Thursday, January 31, 2013

Christmas in Cali

Five years ago in these pages I put myself on a five-year plan to move to San Francisco. It hasn’t happened (yet). And technically, I have ’til harvest season to make good on my prediction. But the truth is, I’ve been planting roots both literal and figurative here in Boston, and I find myself walking through some very exciting new doors. Soon I’ll be able to share this news with all of you, and I hope you’ll agree it’s worth sticking around to grow my next professional chapter in the other City by the Bay.

The call for change clamors loudly at the turn of a new year, and this past holiday season did not disappoint. Abandoning our hometown traditions in search of escapades out West, my family of 12 ventured out to Marin County this past December to spend Christmas in Cali with my brother and his newly engaged bride-to-be. Short sleeves replaced long underwear and California Cabs edged out my Cucumber Margaritas, as we cooked, hiked, drank and dined our way through wine country and the original City by the Bay.

In San Fran, we treated ourselves to a standing brunch at the phenom that is the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. A rainbow of root vegetables, kalamata olives, dates so sweet they taste like they were dipped in brown sugar, whole walnuts, Asian pears, the freshest catch off the Pacific Coast, the crystallized sensation that is the brand spanking new Bay Blue cheese from Point Reyes Farmstead, candied bergamot rind and all forms of juicy winter citrus were ripe for the taking. From there we enjoyed beer gardens, chocolate shops and coffee stops in Hayes Valley, taste tested our way through the city from soup dumplings and egg mooncakes in Chinatown to modern Italian cuisine inside the shi-shi digs at SPQR. Family game night, muy auténtico Mexican and a tremendous hiking trail through Muir Woods rounded out our family time together.

Then Mr. Mix and I set forth on a News Year’s holiday among the vines. We started in Carneros country sipping earthy Pinot Noir, moved north through Napa toward those classic Cabernets, then followed the trail back down to the Petite Sirahs we fell so hard for in Sonoma. All that time collecting bottles of my unabashed, uncool, unfailing favorite–rich, oaky, buttered up Chardonnay. By the time we wound our way through the extraordinary vista-strewn park in Point Reyes, we were ready to swap our stemware for mugs of sudsy Lagunitas IPA and Sweetwater Hog Island Oysters. Californian foodies are so splendidly spoiled.

Watch the slideshow above for a photo guide of our town & country California Christmas vacation, and stay tuned for updates on my next big move–right here in Beantown. Eat it Up!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lobstavore

Last summer I made my first trip north to Maine, vowing to return in the fall to celebrate Mr. Mix’s birthday and taste test hot buttered lobster in the crisp autumn air…the things we food writers are lucky enough to call research! We landed in Maine’s Mid-Coast for our autumnal adventure, where we hiked Camden’s scenic mountains, explored historic harbor towns, snuggled beneath covers and in front of fires at cozy seaside inns, and upped our “lobstavore” credentials eating crustaceans in every configuration–from street cart to five-star. My article about our long weekend in Vacationland hit international newsstands in last month’s edition of Spice magazine. You can preview the first few paragraphs below, and follow the link at the bottom of the post to read more:

Maine’s Mid-Coast delivers on its legacy for New England charm and leaves visitors in hungry pursuit of the region’s local delicacy–lobster.

The menu for my trip to Mid-Coast Maine was a multi-course affair complete with piles of lobster and whole blueberry pies. The easternmost state among the union, Maine’s rugged climate is home to cold hardy blueberry bushes and native species of American crustaceans, ubiquitously named Maine lobster.

A dignified dish in any restaurant, in Maine, lobster preparations range from straightforward steamed lobster with drawn butter, to dime-a-dozen lobster rolls and elevated lobster-centric creations like roasted day-boat lobster tails served atop a bed of root vegetables and celeric puree, finished with dollops of shellfish foam that look and taste of the sea.

Any culinary seaside tour of Maine’s Mid-Coast begins with choosing a historic inn or B&B in which to lay your head. From Rockland to Belfast, lobster reigns king in Maine kitchens, but if you aim to find shelter along the shoreline, you would be wise to consider The Inn at Ocean’s Edge in Lincolnville…

For more Mid-Coast Maine traveling tips, click here to read my full length article and Eat it Up!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sugar & Spice (and everything nice)

It’s crunch time. There’s one last weekend to trim the tree, gild the gifts, pack the bags or set the table for a holiday housewarming. As families all across the globe gather to celebrate the season in festive style, I find myself back home in Buffalo helping Mamma recover from yet another cancer surgery. Lucky as we are to celebrate her clean bill of health, there’s nothing that threatens to dampen the spirits more than an unexpected spell under the knife. To perk up our holiday party, I’ve decided to take it upon myself to bake Mamma’s Christmas cookies for her this year. Her traditional cut-outs have become legend ’round these parts, but last September I was lucky enough to work with McCormick spice company to shoot a web campaign for the nearly-here holiday season…and I picked up a few tips along the way. Press play on the video screen above to watch me bake off two versions of McCormick’s sugar cookie cut-outs. The interactive video let’s you choose between recipes for a rich, nutty flavored cookie made with almond extract, or classic vanilla cut-outs livened up with accents of cinnamon and nutmeg. Elbow deep in sugar and spice, it’s hard not to feel merry while singing carols with a piping bag in hand. Oh, and the professional food stylist’s on-set secret to perfect frosting that won’t smudge? Meringue powder. Who knew? Have a happy holiday Food Mavens, and Eat it Up!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Desert with Daddy

Just about this time last year, I returned to blogging after a four-month hiatus to move to Boston with my man. During my break from the blogosphere, my bestie got engaged (wedding photos here), Mr. Mix and I traveled to Chicago for our annual Thanksgiving fête with his fam, and Papa Belle and I escaped to Scottsdale, Arizona for some father-daughter time in the Sonoran Desert. With wafts of smoked chipotle chilies roasting over pecan wood flames providing the backdrop to our bonding, we indulged in little else but poolside sunbathing, hiking through desert sandscapes and sampling Southwestern cuisine. My article about our adventures out West has finally hit international newsstands in last week’s edition of Business Today magazine. You can preview the first few paragraphs below, and follow the link at the bottom of the post to read more:

The last time I vacationed in Scottsdale, Arizona I was ten years old. What does a ten-year-old from upstate New York do in the desert over Christmas vacation? My parents might have asked themselves the same thing.

Located in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, Scottsdale may be best known for its weather, which has fostered many a retirement community and championship golf course. Yet, neither qualify it as a tween-friendly destination. In 1988 The Phoenician had just opened, and it promised to be one of the world’s best resorts. Unable to resist its allure (or book a babysitter), my parents dragged us along for a week of luxuriant spa treatments, fine-dining excursions and “magical” sunsets. My brother and I would’ve preferred hot dogs at Magic Kingdom.

Returning home with a sunburn, a taste for Southwestern cuisine and a potted cactus, I wasn’t especially eager to revisit Scottsdale. But recently, when my father suggested a father-daughter trip to the desert, I acquiesced–if only for old times’ sake. In the two decades since, both the city and the ten-year-old had grown up. I would experience Scottsdale from a completely fresh perspective while relishing (this time) the serene resort setting.

Within a day of arriving, it became obvious that Scottdale’s sprawling sandscapes had reconfigured into an urban hub. The city had acquired the polish of a sophisticated lady about town, while retaining the graceful hospitality of a bygone era of the American West. By day, perennially sunny skies created an ideal backdrop for outdoor adventures, competitive sports, poolside lounging and upscale shopping. By night, acclaimed restaurants, local galleries and dozens of wine bars, cocktail dens and performing arts venues awaited our discovery...

To read the full length article that was published in Business Today magazine, click here and Eat it Up!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

McCormick & Me

It’s turkey time! The birds are being brined, the pâte brisée is being rolled out atop pie plates across the country–waiting to be filled with nutmeg and cinnamon spiced pumpkin, and the gravy boats are getting a fresh polish. I’m partial to a homemade giblet gravy that requires roasting bones, simmering stock and chopping liver, but if you’re grossed out by gizzards or just need a last minute recipe that’s a little snappier for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving table, I’ve got an idea! Last September I was lucky enough to work with McCormick spice company to shoot a web campaign for the nearly-here holiday season, and our first video was released just in time for turkey. Press play on the video screen above to watch me make McCormick’s “easy as pie” turkey gravy, and sneak a peek into the gourmet digs we were able to shoot in at Tasting Table’s enviable Test Kitchen in New York City. Happy Thanksgiving Food Mavens. Enjoy the holiday harvest and Eat it Up!

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