Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, guys and dolls!  We made it.  I have a fun weekend in the sun planned and I hope to enjoy some delicious food, a summer outdoor concert, and a fun cocktail.  Oh, and I really hope to finish book number four for the summer.  I haven’t had a “Friday Favorites” post in a while so I thought I share with you some of my favorites from around the worldwide web.  Just a reminder (and a shout-out), these Friday Favorite posts were inspired by the lovely Momma over at Iowa Girl Eats.  I adore her blog, her writing style, her recipes, and she has the most adorable little boy.

 

Favorite Fresh:  Roasted Peppers with Tomatoes with Herbs and Capers.  Our garden is overflowing with tomatoes and peppers and herbs.  This would be great alongside some grilled chicken thighs.

Favorite Treat:  The Best Coconut Flour Chocolate Chunk Bars.  The last time I went Trader Joes (ahem, over a month ago) I grabbed a bag of coconut flour and threw it in my cart.  It still remains unopened in the pantry.  These bars are the perfect excuse to tear open the bag and get my bake on.

Favorite Fashion:  Grey t-shirt, white skinnies, long necklaces, and tan accessories.  Simple has never looked more put together.

Favorite Spin:  Cheesy Margarita Pizza Hummus with Grilled Pesto Pizza Bread.  I love margarita pizza.  I love hummus.  I love pesto.  So let’s combine them all into one glorious appetizer.

Favorite spot:  All I need is a pool and a book (and a cocktail) and I’m a happy girl.  I could get lost here for hours.

Favorite Wake-Up:  Homemade Coffee Syrups and Cold Brew.  I have been obsessing over iced coffee this summer.  And there’s absolutely no reason I can’t make it at home.

Favorite Sweat:    The thought of 50 mountain climbers makes me cringe.

Favorite Bite:  Coconut-Lime Fried Shrimp with Fiery Mango-Peach Jalapeno Sauce.  Big Guy loves coconut shrimp.  And I can’t lie, so do I.

Favorite Sip:  Blackberry & Sage Refresher.  I love a cocktail with fresh herbs and muddled fruit.  I may or may not be sippin’ on this little number come 5 o’clock tonight.

Favorite Indulge:  Roasted Tomato and Sweet Onion Dip.  Give me all.the.cheese.  Sweet, bubbly cheese.  I would probably burn my mouth because I would be just so eager to dive in.

 

And with that, enjoy the last weekend of July!!!!

Grilled Lemon Chicken with Tomato Salad

I can’t take full credit for this dinner.  In actuality, I can only take credit for choosing the recipe and making sure that we had all the ingredients at home.  I had full intentions of helping Big Guy prepare this dinner but I found myself at a meeting that lasted a little longer than I expected.

Thankfully Big Guy knows his way around the kitchen.

The recipe is simple.  Besides the usual suspects:  salt, pepper and olive oil, you’ll only need a handful of ingredients.

Chicken (we used chicken thighs)

Lemons

Baby or grape tomatoes (or whatever is growing in your garden)

Cheese (the recipe called for feta but we had goat so that’s what we used)

Basil (totally optional but if you have it I recommend it)

The chicken marinates in a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice (Big Guy wanted me to let you know that he used more lemon juice than the recipe called for) while you prepare the tomato salad.

The tomatoes are tossed in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Before grilling the chicken, sprinkle on some salt and pepper.

The chicken is plated and then topped with the tomato salad, crumbled goat cheese and basil confetti.

The lemon-flavor was subtle but so refreshing.  I actually think I preferred the tangy, creamy goat cheese over salty feta.  But either would be delicious.

Homegrown tomatoes really make this dinner special.  Bursting with flavor and really only needing salt and pepper to heighten the flavor.

Summertime.  It’s my favorite.

And so is Big Guy.

Date Night at SoCo

Date nights are my favorite.  While I typically favor a weekend date night, I will never turn down a date night.  So when Big Guy offered to take me to SoCo last Thursday night, I couldn’t say no.

1000

Any date night is a reason to celebrate so I started with a glass of bubbles.

Big Guy convinced me to do the wine pairings with my courses and they happily subbed in the Cava for the pairing that was originally intended to go with the salad.

salad

SALAD:  Roasted Homegrown Spaghetti Squash with salt-cured olives, Holly Grove goat cheese, pecans and herb vinaigrette

This is the best spaghetti squash I’ve ever tasted and I can’t wait to recreate this salad at home.  The olives were the perfect salty component and the herb vinaigrette was bursting with fresh flavor.  Absolutely delicious and quite possibly my favorite dish of the night.

wine

And then the wine started coming…

Kimberly, the Chef’s wife and co-owner of the restaurant, is absolutely brilliant at pairing wines with food.  There is not one pairing that I didn’t like over the course of the meal.  Some pairings were quite unexpected and I loved that.  Wine and food belong together.

squash

SECOND:  Roasted Homegrown Patty Pan Squash with Hen of the Woods mushrooms, rosemary-goat cheese, and sunflower kernels

I adore the fact that so much of their food is sourced from their garden.  It’s so cool to know that the Chef is preparing a meal with the food that is growing feet away from the kitchen.  The rosemary-goat cheese sauce was stunning and I could have eaten the mushrooms all night long.

Big Guy ordered the pork belly dish and it was the favorite of the two.  But honestly, does bacon ever lose?

grouper

ENTREE:  NC Grouper with tomato purée and garlic & herb homegrown potatoes

Such a surprising presentation of grouper.  The tomato puree tasted amazing and I’m fairly certain that is because the tomatoes were grown on the property and were probably harvested that day.

But I can’t lie – Big Guy’s venison meatloaf was the favorite of the entree dishes.  By far the best meatloaf I’ve ever tasted.

sweet

SWEETNESS:  Homegrown Blueberry Trifle, with cantaloupe purée, lemon whip and cornflake crisp

My favorite part of this dessert – the cantaloupe puree.  It was totally unexpected but totally perfect.  It was as if cantaloupe was meant to go with blueberries.  This was a summer dessert from the first bite to the last bite.

sunset

Thank you, SoCo, for another amazing meal.  Each visit is a new experience that I talk about for days.  I can’t wait to return again.

Weekend Review {girls beach weekend 2014}

Laughter, friends, sand between my toes, wine and more wine – that’s what a girls weekend at the beach is all about.

{photo via pinterest}

wine tasting

Once we arrived on Friday and got settled, we headed out to a wine tasting at The Wine Shoppe a couple of miles away from the condo.

All of the wine was tasty but I eventually decided to purchase the Paso Creek Zinfandel.  Such a smooth red wine and I knew that Big Guy would be a fan.

It’s always a treat to spend time with friends but it’s especially nice to get a whole weekend with just the ladies.

Post-wine tasting, we headed back to the condo where we fixed numerous appetizers.  We ate and laughed and the bottles of wine kept being uncorked.  Basically, it was a perfect night in.

On Saturday we laced up our tennies for a lovely morning walk before heading out for a day in the sand and sun.

Cocktails may or may not have started shortly after noon.

Hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?

We finally packed up and headed back so that we could clean up for a night out on the town.

We had reservations at Sea Blue Wine Bar and Restaurant where we feasted like queens.

bubbles

Bubbles are totally necessary when you’re out with the girls.

The rest of the night was full of beach bars and dancing the night away with the best friends a girl could ask for.

I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better weekend away.

Thankfully Big Guy offered to take care of dinner since I was gone all weekend.  It was so nice to come home and not have to rush around and figure out what was for dinner.

But I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m spoiled.  Big Guy really impressed me with dinner.  Using lots of ingredients from the garden, he prepared a cucumber soup and garlic-jalapeno beef kebabs.

The soup was cool and refreshing with lots of herbs and garlic.  And the beef was cooked perfectly and I loved the flavors from the marinade.  I had no idea what he was making when I purchased the wine at The Wine Shoppe but it paired perfectly with this dinner.

And I really don’t know what’s gotten into me but I truly enjoy red wine these days.  This bottle was perfection with a great price tag.

I didn’t want the weekend to come to an end.

So here we are.  Another Monday.

I’m already day dreaming about the upcoming weekend…

 

Honey-Glazed Pork Chops with Tomato Salad and Silver Dollar Corn Cakes

This dinner made me crave big family dinners.

But don’t let your imagination run wild.

We’re not planning to have any additions to our little family anytime in the near future.

And maybe it’s the fact that my sister was visiting over the weekend, but it made me want to live near family so I could have family over for dinner on a Sunday evening.

The only thing that could have made this more “family dinner” material would have been a big pitcher of sweet iced tea in the middle of the table.

Oh, and people talking over one another.

sunday dinner

The pork chops (bone-in wasn’t available so we went with thick-cut) were seasoned with salt and pepper and then cooked on the stove top in a little bit of olive oil.  Once cooked, the pan was deglazed with chicken broth and then used to make a sauce along with honey, cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard.

pork

While the pork chops were cooking, the tomatoes were roasting in the oven with sliced red onion, thyme, and garlic.  The tomatoes were later tossed with farmers market spinach for a delicious side salad.  When the hot tomatoes are placed on the bed of spinach the leaves begin to wilt and it’s divine.

tomatoes and spinach

And for the most Southern part of the plate, Silver Dollar Corn Cakes.  These were Big Guy’s favorite.  Tender and a little sweet, these little cornbread cakes are studded with local corn which gives them great texture.  I even think a little jalapeno would have been delicious added to the batter.  The only change I made was using a gluten-free all-purpose flour instead of regular all-purpose.

corn cakes

The best bite was one where the corn cake had soaked up a little of the honey-glaze along with a piece of tender pork.  Gotta love sweet and savory.

And even though this made me crave a big family dinner, I am so grateful for Big Guy and our little family of two dinners.

 

 

Walnut Crusted Grilled Filet {aka the best steak from our grill}

“The best steak from our grill” is a bold statement.

Bold but true.  These steaks are that good.

Post-“appy” hour, we enjoyed the sunshine and just being.  Big Guy welcomes the calm of a Saturday evening and I know that Maggie did, too.

Once the sun started to go down, Big Guy fired up the grill for our steaks.  While I had intended to purchase a beef tenderloin, I ended up having the butcher cut four individual filets.  It was a splurge but well-worth the price.

We generously sprinkled salt and pepper on both sides of the steaks and then rubbed on a layer of Dijon mustard (which would act as a glue).

In a mini food processor, I chopped up walnuts.  The walnuts along with fresh thyme were liberally pressed onto each side of the steak on top of the mustard.

Since we had enjoyed an appetizer, I kept the side simple.  Maggie requested grilled romaine and I happily obliged.  Grilled romaine is one of my favorites.  Simply drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill until it’s a little limp on the outside but still crunchy on the inside.  For the dressing, a green goddess dressing that is equally delicious as a dip for veggies.  I jazzed up the salad with grilled homegrown tomatoes and fried onions.  Yes, fried onions.  What can I say, I was inspired by the wine dinner.  To fry the onions, simply pour oil (I used canola) into a small pan and heat over medium-high heat.  In batches, scatter thinly sliced onions into the oil and let them cook until crispy.  Keep your eye on them!  Remove from the oil and sprinkle with salt.  They added the perfect crunch factor to the salad.

We used a mixture of chives, basil, and parsley that was bursting with freshness which was a welcome addition to the plate.

I’m not sure what it was but this steak was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  Cooked medium-rare, steak has never tasted so delicious.  The mustard added a acidity to the richness of the steak while the walnuts took it over the top.  Amazing dinner.  Amazing wine.  Amazing company.

Seriously, the best steak to ever come off our grill.

Spontaneous Savannah

Y’all, I fell in love this past weekend.

But let’s rewind to last Tuesday.  July 1st.  I arrived home from work and Big Guy proclaims, “I think we need a plan B for the weekend.”

I knew that a hurricane was heading straight to our 4th of July destination but I really didn’t want to believe that it would ruin my plans.  So I avoided the conversation.

Come Wednesday morning I was bummed.  Really bummed.  I had seen the weather and heard everyone and anyone talking about Arthur that was sure to hit the Outer Banks.  I had taken vacation days around the 4th so that I could have a mini-vacation and now there was nothing to do but wait out the storm.

Or so I thought.

Around 9am on Wednesday morning, I got an email from Big Guy asking “Do you want to be spontaneous?”

My reply:  “I want to say ‘why’ but I’ll just say ‘yes.’

And that was that.  I wouldn’t find out until the next morning where we were going.  On Wednesday night, we packed – God bless my husband, he’s a patient, patient man – and I still had no clue what I was packing for.

I was like a kid on Christmas the next morning.  My early morning alarm didn’t even phase me, I was ready to get my workout done and over with so I could find out where I was going for the weekend.

envelope

When I arrived home from the gym I was greeted by Big Guy and an envelope.  (I would receive an envelope each morning with the plan for the day.)

Savannah was our final destination.  And at 8am, we hit the road.

Our first stop, Hilton Head, to visit a dear friends new restaurant, Live Oak. (I’ll do a full post on this meal tomorrow!)

With a full belly and a happy heart, we hit the road for the final leg to Savannah.

Of all the cities my brain wandered to in the 20 hours that I didn’t know where I was going, Savannah was not on the list.  I was shocked.  And thrilled.

Once we arrived to the Bohemian Hotel on the Riverfront, we headed up to the  rooftop bar for a cocktail.

 

Post-cocktails on the roof, we headed to our room to clean up for dinner at The Olde Pink House.  

the old pink

We were a little early for our reservation, so we headed down to the bar for a drink.  The bar was super cozy and I wish we could have spent our entirety down there.

Unfortunately, where we were sat wasn’t the best place in the restaurant.  We were in the middle of a huge room and it was really loud – not what I was expecting.  It simply didn’t live up to the hype.  Thankfully, the service was amazing but it’s not somewhere I would return.

Fast-forward to the next morning, Big Guy’s favorite holiday, the 4th of July.  I opened up another envelope and was giddy with excitement to learn that were taking a cooking class.  Before getting ready for the day, we walked to a local coffee shop, The Coffee Fox, for what would be the first of four trips.

I was in Heaven.  The views were breathtaking and I fell in love with the walkability of the town.  Oh, and The Coffee Fox, hands-down the best cold brew coffee I’ve ever had in my life.

Dressed and ready to go for the day, we headed out to our cooking class:  Summer Grilling at the 700 Cooking School at the sister hotel of the Bohemian, Mansion on Forsyth Park.  

Don’t worry, I’m saving a full post for that experience of a lifetime.

But can I just say that Big Guy is the best husband ever.  The fact that he found a way for me to cook on the 4th of July is beyond me and I was super impressed.

Post-cooking and eating, we set out to explore Savannah on foot.

We walked for hours and miles and I probably told Big Guy 18 times that I wanted to move to Savannah or somewhere like it.  Having the ability to walk places is high on my “want” list.

Big Guy made reservations at Local 11 ten for Friday night and I was so pumped once I saw the menu.  The restaurant has a rooftop bar, The Perch, so we arrived early to enjoy the outside air and the city.

While enjoying a champagne cocktail, we nibbled on par trois: pimento cheese, house pickles, rillette, crackers.

apps at local

The appetizer was absolutely delightful and I still couldn’t believe that I was in Savannah.

Post-cocktail hour, it was time to eat!  Unfortunately, the service in the restaurant was kind of spotty.  We asked a few questions and it took about 15 minutes for her to come back to our table.  But she didn’t come back with answers or drinks.

The food was delicious and I would return in a heartbeat, but I would ask for another server if she came towards my table.  Just sayin’.

I had one last envelope to open on Saturday morning and I was surprised to find that I would be getting a massage at the Mansion.  

We walked to get coffee (duh) and then continued on walking the streets of Savannah and exploring until it was time for my 2 hours of bliss.

champs

To note – the Mansion is also full of amazing art pieces.  The above piece of art belongs in my home.

The massage was absolutely relaxing and perfect.  Once again, best husband award.

Post-massage I was quite the noodle and it took me awhile to snap out of my relaxed mode.  But soon enough I was hungry and ventured out for more walking and eating.  We stumbled upon The Public Kitchen and Bar and we made the most out of a 30 minute wait by having cocktails.  Hey, it was Saturday.  And vacation.

I must add that the bartender was super impressive.  I ordered a glass of sparkling rose and there was a glass or so left in the bottle.  He tried a sip and deemed it not good enough (not enough bubbles) and opened a fresh bottle for me.  That is how you get a good tip, folks.

the public

Lunch totally hit the spot.  Big Guy ordered the messiest burger and it was burger perfection.  Cooked medium-rare, as requested, and required multiple napkins – sign of a good burger.  I went with the kale and arugula salad with salmon, which was also cooked to a perfect medium, as requested.

My only complaint, the rooftop bar wasn’t open and I was bummed.  I would go back no questions asked for lunch or dinner!

After lunch, we went out in search of the Owens-Thomas House for a tour.  While I’m not a huge history bluff, I love tours of homes and this one was no exception.  It’s believed to be the first house to have indoor plumbing and I loved imaging how people lived “back in the day.”

After a little more walking, it was time to get ready for our last night out in Savannah.  As sad as I was to see our trip coming to an end, I was so excited to eat at Elizabeth on 37th.  We went with the Chef’s Tasting and it was the most incredible food of the entire trip.  Holy deliciousness.  And the wine pairings were perfect.  We ate and drank to our hearts content.

Some favorite courses:  Broiled clams; sea scallops on a bed of the most amazing corn I’ve ever tasted; a butterbean soup that was beyond words and totally made me rethink the butterbean.  I was also blown away by the goat cheese cheesecake.  oh.em.gee.

We ended on the highest of high notes.

Last week at this time I would have never guessed or imagined that I would spend the 4th of July weekend in Savannah.  Sometimes life is funny.  And while I am a “planner” and probably will always have those tendencies,  I savored every morsel of this spontaneous weekend.  And you know, I am welcoming, with open arms, a little more spontaneity in my life.

I enjoyed every moment.  Every beautiful home.  Every delicious bite.  Every perfect sip of bubbles.  Every step in a lovely town.  Every laugh.  Every quiet moment.

Savannah, I fell for you.