Putting Up: If Seal Is Broken

I’ve filled my summer with lots of canning (yay! another 2012 resolution that I’ve stuck to!), so I know all about the importance of the “button” on the lid of a jar. Obviously, this is alot funnier than when I process a batch of strawberry preserves and they don’t seal…

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Restaurant Rewind: Bday Dinner @ Rittenhouse Tavern

Jeez, 28 crept up on me quickly! I’m usually one of those gals that celebrates my birthMONTH rather than just my birthday, but this year intimate and minimal turned out to be a meaningful approach. I spent most of the day of my birth doing what I love most – cooking – from prepping & freezing portions of my BBQ beef & cauliflower rice stuffed collard greens as soon as I got out of bed to concocting late night Mexican hot dogs with some close friends. But my real foodie birthday celebration came Saturday night as Dre & I joined my family at one of the city’s newest fine dining spots – Rittenhouse Tavern.

I love reading the new restaurant hype in the Philly food scene but usually don’t play into it. I’d rather give a place some time to settle, and for Rittenhouse Tavern it didn’t seem to take long. Despite the pedigreed management & culinary staff at this Restaurant Associates-owned establishment and its prime location on the SE corner of Rittenhouse Square, most of what I’ve heard in its first couple months of service was word of mouth versus plugs on the typical food outlets – Foobooz, Grubstreet, Eater, etc. I take this as a good thing – PR shouldn’t make a restaurant, guest experience should (Yelp feedback of course being an exception) – and “on the street” talk amongst my hospitality & foodie friends was all recommendations & accolades.

Rarely would I notice or comment on my experience with a host/hostesses (unless it’s a bad one), but who knew a greeting and a walk to our table could be such a pleasure. The smiley hostess confirmed if we would still like to sit on the patio (of course we do!) and led us right to our seats. All night, on each trip to the ladies room, I encountered that smile. I think I have a new girl crush.

Now let’s get to the food – that’s what we’re here for, right? I had reviewed the menu a week before we went as I like to ponder what collection of items would give me the most diverse experience of the food. All of that went right out the door when the Farmer’s Market Tasting Menu hit my place-setting… SOLD!

NOTE: If there’s a tasting menu, get the tasting menu. Let the chef show off!

That being said, there was one thing from the standard menu that I couldn’t skip – the deviled eggs with pork scrapple. This wasn’t your typical deviled egg presentation, but the flavor was beyond expectations. I’m not usually a scrapple fan, but crispy, fried, & salty, it served as a perfect base for a swirl of deviled yolk mousse. I could eat 100 of these!

Keeping reading for more food love as I make my way through 5 courses with wine pairings from the Farmer’s Market Tasting Menu. Continue reading

Food Tripping Across America: Pittsburgh

My new years resolution to has me hitting the road for a half country drive with my best man, Tomithy and here I find myself neglecting my other resolution – to take this blog more seriously and less seriously. That means blogging more often but without the self-criticism and insecurities that have paralyzed me in the past. So here is my new attempt to take you on my food adventures as I eat myself from Pittsburgh to Austin. Enjoy the ride!

After a comfortable, scenic 7 hour Amtrak ride, I was ready for a bite in a new city. I’m even surprised after living most of my life in Pennsylvania, that this was my first time in Pittsburgh. So as they ask in the Steel City – Do you want fries ON that? Actually, it’s your only option.

Sunday night, Tom and I headed out for a quick beer & dinner at a local joint in the Dormont neighborhood called The Saloon of Mt. Lebanon. Tom ordered some wings with “Licker” sauce, which tastes like a sweet BBQ sauce & buffalo blend. Despite the fact that it’s more of a Louisiana thing, I definitely dug it. I didn’t want anything too heavy so I went with a buffalo chicken salad topped with – you guessed it – fries. Waffle fries to exact. It’s safe to say I’m sold on salads with fries.

Monday morning, Tom & I were ready to get this food tripping show on the road, but not without a stop at Pittsburgh’s famous Primanti Bros. for a sandwich. Tom went for the bartender’s choice of pastrami or corned beef (he got pastrami) and I opted for kielbasa – or as they spell it, kolbassi(?). The sandwich that arrived in front of me was not what I was expecting – I knew it would be topped with fries & slaw but thought it’d come on a hoagie style roll. Nope – instead, the behemoth delivered to me was stacked between 2 delicious, fluffy slices of white Italian bread. BE STILL MY HEART!

Another thing I was surprised by was the coleslaw. It was not mayo based like I’m used to, but rather what seemed like just cabbage and apple cider vinegar. A dash of hot sauce gave it a kimchee flavor and definitely took the sandwich to a new level. My only complaint is that I’m a hardcore kielbasa/kolbassi lover (get your head out of the gutter) and the 3 inches of tomato, slaw & fries overpowered the sandwich.

On a final note, the photos above are via Instagram on my iPhone. We got to Primanti Bros., I turned on my camera, and, well, it didn’t turn on. Dre will be upset with me on this one but I forgot to charge it before I left for my trip. Now I’m charged and ready to go!

iPhone (and now Android) users can follow my adventures in photos on Instagram. @SincereFoodLove

Quickie: On Vacay

So I’ve been MIA since I’ve stuck to my New Year’s resolution to travel my ass off through 2012. I’m on stop #4 visiting my mom in Hawai’i after Lancaster, Calgary, & Boston and wanted to share some ono grinds from today’s trip to the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. This kailua bbq pork sammie blew my mind!

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iPhone users can follow my adventures in photos on Instagram. @SincereFoodLove

Mahalo!

In Other News: Pie Town, New Mexico Fair Oct. 1940

I keep coming across these amazing, and rare, colored photos taken by the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information during and after the Great Depression. The collection as whole has about 160,000, with only 1,600 in color. There’s something special about these pictures, something about color that makes this time period more relatable in modern times. As I flip through the collection, in my mind’s eye I can see my grandparents in their twenties flirting away. As expected, the ones I love the most are about folks sharing food when dining was about farming, canning, and home-cooked meals. And into the food love time machine we go…

All photos from the Library of Congress. Entire collection found HERE.

My 2012 Foodie Resolutions

I have alot of change on my plate this year and a good chunk relates to my food and cooking habits. A big change I hope will come sooner than later is finally being able to say I’m employed again. I’ve worked most of my life in the food industry in one way or another and in my quest for a new gig, have been leaning away from that biz to get some other experience under my belt. But anyone who’s ever worked in the food industry, and who has a food love like mine, knows that’s no easy feat. I’m betting I’ll get sucked back in to the chaos of the food and events industry, probably with little reluctance and certainly with a fresh perspective.

It’s also important that no matter where my next job takes me, I have changes to make in my own kitchen, too. During my time of unemployment, it’s been great to cook with such leisure while getting creative on a low budget. As often as possible, I incorporate seasonal produce, “from scratch” foodstuff, locally-sourced ingredients, regional specialties or any combination of these in my culinary adventures. I found a new comfort with cooking in 2011 and am ready to challenge myself, and my diet, in 2012. So, on to my (foodie) resolutions and my wordiest blog post to date:

1. Only eat bread I make myself.

If any food is especially a weakness of mine, it’s bread. May it be baguette, sourdough roll, uber-processed Wonder Bread, pita, tortillas, or bagels – I can’t get enough carbs! It’s a problem that needs to be curbed as I’ll probably never be inclined to live a low/no-carb/gluten-free lifestyle. In 2011, my pal Sunshine gave me her bread machine before her move to Florida. It was perfect timing as I was finally starting to overcome my hatred for dealing with flour (it gets EVERYWHERE!). The more bread I experimented with, in and out of the bread machine, the more I wanted to learn. So in the quest to eat less bread but learn more about breadmaking, I solemnly resolve to only eat breadstuff at home that I make myself. Note the “at home”…

My first loaf of white sandwich bread in 2012.
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker that was so insanely delicious and simple

2. More fresh foods, less fresh food waste.

I’ve gotten in the habit of almost weekly trips to the Asian supermarket right up the street from us. The freshness and prices of their produce and meats are unbeatable and I learn a little more about the mysterious greens, sauces, and delicacies each time I go. Especially in the winter, it’s my go to place for fresh produce (literally 50% cheaper than the grocery store) and a great opportunity to cook something new. Last week, amazing kohlrabi puree! Come spring, I’ll be back in action with my Greensgrow farmshare as well, giving me greater opportunity to incorporate lots of healthy veggies into my diet (and resolution #3). This year, I’m really going to step it up, too. I can’t usually afford organic on the regular, though I wish I could, so at least I can solemnly resolve to consume more fresh foods and do so before they go to waste.

3. Canning EVERYTHING

Along with my distaste for working with flour, I have also denied my strong desire to learn how to can out of fear of doing something wrong and wasting food/killing Dre with year-old spoiled canned chili. Another part of the problem was financially committing to all the equipment needed. In 2011, I added a canning set and various Ball jars to my Amazon orders with hesitation as I knew they’d just sit in my cabinets for months, as they did. It wasn’t until Christmas that I finally decided what I wanted to gift myself – a massive 23qt pressure canner. And so the 2012 canning fest has commenced! Last week, I canned my first homemade batch of vegetable stock, knowing that it wouldn’t be a major lost if I screwed things up. But alas, aside from a serious boiling water burn on my hand, I came out with 4 beautiful quarts of bronze vegetable stock. Now I’m even more excited than ever for my farmshare this summer! So with all the equipment and foodstuff at my fingertips, I solemnly resolve to can straight thru the year to extend winter’s soups, summer’s bounty, and autumn’s harvest into 2013.

A gallon of vegetable stock, canned into eternity!

4. Travel no less than 12x

This is only somewhat food related in that I, and my family, plan most getaways around where I want to eat. I whined far too much during my unemployment that I wish I could be using the time to travel but felt guilty spending money on “leisure”. In 2012, I say “go eff yourself” to that notion! I wanna travel and I want to travel often and so far I have a solid start.

January = a double-date Amish Country B&B weekend with Jen & Brian
February = a ski trip to Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada with my family
March = a long-overdue trip to Boston via Megabus with Tomithy to explore and see my old Hawaii’an buddy, Jimmy.

So with 9 more months of travel to plan, I solemnly resolve, at least once a month in 2012, to getaway more than 50 miles from my house and explore the local dives and regional specialties along the way.

5. Take this blog more/less serious.

With all the free time I’ve had, I’m pretty disappointed in myself for the lack of blogging, especially since I’ve been cooking often. I get so wrapped up in clever anecdotes, tastespotting-worthy photos, and detailed recipes that I often just don’t share my food love at all. So typical of an introverted Cancer like me. But in 2012, I’m living by a new mantra – a new outlook that is vastly different from how I’ve approached so much in life – and that is, Progress not Perfection. I’ve never blogged for lots of hits or notoriety, I do it out of a sheer love of sharing good food with others. I need to allow that to be more natural, while at the same time, more frequent, so I solemnly resolve in 2012 to share my food love freely, often, and without judgement.

What are you resolving to do (or not do) this year, food-related or otherwise?

How are you doing with sticking to those resolutions?