vacation, all we ever wanted

Last week, Jon and I took a little vacation that I’ve been jokingly calling our Baby Moon, because it’s likely the last vacation we’ll ever take, just the two of us. We went to Charleston, SC, where we lived for the 3 years of Jon’s residency, to visit friends and favorite places and just relax. It was perfect. Those who know me well know I’m crazy about food, and we basically planned our whole trip around what we’d eat, when, matching up people we wanted to see with places we wanted to eat. We ate SO GOOD. And our spirits were fed as well when reconnecting with people we love.

It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why we love Charleston. In some ways, it’s obvious– great food, great beauty, the beach. But in other ways, I think it’s because it’s where we went and struggled and survived on our own as a married couple for the first time. Jon worked crazy hours. I worked jobs I sometimes hated. We didn’t know anyone. I hated it at first. And then we thrived, and for that, it will always be a special place. Here are some highlights from a fabulous trip*:

Actually visited this old favorite TWICE.
There was one day of perfectly warm weather, so we spent it at Folly Beach.
12 week twin bump shadowed on the beach.
Followed by dinner at Taco Boy. Fish tacos! Too bad I couldn't have a margarita!

 

Jon really enjoyed his Mexican Street Corn.
We checked in on Rainbow Row and strolled around downtown.
We checked out Middleton Place plantation. The house is gone, but the gorgeous view it had remains.
One day, we'll be able to make the twins take pictures of us. Until then, this will have to do.
One of the plantation's goats wanted to be Jon's bff. It was trying to climb out of the pen to get to him.
And on our last night in SC, I got to try a restaurant I've been dying to try for over a year. The wait was worth it!


*You can thank Jon that I’m not sharing the tens of photos I took of trees. I’m a little obsessed with gnarled live oaks and giant moss-draped magnolias.

 

CSA: Charleston — a whole lot of summer

Another delicious week with our Pinckney’s Produce CSA! This week was like an explosion of summer goodies.  Here’s what we got:

That’s:

  • 8 ears of corn (gave 4 to the neighbors)
  • 6 potatoes
  • 9 yellow squash
  • 9 cucumbers
  • 8 zucchini
  • 4 pattypan squash
  • 6 banana peppers
  • 1 bag green beans (gave 1/3 to the neighbors)
  • 1 bag broccoli
  • 1 small bag of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 sweet onions

Tuesday

On Tuesday, I picked up our box.  For dinner, I made a stir fry with the broccoli and 2 of the pattypan squash, which I served over brown rice.  I also made refrigerator dill pickles with the cucumbers and bread and butter pickles with the yellow squash, half of the zucchini, and the banana peppers.  One reason I make so many pickles is that people love them, and they’re a nice thing to give away.  If we had a smaller box for our two-person family, I wouldn’t give so much food away, but as it is, we just can’t eat it all, and we can’t freeze it because we’re moving in two weeks.  My boss in particular loves pickles, and I give him a jar of each variety each week.  He’s kind enough to return the jars for a refill the next week!

Wednesday

On Wednesday, I adapted Rachael Ray’s Green Minestrone recipe for dinner, using up half of the green beans, and half of the remaining zucchini.  I made a few changes, using a couple of slices of bacon instead of pancetta, omitting the spinach (though if I’d had greens this week, those would have worked well), and omitting the celery (I tossed in a little celery seed to get the flavor).  I didn’t have a lot of parmigiano reggiano on hand, so I tossed a couple hunks of parmesan cheese rind into the pot while I was simmering the soup to get the flavor.  I always freeze my parmesan rinds to use in flavoring soups– they’re the secret ingredient to a good chicken soup!

Thursday

Thursday night, I tried a recipe that a fellow CSA member recommended on the Pinckney’s Produce Facebook page.  I had seen the recipe in my Real Simple magazine, but the fellow member jogged my memory.  It was a zucchini and orzo salad with feta cheese.  I added the cherry tomatoes and served it alongside grilled tilapia, which I sprinkled with a little lemon juice and dill to mimic the flavors of the pasta dish.  Yum! We had a feeling it would be a very tasty stand-alone pasta salad with the addition of some tuna, so that’s what I did with the leftovers.

Friday

Friday was a quintessentially Charleston night.  It has nothing to do with our CSA, but food is involved, so I thought I’d mention it here.  We went out to a friend’s family’s Isle of Palms beach house for a shrimp boil.  This was the view:

And this was the food:

So good! We stuffed ourselves on spicy shrimp, sausage, potatoes with garlic, onion, corn, and carrot (a BRILLIANT addition to the mix), we danced around, we took a walk on the beach in the dark, and we swam in the ocean, which felt divine.  It was a great night with friends that reminded me just how much I’m going to miss this place.

Saturday

Saturday Jon was on call and I was home alone, so I ate leftovers and watched World Cup.

Sunday

Sunday brunch was a scramble I made with the rest of the pattypan squash, eggs, fontina cheese, bacon, and fresh basil. Delicious!

For dinner on Sunday, I made a potato, green bean, and corn salad, which has a tangy mustard vinaigrette (I added red pepper flakes and the sweet onions).  We had a dinner made of side dishes by eating the salad with the leftover pasta salad from Thursday, and some of the squash pickles. 

Monday

Monday we ate a little bit of leftovers and a whole lot of popcorn for dinner.

Overall: a delicious week! We ate almost everything, and we’re looking forward to two more weeks of goodies before we move. I’ve already arranged for a coworker to take over our share for the remainder of the season.

CSA: Charleston – The Halfway Mark

I believe we’re now halfway through our CSA season with the wonderful Pinckney’s Produce, but I could be wrong.   Anyway, here’s what we got this week:

That’s:

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 1 cabbage (gave away to a coworker)
  • 10 yellow crookneck squash
  • 3 sweet onions
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 5 banana peppers
  • 6 pattypan squash
  • 12 pickling cucumbers
  • 8 zucchini
  • 1 large bag green beans (gave half away to a coworker)

And here’s what we did with it all:

Tuesday

Tuesday I focused on making pickles with the squash, zucchini, peppers, and cucumbers.  I did refrigerator dills with the cukes and bread and butter pickles with the rest.  I’ve been taking jars of the pickles to friends and coworkers and everyone loves them.

refrigerator dill pickles

bread and butter squash and zucchini pickles.

Otherwise, we ate leftover corn on the cob, grilled squash salad, and grilled cabbage coleslaw from last week with some blackened salmon for dinner.

even our leftovers are yummy thanks to our CSA!

Wednesday

Wednesday I fried some bacon in a skillet, poured off most of the grease, and sauteed the chard with some garlic and red pepper flakes.  I served this with the crumbled bacon and some parmesan cheese over orzo.  Not bad for a random no-recipe meal!

sauteed chard with garlic and red pepper over orzo.

Thursday

Thursday I was feeling crummy and Jon was feeling crummy, likely because some germy kid at his work gave him a cold, which he kindly shared with me. The hazards of pediatrics! Anyway, I was feeling like some comfort food, so I made fried rice with the bell peppers, 2 pattypan squash, and an onion.  I made a ton so I had leftovers for lunch on Friday as well.  Fried rice, like frittatas, is just one of those meals where I throw in a bunch of veggies I need to use up and it always turns out great.

Friday

Friday night, I was home alone, but that didn’t stop me from making myself an awesome dinner.  I made two delicious quiches with the kale and some leeks I bought at the store, following the Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for a Leek and Swiss Chard Tart.  I’m really not sure what the difference is between a quiche and a tart, but basically this was a quiche.  I used pre-made puff pastry for my crust, and I subbed in herbes de provence, because I couldn’t find my dried thyme.  It came out so delicious, and it fed us for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday as well.  Definitely try this recipe if you have some greens around!

Saturday

Saturday I went with one old standby and tried one new thing.  The old standby is my usual green bean recipe: sautee green beans with garlic and onions with ginger and soy sauce.  Jon loves them, I love them, can’t go wrong.  The new thing was using the rest of the squash and zucchini in a potato and summer squash gratin with goat cheese.  It probably would have been a lot less time consuming if I had had a mandolin for slicing the veggies crazy thin, but my one and only Wusthof knife worked out pretty well, even if it did seem to take an eternity.  No matter what, all the slicing was worth it for a dish that tasted so good!  Mine had a few more layers than the original recipe called for, but I just kept layering.  I added more milk and more cheese to make up for the fact that my gratin was larger.  This is another recipe I highly recommend.

potato, squash, and goat cheese gratin.

Sunday we had a party to go to, so I didn’t do any cooking.

Monday

Monday we were feeling lazy and wanting to watch Battlestar Galactica (we’re nerds) and drink margaritas.  I had a bit of kale left in the fridge, so I cut it up and sauteed it until wilted, and then I used it in place of spinach in a spinach and artichoke dip recipe.  Turns out, any green will do in spinach and artichoke dip. My theory: with enough cheese, you could basically use grass clippings and no one would care.

So, another week down, and besides what I gave away to a coworker, we ate it all! I’m pretty proud!

CSA: Charleston — squash!

After last week’s poor CSA performance, wherein Jon and I were both out of town for long stretches so we ended up giving most of our CSA produce away, I was determined to do fun things with the bulk of our CSA goodness this week, and I think I succeeded! Man, I love Pinckney’s Produce! If you’re interested in signing up for the fall season, there’s a waiting list forming now, so check them out.

Here’s what we got this week:

That’s:

  • 1 bunch mustard greens
  • 2 bunches kale
  • 1 cabbage
  • 4 onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 4 banana peppers
  • 1 bag broccoli
  • 5 pattypan squash
  • 9 yellow squash
  • 8 cucumbers
  • 8 zucchini

What I did with it all:

Tuesday:

Tuesday night, I made a stir fry using the carrots, broccoli, peppers, and 2 pattypan squash, which I served with a soy, ginger, and sriracha sauce over rice. Yum! I had leftover stir fry for lunch the next day.

I also made two batches of refrigerator pickles, the first using my usual dill pickle recipe for the cucumbers, and the second batch using a modified form of this bread and butter pickle recipe for half the squash and zucchini.  This recipe is really special because it uses maple syrup for the sweetness rather than sugar. Though I think the maple syrup contributed to the flavor and color, if you don’t have that much real syrup on hand, I bet brown sugar would work well!  Also, I couldn’t find red chiles, so I added red pepper flakes. I basically did a refrigerator pickle method for the squash pickles too, just heating up the liquids and then putting the squash in their liquids in jars (and yogurt tubs) in the fridge and letting them “pickle” that way, rather than boiling them in jars for 20 minutes and sealing them.

Wednesday

Wednesday night I made squash and zucchini pizzas following the Smitten Kitchen’s Lemony Goat Cheese and Zucchini Pizza recipe.  I made the crust before going to work and left it to rise all day, which makes for a much better crust than just letting it rise for an hour.  I also didn’t have goat cheese, so I subbed in Laughing Cow cheese, because my husband had recently picked up a bunch of it at Costco because it was on sale.  It came out great! I forgot to take a picture of the finished product, so you’ll just have to extrapolate that it was browner and meltier and glistening with olive oil.  I had leftover pizza for a couple of breakfasts and one lunch.

Wednesday night I also cooked lentils and caramelized onions to use in Thursday night’s dinner.

Thursday

Thursday night we ate the kale in this kale and lentil pasta, which came out delicious! I forgot to take any pictures, unfortunately.  We had the leftovers for lunch a couple of times.

Friday night I went out to eat with a friend.

Saturday

Saturday I went and saw Sex and the City 2 with a bunch of girlfriends.  We pre-partied with cosmos at a friend’s condo, so I decided to bring a very appropriate snack: red velvet cupcakes made using Magnolia Bakery’s recipe.

This is me eating an actual Magnolia Bakery red velvet cupcake at 30 Rock in New York:

On the left: red velvet. On the right: caramel and banana. Both: AMAZING.

And here’s how mine turned out (the coconut was strategic, to keep the frosting from sticking all over the container or other cupcakes in transit to the party):

Smuggling cute pink cans of champagne into the theatre is basically a must when seeing SATC2.

One thing to note about the Magnolia Bakery’s red velvet recipe is that, unlike many red velvet recipes, it does not use cream cheese frosting, and uses a creamy vanilla frosting instead. I like the changeup, because I find cream cheese frosting a little sickeningly sweet for red velvet cupcakes.

Sunday

Sunday lunch was a mustard green frittata with fontina cheese.

On Sunday evening we had a few friends over for a bring your own meat cookout.  I made a grilled squash and zucchini salad following this recipe from Real Simple, as well as a grilled cole slaw (really!) using the cabbage and an additional red cabbage.  I liked this slaw a lot because it’s got a vinegar dressing instead of being drenched in mayo.  Warning: two heads of cabbage makes a LOT of slaw!!  The squash and zucchini salad was also a big hit, and my one big change was adding the sweet onions to the grill instead of using the called-for green onions.  Our meat was grilled chicken which I had marinated in Greek yogurt, garlic, cumin, and chili powder.  We snacked on pickles and had cupcakes for dessert.

Wrap-Up

Overall, a very delicious week, with no major failures! We even managed to be mostly vegetarian, with the exception of the chicken we ate at our cookout!   Outside of the CSA veggies, we also made some homemade salsa and some tabouli on Sunday, which we snacked on at the beach on Monday along with some yummy watermelon, all washed down with mojitos made with mint we grew in our yard.

Did you cook anything good this week?

kitchen catch-all

If you haven’t been reading this blog very long, you may be noticing by now that I basically only cook vegetarian and seafood dishes, with the occasional hint of bacon or chicken stock.  This is because we radically changed our eating habits about a year ago, after seeing the film “Food Inc.” and reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. This involved a shift toward eating more locally grown, and, when not local, organic produce, and giving up most meat at home because we cannot afford to buy, nor can we find as readily, the type of pastured, sustainably grown meat we have committed to eating. So, we mostly eat vegetarian and seafood dishes when we cook at home, flavoring our foods with certified humane all natural bacon, which is readily available at our usual grocery store, and organic free range chicken stock, which we find at Costco. We also eat a lot of pastured eggs. Anyway, I just thought some folks might be starting to wonder why they almost never see chicken or beef dishes around here, and that’s why. For the record, while we try to mostly frequent restaurants that serve food that fits in with our values, we don’t hold hard and fast to our “rules” when dining outside our home. Onto what we ate this week:

eating in

We mostly ate at home this week, so I did a lot more cooking. This week we ate:

  • Image by Yunhee Kim via rachaelraymag.com

    Rachael Ray’s Tuna Orzo Salad.  This is a really colorful and tasty dish, full of veggies and sprinkled with feta cheese, one of my favorite things.  It made good leftovers for me to take for lunch at work this week, because they don’t have to be reheated. I recommend using less red onion than called for unless you are just really a big red onion fan. Sometimes I don’t have the suggested red wine vinegar, so I use balsamic instead. I also don’t bother to buy tuna packed in oil, so I just make my own vinaigrette using regular olive oil, rather than the oil from the tuna.

  • Real Simple’s Skillet-Poached Huevos Rancheros.  Though this recipe says it serves four, it served the two of us for exactly one meal. Maybe we’re just hungry hungry hippos. We love Mexican flavors, and we love eggs, so this recipe hit a real sweet spot for us.  I’ll definitely be making it again. I’ll note that I forgot to buy scallions, so I sauteed some onion in the pan before putting the salsa and beans in. This would also be yummy with the addition of pepper jack or cotija cheese on top.
  • Real Simple’s Creamy Shrimp with Corn and Bacon. This is basically like a corn chowder, plus shrimp, served over rice. It’s pretty tasty, but definitely not one of our healthier dinners.
  • Hummus! I started making hummus a while ago, because we eat so much of it, and it’s much cheaper to just make it myself. I follow this recipe from The Kitchn, for the most part, though I always add more lemon juice than called for, as well as lemon zest, because I like my hummus to have a real lemony kick. This week I followed that recipe but made two different types. With one batch, I threw in a can of artichoke hearts, which makes for very creamy hummus with a subtle artichoke flavor. With another batch, I threw in some sundried tomatoes and a little bit of smoked paprika– this batch was AMAZING. I’m going to be making more sundried tomato hummus in the future for sure. It was an especially yummy treat when scooped up with red bell pepper slices.
  • Fried Rice. At the end of the week, when I have some leftover veggies in my fridge, I often make a big thing of fried rice (a lot like the frittata method I used the other week). This week’s batch featured brown rice, bacon, egg, squash, celery, carrot, red onion, and green peas.

eating out

  • Only ate out once this week. Friday night, I met up with some friends and ate at WOK (World Oriental Kitchen) on King St. for the first time. I described WOK to Jon as “the Chipotle of stir fry.” You basically get to choose noodles or rice, a protein (tofu, shrimp, beef, or chicken), a few veggies, and a sauce, and they fry it up in a wok and bring it to your table. The service was a little slower than I expected, but the food was tasty. The entire place is very eco-friendly, with reclaimed wood tables and other “green” touches, and all local, organic ingredients, all of which I LOVE. My only suggestion would be to ditch the paper straws. They turn soggy and useless halfway through a drink. Why have straws at all if they’re useless?

food for thought

  • So, the other day, when pondering my stove-top popcorn obsession, I mused to Jon that maybe popping popcorn in a pan I’d just fried bacon in would make for lovely, bacon-flavored popcorn. He thought that sounded insane. But then, what to my wondering eye should appear on The Kitchn but “How to Make Bacon Fat Popcorn.” I’ve yet to try it, but I think I might have to, since I invented it.

kitchen catch-all

So, I’ve been slacking on the blog a little this past week.  I expect posting to be lighter than usual for the next few weeks, as I work at a college and the end of the term gets a little crazy, and on top of that, I’m trying to get things ready for a new person to take my job, trying to sell a house, and working on coordinating our move to Little Rock, AR.  That said, we’re still eating and cooking and working extra hard to try as many restaurants in Charleston as we can before we leave, so Kitchen Catch-Alls will definitely continue!

eating in

  • Didn’t do a ton of cooking this week, but one thing I did make was a spring fish and veggies dish loosely based on Rachael Ray’s Spring Fish in Parchment.  Loosely because I used salmon, asparagus instead of green beans, and didn’t have enough parchment, so I cooked them in foil packets instead of paper.  Still, a yummy dish!  I had to make a quick run to the liquor store to get white wine for this recipe, which brings me to my next point…
  • We tried Firefly Sweet Tea Bourbon this week.  Firefly is a local vodka company, best known for their Sweet Tea Vodka, flavored with tea grown here in Charleston.  We’ve been to their distillery and tried every single one of their products!  I’m not a huge vodka drinker, but I am a whiskey girl, so I’m PUMPED that they’re now making a sweet tea flavored bourbon.  I find the warmth of the bourbon is a nice compliment to the flavor of the sweet tea, and my favorite way to drink it is watered down with a big of homemade iced tea.  I haven’t tried it mixed with lemonade yet, but I’m sure that would also be tasty.
  • Also this week, I got obsessed with popping popcorn on my stovetopApparently there are ingredients in microwave popcorn which can cause lung disease.  This, on top of my concern at producing so much waste (a plastic wrapper and a paper bag) every time I pop a bag of microwave popcorn, was enough to make me give up microwave popcorn.  My first two attempts at stovetop popcorn turned out a bit burned and once, very much oversalted.  By the third attempt, I’d figured out that lower heat works better, and sesame oil is a better oil to use than olive oil.  It’s a little more time consuming, but I figure shaking the pan burns off some of the calories from the OMGREALBUTTER I like to put on top, right?
  • Sunday we were hungry and the fridge was slim pickin’s as we had reached the end of the week and I’d yet to shop for this week’s groceries. Glancing in the fridge, I saw a few random veggies (half a red onion, half a green bell pepper, half a pint of cherry tomatoes), some eggs, and some bacon, which I threw together into a brunch of veggie-bacon frittata served with a dollop of Greek yogurt. If you have eggs and a veggie or two, you always have the makings of a meal.
  • If you look in the “eating out” section, you’ll see that we tried Baked this weekend, and I was so impressed I plunked down $30 (which, don’t be dumb like me, buy it for $18 off Buy.com) for their cook book.  Sunday afternoon, I made their Root Beer Bundt Cake, and, given that the blurb before the recipe says to expect an “avalanche of root beer flavor,” I was expecting some serious root beer taste.  But this was not the case. While the cake was rich and chocolatey, and the “fudgy” frosting was so thick it was literally like smashing fudge on top of a cake, there wasn’t even a hint of root beer flavor under all the chocolateyness. All in all a great chocolate cake, and worth trying, but certainly not the “avalanche” of flavor it’s billed to have. Perhaps if I try again, I’ll use root beer schnapps as suggested for more intense flavor.

eating out

  • On Tuesday we checked out Aluette’s, which bills itself as “holistic soul food.” Though I’m sure some would argue with a pork-free restaurant that calls itself “soul food,” I found the place plenty soulful. Aluette herself, along with Chef Absalom, prepared our meals, and chatted with us while things were cooking. We enjoyed fried shrimp in a light, almost tempura batter, along with fries and coleslaw, and a delicious lamb dish served with rice and collards. Everything was plenty tasty, but a bit pricier than I’d be willing to pay for what we got without a restaurant.com certificate.
  • Crossing another restaurant off my list, we tried Bambu in Mount Pleasant this week.  I had a Thai Basil dish with tofu, Jon tried General Chang’s Chicken, and our friend had Green Coconut Curry.  We also sampled the potstickers, which were pan fried for a really satisfying crunch on one side. All of the food was excellent, the patio we sat on was lovely, and if I weren’t trying to try so many restaurants before leaving town, I’d say we’d definitely go back.
  • Friday night, after a dinner of leftovers at home, we met friends at McCrady’s for another 25 cent cocktail night.  After giving our waitress the password, “beep beep,” we received our 25 cent sidecars.  A sidecar is a drink made with brandy, and I’m not a huge brandy drinker.  The sidecar was probably a little sweeter than I’d order regularly, and would definitely not top my list of favorites on McCrady’s cocktail menu (I think my favorite is still the Blood and Sand, or maybe the Ward 8), but it was still a tasty drink.  We also enjoyed fried green tomatoes with green goddess dressing, and Jon and I shared an apple tart with bourbon ice cream (I wasn’t kidding about my love of bourbon).
  • After McCrady’s, we decided to head across the street to Baked for still more sweet treats.  Baked originated in Brooklyn, and when they expanded, chose to add a location in good old Charleston, SC (apparently one of the owners has family here). Baked is not a frilly, frothy, pink and white sort of place.  The entire shop is themed in orange, brown, and white, with some seriously trendy elements like antlers and lots of knotty pine.  Their desserts are not typical.  Each person in our group got a different dessert, and they were all passed around the table for everyone to try.  Among the things we sampled: salted brownie (OMG, I will have to fight the urge to put salt on all my brownies from now on), strawberry whoopie pie (I confess I’d never had a whoopie pie before, and it was darn tasty), key lime bar (I’m always a fan of key lime), cherry cream cheese bar (this was my choice– a bar with a crushed pretzel crust, a thick layer of caramel, and a fluffy layer of cream cheese and cherry goodness on top), and a cashew bar (I’m not a cashew fan, so I didn’t try this one.)  I loved everything so much that I bought their cookbook, so you can expect to see some Baked goods on this blog, probably sometime soon! (You can score their Red Hot Red Velvet Cake recipe right here.)
    image via Baked

    image via Baked
  • Saturday morning we met friends for brunch at Virginia’s on King.  Virginia’s is one of the best brunch spots in a town that is seriously all about brunch (other great options include Hominy Grill, the Glass Onion, Fleet Landing, Lost Dog Cafe).  One perk of Virginia’s? $9 bottomless mimosas.  And our waitress’s stated mission was “to get you sloshed.”  Man, I love this town.  We downed so many mimosas we lost count, shared fried green tomatoes, and some of the braver among us tried fried chicken livers (our waitress brought us a complimentary plate of them)– I admit I did not try them after witnessing 3 people recoil and describe the aftertaste as “like dog food.”  I had a plate of biscuits and gravy with a side of hash browns.  I have to tell you, I didn’t like biscuits and gravy until I moved here, and I’ve realized it’s because they make actual sausage gravy, not that gloopy white stuff of unknown origin.  Jon tried the fried chicken with collards and mashed potatoes, and though he got some funny looks for tearing into it like a caveman (but seriously, who eats fried chicken with a fork? Only stuffy people, that’s who!), but it was darn good.  After all those mimosas, we wandered around on King Street until the buzz wore off.  A great way to spend a Saturday.

food for thought

scenes from a rock show

I don’t go to a lot of concerts.  I dislike other bodies touching mine, I hate it when people mosh into me, I hate having to wait through an inevitably crappy opening act, I usually get hot and feel faint, and I find the standing rather exhausting. (Yes, I realize I sound like a real pale and wan pain in the ass right about now.)  But, and I realize this will spoil some of my indie cred, one of my favorite bands in the whole wide world is Third Eye Blind and they played in my town last night and I just had to go.  Even though it was in a venue (the Music Farm) I swore I’d never go back to because it was way oversold the time I saw Band of Horses (oh hey, there’s my cred back) and actually had to leave before the end because I thought I’d pass out from the heat and the stench of the sweat coming off the horde of shirtless goth dudes dryhumping all around me (no lie).  I’ve liked 3eb since their first album came out way back in like 1996, discovering them just as I realized there was newer music beyond my dad’s classic rock (though I still have a soft spot for that stuff).  I have all of their albums and even an EP, and it’s all still in rotation on my iPod.  So yeah, I had to go.

So my husband and I took our old fogey asses to a rock show last night.  And I loved it.  Here are some brief scenes.

  • We arrived before the opening act to score some prime real estate on the floor in front of the stage.  This meant 30 minutes of exposure to annoying undergrads (I can ID them because they didn’t have over-21 bracelets on) going on about how they’ve loved 3eb since their first album came out.  Oh really? Back when you were like, eight?
  • We inevitably stand next to the one person at the show that you don’t want to be standing next to.  With Band of Horses it was a group of shirtless goths who seemed to have gotten lost on the way to the gay club next door and took the opportunity of an indie rock show to dry hump each other for an hour.  This show, it was the Hippie Girl.  The type who says things like, “I just want to express myself with my body” and writhes around to some other beat in her mind, swaying and slithering.  Jon said, “I think she thought this was Widespread Panic or something.”  We spent the show trying not to let her dance ON us.  I should have asked her if she wanted to model for art classes.  I’m sure she’d have been down.
  • The opening act. Oh God.  Someone did not love Joshua James enough as a child.  His music is apparently the soundtrack to wrist slitting.  He literally said, “This song is about a little boy from Lincoln, Nebraska, who was kidnapped from his home and later found raped and murdered.”  As you can imagine, it was a really happy track.  We couldn’t understand a word he said, but I imagined they were about puppies being kicked and women being eaten by bears.  I will say that later, he came out to sing a 3eb song, and it sounded pretty good, if angsty.  So the guy has a decent voice, but might need to find some different inspiration for his songwriting.
  • But then, after a seemingly interminable setup and sound check, the main event arrived on the stage, and the sold out house went nuts.  The band rocked out, the crowd went crazy dancing and singing (parts of the show were basically a big sing-along), and by the end of the 4-song encore, my ears were ringing and my throat was sore.
  • Based on my observations of crowd behavior, I’ve now trademarked The Dick Move ™.  It’s that “oh, I see my buddy over there, can I squeeze through here?” thing people do to get closer to the stage.  Two guys and a girl pulled that on me and then stopped, right in front of me.  “We good?” the guy said to his girl.  I decided this situation called for me to be a bitch.  “UM NO, WE’RE NOT. I could see, and now I can’t.” The girl moved sheepishly to the side, and I thought to myself, damn straight, you better move, that was NOT cool.
  • I’ve also gotta hand it to 3eb, they’re not one of those bands that now hates and refuses to play the song that made them famous. We got to hear both “Semi Charmed Kind of Life” and “Jumper,” and they played both with the same enthusiasm that they gave to songs off their newest album.  They also seem to know they’re not as famous as they used to be, and seemed genuinely thankful that we were such an awesome crowd, which is probably why they gave us a 4-song encore.

So, I’m a happy fan today.  Not sure when I’ll feel up to another show, but I’m glad I went to this one.

kitchen catch-all

eating in

  • image via Real Simple

    I’ve mentioned before that we try to go vegetarian a few nights per week, because we’re concerned about the way conventional meat is raised and slaughtered, because we’re concerned about the impact of meat consumption on the environment, and because we’re concerned about the impact of meat consumption on global hunger.  One of the easiest veggie meals is some form of beans and rice.  This week I made Cuban style black beans and served them with coconut rice.  Coconut rice is seriously one of my favorite things, so if you’ve never had it, try it!  This meal is especially delicious with a Cuba Libre (aka a rum and coke).

  • Saturday night I made one of our favorite meals.  It’s the almond tilapia from this recipe and this minty chickpea salad, which I made with bulgur instead of cous cous and added some lemon juice to make it even more like tabouli.  If you try it, the method to use bulgur is to add 3 cups boiling water to one cup bulgur in a large bowl, cover, and leave for 45 minutes.  When the time was up, I still had some water that hadn’t been absorbed by the bulgur, so I strained it and proceeded as usual for the rest of the recipe.  We actually eat a LOT of cous cous, so using the bulgur wheat was a nice change up.
  • Two words: Margarita. Cookies. You know you wanna try.  Here’s the recipe over at Smitten Kitchen.  I made mine mostly following the recipe, though I didn’t have an orange, so I just added in some triple sec (half a teaspoon). I’m sure it says something about me that I had triple sec but not an orange, but there you go.  A friend who had tried the recipe before recommended adding a little extra lime, so I doubled the amount of lime zest and added the juice of one lime.  I STILL think that wasn’t enough lime. I’m now wondering if you can get lime extract, as I really like the idea of these cookies, especially the hint of salt.
  • I also made my own hummus this week.  I followed this recipe from The Kitchn, but added in a whole can of drained artichoke hearts in water for a bit of a flavor boost.  The artichoke made for especially creamy hummus, and I’m very pleased with the results.  The hardest thing about making hummus is getting my hands on tahini, but Harris Teeter stocks it in the international food aisle.  Even though tahini is a little pricey, it makes several batches worth of hummus and is still a lot more cost effective than paying $5 per tub of pre-made hummus.  If you’ve got a food processor, you should check it out.

eating out

  • I was true to my word and went back to McCrady’s with Jon this week so he too could experience the wonder of a pre-prohibition cocktail for 25 cents.  We got a booth in the bar area, and when the waitress asked us what she could get us, we said “donkey.” She smiled and said she’d have those drinks right out for us.  This week’s cocktail was a Ward 8, and featured whiskey, orange bitters, and grenadine.  We sipped our cocktails while snacking on crispy duck rillettes with cranberry ketchup and fried housemade bread and butter pickles with ramp buttermilk dressing.  Even without the super cheap drink special, McCrady’s is fast becoming one of my favorite places to have a drink in Charleston.  It’s exactly dark and cozy enough that you could almost pretend you really are in a Speakeasy.
  • I’d been itching to check out Ted’s Butcherblock ever since I started searching for sustainable meat sources after seeing Food Inc.  In addition to being a great butcher/wine/cheese shop, Ted’s has lots of sandwiches and salads and other food items.  On Friday nights, they serve a $12 supper, so we decided to see what kind of food we could get for such a great price.  This Friday’s supper was lemon pepper shrimp skewers with grilled eggplant and Israeli couscous with radishes and cucumbers, with an almond custard for dessert.  The food was fabulous and filling.  I’m going to be searching for an almond custard recipe so I can try to recreate it soon– such a rich flavor and served with this amazing honey-nut crispy thing that I can’t even describe. In addition to the super cheap dinner, Ted’s also has $5 wine tastings on Friday night.  $5 got us four samples (about one glass in total) of two whites and two reds.  I especially liked an Oregon Pinot Gris. We also had some fun people watching as there were two very elderly couples in the shop, cutting each others’ eggplant, snagging each others’ dessert, and holding hands, and there was another couple with a particularly adorable and chubby baby who was wearing a very cute hat and drooling all over the place.  You should definitely check out Ted’s on a Friday night. I’m convinced there isn’t a better deal in town.
  • The Farmer’s Market is back! While we’re blessed with a crazy-long growing season, the time without the Farmer’s Market in Marion Square always seems like an eternity.  Saturday was opening day, and we headed down town excitedly, with plenty of room for crepes from our favorite food stand.  I went for smoked sausage, egg, and swiss with peppers and onions, and Jon got the egg veggie which features mozzarella, spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms.  The crepe stand’s line was three times as long as any other vendor, but they’re always worth the wait.  Bring a blanket and sit under a shade tree and enjoy the people and puppy watching while you devour your crepes.
    the crepe menu.
    just a taste of the puppy-watching

    I loved these vibrant flowers.

food for thought

  • Got a lot of leftover Easter candy? Try this method for Peeps Brulee.
  • If you try the hummus recipe above and want to use up some of the rest of your tahini in a soup with a similar flavor profile, try hummus soup (I’m gonna try it soon!).

kitchen catch-all

eating in

  • Clafouti. It sounds like an instrument you’d play in a band that also features a flugelhorn. It turns out, however, that a clafouti is a tasty dessert, one that Julia Child had a recipe for (Bon Appetit!), which I found, by way of Honest Fare (you can go there and read for yourself what Gabi’s husband thought clafouti sounds like, and also snag the recipe).  When I read that it was like a cross between a custard, a cake, and a pancake, I knew I had to try it.  I love custard AND cake.  I made mine with fresh raspberries and blackberries and some frozen cherries.  After we finished eating our first slices, Jon said, “I like clafouti.” Me too, man, me too.  To paraphrase Schlotzsky’s Deli: funny name, seriously tasty dessert.   You should try making one– way easy, way good.  Tip: to make the homemade whipped cream extra yummy, add a little vanilla to it.

    my beautiful clafouti (yeah. it sounds funny.)
  • But don't you want to try it, funny name and all?
  • Image via Real Simple.

    We’re still trying to eat all the food I froze during the last CSA season, so I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking this week.  One recipe I did try was a hit, though.  It was Real Simple’s roast salmon and peppers with caper vinaigrette.  We really liked this, and I pretty much followed the recipe– the only change I made was adding some lemon juice to the vinaigrette, because I thought it needed a little bite of citrus.  I’ll definitely be adding this recipe to my binder full of keepers.

eating (or should I say drinking?) out

McCrady’s is probably the most talked about restaurant in this town full of excellent restaurants.  The chef, Sean Brock, was nominated for a James Beard Best Chef Southeast Award this year, and in a recent Oxford American Food Poll, many of the chefs and food writers surveyed listed Brock as a favorite and an inspiration.  McCrady’s is also rather expensive– we ate dinner there because of one of my husband’s work events, but would otherwise only go there for a special occasion.  But the expense of the dinners isn’t a reason to miss out on the McCrady’s experience– just head to the bar!

McCrady’s is known for its pre-Prohibition Era cocktails, which are priced reasonably, on par with most other cocktails in town.  And to add even further incentives to check out their spirited offerings, they’ve been running a Prohibition style promotion on Facebook and Twitter, releasing a password to their followers and fans each week that will get them a pre-Prohibition Era cocktail for just 25-cents!  Friday night, a friend and I settled ourselves at the bar, and whispered “Burma” to Ben the bartender.  He smiled and whipped us up two Pegu Cocktails, a combination of Gordon’s London Dry Gin, Cointreau, Stirring’s Orange Bitters, and lime.  They were delicious, and I’m not usually a gin drinker!  We also checked out the menu of bar snacks.  I ordered the Crispy Pork Rillettes with Cranberry Ketchup, and my friend chose Fried Green Tomatoes with Green Goddess Dressing.  We loved both!

Since our first cocktails were only 25 cents, we had plenty of money left over to try another of the cocktails.  My friend, who had studied abroad in England, went for a classic Pimm’s cup, and I, being a whiskey fan and a sucker for a cool name, went for one called the Blood and Sand.  I mean, doesn’t that drink just sound badass??  It featured Dewar’s Scotch Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Brandied Cherry Juice, and Blood Orange, and I enjoyed it very much.  While McCrady’s might be out of my price range for regular dinner dining, the cocktails and bar snacks are very much my speed and friendly to my budget.  I’ll have to take Jon back to try other things very soon!

food for thought

a breakup

As the sun sets on our time in Charleston, I'm realizing how much I'm going to miss it.

Three years ago, I crazily agreed to move to Charleston, SC, sight unseen, for Jon to do a residency in pediatrics.  I hadn’t even laid eyes on the place until a marathon weekend when we came to buy a house (our first house!).  While the first year was so so so very hard, being my first year post-college, my second year of marriage, Jon’s super-hellish intern year, and the farthest we’d ever lived from all our nearest and dearest, we eventually realized it wasn’t so bad here.  After working a crappy real estate job for a year and a half, I got laid off due to the recession and found a much better (though lower-paying) job at a college with coworkers I enjoy and the opportunity to take some graduate English classes and realize that English lit really is my passion.  And it seems that now, just as I’ve hit my stride, we’ve begun the slow process of saying goodbye.

In some ways, I feel like we’re still living with a girlfriend we’ve already broken up with.  We’ve already got one foot out the door.  And even though our house is up for sale, and I’ve already taken to browsing cute houses in the neighborhood we’re hoping to live in in Little Rock (where Jon is now going to be doing a fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine), it’s like Charleston is making a last-ditch effort to win our hearts and keep us from walking away.  She’s decking herself out in golden sunshine and gorgeous flowers- camellias and pear trees and azaleas– hoping to catch our eye with her beauty.  She’s warming up and whispering in our ears about lazy afternoons spent sitting on the beach.  She’s even started sweet talking us– my boss can’t stop lamenting my leaving and telling me what wonderful things I’ve done for the department.  And she’s trying to make us jealous, flirting with a new crop of medical residents and suggesting that maybe she’ll be just fine without us.

The truth is, I didn’t expect it, but I fell for Charleston.  I love the narrow streets and hundreds-of-years-old houses of downtown, with jasmine covered fences and gnarled live-oaks dripping with Spanish moss.  I love that there are 80+ amazing restaurants to visit and enjoy.  I love the weather.  I love being able to go to the beach every single weekend.  I love my neighborhood and my cute old house.  So while I’m ecstatic to be moving back home to Little Rock, closer to friends and family, and while I’m already scoping out the perfect Hillcrest bungalow, I’m also a little bit heartbroken to be giving up this unexpected love I found for an old Southern belle.  And as she keeps turning on her charms, it’s getting harder and harder to face the fact that we’re leaving at the end of June, no matter how excited I am to go back home.