Six Pack Sunday: Asheville Eats!

Asheville: It’s a hell of a town.

Even though I was there for less than 24 hours (whoah, didn’t even realize that until now), I certainly didn’t go wanting for food during any of those hours.  My mother flew in on Friday night and, after whipping up a DELECTABLE cream cheese dip which we nibbled on and enjoying several cocktails, we hit the hay hard with alarms set for 7:30 am.

We drove across North Carolina in a few hours, and before I knew it, we were in the mountain hippy HQ, Asheville!

Quality State, that North Carolina

And while I’ll write more about the trip later, I figured a PERFECT Six Pack Sunday would be on the fantastic foods I enjoyed during my stay.

1. Corner Oak Chocolate

Mmm mm good.

Upon arrival at the Corner Oak Manor, our B&B for the weekend, we were welcomed with my FAVORITE of the Ghiradelli chocolate squares.

It was a perfect, pepperminty way to be welcomed to town.

2. Reuben Romance

Oh, it is love.

This photo truly doesn’t do the Turkey Reuben from Julian’s Gourmet Sandwiches in the Biltmore Village.  The hot turkey, the 1000 Island Dressing, the marble rye…. it was a dream come true. AND, in a true game changer, I actually liked the (not-so) sauerkraut. Our first meal in Asheville was served with Kettle cooked potato chips, and fueled massive amounts of shopping.

Wait, this one might do it justice.

Much better, good to the last bite.

3. Pretzel Pairing

Match made in heaven

So it’s not like I didn’t know this before, but something about pretzels and beers together just make both taste exponentially better.

My first trip to the legendary Bruisin Ales was timed right, apparently, as there was a tasting of Sierra Nevada beers.  Word on the street is that the West Coast brewery’s looking to set up shop on the East.  Well, I personally think that Asheville’s got Sierra Nevada written all over it.  Just saying….

4. Olive & Kickin’ (Get it?)

EVOO bar?! Yes, PLEASE!

Ok, after looking at that picture, I want you to read the description of my new favorite store concept.

Olive & Kickin’ sources the freshest extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars from hand selected growers.  They are held in the store in stainless steel containers called Fusties that allow you to sample the individual flavors of each prior to buying them.

So basically it’s a store that sells Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar. And you can sample all of it. Chipotle EVOO? Garlic EVOO? Cranberry Pear Balsamic?

I wanted to gargle with it.

The women who run the shop, Karen and Vic, are nice as nice can be, and we could hardly control ourselves as we sipped gourmet oils and b.v. If you go to Asheville, do NOT miss this shop!!

5. Shrimp and Grits that Just Won’t QUIT!

Creamy, spicy, decadent, delightful

Tupelo Honey Cafe.

Recommended by more people than any one spot in Asheville, this establishment lived up to the hype.  Described by the restaurant:

Brian’s Shrimp and Grits » When your chef puts his name on a dish, he has to be pretty proud of it. Such it is with our shrimp and grits – seven large delectable shrimp served over Goat Cheese Grits and anointed with a spicy roasted red pepper sauce

It couldn’t get any better. The creaminess of goat cheese lent itself so well to the grits, and the shrimp, plump and fresh, were spicy in that way that demands you keep eating it.  Don’t worry, I did. I virtually licked my bowl at the end, and that last bite was like saying farewell to a best friend.

A best friend that you’re about to digest.

6. Putting the Breakfast in B&B

From Karen's Kitchen!

Corner Oak Manor was actually the first B&B I’ve ever been to, and I loved the Breakfast B just a little more than the Bed B. Creamy eggs with spinach, tomatoes, and feta served with fresh fruit and pepper bacon was a great way to fuel the long trip back to Durham.

It was a most delicious weekend, and rest assured, I’ll write more about the trip later. Now I’m off to digest and (hopefully) finish my applications.

Asheville, I’ll be back, I promise. And I’ll definitely come hungry.

Grad School Rejection and What I Really Should Study

Real talk: I don’t deal well with rejection.

This time last year, I was flying high, preparing to dominate the GRE (which I did, don’t worry). I was applying for a dual degree program that I felt fairly confident I’d get into after hearing from former professors, current mentors, bosses, parents, friends, family members, and anyone in between that I was totally set for it.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t get in. 

On my way to a beer pairing dinner (what else?), my beau called me to mention a (not-so-big) envelope was in the mail from the only school I applied to. My heart skipped several beats as he drove the 3 minutes over to drop off my envelope. He waited with me as I tore open the frail paper, smiling the whole time.  He grinned, excited for the next step in my life, proud of me. Then, he watched, as the hope in my heart was torn out as, eyes glistening, I looked up at him.

Crestfallen is not a word I use often, but no word better describes how I feel I must’ve looked at that moment.

I don’t remember the last time before that which dealt me that feeling of rejection. It may have been show choir in middle school. Needless to say, mature 12 year old that I was refused to ever try out for that same choir again. Don’t worry, I showed them all in high school by rocking every national anthem singing I could get my hands on (or my vocal pipes on?) But other than that, I just wasn’t accustomed to rejection. I made the athletic teams I tried out for, I got into the colleges I applied to, and got a bid in the fraternity of my dreams.  But the bigger they are, the harder they fall, right?

I fell hard that day, and it took me months to even contemplate what I would do next.

As I open myself up for that same rejection again (applying for a whole new round of schools because I have no interest in putting all my eggs in one basket like I did last year), I’m stressed, scared, and anxious.  Yes, I’m hopeful, but all those other adjectives have a tendency to block that hope.

In an attempt to lighten the mood (my mood, honestly), I’ve decided to whip up a post about what I really should study at a graduate level.  I could probably teach a course on the following subjects:

1. Introductory Event Announcing

PAY ATTENTION TO ME!

PAY ATTENTION TO ME!

Translation? Be the loudest person in a large group. Inevitably, someone will need SOMETHING announced, right? Thank goodness I got all that vocal rest the year I didn’t get into show choir.

2. Siberian Temperature Denial

Snow is a joke.

Snow is a joke.

Nearly frozen ocean? Dive on in.

Middle of the winter? Heaters are for suckers and saps.

Outdoor football tailgate at the end of the season? Grab that mini skirt.

Flip flops are a requirement at all times, snowfall included.

I refuse to admit it’s winter. It’s sort of like an art.

3. Unretentive Privacy 

Translation? I force people to pinky swear about things and never remember why.

In the past 3 years, I’ve demanded about 48 people to pinky swear something with me. I remember approximately none of these secrets.  Shhh… don’t tell.

4. Overenthusiasm in Formal Attire

Took the midnight train going ANYWHEREEEEE!

Took the midnight train going ANYWHEREEEEE!

Whether it’s a wedding, a convention, a banquet, or a cocktail party, chances are I’ll end up singing. Loudly. I’ll jump up and down and, if you’re lucky, I’ll pump the Jersey right out of my fist. I’m never not ready to party harder than all the other guests.

In fact, just inviting me to a party is basically a challenge.

CHALLENGE: ACCEPTED!!

5. Advanced Theme Party Dedication

Paranormal Party?  Only the most dedicated theme-party-goers would cover their body head-to-toe in long-lasting fake blood for a Carrie costume.

I was pink for days.

Unfortunately for me (and really, for the whole world), these are not viable educational paths. I guess I’ll have to get back to the real applications….

What would be your dream educational path?  

What fictitious course could you teach to a class full of eager students?

TYT Featuring a TST

Gooooood afternoon, friends!

So, apparently, with my Treat Yo’ Self Six Pack Sunday, I made a bit of a SMFP (Social Media Faux Pas).  APPARENTLY, the real trending phrase that all the cool kids (on Twitter) use is #TreatYourselfTuesday.

Don’t I just feel like Amber walking into the party wearing Cher’s exact same outfit.

Yup, definitely that outfit.

Oh well, the real moral of the story is that you should Treat Yourself EVERY DAY!!  Then, we all win.

Today, I decided to treat myself with one of my very favorite sandwiches.  It’s called The TST (Tuna, Spinach, Tomato) and it’s a grown up version of my favorite sammy as a little kid.

Big Girl Lunches for Big Girl Things!

Those three little nibbles on the left of the sammy aren’t actually because I always  nibble three bites of bread before making a sandwich (that’d be an irritating and time consuming habit), but because my bread of choice, the Arnold’s Healthfull Nutty Grain (a new favorite!! 80 calories, 5 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber per slice) was far too big for the office toaster.

Little kid Jordan would’ve had her tuna sammy on white bread, stuffed with some Doritos for crunch. And while putting Doritos on a sandwich is a trend that will NEVER die with me, it’s not exactly the healthiest option, so, in this case, spinach and tomato provided just the right texture mixup that I needed.

Here’s another habit that I picked up as a little kid that hasn’t changed in all my years.

How many nibbles does it take to get to the center?

I always like to bite around the sandwich (or slice of pizza… or French toast… or breakfast sammy) and save what I designate as the “Best Bite” for last.

Luckily, in some cases, every bite is the best bite.

In those cases, all bets are off.

How about you?

Do you like to eat the best part of your ______ first? Or save it for last?

Six Pack Sunday: Treat Yo’ Self

My goodness. A Sunday where I’m not headed to the airport, or saying goodbye to someone I love as they head out?!  I forgot what this kind of day felt like.  It’s been a busy weekend, but definitely not quite the chaos of jet-setting that I’ve become accustomed to.  It’s like a breath of fresh air to not be skittering around trying to cram as much as I can into a weekend.

That being said, it didn’t stop me from cramming a lot in there (I think there is a that’s what she said joke to be found somewhere in there, but I’m not in that kind of mood.)

This week’s Six Pack Sunday seems to revolve around beers (duh), buddies, and bells. Jingle bells (read: Holiday cheer.)

1. A Partridge Brewski in a Pear Beer Tree

Tastes like holiday fun!

On Thursday night at Rockfish, I enjoyed my first official Christmas beer on tap!  The dubious honor went to the Anchor Steam 37th Annual Christmas Ale . Anchor Steam, a brewery that Caitlin introduced me to after her hubby ventured to San Francisco for work, doesn’t always produce my favorite beers. My opinion was rocked, though, with this Christmas Ale! It tasted like mulled wine, done with beer. Cinnamon, nutmeg, maybe even a little fir tree? Either way. The taste was on point, and the complimentary glass, rimmed in gold, makes me feel like a fancy pants. Or a Santa pants.

2. Treat Yo’ Self

Don't mind if I do...

In case you don’t watch Parks and Recreation (I don’t), or you don’t use the internet (I hope someone printed this post out for you, weirdo), you might not be familiar with “Treat Yo’ Self”. Well, please observe the following video, summarizing the concept:

Well, I figured that Saturday morning, I’d do just that. After getting nearly all my Christmas shopping done before 10 a.m., I decided to treat myself with a pair of new tall black leather boots AND some homemade pumpkin French toast.

I’ll clue you in on a little secret: for me, pumpkin French toast just means that I mix pumpkin and pumpkin spice into the egg dip. It worked, it was delicious and decadent, and I felt like a little princess.

3. Applications: NO BREATHING!

Sweet set up

Yesterday, the only true goal of my afternoon was to finish up my personal statement. After working on it for several hours (who would’ve ever thought it’d be so hard to state my purpose?), I completed it at the Nordstrom eCafe!  In case you’re not aware, the Nordstrom at Southpoint has free wireless which is reliable enough to stream Pandora! And, after dropping some SERIOUS change there earlier in the day, I figured I should finish my work where I started my morning. My romance with Nordstrom knows no bounds. None.

PS: Contrary to popular belief, my purpose is not just “Drink awesome beers, sweat up a storm while I dance, and dress up in wacky outfits because theme parties are the defining occurrences of my life.”

That would’ve been a much easier essay to write.

4. Speaking of Wacky Outfits…

Fashion is my middle name.

Leggings, boots, Santa suit, undies on my head, and PBR suspenders aren’t what you wear when you go out on a Friday night?

Well, maybe you should try it.

North Carolina Girls’ Pint Out’s First Annual Festival of Beermas was a HUGE success, but I’ll write a full post on that later.  In the meantime, just go crazy and Polyvore my whole outfit.

5. Classy Broads Drink Classy Drinks

Oh, you fancy, huh?

My new friend, Amanda, and I went to celebrate the completion of my essay with some big girl drinks at Fox Liquor Bar.  This Raleigh establishment reminded me a lot of the Crunkleton in Chapel Hill where the focus is on well crafted cocktails made with care and love.  And giant ice cubes.

My drink of choice was the Late Night Reviver: Beefeater gin, Fernet Branca, ginger, lime juice, soda water. Shake and served long with a garnish of candied ginger.  Amanda went with the classic Old Fashioned.

The best looking pair at the bar, other than us, of course

Hopefully, the classiness of our cocktails out offset the magnum of Arbor Mist we consumed in a Rugrats drinking game earlier in the night.

It’s all about balance, right?

6. Rap Battle in the Basement

I could be hallucinating but, if the sounds I hear are correct, this is what’s going on in the apartment below me:

Is this 8 Mile? (click for source)

There’s a lot of loud, angry rap music going on and I think my floor is vibrating.

If I’m missing Eminem rhyme birthday with first place, I’m gonna be super ticked.

If he’s shirtless, the ticked is going to be on a whole new level (woops. Confession of attraction to shirtless white rapper for the day? Check.)

Jeez, I think I need a nap.

How would you “Treat Yo’ Self”?  Fine leather goods?

 

 

Victory Dark Intrigue: A Family Affair

Let me start off by saying I am a marketer’s wet dream.

Make me laugh in a commercial? I’ll take a dozen.  Tell me something’s limited, I’ll hand my credit card over.   I over-commit to hype, and you bet that I was crazy about all sorts of 90s trends: Beanie Babies, Tamagotchi, Zwibble Dibbles, Pokemon cards, Crazy Bones, Yu Gi Oh stuff, Cabbage Patch Kids…. You name it, I had them all.

Well, when Victory Brewing Company, a brewery near and dear to my heart/home in Pennsylvania, mentioned via Twitter and their website that their infamous Dark Intrigue was going to be released the day before Thanksgiving (affectionately known as Dark Wednesday), about 12 hours before I was going to be flying into Philly, and it could be their last time brewing the particular beer, I knew I had to obtain some.  I also knew the right man for the job.

The Man with the Plan!

The beer sold out 3 hours after they opened their doors, and my brother, Connor, waited for 5 hours with his dear friend, Gilly. If there’s one person who is at least as intense as I am, if not more, when it comes to dedication to a cause, whether it’s a Black Friday sale or crushing some child’s spirit as he out-trades Pokemon cards (we’re a mean family), it’s Connor. And he nailed it, picking up two bombers for his big sister.

The beer was $15 a bottle and, while that’s steep, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity.  As I’ve said before, what money I save when I refuse to use heat and air conditioning, I just spend on Craft Beer. Such is life.

Delicious!

Since pint glasses are in high demand in my household (read: there are none because everyone either drinks canned beer or cocktails), Connor enjoyed his from a classic Coca Cola glass.

Described by the brewery:

Our Storm King Stout spent the summer in bourbon barrels from Jim Beam and Heaven Hill Distilleries, and has finally emerged as Dark Intrigue. (It’s like Clark Kent going into a phone booth and coming out as Superman, only more delicious and less crime-fighty.)

This beer poured such a dark, opaque brown-black that even the head was a rich brown color. It smelled boozy to say the least, of bourbon and maybe some vanilla.

We refused to wait for the beer to warm at all for the first sip which, I’ll admit, was a little heavy on the bourbon taste for my liking. However, as my good from Michael from Rockfish taught me, sometimes you just have to let certain beers warm up for all the flavors to come out right.

One adjective I’d use to describe the  flavor would be burnt, kind of the way crème brûlée tastes a little burnt. As it warmed, it sort of just tasted softer. Malty and sweet, it was definitely easier to drink as the night progressed.

Now, I have been to several classes or events that described how we should taste beer. What we should say about it, how we should use our retronasal tasting, etc.  But I’m going off that formula for a second.

Maybe it was the post-Thanksgiving glow of a late night on Black Friday. Maybe it was enjoying a fantastic beer with my brother. Perhaps it was just the 9.1% ABV. Most likely, it was a combination of all three.  But both of us agreed that this beer just made us feel really wonderful. As we sipped, the stressful bits of the day, the looming deadlines just slipped away. Smiling was easier, laughter came quicker, and even though we each only enjoyed one glass, I’d say that beer was worth every penny of the $15. It warms the body, and it warmed the soul.

The family that drinks craft beer together stays together.

Huge thanks to my brother and his partner in crime, Gilly, for supporting my craft beer crazy, and to Victory Brewing Company, for bringing me even closer to my brother!

Jack Frost Nipping at Your Channa Masala

Hooray!

It’s Thursday!

I know, I know, it’s not Friday, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel.   The light is probably Rudolph’s Nose, as Friday night is North Carolina Girls’ Pint Out’s First Annual Festival of BEERMAS!!  I’ve dusted off my hat and beard, and after today’s lunch, my belly is feeling particularly jolly.

Ho, ho, WHOAH!

As I nuked the Trader Joe’s Channa Masala, my tiny igloo apartment filled with the warm smells of Indian spices, and my tummy started rumbling. This was the first time I’ve ever tried this particular dish, and was so excited with how it turned out!

Since I didn’t have any rice on hand and, honestly, I kinda burned out on rice in my first year post-grad (rice, beans, cheese. all meals, every meal), I put down a solid base of spinach and just ladled the goods out on top. The chickpeas managed to not be too mushy as sometimes frozen foods can feel, and the base of spinach worked perfectly with the spices. While I actually wish there’d been more of a kick, spice-wise, I understand that, for the masses, sometimes you gotta tone it down a bit. It awakened the Indian food bug inside my belly, and I’m CRAVING some more, post-haste. Maybe I can convince someone to join me this weekend…. (or head over to TJs for some more of these goodies.)

In other news, it got COLD in North Carolina!!!

This morning, I was met with a 31 degree temperature and, when I stepped out to the car, a rude awakening of frost.  And, although I am the only member of my family that doesn’t own an ice scraper, I made due.

Ladies and gents: The Southern Girl’s Last-Effort Scraper!

Ta-Da!

Have you got an old Nickelback CD that you’d rather throw away than feature prominently in your car? Ashamed of that Baha Men phase in your life?  Collected a few too many of those free AOL CDs?  WORRY, NO MORE!  Your lame musical tastes and hoarding tendencies can be transformed into a practical and fun tool for the cold weather.

Toss on some gloves (because you’re getting up close and personal with this frost, no handles here!), and grab the CD, then get to scraping!!

Defrosters? I scoff at them.

You’d be surprised how fast you can scrape an entire car’s worth of windows when your hand basically becomes a scraper.  It’s much more flexible than a scraper with a handle and you can cover a lot of ground when you’re a long-armed scraping fiend like me.  For all you short folks with tiny raptor arms, I’m sorry and hope you manage to move to a warm location where your arm length won’t hinder your ability to get out in the morning.

Poor guy...

Now that the world’s thawed out a bit, I’ve got a lot on my plate. I’ll be baking some beer bread for the Festival of Beermas tomorrow, and hosting the Carolina Brewing Company’s Winter Porter glass night at Rockfish.  In the meantime, I’ll just be bundling up, thanking my lucky stars I found these fake rabbit fur earmuffs at Booth’s Corner in the summer.

Baby, it's cold inside

Do you ever MacGyver any of your belongings into new, handy contraptions? 

Other than the CD Scraper, best I’ve got lately may be using a can to crush up some graham cracker crumbs…

What’s your favorite food for when the weather gets chilly?

Chili for the chilly?