redefining wanderlust

a life blog by Bekka

Posts for EATS & DRINKS Category

Oregon Treasure : Goonies & Tillamook Cheese

October 23, 2015 | #ontheroad1015 (previous post)

When Dan and I travel we have no shame about trying to make it to a destination right before closing. We parked and ran to the Molly Brown museum in Denver, Colorado  and we parked and booked it into the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  Now that I’ve edited all the footage from October 23, 2015, I’m really damn impressed with the amount of fun we squeezed into that day.  But since the internet can be deceiving I also want to confess, that by the time we were racing to Tillamook my anxiety was sky high. That when we went to the Goonies rock, I was definitely on edge and had to apologize for momentarily turning into a mega bitch, because I’m not perfect.  I also had tunnel vision and wasn’t the best listener, as you’ll see in the video. These anecdotes are my truth, but my memory is that Dan and I flipping killed it that day and from Seattle to Eugene, Oregon we saw everything on our travel list. We laughed and ate a sandwich from a Seattle deli around the Oregon / Washington border.  We created more dorky memories for us to treasure. Since I’m not super proud of my 2015 vlogging skills, here are pictures from inside the Goonies Museum and Tillamook Cheese adventure. I highly recommend these road trip stops for any big kid!

Based on my 90’s pop-culture obsession, I assume that it would be obvious that my pop-culture obsession dips into the 80’s as well. So, yes I was raised on Goonies and I recommend looking at the following photos with the Cindy Lauper classic “Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” playing at the same time.

Goonies Museum Oregon Road Trip

Goonies Museum Oregon Road Trip

Goonies Museum Oregon Road Trip

Goonies Museum Oregon Road Trip

Data_Goonies_RoadTrip

Cory Connection_Goonies_Roadtrip

Goonies Museum Oregon Road Trip

Goonies Museum Oregon Road Trip

Goonies Museum Oregon Road Trip

Goonies Museum Oregon Road Trip

Goonies Museum Oregon Road Trip

Goonies Museum Oregon Road Trip

Goonies Rock_RoadTrip

Tillamook Cheese Oregon Road Trip

Tillamook Cheese Oregon Road Trip

The employees were really nice and snapped this picture for us. I was trying to take a quick selfie since the factory was closed, but one of the workers said, “No let’s do this right and get in the bus.”

He took my camera and this photo is now in existence.

Tillamook Cheese Oregon Road Trip

Tillamook Cheese Oregon Road Trip

Tillamook Cheese Oregon Road Trip

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Breakfast at Sweedeedee | Portland, OR

October 20, 2015 | Day 6 of #OnTheRoad15 (previous day)

Our Airbnb hosts told us about Sweedeedee, as they put it, the breakfast spot is a quintessential Portlandia style experience. As two Los Angeles hipsters, there was no way we could skip out on a spot like that and off to Sweedeedee we went.  Everything about the eatery was perfect and everything about me that day was falling apart. I was dealing with major in the moment fear of missing out anxiety. That terrible anxious feeling I get where I question my experience while I am experiencing it, wondering if I’m having enough fun – when that question alone takes all the fun out of it. Sitting in our adorable corner booth in this darling restaurant, looking at an old couple eating their food and reading the paper, I tried to slow down.

I tried to enjoy the moment and my amazing fiance tried to remind me that we were on vacation. I ordered corncakes with greens and bacon, and Dan ordered the smoked trout with eggs and potatoes. His breakfast was much tastier than mine, I’ve come to find out I’m not a big fan of corncakes – I can’t blame the restaurant for that. I did, however, drool over the plate my breakfast was served on, the mugs for our coffee, the dish for salt and everything else on the table. When we walked in there was no line, but by the time we left it was clearly out the door. Here’s what our breakfast at Sweedeedee looked like before our adventure in Portland.

Check out the vlog for our full day in Portland post breakfast.

Playing Vinyl at Sweedeedee Pies at Sweedeedee Bowerbird getting us coffee at Sweedeedee Ceramic Coffee Cups at Sweedeedee Corncakes Breakfast at Sweedeedee Salt at Sweedeedee Trout and Egg Breakfast at Sweedeedee How To Order at Sweedeedee

 

 

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Road Trip Adventure in Northern California : Mission to the San Francisco’s Ferry Building

October 17, 2015 | Pt. 1 of  Day 3 of #ontheroad1015 ( previous post )

After an amazing night out with Bowerbird’s pal drinking and eating at Cavalier, I had to wake up early the next morning to do some work. While Bowerbird slept, I got ready for the day and followed up on emails and scheduled content for my clients. After Bowerbird woke up he decided to be a sweetheart and walk over to Blue Bottle coffee down the street and pick us up some good black brew, he left and I continued to work. Twenty minutes later, he returned to the hotel room frustrated as he couldn’t find the coffee shop. We both hate google maps and how it decides to change directions on a whim or decide to say you’ve arrived when you’re still 500 feet away from your destination. So I understood his frustration and pulled out my phone in order to get a better sense of where the coffee shop was on the map. Staring out our hotel window, together we finally figured out where Blue Bottle was located. So he went down for round two of mission “Blue Bottle Coffee”. I continued to work.

Twenty minutes later, Bowerbird returns even more aggravated and stressed. He had waited in the long line at Blue Bottle, only to discover his wallet was missing at the crash register. When he got back to the hotel room, the wallet was fortunately left on the bed and obviously our blue bottle experience was not going well. Bowerbird ate a Luna bar as we both sipped on crappy hotel room coffee, waiting for me to finish working and we could grab a bite at Cowgirl Creamery. One of the most delicious cheese makers EVER!

On the walk to the Ferry Building - San Francisco StorySpam spotted on our walk to Blue Bottle Coffee

Our friend had told us that the Blue Bottle location next to our hotel was the absolute best, so hoping third times the charm, after I was done working we walked to Blue Bottle together. The line was ridiculously long and as time was running out, we decided to give up and just walk to Cowgirl Creamery inside the Ferry Building. It’s important for me to note that there is no parking in San Francisco. It’s not a very street parking friendly city, so we decided to walk everywhere in order to save money. We had decided to leave our car parked at the hotel and just be charged for hotel overnight parking. And since I didn’t want to pay for any additional hours outside of our hotel stay, it was really important we left the parking structure by check-out time (noon).

On the walk to the Ferry Building - San Francisco Story

On the walk to the Ferry Building - San Francisco Story
On the walk to the Ferry Building - San Francisco Story

The Ferry Building was a 25 to 30-minute walk from our hotel. I love the architecture in San Francisco. I feel like the city was built for me! The entire city was interesting and captivating, the wires and cranes. I could wander around that city for days. The Ferry Building was AWESOME!! I have yet to visit Grand Central Market in Downtown LA, but I have a feeling it might be like the Ferry Building. Vendors were pushing large carts filled with fresh produce. I snapped a blurry photo of a man holding two ginormous heads of lettuce up to his ears as he moved through the crowd. There was an entire section devoted to mushrooms. I was completely awe-struck and falling in mad foodie love.

We found Cowgirl Creamery and order a grilled cheese and cheese platter. While I waited for the food, Bowerbird hopped on over to Blue Bottle to stand in line for coffee. At this point, there was no way we were leaving San Francisco, let alone go on in our day, with our proper *caffeination from flipping Blue Bottle. I found him in line and we devoured our warm grilled cheese. I honestly don’t remember what it tasted like, but I’ll assume good. Then I abandoned Bowerbird to explore the Ferry Building more and drop off my fun postcards.  I fell in love with this adorable cake and sweets shop called Miette, where I picked up my nieces and nephew gummy brains and pumpkins for Halloween. By the way, I’m terrible at buying souvenirs and feel I’m failing as an aunt, but more on that later.

Dan and the mushrooms at the Ferry Building

Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Plate

New friend at the Ferry BuildingAfter Bowerbird had our coffees we headed outside to scarf down the rest of our cheese platter, because as I looked at the clock we only had 30 minutes before check out. Oh and our hotel is a 30 minute walk away!! I feel like Bowerbird and I are pro-sightseers, we try to absorb as much of our atmosphere as possible, like dry thirsty sponges that found a puddle in the desert. So we walked back through the Ferry Building making mental notes of our surrounding and snapped a few photos of it from across the street, then we walked as fast as our legs could carry us. We only stopped if the intersection was red, throwing caution to the wind if only the hand was red. Checking my phone periodically to see what our estimated time of arrival was, just as we gained time we lost it because we stopped to take pictures of the architecture. We managed to get to our hotel, out of breath, ten minutes before check out. Running up to our hotel room, I grabbed my client’s products to shoot in the lobby and Bowerbird took our bags down to the car.  We were back on the road by 12:15pm.

On the walk to the Ferry Building - San Francisco Story

On the walk to the Ferry Building - San Francisco Story

Please check out the vlog I made of our adventure to the Ferry Building. I still dream of that hall of wonders.

*caffienation – is not a real word, but it is today!

photoshopped together

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French Fried Artichokes & Pumpkin Carving

Pezinni Farms Artichokes

Like I shared before, I have no idea how I’m going to organize all my tales from the road. So let’s just throw chronological order out the window and go with ‘what Bekka feels like writing about today’ order.

October 25, 2015 | Day 10

On our way up to San Francisco, we passed by a road side sign that said ‘french fried artichokes’. Being a connoisseur of french fries and a lover of artichokes, we put the farm on our list of things to hit up on our way back down. While on the road, because of time constraints, there tends to be a lot of “leave it for the drive home” decisions – this was one of them. We wrote down the name Pezzini Farms and on our last day of the road trip looked up the farm.

I wasn’t expecting much but was still blown away by the adorable farmer general store they had set up. Jars of jams, jellies, and local honey lined one of the walls; adjacent was a wall filled with fresh chopped garlic, sundried tomatoes and sauces for pasta or dipping artichokes. I squealed at the rustic signs for brussel sprouts and artichokes, I couldn’t get over how country chic and pinterest-y it all was!

Pezzini Farms Adventure

Pezzini Farms Adventure

Pezzini Farms Adventure (5)

We ordered our french fried artichokes, which actually look nothing like french fries, but are battered and fried artichoke hearts. They gave us a delicious garlic aioli for dipping, and I even came up with a technique for enjoying them. At first I popped a whole one in my mouth and wasn’t that impressed. I couldn’t taste any of the artichoke. But the second time, I decided to savor the bite more and actually took bites of the heart. I don’t know if it’s because the artichoke became exposed to oxygen or something, but suddenly I could taste more of the artichoke and I really enjoyed it.

After our roadside snack, I enthusiastically decided we should pick up some pumpkins. They had a very tiny display, but Bowerbird and I have never carved pumpkins together. Given that it’s the week of Halloween and we would be arriving home that night, why not squish some squash in our trunk. (oh the puns!)

Pezzini Farms Adventure

We picked out our perfect pumpkins, mine is oval and smooth, his has a lot of character; tonight we are carving them up! Hence, me wanting to post about how we acquired our pumpkins. I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is to follow a roadside sign and see where you end up. I had no idea what these french fried artichokes would be, but it lead us to the most delightful market. We also purchased a large jar of yummy raw honey and three artichokes that I steamed last night. It was my first time steaming artichokes, the idea of it and instructions are much more difficult than the actual execution.

Well, I’m off to carve a pumpkin, eat pizza, and watch Lincoln. I love how our first pumpkin carving experience now has a romantic story attached to it – we picked them out on the side of the road amongst fields of artichokes on our engagement road trip. I can see Keanu Reeves being cast as Bowerbird and the movie poster looking something similar to A Walk in the Clouds.

Pezzini Farms Adventure

Pezzini Farms Adventure

Pezzini Farms Adventure

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KY : The Bourbon Trail – MAKER’S MARK

bourbon trail makers mark

OCTOBER 13, 2014 | DAY 12 of #ONTHEROAD1014

I’m playing Ryan Adams to get me in a Kentucky mindset, and I have to share the somber cloud that hovers over my heart. It was recently announced Mandy Moore and Ryan Adams are getting a divorce. They were my favorite celebrity couple, even more than Brad and Angelina, and I just thought they could make it work. Now with 5 years of marriage being thrown into the celebrity wind, I have to take a moment for over-dramatic mournful silence.

***

Now back to the bourbon trail. While driving down the bourbon trail we saw large square buildings with windows, scattered across rolling hills. If a corporate building and a country barn had a baby, it would be these boxes.  They reminded me of something out of a horror movie, where all the zombie are kept or is storage for twisted experiments. Now the sky was cloudy and gray that day, and since I’m fairly morbid my imagination got a little carried away. In actuality, they are rack houses, where the bourbon goes to age and rest. So I guess technically it is storing an experiment – in awesome flavor!

bourbon resting house

We made the last Maker’s Mark tour and were the first to purchase our tickets. Letting us have that magical alone time the early bird gets to savor. The waiting house is a real Disney style attraction, with talking picture reciting the history of Maker’s Mark and a replica kitchen showing how Margie Samuels, the wife of T. Williams Samuels came up with the signature Maker’s Mark bottle. Margie was a marketing master and designed the Maker Mark’s bottle inspired by the unique shapes of cognac bottles. She wanted Maker’s to be distinctively different from the other bourbons on the market. It was also her idea to have the distillery painted black, as she was tired of it always looking dirty.  See there is a naturally occurring fungus that grows around distilleries called, Baudoinia Compniacensis, and it turns trees and objects black. Margie was annoyed with fighting the fungus so she painted the buildings black with red trim, and her branded esthetics has lasted through the decades.  Oh yeah, the distillery you tour is the same one that produced the first bottle of Makers in the 1950’s, how cool is that!!!

Makers Mark Kitchen

Makers Mark Distillery

Of course, there have been upgrades, like the beautiful copper distillers. But the room which ferments the sour mash was totally vintage. We got to poke our finger into the brew, which looked like captain crunch and tasted like sweet watery white bread. We also got to take home our own Maker’s Mark label, made on the same printing press from their early days. These kinds of true to tradition touches gave the distillery real charm. Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of Maker’s Mark. I enjoy rye bourbons, and I found out they don’t use any rye in their recipe. Just corn sour mash and red winter wheat. So the tasting was a little underwhelming to me, but still very enjoyable.

Makers Mark Distillers

makers mark sour mash

We found out there is an ambassador program you can join, where they mark a barrel of bourbon with your name on it, and in 7 years you can purchase ‘your’ bourbon. I was so excited about this program, I told Bowerbird that I would need to plan my ovaries around the ambassador program, because I wouldn’t want to be pregnant when our bourbon was ready. I also said this out loud, and one of the other gentlemen on the tour remarked it was the best statement he’s ever heard.  What can I say, I love bourbon.

The coolest thing, about bringing home a bottle of Maker’s Mark from the distillery, is that you can dip it in the hot wax yourself. This was our epic road trip across the country, so we had to experience a dipped bottle. I was nice and let Bowerbird be the dipper, and the second it was cooled and handed to us I tried to carve the date into the wax, but it was too solid. Unfortunately, there was too many liabilities when it came to carving the wax when it was still hot. I hid a few of my road trip postcards in the gift shop too, and was tweeted on the road a week later from a fella who found it in a feminist book. Getting tweets while on the road was so cool. I still wonder about the postcards floating out there.

dipping makers mark in red wax

It was a bummer we were unable to go to any additional distilleries. Bowerbird was really looking forward to Four Roses, but we both agreed Maker’s Mark was worth it. We had been told it was a must see distillery, and for not even liking Maker’s that much, I absolutely loved my experience there. The bourbon trail hands out these passports you can get stamped at all the distilleries, new life goal is to get it filled. Bulleit distillery, you’re next on my list.

cute couple at maker's mark

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KY: The Bourbon Trail – Heaven Hill

Bourbon Trail Heaven Hill

OCTOBER 13, 2014 | DAY 12 of #ONTHEROAD1014

Bowerbird and I have decided to stay off the booze and abstain from spirits in 2015*. Not because either of us has a drinking problem that has made our lives unmanageable. But because we both really dislike the lethargy and mild headaches that just one glass of alcohol can induce. 2015 is a big year for the both of us, and we want to be on top of our game. So it’s a good thing we hit the Bourbon Trail in 2014. We are both sad to be giving up whiskey and bourbon, our favorite spirits because of the aroma and smooth finish. Yet I don’t think we will be able to top the sampling of a $400 bottle of Evan Williams either.

The portion of the bourbon trail we visited was in Bardstown, which is only thirty minutes from Louisville, and where essentially most of the bourbon distilleries reside. Also the ‘trail’ is a paved highway, just for clarification. Welcoming us to the Bourbon trail was a sign propped on the front lawn of a lovely house that read, “Bourbon destroys lives.” Our first stop on the trail was Heaven Hill distilleries and Bourbon Heritage Center. It had great interactive displays of how Bourbon is made, with buttons and knobs that lit up and made noises. At the touch of a button one of the displays released the sharp and hypnotizing scent of bourbon. I felt like a kid in a science center. There was also a history of distilling bourbon; describing why corn is used as the mash, and the ways it was hidden from officers during prohibition. Bowerbird and I were mostly just interested in a tasting, and not the full 2 hour tour of the distillery, so with our souvenir tasting glasses we enjoyed an array of premium Heaven Hill bourbon.

Bourbon Heritage Center

Heaven Hill Bourbon Tasting

Sadly I can’t find my notes from the tasting, and apart from knowing that one of the bottles (seen below) is $400 and only sold in Japan, I don’t recall the specifics of the other bourbons. But they were delicious. First enjoying them neat and then with a dash of water. The water changing the flavor ever so subtly. I remember one of the bourbons evaporated on my tongue. Another one tasted sweeter after the drop of water, giving a more caramel and syrup quality to the bourbon. We were with three other couples during the tasting and it was fascinating hearing everyone’s take on the flavors.  It was so much fun to geek out with other bourbon and whiskey nerds.

Evan William Bourbon Trail

adding water to bourbon

By the time we left Heaven Hill we could only make one other distillery and another couple from the tasting highly recommended seeing Maker’s Mark. As you drive up onto the Maker’s Mark property, the buildings and trees are all black, windows trimmed with red. I didn’t know much about Maker’s Mark before my tour, but I’m so happy we went there.  The history and marketing behind Maker’s would make any feminist fan of branding drool – and that’s basically me.

I’m going to break this up into two stories as the tale of Maker’s Mark deserves a post of its own.

Tell me what’s your favorite bourbon? Have you been on the bourbon trail?

*Exceptions to our 2015 resolution includes vacations and one double date to a whiskey bar we couldn’t get to in 2014. Update: 9/20/15 – our resolution went out the window in March, although we are currently not drinking. Go figure.

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SC : HUSK RESTAURANT – The Food

HUSK Restaurant Road Trip

This road trip was all about being open to new experiences, approaching life with an openness to meeting new people, trying new foods, taking detours, and seeing where we end up. Luckily we ended up at a table in Charleston, South Carolina at the acclaimed Husk Restaurant; there is a location in Nashville as well. Currently Chef Sean Brock of Husk restaurant is in the middle of a book tour for his first cookbook Heritage. I’ll need to pick up this book for Bowerbird, so we can relive our night of pure gastro bliss. Getting a table at Husk was a significant part of this culinary adventure, and I can’t thank Sean and Kristin enough for making it happen.

Husk Charleston is well situated in an antebellum style home built in the late 19th century. A white picket fence surrounds a courtyard that leads out to a separate side house where waiting diners can start with drinks and appetizers at the bar, which was packed with liquor and people. Bowerbird and I squeezed through the crowd to the opposite end, away from the door, to get bourbon before dinner. I tried to snap some photos but the dark lighting made it difficult without being obnoxious to other patrons. The bartenders were sharp and fast, there were about 30 people inside and only two bartenders attending them- I commend them. Just as we were about to take our drinks out of the bar house and into the courtyard for a less claustrophobic experience, the bartender unveils a massive ham leg (what I think) for fresh sliced Prosciutto. Please correct me in the comments below, but whatever that was, I want it next time.

HUSK Charleston Bar House

When we were seated our extremely nice waiter made a comment that we’d traveled a long way. Being a giant dork, I didn’t even connect the fact he would know about my road trip tweet and went into the entire story. He politely smiled and said he knew then he inquired if I was a chef myself. I informed him I wasn’t, but an avid eater and food appreciator. Confession: I’ve been caught more than once talking to my food in a restaurant.

To begin our dining experience, the waiter brought out warm rolls served with a side of pork fat honey butter. These rolls were light and could be pulled apart like cotton candy. There was a subtle flavor of bacon, topped with toasted sesame seeds adding a woodsy flavor to compliment the sweet bread. As a first impression, the rolls had me on my knees; I could eat those morning, noon, and night.

huskdinnerrolls

 

Bowerbird and I shared two first courses and two suppers. Based on the menu from the night before, we strategized our dining experience during our drive from Richmond to Charleston. We had wanted to experience as many flavors as possible and in the end chose four different proteins to sample.

We ordered wood fired clams and smoked Surry County sausage with braised peppers and mustard greens in a tomato broth served with roasted garlic toast; and TN pork ribs with peach BBQ, pickled peaches and green peanuts with puffed pork skins as our two first courses. Bowerbird can’t have anything with added sugar, which makes experiencing southern BBQ difficult, as brown sugar tends to be a main ingredient. But our waiter assured us there was no additional sugar in the peach BBQ and relied strictly on the natural sugars in the fruit.

huskwoodfireclams

husktnporkribs

We started with the wood fired clams which had a delicate flavor profile and were light and buttery while bursting with garlic flavor, the tomato broth was savory and void of acid. The sweet onions and red bell peppers balanced the bitterness of the mustard greens and fennel in the Surry County sausage. It seemed as if the saltiness in the dish came straight from the ocean, we sopped up every last drop of the broth with the one piece of garlic toast we had. At times I wish I didn’t need to be classy at the dinner table, manners prevent one from truly having every last bite.

We waited until we were done with the clams before eating the BBQ pork ribs. This unfortunately had us experiencing the ribs when they were lukewarm but none-the-less they were still amazing. The TN pork ribs were thick on the bone, they’re then charred on the outside just enough to add a good smoky flavor but not unpleasantly burnt. Slathered in BBQ sauce, it had a spicy kick that built with each bite. The caramelized peaches brought a unique element to the BBQ sauce. I was most impressed by the elegant touch of green peanuts, as it added a satisfying crunch to the tender meat. The puff pork melted in our mouth and stuck in our teeth like taffy, it added a fun factor to the plate. Being of Hawaiian heritage, in reminiscing about the dish it reminds me of something I would have in Hawaii; but instead of pineapples they used peaches, and instead of macadamia nuts they used green peanuts.

For our supper we ordered cornmeal dusted catfish, sweet corn and VA sausage “gumbo” with Carolina gold rice, charred okra, and confit cherry tomatoes. I’m a duck fiend, so we also ordered the confit duck leg with Anson Mills Brewster oats, heirloom pumpkin and chestnuts, Tuscan kale, honey vinegar, and spiced chevre. Both of these dishes were delicious and inspired very strong narratives. When I had a music and art blog, I’d describe the music in narratives. It’s the same for how I experience food. Stories develop in my imagination, the food being the inspiration.

The catfish was soft and flaky and it didn’t have that odd bottom feeder flavor, instead it acted as the perfect canvas to the gumbo Creole spices. The cornmeal crust was a crisp delicate second skin on the catfish. The confit tomatoes were out of this world- while being only the size of my thumb nail, this tiny tomato burst in my mouth, enveloping it in a rich savory flavor. It was like tasting a tomato for the first time. The dish was young, fresh, light and vibrant.

 

huskcatfish

On the other plate, the duck was moist and tender. The entire flavor palate rich and warm, it resonated within a deeper place and felt more mature. I didn’t know this was possible, but the cooked kale was succulent. The oats, pumpkin, and chestnut were mixed together as sort of risotto, spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon; it was like tasting autumn.

huskduckconfit

 

 

Every bite of the duck confit wrapped me up in a cozy blanket and invoked a sense of nostalgia. Its a dish you’d want to serve your family during the holidays. The catfish was more youthful, its story younger. I could imagine it being made for a one year anniversary, and the home cook’s funny little mishaps till it was executed just right.

The two suppers were like the past and future existing on our table. Bowerbird and I have been together for two years. The catfish dinner tasted like those first few dates where you’re nervous and everything is electrified with newness. The duck confit our future, with decades of memories collected together and a deep love enriched by time.

Sean Brock is all about the story and heritage that is conveyed through food. I felt like I was served, tasted, and understood those stories; at least on how they apply to my own life. I hope I was able to give our dinner justice. I did order dessert, but at that point had pushed my stomach beyond its limitations and with a few mindless bites of the apple potpie, all I can report back is that it was good. My dinner at Husk was one of the best meals of my life. It almost brought me to tears. The whole experience of getting the table, the amazing food we ate, one of my favorite bands Drive by Truckers playing over the speakers in the background. It was a culinary dream come true. Husk completely indulged my five major senses. I’m so happy I didn’t give up when I saw there were no reservations available or that I didn’t surrender to a full stomach when dessert came.

huskcoffeeandmilk

huskapplepotpie

If you are incredibly lucky and in Charleston looking for the best meal of your life, book in advanced for a fantastic night at HUSK. Here is a link to book your reservation.

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SC : HUSK RESTAURANT – The Table

South Carolina HUSK

As we are back from the road posts might be a little out of chronological order, like this one! We left off in the first half of Nashville which was the 9th of October, now let’s fast forward to the 15 & 16. Zoooom!

One of the most exciting things to happen on this trip was getting seats at the fully booked Husk Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina through twitter. Yes, Twitter! Before we left for this trip, I was expressing to a friend that we would be traveling mostly through the south. He told me I had to check out the second season, first part of The Mind of a Chef (available on Netflix). This portion of the show is strictly about Southern food hosted by Chef Sean Brock of Husk Restaurant. He expresses his love for heritage grains and preserving the history and stories of backwoods cooking that earned the south its culinary distinction. From the Low country to the Appalachian Mountains, before southern cooking was only known for fried chicken, mac and cheese, gravy and grits; it had flavors and grains that were unique to the seeds and people.

I respect Chef Sean Brock and his passion for food and its purpose in preserving his heritage. He’s even explored the history of the flavors brought to the states through the southern slave trade. It’s agreed slavery is a terrible horrible institution, but it’s a part of American history and shaped the south. I believe Sean Brock addresses all aspects of Southern cooking and food in a very educated manner, that’s why I HAD TO GO TO HUSK!

On October 15, we were in Williamsburg, Virginia. As we would be heading to Charleston the next day, I thought, “Oh I should probably book a reservation, just in case”. Putting in our arrival time into Open Table I watched as the loading dots searched for a table and presented the next available reservation, 5:30pm October 28. My heart sank. I was shocked. I felt stupid for not booking earlier, and then started coming up with reasons I couldn’t have booked earlier to make myself feel better. Bowerbird could see how terribly upset I was, I felt like the stormy clouds that loomed outside. The rain that fell down were my tears. But as my mother always told me, there is no use feeling sorry for yourself. I rallied. I told Bowerbird “Maybe we can just get a seat at the bar” or “Hang out till a reservation cancels.” We were going to Charleston just for HUSK. I packed a pretty dress. There was no way I was giving up so easy.

My professional bread and butter is Social Media Management. I’m no social superstar, yet. My follower count on Twitter is under 300. But I was going to Tweet Husk anyway….

HUSK twitter

Being a social media professional I thought it might be hours or a day before anyone read my tweets. So I turned to Sean! I had tweeted him before, while watching the show. He never interacted with me, but maybe he remembered my tweet to his buddy Edward Lee regarding a Dolly Parton karaoke showdown. I directed my plea to the chef, because I really just wanted to experience his cooking. I didn’t need the fancy restaurant. I just wanted to taste the grains, farms, and the southern heritage Sean puts into his dishes at HUSK. This road trip was all about the South, I could not give up on the ultimate in southern cooking.

Sean Brock Twitter

I tweeted in the rain with droplets collecting on my screen to the point I was afraid of water damage. My request was out in the universe and on Twitter. Now all I could do was wait. Dan and I explored Williamsburg.  Drank a beer in a non-designated area like teenagers, hiding next to Coca Cola vending machines. Visited the museum and exhibit on the first colonial Mental Institution on the site of the first asylum. We even had a delightful dinner in one of the colonial restaurants. They fortunately had available space when we made reservations.

wet phone

When we got back to the car, I was feeling really weird. This was also the day after we had stayed in the haunted hotel, more on that later. I had to stop and pray. Not pray for us to get seats at HUSK, but just that this heavy weird feeling that was lingering would go away. As we drove to the home of our couch surfer, I received a tweet from a Kristin saying she was happy to help with my mission to HUSK.

Kristin and I began corresponding through email regarding the reservation. Emails that my phone was not receiving in a timely manner, and created some anxiety as we drove down to Charleston the next day. But in the end it all worked out, by 1:30pm on October 16 we had reservations for that night at 8:30pm. My Mom and Dad are amazing home cooks, I’ve been spoiled with delicious food my entire life. I appreciate the work that goes into a plate, and nothing peeves me more than overpriced mediocre food. The dinner at HUSK was not the case. I’m splitting this up into two stories, as I feel the lead up was just as interesting as the actual dinner itself. So if you would like to continue reading – click here – .

Once again it was shown to me you really bring about what you think about. I had told the story of Husk and Sean Brock to dozens of people since I’d watched Mind of a Chef.  Every person we met and asked what we had planned, I mentioned going to HUSK. I tried to express the enormity and importance of preserving grains and seeds to other people, the way Sean shared it on Mind of a Chef. Now I get to share just how amazing his cooking is too.

Here is the schedule for Sean’s “Heritage” book tour. It started on October 19, and unfortunately it never synced up with our own trip.  If you happen to be in the same town as his tour, I really urge you to go. He is a personable chef with a lot of heart and understands how to deliver flavor!

Sean Brock Heritage

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SPOTLIGHT ON T-WE TEA : Interview with owner Chris Coccagna


T We Tea Interview

T-We Tea is a fun tea company based out of San Francisco, they’ve set up booths at Renegade Craft Fair, Patchwork, and even have a store font in the bay area. This is not your grandmother’s afternoon tea, and their loose leaf teas have whimsical and sometimes cheeky names like Grumpy Dinosaur a spearmint, peppermint vanilla bean tea or Scandalous Man Friend a Darjeeling tea with spearmint, clove and peppercorn. I reached out to the founder and owner of T-We Tea, Christopher Coccagna to find out more about this highly creative and delicious tea maker. My favorite is Chai Hard, it’s a blend of two black teas, spices, crushed coffee bean, and chili; it’s my late night kick in the pants.

Do you remember your first cup of tea?

Chris C: My first cups of tea in life started with my mother.  We had a peppermint patch in the backyard and part of our nightly ritual before bed was for me to pick peppermint leaves while she heated water and together we shared tea.  From those moments, tea has always held a really special place in my heart for community and warmth.

You hear of wine specialist, and Starbucks baristas are trained to be coffee specialist, but when did you decide to be a certified tea specialist and what is that like?

Chris C: I always knew that my life needed to be in the culinary arts and always loved cooking, eating, drinking, and creating unique experiences around food.  After college I did some soul searching while living in New Zealand and fell in love with the culture surrounding tea, and thought to myself “We need this back home.”  From then I pursued tea professionally and sought out the Specialty Tea Institute’s Certified Tea Specialist program.  I’m a regular old business administration bachelor’s degree from college, but to then focus my studies on something I am so passionate about was life changing.  I took what I learned about tea and reapplied it in the world of natural tea blending.  Most tea blends use flavoring additives, and I took a unique stance of zero flavorings in our teas but using real ingredients.

T We Tea and Whiskey

How long did the process of opening T-We Tea take? Do you remember where you were when you made the commitment to see your tea dream through?

Chris C: T-WE TEA started as a little doodle 2006 in a journal titled Renaissance man (my personal journal focused on career, art, and culinary pursuits).  Surrounding the words T-WE was written “Community” and “With no tea in him, a man is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.”  Those were my three guiding principles in setting everything up:  Truth, Beauty, and Community.  It took some time and preparation of everything but T-WE launched in Dec 2010 after an amazing sleepless month fueled by creative tea caffeine.

Was T-We Tea an online store, before an actual brick and motor location?

Chris C: Before even online and brick & mortar, T-WE began as a mobile traveling setup at artisan handmade markets.  We found our inspiration in artists and makers (since they create beauty in this world), so the fit was natural to be together in a selling event setting.  We started small then grew to markets outside of San Francisco, and you will now find us at bi-annual shows in SFO, LA, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Austin, Chicago, and Brooklyn.  So our company was completely mobile until we opened a more permanent store in San Francisco in Feb 2013.  We expanded that location in Feb 2014 to include a tea store with tea bar and in-store tea blending where we now manufacture everything by hand for our community to witness.

There is an obvious LGBT friendly spin on your teas. Has anyone ever loved an Earl Cray Cray and then condemned Bicurious George? I imagine your response is as silly as the tea names?

Chris C: T-WE is proudly gay owned and operated and we love to celebrate and support the community.  Being from San Francisco, I love how our company fits so easily into what is culturally San Franciscan (creative and sarcastic).   I love how our product can create a special moment between friends (Imagine giving your bestie Lesbi Friends or Scandalous ManFriend).  In the tea world, I have encountered a lot of tea smug when it comes to knowledge about tea and a lot of “I only drink …(insert fanciest tea name here)…. syndrome”.  I wanted to cut through the smug with some genuine sarcasm and whimsy to brighten this world and make tea a special moment in one’s day.

We have our subtle ways of handling a customer who doesn’t want to say SEXPOT tea, but the only formal complaint came from someone from Dallas (a member of the LGBT community, too!).  We actually created a tea blend for them in response called Precious Angel Kitten to subtly be more PG and say “Bless Your Heart.”  It has become one of our top sellers too.

T We Tea San Francisco

Speaking of tea names, have you taken a name suggestion yet? Your website encourages people to submit their idea. 

Chris C: Lesbi Friends (Apple jasmine oolong), Bad Bromance (hangover herbal tisane), Ghetto Fab (roasted green tea with cacao), and a couple others have come from our customers.  We have accumulated quite the list and pair the name with the best flavor profile in a tea.  Most of the other tea names come from common conversation that you will hear between team T-WE.  You would be amazed how many things we say daily that would make an excellent tea name.  The key is not to think too hard and maybe add bourbon.

Personally I’m a lazy brewer, I don’t time my steep or check the temperature. Are there cardinal tea rules one should never break?

Chris C: Water temperature is pretty crucial in a good cup of tea.  Too hot (like for green tea) or too cool (like for black tea) will definitely affect your end cup.  My tricks are sight and smell.  I always follow the color of the brew and I kind of know when my cup is done because it hits my favorite color for that tea.  I also use my nose and follow the scent, you can kind of tell if it is ready by the fragrance (too soft or too strong).

In October you’re hosting a DIY Tea Blending Class at Workshop in San Francisco. What will that be like? Are people going to learn how to break open their existing tea bags and mix different flavors, or save dried rose petals to kick up their afternoon cup?

Chris C: DIY Tea Blending Class happens monthly in the T-WE TEA store and it is one of my favorite creative classes I teach.  In the class we learn all about tea (tea types, how it’s made, etc), then I teach attendees how to properly cup and taste teas and how subtle nuances will affect a tea blend, then I let them go nuts with all the T-WE ingredients to try their hand at their very own tea blend.

Lastly, what tea ritual do you like better, Japanese Tea House or English Afternoon Tea? 

Chris C: I prefer to be a part of the sacred ritual in an Asian inspired tea ceremony, but who doesn’t love to gorge themselves on scones and sweet treats?  I am morally opposed to loud hats though (but that is just for myself as I would never impose a hat restriction on others).

Even if you are not a tea drinker you should still visit T-We Tea website just to see all the fun names and blends. Pass it along to your favorite tea drinking friend or buy a box of loose leaf tea for yourself and begin your tea journey. Teas range from $10- $15 dollars but are extremely delicious. Tell me your favorite type of tea and if you try and T-We teas.

Basically until next time…. Blow the tea before sipping, burned tongues blow.

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MY NY EATS – SUNDAY

sarabethsi

In New York, I was clearly a pop culture tourist. Pointing out landmarks I’d seen in movies, television, documentaries, or mentioned in books. As I was in New York with two of my close gal pals, we of course wanted to capture the ‘Sex in the City’ memories. Sort of. More of the city than the sex, but one of those included visiting Sarabeth’s. A New York restaurant staple, which I’m not even sure is mentioned on Sex in the City.  But our friend assumed it was. Yet I know for a fact was mentioned several times on Gossip Girl, apparently it was a reason Serena couldn’t live anywhere else than the Upper East Side.

After 3 hours of karaoke and lots of frosty mugs of beer Saturday night, Sunday brunch was not only necessary for nourishment but recovery purposes as well. But like all trendy, popular, Manhattan restaurants there was a wait. We waited for a solid 30 minutes, before being seated. A mixture of locals and tourist, the waiting area poured outside. By the time we were seated, we had all reviewed the menu and knew exactly what we were going to order. Sarabeth’s has a mint blue interior and on the wall hangs portraits of old Hollywood movie stars like Audrey Hepburn and James Dean. Its décor very afternoon tea. As it was very busy the service was ok, nothing special. Considering half the table had a hangover, the fact we needed to get the waiters attention for our water and coffee to be refilled docked some points.

We ordered a pastry basket, since Sarabeth’s it known for their scones and preserves, and the basket was ok. I order tomato soup as a starter. The creamy tomato soup was the highlight of my meal, not too acidic and flavored well with simple spices. We also started off with a crab guacamole that was ok, but lacked that little something extra. For my main breakfast course I got the crab cake sandwich as I really wanted French fries, and it came out covered in a lemon dill tartar sauce. I scraped most of it off. The side salad that came with the meal was dripping in a lemon vinaigrette, I had one bite and ignored the rest.  French fries, good.

brunch at sarabeths new york

Looks can be deceiving 

The thing about places like Sarabeth’s, where the wait is forever, and the reputation precedes it. They don’t have to do anything special to be considered special anymore. Sure, at one point they probably did have the best brunch menu in New York but now the food is mediocre and overpriced. It’s not bad food. It’s not disgusting. It’s just ok. And in my personal opinion nothing is worse than being average, and mediocre. Except for their English muffin, its dense dry and the size of a hockey puck. It gets no love from me.

My advice for good eats while traveling is to go to places the locals eat. This is not surprising advice.  But most locals will not tell you where they go, they mention places they think you should go to eat. Places that are staples of the city. Those staples, in my experience loose a luster because everyone goes to them. They don’t need to try hard, because the rent is being paid by tourist.  Ask the locals the last place they went to dinner or brunch. Have they recently found a new café next to their favorite vintage shop? Look for restaurants that have been recently opened by new hungry chefs, not restaurants where the kitchen is being operated from afar. I really believe half of flavor comes from passion, and Sarabeth’s lacked any heart.

Though I guess when I came home and watched the episode where Blair uses the restaurant as a bargaining tool in Gossip Girl, I did smirk at the fact I had gone there. Can’t deny there exist a small part of fanny pack tourism in me.

blair walforf gossip girl you get what you want

I know Blair, and that is how I feel about food.

I just want to find the best places, where the flavor is equal to the price.  

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