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.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 22

We are certainly swinging into more autumnal temps lately! I'm ready for some non-90 degree days, but I can do without the 40 degree mornings already. Fall DOES mean pumpkin though, and if you're a pumpkin fanatic like me, it's a very exciting time. Trader Joe's is stocked to the brim with new, seasonal items for fall, including this Speculoos Cookie Butter Beer that I couldn't resist trying. It was sweet, but surprisingly smooth. The spices were nice and not too overpowering. If you like interesting beer and love Speculoos, I recommend trying it out!


I was never a fan of Chicken Marsala, until I had good chicken marsala. Most restaurants cook the chicken to death and drizzle it with a too-thin sauce, so it has never been my bag. Then I found a recipe and made it at home and it opened my eyes to the beauty of this dish. I'll probably still never get it in a restaurant, but I make this at home quite frequently now. Unfortunately, as you've probably come to realize, I've become one of those home cooks that doesn't measure like she should and is vague with instructions. I'll do my best to tell you how I make this dish, but you can also find recipes online if you want to be more precise.

-1 TB olive oil
-2 chicken breasts (I prefer skin off but if you want crispy skin, by all means, get it with the skin on!)
-1 small shallot, diced
-8oz mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
-1/2 cup or so chicken stock
-1/2 cup or so Marsala wine
-1/4 cup or so white wine
-a few sprigs of thyme
-1 bay leaf
-dash of heavy cream
-cooked pasta or other starch to serve
-Parmesan cheese to garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Pound your chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap until they're about 1/2" thick and season with salt and pepper. Sear your chicken breasts for a few minutes on each side, until a nice brown crust appears. They won't be fully cooked, but remove them and put on a plate for now.

Using the same skillet, add your shallot and mushrooms and let cook a few minutes. Then pour in your stock, Marsala and white wine. Let this come to a boil and add your thyme and bay leaf. Continue to let this simmer, and add your chicken back in. Use a meat thermometer to tell when the chicken is done. The sauce will thicken and reduce, so feel free to add more liquid if things look a little too thick. When the chicken is done, remove the herbs and add a dash of heavy cream. Serve over pasta or any starch of your choice, and top with shaved Parmesan!

Chicken Marsala

From Dusk Til Dawn (1996) - I'm a big Tarantino fan, so this film has been on my list for a long time. It wouldn't be a Tarantino film without a few bloodbath scenes, and you don't have to wait long for the first one, which pops up about 5 minutes in. Q and George Clooney star as thieves on the run, heading to the Mexico border when an unassuming family get involved. What begins as an engrossing story with great character development kind of fizzles into a silly sci-fi tale with vampires. Big fan of the first half of the film.

Captain Phillips (2013) - This movie gives me anxiety! The film does a great job of making you feel as if you're truly there, with Captain Phillips (played by the always lovable Tom Hanks) and his Somali captors. Barkhad Abdi gives an incredible performance and was nominated for an Oscar for this, his first film ever. You'll want to look away, but you won't be able to. It's a thrill.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Farm to Fourth at Home

I love dining for a good cause. Winston-Salem's annual Farm to Fourth Fundraiser to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina followed the lead of many events this year, and went virtual. Farm to Fourth at Home still provided people the opportunity to taste some fabulous dishes from local chefs, and raise money while doing it. Chefs from The Katharine Brasserie, Spring House, The Porch, Providence and more prepared dishes. I wish there was an event like this once a quarter! 

I couldn't have been more impressed with the organization of the fundraiser - everything from the ease of picking up the meal, to the ability to re-heat items, to the outstanding quality of the food. I appreciated the cohesiveness of the meal too - there were Southern through lines (sweet potatoes, shrimp, sausage) and everything complimented each other well. To kick things off, we had a craft cocktail featuring Winston-Salem's Broad Branch Sungrazer Rum, Fire-Roasted Pineapple, Lavender, Ube Extract and Vanilla Bitters. This was a welcomed burst of flavors to the palate - subtle spice from the roasted pineapple and warmth from the vanilla - and it was a vibrant purple hue from the ube (which is a purple yam!) Quite slurpable.

Just look at that color!

Our first of two appetizers consisted of NC Shrimp and Sausage, slathered with a Hot Honey BBQ Sauce, roasted Purple and Orange Sweet Potatoes and a Candied Bacon Crumble. The shrimp were perfectly cooked (not easy for a take-home item!) and the sausage had a notable amount of heat, which I dug. It also provided a nice smoky flavor, to match the smokiness in the bacon. The sweet potatoes were tender and a nice echo from the starter cocktail. Shrimp, sausage and bacon, what's not to love?

Shrimp, Sausage and Sweet Potatoes

I flipped out at how delicious this next item was - Texas Pete Chicken Flautas. I am forever changed. It was like a cheesy chicken egg roll, stuffed to the brim so you weren't left with a bunch of excess tortilla. It was served with fresh pico that I could eat by the spoonful, and a spicy Texas Pete CHA sour cream. And the crispy shell maintained its crunch - again, not easy to do for a take home item!

Texas Pete Chicken Flauta with pico and spicy sour cream

A refreshing salad of Mixed Greens, Pickled NC Shrimp, Candied Pecans, Pearl Onions and a Honey Cider Vinaigrette was a welcomed break from the heat of the previous two dishes. This course was a substantial size and protein-packed from the shrimp and the pecans. I liked the acidity in the vinaigrette, too. And apologies - I didn't get a photo of this course, or of the flavorful bread from Bobby Boy Bakeshop, which was a hearty, artisanal whole wheat, with a ton of flavor and a nice chew on the crust.

Now onto the main events. Yes, plural. As if there hadn't already been enough delicious food! Beef lovers would rejoice at tender Short Ribs, accompanied by Bordelaise Sauce and Gremolata, but the Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin stuffed with Collard Greens, Smoked Gouda and Andouille Sausage stole my heart. This pork trio (bacon - pork loin - Andouille) was sensational, and the tangy collards broke up the richness. It's clear that a lot of time and effort went into this dish, and truly, every dish of the night. To accompany the proteins, we had another serving of those delicious, buttery collards and the best Sweet Potato Hash I've ever had. There was a Mexican flare, adding Corn and Black Beans to the mix, and a bright Cilantro Cream. YUM!

Pork Loin Roulade, Sweet Potato Hash, Collards

To round out the meal, and to get us excited for apple season, we enjoyed an Apple Almond Tarte with Spiced Vanilla Cream. Perfect for fall. The apples were thinly sliced and spread out beautifully over the not-too-sweet, almond-studded crust. This dessert, like most pastries, clearly took some time and thoughtfulness. I appreciated that it wasn't cloyingly sweet and used fresh apples - none of that canned, gloopy stuff. 
Apple Almond Tarte

Again, I wish there was something like this once a quarter. The team did a tremendous job of piloting this program at home. I can only imagine the logistics it took to manage all of this, and it was executed seamlessly. I look forward to the next one - in-person or at home - I know it will be a success.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 21

For me, summer isn't complete without a trip to the beach. This summer however, it proved to be quite difficult to try and figure out when and how to get to one. Finally, I booked a few days at Carolina Beach, and it was amazing to get a change of scenery, and one that included the ocean. There were very few people on the beach, and we had some pretty terrific weather. And I came home just in time for some 59 degree mornings, prepping me for fall!

My favorite view

I've always loved a Vodka Cream Sauce, and had never attempted one until recently. Homemade pasta sauce might be best, but a doctored up jar of tomato or marinara sauce also works just fine.

-1 jar tomato or marinara sauce
-a splash (or 2) of vodka
-a splash (or 3) of heavy cream
-1 box linguine or other long noodle
-protein, optional

Heat your red sauce in a large skillet and stir in your vodka. Let this simmer for a bit, so the alcohol cooks off. Meanwhile, cook your noodles according to package directions, and if you want to add a protein, get that ready. I sauteed some raw shrimp with olive oil and garlic, and then stirred that into the sauce, but you could also add in some cooked chicken, or even something like Kielbasa might work? Go crazy. Add the heavy cream, noodles and protein to the sauce and get everything coated. And then be prepared, it will be hard to go back to plain red sauce. 

Linguine and Shrimp in Vodka Cream Sauce

The Searchers - A friend and avid reader suggested that I watch this film, and I'm ashamed to admit, that it was my very first Western. This movie introduced me to the iconic, commanding on-screen presence that is John Wayne, and he does not disappoint. Wayne and a fellow cowboy head into the wild west, in search of his kidnapped niece. There are certainly some corny moments (it was filmed in 1956!), but there are several endearing ones as well. At times this film might leave you "searching" for depth, but it's a quintessential American Cowboy classic that will certainly entertain.

Desperados - Another Netflix rom-com that presents a silly plot, but wins you over by the end. Nasim Pedrad heads up a trio of gal pals who jet set to Mexico, to delete a manic email that accidentally got sent to her new boyfriend. This movie will make you want to be somewhere tropical with your friends, but about an hour and change in, you'll probably start to zone out. It might be a bit too long for its own good, but it's a welcomed escape from the real world. 

Friday, August 28, 2020


I turned 33 this week. Like anyone that's celebrated a birthday during COVID, I spent a lot of time outside, and had a lot of wine. I visited some beautiful wineries and stocked up on some good bottles. To top off the celebration, my family and I went to Bernardin's in Winston-Salem. This restaurant is in the historic Zevely House, which also used to be a restaurant (and happened to be my mom's favorite.) The evening was close to perfect, and this post marks my first restaurant review since March. 

I chose Bernardin's for my birthday dinner because they have a beautiful outdoor terrace. In fact, they're only doing outdoor seating right now. The patio is covered, with plenty of space between tables, and ceiling fans add a nice breeze. It backs up to a beautiful garden in the West End neighborhood of downtown. We were one of two tables occupied, so it felt like private dining. Our server was prompt, congenial and made us feel comfortable and right at home. She listed off what seemed like 10 specials that all sounded fabulous - it was difficult to make a decision with so many delicious options. I was especially excited to see the Asian influence in this menu - several items featured wasabi, sweet Chinese mustard, cilantro and kimchi.

I started with a perfect martini (Absolut-dirty-blue cheese olives) and the Tuna appetizer. This dish featured tuna two ways: seared rare and sliced, and tartare, both served with a spicy Kimchi Slaw, Chili Soy Sauce and Wontons. It was certainly peppy from all the spice, but that's the kind of dish I love!  Really bright, punch you in the mouth flavors. Nice crunch from the kimchi and wonton. Next time, I'll order this and a salad and call it a day.

Seared Tuna + Tuna Tartare

Kale Caesar Salads are certainly trendy these days, partly because kale is a superfood and it just tastes better with a yummy dressing, and partly because romaine is a bit unpredictable. The kale is sliced into thin ribbons and tossed with Carrots and Red Cabbage for additional color and crunch. It's tossed with a homemade Caesar dressing, and topped with shaved Parmesan and Garlic Croutons. It was so light and there was no bitterness from the kale. I liked that it wasn't totally drowned in dressing, either. And it was large enough for two people to share, easily.
Kale Caesar

After deliberating on several menu items, I had it narrowed down to the Seabass with a Truffle Vinaigrette, and the Curry Grouper. It nearly killed me to choose, but I opted for the latter. This is my kind of dish. Beautiful, thick grouper is nestled on a bed of Jasmine Rice, topped with an Eggplant "Caviar" and a Curry Tomato Sauce. It's drizzled with a Cilantro and Mint Yogurt Chutney. I mean, WOW. This combination of flavors is a dream to my palate. The curry wasn't overly spicy, but it gave you a warming sensation so you got the heat, and could still taste everything. That's the sign of a good curry. The chutney was essential for cooling things off, and the rice soaked up every bit of the remaining sauce. I'm sure the seabass was great, but the curry grouper was love at first bite.
Curry Grouper

I also sampled the Salmon with Garlic Spinach and Port Wine Sauce, which was excellent, but very rich - that port wine sauce is heavy on the butter! The Filet Mignon with Gnocchi and Goat Cheese is also a solid choice - you can never go wrong with a Filet.
Salmon with Spinach and Port Wine Sauce

Filet with Gnocchi and Goat Cheese

Bernardin's is a staple in downtown Winston-Salem and for good reason. It's technically called "Bernardin's Fine Dining" but the fusion-inspired menu and pop music playlist makes it feel more accessible. The menu features staples, but with a modern twist. I'll be back to get the other 20 items on the menu that called my name.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 20

I have been doing these at home posts for 20 weeks now. That is absolutely insane. Eventually, I'll get back to writing about restaurants and new releases, but in the meantime, this has been super fun, so thank you all for humoring me! I'd love to hear what you've been cooking and any fun recipes you have discovered or been inspired to make. And just in case you were wondering, my bunnies are still hopping around.

I absolutely love French food, particularly a good Croque Madame. I had one for the first time about 10 years ago in Paris, and the magic of that sandwich has stuck with me ever since. I decided to try my hand at it, and it's incredibly comforting and easy. (Side note - if you omit the egg on top, you've made a Croque Monsieur.)

-2 slices white bread (like a Country White, not Sourdough)
-2 TB butter, divided
-2 slices ham
-1 cup of gruyere cheese, shredded and divided
-dijon or whole grain mustard
-1 egg

Melt 1/2 TB of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add both slices of bread, and let them get nice and toasty. Meanwhile, preheat your broiler. Remove the bread from the pan, flip them over, and spread some mustard on the toasted side. (I like to toast the inside of my bread for texture and it helps the cheese melt!) Layer your ham and half of the cheese on one of the mustard-topped slices, then top with the other mustard-topped toasted side. Melt another 1/2 TB of butter in the skillet, and add your sando. Once that gets nice and toasty after a few minutes, carefully lift it to add in another 1/2 TB of butter, then flip and griddle the other side. Once that side is toasted to your liking, remove the sando from the skillet. Top with the remaining cheese and place on a sheet pan. Put it in the oven and broil for about 5 minutes - keep your eye on it. Broilers can deceive you! Meanwhile, melt your final 1/2 TB of butter in the same skillet, and crack an egg in. Season with S&P and cook to your liking - sunny side up is a dramatic presentation, but if your heart prefers fried over medium, do you. Remove the sandwich from the oven, then slide that egg on top. Eat with a knife and fork alongside a glass of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Bon appetit!

This did not have nearly enough cheese, so I increased the amount in the recipe above!

Palm Springs - Definitely a unique concept, and reminiscent of a classic 80s movie I won't mention, so as to not spoil the plot. If you're a fan of Andy Samberg, you'll particularly like the quirky, dry humor. Great supporting cast, and his chemistry with Cristin Milioti is on point. I thought the movie was also shot beautifully - vivid colors, great cinematography - very enjoyable overall.

The English Patient - Yowza. Winning 9 Oscars in 1997, I always remember my family talking about this epic romance being a fabulous, heart-wrenching film, just long AF. I was too young to see it when it came out, but I recently plowed my way through, and thought it was very good, but maybe not 9 Oscars-good? The cinematography was excellent and I thought Juliette Binoche stole the show, but I don't know that it holds up extraordinarily well 23 years later.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 19

 Just a photo of a goat from a friend's farm to brighten your day. That's the latest here!

I didn't get on the Sourdough Bread bandwagon that became a craze earlier this year, but I did decide to try my patience at yeast-raised Cinnamon Rolls. I had been sitting on this recipe from Taste of Home for a long time, and thought now would be an excellent time to try it out. 
My work is NEVER this neat!

Of course, if you know me, you know that I decided to forego the standard powdered sugar glaze and made a Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting from Sally's Baking Addiction which sent these rolls right over the top. Really decadent and rich, just how I like my sweets.

I have to give a shout-out to DJ's Cheesecakes, which you can find in multiple locations throughout the Triad. Owner Daryl Myers is a graduate of Second Harvest Food Bank's Providence Culinary Training Program, a unique program in Winston-Salem. I was so excited to finally find and purchase some of his addicting cheesecake and I couldn't stop eating it. If you see the Banana Pudding Cheesecake, get 3 slices - it's INSANE!

The Tale - This film is a true story by writer/director Jennifer Fox. Laura Dern plays Jenny, a woman coming to terms with the abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her horseback riding instructor. Lots of shifts between past and present, and director Fox does a wonderful job of blurring the lines between reality and imagination. Incredible supporting cast, including Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Ritter and newcomer Isabelle Nelisse. 

Half Nelson - Ryan Gosling stars as an endearing inner-city middle school teacher, who seems to have no problem connecting to his students in the classroom and on the basketball court by day, but can't put down the crack pipe at night. This character seems to be able to balance his work hard-play hard lifestyle, until a student catches him getting high and brings his addiction to the forefront. Gosling is great in this role because he really frustrated me. I rooted so badly for him to get it together, and he grew more and more apathetic as the film went on. Beautiful performance by Shareeka Epps as the young pupil he forms a friendship with.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 18

Thank y'all for continuing to humor me with these at home editions of C&S! It is definitely providing me a fun, creative outlet while my social life is much on hold. This free time at home also gave me the opportunity to work on (and finish!!) this puzzle I ordered from Our State Magazine. It was super challenging but lots of fun, and reminded me of a family trip we took to the Outer Banks nearly 20 years ago. Check out the puzzles for sale here:

I've been on a big Pimiento Cheese kick lately. It reminds me of summers at the beach, when all I would eat for lunch were Pimiento Cheese crackers (I'm not a sandwich gal, see) and while people are VERY particular about their favorite "Caviar of the South," I'll only pontificate briefly about mine.

My favorite Pimiento Cheese is my grandmother's (she's also the one responsible for the recent Okra & Tomatoes post). In my humble opinion, if you're not going to make your own, the only decent store-bought options are Palmetto; MyThreeSons (made in Greensboro!); and the wild card - Food Lion's deli brand (I KNOW!) But this homemade recipe is simple and hard to beat. I did take the liberty of adding an ingredient to give it extra pizzazz, but it's entirely optional.

-8 oz. Cracker Barrel brand Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated*
-4 TB mayonnaise (start with this amount, you can always add more if you need)
-2 oz. jar of diced pimientos (don't drain)
-1 tsp black pepper
-1 tsp vinegar (apple cider, white wine or champagne vinegars work best)
-pinch of salt
-2 TB Mount Olive brand pickled jalapeno slices, chopped (optional)

Combine the cheese and mayonnaise in a bowl. Using the back of a fork, really mash the cheese into the mayo, so that it becomes creamy. Add the pimientos, pepper, vinegar, salt and jalapenos if using. Taste for seasoning. Best enjoyed on crackers, between 2 buttered, grilled pieces of bread or with a spoon.

*Pro tip - let the block of cheese come to room temperature so that it's easier to grate!   
The "Caviar of the South" - my favorite Pimiento Cheese
I've been enjoying exploring mixology more and more these days (what else is there to do?!) and I've been loving these Amaretto Sours. Trust me, they're better than anything you had in college.

-1 1/2 oz Disaronno (amaretto liqueur)
-1 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
-1/2 oz simple syrup
-1 egg white (do not omit this!!)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake for a full 30 seconds, to ensure the egg white gets thoroughly incorporated into the drink. Then, add a handful of ice, shake again and start slurping.

Set It Up - A true Netflix rom-com, meaning it's decent mindless entertainment. Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell have great chemistry as two corporate assistants who try to set up their miserable bosses. Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu both shine as these difficult, temperamental executives, and the end will tug on your heartstrings. Certainly not one to withstand the test of time, but will most certainly do for now.

Blockers - Anything with Ike Barinholtz is pure gold to me. The premise is a bit silly - three parents try anything to stop their kids from losing their virginity on prom night - but there are actually some good laughs. Barinholtz has fabulous chemistry with co-stars Leslie Mann and John Cena, but the real stars might be the young actors, who have terrific comedic timing. Lots of emojis and lots of millennial jargon, though I realized while watching it, I'm closer to the parent character age of 43 than the kid character age of 18! 😱

Friday, July 31, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 17

I can hardly wrap my head around the fact that August 1 is TOMORROW. How did that happen? Sometimes it feels like the days are long and never-ending, but the weeks and months just seem to fly by. I'm desperately trying to find beauty and positivity wherever I can these days, so I was grateful to spot this glimmer of a rainbow on a recent walk. It certainly brightened my day (and it doesn't take much to brighten them these days!)

I have another recipe for you guessed it...the TOMATO. I promise I'll get off them eventually, but they're in peak season right now, so it would be a tragedy not to use them. I used what I had in my fridge and made this up. I realize I should probably try a recipe more than once before I share it with my readers, but I just don't have time for that. Plus I was quite pleased with these results.

Pesto Tomato Tart
-1 refrigerated pie crust (like Pillsbury)
-2 ripe tomatoes, peeled
-1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (plain, or flavored like Chive & Onion or Garlic & Herb)
-1/4 cup cottage cheese
-3 TB pesto
-shredded Parmesan
-salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400. Unroll your pie crust into a pie dish and poke the bottom with a fork, to make little holes. Put it in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then let it cool for 5.

Meanwhile, slice your tomatoes 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Salt them and lay them on a paper towel-lined plate, so as to draw out the water. 

In a mixer, combine your cream cheese, cottage cheese and pesto. You could choose to omit the cottage cheese and double up on the cream cheese, but I wanted to add in some extra protein. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Spread this on the pie crust, then top with the tomato slices. Bake for 20-22 minutes, then sprinkle on some Parm and bake for 2-3 more minutes. If the crust starts to get too dark, cover the edges with foil. Let cool slightly before serving, and store the leftovers in the fridge.
Pesto Tomato Tart

*Alternatively, you could slice the tomatoes, drizzle with pesto, sprinkle with salt, pepper and feta cheese and call it a day.

I would be remiss if I didn't share with you my favorite, indulgent, go-to summer drink: Banana Sexies. Years ago, a friend returned from her tropical honeymoon raving about these drinks, and I've been making them ever since. I won't be drinking them anywhere tropical this year, but my back deck works just fine.

-1 tube frozen pina colada mix (I use about 1/2 a tube for 2 drinks)
-Spiced Rum (like Captain Morgan)
-1 peeled banana, cut into 1 inch cubes and frozen for at least 30 minutes
-Baileys Irish Cream
-ice cubes

Put all ingredients into a blender. Eyeball the amounts. Blend. Taste. Adjust as needed. Enjoy. See you tomorrow.

The Disaster Artist - This was a really intriguing and nuanced performance by James Franco. This film tells the story of Tommy Wiseau and his infamous movie "The Room", which I subsequently attempted to find, of course, but had no luck. A lot of mystery surrounds the man behind the "best worst film ever made" - his origin, financial status and age are still pretty unknown to this day. Franco's chemistry with real-life brother Dave, and the fabulous supporting cast of comedic stars makes this a weirdly enjoyable film to watch.

Clueless - One of my favorite films of all time. I watched it at a too-young 8 years old and half of the jokes went right over my head. If you haven't watched it in a while (it had been 10 years for me), it is worth the re-watch every time. Alicia Silverstone is at her peak as clueless teen Cher, living the Beverly Hills dream. The film could not have a better supporting cast, soundtrack, costume design - the dialogue is perfection, I cannot say enough wonderful things about this 1995 classic. And it's on Netflix!!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 16

Is everyone surviving these insane summer temps? The only upside is the plethora of crazy good produce available right now, so I'm sharing 2 of my favorite summer dishes for you this week, spotlighting the honorable TOMATO. By the way, if you're looking for a fun way to beat the heat, check out the New Orleans Snow Cone stand at Country Park - as of right now, they're open Monday-Saturday from 11am-7pm and Sunday from 12-7pm. You can mix flavors, and you'll want to - they have more than just your standard Cherry or Grape (Wedding Cake anyone?)
I mixed Watermelon and Cotton Candy, natch.

When I think about my favorite recipes that my grandma makes, three immediately come to mind: Pimiento Cheese, Italian Cream Cake and Okra & Tomatoes. A few years ago, I was inspired by the bounty of ripe tomatoes at the farmer's market and decided to master her Okra & Tomato recipe once and for all. I'm pleased to share it with you today. Non-okra fans will be converted.

-3 TB butter
-20 okra (about 2 cups)
-1/2 cup onion, chopped
-3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
-1 and 1/2 tsp sugar

Cut the tip and the base off the okra, then slice into 1/4 inch thick bites. Melt the butter in a dutch oven or other large, deep pan over medium low heat. Add the chopped okra and onion and sprinkle on a little salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and sugar, a little more salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer, cover and let it cook for about 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes will soften and stew and release their juices, and it is heaven on earth. Taste for seasoning before serving!
The best.

Another favorite summer recipe to use up your ripe tomatoes is Rynn's Cornbread Salad. My former neighbor Rynn brought this to a potluck and my mom and I lost our minds over it. We begged her for the recipe, and here it is:

Prepare your favorite boxed or homemade cornbread recipe (or shortcut and buy pre-made from the store). Once cooled, cut into 1 inch cubes, and layer in a 9x13 casserole or trifle dish. Top with:

-2 cans pinto beans, drained
-1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
-1/2 cup chopped red pepper
-1 large tomato, peeled and diced
-1 can corn, drained (or 1 ½ cups fresh kernels off the cob)
-any other miscellaneous veggies like edamame, peas, chickpeas, what have you

Pour 8 ounces ranch dressing over the top, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. It tastes WAY better than it looks, but considering the ingredients, what's not to love?! 

Cornbread Salad - it tastes better than it looks!
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga - You might start this film and think, what alternate universe have I walked into, where Rachel McAdams and Will Ferrell have agreed to star in this story about an Icelandic musical duo who strive for greatness in the Eurovision Song Contest? But keep watching. It's actually quite entertaining and heartwarming, and will win you over by the end. A musical montage in the middle will have you smiling and singing along. And Dan "Milk Toast" Stevens...out of nowhere! He just crushes it! This film reminded me that Rachel McAdams is one of our generation's best actresses, who hasn't received nearly enough accolades for her work.

2001: A Space Odyssey – If you can get through the first 25 minutes, you should be able to make it through the rest. It clocks in at 2 hours and 48 minutes, but with striking visuals and beautiful music, it’s a classic for a reason. Definitely timely, playing into the world of A.I. and the fear that robots may one day take over. I can appreciate a good sci-fi film, just not one that’s this long!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 15

I’m back to the bird posts, y’all. Here are some shots of my dad's hummingbird feeder, that has attracted male and female Goldfinches like crazy! We love spotting little Goldie!

Such a striking bird!
Going for a dip!

I wanted to revisit a childhood favorite this week - My Dad's Hamburgers. Everyone has their preferred burger seasoning, method of cooking, toppings, bun, etc. But this has been mine since I was in 3rd grade. My dad flexed his culinary muscle when he came up with his signature marinade, back in 1995 when we were living in Greenville, SC. 

-1 pound ground beef
-Store bought teriyaki marinade
-garlic salt
-onion salt

Score the meat to make 4 patties. Shape and flatten, but don't overwork the meat (that makes a tough burger!) Pour the Teriyaki marinade on each patty, then pour more around the patties, directly onto the plate. Don't skimp on this! The beef will absorb the flavor and it is sensational. Sprinkle one side of each patty with garlic salt and pepper, then flip them, and add a little more Teriyaki if it doesn't look wet enough. Then sprinkle that side with onion salt and pepper. Let these sit covered in the fridge for about an hour. 

If you have a grill, by all means, go for it, but I like to cook my burgers in a skillet on my stove, and use my meat thermometer so I can control the heat and retain the moisture and fat in the pan (otherwise it drips down into your grill and you lose all that flavor!) When the burgers are cooked to your liking, top with a good melting cheese, cover and let the cheese melt a minute. Top with any condiments your heart desires (I'm a mustard-ketchup-pickle kind of gal) and serve it on a good bun like a potato roll or buttered, toasted brioche bun. Serving it with the Pickletown Dill Pickle Lager is the right move here. One bite of this immediately transported me to when I was 8 years old. It's crazy how food can do that.

Word's Burger.

One of my favorite summer desserts is made by using Bisquick (or Hungry Jack or any other pancake mix) to make Shortcakes. I follow this recipe for the shortcakes, but I skip the fruit macerating step (fruit this time of year is so good and ripe, it doesn’t need extra sugar.) Pro tip – don’t whip all of the heavy cream – save a little to pour just a bit directly onto the warm shortcake. It makes it super moist and it’s just delicious.

Ibiza: Love Drunk - A friend recommended this to me back when it was released on Netflix in 2018. It's a quintessential girls' trip story, and absolutely hysterical. It made me want to travel and go out and have fun with my friends, so you may want to wait and watch this when we're actually able to go out and do that sort of thing. It tells the story of Harper and her friends who take a life-changing trip to Barcelona. I've never wanted a mojito on the beach so badly.

David Foster: Off the Record – I didn’t realize how important of a producer David Foster is, until I watched this documentary about his life. He was an integral part of some of my favorite songs – Whitney’s version of “I Will Always Love You,” Andrea and Celine’s “The Prayer”, Celine’s “To Love You More”, and countless others, not to mention discovering Michael Bublé and Josh Groban. He is clearly a workaholic, seems to lack empathy and at one point even describes himself as an a-hole, but this film isn't all about the man behind the music - it highlights the music, because of the man. Fascinating, especially if you're a music fan.