30 April 2016

Gardening links!

OK, it's not technically drink, food, or travel, but gardening is certainly related to two of the three (especially if you keep a mint patch in your yard for mojitos).  If you are lucky enough to have the yard space, you can grow enough to keep away from the grocery store all summer, but even a tiny patio or balcony yields enough space for some container gardening. Try it.  Everything really does taste better when you make it yourself.

These tips/links are based on zone 4 people obvs.

Veggies & fruits that taste the most amazing when grown in your yard, IMO:
sugar snap peas

Veggies & fruits that are super easy/low maintenance in a larger space:
sugar snap peas
green beans
various greens: Swiss chard, kale, spinach, lettuce (keep in partial shade to avoid bolting)
summer squash (beware: a little goes a long way)

Good for containers:
tomatoes (yes, really--get a very big pot and grow smaller varieties, like grapette, cherry, and roma)
all peppers, hot and mild
strawberries (give them some height for trailing)
any herbs

Herbs that will over winter (in the Denver area and lower elevations):
Siberian tarragon

Favorite blogs:

You Grown Girl
Kitchen Gardeners International
Chiot's Run
Mr. Brown Thumb Urban Gardening Blog
Tiny Farm Blog
my alma mater, University of Illinois, also has a great extentsion

Some old-school books:

Carrots Love Tomatoes (the classic bible of companion planting)
McGee & Stuckey's Bountiful Container (I used this back in the early 00s when I lived in an apartment in Indianapolis)

27 April 2016

What I ate on the Gulf last week

I went to University of Southern Mississippi last week to teach and perform in my role as an Altus Performing Artist, so of course, I ate my way from the airport in New Orleans all the way to Hattiesburg.  It was a short trip, but I'm pretty sure I still managed to gain a few pounds, mainly in butter.

In Hattiesburg

Crescent City: Cute family restaurant down the street from USM. I had crawfish Monica and a sad glass of water because I had to play that night.  The food was super good.

Branch: Chi-chi small plates and cocktail place.  I ate smoked wings, fried broccoli (no breading, just a bit seared and black on the ends) with lemon-yogurt sauce, mussels and fries, and deviled eggs with Sriracha, bacon, crab and avocado. The cocktails looked lovely, but I stuck to a glass of Chardonnay as I considered my 6:30am departure time for the airport the next morning.

In New Orleans

Jacques-Imo's: I think this is officially in the East Carrollton neighborhood, spitting distance from Tulane University. This place was utter chaos--I had to scream like I was at a Prince (who died the day of my recital, which is what I'm blaming the poor attendance on) concert. We split an app of friend calamari, then I had the daily special of blackened snapper on top of a bed of spicy mussels, crawfish, and shrimp with my choice of sides, a red cabbage with sausage braised in butter and perfectly seasoned red beans.  I think there might have also been a salad, but I blacked out at one point. Oh yes, the house white wine was delish and cheap.

Rue De La Course: Right down the street from Jacques-Imo's. It's in a big old bank building, playing classical music, of all things, and catering to the hipster Tulane set (I say this with affection). I ate Almond cream cake and had a smooth, smooth latte.

22 April 2016

Rhymes with avocado

Avocados don't seem to be going away, even though I actually think they're kind of slimy and tasteless.  It's funny how no one ever asks my opinion on these food trends (for the record, I totally approve of the bacon one).  I don't buy into the "healthy fat" claim, either, if it's just your excuse for binging on fat. But, these funny-looking little fellows can be pleasant if used correctly.  If you want to do something besides smash unseasoned avocado into a piece of toast, try some of these:

Tasty things with avocado

Swap egg for avocado in a tangy bearnaise sauce!

In a recipe combining all of the douchiest trends of the last five years (but I love them), you can make this tasty kale, avocado, and quinoa salad from OMG food.

Make a creamy sauce for your pasta salad.

Try Cooking Classy's ranch dressing recipe, which uses avo & yogurt as the base.

I still love this guacamole recipe with bleu cheese and bacon in it.

This is stupid.  No one likes you
when you eat this. 

19 April 2016

One groovy neighborhood in OKC!

My travel is often rushed, my sight-seeing limited, because I'm popping in and out of a town for a concert or master class. Thus was my all-too-brief experience in the Oklahoma City area the first weekend of April, which was gloriously sunny and warm in stark contrast to today's winter storm passing through southern Wyoming. I could bemoan my lack of thoroughness, but I'm not a paid travel writer, so you get what you get.  On the plus side, I have super cool friends to show me around, so you can trust me on this write-up.

I stayed in OKC's Paseo Arts District, which is apparently fabled as the place that housed all the "dirty hipppes" back in the '70s and '80s.  First Fridays are the monthly arts walk, and many of the 25 or so galleries have a great spread of snacks and FREE WINE.  You heard me.  The galleries are nice, too.  Also see: live music and food trucks. It's like a monthly carnival!

The neighborhood is a winding collection of narrow streets with no sidewalks and densely packed Craftsman homes in various states of repair, giving the place a little bit of a New Orleans feel (minus the peeing in the streets). But the restaurants aren't exactly catering to dirty hippies these days--you pay a premium for farm-to-table artistry which blends California fare with good old Southern fried things. Two I tried (and loved):

Picasso Cafe has a great mix of carnivorous and vegetarian options using fresh, local ingredients, a bunch of local beers on tap, and a drink menu the length of a Joseph Conrad novel. I had the fried green tomato po' boy (the leftovers make a perfectly good breakfast, no matter what anyone says).

Pizza 23 has a thickish, pillowy crust and some great toppings to choose from.  (Also, a fantastic wine list with a generous pour). The veggie pizza with grilled red peppers, onion, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, and black olives was super-fab.

I also made a day trip to Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma. While the vibe seemed rather fraternity house-esque. you can't deny that they have a beautiful campus.