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! 😱