Sunday, January 30, 2011

Who Doesn't Love Room Service?

Oh yeah, I'm a jet-setter. (Insert ridiculous laughing.) Well, mostly it's just travel for work, which always sounds a lot more glamorous than it really ends up being.

Tonight, I flew into our nation's capital for business this coming week, and am staying at the "luxury boutique" hotel, the St. Gregory on M street in the thick of everything here in D.C. (And, I'm having a relapse of my 20-something obsession of "I wanna live and work in this city full of youth and ambition and excitement!" Ok, that's done.)

Exhausted and already missing my own bed, I decided to order room service. Something that should be luxurious, yet was really just a quick and simple way to get some protein and veggies in me for the day.

And, the last few times I've ordered room service, I would have been better off with last week's leftovers and a pickle.

On the menu: a salmon Caesar salad and nice cold glass of Sauvingon Blanc.

Drum roll please...


Yes, those are fresh flowers! The salad was divine with its crisp, green Romaine lettuce perfectly chilled and dusted with shaved Parmesan with a bite so smooth, I'd swear it was butter.

The salmon was perfectly cooked - crisp and golden brown on the outside, flaky and moist on the inside. Divinity. Seriously.

Hail to the Room Service Godesses!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Viva Italiano!

A couple weeks ago, I gathered on a bitterly cold Saturday with a group of 21 other food bloggers from Atlanta and had an amazing afternoon of the "inside scoop" from one of the city's most fantastic restaurants: Pacci Ristorante.

Chef Kiera Moritz welcomed us into her kitchen of the rooftop lounge and prepared a feast of deliciousness for us complete with color commentary. Go Chef Kiera!

Chef Kiera and her team started with a clean, crisp and crunchy homemade grilled Caesar salad. I'd never had grilled lettuce before, but it was absolutely delectable - crunchy, smoky and filled with the sturdiness of Romaine, but with a kick. It was topped with homemade Caesar dressing that we watched the team whip up from scratch (much better than the bottles that litter the door of my fridge, I must say).

Next, we moved on to an Italian staple: homemade gnocchi (aka Strozzapreti: Priest Stranglers - there's a cool story about why these are called Priest Stranglers, but for the life of me, I can't remember). I don't think I have the patience to make my own pasta from scratch, but it was absolutely fascinating watching someone else do it!

The result was a warm, gooey, potatoey nugget that was bathed in caramelly, browned butter, topped with nutty sage and walnuts, and sprinkled with creamy Gorgonzola. O. M. G.

As if these two masterpieces weren't enough to satisfy our mid-afternoon cravings, Chef Kiera and her team delivered another winner: brown butter pear crespelle. These pear and ricotta filled crepes were the perfect mixture of light and heavy - neither was too overwhelming. The pears delivered a juicy sweetness that mixed with the creamy ricotta shoots a "Pow!" of flavor through your mouth. All of this yummy is enveloped in a cloud of slightly sweet batter that's been cooked to perfect golden brown. It's enough to make you weak in the knees.

And, the grand finale...smores by the fire pit on the rooftop lounge.

These weren't just any smores. These were smores with homemade marshmallows and chocolate disks. I'd never had a homemade marshmallows and truthfully, didn't see what all the fuss was about. (Come on, I'm perfectly satisfied with my $1.29 bag from Publix.) Notice: Chef Kiera and her assistant are using a creme brulee torch because the wind was so strong it kept blowing the fire out! Handy.

Let me tell you something...there ain't nothin' like a homemade marshmallow baby. The texture was as fluffy as a soft blanket right out of the dryer. Marry that with dark chocolate and squish it all between two cinnamon graham cracker (yes, cinnamon!) and you've got nirvana on a plate.

Pacci is next on my list for dinner's a coupon for yours...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What Happens When it Snows in the South

It has only happened twice in the nearly 20 years I've lived in Atlanta, but we're going on Snow Day #4 here in the Peach State. Yep. Cabin fever has begun to set in (don't get me wrong, I love my cabin) and we're all trying to find ways to not only entertain ourselves, but also keep from dying of boredom.

Snow Day #1 was thrilling (I mean, this IS the Peach State). My neighbors and I gathered around "the manpit" and laughed as we drank wine and made fools of ourselves with such things as night sledding and Snow Olympics (well, I missed out on those earlier in the day but enjoyed the stories).

This is us. Aren't we cute?

After hearing my neighbors talk of their delicious "snow day breakfasts," I had to break out of my instant oatmeal rut. As any good Southerner does when there's even a slight chance of flurries, in preparation I had headed to the store and stocked up like we'd be holed up for a week. (Sadly, I may have been right this time.) So, I was delighted when I realized I had a fresh garden of deliciousness in my fridge to create from.

This was my creation:

I'm trying to get more veggies in, so an egg scramble with sauteed mushrooms and spinach with a bit of parmesan was so warm and cozy for Snow Day #2. Of course, you can't have eggs without whole wheat toast and pecan pumpkin butter schmeared all over it. Or a peppermint mocha coffee creamer shot.

(Notice, all the work-from-home necessities in the background. I was productive and creative!)

This kind of weather makes me want to bake.  Bake, bake, bake! So, I whipped up a loaf of pecan-pumpkin quickbread (from a Williams Sonoma mix that was a Christmas gift) and satisfied my craving.

I have certainly enjoyed these delictables...I wonder what tomorrow will bring???

Spinach-Mushroom Scramble

2 T. butter or margarine
2-3 eggs
1/4 C. milk or cream
1/3 C. mushrooms
1/2 C. baby spinach leaves
2 T. shaved parmesan cheese

1. Melt butter or margarine in medium nonstick skillet on medium temperature
2. Beat eggs, milk or cream, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl until well mixed; set aside
3. Add mushrooms to skillet and add pinch of salt; sautee until the begin to brown and soften
4. Add egg mixture to mushrooms in skillet
5. Add spinach to skillet and cook without stirring for 1-2 minutes (until bottom of eggs begin to set); using a spatula, scramble egg mixture to desired consistency
6. Add parmesan just before removing eggs from skillet
7. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Foodie Heaven on Earth

Have you ever experienced nirvana? That blissful, crazy happy feeling that everything in the universe is perfectly aligned and all is well in the world. That there could possibly even be world peace one day soon.

Visit New York City's Eataly.

I mean really.

Eataly is an amazing mish-mash of everything ever conceived in the Italian culinary world. It's perfectly divine. I literally got weak in the knees upon entry and didn't really even let my feet touch the ground again until my responsible visit-mates gingerly escorted me out.

This little excursion was perhaps the single-most invigorating shopping experience of 2010 for me (well, maybe second to the Italian leather boot DSW of course...Italy alludes me to date).

A little slice of Europe under one gigantic roof right here in the United States.

This sign says it best:

There are rows and rows of crimson sauces organized by Italian region...

Not to mention bottle after bottle of glistening, sweet balsamic vinegar and rich, flavorful olive oils just begging to be slathered over a perfect piece of chicken and roasted to perfection.

And can we talk about meat please?

Prosciutto, salami, pancetta, sausage, pork...does it get any better?! (Apologies to any vegetarians reading this. Word to the wise: you may want to reconsider your blog choice. I am a carnivorous carnivore.)

To tide us over until dinner, we pulled up a few stools at "Le Verdure" (one of the many restaurants and food bars house inside Eataly) and positively devoured the daily bruschetta special:

Um, yum.

Of course, we didn't leave without walking through Eataly's pastry department with smells of divine, dark chocolate wafting through the air, their sources just waiting to be devoured by salivating mouths working overtime. 

Now, if only I could find a man that would whisper THESE sweet nothings in my ear...All. Night. Long.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Phew! Ready or Not, it's a New Year!

Where the heck did 2010 go? I think I saw it whizzing by my window as I was rolling down the highway of life last week.

This holiday season has been a whirlwind for me. I've had some really fun (and delicious) adventures for work and pleasure. Here are a few...

Let's begin with the annual ornament exchange with my sweet small group girls. Did I mention that I absolutely adore ornament exchanges?

Kelley is so silly! (But, those would make some totally fabu earrings, right?!)

Laurel took home a glass red high heeled shoe in honor of the shoes she wore at her wedding just last December!

Look at that sweet Angie sitting pretty by the tree.

Next up: the first ever Ivy Glen Holiday Progressive Dinner! I love love love my neighbors and this year, we decided to extend our ever-so-often girls' nights to significant others and friends and host apps, dinner and dessert at three different houses. My contribution was none other than Barefoot Contessa's moist and rich red velvet cake coated with decadent cream cheese icing and topped off with a shimmer of red sprinkles for some extra festivity. (Sorry. I wrote this paragraph and then realized I didn't take a picture! )

A couple days later, I made the same red velvet cake, but in peppermint striped cupcake cups to serve at a homespun get-together of some of my dearest friends and neighbors. I have such a hard time with quantities (my sweet grandmother would roll over in her grave if I ran out of food!) so, as usual, there was a spread fit for an army of Santa's elves.
Yummy gingerbread cake with orange glaze!

The red velvet cupcakes!

You can't have a party without spinach dip in a bread bowl.

As Christmas drew near, I attended my annual cookie exchange (sorry, no pics this year, but see last year's post for a taste to water your mouth).

But, the absolute cherry on top of my holiday season was a trip to New York City that was filled with so much deliciousness it will make you want to slap your mama (although I don't recommend that).

Hooked? Check back soon for a new post.