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 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!