DC’s Emporiyum at Union Market’s Dock 5

This past weekend, foodie mecca The Emporiyum returned to Union Market’s Dock 5, and there were plenty of delicious dishes and drinks to try!

Having attended the event in Baltimore a few years ago, my husband and I were excited to see the many food and beverage vendors and the Dock 5 layout. The space was a combo of indoor and outdoor vendors, with a large tent set up outside Dock 5.

First things first: a drink was in order. One Eight Distilling was happy to oblige. They had a short cocktail menu featuring their gins. I tried the Figetta Bout It, made with District Made Barrel-Rested Gin and a bunch of fall flavors.

Next on the agenda: fresh biscuits from Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit. We visited this classic southern biscuit bakery in the Charleston City Market while on vacation this summer and wanted to enjoy their delicious biscuits again. I got a biscuit with cinnamon sugar butter and my husband got his with spicy pimento cheese.

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Next we wanted to try the Instagram-worthy Chick’nCone, but when we realized the line that snaked through the venue was not moving, we gave up and decided to explore the other vendors. I’m so glad we did, because we tried samples of Hiatus Cheesecake’s delectable cheesecakes and were instant fans. Their Corn and Berries cheesecake was so good, with a cornmeal base, dense creamy cheesecake and fresh berry topping.

We got to try so many delicious foods and drinks, from Old Fashioned’s made with Buffalo Bergen mixers and Wild Turkey Longbranch bourbon to Indian dishes, Ketel One’s new line of botanical flavored vodkas, all-natural energy drinks, Chincoteague Island-made beer and butters, mustards and honeys made with truffles.

The event was a great chance to check out some really interesting Mid-Atlantic specialty food vendors, and to bring home some delicious treats, like Call Your Mother Deli‘s bagels and The Dough Jar‘s edible cookie dough. We had a great time exploring the market and trying all the different products.

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Argentinian Dinner

The food culture of Argentina is an interesting mix of native and indigenous cuisines with Mediterranean, particularly Italian influences. The prevalence of cattle in the South American nation means that beef is nearly always on the menu there. When making a delicious Argentinian-style dinner for my family, grilled steak with chimichurri was a must! Chimichurri is a thick, green sauce that contains cilantro, parsley and oregano alongside red wine vinegar, garlic and olive oil, it’s a flavorful addition to a high quality steak.

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Even though the steak was the centerpiece of this South American meal, we needed a filling side item. Toasted multigrain bread with a slathering of provoleta, grilled provolone cheese with spices, made the perfect match.

Our meal was simple and hearty, and all three kids declared it “good,” which is a major accomplishment in a multi-kid household!

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Of course we had to finish off dinner with a decadent dessert, and what better to showcase the link between Argentina and Italy than a yummy tiramisu? This rich, sweet treat was the perfect ending to this Argentine cooking experiment, and it was made even better by the light dusting of Puccini Bomboni cocoa powder we brought back from Amsterdam on our last Europe trip.

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Unique Chateau in Alsace, France

Near the Eastern France/Germany border, the region of Alsace is a unique mix of French and German culture. Over the region’s long and storied history, ownership of this region has passed back and forth between the two countries time and again, resulting in shared influences on the cuisine, language and culture of the area.

The Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg is perched on a mountain near the town of Orschwiller, and is a fascinating look into the region’s past. Originally built in the 12th century, the castle and grounds were intended as a fortress in a strategic location perfect for watching all the main roads in the area. Defensive structures were added when the castle was rebuilt after the original was destroyed in 1462. Unfortunately, the castle was again destroyed in 1633 and sat in ruins for two hundred years, until Germany took ownership of the region again and the town transferred the property to Kaiser Wilhelm II, who restored the castle to its former glory.

Since 1908, when restoration was completed, the Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg has looked down over the Alsace plain, first as an estate of the Kaiser, then as a French national historic site.

On the day we visited, the mountain was foggy, with snow in the air. We were practically the only visitors, and got to take in the unique perspective of the castle in winter. It was easy to imagine how isolated, and yet how cozy and secure this chateau would have been in the colder months of the year. As with any castle fortress, there is an exterior “village” area where the workers (blacksmiths, coopers, farriers, etc.) would have plied their trades, then an interior keep where the family would have had their living quarters. Drawbridges and heavy doors separate the interior living quarters from gardens, pens for animals and the like. A small chapel, an armory and a room full of hunting trophies are highlights of the grounds tour.

At the conclusion of the grounds tour, there is a restaurant featuring delicious local fare, such as quiche Lorraine and blueberry tarts. In addition, a gift shop offers souvenirs related to the castle and general historical items. I picked up a medieval cookery/receipt book and some souvenirs for the kids.

The Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg is convenient to other Alsatien towns. We stayed in Colmar, but Strasbourg is only about 50 minutes away if that’s your home base in Alsace. Our visit was in early November, which is a great time to visit and avoid the crowds if you don’t mind a little cold.

 

Fire, Flour & Fork’s Carnaval Latino

This year’s Fire, Flour & Fork food festival brought chefs, food personalities, foodies and “the food curious” from across the country to the Richmond, Virginia region to explore the best of Richmond’s food culture and history. The Carnaval Latino, a street festival held on the block of East Clay Street in front of the Valentine Museum, as well as inside the museum itself, showcased the region’s Latino heritage. From food and drinks to music, dancing, fashion and history, this event was a delicious and fun-filled evening.

First, let’s talk food. Some of Richmond’s best restaurants serving Mexican and South American specialties were represented, including Pao’s Bakery, Bocata Latin Grill, Shelly’s Comida, Flora Restaurant, Empanadas Market and more. From shrimp ceviche to lamb tacos and the most delicious tres leches cake I’ve ever had, the food was the star of the show!

There was also plenty of wine from Spain and other regions, as well as Steam Bell Beer Works, which had a delicious stout brewed with Mexican spices.

The entertainment was varied, from traditional dancing of Mexico to Colombian salsa dancing. A fashion show from a promising fashion designer who is only sixteen years old was a highlight! The Valentine Museum also had an exhibit of Latino heritage in the Richmond region, which was filled with unique artifacts and history.

My mom and I attended the Carnaval Latino to celebrate our birthdays (hers is two days before mine at the end of October), and it was a festive night out with plenty of great food and entertainment. I hope Fire, Flour & Fork does another Carnaval Latino at next year’s festival.

Paris – Finally!

The title of this post has a double meaning. My husband and I took our “grand European anniversary trip” last fall, but it’s only now that I’ve had the time to sit down and give our trip the in-depth posts it’s due. See, nearly as soon as we returned from our trip, holiday planning took over our lives and our days and weekends were filled with children’s holiday events, shopping for gifts and decorating. As soon as Christmas was over, we found a great deal on a bigger home (sorely needed, as our two boys were sharing a room in our old house), and so we began the stressful process of both getting our existing home in shape to sell and making an offer on a new home. We went through a number of twists and turns in the home selling and home buying process, and at the end of March we finally moved into our new home. Since then, nearly every waking hour we’ve had that hasn’t been spent on work or shuffling our kids around to all their activities has been spent unpacking and organizing the house.

The other side of my “finally” headline is the fact that’s it’s taken me so damn long to get to a city I’ve wanted to visit my whole life. Ever since I was a little girl taking ballet classes, Paris has been one of my bucket list cities to visit. Taking French since middle school and being a French minor in college, you’d think I would have gotten there far before now. But no, though I’ve traveled to many places, Paris had never been one of them until our trip last fall.

We touched down at Charles de Gaulle airport around noon on a Sunday after an overnight flight from Dulles. After the 45-minute taxi ride, we arrived at the Hotel Louvre Sainte-Anne, a cute little boutique hotel in the 1er arrondissement within walking distance to the Louvre. Being in “Little Tokyo” meant that there was a plethora of delicious-looking sushi and ramen shops, most tucked into tiny spaces with large windows onto the street. The girl at the front desk recommended we try Toyotomi, a sushi restaurant around the corner. Our sushi rolls were delicious and filling, a great quick lunch before wandering the city.

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On the first Sunday of each month, the Louvre offers free admission, so we walked the few blocks to the museum, taking in the vibe of the city and smelling chestnuts roasting (street vendors sell these in the fall and winter). While the rest of the city was not overly crowded, free admission to the most famous museum in Paris drew quite a crowd. We roamed the Denon Wing to see the “must see’s”:  the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory, the Venus de Milo. The further we got from those works, the thinner the crowds were, so we had a chance to explore a bit.

Besides the paintings, the Louvre houses some of the most beautiful sculptures in the world.

In the basement of the Louvre is an interesting Islamic Art exhibit that houses art and cultural objects from 1,300 years of history throughout the Middle East, Europe and Southeast Asia.

After the Louvre, we walked across the Seine to Notre Dame de Paris, arguably the most famous cathedral in the world. Construction of the gothic church began in 1163 and finished in 1345. It was one of the first buildings in the world to use flying buttresses to counterbalance the weight of the roof and walls. Heavily trafficked by Catholic pilgrims and other tourists from around the world, Notre Dame is guarded by heavily-armed French military following the string of terrorist attacks in the city. Indeed, other areas of the city, from the Eiffel Tower to the streets of the 11me arrondissement, were patrolled by soldiers carrying automatic rifles. It’s a feeling that’s somehow comforting and disconcerting at the same time.

Right around the corner from Notre Dame is the best ice cream shop in Paris, le Berthillon. Offering rotating, seasonal varieties, as well as dessert crepes and pastries, this shop has been in the same location for over sixty years. If Rum Raisin is on the menu, you must give it a try!

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Walking back to our hotel, we stopped to grab a sandwich for dinner. In Paris, long, thin sandwiches on baguettes are common. They’re topped with vegetables and meats and often melted slices of cheese. When nowhere else is open for dinner, you can be sure a kebab shop will have sandwiches, kebabs, crepes and a variety of drinks. We stopped at Creperie Doner Kebab d’Opera.

A l’Heure du Vin was a tiny wine shop near our hotel that had a range of excellent wines and spirits from France and Italy. After a long day filled with traveling and exploring, our hotel room window was the perfect spot to chill our white wine in the November night.

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More to come! Tell me about your last trip to Paris, or your dreams for exploring the city.

Incredible Europe Trip Recap

For the first two weeks in November, my husband and I traveled to Europe for a whirlwind trip celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. We visited France, Germany and Holland, and stopped over in Iceland on our way back to the States. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing in-depth recaps from each of the cities we visited. Here’s a small taste of our itinerary:

Paris, France

 

Reims, France

Colmar/Alsace, France

Ingolstadt, Germany

Rothenburg, Wurzburg and Frankfurt, Germany

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Reykjavik, Iceland

Look for my in-depth travelogue blog posts in the coming weeks, and enjoy following our trip!

A Grand Adventure

I haven’t been blogging as regularly as usual, but I do have an excuse! I’ve been working on arranging all the details of my husband’s and my next grand adventure: a 12-day trip across France, Germany and the Netherlands with a stopover in my favorite place, Iceland, on the way home. We’ll be visiting Paris, the Champagne region, Alsace, southern Germany and Amsterdam on our trip, and I’ll be blogging about all the food and drinks we discover as we travel.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr for updates and photos from our trip. If you have suggestions for sights to see, please leave them in the comments below.

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