Wednesday, July 31, 2013

2nd Annual Thomas Poker Run

After the overwhelming success of last year's inaugural Thomas Poker Run, we all requested a repeat. Same set-up of cruising the lake, stopping to draw cards and a whole lotta water guns and water balloons. You'd be surprised how much 30 year olds enjoy childish games.

The weekend kicked off with emcee David on the mic. He officiated the weekend.

And Mr. Clayton cooked a breakfast so we had sustenance for the day's activities. 

The 2nd Annual Thomas Poker Run participants. 

 Many thanks to Mr. Derryl for being a superior boat captain and dealing with us the entire day.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Florida Foodie Tour

Well, Mom and I didn't come home with a carload of bargains or good deals. But...we did return with full stomachs. From the time we set foot in Florida until the time we reached home, we savored and enjoyed ah-may-zing food. I wanted to share some of the highlights!

Wild Olive in Crestview - Crestview is always our first stop for thrift stores and antique malls. In the past, we haven't deemed it a culinary destination. However, Mom recently read about Wild Olive. It had a small menu - usually a sign of good food. There was a lovely outside deck where you could enjoy dining alfresco and enjoy the aroma of jasmine.

I ordered this pasta dish and loved it. The pasta was al dente (a rare occurrence in restaurants), the sauce was creamy and hey, how can you go wrong with spinach, bacon and tomatoes? 

Old Bay Steamer in Fort Walton Beach - Upon arriving at the beach, we were craving seafood. Duh. So, we ventured to Fort Walton Beach to Old Bay Steamer. I had read decent online reviews, describing it as your basic seafood place. The reviews were right. This was a nice restaurant with no-frills, steamed seafood. Mom and I both ordered the Lobster Dinner with two lobster tails. They were cooked perfectly. What is it about eating with a bucket on the table that feels so good?

Vin'tij Wine Boutique and Bistro in Destin - Located right across from the outlet malls, this restaurant is located in a small strip mall. From the exterior, you would never guess the quality of food or wine here. Their signature lunch dish is the Fried Oyster BLT with Brie and it is their signature for a reason. Oh. Em. Gee. It was every bit as mouth-watering as it looks in this image. My other favorite dish is the fried oyster appetizer with pickled onions.

San Gelato Cafe in Sandestin - so many flavors to choose from. I tasted so many and debated and tasted and debated and tasted. I finally settled on Salted Caramel. Perfect combination of sweet and savory.


Stinky's Fish Camp in Santa Rosa Beach - We have gone to Stinky's for the past few years. This is one of our favorites along 30A. Typically, we order some of their signature oysters and shrimp po' boys. This time, we ventured off the beaten path and tried their ceviche. Our risk was rewarded. It was so fresh with lime, shrimp and fish. I could easily have made a meal of this.

Cuvee Bistro in Destin -  Again, one of our ol' faithful restaurants. A trip would be remiss without a visit here. We like to arrive early and sit in their lively bar area where you can order a selection of their appetizers at half price. We like to order a melange of appetizers and share with cocktails. You seriously cannot beat this.

Beachwalk Cafe, Henderson Park Inn in Destin - Mom loves to Google, and in one of her random Googling sessions, she came across the Henderson Park Inn. We tried to get reservations at the Beachwalk Cafe earlier in the week, but were unsuccessful. Luckily they had openings on Friday evening. YOU. MUST. EAT. HERE.

I went with our server's recommendations for all three courses. And, there's something to be said for that. Each course was better than the last. To start I had the Portabella Mushroom, grilled with sauteed spinach, goat cheese, applewood bacon and veal glace. If you're mouth isn't watering right now, it should be. 

Next, I ventured to New Zealand with the New Zealand Venison, a skillet roasted filet with sweet potato gratin, red wine basil and tomato reduction and tobacco onions.

To finish, I had their classic Key Lime Pie. It was tart, light and smooth.

Green Papaya in Montgomery, Alabama -  After seeing an image on a friend's Instagram feed, I wanted to end our trip home by stopping here. Mom doesn't particularly care for Thai food, but we both enjoyed our meal. That speaks for itself I think. And the fact that it has a 91% rating on Urbanspoon.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

For the past several years, my mother and I have vacationed in Sandestin for Mother's Day Weekend. I treasure this week we have together - talking, shopping, eating, laying out and relaxing. And I think, as I get older, I have a deeper appreciation not only for our vacation time but also for our close relationship.

Over the years, our friends and acquaintances have noted how similar my mother and I are. For most mothers and daughters, this would be a routine comment. But, in our case, it is extra-ordinary: I am adopted. My mother is blonde and I'm Asian. So when others say, "Oh my gosh, your Beverly's daughter" without my having to say so, it is clear exactly how similar we are.

I suppose it is rather amazing that a biologically unrelated individual can be so similar to another. But, I think that demonstrates the amazing power of motherhood - the tenderness and affection that only a mother can show.

While laying out on the beach Wednesday, we had a visual reminder of motherly love and adoption. This reminder perched on the beach in front of us.

Mom and I watched closely as they interacted with one another - building sandcastles, talking and running on the beach.

It was a lovely blessing to witness and share in their joy.

I watched in awe of this young family. I thought about the courage it took for them to adopt an African American child in this day and age when our nation still struggles with racial relations. I thought about the courage this little girl will possess by growing up "black" in a "white" family. I wondered what their adoption story entailed because I know, with adoption always comes a special story. I wondered what story this little girl had before being adopted. I thought about how quickly a bond develops between a child and parents, but especially between a mother and child. I laughed, thinking that this little girl probably doesn't even think about the fact that she looks quite different from her parents. Because I didn't at that age.

A million thoughts went through my mind, all of which made me realize how thankful I am for my mother and our relationship. I am so thankful and blessed to have two mothers - my birth mother and my mother.

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers. You make the world a better place.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Buried in berries

My sweet daddy picked fresh strawberries last week and bestowed upon me a gallon sized bucket of berries.

As soon as I got them home, I poured a celebratory glass of champagne with a strawberry garnish. I thought it was only proper that I celebrate the fruits of my his labor.

For days, I had them for breakfast, snack, breakfast, snack. I was barely making a dent in my stash. I realized I had to share or freeze. Since it's the first picking of the season I wanted to enjoy the fresh sweetness rather than freeze. So I invited friends over Friday night for a dinner party. I cooked an entire meal all so that we could enjoy a berry dessert. Recipe here.

 Image from

I researched multiple recipes and finally settled on a strawberry galette. It's a rustic French tart that's free form. I used Barefoot Contessa's pastry dough recipe and a Pinterest recipe for the berry mixture. The dough browned a wonderful brown, the berries were sweet with a slight tartness and it was just delicious. If I do say so myself. I am slowly making my foray into the baking world.

I served it with fresh whipped cream and a dusting of confectioners sugar. (I got a little heavy handed on the cream with this plate.)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Birthday Blessings

Remember Tom's 30th birthday? Well, last night, we celebrated this big guy again on his 31st with a lovely birthday dinner he and his wife Riley prepared.

 Kathryn, Jonathan and Wes all arrived in coordinating shirts.Very festive.

Christy and Wes, love this picture of them.

Kathryn with Baby Harris. We all fight take turns holding him. How can you resist that sweet face?

 Beef tenderloin cooked perfectly.

And a birthday in Birmingham would be incomplete without a cake from Edgar's Bakery. 

Which we loaded down with a mixed assortment of birthday candles. Yes, leave it to us to take a beautiful birthday cake and have fun with it.

 Birthday boy!

Serenading Tom with "Happy Birthday"

As we get older in life, I think we realize just how important good friends are. As our group gathered around to sing "Happy Birthday," I looked around the room and realized just how blessed I am to have such a close knit group. Sure, we have our share of disagreements, debates and drama, lots o' drama. But, we also have group dinners at Acapulco's that resemble a Greek family all trying to talk simultaneously. And late nights playing Horse on the Little Tykes basketball goal. And beach vacations with intense bocce competitions. And potluck cookouts. And lake weekends. And group text messages that make me laugh out loud. And it's nights like last night that you stop and think, I am so blessed.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Being Spontaneous....sort of

In an effort to be more spontaneous, Mom and I planned a quick beach trip for the Easter weekend.

I know, I know. It's not really spontaneous if it's planned. 

There's an e-card that says, I can be long as it's properly planned. That's us.

We arrived at the beach Saturday morning at 9 AM. Yes, this means we departed at 4:30 AM. Our first stop was Liz & Jane, a linen clothing store in Panama City Beach.

I must say, it was odd to A) be up at 9 AM in Panama City Beach and B) be in Panama City Beach with my Mom. Let's just say, things have changed since Spring Break 2002.

We made a quick stop at the beach to soak up the sun and get way too much vitamin D. Here's a shot of my mom with her signature beach hat.

For lunch, we stopped at a fairly new restaurant on 30A - 723 Whiskey Bravo. The views of the ocean were great, the food was just okay. (Hence no photos).

Dinner was a completely different story. The food was delicious! To be honest, this trip was planned in large part around dinner at Cuvee Bistro. It's our new favorite restaurant. Each evening, they have Happy Hour with cocktails and half-price appetizers. We took advantage of both. Mojito for moi. Kir royale for mom.

And, what would a great dinner be without dessert? Chocolate crepes and ice cream? Yes, please.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Two-Day Foodie Tour

I had no plans to participate in or create a foodie tour for myself. It just sort of happened. I found myself eating deliciously rich food for two days straight. And now, I'm the newest participant in the two-day workout binge.

First Stop: Niki's West

Why? Because it's Niki's West. And my tour would be lacking without it. One doesn't eat at or go to Niki's West. No, no. You experience Niki's West.

Last weekend, my friends and I were discussing Niki's West....
Adam: Elizabeth, quick. What do you do when you get the wrong meat on your plate?
Me: You just take it!!! No.  Questions. at. Niki's. West.
Rhett: When do you need to have your order decided?
Me: Before you pick up your tray. Duh. 

Upon entering Niki's, you immediately find yourself in an S-shaped line formed by iron railing. But, don't be fooled. This line moves quickly. You have a total of three turns before you find yourself at the front. And you need every bit of this time.

Did I mention the line moves quickly? You feel like a cow being herded to the watering hole. You walk and contemplate the 5-7 meat options. Before you know it, you're looking at the trays and napkin-wrapped silverware. It's time. Time to order.

I whisper to my Dad, "I always get nervous right here."
Dad: Why?
Me: I'm afraid I'm going to choke.

Staff: How can I help you today, ma'am?
Me: Fried chicken, please.

I'm quickly shuffled down the cafeteria-style line with a barrage of questions "What can I get for you?", "How can I help you, ma'am?" No time to contemplate. The pressure is mounting.

Which is how I found myself blurting out, "Turnip greens!......Fried okra!.......Creamed corn!......Cornbread."

I couldn't make up my mind, so I got everything that I wanted. I couldn't stop and contemplate. That would be against the rules of Niki's West.

Second Stop: Little Savannah

I enjoyed drinks and dinner later that evening. My first time at Little Savannah. The interior is relaxed and cozy.  The cocktails - less than stellar, but my meal was delicious. We started with fried cornmeal-crusted oysters and crawfish bisque. Next, I enjoyed the lamb shank and pappardelle pasta in a creamy sauce that warranted sopping at the end of the meal. Though I restrained myself. 

Third Stop: Bistro 218

New to Birmingham and new to me. It's a French bistro located in a restored building in downtown Birmingham. The atmosphere was vraiment francais. Hexagonal white tile, banquette seating and antique serving stations. While I've heard they have a great dinner menu, I met friends for lunch. Great lunch menu that has some of the dinner offerings. The steak frites was good, my favorite part of that combo being the "frites." My friends both ordered the quiche and it looked every bit amazing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Have suitcase. Will travel.

Feeling a bit restless lately. 
In need of travel.
Suggestions welcome. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tea Party

My dear friend from high school, Anna, is an October bride-to-be. And, this weekend, I was a hostess for a bridal tea in her honor. Girly parties like these are my favorite, so I wanted to share some pictures of our little soiree.

Kasi, a fellow hostess, is a far better photographer than I. Check out her pictures here

 My sweet mother lent some of her furniture for the cause. I thought the round table added some warmth to the entry way.

For the front door, I mimicked, or attempted to mimic, the font used on the wedding invitation envelope. 

 A close-up of the entry table. My sister was kind enough to design the invitations. She did such a fabulous job.

 I found these Prima Bella roses at a wholesale florist here in Birmingham. I loved the pink-tinged edges. They resembled garden roses.

In the interior entry table, we set up a tray of homemade old-fashioned teacakes for guests to help themselves.

And nothing says party like whimsical lanterns. 

 Here's a long shot of our food table. This food was definitely not fit for men - cucumber sandwiches, mini BLTs and ribbon sandwiches. No crusts allowed.

 We also served some light desserts...because what's a party without sweets?

Strawberry Baby Bites from Pastry Arts in Homewood. Or, as I like to call them, Heaven.

We placed Ranunculus in bud vases throughout the table. 

Lollipops lollipops

I found these whimsical bunting banners, which match the lanterns, at Target.

Lemonade's not lemonade without a pink-striped paper straw. 

French macarons. 

Bride-to-be Anna with some of her party guests.
Happy ever after, Anna!