Due Stagioni and Beer Dinneroni

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This is a tale of two seasons and two pizza recipes.

Kyle and I hosted a potluck vegetarian beer dinner at our house Saturday night. The theme was Farewell Summer, Hello Fall and the guest list approached twenty, for the largest Vegology beer dinner yet. For a month, we tasted and tested beers. Two weeks before the event, we began to prepare the house, yard, and décor.  One week before the dinner party, I realized that merely a wish and a dream would not get twenty people to fit into our house and around the same table, so I placed my order with Party Perfect to rent banquet tables and folding chairs for the patio. By Friday afternoon, the only thing I had not prepared for yet was what dish to make. It was the element I was least worried about, since I’ve thrown together my dishes for the last two beer dinners at the last minute.

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As I drove home from work on Friday evening, I started to think about what dishes I could prepare. The loose guidelines I imposed on myself and the guests – “summer or fall, any kind of small plate” – were not focused enough, so I had way too many ideas floating around in my head. I started to think about transitional seasonal dishes, ones that could bring you from summer into fall, and foods that I could make ahead and reheat at party time, and then it hit me. Four seasons pizza.

Quattro stagioni is a pizza with four different ingredient sections, representing the four seasons: artichokes for spring, olives for summer, mushrooms for fall, and prosciutto for winter. I decided to make miniature pizzas, or pizzettes, and do them in two seasons, due stagioni. Because I couldn’t think of a beer that would pair well with both olives and mushrooms, I did seasoned zucchini for summer on one half, and mushrooms for fall on the other, with a basil pesto base and fresh asiago melted on top (thank you,  Dany Schutte of Ellwood Thompson’s for the cheese suggestion!). The zucchini seasoning I used was the Village Garden piquant spice blend, which can be purchased locally at the South of the James farmers’ market or the Carytown farmers’ market.

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I knew the pizzette idea was a winner. I woke up Saturday morning and floated to Project Yoga at the VMFA feeling confident. After a relaxing practice in the cool autumn-like morning sun, I purchased my ingredients, some fresh flowers for the table, and a few more pieces of décor, and headed home to prepare for the party. Kyle was at work so I had to tidy up the patio, set up the tables and chairs, decorate, clean the house, and prepare the food all by myself. Everything was going really smoothly and I even had time to practice my introduction speech for the Due Stagioni Pizzettes, and decide whether to curtsy or bow when our guests gave us a standing ovation and declared the dish the most clever and delicious thing they had ever had the pleasure of tasting.

Then, suddenly, it was forty-five minutes before party time and I hadn’t made my dish yet, three people had cancelled, and Kyle was stuck at work. I frantically sliced zucchini, rolled out and cut dough, and preheated the oven. I was still assembling my dish as guests started to arrive and I distractedly pulled it out of the oven as the first course was being served. By the time my turn came around to serve, my award-winning pizzette idea had made a spiral descent down the drain and turned out to be an oily, crispy mess. A mess that left me wishing that I had chosen a stronger beer to wash down my soggy burnt crust, instead of that light, crisp pilsner, served with a side of hubris.

I made some mistakes, and I am going to outline them here so you don’t have to make them yourself. Because the next day, I repurchased all my ingredients and made the whole dish over again to prove to myself that it would work. And it was good!

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So here are the don’ts of making miniature pizzas, besides the obvious ones (don’t wait until the last minute to test your recipe, don’t cook during your dinner party, don’t shut off your brain while entertaining in your kitchen).

  1. Don’t roll out your crust too thin. I used a thinner crust the first time, thinking that a thicker crust would swallow up or spit out the delicate toppings as it rose. On the remake, I cut out the pizza rounds from a thicker sheet of dough and it worked much better.
  2. Don’t forget that your pesto has oil in it. Don’t use too much oil when sauteing your zucchini. I used way too much oil overall in the first batch, and when I pulled the pan from the oven, the oil from the pesto and the zucchini had seeped out and formed a slick on the baking sheet.
  3. Don’t second guess browned edges. I checked on the pizzettes at one point and saw browned edges but the top of the dough still looked soft and wet, so I left them in the oven for a few more minutes. Big mistake. The pesto pizzettes turned into hockey puckettes very quickly.

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Lucky for me, we had a beautiful evening with great food and beers and excellent company. Hopefully the nightmare of the failed pizzettes haunted only me that night, as everyone else seemed to have a wonderful time. Here is a rundown of the courses we enjoyed at our fourth ever potluck vegetarian beer dinner:

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad with Crispin Cider – Liz and Alex from I Heart Vegetables – deliciously fresh and tart, with sweet dressing and two kinds of nuts for crunch, a great start to the meal.

Eggplant, Chickpea, and Potato Curry with Three Brothers The Great Outdoors – Sydney and Andrew from chic stripes – perfect as the sun started to set and the temperature began to drop, a dish with summer vegetables and fall spices to keep us warm, and a beer that reminds you of camping.

Cracklin’ Cauliflower with home brewed rye pale ale – Brittany and Isaac from Eating Bird Food – Brittany is right that this cauliflower is great at any temperature, and the flavor went really well with Isaac’s impressive home brew. I’ve made her recipe before, and it’s a keeper.

Due Stagioni Pizzettes (improved recipe below) with Victory Prima Pils – me and Kyle – thank goodness Kyle’s sense of humor and optimism pairs well with my high-strung perfectionism, so when the first attempt fell flat we could laugh it off and have another beer. . . then try again the next day!

Cauliflower “Cous Cous” Salad with Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Wild – Paul and Leah – I need to get this recipe and I’ll link to it here. We loved this pairing of a dish and a beer that both came with a twist – the “cous cous” is actually cauliflower and the beer is actually Lagunitas Little Sumpin’, with an additional wild yeast strain.

Skillet Apple Pie with Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout – Shannon and Evan from Thirsty Richmond and Boho Cycle Studio – so decadent, this apple pie was perfect, not an exaggeration, and it elevated my appreciation of this milk stout, as well as cast iron skillets. Oh, and blogger husbands, who are (in my humble opinion) the very best.

Deconstructed Apple Pie with Cider – Brock (Isaac’s brother) and Alex from Quarter Life Cupcake – I did not know that a vegan, gluten-free homemade dessert could be so good! I am officially a believer now.

And then the after-dinner bonus beers came out, including Goose Island Harvest Ale from Al (and poor Adrienne who had to stay home with a cold), Dogfish Head Tweasonale, The Alchemist Heady Topper, Goose Island Bourbon County, and more. Thank you to everyone who made this dinner special!

Due Stagioni Pesto Pizzettes

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Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces pizza dough, homemade or store bought, rolled out to 1/4 inch thick
  • medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced – both shiitakes and maitakes are good (maitake mushrooms are our favorite)
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto, homemade or store bought
  • Italian seasoning or herb/spice blend of your choice for the zucchini
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 ounces fresh (soft) asiago cheese, or mozzarella, grated

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in a medium pan. Add zucchini to pan and saute until tender, adding seasoning to taste halfway through cooking. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat in medium pan. Sprinkle the oil with 1/2 tsp black pepper. Add mushrooms to pan and saute until tender, then remove from heat.
  4. Using a 2-1/2 inch round cookie cutter, punch circles in the rolled out pizza dough and transfer to baking sheet. This should yield about 12-15 pizza round.
  5. Top each pizza round with pesto, dividing evenly among all rounds. Place two zucchini slices on one half of each round, and a spoonful of mushrooms on the other half. Top with grated cheese.
  6. Bake in preheated oven 10-12 minutes until edges begin to brown – then remove immediately!
  7. Can be reheated from refrigerated in 350 degree oven for 4-5 minutes if needed.
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Feeling French in Brooklyn

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Last month I made a last-minute trip to Brooklyn to visit my friend Melissa for the weekend. I arrived on Saturday and left on Sunday, and I think the whole visit clocked in at around 27 hours. We made the most of our time together and had a lot of fun wandering around Brooklyn, eating and drinking everything in sight. On Saturday afternoon, we stopped at Sweet Melissa Patisserie for some tiny desserts.

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We first discovered Sweet Melissa in the summer of 2009 and immediately fell in love with the adorable décor and delicious pastries. Plus Melissa obviously loved the name. She took the quaint bakery in Park Slope as a sign that she needed to move from Richmond to New York, and that when she did, she needed to live in Brooklyn. Later that year, Melissa moved to Brooklyn. I visit a couple of times a year, and I don’t think we’ve ever skipped a trip to Sweet Melissa. It’s not the best bakery in Brooklyn, but it’s pretty good, and it holds sentimental for me. This was the first time I had gotten the mini desserts and I am so glad that I did. We split them while sitting on a park bench outside the bakery. I’ve never been to France, but it all felt very French to me.

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The next morning we continued to indulge our Francophile tendencies by traveling to Williamsburg for brunch at Le Barricou. I was a little nervous that I was not hipster-cool enough to fit in at this restaurant (or in this neighborhood), but I managed to blend in just fine. We slipped into the restaurant around 10:00 AM with no wait, which was a nice surprise. We had expected a long wait, but it seems that we were just early enough to get a table before the rest of the neighborhood shook off their hangovers and ventured out in search of greasy food, coffee, and mimosas.

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A new development during this New York trip is that Melissa is on an espresso macchiato kick. I had forgotten how much I liked them, so I followed suit and had a few macchiatos during my trip. The one at Le Barricou was not the best, but it did give me a jolt of energy. Kyle has poetically described mornings in Paris spent people-watching while sipping dark, rich espresso and idly chewing on pieces of baguette. Kyle didn’t really care for Paris but he fell in love with its espresso. I wonder if the experience at Le Barricou would have reminded him of his time in France or if it would have just reminded him of his last trip to Brooklyn.

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The French country style décor and the brunch menu certainly felt French to me. The vegetarian egg white omelette that I ordered might not have been very authentic, but it was tasty. The egg whites were fluffy and stuffed with delicious seasonal vegetables. The potatoes were perfect, which is a word that I don’t use often, because I’m always trying to think of ways to improve upon the dishes that I eat, but I wouldn’t change a thing about these herbed fried potatoes. The side salad had a light citrus vinaigrette that provided a bright contrast to the heavy potatoes.

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We cleaned our plates, which was not an easy task. The food was rich but it was so mouth-wateringly delicious that we couldn’t stop going back for more. I had not eaten to the point of pain in a long time, but this meal left us both completely stuffed.

One nice surprise about the meal at Le Barricou was the great service. I expected a little better-than-you attitude from the wait staff, with their tight pants, ironic facial hair, messy hair buns, and bright red lipstick. However everyone we came in contact with was very friendly and helpful, no attitude or snark at all. Maybe it was my messy bun and my skinny jeans.

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As we finished our meal, we reflected on how slightly French our short weekend had been. Walking back to the train, Melissa talked about her business trips to Europe over the last year. She said that Denmark felt really weird for her (but kind of awesome) because, being fair-skinned with long, straight, brown-blonde hair and grey-green eyes, in Denmark she was surrounded by people who looked exactly like her. I can’t imagine what that would be like, since I have always lived in pretty racially diverse areas, and have never really felt like I blended in to a crowd of people who looked exactly like me. I then wondered aloud where I would go for a similar experience. Having a mix of European ancestors in my family tree, including Irish, German, and Swedish, I don’t think I look anything other than American. Without skipping a beat, Melissa said,

“I always thought you looked French.”

Maybe it was the tiny pastries, the double shot of espresso, or the oeufs that made Melissa think that. Or maybe there’s something to it? Upon further consideration, I’m pretty sure the only thing that makes me look French is my default facial expression: bored.

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But when I want to feel French and can’t afford the transatlantic plane ticket, I know where to go.

Sweet Melissa Patisserie, 175 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Le Barricou, 533 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY

Kyle and I are packing our passports and taking a little getaway this week (not to France). However, sometimes we like to feel like we’ve been transported to another country without shelling out for the expensive flight and hotel room. Food can do that for you; so can ambiance. I recall an innovative low-budget at home date night while we were in college, that involved stir-fry, chopsticks, pillows on the floor, and a kung fu movie marathon.

What do you do to feel like you’ve traveled to another country while staying in your own town?

Vegetarian Beer Dinner III

Thanks everyone for the thoughtful comments and words of encouragement on my last post. This beer dinner recap is a few weeks late, but I cut myself some slack, since the week after the beer dinner I focused solely on preparing for my first half marathon, and I have been recovering ever since! Thank you for your patience!

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It’s that time of year again. . .

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Seasonal vegetarian beer dinner time!

A few weeks ago, I hosted a potluck vegetarian beer dinner to celebrate the flavors of late winter and early spring. Some good friends showed up with vegetarian dishes paired with seasonal beers, and we all enjoyed tasting a diverse array of delicious combinations. You might recall that this is the third dinner of its kind that we have hosted en la casa de Vegology.

Check out my recaps of past beer dinners here:

Vegetarian Beer Dinner I – Summer 2012

Vegetarian Beer Dinner II – Winter 2012

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As usual, we had notebooks for taking notes on our favorite pairings, as well as the ever-present “Beer: it’s not just for dinner” cocktail napkins. Of course there were plastic tasting glasses, because my only dishwasher is named Kyle, and I love him enough to keep him from washing fourteen glasses by hand when we already have fourteen plates and fourteen forks to take care of!

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I offered oyster crackers as a palate cleanser this time around, and they were a real hit. Someone enthusiastically commented “I only go wine tasting for the oyster crackers!” I have to say that I agree that these little crackers are one of the highlights of wine tasting in Virginia. Smile

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Our dining room was jam packed with chairs and people. I don’t know if I could have fit any more seats in there! Not only was the dining room full, but we also packed the refrigerator and a cooler full of a wide variety of craft beers. Here is the lineup: Potter’s Craft Cider, Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Brewer’s Art Debutante, Bell’s Oarsman Ale, Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils, and The Duck Rabbit Brown Ale.

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Course 1 – Sarah (The Smart Kitchen), Liz (I Heart Vegetables) and Lindsay (Neat As You Please)

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Sarah, Liz and Lindsay put together an awesome appetizer of Apple Fennel Salad Skewers with Creamy Ginger Apple Honey Mustard Dressing (recipe). They paired this with Potter’s Craft Cider, and the complementary apple flavors were a great fresh start to the meal. Sarah won the prize for best pairing story, explaining why she wanted to use Potter’s cider (a cute guy in the tasting room had something to do with it) and how she came up with her dish (why not put salad on a stick?).

Course 2 – Adrienne (Hippie Itch) and Al

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I was super impressed by Adrienne’s made-from-scratch samosas (recipe from Skinny Bitch), that were totally vegan and bursting with flavor. Just like their pairing, the Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, these perfectly portioned appetizers packed a serious punch, but with enough restraint that they didn’t knock you completely over, so you could really enjoy the complex flavors inside. If I can muster the patience to make this dough from scratch, I would like to try making this one at home sometime.

Course 3 – Lauren and Kyle (Vegology)

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For the entrée course, I made Spiced Red Lentil Chickpea Cakes. We all joked that Adrienne and I must have been on the same wavelength with the Indian flavors! You can follow the link above to get the recipe and to read about how I came up with my pairing. Kyle and I tasted a lot of beers before we chose this one, and we ultimately decided to serve Debutante, a saison which is a collaboration beer from Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Brewer’s Art, both from my hometown of Baltimore.

Because it was dark by the time we got to my course and I couldn’t get a great picture during the dinner, I can’t resist posting this glamour shot of the dish here:

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Course 4 – Paul and Leah

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Our friends Paul and Leah brought over a pairing that, no matter how fast you paddled or how hard you tried, you couldn’t get away from. Beets! After having this tasty Golden and Crimson Beet Salad with Oranges, Fennel and Feta (recipe), we noticed that little traces of bright pink kept showing up in subsequent courses. Check out the next two photos on this post to see what I mean – we got the beet! The beer paired with this course was Bell’s Oarsman Ale. I always thought this beer tasted a little sour (in a good way) and after reading the Bell’s description, I realize there is a better way to describe the flavor – citrusy tartness – which paired very well with the citrusy beet salad. This was one of the few dishes that I went back for seconds on, so I know it will make another appearance in my kitchen soon.

Course 5 – Bob and Ashley

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Our friends Bob and Ashley hit a home run with their comfort food pairing, which included a creamy polenta cooked with beer and Asiago cheese, with Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils to wash it down. I begged to keep the leftovers and Bob and Ashley were too nice to say no, so I was treated to a second serving of this delicious polenta the next day (okay, the next morning. no judge!) Bob is a skilled home brewer that taught Kyle a lot of what he knows about brewing beer. Bob and Kyle’s latest home brew creations came out a little bit later, which is always a fun add-on to the tasting dinner.

Course 6 – Shannon (Thirsty Richmond) and Evan

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Shannon, the Queen of the Beer Cakes, did it again with another fantastic beer baked dessert. Even though Shannon’s oven failed to turn on the day of the dinner, Shannon found a way to get us a creative dessert. If I had found myself in the same situation, I might have just given up and picked up a pack of cookies on the way over, but Shannon persisted. Spontaneously turning her vegan cupcake recipe (similar here) into a vegan brownie recipe, she fired up the toaster oven and pulled off a brownie bar that was so good that I didn’t even miss the cupcakes (and let me tell you, her cupcakes are out of this world). She used Duck Rabbit Brown Ale in the batter and as the pairing beer.

Not 100% confident that the brownies would turn out well, Shannon also picked up a pack of Oreos (vegan!) on the way over just in case. We cleaned our plates and made a dent in the Oreos. And then there were all those leftover “extra” beers that mysteriously disappeared, one by one, as the night went on. Go team beer dinner!

Thanks to all who participated. We had a blast and I’m already dreaming up plans for the next one this summer!

We Did!

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It’s official! We tied the knot!

Check out Brittany’s great write up and pictures here: Blue Ridge Mountain Adventures (thanks, Brittany!)

We had the best weekend of our lives, and we felt so fortunate to be surrounded by our family and friends at this special time in our journey together. Kyle and I are headed to Breckenridge, Colorado for our honeymoon this week and I am sure that I will have plenty of photos and stories to share when I return.

And now, according to a random number generator, the winner of the wedding favor giveaway is. . . (drumroll, please). . .

Michelle!

Congratulations, Michelle! I’ll get your coffee to you when I return from my honeymoon. 🙂

A Foodie Bachelorette Party

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Credit: Meghan McDonald

I recently hit the road with some of my best friends for my bachelorette party in Washington, D.C. It wasn’t the wildest of weekends but it was absolutely the most fun I have had in awhile. I want to share some of it here because the girls planned a very personalized bachelorette weekend which, of course, included some fantastic food. It also included jumbo slices of pizza purchased from a small carryout restaurant located one block away from Town Danceboutique. We don’t need to talk about that.

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She feels pretty, oh so pretty

My wonderful sister planned a fabulous weekend of dancing, drinking, dining, and pampering that I will never forget. It all started with a trip to Town Danceboutique for the Friday night drag show, at which I was teased for being a bachelorette and then forced to awkwardly shake my money maker on stage. After the show, Town turns into a big dance party with an amazing crowd and nonstop awesome music.

The club can’t even handle me right now.

After an evening of debauchery, we slept in at our swanky hotel, Helix, which is located in the hip Logan Circle neighborhood. A few Starbucks coffees and hot showers later, everyone was ready for a food porn marathon.

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hot

We began with brunch at Co Co Sala, a “chocolate lounge” that offers a three course prix fixe brunch on weekends. First, a round of brunch cocktails took the edge off.

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Clockwise, from left: Berries & Bubbles, Fire & Ice, Wasabi Bloody Mary, Peachy Keen

We enjoyed our cocktails with the amuse bouche, which was a cocoa flavored ball of fried dough, rolled in cinnamon sugar, drizzled with chocolate caramel, and sprinkled with nuts.

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One of the highlights of brunch was the Aztec Cheese Enchilada, which is a “pepper cheese enchilada with  guava sauce and avocado,” with a ” shaved fennel & mache salad with chipotle chocolate ganache, jalapeno jack cheese & guava lime vinaigrette.”

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Another hit was the Cheese Magic, which included “twice baked upside down cheese soufflé,  leek sauce and tomato marmalade” with a “blue cheese pear salad with walnuts, cranberries, & honey balsamic vinaigrette.”

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The Grown-up Grilled Cheese was perfect for a cool and cozy late morning meal. Cheddar cheese was melted between slices of truffle-scented brioche, and then the sandwich was served alongside a cup of roasted tomato soup and a cheese fritter.

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The two best desserts were the peanut butter cheesecake with a milk chocolate and peanut brittle crunch, and the Onyx, which was a dark chocolate mousse with vanilla creme brulee, salted caramel, crispy chocolate pearls and a brownie bottom. The Onyx was so delicious that I managed to eat the whole thing, even though I was already stuffed.

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I am so happy that I’m not starving myself to fit into the wedding dress, or I may have missed out on all this amazing food. I recently came to the realization that the only reason I haven’t had a single bridezilla moment or major meltdown is that I’m not trying to lose weight. Seriously, the stress of wedding planning on top of working an amazing full time job, volunteering on the weekends, and developing my freelance writing career is enough to cause the occasional freak-out. If I were dieting on top of that, forget it. I think the reason some brides turn into psychotic, self-centered, emotionally unstable monsters is that they can’t handle the stress while being so damn hungry all the time. Not a problem for me!

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Onward to the best dinner I have had in a long time. My lovely sister (and gorgeous maid of honor) made us reservations at the number one restaurant on my list of places to try in D.C.! Dinner at  Zaytinya with my closest friends was simply wonderful. Zaytinya is a Mediterranean tapas restaurant that serves Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese inspired mezzes under the direction of Chef José Andrés.

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Zorro was here

The meal began with bread and oil, which I went easy on since the best was yet to come.

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I ordered a bottle of the Agiorgitiko, Gaia Estate 14-18h, which is a Greek rosé. After a couple of course, one bottle for the table turned into two bottles, which is exactly how you should do tapas or mezzes, in my opinion.

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Everything we ate there was amazing and we practically licked every plate clean. Some of my favorites were:

  • Maroulosalata – heirloom lettuces, dill, mizithra cheese, red wine vinegar dressing, nasturtium flower petals
  • Bantijan Bil Laban – crispy eggplant, roasted garlic-yogurt sauce
  • Bamya – caramelized okra, fresh and crispy chickpeas, cardamom tomato stew
  • Mercimek Koftesi – traditional seared red lentil patties, preserved lemon yogurt, pomegranate, lettuce leaves

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After dinner, we took a long walk back to our adorable hotel and did a fun spa night, complete with DIY manicures and pedicures. . . and enough sparkling wine to make us just clumsy enough to forget we had wet nails and consequently ruin our manicures. The itinerary of this trip was so personalized to my tastes, and while it might not have been everyone’s cup of tea, this bachelorette weekend was so uniquely me. I am so grateful that I have such wonderful friends to come along for the ride.

Party Rock Drink Recipe Roundup

I’m checking out for the weekend. . . for my bachelorette party!

photo credit: Carissa Schmidt

I thought I’d leave you with some of my favorite drink recipes below. On a related note, I would love to hear your favorite drink recipes (and hangover cures) in the comments. . .

Have a fun weekend!

Blueberry Vodka Lemonade

Raspberry Mint Daiquiri

Red Sky at Night

Spa Day Citrus Splash

Pomegranate Mojito

 

Planning and Playing in Charlottesville

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It has been a little while since I have done a wedding planning update. I’m not ready to share all the fun details quite yet, but I wanted to show you some of the things we have been up to. The wedding is just over 6 weeks away (aaahhhh!) and we have been spending a lot of time in Albemarle and Nelson counties, planning, making decisions, and putting the finishing touches on our wedding details.

One of the more interesting tasks was our pie tasting with Lynnette from Family Ties & Pies, who will be making the pies for our dessert table. I have mentioned before that we are planning a seasonal meal for our reception that will incorporate as many local ingredients as possible. For dessert, we have opted to do assorted pies instead of a large decorated cake.

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We are thrilled that Lynnette uses a lot of local ingredients in her pies and tries to make them a tad healthier by substituting natural sweeteners in place of refined sugars. The tasting got us really excited and committed to the dessert plan. When my Dad sent me this great article last week, I felt even more strongly that we had made the right decision!

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I don’t know (and frankly don’t care) if anyone else will be missing the wedding cake, but we are absolutely sure that we will not miss it one bit.

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Last weekend I had my hair test in Crozet along with a few other meetings and had to spend Friday night out near Charlottesville. I was able to convince some friends to join me over the holiday weekend, and we rented a cabin in Afton for two nights.

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It is amazing how two nights can feel like four or five when you don’t have TV or Internet access. It was positively blissful and exactly the recharge that I needed. I enjoyed my morning coffee with a fantastic view and the sounds of nature all around me, and spent my evenings playing games in the cabin and roasting marshmallows around the outdoor fire pit.

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We even squeezed in a hike at Crabtree Falls to work off the beer we drank on Friday night. I did not get the full benefit of the activity because I had to stop about two-thirds of the way up, turn around, hike back down and head to the cabin to shower and get out the door for an appointment. Although I missed the view from the top this time, I am still grateful to have had the opportunity to get out there on a beautiful morning.

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We met up with friends later at one of our favorite spots, Blue Mountain Brewery, for an early dinner.

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The veggie pizza was delicious, as always, and of course we had to get a sampler flight and some growler fills while we were there.

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Most of our recent trips to Charlottesville and Afton have been very rushed. I was really happy that we had the chance to stop and smell the roses (or hops as the case may be) this time around. My next visit is in a week, and then again the week after that. By the time I walk down the aisle in October, I’ll almost feel like a local!

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When I returned to Richmond from this last trip, I had about 36 hours to unpack, do laundry, tie up some loose ends at home, and repack for a weeklong business trip. Luckily, I managed to get the last of the wedding invitations out before I hit the road again.

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45 Days!