Monday, June 27, 2011

Gervais & Vine: Just divine!

G&V has been a favorite of ours for years. Pre-Viv, Neil and I dropped quite a bit of cash at this lovely little wine bar.  We and our friends Anne & Lorne could do so much damage in one evening, we actually had to put ourselves on restrictions for awhile!  We spent so much time at Gervais & Vine, one of the waiters became a client of mine.  Stephen is still working for Kristian at both G&V and Rosso and is surely his right-hand man.  But, post-Viv, we don't get out as often as we used to.  But, every now and then we're able to fit in a little time together and grab some good grub, which is one of our all-time favorite pastimes.

Thanks to my awesome parents (who volunteer to babysit, we rarely have to ask!), we were able to hit G&V this past Friday.  If you've never been to this bar/restaurant, you're really gypping yourself.  They are a wine bar first and foremost.  Kristian is well-traveled and really knows his grapes.  His wine offerings are extensive and he is always discovering and spotlighting something new.  When he first got started, Gervais & Vine's food menu was small:  nuts, cheeses, "spreads"...really good snacks.  He's evolved over the years into a full-blown, authentic Tapas bar.  Not many American tapas bars really even understand what that word means.  Kristian gets it.  He still offers marinated Manchego, smoked almonds and cornichons; delicious spreads, wood-fired pizzas, but also major league fare such as petit filets, seared duck breast, sauteed shrimp, marinated artichokes.  It goes on and on.  But what's most amazing is HOW they are able to make all this deliciousness.  The wood-fire oven is backstage but their main kitchen is behind the bar...literally.  It's unreal how they have been able to make this compact yet functional kitchen behind a standard bar.  You have to see it to fully appreciate what I'm trying to describe to you.

Needless to say, that's where we like to sit.  We are just a few feet from all the action.  As the chef starts a dish, we try to guess which plate he's working on by watching.  Then, of course, we get to see every plate as it's served up, and we consult the menu to read the description and this is usually how we end up deciding what we're going to order!  It's a fun way to select a meal, to be sure.  This past Friday, we ordered three dishes:  parmesan fries with spicy aioli, roasted asparagus with romesco sauce and the smoked gouda, shrimp & bacon spread.  Excuse me, I need a moment here. OMG, these were good choices.

The fries were awesome. I'd heard some friends talking about them and I'd read some other folks' blogs who also raved about them.  The fries were perfectly cooked: crispy, fluffy inside, non-greasy and tossed with parmesan and parsley and served with that incredible spicy aioli.  The asparagus was well-cooked and the romesco was very bright and fresh tasting.  I might add a little salt to make the flavor pop a little more.  I didn't do it though, since I was literally right in front of the chef.  Can you believe I punked out like that?  The spread was also crazy good.  Smoky, creamy gouda with yummy bacon and shrimp flavor mixed in there.  It was served hot with French bread slices, water crackers, cornichons, and grapes.  It was a very attractive plate and we left not a crumb upon it.

Kristian has been on Columbia's restaurant scene for many years now.  He's a wine connoisseur, motorcycle enthusiast, excellent chef and just a plain nice guy who shops at Publix like the rest of us.  If you're a fan of supporting locals, then please keep Gervais & Vine and Rosso on your dining card.  (Rosso is the newer of the two; upscale Italian, hip scene...I'll get into that later!)  And, the fact that so many people, like Stephen, have been there so long, tells me that this business owner is doing many things right!
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Sunday, June 19, 2011

A mini-chef in our midst?

It's summer. It's Father's Day.  It's the time that we find things to do indoors.  Funny when you think about it.  I bet  more kids are conceived in the summer  months down South and more in the winter in the North.  Since knowing Neil, I've learned that most of the modern world was discovered or invented in Minnesota.  Presumably in the winter because those guys are holed up indoors for about 2/3 of the year up there!  WTH am I talking about?  It's the 100+ heat talking...

Today, my wunderkind rose to supreme wunderkind-ness yet again.  I'm not feeling particularly verbose this evening, so here's the nutshell version.  She and I have pots of basil growing on the patio. Decided to make fresh pesto and shrimp pizza for Father's Day.  So, here are the pix and what I consider to be the cutest video on the planet.  But, I'm the first to admit that I am partial, biased and prejudiced.  It's hard not to be when you have the MOST perfect wunderkind on Earth  :-)

Friday, June 17, 2011

That's my kinda sandwich!

I can be a VERY picky sandwich consumer.  In fact, I didn't actually eat a real sandwich until I was about 12 or 13.  I mean, I'd eat peanut butter & honey or peanut butter & banana sandwiches, but nothing with meat, cheese, lettuce, etc. I can't even begin to tell you why.  But I can tell you it was in Charleston. My family was there for a weekend.  We were staying in a hotel and one day, mom and dad bought all kinds of cool sandwich fixin's, fresh bread and set up a spread in our room.  That's when I took the sandwich plunge.  I've been a regular member of society ever since.

I realize this is not a shrimp sandwich, by the way.
However, I am still particular. I don't like peanut butter and jelly.  I can't stand the thought of any sandwich on white bread.  No soft sandwiches either...I hate biting into non-toasted bread and instantly having a bread denture wedged into my hard palate.  It's like it gets glued up there.  Ick to the Ick'd degree.  And, don't even get me started on the evils of baloney.

Anyway you guys already know how quirky I can be, so I really don't need to go on.  So, let's move on to the point, shall we?

Today I made myself my kind of sandwich. I have some "popcorn shrimp" in my freezer.  [BACK STORY: At parties, I have a tendancy to start conversations with the caterers.  Often, I end up with leftovers to bring home, or if it's a lot, we donate it to the shelters.  This shrimp was from a recent party.]  So, I crisped the shrimp up in the oven, with a little spritz of "Pam."  Then, I mixed up some mayo, Dijon mustard and chopped jalapeno.  Result?  Crispy shrimp, spicy mayo on (lightly) toasted wheat bread and shredded romaine.  Happy tummy with a little warm burn!  And practically no work for me at all!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Feelin' New Orleans

I need to go back to New Orleans.  The words "New Orleans" have always been in my vocabulary because it's where my parents went on their honeymoon.  So, growing up, I'd look at photo albums (my parents looked like babies!) and I'd hear stories about this magical far-off place.  Somehow, it seemed like a familiar place, like I'd somehow been there, even though I'd be in my 30's before I ever actually made it over there. 

The way I ended up finally hitting the 'Big Easy' was that the National Association of Realtors(r) Annual Convention was being held there.  The dates of the convention actually coincided with Neil's birthday.  So, of course, we decided we'd both go...I'd do the convention, write it off, and we'd celebrate his birthday in the coolest city in the U.S.  It was a great plan!

Since I'm in business with my mom, she was also attending.  She was rooming with a good friend and Neil and I had our room as well.  Ours was on a really high floor...I can't remember which.  But, we had this incredible view over the city.  We were facing the water and were right across the street from the French Quarter.  One night there was a huge thunder storm that came through.  Our room had floor-to-ceiling windows and being so high up, we had an incredible lightning show to watch!  

We got settled in, and immediately walked into the Quarter looking for lunch.  I don't remember the name of the place we chose, but it was so cool.  We were led through the place and out into the courtyard to a table.  I ordered shrimp remoulade.  It was all I had hoped it would be.  Sorry, it's been so long that now I can't remember what Neil ordered.  But, we still talk about that lunch to this day.  We spent the rest of the day wandering around exploring.  We found restaurants we wanted to seek out, found the hotel that mom and dad had stayed in for their 1966 honeymoon, we ate and we drank.  The following day, we found the Convention Center:  I checked in, got my bag of swag, and we left and went right back to the Quarter.  I never made it back to the Convention Center.  Dohh!

The rest of our trip was filled with great food and drink and fun.  One night we met friends at a place called Herbsaint for a great meal and LOTS of wine.  We had dinner with mom at Commander's Palace.  All I can say about Commander's is O.M.G.  I bought their cookbook.  We had lunch at the Court of Two Sisters.  We were going to have beignets at Cafe du Monde, but Kevin Bacon was filming a movie there, so we went to a similar cafe across the street instead.  We spent way too much time at the Absinthe House and a pool hall that was a hangout of locals who lived in the Quarter.  And then, there was Mother's.  This place was rockstar.  There was a line out the door, kind of like at Jestine's in Charleston.  While you waited, their doorman, "Elvis", would walk the line taking Bloody Mary orders.  It almost made you want the line to move slower.  Then, once in, you went through the order line which was very reminiscent of the Beacon in Spartanburg.  Mother's signature food is this oven roasted ham piled super high on giant french rolls.  They will also serve you "debris" which is the little roasted bits that accumulate in the bottom of the roaster.  In fact, you could add debris to your sandwich, or have one made completely of debris.  It may not sound very tasty, but I'd eat a bucket of that stuff!  One other day that we went there, the special was a soft shell crab sandwich. Neil ordered it and we were both shocked by what arrived.  It was two of those enormous french rolls, each with a huge crab hanging out of the sides.  He could only eat one so we went walking back through town with a huge crab sandwich in my pocketbook!

I don't see a trip to N.O. in our near future, unfortunately.  So, tonight I may make a small tribute for dinner.  I'm thinking of grilling some smoked beef sausage and then using it in 'red beans and rice.'  It's not as glamorous as Commander's bread pudding, Mother's debris or the crawfish etouffee at Two Sisters, but it'll be delicious nonetheless!  Let's just cross our fingers that it doesn't turn out too spicy for the Vivinator.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


This time year often calls for the simplest preparation.  It's hot. Damn hot.  And it's not uncommon for us Southerners to feel sticky, damp and slightly brain damaged by the end of the day.  So, there are those days when a simple supper is best.  I remember as a kid having true garden dinners; like butter beans, rice, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and corn.  Today felt like one of those days. 

I was not planning to blog about this meal because I just didn't find it all that noteworthy.  BUT...I made the Vivver's plate and she said "Wow!  Mommy, that looks great.  You need to take a picture of this one for sure!"  Well, there you have it.  How could I not oblige?  The wunderkind has been paying attention.

So, tonight we dined on some simple favorites.  I grilled a center cut ham steak.  If you've never grilled ham like this, you're missing out.  Then on the side we had fresh corn-on-the-cob and peas with mint from our patio garden.  That's it.  Nothing more.  Not terribly exciting, but man, it was good!

Here's Viv's plate that she wanted to share with you all:
Not a gourmet feature, but it was some good, satisfying chow!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Demonic Possession?

I have no idea why this lemon tart post has migrated up to the top of the list.  It is not new.  I didn't move it.  It happened unbeknownst to me.  Sorry for any confusion this deja-vu experience has caused! 

Life gives you lemons...make a lemon tart

Any of you who have been reading me for awhile know about my recipe "file" that lives on top of my microwave.  Recently, I came across a recipe in a magazine for Easter dishes and one in particular caught my eye.  It was a beautiful photo of a lemon tart with coconut crust.  Well, Easter came and went and the tart didn't get made.  But, I was determined that this one wasn't going to take up residence on the microwave.  Well, to be truthful, it may actually live up there for awhile, but not long-term before being made.

Finished product
On a recent day off, I embarked on this tart to surprise the fam.  Before I get into it, let me say this:  OMG, this tart is my new bff btw, lmao.  Yeah, it was good enough that it just caused me to type non-words that any good Belieber would understand!  Neil and the Vivver flipped their wigs too.  So my friends, I post a recipe for you today.  My only words of wisdom from my experience is I'd add more butter to the crust, to make it more pliable when pressing into the pan.  You'll probably have more crust than necessary, so just use what you need to fit your pan properly.  Also, I was surprised to find that straining curd isn't as easy as you think.  Not that it's hard, but you need to invest a little time pressing on it to get the curd through the pulp and through the strainer.  Don't worry; it's worth the effort!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cabbage: A new lease on life

I've always liked cabbage, which means I realize I've always been in the minority. Even as a kid, I liked it and that was plain ol' boiled cabbage with salt on it.  Then, as a teenager, my mom told me that cabbage requires more calories to digest than it contains.  That's when I bought stock in 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Staring Down my Nemesis

It's hard to admit that I have an egg problem.  I love a good omelet; in fact, it's my usual order when we go out for breakfast, but at home is another story.  Over the years, I've had mixed success with making them myself.  My biggest issue:  the flip.  In my case it's usually more of a flop than a flip.  Neil (God love him) has even tried to coach me on flipping and even went the extra mile and bought me this 8"wide spatula to assist me.  Come to find out that thing is really for flipping fish.  I've tried more egg, less egg, adding milk, adding water, saying a prayer, having a seance, burning incense and crossing my fingers...all to no avail.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Funny Things my Daughter Says

My wunderkind is now 5 years old.  She's such a fun little kid; she loves to help in the kitchen, she likes to bowl, she's a geocacher, she loves the water, she's very artistic but also throws some mean karate kicks and punches.  And, she's funny.  "How funny is she?..."

She likes to hug crawfish, but she really likes to EAT crawfish.
I was just thinking back about some of the funny things that have come out of her mouth as they relate to food and drink and remembered these:
  • "I don't know what you did, but these are delicious!"
  • "I LOVE chorizo!"
  • "I don't want any dessert, I'll just have chicken."
  • "Mommy, you are the best cooker ever."  (My personal favorite)
  • "Do I look like a real griller?"
  • "Look at these babies!" (steaks)
  • "I'd like a salad sandwich for lunch." (this means a sandwich with lettuce on it)
  • "Do Daisy Scouts get to eat the cookies they sell?"
  • "These pancakes taste like a sandwich!" (So, wheat pancakes are a little bready)
  • "Mommy, I don't wanna watch a kid show. Can't we just watch a cooking show?"
I'm sure these are much funnier to me than you and I could throw out the old-tried-and-true "guess you had to be there!" But, as I sit in my office waiting for something to happen, these little phrases gave me a smile.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A happy burger experience

Neil and I were able to have lunch together today, a rare occasion indeed.  We decided to head down the hill to Five Points to Pawley's Front Porch.  I've never had a bad experience here, but I must admit that my mental impression has always been kind of lukewarm.  I know why too.  It's because I'm always intrigued by the crazy burger topping-combos they've come up with, but I always end up with a burger that is too tall to even fit in my mouth, or it explodes all over me when I bite it, or I end up having to carve it up with their enormous steak knives, which I hate because then I look like Costanza eating a Snickers with a knife and fork.  But I continue to go there from time to time because I love their crazy topping-combos.


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