Monday, August 29, 2011

Weekend in Richmond

Every August, we spend one weekend with my parents for the 'big family celebration.'  My husband's birthday, my birthday, and my parents' anniversary are all within 11 days of each other. 

My parents on their wedding day!
 Some years they travel to DC and others we go to Richmond.  Now that my mother in law is in Richmond too, we typically travel to them.  We do one night with each - and it has to be pretty close to the same amount of (awake) time and meals to make everyone happy!

We spent Friday day and night with my mother in law.  We did a little cooking and shopping during the day - her high school reunion was the next day so we made a salad for her to take and found some pretty new earrings.  That night we went down to Pegasus for dinner - it was delicious!  I had the veal and artichokes, sauteed in a lemon caper sauce.  It was served with salad (with the most delicious feta), rice and green beans.  We were all so stuffed we skipped the homemade tiramisu...which sounded wonderful! 

Saturday we headed across town to my parents house.  After a quick lunch, we went shopping with mom to some of our favorite home furnishing stores - Wild Orchid Antiques and Williams & Sherrill are 2 of my favorites.   They just have beautiful things, especially Williams & Sherrill.  I love walking through there and wishing I could just buy everything!  It is a little pricier than our budget, so we love to go and get ideas. 

We've been talking about updating our living room with a lighter, fresher look, so it was great to check out their showroom.  While we didn't buy anything there, we did get a new dishrack from Bed Bath & Beyond that we *love* - it's the little things, right?!

That night for dinner we went to a wonderful restaurant in Shockoe Bottom called Julep's

Photo found here
 Julep's had been on our Richmond list for a long time, but we never remembered got around to going there!  I'm so glad we did.   It's a beautiful, quaint old building down in the historic area of town.  

Photo found here
 We sat upstairs and had a great evening.  The place was packed, even in August in Richmond when most people are at the Riva'. 

 Both mom and husband had a mint julep to start - and they were delicious!  I decided to have a glass of Mumm sparkling wine, one of my favorites.  Then we shared a bottle of Desert Wind Ruah, a bordeaux style blend from Columbia Valley, WA.  We visited Desert Wind in 2009 when we traveled across Washington Wine Country. 

After a delicious heirloom tomato salad, I had the Bourbon Glazed Grilled Pork Loin Chop.  Seriously, look at that sucker!  It was absolutely delicious.  Husband had the Bourbon Braised Pork Belly and Shrimp and Grits appetizer and raved about both of them.  Mom also had the shrimp and grits, and dad had the grilled Beef Tenderloin and both said they were wonderful as well. 

Throughout the evening, all around the restaurant, people were ordering the tableside Bananas Foster.  It reminded me of our last trip to New Orleans!  I love when things are prepared tableside - it's so fun to watch!

Mom had made pound cake with strawberries for our birthdays, so we headed home (stuffed) after dinner.  I definitely would love to go back to Julep's and try some other dishes - everything we had was wonderful!

On Sunday, before heading north up I-95, we stopped to see some good friends and meet their new baby, Ridley.  Nick and husband went to college together, and he and Blair got married 6 years ago.  The boys were each groomsmen in the others weddings.  

Nick and Blair's wedding, here with another HSC friend Chad and wife Cherie
 It had been way too long since we'd visited with them as it was, but we also were dying to meet the newest member of the family!  She was just 16 days old when we met her - and so beautiful!  It was so crazy to watch tough guy Nick hold and feed her :)  These boys do grow up, huh!

As always, it was a great trip home.  We love visiting and it's never long enough.  (insert friends and family saying "if you'd only move back here...")

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A few of my favorite things...

There are a few things lately that I just can't seem to get enough of...

Big, beautiful red cherries that I grabbed at Wegmans on Sunday.  I took a huge baggie to work every day last week and loved them as a mid-morning snack.  

Local brewery Port City's Optimal Wit.  This is seriously my favorite beer right now.  You can visit the brewery in Alexandria, or pick up a six pack at most stores around town - we got ours at Wegmans.  

We have been out of our typical desert of Ghirardelli Squares lately.  Desperate times call for spoons.  And Nutella.  Amazing.  I had to explain to a college girlfriend the other day what Nutella was.  Anna - see the picture?!  Go to the store.  Peanut butter aisle.  Trust me.  Obsessed. 

Is there anything you can't seem to get enough of these days?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

DC Beer Week in Old Town

Last week was DC Beer Week in town.  There were dozens of events, tastings, and beer dinners at different beer bars and restaurants around the city.  We decided to pick a more low key/inexpensive one to attend, and with our busy week, Monday would be the only day we could go to any of the events

We love the first 2 Pizza Paradiso locations, and have been wanting to try the newest one in Old Town Alexandria.

Old Town is a wonderful part of the DC area - King Street is the main drag, and Old Town runs from the Masonic Temple to the river.  The area is full of wonderful shops, restaurants, bars and cafes.  The blocks around the main street have dozens of gorgeous, old row houses.  I'm lucky to work in such a great area.  It's loved by locals and visitors alike, and is a fun thing to do when you have company visiting. 

They were featuring a very special version of one of husband's favorite beers - the Habanero Sculpin.  So, Ballast Point Sculpin is one of the most coveted IPA's out there - and somewhat hard to find.  Well this one is the same beer but brewed with habanero peppers.  They got they only cask of it in all of Northern Virginia. 
The bartender was keeping track of the number of beers he was serving, and when we left at 7:15ish, he only had 2 more left. 

Husband had 1, and that was all he could take before moving to Stone's Imperial Russian Stout.  I had 1 sip of the Habanero Sculpin, and that was plenty for me!  Instead, I enjoyed the Victory Whirlwind Wit, which was delicious! 

With our beer, we split some pizza and a salad.  They make one of my favorite salads of all time - the Insalada Paradiso.  It has baby arugula with goat cheese, sweet peppers, mushrooms and pine nuts with a very light vinaigrette dressing.  It's absolutely delicious, and I have to get it every time we go to Pizza Paradiso. 

To go along with the beer, they had a pizza special too - Dia de la Pizza made with jalapeno tomato sauce, roasted sweet corn, garlic, basil, sausage & buffalo mozzarella .  Husband obviously had to get the special pizza, and really liked it.  I had one slice of it - it was good, and definitely had a kick.  I really liked the roasted sweet corn on it - not something you usually see on pizzas!

We also tried a new pizza for us, the Bottarga.  It has tomato, garlic, parsley, Parmesan, bottarga with an egg cooked right in the center.  It was pretty good, but not my favorite of their pizzas.  Next time we'll stick with our tried and true. 

Pizza Paradiso is one of our DC favorites - great beer selection and delicious food.  Be sure to check them out - besides their Old Town location, they are in Georgetown and Dupont.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day trip to Charm City

On husband's birthday, after leaving Catoctin Creek Distillery, we headed north and east to Baltimore, MD for the rest of the birthday celebration.  First, we went to Max's Taphouse in Fells Point.

It's a huge beer bar, with over 100 rotating drafts, 5 hand pump cask ales, and a massive collection of over 1,000 bottled beers in stock. 

Husband had the Mikkeller Black Hole flight - it's the same beer, but aged 5 different ways.  From right, they were aged in barrels of Cognac, White Wine, Red Wine, Whiskey and Tequila.  It was really amazing the difference in each one, even though it was the same beer!

I had the St. Somewhere Lectio Divina and really liked it.  I'm not a hoppy beer fan, but do really like some craft brews. 

We were hungry, and had a great spot at the bar, so we decided to get some food.  The wings were great - and the mild's not all that mild!  Also, the crab and artichoke dip in a bread bowl was delicious - definitely try that if you ever make it up to Max's. 

After walking down to the water for a sec in the rain, we headed over to Camden Yards.

It was my first time visiting the park, and it really was great.  It's so nice and has great character. 

I love all of the brick and the old warehouses that line the right outfield.  The atmosphere was great - even though the Orioles aren't winning much this season, the fans are still coming to the park and having a good time.  

They have huge containers of Old Bay everywhere.  On the concession stands, on the ketchup/condiment stands...everywhere.  I guess it's a Maryland thing...

Also, good friends of mine from college live just outside the city and have season tickets to the Orioles.  Even though they didn't have tickets for Saturday, they purchased some and met us at the park.  Lucky for us, the seats behind us were empty all night, so they came and sat with us!  It was great to see them and spend a few hours catching up!

We had a great day celebrating 30.  We'll continue the celebration in several weeks when we head west to enjoy the California wine country.

Breakfast burritos, whiskey, beer, and baseball - it doesn't get much better!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Liquor in Loudoun!

Last weekend was husband's 30th birthday, and we had a big day planned.  After making a big batch of breakfast burritos, we headed west to Purcellville to visit the new distillery, Catoctin Creek.  Opening in 2009, it is the first family owned distillery in Loudoun County since before Prohibition. 

Photo found here
The facility is located in a very unassuming warehouse area just off Route 7, about an hour west of Washington, DC.  Loudoun is known for it's winemaking, so it's somewhat fitting that the county now has it's own distillery.  They are certified both organic and kosher, and they produce high quality, small batch spirits and liqueurs.  They are open for tours and tastings (visit their website for specific times). 

Photo found here
We went at 2pm on Saturday - the only tasting time for the day.  The front office space is tiny so they can only accommodate about 4-6 people at a time for a tasting.  We were in the third of three groups to taste that afternoon.  The tastings consist of 3 different liquors - their Watershed Gin, an un-aged white whiskey called Mosby’s Spirit,  and the most popular Roundstone Rye whiskey.  The pours are quite generous, more than half of a shot glass each, but we felt that the tasting fee at $10 was a little high.  

Photo found here
It's awkward doing a liquor tasting for the first time, especially when we're more familiar with beer and wine tastings!  The need to SIP the gin and whiskies is definitely important!  While I'm not much of a liquor drinker, I did taste a few from husband's pours.  He really liked the 2 whiskies, and we came home with a bottle of the Roundstone Rye. 

You can find the liquors in most bars and restaurants in Leesburg, and they're working their way towards DC.  When we were out a few weeks ago in Georgetown, there was a bottle on the bar front and center.  Along with the 3 I've mentioned, they make a brandy from Virginia grown grapes, and have partnered with nearby Fabbioli Cellars to make a brandy using pear wine.  They've won several awards, including the most recent just this month, bringing home the gold metal from the Beverage Testing Institute for the Watershed Gin.

It's definitely worth a visit to Catocin Creek, and would be great coupled with a winery stop and lunch at Magnolia's in Purcellville or Tuskies in Leesburg!

After we left Purcellville, we headed north to Baltimore for dinner and a ballgame - more on that to come soon!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Roasted strawberry bruschetta

This summer is flying by, I can't believe it's the middle of August.  We've been so busy going here and there and everywhere this summer, I feel like we've missed some of the wonderful, fresh summer foods.  After another busy weekend, we just wanted something light for dinner last roasted strawberry bruschetta it was.  

I know that you typically don't think of strawberries with bruschetta, and I was a bit skeptical when I first saw this recipe on Reluctant Entertainer's site a couple of weeks ago - but let me tell you, it was delicious.

Roasted Strawberry Bruschetta
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 loaf ciabatta bread 
1-2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup soft goat cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice the strawberries into a bowl and gently mix with the balsamic vinegar.

Spread strawberries out on a baking sheet and bake for five minutes. Remove and let cool.

Slice the ciabatta into equal slices, drizzle with olive oil, and toast for about 8-10 minutes until crisp

Spread goat cheese on hot bread, top equally with the roasted berries and juice.

Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with basil.

The flavors were so delicious together, with the goat cheese (love goat cheese!), crispy bread, sweet strawberries and fresh basil.  This would be great as an appetizer at a party, or just as a light meal as we did.

Enjoy this and the last few weeks of summer!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Husband, as a child...

A few weeks ago, we finally got around to going through some of the Rubbermaid containers that arrived in our house several months ago from my mother in law.  Some of the things were typical boy stuff - sports posters, toys, etc.  But some was just too funny not to share.  Below are a few photos of some of my favorite 'finds' as we sorted through the childhood of my husband.

Notice the piles (and piles) of Sports Illustrated's and trophies.

Lots of Dook and Grant Hill crap memorabilia. 

I think there were 2 or 3 full boxes of these.  All read, all sealed in protective sleeves, of course.

Those are baseball cards, 3 or 4 FULL boxes of baseball cards.  I'm told this is 'boy stuff'....

Husband when he was about 5 - how cute!  We showed both of my parents this and they didn't realize it was him!

Four of about 15-20 of these guys...all with matching cards to go along with them.

Several of these...

and these.

Luckily, the recycling bin, trash can, and eBay/Craigslist were soon full of these 'treasures.'  We did keep some things, but not too many.  At one point, husband had 43 items listed on eBay!  Get it out of here!!

Operation GROS.  Love it.