Postcard from Greenville, SC

Ah, summer travels.

We recently drove from DC to our friends' wedding in Greenville, SC. We had an amazing time AND ate some awesome food. Here are the highlights.

The peach turnover from Biscuitville was hot, gooey, and although dusted with cinnamon and sugar, it was surprisingly not "too sweet." Just sweet enough for me. Oh, and it may have been $1.39. Worth every penny! J's chicken on a biscuit was a great improvement over the occasional mock chicken 'n' biscuits that people bring in at work. The biscuit wasn't mini by any means, and the chicken was the same generous size. It was the real thing, probably because he ate it in North Carolina.

Mary's Restaurant: If you can hit up Mary's for breakfast or brunch, you should. I ate a turkey sandwich on a baguette (Hi, it had cranberry chutney AND sliced Granny Smiths on it), but if you like you could go for totally insane French toast or shrimp and grits. WHATEVER you do, start with the fried green tomatoes. They were unbelievable. Not greasy at all, the way fried food should feel. The tomato chutney on top was not a marinara-type cop-out sauce. It was sweet with a little kick, and on top of the crispy on the outside, still-firm but forgiving inside of those tomatoes...seriously, heaven. When are we going back?

Mmm our last morning brought us to High Cotton for brunch. I could have gotten the egg-white omelet, but that would be so typical. Instead I went for the huevos rancheros--two fried eggs over beans and enchilada sauce with chorizo, beef tenderloin, salsa, guacamole, and tortilla chips. I've been really into making a made-up version of Mexican Eggs Benedict since then (two eggs over easy on top of guacamole-laden whole wheat English muffin topped with salsa). J was checking out the menu, lingering over his obvious top candidates that involved steak. Then I saw the BBQ Duck Hash, and suggested it to him. Turns out he had totally skipped over it (it was first on the list), and it sounded awesome. It was DELICIOUS. The mustard BBQ sauce was really different and awesome, and the veggies (mushrooms and peppers) with the eggs and the sauce--oy, the whole combination was great. I don't think I need to mention the awesome breadbasket (why oh why are biscuits not the norm everywhere in the world???). What in the peach butter is going on...


Postcard from New Jersey

I really can't say enough good things about the Garden State. If you have insults for the birthplace of college football, baseball, and Frank Sinatra, then you'll just have to bring them somewhere else.

On a recent trip I finally visited a place seen on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, a show with the Food Network's sometimes annoying but always orange Guy Fieri. Two lovely ladies joined me at Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory. The deal with Brownstone is that they have breakfast all day (obviously awesome), and are known for their huge variety of pancake options. And beyond pancakes they have pancake WRAPS, like a breakfast burrito but instead of boring burrito shell it's a pancake! With a pancake under it for good measure, of course.

Us healthy-eating ladies decided to start with an appetizer, naturally. Our appetizer was an order of chocolate and peanut butter chip pancakes, topped with whipped cream of course. You can also put syrup on it if you want to. And we did. Our server was friendly (and the host went beyond taking our picture by letting us review it and demand a second shot), the crowd was everything from families to teens to old-timers (I sensed this was part of their routine), and the food was ENORMOUS for very reasonable prices.

Besides basically demolishing our appetizer, among us we picked at an egg sandwich, a pancake wrap filled with meat, eggs, and potatoes, and a Greek salad the size of a small country (maybe Luxembourg?).

Brownstone Diner also has regular food for the boring folks, or even for the anti-breakfasters (whoever you are...you strange, sick people). But I don't want to talk about it. The next time you're in Jersey (whether visiting or just passing through), stop at Brownstone Diner. It's not 24-hour, so a little planning is required. It's also close to a Path station, so it's a great place to meet a friend from the city without schlepping into the city (if you're low on time).

Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory
426 Jersey Avenue
Jersey City, NJ
Take Exit 14 A-B-C from the Turnpike, but don't go in the Holland Tunnel!

Brownstone on Urbanspoon



I was pretty excited today when I read on Metrocurean that the folks from Neighborhood Restaurant Group are opening something up in D.C. Even though I'm not the biggest Rustico fan and I'm hot and cold with Tallula (also I can never remember how many L's there are and where they go, but that's not enough reason to hate, right?), I absolutely LOVE Evening Star and Vermilion, which is where we recently revisited.

Again, we had a great time. No problem getting seated right away with our reservation on a busy night (not always the case, even with a reservation), and we were surprised and delighted by a pretty, crunchy, AND juicy (is pretty most important?) amuse bouche of veggies, goat cheese, and pine nuts on a thick square cracker-y type apparatus.

Our starters were both really awesome in different ways. The chilled roasted red pepper soup was smooth as silk and had a smoky undertone, I wanted to lick the bowl it was so good. The heirloom tomato salad with goat cheese was colorful with both yellow and red sweet tomatoes. The table next to us got a complimentary one because the kitchen was busy, extending their wait time for their entrees. They liked it so much that they ordered another (to be put on their tab, of course).

For dinner I had the Scottish Salmon with peas, mushrooms, lemon zest, and pea-tendril pesto. Again, I love green, lemon, and anything to do with pesto, so this was a no-brainer. The salmon was fluffy and creamy, just the way I like it. Jeff's lamb kebab with artichokes two ways was surprising, there was traditional=seeming ground lamb shaped onto the kebab, and also lamb sausage. The Greek-inspired dish, while delicious, may not have been the best choice for J because he isn't super into artichokes. I was careful to eat most of them for him (I do what I can).

We (gasp!) didn't have dessert because we were meeting a friend for ice cream in town. Vermilion is a consistently beautiful, delicious, classy place to dine. I'll continue to go back, and you should too.

1120 King Street
Metro: Blue or Yellow Line to King Street
Vermilion on Urbanspoon


My Favorite Cookbook(s)

I can't go out every night, but I also can't really cook. I do cook, but it's not second nature to me. An omelet, that's second nature. But food that is serve-able to a spouse, parents, other guests? That presents a challenge.

Enter: My Favorite Places to Get Recipes

I definitely can't take credit for discovering any of these. They all came on recommendations from friends, links from other sites, or books from--um--my mom. Or they were in the newspaper.

Which brings me to...the NEWSPAPER! Once in a while stuff in the Times or Post will intrigue me and I'll try it. Like this no-bake coconut-mascarpone-blueberry concoction, constructed with the assistance of a store-bought (gasp!) pound cake. Leave the oven off, save some energy. A few days ago the Times reeled me in with this, and after listening to a speech about The Greatness of Swiss Chard, I may have to try it.

Cara's Cravings: Health-conscious but not always super-healthy, Cara explains her recipes well, mentions substitutions she made or different methods she tried, and always includes a picture, even if it comes out funny-looking. She also does what I do (and most people, probably), which is find something I like and then just do different versions of it. Mini turkey-cilantro burgers in pita! Big turkey-cilantro burgers in big pita! Roasted-red-pepper-cilantro-ground-turkey tacos!

Kalyn's Kitchen: I am not and never have been on the South Beach Diet, but healthy food is healthy food. Kalyn's instructions are REALLY CLEAR, she often posts pictures along the way, so you can see what the food should look like at various stages of preparation. This is key for people like me who get paranoid, "Oh no! Should it look like this? I think I did something wrong. It's RUINED!!!!" Also, she'll suggest other recipes to go with a certain dish, and has everything divided up into a zilliondy categories. (For example, Homepage > Salads > Salads With Beans Grains Pasta and Rice > Salads With Pasta > Pasta Salad with Slow Roasted Tomatoes, Grilled Zucchini, and Basil. And for SB followers, she'll tell you for what phase the recipe is appropriate, and whether it's a "once a while treat" or a staple.

DESSERT, also known as Inkpad Chocolate. Yep, I know that little bundle of messy-faced cuteness, but she's not so tiny anymore. Now she's big--big into making delicious baked goods!!!

Food Network
The Food Network has a zillion recipes on the web site, and they are rated by difficulty. I like to stick to "Easy" dishes, thank you very much. I find myself virtually flipping through Paula Deen if I want a cream-filled decadent dessert for some friends who aren't calorie-counting, Sandra Lee for quick ("cheating") methods, and Giada De Laurentiis for lots of stuff. Rachel Ray obviously is known for her quick yet tasty meals, and if you are like B and find RR a bit grating, then perhaps her silent online recipes will serve you well! I also have Giada's "Everyday Italian" cookbook, and a lot of my "staple" stuff from the past year comes from that book. Lemon spaghetti, white bean dip with pita chips, pesto recipes, tortellini in broth, etc etc.

And lastly, a BOOK! My mom gave me a copy of WeightWatchers Ultimate Flex & Core Cookbook. While I don't exactly know the ins and outs of what "flex" and "core" mean in the WW world, I do know that the recipes are light, healthy, and easy to prepare. Also a lot of the recipes use similar or repetitive ingredients, for example, salsa. Stock up on salsa and open the book, maybe you've got something to make!



A recent trip to Corduroy was proof that whether it's surrounded by a boring hotel in an awkward part of downtown or in a charming townhouse near the Convention Center, Tom Power's food will dramatize your life. Now I'm being dramatic, but it's true. When we eat at Corduroy I feel grown-up but not stuffy, soothingly well-wined but not drunk. Conversation is comfortable in the quiet dining room and occurs over a well-paced meal, neither too slow nor too fast. In fact, I think our first meal at Corduroy was, at that time, the longest meal we'd ever had. It spanned 2 hours and, on my 22nd birthday, that unique (to us) experience, combined with flawless food, sparked our intense respect for the restaurant. I've come to associate Corduroy with warmth and romance.

It almost doesn't matter what you eat. Everything is good. It's no secret that I love fish, and lemon is sort of my hobby. Most recently I enjoyed the crispy fluke with lemon sauce and potatoes, but before I got to that I had divine chilled pea soup. I tried to make pea soup a few weeks ago, and it turned out lumpy and weird, while this was smoky and smooth. J had bison with a potato-pancake-y side that he thankfully let me taste. Mmm latke. Nothing like Chanukah in the springtime, it's better than Christmas in July! Molten chocolate sabayon (as good as it sounds) and creme brulee rounded out the meal. We shared a delicious half-bottle of red that we can't remember, but it's not as if we picked it ourselves. We asked our lovely server what would pair well with the fluke but stand up to the buffalo--let's face it, a whole bottle would have made me too drunk for a weekday. The half was a great option.

Corduroy is a really nice place where people can talk. It's a place where you should take people, a place you should recommend to friends of any age looking for a fine dining experience. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the new brownstone space is charming, and I'd order anything off the menu (including wine and dessert) with confidence in its quality and deliciousness. I'm just smitten. I'm not the only one. I'm not trying to come up with some crazy place that's amazing that you've never heard of. In this case, I'm confirming what you've heard from the higher ups and magazines--yes, it's true, Corduroy has great food and an excellent atmosphere, and now, with its new location, old-town charm.

1122 9th St NW
Metro: Green/Yellow Lines to Mt. Vernon Square/Convention Center
Corduroy on Urbanspoon


Postcard from Washington, VA

NOTE: I haven't posted in a while. It's sort of because of the recession (responsible inner voice is telling me to cook more and save money for retirement/house/emergency fund) and sort of because I've been applying to jobs instead of blogging. If you're sad about the decrease in posts, give me a full-time job so I can go back to writing about eating instead of writing about how useful I'll be to your chambers/firm/organization.

Back to Washington, VA, also known as Little Washington. Send a gift certificate my way if you want my take on this place. It's easy to find, what with the town that's approximately 100 square feet and OH! The uniformed doorman guys. Most of the time they must be bored out of their minds.

No rush to make the big bucks, it turns out it's possible to enjoy a weekend of hiking and enjoying the country in "our" Shenandoah National Park without starving AND without going broke. I strongly recommend a weekend at our own nearby park as advanced staycationism. It's not far, and while there we were completely unplugged (phone, internet, television), and the whole world seemed quieter, calmer, and more beautiful. And that was on a cloudy, drizzly weekend.

At Griffin Tavern on our first night in the country, J and I shared the special appetizer of the day--chips and a dip made out of blended veggies, including turnips! It tasted sort of like lighter mashed potatoes, and J was pleasantly surprised to enjoy it. My blackened tilapia salad was filling and light, and J enjoyed fish and chips the way they SHOULD be--crispy but not greasy. We got dessert to go, a slice of this and a slice of that (I think cheesecake and pie?). All good. It poured while we were sitting outside, but as long as we were shielded by the umbrella, we found this quite hilarious and fun. Hahaha it's raining while we're on an outdoor adventure vacation, this is so wonderful! Alternate universe out there, I swear.

Thornton River Grille is the next big stop after the Inn, it seems. It definitely gave us happy flashbacks to another River Grill. Our B&B hostess was very concerned that we hadn't made our reservation in advance, but wethinks the holiday weekend kept the loco-tourists in the city and away from TRG. Jeff enjoyed beef tenderloin with roasted fingerling potatoes, and even shared a little bit--thanks! I had the burger, and it was OK. I just wasn't feeling their other options--I wanted fish, but not tuna, and not shellfish. But the burger did have a challah roll, which was surprising and delightful. I'm not sure how many people are making challah in Rappahannock County these days.

Stonewall Abbey coffeehouse: At this stop in downtown Sperryville (a hopping place, for sure) we relaxed with tea, coffee, and a tasty apple tart. You could also have lunch at this converted church, which has quite the setup for live music toward the back. However, it's not open so late at night--we stopped by a different night thinking we could find some dessert, and it was closed. Who knows, maybe Sp'ville isn't as hoppin' as we thought.

Bed and Breakfast - We enjoyed our stay at the Heritage House in Washington, where we ate not once, but twice (the redundancy was by choice, we could have had omelets) a fabulous Eggs Florentine dish that was decadently creamy and completely satisfying on the cool, dreary mornings of July 4th weekend.

Other things to do:

Weather permitting, go to the park.

AND, whether it's for a tasting, buying a few bottles, or setting up on a pretty porch for a glass of wine and block of cheese, you can't really go wrong in Virginia wine country :)
Gray Ghost Vineyards
Sharp Rock Vineyards
Gadino Cellars