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Happiness is a Garden

Just like a mother, it’s difficult to have “favorites”. Here are a few of my garden babies, blooming in all their glory. I don’t have a very large space to garden in, approximately 250 Square feet in my back “yard”. It’s actually more of a patio with small strips of space to garden in, but we have made the most with what we have and my garden “friends” come back every year to play!

Each year, the performance they put on is a little more spectacular. Like a seasoned dance troupe, working together in seamless unison to put on the best show possible.

We all look for our happy place. For me, happiness is amongst the flowers. As we get ready to embark upon Thanksgiving, I give thanks to the flowers for filling my garden with happiness. No judging, always listening, effortlessly giving of their beauty and love.

XO~ Analiese

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Flashback Friday! Appalachian Trail Hike Summer 2014

Follow Along My Flashback to Our Long Weekend Hiking the Appalachian Trail, Maryland Section in Summer of 2014!

Everything I needed to learn about myself, I learned on the Appalachian Trail.  We had just gotten married in June of 2014 and after all the stress of planning our wedding, I was eager to get out in to nature and reconnect with our primal selves. I wish I could be pissed at someone other than myself, but unfortunately I am the one who not only chose the Appalachian Trail for a weekend “adventure” with my new husband, but I also chose the exact route.  Forget the fact that I inexplicably turned in to a complete bitch about 3 hours before we were scheduled to leave AND that I was trying to be mad at him for not helping to plan or pack…and that in spite of the fact that I knew approximately 2 weeks prior that we were going to hike around 30 miles in 2.5 days, but still chose to NOT get myself in hiking shape.  Yeah, this is our story…

Map picture of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland.  Unfortunately, it was taken at the END of our journey!

Friday Night, Day 1:

No maps in hand, we started our journey at about 8:30PM, headlamps in place and properly primed with tallboys of Bud Light.  On a side-note: “Big 40’s” (40 ounce can beers) are definitely going to make my “must have” packing list for hiking next time!  Our packs were probably in the 35 lb (editorial: we think they were actually closer to 50 lbs) range with all sorts of crap that made perfect sense at the time, but as I would find out later, you don’t need a whole lot of stuff to “survive” for 2.5 days. 

Apparently we hiked about 10 miles (editorial: after talking it over, we think it may have been more like 4-miles) the first night.  Starting at 8:30PM and stopping to make camp at about 12:30AM.  The route was relatively flat, minimal rocks and well marked.  Our feet were fresh and we (mainly me) were feeling no pain..thanks to the tallboys 🙂  We had really good daylight until around 9:30PM, then the headlamps were switched on.  I whistled, I sang and planned what I would cook once we stopped to camp.  I couldn’t be any happier and the next day, I barely remembered the ENTIRE trek!  Other than some sort of reflective dots that someone spent a lot of time attaching to the leaves of trees along the path.  So pretty….

Base Camp, night 1:

Well, it took us four hours, but we finally decided to make camp right off the main trail.  We have no idea if we blazed past the first shelter or are just short of said shelter, but it is time to stop.  Everything is SO wet, we are having a difficult time lighting a fire.  Thankfully we have a couple of sterno packs, so after lighting one we built our fire around it and before we knew it, we had a full on, raging fire!  It was after I pulled out the bag of wine = four bottles of wine, that I realized #1, no wonder the pack is so friggen heavy, we need to drink this stuff.  #2, What the hell are we going to put it in to drink?!  After searching through the cook kit, I found 1 pink plastic coffee cup and 1 pink bowl.  PERFECT for our box wine 🙂 About 2 bottles later (who’s counting), I don’t think I EVER cooked anything but, I had certainly found my happy place!

Approximately 3AM – Cut to sleep. 

I don’t know what time it is but I stumbled out of the tent, probably barefoot, and dropped drawer off the nearest log.  Not really sure where the “F” I am, but I am pretty sure I will have a tick in my ass crack after this.  Oh well, back to bed.

7:30AM-ISH.  WHAT THE F*&! DID I DO LAST NIGHT?! AND WHERE THE HECK AM I?!   Jeezus, Apparently 40 ounces of strawbeerita and a bottle or so of cabernet (from a box), isn’t such a great idea.  Ugh.  Husband is looking pretty good though and I am feeling frisky… hmmm, what the hell was that noise?!  Oh.My.God.  We are camped basically on the friggen trail!  A group of hikers just skipped by, with their beards and trekking poles.  Oh well, I guess it is time to break camp and get a move on.

Saturday, Day 2 on the Appalachian Trail:

Next time I will ditch the food, and pack more alcoholic beverage. Hiking without booze is harmful to my mental health! Hopefully we can make some good distance today.  Trying for the Ed Garvey shelter but not really sure where we are now, so we will have to play it by ear.  We think it might be about 16 miles or so.

08:40 am.  FINALLY on the trail again.  Whew!  Made some campfire sausage for breakfast and some instant Starbucks mocha.  Thanks Jason and Nora for leaving this crap when you visited a couple of years ago!  Not sure if my brain would have kick-started this morning without it.  It tastes like shit and literally gave me the shivers as it went down, but what the heck, it’s coffee.

08:55.  Oh, THERE is the camp ground we were looking for last night.  Nice.  Only 15 minutes of flat trail and we would have gotten here.  A sign would have been nice.  Or maybe it’s a different camp ground.  Who knows… I’d like to go with the theory that in our drunken hiking glory, we blazed passed the original camp ground at 2 miles and went on for an additional 8 miles before we finally collapsed with lack of additional alcohol consumption. Off we go.

It’s about 10AM, and I’m actually feeling pretty good.  Jake is pacing ahead of me and is a little too happy for my liking.  I can’t believe how unseasonably cool it is for summer.  I’ve only produced about 1/2 gallon of sweat so far, way less than my usual bucket or two.  So maybe we need to jog a bit…Oh yay…we’re jogging.   

11:30AM We just passed over I70 on the footbridge and a couple of cars honked.  I gave them the peace sign and then realized that they probably think we are “through” hikers and are giving us props.  Chumps.  Or maybe we ARE technically “through” hikers…After all, we ARE hiking through Maryland, and that should count for something!  Anyway, it was pretty cool and I can imagine what real AT hikers must feel like when they cross this bridge and realize that they only have 1000 or so miles to go.  Honestly, that would suck. (editorial after our through hike in 2022: hahahahaha… I had no idea how much!!)

12:30PM.  We have walked through about 6 neighborhoods now.  It’s kind of weird, traipsing through someone’s backyard.  Although, I told Jake that if we lived on the AT, I would absolutely have a water spout with a sign that says, “fill it up and keep movin on”.  Or maybe it’s because we are almost out of water and I might be panicking a bit.  Well, panic is a strong word…I am concerned, but pretty sure we won’t die of dehydration for at least another 24 hours.

A little after 1PM.  We just made it to the Washington Monument.  I had no idea that there was a Washington Monument outside of DC.  It’s not very impressive, so we do the “Griswald” and get back on the trail. 

Five minutes later I SEE WATER!  Yay!! Crisis averted.  I wash my face off, drink about a gallon of water and fill up my camel back. 

I try to talk Jake in to a little rest but he is still adamant about making it to the Garvey shelter tonight.  So I humor him and keep walking.  But I AM pouting.  My feet hurt.

1:30 PM.  My feet hurt.  and I am beginning to walk like an old lady with hip replacement.  I think he slipped the remaining bag wine in my backpack.  Bastard.  He wants to me to feel pain.  Whatever.  It’s like an extra 2 lbs.  I can do it. 

2PM.  My feet really hurt and my hip and my shoulder.  Why my shoulder?  I don’t even know.  It’s not like I am walking on my hands.  Probably the God damned wine bag with its 2 lbs of unnecessary weight!  Jake keeps giving me looks like I am the hunchback of Notre Dame.  Okay, so I might be hobbling like a cripple.  Jeezus, I think I have blisters inside my toes!  Or a couple of ticks have managed to wedge themselves in there.  Who the hell knows?  I am pretty sure I have a colony in my ass crack from lastnight.  Can I die from ticks in my ass?  What if they managed to find a way in to my actual body.  Actually I think I read that they don’t like wet places… but they do drink blood, so that probably doesn’t make sense?  I need some wine to take the edge off.   Shit.  He’s looking at me again.  This time smiling and shaking his head.  Is he friggen laughing at me?!  Let’s see who’s laughing when I polish off the wine later.  I smile and nod my head…nothing to see here!

2:07PM.  Okay, this sucks.  My feet really hurt.  My knees are now throbbing.  Forget the Garvey Shelter, at the next shelter we are stopping. 

2:30-ish.  No shelter yet.  He better stop with the looks and head shaking.  Punk.  I’m hungry. 

2:50-sh.  Hallelujah!!!! It’s a shelter!! Whoop, whoop!!!  Jake is looking at me like I am crazy.  Then he asks me, “are you sure you want to stay here, it’s kind of early.”  I give him the look.  This is a look famously honed by my Mexican Great-grandmother.  All 3 foot, 7 inches of her.  But that look could have you shaking in your boots.  That, AND she rolled her own cigarettes and drank black coffee with whiskey.  She was a bad ass.  Anyway.  We are stopping….AFTER we hike another .35 miles to the actual shelter.  These A.T. through hikers are fucking Masochists. 

Rocky Run Shelter.

Wow.  Texas needs to take some notes from the East.  Truly unbelievable the way shelters are built here.  It is basically an open faced log cabin.  Complete with wooden porch, full sized picnic table and a cute wrought iron rocking type chair. I have no idea if there is water, but I don’t really care right now.  I throw my stuff on the porch and roll out my sleeping bag.  Such a nice breeze rolling over the porch, rolling over me.. naptime.

Rocky Run Shelter

I wake up to the noise of thunder off in the distance.  The breeze has picked up and it feels really nice right now.  My feet are truly not happy and I can barely walk.  I must look like some sort of freak when I attempt to walk.  Oh well.  Gonna try and start a fire in the pit so I can cook up some dinner. 

Total luck.  There are still smoldering embers in the pit and the fire started right up! 

Dinner.  Ha!! I feel better now.  I know his pack was equally heavy.  I hid the massive potatoes and corn in his pack 🙂  I totally forgot about that!!  I giggle a little bit, then I do feel bad.  Poor sweety, I do love him very much and even though he doesn’t complain, I know he has to be hurting too.  I know because he hasn’t complained about not leaving the shelter…  I have an awesome treat in store for us, of a massive filet mignon, baked potatoes and roasted corn for dinner.  Plus we have dehydrated meals in case we are still hungry.  Hey man, a lady has to eat!  But first, I need some of that wine.  I pour us a couple of “glasses” in to our pink containers and get started on dinner.

We probably ate one of the best steaks I have had in years!  Too bad I only had one for us to share.  Looks like we might be on our own here tonight.  Oh darn…spoke too soon.

Through Hiker #1:  The Austrian.

Ova is his trail name.  Not sure why he chose a trail name that sounds strangely egg-ie and quite frankly, I probably wouldn’t understand his reasoning anyway (due to the really heavy accent), but Ova seems like an interesting fella.  First of all, my husband has never met a stranger.  He can talk it up with darn near anyone.  Case in point, the Austrian.  This guy can barely speak English and he is having a hard time understanding. But Jake is just talking away…

What the hell are they talking about, who knows!  But Jake manages to throw in a couple of obligatory laughs, grunts and head nods and the “men” seem to be communicating.  Whatever, hopefully he doesn’t talk to me. I’m not drunk enough to fake accent talk.

I do understand some bits and pieces.  Ova is in his 60’s.  His wife, “love of his life”, is back home.  He is on the trip of his lifetime (walking the AT), but he won’t be able to complete the entire through hike in one trip.  So he started at the half way point and is hiking about 1/3rd of the trail before he has to head back to Austria.  He has 1 month of sabbatical.  His wife is nervous about him being alone, but mostly he has really enjoyed the trip.  He mainly subsists off of snickers, granola and this amazing smelling coffee.  Wait…Wait… is that sports they are talking about?!!  What the heck?!  Sports, really???  The guy can BARELY speak English.  And I mean barely, and Jake is managing to bond over sports!  Men are truly amazing.

Through Hiker #2:  Trail name, Unknown.

And then there was the odd through hiker with friend companion, section hiker.  I call his companion, Chef, since he is really focused on cooking.  This dude hiked in two (not one, but two) ice chests full of meat and drink.  Lucky for him, there is still a lot of fire from my earlier cooking venture, so he gets started.  Steaks, pulled pork, sausages and hot dogs.  I still get a confused look on my face when I think about it. 

Through Hiker #3:  Trail name, Giggles” (Villanova Grad).  This guy was really cool.  Apparently his dad completed one of the first through hikes of the AT in the fastest time.  Needless to say, this kid has something to prove and wants to complete the AT too.  The bonus is, he has some really funny stories of hook-ups on the trail. 

Through Hiker #4:  Hiker Girl with Giggles.  She didn’t really say much, but I am pretty sure she and Giggles had a hook up at some point and he was trying to eloquently lose her. (*looking at this from a 2022 perspective, there is a good chance they are married now!)

Other Hikers:  The drunk frat boys.  Not sure these guys can qualify as actual “hikers”, but they did manage to park their car at the closest trail head and hike in about .8 miles with a couple of cases of beer.  So they get an honorable mention!

Sunday, Day 3 on the Appalachian Trail.

0600:  Breakfast.  Ova is making more of his famous coffee.  This stuff is magical.  I wonder if it is laced with something “special”.  Hmmm, whatever.  I feel great today and can’t wait to hit the trail for our last 12 or 16 miles.  We still aren’t exactly sure yet, but we are hoping to finish by 5pm. 

Sometime in the middle of the day. OOHHH!! Deer! Although, I am not sure if this deer is amused by us or wants to eat our faces?

7-ish PM: We made it! It was a long, LONG day and we managed to cover a ridiculous amount of miles to finish. It’s crazy how you think you are literally in the middle of nowhere and miles away from where you started. Then you get to your end car, and drive to your start car…and it takes less than 20-minutes to get there. 2.5 days, lost in the forest and you were 20-minutes drive time from vehicles. We basically hiked for 26 hours and covered 30-ish miles of terrain, which retrospectively isn’t all that bad for a couple of weekend “warriors”.

Lessons Learned:

  1. There is a whole lot that you can live without.
  2. Your mind can truly dictate your survival
  3. You can smile and be happy or frown and bring everyone down.  Either way it takes one step in front of the other in order to make progress.
  4. Strangely, when you run on a rocky path, you are less likely to trip.
  5. Just because I hurt, doesn’t mean I can’t keep moving forward.
  6. Without pain, there is nothing interesting to write about.

A little post through hike editorial here: Although this particular trip was completed in 2014, my husband and I have reviewed these notes together and after completing a through hike of the Appalachian trail this year (2022), we both agree that these lessons hold up today! I do find it incredibly humorous to read my thoughts from 8-years ago and see how much perspective is changed after full trail immersion for close to half a year. We had no maps, no GPS, no cell coverage and just went for it! Night hiking turned out to be one of our favorite ways to hike the trail when we started. Now after seeing the terrain in the daylight, I wonder how the hell we survived those days! I guess there are more than physical trail angels present on the Appalachian Trail.

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Chateau Kirwan Vineyard and Dinner with Wine Pairing

The Château

It’s been a little over a year (28 September 2021) and this dinner is still on my mind. This was a special wine pairing dinner curated by Oceania and it was absolutely fabulous! Other than a late start time, we left the boat at 7PM, the overall experience was wonderful. For this winemaker, they primarily grow Cabernet grapes, along with Merlot and Petit Verdot. The vineyard is located in the Margaux appellation area near Cantenac.

The soil in this area is primarily gravel and clay, which is why the flavors are so layered with a velvety smooth texture. This Bordeaux will blow your mind!

The Vat room

We started our visit in the Vat room. This is the first step to aging. I love that they used the skins from the grapes to “paint” the barrels! Another bit of knowledge I learned today, is that they are only permitted to use the barrels up to three times. After that, they must either replace them, or they can have them refurbished by the original makers. Typically if refurbishing, the winemaker will offer finished barrels to the winemaking staff first. Any remaining barrels they will sell to the public. Oftentimes, people use these “finished” barrels to make furniture.

Capacity is around 300 barrels. That’s ALOT of wine!

Gorgeous

There is my husband, up front with the guide! Thank goodness he is so attentive, he helps to fill in my knowledge gaps from not paying close enough attention. I get distracted by all the beautiful wine.

Pretty bottles 😍

Our guide stated that we should be on the look out for 2009/2010 Bordeaux vintages and that 2020 could also be a good vintage. He stated that the 2013 is usually a good vintage for the white Bordeaux.

After the tour, we were led to the dining room. It was a lovely, intimate area and we were greeted with passed appetizers with a wine pairing.

I barely had time to take a picture and enjoy the flavors before we were whisked in to the dining area to be seated.

Dining area

Unfortunately, we were unable to be seated with our family, but we took the opportunity to make some new friends.

Each wine was lovingly poured and thoroughly explained for the course pairings. All in all, it was two hours of incredible food and wine!

Amazing menu

Afterwards, we were allowed to purchase bottles from the vineyard shop. We bought a couple of bottles for the ship and had a full case mailed home.

Our bus made it back to the ship just before midnight and wow, we were all completely wiped out!

A huge shout out to Oceania for organizing this awesome shore excursion. It is definitely one that will not be forgotten! I highly recommend touring the Chateau Kirwan estate, they offer more than wine with their perfume workshops!

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Travel to Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Last year (October 2021) we took an epic family adventure to Europe. Have you heard of Santiago, Spain? It was one of the stops along our Oceania cruise.

Travel Map

Xulio (Shu-lee-o) was our tour guide. The locals speak Castilian Spanish and Galletian (mix of Spanish and Portuguese). The most common trees in this area are oak and chestnut. Driving from the port to Santiago is about 1.5 hours. We pass through what appears to be old growth forests with very tall trees. A lot of pine varieties. This makes sense with the high humidity, a lot of fog and overcast weather.

Most tourism in this area is centered around gastronomy. The Galletian lamb are world renowned for meat flavor due to the high salt content in the grasses they eat. The seafood is known for being diverse and fabulous. Most plentiful (and consumed) shellfish are the barnacles (how are these prepared?) around Santiago. Clams and lobsters are well known. Lobsters and rice is a typical dish. The dish has a lot of sauce and liquid made from cooking the lobster, almost like soup. The best known culinary dish is the octopus. You submerge in boiling water three times and then cook to your desire. They prepare with boiled potatoes and then parts of octopus on top. With bit of paprika and olive oil. Very simple. 😋😋 i found an awesome recipe here: https://www.bascofinefoods.com/spanish-recipes/pulpo-a-la-gallega/

The Galletian culture is very closely connected to the Irish Celtic culture. 🍀🌈. You can really feel the Irish roots with the street bagpipes!

Bagpipes in Santiago

Xulio, further explained that there is a traditional tale of apparitions dressed in white clothes walking through the forest and they visit the home of the next person to die. 😳 If you ask me, that sounds like the plot of a horror movie!

The tour guide told us about a hiking pilgrimage called The Comino Trail that brings almost 300k people per year to Santiago de Compostella. The sign that the pilgrims follow is the yellow shell which looks like the sunset shell from Kauai. This shell is the symbol of the pilgrimage path, similar to a blaze on the AT. The Comino was named as a cultural path in Europe. I definitely want to come back and walk the entire Comino at some point in the next few years!

The “newlyweds”

Interestingly, while we were standing in the plaza several groups of pilgrims were finishing their journey!! It was so very inspiring, with bells ringing and people shouting, even in the torrential rain!

Although deeply rooted in Catholicism, the Galletian culture believes in Witches, goblins and faeries. Very much adopted from their magical Celtic beliefs.

Lunch was at the oldest hotel in the “World” (as proclaimed by our tour guide), Hostal de Reis Católicos.

Lunch was a solid five star event! I had no real expectations coming in to it. Maybe a sandwich and some soup, but this was a culinary adventure! Do Spanish people eat like this every day?!

After lunch we had time to walk around the village and do a little shopping. The streets are super quaint and the shops are plentiful.

Recap: we really like Spain…a lot. France was beautiful and “edgey”. Whereas, the people of Spain are very welcoming and warm to interact with; way more relaxed in tone and approach to tours. I highly recommend this town and definitely lunch. Next time we will stay in the hotel we had lunch at!

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Quick & Succulent Larb Gai ( Chicken) Tacos

I’m from Texas and descended from Mexican roots (on my Mother’s father’s side). San Antonio is my home town. It’s in south Texas, surprisingly diverse, and deeply rooted in a type of fusion cuisine that you can only find there. It’s this multi cultural exposure that has truly inspired my tastes for all things taco.

My slogan. 🥳

Today, after listening to my husband complain that “we have nothing…” to eat (show of hands, how many of you have this happen all the time?! 🤣), I perused the fridge and found a package of minced chicken meat and a few other random items, so i decided to throw together a kind of chicken larb with lettuce cups. About half way through cooking I found a package of fresh corn tortillas I had forgotten about, so I pushed the lettuce aside and crisped up some tortillas. *BAM*! Delish!!

Chicken Larb taco

This recipe takes about 15-minutes. From fridge to mouth!

Ingredients:

◦ 1/2 lb ground chicken per person

◦ 1/2 vidalia onion thinly sliced

◦ 4 cloves fresh garlic smashed and diced

◦ Two fresh jalapeños thinly sliced in rounds

◦ 1 fresh lime

◦ 1/2 cup freshly chopped cilantro (I used cilantro for this) or mint

◦ 1/2 cup Finely shredded cabbage

◦ 2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger

◦ 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

◦ 1 Tbsp sriracha

◦ 2 Tbsp chili powder

◦ 3 tsp kosher sea salt

◦ 2 Tbsp soy sauce

◦ Olive oil for sauté

◦ Fresh lettuce for cups

◦ Fresh white corn tortillas

Mix 2/3 of the onion with the cabbage and squeeze 1/2 of the lime into it. Sprinkle 2 tsp of the salt and mix together well. Set aside to marinate.

Onion, cabbage with lime and salt

Sauté the remaining onion, garlic, sliced jalapeños and ginger in olive oil and a pinch of the sea salt. Sauté until translucent and fragrant. It should smell amazing by now!!

Add the minced chicken and chili powder to the sautéed veggies. Break apart and cook for about 5-minutes stirring frequently.

Chicken mixture

Add the liquids; vinegar, soy sauce and sriracha to the chicken mixture and stir together. Turn to low and let simmer for 5-mins. Stir, then add the chopped cilantro and mix together. Cover and simmer for 3-5 more minutes. Then stir and turn off the heat. Let the cooked mixture set while you pan warm the tortillas! Also, IF you have sesame oil, I highly recommend using about 1tsp in the meat mixture. Add it after you turn the heat off as a finishing oil. It really pumps up the flavor!

My trick to warm corn tortillas (I prefer the texture of white corn) is to put a small amount of olive oil in a non stick skillet (I use spray olive oil). Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt to the pan as it heats up. Wait until the salt starts to bubble in the oil. Place your corn tortillas in the pan and let it sit for about 1-minute. Then, using the handle, vigorously move the tortillas around by shaking the pan back and forth. This takes about 20-seconds. Then flip the tortilla over and repeat. 1-minute sit… then shuffle for 20 seconds and flip! It should be a little crispy and browned on both sides. Watch the below video for easy directions on this step!

Browning the corn tortilla

Serve the meat mixture with tortillas and/or lettuce cups. Use the lime onion/cabbage mixture as a garnish!

You can also serve with shredded carrots. I sometimes add water chestnuts (canned and chopped). This adds as awesome crunch.

You can also serve this with cooked ramen noodles…add some chopped peanuts and fresh chopped mint or chopped cilantro with a little lime on the side. 😋

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Dragonfly

Flittering and floating,

From flower to shoulder,

To the top of my head.

As if to tell me,

Sometimes we float away from love,

And sometimes love floats back to us.

I’m struck by her beauty,

And a little sad when she leaves.

Float back!

I silently scream.

Come back to me,

My shoulder beckons her.

And finally,

She arrives.

Dancing before my lens.

Blowing me a kiss,

Before she leaves once more.

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Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly, somewhere on the Appalachian Trail 2022

Unfurled wings,

The Rays of sunshine,

Warm me.

Opened by love,

Soaking in the sweetness,

Of life’s Nectar.

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Manina (A restaurant review in Frederick/Urbana, MD)

29 September 2022

After a long day of gardening, my husband and I decided to try out Manina, a new, local business and we were very pleasantly impressed by the high quality of food and service! This restaurant definitely has room to grow on my palate and I look forward to coming back! Full disclosure, I did provide a Yelp elite review with a rating of 4/5 stars. I typically reserve 5 star Yelp ratings for exceptional restaurants with consistently great food and service.

If you have read any of my other posts, you know we have been back from completing our thru hike of the Appalachian Trail for about 3-weeks. The A.T. is 2194.3 miles of hiking…every. day. It took us just over 5-months to complete. By “us”, I mean my husband did the daily hiking slog and I car supported along the way (hiking about 25% of what he did). He lost a significant amount of weight and now we are working to put some of it back on.

The summit of Mt. Katahdin, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in Maine!

Upon returning home to Fredrick, MD I was super happy to see some of the new restaurants that have popped up!! Manina is one of them…

We were greeted with smiles and a very friendly “come as you are” attitude that we couldn’t be more grateful for at this time. I feel like with so much time in the wilderness, we have forgotten that most people actually clean up and put on “nice” clothes when going out to eat . 🤪 Thankfully our waiter was super nice and welcoming.

After being seated outside, we quickly decided on the deviled eggs and Appalachian pickle plate to start things off. We agreed that the deviled eggs are the rockstar standout of the night! With a small tear in my eye , i almost had to concede my own deviled egg recipe… almost, but not yet! Now the pickle plate, that was a total surprise. My husband was initially horrified at the thought of pickled eggplant but let me tell you, he loved it and we had to darn near fight each other for the tasty morsels. The crunch of the sun chokes were an equally interesting and tasty addition. And the peppers were lip smacking yum! Note to the chef, guard that vinaigrette recipe with your life.

Appalachian Pickle Plate
Deviled Eggs w/edible flower 🌸

I had to try a craft cocktail, and decided on the Appalachian Daisy. Side note, have you noticed an Appalachian theme here?! I swear, we just can’t get the trail out of our veins! The Appalachian Daisy had a blend of smoked apple brandy (from Baltimore) that i could have sworn was a good mezcal and fresh lime juice. As the menu states, “gives off mezcal margarita vibes…”, absolutely the truth.

Appalachian Daisy craft cocktail

My husband had a glass of a local wine, REV, from Old Westminster, MD. REV is an Cab Franc/Cab Sav blend that surprised us with the quality and rich, deep flavors! If you like Cabernet, try this one!

Cheers!

For our main plates I had the Autumn Harvest salad and my husband ordered the Coppa and Cress pizza. The salad had me closing my eyes to fully savor the flavors. The beets, butternut squash… and that goat cheese is magical. It must be local and very fresh made? The Coppa and Cress pizza had a fabulous flavor. The crust was a little too crispy for my personal taste but my husband loved it like that! The cress is the green stuff on top that has a spicy garlicky flavor note. I dipped my pizza slice in the remnants of my salad to scoop up more of that goat cheese and to fully enjoy the rest of the vinaigrette.

Dessert. I know, how could i possibly? ‍ I am a firm believer in dessert bringing home a fabulous meal. Think of it as the cuddle after a great love making session. We…I decided on the sponge cake. After seeing Tom’s eyes light up (Tom was our waiter) when i asked about the sponge cake… I had to get it and OMG. The presentation was awesome. There was some sort of warm, ethereal cream sauce that was poured over the sponge cake. It sort of reminded me of tres leches cake. The flavor was very light and not too sweet at all. TIP: lay the sponge cake over in the sauce and give it time to soak in. Have another cocktail or glass of wine and savor every minute of it. Even my husband enjoyed it and he never eats dessert unless we are talking a dark chocolate truffle.

Sponge Cake

I can not wait to go back and try the hand stretched mozzarella!!

Manina is fabulous and an absolute MUST TRY, if you are a foodie or just love eating great food, expertly prepared. The menu is a little limiting and you must check daily for what is being offered. But with a fabulous Chef, you can really get some unique pairings. Now, this can be risky as a new restaurant but, this foodie finds it refreshing and bold! I’m tired of trying the same old menus. Bravo to the owner for creating something new!!

I’m closing, if you are in the Frederick, MD area, stop reading reviews and go get yourself some fresh, local ingredients prepared expertly for you! I’ll be the one snarfing down the fresh mozzarella with a side of deviled eggs at the end of the bar!

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Sweet Submission

Appalachian Trail Mile, 1947.1

8/23/2022

Whack! 

Another branch, wails the back of my leg.

I whisper under my breath,

Thank you Mistress, may I have another?

I stumble, slip, and fall…again.

The thick mud, made of some sort of clay and

A stink I have never smelled before, clings to my ass

And the back of my thighs.

I take a deep breath, sigh, and pull myself up again.

This time I speak a little louder.

Thank you Mistress, may I have another?

I continue to trudge forward, through some sort

Of swampy, high ground slog.

Over logs that have been laid by her servants before me.

They are slippery, and I lose my footing.

I slip in to the deep quick sand like mud.

Up to my knees. 

I move, attempting to pull my leg out.

I just sink deeper, up to my mid-thigh in this disgusting mire. 

“She” is trying to pull my shoe off.  Mocking me, in my attempt to hike

Her trails.

 I finally relax and laugh.

What the hell am I doing here?

I yell ahead to the group that I am with, “help?!”

With a helping hand, I am able to pull myself up and out, WITH my shoe.

Thank the Gods!

I wash myself off, in her stream, and continue to move forward. 

What else can I do?

I thank “her” and ask for another bit of punishment. Please?

Up ahead I see the trail as she winds downwards to another steep descent.

My knees quiver with anticipation.

Slippery rocks, smooth as glass, and wet.

Fuck. 

I continue to move forward.

Slowly.

Very slowly.

One step.  Two steps. 

I am sweating from the sheer amount of work it takes to think myself through each move.

Each step, so very thoughtful as to not slip.

But no!

She throws up another root.  It grabs my foot.

I slip and she busts my ass. 

Again.

This time I scream in pain.

Thank you Mistress, may I have another!!

She will not defeat me. 

Less than 250 miles remaining.

250 miles of the “most difficult” trail.

I haven’t decided yet, is it difficult because the body is just done?

Given everything it can?

Or is it all in my mind?

The Appalachian Trail Through Hike, is not for the faint of heart.

The Trail is like a cruel Mistress.

A beautiful, punishing Dominatrix, that demands your full attention and

Absolutely destroys you for it.

She pulls everything from you and when you think you can’t possibly take more.

When your body is broken and bleeding,

you crawl through a narrow crevasse of the path ahead,

And she opens herself up to you.

In all her glory, with beaming pride, she shows you the World.

Quite literally, through her sadistic eyes, you see the most magnificent view,

She takes your breath away.

Her body, undulating across the landscape.

Laid out for you.

Teasing you, pulling you in…again.

You ask for more.

She gives it to you, in the form of sheer torturous pain.

You cry out, Why?!

She never answers you.

You feel a whisper from within, that the answers lie ahead.

So, you continue to move forward.

One foot in front of the other.

Her little forest servants laugh at you, as you pass by.

Cackling, and throwing the remnants of nuts and pinecones pieces at your head from the trees above.

Another spiderweb hits you in the face.

“I can’t possibly be the first one here?”, you think to yourself.

And then you feel a rush of excitement that you might be.

With the sunshine warming the fir and pine needles in to a musky,

earthy type of heaven you never want to leave.

As you breathe the scent of her in,

Thinking it can’t get any better than this?

Then, a bug flies in to your nose, to remind you that this is their home.

Another one continues to bite your leg from behind. 

You swat it, in a futile action. 

It has tasted you and wants more!

And you want more, please?

Once you have had a taste of her,

She is a part of you forever. 

The trail, permeates your brain, stimulates a place inside you

That nothing else can compare.

Why?

Something inside you craves her pain and her beauty. 

A dichotomy that only “she” can give you. 

And when you finish, at the end of your day. 

You will crawl under your quilt,

 and quietly beg,

Thank you Mistress, may I have another?

~Analiese Kennedy aka FoodGuru

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1800 Miles Completed, A Love Note to the Appalachian Trail

8/8/2022

Planning.

1800 miles ago my thoughts were abuzz.

Do I have the right shoes? Did I buy the right clothes? Do I have the right tent, and will my sleeping bag keep me warm enough?

1800 miles ago

1500 miles ago, my mind is playing with me. 

Is my beard thick enough? Is my hair matted enough? Is my pack heavy enough? Have I done enough miles? What is that smell?

Today, I think…

Do I have enough water? Will my food last? Is it the right food? Do I have enough calories? Is my body breaking down? Will my feet carry me for one more mile?  What is that putrid smell?  Do I even care anymore?  What the fuck have I gotten myself in to?

What if I let go and surrendered to the trail?  What if I just laid on the forest floor, basking in the sunlight and soaking in the scents?  Would I get any further?  Would I achieve the goal?

What If I took off my pack, burdened with the weight of the thoughts behind me? Weighted down with how other people see me.

Judgement.

Somewhere in between I hover with the things that keep me from living and the things that keep me alive.

My thoughts are dragging me down. 

My feet feel so heavy.  Like walking on broken glass.  I feel so confused, my direction is unclear.  The path blazed before me, seems so far away.  I question every day, every moment.  Why am I here?

I just want to finish.

Achieve my dream.

Complete the goal.

Cross. The. Finish line.

The blue dot is where we are as of 8/9/10

Walking, scrambling, climbing, clawing.  I thought this was a hike?

Another rock tripped over, taking more of my blood.

I want to laugh at myself but, I’m so damn hungry!

Why is my body abandoning me? 

I shake my head, my thoughts tumbling to the side. 

I take one more sip of the last of my water.

I look at the climb ahead and think, just another day in paradise.

This time I laugh.

One foot in front of the other, my stride more confident than it was 1800 miles ago. 

I CAN achieve this.  I WILL achieve this. 

Just 20-more tomorrows, give or take a zero here or there!

~ For Jake-a-Lope, my husband, and my inspiration

Food Guru

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Two Days Off Trail in Camden, NJ and Philadelphia, PA!

7/14 & 7/15/2022

I had a great couple of days spending some time off the Appalachian Trail to reset mentally and spend time with my daughter in Philly.

Bye to my husband, Jake-a-Lope and fellow hiker, Phoenix. See y’all in a couple of days!!

I bought tickets to the Back Street Boys a little over a year ago (maybe longer, i don’t actually remember) with a group of ladies (family) and I was looking forward to attending since I never had a chance to see BSB in my twenties 🤷‍♀️. Fast forward through COVID and then logistically assisting my husband for his through hike on the A.T., and i wasn’t sure if i would make the concert at all. Plus i had developed some sort of tooth or mouth infection that was absolutely killing me (turned out to be severe allergies).Thankfully after much internal debate, a convo with a fellow hiker (thanks Chirp), and some significant medicating I decided to suck it up and go!

Also, to be clear and for those thru-hikers that may be reading this, I am no longer considered a thru-hiker. I am supporting my husband’s thru hike. To his 100+ miles completed weekly, I might hike 20 miles, intermittently…when I feel like hiking🥾

Back Street’s Back Alright!

The concert was on Thursday night and we had stellar tickets, right up front in the pit! I had no idea when I bought them that they would be so fantastic! BSB put on a very energetic and super fun show! They were all rocking the dad bod’s and damn they can still move 🕺 🕺 🕺 🕺 🕺

In the Mosh Pit!
🤣
So close!!

Après-Concert

After the concert we were both in need of some heavy post concert snacking, so we stumbled in to a bar (Victor’s Pub in Camden, NJ) on the walk back to the hotel. Had a fairly decent cheesesteak (a little skimpy on the meat) and some banging parm-garlic wings (we had to send the first batch back because they were grossly overcooked)! The parmigian cheese must have been infused with garlic oil, because they were so savory and delicious, yum! And as an aside, I rarely send food back but, the waitstaff were so kind and understanding. We really appreciate the prompt response and thanks for recognizing there was an issue!

The next day, we slept in late and decided we would have one super amazing meal, and it would be Italian. After cruising through Yelp reviews for about an hour, I booked an early table at Positano Coast, just across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge from our hotel.

Old town Philly, across the bridge from our hotel

We spent about 4-hours wandering around Philly and checking out the sights. Of course we hit up the local market area, Reading Market (pronounced “Red-ding”, which is weird because there are tons of bookstores and libraries nearby?).

Oh man! Why don’t we have fresh markets like this where I live?! So much fresh food, from farm to market to your mouth! We grabbed three BBQ pork spare ribs from an Amish lady at Glick’s Rb Shack and a donut from an apparently famous place named Beiler’s (tourist were lining up for boxes).

Soooo sweet!!
We ate the ribs before i could photograph 🤷‍♀️😋

Everything was so incredibly tasty! The ribs were fall off the bone and had a flavor that brought me back to Texas BBQ. Dry rubbed and you could taste the hickory smoke. The donut (we shared) was very light (like a crispy cream) with way too much glaze. I felt like (my daughter agreed) they could have gone with no glaze and maybe a light dusting of powdered sugar, so that you can actually taste the donut.

Of course we have to look fabulous for our dinner!

It’s right about here, I realize I previously said “one super amazing meal” but, a tasting of ribs and a shared donut are more like a snack, not really a meal per se. 😜

A girl has got to eat! 😜🤣

Anyway, we had to pace ourselves in anticipation of our upcoming Italian feast, so is the friggen exit door?!

On our way to Positano we found all sorts of amazing photo ops with art installations and murals around every corner. This was very reminiscent of a recent European trip! My daughter found THE CUTEST little beer garden, tucked in between some buildings and playing the freshest chill jams. It was a great little stop to rest our feet and have a couple of photo ops!

We had about a 1.6 mile walk to the restaurant, so we sucked back our beers and hit the road.

The Restaurant

#positanocoastphilly

After a fairly brisk 40-minute walk we found Positano situated through a back alley and nestled behind a fairly historical looking structure and courtyard. The decor was coastal. Think Amalfi Coast with lots of blue and white mosaic tiling. It had a very clean, fresh vibe and i was already getting in to it. The music really helped with the vibe as it was pumping with my favorite “electronic chill” jams and i think i just saw a DJ walking in?! Let’s get this party started!!

I had decided the night before that we would do a multi coursed dinner so we could have maximum tasting experience. I always have to pre plan a little or I can be overwhelmed with too many awesome choices and not enough stomach or cash to enjoy them all! It’s a fricken struggle being The Food Guru and all… i obviously love food. 🤷‍♀️

We ordered a bottle of white wine. It was Orvieto. Clean, crisp and fresh. My daughter actually recommended it and she was spot on! Perfect for a hot, sweaty day of walking and exploring. To start, i ordered us the Roasted Beet Salad, Burrata, and Meatballs. I’ve been on a meatball kick since getting in to NJ and each place has been better than the last. I’m hoping the trend continues.

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese

This salad had a perfect balance of vinegar and lemon. Am i tasting champagne vinaigrette with maybe shallots here? 🤔 It just popped in my mouth and was like a gentle nudge to my senses that something special was about to happen, then BAM 💥 the salty goat cheese! The champagne vinegar, the shallots, that lemon confit, pairs so gosh darn well with the earthy beets and goat cheese 😋 The serving was big enough for two or even three people to share (maybe four if, you have *skinny bitch friends that don’t really eat…), which i highly recommend if planned a coursed extravaganza.

Roasted beets with goat cheese

Burrata

I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that the Burrata may be house made? This was like a light pillow of cheesey goodness, that seemed to be hovering just above the plate of ripe heirloom tomatoes. Either these were the best I’ve ever eaten, or i was really craving tomatoes!! Where the dressing on the salad was a light vinaigrette, this plate had a full bodied balsamic glaze that balanced with the delicate burrata perfectly!

Burrata with heirloom tomatoes (i think they used some sort of basil infused olive oil here?)

Meatballs with Ricotta

Whereas most of the Jersey meatballs had ricotta IN them, these were served over a bed of ricotta. Even though they weren’t as light and huge as the others I have had recently, the meat was perfectly seasoned and they had a very equal balance of veal and pork (I’m guessing here). The tomato sauce tasted freshly made, like grandma is in the back room squeezing the life juice out of tomatoes she just picked from the garden she planted with seeds from HER Nona’s heirloom garden!! 😆

Meatballs with Ricotta

The ricotta was like she gave grandpa a job to do in the kitchen and he didn’t want to disappoint because he wouldn’t be getting any action later from grandma. So yeah, awesome job grandpa. Looks like someone is getting something extra special from grandma tonight!! 💋 💦

Obviously I was super amped up after these kind of starters. The juices were flowing and we couldn’t wait for the main event, Casarecce Bolognese and Lobster Ravioli!

Lobster Ravioli

The Lobster Ravioli was ok, but was a little heavy on the seafood essence, flavor-wise. I’m sure a lot of people love those big flavor notes, but i prefer a more subtle, layered flavor profile. The size of each ravioli were huge. Like 2”x2” each. They had spinach inside, which i really wanted to work, but probably would have done better with a cheese or mushroom filling. Spinach was just too overpowering of a flavor for the seafood. The sauce tasted very much like a lobster bisque. I guess what it was really lacking were lumps of lobster. And after the starters, I was ready to put some significant meat in my mouth…you know what i mean?! The chef did have some incredibly tasty shrimps thrown in to the sauce, but i would have left out the shrimp and gone a little heavier on actual lobster. 🤷‍♀️

Casarecce Bolognese

Now the Casarecce Bolognese is a superstar dish! I mean the Chef obviously loves their mother kind of dish! I could feel the love with each bite. I realized about two bites in, I was actually audibly enjoying my food when i looked across to the neighbor table and they were giggling…”I’ll have what she’s having” type of giggles! Bravo Chef, you really brought the meat here!! Layers and layers of flavor, this taste like a sauce that’s been cooking and resting for the past couple of days. We are talking short rib meat and steak maybe ground together for this?

Both dishes plated

We were both stuffed and completely satiated, but dessert? I mean, who doesn’t like cuddles after a main event like that?! 😜 Well, we can at least look at the menu 🤷‍♀️ we decided on tiramisu and salted caramel gelato. I mean come on… Plus cappuccinos! Everything was so great! We thought, they should make an ice cream tiramisu 🤔 maybe use a layer of the salted caramel gelato in there? You’re welcome.

If you ever get to Philly, you have to try this place. You will not be disappointed! Hell, you should go to Philly for this place! Just make sure to bring a healthy appetite and an open mind with your music tastes 😜

I would be remiss if i didn’t finish out our trip notes by not mentioning our brunch on our final morning. Yes, we still had an appetite after our dinner!

First of all, shout out to my daughter for finding this place. She is the breakfast/brunch master! She found a placed named “Winkels” at 1119 Locust street. Holy Shit! I mean, how can the food here keep up with itself.

We started with the Bitterbitten.

Bitterbitten

I wasn’t sure what the hell this was. The name sounded awful but the description had pork in it so we ordered. It was tasty but the texture kind of threw me off. Like a warm, mushy tuna salad 🤷‍♀️ it did have a very pleasant outside texture and the flavor was good. I really liked the pickled onion on the side. They kind of teased out the flavor in the dish!

For my main, I ordered the Bread Pudding French Toast. Cooked perfectly with a nice crunch on the outside. And the candied bacon laid over the top was completely over the top delicious. Don’t give me that look. It was fricken delish!

Bread Pudding French Toast with Candied Bacon

My girl ordered an omelet with mushrooms which she said was fabulous albeit could have done with one less egg. We won’t complain about portion sizes here!!

Mushroom omelet

I’m super interested in hearing what your favorite place to eat in Philly is and/or what is your “go to” Italian dish? Drop me a comment below!

Philly At sunset

*writer’s note: i love surrounding my self with skinny bitch friends. Leaves more for me and they usually have great jokes that keep me laughing all night!! Also, if you are offended by this phrase, then 🫵🏼🖕🏼🤌🏼

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Thoughts from the Appalachian Trail: 962 miles; 6/15/2022

Slept at Mathew’s Arm campground in Shenandoah National Park. space A62

Woke up at 6:15a. Very hot and muggy. Lots of bugs. Thank goodness for bug nets!! Eventually had to get out of bed as i was sweating bullets. Ugh 😩.

Wayside camp store

Tons of caterpillars dropping from trees. So gross.

Brushed teeth, washed face, got dressed. Made breakfast, toasted bagels with egg and cheese. Used a little of leftover pico de gallo in the eggs. A trick i learned from a former work colleague, Sue Myers! Thanks Sue!!

Did a modified camp break, so we could get rolling quicker. Rolled the mattress topper and fitted sheet up with the Luno air mattress. I kind of like this approach. Shaves off at least ten minutes of packing effort.

Saw airlife, an ambulance and a few Ranger trucks at the intersection of US 211 and Skyline. Wonder what happened? Had Jake back on trail by 8:38A. Dropped at Meadow Spring Trailhead, which is .80 from the AT (941.9). Very intense uphill hike with a lot of rocks! Will have to plan our EOD pick ups and drop offs better.

Stone fireplace ruin along the Meadow Spring trail

Drove back to Mathew’s Arm CG to pay for camping X2 nights. Had a nice chat with the park ranger about bears. This camp ground is fairly prolific with a few bear families. Will have to be super mindful at night with our supplies in bear boxes! Also asked about the apparent accident at US 211. Ranger said it was a hiker with significant injuries. Probably not a Thru hiker because the AT doesn’t run Thru that particular area 🤷‍♀️

Campground bear family 😳

Met up with Jake-a-Lope at Beahm’s Gap (947.5) for a quick trail cola! It’s HOT today!! Hiked in a bit. Moving ahead to Elk Wallow wayside so we can meet up for lunch!! I’m jumping on trail to find him and hike in with him 😃

We had an amazing lunch consisting of smash burger (for me) and Beyond Burger (for him). They were fresh made and delish! Sat with a couple of fellas who shared stories of past trail exploits. They were hilarious! I was laughing so loud, maybe even obnoxiously…it was a nice break before i told Jake to “hit the trail” again, “we are burning daylight!” Begrudgingly, he strapped in his backpack and got back at it!

I ran back to camp to pick up dirty clothes and then all the way back to Big Meadows! Apparently, the closest place to do laundry. It was a 45 minute drive and i will be cutting it super close for picking him up at EOD. I was able to squeeze in a shower between washing and drying, so that was nice. I’ve been sweating for about 3-weeks straight now, it’s disgusting. I will have to hose Jake off later at camp. He hates the bag shower, but it’s what we have and works in a pinch.

Laundry!

Was able to finally find Jake-a-lope and extract him from a freshly mowed, side of the road field. Logistics can be difficult but as long as we stay flexible, it’s all part of the journey!!

Sunset on 6/15 🥰

Gave Jake a camp shampoo, so he is smelling pretty fresh right now 🥳

We had bologna and American cheese sandwiches for dinner. Completed with smashed chips in the middle. We are finally winding down and getting ready for story time! Duncan will hold his baby for the first time… or will he?

Good night!!

Inside back of Mazda CX-9, converted to sleeper with Luno mattress
Meadow Spring Trail, end of day pick up
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Blue Toad Cidery

About 4-miles off trail (an easy hitch) and just east of the Appalachian Trail at Reid’s Gap is Blue Toad Cidery. Devil’s Backbone Brewery is directly across the street, but this place is a hidden gem.

Gorgeous scenery, right along the river! You can cozy up inside or take a seat right along the river to enjoy your cider! Manager, Angela, provided a quick tour of their fermentation facility and explained, “…we brew every thing in house. All the apples are locally sourced through agreements with local apple growers.

We ferment everything in-house and have a contract with a mobile cannery. They come on site when we are ready to can. They bring everything, and it works like a conveyor line. It’s quite the process!!”

Angela, giving me the tour!
Fermentation tanks

I am currently enjoying the Paddy Green Irish Cider. The description states, “dry with a tart finish. Made with 100% Granny Smith apples.” But i was still worried about too much sweetness. 🤷‍♀️ However, this did not disappoint! Slightly tart, very slight hint of sweetness and a whole lot of deliciousness! Very smooth, no ugly tart face here!! Full confession here, I’m on my second pint!!

Paddy Green Irish Cider (not really green at all!)

They only have food on Saturdays here, so you can pack a picnic to enjoy, or go across to DB for lunch.

The property is beautiful with outdoor and indoor seating opportunities available.

They currently offer RV camping only, no tents. But hey, stumble across the street and you can shower and camp at DB! It’s all good on your trail journey!

Happy hiking!!

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A Foodie Experience at the San Antonio (Texas) Airport (SAT)

Back in November (2021) I had the pleasure of having my own, personal foodie “experience”, at the San Antonio Airport.  Not every experience needs to be “Big” or planned out.  Sometimes you can just walk in to it.  As long as you are open to trying new things, a multitude of experiences are waiting for you.  The wine today is a particular stand out.  Something my mouth won’t soon forget.  Would it be this good, if I took it home with me?  I don’t know, but would love to find out and share this with my husband. 

I am on a work trip to my home town of San Antonio, Texas. A culinary destination in its own right. Sure, I have my usuals. My “must-haves” when I touch down in San Antonio. Bill Miller’s “poor boy” brisket sandwich,

Brisket poor boy sandwich on rye bread!! 🤩

Mexican food (puffy tacos to be exact),

Delectable and famous Puffy Taco 🌮

and Blanco BBQ’s Chicken Fried Steak (it’s legendary… and if it isn’t, it should be!).

Chicken Fried Steak!

Today, I am at the Airport on my way back to the East Coast. I had about 3-hours to kill, so I had to make a very tough decision. Mexican food or Vino Volo? Yep, you guessed it, Vino Volo it is! I ordered the “Blockbuster Red” flight. A little pricey but, it had some very promising offerings of Bordeaux style blends. I started with an Opus One, then on to a Brio 2015 Red Blend…but the Cornell Vineyards 2014 Cab Sav was the true stand out here!

First of all, I can not believe that this is a Sonoma wine. My brain just refuses to accept that fact. The complexity, the mouthfeel, the way I can taste the earth and the age of the vines is just transformative. Not that I’m a wine snob or an expert in any way, but wow. Coming off a recent trip to Bordeaux, France this wine takes me back. Which is one of the primary things that connects me to the food and wine experience. It is the ability to be transported back to a memory or to another place with a simple bite or a sip.

Secondly, I am so happy Vino Volo made it through the pandemic shut down.  This place is a haven for weary travelers who just want a bit a good jazz “chill” music in the background, fantastic wine options, and a decent food pairing to round out a rigorous travel and work schedule.  Today is just an ordinary day in the life of THIS road warrior and I can’t wait to get home!

Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, I can say this airport has been a labor of love to fly in and out of.  Don’t get me wrong, it has been AWESOME  having an international airport in my backyard…quite literally in my backyard, since I grew up about 5-minutes down the road!   But that’s another story.  What used to be a small, 2-terminal airport is now a HUGE, multi-terminal behemoth.  The one thing this airport has never skimped on is the variety of food choices.  Thank goodness Vino Volo landed here too!  If you have never been to a Vino Volo, well then… you probably aren’t reading my blog, because you don’t like food and wine…and you don’t even know better!  Also, if you actually haven’t been in one of these yet and have about 20-30 minutes to chill, then I definitely recommend stopping in.  You can even buy bottles to take home with you.  Just don’t try to crack one open on a flight…speaking from personal experience, that is a bad thing!

Also, YES! My husband did get to try to the wine. Most of it made it back!

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Kauai Beaches & Food Tour

My vacations are primarily centered around hiking and food. This vacay is no different. Kauai is full of both, at a World class level. I have spoken to so many people who have “visited” Kauai and only saw the Poi’pu and Waimea side of the island. They have no idea what Kauai is actually about!

My personal favorite is the Northern side of the island. Not because I’m bougie but, because i love the densely forested hiking areas and primitive beaches. I truly enjoy the feeling of being lost, in the middle of nowhere and the North side has an abundance of all those feels. Every time i visit Kauai, i find a new beach or hike and it always surprises me!

Queen’s Bath
Looking out over Queens Bath

Queen’s Bath is actually a pretty cool hike! Oftentimes the gated door leading to the trailhead will be padlocked, but just walk around to the far right and you will find a small, established footpath that takes you around the gated area. Just make sure you play it smart, or you could end up as one of the notches on the “death” board near the baths ☠️

Hideaway Beach
Low tide at Hideaway Beach

Hideaway Beach was an amazing find! We’ve stayed in the Princeville area 3 times now and didn’t know this was here. The path is just behind Hideaway Pizza and is concrete but, that doesn’t mean it isn’t tough 😆 it’s a very steep grade getting down, so wear proper shoes.

This was a great place to snorkel and check out some pretty cool tide pools! Take a cooler with a lunch and some drinks, to make a day of it! There are lots of trees for coverage. And you can paddle out beyond the reef for surfing too.

Snorkeling at turtle cave
Green Sea Turtles 🐢
Incredible patterns on the sea cave

Turtle cave is located on the beaches/cliff areas right adjacent to the Bali Hai in Princeville. It’s a fairly strenuous hike down and you have to navigate over some pretty gnarly volcanic boulders to get in to the water and enter the caves. Again, wear shoes or your feet will get destroyed. make sure you check the tide report before you go. You do not want to get caught off guard. This is not Disney Land!

Hiking up Okolehao trail to Hihimanu summit ridge
On the ridge trail
Okolehao and Hihimanu in the distance!
Beach trail leading over to Hanalei Bay, 1.2 mile hike
Ha’ena

Curious about the best time of year to visit Kauai? Well that really depends 🤷‍♀️ my personal favorite time of year is winter, Jan-March. Although, it can be a wetter time of year, the whales are moving in, the waves are larger, and for hiking, it’s not too hot yet! Kauai (or any of the islands) can get super warm in the summer months.

Be adventurous! Drive to another side of the island from where you are staying. Talk to locals. Take a tour! I highly recommend a food tour with Tasting Kauai! Ask for guide “Susan”. She is a wealth of knowledge in the local Hawaiian culture.

Furakake fries at Kenji
Kenji Kobe beef burger
Tacos at Verde!
Brussels at Kauai Beer in Lihue 😋
Cheers!

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Travel to Kauai “post-COVID”

No COVID is not over, it’s still a thing and there are still protocols in place that must be followed if you want to enjoy your trip. It’s a drag, but hey, being sick can also be a drag, so let’s focus on the positive,,, YOU ARE TRAVELING! Or maybe you are getting ready to travel to Hawaii! 🤙

First off, to get to Hawaii you definitely have to be prepared for some significant travel time and you need to make sure and register your trip on the Hawaii State “safe travels” website. As of today (3/15/2022) you still need to provide vaccination status in order to avoid quarantine. It’s a total pain in the rear end, but if you are a World traveler, then you already know that this is a requirement pretty much anywhere right now. It takes about 15 minutes to complete and then you are ready to roll!

Secondly, make sure you get a window seat, the photographs from the air are incredible. At approximately 40,000 feet, you are damn near in suborbital flight!

Somewhere over Colorado

Masks are totally still in vogue and mandatory when you fly and when you visit any in door establishment in Hawaii. It looks like this may go away as of 3/25, so fingers crossed, the islands will be fully open!!

Wear your mask, unless you are eating 😆

The season of the mask is almost over, so start making your plans to get out there and enjoy some beach time in Hawaii!

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It’s Super Satisfying Trimming Meat!

Who doesn’t love a great cut of meat procured for a super great price in bulk? Vegetarians, THAT question was not for you. But seriously, there’s nothing like buying a whole beef tenderloin and getting it home to prep, then after a couple of filet cuts, you hit gristle and you’re like “what the heck?!” (or other expletives), i thought this was a “good” cut of meat! What you didn’t know is even a “good” cut of meat has to be trimmed of the “silver” skin and the tendon that runs along the length of the whole piece. You can buy it pre-trimmed but, #1 it costs more per pound, and #2, i like to form a bond with my meat and that requires hands on prepping.

Lastly, you can get all sorts of cool morsels off of your trimmings, you wouldn’t have had other wise! and mmmm, just pop those yummy little pieces right in your mouth 👄 a little salt and pepper is all you need!

Hopefully, you find watching me trim meat as satisfying as I do…doing it!

Do you have any cool tricks with bulk meat purchases?

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Dried Chili Salsa

Rehydrated chili

Ingredients

6 oz dried Guajillo Chili

6 oz dried Padilla Chili

2 Tbsp of dried chili Pequins (if you like spicy, if not, then omit)

2 HEADS of garlic peeled

1 sweet yellow onion peeled

2-3 Tbsp sea salt

4-5 limes juiced

1 Tbsp dried Cumin

1 bunch (2 cups) fresh Cilantro

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

Boil a large pot of water. Remove from heat when boiling. Immediately add dried chili pods, push pods under water (they like to float), and Soak for an hour to rehydrate.

Soak those Chilis!

Wait 30-minutes then, in a blender, Purée onion and garlic. Add about a 1/2 cup of chili water from the pot of soaking pods, to help the blending.

Blend the onion and garlic

In a large sauce pot, add the oil and heat on medium til glossy. Add the slurry of onion and garlic to the pot and 1 Tbsp of sea salt. Sauté for about 10 minutes. ⚠️ THIS MAY CAUSE YOU TO TEAR UP… as in cry. Turn the stove top vent on to help alleviate this!

After about ten minutes of cooking the “on-gar” slurry, start to blend up the rehydrated chili. I used two blenders for this but, you can do in batches. Make sure on of the batches gets the cilantro blended in with it! You will need to add the chili water (by the ladle) in to the blender to help the chili blend. It will be thick but you want it to move around. Add enough of the chili water until you see consistent movement. *if using the chili pequin, then add these to the blender at this point! Then pour in to the pot with the on-gar sauté.

Once in the pot, squeeze fresh limes or add the pre-squeezed juice and cumin to the pot.

Cook til bubbles form and then switch to low for a simmer. You want this to simmer together for about an hour. But don’t let it burn. You can add additional chili water if you like more fluid.

Once it cools down a bit I jar this nectar of the chili Gods and use it throughout the winter. My lucky family and friends, might get a jar as a gift 🎁

Now, some people like to add sugar and/or vinegar. I am not a big proponent of added sugar, so i leave it out. Vinegar can be a nice add if using this as more of a chip dip. For this sized batch you could add 1/2 a cup of white vinegar. And salt this to taste.

I use this sauce as a base for chili con carne (classic meat chili),

Not so classic chili con carne

chili con queso (hot cheese dip), a basting sauce for fish, pozole rojo (pork stew) and chicken mole . It’s also great mixed in to minced meat for meatballs or jazzed up hamburgers. Highly recommended with game meat like venison or bison!!

What is your favorite home made foodie gift to receive from family or friends? Is there a special recipe you look forward to every year?

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Here is a quick and easy way to peel a lot of garlic at once!!

I love to make chili 🌶 salsas! I feel like it takes me back to my Latin American and Indigenous American roots. But with my mass batches of salsa comes a lot of garlic peeling. 😳 Like several heads of garlic at once. I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favorite jobs, but someone has to do it…and by someone, i mean me✋. I used to really dislike this part but, after experimenting with different ways to do this more quickly, i have found the mason jar shake is the quickest way to get it done! And bonus points if you can make some music 🎶 at the same time!! Check out the video below for this quick technique!

Mason Jar Shake!

I take the garlic off the head and put it in the jar, but honestly, you can drop it in whole. Make sure you seal the jar before shaking, 🙄 shake for about 1 minute very vigorously. *note, kids LOVE to do this job! Most of the garlic will be completely peeled. For the ones with peel on still, it will slip off very easy with a little squeeze.

What techniques do you like to use to peel garlic? Did the Mason Jar Shake work for you? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you 🥰

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Chateau Latour-Martillac Vineyard(Bordeaux, France)

Let me preface this entry with my husband and I are by no means wine experts. we both greatly appreciate well made wine, but price and prestige are not a factor with our “likes”.

The terroir at this vineyard is situated on a bed of limestone pebbles. A hold over from a time when this land was under the ocean. This tough ground condition provides the struggle needed for the vines to thrive!

Tidbits about wine i learned today (yes, i am still learning even basic info!) Tannins are provided by the seeds, skins, and stems. The longer they sit with the wine, the more tannins! Tannins are essentially the “pucker power”/ “punch you in the face” behind the flavor and are stronger with younger wines.

Me and Jake in front of the wine wall.

At this vineyard, they do not use any machines to harvest. Everything is done by hand, to include tending the grapes during growing. We visited in late September of 2021 and the work crews had just started picking the grapes on the day we arrived (they had a late start this year)!

Ripe vineyards ready for picking!
Work crews hand harvesting

Processing the grapes uses only a few machines. Mainly to move the grapes.

Processing grapes!

After the grapes are sorted and crushed, they are moved to the big tanks for fermentation.

Stainless tanks
Top of the fermentation tank…where the stuff goes in!

In France, everything is done a lot slower. They prefer to do tastings at the end of the tours, whereas in US, we taste up front and then tour and talk. I prefer to taste up front, for obvious reasons! 🙄 Fermentation is completed in the steel vats and aging completed in French oak barrels, of course!

French oak barrels
Barrel room tour
Jake, soaking in the tour

In the cellar, the temperature for barrel aging feels to be about 50 degrees. This ensures fermentation does not continue. The aromatics from the aged French oak barrels is incredible. They are 225 years old! $600 eu a piece for the barrels! This vineyard has about 75% new barrels. They do not want the woody flavors. Preference is for the fruity flavors. After learning about barrels we moved on to the tasting. Finally the fore play has ended and we get to savor the flavor!

Close up of barrels

Apparently barrel making is an industry of its own!!

Tasting room!
Let the tasting begin! 😋

Literally my taste buds are watering with anticipation. Maybe there is something to the French delay of gratification🤷‍♀️

Starting with the white, the glasses where slowly passed around.

Sauvignon Blanc.

Very fruity, fresh and citrusy. Very long finish. Strong Minerality. Rounded in the mouth. Pairs well with white cheese and fish/shrimp with butter sauces. This wine achieves the heavy citrus flavors because of the Sauvignon grapes.

Jake’s notes on the white, “would go well on a hot day due to the fresh mineralogy. Loves the citrusy flavors. Very nice to switch it up a bit from the heavy reds in the vacation.

Moving on to the Red tasting…

Beautiful legs

60% cab, merlot, and 7% petit Verdot.

She Said: Very peppery flavor. Notes of leather, vanilla. Lots of tannin mouth feel.

He Said: Jake’s notes regarding the red, very enjoyable. Very peppery with an outstanding bouquet. Mellow taste. Excellent tannins. We snagged a bottle to enjoy back on the ship 🤫

A couple of side notes, the field workers all look very Gypsy-ish. In the US, you would see primarily Mexican migrant workers. The workers out here have shanty towns established just in the peripheral of the vineyard estate for the workers. Well, i think the workers set them up themselves during the working season? I found this very interesting because my mother’s father’s family came from Mexico to the US as migrant workers in the 1800’s. But that’s a story for another day…

To sum it up, this was a very nice tour. We were able to drive thru old town Bordeaux first and then visit the winery. I would definitely recommend this excursion to others!

Oh! And we got this cute little keepsake that i used for my mask! It is the estate symbol.

Cute little vineyard keepsake!

For more information click the link below:

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Quick Dinner: Venison Wagyu Meatballs with Sauce

Venison wagyu meatballs with angel hair pasta

Okay, so admittedly this sounds super complex, but don’t let the ingredients deter you from trying this recipe.

I try to make most recipes, on the fly and without directions. Not because i don’t like following directions but mostly because i like to make shit up and see how it goes. 🤷‍♀️ Plus, i love a challenge, so at 6pm-ish with my 17-year old son asking “what’s for dinner?” And my husband due to be home in 30-minutes, i start to mosey through the fridge, then freezer and then the pantry in search of something to spark a creative thought.

Our freezer crashed and burned the other day, so i had a lot of random options. One of which was a box of venison wagyu patties from Force of Nature. I don’t know why i bought them, my husband is super adverse to game meat. 🤫 shhh.. he’ll never know! They had defrosted when the freezer went down and passed the sniff test, so they made the top of the list.

https://forceofnature.com/

I remembered i bought Rao’s sausage mushroom sauce (the only pre-made sauce i use or recommend) and some angel hair pasta the other day and was hoping right now that my older daughter hadn’t gone “browsing” through the pantry while we were gone for the weekend. Because THAT never happens 🙄

Alright! We have everything i need to make meatballs! Yay!!

Crap. I’m out of eggs and need something for a binder with the breadcrumbs. Hmmm… i do have milk. So milk it is! Sometimes you have to be creative with what you have.

Follow along below and make some for yourself. They are super easy and quick. Like 20-30 minutes quick.

Ingredients (what i used):

1 box “Force of Nature” venison patties (4-to a box) approx. 1 lb

2 TBSP garlic powder

1 TBSP chili powder

1 TBSP Sea Salt

1 TBSP ground black powder (course)

1 TSP cayenne pepper

1 TSP ground sage

2 TBSP olive oil

1/4 cup milk (whatever you have)

1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

1-jar Rao’s mushroom and sausage sauce (or whatever you have on hand)

1 bottle of red wine (whatever you have) 1- cup for the sauce and the rest for the cook!

1 box of pasta (i used angle hair)

First off, put a large pot of water on to boil.

Then, combine the meat and all the spices together in a bowl. Then add the milk and mix it in with your hands. Then add the breadcrumbs. You might need a little extra if it’s too moist. You want the meat to stick together.

Meat mixture

Make the meatballs:

Pinch off enough meat to make a 1 inch meatball. There should be enough meat for 12-meatballs with 1 lb of meat.

Formed meatballs

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet with 3 to 4 inch sides. Brown them quickly on all sides. This meat cooks very quickly, so pay attention!

Cooking meatballs

Once browned (3-4 minutes) add the entire jar of sauce. Then add one cup of wine to the jar and shake it up.

Petit Verdot works well with the spicy peppery flavor

Add the mixture to the sauce, turn the heat to low and cover, then simmer.

Add sauce to the meatballs! Don’t forget the wine.
Simmer on low.

Back to the noods. Once the pot starts to boil, add your noodles of choice. Follow the directions. The meatballs should simmer on low until your noodles are ready.

Voila! That’s it. You are done! These would even be great by themselves. Or maybe sans the noodles with sautéed broccoli and garlic. Or maybe with creamy polenta! Either way, make sure you don’t forget the wine!!

Cheers! Let me know how you enjoyed this recipe! Share your pics for bonus points 😊🤩

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Quick 10-minute lunch for two: Pan Sautéed Salmon with Fresh Corn

This recipe is so quick and easy, i just threw this together in between work meetings! The results are juicy and oh, so enjoyable that you might want a glass of wine with your meal! This recipe is my “go to” for an impromptu dinner party…whenever those start to happen again! 🤷‍♀️

Cut the filet in half and share with a friend or save for tomorrow’s lunch.

Lunch for tomorrow!

Ingredients:

1 lb salmon filet. I use skin on.

1-2 ears of fresh corn

Old bay seasoning

Garlic powder

Olive oil

Raspberry balsamic vinegar

Total time: 10 minutes including prep for Med-rare and 18-minutes for well-done.

Heat up your non-stick skillet. Rinse the salmon filet and pat dry. Skin side down, rub the top of salmon (pink side) with olive oil. Generously sprinkle old bay seasoning and garlic powder (to taste). Pop the seasoned filet in to the HOT skillet and then repeat the olive oil and seasoning on to the skin side. Rub with fingers quickly to distribute the oil and seasoning over the skin side. Do not burn yourself!

Cover with a lid for 2 minutes. Before you remove the lid, shake the pan to move the filet around. Take the lid off and flip the salmon over. Cover with the lid for two more minutes. While salmon is cooking, cut the kernels off the corn. Open the lid shake the pan so that the salmon moves around. Then add the corn to the pan, avoiding the top of the salmon. Pan fry the corn (with salmon in pan) for 2 more minutes.

Pan sautéed with the vinegar! 😋

Then sprinkle the vinegar (about 2 TBSP) on top of it all and quickly cover the pan again. Wait 1 minute then remove pan from heat and let it sit for 3-minutes, medium cooked. 5-minutes for medium well and 8-minutes for well done. Of you like it rare-ish then, take it out of the pan before the sitting period.

Yummm 😋
So juicy!!

Season with sea salt to taste or kick it up a notch with hot sauce. Enjoy!!

Let me know your favorite way to enjoy this recipe in the comments! I’d love to hear from you 😊

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Airport Eats: Chicken + Beer at The Atlanta Airport

A recent trip to Athens, GA for a Framily wedding put us through the Atlanta airport. After a weekend of incredible eats and a lot of drinking i was actually ready to head home on Sunday and start back in to a workout and clean eating regimen for the next week. I was a little disappointed the hotel breakfast had closed down before i was able to grab a quick bite and head to the airport but, we decided that we 1) probably weren’t going to starve to death on the two hour drive to the airport and 2) there was likely a restaurant or two we could choose from at the airport.

Upon arrival to the airport we were greeted with the longest travel lines we had seen since Covid started and i was a little worried we would not have time for a bite. I then remembered the string of texts i had began to receive the night before warning us to get to the Atlanta airport 3-hours early because of the “long wait times”. I guess i should have paid attention instead of going to the open bar at the reception again?

Thankfully, we subscribe to Clear and they have their own line and TSA checkpoint at Atlanta. Even though that line was also the longest i have ever seen, it was only a 30-minute wait. The non-clear lines were a minimum of 1.5 to 2 hours!! Finally through the lines we headed to the transport train to our gate. A cool element on the transport trains here is they clearly revere food and drink. There is a feature next to the electronic board that shows you the gates you are approaching and that also details the food and drink options. As my eyes scrolled through, i locked in to Chicken + Beer. Hard to go wrong with those two things together and they were located next to our D-gate. Perfect!!

We arrived at the D-gates and there was a waiting line. The seating attendant said it would be 20-minutes before we could be seated which included the bar. I reluctantly added our name to the list and began to scan the area for other options. Not that i was worried or anything. After about a three minute wait, she smiled and said our table was ready! Already exceeding expectations here, Love it.

We ordered “Emergency Drinking beer”, which is a German style Pilsner made. Georgia with 4.0% alcohol. It was very light, no bitterness. Maybe a smidge of sweet, but not overpowering. Very drinkable and paired perfectly with our heavy fried food. Looking for a classic Pilsner? This is it.

Hubby enjoying his Emergency Drinking Beer at Chicken + Beer
Emergency Drinking Beer, words of wisdom on back of can.

Fried green tomatoes: the breading or cornmeal is delightfully textured. Not too thick and perfectly fried. The first bite brought a smile to our faces as the piping hot, slightly tart flavors mingle with the cornmeal and salt. Finished very well with beer. Served with an aioli type sauce.

Fried Green Tomatoes

It was while enjoying these tasty bites that my husband noted this was owned by Ludacris. He had seen him on squawk box talking about his restaurants. I noted that i have some “Luda”, in my workout playlists and i thought we were jamming to him last night on the party bus back to the hotel.. but that’s another story!

Shrimp and red rice:

First of all, i thought that grits were the king of the South? Well if grits are King, rice is certainly the Queen of the South. Now I’m from the “south” (i thought Texas was South) but I’ve never heard of “red” rice. I mean, we have Mexican or Spanish red rice but this was different. Not too spicy, but with a very balanced amount of stewed tomatoes to make the rice red. Also, it was just the right amount of sticky. To be “perfect” rice, your fork must stand up and salute when you stick it in the rice!! At least, that’s my definition. Y’all know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!

Shrimp and Red Rice with Rosemary Tots.

The shrimp should have been called colossal because they were HUGE. I think the batter was a beer batter but with a bit of cornmeal mixed in? It had a very pleasant crunch and mouthfeel that usually is accomplished through cornmeal or a Japanese style tempura, and this was no tempura. These shrimp were so succulent and juicy, i wasn’t sure how my dish could possibly top that! Oh and then the rosemary tots. God’s gift to the potato. Rosemary can be overwhelming if used too much, but this was a hint of the spice and maybe a bit of truffle spice? I might need to phone a friend here and see if someone knows what is in that seasoning because it’s awesome.

Oh damn! My plate just showed up and my first thought was “uh-oh, what the heck have i done?” I’m not gonna lie, a bit of panic immediately pulsed through me. I looked up at my husband and he just shook his head and said i was “crazy”. I continued to nibble off his plate as I contemplated my strategy and admired the mammoth portion. It was literally ludicrous. What the hell were they feeding the chickens that produced these oversized thighs?! One of these thighs could feed two people, easy. And then the waffles?? I think i need another one of those rosemary tots to properly think through this.

Chicken and Waffles w/ bourbon syrup

First, i removed one of the thighs to a smaller plate (actual size of a normal dinner plate) then moved a couple of the waffles over to said plate. Then i cut the remaining thigh in half. Piping hot, just the way i like it! I heard the snapping crunch of the perfectly fried batter give way, the juices slowly peaked out at me. Beckoning me to take a bite. I lingered another second longer to fully appreciate it and then took my first bite. Ummmmmm, a little thigh juice on my chin… i didn’t even attempt to wipe it. You know when something is so good, you don’t even care if it drops on you? It was THAT good. I bit of guilt started to creep in. Is this a heart attack waiting to happen? Could i feed the family of kids staring at me as they wait in line for a seat? Should i be eating like this when i probably need to lose a few after that European food fest? Yes, yes, and yes… but (to quote my favorite movie line…bonus points if you know the movie) “sometimes you have to say what the f*#!”. Right? So, those thighs. Not only are they juicy (how do they get them this way?!) the flavor has a bit of spice to them and a whole lot of brine. I am a huge advocate of brined chicken, which might be my southern raising. But this is off the hook fabulous!

The waffles are a basic Belgium waffle that brought me back to my days working at Haggan Daz ice cream. We used to make Belgium waffles fresh on Sundays and these had the exact same flavor. This place had their own spin with house made syrup spiked with bourbon. Totally over the top, and also very much appreciated by this bourbon lover!! The last little add-on that needs to be mentioned is the collard greens. They had a really balanced salt (which is key to great tasting greens). A hint of vinegar and spice with just the right amount of juice. I actually picked the serving dish up and slurped in the remaining collard “gravy”. Don’t be afraid to drink it all in my friends!

This is exactly why i love the experience of food so much. It brings you back to a memory and helps you to make new ones. They just kind of lock in to your brain with a scent or a flavor.

A thought started to occur to me that i might actually come back to Atlanta just to come to the airport and eat here again. Maybe my husband is right and i am crazy? Either way, take it from a “crazy” food lover Chicken + Beer is a joint you do not want to miss if you are flying through Atlanta. This is a uniquely American fare spot that will have you wanting to come back again. Cheers and happy travels!

Headed back to Maryland!
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Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs (Quick and Easy)

Disclaimer: If you do not like the taste of Cilantro, because it reminds you of childhood and having your mouth washed out, then #1, we can definitely be friends! (I too had my mouth washed out with soap. ALOT.) #2, this dish is probably not for you.

Other than that, this is so super amazingly flavorful and very easy to throw together. In fact, I literally threw it together yesterday afternoon, in between meetings (I had 15-minutes to spare and a sudden panic moment that I hadn’t thought about prepping for dinner).

Chicken Thighs in Cilantro Lime Marinade

Hopefully you have this stuff on hand (like any good foodie), but if not don’t be afraid to substitute with what you have, you just can’t call it “cilantro lime chicken thighs” if none of those ingredients are in your actual recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of chopped Cilantro (duh)
  • 2-3 Fresh Limes (juice and zest) (also duh, and please don’t sub with prepackaged lime juice. That’s just insulting)
  • 6-8 cloves of fresh, crushed and chopped garlic (if you are like me, throw in a few extra for good measure)
  • 2 TBSP of good chili powder (or whatever you have)
  • 1 TBSP fresh pepper
  • 1-2 TBSP of flaked sea salt (less if you have salt issues and a little more if you know how awesome this can be with a marinade!)
  • 1 TSP of Cumin (you can add a little more if you have a taste for cumin, but not more than 2 TSP or it throws the alchemy off)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP Honey
  • 3-4 Lbs of boneless skinless chicken thighs (I go to Sam’s Club because they always have very good quality at a great price)

First you want to mix all of the ingredients together, EXCEPT the Chicken thighs. Basically you are going to make a marinade for the chicken. Reserve about 1/3 of a cup of the marinade for later (I forgot this step last night and thought it would have been a great finishing sauce).

Once you have your marinade you can either use a large zip lock bag or do what I did, and grab a large bowl with a lid. Now the fun part, smoother your thighs (the chicken you heathen!) with the marinade and let this sit in the fridge for at least 15-minutes but up to 24-hours. I had about 4-hours before I needed to cook.

When you are ready to cook (and only when YOU are ready…and maybe after a glass of wine, or two), whip out your huge, your biggest frying pan. Also, walk over to your oven right now and preheat to 350 degrees. Now, add a little olive oil to your pan and kick it up to high. Wait for about five minutes (it needs to be hot) and then sear your chicken on both sides. Do this in batches, if you have to. The chicken needs a little room to breath and seal in those juices. After about 2-minutes on each side (a little less if they seem to be cooking through too quickly), move them to a baking sheet with sides (like a cookie sheet, but make sure it has those sides). Then throw this in the oven at 350 for at least 30-minutes. Turn the oven off after 30-minutes and let the chicken sit for 10-more minutes.

Voila! That’s it…You’re done!

Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs with Rice

You could take this to the next level and prepare rice, while the chicken is baking. I did and it was awesome. I used the drippings from the chicken searing pan to add to the boiling rice. And honestly, it was beyond awesome. Oh and, if you are doing this a la European style, then remember to make a simple salad and eat it last! And last but not least, do not forget the wine for goodness sake!

Fully prepped Dinner

For a wine pairing suggestion, You could go with a Pinot Noir. I know it’s red but the chili spice in the marinade gives a slight smoke/BBQ type of flavor that is definitely enhanced with a decent Pinot Noir. You could also go white with a Pinot Grigio. Or hell, bust out your favorite box wine. It’s all good!

Gijon, Spain And Aviles Tapas/Cider Tour

Exiting the ship in Gijon (pronounced Hee-hawn), there was a local dance troupe and band playing traditional local music.

Dance Troupe with our family
Dancers in action

It was amazing to be greeted and welcomed with smiling locals who are happy to have us here!

The local military police administered a temperature test and a squirt of hand sanitizer before our walk to the bus and then another squirt of sanitizer just before boarding, and then we were on the way! They definitely were not cutting corners regarding Covid safety.

Our tour guide explained that, the beaches in Gijon are small and nestled in tiny coves throughout the area. Mountains surround Gijon, and are the largest in the area, w/ many over 2000 feet above sea level. The weather is very temperate all year long and today was no exception.

The day started as overcast, with a little fog on the horizon, and very pleasant temperatures.

The itinerary today is a walking tour with coffee and local treats in Gijon, then another walking tour in Aviles for tapas and cider. Should be interesting and I will try to keep my expectations in check.

Starting in Gijon, we were able to check out local architecture and street art. What an absolutely beautiful place to build a photography or model portfolio!

I highly recommend bringing your “good” camera to capture some canvas/wall worthy shots.

After walking through this stunning, artsy district we stopped for the strongest coffee I’ve ever had and some donuts at a local market. My only complaint is the space they had our group squeezed in to was not really adequate for our group size.

It was almost like this place was an after thought on the tour plan or our guide forgot to make reservations ahead of time. Many in our group did not get what they ordered, so I was thankful that my coffee and pastries arrived!

Then we boarded the bus and headed to Aviles. It was about a 30-minute drive and after that coffee, I was certainly ready for the Tapas!

First off, Aviles, Spain is a magical place filled with gorgeous artwork, architecture, and glorious FOOD.

Secondly, it is a very scenic area that is Celtic as opposed to Mediterranean, Spain. I find it very interesting that so many areas in Spain are Celtic in nature. To learn more about this fascinating history of Celtic Iberian culture, I highly recommend reading this article from Celtic Life International.

We had Tapas at a local and somewhat famous cider house named Tierra Astur. This place is absolutely amazing and I highly recommend. There is a fabulously stocked market at the front of the restaurant where you can pick up snacks for a picnic later.

Once inside, past the market we were whisked upstairs to the main dining area. Everything about this place screams relaxed man cave artsy, as evidenced by the photos below.

Take note though, the cider here is NOT a typical American or English cider. It actually tastes more like apple cider vinegar. The unique pouring is what gives it the effervescence or bubbles.

There is a moderate amount of alcohol in the cider, so be careful, it does sneak up on you and can cause you to have a really fun time!

The real pour
The fun pour!

After the Tapas and a few ciders, we took a stroll around the neighborhood. It was pretty quiet due to Covid still surging in this area at the time (October 2021) but, we were able to check out the street art, which is magnificent!

To note (for photographers), the colors in this area are just phenomenal. All pictures posted here are straight from the camera with no retouches or filters. It’s like “golden hour” all day long! I also found the street art to be downright textural in nature.

This was an incredible shore excursion that I felt gave us a taste of cultural immersion. I look forward to our next adventure in this area!

*Disclaimer: I may have mixed up a couple of photos between Gijon and Aviles. The Cider was strong and my notes got less reliable towards the end of the day!

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