I love to make French Toast this time of year. My husband loves it, too, he says that my French Toast is the best (so sweet <3). I think the secret is to definitely use brioche or challah, that plus a million ingredients in the batter - read on!
In addition to eggs and cream, I use vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange juice, lemon zest, and sherry. So many flavors! It is so worth it. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, either slice the bread (thickly, 1 inch) the night before and leave it out to get stale, or toast it slightly in the morning. Then make the batter and soak each side of the bread for 10 minutes. Just before you cook the toast (in butter, of course), sprinkle one side with granulated sugar - this will created a yummy bit of caramelization. Do the same to the other side before you flip it over to cook.
Top with lots of butter and some maple syrup. Yum. This is definitely the perfect French Toast - custardy in the middle, little bit of caramelization, lots of flavor.
I could tell immediately from the dialogue that this was a play adaptation, and I was right. The movie portrays the funeral of the patriarch of an extremely dysfunctional family, set in the desolate plains of Oklahoma. The cast (including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Juliette Lewis) acted the crap out of some very dark and intense material - addiction, depression, suicide, abuse, and incest. This is not a feel good movie (you know it's bad when incest is the best scenario), but it is very good and it will make you think.
As for the food inspiration - there was a ton! Many of the most tortured scenes revolved around food, including the horrible funeral dinner and the infamous "eat the fish!" scene. The moment that I was drawn to was Meryl Streep's character talking about her last interaction with her husband over biscuits and gravy. She must have said the phrase "biscuits and gravy" ten times. I'm not even that big a fan of biscuits and gravy, but that was what I wanted to make.
I wanted to make something special, not basic, so I went to Pinterest thinking I would find an herbed biscuit recipe or something. But what came up were a ton of recipes for biscuits and gravy casseroles. I had never heard of that before and it sounded awesome! Some were just biscuits, gravy, and cheese; but I liked the look of one that included eggs (kind of like a strata).
If you are starting to panic because Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) is closing in and you don't have a dinner plan yet, fear not - I have you covered! I have a round-up of all of my holiday recipes, from protein to sides to dessert, and even breakfast! So please enjoy and Happy Holidays!
You know, I tried to be good and blog about Thanksgiving stuff before the holiday so that it might actually be useful to somebody. I even made a few dishes in advance, but I didn't post about them in time. Oh well! Prepare for a lot of Thanksgiving type posts!
Anyway, we don't have any family where we live so we normally travel for Thanksgiving. But this year we decided to switch it up and travel for Christmas, so we were on our own for Turkey Day. We had originally planned to stay at the Inn at Little Washington (!!!), but Jasper got sick and we had to cancel. So then I had to figure out what to make at the last minute for 2 people - initiate panic mode. But I got my menu together on Monday, went to the grocery store on Tuesday (which was surprisingly not that crazy), and prepped on Wednesday.
I tried to cut it down to just the basics - turkey (breast only), stuffing (half recipe), mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce (bought), and rolls (bought). It was still way too much food for 2 people so there are lots of leftover sandwiches in my future.
First up, the star - turkey. There was no way I was going to roast a whole turkey for 2 people, so I bought a whole breast on the bone. I definitely could have gone with a half breast, but now we have lots of sandwich meat! And guys, I don't want to brag or anything, but I am SO GOOD at turkey. Brined, air dried, stuffed with sage butter, rubbed with avocado oil, and started at a high temp - this baby was PERFECT. It was juicy and tender with crispy skin and super crazy flavorful. Love it. It's also really easy to carve - you just cut along the breast bone until the meat is released, then turn it on its side and slice.
You guys, I have been in such a writing funk since I have gotten back from vacation. I don't know what is going on! But I do want to tell you about the restaurants we visited while we were in San Francisco, and I will try to post more frequently from now on. Kailey, my sister-in-law (who we were visiting), is a chef in SF (here; that's her at 0:35 and 1:35), so we let her take us on a culinary tour of her favorite spots. But I determined on our first day that I was just going to enjoy the vacation and not worry about taking photos. So I don't have any food photos to show you, sorry!
Before we get to food, I should mention that we stayed at the Hotel Drisco and really enjoyed it. We had a corner room on the top floor and the views were amazing - we could see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and most of the city. All the windows really helped because, like many older buildings in the city, Drisco has no air conditioning. Opening all the windows made for a lovely cross-breeze, though it was too noisy to leave them open at night. The hotel includes a continental breakfast, and I am not talking about just cereal and muffins. They have all kinds of pastries with homemade jams, spreads, and toppings. Also fresh juices, cereal, yogurt, bagels, fruit salad, hot oatmeal, smoothies, salami and cheese, hard boiled eggs, and antipasto style veggies. In addition to various coffee blends, they will also make espresso drinks to order. It is a very nice perk. They also have a wine tasting every evening with cheese and salami, coffee all day, free wifi, free bikes, and the staff are very friendly and helpful.
Oh. My. Goodness. This is the most deliciously decadent thing ever. I don't even know whether to call it brunch or dessert, or both. Buttery brioche french toast, sweet pastry cream made with vanilla bean, and crunchy brûléed bananas topped with a drizzle of salted caramel. Total epic ridiculousness.
Step one is to make the vanilla pastry cream. Bring cream to a simmer with a vanilla bean and then let steep before adding to a mixture of egg yolks, sugar, and flour and cooking until thick and creamy. It needs to cool completely and then chill, which is why we make it first.
The next step is to make the salted caramel sauce, which is a bit tricky if you have never made one before (I hadn't). You have to leave the sugar alone while it melts and colors, and watch carefully for the right moment. Then you add butter and cream. The caramel with pop and splutter like crazy, and ball up on the end of your whisk. You just have to keep whisking over low heat until it all comes together. Then add in your sea salt and let it cool.
While that is cooling, make your French toast using big, thick slices of brioche (a little stale is better).
BLOW TORCH TIME. This is seriously so much fun. Sprinkle banana slices with sugar and brown with a blow torch. Easy. If you don't have a blow torch, I'm pretty sure that you can use a broiler.
San Antonio has become a really hip place since I moved away, and that is due in large part to the Pearl Brewery area. The original brewery was opened in 1881 and ran until 1985 when Pabst Blue Ribbon took over, and then shut down in 2001. The land was purchased and slowly developed into a shopping area, which is now booming. With a weekly farmers market, boutique shops, new apartments, and amazing restaurants - this is now the place to be. It reminds me a lot of Mosaic District, actually. They even built a new section of Riverwalk nearby!
Anyway, when I came to visit - all the places my family wanted to take me to ended up being at Pearl, so I have lots of reviews for you!
The night I flew in, my family took me to Cured, located in the historic administration building of the brewery. As you can guess from the name, cured meats are a large focus of the menu, but they also have cooked main dishes under the categories vegetable, seafood, fowl, pork, beef, and goat or lamb. My dad ordered a selection of cured meats for us, and they were delish - especially the country style pate and lamb/citrus terrine. I also had the pork cheeks poutine, which was AWESOME. The pickled cauliflower they put in there is totally unexpected and is what makes the dish, I think. For dessert I had a beet twinkie with meyer lemon curd - yum. The drink menu includes cane sugar sodas from much-beloved Dublin, TX; craft cocktails; and a killer beer list. My brother is going to have to get on here and tell me what local beer I had, because it was fantastic.
The next night, we went to The Granary - a modern BBQ joint located in the original brewmaster's house. I have never seen a concept like this before - super modern, artistic BBQ - very cool. Apparently my father comes here for lunch at least once a week, because the waiter greeted him by his nickname and knew his favorite dishes. We thought that was pretty funny.
Merry Christmas, y'all! We went on a bit of a crazy roadtrip (which I will tell you about later, because there are restaurants involved) and didn't get back til late on the 22nd, which left us in a bit of a scramble to get ready for Christmas. We managed to get some outdoor decorations up (check out the wreath I made!), but no tree or anything indoors.
We also spent all our holiday money on travel, so no presents this year. But we did have a nice Christmas dinner (I mean, come on - how could I not, right?). Honey Baked Ham (going store bought on the main let me focus on sides); Spinach and Gruyere Strata; Sweet Potato Gratin with Caramelized Onions; and Bacon Popovers.
And a Cranberry Raisin Tart with orange zest and spices for dessert.
Oh yeah, and breakfast! Can't forget Christmas morning sweets! I made these Cranberry Orange Rolls by Smitten Kitchen - yum!
In addition to our awesome holiday meal (read more here), we also ate out a lot while we were in Bend, OR last week.
We ordered breakfast from room service at our hotel, The Oxford, a few times and it was really good. The french toast with berry compote, in particular, was awesome. Right next door to the hotel is a brand new doughnut place (as in they opened their doors for the first time the Saturday after Thanksgiving) called Luvs Doughnuts. They make small batches and sell the day-old doughnuts for 50 cents! I had a glazed-yeast raised and Jasper had a chocolate-dipped blueberry cake doughnut - they were pretty good! I also enjoyed my chai latte from there - nice strong flavor.
We also ate at a local breakfast/brunch institution - Chow, which is open every day from 7-2. They focus on local vendors and sustainability and accommodate pretty much any diet. They are happy to make up a unique dish just for you if nothing on the menu suits you. They also have some killer guava mimosas (or man-mosas if you want a bigger drink). This is the only restaurant I thought to take pictures at, so enjoy!
Bagel with cream cheese, pickled veg (celery, carrots, green beans), salmon, and sprouts.
Chow has a number of signature egg dishes. This one is the blackstone - with poached eggs, cornmeal crusted tomatoes, spinach, bacon, and bearnaise over polenta. Super yummy.
This was the omelette of the day with house potatoes. They make their own hot sauces here, and from what I heard the Carrot-Habanero was amazingly hot and tasty.
As a thank you to all the bloggers and media folks supporting their events, DC Wine Week hosted an invitation only brunch at Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar. The space is very cool - a three story townhouse with big windows and modern decor.
There were three sparkling wines available for tasting: Ca'del Pucino Prosecco, Lovisolo Brut Nebbiolo Spumante Rose, and Opera Lambrusco. The Lambrusco was our favorite - a sparkling red with raspberry notes that reminded us of our favorite black raspberry port from Fabbioli.
Small bites of brunch food were served buffet style. This was a sneak peek at the new brunch menu at Sonoma, just for us!
On the menu were roasted baby beet skewers, prosciutto wrapped melon, French toast bites with apple and cinnamon, cured meats, and cheeses with homemade fruit spreads. The big item on the buffet was a breakfast "burger" - with a house-made sausage patty, bacon, and Cabot white cheddar on a house-made bun.
Everything was very tasty so I would love to check out the regular brunch menu, or the dinner menu, or any menu - why isn't this place in NoVA?!
And that brings us to the end of DC Wine Week! We had a great time and will definitely be participating next year. I hope to see you there!
What's your favorite wine bar? Leave your answer in the comments.