Kickin’ Up Route 66

After Vegas, we headed down to the Grand Canyon. Um, wow.

GCGrand Canyon

Yep, we went there. We stuck around til the sun went down, and saw one of the most beautiful night skies on the planet. Sadly, I’m not skilled enough in photography to have captured it, but this is the idea:

stars

We didn’t see a whole lot of wildlife on this trip, but one thing we did see was…. Elk. One one of the heavily populated walkways at the Grand Canyon, a big ol’ Elk was just hanging out, people-watching. At night as we drove through the Coconino National Forest en route to Flagstaff, we had to slow down twice for Elk crossing the road.

Flagstaff was FREEZING. Seriously, between the cold and the reindeer I could have sworn we were at the North Pole.

For breakfast, we decided to warm up at Brandy’s, a wonderful local restaurant and bakery that was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. What a place! Just a small hole in the wall place with great people and absolutely delicious food. The best pancake of my life. And the best pumpkin spice latte I’ve ever had. I ordered a chipotle scrambler (eggs, chipotle, cheddar, and a tortilla). James had eggs and a pancake. Oh. my. gosh. I would almost move to Flagstaff just to be close to this place.


Brandy's
Brandy's insidePumpkin Spice LatteChorizo Scrambler
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

And with our stomachs full, we hopped in our car and headed for the Pacific!

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Aside

“Put Some Windex On It”

I hate going to the doctor. I always have.

Recently, I had the dreadful situation of having an afternoon appointment with a doctor in downtown Chevy Chase, not far from the DC line. Dreadful because an afternoon appointment gives me more time to revel in my nervous shakes.

On this day, I left work early enough to find lunch on my way down Rockville Pike. I stopped at Mykonos Grill, which looked so inviting with its sidewalk tables surrounded by a white picket fence and twirling vines. I had never eaten alone at a restaurant, but now was the time to try something new. Feeling like myself, I entered the building.

“One, please.”

“To go?”

“No, I’d like to write.”

“Oh! Right away, of course. Where would you like to sit?”

The wonderfully friendly hostess let me choose any of the pretty tables I wanted. This is the view that I chose:

Instantly, I was lifted out of my misery. After ordering, I pulled out my favorite notebook and pen. I felt like a real writer. No, I didn’t break any serious literary ground, but I enjoyed acting the part.

It was an inspiring meal. Being alone and loving variety, I only ordered appetizers: tzatziki and pita, spanakopita, and spinach stuffed mushrooms. All at once I was whisked away from the stifling tense mess of Rockville pike. I was sitting on an island in Greece, soaking in the warm Mediterranean sun. All my worries were gone, and I was myself, writing, dreaming, and thrilled.

The food was delicious, but the real reason to come to Mykonos Grill is the inviting atmosphere and the wonderful people. This wannabe writer will be returning for the instant teleportation to a sweeter, warmer place.

Italian Market Adventure

This weekend, my fiancé and I went to Philadelphia. We both love it. He’s a huge fan of the Philadelphia Soul (Arena Football), I love colonial history, and we both love cheesesteaks. So of course, Philadelphia has a special place in our hearts.

This weekend, our excuse to drive 3 hours to Philly was a Soul game on Friday night. Saturday, we spent the better part of the day roaming around South Philly and the 9th Street Italian Market.

Di Bruno Brothers, 9th Steet

May I just say that for the first time in my life, I was sad I had eaten a huge hotel breakfast? This place smelled AMAZING. So much cheese, meat, pasta, olives, sausage, you name it. After about 5 seconds, I was fantasizing about moving to Philly and shopping here every morning, then going home to our cute historic row house and making dinner for James.

South Philly Row House

In one of the shops, I ran into the longest spaghetti I’ve ever seen. It was about 2 feet long in the package, but it had been folded before it was dried, so each strand was about 4 feet long. Then, for the first time in my life, I came across Candelone pasta- tubular pasta about 1 inch in diameter, and (again) 2 feet long.

I was starstruck. Right away I picked it up and said “I’m buying this.” James laughed at me and said “How are you going to cook it?” “I don’t care, I’ll find a way,” I said. “Even if i have to boil water in the bathtub.”

my souvenir

Luckily, I didn’t have to use the bathtub. In a pot of water with a serious, rolling boil, the spaghetti softened up and shrunk down in about 20 seconds.

It was delicious. I love Philly. Next time I’m going to bring a cooler, a lot of ice, and come home with a serious supply of cheese and sausage as well. We actually did have a cooler with us this trip, but we were planning on spending the rest of the day out around town and didnt want to chance losing the meat. It’s ok though. There will definitely be a next time!

When in Rome… fry an artichoke?

As I was brushing up on my Italian recently, I was reminded of one of the most delicious appetizers I’ve ever had. When in Rome, I had the famous “carciofi alla giudia”, literally, “jewish artichokes”. If you’ve never been to Rome, I bet you’ve never seen this:

Carciofi alla giudia

from cucina.ilbloggatore.com

They say no one but a Roman can cut an artichoke this way.

Originating with the ancient Jewish population in the Ghetto of Rome, carciofi alla giudia (car-CHO-fee alla JOO-dee-aa, for my non-Italian speaking readers) is an artichoke that has been fanned out and deep-fried, creating a crispy-on-the-edges, soft-on-the-inside texture. It’s like a fan of potato chips that are a little chewy in the very center. I’ve never been a big veggie person, but I LOVED this when I had dinner in the Ghetto. I wonder if you can get these anywhere in America? I want to try to make these. I bet James would be afraid to try them, but he usually trusts me. I can’t wait to see what happens!

Smith Island Cake -A.K.A. Why I love Maryland

Not many people outside of Maryland have ever had it. In fact, with the exception of people on the Eastern Shore, not many Marylanders have had it. Smith Island Cake (also known, along with crabs, as God’s Gift to Maryland) looks like this:

Smith Island Cake, as pictured in National Geographic

8-15 layers of yellow cake, with fudgey chocolate icing in between. Seriously, this is the richest cake you’ll ever taste. It’s AMAZING!

They actually make it by cooking each layer separately in its own cake pan, like 8-10 round cake pans with a tablespoon or two of batter in them. Named in 2008 as the official dessert of the State of Maryland, It comes from Smith Island (go figure), a remote island in the Chesapeake Bay that is only accessible by boat. The remoteness and inaccessibility of the island have made the place somewhat of a time capsule. Discovered by John Smith in the 1600s, the people of Smith Island still retain a sort of Elizabethan dialect, as well as an accent that separates them from the rest of Maryland.

Surprisingly, right in the middle of Maryland where most Marylanders live (between DC and Baltimore), Smith Island Cake is almost impossible to find. Luckily for the rest of the world, you can order it online at www.smithislandbakingco.com and have it shipped to your door in 2 days or less. I think I know what I want for my birthday…

Copyright 2010

Lunch on a Greek Island

With Maryland being absolutely freezing today, I’m wishing I was back in Greece.

In August of 2010, I visited the Greek island of Aegina with some friends. For those of you unfamiliar with Aegina, it’s an island that’s about 45 minutes away from the port of Piraeus, the port of Athens. The island is rather large compared to its neighbors, but aside from a busy street of restaurants right near the dock, it’s a warm, sleepy paradise of pistacio trees and bright blue water. I can’t wait to go back!

Approaching Aegina

The day we were there, it was about 100°F. We had lunch in the shade of a big blue tent overlooking the marina, and it was DELICIOUS.

First, we had some really awesome tzaziki. You can get this stuff here, but it’s nothing like the creamy flavor you get in Greece.

We put our tzaziki on this bread, and it was fantastic:

Then I ordered Calamari. I always love calamari, but this was exceptional. Soft and buttery, like they just caught it that morning.

Best Calamari Ever

Lucky for me, there’s a fantastic Greek restaurant down the street from my house. I might have to go there tonight.

New Year’s in Colonial Williamsburg

To ring in the New Year, James took me to Colonial Williamsburg. I have always loved that place. This time we both enjoyed it so much we even thought about moving there.
One of the most fascinating things about Williamsburg is the food. They really do their best to make you feel like you stepped back in time. Friday afternoon we had lunch at Shield’s Tavern. What an atmosphere! We were led down into a brick-walled cellar lit only with candle light, where a gentleman was playing 18th century tunes on a fiddle. It was so much fun!

Sunday morning we went to the Governor’s Palace and saw a woman cooking in the kitchen there. She was following an 18th century cookbook and using a huge fireplace to cook. She was telling us that one of the crazy things about cookbooks in the 18th century is that they leave out “obvious” details. For example, she was making a chocolate pudding, and the recipe didn’t mention sugar, because you’re supposed to know that it’s supposed to be sweet, and be smart enough to add sugar. She said a lot of the recipes are like that. They all say “Cook until done” instead of giving you actual times, for example.

To remember our gastronomical experiences at Williamsburg, we brought home Johnny Cake Mix, gingerbread cakes, Virginia sparkling cider, Virginia peanuts, and a cute kitchen towel with the tavern logos on it. I already have their Raleigh Tavern Bakery Cookbook.

If you’ve never been to Colonial Williamsburg, you really have to check it out. I can’t wait to go back!