Monday, September 17, 2012

Bangers + Mash.

 Last week Monday as Jen and I were talking about all of the places she needed to see while in London, she thought we would theme our lunch after a British dish. I had been pondering it for a while and couldn't remember something really amazing that I had while I was in London so I did a little search and found something that looked quick and easy to make.. Bangers & Mash?

I was a little skeptical at first but then I thought, how could you go wrong with brats, mashed potatoes, and gravy, right? I quickly drove to Gateway Market to pick up all the supplies that we needed.

I had to do a little improvising since Gateway Market didn't have a plain brat or gravy but I decided to pick up some ciabatta bread too just to add another little something.

After grilling the bread and brats, I started to assemble everything. I spread some mustard on the bread, topped it with the mashed potatoes and then threw on the brat pieces.

Finishing touch? The "gravy" of course! It looked a lot better than I thought it wold but I wasn't sure how it was going to taste but I was excited to try it. We called John (Jen's Husband) to join us.

The bangers and mash turned out to be pretty delicious. I even picked up a British Ale to toast John & Jen a bon voyage to London :) Is there a British dish that you vividly remember? I seriously was struggling but was happy to experience bangers & mash my way.

Passion Fruit Chili Pepper Swordfish.

Growing up I did not like all. I thought it tasted weird and didn't understand why people even ate it or liked it but within the last several years, I have learned to love it and appreciate it. I don't think that I was exposed to good fish, which is probably why I wasn't crazy about it. Is there anything you hated as a child and now appreciate as an adult?

Smile! We really got to know our fish before we bought it!

A couple of Sundays ago, Jen, Derek and I went to the NEW Whole Foods in West Des Moines to pick up some items for dinner. While we shopped for Sunday dinner, Jen cleverly thought about what we could make for our Monday cooking ritual at Eden the next day...

(I grew up loving Whole Foods in Chicago and now that it's in the Des Moines area, I couldn't be happier)

I hadn't received such great service at a grocery store in a long time. The fish guy even removed the "blood line" from the fish after cutting off a filet.

 Freshly caught Swordfish? Ok! It didn't take the fish guy at Whole Foods much effort to sell us on buying a nice big piece for lunch on Monday.

Featured Ingredient: Passion Fruit Chili Pepper from Hawaii.

Jen received this Passion Fruit Chili Pepper from a generous friend and customer. She had told me about it the week prior, which is why we thought the Swordfish would be perfect for it!

After letting the fish marinate in a mustard marinade that I quickly threw together, I sprinkled it with the Chili Pepper and threw it on our Panini Press. Don't you love everything you can do with it? The past couple of months has consisted of grilling our lunch picks.

Grill marks are so pretty, aren't they? After letting the fish sit on the Panini Grill for about (15) minutes on medium heat, I was pretty confident that it was cooked to perfection. It has to look good + taste good too!

I had made some mashed potatoes and mango salsa before I came into work so it wouldn't cut into our prime eating time :)

The mashed potatoes had a hint of curry and it added such a great dimension to the full dish. I threw the mint on for color since I had a ton of it growing in my planters. I still think to date, this is my favorite dish.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chicago: RPM Italian Restaurant.

Do you happen to know who Bill & Giuliana Rancic are? Well, if you don't, let me me tell you! Bill was on the first The Apprentice and won his chance to work with The Donald on the big Chicago skyscraper, Trump Tower project. And Giuliana? Seriously, you must live under a rock if you don't know who she is... She a celebrity news personality on E! News.  

Anyway, they opened a brand spankin' new restaurant in Chicago called RPM Italian Restaurant. I borrowed this picture from their website because I could not capture the beauty of it. I have to admit I was a little skeptical at first because sometimes celebrities open restaurants that just don't deliver... but RPM definitely did!

This little number? It's Mama DePandi's Bucatini Pomodoro with a great big meatball. Simply Delicious. Seriously.   

Jessica ordered her favorite thing to order anywhere she goes: Chicken. Listed under "Classics", it was the Chicken with Peppers entree, but it definitely delivered. The variety of peppers and tenderness of the chicken was amazing! I was so full but I wanted to keep eating! 

We sat right near this Private Party and of course I started to think of all the special occasions that I could book this room for :) Wishful thinking... for now :) 

From the moment you walk in, you feel kind of like a VIP. They say the dress code is casual, but in such a beautiful space, you can't help but want to be kind of dressed up and looked polished. We didn't get to see Bill or Giuliana but word on the street is that they are around pretty often! 

Chicago: Pops!

No matter what city I visit or how many times I've been there, I always want to try the things and see new places. I like to been in the loop as to what's new and cool. I try to keep a running list in my mind of places that I want to eat at or grab a quick drink at just to enjoy the ambiance so when I heard about Pops, I had to go!

I loved the menu, the presentation, and the overall feel of this cute, hip Champagne bar. Who doesn't love bubbles? And to have a bar dedicated to just that... I think I found a little piece of heaven in this place. 

There wasn't much too the trendy bar, but the simplicity made it just that much better. The staff was very attractive, polite, and knowledgeable. 

Aside from a fabulous bottle of champagne that Jessica, my mom, and I shared, we also ordered the Strawberry Tart. Do you really need to ask if it was good? I probably could have ordered a few more, just for myself :)

The menu has a lot of trivia about champagne and cute little quotes and poems. This was my personal favorite. Perfect, perfect, perfect. I want to make it my regular hot spot when I visit!

Chicago: The Sights.

Have you been to Chicago recently? I think I've been there more this times this year than the last few years combined... and I am okay with that :) Lucky for me, I got to see the city through the eyes of someone who has never even been outside of the West Coast. One of best friends, Jessica, from San Diego came out to Des Moines to visit and I decided she needed to visit the Windy City during her short trip here.  

After the long drive from Des Moines to Oakbrook, we jumped on the closest Metra station by my mom's house to explore and enjoy whole day in the city. Riding the Metra again reminded me of the days that I used to commute from Aurora to Downtown my first year in college when I attended Columbia College

The Willis Building? What the heck is that? Oooooh, you mean the Sears Tower, right? ;)

Lolla? No way! We didn't feel like paying some random $250 for a day pass. Thanks though! We took a picture right in front just because. Maybe next year? 

Outside of the Art Institute of Chicago

Not seeing The Bean in Chicago is like not having a Hot Dog from a cart vendor in New York your first. Don't you think?

It really is stunning every time, even if you pass it on your way to work/school everyday. 

The Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. It's kind of breath taking it... watching a show there at night is really kind of amazing too!

Right after this picture we all took our shoes off and let our feet soak up the cool water. 

Outside of Trump Tower

I think we could have a quick appetizer and glass of wine at The Purple Pig but they had a 2.5 hour wait! Next time Jess :) Something to look forward to for the next time that you visit!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Very. Berry. Cherry.

Have you been berry picking? When did it become so cool? I'm not entirely sure but who made it cool, or cool again (it quite possibly could have been Jennifer from eden) but it has me totally inspired to bake! And not only am I baking, but I am cooking like crazy again... and that makes me very happy. 

Jennifer got a hold of these AMAZING cherries from a berry patch near Ames. She told me they were sour and meant for cherry pie making, so together we searched for the perfect recipe and modified to our liking. 

First step? (aside from pitting those little suckers, which takes forever) Home-made pie crust, of course!

It really is a lot easier than most people think. All you really need is:

Cold Butter
Really Cold Water

While the crust dough was chilling, I mixed together the pitted cherries, sugar, cornstarch, and a few "secret" ingredients!

Once the cherries had soaked up all the flavors, I threw them into the pie crust and started my first lattice-making adventure

Not too bad for my first time, eh?? I was pretty impressed too.

No lattice is complete without a little egg wash. 

The freshly baked and slightly cooled pie! I added a little bit of a glaze on top and since I don't have a pastry brush (oooops, how silly right?) I used this handy-dandy honey wand thing :) What's it really called anyway? I don't know, do you?

Of the four or five pies that I have made within the last couple of months, the cherry pie is still by far "the favorite". I almost wish I hadn't made it first! 

The only way to celebrate a fabulously made pie? Sparklers of course!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mini Trip: KC.

Mini road trip? Okay! I kept telling Eric how much I loved Kansas City, so we decided to get up, go, and spend a weekend there!

Kansas City, here we come! 

One of my favorite places in Kansas City? The Country Club Plaza, of course! All the great shopping, fabulous dining, and beautiful scenery. 

Somewhere we went that I haven't been to? The Nelson-Atkins Museum. After several times of driving past it for years, I told Eric that we HAD to go, and we did! Just as I thought, I fell in love with it. I love art. 

Does this sculpture look familiar Des Moines-ains? I thought so! Eric tried to sneak into this "coat". He kind of fit but not really...

As we walked around for a couple of hours, Eric took most of the pictures, which you can find at his blog post here: Viajes Con Quique.  (More activities featured here too!)

After searching for cool things to do and see, we stumbled upon "Chip's Chocolate Factory", which is supposed to be the place to go for chocolate lovers. They said you can walk around the factory and tour the chocolate making process! How cool, right? NOT. It was actually just a little store and you could kind of see someone making fugue. Total bust, so we walked across the street to the KC Sea Life Aquarium instead.   

I had never stayed at a Bed & Breakfast before and we happened to stumble across this little gem. It's called Southmoreland On The Plaza, and I would recommend it to anyone. It was not only a gorgeous house but the staff was SUPER friendly and accommodating. Love, love, loved it. 

Since we arrived early for check-in, Eric went on a run and I walked down to the plaza and had a cocktail on a patio that overlooked the plaza. The weather was nice and the ambiance was perfect a little mid-afternoon "me" time. 

After about an hour, I went back to our B&B to meet back up with Eric. We sat out back and just relaxed before heading out for dinner. We met up with some of his old sisters friends that he hadn't seen in a long time. We went Jack Stack Restaurant for some authentic Kansas City BBQ. The company was awesome and the food was amazing! 

Next day? Time to head back to Des Moines but not before having breakfast! I loved all of the little details and "rituals" of doing things. They kind of make you feel like royalty. Truly loved everything about this trip.