Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tranquil Tuesday: Birthday Edition

My baby brother is a daddy! I'm crying like a baby.

Andrew McWilliams Averitt was born at 1:40 am on November 30 and is 8 pounds 2 ounces, 21 inches long.

I'm not sure how it is possible to love something so much without even meeting...but Andrew, I love you more than you'll ever know. Can't wait to meet you at Christmas.

I'm so thankful for Blackberry Messenger. Mac and I have been texting all 20 hours of this labor. I will remember this day for as long as I live. We love you guys and can't wait to see pictures of our nephew.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Preparations

We've had such a busy week with family in from Memphis and New York for Thanksgiving. I'm just now catching up so be prepared for a long post. My husband decided that we had to have heat in the Breezeway for the family. So two days before Thanksgiving the house was torn apart. This fact had the potential for a major meltdown.

But all was calm.
And I got ready around the mess.


We are also heating the shed which will be our new office. It is amazing how much more house we now have with these additional two rooms. E. thankfully returned the steel wall before the fam got to town.

Chris and Chuck were awesome! They finished the work on time and the house has never been warmer.

The man cave is now our second guest room. We set up an air mattress and I also added a feather bed on top of the mattress. I've already taken two naps in this room. It's really comfortable. I needed two naps.

Eric created the wall behind his desk with the built in "nooks". We are trying to figure out if we are keeping this killer desk we bought on Craig's List or not.  It was a nice little vanity for my aunt and cousin's room. The closet to the right will eventually be turned into a full bath. It will be a great in-law suite when all is done.

The night before Francie arrived I made my first pie crust. Secret to it's success, vodka! And cold shortening. Click here for a double crust. Of course, it is from Cooks Illustrated. We used the Holiday Entertaining magazine that I picked up at Whole Foods a few months ago. Click below to purchase.

Holiday Entertaining Magazine (Cook's Illustrated, Holiday 2009)

I used the Cuise to pulse the dough until it looked like peas. Then formed into a flat disk and chilled it in the fridge.

My 92 year young grandmother arrived by plane early Wednesday so we had a great day to catch up. I introduced her to the blog while I made my stuffing in the kitchen. The stuffing takes ten seconds.

 I browned one pound of Bob Evans Sage Sausage and one yellow onion roughly chopped.

Add four stalks of celery just when the sausage is done, chopped.

Use one bag of Pepperidge corn bread stuffing and one bag of herbed stuffing. I used just a little less of each because my pan wasn't big enough.

Do not salt. Add chicken or turkey stock until all the bread crumbs are soaked, but not wet. Do not cook long. It's much better when the celery is crispy.

Add one egg and mix all together and until egg is cooked. Put in a casserole dish and cool. You can do this one day ahead and put in the fridge.

Then we started in on the pie. Francie laughed and asked, "Why on earth would you make your own pie crust? There are so many good pie crusts out there." Well it was worth trying and was 1,000 times better than any store bought crust I've ever tasted. 

I pulled out the pie crust from the fridge.

I had never rolled out a pie crust. Francie said to only roll it one way, not back and forth. I also turned the crust so it would be round. 

All the cooking shows wrap the pie crust around the rolling pin to get it onto the pie dish. It worked.

Francie helped me pinch the crust. Her Aunt Titter (pronounced Titta) taught her how to do this. I will cherish these photos forever. I just love my grandmother's hands.

Take your thumb and forefinger and pinch the crust.

And continue all around the pie.

She thought my dough was a little wet.  I thought we had to pre-cook the crust in the oven, but no, not for a pecan pie. Who knew?

Then we picked between two recipes in the Charleston Junior League Cookbook.

We used Mrs. Richard Hanckel's (Ruth Farmer) version and had to switch out cane syrup with Karo syrup.

I thought that we needed to arrange the pecans. Francie told me they rise to the top and are glazed when it is finished.

There was a TON of crust. My pie dish was a deep dish.

But it shrunk a little and was perfect.

The hints of salt were delicious and it was the best pecan pie I've ever had. All because of my helper I'm sure.

E. was in charge of the turkey. He got home and I shared with him a few recipes that looked pretty great. The best one was from the November Martha Stewart. We decided to do a dry brine over night.

My aunt was a huge help. Moral support most importantly.

We had a 22 pound bird for eleven guests. Two guests canceled at the last minute. We had WAY too much food. But I wanted left overs to pass out like Eric's family does for everyone. It's the best part. We set it on a rack to let it air dry in the fridge overnight with the salt brine.

 E. rubbed salt under the skin too.

We set out Michele's Pumpkin Granola for an easy breakfast and had vanilla yogurt to start us off right on Thanksgiving Day.
It's been a week since I've posted anything and I'm so thankful for the little mini-blog break. I'm so proud of my grandmother for traveling. She is so sharp and was a delight to have with us. Thank you Mary Frances for your zest for life and help in the kitchen. More on our whole family visit soon. We are on baby watch as my brother's child is nearly here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Luncheon at Woodberry

Nancy Iverson, the Catering Director at Woodberry Kitchen, gave me a tour through the recently renovated back-of-the-house in Clipper Mill. We started in the walk-in. Can you see her breath? Me neither, but we could in the walk-in. Chilly-cakes. 

The new space is vast. Every restaurant kitchen I've ever worked in would be SUPER jealous of this new space. Isaiah is the pastry chef. He is the master behind the CMP and a love. 

Vogue. He's used to my paparazzi camera.

Thumbs up to you too buddy!!! 

Especially because of these little babies. I kept saying Whoopee Pie, Whoopee Pie...Whoopee Pie.

Until he gave me one. Really I wasn't trying to get one, I just like the sound of Whoopee Pie. They were pumpkin whoopee pies with a cream cheese filling. To DIE for good. and I was happy to taste test them. The cookie part was so soft and moist it was almost cake. The flavors of the pumpkin were spiced with ginger. Tasted snappish...in the best way.

They have a walk-in just for their house cured meats. Can you say Charcuterie?

I could live off dried meats and cheese.

And check out their new digs!

They have a new office space with stations for about six people. Small but efficient.

There were vats of sauerkraut fermenting in the upper decks of their office. Poor kids. It smelled like @$$ and an old man's wet sweater. Saurekraut is a big deal for Thanksgiving dinner in Baltimore. 

They have tons of dry storage now.

And Marco has his own wine closet.

This is the original space where EVERYTHING used to take place.

The dish station is in the same place. Such a huge staple for any restaurant.

And this is the view into the restaurant line.

This is the view from the line area into the restaurant. The glass lamps were blown by Coradetti.

It was fun seeing the space from the back-of-the-house. 

We've spent a lot of time at this bar.

The powder rooms were also given an overhaul. They papered the walls with Spike's mother's Gourmet Magazine pages. My favorite is the fact that The Ballymaloe Cookery School is a spot where my childhood neighbor worked in Ireland. My parents visited and were treated royally by the owners.

The first group of glass blowers were still whipping up their Christmas bulbs, while the second bus brought the next group to shop at the Clipper Mill boutiques. Rebecca Myers opened especially for this group as well as a few others.

Her space is on the back side of the building.

The artists in this custom jewelry design firm were so fun to talk to. Rebecca is on the right and I've lost my notes and my mind and can not remember the other two. But they were lovely. 

These are the molds where they mold the wax for the jewelry.

The wax is blue. These are stack rings.

This is an oxidation wash to darken the metal.

This is the spinner thingy that shoots the metal into the mold.

Then it goes into the kiln.

And then they polish up the metal and add the jewels. 

I was a shutter bug and couldn't stop taking photos of the whole process. It was fascinating to see the behind the scenes of this neat gallery. We are seriously so blessed to live in such a richly artistic city.

More wax casts.

The Dremel polishes the jewels.

The jewels are displayed beautifully in the front of the gallery.

Form also opened for the group. It is a wonderful boutique with clothing, accessories and custom designed jewelry as well.

All the spaces in Clipper Mill are unique and have wonderful architectural details like the rafters in this ceiling.

The owner Aimee was great to speak with and is very talented.

She designs many of the items in her shop.

After all this shopping and glass blowing the guests were starved. 

Lunch was served family style on platters. This Truck Patch Spinach Salad is one of my favorites. I love pecans and goat cheese together.

They made fresh potato chips.

And an assortment of sandwiches. Turkey salad, beef and butternut squash were the options.

All of the bread is homemade at Woodberry. Notice the layers on this turkey salad sandwich. The top layer is apple butter and the bottom is cranberry sauce. Unbelievably good and a great idea for our leftovers.

Isaiah made more than Whoopee Pies for the luncheon. Ginger snaps, macaroons and brownies were also included.

The ginger snaps were perfect. Kinda chewy. Just perfect. And the iced tea was so good.

Spike came and talked to the crowd about the mission of WK, the buildings of Clipper Mill and the meal.

I couldn't get over how pretty the leaves looked outside. We are having a beautiful fall in Baltimore.

Then he went and told the group in Woodberry Hall the same details.

He recently purchased this new clock on Ebay. It's such a stately addition to the room.

I love all the architectural details of this restaurant.

And of course the beverages spare no detail of awesomeness. This was how they served the simple syrup to go with the iced tea.

I spent some time hanging out at Allie's barista bar. 

I loved these Weck jars.

She has a little coffee plant growing in her "office". Totally appropriate. And shocker, they serve Counter Culture. Our favorite. She is married to Isaiah and has cuppings at Woodberry Kitchen on Friday's at 10:00 am. Oh how I wish I could sneak away and go to one.

Allie tried to teach me how to perfect the tulip art in her famous latte.

It's all in how you make the foam. I listened and watched carefully.

It's such a nice detail and when trying the technique at Stone Hill Farm later this week, I failed miserably.

Good excuse to get out of the house for another visit to Woodberry.

It was a successful event and the clients were so thrilled.

Thank you Miss Nancy for the great tour, amazing service as always and your precious spirit. You are a gem to work with and a true professional. I remember our first meeting three years ago when you asked me for advice on how to be a catering director. Well honey, you are truly, truly wonderful at what you do and take so much pride in every detail. Thanks to you Spike, Allie, Isaiah, Marco and the whole gang!!!