February 28, 2013
From top to bottom: Making the dough. Kneading the dough. Semi-drying the sheets before cutting. Drying the noodles. Nesting leftover noodles for freezing. All photos taken with my iPhone (and very floury hands).
I am instantly, deeply in love with the KitchenAid pasta-making attachments (and drying rack, and cookbook) I got from my parents for Christmas. Like the ice cream attachment before them, they are instant game-changers. Life-changers. I am an instant pasta snob.
(It's funny that I keep using the word "instant," because one of my favorite parts about making ice cream and pasta is the long, involved, multi-step process you have to go through each time. Tedium!: the Virgo in me almost craves it.)
Last night I made fettuccine, to be served with a decadent homemade alfredo, shrimp, mushrooms, and roasted Brussels for our anniversary dinner. Seeing these simple ingredients transform into something that not only looked and acted like the stuff I've been buying at stores my whole life, but tasted way better - was magical. I kept exclaiming to Micah, "I made these! They look so... real! I made these! Me!" inbetween stuffed mouthfuls. He put up with it like a champ – though the amazing, homemade, food-coma-inducing pasta probably helped. Homemade. By ME.
February 27, 2013
Above: Our first kiss. Micah has written the sweetest post about it here.
Happy anniversary to us! Last year we celebrated with an intensely food-and-drink-driven daytrip to Raleigh. This year, we're celebrated with an intensely food-driven beer dinner. Our favorite local brewery paired up with a gastropub and created a five-course meal, each course being highlighted by one of their beers. CHECK OUT THIS MENU IN ITS ENTIRETY:
1st Course: Cackalacky “Rockefeller”
Grilled Blue Point Oysters, Wilted Watercress, Ginger-Jalapeno Herbed Panko, Cackalacky Spiced Hollandaise Sauce
paired with Fullsteam's Cackalacky Ginger Pale Ale
Shaved Kale Salad with Common Good Caramel Roasted Apples
Soft Poached Egg, Crispy Pancetta, Aged Parmesan, Toasted Walnuts, Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
paired with Fullsteam's The Common Good
Cherry Wood Smoked Duck Sausage with Roasted Cherry Tomato
Warm Citrus Salad with Fennel, Endive, Radicchio, and Mint
paired with Fullsteam's Rocket Science IPA
Hickory Grilled Ribeye with Smoked Chili Sauce
Spiced Rosemary Doughnut with Foie Gras Mousse, Grilled Escarole, Portabella Mushrooms
paired with Fullsteam's Hogwash Porter
5th Course: Coffee and Caramel
Coffee Parfait, Caramel Spice Cake, Fresh Tangerine, Coffee Emulsion, Creamed Coffee Gelee, Caramel Sauce
paired with Fullsteam's First Frost Winter Ale
It was seemingly created exclusively for our tastes and the occasion at hand, and has already set the bar very high for future intensely-food-and-drink-driven anniversaries. I can't wait (but I must – it's not until tomorrow night).
February 25, 2013
Top two: Saturday's breakfast. Eggs Benedict (I helped whisk the Hollandaise!) with ham hock and caramelized onion, hash browns, and what Micah called "vanilla-drowned" apples, when he accidentally poured "too much" vanilla seed in sauteed apples.
Bottom two: Sunday's breakfast. Biscuits two ways: with homemade habanero honey, and with ham gravy. Side of scrambled egg and coconut strawberries. I went back for seconds of that gravy.
This weekend was relaxing and blissfully domestic. It was also, not coincidentally, the first one I've spent at home in like a month. We bought a Roku and switched from Netflix DVDs to streaming, and also got Hulu Plus - so now I get all my favorite parts about television without all my least favorite parts about television. It was also nice and sunny for the first time in days, so we took a leisurely stroll around downtown to soak up some vitamin D, then grilled pork chops in the backyard for dinner.
February 22, 2013
Durham! It's not just a beer town anymore.
I've seen and heard snippets about The Brothers Vilgalys Spirits Company, and their plans to unleash a traditional Lithuanian liquor unto the world, for what feels like forever. A month or two ago, they released the first batches of krupnikas, a spiced honey liquor that sold out almost immediately in my little corner of Durham. I was finally able to hunt it down and bring it home, and it was worth the wait.
First, I tried it straight up. It's extremely viscous and thick, and the the first thing that hits you is honey (100% North Carolina wildflower honey, of course). Then the warm heat of the spices follows, all the way down to your belly. It's definitely a sipper. I can totally picture old Lithuanian men swapping war stories over a post-dinner finger or two of this stuff.
Then, I made a cocktail inspired by the ones I had seen on their site (and what I had on hand). Krupnikas, coffee syrup, and milk. TOO GOOD. TOO EASY TO DRINK. Like a grown-up mudslide. Or maybe it should be called: a White Lithuanian?
I also recently picked up a bottle of my favorite ginger ale – Blenheim's – to mix with it in the (near!) future. I think I was attracted to krupnikas in the first place because it seems to mix seamlessly with all my favorite flavors: coffee, whiskey, ginger, cinnamon. You know - the warm, spicy, Christmas-y flavors. The ones you enjoy in front of fires, under blankets, late into the night. Though I was also just excited for it to elevate Durham's drink game – a game that everyone is winning, all of the time.
Cheers!: to old drinks, and new drinks, and those who make it their business to fill our glasses with both.
February 20, 2013
I'd seen these Everlasting Paper Flowers on a design blog and loved everything about them: how the crinkles of the paper made the petals and leaves more realistic, how each one was formed around a real twig, and even just how romantic the idea of sending someone a handcrafted everlasting flower was.
I chose the Madame Butterfly Peony in red for my mom - we both love peonies, and I knew she'd appreciate the most vivid, saturated color available. Helen was lovely to work with - the package arrived quickly (from England!), and thoughtfully wrapped. She even addressed the box and wrote me a note in her beautiful calligraphy-esque handwriting.
(I think these would also make excellent Mother's Day gifts. Just sayin'.)
(I think these would also make excellent Mother's Day gifts. Just sayin'.)
February 19, 2013
Middle left: Craft beer on tap at Great Lakes Coffee. I tried Bell's Hosplam for the first time - I'm happy it was in Michigan!
Middle Right: RJD2 concert at the Majestic Theatre. The guy in front of me was wearing a baboon mask all night long. I got a little obsessed with the back of his head.
Bottom: The Heidelberg Project.
I just got back from a long-weekend trip to Detroit to visit friends and family. I got everything I wanted: snow, drinks, a guided tour of downtown Detroit (which reminds me very much of Durham on a larger scale: equal parts grit and growth, slowly crawling back from a harrowing history, reinventing itself daily), more drinks, and lots of chill hang-out time. It was a good balance of friend time, family time, and time-away from my usual routines and surroundings. I also got just enough of a Michigan fix to last me until I summer up North for a whole month. (It's recently official! July 3rd - August 3rd!)
All photos from my Instagram feed - follow me here.
February 12, 2013
My favorite part of the trip was the walk we took right after breakfast on Saturday.
It was sunny out, but 45º and breezy. We layered up and headed down to the (rapidly receding – oh, how I forget about tides!) water. It was strange to walk around on the sand with socks ond shoes on, and the temperature made Wrightsville's pale, floury sand look and feel like snow at times. There were only a handful of other people on the beach, a sharp contrast to when I've been there in the summer. One of the reasons we picked the hotel that we did (Shell Island Resort, if you're curious) was that it was the northern-most hotel on the beach - so the only thing to one side of us was a marshy delta of the Intracoastal Waterway. We slowly walked towards that, looking for shells, snapping photos, and absorbing as much vitamin D and sea-air as possible. Sometimes we would veer away from one another to explore the dunes or a particularly interesting shell, periodically looking up to check on the other, then resuming our slow amble along the shoreline.
It was just... really nice. Really laid-back and beautiful and tranquil. I visited Wrightsville Beach the first time I came to Durham, and it really solidified how far away I was from Oklahoma, and how different one place can be from another, and the power of that geographical difference. I think that's why I've felt so bad for not taking Micah there until now, and how happy I was to finally walk along the beach with him.
February 11, 2013
This is what I woke up to on Saturday morning. The sun just rising over the eastern edge of the country, the Atlantic still as sleepy as I was.
We took a quick trip to Wilmington for two reasons: one of our favorite bands was playing there, and after a year and a half of living in North Carolina, I still had not taken Micah to the beach. So! We made a weekend of it. The first night we spent at Wrightsville Beach, so we could wake up to this view, and explore the beach. The second night was spent in historic downtown Wilmington, within a few blocks of the concert venue (and some truly delicious food and drink).
February 6, 2013
So, I'm still madly in love with my Kindle. I keep it on my nightstand (which is a Thonet-esque bentwood chair, so that's saying a lot, because real estate is at a premium), and love that I can juggle multiple books at a time without the added bulk. And here's what I've recently finished juggling:
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan
I read this in college, actually, but felt like revisiting it as I'm more invested in the business of where my food comes from now. I also like to reread books like this (Eating Animals also comes to mind) once in awhile to see if they'll drastically change my lifestyle. And where Eating Animals packed more of an immediate, guttural response (fiction writers should write more non-fiction!), Omnivore's Dilemma has had a more rational, deep-seated effect on my thoughts and actions.
Many of you have probably read Pollan at some point, and know that he's good at simplifying what has become an increasingly complicated subject, in an engaging, accessible way. I also own (in paperback!) Food Rules: An Eater's Manual, and sometimes it seems so ridiculous that we/I should have to have so many reminders of what is and is not food anymore. But I revisit it from time to time, especially whenever I start hearing too much about the most recent fad diet or trend in food, and it always sets me straight.
It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways, by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig
So, I totally forgot that Kathleen designed this book. I guess I could've just dug around in the Braid archives and pulled up a PDF instead of buying it... just sayin'!... but of course I didn't, because that would've totally been bad karma. Anyway... I followed Kathleen's Whole30 journeys along with everyone else, fascinated by her willpower, and secretly wondering if I could ever do the same thing. I was still also a bit skeptical of paleo (no legumes or whole grains?!), and just wanted to do my due diligence before I made up my mind about anything.
Like Pollan, Melissa and Dallas do a really great job of breaking down the science behind their approach to food. They very clearly outlined the rigorous criteria that food has to meet to be considered good and healthy. Not only what kind of nutritional profile it has, but how it affects your digestive process, and your hormonal levels. I finished the book believing that they've done their homework, and that their approach is well thought-out and truly honors and nourishes the body on all levels. Talk-points from the book pop into my head pretty regularly when I'm grocery shopping and preparing food. Obviously I'm not on a Whole30 (or even paleo) diet right now – but the information was still, as they promised, life-changing.
The Red Book: A Deliciously Unorthodox Approach to Igniting Your Divine Spark, by Sera J. Beak
And now for something completely different! I can't remember where I originally read about this book - some enlightened lady blog, I think. Basically, I wanted to read about alternate spiritualities, but not a heavy, academic, old-white-dude way. And this book was a perfect introduction to that – it was kind of like reading the personal journal/musings of some girl who graduated a few years ahead of you that you always found cool, kooky, and a little intimidating. It was enjoyable and entertaining, yet I learned a lot, and in the end it just gave me permission to continue poking around the celestial realm.
(I just realized that was all non-fiction. The pendulum swings.)
I'm about to start Ten Thousand Saints, The Secret History (which has always come super-highly-recommended), and Chuck Palahniuk's latest, just because I'll always be a fan.
Anything else I need to check out?...
February 4, 2013
Above: Sunday dinner. Grilled chicken thigh, mushrooms, and baby potatoes with roasted Brussels sprouts and Parmesan. (Breakfast both days was a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese, because whenever those two things are in the house, I am compelled to eat them obsessively until they run out.)
My dad's birthday was this weekend - on Groundhog's Day. He celebrated it in Key West with my mom - they won a vacation there at a recent fundraiser. I'm told he enjoyed a Steve Miller concert and watched the University of Michigan basketball game. Happy birthday, Dad! (Additional Dad love here, here, and here.)
I'm also learning to channel my home-ownership impatience into something positive. Whenever I get all itchy or mopey about not being able to, you know, control the future and change the pace of time, I clean, fix, or do something proactive for the place we're currently in - even though it's "just" a rental. My attempt at being a little more Zen about the whole situation – appreciating the moment, and the process, and acting without expectation and whatnot. So! This weekend (and this morning, as I was still on a roll) I raked the back yard, turned over the main garden plot (and found lots of fat, wriggly earthworms – a great sign), and stirred a portion of the leaves I raked into the compost pile. Inside, I swept and vacuumed everything, wiped down countertops and shelves and sinks, cleaned weird gummy spots on floors and stovetop corners, took out all the trash and recycling, changed the sheets and started washing all our blankets and comforters.
Yeah – I'm working through a lot of impatience. (Or maybe I'm just getting into spring cleaning way early.)