Thursday, April 20, 2017

Vibrant India

When I used to travel to Hong Kong often, we would always stay in Chung King Mansions, an incredible rabbit warren of guesthouses, shops, restaurants and apartments on Nathan Road on the Kowloon side. Definitely the cheapest backpacker accommodations in the city, these rooms looked out over some of the nicest real estate in the city (when you could get an outside view), and by trial and error, you could establish a relationship with remarkably nice places to stay (it's the error part that got you in trouble).

In the B-block were some of the best Indian restaurants I've been to in my life. After queuing up for the lifts (an adventure in its own right) you would eventually come to a floor where several of the restaurants felt like you actually were in India. For less than $2-3, you could stuff yourself on amazingly authentic, delicious Indian food. Just be sure to drink a lot of water.

I have not come close to replicating that here. There are a few Indian places nearby, but nothing with the same ambiance (and certainly not the prices).

So I was super-excited to try out Vibrant India, chock full of vegetarian Indian recipes. The pictures are exotically beautiful, and it is chock-ful of healthy, delicious-sounding recipes. Beatrix is especially excited about the rice dishes, while Patrick and I have liked some of the spicier ones, especially the lentil dishes.

Face it, I may not ever again experience those delicious samosas on Nathan Road. But at least this book gets me one step closer.

(as usual, book provided free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review)



Thursday, April 13, 2017

Selby

Tonight, after picking up Beatrix from EDL, we decided to hit "Spring Fling" events on Selby.

When I first bought my house in the early 90s, Selby had a seriously bad rap. It was full of boarded up storefronts and dilapidated houses. Not dangerous (though many assumed it was), but not nice either.

It quickly picked up. I remember when both corners of Selby and Dale were empty lots, and Allan Mathewson (the new GM of Mississippi Market) and I spent days on end counting cars to try to convince the shareholders to brings a co-op to that site. I feel like I have an intense, personal relationship with every business that's gone in from Dale to the Cathedral.

It's been a little slower going in the section between Dale and Lexington, but tonight we hit the BRAND newly-open J. Selby's, and it was wonderful. Beatrix pronounced it the "best PBJ ever" (thanks to Brogan's family for showing her she likes PBJs!), Patrick loved his meat-less burger, and my beet burger was delicious (though it could use a slight ramping up in spice and the fries would use a little longer in the vat). Cold beer, a lovely atmosphere, and the friendliest servers ever. We'll be back — ALL the time.

After that we hot a few stores in the Selby/Snelling area for their "spring fling." I got to introduce Patrick to Vibrant, a store I really love near Pizza Luce (and picked up an adorable dress). It's one of those stores where you walk in and love everything there. We hit a few other stores  little further down: Patina, Martha's Garden (so lovely smelling!), Lula (great Hawaiian shirts!), Flirt, and of course Up6, where we got to chat to Megan for awhile. She's got quite the rack of t-shirts right now, definitely worth checking out!

Selby has really come into its own, and it was a lot of fun to revel in that tonight.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Minnesota!

Not to be outdone, we spent the final couple of days of spring break (after f-i-n-a-l-l-y getting out of Atlanta, Josh from West Wing was right on that....) doing some fun things in Minnesota.

Patrick had never really explored Stillwater; so while Beatrix had Norwegian dance rehearsal on Saturday afternoon, he and I headed to Tin Bins to get some work done. Then, after we picked her up, we walked around Main Street doing some shopping. Our favorite stores were the fun, owner-run ones, like the Tea & Spice store or the toy store, where they really seemed to enjoy spending time with their customers — these stood in stark contrast to several places staffed by bored teenagers, in which I might have dropped quite a bit of money if I could even entice the clerk to pay any attention to me whatsoever. Beatrix also loves antique malls, and Stillwater has quite  a few of those, so it was a really entertaining afternoon.

The next day, we headed to the Minneapolis Institute for the Arts (I refuse to call it "mia"), to see the Guillermo del Toro exhibit, which was fantastic. B and my favorite room was there "Victoriana" room, where we loved the art and the costumes. In some cases I had to push Beatrix on a little so she did not spend too much time at a potentially disturbing film clip or the like, but in general it was perfect.


On our way out, we stopped at some of the "Rock the Garden" events, including a live show by the Brains On podcast folks (which also allowed me to rant a little with one of the hosts about how much I hate S•Town).

So all in all, an excellent spring break!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Savannah

For the second part of spring break, we hit a place I've been to a few times but Patrick and Beatrix had not — Savannah, Georgia!

Our AirBnB "Stella Blue" was in an adorable part of town called "Starland" (aka the "Victorian District" when that was considered a bad area). We LOVED the area — the cool shops and restaurants, the co-op art supply place just behind our place, the delicious "Back In the Day" coffeeshop (I really want one of their cookbooks now), the great antique and vintage stores, the cool houses and people-watching. We would have had a great vacation just staying there!


But instead, we did Savannah to its finest:

-  Hit the River area and had lunch at a french cafe. Assiduously skipped the Lady and Sons because she's racist

-  Walked around various squares, checking out the "haunted" Hamilton-Turner hotel, the Mercer house, the Juliet Gordon Lowe house and the Andrew Lowe house where the Girl Scouts started.

-  Explored even more by taking a lovely carriage ride.

-  Hit the (windy) beach at Tybee, and had lunch and fed 'gators at the Crab Shack.



-  Walked around Bonaventure Cemetery. Had to text a friend in the middle to find out why rocks were piled on headstones in the Jewish section. Beatrix developed a fascination with child headstones.



-  Had perhaps the best meal of my life at The Pink House. Including drinks at the pub downstairs in full piano bar mode, and honestly the best service imaginable. A true Bucket List restaurant.



-  Toured Flannery O'Connor's birthplace, which made quite an impression on Beatrix.



-  Lost out on one ghost tour when the guide did not show up, and had a very upset kid. Got included on another one instead, which turned out to be better than the first one was. That girl loves ghost tours! (this is the balcony where Lafayette spoke!)



-  Shopped at the French Market, the SCAD store, and other fun places.



-  Had delicious chocolate martinis and skillet chocolate chip cookies at Lulu's.

-  Ate lunch at a river cafe outside of town where we decided NOT to wade in the water when we saw water moccasins!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Amelia Island

I've been to many (but perhaps not enough!) of the great beaches of the world. But for my money, there's no better beach in the world than the one at Amelia Island, Florida. It has a real spot in my heart; my mom used to go down every March, and it holds so many special memories for me.

In the past, my mom always rented the same house (which of course we looked for!), but this time we stayed at the Seaside Amelia Inn, which was a lovely place right on North Beach. They were wonderful, very detail-oriented (cooked to order breakfast, fresh flowers, etc.), and right on the beach with beach chair and umbrellas and everything. They also had cable in our 2-room suite, which we thought we would be excited to watch and turned out to be the so terrible (Tiny House Hunters: Columbus, anyone?)

Beatrix headed into the water as soon as we got there. She was not going to let some boy go farther out than she did:



That first night we looked for dinner too late and ended up at The Marina for dinner; not a mistake we'll make again. Good company though!

The next morning, we spent at our beach, before lunch at Sliders (tiki drinks for Patrick and me!) and sharks tooth hunting at that beach. I think I actually found one!

Then we found Pippi Longstocking's house, and wandered around town, before dinner at Timoti's (obviously a crowd favorite).

It was cloudy the next morning, so it looked more like an indoor day. First, though, we went to Peter's Point, which we had all to ourselves. It was beautiful!



Turned out to be a great beach day after all. We even got lunch at the Salty Pelican, the new crowd favorite (how we could eat so much after those big breakfasts is beyond me).

Drinks at 801 Beech (used to be The Beech Street, one of my mom's favorites, not quite up to par now, but still nice for drinks.)



Then dinner at the Patio Cafe; the crepes were ok, but the lovely patio, with some earnest folk singers and a lot of lizards running around, was lovely.

One more stolen half hour at the beach and a quick carriage ride tour, and out Amelia Island visit was over. It's SO lovely there and I still miss it.

ETA:  Oh, and especially for Elaine — we went to Barbara Jean's for dessert TWICE and had "chocolate stuff" each time (plus cobbler) — yum!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Speedy Reviews - Brunson's, Fish Fry, Bottle Rocket (bar)

We're headed out on spring break this afternoon, so after heading to the train wreck-that-is-the-remodeling-of-Midway-Target right now (for Baby Alive diapers, sigh), we needed some lunch before the airport. I had hear good things about Brunson's, a casual place that opened on Payne, so we decided to try it out.

And glad we did! The staff was exceptionally nice, offering Beatrix her choice of crayons or colored pencils for her coloring page (any kid knows how important that is.) Her homemade mac-and-cheese was creamy and good, thought he fruit with it was a slightly browned apple. Still, no melon, which is her indication that the place is really phoning it in in a fruit serving.

My veggie burger was also homemade, with several kids of beans, marinated peppers, and goat cheese. It came with the homemade chips, also fantastic, and washed down with an Indeed Daytripper, it was an excellent start to spring break.

Patrick had the double burger, which he reports was delicious, and the fries, which were less so. Stick with the chips.

All in all, a great casual experience that we very much enjoyed; we'll be back!

---

In total contrast, last night we ate dinner at the Holy Spirit fish fry. $10 ($5 for kids, or they can get just mac and cheese for $3) gets you a whole plate with 2 pieces of fish, coleslaw, a role, au gratin potatoes, pickles, and dessert — plus wine or beer! The line was long; we waited half and hour in it, even arriving at 5. But we ate with Beatrix's friend Natalie and Izzy and their families, and then headed over for drinks afterwards, so another very enjoyable night. there's something about eating out and knowing it goes to a good cause that feels great.

Late last nigh, I headed over to Bottle Rocket (the bar side) to meet friends after they went to the Lizzo concert. They have a late night happy hour that's pretty fun — 2-4-1 drinks and small plates appetizers (and I do mean "small" plates, as in 3 onion rings in an order). The bar is less successful of a space than the Scusi bar was; in my opinion, the wide marble barter takes up too much space. And the midnight closing is pretty fiercely enforced, with bright lights coming on, leading you to spend too much time talking outside the restaurant. But the company was great, the bar adequate, and again, a perfect kick-off toe Spring Break!

Friday, March 24, 2017

(Sort Of) A Game-Changer

I fell for the Dinner - Changing the Game cookbook the way I usually fall for big, heavy cookbooks full of beautiful pictures. It's elegant, all the pictures look delicious, and it's designed so that "each recipe in this book is meant to be dinner— one fantastic dish that is so satisfying and flavor forward it can stand alone." I love the idea of a simple-yet-lovely meal like that.

My husband, in particular, has liked the egg dishes. I like the "Ingredients to Have on Hand" section, and I really appreciate that there are  a lot of vegetarian and fish selections. I also appreciate hat there are  a few soups, and "salads that mean it," but in general it focuses on true meals, the kind that leave you full and with some leftovers.

We've made a few things form it, such as the aforementioned egg dishes, some salmon, and a delicious stovetop mac-and-cheese, almost identical to another recipe already in our rotation, but nice to have validation.

All in all, I don't think this will be the the kind of book like a few that we have where everything we make is absolutely amazing. But it's a good, solid staple to have on hand, and definitely worth checking out.


(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review, but all opinions are my own).