Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pudgy Brie: An account from the first ever Foodie Friends Bike Tour

A foodie co-worker and I were discussing some places downtown we were itching to visit when I came up with an idea...why don’t we bike to all of these places on Saturday and finally check them out? We started the tour at the Farmer’s Market in Marion Square with fresh squeezed lemonade and those amazing mini donuts. They were the best donuts I have ever had. Seriously. Like small elephant ears, still hot, with a generous dusting of powdered sugar right on top. Next, we hopped on our bikes and headed down King street to stop number two: Caviar and Bananas. I wasn’t sure how many snacks I would be divulging in throughout the day, so I opted for a tiny key lime tart. Heaven.
C&B's Meatloaf "Cupcakes"
Look at that hunk of mac n' cheese!!

Perfectly portioned key lime tart
Next, we headed to Heirloom Book Co. where they sell only cookbooks--new and vintage. The shop’s bookshelves are lined with oldies like "The Virginia Housewife's Cookbook" which features a recipe for cooking calf liver and doing something pretty crazy with a duck, and newer ones from chefs du jour like The Lee Brothers. We browsed for a few a were hungry for our next stop, Bull Street Gourmet.

Conveniently located across the street from Heirloom is Bull Street Gourment's brand new second location. I had never been to the first, so I went in with high expectations and was quite pleased. The space is very elegant and the wine racks are an art form in and of themselves. I have to say though, their “famous chicken salad” was pretty standard and tasted almost exactly like my chicken salad. Red grapes and nuts and all. Hmmm, maybe this means my chicken salad is famous too? Or should be? Either way, I wasn’t overly impressed with the food but would go back for a treat and to take a rest, or to read a good cookbook any day.


Or next stop was a place I have been absolutely dying to go…a cheese shop. We pulled up to goat.sheep.cow and all I could think was “how charming!”. I know that makes me sound like an old lady but charming really is the best way to describe the storefront with its planters with pretty lavender colored flowers and simple store name on the window calling us inside. I would not, however, use this word to describe the service. As soon as the fromaggier (is this a real word?!) began discussing his favorite French cheese I put on my beret and yelled “Bonjour!” to really get in the spirit of things. Maybe that’s why he disliked us so much. It was all in good fun and I walked away with a delicious “pudgy brie” in hand. I definitely recommend perusing the shop, but maybe on a day when the grouchy guy with the chef pants is absent.

Next on the agenda was Baked. Ever since I had seen Baked’s logo, I knew I wanted to give it a try. I was a little disappointed in the variety of their selection but really happy with the chocolate peanut butter thing I tasted. It was amazing. Crunchy and sticky and marshmallowy and delicious! Apparently the bakery now goes by the name of Bakehouse and you should at least check it out for the very cool club room to the left with a large farm table and leather chairs.

Peanut buttery goodness. To the left, many leather-bound books.
Next, we stopped into Charleston Cooks! which is a foodie’s heaven--gadgets, and unnecessary ice cream scoops, and miniature whisks, and everything amazing I could possibly ever want but don't really "need". They also offer cooking classes which we decided wouldn’t be half as much fun as our foodie bike tour.
I don't know what I would do with these, but I still want them!

Our final East Bay stop was Amen Street for some calamari and cocktails. The “Holy Basil” was a crisp, refreshing way to end the East Bay gallivant.

Everyone say "Bonjour!"
We made one last quick stop into the new Belgian Gelato, where a sampling of the pink Grapefruit was a delicious treat! I didn't have time to ask what the difference between Belgian and Italian gelato is but I all I know is I really miss the frutti di bosci and melane I used to eat every night when I studied abroad.

 We rounded the corner, passing a giant heinous cruise ship and headed toward The Vegetable Bin. What a find! I never would have known this place was here as it almost looks like a very, very old (and small) grocery store but has the most amazing produce. Think heirloom tomatoes, brussel sprouts, local honey and pollen, pineapple, peaches, and more. If I lived downtown, I would be there every week to stock up my fridge.

2 Pineapples in a pod

Just down the road was our last official stop of the tour—Ted's Butcherblock. I had been really anxious to check this place out because of 3 reasons: 1)They have a foodie trivia every month 2) they have a bacon-of-the-month club 3) I was ready for yet another snack. Ted’s looks like a great place to buy meat but I really wanted a cheese plate. I settled for sampling some of Allie’s pimiento cheese and it was amazing. It was smoky and spicy and very, very smooth. I’ll definitely be back for foodie trivia pronto.
On the way back toward King Street, we decided to stop into Hom, the new “ping pong beer bar”. Interesting name, unbelievable drinks! The Ren & Stumpy is made from their own strawberry infused vodka and fresh squeezed lemonade. It had hints of mint in it (say that 5 times fast!) and was so good I was craving it the next day. I will definitely be recreating it soon. This is such a quirky bar and their twitter post today said, "Sunny Side up Egg stuffed in french Toast with Truffled Boursin Portobello hash". Late night food or brunch delicacy? I'll have to visit again soon to decide.
Hom chopped salad, tiny red spatula not included
Ren & Stumpy

Fried green tom's with pimiento and chow chow
 So, that rounds up all of the stops we made on our 1st foodie biking adventure. I can guarantee there will be more in the future and since a new place opens every week here, we will definitely be there to check it out. If you would like to joing me for a foodie bike tour, please email me at Brinkley118@gmail.com . Until then, me and my beret will be waiting!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bagel ever after

So, I decided I haven’t been busy enough so I wanted to devote 2 hours of my time a few Saturdays ago to making bagels. You heard me right…bagels. I have never made bread but decided I was up to the challenge and given that I only needed to purchase a few ingredients, that it was now or never. I am sure there are many twenty-something chefs (I will refer to us as chefs, not cooks) that have never used yeast to make anything. This said, yeast was fascinating! I kept saying, “Frank this is like a science project!” But way cooler because you can eat it at the end and don’t have to answer lab questions.

Annnnyway, I decided I wanted to makea my favorite bagel flavors: plain, cheddar & chive, and sun-dried tomato. At the end of it I threw in one lowly cinnamon sugar for good measure and experimental purposes. The best part about making bagels is obviously eating them and the absolute worst is waiting for them to rise once, rise again after you’ve formed them, boiling them in batches, cooking them for 5 minutes, and then 30 minutes on their alternate side. It sounds exhausting and it kind of was, but it really is just following directions and being patient. To kill time, I made sun-dried tomato cream cheese and a compound herb butter. No, I did not make homemade cream cheese but I did google it a few days ago and its surprisingly easier than you would think. I just didn’t have the energy for that. Straining something into a bucket for a week just isn't quite as easy as thawing store bought cream cheese to room temp and adding whatever you want to it.


I highly recommend making a compound butter with herbs or whatever you have lying around or a flavored cream cheese. It's super simple and really jazzes up whatever you throw on it. Cooking with compound butter is really fun for me because you can add it to fresh bread or pasta sauce, or basically whatever you would put butter and herbs in. Genius!

So, I'm not going to even address the fact that I haven't written in 2 months (or did I just do that?!) but I would like to provide a mini recipe round-up below of things I made lately that I loved. If you want a detailed recipe, please let me know:

  • Tyler Florence's Spaghetti Carbonara- I use milk/butter instead of heavy cream, pancetta is a must, and top it with fresh chives. Obsessed!
  • Sandy's Banana Bread- thanks again to Kate! A much more devoted blogger than I. Made this for a work function and it was amazing! I should have cooked it for about 15 mins longer than the recipe says though.
  • Claire Robinson's Creamed Corn was the perfect 4th of July side dish. I added milk and water to keep it from sticking.
  • I made my version of bananas foster with Kahlua a few nights ago: just put Kahlua in a pan with some brown sugar and butter until thick, add cinnamon, honey, and bananas, and pour on top of vanilla ice cream. It was better than dinner that night. Hands down.
Anywho, please let me know if you have any good reciped I should try as I have been feeling quite adventurous! Next up.....homemade bacon?!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Savannah sweets and recipe review

Happy Spring! I have to apologize for not posting in so long...with a couple of weekends of out town including a weekend in Savannah for a wedding (see fancy outfits, right) and a ton going on, I'm sure you can relate. I wanted to compile a list of things I have made lately in the hopes that you will be urged to try one of them. Here they are:
  •  Chicken pitas with homemade tzatziki (really brought me back to Devine Greek, my favorite Greek spot in Columbia. Tzatziki is incredibly easy to make and I eyeballed the whole thing. It really turned out delicious!
  • Shrimp tacos with homemade guacamole (thanks for the inspiration Kate!)
  • Carrot Cake muffins with homemade cream cheese frosting (via May's issue of Southern Living)
  • Homemade pizza with salami, goat cheese, roasted grape tomatoes, and sage (I have found the ultimate trick to making homemade pizza is putting a healthy drenching of olive oil mixed with salt, pepper, lots of fresh garlic, and red pepper flakes on all of the dough before you add anything)

  • Smashed cauliflower with blue cheese- this is one of my new favorite veggies to make and you can really get creative with what to add to it. I usually add lots of pepper, a little salt, Parmesan, and whatever else I have. Try cooking the cauliflower in chicken stock first to give it tons of flavor.
 I am honestly having a hard time remembering what else I have cooked in the last 2 weeks which is so pitiful but unfortunately true. While in Savannah, we decided to get Sunday brunch which is one of my all time favorite things to do and picked a place close to our hotel called Soho South Cafe where they claim "food is art". I loved this place the moment we walked in--it was part art gallery featuring local artists, part cookbook collection, and part quirky southern restaurant serving up huge biscuits, sandwiches, and brunch offerings. I have to say, the best part of my meal was the raspberry spritzer I ordered. It was raspberry puree, soda, sprite, and fresh mint and was amazing and so refreshing. I will definitely be recreating it soon (and perhaps adding a little liquor to it!).

I have to mention a little place near our hotel that I stumbled upon the night before our brunch, Parker's Market. I was so intrigued by this place that I left the bar across the street to check it out and take some photos. It was simply amazing. This "market" has everything you could imagine from funny magnets to fresh flowers and gourmet candy to late night sandwiches and lotto tickets. Sounds like heaven right? I thought so.

I was good and only left with a small bag of jelly belly's. I have to mention that this market even had 3 gas pumps which had 3 ATM's on the other side. Very cool and definitely the kind of place I would love to own one day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I recycle, so consider me “green”

As someone who doesn’t really love leftovers, I’m always looking for ways to reuse what I’ve previously cooked in a new and creative way. A couple of months ago, the roommates and I decided to make a big Sunday brunch and used some grits from earlier in the week along with ham and goat cheese to make unbelievable grit cakes. I used this same idea for a late Sunday lunch a few weekends ago and apologize for not posting it here sooner.

I used the shrimp, bacon, white bean, sage and tomato (Tyler Florence recipe, remember?) leftovers to make grit cakes round two. I didn’t have leftover grits so I whipped some up, let them sit for a bit to firm up, and formed them into cakes. The secret to cooking these is definitely a non-stick pan and greasing the pan with a bit of butter first. I made sure to season the grits with a little Cholula (my favorite thing to add to grits!) and a tiny but of cheese as well (duh) and some finely chopped scallions. Man, were they good! I mean, I really do love anything that involves grits so I knew I was going to love this dish.

Believe me, I have tried every method and type of grits it seems and have honestly found the best grits are made with the Quaker 5 minute type straight from your average grocery store. I have used Anson organic, every version you can buy at grocery stores (including White Lily-both varieties) between here and Columbia, and even added white corn that I smashed up to get the right consistency and flavor and still find this brand to be the absolute best. I add literally everything I can find to my grits when I make them and have been known to use: string cheese, cream cheese, grated parmesan, Cholula (!), scallions, red pepper flakes, paprika, dry mustard, and of course, Kraft American cheese. Here’s what I usually do: boil water, add a little milk (I rarely use heavy cream in anything), and a splash of chicken stock. Add the grits and keep adding liquid (I prefer the milk here) until they are fluffy or the consistency you like. You want them to be smooth for the most part and really not taste “gritty”. Then add whatever you like. Lots of salt, pepper, butter, and Kraft Singles are a must for me. But, I only add the cheese at the very end and gently fold it in or else it completely disappears. Voila- Southern cheese grits right in your own kitchen.

If you have any new recipe suggestions I should try or good recipe "recycles", please post them here!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The plight of the 6 minute egg

Okay, so a few weeks ago (again, sorry for being a tad behind in the posts) I made a salad with what was supposed to have a lovely “6 minute egg” on top. The night I made this alleged salad happened to be at the end of a very long week and one where every night had featured a new dinner so needless to say, I wasn’t really paying attention. It was only 7 days after the start of the “one new recipe every week” adventure and I was already sick of following someone else’s directions. I was annoyed at the fact I had to do things Tyler’s way and couldn’t just whip up whatever so I guess my brain was doing what I really wanted to do and that was not pay attention at all to these damn eggs. The first go-round they were so gooey I couldn’t even get the shell off—undercooked. I think it's because I didn't bother to use the timer (something I rarely rely on) and just went for it thinking they would automatically be cooked correctly. So, I did what any budget cook would do and put those same eggs back in the pot and turned the water back on. That’s where I went wrong. They were supposed to just sit in the hot water. When I took them out a few minutes later, they were hard-boiled. Not AT ALL what I wanted and I must say I was pretty annoyed. These 4 little hard boiled eggs made me feel defeated and like a total amateur (which I am, but still) and I completely doubted any cooking ability I had. The salad still turned out okay but I couldn’t help imagine how it would have tasted if they had been true 6 minute eggs. So, I tried again. 

Last week, I had some extra time one afternoon, didn’t feel rushed, and figured what the heck? If it doesn’t work out, oh well. No one is here watching this so whatever. I googled 6 minute eggs and found the Voltaggio brothers' blog with detailed directions. I completely trust them since they were on Top Chef and decided to follow the recipe exactly. I added 2 eggs to a pot, filled it with just enough water to cover them, and when it boiled turned off the eye and started the 6 minute countdown. After the 6 minutes was up I put them in a bowl of ice water and cracked them gently to remove the shell which was somewhat tedious but no one was looking so to me, they were just right. They came out…perfect. They were soft and a little runny and everything I had imagined a few weeks before. I added a little salt, pepper, tiny bit of shredded cheddar (of course) and put them on toasted French bread. This was a fantastic lunch! I was filled up but didn’t feel stuffed and was so happy to have mastered these seemingly simple eggs. If only there was a stove in the break room at work…

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chimichurri is really fun to say

So, I decided for last week's new meal, to cook something from the food network website. I knew I wanted it to be something different I just wasn't quite sure yet what. I clicked on budget meals from the homepage and instantly was drawn to the grilled steak with green beans and chimichurri sauce recipe. We don't cook steak all that often so I decided to go for it. And, chimichurri is really fun to say.

I bought 2 giant bunches of cilantro and parsley (not by choice--who needs that much parsley?!) and added them with the other ingredients to make the sauce. I tasted it and tasted exactly like...vinegar. With parsley mixed in. So, I added more of everything, a little parmesan, siracha, and tried it again and it was much better this time; more like a pesto with cilantro and a little spice added in. I ended up buying a 3 pack of sirloin steaks and it fed 5 people and we even had a little bit left over which is definitely worth it. The green beans and tomatoes were cooked in foil on the grill and I have to say, were pretty darn delicious. They were the perfect almost-summer veggie to compliment the steak. I left FG to handle the grilling so all in all this was an incredibly easy meal to prepare and took only about 30 minutes from start to finish. Of course I added a little feta to the chimichurri at the end, just for good measure.

Steak with Chimichurri and feta, grilled green beans and tomatoes, rice pilaf, and bread

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

We're going OUT to dinner?!

Let's face it, if we all went out to dinner all the time we'd be broke as a joke (and I wouldn't get to experiment with new recipes) so I was pleasantly surprised when FG said he wanted to go out for dinner last Friday night. After 30 minutes of internet searching, flipping through the Dish, and looking at internet menu's, we decided on Wild Olive on John's Island. We made the 20 minute drive to the farthest of the islands and nestled in at the bar for a pre-dinner drink while our table was prepared. I settled for a strawberry basil mojito--basil because it's an Italian Restaurant--and watched the bartender as he crushed the basil, added the ingredients, and added a small, robust scoop of strawberry sorbet right on top. I knew then that this was going to be a good experience.
We were thrilled to hear that they had switched over to their spring menu and immediately ordered the blue crab crostini and FG ordered something with Pork belly (his new favorite thing) and butter beans. I'm really not at the point where I feel comfortable taking my giant Nikon out to take pictures of our food especially since I had to apologize to FG for whipping out the small, pink Casio to snap pics of our dinner plates before we dig in. "Sorry, it's for my blog." I have a feeling it's going to be like this from now on.

Pork belly and butter beans

Blue Crab Crostini
Anyway, after primi, we had papardelle (obviously one of my new favorites) with Pork Ragu and Spaghetti Carbonara. I have to say, that carbonara was the best I have ever had. It was simple, not chock full of cream sauce, and each bite was satisfying. The pancetta was crunchy and salty and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I have always wanted to make this dish but never attempted it for whatever reason but will definitely add it onto my list of new recipes to tackle.

Papardelle with Pork Ragu
Spaghetti Carbonara
I was too full for dessert but of course FG said "I'm ordering this chocolate pistachio thing. It's for your blog." Uh huh. 'For the blog'. We'll see about that. At least we are on the same page about the new importance of snapping pics of our food before we dive in. And hey, it gives us a second to examine what the heck we ended up ordering/cooked and that's just fine with me.

Chocolate Pistachio "thing" w/ homemade biscotti