Friday, January 8, 2021

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 30

It's here. 2021 AND PART 30. I cannot believe that I've done 30 weeks of at home posts, and I'm grateful to all of my readers for humoring me throughout all this. Even when things get back to "normal," I think I'll still do some at home posts and reviews, because it's allowed me to hone my cooking skills and it's been a really fun hobby for me. Last month, I got away for a few days in the beautiful NC mountains, and wanted to share this stunning (and no filter!) view with you all.

A few of my girlfriends and I will occasionally do (socially distanced) themed dinner and movie nights. About a month ago, we watched "The Holiday" and prepared British food. One provided drinks (a Gin Blackberry Smash and Hot Toddies); one provided the entree (Shepherd's Pie); and I provided the dessert, something I've been wanting to learn how to make for a long time: Sticky Toffee Pudding. It took every utensil and tool in my kitchen to make (boiling the toffee sauce on the stove, simmering the dates in a saute pan, pureeing the dates in a food processor, baking the puddings in the oven) but it was so incredibly worth it. I would have eaten all 6 servings by myself. And the good news is that it made enough toffee sauce so that next time I can skip that step and just make the cakes! Here's the recipe I used. 


Prom - I am all aboard the Ryan Murphy train, and couldn't be more obsessed with Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Keegan Michael-Key and Andrew Rannells, so it pains me to say that I didn't just lose my mind over Murphy's new film, "Prom". It's a spectacular premise, even if it's a bit far-reaching, and delivers a great message. (Though I really don't know what Nicole Kidman was doing taking this role.) I don't think I've EVER given a negative review of a movie musical (though I didn't see 2019's "Cats") and I don't intend to start now, but this was a bit too long for its own good, and maybe my expectations were just entirely too high. It's a good time, not a great time. Available on Netflix.

Fruitvale Station - Michael B. Jordan can really do no wrong in my eyes. I'm a little late to the game on this film (it came out in 2013) but I watched it on New Year's Day, ironically, because the film recounts the life of a man who was shot and killed by police on New Year's Day in 2008. I don't remember a lot of press surrounding the shooting of Oscar Grant, III - I feel like the shooting of Trayvon Martin was the catalyst for the BLM movement and ample media coverage - but Oscar's is a story worth telling. And Octavia Spencer is phenomenal, as per usual, as his mother. Available on Netflix.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 29

I'm having trouble believing that my next post will be C&S: At Home, Part 30. Part 30?! How did that happen! I definitely miss dining out and going to the movies, especially this time of year when all the awards shows are usually announcing nominations, but for now, I'm still enjoying cooking and entertaining myself at home. In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and for a good laugh, this is 7 year old me - my parents' favorite Christmas ornament.

I can't think of any meat more luxurious than lamb. It's definitely my favorite protein - give me a lamb shank over a steak any day - and with the help of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa herself, it doesn't need to be intimidating! I recently made her Lamb Shanks and the meat was incredibly unctuous and perfectly cooked. Her recipe calls for adding Orzo during the last 30 minutes, but I omitted that part and made my own Cheesy Polenta with Gouda. This would be great with mashed potatoes, rice - really any starch to soak up all the tasty juices. Oh, and one more note - leave your Dutch oven uncovered so the meat can brown nicely in the oven! Here's Ina's Lamb Shank recipe.

The Lamb Shank in all its glory

Whiplash - I recently re-watched this excellent film, and went back to find my C&S review of it from 5 years ago. I only cringed a little bit at my writing, so I'll link it for you here. It really is a great movie, with incredible performances by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons (who won an Oscar for this role!)

Happiest Season - A refreshing holiday film that focuses on a romantic relationship between two women during the holidays, and all the complications that ensue. Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis are the leads, but the real stars are the supporting actors - Dan Levy, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza and Mary Steenburgen. The film may not end the way you want or expect, but the journey is a pretty good, not great, one. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

The Farmhouse at Veritas

If you're looking for a getaway this holiday season, complete with incredible views and wines, AND one that's within driving distance from the Triad, look no further than the Virginia wine country. I recently stayed a few nights in Afton, VA and it felt like I was in Napa. I highly recommend The Farmhouse at Veritas for dinner - they serve a decadent 4 course meal Wednesday through Sunday evenings. It's fine dining at its most elegant, and you will be blown away by the food they churn out in such a tiny kitchen. Veritas Winery is producing some of the best wines in the region, and each course is paired with one of their stunning wines. The Farmhouse is also incredibly COVID-conscious and you'll have plenty of space, if not your own dining room. And fun fact - the chef used to work at Print Works Bistro in Greensboro!

The first course set the bar extremely high. We kicked things off with Cauliflower Soup with Charred Scallions, Corn and Shitake Mushrooms, finished with a dusting of Truffle Powder. First of all, anything with truffle is fabulous in my book. The soup was so smooth and velvety, and the smoky savoriness of the scallions, corn and mushrooms broke up some of the richness. The dish was served with a lovely Viognier, and for someone who always prefers red wine, I thought this white was exceptionally easy to drink.

Cauliflower Soup

Our second course was Tamarind Caramel Glazed Duck Breast with Butternut Squash Puree and Braised Cabbage. The presentation was stunning and I absolutely loved these sides. I had very high hopes for the duck, but it was a bit on the rare side for me. The tamarind caramel more than made up for it though. It struck the perfect savory-sweet balance and complimented the sweetness of the butternut squash puree nicely. This was served with a buttery, oakey Chardonnay - just how I like my Chards.

Tamarind Caramel Duck Breast

The main event was a showstopper. A perfectly cooked, locally sourced Beef Filet was served with wilted Swiss Chard and the most luxurious Cranberry Bean and Bacon Ragu I've ever had. In fact, these were the first cranberry beans I'd ever had! They reminded me of pinto beans, very starchy and satisfying. And bacon really does make everything better. Veritas' Claret is a big, bold red - the perfect pairing.

Filet with Cranberry Beans and Swiss Chard

Dessert felt like it was prepared just for me: Autumn Spice Creme Brulee with an Almond Florentine Cookie and Cranberry Coulis. The custard was luscious and had just the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg. The crunchy, sugary topping is always so satisfying, and the almond florentine cookie was a nice additional crunchy, nutty bite. The cranberry coulis brought necessary acidity to balance the sweetness of the dish with the also sweet Petit Manseng dessert wine.

Autumn Spice Creme Brulee with Almond Florentine Cookie

I am eagerly awaiting the day I can return to The Farmhouse at Veritas. It's a scenic, beautiful little bit of paradise in the middle of Virginia. And if you stay overnight, you will be blown away by their gourmet breakfasts! Y'all should put this place on your list - it's under 3 hours from the Triad and will transport you to a really magical place.

Friday, November 13, 2020

"The Finer Things Dinner"

I've been missing fine dining, so I thought I would treat myself and SOS to something we aptly named "The Finer Things Dinner". It was a splurge, and also a great challenge to cook things neither of us had attempted before. As long as you do your research, there's no need to be intimidated in the kitchen! But that's easy for me to say since I wasn't the one in charge of the oysters or lobster tails...but everything turned out incredibly well. It was even better paired with bubbly, but vodka martinis would work well too. If you'd like to have your own Finer Things Dinner, here's our menu:

Steamed Oysters - they are so much easier to shuck once steamed, and you do need an Oyster Shucker (complete with a glove!). Just steam a dozen or so over boiling water for about 3 minutes, shuck, then squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top.

Steamed Oysters - so easy to do at home. Who knew!?

Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes - Crab Cakes vary A LOT. I definitely prefer more crab to filler (obviously) and I don't really like a crispy, deep fried cake. The recipe I chose called for a ton of crab which was great, but I would suggest searing them in butter instead of canola oil, and finishing with lots of fresh lemon juice for some acid. I may try a different recipe next time, but here's what I used for this dinner. (The leftovers also make fine Crab Cake Benes for brunch the next day.)

Lobster Tails - This was a showstopper. I cannot believe this was even attempted at home. And it was outstanding. Just get two 11-ounce lobster tails no big deal(!), and brush on a mixture of melted Clarified Butter, Sweet Spanish Smoked Paprika, Garlic Powder, White Pepper and Salt. Bake them in the oven at 450 for about 16 minutes, and baste with this butter mixture halfway through. Garnish with chives, and serve with more melted clarified butter and lemon wedges. The meat is incredibly tender and these seasonings are ON POINT.
Crab Cakes and Lobster Tails, a match made in heaven.

Butterscotch Budino with Miso Caramel 
- Finding a dessert to follow all of these amazing finer things was difficult, but I rose to the challenge. I wanted something along the lines of Creme Brulee, but more exciting, and this is it. Budino is a fancy Italian word for pudding, and this Butterscotch Budino is pretty perfect. Here's the recipe I used - but note that this recipe doesn't call for you to strain the cooked custard, and YOU MUST! I also topped it with Miso Caramel as opposed to the recipe's suggested Salted Caramel, but I'm sure either would be great. Top with fresh whipped cream and call it a night.

Butterscotch Budino with Miso Caramel

I was too busy eating and cooking this week to enjoy any movies. Sorry not sorry.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 28

I hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween! Can you believe the countdown to Thanksgiving has already begun? Some of you may already be in the Christmas spirit, and 3 weeks from today, it will officially be time for me to start decorating the tree and watching "Elf" on repeat.

Fall Flowers! <3

A fabulous home chef recently made me Lamb Tikka Masala from scratch, and it was so good that I almost cried. I begged to feature this recipe on C&S, and luckily, I secured it for you. I'm certain if you follow these instructions, you'll be able to conquer it too! 

 -5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch cubes, OR 1 pound lamb cut into 1 inch cubes
-1 cup plain yogurt
-juice from 1/2 lemon
-1 TB (heaping) Tikka Masala Spice blend
-1 tsp garlic, minced
-1 tsp ginger, minced

Combine protein, yogurt, lemon juice, Tikka Masala, garlic and ginger in a bowl, then put it all in a sealed bag. Let this sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, and no more than 24 hours.

-3 TB butter, divided
-1 large white onion, chopped
-1 TB garlic, minced
-1 TB ginger, minced
-3 jalapenos, seeds removed and minced
-1 TB tomato paste
-1 1/2 TB Tikka Masala Spice blend
-15 oz tomato sauce
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-1 TB sugar
-salt to taste
-Cooked Rice, Cilantro and Naan Bread for serving

Remove the marinated chicken or lamb from the refrigerator and melt 2 TB butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Brown your protein and be careful not to overcrowd your pan. Once browned (it won't be completely cooked through), remove your protein from the pan and set aside in a bowl. To the same skillet, add the remaining 1 TB of butter, onion, garlic, ginger and jalapenos. After letting them cook about 5 minutes, add your tomato paste and Tikka Masala and let cook a few minutes, stirring well to combine. Add the tomato sauce, heavy cream, sugar and then salt to taste. Once it's to your liking, add your protein back in and bring to a soft boil. Let simmer for about 15 minutes. Serve over cooked rice, sprinkle with cilantro and serve alongside Naan. DIVINE.

Lamb Tikka Masala

The Hustler - This is certainly a classic and a really great story. And Paul Newman...what a babe. He plays a pool shark who encounters quite a few interesting characters during his hustling days. Piper Laurie, who I loved on "Twin Peaks", plays his love interest. Their relationship reminded me of the story from "The Days of Wine and Roses" - tragic, dependent, primal. I thought this film was a bit too long (anything over 2 hours is pushing it for me these days!) but Newman is captivating on-screen. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 27

It's finally here. Halloween is TOMORROW. I've definitely indulged in plenty of candy corn, pumpkin baked goods and B-list Halloween movies, so one might say I've made the most of the season.

Throwback to the year I wanted to be a mom for mom was a get the idea.

I hope you all have enjoyed this pumpkin journey with me through the month of October! Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) has a fabulous recipe for Pumpkin Ravioli. However, I know myself, and I know that however good the recipe is, I do not have the patience to build every little individual dumpling. I spent as much time as I could perfecting the little pouches of goodness, and the ones that turned out well really did look adorable. And the flavor of the brown butter with that savory pumpkin filling, salty parmesan and crunchy pine nuts? It's an absolutely delicious dish. Just allow yourself PLENTY of time to assemble! Click here to get her recipe.

My very questionable attempt at homemade Pumpkin Ravioli.

Leave No Trace - More like leave this one behind! After reading tons of great reviews and hearing really awesome things about this film, I hate to say, I was pretty disappointed. Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie star as father and daughter who live in the woods, and not beyond their means. Their footprint is almost nonexistent. It's a beautiful premise, but for some reason, it just didn't come together for me. I think more dialogue or backstory would have brought me more into their world, but I sadly never really connected with either of them, or their story.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - Does Jack Nicholson get any better than this? This is a wild film - it's heartbreaking and funny at the same time, and a timely, not outdated commentary on mental health. Nicholson stars as R.P. McMurphy, a criminal who pleads insanity and is the sanest one of all in a mental institution. His relationship with supporting characters (Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito and Louise Fletcher) reveal a lot about him as a man, a friend and an outcast. It's long, but worth every minute of the watch.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 26

Y'all. At Home, Part 26? How is this even possible? I hope everyone enjoyed the beautiful weather this week, and that you have something fun (and SAFE) planned for Halloween next week. I promise I'm ALMOST done with the pumpkin recipes...but not quite. 

I had to share this with y'all - for my birthday, some friends got me a Paint by Numbers featuring the man himself, Leo. It was so fun and meditative, and while I'm certainly not a visual artist, I was very pleased with how his portrait turned out!

One of my all-time favorite pumpkin recipes comes from none other than Paula Deen. I've been making this recipe since she first burst onto the Food Network scene 20 years ago. Her recipe for Pumpkin Baked Ziti is perfection - the only thing I do differently is substitute Neese's Sausage for the Sweet Italian Sausage (obviously). Otherwise, this recipe is a hit every time. It will not disappoint.
One of my absolute faves.

The Boys in The Band - This is some incredibly heavy material. Ryan Murphy produced this film adaptation of a 1968 play, and the film stars the same cast as the 2018 revival on Broadway. Needless to say, these actors are very comfortable in their roles and the chemistry is palpable. Jim Parsons is amazing in the leading role, and the entire cast steps up to the challenging dialogue and intense character relationships. It's not a feel good film, but very touching and timely.

Addams Family Values - One of my top 2 Halloween movies, and one of the few sequels that's better than the original. I was Morticia Addams for Halloween 3 years in a row as a child, so my obsession goes way back. The cast couldn't be any better - Anjie Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Christina Ricci? Killer! Joan Cusack gives a master class in comedy, and Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski are supporting actor comedy gold. Everything you love about the quirky family, but with a few more laughs than the first film. I'll be watching at least two more times this season.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 25

I thought I'd shake things up and forego the usual orange pumpkin this year, and found these beautiful Cinderella pumpkins! I guess technically you COULD carve them(?), but they're just too pretty.

Love my Cinderella pumpkins!

I love Cacio e Pepe, the traditional Italian pasta dish that makes its own sauce essentially from starchy pasta water, Parmesan Cheese and Black Pepper. Because I can never leave well enough alone, I found a recipe for Pumpkin Cacio e Pepe, and while the pumpkin flavor isn't overpowering, it adds a luscious, velvety creaminess and produces a beautiful hue. And since pumpkin is a fruit, this dish counts as one serving of fruit in my book. I could not get enough of this and will be adding it into my rotation. Here's the recipe I used!

Antebellum - Yowza. This one starts at 100 and doesn't really slow down. It's in the vein of "Get Out", "Us", and "12 Years a Slave" and presents a horrifying world - one that is happening underground, right under our nose. It dragged in spots, and while the reviews have been generally negative, I thought it was a brilliant premise, profoundly disturbing and have thought about it long since having watched it. Janelle Monae reminds us of her kween status and Jack Huston's nefarious antagonist was the perfect catsing choice. Outstanding production and costume design. 

Dances with Wolves - Another yowza. The film clocks in at 3 hours and 1 minute, but won just about every Oscar known to man. It's Kevin Costner's pièce de résistance, telling the tale of a Civil War soldier who befriends a tribe of Lakota Native Americans. They learn each others' culture, language and values, and he falls in love along the way. Of course. The cinematography is beautiful, and the story really is touching. A heartbreaking reminder of those who came before us.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 24

Meet Stevie, my sugar skull succulent, named for Stevie Nicks of course.

I love Stevie!


I've been on a Cinnamon Roll kick lately (see my post from August!) so naturally I had to experiment with Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls. To save myself from eating the entire pan, I shared some with a neighbor, who told me it was one of the best things she had ever eaten. They truly are to die for. I used this recipe and will definitely make them again!

Sheer decadence. Excuse the Christmas plate.


The Devil All The Time - Available on Netflix and only to the strong-stomached. This was an engrossing story about a family and the many menacing characters they cross paths with. Outstanding performance by Robert Pattinson as a corrupt priest, and beautiful work by Tom Holland, Riley Keough and Mia Wasikowska. I loved the ominous music and cinematography. I felt this one in my gut.

Top Gun - I think I'm the only person on the planet who hadn't seen Top Gun until now. It's a classic for a reason. Killer soundtrack, iconic characters in Goose, Maverick and Ice Man, and all around very entertaining. I can't imagine how they shot this film, and all those crazy stunts?! When the sequel finally gets released, I'll be ready.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 23

It's October 2. It's officially time to celebrate all things fall, pumpkin, sugar skulls, Hocus Pocus, Halloween and more. Apologies in advance if you're not a fan - the coming weeks will showcase my obsession. 

A few years ago, I decided to go all out for my dinner club, and presented them with a showstopper recipe. I baked a pumpkin. We all know pumpkin as a sweet ingredient - whether it's pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie or a PSL - but I wanted to showcase the savory side of this squash. I was inspired by this recipe for Roast Pumpkin with Cheese "Fondue" and was thrilled with the result. It became a cheesy pumpkin bread pudding custard. It was outstanding. If you're looking to try something new and daring in the kitchen, this is it.

The roast pumpkin in all its glory

Almost Famous (2000) - I hadn't seen this film since high school and it's a shame I hadn't re-watched it before now. I LOVE THIS MOVIE. It might have just pushed its way into my top 5 of all time. A high school journalist spends weeks on the road with a fading out rock band and learns all about the highs and lows of life as a musician. Billy Crudup and Kate Hudson are fantastic - she scored an Oscar nod for this role - and the soundtrack is phenomenal. Music fans, you need to see this film.

Brothers (2009) - This film is heartbreaking and offers my favorite performance by Tobey Maguire. He plays a Marine who goes missing, and his troubled brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) steps in to help take care of his family at home. Lovely performance by Natalie Portman, but the real star here is Bailee Madison, who was 10 years old at the time. The score is by my favorite film composer, Thomas Newman. It's intense, but so worth a watch.