Visit from the Dowes

It was another one of those weekends where the time just flew by. Today’s post will have to be more food-centric than life-centric, because I forgot to take pictures of people. Oops!

I got up early Saturday morning to get my hair color retouched, hit Goodwill for my Halloween outfit (Robin Sparkles), cleaned, and went grocery shopping, finishing up just as Dave’s parents were pulling in the driveway. Was the last time I saw them really last Christmas? Oof. We had plenty to catch up on–my mother-in-law Kathy had taken a trip to Europe with Dave’s sister and her wife, and she brought back some lovely souvenirs for us, including a lovely Celtic necklace, a Guinness candle, beer, and whiskey.

We had a very foodie afternoon; we started at O’so Tap House for some beer samples, stopped at Great Northern Distilling for a cocktail, and then meandered over to Father Fats for an amazing dinner. We tried to take his parents here last year, but it was so packed that there was a huge wait. This time, we bit the bullet and went at 5! No trouble getting in then.

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We started with Crispy Plantain and Yuca Chips which were served with guacamole and mango salsa. I’ve had plantain chips in the past that I didn’t care for, but these were fried perfectly crisp and paired wonderfully with the guacamole and mango salsa.

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Next up, New Orleans Firecracker Shrimp with grilled bread. True to its name, the shrimp was very spicy, but the broth served with it was excellent, especially with the grilled bread.

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Our wild card was Creole Cornmeal-Fried Crawfish and Gator. Dave wasn’t a big fan of this one, but I really liked it. The gator tasted just like chicken! I thought that the veggie slaw and remoulade it was served with was even better than the gator.

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My pick was Lamb Meatballs with cucumber salad and tzatiki sauce. Lamb may be pretty expensive, but remind me why I don’t make tzatiki sauce more often. I love it! I usually don’t care for meatballs, but these were wonderful–jam-packed with flavor, juicy, and perfect with the sauce.

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Up next, Craisin Molasses-Glazed Pork Belly served with butternut squash and cauliflower. Dave and I weren’t sure at first what the squash was until Dave’s dad filled us in, and then we promptly stopped eating it. Ha ha. I guess we’ll just never be squash lovers. The pork belly was wonderful, though.

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Last but not least, Chicken Leg Confit Salad served with spinach, goat cheese, and fig jam. Since confit is such a heavy dish, I like that it was paired with plenty of fresh spinach and fig jam for counterbalance.

For dessert, Dave and I split the Salted Caramel Parfait.

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With layers of devil’s food cake, caramel, and toffee, it was a perfect end to the meal.

Dave’s parents went to check in at their hotel after dinner, so we elected to walk home from the restaurant since it was such a beautiful night. We ended the night with plenty of conversation and a few episodes of one of Dave’s favorite internet shows: My Drunk Kitchen.

We had a very leisurely Sunday morning before going to Emy J’s for brunch.

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I ordered a Matcha Latte, which is my go-to drink at Emy J’s–iced in the summer, hot in the winter. I love the leaf on top of my beverage–so pretty!

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I ordered Huevos Rancheros for breakfast with a side of wheat toast. I loved that it was served on top of a small tortilla so by the time I got to the bottom, I could eat it like a piece of pizza.

Dave’s parents had a long drive back home, so they left soon after breakfast, giving me plenty of time to play in the yard and in the kitchen.

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This was the only pepper we got from our pepper plant this year…and it was supposed to be a red bell pepper!

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I was really happy with the amount of Brussels sprouts we got, though. Brussels are notoriously hard to grow in warm weather, and, while they aren’t huge, I’m sure they’ll be like popcorn after they’re roasted and perfect with some gnocchi and blue cheese sauce.

Dave asked me to make some soft pretzels, so I made four…and then made a pretzel dough pizza crust as well.

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Here it is boiling in the baking soda bath.

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And post-baked. I made this pretzel crust half whole-wheat, so the dough was a little dense to work with, but the bread man helped me turn it into something beautiful.

I decided to make a caramelized onion and mushroom pizza with gorgonzola cheese and a little good balsamic drizzled on top.

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It tasted as good as it sounds.IMG_7727

Spinach salad with roasted broccoli on the side, topped with diced hardboiled egg.

Dave and I had a good grocery shopping trip on Saturday, so I’m excited that I have so many good ingredients to work with the next few weeks. I even did meal prep last night, so, if it turns out, you’ll see a recipe for slow-cooked apple cider chicken on the blog tomorrow!

 

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Weekend with Mum

We had another visitor last weekend: my mom! As soon as she saw our yard for the first time a few weeks ago, I could see the wheels turning in her head. As a horticulturist, she can help even the blackest thumb turn green so she devoted her Saturday to winterizing our yard.

Almost as soon as she arrived late that morning, she and I headed outside while Dave headed to the laundromat.

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Mom and I raked, pruned, lopped, and mowed.

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Fortunately, she brought all her tools with her, as Dave and I don’t have any yet. Except this baby…

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My friend JD donated his push mower to us, and it is so much fun. Way more exciting than an electric mower.

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I forgot to take a before picture, but here’s the after picture of the front of our little house all ready for winter. (Don’t ask me why there are two front doors, because I don’t know).

A little past noon, we took a midday break.

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Mom brought some of her delicious homemade chicken noodle soup. I immediately picked up on the addition of sesame oil, which added the perfect zing. I love sesame oil.

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I served the soup with slices of wheat bread from the last farmer’s market.

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We also had a few cups of one of Mom’s newest teas: Maple Walnut. I am such a sucker for seasonal beverages. She also brought Pumpkin Cream and Orange Cookie for me to taste-test as well as one of my all time favorites: Warm Hearth.

After lunch, we headed out again to tackle the back yard.

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Mom decided this tree was too close to the house and had to come down.

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Attack!

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I planned to mow the back yard, but just after the tree fell over with a hefty “Timber!” it started sleeting. We waited a few minutes, but it didn’t seem like it was going to let up, so we made plans to go thrifting instead.

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As usual, we had fun trying on all the cool hats.

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Dave managed to find the most expensive hat in the store: a $550 dollar major’s hat.

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Comparatively, the vintage Italian sunglasses were a steal at $8.50, so I had to have them. We also left with a lovely tea and saucer set for Mom, a cast iron pan for Dave to fix, and some curtains.

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We did not leave with what I originally thought was a torture device and turned out to be a corset.

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Or this hideous piece of artwork. Really? I guess it takes all kinds to make a world…

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But I really did like the giant Hulk hands. Go figure.

We needed a pick-me-up after thrifting, so we headed to Emy J’s for some coffee and a scone.

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Dave and Mom each enjoyed an Orange Mocha Latte.

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I went for the Honey Almond Latte.

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Dave made me take the photo this way so you could see the heart. It loves me!

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Mom and I also split a tasty triple berry scone. Not nearly as good as her homemade scones, but still delicious.

After a brief interlude at home, we met our friends Emily and Dan for a birthday celebration dinner for Mumsy at Father Fat’s.

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Father Fat’s is a tapas restaurant so it is the perfect place for a group of foodies interested in communal dining.

They have a beautiful outdoor seating area which we took advantage of last summer, but this time we were part of the indoor scene.

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The decor is not exactly my cup of tea, but definitely fun. They still had their Halloween decorations up, which were eclectic but classy. I loved the umbrella for the witch’s skirt–very creative!

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I started my meal with a dirty Tanqueray martini, which was perfect.

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Hopefully I can remember all the small plates we shared. Here goes nothing…

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I believe this was Roasted Pork Crepes. Dave didn’t think the cheese sauce was necessary for how fabulous the crepes were, but I thought it was a divine accompaniment. I never say no to cheese.

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These Lobster Fritters with homemade ranch were off. the. hook. Soooo good.

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They even trumped my order of Maryland Blue Crab Cakes with grilled pineapple salsa and sriracha.

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Mom paid me the a compliment of the highest regard when she said my hummus was even better than their creamy Roasted Garlic and Truffle Hummus. I’ll take it!

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I love raw oysters, but these roasted Horseradish and Citrus Crusted Oysters were wonderful.

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Emily has a knack for picking out wonderful comfort food like this Homemade Meatballs and Wild Mushroom Pasta which boasted homemade mozzarella.

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The Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps were spicy and fun to eat. They reminded me that I want to make my own lettuce wraps at home. I bet they’re much easier than spring rolls.

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And….I have absolutely no idea what this is. It looks desserty, but I don’t remember ordering dessert. I’m going to go ahead and say it was amazing, though. (Edited to add: It was chicken and waffles!)

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My second drink was a Black Satin, a local dark beer (Night Train) mixed with champagne, which sounded strange but tasted amazing.

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We finished our meal with a pot of French press coffee.

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I think Mum enjoyed her birthday dinner. I know I did!

The next day, Sunday, was mom’s real birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARMIE! We had a lovely lazy morning. I popped in one of her favorite movies, Somewhere in Time, before making her breakfast.

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I was saving these purple Peruvian potatoes for a special occasion, and this certainly fit it.

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I also baked some local uncured bacon, fried an egg (there was only one left) and toasted more of the homemade wheat bread from the farmer’s market.

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I topped my wheat bread with cream cheese and low sugar strawberry jam.

Mom and I lounged in the living room for a bit longer while Dave made homemade bread in the kitchen.

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So pretty!

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Either I’m boring or Mom really was having a relaxing day, because she fell asleep for a little bit. After she awoke, we walked to Dan and Emily’s house while Dave finished baking his bread.

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It was a beautiful fall day. It was so nice to see the sun after the grey, gloomy days we’ve been experiencing lately.

We spent a little while chatting before Dave brought over his masterpiece.

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Braided rosemary and cracked pepper bread. Fortunately, Mom got to taste a piece before she made the drive back home. I was sad to see her go–visitors always leave us on Sundays, so it is a bittersweet day for me.

Emily distracted me by teaching me how to knit, something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile.

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Look, I made a scarf for a sprite!

Hopefully I will remember what she taught me so I can keep practicing. I used to loom all the time making scarves, but I have so many scarves now that I need a new project.

A few more friends came over, and we all played Scrabble together. Can you believe this was actually my first time playing Scrabble?! (Maybe second). I play Words With Friends, but we never actually had the board game.

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We kept ripping off pieces of Dave’s bread while Dan’s homemade Chicken Noodle Soup simmered on the stove.

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Dan used a mixture of homemade chicken stock and cream, which was an amazing base.

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It was the perfect comfort food for a Sunday night and the perfect cap to a great weekend.