The blogosphere informed me that the trendy, must-have treat in Paris is macarons. They are light, crispy cookies that envelope a delicious highly-flavored center.
We purchased 3 different offerings macarons during the trip:
So, our trip to Brussels involved no Brussels sprouts, but many many frites.
We started off by finding “Moules frites central” – the little Italy of Moules frites. We got a disappointing tiny dish of fries that were clearly frozen and unsavory. The mussels also weren’t that great – I suppose we should have looked up the best place ahead of time. Oh well! We did it
Nevertheless, after the disappointing mussels we were still hungry. We found not one, but two, most delicious frite places. I’m not sure why they are called “French fries” in the US when they are clearly a Belgian specialty. Most places, you order them on their own, and they come with a huge variety of sauces to choose from. And, you do not want to be stupide Americane and order ketchup. We came to like the spicy mayo that was offered at this cute little kabob shop – then we tried asking for it again at a different place, and got a blank look and “we do not have spicy mayonnaise!” We looked over the menu again, and chose the possible culprit: Samarai sauce. Oh yes, this was what we were talkin’ about. Yum! (Research upon returning home : it appears to be siracha and mayonnaise mixed together. Uuuh yeah what doesn’t make that spicy mayonnaise?).
So, we hit 2 different places – one that had a big cone of fries as their mascot/logo (aww) and a place called “Fritland” that had the Manneken Pis at their logo. Clearly, the Belgians think a peeing little boy can go with anything! It’s like black.
Both fries were delicious, but I give props to the cone presentation of the first place (as that is what I was secretly expecting), but I appreciated the sauce on the side at Fritland. Both very, very approved.. and I consider myself a French fry connoisseur.
One of our neighbors approached us about a new CSA called “The Produce Box” last month. We had been in the Brinkley Farms CSA a few years ago, and it was a lot of fun… a big box of veggies each week. Somehow having the vegetables there and feeling like you HAVE to eat ‘em makes it so much easier! This one makes it even easier, because we have a neighborhood coordinator that delivers all the food around the neighborhood- we don’t even have to go pick it up!!
We got a choice of three different boxes that have a different mix of vegetables inside. This first week we chose “farmer’s choice” and we got a cool assortment of stuff… and the very first STRAWBERRIES of the season! Mmm! It was worth the “risk” because the other boxes didn’t include strawberries! Tricky! There’s nothing like a locally grown strawberry.
We also got: asparagus, bibb lettuce, cabbage, white sweet potatoes, raw peanuts, and spring onions. We devoured the lettuce in one sitting. (OMG we love springtime lettuce! haha) and the strawberries weren’t far behind. I made a tasty Asian slaw that used half of the cabbage, but I have to think up something else to do with the rest of it – maybe in a stir fry. The peanuts are intriguing.. apparently we have to roast them before we can eat them, because they’re raw. But they’ll keep in the fridge for a few months, so we’re not in too much of a hurry yet. Should be fun! The white sweet potatoes were pretty good, but I think I like the traditional orange ones better. The white ones are sweet like an orange sweet potato but the texture is generally more baked potato-like.
We have started our vegetable garden, but what we have planted is late summer crops (tomatoes, peppers, squash) so this is giving us our fill of veggies for now! Yum!
A few weekends ago, we went to the NC Hot Sauce Contest in Oxford, NC. It seems they have a festival for just about anything here, huh? Well, this one did not disappoint! There were a bunch of little tents set up by the different hot sauce companies with samples of their sauces. Yuuum! They were all pretty good except some Caribbean one that was definitely going for the heat factor – we were burning pretty good for about 15 minutes
After the pain wore off (thanks to some beer), we were able to taste the
remaining sauces. Because the votes are controlled by who sells the most hot sauce at Stovalls, we headed over there and bought our bottle of the John Boy and Billy hot pepper sauce, our personal favorite!
We also checked out the hot pepper eating contest. After experiencing that crazy Caribbean sauce, all I can say is NO THANKS! The contestants all ended up giving up on eating 5 different chile peppers and split the prize money ($300)! My mouth hurts just thinking about it!
So, we’ve been living “off the grid” for a few months now. I’ve been restraining myself from complaining endlessly about it on the blog, lucky you. Well, it’s surely an interesting experience. One definite downer (of which – there are several, #1 being lack of a couch! Who knew that was such a luxury?) is no full sized kitchen. We’ve got a “kitchenette” which includes a 2-burner electric stove with questionable controls, a mini microwave, a dorm fridge that freezes everything in sight, and a small sink.
Luckily we did have enough foresight to pack some essential cooking tools. Sure, the “hotel” (if you call it that) provides some cooking implements, but they are seriously so low quality they’re almost not worth using at all. Here’s what we packed and have been using the most:
- Our treasured lemongrass colored Le Creuset (the smaller 5 qt pot)
- Our second-most treasured Jamie Oliver nonstick skillet
- All the Henckels knives and their holder thingy
- A few utensils – most used is a wooden spoon
- Dish drainer, soap, and sponges
- A box of spices from our pantry
- A box of dried goods (pasta, rices, etc.)
So, yes, while you definitely COULD cook a gourmet meal in this set-up, it’s definitely not an inspiring environment. The fact that the fridge is so small and freezes everything in sight doesn’t help. Yes, we tried turning the fridge temp down a notch, and everything got warm. Apparently the settings include FROZEN or OFF. Here are some of the lovely dishes we have prepared in our kitchenette:
- Grilled cheese sandwiches with pimento cheese. Did you know you can buy pimento cheese spread in the grocery store?
- Pasta, pasta, pasta pasta. (We did actually have some really good pasta dishes when we were being given tomatoes every 2 days)
- Macaroni and cheese from a box.
- Asian inspiration meal including frozen vegetables.
- Sandwiches (cold cuts, peanut butter, etc.)
- Sloppy joes
Needless to say, there haven’t been many leftovers so I’ve adapted to bringing those healthy choice meals that don’t need refrigeration for lunch. Nom nom!
We are definitely eating out more often. It’s surely not very healthy. I even ordered a SALAD with my Wendy’s sandwich on Friday because I was actually CRAVING VEGETABLES! (Yes, I know, what is that??) We eat food of the Mexican persuasion because it’s so cheap. Hello Taco Bell and $1.25 beer night at El Dorado (a recent discovery!). That El Dorado tradition might just have to continue even after we move…
I dragged Oak to see Julie and Julia at the theater tonight. There was no way I could wait for it to get to Redbox or the $1.50 theater, which is our normal mode of operation. I read Julie Powell’s book several years ago (somewhere near when it first came out). It was much easier than going back and reading all the blog posts, but the book is basically the entire blog in book format. When is someone going to want to buy carrievision.com and put it in a book?? haha.
The movie is SO much better!! Don’t even bother with the book if you haven’t read it; just see the movie!
Oak was scared when we first entered the theater. Let’s just say that the entire theater had about 2 other men (who appeared to be dragged husbands) and we had to endure 5 or 6 chick flick previews. Sorry darling!
The book focuses all on Julie and her project of cooking all of Julia Child’s recipes in “Mastering the art of French cooking.” I did enjoy the book, but it borders on grating/annoying as Julie struggles to get all the recipes made. I remember pages and pages complaining about aspics, where they could get this entire portion of the book into about 10 seconds of movie time. (BTW… has anyone out there actually eaten an aspic?? ) They missed a few fun details from the blog/book, but overall I think they tried to make the Julie character more “likeable.”
It very well could be the interjections of Julia’s fun storyline that made the current day portion all that more tolerable. Julia Child really did have an amazing life, and I want to read one of her biographies sometime soon. The movie details her arrival in France to the publishing of her cookbook. What an adventure!
Oh, and the FOOD ! Thinking about it makes me hungry. I really, really want Oak to make the crazy duck in a pastry now. Too bad Julia is packed away somewhere! We’ll visit you again sometime soon, Julia. I promise.
I’ve had an on again/off again relationship with hot dogs. When I was young, I loved them. Then something happened (maybe too many burned dogs on the grill?) that made me not so excited about them during my teens. Well, it’s pretty obvious that the relationship is back.
One of my life’s goals is now the pursuit of the perfect hot dog. We’ve had the Chicago dog, the Pink’s Hollywood dog, the Carolina dog (mustard, chili, onions, bright red hot dog), the Nathan’s dirty-water dog (Oak has perfected the famous red onion sauce at home! ding), so I felt it was finally time to go back to my hot dog roots, the Zweigles dog.
Zweigles are a uniquely Rochesterian brand of hot dog – I’ve never seen them outside that region until we discovered that a Wegman’s is now open off the Woodbridge/Potomac Mills Mall exit on I-95. So, when we found them, of course we had to get some (along with the delicious Chinese food buffet! mm! ).
Now, one of the charms of the Zweigles dog is that they are a “pop-open hot” (oh yeah, in R-town you call it a “hot” instead of a “hot dog”). For some reason, I had remembered a vision of a hot dog splitting clear down the middle, but when Oak cooked them they were more like blistery split open. Maybe we got the wrong kind? Or, my parents cut my hot dog in half? I have no idea.
Either way, that was a good dog. We even had some Nick Tahou-esque hot sauce on them (which, is basically the “chili” that is put on hot dogs in the South, but more spicy). Next we need to try to make a Chicago dog at home… any sources on neon green relish??
So, we went on a tour of the Midwest after Belinda’s wedding last month. We hit many destinations in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota and had lots of tasty tidbits along the way (actual destinations will have to be in another post.. haha) :
- Cheese curds. Tasty! Apparently they are something only to be found in Wisconsin (and in Minnesota, a little bit). They are basically a “young cheese”, sold in bags of different flavors. We had a bag of cheddar and dill curds. Also, they are uber tasty deep-fried, which is done as an appetizer in a lot of restaurants. Think extra-fresh mozarella sticks! Mmm! I’m already having curd withdrawal.
- While we were at Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge in Minneapolis, there was no seating for two available so we ended up sitting with this group of people about our age for dinner. It was fun! We discussed all the midwestern food items and learned about something called hotdish. I was pretty confused until we figured out it basically meant a casserole. I tried to find out if there was a restaurant that served it, but apparently it’s an at-home thing to make. I’m intrigued by the tater tot hotdish.. must try making that soon! The item that we had at Suzi’s that I’d like to try making at home is sort of a sushi roll made out of pickle, cream cheese, and ham. Sounds gross but it was tasty.
- In Minneapolis we also compared the Jucy lucy hamburger from both Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 club. Yes, we had happened to have seen the episode of Man vs. Food the week before we left, where we got this idea. Good timing. If you’re too lazy to click to see what a Jucy Lucy is, it’s a burger with a molten cheese center. Genius!!! We both agreed that we enjoyed the 5-8 club Jucy Lucy for its “doggy nougat” cheese.
- Northern Iowa has absolutely no tasty food. We tried. We failed. We ate dinner at a Taco Bell at 9pm one night. And it was hopping!
- Desperate to find something tasty we did some internet research and stopped at the Motley cow cafe in Iowa City. Oak and I both got fairly simple egg dishes – mine was a spicy omelet, but they used fresh fancy eggs in them, so the eggs came out almost a dark golden yellow. I think it was the best egg I’ve ever had. Now I understand that passage in Martha’s Pies and Tarts book where she compares a tart made with supermarket eggs to one made “with eggs from my hens.” Oh, brother.
- In Chicago, we did the Hot dog Tour. Key places visited: Hot Doug’s and Superdawg. Both were good – I do have to say, even though it did not seem appealing to me, the Chicago hot dog (which includes: “mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt”-Wikipedia) is on the top of my list as far as hot dogs go now. Even without the ketchup. Apparently the higher authorities of Chicago will kick you out of town if you put ketchup on your hot dog. There’s enough other stuff on there that you don’t really miss it. Hot Doug’s has the edge for french fries and overall food quality, but Superdawg had serious style.
- Finally had a deep dish pizza at Giordano’s. I’ve actually never been to the Pizzeria Uno so it was a new experience. Talk about heavy! Sorry Chicago-ites, I love your hot dogs but I’m not sure I need to experience that pizza any time again soon. And I heart cheese!!!
- Dried meats are all the rage in the midwest. Stop at any gas station, and you have an array of slim-jim esque sausages to choose from. These, with many varieties of root beer and cheese curds, were our “driving food.” De-lish!
- We also have like 4 different pictures of me with giant mice eating cheese statues around Wisconsin. Apparently Wisconsians (?) enjoy Badgers (the U of W mascot) and mice.
- Had the best bubble tea ever at Joy Yee, where all the juices for the tea are fresh-squeezed/blended. Of course, we knew Belinda would not steer us wrong. If you get the huge bubble tea plan not to be hungry for several hours…. apparently the bubbles expand in your tummy!
- Another Chi-town stop was Kuma’s Corner, land of strangely dressed burgers named after Metal bands. I got a burger that had a pear and Gorgonzola cheese on it; but to be fair this was eaten on the same day we had the deep dish pizza so I think my heart just wasn’t in it. Fruit plus hamburger meat is a weird combination. Oak had a “greek burger” that was very good!
- On our last day, we got the Mother in Law sandwich that Anthony Bourdain had. It’s basically a tamale in a hot dog bun covered with chili. I got the “Father in law” which added cheese to the monstrosity. It was, while extremely messy to eat, quite satisfying.
So, after gaining about 30 pounds, we returned home. Luckily our CSA is in full swing now and I can at least pretend that I’m eating healthier now! More soon (and, hopefully some pictures!)
No, I haven’t suddenly turned this into an adult website. We came across this window display while walking down the Magnificent Mile on our trip to Chicago:
Of course, we had to look and see what it was about. Surely in the elite designer-shop filled neighborhood they couldn’t possibly have an actual peep show, could they? Oh, yes, they could… Take a look at the very risque contents of one of the little holes!
Scandalous, no? Did that get you all hot and bothered? Well, let me feed your addiction with this site full of naughty little tidbits. In the words of my old friend Austin Powers, “oh behave!”
Anthony Bourdain came for a lecture at the new Durham Performing Arts Center last week. The new center is pretty darn swank; and much more convenient to get to than the auditorium in Raleigh (I-40 rush hour traffic anyone?). Oak and I also saved over $40 in Ticketmaster fees (for 8 show tickets) by going to pick up the tickets at the box office after going to the farmer’s market one Satuday morning. Hellow. Ticketmaster is SUCH a rip-off. They even charge you to print tickets at home!
Bourdain pretty much delivered what I was expecting. Though, to some extent I really had no idea what to expect. We heard his opinons of celebrity chefs – which ones he likes and doesn’t like. Surprisingly he enjoys Ina Garten, Giada DeLaurentis, and Martha Stewart. As we all know, he does not enjoy the Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, or that Robin Miller chick. He wonders why all of them have oversized heads and never blink. haha. Apparently there was a time in which he and Rachael Ray had to be in the same photo together. Quel Horreur! However, he says he is is done making fun of her because now she “has too much power. She’s teamed up with Oprah!”
Even though he enjoys Ina and Martha, he would “never want to hang out with their creepy friends to eat their food.” I do have to say, Ina’s gatherings do usually look uber awkward slash scripted, unless it’s just her and Geoffery (the hubby).. aww. And even then, poor Geoffery is not the most convincing actor … “Oh Ina, you’ve cooked me a surprise dinner? I’m so surprised!!” hahaha.
There were also tales of travel, most that we had seen on TV, but interesting nonetheless. He says, to make friends in foreign countries, drink whatever booze they give you. And, apparently, the thing fans most write in to request for the show is to see him get sick from food on TV. Obviously, Bourdain does whatever he can to avoid this situation, as it’s not only insulting to his hosts but completely disgusting! Apparently most Russian women can drink any non-Russian man under the table. Noted – before traveling to Russia, to try to increase alcohol tolerance.
There was also a question and answer section, for which they asked for questions before the show, but the questions were really dumb and were things we kind of already knew the answer to (ie… what do you think of molecular gastronomy?). I was also disappointed that he didn’t say anything about the local food – either what he had eaten already or was planning to eat; not sure if he hadn’t been in the area long or was staying less than 24 hours.. I’m sure that’s possible.
What – no Durham epsiode of No Reservations ?? We could even hook Bourdain up with Oak and his coworker, who frequent every shady food establishment in Durham; including all the taquerias, burger joints, trucks, and an especially interesting-sounding establishment called “Wings and Things” that serves chicken wings AND chinese food. What a combo!