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Best of Restaurants: Country Cooking

Photo Credit: Brain Pickings

I love fancy food, fancy restaurants, little plates, and tapas…but sometimes you just want good old country cooking. When you do, here are the best dishes I’ve found and where to get them:

Meatloaf from Fresh Chef in Denver, NC

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Spicy Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai)

Got a new favorite recipe that I’m excited to share! Pad Krapow Gai! Sounds exotic right? Well, it is, sort of. But exotic doesn’t mean difficult. This is going in my once a week dinner round-up. Comes together easily and is relatively healthy. And this is the first dish I’ve made in as long as I can remember that the entire house loved and there were NO leftovers. KEEPER ALERT!

Spicy Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai)

Original recipe found at All Recipes: Spicy Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai)

Spicy Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai)

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

  • ⅓ cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, or as needed
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup sliced shallots
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced Thai chilies, Serrano, or other hot pepper
  • 1 cup very thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups hot cooked rice

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • Step 1Whisk chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, white sugar, and brown sugar together in a bowl until well blended.
  • Step 2Heat large skillet over high heat. Drizzle in oil. Add chicken and stir fry until it loses its raw color, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in shallots, garlic, and sliced chilies. Continue cooking on high heat until some of the juices start to caramelize in the bottom of the pan, about 2 or 3 more minutes. Add about a tablespoon of the sauce mixture to the skillet; cook and stir until sauce begins to caramelize, about 1 minute.
  • Step 3Pour in the rest of the sauce. Cook and stir until sauce has deglazed the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until sauce glazes onto the meat, 1 or 2 more minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Step 4Stir in basil. Cook and stir until basil is wilted, about 20 seconds. Serve with rice.

Chef’s Note:

Makes 2 large or 4 small portions.

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The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuit’s Coconut Pie

My sister gave me this book for Christmas and I am fascinated at the intricate education with descriptive prose provided within its cover. It is actually perfect for beginners and for seasoned cooks as well. I wish I lived closer to the Deans to take advantage of some in-person training.

My family has been in quarantine for about 2 weeks, so it has forced me to slow down. I haven’t been out to eat since New Year’s Day, which is some kind of record for me I’m sure. So, I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen and this one jumped out at me while I was reading one night. I hope you like it as much as we do!

Coconut Pie

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons bourbon
  • one 9-inch pie shell, partially baked

Preheat oven to 325.

In a large bowl thoroughly whisk together all ingredients except the pie shell. Pour into the partially baked pie shell and bake 30 minutes. Let the pie cool at least 20 minutes before serving. Yummy warm or at room temp!

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Hot Chicken Salad

I love a casserole. I love a CHICKEN casserole. It’s my favorite meal. I make one and keep it in the fridge and eat on it all week long. This one is creamy and delicious. Dice your veggies super small unless you like them crunchy (shudder).

  • 2 cups cooked chopped chicken
  • 1 cup crumbled cracker crumbs; save 1/4 cup for top
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup Mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup onion; chopped fine
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 Hard-boiled eggs; chopped
  • salt

Mix all. Put in buttered dish and sprinkle with reserved crumbs. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.

Uncategorized · Wilmington

Restaurant Review: Bridge Tender in Wilmington, NC

While in Wilmington last week, we asked the locals in our class where to eat.  Many of them said Bridge Tender…but they were cagey about the food, instead remarking on the beautiful view.  So, we canceled our reservations at a seafood place I’d made earlier in the week and headed over to Bridge Tender.

Here’s the deal…we get there at 7pm and it is raining and pitch black.  So, no view for us.  So, I can’t factor that into this review, which only leaves food and service.  Service was great.  Our server was very attentive and kind, guiding us on our selections, never letting us get thirsty and getting us whatever was needed.

Our food was just ok we agreed. Maybe it was in comparison to the wonderful meals we’d had earlier in the week, but this restaurant was our least favorite of the four we tried.

When we entered the building, we were hit with this smell that is very unpleasant.  Almost like septic issue.  Very unappetizing.  Perhaps it is because the building is old, or the proximity to the water?  Whatever it is, Febreeze that mug.

Now, the tables and ambiance were both very nice.  We were seated by a wide window, so on a better night we might have enjoyed a starlit view.

We girls usually order and share each other’s food so we all get to taste everything.  Aren’t those the best friends?  Food friends?

We got two appetizers: The Seafood Sampler and CRAB DIP.  The seafood sampler had oysters Rockefeller, a crab cake, spring rolls and coconut shrimp. The sauces tasted like they came out of a jar. The Oysters Rockefeller was served in a dish, not on the shells, so I was questioning if they were even fresh shucked oysters.  Not pleasant.  The crab cake was not great, very heavy on filling and lighter on crab. The spring rolls were inedible, with the noodles inside providing a weird texture.  The coconut shrimp were the best things, and they were really not that great either.  I was thoroughly disappointed in that dish and would never get that again.

The crab dip we all agreed was were it’s at.  That was truly delicious and creamy and the toast points they served it with were so good, light and made the perfect bite.  Highly recommend that!  It was the best thing we had all night.

For the salad course we chose the Lumina Greens, which has dried cranberries, roasted almonds, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, pecorino cheese and dressed with a white balsamic vinaigrette.  It was fresh and pleasant, but light on the toppings.  I just got big mouthfuls of lettuce each time. It was fine.

We had two entrees: Grilled Salmon and Tenderloin Medallions.  Both were great, but the tenderloin was a tad overcooked.  It was served with fried potatoes and asparagus.  All very good.  Nothing incredible.

Let me tell you what was incredible: Dessert. The Fudge Brownie Napoleon was just out of this world good.  The brownie was warm and gooey, the ice cream was cold and melty, it was just a perfect dish.  Sweet warm caramel in between two brownies and sprinkled with walnuts.  Worth every calorie.  Three of us shared and we still couldn’t finish the darn thing.  GET THIS!

This restaurant’s main draw is the view.  Know this going in and order smart, realizing that not everything on the menu is worth the price tag.  If you can manage your expectations, you can enjoy yourself here.

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Restaurant Review: Poe’s Tavern in Wrightsville Beach, NC

I love a themed restaurant.  And I love horror.  So, Poe’s Tavern has been on my bucket list for a good long while.  I was so fan-girling on our visit!

In our class several other REALTORS told us which restaurants around town to try, and Poe’s came up for their hamburgers.  Little did I realize, that was nearly all they had, but it was ok because they were really delicious and huge!


The interior is pretty darn cool.  There is a long communal table in the middle of the restaurant with high stools and a scattering of booths and tables around the other dining areas.  What struck me were the paintings of Poe on the wall and the gothic looking light fixtures hanging over those communal tables.  Even the bathroom was wallpapered with pages out of Poe’s books while an eerie voice read excerpts from his book while you did your business.

We ordered cocktails, I had the Poe’s Punch which was fruity and refreshing!  Not too strong.

For dinner I had the Black Cat burger with Cheddar cheese instead of the pimento cheese.  The burger was served well done, per my instructions, and still remained juicy.  The meat was perfectly seasoned all the way through, not just on the top of the burger.  It was loaded with toppings: bacon, drunken chili, cheese, lettuce, tomato..I could barely fit it in my mouth!  It was so good!

If you like a themed restaurant that does a great burger, this place is for you.

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Recipe: HEARTY BEEF STEW

Winter is a great time to get out your Dutch ovens and make stew!  This one is a favorite, but the broth is thinner than I’m used to.  I’m sure it’d be easy to thicken with a bit of a cornstarch slurry if you desire!

HEARTY BEEF STEW

INGREDIENTS
2 lbs beef stew meat
4 ounces tomato paste
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 medium carrots, diced
2 medium potatoes, cut into chunks

1/4 cup frozen peas
5 cups low sodium beef broth
salt and pepper (to season)

DIRECTIONS
1. First, prepare your meat by cutting it into chunks and making sure that it’s dry so it
browns well (just use a paper towel). Season it well with salt and pepper. Heat the
butter and olive oil in a large pot, then add in the meat and cook it until it has browned
on all sides. Remove it from the pot and set it aside (you may need to cook the meat in
two batches so it browns well and the pot isn’t too crowded).
2. Cook the diced onion and minced garlic in the same pot, just until the onion softens,
then add in the tomato paste and stir it in well (I used a whisk for this part), then let
cook for a minute or two. Still stirring, add in 4 cups of the beef broth (reserve the
remaining cup for later, in case you need to thin out the stew), then add in sugar and a
dash or two of Worcestershire sauce. Stir well and return the beef and all its juices back
into the pot, then cover and reduce the heat to low and just let the stew simmer for
about an hour and a half, stirring it occasionally.
3. In the meantime, prepare your vegetables. Peel and dice your carrots and potatoes (you can omit the potatoes and instead serve the stew with mashed potatoes). After the stew has been cooking for about an hour and a half, add in the carrots, potatoes and frozen peas, and let the stew cook for another half our, or until the meat and the vegetables are soft. If the stew is getting too thick, add some more beef broth at this point too, and check the seasoning. Serve hot with some crusty white bread!

 

Charlotte · Uncategorized

Restaurant Review: Halcyon in Uptown Charlotte

Halcyon has been on my wishlist forever, but sometimes parking in Uptown Charlotte is a hassle.  It definitely was yesterday afternoon, but we persisted.  We circled the restaurant maybe 7 times, each time finding a parking lot with a “Full” sign.  On our 8th trip we found a parallel spot a few blocks away and got in in only 2 tries 🙂  Nerve wracking!!

It was worth the concentration and anxiety.  Once we walked to where GPS said Halcyon was, we wandered around another 10 minutes trying to figure out where the heck it was.  We followed signs, we went down an alleyway….I eventually gave up and asked another patron walking around near the Levine Center where the heck it was.  Turns out, you go up this gigantic staircase into the MInt Museum (there is an elevator on the inside of the building!) and there the restaurant is in all its glory.

The restaurant is beautiful, as you’d expect. When we walked in, I was struck by all of the organic decorative touches.  The hostess station sits atop the most beautiful wood table I’ve ever seen.  I couldn’t quit rubbing it.  I slipped around the hostess and snapped a quick picture of a long dining table waiting for patrons because it was so beautiful and simple.  The light fixtures look like a nest of twigs.  I was really wowed.

Look at that gorgeous table!

Huge windows overlooking Downtown Charlotte and check the light fixtures!

Love the organically shaped plates.

Despite the beauty inside, it couldn’t hold a candle to the beautiful fall weather we had yesterday, so we opted to sit on the patio.  Unlike many places, the outdoor furniture was comfortable and also lovely.  And the view!  Could not be beat.

View of Uptown Charlotte from Halcyon

The food was just as amazing as the view.  We scoured the menu and tried to order something different from each other so we could taste everything possible!  With so many delicious choices, that was easy.

Lunch Menu

First we ordered tea all around.  It comes unsweetened and they serve it with a simple syrup.  So, I was charmed the first time this happened to me, but now I despise this trend.  I can never use enough to even taste it.  Just give me some Sweet and Low and I’ll be happy.

My food, however, was without flaw.  I ordered the Local Catch of the Day which was pan seared Snapper.  They placed it atop a mix of summer veggies with a roasted red pepper vinaigrette on the bottom.  Seriously one of the best things I’ve eaten in a very long time.  The fish, though prepared simply, was so flavorful and flaky; cooked perfectly.  The skin was crispy and the inside was white and tender.  The veggies were sauteed lightly and the broccoli was charred so that was a perfect contrast of flavors.  Finally, that vinaigrette sauce: I wish I could come home with a cup full and slather it on everything.  It was tart and perfect when you dragged your fish or a vegetable through it.

Local Daily Catch with summer veggies, charred broccoli atop a puddle of roasted red pepper vinaigrette

My friend Paula got the Pork Belly BLT.  It was gorgeous!!  It’s this open-faced sandwich made on a brioche bun and stuffed with thick cut heirloom tomatoes, pimiento cheese, pork belly and drizzled with herb aioli. The fries are in a class of their own.  So crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside and seasoned to perfection.   Paula was very happy with it!

Pork Belly BLT with fries

My friend Jennifer got the Open Faced Lamb Sausage Pita, and she let me take a bite of the sausage!  It was just so spicy and tangy.  The pita had spinach, the sausage which looked to be spiced with a tomato confiture, topped with tzatziki sauce, herbed goat cheese and a beautifully fried egg.  Served with those amazing fries!  Superb.

Open Faced Lamb Sausage Pita

We were all so darn full from our delicious lunches, but we did decide to indulge in one small truffle 🙂  It was just a ball of ganache, rolled in cocoa powder and served with a few blueberries.  But it was oddly rich and perfect.  Just the little bite of sweetness we needed to end our perfect lunch.  Jennifer also got a latte which she said was great!

The perfect bite: Chocolate Truffle with blueberries

Latte

This restaurant is perfect for an al fresco dining experience with a beautiful view, or a date night when you want to impress someone.  Take a moment and look around the museum while you are there!

Lincolnton · Uncategorized

Crafted Southern Speakeasy throws a Tea Party!

So, by now everyone knows that Crafted is THE place to go for the most delicious handcrafted cocktails and snacks.  But did you also know they do these marvelous events all of the time?  The last one I went to was a tea party.  And it was the coolest one I’ve ever been to.

Erika Thompson, owner of Crafted teamed up with Allison Gahrmann of the White Rose Manor in Lincolnton to put together this amazing event.

We bought our tickets online and when we arrived she ushered us all into the private party room which was decorated lovingly to be transformed into a Victorian tea room.  Allison brought her vast collection of delicate teacups made out of bone china for us to sip from.

Allison then gave us a demonstration about tea etiquette and history and even brought some hats that she’s helped to rescue and remake.  She asked these adorable little girls to model a couple of her favorites.  She then let us know that she and her daughter collaborated to blend some new tea flavors, some with a theme of Christmas and other with an Alice in Wonderland theme!  We all begged for an Alice in Wonderland themed Tea Party at Crafted next, so be on the watch for that!

The food was plentiful and delish!  We had every type of finger food you could imagine and then some!

 

A beautiful tablescape!

Bruschetta Bites

Cucumber Sandwiches

Peanut butter and jam sandwiches, Chicken salad sandwiches, Creme Brulee cookies and German Chocolate Cupcakes

Croissants with fresh jam

Parmesan Crisps

Jalapeno Pickled Quail Eggs

Anise Pizzelles

Scones with lemon curd

My plate!

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When Pinterest Got it Right

So, we’ve all seen the hilarious websites that post all of the Pinterest Fails, right?  I’ve had my share, believe me.  But sometimes Pinterest gets it right.  So, kudos to you, Pinterest!  I knew all of those hours I spent pinning stuff would one day come in handy.  Here’s my countdown:

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10:  It’s kind of a creepy thought, isn’t it?  But quite true in my life.  Going tonight to give him the scoop on some more of you, too.

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9.  That’s just the long and short of it.  You can blame someone else for telling your business.  You can blame others for being judgemental.  But really…it’s just you.  Real Talk.

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8. Maybe I’m biased, because I have one of these, but seriously…who likes to be treated disrespectfully?  No one in their right mind.  Bad boys are fine and well, but give me a chivalrous man any day of the week.

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7.  Tell me you’ve noticed all of the butt hurt there is on Facebook these days?  Everyone’s got a cause, a cross to bear, something that offends them and some are outraged that people aren’t offended enough.  Mom’s advice from my childhood still stands.

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6.  Every mother knows what I’m talking about.

FTI2723018x185.  Sad but true.  People you thought you knew for years can change.  People you thought loved you.  My advice?  Love yourself.  I’m not being cynical, I’m being practical.

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4.  Let me just say I know this to be true.  And I’m working on it.  But dang, people can make you want to slap them silly sometimes, right?

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3.  People will stalk you out on Facebook.  People will try to add you under their kid’s accounts when you block them.  People will screenshot what you post and send it to ….you get the idea.  Save yourself the headache and just unfollow the drama.  What do you care if they see how awesome you are doing anyway?

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2.  In honor of Independence Day, I give you this.  And incidentally, I’m a patriot until Monday morning.

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1.  Can I get an amen?  For all of my careful planning, my life has surely taken a different course than I had imagined when I was 18.  A different course than I imagined yesterday.  But that’s what keeps things interesting.  How boring is it if all of your dreams come true…what about the dreams you never knew you had?  Just go with it, or you’ll make yourself nuts.  Trust me.