killing time between meals

where talking about what's for dinner while you're at lunch is totally acceptable

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Girls’ Night In

On Tuesdays, there are some good TV reasons to stay in—The Biggest Loser, Parenthood, Dancing with the Stars results (you know, if you’re into that sort of thing), and now there’s The Voice! So far, I love it. And so do my girlfriends, so we are making Tuesdays our get together night. In honor of our first meeting, I pulled together a few snacks. The spread included some cheeses, black bean hummus, fruits, and veggies. See:

Side note: If you’ve never had the Fromager d’Affinois cheese, do no neglect to purchase it the next time you’re visiting a cheese counter. All the cheeses were yummy, but in hindsight, I could’ve just bought three wedges of this and called it a day. It’s like buttah. No, seriously, it tastes like Brie and butter had a delicious baby. Here’s a photo to help you pick it out:

Anyway, I’m glad the girls came over because I finally got around to making this black bean hummus. You know how Whole Foods has those yummy prepared foods that are 8 ounces for $5? I’ve been buying that, but I figured I could make it myself cheaper. And so I did, just a few months later than I planned to. Here’s the cast:

Black Bean Hummus
Serves 6-8 as an appy

1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 can chickpeas, rinsed & drained
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2-3 tablespoons tahini (or more, if you like)
1-2 lemons, juiced
1-2 teaspoons hot sauce (to taste)
½ cup fresh parsley
2 teaspoons cumin
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons + ¼ cup (or so) extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to get going. Stream in olive oil until desired consistency is reached.
  • Salt to taste and enjoy with pita chips, carrot sticks, broccoli, and the like.


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Sushi of the South

Living in a landlocked state doesn’t always make for fresh seafood. But I love, love, love snacking on crustaceans, mollusks, and other aquatic fare. So between coastal visits, a girl’s gotta get by, and the Red Lobster isn’t gonna cut it. Luckily for me, there are a few choices around the Nashville area. And when it comes to sushi, I’d say Samurai Sushi is one of my best options.

Of course I start with a house ginger salad, because it’s what you do. But this ginger dressing is so good. It’s thicker and creamier than most, and I find it downright drinkable.

But the real reason I show up is for the Volcano Roll, introduced to me by MKR.

This roll combines avocado, tuna, asparagus, and just the right amount of cream cheese. Sitting on top is their Dynamite Roll filling, which is a basically a mountain of spicy crabmeat. Let’s take a closer look.

Mmm … crab … I will be going back for this soon! I can’t seem to stay away due to all the cravings.

Side note: Who do you think was the first person who looked at a crab and thought to himself, I’m gonna figure out a way eat that thing? A brave soul, I tell you. But I sure am glad he did.

And speaking of crabs, watch these 150 million Christmas Island crabs migrate and have babies. Totally makes me feel better about the 13-year cicada swarm that’s gonna happen to us this month. Nature is so weird and fascinating.


How loose is your goose? (This goose is totally loose.)

It’s been said that good things come in small packages. And when it comes to East Nashville gem Silly Goose, I’d say this is one restaurant that truly fits that clichéd bill. With only four tables, I put off a trip to the Silly Goose for a while since it can be a bit of a logistical nightmare, but this weekend Christi and I arrived at just the right time with no waiting. (We also learned that SG is expanding, so they will probably be closed for most of May, but it will be totally worth it. Still charming, but easier to navigate.) Stepping into the SG feels a bit like stepping into an illustrated fable. Christi had the roast beef. I had none. But I did have the Lyle’s Surprise, which is one of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten (hot cappicola, thommé cheese, arugula pesto, basil, shaved fennel, & balsamic syrup on rosemary focaccia). It will be incredibly hard for me not to order the exact same thing on my next visit, but there is so much to try! And Christi assures me that everything is as delicious as my Lyle. I trust her.

Aside from their inventive sandwiches, drinks & ice creams, SG is known for their couscous, which you can get as a fancified entree or as a side. The best part? You can get a little couscous and a little salad as your side. How great is that? I love options where I get to try more food. These locavores use organic, sustainable ingredients, and they even press their own carrot, beet, etc. juice right in front of your eyes! Very fresh. Very impressive. Very, very good.

Christi and I cleaned our plates. And we were so full that we just had to get dessert. We ordered the Sweet Jane—cinnamon cannoli with orange and honey cream filling, shaved dark chocolate, and blackberry sauce. Light, crispy, creamy, tasty goodness. I can’t wait to try one of their snazzy house-made ice creams next time.

Don’t be silly—get yourself to the East Side and try this fantastic eatery. And if it’s busy, don’t let that deter you—order something to go.

Watch out Marché! The goose may just give you a run for your money in my favorite lunch spot hierarchy. This food makes you want to shake your caboose. (Yeah, shake your caboose.)

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Dish O’ the Irish

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Did you know that St. Patrick’s Day is an official “feast day”? That makes it a good holiday in my book. Here’s the man of honor:

See how he’s holding a shamrock? St. Patrick used the three leaves to explain the Holy Trinity to non-Christians in Ireland. Nice.

Anyway, where there’s a holiday feast there’s food. And although St. Paddy’s traditional dish is corned beef and cabbage, I learned about another Irish food last weekend—Irish soda bread. I had never heard of this yumminess before! It’s a dense, cake-like bread with raisins on the inside and toasty-brown on the outside. Anne Marie’s mom made us one, and we ate it up.

As traditions go, I think the Irish soda bread is a keeper. I plan to test it out as soon as I get the recipe from AM’s mom.

I leave you with an Irish blessing:

May there always be work for your hands to do.
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine on your windowpane.
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you.
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.


Never a dull Rhody moment

Don’t let the tinniness of Rhode Island fool you—New Englanders have managed to pack a multitude of flavorful restaurants into a square footage the size of the county I grew up in. I took a long weekend trip to The Ocean State to visit Kristen & Anne Marie, and we had many amazing culinary adventures along the way. AM even had these cute signs drawn up for the event.

Our first night’s dinner was shared in Providence at Al Forno, which we had planned on visiting solely based on the lavender panna cotta. Unfortunately, said dessert wasn’t available that night, but I managed to stay happy between homemade grilled pizza, linguine with creamy egg & duck bacon, and the three desserts we ordered for the table to split. It was a grand dinner, to say the least, and I can’t wait to go back.

The second day we headed to Newport—the quintessential city-by-the-sea. On our way to lunch we randomly saw a restaurant AM had told us about, so we stopped and made dinner reservations. (I mean, this is the original killing time between meals crew—would you expect anything less?) Anyway, New England is famous for chowder, pronounced “chowdah” up there, so we headed to The Black Pearl to sample the city’s finest.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Hands down, the best I have ever eaten. Not too many potatoes. Lots of clams. Thick, creamy, goodness potent with dill. It was bowl-lickable. The best news? You can buy it by the case here.

Kristen and I then shared a lobster salad on croissant. I don’t usually care for lobster (I find the meat too tough, so I’d rather eat crab), but as a salad, it was delectable.

I would add a photo of us dining at The Black Pearl, but AM is our resident photographer, and I only took pictures of food.

A few hours later we (minus Kristen, who wasn’t feeling well) headed to Fluke for dinner. Let me just start by saying that I would get arrested to eat this meal again.

I knew I was gonna like this place when they started us off with roasted rosemary puréed garlic for our bread. (I have a small obsession with garlic, but that’s for another post.)

Um, yes please. (I plan to attempt to make this myself soon. I’ll let you know how it goes.)

After an extra order of that garlic and fire roasted octopus, I moved on to a grilled pork tenderloin. It was cooked to perfection, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t a stroke of good luck as the restaurant’s name suggests. As a matter of fact, Fluke’s chef Neil Manacle worked as Bobby Flay’s sous chef on Iron Chef America and in many of Flay’s New York restaurants.

We also ordered the wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil for the table to share.

Another successful, delicious trip to RI! And wouldn’t you know, we’ve already started planning the restaurant tour on my next visit.

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Adios las mexican food

Mexican food is like a food group to me. You’ve got fruits, grains, meats, veggies, and cheap Mexican.

I think I’m the go-to girl for each one of my friends when they want Mexican food. I rarely say no. Until tomorrow.

For Lent, I am giving it up. That’s right—40 days and nights sans chips, burritos, and cheese sauce on top. Except when I go to Texas for my cousin’s wedding in April. I plan to take a Sabbath that weekend. But other than that, you will not see these feet walking into a Las Palmas. Cheese dip will not pass my lips.

To commemorate this fast, Christi and I decided to gorge ourselves on Mexican today at lunch. And it was exactly the cheesy, crunchy, spicy, gooey Fat Tuesday meal you would want right before you were giving it up for 40 days.

Let’s take a closer look at my plate.

Mmmmmm …

Not to worry Las Palmas on 8th—your retirement plan will be back after Easter!


A favorite restaurant with a favorite person

Last night I got to dine at one of my favorite Nashville restaurants, City House, with one of my favorite people—Mary Katherine, who has been my friend since 2nd grade. We even moved to Nashville together 9 years ago! She is the best.

After much hem hawing over where to have dinner, City House sounded delish, but I never thought we could get in on such short notice. But MK found one last table for two at 5:15. Senior citizen came in after us. No kidding. But we didn’t care because we got to eat an amazing meal at a fair price.
Side note: I overheard the little 75-year-old man say to his lady, “Too bad you’re on the wagon, because this cocktail is amazing!” They were so cute. MK and I agreed that we want to be like them when we are 75.
Here’s the dinner menu we got to choose from:

MK and I shared everything, as we often do, so that we both get more variety. A good plan, no? I recommend it.

We started with the octopus. It was crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and salty-good. Some people are weirded out by octopus & squid, but I love it. Some say it’s too chewy for their taste, but if it’s cooked correctly, it should be tender, not rubbery. If you’ve never tried it, start with ordering calamari. It’s not as intimidating (or scary-looking, for some people) since it’s usually sliced into rings and fried. And who doesn’t like fried stuff?

For the main course, we shared the turnip green pizza and the bread gnocchi. Both were awesome, but the pizza blew us away. Turnip greens on a pizza? Yes. Cooked in a wood-burning over and paired with spicy chilies, garlic, pecorino, and the perfect crust, the pizza made our taste buds freak out. In a good way.

To polish things off, we ordered the “Caramel Custard Pie, Marscapone Crema with S + P Pecans” for dessert.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Stop whatever you are doing and go eat this. It was heaven. I’m talking, plate-lickable, people. The caramel custard was creamy and sweet and velvety and a-mazing. I am still dreaming of this dessert. Thanks, Chef Tandy.

Just another delightful visit to City House with wonderful company. Already looking forward to next time!

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Lavender—Not just for sachets

Next week, I am headed to Rhode Island to see my closest girlfriends who live the farthest away—Kristen & Anne Marie—who I met while studying abroad in college 10 years ago. I believe we actually started the killing-time-between-meals philosophy together. Because that’s just what we do.

Here we are in Chicago in January where we just left breakfast and are headed to lunch (AM sorry you are cut off):

And here we are having an EPIC brunch at my very favorite Nashville spot, Marche:

As per usual, we have already planned most of our meals for next week, and I requested we go to Al Forno primarily based on the fact that there is lavender panna cotta on the menu. I am ordering it. At the beginning.

The first time I saw lavender on a menu, I thought, Eww…Why would I want to eat something that tastes like linen spray? even thought it was in the form of a crème brulee. But fortunately my dinner companion ordered it anyway and shared it with me. I have been in love with eating lavender ever since.

My friend Christi has been with me when I freaked out (in a good way) over a lavender laced item on the menu, so she was sweet enough to pick up some culinary lavender for me at some fancy spice shop in Portland, OR.

I’ve been trying to find a recipe for a while, but aside from ice cream (famously mentioned by Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated), lavender recipes seem to be few and far between. So, I made up my own using my recipe sampling system. Here’s what I came up with:

Chocolate Dipped Lavender Shortbread(ish) Cookies
Makes exactly 1 ½ dozen

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup sugar + 2 tablespoons for sprinkling cookie tops
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg
½ tablespoon milk
½-1 tablespoon culinary lavendar, very finely chopped (kinda grind it up if you can; and be sure you don’t use too much—a little goes a very long way)
Dipping chocolate (I just melted some chocolate chips I already had)

  • Combine the dry ingredients and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and dry ingredients. Mixture will be crumbly.
  • Pour onto plastic wrap and form into a ball. Wrap tightly and chill for at least 20 minutes.
  • When ready to bake the cookies, preheat your oven 400 degrees.
  • Roll chilled dough into small balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Dip a small glass into the extra sugar and press each cookie to about ¼ inch. (You could also probably roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut out cookies with a cutter, but that was more trouble than I wanted to go to.)
  • Place the cookies on the baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack.

  • Once cookies are completely cool, melt the chocolate. Dip each cookie and place on parchment paper while the chocolate cools and hardens.
  • Store the ones you don’t share in an airtight container.

Next time, I think I will:

  • Use a bit less lavender. Christi, my unofficially official taste-tester, said that without the chocolate the cookie tasted a bit too flowery.
  • Make them a little flatter, or go to the effort of rolling them out with a rolling pin.
  • Try a lemon glaze on top instead of chocolate.
  • Make a lavender biscotti. Christi and I agree that would be delightful to dip in our coffee.