dining around charleston

Over the weekend the GS and I went to Charleston. And LOVED it. We got an air bnb right by the College of Charleston campus and rented bikes, so we were able to walk/bike everywhere. There are so many amazing restaurants in Charleston, so we hit as many as we possibly could.

Dinner Night 1:  FIG

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photo 1This is a really cool place because the menu changes daily based on what is fresh and local. We started with the razor clams appetizer. Neither of us had had razor clams before- they were poached in a vegetable broth and served with fennel, tangerine, cress, and some kind of spicy broth. They weren’t chewy or gummy at all the way clams can be.

Ethan went with the pork schnitzel, and I ordered the amberjack. I am still convinced that I was given chicken and not fish (amberjack is supposed to be fish). It had ZERO fishy taste and had the exact texture of chicken. So it’s either the least fishy fish I’ve ever eaten, or somebody screwed up. The middle was also pretty undercooked. Ethan ate that part, so for his sake I hope it was fish. His schnitzel was really good and we loved the arugula salad on top. The service there was awesome, too- our server made great recommendations for meals and local beer choices.

Breakfast Day 2: Poogan’s Porch

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photo 4This is a pretty classic southern breakfast spot, and the inside is really cute and charming. They brought us fresh biscuits with honey butter (the best biscuit I’ve ever had in my life) and then I ordered an omelette with fried oysters on top, and Ethan had the shrimp and grits with a blue crab broth and poached eggs. They were both excellent, but portions were huge and I’m not a big breakfast person. I typically just have cereal, so we had a lot of leftovers. But they had a great menu and the service was excellent- our waitress gave us a bunch of recommendations for local bars and restaurants to check out.

Lunch Day 2: Fuel

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photo 5Fuel is an old gas station that has been converted into a bar/restaurant. Such a cool vibe in there! They had a ton of TVs so we got to catch some Sunday football, and they had a good draught list. We started with the ho cakes (corn cakes) and then I had the black bean burger and the GS had the pulled pork tacos. Both were really flavorful- the burger wasn’t my favorite texture for a bean burger (I like them thin and crispy and this was a little mushy) but it tasted awesome. The service here wasn’t that great but it could have just been our server, because the place was packed. They were also featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives once!

Dinner Night 2: Edmund’s Oast

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photo 1Don’t let the crappy lighting in these pictures fool you- this place is AWESOME. It’s definitely off the beaten path (the only place we had to cab to) but it is so so worth it especially if you’re into beer like we are. They have over 45 beers on tap, with a ton of local and seasonal choices. They specialize in charcuterie, and then they have several small plates that are perfect for sharing. We went with the dried charcuterie platter, the corn bread (amazing), and the acorn squash with serrano ham, parmesan, and fried sage. Oh, and that chocolate loveliness was the fudge brownie dessert. The GS insisted they weren’t brownies, because it was pure fudginess. This might have been my favorite stop.

We went casual for breakfast and just grabbed iced coffee and a muffin at Black Tap, which was within walking distance from where we stayed. They have a bunch of cool specialty coffees, but I wasn’t blown away by the regular cold brew. We also had an afternoon iced coffee that day at Bakehouse Charleston, which was pretty good. photo 4Lunch Day 3: Husk

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photo 3This is probably one of the most buzzed about restaurants in Charleston, and with good reason. My friend Stephanie lived there for a year and recommended that we go there for lunch instead of dinner, so we did! This is another place that changes their menu daily, and has a different menu for lunch and for dinner. We started with the crispy pig ear lettuce wraps, which were buffalo wing inspired. AMAZING. Ethan said it was his favorite thing he ate the whole time. Who knew pig ears were so delicious? Then he stuck with the pig theme and ordered pork belly with brussels sprouts, while I had the quail with butternut squash, spinach, steel cut oats, and brown butter jus. Both were unbelievable. We weren’t overly impressed with the service- we waited almost an hour even though there were 5-6 tables open that we could see. It seems like the kind of place where they want you to wait so that you know it’s prestigious, even if it’s 1:00 on a Monday. Our server was also not great, but again the food made it all worth it.

We had a late flight out and killed time beforehand at Holy City Brewing, where they have about 20 beers on tap and do beer flights and pints.

photo 4We had SO much fun and ate such amazing food that I can’t wait to go back. There are so many other places that looked awesome that we didn’t even have time for, so I’m sure we could do another weekend trip and eat at all new restaurants. And then I would bore you with more pictures…

The GS is responsible for most of the pictures because his iPhone camera is much more sophisticated than mine. We make a pretty good eating and picture taking team.

Not so great at our selfie game, though. This one looks like I did a very poor job selecting and applying the right foundation color. Spoiler alert: I don’t wear makeup, period.

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And in this one Ethan looks like he has a chin strap which made me die laughing. Just a regular beard.

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Go to Charleston. The End.

lightened-up chicken divan

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Last weekend I hosted a wine tour bachelorette party at camp for my friend Sarah. I’ve been to the wineries a gajillion times (mostly for the wine slushies- let’s be real) but it was fun to do it with a big group, especially with people who have never been before!

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I also made four pounds of chicken riggies so that’s always a sign of a good time.

On Monday the GS and I went on a virtual date to see Gone Girl. This means we went to see the movie at the same time, him in Baltimore and me in Rochester, and then discussed it afterward. I went and got Wegmans sushi (brown rice, spicy tuna, always) after work and then went to see the movie which I LOVED. I won’t spoil anything in case you haven’t seen it, but the GS loved it too and he didn’t even read the book so I highly recommend it to everyone.

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Sometimes I get in the mood for rice (weird?) and I think the sushi sparked it again. I’ve told you before how much I adore casseroles, and I decided to try making a healthier version of one of my childhood favorites.

Lightened-Up Chicken Divan

2 cups brown rice

2 cups chicken stock

1 large chicken breast

1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli

1-2 leeks (or use regular onion)

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the brown rice and lower heat to a simmer.

Saute the leek, garlic, and broccoli in a little bit of butter or oil for about 5 minutes. Once softened, add to the stock and rice. Continue stirring occasionally until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through.

As the rice is cooking, saute the chicken in a little bit of canola oil. I seasoned mine simply- just salt and pepper. Brown on both sides and chop into small pieces.

Stir the chicken in with the rice and veggies. Pour into a small casserole dish and top with cheese. Place in the oven at 350 or under the broiler until the cheese melts. Serve!

photo 2We’ve eliminated about half of the cheese, and cooking the rice in chicken stock takes the place of using cream of chicken soup like the original recipe calls for.  I also liked adding the leek and garlic for a little extra flavor. Plus it all came together in less than 20 minutes!

I think the GS wishes our virtual dates could somehow include me cooking for him.

asparagus soup with sharp cheddar grilled cheese

A few weeks ago I had a minor panic attack that someone was going to climb up the fire escape of my building and into my bedroom.

When I relayed this to my friend, he said “No one would break into your building because they would get lost trying to get out.” Perks of living in a former Catholic school that looks like a castle.

However, when I realized that the window directly behind my bed didn’t lock, the panic re-emerged. I emailed my property management company and the response was “Did you try closing the window before locking it?”

I was infuriated. That’s like asking someone “Did you try turning on your car before driving it?”

What she SHOULD have said was “Your window is ancient, and the top part may have creeped open without you noticing which is why the window won’t lock. And maybe it’s been that way since you moved in.”

Lucky for me, I discovered this on my own when I got home from Baltimore on Sunday night to find approximately 100 flies hovering around that little crack in the top of the window. They were idiot flies, apparently, because I killed the vast majority in one disgusting swipe of a wad of paper towels. I’ve still had to smack down several with magazines over the past two days. It’s a quite literal game of survival of the fittest. They’re losing.

I’m guessing they all came inside this weekend not because they knew I was partying hard in Baltimore, but because we finally have real fall weather and they aren’t equipped with their Northface jackets and Ugg boots. Too bad for you. Die flies.

In the midst of the massacre, I decided to make the first SOUP of this perfectly chilly fall season. And what goes better with soup than grilled cheese?

Asparagus Soup

2 lbs asparagus, woody ends removed

1 large leek, chopped and cleaned

1 large shallot, diced

2 tbs butter

3 tbs olive oil

2-3 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper

Toss the asparagus in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 425 for approximately 15 minutes. We don’t want them charred- just toasty but still green.

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While the asparagus is in the oven, saute the leek and shallot in the butter with a sprinkle of salt over low heat. Again, we don’t want to brown them- just a little soft.

Remove the asparagus from the oven and give it a rough chop. Add it to the pot with the leek and shallot. Add your chicken stock, and bring to a boil. I used about half a box of stock because I wanted a thicker soup, but you can add more if you want it really drinkable.

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Once the soup has been boiling for about 5 minutes, use an immersion blender (I wish) or transfer it to a Vitamix (I wish) or your food processor (that’s me!) to blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. I almost added heavy cream here, too, but it tasted delicious already.

If you’re serving this to guests or you’re a wannabe rockstar food blogger, leave out a few asparagus tips to add as a garnish.

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I won’t insult you by giving directions for how to make grilled cheese- but I highly recommend a nice crusty bread and some sharp cheddar.

photo 4Just killed two more flies. Ick.

eggplant parm salad

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The barn wedding was PERFECT.

I made 200 cookies, 100 grilled cheese sandwiches, and 1 dress. (Mine, not the wedding dress.)

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But my contribution was nothing compared to everything that my Aunt Pat and my mom did to pull this thing off. It was beautiful.

Who doesn’t love a canoe filled with beverages?

photo 2Friday night I spent about 4 hours baking all of the cookies. Kevin asked me more than once for handfuls of cookie dough and his requests were not well received.

Saturday morning was spent assembling all the grilled cheese sandwiches and creating our chalkboard menu. We did the grilled cheese bar as a late night snack and people LOVED it. We were cranking out 8 at a time using a panini maker and the largest George Foreman grill I’ve ever seen. The GS was labeling take out containers with the flavors and passing them out, and I was wielding a 5 lb tub of Country Crock and a butter knife. We made a good team. You can start booking us now to work your next big event.

After a beautiful weekend I was looking for a quick and healthy dinner to get me through this week.

Eggplant Parm Salad

makes 3 generous salads

1 small eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese

1-2 beefsteak tomatoes, thinly sliced

mixed greens, or lettuce of your choice

breadcrumbs

2 eggs

parmesan cheese

olive oil & balsamic vinegar

Dredge the eggplant in egg, then mixture of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. I use whole wheat seasoned breadcrumbs. Fry them in canola or olive oil until golden brown on both sides.

This is pretty easy. Arrange your eggplant, cheese, and tomato slices over the greens. Top with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

photo 4This would be a pretty glamorous salad to serve at your next dinner party. Or wedding. Like I said, we’re booking up fast.

pasta with brussels and kale

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Looks like I took a little hiatus from blogging. My apologies.

Not a hiatus from cooking, though! Last night I made about 15 pounds of cookie dough in preparation for wedding weekend! I did it all with a hand mixer and my back hurt afterwards. I neeeeeed a KitchenAid.

Two weeks ago I made a double batch of pasta bolognese for my parents’ 29th wedding anniversary, and then ate the leftovers for the next four days. We also had my favorite chocolate chip cookies for dessert. While in Baltimore this past weekend, I made the GS a big pan of buffalo chicken mac & cheese so that he can have home cooked meals all week. Apparently the trend in my life is pasta for days.

PS while I was in Baltimore we went to an Orioles game and outside the stadium they were selling hot dogs with peanut butter, jelly, and cream cheese. As a PB&J lover and expert, I find this blasphemous.

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This pasta dish is not earth-shattering, but it was the product of me going to Wegmans while extremely hungry-bordering-on-hangry. And it hit the spot.

I had kale and onions at home in the fridge, and reallyyy wanted to make soup but didn’t have the patience. Somehow that resulted in my grocery cart containing milk, yogurt, and brussels sprouts.

I just did a quick saute of the onions, kale, and brussels sprouts with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Tossed it with al dente pasta and it’s a meal! You could obviously sub any veggies you like. As long as you cook them down long enough, they end up creating a sort of sauce for the pasta.

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Now that it’s officially fall I’m hoping for a burst of creativity and fun foods. Probably a lot of soup. It will be exciting.

In addition to all the cookies for the wedding- the GS and I will be manning a late night grilled cheese station! We’re thinking of calling it “Grilled ChEEse”- are you impressed? I’ll be sure to share the goodness that emerges from that project.

 

turkey meatloaf

I recently put in my two weeks’ notice at work and have already handed off weekly duties and wrapped up all my projects. Therefore, my days have been filled with thoroughly reading all my favorite fashion, food, and beauty blogs, online shopping browsing, long lunches, and g-chatting. Tough life.

Food and recipe blogs feel the most productive because at least I can discover new recipes and then execute. I think Fall is almost here in New York and thank GOD. That humid spell we had last week was god awful and I’m ready to arrive at work NOT drenched in sweat. I’m equally excited about boots, denim and sweaters as I am about fall-friendly recipes. I’m waiting until October to break out my crock-pot, so I thought that meatloaf was a good gateway-to-fall food.

Buying ground meat is always a grab bag – you usually just buy it as stock and then decide what to do with it later. Will it be meatballs, burgers, chili, a casserole, tacos or meatloaf? So many choices. Ground turkey is particularly challenging since it can be so bland if not seasoned adequately. I’m happy to report that this Turkey Meatloaf recipe defies these ground turkey stereotypes – it is moist, flavorful, and great for leftovers.

Turkey Meatloaf

Adapted from Fed&Fit

The loaf:

1 lb ground turkey

1 small yellow onion, chopped

½ bell pepper, chopped

½ cup fresh tomato, chopped

¼ cup almond meal/whole wheat flour

1 egg

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt/pepper/any other seasonings of choice to taste

The sauce:

½ jar of marinara sauce (I LOVE Rao’s Homemade Marinara)

½ can tomato paste

3 tbsp grainy/spicy mustard (Dijon works well)

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375. Combine all loaf ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix (definitely use your hands!) until well combined. Add mixture into 1 large loaf pan or form a loaf on a turkey roasting pan. Bake in oven for 25 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix all ingredients for the sauce together. After the loaf is done baking, remove from oven and turn the heat up to 450. “Ice” the loaf with the tomato sauce mixture, covering all sides (or just the top if you’re using a loaf pan). Once the oven has reached 450, place the loaf back in the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. When finished, the tomato sauce should form a thick “icing” on top of the loaf.

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I’m still enjoying my loaf from this weekend, but I’m set on turning my next purchase of ground meat into Erin’s Buffalo Chicken Chili.

sriracha honey baked chicken wings

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I just spent my 3rd weekend in Rochester. This was weird given that I’ve lived here since June. I’ve been escaping to camp, or Baltimore, or home all summer.

I subbed a Body Pump class on Saturday- that’s right, finally found a job teaching! I legitimately stalked the group fitness director at a gym like 20 minutes from my apartment, going so far as to request that they put a note with my phone number on her locker. As my mom would say, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil!” It was a success. They gave me (wait for it) the class at 5:30 AM on Mondays. I bet all the other instructors were fighting over that time slot.

It’s not so bad though. I think it sets a good tone for the week in terms of getting up to work out, because usually Monday mornings are the hardest to get out of bed. But since I HAVE to be there, I get there. I’m really looking forward to the winter months when I’ll have to wake up at about 4 AM to shovel the snow off my car and crack the ice on the wind shield and navigate the snowy roads in order to get there on time.

Didn’t you hear? Apparently I didn’t move to Western NY, I moved to Greenland.

Weekend highlights also included visiting the Rochester Public Market, which is amazing. I didn’t buy anything because I was pretty overwhelmed. Just took in the sights- I’ll be back for sure. I finished another t-shirt quilt for a Baltimore friend on Saturday night. Then I made these chicken wings on Sunday so that I could go over to a friend’s house (read: my only friend in Rochester) for football. I showed up in a Ray Lewis jersey to hang out with a bunch of Bills fans, so I figured chicken wings were a good way to get in the door.

Sriracha Honey Baked Chicken Wings

4-5 lbs chicken wings or drumsticks

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup sriracha- your own, or from a bottle

2 tbs honey

juice and zest of 1-2 limes

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1-2 scallions, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt it aggressively. Add the chicken in, and allow it to return to a boil, then cook for 2-3 minutes.

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Place the wings on a wire rack to drip dry, then pat them dry with a paper towel. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn them over, and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes. The skin should be pretty crispy.

While they’re baking, combine the mayo, sriracha, honey, lime juice, salt and pepper.

Toss the wings in the sauce. At this point, you can refrigerate the wings if you’re making them ahead of time. Otherwise, place the wings back on the wire rack (with a baking sheet underneath to catch any sauce drips) and stick them back in the 450 degree oven for another 5 minutes or so to caramelize the sauce.

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Top with chopped scallions, and serve! You can use this cooking method for any wing sauce you like. My drumsticks were pretty hefty- you may be able to lessen the cooking time a little if you’re using wings because they have less meat on them.

photo 3This is a pretty high maintenance way to make chicken wings. Your other option is to skip all the boiling, baking, and basting- and just fry them.

But I put the leftover meat into a salad, so I guess I’m kind of a high maintenance chicken wing eater.