Cocktail Classics – The Aperol Spritz

The Aperol spritz is a classic European aperitif that you’ll find in traveling through France and Italy, especially in the summer dining al fresco or streetside in one of many outdoor cafes. When my husband and I visited Paris last fall, the Aperol spritz was on every drink menu, and we drank them all over the city. Whether we were on the Seine in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, or sitting in a cafe on a rainy, chilly night on the Rue Montorgueil, this slightly sweet, slightly bitter, bubbly drink was delicious and comforting.

What is Aperol, and what makes it unique? This Italian liqueur is one of a number of European liqueurs that are herbal and bitter, providing a complement to sweet or sparkling European wines. Aperol is made from bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb, cinchona and a variety of other ingredients.

In Europe, aperitifs became popular in the 19th century and were consumed before a meal as a way to stimulate the appetite. The classic Aperol spritz consists of three parts Prosecco, two parts Aperol and a splash of club soda. Fresh orange slices, ice and a straw are added to a large wine glass to serve up this refreshing drink. I was missing them last night, so I had to whip up some Aperol spritz’s at home.

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What’s your favorite European cocktail?

Here’s a photo from L’Esplanade St. Eustache, the cafe off Rue Montorgueil where we had dinner and Aperol spritz’s in Paris.

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Antique Store Cookbook Find

This weekend we visited the Cold Harbor Antiques Mall in Mechanicsville. This huge antique mall could have kept me busy for the entire day, but we had the kids with us and they sped through, loving the “old” stuff they found. They thought the rotary dial telephones were awesome, and they loved seeing the old microscopes, hand mixers and kitchen equipment.

I, on the other hand, was digging through my favorite thing in the world – old books. I especially love old cookbooks. Seeing the types of food that were important culturally during different time periods is my thing, so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered a copy of Life magazine’s Photo Cook Book from 1958 for only five bucks.

In the 1950’s, America was moving into the post WWII era of prosperity. Kitchen technology meant that most housewives had refrigerators, ovens, ranges and other tools, so meal preparation was easier and quicker than ever. This cookbook mixes recipes from America’s past with mid-century recipes for party foods and home entertaining.

There’s an illustration of a man roasting steaks over a fire pit at home, as well as illustrations of Manhattan vs. New England clam chowders.

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I’m sure I’ll enjoy preparing some of these mid-century recipes in the days ahead. From the international section on Indian, Chinese, French and Italian recipes to wine buying guides, brunch and summer recipes and more, this 1950’s cookbook is a piece of history that I’m glad I had the opportunity to buy.

Do you enjoy historical cookbooks? Which is your favorite?

Drinking, ruins and antiques

Living in Virginia, I’m spoiled by having access to the best of everything. Whether it’s beaches, lakes or rivers you want to visit, or mountains and wineries, Virginia has a bit of it all. About an hour away from our house are some of the best wineries in Virginia, and there are plenty of antique shops on the way.

Gordonsville is a charming town between Richmond and Charlottesville with a quaint main street and plenty of antique shops and boutiques. The town is also home to a long tradition of fried chicken making, with a Fried Chicken Festival that takes place on May 20 this year and celebrates the days of train travel and the African American women who would prepare and sell the best fried chicken in the country to hungry travelers at this crossroads of the Shenandoah Valley.

At Gordonsville Antique and Flea Market, I found a beautiful decorative fireplace grate that looked to have once been cast iron, but had been painted white. It had a fleur de lys on its top and was just the right size to be a planter. Immediately, I knew I wanted to put it on my porch and put some flowers in it.

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We grabbed lunch at Restaurant Pomme in Gordonsville, a small French-inspired spot. I had a delicious croque monsieur and fries.

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After lunch, we made our way to Barboursville Vineyards. We tasted all of their amazing wines, including their flagship red, Octagon, then visited the ruins on-site. Designed by Thomas Jefferson and constructed between 1814-1822 for his friend James Barbour, Governor of Virginia from 1812-1814. The brick mansion was destroyed by fire on Christmas Day, 1884 and sits on the grounds of the vineyard, next to its bed and breakfast.

Barboursville and Gordonsville make a great day trip from Richmond. Where is your favorite to visit in Virginia?

 

 

 

 

Summer Food Events in Virginia

Summer in Virginia is a time for festivals, and the best festivals celebrate the foods the Commonwealth is known for. Here are some of the best:

*Gordonsville’s Famous Fried Chicken Festival – Saturday, May 20, 11 AM-5 PM, Gordonsville Fire Company Fairgrounds – Celebrate the “chicken-leg center of the universe” and Gordonsville’s long history of fried chicken-making with fried chicken and pie contests, a wine garden and arts and crafts vendors.

*Broad Appetit – Sunday, June 4, 11 AM-6 PM, Richmond’s West Broad Street between Henry and Adams Streets – Try $3 mini dishes from some of Richmond’s most renowned chefs and restaurants. Africanne on Main, Casa del Barco, Comfort, Graffiato, Pasture and more will create small plates to try. Beverage options from across Virginia, including beers, wines and ciders, plus local dessert makers will round out your meal. Live music and cooking demos will make this a fun day for the whole family.

*Father’s Field Day – Sunday, June 18, 11 AM-6 PM, Early Mountain Vineyards, Madison – Enjoy a variety of local food, including barbecue and various local desserts while tasting some of Early Mountain’s best wines and taking in live music and views of the Blue Ridge foothills from the patio.

*Hanover Tomato Festival – Saturday, July 8, 9 AM-4 PM, Pole Green Park, Hanover – This celebration of the juiciest, most delicious tomato in the world offers rides, games, a petting zoo and local vendors plus more tomato dishes than you can shake a fork at.

*Pork, Peanut and Pine Festival – Saturday, July 15, 10 AM-7 PM and Sunday, July 16, 10 AM-5 PM, Chippokes Plantation State Park, Surry – A barbecue cookoff and local food vendors share what Southern Virginia is best known for: pork, peanuts and pine. A petting zoo, rock climbing wall and inflatable slide mean the kids will have plenty to do and see too.

*Henricus Discovery Program Days Program Series: Food of the 17th Century – Thursday, July 27, 10 AM-1 PM, Henricus Historical Park, Chester – Learn what breakfast, lunch and dinner would have looked like for a colonist or a Powhatan Indian. This program is perfect for kids ages 3-10 and includes a take-home craft.

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Get out there and have fun exploring this summer! What are your favorite places to visit in Virginia (or your state)?

Healthy Meal Prep – Turkey Taco Salad and Tuna Sushi Roll Bowls

We’re all looking for ways to eat healthier, and meal prepping is one method I’ve found that helps me to save money by avoiding eating out, as well as eating healthier since I’m planning and preparing my own meals.

Turkey Taco Salad is a great recipe that lets you customize your meal for whatever type of diet you follow. If you’re going low-carb, leave out the corn and tortilla chips. Only add vegetables you like. Customize the level of heat in your salsa, and add guacamole if you like, or just plain avocado (or none!).

Simply brown a pound of ground turkey, drain any excess fat and add a packet of taco seasoning (or make your own!). Prep your bowls by adding 1/4 cup of corn and 1/4 cup of black beans to each bowl. Add 1/5 of the turkey to each bowl, then top with shredded cheddar or any other cheese you like. I like to bag my cold ingredients so I can heat up the turkey and let the cheese melt, then mix in the other veggies so the lettuce doesn’t wilt. Throw into sandwich bags your choice of lettuces or other greens, diced tomatoes, sliced avocado or a spoonful of guacamole, a spoonful of salsa and a spoonful of Greek yogurt. Add a dollop of southwest ranch dressing if you like. Each day, pack one bowl and one bag for your lunch. You can take a bag of tortilla chips with you to crumble over the top if you choose.

For the Tuna Sushi Roll Bowls, mix up a quick marinade of Japanese ponzu sauce, a couple drops of sesame oil, 1 tsp. grated ginger and 1 diced garlic clove. Marinate the thawed tuna steaks for at least thirty minutes while you prep the rice. I use a rice cooker so I can “set it and forget it.” White or brown rice is fine – I make enough for three cups cooked. Once the rice is done, it needs to sit out at room temperature to cool down. Whisk in a bowl 1/3 cup rice vinegar, 1/3 cup sugar or agave and 1 1/2 tbsp. salt. Once all the sugar and salt has dissolved, use a wooden spoon to mix the vinegar mixture into the cooled rice. Lay down a layer of rice in each of your bowls, then dice avocado and cucumber and add to the bowls. When your tuna has cooked through, remove it from the oven and let it cool a bit, then add a piece to each bowl. Crumble dried seaweed over each bowl and sprinkle a few dashes of soy sauce (or add that later when you warm your bowl up to eat).

Grab a bowl each day and you’ll have a healthy, inexpensive lunch!

How do you meal prep?

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.

Three Magazines I’m Reading This Spring

Having the hard work of fixing a house up to sell behind us and having completed our move into our new home, I finally have a few minutes to relax and unwind. Lately I’ve discovered a couple of new favorite magazines, and re-discovered an old favorite:

I admit to a *slight* obsession with Fixer Upper on HGTV. Honestly, it wasn’t until Joanna Gaines brought her vision of rustic industrial furnishings to the masses that I realized that the home decor style I’d always loved was a “thing” now. This just so happened to coincide with the decision my husband and I made to buy a new home, and loading more than half of our stuff into a POD to stage our house so we could sell it really made me realize how much more simply and intentionally we wanted to live in our new home. A subscription to Magnolia Journal is only $20 a year for four issues.

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Kismet led me to discover Faerie Magazine when I came across a Tumblr post recently listing a number of interesting magazines to check out. It’s right up my alley, filled with articles on warriors and goddesses, an interview with Rasputina, information on gemstones and myths and recipes of golden apples. The magazine is published quarterly, and back issues are available on the website.

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Each time I travel to the mountains, whether it’s for work or for fun, I always pick up a copy of Edible Blue Ridge magazine. Of all the local versions of Edible magazine I’ve come across, the Blue Ridge one is the best. It’s always chock full of information on local food and beverage producers, and covers regional restaurants, food events and more. You can get your subscription delivered to your home, or you can pick it up at one of the many outlets throughout the region where it’s free to grab.

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What are your favorite magazines? Tell me in the comments below and I’ll pick one lucky winner by May 15 to win a yearlong subscription to The Magnolia Journal.