Living the Dream

Last week we went to the U.S. Open. It was a dream of my husband’s and although I like golf I think I could have lived without it. The deal was, however, that we would go into East Hampton the next day and hopefully run into Ina Garten. How could I pass up a deal like that?

The golf tournament was ok. It rained, I was soaked, they played on. Blah, blah, blah. I did however see Tiger pull off a good bogey, Bubba walked by and Michelson played very well on the 9th. It wasn’t a bad ending to the day, but certainly there were better things ahead of us. LIKE SATURDAY IN EAST HAMPTON!

Coincidentally, Ina had posted a blog about if we came to East Hampton, here were her favorite places to go. (are you kidding? it was like an invitation to stop by for dinner!) So there I was, with my list, headed to the land of Ina Garten. I would run into her and she would then realize we were destined to be the best of friends. (I might be stretching the truth just a little bit here and although she never responded, I did send her an email inviting her out to dinner).

The first stop (and the best stop) was a little cheese shop in Sag Harbor. It was called Cavaniola’s Gourmet Cheese. I walked in and fell in love. It was so quaint and I knew if I lived closer, I would be there every day. The girls in the shop were so nice and so helpful. We tasted a couple of cheeses I had never had and of course bought some. I ended up buying some of their gourmet items also, much to the chagrin of my husband’s wallet.

I walked in and fell in love. It was so quaint and I knew if I lived closer, I would be there every day. The girls in the shop were so nice and so helpful. We tasted a couple of cheeses I had never had and of course bought some. I ended up buying some of their gourmet items also, much to the chagrin of my husband’s wallet. And as you might have guessed, I asked if Ina really came to the shop. The girls said she came in all the time, was a sweet and as real as anyone. I thought I would hang out for a week or two and wait for her but my husband really wasn’t keen on that idea, so we had to leave.

As I left, I asked them to say “hi” to Ina for me, and told them she just hadn’t realized we’re best friends yet. I’m sure they think I’m some crazy stalker-ish kind of person. I’m not really. I’m just a wanna-be Barefoot Contessa kind of person hoping to run into one of my favorite idols.

And Ina Garten, I’m still waiting and hoping for your phone call.

Love Was In The Air

Sometimes, like this past week, you watch true love in action. The royal couple put on a splendid wedding that didn’t disappoint. Other times, something more subtle might come along, albeit with the same level of love and passion. The only difference is, the entire world doesn’t get to view it.

I’m talking about the marriage of Mike and Annette. Two people I can now call friends. I had the honor of catering their wedding a couple of weeks ago. It was a small wedding, but can we say quality versus quantity because they didn’t want anyone there that didn’t matter to them. It was a ceremony that only included friends and family that have always been a part of their life, and that is why I was so honored to be a part of it.

I don’t know their love story, except that one day Mike had a sparkle in his eyes and he started talking about this girl. I met Annette once or twice before the wedding and thought how nice and how pretty, but I didn’t really know the depth of love they had for each other.

Until I watched them take their vows and dance the first dance.

I can’t say that I saw fireworks or stars, it was much more subtle than that. As I watched, it was more like a warm glow that filled the room, a beating of the heart, a goosebump that crawls along your arm and the tender look they gave each other. It was the love story we all want to feel in our own lives.

I was happy to be a part of this, to share my food that I made for them with the same intensity of love in my heart. I was fortunate to be a part of something so special. It was a wedding I won’t forget.

Chicken BBQ sliders
Mini Crab Cakes with Smokey Remoulade
starters

Bah Humbug

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Christmas will be here in one week.  I'm sure for many of you it's panic time.  You still have shopping to do or dinner plans to make, wrapping gifts or just trying to squeeze in all the friends and family time.  I'm usually there with you..  but not this year.  This year brings a feeling of dread.  The closer to the day at hand there is a suffocating presence, a desire to run and hide, a feeling of emptiness.

Christmas has always been my favorite of the holidays.  It's all I can do to get beyond Thanksgiving so I can decorate my house, plan not only a special dinner but also the dessert of all desserts.  I shop, I wrap, I look for the best of gifts to fit into a stocking so personal that it is like pulling love out with every little surprise.  My house looks like Christmas threw up in it and I can't wait for any visitor to come by just so they can see how happy it makes me.

Things changed so drastically this year.  I tried to feel the same but it never came.  I managed to get a tree up but it's the smallest one we had and there are no decorations on it, save for one that I just bought at my favorite little French store, Le Marche.  I don't want to shop or wrap or even (gasp) plan a dinner.  I think I'm going to end up being like the person who burnt the turkey or something equally crazy and they go to the one Chinese restaurant that is open.  Although right now it's not a bad option.

Now before you try to have me committed or cross this off as an over-indulgent pity party for one, I have to explain why.  The reason is, for the first time in about seventeen years, my children will not be here.  (commence rolling of eyes)  My daughter is leading the life of an international world-famous teacher in China and I miss her horribly.  My son is still deciding if he wants to acknowledge he has parents or not but for the first time in a long time is fortunate enough to spend some time with his grandmother.  As a mother this can be devastatingly lonely.  I know people have put up with much worse, husbands or wives off to war, spouses or children no longer with us.  I get it.  I'm being absurdly pathetic.  But for me , it's now just like any other day.  Nothing exciting to look forward to, no special visitors and certainly no family.  There will be no grandchildren, which is an entirely different and much longer story, and isn't Christmas all about the children?  The Elf on the Shelf is still on the shelf...in the closet.  How does one adjust to this type of change?  Why can't I be the person that can adapt and move on?

Luckily, I have been very fortunate and very busy with holiday business.  It's been a great divergent and quite fulfilling.  Peter, my husband, and I have been able to spend a little more time together which is also good for the heart.  So I am out there trying.  I even bought a couple of gifts the other day. No need for the straight jacket yet.

Why do I tell you all of this?  Why after all of this time do I expose my inner-most feelings and angst with the couple of thousand people who thought I had disappeared, never to return?  I've gotten away from this cathartic writing.  I've wanted to return, sharing stories and recipes with friends that I don't yet know but there has been this block of what to say and to top everything off, this blog has been experiencing hundreds of spam postings.  However, I am finally now here again, bemoaning my lack of holiday spirit.....but at least I'm here. I am once again sharing something.  I know it's not a recipe, but it is a beginning.

2017 is right around the corner, a new beginning.  It can be a fresh page for anything and everything.  I can try writing again, I can share some recipes with you and I can start planning for maybe a better holiday next year.

It is exactly like Scarlet O'Hara once said, "After all, tomorrow is another day!"  For all of you I wish you a very merry Christmas, but for me I think I look forward to a brand New Year.

Changes

As with most things, we need to change and grow in order to improve.  Exciting things are happening and my blog is part of it.  I will be delving into the foodie world of catering and we are working on changing this site.  Please be patient and hang in there with me while “construction” is going on.  I will be back soon with a brand new look!

I can’t wait to share it with everyone!  Thank you for hanging in there with me while we change!

A Memory

For most of us there is something that will trigger a memory.  it might be a song, a smell or even a place.  For me, it is a block of butter and a piece of toast.

We grew up on margarine.  At least my mom, my brothers and I did. It was cheaper than butter and growing up poor, my mom did what she could to control what was spent.  However, when it came to my dad, the expenditure of butter was not negotiated. My mom thought once she could fool him and put margarine on his toast.  That never, and I mean never,  happened again.

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I remember him slicing his block of butter, not from the side like most people cut it, but skimming his knife along the top as though it was a priceless commodity. .One day I asked if I could try it.  My mom and my brothers looked up like I was about to commit a crime, but my dad beamed with pride and agreed to let me try it.  I was watching a man share his pot of gold as he shaved the butter from the top with the same care as a man who was shaving his face for the very first time.  He laid the thin slices on my toast and we watched it melt into the crags.  Taking that first bite;  tasting the buttery richness that I had never experienced before, I smiled at my dad and realized we had just shared something that would always be special between only the two of us.  It was almost like he knew I understood the importance of what I had just experienced.

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I’m grown up now and my dad is no longer with us.  There is never a time, however, when I don’t come across a solid block of butter, hold it in my hand and I’m immediately back in our little kitchen. Who would have thought that one simple gesture would start me on a culinary trek of tasteful discoveries?  Unlike, my dad, I don’t use butter like it’s a treasure to be doled out sparingly.  I use butter with gusto and add a bit into everything I do.  Maybe it’s the richness it adds to my recipes, or maybe it’s just a small thank you to my dad for showing me that sometimes you just need to splurge for the sake of enjoyment.

So a toast to my dad, well,  with a piece of toast!  And of course I can’t forget that little slice of butter.

 

 

 

A New Year Begins…

I cannot believe it is New Year’s Day 2014.  How fast this last month has flown!  To be honest I have to say that I am so glad this holiday is over and even more glad we are on to a bigger and better year.  So many things to think about, some good and some not so good.

Have you ever received one of those letters over the holidays that tell you how great the year has been and how many achievements the family has had?  I will tell you that I didn’t send out any letters like that this year.  My position as a mortgage lender was not nearly as successful as it has been in the past,  financially it has been more of a struggle and I have had to realize that my children have their own lives and don’t need me like they used to.  And of course there was the devastating loss of my beloved brother Will in October. The holidays were something I always looked forward to so I needed to do something that would help bring the happiness back into our home.

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My husband and I had decided the end of November that we were going to have one of those Ugly Sweater Parties.  I planned, I shopped, and I systematically made food for two weeks so I would be ready and enjoy the party.  I was however, unprepared for how fast all the food was going to disappear!  I take it as a compliment that they ate everything so quickly but for the first two hours of the party I was a lunatic replenishing platters so that there wouldn’t be hungry, drinking people wandering around.  Note to self:  cook more food up front and keep warm in the oven.

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The party, despite my poor food serving planning was great fun and a complete success. I know this will have to become an annual event.. At this point, I do want to mention my friend Marlene Charbonneau.  Here was a woman I befriended on Facebook because I liked that she baked and wrote.  I never met her but ordered some of her beautiful cookies for the party.  They were so amazing, so beautiful and so yummy that I have to give her a shout out.  She truly is my friend and I want everyone to know that her cookies are absolutely the best!

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This is where I have to learn I sometimes cannot do it all.  During the planning of the party, I got a call from a friend who needed help with her husband’s work party.  Unfortunately my husband and I were leaving that day to travel to New York to visit his daughter and then to pick up my mom and bring her back for Christmas.  But then we talked about getting all the food ready and bringing it over the night before we left….and I said yes.  So the day after our party, I shopped for the food and spent the next three days making food, writing instructions and packaging the food to take over and then left the following morning for five days out-of-town.  To those of you who may be crazy like me, I have to warn you to reconsider when you think you can do it all.  Especially when you also have a day job like I have! It was so chaotic that it was only now I realized that I haven’t posted since the beginning of December.  You can never be so busy that you put aside the things you love to do and that for me is sharing my highs and lows in the kitchen with you.  New Year’s resolution number one is to never stop doing what I love.

Anyway,  we managed to get through the month.  There was sadness over the holidays knowing that my brother and Dad wouldn’t be there to share but happy in the fact that my mom and my children were there with my husband and I.  It’s true what they say…you shouldn’t be worried about what is under the tree, but be happy with who is around the tree. Now it is the new year and a time for reflection and hope for the coming months.

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I’ve written this blog for a year now, the end of this month.  I cannot tell you the joy that it’s brought to me and I hope that somehow I have brought a bit of joy, knowledge, new recipes or something to you.  I want to thank you all for your support and following me and I hope you will continue to as I make my way through 2014.  Tell me what you would like to hear about, what you love and what you don’t.  I will continue share no matter what but without all of you I cannot grow and I want to let you know how important your support is to me.

I know it’s going to be a better year for all of us.  2014 will be a great year and I can’t wait to find out what the future is going to bring!

A Tiny Break

This week I was hoping to write to you about all the good food I had in Quebec, but due to a loss within our family I was unable to go.  I want you to know that I have not forgotten you and will be back in full force next week.  This week I just need a tiny break and I hope you understand.

I would love to hear what you have made in my absence.  Happy eating everyone!

Dinner Made Easy

Like many people, my husband and I try to watch what we eat.  We never buy processed food and for the most part,  I shop the perimeter of the grocery store.  But with our schedules it makes it hard to do all the time.  Sometimes I get home late, or Peter does.  Let’s face it, there is just ever enough time in the day to do all we need, much less make a healthy meal all the time.

This is what I call a compromise.  It was quick and easy, but semi healthy and so tasty!  It really all began because I wanted Haricot Verts or what is known as French green beans.  It almost became an obsession, I was thinking about them so much.

I had a nice fish dish planned but then my crazy week began and I just didn’t have the time I thought I was going to have.  I had to come up with a new game plan.

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This was so easy to put together, didn’t take any time at all and the nice thing is, you can modify it however you would like to fit your own tastes.  It really makes for a great, but easy dinner.

So the next time you come home and need a quick meal.  Try this because you’ll love the taste and not feel guilty.

Happy eating!

Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and there is no better time to reminisce about my mom and why I always smile when I think of her.  I grew up during a time when she thought you had to cook the meat until it was shoe leather and you ate all of your vegetables out of a can.  Sorry Mom, but it’s amazing that I grew up loving food the way I do.

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My two younger brothers and I grew up without much money, but until I was older I never realized that we didn’t have anything because my mom always made us feel that we had everything.  We were recently talking about how I loved our Sunday night “picnics”.  Mom would put papers on the floor and we would have sandwiches or burgers in front of the TV while watching Walt Disney.  That would be the one night we could have a coke, so we thought of it as a big treat.  She told me they just did that because sandwiches were cheaper and she didn’t want us to think we didn’t have money for dinner.

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If someone asked me what foods were my favorite growing up that Mom made, I can name them on one hand. If you asked me if I would still eat them, the answer would be a resounding yes!  Fried chicken (that was actually baked in the oven), macaroni and cheese, onion dip and her pies.  I still love pie and I still love her onion dip.  My children love it so much we have to make a double batch because they will eat the entire bowl.

Birthdays were always amazing.  She made me feel as though I was the only one to ever have a birthday.  I would pull back my chair to sit down and it would be filled with wrapped packages.  The day was always full of surprises, love and the special cake she would make.   My favorite was the doll cake.  You know the one, the doll is in the middle and she has a cake “skirt”.  Mine would always have a frosting hat too, so I guess I was really special!

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No matter what was going on, she was always there for me.  From wearing the tissue corsage I made her in Kindergarten, going to all my plays and color guard events, kissing me goodby when I left for school and holding my hand and heart when I went through my divorce,  she was always the one I could count on.

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She is turning 80 in July.  It wasn’t an easy life, but it’s been a good one.  She was a devoted wife who adored my dad for fifty-five years, as he adored her.  She is a great mom, a friend and a caring Nana to my children.  There is no way I can ever repay her for everything, but I try everyday.  I try to be the person she wanted me to grow up and be.  I want to be as giving, as kind and as loving as she is.

I want to make her onion dip.

I love you Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day.

“Dishing Up Virginia”

A very dear friend of mine, Patrick Evans-Hylton recently celebrated the release of his new cookbook “DISHING UP VIRGINIA” at the Mariners’ Museum.  As a “foodie” there was nothing that would have stopped me from going.  The event was much more than I expected. It was elegant and casual at the same time, filled with his friends, fans and area chefs touting his recipes through their interpretations of yummy offerings for us to try.

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Once I had a chance to sit down and actually look through the book, I was amazed at the abundance of information and beautiful photography gracing the pages.  Not only are there recipes that are indicative of Virginia, but it is rich in history and stories and if I didn’t live here I would have enjoyed the book just as a tourist would when visiting a place of interest.

Every page I turned made me want to try the recipe or visit a place in Virginia I had not yet gone to.  The history behind each recipe was informative and entertaining at the same time.  This is a cookbook that I would actually sit down and read from cover to cover, just for the pure pleasure of reading.  The foodie side of me will want to make almost every recipe in the book, but if you aren’t into cooking don’t let that stop you from buying the book.

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If you are a Virginian, a transplant, someone who loves to cook or does not please go out and treat yourself to “DISHING UP VIRGINIA”.  You will fall in love with Virginia and it’s history all over again, just like I did.  And you’ll love trying the recipes too!  YUM.

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