Friday, April 22, 2016

Traveling Oenophile: Asheville, Day Three

I prefer beginning vacations to ending them. At least this week I'm tapering off vacation by having gone from Asheville to Blairsville, where Hubby and I are helping my dad celebrate a big birthday ending in 0. I'm so glad we live close enough to my parents to do things like that.

After Battery Park, Hubby and I wandered about and ended up at the Asheville Sky Bar, which is on a series of balconies over the World Coffee Cafe. We enjoyed some pink drinks and the beginnings of a lovely sunset.

We then wandered down the hill and through some more streets and passed by Curate, which our innkeeper had said we wouldn't be able to get into without a reservation. We decided to give it a try, and while the tables were full, there were places available at the bar, which allowed us good dining and entertainment as we watched the busy kitchen. 

Our wine was a fantastic Albarino, the 2013 Arcan from Rias Baixas. It had a similar fruity profile to the Godello we had Monday but with a saline backbone that helped it pair well with the food. The highlights were (copied from the menu):

Salada de Tomate y Atún 
kumato tomato salad w/preserved spanish bonito tuna, black olives, drizzled in extra virgin olive oil & reserve sherry vinegar 

Berenjenas la Taberna 
fried eggplant drizzled in wild mountain honey, garnished w/ rosemary
C's note: an unexpectedly good combination

Gambas al Ajillo
the number one tapa in asheville, sautéed shrimp and sliced garlic

And some pretty awesome meatballs, which weren't on the online menu, but which are called Albondigas.

I'm glad we decided to give Curate a try. It's hard to compare it to Zambra, where we ate on Monday, because the menu styles are different. I would happily return to either.

I do want to give a shoutout to Lynn and Ron of the 1900 Inn on Montford, which is the only place we've ever wanted to stay in Asheville. The breakfasts are amazing, the rooms wonderful, and the house itself absolutely charming.

Asheville is one of my favorite places, and I can't wait to get back.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Traveling Oenophile, Day Two in Asheville

Today's post is being brought to you by the Battery Park Book Exchange. Yes, I might be at the bar hanging out with the spoils of my bookstore tour of Asheville and a glass of Prosecco. Hubby and I have our system worked out for visiting beer towns - he finds breweries, and I find books.

Let's back up to last night. Some of the other people at our B&B had raved about Modesto (, so Hubby and I decided to give it a try. I have to give chef Hector Diaz credit for taking traditional Italian restaurant fare and giving it a twist.

Our first course was the fried-green tomatoes with tomato sauce, Gorgonzola, and greens. Yes, Asheville restaurants make sure you get your daily dose of greens:

Then for dinner, since I'm sort of trying to be vegetarian, I had the Eggplant Parmesan, which had tomato sauce, fontina and goat cheeses, spinach, and sweet peppers, and was served over vermicelli.

Oh, and of course there was wine, a lovely Super Tuscan:

We finished the evening at Sante, a wine bar, where I had bubbles and Hubby had Bordeaux.

This morning I started my Asheville book tour, as one does, at Malaprops ( I got a book and a couple of journals, one for my morning pages and a small  one to keep in my purse. Then I made a tea stop and met Hubby at Mojo ( for lunch. I had the half-falafel sandwich and salad combo.

I did some other shopping this afternoon and resumed the book hunt for resources for my talk on hysteria and the occult in Victorian times, which I'll be giving in about a month at the Steampunk World's Fair. I began on Lexington at Downtown Books and News (, where they were helpful but didn't have exactly what I was looking for. Then I stopped by The Captain's Bookshelf on Page Avenue, where I found two good ones that had applicable chapters. It was then time for a coffee stop, which was okay, and more shopping! 

And now I'm at the Battery Park Book Exchange (, where I found another book and a glass of bubbles. It's been a good day. Stay tuned as to what happens for dinner!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Traveling Oenophile: Asheville, Day One

Hey, y'all, did you miss me? I'm embarrassed that I haven't posted in so long. Yes, I've been drinking, but most of my writing has been fiction or for the day job. I lost my contract psychologist to a major medical system that provided more financial security than private practice, and my admin has mostly moved on to a full-time position. So, I've been doing most of everything except for what my admin does a few hours per week. Small business-ing is hard.

Which is why I'm REALLY happy that Hubby and I are taking a much-needed vacation to the mountains. We arrived in Asheville, NC yesterday evening just in time to catch the end of the B&B's social hour, which involved wine. Woo hoo! Then we were shown to our lovely room, the Thomas Wolfe suite, which has a newly renovated bathroom with a waterfall bathtub. Yes, I will be trying that out later.

Formatting note - I'm doing this from my iThing, so if stuff comes through funky, I'm sorry. I also can't figure out how to embed links.

Two of the best things about Asheville are, of course, food and drink. We started with dinner at a tapas place called Zambra (, which we remembered from previously. To find it, go to Malaprops Bookstore and look down the alley to the right.

They had a lovely wine special, a 2014 single-varietal godello from Valdeorras, Spain. It was crisp, fruity, and went well with everything we tried including the pomegranate-braised pork spring rolls with mango dipping sauce and avocado.

Other favorites included the Duck-leg confit with mango chutney, House-made gnocchi with Three Graces Chèvre, and the Braised pork cheek with sweet-potato hash. I wanted to try all the pork things but restrained myself.

We went to Baltimore this morning and skipped the house, which we'd seen twice, and toured the gardens, which were in full spring bloom. Hubby is still sneezing. After we walked off our lovely B&B breakfast, we ate beet and tempeh salads at The Corner Kitchen (

You can't go to Asheville without having beer, so we stopped by the French Broad Brewing Company (, where Hubby got the Abbey Style Flanders Ale, and I enjoyed the Wee Heavy-est Belgian-Scotch Ale.

I will do my best to keep up with our adventures, but I have to say, we're off to a great start.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Kitchen playtime: Braising and Baking

Autumn is one of those seasons that can go either way here in the South. Some years it's shorts weather on Thanksgiving. Other years it gets cold early, and it feels like it's one of those. Our weekend nights were quite chilly, even down to 39 last night. Yes, I can hear my relatives in New Hampshire scoffing. Y'all come on down.

Chilly fall weather means boots, sweaters, and of course yummy fall food. One of my favorite cooking methods for this time of year is braising. There's just something so appealing about having broth to sop up with good bread and savory stew-like meals to pair nice red wines with. Plus braising recipes are easy - you just put things in a pot and either slow-cook them or stick them in the oven for a while.

Saturday evening we decided to do something a little bit different and made Coconut-Braised Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes from the October 2015 issue of Food & Wine magazine. Unfortunately Pine Street didn't have the bulk chorizo, so we used spicy Italian sausage instead. It turned out really yummy, although I can see how the flavor of the chorizo would have worked better. Check out the gremolata in the recipe - it has coffee in it for an earthy hint.

The recipe called for pairing it with a wine that has berry notes.The 2013 Le Sot de L'Ange Grolleau Sans Soufre went very well with the chicken. The name roughly translates to "the angel's idiot," indicating winemaker Quentin Bourse's decision to take the big risk of taking over a friend's domaine and leaving his previous life to be a French winemaker. It's a neat wine made mostly from the Grolleau grape with a little Gamay to balance it out. Grolleau is a black grape with thick skin you don't see very often. I thought the clear bottle for a red was also interesting. Warning - it definitely has sediment and needs to breathe, hence the decanter. I would definitely recommend this one with food and not on its own. Oh, and yay for wine toys!

Le Sot de l'Ange = "the angel's idiot"
One thing I love about cooking is that I get great ideas for whatever story I'm working on while my mind is mostly occupied with the food. Yes, it's probably a failure in Mindfulness, but that's okay, usually. Remember how when we were kids, some smartass would declare it to be "opposite day" and then try to catch you out when you said the wrong thing? I had my own "backwards morning" in the kitchen, which brings us to this week's episode of kitchen mistakes - lack of preparation, pantry management, and just plain thinking things through.

Hubby and I like to make a breakfast on Sunday mornings that includes protein so we can have leftovers during the week, at least through Wednesday. I made biscuits from the Joy of Cooking recipe and sausage from Pine Street. Yes, the only time I left the house yesterday was for beer and meat products. It was a good day.

I had some HUGE apples that needed to be used, and even if I munched on one of them all day, I wouldn't be able to finish it, so I decided to make an apple pie out of them.

Objects on screen may be larger than they appear. Or not. These apples were huge.
Alas,I had used all but about three quarters of a cup of flour in the canister on the counter for the biscuits, and when I went into the pantry to refill it, I found all manner of flour, but no all-purpose. I did have half a bag of self-rising, which if I had been smart, I would have used for the biscuits and saved the all-purpose for the pie.

What happened? Apparently at some point I decided I was going to limit myself in baking unhealthy things by not buying any more all-purpose flour. However, my sweet tooth will not be denied, and I really needed to use those apples. The solution? Apple cobbler with the filling based on the recipe for apple pandowdy (an old dessert) plus 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and the topping the basic cobbler biscuit dough with self-rising rather than all purpose + baking powder + salt, all from the Joy of Cooking:

Smells like autumn!
Lunch was Salmon Braised in Pinot Noir from Or, as Hubby puts it, "random salmon recipe found on the internet." I'm not including a picture of it because it just doesn't look pretty, but it's quite tasty, and I'm very picky about fish.

Finally, dinner. Yes, fall weather means I can have the oven on for a while and not overheat the rest of the kitchen - or house - which means one of my most favorite things - lasagna! I typically do variations on this Cooking Light recipe because it doesn't require that you cook the noodles first. I had intended to do a turkey, eggplant, and mushroom lasagna, but Hubby got ground beef instead, so it ended up being a little less healthy than planned. I did drain the beef before putting it back in the sauce. The mushrooms were lion's mane, which have a meaty texture and pull apart into cute little wispy bits that integrated into the sauce nicely:

And the lasagna was delicious. We had it with the rest of the braising Pinot from lunch, which was from California and remarkable only for the name - Little Black Dress. Hubby got it because we call Pinot Noir the little black dress of wine because it goes with almost anything.

Stay tuned for more cooking projects from me and Hubby! If you'd like to see the food pictures as they go up and the ones that don't necessarily make it to the blog, follow me on Instagram. Want wine and sleep tips as well as info about my books? Please consider signing up for my newsletter. I typically send only one per month.

Happy autumn cooking and drinking!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Kitchen Playtime: Doin' it Southern style

I'm trying a new experiment this weekend. Rather than waiting until Sunday night to write this post, I'm doing it a little at a time as the weekend goes on. Hopefully that will make it easier to do them regularly. Or procrastinate on my fiction writing. Let's see..

My current fiction project, title TBD, is set in an alternate Tennessee in 1871, after the Civil War has been dragging on for ten years. Basically, Lee decided not to go into Pennsylvania after his major victories in Virginia, so Gettysburg never happened, and the war ended up in a stalemate. I'm writing Southern food into the story, of course, and it just so happens that our cooking this weekend has a Southern theme.

First stop - the low country. We did something unusual today, and that was cook lunch. Typically our midday Saturday meal is leftovers of some sort or sandwiches, but due to our other activities, we decided to play in the kitchen. That meant Hugh Acheson's Frogmore Stew from his New Turn in the South cookbook. I have to give Hubby credit for choosing the recipe and getting most of it started. I peeled and deveined the shrimp, though. Our vendors for the meal included:

Pine Street Market (andouille sausage)
Sawicki's Meat, Seafood, & More (shrimp)
Various farmstands from the Union County Farmers Market (Corn and potatoes - I have no idea which ones, will do better in the future), Decatur Farmers Market (tomatoes - Mountain Earth, arugula - not sure of the name, but he was at the back of the baseball field and gave me radishes, too), and Morningside Farmers Market (leek - Crystal Organics).

It tastes and smells even better than it looks!

Cooking wine! Great in and with the stew. And the cooks.
Oh, and regarding the wine, people sometimes ask me if we have "house wines," that is, wines we always keep on hand. We haven't recently because the wine clubs we belong to keep us well-supplied, but we always used to have a bottle of this one on hand. It's about $12, and it's a lovely sauvignon blanc, mostly citrus with a nice acid backbone that stands up well to food.

Yes, that is the recipe behind the bottle. No, we did not lay out our ingredients that prettily.

Saturday night was date night. We love our Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and enjoyed a program of Debussy, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. My favorite - the Debussy. Yeah, I'm a romantic. Afterward, we went to South City Kitchen for dinner. You know what that means - more Southern food! I love their fried chicken, served with collard greens, mashed potatoes, and honey-thyme jus:

Southern girl at heart

We ordered this lovely white, the 2013 Montinore Borealis, which paired really well with the slight heat to the fried chicken and that in Hubby's halibut. Plus, at $36 on a midtown wine list, it's practically a steal.

Wants a back porch
The morning after date night requires a nice brunch. This was a case of me having something in mind I wanted to do, but needing a recipe to start with for guidance. I turned to, put in apple and sausage, and came up with a recipe for Sausage, Apple, and Cheddar Bread Pudding. Okay. Here are the modifications I made:

1) Hubby got cornmeal-molasses bread, which was heavier than the sourdough bread called for, so I used 8 slices, which ended up being about 12 ounces, rather than a whole loaf for 8 ounces. I also cut the slices in half and made two layers with the sausage and apple filling in between.

2) Only 3/4 cup of cheese, and cheddar at that? Puh-leaze. I used about a cup and a half of shredded Gruyere.

3) I used regular mild Italian sausage from the aforementioned Pine Street Market rather than turkey Italian sausage.

Here's a picture of the final product:

Perfect pre-yard work brunch.
Tabitha (left) and Timothy Mouse (lying down) wanted to know where theirs was.

Cats just wanna have brunch.
Finally, dinner. When I looked earlier, this recipe wasn't online yet, probably because it's in the latest issue of Cooking Light. It's beer-braised beef with bacon, onions, rosemary, and garlic. Hubby sauteed some greens to go with it, and I made some baked sweet potato fries. The wine is a tasty red blend from Hug.

I know I promised the recipe for my Quick n Easy Mac n Cheesy in my last post, but I want to test it out in a kitchen that's not mine first. Any volunteers?

Oh, and look what came on Friday! Author copies of Blood's Shadow, which will be out in paper on November 3.

It just got a four-star review from Romantic Times (hard to come by). Other reviewers have called Gabriel the werewolf Sherlock Holmes.

Those were my Southern cooking adventures for the weekend. Stay tuned for more wine and food!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Travelogue - Blairsville

One of Hubby's and my favorite places to go is up to my parents' place in Blairsville. We call it "the cabin," but it's actually a three-story house stuck to the side of a mountain with a fabulous view, even on gloomy days:

Look closely for hints of fall color.

We've been up there quite a few times and have had the fun of exploring Blairsville itself. Granted, it's not a huge place, so it doesn't take very long. Here are some highlights:

Beautiful new space

The Wine Shoppe: They've just moved into their gorgeous new space on the square, and when we were there a couple of weeks ago, it was hopping with a tasting of the Bogle Phantom. It's a lovely dark fruity fall sipper. The shop has a nice selection for reasonable prices, and Bill and Jane are lovely.

Cabin Coffee: Yes, this is a chain coffee place, but it is not THAT chain coffee place. Love the outdoor patio and camouflage coffee mugs. No, I didn't get one. I'm not worried about the deer stealing my coffee. Yes, the coffee is good.


No more caffeinated critters

The inspirational quote outside the bathrooms.
Michalee's Italian Life Caffe: Right near the Wine Shoppe, so you can grab a bottle and bring it in. Hubby and I had a fabulous lunch there. Amazingly, I don't have pictures of it.

Bearding Bottle Shop: Right below the Wine Shoppe. Seriously, the square is getting to be one-stop shopping. They have growlers, beer tastings, and a nice selection of Belgian beers.

No, I don't know why all these places except the coffee shop only have Facebook pages, not real websites. I'm just excited for how far Blairsville has come since my parents bought up there before they realized it was a dry county (not anymore, thankfully). You still have to go elsewhere to buy hard liquor, but I'm happy with the beer and wine. Stay tuned for other culinary adventures in the mountains!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Kitchen playtime - the catching up extended version

Well, it's been an interesting couple of weeks at the Dominic household. I haven't done this column in a while because first I had a stomach bug and couldn't stand to think about food. And then Hubby got some sort of stomach ickiness, and we passed it back and forth for a while. We were still not thinking about food. And then the Dekalb water crisis hit, and suddenly we couldn't rinse vegetables, first because we didn't have water, and then because we had to boil the water first. As Hubby said, it's third world water service at first world prices. Seriously, we're in this situation because a mower hit a fire hydrant, which then broke a water main. No, I'm not sure how the physics of that works. We don't have silly things like physics in Dekalb County, Georgia. At least that's the only explanation I've got for why some neighborhoods like ours were essentially without water for two days and then with minimal service for another one.

Rant over. On to the food. I'm going to give you the highlights of the past couple of weeks.

Let's rewind to two weekends ago. I was just recovering from the stomach bug. Hubby had yet to get it. He had ended up with a huge bunch of time from the Dekalb Farmers Market and had searched for stuff to do with it. We decided to do a simple Sunday dinner of turkey breast, roasted potatoes, and green beans. Hubby made a Honey and Thyme-Brined Turkey Breast (recipe from the ridiculously popup-riddled MyRecipes/Cooking Light website).

He also found a fantastic recipe for roasted red potatoes: Thyme-Roasted Potatoes with Garlic. I'm glad to be sharing this one so I can have it handy.

I sauteed some green beans and carrots to go with it. It turned out to be a lovely meal. Since I was getting over being sick, I didn't have any wine.

I did, however, drink wine for Bastille Day. Hubby pulled out the Julia Child cookbook and made Steak au Poivre. It went well with the leftover potatoes and veggies.

Yep, there's butter in that there pan.

Summertime means summer veggies and all the fun things you can do with them as long as you don't heat up the oven. Thankfully Cooking Light had a recipe for Summer Veggie Pasta that doesn't even involve cooking the vegetables.

Of course you can't have summer without burgers. I'd had my eye on the Cheesesteak Burgers with Pickled Peppers, Onions, and Cucumbers from the time the June issue of Cooking Light arrived in my mailbox. Yes, we still get paper magazines. How quaint. The pickled veggies were easy, and the burgers really good. I would never have thought to put dill in a burger, but it worked. Yes, that's a salad in the wooden bowl to the left. Just trust me on this one.

Hubby decided we need a subscription to Garden & Gun magazine. To clarify, we don't shoot things for fun, and I kind of suck at gardening. I was a little iffy on the idea until we got the most recent issue, which included a recipe for Tomato Grilled Cheese sandwiches with Beer and Bacon Marmalade. Um, hello. They're actually as good, if not better, than the best grilled cheese ever, which can be found at Cafe Lily in Decatur. Here are the magazine's photo and mine. Notice the artful stacking of the sandwiches:

We're in one of my favorite parts of summer, which is eggplant time! I roped Hubby into grilling some eggplant, and we made this grilled eggplant parmesan. It was really good:

Quite yummy.
Speaking of eggplant, tonight we made Ratatouille and had it with some of the leftover lamb from Easter. Yes, this lamb. And the Ratatouille recipe came from The Art of French Cooking. We were surprised that there wasn't any butter in it. We drank it with a lovely French Pinot Noir (pictured).
No rat included

And here's the kitchen fail of the week. We tried to make the Honey-Thyme Chicken-and-Apricot Kebabs from Food & Wine Magazine yesterday evening. Notice in their picture how their apricots hold together beautifully after ten minutes on the grill:

These apricots must be Photoshopped
And here's ours. Notice how the apricots liquified. We didn't even know apricots had a liquid state.

That's more liquid than we saw from Dekalb County this weekend.

We're melting!

Oh, well. They tasted good.

So those are our cooking adventures the past couple of weeks. I do recommend the wines pictured. Both were very good.