Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Recipes

Have you made your plans for Christmas dinner?

Some of my most favorite memories revolve around cooking and the conversations and laughter shared with family and friends around the dinner table.

 I start looking for new recipes a few weeks before Thanksgiving and enjoy looking over some of my favorite cookbooks in the evenings leading up to Christmas. Its always a challenge to prepare all of my family's favorites and still allow for a little something new.

This Thanksgiving I tried lots of new recipes with the biggest hit being the
Roasted Pumpkin with Gruyere Fondue. It was absolutely amazing! 

I love to set a pretty table, pull out old silver and my wedding china, light candles and go out into the garden and pick greenery and herbs. Here are some of my favorite Pinterest place settings followed by some of the recipes I am thinking of trying and as you can see sometimes I have found two variations and am deciding between the two. Please let me know if you have tried something similar that you like. I made the Roasted Potato Stacks with Thyme as my contribution to an annual Christmas dinner I attended last week and couldn't believe how easy, beautiful and delicious these were. I love simple recipes like that.

Bûche de Noël

{My roasted pumpkin with gruyere cheese fondue from Thanksgiving}

Roasted Pumpkin With Gruyere Cheese Fondue
From Gourmet magazine, November 2008
1 (15-inch) french baguette, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 (7-lb) pumpkin
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyere (6 oz)
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated Emmental (6 oz)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F with rack in lower third of oven. Toast baguette slices in 1 layer on a baking sheet in oven until tops are crisp, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
2. Remove top of pumpkin by cutting a circle (3 inches in diameter) around stem with small sharp knife. Scrape out seeds and any loose fibers from inside the pumpkin with a spoon (including top of pumpkin, reserve seeds for another use if desired.) Season inside of pumpkin with 1/2 tsp. salt.
3. Whisk together cream, broth, nutmeg, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper in bowl.  Mix together cheese in another bowl.
4. Put a layer of toasted bread in bottom of pumpkin, then cover with about 1 cup cheese and about 1/2 of the  cream mixture. Continue layering bread, cheese, and cream mixture until pumpkin is filled to about 1/2 inch from top, using all the cream mixture. (You may have some bread and cheese left over.)
5. Cover pumpkin with top and put in an oiled small roasting pan. Brush outside of pumpkin all over with olive oil. Bake until pumpkin is tender and filling is puffed, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Enjoy….


Sunday, December 14, 2014


Hope your homes are starting to feel like Christmas!

I thought I would just share a few of my favorite Christmas images that have brought me inspiration and made me smile.

Christmas wishes from my home to yours…...

Merry Christmas!


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Eat. Give Thanks. Shop

Good morning!

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday festivities!

After Thanksgiving I took a short road trip to Charlotte to have lunch with family and friends and while I was there I dropped by to see one of my good friends and do a little shopping. 

Visiting Granville is such a treat!

 It is truly a breath of fresh air and reflects the lovely and kind personality of the shop's proprietor, Patty Simpson. I thought you might be tired of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday (and Tuesday) and all of the other retail ploys to get us to participate in the frenzy and might be looking for a shopping experience that will leave you feeling calm.

I have mixed in pictures taken with my cell phone with some of the professional photos taken in the Spring so that you are sure to feel the inspiring serenity of the shop.

 Artist, Anne Neilson, had just finished a book signing at the store for her newest book Strokes of Compassion. Granville is one of just a few galleries that have original works of art by Anne Neilson who is nationally known for her ethereal Angel Series paintings and flair for color and light. I am so inspired by Anne's work and more importantly, by her message, of giving back and celebrating the angels in our world.

Here's a picture of Anne celebrating her first book Angels in our Midst.

If you are looking for truly beautiful gifts that are timeless, you will love everything in Granville. Beautiful gifts made from all my favorite things - cashmere, silver, crystal, linen, velvet, and silk - in gorgeous pastel colors fill the store. Patty is a terrific buyer and has a great selection of items in a variety of price ranges. She has a chic selection of lamps and handmade silk pleated lamp shades and is very good at helping you select the right lampshade for a specific lamp. She hand picks heirloom silver pieces that are the perfect gift for someone who loves antiques. 

Sorry, this is not a great picture but I wanted you to know about the beautiful wraps and cashmere ponchos she sells. The one photographed above is a soft blue and feels like your wrapped in a cozy blanket. It would be the perfect gift for the Carolina football fan. She also offers cashmere ponchos in an amazing assortment of chic colors. I bought several of these for gifts.

I bought one of these adorable reindeers. He now resides on a french chair in my foyer! He makes a really nice gift for someone who likes silvers and grays for Christmas. 

I bought a pair of these silver glitter crusted logs. They are on my mantle in my dining room.

These monogramed linen hand towels would make a beautiful hostess gift. Patty has lots of different styles of elegant monogrammed hand towels, soaps, votives and candles.

That's my dasher on the right.

Handblown Christmas ornaments and a peak of Granville's gorgeous gift wrapping.

A nice selection of jewelry, coffee table books, lamps, sconces, mirrors and more original art.

A close up of Anne Neilson's new book.

Gorgeous antique French mirrors…..

A chic selection of lamps and handmade silk pleated lamp shades.
Patty and her staff are very good at helping you select the right lampshade for a specific lamp.

Happy shopping! Granville is located at Phillips Place in Charlotte.

If you can't get to Charlotte, give the girls at Granville a call! They are so nice and would be happy to help you find the perfect gift.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Charleston: A New Restaurant to Love

{Zero George at the corner of East Bay and George Street in Charleston}

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we followed the recommendation of a trusted friend and branched out from our usual Charleston favorite eateries and landed at Zero George for an early dinner. Given that it was a Saturday night and the peak of the fall tourist season, we arrived a little before 5 o'clock hoping for a table.
{Zero George, Charleston}

You enter Zero George from George Street through a wonderful old Charleston gate and arrive at a courtyard where colorful bikes are parked waiting for guests to take them for a spin. In addition to the restaurant, Zero George is also a premier boutique hotel that offers luxury accommodations in one of five historic, restored residential buildings. The main Anson building along with the two-story brick carriage house are original to the property and were built in 1804. The Cooper and Zero buildings, built in 1816, were moved to the site in the 1980's. My sister remembered touring the site several years ago when it was a local designer house.

I love this tagline from their brochure:

"Zero George embodies the authenticity that defines Charleston."

It's true.

{Zero George, Charleston, South Carolina}

I caught one of the cute waiters coming out of the restaurant as I was taking a picture of the entrance. Since we arrived so early I had a little bit of time to ask questions about the inn and explore. Everyone there was so friendly and interested in sharing the details about the chef, the recipes and the history of the property.

{the kitchen at Zero George, Charleston, SC}

Just as you walk in the main door to the historic 1804 carriage house, there is a french style kitchen with a Lacanche range, fireplace and zinc island. The entire meal is cooked in this beautiful kitchen. I hope to come back one day soon and take one of the intimate cooking classes offered by the hotel with the talented Chef Vinson Petrillo. Here's a little exert about the chef from the website:

Chef Vinson Petrillo’s culinary career began at the age of 15 at the Parsippany Hilton in New Jersey.  After graduating from Johnson and Wales University in Charleston, Petrillo worked in some of the nation’s best restaurants, including New York City’s Caviar Russe and Abe & Arthur’s.  He comes to Zero Café + Bar after his role as Chef de Cuisine at Prospect in Brooklyn, New York – a modern new American restaurant focused on sustainability and local, fresh ingredients.  Petrillo is a two-time winner of Food Network’s Chopped and Chopped Champions and was named to the 2013 Zagat New York City’s “30 Under 30” list.
Zero George Cooking Classes
Open to the public + guests of Zero George
Mondays 7-9 PM
Saturdays 11 AM-1 PM
8 spots available
(private classes may be arranged)
3 courses with paired wine
Sample Lowcountry Menu
Cucumber Salad
Bronze Fennel, Lime, Buttermilk
Pan Roasted Shrimp
Gnocchi, Pancetta, Sun drop, Tomato, Tarragon
Basil Balsamic Syrup, Honey Sweetened Chantily

Zero George offers both inside and outside dining options. It was such a beautiful night that we chose to sit outside in this charming courtyard.

Here's our table nestled in the corner next to the espaliered magnolia tree. 

We had a few minutes before we were seated and took the opportunity to walk around the property and take a few pictures. Here is one of the beautifully landscaped interior courtyards guests can enjoy.

Adjacent to the old stucco house in the earlier picture is a traditional style charleston house with a long double porch. The porch overlooks the interior courtyard and the dining terrace.

I love the way the porch is styled and know that guests must spend a lot of time here!

Just off the porch are these gorgeous formal rooms where guests can gather. The decor is quintessentially Charleston.

I love the beautiful soft palette and rich mix of velvet, linen and silk.

And now for a little bit about our incredible meal!

The limited menu might push you to try something new. It reminds me of dining in Europe where not everything is familiar but everything layers of flavor. The chef is extremely committed to working with what is fresh and local as this statement from their website suggests:

The a-la-carte menu is approachable, hyper-seasonal, and features the freshest herbs and vegetables from the on-site kitchen garden, local farms and seafood from local fisherman. 

I also loved the classically french bistro styled table. You?

We didn't know when we arrived that one of the things Zero George is known for is their artisanal libations. We both started with a High Garden made with high wire vodka and cucumber juice and a sprig of rosemary. It is to-die-for! I love a cocktail that is infused with herbs and in this case, the cucumber juice is amazing, so aromatic, light and refreshing. The perfect summer cocktail. Click over here to view the cocktail menu. The cocktail menu changes seasonally.

Next we ordered a seasonal cheese board from the 'snacks' menu. I love to start the meal with a cheese board and this one was divine! A wonderful selection of cheeses with homemade apple butter and lavender honey.

We both ordered the Pan Roasted Wreckfish for our main course. 

The waiter brings it to the table in this organic wooden bowl and then adds hot mushroom broth that is squeezed through a coffee press. The wreckfish is fresh and locally caught and the broth and vegetables would remind you of something you might get in the South of France. It was very light with very subtle flavors and aromas. The leek and mushrooms contributed greatly to that end.

We almost left without ordering dessert and I am so glad we didn't!

We ordered one of each!

The most amazing thing we ate all night was that crunchy honey brittle (below) on the dessert on the right with the flower. The waiter described to us how it was made. He said something like this - you bring honey to a high temperature until it caramelizes. I might need to come back to the cooking class to try this at home! It has the texture of a meringue, forms a little honeycomb pattern and tastes like toasted honey.

Sorry, I don't even remember what the desserts were called. The waiter described them and we ordered one of each. If you go, definitely do not skip dessert! It's beyond amazing!

To all you foodies out there -

My sister and I both thought this was absolutely one of the best meals we have had in years! 

If you look at the reviews, we are not alone.

As we were leaving, the restaurant was starting to fill up and everything took on a warm glow.

From this angle, you can see the covered porch that I showed in earlier pictures.

An evening view into the 1804 carriage house. You can see the kitchen where the cooking classes are held through the window on the left.

Another view of the Charleston gate where you enter the Zero George courtyard off of George Street.