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Mid-Week Weekend: Southern Food and a Southern Boy, JT

If you ever have a chance to take off two days in the middle of the week, you should do it.

Bonus points if you had the Monday off before and you leave for three hours on Friday for your friend’s wedding rehearsal/rehearsal lunch. Last week was a little bit nutso. By no means was it an easy work week. But when you have Justin Timberlake tickets, you take the day of the concert off and the day after off. And you RELISH HIM.

You relish him.

And you honor his southern heritage with fried chicken, biscuits and grits. Not necessarily in that order.

I bought these JT tickets for the 20/20 Experience tour at a silent auction a few months ago and I asked my friend Anna to come with me. (You can read her version of our adventure HERE. Also, just follow her blog in general. It’s rull good.)

We decided to make a mid-week weekend out of it. And nothing was bad about this decision. We shuffled off to Raleigh for a late lunch at Beasley’s Chicken + Honey.  Fried chicken and waffles, creamy collards, beets, and a chicken biscuit with pickled green tomatoes. Wash it down with a honey white beer named for the place and you’ve got yourself a stew going. Wait, I’m not Carl Weathers… Shaun and Scott, thank you for the recommendation! This place is epic and I want to go back right now.

OH DANG.

OH DANG.

After the concert, we primped at our hotel (HAMPTON INN, Y’ALL) and then we left (WE GOT A FREE COOKIE FOR THE ROAD, Y’ALL). And headed to drinks and apps with the gal who made the tickets happen.

Lady Date!

Lady Date!

Yes, I took this picture in the fancy bathroom at the hotel. What of it.

Yes, I took this picture in the fancy bathroom at the hotel. What of it.

Turns out, this was the hotel that JT stayed at. JT….and JB. That’s right. Jessica Biel was there too. So, guess what, David Olsen. Anna and I have basically slept with Jessica Biel. And you didn’t. (If you haven’t heard David’s Jessica Biel story…just ask him. He is not shy. WE LOVE YOU, DAVID!!!!!)

We got to the concert, completely missed the opening act (The Weeknd is a person? Who knew.), went to our seats and started playing my new favorite game to play at a JT concert: what kind of man is that? Angry Boyfriend. Trying To Be Cool Dad. Having TOO MUCH FUN Guy. Deaf Guy Signing Holding a Beer. (He was awesome.) Hot Guy Who Wore the JT White Dinner Jacket and his Super Hot Wife (My BFFs Mike and Danielle.) Dumb Guy Who Wore the JT White Dinner Jacket and a Weird Fucking Hat. (Not pictured. He did not deserve to have his picture taken.)

Mike was on his suit and tie. Danielle was just hot.

Mike was on his suit and tie. Danielle was just hot.

 

Listen, this is a fake food blog. Not a fake JT blog. But let’s be honest. JT is basically his own food group because he is so delicious. And I would eat him up with a spoon. (Sorry, Jess.) He was incredible. He sang and danced and played guitar and played piano for 3 hours with one ten-minute intermission. He was funny. And charming. And somehow made it seem like he was singing just to us. (CAUSE HE WAS.) Anna and I danced and sang all night long.

Which is why we needed to replenish our strength, and once again honor JT’s southern roots with some southern breakfast. Big Ed’s City Market is the jam. You know how Cracker Barrel has all those knick-knacks on the walls, but you know they just had them made at a factory? Well, Big Ed’s has a bunch of knick-knacks on the walls, windows and hanging from the ceiling but it just feels authentic. Anna and I split the fried catfish, eggs and home fries and a yummy veggie omelet and grits.  (Thank you to Shaun and Tony for the recco!)

Catfish. Not just for dinner anymore!

Catfish. Not just for dinner anymore!

 

Run, don’t walk to get tickets to the 20/20 Experience Tour near you. It’s an amazing show.

Run, don’t walk to Beasley’s and Big Ed’s next time you’re in Raleigh. You will not regret it.

Run, don’t walk to hang out with Anna. She’s a ridiculous amount of fun, an excellent travel buddy (at least, the way I travel: frequent stops and needing free cookies), and a very fun concert date.

Run, don’t walk to take a mid-week weekend. You work hard. You deserve a break. Get your sexy on. JT has spoken.

JT. In the FLESH.

JT. In the FLESH.

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Oohhhh, Brexico: Baked Ranchero Eggs with Blistered Jack Cheese Brunch

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks, culinarily. A few ups and downs.  

Ok. Mostly a lot of ups and one major down.

It’d be like the world’s weirdest roller coaster.

I shall list the ups and downs in a list. Real badasses use lists, y’all. 

Up: going to wd-50 in New York. Wylie Dufresne was THERE. And while I did not speak to him in actuality, in my mind, he complimented me for my hilarious, hilarious jokes. And we laughed and laughed. Back in the real world, the meal was outrageously good. Highlights include the pig tail with artichoke, olive oil jam and hazelnut; the walleye pike, celery, macadamia and grapefruit; the rabbit (!!!!!!wrapped in fried chicken skin!!!!!!!), spring onion, hibiscus, thai basil nori; and the popcorn vacherin with strawberry, kaffir lime and watermelon. 

I don’t remember this course, but it replaced the scallops. And it was beautiful.

Rabbit with fried chicken skin. Stupid good.

Popcorn Vacherin. So unique.

Down: coming back from New York, and going to put groceries away in the cabinets and finding eighty million ants. Which allowed me to channel my inner Zoolander and remark “What is this, a KITCHEN for ANTS?” (Note: I only made that remark after I got through the horror of finding, murdering, and Lysoling the ant murder site.) I seem to have remedied the problem with Ant Shield and a lot of ant killing. And I’m incredibly OCD and everything that could be ant-attractable is now in a Ziploc bag. So, don’t judge me, Judge Reinhold. Cause to paraphrase my friend Jesus: let he who is without bugs spray the first Raid.

Up: going to Whole Foods Winston-Salem and stumbling on local vendor sampling day when I was RULL hungry. I had Roots hummus from Asheville (the Thai Coconut Curry is so unexpected. Sweet hummus…delicious), Peggy Rose’s hot pepper jelly from Wake Forest, NC, and my most favorite discovery: super local pimento cheese. If you’ve never had pimento cheese, it is a true southern delicacy packed as full of calories as it is with cheese. It’s made of cheese (duh), pimentos (duh again), mayonnaise, and salt and pepper. But the folks at Red Clay Gourmet, made right here in Winston-Salem, NC, do some great twists. The have the basic classic, a Hickory smoked, flame roasted jalapeno (locally sourced!), and a weirdly delicious one: pimento cheese with goat cheese and sundried tomato. People of 336, find this pimento cheese, get yourself some Wheat Thins, turn on Steel Magnolias, start crying your eyeballs out. Oops, I went one too far.

Up: brunch with my first official guests, my friend Anna (of the wonderful blog, Curiouser and Curiouser) and her husband, Kevin Keller. Who one time, after a few glasses of wine, I called Kevin Kline. So sometimes, I call him Kevin Kline. And sometimes I call him Kevin Keller. Cause that is his name. 

But I digress.

Anna and Kevin Kline were my first official guest, so I had to find something delicious for brunch. Something easy enough to make on a Sunday morning, that could be paired with the only breakfast meat that matters: bacon, and would work well with a boozy brunch cocktail.

Enter The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and her Baked Ranchero Eggs with blistered jack cheese and lime crema. This dish is wonderful. And despite using a dozen eggs, it actually served the three of us for brunch very well. But the best part of this dish is that it’s incredibly simple. You can make the spicy tomato sauce ahead and reheat it in the morning. You cook your eggs in the spicy tomato sauce and black beans. And then broil it with the jack cheese on top. Other than prepping some accoutrement and any breakfast meats that you so choose (bacon…obviously), that’s it. And it’s delicious. Breakfast in Mexico. Breakfast IN Mexico. Brexico.

And what goes with Brexico? Tequila.

Every good brunch needs a boozy brunch cocktail. This one is violently pink and delightfully smooth. As your morning tequila should be.

Just as they do it in Brexico.

Baked Ranchero Eggs with Blistered Jack Cheese and Lime Crema

from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

Ingredients: 

Ranchero Sauce

  • 1 jalapeno
  • 3 cups (from a 28-ounce can) whole tomatoes, fire-roasted if you can find them | Yeah, this ingredient confused me. I think you should just use the whole can.
  • 1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed and peeled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 ¾ cups cooked black beans (or a 15-ounce can), drained

Crisp Tortilla Strips

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 small corn tortillas | I used flour cause I had them.
  • Salt, to taste
  • 12 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups coarsely shredded jack cheese

Garnishes

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 lime)
  • 1 cup crema Mexicana or sour cream
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro 

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. First, taste your jalapeno for heat. Adjust accordingly, halving or quartering the pepper if needed and toss into a blender. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and several pinches of salt and pepper, and blend until smooth. Pour into a 12-inch ovenproof skillet, add black beans (if using), and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until it has reduced slightly. 

Meanwhile, brush a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Cut the tortillas into ½-inch-wide strips, and arrange them on the oiled tray. Brush the tops of the tortilla strips with the remaining tablespoon of oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 3 to 6 minutes, or until they are brown and crisp, turning over once if needed. If you are like me, you will burn the first batch. Remove strips from oven, then preheat broiler. 

In a separate bowl, stir together the lime juice, crema, and a pinch of salt.

Once the sauce has thickened slightly, remove the pan from heat, and break the eggs across the surface of the sauce, distributing them as evenly as possible. Return to heat, cover the pan, and simmer eggs gently in sauce for about 10 to 12 minutes, until the whites are nearly but not completely opaque. Sprinkle the surface of the tomato-egg mixture with cheese, and broil until the cheese is bubbly and a bit blistered—just a few minutes.

Garnish with dollops of lime crema, broken up pieces of tortilla strips, and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Brexico!

Brexico!

Fire Island Sunset

From In My Kitchen by Ted Allen 

Ingredients:

  • Ice
  • ½ cup fresh pink grapefruit juice, cold
  • ¼ cup brewed hibiscus tea, cold
  • ¼ cup silver tequila
  • ½ teaspoon Cointreau
  • 1 thin slice or chunk of candied ginger | I couldn’t find this…and the drink was still great without it. 

Fill a tall glass with ice, add the grapefruit juice, tea, tequila, and Cointreau, and stir. Garnish with the ginger. 

Fire Island Sunset

Fire Island Sunset

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