Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Southern Home & Kitchen: Cooking Class

At the start of the night. Such high hopes!
Have you heard about the new Cooking Classes offered at Southern Home & Kitchen at Thru-Way in Winston-Salem? I hate to be a hater, but I was pretty disappointed with my experience. I'm willing to give it a second chance, but it's left a chip on my shoulder. The spring-inspired class was scheduled from 6-8pm on a Monday evening, but didn't end until after 9pm. By 7:30pm, we had only received 1 course out of the 4 we would be enjoying. Thankfully, the assistant had a heavy hand when pouring the wine (though we could see that two of the 4 bottles were $3 Chuck from Trader Joe's).

I think one of the biggest problems was that the chef had difficulty multitasking. And for a spring-inspired meal, I was missing some green - where were the Peas? Asparagus? Strawberries? The taste of most everything was fabulous, but the menu was a bit heavy: Leek and Potato Soup; a Potato Pancake and Scallop; Filet Mignon with a Mushroom, Spinach and Goat Cheese Strudel; and Bread Pudding with Kahlua Caramel Sauce. This would be perfect for a fall menu. I can't imagine I'm the only one who noticed this.

Bread Pudding...finally!
To his credit, the chef quickly whipped up two impromptu sauces that wonderfully complemented the Scallop and Filet Mignon (both cooked to perfection), and impressed me with his food knowledge. The Scallop was finished in the oven, along with the Latkes, which were a bit gummy, but the impromptu sauce made up for it! I was intrigued by his use of Streusel in the Bread Pudding - removing the dish halfway during the baking process and adding a simple crumble of Brown Sugar, Butter, Pecans and Salt adds a wonderful layer of flavor and crunch. But if you're going to go to the trouble of making a divine homemade Kahlua Caramel Sauce, don't drizzle Hershey's Syrup on it too!

At the end of the class, I was more ready to leave than I was full. Luckily, Dewey's Bakery offers free cake squares on Monday, so my partner in crime and I had a yummy morsel on our drive back to Greensboro. If you go to one of these classes, and I encourage you to, have a snack before you go. It's a very cool store and this is a terrific concept, so maybe I just hit it on an off night. But for me, $46 is a lot to spend on something I'm very less than satisfied with.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Other Woman

Starring: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Taylor Kinney
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Running Time: PG-13
Rating: 1 hour, 49 minutes

I was pretty skeptical about “The Other Woman” – I'd seen a ton of press and just knew it would be slapstick (see most of Cameron Diaz’s film history), whiny (ahem, Leslie Mann in “This is 40” and “Knocked Up”) and amateur (Kate Upton who? Oh, boobs) but I was proven so very wrong. This is a fantastic chick flick, that I’ll liken to the ultimate woman's revenge movie: “The First Wives Club”. The chemistry between Diaz and Mann is undeniable - I laughed out loud several times at Mann's brilliantly improvised lines. So did every other woman (and the few men) in the theatre. I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie. 

Gorgeous! Photo courtesy of Moviefone

You've seen the previews - you get the gist. Carly (Diaz) is sleeping with Mark, who is married to Kate (Mann). Once a THIRD "whore" is discovered, the three decide to get even with Mark. Though it gets a bit cheeky - hormones in his smoothies, Nair in his shampoo - the big take down comes as a twist at the end that I didn't see coming.

Taylor Kinney (aka Lady Gaga's beau!) is a breath of fresh air as Kate's sensitive, wealthy and good-looking brother. Nicki Minaj grabs every scene she's in as Carly's sharp-tongued assistant. I was so hoping she would burst into "Starships." And Kate Upton is actually charming. The movie is full of beautiful people. 

This film is a treat. To reference a favorite DC3 (or 4 at the time) song, "Ladies, leave your man at home." "The Other Woman" will have you laughing and making friends with the women in the row behind you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

God Bless Texas: Houston!

I love having friends who live in cool cities. I really didn't know much about Houston (like the fact that it's the 4th largest city in the US!) but I'm pretty much obsessed with it now. In 3 days, I had more meat and hot sauce than I've had so far this year, and loved every bite. My fellow North Carolinian Kelsey and I fell prey to the allure of the city, thanks to our fantastic tour guide (and North Carolinian at heart), Kate.

With my girls!
Our first meal had to be "Tex-Mex," if you will, at Lupe Tortilla. We were treated like royals - samples of their Beef Burritos (spoiler: they're OUTSTANDING), free Flan, two types of Salsa - I was in love already. For lunch, Local Foods has killer fresh ingredients. Truffled Egg Salad is the only egg salad I've ever enjoyed - and I would eat this on a flip flop. It's ridiculously light and fluffy, and the fact that it's served on a Pretzel Roll totally takes it over the top.

We made our way to Rice Village (by the University) for some shopping. It's comparable to Friendly Center or Thru-Way, but way, WAY bigger. At Torchy's Tacos, my eyes fixated on the words "Jalapeno Sausage." If the Truffled Egg Salad blew me away, the Jalapeno Sausage Taco put me on another planet. I was excited to try the Barbacoa Taco, but the Jalapeno Sausage totally took first place. Kate's friends were doing "bar golf," and we tagged along, enjoying Moscow Mules and local Texas beers at several different stops. This was an incredibly fun way to explore the humongous, diverse city.
Macaron heaven!

After exploring the Farmer's Market where we sampled Pecan Wood-Smoked Brisket with Raspberry Sauce (though I gotta admit - I'm an NC BBQ gal - the more vinegar, the better!), we made our way to what's best described as Whole Foods on steroids. Houston's Central Market has everything you've ever dreamed of and more. I almost lost it when I saw a carton of fresh squeezed WATERMELON juice - delightful! I had to sample a Goat Cheese and Honey Macaron, Buffalo Blue Cheese Popcorn and a Caramel Apple Praline Cookie. I just kept seeing my favorite words. What's a girl to do?

I'd like to swim in this Vermicelli bowl.
Thankfully, the humidity and heat were extremely low, so we were able to be outside and ride around the gorgeous neighborhoods without melting our faces off. At Mai Vietnamese, you'll find the most fantastic Vermicelli Bowl of your life. Mongoose versus Cobra is a happening spot to sit outside and enjoy a craft beer. (Or 4.) For an unparalleled dinner, the Red Lion British Pub does up some of the most tender Scallops atop an insane Black Truffle Mash.

Prior to catching my flight, I had to get one last Mexican Food fix at Pappasito's Cantina. A $2 Bloody Mary special sealed the deal. The trio of tacos - Grilled Shrimp, Pork Carnitas and Brisket - came with an appropriate Salsa for each meat. Non-Texas tacos bore me now. I can't wait to go back and explore more of Oil Country. If I've learned anything, it's that Texas loves Texas. And so do I.
God Bless Texas.

Monday, April 14, 2014


My dad had Fleming’s on his “to try” list for years. We visited the unparalleled steakhouse for his birthday and left total converts. Start at the bar, so you can enjoy an Extra Dirty Martini with Blue Cheese-stuffed Olives and some of their homemade Salt and Vinegar Kettle Chips - one crunch is truly not enough.

The Wedge. More like, the leaning tower of Bacon.

Plump darling Scallop with Goat Cheese Polenta
Garlic Bread is served with Sun-Dried Tomato Butter and Mascarpone Gorgonzola Butter. The latter is perfection; they should sell it as a body cream. It’s ridiculous to not splurge on the limited-time $40 promotion, since a Filet alone is typically $41. The first course sets the bar high – a buttery scallop served on a bed of Goat Cheese Polenta with tender Cherry Tomatoes. The Wedge is more like the leaning tower of Bacon, with Crispy Fried Onions, Sliced Blue Cheese, Tomatoes and Pine Nuts. French Onion Soup possesses a yummy Sherry flavor, full of onions, Gruyere and toasted Crostini. You could stop here and be totally satisfied, but the main event was around the corner.

Filet and Lobster Tail!

The Petite Filet with Lobster Tail is about as decadent as you can get. A saucer with melted butter is available, if you choose to take things OTT (over the top). The cracked Peppercorn and salted crust on the filet is fantastic. Spread some of the Mascarpone Gorgonzola Butter on top. Yowza!

Happy Birthday Dad!

The Chocolate Lava Cake seemed most appropriate for a night of celebrations and indulgences. The brownie-like exterior and brownie batter-like interior just screams to be mixed with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chantilly Cream. Raspberries add a nice acidity and color. The Pistachio Cookie is reminiscent of a savory shortbread, and is better than a spoon to get every last bite of melted goodness.

If you go for your birthday, you’ll leave with a box of four Chocolate Truffles. Fleming’s seriously takes care of their customers. This is most definitely a splurge, but you get what you pay for. You’ll leave feeling like very satiated royals.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

RiverRun International Film Festival: Le Chef

Starring: Jean Reno, Michael Youn, Raphaelle Agogue
Director: Daniel Cohen
Running Time: 1 hour, 24 minutes
Rating: PG-13

The RiverRun International Film Festival kicked off its 16th year last weekend, with a trio of fantastic films. I had the pleasure of attending “Le Chef,” at UNCSA’s Main Theatre in the exciting Film Village, thanks to Tart and Tangy Triad! (Be sure to listen to the podcast on April 8 – yours truly is the guest!) Seats for these films fill up quickly, but 30 minutes prior to show time, we luckily found a seat in what was to be a sold out event.

This is a delightful film, especially for foodies. It’s a lighthearted French comedy, and it will make you hungry for Merlot and Turbot. We follow the story of Jacky, an aspiring, likable chef who possesses the palate and talent, but not the experience. It’s difficult for him to hold down a job, much to his expectant girlfriend’s chagrin. Finally, a fortuitous turn of events lands him in the kitchen of one of France’s most beloved chefs.

We see Alexandre, a top notch chef, as an Emeril or Jean Georges - a classic chef in need of some modern techniques. Enter Jacky. "The Man" is trying to take possession of the restaurant, so Jacky and Alexandre must pull out every trick in the book - including molecular gastronomy - to seduce critics and save their restaurant. They even visit a rival's restaurant for ideas disguised as a Sumo Wrestler and Geisha, a most humorous scene.

The trio of sous chefs are fabulous comedic relief and the score is quirky, a most appropriate soundtrack. Food is the focus of the film, but it's truly more about universal struggles, discovering fulfillment in your work, and finding love and approval from your loved ones and yourself. This story resonates with any audience.

**Thanks Tart and Tangy Triad for having me on the show to talk about it! Listen to the full podcast here!

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Running Time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Rating: PG-13

“Les Mis” fans – lucky you! Russell Crowe charms us once again, albeit briefly, with his canary-like singing voice as Noah in Darren Aronofsky’s latest studio production. The film is the center of quite a bit of controversy, but whatever you think you should expect, you’re wrong. Several elements totally surprised me - even the opening credit font was an indicator that this was going to be a very different and unique interpretation of the story.

As Noah’s wife, Jennifer Connelly has about 5 lines in the entire movie, but is strikingly beautiful and strong in her silences. She doesn’t appear to age at all, while Noah goes through about every hairstyle and color in the book. The landscape of the film reminds me of Crowe's “Robin Hood,” and the score soars.

Am I right? YUM! Photo courtesy of Express
Emma Watson has more emotionally gut-wrenching scenes than anyone in the film, and my new celebrity crush, Douglas Booth, plays Noah's son who falls for her. I can see why these two have no trouble re-populating the Earth. Shout out to Sir Anthony Hopkins, who nails his role as the cooky medicine man grandfather. All animals are CGI (computer-generated), but that doesn’t lessen the effect.

If you’re a fan of director Darren Aronofsky (which I’m NOT), you will probably hate this film, as it’s not the creepy, nightmare-enducing “Requiem for a Dream,” “Pi” or “Black Swan.” It was much tamer, with as much emotion as action, though perhaps a bit too much dialogue. The film provides reasonable answers for a lot of questions – how could he possibly build that ark alone? How were there enough people to re-populate the Earth? – and is a far-stretched but believable interpretation of the story. The flood can't come soon enough, but there are some spectacular visual moments.