Blog’s First Thanksgiving

*knockknockknock*
Did you hear that?
*KNOCKknockKNOCK*
What is that????

Why, it’s Lulu, begging me to use the photos of Thanksgiving she still has in a blog post!
Sheesh. Even my camera gives me grief.
My blog’s 1st Thanksgiving – this calls for celebration!
And hors d’ouvres, of course.
We had a very small gathering, which was really really nice – made for a very fun and relaxed holiday.
They brought crostini (in my honor :), which is just good toasted bread with a topping.
They made an herbed ricotta to go with!
 It had scallions, dill, and other herby goodness. I had to remind myself not to eat to much before the main event – but it was hard!
 They also brought these amazing spiced nuts – recipe to come! I know there was orange juice and maple syrup involved. They totally had that sweet-salty-crunchy thing going on. I was very happy to see these leftover the next day.
While the master carver was at his station…
with the ever-faithful turkey lurker never far from the action…
*must. get. turkey.*
…we brought out the side dishes.
 Some holiday greenery, simply steamed.
 Mom’s spoonbread.
It’s basically a cornbread souffle, and tasted like….um, cornbread! I really liked it, and Mom hadn’t made it for Thanksgiving before. A welcome addition!
You know that dish that is so darn good that you wait all year long for, but know better than to request it earlier in the year because then it would lose some specialness? That is my mother’s sweet potatoes for me. I don’t remember a single year I haven’t had them and loved every buttery, brown-sugary bite. She always makes one section without nuts for my brother and I – but in the last few years, I’ve come around to the bourbon-praline-pecan topping too. 
It’s even better than it sounds.
[There were also mashed potatoes that apparently went unphotographed. The sweet potatoes usually distract me. You understand.]
  
And finally, the bird was ready.
And so was my stomach! 
 The evening was capped off with a classic:
Pumpkin pie, made from scratch. Oh yes, I was one happy foodie.
I’m all for going all out and making crazy experimental dishes, but there is something to be said for sticking to tradition. And sweet potatoes. Man, those things are good.
I will return soon to celebrate vacation, sleep, the end of my ridiculous semester…and food, of course.
 In the spirit of this post, I wish you all happy holidays…and good digestion!
~Namaste!
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Productive

Wait…what could this be…an update???? Surely thine eyes deceive!
Nope. I’m here, and [mostly] in one piece. What prompted a sudden revival of posting, you ask?…a weekend of blatant procrastination. I am none too proud of it, but the past 3 days have been painfully unproductive. And with 6 1/2 weeks still left in the semester, it’s not making me happy.
Today, however, for the first time in two months, I actually read blogs. I blew the dust off of my Google Reader and read. And I’ve decided, it was possibly one of the more productive things I’ve done yet during this absolute hell ,ahem, busy semester.
As I’m sure any current college senior can attest, that ubiquitous question “so what are you doing next year?” is the hot topic of the moment. And I will say it is quite a relief to a) know the answer and b) be able to ignore the GRE-mania that has taken over my friends and fellow tormented classmates. But, I can’t say I’m immune to my own self-questioning of is this what I really want. As I’ve been running around, making arrangements for gaining my 6 months of food prep experience required by the CIA, I can’t help but hear that very teeny voice in my head saying “oh, but this could be BAD. WHAT do you think you’re doing?” etc, etc – that same voice that held me back before Florence figuratively slapped me in the head.
One of the blogs I depended upon in Florence for restaurant recommendations had been left ignored, like all the others. I caught up on it today, and it all came hurtling back to me. Everything I learned – everything that Tuscany taught me – about food, and food as something inexplicably more, flooded my senses. Oh right – this is why I love it, why I want it. Duh.
I really do miss those yellow apples.
BUT, a number of other exciting things have happened in those few & far apart moments when I’m not metaphorically [usually] bound to my desk chair researching recipes from the 1940s. (My thesis and I….it’s a love/hate relationship. Not sure if I’m the love or hate…but that’s another post for another time.)
Fall Break was last weekend, and I spent it with my aunt & uncle in Georgia. Not only did I get to hang out with these adorable faces for 4 days:
Bosco, Banda, and
Buster!
…but I am also hoping (planning? let’s not jinx it just yet.) to spend the summer with them while getting the aforementioned food prep experience at a restaurant just down the street from their house. We went there – Three Blind Mice – for dinner and a little good-natured schmoozing with the owner/chef to check out that possibility.
My initial reaction to the restaurant itself was something to the tune of “too good to be true.” And I hadn’t even tasted the food yet. The decor is pretty perfect – you walk in and there is a wall of wines ordered by country of origin in front of you; a look to your left is a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf filled with culinary literature*.
*Side note: As a result of my thesis, I now have a venerable wealth of knowledge concerning what to call “food writing”: this includes, but is not necessarily limited to, ‘culinary literature,’ ‘culinary writing,’ ‘cookery books/literature,’ and ‘gastronomical literature/writing.’ Just in case you thought I was only trying to use fancy words…I wasn’t. That’s just a broad enough title.
But let’s get to the menu, right?

 

Now, I don’t know if you can see it, but if you look under appetizers, you will see a affettati board, which is Italian for literally ‘slices’, usually referring to meat. Look a little further down. Any die-hard Gillianasana fans remember finocchiona???  (Hint: here and here!) Only my favorite.sandwich.EVER. from my beloved sandwich shop/wine bar, Casa del Vino!! Y’all, I just about had a heart attack. I have not had the pure unadulterated joy of finocchiona since my last day.second-to-last sandwich in Florence.
…and then our waitress brought out the bread.
Ok, no olive oil & balsamic, but it is in middle-of-nowhere suburban Georgia. Let’s not push it, shall we?
I was seriously torn come decision-time, but I went with the Nicoise salad. I’m a huge fan of tuna in salad – but I hate ‘tuna salad’ (mayonnaise makes me gag. and shudder. and then gag again.). I actually make it all the time at home. That, and when my family and i were having lunch after touring Pompeii, my mom and I got this salad with tuna, corn, olives and arugula that blew our minds. Italy kinda does that.

 

Loved it. Especially because it was over arugula, my love for which knows no bounds.
My aunt ordered the Panzanella after I had another mini spaz attack over it (another fave of my mom’s & mine), but I actually didn’t love it. In another appeal to its audience, it included chicken and that was just kinda wrong to me. That and my pescatarian ways are slowly taking over. My uncle got the shrimp & grits (you see how awesome this restaurant is – it had rigatoni abruzzese just under shrimp & grits…genius.) and near licked his plate clean.
But, I will never forget the sage words (haha, get it? sage? like the spice…oh, never mind.) of my Italian cooking professor when he told us that the way to judge a restaurant is by its appetizer menu – CHECK – and its dessert menu.
We ordered 3.
My uncle ordered a chocolate-raspberry fontaine, a pastry of deep dark chocolate and raspberry filling enclosed in a flaky phyllo dough
I had a bite or two, but found myself a little distracted by the meringue-topped key lime pie…
…was amazing, mouth-watering, and basically exactly what I think of when key lime pie comes to mind, only maybe a step above. Even my aunt who hates key lime pie – and really desserts in general (I don’t know how I’m related to her either) – had a couple forkfuls. It was so light and perfectly tart, and didn’t have any of that icky gelatinous artificial mouth-feel that waaay too many key lime pies do. My fork was momentarily panicked when it could find nothing but a few graham crust crumbs left. Of course, then it found…

 

…the sticky toffee pudding.
Ok, now I am well aware of the reputation – or perhaps infamy – of British cuisine. That being, in layman’s terms, that it sucks. But I had heard of this dish before and being the dessert aficionado that I am, I was curious if nothing else to see what it was.
I did not expect it to be one of the fluffiest, most moist and caramel-y cakes ever steeped in a heavenly bath of liquid toffee. My aunt – you know, the one who “doesn’t like dessert” – and I dueled over the last toffee-soaked speck like two cats over catnip. I promptly texted my brother to inform him that his birthday present this year was going to be my recreation of this. It will be done.
The prospect of working here for a whole summer? Exciting is a sufficient but mundane word to describe how I feel about that!
And on the summer, I just might have a life again. A thesis-free life, at least!
I’m also writing a weekly blog for Converse (my college) – because, you know, I need something else. But it’s pretty fun 🙂 And the next post (up tomorrow I believe!) is all about my favorite topic – Florence!
Ok, back to…Henry James, a paper on Emerson, or chemistry problems. Gosh, what thrilling prospects.
Here’s to being productive.
~Namaste~

The Maine Thing

Um, yeah, remember a few weekends ago when I went to Maine? Well, remember how I promised to return with pictures? Yeah, blogger fail. Better late then never, though!

Family friends/former neighbors of ours bought a little cottage just a couple hours out of Mass. around Ogunquitt, Maine. The cottage was super cute – small, but cozy rather than claustrophia-inducing, with lots of light and they’ve decorated beautifully. Look how cute!
Our hostess called this her “Martha Stewart moment.” Love it.
We arrived just in time for lunch – and a lovely lunch it was!

Pasta salad, FULL of veggies. This was absolutely delicious! It is originally from the Silver Palate cookbook; I am planning on making it again (and again, and again….) and probably tweaking it here and there. I do love me a good pasta salad.
And fruit! 

Including these gorgeous local raspberries:
Even better than they look.
Now, why on earth would anyone go to Maine in July? 
The BEACH, of course!
It was a perfect beach day. Just look at this sky:
To get to the beach, you have to walk over some beautiful marshland. It made LuLu very happy – she is a much more cooperative camera when there is beauty to be documented!
Chillin 🙂
See the sailboat?
This struck me as very….biblical. The light, the tree…I don’t know. 
After lazing in the sun, we took a quick drive to Perkin’s Cove, a.k.a, the tourist haven. But it sure is perty!
I could not get over the restaurants there. I wanted to go to so many! We passed a French bistro located inside an adorable little cottage that could have easily been a B&B…or Snow White’s house. Forget eating there, can I work there????
We went to a really wonderful place for breakfast, Roost Cafe.
In an old barn, they created a quirky, fun ambience!
They even bake their own bread & pastries! I must have seen this bread basket get changed 3 times or so as we ate. And if I wasn’t in love already…
Check the menu.
Honey lavender granola????

And then, I saw the pancakes…
It was over. One order of the blue corn pancakes with Maine blueberry compote, comin up!
They were SO tasty and unique. Delicately crispy, and the corn meal gave it a great mouth feel and rich flavor. Actually, the chef came out and asked me how they were – the high humidity was apparently really messing with the pancakes’ rising. It took all of my composure to not follow him back into the kitchen and learn more. I was fascinated. I wanted to ask for a job. They have a great location, it’s a super fun space, they make their own bread and have amazing pancakes. After I graduate from culinary school, can I call you? 
Should you ever find yourself in the York area on US Route 1, you MUST stop. It was a great dining experience.
Brunch (it was around noon when we left) was followed by some serious antique shopping. In 90 degree weather. With humidity. But there was some cute stuff!

Our visit ended in the best way possible.
Peppermint soft-serve ice cream – with the necessary chocolate jimmies.

And I didn’t even mention the lobster we had for dinner….oh yes. We lived well in Maine.

~Namaste~