Chocolate + Cheese

Bruges Cafe

Fellow travelers, foodies and culture lovers!

My lovely company is sending me to Belgium and France next month, and in a very fun turn of events, my mom will be joining me! A full week of hopping from Brussels to Bruges, then Paris to Versailles, and possibly some fun day trips in between. We can’t wait to eat cheese, drink beer, and bring loads of chocolate home.

What are your favorite places to eat, stay, shop and see in any of those cities? We’ve never been to Belgium at all, it’s been five years since I’ve visited Paris and it’s ll maman’s first trip ever! To say I’m excited to explore Paris with her is quite the understatement.

We’d love your recommendations for anything!

British Lessons

QE2

“God, it’s positively cracking out there today, innit?”

“Uhhhh, what?”

This is a recent conversation I had with a client who’s from Northern England. “Cracking” she explained, is what certain Brits say when it’s so hot outside it could crack the flagstones and pavement. An extremely warm day – and they do have them across the pond! – would be termed “cracking the flags!” by the hot and cranky Brits up North.

One of my favorite (or should I say favourite?) games to play with my international clients is about idioms and phrases. While in London a few weeks ago, in addition to a trip to this fabulous restaurant and this hilarious show, I had the pleasure of working with clients from London and Northern England. As Americans, we tend to think of all of England as one riotous Kate Middleton and Harry Potter-fest where everyone talks like Eliza Doolittle and wears Union Jack dresses and says “Blimey!” into his glass of beer. Not only is that all pretty much completely wrong (minus the K-Mid, because yes, she’s on every rag in every Waitrose about town) but it also ignores the differences between London and the rest of the country.

For example, baps. In London, a bap is a type of bread roll used for sandwiches; it’s like a flatter English muffin or crumpet. Up North, a bap is a breast. My client told of purchasing a giant bag of 24 fresh, soft baps to take home to her husband, just because she thought it was so hilarious. She said,”for all that men chase after women to get at their goods, in London I found out you could just buy them at the store!”

A few other hilarious phrases and how they differ from the North and South.

Biffers

North: a certain brand of trash can

South: a certain brand of woman – a large, ugly one – with whom you’d never want to sleep. Ever.

Now, then!

North: Hi!

South: a transitional phrase that moves you from one sentence to another.

Badgers

North: Lady bits

South: Just a plain ol’ woodland creature

Having a bit of a strop

North: An epic adult temper tantrum

South: Huh?

Know of any other fun idioms and phrases from abroad? I’d seriously love to hear them in the comments!

Jubilee Queen print from this great Etsy shop!

Collegiate Chic – Style Roundup

Collegiate Chic

September and October always make me long for college. I mean, a lot of things make me long for college – like when I have to take my stretchy pants off in the morning instead of leave them on all day, for example – but Autumn especially. Remember crunching across campus in a fetching new sweater, holding your books to your chest and glancing sidelong at boys like in 1950? Or wearing plaid because it was adorable and collegiate, and not because you were trying to look like you just got back from Coachella? OR freezing your butt off at cold football games, but not putting on a jacket because it clashed with your giant sorority bow? Guilty as charged and I loved it. You haven’t lived until the size of the bow on your head is comparable to the size of your actual head.

If you’re looking to add a little prep school pep in your step, these six pieces are a guaranteed grown-up way to go back, back, back to school again.

1. A gorgeous stadium-cloth jacket to help you stay true to your school – or at least stand out at pep rallies. ($169)

2. Sassy pencils from Wit + Delight that are both note and doodle-worthy. ($3)

3. Tod’s sophisticated new take on the old-school satchel, for those of us with dream budgets! ($1,595)

4. Who needs saddle shoes when you have Everlane’s modern loafer? ($165)

5. Skip to work or class in an adorably retro peter pan collar. ($44.50)

6. Plaid’s not just a fad my friends – and at this price, you can afford to make it a staple. ($16.99)

Will you accept this rosé?

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Friends! Countrywomen! Put-upon spouses and partners who have had their TVs hijacked every Monday for many weeks! That time is upon us – Bachelorette Finale night. Or “finally” night*, for those of you who are sick of Bachelorette-related crap important news and happenings infiltrating your homes for more hours in a week than you’d care to say. We had to delay our viewing party by a day and the suspense almost killed me. Apparently the rest of the world got the memo that it was going to be Josh a loooong time ago, but some of us are just not that on top of reality news…ahem…

I would LOVE to pretend that I am above The Bachelor franchise. That I don’t care about it, that I don’t watch it, that I feel dumber by participating. But only one of those is true – that I feel a little dumber every time I turn it on. And then Andi puts on another scarf and tells somebody to staaaaaaappppp it and I settle in, uncaring that there are important! world! facts! about Syria or Russia or Prince George or the conflict in Gaza that are being pushed aside in my brain to make room for the Josh v. Nick debate. It’s getting very Flowers for Algernon** up in here.

The only thing I love more than Bach drama is having people over, and when the two collide. WELL. You’d better hope you’re here for the right reasons, is all I’m saying. Or the wrong reasons. I don’t really care. GET IN MAH HOUSE. Because that’s where the party at, yo. Yes, my dear friend Eliza and I threw a Bachelorette-themed evening, much to the confusion and mockery of Le Fiance. Deets are below!

The Mood:

Small bouquets of roses were placed around the house, along with many a flickering candle. Flickering candles are the essence of ro-mahance, don’t you know.

The Food:

Appetizers: The Suspense is Kale-ing Me! (kale chips) + (Will you accept this) rosé

Main: Tuscan Stuffed Chicken (though legs, thighs or butts would also do) served on a bed of brown rice

Dessert: Baked Bourbon Vanilla Peaches over Ice-Cream, as a nod to the Andi’s Atlanta roots

 

Did you watch? Did you have a viewing party? Are you over The Bachelor/ette or still totally into it?

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*The first of a few bad puns. I make no apologies.

**Who is Algernon and what do the Algerians have to do with The Bachelorette, you ask? Don’t ask me. I’m already too much dumber to answer (see above).

 

Tuscan Stuffed Chicken

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First disclaimer: this dish perhaps cannot be called “Tuscan” in a strict sense of the word. What is Tuscan cooking specifically, as opposed to our sanitized American version of Italian food? I’m not totally sure. Frances Maye’s fabulous Under the Tuscan Sun would have me believe…not this.

This dinner originated from one of those, “I have a lot of random in the fridge – what can I do?” kind of moments that make cooking so great. And what I found was that the earthy flavors of the mushroom, combined with the bloomy blue cheese (or bleu cheese, if you’re into pretentious spelling) and the garlicky sauce all combine to make a hearty dish that recalls long days hiking the hills, sun warmed cobblestone streets, and un bicchiere di vino at the end of the day.

What do true Tuscan people eat? I have no idea. What I ate in Tuscany (pizza/pasta/wine/repeat) is not sustainable for a nice long life, unlike this dish I’m about to share. But there is something about this dish – it’s rusticity, it’s simplicity – that makes me think (or hope?) that calling it Tuscan isn’t too far off the mark.

TUSCAN STUFFED CHICKEN (serves four)

Ingredients:

. 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

. 2 tablespoons each feta cheese and blue cheese

. 1 large handful of fresh spinach, chopped or chiffonaded

. 1/2 cup chopped cremini mushrooms

. 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

. 1/2 cup red wine

. 1 jar of prepared marinara sauce OR equivalent amount of homemade sauce

. EVOO, salt and pepper

. Optional add-ins: dried shallots, sun-dried tomatoes, glug of balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes

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Instructions:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 425, then coat the bottom of a glass pan or baking dish with EVOO and a little bit of marinara sauce. Just cover the bottom so the chicken won’t stick.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the feta, blue cheese, mushrooms, spinach, Italian seasoning and any of the add-in ingredients you’d like. Cover everything with 1/2 cup of marinara sauce and a small glug of EVOO. Mix well until it’s all combined.

3. Prep the chicken by trimming any fat and making two slits down the middle. I cut mine all the way through so the stuffing mix can really cook in.

Prepped chicken breasts

4. Lay the chicken in a pan and stuff away!

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5. Layer extra stuffing mixture on top. The cheese will melt in and the spinach will wilt nicely, so don’t be dainty about it – use it all, as the top photo shows.

6. Cover the pan with more sauce (you can be more or less saucy based on personal preference) and then add some red wine over the top and around the sides. The wine gives it a subtle depth not unlike chicken marsala, though less heavy handed.

7. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes covered, then the final 10 uncovered. If the liquid in the bottom is bubbling and the chickens are simmering slightly, you’ll know you’re done.

8. Serve over a bed of quinoa, brown rice, pasta, or just eat!

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Weekly Menu: July 28

Royal Blue on Regent St

{Royal Blue on Regent Street – From last week’s adventure to London!}

With summer, pool days, the wedding and a trip to Hawaii all coming up, Le Fiance and I have started to have more serious conversations about health and fitness. Not just our usual, which is like, “We totally shouldn’t eat these cookies, NOM NOM NOM.” And then we maybe run around the block once. No! We are getting serious over here.  WE WILL NOT EAT YOUR COOKIES NOSIREE!

I even resisted putting this on the menu for this week, which I feel both brave and sad about, for obvious reasons. I mean seriously: read this recipe, then tell yourself no, and then tell me you don’t feel a little sad about it.

Because of all this health and fitness business, this week shall henceforth be known as the week of greens and protein. We actually eat like this most of the time anyway, for the record. We don’t buy processed foods or things that can only be cooked in the microwave. We don’t even have a microwave, like the rogue hippies you’d expect us to be. BUT! Ohhh but. And it’s a big but (ha!) Our love for ice-cream and homemade baked goods and wine knows no bounds. Especially me (wine) and especially when I’m traveling. So this week is about getting some bounds. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Monday – Seared filet mignon + homemade chimichurri and sweet potato wedges
Tuesday – Stuffed Tuscan Chicken (recipe coming up next week!)
Wednesday – Baked fish + brussels, carrots, tomatoes
Thursday – One pot faro with tomatoes +  jalapeño sausages
What are you eating this week?

Pool Side!

Pool Side!

We are fortunate enough to be going on a little wine country weekend in a few days. It’s the perfect chance to swim, read by the pool, eat a gourmet dinner and have a glorious sleep in without those oh-so-special city sounds waking us up in the middle of the night.

We have a neighbor with a blender that sounds very much like Jason and his chainsaw and a trash man who relishes nothing more than waking us all up at 5 a.m. because he’s awake too. Or so I imagine. Maybe the trash man really is just enjoying the hell out of his morning and banging cans brings him great joy? We’ll never know because I will never ask him. Mostly because that conversation would go like this:

Me: grumblegrumbleGRUMBLE! 5AM! Grumblegrumble

Him: BANGBANGBANGBANG !!!

Me: OHFORGETITGRUMBLEgrumble

My two most important beach bag categories are sun protection and reading material. Pale nerds, unite! As long as I have SPF 45 (aka, liquid snowsuit), lip balm with sunscreen, a hat, and about seven books loaded on my nook, I’m all good. Cute sandals, trashy magazines, and face wipes that keep me looking like a dainty lady are all bonus. Even the swimming suit is a bonus, really. I’m very content to lay about reading in whatever outfit, this is what a bad style blogger I am.

In real life, I’m going to load up my trusty monogrammed L.L. Bean bag with an assortment of things. But in blog life, I thought it would be fun to design a beautiful dream beach bag.

What do you put in your beach bag?