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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

So taking pictures of framed artwork hanging on the wall? Nearly impossible. Between reflections and off-color lighting, I’m sunk.

This is a postcard from EN Japanese Brasserie in Manhattan. We went there for the sake tasting and stayed for the fresh tofu and black sesame ice cream.

Usually, restaurant postcards feature a photo of the restaurant from the street or maybe a shot of a few dishes — maybe something for the scrapbook, but nothing you want to frame and hang on the wall.

I had plans for this postcard the minute I saw it. No writing, no photos. Just a vivid 4-by-6-inch image.

Believe me when I say that its bright red lines contrast brilliantly with the deep olive walls of my downstairs bathroom. I don’t know why this camera wants the walls to be beige.

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What’s within two hours of Huntsville and is so much fun that I forgot to take any pictures except for this one shot, complete with a thumb in the viewfinder?

Arrington Vineyards, just south of Nashville. The husband and I met a group of friends there on a recent Friday, and great fun ensued.

After a complimentary wine tasting, during which we each got to choose six wines to sample, we gathered on the patio for a picnic lunch, wine and brilliant conversation. Gloomy Bear, pictured above, even got in on the action.

I understand that the place is ridiculously crowded on weekends, so it’s probably worth your time to take a weekday off for the journey. Definitely bring a picnic, a mascot and a group of hilarious friends, and appoint one of them as designated driver.

And whatever you do, have some blueberry wine. It’ll make any day taste like spring.

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A drive to New Orleans isn’t complete without a plate of beignets. And a week at Mom’s house isn’t complete without a drive to New Orleans.

Before.

After.

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I spent last week in Biloxi with my mom and had every intention of blogging about my adventures. I quickly figured out that I’d rather be having said adventures than blogging about them, however, thus the weeklong absence of posts.

Let’s start with the journey. Having discovered the amazing lunches at Birmingham’s Culinard Cafe a few months ago, I decided that I simply had to start my journey early enough to make it there to test-drive the breakfast menu.

The breakfast menu is significantly smaller than the lunch menu, but it still lists enough items to make anybody happy. It boasts three breakfast sandwiches on ciabatta bread, all featuring scrambled eggs: hot ham and Swiss cheese; bacon and cheddar cheese; and Southwestern chorizo, sautéed onions and peppers and jalapeno cheese. All are priced between $3.35 and $3.65.

My instinct pointed me toward the spicy chorizo sausage, but I’m still getting to know chorizo, so I chose the hot ham and cheese sandwich instead. I also ordered a small serving of loaded grits ($2.10).

My meal arrived with a surprise hashbrown pattie (a surprise only because I hadn’t really been paying attention to the menu details).

Just like the irresistible flat-iron steak sandwich that the husband and I have split a couple of times at the Culinard Cafe, the ham, egg and cheese sandwich was big enough for two people. Alas, I was by myself, but I did my best.

The bread, as usual, was spot on: thick and sturdy enough to safely encase the slippery ingredients, but thin and soft enough to bite through without too much effort. The eggs were cooked to perfection and then wrapped around the ham and gooey cheese.

The grits? Oh, the grits.

Loaded grits usually arrive with grease pooled on top, a consequence of adding more cheese and butter than necessary in an attempt, I presume, to fully “Southernize” the dish.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There were no greasy pools in these loaded grits. They weren’t laden with butter or unmelted cheese. The grits were light (not so light that I thought they were baked with eggs in a casserole, however), and filled with small pieces of bacon — real bacon, not fake bacon bits.

The grits alone made the early departure worthwhile. I didn’t even have to stop for lunch (I actually tried to find lunch, but you know that span of I-65 between Montgomery and Mobile? That happened.)

If I have to plan a trip through Birmingham, I’m totally planning it on a weekday during this restaurant’s business hours.

 

 

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I finally got around to turning my Metropolitan Museum of Art admission buttons into useful souvenir refrigerator magnets. I simply glued a small, round magnet onto the back of each button. Yes, they’re metal and the magnets would have stayed attached without glue, but they would have also popped right off the magnets when anyone picked them up off the fridge.

Points for using junk-drawer souvenirs that would have eventually been thrown away.

And more points for using the glue gun without incident.

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If I insisted on keeping tons of ridiculous pillows tossed all over the couch and chairs, these would be those ridiculous pillows. Luckily Star Provisions is a four-hour drive away, so it’s too late to change my mind and go pick them up.

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The “Do One Thing” series chronicles my yearlong effort to tackle one project every day to organize my life and home.

So first there was spring break, and we took the mother-in-law to New York City for her 75th birthday. Then there was an academic conference, where I presented a paper. Then there was the week after that, which inexplicably left me off track for this project.

The house is relatively clean, but the do-one-thing-every-day streak has been broken. Anyway, there’s nothing like starting over. Tomorrow, progress.

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Pistachio cake doughnut from the Doughnut Plant in New York City. It seriously made me reconsider my stance against deep-frying things in my own kitchen.

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The husband and I stumbled on a culinary treasure in Birmingham last week, a restaurant that made the trip to drop off his mother at the Amtrak station more than worthwhile.

I spotted the Culinard Cafe between the interstate and the station and looked up the menu on the iPhone. It was a nice distraction as I hunkered down to wait for the 12:05 to arrive while trying to avoid the headache-inducing flicker of the overhead light. The restaurant is associated with the Culinary Institute of Virginia College in Birmingham and provides a working and learning environment for students.

The husband’s only concern was whether the menu held a ham sandwich. It did.

The lunch menu boasted a wide variety of sandwiches and salads, including some pretty fancy combinations (salmon & brie salad, anyone?).

My first choice was the Southwestern chicken wrap (it had me at “chili spiked mayonnaise”), but when I turned the menu over I spotted the flat-iron steak sandwich. Its menu description was pure culinary seduction: “Sweet chili roasted flat iron steak with grilled onions, Alabama Belle Chevre Goat Cheese, lettuce, tomato, and whole grain mustard and spicy aioli on Ciabatta.”

Goat cheese, whole grain mustard AND spicy aioli? You have GOT to be kidding me.

I chose the black bean salad for my side so I could compare it to my recipe. (Their version was more complicated, but I like mine better.)

The sandwich was simply divine. I actually put it down after the first bite and said, “I need to contemplate this sandwich for a minute.” The steak was cooked to tender perfection, and the goat cheese and whole-grain mustard added an unexpectedly creamy and tangy element (admittedly, the aioli seems to have gotten lost among the rest of the flavors).

Walkout price for this thing of delicious beauty? $7.95 before tax.

Oh, and the husband enjoyed his ham & Swiss sandwich with fries.

We are SO going back to this restaurant for lunch if we find ourselves in Birmingham on a weekday. You should, too.

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So I’m in the kitchen section of the MoMA Store in SoHo when I see flip & tumble’s 24-7 reusable shopping bags on display. I turn to my husband and tell him that I really wish I could find reusable produce bags without having to order them online. I turn to another display, and what do I see but a set of five reusable produce bags for $11. Shopping magic.

I’ve learned that when I spot something awesome and affordable while out of town, I should go ahead and buy it so I don’t have to order it later. These were a little more expensive than similar bags that I had seen online, but there was no shipping fee for me to pop them into my carry-on and tote them back to Alabama.

So far, I’ve taken them to Publix twice and Earth Fare once. The only problem I’ve found is that if the produce is extremely wet, the mesh allows the moisture to escape onto surrounding items on the way home. Not a huge tradeoff, overall, for leaving the grocery store with no flimsy plastic bags in tow.

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