29 June 2008

Skyrockets in flight.

The new Observer came this week, and it offered up a few upcoming good eats tips for July. Thanks Observer!

Grizzly Peak: Now, things are different lately at Grizzly Peak. We used to go in, know everyone, have a blast, any day of the week. New management = staff overhaul, and the place lost a lot of its lustre (and, I swear, no one wants to flippin serve us!!). That being said, there are still a few holdouts worth popping in to say hello to, and the food is, generally, still pretty tasty. So we were pretty excited to see a special promotion for July -- Fire & Ice. Sunday through Thursday in July, you can order chiles rellenos, yucatan chicken, shredded beef tacos, and tempura shrimp. And each special includes a pint of GP beer. Does cheddar ale soup go with rellenos? Hmm...

Afternoon Delight: It's been a million years, but I still miss working downtown at AMG, across the street from AD, running over for my morning muffin and fresh squeezed orange juice. Every few months we remember it's there and make a trip down for brunch and I think, man, I need to come here more often. Delish! Anyway, turns out AD and I are the same age! On July 7, it's celebrating it's 30th anniversary, and for the day, you can enjoy AD's 1978 menu and prices! Although half the size of the current menu, a lot of items look familiar (the Veggie, A.D. Club, the Berry Patch), and there's only one item over $4 (Crabmeat on the Green at $4.50). I'm thinking I might have to try the Turf and Surf Roll -- Alaskan King crabmeat served on an onion roll with slices of roast beef, Hollandaise sauce, Swiss cheese, and spinach leaves ($3.69). Anyone free for lunch?

Speaking of skyrockets.... My secret boyfriend is returning, just in time for my birthday. New season of No Reservations starts on July 7. WOOT! Seriously, after all the dreams I've had about hanging out with him (alas, we just hung out), I seriously feel like AB and I are old buddies.

PS. HA! My favorite top chef guy, with my favorite top chef quote, won this year's teeshirt. Awesome.

27 June 2008

Love you long time.

Seeing as it's now Friday, a full day into the official start of Birgit's BIRTHDAY weekend, it's about time I throw an official shout-out out there. So here I am, shoutin' it out...


Can't wait to whoop it up with you this weekend! Wahoooooooooooooo!

23 June 2008

Near wild heaven.

This is impossible. I can't seem to get started -- so much to tell, so much to show... All the while knowing there's no way I could ever do our trip justice. I know it sounds cheesy, but this really was the trip of a lifetime, and it was almost a lifetime coming. Sara and I have been talking about going to Athens for nearly two decades, and not only did we finally do it, we totally did it up by adding on other stops that relived our youth and all the fun and crazy times we've had together. And we know it's really special just to us, but maybe that's what makes it even more special.

Wilmington, not the town we expected. Myrtle Beach, a mere shadow of what it was in the era of beach music and Bermuda shorts. Athens we hardly got to know ya. But it was all still perfect, little slices of exactly what we hoped for, a step back in time, plans for the future. It really was the perfect way to celebrate turning 30. Sara, I’m honored to have made this journey with you, and I am so happy we can look forward to another 30 years together!

Can't Get There From Here

So this was a road trip, right? Well, let me tell you about the road in the south. It sucks. Thank god for Sara, our trusty navigator, and our multitude of maps. Didn't you print out directions, you ask? Why yes, we did. For each destination. Did it matter? NO! Not only were the mapquest directions insanely confusing and not totally accurate, every highway has 10 names, exits and turns aren't marked, and did I mention there's like one freeway in all of the south? Hello 400 stop lights! So while us Michiganders know you can chop at least 10 minutes off any mapquest time estimate, in the south, add an hour. And sometimes, when you accidentally go north instead of south, it may be 10 or 20 miles until you can turn around. Nonetheless, we always made our destination (eventually), never got totally lost, and somehow managed to amuse each other, even when our 5.5-hour trip turned out to be closer to 7 hours. Thank goodness for Road Trip Mad Libs, wherein we learned that you should always make sure your windshield butts are functioning wrongly and that you have some bottled whiskey and an emergency scab kit in your glove rooster before hitting the open road. Luckily, we didn't even think about getting behind the motel of the car without getting a hot night's sleep of at least 44 hours.

The W

So guess what? Wilmington isn’t a beach town. Who knew? Ha! But, lucky for us, there is a beach town very nearby. Being the true explorers we are, we saw “beach” on the map and took a risk and just headed down the highway. The risk paid off, as there’s a really cute beach town (Wrightsville Beach) not too far down the road, so we still got our Dawson’s beach fix. As luck would have it, at the end of the town (yes, the town literally just ends!) we found a marshy/creeky area. We christened it Dawson’s Creek. While still in town, though, we had a lovely lunch at the waterside cafĂ© that appeared as the Leery family’s restaurant. Now, we all know my gut issues, and know I should NOT be eating fried food. Especially on vacation. Especially at the start of vacation. BUT… I simply cannot risk a po’ boy… especially an oyster po’ boy. Do you think I have an iron will? Sheesh! I risked it… and boy did it pay off. So incredibly delicious. And I didn’t even get a stomach ache. Thanks for letting me enjoy Capeside, belly!

The MB

I’ve already posted about the main reason we went to Myrtle Beach… Shagging! And I’ve already hinted that MB just isn’t what it once was… BUT it was still fun to explore the Strand and find minor gems, like the Gay Dolphin (selling crappy souvenirs since the ‘40s), the original MB boardwalk, the cruisin’ strip from Shag, and, of course, the very much still alive shaggin’ scene. We are both inspired to learn some shag moves and cut a rug on the dancefloor someday. A helpful travel tip – don’t go to Myrtle Beach unless you want to shag and search out the Shag locale. Sara and I decided it’s the tackiest city we’ve ever visited – although Matt pointed out that we haven’t been to Virginia Beach. :)


What can I say? Athens was perfect. A smaller Ann Arbor, also a college town, intensely focused on music and art, a little more hippie and a little less yuppie. An adorable downtown, with lots of cute shops, cafes, and music clubs. People all around, not an abandoned storefront to be found. And, of course, oozing with REM history. It was also the Athfest last weekend, a festival to educate the masses about music and art, and believe it or not, the local art they were selling was reasonably priced. This was no outrageous AA art fair. Live bands for free on a big main stage, and nonstop shows at all the clubs all night. All local, and all awesome. For $5, we visited the legendary 40 Watt club and watched three of four scheduled bands perform. And did I mention all the REM history? Chock this up in the no-one-cares-but-us category, but it was SO COOL to photograph ourselves with the REM trestle from the Murmur back cover, eat BBQ at Weaver D’s and put a tip in the “Automatic for the People” tip jar, and order at the counter of the former Walter’s bbq where the band was photographed for one of their early magazine interviews. And we totally stalked some poor college kid trying to hang out on his porch with his girlfriend – but doesn’t he realize Michael Stipe once lived there? I texted Brad immediately and told him to plan on heading to Athfest with Matt and Sara next year. That is, if I don’t quit my job and move down there to be a rock star first.

REM Rules

Color me a 13-year-old Beatles fan. Sara, too. We clapped. We squealed. We giggled. We yelled. We sang our hearts out. Sara described the concert perfectly, so I won’t even try to top it. Check it out! It was completely and totally 100% perfect. It was like they knew we were there and wanted to make it as special of an experience as they could. I mean, come on… They sang “Fall on Me!” My love is renewed for the four, er, three funky dudes. I’m so sorry I ever strayed, guys. I heart you forever.


See, I told you I couldn’t do it justice. But hopefully I’ve made it clear how much fun we had, how perfect everything turned out. And hopefully we’ve inspired you to take a dream trip – trust me, you won’t regret it.

To end this, a few amusing leftover scraps…

“Daddy! I could work at Joe’s Crab Shack!” – young southern girl pleased with her crab-catching ability at the marsh

“You two are very attractive for 30!” – alleged 22-year-old Georgia boy trying to flatter us

“We went to the strip club last night. Those girls loved us!” – suspected high school boys trying to impress us

“CRACKER” – lovely tattoo across nazi boy strolling Myrtle Beach

Sam Adams is apparently an “import” beer in MB.

And, of course –If you’ve ever met me, you know I’ve got photos and captions to boot. So if you want to see the results of our REM tour, the locals shaggin, or all the yummy food we ate (most notably at Watershed, the Indigo Girls’ restaurant in Decatur [also see Sara’s blog for a full review!]), let me know and I’m happy to inundate you with photos.

20 June 2008

King of the road.

Let me tell you, there is nothing cuter in the world than watching old folks shag (dance! dance shag, you perv). With the little foot shuffle and the hip swivel -- you should just see the happiness on the faces of the shaggers. Unfortunately, Sara and I missed out on the shag lessons we thought we'd be able to get (they are month-long classes that start the first Thursday of the month, so we'd have been totally lost), so we didn't get a chance to join in -- BUT, that doesn't mean we didn't get asked! It was funny to sit on the sidelines like girls in the '50s, seemingly waiting for prince charming to come ask us to dance. And about midway through the evening last night, a very nice older gentleman tried to get us to dance with him (it was just like Footloose... a slow approach from across the room...). Boy oh boy did we wish we could!! Instead, we had to settle for watching, and chatting up a group of local kids. Their parents all shag! How cute! Anyway, a few more red bulls... no dinner.... let's just say my belly is not too happy right now, as we're about to embark on the real road trip of the road trip. But I'm a trooper and I shall suck it up. Here we come, Toyota 4Runner. Did I mention the rental car agency tried to give us a minivan? I was like, "are you serious? Seriously! Seriously?" LUCKILY they were young girls and understood that two foxy ladies simply could not road trip in a mini van and pulled some strings for us. So time to hit the road, folks -- more to come from beautiful Georgia. Keep your fingers crossed that we stumble across some fresh Georgia peaches on our drive! Here we come REM! We're almost there!!!

19 June 2008

Where are you from?

Day one is down. So are a few red bull and vodkas. Woot. We love the Myrtle Beach shaggers. Even though they can spot us a mile away. But insanely friendly and helpful, we had a blast chatting them up about Michigan and shagging and how the old Fat Harold's Beach Club used to be on the beach and the new Fat Harold's used to be a gay bar called "The Option." Awesome. They have nachos in Myrtle Beach, too. Mmm. PS we found Pacey in Wilmington and will be bringing him home with us. I don't wanna wait........

15 June 2008

I have a miniature secret camera.

Summer is officially here....

Fresh, local tomatoes. Homemade, fresh mozzarella. Fresh basil. Homemade rustic Italian loaf. This is how I spend my summer. I heart you, summertime eats.

Anyway, I just wanted to check in before I head out for Road Trip 08 on Wednesday. Work is insane, I still have to pack, so I probably won't be around much these next two days. But... laundry, done. Road trip playlists, done (including a special musical surprise for Sara!). Directions printed. Road atlas studied. I think I'm ready for this trip!! Woohoo!

And because the world doesn't stop when I go on vacation...

Happy Third Birthday to Jordan on Thursday!!! We precelebrated last week, and I gave Jordan his very own digital camera. He's such a cool little guy, and we had a blast searching out the perfect shot together.

Happy NINTH anniversary to my awesome husband. Nine years ago this week, Brad wooed me with his killer dance moves and my life hasn't been the same since. Thank you, Milli Vanilli.

10 June 2008

This one goes out to the one I love.

In 1992, in my 8th grade typing class, we were asked to write a two-page autobiography. What I came back with was a six-and-a-half-page diatribe, including a page of photos/mementos. Funny aside, it must have been before the advent of spell check because while I received an A+++ for writing, I got a C- for spelling. HA! Anyway, included in the manifesto of 8th grade me were nearly two pages about Sara (now Sara, don't get too cocky -- I wrote a full page on my tape deck) and about a page on REM. Why we liked REM ("The words written by Michael, Mike, Peter, and Bill have some real point and literally no two songs are alike. Kind of like a snowflake. ha ha ha."), why we KNEW REM were the ones that hand wrote the one-sentence response to the 10-page letter we wrote them ("because they just aren't that kind of people " [to deceive fans, of course!]), and how we admired REM's "involvement in the world." Funny thing, though -- my closing thoughts (errors included for authenticity!):

I would really, really, really love to get in to the University of Georgia, in Athens, Georgia. I want to get an English degree and Sara, who wants to go there too wants to get an art degree. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that REM lives in Athens? (We plan on going there sometime before that to discover the whereabouts of the four funky dudes.)

Well, clearly, we didn't quite make it to UofG... But... here we are, 2008.... pushing 30. And Sara and I are finally realizing our destiny and touring the whereabouts of the four funky dudes. It's been a long time coming, but this time next week I'll be finalizing my packing for our trip that begins bright and early the morning of the 18th.

Call it kismet, synchronicity, karma, whatevs. But the stars seem to be aligning for us. We decided on a whim last summer, hey, let's do our REM road trip next year to celebrate our 30th birthdays. We talked about it on and off throughout the year, then late this winter we just decided screw it, we're doing it. As soon as we made the final decision and started narrowing down dates, we heard REM was coming out with a new album. Then we realized REM was touring. Then we discovered REM was playing Atlanta. This summer. On a Saturday! It was fate. So we booked our trip around the show, which will be the final event of our journey. The next thing we knew, REM was everywhere. Now we find out the day we're in Athens, the Athfest is going on, and there are tons of local bands playing, music history tours... What more could we ask for?

While the trip certainly has evolved from what our little 13-year-old minds envisioned (an embarrassing obsession with Dawson's Creek; the means to tack on a Shag the Movie nostalgia leg), it's going to kick some major ass. I can't wait.

04 June 2008

Strawberry delight.

It's funny how things change, sometimes so quickly. I've always enjoyed a good meal. I've especially always enjoyed a good dessert. But I grew up a picky picky little thing. If you've known me long, you know I didn't even start eating pizza until spring of 05. Yes, you heard that right. NO pizza, for 26 years. Just didn't like it. Then the changes slowly came... I ate my first tomato two summers ago, my first pepper around the same time. And now, there's almost nothing I won't try, and there's so little left I can honestly say I don't like. I still don't believe in purple food. I still won't eat a resturaunt pickle. Keep your peas away from me, but I don't even freak out if one sneaks into my mouth.

I was laying in bed this morning, and I realized that local and seasonal and god forbid organic didn't even register on my radar two years ago. It seems preposterous to me. How can that be so? But I'm nearly certain this was the case. How did I survive with no Farmer's Market? Eating crapass tomatoes during the winter, but not even knowing the difference? I probably had never even seen a Made in Michigan label -- not even when I worked at the horrendous Love From Michigan in high school (all China!). That's nearly 27 years in a food haze! Alas, I have seen the light, and it's amazing how much my life is consumed by shopping and cooking and reading cookbooks and thinking about seasons and locations and happy meat. Which brings me today, when, despite another crappy week, another crappy day (and a headache threatening to rear its ugly head), the first spring strawberries at the Farmer's Market made everything all better.

*Eternal thanks to Sara for raving about Barbara Kingsolver, which led me to Animal Vegetable Miracle, which led me to a much richer, happier, and satisfying food life. I think Brad's belly thanks you, too.

01 June 2008

Plumy delicious.

I Heart Plum Market Part 5,200,405
I meant to mention this last week and forgot, but Plum Market has a special distribution deal with Zingerman's. Meaning, when I went to the Bakehouse to get key lime pie no. 2 (to take to my mom's for lunch), it was significantly more expensive than it was at Plum. In response to my "UGH! WHAT?" I learned of said deal. Plum carries a ton of Zingerman's products, so keep this in mind when shopping. Especially for desserts. Yum. I went a little crazy today and bought a smattering of different desserts -- another thing I really like is Plum sells individual slices of random Zing desserts for $1. So today I got two slices of Zing coconut cream pie, an individual Zing key lime pie, some Plum-made rice pudding and tapioca, and two gigantic red velvet cupcakes. Deep down I know there's nothing special about red velvet -- it's just chocolate cake with food coloring. But since we had red velvet cupcakes at our wedding, they'll always hold a special place in my heart. Smoosh.

The Never-Ending Bedroom Decoration Project
We've lived here two and a half years. And there's still stuff getting done. Pretty lame, right? But I feel really good about how our bedroom is coming together. And quite frugally! You see, 80% of the art in our room is pictures I've taken. It's like my own little mini gallery! Pictures by me, between $2 and $6 for varying enlargements, Meijer frames for $5, matted box frames from Ikea for $5, and, my best steal, a set of three ribbon-hung 4 x 4 frames for $2 at Target. Woo! Anyway, I think this wall is finally done...

I ran into TJ Maxx this afternoon looking for something for Jordan, and it was love at first sight when, of course, I ventured off course and into the art section. I don't think you can see well in the photo, but it's a print of random London images.

Skillet Lasagna
A few weeks ago, I picked up the Cooks Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen cookbook, even though the bastards DID NOT hire me to work there! UGH! Anyway, it's a pretty cool book, and if you're not familiar with them, they walk you through their recipe decisions, like we used this instead of this, this brand instead of this brand, and this tool instead of this tool, and why. So it's a pretty interesting read. I didn't find many recipes I'll try, though, but I knew instantly I wanted to make the skillet lasagna. MMM! Here's the poached recipe (they want you to subscribe to get it from them! Eff that!):

1 (28 ounce) can
diced tomato
1 tablespoon
olive oil
onion, minced
garlic clove, minced (as you know, I skipped this ingredient)
1/8 teaspoon
red pepper flakes
1 lb meatloaf mix

10 curly edged lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch lengths
1 (8 ounce) can
tomato sauce
1 ounce
Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
8 ounces
whole milk ricotta cheese (about 1 cup) (I used part skim instead)
1/4 cup minced
fresh basil

Steph Note: I'm still not braving red meat, so I used sweet Italian pork sausage (yeah! I touched meat!), oozed out from the casings, and added a chopped red pepper, as recommended in the book's recipe.

Steph Note: I didn't have a full quart of diced tomatoes, so I used 1 14 oz can diced, 1 14 oz crushed, and a handful of sliced, fresh, MICHIGAN cherry tomatoes (and eliminated the tomato sauce completely). I also threw in a handful of fresh, chopped parsley, figured I had it why not, right?

Steph Note: If you're like me, and don't think the recipe is 100% clear about whether or not the noodles should be precooked, they should NOT be precooked. (I figured, and luckily I was right!)

1. Pour the tomatoes with their juice into a quart measuring cup. Add enough water to the tomatoes to measure 4 cups. (See my note above.)
2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion (and peppers, if using) and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the meatloaf mix and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
4. Sprinkle the noodle pieces evenly over the meat. Pour the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce over the pasta. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 20 minutes. (The sauce should look watery after 15 minutes of cooking. If dry, add up to 1/4 cup additional water to loosen the sauce.).
5. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dot heaping tablespoons of the ricotta over the noodles. Cover the skillet and let stand off the heat for 5 minutes.
6. Sprinkle with the basil and serve, passing the extra Parmesan separately.

I figured it would be tasty because, you know, duh, it's lasagna! But I was worried the sauce would taste a little bland and I wasn't sure how the sausage would taste. Well.... let me tell you... It. Was. Delicious. Seriously. The recipe produced four full servings, with a scoop of seconds for dinner for each of us. I could have eaten the whole thing though. Mmmmmm.



Fresh tomatoes and basil oh yeah.

And finally. Just because it's STILL funny (and because Little Chris finally send me his photos from our Vegas trip). Brad and LC at the Mandalay Bay: