Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best. Christmas. Ever.

It was by far the best Christmas ever and definitely the easiest question I have ever answered. I could not feel more blessed and more loved. I could cry just thinking about it all.

I am working on finding the perfect words to tell this amazing story but until then, here's a little sneak peek. Hope everyone had a magical Christmas!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tis the Week Before Christmas

...and all through the Nido house,
all the lovies sprinkling cheer, even the garage mouse.
The stockings are hung by the chimney with care,
waiting for St. Nick (and Mark!) to be there!
3 sisters nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of creme brulee dance in their heads.
Mom in her apron and Dad is his ASU cap,
Are tired of cooking and need a winter's nap.
When down in the dining room there arose such a clatter,
A four legged furball Ozzie was causing this matter.
Under the table he hid and he chewed,
On a dining room chair...he's cute but quite rude!
Desserts to be made and eggnog lattes to sip,
mistletoe hung for a kiss on the lips.
Its time to be merry, a delightful time for all,
Our Christmas even pajama party will be quite the ball.
A twinkling tree with an angel high above,
Wishing you all peace, joy and love!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pointy Ears, Penguins & Buttercream Snow!

My amazingly talented roommate has done it again and this time she has re-created the North Pole right before my very eyes. I have seen so many fondant creatures and items come to life in our little home but never in history of this cupcake creating have I seen anything so intricate and magical. Ashley entered these little culinary miracles in the Ultimate Cupcake Contest at the Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge last weekend. The miniature snowmen are so detailed and look at the precious penguins with snowballs in hand. Christmas trees with lights add sparkle and the giant cupcake is used as the center of the "cupcakescape". This Winter Wonderland would surely not be complete without the tiny elves! Look carefully and you will see one making a snow angel, one fallen in the snow on his skis and a little gem on his knees sliding down the snow in a saucer. Each sweet elf, much like a decadent risotto is made, was truly loved into existence! The pointed ears just leave me tickled!!

For more information on Ashley and her cupcakes, you can find her on Facebook! Group Name is "Custom Cupcakes by Ashley"

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Bean is a Dream!

I just enjoyed an extra long weekend with Mark and dare I say the highlight of our Christmas-y time together was introducing him to the Bean in downtown Chicago's Millennium Park!! My second trip to the windy city at Christmas time did not disappoint...there is something so magical about Chicago, especially lit up with twinkle lights. Of course I am biased, but how cute do we look standing in front of this metal masterpiece!? Despite Jack Frost doing more than nipping at my nose, I survived the North Pole like conditions and spread pixie dust all around!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jack Frost nipping at my nose

I have relocated to the North Pole (aka Illinois) for an extra long weekend with MM and could not be happier! Peace, Love & Pixie Dust to all...only 15 magical days until Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Not too hot. Extra chocolate. Shaken, not stirred.

The Friday night Christmas cheer would have not been complete without a hot seasonal beverage to share by the crackling fire that Mr. Chidester made for us. Hot chocolate seemed like the most appropriate choices as we snuggled in our pjs for the night.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
  • 1 mug of cozy hot chocolate
  • A quick pour of Peppermint Schnapps (optional)
  • Garnish with mini marshmallows and a candy cane!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Smells Like Christmas

On Friday night, "Santa's Clacking Elves" (by John Chidester's standards), took over the Chidester bungalow to spread a little Christmas cheer. Mary Katherine was just over the moon all week for she had a non-edible Christmas surprise for us all. Of course our minds were running wild because who knows what our sweet MK would come up with! As soon as we walked in the door, she scurried to the kitchen and started peeling oranges and grapefruit and pulled out delightful smelling spices as if they were precious little gems. We all watched with curiosity trying to figure out what this big surprise was. Her face beamed and she screamed..."it's Christmas aromaaaaa!!!". We all did a double take but finished product not only made for a great joke the rest of the night, it filled the house with the smell of Christmas! MK's mom has been doing this for years and my mom has a similar little concoction.

Christmas Aroma
  • The peelings of one grapefruit
  • The peelings of one orange
  • A few cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon of whole allspice
  • 1 tablespoon of whole cloves
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and fill with water. Sit on a back burner on the stove. Bring it to a boil and then turn it completely low and let the scent sprinkle pixie dust all through your house!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kissably Delicious

A pretty tube of lip gloss is never meant to be eaten, but I am like a little kid and when I find something that gives my lips a glossy finish and tastes as sweet as apple pie, I can't stop putting it on! A few weeks ago, I took a quick trip to Bath & Body Works to pick up some of my favorite gloss from C.O. Bigelow Apothecary and instead of grabbing a usual tube of my clear minty gloss, I discovered an array of holiday flavored glosses just in time for the season! I shrieked a little bit and quickly smelled each tube of the sparkly-shiny-glossy-spirit filled-make your lips pretty stuff. The "Winter Cordials" special edition glosses are like instant Christmas magic on your lips. A flavorful adventure for your lips with Triple Hot Chocolate, Hot Buttered Rum, Vanilla Cream Eggnog and my personal favorite, Warm Spiced Cider. Anoyone want a holiday kiss?!

*photo courtesy of musingsofamuse.com

Monday, November 16, 2009

Red Cup Day!

It's not even Thanksgiving and this is already my second post about the delightful red cups of Christmas cheer at Starbucks all season long but I just cannot help in spreading the love. I found out about this little spot on the web thanks to my blog friend Nina over at According to Nina. The site is www.redcupday.com, "strangers sharing their celebration of the season". I saw Nina's post on Twitter and wanted to join in on the fun! Sunday afternoon, my gorgeous little sister and I sipped on our first peppermint mochas of the season. I have an affinity for all things Christmas tasting but there is something about a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha that makes me feel like a little girl on Christmas eve all over again. We took a picture to document the occasion and I sent it to Red Cup Day. Much to our sister excitement, our faces were sparkling with Christmas magic only a few hours later as our picture was posted on the site!

Nina and Natalie of Charlotte, North Carolina drinking their first peppermint mochas of the season!! My friend, Lindsay, says peppermint mochas might as well be called “Christmas in a Cup”.

Do you have a red cup and a reason to celebrate? Send your cheer to redcupday@gmail.com

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Friday Night Pizza with my Blonde Twin

It is without a doubt that I have my wonderful parents (and my Italian roots) to thank for my love of inviting people into my kitchen and spending time with great friends while sharing good food. I love an excuse to entertain and was so excited when my dear friend Sophie and I were able to squeeze in a snippet of time and finally run into each other's arms!

Sophie's upcoming April wedding was our excuse to get together as I am tapping into my planning skills and helping her with her big day! Delicious Doug (Sophie's future husband) was prince enough to let me steal Sophie away for the night as we discussed her wedding details and even came up with the most perfect wedding day hair! Sophie arrived at my door with some wine and I took care of creating a homemade pizza that was actually quite out of the box for me and somewhat of a culinary risk. I only say risky because of one specific pizza topping that was requested by my gorgeous guest and I must say, I was delighted and surprised at how much I loved it! I conquered another food fear (after years of crinkling my little nose up, I just developed a positive relationship with hard boiled eggs earlier this month) and I must say, those little anchovies are not so scary after all. In fact, they added so much character to our pizza.

White Anchovy & Artichoke Pizza
  • Whole wheat pizza crust (I use Trader Joe's)
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Shredded mozzarella
  • Anchovies
  • Fresh cracked pepper
I start by flattening out the crust on a pan. When I Use Trader Joe's, I cook the crust first for about 8 minutes on 350 degrees otherwise the toppings make the crust soggy. Once the crust is partially cooked, the toppings can be added. Drizzle a bit of olive oil, and a sprinkle of cheese. Add artichokes, sundried tomatoes and gently place anchovies one by one (as many or as little as desired...and if you are not feeling the love, just leave them off!) Sprinkle the fresh garlic and top with more mozzarella. Crack fresh pepper to finish and pop the pizza back in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Law of the Garbage Truck

I spent another delightful weekend in the Midwest and amidst our organizing, label making and rearranging, Mark shared this little single sheet of paper story with me. I have no idea who to credit this to but the message is so true. This has nothing to do with the delicious persona that my blog typically takes on but sometimes it's nice to take a pause and pass on a little bit of refreshing inspiration.

The Law of the Garbage Truck

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxidriver slammed on his breaks, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driverof the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly. So I asked, 'Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!' This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, 'The Law of the Garbage Truck.' He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you. Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so..... 'Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't.' Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!

Peace & Love

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Dip

I first had this pumpkin treat last year at one of our delightful work lunch extravaganzas and I fell in love. This is such an easy dip to whip up and with all of the upcoming holiday festivities, it is a great go to item. Sweet dips are a great surprise to the palate and far from conventional. I have an affinity for finding recipes that require creative, outside the box thinking and this is one of them. Special thanks to Carolynn for sharing this little gem with me.

Pumpkin Pie Dip
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (I used fat free)
  • 8 oz. solid packed pumpkin
  • 2- 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 jar of marshamellow fluff
Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate overnight. Serve with Nilla Wafers or Gingersnaps!

We Don't do Tricks- Only Treats

Halloween flashed by quicker than a pixie but that doesn't mean that I didn't have time to enjoy the delightful treats that go along with it. I am not so much a fan of the spooky gooky shivery feelings associated with Halloween but I love an excuse to end the month of October on a true pumpkin overload.

The goblins in the Nido house were bustling with festivity on Saturday as we all sprinkled a bit of pumpkin love all over the place. Chili has always been our staple meal on Halloween and this year we didn't stray from tradition. I am pretty confident the only thing that we did was add about 87,000 calories to the night with all of the extra sparks and treats!
Apples were carefully dipped in caramel creating favorite fall treats reminiscent of our visits to the Cider Mill in Northville!
The caution tape was put up once the jack-o-lanterns came to life.
Carved pumpkins made for pumpkin seeds roasted to perfection lightly salted and gently kissed with olive oil.
A creamy, dreamy pumpkin spice ice cream was loved into existence by the newest Nido kitchen appliance, the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. A small scoop is all you need to savor the bold taste of Autumn's orange star.
It's never a proper Halloween without handfuls of candy corn and those petite mellowcreme pumpkins. I think they are just the cutest little candies and, call me crazy, but they have so much personality.

To top it all off, I surprised everyone with a new recipe that was shared with me by a friend at work. When I think of dips, I automatically move my mind to a savory flavor but a sweet dip? Be still my dessert loving heart! Carolynn's pumpkin pie dip recipe was breathtaking and it's pretty safe to say that I left everyone in pumpkin love.

And just when we thought the day couldn't get sweeter, the highly anticipated Appalachian State vs. Furman football game ended just the way I wanted it to! Good thing we won or I would have been forced to wear a lot more purple for the rest of the football season thanks to a certain Paladin. I wore my #7 jersey in celebration...insert AppState fight song here!!

Trick or Treat!

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's Red Again!

It's been a fantastic Monday and just when I thought this day couldn't get any better, I found out via Twitter that as of tomorrow, the red cups are back at Starbucks! Be still my heart. To me, these red cups of cheer are one of the first glimpses of the holiday season and the time of year that I live for! My excitement surrounding this small piece of news should not be surprising but nonetheless, I could not keep this information just to myself.

I am no frills coffee drinker as I prefer a well roasted and brewed bean with some nonfat flavored creamer, but Starbucks sees a lot of Nina when the sleigh bells start to jingle. The little red cups also mean the addition of friendly holiday beverages like eggnog cappucinos, gingersnap lattes and the one that tugs at my heartstrings the most- peppermint mochas delicately kissed with red sprinkles atop the playful puff of whipped cream.

The weather outside it about to get frightful so frolick to Starbucks and pick up something delightful!

*Photo courtesy of flickr.com

Sunday, November 1, 2009

This is Fall Bliss

Fall is such a cozy time of year and in my opinion, is the one season that has so many flavors and foods associated with it. Crisp apples, spiced cider, warm hearty soups, cinnamon, nutmeg and all things pumpkin. In my world, this is all happy food. A few weeks ago, my dear friends Sara and Laura joined me in my kitchen where we brainstormed and created what we considered to embrace some of the most cherished flavors of fall. It was a cold and rainy Saturday and we could not think of anything more delightful than some time well spent- good food and time with each other.

I am what I would consider a "weekly" grocery shopper as my roommate and I always take our grocery trips on Sunday and pretty much stock up for the week, but there is something I love about going to the store to pick up only the items needed to make one meal. We picked up some pork chops (a rare bite!), fresh apples, mixed baby greens and a bottle of wine with an adorable label- Cupcake! As soon as we got home, we popped in Sara's perfect fall playlist (think Michael Buble, Norah Jones, Nat King Cole...) and got to work!

Earlier in the week, my mom had taught me how to prepare and roast a pork chop in the oven and I was so surprised at how easy it was!
  • Lightly sprinkle each side of the chop with salt & pepper
  • Dip each side in egg
  • Cover in bread crumbs
  • Drizzle a pan with a bit of olive oil
  • Brown each side for 2-3 minutes
  • Nestle all pork chops in a baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes on 350 degrees

To go with the pork, Laura cut up some stunning red and green apples and sauteed them in butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. What cooked up with nothing short of heavenly and my kitchen smelled like a blissful fall memory in the making! Our fresh salad was nothing more than mixed baby greens, sliced grape tomatoes and some dried cranberries sprinkled with feta and all tousled together with a homemade balsamic vinegarette. To top off the meal, we picked out a bottle of wine that we could not pass up for the label alone- it was called "Cupcake"! Our dinner was literally smiling at us from our plates (if that is even possible)- it was THAT good. The only thing missing was our precious Mary Katherine, the last 1/4 of our "quartet", who was out of town for a wedding.

Nights like this just make me smile.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Nuts for Nutella

I have never met a piece of chocolate that my taste buds did not like. I will never be able to find the words that express the loving relationship that I share with chocolate. A piece a day is key for both the happiness in my soul and on some days, my sanity. There is nothing like putting a piece of chocolate in your mouth and just letting it take you to pure chocolate utopia. It came to my attention yesterday that I missed the celebration of National Chocolate Day which took place on Wednesday, October 28! Had I known I would have indulged in something magnificant and perhaps even posted a history lesson on this beloved treat that was introduced to the Western world in the 16th century thanks to the Spanish explorers after they travelled across the pond.

I adore chocolate in all forms, packages, shapes, textures and sizes. My daily piece of chocolate is usually a Dove dark chocolate Promise and perhaps a few semi sweet chocolate chips at night. Anything containing this magic ingredient makes me smile and I have found that much like me, it makes others smile just as much. Earlier this week I sent up a little surprise package for MM and in it I included a jar of one of my favorite forms of chocolate- NUTELLA! This chocolate hazelnut spread has been a favorite of mine since I was little and to this day, my sisters and I often sneakily tip toe into the magic pantry in the Nido kitchen and eat it by the spoonful! Natalie loves it on pretzels and Andi and her strange tastebuds enjoy it in an omelette with marshamellows (disgusting, I know but she swears its delicious) My favorite Nutella memory was during the Nido trip to the motherland in which tiny individual sized portions of Nutella were a part of our daily breakfast spread on bread or a banana or just with our fingers and straight into our mouths! There is no better spread than this heavenly chocolate hazelnut creation. Yesterday morning I received a funny little breakfast picture from MM and was so tickled with his creative Nutella treat! I think he is catching onto my take a "picture of food and blog about" mentality and I love it!
I know I am a few days late but Happy National Chocolate Day...and Happy Halloween Weekend!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Sweet Guest Appearance

Day in and day out, I like to sprinkle a little blog inspiration around as I am constantly recruiting writers (aka my dear friends and family) to participate in a guest appearance on Peace, Love & Good Food. After months of encouraging the other food loving people in my life, my dear co-worker and friend Lindsey "Sweet" Brewer was inspired to share a delightful lunch experience that we had last week at Dean & Deluca! I am now secretly hoping that Linds has sparked some interest and in a perfect world, guest bloggers will be coming out of the woodworks to join in on the peace and love...

By: Lindsey "Sweet" Brewer

Ladies and Gents… If you have not already you need to Google Dean and Deluca, and find the closest one to you right away. I ventured over to the lovely little complex of Stonecrest this afternoon to grab a yummy bite of lunch with who you all know as Nina, but to me is Sweet Nitro. Upon entering the quaint sandwich bar/coffee house/gourmet grocery store, we were greeted with little bites of heaven known to most as Candy Corn… The deluxe version of course. As we made our way to the salad/sandwich bar, we passed little cocktail size tables, just big enough for a salad, a drink, and a lovely magazine or book. (what a great way to spend an afternoon!) I was greeted by the sandwich maker with, “Hi Welcome to Dean and Deluca, what can I get for you today?” I requested a tomato, basil, and mozzarella sandwich, and please add onions. I was not prepared for the lovely little gift that the sandwich maker would soon present me with. It was on the perfect baguette, crunchy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. The extra virgin olive oil saturated the bread that made it even more savory that it had ventured out to be. The basil was fresh, and had just enough crunch to make it lettuce like, but with much more to offer in the flavor department. The tomatoes were large, thick cut, and lightly brushed with salt and pepper. To top it all off, the caramelized onions on top gave the sandwich a tangy yet sweet little kick, in the middle of all the warmth of the bread and creamy mozzarella. As a side I chose to test out the Dean and Deluca Spicy Potato Chips,that claimed to be made from, “The largest and most flavorful potatoes we could find.” And yes, they delivered! They had just enough spice to make them interesting without overpowering. I finished the meal off with Sparkling Clementine Izze beverage. Perfect little mix of sparkling water with a light orange flavor that is sweet without being sugary. If I have not sparked your interest with this meal, I encourage you strongly to go see what little treasures Dean and Deluca has in store for you.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Big Apple Blog

Volume 4

Two weeks later I have finally found a little snippet of time to savor my last bites in the Big Apple and finish up my dreamy weekend recap. It's Sunday morning and I would probably give my baby toe right now to walk out my front door in Charlotte and go grab one of these bagels that Mark and I had our last day in NYC. Alas, they don't make bagels like that in the south, or anywhere else besides New York for that matter.

As highly recommended by the Chidesters, Mark and I ventured our way to 1st Avenue to try out the bagels that were raved so highly of by Sara and John. (John- sorry I forgot your to go oreder of 12 dozen plain bagels!). By this time, Mark and I were feeling like city pros so we walked out of our hotel door and in the blink of an eye we were standing in front of Ess-a-Bagel and more than ready to take a bite and enjoy a true authentic bagel experience as one can only do in New York. The line of this place was out the door and people of all kinds were waiting patiently for a delicious little Sunday breakfast. I immediately knew what I would be indulging in and could not wait to order.

I truly believe that lox on a bagel is an acquired taste- you either love it or the thought of it completely grosses you out. I would be part of the group of taste buds club that loves smoked salmon lox! Much to my excitement, Mark wanted to try this amazing combination so like a pro, I ordered us both Ess-a's award winning lox bagel sandwich. Everything bagel, cream cheese, smoked salmon, tomato, onion and capers! Cinnamon coffee was calling my name (extra large please) and the first taste of our bagels was incredible. Once again, the words escaped my mind and I just sat and savored what I was putting in my mouth. The bagels were obviously the freshest possible and were stacked high with the deliciousness that filled the middle. I can't fully describe the perfection in the consistency of the bagel but just trust me on this one- never in my life have I had a bagel like this. I was so happy that Mark seemed to enjoy this strange combo as much as I do. Why are NY bagels so much better than anywhere else? A friend told me this week that the city water does something magical to them so I guess we will settle with that.
We ended the weekend walking around Bryant Park and enjoying a relaxing Sunday morning in the city.
My mouth is watering...I am already brainstorming a "to eat" list for our next trip back.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Big Apple Blog

Volume 3

The word serendipity is quite possibly one of my very favorite words in the English language. Not only is it a beautiful word that simply slips off the tongue so delightfully, but the meaning behind it is something I believe whole heartedly in- fate. I don't really remember if my love for this word came before or after I saw the 2001 romantic comedy which takes place primarily at Christmas time (squeal!) and John Cusack and Kate Beckinsdale eat at a small little cafe in New York City named Serendipity. Serendipity was recently voted one of the hardest words in the English language to translate and while the meaning behind the word could be considered deep, to me it's very simple; a fortunate accident. Serendipity is the little sparks in life that we often stumble upon. It catches us by surprise and is mere reassurance that everything in our lives is happening not only for a reason, but exactly how it has been planned for us. In my world, this fortunate type of accident is nothing more than fate, and those snippets and puzzle pieces of life that are purely meant to just be.

With all of the above being said, Serendipity 3 on East 60th St. was strategically placed at the top of my "to eat" list with Mark last weekend. Not only is the little gem known for its short glimpse in the movie, but it is also been featured all over the public food media for their frozen hot chocolate! (you all know how I feel about my desserts and my chocolate) My family was lucky enough to be in NYC this past summer and my heart literally sunk to my toes when I knew they were there without me but I would be lying if I didn't say that being able to go with Mark was even better. I am pretty confident that Mark would back me up on this- that every phone conversation from the time that my flight consisted of at least one mention from me stating that we could do anything he wanted in the city as long as I could partake in the frozen hot chocolate experience at Serendipity.

After we ate at Carmine's and were stuffed like raviolis, we walked around the city that never sleeps in search of this chocolate I had been dreaming about. After a good amount of time exploring New York, we thought we would give it a shot and just meander through the streets to reach our destination. We walked through Times Square which at night, I must say, is breathtaking. It's quite a site during the day but at night, those lights illuminate everything and the city looks so alive. We walked on the outskirts of Central Park and spotted a breathtaking fountain that was lit up like something out of a Disney movie (picture regret #2 of the trip as I was too focused on what I was about to sip on to even take my camera out). As much as I had dreamed of this concoction for weeks, I was ready to give up our search and call it a night but Mark was insistent that we were not going home until we found our prize (I'm telling you... pure superhero).

After a few wrong turns and feet that were starting to feel a slight bit sore, my face lit up like you would never believe be
cause Serendipity was real and I was standing outside this little piece of magic. The twinkle lights scattered about made my soul smile and at nearly 11:30 on a Saturday night this place was packed. The wait was an hour and a half and as I turned my head to look at Mark, he said we were waiting. We were in New York and having the time of our lives so why let an opportunity pass us! Mark has incredible patience and I am so thankful that we waited because as full as we were and as much as we thought we couldn't eat another bite, in my world, there is always room for more of something sweet! We were seated upstairs (more twinkle lights involved here- total weakness of mine) and the whimsical decor inside was so much to take in! Frozen Hot Chocolate was a must on the order and as a second dessert, we ordered the "Can't Say No Sundae", as suggested by our waiter. My first sip of the frozen hot chocolate was pure bliss. This stuff was every bit as decadent as I ever hoped. The words escape my mind as my breath was taken away as I savored every bit that my tiramisu stuffed stomach could hold. Nothing short of a chocolate miracle. The sundae, I have to say, was yet another surprise as it was not only the perfect compliment to the hot chocolate but just as divine. I am not even sure what it all consisted of but it was a piece of dessert heaven in an over-sized sundae bowl consisting of rich homemade vanilla ice cream,
bananas, thick chocolate fudge dripping over the edge and peanut butter all kissed with a giant cloud of marshmallow fluff. Had we not been so full from our Italian feast I know we would have licked the dishes clean but a stomach can sadly only hold so much. We ate until we could not bring ourselves to lift our spoons anymore. I have no other words for this NYC experience than it was truly serendipitous!

Each bite was better than the one before and sitting at Serendipity with Mark, having these two desserts sitting right in front of my face, reminded me that the simple delights in life are what make my smile the brightest.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Big Apple Blog

Volume 2

If someone had been videotaping us while we explored the city, anyone watching would laugh. When Mark and I are together I never stop laughing and being a new city was like adding a million more lights onto a Christmas tree as it was extra special and really the most perfect weekend.

I plan events for a living and one would think that I would come to New York with strategic plan as to what I thought we should spend the weekend seeing and doing. I did create a trip folder with various maps, post its and lists of recommended spots in the Big Apple but my food obsessed self threw the whole generic trip planning mentality for a loop as most of my post its in "the folder" did not contain things to do or see, but things to eat! Life is short, after all, and food is meant to be enjoyed and savored with every bite and what better city to do that in than NYC. I was practically thinking about these blog posts from the moment my flight was booked.

We spent Saturday just enjoying each other and New York and even went to our first Broadway show! We saw Chicago and it was just fantastic. I wanted to jump on stage and dance with the cast and I'm pretty sure Mark enjoyed the show as much as I did. I have seen many Broadway shows in my lifetime but this was the very first one ON BROADWAY in New York. It was such a fun thing to experience together. We made our way to Chinatown and Rockefeller plaza and were able to say that we had a celebrity sighting in the city! Thanks to Mark's superhero-ness, he spotted Hoda Kotb from the Today Show! This turned into an ongoing joke the rest of the weekend because Mark could not remember her name for the life of him and decided her name was Qdoba Coffee! He is crazy but that had us laughing for a long time. I snuck a picture from behind but I am definitely no paparazzi. I do have to say, she is much taller in person than I pictured. We walked all over the city and took it all in. Dinner was on our brains all day and we wanted to be sure to eat something fabulous. Carmine's was recommended to me by several friends so we thought we would give it a whirl. Located near Times Square in the Theater District, the restaurant was packed but on a Saturday night in New York we would have been waiting anywhere. The restaurant smelled delicious and we knew we were in for an Italian treat.

The food at Carmine's is served family style and the atmosphere of the restaurant is family oriented and completely comfortable. It's the Italian, make yourself at home and stuff your faces atmosphere that makes places like this an overall great production from the time you walk in the door until you leave with a smiling stomact. Thank goodness some of Mark's classmates from training joined us for dinner because this is definitely a place to go with a big group and a huge appetite. We started off with calamari which was without a doubt the best fried calamari I have ever tasted. It wasn't chewy and rubbery but it had just the perfect amount of crispness and had an abundance of flavor. Squeezed with a wedge of lemon and dipped in marinara, it was incredibly satisfying easy on the palate. A staple at a good Italian restaurant and the perfect "go to" appetizer to share with a big crowd. I like to think I am decent at deciding menus so Mark and I put our heads together and made executive game time meal decisions when it came to ordering for our indecisive table. Penne a la vodka has won my heart since I can remember when so I insisted we go with that. I know my penne a la vodka as well as I know my hair and this was the best I have had at ANY restaurant by a long shot. Our waitress suggested a linguine dish with bolognese sauce and a seafood dish with fresh salmon, mussels and clams. The bolognese sauce was like nothing I had ever tasted before. I don't know what was in it but it must have been made while a whole lot of Italian love because the flavor was outstanding and the pasta was cooked to perfection. The salmon was bathing in some sort of white wine and lemon sauce that I could have slurped up by itself! Carmine's was so highly recommended that I was not surprised at the quality of the food and the amazing service. Our table was thrilled with our menu choices and much to my excitement, the Penne seemed to be the all around favorite. We all spotted
Tiramisu on the menu before we even looked at dinner options so not ordering it at the end of our meal would have been a crime.

Tiramisu always has a spot on my top 5 desserts list and Carmine's version was a Tiramisu dream come true. Not only had I never seen it presented how it was but the chocolate shavings on the top literally pulled at my chocolate loving heartstrings. A good Tiramisu is hard to come by and very easy to mess up. This one was superb and Mark can attest, the words escaped my mouth but each bite left me speechless. Carmine's was absolutely worth the hour and a half wait because what we devoured was nothing short of breathtaking and coming from an Italian, that means its pretty darn delicious. As it was highly recommended to me, I will pass on the love and send anyone else there, too.

More to come on the Big Apple Blog...I could sit and write all day but my stomach is starting to get full as I seem to feel as though I have re-eaten everything that I ate last weekend.

For now...Ciao!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Big Apple Blog

Volume 1

I have been such a slacker blogger this week...a slogger, if you will, and have so much to catch up on! Have no fear, it is not because I have forgotten about my little niche on the web. My work days are busier than ever which is not always conducive to the midday login when I usually conjure up some peace and love in the form of the written word. Alas, I have had constant reminders all week from dear blog readers who have been begging for a recap of the perfect New York City weekend that I have spent the last month looking forward to! At times during out trip I wished I could whip out my laptop and write so that the words and the flavors would not escape me. There is so much to write that I figure it might be best to break up into parts...plus it will keep you all reading! Let me just preface this by saying that I have been lucky enough to enjoy many trips to the Big Apple but I can honestly say that last weekend was the best one yet.

Why I didn't take a picture of the sushi that we ate on our first night in the city, I don't know, but I do have documentation of my first sake bomb, which I will get to in a bit. After getting off at the wrong stop (Seriously, how were we supposed to know that there are TWO Newark stops on train route or whatever we messed up) and got settled into the city, we traveled to the East Village for quite the raw fish experience. Aisha's is seriously a hole in the wall and was packed to the brim when we walked in. I have never seen so much sushi in my life. Plates were literally piled as high as Mount Fuji with some of the most artistically crafted sushi rolls I have ever seen. From the moment you sit down at your table, you have approximately two hours to order and consume as much sushi and Japanese beverage of choice that your heart desires! A real sushi dream come true for people that love sushi as much as Mark and I do. I am still kicking myself for not taking a picture of our plate piled high but just picture the most gorgeous sushi you have ever seen, and play it up about a thousand times, and that is what this plate looked like. Fresh avocado slices are always a nice decorative touch and the fish was so fresh, as it should be. We had an outstanding variety of spicy salmon, tuna, shrimp and we even went a little outside of the
comfort zone to try some eel, which always surprises me because its rather sweet.

Now, let me just set this up for you... our dinner group was a party of about 8-10 and I was the ONLY GIRL at the table. Apparently I entertained them with my "southern accent" (I was NOT aware that I possessed one of these) and they were very curious about the south and raving about Southern Hospitality. I educated them about life in the Carolinas and while raving about southern BBQ, I was sure to note that in the south, BBQ is not a verb, but a noun. In return, I was shown Northern Hospitality, which was a lesson on how to take a Sake bomb. I can't say that I particularly enjoyed it but I can say that I was laughing so uncontrollably that Mark almost got Sake spewed in his face!

Our stomachs were too stuffed to end with anything sweet but I would consider dancing as dessert. Our dinner party walked out of the sushi dream and straight into another hidden hole in the wall...if only I had a video of Mark and I dancing.

This is just an appetizer of the flavors and fun that I savored in the city. More to come this weekend as I re-live (and taste) one of the best weekends ever!


Monday, September 28, 2009

Food for the "Soul"

I don't think I will ever be able to fully express in words on this blog how much I love my friends. Its time that I spend with them that make me feel refreshed and back to where I need to be. When life gets crazy and there are extraneous details that bog us down, all it takes is a good kick in the pants from those that know you best to kick you back into gear and back to being your best. We have all been so busy with work lately that there has been little to no time to spread peace and love. We find our calendars filling up so quickly that we had to plan this dinner nearly a month in advance to ensure all parties were present!

Sara is our new restaurant scout and she planned a girls dinner at an eclectic little establishment in Plaza Midwood on Friday night. Sara and I, along with Laura, Mary Katherine and Kealy made our way to Central Avenue to Soul Gastro Lounge for a fantastic dinner and uncontrollable laughter (what else is new!!) From the outside, Soul was nothing magical but as soon as you open the doors the mood completely changes and you find yourself in a chic hideaway tucked away in a culinary wonderland. The menu is completely tapas and small bites which was perfect for our food obsessed taste buds. I always love small plates of food to taste because by the end of the meal, you have experienced a plethora of flavors guaranteed to satisfy all of your cravings.

We started with cocktails and of course Mary Katherine and I could not resist the mixed berry margaritas. I am pretty sure when our waiter told us the berries had come from the farmer's market that day, we fell in love with the drink. Sure enough it was refreshing and crisp and created nothing but happiness in my mouth. Like children who had never eaten before, we chose so many tasty items from the menu and shared amongst the table. Dips with pita, greek country salad, an artisan cheese plate, shrimp and chicken skewers and shoestring french fries kissed with truffle oil. And when we consumed the above and cherished every bite, we decided we still needed more and indulged in mini kobe beef sliders and cured salmon pillows wrapped and snuggled in phyllo dough. Soul is the perfect place for a date or small group of friends. The atmosphere was so warm yet sophisticated enough that kicked it up a notch. The service reminded me of dining in Italy where the meals linger and you are welcome to take your time and enjoy your culinary experience along with the company.

A night out with these girls is never complete without a sweet ending so sure enough, we drove over to my favorite gem, Amelie's, for coffee & dessert. Pure bliss!