A new look

2017 has been a year of change, and in that vein I’ve decided to make some changes to my blog. While my obsession with culinary history continues, I wanted to open this blog up to be more of a lifestyle blog reflecting who I am and the things I love, from food and recipes to music, movies, clothes, home decor and more.

It’s no secret that I’ve been drawn to a darker aesthetic since I was a teenager, but what happens when you’re goth af on the inside, but you’re married, have kids and a career and live in the ‘burbs?

From the Wikipedia: Southern gothic is “a subgenre of gothic fiction in American literature that takes place in the American South.” Themes that are typical in Southern Gothic literature “include deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters who may or may not dabble in hoodoo,ambivalent gender roles, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or stemming from poverty, alienation, crime, or violence.”

For me, the Southern Gothic aesthetic encompasses urban and rural decay, melancholy music, rustic industrial decor, antiques and found objects, the spectre of history looming large and, my favorite part, the note of eccentricity that’s the hallmark of people who don’t fit into boxes. Imagine walking down a deserted Southern country lane, the air heavy with humidity and the scent of magnolia, as you explore a roadside antique shop or graveyard.

Join me as I share my obsessions and explore the Southern Gothic aesthetic.

What’s on the horizon: the promised recap of my anniversary Europe trip with my husband, antiquing in the mountains of Virginia, music, favorite recipes and more.

 

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Opens New Craft Bier Brauhaus

In keeping with the craft beer trend, Busch Gardens in Williamsburg has opened a brand new “brauhaus” featuring 30 rotating craft beers on tap. This cozy spot is located inside “Das Festhaus” in Germany, and is tucked away at the back of the building, offering a quiet place to enjoy a craft beer or beer flight accompanied by various bar snacks.

On the day of our visit, there were beers on draft from DuClaw, Starr Hill, Bold Rock Cider and St. George, among others. My husband and I each got a beer flight of four different beers. I tried the Flying Dog Blood Orange Ale, Hofbrau Dunkel, Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale and DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter. We got a meat and cheese platter and a pretzel and hung out in the brauhaus for a bit. It was great to sit down and rest a bit after walking around the park all day, and the tucked-away location and great selection of craft beers make this a spot I’m sure we’ll hit up whenever we visit the park.

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Make your plans for DC’s Cochon 555!

This April, I’ll be heading to DC to partake of some of the most delicious pork, wine, bourbon and cocktails in the country at Cochon 555. If you’ve never heard of this celebration of all things pig, don’t worry – there’s plenty of time to buy your tickets and find out what you’ve been missing!

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Cochon 555 is a national tour promoting heritage breed pigs by inviting five chefs and five winemakers in each stop on the tour to cook one of five pigs in whichever ways they choose, and to pair the dishes with the best wines. Besides the most interesting and innovative nose-to-tail bites of pork, each event features tastes of other foods, sips of bourbon and brews and popup cocktail bars featuring themed drinks.

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Cochon 555 events take place from coast to coast, and additional events have been added in recent years, such as Asian Speakeasy and Heritage BBQ events.

Washington, DC’s Cochon 555 event will be held on Sunday, April 17, with an Asian Speakeasy the preceding Friday evening and a Chef’s Course dinner series that Saturday. I hope to see you there! If not, be sure to follow all the excitement on my Instagram account.

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Virginia Wine Expo

My husband and I hit up the Virginia Wine Expo in Richmond yesterday, and I must say we had a great time. A wide range of Virginia wines were represented, from classic styles like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to those made from Virginia’s native grape, the Norton. We also got to sample some delicious Italian wines, as well as discover some new wineries making really unique and interesting wines.

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As this year’s “Guest Region,” Italy was well-represented in tastings throughout the show. I discovered two reds from Sardinia, made by winery Argiolas.

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Virginia standbys Barboursville Vineyards had a large tasting booth and plenty of wines to try.

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Sumerduck, Virginia’s Rogers Ford Farm Winery brought a bevy of interesting wines. Standouts were their First Frost Vidal Blanc 2014 and Brandy Station Dulce.

Other favorites from the show:

Notaviva Vineyards‘ “Back Dat Glass Up” white

Byrd Cellars‘ Winter Solstice red

Mattaponi Winery‘s Miskwamin red (“grownup grape juice”)

Cobbler Mountain Cider‘s hard cider

Everybody’s opening a food hall concept!

A while back, when I first heard about Anthony Bourdain’s planned indoor market in New York, I was intrigued.  The concept of an indoor market/food hall dates nearly as far back in time as the concept of trade in food and spices itself, and most foodies can attest that the first and best place to visit in a new city to find out about its food culture is its local food market. Bourdain’s market, slated for Pier 57 in Chelsea, will feature heavy Asian influences, drawing from markets like Hong Kong’s Temple Street Night Market and Sapporo’s Ramen Alley. It’s already on my foodie bucket list, even though it won’t be open until at least 2017.

Apparently, other celebrity chefs want to get in on the market action too. Enter Mike Isabella of Top Chef fame, owner and restauranteur of Italian-concept Graffiato and Greek concept Kapnos, among others. Isabella is getting in the food hall game with a planned eatery in Tyson’s Corner that will showcase 10 different concepts, from Graffiato’s Italian small plates to Kapnos’ spit-roasting Greek fare, and adding Mexican cantina Pepita, Japanese/Korean restaurant Yona, a raw bar, Spanish tapas, coffee, ice cream and more.

Up and down the East Coast, the food hall concept is the hottest innovation in food retail. While many cities are hanging onto a proud food market history, such as Lancaster, Pennsylvania, home to the nation’s oldest continually-operating indoor food market, other cities are re-imagining the food emporium in the image of today’s in-the-know foodies. Atlanta’s Ponce City Market is home to concepts from James Beard award winners like Sean Brock, while Tampa’s Sundial shopping and dining complex boasts chef Michael Mina’s food market and restaurant, along with potential tenants like Masaharu Morimoto and Emeril Lagasse.

Here’s hoping the food hall trend will make its way to Richmond – perhaps in the guise of the new and improved 17th Street Farmer’s Market!

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Lancaster Central Market, Lancaster, PA

 

Wine, rum and chocolate for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is on the way, and what better way to celebrate with your special someone than by sharing some fancy chocolate, delicious red wine and spicy sweet rum?

Vosges Haut-Chocolat, a Chicago-based chocolatier crafting interesting and elegant “experiential” chocolates, is where we start. With studies at Paris’ prestigious Le Cordon Bleu and an apprenticeship in Spain under Ferran Adria, Vosges’ head chocolatier, Kristina Markoff, brings a worldly and refined palate to the creation of some of the finest chocolates available. My husband and I sampled the Smoke & Stout Caramel Bar and the Black Salt Caramel Bar, paired with Witching Hour, a California red blend I picked up after tasting it at our local Total Wine, and with Old New Orleans Cajun Spice rum.

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The bitterness of the stout and dark chocolate in the Smoke & Stout bar paired very well with the dry but slightly sweet red blend. On the contrary, the Old New Orleans Cajun Spice rum’s sweetness brought out the lighter chocolate flavors and intense caramel sweetness in the Black Salt bar.

If you’re looking for a simple way to make your Valentine’s Day special, why not pick up some fancy chocolate for your love and pair it with a wine, a special spirit, or both?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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NYC Weekend Getaway – East Ville des Folies & more!

What better time to get away to New York City than a freezing cold January weekend? This past weekend, my husband and I hit the road to check out a whiskey and beer tasting event in Manhattan and try some of the food and drinks the city has to offer.

We arrived Friday evening and checked into our hotel, The Comfort Inn near the Financial District.  The hotel was right next to Chinatown, and my Best Parking app found a private parking deck in the same block, which made for a convenient, secure place to leave our car for the weekend. The Comfort Inn was a perfect value choice for a quick visit. The rooms are small but clean, the staff is friendly, the lobby and decor are modern and the hotel offers a complimentary hot breakfast. With rates around $100 a night and a location a block away from a subway station, this hotel was a great place to stay.

Earlier in the week I’d gotten an email from Blackboard Eats with a special deal on a four-course prix fixe meal for $40 a person at Red Hook Lobster Pound in Brooklyn. A few subway stops and a leisurely stroll later, we arrived at the restaurant:  a laid back and rustic oasis in the midst of docklands, industrial warehouses and storefronts. Red Hook has a long and storied past, beginning in docks and seafaring (hence the great location for a seafood restaurant), and encompassing historical figures like Al Capone, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Miller, Harlan Ellison and more.

Our meal was, quite literally, the most delicious seafood meal I’ve ever eaten. It started with a cup of clam chowder, which was velvety-smooth, with chunks of potato and clam that were just the right size – not so big they choke you but not so small that you feel like the restaurant is cutting corners.

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Next came peel-and-eat shrimp, steamed with Old Bay and served with house-made cocktail sauce. The shrimp were plump and tasty, and the sauce had just the right amount of kick.

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The crown jewel of this meal was the whole lobster, served with an ear of corn, potatoes, cole slaw and plenty of drawn butter (bib and claw cracker on the side).  The only thing to be said about this lobster was “Wow.” So fresh it was probably in the water that morning, huge and cooked perfectly.

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Dessert was a carnival favorite:  funnel cake a la mode topped with blueberry compote. The contrast of crispy and doughy, with the sweetness of the blueberries and the cool vanilla ice cream was just divine – the perfect ending to this amazing meal.

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On Saturday, we had tickets for East Ville des Folies: Acte Quatre, a Prohibition-era beer and whiskey tasting event spanning four floors at historic Webster Hall. Dressed in our 1920’s best, we waited in the line that ran around the block for our VIP admission – an extra hour of tasting with a slightly smaller crowd than the regular three hour event.

Attendees received a complimentary tasting glass and could wander among the different floors to sample bourbon, scotch, whiskey, beer, cider and root beer. Citi card holders had access to a special “speakeasy” lounge with a victrola dj and complimentary appetizers. Burlesque dancers and aerialists performed, along with several different musical acts.

Standout drinks for me were:  William Wolf Pecan and Winter Spice bourbons, Rekorderling Passionfruit and Strawberry-Lime ciders, Jonas Bronck pumpkin porter and Redemption Rye.

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After the event was over, we headed back to our hotel to change out of our 20’s garb and into something a bit more modern before Uber’ing further downtown to world famous bar The Dead Rabbit. I’d been wanting to check this place out for years, and it did not disappoint. The wait for a spot in the upstairs Parlor on a Saturday night was nearly an hour, but we had beer and the lively atmosphere of the tiny Taproom to fill the time until our buzzer alerted us that there was space for us upstairs.

The Parlor was a bit more roomy than the Taproom, with The Dead Rabbit’s many awards displayed on a shelf behind the bar. The cocktail menu is centered around the life of Lewis Pease, a Methodist minister of the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 19th century. The bound cocktail menu encompasses a range of cocktails from each of the four seasons, eighty drinks in all. An additional drink menu added about twelve seasonal cocktails to the mix. Each drink seemed to consist of ten or more ingredients carefully chosen to create drinks that rise above the typical Old Fashioned or Mojito.

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I had the Moby Dick first:  Remy Martin 1738 Cognac, Power’s John’s Lane Irish Whiskey, Pale Cream Sherry, Fig, Elderberry, Lemon, Orinoco Bitters, Vanilla and Vanilla Soda. It was delicious! Served in a teacup with a big hunk of ice (which I learned from eavesdropping on another customer’s conversation with the bartender comes from a local artisan icemaker), the drink was the perfect mix of flavors. This is what The Dead Rabbit does perfectly, and why they have received so many awards and accolades. They elevate the art of mixing cocktails the same way a James Beard award winner or Michelin-starred chef does with food. These drinks aren’t even in the same universe as the whiskey sour or mojito.

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My husband had the Bloodlust first:  Ron Zacapa 23 Solera Rum, Fernet Branca, Ginger and Raspberry.

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For our next drinks, we both ordered off the smaller menu. I had the Sweet Talker: Bulleit Rye (my favorite!), Applejack, Cranberry, Rose, Ginger, Lemon and Grapefruit Bitters. My hubby tried the Poker Face:  Chief Gowanus New Netherland Gin, Novo Fogo Aged Cachaca, Oloroso Sherry, Carrot, Paprika, Orange and Lemon.

At $15 per cocktail, the drinks are not cheap. But as the reigning best bar in the world, the masterfully created and mixed cocktails are worth every penny. Their burger is great too!

Sunday morning was spent decompressing from a day’s and night’s worth of drinking and packing to go home.  With a six hour drive ahead of us, we waved goodbye to NYC until next time and drove through the Holland Tunnel to Jersey City to track down some White Castle before we got on the road.

All in all, we had an awesome time in New York City. We decided we have to make it back for next year’s East Ville des Folies.

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