Tuesday, August 31, 2010

long live the queen

Last week I joined a wonderful friend at The Empress. My friend has a wheat allergy and we had heard that The Empress had gluten-free bread. What we hadn't realized is that one of the owners has Celiac's so the majority of the menu is actually wheat-free (including their French toast at brunch!) At the time, The Empress was facing the possibility of having to shut down (due to their landlord possibly going to jail) but since they've announced that they will be staying open, I want to share these drool-inducing photos. I had told myself I wasn't going to document the meal, until it came out and was just so adorable. We ordered several of the appetizer/ tapas and shared, eating our meal slowly over gossip. Our server was great and the owner came over to talk once she heard we had a wheat-allergy at the table. Now that they are sticking around, I'll officially recommend them.

[I believe this was an orange-and-honey soaked apricot with blue cheese, but it may not have been blue cheese. Either way, it was heavenly.]

[Our adorable glassware]

[Bacon-wrapped dates]

[Beef carpaccio. Note: this bread is gluten-free. And I loved it.]

[International meats and cheeses]

[Red pepper crème brulée]
This one was a risk. The Empress has constantly rotating crème brulée selection and the selection while we were there was red pepper. They were so fresh that ours was actually stuck in the freezer to cool before being brought out and it was still slightly warm when served. (We had been warned and, as I said, it was a risk.) It didn't quite work but I definitely want to try a slightly-more traditional version soon.

seconds for sauce

Last post I wrote about the tomato seconds I bought for our roommate dinner. Here they are in all their glory! Mostly smaller tomatoes, some cracked, and a mix of types. I set a few aside to eat over the next few days but used most of these to make tomato sauce.

I used this 'recipe' from Saving the Season, which is really more intructions for canning than anything else. I didn't peel the tomatoes due to laziness and tossed in some basil about halfway through the reducing process. When I use it for pasta I'll probably toss in more seasoning- salt, pepper, basil or oregano, red pepper flakes. Instead of worrying about canning, I just put in bags and froze the sauce. I have about a gallon split between three bags, all from maybe $7 of tomatoes and a few hours of stirring tomatoes every 15 minutes.

[Look how beautiful they are inside!]

[In the process of boiling down]

Monday, August 30, 2010

southern fried-roommate dinner

This past weekend I bought 15 pounds of tomato "seconds" or the tomatoes that weren't quite good enough to sell individually at the farmers market (for .50 cents a pound!.) For many, it was just that they were smaller or occasionally funny-shaped, but in the mix of mostly-ripe tomatoes there were some small green ones. Upon returning home from the farmers market, my roommate and I decided to cook an elaborate Southern meal for roommate dinner that night. Using the tomatoes, I made Fried Green Tomatoes using this recipe from TheKitchn.

Our Southern-fried goodness didn't stop there. Using fresh corn cut off the cob that was left over from last weekend's cookout, I made Corn Cakes topped with bacon and avocado. Besides the toppings, the only change was that I didn't use any cheese in the mix. They aren't super flavorful but did taste of fresh, sweet corn. Cheese would have been good, but wasn't particularly needed.

And my roommate my venison sliders on baguette with brie. (The venison was supplied by her father, thanks Fred!)

Our meal- venison sliders, fried green tomatoes, salad and corn cakes. Local venison, tomatoes, salad greens, corn and onions.

Lastly, last night I watched Fried Green Tomatoes for the first time ever. Let's just say I'm sad I hadn't gotten around to it earlier.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

design for humanity: plastic bottle dining

Wouldn't you love to have a romantic meal on this floating dining room?

So luxurious.

With a little secret under the deck. (Well, not too secret since there is a peep window to below.)

Plastic bottles keep the raft afloat.
This beautiful dining room is a special project of the School of Fish Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides curriculum and subject materials for sustainable seafood preparation. Built by Goodweather Design, "the floating plastic represents the issue of our oceans becoming a collecting ground for discarded plastic; one of the many threats to our seafood supplies."
A six-course sustainable and seasonal seafood dinner (say that six times fast!) is catered nightly by C Restaurant. You'll have to travel to eat there, however, the dining room raft is moored at the False Creek Yacht Club in Vancouver, BC.

I find this design stunning and an elegant educational tool, though the price of dinner will keep many from enjoying it. Imagine this used to build inexpensive rafts for public swimming at lakes, though. What other applications could this idea be applied to?

School of Fish Foundation found originally at Re-Nest.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

recipe: peach arugula salad

After a trip to the farmers market resulted in arugula and peaches coming home with me, fate (or seasonal recipe choices from the editor) brought me this recipe for Ricotta and Peach Crostini with Pistachios. Apparently I blacked out after reading it because all I remembered was peaches and arugula and total spaced on the ricotta and pistachios. I knew I wanted to make it into a salad to transform it from an appetizer to a meal. So for dinner last night I followed the directions for the dressing (simplest ever), used the recommended amount of arugula and upped the peaches to 3. I also toasted some bread with brie on top. I do wish I had pistachios, the salad needed some crunch and a bit of a savory taste (without just putting more salt in the dressing.) I made a second batch to bring to lunch today and put sunflower seeds on top, but pistachios would be excellent.

j.crew knockoff at urban

This necklace at Urban looks strikingly similar to these J. Crew necklaces. There is one that was completely rhinestones that I can't find but I swear it's a direct knockoff off (one that I loved and refused to buy for $150) but this version for $34.00 is a lot more reasonable. Very similar but much more pricey J. Crew versions below.

Images: Urban Outfitters/ J.Crew/ J.Crew

music of the day: la roux

Monday, August 23, 2010

trailor park hotel

I love old trailers. I love turning things into something unexpected, breathing new life into old objects. This trailer is part of a set that make up the El Cosmico hotel/motel/campsite. I've stayed at a trailor park motel. It looked nothing like this.

I'm having trouble uploading pictures but check out more images here.

Originally found on the amazing HonestlyWTF here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

peach whiskey smash/sangria

Having continued my peach buying spree, I wanted to come up with a Best Friends Day recipe using the fresh fruit. I had saved a recipe for "Whiskey Peach Smash" from thekitchn but since BFD is more of a marathon than a sprint, I wanted to make the drink less boozy but keep the peach-y whiskey-y goodness. We called it "Short Pump Smash" in honor of the surburban area of Richmond. I would definitely serve this to a group of ladies who lunch in Short Pump. Here is what I came up with.

About 4 peaches cut into cubes. Place in pitcher and cover with sugar (1/4 cup or so.)

Add in some of the sparkling white grape juice and muddle.

Fill pitcher 1/3 way with whiskey, 2/3 with sparkling grape. I used Jim Bean, but any not too expensive whiskey or bourbon should work.

best friends day

Richmond loves festivals, street fairs and special days. One that is not as widely known but that I find quite sweet is Best Friends Day. Basically, it's a day to get together with your friends, including inviting in friends from out of town. Hadad's Lake is the typical destination, but my roommates and I decided to just throw a housewarming party. We just did burgers and hot dogs, but of course went a bit over board on the drinks (and edible forms of drinks.) We also came up with Richmond- centric names for each one!

In honor of the Watermelon Festival and every other street festival, I made Street Festival Salad (one whole watermelon cubed, 1/2 cup of chopped mint, 3 tbsp lime juice, vodka.)

My roommate also came up with several fabulous creations. Snowpocaolpyse was a vanilla rum, coconut milk and ice cream creation that I never got to sample. James River Water used berry vodka, blue pucker, fresca, and stonefruit (nectarines) in honor of our rocky river.

Luckily, thekitchn also had a post this past week about beer pops! Richmond is the number one consumer of PBR, so I had to make the beer pops using our favorite beer. Recipe here, though I used simple syrup instead of agave because I forgot to buy it at the store.

Making 48 mini pops (using 24 cans of PBR) meant juicing 24 limes.

I also found a recipe for Strawberry-Basil Margarita 'jello shots' from scratch. There were mixed reviews- I felt they were too boozey, some felt the texture was weird due to the strawberry puree and unflavored gelatin. I'd defintiely play around with this idea again, though.

I also made a Short Pump Smash, using whiskey and fresh peaches that was sort of a cross between sangria and a smash. I posted the recipe separately since this post was getting so long!

Friday, August 20, 2010

design crush

I found this ring today on an advertisement and am a little bit in love with it. Sadly, I don't think I'll be dropping $250 on a ring any time soon.

j Gold Silver Spinner Ring

Monday, August 16, 2010

weekend review: condensed

Instead of the usual 2.3 day weekend, I had only a 1.5 day weekend but being the first I had off in a while, I was not going to let that hold me back. The weekend contained some classic Richmond gems- a food festival, French bistro dining, and an afternoon grilling at the farm.

[The Filipino Festival]
A cute, family-friendly festival that avoids the crowds of the Greek Fest. The lechon (roast pig) was especially delicious, we got there around 3pm long after the roast was over. I recommend going for lunch to get the food at it's freshest.

[Look closely. Legs.]

[Wait for these to reappear. I have a plan.]

A very dark Can Can meant that my pictures didn't come out so well, but the lamb sausage in my "Lamb Two Ways" was incredible. The almond creme-brulee was also great but paled the the intensity of the strawberry ice cream that accompanies it.

[Um, did you know they have a restaurant at Bass Pro Shop?]

[Gratuitous puppy picture]

[Apple picking]

[Impromptu green bean & strawberry salad with balsmaic vingerette]

[Our full meal at the farm]