and cheese – gooey and cruncy – my favs. The fried chicken is the best I’ve had. It has a terrific spice to it (paprika, maybe?). This is what I would get on every future visit.

Considering I started with fried chicken and ended with shrimp and grits, there was no room for dessert, but in the future I think I’d try to convince someone to split an entrée and dessert with me so I could partake in the buttermilk pecan pie or cookies & ice cold brandy milk punch.

The only draw back in my book was the noise. It was so loud – like you have to get personal with the waitress loud. But, when you’re stuffing your face with all of the down-home deliciousness who needs to talk?

 

Babe’s Chicken – Burleson, Roanoke and Arlington

I’m generally anti-chain restaurant (not because they’re not delicious – I just hate going to the same place twice), but I think I’m the only person in the DFW metroplex that had not experienced Babe’s. I’ve never heard a bad review of this place and that is because it is just solid comfort food – fried chicken, all the family sides you can eat and my personal favorites, banana pudding and pie. We visited the Burleson location and it is a great casual family venue (a little hokey, but cute) and perfect for post-church on a Sunday. [Image]

Foodie Friday: Venice

Venice – The Food

Okay, by now its obvious that we did not go hungry in Italy, but I wanted to share our Venice wining and dining experiences too in case you have a chance to visit any of these. My number one tip for dining in Venice – find an outdoor dinner venue with a great view.

Ristorante Da Celio – We had been doing touristy stuff all day, had two just so-so meals in Rome and were jonesing for some authentic, unhealthy, delicious Italian food. Ristorante Da Celio was just the place. We ordered amazing pizzas, fresh salads and huge bowls of pastas with the best sauce accompanied with some Italian beers and cold white wine. It totally hit the spot, and I will definitely go back there if I’m ever in Venice.

Hotel Danieli – Our tour director assured us we were getting the best views of Venice from our water taxi on the way in, but he was wrong. The best view was on the terrace of Hotel Danieli. I’m pretty sure my dad saw this place in The Tourist and planned on visiting ever since, but he treated us to a wonderful meal with an unforgettable view.

Caffe Florian – This is right on St. Mark’s Square and is the perfect example of Venetian style. It has been around since 1720 and has all of the old world charm. There are lots of tables outside in the square that are perfect for people watching, but it will cost you a pretty penny. Italians take their experience and their coffee very seriously. This did not deter my brother and the Hubs though. They cozied in for a café and a snack while us girls did some shopping and while Dad and Colby investigated the Klimt exhibit.

Harry’s Bar – It would be a shame to go all the way to Venice without stepping in to Harry’s Bar and trying one of their signature bellinis. This place was established in the 1930’s and has been the “aperitif hour” hot spot for countless members of high society.

Traveling Tuesdays

Florence

The first time I went to Italy, Florence was my favorite city, and this time it did not disappoint either. By this point the seven of us had been together non-stop for five days and were starting to irritate each other, so we used Florence to split up and have some alone time and just relaxed with tons of good food and many Italian beverages.

Favorite Sites: (1) The Statue of David at the Accademia Gallery – it is overwhelming in the best way; (2) The Duomo and Basilica – they just don’t build things like that anymore; (3) Piazza della Signoria – just what you picture of a Tuscan city;

Shopping: Leonardo’s Leather Works – this is my second time at Leonardo’s and I highly recommend this store. They have a huge selection and help you do all of the tax-free paperwork. I was about to buy myself a belt and my sister was going to get some bracelets when my dad offered to buy us the leather jacket and bag we were really lusting after. I was so impatient to wear mine, I wore it to the Moulin Rouge in Paris 5 days later. That leather jacket may have been the highlight of my trip! Kayla and I then split off from the parents who headed to the Uffizi (Dad loves Renaissance paintings), and walked towards the Ponte Vecchio and shopping district for some souvies.

Food & Drink: The real highlight of Florence was the food! Florence is in the heart of Tuscany and just above the Chianti region and as far as Italian food and Italian wine are concerned, Tuscan flavors and Supertuscan blends of wine are my favorite. Here are the restaurants and bars we went to and I  highly recommend all of them if you ever find yourself in Florence.

Paperorosso – This was the very first restaurant we went to and was a matter of luck. Our hotel room was not ready and our group was too tired and grumpy to walk all the way into town and Paperorosso just happened to be right in between. The owner was so welcoming and made it feel like we were locals. He made us things off the menu and was incredibly hospitable. This was the first place I had charcuterie while in Italy and I was in heaven! So many meats and cheeses to choose from. Colby and a few of the others ordered a grilled porkchop that melted in your mouth. It was just what we needed to get in the foodie mindset for Florence.

Enoteca Pinchiorri – This was one of those restaurants that has been on my food-loving father’s bucket list, but instead of just doing  a date night with Mom, he took the whole family for an unbelievable, once in a lifetime experience. It is a top Michelin rated restaurant and by far the most elegant place I’ve ever dined. We had 15 courses, unbelieveable wines to match those courses and the most impeccable service I’ve ever experienced. The waiters literally escorted you to the restroom and disappeared into the walls (that’s what it felt like at least). Afterwards, the amazing sommelier gave us a tour of one of the best wine cellars in the world. Just seeing a $1 million bottle of wine made me giddy; I can’t even fathom what it would be like to drink something like that. Another bottle was  from the late 1800’s! That bottle of wine has survived many a war. This dining experience was truly unbelievable and I feel so lucky to have been able to enjoy it. If it is good enough for Presidents Clinton and Bush, its good enough for me.

Baldovino – My dad read about this place in one of his travel books and it was unbelievable. By far the best pizza I had in Italy and I got the charcuterie again – Oh my gosh! I heart Italy. This one is near Santa Croce so a very easy place to stop in and grab a bite as you tour the city. (The Santa Croce area turned out to be one of my favorite areas – if you can stay close to here you are guaranteed to have a marvelous time).

Finisterrae Ristorante – This was a group dinner planned by our esteemed travel agency, Globus, (eyeroll) who had butchered the dinner choices up to this point, but this one was amazing. The food was outstanding and so authentic, the decor was Tuscan-chic and the service was great. This is a great well-priced Tuscan dinner.

Bars – I mentioned before that the fam split up for the day, well when the Husband splits up from a group you can usually find him in the nearest pub or in this case looking for the nearest pub. He befriended not one, but two bar owners as he explored the city on his own and mapped out a plan for our evening. The first night we visited an Argentine pub before dinner – Argentino 7 Secoli – also near Santa Croce that had the biggest beers I’ve ever seen. The second night we followed dinner by visiting The Lion’s Fountain Irish Pub where they had a Texas Tech t-shirt that everyone got a kick out of signing and Sei Divino that had the best peach bellini (both for taste and presentation) I’ve ever tasted (there may have been a wine bar or two in between these).

All in all – if you love art and food, then Florence is the place for you.

Weekend Recap

I worked remotely Thursday and Friday which made it feel like I had a glorious five day weekend. We just kicked back at the lake and enjoyed some good quality pool time and some delicious food. Mom had the house looking super patriotic – I am definitely buying myself a couple of those red, white and blue lantern strings for next year. Our friends Juan and Jo Anna and their sweet baby, Greyson, came up and spent the weekend with us as well as my aunt, uncle and cousins, so we had a really fun group. We enjoyed lots of fun cocktails (Dad makes a new one with champagne, St. Germain’s and a secret ingredient that is amazing) and watched Lake Nocona’s ever-impressive fireworks show.

Jo Anna brought my mom a beautiful patriotic arrangement.

The Husband bought live lobsters on Tuesday at Central Market that we had to keep alive until Wednesday night to cook. It was a challenge, but we were successful and the meal was absolutely wonderful. This was the first time the Husband had par-boiled the lobsters and then grilled them and they were so good. (For future reference, Central Market can par-boil them for you to grill later which would save you the trouble of keeping 14 lobsters alive for 24 hours.) For the steaks, he marinated them overnight in a sauce from Fischer‘s (an great little grocery store and meat market in a neighboring town) and then used our good friends, Tom and Justin’s homemade rub on them (they’re about to launch a new website for all their yummy recipes, check it out – TGK). I think I could have eaten 16 oz. by myself. And mom of course had snacks, dips and desserts galore including homemade ice cream which she makes for me every year. A while back, Juan introduced us to his famous corn dip and it has been a hit at our family get-togethers ever since. I’ve shared the love below.

Juan’s Famous Corn Dip

  • 1 chopped green pepper
  • 1 chopped red pepper diced
  • 1 chopped 1 red onion
  • 2-3 cored and chopped jalapenos if you’re adventurous
  • 2 cans of whole kernel corn
  • 1/2 – 1 bottle of Kraft Zesty Ranch Dressing
  • 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese (sometimes I do more cheese)
  • Mix all of this together and chill
  • Top with crushed Chili-Cheese Fritos

Foodie Friday

Okay, I promise this is my last alliteration, but I have a whole list of restaurants I’ve been wanting to write about and Friday was open. Anyone that has met my family knows that food plays a central role in our get-togethers. My Dad especially has a passion for fine dining and living so close to him we often get to experience some awesome new places. Dinner and drinks is also our primary social outing. There is seriously nothing I love more than trying a great new restaurant and having a fabulous, long dinner with lots of good conversation. So to share those experiences, we now have “Foodie Friday.”

Ellerbe Fine Foods

This restaurant had been on our list of places to try for almost a year, but we finally got to visit it 2 weeks ago. Some of my friends raved about it and some of them hated it, so I was anxious to make my own opinion. We’ve tried to go a couple of times, but they book up quickly on most weekends so I highly recommend making reservations.

The Atmosphere: Ellerbe is in the newest up-and-coming area in Fort Worth, on Magnolia Avenue in the Hospital District, which I have really enjoyed exploring lately. That area is kind of working the hipster/Austin vibe which is cool and different for Fort Worth. The decor is really simple and elegant – mix and match vintage farm table chairs, flour sack napkins, burlap hand towels, etc. They also have a neat little market area where you can buy wine and specialty gifts – a great place for hostess gifts!

The Food: I’ve been to farm-to-table type restaurants before, but our group especially enjoyed this one because a lot of the farms were in  small towns my family has lived in. My aunt and uncle even knew one of the farmers the restaurant works with. We pretty much each got something different, and it was all amazing. My recommendations: Start with the assorted artisanal cheese and charcuterie or the creamy Scott Farm sorrel soup. The Copper River Salmon and the Porkchop were my favorite entrees. (Keep in mind their menu changes frequently depending on the season and availability of produce. The menu they have now has several other dishes than their one online). We always save room for dessert – I am not a fan of bread pudding, but I now crave Ellerbe’s version. Delicious.

Images: [1], [2,3], [4,5]

Thirsty Thursday: Blood Orange Margaritas

In law school we didn’t have class on Fridays so Thursday night we would all go out in full force before we hunkered down for a weekend of studying. So in honor of that much-missed tradition, I thought I’d start a cocktail segment on Thursdays. I was skimming through my usual must-read blogs when I came across today’s Camille Styles post where she featured a blood orange margarita. I think this must be the cocktail of the season because its popping up on all kinds of menus. If your in Fort Worth you can get one of these thirst quenchers at Tillman’s or Monty’s Corner in the 7th Street District. Cheers to it almost being Friday!

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Food & Wine‘s Tasty Recipe – (I chose this one because it makes enough for a party)

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups silver tequila
  • Ice
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 dozen small sage sprigs or leaves
  • 1 blood orange or orange wedge, plus 12 thin blood orange or orange slices
  • 1 quart fresh blood orange juice or fresh orange juice (about 12 blood oranges or 8 large navel oranges)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice (about 12 limes)
  • 1 1/2 cups Cointreau or other triple sec
  1. In a large pitcher, mix the blood orange juice with the lime juice, Cointreau and silver tequila. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes.
  2. Spread a small mound of salt on a small plate. Moisten the outer rim of 12 martini glasses with the orange wedge, then dip the rims into the salt to lightly coat.
  3. Add ice to the pitcher and stir well, then strain into the prepared glasses. Garnish each margarita with a blood orange slice and a sage sprig and serve.
Make Ahead: This margarita recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated, covered, overnight.