Smothered and Covered

We have made a concerted effort to bid September adieu properly. For the two of us, this means serious eating paired alongside a generous dose of gallivanting. Last Thursday, one of my best friends from college as well as NYC was in town with her handsome new son, Walter. Jennifer's and my friendship dates back to 1998 when before meeting her, someone said we looked alike. Irrelevant information unless you are not of age. It was suggested that I approach lovely Jennifer about securing her ID. After some simple negotiations and a new identity when on the town, thus began a spectacular friendship. After university, she moved to Princeton with a job. At the time, my sister was pursuing her undergraduate degree at the university and thus Jen had the opportunity to get to know the other Breyer girl. Both are now in the City. The rest is history. I enjoyed a spectacular day with my bosom pal, her delicious baby and her parents. We ate gorgeous food, laughed, drank chilled white wine and I even got to feed the baby. Outstanding practice as I am set to be an Aunt in three and a bit months time! Our doorman in NYC informed me that I have "big boots to fill". Michelle, I am ready and reporting for duty.

On this very evening, Matthew treated me to a marvelous, whimsical date night at the Charlotte institution, Beef N' Bottle. We arrived early to grab a seat at the bar. Just my luck, bottles of wine were half price so we went big. After one toast, we made our ways to a cozy booth and took in the bustling scene. The retro place opened in 1958  was mobbed so there was a nice hum of volume and excitement surrounding us. We both command substantial appetites and had a serious yen to quench our quota for red meat. We probably eat way more red meat than one should but you only live once, right? No iron deficiencies in this neck of the woods. To start, we tackled a basket of crackers that come alongside a ball of cheese for spreading. Simple and beyond delectable. At times like these, I ignore my lactose issues. Matthew had to remind me more than once not to spoil my supper. Next up was our salads. They have an interesting presentation at this spot. Nothing fancy. In lieu of a copious mess that often steals one's appetite, they bring you a shallow bowl of crisp lettuce and a small tray of freshly sliced bell peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, red onions and the likes. I am a stickler for blue cheese and a general dollop of this finished things off nicely. Bonjour for sure. 

For our mains, I ordered a ribeye (I love the fatty marbling) and Matthew went for the strip. Both were prepared medium rare and for sides we had steamed broccoli, grilled asparagus and onion rings. When in Rome! We didn't want the evening to end and let it linger a bit longer by ordering dessert. We both agreed upon the cheesecake and it was delicious. I was not wild about the blueberry compote (that our waiter wisely suggested we get on the side) but the cake was creamy, not too sweet and the crust alone was sublime. We don't traditionally opt for dessert but this was a nice treat. No pun intended. After dessert, we polished off the bottle of wine and stood outside beneath the drizzle waiting for our Uber driver to pick us up. En route home, he regaled us of his admiration for ceviche. Had I not been so full, I suspect I would have readily partaken in the discussion. If you are looking for a cool, hipster (and slightly more economical) alternative to the traditional steakhouses in the city, do check this space out. Half priced bottles of wine offered on a Monday and Thursday should be enough reason right there. I think we might have identified a new place for post-work happy hour. Added bonus, Budweiser contacted me and asked to use my photograph taken at the bar showing their brand logo. King of Beers for sure.

On Friday, the skies opened once again. My stars we desperately need all this rain after the dry summer we had. All this water is setting my herbs in surprisingly terrific stance. I remarked that I am running again and did a 5K in the morning. I had hoped that this would improve my mood and headache as I was feeling none too plush after our epic dinner the evening before. It did not and I suspected that a sandwich would. I think the best made-to-order sandwiches in Charlotte can be found at Reid's. They bake the city's best baguettes too. What I love about Reid's is in addition to getting a delicious sandwich with quality ingredients (think fresh roasted turkey), I can pick up odd ends for meals and I almost always bump into someone I know. This day was no exception. I returned home to savor a civilized lunch for one at our dining room table. I tell you, sometimes a post-vino headache can be cured with a generous slathering of mayonnaise. After work, I insisted we celebrate Oktoberfest and so we headed to OMB. I was a bit disappointed that one could only order beers in the half liter steins. Honestly, the beer warms before I have the opportunity to drink it all. I know, I know, drink faster. Now I hate to paint myself as a rookie because in 2003 I attended the real Oktoberfest in Munich and half liter steins are for wimps there. You go big with a one liter one or you better get lost. I went big.

We had a drink in the drizzle and came home to tackle a couple of episodes of Narcos. If you are not watching this show already, get thee to Netflix. The portrayal of Pablo Escobar is stunning. I for one never knew him to be such a family man. His compound housed a bevy of wild animals including hippos. I read an article yesterday that said their meager numbers have grown from a small size to more than 60 today. Animals of Africa are thriving in Colombia. In the evening, I happily announced that the kitchen was closed. The rubbish weather and four remaining episodes of our show dictated our trajectory. We cruised down the street to a local favorite, Azteca, for some seriously delicious, cheap Mexican food. I highly recommend their piquant pico de gallo, queso, table side guacamole and carne asada. Matthew is the resident enchilada authority and he gives their's two enthusiastic thumbs up. Their fajitas are also terrific. Honestly, you cannot go wrong. They also serve ice cold Dos Equis on tap. I underscore ice cold because we visited a few spots for beers this weekend and I was shocked that many were not served cold. I am not a beer drinking authority but when I do engage, I like it ice cold. This isn't England. Crank your coolers up people. The day wore heavy on me and I hit the hay shortly after we returned home. We had a big day ahead and this one needed her beauty rest.

We were up early on Saturday, as we always are. More rain in the books but this doesn't stop us. I went for a long run around the neighborhood. Somehow the weather was conductive to three yard sales. I also had two folks stop me asking if I had seen their pets. Perhaps the massive storm had scared them off? After this, we went to our favorite coffee spot in Atherton Mill, Not Just Coffee, for two freshly brewed Americanos. I love this place and am thrilled that it is literally down the street. South End is transforming in so many positive ways. From here, we headed North to check out a couple of car dealerships. Car shopping is exciting albeit nerve-wracking. My car is pushing 16 years old and at the time of purchase, all I cared about was a moon roof and CD player. Now there is automated technology, bluetooth, navigation, ventilated seats, road side assistance, blind spot detection and the list goes on. As we were far north, we took this excuse to head over to Kindred in Davidson for lunch. Housed in a former pharmacy, this restaurant is the business. Why can't we have something like this in Charlotte? This was Matthew's inaugural visit and it won't be our last. I had the scrumptious skillet burger with quick pickles, onion, cheddar cheese and aioli. Of course I asked that it be brought out with the thick frites and a side of mayonnaise, how my Dutch friends enjoy it. Matthew, our local BBQ sauce sampler, ordered the spit fired BBQ pork shoulder sandwich with Greek yoghurt and cole slaw. Matthew confirmed that the owner Joe knows his sauce. A team was on hand filming a documentary about the chef and his restaurant so we stuck around. We got a fat slice of the Chocolate Birthday Cake, sweet cream ice cream and sprinkles. I turn 36 in five days time so it seemed fitting.

From here, we battled the interminable traffic down 77 South and stopped at Sycamore Brewery for a drink. This is one of my favorite breweries in the Queen City. It seems that many folks had recently adopted puppies and dogs so there was a lot of activity, ogling and betting down to pet furry friends. After a drink, we made our ways home for yet another reprieve and more Netflix. By this stage, the rain was coming down in buckets. Circa 5.00 pm, we dusted ourselves off and set back out to meet friends at an other Charlotte institution that was celebrating its final evening in business. The Yellow Rose at Touchstone. Many of Matthew's cronies from high school were there and it was marvelous to catch up with everyone and witness the excitement. It was a bit sad too as this place closing marks the end of an era. En route home, we had a very interesting driver from Cuba who told us what it was like to grow up in a Communist country. Food for thought. For dinner, we made use of the ripe avocados on the counter and whipped up smashed avo toast with organic fried eggs, kosher salt, drizzled flaxseed oil and red chili pepper flakes. Simplicity at its best. We were up early on Sunday to visit Matthew's folks and discuss cars with his Dad. From here, we headed uptown to watch the Panthers take on the New Orleans Saints. It was a damp, wet day and perfect for football watching. We met friends at a tailgate and then headed over to Latta Arcade to check out the new chili and beer spot, QCBC. The hot dog and chili both were outstanding but I did not think the bun was anything to sing home about because it could not hold the weight of the goodies. This said, we had no issues eating what remained with a spoon and I was so close to going back for more. After the game, we took the light rail home and then walked, which was not a bad idea given everything we had ingested. I made bison chili for dinner and subjected Matthew to two episodes of the Real Housewives of New York City reunions. Never again.

It seems that this week, rain included, is back in full swing. I am continuing with my running and finding that my time is getting marginally better. We are talking a few seconds here so I will not alert the media quite yet. Bonjour Blogger, a UK based blogging firm, very kindly published an interview with me. I am tickled to share why and how Beets and Bratwurst got its start. You might recall that the photograph is a selfie taken on the Brooklyn Bridge earlier this summer. Please excuse the pool hair. For dinner, I roasted a small chicken alongside turnips. Turnips are super delicious, pretend potatoes and great for blood detox. This is a must after the weekend of debauchery in the food department. I also prepared some chopped rapini (broccoli family) in a pan. You simple wash, finely chop and throw into the pan, still wet, with some olive oil and a bunch of chopped garlic. Let this cook for around three minutes and then add 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer for around 15. Once ready to serve, squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top along with anything spicy. I drizzled ours with chili oil, my new obsession. I am having leftovers for lunch today with a fried egg or two on top. I love leftovers and nothing like a proper kitchen recycle. If you need any guidance, check this post out. I encourage you to check out new vegetables at the grocer, google how to prepare or just email me - ebbcooks@gmail.com - it is very satisfying branching out and who knows what you will find that you like. We were on a brussel sprout kick for the longest time. If I look at one now I might turn a putrid, Grinch shade of green.

The below is my naked, healthy version of Chicken Parm. This recipe does not call for drenching in flour, breadcrumbs or frying. You simply construct the chicken breast by smearing it with pesto and topping with freshly sliced tomato and a generous handful or two of mozzarella cheese. Pop it in the oven for 45 minutes to reveal succulent chicken breasts wrapped in golden cheese. You can serve it alone, a top a salad, alongside roast potatoes, rice or with noodles. I prepared ours with zucchini noodles sautéed in garlic as well as olive oil and it was magnificent. The next go around, I plan to pound out the chicken breasts to flatten them. Just thinking about this recipe makes my mouth water. I recently discovered a new hashtag and I think it fits this space to a tee. #foodbeast

Tomato and Mozzarella Chicken Bake

2 breasts of organic chicken
2 TBS pesto
1 roma tomato
1.5 cups of mozzarella - the amount is negotiable, you can use more or less
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper

1. Place both breasts in an oven safe dish. Dust your breasts with salt and pepper and paint with pesto. Finely slice your tomatoes and place them on top. Dust generously with cheese. Pop in the oven at 450 for 35 to 45 minutes. Chicken should be cooked and cheese a lovely golden hue on top.

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