Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Vacation!

This is an historic moment.

I am, for the first time in my entire adult life, taking an actual, real, no responsibilities vacation.



You guys. 

I've gone to Europe several times, but it's always been for work. Not that it hasn't been awesome, but just "being" wasn't really the main purpose. 

I go on road trips and stuff a lot, but it's always to see family (which I love!), or to go "to" something.

I always take school books and yeah, I should spend the weekend working on my dissertation.

But nope.

This time, I am going to lie on the beach and read a novel and drink fruity drinks and do nothing that I don't want to do.

(Pinned here, but can't find the original source. I'm not going anywhere quite that exotic.)

See you on the other side.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Memphis Nosh: Bacon Lover's Dishcrawl!

It's Dishcrawl time again y'all!


That is literally how excited I was about this Dishcrawl. "Bacon Lover's"? Bacon at every stop? I'm in.

As you can probably tell by my "About Me" section, I really love bacon.

I really really love bacon.

So a Dishcrawl with bacon at every place, with bacon as the theme, surrounded by people who also love bacon, and hosted by the lovely Hollye of 381OhYum!

YES.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dishcrawl, it's a meet up of food lovers, adventurous eaters, and people who want to get to know their city better through eating and mingling, and it's awesome. Each crawl has a theme, you buy a ticket, 48 hours before you get an email about the first meeting place, and then each place after (3-4 places total) is a surprise. It's in a ton of cities across the US, and is fun to do at home or in other cities as a tourist!

On Monday, I got an email with exciting news - we were meeting a Bluefin, a Memphis favorite that I had sadly never been to before!


We ate in the upstairs, kind of communal dining area, and it was fantastic - love the atmosphere!

Our Dishcrawl guide, Hollye, gave us envelopes with strict instructions on how to open them.


There were a TON of new people at this crawl, so the "What is Dishcrawl?" info was super helpful. 


And then we got to read what were eating. 

I died.


BACON DASHI.




BACON DASHI PEOPLE.



If you think I picked that bowl up and drank the broth after I was done with the ramen you are 100% correct. I am not ashamed. 

Several people at my table also got cocktails. My friend Kim got a fantastic martini:


So I was pretty sure nothing could top bacon dashi, but we still had two more stops, so we all scooted out and headed toward our next restaurant....



(Also known as Belle Diner, but they're trying for a more "bistro" feel - I think either one is "correct" and either way it's so good. They won Battledish! last year!)

I love Belle, so I knew we were in for a treat.


Okay. Let's have some real talk. 

I love grits. 

I love duck.

I love bacon. 

I love any form of jalapeƱo popper.

Oh. My. Gravy.


Clockwise from the top: A little puff pastry with a bacon rosette (dipped in chocolate) that they added for us, the popper of the gods, shrimp with mango bacon salsa, and pork loin with collard greens. 


The popper was literally one of the best things I've ever eaten. 


This little bacon pastry was amazing.


I DO NOT like greens, but these were so good I could eat them every day.


I've been on a mango salsa kick since this. You can see why.


I clearly liked everything. Oh, and they gave us bread!

So at this point I'm so stuffed. Instead of just eating one or two bites like a sane person, I ate all the food. I was struggling. So full. Possibly on the edge of a bacon coma. But I knew we had one more stop. And as we headed back towards Main, I realized that we must be going to one of my favorite places, Local Gastropub.

Anyone who knows me knows that I spend a lot of time at the Local in Overton Square. One of my really good friends is a bartender there (although he happened to be downtown this night - hi Matt!) and I know a lot of the staff and it's close to my house and I love it. I rarely get downtown but I was starting to get really excited.


So I haven't eaten a scallop in about 7 years. I had a bad experience. 


I ate scallops at a restaurant in Arkansas, which, yeah, was a bad plan. But this one was wrapped in bacon from a restaurant that I trust, so I resolved to do it.





Plus, combine a bacon wrapped scallop, a giant slab of pork belly (no Brussel sprouts, but that was okay) and a piece of the bacon blondie with a huge piece of candied bacon on top, and you have a very very happy Amber.

So I started with the scallop:


And it was AMAZING.

I may eat scallops again.

Just not in Arkansas.


Okay.


I use a lot of exaggeration sometimes. 

But when I say that this is the best single bite of food I've ever eaten in my entire life, I mean it. 


If you see pork belly on anything at Local GET IT.


The blondie was fantastic, but we all agreed it was so rich that that small piece was just enough. Definitely get the blondie to share!

Besides the food, I made a ton of new friends (I knew a few people there, but went alone - everyone had to work or had stuff going on that night) and had a really great experience. One of my favorite things about Dishcrawl is that you get to sit communally, so you can talk to people you would normally not meet - I met a woman who takes international biking tours and was on her first Dishcrawl, a really nice couple who talked about college with me (their son is a senior in high school), and finally got to sit with some other local bloggers and friends. Everyone is super friendly, the food is amazing, and you get to experience new things. The next one is October 1st in the Broad Avenue Arts District - GO!

Also bacon.

Never forget the bacon.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Memphis Style: Back to School Hair from Pavo Salon & Spa

I am the laziest person in the world about my hair. 

Part of that is because I literally can take a shower, run some curl definer/defrizzer through my hair (my favorites are Not Your Mother's Kinky Moves and Beach Babe), and walk out the door, letting it dry on the way.

So when I went to get my hair cut at Pavo Salon & Spa yesterday, this is what I said to my stylist, Anna: 

"I want close to my natural color and a cut I don't have to do anything with. Basically the lowest maintenance possible."

I didn't add "so I can spend more time sleeping and watching my stories" but I might as well have.


This is basically me.
(Pinned here.)

Pavo was recommended to me by a good friend who has consistently great haircuts, so I went for it.

For $140 (plus tip), I got a cut (probably 4 inches off the bottom, lots of layers), all over color (I have a lot of hair so shorter/thinner hair will be less, since it requires less color), and shampoo/style. Not a bad deal, since I was paying $120 for a cut, highlights, and no styling at my previous place.

Plus it's a super nice Aveda salon with lots of magazines and drinks and really friendly people.

So on Monday I went from this:



To this:


So much lighter, healthier, and only about 2 shades away from my natural color, so way less maintenance. Perfect for the incredibly busy year (grading/teaching/writing in the fall, on fellowship and trying to get mostly done with my dissertation in the spring, plus trying to submit at least 2 articles to journals, an international conference, AND all the day to day stuff of pets, friends, boyfriend, family, and generally being fabulous-ish) I'm going to have!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Memphis Nosh: Babalu Tacos & Tapas

A couple of weeks ago Kirby, her little girl (who is going to be THREE soon, which is unbelievable), and I went to Babalu Tacos & Tapas, one of the newest additions to Overton Square.

It's been pretty hyped, and every time I go by there are huge lines out the door, so we decided to go on a weeknight as early as possible - and it worked! Got there are 5:30, walked in, waited about 2 minutes, and got a table right away!


(Pic from the sign company that made this AWESOME exterior possible, Balton Sign Company)

Inside, it's a kind of "cozy industrial," if that's possible.

(The bar)

Also, they show "I Love Lucy" projected on the wall!

Because (as I've had to explain to a LOT of people) "Babalu" is the name of a Cuban song that Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball's real and TV husband, popularized on the show. 

Like so:


Secret confession time. 

Desi Arnaz was my very first celebrity crush. 

When I was younger, I used to watch "I Love Lucy" with my gramma all the time. 

When I got old enough to be like "yay boys!" Desi Arnaz was absolutely it for me.

Even before that I pretty much imagined that I was going to end up just like Lucy and marry a Desi of my own.

The Lucy part isn't that far off:



Also this is my life:


(Also, no judging because 1. Desi Arnaz was super hot and talented, and 2. yeah, she played ditzy but Lucille Ball was actually a genius who fought for women's rights and took Hollywood for all it was worth in a lot of ways. Basically she was a badass, married to another badass, and I also want to be a badass.)
(Harumph.)

Anyway.

I love "I Love Lucy." 

I LOVE Babalu Tacos & Tapas.

We started off with some appetizers/small plates, and each got one big things, which is absolutely what I would recommend.


We started with the guacamole, which is made tableside and is totally customizable, delicious, and comes in an awesome molcajete.


They add sun dried tomatoes (I usually do fresh, but it was really good), and we added bacon to ours. 

DO IT.

We also asked that our server put about half the normal amount of cilantro and it was perfect, so don't be afraid to ask for specific amounts of ingredients.


We also got the queso blanco dip and added pork belly. 

Again I say: 

DO IT.


Kirby got the empanadas, and Cloe got black eyed peas, rice, and our awesome server rounded up some fruit for her (none of which I took a picture of, but it looked great, and they are super accommodating for off the menu requests).

I got, without a doubt, one of the top 5 best burgers I've ever had in Memphis.

The Baba Burger.


It is: "Aspen Ridge Natural Angus Beef, roasted roma tomatoes, caramelized onions, white cheddar cheese, avocado, applewood smoked bacon, chipotle aioli, sweet sourdough bun" burger and it is almost as badass as Lucille Ball.

It comes in a large ($10.50, two patties) or small ($8.50, one patty), so of course, for research purposes, I got the large. 

OMG.


Cooked perfectly medium-well (their default), super juicy, and that bun is like a sweet blanket wrapping up all that deliciousness. 

So good. 

So messy. 

So worth it.

Service was really good - it was a little scattered at times, but all the servers will refill your drinks and bring food out, and I think they were short, so it was fine. Since everyone was so nice and accommodating and the food was so good, the minor hiccups were just that. 

By the time we left the line was massive, so definitely get there early or be prepared to wait - and spend some time browsing the local stores!

I definitely recommend Babalu, and I will DEFINITELY go with anyone who wants to have some lunch/dinner/snacks/drinks!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Recipe: My Mom's Chicken and Rice

I come from a long line of women who are amazing cooks. 

My mom makes the best Mexican food (she grew up in the southwest), the BEST french fries, and some unbelievably bizarre but delicious things from random stuff in the fridge.


My gramma made the best fried chicken in the whole world, some of the most amazing German food ever, and would never turn away anyone who was hungry (that's where I get my "bring whoever" attitude - she would put coffee on as soon as she saw a car in the drive and never let anyone leave her house hungry!).

(With my mom in 1955, in New Mexico)

My great-grandmother, who I never met, is legendary as a fantastic cook and, as my mother says, "an actual saint."


So I come from some ladies who knew how to make delicious, if not fancy, food that brought people together. 


And who traditionally have fantastic hair, but that's another story.

My mom's Chicken and Rice is an example of a meal I grew up with - not too complicated (so you could spend more time with your kids/family/whoever happened to pop by), nothing too fancy (cause if I can't find it at the grocery store, I probably don't need it), but plenty of flavor and PLENTY of it (because you never know who will come by!). It's one of my favorite things she makes, and it's super simple and delicious.

What you need for 2 medium size casserole dishes: 

Chicken breasts/tenderloins - about 10 tenderloins/5 breasts
2 boxes Minute Rice
2 large cans Cream of Chicken soup
1 large can Cream of Mushroom soup
3 tablespoons butter
Salt
Pepper
Garlic powder
(an Arkansas staple - if you can't find it, whatever type of seasoning you like)

Start by cutting up the breasts/trimming the fat from the tenderloins and heating the oven to 350.


Salt and pepper the chicken, then add garlic powder and Cavender's to taste.

Cook the rice according to the directions, minus one minute.

You'll probably have to do this in a couple of batches, unless you have a massive microwave.


When the first bowl of rice (one package Minute Rice) is done, open a can of Cream of Chicken soup. 


Fluff up the rice, then add it in. 

Then, add half of the can of Cream of Mushroom soup.


(My mom just uses Cream of Chicken, and I love it like that, but I like the earthy flavor of the Cream of Mushroom. So basically you need 2 big cans, but they can be whatever - both CofC, one CofC and one CofM, one CofC and one Cream of Broccoli, whatever!)

Before the soup.


After the soup - this is about the amount of soup to rice you want. Goopy but not like soup, and not too dry.



Do the same thing with the second bowl of rice.

Take 2 medium size casserole pans - whatever size is fine, just not huge, and not tiny. I had one 9 by 13 and one 9 by 9 or so.
Rub the butter in the bottom of the pans - you want them to be really buttery so nothing sticks.



Put about half of each bowl of rice in each dish, lay the raw chicken on top, then cover with the rest of the rice.  Then add more salt and pepper - I love things peppery so I add a lot, but however much you like is fine. Just be careful with the salt since the soup has quite a bit.


So in each dish you will have half a bowl of rice, half the chicken, and then the other half. Very easy to multiply for more or fewer dishes.

Cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.

When you take off the foil, it should look close to this:


YUM.


This amount easily fed me and Kyle for several meals. Two helpings each that night, 1 each for lunch the next day, 1 for dinner, and then at least 4 more servings a couple of days later.

All for around $15.

So good. 

Thanks lady ancestors for the great recipes and inability to make just a couple of servings of anything!