Dan and I have some exciting news, and couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate and share it than by enjoying a box of the classic, iconic food from everyone’s childhood — Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. What does mac-n-cheese have to do with our news? Dan recently accepted an awesome opportunity to work at the in-house legal department of Kraft Foods, and consequently, we are moving to Chicago!
Merriam-Webster defines “smorgasbord” as “a luncheon or supper buffet offering a variety of foods and dishes (as hors d’oeuvres, hot and cold meats, smoked and pickled fish, cheeses, salads and relishes).” Mario Batali describes “Smorgasburg” as “The single greatest thing I’ve ever seen gastronomically in New York City.” We tend to agree with Chef Batali. Smorgasburg is a self-proclaimed “flea food market” that is open in two Brooklyn locations (Williamsburg on Saturdays and DUMBO on Sundays) every weekend during the late spring and summer. We went to the DUMBO location on our most recent visit to see family in Brooklyn and absolutely loved it. At either location, you will find a collection of around 75-100 food vendor enthusiasts (we say “enthusiasts” because the vendors are nothing but passionate about their craft and the amazing food they offer) selling a huge variety of both freshly prepared and packaged/preserved delicacies. Smorgasburg offers something for everyone, no matter what kind of food you’re in the mood for: there are several vendors with Asian fare (noodles, Chinese lumpia pastries, kimchi); Italian offerings (“Sunday gravy,” porchetta, pizza); Mexican specialties (tacos and cemitas); American “comfort food” options (fried chicken, burgers, grilled cheese, BBQ); seafood selections (lobster rolls, fried fish, oysters); and sweet treats (frozen chocolate-covered bananas, cookies, ice cream, cheesecake) — just to name a few. If you’re fortunate enough to be in the Brooklyn area this summer, we highly recommend Smorgasburg. Go early (lines get long), bring a picnic blanket (the main “seating” at the DUMBO location is a grassy area along the waterfront), invite friends (more people in your group means more tasting of more food) and just try to leave there without eating at least one thing that is the best version of that thing you’ve ever had.
We are participating in “Bloggers Against Hunger” today because there are way too many hungry people in this great nation of ours. Because when you hear a story about a little boy who shies away from his teacher after she spots the spaghetti hanging out of his pocket, since he is saving it for his dinner and he’s afraid she’ll take it away from him — you feel the need to do something. Because when we volunteered at the North Texas Food Bank, we wrote about how moving it was to know the bags we were filling with nutritional drinks and snacks for the “Food 4 Kids” program might be the only food that 11,000 kids in our area would have to eat over the weekend — every single weekend. Because we recently watched the documentary “A Place at the Table” and can’t stop thinking about the surprising (and heartbreaking) things we learned from the film about hunger in America. Because 1 in 6 people saying they don’t have enough to eat in one of the world’s wealthiest countries is not okay.
With the holidays upon us (how is it December already?), we decided to jump on the bandwagon started by many other bloggers and put together a gift guide. This being a food blog, all of the items have something to do with food and cooking. Most are things that we own, love and use often. We’ve included links where possible, but this is by no means a sponsored post. Just our thoughts on kitchen stuff that makes us happy and might also make someone on your gift list (or your own self!) happy too.
About a month ago (when you could still be outside for more than 2 minutes without breaking a sweat), Dan and I enjoyed a lovely evening at the Dallas Arboretum, strolling the immaculate gardens and admiring the spectacular sculptural glass works by famed artist Dale Chihuly. If you’re in the Dallas area and you’ve never been to the Arboretum or seen any of Chihuly’s work, we highly recommend you attend the exhibit, which runs from now until November 5. But you probably want to wait until temperatures cool down in September-ish. Even though the exhibit is open in the evenings from 6:00 to 10:00 Tuesday through Thursday, temps don’t come down much during that time (it is 105 degrees as I type this at 5:20 p.m.) The Arboretum opens at 9:00 a.m., so you might try going first thing in the morning, although we took Dan’s mom there last Saturday morning and it was still pretty steamy. Weather aside, the exhibit is breathtaking (sometimes literally, as in trying to catch your breath in the heat), and absolutely worth a visit. And here’s a link to more information about the artist if you’re interested.
On a whim one Friday a couple of weeks ago, we signed up for a cooking class at Sur La Table called “Date Night: Springtime in Paris.” We had never taken a cooking class together before, but we like Springtime and love Paris, so we figured it would be a fun date. And it was indeed. The chef teaching the class guided us through the preparation of a fancy four-course meal — frisee salad with roquefort and toasted walnuts; green peppercorn steak with a mushroom-cognac pan sauce; roasted potatoes with spring herbs; and a strawberry and rhubarb tart — all of which was delicious. Much of the prep work was done ahead of time and the cooking was done in a group style, so it really didn’t seem like that much work (which is my ideal kind of cooking.) We learned a few things and really enjoyed the experience of doing something different than our usual dinner-and-a-movie date night.
We have come to refer to 2011 as a “trying year,” and were rather relieved to see it come to an end. We experienced several significant disappointments last year, all the more frustrating because they were beyond our control. So we decided to seize control of our holiday, take advantage of a slow period at work, and travel to Paris for Christmas. We had never experienced Christmas without spending time with either (and often both) sides of our family before, and knew it would be a little strange. But we also knew that a vacation adventure somewhere new to us, far away and beautiful would be just what our little family of two needed to close out the year. So, with an abundance of redeemed American Express points, flight upgrades from an extremely generous friend, a corporate rate at a fancy hotel, and the blessing of supportive and understanding family members, we were off. (Warning, if you don’t particularly enjoy looking at other people’s vacation photos (a ridiculous amount of them) and hearing about their trip (ad nauseum) then this will be a trying post for you and you should move along to something else on the Internet. We’ll be back to regular recipe posting in a few days.)
We recently spent a nice weekend in Minneapolis visiting my brother. We had never been to Minneapolis and weren’t quite sure what to expect. Turns out that it’s a really nice little city with clean streets, amazing architecture, cool neighborhoods and great restaurants. We had a nice lunch one day at a unique eatery in an area called Dinkytown, near the University of Minnesota. The Loring Pasta Bar is an eclectic venue with a nice atmosphere and really delicious food. We enjoyed Loring very much and were pleasantly surprised by this and the wide variety of other top-rated restaurants in the city. In addition to nice restaurants, Minneapolis also has really friendly people. We commented to my brother about how nice everyone we encountered seemed to be. He laughed and explained a little phenomenon called “Minnesota Nice.” Apparently this is a real thing, in which the person is passively-aggressively courteous to your face, but then will talk bad about you behind your back. Hmmmm. We spent a good part of the rest of the weekend trying to figure out if we were being “Minnesota Nice’d” (as we called it) each time someone was polite or friendly to us. Paranoid tourist tendencies aside, we found Minneapolis to be a wonderful city with lots more to explore in terms of art, history, nature and food. We’ll definitely go back. Just not in the winter. Although I’m sure it’s plenty “nice” there in the winter too.
This was our second year to participate in the annual Chili Cook Off networking event sponsored by the AlixPartners consulting firm. Last year was our first-ever cooking competition, and although we didn’t win or even place, we had a great time and learned a few things. In addition to learning that we don’t enjoy losing, we discovered that we could use sirloin like we do in our home recipe and that it would be pre-cut for us and supplied with our other requested ingredients on the morning of the Cook Off. Knowing we could use our preferred cut of meat, we made up our minds last year that we would cook an even better batch of chili this year — good enough to place, or maybe even win…
There is a huge Greek Orthodox Church near our house that has held an annual Greek Food Festival for the past 55 years. For the 5 years that we’ve lived in our current neighborhood, we would see the signs advertising the festival each year and always mean to attend, but never got around to it, until this year. Dan’s mom was in town this past weekend and we thought it would be a nice little outing for the 3 of us. We were right — it was a gorgeous sunny day and we enjoyed sampling Greek food, shopping for Greek wares and touring the beautiful Orthodox church. We’ll be back next year.