killing time between meals

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

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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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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.