Hilton Head

A draft of this post has been waiting around for well over a month. It is time. Let us venture back to Mother’s Day weekend, so I can tell you all about my lovely weekend getaway with Banana Man and his mom. From Charlotte we drove 4.5 hours Southeast to Hilton Head on a Thursday morning. We spent most of the day Friday in Savannah and then the rest of the weekend back in Hilton Head and returned to Charlotte late Sunday. I feasted heavily and shamelessly all weekend long. It’s all in the name of research so you my friends will have all the needed info for Hilton Head dining, wink wink.

I’m feeling out of order so with that we shall work our way backwards in time from Mother’s Day. It was Sunday and we were afraid everything was going to be crazy packed in Hilton Head given it’s relatively small size and limited dining choices in the area. We had reservations at the recently remodeled Westin Hotel for their touted buffet. When we arrived they sat is in a very cold dining room when it was beautiful outside. We looked at the buffet and promptly left. The Westin was not Mother’s Day material. We headed out, disappointed and hungry. Our new destination was Skull Creek Boathouse where we had dined previously in the week for dinner.
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I had an amazing seafood quiche smothered in sinful hollandaise sauce. We shared a baskets of beignet-like donuts and tons of peel-and-eat shrimp. The weather was glorious on the patio by the bay. I was so lucky to have immediately pounced on a high top table as a couple was leaving. There was well over an hour wait on the hostess list inside.

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Chris had a bloody mary on multiple occasions this trip, it is after all a great excuse for early drinking in the day on vacation. The Skull Creek Boathouse is on my top 3 restaurants in Hilton Head. It’s location is awesome, the vibe is so relaxing, the servers are super friendly, and the food is overall pretty darn great…especially considering the volume of food they are pumping out.

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The most original/authentic low country restaurant we went to was hands down Roast Fish and Cornbread…yes that is the name of the restaurant. Chris said that our meal that night was the best of his life! I didn’t have quite the gusto he did but there is no arguing it was the best food we have had in Hilton Head.

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This place was eclectic and kind of “out there”. It’s the kind of place that they just close the doors if they feel like going fishing and very may run out of several things on the menu. It’s about as casual as place can possibly be. It’s like going to your aunt and uncle’s house for dinner, and it’s ready when it’s ready. The servers feel like family too. They’re all just kinda hangin out but workin at the same time.

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Chris had a seafood platter which included a plethera of choices which could be prepared various ways. He chose “Blackened style” for a trio of scallops, local trout and shrimp. You can also choose your sides which was a very difficult task. He got sweet potato corn bread, gumbo and black beans. We heard that their collard greens and macaroni and cheese are epically delicious but that night the collards were overly salted and the macaroni was out. 😦

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I apologize for the dark and blurry photos. It was not good lighting for documenting food and I never think fried things photograph that well. I rarely order fried things when dining out but when you are in Gullah country there ain’t no way you are getting out of place without eating something fried. The Gullah people have mastered the art of frying and it is not the same as the greasy spoon dives you’re familiar with.

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I had a fried catfish sandwich and a cup of the gumbo. I would like some of that gumbo shipped to my house by the bucket, please and thank you.

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One of the most interesting things you may or may not have ever had: Conch fritters. These were really tasty. Apparently conch is frequently eaten in the Caribbean but it’s all new to me. It was like a hush puppy with seafood in it. The aioli with it was the perfect combo.

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Another restaurant of note was the Black Marlin. We dined there twice: once for dinner and once for breakfast. Both times we sat outside on the patio. Both times we loved everything about it! I had some eggs benny, they were good but not the most memorable thing in the world.

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What made us come here was the bloody mary bar. This set up was genius. When you are seated you choose your vodka or tequila (bloody Maria) and they bring you a glass to go concoct your masterpiece. I love that they had pickled green beans. I am obsessed with dilly beans, and had Chris bring extras back for me. For me an awesome bloody mary is all about the garnish so this had the “Wow” factor.

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For dinner at the Black Marlin we ordered this appetizer they called Ahi Nachos. I’ve had versions of this before but this is the best I’ve had. Maybe it was the atmosphere and feeling of being on vacation that just makes food taste better. Basically it’s just wonton wrappers with avocado slices, sashimi grade ahi, a little wasabi drizzle, pickled ginger and siracha. I wanted to order more for my entree! I ended up getting a scallop entree with walnuts and side of sweet potato fries. I know that sounds weird but that’s what I wanted! Chris ordered an unmemorable entree but he got collard greens as a side. He had never had collards before and it was a revolution for him. It was southern food nirvana. He may not remember anything else about that meal but he will forever remember his first bit of collards.

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Back to Skull Creek Boathouse…this is a terrible photo but worth posting since you can sort of see what an enormous pot of food Chris ordered. It’s one of things Skull Creek is known for and it’s called a “Boil”. This Boil has clams, mussels, shrimp, crab legs, andoille sausage, corn…everything but the kitchen sink.

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Check out our amazing sunset view from the deck!

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Just so you don’t think our entire trip was spent eating, although those were the highlights for me…here’s a photo of the pool we hung out at the hotel. Our room had a huge balcony looking over it. The slide was pretty sweet and banana man loves his pool slides. The beach in Hilton Head is one of the best flat white silky sand beaches in the country. It’s great to ride your bikes on and the water was surprisingly warm. (It’s always a surprise to me since I come from Monterey where you have to wear a wetsuit to put your toes in year round)

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Our very first stop on our way into Hilton Head was for a late lunch at Low Country Backyard Cafe. I would not have had it any other way. This is truly a hidden gem…as pretty much everything is Hidden in Hilton Head. All the buildings are tucked behind trees and any signage must be neutral/earth tones that blend into the environment. This fact is both the beauty and an initial frustration with the environmentally friendly town. You must have a good GPS to get to know the place and rely heavily on tripadvisor, Urbanspoon, yelp, etc. Otherwise, you will be LOST LOST LOST.

Me being me I did my research and thus the decision for low country back yard. 2:30PM was the perfect time to be seated there since we missed the lunch time rush. We sat by a cute fountain in the “backyard” which was covered in gravel. Our server was so Southern I could barely understand her. She embodied southern hospitality.

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I have to talk about this pie. This is Root Beer Float Pie!!! I had to have it since it was their special and because I have never before had a root beer float pie. It delivered. I am going to do my best to recreate this pie at home and hopefully provide you with a recipe some day soon!

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Chris had a meatloaf sandwich on flatbread. This is not surprising since he is a meatloaf loving freak. He orders it almost every time he sees it on a menu. I loved how they did this with flatbread. I’m not a sandwich person but I’d totally order it.

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Even though Chris’s meatloaf was good I think I ordered the real winner of the day with my BLT salad with grilled shrimp. It had fried green tomatoes, candied bacon, goat cheese, corn and a killer home made dressing. This is the kind of food that inspires me to be creative in my own kitchen. It’s something homey and comforting but totally easy to replicate without being boring. These are my kind of eats!

All in all I’m completely Over The Spoon for Hilton Head and it’s food scene, even though it had the potential to be a complete tourist trap I was surprised to find great local and unique eats. So if you are planning a trip anytime soon Low Country Backyard, Roast Fish & Cornbread, Skull Creek and Black Marlin are all reliable places to really enjoy your vacation. My final advise: wear loose fitting clothing and do not go here on a diet!

Queen City Eats: Jungle Jim’s, Half Day Cafe and Taste of Belgium

Hey guys! I have a SUPER long post for you today. I spent 4 days visiting the in-laws in Cincinnati last week. We had to use our Ultimate Air tix before they expired. Let me tell you that is the way to travel my friends. It’s an executive jet company that only flies Charlotte, Cincinnati, Chicago and New York so if you are in those cities you need to check it out. There is no security to go through, you can show up 10 minutes before your flight, they pour you coffee, they give you freshly baked delicious cookies, there are no middle seats, you get free cocktails and an on board meal or snack. Absolutely easiest and most enjoyable travel experience I’ve ever had and that’s coming from a daughter of a 747 captain 🙂

I’ll be honest and say my experiences with the Cincinnati food scene in the last 5 or so years I’ve visited have been, shall we say, lack-luster. Since I am not a fan of their staples La Rosa’s pizza, Buffalo Wings and Rings, the bastardized sausage concoctions they call goetta or strange chili (although I have caught myself having evil cravings for Skyline chili). This last trip I did begin to appreciate some more of their unique contributions and can see a little bit of culinary expansion in what Banana Man’s cop friends call hipster food. I don’t qualify myself as a hipster by any stretch but I was so happy to see previously run down areas turning into a foodie hubs…areas like the OTR, Over-The-Rhine district which I’ll tell you about a little later in the post.

Our first morning there was a Friday and since all our friends and family were working Banana Man and I had the day to explore and eat! It was hilarious when I picked a breakfast place called the Half Day Cafe in the town of Wyoming and he had no clue where it was. Banana Man was born and raised in Cincinnati and he had never been to this place or any other place in this area which is only 20 minutes from where he grew up. They say West siders never leave the west side and it is so true. He is so lucky he got away and moved to California to meet me! Haha! He needed me to expand his horizons in his own city. His brother happened to be driving behind us when we thought we were almost there. He called us and asked us where we were headed. We gave him the address and he said “good luck, hope you have a gun to protect yourself!” It was pretty shady looking. We were looking for 1 Wyoming St which turns out there were actually 2 streets named Wyoming and the GPS decided to take us to the wrong one…well at least we wouldn’t be needing the gun. Win.

After a few extra minutes of driving we found our way to a charming historic looking area with beautiful Victorian and Craftman style houses lining the streets. I can not wait to go back to the Half Day Cafe as soon as we return to Cincy. I fell in love with this place and everything from their menu, to the people, to the beautiful big windows and most importantly the heavenly breakfast that we savored. First I ordered the broiled grapefruit which had a gorgeous carmelized ginger topping. It wasn’t easy to dig out with my spoon but the flavors did a little dance in my mouth. I have never seen such a thing on a restaurant menu before and I’m totally going to make it at home!

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Chris had this mango rum butter French Toast and it was like finding the pot of gold under the rainbow. He practically licked his plate clean.

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I ordered the sweet potato pancakes with a side of bacon and rosemary potatoes. I love that their menu is a la carte so you can pick and choose everything to your exact liking of combinations. The pancakes were amazing, somewhat thick but so silky. My dreams are made of these pancakes.

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It really was a true Mom and Pop and I was so charmed by Pop coming over and talking with us for a good while. We talked about the Cincinnati food scene and how it is “really growing up”. He told us about some of his favorites which gave me ideas for the next trip, primarily located in that OTR area I was telling you about.

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Happily taking our coffee to go we headed out to a bonified foodie mecca: Jungle Jim’s. It is the Disneyland of all things edible. It’s a magical production of culinary delights and a smorgasbord of of worldly treasures. This is not like any other grocery store or farmers market you have ever been. It is a colossal mega market spanning 300,000 sq ft of deliciousness. It is eclectic and down right bizarre. Watch this history channel documentary of the store to get a better feel for it:

And here’s Banana Man himself posing with his beloved Chiquita banana outside of Jungle Jim’s. The only good bananas are Chiquita ya know! Their offices were based there in Cincinnati for a quarter of a century before realizing they really belonged in the rightfully crowned Queen City of Charlotte last year. (I am probably pissing off a lot of people by saying that) From one Queen City to another.
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I took scores of pictures inside and I just couldn’t decide which to post so here they are all to overwhelm you as I was. A feast for the senses. An appetite on overdrive. From enormous ostrich eggs, to whole pig heads, kangaroo meat, unidentifiable fruits and veggies, butter bar, bakery, fishery, cooking school, cigar bar, hot sauce haven, wine and beer a plenty and yes of course the award winning bathrooms:

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I picked up this trio of salami’s infused with wine. Going to serve them at the recipe club meeting tomorrow!

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Award winning Bathrooms, yes and here they are. You walk through what looks like a single  port-a-potty and into what is actually a full amenity facility. It’s still a bathroom though just hilarious they make such a point of it.

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Saturday morning we went to breakfast at Taste of Belgium in the Over The Rhine area. After talking to Banana Man’s friends I was afraid I would be held at gun point or see some drug deals going down from the sounds of it. We made it out safe and sound, unscathed and very full.
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We sat at the counter and watched the magic happening with the waffle irons and crepe skillets. Every table was packed and a long waiting list was forming. The counter though was the best seat in the house in my opinion. I was so entertained.

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I got chicken and waffles which has long been a comfort food favorite of mine. This was epic chicken and waffles. It was a sweet Belgium style waffle with a fried chicken cutlet smothered in hot sauce and syrup. This is probably not replicable in my kitchen and makes dining out all the more wonderful.

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This odd looking dish is a Cincinnati special. You know how I said earlier that I thought their sausage concoction of “goetta” was really gross. Well Taste of Belgiums version is really really GOOD! Basically what goetta is: sage sausage, pinhead or steel cut oats and seasoning. That’s it. So in this version the goetta is plated on top of Belgium frites (fancy fries) and sauteed peppers. Then a fried egg tops the whole thing. I freaking loved it, go figure! I have promised Banana Man to attempt making goetta at home. It’s going to happen and when it does I will make it like this.

The trip was great, quality family time and discovering new amazing quality restaurants and no kinks in the travel plans. I wish every trip could be so successful! I’m leaving again, this time without Banana Man to fly back to Monterey to see my family. I get to see baby Mac who is almost 2 now!!! My mom is re-opening her new boutique in Carmel and I’m celebrating my dad’s birthday. Amongst numerous other events the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival will be going on and I’m hoping to somehow get myself in there at least one day. It’s a world class event at a world class place. I’m just dying to go. I’ll keep you posted!

A Kiawah Island and Charleston Vacation

So I started this post back in early September when we actually went on this trip….yes it is now November, it’s terrible how neglected my poor little blog is but I can’t really apologize because priorities are priorities.

Here we go:

Banana man was truly going banana’s at work. He has needed a real vacation, the kind where he can lay on a beach or by the pool and do nothing if he wants to. Our last several trips, while all fun for me, have been primarily work trips for him.

Kiawah Island looked very apeeling. Pun intended. It was only about a 3 hour drive and it was an easy drive at that.

Our first stop on our way to Kiawah Island was the Tattooed Moose for lunch. I had researched all the restaurants prior to leaving and this one was high on the list after reading both the reviews and that it was featured on DDD.
Visit their website www.tattooedmoose.com If I die tomorrow I would want The Lucky #1 to be my last meal with an extra side of their house made pickles and pickled spicy green tomatoes. Seriously BEST THING I EVER PUT IN MY MOUTH!

“Lucky #1” Sub $8.25
BBQ Braised Pork Belly, Seared on the Grill, Topped with House Made Kimchi, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Crispy
Onions, Cilantro, Wasabi Mayo, & Sweet Red Chili Sauce, All on a Roll!

 

Chris ordered the Duck Club which is already pretty famous and the main sandwich featured on DDD. In the picture below I am stealing a bite.

Mike’s Famous “Duck Club” $13.5
It’s been said to be the best sandwich ever made! A Triple Decker filled with Duck Confit, Apple Smoked Bacon,
Smoked Cheddar on Sweet Hawaiian Bread with Garlic Aioli, Lettuce, Tomato, & Red Onion

 

If ever you are in or anywhere remotely near Charleston you must come here, you must, you must. It was our first stop on the way in and our last stop on the way out. I liked it even better than Husk which was just nominated for one of the best restaurants in the country. Just goes to show it doesn’t have to be fancy to have a great meal!

We did a lot of walking around downtown Charleston on our own but then we took a Historic Walking tour with Mike that our concierge had highly recommended. I’m really glad we did that tour. He gave a lot of information on Charleston’s role in the Civil War from the Southern perspective of course, very interesting. Most of the architectural pictures were taken while walking on that tour.

Charleston is a great city for a foodie like me and was the perfect balance for Chris too for the laying on the beach part of the trip. We did two nights at Sanctuary on Kiawah Island and two nights at the Courtyard downtown Charleston. I wouldn’t have done anything differently.  I’m really looking forward to going back and seeing, doing and tasting more of the town.

The Larsens Go To The Biltmore: A Trip in Photos

The trip to Asheville and the Biltmore with my nieces was a successful one. We spent nearly 8 hours walking around the mansion, the gardens, the farm and gift shops. As you will see from the photo’s I went a little crazy taking pictures of flowers. The gardens were really spectacular and I probably enjoyed them the most. Unfortunately no photography is allowed inside the Biltmore so for that you will just have to go and see it for yourself. We opted to do the audio tour which was very informative so I’m glad we did it. Even the girls were interested and listened to it!

The ice cream was delicious and even though I asked for a single scoop on my waffle cone, it was enough ice cream for 4 people! The girls each got rainbow sherbert on their sprinkled chocolate waffle cone. That sounds pretty disgusting to me but they absolutely loved it and check out the sugar high pics. Cassie was wired!

I’m so glad we decided to spend the night in Asheville after such a long day at the Biltmore, we were exhausted. The next day the girls wanted to go paint some pottery at a place called Fired Up and then also go “gem mining”. If I can figure out how to upload video onto this site then I will have to post the video of the girls gem mining. It’s quite the experience.

I was very excited about this trip not only to see the Biltmore but also because I had just gotten my camera and it was the PERFECT place to really experiment with it and see what kind of results I could get with it. All of the photos in the gallery below are unedited.

Our First Official Visitors to the Buggy Horse Rd Homestead

Yes, you heard that right. We live on a street named Buggy Horse. I think it’s pretty awesome! Other streets in our neighborhood are called Gin House, Meadow Bottom,  Cotton Press and various old timey sounding names. All the houses are in the Charleston style with big covered front porches and REALLY colorful paint. On Buggy Horse we even have horse and buggy rides over the holidays from the clubhouse around the block and once you get back from your ride you go into the club house to meet Santa. My neighbor just told me this yesterday and I can’t wait to witness it for myself. I also can’t wait for the holidays simply because it won’t be summer anymore! Today it was 103 and tomorrow it is supposed to be even hotter!!!! I’m front central coast California people, I never even wore shorts before I moved here let alone feel like jumping in a bath of ice every few hours.

Our first official visitors came to stay with Chris and I last week: My mother-in-law, Linda, and two nieces Lexi who is 7 and Cassie who is 5. They live in Cincinnati along with the majority of my husband’s family. We were very excited to have them come stay at our new house and show them around for 6 fun-filled days. The first day we spent exploring our neighborhood since it’s a very family friendly place with several kids parks, bocci ball courts, a dog park, Olympic size pool and club house and walking trails. I had really hyped up the dog park experience for the girls before they had even arrived so it was a priority on the agenda. I don’t think they were disappointed. I’m not sure who got more exercise, them or my dogs.

The shade is everybody’s happy place! Running+ Humidity= Lots of Panting (I’m not just referring to the dogs)
Race you to the tree!

The dog park is a block from my house and is a nice daily activity to get out and mingle with the neighbors and all the other cute doggies. The girls favorite was Colby, an English Bulldog who sounds like my grandpa when he’s snoring except Colby sounds like that ALL the time. He’s disgustingly adorable.

Slider tables in the park

Lexi and Cassie loved the glider tables. I’m sure there is an actual name for these and if you know please tell me 🙂 They are like slider swings but an entire table! Everybody went and had an early evening picnic here complete with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and go-gurt? I missed out on the picnic and stayed home to rest with a migraine, uuugghh. Unfortunately, I missed out on a few activities this trip due to the nasty little spells I am so blessed to frequent (note sarcasm). I’m glad they all had fun though of course.

Adjacent to the glider bench/picnic tables is the bocci ball court! None of us have any idea how to play so the girls just bowled some sticks and rocks for a bit before moving on the playground a few yards away…

Cassie looks like an Olympic thrower in this shot…uh oh better keep my new camera out of the line of fire! These girls may look skinny but they can throw! It runs in the family I think, everyone in my husbands’ side of the family have very athletic genes. Lexi and Cassie are taking gymnastic classes, they are very good swimmers, take ballet and dance and know how to play tennis.

The pole never gets old when you are 5!

Once everybody put on their jam jam’s then it was time for dessert and so we made s’mores indoors. Don’t worry no one got any eyebrows singed off.

Yes they are eating marshmallows and chocolate before bed. Hey, they are on vacation and we are cool. Only fun time at the Larsen house!

I did not partake in the S’more devouring. I had just started a low-carb “diet” and trying to eliminate as much processed sugar out of my diet as possible. Why the hell I chose to do that right before little girls came to visit who love pizza and ice cream is a story I will save for a future post. However, I did not miss eating the gooey deliciousness because I had a much more important job of documenting their methodical making and inhaling of my ole girl scout favorite.

Blow Cassie BLOW!!

Fire extinguishers were at the ready, haha. Inevitably of course sugar highs ensued and thus the dance party which continued late into the evening, followed by aching tummies. They are not yet conscious of the 15 minute rule after eating.

I have no idea how to capture moving things without them being blurry. If anyone wants to throw out any advice it is certainly welcome!

Swing your partner do-si-do….wait that really doesn’t work well when a Justin Bieber song is playing…

On one of the last days of the trips we ventured over to Asheville, NC which is about a 2 hour drive from our house. We drove straight over to see the Biltmore and arrive around a little before noon. I think I will save all those pictures for the next post. There was lots of “bad” food there and beautiful beautiful gardens not to mention the most enormous home I have ever layed my eyes on! To be continued…

Our first look at the grandiosity that is The Biltmore, truly spectacular!

Califoodication: Part 2

After sitting at Baja Cantina for over 3 hours eating, drinking and making fun of each other I asked my mom what she would like to do for the rest of her Mother’s Day. She couldn’t think of anything. I gave her the mother’s day present I told you about in my last post. I love this little oinker and totally want it for my kitchen. My mom told me she put it on her bar and put all her bar accessories in it. Bacon flavored martini anyone? I got it at Pottery Barn in Monterey and I have to say they had the WORST customer service I have ever seen, my brother and friend Ashley were witnesses to the whole thing. I almost returned it on the spot because they were soooo rude but Chris said he could not endure searching for anything else so that was that.

I fell in love with this so I knew my mom would love it too

I suggested wine tasting since we were already in the heart of wine country. My dad chimes in and says “oh I have these complimentary tasting cards for two at Bernardus. I’ve been carrying them around forever.” Then my mom’s light bulb goes on, “oh I have one of those too!” So off we went to Bernardus with our free wine tasting cards that have been so lovingly held on to for what looked like years the state the tattered coupons were in. We arrive excited to sample the chardonnays and pinot noirs (those are the varietals best grown with the climate of the area). Every local in the area must have had the same idea as us that day. The tasting room was packed full of red-faced, stuffy nosed wine snobs and wanna be’s. My family and I just waited nonchalantly for our turn for some glasses. We browsed their clothing display with the Bernardus label and my mom and I picked out matching denim shirts, all the pourers were wearing the same one. A particularly funny Bernardus staffer (I don’t believe they are sommeliers) comes over from behind the bar and says “ah yes that’s a fine choice, we call that the Canadian Tuxedo”. Then he gave us all wine glasses and my dad hands him our VIP cards. The wine guy as I will call him announces at the top of his lungs so everyone in the room can hear “Looks like you’ve had this since the dawn of time!” Then he says we will get the “premier tasting”. Sweet, no complaints here, give me the good stuff. By this time some people cleared a few spots at the bar and my mom and I cozied up to it.

Cheers to you and cheers to me, Cheers to my happy family!

Then in walks this LA chick wanna be Jersey guidette, fake boobs, fake eyelashes, caked on make up and shorty shorts with her Louis Vuitton bag smacking her gum. The bar is at capacity and she basically starts bullying people out of her way. “I need my wine” she yaps like an annoying chihuahua. This biotch bumps into my mom trying to push her to the side and my mom whips around and scolds her “Excuse me but we waited 30 minutes to get up to the bar, you can wait too!” This scolding did not phase her one bit. She sticks out her boobs and learned one of the pourers names and calls to him, trying to be all sweet and flirty, batting her ridiculous eyelashes. I wanted to rip those eyelashes off of her face! My mom was even more perturbed. We joked about tripping her in her hooker heels. Some guy she was with lingered behind her slutty shadow. 5 minutes later she guzzled down her glass of wine and was gone, thank you Jesus! I was just about to ask her for her autograph, or take a picture with the Snooki. Darn.

Now that we could enjoy our wine without being elbowed I really enjoyed two of the five wines we tasted. Of course my favorite was the most expensive at $80 a bottle, I didn’t like it that much to lay down that kind of money though.

The first wine we tasted was the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. Knowing my mother and her inclination towards more oak flavored whites I knew this fruity wine would not be her taste. I found it quite palatable and I drank my generous portion. Secondly we tasted their 2009 Chardonnay, I didn’t care for it as much as I anticipated and neither did the rest of the fam. Then we moved on to reds. I have learned that I am more of a red fan and oddly enough, it doesn’t seem to trigger my migraines as much as the lighter white wines do even though people are always saying the sulfites in red wine is what does it. The 2008 pinot noir was everyone’s favorite by a landslide, it was so drinkable and interesting. It would pair perfectly with seafood or a nice steak, or just by itself for enjoyment. Lastly we tried the Marinus, a signature wine of theirs that is a combination of grapes. This is the bottle that was so pricey but I could see how people would get into collecting wines and springing for it. Check out their website www.bernardus.com/winery

Chris and I were wiped out after that so we went back to the hotel. Chris had a few hours of work to do and dinner time came and went and we were both so tired and feeling so lazy that for dinner I microwaved a bag of popcorn. I layed down in the comfy Marriott bed and read my book “A Homemade Life” until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. Chris passed out with his glasses on and the tv on laying on top of the covers, he does that A LOT. I turn the tv off, take his glasses off and tuck him in.

Day 3: Monday, May 14

This was my favorite day of being home. Chris took the car to work and my mom came to pick me up to go have brunch in Carmel. I threw around a few ideas before deciding on La Bicyclette, the most adorable little French Bistro in Carmel-By-The-Sea. It oozes french charm, old world character, and fatty goodness. We are seated right away at small wooden table for two overlooking the brick pizza oven and charcuterie station.

La Bicyclette, magnifique

The air is filled with the scent of fresh-baked bread. A cute couple across from us are ladling their soup into/ bowls from a copper pot. The very French chef is adding to the authenticity of the atmosphere as he talks to himself about a meal he is preparing, or maybe he was talking to us but I don’t know, he was speaking French. My mom orders a bottle of Schramberg Champagne. We toast to each other and our mother-daughter day out. It’s her first time here and she’s excited because she doesn’t go out much (besides the Fish house).

I can’t have enough beets, I LOVE BEETS!

Everything on the menu sounded divine. Both my mother and I hadn’t eaten since 3:00PM the day before and it was almost noon. We both ordered this gorgonzola beet salad to start. We should have split it, the blue cheese was so rich and creamy contrasted by the crunch of the crispy fried onions and earthy beets. We barely talked while eating this salad, it required all of our attention.

For our entree’s again we both wanted the same thing: eggplant parmesan. This was no regular eggplant parmesan and I wish I could describe it the way they did on the menu. I do remember the words “goat cheese fondue” and “sweet tomato jam”. SOLD! There were so many awesome sounding things though on the menu that I felt it was a tragedy to order the same thing again. I dutifully picked something else. I went for the oyster poboy. I had one in New Orleans last year that was superbly amazing and I wanted to jog that memory back.

The real star after all was the eggplant parmesan. I took one bite and wished it was mine. Unfortunately for my mother she long been afflicted with GERD, reflux disease, and all things fried, super acidic things like tomato can trigger and instant reaction. The eggplant parmesan was both of these things and therefore I had to be a good daughter and trade.

Freshly baked bread was killer with a dynamite aioli sauce
The best and most beautiful eggplant parmesan there ever was and ever will be

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a lovely brunch. We didn’t’ even finish our entrée’s so dessert was out of the question. There is always room, however, for coffee.

While my mom finished the champagne off I ordered a cappuccino and what a perfect end to a perfect meal it was. The presentation made it the most visually appealing coffee I have ever had.

I get a poem with my coffee

Califoodication: Part 1

For Mother’s Day I went back home to Monterey, California. I was there for 6 glorious days of fun, family, friends and of course all my favorite food. I knew it was going to be too short, there is too much that I love there to do everything I wanted to do, eat and see in 6 days. What follows is my abbreviated version of the past week and I will warn you now it involves copious amounts of alcohol. After all it’s not a vacation if you don’t have a few cocktails.

Day 1: Saturday May 12- East Coast to West Coast

We left at 9am. Our flights from Charlotte to Atlanta and then Atlanta to San Francisco were relatively painless (aside from my 6’4″ husband not getting his usual exit row/extra leg room aisle seat- seriously they should have special seating for Big and Tall people, it affects the comfort of all on board. On the short leg of the trip I was dealt my usual middle seat and thus wedged between my lanky husband and another  woman who was more horizontally challenged and really needed two seats to spill into. Luckily that part of the flight was less than 45 minutes so that’s that.

On our two hour drive from SFO to Monterey I contemplated dinner. Seafood, need seafood STAT! At first I suggested Phil’s Fish House in Moss Landing. They were made famous on Bobby Flay’s show Throwdown in the Cioppino battle, Phil won. Moss Landing was a bit out of the way though and after a long ass day of traveling that was sort of a stretch. Better idea: Go to Salinas Fish House!!! Yes, brilliant Kendra, you are so smart. I knew my mom and dad would want to meet us there, it’s their go-to spot. The Salinas Fish House is like a shiny jewel in a worn out dusty town that boasts of not much at all. In fact, Salinas is the butt of many a joke on the Monterey Peninsula. Only two things come to mind when most people think of Salinas: Gangs and Lettuce (and a third, for those who are literate, would be John Steinbeck novels) so needless-to-say when one thinks about seafood, Salinas does not even register as an option. The Salinas Fish House is an exception of which I am a proud patron. We arrived there around 7PM which was already 10PM on our stomach clocks so we were STARVING. I had my heart set on cioppino.

As a concierge I was always surprised at the droves of people who have never had and/or didn’t even know what cioppino was. I would describe it to the would-be eaters as the kitchen sink of the sea in a deeply flavorful tomato red broth. It’s an oceanic symphony of jumbo shrimp, muscles, clams, squid, snapper or salmon, cracked crab legs and scallops in a giant bowl made even better with a big honkin slice of garlic bread to slurp up the soupy sauce.

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Doesn’t it look amazing? Click the link below to watch a video of Phil at the Phil’s Fish house making his famous Cioppino in his restaurant, sharing all his “beautiful” secrets. He thinks everything is beautiful but hey don’t blame the guy, it’s a beautiful life.

Phil’s Cioppino

Before ordering my cioppino first things first, I needed a cocktail. Tequila sunrise if you please. When you want to cut right to the chase tequila is the way to go and I went. Everyone who knows me well knows that I am a cheap date when it comes to alcohol. One and done. If that’s all it takes then mission accomplished, no need to make myself ill trying to keep up with the big guys. My vodka martini parents out do me every time. My dad doesn’t even take an olive anymore, that’s more space precious vodka could be. Our servers and the owner are our friends. They know my parents drinks by heart and ask only what they would like out of duty, not for lack of knowing.  Rum and diet for my mom, more rum less diet. My husband orders a beer, he’s a beer guy and rarely anything else except when I inevitably do not finish my cocktail he drinks the rest. I like my drinks pretty because I’m a goober girly girl like that and I always get a giggle from him drinking my ultra girly drinks. “Hey babe, want my cherry?” Yep, I’m that girl when I drink, all kinds of cheesy and slightly inappropriate even in front of my parents.

To Make Tequila Sunrise:

Stir or shake together 1 jigger  tequila and 3/4 cup orange juice (preferably fresh squeezed). Fill a chilled 12 ounce glass with ice cubes; pour in orange juice mixture. Slowly pour in 1/2 jigger grenadine, and allow it to settle to the bottom of the glass (be patient). Garnish with a slice of orange, and a maraschino cherry.

To be clear I’m not recommending this combination of Tropical fruity drink to go with cioppino. That’s just wrong, really. Tequila just sounded good at the time. A proper person would pair a nice glass of pinot noir. In Phil’s video at the end he recommends Hahn pinot noir, what a smart guy he is. Hahn is a favorite of my mine and one of my best friends brother, Brian Peverini, is a manager on their vineyard. Next time I am there I fully intend on making him give me an ATV tour of the grounds. The place is really beautiful and many weddings and cool foodie events are hosted there. Above all though it’s their wine which is really special for under $20 a bottle. http://www.hahnestates.com/

Day 2: Sunday, May 13th Mother’s Day

It has been a family tradition for the last 4 years to have lunch out on the patio at Baja Cantina on mother’s day. It’s everybody’s favorite place to go, it’s instant vacation. Baja in Carmel Valley, where it is always a good 10-20 degrees warmer than anywhere else on the peninsula and sunny when the coast is still laying under the covers of thick fog. Baja Cantina is one of my happy places, nothing but good memories and what’s not to love? Amazing rosemary chicken enchiladas, enormous margaritas, usually good live music and always interesting people watching. I once sat next to Bill Murray there during AT&T pro-am week. Yes I’m a terrible brag. I’m gonna name drop all kinds in this blog, haha.

This place has personality!

We arrived to Baja about 1:00, but not all at once. As per usual with my family several of our party was fashionably late, some showed up an hour or so later. My mom, and my brother showed up first and garnered our prime location of patio table for 10 people. My husband and I were slightly behind them since I was indecisive on what present to give her that day and then on our way we decided we needed cash and Chris will never stop at an ATM that is not our bank, he hates ATM fees, hates them. Rue the day when he see’s a transaction fee show up on our statement because I opted for convenience. I am a terrible person…. So anyway we were 10 minutes late which was equally both our faults, me in my shopping tizzy and him on his bank quest. My father was quite late, he was at my grandmother’s house planting flowers in her front yard. This is not unusual, the planting flowers for my grandmother part that is. Well okay the late part too, unless he has a tee time, that he is early for. Meanwhile I am trying not to ruin my appetite eating their house made tortilla chips. I think our table has gone through 4 baskets at this point. Then around 2:00 my sister, her boyfriend and their 8 month old baby arrive. We regail them. MacKenzie always steals the show these days in her cute little dresses and bloomers and matching flower bow in her non-existent hair. She has the biggest smile, clear blue baby eyes and the most expressive eyebrows she uses to get what she wants. I call her Mackers, my mom calls her Macaroni, she has a million adoring fans and nicknames. It’s appropriate for the first baby in the family, it’s appropriate for every baby in the world, they’re fascinating. That morning they took MacKenzie to her first trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I wish I had gone, the pictures are so cute! They were late since they had spent a few hours there and it takes longer to do everything with a baby.

I ordered the halibut tacos. These are my favorite thing on their menu tied with the rosemary chicken enchiladas. These are healthier though so I thought I would behave myself. The tacos are piled with yummy veggies: artichoke hearts, red pepper, onions and mushrooms. Winning combination! The coconut rice it’s served with is pretty much heaven sent. I am an a mission to replicate these at home. Okay,  it’s on my list of missions anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are a family of last minute thoughtfulness. Right before heading over to mother’s day dinner my brother and I scower the racks of the Hallmark store to find the perfect cards for our mom, grandma, and my sister since she’s a brand new mom.  We found some great cards, funny ones and sappy ones…however we neglected to locate any kind of writing utensil to make the cards slightly more personalized, at the very least sign “Love you”. My brother just gave them all blank cards because he is so awesome like that. I, however, stole a broken crayon from one of kids at a table adjacent to us because I am awesome like that. I proceeded to scribble out something witty and sentimental in my best childish crayon penmanship. It was a classy moment. I signed it at the table in front of them both and told them not to look, gave the envelopes a good lick, sealed em up and drew big fat hearts on the front. They laughed and then opened them.

MacKenzie started to get a little “fussy” as my sister calls it. I held her for a little bit and did my little photo op with her. She ate a few grains of rice and some beans too. She only has a couple teeth. She got passed around in everyone’s laps for awhile until she had had enough. Then my sister and Geoff had to bring her to the next party at Geoff’s family’s house with a whole gang of kids.I’m sure it was a really long day for her…and her parents. So while they went and had kid time my parents, my husband and I went wine tasting which i will tell you all about on the next post.