an apple a day

Last weekend I went apple picking for the first time! Being from the South, I’ve been berry picking a couple times– fresh summer blueberries and strawberries are absolutely the best. But fall has now officially begun and I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to kick it off than driving to upstate New York, picking apples while sipping wine and spiced cider. I just love Fall!

{dedicated apple pickers}

My friends and I decided on Applewood Orchards and Winery as our apple destination. It was only an hour and a half north of Manhattan but felt like a lifetime away from the bustle of the city. Sometimes it’s just nice to get away from the noise of everything and just immerse yourself completely in nature. I would really recommend this orchard as it’s HUGE! I don’t think we even explored a fraction of the grounds yet managed to pick plenty of apples.

{crackle finish apple}

Another plus is that there is a winery on the grounds as well. For $6 you can sample 5 different wines/hard ciders. They were all delicious but the pumpkin spiced cider was my favorite. It tasted just like (tipsy) pumpkin pie in a bottle!

{delicious apple sampling}

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{gang of Johnny Appleseeds}

Applewood Orchards and Winery
82 Four Corners Road, Warwick NY 
(845) 986.1684
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Momofuku Ssäm Birthday!

{lovely pork bun}

I don’t need much for my birthday… a sweet card, a bottle of wine, and apparently lots of pork? Well not just any pork but delicious pork belly, spicy pork sausage, thinly shaved Virginia ham… all from Momofuku Ssäm Bar! What more could a (reformed vegetarian) girl want.

While I love Momofuku Milk Bar, I’d never been to any of David Chang’s restaurants so I decided my 25th birthday (dubbed by my coworkers Katherine and Maxine as my ‘Silver’ birthday) was the perfect opportunity to indulge. And ohhhh don’t let my dainty friends fool you, these girls can pack it down.

{Edwards wigwam ham from Surry, VA…with chopsticks!}

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{spicy pork sausage & rice cakes}

Besides pork, Momofuku Ssäm Bar does pretty delicious seafood too. The grilled dogfish was actually one of my two favorite dishes and the charred octopus was delicious… the Santa Barbara uni, not so much. Of all the dishes we ordered, it was the only letdown. I love seafood but the uni was just not very appetizing to me, maybe it was the soft textures or the icy granita on top. Next time I’ll have to try the oysters.

{Santa Barbara uni}

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{grilled dogfish with artichokes and pistachio}

Of course, it was my birthday dinner so we had to order dessert. There are only two options available so I chose the corn ice cream pie. So gooood! But if you’re looking for more variety just roll on over across the street to Momofuku Milk Bar. Do you think they will hire me as their new spokesmodel? Or spokesperson as all this pork will do nothing for my model figure.

{corn ice cream birthday pie}

A heartfelt THANK YOU to each and every person who made me feel so special on my birthday week!

I couldn’t have asked for a better 25th birthday.

 

Momofuku Ssäm reservation tip:

  • This is the most complicated part as Momofuku Ssäm Bar is a very trendy yet small spot. We went on a Thursday evening at 8.30p and the place was pretty hopping. Reservations are only taken if you decide to order the bo ssäm pork or the rotisserie duck meals, both of which require online reservations. Otherwise, people are seated first come, first serve. The catch is that your whole party must be present before you can even be placed on the waiting list (lame but understandable). So if you are pretty sure your fellow diners will arrive on time… get there a little early, ‘lie’ a bit, and say that your whole party is already there. They will put your name and number down then text you when your table is ready. For us it was a 45 minute wait. Luckily there are several bars in the vicinity of the restaurant where you can wait and start the night right with a few drinks (I recommend Nightingale Lounge).
Momofuku Ssäm Bar
207 2nd Ave (at 13th St), New York, NY 10003

Anyone CAN cook…

So admit it… you had no idea what ratatouille was until Pixar introduced us to that adorable movie about it. At least, I didn’t. I have a particular soft spot for the film as I first saw it with my little brother Ben on one of our ritual sibling date nights (back when he still thought I was cool). Afterwards, we went to Red Robin (his pick) and I paid… hmph, now that he’s taller than I am, it’s time for payback.

After the movie though, I started seeing ratatouille everywhere! A classic Mediterranean dish, ratatouille is not only flavorful but really healthy (vegan) and easy to make. I love all the vegetables that go into it: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. A simple dish like this does indeed prove that it’s true, ‘Anyone CAN cook!’ (baking, however, is still strictly for the pros).

{veggie bellybuttons}

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{bell pepper confetti}

This dish also tastes great both hot and at room temperature (even cold) which makes for nice leftovers or packed lunch. My version is the traditional rustic dish, but to see the ‘movie’ version look at this cute take on Smitten Kitchen. I may have to make it with my brother next time I’m home.

Ratatouille

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium eggplant, medium diced with skin on
  • ½ teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon fresh or dried rosemary
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 2 zucchini squash, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, diced
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

(1)  Set a large 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes.
(2)  Add the eggplant, thyme, and rosemary to the pan. Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is partially cooked, about 5 minutes.
(3)  Add the diced bell pepper, zucchini, squash and garlic. Drizzle over another tablespoon of olive oil and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes.
(4)  Add the canned tomatoes and salt and pepper, to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper for me), and cook for a final 5 minutes.
(5) Stir well to blend and serve over a bed of cooked couscous or quinoa, either hot or at room temperature.
 

Note: Make sure your pan is large enough. I may or may not have had to divide my ratatouille halfway through cooking because my pan was overcrowded (ok, I definitely did). You want the vegetables to lightly sauté, not steam.

Makes 6 servings

first comes prom, then comes marriage…

{my Morgan, the beautiful bride}

The main reason I was in Nashville last weekend was to partake in my friend Morgan’s wedding! I was so incredibly honored to be a part of Morgan and Nick’s wedding… it was a fun-filled weekend in celebration of a wonderful couple I’ve known for so long. In fact, I was actually there on their very first date… our senior prom.

Here’s a little flashback… can you spot us?

Morgan was absolutely glowing on her wedding day. I managed to snap only a few photos but I figured I’d share them so you can see some of the unique little touches from Morgan and Nick’s special day.

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The Spence

{pork belly}

For most of this week I will be in Georgia visiting my family: catching up on So You Think You Can Dance, eating my mom’s cooking, and soaking up the last few days of summer. September is also a nice time to celebrate birthdays as both mine and my sister Christine’s fall within the month.

As an early birthday celebration, our whole family had dinner at The Spence last night. I’ve previously talked about what a HUGE fan my whole family is of Richard Blais and he certainly does not disappoint with his new restaurant! He was actually at the restaurant last night and was super nice and welcoming. I genuinely loved every dish we ordered (and we ordered A LOT) but my favorites were the lobster knuckle sandwich, the bone marrow and tuna tartare, and the pork belly entree (my first time having bone marrow or pork belly… I’m SOLD!).

{oysters and pearls}

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{bone marrow and tuna tartare with fried quail eggs}

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