Friday, April 29, 2016

Random Ruxton Recipes

Glossy, chef-driven cookbooks are great, but as far as I'm concerned, when it comes to collecting recipes, there's just nothing better than an old-fashioned neighborhood cookbook.

My mother-in-law knows exactly how I feel about this - which is why she occasionally surprises me with gifts from her own personal collection.

Her latest gift to me is this fabulous piece of history - Random Ruxton Recipes, compiled by the Cook Book Committee at Church of the Good Shepherd and published, as far as I can tell, in 1979. The front matter mentions, though, that some of the recipes included were pulled from the original 1953 edition of the book.

Generally speaking, the years between 1953 and 1979 are not known for their culinary strength. And though there are some useful classics in this bunch, there are also a whole lot of recipes that rely on canned vegetables and the kind of processed foods that...well let's just say chances are you're not going to find many of these recipes on most Ruxton dinner tables today.

Case in point - this gnocchi ("gnocci"?) made with cream of wheat and American cheese:

I removed the name of the lady who contributed that because...this is Baltimore. She (or her kids) probably still live here. And I'm fairly certain none of them should be held responsible for this. It was the 70s. This is what people did.

Mid-century culinary atrocities are only one part of why I love these cookbooks. They're also great repositories for staple recipes that might otherwise be lost to history - like this one, for Tomatoes Elkridge:

I'm sure generations of Elkridge members loved these tomatoes, so it's nice to preserve the recipe.

And also..."Put in 350 degree oven almost indefinitely." Almost indefinitely, you say? How specific.

In this particular book, there are lots of little clauses like that one - directions that make me laugh and also that are pretty unhelpful. And a lot of ingredients that appear in the directions, but not in the ingredient list, which makes the recipe editing part of my brain go crazy.

But that's all easy to forgive. It's part of the book's charm. And if a collection of recipes that includes a "cold slaw souffle salad" - made with mayonnaise, lemon jello, cabbage and radishes - isn't charming,,,I don't know what is.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Current Obsession

This room, that chandelier:

Is  that even a chandelier? It kind of looks like the hood for a stove. Either way, I am all about it and also, of course, love the tall windows and the high ceilings and the moody walls and the round table and the whole trad+modern aesthetic. 

Via My Favorite and My Best, who continues to find the best interiors. She's been doing it for years and every time she posts a big bunch of rooms, it's full of stuff I love and that I've never seen anyplace else.

Friday, April 15, 2016

This and That

This Tampa Bay Times article, about the fiction that is "farm to table" claims in many restaurants, is astoundingly good - and astoundingly disturbing. I can't quite wrap my head around how much work it must have been to research and write and how gutsy the publication is to put it all out there, especially in a smaller market - they have their i's dotted, for sure, otherwise they'd get some serious pushback.

And I'm shaken by the article's revelations. I'm not totally naive - I realize there's misrepresentation, at a minimum, in the restaurant industry. But this is so widespread. As I said in a comment on Facebook, I like to think that people are mostly good. This kind of lying - and lying is what we're talking about here - about food, a subject that can bring so much light to life, is profoundly disturbing to me.


In happier news, this Hemingwayish Lucky Peach article made me happy. Oysters are both one of my favorite foods and my favorite subjects, and I will never shy away from a good East Coast vs. West Coast debate. (I am East Coast all the way, obvs., but I do like a melon-y West Coast oyster. Not as much as I like salty East Coasters, but still.)

Writing about oysters is writing about everything, as far as I can tell. Land and money and history and big stuff, but also - because I grew up in an oyster-loving family - relationships and small, specific memories.

Possibly my favorite part of the article was this revelation: "There's something you need to understand...In the Northeast, the oysters are at their best on the winter solstice."

The winter solstice falls, about half the time, on my birthday. I celebrate, obviously, with oysters.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Meals I Have Enjoyed of Late

Clockwise from far left: Colette menu and frothy drink; Limoncello granita oysters at Clementine; Gnocchi with crab and saffron sauce, topped with fried arugula at Cafe Gia; Bone broth at The Food Market; Doughnuts at Parts and Labor.
For the past two months, I've been collecting pictures (and memories) of restaurants around town, planning to write about each of them when I have time to do them justice.

Last week, my computer started slowly dying, so I got a new one. Though I thought I transferred all my photos from the old computer to the new one, turns out, I didn't. The thought of firing up the old laptop right now, just to find those pictures, fills me with dread. But I did take all of this as a sign that I need to stop procrastinating and start writing.

So...past two months, some meals I have loved (illustrated by pics I shared on Facebook and Instagram):

Win-Ryn Pop-Up at Clementine
Way back in January, Winston, Cristin and Ryn, all from Clementine, decided to host a pop-up dinner in the old restaurant space. The original dinner was scheduled for the night of that huge blizzard. Then a makeup date, slated for a week later, also had to be rescheduled, since there was no parking. And then, when the stars semi-aligned and people got into the restaurant, things were a little crazy and hectic. We had a fun night, with good food, but it was really hectic.

But after all of that, they decided to throw another dinner - this one the weekend of Valentine's Day. Cooper and I went, just the two of us. the Friday of that weekend, and we had such a spectacular meal. Gorgeous beet bisque with lump crab. Avocado and pickled watermelon "ceviche." Rabbit cassoulet (which took us way back, to the rabbit pot pie that used to be on the Clem menu...and that Dixon was in love with when he was just a toddler). Duck in a sauce of blood orange and ginger. Prigel ice cream. Charlottetown panna cotta.

Our favorite dish of that night was the oysters with limoncello granita. Totally simple, but crazy good. The kind of thing you taste, then can't figure out why nobody has ever fed you that before because it makes so much sense.

Just being back at Clementine felt great. I wish we could do that every night.

Private Kitchen at The Food Market
The week after Valentine's Day, I had the very exciting opportunity to have dinner in The Private Kitchen at The Food Market. I was with a fun group of people who love food - which is the best way to eat every meal - and it was a blast.

The Private Kitchen is in the basement of the restaurant. The team there used to use it as a prep kitchen, but it's recently been turned into a space for private events - dinners for up to 12 guests.

It's a cute space and still a working kitchen - two chefs (in our case, Chad and Todd) cook and plate your meals for you right there.

Because it's The Food Market, it should be no surprise that our dinner was awesome. The photo above was one of the standouts - chicken broth with prosciutto and housemade pasta, among other things. It was cold outside, cozy inside and the soup was so well-seasoned. Just right all around.

After that dinner, all I wanted to do was think of a reason to throw a dinner party in that space. So fun, so good.

Brunch at Parts and Labor
Earlier this year, Parts and Labor joined big sister Woodberry Kitchen on the Bmore brunch scene. Really, I can't believe that didn't happen sooner. PL is the kind of place that's made for brunch. Great location. Good, straightforward food. Butcher shop so you can shop for dinner on your way out. It's a no-brainer.

In late February, I met Xani and Erin there to eat, catch up on our lives and to talk about how much we love parties and how hosting them is the best. (Seriously, when we see each other, that's all we can talk about. Parties.)

Because it's Parts and Labor, I couldn't help but order's like I'm compelled. It never disappoints. Also, grits. Also, eggs. And of course, because you can't start a Foodshed restaurant group brunch without sweet breakfast apps, we had doughnuts.

Simple food, really. But totally good. The Bloody I had...a spicy one...was also delightful. As was, of course, the company.

Colette is getting all kinds of buzz these days. The Station North restaurant, which is from the same crew as Bottega, is racking up good reviews for its charming atmosphere and totally good food. It deserves the love.

Cooper and I went on a kind of gross Wednesday in early March, two or three weeks after they opened, and it was already packed. Like Bottega, it's a smallish space that's very cute. Unlike Bottega, which is an Italian BYOB, Colette is French - and it feels completely Parisian, in the best way - and it has a liquor license.

Just this week, they started offering a couple cocktails on tap. They weren't available when we visited, but we did love our drinks - a Gin Fizz for Cooper and a Bee's Knees for me. Old school and well-made, both.

I also really, really loved the goat cheese beignet appetizer. I could've eaten about 40 of them, they were so good. Everything we ate was nice, but those were just fantastic. Airy and tangy - and a perfect hors d'oeuvres, since they whetted our appetites, but didn't fill us up.

Cafe Gia
Last Sunday, I dragged Cooper and Dixon downtown to go to Light City (they complained,but in the end, they both loved it and were happy I made them leave the basement to go). Before we headed over to the festival, we had an early dinner at Cafe Gia in Little Italy.

I had been to Pane e Vino, the wine bar attached to the restaurant, but never to Cafe Gia itself. It's so cute - and our food was great. Cooper and I both had specials - his a lamb dish and mine gnocchi in a creamy-ish sauce with saffron and crab and fried arugula. Interesting and really nicely done.

We also had a lovely glass of limoncello after dinner (Cooper and I did, I mean, while Dixon was housing Nutella bread pudding). It put us in exactly the right frame of mind for a little stroll down to the harbor to check out the lights.

Which we also loved...even if they weren't edible.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016


It's been freezing this week, but that has not chilled my seasonally appropriate desire to get busy mixing summery cocktails. Specifically, these:

Grapefruit margaritas from Town and Country. Margaritas are always good. Grapefruit continues to be the trendiest juice of all. Together, they're unstoppable.

The Positano, from Le Sirenuse, via the Tory  Burch blog. (No photo of the actual drink, but here's a pic of the lobby at Le Sirenuse, as a consolation prize. It's on the Amalfi Coast. Which is where I would like to be right now.)

Pomelo and basil cocktail from Serious Eats. I printed out this recipe weeks ago and it's been staring at me, begging me to make it. Do I wait until I have some basil in my yard? Or do I give in and make some for cocktail hour this Friday? Probably choice #2, right?

Photo sources: Town and Country, Tory Daily, Serious Eats.

Monday, April 04, 2016

3 Things I Have Enjoyed This Morning

1. Eames + Shag
This Curbed article about a Charles and Ray Eames-themed exhibit at the Nucleus gallery in LA. How could I not love it, when it includes this Shag drawing? I love Shag - and hadn't seen any of his work in a while. This is just a perfect match of subject and artist.

Image source.

Also, this is how I like to think Cooper and I look when we're just hanging out around our house. (Note: this is not actually how we look at all.)

2. Party Girls
This video and this article about the greatest "It Party Girls" of all time. Zelda! To be fair, the list doesn't really cover all of time. More like the past hundred years. And even then, it leaves some room for debate. Lots of room.

But still, I love a party girl.

3. Light City's Success 
This article about Light City's massive success. We went last night and it was even better than I expected.

The installations were cool and even though we only saw a little of the entertainment, it was engaging and fun. The crowd was friendly and spirits were super high, all around. It just felt good.

The pictures I took completely didn't do the installations justice - especially not this photo. But what I love about this picture is that Dixon is totally smiling OF HIS OWN ACCORD. That never happens and it especially doesn't happen after I've made him pose a bunch of times, like I had last night.

Mandated photos are not his favorite, to put it mildly, but Light City was cool enough that he was more than willing to let me snap away.

We didn't even get a chance to see the whole thing - I know we missed some good stuff. I'm already looking forward to next year, when I will definitely plan better, so we get there more than once.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Marimekko @ Target

There is only one way for this to end. With me, disappointed and tired. Maybe I'll have spent money on something I'll never wear, or maybe I won't even have found anything at all to buy. Either way, a Target collab this high profile will almost surely not meet my expectations.

And yet...on Sunday the 17th of April, I'm sure I'll find myself lined up outside the Target doors, all excited about what's inside. I so love Marimekko. Danish Scandinavian + colorful is my kryptonite.

I mean...look at that table. How could I possibly resist it? How can I resist anything that pairs so well with a summery cocktail?

See the whole collection here.


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