Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Night with Gemma

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I made it into the big city for a date night at Gemma. It was a chilly, drizzly evening (as so many have been this month), but inside the restaurant was cozy and warm. We sidled up to a little table for two and started with a round of cocktails while browsing the menu.
My husband sipped on a Fennel Rickey while I tried a Muddled Kumquat Caipirinha. I wished for a little more sour kick from the kumquats, but it was very good!
The food was the real star of the show, though (along with the wine on tap)! I started with a beautiful shaved vegetable salad. Crisp romaine leaves were topped with creamy-tangy dressing, parmesan, and paper-thin but still crisp shavings of carrot, a couple radish varieties, and kohlrabi. We each opted for one of their homemade pasta dishes for our main course. I honestly didn't think we would find good homemade pasta after leaving Boston, but both the pappardelle and the ricotta cavatelli tossed with rich, braised meats were wonderful. Along with glasses of red wine, it was perfect fare for a chilly evening.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Green Frittata

March has been a happy month around here between pie for Pi Day, Irish Soda Bread for St Patrick's Day, and the first day of Spring! To celebrate the change in the seasons, I whipped up a frittata chock full of vegetables (plus a handful of grated cheese for good measure). It's perfect for a quick dinner or weekend breakfast! And wouldn't it be lovely for an Easter brunch? Here's to looking forward to warm weather and sunshine!
Serves  6

1 Tb olive oil
1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and leaves sliced into ribbons
1 bunch of asparagus, tough ends removed and sliced into 2" pieces
4-5 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp herbes de provence

9 eggs + 3 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
1/2 cup gruyere cheese, grated
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tb panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Heat oil in a large (10") oven-proof skillet (I used cast-iron) over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, herbes de provence, and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally for 8 minutes or so. The mushrooms should be browned and the extra moisture evaporated.

While the mushrooms cook, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, cream, salt, and pepper. Then stir in the breadcrumbs and grated cheese.

Once the mushrooms are browned, add the asparagus and swiss chard to the pan, stirring for 3-5 minutes until the swiss chard has just wilted. 

Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, stirring to combine. If you need to, shake the pan a bit or carefully tilt it to make sure that the eggs settle all around the vegetables. 

Smooth the top of the frittata with your wooden spoon, and then place it in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the eggs are set and cooked through.

Remove from the oven when done, and let cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve sprinkled with a little pinch of grated parmesan if desired.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Last week, we spent a long weekend (that went by all too quickly) with friends in Tucson, Arizona. We met Kurt and Nina while living in Boston and bonded over a mutual love of good food and drink. They moved to Tucson around the same time that we moved back to Texas, and now that we're settled in our new homes, we figured it was high time for a reunion.
Now, I have to tell you --  I wasn't expecting a lot from Tucson. We were just excited to spend time with our friends. But boy was I pleasantly surprised. We had the best time catching up and exploring the city. First off, there is plenty of beauty to be found in the dessert. Below is the view of the mountains from our friends front porch as well as the view of the sunset from their back porch. Gorgeous. And given that it was snowing in Dallas when our plane took off, we didn't hate the warm, sunny weather!
Things We Did:
We didn't do too much sightseeing on our trip, but we did pay a visit to the Pima County Air and Space Museum. What a treat! The indoors portion of the museum is fantastic all on its own (the highlight is the SR-71 Blackbird, but I was also pretty excited to see an F-14, Maverick and Goose's fighter jet of choice), but the outdoor area is the real star of the show. Rows and rows of retired airplanes are lined up for visitors to admire. You can walk right up to them, touch them, take pictures with them.
Here we are with a very large bomber. Like, very large. At the museum, you can also buy tickets for a bus tour of The Boneyard, a startlingly large collection of retired aircraft located across the street at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. We didn't arrive early enough to take the tour, so we made do with sneaking a peak as we drove past the base. Talk about airplanes as far as the eye can see.
On Saturday, we spent the most fun afternoon playing Putt Putt, laser golf, and go-karts at Golf 'N Stuff. It was a blast, and not just because I tied for first at Putt Putt!
We also spent a good portion of our time lounging in Kurt and Nina's hot tub while admiring their view of the mountains, but I don't think that attraction is open to the public. 

Things We Ate:
Now we're getting down to serious business: food! And since this is Tucson, let's start with the Mexican food. It's so fun to visit different regions of the southwest, as each area has its own specialties. In Tucson, one of those is Carne Seca, beef that has been shredded and dried in the desert sun. We ordered an entire plate full at El Charro Cafe served with rice, beans, calabacitas, and fresh corn tortillas and enjoyed every bite. For breakfast at Poco and Mom's I loved my Green Chili Tamales, but my husband's phenomenal Silver City Breakfast stole the show (a plate piled with scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, green chile sauce, machaca, cheese, and refried beans). Our last meal in Tucson was another local specialty: Sonoran Dogs at El Guero Canelo.
Though it may not sound like it, we did make room for a couple non-Mexican meals, most notably pizza at Reilly in downtown Tucson. Their Speck and Egg pizza was heavenly, and I loved their roasted brussels sprouts with homemade hot sauce and pecan brittle crumbs. Right next to the University of Arizona, downtown Tucson was bustling with life and full of cute local restaurants and bars.
Things We Drank:
Tucson is also not without some great drinking establishments. We sipped cocktails at the Tough Luck Club (in Reilly's basement) and at The Still (located in the back of an Italian restaurant called Vero Amore). While both were great, The Still was hands down our favorite. It was a quiet, cozy little place, and the drinks were absolutely fantastic.
For an early evening pick me up, we stopped at Tucson Coffee Roasters. While I enjoyed my traditional latte, Kurt was more adventurous and ordered a Bulletproof Coffee featuring namely butter and coconut oil. I don't know how you would drink an entire cup, as it was incredibly rich, but it was delicious to sample.

Last but not least, we visited a couple of local breweries, Nimbus Brewery and at Sentinel Peak Brewing Company. With two homebrewers in our midst, how could we not? We started the weekend with a round of Old Monkeyshine at Nimbus and finished with pints of Dewpoint Dunkel Sentinel Peak.
As all good things must come to an end, the time came for us bid farewell to our friends and to catch a flight home, where this little furball was pretty happy to see us!  We're already looking forward to returning the favor of such a wonderful weekend by plotting a great tour of the Dallas area!