Odds and Ends

Hi Everyone!

So sorry that I have been away for so long. It’s just been a busy summer. I have no excuses.

So here are some random odds and ends. I have been thinking of you guys and trying to take pictures for you…

Where oh where to begin?

Ok let’s start with @5ChurchCLT. If you recall, I reviewed this a few weeks ago. I went back for a friend’s birthday and had the most amazing special. It was an herbed cannelloni pasta, filled with braised pork belly, chicken and turkey. I am a dumbass and didn’t take a photo but man was it good. I was encouraged, and I didn’t sit in those leucite chairs that weren’t made for girls w/ bootys.

Next…my Dad’s 70th birthday. He is a planner like me and made his own reservation at the Capital Grille. They were having a wine pairing special for $25 a person for wine they would pair with what you ate. Since we are all wine aficionados in our family, this was a perfect plan.

As some of you may have seen on Facebook, he called ahead to make sure he could wear shorts. I think that’s awesome.

Here’s a photo of my parents.

Also, mad props to the Capital Grille for the decorations on the table…

He had the lamb chops…he loves him some lamb.

A great time was had by all. The next morning I made them a breakfast casserole. It was so easy. Here is what I did.

I shredded some red potatoes, put some cooked sausage I had made the day before…

I scrambled 7 eggs…they were medium eggs from the farmer’s market. Put them on top and added some cheese and baked it for about 25-30 minutes at 375.

YUM!

After, I took the parents to the Super G Mart for produce…and they totally dug it. Dad was fascinated by all the frozen foods. They have every kind of dumpling or egg roll you can imagine.

Ok…what’s next. I have been attempting to grow tomatoes this summer. A work colleague who has a greenhouse gave me a plant in April and I’ve been nurturing it ever since.

This week I finally got a tomato off of it…

it got a little bit cracked because of the extreme heat we’ve had this summer so we only ate the bottom but it was very good and I can’t wait for more tomatoes!

Last but not least…I made some chicken tacos recently. If you ever find yourself w/ out taco seasoning…you can get by.

This is something I learned from the Pioneer Woman when I made some tortilla soup about a year ago.

Mix together some cumin, chili powder and garlic salt…boom taco mix. Sprinkle your chicken w/ some olive oil, spread the mix and put it in the oven for about 25-30 minutes on 400.

I used this for tacos, a quesadilla, and even gave some to my houseguest and dog brother, Jameson Davis, and he loved it.

Last thing…I am in Indianapolis this weekend for work and as is tradition…went to St. Elmo’s for a shrimp cocktail. If you have been there…you know. If you haven’t, you need to go. It’s an iconic steakhouse in downtown Indy, where the who’s who have dined for decades, and their shrimp cocktail is awesome. It’s spicy! They make their own sauce w/ fresh horseradish and it’s lethal. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.

YUM!

Going to look for some gluten free recipes for my buddy Lisa next week. Stay tuned!

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Chimichurri Flank Steak, Roasted Potato Salad and my version of a caprese

Greetings,

As you gear up for the 4th of July (my favorite holiday as my birthday is on the 6th), consider this easy breezy menu for your cook out. I made this for Father’s Day for my family and some friends and it was so easy and so delicious.

One of my staple recipes here at the house is Chimichurri Flank Steak. I saw Emeril make steak sandwiches with this sauce once and I salivated. I made them for an outdoor concert/picnic and they were a hit. Now I make this probably once a month in the summer time months.

I try to marinate the steaks over night if possible, but it can be done for just a few hours as well. Here is his recipe, sometimes I put different amounts of different herbs in…but you can’t go wrong following this recipe.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/skirt-steak-with-chimichurri-sauce-recipe2/index.html

Also a tip…set aside some of the marinade before you put the meat in (and I use a gallon ziplock) and use it as a sauce. DO NOT use the sauce you had the meat in. Gross.

I also made a very simple roasted potato salad.

I chopped up some red potatoes and put them on a cookie sheet.

I added some red onion, olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and pepper and some chopped rosemary…

and put it in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes and let them cool.

I added in about a quarter of a cup of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard and wallah…roasted potato salad. It was a big hit on Father’s Day and fairly healthy.

The last thing I made was by far the easiest. I took a few tomatoes, some buffalo mozzarella, and some basil and chopped it. Added in some salt and pepper and some balsamic vinegar. Done. Caprese Salad. When I make it for a group like this I just throw it in a bowl. Sometimes when it’s just a few people I stack it like in a restaurant.

Here was a photo of my plate before I dove in.

Oh and look at that I forgot the asparagus!

So easy! So trim the ends of the asparagus…drizzle some olive oil and salt and pepper on them and put them under the broiler for 10 min or so. You don’t want them to be mushy still a bit crisp.

A good time was had by all…even Mr. Jameson Davis. The best part of this meal was I was able to make everything ahead of time and just had to grill the flank steaks so I was able to spend time with my guests!

Happy 4th of July everyone!

My favorite city…New Orleans

I fell in love with New Orleans in April of 2005…approximately 4 months before Hurricane Katrina. I went for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, with my friends Debbie and Megan upon the recommendation of my friend and then boss Ramsey.

It was love at first sight.

There is so much to love about New Orleans. The people. The food. The music. The soul.The fact that you can walk around w/ an open container.  I just love it.

I have been back several times since Katrina, including the first jazz fest after it, in 2006. Each year a little bit more of the city comes back but there is so much to be done there. It still breaks my heart to think about the people who have been, and continue to be, affected by that storm and it’s aftermath. It’s pathetic that we let that happen to one of our best American cities and it’s amazing people.

Ok off my soap box now and to the food!

I recently went back for a conference and here are some of my food tales. I’ll also share some of my favorite things, that I just didn’t get a chance to eat this time.

One of my favorite restaurants in Nola, is Stella. I had tried and tried to get in there during a few jazz fests and finally got in last spring with my friend Kristine. We had the best dinner that night, alongside Mario Cantone (from Sex and the City) and the legendary Tom Jones. It was also the night that President Obama announced Osama bin Laden was dead. A momentous evening indeed! I vaguely recall taking a few photos, but I wasn’t food blogging then and the camera on my blackberry was not so good. I did take this photo of my dessert from that night (and I had it again recently) of the bananas foster bread pudding.

I know I know, that is a terrible photo. But the banana chips on top looked like Princess Eugenie’s hat at the Royal Wedding and I remember it making me laugh. It was FANTASTIC by the way. A great way to cap off a memorable night. I don’t remember anything else I ate last night. I just remember Kristine and I ordered a $300 bottle of Groth that we thought was the $80 bottle. A memorable night all around!

So when I went back to Stella recently on a business trip I tried to take better photos for you.

The first one, was the amuse bouche. If you don’t know what an amuse bouche is, it is typically a one bite teaser from the chef to show you what is in store for your dining delight! Here is the wikipedia definition:

An amuse-bouche [amyzbuʃ] or amuse-gueule [amyzɡœl] is a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre.[1] Amuse-bouches are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu by patrons, but, when served, are done so for free and according to the chef’s selection alone. These, often accompanied by a complementing wine, are served both to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to cooking.

Right wikipedia…that’s what I said. 🙂 So this evening’s amuse bouche was a red pepper, goat cheese and crispy rice noodle delight.

YUM! I am a firm believe that you should always try the amuse bouche.

I ordered a halibut that was phenomenal. It had some edamame and some asparagus and a lobster hollandaise. The food at Stella is impeccable and looks like art.

Additionally,  what is so fantastic about Stella is the story. And for that…you need to go to their website and click on video. You won’t get why the restaurant and the city of New Orleans is so fantastic until you do. It’s because of the PEOPLE!

http://restaurantstella.com/

Another one of my favorite people in New Orleans, although I have never met him, is Chef John Besh. I’ve been to two of his restaurants, Restaurant August and Domenica. I had hoped to get to another Besh place, Luke, this trip but didn’t make it.

John Besh, was also one of the first chefs to re-open his place in New Orleans after the storm. A James Beard award winner and one of Food and Wine’s Best New Chefs in 1999, Besh has become a philanthropist, giving loans to local farmers to stay afloat. For more here is a NY Times article. He also has a show on PBS. Check it out.

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/john_besh/index.html

Domenica is for now my favorite of his places because it’s casual, hip and the food is amazing. I took a group of folks here on a Friday night and the place was packed. The pizza chef welcomed us personally, it’s just a great fun casual spot.

I split a pizza with a colleague to start and so sorry…but we didn’t take a photo until um…

We had the basil pesto pizza…and she added mushrooms to her half. SO good.

I also had a small plate (they have large and small on some dishes…love that) of the White Truffle risotto with pancetta crutons. Jealous? You should be!

Last, we ordered some crispy baby artichokes for the table that were so delicious. I’m going to try this at home.

Also, how do you know you are at a great spot…when you see your media friends from The Grio and the president of MSNBC when you walk in. 🙂

Here is the link for Domenica. I highly recommend it. http://domenicarestaurant.com/restaurant-bar.html

Now for some equally delicious but more traditional Nola spots.

Everyone should go to Mother’s for a Po’ Boy at least once. There’s nothing like it.

http://www.mothersrestaurant.net/

Also, you have to have some beignets at Cafe Du Monde.

http://www.cafedumonde.com/

And make it over to Oak Street in Uptown. It’s a cab ride but it’s a great street with two of my favorite spots on it.

The first is Jacques-Imo’s. A recommendation from Ramsey, this place has alligator pie, fantastic fried chicken, and many other southern delights. Jacques, the chef/owner is almost always there, in shorts and clogs, with a cocktail in his hand. However, be prepared to wait, especially when it’s festival time. Those who know me, know that I will not wait an hour to eat at a chain restaurant, but I’ve waited here over two hours, sweaty in my Jazz Fest clothes, with my backpack and chair, for this fried chicken. It’s that good.

http://www.jacquesimoscafe.com/index.html

And when you are done with dinner, sans chair, head on over to the Maple Leaf bar next door. Regulars there that perform are Papa Grows Funk, The Iguanas, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, and the Rebirth Brass Band to name a few. It’s a great bar.

http://www.mapleleafbar.com/

So that’s enough to get you started in my hands down favorite city in the US…says the girl who grew up near the amazing city of San Francisco. 🙂

Enchiladas…great recipe from a great college friend

As I mentioned a few posts ago…I recently caught up with an old college friend in DC Amina, and this hs her recipe that I have just revised a bit. It’s so so easy and really delicious! Thanks Amina!

Ingredients: 

1 can enchilada sauce  

1 can refried or black beans

1 can corn, drained

1 can chopped or sliced olives, drained (I omitted these…not an olive fan) 

1 package shredded Mexican cheese mix (she uses light…so do I)

1 package tortillas (she likes flour, I like corn)

Some chopped onions (she uses frozen, I chopped mine)

 I also added in some left over crab cakes my Dad had made, and some steak.

 

Directions:

Spray rectangular Pyrex casserole dish with Pam.  Pour half of the can of enchilada sauce into it.

 

Put one of the tortillas down in the sauce and put in one handful each of beans, corn, and cheese. Add around a tbsp each of the chopped onions and olives. Roll the whole thing up so there’s sauce on most of the outside of the tortilla.

 

Repeat filling and rolling tortillas until there’s no more room in the pan.

 Like this:

Then pour the remaining sauce over the top of the tortillas. Spread the remaining cheese and olives on the top too. Poke the ends of the tortillas down a bit.

 

Bake at 350* for 20-30 minutes, until the cheese is all melty.

 

Serve with any/all of the following: rice, tortilla chips, salad, or guac.

I thought for sure the boyfriend and I would love the crab ones more than the steak ones…but alas we loved the steak.

See you all soon!

Review of 5 Church

Greetings!

This is my first review of a local restaurant, which seems odd to me, but I guess usually my posts have been about trips or things I make.

I had heard about 5Church from my friend Jon, also a big foodie and Top Chef fan. It’s located at 5th and Church streets here in Charlotte, go figure. It’s three investors with Chef Jaime Lynch, who was the chef at Barrington’s (special occasion place, so delicious) here in town and has also worked at Le Cirque. I did notice that evening that two of the three investors were in the house.

I had high hopes for this restaurant based on the design of the website, word of mouth, and the menu. 

The decor is very NY chic which I love. Great bar area. What I didn’t love about the decor was the leucite clear chairs. They just aren’t comfortable. I like to sit and enjoy the ambiance and these chairs make me want to flee.

Our waiter was good…but only after we asked for specials or his recommendations on the menu. I am a firm believer that waiters should help guide your experience of a new restaurant. The menu had snacks, first course, steaks, and the main course. I inquired what the snacks were and how big they were…he told me a few bites. I ordered the baked goat cheese and spinach. I kind of thought it would be more like a salad but it was more like a dip. Good and tasty, but not what I expected.

My friend Kelly, ordered the Bibb Salad, which also looked delicious.

She crushed it. I was jealous.

The boys both ordered the hummus which looked a lot like the dip I had.

I got the Maine Skate. I lovely white fish with pickled ramp brown butter and fresh veggies.

It was lovely and cooked perfectly.

The boyfriend had the lamb burger, which looked awesome.

The pink sauce was like a homemade ketchup which I tested…spicy and yummy.

Our two friends had the Hangar steak and it looked awesome.

All in all, it was a good dinner and I will consider coming back. The location is fantastic as it’s right up the street from the Blumenthal Performing Arts center…where we took in Aziz Ansari immediately following. He’s a funny guy…and a foodie too!

A few more food notes:

Try Savor on Morehead. It’s delicious. My favorite is the mojo chicken sandwich and the chocolate banana pudding. It’s amazing.

Also, try Mattie’s diner at the NC Music Factory. I had a bite of this meatloaf and it was awesome. I had a turkey wrap, which was ok…but I will be getting this meatloaf next time.

Till next time!

 

My own Top Chef taste test in DC

Greetings everyone!

Sorry I’ve been away a bit too long. I hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Day holiday. I spent that Sunday at my parents and my Dad made his famous ribs. He smokes them on his smoker, with a dry rub, and OMG they are good. He also does our Thanksgiving turkey on the smoker. YUM!

Here are a few mouth watering photos for you and one of the chef…

They were so good! After years of buying them at Costco, he bought them at Wal-Mart. They might have been his best ribs ever.

Ok so now to the Top Chef taste test. The first weekend of June I headed to Maryland to attend my good friend Jenn’s wedding to her beloved, Blake.

A photo of the happy couple…

After the fantastic party…I headed down to Silver Spring, coincidentally the bride’s hometown, to visit an old college friend, Amina. She made this beautiful brunch of fresh fruit, tomatoes and basil, and Quiche. Delicious! So wonderful to see her.

And then it was to DC for a few days of sightseeing. I’ve been to DC a few times, but never have done the touristy stuff because I’ve been in and out for meetings, etc.

On Monday, I hit the Air and Space Museum, the Newseum, and the Museum of American History. Also on my hit list that day was Good Stuff Eatery. A burger joint owned by Spike Mendelsohn who was on Top Chef Season 4 and Top Chef All Stars. I am a huge Top Chef fan and follow a lot of the chefs on Twitter. Speaking of which…you should follow this blog on Twitter…@whatkatetastes. Just sayin.

Anyway I knew his burger joint was on Capital Hill so I mapped it out and incorporated it into my plan. Speaking of my plan, a huge shout out to the DC Metro trains and my iPhone for guiding me in a city I wasn’t familiar with.

I took this photo en route from the Newseum to the restaurant. I would really like it if the folks that work in there could get something done and not wait until after the election.

Ok back to food! So I walked in and ordered a farm fresh burger w/ bacon and cheese. I also got a hand spun chocolate shake and village fries, which are fries with sea salt, thyme and rosemary.

It took about 10 minutes to wait for my order and that’s when I noticed they had siracha mayo and old bay mayo in addition to ketchup for your fries, etc. Definitely tried both of those. Liked the siracha the best.

I got my burger and headed upstairs where they had seating. They wrap everything like it is to go and give you a tray if you are eating there. I didn’t love that and you will see why in this photo.

My burger got kinda smushed. Now, don’t get me wrong, this was a delicious burger. Very much reminded me of my favorite In N Out burger. My fries were good, but would have been so much better if they were crispy instead of soggy. My shake rocked. All in all, it was worth the walk but I was expecting much more.

The following day, I started at the Jefferson Memorial, walked my way to the new MLK memorial, saw the Lincoln memorial and the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Very cool, very moving day. The weather was perfect for walking.

I was on such a mission that day to get going, that I didn’t have breakfast (unusual for me) so I decided to have an early lunch at my other Top Chef stop, Graffiato. Mike Isabella was on Season 6 of Top Chef and was a finalist on Top Chef All Stars. This was my second visit to Graffiato (so it kind of wasn’t a fair fight to begin with).

The last time I was there was in the fall and the menu reflected that. They had chicken thighs with his famous pepperoni sauce and pumpkin zeppoli’s that I will never forget.

I sat at the bar that overlooked the wood fire oven and the kitchen which was fun because I love to see how chef’s make things. They had a special pick three items for $20 dollars for lunch so I chose to do that and ordered the roasted cauliflower with mint and pecorino, fresh cut spaghetti w/ tomato sauce, and salmon with artichoke, white beans and capers. I knew from the last time that it is tapas style plates so I could handle three.

I also ordered myself a few glasses of white wine. That’s how I do vacation on a Tuesday.

The cauliflower arrived first and it is and forever will be the best cauliflower of all time.

I tried to watch the chef to see what exactly she was putting in there…but never figured it out. There was a bit of red onion in there. Yum. Garlic. Yum. And of course the mint and the cheese. Amazing. I cleaned this plate.

Next out was the spaghetti. Simple. Clean. So good.

The Salmon was next…and sorry I forgot to take the photo before I ate a bite. That happens a lot. I can’t help it.

The salmon was perfectly cooked with a great salty crust. The artichoke and white bean mixture it sat on was awesome. I was a very happy girl.

I was full and happy but decided to entertain the thought of dessert. My server, said her favorite was the blood orange cheesecake with passionfruit and microbasil. There are times when you just need to listen to your server…this was one of them. So good.

After I rolled out of there and got back on the Metro to Dupont Circle I stopped by Kramer books. A few friends had suggested it and it was a very cool bookstore…with…

Yup. That’s a bar. Coolest. Bookstore. Ever.

So with that my visit to DC came to a close and so does this blog.

See you all soon!

Singapore Rice Noodles

If you work in Uptown Charlotte like I do chances are good that you have been to Fujo, the chinese restaurant in one of the Wells Fargo buildings. Before my company moved, our Charlotte office was located in that building and I’m sure it was one of my co-workers that first took me there. It’s great for a quick lunch and some time back I started eating Singapore Rice Noodles there. Essentially, it’s noodles, curry, chicken and fresh veggies.

During my trip to the Super G, I saw some dried rice noodles on the shelf and thought I’d give it a shot.

I googled a few recipes and ended up combining a few to come up with this recipe. NOTE: There is only one photo of the end product for this blog entry as once everything is chopped and ready…it cooks quickly. And since it was my first time making it, I was a bit pre-occupied.

So here is what I did/used:

I read all different kinds of ways to get the dry noodles ready. Eventually I followed the directions on the package and soaked them in a bowl of tepid tap water for 45 minutes (it said 5-10 but it just needed more time for the noodles to get al dente). After this, I used a colander to dry them off.

2-3 red/orange bell peppers sliced thin

2 green onions chopped

1 med size piece of ginger (to clean ginger simply chop the skin off on all sides and then chop it up)

2 handfuls of pre-shredded carrots

1 chicken breast sliced thin

2-3 cloves of minced garlic

I don’t have a wok so I used my deepest frying pan I had. I put in 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil in the pan and cooked the chicken. Because it was sliced thin it didn’t take long.

While the chicken was cooking, I combined 3 eggs, 2 more tablespoons of toasted sesame oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder. Strangely enough, I didn’t buy curry at the Super G and found curry (it’s yellow in color) at Wal-Mart in the spice aisle.

Once the chicken was done, I moved it onto a plate and scrambled the eggs.

I then moved the eggs onto a separate dish.

I then added another tablespoon of sesame oil and added in the ginger, garlic, and curry for about 1 minute.

Now it was time for the veggies. I added one more tablespoon of sesame oil and threw the veggies in.  After about a minute or so I added a few tablespoons of water.

One more tablespoon of sesame oil and I added back the noodles to fry them up for a bout 30 seconds. Next, 1/2 cup of chicken broth is added. Bring it to a boil. Added back in the chicken and the eggs. Added some soy sauce and dry sherry (a few tablespoons each) and tossed.

I plated it and added some sprinkled cilantro over it. It was really really good.

The boyfriend and I crushed this plate with ony a left over lunch portion left for me. I can’t wait to make it again. Now…who to invite?