October 9, 2014 § Leave a comment
…Minus 1 (my dad couldn’t make it because he works too hard) on a trip last weekend to Auburn. My mom is a huge fan of the team and, well, anything Auburn related, and grew up there. We stayed with my grandfather and step-grandmother who still live in the house my mom grew up in. I love these beautiful people.
September 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” -Emerson
I gave a small wood plaque with this quote painted on it to my friend Alison who-knows-how-long-ago, and it brought a big smile to my face to see it hanging in her guest room last weekend. I’m sure it was there the last time I came, but I didn’t notice it in the same way. Alison and I weren’t particularly stupid together on this most-recent visit, but we’ve had plenty of adventures and silliness and spontaneity in our friendship. I pray for plenty more in the future. Watching her with her new son Hunter, I’m so excited for him and all the hilarity that awaits him in his childhood. Good food, too, once he graduates beyond oatmeal dust.
Speaking of which, in just 2 days time, Alison and I either whipped up or pursued some mighty tasty meals. French toast made from her homemade bread topped with fresh berries kicked off our Saturday, which ended with Alison handling her grill like she was born to do it. In between breakfast and dinner, the four of us had lunch at Cafe Rakka near their home. They’ve taken me here before, and every dish was fresh and spicy and plentiful. This time, I tried the Tandoori Chicken sandwich on what tasted like housemade pita, almost naan-like. We entertained the baby in between our delicious meals (or, is it more accurate to say he entertained us?).
After the munchkin went to bed, the grill got fired up and flank steak was grilled and fantastic pineapple salsa consumed. I brought a new cookbook from work for us to pour over and we watched a documentary about French pastry chefs. Clearly, we have a preferred pastime. Sunday it was quiche for breakfast followed by a performance of the musical “Once” at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. I’d forgotten how much those songs resonate from when I saw the movie several years ago. Translating the story to stage had its awkward moments, but the music kept me mesmerized.
Afterwards we had to eat again so off to the 12 South neighborhood we hopped to try Epice, a Lebanese bistro Alison kept mentioning which very subtly clued me in that she really wanted to go there. My salmon dish, named Samak, introduced me to tarator, a sauce the waitress said was close to tzatziki which is now close to my heart. Cilantro roasted potatoes and the peasant salad I could’ve eaten two helpings of. I especially love eating out, and at new-to-me places, because not only do I get to experience new dishes, it also gives me ideas for techniques or spices to try later when I’m at home. We polished this meal off with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, because I always want to eat their ice cream. The Sweet Cream Biscuits and Peach jam flavor was as delightful as I’d hoped it would be. A simple weekend to visit a friend, but it filled me up in so many ways. The not-too-long drive afforded me beautiful scenery and a showy sunset, being face to face and heart to heart with an old friend gave me strength, and I left renewed. Thankful for constants even in the midst of life’s changes and the different stages we move into. Thankful for perseverance in friendship though the miles separate us.
September 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
My friend Natalie lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband and sweet-cute dog Lucy. I got to visit with them a week or so ago now, and it was a good time of fun and laughter and reconnecting with an old friend. Friendships are fuller face-to-face. Natalie shared with me the bounty of her garden, and we explored Durham and its environs a bit. I remember saving a magazine article about the Sarah P. Duke Gardens on Duke University’s campus probably a decade ago. The photo run with the article was lush and beautiful enough to stand out in my mind. In-person, it was just as good. If it had not been so hot, we could have stayed for awhile longer to see all the nooks and crannies of this lovely spot. Into the kitchen we went after this outing and whipped up a tasty tomato pie using a Southern Living recipe, of course. Natalie’s tomatoes also figured prominently in tomato sandwiches she packed for us the next day when we went on a hike through Umstead State Park. I will miss that about summer, the juiciness and almost unbelievable ripeness of tomatoes in their season. The colors are so vibrant and the taste offers a certain zing that tomatoes the rest of the year cannot match. Continuing our food tour, we drove to nearby Raleigh and indulged in two local chocolate-maker’s wares, Videri and Escazu. Words pale in attempts to describe the luxurious richness of the truffles I tried and brought home to try later. Cherries and vodka, garam masala and amaretto, raspberry ganache, muscadine jelly and pecan butter…each was a flavor trip, an exploration of the unique and unexpected. Escazu definitely won for inventive pairings and abundance of offerings, plus they had push pops. Videri’s charm lay in its simplicity and access to see the chocolate-making process, which unfortunately wasn’t at work when we stopped by. I left wanting to chuck it all and travel to Costa Rica or Venezuela or Europe and learn the fine art of chocolatier-ing myself. Birmingham needs a chocolate spot. Satisfied, we whiled the rest of my visit away in a game called Munchkin (which makes no sense) and playing with Natalie’s bead collection, out of which she made me two new pairs of earrings. Swaying in her hammock and watching her dog chase the neighborhood bunny, watching the first 2 Harry Potter movies because I hadn’t seen them, meeting a friend and neighbor of hers and sharing our pie: all of this rounded out a much-needed trip to a beautiful location and a dear friend. I left full of thanks and renewed even after all the driving I did to get there and get back home.