Friday, July 30, 2010

Foodie Friday- the Perfect Panini

Foodie Fridays have been a bit sparse as of late. What can I say- when it's 104 degrees outside turning on the oven to further advance the inferno just seems asinine.

Sandwiches are a great summertime meal for this exact reason and are even better grilled.  I have probably grilled a hundred of these things, so I thought I would share with all you lovely readers my method to making the perfect panini.
The great thing about the panini is that there are thousands of combinations you can come up with... prosciutto/ mozzarella/tomato, brie/pear/arugula, nutella/strawberry, I could go on and on. Despite the combination you choose, I would venture to say that the most important ingredient of the panini is the bread. I like to use any sort of focaccia that is thick enough to slice in half.  I usually get mine at Central Market or even Super Target has small round focaccia that are good for this purpose (shown).
Before you get started, preheat your panini press.  I use a Cuisinart Griddler and love it.  The top of it is on a floating hinge so it presses sandwiches flat no matter how thick they are without squishing all the goods out of the other end. And it also comes with smooth plates that you can use to make pancakes.
The most important step of the whole process is the inside out assembly.  First cut the focaccia in half and then flip inside out so the outside is now the inside.  This not only gives you a flatter surface on the outside to press, but it will also keep all the focaccia-y goodness from getting burned.  So turn it inside out, and then build it as you would any other sandwich.
After you have it built, drizzle/brush the outside of the sandwich with olive oil.  Or if you are lazy and want to make your life even easier, spray it on both sides with this wonderful little product.  Note: by no means is this fancy, but since you don't even really taste the olive oil, I don't think it's a bad shortcut to take.
Place on panini press and push down on lid to squish flat (all technical terms). The floating hinge is great, but I usually build the panini so it angles up to one side a little and then put that side towards the back so when it squishes, it moves the top half to be even with the bottom. (Shocking display of anal retentiveness from a Non-Type A such as myself, I know).
Grill for 5- 8 minutes to your desired crispiness, pull off, cut in half and enjoy*!  I am a firm believer that grilling makes any sandwich taste better and even with as much as I'm in my kitchen- the panini press is still one of my most heavily utilized appliances.

*Enjoy carefully depending on your ingredients: I don't know if I have dull teeth or if I am just inept at the skill of eating, but I was enjoying the pictured panini when I apparently didn't bite completely through a tomato. I pulled the entire thing out of the sandwich with my teeth and it wrapped its piping-hot, fresh-off-the-grill, little self around my chin.  I started yelping and flung it off my face onto my lap where it burned my thigh. My roommate was observing all of this with quite a sense of amusement.  But seriously, that shit hurt. It burned my face so badly that it peeled. Literally peeled. I took a picture to document my tomato assault/kitchen battle wound:
Ridiculous, I know.  

But anyways, happy eating and BE CAREFUL out there!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Moose Monday with video!

I am loving the iPhone 4.  Specifically, the video camera.  It's a lot of fun to have at your fingertips when friends/roommates do something stupid amusing.

Moose isn't a "whiney" dog.  In fact, I don't know that I've ever really heard him wimper or whine.  But he will let us know what his requests are in other (less annoying) ways.  For example, when he's hungry he paws at his bowl until one of us notices and gets up and feeds him.

It's actually pretty cute, so here is the very first ever Moose Monday with video!

(Fatty McGee will also lick all the crumbs out of his bowl in the process when he is feeling especially famished.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Foodie Friday- Cucina Urbana in San Diego

Through the recommendation of a friend, I recently discovered this fantastic little website called Chowhound. It's such a great resource- not only for Dallas, but also when I'm in other cities.

We had no plans for dinner our first night in California and my dad was craving italian so I pulled up Chowhound San Diego.  We narrowed it down to Alexander's on 30th (my brother's fave that my parents had also been to) or this new place I found on CH, Cucina Urbana.  We decided to try something new and headed out to Cucina.

I'm not sure if it was the cool atmosphere, the super knowledgeable bartenders, the delicious food, or the fact that I was a little wine drunk, but I loved this place.

The place is in the Banker's Hill area of San Diego and I don't even know how to describe the decor... Rustic Modern? Urban Chic? Who knows, I'm a foodie not a decorator so I just took pictures instead:

Apparently walking into Cucina Urbana at 7pm on a Wednesday and expecting a table is a laughable aspiration (Note: they did not laugh at us. Just politely suggested that we Eagle Eye the open seating at the bar or take their next open reservation available far beyond the timeframe of our trip.)  Lucky for us, we found three spots at the bar shortly after arriving.

The bartenders are probably what made the experience for me. After this and my dinner at Neighborhood Services, I'm almost tempted to sit at the bar everywhere I go.  I love the ongoing dialogue that you can have with the bar staff that just doesn't happen when you are at a table with a sporadically seen waiter that has ten tables.  It should be noted that this is only cool when you have bartenders that a) are passionate about food, and b) know their menu well.

The bartenders at Cucina Urbana were both.  My pet peeve at restaurants is when you ask what's good and the waitperson looks at you (slightly annoyed) and says, "I don't know... everything".  I try to order not what I'm hungry for, but what the restaurant is either known for or the server raves about. Because if they're blatently saying ORDER THIS, I'm thinking I should listen.  Trust me on this, some of my best meals have been after I've ordered what they've told me to and not what I'm craving.

I took this approach in ordering my cocktail as well.  CU infuses their own liquors in-house.  {mango-passionfruit vodka, gazpacho vodka, coconut sugarcane rum, cucumber mint lime gin, vanilla bean bourban, red jalapeno tequila, and apricot brandy}.  I tried the mango-passionfruit vodka at the bartenders rec with soda.  So delicious that I googled "how to infuse vodka" when I got home. (ALEX: PROJECT!!)

CU is "an italian kitchen and wine shop".  Therefore, wines are sold at normal prices as opposed to restaurant prices.  We had a bottle of Peju Merlot for $25 + $7 corkage fee (probs a different year, but Peju is currently selling Merlot for $35 on their website).  Very cool that you can order good wine and not get your head ripped off.

The food. Mmmmm... the food. We started with the polenta with ragu, which changes daily and is obviously very fresh since they literally pour it out in front of you, as seen here (complete with The Dot's commentary):
Creamy with a great texture and the ragu was delicious.

For dinner, I ordered the grilled duroc pork chop with fennel sofrito at the suggestion of the bartender:

It was delicious, but it was no match for the short rib pappardelle with cremini mushrooms and parmesan that my dad ordered.  It kind of reminded me of the short rib stroganoff at The Porch only a grown up, more gourmet, much richer version (The Porch is one of my favorites but this dish was that good) Seriously, I've had dreams about it since:

Finally, my mom ordered the lasagna al forno (no complaints from her end either):

And for desert, some sort of delicious cookies + ice cream (forgive the lame description, the wine had already set in at this point):

It was one of the best meals I've had in a really long time. I raved about it so much that Clint and Whit went on Sunday after their wedding. It will definitely be first on my list for the next time I go back to San Diego.  I already have my sights on the following:
  • Vanilla bean bourban cocktail.
  • Stuffed fried squash blossoms with herb ricotta, basil pesto and cured lemon dressing.
  • Lemon goat cheese, zucchini, cherry tomato, and carmelized onion pizza. 
  • Spicy shrimp puttanesca over angel hair.
Can't wait to go back... Bon AppĂ©tit!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Eventful to say the least

My parents starting the celebration a bit early.

As you can tell by the post below, my big brother is officially hitched! I was in San Diego from Wednesday to Monday and it was an eventful wedding weekend to say the least.

On Wednesday shortly after we checked into our hotel suite on the 8th floor, Southern California was rocked with a 5.4 magnitude earthquake.  Let me just tell you that being 8 stories up with another 20 or so on top of you is NOT a good feeling during your first earthquake.  Being a born and bred Texan, when I initially heard the low rumbling my first thought was TORNADO!  Um... okay, how about no?  See that water out the window, that would be the ocean.  Thinking tornado is not the appropriate panic button to push. It really was pretty wild though- chandelier shaking and all.
Clint pouring the champagne that the hotel sent them on their arrival.

Thursday night we had a little welcome party in my parent's suite for everyone that was in town already.  It was the perfect low-key way to kick off the weekend- pizzas and booze.  Afterwards, all the "kids" went out to this cool rooftop bar at Hotel Solamar.

Friday we were in full-on Rehearsal Dinner mode.  We decided that we possessed enough Martha Stewart-esque skills to do all of the flowers ourselves, so we tracked down a flower market and went to work.  I think they ended up fairly well with the exception of the addition of the baby's breath.  I HATE BABY'S BREATH and tried my hardest to get away with not using it.  I arranged all the centerpieces without, but then The Dot and my aunt went back through and poked some down into each of my arrangements.
 My mom and aunt no doubt conspiring on how to sneak the baby's breath into the bucket.
The centerpieces with the bride and groom-to-be's placecards.
The finished room.
Our shelf decorations that turned out a bit "shrine-like".

The RD was perfect. The food was wonderful, everyone mixed and mingled,  and the night ended with fireworks right outside the window of McCormick & Schmick's.  We went out for a little bit after dinner, but the real excitement happened when one of Clint's friends from high school, Ferdie, (that had flown in from Hawaii) got a call that his wife who was scheduled to have a c-section the next Monday had gone into labor with their first child.  He literally threw his stuff in a bag at 4:45 in the morning and cabbed it to the airport.  It's been a week and I'm guessing there's a pretty decent chance that he might still be in the doghouse.
Ferdie and I at the rehearsal dinner before he got the big news.
Whit with her bridesmaids at the rehearsal.


After a week of cloudy, dismal weather, we got so lucky that Saturday ended up sunny and gorgeous. We got ready and then walked around San Diego taking pictures. I cannot even count the number of times that Whitney got honked at. It was so fun walking around and having people hang out of their car windows to congratulate her.

The ceremony was in Centennial Park on Coronado Island and it was the first wedding I've ever been to that had "spectators".  Obviously you had the wedding attendees, but there was also probably 20-30 people just hanging out on the grass behind just watching.  It was the weirdest thing. But I have to admit, I would have probably done the same thing if I was in the area. The other weird thing: there were two other weddings going on in the same park at the same time.  And let me just tell you, Whitney won the bride contest.  I couldn't really tell the grooms apart from the groomsman, but I'm fairly certain that Clint would have won that as well.
My cute family.
Whit's mom and brothers with a few of the spectators. If you look on the left you can see one of the brides with her purple vested, top hat wearing groomsman!
Clint's hand looks so weird with a wedding ring on!
The wedding party.

I don't have a proper camera and was dancing my ass off, so I don't have a single picture from the reception.  However, I was able to steal this one off facebook of Clint and Whit's first dance.  Don't they look so in love?  Too cute!
And I loved this one they took in the photobooth- also pilfered via facebook.  {sidenote: if you are getting married and contemplating a photobooth DO IT!  Everyone had so much fun with it and the pictures were hilarious.}
So there you go!  They are blissfully, happily married and we all had a quite the weekend celebrating with them.  

Congratulations you two!  I love you and am so proud of you guys and thank you for letting me be a part of such an important night of your lives!

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Mr. & Mrs. W

    {Established 7.10.10}

    She looked gorgeous.
    The reception went off without a hitch.
    And as a much welcomed last minute surprise, the sun came out.

    Full recap as soon as I make it back to Dallas and recover to a certain degree.

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010

    Random Bits

    • Thanks to the holiday weekend and our trip to San Diego, my one-day work week is officially over.  I'm kind of loving this... I think 1 on/6 off is a way better plan that 5 on/2 off, don't you??
    • We had a blast at Third Eye Blind!  I know they can be perceived as a cheesy 90's band, but they put on such a great show.  Mark didn't realize it was my first time to see them live until we were on our way, so he scrapped the station freebie tickets and bought seats that were probably 4th or 5th row so I could actually see them right up close. Very sweet of him.
    • The concert was at a casino and, once again, black jack and I proved to be bitter frenemies. Only I'm used to my pain being numbed by free cocktails. Vegas has this concept down pat; reservation casinos... notsomuch with the free hooch. NOT a fan of that.  You know what else I'm not a fan of? The fifty cent per hand "gambling fee".  What the HECK?? Losing my money while sober is not torture enough so they have to rub salt in the wound with a fee to play? Not cool. On second thought, I guess you can't blame them- with all due respect, I'd be pretty pissed off as well if all my land was stolen from me. So I'll just go ahead and keep my privileged caucasian mouth shut now that I think about it!  
    • I cannot even remotely tell you how excited I am about this. You know that girly gene that causes the majority of the fairer sex require a sweater if it dips below 75?  I don't have that. At. All. I swear my body temp runs about 10 degrees higher than most normal people. So 60-70 degrees in July is like freaking Christmas to me.  
    • I found out a couple days ago that my childhood crush (who is the little brother of my brother's best friend, Mike) will be in San Diego helping babysit his niece while Mike tends to his Best Man duties. Obviously, the 15+ years that have passed since I last saw him have made the crush entirely irrelevant (as has his marriage and child) but it will still be funny to run into him. The eleven year old me would be freaking out right now. :) The 28 year old in me is wishing an entirely different single little brother of one of Clint's friends was going to be in attendance but sadly he couldn't make the trip. Having an older brother does have it's perks, ladies! 
    Alright, enough rambling- back to packing! It's midnight and my suitcase is still empty. But I have my bridesmaid dress out on the hanger ready to go with my shoes.  So if all else fails, at least I have that all set for the big day!  

    Have a great week everyone!

    Friday, July 2, 2010

    Things I'm Loving

    1. I am headed to San Diego in five days and will be escaping the inferno that is Dallas in July. 
    2. I discovered a new band last night (they opened for The Pyschedelic Furs).  I can't really figure out how to describe them, but they're called She Wants Revenge and you might recognize this song
    3. I'm getting my hair cut tonight for the first time in a year.  DISGUSTING, I know, but Ian at Matthew Tully is amazing and his cuts grow out so well. And well, if it ain't broke don't fix it.  
    4. A client just decided to add a huge chunk of money to their media budget through the end of the year.  Woo hoooo!
    5. Mark and I made last minute road trip plans for tomorrow to go see Third Eye Blind.  I'm not a big fan of their more popular, as-seen-in-Jennifer-Love-Hewitt-movies music, but my absolute favorite song ever is Motorcycle Drive By* and God of Wine** ranks in my top five.
    6. And obviously... it's FRIDAY and it's a THREE DAY WEEKEND. 
    Happy 4th, Everyone!



    June in Pictures!

    June is over... which means my big brother is getting married in 8 days.  CRAZY!  I'm so excited and happy for them.  Can't wait to share some of the pictures from the wedding, but until then... June in pictures!
    This made me laugh out loud in the middle of Walgreens.  My friends love to tease me because one of my secret favorite movies is Wimbledon. I actually took tennis lessons for a year after seeing this movie.  (the fact that I'm admitting this to the world is proof I have no shame.)  Anyways, my beloved favorite movie ended up in the $2.99 bin at Walgreens. Apparently I'm one of the few fans out there.
    My new work out routine!  Going back to the old school elementary days. There has got to be a reason the staples of PE class were jump roping and hula hooping. I'm here to tell you five minutes of jump roping tore. my. calves. up. As in, I couldn't walk properly for three days. 
    The pups awaiting their goods after a visit to the grand opening of the Three Dog Bakery in Plano.
    Jodi with her surprise shoes! She had similar cork heels that I loved and borrowed from her over a year ago. Everytime I met up with her, I would be wearing them.  Finally after probably the 18th time, she told me that I loved the shoes more than she ever could and just to keep them.  I was so excited when Erika found almost the exact same style this season at Nine West. I went in the next day and bought two pairs- one for Jodi and one for me. The cashier was so confused on why I was buying two pairs of the same shoe.
    I'm completely intrigued by the flavors of Vosges chocolates. I've heard about them for awhile, but just realized that Central Market has started carrying their line.  I really want to try the jalapeno and bacon flavors. So bizarre, but it could be one of those things that ends up being amazing.
    When this bird decided to build her nest and laid one tiny egg in the flower box outside my room I was excited.  The idea of a little baby bird outside my window was cute, but I was also worried my flowers would all die since I wouldn't be able to water them...
    ... Buuut, that situation took care of itself when I came home one day to this.  I'm trying to figure out what the hell happened that would result in that many feathers. My overactive imagination immediately went to some sort of crazy, mama bird eating hawk. So sad. 
    Kool Aide Pickles, anyone? I saw these last weekend at the Dallas Farmer's Market and I was so tempted to try one, but couldn't bring myself to stomach it despite my love of pickles.

    My college friend and sorority sister, Jacque and I.  She's getting married in the fall and her bachelorette party was last weekend.
    A few of the bridesmaids after a wonderful dinner at Nobu.
    This picture cracks me up. We were at dinner for the bachelorette party and Alex was trying to take a picture of my sweatiness while Julie kept trying to sneak in the picture and we're both cracking up.  Why was I profusely sweating at dinner, you ask? We had dinner at Palomino and it was so hot inside the restaurant that I was sweating like I was mid work-out. Granted, I have a tendency to "glow" fairly easily, but this was absolutely ridiculous considering it's one of the nicer places in uptown. Never again, Palomino. Your lack of a/c just moved you to the same list at Sfuzzi in my book!
    Finally, Moose at the end of a hard day at the office.

    Thursday, July 1, 2010

    Dad Life Rap

    Two posts in one day... I'm on fire!  I can't really take credit for this one though- my cousin just sent me this video in an email and I thought it was so funny and had to share. His email said "hilarious music video dedicated to 30-something dads... yes, I can relate to pretty much all of it!".  I have no doubt that he can, especially now that he's a father of two.

    Dad Life

    My favorite part... ORNAMENTAL TURTLE!!  So funny.

    80's Education

    I was an 80's child, but there are several things about me that would make others in my generation stop dead in their tracks and demand that I turn in my slap bracelet and hyper color shirt.

    I've never seen Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, or Pretty in Pink.

    *insert angry cries of the lynch mob here* 

    I know, I know.  I have no idea why or how I missed these. I have nothing against John Hughes... I just never saw them.  I keep saying that I'll plan an 80's marathon movie night to brush up on my generation's classic coming-of-age films, but it just never seems to happen. 

    However, I am adding a little of my innaugural decade's culture to my life tonight because we are heading to the Granada to see the Psychedelic Furs.  My initial thought when I got the invitation was “Psycha-who”?? So I youtubed them and found this gem that I most certainly recognized:

    I figure at worst, it will be some amazing people watching and at best I will feel instantly transported back to my Tiger Beat poster covered walls of my bedroom with Casey Kasem blaring in the background introducing that week's top 40. 

    I'll try to remember to post a recap on if they've still 'got it' or if they should retire their member's only jackets and parachute pants.