Divine Charcuterie

IMG_4343 (1)Food seems to be top of mind these days and what’s better than some gouda ole’ cheese and meat? Also, why are charcuterie platters so photogenic? The pic above is one than my super awesome chef cousin made for me last spring. He’s a pro and can definitely cook….i.e. he doesn’t just arrange nice looking charcuterie boards.

This one below is a board for people who are HUNGRY for a full meal. Hangry eyes may think that this is a small amount of food but its very filling. You may regret eating it all by yourself cause you might get sick so sharing is probably is a good plan.

This is from Cultured at the Mt. Vernon Marketplace. Worth a visit. Also–get a fancy cocktail. They know what they are doing.

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Here are some others that are super pretty:

 

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Hope you are inspired by the boards. Treat yourself.

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A Grano’le Time at Hampden Pasta Bar

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To celebrate L’s science successes this week we visited a quaint little pasta bar in the Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore. I love this area. It has a lot of unique people walking around, lots of art, farmers markets and its a very tight knit community from what I can tell. We’re making more effort to head up there when we decide to go out for dinner.

This time, we headed to Grano and ate carbs to our heart’s desire. The menu is set up so you can customize your pasta–first by picking the sauce (both meat and veggie options) and then picking the type of pasta. They also had fresh bread, meatballs and salad options.

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It was a small galley like space and the chef was cooking up a storm right in front of us. It felt like we were on a cooking show as they transferred our freshly made pasta from the pans into the dishes in front of us. They also had some pretty cool glassware and the ambience was relaxed yet the quality was not compromised.

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The bread dipped in olive oil with roasted garlic was AWESOME. Very fresh and a perfect way to start a meal.IMG_4981

We also ordered meatballs because what is pasta without meatballs? We had no choice than to order a side since neither of us had ordered a pasta with red sauce. The meatballs were great but it’s not the dish that will have me going back to Grano. I’ve had better meatballs and I’ve had worse. If you are in the mood though, go for it! 🙂

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We were both needing some comfort food and this hit the spot. I ordered a Gorgonzola cheese sauce with walnuts sprinkled on top and it was served over fresh linguine. I’ve had fresh pasta a few times recently and it makes such a huge difference. Super delicious.IMG_4984

Of course we shared but, L ordered the Carbonara over fusili pasta. Probably the best carbonara I’ve ever had. Be warned–it is heavy and filling. You may need to take a break.IMG_4983

Once we gobbled all of that up, we went for it and ordered Tiramisu for dessert. I would have taken a photo of it but I like dessert too much and started eating and realized afterwards that I didn’t have a photo. Like most other things at Grano, the Tiramisu was super. Fluffy and moist and the bitter cocoa powder on top topped it off.

Are you hungry yet? 🙂

This is an excellent place for date night or a casual get together with friends.  I would highly recommend it!

My Heart Melts For You

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I confess. I have an ice cream problem. In the summer the problem gets a lot worse and I think it’s ok to have it every single day. Oops..

I got Mint Mountain with chocolate chips and Andes crushed in it. Super delicious and the mint flavor is super strong.

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Sitting in the warm summer heat outside of the Charmery in Baltimore with L…He says he doesn’t like ice cream but this face says otherwise.

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He got the Maryland Mud. Super rich and has oreos mixed in.

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Sometime there is nothing better than to get a waffle cone with your sweetie!

Pesto Please!

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For the last couple summers I have meant to make a big batch of pesto and this year, I finally got around to it. I wanted enough so it could last me through the whole year because I am a pesto fanatic. Love it on toast, pasta, mixing it with sauces, on pizza and more. If you like pesto (even just a little bit!) you should try out this recipe–

Start to finish in 20 min!

Ingredients: 

  • 9 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 6 cups basil (I used Thai basil which makes the pesto a bit sweeter)
  • Olive Oil (half cup)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • pepper
Instructions
Remove all the leaves from the stems, place in bowl and wash throughly. IMG_4398
Add all the chopped garlic…IMG_4399
…and then the pine nuts.IMG_4402
Transfer into a food processor and add a bit of pepper. I kinda mix in the basil as I went since my food processor was a little bit too small.
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Add in olive oil as you go and it should appear something like this–
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Scrape down the sides and chop until it is the consistency you prefer. Then, add in the parmesan. Some people prefer having the parmesan added in by hand at the very end but since my parmesan wasn’t grated very finely I decided to throw it into the food processor.IMG_4407
Chop away and enjoy 🙂 Fresh pesto should keep well in the fridge for a few days but make sure you cover it.  I decided to freeze mine so I can enjoy this summery pesto all year long.
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A Sultan’s Feast – Date Night at Cazbar

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First Course 🙂

Cazbar is an authentic Turkish restaurant in the heart of Mt Vernon. It’s has a nice ambience and some window seating.

We have gone to Cazbar once before and it was delicious. We ordered the same this time around. It was called the Sultan’s platter and it was a 3 course experience — the appetizers, selection of meats + salad, and then dessert.

Wish I could tell you what all of that food was but I have no clue! It was an awesome first course served with warm bread.

Now, comes the assorted meat platter-Shrimp, salmon, meatballs, kebabs, and some other things. Served over rice and with a raw and refreshing salad to cut the flavor of all the meat.

This was my favorite part of the meal. SO many choices and it was all excellent. The salmon was my fave–super juicy and really flavorful. I think I’m also drawn to salmon since I’m from PDX.

We obviously came no where close to finishing this platter. Perfect for lunch the next day!

Onto dessert-BAKLAVA !IMG_4745

A great to end savory meal. Eat the grapes first–you’ll never be able to taste them if you have a bite of the baklava. Happy Baltimore Restaurant Week!

Backpacking in Bear Country

Backpacking Trip

My first backpacking experience was definitely one to remember. It was somewhat of a spontaneous trip only planned a week ahead of time. Took a quick trip to REI and geared up on the essentials. A fair warning–investing in gear is costly but if you plan on making use of it long term, just view it as an investment. Most of the equipment will be functional for the duration of your life!

There’s me, trying out my sleeping bag at home. It’s always a good idea to test our your equipment beforehand…even your sleeping bag!

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If you are interested in on backpacking, here’s a basic list of what you’ll need-

Tent + Tarp

Sleeping Bag + Sleeping Pad + Stuff Sack

Water Bottles or a Camelbak pak

Backpack

First Aid Kit

Moleskin

Whistle

Compass

Camping Silverware + Bowls

Stove

Flashlights + Extra Batteries

A Good Book

Hiking Boots

Thick Socks

Bug Spray

Sunscreen

Bear Bag + Caribeaners

Knife

Duct Tape

Food

Iodine for Water Cleaning

The list is in no way comprehensive but it’s definitely a good start!

Saturday morning we ventured out to Green Ridge State Forest in Western MD.

The view from the overlook at the trail head was awesome. From the look of it the hike was going to be a lot of up and down but it actually was a pretty moderate hike. IMG_4657

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We took the Pine Lick Loop. A moderate 12 mile loop with “primitive” (i.e. no water!) but marked camping areas throughout. It’s a manageable hike for first time backpackers and people who want to test out their equipment before doing a longer trip.IMG_4665

The start of the trail was a bit strange. We went through a forested area but then neared a highway. This was us taking a quick break under the freeway overpass. A bit weird that we were trying to get away from the hustle bustle and then walking near a freeway. There is another trail head for Pine Lick that you can start at which avoids the freeway area.

Though we started later than we wanted, we actually made pretty decent time and got almost 4 miles in before stopping for a lunch break.

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Don’t mind the sweaty and red faces! Next time we do a trip, we’ll wait till it gets a little cooler and not 100 degrees + humidity. Given this steamy weather we definitely did not pack enough water. L investigates whether we can drink the water coming out of the pipe. We determined no and unfortunately we did not see a place where the water was running and not still. Sooo, we made what we brought last. Lesson learned–take enough water!

A general rule of thumb is take at a minimum of 2L per person per day. With the extra heat, it would have been better to take more.IMG_4672

So I got pretty excited when we arrived at our campsite and set up our tent. So excited that I forgot to take a picture of our adorable tent.

We brought some light reading–Bon Appétit . They are a good magazine look through pictures of beautiful food but its also really interesting if you are just getting more into cooking and dining. IMG_4677

Not sure why this happened….L really wanted to build a fire, so we did. In 100+ degree heat and in the daytime but I guess it was reassuring that we weren’t total wilderness newbies.IMG_4679

The hiking and camping (during the day) was awesome but, I definitely got a bit freaked out at night. Woke up screaming thinking there was a bear…it is bear country after all!

The next morning we packed up quick and headed back to avoid the heat of the afternoon.

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Went over some adorable bridges though the creeks were a bit dried out b/c of the summer.IMG_4687

When we got back to our car, I wanted nothing more than a burger. I had been craving one all week and decided to treat myself after braving the woods and bears all night.

We stopped in Frederick, MD. Had no idea how cute the city is! The downtown area is charming and has lots of places for fine dining, shopping, craft beer but also reasonable priced stops with good quality grub.

After a quick Yelp search for the best burger in Frederick, we found Brewer’s Alley. We were kinda smelly and needed a place where we could sit outside and a little bit away from people.IMG_4697

Got some tasty drinks…beer is usually my drink of choice but was tempted by the Mimosa special they had going on.IMG_4699

Cheers! IMG_4700

FOOD. We got the Belly Buster Burger and South Beach Prosciutto pizza and shared both. Liked this place for the good quality food, reasonably priced menu and the outdoor ambience.IMG_4705

Also, the fries were amazing. I love fries when they are really cripsy and almost breaded on the outside. SO GOOD. IMG_4707

Our bums were sore from the hike and our backpacks and our tummies were so full that getting up from this meal was tough! Fortunately we made it home safely and happily. It was a perfect 2 day backpacking trip to get a feel for it. Next trip, we are planning for early fall! Enjoy the summer!

Happy Anniversary & Valentines Celebrations

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Cheers to 4 years of smiles, travels, friendship, a cross country move all held together with a special thing called love! Abundantly thankful for his optimism, patience and loving nature. You are awesome Lyle! You better be reading this 🙂

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We decided to celebrate a bit earlier this year and combined our anniversary and valentines into one extra special evening. We wined and dined at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore and bustled on over to the Hippodrome to see the Phantom of the Opera. Overall an excellent evening!

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The food at Woodberry was so amazing. I am already trying to justify another dinner there.

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The flatbread (aka pizza) was probably my favorite dish. We ate the crab and sweet potato one…super delicious. The crust, which is always my favorite part of pizza was the consistency of a croissant. An absolute must if you try Woodberry.

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Rockfish Collar Out of the Oven

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Cast Iron Pork Chop

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Crab Pot

Here we are at the show. Bellies full and happy.

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Hope everyone enjoys their Valentines/Galentines Day!