What I look forward to the most on the 4th of July are the cookouts with friends. And for those people that may be attending a cookout with me this year, they should be looking forward to it too, because I’ll be bringing pulled pork. More specifically, pulled pork that I have made myself. This pork you see in the photo above? I made it. And it was awesome. Yep, I’m bragging.

A few weeks ago, Carey Bringle, the owner of Peg Leg Porker BBQ Products, contacted me and asked if I would like to try out his Smoke Like a Pro at home BBQ kit. My response? Sure, if it comes with a “BBQ for Dummies” handbook! Well, it turns out the detailed instructions included are so very simple that even this novice griller and first-time meat smoker was able to handle the process with ease.

Contents of the kit: hickory chips, brine mix, injector, thermometer, gloves, dry rub, bbq sauce, and instructions

The kit has almost everything you need with the exception of juices to make the brine and the pork itself. A quick trip to the grocery for these items and I was set. At first I had planned to have my husband help- because, you know, in my mind smoking meat is a manly thing, and I wasn’t sure I could handle it alone. But my honey is not a morning person, and the process needed to begin early in the morning. To be done correctly, the pork must cook low and slow, which means a grill time of at least 12 hours. Since I wanted it for dinner that night, a 6 a.m. start time was necessary. So being the very wonderful wife that I am, hubby was allowed to sleep in, and I conquered this project on my own. And conquer I did.

The pork butt when it went on the grill at 7 a.m.

The pork butt coming off the grill at 7:30 p.m.
A Big Hunk of Deliciousness

I really couldn’t believe how easy it was and, even better, how fantastic the meat turned out!

Me pulling the pork

I couldn’t resist and “sampled” as I shredded. Wow, wow, wow. So tender, juicy and full of flavor, it was very difficult to bring myself to stop eating.

Although it’s a little too late for you to buy one of these kits to use for this holiday weekend, I highly recommend you buy one for future use. There are plenty of summer cookout opportunities still ahead, as well as football tailgating in the not-so-distant future. And don’t just get one for yourself, buy some to use as gifts for your dad, your boyfriend, or anyone in your life that prides themself in being a master of the grill. I guarantee they will love it! Heck, I love it, and I’m about as far from being a grill master as you can get!

The cost of the kit is only $39.95, and there are enough ingredients included to smoke four (5-9 lb) pork butts or two (12-18 lb) pork shoulders. Oh, and there’s also a kit for chicken if you’re not a fan of the pig. To purchase or learn more, visit Smoke Like a Pro.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July and try not to be too jealous of the porky goodness I’ll be gobbling up!

For the next four Wednesdays, The Bloomy Rind and Tayst Restaurant are teaming up for a series of Cheese & Wine Happy Hours…starting TODAY. And moi will be there.

I know I’m a little late in posting the event, but hopefully some of you can still make it today even though it’s short notice. If not, you’ve still got three more to put on your calendar!

The focus of the first two weeks will be Southern cheeses, and though I don’t yet have the details of weeks three and four, I have no doubt that whatever they are, they’ll be delightful. The cost is only $20 per happy hour, and for anyone that attends all four happy hours, you’ll receive a big thank you– gift certificates to both Tayst and The Bloomy Rind!

What: Cheese and Wine Happy Hour
Where: tayst Restaurant and Wine Bar
2100 21st Ave S
When: The next 4 Wednesdays from 5- 6:30 p.m.
June 30th
July 7th
July 14th
July 21st

Photo Credit: Wine & Cheese by hipposrunsuperfast.com


Last week on my way back from Atlanta, I stopped at a roadside stand and picked up a basket full of Georgia peaches. Sweet and juicy, they’ve been a great snack for the past few days, and I even grilled a few to serve alongside some cinnamon gelato last week when I had friends over for dinner. So really I haven’t done anything too creative with these peaches so far. Until today.

When I was flipping through my new Southern Living Farmers’ Market Cookbook and spotted this recipe, I knew I needed to make it ASAP. My friend Kathleen recently got in some mozzarella from a creamery in Atlanta, so the combination of Georgia peaches and Georgia cheese was just too good to pass up. And of course, there’s the matter of tequila as an ingredient in the recipe…. how could I not try it?

The photo of this salad in the cookbook and on the website is absolutely gorgeous. Mine didn’t turn out quite as lovely, but I think it’s still a pretty attractive presentation. My dinner guests were impressed, both with the way it looked and the way it tasted, so I deem it a success!

Print

Grilled Peach and Mozzarella Salad

Serves 4. From Southern Living.

Ingredients:

5 peaches (not white)
3 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lime zest
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
3/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 Tbsp tequila
1/3 cup olive oil
Vegetable cooking spray
1 (6-oz.) package baby arugula, thoroughly washed
3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 16 (1/4-inch) slices
Garnish: fresh cilantro sprigs

Directions:

Peel and chop 1 peach. Cut remaining 4 peaches into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, cutting through stem and bottom ends. (Cut peaches inward from sides, cutting each side just until you reach the pit. Discard pits.)

Process chopped peach, green onions, next 7 ingredients, and, if desired, tequila in a food processor 10 to 15 seconds or until smooth. Add oil, and pulse 3 to 4 times or until thoroughly combined.

Coat cold cooking grate of grill with cooking spray, and place on grill*. Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high). Brush both sides of peach rounds with peach dressing.

Grill peach rounds, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until grill marks appear. Note: you can also use an indoor grill pan to get the grill marks on the peaches. (This is what I did)

Arrange arugula evenly on 4 plates. Alternately layer grilled peach rounds and cheese slices over arugula on each plate. Drizzle with remaining peach dressing. Garnish, if desired.

Perhaps you’re more skilled with a knife than I am and can slice the cheese and peaches as thinly as Southern Living seemed to be able to do. Mine were probably twice as thick as the original recipe directed, but no one else eating knew the difference, so I didn’t fret. Even if yours doesn’t turn out as pretty, don’t you worry either– it’ll still taste great!

Peach on FoodistaPeach

Me and my sis having cocktails at the Canoe bar
Our second (and my last) night in Atlanta, we dined at Canoe restaurant located on the Chattahoochee River in Vinings. When narrowing down our final meal choices, it was a toss up between Two Urban Licks and Canoe, both of which had come highly recommended. In the end, ambiance was the deciding factor. And man, what ambiance! The restaurant is beautiful – with big, open windows overlooking the river and the gorgeous grounds.
The view from our table

This is a place that you’re never going to rush through your meal. The classy yet comfortable atmosphere and friendly service caused us to relax and just soak in our peaceful surroundings.

Speaking of friendly service, the bread guy quickly became our friend. Once we discovered the tastiness of their chili-rubbed flatbread, he was summoned to our table more than a few times! That probably wasn’t a wise choice given the big meal ahead of us, but we were hooked. Oh well, I had on a loose dress, so my belly had room to expand….and expand it did!

First courses:

Pekin BBQ’d plantation quail
with chillied local baby collards and star anise boiled peanuts
What is up with quail? Why did I never know how wonderful it can be? The previous night it was the star dish at Woodfire Grill, and on this night it was no different. The sweet sauce combined perfectly with the slight bitterness of the greens.

Warm bleu cremeux salad
with bacon, baby spinach, red grapes, and pecan vinaigrette
Mains:

Slow Roasted Carolina Rabbit with Swiss Chard – Bacon Ravioli

Sweet Potato Hash and Candied Garlic Sauce
In online reviews this is the most raved about dish at Canoe, so I felt like I should order it. The bartenders that worked there even told us it was one of their top two favorites. But after I ate a couple of bites, I kind of wished I had gotten something else. Don’t get me wrong, it is delicious. The flavors and textures work beautifully together, but it is very rich. If there was some snow on the ground or at least a bit of a chill in the air, this would be perfect. But when it’s 98+ degrees outside, something a little lighter would probably have been a better choice. All that said, I still licked the plate clean….


Chili Glazed Duck Breast

with Foie Gras Sausage and Roasted Root Vegetables

My sister’s duck dish was just as tasty as it is attractive. The roasted vegetables were scrumptious.

It didn’t matter that we were already so full that we felt like we could pop–it was our last night, so we were going all out. We were having dessert. Both of us are chocolate lovers, so one of the choices had to be chocolate. And while it was good, the real standout was our second choice.
Valhrona Chocolate & Salted Caramel Grotto with Pretzel Hazelnut Dust
-AND-

Butter-Pop Ice Cream with Homemade Cracker Jack

Popcorn ice cream!?! This thing was huge that halfway into it I didn’t think I could possibly eat another bite. Yet I did. Every last bite. Gone.

Completely stuffed, we decided to take an after-dinner stroll through the grounds to burn off some of the calories we’d just consumed.

My sis checking out the plants in their vegetable/herb garden

What a wonderful way to wind down our fun-filled weekend. If you’re ever in Atlanta and want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this is the place to do it. Just take the short drive to this little oasis and you’ll instantly relax. Ah, serenity now.

Canoe
4199 Paces Ferry Road, NW
Atlanta, GA 30339
770.432.2663


Day 1 in Atlanta could also be dubbed the “Top Chef Tour”. Our first stop was lunch at Richard BlaisFlip Burger Boutique. Richard was another favorite of mine on one of the past seasons…and another one that didn’t win the big prize, but still won my devotion. I’d heard his little boutique served up some imaginative burgers, and turns out I’d heard right.

There was so much on the menu I would have loved to order, but with a full day of shopping ahead of us, I also didn’t want to get so full that I couldn’t button the clothes I’d be trying on! So we had to be strategic in ordering. Bypassing the starchier sides, we settled on the beet & goat cheese salad, smokey jalapeno slaw and the zucchini. Okay, so the zucchini was fried, but it wasn’t heavy. Coated in panko and parmesan cheese, those little zucchini fries were so good and totally addictive!

Flip Burger’s
panko & parmesan zucchini fries with gremolata mayo

My sister also lightened things up a bit by getting her burger sans bun, instead choosing the lettuce wrap option. And her choice in burger? The “Burger of Today”, Wild Turkey. Made up of berbere spiced turkey, cranberry ketchup, smoked gouda, whiskey glaze, apple, arugula & celery salad, it was unlike any other burger either of us had ever tasted.

It was so good that she kept bringing it up all afternoon, even going into our evening meal saying that she didn’t know how anything else she ate on the trip was going to top it. We’ll see about that…

The Butcher’s Cut

My choice was the Butcher’s Cut, which after reading numerous reviews, seems to be the favorite of the masses. Made up of 1/3 lb beef patty, caramelized onions, bleu cheese, red wine jam, frisee, and pickled shallots, it was definitely a tasty concoction. But to be honest, my sister’s stole the show.

If you’re ever in Atlanta, be sure to check out Flip Burger, and also be sure to eat way more than I did. Then come back and tell me about it please!

Fast forward a few hours. Now exhausted from shopping and famished, it was time to head to Kevin Gillespie‘s Woodfire Grill for dinner. One simple word sums up the experience: remarkable. From start to finish, the service was flawless, the atmosphere was comfortable (big cushy pillows in the booth to move around to our liking!) and the food beyond impressive.

And it wasn’t just the food that was impressive. We were served one of the best cocktails I’ve had in a long time (outside of The Patterson House of course): The Farmer’s Daughter, a mixture of Square One vodka, freshly muddled mint, cucumber, lemon juice, ginger shrub, and ginger beer. Ahhh…delightful, crisp, refreshing.

Now a look at the food. The wonderful, wonderful food:

First Courses

Local Baby Mixed Lettuce Salad
local cherry tomato salad, fennel fronds, marinated anchovy, black olive oil

Sweet Corn Soup
toasted coconut, lime zest, jalapeno puree, cilantro stem

Second Courses

Pan Roasted Diver Scallop
cabbage with currants and almonds, glazed baby carrots,
ginger-carrot puree, pomegranate molasses

Spice Roasted Okra
local butter beans and french horn mushrooms,
green bean salad, crisp fried shallots

Oh yeah, I’m making this. I might never be able to make it taste this good, but I’m making it. Mark my words.

Main Entrees

Wood Grilled Local Bobwhite Quail
caramelized squash puree, garlic roasted filet beans, lemon oil, morel powder

This one might not be winning any awards for beauty, but it got high marks in flavor. Remember how my sister didn’t think she could eat anything else that day the was better than her burger? Well, she ate those words when she took the first bite of this quail. This was a-maz-ing.

Pan Seared King Salmon
baby fennel, fennel-olive oil emulsion, marinated small tomatoes,
cucumber-melon-basil relish


Reservations for Woodfire can be hard to come by, and for good reason. This is a place I would go back to again and again and again if it were here in Nashville. Did you hear that Kevin? A second location could only be a good thing, right??

Flip Burger
1587 Howell Mill Rd NW
Atlanta, GA 30318-7648
(404) 343-1609

Woodfire Grill
1782 Cheshire Bridge Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30324-4922
(404) 347-9055


Despite the fact that this recipe contains mayo, avocado, and sour cream, all items that I’m not particularly fond of, it is hands-down one of my very favorite fish recipes. So if you, like me, think you have an aversion to any of these ingredients, set that notion aside. Make it and you’ll thank me, just like I thank my friend Kandace for bringing it into my life.

I trust Kandace. You see, she’s the one that came into my dorm room the first week of freshman year and addressed my hair. My big, huge, mall bangs hair. (If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, well, it looked something like this.)

Yes, Kandace changed my life. With one swoop of her hand and a pop of a barrette, I was transformed. Since that day, I’ve known I can trust her. So when I showed up to her house and her plan was to feed me a dish that contained avocado, mayo, and sour cream, I didn’t think twice. I ate it. And I was thankful.

Now practically every time I see that tuna has gone on sale, I head to the store, snatch it up and make this dish. And my husband is thankful.

As you can see, there’s a lot of thankfulness going on, and it doesn’t end there. Two of my husband’s friends came over for dinner a couple of weeks ago. These are guys whose favorite meals usually involve red meat, so I could have easily thrown a couple of steaks on the grill and they would have been happy. But instead, I ventured away from the norm and served the tuna, and guess what? They were thankful! Not just thankful, but so completely complimentary in their praises, that I had to clue them in that it was much more simple than it tastes. Simple, impressive, and most importantly- it’s healthy!

Print

Tuna with Green Goddess Aioli

adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

Aioli:
1/4 cup fat-free or light sour cream
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp fat-free or light mayonnaise
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1 garlic clove, chopped

Tuna:
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 (6 oz) tuna steaks (about 1 inch thick)
Cooking spray

Directions:

To prepare aioli, combine first 9 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.

To prepare tuna, combine coriander and next 5 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl; sprinkle spice mixture evenly over tuna.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add tuna; cook 2 minutes on each side or until medium-rare or desired degree of doneness. Serve with aioli.

 


Tuna on FoodistaTuna

Photo Credit: Cooking Light image by Lee Harrelson

Atlanta Bound

You ever have one of those weeks when you just feel “off“? Well, that’s how this week has been for me. I’ve got a million things on my mind and having a lot of trouble focusing. It’s time for a mental break to reenergize.

Thankfully I have something to look forward to today! My sister is on her way to Nashville right now, and then the two of us are off to Atlanta for a weekend of shopping, eating, and relaxing at the pool. Oh, I so need this right now!

Since she lives in Indiana, we only get to see each other a few times a year, and it’s very rare that just the two of us ever travel together. Actually, now that I think about it, our 2005 trip to NYC may have been the last time that happened….wow, how time flies.

When we came up with this Atlanta weekend plan a couple of months ago, I immediately made a reservation for Woodfire Grill, Chef Kevin Gillespie‘s hot spot. The “Fan Favorite” of Top Chef Season 6, Kevin had me salivating every week with his scrumptious looking dishes, so there was no way I would go to his city and NOT eat his food!

In addition to Woodfire, also on the itinerary are: Flip Burger Boutique, Canoe, and Taqueria del Sol. Stay tuned next week for a recap of our ATL adventure!

P.S. Just so there is no confusion, that is definitely NOT my sister pictured above…that’s Kevin.

Photo Credit: Bravo

Yesterday one of my Twitter foodie friends alerted me to a fundraiser dinner taking place at The Hutton Hotel tomorrow night, June 16th. Once I saw the menu, the price, and the cause, I knew I needed to tell as many people as possible. This is just too good to pass up.

It just so happens that some friends and I had the pleasure of dining at 1808 Grille in the Hutton Hotel less than a week ago, and we ate several things that are included on this very special dinner menu.

Golden Beet & Pink Grapefruit
grilled radicchio, scallion, citrus vinaigrette

The bright flavors mirrored the vibrant colors in this cool, refreshing salad

Bronzed Quail Breast*
kohlrabi nest, fried quail egg

This dish was not something I would typically have ordered, but I’m so glad I got the opportunity to try it. I didn’t leave a morsel behind on the plate!

And then there was the star of the show, the one item I unfortunately didn’t take a photo of:

Middle Eastern Spiced Lamb T-bone
orange harissa glaze, english cucumber and pea tendril salad
I want to kick myself for forgetting to get out my camera for this one. To be completely honest, at this point of the meal I was on my 2nd martini, was enthralled with the conversation around me, and distracted by celebrities I could see out of the corner of my eye. So forgive me and believe me when I say it was truly incredible. My friend Charmaine and I agreed, it might have been the best lamb either of us had ever eaten!

So there’s a brief look at some of the dishes I enjoyed at 1808 last week. All of these and many more are available at tomorrow night’s fundraiser dinner. Click here to see the complete menu. After you take a moment to look it over, if that doesn’t immediately have you calling for reservations, then perhaps the reason behind the dinner will.

Several employees of the Hutton were directly affected by the recent flood, so their co-workers decided to host this fundraiser to give them a hand in rebuilding their homes. All of the proceeds of the dinner go directly to these victims of the flood. That’s right– 100% of the proceeds!

Seriously, if there is any way possible you can make it tomorrow night, I highly, highly encourage it. At the incredible price of $50 for 4 courses it is a screaming deal, and more importantly, all going for a good cause.

1808 Grille at The Hutton Hotel
1808 West End Avenue
Nashville, TN 37203
615-340-0012
Reservations recommended
For more information on the dinner, click here.

*Note that the photo of the quail dish is a slightly different serving style and smaller portion than what is offered on the dinner menu