Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:

Steelers al fresco

We enjoyed Monday night football on our patio with a nice dinner and a sad Steeler loss.  We will miss this spot when we move.  And if the Steelers don’t start playing better, apparently we are going to miss a winning season as well.

Big job, small hose

In case you wondered, it takes a really, really long time to drain a pool for repairs in the lining, then to fix said lining (in an unfortunate, not-even-close-to-matching way), then refill said pool with a single garden hose.  Thank goodness Dan got the brilliant idea to hook up the world’s longest hose to the spigot in the front yard, so we had two garden hoses working at the same time to speed up the re-filling process by approximately half as excruciatingly long.

Korean pork belly

We cooked amazing Korean pork belly BBQ at home this week, made possible by the awesome Asian supermarket (H Mart) that we will sorely miss once we move.  Dan marinated the paper-thinly sliced pork in a spicy/sweet mixture:  gochu jang (spicy Korean pepper paste), soy, mirin (rice wine), brown sugar, sesame oil and pear juice (from a mashed up pear.)  Following the protocol of the (few) Korean restaurants we’ve been to, we served the pork taco-style in Bibb lettuce leaves with green onion tops and a little extra marinade (set aside before we added the pork to the marinade.)  So good.  We’re going to have to find an Asian market in the Chicago area for sure.

Garage progress

Also on the moving front, Holy Clean Garage Batman!  We made really good progress on the de-cluttering this week, while Dan is between jobs.  That pile in the front of the photo is our eleventy-billionth load to donate to Goodwill, and if you squint a bit you can see a couple of sweet, sweet empty shelves in the back.  Special thanks to our suckers friends who are taking some of our old like-new tools off our hands to clutter up their own garages put to good use!

My, we had a lot of coins

Who knew we had a treasure chest in our garage?!  We found a small bucket of coins from who-remembers-where, added it to the coin receptacle we keep in our closet and carted them (literally — both containers were really heavy so we put them in a shopping cart) to our local coin exchange at the grocery store.  We each estimated the amount of dollars we might receive (I said $87, Dan said $125) before we started the coin loading process, and boy, did we under-estimate.  After about half an hour, dirty coin fingers and a really patient customer service representative who cleaned out the machine for us, we left with a little more than $350!  De-cluttering for the win!

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:

First and foremost, we have to say thank you to everyone for all the kind and encouraging comments about our big move.  Having so much support from family, friends and people we’ve never even met in real life makes this adventure exponentially more exciting for us.  Thank you!

Farmer's Market

While condo-hunting in Evanston last weekend, we also made time to tour the local farmer’s market, which was quite impressive.  We’re thrilled that every Saturday from May 4 through November 2, we’ll be able to walk a few blocks to the market where we can get locally-grown fruits and vegetables, farm-fresh eggs (including duck eggs!), artisan breads, homemade desserts, fresh-cut flowers, etc., etc.


We took a break from looking at condos (spoiler-alert, we found one!) to refuel and recharge with a couple glasses of wine and some appetizers at Bar Louie.  The bacon cheeseburger sliders (with fried onion strings) and the tempura shrimp were both amazing.  It’s a really good thing that Evanston is a walkable city, because with so many great restaurants there, we’re going to do a lot of eating.  So we better do a lot of walking too.

Go Steelers!

Just in time for us to move away, we finally went to a local Steeler bar very close to our current house.  Longtime family friends of Dan’s have been going there (and inviting us) to watch Steeler games for years, but we never got around to it until last Monday night.  Better late than never, we had a great time (thanks, Gallaghers!) and definitely hope to catch another game or two there before we leave Dallas.

Chef Fearing

Speaking of leaving (not every blog post these days is going to be about us moving, I promise), Dan’s work friends took him to a farewell lunch at Fearing’s Restaurant, and as a special surprise arranged for him to meet Chef Dean Fearing himself!  They’ve actually met before, since Chef Fearing judges the chili cook-off we have participated in for the last three years.  He might remember Dan because we won in 2011 (but probably not.)  There’s a better chance that Chef Fearing remembers Dan from last year, when we won the “burnt spoon” prize, after we accidentally set our table on fire.  Who knew our final chili cook-off in Dallas would be such a memorable one!  (And, ironically, we took a trip to Chicago during that same week last year, which I also wrote about in that Friday Favorites post.  At the time, I actually said “We love the Windy City, but not enough to brave it in January.”  Hmm.  Guess I better pack some courage into our moving boxes!)


Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:

Coal Vines

We are pleased to report that the new location of one of our favorite pizza places has opened up in the complex that includes our favorite local movie theater.  Coal Vines is a “pizza wine bar” that specializes in New York-style pizza and has a high-quality, yet reasonably priced wine list.  Theirs is among the best pizza we’ve had in Dallas, and we’re happy to have the new location close to home.


In the same complex as Coal Vines is another favorite, Nick & Sam’s Grill, which offers unique bistro-type dishes and upscale comfort food, as well as sushi and several Asian-style appetizers.  We recently fell in love with their crispy Asian calamari, with fried calamari, tiny chunks of pineapple and wilted arugula tossed in a black bean chili garlic sauce.  It has just the right amount of spicy and sweet.  We heard they are re-vamping their menu in the next few weeks, so we hope they don’t get rid of our favorite calamari!


When we’re not hanging out at our favorite theater and accompanying restaurants (which apparently isn’t very often), we manage to branch out to other great local eateries.  Princi Italia is one of those places we tend to forget about, but always enjoy so much that we leave saying “we really should come here more often.”  We’ve never had a bad meal there — from interesting pasta dishes, to pizza cooked in their wood-burning oven, to flavorful panini sandwiches.  And they have the skinniest shoestring fries ever.


We bid farewell to summer and welcome fall (in spite of temperatures in the high 90s still, with no end in sight) by making our final batch of refrigerator pickles for the season.  We’ve had a good summer, but fall is a time of change, and we are particularly excited to see what this transitional season has in store for us this year.

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:

All growds up

Labor Day weekend means our annual tradition of traveling to Houston to close out the summer by enjoying a couple of baseball games with my parents.  We started off the trip by touring the recently renovated Love Field airport.  Although we kind of miss the small-town, beer-stands-throughout-the-concourse feel of the old Love Field, the new digs are quite impressive.  It’s a whole new airport, with great restaurants, some shops and an open layout with tons of natural light.  We ♥ the new Love Field.

Ballpark dog

We also love hot dogs, especially ballpark hot dogs, and even better, hot dogs consumed during a game that the Houston Astros actually won!  It hasn’t been their best season this year, so it was great to celebrate a win during our special, end-of-summer weekend.

Avocado bomb

Speaking of special, the good folks at the Inn at the Ballpark once again went out of their way to make everything about our stay there as outstanding as possible.  One of the very best parts of our visit this year was taste-testing a potential new menu item at the Inn — the “avocado bomb.”  We were served several different iterations of a stuffed avocado, fried and garnished with sauce.  With each serving, they asked for our feedback and opinions — as if we were professionals or something — instead of just people who love to eat (and take pictures of their food.)   We were so honored (and well fed!) by wonderful people who we look forward to seeing every year, and without whom our summers would not be complete.

Night swimming

Speaking of summer, the tail end of it seems like a good time to finally get our pool light fixed, at least two years after it floated loose of its housing and was left just sitting on the side of our pool deck like a sad little kid who never learned how to swim.  Replacing it is one of those small changes that makes a big difference in a smack-to-the-forehead, why did we wait so long kind of way.

Waterbar mussels

While I slaved away supervising pool work at the homestead, Dan had a glamorous work trip to San Francisco that included an amazing dinner at Waterbar, from which he regaled me with photos of his tableside view of the Bay Bridge and the gorgeously delicious food he was enjoying.  But as much as I am I’m not jealous, I’m so proud of the amazing photo he took of his “roasted black mussels” appetizer — rope grown Prince Edward island mussels in a smoked tomato broth, with sorghum molasses glazed pork belly and Anson Mills grits.  Now we’re all jealous.


Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:

TV purge

We finally got around to disposing of several old, outdated, heavy and giant-backed TVs cluttering up our garage.  We haven’t used them in years, and I think one of them may even belong to my brother (sorry J!), but didn’t really know what to do with them.  I discovered that the city of Dallas has a free “e-cycling” program for old TVs and computers, so we loaded up the car and dropped them off.  We also got rid of an old desktop computer that hadn’t even been turned on in maybe 10 years.  Kind of makes you wonder what will eventually replace the super-slim HD TVs and lightweight laptops, iPads and smart phones we currently use.  Microchips in our brains maybe.

Pizza leftover better than fresh

The end of summer means the beginning of football season, which also means fantasy football drafts.  Dan had his first one the other night (he’s in two leagues) so I was solo for dinner.  We happened to have a couple slices of leftover cheese pizza, which I topped with some prosciutto torn into small pieces, then re-heated in a dry skillet on the stove (best method for getting a crisp crust on leftover pizza.)  It tasted even better than the original pizza, and Dan drafted a pretty decent team.  Win, win.

Lobstah roll

Dan’s fellow lobster-loving friend (Hi Chris!) and superstar-restaurant-sleuth has discovered the hands-down best lobster roll in Dallas.  Chris is great at finding and recommending all the best eateries around town, and 20 Feet Seafood Joint is right up there with some of his other quality finds.  Dan says the lobster roll was so authentic that if it hadn’t been 102 degrees at lunch that day, he would have thought he was in Maine.  He also said the clam chowder was equally authentic and amazing.  With a food friend like Chris around, Dan’s going to have start working out more.

F the BT

This week marked five years since Dan’s dad passed away after battling a brain tumor.  Since then, the National Brain Tumor Society is a charity that has become important to us, as it fights brain tumors through research, advocacy and patient services.  Thursday seemed like a good day to honor the Big Guy and help us feel empowered against this terrible disease by making a donation to the NBTS.  Cancer sucks, but we will always have an anchor of hope that someday there will be a cure.

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:

Lake beach

We had a really quick trip to Evanston, IL last weekend.  Evanston is the first suburb north of Chicago located on Lake Michigan.  It’s also the home of Northwestern University.  It has a cool little downtown with a couple of high-rises, lots of shops and tons of great restaurants.  Beautiful public beaches are just a short walk from downtown.  It’s a great little city and we had fun exploring it.

Lunch date(s)

The eating portion of our Evanston tour began with lunch on a patio (the weather was glorious there last weekend — we ate every meal outside) at a tapas place.  Dan researched the restaurant before we went, so we felt compelled to follow reviewers’ recommendations to try the bacon-wrapped dates, even though it’s not something we typically would order.  The perfect match of savory and sweet, they were our favorite bite of the entire lunch.

Meatball appetizer

The next stop on our food tour was a charming little Italian “trattoria.”  Although we both enjoyed our entrees (Dan had the bronzini and I had the shrimp risotto), the hands-down best food of the evening was the homemade meatballs appetizer.  Rich (but not too rich), meaty flavor with a sweet (but not too sweet) tomato sauce — the meatballs were just right.


Even though we were still full from a late breakfast, we couldn’t leave Evanston without trying the highly-recommended Edzo’s burger.  In addition to the regular (fresh, never frozen) beef that is cut and ground in-house each morning, Edzo’s offers beef “upgrades” of locally-raised and/or grass fed beef that you can order either “griddled” (thinner patty cooked on a griddle) or “char”  (cooked on a grill.)  We split an upgraded char burger with classic garnishes (cheddar, lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion.)  It was one of the best (if not THE best) burgers we’ve ever had.  Perfection.  We’re just bummed we didn’t have the time or belly room to try one of their many varieties of fries (garlic fries, “angry” fries, buffalo fries, “crazy” fries, oh my!) or hand-dipped shakes (nutella, oreo, peanut butter, as well as other specialty and seasonal flavors.)  I just noticed on their menu that they also have hot dogs and sandwiches that are probably pretty amazing too.  No wonder this little burger joint is touted as one of the best restaurants in town.


We arrived back in Big D to find our first crop of home-grown okra so far this season.  A couple of them should have been picked a little earlier (you can tell they are over-ripe if they make a loud crunch when you cut into them, which means the texture will be too woody to eat), but the other two were still good and made a nice (tiny) addition to our zucchini and tomato medley that we cooked with our parchment-roasted tilapia this week.



Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:

Le Petit Creusets

Inspired by this post from Michael Ruhlman, we tried a new (to us) method of preparing eggs for breakfast.  We are fans of Le Creuset and use our Dutch oven at least twice a week, so we couldn’t resist purchasing a set of these mini cocettes.  (In case you’re curious, “cocette” means small fireproof dish in which individual portions of food are cooked and served.  It also means prostitute or promiscuous woman.  Insert bad dirty joke here.)  The dishes are stoneware and oven-safe.  Cooking the eggs this way was really easy — we just put some thinly sliced ham in the bottom, cracked 2 eggs over the ham, added a bit of green chile sauce leftover from dinner the night before, topped it all off with grated cheddar cheese and baked it in the oven heated to 325 degrees for about 15 minutes.  The cocettes cool down surprisingly fast, so there is no need to transfer the finished eggs to a plate — just serve them in the cocettes.  The eggs were really good, although there was a bit of extra liquid in the finished dish, perhaps from the green chili sauce.  The cocettes came with a cookbook, so we plan on trying other recipes in these tiny one-pot-wonders, in addition to other variations of egg dishes.

Hatch season!

Speaking of green chiles, it’s one of our favorite times of year again — Hatch green chile time!  As usual, our Central Market goes all out, hosting their own Hatch festival, complete with recipes, specialty foods made with Hatch chiles, and of course, the chiles themselves — hot and mild, fresh and roasted.  You may have noticed from our weekly menu last week that we incorporated Hatch chiles into just about every dinner, and we didn’t get sick of them at all.  The chiles will be available from Central Market through August 20, so we’ll be back to stock up on our supply to portion out and freeze for use throughout the year.  And if there is a Chuy’s restaurant where you live, be sure to stop by for Hatch green chile food (and drink!) specials during their festival from August 19 to September 8.

Sunshine and palm trees

Dan had a quick trip to San Jose, CA this week for work.  Any time we go to that area of the country, we are always impressed by the perfect weather, picturesque scenery and laid-back vibe.  The distance from our family and friends, as well as the high cost of living preclude us from ever seriously considering a move there, but we always enjoy visiting.  And “trying on” a different city in another part of the country to wonder whether we could love living there is a fun thing to do.

Mediterranean nachos

While out and about last weekend, we stopped by Gordon Biersch for a late lunch and discovered a new favorite “small plate” offering called Mediterranean nachos:  flatbread chips topped with artichoke spread, tomato, olives, cucumber, roasted red pepper, pepperoncini, feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.  Creative AND delicious.




Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:


Sa-wing battah!

If you follow this blog much, you might be aware that we have an annual tradition of meeting my parents in Houston over Labor Day weekend for what we fondly refer to as the “Baseball Extravaganza.”  A new tradition was born this weekend, when we meet my parents and brother J in Minneapolis to watch the Astros take on the Twins.  Although the ‘Stros lost, a good time was had by all and we hope to do it again next year and beyond.  As we’ve mentioned before, Minneapolis is a surprisingly (to us, the first time we went) nice city and if you’ve never been, we highly recommend you go (but probably not in the winter.)  In the summer, Minneapolis is a pretty glorious place to be.  When we were there, the high temperatures were in the 70s (about 30 degrees cooler than what we are currently experiencing in Dallas) with sunny skies and blissfully cool evenings.  Downtown Minneapolis is clean, with lots of flowers and greenery in planters along the buildings and streets.  And if you like food at all, Minneapolis is crawling with tons of amazing restaurants.  We had a hard time deciding among so many great options, but ended up having dinner at Crave, brunch at Hell’s Kitchen and breakfast at Manny’s, all of which were excellent.  The ballpark in Minneapolis is also quite impressive, and serves a mean hot dog, as well as one of the best (and only) “slow-roasted pulled turkey” sandwiches we’ve ever tasted.  Many thanks to J for hosting the first-annual “Minneapolis Spectacular!”

Hotel fireworks

The upside to the Astros losing on Friday night was the post-game fireworks show that we could see from our hotel room window (while sitting on the window ledge and craning our necks to peer between buildings, but still — fireworks!)  It was an impressive display.

Egg sammie

We’re always looking for new week-day breakfast options that are healthy, quick, easy and delicious, with a bit of protein to help keep us full until lunch.  This homemade egg, sausage and cheese sandwich fits all these criteria.  It’s healthy because we used turkey kielbasa (leftover from our chicken & rice), mostly egg whites, low-fat cheddar and whole wheat English muffins (we almost always have these in our freezer, ready to toast, no thawing necessary.)  And our mini, nonstick skillet makes it easy to cook the eggs in the perfect, sandwich-friendly shape.  Crack the egg in the hot skillet (no butter or oil needed) and season with salt & pepper, while heating the sausage with cheese on top to melt in another skillet and toasting the muffins in the toaster, and you have a better-for-you “McMuffin”-style breakfast ready in about 5 minutes.


Gladiolus (“gladioli?” “gladioluses?”) are in-season, which means they are plentiful and cheap.  I bought 10 stems for about $5 at the grocery store last week, which gives us pretty orange blooms in several different vases throughout the house.  In addition to trimming the bottoms of the stems to get the right height for your vase, if you trim the tops (the flowering part of the stems) by cutting them at the top-most bud where you see some color, then the existing blooms should open up a lot more than they would otherwise.  True story:  for a long-ago career day as a kid, I drew a picture of myself working as a florist.


Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:


Sometimes a cheese plate for dinner makes more sense and sounds better than cooking an actual meal, especially in the summer when temps are hot and weekends are busy.  In fact, we’re surprised we don’t have cheese and crackers (and olives and grapes and salami and prosciutto and good bread) for dinner more often, considering how much we enjoyed this last one.  Expect to see “cheese plate” on our weekly menu a few more times this summer, especially after a friend recently introduced Dan to an amazing cheese from Washington State University that I hear we absolutely have to order and purchase, as soon as possible.

We heart smoked turkey

Another food item we don’t have often enough is turkey breast.  And Dan will never pass up an opportunity to bust out the smoker, make fire and indulge his inner caveman by cooking meat outside over low heat for several hours.  He brined the turkey overnight (a simple salt and sugar brine), then smoked it with cherry and apple wood chunks for about four hours.  The awesome thing about cooking a whole turkey breast (besides the delicious smoky flavor), is how many different meals you can get out of it.  We served it the first night just sliced with a little BBQ sauce, scalloped potatoes and roasted brussels sprout leaves.  Then we made some of this BBQ chicken turkey salad for lunches.  Another night we had what might be our all-time favorite use of smoked turkey:  lentil soup.  Then we finished our week of comfort food faves with turkey tetrazzini.  And we still had enough for a couple of plain-but-never-old turkey sandwiches.

Lunch contrast

This is what it usually looks like when we go to a seafood restaurant — Dan’s healthy grilled fish with sauce on the side and accompanying veggies, contrasted by my fried shrimp with french fries and extra cocktail sauce and ketchup sodium/carb fest.  I try to eat healthy as often as I can, but given the choice between fish versus something fried, I’ll choose fried anything (even fish!) pretty much every time.

Surprisingly good

I know, I can’t believe it either.  Our new favorite reality show is “Naked and Afraid,” and I’m not afraid to say it.  Before you judge (looking at you, CM), watch an episode — it is absolutely fascinating.  If you haven’t seen it, each episode features a man and woman who have never met each other until they are transported and left — naked — in some remote / unforgiving / treacherous place for 21 days with only one survival item of their choice, a small satchel, a video camera and their wits and survival skills.  It is a televised glimpse into the physical and psychological limits to which the human body and spirit can be pushed.  Plus, they are nude.

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:

Shrimp tacos dressed in fish costumes

Dan’s mom came down from Pennsylvania last weekend for a visit.  We consider it our Texas duty to take visitors (especially those from the north) out for Tex-Mex when they are here.  Chuy’s is one of our all-time favorite Tex-Mex restaurants, and we had a yummy lunch there with E.  I branched out this time and ordered something I’ve never had there before — “Baja” shrimp tacos.  The shrimp was lightly battered, perfectly cooked and served in freshly made tortillas with a bit of red cabbage, some pico de gallo and a dab of jalapeno ranch dressing.  Best shrimp tacos ever.

Korean Feast

Dan’s mom has long-ago friends from PA who just happen to live in our area, so we try to get together with them when she’s in town.  We all enjoy Korean food, so they introduced us to their favorite local mom-and-pop Korean place called Jin Mi for dinner.  The above shot is only a portion of our feast that night:  seafood pancake (way better than it sounds) and dumplings, as well as “banchan” which refers to the little dishes of different kinds of kimchi and other condiment-type foods served along with rice and the entrees.  The food was deliciously authentic, and the company was even better.  Seeing old friends catch up without missing a beat is a wonderful thing, as is sharing our home and city with family living far away.  Thanks for braving the heat to come see us, E — we had a great weekend!

Whole-y Foods!

There’s a new Whole Foods in town, and it is a really nice one.  It’s also conveniently located near our house, perfect for picking up fresh fish on the way home to grill that evening (lots of beautiful branzini), or pulling together a last-minute meal of pre-prepared, but delicious, food (they even have pre-made duck confit, which we’ve only previously seen in a fancy grocery store in Paris.)  The produce section is also amazing, with tons of in-season and locally-grown fruits and vegetables (more variety of tomatoes than I’ve ever seen in one place), as well as plenty of unusual and exotic (to us anyway) produce.  The seafood, meat and dairy sections are also large and well-stocked.  A cool feature of their beer and wine section is a little bar with counter seating where you can sample some of their featured beers and wine (!) on tap, order a few appetizers or a light lunch and purchase a “growler” (re-usable jug or bottle) of beer or wine to-go.  The jug of Rosé wine we brought with us to our Korean feast was actually quite good, and we’ll be purchasing a refill this weekend.

Can! Can! Can!

We make refrigerator pickles throughout the summer because pickling cucumbers are everywhere, and it’s easy to whip up a batch that are ready to eat in just a few days and last for a couple of weeks in the fridge.  We decided to take advantage of the abundance of cucumbers and make a batch of pickles to can and preserve for several months.  It’s an interesting experiment, since you can’t taste them before you seal them (well you could, but they won’t taste like pickles because they haven’t pickled yet!)  We’ll report back in the fall to let you know how they turned out.

Mmmmmmm, donuts

Another kitchen experiment this week turned out pretty successful — homemade cinnamon baked doughnuts!  We saw Ina Garten make them on an episode of her show “Barefoot Contessa” and were intrigued that they are baked instead of fried.  We need to work on our doughnut-pan-filling skills (fill the shape too full and you have to cut your own hole out of the finished doughnuts), but they were good and we look forward to trying new flavor combinations.