During the fall I was working on recipes with the aim of writing them up and posting them all in a timely manner. And the few dozen pictures still sitting on my camera can attest to that. Ah, well. Best laid plans, I s’pose. I figure now that the holidays are done and all my surgery madness is over, I can get back to posting on at least a semi-regular schedule. And lucky for me, I’ve got all this stuff saved!
To ease in, I just wanted to share a visit I took to Bean Bath Cafe in…well, Bath, of course. I had been visiting with mom and dad and decided to take a different route home. I was hungry for lunch and remembered Bean Bath was on the way. I’d been wanting to check them out for a while. Located in a small strip mall on an almost empty stretch of 512, Bean Bath Cafe is one of those blink-and-you-miss-it kind of places. I know this because I did, and had to turn around to find it.
The cafe is clean and bright, with a modern, kind of surf-y decor. There’s a counter for to go orders and plenty of tables for customers that want to eat in. There’s a couple tables outside as well, but the day I went it was a tad too chilly and overcast to linger outside.
I started with a cup of coffee, obviously, because why would you go to a cafe and not sample the coffee? This was a caramel macchiato, and it was pretty perfect. Not too strong, not too sweet.
It took a few minutes of perusing the lunch menu for me to decide what I wanted, it’s pretty extensive. There’s a lot of southwestern inspired dishes, like the El Dorado omelet, Manteca steak wrap, multiple breakfast burritos, quesadillas, and migas. If I lived closer to the cafe, you can bet your ass I’d have had that migas at least a dozen times by now. I decided on the Pinky and the Brain, a sandwich with thinly sliced roasted chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, slathered with a kicking chipotle mayo, served on a toasted chiabatta roll. It’s served with a pickle and a small side of fries.
A tasty sandwich and an excellent choice for a late lunch on a random trip through the slate belt. I cannot recommend Bean Bath Cafe enough. If you have the chance (or the time to take a mini-road trip), put them on your to-do list, and be sure to invite me. The migas is calling my name.
So I seem to have fallen off a bit, haven’t I? Just your luck I’ve decided to do a quick(ish) (though probably not really, it is me we’re talking about here) recap on the rest of my summer. It all went pretty nicely until one sucky week in August. But I’ll get to that in a while.
Firstly: High Tea with my favorite ladies at Jessica’s Tea Room
A group of my nearest and dearest and I were trying to come up with a way to celebrate my friend Vanessa’s graduation from one school and acceptance (including a full scholarship, thank you very much) to another. I got the idea from a coworker to take her to Jessica’s Tea Room at the Weaversville Inn. It just seemed so fun and out of the ordinary, and Vanessa just happens to love a nice cup of tea. Perfect! We all got dressed up very fancily and surprised her with high tea on a gorgeous Saturday in June. The food was delicious, the tea was refreshing, the service was outstanding, and the company, as always, was the best ever.
Of course when we got there, we had iPhones at the ready. Because why do something if you’re not going to Instagram it immediately?
We all opted for High Tea service, which included a pot of tea (duh) for each (hot or iced), scones and banana bread, soup or small salad, choice of two finger sandwiches, entree, and dessert.
The finger sandwiches weren’t quite what we expected and were the one dull spot in an otherwise fantastic meal. A little too heavy, a little too much bread.
I opted for the turkey, bacon, and cheddar puff pastry blossom for my entree. It was simple yet delicious, and I’m going to be copying this at home very soon.
Grilled chicken salad with apples and dried cranberries.
Of course I have no shots of our actual tea. However! There were a variety of mini desserts offered to finish our meal, of which we each were able to choose two.
The desserts obviously are not made in house but the rest of the menu is, and the service and experience alone were enough for me to overlook a couple frozen mini eclairs. If you’re in the mood for something fun or different to do in the Valley, or even if you’re just feeling a little fancy, I highly recommend checking them out.
Secondly: Five Courses/Five Chefs Benefit for the Southside Bethlehem Film Festival
Fist things first, however: LOOK AT MY PRETTY DRESS. LOOK AT IT.
Ahem. Would it kill you to smile, Jenn?
(Apologies for the following few pictures, all I had on me for the dinner was my iPhone, and by the end of the meal, the light was nonexistent.)
First course was foie gras (there’s always foie at these things, isn’t there?) with banana bread and some sort of fruit gastrique, by Tim Wildrick from Edge Restaurant.
I’m not the biggest fan of foie on its own, it’s a little too rich and fatty for me. Combined with the other elements of the dish, however, this was pretty tasty.
Our soup course was a work of art. Tortellini with morels and proscuitto, with the broth poured over it separately. This is a trick you’d usually see at Bolete, but this night was done by Chef Mike Joyce of Molinari’s.
I don’t remember everything that was in it, but I do remember it was delightful. (Have you gone to Molinari’s yet? You really should.)
Next up, the most perfectly cooked scallop I’ve ever had over heirloom risotto with a pea puree, all by Chef Lee Chizmar of Bolete.
Chef Chizmar is a fricking genius, by the way. You should head to Bolete, too, while you’re at it. Their tavern menu alone is outstanding.
On to the meat. Mmm, beef. Chef Domenic Lombardo from The Mint on West Broad knows his way around a steak.
That dry aged beef was outstanding. I’ve been lukewarm on The Mint in the past but I do believe this dish earned them a mulligan.
And finally…oh, my babies. Brace yourselves for this. This masterpiece of a dessert, by Alan Pitotti at Dolce Patisserie in Hellertown. Yes. Hellertown.
I remember lemon mousse. The fluffiest, most delicate lemon mousse. Tartly flavored, but not overly so. A strawberry sauce. And – on the right side of the plate – a chocolate pesto. I don’t know how he did it, I don’t understand how it all worked, but I’ll be damned if that wasn’t the most original, most outstanding dessert I’ve ever had. All of this food, of course, was accompanied by fantastic wines hand-picked by South Italy Imports. This meal was the single most amazing gastronomic experience of my life. Kudos to the Southside Bethlehem Film Festival for putting it all together, and thank you, thank you, thank you, to all the chefs who participated. It was a meal I won’t forget.
Thirdly: Haley’s High School Graduation
It’s really hard to think about the fact that it was just a little over 19 years ago that my baby cousin came into this world. She’s turned into an intelligent, strong willed, beautiful young woman and it’s been an absolute delight to watch her grow up. We’re all so proud of her and her accomplishments over the years.
Way to go, kid. I love ya.
Fourthly: Color Me Rad 5K and Musikfest 2013
In early August I volunteered to throw orange-tinted corn starch at people during the Musikfest Color Me Rad 5K. It was a fun, if exhausting, experience, even in the rain. However, given the crappy weather, the slippery, uneven ground conditions, and a shitty pair of sneakers, my ankle was not happy with me by the end of the morning. I could barely walk the rest of the day, which put the kibosh on my Musikfest plans for that evening.
As a matter of fact, pretty much ALL of Musikfest 2013 was shot to hell for me, between my inability to walk the first weekend and the worst summer cold ever during the week. I was able sneak over on the second Saturday for about 90 minutes before I started wheezing in the heat and humidity.
Ah, well. I got my Take-A-Taco, and that’s all that matters.
This made me so happy it was a little embarrassing.
Fifthly: Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z Legends of Summer Tour at Hershey Park
When I heard that JT and Hova were going on tour together I knew I needed to see them, no matter where or how much it would cost. As luck would have it, the tour had a random stop in Hershey, PA, and I got my hands on a couple of pre-sale tickets. Great seats, great show, amazing night. Justin is a wonderful entertainer, and Jay-Z is just incredible live. I’m so very glad I got to catch this tour.
You get that sexy on, JT.
Sixthly: I have a new boyfriend, and his name is Gabriel.
Look what my friends Susan and Danny made!
Snuggly new babies are the best.
And, finally, the last part of my summer was also the best part. I always consider the weekend which I celebrate my birthday to be the “end” of summer. This past weekend I turned 38, and I was able to spend time with all of my favorite people during it.
There is always Hello Kitty when I have a birthday.
Yes, I made my own red velvet cake for my birthday. You would too, for this cake.
It started with burgers, beers, and birthday cake with friends on Friday night. I had to work a bit on Saturday morning, but I got to see my bestie the few hours I was there.
Saturday night I hit the casino to see Russell Brand on his Messiah Complex tour, and it was ‘unbelievably satisfying’. I even got close enough for a few good pictures.
Follow all this up with dinner and mini-golf with mom and dad on Sunday and I was a happy girl this weekend.
Have I mentioned how freaking much I love this dress?
Looking back, I had a pretty great summer. There were definitely more good times than bad, and that’s all we can really ask for.
Plus I got a tiara, and who doesn’t need a tiara, really?
Have I ever told you I’m a horrible gardener? Like, awful. I go for weeks without mowing the lawn. I’m excellent at ignoring weeds. I’ve killed cacti, for crying out loud. When it comes to planting a summer vegetable garden, no matter how hard I try to make a decent go of it, halfway through July everything just sort of…meh. Withers, dies, stops growing. You name it. So when people in my life offer home-grown produce, I jump on that train faster than you can say, “Free Vegetables”.
I was trying to think of something quippy there but it’s late, and I’m tired.
Anyway, a coworker offered me a small bag of peas today, which I gladly took. I usually eat them raw in the pod (extra fiber!), but on the way home today I was thinking about making them with dinner and I came up with this. It’s super simple, you can throw it together while everything else is in the oven (or on the grill), and super tasty.
This was only about 3/4 cup of fresh peas. I would have liked at least a full cup, if not a cup and a half to the half pound of pasta I had. If you don’t have fresh peas, you can absolutely use frozen, just toss them in the pasta when making the sauce as opposed to boiling them with the pasta.
Julienne (or chiffonnade) of basil. This was four large leaves, I only needed two.
Lemon zest. Best smell. Just use the zest, not the juice, or you’ll end up with pasta with curdled cream, which, ick.
See? Simple. Tasty.
And also kind of pretty.
Orzo and Peas with Basil Lemon Cream Sauce
1/2 lb orzo pasta
1-1 1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) peas
2 leaves basil, julienned
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
3 TB butter
2 TB flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt & Pepper to taste
1. Shell fresh peas. Place a pot of water on to boil. Salt water, add orzo, and cook according to package directions. Add peas to boiling pasta with 2-3 minutes left and drain.
2. Melt butter in a pan over medium high heat. Add flour and stir, creating a light loose roux. Add pasta, peas, and cream to the pan and stir, allowing the sauce to thicken.
3. Add basil & lemon to the pasta, salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Enjoy! And if you have any home grown produce you’re looking to get rid of this summer? I’m your girl.
Two weekends ago, the 4th Annual Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Festival was held at the Sands Event Center. The event was held over two and a half days, starting Friday afternoon and continuing through Sunday. I attended Friday night’s event, the Burger & Beer Bash (if I’m not mistaken, this is the first year they’ve held this event), and the Grand Tasting on Sunday (Next post).
The burger bash was held in a tent just outside the casino in the north parking lot. I found this a bit confusing, seeing as I had purchased my ticket at the Sands Event Center and as far as I could tell, there was no indication on my ticket that the event would take place on the north lot, nor did I see any signs that indicated where it was being held when I drove onto the casino grounds that night. I walked into the hotel and out around the Event Center looking for the Burger Bash before speaking to someone that actually knew where it was being held (note: this person had no affiliation with either the casino or the F & W event whatsoever, the one staff member I did flag down to speak to had no idea). Once I moved my car and parked in the parking deck, I then found out I had to walk into and through the casino to access the tent. A bit of a frustrating start to my evening.
But maybe it was just me and my infinite stupidity unable to find the tent, because by the time I actually got into the Bash it was pretty well packed, with lines at all the burger and beer tasting tables not 30 minutes into the event. There were a number of different restaurants offering up burger choices, ranging from Roosevelt’s 21st and Copperhead Grill to Pearly Baker’s and of course all of the Sands restaurants. Beer choices ranged from the mundane (Coors, Yuengling) to the more craft brew type (Goose Island, Victory).
Entertainment was provided by the Amish Outlaws, and if ArtsQuest is listening, they’d do well to book the Outlaws for a show at Musikfest because they are a hell of a lot of fun. They played covers ranging from country to hip hop and everything in between. My personal favorite was a cover of Kanye West’s “Stronger”. Yes, you read that right.
The venue was quite packed, which led to a longer wait at a few of the more popular burger stands, and, despite the size of the tent, there was some bottlenecking to get through the crowd at certain areas – specifically if there were two popular tables across from each other, but from all appearances the event seemed to be quite successful. I didn’t get to taste all the burgers, there were simply too many and personally, when I’m alone at a super crowded event like this I’m more of the “get in, get done, get home” type, so I didn’t linger. I was able to taste a good amount of the burgers, mainly focusing on the offerings from the Sands restaurants and other places that I’ve been meaning to try, like Sagra and Spuds. My personal favorite was the bruschetta burger from Emeril’s Italian Table, with the crab-stuffed burger from Spuds coming in second. The voters’ overall favorite, however, was the offering from Roosevelt’s 21st, which I unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to sample. I think I’ll try to tag team this event next year and split all the burgers in order to be able to taste them all.
For the past two years, it’s been almost impossible for me to put a half decent blog post together, mainly owing to the fact that the only functioning computer I had at my disposal was a teeny little Acer net book. I love that little thing. I take it everywhere. It’s perfectly fine for emails, shopping, watching netflix, updating facebook or Twitter, but when it came time to upload pictures and attach them to posts and, indeed, write at all…suffice to say it was less than desirable.
I’ve been saving up for a new computer for a while, and I knew for sure that I would be going Mac with my next purchase. (Yes, I worship at the altar of Steve Jobs. I’m a fangirl. I drink the Kool-Aid. Whatever, they’re prettttyyyy. And they’re amazing machines, so. Hush.) I just wasn’t sure if I was going desktop or laptop, Air or Pro, 21.5 in or 27 in., et cetera and so forth. Finally the other weekend I had had enough. I was attempting to study for my Cat Scan registry exam on the net book, and it was. Not. Going. Well. (Neither did the exam, but I can retest in a month or so. Serves me right for only studying from one review book.)
So I logged onto the Apple store, logged onto my bank account to make sure the cash was there, and finally, FINALLY, pulled the trigger. And today, a brand new (to me) refurbished 21.5 in iMac is sitting on my kitchen table, and I could not be happier if I was being hand fed grapes and cheese by Bradley Cooper while Alexander Skarsgard played with my hair and scratched my back.
I mean, COME ON.
So with this new development I’m hoping to start posting more. I’ve got a few recipe posts I’m working on, and some other things to share. If I can stop staring at the computer long enough to write about them, that is.
I have a confession: I’ve never eaten a Whoopie Pie. Well, I don’t think I have. And it’s a damn shame, too. Two dense, moist, cakey chocolate cookies filled with fluffy frosting? Amazing. I think I always passed them over in favor for something else – a cupcake, or a lemon bar. As of now I’m officially adding whoopie pies to my list of favorite sweet treats. If you’ve never had a whoopie pie, or are only familiar with the chocolate version, perhaps you’ll add these to your list, too.
It started about two weeks ago, when I saw this recipe on Pinterest and decided to make them just to try them out. Instead of raspberry jam in the filling I added pureed fresh blackberries. They were fantastic, and I immediately began brainstorming different flavor combinations for the basic recipe. I immediately thought of Key Lime Whoopie Pie, and I might give that a shot down the road, but for some reason my thoughts went more adult.
Not THAT adult, cheeky monkey.
This adult. I love margaritas when they’re made properly. Good tequila, on the rocks, NO SALT. Keep my margarita simple. Don’t bruise my Patron in a blender, and for goodness sake, don’t drench the edge of my glass in extra salt.
Of course, I won’t fault you for how you enjoy your margaritas, but I will fault you if you choose not to make these.
Margarita Whoopie Pies
Recipe adaptation from a basic version featured on Annie’s Eats. Yields approx. 24 2-inch cookies.
For the cookies:
8 TB unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp lime zest
21/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
2-3 TB White Tequila
For the filling:
4oz. cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 TB unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp lime zest
2-3 TB White Tequila (to taste)
Optional: Sprinkle of fleur de sel
Making the cookies:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer) cream together butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add in egg, then egg white. Be sure to scrape down the side of the bowl after each addition. Add vanilla, lime zest, and tequila and blend completely. Reduce mixer speed and alternately add in dry ingredients and buttermilk until just incorporated, being careful not to over mix. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip (I use a Wilton 1A), and pipe small rounds onto the parchment, not more than 2 inches across. Bake 7-10 minutes, rotating halfway through, until cake is puffed and just set. The tops of the cake should not brown, but will not yield when tapped with your finger. Remove from oven and let cakes cool on the baking sheets for ten minutes, then remove and cool completely. Match up cookies, matching according to size before filling.
For the filling:
With a mixer, cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla, lime zest, and tequila (you can add more or less to taste). On low speed, slowly incorporate sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until desired consistency and beat at medium high speed until smooth. You can add food coloring if desired. For this filling I added a few drops of neon green food coloring.
Note: if your filling seems a little “loose”, allow to chill in the refrigerator for an hour or so until it firms up. I neglected to do this because I was eager for ERMAHGERD WHOOPIE PIES and I ended up regretting it, because my filling was a little gloppy and all over the place once I assembled the whoopie pies.
Assembly: Transfer filling to another pastry bag filled with a smaller plain tip and pipe filling onto one half of each matched up pie, topping with the other half. Add a small sprinkling of fleur de sel to the outside of one quarter to one half of the filling if desired. (This step really makes the pies taste margarita-y, but you can certainly skip it.) Allow your whoopie pies to rest in the refrigerator over night before serving, if you can. Enjoy!
I love these so hard. I still have a few in my refrigerator. I’m trying not to dive head first into the container.