North Carolina: Sweet Potato Cake with Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting 

North Carolina

flagofNorthCarolinaflag

Population: 10,042,802
Capital: Raleigh
Admission to the Union: November 21, 1789
Source: Wikipedia

Oh hey, remember when I was going to do that thing where I created a recipe to represent each of the 50 states, but then I put it on hold for like a year and a half? Well Super Bowl Sunday seemed like a perfect excuse to finally pick it back up today.

In case you are a reader from outside the US or you reside in the US, but live under a rock, yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday and this year it was the Denver Broncos vs the Carolina Panthers. Chris and I didn’t have much of a rooting interest in this game since our teams weren’t in it, but we both leaned towards cheering for the Broncos (woo hoo!) since we have a bunch of friends who are Broncos fans. This lead to the very easy decision to make my Colorado style bison tacos for dinner to represent Denver, but what about Carolina?

Despite being called the “Carolina” Panthers, the team actually plays in North Carolina so I wanted to represent that state. The food North Carolina is most famous for is most certainly bbq, but since Chris and I were watching on our own this year and I already had a main course, bbq was clearly too much. I asked a friend who is from NC what other foods were synonymous with the state. He mentioned a few things including sweet potatoes.

I am a huge sweet potato fan. I’d probably consider them one of my favorite foods so I was intrigued. A quick Google search revealed that NC is the number one grower of sweet potatoes in the United States. With that an NC Super Bowl dessert idea was born: Sweet Potato Cake with Molasses Cream Cheese frosting.

Truth be told I liked the cake I ended up with, but I found the frosting too rich and too cloying. If I made this again I would likely only use half a stick of butter and one tablespoon of molasses. Still I rarely make frosted cakes so this was fun to try.

whole frosted

Sweet Potato Cake with Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cake:

  • 1 1/3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes (I microwaved a giant sweet potato until it was mushy)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • zest of one medium orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Grease a 9 inch round pan and preheat the oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl beat together the sweet potato, oil and sugar using an electric hand mixer. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda over the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.

Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Pour mixture in to greased pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes then transfer to rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp molasses

In a medium sized mixing bowl beat together the cream cheese and butter.

Add the sugar and molasses and beat together until fluffy and creamy.

Frost your cake and serve.

slice

 

Chocolate Mousse Orange Curd Tart

If you are one of the few people who has actually been reading this blog, you know that I have a very take it or leave it attitude towards chocolate. I don’t dislike it per say, I just don’t get what all the fuss is about. However, since I married in to a full on chocoholic family I’ve been seriously upping my chocolate dessert game.

At one of our delicious meals in Malta, Chris ordered a chocolate and orange pudding dessert. Reminded of how much he loved the combination of chocolate and orange, Chris asked if I’d make some sort of chocolate orange dessert sometime. “Sure, how about I do something for Christmas with your family,” I replied.

Of course I thought this was a completely original idea until I googled and found this recipe. Since I wanted to make sure I had the right amount of mousse to top my tart with, I went ahead and used the author’s chocolate mousse recipe, but I paired it with my favorite orange curd recipe, and since my husband and in laws can never have too much chocolate I decided to make a chocolate crust.

The dessert came out beautifully and was a huge hit. I’m sorry for the crappy pictures, but I wasn’t really thinking about blogging at the time.

curd tart whole

Chocolate Mousse and Orange Curd Tart

For the crust:

  • 1 cup Nabisco famous chocolate wafers; ground to fine crumbs in a food processor or mini chopper
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter

Preheat over to 350

Combine the cookie crumbs and sugar. Pour in the melted butter, trying to distribute somewhat evenly. Mix together with your fingers until all crumbs are moistened

Dump cookies in to an ungreased 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom and begin pressing crumbs down and up the sides of the pan in an even layer. I like to use a heavy drinking glass to help firmly pack the crumbs.

Bake the crumb until it smells fragrant; about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For the orange curd:
I use this recipe from The Kitchn. There’s calls for Cara Cara oranges, but you can go ahead and use regular navel oranges for this recipe

  • 3/4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • pinch of salt

Put a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and set aside. You’ll need this later.

In a small sauce pan set over medium high heat, bring the juice to a rapid simmer and let it reduce to about 1/4 cup. Pour in to another bowl, add in zest, and allow to cool to room temperature

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and sugar. Whisk in the orange juice and zest.

Pour the egg and juice mixture back into your small sauce pan set over medium heat. Stir the mixture slowly but constantly until it thickens to a pudding-like consistency. This should take about 6-8 minutes.

Grab that mesh strainer and strain the mixture over a bowl to get out any bits of cooked egg.

Stir in the butter and the pinch of salt while the curd is still warm.

Allow to cool until it’s cool enough to handle, but warm enough to still pour easily in to the tart shell.

For the chocolate mousse:
I highly recommend you use a food scale with metric measurements so you can make this as the original recipe is written, but if you don’t have a scale I’ve done my best to convert the recipe here.

  • 5oz good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa), broken in to smallish pieces
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 8.5oz heavy cream

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (or a metal bowl set over a pot of boiling water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl). Stir until the chocolate is melted, remover from heat and set aside.

Using an electric hand mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Clean beaters. In a separate bowl whisk cream until soft peaks form.

Lightly beat the eggs yolks and add to the melted chocolate mixing until smooth. Add the cream and beat until fully combined.

Add a 3rd of the egg whites and beat until combined, then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites until the mixture is just combined.

To assemble:

Pour the warm orange curd into the cool tart shell, spreading as evenly as possible. Allow to cool.

Spoon chocolate mousse into tart shell and smooth out as evenly as possible.

Chill tart in the fridge 4 hours to over night.

Enjoy!

curd tart cut

 

 

 

 

Cheers to 2015 (part 4): Mooning over my honey!

November (The best month of my life continued)
I am not sure that I have ever been so tired as I was on the day after our wedding, but my parents hosted a breakfast for out of town guests so we rallied and managed to make an appearance.

As we were packing up my in-laws car the next morning and getting ready to leave, my brother in law was walking though the lobby when the staff called to him. “Wait,” they said, “We have the top layer of their wedding cake. They’re going to want it. It’s a tradition to freeze it and then eat it on your first anniversary.” My brother in law told them that he really didn’t think we would want to do that, but they insisted so he took it and brought it to us.

My brother in law was right, Chris and I had no desire to eat a bite of freezer burned cake in a year’s time. However, we came back to an empty refrigerator and we needed fuel to pack for the honeymoon we’d be leaving for the next day. So this happened…

after cake

We make our own traditions

On Tuesday, two days after we said our I do’s, we headed to the airport ready for 18 days in Sicily and Malta. We flew first class because it was our honeymoon and when else are we ever going to fly first class? Let me tell you, it makes a huge difference! As nice as the free flowing champagne was, the best part was having seats that fully reclined in to beds. I was still tired from the time change when we arrived, but I was so much less achey than I normally am after long flights. Since there are no direct flights to Sicily, we actually flew in to Milan and then took a short flight to Sicily.

Our first stop was Taormina. As soon as we arrived at our hotel we were taken up to the terrace and given a glass of prosecco while we watched the sunset over Mount Etna and the breathtakingly blue Mediterranean. The terrace also happened to be

Taormina is probably the most touristy spot in all of Sicily. It has a fairy tale like quality and it’s quite romantic, but because it’s such a hotspot for tourists it’s not a top food spot. I mean don’t get me wrong, this is Italy so there was no bad food, but the food in Taormina was good and not great. Two exceptions were the amazing hotel breakfasts and a lunch we had in our room one day.

Our room in Taormina was actually a small apartment with an enormous terrace. On our third afternoon there we stopped in a little cheese shop. We purchased 3 different local cheeses and the most amazing carpaccio. Then we grabbed a bottle of wine at a nearby shop and headed back to our terrace. Oh my God, it was heaven.

During our 4 days in Taormina we also took an afternoon trip to Catania, Sicily’s second largest city. Catania was probably my least favorite place in Sicily, but there were some interesting sites and I really loved visiting Catania’s famous fish market.

catania pano

After 4 amazing days in Taormina we headed off to Siracusa (aka Syracuse). The small-ish city of Siracusa is famous for it’s Greek ruins.

Siracusa was one of my favorite stops in Sicily and also the first place where we got some amazing food. Our second favorite restaurant was called Oinos and our favorite was called Sicilian Tavola. We ate at each of them twice and I am still dreaming about the Pasta with bottarga (dried tuna roe) I had at Sicilian Tavola.

Sicily is obviously famous for its wines and we drank plenty of delicious Nero D’avlo, but we were also happy to find that Sicily has a great craft beer scene too.

The hotel we stayed at was ridiculously charming and we had yet another incredible private terrace.

pano siracusa terrace

After a few glorious days in Sircausa we were off to Malta!

Oh my God I can not say enough good things about Malta. Sicily is like it’s own world where not really works correctly which is part of it’s charm. Sicily is a wonderful place to vacation, but Malta felt like a place we could live. Malta was part of the British Empire for 150 years before gaining independence in 1964. Unlike Sicily, Malta is organized, efficient, and clean, which seems to be a nod to the British influence, but the Maltese also possess that classic warm, hospitable, and emotive Mediterranean demeanor. In all my travels I think the people in Malta may have been the nicest I’ve ever met. Every single person we met was just lovely.

malta

For a tiny little Island (actually a group of 3 islands), Malta is surprisingly cosmopolitan and international. It’s history is fascinating, the landscape is stunning, and the food and wine are incredible. Also English is one of their two official languages. Everyone there speaks perfect English and all the signs everywhere are in both English and Maltese. It’s basically a perfect place for and American tourist.

One of my favorite meals of the trip was at a restaurant called Guze which is one of the top rated in Malta. The restaurant is in a 16th Century building filled with charm. The owner was so friendly and handled my food allergies flawlessly and the food was so good we ate their twice. One of my favorite dishes of the whole trip was the rabbit wrapped in gaunciale stuffed with leeks and cabbage. I love rabbit and this is the best rabbit dish I’ve ever had.

Another stand out meal was at a much trendier place called Truffle and Truffles.

Malta is one of the best places I’ve ever been and my only regret is that we didn’t schedule more time there, but I know I will be back one day. The consultation prize of having to leave Malta was that we got to return to Sicily to explore the west coast of the island.

When we returned to Sicily we made Palermo, Sicily’s largest city, our base of operations and we rented a car so we make some days trips from there.

On our way to Palermo we took a quick trip up to Mount Etna. I was excited to see an active volcano, but unfortunately it was so late in the season that it was snowing and brutally cold on the mountain and we did not have the right gear for that. Still the landscape was amazing to see.

etna

Palermo is a very cool city with a lot of unique and interesting culture and history. We also found out that one of the best pizza places in Palermo was two doors down from our hotel and that’s where we ended up having our first “Thanksgiving dinner” as a married couple.

We took side trips to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento and the salt flats in Trapani.

We also had some great meals while we were there as well.

Chris and I are obsessed with pizza. It’s a driving passion in our lives. Of course this meant that we couldn’t be so close to the birthplace of our favorite food without visiting and so on the last day of our honeymoon we flew to Naples for 12 hours to eat an obscene amount of pizza.

Our first stop was a place called Strata which was excellent and the service was super friendly. Next up was Gino Sorbillo, which was incredibly disappointing and not worth the wait or the attitude from our surly waiter. Our final stop was at Da Michele, a tiny no frills place that has been making pizzas since 1870. The pizza was absolutely incredible and Da Michele definitely lived up to it’s hype.

After a day of eating nothing but pizza we thought it would probably be wise to walk/swim all the way back to New York, but since that wasn’t an option we instead flew back to Milan in the evening, checked in to a hotel at the airport, got a good night’s rest, and the next morning we flew home.

What an incredible 18 days we had. My advice to anyone getting married is to take the longest honeymoon you possibly can. It’s so amazing to have so much time in a bubble with your new spouse!

December
OK I’m gonna rush through this as you must be so freaking bored at this point.

We celebrated my first birthday as a married lady at The Milling Room which has become one of our favorites.

mrbd

Our building had a holiday party and I made Kyla Roma’s salted chocolate chip cookies. And for Christmas at my in-laws I made a chocolate mousse and orange curd tart that I will definitely post about separately.

But the highlight of December was an email I received from our amazing wedding photographer. Isabel March. Isabel had submitted a photo she had taken of me and my grandmother to Philadelphia Magazine and they chose it as their online photo of the week! Isabel asked me for a few details about my grandmother and then crafted a short write up. My grandma is my favorite so I absolutely loved that this was all about her and she was excited for her “brush with fame.” Read the short article here.

2015 was the absolute best year of my life, but I cannot wait to see what 2016 has in store.

hands

Cheers to 2015 (part 3): The Wedding!

I just realized that blogging about both the wedding and honeymoon is going too make this post way too long so I’m breaking my 2015 review in to even more parts. As you might imagine, I am so excited to write this post!

November
Best. Month. Of. My. Life.

A few weeks before our wedding, Chris and I submitted our announcement to the New York Times Vows column. The Times gets thousands of submissions and they choose a handful of couple who get a blurb. They also pick one couple for a full featured article. It’s kind of a right of passage for NYC area couples to submit an announcement and get rejected so Chris and I did it on a whim figuring nothing would come of it. Then we got a follow up email saying that we were being featured and the Times was sending a reporter to our wedding! How crazy is that?

In the week before our wedding Chris and I both had phone interviews with the reporter and she also spoke to both of my parents. If you want to see the final product click here.

When we started planning our wedding we decided pretty quickly that we wanted to have it in our home state of New Jersey. There were a few reasons for this, one being that it would be harder for people to get hotel rooms in NYC and another being that we wanted to show our out of town friends why we love our home state so much. We had so many friends travelling in from the Midwest, West Coast, and even some from abroad. These people have all been to NYC and they already know how fabulous it is, but it was time to show them how fabulous NJ is too. This also meant that we wanted to find a place where people would have plenty to do rather than a venue that was pretty, but in the middle of nowhere. I immediately thought of the Lambertville, NJ/New Hope, PA area.

Lambertville/New Hope is just under an hour from where both Chris and I grew up (in different directions) and I loved going there as a kid.  We also had hoped to get married at an inn so that people from out of town could party all night and not have to go very far. We were so lucky to find that the Lambertville Station Inn was open on our preferred date and we booked it right away. It turned out to be everything we hoped.

The weather that weekend was beautiful and, as we hoped, people fell in love with the area and have been texting me to say that they want to go back and spend more time there. I love drumming up tourism business for our beloved home state!

scenery

Mandy took this photo right outside the inn on the morning of our wedding

LVNH

Lambertville/New Hope

Our wedding was on Sunday evening November 8th. On Saturday November 7th me and Chris, our friends Mary (bridesmaid) and Beth, and Hans and Sanne (who came all the way from Denmark!), piled in to a van we had hired and headed out for the hour and a half drive to Lambertville. I would highly recommend travelling to your wedding venue with friends if you can. It was so fun having friends p around us and talking and laughing that I didn’t have time to be nervous. After checking in to the inn and dropping off our bags, the 6 of us headed to lunch and then walked around the picturesque town which is filled with adorable shops, restaurants, and galleries.

We headed back to the inn to relax and freshen up before heading to our “rehearsal” dinner (we didn’t actually have a rehearsal, hence the quotation marks).

The wedding party and our families walked over to Triumph Brewing Company in New Hope where Chris and I had booked a private space. I literally cannot say enough good things about Triumph. The place has a cool vibe with it’s open, industrial look and exposed red brick walls. The food, mostly locally sourced, is delicious and the service is fantastic. They were such a pleasure to deal with and our dinner guests raved about how great everything was.

Chris and I thanked everyone for all of their love and support and gave our gifts to the wedding party. I’m a total sap and I cried during my thanks, especially when I thanked my Maid of Honor and best friend of 16 years, Jody.

After dinner we had reserved some space at the bar and invited everyone who had come to town early to join us for a drink. It was wonderful to see so many people there though I didn’t stay out too long as I had kind of a big day the next day.

Chris stayed with his brother and best man, Matt, that night, and I stayed with Mary and Beth. We were up bright and early the next morning and our moms and the other two bridesmaids, Jody, and Chris’s sister Sarah, joined us in the suite to get gorgeous. Like me, everyone decided to get their hair and makeup professionally done. My hairdresser and makeup artist made everyone look and feel fabulous.

PORTRAITS106

Look how gorgeous these ladies are!

While I waited to get my hair and makeup done Mary ran down the hall to Chris’s room to bring him the gift I’d bought him; a new watch. Chris sent Mary back with gifts for me. There were two wrapped items, one marked “Something Old” the other, “Something New.”

“Something Old,” was a first edition of my favorite childhood book, The Secret Garden, and “Something New,” was a pair of gorgeous diamond earrings. Needless to say, I cried when I opened them.

gifts

Later that afternoon our wedding photographer, who had already photographed my handsome husband getting ready arrived to photograph me getting my dress on and then, before I knew it, it was time for Chris and I to see each other!

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PORTRAITS011

We loved every detail of our wedding, but the best decision we made was hiring Isabel March as our wedding photographer. She is so fun and easy to work with and her work speaks for itself. Here are a few more from prior to the wedding.

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After the portraits were done we headed back up to the suite. The ceremony we planned was mostly a traditional Jewish one and that always starts with a ketubah signing. The ketubah is a Jewish wedding contract. These days most modern couples (aka non-orthodox) select their own language rather than using the somewhat outdated traditional language.

The Cantor who would marry us, my friend Alison, met us there and began the quick, but meaningful ketubah signing ceremony in front of our parents and our witnesses. Fun fact: I set Alison up with her fiance. Good karma, right?

Soon enough it was time to line up and head downstairs for the public ceremony. As I said, it was a pretty traditional modern Jewish ceremony except for one twist. The heart of the Jewish ceremony is the Sheva Brachot (seven blessings), we also asked 6 people close to us to offer their own blessings that they wrote specially for us and interspersed them with the traditional blessings so Cantor Alison would sing a traditional blessing and then one of our loved ones would offer their own alternating with Alison. We were so touched to hear the beautiful words that my parents, Chris’s parents, my cousin Mara, and our friends Hans, Brian, and Lisa wrote for us. I cried all the way through and cracked up and times to.

The whole ceremony was so special and meaningful though I admit it was also such a blur to me. It’s just such an overwhelming time in the best way possible.

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While the guests headed to cocktail hour we headed to the bridal suite for our Yichud. The Yichud is a Jewish tradition where after the ceremony the couple retreats for a few moments on their own. Orthodox couples fast before their wedding so they eat together during the Yichud, but most people just take a few minutes to enjoy some time together. After about 15 minutes my mom came up to bustle my dress and then we headed down to join the party.

Of course, as with any Jewish wedding, there was a ridiculous amount of food. The cocktail hour alone had 3 food stations (sushi station, turkey carving station, pasta station), crudites and cheese, and 8 different passed hos d’oeuvres. Unfortunately Chris and I had very little time to actually eat anything. I didn’t see any of the stations and we only got a quick bite of mini grilled cheese and mini reuben sandwiches.

Then it was time to party! Announcements we made, first dances were danced, and the toasts from out Maid of Honor and Best Man made me laugh and cry. I can’t say enough good things about our venue. We were waited on hand and foot and they made sure that Chris and I had 10 minutes at our sweetheart table to actually eat. Of course we spent most of dinner hour walking around greeting guests so they piled all the courses on the table for us.

Our guests enjoyed an augula salad with port wine stewed grape tomatoes, radishes and fontina cheese, butternut squash soup, and a choice of chicken stuffed with vegetables, filet mignon with a port wine demi glace, salmon with a maple mustard glaze, or roasted vegetable stuffed eggplant over mushroom risotto. The dessert was a 3 tiered dish of all kinds of goodies like mini cannoli, chocolate covered pretzels, truffles, and more. Plus the wedding cake and some other surprises!

The first surprise was a surprise to Chris as well. I had the bakery that made our cake also make a hiking themed grooms cake! I ordered an amazing personalized topper from a vendor on Etsy that I based on one of my favorite pictures of us taken when we hiked Arthur’s Seat in Scotland. We also sent everyone home with little boxes of hot chocolate that I ordered from another great vendor on Etsy.

Our DJ did a phenomenal job and the dance floor was packed all night. Chris and I were barely off the dance floor throughout the whole event. It’s true what people say, the adrenaline that pumps through your system that day just keeps you going no matter how tired you would’ve otherwise been.

Marrying the love of your life is obviously incredible, but it’s also just the most amazing feeling to have all of the closest people in your life under one roof gathered together to wish you well. I have never felt more blessed than when marrying the most wonderful man I have ever known surrounded by our incredible group of family and friends.

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I loved writing this recap! Now stay tuned for the honeymoon.

What did you do (or what will you do) to personalize your own wedding? 

 

 

 

Cheers to 2015 (part 2)

July

Like any true American, we celebrated American independence by eating a lot of food. On July 3rd we had the menu tasting for our wedding which was another fun part of wedding planning. We spent the 4th with a few friends at a newly discovered beer garden whose back patio, enclosed by ivy covered walls, is like an oasis in the city. We ate too much, drank too much, and toasted to America.

July included yet another live show as we went to see one of our favorite singers, Jason Isbell, in Brooklyn and we took in a Mets game over at CitiField.

I also did plenty of cooking in July including a good old steak and veggies and my bison tacos. Say what you want about me, but never let it be said that I don’t make a bad ass taco because I assure you I do!

August
August was another stand out month. It started with Chris’s favorite part of the wedding planning process, the cake tasting! We got to try 5 different flavors which were all delicious.

cake

We saw Hamilton a second time, shortly after it moved to Broadway. It was just as miraculous and we left asking when we could see it a 3rd time. We caught even more music in Brooklyn, this time seeing the legendary Willie Nelson who I am a huge fan of.

There were two exceptional things that happened in August though. The first is that we had our engagement photos taken. I was not looking forward to this as I hate having my picture taken, but it ended up being a great experience. Our photographer is amazing and she and Chris just kept me laughing the whole time. Here is one of my favorites from the shoot.

image

The second standout of the month was when one of my closest friends, Hans, came to visit from Copenhagen with his girlfriend. It was so good to have him here and it meant so much for me to have him meet Chris and for me to meet his girlfriend, Sanne. We took them to the beer garden mentioned above, to Mel’s for burgers, and to another Mets game. It was such a fun visit!

We also went to DC to visit good friends and their adorable baby, and, of course, I cooked some more. We love Ellie Krieger’s fish taco recipe and I always make lamb kofta during zucchini season.

September
Well this was an awesome month as the wedding related activities were in full swing.

One of the best things we did this month was attend the wedding of my friends Kurt and Justin in Connecticut. I’ve known Kurt for the better part of a decade and it was so amazing to see him marry such a wonderful man. It was also a great opportunity to hang out with some other good friends who attended the wedding.

kj group.jpg

In September my friends Mary, Brian, and I had our second annual “Crabs with Friends” night at The Mermaid Inn.

crab

I’m using our 2014 picture because the 2015 one was terrible.

But the true highlight of September was celebrating my bachelorette party and shower! Since I have so many out of town friends who were going to travel in, my only request was that it be held on the same weekend and that my bachelorette party be a slumber party. That may seem boring to some people, but I’m not really the go out and get wild type so it was perfect for me. With that in mind on a Saturday in September my amazing bridesmaids arrived.

Jody, my Maid of Honor, came in from Rhode Island; Sarah, Chris’s sister (and my friend) came in from Pennsylvania; and Mary just came across the park from the Upper East Side. I was kicked out of my apartment (ok they had Chris take me to a wine bar) while they decorated. I came back to an awesome decked out apartment. I only wish I’d taken more pictures!

bach deco

Personalized champagne glasses for everyone. My girls thought of everything!

The girls told me to get dolled up and they took me to meet everyone else at Nice Matin for a wonderful dinner. In addition to my bridesmaids I had other friends travel in from DC and Boston which I was so touched by.

After dinner we headed back to my place where most everyone would be sleeping. We changed in to pajamas and my bridesmaids had fuzzy slippers for everyone! Jody planned a Real Housewives theme which was hysterical and so much fun. Even my friends who loathe reality TV had a blast because it was so funny and irreverent.

The next day we headed to my parents house in New Jersey for me shower. The weather was gorgeous so we got to spend most of time outside in the backyard which was exactly what I’d hoped for. My mom had it catered by a company called Morsels and Mixology and the food was ah-may-zing. I swear people were gushing about the food for weeks afterwards. If you live in NY, NJ, or CT, I highly recommend them.

The following weekend was Chris’s bachelor party and he also had friends come in from out of town. I went to my parents house for the night and returned to our apartment the next day to nurse my very hungover fiance. Needless to say, he definitely enjoyed his bachelor party!

October
Ok so most people go in to full on crazy diet mode a month before there wedding and some people go to charity pizza events a month before their wedding. Guess which kinds of people we are?

In early October Chris and I, along with some friends attended a charity event called Slice Out Hunger. Slice Out Hunger, “support[s] hunger relief initiatives by fundraising through the American pizza industry,” and once a year that hold a massive pizza eating event. About 50 pizzerias, including some of the cities top rated, bring loads of pies and sell slices for $1. You get 10 tickets for $10 and an empty pizza box. You walk around the room filling your box with whichever $10 slices you want and then you sit on the floor and eat pizza. It was so fun! Chris and I, as well as our friends Paul and Janet, don’t need much of an excuse to eat pizza so the fact that this was a charity event made it all the better.

We were also extremely busy with final wedding details and cheering on the Mets in the World Series. Sadly, they didn’t win, but they surprised everyone by even getting to the World Series so I’m very hopeful for next season. Let’s Go Mets!

Of course this meant that we ate a lot of meals at home and that I got to use so many of the amazing things I received for my shower, like our new dishes, our awesome New Jersey shaped cheese board, and my Vitamix which made Ellie Kreiger’s butternut squash soup, one of our favorite fall/winter dinners, even creamier and more delicious.

The best part of this whole wedding thing was marrying the love of my life. The second best thing was having everyone I love under one roof. The third best part was all the awesome new kitchen stuff I got ;)

These were an amazing few months and it was fun to look back. Stay tuned

 

 

Cheers to 2015 (part 1)

2015 was a magical year for me. I’m going to try to do a month by month review here which will be challenging for two reasons. First, it’s really hard to remember each month of the year. Second, as this is a food blog I’m going to try to write a food memory for each month. I’m also going to break this in to 3 parts; the first half of the year, then July-October, and finally November (because that’s when WE GOT MARRIED) and December.

January
We rang in the New Year with great friends at Nice Matin, a local French bistro that we enjoy. I know that picture were taken, but I can’t find any. Luckily good old Facebook told me that for the appetizer Mary and I went halvsies of the gnocchi with lobster ragu and the porcini risotto.

On MLK weekend we headed up to our favorite getaway spot, Westerly, RI/Stonington, CT, to relax and visit my best friend and her family. It’s quite beautiful there even in winter.

dubois

On the way home we stopped in New Haven, CT to try one of their famous pizza places. Frank Pepe’s was the only one of the 3 most famous that was open on a Monday so that’s where we headed. After a long wait we were finally had a taste of this famous pizza and we were pretty disappointed. The pizza was not all that good and certainly not as good as pizza in NYC/NJ.

pepe

For Christmas I had surprised Chris with tickets to see John Oliver on January 30th at the Beacon Theater which is just a few blocks from our apartment. John Oliver is a favorite of ours. We record his show every Sunday and watch it together on Mondays. It was also nice of Chris to let me go with him as he knows that John Oliver is my #1 celebrity crush! The show was amazing. My cheeks and sides hurt from laughing so hard.

February
This month started out watching the Superbowl with friends at a burger place we love, Mel’s Burger Bar. They had an amazing all you can eat/drink deal. Again thanks to Facebook (I post about food a lot)  I can tell you we ordered fried pickles, mac and cheese balls, popcorn shrimp, garlic fries, atomic fries, and burgers. This would’ve been a perfect evening except that the Patriots, a team I loathe, ended up winning.

We continued to spend a lot of time at Colicchio and Sons Tap Room and a highlight was the crispy pig’s head we had there back in February which I’m still dreaming about.

pighead.jpg

It was brutally cold last February so I made a lot of comfort foods, soups, stews, etc including one of our favorite dishes Tajin Sfinari bil (Lamb stew with olives and carrots). I will definitely have to share this recipe on the blog some time.

libyan

The highlight of February was seeing Hamilton just a couple of weeks after it opened at The Public Theater. It was the most unbelievable piece of musical theater we’d ever seen and we knew we’d be getting tickets again once it moved to Broadway.

March
This month was my second favorite of the year. Mid-month I hosted our second annual Erin Go Purim celebration! Since I am Jewish and my husband is Irish, we started a tradition of hosting this fun fusion party combining an Irish holiday, St. Patrick’s Day, and a Jewish holiday, Purim. There are shamrocks and crowns, groggers and leprechaun stickers, friends, drinks, and a dinner of Jewish and Irish foods.

We started with challah and Irish butter, a selection of Irish cheeses, and smoked salmon on blinis with creme fraiche and capers. I forgot to take a picture of the actual dinner, but I made a brisket (Jewish), colcannon (Irish mashed potatoes and cabbage), and roasted carrots. For dessert we had hamentashen, which are traditional cookies for Purim, and a delicious Guinness chocolate loaf cake. (I bought the hamentashen, but made the cake).

Of course no party is complete without my friend Beth and I reenacting a fight scene from The Real Housewives (in this case Kim Richards and Lisa Rinna from Beverly Hills. #TeamRinna)

EGP fight

I was also very excited to sign a lease on a new apartment in March so I was thinking this month couldn’t get any better, but then of course it did because… Chris asked me to marry him! I’ll spare you the retelling of the story and the pictures for now.

The day after we got engaged we went to see one of our favorite bands, The Lone Bellow, for the 5th time. It was especially awesome because we went to see them the first time about a month and half after we started dating and we both remembering having a feeling that night that the other one was The One.

Needless to say March ended on a high note!

April
This month was a roller coaster ride. The second you get engaged people are on top of you with opinions of what you should or should not be doing and it’s frustrating and overwhelming. I also got some pretty upsetting news from a friend mid-April. However, some of my favorite things of the year also happened in April.

In early April I went dress shopping and purchased my wedding dress! The wedding dress process was my favorite part of the whole wedding process. There is nothing quite like that moment when you find The Dress (which I did rather quickly), they put a veil on your head to give you the complete look, and your moms tears up. We also sent out our save the dates, booked our venue and most of our vendors, and went to see another one of our favorite bands, The Decemberists, at The Beacon!

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We headed back up to Westerly/Stonington because my best friend gave birth to her second beautiful daughter, Lucy! This also meant that I got to ask Jody in person if she would be my Maid of Honor and we asked her older daughter, 5 year old Natalia, to be our flower girl! Of course we stopped by our favorite place to hang out in Westerly, The Malted Barley and hit up Grey Sail Brewing for some delicious local craft beers.

maltedbarley

At the end of the month we moved in to our fabulous new 2 bedroom apartment and guess what… I have a real kitchen! A kitchen that more than one person can stand in a time! A full size stove! A full size fridge. We also have a real wood burning fireplace!

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During the summer we put some pretty tall candles in the fireplace.

If you’re wondering if opposites really do attract, here is a picture I took as we were unpacking. Can you guess which book is his and which is mine…

moving books

May
May started out with a quick trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico! My husband’s team at work finished a big project and they rewarded the whole team with a trip to Mexico for each of them plus a guest. He works for a very cool company.

PV

We never thought of ourselves as people who would enjoy a resort since we’re not very good at relaxing, but it was actually a lovely way to spend 3 days.

This month I also picked out my bridesmaids dresses. My ladies loved them and I may be the only bride ever to pick a dress that they really can wear again!

I’m struggling to find a food memory from this month. According to Facebook I got some delicious rhubarb at the farmers market and made Rhubarb Braised Chicken Thighs.

June
We started this month out by hosting a super fun housewarming party. We had about 25 people there and I still can’t believe we live somewhere where we can host that many people. Even though we told people that no gifts were necessary, most people showed up with a bottle of something so our bar, that wasn’t really slacking that much to begin with, is now very well stocked!

In other alcohol news, have I ever told you how much it pays to be the daughter of a wine collector? We were at my parents house mid-month and my dad opened a bottle of 1977 vintage port as yet another celebration of our engagement.

port

Something else fabulous happened this month that was way bigger than anything in my own life; marriage equality became the law of the land!! With our own wedding coming up I cannot tell you how much this meant to us. I’m going to be obnoxious and quote myself by pasting my Facebook status here: “I’m not sure how to articulate this, but today’s Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality just makes me that much more excited for my upcoming wedding because every time two people come together in love and commit their lives to each other it is a beautiful and special thing. Somehow knowing that everyone now has the right to marry who they love makes my marriage seem all the more valid and important. This ruling doesn’t diminish the sanctity of marriage, it strengthens it! ‪#‎LoveWins‬

We ended the month by celebrating Chris’s birthday with yet another trip to Westerly/Stonington. Of course we stopped by The Malted Barley. We also had fancy drinks at The Engine Room, a delicious birthday dinner at Bravo Bravo, and we visited Beer’d Brewery for the first time.

Stay tuned for more!

 

 

 

I’m gettin’ hitched

Oh hey remember me, I used to blog. Life’s been pretty great since last I blogged, but it’s also been busy; we’ve traveled to Scotland and Ireland, signed the lease on a new apartment and last night… we got engaged!

Everyone keeps asking to hear the story of how it happened, but there were so many people to call and text that I didn’t have time to tell it so I thought I’d share it here for my friends and family and anyone who actually still has this blog on their RSS feed.

Last night, after I came home from the gym and showered, Chris said I should put back on real clothes instead of the yoga pants and oversized tee I’d normally rock when just lounging around the house. I did as he asked and then we just kind of hung out for a bit before he finally told me that I should put my jacket on. At this point I obviously suspected what was going on. We headed downstairs, hailed a cab and Chris said to the driver, “15th and 9th.”

“Awesome,” I thought, “He’s going to take me to our favorite restaurant and do it there! But wait, Colicchio and Sons is on 15th and 10th, not 15th and 9th?”

“Babe, did you mean 15th and 10th?” I asked. “No,” he said, “15th and 9th.” I was confused, the only thing I could think of on 15th and 9th is Chris’s office and why would we be going there?

The taxi dropped us off and Chris said, “I’m sorry we have to stop at my office first.”

If you know Chris, you know this; he is kind and thoughtful and brilliant and also really absent minded. When he said we needed to stop at his office I actually thought that he’d planned this lovely proposal at our favorite restaurant and then realized that he’d forgotten the ring at his office and we needed to swing by his office to get it. “Ok,” I thought, “It’s really awkward that he’s taking me with him to pick up the ring first, but I love him and it is what it is.” Turns out I should’ve had more faith in him.

It was probably about 8:30 when we got there (time is a blur) so the building was quiet. We got in to the elevator and instead of stopping on the 8th floor where Chris’s desk is, we went all the way up to the top floor.

Chris led me up a flight of stairs and out on to the roof. It had rained earlier and there was a beautiful misty quality to the sky. It was just the two of us staring at a breathtaking unobstructed view of the New York City skyline (and our beloved home state of New Jersey too!). Chris turned me towards him and said something incredibly sweet which will remain private and then he asked me to marry him! It was perfect!

In case you haven’t figured it out yet I said, “Yes!”

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PS- Since this is a food blog you should know that we did end up going to Colicchio and Sons after. They poured us champagne. Chris had the halibut. I had the pizza with potatoes, bacon and chive. It was delicious.

PPS- Everyone’s all like, “An engagement should be about more than just a ring, it’s so obnoxious when people just post pictures of the ring.” Then you get engaged and all anyone says (even the men!) is, “I need to see the ring! Send me pictures!” So here are some pictures: