It’s better. Much, much better. Brace yourself- it’s Costco.

For those of you that know me personally and sometimes say that I must be Wonder Woman to do all the things that I do, this is proof that I’m not! There are times when my packed schedule begins to overwhelm me. Right now is one of those times.

A few months ago while shopping at the Costco near my office, I spotted this Take & Bake Margherita Pizza and thought it was so beautiful. That may sound silly, but it’s true. The bright red tomatoes, big hunks of white mozzarella, the lovely green leaves of fresh basil…gorgeous!

One thing you should know- I don’t eat a lot of pizza. This is very unfortunate for my husband, a man that likes to eat it at least once a week (if not more). So since I don’t often have a hankering- can’t say that I’ve ever actually craved it- I’ve never once thought of purchasing this lovely.

That is, until recently when I stopped at Costco on a work-related research mission, completely exhausted from my job, travel, and yes, food events. Focused on the mission at hand, I did my best get in and out of there in 10 minutes flat…but, alas, she caught my eye. This time, instead of just pausing at the cooler to admire the beauty as I normally do, I did the craziest thing….I picked it up and put it in my cart.

You see, it was just one of those times when my mind was going in a million directions and the thought of having to get inspired to cook a meal (and clean up for that matter), was not the least bit appealing. Hallelujah for impulse buys!

This is a whopping 2.88lbs of scrumptiousness for only $9.99. Remember how I said I don’t get cravings for pizza? I take that back.

I meant to snap a photo of the whole pie after taking it out of the oven, but as you can see, I gobbled up 2 pieces before I remembered to take the picture!

As The Hermitage Hotel kicks off it’s 100th year, they want us to come celebrate with them! Today they’ll be closing off 6th Ave N in front of the hotel for an old fashioned ice cream social, so grab a friend or co-worker and head over to the hotel at noon for some FREE ice cream!

Who: Everyone’s Invited!

What: The Hermitage Hotel FREE Ice Cream Social

When: Thursday, September 17th
Noon – 1:30 p.m.

Where: Corner of 6th Avenue North and Union Street

Photo Credit: Caramel Cinnamon Black Pepper Ice Cream by ulterior epicure

Warning to Vegetarians: Stop reading now if the mention of meat makes you the least bit queasy.

Warning to Anyone That Cares About Their Health: Do not eat meals such as this one on a regular basis. For every one of these, there should be at least a week of healthy veggie-filled meals to follow!

I’m almost ashamed to write this blog entry the day after posting a Meatless Monday recipe. I’ve been such a good girl for the past few months, drastically reducing my overall meat consumption on a regular basis in an effort to improve my health and help out our environment. But this meal I am about to describe to you is nothing less than a complete Meatfest. A Meatapalooza if you will.

If you haven’t noticed already, I have a couple of chef crushes, most notably Tom Colicchio. But there’s another bald chef that also gets my admiration- Michael Symon. I first fell for Chef Symon, winner of Food Network’s Next Iron Chef, during his brief stint as host of “Dinner: Impossible“. The specific episode was “Mother’s Day Madness” that had him cooking his mom’s amazing Italian and Greek dishes. He was just so darn cute working alongside his mom…

But anyway- my devotion to him is not what you’re interested in I’m sure. Let’s take a look at last Thursday night’s dinner at his Lola restaurant! As you know, my friend Melissa and I made a pitstop in Cleveland on our way to Pittsburgh for the weekend specifically to eat at Lola. Let me start by saying that I have no regrets in that decision. It was well worth the added cost of hotel room and rental car, and I would do it all over again.

Now brace yourselves as you read through our Meatapalooza menu:

APPETIZERS:
Beef Cheek Pierogi
wild mushrooms, horseradish creme fraiche

My very first pierogi experience and even with nothing to compare it to, I know it was the best pierogi on the planet. The meat was slow braised and just melted in my mouth.

Sweetbreads
corn, poblano, lime, cilantro

The sweetbreads were the dish I was most looking forward to because of reviews I had read, but I wasn’t blown away. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but a bit plain. The previous reviews had been during colder months when the sweetbreads are served with blue cheese and mushrooms, so I might need to make a trip back in winter to give them another shot.

Braised Berkshire “Bacon”
peaches, nectarines, scallions, pickled jalapeno

Great contrast of salty, fatty pork belly with crispy sweet fruit.

ENTREES:

Smoked Berkshire Pork Chop
chiles, cheesy polenta, bbq onions

I wish I had taken a picture of my plate when I finished. It was quite hilarious. One bone on the plate, almost completely bare of any scraps of meat. That was it. And this pork chop was large. A little salty and just enough fat to make it nice and juicy, perfectly contrasted with the creamy polenta and the sweet bbq onions.

Beef Hanger Steak
pickle sauce, chiles, lola fries

Wow. This was Melissa’s dish and I’m just really happy that she didn’t hog it all! The steak was perfectly seasoned and cooked, and the fries, double basted in lard with rosemary and sea salt, were totally addictive.

DESSERT

6 A.M. Special
french toast, maple-bacon ice cream, caramelized apples

Honestly I would have been happy with just a big bowl of the maple-bacon ice cream. It was the star of the dish.

Melissa and I had a good laugh more than once over the weekend about our Meatapalooza. I’ve never eaten another meal that was anything like this, and as I said in the beginning, would never recommend this on a regular basis. But hey, be healthy a majority of the time and you can afford to do it every now and then. You only live once, right?

Lola
2058 E 4th St
Cleveland, OH 44115
216-621-5652
www.lolabistro.com


As I mentioned last week, I was in Pittsburgh this weekend visiting my friend Rachel. We had a fantastic time, and a full report will come later this week, but for today I’m sharing with you my favorite Rachel recipe. It’s her birthday week, and she’s especially on my mind today because she has a super hot date tonight. She met super hot date guy while we ate heuvos rancheros for brunch yesterday, so as a tribute to her, I give you her delicious vegetarian enchilada recipe:


Print

Rachel’s Vegetarian Enchiladas

Ingredients:

1 cup whole grain rice*
1 can corn, drained
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
4-5 wheat tortillas
1/4 cup olive oil
1 finely chopped jalapeno
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 finely chopped red bell pepper
¾ pkg extra firm tofu, drained and diced into small pieces
1 diced zucchini
1 diced squash
1 cup shredded carrots
2 cups firmly packed spinach
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp red pepper
1 Tbsp chili powder
cilantro (to taste)
½ cup sour cream
1 cup grated cheese
mushrooms (optional)

Directions:

Cook 1 cup dry rice according to package directions. Add corn & tomato and salt/pepper to taste to the rice when it's cooked. Spread in bottom of casserole dish.

Pre-heat oven to 350. Wrap tortillas in foil and warm in the oven for 5 - 10 minutes.
Cover bottom of a large cooking pan with olive oil and heat on medium until the pan is really hot. Cook for a few minutes: jalapeno, onion, and bell pepper. While this is cooking cut up some cilantro, extra firm tofu, and veggies (zucchini, squash, carrots and spinach). Add walnuts and salt/pepper, cumin, red pepper, and chili powder to taste (about 1 tsp to 1 Tbsp). Add all of this to the pan to cook with your onion/pepper mixture. Cook for about 5 minutes, adding sour cream.

Turn off the heat. Spoon mixture into tortillas, placing each wrapped tortilla on top of your rice.
Cover the whole thing in grated cheese. (Rachel likes to to put sliced mushrooms on top of the enchiladas before adding the cheese- this is totally optional). Bake for 5-10 minutes to warm and melt cheese.

*we like to use Lundberg Wild Blend sold in 16 oz bags at Whole Foods

Photo Credit: Carrots and Knife by darkque9

Tofu on Foodista

I’m off on another foodie adventure for the next few days! My friend Melissa and I board a plane to Cleveland this morning for a less than 24-hour stop, then on to Pittsburgh for the rest of the weekend to visit our friend Rachel.

The reason for Cleveland? Michael Symon‘s Lola restaurant. Yes, we are flying to Cleveland and spending money on a hotel room and rental car just to go eat at this restaurant. He serves maple-bacon ice cream for goodness sakes! Seriously, if I can’t be in Nashville for the Bacon Takedown Sunday night, I at least need to get my bacon fix from a man that knows his pork.

Friday morning we’ll head to Pittsburgh where the first item on the agenda is a walking food tour in the historic Strip District. After that, I’m leaving it in Rachel’s hands- and the girl is good with food, so I know we’ll be eating, drinking, and enjoying ourselves thoroughly. I’ll report back next week on our adventures!


photo credit: airplane wing (2005) by Zoagli

In celebration of their 9th anniversary today (9/9/09), Baja Burrito is giving away FREE food*! This is a “while supplies last” kind of deal, and Baja opens at 11 a.m., so you better get your bootie over there for lunch if you want to take advantage.

And what do you know, today is also National “I Love Food Day”. What a great way to celebrate!!!

Baja Burrito
722 Thompson Lane
Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 383-2252

*Limit one item per customer- but it can be a burrito, a salad, tacos, any meal on the menu. There are just a few exceptions to the giveaway- drinks, queso, beer and popsicles are not included.

Today a new restaurant opens its doors in Nashville, and last night the hubby and I were fortunate enough to get a sneak preview. Arnold Myint‘s newest creation, the aptly named Suzy Wong’s House of Yum, impressed me even before being seated. As the hostess led us to our seats on the back patio, I drank up the design elements of the space. It’s unique, playful, and warm, with illuminated wall panels and an impressive handpainted dragon holding court over the dining room from the ceiling above.

Once outside we settled into a bank of posh low couches and ottomans, enjoying the beautiful night air in the relaxed space. After just coming off of a full holiday weekend of travel, football, rowdy bars, and loud restaurants, this was the change of pace we needed. Our friendly servers added to the whole pleasurable experience with helpful attitudes and full knowledge of the menu. Ah, the menu. This is what you care about right? Yes, the space is hip and inviting, but the food is what will keep me coming back. With a wide variety of choices ranging from small plates to salads to “Yum Bowls”, there is something for everyone. Here’s the sampling we got:

Asian Wonton Nachos (shown at right)
BBQ Pork, Queso Blanco, Edamame, Cilantro Pico, and Red Curry Crema

Coriander Smashed Avocado
Peanut Sauce Chicken Salad
Roasted Pulled Chicken with Peanut Sauce Dressing

Kung Pao Green Beans

If we both hadn’t been completely stuffed at that point, we would have continued ordering and eating because there were so many other items that looked tempting: Crab Wontons with Bacon, Five Spice Pork Ribs, and a Thai Curry Steak Sandwich with cilantro yogurt, charred onions and asian slaw. Oh well, there’s always next time- and there is absolutely no doubt that there will be a “next time” in the very near future!


Suzy Wong’s House of Yum

1515 Church Street
Nashville, TN 37203
615-329-2913

Hours:
Mon-Tues 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Wed-Sun 5 p.m. – 4 a.m.

A few weeks ago I received an email with the subject line “Nashville Bacon Takedown” and my heart began to flutter. A cooking contest featuring bacon? I could do this. But to my great dismay I soon discovered that the event is next weekend when I’ll be visiting a friend in Pittsburgh. Why, oh why? And what kills me even more? It’s being held at Aerial, where my husband and I got married last year. I love Aerial, I love bacon, I love cooking. Very sad I can’t attend.

So some of you amateur cooks out there- I beg you- please, please enter this competition! It’s completely free to enter your recipe, and I desperately want to hear all about it from someone who experiences it first hand. Ryan or Erin – I have strong faith in both of you….

Even if you aren’t interested in showing off your cooking skills, at least go and eat as much bacon infused goodness as you can possibly hold. It’s only $15 to sample all of the bacon creations and vote for a winner. The views of the downtown skyline from Aerial’s rooftop terrace on Broadway are enough reason to go even without the added incentive of mouth-watering bacon.

Speaking of mouth-watering, check out this recent video from ABC – spicy bacon truffles, bacon bourbon ice cream, bacon tamales, oh bacon!

Nashville Bacon Takedown
Sunday, September 13th
5PM
Aerial
(private club above Paradise Park Trailer Resort)
411 Broadway
$15 to taste all of the entries
Free to enter a recipe
$100 prize to the winner!

To inquire contact Matt Timms:
917-902-7765
or
chilitakedown@gmail.com
or
mtimms7@hotmail.com


Photo Credit: BACON! by Dave77459