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living, decorating, and eating in hattiesburg, mississippi

Archive for September 2011

new york: a culinary tour

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I spent last weekend in New York with dear friends, and even though the purpose of the trip was shopping (for a very special item!), we managed a culinary tour of the city that left me breathless.  Literally, in my skinny jeans.  Here’s the day-by-day tour.  It’s OK to be jealous.

Friday

The posh interiors of Blue Fin were the perfect backdrop for enjoying a spot-on sweet potato soup.

We arrived in New York to a soaking rain that lasted all day, and a creamy sweet potato soup couldn’t have been more perfect for our late lunch at Blue Fin in the W Hotel in Times Square.  Not a trace of touristy madness.

The white cheddar cornbread at Dovetail is to die for. Seriously. And I’m still dreaming about the vegetarian gnudi.

That evening, we had dinner at Dovetail, in the Upper West Side.  Best dinner of my life.  You know it’s good when vegetarians and vegans get their own incredible menu: I had the gnudi with asparagus, chanterelles, spring onion, and winter truffles, and it was all I could do to refrain from licking my plate.  Everything was perfect: from the falafel amuse bouche, to the melt-in-your-mouth white cheddar cornbread, to the dainty milk chocolate gianduja bar for dessert.  Heaven help me.

Saturday

Gorgeous bread at Le Pain Quotidien, where guests are encouraged to sit at a communal table. C'est super cool.

The next morning, we ate breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien near Central Park.  I love that the main seating area is a communal table, and I had a perfectly moist, not-too-sweet cherry scone to energize me for a day of shopping.  Plenty of delightful vegetarian and vegan options on the brunch menu.

I had a fabulous vegetarian empanada at the charming Green Table in Chelsea Market. Their locally-sourced food is simply heavenly.

That afternoon, we visited Chelsea Market and had a late lunch at the Green Table: organic, farm-to-table deliciousness.  I had the seasonal vegetarian farm plate with a blue corn empanada, summer vegetables, black beans, cheese, and fruit salsa.  Out of this world.

As if the magical ice cream sandwiches at Milk & Cookies aren't tantalizing enough - and I can vouch for the PB&J (top) and Grasshopper (third down) - the milk, which comes from a local dairy, is pure happiness.

Our walk from Chelsea Market to Soho took us through West Village, where we visited Milk & Cookies to pay homage to that eponymous duo.  I rarely drink milk, preferring almond milk instead, but the locally-sourced milk there was worth the departure.  It all just feels right – a charming side street off Bleecker, a cozy store front, royal blue tile table tops, and a smell I hope I never forget.

Scrumptious flatbread pizza from the Plaza Food Hall.

That evening, we met up with my friends’ family at the Plaza Hotel’s Food Hall.  A far cry from the typical food court (not surprisingly), the Plaza Food Hall has stations – seafood, sushi, grill, etc. – with seating areas, many of which overlook the chefs’ workspaces, and a delightful array of food choices and ample vegetarian options.  I had a tasty portabella-spinach flatbread pizza topped with just the right amount of chili flakes; I also hear the English pea ravioli is molto bene.

Crazy-good cheesecake from the legendary Magnolia Bakery.

The last thing any of us needed at that point was dessert, but our evening walk took us by the Magnolia Bakery on Columbus, and, well, who can resist?  I had the de rigueur vanilla bean cheesecake, but that pumpkin cheesecake (above) was oh-so tempting.

Sunday

The incredible vegan veggie burger with red chili aioli from Greensquare Tavern in Flatiron. Best. ever.

Everything about Greensquare Tavern, where we had Sunday brunch, makes me happy.  Every item on the menu is local and organic; as Chef John Marsh writes, “Returning to the agricultural practices of our American Melting Pot heritage, that are in harmony with nature, we can look forward to a healthy future sustained by delicious nutrition.”  Suffice it to say I will never be satisfied with veggie burgers again.

Dark chocolate mix + perfect whisk + clever cup and saucer from L.A. Burdick. What's not to love?

Our last stop was the nearby L.A. Burdick, where the smell of gourmet hot chocolate was as intoxicating as the mimosa I had at brunch.  A chocolate lover’s paradise.  And they ship their haute mixes – with a whisk for the perfect consistency – to places like Mississippi.  Just sayin’.

Written by Ann

September 29, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Posted in eating

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small space solutions: the laundry room

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The solution: baskets.

A beginning-of-the-semester cold has kept us at home this weekend, but, on the bright side, we finally caught up on laundry.  To celebrate the empty laundry baskets and neatly stowed clean clothes, I’m showcasing the way we make the most of the storage space in our super-tiny laundry room.  Our condo maximizes living space – which we wouldn’t trade for anything – but this comes at a price: small storage spaces.  (You can see my small closet solution here.)  Fortunately, what our little laundry room lacks in horizontal square footage is balanced by quite a bit of vertical storage space.  We use it all, and then some.

Our little laundry room, elevated by the exposed brick on the back wall.

That’s the extent of the horizontal space, but there’s more than meets the eye here (or the camera lens, at least).  Behind the door (on the right), we’ve stowed a badminton net, camping supplies, and the mast, sail, and pontoons for the sailing canoe.  A tent hangs from a nail on the right wall (upper right of photo).  We installed a tension rod for hanging clothes across the back wall.  Tension rods are a fabulous small space solution: in our tiny apartment on campus, I hung pots and pans from a tension rod over the stove in the kitchen.

We are so grateful for those built-in shelves. And yes, that's our collection of holiday decorations stacked on top. Is it Christmas yet?

A bookshelf from Daniel's college days stores his tools (top and first shelf) and linens.

I wish I had “before” pictures of this space – before I realized that baskets were my storage friend.  As you might imagine, a place so small and so full of stuff can easily get out of control, and it did.  I tamed the space with baskets last winter, and it’s been remarkably easier to keep the space (relatively) uncluttered and, even more amazing, to find more space for storing new additions, like sailing canoe gear from this summer.  Viva baskets!

Written by Ann

September 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm

in praise of the kitchen table

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The kitchen table's alter ego: my research space. It looked like this for the last two weeks, at least.

Our kitchen table, which also happens to be our dining table, usually stays pretty clear; the butcher block island seems to be the collection spot for mail, glasses, and just about everything else that comes in the door.  That’s not to say we don’t like the kitchen table – in fact, the table and the chairs are rather special to me (as I explained here).  Daniel and I just don’t often sit at the table to eat, favoring instead the island, the coffee table, or just standing in the kitchen.  If we’re eating at the table, we’re entertaining.

But the kitchen table has a secret life as my desk.  Even though I have plenty of desk, bookshelf, and filing space at my office, I sometimes commandeer the kitchen table for my home workspace when the stacks of grading or, more recently, the research and writing simply can’t be completed in regular work hours.  And as much as I love my new sewing machine desk (seen here and here), it’s mostly practical for checking email and social media and shopping online.  Plus, I’m a late-night worker, and the kitchen table is conveniently located around the corner from the bedroom – so one of the few walls we have in this place keeps the light from pouring into the bedroom where Daniel, who is definitely not a late-night worker, is trying to sleep.

I finally finished my research article and ceremoniously cleared the table, restoring it to the streamlined state I prefer.  At least until next week, when the stacks of student papers come in.

Much better, no?

Because the table is small (it was custom built for a small space), I like to keep it clear - literally. These jars and vases add just enough visual interest without overwhelming the surface area.

Written by Ann

September 11, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Posted in decorating, living

vegan pound cake, two ways

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Decadent AND vegan.

Who doesn’t love pound cake?  I love the simple, rich flavors and moist texture, but I figured the pound-of-eggs-and-butter effect wouldn’t likely translate to a vegan version.  I’ve been suspiciously eyeing a few vegan pound cake recipes for the last year, but I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that tofu and canola oil could make pound cake magic.  Finally, about a week ago, I couldn’t take it any longer.  I had to know.

I started with this recipe – and if you’re looking for Southern Living-style sweetness, this is the one.  It is fabulously rich and tastes just like a good southern pound cake ought to taste.  And it’s super easy to make.  So once my craving for traditional pound cake was satisfied (after just a few bites, really), I began looking for a slightly less sweet version (and one that doesn’t call for margarine).  I found this recipe from the Vegetarian Times website and made it this weekend for a girls night in, and I decided not to tell my friends it was vegan until they’d eaten a few bites and reacted.  (Classic annoying vegetarian/vegan trick.)  They loved it and were genuinely surprised to find out it was made with tofu and canola oil.  Another win for vegan baking, and another win for tofu, especially.

Tofu's magical powers lend just the right spongy/fluffy texture to pound cake. The key, though, is to blend it smooth before mixing it in with the other ingredients. As much as I love tofu, even I wouldn't want to bite into a tofu lump in my pound cake.

I'm always glad to let my trusty KitchenAid do the mixing and beating for me.

The dough, just before baking. I happily tested a few bites, you know, just to make sure it tasted like pound cake. It did.

While the pound cake was baking, I made the lime glaze using the world's cutest juicer (a housewarming gift from my sister, who found it at Anthropologie).

Whisking the lime juice and powdered sugar. I had to taste-test that, too. It's good.

The (finally) baked cake. The VT recipe calls for 30 minutes of baking. I don't know about your oven, but mine can't cook a pound cake in less than 45 minutes.

Cooled, glazed, and sliced. Nom nom nom.

Written by Ann

September 5, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Posted in eating

asparagus boursin pasta

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DSC_0957

When I (finally) became a vegetarian two years ago, my college roommate, who is also a vegetarian, sent me a recipe for asparagus boursin pasta – and it rocked my world.  Daniel loved it, too, and we have been making it regularly since.  It’s my go-to dish for entertaining non-vegetarians for the first time, and it’s always well received.  Plus, it’s super easy and quick.  Win.

I can’t even begin to give specific measurements for ingredients, and I make it a little different every time.  For Hattiesburgers, there’s the question of finding decent asparagus.  But take heart: the dish is still good, if a little less interesting, without the asparagus.  If I were making this for the first time, I’d follow this recipe, which seems to be pretty close to the recipe my roommate sent.  (I’ve been using walnuts instead of pine nuts, lately, because the latter are hard to find in this town.  And, as usual, I add black pepper and use more lemon pepper than the recipe calls for.)

Last night, we threw this together to serve as a side dish/vegetarian entree at a casual dinner with friends.  I’m enjoying leftovers today – brain food for writing a certain book chapter that is due soon.

Cooking the pasta is the most time consuming step - and that's just 10 minutes or so (depending on the quantity of pasta).  All the other prep work can be done during this step.

Cooking the pasta is the most time consuming step – and that’s just 10 minutes or so (depending on the quantity of pasta). All the other prep work can be done during this step.

Parboil the asaparagus by adding it to the pasta for the last two minutes of cook time, then drain, reserving some of the cooking water.

Parboil the asparagus by adding it to the pasta for the last two minutes of cook time, then drain, reserving some of the cooking water.

In the meantime, toast dry walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat, shaking or stirring often.

In the meantime, toast dry walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat, shaking or stirring often.

 

In the bottom of the same pot, sauté the minced garlic in olive oil for a minute or two over medium heat, then add back the pasta and cooking water and toss. Then toss in the boursin, sundried tomatoes, and walnuts. Season to taste with dill, lemon pepper, black pepper, and salt.

In the bottom of the same pot, sauté the minced garlic in olive oil for a minute or two over medium heat, then add back the pasta and cooking water and toss. Then toss in the boursin, sundried tomatoes, and walnuts. Season to taste with dill, lemon pepper, black pepper, and salt.

Sprinkle parmesan over the pasta and serve.  Bon appetit!

Sprinkle parmesan over the pasta and serve. Bon appetit!

 

Written by Ann

September 3, 2011 at 12:10 pm