Spinach Salad with Curried Almonds

spinach-salad-with-curried-almonds

Seafood, greens, nuts and beans.  That’s been my mantra this week after listening to this Splendid Table podcast with nutritional psychiatrist Drew Ramsey and food writer David Leite about the link between the stomach and mental health. I’m looking forward to reading Dr. Ramsey’s new book, Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients That Fuel Brainpower, Boost Weight Loss, and Transform Your Health. The book draws on the  Human Microbiome Project’s research on the link between gut health, allergies and mood. Interesting stuff and possibly a cure for all that ails me.

I went all in with an Indian-inspired dinner last night: pan-seared sadark chocolate candied orangeslmon rubbed with tumeric, coriander, ground ginger and garam masala, tumeric basmati rice, this lovely, fresh Spinach Salad with Curried Almonds, a glass of red wine and my newest guilty pleasure, dark chocolate candied orange slices. While the perfect little dessert treat, they are outrageously expensive.  I’m looking forward to experimenting with making my own.

Spinach Salad with Curried Almonds
Ingredients:
 
For the Curried Almonds:
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  •  1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
For the Spinach Salad:
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons minced chutney
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 10 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups diced apple (unpeeled)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil. Pour the butter on to the baking sheet, then add the almonds, then sprinkle with the curry powder, salt and sugar.  Toss to coat the almonds thoroughly, then spread them in a single layer.
  3. Bake the almonds for around 20 minutes, stirring about every 5.
  4. Cool the almonds completely, then scrape everything from the foil on to a cutting board and roughly chop.
  5. In a small bowl,  whisk together the apple cider vinegar and vegetable oil.  Whisk in the yogurt, chutney, sugar, curry powder and dry mustard.
  6. Add the spinach, apple, raisins,green onions and almonds to a large salad bowl.  Drizzle with the dressing and toss thoroughly to combine.
Yield: 6-8 side servings
Cook time: 20 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Be sure to use good quality, fresh spices! The curry powder I used for the sweet and spicy almonds was my favorite Frontier Indian Curry spice blend — lots of flavor and not too fiery. For the dressing, I used Spicy Plum Chutney from The Virginia Chutney CompanyMajor Grey’s mango chutney would work fine here, but you may want to add a pinch of cayenne or some black pepper to balance the sweetness.

BON APPÉTIT!

Orlando Bourbon

I wasn’t much looking forward to my three day trip to Orlando. I’m kinda done with traveling alone. While I would know one person at the conference at which I was presenting — my co-author — that was likely going to be it. After days on end of gray mountain skies, the promise of sunshine appealed to my vitamin D deprived self but I’ve been to central Florida often enough this time of year to know that it is never as warm as you hope it will be. And did I mention that I loathe the plastic that is Disney?  In the end, I had a lovely weekend, met some nice people, got a little sun and drank some great bourbon.

I can only aspire to be a knowledgeable bourbon taster. Jack and water was a favorite during my twenties, but after I quit drinking during my pregnancies in my early thirties, I found that I’d pretty much lost my taste for much of any kind of hard liquor. A few dates with a old-school Southern gent changed all that. We drank Manhattans in the lounge at Eseeola and Old Fashioneds at the Fowl Play Pub, and sneaked his flask of Makers Mark into the John Prine concert. Now, I’m sippin’ and mixin’ up all kinds of things and learning lots in the process.

Night one was dinner with my co-author at Ragland Road, an Irish pub near our hotel in Disney Springs (known until recently as Downtown Disney). Ragland Road promised lively music, good food, and and an array of libations.  The pub was busy and loud, and there were no seats at the bar so we opted to dine on the patio, even though it was a little chilly, which is what drove me to order a flight of bourbons and set in motion my Orlando bourbon drinking adventure.  I should have ordered Irish whisky  as we were in an Irish pub, but in my rush to get a shot of something to warm me up, I went for the Kentucky variety:

Orphan Barrel Kentucky Bourbon Series
Barterhouse 20 yr | Rhetoric 20 yr | Old Blowhard 26 yr

My flight included generous tastings, all of which I enjoyed.  I seem to have been spoiled by my favorite bottle of Michter’s though. They were all good sippin’ whiskies, but even my clear favorite of the three, the Rhetoric, didn’t thrill me as much as smoky toasted barrel Michter’s.

Night two was solo-dining at  The Rusty Spoon in downtown Orlando. Owner and Chef Kathleen Black is a semi-finalist for this year’s James Beard Best Chef: Southeast award. I’m not going to write about her fabulous food here as it deserves a post all its own!  I’d initially made a reservation for early in the evening, but cancelled because it conflicted with the conference reception — just as well as I prefer to sit at the bar when I am dining alone.  I couldn’t resist ordering this from their  great selection:

The Kentucky RedBulleitt Bourbon, Ginger Syrup, Averna, Orange Bitters & Fresh Lemon

And it was fabulous — the clear winner of the three night’s samplings. Bulleitt bourbon, one of my favorites, with ginger and orange bitters?  Yes, please.  I was not familiar with Averna, but I’ll be going out shopping for some of this divine little Italian liqueur.

Night three was dinner at Todd English’s bluezoo with a new friend.  Their cocktail menu included several tempting barrel-aged favorites.  The Moscow Mule and the Boulevardier both sounded fabulous.  Ultimately, we each ordered this:

Manhattan

circa 1870, new york. our manhattan starts with a classic recipe of four roses small batch bourbon, dolin vermouth, and bitters.  it is then aged in an oak barrel until we deem ready. the cocktail you will enjoy is one of the smoothest manhattans made.  garnished with brandied cherries.
Delicious, elegant, everything a Manhattan should be.  No regrets.

 

 

Sloppy Joe Sliders

sloppy joe slider

On my drive south from the mountains to my favorite little creek in Lower Alabama a couple of days ago,  I  entertained myself listening to podcasts via my Stitcher app. Two of the podcasts, including this Bon Appetit piece on retro comfort foods, talked about our nostalgia for the foods we grew up eating.  Our favorites. Dishes served for special occasions. Mom’s or Dad’s specialty. The podcast offered updated versions of meatloaf (I will be adding the bacon braid to mine),  grilled cheese sandwiches (I tried the mayo and grated cheese tricks today and loved the outcome), and tuna casserole (I’ll probably still pass), among others.  At my house it was fried chicken and mashed potatoes.  I suspect that each of my three sisters would answer the same.  That, and the oatmeal cake topped with coconut, brown sugar and pecans which I still beg my mom to make for my birthdays.

I’m not sure what my boys will ultimately pick as their nostalgia foods…  probably my slaw. Maybe Chicken Parmesan, maybe pan-fried catfish, maybe these Sloppy Joe Sliders…

Sloppy Joe Sliders

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 pounds ground beef (or turkey)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed to remove excess moisture
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup ketchup (and yeah, it needs to be Heinz)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 table spoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme plus extra for garnish
  • 8 slider buns
Directions:
  1. Brown the ground meat or turkey in a large skillet over medium high heat, using a spatula to break it up. When you are sure the meat is thoroughly browned, dump it in a colander to drain the extra fat.
  2. Wipe out the skillet, and heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the onions, celery and carrots until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini to the pan and saute until any moisture has cooked off, then add the garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the meat back to the pan, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Then, stir in the ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, hot sauce and thyme.
  5. Stir in 1/2 cup water and simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  7. Toast the slider buns, top each bottom bun with the meat and garnish each plate with a sprig of thyme.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
I must have a fresh bag of crispy potato chips with my sloppy joe — a little extra salt, a bit of crunch for a contrasting texture. If you are looking for something healthier, a little lightly dressed broccoli slaw works well too.

BON APPÉTIT

Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese

smoked-gouda-mac-and-cheese

Winter in the mountains is long and cold and requires copious amounts of comfort food. We are having spring-like weather this week, a lovely treat, but I know better than to think we won’t have another blizzard or two before it really warms up. This time of year though, I do start thinking about favorite winter comfort foods that I have not yet made this season.  This recipe for Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese is one of those. Not to say that the dish wouldn’t make a great side for 4th of July BBQ or a Thanksgiving potluck.

This recipe is inspired by the smoked gouda mac and cheese served at Crave, a now defunct tapas place here in Boone that was once our spot for family celebrations.  My version is based on one that I found in a Special Collector’s Edition of All-Time Best Recipes, published by Cook’s Illustrated.  Their suggestion that you cook the mac and cheese on the stove, then just put it under the broiler to brown the bread crumbs is right on if you want crunchy topping, tender pasta and creamy sauce.
Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound Cavatappi pasta
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups low-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 8 ounces Smoked Gouda cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup Panko
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil in a dutch oven over high heat.  Stir in the pasta and tablespoon of salt.  Cook according to package directions (about 8 minutes) until just past al dente so that it is a bit tender.
  2. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  3. Return the dutch oven to medium heat.  Melt the butter, then whisk in the flour.  Cook the flour for about 1 minute, making a blond roux.
  4. Slowly whisk in one cup of milk, stirring constantly until all the lumps are dissolved.
  5. Whisk in the remaining milk, dry mustard, cayenne, and hot sauce.
  6. Turn up the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly and bringing to a gentle boil so it will thicken properly.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and reduces to a heavy cream.
  8. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheeses, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and black pepper.
  9. Add the pasta back to the pot, stirring gently to combine.
  10. Return the pot to medium low heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, until hot.
  11. Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the broiler.
  12.  Spray a 9 X 13 glass or ceramic baking dish (or 10 ramekins) with olive oil cooking spray.
  13. Mix together the Panko and olive oil.
  14. Pour the macaroni and cheese into the pan and sprinkle evenly with the bread crumbs.
  15. Broil until the topping is deep golden brown, 3-5 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary so that the bread crumbs brown evenly.
Yield: 10-12 side servings
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
 
The Smoked Gouda adds big flavor to the mac and cheese while the Monterey Jack adds a creaminess you can’t get from using the Smoked Gouda alone. I used Cavatappi pasta rather than ordinary macaroni because I wanted to make it a little fancier.  I’ve given up trying to make the dish with the Barilla-plus pasta I usually use.  It may have more protein, fiber and Omega-3s, but the texture just doesn’t work for mac and cheese. 

Bon Appétit

Paté de Campagne

pate de compagne platter
Paté de Campagne was not something I grew up eating in south Mississippi in the seventies.  I discovered the joys of  country paté when I moved to New Orleans after college, and regularly indulged thanks to  Martin Wine Cellar‘s deli. Then I discovered that George, most everyone’s favorite Southern Yacht Club bartender, made paté.   He called all the unmarried ladies “Isabelle”, likely to avoid calling a member’s Saturday night date by his Friday night’s date’s name.   He replaced your “red drink”– a slushy concoction of fruit punch and rum — with another before you’d finished your first, delivering each with a playfully suggestive remark that only you could hear.  He made his patés at Christmas time, delivering delicious savory bread-loaf sized terrines wrapped tightly in foil to his customers.  For years, he’d ask in his Greek accent “when you gonna come over to make paté with me, Isabelle?” everytime I saw him.  As much as I wanted to learn to make paté, I got the idea that George’s wife would not be thrilled to find me in her kitchen.
That was about 30 years ago.  Over the years, I’ve made many smooth chicken liver patés, but never attempted a country-style terrine.  After looking at a number of recipes, I decided to use Ruhlman‘s recipe published in  Charcuterie, and also available online at the Splendid Table.  I was a little wary of his spice mixture, especially compared to some of the other recipes I had considered, so I did a little research and found that Ruhlman’s recipe is a variation of the traditional Quatre épices of white pepper, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.  The spice mixture should be varied to suit your taste — I toned down the white pepper a bit because I am not a big fan, and limited the cinnamon to accentuate the savory.  I modified the meats — substituting bacon for some of Ruhlman’s pork butt — based on availability and was very pleased with the resulting flavor and texture.
Paté de Campagne
Ingredients:
For the Paté Spice:
  • 1 tablespoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
For the Paté de Campagne: 
  • 1 1/2 pounds pork butt, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1/2 pound bacon, sliced crossways into 1/2–inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound crimini mushrooms, cut into1/2-inch dice
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped onion
  • 1/2 pound chicken livers
  • 8 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon Paté Spice
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Calvados brandy
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Directions:
  1. Put the blades and all parts of your grinding attachment along with your bowls in the freezer.
  2. Combine the spices, mix well, and store in an airtight container.
  3. Spread the pork butt and bacon in a single layer on baking sheets and put them in the freezer.
  4. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the butter.
  5. Swirl the butter around the skillet, add the mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  7. Assemble your meat grinder with the large die.
  8. Fill a large bowl with ice and set a smaller cold bowl inside.
  9. Grind the pork and bacon through the large die into the bowl immersed in ice.
  10. Take 1/3 of the mixture and move it to a separate large bowl and add the onion, liver, parsley, salt, pepper and Paté Spice.  Mix the spices into the meats using your hands.
  11. Fit the grinder with the small die and grind the pork, liver and spice mixture into the bowl of more coarsely ground pork.
  12. Quickly make your panade by whisking together the flour, eggs, brandy, and cream.  Using the paddle attachment on your blender, mix the panade into your meat mixture to bind it.
  13. Fold in the mushrooms.
  14. Do a quenelle test or fry a small piece of the mixture to check seasonings and adjust if needed.
  15. Line a 1 1/2 quart terrine mold with plastic wrap.  Leave enough overlap on the two long sides to fold the plastic over the terrine after you’ve filled it.
  16. Put the terrine in a high-sided roasting pan.  Place the pan in the oven in the oven, then add hot water until the terrine is half-submerged.
  17. Bake until the interior of the paté reaches 160 degrees — between 1 and 2 hours.
  18. Remove the terrine from the oven (and water bath).  Set a 2 pound weight on top.  Let cool to room temperature, the refrigerate overnight or until completely chilled.
Yield: 10-12 appetizer servings
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 1-2 hours
Total time:15 hours
pate de compagne
I like my paté served very simply with crusty bread, grainy mustard and tart and crisp cornichons.

Blogging 101

Dusk on the Parkway

There is rarely a perfect time to do anything.

My nest is emptying — I’ll be depositing my older son at college for his freshman year in about 10 days.  Between his lovely petite amie and rowdy bro-pack, my younger son is gone as often as he is home.

So while I am not spending a lot of tiBoone Golf Clubme meal planning and cooking dinner, I’m busy doing a lot of freelance editorial work, cranking out pubs in anticipation  of going up for Full Professor in the Fall, planning work/ play trips to Chicago and France over the next couple of months, dating regularly, learning to golf, hiking a couple of times a week and hanging out/ staying in touch with my girlfriends, old and new,  here, at the lake and beyond.

So nocone manor carriage trail, this does not seem to be the perfect time to dive back into blogging. Over the last few weeks though, I’ve felt faint stirrings of those compulsions that drove me to publish actively and passionately on my old blog, Another Marvelous Meal (AMM), for several years.  Admittedly, there were a lot of other things going on in my life at that time that drove me into that blog.  Suffice it to say that when you are in serious denial about the state of your relationship and life, and have hunkered down into survival mode to protect your children, writing a food blog about Happy Family Dinners can be a useful coping mechanism.  While AMM still gets tons of page views daily and has these inexplicable spurts in Facebook follower growth, I can’t go back there.  Hence this “new” blog which has limped along over the past couple of years.

I love the concept of Carolina Bon Vivant — living the good life here in the Carolinas. It’s Charcuterie Rhubarb April 2015not that I’ve not been doing that — I’ve just been lazy, inhibited, distracted, and generally unmotivated to blog until recently.  But now, I’m beginning to again find delight in photographing food and my surroundings, joy in cooking and creating recipes, adventure and passion in my kitchen adventures.

So despite it not being the perfect time to begin again,  I’ve signed up for Blogging 101 for the month of August and look forward to making time to write, photograph and edit, freeing myself from the self-imposed need to create, test, style, photograph and publish recipes and  spend the month enjoying sharing my good life.

Indian-spiced Grilled Chicken with Fresh Tomato Chutney

Indian-Spiced Grilled Chicken with Fresh Tomato Chutney

When grilling chicken, low and slow is the way to go…

Springtime for me means that it’s time for ripe tomatoes, fresh herbs, grilling and dining alfresco.  We’ve had warm, sunny days but chilly nights for weeks now. Nice enough to grill some nights, but too cool to eat on the deck. This past weekend, I took a chance and planted my herb garden.  And last night, we dined al fresco for the first time this season.

This recipe for bone-in grilled chicken uses a yogurt-based marinade to both flavor and tenderize the chicken.  Lots of do-ahead options: put the chicken on to marinate in the morning or at any point during the day, make the chutney earlier in the day or a day ahead, cover and refrigerate, then gently warm it while the chicken grills.

I like to keep the rest of the meal simple — Basmati rice and fresh sliced mango. Or maybe just some good naan with cilantro chutney.

Indian-spiced Grilled Chicken with Fresh Tomato Chutney

Ingredients:

For the Indian-spiced Grilled Chicken:

  • 2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoon spicy curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 bone-in chicken breasts (I always try to find the smallest ones)
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

For the Fresh Tomato Chutney:

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 minced seeded Serrano chile
  • 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic clove
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped seeded tomato
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Prepare the marinade for the chicken. Heat a small heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat. Add the coriander, curry, cumin, and black pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the spices release their aroma.
  2. Combine the yogurt with the lemon juice and spices in a small mixing bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts evenly with the salt and put them in a large zip-lock bag.  Pour in the marinade and squish the contents around until the breasts are thoroughly coated. Marinate for at least 30 minutes. A couple of hours in the fridge would be even better.
  3. Prepare the chutney. Heat the olive oil in a medium heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and the Serrano chile. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the ginger and garlic to the skillet. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the tomato, vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds and salt, then bring to a boil. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the chutney for 10-15 minutes. Uncover and simmer for about another 5 minutes or until the chutney thickens a bit. Set aside and keep warm.
  6. Prep a gas grill by preheating on high with the top down for about 15 minutes. Clean the grill thoroughly then carefully spray the grates lightly with cooking spray.
  7. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking it to let the excess drip back into the dish.
  8. Use tongs to place the chicken breasts on the hottest part of the grill, browning them for 4-6 minutes or so on each side. Keep a close watch so they doesn’t get torched.
  9. Move the chicken, skin side down, to the cooler part of grill, with the thicker side facing the hotter part of the grill.  If your grill is super hot, you may want to turn off the side burners and put the chicken there.  Low and slow is the way to go at this point.
  10. Grill for around another 20-25 minutes longer, turning the chicken occasionally until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees. Pull it off the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes, during which time the temp will rise to 165 degrees.
  11. Top the chicken with the tomato chutney and garnish with cilantro.

Yield: 4 servings

Equipment: Gas grill, meat thermometer

Prep time: 65 minutes (including one hour of marinating)

Cook time: 40 minutes

Bon Appétit!

Charcuterie at Rhubarb

Escape to the Big City: 36 hours in Asheville

I should escape to Asheville more often.  It is about 5 times as large (population of around 87,000 compared to 18,000) and feels like a big city compared to Boone. But mostly it feels bigger to me because it has lots more great restaurants!  While there are a handful of restaurants in this area that consistently make good on the promise of wonderful food, there were as many within walking distance of my hotel in Asheville.

As the conference at which I was presenting a paper was at the Renaissance Asheville, I stayed there and was very pleased with the location.  I hadn’t had time for the kind of dining research I enjoy doing before traveling so I did a quick Yelp search on the first evening to see what might be within easy walking distance.  To my delight, I discovered that Cúrate, a tapas bar at which I’d shared several good meals, was only a few blocks away so I strolled on over.  At 7ish on a Thursday evening, a couple would likely need a reservation but my hope that a lone diner could find a seat at the bar without a wait was realized.  In the past, I’d dined at a table and ordered Sangria or a beer.  Sitting at the bar though, it was clear that a cocktail was the way to go.  I’m crushing on bourbon drinks these days — Cúrate’s Old Fashioned did not disappoint.  I befriended the traveling salesman sitting next to me, a self-proclaimed foodie who, it turned out, had grown up in Biloxi, the next town over from my hometown Pascagoula on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  His father had run Austin’s Style Center in Pascagoula in the seventies.  I think my mom’s purple hot pants suit came from there.  We’d each eaten a Cúrate a few times so shared our thoughts on what we’d enjoyed in the past and picked out some new items on the menu.  My ongoing obsession with charcuterie meant that I had no choice but to start with the tabla de jamón, a lovely selection of Spanish cured meats including jamón serrano fermín, jamón ibérico fermín and jamón ibérico de bellota. Delicioso. My dining companion then convinced me to try the pulpo a la gallega, a warm octopus dish served with yukon gold potato purée.  I finished with an old favorite, berenjenas la taberna —  wild mountain honey drizzled fried eggplant.  Better than dessert.  Great meal, fine company, with a lovely glass or two Prino Finca  Villacreces — what more could a solo diner want?

French Broad Chocolate

French Broad Chocolates

On Friday, I had plans to go with my lovely friend Brenda to hear some music at the Altamont later in the evening. With time to kill after the conference and despite the storm clouds brewing overhead, I went wandering around the area, making stops at French Broad Chocolates and the Asheville Wine Market.  Boone and Blowing Rock both have nice little wine stores, but nothing with the selection, including some great deals, of this place. Then the bottom fell out of those storm clouds. I slogged through the rain with my bags of wine and chocolates, ducking into every available doorway, and made my way back down the street to Rhubarb.  My friend Elizabeth at my1stwordwaschocolate had recommended Rhubarb and Yelp concurred.  Again, a reservation would likely be need for a party of two or more but the Chef’s bar was an excellent option for an early dinner for one.

Enjoying an Old Fashioned at Rhubarb's Chef's Bar

Enjoying an Old Fashioned at Rhubarb’s Chef’s Bar

Indulging my two preoccupations, I immediately ordered an Old Fashioned and Rhubarb’s chacuterie plate, the House Cure, along with their Preserved Plate of pickled vegetables.  Pickles, pig and whiskey — a divine combination.

Charcuterie at Rhubarb

Charcuterie at Rhubarb

The bar was quiet so I entertained myself idly chatting up the kitchen staff and watching them prep for the dinner rush while I dried out from the drenching.

I was intrigued by the name of this dish — LG Pack Square Cheese — so had to order it. It turns out that LG is  short for Looking Glass Creamery and Pack Square is their creamy brie style cheese.  I thought that it would somehow resemble a fancy grilled cheese sandwich.

LG Pack Square Cheese

LG Pack Square Cheese

The warm cheese, served with apples, pickled kumquats and a sweet vinaigrette, was a dainty little treat which in no way resembled a grilled cheese.  I finished my glass of wine — a Monticello Vineyards Cab — and savored a small piece from my chocolate stash.  It was a pretty close to perfect rainy Spring evening.

My final meal of the trip was Saturday morning brunch at Limones, a low-key restaurant with jazzed up traditional Mexican food, recommended by my friend Rebecca. Everyone else in the restaurant was enjoying a cocktail so I ordered up a Blood Orange Margarita made with Herradura Silver Tequila and Grand Marnier.  It was, ummm, very refreshing. Limones Huevos Rancheros April 2015

After my series of small plates over the last couple of days, I decided to dive in and order a big plate of Huevos Rancheros. I loved that my perfectly fried sunny side up eggs were served with all kinds of goodies on the side — guacamole and sour cream, salsa, a little slaw, some black beans, and fried potatoes.  I did not have a hangover, but if I had, this would have been the cure.

I’m up for another trip sometime soon.

Lunch at Phoenicia Gourmet

A couple of weeks ago while on the Gulf coast, I had a lovely lunch with a friend at  Phoenicia Gourmet, a Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Ocean Springs, Mississippi which my sister had suggested.  Had I known how good it was going to be I would have taken pictures, made note of our charming waiter’s name, and brought along a bottle of wine to share as the restaurant does not serve alcohol.

Ours was a late lunch and the restaurant was empty save for a few lingering diners. The dining room was sunny and bright with a classic look –white table cloths, mirrors, a black and white tile floor and cobalt blue accents.  My friend Jan and I both ordered salads — Greek for her and fattouch for me.   I also ordered the falafel — a wise decision.  It was some of the best falafel I’ve ever eaten!  Nicely seasoned and fried with a good crust, it was perfect with my salad.  The meal also included pita bread and baba ghanuj.  Sometimes ordering a salad for lunch can be a bit dispiriting to me. This was not one of those times.

I will absolutely go back.  The prices are reasonable.  The corkage fee is $5.  Go and enjoy!

See this review on Urbanspoon.

 
Phoenicia Gourmet Cuisine on Urbanspoon