Jan 31, 2014

New Music: Brandy Clark's 12 Stories

As part of my 30 before 30 goal I wanted to spent more time this year immersing myself in music, specifically new to me music. I hope to post a few of my findings here for you. I'm not music reviewer so don't expect any titillating review or anything. 

Today we are venturing into unfamiliar waters... at least for me. Country! Besides a brief stint with country music my sophomore year of high school (Dixie Chicks will always hold a soft spot in my heart), it's pretty much off limits. Never on the radio in our homes or cars. But this album was consistently on several "best of the year" lists, so I added it to my list to listen to when I get a chance.

While the topics are typical to country: playing the lottery, cheating on your spouse, jail, being unhappy how your life turned out, smoking and dranking, Brandy's storytelling makes these tunes original. By the end of "Get High" I related to the poor woman. And the woman singing "Stripes" is my hero. I found myself chuckling to songs. 

I think one of the reasons I don't typically like country as a genre is my habit of listening to the music over the lyrics. Brandy White's lyrics are funny, accurate, and insightful. While I had to pay more attention than I normally do, I enjoyed this album greatly. Maybe not enough to purchase it, but it was enjoyable experience, which is saying something. 

When to Listen: car trip, dranking alone

Jan 24, 2014

New Music: Bryan Ferry's The Jazz Age

As part of my 30 before 30 goal I wanted to spent more time this year immersing myself in music, specifically new to me music. I hope to post a few of my findings here for you. I'm not music reviewer so don't expect any titillating review or anything. 

I love jazz. Seriously. The last two years I've developed a serious crush on jazz. I think it started when I started listening to WWOZ on a regular basis, even when not in New Orleans. The traditional jazz shows are my favorite, although I pretty much love anything they play. So when I saw this album listed on one of the "best of the year" album list I put it on my "to listen list." (It's a really long list for the record. Pretty sure it's long enough to last me the entire year.) 

This is a totally instrumental album which translates Bryan Ferry's previous work into 1920's style jazz. While I'm not familiar with his previous work or the songs on this album, it's still a great album. Each song translates beautifully. Some are melancholy and some may stir you to dance around a bit. It makes me wonder what other songs would be like if turned into jazz songs. 

When to listen: cocktail hour of a dinner party, drinking champagne, when channeling your inner Zelda. 

Jan 22, 2014

City Grocery Pop Up with Ashley Christensen

Last January John Currence of City Grocery hosted a series of pop up restaurants and we were able to go down for one of them. It ended up being one of the best meals of the year. When I heard he was doing a similar concept again this year I knew we had to go to one if not all. Sadly with January being a busy travel month we were only able to attend one, this past Monday.

This year's pop-ups were to raise money for Rodney Scott of Hemingway, SC who lost his BBQ restaurant in a fire last fall. There's actually a bunch of pop-ups all over the South to benefit Rodney. More information here. We chose to go to the pop up cooked by Ashley Christensen of Raleigh, NC. I've heard good things about her restaurants, but North Carolina is not an area we get to often. That's one of the aspects of these pop-ups that I love, being able to taste the work of a chef from an area you might not be able to visit.

This year was a pre-fix 4 course meal with an optional wine pairing. I like this concept because with this caliber of chef I don't want to second guess on my choices. Just bring me what the chef wants!

Please excuse the iPhone photos. The restaurant lighting was dim and I didn't want to bring the big camera. 

Course 1: O'Henry White Sweet Potato Soup with Red-Eye Duck Butter and Pickled Greens
Holy moly, this soup blew us away. The soup was a fine puree and so smooth and mellow tasting. What really threw it over the top was the pickled greens. I do not like greens. But pickled? Why aren't we pickling more greens and putting them in things?! They were great. They added a nice zing and complexity to the soup.

Course 2: Coal Roasted Beets with smoked sunburst trout roe, charred kumquat marmalade vinaigrette, our yogurt
Beets! Since we went to Andrew Michael's No Menu Monday in December I've pretty much been obsessed with beets. We had them in New Orleans at Peche and when I saw them on the menu I was super excited. Beets! These were tasty, but this was our least favorite dish. It was still incredible.

Course 3: Low Country Cassoulet with sea island red peas, cider-braised winter salad, crispy pickled okra
Or as Bryan called it, The South in a Dish. There was also some pulled pork and shrimp in there as well and topped with chow chow. I told Bryan that all it needed was some toasted crushed pecans and then it would be the south in a dish. This was Bryan's favorite dish. It was hearty and delicious. At first it looked a little small, but I took half of mine home. Also of note: fried pickled okra. Why haven't we been doing this more often?! Southern chefs take note!

Course 4: Vardaman Sweet Potato Chess Pie with sorghum sweet cream and spiced nuts
Yum. I don't eat enough chess pie. The sorghum whipped cream was amazing. I vowed to only put sorghum in my whipped cream from now on. We lingered over this course as I had not caught up to my wine pairing yet and I was savoring every last bite.

Overall it was a wonderful meal and I'm so thankful that we are close enough to Oxford to be able to drive down for the event. I wish that we had been able to attend more, but it's probably for the best not to eat four course meals on a weekly basis. But it sure would be nice...

Jan 21, 2014

The Kids

A few weeks ago Bryan grabbed the camera to capture this moment. There are several photos he took, but this one is my favorite. It has all three kids in it together.

Jan 20, 2014

Lower Louisiana Sales Trip

On Friday we returned from a 10 day road trip through lower Louisiana. It was epic... in that it was long and we also ate some incredibly good food. It was really impressive. Please prepare yourselves mentally for a long post with a lot of food pictures. Here we go....

We left on a Wednesday.

We had stops in Meridian and Hattisburg, MS before coming into New Orleans that evening.

After dropping our luggage and car at the guest house we walked down Frenchman and got an appetizer at Three Muses and enjoyed the music. We had dinner at Coop's, Bryan's favorite. Before going home we grabbed another beer at Spotted Cat to enjoy another live band.

Thursday Bryan saw accounts and I was on my own... which meant croissants.

For some reason I decided I want to give oysters a chance. We've had a couple in the last year and a half that were really well done, so I wanted to give oysters on the half shell a real try. And the only place to do this is New Orleans.

For lunch I went to Acme and told the waiter I wanted to try the oysters. So he guided me. I got one oyster shooter so I could try it raw and then I got half dozen chargrilled oysters which is their specialty.

The waiter dressed the oyster for me (a little cocktail, a squeeze of lemon) put it on the little fork and then told me to open my mouth. He actually fed me. And it was incredible. The chargrilled oysters were also incredible.

That night we finally tried out Adolpho's which we had heard good things about from several different sources. We got the fish with the ocean sauce and it was incredible.

Friday I was on my own again. I had breakfast the Ruby Slipper, which was around the corner from our guest house. I walked around a bit that morning and had a lovely lunch at the Sylvain.

I booked a bicycle tour for myself for the afternoon. I wanted to do something different and it also took up a good chunk of the afternoon.

Friday night we went to dinner at Cochon Butcher. We ordered four or five different dishes to share. Everything was delicious. I loved the duck sliders.

Bryan took Saturday off of work. So we went to Croissant D'Or. I made a friend.

We walked around the Quarter since Bryan hadn't had a chance to do so yet. We ended our long walk at Felix's because I wanted Bryan to try oysters and also I wanted to compare Felix's against Acme directly across the street. (Acme chargrilled oysters was better for the record.)

He liked them.

As we were walking back to the guest house to get the car we came across a second line.

We went to St. James Cheese for second lunch.

This is my heaven. We ordered the 7 taster platter. They chose 3 different meats and 4 different cheeses. Yummmmm

To walk off both lunches we went to a cemetery and walked around. Their graves are beautiful.

And then we went to Peche...

Shrimp fritters

Mussels and potatoes in a curry sauce. (Never tried mussels before!)

Fried bread. I wasn't sure what to expect with this, but they were a little dense and sweet. Loved them.

A whole red fish with a side of beets.

Peche was the one place I was most anticipated to try. Everything was incredible.

Sunday we got up early for the race Bryan was to work. He partnered with a local store. We helped runner try on Pearl Izumi shoes as part of the post-race party.

Once the race was over we drove over to The Country Club in the Bywater for brunch. Known for its clothing optional policy at their pool, they also have incredible food and bottomless mimosas at brunch! We enjoyed a leisurely brunch on the front porch.

After a nap we had dinner at Muriel's in the Quarter. It was a second chance dinner. The first time we went I was in a bad mood and aching which did not help my impression of the restaurant. It's a solid place, but not our favorite.

Monday morning we packed it up and drove across the like to Mandeville for the first of the week's appointments. We also stopped in Hammond before ending in Baton Rouge for the day.

Tired and without any good ideas for dinner we decided on Acme for dinner. I made Bryan try their chargrilled oysters so he could compare. Acme wins. However, the oysters in the Quarter were much bigger and better.

Tuesday we had appointments in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Lake Charles.

Wednesday Bryan was in Lafayette and Lake Charles again. I stayed in Lafayette in the motel. I had lunch at the Blue Dog Cafe next to the motel. It has been one of Bryan's favorite places to eat on his road trips.  That afternoon he had some time so we drove about 20 minutes outside of Lafayette to Bayou Teche. We had a great time talking with Laurin and Byron and sipping beers. When we came out I was struck by the full moon over this old house and live oak tree.

Laurin recommended  Crawfish Town USA for dinner and we shared 8 lbs of crawfish.

Thursday we visited Alexandria and Shreveport. Bryan's last appointment ended at 3 so we hit the road and headed to Monroe, LA.

Yeah, we had to drive by.

We drove to downtown Monroe and ate at Cotton along the river. One of the best meals on the trip. Totally unexpected and delicious.

After one appointment in Monroe Friday morning we finally hit the road.

We had Grizz tickets that night and what did we order?

A po-boy.

It was a great trip. I'm glad that I was able to travel with Bryan and see some of these places that I've never been.

Jan 19, 2014

Thinking Green

I definitely owe ya'll one heck of a trip re-cap. We got home Friday night and I haven't had a chance to go through the photos or write what all we did. I hope to make some time for that this afternoon and you can expect a post in the coming week. Until then...

The seed catalogs are arriving and I'm excited to plan for the coming gardening year. Seed Savers is my favorite and I've probably spent a couple of hours with my new catalog reading each item, thinking about the merits of different types of beans and tomatoes, considering a new garden bed.

There is something so hopeful when thinking of new vegetables and plants, new garden beds, and sunny weather. You can't help but be in a good mood.

With the success of last years garden and a little more courage to try new things, we are going to take out the two remaining shrubs in the back yard along the back fence and make that into one large garden bed. I plan on doing three types of beans and seperating them by tomatoes. I'm also ramping up our tomato selection in the hopes of canning them. We go through more than our fair share of canned tomatoes throughout the year and I'd like to at least use our own, garden grown tomatoes.And of course there will be cucumbers.

Bryan has requested potatoes so we'll be experimenting with two different varieties in the old lettuce bed.  I'm also tempted to order some garlic starters for the fall. There will also be lettuce, carrots, and peppers.

I've been thinking about trying some blueberry bushes in the side yard along our neighbor's driveway. And maybe another blackberry bush or three? I wish we had more room for fruit trees. I'd like a fig, pear, and apple to start.

My lime trees are doing well inside and the lemon is growing slow and steady. I'm toying with the idea of trying to grow lime trees from the seeds of my current limes. I don't know what I'll do with these since I don't have room for my own, but possibly to give to friends or even maybe sell. Who knows....

What are you dreaming or planning for your garden?

Jan 10, 2014

New Music: Phosphorescent

The Bitter Southerner recommended Phosphorescent's latest album, Muchacho,  on their Best of 2013 list. Always into Southern everything, I gave it a try this week. This week I took a different approach. I kept a tab open as I listened and mulit-tasked and jotted down notes live-blogging style. Below are my thoughts from start to finish.

Track 1: Sun, Arise - Oh, kinda sounds like Mumford melodies.
Track 2: Song for Zula - okay, so there's the electronica coming in, but not in a German techno club kinda way. It's not bad. Love the addition of violin.
Track 3: Ride On/Right On - Nice beat. Kinda like the little yelps, but are they too often to be annoying? Nope, I like this song. Might even put it on Bryan's next mixed CD.
Track 4: Terror in the Canyons - Starting a little twangy, aren't we? Not my favorite track on the disc, but it shows Matthew Houck's versatility.
Track 5: A Charm/A Blade - Harmonies! I love multiple voice harmonies. It's beautiful and soothing. There is a lot going on in this song. The yelps come back, a tad twangy, harmonies, and rock.
Track 6: Machacho's Tune - "I fix myself up to come and be with you." A slow tune.
Track 7: A New Anhedonia - another slow, more twangy song. Beautiful and a little haunting.
Track 8: The Quotidian Beasts - these are some weird song titles. I do love the use of pianos in the last few songs. Violin is back in this song. What's the word for the breaks where it's just instrumental? I can't think of the particular word, but I love it in this song.
Track 9: Down to Go - I am starting to get bored of these slow, twangy songs. This one has a trumpet in it.
Track 10: Sun's Arising - sounds Mumfordy again. You know, I can kinda see hearing this if I was waking up in one of those glamorous tents in Africa somewhere. The sun's coming up and someone has delivered fresh, hot coffee to my glamorous tent filled with oriental rugs and beautiful antiques. Life is good.

I listened to this album on Spotify and it then included 12 more tracks that were recorded live at St. Pancras Church. I won't bore you with my live-blogging of those. I will say, it's more mellow and you can hear the piano better. Have I mentioned I love pianos in music lately?

When to listen: on a long road trip, crank it up and roll down the windows or glamping.

Jan 3, 2014

New Music: Valerie June

I feel slightly terrible that Valerie June used to live in Memphis and I never took the time to listen to her stuff until she moved away and became nationally recognized. Whoops. I remember seeing her wild hair as she performed at the Farmer's Market downtown, but not taking the time to stop and actually listen instead of thinking about which vendor to buy my veggies from.

Listed on several Best Albums of 2013 lists I finally listened to Valerie June's new album Pushin' Against the Stone. It's delicate and twangy at the same time. Slightly bluesy and old timey.

Favorite Track: Somebody to Love (acoustic version)

When to listen to it: with a glass of wine while flipping through your favorite magazine

Jan 1, 2014

Books I've Read 2013

I've read a lot of books this year. More than any other year. It's been a great escape and education. In previous years I've stayed mostly in the fiction section of the library, but this year I wanted to make an effort to branch out a little. I'm glad I did. There is much to learn out there and reading is one avenue to get there.

So without further ado, here are my favorite books of the year.

Favorite Fiction: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. I loved loved loved this book. The movie is coming out soon and I can't wait to see how they portray this interesting novel.

Favorite Non-Fiction: Quiet by Susan Cain. Seriously loved this book. I learned so much about myself through it. I encourage everyone, introverted and extroverted, to read it.

Favorite Cookbook: Dinner, A Love Story. Part cookbook, part memoir on the writer's cooking journey.

Honorable Mentions:
Eleanor and Park
Me Before You
The Fault in our Stars
Where'd You Go Bernadette?
The Secret History
Nine Lives
Blood, Bones and Butter
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Charms for the Easy Life

Okay, so that might seem like a lot of Honorable Mentions, but those are the ones that I truly loved and that have stuck with me over the year. What books have you been reading?