#7: Take All I Can Eat at the Red Apple Buffet

Tags

, ,

Desktop3I must admit I have a love/hate relationship with buffets.  On one hand I love the idea of being able to sample a variety of foods for am eclectic culinary experience.  Yet, as a gal who is tiny by nature, this means my stomach is tiny by nature, and therefore I am usually full before I even make it up for round two….thus defeating the need for a buffet.  But, when you can spend a mere ten dollars to branch out and dine on some polish comfort food?  That I can do.

3You know The Red Apple is legit the minute you walk through the doors and are greeted by a cheery host with a thick Eastern-European accent while the wait staff converses to one another in polish.  Sometimes, there is comfort in having no idea what the people around you are saying.

The buffet is a mixture of traditional offerings (mashed potatoes, green beans, a salad bar) peppered with classic Polish dishes. As my purpose was to fully immerse myself into another culture through their food, I stuck with the latter.

Schnitzel, Dill gravy meatballs, Fried Sauerkraut, Fried Beets, Herring in vinegar, Chicken Aspic and Polish Sausage (also a cheese dumpling which is hiding from the camera)

Schnitzel, Dill gravy meatballs, Fried Sauerkraut, Fried Beets, Herring in vinegar, Chicken Aspic and Polish Sausage (also a cheese dumpling which is hiding from the camera)

There were some hits and some misses on this plate.  The sausage had a bit too much gristle for my taste and the meatball was relatively flavorless outside of the faint hint of dill.  However, the beets and sauerkraut, particularly when combined, were cooked very well while the cheese dumpling was rich and creamy with a deep nutty flavor.

As I finished up (and admittedly was already feeling full) I quietly bemoaned the absence of Pierogi’s on the menu.  Perhaps I am short-sighted but when I think of Polish food, I’m thinking Pierogi’s.   I returned to the buffet to perhaps snag another cheese dumpling when something wonderful caught my eye: A second buffet! Tucked around the corner, this smaller buffet held two different Pierogi’s (potato & cheese, and mushroom & sauerkraut) along with cheese blintzes, apple pancakes and crispy potato pancakes.  I helped myself to one of each.

photo 5This second plate was quite successful.  The pierogis were wrapped in pillowy and delicate dough with warm flavorful fillings…the epitome of comfort food.  From the sweet creamy cheese in the blintzes, the moist and tangy apple pancake and the crunch from the potatoes it was a wonderfully delightful plate of food.

I took a gander at the small dessert tower, but was simply too stuffed to really contemplate it.  After grabbing a small chocolate ball covered in fresh coconut shavings, only to take a bite revealing a golden raisin nestled inside, I decided to abandon the desserts altogether.  After all, where there is one raisin, there are many.  There are few foods I can’t abide, but raisins…I just can’t do it.

With that, I waddled away.

 

 

Advertisements

Friday Fotos

Tags

Well friends, I am now in full on rehearsal mode.  It’s been a long time since I have done the balancing act of work during the day/ rehearse at night, but thankfully I am with a really wonderful group of talented and fun people.  Developing new work is a special process, where you are given the chance to shape a character with a writer.  Your thoughts on the characters emotional journey are directly implemented into their lines on the page.  It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s exciting AND scary (name that tune…)

The most important thing on my mind right now is the Illinois House of Representatives. I hope and pray their hearts are moved to do the right thing today…

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 11.17.54 AM

Today is the day…come on Illinois…don’t piss me off.

Some other photos from the week

The aftermath of a successful wine night (there were only two of us imbibing)

The aftermath of a successful wine night (there were only two of us imbibing)

I always feel very victorious once all the pistachios have been shelled

I always feel very victorious once all the pistachios have been shelled

Some yummy gelato in Lincoln Square

Some yummy gelato in Lincoln Square

Our awesome playwright, Danny Bernardo, getting ready for his close up at a super fun photo-shoot on Tuesday

Our awesome playwright, Danny Bernardo, getting ready for his close up at a super fun photo-shoot on Tuesday

I couldn't help but snap a picture of my sweet kitty, just napping with her tongue sticking out

I couldn’t help but snap a picture of my sweet kitty, just napping with her tongue sticking out

Happy Weekend Everyone! Can we get another long one please? Pretty please?

Throw Back Thursday: Pacific Northwest Exploration

Tags

, , , ,

***Warning: Lots of photos up ahead***

I have been meaning to document our big vacation of 2012 for some time now, even though its been almost a year since we ventured to the Pacific Northwest for a fantastic ten-day expedition.  For some reason ever since the season of Real World: Seattle aired in the late 90’s (totally dating myself! No shame!) I have had a love affair with the city, and it’s always been on my mind to get out there.  As I have grown older and become more versed in food cultures and wine growing regions, the entire Pacific Northwest came on my radar. With Seattle, Portland and two world-renowned wine countries (Walla Wall and Willamette Valley) all within a four-hour drive of one another the seed was planted to explore them all on one big trip.

This will be a little “mini-series” if you will, as we covered a lot of ground (and took lots of photographs) during our stay.  So let’s start with Seattle…

After touching down from a smooth flight, we were greeted with gorgeous blue skies as we hopped in our rental car and drove to west Seattle for some chowder and fried oysters at Sunfish, followed by a perfect panoramic view of the skyline.

21 Then it was off to historic Pioneer Square, the spot were Seattle’s founders chose to settle and build the city we know today.

34

We purchased tickets for Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour:  Touristy, yes…but actually a really informative and slightly irreverent way to explore a city underneath a city.  In the late 1800’s a massive fire tore through the city, forcing Seattle to rebuild on top of itself.  I would recommend this tour to anyone who decides to pay Seattle a visit.

6

78

Enjoying the gorgeous weather we strolled over to Pike Place Market, just to get a sense of the place, because we knew we would be returning the next day

9We wrapped up the day with cocktails at Tavern Law, and a few in their secret upstairs bar Needle and Thread (you have to pick up a phone and walk through an old bank vault to get there), followed by a truly incredible meal at The Walrus and the Carpenter (sadly we don’t have photos of the restaurant, but trust me when I tell you it’s remarkable…best oysters we have ever had).

9aDay two was a special day not only because it was our first full day in Seattle, but it was also Jürgen’s 30th birthday! Not a bad way to ring in a new decade if you ask me.  As we were staying in the Ballard neighborhood, it felt appropriate to pay a visit to the Chittenden Locks, and hopefully see some salmon swimming upstream.

101112

Salmon!

Salmon!

We parked our car nearby and hopped on a city bus to head to the iconic Space Needle.  Although at this point we were a bit worried because some of the infamous Seattle fog was beginning to descend and we wondered if we would be able to see anything from the top. Thankfully, just as we arrived the fog began to separate and we were able to get a clear view from the eye of the needle.

13

14

15A note on the needle: To be totally honest I do not think the view is worth the price ($38 for two adult tickets).  Yes its a 360˚ view of a gorgeous city, but it’s actually only 605 feet high (for reference the Willis Sears tower is 1,451 feet) which isn’t quite tall enough to give you that up-in-the-sky, birds-eye view you look for when you pay money to go to the top of a building.  However, the Space Needle is the quintessential image most people see when they think of Seattle so it’s hard to imagine visiting the city and not experiencing it.  I will say the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit next door looked really cool from above. Next time…

Now it was time for round two of Pike Place Market.  A truly remarkable outdoor market right on the Elliot Bay.  It’s a locavores heaven, chock full of hundreds of locally grown and crafted foods from around Seattle.  We picked up a Pork Ham Bow and some crab cocktail for a little lunch as we wandered through the various stalls smelling, tasting and taking in all of the incredible ingredients.

16 17 18 19 20 21 22

23

The original Starbucks. Too bad neither of us drink coffee…

And of course, when at Pike Place, do as the Pike Placers do: Watch them throw fish…

24 25 26After picking up a lovely goat cheese (and gorging ourselves on samples of cheese curds) at Beechers we made a quick pit stop at Pike Brewing Company to sample a few of their brews.

27We the scurried back through Pioneer Square to wait in line at Salumi (Mario Batalli’s fathers outpost) to pick up a few delectable selections of cured meats to take with us as we hopped a ferry to Bainbridge Island.

28

29

Donning my nautical themed scarf while on a ferry…I swear that wasn’t planned

Stunning Seattle

Stunning Seattle

Once across the bay at Bainbridge we strolled through the main drag hopping in and out of small shops and art galleries.  We unpacked our meat and cheese at a darling picnic table and enjoyed a mid-afternoon nosh.  We didn’t stay long, but I would highly recommend a ferry ride and visit to Bainbridge while in Seattle. Next time we go I hope to spend a whole day there.  We also don’t have photos of this part of the trip…I don’t know why. Sad.

Firmly docked back on the mainland, we were thirsty of course.  We stopped into the Zig Zag Cafe for some cocktail hour libations.  We had a wonderful time conversing with some local Seatteites and our fantastic bartender who whipped up some lovely creations, and also (unbeknownst to us) put in a call to the folks over at Canlis, where we would soon be celebrating Jürgen’s birthday dinner.

200805_10100314755709051_1073412654_n 288865_10100314756836791_113683778_o

Our cocktails at Zig-Zag and our meal at Canlis were both incredible.  As a result of our bartenders phone call, the folks at Canlis gave us extra special treatment including some bonus courses and glasses of champagne (score big for turning 30).  The highlight of our meal was a remarkable Muscovy Duck which now holds a spot on my “Top 5 dishes of all time” list.  Tremendous.  Phenomenal food in a rustic yet refined setting. Go. Just go.

Our third (and final) day in Seattle was the only day we didn’t have a set agenda.  All we knew was that we wanted to do something outside, since the area has such lush and wonderful opportunities for hiking and exploring.  Knowing we would be ending up in Woodinville (about 30 minutes outside of Seattle) for dinner that evening anyway, our delightful host suggested we just spend the day there and enjoy the many trails in the area.  Also, she hoped to meet up with us later that afternoon and it was easily accesible from the city.  However she ended up falling ill and was unable to join us (this is a harbinger of things to come…get ready).

When we arrived in Woodinville we were unfortunetly met with a rather chilly and cloudy day.  Unsure of what to do we decided to start the day at Red Hook Brewery, where we thought we could wait out the weather with a little tour and tasting.  And let’s be honest, any opportunity to drink during the day, is one we will take.

31

229090_10100314757475511_182995335_n

Beer brings out our inner smirk

Beer brings out our inner smirk

The tour at Red Hook is only one(!) dollar(!) and you get to taste a lot of brews.  I wasn’t in love with many of them, but it’s a well done tour and an impressive facility.

Stepping out of Red Hook, the skies were no clearer, so we thought why fight it? Let’s keep drinking! Woodvinville is actually home to a host of Walla Walla winery tasting rooms, and a few distilleries.  Even though we would be setting out for Walla Walla the following day, we had a huge list of wineries we wanted to visit, and figured this would be a great way to cross a few off the list a little early.

The spots we hit were: Woodinville Whiskey Company, Soft Tail Spirits, Isenhower Cellars, Amavi Cellars, Pepperbride Winery, J. Brookwalter, and Sparkman Cellars.  Without question Sparkman was our very favorite.

32

Mmm Hmm...

Mmm Hmm…

33

Lots of Grappa at Soft Tail Spirits

Lots of Grappa at Soft Tail Spirits

37Now it must be noted that we shared our tastings at every stop. We had a big dinner that evening and needed to have our wits about us.  After changing in the car (classy!) we headed over to The Herbfarm for a truly unique and very special dinner.

219924_10100314758573311_1449478106_o

The Herbfarm is a dining experience unlike any other I have ever tried.  With only one seating per evening all guests are greeted by name and given the chance to first explore the space before heading out into the restaurants garden where you are given the chance to smell (and taste) many of the herbs and flowers which will be appearing on your plates throughout your meal.

Checking out the wine cellar

Checking out the wine cellar

Herb Farm piggies!

Herbfarm piggies!

220098_10100314765339751_2075107510_oAs it was (kinda) Jürgen’s 30th birthday, we were given a very special seat up at the front of the dining room, and they threw in some special table decorations for the affair:

277970_10100314978073431_1766549966_o 322961_10100314978547481_2082879501_oWhen you dine at The Herbfarm you are a treated to not just a dinner, but an event.  The kitchen is set up almost as a stage, with a big heavy curtain which can be pulled to either hide, or back to showcase it.  At the top of the meal, the curtain is drawn and the entire Herb Farm staff comes out to be individually introduced.  You are then given a step by step guide to the nine courses you will be tasting that evening along with specific wine notes for each course.  The food is thoughtfully prepared using über-fresh ingredients, many of which are procured from the gardens out front.  Every member of The Herbfarm team is deeply passionate about the meals they create and you can taste it in every bite.

Not sure what this expression is supposed to mean.

Not sure what this expression is supposed to mean.

Everything about the experience was flawless, until right before the beef course when I stole off to the ladies room where I proceeded to lose the entire contents of my stomach.  At first I thought it was a byproduct of a day of wine tasting, however I would soon learn that was not the case, but rather the beginning of a nasty flu bug which would reappear the following day as we hit the road for Walla Walla, Washington.

But that, my friends, is for another Thursday.

(Special thanks to my sweet friends Jamie and Emjoy…both Seattlites who were incredible resources when planning this trip. Also, to Val and Drew our wonderfully generous hosts).

 

 

 

The Birch in the Box

Tags

,

photo 2

Having spent many years working in the spa industry, I have a bit of a soft spot for skin care and beauty products.  Although, I admittedly find myself falling into a rut when it comes to trying new looks and beauty routines.  It’s always a bit of a risk financially to invest in a product before you have had a chance to use it and see if it works with your skin-type, plus I can just be a bit boring and not adventurous from time to time.

So, when a friend first told me about BirchBox, I was intrigued.  For a mere ten dollars a month, A pretty pink box is delivered to my door with a curated collection of samples (and on occasion full-sized) of beauty products to try.  How fun is that?

photo 1

I’ve been receiving my BirchBoxes for a few months now and I have already discovered this fantastic exfoliator which is gentle enough for my super sensitive skin yet still effective, and a great organic sunscreen just in time for the summer sun.  Ten bucks to receive some fun surprises in the mail and a chance to play with new products? Sign. Me. Up.

photo 3

No, I receive no kick-backs from BirchBox for writing this little endorsement, I’m just sharing a fun beauty find with you, I’m very giving in that way.

Friday Fotos

Tags

It’s Friday! And not just any Friday, but the beginning-of-a-long-weekend Friday! Hooray!

I actually have rehearsal all weekend, and on Monday. Plus since I work from home I doubt Monday will feel that different…but who cares…it’s Friday!

Just a few photos this week, but first I encourage everyone to take a moment and do what you can to help and support those affected by the tornadoes in Oklahoma this week.  I donated here, but there are so many ways to send aid.  Have you guys seen this video? It made my heart burst.

Some carnage that occurred when my new Toms tried to fight with a dog. Dog-1, New Tom's-0

Some carnage that occurred when my new Toms tried to fight with a dog. Dog-1, New Tom’s-0
Dinner of Mint Creek Farm's lamb sausage and Roasted brussel sprouts over Quinoa with a dusting of parmesan. So good.

Dinner of Mint Creek Farm’s lamb sausage and Roasted Brussel sprouts over Quinoa with a dusting of parmesan. So good.

During a bout of insomnia I decided to get up and wash dishes (like you do). I look over my shoulder to find this.  They aren't supposed to be on the counters, but this face...it had to be captured.

During a bout of insomnia I decided to get up and wash dishes (like you do). I look over my shoulder to find this. They aren’t supposed to be on the counters, but this face…it had to be captured.

Have a great Memorial Day everyone!

May/ June Resolution List: Neighborhood Nibbles

Tags

,

**Alright, I am obviously way behind the eight-ball when it comes to posting this.  When May appeared I knew what I wanted to do, but hadn’t fully researched options for the list.  Then this thing called guilt took over and I felt so bad for being behind that I sort of shut down and avoided blogging altogether out of shame.  I do that a lot.  Instead of just moving forward I recoil and let feelings of woe-is-me take over and dictate my life.  But you see friends, it is my hope that these lists might interest…dare I even say  inspire… you to get out and explore in your own cities. There are no rules when it comes to making them.  There are no failing grades if items don’t get accomplished.  They are merely a compass.  A little set of guide posts to assist you on the road to discovery**

timthumb

On Monday I began rehearsals for my newest theatrical endeavor with Baliwick Chicago.  It’s a world premiere play titled Mahal by Chicago playwright Danny Bernardo.  We open July 1st at Stage 773.  Put it on your calendar 🙂

In a nutshell, Mahal is a new piece about a Filipino-American family which is mourning the loss of their mother and examining their individual cultural identities.  As I am whitey-white-white I am clearly not part of the central family, rather I play a young interior designer who is hired by the father to redo the house now that the matriarch has passed.  It should be a grand old-time that is for sure.

Several scenes in the play revolve around gathering, or attempting to gather, for dinner.  On thing I have learned about Filipino’s so far: they are all about food and family.  Lucky for me, our first read of the script back in February was held at an amazing restaurant called The Pecking Order which serves up amazing Filipino inspired fried chicken, and some of the best rice I have ever consumed.

Discovering a culture through food is by no means a new idea, but even after living in Chicago for almost twelve (!) years, there are still many ethnic neighborhoods and dishes I have yet to experience.  So in a case of life imitating art I am going to set out own my own little edible expedition through several neighborhoods to fill my mind, and stomach.

May/ June Resolution List: Neighborhood Nibbles

Exploring culture through cuisine

1) Try some street cart food on Devon Avenue (Indian)

2) Have some Pho on Argyle Ave (Vietnamese)

3) Experience some Korean BBQ at San Soo Gab San (Korean…you probably already figured that out)

4) Visit a Herbalist in Chinatown (Chinese…yeah…clearly)

5) Stand in line at Mario’s Italian Lemonade and get an Italian Beef Sandwich at Al’s in Little Italy (Ok…this is getting redundant)

6) Explore Beverly by getting a sweet potato pie, a rainbow cone and a pint (Irish)

7) Take all I can eat at the Red Apple Buffet (Polish)

8) Visit the Pilsen Neighborhood Favorite Nuevo Leon (Mexican)

9) Have some Hefeweizen on the roof of Gene’s Sausage Shop in Lincoln Square (German)

10) Try my hand at making my own version of a Jibarito (Puerto Rican)

Fitting this all into a six-day-a-week rehearsal schedule will be tough…but when food is involved, I usually find ways to make things happen.

My stomach is grumbling just thinking about all of this…

Friday Fotos

Tags

You guys…the weather…I am living for this weather.  Just give it two weeks and I will probably be complaining about how it’s too hot and humid. But for right now, I am just going to take it all in.

I’ve had one of those weeks which feels like everything yet nothing happened.  I know I was busy but when I think back on it I feel like I accomplished very little.  Sometimes it’s hard living inside my head.

Anyway…some photos.

Wine glass chandelier at Boarding House

Wine glass chandelier at The Boarding House

We've been holding onto this wine since our trip to Napa in 2011. We finally opened it and it was everything anticipated and then some.

We’ve been holding onto this wine since our trip to Napa in 2011. We finally opened it and it was everything anticipated and then some.

Finally tried the burger at Au Cheval. It has easily moved into my Top 5 burger list. Maybe even the top 3.

Finally tried the burger at Au Cheval. It has easily moved into my Top 5 burger list. Maybe even the top 3.

An apricot flip for a afternoon of cleaning

An apricot flip for a afternoon of cleaning

A collection of oils as I begin my first ever attempt at making some homemade skincare products

A collection of oils as I begin my first ever attempt at making some homemade skin care products

Getting my monthly Birchbox in the mail is like Christmas.

Getting my monthly Birchbox in the mail is like Christmas.

Why does a striped straw make everything better?

Why does a striped straw make everything better?

Finally I leave you with this photo of my adorable beyond words mother, who rocked this fabulous bubble wrap dress (which my brother was essential in helping her construct) for a party she attended last night where everyone was asked to dress in clothing made of non-traditional materials. She won Best Costume…clearly.

photo

First Saturday in May

Tags

, , ,

photo 2

Hi Friends….do you remember me? I disappeared last week, because I am a magician and can do magic tricks like make myself disappear.  Actually, I am lying to you, I am no magician…I can’t even properly shuffle cards.  Something tells me card-shuffling is a Magician 101 skill, and I can’t do it.  Along with whisteling…I can’t do that either.

I have no good excuse for my vanishing act, other than I have just not been very focused with my time and therefore blogging didn’t happen.  I hope you will forgive me.

To make up for my absence I am going to share a recipe with you, because food makes everything better. Particularly when its a combination of chocolate, bourbon and pecans.

For most people the first Saturday in May is…well…the first Saturday in May.  But if you are a Louisvillian when the sun rises on that first Saturday you jump out of bed and loudly proclaim “It’s Derby Day!” No really, everyone does that.

Aside from the fastest two minutes in sports, Derby season is two weeks full of fireworks, marathons, steamboat and balloon racing, big hats, even bigger parties and a handsome amount of eating at drinking.  Without a doubt my favorite aspect of Derby is the pie. Better known as Derby Pie, but I can’t technically call it that because Kern’s Kitchen has trademarked that name.  Still, to this Kentucky gal a pie consisting of chocolate pecans and bourbon will always be Derby Pie.

For the first time ever I made my own two-weeks ago to eat while I watched my horses lose.  So maybe I didn’t taste victory, but what I did taste was still pretty sweet.

Pie so good you will take a bite before you manage to snap a photo

Pie so good you will take a bite before you manage to snap a photo

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie: From Sarah Fritschner’s cookbook Derby: Start to Finish

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup butter
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 2 TBLs. Bourbon (Note: If you are going to endeavor to make this recipe you must, I repeat you must use real Kentucky Bourbon.  None of this Tennessee whiskey or other barrel aged grain alcohol. Don’t mess with the best.)
  • 3 TBLs. Cornstarch
  • 1 Cup Finely chopped pecans
  • 1 Cup Semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 1  9inch Unbaked pieshell (Or you can make your own crust, just make sure it’s of the buttery and slightly flakey variety.  I wanted to go the homemade route but time constraints had me using Pillsbury)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350˚
  • Melt butter and set aside
  • In medium bowl, beat eggs just to break them up but not get them too frothy
  •  Gradually add sugar, mixing until just blended
  • Stir in butter and bourbon
  • Blend in cornstarch
  • Stir in pecans and chocolate chips
  • Pour into pie shell
  • Bake in oven for 45 to 50 minutes
  • Cool 1 hour before serving.  (If pie cools completely, warm it for 15 minutes at 350˚)
  • Top with real unsweetened whipped cream and a mint leaf.

photo 1Serving alongside a Mint-Julep is highly recommended but not required.

 

Friday Fotos

And just like that…it’s May.  How did that happen?

To most people today is simply the first Friday of May, but to any Louisvillian it’s Oaks day, or Derby-Eve as some might say.  I always long to be home this time of year, but I am already planning to whip up a Derby Pie and drink a few Mint Julep’s this weekend.  You can take the girl outta Louisville, but you can’t the Louisville outta the girl.

Where there is sunshine and playgrounds you will find happy children (and babysitters)

Where there is sunshine and playgrounds you will find happy children (and babysitters)

Got this lovely surprise in the mail, and it was signed by Chef Edward Lee (Thanks Mom!)

Got this lovely surprise in the mail, and it was signed by Chef Edward Lee (Thanks Mom!)

Poached eggs over quinoa, green apples and grape tomato's with a side of white wine is a delightful dinner option

Poached eggs over quinoa, green apples and grape tomato’s with a side of white wine is a delightful dinner option

Essie's Mod Square is a new favorite polish color of mine (it goes great with red wine...in case you were wondering)

Essie’s Mod Square is a new favorite polish color of mine (it goes great with red wine…in case you were wondering)

Water Lilly: Plymouth Gin, Cointreau, Rothman and Winter Créme de Violette and Lemon Juice. Spring in a glass.

Water Lilly: Plymouth Gin, Cointreau, Rothman and Winter Créme de Violette and Lemon Juice. Spring in a glass.

Simmering Lamb Stew (recipe courtesy of Julia Child...so you know it's good)

Simmering Lamb Stew (recipe courtesy of Julia Child…so you know it’s good)

Bourbon and Bacon Fat....they go together very well (recipe forthcoming)

Bourbon and Bacon Fat….they go together very well (recipe forthcoming)

Happy May Day/ Oaks Day/ Derby Day/ Cinco de Mayo.  It’s a big week!