Category Archives: Nostalgia

“Crawling” around Richmond

A few weekends ago, Christian and I were invited by our new friend and coworker, Asha, to “crawl” around the various neighborhoods of Richmond, VA, and get to know our new hometown. All three of us being Spanish teachers, we figured a Spanish-style tapeo would be the perfect way to see the city and sample the fine food and spirits of its eclectic neighborhoods.

Salud!

First stop: the Water Grill in Carytown. Like true Spaniards, we each ordered an appetizer to share. Not able to overcome the Southern gourmand in me, I ordered the fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese sauce (nom nom nom). Asha and Christian agreed upon the mussels in coconut curry broth and the lobster dumplings. Double delish!

Lobster dumplings at the Water Grill in Richmond, VA

Fried green tomatoes and Coconut curry mussels

Second stop: Sticky Rice in the Fan. When Asha discovered that Christian and I love sushi, she knew just where to take us. Apparently, she uncovered my secret love for dive bars and nostalgia for all-things-Austin. The sushi at Sticky Rice was not our favorite, but it got the job done. (We prefer Osaka on Cary St. Rd.). However, the atmosphere and the service trumped all previous restaurants Christian and I had visited. Football fans gathered around bright screens, the bar was dimly lit and musky, they had a good craft beer selection, and the place was filled with tattooed hipsters. As soon as we entered, we did a double take. Were we in Austin? Did we enter into a different time-space continuum? (To our dismay, this was not an episode of Quantum Leap).

The tapeo continues at Sticky Rice

Third (and final) stop: Kuba Kuba (also in the Fan). Stuffed with sushi and appetizers from Water Grill, we mustered up the strength to order some vino and a slice of (very rich) chocolate pie. Christian oggled plates of cuban pork and plantains that waiters were hurriedly carrying by. I loved the atmosphere. It was sort of like a 50s soda fountain meets hipster hangout, with deliriously decadent smells wafting from the kitchen window. Kuba Kuba will be a definite repeat in our future.

Kuba Kuba's atmosphere was one of a kind.

We didn’t make it to Shockoe Bottom that night. Our tapeo didn’t leave room for pizza at Bottoms Up. But there’s always next weekend…

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Filed under Austin, Food, Friends, Nostalgia, Richmond

Farewell Austin

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Four years ago, Christian and I met in Madrid, Spain. We were both working for Putney Student Travel at that time. At first glance, sparks flew and birds chirped, and that was the end of our single lives. When we parted ways in the Madrid airport in August 2007, we had already made plans for my visit to Austin — then his hometown, and soon to be mine.

Upon arriving in Austin, the first thing that Christian did was whisk me away to historic Mt. Bonnell. We “climbed” to the top — it’s only 780 feet above sea level — and shared a picnic as we admired the gorgeous view of the Austin skyline on a warm October afternoon.

It seems fitting then that four years and one wedding later, Christian and I visited Mt. Bonnell on our last day in Austin. (As I type, we are driving to Richmond, VA, where we will teach Spanish at St. Christopher’s and St. Catherine’s schools.) This time we made the climb on a hot July afternoon without a picnic in tow. But the view was still as spectacular as ever. Farewell Austin, we will miss you.

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Filed under Austin, Hiking, Nostalgia

Angel Food Cake with 7-Minute Icing and Summer Berries

Every Fourth of July my Grandma and I make an angel food cake (from a box) with 7-Minute Icing (from scratch). Fourth of July is probably the only hot holiday in Minnesota, so we take full advantage of the “summer heat” by preparing a suitable light dessert. Independence Day also happens to be my birthday, and aside from the usual “Born on the 4th of July!” comments that I get, a lot of people want to know why I want to make my own birthday cake. I think it’s less about the work (after all, I am using a cake mix) and more about the time I get to spend with my Grandma. We’ve been baking this cake since I was in high school, and it’s one of my favorite summer rituals.

Here I am a high schooler, with my traditional bday cake and my beautiful grandma Louise!

I won’t bore you with how to make a box angel food cake – the Betty Crocker package instructions are quite accurate! – but I will share a few tips we’ve learned along the way, as well as a recipe for making  7-minute icing.

The first thing you want to do when you take the cake out of the oven is to turn it upside down right away. They sell angel food cake pan “stands,” but a bottle of Tabasco hot sauce works just as well.

When the cake is fully cooled, use a knife or flat spatula to loosen the sides and remove it from the pan.

Gently remove any crumbs from the cake, as they can be a nuisance when frosting. Allow the cake to cool completely.

To make the frosting, create a double boiler out of a medium saucepan and a medium mixing bowl. Fill the saucepan with water until the level is just below the bottom of the mixing bowl (do not let the bowl sit in water). REMOVE the mixing bowl from the saucepan before you heat the water. Turn the burner on high until the water boils, then reduce to a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk together 2 egg whites, 1/3 c. water, 1 c. plus 2 T. sugar, 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the mixing bowl. Once combined, place bowl over simmering water and beat mixture on low speed for about 1 minute.

Gradually increase the speed of your mixer to high, until the frosting forms stiff peaks (about 5 minutes). Be sure to periodically lift the side of the mixing bowl slightly to allow some steam to escape. You don’t want to end up like my great-aunt and have 7-Minute Icing all over your kitchen walls!

Remove mixture from heat and beat for 2 minutes more.  Gently fold in 1 T. vanilla.

Frost the cake immediately. For best results, begin frosting the cake from the top (use more than you think you’ll need)…

…then spread the extra frosting over the sides. Use a flat spatula or knife to smooth the top and sides.

For Independence Day, we decorated our cake with blueberries and fresh strawberries from my uncle Jamie’s garden.

Happy (belated) Independence Day from Chef Louise and Sous-Chef Sarah!

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Filed under Birthdays, Family, Food, Grandmothers, Holidays, Nostalgia, Recipes, Traditions

Memories of Dad and Golfing

Dad at Grandview in Brainerd, MN

My father taught me how to play the great game of golf for which I will be forever grateful (and my runner’s knees will be, too). When I was younger, my dad worked long hours – and still does – in order to save for his three kids’ college educations. If he had time off in the evenings or on the weekends, he loved to play golf. So in an effort to accumulate some valuable father-daughter time, I often accompanied him on those warm Minnesota summer evenings to the driving range.

Three young people (myself, my dad, and my brother) after a round at Rochester Golf & Country Club

Coach Myhro and I at the 2002 MN State Girls' Golf Tournament

At first, I wasn’t so into the sport. I don’t recall actually despising it, but I do remember being quite bored and whining to be taken home very often. My dad, determined to hit at least a full bucket of balls after a day’s work, usually sent me off on a “hunt” for tees. I delighted in finding the colorful ones. For some reason, they seemed to be worth more. On the weekends, we sometimes played a few holes before dark. He would play two balls, and I would scurry along behind him, brutally whacking away at a pink golf ball with a beat-up old putter.

Beautiful fall golf in Amherst, MA

Amherst Women's Golf team 2006-7

At some point, I must have begun to like the game, because I ended up with a full set of clubs and a trip to junior golf camp. But my favorite golf outing was still a trip to the range with my dad and his best friend Buzzy (“Uncle Buzzy” to me). Over the years, I became more competitive in the sport, joined the high school team, and competed in the State tournament twice. The more I played, the more I realized just how lucky I was to have my dad as my “coach.” He wasn’t like the other dads who hovered over their daughters on the range critiquing every minute detail of their swing, or who lived vicariously through their daughter’s talent – often to the detriment of her game and her social life.

Holding the flag on No. 12 "Golden Bell" at Augusta National

Dad and I with the Master's trophy

Eventually, I went on to play golf at Amherst College and continued as an assistant coach after graduation. Golf opened up a world of opportunity for me…It instilled in me a deep appreciation of the outdoors (the sights, smells, and sounds), walking, talking and making friends. Some of my best friends and biggest role models are golfers: Michelle Morgan, Steve Myhro, Meg Sullivan, my husband, Carolina Gonzalez, Buzzy Hermann, both of my grandfathers, and of course, my Dad. Happy Father’s Day, and thanks for teaching me the game.

Dad and I on the 10th tee at Augusta National

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Filed under Family, Fathers, Golf, Nostalgia

Smoked Ribs, a Tribute to the Zü

Christian and I don’t eat a lot of meat these days. We’re not vegetarians, but we are recovering graduate students and meat lightens our pockets more quickly than vegetables do. During my senior year of college, I lived in a vegetarian COOP called “the Zü.”  Initially, I was non-too-pleased about the idea of eating meat just once a week. (I’m from the Midwest, where the main food groups are meat and potatoes and sweet corn is considered a “vegetable.”) However, I am forever grateful to my “crunchy granola” housemates for teaching me that vegetarian food doesn’t have to taste like cardboard and leave you severely malnourished. They helped me re-imagine my dinner plate. Vegetables went from being “side dishes” flanking over-portioned hunks of animal protein, to center plate all-stars laced with flavor and accented by lesser-known proteins, like lentils, peanuts, black beans, chickpeas, yogurt, eggs, and quinoa.

Look at all us hippies!

On the rare occasion that we cooked meat at the Zü – about once a month – the meal took on ritualistic proportions. We savored every moment of the process, from prep to first bite. Meatlovers would come out of the woodwork, following the wafting scents into the kitchen.

Peeling crawfish in the Zü kitchen

In loving memory of those nights in the Zü kitchen with barbeque slow-cooking in the oven, I decided to smoke some ribs…

St. Louis-style ribs from WFM

Christian and I bought these ribs from Whole Foods Market. It was an impulse buy; we were cruising past the meat counter, and these babies caught our eye. One look at each other and there was a mutual understanding that this meat needed to be in our bellies and not behind a glass counter.

Rubbed ribs

A nice trick learned from Tyler Florence (TFlo)…Mix lime juice, water, and white vinegar, add to BBQ rub of choice to form a paste that will adhere to the ribs and create a thick, savory crust when cooked. Caution: be sure your BBQ rub isn’t overly salty. We learned that the hard way.

Cedar planks courtsey of Betty Hahn

First, I placed the ribs over soaked cedar planks to protect them from the hot coals. They cooked this way for about 30 minutes.

Smokin'

When the ribs were nearly cooked through, I threw the wet planks on top of the coals and placed the ribs on the hot grate.

We bought this grill for $25 off some grad students

I covered the grill and let the ribs smoke for another 10 minutes or so. Then I took the lid off and fed the fire, which created a good charred crust on the meat.

Deliciousness.

Isn’t that beautiful???

My first ribs

Helloooooo ribs!!!

Man eats rib.

Satisfied husband = Mission accomplished

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Filed under Dinner, Food, Nostalgia