killing time between meals

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


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Dear Italy: A Photographic Love Letter to Seafood and Carbs

Just one week ago I was far, far away in a fairy-tale land. A place where eating pasta twice a day is not only accepted but expected. A land of corner cafes and breakfast pastries and gelato galore. A country that romanced me through fluffy carbs and fresh seafood, wooing me to never leave. Here’s the full story.

The Journey: Rome to Florence to Naples to Sorrento to Positano to Amalfi to Capri to Rome

The Journey: Rome to Florence to Naples to Sorrento to Positano to Amalfi to Capri to Rome. Whew.

In Florence taking in the views from a rooftop cafe

The Partner in Crime: Caroline and I in Florence taking in the views from a rooftop cafe.

My first lunch upon arriving in Rome: mixed seafood salad

My lunch upon arriving in Rome: the first of many mixed seafood salads. I gazed at some ancient fountain while I ate this. But you don’t care about seeing that, do you?

locals

Dinner that night was on my own. The hotel recommended a little trattoria around the corner called Antica Boheme. I was seated next to a table of six locals, only one of whom barely spoke English.

 But this man insisted that we communicate. He also insisted that I order the carbonara, so I did. And by the end of the night we were such good friends that they paid for my dinner. I love Italians.

It wasn’t this man, but he insisted that we communicate. He also insisted that I order the carbonara. So I did. By the end of the night we were such good friends that we were all sitting at the same table and they paid for my dinner. I love Italians.

First pasta in Italy: carbonara. The Italian version of bacon is much more like country ham, FYI.

After meeting up with Caroline in Florence, we had an epic dinner. Epic because I ate this entire pizza topped with prosciutto, arugula, and fresh mozzarella.

After meeting up with Caroline in Florence, we had an epic dinner. Epic because I ate this entire pizza topped with prosciutto, arugula, and fresh mozzarella.

And then I ate this entire tiramisù. I have no shame.

After a late night, we started the next day with coffees at Il Porcospino. One of the waiters has friends in Arkansas and even called the hogs for us. Small world.

Then he told me I would have the fried squash blossoms. So I did.

That night we had a traditional Tuscan meal at Trattoria Cibreo. AKA there was no pasta on the menu. But this sweet server steered us in the right direction. He also told us that he was once in love with a girl from Tennessee. How precious.

We started with the most amazing polenta I have ever eaten.

We started with the most incredible polenta I have ever eaten. It was creamy and oily and salty and cheesy. Just look at all that parmesan.

Then I had this pork chop that was stuffed with a  rosemary concoction. And those creamy potatoes were divine. DIVINE I tell you.

Then I had this pork chop that was stuffed with a rosemary concoction. And those creamy potatoes were divine. DIVINE I tell you. If you are ever in Florence, I highly recommend this little eatery.

The next day we were on to the Amalfi Coast. No place is more beautiful. This was taken in Positano, just a bus ride away from our hotel in Sorrento.

This day also happened to be Caroline's birthday, so we decided to celebrate with—what else—dinner. Ristorante Bagni Delfino started us off with the best bruschetta I've ever had. Seriously.

This day also happened to be Caroline’s birthday, so we decided to celebrate with—what else—dinner. Ristorante Bagni Delfino in Sorrento started us off with the best bruschetta I’ve ever had. Seriously.

My main course was a seafood risotto that was looking back at me, but I didn't mind.

My main course was a seafood risotto that was looking back at me, but I didn’t mind. I ate every bite.

We finished our meal as we watched the sunset into the sea.

We finished our meal watching the sunset into the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The next day we stopped for lunch in Positano at Buca di Bacco. As we looked out onto the water, I enjoyed this homemade tube pasta with baby shrimps, walnuts, capers, and parmesan.

After lunch and shopping, we got on the bus to Amalfi. After much Trip Advisor searching, we decided to go to Gerry's Pub for dinner. It was a long bus ride to the top, but the views and Gerry were worth it.

After lunch and shopping, we got on the bus to Amalfi. Through much Trip Advisor research, we decided to go to Gerry’s Pub for dinner. It was a long bus ride to the top (and we almost got lost since the sweet little man we asked thought we said “cherries” and tried to take us to a fruit stand), but the views and Gerry himself were worth it.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

I had homemade seafood pasta.

I had homemade seafood pasta.

And then a seafood salad because I was still hungry.

And then a seafood salad because I was still hungry.

Gerry really liked us. He played Kenny Rogers and sang "Ruby" to me.

Gerry really liked us. He played Kenny Rogers and sang “Ruby” when we told him we were from the south. Apparently we didn’t want to leave because we missed our bus. Luckily we caught the last one and headed back to Sorrento.

The Isle of Capri! And I ain't talking about a casino.

The next day we were off to the Isle of Capri! And I ain’t talking about some silly casino.

23capri

After a boat ride around the island, we had a caprese salad and this was our view.

Dinner was back on the mainland at La Fenice which Caroline had read made amazing gluten free pizza. So we went. And it was delicious. I started with the mussels.

Dinner was back on the mainland at La Fenice which Caroline had read made amazing gluten free pizza. So we went. And it was delicious. I started with mussels with garlic and parsley …

And ended with the gnocchi. Those fluffly pasta pillows were delightful.

… and ended with the gnocchi in a mozzarella and tomato sauce. Those fluffly pasta pillows were a delightful last bite of Sorrento.

Back in Rome we found our favorite restaurant, Flavio Al Velavevodetto. These servers, Simone and Sergio, made it great.

Back in Rome we found our favorite restaurant, Flavio Al Velavevodetto. These servers, Simone and Sergio, made our dinner an authentic Italian experience.

We started with zucchine scapece (marinated zucchine) which I am totally going to try to make. It was lightly fried and heavily flavored.

We started with zucchine scapece (marinated zucchini) which I am totally going to try to make. It was lightly fried and heavily flavored. I am always amazed at the way something so simple can be so good.

Then the pièce de résistance for me—handmade ravioli stuffed with ricotta in a cherry tomato sauce. People, pasta in Italy does not get any better than this.

Then the pièce de résistance for me—handmade ravioli stuffed with ricotta in a cherry tomato sauce. People, pasta in Italy does not get any better than this.

I finished dinner with a creamy tiramisù.

I finished dinner with a creamy tiramisù.

Our last day in Rome included many sites and two unforgettable meals.

Our last day in Rome included many sites and two unforgettable meals.

After wandering around the Trastevere neighborhood, we stumbled on a quaint lunch spot. I started with yet another seafood salad.

After wandering around the Trastevere neighborhood, we stumbled on a quaint lunch spot. I started with yet another seafood salad. It was my last, but perhaps the best.

Next I polished off this plate of spagghetti cacio e pepe, which is essentially pasta with cheese, oil, and pepper. You could add something, but why would you want to?

Next I polished off this plate of spagghetti cacio e pepe, which is essentially pasta with pecorino, oil, and pepper. You could add something, but why would you want to?

A few hours later, we had seen some sights and were ready to eat again. But even with three maps on the table we couldn't figure out where to go for our last dinner in Rome.

A few hours later, we had seen some sights and were ready to eat again. But even with three maps on the table we couldn’t figure out where to go for our last dinner in Rome.

So we went back.

So we went back.

Since the menu changes daily, we had a completely different experience. But a wonderful one nonetheless. I enjoyed a hearty plate of seafood risotto.

Since the menu changes daily, we had a completely different experience. But a fantastic one nonetheless. I enjoyed a hearty plate of seafood risotto.

Followed by this chocolate torte.

Followed by this chocolate torte.

By the end of the night we had made friends with the table next to us and the entire staff. What a wonderful last supper.

By the end of the night we had made friends with the table next to us and the entire staff. What a wonderful last supper.

Ciao, Italy. Until we meet again!

Ciao, Italia. Until we meet again!


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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.