Loooong Weekend

Do you remember the Berenstain Bears?  The book The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday totally sums up how I feel at this moment.  And tonight I have one more celebration with the best friends in the world.  It’s the birthday that never ends.

But it was such a lovely weekend.  And here’s a peak at how I celebrated:

On Thursday night, my friend, Leann, took me out to dinner at Mandolin in Raleigh.  I dined at Mandolin in January but we had brunch that time around.  This time we started with pink bubbles and a cheese plate and ended with a trio of sorbet.  The cheese plate was incredible.  The service was fantastic and I love the feel of the restaurant.  It’s a place I would return to again for dinner.

On Friday morning, a sweet co-worker of mine took me out for coffee.  Pour over for the the win.  With just a touch of cream, this was the perfect start to the weekend.

On Friday night, Big Guy was in charge of dinner.  We started with Prosecco and bacon wrapped stuffed goat cheese dates.  So good.

And for dinner, Italian Sausage Stuffed Bell Peppers and a bold Malbec.  p.s. How perfect is the cutting board that Leann gave on me Thursday?

On Saturday morning, we were up and at ‘em.  I headed to the gym for a workout and then it was back home for a morning full of tailgate prep.

Saturday evening was the opening ball game for the Pirates so of course I had to toast to a great season.

There’s a new Pirate in the family.  My sister-in-law just started at ECU and it was so good to see her.  I can’t wait to tailgate with her this season.  p.s. It was a hot game.

Post-Pirate win, we hit the road and headed for Durham.  I wanted to spend my birthday eating and drinking and that’s just want Big Guy planned.

On Sunday morning, I started my “golden birthday” with pour over coffee and avocado toast from Scratch.  It was quite the happening place.

We walked around Downtown a little bit before getting showered for the day.

For lunch, we decided to try Rue Cler, a French restaurant in Downtown Durham.  We started with an order for beignets and a round of drinks.  The beignets were so delicious.  But honestly, how can fried dough not be delicious?  For my main meal, I went with the Chicken Paillard: Seared Chicken Breast with Brie and Crispy Onions over Salade Verte.  I know, boring.  But I knew there was more to come.

Lunch was followed by more walking (which is a very good thing) and chatting and just seeing the city on foot.  We finally made it back to the hotel around 4:30pm and it was time to get ready for a night out.

We started the night at Alley Twenty Six, one of my favorite bars.

The bartender made me a French 75 and I just might have a new favorite cocktail.  Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and bubbles.

Post-cocktails, it was time for dinner.  We had reservations at Revolution where we did the 5-course tasting menu with wine pairings.  I kept my phone in my purse the entire meal and it was wonderful to enjoy the food and wine with Big Guy.  Sometimes it’s good to disconnect from the rest of the world.

Monday had a slow start.  Thank goodness for a three-day weekend.

We ended the weekend long celebration at Mura where I tried a new roll, the “919” roll and enjoyed an old favorite, “Sin City.”  Sushi is always a good idea.

It was early to bed last night and I was back to my usual routine this morning.

But I have to end with this – Thank you to everyone, my friends, my family, my co-workers and especially my husband, for making my birthday so special.  I cannot wait to make even more memories in the coming year.

 

Baked Figs with Blue Cheese, Bacon and Pecans

I sometimes become obsessive about recipes (and other things, but we’ll leave that conversation for another day).

Sometimes I’ll come across a recipe and I literally can’t stop thinking it until it’s actually made and I get to eat said recipe.

Baked Figs with Blue, Cheese, Bacon and Pecans was one of those recipes.

I featured it on Friday Favorites last Friday and I could not get those little bites of goodness out of my mind.

So on Saturday morning, Big Guy headed to The Fresh Market with a grocery list that included figs, blue cheese and bacon.  Oh, and a fresh baguette.

And I was so obsessed with having this appetizer on Saturday evening that I called Fresh Market on Saturday night at approximately 8:38pm to make sure they would have figs the next day.

I can sometimes take things to a level that shouldn’t be visited.

But it was totally worth obsessing over.

crostini

To make the crostini, I first melted a couple of tablespoons of butter in a saucepan with some minced garlic.  Once melted, I slathered slices of the baguette with the garlic butter before baking until crusty.

figs

The figs aren’t hard to prepare either.  Simply slice the figs in half (and I sliced a little bit of the outer half so that there was a flat surface for them to lay on) and top with crumbled blue cheese, chopped pecans and crisp bacon.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.  Drizzle on a little honey to add some sweetness.

Now, open a bottle of red wine, pour yourself a glass and enjoy.

I topped the crostini with half of a fig and enjoyed every buttery, salty, sweet and decadent bite.

What are you currently obsessing over?

 

Another SoCo Date Night {restaurant review}

I’m about to make a bold statement.

SoCo is my favorite restaurant.  In the past year, I’ve visited SoCo five times and every single time it’s a new experience.  And I swear, it keeps getting better.

This past Friday night, Big Guy indulged me and let me geek out on food and wine.

Friday nights were made for bubbles.

As for the meal, well there really aren’t words to describe the deliciousness of dinner.  Every plate is well thought out and the wines pair beautifully which each and every plate.

By the way, I totally credit Kimberly and her wine pairings for my new-found love of red wine.

Salad (top left):  Charred Squash and Ginger Grit Cake with roasted tomatoes and sweet corn, butterbean hummus, curried ranch vinaigrette and crispy bacon

Not your traditional salad but unbelievable delicious.  I loved the thick butterbean hummus and the crisp summer corn.  And the curried ranch vinaigrette made me want to lick my plate.  I did not taste the ginger in the grit cake but I loved the texture of the grit cake.  Very substantial.

Second (top right):  Rabbit Liver Paté with hops & peach salsa, crispy pork rinds and cherry molasses

I actually ended up with this dish on accident but it worked out.  I ordered the soy-roasted watermelon steak but they got our orders switched and I didn’t figure out the mistake until after the wine was poured so I just went with it.  Thankfully Big Guy and I share nicely.  The rabbit was very rich but was balanced nicely with the peach salsa.  Big Guy was obsessed with the pork rinds.  But I wouldn’t expect any less.  This was probably my least favorite plate of the evening (if I had to choose one) but I love, love, love trying food that pushes boundaries.  I would rather be served a “weird” plate than a totally expected plate of food.

Entree (bottom left):  Cast Iron-Blackened NC Shrimp and shrimp bisque and a lobster-bacon maque choux

The thickest, plumpest shrimp I’ve ever tasted.  The seasoning had a kick but wasn’t overpowering in any way.  It tasted like it had been cooking all day.  Complex flavors that only got better with each bite.

p.s. Big Guy’s country fried venison steak might have been one of the best bites of the night.

Sweetness (bottom right):  Duck Egg-Dark Chocolate Pot de Creme

Holy dark chocolate!  So rich.  So thick.  So luscious.  This is my perfect dessert.

 

Overall, my favorite dish of the night was the shrimp.  Everything was meant to be together.  And it all came together in a beautiful way.  My favorite bite was Big Guy’s venison steak with a little poached egg on the fork – amazing.  And the plate that intrigued me the most – our salad.  So unexpected and I love that!

 

 

 

Lobster Roll {and the unofficial end of summer}

My birthday week is officially here.  And my summer is unofficially over.  We spent our “last” summer weekend just being happy.  No rushing around, no traveling.

And lobster rolls seemed like the perfect ending to our weekend (and to our summer).  We’ve never cooked with lobster at home so it was fun to work with a new-to-us ingredient.

First we steamed the lobster tails for about 7 minutes and then shocked them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.

After doing a Google search, we landed upon a YouTube video on how to remove the meat and it was actually super simple.

We chopped the meat and then allowed it to chill for about 30 minutes. While the lobster meat was chilling, I prepped the spicy mayo:  mayo, Dijon mustard, mustard powder, lemon juice, Old Bay seasoning, salt and Sriracha.

The lobster meat was tossed in a little melted butter, chopped tarragon and salt.

A buttery roll is crucial.  It can make the difference in having a good lobster roll and having an ohemgee good lobster roll.

The rolls is stuffed with the lobster mixture and then topped with spicy mayo and chives.

It seemed necessary to have a pile of Kettle Salt and Vinegar chips next to he lobster roll with a cold brew to wash it down.

Not bad for our first time experimenting with lobster.

Not bad at all.

 

Friday Favorites.

It’s kind of hard not to be happy when it’s Friday and the weekend is oh-so-close.  But it’s true, we can decide whether we want to be happy or not no matter the situation.  This week has been quite the blur at work so I’m more than ready for a couple of days with Big Guy.  It’s my last weekend of summer so I plan on making it low-key yet full of sunshine and fun.  Here are a few of my favorites this week:

Favorite Getaway:  How gorgeous is this view?  Wine country is way up on the top of my “Places to Visit” list and this only makes me want to visit more.

Favorite Spoonful:  Double Dough Icecream.   I’m really at a loss of words right now.  Brown sugar vanilla ice cream + cookie dough = insanity.

 

Favorite Slice:  Fig, Jalapeno Jam and Blue Cheese Pizza.  If I only could eat one thing for the rest of my life it would be pizza.  And I’m a sucker for odd pizza topper combinations.  This combination intrigues me.

Favorite Sweet:  Almond Joy Candy Cakes.  Almond Joy is one of my all-time favorite treats.  How could I not want a bite of my favorite candy bar transformed into a cake?

 

Favorite Summer:  I kind of want to start a Summer Bucket List for next year and add “throw an end-of-summer rosé garden party” at the top.

 

Favorite Date Night:  Gouda Grits with Smoky Brown Butter Shrimp.  Yes, please.

 

Favorite Bite:  Baked Fig, Bacon, Blue Cheese and Pecan Bruschetta.  These and a bottle of wine.  That is all.

 

Favorite Sip:  Zinfandel Grape, Rosemary and Gin Crush.  Who knew that this would be the summer that I would fall in love with red wine and gin?  And how beautiful is this cocktail?

 

Cheers!  It’s Friday.

 

Italian Guacamole and Jerk Shrimp Tacos

When you make a batch of Grilled Pineapple Margaritas, it’s kind of necessary to make a batch of guacamole.

margs

Margaritas and guacamole go together like peanut butter and jelly.

And while I have plenty of “classic” guacamole recipes I could make, it’s always fun to try a new twist on a classic.

guac

So in this batch of guac, we left out the cilantro and added fresh basil and parsley.  Otherwise, it’s just like the traditional guacamole you love – packed with tomatoes, red onion, salt, jalapeno and garlic.

But now I kind of want all my guacamole to have basil and parsley in the mix.

closeup

 

The sweet but smokey margarita paired perfectly with the salty chips and the savory guacamole.

I wonder what a roasted strawberry margarita would taste like…or grilled peaches…

I may have created a monster.

As for the main course, shrimp were marinated in a mix of spices including thyme, allspice, cinnamon, pepper, cayenne and salt.  I love the warmth of these spices.

The shrimp were cooked on the stovetop and then placed on a warm corn tortilla before being topped with a cantaloupe salsa.  Basically instead of your traditional tomato salsa, cantaloupe was tossed with diced red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice and salt.  Sweet and spicy!

taco

And on top of the salsa, a sprinkle of salty feta.

Gotta love Mexican night!

Weekend Review {quick trip to charlotte plus delicious eats}

Good morning, friends!  I hope your weekend was as wonderful as mine.  Here’s a quick look at what we were up to all weekend…

On Thursday, after an out-of-town training, I headed farther west to visit my parents.  It was a super quick trip but it was totally worth the extra miles.

Thursday was my grandmother’s birthday and I was so happy that I was able to join my parents to take her to dinner.  My Momma was extra thoughtful and tried to pick a place that would suit Mimi but would also please my foodie-self.  She succeeded.  Nolen Kitchen has been on my list (among many others) of places to try in Charlotte for a whole now.  Nolen Kitchen is located in a picture-perfect neighborhood and it was such a treat to visit.  To start, we shared the zucchini chips which were nothing short of amazing.  Perfectly fried but not overly oily.  And for my main dish, I went with the special:  Red Snapper with Lobster and a Gouda Alfredo Sauce served over black beans and spinach.  The sauce was decadent without being heavy and I was surprised at how perfectly it paired with the black beans.  To sip, a crisp Sauvignonn Blanc.

On Friday morning I was up bright and early to try a Pure Barre class.  I have wanted to try Pure Barre for a long, long time and I couldn’t pass up the chance.  There’s a Pure Barre studio about 10 minutes from my parents house and I am no obsessed.  Unfortunately, there’s not a barre studio anywhere close to where I live…so I’ll just have to save that class for special occasions.  It hurt so good.  I was sore until Sunday night.

Post-sweat, my Momma and I met up with my sister, brother-in-law and my cutie pie, Haines, for breakfast.  I’ve heard great things about Another Broken Egg and it was the perfect place for us to sip coffee and chow down.

Unfortunately, I had to hit the road as soon as breakfast was over.  As much as I wanted to stay and be with my family for the weekend, we had plans back at home and I was ready to see the hubs.

Friday night we had a little dinner party with two of our favorite couples.

The night started with rosé  and ended with lots of laughs.

In between, we dined on short ribs that had the most amazing sauce.  (I still need that recipe, Katie!)

Thankfully the sun was out on Saturday and I was able to finish up book #4 by the pool.

Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed cocktail hour at home with Grilled Pineapple Margaritas.  Umm…delicious.

We continued the Mexican theme but I’ll share the full menu later this week.

And I also checked one more item off the bucket list last night:  Trashy Hot Dogs!!!!

The dog was loaded down with sauteed onions (I sauteed the onions in bacon fat and added a touch of maple syrup before serving), sauteed mushrooms, crisped bacon and cheddar cheese.

I can never have a regular ole hot dog again.  These totally hit the spot and was worth the wait.  So many flavors and the bun was soft and doughy while the dog had the “snap” that I crave.

Only 5 days of work stand between me and my next weekend.

Let’s do this.