Friday, September 28, 2012

Sunset, Bald Head Island, NC

A picture of my wife taking a picture of the sunset during our getaway on Bald Head Island.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Beach Morning on Bald Head Island, N.C.

It was a beautiful morning on the beach here on Bald Head Island. Our house faces South Beach, so the waves are calm (plus it's just really flat out there right now).

My mother-in-law, KD, ready for a beach morning.

Monarch butterflies among the sea oats on Bald Head Island.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Food & Wine Recipe Series: Vegetarian from Alyssa Gorelick

Our version of Food & Wine's Tofu and Vegetable Tacos with
Eggplant-Ancho Spread from Chef Alyssa Gorelick.
This is the first installment in the Food and Wine Recipe Series. As a writer and a foodie I thought it would be fun to document our attempts at two recipes from each issue of Food & Wine Magazine.

We like to try to eat vegetarian at least once a week, but sometimes it's a little hard to come up with or find a fun, flavorful dish, especially when you're kind of new to vegetarian cooking. In the June 2012 issue of Food & Wine Magazine, Chef Alyssa Gorelick's recipe for Tofu and Vegetable Tacos with Eggplant-Ancho Spread caught my eye. The food looked good in the article and the recipe seemed easy enough to assemble (no oddball spices or especially hard-to-find ingredients) and execute, and we loved eating at Chef Gorelick's Charlotte, NC, vegetarian and vegan restaurant, Fern, so we decided to give it a shot.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

McCrady's Restaurant: Fine Dining in Charleston, SC

Iron Chef. About 10 years ago I discovered it and ever since I saw Hiroyuki Sakai, the Delacroix of French Cuisine, I knew I had to expand my palate and, someday, try food as innovative, as beautifully plated and as seemingly delicious. So, it's been a search that, up until our trip to Charleston, with the exception of a few dishes here and there, had been fruitless.

Then we ate at McCrady's.

Chef Sean Brock, of Husk, heads up this notable kitchen and the meal Lauren and I had there was the closest thing to an Iron Chef judge's table dining experience either of us have had. The food was thoughtful, creative, beautifully plated and, above all, spot on with every flavor on the plate.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Food & Wine Recipe Series

I'm starting a new series on the blog this week, a cooking series. As readers of Food & Wine, Lauren and I see recipes I want to try all the time. I've decided to start making some of the more interesting, challenging, delicious and appealing ones out of each issue. If nothing strikes my fancy, I'll dip into one of the F&W cookbooks I have and make something from there. Look for the series every two weeks.

A little preview: we made a vegetarian meal from the chef at Fern in Charlotte, NC. We've eaten there (and it was very good) and we like to try vegetarian food from time to time and it used a lot of seasonal veggies, so it seemed like a good place to start.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Husk - Upscale Downhome Cooking in Charleston, South Carolina

Husk delivers true Southern cuisine with a sophisticated
twist, and they only use ingredients sourced from below
the Mason-Dixon Line. 
Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the best food cities in the South and it's been getting a lot of national attention the last few years. Several Chefs and restaurants in town have been nominated for or earned prestigious James Beard Awards, including Chef Sean Brock of McCrady's and Husk, named the Best Restaurant in America 2011 by Bon Appetit magazine. As a freelance writer, restaurant reviewer and self-admitted food nerd, eating at both of these restaurants was on the required list for any trip to Charleston. Reservations are hard to get, but we found a mutual friend who managed to squeeze us in for a prime seating on a Friday Night. 

Husk is tucked away on a side street in a beautifully outfitted 19th century home. The dining rooms and kitchen occupy the main house and The Bar at Husk is across the driveway in the old carriage house. That was our first stop.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Charleston, SC, Street Scenes

The City Market in downtown Charleston.
Here in Charleston, South Carolina, it's hard not to find inspiration as a writer; I can only imagine what this city looks like through the eyes of a great photographer or painter. Even though I've got a lot to learn about photography and the editing thereof, here are some pictures from our stroll, and carriage ride, around town.

Read on for more pics.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Planning A Road Trip, You Need These Tools

We're headed to Charleston, South Carolina, for a weekend of exploring the streets and alleys and restaurants. It's the first road trip of the summer and we are stoked. We love a long drive and we love Charleston, so it's the best of both worlds. 

Even though Charleston is only a few hours south of Wilmington, I found two must-use road trip tools. One from The Weather Channel, one from a place called Roadtrip Mixtape.

Trip Planner, from The Weather Channel, lets you input your starting point and destination, then tell it when you'll hit the road. From there it gives you the weather forecast at every point along the trip. For a short jaunt, like Wilmington to Charleston, it's not much more than a novelty, but for a longer trip, like the 8 1/2 hour monster drive to West Virginia to see my family, it looks to be pretty handy. 

Roadtrip Mixtape, from Paul Lamere at The Echo Nest, is a little piece of genius. Enter the beginning and end of your trip and it generates a list of local artists to listen to. For Rdio subscribers, you can listen to the whole songs, for everyone else, you'll hear 30 seconds of each song. The short preview is fine because right now, there's no way to make it mobile (unless you go to it on your phone and play it that way, but it could be a data hog). 

I suggest generating your roadtrip mixtape and hitting up iTunes or Amazon to buy the suggested songs. It's not free, but what's a buck a song to learn some new local artists and get a surprising playlist that gives you something good to listen to and something to talk about?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Infused Alcohol - Report 1

Our official North Carolina summer drink experiment is well underway and we've uncorked (or unsealed, since they're in canning jars, not bottles) four of our infused alcohols and they are tasty.

From left to right: Lime-basil vodka, blackberry gin, jalapeno vodka, grapefruit vodka, apple bourbon (not pictured: black pepper vodka).

Let's start with the ones we opened, they include blackberry gin, black pepper vodka, jalapeno vodka and grapefruit vodka.

I was the most excited by the prospects of the blackberry gin and two spicy vodkas and none of them disappointed. The blackberries (which Lauren and I picked ourselves at Lewis Farms here in Wilmington) really gave up a lot of color - as you can see from the picture - and flavor. I was worried that the juniper-heavy gin would overpower the blackberry, but it didn't; in fact, they compliment one another quite well and what we ended up with is a (very) purple, slightly sweet, slightly ginny and remarkably smooth-sipping drink. At first I thought I'd have to mix the gin, but this is great neat and with a little soda. Even though I hate it when I see bars do it, I may have to try a blackberry martini.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Fun: Infused Alcohol

Summer. Time for projects. This summer I'm gardening, I'm taking an oil painting class and I've decided its time to experiment with infusing alcohol.

So far we've put up four jars. The grapefruit-infused vodka pictured here, jalapeno-infused vodka (that used some jalapenos from our garden), blackberry-infused gin (really wondering how that turns out), and apple-infused bourbon.

Part of what got Lauren and I on this kick was a story I read on Gizmodo on How To Make Smooth Whiskey Even Smoother; the other part was a friend recommending we try it. "It's easy," she said.

According to her, grab a sealable jar or bottle and just pour your alcohol over whatever fruit, herb, vegetable or cured meat (what? I think I made that up) you want. Then you wait for a couple of weeks, taste it and either drink it or put it away for more infusing.

I didn't do my due diligence and scour the Internet for the best way to do it, I just grabbed what was on our shelf and in our pantry and started filling bottles. Who knows how it will turn out. I know my wife and I are hoping they all turn out tasty and refreshing and ready to go in a summer drink.

So, with the four alcohols we infused, I was thinking we make: a sort of Greyhound (with the grapefruit vodka and some soda), Bloody Marys (with the jalapeno vodka), blackberry martinis (with the blackberry gin - picture it, blackberries rather than olives in the bottom of the glass), and some neat apple-bourbon (OK, maybe one rock)

Other things I want to infuse:

  • Bacon Bourbon - I'm thinking a maple-cured or applewood-smoked bacon would bring some umami deliciousness to the right bourbon.
  • Basil or Lemon-Basil Vodka - With some soda this just sounds refreshing as hell.
  • Thai Pepper Vodka or Gin - Super spicy martini anyone?
  • Black Pepper Vodka - Sounds good for a Bloody Mary.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Ghost's Town

Centralia, PA
Centralia, PA by Angela Parriott, on Flickr
I was probably 13 the first time I heard of Centralia, Pennsylvania. A small town in eastern Pennsylvania's coal fields that wasn't too different than my hometown of Logan, West Virginia, except in one major way: In the spring of 1962, a fire ignited a coal seam and spread underground; it's still burning 50 years later.

As it burned through the seam and spread into adjacent seams and into mines that bored into the hills around Centralia, the town became uninhabitable. The heat grew, the highway buckled and became too expensive to maintain, so the state of Pennsylvania shut it down. In places, still today, the ground is hot to the touch and smoke spews from cracks in the ground. It became a town forgotten, a town abandoned.

Now, when I think about Centralia, I think that may be where my fascination with ghost towns and urban decay was born.  (Technically, Centralia isn't a ghost town, there are a few die-hard residents who refuse to leave.)

Growing up in a once-booming coal town myself, I grew up surrounded by tipples (where they cleaned the coal) and smokestacks and long-empty warehouses for the shipping and receiving of coal, and the storage of mining equipment. In downtown Logan the number of empty storefronts and abandoned buildings multiplied year after year. I'd drive my grandfather to the post office and look at the empty five-story warehouse on the next block and wonder what was behind its doors. I'd be in my dad's truck headed up some hollow to some coal mine to deliver parts and see, tucked away in the folds of the hills, houses and shacks and buildings coated with years of dust and choked with weeds, even trees growing through windows and walls. I always wanted to stop the truck, get out and find out what was in there. Why was it left abandoned? Who lived there? Where did they go?

I guess that's the writer in me, always looking for a story. Now that I'm a freelance writer here in North Carolina, I get the opportunity to follow these threads from time to time, but not as often as I want. A few years ago I wrote about the colonial ruins at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson for Wrightsville Beach Magazine (two parter, part I here and part II here), a town that was one of the earliest settlements in North Carolina and was, like many ghost towns, important for many years, but faded as time wore on. I think it's time to head out to Proctor, Mortimer or Smokemont, North Carolina, to see what kind of stories I can dig up.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Rebirth of a Blog

At Booker Hollow there lives an Airstream.
After what seems like a long time away, I'm back to the blog. Now that I've found a permanent home for my freelance writing portfolio, I'm changing the course of Greetings from Teakettle Junction to be more what I intended it to be: an exploration of the world around me from places to flavors to the people I meet and the sounds that I hear.

What inspired this?

The supermoon. And a painter.