Keeping it local with The Blend & Co.

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When it comes to supporting local businesses, I’m one of the first to stand up and show my support.  Recently, a 

little coffee shop opened up in our historic downtown area of Burlington, NC.  I had been trying to get there since they opened, but hadn’t been able to until this morning.  Lucky for me, I had company and there was a car show in town.  Two great reasons in my book of life!

As soon as you step through the door, you notice they have very charming decor and you immediately get a  

 sense of brightness when inside of The Blend & Co.  It feels very modern, clean, hipster, but yet still classy and Southern.  They have a room that is semi separated if you had larger parties or just wanted to join others at a  

  

 community table type seating area.  They also have a bar area to sit at and plenty of windows to enjoy the view of downtown.

I know that they get their coffee products from Fortuna Enterprises out of Greensboro, so they truly stick with a buy local feel.  It was indeed one of the best lattes I’ve ever enjoyed.  With that being said, I would highly recommend the Caramel Latte if you join them for a pick me up.  The blueberry muffin was also equally delicious and looked gorgeous.  You know as well as I know that you can never go wrong with a blueberry muffin for breakfast.

If ever in the downtown area, you should stop in and check them out.  The coffee is top notch, the decor is refreshing, and the service is outstanding.  It’s a can’t miss gem of downtown.

The Blend & Co. – 127 E Front Street, Burlington, NC

Happy Mother’s Day and Weathervane in Chapel Hill

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I know that you all know how much I truly love my mother.  The things she and I have been through the last two years have made us stronger than ever.  She is indeed my best friend, confidant, and amazing beyond words.  She is my rock and the reason I go out everyday and try to be the best version of me that I can.  I owe that to her for all of her sacrifices, heart ache, and money spending that I have put her through.  I owe it to her to continually pay back in life what she has given to me.  I owe it to her to always treat others with kindness even though they may have hurt me.  I owe it to her to always take the high road and choose my battles, because she has taught me that I can choose how I react to situations for the best.  I owe it to her to be thankful of where I am in my life and recognize that life is always going to improve beyond where I am at in the present moment.  I owe it to her to hold my head high with confidence as a beautiful woman that she has created from her own beauty.  I owe it to her to be the best daughter she could possibly have prayed for all those years ago, because she has been that mother that God knew I was going to need.  She has shown up every single day for me, and I owe everything to her.

So when it came time to think of a Mother’s Day gift, it became difficult.  I knew she was missing her own mom, and I remembered that we didn’t make the traditional birthday cake at her birthday earlier this year.  It was time…yes time…to make Bishop Bread.  It seems almost sinful to be making it any other time than on her birthday.  I mean, it has been a time honored tradition for an incredible amount of years to be made only on her birthday (that’s me not telling you how young my mom is).  Sometimes life calls for throwing tradition out the window!  But wait, the recipe calls for candied cherries, which makes complete sense why this cake was only made around the holidays.  Grocery stores always had an abundance of candied cherries during Christmas.  If only for those god awful fruit cakes everyone seems to make.  I had to find them somewhere, right?  Very wrong.

After running out of time and places to hunt them down, there was only one option.  I had to make candied cherries myself.  One of my friends had suggested I make them out of Marschino Cherries.  Bleh.  Sorry, folks, I am not a fan of these artificially brightened treats.  However, I needed my candied cherries.  I took to Google, and Google came through with flying colors.  It landed me on ShaunaSever.com.  Thank goodness there was a recipe out there.

They were incredibly easy to make, and here is the link to her post… http://shaunasever.com/2010/12/how-to-make-candied-cherries.html.  Her recipe is below.

  

Candied Cherries

This is a full recipe that will yield about 8-9 ounces of candied cherries. It’s easily scaled up or down, even if you just need a tiny amount for a recipe.

  • 1 16-ounce jar maraschino cherries
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Drain the cherries, reserving 1/4 cup of the juice. Combine the reserved juice and sugar in a small saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Add the cherries, and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 45 minutes-1 hour, until the cherries are slightly shriveled and firm to the touch. Remove from the heat, uncover the pan, and let cool completely.

When the cherries have cooled, remove them to paper toweling (leaving the syrup behind, your recipe doesn’t call for it) and pat dry. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to six months.

  


Weathervane

We were originally headed to Fearrington Village for brunch, but considering the weather, Mom decided she would rather go to Chapel Hill and visit A Southern Season and Weathervane.  Love love love going to A Southern Season.  It should really be named A Southerner’s Food Heaven.  First, we ate!  

We lucked out and got a seat in the cafe area.  It’s really not that bad, but if you are more than two, you should ask for an extra chair when sitting at the booths. We were immediately advised that their regular menu was not available, and they were only offering a $34 Prix Fixe menu for Mother’s Day.  Which isn’t a bad thing.  I just missed their main menu.  Overall, it was a great experience because I was with my Mom/parents.  It is Mother’s Day afterall.   

They had a beautiful menu and a fresh daisy on each table.  It was set nicely, just as would be expected.

Mom ordered the baked baby brie, orange blossom honey, fig preserves, and toasted country bread for her starter.  I’m not the biggest brie fan, but this had a really nice flavor with all of the elements combined.

 I ordered the Grilled Summer Squash Soup as my starter with charred peppadew peppers, and a sweet corn crem fraiche –  No, I didn’t shake it up or stir it before taking the photo.  It was presented this way.  You eat with your eyes first, and although this ended up tasting decent, it certainly wasn’t plated well.  A little bit of a let down for as amazing as this place normally is. 

 

My Stepdad ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes with a buttermilk cucumber, green tomato relish, and crispy greens.  He said the greens were so soaked in grease, it was hard to enjoy them.  However, they were indeed fried, and we came to the conclusion that maybe that’s the only way some people can eat healthy greens…fried.  The dish was perfect otherwise.

They both ordered the out of this world Weathervane Shrimp and Grits with heritage Andouille Sausage, redeye shrimp gravy, shitake mushrooms, and pimento grits.  Even though we never saw actual pimentos in the grits, this was the best dish of the entire meal at the table.  Very thankful this is on the regular menu!!!


I ordered the Tea Glazed Organic Salmon with heirloom pea succotash, preserved lemon, skinny bean salad, and a green tomato vinaigrette.  This was probably the best cooked piece of salmon that I have had in an extremely long time.  Delicious and buttery.

They copied each other again at first with both ordering the Salty Caramel Apple Cobbler with a brown sugar streusel and buttermilk ice cream.  However, contrary to what your brain tells you, this cobbler was served cold.  I asked the server if it was supposed to be served cold (we were kind of early in their lunch service so maybe they just hadn’t had time to warm it thoroughly), and after going to the back and returning, she informs us that it is supposed to be served cold.  Hmmmm…if this is a new trend, you can have it.  Ice cream (especially such tasty ice cream like the one on this dish) should be melting gently over the HOT apple cobbler.  Maybe next time put that it is served cold on the menu?


After the Cobbler debacle, Mom ended up with the same dessert I had chosen – 11 Layer Chocolate Cake with dark chocolate ganache, roasted strawberries, and a peanut butter mousse.  This was a win in the richness of the cake and the perfection of the peanut butter mousse.  I’ll take a pound of that to go, please!

The few little things that I wasn’t pleased with didn’t outweigh the stellar service, the ambience, or the overall enjoyment of being with my family at a nice restaurant.  It truly was a good experience.  I can’t wait to go back and order my own plate of Shrimp and Grits!

If you’ve made it to the bottom, I hope that you have all enjoyed your Mother’s Day.  If you’re like me, and have only been blessed with being a mother to a cat, then Happy MeowMa Day to you (as I refer to the day).  If you’re not able to be with your Mom, then I hope that she left you with wonderful memories that you can look back on today, and know that you are a better person because she was in your life.

With love to my own Mom,  J

LaRue – A great addition to Greensboro dining

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Sitting here on a cloudy afternoon, bored and with no one to talk to but my cat, I can’t help but think about last night’s meal. Another blogger friend and I were invited to a special preview of the new LaRue restaurant opening in downtown Greensboro on Monday, March 23.

It’s a small French restaurant right across from the Carolina Theatre, and it’s owned and operated by a very passionate Chef. Trey Bell’s passion shows through in his staff and especially the food. The staff was involved in the prepping of the space, and it’s very evident they all have a great source of pride in LaRue. I find that very charming about this place. The use of reclaimed wood all throughout the restaurant on the walls, the handmade bar and top (that was all created or made by the staff) really brings this restaurant together and shows it can fit in with the trendy downtown crowd.

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When you first arrive, they have you sign in on an old typewriter (the owner loves his antiques, but mainly typewriters). I’ll admit it, it’s been a long time since I’ve touched a typewriter, so I had to ask for assistance. Next time I’ll know (because there will be a next time).

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We were seated at the bar, which is pretty much like a Chef’s Table. We could sit and watch as food was finished and sent off to other guests. It was fun being in the middle of the action and talking to the chefs.

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Did I mention the retractable heat lamps??? Those should be in every kitchen!

We decided to order three of the four small plates…

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Marrow Butter was first up – house made cultured butter, bone marrow, and epi bread. The bread is brought in from Loaf Bakery, and it’s Trey’s actual recipe/creation.  The bread was prefect with a chewy outside and soft on the inside. $6

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Pigs in a Blanket was next – while it’s not my traditional Southern experience of Pigs in a Blanket, it was extremely tasty. The Chinese sausage wrapped in phyllo was spot on delicious with the mustard seed caviar. $6

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Next was the Duck, Duck, Duck – foie gras, duck confit and duck jerky went perfectly again with the bread. This was a first for me to have foie gras, and I must say that I quite enjoyed it! It went well with the butteriness of the confit. Duck jerky, where have you been all my life? $12

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We switched to main courses and chose the Cassoulet as one of our dishes. The pork belly paired well with the duck breast and white beans. We asked Chef for a suggestion of a sauce for the dish, and they whipped us up a sauce from scratch that was beyond what we expected. That says a lot about this place when they are willing to accommodate.

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The other course we chose was Spottail Bass – it came with romesco, wild onion and root greens. My friend is allergic to nuts, so the romesco was served on the side and not pictured. Trust me when I say it was phenomenal with the bass.

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We both enjoyed selections from a large wine and beer menu. It had all bases covered, even though this is a small restaurant. There’s no way you couldn’t find something to pair with your meal.

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Instead of dessert, we ended with a beautiful and delicious cheese plate. All three of the cheeses were accompanied perfectly with the peach, nectarines, and dried fruits.

This was truly a pleasurable experience dining out that I haven’t had in a while around town. The prices were right for the quality and quantity, and I can’t encourage enough to try this new gem. Most importantly, it’s nice to see fresh faces, fresh passion, and fresh ideas downtown. I can’t wait to go back!

Visit LaRue at 313 S. Greene St. in Greensboro, NC starting Monday, March 23rd!

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Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series Fire in the Triad: Marisol vs. Meridian

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I had one of the most amazing experiences last night in my foodie adventures.  I was asked to guest blog over on Nik Snacks for the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series Fire in the Triad.  Last night, Marisol was up against Meridian.  The two mystery ingredients were Pepsi and America’s Best Nut Co. Peanuts!  Wow!  How much more Southern can it be made?  Love it!  Enjoy!

 

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There are moments in life where you just can’t believe what you’ve been asked to do.  These are moments that you seize with every fiber of your being, and you enjoy them!  When Nikki of Nik Snacks asked me to guest blog in her place, I couldn’t have been more excited.  I was one of those people that always checked the CompetitionDining.com site to see who the Chefs were, and what they were cooking.  I wanted to be there incredibly bad!  Sometimes life finds ways of connecting us to where we are supposed to be, and this was where I was supposed to be that night; enjoying the battle between Marisol and Meridian.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.  

USS North Carolina and Copper Penny

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Wow!  Life has really been showing up to play lately, and that has given me a little reason to not be so present here on the site.  I did want to find the time to tell you about the most recent adventure.  We took a trip with the neighbors to Wilmington, NC.  The neighbor called and suggested to go to Wilmington and see the USS North Carolina.  Of course I jumped at the chance.  I hadn’t seen the Battleship since I was little.  At least I think I did see it at one point?  I don’t know that I would remember seeing it when I was young after seeing everything this last time.  It would be for the simple reason that as an adult I would take different things from seeing the memorial.  

Because this is what it’s about….

Do you see the reflection?

World War II era was a completely different time than now.  This was the way to connect to it.  The men were so young in the photographs posted.  The memories that were posted around the memorial from the various crewmembers were haunting at times.  You could picture their memories as if they were your own.  Maybe that’s how it was supposed to be, and if it was, perfection.  Even down to the current crew cleaning on the ship.  The one’s I spoke to were ex-military, and had a connection to their duties.  Now I won’t claim to know a ton about the military.  I’m not the type to go through life BSing around a subject to sound knowledgeable.  What I do know…I have a magnificent love and respect for our military.  That’s something I’ve developed in my adulthood, and I owe a lot of that to my Stepfather.  He’s USN through and through, and I am thankful everyday for his service.  Go Navy!

All of the old GE products on board were fantastic to see!

I can’t help but look at this photo and think about food….Do you see all the food relations?

Now being a food blog, you have to know something else was coming on this trip….

The food!  The other deal about going to see the memorial was that we had to eat at Copper Penny in Wilmington.  The hub and I had already been to Copper Penny a couple years ago, and we couldn’t wait to go back.  However, once again, life had happened, and we hadn’t made it back yet.  

You know that one place that you just can’t stay away from in your memories?  Think about going to that place in your mind.  Walk through the door, sit at the same table, find that one menu item you just must have again on the menu, and order it.  It gets delivered to your table, you take your first bite, and it hits you.  It’s just like you remembered it.  Isn’t that the sweetest experience?  Those moments are when you know you’re at a good place.  Consistency is the key. 

I ordered the same thing I got last time, with the same sides.  The “DW” Burger, sub a Black Bean Patty.  For the record here, I have YET to find a Black Bean Patty that is as good as this one.  The burger comes topped with bacon, pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, chipotle mayo, lettuce, tomato, and fried onion straws.  I leave the tomato off and add guacamole.  There is something to be said about piling on delicious toppings.  This is where it comes in handy that I have a big mouth.  *smiles*  The sides were homemade chips and Asian Slaw.  I love the addition of the Ramen in the slaw – always unexpected and always tasty.

DW Burger

The hub got the Ridiculously Good Pub Burger, which is a ½ lb. chopped shortrib and chuck burger topped with cheese of choice, bacon, mushrooms, and he added fried onion straws.  Also at our table was the Black Bean Burger topped with cheese, Lettuce, tomato, onion and a Lemon Dill Aioli, and the Grilled Steak and Bacon Sandwich.  This sandwich is a NY Strip topped with bacon, white American cheese, and chipotle mayo.  It looked amazing!  To start the table off, there was a big appetizer of Cheese Steak Nachos.  You read that right…sautéed peppers, onions, mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream all piled high on a bed of tri-color tortilla chips with a side of jalapenos.  YUM!!! 

Sometimes you just feel safer eating a burger of this magnitude with a tattooed gentleman beside you.

Cheese Steak Nachos

When it comes to dessert at Copper Penny there is one option only.  The “Soon to be Famous Bread Pudding” is the sole option, as it should be.  When something is this good, you don’t need another option.  After all of the food consumed at the table, this topping on the meal is worth being miserable over.  It satisfies every bit of your sweet tooth with each sweet and chocolaty caramel bite.

We finished off the day with a short walk on the beach, and then a 3.5 hour drive back home where we had begun just 16 hours ago.  Between the stellar history lesson, the delicious food, serene beach walk, great company, and a perfect Sunset most of the way home, it was a glorious and satisfying way to spend a Saturday.  

We determined this was a real mermaid, but she dried out in the sun…

My 10 Flavors I Love in Alamance County and Beyond

Greek Orthodox Baklava

This was the February 2013 article published in Alamance Magazine. I’m sorry I haven’t been around much. I’ve began a new job since the last time I posted, and I also closed my right hand index finger in my car door. It was broken and horribly swollen. That hasn’t made it very easy to type, hence me being missing in action. So my apologies. I hope this makes up for it though…*smiles*. Love to you all!

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Time and time again I find myself longing for some of my favorite flavors as I drive through the area. It wasn’t too long ago that I can remember not having all of these wonderful dining options. However, through growth of our county, I am extremely proud that we have grown as a community that fosters different types of culinary delights. Now, I haven’t explored everything we have to offer around our area. So, when I think of the flavors I love in Alamance County and beyond, I am drawn back to many childhood memories and places and people I hold dear to my heart. After I made my list, I took note of what I had listed. In the end, the flavors all ended up being at places where good people work and give back to our community. Those are the places that deserve our patronage, and I’m honored to share them all with you. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see one of your favorite flavors listed as well. I encourage you to savor life and try every last one of them.

  1. The Souvlaki at Skid’s Diner on Church Street is absolutely one of my favorite flavors here. Maw-Maw and I always have excellent service from Todd, and he always knows I like grilled onions on my Pork Souvlaki. Souvlaki and amazing service always make me smile.
  2. I grew up on visits to Tasty Bakery where the Chocolate Pie quickly became a favorite of mine. It is the closest to our family’s tried and true Chocolate Pie recipe. Even better…this little personal Chocolate Pie is only $1.59, and they have them all the time. It’s perfection in the form of a pie.
  3. There isn’t much that compares to the Apple Jack sauce at Blue Ribbon. It’s good on everything in their restaurant, especially the grilled chicken. I’m ashamed to admit that I could almost drink it out of a glass. It’s sweet, tangy, and mustard like taste makes it the best dipping sauce around!
  4. When the strawberries come in at Iseley Farms, I can’t help but start thinking of all of the recipes to make with them! One of my favorites is a Strawberry Pretzel Salad. Jane Iseley’s strawberries are perfect for every dish since they always have the sweetest flavor one expects from a well grown strawberry.
  5. If you like pickles, then you will love the Rusted Bucket Shot at the Rusted Bucket Tavern in downtown Burlington. I picked this as one of my favorite flavors not only because I like pickles, but because it was so creative. In an effort to not waste all of the pickle juice left behind from pickles served at the bar, Angie, the owner, decided to serve a combination shot of whiskey followed up immediately with a shot of pickle juice. It’s definitely worth the try! Trust me.
  6. The pizza dough at Vesuvio’s Pizza is another favorite of mine. The dough for their mouth-watering pizzas is the same dough they use for the rolls served with their pasta dishes. It’s hard to find a good crust, and this has topped my list since I first tasted it.
  7. I am aware that when I say Pulled Pork BBQ in Burlington, that Delancey’s is not the first place that comes to mind. However, this is a BBQ you must have on your plate…and often! It’s juicy with just the right amount of smoke flavor, and I don’t even need to put a sauce on it. But, if you do want a sauce, the owner makes his own BBQ sauce that I hear is fantastic! It’s rare to find an equally moist and flavorful plate of BBQ. Delancey’s gets their Pulled Pork BBQ from Brookwood Farms in Siler City. Delicious!
  8. If you’re looking to indulge in something rich and creamy, I highly recommend you stop in at Six Scoops in Gibsonville. Their ice cream tops my list of any ice cream option around. Their ice cream is truly made with love, and you can’t go wrong with any flavor. I am absolutely in love with this little place and their creamy ice cream. It’s great that they serve other food now also!
  9. When I’m looking for fresh seafood to cook at home, I head to Michelle’s Kitchen in Burlington. She has a great selection of fresh fish, and the Tuna Steak she sells is hard to beat. The Tuna Steak always tastes fresh, and she has large meaty steaks with the best coloring. While I love the Tuna Steak there, it’s hard not to pick up some of the other take home meals and sweets! It’s a one stop shop of enjoyment.
  10. Baklava, Baklava, Baklava…what more can I say? When the Souvlaki Dinners come around at St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church on Front Street, I’m almost always first in line each time to consume a piece of their treasured Baklava. Its sticky sweetness makes those particular Sundays even better, and I have yet to find a Baklava around town that compares.

Skid's II on Urbanspoon
Tasty Bakery on Urbanspoon
Blue Ribbon Diner on Urbanspoon
Vesuvio's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Delancy's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Delancey’s – Perfect Southern Goodness

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I know some of you already know this, but if you’re late to the Foodie Party, I also write for a local magazine here. I try to share each article with you after it’s published. However, I’m a month behind. This one is from the December 2012 issue of Alamance Magazine. It’s about the most wonderful little Southern restaurant and catering company, Delancey’s in Burlington, NC. I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did eating the food photographed! *smiles*

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Sorghum Syrup, Green Beans, Sausage Balls, Cheese Straws, Meatloaf, Macaroni and Cheese, Pintos, Chow Chow, and Brownstone Front Cake – are you hungry yet? I guess hungry isn’t the question. The one thing I should be asking you is if you felt a little warmer in your soul reading the names of good old-fashioned Southern delights. I have found that food can evoke wonderful memories of times gone by, especially at the holidays.

I have many memories of my family and extended family always gathered around one or more dinner Mac and Cheese 1 copytables during the holidays. Not a one of those memories would I trade for anything. In thinking of the ones involving my first cousins, I can still remember the table full of us when I was much younger. Of course we had to sit separate from the grownups at a card table in the kitchen. We were definitely a messy bunch! Ham, Turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, broccoli casserole, homemade biscuits, you name it…I grew up in a family of amazing Southern cooks and we knew how to devour and make a mess while doing it!

We’re not all together anymore, which is sad, in and of itself. The cousins were scattered as parents moved. Three moved to the West Coast, one to the Mid-West, and three of us were fortunate enough to remain here in the Burlington area. Later on in the years, the three of us that were left remained close. Fast forward a few more years, and sadder still, one of us three is now in Heaven. But, the good thing about families is that they are continually growing and making new dinner table memories. We have been blessed greatly in our family to have the addition of four more cousins here local, and marriages have brought many more with all of our spouses. Even though we’re not around the card table together each holiday now, on rare occasions we have been able to get back together around the “Grown-Up Table” since we are now officially grown-ups in our thirties. Don’t tell anyone.

Collard Greens copyI have my own household now and found my own relationship with Southern Cooking. I love cooking for my family and whoever wants to enjoy a meal. Along with that, I have learned the importance of planning meals out and juggling time. I’ll be honest, it’s no fun stressing away in the kitchen while everyone else is sitting in the den or around the dining room table enjoying the food you have prepared. I definitely don’t like missing out on hors d’oeuvres, because they are my favorite part of any meal. I also end up missing a lot of the conversations and the time that is so rare with family nowadays.

Well, Thanksgiving has passed, and we now have that constant reminder of planning needed to ensure the Christmas meals go smoothly and everything is organized and stress-free. This is where I imagine a good plenty of you just had a silent chuckle to yourself. If only because you know that the holidays bring on a different kind of stressor that you normally don’t deal with throughout the year, and to some, a stress-free holiday is truly a joke.

This is where I want to introduce you, or reintroduce you, to the blessing of Delancey’s during the holidays.

About four years ago I found myself completely stressed about what to fix for a family Christmas meal. IPintos and ChowChow was working a full-time job and time and money were extremely hard to find. There wasn’t much hope for our meal until I ended up having lunch with Maw-Maw (my Grandmother) at Delancey’s one day. Sitting beside their register was this paper. It wasn’t just any paper…it was my saving grace for Christmas.

I had never put two and two together that Delancey’s did take-home meals, catering, or anything like that until then. This was a combination deal where I could choose a meat and two sides to feed a family of 6-8 for quite the low price. I jumped on it, and I picked up my meal the day I needed it. The entire family loved every morsel of food I had ordered, and I got to spend time with them that I otherwise would have spent in the kitchen. That, my friends, is priceless in my book.

Peach Cobbler2 copyLucky for you, Delancey’s still has this along with all of their other Catering options. Even better for you, they’ve sweetened the pot since I took advantage of it. For just $79.99 you can feed 12-15 people. You have your choice of a moist Turkey Dinner which consists of the whole Turkey, dressing, gravy, and cranberry relish, or a delicious Dinner Sliced Ham. Along with your meat, you have your choice of three of their mouth-watering Southern sides. Folks, they have everything your Southern heart can imagine: Broccoli Casserole, Crowder Peas and Corn, Collard Greens, Baked Apples, Squash Casserole, Pintos, Candied Yams, Macaroni and Cheese, and the all-important Sweet Potato Casserole. Those were just a few options. You don’t just get that though. You also get a gallon of Sweet Tea and a dozen Yeast Rolls. Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a great Southern option for a stress-free holiday meal!

After learning about this year’s deal, I couldn’t help but want to tell you about it! (This is where I want you to know that I write what is honestly in my heart, and I wasn’t asked to write about Delancey’s. After deciding that I wanted to tell you about Delancey’s and their Holiday Family Meal option, I went to talk to the owner, Mike Thomas, and find out about his Southern roots. You won’t find any quotes from him here. But, I used his words and passion to inspire what I would take away from our conversation and share with you. He was very inspiring to say the least.)

It all started when his father began making wedding cakes many years ago. Later on, his mother joined Brownstone Front Cakehis father by adding good Southern celebration staples like Sausage Balls and Cheese Straws to the mix and they began catering small events. It wasn’t long before it was a family affair, and fast forward many years later, Mike began his own food adventure with Delancey’s. He felt so passionately about bringing good quality to his guests, that he wanted to ensure the recipes he used stayed true to the South. He explained to me how they are the result of sitting with his father in the kitchen for hours upon hours watching him to get exact measurements. See, his father was a lot like many of us and our parents and grandparents. A dash of this and a pinch of that would make anything taste amazing, but if someone asked for the recipe, they were pretty much out of luck. When Mike felt that all of the recipes were perfected, that’s when he brought Delancey’s to us. On a side note, they also have their own Sorghum Syrup business, for us true Southerners. You buy it directly from Delancey’s to put on your homemade biscuits Christmas morning…just a tasty thought.

In closing, from the Chow Chow made fresh, to the Brownstone Front Cake (just $34 for a 4-layer 9-inch cake!), all the way to his Mom’s Broccoli Casserole recipe, you really can’t describe Delancey’s any other way but lovingly Southern. So when you think to yourself this Christmas Season that you aren’t going to be able to combine family and food preparation easily, think of Delancey’s. Let them do all the prepping for you, so all you have to do is take it home, pop it in the oven, enjoy the company of your guests, and then serve a piping hot Southern meal with Southern hospitality. After all, the holidays are meant for spending time with your loved ones and making memories. Don’t miss out on them because you’re stuck in the kitchen. They will still love you the same, even if you don’t come to the table worn out in a food stained apron.

The Beauty of Pimento Cheese…

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I just remembered that I never posted the November 2012 article I wrote for the November issue of our local magazine here.  Enjoy you guys!  December will be posted in the next couple of days!  *smiles*

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There aren’t many moments when I went to Maw-Maw’s house and didn’t see a plastic container of Pimento Spoons Red 2 with Nameshomemade Pimento Cheese sitting proudly in the refrigerator. Come to think of it, it’s probably one of the first things I learned to make growing up – besides homemade Buttermilk Biscuits that is. It wasn’t always about the Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Cookie Jar, the paintings we would do, the late nights watching Statler Brothers on PBS, or the playing of (banging on) the piano. Part of the joy at Maw-Maw’s was that container of orange-colored goodness named Pimento Cheese.

Let’s take a look at what Pimento Cheese is for the folks that may not quite understand this Southern delicacy. It’s typically shredded cheddar cheese, diced Pimentos, a little mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. That’s it. You can eat it slathered between two pieces of lightly toasted white bread, sandwiched on crackers, or even spread into the hollow of a celery rib if you’d like. It’s one of those treats you can eat how you prefer and no one judges the method to your madness.

Speaking of how you prefer your Pimento Cheese – there are many different ways it’s prepared. Some like more mayonnaise so it’s creamier. Some like it thicker and chunkier. You can use Mild or Sharp Cheddar Cheese, depending on your preference. Some like it hot and add jalapeno, or even get adventurous with green olives and pecans in theirs. There are just so many tasty options when you start with such basic ingredients!

This brings me to my point – Did you know there are three different Pimento Cheeses that start with the letters “St” made right here in Alamance County? We have Stan’s, Star’s, and Steve’s. Out of curiosity, I went on a tasting spree the other day, and I wanted to share with you what I discovered with each one.

Before we start this, I think you need to know that I’m not one to be swooned by elaborate wrappers and labels. I’m a no-nonsense kind of Southern Gal. So, these were judged strictly on taste, and these are my Pimento Square Plate with Namesown opinions. Let’s go over each one’s high and low notes, just like at a fancy wine tasting.

· Stan’s (Burlington, NC) – Other than Maw-Maw’s Pimento Cheese, this one was the other staple in our house. There are nice large shreds of the cheddar cheese which gives it a thicker consistency, but still creamy. The coarse grind of black pepper in it helps balance out the mayonnaise twang. Pimentos are scattered evenly throughout the container, and the label even says it has Texas Pete in it. It’s a little higher in calories, and the high fructose corn syrup may contribute to that. However, I’ll make the sacrifice for a nice overall flavor.

· Star’s (Burlington, NC) – The “cheese” is quite a bit more processed in this one allowing it to be a thicker and creamier spread. The fact that it has a creamier texture would make it easy to pipe into cherry tomatoes or onto crackers as an appetizer at a holiday gathering. It’s definitely sweeter than Stan’s. The only thing that I found to be a negative about this one was the ingredients read “imitation” cheese, and this might explain the much embellished orange color of the spread. I guess this is why they call it Pimento Spread and not Pimento Cheese.

· Steve’s (Graham, NC) – You buy this little gem at Steve’s Garden Market in Graham, so that makes it a Pimento Cheese Bowls with Namesnice buying experience with the super friendly staff and great looking produce. If you’re a mayonnaise fan, this would be your choice. The first ingredient listed is mayonnaise, and it’s obvious why it’s listed first. The texture is very smooth, almost runny, with large chunks of cheese throughout and plenty of pimento. This was the only commercial one without High Fructose Corn Syrup as well. It ended up being pretty tasty. I personally prefer a little less mayonnaise with a thicker texture, though.

· Maw-Maw’s (Burlington, NC) – You knew I couldn’t leave hers out! Even though you can’t purchase it, I added it among the taste test so I would have my constant. Maw-Maw’s has always had Sharp Cheddar Cheese in it to give it a very cheesy deliciousness. She leaves the pimentos somewhat chunky so you can see and taste them. Very little mayonnaise goes in it, and just a hint of mustard. Salt and Pepper of course join those ingredients, and you end up with a nice chunky Pimento Cheese. What was that you asked? Any negatives about Maw-Maw’s Pimento Cheese? Only one negative…that you aren’t able to enjoy it with me.

Who would have thought they would have such similar names, but have such different flavors? Now I’m not one to tell you which one to go out and buy. I am one, however, to tell you to go taste them all. Life is about making your own decisions and enjoying the variety of options that you have in front of you to feed off of. Fortunately for you, food is one of the easiest decisions in life. I’m just here for guidance, and right now, I want you to smile. For the simple reason that you just read an entire article about the Southern delicacy that is Pimento Cheese. Say CHEESE y’all!

Pimento Spoons Words

Believing in Humanity…and Curtis Stone, too!

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I am a firm believer that people come in and out of our lives for a reason. I also believe that the kindness of strangers is still alive and kicking. Whether it’s the person you pass in the street you exchange smiles with, or it’s the server at your dinner table…we all meet for a reason. That’s why it’s important to show kindness to everyone you meet, because as the old phrase goes, you never know what struggle someone has in their own life.

All through life, I have tried to do my best to share my smiles (what’s the point in hanging on to them?). I will always try to make you laugh (with clean or naughty humor). I will always believe in you (even when you doubt yourself). Also, I will always respect you (because you’re human, and you deserve it). I don’t care where you came from, where you live, what you eat (unless I need a recipe), or how you prefer your steak cooked. You are you, and I will respect you and do my best to inspire you.

Onto today…

There were quite a few people that came into my life today, and I am very grateful they were brought into it.

Today was the day I got to meet Curtis Stone. *big smiles* Mom and I started off early for the hour drive to A Southern Season (one of our favorite gourmet stores!), and were completely expecting a large crowd waiting. We were the fourth car in the parking lot…*smiles*. We made it inside the store and walked towards the area Curtis would be demoing some of his items. The first person we met…Johnnie. Johnnie was a true delight and knew food like the back of his hand. It was great spending time with him and hearing some of his great recipe ideas. Next, we went to the “gathering” area where we were first in line. Luckily for us, Katy was there to greet us. We had no complaints at all with spending time with this vibrant and kind woman. There were quite a few things we could relate to: her brother has a food blog, she loves fashion, she does design for your home, life, or wardrobe, and she smiled warmly. What wasn’t to love about this woman?

Elaine joined us shortly thereafter with a super warm smile as well. She told us about a movie called Strictly Ballroom…an Aussie film that she loves. She also educated us that she had heard the Julie person in real life from Julie and Julia wasn’t actually the most amazing person you would want to know. Hmmm….that sucks. Then flew in Stacey. Stacey, Stacey, Stacey. We had to let the Security Guard Ryan know that he might want to watch her. For the simple reason that she knew where Curtis had stayed. *wink* With her pearls and sparkly personality she was sweet to bring us tastings as we waited. By the way, the Peppermint Bark at A Southern Season is simply delicious! I adore a good and smooth Peppermint Bark.

Now to back track a bit. All of the above were employees of A Southern Season. There was one more key player in today’s events. About 30 minutes after we had been standing in line, a young gentleman began standing in line with us…Ap. When I say gentleman, he really was one. Well dressed, well groomed, articulated his words, polite, and he knew his food! Oh yeah, and he loves a good steak (can’t fault him there). We exchanged contact information and are definitely planning on keeping in touch. He also let me know about Anthony Bourdain coming to Richmond, VA, in April 2013. Woohoo!!!! *big smiles*again* I always love a new Foodie friend. Might start watching Top Chef Masters because of him, too. *wink*

Right behind Ap, stood a mother of two toddlers and her friend. She had a blog as well. Shamefully, I didn’t catch her name, but I definitely got her blog address. *wink* Go check her out at The Stir Crazy Moms Guide to Durham. It has tons of great ideas to do with your children in Durham. I believe I just saw where they do giveaways once in a while also!

Enter…Curtis…

I had flashbacks of meeting Gordon Ramsay when Curtis Stone walked behind his curtained area to get ready for us salivating women (and a few men). I believe the organizers thought we would be a stampede mess, because a few of them kept telling us how to stand and where to go. But, we knew what we were doing…Curtis couldn’t see us acting like fools. *wink*  By the time 8:30am-11am was gone, we had already “adopted” Ap as one of the family, and we stuck together to make sure we all made it to the front row. Of course we did (it’s the Southern way to look out for your neighbor).

We finally were let in, and now we were standing in front of Curtis Stone while he was showing us a few of his cookware items. I found it to be a little pricey for the average home cook with an average job (like myself), but I can see where everything was practical, great quality, and would be worth the money with some saving. Just as a note…his basic 12″ NonStick FryPan was voted #1 by Good Housekeeping magazine, and his Oil Can was featured in O magazine as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things. I’m not sure you can get better than those two things.

Let’s be honest here. It was hard to focus on much, as he was so damn attractive. *smiles* He shared cooking tips, stories, history, joked around (there’s a naughty side there ladies and gents), and smiled a lot. It was obvious he was passionate about his craft, and I can appreciate that greatly. He took pride in the product he was presenting to us, and he knew how to make you feel important when you met him. Towards the end of the presentation, he sat the plates of food that he had prepared out for us to see as we waited in line for him to sign our cookbooks. But, come on, if you know me, I’m not afraid to ask for what I want. I also don’t believe in just LOOKING at food. So, without hesitation, I proclaimed to him…”I want to try that!” He kindly handed me a fork and the plate, and Mom, Ap, and I enjoyed a bite of his stir-fry dish (which was stunningly flavored). Such a sweetie.

We continued to wait in line for our book signing, and with each person, he took a quick moment to talk to them while signing their cookbook. He got to me, and saw that I already had his autograph in my cookbook (a friend had obtained that one for me, thanks Andrea!). I told him this time I wanted to see it being signed myself, and we could have it signed to “Jennifer” this time, instead of “The Onyx Plate”. He obliged, acknowledged my Fork Bracelet I was wearing, and listened to me briefly jabber about him being an inspiration in my own food passion. We shook hands and he took a photo with Mom and I…damn he’s attractive. Oh wait…did I already say that? Oh well, it bears repeating!

We said goodbye to Katy as we shared a hug, and goodbye to Ap as we recommended he dine at The Weathervane before driving 2 hours home. Unfortunately, they were on a wait for parties larger than one, and we headed back towards home. However, we did stop at a nice little place in Hillsborough called Saratoga Grill. Quite tasty on Churton Street. Delicious Honey Almond Salmon, a light salad, sweet Scones, and a sliver of Caramel Walnut Torte made a nice cap to the day with Mom.

There’s nothing I love more than going on Foodie Adventures with Mom, and even though she says she only goes on these things because it’s for me, I think she secretly enjoys them. Simply put, she got a little too excited when we got to put our arms around Curtis for a photo. And I quote “Ohhh, we get to touch you!” I love my Mom. When I can’t seem to get the words out, she always knows exactly what I’m thinking.

So…in closing…

  • From Johnnie – fantastic recipe ideas for Collards and Fish
  • From Katy – TwentyFiveBucksAWeek.com is her brother’s blog, and her company is Katy Delaney Design. Beautiful Woman/Beautiful Website
  • From Elaine – a new movie to watch!
  • From Stacey – a new brand of Peppermint Bark to indulge in
  • From Ap – a future meeting with Anthony Bourdain (hopefully Ap will be there as well), and a new show to watch – Top Chef Masters
  • From Blogging Mom – a cool website to introduce you Moms to…maybe one day I’ll need it as well.
  • From Curtis Stone – INSPIRATION, INSPIRATION, INSPIRATION and another reason to save money. *wink*

Life is about the people you meet in it as well as the small things you’re surrounded by every single day. When you meet someone, make sure you leave their lives just as enriched as they left yours.

Aspire to inspire.

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