Beaufort, NC + a quick note

Main, North Carolina, Visit

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I started this post months ago and was tempted to skip over it and get right to all the exciting changes our family has experienced the past few months to catch you all up. But then I realized I always do that! It would be remiss to act like our annual blissful summer in the sun never happened, when the girls (only two of them!) were sun kissed and had the permanent smell of sunscreen and salt water on their skin. And Grace, only 4, learned how to swim with confidence! Oh summer where did you go? So many amazing changes since then, but looking at photos from summer makes we a bit weepy. My love of warm weather and the water must be rubbing off on my children (along with other, unwanted attributes). Grace several times recently has asked “When will it be summer again so I can go scuba diving?” People, she has never been scuba diving. But she came pretty close in her mind while in Beaufort, NC over Labor Day with flippers and a snorkel set up to search for mermaids and treasure chests ūüôā Remember our tradition to cap off summer with a weekend away? We chose Beaufort this year and what a good decision it was.

However, I’m not going to go into too much detail about Beaufort except a little insiders guide at the end. Beaufort, along with the rest of the Carolina coast was devastated by Hurricane Florence and my main reason for even posting these photos is to shed light on this sweet little inlet town and encourage you this season, to donate your time or money to hurricane relief or pay a visit to all the small coastal towns I love. Knowing all to well what it’s like to have your world turned upside down by a hurricane, my heart ached at the sight of my beloved Carolina coast after Hurricane Florence. So consider donating to hurricane relief this season or swap material items for a weekend away and pay a visit to this inlet town. While you’re there…

Stay¬†at the Inlet Inn and look at the wild horses roaming across the water every morning. The Inlet Inn is an old hotel right near the boardwalk so you’re in a central location, walking distance to the shops, restaurants and sights. They serve a humble breakfast every morning of muffins, bagels and coffee.

Eat pizza at Black Sheep, paella and scrumptious tapas at Aqua (amazing service!) and 2 dollar hamburgers and hot dogs at the historic Royal James cafe.

Do take a charter to Shackleford Banks to swim, shell hunt and horse watch. Visit the NC Maritime Museum and make time to get ice cream and stroll along the board walk every night to watch the sunset, no matter how tired your kids are.

And now, a few other important things!

In August, we moved into a new home. Our first one that we can call ours!

I’ve been working a ton and wanted to share some recent writings here and here.

And the best for last, we welcomed a sweet baby girl last month, Louise Ader, born on October, 22, just before mama’s birthday. She’s perfect in every way and a welcome addition to our family, encouraging us all to stay home and slow down a bit this time of year.

That’s all for now and as always, thanks for reading. Appreciate you all so much! -Addie

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Finally a trip to Ocracoke Island

Main, North Carolina, Visit

What feels like eons ago (pre-kids) my best friend Emily¬†and I planned this epic camping trip to explore Ocracoke Island. Around that time a tropical storm (or maybe it was a hurricane) was brewing in the Atlantic, planning to make landfall on the North Carolina Coast. Not intimated by this fact at all, I stuck with our plans. There were plenty of hurricanes that often approached the Gulf Coast growing up, only to die down before making landfall, leaving us out of school with beautiful weather to take advantage of. So unless it’s a large, high category storm, I rarely worry. “Hello! This is Addie, I just wanted to make sure you all were going to be open this weekend as my friend and I are headed over there for a camping trip,” I said, when I called our campground. The man, in a very twangy eastern NC accent, replied; “Honey, you won’t even be able to get anywhere close to this campground this weekend I’m afraid, or the island for that matter.”

“What? Where is everyone’s sense of adventure?” I didn’t say that but I was thinking it ūüėČ A similar trip to Ocracoke was later canceled because of Mother Nature, again, and since then my desire to go there only strengthened. It didn’t help that award-winning food writer, Andrea Weigl, wrote about this apparently fabulous fig cake that you can only get on the island (unless I wanted to make it myself). Then come to find out the entire island is filled with one of my favorite things in the world, fig trees (14 varieties at least!). And in August there is an entire festival dedicated to the FIG. Then I’d have so many people say, “I can’t believe you’ve never been to Ocracoke! It’s your type of place!” Well, it wasn’t for a lack of trying I’d say.

It’s true that good things come to those who wait. This year, immediately following our trip to New Orleans (literally 1.5 days later) we road tripped out to Cedar Island to hop on a ferry ride to…wait for it…Ocracoke! Some great friends of ours (who left us for a life in PDX) were coming in town and wanted us all to trek out to Ocracoke. “YES!” I said. Never-mind that we will have just gotten back from New Orleans, are in the throes of house-hunting, that Chris is working 60+ hours a week, that I had a story deadline due which I had yet to start, and that we seem to have a million other things going on (including having another baby!!). I am a yes person. So of course, yes was my answer and I’m so glad it was.

The untouched island is both gorgeous and rustic. Because it’s truly remote, aside from a handful of golf carts, it’s remained un-commercialized. Just a handful of restaurants, a bookstore, some art communities and a few ice cream and coffee shops make up the shopping and dining options. The historic island (which is largely uninhabited) is filled with dancing live oak trees, fig trees, oleander, ancient cemeteries, and a few families of ducks, and it’s only accessible by way of ferry. Here¬†are a few things that I’ll remember about this trip and some snapshots too.

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IMG_1740 (2)Pizza and a ferry ride. What more could these two want?

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Seeing dear friends for the first time in two years.

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Ocracoke, finally!

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Daily bike rides to hike through¬†Springer’s Point where we’d have a large stretch of beach all to ourselves. Springer’s Point, a natural preserve area, is said to be the famous pirate Blackbeard’s favorite hideout place. It felt so cool yet eerie to be hanging out in the same exact woods where notably the most famous (or infamous) pirate spent so much time. The hike was long and hot for the girls but for the most part they where such champs.¬†

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I was able to bring my bike along and use it as our main mode of transportation. Ocracoke is so scenic, biking is really the best way to enjoy it. We loved discovering all the cemeteries, the historic homes and the lighthouse.

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Grace having too much fun. So much so, that on the first day she cut her foot on seashells and insisted on wearing socks (and also wanted to be carried everywhere and was absolutely¬†hysterical during bath time¬†#3yearolds) the entire trip. The girl makes me laugh so hard! It wasn’t that bad of a cut but I think it’s the sight of it that disturbs her. She wore socks the entire time and came back with the funniest looking tan lines on her ankles.¬†

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Fig cake for breakfast on our last day. Mission accomplished!

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Chris pointed out that Ocracoke was a perfect combination of my home town and my beloved Grayton Beach, Fl. I hate comparing places to other places but he was spot on which is why we probably liked it so much.

 

Let’s keep in touch and thanks for tuning in!

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-Addie

 

 

5 Days in New Orleans + Eating Recommendations

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It felt so good to be back in New Orleans, if only for a few days. I love the city even more now that I have children. Growing up less than an hour from New Orleans, with much of my extended living family living there, I was lucky enough to be heavily influenced by the cities rich culture, strong tastes, sounds, and sights. “Having” (poor us!) to fly in for a good friend’s wedding was a great way to kick off our annual Summer out of a Suitcase and I’d say we did so with a bang.

New Orleans may be notoriously known for Bourbon St., Mardi Gras, and a place for drive-thru daiquiris and jambalaya but there is so much more to it. The historic homes, the hospitality, the energy, the Spanish moss that hangs from the ancient live oak trees (what I miss the most living “north!”), the rotating smells of beignets, Tony’s Chachere’s or unwelcome sweat – I just love it all.

One thing that I’m most excited about is the burgeoning food scene (for non-traditional New Orleans food that is) that’s come to New Orleans in recent years. For someone who grew up on Southern/Cajun food and cooks it often at home, I’m not necessarily looking for those dishes when I travel there. I will say however, I could sit in the courtyard or balcony dining room of Brennan’s allll day. With the help of my cousin and sister, I was so happy to discover some non-New Orleans-y places to eat that I can’t wait to return to next time. I’ve listed them below along with some pictures from our trip, and a few other tips for anyone traveling there soon with little ones. Enjoy and thanks for reading! -Addie

Non-touristy places to eat in New Orleans:

  • Bearcat Cafe for Breakfast-whatever you order make sure you order the potatoes as your side!
  • 1000 Figs for Lunch– most beautiful and inventive, yet authentic, Mediterranean food I’ve ever had. The small space and light airy setting will make you feel like you’re at a friend’s for lunch.
  • St. James Cheese Company– Any time a restaurant has cheese in the title, I’m there. This is a great place for lunch or just an afternoon snack. Well-curated salads and sandwiches, not to mention a varied selection of artisan cheese. The girls enjoyed their very own chef’s board.
  • Reginellis for pizza to-go– If you’re ordering take-out this is a great option, just make sure you call the location nearest to where you’re staying!
  • Auction House Market for Dinner– Another awesome food hall in New Orleans where you can order a drink then choose from a variety of different dining options including Indian, sushi, empanadas, dessert and more. It has a great atmosphere with the sassiest bathroom I’ve ever seen.
  • District Donuts for breakfast or dessert.
  • Cochon Butcher for lunch or gourmet food items to go.
  • Dung Phuong in New Orleans East (or Little Vietnam) for French bread, pastries and a superb Banh Mi. This is a bit out of the way but has a scenic drive of old fish camps, bridges, and beautiful marshland. The spot recently won a James Beard award and while I’m not thrilled about having to possibly wait in line for some take home French bread, I’m so happy this family-run, long-time New Orleans business got some much deserved recognition.

A few other travel notes on the city if you’re bringing¬†children….

  • You could trek to Cafe Du Monde and maybe have to wait in line, or you could head to City Park and have beignets at Morning Call.
  • Take the kids for a ride on the streetcar along the riverfront and hit up the aquarium¬†(make sure to find the white alligator!) as well.
  • Storyland at City Park is a must.
  • We rented this adorable shotgun VRBO and can’t say enough good things about it.
  • This time of year, water, hats and sunscreen are essential!

That’s all folks! Thanks for tuning in and happy summer!

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Let’s stay in touch…

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-Addie

Labor Day Weekend in Oriental, NC

Main, North Carolina, People, Visit

This summer has been one for the books – perhaps tied in comparison¬†to the summer I graduated college, married my best friend, honeymooned in Jamaica and moved 13 hours from home to start a new life (all within a few months)! This summer, we welcomed a second child and Chris, after 6 years of long nights and weekends acting as a mad scientist (while he wouldn’t call it that-it’s what I envisioned) finished his Ph.D in Chemistry. In many ways we’ve felt like his Ph.D was¬†another “baby.” ¬†We’ve spent the last few months gallivanting around the south showing off our little family or entertaining ¬†family and friends at our house. All of which we love doing! However, we are finding as we get older and our family grows, we need and crave down-time. So, for Labor Day weekend we packed up and drove over to a sleepy little sailing village called Oriental.img_3563-2img_3589-2img_3612-2img_3571-2Oriental is a tiny town located on an inlet of the Pamlico Sound, just outside of historic New Bern. The town claims to house more sail boats than residents and I believe it. Everywhere we¬†looked there was some type of water vessel, whether it be for sailing, shrimping or yachting.

Everything there is to see and do in Oriental is walking distance from the center of town (not that there is much but that’s exactly why we were there). This was ideal for our little family.¬†In many ways Oriental reminds me of my own home town, Bay St. Louis, Ms. We arrived Friday after driving through Tropical Storm Hermine.¬†I’m not sure too many people thought it was a good idea for us to head directly towards a tropical storm, but who doesn’t love a good rain storm? We assumed (and hoped) it would pass by Saturday and it did!¬†We checked into our delightful bed and breakfast Friday night just in time to meet the other guests at the B & B for cocktail hour.

Since it was pouring out¬†(actually that’s an understatement) we ordered dinner in, put the girls to bed (who seem to love sleeping in the rain just as much as we do) and stayed up listening to the storm, drinking wine and playing card games. It was a great way to kick off a lazy leisure weekend. ¬†Saturday and Sunday were spent mostly taking long walks along the water, hitting up local places to eat, taking a dip in the small “town beach” and just relaxing at the Inn. Here are some snapshots from our weekend. Enjoy!img_3669-2Tuna and avocado tapas with a balsamic glaze (along with seafood nachos not pictured because we devoured them so fast) at O’ Town Restaurant. O’ Town is¬†outdoor seating only and overlooks the marina-a perfect spot to eat for any meal.img_3682-2All the rain made all the plant life look so lush and healthy, especially these hibiscus.img_3686-2img_3979-2We chose¬†the Inn at Oriental as our place to stay and were blown away by the accommodating, sweet and fun owners, Lou and Lucy, who made us feel right at home.¬† Additionally, the Inn is gorgeously decorated with loads of books, art and furniture from the couples travels.I especially appreciated all the plant life scattered around the property.img_3986-2img_3745-2img_3917-2img_3923-2img_3929-2img_3934-2img_3939-2img_4005img_3957-3img_3715-2Charlotte starting to show her little cheeky personality. I loved being able to spend the entire weekend with these three and no distractions.img_3545img_3734-2Chris about to serve everyone mimosas on Sunday morning. ¬†We were served a scrumptious made-to-order breakfast every morning. Options included fresh fruit parfaits,¬†sausage,¬†pancakes, biscuits and eggs any way you like them.img_3802-2Chris and Grace’s sand castle. Who needs beach shovels and toys when you can find shells, drift wood and other beach treasures?img_3787-2img_3830-2img_3832-2img_3864-3Hors d’oeuvers at¬†cocktail hour on our last night. Grace filled up on these and couldn’t have cared less about the delicious meal that Lou and Lucy were so generous to serve us Sunday night.img_3870-2Lou and Lucy served us a home cooked seafood dinner on our last night..these shrimp were cooked perfectly!¬†We weren’t sure where we wanted to eat on our last night, so when they invited us to join them for dinner,¬†we couldn’t say no! However, it did seem that both Grace and Charlotte had other plans for our last night as they made it a bit difficult for me to actually sit and eat. It was still a lovely evening none the less but I made sure they were both sound asleep before having my dessert (along with a large glass of wine.)

img_3878-3img_3888-2img_3892-2Think it’s time to get Grace her own straw hat. I can’t wear mine any more with out her commandeering it.img_3905-2img_4007We still haven’t gotten used to the higher seafood prices here in Raleigh. Luckily, someone told us about a place to get incredibly fresh fish (I’m talking still living)¬†on our way out and we stocked up on flounder (pictured above), black drum, soft shell crabs and shrimp.img_4001-2Group shot with the Inn owners Lou and Lucy before heading home after an incredibly restful weekend. I saved this photo to post last because of all the people we met over the weekend and little simple outings we went on, I think the highlight for all of us was getting to know these two gracious people. They¬†went out of their way all weekend to make sure we (as well as all the other guests at the Inn) had everything we¬†needed and more. ¬†Lou and Lucy are the type of people who as soon as you meet you instantly feel at ease and connected with. Oddly enough, it turns out we have some mutual family friends from my home town. It really is a small world!

Hope you enjoyed the photos!

 

Addie

End of Summer Cobb Salad

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Happy Friday Friends!

Actually by the time I finish this post it will likely be Saturday, maybe even Sunday. Who knows. As summer is coming to an end (tear tear) why not make the most of the seasons’ bounty of veggies with a fully-loaded cobb salad? There are all sorts of variations of cobb salad. I love it with spinach instead of romaine lettuce. Adding cucumber and grilled corn takes it to entire new level of yummy and fresh. We’ve been eating a version of this salad all summer long. You can prep most of the ingredients in advance, so when it comes time to eat all you have to do is plate it up. Additionally, it’s loaded with protein from the chicken, bacon and egg as well as a ton of vegetables. This means it’s incredible healthy¬†and delicious. The best is piling it high with a ton of stinky blue cheese.¬†If you have a baby who is eating solids, many ingredients in this salad make a great finger food, such as olives, chicken and some egg. We buy a whole roasted chicken from Whole Foods to use in all sorts of things such as this salad. Less cooking for me! Similar to my feelings towards store-bought granola, I’d love for you to attempt your own homemade salad dressing. It’s cheaper, healthier and tastier. And so easy! If you have any form of oil, vinegar, mustard, herbs etc you are in business. Pour it all in a mason jar, give it a good shake and you have salad dressing for the week.

Keep reading for the “recipe” however it’s more just piling a bunch of things either into a jar or onto a plate. Enjoy!

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End of Summer Cobb Salad:

Serves: 2 + am 11 month old

Ingredients:

For the Buttermilk Dressing: adapted from Virginia Willis’ cookbook Bon Appetite Ya’ll¬†

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I do half mayo, half greek yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (don’t have buttermilk? Add a big splash of lemon or white vinegar to whole milk and let sit for 5 or so minutes)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, (roast in oven for some deeper and sweeter flavor)
  • Generous pinch dried dill
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • A small bunch parsley, chopped
  • 4-5 basil leaves, chopped

Method:

  • Combine all in large mason jar.
  • Shake
  • Serve over salad

For the salad:

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 large ear of corn
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 bunches spinach
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • ¬†eggs, boiled
  • 10-12 green or black olives, halved
  • 1.5 cups chopped cooked chicken (or two chicken breasts, or two thighs-what ever you have!)
  • Blue cheese

Method:

  • Fry bacon in skillet until on the crispier side. Drain on paper towels and roughly chop.
  • For the corn, you can chop it off the ear and saute in butter for a few minutes or rub the whole ear in butter and throw on a grill pan, pannini press, actual grill or skillet for a nice charred flavor.
  • Assemble the salads. Spread one large handful of spinach on two plates, then working from out word in (makes for a prettier salad when there is some organization in my opinion) add your tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, chicken, corn, bacon and deviled eggs.
  • Lastly add a generous amount of blue cheese and your dressing.
  • Eat up!

Cobb Salad
Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone.

Addie

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Fig & Bacon Three Cheese Macaroni

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This is quite possibly the most caloric thing I’ve¬†ever eaten or cooked. It very well may be the richest mac and cheese out there. I won’t apologize! I see nothing wrong in indulging every once and a while. Creamy, savory, tangy and sweet, this mac and cheese¬†combines some of my favorite ingredients in one single bite. Figs, goat cheese and bacon are a match made in heaven. ¬†I‚Äôm relishing every fig until the leaves start turning yellow, indicating to me the summer is over and I have to wait¬†an entire year¬†until I can enjoy their floral, sweet decadence again. We recently gathered at¬†Guermillo and Liz‚Äôs¬†for grilling, fig picking and wine drinking. It was at least the third time we trekked over there to pick figs, but this time I wanted to stay, eat, drink and converse like old times (i.e before baby). We had a huge feast of goat cheese and herb turkey burgers, grilled eggplant from their garden, this mac and cheese and a¬†divine¬†fig tart for dessert that our friend Sandy made. It is funny that goat cheese and figs were the stars of most of the dishes, yet each one had its own unique flavor to offer. It was a totally seasonal and home-grown meal with Guermillo’s famous wine to wash it all down. Lucky us, we got to go home with the majority of the leftovers. Scroll down for the mac and cheese recipe. If you’re doing any socializing for Labor Day weekend, give this a try. It feeds¬†a ton and who would deny a homemade macaroni and cheese?

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Fig and Three Cheese Macaroni 

Serves: 8-10+

Ingredients:

*Measurements are approximate. Use your judgement!

4 cups macaroni

1/2 lb bacon (I used turkey for this dish), cut into lardons with some of the fat reserved to cook the shallot in

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 shallot, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 and 1/2 cup whole milk

1 egg, whisked

1 block cheddar cheese (the sharpest you can find), shredded

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 cup goat cheese

Black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

A few drizzlings of balsamic vinegar (optional)

15-20 figs, sliced

Handful of basil, thinly sliced

Method:

  • Fry bacon on medium-high heat in a medium sized skillet until slightly crisp, remove and set aside.
  • Turn the heat down to medium, add a bit of olive oil to the pan and cook the shallot until caramelized. Combine with bacon and set aside.
  • Under cook the¬†macaroni until tender but still a bit firm as it will cook more in the oven.
  • Now make the sauce. Melt butter on medium heat. Whisk in flour until incorporated and lightly golden. Slowly pour in milk and turn the heat up a bit.
  • In a small bowl combine the whisked egg with a spoonful of the hot sauce¬†to temper the egg. Whisk quickly to combine and then slowly drizzle it into the sauce.
  • Fold in the cheddar cheese and stir to incorporate until cheddar is melted. Next add the goat cheese (reserve a small amount for garnish), mascarpone and a generous amount of black pepper and nutmeg.
  • Combine the cheese sauce with the macaroni, then fold in the bacon, shallots, balsamic and almost all the basil and figs, reserving some to lay out on the top as garnish.
  • Pour into a casserole dish and decorate the top with basil and figs for the prettiest mac and cheese you will ever eat!
  • Bake on 300 for 20-30 minutes until it’s firmed up a bit. If the sauce dries out add a few splashes of whole milk after removing the hot mac and cheese from the oven. Your kitchen will smell divine and neighbors may be knocking on your door.¬†Enjoy!

gracefigs

P.S¬†This one will be one in less than two months and I just can’t handle her hilariousness and sense of adventure lately. Why does it have to go by so quickly? This was taken earlier this summer at Liz and Guermillo’s at our first fig harvest of the season. Chris was doing all the work and we were doing all the eating/watching. Hope everyone had a great summer!

-Addie

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Mussels & A Memory

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Occasionally I am in the mood for something romantic and fancy, yet easy so I can spend more time enjoying the meal rather than preparing it. Enter mussels.  Don’t be intimated by the fact that they are in the seafood category. Mussels are easy to prepare and can be ready to eat in under 20 minutes. At less than five dollars a pound, they are inexpensive yet feel fancy. Additionally these gems are packed with flavor and nutrition.  I first tried mussels over five years ago when Chris and I traveled to Italy & Greece. As soon as we got married, I had this idea in my mind that I wanted our one year wedding anniversary spent in Europe.  I wanted to do this before babies, bills and other elements of adult life creeped up on us rather than wait for retirement. Funny that I often have ideas in my mind to do laundry or dishes but can’t seem to make them happen as easily as I did this trip.  I put money away regularly, researched travel agents, read brochures for a few months and someone how convinced Chis who was incredibly reluctant. Off we went!

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One night in Rome we were on a mission to find ‚Äúthe‚ÄĚ restaurant to eat at while in Rome. Our travel agents, who have spent a lot of time in Rome, recommended this one particular place. Our hotel was near the main train station and this restaurant was supposedly on the opposite side of the city along the ancient Tiber River. We walked for hours looking for this place only to find out it had either a) closed down or b) the name we had memorized was actually a general name for restaurants in Rome. Needless to say, no one could really help us. It was getting late and we were famished. We tried to find another authentic place to eat, but everywhere we tried had stopped seating new guests or was closing down. Until we stumbled upon this small bistro in a dark alley that just had a little light on outside a tiny door with one table on the cobble stone sidewalk. It was calling our names. The owner said they had just closed down but would see if the kitchen could manage one last dinner and sent out the only English speaking waiter there (who was actually Dutch).¬† We were tired, hungry and desperate. Not being able to identify a single thing on the menu we had the waitress and chef send out whatever they recommended and was available. I was expecting kitchen scraps and we had an elaborate 4-course meal, one of the best (and most expensive) in my life. I was nervous when the waitress said the kitchen was making us their fried seafood platter. Coming from Mississippi, the last thing I wanted was a giant plate of bland seafood masked by thick, overly salted, greasy layer of breading. To my delight we were served whole fish, sardines, shrimp and more that were only lightly dusted with breading. We could still see what we were eating and we were told that the seafood was caught that morning.¬†The most exciting part of this meal was when an abnormally large steamy ceramic pot filled with oranges, herbs, wine and a shellfish that I couldn‚Äôt identify landed in the middle of our table.¬† My fullness seemed to disappear as soon as the smell touched my nose. It turned out to be mussels and we ate every last one, using the leftover ciabatta to soak up as much of the mussel liquor as possible. Our meal lasted hours. We drank and ate with the staff until the streets were empty and I am forever grateful that they took two very lost and hungry Americans in. I said I wanted to get lost in Europe and we did. Since that evening, I am regularly in the mood for a little romantic adventure just when we were dining along the Tiber River. I go out and buy a few pounds of mussels and a fresh loaf of ciabatta or French bread to recreate it. Here‚Äôs how I make them in the summer. Please do gives these a try this weekend! Also shared some photos from our trip below. Happy weekend everyone!

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Mussels in tomatoes, herbs and wine:

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons butter, divided use

1 shallot, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Generous pinch fennel seed

Generous pinch red pepper flakes

4 large tomatoes, quartered

2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock

¬Ĺ cup dry white wine

A few sprigs each of thyme, oregano, rosemary and marjoram

3 leaves basil, loosely torn into peaches

4-6 pounds mussels

1 loaf bread such as French or Ciabatta

Note: mussels are very forgiving and can be cooked in a variety of broths, herbs, flavorings etc. Use whatever you have in your kitchen. Maybe coconut milk for a thai version or atop creamy pasta.

Method:

  • In a Dutch oven or your largest soup pot cook the shallot and garlic in 1 tablespoon of butter on medium-high heat until fragrant and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the fennel, red pepper flakes and tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon and give it all a good stir. Cook until tomatoes have melted, 3-5 five minutes.
  • Next add the stock, remaining butter, wine and herbs and bring to a simmer.
  • Add your mussels and quickly cover the pot. Let the mussels steam for 8-10 minutes until they‚Äôve opened up. Apparently, if the mussels don‚Äôt open after being steamed than you‚Äôre not supposed to eat them as it means they weren‚Äôt live when cooked. However, I‚Äôve met people who don‚Äôt abide by that.
  • Ladle the mussels out into a large ceramic bowl or baking dish. Simmer the sauce for a few minutes more to enhance the flavors released from the mussels. Pour the remaining liquid over the mussels using cheese cloth, a sieve or mesh strainer to catch any sand or grit. Serve with buttery French bread and wine. Enjoy!

Addie

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Grayton Beach, FL

Main, Visit

I’m sitting here wondering how people blog so frequently about their travels, their home cooked meals, their life and still actually find pleasure in¬†those things. I had plans to do an entire post on the best crab cakes in the world, which are served at the famous Red Bar. Actually, I haven’t tried every crab cake in the world but I would argue they’re the best in the South! ¬†I had plans to post about the eerily quaint¬†Seaside¬†community. I had plans to take you on a bike ride through¬†Grayton Beach State Park¬†to see the sand dunes, blue herons and alligators. However, it felt like¬†a lot of¬†work and not enough vacationing!¬†I’m hoping the reason I wasn’t able to compile several posts about our trip is a sign of a great vacation, (or I‚Äôm a little unorganized). Maybe both?

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So here is just¬†one¬†post (that didn‚Äôt take away from what was an awesome week!). All of the pictures were taken at arguably my favorite place on earth (besides Bay St. Louis)¬†Grayton Beach, Florida. A place I’ve been fortunate to vacation¬†for more than 20 years thanks to my step-mother and father. It has been named one of the best beaches in the world before and rightly so. The crowds are relatively small compared to other Florida beach towns. The water is clear blue. The sand is white and feels like sugar on your feet. Grayton is an old town that has kept its‚Äô charm thanks to protection from Grayton Beach State Park. You’ll find bungalow style homes, just a few restaurants, live oak trees and people roaming around in their swimsuits.

Perhaps its‚Äô most unique quality is that it’s the home of Western Lake, one of the few coastal dune lakes worldwide which flows in and out of the ocean. It’s difficult to explain but¬†when you are at the beach in Grayton, watching the waves, behind you is a beautiful peaceful lake usually filled with kids looking for fish, swimming, canoeing etc. If you’re lucky you’ll sometimes get to see the lake when it has joined the ocean and turned crystal clear. Mother Nature is an incredible thing and Grayton Beach is filled with natural beauty. Here are some photos.

My brother Jay made low country risotto one night. I was assisting him in and out, scribbling notes but mostly chatting, drinking and getting quality time with our family. So I have no idea how the deliciousness ended up from pot to plate. I ended up with just this one not-so-good photo but a lingering addictive taste of silky corn, nutty risotto and spicy crab in my mouth.  He is so creative in the kitchen. Who would have thought low country boil leftovers could be transformed into risotto? He used vegetable and seafood scraps to make a fish stock that perfumed the entire house. Chris caught crabs off the dock in the back yard that accompanied the risotto perfectly.

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I just had to include this picture because it makes me laugh. This is Grace “waving.” She proudly waves very seriously now, often with two hands and not just at people, but animals, cars, plants and in this case, a kite.

First dip in Western Lake, or the “little lake” as we call it.

Crab cake and grouper dinner at the Red Bar (great food, weird lighting.) While the price of the crab cakes go up, the taste and quality seem to be just as good if not better. Look at that generous portion of pure lump crab on my plate!

I hope Grace grows up loving this place as much as I do. Her first trip was a success thanks to our family who fed, cared and entertained her while we were there. Until next year Grayton!

-Addie

La Crema in Rosemary Beach, FL

Visit

It’s been one week since we returned from sunny, one-of-a-kind, Grayton Beach¬†(sad face). To no surprise we spent our days at the beach and evenings indulging in seafood¬†and family time. Additionally, we had free babysitters built in all week!¬†Our trip was¬†near perfect. If I can get organized enough to sort through the hundreds¬†of pictures I took, perhaps I’ll share some. However, the idea of that is daunting and I am a pro at putting things off these days!

In the mean time, I wanted to share some photos of a superb cafe named La Crema in the picturesque Rosemary Beach, where we spent our last day of vacation. Judy, my mother-in-law (and most dedicated reader-hi Juju!) and I explored Rosemary Beach this time last year and discovered La Crema. All week I had been hoping we would have a chance to go back. Luckily we did! Rosemary Beach is at the tip of the famous, scenic 30A highway in South Walton Florida. It boasts charming Tuscan style architecture, narrow brick roads, shopping, dining and the same gorgeous perfect beaches that make up South Walton. You can enjoy everything by foot or more festively by bicycle. Dining at La Crema is a must if you find yourself in the area. It was the perfect way to end our week.

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The menu and ambiance at La Crema is inspired by the culture of Spain, particularly¬†Barcelona and Madrid. The environment was airy, bright and comfortable. The service was great. The sangria and food were even better.¬†Tapas, chocolate and al fresco dining? Sign me up. Tapas¬†is all about the quality of the food you’re eating rather than the quantity. La Crema executes that perfectly. You’re encouraged to relax, take your time eating and enjoy who you’re with. Below are some snapshots of our experience.

We started with figs wrapped in pancetta, stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with honey, red wine and balsamic vinegar. Much of the menu had red wine incorporated into it and I was totally alright with that.

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Next was lamb lollipops cooked perfectly to medium rare with grilled asparagus and a caper berry aioli. When in doubt, order the special of the day. You’ll likely receive¬†the freshest and tastiest option on the menu. The lamb was a hit with all of us.

Perhaps the favorite at the table was the beef, pepper and cream cheese empanadas. The filling was rich with just the right amount of spice. The crust was flaky yet soft. Notice the sangria flask in the background? Chris has the exact same one in his lab. Apparently, chemistry can’t escape us. Not even on vacation!

My mother-in-law suggested we order dessert and I am so glad she did. We went with the Nutella chocolate molten cake, and salted caramel ice cream. Both were divine. The molten cake, baked perfectly with a piping hot and not fully cooked center, as it should be. I typically skip over anything on a menu that has caramel in it, not interested in something so sweet. However, their salted caramel ice cream leaned more on the salty side which paired perfectly with the sweet Nutella molten cake. I am now a salted caramel convert!

Grace tried little bites of our food and seemed to enjoy everything, especially the empanadas. She’s 9 months old people and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to afford her growing¬†taste buds!

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Until next time La Crema and Rosemary Beach. You were such a delight!