The Gleeful Gourmand: October 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Richmond's On the Map!

I would like to say that the following is just my opinion. I don't expect many people, if any, to agree with me:

I was sent a great link today to GQ online that featured the chef and owner of Richmond's own Comfort, Jason Alley, wherein he listed his favorite Richmond restaurants, and talked about how Richmond is evolving into a "food town." I was so excited to see this because finally people not only in the South and Mid-Atlantic are starting to acknowledge Richmond as a great city for food (something we Richmonders have known for a while), but it opens it up for the rest of America as well.

Some of the places I have been to and enjoyed, and some places I've heard of but never been to (but want to!), and some I'd never heard of before but am excited to try.

But. There were a couple of things about this article that rubbed me the wrong way. Let it be known that I am a HUGE fan of Comfort. Every meal I've ever eaten there has been amazing. Alley is a master of creating simple, delicious, satisfyingly true Southern comfort food in a space that is both unpretentious and fun. However, I was really turned off by how much he cursed in this article. But maybe that's just me. I've read countless articles in men's magazines (I actually really enjoy reading Men's Journal) given by actors, singers, authors, artists, etc., and more often that not the copy is barraged with their quotes containing line after line of profanity. What I don't understand is why these guys seem to think it's necessary to curse this much. Is it because they think no other man will understand their speech unless they drop the "f" bomb repeatedly?

It makes me look at these men differently. It's so unnecessary, and let's face it, terribly childish. It's the way high school boys talk when they're not around their parents (or maybe even around their parents, who knows?). And the copy suffers for it. Take the first quote from Alley: "Even Secco, a straight-up Mediterranean spot, is using all local shit." I did a double take, honestly. Because the way it reads, when you read it quickly, is that this restaurant is serving up feces. When you're talking about food, the least appetizing way to describe that food is profanity.

I understand that most kitchen restaurants are testosterone-fueled, curse-filled, trash-talking places. When the heat is on maybe it has to be. I know I wouldn't last a minute in that type of place, and frankly I wouldn't want to. But when you're representing my city to the rest of America as a place where people should come and eat and respect the food, and the city, don't you think you could refrain from cursing for just a second? Maybe? Is it really that much of a struggle to have decorum these days?

Secondly, Alley says some things about The Jefferson Hotel which are categorically untrue. 1) Gone With the Wind was not filmed there. It is rumored that the staircase in The Jefferson was the inspiration and replicated for their sets. 2) There were no random alligators in the lobby because of a flood. There were pet alligators kept in the marble pools in the lobby for show during the hotel's heyday. I know, sounds nit-picky, right? But I'm a history buff, and I think it would have been way cooler to accurately talk about how F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Elvis, and countless other famous people stayed there.

Anyway, read the article here. It's good, despite what I mention above. If you're a Richmonder, hopefully you'll have some new places to try. If you're not from these parts, come to Richmond! It really is becoming a great city for food. And go eat at Comfort if you've never been - pronto!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Whole World Is Opening Up For You (Two)

Last week Savannah and Delia had their 4-month checkup. Time has truly flown with these little ladies. When I think about it in terms of their Birthday being at the beginning of the summer, and the fact that it’s now officially fall, it feels like a long time. But if I don’t put it in that context, it feels like no time at all has passed, and I’m wondering how it is we’re coming to the close of October already.

But if I really want an indicator of how far we’ve come, it’s to look at them in their car seats. When we took them home from the hospital, I remember thinking the buckle on their car seats was unusually large. As you can see from the picture above (Savannah), it took up nearly all of their bodies. It was hard to know what to do with their tiny arms (Tuck them under the buckle? Drape them over the buckle?). Now the buckle looks perfectly normal, in just 4 short months.

We were very pleased to learn that the girls are both growing tremendously well. Savannah is closing in on 14 pounds (and is in the 50th percentile), while Delia is nearly 12 pounds (and is in the 25th). That’s remarkable to us, because their last visit at 2 months Delia was just barely on the charts. It’s encouraging that they’re doing so well, and pretty much doing everything they’re supposed to do on time even though they were born at 34 weeks.

So what are they doing now? They are very alert and aware of everything, especially each other. They are both very quick to smile, and though they are identical, they smile differently. Savannah’s smile lights up her entire face like a fireworks display, while Delia is always quick on the draw with a full, but sly smile, and a twinkle in her eye like she’s in on the joke. They’re also doing that squealing/squeaking thing babies do right before they start to really laugh.

Savannah is trying her darndest to roll over, but hasn’t quite accomplished it yet. Here’s another difference: Savannah will keep trying, and not get tired of trying or frustrated, whereas Delia will try to roll over, get frustrated, cry, or fall asleep. She reminds me so much of Liam at this age. They both love to sit up supported.

They are also sleeping through the night, and have been since they turned 3 months old, which is a blessed relief. This is a tricky time because they are really starting to let us know when they’re unhappy (Delia is the most vocal), and two unhappy babies can definitely be a challenge, but it’s also one of the best times as they start to truly react to the world around them, and take it all in. Their world is changing rapidly from day to day, and it’s a joy to simply sit back and watch them grow.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tuscan Bean Soup

Tuscan Bean Soup 

Fall is finally here! The trees here in Richmond are just beginning to shimmer with the tinge of yellow in their race to see who can put on the most spectacular show. Facebook statuses were filling up with love for Pumpkin Spice Lattes before Summer had even come to a true conclusion. The days are milder, but Virginia weather is kind of whacky during the Fall. It's cool and crisp one day, and hot the next; back and forth until Winter comes around. Regardless, it's soup season once again, and I have one I think you'll really enjoy. It's super easy to make, filling, healthy, and delicious. It also makes quite a bit, so you'll have plenty of leftovers. My mom made it for us when we were kids, and I still love it today (and so do my kids!).

What's so great about this soup is that you make it in a slow cooker, and it's ready by dinnertime. I don't use my Crockpot that much. I actually have only a few uses for it: Making this soup, making the occasional pot roast, making apple cider, and my favorite, Hot Buttered Rum. But now we've skipped ahead to Christmas, haven't we? Anyway, with the luscious flavors of tomatoes, Italian spices, and good red wine, the aroma of this soup will have you salivating all day, and it's perfect for those cool Fall nights. I give you Tuscan Bean Soup:

Tuscan Bean Soup

1 1/4 cup dry Great Northern Beans
4 cups water (to soak beans in)
2 cups water (optional)
1 14 oz. can whole tomatoes, cut up
1 14 oz. can beef broth
1 medium yellow squash
3/4 lb. Italian sausage*
1 medium onion, diced
1/3 cup dry red wine
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried Italian Seasoning
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

• Night before - Rinse and soak beans, cover overnight.
• Next morning - Drain and rinse beans, pick over. Combine undrained tomatoes, beef broth, rest of ingredients (except Parmesan cheese) in Crockpot. Cook for 6-8 hours on high, or 11-12 hours on low.
• Serve with your favorite bread, and Parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top. Yields 5-6 bowls.

* Notes: I actually use frozen, pre-cut yellow squash to save time, about half a bag. I also use Al Fresco Italian Chicken Sausage (it's nitrate free and organic). For bread, I actually use a thin-crust Boboli pizza, lightly brushed with olive oil. Sprinkle Italian Seasoning and liberally shave parmesan on top. Bake on a pizza stone at 425˚ for about 8 minutes. Enjoy!