Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

by EP


Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Hanukkah is over and Christmas is upon us, but before I head up to Plympton, Mass. to celebrate Christmas with Xani and Dave and Dave's family (and eat, and drink, and eat), I wanted to share two Hanukkah meals that I'll be sure to remember for years to come:

DGS Delicatessen: During Hanukkah, I was able to visit a new restaurant in Dupont Circle called DGS Delicatessen.  I heard about its recent opening via Twitter (of course) and after one look at the menu, I knew I had to go.  The menu featured old-school Jewish goodies like kasha varniskas, chopped liver, flanken, kreplach, and knishes, but taken to a unique and/or classed-up level.  For example, the knishes are made with lamb merguez and lentils; the kreplach are filled with bacalao (salt cod); and the chopped liver is topped with gribenes (fried chicken skin leftover from rendering chicken fat - schmaltz!*)).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sea Creatures Beware: It's Dad's Birthday

by EP

Photobucket

A few weekends ago, per our family tradition, we trekked out to Blackacre to celebrate BCD Dad's birthday.  Readers may recall that when it comes to celebrating Dad (either through his birthday or for Father's Day), we always feature his favorite crustacean: LOBSTER!

This year we decided to do things a little differently.  Instead of slaughtering giant 4-lb lobsters, we incorporated lobster into a sushi/sashimi course (which also featured obscure seafood ordered from Catalina Offshore Products) and a pasta course.  Here was the menu:

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Strip Club or Restaurant? Restaurant, thankfully.

by EP

My new apartment in Silver Spring has a balcony that faces east.  I can watch the sun rise, I can watch traffic on Georgia Avenue and the metro ride past, and in the immediate foreground, there are two buildings: a Vietnamese restaurant and a building with a pink heart-shaped sign that says "Jackie's."  When my parents came to visit two days after I moved in, my Dad asked me what Jackie's was and since I had no clue, I gave him my best guess: strip club.  The outside of the building is dark and decrepit, the sign is sickly sweet with a green background, pink puffy writing, and multi-colored hearts, and it's named Jackie's - what more evidence need I present?

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App


A few days later, my friend Jamie mentioned a place called Jackie's in Silver Spring as a great restaurant not to miss.  Hmmm, could this be the strip club across the street?  Apparently, yes.  Last weekend, my friend Marissa and I checked out the bar next door to Jackie's (and owned by the same people) called Sidebar.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Chocolate-y Guest Post!


by the fabulous Stef AKA Motherocker AKA our cousin!

Like a bolt from the blue I got the message in my inbox from component X of team BCD. Xani had tix to Gourmet Walks ULTRA Chocolate tour in downtown San Francisco, but had a change of plans at the last minute. Would I be able to step in and fill her shoes? Three hours of walking around downtown SF that started with a martini and ended with a wine tasting and was filled with all manner of high-quality chocolate tasting in betwixt. It was a tall order, but I was up for the challenge.

 

Our journey began at the luxurious Le Meridien hotel. Our guide, Ahmet Aydogan (weekday photographer, weekend chocolate expert) graciously found my companion and I wandering the lobby and ushered us to the meeting spot. We were soon joined by the rest of our fellow tourists. As we waited (and waited, and waited) for our first tasting of the day, Ahmet gave us the run-down on how the afternoon would progress and then launched into an interesting and informative chocolate history lesson. I won a chocolate for guessing that the Mayans were the first to discover chocolate’s aphrodisiac qualities! But I had no idea that chocolate beverage houses existed before coffee or tea establishments in Europe, although they served a very different beverage than what we are now accustomed to. Apparently there was a thick layer of grease on top as they hadn’t figured out how to separate out the cocoa butter. But once that happened it was only short distance to the invention of chocolate as a confection. We learned that chocolate at its’ most basic consists of only 3 ingredients, chocolate, cocoa butter and sugar. Varying the amounts of the ingredients is what gives each product it’s unique flavor. Poor Ahmet was nearly done with his talk by the time the hotel bar finally had our drinks ready- chocolate martinis! I have to say, this was the only underwhelming part of the tour for me. It was a pretty standard chocolate martini. I don’t know if it was the environment or the name of the tour but I was expecting something with a little more wow factor. At least jazz up your presentation by lining the rim Le Meridien!

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Warm Welcome to DC at Graffiato

by EP

Last week, to welcome me to DC, my wonderful friends Mark and Craig (you might remember them from the amazing trip to Chicago last winter to celebrate Craig's birthday) took me out to dinner.  We went to a restaurant I'd be hearing about through the DC bloggers for years it seems: Graffiato.  Graffiato is owned by Mike Isabella, of Top Chef fame, and I had heard absolutely wonderful things about it and was pumped to finally go for myself.

I met Mark, Craig, and Craig's aunt Jeannie in the bar area while we waited for a table.  Of course, we enjoyed some bubbly while we waited - what kind of fool waits without a cocktail in hand?!  After a brief wait, the hostess lead us to our table (and even took our drinks for us so we wouldn't spill as we walked up the kinda-steep staircase). 

Our waiter was adorable and wonderful, and he had been Mark and Craig's waiter before in the past -- he even remembered that Mark had a nut allergy!  He was friendly enough to the ladies at the table, but truth be told his energy and enthusiasm were geared towards the gentlemen.  This is when we realized he was very likely gay and was totally flirting with Mark.  No matter, we used it to our advantage and had a great time and great service.

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Mark and Jeannie, ready to eat!


Friday, September 14, 2012

BCD News Flash and The Day the Mussel Won

by EP

Big news on the BCD home front: I moved!  Not too far away, but away from Baltimore, nonetheless.  I now live in sunny Silver Spring, Maryland, right on the border with DC.  So, this blog will continue in full-force (meaning we'll continue our haphazard, slacker-esque format of blogging when we feel like it), but I'll be writing about my adventures dining in DC restaurants.  Have no fear, the cooking will continue in both of our kitchens (in fact, I am making a no-knead bread right now!), and we'll be gearing up for some parties soon now that it's fall, our favorite season to entertain.  I really hope we can make some apple cider donuts this year...it's my dream!

New kitchen!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

RA! RA! RA!

by Xani

No, I'm not cheering for the Orioles.  Well, I am, like everyone else in Baltimore, but that's not what the title references.  Instead I'm referring to RA Sushi Bar and Restaurant, where I was invited to a Media Dinner for the opportunity to sample their new menu items.  RA changed up their menu earlier this summer to include some new, fresh items, and because EP is so busy preparing for her big move (look out Silver Spring!), I brought Dave along with me to the tasting (lucky guy).


RA, as always, has a rockin' vibe, with red globe fixtures providing mood light and pounding music (a little too loud for this old lady, but the rest of the crowd seemed to be enjoying it).  The place was pretty packed at 7pm on a Wednesday, with lots of people taking advantage of the great happy hour specials.

Dave and I were seated and were lucky enough to be taken care of by Scott, the General Manager, who was super-attentive and helpfully explained each course to us.  And there were a lot!  But first, cocktails.
Ginger Blossom
Coconut mojito
I had the Ginger Blossom (Tito's Vodka, fresh muddled strawberry, pink grapefruit, fresh lime and ginger beer), and Dave had the Coconut Mojito (light rum muddled with fresh lime, sugar, soda and fresh mint).  The Ginger Blossom was tasty but just a tad too sweet for me, but I'm a sucker for anything coconut and I thought the coconut mojito was excellent.  Dave must have liked it too; by the time I went to steal a second taste, it was gone!
Dip not pictured

The first course of food came out right away, and consisted of Edamame Dip, Bonfire Shrimp, and Garlic Edamame.  The dip, served with crispy wonton chips (who doesn't love a fried wonton??) was very creamy and had spinach in it-- sortof an Asian take on spinach and artichoke dip?  Very tasty.  The garlic edamame, which were traditional steamed edamame in the shell, followed by a saute in garlicky butter and Asian seasoning, were also good but messy to eat!  Make sure you only order these if you don't mind licking your fingers in front of your dining companions.  The bonfire shrimp were lightly breaded and fried and coated in a chili sauce that had just the right amount of heat.  I also loved the shisito pepper that came with this dish- great flavor.

Before we could say "we're losing the light!" the next course came out: a sampling of their new crispy Asian tacos.
Last picture before the sun went down
These were awesome!  First of all, I was impressed with the creativity of the taco shell itself, which is made from flash-fried rice paper.  It was so light and crispy (and not greasy at all), and a perfect vehicle for the yummy fillings.  My favorite filling was the chicken, which was a chilled shredded sake steamed chicken with asian vegetables-- the chicken was very moist with incredible flavor, plus that crispy crunch from the shell!  Delicious.  We also sampled the "RA"ckin shrimp taco (very good) and the Spicy salmon taco, which included guacamole so of course it was great!  The spicy salmon taco was the only raw fish served on the tasting menu, but Scott told us there is also a spicy tuna taco on the menu, not to mention their entire sushi menu.  So RA definitely does raw, if that's what you are into (which, of course, I am.)

OK, at this point, I admit, I was getting full (those tacos were BIG).  But, a food blogger has certain duties, so we pressed onto the next course.  Small bowls of Drunken Black Mussels were brought out, along with spoons so we could drink the broth.  The mussels were excellent but man were we happy about those spoons!  The broth was to die for.  The mussels are cooked in garlic, seasoned soy sauce, and butter.  I could have drunk a vat of the stuff. Yum!

The final plate contained samples of three new dishes: Salmon with green beans, Black Pepper Teryaki Chicken Wings, and Chili Ponzu Asian Chicken Wings.  While everything was tasty, this plate had the least "wow factor" as far as uniqueness.  That said, the salmon, served with still-crunchy green beans, was well-cooked, not dry at all, with an excellent spicy yuzu sauce.  The wings were nice and meaty and both had great flavor.  I especially liked the Black Pepper wings, which had huge black pepper flavor but weren't too spicy- magic!

Dessert- oy, I could barely eat another bite but when they brought out a teeny portion of mochi (ice cream wrapped in sweet rice cake) I couldn't resist.  A nice sweet bite to end a delicious evening.

Thanks so much to RA for the great meal-- rice paper taco shells, now why didn't I think of that??

Go O's,

X

Friday, August 31, 2012

Still Summer...

by Xani

It's still summer.  But not for long.  Labor Day weekend is upon us and soon fall will descend.  How soon?  No way to know.  It could be hot and humid into October, the fickle East Coast weather gods messing with our minds as we continue to sweat, longing for scarves, boots, and hot spiked apple cider.  But something tells me autumn is on its way.  Like all other food bloggers, and possibly all other humans, I have mixed feelings about this.  Summer is always gone too quickly, but fall feels like new beginning: new routines, new clothes, new ingredients stocking my fridge and pantry.

So while it's still summer, here's one more post celebrating all those seasonal treats that are gone all too soon.

What could be more summery than a trip to the beach?  As kids EP and I spent a week or two every summer at Sea Colony in Bethany Beach, Delaware.   This year we made our triumphant return!  Good eating was a priority.  My packing list included: a cast iron skillet, meat thermometer, microplane grater and a box of kosher salt, among other "necessities."  We indulged in the usual beach treats: Fichers popcorn, fries, funnel cakes, and, of course, donuts, but we also pushed the kitchen in the rental house to the max and ate plenty of great home cooking.  This panzenella with corn was so nice we made it twice:
Just perfect tomatoes and corn, a little red onion, cucumbers, classic vinaigrette and of course chunks of crusty bread fried up in olive oil.

Once we returned from the beach, sunburned and swearing never to eat fries again, I got back into my kitchen with a little more equipment at my disposal (even I had to draw the line at bringing the VitaMix to the shore).  I'm all about summer soups in the VitaMix.  Hot or cold, it purees even tough veggies into silky smoothness, no straining required.  Just this week I employed my favorite "roast everything" technique and spread sheet trays with chopped tomato, garlic, eggplant and peppers, roasted til nicely browned, then whizzed it all together with water and a bit of sherry vinegar to make a creamy, but dairy free, veggie soup that was excellent hot or cold.  But I didn't put all the roasted veggies in the soup, I kept a bowl in the fridge to throw into scrambles or omelettes like this one:


Oh, there's a little chorizo in there, too.  That's leftover from this dinner:

That's corn farrotto.  I was tipped off to this recipe by Kit from Mango and Ginger.  I'm not really doing the recipe thing that much these days-- trying to "wing it" and improvise more, but she raved about this one and it caught my eye because, in my house, we have a disagreement about risotto.  I love risotto, and Dave claims not to.  I find it hard to believe him, because what's not to love?  He says its a texture thing, so I thought I'd try this swap and see how that went over.  The farro (which I had never worked with before) kept a pleasant chew even after all that cooking, almost like steel cut oats.  I added some crisped slices of chorizo which went fabulously with the sweet corn.  Dave, always diplomatic, cleaned his plate, but I'm still not sure he's convinced....

I'm bouncing from soup to corn and back again with another corn soup.  I posted one earlier this summer and here's another version, this time with spice from chipotles and creaminess from dairy.  I sauteed onions and canned chipotle in adobo in butter, but that was all the cooking required.  Into the blender it went, along with raw corn, some corn puree leftover from making the farrotto (I'm always "repurposing"), water, milk, and some buttermilk (as recommended by a comment on the recipe).  Flipped it on high, and five (noisy) minutes later steam was rising from the blender carafe.  The soup was warm, spicy and sweet, but with a hint of bitterness that made me wrinkle my nose.  Maybe no buttermilk next time.  Still, dinner was satisfying, rounded out with DIY B. A. (avocado) L.T.s and juicy watermelon for dessert.

Love these green heirloom tomatoes
Finally, something I baked just this morning, on a whim.  Oh the joys of working from home while my office is overtaken by the Grand Prix race!  I'm reading  A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table which I stole borrowed from my sister at the beach.  I've been reading Molly's blog, Orangette, for years now, and love it, but the recipes in the book are haunting me.  In a good way.  I can't stop thinking about them and want to make them all RIGHT NOW.  I'm trying to pace myself, but I've already made the slow-roasted tomatoes (can't wait to serve them with pasta, or in messy goat cheese sandwiches, per her recommendations) and when I woke up this morning craving something sweet, it made perfect sense to fire up the oven and start mixing up the batter for her husband's favorite Custard Cornbread.  Apparently the ideal vehicle for maple syrup, I had it in the oven before 8am.  Like Molly, my Dad and boyfriend are also classic Maple Syrup Snobs, so of course we have a big jug of the premium stuff on hand at all times.

An hour later I had answered emails, survived a work call with Eddie barking all the while (do ALL dogs bark incessantly while their owners are on the phone?  Any suggested fixes??), and this:
OMG.  Just as good as you'd expect from a recipe where you pour a cup of heavy cream into the already prepared batter.  The cream does indeed turn custard-y, like a smooth ricotta embedded in the slightly crunchy, slightly sweet bread.  It drank up the syrup and I ate every crumb.

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of summer, however long it may last!

X

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

San Francisco Treats, Day 1: Tacos, Ice Cream, & Fancy Booze

by EP

In keeping with our slacker theme, here I am, writing about a trip I went on over a month ago.  But, the fact that I still remember almost every bite with fondness just goes to show you what a great, tasty trip it was!

Last month I visited one of my best friends, Rachel (who readers might remember from such adventures as Paris and my many visits to DC), who recently moved back to her home town of San Francisco.  We had a packed visit and some truly outstanding meals.  I can't thank her enough for taking me to such wonderful places!

Let's get to the highlight reel:

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
Guacamole!  Almost as good as mine :)

Day 1 gets its own post because we had so many yummy treats packed into one day.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer’s Bounty

by Xani

I feel terrible, you guys.  How have I not blogged all summer?  I’ve been making sooo much good stuff.  You don’t even know (of course you don’t, I haven’t been telling you!).  If you follow me on FB/Twitter/Instagram you been getting a few sneak peeks, but the truth is with summer’s bounty at my fingertips, I have been making some KICK ASS dinners, drinks, desserts-- you name it.

I figure the easiest way to share as much of this as possible is a good, old-fashioned food porn roundup.  Even when I’m not blogging regularly, I always MEAN to blog, so I’m always taking pictures, then getting too busy/lazy to post them.  But, I’ve still got them, and they’re coming at you... NOW:



Tiny carrots I grew myself! Here they are as an appetizer along with bread fried in bacon fat:

And how did I grow carrots you ask?  In my amazing Salad Table, which has also provided us with lots of radishes and bunches and bunches of delicious salad greens.  Soon, cucumbers!

Before summer got too hot we enjoyed some artichokes al fresco (with my favorite dipping sauce- just good mayo mixed with lemon juice, so yummy!)

Also during early summer I got my hands on some rhubarb and made some Rhubarb-Rosewater Syrup to make a sweet and slightly tart mocktail (just mix with sparkling water to make this refreshing pink drink)

And THEN I made these rhubarb streusel muffins that were To Die For:
coworkers raved!
Keeping things a little sweet, a little tart, BEHOLD this cool cocktail EP made for our little 4th of July get-together:
Grapefruit juice, gin, and basil-sugar.  The mason jar makes it.
As summer heats up we're getting squarely into the kind of produce that just SCREAMS summer.  Like corn:
Chilled corn soup with lime, cilantro and hot sauce
Zucchini:
Zucchini Feta Fritters
Berries:

picked them ourselves!
Some of which I turned into this fabulous Double Berry Buttermilk Bundt

I love a cake that can also be breakfast

Finally, PEACHES.  We picked over 40 pounds of white and yellow peaches (AND all the berries, at the wonderful Larriland Farms) and so far made hardly a dent in them despite making peach jalapeno jam, and peach gazpacho.  I'll make a peach pie/cobbler before I process and freeze the rest.  Here is Eddie patiently waiting for them to ripen...

So there's a little taste of BCD summer so far! I'm really going to try to post more often and in a more timely fashion. How would you all feel about quickie posts with just a picture and description? Because with all the cooking I have planned for the rest of summer (peach and otherwise), that could be a lot of posts!


Happy summer,


X

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Knish Me, I'm Jewish

by EP & X

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Last weekend we were invited to attend a special event all about knishes.  Yes, this is the glamorous life of food bloggers.  The event was called "Knish History 101: Life and Times of the Knish" and it was held at the Jewish Museum of Maryland as part of their "Chosen Food" exhibit.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Salad Days

by Xani


I never thought I would do two posts on salad. Thought I said it all in the first one. After all, its just salad. We talked dressing, we talked greens, what's left??   Well, another year of salads has allowed me to discover a few more salad secrets. The biggest one is an adjustment in technique for my life-changing vinaigrette master recipe. Want to know how to make dressing one time but have a different flavor every night of the week?  Read on....

Monday, May 14, 2012

Black Coffee and a Facebook

by EP

This past weekend we had an absolutely amazing Mother's Day meal to celebrate our wonderful Mom - and we'll be blogging about that soon!  But, importantly, Mother's Day also is our blog-iversary - we started the little dog and pony show that is BCD by blogging about our Mother's Day feast of 2007.  Yes - May 14, 2007, 5 years ago today.  Can you believe it?!  We certainly can't.

See how far our photography and writing style have come by reliving our first post.

We want to thank all of our friends, family, and other hungry folks trolling the Internet for reading - it means so much to us!  In celebration (?), we have started a Facebook fan page, so please LIKE us on FB and show your true food blog allegiance: http://www.facebook.com/BlackCoffeeAndADonut

Our original logo!  Coming to swag near you...

We've got a few good posts in the queue for you, and maybe, just maybe, some sort of anniversary celebration with GIVE-AWAYS!  Said give-aways may or may not be edible...let's just say we're still in the development phase.

Thank you again, and happy eating to all!

EP & X

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Just passing through? A guide to Baltimore eats.

by EP & X


Just passing through Baltimore and looking for something good to eat?  Or a local looking for some new places to try? We've put together this list of great Baltimore eats, some of which you may have heard of or seen on Food Network/Cooking Channel, and some of which you may have no clue about.  That's where we come in: let us be your guide to Charm City noms!


Below is a hodge-podge list of places to check out, ranging from low-brow street food to high-end local and sustainable cuisine.  The list is by no means exclusive and we should probably plan to do a Part II for all the great places we're forgetting.  But until then, check out this list, grab a fork, and get ready to dive into Baltimore's finest eats:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Adventures in Metuchen, NJ: Bodega Blondies


by EP & X


Pimm's Cups and Lauren welcome us to Metuchen, NJ!
Clearly, we are thrilled.
Long-time readers may recall that the BCD girls love them some NYC.  Until recently, we used to go every couple of months, check out the hot new places to eat, see friends and family, drink fancy cocktails, crash in a fancy hotel (or on our best buddy Lauren's Brooklyn couch - either option was tres glamorous), and have a whirlwind Manhattan experience.

Our last visit was in Summer '11 and it was high time for us to visit the NY metropolitan area.  But, instead of actually going into NYC, we instead hung out in Metuchen, NJ.  On purpose.  Yes, folks, we wanted a lounge-y vacation and while NYC is lovely for so many reasons, lounging is not really its forte.  Thusly and forthwith, we went to New Jersey to hang out with Lauren, catch up on all the news (aka gossip), eat pizza and banana cream pie, and watch a heck of a lot of movies.  Oh, and BAKE!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The SHOW Must Go On...

by  EP

BIG NEWS!  We have been invited to participate in a live variety show called SHOW Baltimore!  The event is this Wednesday, March 7 from 7-9 at the Wind Up Space in Baltimore (North Ave area, right across the way from Joe Squared Pizza....mmm).  There is no charge to get in, but if you want to come, save your lunch money for booze - there's a bar and we encourage you to use it.

Here's the snazzy poster for the event:


And here's a blog post by one of the producers, which gives more info on the other acts: http://mobtownblues.com/2012/02/29/show-2-coming-up-on-march-7/

We are so honored and excited for the opportunity to talk a little bit about our blog (which is almost 5 YEARS old if you can believe it) and give some entertaining tips. 

There may or may not be sweet treats for audience members...I can reveal nothing.

Cheers to a great SHOW,
EP & X

Monday, March 5, 2012

Is that a baby in my cake or are you just happy to see me?

by EP & X

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App


Xani and I have been cooking for a long time.  Almost our entire lives.  And we feel pretty confident in our ability to pick a great recipe (or make one up), execute it, navigate around any snafus, and serve it with a smile.  In recent years, we have delved more deeply into the more complicated but arguably more glamorous cousin of cooking: baking.  Xani has been baking breads a lot recently (remember her birthday brunch??), but I am more of a cookie girl.  Give me a party and I'll give you some cookies/bars/treats of some sort.  Maybe this is the only reason I get invited to parties...?

As you might recall, a few weeks ago it was Mardi Gras down in New Orleans, for which we have a great affinity.  I told Xani I wanted to make a King Cake, the traditional sweet danish-like cake associated with Mardi Gras, as a baking adventure.  In truth, I had never had a homemade, authentic King Cake myself - I had only had crappy grocery store versions when I was visiting the New Orleans area to do post-Katrina rebuilding projects.  I wanted a taste of New Orleans and I figured we could handle the semi-complicated task.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chicago Noms, Part 1: A Girl, A Goat, and 22 Bottles

by EP

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At the end of January, 15 people came together in Chicago - yes, Chicago in January - to celebrate a special friend's 30th birthday.  That friend is my dear friend from college, Craig, who you might remember from such posts as this and this.  I was so pleased and honored to be invited to this event, a "destination" birthday party in a fabulous city with an amazing and flourishing food scene.  I had been to Chicago once before back in '04 for a chilly "spring break" road trip from St. Louis, but I was eager to get back and check out the city and the food I'd heard so much about (mostly from Twitter and Xani's various visits).

I will be blogging soon about my other eats with another buddy, Alex, but this post is dedicated to the fabulous meal and overall experience we had at Girl and the Goat, the brainchild of Chef Stephanie Izard, Top Chef Season 3 winner.*

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Blog-Worthy Birthday


by Xani

I'm just coming out of the haze of happiness that I lived in for the past few days while celebrating my birthday.  Now its all work deadlines, broken dishwashers, bills to pay and blogs to write.  No wait, I take that last one back.  Let me re-live the weekend by sharing with all of you!

The past few years we've headed up to NYC to celebrate my birthday.  Always a fabulous, but exhausting time.  This year, we decided to rest our old bones (?) and keep it local.  Erin hosted me at her house (complete with a real guest room and surprisingly comfortable air mattress) for the whole weekend and we lived. it. up!

It all started Friday night, when I headed to Erin's with a car full of cooking/baking supplies, doughs, plastic cutlery, way too many clothes, and this:

Eddie only stuck around for the early part of the evening-- a little later his daddy picked him up so that EP and I could get to the business of failing at macarons.  Sigh.  We had prepared ourselves for this likely outcome but it was still a bummer.  We're blaming it on our lack of a convection oven.  Despite EP's research, including getting specific guidance from Chef Briony in actual FRANCE, our little disks refused to form a foot, formed cracks, and just generally flopped.  We tossed them and drowned our sorrows in champagne and delivery from Kebab Stop (not bad stuff if you are in the Mt. Washington area).
The "before" may look promising, but the afters got thrown in the trash :(
The next day, we awoke refreshed and with one thing on our mind: shopping.  After a getting our fix, we returned to EP's house, knocked a few things off our prep list for the next morning's brunch, and then started preparing ourselves for our much awaited dinner at Wit and Wisdom, the swanky Michael Mina restaurant in the new Four Seasons Hotel downtown.  We had been looking forward to this meal for weeks.

Despite the build-up, W&W did not disappoint.  At every turn the service was better and better- valet, coat-check, bar-tenders, waiters, etc, etc.  The drinks at the bar were as creative and quaff-able as everyone has been telling me (try the Sticky Wicket!).  Once we headed to our table (with a view of the open kitchen AND the waterfront, beat that, other tables!) I was thrilled to see a birthday card waiting for me which had been signed by the whole W&W staff.  And it just got better from there!  Our waiter Paul was perfect in every way, and the only thing more perfect than him was the food.  Here it is, in all its splendor:
GUNPOWDER BISON TARTARE | 
 anson mills green farro, upland cress

Rice Porridge with duck tongues, crispy onions, egg

AMISH RABBIT BOUDIN & COUNTRY-FRIED LOIN 

Insanely Good Broccoli (not the official name)

"Scorched Wheat" fettucine with kale and perfect egg

Special Birthday dessert!

Red Velvet Goodness
Not all the dishes we ate are on the restaurants website, so I had to paraphrase a  little with the descriptions.  But even without official/accurate descriptions, how gorgeous are these plates?  And they tasted even better than they look.  The two starters were excellent- the bison tartare was perfectly executed, but the porridge was the real star, just because it was so different, and tasted SO good.  EP and I are suckers for gruel anyway, and this was like gruel to the Nth degree!  Both mains were excellent as well- the pasta was nutty and al dente, and the eggy, buttery sauce reassured you that this was NOT health food, despite the kale.  All three elements of the rabbit dish were excellent: the country-fried loin, crisp and crunchy; the confit legs, rich and melt in your mouth.  But the boudin was the overall winner-- just bursting with great flavor.  Add some broccoli served with hunks of bread that had been fried crisp in bacon fat, and you've got yourself a hell of a meal!

We finished things off with a couple of gorgeous creations by the pastry chef.  At this point I was nearing saturation of both food and alcohol, so memories are especially hazy.  We snapped one last picture and got out of there before we could eat or drink anything else.
Already thinking about tomorrow's brunch...
The next meal in the weekend's parade of food was a Ladies' Brunch Sunday morning.  We hosted six of our girlfriends and plied them with mimosas, bloody marys, and carbs.  What could be bad about that??

Menu:



We fancy, huh
A spread of spreads

Call it a strata, call it a bread pudding, just don't call me late for brunch!
fruit to fill in the corners

I think these pictures tell the tale better than I can with words.  My bread-baking hobby is sliding in to the "obsession" territory, thus I insisted on making the baguette, sourdough, muffins and biscuits from scratch.  We made the sausage patties as well (and I still think wrapping them in parchment was the cutest touch!).  The strata is truly the perfect brunch dish- fully assembled the day before, it baked to perfection while our guests nibbled the other offerings.  Most importantly the brunch featured good friends, lots of laughs, and many cocktails.

Some ladies enjoying some drinks

Sisters celebrating!
 After digesting for over 24 hours, I somehow found it possible to eat again.  One final meal rounded out this fantastic weekend.  Dave offered to cook a special birthday dinner, menu of my choosing.  I went classic: raw oysters, NY strip steaks, potatoes, spinach.  Dave truly outdid himself with  the execution of this meal:

Something something about the walrus and the carpenter....

Steak by candlelight

The oysters?  Amazing.  The steak? None other than the premium dry-aged stuff from the new Harris Teeter in our 'hood. We were shocked at how flavorful they were.  The taste was very different from non-aged beef.  We both were reminded of flavors like parmesan, mushrooms, even fish.  Maybe its the umami thing all the kids are talking about.  Oh, and of course they were perfectly medium rare (thank you America's Test Kitchen reipe), and sat alongside crispy, cheesy hasselback potatoes and some damn fine creamed spinach (a favorite of mine since I was a toddler).  He really knows the way to my heart... I am a lucky lady!

Could a girl ask for a more fabulous or delicious birthday??  I think not.  Thank you to everyone who made it so special <3 <3 <3

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