S’MORES / RITZ-CARLTON REYNOLDS, LAKE OCONEE

 

Aerial view of The Ritz Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

Ritzy casual. Rather remote. Rewarding for both adults and kids. Really expensive. We’re talking about the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, on Lake Oconee, near Greensboro, Georgia. Located about 85 miles from Atlanta, this unique resort mixes nature with quiet laid-back charm and abundant luxuries.

Here’s the draw:

THE LAKE

The sparkling water of Lake Oconee, a man-made reservoir created in 1979, covers 19,050 acres. With 375 miles of shoreline, the lake offers rich opportunity for outdoor fun including swimming, boating, water sports, and the best fishing in the Southeast United States (350 pounds of fish per acre). The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee sits waterfront offering guests easy access to lake activities.

Lake Oconee as seen from the shore behind some Georgia Pines

ACCOMODATIONS

This Ritz Reynolds offers a variety of lodging choices, including a four-bedroom grand lake house, two three-bedroom freestanding cottages, and well-appointed rooms and suites inside the 5-star hotel. Many guest rooms come with balconies overlooking the lake and some have private firepits and flower boxes outside their back door. Although the resort replaces big-city razzamatazz with a rustic natural ambience, all feels quietly plush and super family friendly. Attention to detail, such as white to grey and natural wood tones color schemes (all relaxing; nothing jarring), extravagantly soft white linens, and indulgent toiletries (Molton Brown—on last visit) account for the feeling of luxury.

The bed in a suite at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

THE SPA

More intimate than large and bustling, the spa features a full menu of pampering body treatments, including luxurious facials, rejuvenating massages and the like. Dedicated steam rooms, saunas and a large, beautiful indoor pool adds to the relaxing grace of the space.

A large and lovely indoor pool at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

GOLF

Five championship courses with 90 holes of play enhanced by natural woods, rolling hills, and the lake.  Let me repeat: 5 courses. 90 holes. Luscious scenery. Something for every level of play.

Aerial view of the Great Waters Golf Course Hole 9

DINING

From casual fare at the coffee shop and family friendly options at the pool’s Splash Shack to the white tablecloth Linger Longer Steakhouse and Italian-focused Amore del Lago, a choice of dining experiences aims to please guests, be they picky eaters or discerning diners.

The outdoor dining at Gabby by the Lake at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee

Gaby’s by the Lake

 EVENTS

Be it groups gathering for business or pleasure, the resort offers top-notch facilities. And I should know as my dearest and only granddaughter was married there. Oh, the glory! Oh, the joy!

First dance at wedding at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

A LUSCIOUS BONUS

As icing on the cake—or rather marshmallows on the graham crackers—the resort offers a complementary nighttime snack of s’mores roasted at a firepit. These are not your same ol’ same ol’ camp s’mores, but, like everything else at a ritzy Ritz, upgraded.

Toasting marshmallows over a fire pit at The Ritz Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

You can elevate your own home-cooked s’mores by copying the resort and offering a selection of premium chocolates and a variety of flavorful marshmallows. Let your imaging float free as to ingredients, adding candies and sprinkles if you like. But most importantly, make your Graham crackers and marshmallows from scratch. Here’s how:

GRAHAM CRACKERS

Yield: 24.

2 cups whole wheat flourA box filled with homemade Graham crackers

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ firmly packed dark brown sugar

½ cup butter, softened

1/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

7 to 8 tablespoons milk

Flour for rolling out dough

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl

Put sugar, butter, honey, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer until ingredients are well blended and fluffy.

Add one fourth of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and beat on low speed until blended. Beat in 2 tablespoons of milk. Continue beating in small portions of flour followed by milk until all ingredients are used. If dough seems too dry, beat in a little more milk. If dough is too stiff for mixer, knead with hands until smooth.

Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Wrap three of the balls in plastic wrap while you roll out the fourth piece.

On a lightly floured flat surface with a floured rolling pin, gently roll unwrapped dough ball into a 15-by-5-inch rectangle. (Don’t press hard or dough will stick.)

With a sharp knife and the straight edge of a ruler, trim edges of rectangle to be even. Cut rectangle crosswise in to 6 smaller rectangles each measuring 5 by 2-1/2 inches. With small spatula, gently transfer each small rectangle to an ungreased baking sheet. With the knife, mark a line across the center of each rectangle (don’t cut through) marking the rectangle into two equal squares. With the tines of a fork, poke a pattern of holes into each square. Repeat until all the dough has been used.

Put baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake until crackers are beginning to brown around the edges, 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer crackers to a rack to cool completely.

 

Two huge S'mores sitting on top of each other oozing toasted marshmallowsMARSHMALLOWS

For a great recipe, click HERE.

TO MAKE S’MORES

 

Put chocolate (and any additions you like) on a Graham cracker. Slip a marshmallow onto a stick and roast it over an open fire until browned and puffy. Transfer the hot marshmallow to top of chocolate. Add a Graham cracker to top of marshmallow, squishing lightly to make a melting, messy, and totally marvelous sandwich.

 

For more information about The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, click HERE.

Balconies and patios at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

Balconies and patios at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

 

DENVER CENTRAL MARKET, RiNo, IZZIO AND CURIO

Talk about cool, hip, or whatever the new word is to describe happening. Just spent time at The Denver Central Market and was blown away by the high spirits—both outdoors (street art) and indoors (food and booze).

As to the outdoors:

Although Denver dresses-up multiple buildings in the city with vivid art, the lion’s share surrounds The Denver Central Market in the River North (RiNo) Art District. Commissioned by businesses, chosen from applicants in a dedicated art project, and unauthorized by free-wheeling graffitist, the street art struts its colorful stuff throughout the neighborhood, creating an open-air collection of innovative, irreverent fun. Click HERE for interactive maps outlining locations and information about key pieces.

A collage of five views of RiNo street art.

The colorful entrance to The Denver Central Market.

As to the indoors:

The Denver Central Market showcases the edible art of top-quality food purveyors, makers, and drink providers. Here is where you’ll find the truly wonderful, awesome, expensive artisan bakery, Izzio, and the brilliantly stocked, people-pleasing bar, Curio.

A collage of two photos showing workers in Izzio bakery and Curio bar.

Although Izzio earned a national reputation for bread, man cannot live by bread alone. Central Market’s Izzio sells a wide array of uniquely glorious pastries. The favorite remains the La Roulette, a large, round, flaky, butter-intense croissant filled with a choice of highly flavored rich, thick pastry cream. Yipes! Delicious! Cost $10 for one, but is large enough to serve two, if anyone is strong enough to share.

Two photos one showing a whole La Roulette and one showing a cut La Roulette

La Roulette

And then there is Curio—a crowd-drawing bar specializing in beer, wine, and cocktails—the cup runneth over with choice.

Beer, wine, and cocktails at Curio

Charmed by the name, I ordered a Makin’ Love at Midnight. On the menu for $14/$17, the drink is like a lush and luxurious snow cone piled into a highball glass.

Anyone headed to Denver can invigorate their spirit with a trip to the RiNo Art District and The Denver Central Market. Anyone staying at home can catch a touch of the spirited magic by crafting a Makin’ Love at Midnight.

CURIO’S MAKIN’ LOVE AT MIDNIGHT

Yield: one cocktail.A highball glass filled with Makin' Love at Midnight drink and garnished with mint and lime.

2 ounces pandan cachaca (see NOTE below)

1.5 ounces mango nectar

1.5 ounces Coco Lopez cream of coconut

1 ounce Brugal 1888 rum

.5 ounces lime juice

Ice

Fresh mint for garnish

Thin wedge of lime for garnish

Put pandan cachaca, mango nectar, cream of coconut, rum, and lime juice in the jar of a blender. Add a handful of ice cubes. Blend until mixture is slushy. Pour slush into a highball glass. Garnish with mint leaves and lime.

NOTE: Curio makes pandan cachaca by infusing one whole pandan leaf in a 750ml bottle of cachaca for 24 hours and then straining.

For more information on :

The Denver Central Market, click HERE.

Izzio Bakery & Café, click HERE.

Curio, click HERE.

And for more cocktail recipes,

Collage of colorful cocktails.Click HERE for Cameron House on Loch Lomond’s The Kilt Lifter.

HERE for Anse Chastanet’s The Bentley.

And HERE for Grand Residences’s Almond Passion.

 

TASTE OF COUNTRY APPLE CRUMB PIE

A black and white sign reading Taste of Country

Taste of Country might as well be called taste of family. Tari Handfelder-Harper and her daughter, Ali O’Brian, teamed up to create this charming restaurant that they named, not for the food, but for the setting at one edge of their family’s farm (located off I-255 at 4200 Hanfelder Road in Granite City, Illinois).

Portraits of Mother and daughter team Ali O'Brian and Tari Hanfelder-Harper

Ali O’Brian and Tari Handfelder-Harper

Roots of the building stretch to Grandpa Hanfelder, who set up a farmers market to sell horseradish and other crops that he grew on the farm. Tari and Ali took over the market in 2017 and expanded it into their restaurant, opening in 2018.

Front of the Taste of Country Restaurant

Patio of Taste of Country in Summer

Today, Taste of Country serves breakfast and lunch on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Lunching at A Taste of Country

Menu items include soups, sandwiches, and salads, but it’s dessert that takes the cake.

The dessert case at Taste of Country

So popular and outrageously delicious are the gooey butter cake, bread pudding, and other sweets that customers, wanting to take out whole versions rather than packaged pieces, must order well in advance.

On weekends the facility rents out as event space for private showers, parties, and other celebrations. Although customers can set up their own event, they can cut to the chase and hire Ali and Tari to custom design décor, handle the catering, and other amenities for one-stop shopping party pizzazz.

A collage showing three event set-ups at Taste of Country

Taste of Country is family run and supported. When asked for a recipe, Ali gave us her favorite. “Apple crumb pie,” she said, “is the most requested dessert for our family gatherings. Mom  taught me to make the pie when I was a young and we’re teaching my daughters to make it too. This pie is more than just a dessert to us; it’s a symbol of family, togetherness, and love.”

TASTE OF COUNTRY APPLE CRUMB PIE

Yield: 1 nine-inch pie.

Crust ingredients (enough for two crusts; see NOTE)

2 cups flour plus additional flour for rolling doughAn Apple Crumb pie with casual folded

1 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons shortening (Ali uses Crisco)

6 tablespoons cold water

Filling ingredients

8 cups peeled, cored, and sliced apples (Ali suggests Granny Smith or Jonathan apples)

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour (less if you want a juicier pie)

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Dash of salt

Crumb ingredients

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

Sprinkling of cinnamon

8 tablespoons butter

Make crust: Mix flour and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Distribute shortening over top of flour mixture, putting each tablespoon in a different place. With a pastry blender or fingertips, quickly and lightly work shortening into flour until particles are in coarse crumbs. Sprinkle water over crumbs, putting each tablespoon in a different place. Stir lightly with a fork to form a dough. Knead dough once or twice until it is smooth.

Flour a flat surface and roll out dough (or divide dough in half and roll out one half, reserving other half for another use. See NOTE.) Place rolled dough in a 9-inch glass pie plate. Cut excess dough from edges and crimp edges or fold over to make a thicker more casual edging.

Make Filling:  Put apples in a large mixing bowl. Toss apples with sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Spread apple mixture evenly over bottom of prepared shell.

Make Crumb Topping: Mix flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl or the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer. Top with butter. Cut the butter into the sugar mixture with fingers—or Kitchen Aid, until coarse crumbs form. Spread the crumbs over top of apples in crust.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Wrap edges of pie in foil, set pie in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue cooking until apples are tender and crust is golden brown, 20 minutes or longer. (To avoid over browning top of pie, loosely lay foil on top of pie as long as needed until apples are tender.)  Serve pie while it is warm. ENJOY!

NOTE: The crust ingredients make enough dough for two crusts. Filling and topping is enough for one crumb pie. If desired, use half of the dough for this pie, reserving other half for another use. Or instead of crumbs, top the apple filling with the second dough crust (crimp edges and cut slits in top) for a two-crust pie.

For more Taste of Country information click HERE.

OTHER APPLE PIES from Sweet Leisure

Click HERE for a lattice top, caramel apple pie.

 

Close up of top of Princess Leia Cinnamon Roll Apple Pie

And HERE for a cinnamon roll apple pie.

HOT BROWN and TOUSEY HOUSE TAVERN

a close-up of Tousey House Tavern's Hot Brown sandwich.

Tousey House Tavern’s Hot Brown

Talk about famous dishes. The Hot Brown first showed up at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky in 1926. Called a “sandwich,” the happy, hot, open-faced concoction of layered turkey, ham, and bacon smothered under a heavy coat of Mornay sauce, made its way around Kentucky, eventually earning the reputation of a Kentucky classic.

A painted barrel marking an official stop on the B-Line trailI sampled my first Hot Brown at the Tousey House Tavern in Burlington, Kentucky. The tavern is on the self-guided B-Line tour of Northern Kentucky’s bourbon trail and a perfect lunch spot to recover and recoup from a bourbon infused morning.

Originally built as a home in 1863, the building housing today’s tavern has experienced many incarnations, transitioning from estate home, to hotel, boarding house, consignment shop and restaurant.

Exterior of the Tousey House Tavern

Restored in 1987, today’s restaurant displays all the comforts of Southern hospitality including gracious dining rooms and menu laden with Southern comfort food.

Dining room in the Tousey House Tavern

To my joy, Tousey serves a killer Hot Brown sandwich.

Although we did not score a detailed recipe, we did learn some secrets to Tousey’s Hot Brown. They break from tradition by using a combo of Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses in their Mornay sauce and top the sandwich with a flavorful pecan-smoked bacon.

Here is our version of their version:

TOUSEY HOT BROWN

Yield: 1 serving.

2 thick slices toasted white bread, crust removed

A generous layer of sliced salt-cured country ham

A generous layer of sliced oven-roasted turkey

Mornay Sauce (recipe follows)

2 slices crisp-cooked pecan smoked bacon

1 slice tomato

Grated Parmesan cheese

Finely chopped parsley

Cut bread into triangles and put in the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer ham and turkey on top of bread. Cover all with a thick coat of Mornay sauce. Top sauce with two pieces of bacon in a cross pattern.

Put tomato slice in center of bacon cross. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Broil sandwich in a preheated broiler with rack set about 5-inches from heat, until sauce is bubbly and browned in spots, about 3 minutes.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

MORNAY SAUCE

Yield: about 2-1/4 cups (enough for several sandwiches)

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups whole milk, heated just to the boil

¼ cup mixture of shredded Cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese

Salt

Pepper

Melt butter in a medium size saucepan set over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook slowly, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk. Raise heat to medium and cook mixture, whisking constantly, until sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Stir in cheeses and continue cooking, stirring constantly until cheese melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

For more about the Tousey House Tavern, click HERE.

For more about the B-Line bourbon tour, click HERE.

A copy of The B-Line paper Guide.

If you like the Hot Brown, you must try the famous Horseshoe from Springfield, Il. Click HERE for recipe.

An openface horseshoe sandwich piled high with French fries.

The Horseshoe sandwich

 

Luna Luna Forgotten Fantasy Los Angeles

Cartoon figures showcase a carousel painted by artist Keith Haring.

Painted carousel by Keith Haring.

I am over the moon, having just come back from seeing Luna Luna Forgotten Fantasy.

With contributions from an international crew of famous artists, this unique and unconventional art exhibition masquerades as a carnival and incorporates a variety of creative mediums and contemporary art movements.

Irreverent, joyful, cheeky, educative, and entertaining, the show spotlights a happy kaleidoscope of installations, sculpture, performance art, music, and other attractions to enchant the whole family.

Luna Luna first appeared as a real outdoor, artist-created amusement park in the summer of 1987 in Hamburg, Germany. After an initial seven week run, the park was dismantled, stored in 44 shipping containers, and lost somewhere in Texas.

Rediscovered in 2022, the “fairground” has been rescued and reassembled in a warehouse complex in downtown Los Angeles.

Today’s Luna Luna takes the visitor through 60,000 square feet of fun. Works, that cover a variety of contemporary art movements (Abstract Expressionism, Art Brut, Surrealism, Pop Art, Dada, to name a few) sit in two large room that visitors can wander at will. Carousels are deemed too fragile for people to ride, and only some of the installations can be entered with an upgraded (pricy) entrance ticket. Nevertheless, organizers promise the moon, and deliver on the promise by encouraging visitors to feast their eyes, ears and imagination on:

CAROUSELS

A colorful carousel by Erik Grauerwith figures from a fairy tale.

Carousel by Arik Brauer.

 

Cartoon figures showcase a carousel painted by artist Keith Haring.

Painted carousel by Keith Haring.

 

The back of a Ferris wheel envisioned by Jean-Michel Basquiat that show the painted bottom of an ape.

Painted Ferris wheel envisioned by Jean-Michel Basquiat .

INSTALLATIONS

Multiple mirrors reflect the person standing inside Salvador Dalí’s geodesic Dalídome.

Inside Salvador Dalí’s geodesic Dalídome.

 

A couple "getting married" inside Andre Heller's Wedding Chapel.

André Heller’s Wedding Chapel.

 

A white building flanked by pillars holding sculpted "poo" named Crap Chancellery mocks the Nazi's Reich Chancellor which it resembles.

Daniel Spoerri’s Crap Chancellery, enhanced by sculptures of poop, mocks Nazi Albert Speer’s “Reich Chancellery.”

PREFORMERS

A collage of a man on stilts, a feathered woman, and a puppet.

Woman dressed as a clown juggles neon colored balls.

WHAT ELSE TO KNOW?

Opening days and times vary.A collage of the exhibit's signage.

Timed tickets are available HERE.  One can enter 15 minutes before stated ticket time and, once inside, can stay as long as desired.

Prices seem sky high, especially for the $85 Moon Pass which gives access to the inside of several installations, opportunity to “marry” in the Wedding Chapel, and a discount at the gift shop. However, ticket prices vary depending on peak and non-peak times.

Signage offers  historical and artist information.

Parking is available for a fee.

The exhibit is handicap accessible.

What’s next? Perhaps a global tour. But for now, only once in a blue moon does an art exhibit showcase such festivity. So don’t miss it!  Wow—what a ride!

Click HERE for more information.

Entrance to Luna Luna in Los Angeles

Entry way to the Luna Luna Forgotten Fantasy art exhibit

 

 

BUTTER LETTUCE SALAD AND HOLLYWOOD FARMERS MARKET

A plated salad of butter lettuce sprinkled with herbs.The salad was freshness itself. Crispy and sweetly tender butter lettuce leaves wearing a light dressing that glistened like dew. I sampled the salad as a first course at a Sunday night dinner prepared by Scott Manlin (influencer, restaurateur, and my nephew).

Portrait of Scott Manlin

Scott Manlin

Scott credited the salad’s perfection to the Hollywood Farmers Market, where he shops every Sunday. I credit Scott’s culinary expertise.

But let me segue to the market.

Covering three blocks on Ivar and Selma Avenues, the Hollywood Farmers Market opens every Sunday from 8 am to 1 pm, rain or shine. It specializes in high quality produce and products coming from farms and food artisans throughout California.

This market is not only the darling of home-cooking Angelenos, but also a terrific spot for tourists to experience L.A.’s outdoor market scene.

In addition to stunning produce–the full monty of what is seasonally grown in California–the market sells top-notch baked goods, cheeses, herbs, flowers, and packaged products appealing to those living the good life. Live music, inviting cooking stalls and fun people watching (celebrity spotting anyone?) adds to the festive scene.

Gorgeous rhubarb glows in the sun.

Vendor and lady with leopard dyed hair study herbs.

A bucket full of flowers

Pastries from a French Baker selling at the market,

Once home, the market keeps on giving pleasure—depending on what cooks do with their purchases, which brings me back to Scott’s salad.

He shared his recipe, dipping into his pampered pantry for dressing ingredients and writing with proportions adjustable to individual needs.

SCOTT MANLIN’S BUTTER LETTUCE SALAD

A few stems of fresh chives

A few stems of fresh parsley

A few sprigs of fresh dill

Hazelnut oil

Grapeseed oil

Aged sherry vinegar

Wedge of lemon

Dijon mustard

Small shallot, minced

Salt

Pepper

The freshest available butter lettuce

Mince a small amount of chives, parsley and dill and set aside.

Using a ratio of 3 parts oil (half hazelnut/half grapeseed) to 1 part vinegar, put oils and vinegar in a mixing bowl or dressing flask. Add a splash of lemon juice, a teaspoon of minced herbs, a dollop of mustard and the minced shallot. Whisk well (or shake flask) to emulsify the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste and correct seasoning.

Very gently, toss lettuce with dressing, adding only a very light amount of dressing. Plate lettuce. Sprinkle salad with minced herbs and serve immediately.

A basket inside the market telling people to take or leave a shopping bag.

 

 

CINNAMON ROLL APPLE PIE and PERFECT 10 COOKBOOKS

Close up of top of Princess Leia Cinnamon Roll Apple Pie

This recipe for Cinnamon Roll Apple Pie double dips sweet pleasures by topping a classic apple pie with pie crust cinnamon rolls. Oh my. So good. The recipe comes from Tim Mulligan.

Close up of Tim Mulligan's face

Tim Mulligan

Tim grew up collecting recipes. “My mother was not a good cook,” he said, “so at an early age I took over the family cooking. I would get recipes from all the women cooks in the neighborhood, and, as time went on, I collected recipes from friends, travel, restaurants and …well…just about from anyone and anyplace.” Recently Tim culled all-time favorites from his vast collection to fill two recently published cookbooks:

A PERFECT 10  Ten Proven Scrumptious Recipes For Each Part Of Every Meal (published in 2022)

 and

A PERFECT 1O Full Menus and Activities to Make Hosting Parities A Breeze (published in 2023).

Cover of Tim Mulligan's A Perfect 10 Party book.

Cooking is Tim’s passion, but not his day job. He earned a BA in Hospitality Business Management from Washington State University and a JD from Gonzaga University School of Law, before working in the hospitality and serving as the chief human resource officer for the  San Diego Zoo Global, Paul Allen’s Vulcan, and BENlabs’ (Bill Gates founder). In his spare time,Tim writes plays and cookbooks, fulfilling, what he claims, are the two major tasks on his bucket list.

Despite the high-powered, overload of activities, Tim comes across as low key, sincere and fun—traits displayed in his cookbooks.

Unpretentious and geared to cooks who may be a bit intimidated in the kitchen, the easy-to-follow recipes rely on fresh ingredients that will work to produce favorite comfort-type foods, such as a “mash-up” of cinnamon rolls and apple pie. (Recipe below).

As to tips for party giving, Tim says:

“I like to have all the work done in advance, so the minute the guest arrive I can enjoy the party too.

“I’m against setting out an open bar, which guests could find confusing. Rather I make a batch or two of a special cocktail and am ready to pour when guest arrive.

“Plan the whole party in advance–the décor, the food, the music, the games, and then, you can enjoy the party right along with guests.”

For ordering books and/or more information check out Tim’s blog HERE.

And, as promised, Tim’s  recipe straight from his party book:

PRINCESS LEIA CINNAMON ROLL APPLE PIE

Recipe photographed from Tim's book.

A wedge of Princess :era Cinnamon Roll Apple Pie

 

 

BOURBON , THE B-LINE TOUR AND NORTHERN KENTUCKY

A glass of bourbon.Sorry vodka. Get lost gin. Forget about it rum. Bourbon is the glory-be American alcohol.

Born as moonshine, bourbon rose to superstar status in 1964 when Congress officially declared “Bourbon whiskey is a distinctive product of the United States and is unlike other types of alcoholic beverages, whether foreign or domestic.” Bourbon ranks right up there with the American flag, Fourth of July and the Bald Eagle as a patriotic treasure.

So what makes bourbon so special and different from other whiskeys?

To wear the name, bourbon must be produced in the United States, aged in new oak barrels that have been charred,

A stack of new oak barrells holding bourbon

and made from a mixture of grains that are at least 51% corn. Bourbon must also enter the barrel for aging at no higher than 125 proof and contain no additives (except water if needed to lessen the proof).

How do we know this?

We distilled the information from exploring THE B-LINE®, a self-guided bourbon tour in Northern Kentucky.

A decorative barrel with B-Line printing.

The B-Line tour–which happily includes a portion of the Northern Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour®–lists seven craft distilleries (each with a fascinating background);

The Neeley Family Distillery with an old car in front.

nine bourbon-focused bars (each with cool ambiance); and nine restaurants (each with delightful food).

Exterior of the Tousey House Tavern

Those who thirst for bourbon pizzazz can have a barrel of fun no matter if they hit a few places, explore all, or use The B-Line tour as a jump-off point to the longer, broader Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

To fully capture the magic of our 100% All-American spirit, beeline it to Northern Kentucky (right across the Ohio River from Cincinnati)

View of Ohio River and Cincinnati from Kentucky.

View of Ohio River with Cincinnati in background.

where you can:

Taste and compare.

The B-Line tasting stations.

Learn about the distilling process.

Collage of bourbon making .

Shop for bourbon and it’s heavenly sidelines.

Two packages of bourbon balls for sale at different distilleries.

Talk with distillers.

Visitors discuss bourbon with a distiller.

Dine well.

A plate of fried eggplant topped with cheese sauce.

Hangover in some old-fashioned, bourbon-centric bars,

A tray filled with Old Fashioned cocktails.

And make yourself a top-shelf bourbon buff.

Bike, hike, drive (with a designated driver) or take advantage of The B-Line’s Uber and Lift discounts and ALWAYS DRINK RESPONSIBLY. You must be 21 or older to participate.

A copy of The B-Line paper Guide.

 

 

For a map, a B-Line Guide, and more information about The B-Line, click HERE.

For more information about Kentucky bourbon, click HERE.

Click HERE for a terrific bourbon-glazed meatloaf recipe.

Click HERE for information on Scottish whisky  and HERE  for more about Irish whiskey.

 

 

SPARTINA, STEPHEN KALT, BREAD PUDDING

Close up of Stephen Kalt's smiling face.I’m crazy about Stephen Kalt. At least I love his L.A. restaurant, Spartina, especially at happy hour when the prices are discounted. Apparently, I’m not the one and only. Critics rave. Influencers gush. Stephen and his restaurants have been called the best by such prestigious publications as Esquire, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure. He is an undeniable chef/restaurateur super-star who learned as he lived, trained with the best and danced to his own tune.

Born and bred in New York with Eastern European Jewish parents who expected him to be a doctor, Stephen studied chemistry in college, but segued from the physician path when traveling in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on vacation with his brother. The brothers saw a pizza place for sale and bought it. One thing led to another. The pizza place grew to a chain, which eventually sold. Stephen moved back to New York, learned about fine dining by working for several famous restaurants and eventually became a consultant. In the mid 1990s Stephen opened his own restaurant, Spartina, in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood.

Between the New York Spartina closing and the one I love in Los Angeles opening in 2015, Stephen developed and managed numerous food-related projects in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Beverly Hills.

Today he has hands in many enterprises, but it’s Spartina on Melrose in L. A. that makes chic foodies swoon.

With polished concrete floors, wood-trimmed tables, industrial piping and open kitchen, the indoor dining space sends a casual, comfortable, contemporary L.A. vibe.

View of inside Spartina with open kitchen and blue, wood trimmed tables.

The patio, surrounded by potted plants and overhead string lights, feels romantic and private, despite being right on Melrose.

the patio at Spartina at night

Spartina’s menu runs to tasty combinations of creative Southern California, Mediterranean and market-driven seasonal specialties. Whereas unique dishes such as trenette with Spanish octopus, bone marrow, and Parmigiano send hearts aflutter, I’m hooked on some familiar favorites that Spartina makes extraordinary. Don’t know why they are so special, but Spartina’s French fries, fried chicken sandwich and bread pudding are unbeatable—at any restaurant–anywhere.

A plate of Spartina's French Fries

SPARTINA’S BLACKBERRY BREAD PUDDING

Yield: about 12 servings.

1 loaf artisan white breadA plate of Spartina's warm bread pudding topped with melting vanilla ice cream and blackberry sauce.

2-1/4 cups heavy cream

1-1/2 cups sugar, divided

5 eggs

4 pints blackberries, divided

Ice cream, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Remove crust from bread and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes. Place cubes in a large bowl.

Put cream and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan. Stir over low-moderate heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm (do not overheat).

Whisk eggs in a bowl until well blended, then whisk eggs with cream and sugar, incorporating completely.

Cut blackberries in half, crosswise.

Reserve 1/4 cup egg mixture. Toss cubed bread with half of the blackberries and remaining egg mixture. (Toss bread gently to combine ingredients, leaving cubes partially intact.)

Gently press wet bread mixture into a half sheet pan (don’t compress mixture too much). Spoon remaining 1/4 cup egg mixture evenly over top of pudding.

Place half sheet pan into a deeper half hotel pan filled with 1-inch of water and place in oven. Bake uncovered until pudding is set, about 35 minutes.

Make sauce: Put remaining cut blackberries and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan and set over medium heat. Stirring often, cook mixture until sugar is completely dissolved and the blackberries turn reddish and some break apart, about 5 minutes.  (Do not overcook or puree.)

Serve bread pudding with a scoop of ice cream and top with some sauce.

 

For more information about Spartina, click HERE.

Spartina, 7505 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA

a painted mural points to the door to Spartina

Door to Spartina when the restaurant is closed.

IOWA BUFFET AND BOURBON GLAZED MEATLOAF

Entrance to Iowa Buffet in an old St. Louis South Side neighborhood.Talk about time travel. Carolyn McKinney’s Iowa Buffet, is a thoroughly authentic, well-worn tavern–practically a leftover of bygone times–that sits on a quiet corner of an old St. Louis South Side neighborhood. Carolyn says that her building dates back “to forever” (actually the 1800s).

Despite being featured in newspapers, magazines and TV food shows, Iowa Buffet remains unpretentious and virtually the same as it has for decades.

Hollywood couldn’t design a better dive-bar set. One bellies up to the bar counter sitting on high stools or gathers at the tables at the side and back of the dimly lit room. Walls sport neon beer signs, photos, a swimsuit calendar, various ads, and just fun sayings. TVs play overhead. Machines dispensing lottery scratchers offer patrons a chance to strike it rich. Music from a jukebox supplies an atmospheric vintage soundtrack (“I love Etta James, so we play her a lot,” says Carolyn.)

Customers sitting at the bar at Iowa Buffet.

The backdoor leads to a family- and dog-friendly outdoor patio with tables and chairs edged by tidbits of garden greenery.

Outdoor tables at Iowa Buffet welcome kids and dogs.

All is aged, casual, and congenial—thanks to Carolyn, a red-headed, dynamic octogenarian who claims to have been in the business since “the beginning of time,” (actually she took over the bar in 1987).

Red-headed Carolyn McKinney wearing an Iowa Buffet shirt.

Carolyn McKinney

Today, Carolyn’s daughter and granddaughter help waitress and manage orders while Carolyn cooks and chats with customers—who all seem to be—or about to be– her best friend. Carolyn is the type who has never met a stranger.

As to food, don’t expect a buffet at Iowa Buffet. The name came with the place.  The tavern has never been a buffet but does serve food that is down-home and comforting.

Diners rave about the hamburgers, cooked in a generations-old gas broiler behind the bar.

Hamburger with onion and pickles served at the bar with fries and a beer.

On Saturdays the menu features items barbecued on the outdoor grill. A sign listing Bar-B-Q Items served Saturday at Iowa Buffet.On weekdays, Carolyn offers specials that she makes from scratch. She says that people particularly like Iowa Buffet’s Sweet Bourbon Glazed Meatloaf, which she makes from five pounds of ground beef, and/or a mixture of ground turkey and salsiccia. Carolyn warns that she never measures and that she adjusts ingredients to what she has on hand. She created a Sweet Bourbon Glaze recipe for Sweet Leisure, but we interpreted the meatloaf recipe from her instructions, cutting her recipe from five to two pounds and adding guessed-at measurements. Of course, this is a super flexible recipe just waiting for cooks to adjust. Thank you, Carolyn. Love it!

SWEET BOURBON GLAZED MEATLOAF

A cooked meatloaf with a sweet bourbon glazed top.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

1 pound ground beef or ground turkey

1 pound salsiccia (take out of casing if bought in links)

1 onion, cut into large dice (so people who don’t like onions can pick them out)

2 eggs, beaten

About 1/3 cup breadcrumbs (Carolyn likes Italian seasoned)

About 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup ketchup (can substitute barbeque sauce, salsa, or spaghetti sauce)

2 cloves garlic, minced

About 1 teaspoon mustard

Seasoning mix (use your favorite and be generous)

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

Few dashes Tabasco

Sweet Bourbon Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Break up meats and put in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle onion pieces, eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, ketchup or substitute, garlic, mustard and seasonings over top of meat.  Mix everything with your hands just until ingredients are well distributed. Form mixture into an evenly shaped loaf and set in a baking dish.

Spread top of loaf with a generous amount of glaze. Place in preheated oven and bake 30 minutes. Top loaf with more glaze and bake until meat is cooked through, another 30 minutes or more.  Remove from oven.

Reheat any remaining glaze and pour over meatloaf or put in a bowl to serve on the side.

Let meatloaf rest for a few minutes before serving.

SWEET BOURBON GLAZE

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup bourbon

2/3 cup ketchup

2 clove garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup vinegar

1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Apple juice or water to thin sauce, if necessary

Put butter in a medium saucepan and set over moderate heat. Stir in sugar. When sugar is incorporated, stir in bourbon, bring to a boil and boil 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Gently cook, stirring often, until mixture is bubbly and thicken, 2 to 5 minutes.  If necessary, thin glaze with water or apple juice. Taste and correct seasoning.

A serving of Bourbon Glazed Meatloaf with fork

Iowa Buffet.  2727 Winnebago St.  St. Louis