Feelin’ lucky in Louisville

Last weekend I went to Louisville, KY to the AAMSE annual convention to witness my mom be sworn in as President of the society. While I was not thrilled about the location choice (previous sites: L.A., Montreal, I mean come on!), when I walked into the Louisville airport I was ready to embrace all things Louisville. I mean I even had one of those bendy headbands you knot on top of your head!

While I swear to you that my friend Leah and I “did” downtown Louisville in an hour and that there is not much for the confused tourist “around those parts,” I really did appreciate Louisville’s emphasis on farm to table. Yeah, I know, every city in America has been doing this for years, but something about farm-to-table in Louisville, Kentucky rings truer than in a swanky, contemporary restaurant like Graze in D.C. Maybe these KY restaurants know that, and they definitely got me.

In a hot minute I was hankering to try any fried or dark green thing on the menus because that seemed “Kentucky” to me. Unfortunately, I ate so many fried chicken livers that I may have to put them to rest. The indigestion they instilled in me (ha? nah?) is unforgettable. R.I.P. fried chicken livers :(

My parents kept mentioning the nice restaurants we would be eating at to probably boost my morale, and it worked. The two restaurants we dined at couldn’t have been more different, but they were both pretty great. The first, Harvest, was just as the name suggests: hearty, farm-to-table, but modern. I had fried chicken livers to start and then spinach-chard cannelloni which was, duh, deep fried.  Reaaal good. The next night, we went to Proof whose motto is “Dine with art at Proof.” Proof was hotel meets art gallery meets restaurant, and I think we were all confused by it. The menu was really exciting though, and I ended up ordering the charred octopus to start and chicken liver gnocchi for my entree. Did I mention I’m over chicken liver? Oh! And how can I forget the charcuterie plate. You know your mama loves you when she sees a charcuterie plate on a menu and tells you that you have to get it, and choose the selections. Sigh, how I am going to miss this life of luxury just a week from now when I am scrambling money for some Korean food at college.

Shout out to my mom, Susan D’Antoni, for being the best mom ever AND ruling the world in her career at the same time. Sometimes it takes your parent’s coworkers’ praises to realize how truly proud you are of them. While I don’t mention her often on this blog because she and my love of food aren’t inherently related (and therefore not subject to my mucky metaphors), please do know, that ambition to keep writing at 3 AM? I got that from her.

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Fried chicken livers (spicy shaved squash salad, buttermilk-chive sauce, micro greens) IMG_0632.JPG

Spinach-chard cannelloni (roasted chicken meatballs, toasted garlic-tomato jus, asiago toasts, crispy summer squash) IMG_0644.JPGCharcuterie plate

IMG_0645.JPGMy dad’s creamed corn soup

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Charred octopus (bagna cauda, lime, blue dog bread) IMG_0652.JPGGnocchi (masa harina, okra, oven tomatoes)

And the Nola food goes on

When I write a post about New Orleans, it can be dizzying. I don’t think there’s a single phrase quite like it that stirs up such excitement, memories, longing, and love for me. So to combat this as best as possible, I’m going to focus on a few key moments from my trip to New Orleans a couple weeks ago for my twenty-first birthday. Here it goes!

Cooking with Evan

When I go to New Orleans, all I really want to do is go out to eat. What else? But a few days into the trip and money spent,  and my brother Evan was begging to cook for me. I agreed, and we went to the grocery store together to pick out the meal. The grocery was a very meaningful part of both of our childhoods, and to this day the “grocery scent” of fresh produce and plastic is one of my favorites.

Watching my brother cook was both a fun and sweet experience. He blared music and I drank wine and snacked on mozzarella as I watched him, in an almost eerie way, become my dad in the kitchen. I almost couldn’t tell the difference between them two, watching Evan – the way he kept the dish-towel hanging loose out of his pocket as he cooked, how he danced about the kitchen frantically, giving me cooking tips the whole way. I was surprised at how touching it was to see my brother in his new apartment’s kitchen grown up right before my eyes. I felt overwhelmingly proud of him all of the sudden, as if that pride was coming more from my dad than from me. He cooked chicken with thyme and sauteed mushrooms, I was impressed. I’ll even forgive him for using gee instead of butter.

Shrimp, Grits, and Advice with Maria in the Bywater

I have a sophisticated foodie-goddess aunt of sorts named Maria, who was visiting New Orleans just when I was. She took me for brunch/lunch at Maurepas Foods in the Bywater. I admit it, I had no idea where/what the Bywater was. I try not to be hard on myself for not knowing these kinds of things, even though I was raised there and still call it home. I like to think of New Orleans as an unfinished puzzle that I have a few, very treasured and significant pieces to, but that there are so many more pieces I have left to acquire (and some I may never acquire, this is the mysterious and swampy New Orleans we’re talking about).

While I had kept in touch with Maria, this was the first time I had seen her in ten years, so of course a “state of the union” address was necessary (And by the state of the union, what could I mean but the state of “my so-called life?”) Talks like these where I discuss my present and future can be very frustrating to me, because they make me want to actualize everything I want to be and do in life, then and there. I think these talks are especially frustrating as a writer and over-thinker, maybe because these thoughts have already been reeling in my head. But I can’t discount the value in verbalizing your own struggles and plans to someone else, and getting their perspective on your, and their own life battles. That’s what this is all about, right? Over brunch, Maria gave me great bits of advice, including a great Oscar Wilde quote, a resounding “be patient,” and to remember that nothing has to be too serious, or too forever.

Oh, and I had kimchi shrimp and grits (with the heads on, it’s Nola after all) and it was the most delicious thing I ate the whole trip.

A Food Tour in My Hometown with Ms. Lacoste

My brother and his girlfriend suggested that we “do” something in New Orleans for my twenty-first, besides you know, getting into tomfoolery. It confuses me a little when people want to “do” things in New Orleans, when all I seem to have time for is eating, sleeping, and repeating. I was feeling a little arrogant the morning of the food tour, and was probably channeling my dad (the New Orleanian of all New Orleanians) in knowing I was about to get a tour of my hometown that I probably could have given myself. Ms. Lacoste, the tour guide, was a tough broad and I was worried this was going to be quite a one-woman-show (She even scoffed at my Kosher friend on the tour for not touching the shrimp).

But as I listened to her tell the the history of Antoine’s and Arnaud’s and Germaine Wells, I realized once again how much I don’t know about this city, and also, how much Ms. Lacoste reminded me of my grandmother. That was the moment my mood softened. Although she was much bossier than my Sweetie, they both had the same black orthopedic shoes, went to the same all-girls-Catholic high school, and walked with the same teetering from side-to-side, but still pushed forward with purpose. I spent the rest of the tour following Ms. Lacoste’s footsteps, asking her things I would ask Sweetie or any grandmother, and feeling like a granddaughter again. Oh, and I’m proud to say that my family’s mausoleum is on Ms. Lacoste’s food-history cemetery tour. Yep, that’s right.

Along with these moments there was Cooter Brown’s, muffalatas, hand grenades, snoballs, Cafe du Monde, ritual sushi, and the Nola food goes on…

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IMG_0542-0.JPGKimchi shrimp and grits

IMG_0556-0.JPGHomemade thyme chicken

IMG_0566-0.PNGMiso at Hana

IMG_0564.JPGRitual sushi

The 21st

This birthday was definitely different than the twenty before; it was the first time I wasn’t excited weeks in advance, the first year I couldn’t share my birthday with my grandmother, and the first that I can legally drink. What a mix, right?

Whether this birthday is just a blip in my life-long obsession with my special day or maybe a sign I’m slowly changing, I did get that 21st moment I will never forget. I was in line for a bar on U Street at midnight on Saturday and was eager to show my ID to the bouncer. The bar and the line in were packed, and when I paused to tell the bouncer I was 21 and this was my first legal bar entrance, he looked at me like I was the gum on his shoes and pushed me through. In hindsight, I LOVED THIS, but in the moment I was very insulted. Why do I love this? I love that he did not care in any way about my birthday. It didn’t make me any less thrilled to walk in legally, but it was a humbling moment that reminded me birthdays are pretty silly affairs that bouncers/humans who have nothing to do with you may not care about.

But lastly, I’d like to thank the people who do care, and who made sure my birthday was memorable even when I wasn’t feeling it. And because they know food = memorable to moi, the food, as usual, was all there in it’s allotted times and places. Sushi on Friday night, Chipotle and my favorite Ahi Tuna salad on Saturday, and shrimp and grits at District Commons and lobster at home on Sunday. And how can I forget, the Baked and Wired birthday cupcakes my dad waited in line for! Cheers to legal cranberry vodkas, a lifetime of much classier drinks ahead, and to New Orleans next weekend!

20140722-140008-50408022.jpgSushi from Niwano Hana (look at that beautiful salmon and mango roll!)

20140722-140229-50549689.jpgThe BEST ahi tuna salad I’ve come across in my life and the only thing I get at Founding Farmers

20140722-140433-50673202.jpgPart of the Pig Plate at District Commons

20140722-140632-50792984.jpgHow pretty are these shrimp and grits??

20140722-141055-51055626.jpgSaved the sweetest for last

Baltimore and Paper Moon Diner

Last weekend a couple friends and I decide to take a mini trip to Baltimore for a day and a night (thanks, Annie, for letting us crash at your place). Mary had this idea for about a month prior, and I think we figured we’d ya know, “do the harbor” and stuff.

Well, “doing the harbor” proved to be pretty dry, and hot. I mean, you can’t exactly take a dip there, and a couple hundred other people had the very same idea for the day, so I ended up watching Mary sunbathe as I “took in the view” on my Instagram.

That’s when I decided we needed to get on a boat. Then we found out the boat cruises were $20+. After attempting to persuade the kiosk attendant I was actually a child, we found this beautiful thing called a water taxi. Sure, it had a destination and we had to get off and back on every 15 minutes, but it was so nice! Mary and I got smoothies, explored Fell’s Point, and maybe I pretended to be Beyoncé/sang “I’m on a boat” a couple times.

I’m still left puzzled with my idea of what Baltimore actually is, but after “doing” the city for a day I would call it down-home, briny, and underrated. Does that make any sense? I kept trying to compare it to D.C., but I think you can understand it more if you leave D.C. completely out of the picture. Baltimore is the major city of Maryland, after all, land of the crabs, Old Bay, and I have no clue what else. I’m sure my judgement would make a resident of Baltimore cringe, just like if they were to write a blog post about their day on Bourbon St. in New Orleans, and would probably title it something like “My Time in the Big Easy.” Bleh.

Sunday morning we ended up at a restaurant called the Paper Moon Diner, which was SO weird and great. They had cows and naked babies glued to the ceiling, a plastic cat in the drink fridge, and a bedazzled mannequin that really impressed me. The menu was one of those huge ones that leaves you hungrily flipping the pages with anxiety. I decided it was lunch time and got the Southern Turkey BLT with lemon olive aioli, bacon, arugula, tomato, and an egg on sunflower toast. It was pretty good, but if I ever go back I’m getting the Ham Den omelet with caramelized onions, ham, and smoked Gouda. YUM.

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I promise, I have been eating

It’s been a while since I’ve posted routinely on To Taste; To Know and it’s entirely due to a certain summer slump.

While ideally summer is a time of sunshine and rejuvenation (for youngsters that is), summer can also be an awkward and seemingly artificial transition time between semesters, a lot of nights-in without certain plans, and three months of endless possibilities that may overwhelm you so much you are not even certain what shows you should start on Netflix. For me, summer, or anytime I can literally do nothing brings on a whole lot of life questions, not excluding doubts of my voice as a writer and that voice’s portrayal on this very blog.

But! I promise, I have been eating, all kinds of cuisines and thinking of course maybe all too closely about food’s meaning in my life. So now I present to you a FOOD HAUL of all of the foods!! With short commentary.

This summer I have had…

20140710-185452-68092092.jpgOne of three identical bowls of beef bulgolgi don from Sushi Gin in Silver Spring

20140710-185952-68392580.jpgThe one and only traditional pad Thai I’ve gotten with my high school friends so far this summer

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20140710-190126-68486380.jpgSome homemade concoctions

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20140710-191257-69177828.jpgCeviche and a crab cake from my Dad’s birthday dinner at Seqouia

20140710-192349-69829795.jpgcrabs!

20140710-193137-70297592.jpgA pretty bowl of Cava

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20140710-194127-70887597.jpgFinally got Dad to take me for Indian even though he thinks it’s too hot outside for it

20140710-194325-71005823.jpgMy second annual lobster roll from Luke’s Lobster

20140710-194439-71079746.jpgMy momma getting festive for the Fourth with a watermelon caprese salad

Bethany beach and a bowl of belly

This past week I went to Bethany Beach in Delaware with my best friend Mary and her family. It’s a pretty steadfast tradition that I come along for a part of her family’s trip, and I love that they bring me. But, unlike when my family takes trips (with me at the foodie helm), food wasn’t the star player this week. Beach week with my friend and her family is about board games, fireworks, family bonding, and playful trips to play mingolf. In the insanely busy (and lovely) way they live their lives, this week is a true standout for them, as with many families. And there is a part of me that loves experiencing a different family’s perspective, and becoming, if only for a week, a real part of that family’s day to day happenings. I even loved making sandwiches and eggs at their beach house in lieu of anxiously Trip-Advisoring (a new verb) where my family will eat next. And is there anything as fun and relaxing as cooking in a beach kitchen with renters’ minimal kitchen ware (and without your junk)!?

But the other part of me was expectedly pleased when we did go out to eat at the beach. Both nights we went to restaurants belonging to SoDel Concepts, owned by Matt Haley, the James Beard Foundation’s 2014 Humanitarian of the Year. First was Northeast, a white-washed family-friendly place very reminiscent of, hey what do you know, the northeast. I took a gamble on the Moroccan Lobster roll (there were 4 types of lobster rolls to choose from!) and really liked it. While I can’t say what was exactly Moroccan about it in comparing the food I’ve had in Morocco with my lobster roll, it was great and was served in a curry mayo with caramelized pineapple and green onion. The second place we went to was called Papa Grande’s, and despite the generic name it was very good. Maybe I was more in love with the renovated garage-turned-surfer-Tex Mex shack then the actual food, but when I saw a pork belly rice bowl on the menu I was a happy girl. I think I’m more of a fan of bibimbap, but I will eat just about anything in a bowl with an egg on it. As to which is better, a pork belly rice bowl or a bowl of Mac and cheese eaten late at night with cheap wine and your best friend? That’s still up for debate.

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