Archive for January, 2012

P.S. If This Is Austin…..
January 30, 2012

Oh, Willie....

I’m listening to the song by Blake Shelton as I write this little love letter to AustinTexas, where I visited for several days last week. What a great town….the capital city of Texas…the MO of Austinites being “Keep Austin Weird”…..and I think they’ve succeeded…in a good way.

A walk thru Austin will make you hungry...guaranteed...

The most amazing sushi I've ever Uchi...

I wish I could say I took the picture above….my phone ran our of power right after I took a pic of our sake…below…but Mike Sutter of the American Statesman felt as strongly as I did about the sea-bass crudo with golden roe, orange oil, citrus vinaigrette and black pepper.

Cold sake with roasted cauliflower nibbles at Uchi...AMEX ready to rock...

I don’t know how to tell you how amazing this place is…but absorb this.  In the middle of dinner, who walks in for dinner at Uchi, but Matthew McConaugheyand his lady love/baby mama. That’s how good Uchi is. Hat’s off to Chef Tyson Cole, who won the James Beard award for Best Chef SW last year.

Jerky with no additives at Whittington's ...

Lobby of the historic Driskell

The people of Austin were so happy for visitors…I gathered the economy has hit them pretty hard. Everywhere you went, residents said, “Thanks for visiting Austin“…and “Thanks for spending your dollars in Austin“…which of course, I did.

Keepin' it real in Austin...what you don't see is the herd of goats...

Lunch at the Roaring Fork....kettle of green chili pork and tortillas..

Samsung Lounge in Dallas airport....why aren't they everywhere???

More this week on a side trip I made that was my best day there. Hint: LBJ.

Gloomy Day Gloombusters
January 23, 2012

Hmmmm...too sweet?

Ok, at the risk of sounding like Julie Andrews, a little too happily singing, “These are a few of my favorite things“…I, like many of you, was feeling a little…gloomy today. The weather is terrible, snow on the ground AND it’s raining and gray and cold, and yeah, the Ravens lost to the Patriots. But I found there were quite a few things that made me feel better, so I share them with you in hopes they may offer the same respite. In no particular order:

Cardinal on the pretty...watched him for a while...

No, not whiskers on kittens, but a huge fuzzy Baby Girl tail!!

News that one of my favs, The Dogwood Restaurant in Hampden, will start offering Saturday and Sunday brunch this coming weekend….think about this: “Fried Chesapeake Oysters on Hoppin‘ John… fresh black-eyed peas braised with green chilies, andouille and the trinity, chipotle aioli.” That ain’t nothin’ but hopeful.

A funny crab hat gift(From Cafe HON)...come on, that is funny.

Thinking about George CLooney doesn't hurt either...

Listening to the soundtrack from The Descendants-preview the songs here…for a movie that had more than a few melancholy moments, the exclusively Hawaiian music is so lovely….very peaceful and surprisingly upbeat. It just makes me happy to hear it. Helps if I look at a pic of George Clooney at the same time…

Living wreath...still lives! There is hope...

This living ivy wreath I bought back in December…’s been gorgeous through the holidays…you just take it to the sink every few days and douse it with water, drain and rehang. A storm door in front of it protects it from the worst weather, but while it’s cold…it’s happy there. So I’m happy too.

She escaped the Christmas sweep….and lives to sing….

And this little angel is a Christmas decoration from my childhood, that somehow escaped the after holiday roundup. And she seems so ecstatic over the whole thing with her little harp and all, I think I may just let her stay out this year. Who’s gonna notice, really. And hopefully, one of these things has brightened your day too.

My Big Fat Pork Butt…..Perfected
January 20, 2012

See the raven head?? See it???

Ok, I ran out of purple pretty quickly in my closest…it’s just not a color I seek out, for some reason. So now the Ravens have made it another week in the playoffs, and I wore my best purple dress LAST Friday, sooooo….the bottom half of my dress is purple. I don’t know if anyone can see it on the news, but trust me, it is. And I have on the Ravens earring s you see above…and that’s just gonna have to do it this purple Friday.

All coated in herbs, salt and pepper, ready for searing..

Though for good luck, I think I may again make the pork butt in apple cider….but I did something different last week, that’s worth repeating. Instead of apple cider, I used fresh sqeezed orange juice.

OK, NOW they're ready for the compost pail....

Not that I’m a fresh squeezed snob, but I had some oranges and tangerines that were starting to harden on the outside, but inside, they were perfection. Fished them out of the compost bin(where the hubby had put them), cut them in half and squeezed out the juice. Ta-da!

Pour this in around the roast....or heck, mix with vodka...

A nice comfy bed of veges for the butt to cook in...

And I used a different recipe in the end…(not wildly different)…and this one called for deglazing the pan after searing the meat and the veges, with a little bourbon. That just can’t be wrong. Here is the recipe for My Big Fat Pork Butt Perfected, that I found on a blog called Bootnik.Oh, and it calls for brining the roast(which I did for 12 hours) so start a day ahead….remember you still need a good 4 hours of cooking time.

 I leave you this Friday with some words from the late Ron Smith, whose memorial service knocked me out this week…really, it was amazing.

What is a mere individual to do? Live as sane and decent a life as you can, love your family and friends, and understand that everybody is in this together.”

Here, here. Have a great weekend everyone, do something nice for someone, be sane and decent, and because Ron would want me to say it…Go Ravens!

Bivalve Pan Roast…An Oyster Revelation
January 18, 2012

Who wouldn't love sitting at this counter?

(First, play the video above to get the feel and sound of the Grand Central Oyster Bar…let it play as you read the rest)Ok,  this classic dish is really called Oyster Pan Roast...some call it New York’s most famous dish….and some would argue, it’s finest. It’s simple really…good oysters, chili sauce and a bucket of cream.

So Central Oyster Bar...

It was my first experince at the underground, deafening, clattery  Grand Central Oyster Bar-here,which opened in 1913… with it’s beautifully tiled, domed, lighted ceilings…I chose the pan roast, precisely because I had read about it in a book. And I’ve loved it ever since. First, you need to score some fresh oysters(though you can get them already shucked)…don’t end up with a gash in your palm like someone I know(and if you do, get some antibiotics, pronto). No pain, no gain.

Ok, I ate a few on the half shell while I cooked....

Saute a couple of shallots and a slice of bacon together…smells good already.

Anything that begins with bacon is alright with me...

Spices(love me some smoked paprika)…and I used a touch of chili sauce(Hey Heinz), like the original recipe calls for…though less than a tablespoon.

Pimenton makes almost anything better...

Almost ready for the cream....loved the jar it came it!

OK, here’s the recipe I(kind of) followed…it’s not the classic recipe from Grand Central, which is here…, but I loved the way this one, emailed by Chelsea Wine Market in NYC  sounded…maybe more refined? And it was fabulous. Amazing. A revelation. Amanda McDougall by the way, is a food writer who is by her own definition, an obsessive food nerd. That’s good enough for me.

Oyster   Pan Roast
By   Amanda McDougall
Makes 6 servingsIngredients:
1 slice thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (optional)
1 cup dry white wine
1 pint fish stock or clam broth
1 pint cream
Sea salt
30 oysters, shucked and liquor strained and reserved
6 slices pain levain or similar bread, toasted
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (blend of parsley, chives, chervil, tarragon) or   just parsleyDirections:  
Put a Dutch   oven or large heavy skillet over medium-low heat.Add the bacon,cook until the fat is rendered; stir in the shallots , stirring often, until tender and translucent. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, paprika,   pepper, and Old Bay, if you’re using it, and stir

until mixed.

Pour in   the wine and increase the heat to medium. Bring to a boil and cook until the   wine no longer smells of alcohol and is reduced by about half in volume. Add the stock, cream, and oyster liquor and bring to a simmer; cook for about 40   minutes until it’s reduced enough to thinly coat the back of a spoon. Season   with salt to taste.

Reduce   the heat to barely a simmer, add the oysters and cook for 2 minutes or until   the edges just start to curl a bit. Put a piece of bread in each bowl and ladle the oysters and the cream sauce over top. Sprinkle generously with   herbs and serve immediately.

Love you Octavia Spencer!
January 16, 2012

Octavia Spencer, Auburn woman, all the way!

Let me just say up front I adored the movie The Help….and I adored equally Octavia Spencer in her role as Minnie. So last night when Octavia won Best Supporting Actress, I fully expected to like this funny and thoughtful Auburn woman’s(that’s right, she’s an Auburn grad who grew up in ‘bama!) acceptance speech, and I did. She referred to Martin Luther King Jr., whose life we celebrate today, saying, “”With regard to domestics in this country, now and then, I think Dr. King said it best: ‘All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance.’

And in truth, most of us who work are “the help” to someone, or some small business or some large corporation…but when you do your job with your whole heart and your best effort, whether you’re cleaning someone’s home(a job that truly uplifts humanity) or a sanitation engineer(ditto) or work in a department store or in an office or on tv…doing the best you can do uplifts all of us, and in the end, I think it lifts you up too. And that, I think, is partly what Dr. King was saying. Happy MLK day everyone…now get out there and uplift someone…or yourself!


Purple Haze: What the WBAL team is doing this Sunday!
January 13, 2012

Let your purple freak flag fly!!

Saw this car on my drive to work this morning(before you lecture me about taking a picture in my car…I was stopped at a traffic light!), but it made me think, what is everybody doing this Sunday for the Ravens playoff game? Here’s what I’ve found out so far:

J-Fran, in purple as always on Friday...

Jennifer Franciotti, who is the truest Ravens fan I know, is working this Sunday. Before you say, “Awwwww, that’s too bad“, let me add that she is at the game! So the girl is happy, you know? Wouldn’t be anywhere else. At home though, her family is saving her some Buffalo wings and sliders, and a glass of wine for when she gets home.

the I-team's Jayne Miller...also a big fan...

11 News I-Team lead investigative reporter Jayne Miller will take some time from investigating, and as a season tickets holder, will also be at the game Sunday. What’s she eating? She tells me she will definitely hit a few tailgates, menu TBA, and probably have a Guiness at the game…depending on how cold it is. “What’s the difference between a playoff game and a regular game?”, she asked me. Not knowing of course, she replied, “At a playoff game, everyone STANDS, all the time!”

Mindy Basara and me....comparing our purplicity....

Mindy Basara will watch the game from home….and she was thinking wings, but their grill has been acting funky, so they may switch to chili…or maybe a complicated buffalo wing dip thing, but she doesn’t have all the ingredients to it. She’s hoping she can con her hubby into shopping for it AND making it. Love that, girl.

And yours truly, as mentioned on Facebook,  is making a Pork Shoulder Braised in Apple Cider..a recipe I saw on the Today Show last week. It looks AMAZING…and I have the pork…just need to score the cider. IF you would like the recipe…here it is!

the lovely Sarah Caldwell sports some purple too....

Sarah Caldwell will also be watching the game from home….I asked her if she was making something special…..she said negatory on that…but you never know. Maybe she’ll change her mind.

John Collins.....a working man...

Meterologist John Collinsis working Sunday, so he too, will not be tailgating or baking purple pastries, or throwing a pork shoulder in the oven.(I’ll save you some John).

Lowell Melser.....looking lavender

 11 News reporter Lowell Melser has a little problem…which is kinda hilarious(Chris Daschille laughed out loud when he heard it). Lowell’s wife was invited to a baby shower on Sunday…that starts at 1 PM. And they did not reschedule. Yeah. So, things are a little up in the air…maybe view part of the game at a bar in Canton, maybe pizza in his basement on the BIG screen…you know. He’s keeping it loose(except being a little stressed over the baby shower thingie.)

hope you have a great time on Sunday…that the Ravens win(yeaahhh!)…that no players get hurt…that no one throws rocks, and you all come home safe…’cause we miss you!

Glossing, Balming and Prepping: What I’m using and loving right now….
January 12, 2012

I like to shake it up in the product world…keep it fresh, you know. So here are some of my current favs…..first up, Number Four Super Comb Prep and Protect

Super Comb Prep and Protect

It’s a leave in conditioning spray, that also protects hair color from UV rays….but what I notice is it leaves my hair super manageable. $38….but it lasts a long time…you just use a few sprays after shampooing.

Oh just get it....

Fredric Fekkai’s glossing cream is a long time fav…it uses olive oil to add some moisture back into your hair(I find mine gets much drier in the winter months-yikes, flyaways!). Truly, a little dab will do you…the tube lasts seemingly forever. 4 oz. for $21…

Alpha lipoic acid? DMAE? What?

Derma-e’s Alpha Lipoic Acid/DMAE cream I love, love, love. On Derma-e’s website this good size jar is $22, but at Swanson Vitamins-here(where I get all my vitamins too), it’s only $15…you can compare the ingredients to some of the tres’ pricey stuff at Dr. Nicholas Perricone.

This stuff is just lovely!!

This Speppermint(that’s not a typo) Lip Balm  and Ginger Lemongrass Solid Lotion were sent to me by a company called Rinse Bath and Body-here….I’d never heard of them, but their products are amazing. Rinse is a family run small business in Monroe Georgia…they make all natural, vegan friendly, gluten free products…and they smell good enough to eat(but don’t). And the solid stick lotions are great for travel as they are TSA friendly…no worries about putting them in a plastic baggie. I’m dying to try the Peppofoot Stick.  Lotion stick is $8, lip balm $4. Enjoy!

Lardo….and no, it’s not the name of a mean movie….
January 9, 2012

My lardo, brought from New York Il Buco....

I present for your humble culinary consideration….lardo. Yep…lardo, and it’s NOT the name of a mean movie. Lardo is pig fat(Tuscany’s answer to fatback)…which has been cured with rosemary and salt and  other spices. I first heard about lardoback  in December, on Tasting Table I think….but it may surprise you to know that lardo has been made as early as Roman times. I knew I had to have some….

sometimes it comes in slabs....

At La Quercia Artisan Cured Meats, they call lardo,  Iowa white spread….theirs is made from proscuitto fat, cured with  sea salt, clove, nutmeg, white and black pepper, rosemary, bay leaf, and coriander. But this stuff is not as easy to find as you would think. (La Quercia now has it back in stock)…

But wait...there's no lardo!!

I ordered a package from the famous Murray’s cheese shop, called Hoggy Heaven right before Christmas, purely because it came with a package of La Quercia lardo(along with proscuittos and mortedella from LaQuercia)….but Murray’s replaced the lardo with pate! When I called, really disappointed, they said, “Oh, sorry we’re out of lardo.” Great.

Then I read about a place called Il Buco Alimentari in nyc….which makes their own lardo….placed a pleading phone call to the lovely Jennifer, begging her to bring some down for Christmas. And she did just that….amazing girl.

Pass the lardo, please...yes I said lardo...

Some people use lardo as a spread, instead of butter on potatoes or bread(think meat butter) or pasta….and it is delish this way.

Eggs in lardo....were lovely...

But you can also cook with it. I made scrambled eggs this weekend cooked in lardo…and it gave a subtle, herbal, pig quality to the eggs that was really quite lovely.

One thing I love about LaQuercia is the way their producers raise their pigs…

Pigs living in their natural enviornment....

The pigs are fed no hormones or animal by-products and have access to outdoors and their natural rooting behaviors…kudoes to the farmers.



iPhone Cleanout!! Pics from the past eyar….
January 6, 2012

Twisty Bacon was in my son's Xmas stocking, and he left it here!

Isn’t it funny how many pictures your iPhone can hold…so many that they just stack up, and every so often I like to go through…relive a few choice moments.. and then move on. SO I thought I’d share some with you… including some from a trip to the mountains of NC last week…we spent most of our time in Cashiers and Highlands. Here goes…in no particular order.

Santa and me at the Monument lighting....he's so cute!

Best chocolate I had all year….came from Zoe’s Chocolate in Frederick…

Roasted almonds in dark chocolate in the shape of a tree...yes!

Also seen in Frederick….

Love, love, love this chandelier made from twigs and greens at En Masse

En Masse always has the most beautiful flowers, and some of the best ideas ever for gifts and decorating…like this simple pine cone…

Big pine...stick in pretty pot...instant style...

These wooden plates I saw at Great Stuff by Paul in Frederick,and yes, I did take one home, but the pic of multiples I think would be pretty framed! Great colors…

These are from China...I think...

When I saw this girl(the blonde one) as our place landed last year…I took the picture straight to my colorist, and said…I want MY hair to look like this…which meant: lowlights. I have no idea who she is…do you? But I love her hair color!

Excuse me while I invade your privacy...oh wait, there isn't any. Snap.

I was very jealous of this gorgeous candy apple red chalkboard my son gave the lovely Jennifer…I love chalkboards…so useful and decorative. He found this one on Etsy, of course from a vendor called Revived Vintage-here. The frame is resin and comes in all colors. Just makes such a statement.

THis will look amazing in their apartment...


Almost time for Xmas daughter admires the moss centerpiece she gave me!

Another Etsy purchase: pine gift cards...wish I had bought more!

Another Etsy purchase, tiny serpent earrings for the lovely Jennifer

You should check out Michelle Chang jewelry on Etsy…she makes some lovely things…and different. (come on, snakes on your ears are definitely different!) Finally…North Carolina!

What a terrific reinvention of a space...

Loved time in Ashville…the city took an old Woolworth’s store, and created a space calle Woolworth’s Walk  for lots of artists to display and sell their wares…and they kept the luncheon counter…brilliant.

Meatloaf at he soda fountain...and art!

Just one of many artist displays at Woolworth Walk

And this darling window display I saw at a knitting shop…the title of it was “Dr. Stitch and Professor Purl have one of their eclectic gatherings, and ask what people wish for the new year.

A clever and creative store window in Ashville....

The answers you see here are: “Monkeys who love me, and bananas of course“….and another wishes for  “Awesome monkeys who advocate for the rights of all!” Ashville is has such an amazing feel about it….loved my time there.

A REAL bacon, egg and delish does this look?

Tommy’s Coffee Shop was just down the road from where we stayed in Cashiers, NC(pronounced Cash’-ers, not like a grocery store cashier)…great food, and wireless!!

Love me some potbelly stove...and it was toasty in there!!


But it is Friday, my friends…and while I doubt I stumble into a place like the one above just outside of Highlands, NC…where people sit close to the potbelly stove and chat and have coffee(more’s the pity)…I hope to FINALLY get all the wrapping paper put away for next year….and remove the last remaining traces of Xmas from the house. Be nice, play  by the rules, and come home safe….’cause we miss you!





Hello 2012! Or do I address you as two-thousand twelve??
January 2, 2012

This little elf being put away today, says 20-12....

It seems to be a toss-up…same as this past year…is it twenty-twelve(which I prefer as shorter and more direct-3 syllables) or two-thousand and twelve(which has five syllables…and we didn’t say nineteen thousand, and ninety-nine-right?). New year, you’re 20-12 to me. End of subject.

Ok…my fave gifts this year. Ready? I told you  I wanted a new iPad case….one that had some kick to it…

From my son and the lovely Jennifer....

I love it’s wooliness, and bright tartan plaid….and it’s made by a small company called pijama-here...and they make cases for iPhones, tablets or Mac books from interesting materials that are sometimes discontinued or odd lots, and lined with a neoprene substance for protection. Love mine!

It looks so pretty with the candles lit....

My daughter did her shopping for me this year on Etsy…and she found a dealer called Fairy Lawn Forest-here…they make all things moss…which I love. Just mist it with water, or spray it in the sink and let it drain….and it’s happy.

Yep, it's a big old block of pink salt!!!

And I have toyed with the idea of getting a salt block slab for a while now…they are all the rage in cooking circles. This one came from a place that is all about salt called The Meadow-here….it’s a shop in the West Village in NYC. You can cook on it… on the grill or in the oven, or serve food on it like I did here with proscuitto and cheese and pears.

WHo knew salt could be so pretty???

I’m still figuring out how best to use my Himaylayan pink salt block…I’m afraid I’ll hurt it!

Made from oak leaves from the now poisoned Auburn Oak tree....

My friend Hannah(who grew up in Auburn, Alabama) sent me this beautiful piece from Auburn…and I just adore it. It’s an ornament made from the famous Toomer’s Corner Oak tree leaves that artist Michael Michaud had cast in wax…. and then artisan metals make a sculptural replica. I fully intend to wear it as necklace, because it’s too pretty not to. You can find Michael’s things at The Villager-here.

I have lots more to share with you about my week off…later this week. Happy New Year, everyone…I intend to make it a good one…and I hope you do too!